Running for the Love
Sometimes there is that song or that video that hits ‘the spot’. It grabs you for some weird unknown reason and inspires you. That’s what this song does for me. What’s really is that’s what running is for me now. I kind of LOVE it!
It’s crazy what happens when you can’t actually run. You miss it, you want to be able to do it, and you wonder when can I run again?
A year ago I had never run more than eight miles, and that eight mile run was actually almost eight years ago. I hated running because I was terrible at it (unless it was less than 200m). I had dabbled into trail running a little bit here and there, but just as training and just because I loved the mountains. I had done maybe a 10k at best.
Last Thanksgiving, I decided I was going to do a 70.3 Ironman, which meant I had to run 13.1 miles after a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike. That was going to be a challenge!
Then Christmas 2014 came and things went much differently than I had ever expected. I had spent four days of skiing in Park City and the trip ended Christmas afternoon in a disaster. Right knee injury with complete ACL, MCL, medial/ lateral meniscus, posterior-lateral capsule tears and two stress fractures. That meant full reconstructive surgery and limited training for months to come.
My rehabilitation started slowly. I started jogging again at ten weeks post op at a snails pace. I was just trying to normalize as much as possible to make it to the 13.1 mile mark. I spent a lot of time training in Big Bear at a bit of altitude to help accelerate my training. But most importantly what I had done to accelerate the recovery process was change my entire nutrition, fueling and hydration strategies. I eliminated all foods that cause inflammation- i.e. anything with gluten in it. I focused my diet on eating clean and lean and added in all natural anti-inflammatory foods such as pineapple, turmeric and a supplement combination that took my recovery to another level. The combination of MDrive Joint, Hammer Tissue Rejuvenator and SFH Fish oil is a MUST for everyone.
Another massive game changer that I swear by is MDrive Elite. It’s is an adaptogen supplement that improves performance with the use of cordyceps and KSM-66 ashwaghanda which can improve VO2 max and muscle strength and reduce cortisol and stess levels. By three months, I was running; four months I was back on the trail; five months I ran ten miles for the first time ever; six months I did my first ‘mock’ ½ Ironman in training and month seven I did my first trail race ever.
This is when my love for running really changed. When you get a chance to race at Whistler-Blackcomb in BC, Canada, you can really fall in love with trail running. It was a really tough alpine 12k with a lot of climbing and a lot of technical downhill. I am usually really strong at the descents, but not in this race. This showed me that my knee strength was not 100%, but mostly that I was facing a mental confidence issue. It made me focus even more on my eccentric strength, with less than a month until the 70.3 Ironman in Muskoka, Canada. The Ironman course was massively hilly and tough, but I finished within 30 minutes of my goal time, at less than eight months of full right knee reconstruction.
So now I felt that there had to be more. What was the next goal? If I could finish a ½ Ironman, why not a full distance Ironman. I’ve decided that my 2015 Goal #1 is the Ironman Boulder with a sub 12 hour finish.
That love for trail running grew even more when I moved to San Francisco a few months ago. The Marin Headlands with miles and miles of endless coastal trails; Muir Woods as well as steep climbs and descents all within 25 minutes of my door - YES please!
The difference in my love for running is that I don’t run everyday. I think if I did, my knee would hate me. I run anywhere from one to three times per week max. The rest of the time I spend training at Crossfit - at least three times per week. I can get more out of a one hour Crossfit training session than three to four hours on the trail. And with the short cold days of winter, it’s what fits into my daily schedule. In the three months in NorCal, I have gone from 13.1 mile run, to 15 miler, 18 mile, then a 25 miler (by accident). I mis-planned my route and ended up five miles longer than originally projected, but I made it!
I found out about The North Face Endurance Challenge, one of the most difficult trail runs around. I finished a 25 mile run, so maybe I could attempt the marathon. Unfortunately it was sold out. So a few of the other athletes that I train with convinced me to do the ½ marathon. It was a super fun muddy, wet, 3000+ feet elevation race. I finished at 2:25.
I knew there was more left in the tank for me. As a new trail-runner, I haven’t figured out how to push myself to the max at certain distances. At the end of the ½ marathon, I easily had another 10 miles in me. Crazy, I know.
The next day, an athlete came to me for a PT evaluation and treatment. He’d just run the 50k distance of The North Face Endurance Challenge and was hurting so much he could hardly walk. He was hoping to run another 50k the following weekend though - only 5 days away, as he is training for a 100 miler in Hawaii in January. However, for the upcoming 50k, he wanted to pace someone. He didn’t want to race at his normal race pace. So he asked me if I would race the 50k with him and he would ‘pace’ me. 50k means anywhere between 28-32 miles, an Ultramarathon. Really, how the heck was I going to finish an Ultra. I hadn’t even finished a marathon distance, and less than six months back to running now I was going do a 50k? Well I have a hard time saying no to a challenge, so YES I was in, especially since I had the amazing opportunity to have someone run with me and support me and push me the entire way.
This course had 5000+ feet of elevation and it had poured rain for three days straight leading up to the race day. That led to some course changes making the route even more difficult. Unfortunately we were also missing out on some of the most beautiful parts as well. There were many ups and downs to the race. The ups were that my fueling and hydration was on! No stomach issues, no cramping, and no bonking! Stoked! My downhill race was on as well, speed improving downhill and a decent race on the flats. Uphill was another story - most of the uphill race was power walking. I had some pretty uncomfortable low back/SI pain the entire race when going uphill, but was able to push through it by power walking the steep uphills, which sometimes seemed never ending. At 5:45 we crossed the finish line. My first Ultra-50k complete, and with a third place age group and top 10 female finish overall.
This video has that special feeling to it as it covers all the beautiful places that we raced during The North Face Endurance Challenge and the Rodeo Beach 50k. It’s not quite Whistler, but it is a damn good place to train for now. SO if I can run a 50k only months into starting to trail run, anyone can do a 5k, 10k , ½ marathon or even an Ultra. You just have to start running the trails and mountains. It’s all about training smarter NOT harder or longer. You might just find yourself with a new love too!
Author: Annemarie Alf
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