Friday, July 25, 2008

Another week

Things are coming along well.  The first week was about healing and recovery, trying to sort out what I was going to do and when I might be back.  This second week has also been about healing, but more importantly it has been about putting together a plan to strengthen my weaknesses and be fit when I am ready to start running again.

I was able to get over to Victoria for a bunch of appointments on Tuesday.  Having spent almost 7 years in Victoria, I was fortunate to put together a pretty amazing team of health practitioners.  Victoria is small enough that nothing is far away, but the size does not limit the number of amazing health practitioners as there are many National Training Centres located there (including rowing, cycling, and triathlon to name a few).  I was fortunate to get into see these practitioners on short notice.  First stop of the day was with Dr. Alain Leblanc.  He was our team doctor when I was training at the NTTC and I really wanted to get his opinion on my foot and what I could and could not do during rehab.  He spent good time with me and outlined a week by week plan in order to return to activity.  He was more conservative with his timeline for full return to action (8-12 weeks) than my chiro, Dr. Pelly was (6-8 weeks).  I like Dr. Pelly's timeline better, but Dr. Leblanc did give me a referral for another set of x-rays at 6 weeks, so we will get a pretty clear idea of healing at that point.  

I was also able to see my dentist, Dr. Rycraft.  Not really injury related, but it is nice to have clean teeth.  

Lastly, I saw my old massage therapist - actually, I saw his wife as he is not doing massage now that computers have stolen him away.  Jo-Ann was kind enough to see me outside her schedule and she did some fantastic work on the bone.  Both Rene and Jo-Ann practice medical Chi-Kung (from their website; Medical Chi-Kung harmonizes the body's blood circulation, nervous system and energy (chi or Qi) by using a wide array of healing techniques, including massage, acupressure, energy work, herbal medicine and exercise. Medical Chi-Kung is well suited for accelerating tissue rejuvenation, providing stress relief, energy balancing and re-supplementation. It is ideal for improving, maintaining and enhancing ones physical health.) I was skeptical the first time I went to see Rene, but after 5 years of working with both of them, I still cannot believe how well it works for me. This is the second time I have limped into their office, and walked out normally (or almost normally). Trust me when I say I was skeptical at the start, but now when I have a serious injury, I will go to Victoria just to see them.

But the week wasn't done there. While I was getting medical treatment, I also met with two of the best strength and conditioning coaches I know, who also happen to friends of mine. Trevor Millar, of Millar Performance Conditioning, gave me a program for strengthening my weakness, which is core stability. I have been through it once already and it made me sweat, even though is was only core work. In another fortunate circumstance, Craig Ballantyne of and was in town. Craig, a friend from my Kinesiology days at McMaster, has become a leading online Strength and Conditioning.  His programs and ideas are based on scientific research as well as care and concern for the whole person. His nutrition advice is spot on and he requires you to work hard for your results. In reading some his female specific program, he plainly states that if you follow his program and nutrition you will lose one pound a week. That is what is deemed healthy and the exact opposite of what is advertised by so many diet companies (15 pounds in 2 weeks!). Anyway, I believe in what he says (although we may differ about the importance of long, slow runs - but his clientele isn't looking to run sub-2:40). We met in downtown Vancouver and he went over some specific exercises that I could do on one leg to maintain proprioception in my right foot. I did his workout this afternoon and was once again sweating. Both these friends are challenging me in ways I haven't been challenged in quite awhile.

Today, Sonja and I hit the pool. In amongst the pirate-themed last day of swim lessons (complete with a pirate sword fight), I swam 1600m for the first time in years. I used a pull-buoy to minimize any kicking-motion as to not do any damage to the foot. I had forgotten why I didn't love swimming. It wasn't that bad, but my arms were most definitely in shock after about 200m. However, I did manage a 1:35 100m (short-course) before getting out, which wasn't too bad, although I would have shuddered at that during my peak swimming mileage at the Centre. More important than the time was getting an aerobic workout. I am pleased about being able to swim, although I am not sure where I will swim when I head back to Ontario next week.

