RWIR #20: Holy Crap! How has it been 20 weeks?!?

I cannot believe it’s been 20 weeks.  By now I had visions of being ultra ready….er, okay, maybe that’s an overstatement. But I at least envisioned myself as solidly on the way to rocking my first ultra. Instead, I share with you my meagre training gains on this epic road to recovery.

This week was a rough one. Do you ever have those weeks where every single workout feels like a monumental accomplishment, where your head’s not in the game, and where you want to give up constantly? That was this week. Alas, here’s what I accomplished.

Saturday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 15 km, unknown elevation gain
Observations: I drove 2.5 hours and found the only cloud and rain in the entire State. I saw little evidence of mountains, but I did hike 15 km in total. It wasn’t steep but it was one of my longest hikes since my injury.

Sunday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 9 km, 450 m elevation gain
Observations: As you saw from my post on Tuesday, this was rough, rough, rough. I almost turned around multiple times and wished desperately for a zip line to the parking lot once I reached the summit.  It was a sobering display of my current lack of fitness.

Monday
Activity: Run
Relevant Stats: 5 km, 5:51 min/km pace
Observations: This was my most brutal run by far. It could be because I hate morning runs. It could also be that we got home late from the Tragically Hip concert the night before. It could just as easily be residual tiredness from the weekend. Whatever the cause, my legs were dead and my lungs weren’t doing much better. It was all I could do to knock out 5 kilometres. And I certainly wasn’t setting any speed records.

Tuesday
Activity: Stairs
Relevant Stats: 3o minutes
Observations: Another morning workout and another sluggish and brief workout. I planned to do some strength training after running stairs, but by the time I got back to the gym, I felt little motivation to do anything other than take a nap. Sadly, reality dictated that I needed to pull my shit together and deliver a workshop instead.

Wednesday
Activity: Planned rest day
Relevant Stats: Exhaustion level: 100%, Motivation level: 0%
Observations: I had nothing in the tank and was thankful it was my rest day. After a long day of unpleasant conversations, I briefly contemplated a late afternoon workout to snap me out of my foul mood and tiredness. Instead, I opted for a 9 ounce glass of wine. In case you’re wondering, that is always the right choice.

Thursday
Activity: Run + personal training session
Relevant Stats: 5km run + 60 min. training session
Observations: I consider it a major feat that I convinced myself to go for a pre-training session run, but after a couple of days of lazy-ish workouts it felt necessary. The best part of this workout was that, for the first and likely only time, my trainer did not include push ups in my workout (!!!!!!).  She did, however, continue on her delusional mission to get me to do a proper pistol squat. I remain convinced it will never happen.

Friday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats:  3 km, 850 m elevation
Observations: Today was an exercise in discipline, pure and simple. I didn’t want to hike the BCMC before I got there, and my legs fought me the entire way up, but I did it. And now I can feel a little bit less guilty about a weekend of wine and (quite likely) relative inactivity.

I’ve had a bit of SI stiffness towards the end of this week, so I’m keeping a close eye on it. My trainer and I also noticed that my right hip has been significantly less mobile the last couple of weeks. We can’t be sure it’s because I’ve been running, but it is one of the only things that’s changed in my routine the last couple of weeks. For now, we’re just paying attention. I’m also hoping that a weekend without intense workouts will give it some space to calm down again.

This week gets a big, fat:

tired

Here’s hoping my energy bounces back significantly next week!

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Throwback Thursday: Washington State Hates Me

Okay, okay, maybe the entire state of Washington doesn’t hate me, but I promise you that she is most certainly trying to hide her beauty from me. I’ve yet to determine exactly why, but I do know my hiking history in the fine Northwest State has been littered with epic scenery failures.  Between rain, low cloud and forest fire smoke, I have seen very little of her mountainous terrain.  I hear Washington is beautiful, but I’m going to have to wait until I get to see more of her.

Don’t believe me? Let me share an incredibly large body of photographic evidence that supports my case:

Supporting Evidence #1: July 24th, 2015, Blanca Lake’s surrounding peaks remain elusive.

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Supporting Evidence #2: July 25, 2015, Summerland-Panhandle Gap remains in the grips of icy cloud and fog.

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Supporting Evidence #3: July 26 2015, Mount Rainier proves to be quite a tease.

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Supporting Evidence #4: August 27, 2015, once again Mount Rainier plays coy with me.

