Frustration

Any high volume runner knows what I’m talking about when I tell you that the inability to run is ineffably frustrating. Putting aside any race plans, and any other associated fitness goals, the real issue is that there’s a tremendous part of my day to day life that’s simply… missing. The smell of the mornings fresh air, the sense of depletion after a run, the joy of a prolonged sweat, all of this seems to be infiltrating my thoughts, memories of what seems like a past life (although it’s only been a few weeks since I was running healthily). In fact, it’s much like getting sick, where after a few too many days of illness, you begin to forget what healthy feels like…  More omnipresent, is the longing for that time spent truly alone. Having the opportunity to tune in, and listen to my body, both the joys and the pains of distance running. Even more, the chance to truly let my thoughts go through my head at their own speed, and simply observe them. So while it’s annoying to think that my fitness is slowly reducing, this pales in comparison to the mental aspect of not being able to hop on trail first thing in the morning (and often times, last thing in the evening) and leave it all behind for a while.

My knee is starting to feel better, in fact, it’s MUCH better than it was when I originally began resting(I’ve now taken 14 of the last 18 days completely off from running). When it first started to act up, I couldn’t make it more than 3/4ths of a mile or so before the pain began to become unbearable, whereas this past Monday, I ran 6 miles on trail(AT, at Sunrise Mountain), without it being beyond a nagging discomfort, and last night I ran 3 miles on the roads, again testing it out, finding the pain bearable, but certainly concerned that a light 3 mile jaunt would still cause some aggravation. With this in mind, I’ve decided to take another ~8-10 days off from running, concentrating on icing, stretching, compressing, and starting to integrate ultrasound therapy. Hopefully this will allow my IT band to fully heal so that I can get back to the trails soon, and retrieve the part of my life that’s been missing for the past month or so.

In other news, I’ve been selected to be a Merrell Delegate for the upcoming Outdoor Nation Summit in NYC. I’m not sure how much Merrell wants me (or any of the other delegates) to divulge about the perks of being sent on their behalf, but the bottom line is that they’re covering my expenses, and have provided me with a generous amount of apparel in exchange for my participation, blogging on their behalf, and a couple of conference calls with their outdoor people. Basically the purpose of the summit is to gather a sizable amount of 20-somethings in a room to discuss ways to encourage more people to get outside, get on trail, and be healthier, so I’m every much looking forward to it.

Gino chased by Bob

John crosses a stream

Jeff doing some downhill

Advertisements

Awe, Mama, Ain’t it good to be alive!?

Yesterday morning I woke up obviously on the wrong side of the bed. I went out the door for my usual ~5 miler, still feeling low from this cold I’ve been battling, and within the first hundred yards I knew something wasn’t right with my left ankle/calf. So I bailed out at the half mile mark, making it a round trip mile, and overall a shitty start to the day. So I spent the day knotting my fists, cursing the misstep on Saturday that resulted in the twist exacerbating this long standing Achilles-oriented weakness. The ensuing funk lasted for the duration of the day, making me realize just how cathartic these runs are, and how much they keep me level-headed throughout the day.

Fast forward 24 hours. My ankle is still sore, but not un-runnable (in fact, the soreness is much higher in my leg than it was last time this happened, and no where near as tender). So, I went out this morning for my usual Allamuchy loop, deciding to power-hike more of the inclines to save the abuse on my left ankle, but still take advantage of the 50+ degrees outside. After a week of not really being “on” the mountain, the sheer act of summitting this small peak, and looking over the area from that vantage point is still exhilirating. I’ve hit this peak 7 times since the turn of the year, it refuses to get old (I actually thought the number was higher than this…). So, even with some mild discomfort, it feels good to be alive, forget the trivialities of every-day life, and simply run.

Why I run….

Running has, to me at least provided an outlet. A source of constant inspiration, struggle, an activity that seemingly knows no limits. A lot of people I regularly associate with fail to understand the psychology of the runner, specifically those of us interested in endurace-oriented events. This, (to me) has less to do with the actual running, than it does the philosophical point of view of the runner. In my opinion, with the exception (albeit slanted by my participation within) of the artists, our society has become increasingly numb, and complacent. This has created a sort of “dead” society, concerned more with the pursuit of comfort, mostly (in an American sense) in the form of ease of work, recreation, consumption, transportation, and every day goings on. This, however, is not what I would consider a true pursuit of happiness, especially when you consider the abundance of uppers/downers/anti-psychotics/anti-depressants that the general population consumes purely to maintain their lifestyle. Instead, my pursuit of happiness, is different. I do not yearn for variety, but rather choose to indulge extravagantly in one specific activity. In fact, I’m pretty sure I speak for most runners when I say that our passion, our extravagance, has little to do with worldly pleasures, but  rather with an over-indulgence in the most primal thing we can find, we forgo the technological extravagancies of our time, and instead pursue the most basic, simple activity we can.

