Peeling Scabs

I love that feeling, the slow tearing of dead skin, sometimes a little too early for the new growth underneath, but the sweet itch is too tempting to pass up. Another bad habit from the scraped-knee years that I have brought with me. I push on my bruises too, and I have had ample opportunity over the past couple weeks to enjoy that dull pain on the blue and yellow bruise cloud of post-A.R.T. quadriceps.

My knee is pretty much healed and those last two torturous, long weeks where I wasn't able to run are now a memory. One of the key principles of Shorinji Kempo, the martial art that I studied for over ten years, is that the body and the mind are one.  This was drilled into our heads, not forcefully drilled, but quietly, after meditation. I have been depressed, struggling with not being able to run, and even before that, I felt like I had hit a stagnant plateau with my running, and during the last couple of weeks I decided to do something to get "it" back, whatever that "it" was, it was missing.

Ten things I did instead of running over the past two weeks:
  • A.R.T. -- I feel like this was the key to overcoming the knee pain.
  • Cycling on the trainer in my office while watching Touching the Void.
  • Two core workouts a week courtesy of the Runner's Workout at Core Performance.
  • Scrapping my previous training plan and realizing that if I wanted to run the 50 miler in October and double cross the Grand Canyon in November, I was going to have to consult someone smarter than me.
  • Found a coach.
  • Watched some really good trail running videos:

  • Planned my Vegas trip for next weekend where I am going to see a lot of good bands perform and mix in some Red Rock Canyon running.

My ears will be happy
  • Foam rolled the shit out of my legs, not literally, although if there were shit in my legs, I think I did enough foam rolling to push it out.
  • Re-read parts of my favorite running book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. One of my favorite quotes from the book:
My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance — all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what’s really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson. (It’s got to be concrete, no matter how small it is.) And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I’ll reach a place I’m content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it. (Yes, that’s a more appropriate way of putting it.)
These were good things and they kept me sane during the layoff, but for me, nothing really compares to the feeling of getting out and pushing the limits of discomfort, turning the feet over, and embracing the pain that starts in my lungs, then travels to the muscles in my legs, then to my head, fighting off the urge to walk, pushing through that pain and finishing hard, seeing my truck 1/2 mile away and then letting go of the pain, kicking the heels back, breathing hard and feeling the drops of sweat falling behind me. It has been awhile since I ran like that, but today, my coach scheduled a ten mile tempo run with very specific instructions about pace and heart-rate, and as I was putting on my Garmin, the top fell off, and my spirits sank because in my desire to please and hit exact splits while keeping my heart-rate under 165, I was looking forward to tracking this with technology. Instead, I went by feel. The problem with me going by feel is that I tend to go too hard, but damn it felt so good to run fast again.

The last few runs have been amazing, and I feel like I am back, and running happy. A couple of days ago I was wondering why everyone that I passed along 101 was saying hi or good morning. Usually I give the runner's wave as I'm passing and then I get pissed off when it isn't acknowledged by the baby-pushing-Starbucks-drinking-blackberry-earinged set that frequents that part of the coastal route. On this particular run, I was getting all kinds of acknowledgements and realized it was because I was smiling.

I see so many people running with pain on their faces, twisted and hurting and I wonder what they are doing wrong, why are they running, putting themselves through this agony if they don't enjoy it. I know that a lot of people run to stay in shape, and for the feeling that you get after a good run, but the moment, being present for the run, should be a reward in itself. I realized that I had gotten away from that and I needed help breaking through that plateau, so I found a coach. I picked him because I enjoy reading his blog, he has sensible rules and, and I talked to him on the phone and he reaffirmed my choice by telling me he was just a dad who likes to run, and he has had some amazing races, and who wouldn't want to work with a guy who posts pictures of foxes that he has adopted. And, judging from the last few workouts and my body's response to these workouts, I think I have made a good choice.

I am still conflicted about dropping out of Noble Canyon 50K. It's a great race and I hate to have to miss it. I'm feeling good, and right now I think I could go out there and run 34 miles on Saturday, but if I do, and I take a step backwards in my training, the drama queen in me would come out and I wouldn't want to subject anyone to more of my depression-laden ramblings. So, for now, I'll be taking it easy and testing the knee with a 20 miler on Saturday, and I'm actually looking forward to it.

