31 August 2007

Test Run II: A New Hope

Took the knee for a spin at the gym today. I'm pleased. Not completely satisfied, but pleased.

I went 3.5 miles around the gym's indoor track, which is flat and soft compared to anywhere outside. Walked half, ran half. No knee pain. There was a definite fatigue/discomfort feeling in my knee during the last couple laps, but no pain. This, I think, is very good news. My last couple "test" runs were about the same distance with a very noticeable discomfort/pain in the knee that forced me to stop running. My quads were very tired, but this can be attributed to the quad exercises that I've been doing the last two weeks for rehab. I could have kept running today (for how long I don't know) but I wanted to play it super safe and live to run another day.

A recap of my last couple weeks:
  • Aug 14th - my last pain free run (17 days ago)
  • 3 painful short runs before I decided I should rest (totaling 11 miles)
  • One scenic 10 mile hike with uncomfortable running mixed in (um, probably should have skipped this hike...)
  • 10 days with no running
  • Various cross-training
  • 54 movies (at least it seemed like it)
I don't want to get too excited about today's test run, because it was short and I did walk a lot, but I can definitely see an improvement in the knee. So I'm going to get semi-excited and see how it feels this weekend. The Tiger Tail seems to be working great, the icing seems to be doing the trick, and the heating pads are always nice. Not going to get too excited, though...

Hopefully I can keep running. Cle Elum is in two weeks!


29 August 2007

My First DNF and a Case of Runner's Knee

Not even my ultra-movie-marathon went as planned. I DNF'd after three movies, and only two of them were Jamie Lee Curtis movies. It's amazing how few Jamie Lee Curtis movies our local video store has. So, after "True Lies", "A Fish Called Wanda", and then the non-Jamie Lee Curtis movie "Mulholland Dr.", I was through. I probably could have gone on but I think my goal of six or seven movies in a row was simply too ambitious.

As far as my running goes, I'm at a weird point. I'm almost 100% positive that what I'm dealing with is RUNNER'S KNEE. The good thing about this is that rest is the main remedy. The bad thing is that I have to rest. My original plan (last week) was to take the weekend off and then pick up the running yesterday, but I want to play this very safe and get all the rest my knee needs. So I will most likely take this week off as well, with another trial run Friday or Saturday to see how everything feels. I'm icing, elevating, taking ibuprofen, heating, etc. And my Tiger Tail came in a couple days ago so I've been rolling my legs like a crazy person to work those fatigued quads and tight hammies and calves. Everything feels good and mentally I think I've rested it enough to go out and run today, but I just want to play it safe and take a few more days off.

Has anyone had experience with this? All the literature online says I need to "rest", but there is never a prescribed length of time. I know I don't want to rest too long because I will lose my conditioning, but...

Anyway, I'm still preparing as though I'm running the Cle Elum 50k on Sept. 15th. But I also know that this race, as much as I WANT to run it, is not my main focus. My main focus must be the JFK 50 in November. So I want to play it smart.

I'm in better spirits now then I was this time last week. It's tough to have to take this time off after my training had been going beautifully. But I'll be back soon. :)


24 August 2007

Test Run

A big fat NO GO.

Went out for a couple miles just to see how the knee was feeling, hoping to give myself the mental go-ahead to resume training this weekend. But in the two miles it was obvious that the knee is not 100%. So the plan now is to take the weekend off and resume my regular schedule on Tuesday.

(Robin - the tiger tail should be here any day)

I'm still hopeful that I'll be ready for the 50k in three weeks. Very hopeful...

For now I'll continue with my planned Jamie Lee Curtis weekend. (see previous post)

An Epic Beginning to Unfold

My knee feels great when I sit on the couch.

In fact, I think I'll be ready for an ultra-couch sitting competition before I'll be ready for an ultra-run. Right now my stamina is at about three consecutive movies -- but it's getting better by the day. Just this past Monday I was only able to sit down for one movie before I had to get up and take a break. By Sunday I'm hoping to complete a solo, non-stop Jamie Lee Curtis ultra-movie marathon. Six, maybe even SEVEN in a row. I've done as many as six Jamie Lee Curtis movies over the course of two days, but never in one continuous sitting. I know this is a lofty goal, but when I do something I like to do it ultraly.

I never thought a rest week would be so intense.

So, any favorite Jamie Lee Curtis movies I MUST make part of my epic adventure?

Keep sitting!


