Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running, hiking, dying in the desert

As a child I did not do well in the extreme heat plus humidity of Memphis, TN.  I recall getting very hot playing on the playground and spewing my lunch all over the playground.  I eventually learned to deal with it well enough to run and be active outside while living there and Tampa but never as well as others.  Fast forward to now when I live in Southern California near the ocean and 80s and 90s are considered extreme temperatures.  It makes running conditions optimal but does not prepare us for racing in warmer environments...unless we venture into the inland areas and do what others avoid- run during the heat of the day.  Over the weekend, I unknowingly ventured into the extremely warm and dry conditions of the Anza-Borrego desert and experienced one of my worst "runs" ever.  It proved to be a learning experience and, as always, a good time with friends, despite our suffering.

One of my running buddies, Shacky, notified me of a training run for the Lost Boys 50, an event that will be held October 23rd in the southern San Diego county portion of the desert.  It's one that's on my radar as a potential race and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to check out a portion of the course.  The run would start at about mile 18 of the race course and go out 11 miles and come back; for some reason, I did not realize exactly where we would be running and how brutal it could be during the summer.  Shacky and I easily convinced Billy to drive down and do the run with us.  22 miles...how hard can that be?! 

Saturday morning I woke up at 2:30am and questioned my sanity for getting up so early to drive to S.D. and then the middle of nowhere for a 22 mile run.  Nevertheless, I crawled out of bed, prepped, and got on the road by 3:15 for the drive to San Diego.  Our little group met at Shacky's house and then drove to the San Diego Running Institute so that we could meet up with others doing the training run; that was perfect since we had no clue how to get to the starting point.  I figured it was somewhere near part of the SD 100 course because there is a small section of Lost Boys that appears to be part of the SD course.....well, the desert is bigger than I realized!  Thankfully we were following others because finding Great Overland Stage Route of 1849 (no, I'm not making that up...that's the road name!) was trickier and farther than I could have imagined.  About 90 minutes after leaving SD, we arrived at the starting point just in time to do last minute running preps and get briefed on the run by the race directors.  They had marked the course with ribbon and would have water and ice at miles 5.5, 11, and 16.5; they warned us that temps reached well into the 100s the day before and for us to take care of ourselves.  GULP.  It already felt warm and I started to question being out there for hours....

 Kilted Shacky, me, Billy ("before")

Start of the trail/and, later, the end of my misery

We took off and I immediately realized how hard running through sand can be.  I didn't want to hold up the group so I was running a comfortable pace but not one I could have sustained through the sand and heat so I took a walk break a couple of miles in, much to the relief of Shacky.  Billy, Shacky, and I muttered complaints about the sand and how it would be harder on the return trip.  Paul, one of the RDs, passed us in his truck on the way to mile 5.5 and I thought nothing of it...trucks can drive through sand easily, right?  Well, we ran/walked into deeper and deeper sand and I wiped all desire to run Javelina Jundred out of my mind.  My shoes were full of sand and I could feel hot spots developing.  Well, the sand was so deep that we came upon Paul's truck stuck in the sand.   The rest of the group caught up to us as we tried to dig the truck out...after building and using cardboard ramps, the truck was eventually unstuck and Paul continued on his way to the aid location. 

 And it got worse...

We got there and topped off water and grabbed ice.  It was already brutally hot and we had only just begun!  Shacky said he could not go any farther...the sand had killed his legs and his back was hurting.  Billy and I convinced him to venture on by hiking the remaining section.  The next section was a long, very rocky climb and we eventually decided that Billy and I would go to the 7.5 mile point and then turn around and get Shacky on the return.  I trudged up the hill as Billy ran sections; I was horrified that I could not even run the very baby uphill sections and was so relieved to get to our new turnaround.  I was dizzy and nauseous and just wanted to be done.  Even running dowhill was hard as the rocks and my dizziness made each footstep challenging. 

