March 28, 2009

The Fells: Same Time, Different Place

Last fall I ran the 8 mile Fells Trail Race to cap off the Eastern New England Trail Race Series (ENETRS).

It was my final 2008 race and my fourth race in November, which was a lot to for me! With tired legs—and November's Stone Cat Marathon Trail Race in my quads—I had no business being at the race beyond accumulating some series participation points.

With a very small, 8-miler field, I had a good run; I placed 3rd overall! This was funny to me because I am nearly always a happy middle-of-the pack finisher.

The race-day course is configured like a lollipop, where the
stick leads up to the "circular-pop" loop of the Skyline Trail. It may be run in either direction at one's discretion.

In November I ran counter-clockwise and finished in 91 minutes (1:31:03). (11.08 Fells Results, 8m.)

The 2009 ENETRS kicked off with the 8 mile Fells Race this March. Having trained with running friends this winter along the Skyline Trail in the clockwise direction, I chose that way on race day. I was curious to see how my race fitness & time compared by running this route versus the other one from November.

My March, clockwise time was 91 minutes (1:30:30).
Merely 33 seconds faster than in November! The March, 8-miler field was just as tiny but faster. I placed 7th overall with the same finishing time. (More chuckling.)

Many thanks to Kevin for his warm up miles and to Bill for pulling me up those hills and into the finishing stretch! I am by no means a fast runner but enjoy a good trail challenge from time-to-time and to see of what I am capable on a given course, day &/or duration. The trails were giving and I felt strong both mentally and physically; Bogie D's race offered a fun start to the trail season.

I hope the Ultra runners out there— repeating the 8 mile loop—were pleasantly "lapping up" the terrain!?

March 25, 2009

"One Hill" Repeat

Start of the 2008 MWRR
Was it good fortune that my lottery entry was selected for the 2009 Mount Washington Road Race? I believe & hope so. I captured the above photo and video of the 2008 MWRR start when I went with Paul who had an extraordinary run! To see the video I captured of the start click here.

I ran the MWRR in 2004—on a last-minute bib number from an old running club (RR)—with less than a month to train for the event. An MVS track coach at the time joked, "You can't train for Mount Washington!" While I don't believe this today, I understood what he meant as I was merely three weeks from an 7.6 mile uphill battle! In 2004, I arrived at the the base of the auto road with no finishing time in mind, just the goal to have fun.

What a blast. I ran, power-walked, took pictures, laughed & talked with folks. But I don't know that guy in the yellow jacket. Just before the start, it poured and then the sun came out, the temperature rose but dropped again. Beyond the half-way point the wind picked up, unleashed some hail before blanketing the summit in a thick fog. Thank goodness for those cow bells; visibility was approximately 10 feet. Afterwards in the summit house, I was pretty gleefully glazed (above, in red).
The same day as the 2004 MWRR over 100 mini coopers raced to the summit.
Notice how stormy it is! The following day: sun, clear skies & happy clouds (on right).
What a difference a day makes.
My main goal for 2009 is to have fun. Seeing I haven't participated in this event since 2004, I'll be curious to see how five years of mostly trail running makes a difference. I might have lost speed but I gained endurance. Some other goals include arriving healthy & injury free for the start (& after), training through the mountain series, and sharing the experience with friends old and new.

Last year I hiked up the auto road a few miles after the racers were well into their ascent. I saw this profile in a rock that reminded me of the Old Man of the Mountain. This is my "mini" Man of the Mountain. All I know is that when I see his frown in June 2009 I will have a good chuckle.

March 15, 2009

Help to Heal Plantar Fasciitis

In 2007, I suffered something fierce from bi-lateral plantar fasciitis and didn't run for six months. Because of my experience, I learned a lot of useful information (albeit a little too late at times). I want to share what I discovered, just in case you or someone you know is in a similar situation. (This entry stars my dogs with cameo appearances from my cat, The Wookiee.)

My healing began when I realized my PF wasn't just an overuse injury from running but was cumulative from standing all day & on concrete floors, lack of arch support in my shoes, walking barefoot, tight calf muscles and genetics. While I'd been plagued with PF before, what made this bout different was that it didn't respond to the usual round of ultrasound, message and physical therapy. My new physical therapist used a wooden knobble to break up the scar tissue in my feet. (Ouch, more please.) She also advised that to run with PF would delay my healing and continue to tear my already inflamed & micro-torn fascia. She implored me to STOP RUNNING—immediately! Initially this was really difficult for me to embrace until I understood WHY: I was re-injuring my feet by running. So like a good patient I followed her advice.

Furthermore when I thought I was helping my feet by using a foot roller, I was instead damaging them BECAUSE I applied too much pressure while ice-rolling. This might seem obvious but in case it isn't I'll spell it out: Do NOT stand on the foot rollers/frozen water bottle when messaging your arches. Instead, be seated (like I am in this video) and gently roll your feet across the surface of the roller/bottle.

To combat my PF, I took a "leave-of absence" from running for six months. That's a long time for a runner. Still I considered my life-long love & relationship with running and I looked upon this hiatus as essential to the bigger picture and my healthy running future. As, I am adamantly against cortisone shots and I avoid using anti-inflammatory pills for more than a week, my plan took a longer purposeful duration.
I treated my PF with a cocktail of remedies: time off from sports (that impact the feet), arch support bands, message, ultrasound,  Futuro Night Splints, icing, gentle stretching, and changes in my behavior. Behavior changes included no walking barefoot for more than a few minutes, wearing arch supports (Powerstep Pinnacle) in my shoes and stretching more regularly. All of these things worked and when I feel a twinge of the PF, I begin this cocktail of remedies.

