Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Mind of the Injured

A while back, I wrote a blog questioning "when are you a runner?". Some of the responses were hysterical and mostly based on what one is not - "a jogger". A jog is "what you do to warm up for running" or "that is what my high school PE teacher made us do", were some of the responses.  Would a jogger force him or herself out the door to train for an upcoming race regardless of pain? No way! This is the job of a "runner".
For this reason, I evidently think of myself as a runner for injury has once again reared it's ugly head in the form of foot pain.

Something strange is causing numbness, tingling and spear-like pain in my feet. It started a few months ago as a warm sensation on the lateral and distal portion of my right foot and has slowly wormed it's way into being occasionally debilitating. Several recent runs have become beautiful forest walks, but still I race, 5 Peaks Squamish on June 9th, Redbull Divide and Conquer, on June 16th, and Comfortably Numb, this coming weekend. The training runs that haven't been debilitating are just the dangling carrot I need to convince myself I still CAN race. 

Here in lies the problem for most runners with injuries however. We tend to bargain our way back out the door. Who wants to miss a day? We're driven and seldom do you meet a runner who says, "I'd rather  not run a P.B. at my next race so I can skip some training days".  When we are plagued we hit the computer and after a short Google search highlighting our personal ailments and a hasty self diagnosis, we find a way to justify the most conservative approach to managing the injury. Rarely is rest accepted and no way could surgery ever be required. And who's going to let a physiotherapist or chiropractor tell them what to do? A couple ibuprofens and some favoring of the injured area and off the runner goes to tackle his long run day which becomes even longer and slower due to walking back to the car in a puzzled and depressed state. "What could've gone wrong out there?",  he thinks., while completely ignoring the fact that he ran with his fingers crossed the entire time.

So why do runners do this? Betterment. In John L. Parker, JR.'s book, Again to Carthage, the sequel to Once a Runner, he writes the following and it totally wreaks of our will to rationalize running injured.

"When you're a competitive runner in training you are constantly in a process of ascending. 
That's it. 
It's a simple idea, but the more I thought about it, the more profound it became to me. 
It's not something most human beings would give a moment of consideration to, that it is actually possible to be living for years in a state of constant betterment. To consider that you are better today than you were yesterday or a year ago, and that you will be better still tomorrow or next week or at tournament time your senior year. That if you're doing it right you are an organism constantly evolving toward some agreed upon approximation of excellence. Wouldn't that be at least one definition of a spiritual state?" 
Quenton Cassidy -

The issue of injury, as it pertains to the true and injured runner is simply that the constant state of betterment is halted. And more poignantly, that others are continuing to develop and become better while you sit and wait out your ailments. If running is so deeply seeded in your mind and body so as to be spiritual, it is easy to see why injuries that prevent one running can be so depressing. And why we push ourselves to get out there in pain seems sane and justifiable. 

Two pain free runs this week following a decent, but conservative race weekend, and I look forward to Comfortably Numb this Sunday. The odd throb in my foot tells me I should lay off until after receiving professional advice, but my spirit says race. If it goes well, I'll convince myself  I'm fine. If it goes badly, that little voice inside my head will be saying I knew it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The last week

Over the last week, I've had some incredible runs and races (that I watched). I've heeded some of the advice of Adam Campbell and have been enjoying climbing and descending more than ever before. My lovely Lara ran the Iron Knee last Sunday and I got a chance to watch a race for a change. Seeing the lead group come through still blows me away. Oliver Utting barely looks like he's working, but I guess when you weigh a buck twenty-two, how much work is required. For the record, he said it was hard.

The day before the race I volunteered at North Shore Athletics for the package pick up. It's my first time and I love this job. You get the chance to see everybody in their civilian clothes, not covered in salty residue, and smiling. I had some great chats and loved getting to know a larger group of the North Shore's running community. The next morning I was able to cheer on so many people by name and I loved it. Some of them had no idea who I was, but smiled and pranced away in a better place...I think.

Monday I got an email from my Dirty Duo teammate, Arthur Gaillot, asking if I'd be interested in racing with his fellow Nomad machine, Chris Johnston, in the Red Bull Divide and Conquer. What is that, I wondered?  After a quick Google search of a race that is in my own background and that I'd never heard of, I gladly accepted. All we needed was a paddler. Someone who knows the Capilano River like the back of his hand. A good friend of mine know's paddlers well and hooked us up with James Mole, a guy, he believes has paddled the Capilano more than anybody on earth. Sounds like we found our guy. James accepted the invite excitedly and now we have a team for June 16th's Divide and Conquer.

I started asking some questions and doing some research and found that the route went over some trails I'd never been on. The terrain is my backyard, but I didn't recognize the names, JetBoy, Dreamweaver, or Executioner. This information came from local ultra running star, Gary Robbins so I knew it must be accurate. By Wednesday I'd determined that I'd been on JetBoy and I'd been on Executioner. The latter on a bike and the former about five years ago. By yesterday, granted not in it's entirety, I'd seen the whole course. It's going to be tough. It's a 12-13km course that'll likely take near two hours. Below are a few pictures from the course.

Entrance to Executioner of Dreaweaver

Entrance to Executioner from Mountain Highway (off 6th switchback)

Executioner Steep Section

Cool Archway entrance to Dreamweaver