My Month of Hiking

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The on-again, off-again nature of my ankle. It feels bad, it feels good, it feels bad again. It had gone back to feeling bad, so I had gone back to not running, which means that I have been moving through the Wissahickon at a much slower rate for the last month or so.

Hiking. Actually, I love it, but I think of hiking more in terms of mountains and summits than the ups-and-downs of my little city wilderness. The goal has been to get out and get in time-on-feet and elevation gain so that I am not completely out of shape when it comes time to get back to serious running. I’m not sure how that’s going.

A couple observations:

The Park Looks Different At A Slower Pace.

Seriously. It’s not that I am all that fast when running. But at a walking pace, even at a fast walking pace, I have noticed little details of the woods I had never noticed before. The park also seems like a much bigger place. Running from my house to Bells Mill only takes a bit more than half an hour, an hour round-trip. Walking, it comes in at over two hours, and that’s a pretty serious walk.

My Watch Has No Idea What I’m Doing.

God bless you , my little Forerunner 10. You turn on and off and you track my distance. But sometimes, you get really confused. Remember that time you thought I was running and you said I burned 875 calories, and then I switched it to “Hike” in Garmin Connect and you tried to claim I burned 13,400 calories? Good times. Please go back to keeping time.

I Get Really Hungry Hiking.

Like, REALLY hungry. I have been eating like a horse the whole time I’ve been doing the hiking thing. Which, come to think of it, might lend some credence to the whole calorie-counting bit my watch is trying to put over on me.

I Don’t Think It’s Working As A Workout.

This past hike, a decent 17k jaunt with a out 1,300 feet of elevation, I managed to get in about 3k of actual running to see how my ankle felt. I had said to myself I wasn’t going to run again until Late July, but the ankle felt good and the breeze was warm and the sun was shining and I just couldn’t help myself as I got up to Houston Meadow, which after all is one of my favorite places to run. So I broke into a trot and had a go at some distance, and dang if I didn’t feel pretty winded right off the bat. The good news is the ankle felt good during the run, and more importantly, it felt good after the run as well. And it feels good today.

Goal: Elevation Gain.

The ankle problem set in in earnest on day 2 of training for Boulder Field, which stank. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get the mileage in to pull off my first 50k after taking 6 weeks more or less off and then having to ease back into it cautiously. Nevertheless, I thought back to watching YouTube videos of Jamil Coury and Gary Robinson getting ready for the Barkleys this year, and they were basically just out there going up and down hillsides. So I have taken a similar tack in my hikes, trying just to get the race’s vertical gain into my weekly vertical gain. That’s going ok, and comes out to about 1,000 feet of vert each time I go out, which is very doable. Sure does work the big guns, though.

The End.

Tonight, some more easy light miles at a run. I want to ease back into it but also not waste the days I have. Boulder Field is still out there, and there is a rumor going around that an 18 miles might be added to the festivities, so that could work given the mileage. Otherwise, I’ll be setting my eyes on Blues Cruise and then the Philadelphia Marathon. It’s crazy that it is the middle of July and I am already feeling a time crunch for fall races. Trying not to think of goal paces, but I can’t help myself. Maybe some more on goals, and my lack of them, later.

Until then…don’t roll your ankle.

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The Long Hike

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One last good hike before I give the ankle a try running. It was late on Fathers Day after the drive back from Maryland, and after a couple slices of pizza for dinner, I took the time to head out for some time in the woods. I could have gone a bit longer, but the batteries in the headlamp were getting a bit dim, and 12k made for a nice little loop anyway.

I broke into a light jog a few times on downhills, just to see if whether a running motion was an immediate deal-breaker or not. The good news: my ankle behaved well, felt relatively strong although not nearly 100%. The bad news: it’s going to be awhile before I feel comfortable running on the trails again. I’ll be spending lots of time on the roads for now so that footing isn’t something I have to worry about.

This hike was Sunday. Monday I’ll get in that short run to see how the ankle really feels under a little stress. Wish me luck.

And in other news:

1017km

I’ve deliberately not set many goals for this year, keeping my eyes set only on total distance. One of those sub-goals was returning to MapMyRun’s You Vs The Year Challenge. This year, it was to cover 1017km over the year. I’m happy to say that, injury downtime aside, I hit that mark during the hike. I’m a little behind on the year overall, only 40% of the way to my goal as the half-year mark draws near. But with an ultra cycle getting under way, I’m not worried about getting caught up. I’m just worried about getting my ankle healthy.