Trail Pixie's "Feet-back" on orthotics & arch supports:
Despite two different podiatrists fitting me for custom-made orthotics (both soft & hard), what's been best for me were the full-length Powerstep Pinnacle orthotics, which I wear daily. From time to time I also wear Arch Sleeves when the PF aches/flares up. Added benefit: doubles as a cat toy.

Trail Pixie's thoughts on the "oh-so sexy" night splints:

I HIGHLY recommend the Futuro Night Splint (or one of similar design). I am modeling my well-loved pair in the photo. Initially I tried the FootSmart Passive Night Splint. It was too hot and interfered with comfortable sleeping. I also developed achy knees from wearing it (!) so I found the shorter, more comfortable and less hot (but still "sexy") AirForm Night Splint. I do NOT recommend the Strassburg Sock and any contraption it resembles because I believe it stretches the wrong area (the toes) versus gently holds the fascia in a passive position preventing it from tightening up overnight.

Trail Pixie endorses all foot rollers pictured here:
Winner: the frozen water bottle! (Go green runner/re-cycler/re-user & the thrifty);
Runner Up: the black & white wheeled wonder. (Hits all the right spots without the chill.);
Sweep: the wooden roller (Textured for that special something.).

March 06, 2009

Signs of Spring

Indoors & Out
Last night I encountered the first of several anticipated lady bugs. Every couple of springs they arrive and cluster in corners, like shy giggly girls at dimly-lit dances. This one looked so cute donning her frilly dust skirt; she happened to come out before I had a chance to spring clean.
Here's her movie debut:

Nature springs and cleans, too. Below are two photos I took during different seasons at the same location——just below eye-level at a beaver dam along Margaret's Trail in Ward. A now submerged and destroyed boardwalk in this area linked to another trail system across RT 125. Yet, in the depth winter, when the ice is thick and safe, one can venture onto it and explore. I once spied fisher cat tracks and what I thought might be a beaver lodge. Alas, the smooth-boned tree trunks, once bushy with foliage, are now sign posts to forlorn white-blazed trail markers. In any other season this beaver battleground is expansive water.
With spring in the air, I went for a slushy run today in Ward Reservation before heading over to the Mary French and Hammond Reservations to check their conditions. In the past few years beavers flooded out some trails that are nearly impassable unless frozen over. So I was relieved to find that while the patch between Mary French and Hammond was a tricky balancing act with snow and ice on the boardwalks, the surface on either side remained firm. Hopefully it'll hold another week before we start to break through to the hibernating muck below.

I wore YakTrax Pro but in hindsight I would have appreciated the extra toothy traction of Kahtoolas. The YakTrax also cut off the flow of circulation to my toes so I removed them after three miles. I then noticed the rubber wearing thin on their back outside section. Now I understand why the Kahtoolas are all metal on the bottom versus metal coils around rubber as in the YakTrax!

When I got home I noticed that in spite of the early March snow storm, the flower garden is full speed ahead with its shoots busting forth. This photo (with the snow) captures Spring's determination!

Here are the same eager daffodils in early February.

March 02, 2009

Fells Fall

A Saturday group run in the MS Fells proved to be a genuine team effort. The Skyline Trail was glassy with slick ice along generous lengths. With trail shoes on, S and M (no pun intended) were initially slip-sliding on areas so instead they ran along the edge of the trail, while D tallied his increasing number of lost shoe screws. It was my first time out in Kahtoolas and K, also in his Microspikes, offered advice on navigating various surfaces (e.g., ice, rocks, etc.). After years of avoiding icy trails, I am refreshed by being able to run confidently on wet ice. What a gift. Our spirits were high and our group photographer (and "anti-bounce hydration-belt gadget-inventor"), K, snapped pictures along the way.

I wish we all wore Kahtoolas (or Yaktrax Pro) because at about mile five, M took a painful fall that broke her ankle. We all shifted into emergency mode to get her to the local ER ASAP! Thank g
oodness for the group and M's patience and fortitude. She impressed me with her positive attitude and gratitude while enduring tremendous discomfort. This group run proved there exists "strength in numbers!" We're all pulling for M to heal quickly and strongly! This experience motivated me rethink and trouble shoot the what, where, with whom, and how of my various runs and routes.
More at
D's blog.

Before the snow started on Sunday, I picked up some 121 Dion Racing SS from B. (Thanks, B!) I am eager to get out there and compare my Altas SS to the Dion pair. Spring offers basically ice-free trails (and yummy mud). Still I am giddy about playing in the snow with my winter athletic toys: YakTrax, Kahtoolas, cross-country skis and snow shoes!

Last week I longed for spring when I saw snowdrop flowers coming up
in my yard. Now I grin at the accumulation of fluffy white flakes. Regardless of the season, I am thankful to have these options, especially given M's break Saturday. Her fall in the Fells is a reminder to us all of how grateful we can be for health and opportunity.

A note to M: if you decide to Aqua Jog, I will join you! Like many experiences, it's a lot more fun with company.