Sunday, June 26, 2011
In March I signed up to run The Mount Evans Ascent, which is one of the meanest and nastiest road races in the world. This race starts at 10,600 feet of elevation and ends at 14,260 feet. The race is 14.5 miles and is all uphill.
To cut to the chase - I didn't run the race. $75 shot to heck!
When I registered for the race in March I had four months to get ready. At the time, I could do 5K at 8,600 feet of altitude in a tad over 26 minutes. I trained hard. By April I could run 16 miles at an 11 minute pace at 9,000 feet. I knew I needed to train at higher altitude. There is a lot of snow on the ground in April in the Colorado Rockies.
This is a photo of my deck in April.
I wanted to at least get up to 11,ooo feet. On April 17, I decided to run Webster pass. I managed to get to 10,800 by running through some snow drifts. Webster pass is pretty steep and mostly up hill. I the good news I ran 9 miles up the pass at a 12:07 min/mile pace.
Steep hill at high altitude - fun! (NOT)
On the way down the pass I stepped in a hole and partially tore my ACL.
Sayonara left knee.
My doctor told me to stay off the knee for 4 to 6 weeks. My left knee had been taking a beating my whole life. The first injury was in 1976 when I took a block below the waist during a college football game and suffered a traumatic meniscus tear and torn ACL. (BTW - I stayed in the game after the injury) Darn did that hurt!
The next blow came at Steamboat Springs on a ski slope when a binding didn't release. Bye, bye medial collateral ligament! Another blow came at Copper Mountain in 1984 during a slow twisting fall. So long posterior cruciate ligament.
I like this quote from Raiders of the Lost Ark:
"Marion: You're not the man I knew ten years ago.
Indiana: It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."
Two weeks after I hurt my knee on Webster pass I ran the Long Scraggy 4.25 mile race on April 30th. My knee was pretty wobbly but I managed a 10:06 min/mile pace. I just couldn't go any faster. A week later I ran the Lake George 5K at a 9:01 pace. That was everything I had. I came in 14th out of 100 runners.
I still had two weeks until the Mount Evans race and I am thinking I have a chance to make it. Then I hurt my back. I don't even know how I hurt it. I went to bed feeling fine and woke up injured. I could train on a wobbly knee but I could barely walk with a hurt back.
I just started running again following the tried and true Couch-to-5K program. I am back to square one. I think I can make a 4th of July 5k race. I am registered for the Leadville 10K on August 14th. I should be able to make that race.
My wife thinks I am clumsy. She is afraid I will fall off a mountain some day. She may have a point!
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Since I ran the Lake George 5K I have not taken a single running step, nada not a one! I have been trying to heal my left ACL. My knee was unstable during the race and hurt really badly.
I think I can start slowly working the knee. I am going to do cardio on the elliptical. The Mount Evans Ascent is in three weeks. The problem I face is I am not in good enough shape to run 14.5 miles starting at 10,600 feet and ending at 14,264 feet of elevation. I was really doing well before I blew my knee out.
I have my work cut out for me.
Highest road race in North America. All uphill!
"Race course" 3,000 feet higher than trees can live!
Sunday, May 08, 2011
At 7:00AM I open the door where my oldest son is sleeping. In a hearty Foghorn Leghorn voice I shout, " Boy, I say boy!" My 30 year-old son, Ben, responds, "Dad, must you do that?" My sons universally hate my traditional wake-up method. Of course, that is why I do it!
Foghorn Leghorn always cracked me up. My sons are not so taken with the big rooster!
It is race day. Ben and I are going to drive 2 hours to Lake George to run in a fun little 5K race. The race is scheduled for 10:00AM. I hate to be late. I am an old guy so I need a lot of time for warm-up and stretching. My left knee is pretty loose and wobbly. I have partially torn ACL that is very frustrating. I hurt the knee 3 weeks ago and the healing process is ongoing. The Lake George race course is hard on healthy knees. In spite of the name "Flatlander", the course is mostly sharp rolling hills that are steep. I just hope my bad knee holds up.
This is Lake George. Only flat part is the levies you can see that run across the lake. This is pretty country.
We arrive at Lake George and there are a bunch of people already there. Last year the race had about 30 runners. This year there are more than 90! This race is too cool to keep a secret for long.
Can't miss the sign!
I know this doesn't look like a lot of people to most racers. However, for a trail race over broken and uneven terrain at 8,700 feet of elevation, 90 runners is quite a few.
The organizers have gone all-out and have sponsors! They handed out ditty bags with water bottles, discount coupons, sticky notes and a ball-point pen. What is the world coming to?
Another runner offered to take a photo of Ben and me. I am the old short guy on the right. I am nearly 6'1". Benny is really tall. He is still the shortest son I have. My other three sons are quite tall.
Here is Ben resting before the race.
I snapped this shot while sitting next to Ben. Ben is wearing Saucony racing flats. I am wearing my Nike Zoom Vomeros.
The principal of the school directs us to the starting line. I am chatting with other runners. The starter shouts " go" over the bullhorn. We take off. Ben says, "Dad, I will run with you for a while."
