Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Running Strong and Injury-Free: Using the Off Season to Your Advantage

The race season is over.  There are no more race goals, no more training plans on the fridge.  The holiday season has arrived and it’s easy to lose focus and start running inconsistently, setting yourself up for a potential injury. Conversely, maybe you’ve been battling an injury all season and are hoping it will start to heal over the holidays.

The off-season is the prime time to check in with your body.  It’s an opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive.  

Some primary causes of running injuries are:
  • Training errors: This includes too much too soon, poor planning and periodization, and overtraining.
  • Sub-optimal biomechanics: This leads to less ability to absorb training errors.
  • Poor body alignment: Sometimes you can change this, sometime you can’t.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Imbalances in strength and muscle length can lead to an asymmetrical gait pattern which is a big predicator of injury in runners.
  • Lack of variety:  Running involves highly repetitive movement patterns that can lead to overuse of key muscles if each footstep lands on the ground in the same way.
  • Incorrect or worn out shoes: This is less of a factor if you have addressed biomechanical, alignment and muscular factors, but should be considered.
Here are my top five suggestions for setting yourself up to be injury free in the new year.
  • Slow down and do a self assessment.  Pay attention to those niggles and pains that you’ve been ignoring all season.
  • Identify and correct the risk factors you can on your own.  If your gut is telling you something needs to be changed, follow your instinct.  Make changes slowly and gradually.
  • Cross train.  When the weather precludes you from getting outside as much as you’d like, the off-season can present the perfect opportunity to add variety to your training through cross-training.  Consider activities like spinning, cross-country skiing, skating, weight training and yoga.
  • Make a plan.  Take the time to develop a training plan for the next season or race.  Hiring a coach can provide invaluable guidance, but there are many good training plans available online.  This will help you train smart by increasing your mileage gradually and intelligently, and balancing hard training days with recovery and rest days. Recovery is as much a part of training as running hard, and it’s important to build rest into your plan.
  • Get professional help in areas you can’t correct yourself.  Attempting to make changes to your biomechanics, alignment and strength are best done in the off-season, not at the peak of your training cycle when your body cannot absorb those changes well.  Having professional guidance can help you focus your efforts in the areas you need to address most.
If you are a runner who has been dealing with an injury for a long time with no resolution, or a runner who wants to prevent future injuries from occurring as you reach for your next big goal, you might want to consider visiting the Running and Gait Centre at the Pan Am Clinic for a 3D Biomechanical Gait Analysis.  The centre is the only clinic in Manitoba to offer this highly advanced assessment in a clinical setting.
3D Gait Analysis

During the assessment you will have 16 sensors attached to your joints, and five sensor clusters attached to your legs and pelvis. As you run, six cameras measure your gait pattern.  A report is generated with 16 gait variables, comparing you to a database of thousands of runners.  This data is combined with a very thorough physical assessment that seeks to correlate your gait report with your measures of alignment and muscle strength and length.

You will then return to the centre for a second visit where you will be presented with a comprehensive report and plan for addressing your individual risk factors and weaknesses.  Specific strengthening, stretching, shoe and orthotic recommendations, and targeted physiotherapy treatment will all result in improved running form and efficiency. Research has shown this method to be very effective in helping runners perform pain-free, and to their peak potential.

The Running and Gait Centre is currently accepting bookings for January 2016.  For more information, visit our website or call 204-805-1912.Kim Sénéchal is the lead physiotherapist at the Running & Gait Centre: Foundation Rehabilitation Services at the Pan Am Clinic.  She is also an ultra marathon runner and run coach.

NB: This article was written for the Manitoba Runner's Association newsletter, Dec 2015.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Let's Play!

Have you ever noticed how incredibly serious runners can be?  We analyze everything.  A GPS tells us our distance, speed, pace, cadence, heart rate, and compares us to everyone else who has ever run that route via Strava.  We painstakingly choose our shoes, analyzing the last, amount of motion control, heel to toe drop, weight, lacing mechanism, and color.  We hire coaches who develop training programs that are pinned to the fridge and we worry when we aren't able to complete them perfectly.  It gets even worse when a niggle starts to develop. Where is it coming from?  What am I doing wrong? Should I stop running?  Then we often seek professional help from those who are experts.  Ironically, I find myself one of those "experts" who is paid to perform a very detailed 3D analysis of a person's running gait and then a very thorough physical assessment as part of my job as the Lead Physiotherapist at the Running and Gait Centre at the Pan Am Clinic in Winnipeg.  Don't get me wrong - I love my job and can't believe I get paid to do what I do.  But all this analyzing can easily weigh me down.  It's easy to miss the forest for the trees.