This being said, the simplicity of running is paramount. On the micro scale, yes, we have an abundance of choices (especially those of us interested in trail running) do i put my foot here? there? etc etc, but on the macro scale,we are absolved of the anguish of decision making, for it is simply binary: Run, Don’t Run. That is it, pure, simple, no mistakes to be made, no judgements to be passed. Regardless of whether or not you prefer to run on the trail, the road, or the rubberized oval, a simple stopwatch mediates your effort, it does not lie, but rather provides the runner with a concise, pragmatic quantification of effort.

What, for me, makes the act of running, (especially on trail) so important to my daily life is the sense of aliveness that I get from doing so. Whether running up a switchback towards a summit, with my quads burning, or descending down a fast leaf covered single track, I am never anything but dwarfed by the power of the terrain I’m covering.  Granted, my typical running grounds are nothing compared to those in the Mountain timezone, or the Pacific Northwest, but the simple ascent of 1500  feet over rocky terrain is hard-won, and humbling. I run the same paths on an almost daily basis, and every day, they teach me something new, and push the boundaries of my comfort zone, both as a runner, and a human being. When I descend from these mountains, with the breeze in my hair, frost in my beard, and cuts and scrapes on my body, I am alive. and when I return to my home, peel off my shoes, and finally rest, I feel that I can truly sleep well, and look forward to tomorrow, when I’ll do it all over again.

This is how I pursue my life, and how I continue to feel alive. Everything exists as a result of it’s opposite, and without strenuous effort, restfulness would not be as beautiful.  So at the end of a long day, of running, creating, and music making, this is what allows me to sleep at night, and more importantly, this is what encourages me to get out of bed in the morning when that god-awful alarm starts buzzing well before the sun comes out to shine.

Allamuchy, Demonstrating the Chris Carey Summit Pose

Summary Jan 15-21

Sunday Jan 15, AM 5 Miles, 42:19 Broken Shin Loop with Limpy, Roadie, and Jeff Boy-ar-Dee. Met the guys for a frigid AM run, wish I had worn socks, and managed to freeze my beard pretty well… although, the companionship made the wind and unreasonably cold temperature a lot easier to deal with.

Monday Jan 16, AM 11.6 Miles, 2:04 Ran through Allamuchy with Dave, again, wicked cold (~8 degrees) but we covered roughly 1550 feet of ascent/descent over the course of 2 hours, without running particularly hard at any point (but managed to test some speed on a few technical downhills). We also took the time to take some rather contrived trail-running photos, and upon returning to the car, and changing, my jacket (a lightweight softshell) froze completely solid… I suppose winter has come….
PM 3.85 Miles, :40, Turkey Brook loop with Roadie, Jeff, and Hairy, a nice second run of the day, trying to stay loose, also wore uber-minimalist shoes to concentrate more on biomechanics.

Tuesday Jan 17, AM 4.85 Miles, 40:39 Power Line Trails, completely frozen over, making for a rather nice variety of rocks, and frozen mud, good traction, fast trail, I think this is either THE, or close to the fastest time for me on this route… eventually I’ll check the log-book and find out. Also, took a pretty great digger tripping over an embarrassingly small rock.

Wednesday Jan 18, AM 10.15 Miles, 1:16:04 Tempo-ish hill run through the local roads, running this route at mid 7 pace is becoming increasingly easy, I’m going to need to find a harder tempo run in the next few weeks… or pick up the pace substantially (still haven’t decided which yet)

Thursday Jan 19, AM 4.85 Miles, 41:02 Power Line trails… Ground has softened up a lot creating a strange combination of really soft mud, ice, rock, and frozen soil, footing is a complete guessing game. This variety of trail conditions is part of how, and why I run the same routes a lot, I may cover the same ground, but each run is fantastically different from those that precede and follow it.
PM, 5 Miles, 37:52 Broken Shin Loop, ran ahead of the pack, and then was chased down by Bob, power of ego overtook my better sense, causing this intended recovery run to be much faster than I would have liked.

Friday Jan 20, PM 4.85 miles, 44:16 I originally tried to run 10+ at Allamuchy, in fact I drove all the way there, stood outside my car for a few minutes, used the bathroom, and instead of running, returned home…. a  few hours later I pushed myself out the door for the Power Line loop, and ran the whole thing convinced that I was falling asleep

Saturday Jan 21, AM 10 Miles, 1:26:41 Ran through Schooley’s Mountain and surrounding Rail Trails during a snowstorm. This was by far the most challenging run of the year, mentally, physically, and especially with regard to the elements. The snow made for questionable traction(causing me to fall on level trail), as well as providing additional drag/forcing me to keep my knees higher than I would otherwise like, not to mention the constant head-wind, and snowfall pounding my face. There’s a beauty to the solitude of being the only runner out there in this sort of weather, and the challenges that face you while attempting to run trails under  these conditions.