19 August 2007

(Not So) Off Day

Well, when it came down to it, I simply could not take today off (see yesterday's post). The urge to get out on the trail was unstoppable. An unstoppable, aching kind of urge. Yes, aching. I fought the urge for awhile (from 6:30am until 8:30am) - jab, jab, jab, uppercut - but it fought back even harder - jab, jab, jab, dropkick to the cranium. Game over.

Head to the trails.

The original plan was to visit Spokane's Riverside State Park and put in 22-25 miles on their extensive non-pavement trail system. But with the bum knee I knew this wouldn't be a smart thing to attempt. However, I decided that I would still go to Riverside State Park but would plan on mostly hiking with a little running here and there. There is no pain or discomfort in the knee when I'm walking/hiking. Time on my feet - that's what I was shooting for today.

Temps in the 50's and rain. Perfect. Sadie and I hiked (with bursts of running plopped in) for about 10 miles. The knee felt completely fine hiking and mostly fine running, though at about 7 miles the pain was present on a couple short runs (1-2 minutes) so I just hiked the rest of the way.

I'm satisfied with these 10 miles. I don't feel I aggravated the knee anymore. Yes, it does need some rest and I'm going to give it some rest, I just needed to delay that rest another day or else I would have gone crazy spending a Sunday with no trails. :) The latest plan is to take at least Mon-Wed completely off, but probably Mon-Fri. Give it some good rest then see how it feels next weekend.

Enjoy some photos from rainy Riverside State Park. This was my first time to explore their trails and I liked them enough that I'll definitely go back. They have a 25 mile trail that goes around the park - something I'll have to explore even further.

Spokane River

Sadie rinsing off rain

Trail above Spokane River

You can see where her neck was
shaved for her two surgeries

Off-season for rapids

Sadie wondering how to get
on top of that rock in the river

Rock formations

18 August 2007

Throw This Week Away

Well, what can I say? It was a bad week. It started off good with the return of Sadie, but my next three runs were less than expected. The pain I felt in my right knee on a long run last month has returned. I'm pretty sure it's fatigued related. This is the third time I've felt it and the other two times I've taken a few days off and it was fine. This week, though, I was hard-headed and instead of taking a few extra days off I tried to compromise and just cut the mileage down so I could still get out on the road. Wednesday my run was supposed to be 8 miles but I could only manage a walk-filled 4. Thursday I wanted to squeeze out at least 4 and ended up with 3, again walk-filled. Yesterday (Friday) was a scheduled off day and I also went in for a massage. The massage was great and I woke up today with fresh legs and high hopes and instead of playing it safe and giving the knee some extra rest I went out on the road shooting for 4 miles to test the knee out. Although I did go 4 miles, the pain returned during the last mile and I walked the last little bit home. Not as bad as Wed. and Thurs., so I think the massage and off day helped, but still annoying enough to be annoying. And I don't even know if the word "pain" is the right word that I want to use to describe it. It feels more like my knee needs to be popped but it just won't pop like it normally does. And annoying enough were I don't want to run on it. Hmmm....

Anyway, tomorrow I had a superliciously awesome 20+ mile trail run planned near Spokane. But, after the outcome of this week's runs, and as hard as this is for me to do, I am going to take tomorrow off. My week is over. I'm going to throw this one in the waste basket and take a few days off to try to get this knee right. It's a little surprising, and frustrating, because this was the week after my cut-back week, so I was expecting to feel refreshed and ready to hit the trails for some serious miles. Maybe I pushed too hard on my cut-back week runs and on this week's Tuesday run with Sadie on Moscow Mt. Maybe there's something in the atmosphere this week challenging every runner's will. Maybe it's all in my head and I should just keep running.

Whatever it is, I'm going to take a few days off.

More rest. More ice. More pills. More calling friends and family to tell them how enjoyable Hairspray was (seriously).

15 August 2007

Look Who's Back!

Yesterday, Sadie made her much anticipated return from the 15-day disabled list. She'll be on antibiotics for another week and then we'll know for sure if last week's surgery removed all the foreign debris from her neck or not. Since the tube was removed from her neck on Friday she has been bouncing off the walls. It hasn't been easy putting on my running shoes and leaving her home. But yesterday she was given the all-clear to start running again. We headed for Moscow Mt. and our favorite trail and she was so happy to be back. The photo above was taken on the drive to the trailhead. She ran circles around me for 5.5 miles. It's nice to have her back with me. Happy Happy Sadie Day!

(WARNING: you are now in the exact middle of a mood swing)

If yesterday's run was excitement and rejuvenation and happy times (it was), then today's run can only be described as a horrible train wreck. Easily, EASILY!!, my worst running experience since I began my training. I felt horrible (maybe sick?) and temps were in the mid-90's and it was just...yuck. It's been a couple hours since the run and I'm still frustrated. I'm embarrassed to even call it a "run". The mileage will say 4 for today but I don't even want to say how long it took me. But I WILL call it 4 for today because I DID cover 4 miles on my feet (well, most of it was on my feet) while wearing my running shoes! Blah! Blah blah blah!!!

