Sunday, January 23, 2011


On Sunday I did my first bonafide long run of 2011: a series of loops in Hendricks Park -- the hilliest area within city limits of Eugene. It went even better than I expected -- not only was it a terrific workout, but the loop course I did -- up the trails, hammering down the roads -- was very enjoyable and great hill running practice.

I also did my first-ever training run with a water bottle.  I've held bottles before -- last time was on the annual PCT/Obsidian Trail loop last summer -- but only out of necessity.  On Sunday I carried it, just to get used to carrying and drinking on the run.  That went well, too.

The lone speed-bump:  those damn S'Caps!  The S'Cap is the gold standard for eletrolyte replacement in the ultra world -- a whopping 350mg+ serving of sodium in an easy-to-swallow "cap"sule.

They make me ILL.  Literally.

When I first used them last spring, they were fine, but when I trained with them over the summer, I got serious issues: nasty gut rot.  So for Twin Cities, I resorted to carrying a piece of buttered toast, with an S-Cap (as well as an "E-cap")  dissolved into the butter.  While that worked well, that's not going to be feasible to carry a LOAF of buttered bread on a wilderness 100-miler.

Sunday I figured I'd start "training" my way into liking them.  I took one about an hour into the run, along with a handful of raisins.  I felt fine the rest of the run -- an additional half-hour.  But the rest of the day?  TERRIBLE.

It's such an odd situation:  not only does it give me gut rot, but I get almost flu-like symptoms: including headaches and fatigue, and a "feverish" feeling.  Weird.

Could it be simply a "bad lot"?  Maybe.  I don't seem to have that trouble with E-caps, but I'm gonna need a lot more sodium than those provide.  We'll see what I can do to overcome this issue...

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Free at last!  Free from the death grip of Pain and Injury.

As laid out below, I've gone through several interesting processes during this L leg injury.  The final -- and most important -- was LETTING GO.

On Wednesday January 5th, my boss, who's sick of not having his run partner around to drag him around town, put his foot down and insisted on a noon treatment, followed by a run.  Prior to that, I was content -- if not mildly excited -- by the progress I'd made POOL RUNNING; that is, literally running ON the pool surface (in the shallow end).  By that point, I could do 20-30 minutes with very little soreness.

That day, Jeff did some "Strain/Counter-strain" treatments, which identified "trigger points" -- places in muscle that were very tight and sore, due to increased muscle tone (this is important to note for later!).  Then he taped my calf/achilles (to unload it), then insisted on a run.  I was not particularly confident, but I went along.

We made it maybe 3/4th of a mile before I felt The Tightness come on, then turned back.  Same s##, different day.  It wasn't terrible, just not good.  The rest of the day, if felt crappy -- "tight, achy, throbby, irritated".  I told him so that night, via email.

His response?  "It's IN YOUR HEAD".

And he was right.

Did I MAKE UP the fact that my leg hurt?  No, but my constant worry, obsession and PROTECTING of the leg was changing my muscle (and arguably nerve) tissue tone -- all day long.  The next day, after his comments, I noticed I would go through the day with my left leg FLEXED and TENSED.  For HOURS.  Imagine flexing your bicep halfway, but maintaining it ALL DAY LONG.  How good do you think it'd feel?  Now add a stressful, repetitive sport activity to that constantly flexed arm.  Think it'd be "pain-free"?

Jeff and I agreed:  Running had become A THREAT.  And based on that threat, I would mega-tense my leg and make it this stiff, dysfuncional STUMP, rather than a smooth, relaxed, powerful limb.  And, until I could TURN OFF that tension and bracing, and no longer view running as a threat, I had to rest.

Jeff wanted two weeks off, then a week.  I took exactly ONE DAY off, then got after it.

The first couple days: 1 mile, with lots of self-talk: "Relax.  You're fine!  LET IT GO!".  I would literally say these things aloud, trying to keep my lower leg relaxed, even when it perceived "The Stiffness".  The first few days of real mileage -- 3-4 milers -- were a challenge, but I kept talking myself through it.

And within a week -- NO PAIN.  The Tightness?  GONE.
Incidentally: the reason the pool felt so good was because the WATER presented a stimulus to my skin -- on my leg and throughout my body -- that distracted from the protective, straining "Is it there? Is it there?" mind-body effect.  Once I was able to replicate that with my mind, on dry land, I was completely fine. 

Last Saturday, a week+ out from not being able to run for ten minutes, I did a 14-mile, 5.5-hour snowshoe up Maiden Peak.  No pain.  Legs were sore as hell, but no pain!  The next day, I  ran 10K with my roommate Matt, and besides being rolled up on by Jordan Hasay, it was a great run!

It was that easy.  As soon as I was able to LET GO, my muscle tone became normal, and I quit re-straining it.  I continue to stretch both calves and achilles with relative diligence, but nothing else.

Yesterday I ran with Jeff for the first time since November 22nd.  We did 5 miles on the river path.  My stride felt great -- long and smooth -- and we were rolling along at 6:30.  Per a strung-out, panting Jeff afterwards:  "You are officially discharged!"