A friend this week thanked me for "letting him play" with his running.  It took me back a bit.  We had been creatively brainstorming training options (see post: Creative Downhill Training: Flatlander Style), which was kind of fun. I told him that running SHOULD be playful and creative.  That's how innovation happens.  And then Sarah Seads posted something about playing in the woods (as she always does).  And it got me to thinking...again.

The next time you are at the park, watch little kids play and run.  They run for pure joy - chasing each other around, playing tag, twirling and dancing, holding hands and skipping.  As adults, we forget how to play.  And we forget that simple human movement is easiest way to play.

Playfulness starts with a mindset.  It starts with gratitude for the ability to run, and acknowledgement of the gift of the moment.  It starts with putting a smile on your face as you head out the door, and keeping it on as you run.  It continues with leaving the data-trackers at home.

Here are several ways to bring play back into your run:

  • Get off the road.  Find a trail that winds up and down, around and around.  Don't worry about getting dirty or wet.  Jump in the puddles, get muddy.  Break your own trail in the snow.  Leave footprints that will make the next person wonder what in the world you were doing!
  • Fartlek.  Fartlek means "speed play."  Add variety to your runs by changing speed continually like you would if you were a kid playing tag.  Better yet, play tag with your running partner!
  • Use music. Put your entire music collection on shuffle and see what comes up.  Change your style of running and your pace based on the song.  You will run completely differently to Thunderstruck than you will to Barney's Christmas.  Just saying....
  • Dance. Seriously.  This works especially well when running downhill on a trail.  But even on the flats, don't be afraid to add a little wiggle or a twirl when you're running...even if you have to wait until there is no one watching. I love dancing.
  • Wear something crazy to a race or just for a training run: a funny hat, a tutu, a shirt with a funny saying.  Elicit a few laughs and you will feel playful.
  • Smile and say hello to EVERYONE you pass.  Even if you pass them 3 times.  Hold out your hand for high fives.  The surprised smiles you get in return will brighten your day.
  • Stop to make snow angels, appreciate your neighbourhood Christmas lights, or the roaring waterfalls.  Wherever you happen to run, look around you.
Longevity in running requires recognizing there is a time and a season for everything.  There is a time to be serious and train hard; and there is a time to lighten up and play.  Variety is a key element needed to run healthy, mentally and physically.  I need to remind myself of this regularly, especially now that it seems my whole life revolves around running.

So make this your December Challenge: to bring the play back into your life.  Get outside and let the rain fall off your eyelashes and the snow fall onto your cheeks.  And don't forget to smile :)

Monday, 16 November 2015

Creative Downhill Training: Flatlander Style

Over the past few weeks a friend and I have been brainstorming ways to creatively train for downhill running while living in a place with no hills.  My strength is downhill running, while it's his weakness.  I'm dealing with an injury (details forthcoming when I have a full diagnosis) that precludes me from uphill running.  So together we are motived to work on the eccentric component of downhill running.  I don't want to lose my secret weapon and he wants to develop his.

We are both planning on big races in 2016 that involve lots of downhill running out west.  It's actually been quite the process, evolving from epiphanies while on the way to a run..."I know!  I'll just put the treadmill up on blocks!"... to discussions on proper speed to simulate deceleration, matching leg speed to treadmill belt to avoid burning out the motor, adding weighted packs, and even my most recent idea: adding resistance band around the waist to pull me forward.  I've had a few laughs at myself, pondered the science, and gotten a few very strange looks from my physio colleagues as I experimented on our treadmill at work including "why do you want to run downhill?"

"Well," I responded, "because there are no hills here! And because I can't run uphill right now, so I'm going to make sure my quads don't lose their ability to run downhill.  That, and I'm curious."

Here is a video of Todd running on his treadmill propped up on blocks:

And are a few pictures of me running with the resistance band tied to a belt around my waist while running on the treadmill propped up on blocks.

