Friday, July 17, 2009

7/17/09 Racing Old Ladies

Recovery is coming along, I am feeling less pain every day, but every now and then I get some unsolicited throbbing to remind me that my bone is still broken, just in case I am tempted to forget. Days at work are actually better than being at home from a mental standpoint, as I have to be there anyways. Having a few days off now is a real test of mental fortitude, as seeing Allison and Sierra leave early in the morning to go climb Bierstadt was tough, as is driving and looking at the mountains on a bluebird day. Once live coverage of Le Tour ends each morning, I am brimming with energy and itching to get outside and play.

Yesterday I ran a few errands in Boulder, one being a trip to the DMV to renew my registration. As I was getting out of the car, I noticed an 80ish year old woman getting out of her car and preparing to go inside. For some reason, habit and instinct I guess, I knew I had to beat her across the lot and into the building so I could get my number before her. I scrambled to get the crutches out of the back of my Element and quickly set off across the lot in hot pursuit. She had a pretty good gap, but I was able to close it down by the time we reached the curb before the front door. She had the advantage here, but I quickly recovered and made it to the door with a good 30+ foot advantage. I tagged the handi door opener and cruised across the lobby in with a strong sense of satisfaction, although not quite like beating Dave up Bear Peak ;).

I grabbed ticket #144 and waited my turn. Once I was up, I soon realized that they do not accept credit cards...... cash or check only. WTF! Are they serious? In this day and age? I normally carry around one check in my wallet, for stupid times like these, but today I was SOL. I bit my tongue, as it was not the clerk's fault and gimped my way to my bank, which fortunately was just down the street.

As I returned, I noticed the old lady was leaving, new sticker in hand. Guess she had the last laugh afterall. Once I finished my errands, I stopped by Boulder Creek and sat with my feet in the water for about an hour enjoying the summer day. It was a bit of torture, watching all the bikes and runners cruise by, but I will be back at it before I know it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday, 7/13/09 Broken Foot!

Well, went to see Jeremy today, had my foot x-rayed again and it is officially broken. The ligaments are also a bit stretched/torn which explains the swelling. Rather than lament about the obvious negatives of having this happen in July, I am thankful that the bone is only broken 75% of the way across and not fully through, which sounds like it would be a real mess to fix.

As it stands now, I have to wear a stiff plastic removable boot for 1 full month, all the time, while using crutches as to put no weight on it. I was also forbidden to ride my bike and thus no Mt. Evans bike race on Saturday (I was thinking of signing up). After the month is up, then it was suggested that I take it fairly easy for another month or so, which means biking for me at that point.

Also on the plus side, I am thankful that it is not cold and snowy, which would be a real pain to hobble crutch around. I also get a pass from walking the dog before/after work, can probably escape houshold chores and there will certainly be no lawn mowing. As an additional bonus, the Tour continues for 2 more weeks and I have the VS. channel and a swell DVR player.

My upcoming 10 day trip to Alaska will have to be experienced like most Americans, from a comfortable seat, no runs up Mt. Marathon, Mt. Healy, Pioneer Peak......

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday, 7/11/09 Grays Peak Attempt

After 2 months of discomfort and minor pain in my foot, I really did myself in yesterday on an easy hike of all things.

It all started at the very end of April, where a new pair of shoes were feeling a bit unsupportive and made the outside edge of my feet feel a bit sore and fatigued. I ran in them for two weeks, hoping I would “break them in”, but the writing was on the wall and I decided to give up on them to be on the safe side.

Within days, my right foot felt completely normal, but I had some lingering discomfort in my left foot, though only when I stepped on a pointy rock running downhill, otherwise I never even remembered that it was there. For insurance though, I took it pretty easy on the downhill runs and wore the most supportive, cushy comfortable shoes I had. The issue remained the same all of May and the first half of June, never getting better, never getting worse, until I ran the Brook Loop TT.

The downhill section of the loop is fairly rocky and technical. Normally, this descent would be no big deal, but for some reason, my left foot really started flare up, not just the occasional step, but every step. At the finish, it was clear that I had a problem and I decided to take some time off from running and heal. Over the next two weeks, I hiked some (easy) and biked a lot, but each time I tested my foot out with an easy run, it was clear that I had made no progress.