After a 1/4 mile I glance at my Garmin. I am running way too fast! Ben and I are cruising at 6:43 minute per mile pace. There is no way I can maintain a sub-7 minute per mile pace at 8,700 feet over extremely hilly terrain on a rough trail with only one good knee. I tell Ben I have got to throttle back. I drop down to a more reasonable 9 minute per mile pace. Ben says, "See you dad." When I do a race with my sons or daughter I hear "See you dad" a lot.
Ben powers away from me like I am standing still. I hit the rolling part of the course and decide to blast down the first downhill segment. I hit a 5:20 pace and find that my knee can't take the speed. My knee explodes in pain! Rats! I have to walk. When you are a mountain racer you cannot afford to walk downhill. You have to fly downhill. My time is going to suck!
I can keep up a 13 to 14 minute per mile pace walking. I run when I can. My knee is throbbing and I have no speed.
Lake George is an interesting course. At certain points you can almost see whole the course. I look over and see two runners on the home stretch. These two guys are flying! The guy in front is wearing a white shirt and he is pulling away.
I still have a mile to go. I hit the dreaded stairs (yes this course has a nasty set of stairs to climb). I give it everything I got on the final mile, which ain't much! I get the last mile done in 7:40. I cross the finish line at 28:08. To my surprise I am 14th. There are 76 runners behind me. But my left knee is toast!
I see Ben. He is smiling like the cat that ate the canary. I ask him, "How did you do?" He replies, "18:54". I feel a thrill, "Did you win?" He nods, "Yeah, I won by 20 seconds." Ben ran an average of 6:00 minutes per mile. I did 9:00 minutes per mile.
Here is Ben getting his first place male runner medal. When they announced Ben's time, a lady runner next to me said, "Holy ----!" Everybody clapped and cheered."
Ben also go a trophy for fastest time.
On the way home we stopped and got a brisket and egg breakfast burrito.
This was the sign over the bathroom door inside the BBQ place. I though this was really funny.
After Ben and I ate we headed down to Colorado Springs to watch a high school track meet. My third son is a high school track coach for the Alamosa Mean Moose.
Mean Moose mascot.
I now need to train for the Mount Evans Ascent. I have got six weeks to get ready. Going up hills doesn't seem to bother the knee much. Mount Evans is all up hill. I think that is good. I can train running up hills and maybe get my knee a bit more healed.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Just for fun, and to earn a few spark points, I took a SparkPeople quiz, "Are You Ready to Start Running?" Here are the results:
"You Are Almost Ready to Run
You have the ambition and drive, but you still need a little more time to prepare yourself for the physical and mental challenge of running. When starting a running program. You should be healthy, free of injury and cleared for higher intensity exercise by your doctor since running can be more intense and pose greater risk than other types of exercise. Even if you meet these conditions, you should still find a solid training plan to follow before you head out the door, and commit to honoring and listening to your bodyŚnot pushing through pain or doing too much too soon. To prepare, stick with a consistent walking program for a few more weeks and get clearance from your doctor."
This is spooky!
I thought I was a runner already. I don't meant to brag ( well maybe just a little) but I am pretty fast. I have been first in my age group at numerous races. I finish in the top 25% most of the time. I finish in the top 10% quite often.
I suppose the point of the quiz is to help someone become a cautious runner that has a good attitude. Personally, I am not even sure what to make of these results. I thought having my own personalized coffee cup at the local emergency room was a good thing!
I think I only missed a few key questions that caused me to miserably fail the quiz. Here they are:
Are you currently healthy and free of injuries?
Icing the knee after the Long Scraggy 4.25 mile race.
Has a health or fitness professional ever advised you to AVOID running, high-impact, and/or high-intensity exercise for any reason?
April 16th I partially tore my left ACL after stepping in a hole on Webster Pass. My doctor told me to stay off the knee for 4 to 6 weeks. I was off it for 2 weeks - that was all I could stand.
What is the main reason that you are interested in running?
(X) I want to push myself to reach a new goal like a distance race.
Mount Evan Accent - Highest Road Race in North America. 14.5 miles from 10,600 to 14, 264 feet of elevation.
This is Mount Evans. On June 18th I am going to be on top of this mountain.
How's your balance?
(X) I'm often losing my footing or tripping.
I am a trail runner. I fall a lot! I ran this trail on Wednesday, May 4th. This is the Marshall Mesa Trail near Boulder, CO. I am getting ready for the Lake George "Flatlander" race on Saturday, May 7th. My knee barely felt a thing.
What would you do if you experienced pain or injury during a training run?
(X) Keep going--no pain, no gain
Cold, ice and mud. This is not as comfortable as it looks. Photo taken on the Flying J Trail on March 12th. No pain, no run!
I ran 2 miles on Webster Pass after I blew out my knee. No pain, no getting home!
I am running the Lake George "flatlander" 5 K trail race tomorrow. Last year I finished 4th @ 27 minutes over rugged terrain at high-elevation. This year with a less-than-perfect knee, I just want to finish.