And here is a short clip:

I personally haven't tried running with a weighted vest yet because I don't have one, but I was really impressed with the resistance band system.  Anyone who's run down a mountain on uneven terrain knows that sometimes you feel off balance, sometimes your foot lands perfectly under you, and sometimes it doesn't - and you have to instantaneously react to accommodate to that without breaking stride.  Well, running with the tension of the bands pulling me forward from three attachment points around my hips provided just enough unpredictable variability to simulate free running down a mountain, not quite sure where my foot was going to land.  In addition, I was instantly aware of how high my heel came up during swing phase. The bands immediately activated my posterior chain of muscles that eccentrically controls that controlled fall forward. Honestly, it was as exhilarating as a treadmill run could ever be for me.

The key to this is to start slowly if you are not used to downhill running.  Eccentric training is very effective but very demanding on your connective tissue and your quads.  It's easy for your form to fall apart really fast.  Copy with caution!

Feel free to laugh and call us crazy...and pick apart our running technique.  I have. This training is of course supplemented with eccentric training in the gym and eventually uphill training for me.  If anyone knows of a treadmill with a bigger range than +15% to -3% please let me know!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Scouting Spruce Woods

Today I ventured outside Winnipeg for the first time to run & explore Spruce Woods Provincial Park.  We drove 2 hours, ran for 5.5 hours (with some breaks) and drove 2 more hours home.  Welcome to trail running in Manitoba!  The Spruce Woods Ultra happens May 6-7, 2016 and before I solidify my 2016 race plans, I thought I should scout out the place.

A few trail runners that I met at the Lemming Loop lived up to the reputation that many trail runners have - kind, generous, laid-back.  Todd and Maria graciously picked me up at 6:00am and drove me out to the park to meet several other "Turtles" there to run in the cool rainy morning.
Todd and the Turtles (aka Charlie & his angels)

A quote from the race website: " The Spruce Woods Ultra race is unlike any other event in the province. First, it’s tough. Although it’s a run in the park, it is unlike any other run in the park you’ve seen in Manitoba."  As we drove along Hwy 1 heading west of Portage la Prairie, I gazed out at the FLAT land and wondered how hard this run was really going to be.  I was told, "you have no idea what you are in for."
I found evergreen trees in Manitoba!

Well, they were right.  I was very surprised to find myself running up and down and up and down...over and over again.  It was an unrelenting series of short flats, 20 high cadence paces up, 5 long strides down, repeat.  Sometimes no flats in between.  All those short ups and downs started to take a toll about 20K into our 40K run.  I couldn't just lock into a pace and slug up a hill, nor could I relax and squeal with delight as I flew down a hill (except in one place).  Changing speeds and cadence continually was demanding.  We managed to log almost 2000' of gain over the 40K.  No west coast profile, but nice!

I have to give a shout out to Todd and Maria who both ran 10-15 miles more than they would have had I not been there - simply to ensure that I got what I came for and got a good look at the park.  You guys rock!  Now I know what type of run I'll be in for if I sign up for the Spruce Woods Ultra.  And how much recovery time to allow before the next race.  This one will demand respect.  Thanks for the great time everyone.  Always good running with you!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Deep Thoughts - Is the need to move abnormal?

I have a very active six year old son.  He can't sit still in class.  He fidgets.  He wiggles.  He's always dancing, striking some kind of dramatic pose.  When given the chance, he runs everywhere.  He takes after his mother.

A few weeks ago I posted something on Facebook about children who can't sit still in school with an article from the Washington Post by occupational therapist Valerie Strauss highlighting the fact that kids do not move enough in today's world and many of them have poor core strength, balance and subsequently, poor attention spans.

My son on the farm - being himself
The resulting flurry of commentary from my Facebook friends got me to thinking.  Many questions started swirling in my head.

Why can't my son sit still?  He is frequently disciplined, often by missing his recess ironically.  He obviously needs to move and needs to move a lot.

Is this abnormal?  Although my friends were supporting me, many comments resulting from my post were based on the assumption that it is indeed NOT normal to need to move all day long, and that the inability to sit still is pathological.

But is it really pathological?  Were our bodies not created to move?  It is "normal" to sit still all day long, listening to didactic teaching and intensely listening and watching someone else be active? I am reassured by my younger teaching friends that it is not.

Could I sit still all day long?  NO!  I was a good student (and a girl) so I managed ok in school because I was an oldest type A child.  But I also grew up on a farm and activity was as part of a normal day as eating and sleeping.  There were always chores, and I naturally ran from one part of the farm to another.  I was even known to run pushing the mower around the several acres of grass that I had to cut...back in the old days when we didn't have a riding mower.  I was impatient and I didn't walk if I could run.  The farm was the perfect place for me.  Which is maybe why I could tolerate sitting still in school for 18 years.  Fast forward to grad school in Michigan.  While pulling a marathon 64 hour studying and exam session in my first year of physical therapy, I survived by racing out onto the football field in the middle of the night and running sprints as my friend threw balls at me.  The ONLY way I could focus my mind was to move my body.