Feeling a bit anxious about the Pikes countdown timer, I decided to not mess around and go see sports injury guru Jeremy Rodgers who helped me with my knee two years ago. He took an x-ray and found nothing, determined that whatever it is that is bugging me was minor, prescribed some exercises, an night boot etc…. and I was beginning to make progress. I ran Green Mountain almost daily and though not cleared up, I felt better and better each day, so much better that I decided to run Quandary on Thursday.

Minutes into the Quandary run, I felt the pain in my left foot, more than I had in the past running uphill which slowed me a good bit, not wanting to really push off hard on the left side. The descent was somewhat painful, some steps especially painful, yet I still ran trying to catch my friend Nate. Although I was running to catch him, I was really favoring my injured foot and thought I was going a somewhat conservative speed.

I was pretty discouraged by the end of the run, having regressed to an all time low (regarding this injury). I could see my Pikes aspirations going down the drain, assuming that my foot would be giving me enough discomfort that I would not be able to train properly. I was still planning on running it, but had lowered my expectations to just getting the finishing shirt/jacket or whatever it is they will give away at the top this year.

Coincidentally, I had my final “follow up” appt. with Jeremy the next day. I woke up with my foot feeling sore, but slightly better than the previous day. When I went in, he gave me the carbon fiber insole for my shoe that I had been eagerly awaiting that was on order. I put that in my shoe and in an instant, I was feeling almost no discomfort when I put pressure on my foot. Amazing! (or so I thought).

I debated what to do on Saturday and strongly considered riding my bike, preferably up Mt. Evans, which in my gut I knew would be the best thing to do. Sierra’s extra playful demeanor indicated that she had energy to burn and I felt bad that she had not been for any hikes in a while. Taking pity on her, I decided to join my friends Nate and Dan for a trip up Grays and Torreys.

Though probably not the best idea, I felt confident that I could at least hike easy and just enjoy the day, get in some altitude and enjoy the company of good friends. I felt great for the first hour, truly amazed at how that plate was protecting my foot. At an altitude of a little over 13k, just prior to the Grays/Torreys junction, I stepped on a rock about the size of a tennis ball. Had I stepped on it with my good foot, it would have passed without notice, but I inadvertently stepped on it with my suspect foot, where it rolled (I think it only rolled like it did because it was already somewhat weakened) in such a way that something in my foot really let go.

The pain was unbearable and it about put me to the ground. I sat on a rock and encouraged Nate and Dan to continue and I would head back and wait. I started down the rocky trail and it was immediately evident that this was going to be the toughest ~3 miles of my life. I grabbed the boulders on the side of the trail for support, but progress was agonizingly slow. I could see that soon the trail would level a bit and there would be no boulders to assist me and I was stressing about what I would do. I tried walking backwards, but it was still very painful and very awkward. A few backward steps and I would certainly fall.

I was contemplating just sitting there to wait for Nate and Dan to return and have them help me, or crawl. Just as I was contemplating this, a woman caught up to me, having turned around due to the altitude (she is from sea level) and offered to let me use her hiking pole. I told her that I would be really slow, but she insisted that it was no big deal, as her friends were up the mountain as well and she was in no hurry.

The pole helped keep me upright and balanced, but did little to alleviate the pain in my foot. Sierra was getting a bit impatient and a bit confused over my situation and was getting too far ahead and distracted, so my new friend offered to walk her on leash, which helped me to focus on my task at hand.

The peak was incredibly crowded, even more so than last July when I deemed it the most crowded I had ever seen it. Almost everyone on the way up asked if I was OK, if I needed help, needed asprin, needed to borrow their poles etc…... I was not OK, but did not really know how to answer. It was quite sobering and embarrassing to be hobbling along, so feeble and immobile when normally I bound up and down these peaks with speed and confidence, feeling as though I can conquer the world.

It took me 2.5 hours to get back to the summer trailhead, where Nate and Dan returned 10 minutes after. Luckily Nate drove us up in his Jeep and we did not have to walk all the way to Bakerville. Even the jostling ride down hurt and I continued to have shooting pains through my foot and continue to do so as I write this.

