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May 27, 2012 / elodie kaye

Better Health Through Hypochondria

I prefer honing my skills of denial, but one of the things I did right this spring was to step away from my training plans and logs early.  At the time, I didn’t have pain during the day, I didn’t have pain on every run, at the end of a run, or even every time I ran fast.  I did have pain that came and went, and over weeks seemed to come more often than it went.  It was a level of discomfort I’m used to ignoring without consequence, and backing off at the time seemed wasteful, even a little lazy.  If it had been another, less vulnerable, body part I might have noted the subtle trend, and probably would’ve let it play out a little longer.  That left hamstring however, has a tear in its past.  Complete healing took 18 months and involved crutches and canes.

But why is that other voice so loud?  The voice that says you’re a baby overreacting to a little niggle?  Even with a healthy fear of pain and physical therapy, that voice wouldn’t be silenced.  I had to cut hills, intervals, long runs, and slash my mileage by nearly half, but I could keep running without pain while my leg healed.  It strikes me now as pathological: the fact I could run pain-free made me wonder whether I should be training harder.

In the end, a month at 60% mileage, and a tempo run or a short race each week hardly had any impact on my race times.  On a perfect day, I might have run 90s better on a 10K.  I don’t think that’s insignificant, a 90s PR is an accomplishment to be proud of, but it’s surprising how little running it takes to maintain the training you’ve banked.  I don’t have much natural speed; I expected that 10K pace to decay from only tempo runs at half-marathon pace, but on race day it slipped out smooth as a stream.  I think a two week break with no speedwork would’ve been an imperceptible loss of fitness.  A little more laziness and hypochondria a month earlier might have saved my final race.

May 11, 2012 / elodie kaye

No Man’s Land

I’m in the space between training cycles, when you’re finished with the deepest part of recovery, but not quite all the scars have scabbed over.  Daily, sometimes hourly, I veer between twin impulses, to dive into another 20-week build-up that peaks in the frothy marathon of my dreams, or the downy warmth of the bed.  The aimlessness feels uncomfortable and confused, but I need to take my time travelling through this fallow space.  I want to be a little hungrier for hard training before I begin.  As I cruise through mandated easy miles I’m exploring how I feel about the season past, and dreaming about the one to come.  Inevitably when a training cycle brings injury, I have to deconstruct it, what I did right, what I’d change, and how to dodge the blow next time.  As much for myself as anyone, I’ll be doing a series of short posts in the coming days about what I’m thinking.
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April 30, 2012 / elodie kaye


It’s sobering how long my hamstring is taking to heal.  I stopped doing long runs, hills, and speedwork 4 weeks ago, cut my mileage to 60% of what it used to be 3 weeks ago, and my left leg is still yapping.  I did race very short distances twice, but at the same time my hamstring wasn’t in bad shape when I stepped away from the training plan.  I only had minor inflammation of the high tendons where the hamstrings attach to the pelvis, literally a pain in the ass, but it wasn’t a strain or a tear — nothing severe enough to consult a doctor or physical therapist.  For the first week I thought I was being overly paranoid because I tore that hamstring badly once.

While I can’t dispute that healing might have gone faster if I hadn’t raced, there was steady improvement after each race, too.  I’ve decided that I can’t risk racing a third time, but it was important to line up at least once this spring.  It marks a year since I signed up for my last race, the Santa Barbara Endurance Race 25K which I didn’t line up for.  I had a bad fever the night before; eventually the flu went into my chest and lungs and bloomed there into pneumonia.  When I was hospitalised for those complications, doctors found a tumour wrapped around my spinal cord.

The road back has been too long, too many loving hands have cooked me hot meals, led me around the block or down to the ocean, cradled my head when I shed tears of anger and frustration.  The second, third, nth… chances I’ve been given deserve more care and respect than I’ve been showing them.  Running is so elemental, I forget that none of us is entitled to it.

