Healing

Few things are as frustrating as waiting, especially when you’re waiting for your body to heal, or just simply feel “normal” again, as I’ve been doing for the past week and a half. So what exactly has my strategy been for getting through this bout of ITBS? It’s really quite simple, starting primarily with an abundance of foam rolling, mostly to loosen up the tissue surrounding the IT band, all of which was surprisingly sore, like screaming in pain when I first started rolling kind of sore (and I’d like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for physical pain). Beyond that, I’ve been icing rather regularly, as well as stretching all of the supporting muscles (as it’s nearly impossible to stretch the actual IT band) and doing a handful of exercises designed to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings (whose weakness supposedly leads to ITBS…).

Right now, my leg/knee feels surprisingly… normal, there’s an occasional twinge here or there, but I can run down the stairs again (as opposed to limping like a geriatric old man) without any discomfort, and have even harnessed the gumption to ride the bike a bit, and spend some time picking things up and putting them down. As far as getting back into “real” training, I’m planning on taking at least a few more days of unaggravated existence before I ease into running again. I still have a pretty solid base level fitness, which I don’t think has regressed too much in the time I’ve taken off, and I’d much rather allow this to heal properly, than aggravate it again, which will only end up with more time on the couch. So, while I’m not running as much as my typical volume (zero miles at the moment…) I’m planning on using the bike a lot more, and considering finally getting a gym membership (no guarantees on the last one).

Otherwise, my strategy for the next race(s) is primarily the same as it was for the NF 50, run as much as I physically/mentally/logistically can, with an emphasis on trails and vertical gain. I’ve also decided that I should try to capitalize on the lessons learned at Bear Mountain, and am actively trying to spend more time doing core exercises, toughening up the soles of my feet (see: spending more time barefoot) as well as exercises designed for overall stability, and hill climbing strength. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, but they’re very much in the experimental stages right now, so I’ll only allude to their existence at the moment, and if they seem to be helpful, I’ll write about them later (diet, mid-run fueling, hydration etc etc etc).

I also tried some “alternative” therapies

Advertisements

Failed Recovery

I’ve fallen victim to one of the cliche troubles with running ultra-distances, the post-race injury. It seems that this is a rather common occurrence, and, to me at least, seems to make sense. After training at a sub-maximal level for months on end, topping mileage out at a near maximal level, eventually the body simply needs a rest, which should commonly come before the race (see: taper) and then afterwards in the recovery phase. However, like any over-zealous cocky runner who see’s his fitness as having peaked for a race, I decided to begin running again immediately, on what were obviously sore/tired/un-healed legs, and have as a result, found myself dealing with ITBS.
ITBS, or Iliotibial band syndrome is probably best described here. Fundamentally it’s and inflamation of the IT band that manifests itself as lateral pain in the knee. So, as a result, I’m relegated to resting, icing, limping around (even though it no longer causes much discomfort, limiting the flexion of the knee reduces strain on the IT band, and should be advantageous in helping it heal) and generally doing…. nothing.
Since I cannot run, for at least a few more days (this is day six of consecutive non-running) I’ve found myself with an abundant amount of additional free time, which is… well, very strange. If I look at my average totals for the year thus far, I’ve “gained” at least a solid work-day’s worth of time, if not more, and frankly, the extra time, and inability to run is starting to get to me. So, with that in mind, I guess I’ll concentrate on some core work, continue icing the heck out of my knee/IT band, stretching, and pleading with my leg to hurry up and heal, as I have some over-training to get back to, and the trails are calling my name as I sit here, reading.

Recovery

It’s no surprise that a 50 mile race would leave me pretty beat up, after all, it’s quite a long distance to run, and definitely causes a lot of physical stress along the way. While all of my scrapes and bruises are for all intents and purposes, healed (okay, most of the scrapes are still showing, but they look way better, I swear!) I’m still feeling a good amount of the latent soreness/lethargy that you would associate with a sustained effort of that magnitude. With the help of my mortal enemies, the foam roller, and the stick, things are going okay, and here’s the recap.

Sunday things were overall really tight, and while I could move around pretty well, my overall fatigue level was surprising. I managed to eek out a half a mile running…. in a blisteringly fast 6 minutes before throwing in the towel. Then I spent the rest of the day drinking beer, lying on the couch, and watching reruns of Top Gear… Who says recovery isn’t fun!?