Sadie is as mad as I am, as evident from her post-run interview. "I final return from the disabled list and I get this for a run? What a joke." :)

This week also marks the official end of my summer at work -- which means less down time and more worky worky. I've been swamped all week and haven't had as much time to blog surf as I usually do. Don't you hate all this work stuff? Booooorrrriiiiiing.

I need to eat. Bye.

12 August 2007

Arboretum Run

Sadie is doing well. The drainage tube was removed Friday and she is full of energy again. We're hopeful everything is going to be fine but the vet said there is a chance that there are still bits of the grass awn in her neck that caused the abscess. We'll know if we're in the clear or not about 3-5 days after we take Sadie off the antibiotics. If bits are still in her neck then it will start to swell into an abscess again. Until then, Sadie as been cleared to join me back on the road starting Tuesday. :)

I've had some good runs during my cutback week. Thursday I ran a hilly 6 miler. My allergies are getting worse and my nasal drip has become rather annoying during the runs. And to help matters in absolutely no way whatsoever, a grain elevator caught fire Friday afternoon along part of a trail I often run. The fire burned through the night and into Saturday. We drove by it today (Sunday) and it was still smoldering as crews kept drenching it with water. Pullman smells like burnt toast.

Yesterday I ran to the Farmers Market in Moscow, Id. 10 miles in 1 hr 24 min. Jeanie and the puppies met me at the Market and we picked up some goodies for the week. I think I'll make my famous fajitas tonight. Yippee! Oh, and if my allergies aren't bad enough, for about three miles of this run a crop duster was spraying the field next to me. Here I am running to live a nice healthy life and I get dive bombed by field chemicals. I tried to hold my breath for those three miles but found it was impossible. I would run and run and hold my breath but at a certain point right before I was about to pass out I was forced to take a deep breath or two. My first kid will have six ears and a tongue growing from one hand. :(

Today's run was at the University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden. This was our first time to visit since we've lived here. No pets were allowed so I thought today would be a good time to try it out since Sadie is still "officially" out of action. A gravel path loops around the arboretum at a distance over a mile long. There are several side trails as well. I ran around Japanese Flowering Cherries and Turkish Filberts for about 3 miles and then met up with Jeanie for a casual walk for another mile so we could take in the off trail plants, the highlight being the Perry's Fire Opal. 4 miles all in all. I wish I had my camera. It was a lovely (and hilly) place to be on a Sunday morning. Then we took the puppies to the park for some Frisbee and Sadie is trying hard to make a case for an early return from the disabled list.

I'm getting so excited about the Cle Elum 50k you can't even imagine. The lower mileage this week was welcomed, but I'm excited to get back out there this coming week to rack up some more.

Keep running!


08 August 2007

Fields of Gold... and Record Kleenex Sales

The green fields turn to gold faster than you can say gesundheit.

One of the great things about living in the Northwest, compared to the Texas I grew up in, is the changing colors. Most colors coincide with the changing seasons, but in the Palouse you can tell what time of year it is by the color of the fields. We're at the end of summer and everything has turned to gold, which means harvest time, which means lots of fun stuff floating around in the air, which means allergies, which means we've entered the only time of year when tissue sales in the Palouse are (likely) higher than micro-brew sales. I wake up, blow my nose, and spend the next 30 minutes sneezing. Not just little cute hee hee hee sneezes either. This are get out the Windex and clean some windows afterwards type sneezes. This lasts for about a month. We've bought stock in Kleenex. And Windex.

This week is a cutback week and I think I'm ready for one. My legs feel great, but it's pretty obvious that a week with less miles will do some real good. I hope. I'm getting into territory that I'm unfamiliar with so I'm going to trust my training schedule as much as I can.

I said goodbye to Sadie at the doorway (and Jeanie too) and headed for the trails. My last two runs have been on pavement and I felt like I was having trail withdrawal. Last Saturday's run has me so excited. So I went out to Moscow Mt. and did the Headwaters Loop. My goal was to run the entire thing - no walk, no stop, no skippity-do-da. It's a 5.5 mile loop that starts at around 3,000 ft and tops out around 4,000. I always have to walk at least part of some of the steeper sections. But today, minus the few seconds that I was rolling down the hill after a root vs. shoe encounter, I was able to run the entire way. This made me happy. I'm making some serious progress with my training and I think it's a safe bet to say that I'm in the best shape of my life. Even better than any point during my four years working for Uncle Sam.

