Monday Musings: On my 6 Month Injury Anniversary

I am a big fan of any birthday or anniversary or, really, any event that is cause for a party, wine, chocolate, cake and/or gifts.  Even so, I have to admit that this is one anniversary that I would rather not be celebrating.

October 14th marked the sixth month anniversary of my SI injury. It’s an injury that’s lasted far longer than I ever imagined, and caused me greater emotional grief than I ever thought possible. It’s made me question whether I’ll ever actually fully recover. It’s made me feel like my body has betrayed me, which is perplexing as, generally speaking, I feel like I’ve taken pretty good care of it.

Alas, even six months later I’m working on coming to terms with my adjusted lifestyle.  I’m most likely to get down on things when I run into people I haven’t seen in a while and their first question is “so, have you been hiking a lot lately?”.  That’s when it really hits me what a big part of my life has been missing since April. It’s also when I realize that I’m still a little bit in mourning for that piece of my identity that’s been lost.

This really wasn’t meant to be a pity-party post. I just had a moment last week when I realized just how long it’s been, and it seemed like a staggering amount of time for someone whose injuries have never lasted more than a few weeks. Rest assured, though today is not the official anniversary, I’ll be celebrating nonetheless because even a belated party is better than no party. Even better, this party will be Halloween style, complete with as many Coffee Crisps as I can squirrel away, wine, and the latest episode of Walking Dead.  If you’re taking notes, this is how you make the best of a not-so-great situation.

RWIR #33: Triumphant Return of the RWIR

First RWIR in three weeks! Hurrah! After a couple weeks of blissful respite from workouts, I’m trying desperately to get back to it. Let’s see what that amounted to this week:

Saturday
Activity: Flying
Relevant Stats: Combined total of 12 hours
Observations: Naturally, I don’t mean I was literally flying myself, but I was trapped on a flying apparatus (i.e. airplane) for a solid 2 hours followed by a solid 10 hours, which essentially means I spent the entire day sitting on my ass. I also consumed terrible airplane wine because it was free, and terrible airport croissants, which were not free. All in all, it was not a good day for the body, with the exception of falling into a deep slumber at 8 pm after successfully avoiding the urge to nap all afternoon.

Sunday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 10 km, 470 m elevation gain, 1h 54min
Observations: Well, turns out two weeks of walking doth not maintain fitness. This was hell from the start. There’s a 237-stair staircase at the beginning of the trail which already had me wheezing and my legs burning. The trail itself, normally something I don’t even consider a hike, continued to leave me breathless…and not in a good way. I have taken breaks from working out before and can not recall a time that returning to activity felt so utterly and brutally shocking.

Monday
Activity: Grouse Grind
Relevant Stats: too embarrassing to highlight
Observations: Good lord. After Sunday’s foray, I expected this to be unpleasant but, once again, I underestimated the degree of unpleasantness. It took me TEN MINUTES LONGER to finish this hike. If you look at that as a percentage, it’s roughly 20% longer. On a 3 km trail. That is both appalling and humbling. My legs felt sluggish. My endurance was shot. It was not a good outing except that I got it out of the way relatively early in the day.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 minutes of pain
Observations: I felt as though my muscles atrophied while I was away. Never before have simple squats and walking lunges and push ups felt so wretched. At one point, I told my trainer she was clearly punishing me for taking two weeks off from any form of significant exercise. She claimed not to be, but I don’t trust her. It’s always the quiet ones you have to worry about…Not only was the workout just damn hard, but my sciatic issues on my right leg have rendered my gluteal muscles useless. I couldn’t do any single-leg dead lifts on single-leg squats on my right side without feeling like the muscle was literally going to snap. Good times.

Wednesday
Activity: Spin + Reset Activities
Relevant Stats: 45 minutes spin, 10 minutes stretch/physio
Observations: In what was quickly becoming a series of humbling workout experiences, I discovered that I had to use an average of 2 levels lower throughout the entire workout as well as supplement with more frequent rest breaks. I was perplexed by why things seem to feel so much harder. It’s not like I didn’t do anything while I was on vacation. I was walking 15-20 km a day. I hiked some moderate trails. It doesn’t add up.