It has been a big week, a good week. I am positive in my mindset and looking forward to getting back out running, but only once I am ready. I may have bought 4 running books while in Victoria (there were GREAT DEALS!), so I have lots to feed the mind. I am most excited about reading Brain Training for Runners, a book that Paul Krochak has been recommending for some time. It looks very good and, weirdly, links into my beliefs about education. After that is the Terry Fox biography, the Perfect Mile, and the Lore of Running (ok, I am not going to read that one, but it was only $13 at Russell's Used Books!). I am happy to have the chance to re-energize my desire for training and to work on weaknesses.  The ENDURrun is now a 1% chance, but I am excited about the coming Cross-Country season. I think I will race BC Cross, which is in Vancouver, as well as both Gunner Shaw races again this year (although I may be the only one that is tapering for them!).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Week Later

This time last week I was in an emergency room, awaiting a cast which was not to come.  Dried sweat was on my skin and I was unsure of what the next few months had in store.

A week later, I am confident in my recovery and I am actually surprised at how good my foot feels.  I have been following the recovery given to me by the first doctor to see me (standard stuff - ice for the first 72 hours, contrast (read: hot/cold) baths after that).

My home rehab centre.  What you can't see is the Tour de France on the TV.

I volunteered at the VFAC Summerfast 10k this morning.  It was great to see the boys again and watch Jay win impressively.  What might have been even more inspiring was seeing Paul get back into racing about two months after being crushed by a car on his bike.  He was in the hospital for a few days after the accident, but has come back around, running a solid time on a slower course.  This has given my some hope that I will be able to rebound quickly.

Speaking of which, after a week of recovery I have to believe that I will be running sooner than later (read: 4 weeks instead of 6 weeks).  My foot is NOT 100%, but it is 1000% better than last week.  I am walking somewhat normally and standing flat-footed again.  I am not going to push it too quickly, but I am optimistic about the timing of my recovery.

I am off to watch The Dark Knight tonight.  I am a bit of a closet comic book geek.  Don't tell anyone.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Knee Knacker Race Report (now with pictures)

The drive across Ironworkers' Bridge at 4:00am.

The morning started out beautiful.  The drive across the bridge at 4:20am was serene and the sky was starting to move from black to blue.  The silhouettes of the mountains I was about to traverse was actually inspiring, not frightening.  Everything was great and I was on time.  

The mountains are just silhouettes, waiting to be crossed.

But only after I pulled into Lina's driveway to pick her up before making our way to the shuttle bus, did I realize that I had left my water bottle at home.  For all my planning and attention to detail, I had left my full water bottle on the counter.   Luckily, Lina had an extra one for me and everything was fine.  For the moment.

The bus ride across to the start was great, but there is always something humbling about driving the length of the race you are about to running.  When it takes 30 minutes along the highway to get to the start, you begin to wonder what it is you have signed up for.  However, the idea of point-to-point races is much more appealing than a big loop as there is a sense that you have travelled under your own power.  

Milling about at the start.  Notice the eagerness of Lina and Tom 
(blue jacket and hoodie off to the left looking at the
 camera - both were to have great days!).

The start was good.  Saw a number of friends and everyone was in good spirits, especially since it was before 6:00am.  I did a short warm-up (by short, I mean 3-4 minutes - more running to go pee than anything else).  And before we knew it, we were off.

Yes, the race begins with a litteral line drawn in the sand.  For the Lebowski fans, as Walter Sobchak said,
"'s about drawing a line the sand, beyond this line you do not...and dude,..."

It was my intention to run this race more as an adventure than a race, so accordingly I took it out very slowly, trying to keep my heart rate quite low.  This worked well, but also put me quite far back in the pack.  I wasn't too worried as I kept reminding myself that there were 6 hours left.  So, while I was being very conservative, I was not able to shed race mentality.  But, more than any race I have ever done before, I ran within myself.

The first few km are AMAZING trail, and it is easy to get caught up "racing" at this point.  I was pleased that I didn't.  

The first climb was about a 1:20 long.  There was a boulder field and some beautiful views.  Lots of scrambling and very little running.  I was content to hike/climb as there wasn't a lot of time to be lost going uphill, but there is lots of time to be made up going downhill.   
This is why "racing" at the start may not be a good idea.

The beginning of the boulder field.  I loved my Brooks Cascadias on this rock.

We crested the first peak and went through the aid station (they are heroes for being on the top of a mountain with water and ju-jubes!).

Almost at the top of the boulder field.  That is West Vancouver in the foreground and Stanley Park across the inlet.

The top of the boulder field, with downtown now in full morning view.

 Running through some snow and by a mountain top lake, I began the descent into Cypress Bowl.  

