January 30, 2017

Following up on my post from a couple of days ago…..

This morning I went to see my physiotherapist, who is awesome. Except when he tells me what I don’t want to hear.

No running.

What the hell? I thought you understood me? I thought we were on the same page? I thought we were friends? How am I supposed to deal with that?

Find an alternative form of cardio. Try swimming.

Now I know he’s lost it. It’s like he doesn’t even know me.

The diagnosis is bursitis in my right hip joint. Painful, but not untreatable and way better than osteoarthritis. Rest, treatment, ice and specific exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip.

Piece of cake.

Now can we revisit the whole “no running” thing.

The Best Thing in Life is accepting an expert opinion even if it doesn’t make you happy. A lesson we could all learn.

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January 26, 2017

At the age of fifty two I by no means believe that I am invincible. I was, however, a bit shocked when I headed out for my regular run today and had to stop one mile in because I was in excruciating pain.

Never in my thirty years of running have I limped home from a run.

After my run two days ago my right hip started to give me some trouble. By trouble I mean stiffness, pain and general acheiness. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Nothing I hadn’t felt before. The next day was better and I thought I was in the clear.

How then, could today have gone so wrong?

Could it be that thirty years of pounding the pavement have finally caught up with me? No, I tell myself, that just can’t be true. I’ll stretch, roll on it, I’ll rest….I’ll hope.

The Best Thing in Life is hope…..because right now that’s all I got.

Two Crazy Ladies on a Mountain

rainy trail

What makes people run in the woods?  In the rain and wind.  Up and down the side of two mountains?  A screw loose perhaps.  Maybe.  But for my running partner and I it was what we chose to do last Saturday.  I documented the first half of the run in A Rainy Day Run on Monday.  I’ve also looked at what makes ultra trail runners tick in Run Lisa Run.

I guess the other question is, why am I writing about it?  Partly because it was fun and partly because I wanted to remember the experience.  Because I won’t be doing it again.  Ever.

When I signed off on Monday we had reached the ski lodge at Cypress Bowl after climbing to the top of Eagle Bluffs.  We stopped just long enough under the ski lift base to scarf down a Lara bar and chug some water.  We assumed we would need to find a port-a-potty or just pop a squat in the forest but as we started out again we realized that the lodge was just around the corner and open.  Hallelujah!  I have to admit the warm fire, grilled burgers and cold beer sign were tempting but it was time to use the facilities then get back on the trail.

The course description I had printed out said that from here on it was pretty much 7.5 miles of downhill.  Ya.  Not so much.  We got back into the forest and spent the next hour dodging mud holes and slippery roots all while going uphill.  Okay, so it was a gradual incline, but at this point up was still up.

At one point we heard the thumping of a wild grouse.  It’s an eerie sound that, if you didn’t know what it was, would be kind of scary.  Wildlife is everywhere.  We would find out later in the day that a cougar had been sighted on the same trail a few hours before we passed by.

Just when we thought we may have taken a wrong turn, we heard what we thought was singing.  Or maybe somebody camping?  We came to a trail junction and came upon a group of about twenty Asian hikers.  Covered head to toe in gortex rain gear, carrying hiking poles and at least half of them had……umbrellas?  Keep in mind that we were half way up Hollyburn Mountain by this point.  As we said excuse me, on your right, on your left and thank you over and over while passing them, we giggled a bit to ourselves.  We then realized that they were probably giggling at us too.  Two crazy women in runners, tight and t-shirts running in the rain and wind on the side of a mountain.

The trail opened up now and the rain and wind was relentless and cold.  We stopped briefly to pull on toques.  If my hands hadn’t been so cold I would have taken my camera out and taken a picture of us but that was not going to happen.

From that point it really was all down hill.  For the next hour we headed down.  And down.  And down.  While it was a nice change from the uphill it didn’t come without its torture.  After a while my quad muscles starts to cramp up pretty good.  Even though it was easier and faster to run this section we had to be careful.  We had been warned about “the chute”.  A steep rough section with intermittent drop offs.  Turned out to be a bit anti-climactic.  We kept waiting for it only to realize we had already done it.

trail in the trees

Back into the woods briefly and we ran into a guy coming up the trail.  We had a quick conversation with him about his Hoka runners and asked if we were on track to come out on Craigmohr Road.  He had no idea what we were talking about.  I’m sure he would eventually run into the Asian hiking group and would have a good laugh about the crazy ladies running on the mountain.

We eventually reached out destination.  A bit off course but close enough.

The Best Thing in Life is that as we stood there in the rain we both said “that was so fun”. Yup.  Two crazy ladies on the Mountain.

A Rainy Day Run

“So we’re really going to do this?”

“Yup.  Pick you Saturday at 8:00am.,

“Okay.”

And that’s how it started.

It was kind of drizzling a bit when we got dropped off just beside the highway at the Whyte Lake trail head.  (Elevation 390 ft) There were a couple of cars in the gravel lot but apart from that it was pretty much deserted.  We buckled up our Camelbacks and started off around the corner only to face the first hill.  For the next two and a half hours we would make our way up the front of Black Mountain to Eagle Bluff.  (Elevation 3550).  Ya, that’s right.  Just over 3000 feet.  Up.

eagle-bluffs
This is what we hopes to see……

We ran though the forest for about an hour or so catching up on the last few weeks.  Kids, school, work, stuff.  Okay, so maybe we didn’t run the whole time but we kept up a pretty good pace despite talking non-stop.  The Baden Powell trail is well marked with happy orange squares stapled to trees so finding our way was pretty easy.  Eventually though, through the trees, we could see a rock face and we both knew what was coming next.  If we had thought that we had been going up before we had a whole new kind of “up” ahead of us.

