Friday, February 28, 2014

Favorite Runs: Notre Dame Lakes

They say that you will marry the first person with whom you walk around the lakes while holding hands.  Perhaps this is one reason I'm still footloose and fancy free, because I'm pretty sure I never walked around the lakes.  And running and hand-holding don't really go .... well, hand-in-hand!

The University of Notre Dame, tucked away in the otherwise unremarkable northwestern Indiana city of South Bend, has a gorgeous campus.  The beautiful architecture of classroom buildings and dormitories is built around a series of grassy quadrangles criss-crossed by sidewalks that make perfect geometric patterns when seen from the sky.  Garden plots are tucked around statues and other pieces of art scattered across the campus, and there are trees everywhere that reflect the changing of the seasons in a constant riot of color.  And then there are the lakes-- St Joseph's and St Mary's.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Antarctica Still on My Mind

Life is full of the most bizarre surprises.  We all know this, but sometimes we need reaffirmation.  And true to form, that reminder comes from unexpected quarters!!

Here's my current example.  I'm taking a class studying the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher probably most famous for proclaiming that God is dead.  Seems like a somewhat downer topic, eh?  But SURPRISE!  I am finding sprinkled throughout his writing wonderful comments on the beauty of the world around us and overcoming challenges and traveling and embracing life.  For a guy who died very young and was sick for much of that time, this is wholly unexpected!

I would never in a million years have guessed that Nietzsche would have a contribution to the ongoing efforts to put words to the Antarctic experience.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Story of the Keys and the Mountain

Once upon a time, there were four friends. Over the years, these four friends had run various road races and obstacle course races together, and ventured off onto various camping and canoeing adventures together.  So when Sasha came up with the brilliant idea that they should tackle Mount Washington, the tallest peak in in New England and self-proclaimed home of the world's worst weather (for good reason), Jason and Thor immediately agreed.  Once Nicole was kitted out with borrowed boots and a backpack and had been convinced that she wasn't going to die during this undertaking, she was game for the adventure as well.  So on a beautiful October Saturday, four intrepid hikers and two intrepid pups piled into vehicles and with a few detours which do not pertain to this story, they made their way to Dolly Copp Campground in New Hampshire, a few short miles from one of the trailheads for summiting Mount Washington.

Monday, February 3, 2014

For the Runners, and People Who Want to be Runners, and CrossFitters, and Basically Anybody Who Likes to Get Off Their Bum and DO Things

I don't understand my legs.

Exhibit A: rolled the ankle this past fall.  Suffered through two extremely painful runs wondering what the heck was going on, went to the doc and was informed -sprain.  SUPER.  Two weeks of no running, then eased back in cuz there was a marathon in my near future!  Ankle was a persistent issue.  Decided to do a trail half as a training run.  After that, the ankle was right as rain.  Hasn't caused any problems since then.  What did I do, pummel it into submission??

Exhibit B: one year ago, something popped in the left knee.  I couldn't even go up and down stairs for days.  Gave it six weeks of ZERO exercise ... zip, zero, nada, nothing, no bike, no CrossFit, no running, NOTHING.  (It was an awful six weeks, let me tell you.)  Then physical therapy for two months, then back into running, and miraculously no problems!  Granted, the orthopedic surgeon warned me I would not be running any marathons any time soon (as in, until 2014... oopsie, I was already signed up).  So I made sure to start very slow ... didn't run more than a 5k until June.  Marathon training went along okay without irritating with the knees (messed with other joints instead), but by the end of the Ice Marathon, my left knee was hollering quite persistently.  I had to talk it through the last couple miles.  (Yes, I was talking to myself while running through the great white nothing, don't judge)  Did a short run in Chile about 10 days after the marathon and it complained quite a lot.  Didn't run again until a 3.5 mile race the second weekend in December.  Every step hurt, but I finished anyway.  After that short race, the knee hurt every single day.  Stopped running on it.  Biked, went to yoga, and did CrossFit, since those didn't seem to exacerbate it and all help with strengthening.  After three weeks, I couldn't take it anymore.  Went for a short (read: less than 2 kilometer) run on January 1.  Every step hurt.  Same thing on Jan 2.  And Jan 3.  Jan 4.  Jan 5 there was finally no pain during the run, but some twinges when I finished.  Ran Jan 6 (in sleet, that was fun) with no issues.  Have run a minimum of 1 mile every single day of this year thus far, and there is no longer pain during the run or recovery.  Again, what did I do, pummel it into submission??

I have no idea what's going on with these pesky appendages.  But I am so very glad I'm able to run again, even though it's only 1.5 miles at a time.  Was going a bit bonkers.

So!  What's the point here?  To help all of you (runners, walkers, CrossFitters, cyclers, yogis, beginners to all of the above, basically anybody who does anything besides sit on their bum) avoid putting yourself in my annoying situation of being incapacitated for lengthy periods of time.  It really messes with your training rhythm!  And sanity!  Weak hips equal messed up knees (that's my problem).  Weak knees mean weak ankles.  And ankles are just weak in general.  If your core is strong, your hips are strong, and your knees are strong, you can keep doing what you love.  So here are the exercises I've learned from the docs and therapists over the past year or so to help strengthen those weak points.  Although some of them should be used more intensively as injury-recovery, ALL of them should be incorporated with regularity into your training regimen.  Even just once a week will make a difference!