Besides, the SparkQuiz indicates I am almost ready to run. Tomorrow, I will be ready to run.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Ok, I have never had an abundance of common sense. On Saturday, April 16th I step in hole on running down Webster pass. My left knee exploded in pain. I got an MRI. The orthopedic surgeon told me my left ACL was partially torn. She told me no running, biking or working on an elliptical. She told me to lay off the knee for 4 to 6 weeks.
This is a photo of Webster pass road. One of these holes got me.
For two weeks I was good boy. I didn't take a single running step. I did nothing strenuous. My knee was healing nicely. But April 30th was the Long Scraggy race. The Long Scraggy is not just any race. For me, it is the coolest race in the history of races! The people that run the Long Scraggy are cool. They are high-altitude mountain runners. They are fit, friendly and modest. I know them on a first name basis.
I think that sign accurately shows the profile of the 4.25 mile course.
The Long Scraggy has two events. One event is a 4.25 mile run over brutally hilly terrain. The other event is a 1.5 mile walk. When I packed my race bag on Friday I really intended to do the 1.5 mile walk. In retrospect, I think this may have been self-delusional.
On Saturday morning I got dressed in my running stuff. When I got to the Long Scraggy Ranch I noticed that the walkers were wearing hiking boots and long pants. The runners were dressed like me. I told the race organizer, my friend John, that I had a bad knee. I asked if it would be OK if I walked the 4.25 mile course. John was cool with that.
I warmed up a bit and the knee seemed to be working well. I jogged a bit and the knee felt fine.
See, I was being good! The race started late. We call it being on Mountain time. Mountain time is not a time zone. Mountain time is very relaxed attitude. We all ambled up to the starting line. I am standing behind the runners with the walkers. I am standing right by a lady with a baby stroller and dogs on leashes.
You can guess what happened next. John said, "Go!" All the runners took off like a shot. And so did I! I really didn't mean to do that. I couldn't help myself. The first part of the course is relatively flat for 1/4 mile . I am slowly jogging along thinking I will break into a walk pretty soon. I am dead last by a long ways. No worries. I have 20 very good runners in front of me that all have good knees. I am feeling pretty good. My left knee feels fine.
We all turn left and start climbing the hill. The hill is 1.4 miles long with a 20% grade. I am really poking along. Then, to my surprise, I pass a couple of people. I glance down at my Garmin, which I shouldn't have been wearing anyway. I am running at a 9:05 min/mile pace! Holy smoke! I pass a few more runners. This was not part of the plan. I am getting a little twinge from the knee but nothing serious.
This is a monster. Photos don't do it justice.
At the top of the hill we turn onto the Colorado trail. This segment is rocky with tree roots. I really throttle back to a crawl. I cannot afford to trip. I run this segment at a 13 minute per mile pace. I have to gingerly have to step over rocks and roots.
Colorado trail - my knee is saying "stop".
After the trail segment we get back on the road. Here comes a dreaded downhill segment. I start moving slowly down the hill.
I am concentrating to make sure my foot strike is gentle and mid-foot.
I know that a single heavy left heel strike and it is sayonara to my left knee. The knee is protesting this treatment. I am paranoid that the knee is going to buckle. I start walking down the hill. I know that any minute I am going to get passed. During a mountain race you have to take advantage of downhill and flat segments. Last year I hit 5 minutes per mile down the hills. Ain't going to happen this year. I walk a bit and jog a bit. I really want to rock-and-roll down these hills. I just can't do it. I look behind me. There is no one there! I am all alone nursing my knee.
I know I am stupid. When I told my wife I was going to do the Long Scraggy she asked, "Are you out of your mind?" I reply, "Is that a rhetorical question, or do you want an answer?"
As I am jogging down the last hill there are a couple of walkers taking photos. One of them snaps a shot of me and shouts, "Great form!" I know I am a poster child for smooth gait right then.
Here is the home stretch. I am trying to run down this hill without blowing my knee to kingdom come.
Here is the home turn. I am almost there and the knee just might make it.
Running toward the finish line. Just one last hazard. I have to miss these holes.
I run toward the finish line. My friends that finished ahead of me are cheering me on. I cross the finish line. John's wife has the stop watch. She shouts, "43:39". I look around and count the runners. There are 7 of them. I am in 8th place! That is a 10:09 minute per mile pace! John asks me, "How is the knee?" I smile and lie, "It is the only part of me that doesn't hurt."
Last year my time was 42:56. So what does this all mean? I am faster uphill this year. My down hill pace this year was 7 minutes per mile. Last year my down hill pace was 5 minutes per mile. I think I would have been a lot faster with a good left knee.
I am also very dangerous to myself.
After the race I asked john for a baggie with ice. He got me the ice. I sat there with ice on my knee listening to the Mountain Holler Blue Grass band and feeling very relieved that I could still walk.
Mountain Holler blue grass band.
The guy on the left is John. He is the race organizer. The guy on the right is John my running buddy. I am slower than little John and faster than big John.
The woman with the bib is a runner named Marsha. The woman in the blue is John's wife Sharon.
I still think this race has a cool name.
This is the race t-shirt. Proverbs 4:12 - " When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble" Good thing for me!
Ice and elevate. Next Saturday I may run the Lake George, "Flatlander". Unfortunately, the Lake George race is not flat.
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