I'm so excited about the progress I'm making. So excited that I went and did something crazy again. I sent in my application for the Cle Elum Ridge 50k trail race next month. It will be difficult and an incredible challenge but I'm pretty sure -- uh, I mean totally confident - that I can finish it. I know, I know, I haven't even run a marathon yet. Eh, who cares. (All naysayers and/or hecklers of my decision making please click here.)

As crazy as it might be that I'm going to run an ultra-marathon before I even run a marathon, there is something even crazier going on in our midst. Go check out Rob's blog and look at the race he has scheduled for Sept 8th-9th. If you aren't familiar with the race then go to the race's website and read the "rules" to get a better appreciation of just how crazy it is. Good luck Rob!

All in all I'm having a great time and simply love running. I've said this before but I'll say it again - this is fun.

Keep running!


PS If you click on the last photo and look closely near the bottom left corner just in front of the trees you should be able to make out the moose that crossed in front of me on my way to the trailhead. Wish I could have gotten the camera out faster because there was a beautiful shot as she was crossing the road.

07 August 2007

Poor Sadie

Quick update on Sadie.

The abscess on her neck returned over the course of the last few days and was growing at a rather alarming rate. We are having a few issues with our regular vet clinic about it and unfortunately didn't trust them with Sadie's situation anymore, so we decided to take her to another clinic yesterday morning. They took some samples and did some lab work and confirmed that it was an abscess. (The previous vet did no lab work and only confirmed that "although it looks like an abscess, I'm not really sure what it is"...) This morning Sadie had her second surgery to remove the abscess and this time they actually found what was causing it: and little prickly grass seed that had embedded in her neck. She's home now, and groggy, with a large tube running in one side of the affected area and out the other side to promote drainage. She'll have the tube for a few days only, hopefully. She looks horrible, but they assured us she'll be fine. We're hoping for the best. And we feel much more confident with the new vet.


Running news:

I ran 4 miles today.


05 August 2007

This is Why I Run

All week I’d been itching to get out of town for my scheduled twenty mile run. Itching to go somewhere I’d never been. Close enough to make the trip in one day but far enough away that I could still call it a trip. And it absolutely had to be a trail run. In the mountains. With spectacular vistas and chance encounters with wild animals. With packed single-track and lots of ups and downs. With creek crossings and river swims. With trees and rocks and shady spots in the grass to eat my peanut-butter and honey sandwich. With the slightest cross breeze and Fall temperatures in the Summer. Oh, and there had to be cloud cover, except for when I wanted to take a picture then I’d need all the sun I could get. And would it be too much to ask for if all this trail running goodness were within cell-phone range?

After some painstaking research, I found a trail in a hiking book that looked to be up to the task.

Location: Blue Mountains/Umatilla National Forest
Distance: ~21 mile loop
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
Hiking Time: 2-3 days

Hiking time 2-3 days? Moderately Difficult? I know that these hiking terms don’t translate very well into trail running terms, but I was still a little concerned that I might be biting off more than I can chew. Then again, I think that challenge was part of the reason I picked this trail. My goal was to do the loop in less than 6 hours.

The plan was to leave very early yesterday morning to get on the trail before the day got too hot. And I wanted all the daylight I could get just in case it did take me all day to make the loop.

The alarm went off well before the sun came up. I got up well after. Great, I slept through the alarm and was already over an hour behind schedule. But this turned out to be a good thing because on my way out of town I saw Jen cruising along on her 18 mile run. Hi Jen!! Nice run!

The Blue Mountains and Umatilla National Forest are located in Southeastern Washington and Northeastern Oregon. According to my error free drive time calculations it would take me just over 2 hours to make it to the trailhead. Never, ever, underestimate the time it takes to drive along mountain roads. I got to the trailhead in a bit over 3 hours. Now it’s already past 9am and the sun was already starting to get hot. Lace ‘em up and get going.

I love the trails.

(Note: Poor Sadie didn’t go on the run with me. She has an open sore/blister on one of her paws and needs a week or so to heal. She’s having a rough time these last few weeks. The run was lonely without her.)

The start was in Washington at an elevation around 5,400 ft. Basically, the run was to go down into a canyon and run along a river for a bit then run up the side of the canyon and loop back to the start.

