Sunday, March 28, 2010

Running Strong

The runner's workout is typically thought to be lungs and legs...and maybe some arms too, if technique is important to you. There's no doubt this is the case, but so many of us overlook the importance of strength training, me included. The past few months my experiences have led me to notice a greater and greater connection between the runner who is running well and the runner who is running strong.

I have to admit, this isn't my phrasing. I first heard it from North Shore runner Eric Langhjelm, who called his blog "RUN STRONG" (Note: hasn't been updated since child number two and start of real-estate career). And just today, following the direction of coach Phil, I found the phrase being used by Jon-Erik Kawamoto, on his blog This is a great blog related to strength training for the endurance athlete. If you haven't already looked at it be sure to.

So how does this connect to me? Even though my Dad used to say the world does not revolve around me, it ultimately does here in my little blog world.
Anyway, back to me. Since about September of last year I have had more tiny ailments than I care to count.... foot cramping, tightness in my big toe, crazy tight right hamstring and right gluteal muscles. And then a strained calf (soleus), a rolled ankle, and finally a partial tear of that right hamstring. Okay, the list isn't that long, but it has been none stop. I've sought help from the best in Lesley White, my R.M.T., and I continually stretch. What has suddenly plagued me? These past few days, within various conversations and activities, it hit me...

My schedule has become less hectic lately and I've recently made time for Yofit, a local recreation center cross breed of yoga and pilates. Between that and a home routine of yoga, things have started to fall back into place, literally. The yoga has done exactly what Jon Erik Kawamoto discussed. It has helped me to build strength and stability...and flexibility, through a variety of movements and positions. "Running alone", he writes, "will not help you to build strength", and I totally agree. Runners must find some balance between strength conditioning/maintenance for general core stability and to improve their running, if not just for overuse injury prevention.

I know what you're thinking, "So how can this type of conditioning help a runner? I don't want to be all muscley and bulky. It'll make me heavy and slow". The answer is, you won't get bulky. You're a runner. A properly designed program is only meant to help you build lean muscle mass. Less weight more reps and loads of variety. The strong runner is able to keep his form longer and allow the appropriate muscles to do their jobs longer. Everyone knows someone who has had IT issues. This injury is occasionally related to skeletal issues, and almost always related to a weak gluteus medius.

Folks like Gary Robbins, Tamsin Anstey, and Nicola Gildersleeve have each paid their dues in the gym and in doing cross fit classes. These people are a true testament to the powers of strength conditioning for the runner. For me, I won't be doing any curls, squats, military presses, or bosu lunges, but I'll carry on with my yoga/pilates and hope to maintain my already massive biceps and bring back my alignment. Especially now as my running schedule gets more intense and my summer plans get closer.

The bottom line is that a runner who wants more of him or herself cannot just run. There must be some balance to prevent injury and fatigue, and to maintain form.

Ironically, I found the following article in Impact Magazine the day after this was first posted . Check it out, Run Stronger, Run Longer. And there are others with it, one by Jon-Eric Kawamoto and another by Peter Twist.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What if I don't want lemonade?

"When life gives ya lemons, make lemonade". I've always loved this little pick-me-up phrase. As a teacher I've used it many times to cheer kids, but never has it been used on me. Hell, I'm always making the best outta' things. This past week I used it on myself twice and I hated it. Screw off I say to lemonade. What doesn't make sense is that I never ordered lemons in the first place so why should I accept them and try to make them into something more desirable?

Having just returned from a very very brilliant eight days on Kauai I suppose I seem to be spoiled and bratty, but I really was disappointed this last week...twice. I had planned to run the 22 mile return trip out to the Kalalau Valley on Kauai's Na Pali Coast and it didn't happen. The best runs are always adventure runs in new territory and Kauai's lush, mucky, north shore was it. Unfortunately it was too lush and too mucky. We drove to the northside of the isle on Tuesday morning to do some recon because we'd heard it was a mess over there. People were saying it was impassable and never should I try running it. Like any good trail runner from North Vancouver, I thought maybe I knew a thing or two about mud and rugged terrain so I, with my lady friend and her belly full of child, hiked the first two miles to find 30 or so hikers stranded at Hanakoa's river edge. It was too swift and too high to pass. Maybe tomorrow I thought, knowing full well the outlook wasn't promising. We hiked the 2 miles back to Ke'e Beach and did some snorkeling and ate chips and salsa with the resident chickens. Two hours later we saw some of the hikers exiting the trail - they'd given up the wait to get out there. The next morning the rains returned and a couple hikers informed us that part of the trail had been wiped clean into the ocean at the 6 mile marker, Hanakapai'i. The lemonade in this story... I wasn't stuck beyond the six mile marker and I'd conceded to allowing myself a week off running and some outdoor yoga. I found some incredible spots and there's nothing like a little down dog while smelling the ocean, feeling the heat of the sun and the gusts of the wind on your face. This really did work out perfectly I guess.

