Keeping injury at bay

So a lot has happened in the last two weeks. First, I’ve taken a coaching position with Rogue Running’s Spectrum Trail Racing Division. I have a good friend to thank for this as it nearly laid in my lap. While a part time endeavor, it gives me a chance to apply what I’ve learned in the last five years from Ultra Running in the eyes of a trainer. In addition, I’ve taken their offer to race under the Spectrum name. This is the first time I’ll be on a trail running team. Considering I haven’t run an Ultra since October of 2014, I couldn’t think of better encouragement to get me to Hell’s Hills 2016.That being said, I have a lot to offer from my experience. Even the things I learned from my down time.

That being said, after some hard miles with Anthony at  Bull Creek, I’m more or less injured again.After a hard 13 mile bout at Bull Creek, a new sharp pain awakened from the middle of my inner right leg extending into my ankle and toe. After a day off, the pain was manageable and I thought an easy excursion through the lightly technical Walnut Creek  would be a perfect run. Still some pain, but nothing too bad. After a restless night of insomnia, I decided another easy run through tha Nut wouldn’t hurt. It turns out the pace went to an 8:45/min mile (not slow for me) and wasn’t easy on me at all. It’s completely staggering how anguish can transform into furious energy. Lo and behold, I was hurting even more. Luckily, I had an invitation to Athletic Outcome’s recovery lounge (a perk for racing with Spectrum). They threw me into an ice bath straight out of high school track for 10 minutes and then threw me into some fancy  automated compression boots known as Recovery Pump’s. I had seen these suckers in magazines before and brushed them off as solely a luxurious experience. I was wrong. Not only are they a luxurious experience, but there was a noticeable recuperating effect from the device. We live in the future, folks. So I could only expect a miracle from a session of this.  A day later that same pain would return on a tuesday night test run on tha Nut. And when I thought I hadn’t learned enough, I decided to do the Spectrum coaching speed work out that following morning (the work out I’ll take over in march). This time, I didn’t mess around. The body hated the speed focused downhill work out and it was time to pull E-brake half way through. I was glad I was no longer twenty-seven and trying to persevere through it. I used this opportunity to chat with Jonathan and listen to a sample of his coaching wisdom.  I really like his chill approach to the program. He’s very good at holding the group’s attention considering how relaxed he is. Being used to some real characters as coaches, I definitely think he has a Zen thing going on. I’m learning.

Recovery
Nope, it’s not a cult, Odalys.

Fast forward to today, Wednesday 2/17/16. After another sleepless night and worry whether or not I would or should participate in the 2 mile time trial, I took the plunge despite a painfully tight right calf this morning(it’s always different shit!). Folks would ask what kind of goal I was attempting and I replied, “To run this as healthy as possible”. We showed up to Austin High School on a crisp 50 degree morning when it was still dark. It looked like Gilbert’s Gazelle’s would be joining us for some company. We began some track drills on the grass that brought back memories of the speed work outs I did with Al’s Ship of Fool’s. I did a few of my own body squats and decided I was about as warmed up as I could get out there. I was ready to get this shit over and done with which is maybe why I lined myself up at the front. We took off, and two gentlemen named Allen and Erick shot out at at the front of the pack. I accelerated myself to a pace slightly less than theirs. I felt better than I previously thought while  remaining cautiously optimistic. I wasn’t so much chasing them as much as I was trying to calibrate my body to a work out I hadn’t done in years. After the first two laps, things started feeling familiar and my legs hit a stride I had been out of touch with for far too long. I definitely felt the fatigue, but I would ease the discomfort by zoning my gaze at the Mopac bridge up above. I watch the day’s first cars travel to their day jobs as the sun peaked above the earth. The experience was rather surreal. More and more, my stride and heavy breathing reminded me of my time in high school track. I finished the first mile in about six minutes and it felt so good to have it behind me. I was starting to strategize the remaining run. This happens usually when I become less survival and more competitive. Eric was in front of Allen, but I couldn’t exactly pick him out amongst the darkness and other runners. Allen was in plain site by lap two of my second mile. I decided that I was healthy enough to chase him. Lap three of the second mile as always is usually the second toughest lap of them all. You are trying to remain consistent on tired legs but also keeping in mind that you want energy in the bank to speed burst through that final lap. A “secret weapon” of mine. I brushed as much discomfort  away as possible through the mind techniques I’d learned from meditation. By the end of lap three I had caught up to Allen and dropped the hammer. In a moment of disorientation, I shouted, “Last one, right????!!?”. Allen confirmed this and I shot off with legs heavily consumed in lactic acid. I began to lap some of my fellow group mates. Whether or it not it sounds bad, lapping other runners is always a mental boost that pushes you past your pain threshold. In the final lap, I got that feeling of weak bowels in the moment of significant fatigue. It always happens when I put it more than quality work. I pushed through the last one hundred meters by resurrecting the sights and sounds of my former track meets. Heavy applause, deafening cheer and energy surged from the crowds as my legs melted into the rubber track. Mom was there screaming, “Give it all you got, Brandon!”. You always cheered me through all eight laps, mom. Thank you.

