Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Let the Endorphins flow!

Are you addicted to the endorphin high?  So many runners, including me, get that wonderfully euphoric feeling after a run.  There is nothing like it!  Believe me...I've tried many different things in the past 9 months, but nothing really duplicates that feeling.  Don't get me wrong...I love the feeling I get after a good yoga session, a gym session, or bike ride.  I'm not a great swimmer, but always feel better after a good swim.  Climbing...well, what can I say?...my second passion...always feel at peace with the world after a good climbing day.  OK, climbing is up there on the list, but the endorphin high from running is irreplaceable.

Unfortunately, I haven't had that feeling for quite some time...until tonight!

I can tell I'm healing because I get that fidgety feeling when I get anywhere near a treadmill or even glance at my running shoes.  My running shoes have the same affect on my as the magnetic pull the ring on Gollum....my Precious!!!

One or two times each week, I have been "running" a mile on the tread to see if I could get a pain-free stride worked out.  I'd like to be able to run with my Reach the Beach team in September, and I figure I need to cover 3 legs of 3-5 miles each at a sub 10 min/mile pace or thereabouts.  I'm not too worried about pace, but would like to run smoothly, efficiently, and with minimal discomfort.

Anyway, I managed to work my way down to a sub 9:30 mile, and then yesterday attempted my first timed mile outdoors at a nearby high school track.  After diligently doing my prescribed warm-up exercises, I set off with a skip.  My knee hurt pretty significantly which was weird because my hip was the incumbent ache going into the trot.  At any rate, I huffed and puffed and gutted out an 8:27 mile.   If you told me 4 weeks ago that I would do an 8:27 mile, I would have jumped for joy.  I was pleased and relieved, but somehow felt like I still had a lot of work ahead of me.  My gate was not even close to normal as it was more like a controlled limp.  I was bummed with my relative level of aerobic fitness, and the knee pain worried me a bit.

Tonight, I did my physical therapy session diligently, but the magnetic pull of the treadmill just would not let me be.  I told myself it was a dumb idea...my knee was still sore from yesterday.  I negotiated with the little runner on my left shoulder and ignored the warnings from the sane couch potato on my right shoulder.  The little runner promised it would be OK, so I went for it and shoved a handful of potato chips in the other guys mouth so I couldn't hear his warnings and gloomy predictions.  My plan was to go slow and just work on technique.  I managed to do a mile in a bit over 11 minutes.  It was fine with me.  I was happy just to be moving 2 days in a row.   Another check in the box...first back-to-back days of running since October 2.  Nice!  But here's the kicker...

I did a little cool down walk, drove home, and then it hit me.  There it was....that feeling...the feeling you get after a solid 20 mile training run with your buds...Call it what you want: a runner's high, nervana, heaven, a peaceful state of bliss.  Whatever you want to call it is fine with me.  I just got a little of my mojo back.  The endorphins were flowing, and it felt "oh so good!"

Ahhhhh!!!  Wishing you all the endless runner's high!



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day and then some...

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads in the world!  I hope you all had a fantastic day...I had a wonderful day, thank you very much!  In fact, I had a wonderful weekend!  A special Happy Father's Day to my Dad, the superhero named Ron Nelson.   I've never seen a man with more drive, determination, and resourcefulness.  Given enough time, I think he could fix the world...he sure has the tools for it ;-)

When I was in grade school we had to write a story about what our Dad's did for work.  Most Dad's had jobs like police officer, doctor, salesman, etc.  You could get your head around those professions.  My Dad had his own business as a mechanical contractor.  Now, Mechanical Contractor is hard enough to understand conceptually as a third grader, and I sure as heck didn't know how to spell it.  So, I wrote an essay titled, "My Dad can do anything".  My Mom still has it filed somewhere and pulls it out to remind my Dad once in awhile.  I guess my love of writing took root early.

Anyway, it was a beautiful weekend with wonderful dry weather.  Now, to catch up on the recovery effort....

First, many thanks to all of you who read this blog.  I am regularly humbled when I look at the stats of the viewing audience.  I know I don't know all of you, so please drop me a line sometime to say "Hi".  I write this for myself primarily, but very glad people enjoy the material.

