Monday, November 18, 2013

Week 1, Nov. 11 to Nov. 17

Tracking my training is something I want to try this winter. Even though I don't have a plan or a clear set of directives, it will be nice to have a comprehensive record of my activities. My hope is to use methods that have worked for me in the past regarding multi-day efforts, and try to put in a higher volume of sustained, low- to moderate-intensity workouts for the next three months. Also, there will likely be a few Strava-PR-chasing efforts that qualify as high intensity to mix things up. Beat will probably disagree with the higher volume idea, but Beat can thrive on far less training than I can. I tend to fall apart mentally without a solid amount of time investment and preparation behind me (cough, cough, PTL.)

Although Strava is convenient, I thought it would be even better to commit to one of those weekly training roundups on the blog, to more thoroughly record exactly what I did, how I felt, and any nagging pains or other issues that are causing concern. These types of posts can bore blog readers, but oh well. What good is a personal blog if it can't be used to record life? I figure Frog Hollow was officially the end of the summer season, and then the week after was a rest week — week zero. This is my activity log for week one, Nov. 11 to 17:

Monday: Mountain biking, 2:41, 23.9 miles, 3,048 feet climbing. 

This was my first real workout after crashing at Frog Hollow one week earlier. My right knee had been sore and tight all week, so I planned a mellow ride. But then I made this spur-of-the-moment decision to ride the Steven's Creek loop backward, which means climbing up the trail and then descending pavement on Montebello Road. I rarely ride the route this way, because why descend pavement instead of dirt? But I'd forgotten just how many steep, punchy climbs there are in Steven's Creek Canyon. Every hard pedal stroke would jab the wounded side of my right knee, which was painful and frustrating. I had a bit of a temper tantrum while climbing Indian Creek trail, sulked about my knee for a minute, walked for several minutes, decided to put on a jacket and discovered a package of Honey Stinger Chews left over from Frog Hollow in my pack, ate the Honey Stinger Chews, felt a little bit better, and spun the rest of the way to Black Mountain without issue.

Tuesday: Run, 0:58, 5.7 miles, 596 feet climbing

Did the typical Tuesday hour-long run from home on the Hammond Snyder Loop Trail. I kept the pace easy because I was worried about my knee. There were only a a couple of sharp jabs on the steeper climbs.

Wednesday: Run, 1:12, 6.3 miles, 1,201 feet climbing

This week was all about diverging from my usual routine. On Wednesday I returned to a loop I haven't run in months, tracing Steven's Creek Reservoir to the ridge in Fremont Older Reserve. Beat and I used to run versions of this route often in summer 2011, especially after I ripped open my elbow in a bike crash and couldn't ride for nearly two months. It was a painful injury and that pain is still what I associate with this trail system. But it is a beautiful route, especially at sunset with fingers of autumn light reaching over Black Mountain to the west. There was, oddly, no knee pain, and I shuffled all the way up a steep, half-mile-long climb that I usually hike.

Thursday: Mountain bike, 3:28, 28.8 miles, 3,603 feet climbing

Within short pedaling distance of my house is a piece of singletrack I've never ridden, despite living here for nearly three years — the upper Table Mountain Trail. On Thursday I set out to change that never-ridden status. I don't ride the lower trail often either, because it's steep with hairpin curves and a lot of roots, which require bursts of power that don't make for happy knees. I'm not really sure why I decided to do this, but my knee didn't seem angry anymore and I really enjoyed the steep, bumpy climbing. (I actually do enjoy technical mountain biking, as long as I am working against gravity and not the other way around. This goes for pretty much any sport I do.)

Once I turned onto upper Table Mountain, the singletrack dropped into a thickly forested drainage, climbed a steep, off-camber trail along a vertigo-inducing side slope, caught a quick glimpse through the trees of the Black Mountain ridge, and descended into a dark drainage again. This segment of trail is only three miles long, but it seemed to go on like this interminably. And each time I reached the crest of another drainage, Black Mountain was in the exact same spot. It felt as though I wasn't making any progress, forward or upward, because I would descend as many feet as I'd climb. It was very Twilight Zone, and as I rode through a darkening forest, the sun slipped behind the horizon and sent an eerie wash of blood red light across the sky. I was seriously spooked, which is something I don't often feel on my home trails. It was nice, actually — to be out having an adventure. But by the time I reached Saratoga Gap, I was so disoriented that I rode in the wrong direction for a while before I noticed headlights from Skyline Drive and wrestled with confusion as to why the road was on the wrong side. Oh, because I'm going the wrong way. It was pitch dark, chilly, and silent as I descended back into the canyon on the Grizzly Flat Trail, which was awesome. I should go night riding more often. If only it was more legal.

Friday: Run, 1:21, 8 miles, 1,623 feet of climbing

On Thursday night I went to get an annual flu shot, which usually makes people feel under the weather, but it seems to have the opposite effect on me. It's as though the dead virus fires up the immune system, without any of the side effects of sickness, which results in a burst of energy. I'd call it a placebo or a coincidence, but I experienced something similar last year, and didn't even think about it this year until after the fact. But for whatever reason, I felt all sorts of amazing on this run around the PG&E and High Meadow Trails in Rancho San Antonio. I didn't even try to push the pace or work hard, and still managed to float up the climb in one of my faster efforts (45 minutes), with no knee pain.

Saturday: Run, 2:07, 10.6 miles, 1,984 feet of climbing

Beat has this rule about not running two days in a row when dealing with a nagging pain or injury. It's a good rule. But I felt so amazing on Friday that I couldn't wait to get back out again, and both Beat and Liehann were interested in running in the afternoon. We followed the same loop I ran on Friday, with an extra 2.6 miles because Beat and I started from home. We kept a mellow pace on the PG&E trail, but the knee started acting up about one mile from the top. I walked most of this mile while periodically massaging my knee, and the result was (unsurprisingly) not that much slower than my usual running pace. But then the full knee lockup that I experienced last week returned during the descent, which caused me to run downhill stiffly and badly (by which I mean, even worse than usual.)

Sunday: Road bike, 2:49, 28 miles, 4,561 feet of climbing

I managed to talk Beat into a road ride. We did a double Montebello Road climb at a mellow pace, to avoid hard cranking that might aggravate my cranky knee. Our friends Liehann and Trang joined us as well, but everyone had their own pace and we didn't see much of them. Beat layered up for both descents, the second time wearing a down coat, gloves, and a balaclava that he wanted to test for windproofness. He looked like he was gearing up for the trek to Nome, at 50 degrees in California. But in all fairness it does get frigid on that descent when the sun slips behind the mountains and the windchill clamps down. My muscles cooled down so much on the first descent that it took me most of the second ascent to feel fluid again. No knee pain.

This latest knee issue is strange; I haven't been able to peg it quite yet. The pain only occasionally manifests when I'm pushing hard while climbing, jabbing like a dull knife with every full bend. But then I won't feel it at all for long intervals. Saturday was the only day it started locking up again, but I thought I'd moved past that after last week, because it seemed to be related to the crash, not training. I still suspect it's just that wound, accompanying bruise, and healing involved with that. We'll see. I'm going to visit our orthopedic massage therapist again this week, so he might have some more insight.

Week total: 14:37 time, 80.7 miles ride, 30.6 miles run, 16,619 feet of climbing.