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New Friends and more BullCreek

As of now, Bull Creek has become standard in my training regimen. If I was restricted to one trail in the Austin area for training, it would be this one.As far as technical running, this one has it. It’s got shade, it’s got climbing ,it’s got decent views and rock hopping that you do not want your mind wandering away from. My fellow trail running geeks and I label it as, “gnar”.

Bull Creek has the capability to connect into the Forest Ridge Nature Preserve and this preserve connects into St. Edwards. If you were to go to the very end of St. Ed’s and turn around, you’d be able to pull off about 16 miles. This route will give you about 1600 ft. of gain give or take depending on whether you can confidently trust the Strava phone APP. It’s still not quite mountain running, but I would go as far as comparing it a significant portion of the Boulder Skyline Traverse.

So my first day of the week was met with a very nice run in good old Bullcreek. I told my lady I was anxiously anticipating this run since Anthony casually mentioned that I would meeting up with some of his new training partners. I liked how he never explicitly said I was going out with fast runners. Very methodical and business-like. Probably in my best interest. I pulled up to the “unofficial trailhead” next to a Subaru showered in a multitude of outdoor-related stickers and a young man wearing a “Trail Root’s” trucker hat. Outdoor stickers and trucker hats seem to be all the rage these days with young outdoorsy folk. No judge. Actually, I’m pretty fascinated by the culture. I yelled, “What’s up, man!” through his closed window and didn’t realize I was barging in on a phone conversation. I mouthed, “My bad” and went to my car to remove my slave uniform and put on my freedom gear (i.e. short shorts).His name was Jacob and we exchanged various trail running qualifications. Anthony and another slim young man pulled up in the mean time. It was the first time I was on time for a work out with Anthony in a long while. I exchanged hand shakes with Anthony and “Doug”. More qualifications were exchanged and I became more intimidated about what I was getting into as I discovered these young men defected from the road.

We hiked down to the trail and performed our first act of of business. A good piss. After relieving ourselves, we “triangulated” our tracking devices and Anthony was off at the lead of the pack. I quickly volunteered to take the back as there’s nothing I dislike more than having to force an uncomfortable pace at the start of a run. The pace was no bullshit. I sometimes never get how they can jump start their engines like that. It’s like they turn on Porsche 911 Engines and go from 0-60 in five seconds. My engine’s more like one that needs to be running five to ten minutes after the night of a Texas freeze. Regardless, I was in a relatively positive mind set and welcomed this as a good training opportunity. Right from the start, my hydration vest’s fit was off kilter. How the hell did this happen? I hadn’t touched it almost 48 hours. I was trying to correct an annoying bounce, sustain a brisk pace and mind every foot fall. It was a rough start. I let the group know what was happening and prayed I would not miscalculate any of my steps. It would not be pretty if I did.