Thursday
Activity: Strength & Physio
Relevant Stats: 45 minutes
Observations: After several abysmal attempts at cardio, I decided to take it easy and focus on rebuilding strength. I have to say, what my body really seemed to crave was a day of rest, but I am nothing if not consistent in ignoring what my body needs.  Instead of rest, I did a half-assed strength workout. As punishment, I experienced new sciatic symptoms that evening, including tingling toes. Oh, the surprises this injury continues to throw my way!

Friday
Activity: rest day
Relevant Stats: degree of sloth-ness HIGH
Observations: After a crap week of workouts, today’s rest day was unnecessary from an actual rest and recuperation point of view, but utterly necessary from a mental health point of view. It’s been discouraging this week, and there’s also a lot of things at work that are contributing to overall fatigue. And so, I took great pleasure in doing a lot of sitting on my ass and thus preserving my energy level to cheer on the Oilers tonight (!!!!!!!) while donning my Oilers jersey in an arena full of Canucks jerseys…and probably eating a giant waffle cone stuffed with vanilla/chocolate swirled soft serve. It is, quite possibly, the makings of a perfect night and the ultimate gluttonous cap to a supremely lazy day.

Alas, it’s been a depressing experience to try to get back to it. The only uplifting realization is that things can only go uphill from here. For the time being, though, this week gets a big:

pain

Throwback Thursday Cinque Terre Edition: Manarola to Riomaggore

One of the things I was most looking forward to on our trip was hiking between towns in Cinque Terre.  The day we arrived in Manarola I wasn’t entirely convinced it would happen. We arrived in the midst of an epic storm complete with high winds, pelting and torrential rain, and thunder and lightening. Everything was closed. Everything. Restaurants, shops, trails, everything.

Thankfully we woke up the next day to considerably better weather and a chance to hit the trails. The trail from Manarola to Corniglia was closed due to previous mudslides, so we opted to hike from Manarola to Riomaggore.

Beccara Trail #531 (High Trail)
Distance: 2.5 km
Estimated Elevation: I’d guess around 250m

Well, in the great tradition of me doing absolutely no research before going somewhere, I failed to realize that the easy, ocean-side stroll aptly named the Via Dell’Amore, has been closed for years leaving only the upper route between the towns open. Now, I like a good hike, but when we embarked on our journey I had only read about the easy route and had prepared myself (and my poor boyfriend) for that option alone.  Sidenote: for a great piece on the Via Dell’Amore and it’s progress, check this out.

What we encountered instead of a leisurely stroll was a slick set of steps carved into the side of the mountain dividing the two towns. I could instantly see why trails are closed when it’s raining. On a day following heavy rain, the stones were still incredibly slippery, even for suitable trail shoes. As a point of comparison (suitable only for Vancouverites), the trail’s construction when hiking from Manarola to Riomaggiore was surprisingly similar to the Grouse Grind. Think steps, steps and more steps. The key difference, however, is that there are actually views along the way.

Roughly the route you take.
Roughly the route we took.
Our starting point, atop Manarola.
Our starting point, atop Manarola.
I have to say, I didn't anticipate this part of Italy being so...green.
I have to say, I didn’t anticipate this part of Italy being so…green.
I mean seriously, look at all that GREEN.
I mean seriously, look at all that GREEN.
Looking back towards Manarola and Corniglia.
Looking back towards Manarola and Corniglia.
Oh look, there's the remnants of that easy trail I thought I was supposed to be on.
Oh look, there’s the remnants of that easy trail I thought we’d be on.
Even a little double rainbow for good luck.
Even a little double rainbow for good luck.
Coming in to Riomaggiore.
Coming in to Riomaggiore.
Celebratory de-hydrating "hydration" (i.e. prosecco)
Celebratory de-hydrating “hydration” (i.e. prosecco)

What can I say about our first foray onto the Cinque Terre trails?

1.This particular leg of the trail felt considerably longer than the posted distance, but then again I hadn’t worked out in a week and was mentally prepared for a gentle stroll.  Thankfully the views more than made up for the unexpected and legit physical exertion.

2.I am ever-so-thankful that we finished right before it started to rain. I cannot imagine descending slick rock steps in a downpour, especially on an ankle that still wasn’t 100%.