This week was a tough week for fitness, but we still managed to make some progress.   Since the last report, I improved my one mile time to 11:06.  I only time myself about once per week and that was almost a week ago, so I'm looking forward to shooting for a 10 minute mile soon.  Woohoo!

On Wednesday, I visited my Physical Therapist, Eric.  He routinely asks me, "What kind of crazy stuff did you do this week?".   He has given up on asking me not to run.  Now, he just asks how far I am running.  He also gave me some exercises to do before I run, so I'm pretty psyched about it.  Eric is awesome, and I know I will owe him a huge thanks when I'm back to real running again.

I traveled for business on Thursday and Friday.   I always enjoy traveling as it gives me time to do some self-reflection and meet new people.  I was a little nervous because it was my first trip since the accident, and I wasn't sure what to expect at the airport.  Luckily, the metal detector did not notice the rod and giant screw in my leg.  Yeah!  No need for body frisking.  I picked up a book called "The Happiness Project".  It's one of those self-help books written by a very energetic young woman(Apologies - I don't remember the author's name and am too tired to go find the book at the moment).  Anywhoo, when they were passing out beverages on the plane, I happened to glance at my napkin which read "open happiness".  Well, there you have it!  It was an advertisement for Coke.   I guess I just need to open a coke to find happiness. Thank you very much Mr. Buffett and all the Coke stockholders.  Too funny!

Anyway, the first chapter of the book was focused on increasing your energy level which is something I think we all can use.  The two primary tools she uses to increase energy are getting adequate, quality sleep and de-cluttering.  So, I decided to try it out this weekend.  I used an eye shade to improve my sleep since I have two skylights without shades in my bedroom.  Second, I attacked some of the clutter in my house.  It's not that my house has a lot of clutter (I don't own enough stuff to characterize it as clutter), but I certainly have room for improvement.  As luck would have it, my friend Bob was coming to pick up my 98 Honda Civic Friday night.  Cool!  Step 1 in de-cluttering.  While Bob was there, I convinced him to take a few other items I no longer needed.  Excellent!  Thanks Bob!  On Saturday, I cleaned the garage, made a trip to Goodwill, turned in the plates for the Civic at DMV and filled 2 garbage pails.  Yeah!  I even did some weeding!

Give it a try!  I had more energy this weekend than I've had in a long time.

Charlotte came over in the afternoon and we decided to go for a hike.  Char is very competitive, and was still bumming that Goat and I broke my record for Pinnacle to Rt. 6 and back without her.  The route is another benchmark for me to see how my fitness is improving.  Actually, my fitness is fine...it's my darn leg that's the issue!  Anyway, it's 4.5 miles round trip of fairly technical single track with a lot of ups and downs (crosses over Rattlesnake Mountain and other high points along the ridge).  Char and I did it in about 1:30 about 1 month ago, and Goat and I did it in 1:20 a couple weeks ago.  Since hearing about 1:20, Char wanted to be a part of a new record attempt, so off we went.

I thought we had a reasonable shot at 1:10, but it was very warm out (upper 80's?).  Char started off moving quickly up the first hill and I was concerned I would slow her down.  After jumping onto the single-track blue-blazed trail at the top of the ridge, Char was shocked that I was "running".  I still don't think of it as running, but she said it looked good.  It feels like a limp still.  Eric, my PT, asked me to try a shim in my left shoe for a few days, and I agreed to give it a shot.  I knew from my own experiments that the shim took some pressure off my back and it seemed to even out my gate.  This was the first time I was "running" with a shim.  I used the insole from an old pair of Asics, so I basically had 2 insoles in my left shoe and 1 in my right.  If any of you wonder what it feels like to have one leg shorter than the other, just add another insole to one of your shoes and try to walk normally.  YEAH!  That's how it feels :-)

Anyway, we were moving along pretty well and reached the halfway mark in 33 minutes.  I knew it would take longer heading back as it was warm, my hip was hurting a lot, and Char was really suffering from the heat.  I was actually moving a bit quicker than Char on the uphills, but she was still doing well on the downhills as I could not put much force on my leg.  We walked a bit more on the way back, but Char was determined to break the record.  She hung in there, and then opened it up on the last downhill to the trailhead.  I poked along behind her, and hit the watch at 1:10 when we got to the road.  She was ecstatic and exhausted.  I was pleased, but concerned about my hip pain and lack of a decent running stride.   We walked back to the car tired, but happy with our effort.  I noticed that I was walking much better after the run than when I had previously covered that route with the Goat.  Hmmm...maybe I am making progress.

