Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th: Living Dangerously

Today I did my first REAL trail run in a gazillion years! It seems like a gazillion years, anyway. It's more like 2 years.

I was originally planning to do hills up at Horsetooth this weekend, a few Rock Repeats. Then I saw the weather forecast and I realized I better get those in today, because this weekend is looking to be wet and cold.

After yesterday's 20 miles mostly on the track, I woke up this morning feeling BLAH. I was tired, but not physically tired. I felt mentally tired, like I didn't feel like making the effort to do anything. It took me until 9:30 to get out the door, taking the girls for a wimpy walk.

I was feeling hormonal and irritable, craving chocolate and carbohydrates, with a big fat zit protruding out of my forehead like a new nose. Since these days I'm no longer able to predict in advance when I'm going to get hit with a bout of PMS/RPB, I have to roll with it and deal with it.

Anyway, this morning I felt like I needed something DIFFERENT. Running in circles and on the flats, as much as I like to do it in races, can get pretty boring in training, week after week.

I've been telling myself I need to get out and test my ankle on the trails. I can walk and run on grass now without any pain, and walking over gravel and river rocks doesn't seem to bother it. I've been hesitant to go test it out, mostly out of fear of re-injuring it, but also partially out of my laziness? unwillingness? stubbornness? recalcitrance? to drive anywhere to run unless it's absolutely necessary.

I put my shoes on, and deliberately did not use the ankle brace.

Today was the day. I was going to live dangerously and ignore:

1. That it was Friday the 13th.

2. The fact that hormones do unfavorable things to our bodies at this point in the menstrual cycle: first, they cause brain fog which causes inattention and poor motor control, and second, they can make soft tissues more vulnerable to injury due to a drop in ligament and overall joint strength because of an increase in the hormone relaxin.

I wouldn't have thought of these things under normal circumstances anyway, but they did occur to me as I made my way up the first technical, rocky section. I parked at Maxwell Trailhead, and ran up the trail below the A, crossed the road at Rotary Park, and continued on the narrow singletrack high hogback trail on the west side of Centennial Drive until I got to the cattle guard near the 3 mile mark of the Horsetooth Half Marathon.

Then I turned around and backtracked, but did an extra little kilometer-long out & back to the ridge at the top of the A, looking over Hughes Stadium, a landmark currently claiming the most newsprint in Fort Collins since Balloon Boy.

The trails are partially technical, some very rocky stretches, in between smooth to bumpy sections without rocks.

I ran on this!

And this!

Not a peep out of my ankle, the whole time, and as I sit here afterward, I still can't feel it.

I was so excited, 2 miles into the run I stopped and took a picture of my feet on the trail and texted Cat with it, "Look where my feet are!"

The run was short, I got 5.8 miles and 1100 feet each of vertical gain and descent, but considering that eight months ago I couldn't even walk across the grass in my front yard without having serious ankle pain, I've come a long way.

I surprised myself with how easily I ran the trails. I thought the first time I got out there, I'd be overly cautious on the downhills, but I felt like my feet were gliding over the rocks, and I let go of any fear. I tried to stay relaxed and not over-think where I was placing my feet.

This gives me hope that I can rebuild to running on trails at least sometimes, and maybe some of the tamer trail races might be possibilities for me again. I can tell my leg and ankle strength have suffered over two years of not running trails. Trails work so many muscles and tissues from different angles, it's an important part of strength training and injury prevention. I bet I haven't done more than a dozen miles on trails since I ran the Old Pueblo 50 in 2010, which was the first time I realized I had an ankle problem.

So I'm going to get back to running trails. After the 24 hour I'll try to get one trail run in each week. Just in time for snake season! But maybe this weekend's cold, wet weather will keep the snakes away for a little longer.


giraffy said...

I am always envious of the CO trails. And then I remember you have no oxygen there....

YAY no ankle pain!!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Who needs oxygen? We have coffee, chocolate and especially, beer. (New Belgium, Odells, and about a gazillion other great breweries)

mike_hinterberg said...

Coffee, chocolate, and beer indeed -- congrats on getting on the trail!
By coincidence, I was on Foothills a couple hours later. I hate driving to TH's, but strung it with some other errands. I think alternating harder road/track days with easier trail days (and vice-versa) works pretty well.

You got me on a tangent looking up relaxin cycling and relaxin receptors on female ACL's -- very interesting.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Mike, relaxin is also responsible for womens' feet getting bigger after pregnancy. I don't have that as an excuse, but my feet have grown nearly 2 1/2 sizes since I started running. If I'd had kids along the way, I'd probably wear about size 14 by now!

It was so nice to be on the trail, as this year goes on I'm going to go "re-discover" my old favorite trails in Horsetooth and Lory State Park, then Coyote Ridge/Blue Sky after snake season, and of course, Rocky Mtn National Park later in the season. The things I've missed the most are running near Estes and up on the trails behind our cabin between Como and Breckenridge in the summer. And, of course, 14ers. It opens all kinds of possibilities for me again. YAY!

HappyTrails said...

Ok, how did I almost miss this post containing your Celebratory-Return-to-Trails run???!!! Yay! I am happy for you! We have only run at Horsetooth once but we enjoyed the trails we sampled. It would seem to be really hot and exposed in the summer, though, and I've heard there are rattlesnakes???!!! Eeeuuhh!!!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Kathleen, I didn't plan this one, I was ready, but I was putting it off for the right day. Yes it is exposed and hot in the summer, and yes there are rattlesnakes, but it goes with trail running...just more stuff to jump over, I guess. I tend to avoid the more rattlesnake infested areas in the summer. Are you saying you don't ever see rattlesnakes where you are? Lucky!

HappyTrails said...

Yes, we too have rattlesnakes but like you said, try to avoid the areas known to have larger populations. We've also figured out that if we go out early in the morning to beat the heat, they aren't out much yet and haven't had enough sun to charge their batteries - they are still a bit lethargic from the cool of the night. At least, that's how we reason it! :-)

Alene Gone Bad said...

Never assume a rattlesnake is lethargic always amazes me how cool the ambient air temperature is when the snakes are out sunning themselves. They can really soak up the heat fast. I like the wide dirt roads and trails in snake season- gives you plenty of room to go around them!