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Supporting Evidence #5: August 21, 2015, I believe this glacier is attached to a mountain, but I cannot be sure.

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Supporting Evidence #6: August 23, 2015, I have heard that Shuksan and Curtis Glacier are stunning but rampant forest fires keep me from confirming this rumour.

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Supporting Evidence #7: September 4, 2015, I am told that I am surrounded by peaks and glaciers and views of Baker on a clear day, and yet clear days do not seem to exist in this part of Washington.

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Supportive Evidence #8: September 6, 2015, I don’t even recall where this is nor what I should be seeing.  All I know is this is the day I gave up on Washington for 2015.

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Supporting Evidence #9: January 30, 2016. So far, 2016 is not doing any better than 2015.  Granted it’s winter and one would expect clouds, but I am left only to conclude that regardless of season Washington ain’t going to show me her goods.

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Supporting Evidence #10: July 1, 2016, I return to Heliotrope ridge to see if the glacier is, in fact, connected to a mountain (see supporting evidence #5). I am once again left uncertain.

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Supporting Evidence #11: July 23, 2016. I have no words for the lengths to which this State will go to hide her spoils.

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You counted right. That is 11 pieces of photographic evidence.  That is 11 hikes that have yielded no views. That is 11 days worth of hard-earned miles and elevation with no return on investment.

I can only conclude that Washington State knows that I would be so enamoured with her mountains that I would never leave, and that she wants me to stay confined to my tiny corner of Canadian mountains. Again, I do not know why, but you must agree that there’s some pretty damning evidence against her.

Mid-Week Conundrum: Maintaining Progress vs. Wine (whether to keep up with activities or drink all the wine)

I’ve been on a good roll lately with increasing my distance and intensity. I want to keep the momentum going, I really do. But I have a wine weekend coming up, which means I also want to drink all the wine. These goals are diametrically opposed.

wine

This is a major conundrum—do I focus on being workout ready (hydrated and well-rested) or do I realllly enjoy wine country (go big or go home with the wine consumption)?  Like anyone faced with a conundrum, I have made myself a pro-con list to aid with the decision making process.

Relative Benefits of Maintaining Progress

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You may be wondering if moderation would be a good option to allow me to both drink the wines and also maintain my progress.  To you, I say you clearly do not understand my nature. When confronted with 30+ wineries and only two days, moderation doesn’t even cross my mind.  The only thing I am thinking is “how do I get as much wine into me as safely possible”.  And, despite the logical evidence in favour of maintaining progress, my real choice will likely be ALL THE WINE.

Cheers, y’all. I’ll let you know how it all went down next week.

Training Tuesdays: Upping my Mental Game

I continue to underestimate the mental fortitude required while recovering from an injury.  It is hard to keep working at building physical strength when the results are not instant and miraculous. No matter how often I try to remind myself that the speed and endurance will come if I keep working hard, when I have a bad workout or play the comparison game it’s hard not to want to throw in the towel.

This weekend, I hiked Saturday and Sunday on actual trails, which I’ve not done since my initial injury. Sunday was eye opening for me.  On that second consecutive day of hiking, I was brutally reminded of just how far I still have to go.  As I dragged my sorry and tired butt up what used to be my “I’m-feeling-beyond-lazy-and-want-the-illusion-of-hiking-without-actually-hiking” trail–a 9 km return with only 450 m of elevation gain–I couldn’t help but feel discouraged.

It is a tough pill to swallow.  I’ve been making great gains lately with hiking and running.  Instead of feeling proud of my progress to date, I beat myself up over and over as my tracking app announced my per kilometre hiking times and the times only continued to get bigger and bigger.I told myself to move faster.  I told myself I used to hike this trail at least 2 minutest per kilometre faster. I told myself that I’m strong enough that I should be able to push through the discomfort.  No matter what I told myself, my legs remained at the same slow, steady pace.

This time last year,  I was rocking multiple days of consecutive hiking on 25+ km trails with at least 1000 m of elevation gain. And it felt easy. It’s hard to constantly be reminded I’m nowhere near where I used to be in terms of fitness and endurance.  It was a lot easier to be kind to myself when I was still suffering from injury pain but, now that the pain is pretty much gone, I have little patience for needing to build up endurance and fitness.