Starting to climb Oriflamme (Shacky's pic)

Rock to the head

I could have taken a long, hot nap there

We loaded back up on water/ice at the truck (aid) and I dreaded the remaining 5.5 miles since it would be through sand.  We tried to run/walk but eventually the heat got the best of me and I told Billy to run ahead, while Shacky and I would take our time back to the car.  Shacky and I ended up splitting up as I tried to move when I could and find shade (VERY hard in the desert) as much as possible.  In the final 3 miles, I sat under 4 different bushes trying to get my heart rate down enough to continue on; running was out of the question as even walking wiped me out.

Still smiling with less than 4 miles to go...think this is when the smiling ended

Canyon area (Shacky's pic)

When I eventually got back to the car and chugged some ice-cold recovery drink and diet coke (thanks to other runners), I started to feel human again, though I would feel dehydrated until the following day.  The car thermostat read 109 degrees and I can bet it was at least that hot.  I drank plenty of water during the run- about 120oz- but dehydration still occurred.  I tried to problem solve and determine why I struggled so much and came up with a few things: I did not eat breakfast, yet consumed caffeine prior to the run; I should have sipped water every few minutes from the start instead of waiting until later; I need to try wearing a white long-sleeve top instead of the brightly-colored tight Moeben sleeves for sun protection.

After taking the long, less-windy road to the 8, we eventually made our way to Alpine for the best part of running- the eating and chatting afterwards.  We stuffed our tummys with delish food at Ramon's smokehouse BBQ and eventually I made my way home.  What an adventure!!!

During the run, I swore that I would not run Lost Boys or Javelina (they are on same day so would have been choosing) but, by that night, I was trying to figure out how I could become better at running in those conditions and how I could train for either event.  Runner's amnesia strikes again. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Next BIG race?!

I'm trying to pick my next 100 miler and it's very hard when there are so many very cool races out there.   I've narrowed it down to Javelina Jundred and HURT 100.  Javelina still has plenty of open spots so I have time to register for it.  HURT, on the other hand, is doing a lottery this year for just 100 spots.  If I put my name in the lottery for HURT (lottery open July 31st until August 5th) and get selected, then I have to do it.  If I put my name in and don't get selected, I'll go with Javelina.  Thus, the big question is whether or not to enter the lottery.

HURT is one of the toughest 100 milers and I have no idea if I could actually manage the endless climbs, roots, and heat/humidity to earn the buckle.  I hate the idea of spending money on traveling there when I know the course would chew me up and spit me out....but it's Hawaii and, even with the brutality of the race, I'd be in a gorgeous area and would have an unbelievable experience.  Working HURT into my budget is very iffy at this point and makes deciding whether or not to enter the lottery harder, as does knowing my BF (crew/lifesaver) would not be able to accompany me.  Eeeekkk.what's a crazy girl to do?!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Need to get my butt in shape

This week I've been careful with my mileage and paces and I've been enjoying how much better my knee is feeling.  Sunday I did my first double-digit run since SD; it was an out/back along Quail Trail and Serrano Ridge and I took it VERY easy since I was running with my boyfriend.  I still feel so weak on hills and I've resolved to make as many runs include hills as possible.  I'm also using this week to rack up the cross-training.

Monday- 5 miles on Shady Canyon trail - nice and easy with baby rolling hills. 30 min pool running, 35 min bike ride
Tuesday- 5 miles on treadmill with some faster intervals; I felt the nagging inner knee pain during last interval so I'll continue to be careful about starting speedwork. 30 min pool run with intervals, 30 min bike ride, 30 min yoga
Wednesday- 6 miles on Shady Canyon trail- heat killed me and I struggled on back portion. 30 min pool run.
Today - 5.25 miles along Turtle Rock Drive and Newport Coast Drive- baby rolling hills- was in the 80s and sunny and it killed me so I had to walk portion of uphill...then did short uphill repeats. 30 min pool run. 30 min bike ride. 30 min strengthening/stretching exercises.