Course was long.

My ankle has been injured lately, and I’ve been nursing it by going on light walks, long sofa-sessions, and a bit of swimming. My parents have a small pool, and even thought it’s only 10 meters long, I like to get in some laps when I’m visiting. Decided to track today’s effort.

If you have any illusions about GPS accuracy, here are my 100 laps:

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Minecraft Lessons in the Wissahickon

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The year had been going so well, but then came the slight dog attack, and the twisted ankle, and what I thought was the recovery from that, and then that long, easy, mostly downhill run during those two weeks between Dirty German and what should have been the start of my Boulder Field training, the easy run after which I thought my foot was going to fall off.

I haven’t run at all in two weeks as I was doing some physical therapy to strengthen the hurt ankle. The ankle had gotten pretty floppy. It was most noticeable when I would be walking down stairs, and my right foot did everything it was supposed to do and my left foot just sort of clunked down from toe to heel because there was no strength in the joint.

The last couple days, though, things felt normal, and after a walk up to the Target about a mile and a half from here a couple days ago, it felt like it might be time to go out and put a little stress on the ankle and see how it does.

So it was off to the Yellow Trail tonight with Lyra in tow. The 4+ miles we hiked would be the longest she had ever hiked all at once before, and she passed the time explaining in great detail things I never knew I didn’t know about the world of Minecraft. We took short breaks here and there to go over the finer points of trail etiquette. She said she loves being in the woods. She even bombed a little descent after I talked her into taking the steeper shorter trail rather than the longer flatter one. She smiled alot. I smiled too.

Not sure I’ll run this weekend, but it’s looking like Monday might be the day to return to some light running. Time to ease back into the easy workouts at the very least, even if I’m not yet up to handling the long workouts.

See you and the spider jockeys out there.

Nerts.

Welp. Here I am, at the start of week two of a 16-week training block. Total miles so far: 4.5. Not for the week. For the block.

I gave my ankle a good twist while trying to jump out of the way of a lunging, snarling dog back in April. It was a little swollen but it didn’t seem like anything too terrible at the time, so I took a few days off, waited for it to feel better, gave it couple gingerly test runs, and got back at it. Ran a few races. Put in my miles. Took a couple easy weeks before starting this training block.

And then last week, my ankle started to feel like it is going to fall off. A couple days last week, just walking was a big ask. Saturday I was on my feet all day photographing a wedding, and that was rough going. I spent yesterday with my feet up getting caught up on the America’s Cup action from Bermuda.

Today, I was able to prepare breakfast without falling over. Small victories.

I have rolled my ankle many times before, but this feels like something new. It’s off to the doctor for me, and let’s just hope that it’s nothing too serious…it would be a pity to already have to rethink the fall schedule after just one training run.

Usually at this point I say “See you out there,” but frankly, I’m going to be on the couch, so please…

Bring me cake tacos.

Downtime.

With the coming and going of the Dirty German Endurance Fest last Saturday, my spring has officially wrapped up, and for better or worse, this means that I am already being tempted to look at the late summer and fall and how to approach running and racing. Decisions have been made.

But for the next two weeks, things will be taken pretty easy. I’m putting in four or so miles here and there, going easy for the most part, just getting out there and running and not doing anything too specific. Last night, I ran in the Wissahickon Wanderer’s Spring Trail Series #3, a nice little 4.5 mile jaunt that happened to travel over most of one of my favorite running routes. So it felt a bit like playing on my home field.

What didn’t feel great was the blister that I developed and then ripped off my toe. I never get blisters. Like, ever. I didn’t get a blister last weekend when I ran through a 15.5-mile long puddle. But four and half dry miles on trails I run every day? Damage.

I have until Monday, May 29th to relax and just run. Then, it’s back into an ambitious training cycle. My new comfort with distances over 13 miles has made me rethink how to approach a season, so I am excited and a bit nervous for what’s coming. I’ll talk about that once I get there.

And just to make sure I relax and take it easy, my Garmin has decided to stop talking to my computer. So no GPS maps for now. Just time and distance, which is whatever.

Hope you are finding some rest and relaxation as well out there. Be well.

Race Recap: Dirty German Endurance Fest 25k, Philadelphia, PA

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Ho boy. This was one for the ages.