Comparison is a dangerous game, even when it’s comparison with former versions of yourself. I’m not yet sure how to keep things in perspective, how to keep my eye on the progress prize, nor how to dig deeper when I want to give up, but I do know that I need to work on my mental game just as much as my physical game. If I have any hope of running this ultra, my mental game will be everything.

 

Monday Musings: Relaxation is Hard

Last week, I ventured to Galiano Island for a mid-week girls’ getaway.  Over the course of two days, I was constantly reminded of my inability to just chill and relax. This is not a big surprise for me. Though I overwhelm myself easily, I am somehow more at ease when running from thing to thing and feeling as if there will never be enough time to do it all than I am when I am just sitting around supposedly ‘relaxing’.

Whatever this setting is...I'm missing it.
Whatever this setting is…I’m missing it.

I have decided that conventional relaxation is hard.  Moreover, I’m not sure it’s for me. I cannot just sit and “be”. My father is the exact same way. The man has to be doing something. Every. Single. Minute. Unless he is sleeping or eating, he is always on the move.  Clearly it runs in the family.

As I was thinking about it, though, I realized that perhaps we all just relax in different ways. For some, relaxation requires being physically at rest.  But my body doesn’t need to relax. It likes being on the go.  What I need to relax is my mind, which is always in full gear and an endless sea of chatter.   There are exactly two ways for me to relax my over-active mind: distract it with physical activity or occupy it with productive mental activity.

I’m sure it sounds contradictory to say I can relax my mind with mental activity, but hear me out.  My mind (and arguably most people’s minds) can either be full of productive thoughts or unproductive thoughts. I can have a tendency to get trapped in a hamster wheel of unhelpful (read: anxious or self-critical) chatter. I overanalyze things and rehash situations over and over again. If I can read or write or engage in meaningful dialogue, I can quiet all that chatter.  On the physical distraction spectrum, running or walking or hiking, or even cleaning or doing laundry or washing dishes, all help me feel infinitely more relaxed because they quiet the worst parts of my over-active mind.

It occurs to me that, for some, balance isn’t just about the balance between rest and play.  For some—clearly, including me—balance is more of a mental state in which I keep myself from getting sucked into unhelpful thought patterns. Staying on the go, whether physically or intellectually, keeps all of this at bay.

So I’m going to relax in my own way, with movement and focused intellectual activity.  And next time someone tells me to relax when I’m in the midst of running from thing to thing, I’m going to tell them “thank you, I actually am.”

RWIR #19: Still Optimistic

I’m still optimistic. I say that lightly because, at heart, I’m a bit of a glass-half-empty kind of person. Things have continued to progress injury and pain free over the last week. Though a part of me is still waiting for the other shoe to drop, I am enjoying the ability to do what I want when I want without the frustrating regression. Here’s hoping this is truly the lasting upswing.

Saturday
Activity: Bike/”Hike” + Walk
Relevant Stats: 15-20k bike, 6ish km hiking, 14ish km walking
Observations: I played tour guide but with a guest who was keen to be active. We lazily biked a fair portion of the city, followed it up with not-really-hiking-but-sort-of-hiking in a variety of tourist destinations. Also there was the waffle. And two Miyazaki #2s from Minami, which is the cocktail equivalent of my beloved pecan mudslide.

Sunday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats:3 km, 850 m elevation gain
Observations: My guest asked to be taken to the Grouse Grind…in the early afternoon…on a summer weekend. This was pretty much my worst nightmare. However, a good tour guide must do as their guest asks. And so we went. I tried to warn her of its awfulness but she failed to listen. I left her at the ¼ mark, at her request, to suffer in solitude without my (often annoying) attempts to be a cheerleader.

Monday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: Peanut butter cups consumed—1 (which, I think we can all agree, is the epitome of willpower)
Observations: I was supposed to have this entire week off to frolic in local mountains but, thanks to some emergent stuff at work, I had to go in for a series of meetings and lost out on Monday Funday. I was bitter and cranky about it, but thankfully my boyfriend had the foresight to have a bottle of chilled Rose waiting for me and to cook me dinner. Once again, he proves he deserves a medal for putting up with me.

Tuesday
Activity: Personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 minutes of hell
Observations: I believe my trainer is trying to keep my glutes in a perpetual state of tenderness and pain. And she is succeeding. The entire hour was non-stop glute work. My legs barely functioned at the end of the hour. I tried to run back to the office and felt like a lumbering oaf.