Now almost 20 years later, I have a son that seemingly needs to do the same thing.  And he's punished for it.

Back to the questions in my head.

We all know that 100 years ago, the majority of a person's day was spent in manual labour. People lived on farms or earned their living with their hands. My parents were raised in the 50's and 60's being told that children should be seen and not heard.  This was a core value. People began moving into towns and cities, but many still had a farm to run around on, and chores to do.  I was raised in the 70's and 80's during a time of technological revolution.  It was the era of the Apple II in schools - we were one of the first families I knew that had a PC with a dot matrix printer.  I was lucky to live on a farm because as people continued to move into the cities and buy computers, sitting still became something that was not taught, it was necessary and became the new normal.

Now I am raising my kids in the early 21st century when rationing tech time is a battle, riding in vehicles is safer than walking to school, and playing outside on the playground is a liability for the school board rather than a joy and a necessary part of childhood.  I'm a 3rd generation parent of the "seen and not heard" philosophy.  It's trendy to promote activity in youth, but in many schools we are still very much stuck with mid 20th century values.

Where did we go so wrong?  And more to the point of this blog, how do ultra runners fit into the mix?

Flashback to Feb training on Vancouver Island
The answer is we DON'T fit.  We like to move our bodies.  We need to move our bodies, for very long periods of time.  We are all driven by different things.  Sometimes there are inner demons, addictions to overcome, epic vistas to see, or something to prove.

For some of us, might it be that we simply didn't have the need to move trained out of us?  Were we lucky enough to have parents and environments that allowed us to move as much as we wanted as children? Is the need to move simply a part of us that we simply can't deny or suppress? Maybe we are the normal that no longer exists?  The evolutionary biologists certainly would agree.

As I struggle to help my son find his way in the world, I want him to know that he is NOT broken.  There is nothing wrong with him.  I am not going to label him.  He is very intelligent. He simply needs to move more than his peers in order for his mind to work well.  I get that because I am the same way.

I'm often told I'm crazy for running ultra distances.  Maybe.  But maybe I'm just reflecting a normal part of humanity that struggles to find expression in the western industrialized world. Since I don't have to farm, hunt or gather, I just run.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

My First Runner's Rant

Love my Kinvaras!
This is my first ever Runner's Rant. I'm going to be blunt and possible offensive - I'm sorry in advance.

I get really cranky and exasperated when someone says to me, "Aren't you worried that all that running will wear out your knees?" or  "I don't run because running wears out your knees."  Running does not wear out your knees people!  Simply the use of a body part does not wear it out.  Our body was designed to function better when used more.  That's what makes the human body so mind-blowingly amazing. Does more core exercise wear out your core?  Does breathing more wear out your lungs?  Does cardiovascular exercise wear out your heart? It's simply ridiculous to say that using your knees for an activity that is as basically human as breathing will wear them out.  It's amazing to me that this archaic myth is still believed by many people.

If one takes time to look (with a simple google search), there is a large body of evidence to support the opposite. In fact, running can actually protect you from osteoarthritis, the medical word for "wearing out" your knees.  In fact, one well designed long-term study of the general population called the Osteoarthritis Initiative from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas showed that runners were less likely to develop arthritis than non-runners, by between 16 and 29 percent (Runners World).

Our knees are a relatively simple hinge joint built to support the load of our body weight.  Ideal function of the knee joints happens under the assumption that we are asking them to support optimal body weight (not the weight equivalent of 1.5-2 people) with the support of a strong muscular system in a biomechanically optimal manner.  Running under these conditions may even promote cartilage thickening and prevent the loss of cartilage proteoglycans, as evidenced by research and the undeniable fact that many top placing ultra-runners are in their 5th and 6th decades and have been running for years. Quite happily and successfully I might add.

A much stronger association exists between non-optimal body mass index (BMI) and knee osteoarthritis than between running and knee OA.  One study publish in 2013 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise concluded that "running significantly reduced OA and hip replacement risk due to, in part, running's association with lower BMI, whereas other exercise increased OA and hip replacement risk.  This study did not specify what "other exercise" was other than non-running or walking.  The study highlights several other interesting factors that increase or decrease risk of OA and hip replacement and can be read here.

