Friday, January 28, 2011

Three Weeks of Spring

First thing tomorrow morning, I'm getting in an aeroplane and I'm getting the f@ck out of here. Last year, I needed snow and there was none. This year, I don't need snow. I don't want snow and we're constantly running in slush. I've had it. Some of it is falling from the sky as I'm typing this. Dammit, I should have run at lunch! Last week's ridiculous cold snap pushed me over the edge. I'm buggin' out. Arizona, here I come! I'm going down there for three weeks, all by lonesome self. I've scheduled two races: the XTERRA McDowell  Mountain 15 miler somewhere near Phoenix next Staurday and the Sedona marathon the Saturday after that. Yummy!

Add to that sweet runs in the red rocks in 50 to 60F (10 to 15C) and what do you have? A Winter-frustrated-runner's wet dream, that's what you have. No city bus spraying you with slush on the sidewalk. No ice patch waiting to trip you when you're trying to do some intervals for once. No need for a windshield to protect your pecker. Running in shorts, what does that feel like again?

Would you prefer running on this ...
... or that?
Hopefully, when I come back, most of that white crap is gonna be gone. Winter running in the city is just not fun. Like my kids say: "it's character building".

Damn,  I'm getting moody. I need a vacation.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Duct Tape Method

One of the first book I bought when I started running ultras was “Fixing Your Feet” by John Vonhof. One section that intrigued me was the section on plantar wart removal using duct tape. See, I’d had a small wart (Eeewww!) for a while and although it didn’t bother me, having it removed using liquid nitrogen didn’t appeal to me. Many years ago, I had a wart burned on my thumb so many times that I lost count and it always came back until one day I got rid of it using some kind of acid coated tape. Also, a burned wart can hurt a lot and prevent you from running for a few days and who wants that?

I’ve also tried one or two commercial liquids. Usually, the wart ends up bleeding and it hurts like hell when I put the stuff on and I just quit before the wart is gone. The nice thing about the duct tape is that it doesn’t hurt.

So in the Fall of 2009 I made a half-ass attempt to use the duct tape method. It didn’t work. I would find the piece of tape stuck to my sock somewhere, or I would pick the wart and it would start bleeding. Eventually I just gave up. But the damage had been done and I believe that those bleeding episodes allowed the wart to spread and by the Summer I ended up with a small cluster around the original one. Damn.

My doctor assured me that the duct tape method did indeed work. She also recommended a cream called Aldara, which is supposed to trigger some kind of immune system response. So this Fall, I decided to be more careful and get rid of the fuckers. Finally, after almost 5 months of walking around with a piece of duct tape stuck to my right heel, I can claim victory.

If you decide to try this method here’s my advice:

Keep it Clean

To make sure the tape sticks, I bought boxes of 100 Alcohol Swabs. I would always clean leftover adhesive. Also, this process removes any dirt or skin oil that could prevent the adhesive from sticking.

Use BIG pieces of tape

The first time around, I tried using fairly small pieces of tape that would cover a little more than the wart. Those pieces would immediately come unglued and end up stuck to my sock somewhere. This time around I used big sections of maybe 1inx2in (the width of the roll).

Do NOT pick at it

This is probably the hardest part. You always feel like you could just peel it off. You can’t. The things feed off blood vessels and every time you start digging into it you will start bleeding and that blood can spread the virus around. If it happens, make sure to use your alcohol swabs to clean everything and use duct tape to stop the bleeding.

You can try Aldara(tm)

That shit is expensive, but my insurance covered it. Warts are caused by a virus and Aldara is some kind of antiviral. You will need a prescription from your doctor. I would put a drop on each wart 3 or 4 times a week, rub it in using a Q-tip or something and then tape right over it. I have to say that it seemed most effective on the small secondary warts. I had two good-sized ones that didn’t seem to be bothered by it but it probably did help.

Use an Emery Board (or equivalent)

Basically, I used some kind of rough stone tool I bought at Shopper’s Drugmart to gently scraped to top layer of skin and (hopefully) dead wart. Key word is “gently”. Don’t overdo it or you’ll end up bleeding. Scrape, clean, Aldara (optional), tape.

Change the tape every day

The book says to keep the tape on for 6 days before doing the scraping-cleaning-taping routine. Good luck with that. The tape WILL move around and the resulting strips of glue on your foot will stick to your sock and that can be annoying. I found I just HAD to change the tape every day to keep things nice and clean.

Don’t run long with the tape on

I sometimes ran with the tape on for as long as an hour but for anything longer, I just took it off and cleaned the area before my run. The tape always comes unglued and ends up in a ball somewhere in your sock. Not something I want in there for 3 or 4 hours. Put a nice fresh piece of tape right after you clean up and it’ll stick real good.

Be patient

It takes a while. My small ones went away fairly fast but as I mentioned earlier, it takes months to get rid of larger ones. Still, it doesn’t hurt, you can run, so who cares?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011 Hopes and Plans

What's a blog without a post about New Year Resolutions?

Realistically, I don't have a lot of specific goals this season (I guess I'm living the dream already) but the few I have are difficult to achieve.

