Over the past few days I seem to have moved past something. Sure, I was depressed for a few weeks, but I was also having trouble moving. Felt uncoordinated, like a poorly operated marionette. My joints ached and I dropped dishes. My brain seemed to be ignoring my left side completely — leg flapping around, foot slapping the ground when I walked. And then it cleared. Some time this weekend it all flooded back together. My ravenous appetite is gone, generally happy, played my guitar, joint aches passed. I’m staying on top of work (early days this week). And not feeling like I need to run away. All I can think is that my brain chemistry just shifted either spontaneously, or through more time with friends this weekend and last weekend and god knows what else — the lengthening days? Time on a boat? Sleep? A night in a fancy hotel in Vancouver? But the most striking thing is how my movement has changed. The jangling dopamine drought of light dystonia has been replaced by a much less clumsy me. none of these things are clinical. Again, a Dr. would kindly listen while ignoring me were I to tell them. But something changed. Hope it sticks around.
The climate scientist gives a monotone lecture in a corporate meeting space surrounded by suits and catered coffee. The AC kicks in and the temperature falls and a light breeze blows across the participants. Impassive, the speaker continues and the audience’s attention never sways. Soon a light snow is falling in the room, then heavier, rhimed beards and small drifts. It leads to a blizzard as the speaker goes on failing to connect their topic to the unexpected reality of their place.
I’m currently only weakly training because of a case of PFPS — AKA Runner’s Knee. This is caused by running too much while not really knowing how to run leading to bad alignment and wear of the patella against the femoral head. It’s non destructive, but it hurts and leads to inflammation that would be destructive eventually. It was also caused in me by following a 50 k race with long runs on each subsequent weekend culminating in a 4 1/2 hour 5000 foot effort a month ago that felt AMAZING while I was doing it, but in hindsight, I realize I should have listened to the peeps and yelps that my body were making not to mention the warnings that my sister and Liz were adamantly repeating. So quickly, my visions of rapidly building to a 50 mile race were dashed leaving me hobbling out of bed in the morning, and one legged cycling to work and now just walking with the odd short run. Endomondo has forgotten my name.
But, it will get better, or I have to convince myself that it will or I’ll slide into a sad place where I envision myself as an overweight kayaker (wait, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad…) and endurance run groupie. To help things along I’m working on a conditioning program to strengthen my core, hips and leg abductors. I’m trying to eat better foods and have turned into a smoothie making ninja. Who knew lettuce, chard, kiwi, kale, molasses, a banana, hemp protein and some almond milk could taste so good together? The best part is planning the coming racing year. A part of my knee issue came when I haphazardly signed up for a race that I hadn’t planned on running. But, e-mails started flying around from fun folks and before I knew it I had signed up too knowing that another, more important 50 k lay just six weeks afterward. In the moment I had considered myself a hardcore runner who could just drop a 50 k like nothing and continue on my merry way. Not quite there yet.
So here’s the plan this year, or at least a list of what I want to do, that will narrow down into a schedule that hopefully makes sense.
I’ll be running with my sister for her birthday kilometres this year. Yes, kilometres, not kilometers.
The major goal of the year is to run a 50 miler and for that I’m aiming at the Siskiyou Out Back which is a relatively high-elevation but low elevation-gain race on the PCT in July. It looks amazing and it looks doable and it looks like it will put me in a place that I’ve only experienced on the kludahk last year (the race has less climbing than the Kludahk). So, that’s in July.
I’m running four more runs in the island race series through early April — the Cedar 12 k, the Comox half marathon, the Merville 15 k, and the Sooke 10 k. I want to build on Cobble hill and try to qualify for a series place in my age group.
I’m looking for a race in May and am considering either Sun Mountain or the McDonald Forest 50 k. The former is mind blowingly beautiful. The latter is also nice, but is a high profile race that draws some fast folks and is in my former home town. It will probably be Sun Mountain because it straddles the Canadian long weekend, so requires no time off from work.
Then there’s the Oregon Coast 50k. This is October and is along my favorite trails on the central Oregon coast. My friends will be there and I know I like the running there.
Those are the race goals for the year. Phew, that’s a lot of racing! 3 more long races and 4 more short races. There’s a lot of value in long adventure runs which I have numerous ideas for.
And, for spiciness, one day I’d love to run the kludahk again. I’d really like to link the Juan de Fuca trail with the Kludahk somehow in an epic 100k but maybe that’s for summer 2015 or ’16 or …’17? I ran the Kludahk last summer and it took me 10 1/2 hours. Other, faster freinds ran the Juan de Fuca later last summer and it toom them another 10 hours. So, spliced together, this would be a truly epic run. But, the logistics are all there. There are cabins and access points frequently on both trails, so stashing food and water wouldn’t be impossible. Running the Kludahk starting at China Beach and going up the logging roads first would make that whole run much easier. A good resupply could be arranged at the Parkinson Creek access to the JDF
Other long term goals include running a sub 40 minute 10 k. I ran 43:30 a little over a week ago despite knee issues and non training, so I think sub 40 is doable within a year. I’d like to run something close to a 3 hour marathon. At least Boston worthy (although I wouldn’t go). And, I want to volunteer at more races and do whatever it takes to help out at Rainshadow Running events.
So, for now that’s keeping my mind busy when all I can work on are clams, leg raises, theraband side steps, bridges, and pistol squats. Eventually I want to strap on the hydration pack again and get out on trails for days.
Once, I left my camp on a huge ice cap at 2 in the morning. This was in the arctic and the sun was still up, low, but up. Everything was shrouded in thin fog. Thin enough that you could look up and see pale blue but in all other directions there was only whiteness. I skied out in a random direction just until camp disappeared behind me in the fog. It was maybe 0 degrees F and I only had to ski about half a mile. I wanted to know what it was like to be in that kind of desolation. Where there was nothing for you in sight. I wanted help in my imagining of what it would feel like to be lost out there, or not lost, but with more distance to cover than energy to do so. Of course, having ski tracks to follow back to the tent, back to a warm sleeping bag and back to the rest of my life made the image incomplete. But it was worth getting a sense of.
Today afforded that same opportunity. Thick fog on the water and quickly fading light with only a rough shoreline to follow. Like holding a handline in a blizzard, or a blind person following a wall with their white cane. To venture away from land would mean venturing into a guideless wilderness. It would mean being disoriented and with no ski tracks to follow. Only the spreading wake of my boat as it slowly arced in circles following the errors in my internal directional senses. But maybe there was something. Maybe detaching from that land would lead me to a place of clear skies where I could watch the sun set beind the banks and feel the current pull me slowly out to sea in its ebb?
Rethinking this, it’s really more about wilderness. That all you have to do is ski out a few hundred meters, kayak away from the shore a little bit, or walk into your nearest ghetto. Challenge your sense of safety in places that may or may not be dangerous. This is something that’s always available to you and is guaranteed to make you feel more alive.