Monday, June 14, 2010

Dead Legs

Every day that I wake up, I lie in bed for a few moments and do a 'how am I feeling" diagnostic on my body. Does anything hurt head to toe?  Should that be hurting, or ache?  Like everyone I feel the affects of my training and a little soreness doesn't mean I can't have an outstanding day. In fact it affirms I am alive and able, capable of doing tremendous things. 

The last two weeks I have done this test in bed, I feel just fine, normal if you will. My head is clear, my back, arms, neck all check out A-OK. I got really sick a weekend ago but that came and went really fast. When I stand, I can walk without limp or pain or any discernible difference between how I have walked for years. When I am walking around, standing for a period of time or bending over they look and act just fine.  

But the fact of the matter is that this is a false positive because my legs are dead. I have nothing in them. I have all the proper mental mindset, time and motivation for a workout using my legs but when I try to use them I've got no power in them. A week ago I had a little cramping in my quads in them doing the day, I attributed it to latent lactic acid and certainly not painful but lately they feel normal. Probably because my training has tapered off so badly. 

It is very frustrating. My legs feel well rested yet I can not get anything moving on a run or ride. They are heavy and almost clumsy. Tests on leg presses and extensions show the same inability to produce consistent output but upper body testing shows the same results I am accustomed to. 

Of course I know the body can go into a rut from time to time. I have heated. I have massaged, elevated, and stretched. I have been worked over by a chiropractor for any physical deviations and I am good to go. I have adjusted my calories and I am changing my supplements. And yet so far, when I go for test runs or use stairs or ride a bike, my legs feel like I am 72 hours post marathon. I would love to take this as some sign to rest but I have been essentially resting for almost two weeks dealing with this feeling and it is not solving itself. 

It is obviously frustrating. All I can is try each day to go through the motion and hope that it self corrects somehow. I'm going to swim this week and see what happens there. Not much leg action needed for what best describes my swimming, horizontal drowning. We will see what happens. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Most people look at Monday's as the beginning of a new week, a fresh start. The last week which was never as good as it should have been was followed by a weekend where you ate and drank more than your guilt allows and you didn't train nearly as hard as you should have. But hey the week before was really hard!. 

All kidding aside, Monday is a serious day not because marks a new week but because its a day of In-betweens. It took all the willpower in the world to not eat the last couple pieces of pizza for Monday's breakfast.Start the day off right and get back on track. You even packed some food to avoid snack trays and processed meals. But man you really wanted a hamburger over the weekend and never got it. Those two donuts you had Saturday tasted so good and its been a long time since you had one, so why not?  You always pass them up at the coffee shop and they look so good, never had one from there. 

Have you caught on yet that this happens not just on Mondays but every day of your life when you decide to get back on track with something?  It is so easy to fall off the good food wagon and when we try to hop back on it's moving pretty fast which means we are all bound to miss our first few hand holds and have to try again Bad habits from the weekend carry over to the next day. It is these times when we are In-Between, following the right path and following the easy path. Sometimes we are inbetween for only one meal, sometimes it goes a whole day. Admit it when your on a training high and get really sick, an Inbetween could last the whole next week. 

A Inbetween is dangerous because it attacks two different mental attitudes. The first is the 'I've earned this' attitude because you have made great strides in your goals, lost weight, gained strength, speed, shape and your rewarding your good behavior with bad. The second is the egocentric process of believing you are in control of yourself. You can start and stop destructive behavior without intervention. You are in control. 

You may have earned the right to go off your diet or your training plan for a day or two. You're rewarding yourself and you should. It's when you have to make the decision to eat the oatmeal over the pie, or go to 5am swim over the warm bed that creates the Inbetween. And trust the experts, ego is pride, double the pride, double the fall. Never be so sure of yourself that you self sabotage a day or week to indulge in gratification.

Creating positive habits are not 100% protection from In-Betweens. It is however a great way to stay away from pitfalls. Planning a cheat meal or cheat day, scheduling rest in a hard training cycle, even planning walks inside your run workout all defeat these inbetween moments we eventually confront. 

Recognize when your inbetween the path you want and the one you don't . Be prepared to fight against being a common man for one more meal or one more day. Your worth it. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Grand Canyon: The Adventure Interrupted

It is 4:28am Saturday morning, the sun still 45 minutes from rising behind me as I stand at the rim of the Grand Canyon. The glow of civil twilight over the south rim is a magical moment and yet I stand on that wonderful precipice with great emotional distress and not a little bit of physical discomfort as I bid farewell to fifteen friends as they run past me.  When we all ate dinner just eight hours earlier, if someone had said I would be too sick to hike in the morning, the table would have erupted in laughter.