Walking around the house is very difficult, driving my car is very painful because of the clutch. I am going to pick up some crutches soon, Kevin is loaning me a boot that I can wear to keep my foot from flexing and I hope to see a podiatrist tomorrow. Right now my foot is swollen and painful. Any thoughts of running Pikes Peak are completely down the tubes. Though I am very bummed out about it, I am strangely relieved about it at the same time (not to be guessing/stressing over not training well). It is amazing how quickly priorities shift from wanting to run up a mountain, to just wanting to walk around the house, work, supermarket, walk the dog etc….

I can’t recall ever hurting this bad, maybe breaking my leg when I was 6, but that was a long time ago. This one will certainly take some time to recover from, whatever the podiatrist diagnoses it as. Once the swelling goes down, I hope to be able to at least ride my bike within the next week if it does not hurt.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

7/09/09 Quandary Peak

Quandary Peak
East Ridge from Monte Christo TH
5.4 miles/3,370 vertical
Jeff Valliere, Nate Bahrenburg

After nursing a minor foot injury the last few weeks and being crazy busy with all kinds of random things, it was high time to go run a 14er. My foot was feeling better and since Allison, her friend Stef and Nate’s wife Gina wanted to go to Breckenridge for the day, Nate and I decided to make a quick trip up Quandary.

This was Nate’s second fourteener (he joined me for Princeton as his first back in 1997), so after a long hiatus, I was not sure what to expect. Nate runs some to stay fit, so I knew he would be strong.

I started up the trail with Nate as a bit of a warm up, as my plan was to give him a head start and catch him along the way. I went back to the car, ate/drank a bit and got ready. I took my time, sure that I would catch Nate before the top.

I started my watch at exactly 9:11am, 30 minutes after Nate began. I felt OK, but my foot was acting up, where the pain increased little by little as I went along. I was also feeling a little run down and dopey, from only getting 3.5 hours of sleep the previous night. I typically get 8+ hours, but for some unknown reason have been sleeping like crap lately.

I was hoping to break an hour, but was really not sure how close I would come, as I was really starting to favor my left foot. Aside from the foot and the lack of sleep, my fitness generally felt good. I was surprised at where the trail was routed after tree-line, as I have not been up here in the summer since 1995.

The trail was in great shape, but as it got rockier higher up, I was being really careful as to where and how I placed my left foot. I was starting to pass people and goats, but still no Nate…. Did he hide behind a bush and is now watching me chase a ghost?

As I neared what I thought to be the top, I was sure I was going to break an hour, but I naively had forgotten that last spot where you realize you have another 100+ vertical, that today was covered in snow. It was here I spotted Nate on his descent, where he informed me that he made it up in 1:25!!

He asked how I was doing and I huffed out “crappy!”. I tagged the top in 1:02:56, and sucked down one of my two 7oz bottles of Heed. Everyone on top was well dressed and looked at me like I was nuts in running shorts, t-shirt and not much else, though it was a very pleasant day.

My sub goal was to run the round trip in 1:45 or better, but as soon as I started down, I was sure this would be unlikely. My main goal was to quickly catch Nate and hike down with him, but he was making surprisingly quick work of the descent. The rocks and talus were just killing my foot with each awkward step and several steps were just sending severe bolts of pain, nearly causing me to fall down. I gingerly hobbled down the rocks, always trying to strategically place the gimpy foot.

I was so bummed by this, as I have been seeing my PT for two weeks and felt I was making good progress, now it was worse than it had ever been. I hopped along for what seemed like forever and never did catch Nate, just the occasional glimpse of him ahead.

I finally reached the trailhead in a total time of 1:42:01 and was a bit surprised by this. I should have been stoked, but was more upset over the fact that although I had been running Green Mountain almost daily with minimal pain, I was now seeing Pikes Peak ambitions slip away.

I soaked my throbbing foot in the ice cold creek for a short while, talking to Nate about his hike/run. Not that I am that surprised, but I was very impressed that he did the round trip in 2:10, after not getting up a 14er in 12 years, wearing hiking shoes and carrying a clunky fanny pack. I am suspicious that he might be doing some stealth training and not telling me.

Not sure what I am going to do about this foot thing, besides continue with my treatment regimen and ride my bike to stay fit. Things do not seem all that hopeful at this point and am starting to think I have some sort of Pikes Peak curse.