Increase my Base

I believe that one reason for my lack of improvement last year was my fairly low weekly mileage. It was enough to finish the races, but not to actually approach my potential PR. There is no substitute for time on your feet and I'm going to try to do just that. We will see what happens to my right ankle.

Become a Hill Lover

There no buts, ifs or maybes: if I'm ever to finish races like Western States or UTMB, I have to become stronger on hills. I need to train on them. I need to learn when to walk them and when to run them. I need to become better at walking, since a strong uphill power-walk if often faster than a half-ass run. Can I ever become an uphill runner? Depends on the incline, I guess but realistically for 50 and 100 milers, I will be walking anything significantly uphill. That's the hand I was dealt. I just need to learn to walk them faster.

Get Closer to my Racing Weight

Ever since I've started ultra running, I've gained weight that I can't get rid of. I'm so hungry all the time. Some part of my brain has obviously decided that I can't be trusted and has decided to build a reserve. Hopefully, my increased training volume will take care of some of that. Since controlling cravings is basically impossible, I'm also experimenting with lower-calorie snacks.

Work on my Nutrition

My race nutrition is a mess. What can I say? Is there anyone out there who actually know what they are doing? It is my opinion that nobody does. As soon as it gets hot, everybody falls apart. Sulphur Springs wasn't even that hot and it was just a mess. Anyway, I want to try to improve on what's been working for me in the second half of last year.

There you have it. Nothing dramatic. I do plan on running a few new, hard races. I want to run the Mohican 100 in June and do the Rim-to-rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon with a few friends some time in October. But those plans can change. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what race I do, as long as I can run.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First run

This is the last day of my vacation. It’s also New Year day. Tomorrow we fly back home and then it’s back to work the following day. We just came back from a late lunch. More like a brunch but at 1:30PM. It’s cold outside. Two days ago it was nice and warm and now it’s around freezing. There are patches of snow on the red rocks. I haven’t run in a couple of days because I did something to my back. Excuses, excuses. I get my shit ready and I drive to the trail head.
The sun is nice and warm, but it’s pretty cold. I know I can run the main loop in 45 minutes. About halfway, there’s a trail that heads North and I can take it and add as much time as I want. I decide that I’m going to run out and back on that trail for 45 minutes, giving me a total of 90 minutes. Not exactly the 4+ hours I should be doing, but better than nothing. I lock the car, put my Nathan vest on and I start running. Tap, tap, tap, tap...
I’m stiff. My feet are stiff. The trail is mostly frozen solid, with bike tracks and footprints making the surface uneven. Still, the air is crisp, the sun warms my back. I feel great.
The first couple of miles are a gentle, but steady uphill. Quick steps, tap, tap, tap. I hear music in my head, in sync with my stride. I run by a few people but I don’t really see them. I scan the ground looking for rocks, listen to that music in my head and the sound of my breathing. I keep the effort as easy as possible on rolling hills.
I wonder what it would feel like to run like Krupicka, Jurek or Roes. I’m doing fine but this isn’t really climbing. Last Sunday I climbed, around 2000 feet and it was hard. But I did it. And I’m doing it now. And, quite frankly, I feel like a running god right now. They might run faster than me, but at this very moment for some reason this trail is exactly what I need it to be and I feel as strong as anyone. I breathe deeply but easily. I still hear the music in my head. There’s a bit of snow, especially in the shade. The red rocks, the desert vegetation, the silence, except for my breathing and my footsteps. Wow. Tap, tap, tap...
It’s almost time to turn around. I look up a bit and I stop dead in my tracks. The sun is hitting the red rocks around me and the sight is just breathtaking. The sky is dark blue, the kind of blue I think I remember from when I was a kid but I never seem to see anymore. I’ve run far from the busier trails and the silence is striking. The trail I’m running is in kind of a bowl shaped valley, so I can see how far I’ve come. I love the feeling of traveling on my own power, the loneliness of running AWAY, of being away. Maybe I should see someone about that...  I stand there for a while, looking around and I feel like there is something special about this moment. I raise my arms like Rocky and I see my shadow do the same. I feel silly but I feel great.
The trail has some snowy and icy spots. I’ve turned around now. I’m still thinking about how good this feels, how beautiful this run is, how lucky I am to be able to do this. All of a sudden, I can’t see the trail very well. What the fuck? My throat hurts, my breathing gets choppy: I’m fucking crying, I shit you not. As soon as I realize, I start laughing, blink the tears away and keep going. What the hell was that all about?
I get back to the main loop and immediately there are more people around. It’s easy running now, mostly downhill. My mind is going a hundred miles and hour. I’m thinking about whether I can ever become a better runner. Whether I have what it takes. I’m so lazy. Am I willing to walk the walk? I understand I will never be a great runner, but am I willing to do the work to become a better one? Even if I train like crazy, will I ever be able to run some of the uphills in an ultra? Can I ever finish Western States or some of the other difficult ultras? My head is spinning. I keep running. Tap, tap, tap...
I get to the car as the sun slips behind the mountains. My nose and upper lip are frozen. What a run. I can't remember what song I was hearing though...