Yet there I stood, the taste of fresh vomit in my mouth and the rumbling in my stomach telling me there is still more to come. Around 10pm Friday night my stomach started to feel queasy. By 11:30pm a trip to the bathroom confirmed undigested dinner in my stomach. Then as if I didn't believe the results my body reconfirmed the message every thirty minutes for the next  several hours. I started getting text's from the group around 2am, people too excited to sleep already up and goosing the rest of us to be ready to leave at 3:15am. I sent a reply to one, 'puking and the other all night. See you in the lobby'.

For those that know me well enough, know there is no error in that message. I live by the illness code of, 'It's better to show up and be sent home, than to not show up at all.' Besides, in the pitch dark, I was the only one who knew how to drive to the hiker shuttle from the hotel and I took my logistical responsibilities for the trip seriously. I had planned the entire trip from booking and paying for the hotel, to parking passes, to maps, to dinner reservations. I mentored most of them for hours in the months prior on training for heat and proper gear. 

When I activated my Polar heart monitor at 3am and the readout showed 105, I wanted to believe it was adrenaline but deep down I knew had to be one more symptom of why I should reconsider this hike. I even took it off and reset it, hoping it would show a more realistic number, which it did not. My roommate announced  my onset at the lobby meet up and there was righteous concern but no absolute barriers to my attempt. An hour later as the shuttle bounced along in the dark, my HR now only in the 90's and my stomach flipping,  I compromised with myself that I would only go down a couple miles to see how I feel.

You know when your in an audience and you clap just a few seconds too long and people stare at you? Or a group laughs at a joke and you laugh way to loud and show way to much enthusiasm and it makes everyone uncomfortable? Yeah that was me when by the clarity of a half dozen headlamps in absolute darkness, the air filled with joyous excitement for a Grand Canyon adventure, I vomited next to a tree.

My business partner walks over to me and tells me he won't let me go any further. I need to go to bed and stay there. He reminds me of the two years it took to recover from my last heat injury and with temperatures promising to be over 110 degree on a 26 mile hike, I had gone as far as he would allow. Honestly I was relieved. As the group moved past, most of them gave me respect for the effort of even getting dressed and making it to the trail head. They offered sympathies and thanked me for making the trip possible for them.

Needless to say, just laying in bed I got worse as the day wore on. A round trip to the ice machine exhausted me. I suffered a hot shower with goosebumps. I met air conditioning with sweat. Classic miserable flu like symptoms. I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if I had gone down that trail for that distance in that heat. I heard later a Ranger announced 130 degrees at our turn around point.

By Saturday night I was still too weak to join the dinner I had set up downstairs. As they ate steak and celebrated their triumph, it took me two hours to eat a bagel with peanut butter. By Sunday morning I was weak and dehydrated but felt like a human again.  A breakfast buffet reminded me of the energy I would need to drive home so I forced down a small plate. I was shortly joined by friends walking in on tight legs and aching knees more concerned for my well being than their own immediate state. 

My final experience at the Grand Canyon, listening to those stories of perseverance and victory, at least ended my stay on a good note. I didn't get the weekend I wanted but plenty of others did and that actually made me feel good.  As for me, I'll be back to finish the trip in my own time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Big Ass Event #2 2010: Grand Canyon Hike

My theme this year seems to be endurance feats that don't require entry fee's. This weekend I travel north with a couple of my partners and a dozen of our executive to do a one day Grand Canyon event. We are going to hike down to the river using the South Kaibab corridor then run past Phantom Ranch about an hour then return to the south rim using the Bright Angel trail. 

I will be honest, I am excited for this trip but not this date. It was originally scheduled for mid-May when the weather was much more favorable. The river is going to be 104 degrees at a minimum and by late morning  should be well over that when we turn around. 

Known as the crazy endurance nut in our group, rumor has it I was starting at 2am and doing all sorts of crazy stuff. Damn Paparazzi. Not true at all for this date. It is suicidal to do a rim to rim to rim in one push this time of year. Even the people who do that route often, won't do it in the summer. If we had done this in May, well different story. 

This is the same hike with almost all the same people as the canyon trip I took last Fall. This time however, its half the size going and all capable of moving with some urgency instead of plodding or hobbling along. The only difference is we are adding a extra couple hours on the other side of Phantom Ranch where the temp will climb like an oven heating up.  

For myself, I will be going on this hike weighing forty pounds lighter and with better gear and clothes. I have really analyzed and updated my hiking, trail running gear over the winter and made some smart decisions for better ventilation, hydration and sun protection. My pack will also be ten pounds lighter. I am only packing for myself this time and not holding group items. Just the essentials for my food and safety. I will be wearing my SPOT 2 again and setting up a Shared Adventure page for people to follow my progress. More on that Friday.