My spring racing season wrapped up a couple days ago at the Dirty German Endurance Fest, held in Philadelphia’s Pennypack Park. Since I live less than half a mile from the Wissahickon, I don’t often take the time to get up to Pennypack to run, even though the trails are lovely and I do find myself yearning for some less familiar trails.

First off, thanks to Uberendurance Sports for organizing a great event. And thanks to the Wissahickon Wanderers for letting me hang out with them in their somewhat rainproof tent after the race.

Oh…did I say something about rain?

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The Course

Alas, my trusty, economical Garmin Forerunner 10 has stopped communicating with my computer, and I have not replaced it yet, so I have no GPS maps or elevation profiles to show you for this race. But here is the segment from Strava:

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First thing to note is that the course is a bit short. My watch clocked 15.07 miles, and that included a bit of extra distance after missing a turn. It’s one big loop around the park for the 25k, two for the 50k, and three loops plus a bit extra for the 50 Miler.

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Pennypack in general is flat with smooth trails. There were maybe five true uphills throughout the course, none with an elevation of more than about 100 feet. So in terms of trail running, this should have been about as easy as it comes. Lots of narrow singletrack, some packed gravel, and a few short sections of pavement. A meadow or two. In a couple sections, one at the beginning, and one about two miles from the end, there are these crazy serpentine twists in the trail that were a lot of fun to run. I mean, really tight, quick turns, one after the other.

There were also three creek crossings. On a normal day, this might have mattered, because, you know, your feet get wet. But Saturday, the creek crossings were more of an opportunity to dry off. Did I mention the rain?

The Race

We started off for the 25k at 8:30, amid rain that varied from light to pretty heavy; overall, about an inch and a half fell throughout the day, swelling Pennypack Creek past its boundaries (Aid Station 3 had to be moved during the race because of localized flooding). I started with a very different strategy than in my previous race, a trail half. In that race, I wanted to get out front to avoid getting caught up in a slower queue as we got into the singletrack. For the Dirty German, rather than pushing the pace early and trying to hang on, I took it very easy at the start, easing into my pace. Sure, I gave up some time in the early going, and sure, I needed to wait to work my way up the line on the singletrack, but that was ok. The previous trail half was a pacing disaster, and I fell apart early and suffered long. This race was a bit longer and I wanted to feel better at the finish.

The trail itself, early on, held up pretty well. Yes, the trail was equal parts trail and ankle-deep puddle, but the footing remained firm, and I could descend well and run at a fast and comfortable pace when I found the space. With the heavy rain and nearly-contiguous puddles, the creek crossings didn’t seem to be that much of an obstacle, even of the creek was deep enough and fast enough that some of us were trading nervous glances as we forged into the rapids.

I was feeling good, and running with my new 2L Nathan hydration vest, so I skipped the first aid station. I paired up with a couple other runners to chat and regulate my pace, and that went pretty well for the first half of the course as well. But once the second half got under way and the real work began, I put my head down, stopped talking, and ran harder.

The trails also started to come apart over the second half of the race. On Facebook, a number of other runners have been comparing the consistency of the ground to various unbaked foods…cake batter, brownie batter, hot fudge, etc. All accurate. And it all saps the legs pretty good. My IT band kind of went nuts, and I had to deal with some pain up and down my right leg, but I got through it, and it was really only uncomfortable on the downhills, of which there were mercilessly few.

Coming through the last aid station where I grabbed some Coke and a salt potato, I got caught up behind a slow-moving group going through the serpentine section, so I ate some more time there asĀ  nursed my leg and waited for a small clearing where I knew I could press ahead a bit. Press ahead I did, running well through the very pretty closing half-mile, and then it was back out into the open for the start/finish area, one last puddle to clean the mud off the shoes if not the legs, and it was over. 2:31:50 or so, a pace just over 10:00/mile. Not great for the easiness of the trails, but considering the weather, and how I am still trying to learn pacing and dealing with terrain in longer trail races, I’ll take it.

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Not me. Not my mud.

What I Learned

To ignore the weather. We’re all out there together. It’s an unavoidable element of the race, it’s a problem to be worked the same way you’d work a mountain or a log to jump over. I mean, mud puddles are fun, anyway.

Next Up

Two weeks of light running before my next structured training cycle gets going. I just want to keep some miles in my legs but be ready to start fresh. I’ll talk about my late-summer plans later.

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