Tuesday, July 31, 2012

66 miles: I'm back, and it feels good!

Well, the shoulder still hurts, but it feels good to be running again after a 6-week break! Like many things in ultra running, there is a lot of guessing and experimenting. I went for my first run last Thursday, an easy and flat 6-mile run in the neighborhood. I was keeping my right arm close to my body not to move the shoulder and contain the pain. It worked except that I had my worse night afterwards. I didn't run on Friday but went to my second PT session. My therapist did a good job working on my shoulder mobility but so much that the pain was unbearable that night too, like the whole articulation was burning. At least she explained me the source of the pain, the fact that the muscles keep tightening up to protect the fracture and the shoulder against movements. And that there was nothing I could do against it, even in my mind...

I skipped Saturday and went to the gym instead, climbing 523 floors on the StairMaster in 60 minutes (936 calories!). I went for another run on Sunday and wasn't sure what to expect but decided to let my right arm go this time and loosen up the shoulder as much as possible. I ran again in the neighborhood on my 5K loop. The pain was light this time and, despite the mid-day heat, I kept going at a slow 7:30 min/mile steady pace which got me to the 26.2 miles mark in 3:23 (still a Boston qualifier ;-) and 28 miles overall.

12 miles on Monday and 20 at Alviso tonight, more to come this weekend... I'm learning to listen to other signals in my body and in particularly to sort out the bad from the good pain. Definitely happy to be seriously moving again and looking forward to seeing some of you on the trails soon!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Back to running? Not quite yet, but...

I flew back to California on Tuesday night and rushed to see my orthopedist on Wednesday morning! He is happy with the progress and sent me for some physical therapy which I started on Friday afternoon and the PT is happy with the progress too. That leaves me alone to feel this isn't healing fast enough, but I enjoyed getting back to the gym for some serious exercise (and serious sweat...)!

In the meantime, I didn't stay inactive and, in addition to doing some static strength training, Agnès and I went for three good and strenuous hikes in the Alps and the Jura during our stay in Annecy.

Here are two classic ones. The first starts from Chamonix and we followed the new trail under the Téléphérique de Plan-Praz which served for the second year as the course of the Vertical Kilometer (3,300 feet elevation over 2.5 miles!) which Kilian Jornet won this year in 36 minutes! Since I couldn't run anyway in such a super steep uphill, it was great to power walk at full power. We continued up to the summit, Le Brévent, from which we had a wonderful panorama over the Mont Blanc (3 days before the deadly avalanche on Mont Maudit).
Here is the profile, take a look at the scale/axis:
The corresponding map:
And the view of the switchbacks under the gondola:
A week later we hiked to the highest points of the Jura, over Geneva, Le Reculet and Le Crêt des Neiges (1720m). It was great to be back on the course of what has been my first trail and mountain race back in... 1989 when I was working at CERN in Geneva. It was also a great opportunity for Agnès to finally discover this trail and amazing view over the entire Lac Léman. The visibility was so good that we could see Lausanne, Montreux and even the Lac d'Annecy.
It's cool to hike instead or running and rushing, I could even tease the cows... ;-)
Here again, that's quite a steep profile, look at the scale!
All that, so close to Geneva...
This weekend I followed my teammates on the live webcast while they were battling the heat at Tahoe Rim Trail (which I wished I were...) and Angeles Crest 100-mile races. And spent 6 hours at the gym alternating serious work on the press, the elliptical, the bike and the step master. My shoulder knows that my legs, heart and mind are ready to go...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Marathon-Athens: the original and classic marathon