Just a week ago I had written about being tired and needing a break. There was no doubt I needed the break and life made the choice to take one real easy.

The trip became, outdoor yoga, snorkeling reefs, hiking in baby poo mud, chips and salsa and beer, coffee, and early rising in tent city to the cock-a-doodle-do of roosters. (Kauai has a chicken problem if you don't know)

I managed to stay clear of the internet for the week and when finally, on Sunday night, I saw the Knee Knacker lottery results I'd been anticipating, I was pissed. Not drunk...mad. I just assumed it wouldn't happen to me. I didn't "win". Everyone I train closely with got in and I didn't. You should've seen me stomping around Honolulu's open-air airport. I was a whiny little be-atch and somebody was gonna' pay. We were hungry so went into a place to eat. The $16.00 hamburger sent me over the top. Who do airport shops think they are? Have they ever been in the "real" outside world? Steam pouring out of my ears, I plowed out the front door of that place to pout on the benches in the hallway. Prior to the lottery I just assumed I wouldn't care if I didn't "win". I'd volunteer or just do some other race. This morning I applied to be a Knacker vollie and I may do something else, perhaps Stormy 50 miler, but I didn't order this lemonade dammit. A day has passed and I'm coming to terms with it all. It is what it is and I'll just have to order something else from the menu.

Where am I now that I've written this blog? I actually feel better having spat it out. I do understand the whole "...make lemonade" thing, but I don't want to. I was so looking forward to the Knee Knacker this year because having done it before, it's a benchmark I can compare myself with. For whatever reason I will be busy doing something else. I don't know what yet, but I can't wait to find out what is planned for me. I am thinking strongly about Stormy. It would be my first 50 miler, which was one of my years goals, and it's on gorgeous trails I know. Plus, I'd be close by in case my soon-to-be child tries to make it's debut.

...Run Now.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yeah baby...Trans Rockies here we come

Registered for Trans Rockies yesterday and I can't even believe how excited I am. I just can't get it off my mind. It's like a kid at Christmas. I was starting to wonder if we'd be going. Flight Crew teammate Duncan Coo and I will head down to Colorado in late August for what some refer to as a 6 day camp for runners. Perfect!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Run Down

It's been several weeks since my last post and I think that is congruent with my running schedule. After Orcas I just felt completely trashed. Not just post-race trashed, but really beat down from a combination of illness, moving, busy work schedule, and the early arrival seasonal allergies. I had a short run with Duncan late last week and he burst out laughing at how slowly I was moving. He literally could've walked and kept up while I felt I was working my ass off. I really wanted to just hang with Ronnie, like this dude.

Feeling a little down about it all, I gave myself a few days running break , but kept in the blogoshere. While not running I needed to keep up with what others were doing. Guess what theme ran throughout? Tiredness and illness. Yeah! I wasn't alone. I mean I feel badly for others who are feeling crappy, but it just helped me to feel okay resting. I have a hard time taking time off while others are out there training.

Anyway, I ran a speedy 11km last night in the Rice Lake/Lynn area and felt excellent. I wouldn't say I'm recovered, but maybe just getting used to running tired. With the onset of seasonal allergies I 'm forced to run through that hypoxic feeling. You know the one where you wheez like Fatty McGee and get a little tunnel vision on big climbs? It was tough and fast, but at least Coo wasn't laughing at me this time.

It's okay to take time off, but like so many of you I find it mentally challenging to not be out. And when I am out it's tough to stay focused on the run and not the lethargy.

Kudos to Adam Campbell who commented on some of the same feelings over the past two weeks. His advice to just get out the door and see what happens has helped a lot. Get changed, give yourself 10 or 15 minutes and if it's still bad, GO HOME! Just getting out the door is the biggest battle.

To all of you out there suffering this tiredness: It's a great time to slow down, enjoy the runs as runs and not training, go home if you feel crappy, and enjoy the feet up experience.

On the mend, I'm headed up BCMC this afternoon, a little snowshoeing on Grouse, and off to Kauai this Saturday to run the Kalalau Trail. Crossing my fingers that my allergies don't follow me across the Pacific.