Tuesday, 10 December
Recovery, Reflections & Insights on 2013 One-Two-Three: 3 Events, 3 Causes:
In this Entry, I discuss the 7 days of active recovery training following the 2013 One-Two-Three: 3 Events, 3 Causes to raise money and awareness for:
- MD (Muscular Dystrophy Association)
- ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association)
- MS (Multiple Sclerosis Society)
Following the training summary, I also offer reflection and insights I have gained from the experience. First...
Fund Raising Update:
As of Tuesday, 10 December, we have raised $1420 for ALS, MS and MD - with a total of 53 people donating. It’s still not too late to contribute! For details on how to contribute go to the ”2013 One-Two-Three” link just above. Remember, any donation of $10 or more entitles you to a free copy of my e-book ”2012 Triple Ultra Challenge” chronicling my training and racing experiences last year completing 3 multi-day ultra triathlons in 30 days - culminating with the Virginia Triple Iron.
For expediency, you may wish to skip this summary of the week following the completion of the “One-Two-Three” and scroll down to read “Reflections”. There, you will find a discussion of my insights and, well... reflections.
Recovery always begins for me as soon as an event is over. After crossing the finish line of the NCR Trail Marathon, (Saturday, 30 November), I headed straight to my clothes bag and mixed my Hammer Recoverite with coconut water. This is absolutely my favorite post-race drink! I also took a few Hammer Nutrition supplements: Tissue Rejuvenator, Mito Caps and Endurance Aminos.
After the short drive from the finish line to my sister’s house, I showered, laid down for 20 minutes and then immediately began to ice. I focused on my right ankle and lower shin - an area that was sore even before the start of this, the third consecutive marathon day. I did lots of icing (and eating) throughout the afternoon and evening, while hanging out with my sister, brother-in-law Tom, and my niece and nephew.
As anticipated, I slept poorly - the result of high cortisol levels and restless legs. My T’ai Chi on Sunday morning lacked it’s usual depth - also a result of the fatigue. Nonetheless, I still devoted the time and energy to my practice. The benefits are always worth the investment. Afterwards, I iced my feet and ankles frequently as I sat to write the previous Journal Entry. My right ankle/shin was still quite sore, and I was limping a bit. Surprisingly, my knees, quads and calves felt fine!
In the afternoon, I assembled my road bike and enjoyed an easy ride in brisk weather with Tom. I stayed seated as we climbed the relentless hills of northern Baltimore County. I could feel the metabolic and muscular fatigue: I kept looking at my rear derailleur to confirm that, yes, I really was in my easiest gear.
When we returned home, much of my soreness had dissipated. Ah, the miracle of mobility!
Sunday evening was a “fade-out” for everyone - after a robust Thanksgiving weekend. We lounged around and watched "The Hobbit". Every year Tom and Darcy host our family reunion. (This year was small - just 25 or so for the celebration, and 16 staying at the house.) While I enjoy the “glory” of my athletic feats, there are no finisher’s medals for their considerable efforts.
Again, I slept poorly - again, not a surprise. Metabolic recovery takes time. I arose at 6 am on Monday, and did my Pilates/yoga mat session after T’ai Chi. I was surprised at how limber my body felt. I packed up, said goodbye, and drove the 6 1/2 hours back to Ithaca. Since I drive past Island Health and Fitness on my way home, I stopped for a 30-minute swim and 20-minute steam. After that, I felt like Gumby - loose and relaxed!
It was great to arrive home to Betsy’s waiting arms. I feel so thankful for her support and affection - despite my crazy endurance escapades. That support is so vital!
I did not last long Monday night: I unpacked, put all three finisher’s medals on my shrine (Philadelphia, JFK and NCR), and apologized to Betsy as I headed to bed just after 9 pm. Ah! I slept well.
Early morning T’ai Chi - before the sun rises - is the deepest for me. That was true Tuesday morning. I felt almost no residual muscle soreness. I headed out for a very slow, 35-minute hilly recovery run around the Cornell Campus in the dreary morning grey. Back home, I set up the stationary stand and rode an easy spin for 20 minutes. I spent the rest of the day at my desk.
In the evening, I felt considerable mental fatigue. I had been tasking my brain relentlessly for the three days of mindful running, then writing, driving, and another full day of desk concentration. This is a real life-time challenge for me: I have a tremendous ability to focus mentally, and it’s difficult to turn that mental focus off. I am noticing - with the years - that I reach a point after several days of mental tasking where my capacity diminishes. Time to close the computer, and read National Geographic.
Wednesday morning, I awoke early, enjoyed deep T’ai Chi practice and then my usual mid-week Pilates/yoga session. Midday, I swam 30 minutes, including some 4-stroke practice (butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke and freestyle), and then enjoyed 20 minutes in the steam room. My primary focus again today was desk work. In the evening I picked up a new winter commuter bike - a Redline Monocog 29” mountain bike.