3. The coast line is stunning. There is no other word for it.

4. Riomaggiore has some damn fine fried fish if you want a guilt-full way to reward a too-short-for-that-type-of-reward hike.

5. I am still haunted by my decision NOT to eat gelato. Sure it was raining and cool by the time we were wandering through the streets of Riomaggiore, but there is simply no excuse for missing a gelato opportunity.

Stay tuned for our other town-to-town hikes in future Throwback Thursdays.

Mid-Week Tangent: Gelato Edition

I’ve written many times about my unabashed love for ice cream. My goal in Italy was to eat Gelato twice a day and I’m proud to share that I came damn close to achieving that goal.  Truth be told, if it weren’t for my sprained ankle and some cold and rainy days, I know I would have exceeded it.

The benefit of eating all that gelato is that I have been able to identify my personal five favourite gelato flavours should you ever find yourself in Italy.  Whenever possible, I’ve also included locations, though I admit I rarely made note of locations so I had to rely heavily on Google combined with my poor memory.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with running or training, the answer is absolutely nothing. However, I know that I’m not the only one out there who exercises and/or trains mostly to allow for the not-so-occasional indulgence in treats, so let this be your motivation to workout more…and then to go to Italy to undo all the good your workout’s done with copious amounts of gelato!

#5. Crema Vernazza (Gelateria Vernazza): A perfectly crafted blend of berry swirl and white chocolate in a vibrant yellow custard base.  It looked appallingly yellow, but was astoundingly delicious.

#4. Bisca Rata (Gelateria Dandoli, San Gimignano): This blew my mind. To be honest, I can’t even tell you what was in it and I’m quite certain I spelled it wrong and/or got the entire name wrong. What I do know is that it had crumbled biscuits in it,  pumpkin seeds, and a divine swirl for which I couldn’t quite put my finger on the flavour but which was heaven in a swirl. I took a chance on this flavour as it is not my norm, but it kickstarted my effort to try as many new flavours as possible (resulting in other honarable mentions that didn’t make this list but were phenomenal, such as amerena and peach crostato to name just a couple).

#3. Fig & Ricotta (Gelateria Vernazza): Imagine the most perfect of not-overly-sweet cheesecake ice creams with a rich ribbon of ultra sweet fig swirl. Perfectly balanced. Even writing about this is making me hungry…

#2. Crema Cinque Terre (Gelateria Vernazza): Oh. my. word. Though this didn’t make the number one slot, it is the most palatable for the average person (you’ll see what I mean when you read below) and a better everyday gelato choice. It was rich. It was indulgent. It had a ribbon of chocolate that bordered on obscene in it’s size, and which provided the perfect textural contrast to the brilliant yellow base.  It had hazelnuts, which are the best and only suitable nut for ice creams, in my opinion. It was perfection.

#1. Zenzero or Ginger (Frigidarium, Rome): My first caveat is that I am only 60% sure this is actually the name of the gelateria. I did some serious post-vacation detective work (i.e. Googling), based on our walking path from Castelo Saint Angelo. The Google street view looked sort of similar, but in reality all gelaterias kind of look the same. At any rate, the flavour is what’s important. This is not for the faint of heart, or the casual ginger admirer. This is for passionate ginger lovers, the kind of people who thrive on the burning heat of fresh ginger and who want their ice cream to make them feel like their mouth is on fire. In other words, people like me. It will be a small handful of people who would appreciate this flavour, but for those who love ginger like I do, who feel that every supposedly ginger-flavoured product out there lacks the true spicy intensity of real ginger, who order triple the ginger at the Whole Foods juice bar and still find it too weak, for those people this will be your world. Get on a plane. Find this place. Order this gelato. It is so perfectly and insanely intense in its ginger-ness that the girl I ordered from warned me twice, in very broken English, that it was very hot. She was right, and I was in heaven.

My biggest regret is that I allowed myself to pile all that strachiatella on top of that ginger glory. She doesn't look like much, I know, but she was life changing.
My biggest regret is that I allowed myself to pile all that strachiatella on top of that ginger glory. She doesn’t look like much, I know, but she was life changing.

So there you have it, a post with no connection to running, ultra marathons, workouts or anything of the sort but, let’s be honest, posts about gelato are infinitely better. Go forth, run for those who can’t (i.e. me) and get yourself some gelato.