I had another ART appointment yesterday and Dr.Scott continued to work on my trouble areas and tried to figure out why my left leg swings outward after toe-off.  One possible cause- very weak left butt muscles.  Awesome.  I have a weak butt...so it's time for me to get my butt into shape!  He gave me strengthening exercises and I'll be using this as motivation for running up more hills to correct my butt issue. On tap for the remainder of the week- 1 or 2 trail runs and more cross-training. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Enjoying summer and an ART session

It's been almost 4 weeks since SD 100 and my body is not recovered.  I've developed on/off crepitus in my left achilles tendon and the knee issue is lingering.  I tried picking up the pace at the end of a run last week and felt the same issue that plagued me off/on over the past year- a feeling of pulling inside my knee that prevents me from straightening my knee when I try to run faster...arg.  I've been resting and stretching with less pool running this week and more time relaxing and enjoying my summer.  I attended a wedding Monday and subjected myself to wearing heels; thankfully, my knee and achilles survived and I was able to walk around and enjoy a day at the San Diego Natural History Museum.  As we jogged back to the car, I longingly eyed the trails around Balboa Park and Alan said we could change clothes and go for a run.  Feeling I was already pushing my luck, I decided to drive back and indulge in Taco Tuesday at On the Border..ah, a long weekend of gluttony.

I'm okay with mountain lions...as long as they are stuffed and behind glass

I admit that I shivered when seeing this rattler behind glass...never want to see one closer!

The "creature" I would not be afraid of seeing during a trail run...

Wednesday I ventured out for a run to burn off the excess food and drinks with the goal of 6-10 miles; I stuck to the flat bike paths/gravel areas near my apartment and thankfully turned around early.  My knee started hurting and I had zero endurance...running at a slow pace didn't seem to help much.  The run made me decide to seek out a chiropractor/person who does ART (Active Release Technique); I've had it before with success and decided to find someone closer to my apartment.  Thankfully, I recalled a doctor responding to an email on the Orange County Trail Runners site and that he seemed very runner-friendly.  I called Dr.Scott Neubauer this morning and got his only appointment for today.

I seem to have excellent success in finding great doctors lately and Dr.Scott is no exception.  He's a talented athlete with tons of experience in treating crazies like myself and he has enough of a crazy streak to "get it."  He did a very thorough examination and gave me two options...either get a MRI to check for possible torn meniscus (booo....I have enough of the symptoms to make it possible) or do the conservative approach of treating it with ART, stretches and seeing if that offers a cure.  I have so many little muscular issues that it's hard for him to pinpoint what causes what...huge areas of concern are my left psoas, quads, and gastrocnemius (he had lots to say about how bad it is...).  He did lots of work on those areas and commented that the way my left leg turns out/lands/turns makes it amazing that I can run as much as I do...guess I'm a walking freak of nature. :)  He used Rocktape to tape my knee and told me I could go for a run today or whenever I wanted.  If my knee started hurting, he wanted me stop and stretch the psoas and then run more...if it still hurt, stretch psoas and quad and run more...still hurting, stretch previous ones plus gastro....still hurting, stop running.  All this to see if we can pinpoint the cause of my knee issue.  Fingers crossed big time that this works!

After a run and a shower...coming off one one edge but better than KT brand that I tried

I went for a little over 4 miles and it took getting used to the tape around my knee.  I stopped after the first mile to stretch the psoas and then finished the run; by the end, my knee was starting to hurt but very minimal...not sure if it was the tape or the ART or the stretching or all of the above. I stretched tons post-run and even gave my gastro a long session with The Stick.  Tomorrow I'll go for a longer run and see how everything fares.  I've dealt with enough injuries where I'm optimistic and think ART plus tons of stretching will get me back to running a 100 miler by January.  Worst case, I get a MRI and spend tons of time sitting by the pool being lazy over the next month...lol!