Treeline: 14:50
False summit: 41ish
Summit: 1:02:56
Finish: 1:42:01

Monday, July 6, 2009

7/06/09 Green Mountain

A few whacky happenings.... A drunk couple swearing at each other at the Gregory TH, topped off by her puking after he spun her around. Class. Then a dufus coming down Amphitheater with hiking poles started through a 10 foot long narrow section I was already in, I yielded (though I was running up), as he proceded to edge me out with his offensive poles. He then proceeded to inform me that I have to yield to downhill traffic. I politely let him know he was wrong, unless it was a race, where downhill has the right of way. The remainder of the people I saw the rest of the trip seemed as though they were a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Had me wondering if it was a full moon or something. Sure enough, tomorrow is the full moon, so I am sure there is a correlation. Almost landed on a large bull snake on the descent. I pulled some fancy aerial maneuvers to no land on it as I thought it was a rattler at first glance. I screamed like a girl, stopped, then watched it for a while.

Oh yeah, the run. Super easy on the up, casual on the down. The foot is starting to feel a bit better in general, but a misplaced landing can send me hopping.

38 UP
1:03 RT

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday, 7/5/09 Green Mountain

Jogged up Gregory/Ranger at a moderate pace , saw my first Columbines ever in the Boulder area, just past the Greenman/Ranger jct. on the right. It has been a wet spring/summer indeed!

Descended the usual front side for efficiency, going super easy as to not aggravate my foot. Did not see another person the entire run, except for one frumpy lady back at the Gregory TH who looked at me like I just escaped from prison after I offered up a cheerful "good morning" (got no response). 39:44 up, 1:07 RT, made it to work just a few minutes past 7am.

As an aside, I noticed that Baseline road was lined with signs and orange fencing from below Chautauqua to at least the Gregory TH. The signs read "Special Event, No Parking July 4th from 3pm to 11pm, violators will be towed at owners expense" or something to that effect. All I can think of is fireworks, but aren't those usually at Folsom Field? Perhaps a race I did not hear about? Or just the powers that be, putting limits on 4th of July fun???

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saturday, July 4th, 2009 Peak to Peak/Brainard Lake

The weather was looking a little iffy in the morning, so we threw the bikes in the car and drove to Ward to expedite our trip to the Peak to Peak highway. On the way there, we passed literally hundreds of riders and I was itching to be on the bike passing as many as possible. Once we parked and readied for our ride, we headed North toward Allenspark, but turned around just prior due to ever darkening skies. We got sprinkled on a bit, but things seemed good enough when we returned to Ward, so we rode up to Brainard, did a lap, then sat in a nice window of sunshine enjoying the views, fresh piney smell and mountain air. Things soon clouded up and became a bit cold, so we sped back down the hill to the car. It is awesome to be cold on the 4th of July, or at least have the option. Allison just loves her new bike, huge improvement. We topped off the day with a nice lunch in Ned..


Only one day per year I can wear this stupid windbreaker (and matching socks out of view).

Luckily, Allison looks good, so I don't have to.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday, 7/03/09 S. Boulder and Bear

For lack of any "real" mountain plans, we found ourselves at the Cragmoor TH at 11:20am after a large breakfast at "The Original Pancake House". What we anticipated to be a cool, cloudy morning hike, turned into a hot hike/run with no sunscreen (had it in my backpack/man-purse, but managed to forget that at home). I hiked with Allison and Sierra up to the junction of Fern and decided to run to the top. Was overdressed a bit and wearing clunker shoes (for my foot issue), but managed to get to the saddle in 9:42 and to the summit post in 22:51. Just as I was topping out, I heard somebody call my name, but I still had 5 seconds to go and just muttered a "hold on a sec". It was my good friend Mike Oberg, so we hiked down a few hundred feet to meet Allison and Sierra. I accompanied them back up to the top, then we went over to SBP. Things were slow for the remainder of the hike, as Allison is dealing with a hip issue. We were long out of water, no sunscreen, sunburnt and long bonked after the pancake high, so I was very relieved to get back to the car and head home.

After we ate some lunch, we shifted gears and headed out for a short road ride, so Allison could get her kick a$$ new Specialized Ruby Expert carbon fiber road bike dialed in. Awesome bike, she looks like a pro now, a huge upgrade over her old Schwinn clunker. Riding Peak to Peak to Estes Saturday, hopefully before the weather rolls in.