Sunday, June 9, 2013

Breaking Records

I've never been a very fast runner and this realization has always been sufficient to keep my ego in check. But I like to measure and compare and if I repeat sections of a run or do a complete run again I like to pore over the details to find out whether I improved and over which sections. Uploading runs to Strava is one of my pleasures in life, but over the last six months I've had precious little to feel good about.
Livvy at the top of Rattlesnake Gulch, Eldorado Canyon

That my achilles tendonitis is on the mend is evidenced by the uptick in my running miles. When the injury hit in December I was in complete agony and in January I only managed 14 miles of gentle walking. February was worse because I repeated the injury and this set me back - I completed one 4 mile walk and it was during this time period that I was told that I might never run again. March was the turnaround because although I was mainly walking I started treatment late in the month and for the first time since the dark days of December I had a reason to feel tentatively optimistic. I walked 32 miles in March. But right at the end of the month I began a course of treatment with Sepe Zandi and everything started to change.
Livvy in Golden Gate Park

I am naturally skeptical, but I was visting RL Smith at InStep in the Table Mesa shopping center and he recommended I visit Sepe. It was the best advice I have been given. Sepe, after some rather agressive treatment, had me light jogging inside a couple of days. In fact, the very next day after my first treatment I was fast walking and jogging around Walker Ranch and finished the 7 miles without any pain. I kept up weekly visits that stretched out to 10 days, but the effect has been transformational. In April, when 60 inches of snow fell in Boulder, I ran for 89 miles with no single run exceeding 8 miles distance. My natural compensation for the tendon led to me favoring my right leg and even when I developed a calf strain Sepe was able to ease out the knots and I recovered faster than I ever have before.
Devil's Backbone

May was a mega running month and I completed 189 miles with most runs being about 10 miles distance but with some stretching to 15 miles. Most of this was lower level running because the snow and cold weather was keeping me out of the high mountains. It just felt fabulous to be on the trails again and as the month progressed I was able to push my speed up a little, and this was the most frustrating part of my recovery. At my age the cadio-vascular system deteriorates quickly when exercise drops. I was having a really hard time churning out times for runs that I had done before. I would typically find myself losing about 90 seconds per mile on my running speed compared to last year and I had poor ability to sustain any uphill running cadence because I would get exhausted and would breathe too hard. When running flatter sections I tried to increase my work rate and just hope that the times would come. Finally, into June, I am seeing some evidence that is happening.
On the summit of Crosier Mountain

In May I set a 30 mile per week running goal and have easily exceeded this every week since. But in the middle of the month I felt that I was making progress only to run White Ranch by the same route two weeks apart and discover that, despite thinking I was pushing myself hard, I ran the second run slower than the first. It was dispiriting. I felt like I was putting in the miles and the effort, but going backwards in performance. I needed to be patient and that isn't my strongest suit. Then things started to turn around. I ran twice in San Francisco and set a couple of personal bests - this was the evidence I had been waiting for because I have run these routes in San Francisco before when I was on very good form.
Wet streets of Amsterdam

In June I then set a couple of personal records on Green Mountain and, on a 94 degree afternoon, came very close to beating my personal best on a 10 mile run at Heil Ranch. Then, this weekend, I set a personal best around Lumpy Ridge and then not only set a personal best on the ascent of Twin Sisters Peak, but broke the course record by over a minute. This is a category 1 climb and it is a real lung-buster. I kept a pretty good pace up the whole ascent and was able to run most of it except for a few steep rocky steps. I then set a personal best from the summit back to the trailhead.

Looking ahead I plan to do fewer miles but more high altitude running. I am playing catch up on my mileage goals of last year, but I have this vague idea that if I can just keep injury free for the rest of the year, I might equal my mileage total of last year, but with three fewer months of running.

And if you live in Boulder, CO or plan visiting in the future, I cannot recommend by new friends - Sepe Zandi and RL Smith enough. Because of them I have gone from thinking I would never run again to getting excited about the plans I have in the high mountains for the rest of this year.

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