Sunday, March 18, 2018

Back to injury: Another opportunity for an anatomy course

From the microscopic cells to the big bones and muscles, or even the intangible troubles of our minds, I'm always in awe with what doctors have to learn. And I have even more respect as I need to check things under the hood myself, typically when something is getting wrong, another wordy way to refer to an injury...

Yes, another post about injury unfortunately. Never a good time but this one had an interesting timing as I was race-free in March for the first time this century (1999! ;-), and the past 2 weeks were supposed to be a lot of work on speed and volume before a conference this coming week and a few big goals in April. I can't complain though: first, I had already 2 good months to start the year and, second, I didn't miss a race goal yet then. At least not yet.

What's the scoop? It's not even a running injury! As those following me on Facebook might have noticed, I got back to riding. Not any bike but a big heavy one, a BMW R1200RT. Anyway, as I was standing at a stop sign and checking my mirrors for a vehicle approaching from behind too fast, I lost balance and the bike started to lean... I gave it all but, 5 times heavier than me, the bike won, after pulling a big muscle deep in my back.
Oh my, I didn't realize how much every muscle gets engaged when running. Well, it has been excruciating just sitting down and up (think going to the toilets...), bending (think putting pants or socks on), twisting my back while pulling or pushing something (think opening the door of a car, loading the lower basket of the dishwasher then closing the door) and, last but not the least, even walking! That definitely makes me want to stop aging, once for all! I certainly look like I am a super senior in my moves. Even laying down in a bed is painful so I have never slept that badly (I typically don’t sleep much but I sleep really well when I do). The only good news is that it doesn't hurt when I'm working, which would make my employer happy!

12 days since the incident and, despite total inactivity and Agn├Ęs' gentle and comforting massages, it's barely getting better, so that was a big pull, and maybe I should have entered a weight lifting competition at least. At some point I even thought that maybe it was something which detached, I hope not. Bottom line, the title includes a twist, it's back to injury and injury to the back... And, as I mentioned on Facebook, I'll be... back after this setback!

Running wise, because of the conference (IBM Think, you can even even watch some of it live if you want to get some of the action), this week was supposed to be mostly tapering anyway so I'm not going to miss too much. Yet, I'm very much NOT looking to the extreme level of standing and walking involved in such setting, not to mention the travel; that muscle would better finish healing quickly! I'd say it's about time anyway but that would be breaking the rule of patience required in any injury therapy.

Learning something every time, at least a good thing with injuries. Especially when they are meant to heal.

And, in addition to the learning opportunity, it’s also a good reminder to appreciate when everything works as intended in our body which, given the trillions of parts involved if you count the cells, is quite miraculous already. Last but not least, wishing everyone stays safe and healthy. And young for ever! ;-)

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The joy of running. And working.

Interesting how my blog title morphed in my head over the past two weeks. As I was resuming training after the Jackpot 100-mile Road Nationals, here is what I had in mind: "The joy of running. Or not." But then I thought it was way too negative, when I should be counting my blessings of having run that much these past 10 years, almost injury free.

What is this about? Well, after missing one of my main goals 3 weeks ago, the 100-mile Road M50-54 American record, I was back to the grind mill, as always. Yet, I didn't know what I was training for this time. I was still working on a potential business trip to the Big Apple which would have allowed me to run Caumsett again, the 50K Road Nationals. Yes, the place where I got my mini TIA stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack) when I broke that 30-year long standing age group record (which has been improved twice already in the meantime). Anyway, the trip fell through on Tuesday and I didn't feel like switching to Way Too Cool at the last minute, a race which I ran 10 consecutive times between 2006 (my first ultra race) and 2015.

Back to the title... No, I'm not going to talk about my first job, but the hard work we need to put into training to keep up with the demand of ultra running. Something which seems so paradoxical to many outsiders who believe that we only run for the joy of it. Or we should anyway, otherwise, what is the point to run as a hobby. Maybe that distinction, pure joy versus some work involved, could be the difference between jogging and running. At least that's how I live my running.

Two weeks ago then, as I was resuming training after a week of recovery during a conference in Vegas, running didn't feel that easy, nor joyful. On Sunday, I went out not knowing how far I was going to go so I remained on my local 5K loop, still hoping to go as far as some ultra distance, but not so determined. At least I didn't go out too fast, in case I had the mental stamina to keep going for 3 hours. And I'm really glad I did, for 9 laps. I didn't feel as strong as last year when I was still working on my 50K PR (3:18:07), but it felt good to be working again at a sub 8 min/mile pace, phew!

On the next three pictures, you can click and relive my training runs with these 3D fly-overs. Well, in a much accelerated way that the hours of hard work I put into these, that is... ;-)

A week later, I even went to the track and was able to run 42 laps under 6:30 min/mile, a few at 6:15 as a matter of fact. I even got to dream that I was on Long Island that weekend instead...

Last Sunday, I ran to the top of Black Mountain, logging 28 hilly miles for a change for my 6th ultra run this year (I'm quite behind on this metric compare to previous years). Thinking a lot of about the pain and benefit of working hard while training, either uphill or even down hill.

Oddly enough, since I would had written this post just before if it wasn't for other (first) work priorities, this article was posted by UltraRunning Magazine on Wednesday 10 days ago:

Enjoy the Training by Gary Dudney, the author of The Tao of Running: Your Journey to Mindful and Passionate Running.
When you first signed up to be an ultrarunner, you know, at your local ultrarunning recruitment center at the mall, I hope you paid attention to the fine print on the contract. It said in no uncertain terms, “You are now obligated to do a whole sh** load of training.”

Gary wrote it down much more eloquently than I could, this saves me time so I can get back to... work! ;-) Yes, it takes a lot of time to train, but let's never forget the joy of being able to do so, starting with what we experience: personal satisfaction of meeting goals, the people we meet or the views from the trails.

And what a joy of running on our local trails, so soft after the rain of the past two days! What a joy to see snow on the East Bay ridge! What a pleasure to run on the smooth Montebello Road which got repaved a few weeks ago (after a major land slide last year)!
What a joy to see the Pacific Ocean from the top of Black Mountain, and the entire Bay up to San Francisco and Berkeley! Including the snowy ridge over the East Bay, so rare nowadays! That reminds me the amazing experience of living in Nice, then Geneva, two urban places with nearby skiing ranges.

Yes, there was even some flurries at the top of Black Mountain last week!

So blessed and privileged to be able to live in Silicon Valley and to be in shape to work on these trails and hills. Toward my next goal, what ever it is going to be.

When I think that the M50-54 title was won in 4:04, I am sorry for having missed the action at Caumsett last Sunday (results); and Way Too Cool on Saturday (results) although that was a much faster race, dominated again by the... King (see Max King killing the competition on the infamous Goat Hill at mile 21, so impressive... and the testimony to so much... work, in addition to talent!).

With that, I'm looking forward to my next ultra race in April and, in the meantime, let's all enjoy that hard work. Which will eventually pay off this season!