What does tend to stress the knees is asking them to do more with less: to support more weight than they are built for, with weak muscular support, poor alignment and poor biomechanics.  Gravity works.  It works with every footstep.  Don't ask your knee joints to support 3-5G's with each foot strike with little muscular support or proper time to develop adequate connective tissue strength.  If you've gained weight or carry heavy gear while running, your muscular system needs to be that much stronger and your connective tissue will need longer to adapt.

There ARE people who shouldn't run - those with pre-existing traumatic injuries or with already present degenerative conditions that require caution.  But aiming to "protect your knees" by not running is the worst thing you can do.  Become inactive, gain weight, get weak, and you are almost guaranteed joint problems in the future. No one likes to hear it, but it's true.

Now that you know the facts, don't judge me.  And if you don't want to run, don't make excuses based on myth. Just say, 'running is not my thing.'  That's O.K. Then go find some other way to move your body.

Rant over!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sunday Night Viewing: Finding Traction | Nikki Kimball

While listening to podcasts this week, I happened upon an episode of The Ginger Runner where Ethan featured physical therapist Nikki Kimball.   Nikki has been running and racing ultra marathons for 15 years and places in the top of her field repeatedly.  She was discussing her recent attempt at beating The Long Trail FKT.  Tonight after everyone was in bed, I sat down and watched the documentary of her experience on YouTube.

A few statements and quotes from the film stood out to me (may not be quoted verbatim):

"Running is a metaphor for life, in the sense that you get out of it what you put into it. You have to know not just your limitations, and even more so, your possibilities. Our life is governed by what we are capable of doing, and that determines what we become."

"Winning a race is not the point.  Inspiring someone to become more healthy.  That's that point."

BUT..."I would never recommend that my patients' do this.  This is not smart." LOL!

"Too many girls are taught to let fear limit their actions.  I want girls to explore their fears...and to crush them."

"I do not know where the cap on my potential lies.  So I just keep running.  And that is why I run."

Finding Traction

The Ginger Runner Podcast: Nikki Kimball

Whether you agree of disagree with the whole premise of pushing yourself to the max as Nikki did in her Long Trail run, I think you will find her film inspiring to watch.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Lemming Loop - My First Looped Course Race

Ultrarunning is always an adventure no matter where you are or which race you do.  I ventured back into the world of ultrarunning here in Manitoba this weekend.  After the Miwok 100 in May, I really haven't been running anything beyond 20K.  So after 4 weeks off in Aug and 5 weeks of training in Sep, I figured, 'what the heck?!'  Why not get back out there?  Ultra runners are not always known for being rational.

The Lemming Loop is a 2.05 mile looped course race around a prairie nature preserve in the middle of Winnipeg, Manitoba.  There are 3,6,12 and 24 hour events.  It is an event spectacularly organized by Trail Run Manitoba (RD - Dwayne Sandall).

Official results are yet to be posted, but my GPS told me I ran 52K in 6 hours, and 50K in 5:48:14.  I have never run a looped/timed course before, and definitely have never run so far on terrain so flat.  Here is my breakdown of the good and the not-so-good aspects of a looped course race and the Lemming Loop (from my perspective).

The Good

  • You don't have to carry 2L of water and your fuel on your back the whole race
  • There is an aid station every 3K.
  • There was a REAL TOILET every 3K.
  • The course offered enough variety and turns to avoid being too monotonous and mind-numbing.
  • I got to know fellow runners and witness/share their highs and lows on the course as we passed each other repeatedly.  In case it's not already obvious - trail runners are COOL people.
  • I saw first hand how a 24 hour racer looks 17-23 hours into a race - in a word - sleepy.
  • The volunteers were great - and the food even better!  Too bad I didn't partake of much of it as I prefer to eat stuff I know works for me in training.
  • The weather was PERFECT.  A sunny clear day, high of 17, enough breeze to keep me cool but not enough to significantly impact my pace.
  • My family was able to come cheer me on and be there for the last few loops of the race.  My son even ran a little with me.  That was the best part!

