Sunday, May 22, 2016

Exploring the SD100 course

Yesterday my friend Greg picked me up in Pasadena at 5am and we drove down to take an exploratory run on the SD100 course.  Our plan was to start at Pioneer Mail trailhead, to run down into Noble Canyon, up the Noble Canyon Trail to Penney Pines, cross the Sunrise Hwy to return to Pioneer Mail on the PCT, making a 20 mile loop.  We then planned  to tack on some extra miles with an out and back north on the PCT from Pioneer Mail.

We'd caught some light rain driving down and arrived at Pioneer Mail trailhead shortly after 8am to find blustery, cold conditions with fog and low clouds threatening rain.  Donning warm clothes, I packed a shell and we got started  around 8:30am.

We headed west from the Sunrise Hwy down the Pine Mountain Trail to Pine Creek Road and on to Deer Creek.  Scotty's turn-by-turn directions were excellent;  still we missed the Noble Canyon trail turnoff, but we got ourselves sorted out using Tim's gpx track, which I'd loaded onto my iPhone with the USGS topos using GaiaGPS.  By the time we got to the Noble Canyon trailhead the clouds had burned off and the day was crisp, clear and blustery. We shed our cold weather clothes and cruised up the Noble Canyon trail.

The views were amazing:

View east towards Penney Pines from Noble Canyon
We reached Penney Pines and watered down at the spigot/artesian well there, then crossed the Sunrise Hwy and got onto the PCT.  A few hundred yards in,  the view of the Anza Borrega opened up  and I was astonished:
On the PCT

Fantastic running on the PCT....All told we covered 30 miles.  The course was stunning; the conditions were perfect.  A memorable day.  The trail itself is very  technical single track with many sections with loose stones -  its clear that the SD100 is a challenging course that demands one's full attention.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Something's working...

I ran 15 miles today after a 4mi recovery walk yesterday.  I felt fine taking it easy over the 2500 ft climb out (1:29) and did the return trip in 56 minutes.  Not sure where this energy is coming from but I'll take it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mt Wilson 20 miler

I capped off a 100 mile week with my standard Mt Wilson meat-and potatoes workout:  Hike up 10 miles, gaining about 5000 feet;  then run down.  The hike up was a bit slow (2:50).   I started the run down taking it easy as the upper Toll Road these days is basically a long  scree field with rather unstable footing.  On the lower portion I opened it up and cruised in for a 4:19 round trip.  I felt great.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Knee OK- Mt Wilson 28 miler

The plan the last week was to continue slow, easy runs during the week to get in 50 miles ahead of the weekend, then do a back to back this weekend to bust out a solid 100 mile week.  I took an easy recovery walk on Monday and felt surprisingly good on Tuesday's 13 miler.  Thereafter the week was a bit of a  slogging grind.  The knee held together but I was feeling increasingly tired and beat up;  I iced the knee a lot, did a lot of stretching and kept telling myself that it was time on the feet that counted, I was focussing on keeping my stride short and just moving.   By Friday night I was wondering how the 28 miler I'd planned for Saturday would go, I was tired, sore and I'd been working a few hot spots with the foam roller and the tennis ball. I turned in early and set my alarm for 5am.

Alex and I met at 6 and headed up the Sam Merrill Trail out of a solid marine layer.  We walked up to Echo mountain and then ran  easy from there to the Mt Lowe railway.  I stopped to jam my fingers into a hot spot in my calf and it released.  We continued on and broke through the marine layer:
We took it steady and easy up to Mt Wilson and then trotted down the Toll Road 2 miles, turned around and hiked/ran back up to the summit to get water.  It was a beautiful morning:

On the run run down I was surprised at how good I felt-  the knee felt solid and I was pretty loose. It was warm and bright as opposed to the fog down in the valley.
 Finally we got back down to the 3000 ft level where it was cloudy again - nice and cool.
The run went better than I'd hoped, we finished 28 miles in 5:28 run time.  Tomorrow I'll do a hike up/ run down on Mt Wilson to complete the week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tennis ball trigger point release

After a rest day yesterday-  a 4  mile recovery walk-  today I hit the trails again and did 13 miles on the Sawpit Wash up in Monrovia Canyon.  I took it slow again focusing on short stride/fast cadence and much to my surprise hit the 5 mile point above Camp Trask right on my usual time.

The run was surprising in that  I had zero  hip flexer/glute pain.  For the last few days I've been aggressively using a tennis ball to work on "trigger points" in the piriformis and the TFL on my right side.  For the TFL, I lie on my right side, bringing my knee up so that the hip is flexed at about 45 degrees, and put my weight onto the tennis ball around the hip area, rolling around until I find tender spots.  Not difficult, the whole area proximal and anterior to the greater trochanter has been quite tender.  Once I find a painful spot I stop and hold for about 30 seconds.  I've been doing the same with the piriformis-  placing my weight on the ball with knee bent, rolling towards the sacrum from the top of the greater trochanter.

This has progressed from being very difficult to tolerate to mildly uncomfortable,  and the improvement in my level of comfort while running is quite astonishing to me.  Here is a link that describes the basic procedure:

Mt right knee pain is still with me but not getting worse.  I'm icing it now.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Turned the corner with the bruised knee

My long run this morning went well.  I hit the Sam Merrill Trail at 6am and power walked to Echo Mountain.  I started running from there over to the Mt. Lowe railway and on up to Mt. Wilson.  I took the Toll Rd down a mile and a half then turned around and headed back to the summit via the single track (15 miles, 3:20);  then ran down -  total time 5:20 for 27 miles.  Slow, but fast enough.