The melted snow revealed lots of mud.  Who knew I would wish for more snow?

The tint is off, but the snow was welcomed!

The run-out was actually quite easy as it is part of a ski hill, so very well maintained (unlike the climb that we had just finished).  I went through the aid station, found out that my friend Tom was only a couple of minuted ahead (thanks to his girlfriend Lara), and was excited to really get into the race now that the worst climb was over.  

The downhill was technical and fun.  I was really proud of myself for committing to and maintaining a low heart rate throughout the first part of the race.  This is often my downfall, going too hard too early, and now, 2:20 into the race, I was feeling better than I ever had that far into a run before.  

The downhill was laid out before me and I was eager.  This was my strength and I knew the second half of the course very well.  I was starting to think about a negative split for the day, which would be great and place me well within the top 10, not bad for "not racing".

But this was not to be.  About 10-15 minutes from Cleveland Dam, which was a mile before the first of the five road crossings leading into Cleveland Dam, I rolled over on my right foot.  Hearing a snap, which I thought (hoped) was a twig, I continued to run as often a twisted ankle isn't bad.  The initial shock wears off and you can run on it no problem.  In fact, that exact scenario had happened not five minutes earlier with my left ankle.  The pain was not in my ankle, but rather in my foot.  After 500m of running, I knew my day was done.  It was increasingly painful to bear weight.  I skip-hopped, much like Terry Fox, and made my way out to the first of the aforementioned road crossings.  There was a king marshall there and the call was made to Search and Rescue to come take a look at my foot.  

And my day was now about waiting.

"Yeah, I am here with the runner who has a sore foot."  I could have killed that woman for Search and Rescue.  Sore foot?  I didn't know how what the extent of my injury was at that point, but sure as hell it was than sore.  "Sorry, we are not allowed to transport people or else I would drive you back to your car."  I mean, I know Search and Rescue do amazing work, but maybe I was too tame for them.  She did give me an ice-pack, which was needed, but I was left to wait for a volunteer to come drive me to the finish so I could retrieve my car and head to the hospital.

Sparing the details of getting the X-ray, I ended up in ER with a kind doctor who showed me where the fracture was in my right foot.  "A nondisplaced fracture of your fifth metatarsal."  This basically means that the fracture is aligned well and should heal fine.  It is a bone on the outside of the foot (think baby toe), about an three inches forward from the heel.  The average recovery is 8-10 weeks, and usually it is a full recovery.  This is the good news.  The bad news is that there is next to no chance for the ENDURrun.  I was really looking forward to that race this year - it was to be the highlight of my running season.  I am going to aggressively rehab the bone - which is to say that I am going to do everything I can to give my body what it needs to rebuild the bone because there is not much rehab you can do for a broken bone.  I have to get the OK to get into the pool and start swimming and/or water running in an attempt to not lose too much fitness.  I can't do too much, but I will do what I can.

I have had a ton of close calls in the trails.  Whether it is a fall, a twisted ankle, or a near-miss, I have avoided my share of injuries.  This is the first bone I have broken.  I guess my number finally came up.  Simon Driver put it into perspective for me; "If you are going to break your foot, best to do it on a day when there are 200 volunteers looking to help you."  This could be much much worse.  I will refocus my training for the next couple of months, and come out of this with a fire that will help me train throughout the winter.  

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 6

Six days already!  Wow, time flies when you have a broken foot.

Seriously, the time has gone quickly.  I have been watching the Tour de France, rehabbing as best I can, and getting school preparation done.  I have also hobbled around a little, but I mean a little.  It ain't easy.

BUT!!!  I am hobbling almost flat-footed now.  I am hoping to hear back about my x-rays tomorrow, and go from there.  I also did a core workout two days ago and I am almost over the pain as a result of that workout.  Almost.

Off to watch the Giro di Burnaby, a bike race that occurs near our house each year.  Hangin' out with the Italians, eating pasta and gelato, watching cycling.  Feels like last year when we were in the real Italy!

The most important thing, though - the foot felt better today and yesterday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Foot Update

Just a quick update about how the foot is progressing.  I iced it for the first 72 hours and I have now moved into contrast baths.  That means that I have a cooler full of ice water and a bowl full of warm water beside each other.  I put my foot in the warm water for 5 minutes and then the cold water for 1 minute.  I continue this, taking 1 minute off the warm water each time until I am down to 1 minute warm and 1 minute cold.  This is done to increase circulation to the area, which from what I have read, is the limiting factor in healing as that part of the body does not receive very much blood flow.  It is way better than the straight icing which made my foot go hypothermic (I know, only the whole body can have hypothermia, but it seemed like it might spread).