On Thursday, after T’ai Chi , I set up my new commuter bike and rode to the Cornell Track for a 45-minute run. I took a long time to warm up. I mixed some drills, jump rope and 4 X 100 strides with more easy running. Taking advantage of the cumulative fatigue and stress, I was able to use the soreness in my feet and ankles to observe and refine my technique.
Specifically, I looked at softening the initial impact force: I focused closely on my right foot-strike - the exact location of initial contact, the “cross roll” from the outside to inside of my foot, and the degree of muscular and connective tissue tension during the foot-strike. I strived to keep my right foot and ankle soft and relaxed throughout the entire stride cycle. I also compared the mechanics of my left and right foot-strikes.
Friday morning, after T’ai Chi, I ran 45 minutes easy - hilly mixed terrain (my usual Cornell Campus tour), plus 4 short, intense hill reps near the end. Midday, I swam 30 minutes freestyle. After a warm-up, I swam 50 fast/50 easy - on 2-minutes cycles.
Wow, am I slow in the water right now! A “fast” 50 right now is 44 seconds. Typically, I swim 37-38 seconds. I attribute that to very low body weight (172 pounds/ 78 kilos) as well as minimal swim training in the last 6 weeks, while I focused on running.
Saturday and Sunday, I led a Total Immersion Weekend Workshop in my hometown of Ithaca. I rose very early Saturday for Pilates/yoga, then spent the rest of the day at Island Health and Fitness.
Reflections & Insights
My overall experience of the 2013 One-Two-Three is tremendous gratitude. I enjoyed the process of training. I especially savored the diversity and frequency of long runs - two, and sometimes three per week:
- Evenly-paced “zen runs” on the Cornell University track - up to 88 laps (for 22 miles)
- My “willy-nilly” 4+ hour romps around the Cornell Arboretum (all on grass)
- Technical trail runs 3.5 to 5.5 hours long in Robert H. Treman State Park, and Mohonk Preserve (most in the Vibram 5 Fingers)
I so much enjoy autumn season running - the crisp weather, the colors - both leaf and sky - and the leaf tapestries on the trails. This is when I most feel the call to “go ultra”.
As I ran through the 6-week training and racing period, I reflected a lot on the gift of mobility and what it must be like to experience ALS, MS or MD. On all of my runs - long or short, easy recovery or challenging breakthrough - I silently repeated mantras in synch with my strides and breath. I felt like a “running monk” during these hours of meditative reflection and mantra. This was true during both the solitude of training and the companionship of “racing”.
I spent as many as 18 hours/week in running meditation. while training and completing the “One-Two-Three”. I enjoy the effect this kind of prolonged solitude and repetitive practice has on my being.
I confess! I am a mystic. A mystic athlete.
As a mystic, the transcendence I experience from long periods of silence and retreat from human interaction is a liberation. When I return to “reality”, I feel such a steady and abiding sense of serenity and well-being. The benefit of this transcendence far outweighs the stress of the actual running. And I feel that I am able to share that serenity and well-being with all those I interact with day-to-day - that it is a benefit to them as well.
I cannot recollect spending this much time running at any other time in my life. I was most attentive to my alliance with gravity, and the way the subtle and infinite variations of my running technique affect that alliance. I observed the synergy between many variables:
- stride length
- forward pitch of my torso
- pelvic tuck and core engagement
- spinal alignment
- precise location of initial ground contact for each (left and right) foot-strike
- the complexity of my foot biomechanics (left and right) through the stride cycle
- knee flexion/extension through the stride cycle
- pelvic core and torso rotation versus non-rotation of chest and shoulders
- vertical amplitude during stride cycle
- head and neck alignment
- shoulder posture
- amount and variation of arm swing (left and right)
- forearm alignment during arm swing (left and right)
- hand and finger posture and tension
And of course, there are the infinite variations on all of these in response to terrain: pitch, surface, camber, traction, etc.
For every one of my runs, I wore minimal footwear - New Balance Road Minimus, New Balance Trail Minimus, or Vibram 5-Fingers - both the Bikila and the Trek Sport. Minimal footwear enables me to better perceive and refine my alliance with gravity. It allows for a more natural biomechanics - especially in my feet.
For me, the most challenging aspect of running is perceiving exactly what is occurring during each foot-strike - from initial ground contact, through sinking, rebounding and lift-off. It is the interaction of foot and ground that for me holds the key to running with effortless power. I still have far more “research” to do here - as evidenced by the soreness in my feet after most of the events.
When I find the “Holy Grail” of running, I will run for hours in minimal footwear with no lasting stress at all to my feet. Indeed, my feet will feel revitalized. I do feel like I am getting closer...
As always, the pursuit of mastery is simply the relentless quest to improve perceptive capacity. And that is a quest with (thankfully) no finish line!
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