I've kept the shim in all weekend.  It seems to help, but it's annoying moving it around with each pair of shoes, and other shims aren't quite the same thickness.  I don't know what I'll do tomorrow with my work shoes :-)

After doing my PT and other exercises (I was pleasantly surprised to be back up to 40+ push-ups, 7 chin ups, and lots of other good stuff), I showered and threw some salmon on the grill for Char and me.  While eating, we saw the most beautiful sunset from the deck.  It made for the end of a wonderful day!

Today, Tara, Jamie, and Maliyah had breakfast at the house with me and Char for Father's Day.  It was great to sit there and listen to all the gals chat.  They gave me some aqua-training accessories, so I can start pool running as well as a Boston Red Sox BBQ apron and mitts.  Sweet!  Go Sox!  Isn't life awesome?  What a great Father's Day!

After hanging out with the gals for a while, Char went home, and I drove to New York to see my Dad.  Oh yeah, I should mention that Char gave me a haircut on Saturday with the clippers.  It was a first time experience for Char, but it came out pretty good.  We really wanted to get our "trail run" in, and didn't feel like waiting for my haircut appt.  In the end, it didn't save us much time, but it was a fun adventure.
Anyway, I thought my Dad would be happy to see my crewcut as he always wanted me to get my haircut short as a kid.  Today, he said, "What is it with all you guys getting your heads shaved these days?"  Oh well!

After hanging out, BBQing with the family and watching my nieces and nephew play in the pool, it was time for the long ride home.  I considered going for a bike ride when I got back, but I opted to rest the leg.  I'm still quite sore from yesterday's effort, and I really want the hip pain to improve.

If I can get the hip pain to subside, I think I have a good shot at doing some decent running.  We'll see what happens....time will tell.


My Dad asked me what a blog was today.  I told him it was like an on-line diary where I told stories.  I told him some people even like my stories.  Go figure!

Have a great week everyone!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

The First Mile

I've been waiting for this day for a long time...funny thing is that I didn't expect it so soon.  OK, it's been 8 months and 9 days, but my progress did not indicate that I was ready to run.  Sure, I've been cheating and squeezing in a little shuffling on my hikes.  I've been testing myself with 1/2 mile runs each week, and religiously doing my physical therapy.  My walking has improved considerably, and I no longer think about every step I take...

Before the accident, I could run like a gazelle.  Running was part of my life since I started running track in 7th grade.  I've been a long distance runner for 35 years.  The past few years I started wondering what life would be like if a day came when I couldn't run.  So many friends have lost the gift of running through injury, and I often stated to anyone who would listen that I could not live without running.   I couldn't imagine it!   I loved climbing, skiing, cycling, hiking, and other adventure sports, but running was the life blood in my veins.  I savored hill repeats like a kid eyeing a hot fudge sundae.  After a good workout, I felt like I was in a zen-like state.  A good yoga workout could not even compete.  So much of my mental, emotional, and physical being revolved around running that I couldn't imagine it not being there for me.  I've run in nearly every country or state I have visited, run 100 miles at a time...running pulled me through divorce and so many other challenges in life.   We were best friends: running and me.  Running was my faithful companion...so when that day came over 8.5 months ago...the day I fell 100 feet to the ground...the only thing I could think about was "Please fix my leg so I can run again!"

The Doc said I could start physical therapy 6 weeks later.........6 long months later I was finally starting physical therapy.  The rehab has been a nightmare at times, but it's also been a blessing in many ways.  Having time off from training gave me time to enjoy other things in life.  It's given me more time with family and friends, and helped me focus on the really important things in life.   Life is good...

Nevertheless, something has been missing.

