Altitude Sickness
July 31, 2015

Transition to the trail

Transition to the trail

It’s been an interesting week here in The land of Brady.  As promised, I increased my training, and started to get serious. I had a short three mile run from Schoolhouse Road to the end of the sidewalk and back, which was a speed record breaker for me, at an average pace of 8:18 per mile, and my last mile was under 7:30! At this point in my life this is a blistering pace, and is very promising.

I biked the hellacious East Mountain Road (my seat turned out to have slid down, and my tires were half flat, so my time was way off). I still hate East Mountain Road. My last two runs were up the Sherburne Trail from the pass to points upward. The first run was a four mile up and down, basically the parking lot to the Pico trail and back, at an average pace of just over four miles per hour, or about 15 minutes per mile.

My second run on the Sherburne Trail was the day after the first, and my miles went faster, and I ran a six mile up and down instead of a four.  My average pace was a little under 14 minutes per mile (I have never been super impressive at climbing hills), but the best part about it was that I found my downhill legs.

Traditionally I have always been a person who excelled at downhill climbing/running. One of my problems during my ultra-marathon was that even in the training leading up to it, I was nearly as slow on the downhills as I was on the uphills, and was only able to gain any speed on the flat-ish parts. A few years ago, when I was recovering from my horrible no good very bad ski accident, I was aces on the down-climbs, basically rocketing down the mountain.

I have several kinds of synesthesia, and one of them has to do with mechanical processes (which makes me very useful for efficiency on a factory floor), and one of them is that when I am on a trail, the spots where I will put my feet are highlighted (I have no other way to describe it, it is like someone is shining a light on the spots).  This is extremely useful on a rocky complicated trail (and on skis, it happens then too).

It wasn’t until this run, when the highlighted steps came roaring back, that I realized I had been missing this useful little hallucination for the entirety of my ultra-training. Perhaps this is because I did most of my training on roads, and this type of brain activity is not awakened in road running, as there is no problem solving in running a road.

In any case, my downhill miles grew faster and faster, to the point where I was winded from running so fast downhill, ending with a really good sprint for the last few hundred yards to the parking lot. I ran like I was on fire. I ran like I was being chased by storm troopers while I was on fire. I ran like the wind, which fanned the flames of my running. It was REALLY FUN.

For a person who avowedly detested running, this is a distressing development.

I now have little demons in my brain saying “Run tomorrow! You can go faster! You know you want to! Everyone is doing it! It makes you feel good!” Those little voices will have me chasing endorphins like they are candy made from Oxycontin.

I pledge now that I will ignore these little manic voices. I pledge now that I will add distance incrementally, and take rest periods every two weeks instead of every 3-4 like I did last time. I will work gradually up to my distance so that I run farther than my event on the last day of my training before the event. I pledge now that I will be smart. I pledge now that I will treat my adrenal glands as I want them to treat me: with care and consideration. I pledge now that I will follow my training schedule closely. P ledge now that I will create a training schedule.

The reality of it is that I keep hurting myself when I run on the road, especially my left hip flexor, which makes living feel like I have sandpaper for cartilage. It can get pretty miserable.  Then I ran in that ultra, and polished off 26 miles without getting sore or getting a blister. I think that was a hint. Then these two runs on the Sherburne Trail were not only consequence free, but they seem to have actually fixed my hip flexor. We will see if that remains the case, but it certainly is encouraging.

The thing that I really love about trail running (I can’t believe that I just said that I love anything about running) is that it moves a bunch of the strain created by the running from your knees and hips and sacrum, and moves it to your ankles, which do basically no work on roads. Road running involves a few basic strides: uphill downhill and flat. Running on trails, you have rough and smooth terrain strides that differ with speed for both flats, uphills, downhills, steep uphills, and steep downhills. I tried to keep track of the number of strides I used on my last run, and lost count at about 12. There are times when you use your toes, your heel, and your mid-foot, which means that any impact over the course of the run is distributed more thoroughly around your body and to your muscles instead of your joints.

This is in addition to the great rotational and lateral exercise your ankles get on rough terrain through the wild variance of what engineers would call pitch and yaw of both surface and balance. Ankle strength was one of the weak points to my run in Canada, I noticed it right away, and it never stopped being a weakness, and it is clear that this was caused entirely by how little I was able to train on trails.

And now for the Guinea Pig Progress Report for Pip the Impaler. He is still ridiculously cute, and I have discovered that his ears flap up and down when he eats. It is quite fetching. Also, Pip has been acting dangerously pet-like recently, sometimes even pursuing contact with me, coming to the side of his enclosure so that I could try to pet him and he could run away. I have had an easier time picking him up and petting him (mostly I think because I have discovered he is mad for apple, and I always have some when I approach), but he still snaps like a dog fighting a garden hose if I move too quickly. Females humans, of course, he loves. I’m not jealous or anything.

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