My kiddos at the finish
The Not-So Good

  • No elevation changes. This course was FLAT.  What does that mean?  Lack of variety in my biomechanics, other than turning corners.  Resulting in hip flexor niggles and patellofemoral knee pain that I have never experienced before.  Odd to have the knee pain when there was no downhill, but it was there.
  • Lack of epic views...but we ARE in Manitoba.
  • Hard to pass or be passed on vary narrow single track.  Hard to imagine, but it was vary narrow even on the prairie.  And with 100 runners doing 3K circles there was a LOT of passing.
  • Mentally challenging - reasons should be obvious.
  • Pacing was difficult for me.  I am used to working hard and slowing down on the climbs, then letting loose and relaxing while making up time on the descents.  There was none of that here.  Just lock in to a pace and KEEP IT.  I hate looking at my watch all the time.
  • The wind and the dry prairie air completely dried me out.  Fortunately, I had been warned and coated my lips in thick sunscreen, my face in lotion/sunscreen, and drank LOTS.  Although the weather was cool, I still needed 2-3 S-caps/hour.

Although I am new to the Manitoba trail running and race scene, I felt right at home at this race.  Trail runners really are cool people.  And ultra-trailrunners are a special breed of people (I like to think) who share the bond of salty cheeks, blistered feet and the occasional hallucination.  We are all driven by different things, but we are all driven.  I witnessed people out there who just wouldn't STOP.  Barely moving, practically sleeping on their feet, but they didn't stop.  Some would call that just plain foolish, but I know how much mental strength it takes to keep moving when every ounce of your being stays stop.  There are lessons in the pain, in the exhaustion.  The rewards aren't always tangible, but they are there or this sport wouldn't be growing so exponentially.

Thanks Dwayne for putting on a great race.  And thanks for giving me a venue to run a 50K PR!

The Race Start

Awesome race swag!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Lessons in Patience and Humility

A central personal goal of my ultramarathon/running journey has been learning lessons about running and about myself.  I am frequently asked to give advice as a physio about returning to running post injury or after a long absence from running.  I know all the theory, I've coached and advised many many people as they build for the first time or after injury.  I preach patience, being cognitive rather than emotional about your plan, being realistic.  I admit I have often likely sounded a little nonchalant about it, not understanding personally how hard that really is.  Now I know.

As aforementioned in a previous post, after training hard all winter and spring, I took some time off this summer.  I was forced not to run a single step for 4 weeks due to a medical issue (thankfully temporary).  That combined with a cross country move meant that my training suffered.  Time off isn't a bad thing. I've been running and training for one race or another for the past 3 years with no significant time off other than yearly periodization, with my longest break from running being 6 days.   I always maintain a good base, but I was tired after Miwok, so it was good to give my body a rest from running.

When the 4 weeks were up and we were settled in our new house, I was more than ready to go.  I had biked and power walked but I wanted to run!  Mentally I thought I could run all day.  Physically, I was in for a wake up call.

I trotted out of the house ready for a nice easy 10K.  I was SO EXCITED!  First I noticed my legs didn't feel right.  Then I started breathing heavily at a pace that used to be zone 1 and was now more like zone 3.  By 8K I noticed a small niggle in my IT band.  At 10K I was euphoric but exhausted and wondering who's body I was inhabiting.  Despite what I know cognitively, I foolishly thought I could just run out the door and pick up where I left off.  I told myself that I needed to be cautious and careful, but if I was really deeply honest with myself - I didn't think I needed to.  I managed 40K that first week and felt the slight warning signs of connective tissue stress in my achilles and ITB.  I am terrified of injury and that made me pay attention.

So I have been taking it slowly, following the 10% rule for increasing weekly mileage (although there is no solid research to support that arbitrary number that I know of).  I dug out the heart rate monitor and have been working on going slow, building my base back up again as if it were January.  I've even been a very good girl and have been strength training and working on my ABCD drills at least 3x/week.  My legs are coming back and my zone 1 pace going back down.  YAY!

Never in a million years did I think it would be this hard to come back from significant detraining.  Physically there is a formula that works and I know I'll get there.  But mentally, I have been humbled.  My pride had to be left at the door...again.  I am not known for my patience, which is why ultra running has been such a good character builder for me.