Delirious Ramblings Brought on by High Fever and A.R.T.

This sedentary lifestyle is starting to really kill me. Since my last post, the one where I was advising myself to take it easy, I have received A.R.T. treatment, run one of my favorite trails with a slight knee pain after the treatment, was super hopeful that I would be able to run the Noble Canyon 50K in a couple of weeks, then went out and ran 19 miles out and back along the coast, which felt great, until mile 15, then the wheels fell off, twitching eye and grimace pain with every other footfall. Limping around afterward, depressed, explaining to some of my friends that I was going to have to drop out of the 50K, I was down. That day I took the family to the animal shelter to look at puppies, just to look, but of course we fell in love with one and brought her home with us. Then I got sick, spending the last four days with a fever, dreaming about dried up seals stranded on the aforementioned trail, as I lay in a puddle of my own sweat, fever cruising past 102 and hitting 103, delirium, headaches and way too much daytime tv trash, and the worst part is, I still haven't been able to run.
A.R.T. (which I assumed stood for Active Release Technique, but which I quickly came to realize stands for Acute Repeated Torture) was recommended by a couple of people who read my blog including Paige, who claims to love it, but she runs 100 milers for fun (read her Leadville 100 race report, it's really, really good), which should have been a gigantic red flag. I knew a little about A.R.T., have even tried it once, a 5 minute free session at the gym with a 8 foot 3 ex-volleyball player, current weightlifter, who dug into my calf like it was play dough, separating the fascia which was as painful as it sounds. I went online to the A.R.T. website and scrolled through the list of certified practitioners and picked the smallest, most Asian one on the list. She specialized in Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and A.R.T. Figuring I had found a lighter, gentler form of ART, I called her up and made the appointment.
When I showed up at the office, she shook my hand limply, all 90 pounds of her. I felt a little guilty, thinking I was getting off easy, avoiding the real pain while being able to tell my running buddies I was doing everything I could to treat this, even the dreaded A.R.T. She asked me to run, and watched me as I ran up and down her dark hallway, trying to run softly past the offices of accountants and investment brokers.  She spoke in code to her assistant, listing muscles I had never heard of, analyzing my form, picking it apart, asking about gait. It turns out that I don't lift my feet enough on the back-swing, I don't push off hard enough, and that she was going to fix this by treating some muscle or ligament that I can't name, but if you want to see it, I can show you the exact spot because it is now a swirly brownish blue.
As she worked on the spot, she had me bend my leg back, pushing harder on the muscle as I assisted in my own torture like something out of Saw. She was talking calmly to her assistant as she channeled semi truck strength through her small hands and into my leg as my wince turned into a twisted mask and tears leaked out of the corner of my eye.  This, she told her assistant, is the expression we need to see with him.
This was not my Dr., she would never ride a trike
She asked me to make 2 more appointments for the following week, and at that point I just nodded, a defeated man, her will be done. I asked the Dr. if I was allowed to run on it, and she encouraged me to test it out, so I drove down the street to my favorite trail (the trailhead was about a mile from her office) and had a relatively pain-free and joyous run. My hopes for the 50K had been restored, and I gave myself a rest day before the ill-advised 19-miler.
That was a week ago and I had to call and cancel my two appointments for this week. I spoke to the receptionist with the soft voice who told me she hoped I felt better soon and I should re-schedule for next week, so yeah I will, but let me get over this fever first, and your soft voice isn't hiding anything, I know what goes on behind that closed door.
I do think it helped, and I will go back, and I was stupid to try to run 19 miles, and I am probably not going to run Noble Canyon because I don't want to jeopordize the 50 miler next month or the Grand Canyon run the following month, so if you read this and you see me toeing the line out there at the Pine Valley Bible School, please punch me in the face. It's for my own good.
My new running buddy, Hazel

On a lighter note, we got an Australian Shepherd mix (with some German Shepherd), she is eight weeks old and I can already tell by the way she runs in circles around the backyard, that she is going to love the trails. Hopefully, by next year, we'll be out in the rain when no one else is around, both of us off of our leashes and drool flying freely in the wind.
This is a great song and it speaks to my current mood

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