April 23, 2012 / elodie kaye

Toronto Yonge Street 10K

The Toronto Yonge St. 10K (formerly the Sporting Life 10K — same course, new date) is the easiest 10K I’ve ever run, likely the easiest 10K in Canada, possibly North America, too.  Toronto doesn’t have any hills to speak of, but in carving out the Great Lakes, the glaciers bestowed a gift on runners: a gradual descent to the northern shore of Lake Ontario.  Thus, any point-to-point course from north to south has a net elevation loss, a lovely quad-sparing, PR-busting slide.  Add a prevailing tailwind from the north, and you have the most popular 10K in TO’s race season.
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April 8, 2012 / elodie kaye

Harry’s Spring Run-Off 8K

What a magnificent day for a race! The sun glittered off Grenadier Pond, the winds were gentle, the temperature was a crisp 50ºF, as the race became heated the trees generously shaded us. I couldn’t have conjured a more charming stage to celebrate the marvel it is to be a runner in the spring.
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April 2, 2012 / elodie kaye

Mystery Shoes

For the past six months, I’ve been testing new shoes.  The manufacturer isn’t soliciting a media review, this is a development model.  They swear you to non-disclosure, so I’m not allowed to discuss the specifics.  What I test doesn’t necessarily make it to production and store shelves anyway.  Agreeing to become a wear tester is a contract that you’ll run in whatever you’re given.  The test period can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, with evaluations interspersed throughout.  There’s no obligation to participate for the full duration, but you must release the manufacturer from any liability if the shoes lead to injury.  It’s fun to get surprise shoes, but I didn’t expect it to change me as a runner.

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April 18, 2011 / elodie kaye

San Ysidro Trail

I think of San Ysidro as the plain, neglected sister.  It’s starts out charmingly enough, wooded with impressive rock walls, the rolling melody of tumbling water, and the reward of a high, delicate waterfall for your efforts.  The upper part up to Camino Cielo has some nice views, but on the whole it’s a lot of work — hot and exposed to sun.  Most people stick to the lower part, or use it as a connector to make loops with other, more glamourous front country rivals, like Romero (Trail, not Road) Cold Springs, Buena Vista, or easier ones like McMenemy with equal vistas.
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April 8, 2011 / elodie kaye

Missing Out

I’ve been adrift without a plan since sometime in late January, without even much in the way of running goals.  It became apparent that I wouldn’t be in Toronto in April when most of my spring races are scheduled.  I managed to find one 10-miler and a trail 25K in Santa Barbara, and then sort of lost steam.  Even before I fractured my rib, I was biding time, waiting to become impatient with the race-shaped hole in my training.  For a while, I was treading water with a two-week cycle of a long run, 3 trail runs, one tempo and one interval workout.  Two weeks felt a little long, so when my injuries allow, I might shorten that cycle to 10 days, but it feels mostly right.

It feels so right that I don’t seem to notice that race-shaped vacuum.  The SBER 25K that I’ve ambitiously registered for is now in doubt, which would normally fill me with anxiety and disappointment.  Not this time.  My biggest frustration is that I can’t run mountain trails if there’s rain in the forecast.  Under other circumstances, I might attempt it, but I can’t take the risk of another fall in slippery conditions.  I’m missing out.
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March 31, 2011 / elodie kaye

Romero Canyon Road

Imagine a convoy of trucks carrying potatoes spills one load every hundred meters or so, down a fire road in the Montecito mountains.  Potatoes with corners.  Made out of shale.  That was Romero Road a couple of days ago.  It’s normally a wide, degraded dirt road, relatively tame and not too steep, meaning it’s largely runnable for me.  Santa Barbara has received so much rain this winter and spring that the upper part of the road is interrupted by a rock slide every few hundred meters, and in between, an eruption of grasses and scrub oak narrows it to a single track.  One impressive pile-up was crowned by a boulder about the size of an 18-wheeler cab.  I had to turn back about 800ft. short of the crest, but all the slides up to that point were passable with some scrambling.
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March 30, 2011 / elodie kaye

Cracked Rib

Out of the couple hundred bones in the human body, I feel pretty smart to have fractured an especially convenient one.  I broke the second rib at the left front; it’s less sensitive to expansion of the diaphragm than some of the lower ones, and from its relatively high position on the torso, it can be better protected from the impact of foot strike.  Coughing, sneezing, or giggling feels like a knife twisting for home to the heart, but in the spectrum of possible injuries, it’s giving me much less heartache than any I’ve had from the waist down.
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