August 8, 2017

Baby races

Running in Castlegar ahead of The Green Race 25k.  Photo: Martin Cai.

So after very, very, very little racing in 2016 I launched off my 2017 race season with a local 15k trail race ... in July.  Sometimes I find it's better that I don't over analyse that sentence as it's just not exactly encouraging.  Sure, I have since followed that 15k race up with a 25k race just two weeks later - but that still amounts to just 40 kilometres with a race bib on ... when I used to consider a 42.2k race as a mere training event.  In 2012 I raced a total of 950kms ... in 2017 I have so far raced 910kms less and I can't see that I will be making a huge dent into that 'deficit' in the remaining three months of the year.  I guess that's ok.

Buckin' Hell 15k finish line with a couple of local running friends.  Photo: Scott Robarts.

I guess I should be a little optimistic - I mean, I have managed to string together some weeks of running that made me think I could race 25kms and not suffer too many injury setbacks afterwards.  I say not too many as I am far from running without any aches and pains.  Sure, I know many of you reading this will say 'well, I always have aches and pains, get on with it' and that has certainly been the reasonable feedback many folks give me - but I just don't know how much discomfort in the form of possible injuries I'm prepared to run and race through.  Time will tell.  For now I am still a very long way from creating anything that resembles a training plan or a race schedule, and I am still very unsure if I will be able to reach the minimum distance (50k) that is required to be able to call myself an ultra runner again.  But most weeks I am trying to add a couple of kms to my long run and I will see if I can build on that week on week.  I have made it up to a long run of 33kms so far - I almost died but didn't - so that's a positive!  I have also been making it back to my run club weekly trail intervals which was a huge goal of mine as I love those workouts and those are definitely what is needed to try get me back in any sort of shape again.  You may think that getting back into running shape is easy but I assure you, it's not.  To put things in perspective - I ran 25kms on July 1st of this year and that was my longest run in 14 months (since BMO Vancouver Marathon in May 2016) - yah, my endurance is shot, my legs are not strong and you can now see why I am unsure if I can build to ultra distances quite yet!  But I'll keep plugging away and see where the coming months and years take me.  Weekly strength work with my trainer (Michelle) is a big part of that too.


Hill repeats with VFAC.  Photo: Nic Browne.

I certainly have made enough progress that I only see my physio every two to three weeks now (yay time and money savings!) and I am hoping to start working back with my running coach as I feel I have a somewhat shaky but still workable base that we can springboard from to get me back running a little faster and maybe even further.  In the two races I have run so far I had no goals other than making it to the finish line as fast as my current fitness would allow and not getting injured.  If I came dead last - fine, so long as I was exhausted and no more injured at the finish than I was at the start.  I successfully achieved these goals at both Buckin' Hell 15k and The Green Race 25k, and came 2nd in both (against some great runners)!

As many runners might be starting to wind down their race season, I'm hoping I can soon get out of the starting blocks without too many false starts.  But that's ok, because running has no seasons - it's a lifestyle and one super lifestyle that I hope I can lead again, ideally in the not too distant future.


Making my way up the 1200m climb of Mt Sentinel in The Green Race 25k.  Photo: The Green Race.

Dr, race winner, Salomon teammie, friend.  With AM in the smoky Kootenays.

April 14, 2017

One massive, complex & confusing jigsaw puzzle

Firstly, please ignore if you are looking for a post with scenic trail pics or race reports.  I appreciate the injury updates can be pretty boring stuff for most folks out there but it's a month since my last update so I figured it was time to update again on my progress ... or lack thereof ...

When I last updated I was in the middle of a series of prolotherapy injections to try stabilise my lax sacroiliac (SI joint).  This involved a weekly visit to the doctor for six consecutive weeks to have 60 injections at a time into my SI and lower back area.  Luckily I got local anaesthetic injections each time too so it felt like not much more than an intense session of IMS, and Dr. Gillies - an older British woman - regaled me with stories of cycling in Thailand to distract me.  Many folks react quite strongly to the injections and have limited mobility for a few days, but I found I didn't react too badly and was fairly mobile after each session - but that doesn't indicate that the injections (which are dextrose and tighten ligaments) aren't working and in fact they did.  After six weeks Dr. Gillies was very pleased that my SI was much more stable, though I will be going back for a booster session in a few weeks time to increase chances that it stays that way.

