Sunday, March 31, 2013

Walker Ranch

An aggressive walk was in order. I got the OK for this after my treatment yesterday. I was excited and apprehensive in equal measure. All my walking to date has been similar - fairly short distances and accompanied by a nagging ache, as though my achilles will fail again and I'd be back to square one. At the end of all my previous walks my tendon would tighten and hurt and my movement would be restricted. All these thoughts were in my mind as Otto and I set off from the trailhead in brilliant sunshine and in a stiff breeze.

The clockwise circuit made sense today. A short, steep pull followed by a 2 mile descent to the bridge in Eldorado Canyon. We made rapid progress. The great thing about Walker Ranch...and the reason I came here that you either go up or down. There are no flat sections. I thought this would give me the workout I needed. And rather than being all up and then all down like a typical mountain ascent, this trail undulated and would provide a better test of my mobility. At just over 7.5 miles it was also my longest outing of the year. I feel pathetic even writing such a measly mileage. I normally don't get warmed up by 7's a distance hardly worth gearing up for. But I was apprehensive.

Otto on the ridge before the steep descent towards Eldorado
There was much less ice and snow that I expected...and this was welcome. In February 2012 Otto and I broke trail through fresh deep snow on this trail and it was exhausting. Apart from some icy sections through the woods there was nothing to trouble us. We had the trail to ourselves and I occasionally broke out into a short trot and some of the downhill sections. I felt great but was cautious and careful not to exert myself too much.

Even with a brisk walk I had to set myself some time objectives. I can't rationally explain the logic of this but it seems to make it more fun for me. So, today, I wondered if I could get around the circuit inside 2 hours? That would be about 4 miles per hour on very undulating ground. That's a decent pace on flat ground. We'd see.

A chilly climb up the steep trail from the bridge
We were bang on pace after 2.5 miles but they had been mainly downhill and I knew we would lose time on the steep climb from the bridge. We had descended 750' from the trailhead to this point and would now regain 300' in less than a quater mile. It was a cool climb in the shade and with a swift breeze blowing down the river.

We met our first walkers on the long climb up to the Gross Dam Road. They were walking in our direction and we went past very quickly and then left them well behind. We crested the ridge at 7300' and I paused to photograph the spectacular view of the snow-capped Indian Peaks. The thought of running in the high mountains really perked me up. For so long this year I feared never being able to do it. Would my tendon hold up today? Would I be back on track?

Indian Peaks - I love those mountains

Two happy little dogs approached us off leash. I swear that when Otto saw them he imagined two slices of bread wrapped around each one. He could have swallowed each whole and wanted more. I politely pointed out to their owner that a strict leash law exists on this trail, but I must have slipped into French when explaining this because they looked a little puzzled and affronted. I left them pondering the meaning of the sign they were standing next to showing a picture of a dog on a leash with the words "Dogs must be on their effing leashes you idiots". Well, not quite those words.

We descended to the second bridge pretty quickly. It was warm as we walked the river bank trail and I stopped to let Otto have a drink. One mile of uphill back to the trailhead. I expected some stiffness in my tendon but I still felt good. Arriving back at the trailhead I felt very happy. I knew I would get a little soreness later, but this was definitely progress. The idea of light running by the end of April might not be a pipedream. I checked my gps - 2 hours and 1 minute. Not bad for an old crock.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Emerging from darkness

It wasn't the potential 6 month layoff that concerned me the most - it was the thought that I might never be able to run again. And that was a very realistic prospect until quite recently. I can't say I had come to terms with it because I hadn't. The thought was devastating, not just for me but for my canine companions. That early morning routine of driving in the darkness and leaving a mountain trailhead in torchlight with 20-30 miles ahead of us would have to be re-calibrated to a short walk. My mind couldn't get there. I like walking but I love running. So does Livvy and Otto and they know the difference in the routine. This last 3 months has been just as hard for them.

In truth I am a horrible patient and don't always act in my own best interest. My achilles injury immobilized me towards the end of December. I could barely walk and the pain was intense. A regime of regular stretching seemed to create an improvement and on a sunny warm day in January I rationalized that a short 4 mile jog with Livvy would be just the ticket. Three miles later and I was hobbling. My recovery hopelessly set back. It wasn't exactly as though I had broken my doctor's orders - I hadn't even been to a doctor to get diagnosed correctly. The "do it myself" mindset that serves me so well most of the time was working against me. There was a difference between reading about injuries and being treated for them. I needed treatment. The reason for my reluctance was not wanting to hear bad news. Classic denialism.

By the end of February I was starting to venture out on short, flat walks on the plains. 5 miles was my max but I would more often do less. The pain grew less and although I could still feel the twinge at least I had confidence that I could walk a reasonable distance and not hurt the next day. Walking did bring one pleasure - I could manage both dogs together and we visited our usual winter haunts - Rabbit Mountain, Boulder Valley Ranch and Eldorado Canyon.

I recently started a program of professional treatment - of which more later - but there is a realistic possibility that I will be doing light running by the end of April. This is a far cry from an earlier prognosis that I would be lucky to ever run again. We'll see. My planned long distance events are shredded this year, but I can live with that if I can get back to serious running. There's always next year!! It's strange, but during this prolonged layoff I couldn't even look at my running gear. My running shoes stacked in the garage haven't been touched. With today's temperature near 70 degrees I did what I couldn't do only a few weeks ago - I went online and checked out the latest mountain shoes in anticipation of the high trails. The transition from winter to spring and summer will come quickly. There is every possibility that I will also be emerging from darkness. It feels good.