Total Miles:  60.15 8h52m, Falls: 2 Frozen Beards: 4

Gino also has his beard frost over

Jeff around Turkey Brook

Dave and I on top of Allamuchy (Photo courtesy of Dave Franz)

Ice Beard at Allamuchy (Photo Courtesy of Dave Franz)

Descent is steeper than this shows (Photo courtesy of Dave Franz)

Finally, it snows

Downhill in the snow

Summit!

Summit Profile

Not quite postholing, but close…

It’s a good hurt… I Promise

Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Fuck, Ouch, Fuck, Ouch, How much further? Fuck, Ouch…. that was what was going through my mind on this mornings ~10 miler, where Mile 2 felt remarkably similar to mile 25… Oh the joys of stacking mileage, forgoing rest days, running doubles, and being on pace for 140 miles in 14 days. Yes, that’s correct, I’m on pace to run 140 miles by midnight on Saturday… that means in 14 days, I’ll run 87% of the distance I covered in the previous 31… so much for prudent increases in mileage. If I stay on pace, that means that in January I’ll run 150% of the mileage I ran in December, no small feat, and certainly not the mileage increase that more sensible types would pursue…. although, seriously speaking, when have I ever been known to be sensible!?

All masochism aside, I thought I’d speak about first why I am pursuing these miles, and later, how I’ve been going about it. I’m NOT running this much with the intention of hurting myself (although if someone decided to go Tanya Harding on my knees this morning, I’m not sure I’d have complained too much…) If it was my intention to be masochistic/injure myself/facilitate an abundance of discomfort I could find much more efficient means of doing so. As previously stated, I actually enjoy maintaining a high(ish) weekly mileage, although, the first few weeks of it are typically a bit of a grind. The jump in mileage is primarily to pursue a strong base before I start introducing more functionally specific workouts. I’ve already mentioned my plans for the year involve pursuing Marathon and Ultra-Marathon distances almost exclusively (at least with the intention of competition…. I’m sure I’ll enter a few shorter races, but with less lofty expectations). This means that unlike runners of shorter distances, it’s advantageous for me to run in states of varying depletion/discomfort. In fact, I NEED to train my body to continue running even though my legs feel as if they’re on fire/being repeatedly stabbed my annoyingly fast midgets, and there is no way of getting used to this other than simply running a lot… even if that means running when my legs feel as if they’ve been repeatedly pummeled by a meat tenderizer.

Now, increasing your mileage by 40% from one week to the next is certainly not the most reasonable progression. In fact, it’s not something I’d recommend… period. As much as my “training” seems to be a result of flying by the seat of my pants, my body is actually quite adequately prepared for this sort of abuse. I’m very fortunate to have rather neutral bio-mechanics, and to be able to pay a lot of attention to small details/feedback that my body is giving me before, during, and after a particular run, both of these things seem to help me reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries. Also, as last weeks mileage demonstrates, I’m not running particularly hard right now. Some of my runs are fast(ish), but last weeks avg pace is ~8:45. The lack of “hard” workouts is deliberate. Yes, I’m running hills, Yes, I’m running some decent-ish tempo runs, but at no point last week, or this week am I intending on running full-out… more like ~80%. I expect this to be my M.O. for most, if not all of January, as I try to establish a strong base before integrating harder workouts (Hill repeats, up tempo trail runs etc).

That being said, knowing the strain that this is putting on my body, I’ve also been much more diligent about post-run recovery. Normally, my recovery process is not so dissimilar from 1970’s Canadian Hockey players… plenty of beer, fall asleep eventually. In spite of beer obviously being a fantastic recovery drink, this plan is less than ideal. The majority of my (plant based) diet revolves around whole foods. When I’m “training” (such an ugly word….) I’m substantially more diligent about what I put into my body, especially when it comes to hydration (3-5 liters of water a day seems to do it) and protein content. I also deliberately eat more frequently, and in smaller amounts, in an attempt to avoid the Food Coma my seemingly endless post-run appetite often induces(this allows me to function like a normal human throughout the day… rather than a bonk-induced semi-zombie). Other than that, I often wear compression socks (are they a placebo… or are they real…. the world may never know) and spend a good amount of time with Mr. Foamy. With that said, it’s time to return to the misery stick for a few hours, then back out the door for another 4-6 miles.