Throughout the course of prolotherapy I was not allowed to do anything that might make the SI shift so that basically meant to activity - no running, no gym work, no hiking, no biking, no swimming.  I knew I was getting desperate when I asked if I was allowed to do yoga or not - I'm not sure if I was relieved or not when I was told that that was not allowed either.  I was allowed to walk for 2 x 15 minutes day, oh well - at least I could go grocery shopping then!  After six weeks of zero activity and much over eating and youtube video watching (I don't have a TV) I was allowed to try a 30 min jog.  Man oh man, I can't tell you how terrible that felt.  I'm super out of shape right now (but that's the least of my concerns) but everything just hurt - I was tight, tense and my legs were sore to touch.  I knew that a lot of this was because I was simply deconditioned to running (or really any movement) and even after a few days of 30 minute shuffles I began to feel a little more human again - my shoulders and back had loosened up and with thanks to the foam roller my legs were beginning to feel a little less like concrete blocks.  I wouldn't exactly call it progress but I was getting back to not feeling much worse than before the prolotherapy so that was a positive.

My doctor has been checking my SI most weeks since the completion of the six weeks of prolotherapy and so far it is (almost) as good as it was right after prolotherapy, despite a slight increase in activity.  So far I have been allowed to try some easy hiking, easy cycling and easy runs, all wearing an SI belt as an insurance policy to hold the SI in place.  There's nothing better than wearing a tight band around your hips when you already feel pretty chunky ;)  But the basic problem remains that my left leg just doesn't work like my right leg does.  This is pretty darn frustrating as I was hoping either the prolo or the six weeks of total rest would really help (and I wasn't too fussy which would help, so long as one did).  Don't get me wrong, having a stable SI is pretty much essential for an ultra runner, but getting that tightened up has not really resolved the underlying issues of my original injury at all.  The original pain in my groin of a year ago is not there (for now) but my adductor is constantly overworked, my left glute refuses to do any work and since around Christmas time my hamstrings have been shouting and so far have not piped down much.  Of course with being injured for this long it becomes pretty obvious that it's unlikely fixing one thing will solve the puzzle or that the puzzle will be solved overnight - there are many components at play and it's trying to get them all lined up at the same time that is proving the tricky part.

For now I am running a small amount every other day.  I really have to emphasize that it is a little - so far 8km/ 5 miles is a long run for me and I don't plan going over that sort of distance any time soon.  It's not pain free but it's tolerable and it's keeping me sane - some folks might under estimate that but if a short jog is only slightly uncomfy but keeps my overall body feeling ok and gives me 30 minutes of enjoyment then I feel that is important.  For now, SI stability permitting, I'm easing in some other activities to try just maintain my minimal fitness and to get outside, these privileges will be revoked by my doctor at anytime she feels my SI is getting worse.  I've been a little scared off strength work for now (a gym incident in January truly showed that my body was fragile) but I'd like to get back at that when I can as I know I have lost pretty much any strength I had, but that's what six weeks of lying on the sofa on the back of 10 months of curtailed activity does to you.

I'll be seeing, yet another, physio next week to check out a new angle and I'm waiting to get an MRI (which could be a few months) just to double check the hip area again (I had one back in July but worth re-checking and this should be a contrast MRI which can show more detail).  I made two goals at the start of the year - 1, that by December I hope to have run a 10k race (I don't care how slow but at a proper race effort) and 2, that by December I would also run a local trail route that's about 15kms (Headwaters to Norvan Falls for any locals reading).  Now we're in mid-April  I'm not sure if these are realstic goals but there's still a few months to start making progress.

At this stage I am truly grateful for both my sponsors and the medical folks who have helped me along the way.  I am also super proud and grateful to my coaching clients - I currently have about 35 clients all over the world training for anything from a half marathon to a 200 mile race, I absolutely love my coaching work and it's always a pleasure to help guide folks to achieve their dreams and personal goals.  Whilst my own personal running goals might be on hold for now, I'll never tire of talking about running and helping others to weave their running ambitions around family commitments, busy jobs and sometimes far from ideal training grounds.

Special thanks go to:

Salomon Running
CLIF bar
Drymax Socks
Sundog Eyewear
Flora Health
Suunto

and

Dr. Jim Bovard (he says he's getting stubborn, I'm glad because I sometimes feel like giving up).
Dr. Jean Gillies (prolo treatment)
Bobby Crudo RMT (especially for saving me at 4pm on a Friday when my SI gave out in the gym that morning).
Chris Napier, Marylou Lamy, Carolyn Bliss (physios)
Joe Uhan (physio and gait analysis)

 Happy trails,
Ellie

I helped iRunFar with race coverage at Chuckanut 50k.  It was a fast and furious race to watch!

Hiking in the rain.

25% off sunnies til end of April!

It's not really been great cycling weather but hoping for more sun for more skinny tyre miles.

Fun times hanging out with CLIF bar in Whistler.

Trail conditions in North Van, April 10th.

March 13, 2017

And the slow train rolls on ...

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Month One.  OMG I cannot do my favorite race that I have trained for months for.  OMG I am in such great fitness and this is the worst thing ever that I’ve got injured a month before my key race of the year.  So, so sad.

Month Two.  Ok, this injury is really dragging on longer than I’d like, ack – it’s worse than I’d previously thought but ok, I’ll be back running 100% in a few weeks time.  No problem.


Hiking in North Van.

Month Three.  Hmm, this next race is looking questionable.  I mean maybe still doable, I’ve been cross training a lot and I’m making some progress so maybe I can do it.  Think positive, think positive!

Month Four.  This is gosh darn ridiculous!  I mean I’m an ultrarunner and I’ve just had to pull out of a 23km race.  Since when can I not run for two hours without getting injured?  Ok, ok, more cross training it is.

Slow miles, sore ass.

Month Five.  I’m making some progress, I mean maybe just a little but surely I’m getting there!  Let’s race a 10k road race, let’s ignore the fact that I’m a trail ultra runner.  Ack, that 10k race did my leg no good at all.  Fine, let’s scratch next months ultra that a really wanted to race.  Boo hoo.  Silly running.

Month Six.  Winter is so less conducive to cross training.  Cycling in the dark and rain in pointless.  I so don’t want to go pool running. Fitness is pointless, I can’t run.  Fine, fine – I’ll carry on with more expensive physio, it’s got to help at some point, no?

Month Seven.  Ok, final dream race of the year well and truly scratched.  I give up.  100%, I’m done.  How long can you do without running properly and still call yourself a runner?  ‘Cause I sure as anything don’t feel like one now.

Low impact gym time.

Month Eight.  No pressure.  The race year is done, the boat has left the harbor and I well and truly missed the sailing.  That’s ok, everything will turn around in the New Year next month, right?  Right!  New Year, no injuries, new races to aim for.  I will do this!

Month Nine.  How come it’s January and I’m still injured.  Has anyone every told you how unmotivating physio exercises are after nine full months?  Sure, different physios, different exercises, same result.

2016 was my worst year of running by far.  An injury struck at the worst time, right before a key race, a race I love with a passion and that I had trained so hard for, and yet it was taken away from me just moments before the start line.  The last now ten months, and counting, have been about constantly adjusting goals to the tides of my injury. It goes without saying that when you’re used to running 100 miles a week then a pretty big void is left when your body only seems to want to run for a tiny fraction of the distance it once did.  Don’t get me wrong – no broken leg, no deathly disease, it ‘just’ seems to be an overuse injury that steadfastly refuses to go away.  There have been many a time where I say, ‘fine, I give up, I’m done’ but then I get out for a short run and I love the crunch of gravel under my feet, the fresh air on my cheeks, the sounds of nothing but the rustling trees and my breath, and I daydream of races of past and I want to be back there and know I can’t give up the hope of getting there just yet.  It’s not just the races I miss (which of course I do), I miss the structure that daily training brings, I miss chasing my friends at club workouts and I miss those familiar trails and those mountain views that, for now, seem like a distant memory.  Right now I don’t class myself as a runner and whilst the memories of past running often seem more like a dream, I want to chase that dream.  I hate the physio exercises and the mind numbing cross training but you know what?  I didn’t win Western States and Comrades by giving up, and I’m not giving up on this nightmarish injury ultra just yet.  Why? Because I want to be that 70 year old lady that still runs around the neighborhood and shows up at local races.  Sure, a few more competitive ultras before then would be nice too, but for now – I just want to run.


One step forward, and hopefully not two steps back.