 For the first time since I have been running, I could not run during my summer vacation with my broken shoulder. That hurts both physically and mentally... However, I could not visit Greece without honoring Pheidippides (aka Phidippides or Philippides) and his ultimate run between the battlefield of Marathon and Athens. After visiting Mycenae and Corinth, we arrived in the small town of Marathon around 4 pm. The plan was to just spot the start line and locate the bus stop that I would use the next day but, instead, Agnès suggested that I took the opportunity of being there to walk a few miles. Without much notice and preparation I left around 4:30 pm, with Max for the first 2 miles to see how I was doing. Walking at 17 min/mile pace was ok although the shoulder was really hurting especially every time I had to "climb" up or down the sidewalk (yes, it is that bad...).
After leaving Agnès, Max and Greg around mile 2, I felt that I may not be able to complete the whole distance at this pace so I did speed up a bit and managed to get the pace down to 16:34 by mile 12 (yeah...!). While the first 4 miles or so had the path highlighted with a red stripe on the sidewalk on each side of the busy highway, the next 15 miles were awful in terms of running path and you barely have to run on the road against cars at 40 to 50 mph which is not only very dangerous but also quite unpleasant. This, plus the fact that you keep running (or walking in my case...) through unattractive neighborhoods, is why I called this marathon the most boring in my Facebook update...
Of course there is the symbolic appeal of running this historic and original course which led to our popular and modern version of our marathons, and the mythical distance which defines the ultra marathon discipline but I strongly suggest you combine your visit to Greece with the annual official race so you don't have to "fight" the car traffic and brave its danger (check the Athens Classic Marathon website for the date, typically in November). Here is the Center for the promotion of the Marathon race in... Marathon:
Not counting a 15-minute stop at a super market at mile 12 to refuel (water, chocolate milk, Snicker, potatochips), I managed to cover the whole distance just under 7 hours, my slowest marathon so far... See my Picasa album for a few shots of the start by Greg, and the finish at the impressive and inspiring finish, the Panathinaikon Stadium (at midnight...).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Something happened and... broke

Two weeks without blogging, something must have happened to provide a good excuse for such an interruption... Indeed, for those not following me on Facebook, I'm writing this post with one hand and not even the good one: I broke my right shoulder two weeks ago and it is so slow and painful to type that I saved all the keystrokes for work-related emails and chats...

What happened? I was 200 yards from the end of a wonderful 39-mile training run on the Tahoe Rim Trail from Tahoe Meadows to Tahoe City when I hit a rock and felt flat in the dust of the single track. I was tired from a busy week and a couple of very short nights. Furthermore, and despite carrying 140 oz. of water at the start, I lack water in the last 5 miles. More than the heat, it seemed like both the elevation (7,000-10,300 ft) and the slow pace (12:45 min/mile) made me drink more than usual for this 8-hour run. Anyway, it happened so quick that I had already the head in the dust when I realized I had tripped. Too late to react, I let it go and felt it actually went smoothly overall. I was carrying the trail map in my left hand and the map had more scratches than a couple I got on my fingers. Just one scratch on my left hamstring and a few drops of blood, that was it for the legs, no shock, no pain, phew! There was one problem though: when I stood up, my right arm stayed along my body; it wasn't so painful I couldn't move it, yikes...! I walked the last 200 yards down to the trail head in Tahoe City, then the road to the next gas station where I bought one bottle of Coke and one ice cream. I then walked to the bus station to catch the bus to Incline Village where I was staying. A few hours later, albeit with pain, I was able to move my arm in a few directions except raising it laterally. The next day, I drove back to Cupertino (with Greg handling the gearshift...) and stopped by the Emergency Care where an x-ray showed a double fracture of the outside part of the head of the humerus.
No wonder why I had so much pain and difficulty raising my arm, this is the part a bunch of ligaments are using as a short lever to exercise tens of pounds of traction...
Before this incident, I actually took more than 100 pictures from this aerial section above Incline Village, Nevada. I also took a few movies and shots from an helicopter ride above the TRT section which we will run on August 13, at the start of our group attempt at the speed record for the whole TRT (165 miles under 38.5 hours). See in my Picasa album.

29,700 miles in my running log without any major injury, that was quite an achievement which I was quite proud of to show that running could be intense yet sustainable. All these 15 years, I worked at avoiding issues in my lower body and didn't think my running could be interrupted by a shoulder injury... But, two weeks after the accident, the pain is so bad that even a slow walk is painful. This is when you realize how complex and sophisticated our body is, and that all joints participate to our body movements. I'm glad though that the surgeon opted for a shoulder immobilization instead of surgery as this allowed me to fly to France to celebrate my Dad's 90th last weekend then to Greece for our annual family vacation in the Peloponnese. Visiting this country was a childhood dream for me and I'm astonished by the kindness of the Greeks who welcomed us in Delphi, Olympia, Naupli and Athens.

Here I am, faking running on the original Olympic stadium in Olympia:
And in Delphi:
And Epidaurus:
Greece is definitely the origin of the Track and Field that we still enjoy so much 26 centuries later...

Before driving to Tahoe, I was able to attend Scott Jurek's book signing for his newly released Eat & Run.

Talk to you next week from the Alps, with better news of my shoulder hopefully... And congrats to all the finishers of this year's unusually cool Western States, in particular Vespa leader Tim Olson who set a new course record of 14:46!