Thursday, April 4, 2019

Back to the top, finally: of Black Mountain that is, but still

Wow, I can't believe it has been 8 months since I ran to the top of Black Mountain. July 28 was the last time, that's from my running log (I don't have that powerful detailed memory...). It wasn't the last time I ran some hills but almost. Only two hill runs since then: the following one was the tough TDS (Tour des Ducs de Savoie) around Mont Blanc in Chamonix, the last one was in September when I volunteered at the Stevens Creek 50K aid station and ran 50K up to Skyline. I used to visit Black Mountain if not every month, at least every other month. 120 times since 2002 according to my log again. From Rancho San Antonio, Rhus Ridge, Montebello Road, Stevens Creek Road, Skyline. One of my favorite playground where I learned a lot and got a lot of hill training.

Wow, how fast the body and the muscles in particular can forget about hill running. It felt like I was learning again, quite humbling. It also felt like a completely difference set of muscles were put to use, from the quads to the calves. But also the upper body, the shoulders and neck in particular, as we lean slightly differently when climbing steep sections or flying down others. Even the core is way more engaged. When people ask if I do cross training, I say no, but this felt like almost another sport. Although I've talked about the benefit of variety before, but without being so convinced myself about the difference between flat and hilly running, between trail and road, or even the track, between dirt and asphalt, cement or rubberized surfaces.

Wow, how good it felt to... feel that good pain again coming from a sustained effort. And, in contrast, how good it felt not to feel my gluteus injury as a matter of fact. In the up and down hills that is. Since this pain started right after the Turkey Trot 10K last November, I was hesitant to get back on the hills. I took a few weeks off in December and, because that didn't help at all, decided to go through it, but sticking to flat running for these past three months. While every step has been painful (!), I still feel lucky to have logged than miles 750 miles this quarter, and even raced enough to break a few National age group records. Last Sunday's run started with 2.5 flat miles to get out of Cupertino and to the Stevens Creek Reservoir. The gluteus was yelling at every stride but, to my great surprise, it got quiet as soon as I climbed the dam, wow, what a pleasant discovery. That I don't use it that much on uphills, at least not as much as my quads, whom I forgot existed... As a second great surprise, as I reached the ridge of the dam, I saw Bob flying down Stevens Creek Road. Bob, whom I've run at the track with, was finishing a 20-mile tune-up before Boston where we'll both be at again this year.
Wow, how good it felt to see all the water flowing down to the Stevens Creek Reservoir, which has been full again for several weeks.

What a great rainy season we've had, so much that some people claim victory over the drought. I share the enthusiasm and relief but there is still a long way to make up for all the water we pumped underground, overusing centuries-worth of reserves (I'm not kidding, that's how long it takes to form, as opposed to a few years of our industrial (and agricultural) age and so-called progress, to arm if not deplete). Last Summer, I started writing a post on the poor conditions of our local creeks, spring, and the Waterwheel Trail one in particular, in the wake of the big fires, but didn't finish the story. Again, it felt good to see water flowing in almost every creek last weekend!

A strong Stevens Creek!
 Even the tiny creek across Bellavista Trail resurrected!

Wow, what a difference does that make to run 50 hilly kilometers, compared to 8 flat ultras I've run so far in 2019. For one thing it takes slightly longer time. So much that, in this great piece, Jason Koop advises to track the number of hours you run, not the mileage (thank you to Eric Shranz' Ultramarathon Daily News for the pick). More time, but more pleasure as well, as trail running is so much less boring. While I didn't see much wildlife, beyond a few deer, and there was a bit of fog, the landscape was amazing, everything is so green out there to celebrate Spring!

A bit hazy but still a good aerial view of the Silicon Valley, including our new Cupertino beacon, the extraterrestrial Apple Park.

Wow, after forgetting about this gluteus pain for the 3 hours I spent on Black Mountain, including the 7 miles down Montebello, how disappointing and disturbing it felt to hear it yelling again as soon as I hit the flat asphalt again, with my longer stride. Between the persisting pain and lot of soreness in my legs, my run at the office on Monday was so painful and so slow, I cut it short at 6 miles, and skipped Tuesday. My quads were still sore on Wednesday and I enjoy a few casual miles with out IBM Running group at Silicon Valley Lab. Thankfully that helped losing up these tight quads, enough to pickup the pace and ramp up to 9 miles. (Selfie credit: Jorge CastaƱon.)
Then, on Thursday, a breakthrough, my best training run since the injury, almost not feeling it, so I could run 11 miles slightly harder. Even better on Friday for 15 sub-7 min/mile miles, then a good 15K before getting on a plane again. This time for vacation, more on this in the next posts. It feels good to think that I'm finally getting to the end of this annoying injury, while remaining cautious and not claiming victory yet. The biggest lesson out of this one: the importance of stretching, especially as we age (or mature? ;-).

Hope you experience some breakthroughs with your running and training too, it's so worth the persistence!

PS: a 1-minute replay of last Sunday's run to the top of Black Mountain (twice), thanks to (click on the image, or this link)

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