I took it intentionally slow and kept my stride short to go easy on the bruised knee.  This seems to have worked, the knee felt OK through the run.  I stopped periodically to do bent knee quad stretches.  This was effective in reducing knee discomfort, lasting about 5 miles, then I'd stop and stretch again.

The focus on not over-striding also seems to have benefitted my tender piriformis.  As I think about it, over-striding probably also contributed to my fall two weeks ago: If you catch a toe while over-striding, its difficult to recover, but with a short stride its no big deal.

It was a beautiful morning with clouds flowing over the summit, but  I forgot my camera so no pictures.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Yesterday I decided to push my knee and try running.  I started off walking and progressed to a very easy run, practical race-walking, on the flat Sawpit Wash trail.  Keeping my stride short and cadence up, the knee was I did my standard 10 mile out and back.  It hurt, but the pain didn't seem to match the "fingerprint" of worrisome knee pain that I've had before.  I had the sense that the knee had turned the corner, it seemed like more of an itchy, healthy pain if that makes any sense....It was stiff and sore when I got home later so I iced it and did my usual stretch routine, again talking care to gingerly stretch the quads with the knee bent.

When I awoke today it felt better.  After having breakfast with my family and some friends that were visiting,  I stretched out again and decided to take it further today by running the "Ken Burton Loop":  Up the Gabrielino Trail from JPL to Oakwilde (5.3 miles), then up the Ken Burton Trail to the Mount Brown Road (7.6miles); then down the Brown "Road"-  really, its single track since the Station Fire-- to the Arroyo and back to my car at Arroyo/Windsor (14.5 miles total).

This route and the Ken Burton Trail in particular  is a old favorite:   Its been closed since the 2009 Station Fire, but recently re-opened due to the efforts of the local mountain bikers, the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association (MWBA) and CORBA, who together put in 15 trail-work days with 15-35 volunteers on each of those days to restore the ~ 2.5 mile long Ken Burton Trail.  I was able to make 3 of those trail days and am grateful to  MWBA and CORBA , particularly their leaders, who made all or nearly all of these the trail days.  Amazing.  Without the bikers many of our "running" trails would not be passable...these folks are great.

I took it easy today and walked the steeps on the KB Trail.  It was a beautiful day to be out:

It was not a  pain free run,  but the knee seems to be OK and improving with the work.  I iced it afterwords and feel good now.  I swear its less swollen today than two days ago.  Tomorrow I'll try a longer run.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Update on bruised knee

After several  days of dead rest starting last Friday, I got the knee checked out yesterday and nothing is broken- but the doc confirmed its a bad bruise ("pre-fracture") and said it would likely take 4-6 weeks to heal (with rest).  The swelling and crepitus he says is likely due to fluid from the injury and will take more time to abate.   Last night and this morning I stretched the knee -  quad stretches with bent knee had been quite painful since last week's fall so I'd been skipping that from my routine; so I did these stretches  quite gingerly and while it was a uncomfortable it did seem to feel better afterwords.  Today  I took an 8 mile walk and pushed it - its surprising what a clip one can achieve with more of a race walking gait.  It felt great to get out and cover some ground on the Sawpit wash.

This workout didn't seem to aggravate the knee.  Walking directly down stairs still hurts but I'm going to continue daily walking now, and try some running -  I'll focus on shortening up my  stride and we'll see how it goes.  I checked with the SD100 race director and its  too late for another runner to take my spot at SD100 so:  I'll give it a shot and see if I am able to get some significant miles in.  If I can, I'll race.

I've also been working the hip circuit and have transitioned to a shorter, but twice-daily routine with glute bridges, clamshells,    "figure-4"  piriformis isometric exercises  and piriformis stretches (top piriformis exercises).      The piriformis routine plus tennis ball massage of that area is to address some glute pain I've been experiencing in recent weeks.  Doc says that indeed, the piriformis had been cut to access the acetabulum and that the piriformis runs directly over the plates put in in 2014 to splint the fracture, so maybe this is the reason.  In any event the stretches and piriformis exerises seem to be helping.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May 1, 2016: Resting a bruised knee

One week ago on a 27 miler I caught a toe running fast down a fireroad and bruised my right knee badly landing on rocks.  I also evidently lightly strained the muscles in my right hip area in that fall, as the hip flexors were sore immediately after that fall as well.

I iced the knee on and off that day and decided I'd take a few days off from running and walk instead.  Between Monday and Thursday I walked 26 miles, and while the knee was OK during these walks, I still had to limp down stairs at work.  By Thursday night the knee was still swollen and not able to bear weight when bent.  I decided to back off even further and rested completely Friday through Sunday.  Now Sunday, after this rest, its still tender to the touch and stiff.

I went through my journals to the last time I banged my knee cap hard-  in May 1997 I did something similar and it took about 7 weeks to get back into training.  The good news then was that I was able to get back quickly and ran a 6:46 50 miler at the McKenzie River Trail run later that summer.

I need to decide what to do about SD100 as the race is in 5 weeks.  I need to decide whether to get checked out by a doc as well.

This morning I caught up on some chores and did a core and hip workout:
  • 27 +20 pull ups/45 pushups/200 sit ups
  • SLRs, 3x10
  •  1-leg glute bridges, 3x10
  • RDLs, 3x20
  • Lateral leg lifts, 3x20
  • clamshells, 3x10
  • Standing leg lifts at 45 degree angles (6 directions, 20 each)
  • Stretch routine including piriformis stretches

I stumbled across a poem while internet surfing about ultra running last night.  It was attributed to Rub White by the poster:

              The Runner's Paradox

            I seek the finish, I crave the finish, the finish is my friend
           And yet the black dog waits for me, for finish means the end.

           © Rob White 2015

This was posted in a comment on an extraordinary video about ultra running that captures how I am feeling about now pretty well: