Forth and Back

For the fans of brevity, this post in short: I'm pretty happy with last year, I'm at an encouraging place with my injuries, I'm back to training, and I've got some fun races coming up!

My home trails. Loving the snow we've gotten recently!
Year in Review
In miles, etc.:

Pretty limited on the training front this year!

In results/reports:

Salomon CityTrail Minneapolis 10 Mile | May 18 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
     1st place, 59:36
     Race Report | Results

Power of Four VK | July 18 – Aspen, CO
     10th place, 48:27
     (Race Report in September issue of UltraRunning) | Results

Power of Four 50K | July 19 – Aspen, CO
     15th place, 6:26:30
     (Race Report in September issue of UltraRunning) | Results

UltraVasan 90k | August 22 – Mora, Sweden
     7th place, 6:21:05
     Race Report | Results

100km World Championships | September 12 – Winschoten, Netherlands
     24th place, 7:01:08
     (Race Report in November issue of UltraRunning) | Results

New York City Marathon | November 1 - New York, New York
     23rd place (Overall Men), 2:29:01
     Race Report | Results

After six+ months of no training, I'm pretty OK with what I managed to run. I capitalized on some really great opportunities (despite having to stay home from the IAU Trail Ultra World Championships in late May) and ran solidly at my focus races (the last three). 

UltraVasan was run on limited fitness—right at three months of total running—yet it went pretty well. It was an exquisitely organized and unique race that I'd recommend to anyone. Just three weeks later I was back at the IAU 100km World Championships after DNF'ing in Qatar last November. I was determined to run tough and finish no matter what, even while worried about lingering/developing injuries. I thought a 6:50 would have been possible on my best day, but I can't be disappointed in the 7:01 that I ran. 

Finally, at NYC, I know I had a better time in me than the 2:29:01 I ran, but I'm still quite happy with how I ran that race.  It was a pretty awesome experience being part of the Pro Field there, and I really hope to go back much fitter and ready to run in the two-teens at a future NYC Marathon.

The Injury Game

I took a month off in November to let my insertional Achilles tendonitis settle down.  I also had a series of therapy appointments with St. Vincent Sports Performance to try to get a handle on things. At the recommendation of my doc (Dr. Joel Kary), I've been working with Darrell Barnes, who's an absolute badass.  He used to work with Bob Kennedy and now regularly works with Schumacher's group out in Portland as well as at Diamond League meets and the like through USATF. Darrel is the guy who finally really nailed what was going on with the tenosynovitis in my toe, as well as identifying what was causing my Achilles issue.

The main problems are two-fold:
First, I've got over-active toe flexor tendons.  The ligaments that run along the top of my foot are tight and partially causing this problem, but I've also developed a bad habit of engaging my toe flexors (picture clawing at the ground) during stance/push-off in my stride.  If you try this, you can see how this really redirects a lot of force directly into the metatarsophalangeal joints.  This is most likely what led to the chronic inflammation in my tendon sheath in the second toe of my right foot.  Who knows how long I've had this bad habit—I'd guess years.  I'm now doing a lot of calf raises focusing on keeping my toe flexors disengaged.  It's also a mental cue I use during my running now—thinking about relaxed toe flexors and good toe splay.

Second, the mobility of my big toe (particularly in flexion) had become really limited (i.e. it should be able to bend up like a hitchhiker's thumb, but it wasn't doing that very well!).  Practically, this meant that when I landed and pushed off, as I reached the end range of motion of my big toe, I would supponate a bit.  This was putting excess pressure on the lateral side of my Achilles at the insertion point (especially on the left side, where the mobility limitation was more severe).  But working on big toe mobility, we're fixing the underlying cause.

To address the symptom—the insertional Achilles issue (which probably includes an inflamed bursa sac as well)—we're doing some massage work and also loads of concentric calf exercises (both straight legged and knee bent; and single leg /both legs).  I blogged about this previously, but insertional Achilles issues are actually quite different than mid-portion Achilles issues and the treatment protocol is different as well.  This isn't talked about enough—almost every time you hear something about Achilles, it's about the mid-portion kind, but the difference is rarely specified.  However, loads of eccentric calf exercises into dorsiflexion can actually be quite bad for insertional Achilles problems.

I've also gotten a bit weak in hip extension on my left side.  My best guess is that this is also symptomatic of my left side Achilles issue and some resultant compensation.  So we're working on fixing that up too!  I'm not perfect yet, but things are going pretty well, and I'm very encouraged by the fact that we finally have good understanding of everything that's going on.  I started running in December, gradually building days and miles to where I'm actually running a decent amount now.

Via my Strava Log.
Busting out my Salomon Spikecross for the first time in nearly two years!
What's Next
Since the running is progressing well and I seem to have all the injury stuff more or less in control, I'm hopping in a few races in January.  First, I'll race the Frosty Trails 5 Mile this weekend.  It's a pretty low-key race over in Brown County (one east of me), but a big event for the Quaff ON! Racing crew.  The post-race party is supposed to be pretty great—the the beer will be flowing freely!

Next weekend it's down to Alabama for the Mountain Mist 50K.  I've wanted to race Mountain Mist for a few years now.  I first heard of it through David Riddle, who holds the CR (3:36:52) and won four years straight from 2010-2013.  In Riddle's absence, my Quaff ON! teammate Scott Breeden has won the last two years.  I think Scott's still the guy to beat this year, as he knows the course and is a really tough competitor who excels on rugged stuff.  

I'm obviously not in great shape yet, but I'll call on my old man strength and try to be competitive.  I think Riddle's CR is almost certainly out of reach this go around (and of course with winter races, trail conditions affect things a lot), but a sub-4 hour time would be a good showing.  And it will be nice to scout the course a bit for a future CR attempt.  Maybe with a fully healthy Riddle in 2017?!

After that, things are a little more up in the air.  But tentatively, I'm looking at finally making my way out to the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in early April, and ideally the Comrades Marathon at the end of May.  LS50 is always one of the most competitive 50 milers in the country, and as far as non-Midwest races go, it actually suits me fairly well.  There's a lot of vert in total, but no 3,000' climbs and no altitude.  I think the trails are supposed to pretty runnable too, so I'm looking forward to that one!

As for Comrades, it depends a bit on funding, but this has been my #1 bucket list ultra for a number of years.  It's a Down year (i.e. Pietermaritzburg to Durban), which I think I'm better suited for than an Up year.  I believe Max King is headed back for redemption and also Zach Bitter.

a nice stache -or- an ice stache