Training Tuesdays: Getting Back on that Horse

Well, I had all the best intentions for working out over the last two weeks. I packed ample workout gear. I imagined myself running through the Tuscan countryside and along the Rhone river. I was going to share all those wonderful running tales with all of you.

As you can see from yesterday’s post, none of my ambitions were realized on this trip. Clearly, the wise course of action with a badly sprained ankle is to avoid running for at least a week, so there was some justification for my laziness.  However, this also means that instead of sharing a great training post with you, I’m sharing with you my recognition that I need to get back on that workout horse. And it might not be easy. I have to confess, I enjoyed the break from working out more than I ever thought I would.

Still, I know I need to get back to my routine. How? Well, I tried to hike the last couple of days and found that my endurance was far worse than expected.  Sunday I was aiming for a slow transition back to working out, picking an easy 10 km return trail with under 400 m of elevation gain. It kicked me in the ass. Every step felt…hard. Monday I went for my steady constant, the Grouse Grind, and finished an incredibly humbling 10 minutes slower than before I left. On a trail that short (2.8 km), I’ll leave you to do the math on what a downward spiral that is.

And so, my mission for training over the next couple of week is simple:

Get back to 6 workouts per week. No excuses.

Re-incorporate strength training STAT. I won’t lie, I could have done strength training while on vacation, at least once I passed through the acute phase of my ankle sprain.  Instead, I opted for extra sleep every single morning. I’m convinced the lack of strength training is one of the reasons that my last two workouts have been so incredibly hard.

Get back into my stretching and reset exercises, maybe even twice a day: I’ve found that my muscle stiffness and sciatic discomfort are considerably worse this week. To be fair, I think sitting on my ass for ten hours on a plane is the real culprit, but I don’t think taking a two-week hiatus from my basic re-setting activities was a smart choice.

Drastically adjust my diet: I ate everything that was put in front of me for two weeks. Everything.  I also ate things that weren’t put in front of me, things that I sought out in alarming quantities, things like macarons and pain au chocolat and croissants, and gelato. And don’t even get me started on the Valhrona store that makes unlimited samples available to its shoppers. I mean, really, who can turn that down? At any rate, it should be easy to get back on track given that none of those things are around me on a daily basis. Well, except for all that chocolate I brought back with me…

Here’s hoping next week’s Training Tuesday has a decidedly more training-focused flair. Until then, wish me luck getting back on track!

 

Monday Musings: What I Learned on my Vacation

I’m back in action after a sort-of-hiatus while I adventured across France and Italy.  Let me start off by saying, it was a perfectly delightful trip, and my only complaint is that I wish it could have been longer.  Although, given the amount of croissants, wine, pain au chocolat, foie gras, macarons and gelato I ate, it’s probably a good thing it didn’t last any longer.

Let me continue by saying, despite the end result of a perfect vacation, it certainly didn’t feel perfect when I was sitting on a curb in Rome on our second day, sobbing uncontrollably, watching my ankle swell obscenely fast, and blubbering about how I had ruined our trip completely while simultaneously wondering why my body seems out to get me this year.

Yes, I sprained my one remaining good ankle (though I guess it’s not fair to see it’s good anymore) on our second day of vacation–and badly.  No, I was not doing anything exciting. I was walking down the street, hit an uneven edge, and rolled it hard. You know your sprain is bad when it balloons in seconds, and when the staff inside a (thankfully) nearby Pharmacia literally springs to action the second they see it, grabbing anything in sight that could help despite our inability to speak a word of Italian. It’s something so perfectly me to do on vacation.

Alas, although it put a major damper on that afternoon for me, it did not ruin our trip at all. In fact, by the time we got to Cinque Terre I was able to hike just as I wanted. And, though injuries on vacation are not something I recommend, I did learn a few things from this one:

1. Ice and crutches are hard to come by in Italy…in fact, they may not actually exist.  All we were able to find were these instant cold packs that you slam against a hard surface to activate, and even those weren’t easy to come by. I’m not ashamed to admit I used a mini-bar Coke bottle to tame my swelling at one point…and then returned it to the mini-bar.  Sorry to the person that eventually consumes that bottle! Our search for crutches came up short, even with the help of our hotel concierge.  We went in countless pharmacias, all to no avail. I do not know what Italians do when they injure themselves, but they clearly don’t make use of crutches.