Bullcreek2
Credit: Google Images (because I have a bad habit of not snapping photos)

We quickly descended what was becoming the usual route down “Space Mesa”. The boys chatted like the pace was just another day. I remained focused and had to treat it like a chase more than a leisurely trot. We arrived at the entrance to Forest Ridge and while the sun was going down, I was surprised how much daylight was still left. We were moving. Forest ridge starts with some technical climbing and a they charged up at a tempo pace from my perspective. A few of the boys activated their head lamps and I kept mine off. We arrived at the base of our first significant climb and the pace accommodated it. In other words, we slowed down, but there was no sacrifice in effort. With allergies in full swing, I hacked, grunted and coughed my way up. My body was starting to hate this. The young guns were beginning to pull away, and just like in racing, I had to fight off the negativity that comes with falling behind. The game is preventing your mind from going into darkness. Besides, you never know if the man/woman in front of you is having their own inner battle. I may have slowed down, but I turned up the dial on my stubbornness. A personal flaw I use to my advantage. Breathless and a heart on the verge of bursting through the chest like a Xenomorph, I arrived at the top less than 10 seconds behind my partners. I re-joined the  group and caught myself getting a slightly bitchy mood. “What the F, guys! Trying to get some water here!”, as they returned to full pace upon my arrival. Little fuckers. Without recovery, my inner stubbornness kept up with them in my least favorite portion of the trail, the fire road. It was at that moment I finally started contributing some conversation without worrying about sacraficing precious oxygen. I told them a little bit about my Bandera 100K experience at the beginning of 2013.

In the middle of the conversation, Doug’s headlamp decided to go out. We continued on like it was of no importance. Talking and maintaining a  quick pace, I was surprised how fast we traversed the fire road and entered St. Ed’s. Anthony asked if we should do a loop through St. Ed’s and with half my mind, I said yes like I had some other choice. We bombed a downhill portion of St. Eds and out of the darkness, a blonde woman in typical gym-babe attire manifested out of complete nothingness. She looked startled as four half naked and brightly lit young men came charging down the steep hill. Letting her calm her nerves, we found out that she got turned around during sunset. We offered to trot with her until we found her ride. She was good looking, but the other guys pounced on her in an excited conversation the way a Boy Scout does after a week of Summer Camp. I let them be. Through the grapevine, I found out she was visiting from Alaska and had been out here for a major portion of the day checking out Austin’s better trails. This was someone’s perfect outdoor wife prospect.

We dropped off the lost Alaskan babe and made our way uphill in the direction towards our cars. In the mean time, I started feeling good down hill and a Flow state came about me. It felt good enough for me to take the lead. The climb up the limestone shelf’s felt efficient and natural. We left St. Edwards in what felt like record time and re-entered Forest Ridge to take the other trail down hill which negated the fire road (thank god). Again, I got brave and began bombing down some steep hills with grace. I was beginning to get away from the group so I slowed down a bit. I soon realized that I wasn’t moving as fast as I thought. Doug was having some issue with out the use of his head lamp and it only made sense on this kind of terrain in this kind of darkness. I decided to enjoy the blessed Flow state for a little while longer until we re-entered Bull Creek where I decided it was my turn to assist Doug. Anthony took over as lead and I helped Doug by lighting the tight corners on the switchbacks. This involved varying my pace a bit, and timing my head turn soon enough to light up any possible treachery. There was no doubt a risk of eating ground myself during this session.  On top of this Doug, was feeling the burn of the trail and was losing his form. I would later find out that Doug ran the 3M half marathon the day before in what I’m sure was an impressive time. Jesus.The head turns were taking a toll on me and the need to get Doug out of the darkness was feeling greater. Anthony would say, “Just a little further”, but this statement is always up for interpretation. We arrived at the relief of the trail head. Jacob immediately took for his car. Something about worrying his wife. The run had us sitting on the man hole that I crashed my Honda Civic into a few weeks earlier. We shared the comradery of suffering together. While I wanted to run fast the entire way back, I’m glad I was able to get Doug back to his car safely. Much better than carrying him out. It was indeed a fascinating 12.5 miles.