So to all those runners I have advised in the past: I'm sorry that I didn't truly get it.  I hope I gave you good advice and encouraged you despite my ignorance.  To those in the future: I've learned that taking a break and then rebuilding afterward is about more than what you are doing or not doing.  It's about who you are and how you define and value yourself through the process.  Rest assured - your body remembers.  If your desire is there and you are patient, you'll get there!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Saturday Night Inspiration

A new video from Salomon Running TV and an old one that I keep coming back to...enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Redefining and Strategic Planning...Sort Of

Sarah Seads nearing the finish of the Fat Dog 50M (80K)
First of all, I need to give a BIG shout out to my running buddy Miss Sarah Seads, who finally got to Fat Dog this year and ROCKED the 50M course in a torrential rain storm to come across the line as the second woman and nearly beating the previous course record.  Way to go girl!  Read her race report here.  It's hard to believe it's been almost 4 months since we were at Miwok.  Since that time, there have been so many changes in my life I've been feeling slightly destabilized to say the least.  Definitely not ready to rock.

We moved this summer from the beautiful and mountainous west coast of British Columbia (Comox Valley) to the flat homogenous prairies of central Manitoba (Winnipeg).   I also had to take some time off running for medical reasons.  I know I'm not the first runner to move to a completely different geographic and climate zone or be forced not to run for a while, but these things happening at the same time landed me solidly in a state of dysequilibrium.

As I drove 2600km east towards the centre of our continent/country, the sky got bigger and the landscape got flatter.  I had a lot of time to think as I seriously starting looking for river valleys and even small hills as a place to train.  Most road runners hate hills, but this mountain trail ultra runner was having a panic attack!

Several existential questions starting rolling around in my edgy, endorphin craving mind.

1) Who am I now? Am I still a trail runner?
2) Do I try to become a good road runner now that I live in a concrete jungle?  Focus on speed?
3) If I'm going to keep my word and go back west for a yearly race, how in the world am I going to train for it?
4) How am I going to keep from getting injured without the variety of mountain trail running?
5) How am I going to keep my mind sane without the peaks and valleys to look at?
7) How do I redefine my WHY now?  I need to find a way to keep it FUN.
8) How am I going to change my yearly periodization schedule and race schedule to take the harsh Manitoba winters into account?

My new neighbourhood running trails are along this river.
Notice I asked 'WHO am I', not 'WHAT am I?'  Being a runner isn't about what you do, it's about who you are.  How each run and each race, each time you push yourself beyond your limits changes you permanently.  Not always in big ways, sometimes in subtle ways, but the change is inevitable. I will always be a runner.  Running is a big part of who I am and what I do.  So no matter where I live, I will continue to run.  Why? Because I am a runner.  Because even though I won't be climbing big peaks or running along clear glacial rivers, I need to move my body with joy and reverence for the gift that's been given me as much as I need to breathe.

No hill training here!
I will miss the mountains as much as a part of my own body, but I've come out of my funk.  I've joined a few running groups (Trail Run Manitoba and the Manitoba Runners Association), signed up to race and volunteer this fall, and can't wait to get out there and explore this new place that I live.  I will lose my edge on the hills, but hopefully will improve my leg speed.  Remember what the most important attribute of an ultra runner is?  Adaptability.  It's all good as long as I can run!

PS - My big toenail decided to fall off this week.  Guess it's time to start training for another ultra!

A little slice of forest a short 10 min jog from my house in the middle of the city!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Miwok 100 Pictures 2015

Better late than never!  Here are some pictures of the race course and my experience during the Miwok 100 on May 2, 2015.

4:50 am - excited to start!
I wrote the cut off times on arm just in case.  Ended up not needing them but I was prepared!
I believe this was leaving Muir Beach.

My support crew! Uncle Ken at Tennessee Valley Aid

Auntie Gloria cheering me on with style!

Tennessee Valley Aids 4 and 6

Knees started getting sore here...just pretend!

Amazing views - it was hard to keep my eyes on the trail and off the coastline!

Leaving Muir Beach the second time - ready to tackle Cardiac again!

Bolinas Ridge - peaceful beauty.  I remember being totally zen here.

California Poppies everywhere!

This is the forest where all started to go wrong for me.  Somewhere between Bolinas Ridge Aid and Randall Trailhead.
Sarah Seads - finished in 12:38 and qualified for Western States!  You are the best running buddy ever.

We survived!

The carnage.  Brand new socks with holes in them and patched shoes that barely made it,  but left me no blisters at all.  They were lovingly left in the trash at the finish line.

Auntie Gloria, myself and Sarah

The day after the race we hit Ben & Jerry's...with a good reminder of what running is all about!

Post race refuelling at Boudin Sourdough Bakery - who cares about the calories!
The Pierson Crew!

My aunt is so awesome - and thanks to my mom for the shirt!