Wednesday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 6ish km (I think…), elevation unknown
Observations: Me and the girls headed to Galiano for a couple of days of relaxation. Naturally I had to climb Mount Galiano, the highest of the islands mountains, which is amusing as it’s 311 m above sea level. What I learned on this expedition is that the Galiano trail system is both poorly marked and designed to keep its visitors clueless to distance and elevation gain. The internet failed to provide data on either. Instead, I was offered infuriating time estimates, which mean nothing in the world of hiking. I got lost twice but finally found the summit and some pretty stunning views so I can’t complain.

Thursday
Activity: Run!!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 8.5 km
Observations: Longest run in three months!!!!!! Aside from stopping for a few pictures en route, this was uninterrupted running. It was slow. My lungs were burning. It was hot as hell and I was sweating buckets. Still, it felt fantastic.

Friday
Activity: Strength
Relevant Stats: 40 minutes
Observations: Today was what I like to call an express workout. I took a ferry back from Galiano this morning, went straight to work, and need to leave for the States right after work. Had I planned my life better I probably could have fit in a more quality workout, but…sometimes weekends in the campground trump workouts!

This week gets a bit shiny:
optimism

Happy weekend y’all!

Throwback Thursday: Grouse Mountain’s Many Victims

For some reason, I have been the cause of many of my friend’s first attempts of the dreaded Grouse Grind or BCMC trail.  Sometimes it’s been at my encouragement, and other times (like this weekend) responsibility lies fully on the other party.  For most, it turns out to be a one-time event.  I can’t say I blame them.

For those outside of the Vancouver area, the Grouse Grind is a local “hike” that is essentially a 3 km trail up the side of Grouse Mountain, built in such a way that it closely resembles a rock staircase. There are all sorts of races and competitions here, and locals wear their PRs as a badge of honour.

Despite its popularity and local fame, I assure you it is one of the most unpleasant trails you can imagine. It is crowded. It is relentless (and psychologically crippling) in its climbing. It has no views until the top.  No sane person enjoys it.  But it is one hell of a workout, which is why so many of us–myself included–keep going back week after week.

So this weekend I took yet another friend, at her request, to hike the Grind. It came as no surprise that she did not enjoy the experience.  It got me thinking about the various things people have said to me before trying the Grouse Grind that were quickly proven wrong and the extent to which my warnings tend to be ignored.

I present to you my favourite list of comments/observations before and during Grouse Grind events:

  • “It can’t be that bad.” No matter how much you tell people it sucks and will make you hate your life, they cannot conceive of how it can possibly be that bad…until they do it. Then, and only then, do they understand.
  • “I’m in good shape. I’ll go slow and I should be ok.” I firmly believe fitness plays a relatively small role in Grouse Grind success.  It’s a mental game.  Further, on the fitness front, the only thing that really prepares you for the Grind, is doing the Grind (or running stairs…or hiking steep trails on the regular).
  • [Before starting] “Maybe we should start doing this weekly!”  This early enthusiasm never gets my hopes up as, inevitably, at the end of the trail the first words of out most people’s mouths are “OMG, I’m never doing this again!”.  To date, only two people have continued on to multiple Grouse or BCMC excursions.
  • “This isn’t so bad so far.” These are what I like to call famous last words.  Usually, the words are accompanied by an increase in pace. I warn people to go slowly at first even if they feel like they can go faster. It is a marathon, not a sprint.  No one ever listens. And then they suffer.
  • I try to prepare people for the fact that the 1/4 mark sign is the most psychologically damaging point on the trail.  Most people roll their eyes at me or give me that ‘sure, sure’ kind of look. Again, no warnings can prepare people for the experience of seeing that 1/4 mark sign after climbing for what already feels like an eternity. It is the epitome of demoralizing.
  • “I’m just going to stop for a second. Why don’t you keep on going?” I now know this as the beginning of the end. Admittedly, I almost always take people up on their offers, not because I’m an insensitive ass (though sometimes I am) but rather because I fear their hellish experience may cause them to seek immediate and shocking retaliation against me for bringing them there. If I’m out of reach, they cannot exact their revenge.

If you learn nothing else from this blog, which is highly probable given its generally uninformative nature, learn from the heaps of friends and colleagues who have suffered at the hands of the Grouse Grind.  It is not for the faint of heart and is never enjoyed. It is merely tolerated by those crazy fools, such as myself, who enjoy punishing their minds and bodies on the regular.