Graphics below: Rough sketch (nothing GPS'd) of the route. I ran the loop counter-clockwise starting at the top left just off the map. Also, an elevation graph I put together based on the guidebook's graph.
The first 7 miles or so was downhill, very steep near the beginning, then becoming more gradual. The one downside to the entire run was in this section. Of those 7 miles, a portion of it was completely overgrown with bushes and vines and limbs. The trail was still visible below all this but it was difficult running in these parts because it was so thick (so thick it ripped a gash in my shoe) and I had to bushwhack my way through. A lot of it was rocky. Most of it was runnable.

This section also fulfilled my wildlife sitings quota for the month. I came up on elk on two separate occasions. I don't know if these elk were deaf or not, but they waited until I was pretty close (less than 30 yards) before the jumped and groaned and bounced off into the woods. These caused me to have only mini-heart attacks. The major heart attacks happened when a Blue Grouse or two would fly up from underneath a bush when I ran by. This happened at least a half-dozen times. And they don't just "fly" up. They wait until you are basically two-inches away from them and then shoot up about 10 feet into the air (right next to your head, mind you) with their wings flapping so loud you think you're being attacked by a rabid werewolf. Honestly, the only thing that could possibly be scarier on a trail run than a heart stopping Blue Grouse encounter would be if you actually tripped over a bear.

Those 7 miles led south to Oregon and the Wenaha River, elevation around 2,500 ft. The 4 mile section along the river was amazing. Since the canyon walls are so steep, most of the trail was overlooking the river from 50 to 100 feet above. I was able to run most of this section. Did I mention that I didn't see anyone the entire run. It was wonderful. This section of the trail actually runs nearly 30 miles to Troy, OR. Maybe something to plan in the future. :)

Then I reached the junction to head back up. Up to this point I had tried to run as much as I could because I expected that most of the nearly 3,000 ft climb back to the start would include more hiking and less running. The trail up was called Grizzly Bear Ridge. The first couple miles back up were very steep and I was doing short 1 or 2 minute runs to every 5 minutes hiking. And with the sun high in the sky I was getting pretty tired. Right when I was ready to give up and wait for the sweeper vehicle to arrive and pick me up I got to the top of the ridge and it wasn't nearly as steep from there on out. I caught my breath and took a short break in a shady grassy spot and then headed back up. The last 8 or so miles was a very runnable gradual climb along Grizzly Bear Ridge. I got in some good running for most of it. But with about 2 miles to go I totally bonked and walked pretty much the rest of the way in. But I did it. 21 serious trail miles in about 4 hrs and 45 mins. I'll take it.

Now get me home to take a nap. Wait, who's driving me??

Alright, here are some photos. Enjoy.

Umatilla National Forest

I get to go down this...

There's a river somewhere in
that canyon way over there

There it is! The Wenaha River

View from the trail

Can you see the trail on the left
going over the black rock?


Heading back up

On my way up

Not a good section of the trail
to practice my cartwheels

If the views weren't so spectacular
I wouldn't have stopped as often
(special thanks to the chipmunk
who took this photo for me)

Looking back down Grizzly Bear Ridge
toward the end of the run

It was a highly successful day. I was tempted on going back today, but decided to settle for a 3 mile recover run.

My last post I was (semi) joking about "Why am I running?" I think the photos on today's post do a great job explaining why I do.

Saturday - 21 miles
Sunday - 3 miles

Keep running!


02 August 2007

Jell-O Legs and the World's Smartest Doctor

Wow, the last two days have been very hard runs. Yesterday's 3.5 miles may have been the toughest miles I've run in the last couple months. I guess Tuesday's trail run really zapped my legs good.

But I did get out and run and it did feel (mentally) good to have run. My legs are still very tired and it will be nice having a day off tomorrow.

During yesterday's particularly brutal run I began to question why I was actually running. And the only thing I could think of was a very insightful email I received a couple weeks ago from a friend at work.

I don't know where it originated from but it's pretty funny.

Here's the email:
(this is taken from one of those chain emails going around)


Patient: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?

Doctor: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... Don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.


Patient: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

Doctor: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables . So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.


Patient: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

Doctor: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!


Patient: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

Doctor: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.


Patient: What are the advantages in participating in a regular exercise program?

Doctor: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!


Patient: Aren't fried foods bad for you?

Doctor: You're not listening.... Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?


Patient: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

Doctor: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.


Patient: Is chocolate bad for me?

Doctor: Are you crazy? HELLO Cocoa beans! Another vegetable. It's the best feel-good food around!!


Patient: Is swimming good for your figure?

Doctor: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.


Patient: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

Doctor: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!!


So why am I running??

Yesterday - 3.5 miles
Today - 3.5 miles (and the lawn)
Tomorrow - rest
After that - who knows.... :)