Yesterday, I went to the gym and did a 20 minute warm-up on the bike, but before starting my therapy, I walked over to the treadmill.  I knew I probably should not run, but the pull was irresistible.  I wanted to try to do a half mile at 12 minute/mile pace.  I figured I needed to be able to run 12 minute miles by August 1st if I wanted to run with my Reach the Beach team in September.  Many people think this is a crazy goal, so I just tell them it helps keep me focused on getting better.  Secretly, I have a plan.

Today, I started off at nearly a 12 minute pace from the start.  My stride was a bit gimpy, but felt better than previous attempts.  I gradually sped up the pace, and was through the 1/2 mile mark right around 6 minutes.  Wow!  Funny thing was that I still felt OK.  I decided to try for another 1/4 mile, but I secretly wanted to go for the full mile.  I envisioned the celebration we would have if I covered a mile in under 12 minutes.  I picked up the pace, and was running the last quarter in at sub-11min/mile pace....blazing speed for this one-legged wonderboy!  I had to focus on every step to make sure I didn't slip and fall.  Tears started streaming down my face as I approached the finish.  I wondered what my time would be, and watched each second tick off.  There is was...finally....I ran my first mile in 11min, 34 seconds.  How sweet it is....11:34!  I was so excited I could hardly contain myself!   I stepped off the treadmill and looked around...no one other than me realized the significance of what just transpired.  I wandered over to do my physical therapy work and wondered what would be next....

When will I run my first 5K?
When can I start training regularly?
When can I run with Charlotte?  Goat?  All of my friends and family?
Trail racing?  Marathon?  Ultra?  100 miler?

Who knows where this is going...

Maliyah saw me try to chase her ball down the driveway Friday night and she laughed uncontrollably.  It was the first time she saw her Grandpa run, and I'm sure it looked pretty funny.  I had to smile just thinking about what it must have looked like to her.  Glad she got a good chuckle!  When she was born, I promised I would be ready to run a marathon with her when the time came, and I'd like to keep that promise.

I don't know what the future holds...don't know if I'll be racing anytime soon...don't know much about anything....but I do know this....


I am so very thankful!

Have a great week everyone!



Sunday, June 5, 2011

What a weekend!

Life has been busy lately...to the point that it's hard to even find the time to do my physical therapy.  I think I need to get focused on my fitness if I ever want to get back to peak performance.  It's great to see so many people enjoying endurance and adventure sports.  I enjoy cheering for you all, and want to be back out there with all of you!

My PT, Eric, says I'm really close.  He has me doing single leg exercises to simulate running.  When I tell him about my hiking and psuedo running, he doesn't know what to say.  He knows if he tells me not to do it, I will ignore him.  We have a good relationship.  I asked him to watch me do my thing, and he said it is definitely running.  I call it "slide stepping" or hobbling, but he said I am definitely running.  Then, he told me to stop it.  I call it "hiking" since it is on the trails...

Goat and I haven't done anything together in about a month, so I asked him if he wanted to join me for my "Pinnacle to Route 6 and back" trek on the Metacomet trail.  We did this route over a month ago, so Goat was really surprised to see my progress.  I did my little shuffle whenever the terrain permitted (flats and gentle slopes).  My goal was to break 2 hours since Char and I had set that mark a couple weeks ago.

We cleared Rattlesnake Mountain in about 20 minutes, skipped across Greenwall and Porcupine Hole, and then started down toward Rt. 6.  As I did my hitch down the sloping single track, I saw someone coming towards us with a camelbak.  It looked like a trail runner, so I perked up.  As fate would have it, it was Jerry Turk, Mr. Bimble, in the flesh.  I yelled out his name and he was just as surprised to see us.  I asked him what he was doing so far from his corner of the state, and he indicated that he was attempting the entire Metacomet Trail in one day.  Matt Estes had told me he did the trail in 11.5 hours, but he reported it as 61 miles.  Jerry, on the other hand, said he was attempting a 91 mile jaunt.  Wow!  He said he was scouting it as a potential ultramarathon and asked if we were interested in helping to promote it.  Indeed, Goat and I had talked about making the route into a race several years ago after Matt told us about it, but I had no idea it was 91 miles long.  Wow!  Jerry, ever the gentleman, was pleased to see me back on the trail.  We both finished Top 10 at Vermont in 2006 I believe, and I still have a picture of us together at the award ceremony with the other Top 10 runners.  I hope we can get back there someday.  After a couple minutes with Jerry, we were back on our way.  We tagged Route 6 in about 40 minutes and made the turn for home.  We made good progress, but my leg was getting sore.  Goat was in disbelief when he watched me run and said it made his day.  I was happy to be out there working up a sweat, but my leg was getting sore.