Each day has been better than the last thus far and that is good news.  The foot still is a bit sore, but has noticeably improved from Saturday.  I saw my chiropractor, Dr. Tod Pelly, today and after his inspection he commented that the foot was much better than what he thought he was going to see.  I was able to get a copy of my x-rays for him, so I will know more quite soon.  I was definitely disappointed when he said no to swimming; I have no idea what I am going to do for cardio with biking and swimming (and water running) not being options for me.  I guess it is core and flexibility for a month.

I will post more updates as continue to progress, but thus far I am in good spirits and quite optimistic about my recovery time.  The tough thing is that there isn't much to do except wait for it to heal, so I will do what I can to aid the body in that process.

And thanks to everyone for sending messages of sympathy.  While this does suck, I also realize that in the grand scheme of things, a little fractured bone in my foot isn't all that bad. 

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I don't like this habit I seem to be forming.  Throughout my life I have always had the ability to sleep.  If nothing else, I have been able to sleep through most things.  Hurricanes, car crashes, sirens, TV.  You name it, I could sleep through it.

For my past couple of big races - Iceland and Boston to be specific - I have not slept well.  I don't know how I have contracted this late onset insomnia, but I have.  I don't feel nervous.  I don't feel wound up.  Maybe I am too concerned about sleeping through my alarm, and yet there is no precedent for that.  

Suffice it to say, I am awake now.  The Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run begins in just over three hours, which puts the big hand close to the three and the little hand close to the 11, at this exact moment.  I tried to sleep.  I did.  I read.  

Reading is my secret weapon.  Unless it is in the A.M. hours, I fall asleep when I read.  I partly blame my average-to-decent marks at university on this fact.  I could never read more than 20 pages in the evening with out ending up face down in a pool of drool.  So last night, I started to read at 11:00pm.  On any given night, this would put me to sleep in about 10 minutes.  An hour later, my book was done. Damn.  Sleep was not going to come without a fight.

I flirted with unconcisousness for about 3 hours, from 11:30 pm until 2:30 am, but gave up the fight after that, deciding to make peace with the early morning hours.  

About three weeks ago I decided against racing the Knee Knacker, instead deciding to run it.  For those that might not see the immediate difference between racing and running, it is small but significant.  It is more a mental shift than anything, but over the 30 miles of trail, it makes a big difference.  For a while after Boston, I was dreading the thought of another long race effort ruined by cramping.  I had spoken to Coach John and decided to put marathons on the back burner for awhile, and a couple of average trail race results lessened my desire to compete and complete the Knee Knacker.  I think it was on a run at Buntzen Lake with Simon where I remembered that I loved running the trails.  We went out for a good long run (me for 2 hours+; he went for longer, 4 hrs+) and I just loved the pace we were going, the conversations we were having, and the terrain we were covering.  The decision to run the Knee Knacker, to enjoy the trail, vistas, terrain, challenge and the people, lifted this heretofore unnoticed weight off my shoulders.  Without realizing it, the weight of expectations, my own mostly, was lifted and I started to enjoy training more.  I looked forward to running hour-long uphills.  I looked forward to 3 hours in the trails.  I wasn't worried about times, splits, or pace.  This simple mental shift released me from me.

The goal is now to enjoy the race today.  I am lookin
g forward to becoming part of the Knee Knacker cult, but the real focus is to recover well from the run today so that my training for the ENDURrun stays on track.  To that end, I have had very good workout the past two weeks with VFAC.  My workouts are just about back to where they were before Boston, which is fantastic.  I am feeling confident and strong again, and with about a month until the start of ENDURrun in Waterloo, that is perfect.  

Like Iceland, I am taking a camera on course.  I hope to take pictures every 15 minutes or so, but we'll see.  The pre-race meeting last night was good and it great to see so many enthusiastic people there, who have willingly signed up for this masochistic event.  (see the course profile below - just for reference, most trail races I race have about 600-800m TOTAL elevation gain over 25k; we cover that in the first 7.5k)

"It's not the uphill that gets you, it is the downhill."  I'll remind myself of that at 9k.  Off to get some food and get ready.  No more sleep for me tonight.