Monday I was feeling substantially better, albeit still rather sore/tired. So for the majority of the day, I didn’t do very much, just tried to eat my weight in protein/carbs/otherwise nutritious foods and drink as much water as I could, I also ran a single mile, somewhere in the mid 9 minute zone, it was tough, but didn’t feel as hurculean as the task seemed on Sunday. Also, my feet feel fine now, which is a pretty big deal considering how awful they felt at the end of Saturday.

Tuesday I’m beginning to feel increasingly human, as opposed to the zombie-like state I’d spent the previous two days in. I managed to muster up the energy to leave the house for a bit, run a mile in the 8min-ish area, and do some solid cooking. Walking down stairs in the early morning is still a bit troublesome, but getting better.

Wed, I’m almost back, ran 3.2 miles in the 8ish minute pace range, which felt surprisingly… normal. Still some latent soreness, and no sense of strength to push any harder, but it definitely felt good to feel like a runner, instead of a lazy couch potato.

Thurs. I’m planning on running the Broken Shin Loop tonight with the guys, although expecting to go pretty slowly, and hoping that tomorrow, or the following day I’ll be able to get out on the mountain for some “real” running, and begin training again very soon for my next race(s).

Early in the race, Shiggy
First few miles
Dave Franz (behind) Pacing and Motivating
Finish Line!