2. Gelato has magical healing powers: I heal pretty quickly from sprains, but this was a bad one, and I was back to walking 10-15 km/day and hiking within days.  I attribute this quick improvement to increased gelato consumption. I am not even ashamed to admit there were days when I had gelato three times. Since my injury exponentially improved the more gelato I consumed, I’m now certain gelato has some sort of magical ingredient that promotes healing.

3. My boyfriend is the most patient person on the planet: Not only did he have to deal with the blubbering, sobbing curb moment, but he also convinced a reluctant cab driver to take us back to the hotel (without Italian), made sure I was well-stocked with ankle tape, went out to get me croissants and coffee the next morning because there was nothing close to our hotel, dealt with my slow hobble through the Rome train station as if it was nothing, went in and out of countless Pharmacias trying to find me crutches, and never once complained about how we might miss out on sight-seeing because of my injury. He is the best.

For those of you less interested in hearing about yet another one of my injuries, I plan to post about our hikes in Cinque Terre, including photos. Until then, I am filled with wonderful memories of our trip and the distinct feeling that 2016 is meant to be my year of injuries.

 

 

Throwback Thursday Vacation Edition: Montana Road Trip

I’m still on vacation, drinking Syrah in Tain l’Hermitage and desperately plotting how to smuggle as much back as humanly possible.  As I’m still in vacation mode, I thought I’d recount one of my favourite mountain vacation adventures, so today I’m stepping into my time machine and going back to 2011 when I adventured in Montana. In the process I discovered two of my favourite things:

1. Highline Trail (Logan Pass to Loop Trail Head)
Distance: 11.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 250 m over the first 7.6 miles, then drop 670 m in 4 miles
Important Details: You can take a shuttle from the Loop trail head back to Logan Pass to avoid an out and back hike. If you start this hike from the loop trail head and work towards Logan Pass you’d get a much better workout and I think you’d have better views too. I just didn’t do the research because, you know, I’m lazy. No matter the direction, it’s stunning views from end to end and there’s a good number of spur trails you can hike up to look towards Waterton Lakes mountain ranges.

There’s all sorts of stuff online about how terrifying the path is with steep drop-offs. While there are drop offs, the path is several feet wide and you never have to be anywhere near the edge. Unless you’re seriously afraid of heights and exposure, you’ll be absolutely fine. I say this as someone who’s pretty intensely fearful of exposure and who had zero discomfort whatsoever on this trail. You will likely encounter lengthy snow fields on trail so exercise caution crossing those. I saw way too many people in casual walking shoes walking across very sloped and very slippery snow fields and it made me terribly anxious. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves in terms of selling this trail.

highline-2
See? Not narrow. Not terrifying.
highline-1
Oh yeahhhhhhh.
highline-3
So. Much. Green.
highline-4
This was taken in the last few days of July and there is still substantial-sized snowfields. This one was flat, at least, but you could hear water running underneath it.
highline-5
I named this guy Cletus. He made me get off the path so he could keep moving along.
highline-6
I took a trail up to a pass that hikes down into the valley. Views all the way to Waterton!

2. My second favourite thing from this trip? The most mountain-kitschy of cabins you ever did see.  I’m not kidding. It was a feast for the eyes and took this road trip to the next level. I’ve never seen so much kitschy goodness in one space, and I’ve stayed in a LOT of mountain chalets. Still don’t believe me? Pictures speak louder than words.

cabin-6
Yes, that is a deer pelt with a Montana shaped map on it. No, I don’t know why such a thing exists.
cabin-1
One of many kitsch-tastic table top ornaments.
cabin-2
This “salmon in a river bed” was hung inexplicably high on the wall but I think we can all agree it’s fabulous nonetheless.
cabin-3
Animal print, animal hide lamp shade? Check.
cabin-4
Bear as hunter, an artful addition to the window sill.
cabin-5
I wanted to howl at the moon from the sheer joy of this cabin’s decor too.

I think this firmly establishes that I am not a liar. Also, it should firmly establish your need to visit Montana.