After cresting Rattlesnake Mtn on the return, I asked Goat to predict the finishing time.  I knew we were on track to finish in under 1.5 hours.  Goat called 1:25, and I went with 1:20.  Despite the pain, I pushed hard to cover the 4.5 miles as quickly as possible.  Goat took off on the final downhill, and I did all I could to keep him in sight.  We got back to the trailhead and I hit my watch: 1:20:29.  Damn, it felt like a new world record!  It was something!  Back in the day, I wouldn't even consider it a warm up...and Goat was scheduled to go for another hour run later in the day...but it was a great progress check for me.  If I can get that time down to 1:15 or less, it would be very cool.  Maybe next week :-)

While progress has been great, it's still hard adjusting to having a leg length discrepancy, etc.  I wobble when I walk, and still have a hitch in my stride.  It's frustrating at times.  Nevertheless, I cling to the fact that Bill Rogers won Boston 4 times and many other marathons with a leg length discrepancy of more than 1/2".  If Bill can manage to run a 2:10 marathon with a bigger discrepancy than me, I think I can get back in the groove.  If I stay focused, I think I can still pull off Reach the Beach in September.  We'll see...

Char and I were out late last night having a wonderful dinner with her brother, Jesper, and his wonderful wife, Michelle, so today was a rest day.  Char and I took the kids to Winding Trails for a picnic/BBQ.  It was a great day to be outside, and Maliyah, my granddaughter, had a blast playing on the beach.  I was thinking that today would have been a perfect Gunks day.  There was a time when climbing was everything.  I'd watch the weather and plan my weekend based on climbing potential.  Today, I was exactly where I wanted to be, and loved every minute of it.  I threw a few lobster tails on the grill, and played in the sand with my granddaughter.  Life is good!

Have a great week everybody!  Hope to see you on the trails and at the crag soon!



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CT Climbers Memorial Day Trip

It's been over a month since I posted anything.  Life has been busy and frankly there hasn't been much adventure to report.  I've been making slow and steady progress toward my goals.  It's been exhilarating and frustrating at times.  This past weekend was a big data point for me as it was the first trip with the CT Climbers and Mountaineers since the accident on October 2.

Carol Ann and Frank have been hosting us at their place at the base on Cathedral Rock in North Conway, NH for several years now on Memorial Day Weekend.  The views of the cliff from their front deck are breathtaking and it's always fun to watch the progress of our friends with the binoculars as they inch their way up the wall.  I've always found the climbing at Cathedral to be quite challenging since I grew up on Gunks horizontals.  Cathedral is a granite crack climbers playground.  I have enjoyed many of the classic routes, but I was in no shape to climb anything there this weekend.  I packed my gear with the thought that Charlotte and I might do any easy slab route on Whitehorse, but my heart really wasn't into it.  While packing my gear for the trip, I grabbed my old harness for Charlotte to use and realized it was no longer useable.  While inspecting it, I realized the rescue crew cut the harness off of me after the fall.  It made me feel a bit dizzy and sick thinking about it, so I quickly threw it in the nearby garbage pail.  Climbing seemed like a remote possibility at that point.

My focus over the past 4 months has been to regain my strength, coordination, and endurance, and I wanted this weekend to build on that effort, but also to be a data point/progress check.  I had been hiking the Metacomet trail for the prior 3 weekends from Pinnacle to Rt. 6 and back and had progressed in form and time each week.  I was not breaking any land speed records, but was happy to cover the distance in less than 2 hours.  I figured I was moving at about a 2 mile per hour pace (just a guess) on some technical terrain.  I would limp as I got tired, but otherwise the pain was manageable.