Finished

NF Bear Mountain Race Report

Like almost any race that starts as early as this one did (5am) one of the initial concerns is simply getting some sleep the night before. So, after a couple of hours under the covers, Dave, Gene, Sean and I woke up grabbed some coffee, and hit the road to pickup my bib and timing chip right before the start of the race.
Start to Anthony Wayne
Crossing the line at 5am, the course went immediately into the trails, as the leading runners fell into a single file group of about 30 runners, packed in rather tightly, especially considering that the sun wasn’t rising any time soon, forcing everyone to run with headlamps. With the course trending uphill, through mostly technical trail, the initial clump began to split. The runners fundamentally sorted into 2 groups, the lead pack, and a chase pack, although getting to the first aid station the chase pack was only a few hundred yards behind. Already carrying a handheld, I didn’t do anything at the aid station other than hand over my singlet to my crew.
Anthony Wayne to  Silvermine
 Leaving the first aid station, we started heading uphill, right back on technical trail, with a good amount of single-track. This seemed to be the section where most of the initial position jockeying would happen, as runners were beginning to get a feel for what the days running would be like, as well as the sort of trails that were were going to be in store for for the remainder of the day. When I hit the aid station, I dropped off my headlamp, and exchanged my now empty handheld for a freshly filled one.
Silvermine to Arden Valley Road
Honestly, I don’t recall very much during this section, other than some moderate jockeying for position, and a couple of really sweet downhills. I’m pretty sure that it was during this section that I linked up with Ryan and Jason, with whom I’d run through mile 27. Arden Valley would be the first aid station without crew access, and as a result of it being used for both the 50 Mile and the Marathon being run that day, they were limiting GU’s to one per runner, which meant that in the large gap of time between crew sightings I would exhaust my supply of GU(note: I was carrying up to4 GU’s at a time, which was ~2 hours of food, seeing as I would consume 1 GU every 30 minutes)
Arden Valley Road to Lake Skannatati
This was a relatively uneventful section of trail, excepting my now dwindling supplies. The group that we were running with had reduced from 6 or 7 to now 3, Ryan who would eventually DNF, and Jason who would end up finishing in 8th place. When we hit the aid station we all decided to take a little more time, drink as much as we could, and try to resupply before the long stretch of trail we had coming up.
Lake Skannatati to Camp Lanowa
The longest section of trail without any aid, this was also the most challenging portion of trail. Jason Ryan and I had decided to stick together until Lake Skannatati at the very least, knowing that running as part of a group is always much better than running alone, since it relieves you of the individual pacing burden, and the comradery takes your mind off of the mounting discomforts. By the time I finally got to Camp Lanowa, I was feeling a bit tired, and my feet were getting rather beat up from the constant wetness, and dirt coming into my shoes, so knowing that from here on out, I would have a pacer, I took a few moments to refill my supplies, finally put on some socks, and pound a redbull before Gene and I took off down the trail again.
Camp Lanowa to Tiorati 
But Gene, my legs hurt! In spite of loading up at the aid station, and finally putting on socks (which felt unbelievably good) I was still lagging from the previous sections grind. Gene was brilliant in encouraging an uphill powerhike, and downhill run strategy through this leg, and pushing me just enough to keep me moving well, without pushing too hard. When we hit the aid station, Gene asked them what place I was in, which turned out to be 15th overall, so we stocked up, and hit the trail, after first being left behind by another 50 miler, putting me in 16th overall.
Tiorati to Anthony Wayne
Hey, do you think you can catch that guy? This was arguably the nicest section of trail, rolling single-track, not very rocky (finally, something without F***ing rocks!!) and after a mile or so, we began to see 50k and marathoners for the first time in the day. Everybody loves having a carrot in front of them, so seeing other runners in front of me, I started to rely on my training miles, and start running at a good clip again, enjoying the fantastic trail, and picking off runners from the other races. When we got to Anthony Wayne, Sean was waiting with new handhelds for me, and I was able to exchange Gino for Dave heading into the final 10 miles.
Anthony Wayne to Queensboro
That ain’t so bad! What’s another 10 miles, right? feeling really beat up at this point, already 10 miles beyond my longest run, the alternation between feeling awesome, and like complete and total crap was in full-swing here. Gene had been a chatterbox for his pacing duties, alternating between trying to make me laugh, and trying to piss me off, Dave’s methods of distraction weren’t too dissimilar, but with a lot more singing. When we hit the Queensboro aid station, Dave subtlely let me know that the other 50 mile runner we ran into there had previously had a ~5 minute lead on me, so we hurriedly boogied out of the aid station (running obnoxiously quickly for the first 400 or so yards) to try to get a gap going.
Queensboro to 1777
This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around. With Dave acting as a human jukebox, he soon realized that any time he broke into some talking heads, I could run faster. Although with one of the most difficult, and rocky ascent/descents all I could think about was how much my feet hurt, and how desperately I wanted to be off of this (insert a torrent of expletives and negative adjectives here) mountain. After grinding through this section, we finally made it to the last aid station.
1777-Finish
This is water. This is water. Dave kept saying this to remind me to be in the moment here, enjoy this, accept this, and for Pete’s sake, just keep running. There was less than a 5k between here and the finish line, mostly downhill, on some comparatively forgiving trail. Running the final mile as hard as I possibly could, crossing the finish line was a truly tremendous experience. 9 Hours, 3 Minutes and 35 seconds on trail, 50 miles, 7038′ of vertical gain, 7038′ of vertical loss, 15th place overall.

This was arguably one of the most challenging, and coolest experiences I’ve ever had. I really can’t thank Gene, Dave and Sean enough for their support throughout the race, as well as their pacing, and general encouragement. I figured out that I ate 16 GU’s, a couple of handfuls of pretzels, 8 S! caps, 1 Redbull, a few glasses of Mountain Dew and a lot of fluids, which worked out exceptionally well, since I didn’t “bonk” at any point, and managed to urinate with a decent amount of regularity. Now, my entire body is sore, much more so than it’s ever been, but it’s a good sore, the kind of soreness that you know you’ve truly earned.

They even let me pretend to pour pints!

  

Pre-Race Report

Just a little update on the numbers regarding my training/conditioning with regards to tomorrows NF 50 race.
Since January 1st, I have accumulated the following:

Training Miles: 1,211

Tracked Vertical Gain: 89,000′

Also, for the Physical Stats:

Height 5’11”

Weight 152 lbs

Body Fat 8%

I’ve collected my gear, which mainly consists of a pair of split shorts, my MT 110’s, a couple of Handheld water bottles, 20-something GU’s (both regular, and roctane) S! caps, and Cyto-max powder (sports drink). Gene Dave and I plan to scope out a bit of the course this afternoon, and eventually we’ll be met by Sean, the Parakeet of Protection for carbo-loading, and a couple of winks of sleep before the 5am start.