“Shit, don’t look down” was mentioned more than once.  The notes on this portion of the trail mentioned to be sure and “lean in” to the side of the mountain.  Believe it or not we were still having fun.

After the first steep climb through the trees we came out onto a boulder field.  Seriously.  A field of boulders.  Only not a flat field.  A field of boulders on a 75 degree angle.  There were no more friendly orange markers on the trees.  We were on our own.  Crawling over boulders.  We headed straight up but then realized that we didn’t know where the trail picked up again.  I spotted a tiny inukshuk at the top right and headed for that.  A few feet above it the trail started up again.  We looked back down at what we had just covered and considered  ourselves lucky to have made it.

Boulders

Once that was done it didn’t seem that much farther up to Eagle Bluff.  The final push was just trying to find a path up the bluff that had something to hold onto.  By the time we got to the bluff it was raining and the clouds had closed in.  Apparently there is a phenomenal view for the bluff but we will never saw it.  Grey.  Nothing but grey.  Awesome, we climbed 3000 feet for this?

Eagle Bluff
Grey and cloudy but we’re still smiling

Back into the trees we went but if we thought we were done with going up, we were wrong.  Maybe it wasn’t as steep, but it was definitely up.  I may have muttered a few swear words at this point.  The trail was muddy but we were back in the trees and a bit more sheltered.  At some point a guy whizzed (and I do mean whizzed) past us.  Wide wooden planks became the trail over marshy sections that ended our climb.  For now.  Our last half an hour was down a wide gravel path and ended at the Cypress Park Ski Lodge.  The cozy fire, smell of grilled burgers and cold beer sign almost had us calling it a day.  But no.

You see, The Best Thing in Life as that we were only half way done.  Seriously.  Stayed tuned for part two.

Run Lisa Run

ultra running 3

More and more I am finding that road running is hurting my aging body. The repetitive pounding on pavement is tough on my muscles and, despite some fabulous new runners, my hips and knees are often crying by the end of a 10km run. So I’ve been turning to trail running lately and I have really been enjoying it. Why am I surprised? I think it has something to do with my dislike of running up steep hills. A couple of weeks ago a friend and I ran a 20km trail run with about 1200 ft of elevation gain. It felt great and I patted myself on the back many times. Could I run that again? Could I run that five times over? Not likely. My friend Lisa can and does. She runs ultra marathons.

An ultra marathon race is defined as anything longer than a 26.2 mile marathon. The most common distance are 50km and 100km but people do 50 and 100 mile races as well. The races that Lisa participates in are trail ultra marathons. Run on paths and trails in the mountains. Factors to consider are elevation, inclement weather and, I would imagine, wildlife. You may even start or finish in the dark (or both) depending on the time of year and your speed. Trail running is a different beast altogether from road running. Your pace is way slower (and you just need to accept that) and with roots, rock and creeks to get over you need to pay attention to where you are putting your feet. And it’s dirty. Muddy dirt usually. Or hot and dusty. Sounds like fun. Right?

Ultra Running 1

I would think it takes a certain type of person to run an ultra race. In general, ultra runners are a well-educated group of people. Focused, organized and definitely type A. And yes, in my eyes, just a little bit crazy. So much of this type of running is mental. Lisa was having a particularly hard time on a recent race and was almost ready to drop out. Her running partner asked her if she was okay. She said yes. “Then get your head out of your ass”. She did just that and finished the race. The community that supports these runners is also incredibly genuine and inclusive. One of the men that Lisa often competes with finished this particular race two hours ahead of her. Yet, there he was as she crossed the finish line cheering her on and congratulating her on a great race.

So when she runs a 100km Lisa is out on the trail for approximately 15-16 hours. I was curious to find out how she fueled for one of these adventures. She said that the races typically provide aid stations that supply, among other things, electrolyte drinks, cola and potato chips. What? These are elite athletes and they are scarfing down junk food every 15km. Yup. Think about it. What are you losing when you sweat that much? Salt and lots of it. And the cola? Well a little sugar and caffeine never hurts, but it can also provide a welcome change from water and electrolyte drinks. Lisa carries Vega gels, stinger waffles and Cliff packs but readily admits to not always eating enough during a race. Sometimes she doesn’t feel she needs it, sometimes her stomach is upset and sometimes she just forgets. I was tempted to ask the inevitable question of how do you relieve yourself, but really, does anybody need to now that?

But really what I did need to know from Lisa was this. You have a full-time job, a husband and young daughter and you spend roughly twelve hours a week running plus cross training sessions. Where do you find the time? I feel that perhaps this is the downside of what she does. She admits that the lifestyle is not always conducive to a balanced relationship with her husband and daughter. They support her and are incredibly proud of her accomplishments, but something has to give when you are spending that amount of time dedicated to a hobby. If you are going to do this you need to do it 100% or it just isn’t worth doing. Also, her social life revolves around running. “If you’re not into running and craft beer there’s a pretty good chance that we won’t be friends.” She does have a dog. Spencer. But apparently he is the worst trail dog ever. Why? “He’s so slow”.

Lisa has run twenty three 50km races.  Last Spring she ran the Miwok 100 and next month she will run the Zion 100. She tries to pick races that are held in places that would be cool to visit and that have activities for the whole family. For her, trail running is about adventure and exploration by foot.  While I am super proud of my 20km trail running achievement, The Best Thing in Life is having something to work toward. Oh who am I kidding. Never. Going. To. Happen.

ultra skeleton