On the way to NH on Friday, Charlotte and I decided to try for the summit of East Osceola.  I hiked the same trail from the Greeley Pond trailhead (off the Kank) many years ago when I was peakbagging and didn't recall any major issues.  It was only 2.8 miles or so to the summit and the first 1.5 miles looked fairly flat.  I had no idea what would happen, but figured it would be a nice stroll either way.  We both wore high top lightweight hikers.  Char was nursing an ankle sprain from Traprock and I was planning to deal with muck since I couldn't jump from rock to rock.  After a quarter mile or so, we came across a significant stream crossing requiring some skill and trust in your feet.  I found a walking stick and decided to put my faith in it for the crossing.  After some scary tip-toeing, we were across and on our way.  The first couple miles went by quickly and I was pleased with our pace.  I felt like I was holding Charlotte back and she moved ahead at times.  I'm usually the guy out front pushing the pace, so this was a very humbling experience for me.  I was moving as fast I possible and it was a slow crawl for Charlotte.

When we got to the steep part, we weaved our way up the rock together and took in some of the views.  We took a couple pics near the summit and decided to head back without taking on the mile trek over to Mt. Osceola.  I was concerned with my ability to make it since this was considerably longer and more difficult than anything I had attempted since the accident.  I was really pleased with this decision as the descent was much more difficult than the ascent.  Char said I was moving well, but a couple slips really took the energy out of me and I limped down to the flats.  Back at the car, we celebrated my first post-accident 4,000 footer and Char's 17th NH 4Ker, then headed to the hotel for a shower.  I was really pleased with the effort and felt like some exciting adventures were back in my grasp.

After a nice dish of Pad Thai in North Conway, we headed over to Frank and Carol Ann's to catch up with friends.  It was great to see so many CCMers there and to feel a part of the group again.  Frank and Chad told us about their exciting night on the Prow as they aided the route, hauled a propane stove and steaks for a nice dinner and slept on a porta-ledge for the night.  It seemed like a great plan until it decided to rain all night.  They survived the bath in the porta-ledge enclosure, but had to rap off the route in the morning as the rock was dripping water.  Now that is an epic adventure!

On Saturday, Char and I decided to try for 2 more 4Kers.  The easiest one looked like Mount Hale, so we set off to bag that one quickly and then possibly shoot for Mt. Jackson.   All went according to plan on Hale, but we were both a bit sore afterwards.  It just seemed too early to call it a day as we were finished by 2 pm, so we decided to give Jackson a try.  The Webster-Jackson trail was a tough as I remembered it and then some...  It took us nearly 4 hours to make the round trip and we were both hobbling afterwards.  Nevertheless, we were both pleased with the effort and Char was happy to bag 2 more peaks (18 and 19, yeah!).

At dinner that night, I was a hurting unit.  My knees were toast and my hip was sore as well.  We decided to sleep in on Sunday and take a ride over to Echo Lake.  After breakfast, we hit a couple stores in town and then went to the lake to soak in the nice icy water.  It sure helped my knees!

We watched some friends climb on Whitehorse Ledge, and then met up with everyone later to hear the climbing stories of the day.   I hope to participate in some of those stories again soon.
 We drove back after breakfast on Monday in an attempt to beat the traffic (failed attempt) and catch up on some things.  Overall, it was a great trip for Char and me.   We had some great 1:1 time and savored every minute of it.  We enjoyed the hiking and talked about future adventures.

Tonight, I went back to the gym for another attempt at running.  After 30 minutes on the bike, and some PT, I went back to the treadmill.  My plan is to do a half mile at least once per week until I can do a sub-12 minute mile pace without any significant pain.  I had progressed from 8:30 (17 minutes/mile) to about 7:10 (14:20/mile).  Tonight was great!  I finished the half mile in 6:30 (13min/mile pace).  Woohoo!  It almost felt like running!  I still can't press my body weight with one leg, so I'm really excited with my progress.  If I can get stronger each day, I should be running soon.

The more I experience, the more I realize that anything is possible...it's all a matter of effort and attitude!
Hold your vision...and persist without exception!