I intended to write this post weeks ago and, as sometimes happens, I found myself too busy and at times too lazy to do it. So here is the last three weeks or so in a nutshell.
I was excited! It was one of two peak weeks before the Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile trail race. Little did I know that it would be the only peak week, but more on that later. This was another one of those up at 3 AM run days. I love how the long runs are getting so long, but it comes at the cost of sleep. In general, the more time I can spend in nature the happier I am. It is a simple 1 to 1 correlation.
As always I had my Hammer Heed and Recoverite pre-mixed in the fridge and clothing and gear set out. The espresso machine was ready and waiting only for me to turn it to the on position. Soon thereafter it would deliver that steamy black elixir of life. Anything I can do to streamline the morning process is done because I am barely capable of dressing myself at such an early hour of the morning. It is damn early. So early I’m not sure if it is really early or if it is late. It’s so early that even Grandmas are still asleep.
I got to Frick Park 15 minutes later than planned and John was already there. This was a nice surprise as I wasn’t expecting to run with anyone until 5. We started off on the Braddock Trail, a doubletrack section that is a little over a mile long. We chatted and soon 4 miles were behind us as we arrived back at the Clay Courts. Vicki, Calvin, and Josh were there. Together we ran around 7 miles of single and doubletrack. It was so nice having good company and seeing the forest wake up as the sun began to rise. Too soon my friends departed. I would be alone out here for a number of hours still. By mile 22 I was on the Heritage Trail off of 9 Mile Run and it was lightly raining. The rain felt great. I stopped to adjust my Luna straps as one sandal seemed too loose. I checked and sure enough had a good blood blister on my left big toe. After tightening up the strap it felt much better and I continued on finishing up with 30 miles. After wards I could feel some pain in my right foot. By Sunday morning I had no doubt what it was and what the cause was. It was extensor tendinitis, just like I had after the Burning River 50 last year. The culprit again was having my laces, or in this case straps, too tight. Late in the run my feet began to swell as will happen when you are running further than your normally do. The whole thing could have been averted if I simply loosened my laces on my right sandal when I tightened the left one, but I did not think to do so. As a result the tendon and nerve were pinched.
I figured my foot wasn’t too bad so I threw on Altra Torin 2.0’s and hit the city for a road and trail mix with high hopes of running 20 miles. And run 20 I did. The first few miles my legs were leaden. Each step seemed a Herculean feat and I thought about how this was the entire point of long back to back runs. To be able to get big mileage in with less risk for injury and to get used to the fatigue that surely would come in later stages of the Laurel Highlands 70.5.
The first 5 miles were along the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. After crossing the West End bridge I headed back east. I wanted to climb Mt. Washington, but the route I usually take across the Liberty Bridge had been closed for quite some time. There is a way via Arlington Road though I never took it before. It was not too difficult to figure out and soon I was on my way up PJ McArdle roadway. From here I made my way to Grandview for the obligatory “I climbed Mt. Washington and all I got was this stupid selfie” photo. From here it was down Sycamore and back up via a dilapidated staircase known as the Vinecliffe Steps. When I say dilapidated what I mean is overgrown with weeds, missing stairs, broken concrete rubble, and broken glass everywhere. A little slice of post-apocalyptic America right here in the present day with a full two hundred and eight steps to relish in. Then it was back down Sycamore and branching off eastwards I came into Grandview Park via Emerald View Park. This little gem is one of my favorites. It isn’t very large and the trails are nothing worth bragging about, but the thing that sets this little slice of heaven apart for me is that I can take a couple mile respite in the woods during a city road run.
Coming out of Grandview I followed Arlington Road up into Allentown, one of the more than less desirable spots in my fair city. I have always come through this area very early in the morning and this time was no exception. Heading up Arlington to the District 3 police station I cut back onto Brosville St and followed that down into the Southside.
The Burning River 100 mile course has a few sets of staircases to contend with, one as late as the 90+ mile mark. Knowing this I planned to incorporate stair climbs into long runs and Pittsburgh has plenty of stair sets to fill my quota! Click here to check out the City of Champions stairs. Perfect for a day of Urban hiking. After reaching the bottom of the mountain I took the St. Thomas Street steps right back up! One hundred and ninety nine stairs later it was back down Brosville Street following Pius and Mission Streets across the Southside Slopes. Mission Street abruptly ended in a patch of woods. Rather than backtrack I took to the forest sans trail and shortly after popped out on a field in Monogahela Park. Following Josephine Road into the Southside Flats I made my way back to my car to refill bottles. From here it was a short 5 miles through Schenley Parks roads and trails which feature some incredible views of Oakland and it’s Cathedral of Learning.
The run was done and my largest training week ever was behind me. Fifty miles in two days neatly ending a 70 mile week. Then Monday came….it was a rest day. My legs felt pretty good, but my foot was a mess. I knew I needed to rest and I did so until Friday. The pain was gone by then so I chanced a 5 mile run. It went well so I planned to get a 12-18 miler in the next day at Settler’s Cabin Park.
Giving it a Go
It was raining when I arrived at Settler’s Cabin Park and would continue for the entirety of my trip there. I opted to wear the waterproof Topo Hydroventure shoes in lieu of using Luna sandals as to keep pressure off the top of my feet. A review for the Hydroventures will be up soon! After 12 miles I was out of time and happy to dry off. By the end of the day the foot pain was back with a vengeance with the addition of a sharp pain from my big toe with certain foot movements. I was able to discern that the problem was not in the toe itself and suspected the Extensor Hallucis Longus(EHL) was the true culprit. With just 3 weeks until the Laurel Highlands 70.5 miler this was no time to take chances. I scheduled an appointment with my podiatrist, Dr. Chris Hajnosz. Unfortunately, there were no openings in the schedule until Friday so I spent the week grounded. Dr. Hajnosz confirmed my suspicion of EHL tendinitis from pressure and a tight plantar fascia exacerbating the pain. He sent me on my way with a script for oral steroids and a green light to run! I waited until a day or two to lace up opting to let the medicine do it’s magic. My foot felt better by the next day so I went to Boyce Park for 5 miles.
I took it very slow and easy. No pushing it, no goat play, just slow and steady and it went well. I ended at 7 miles. After taking Sunday off I went to Settler’s Cabin Park again on Monday to run with friends. Only Lisa was able to make it and we had a great, easy run covering 12 miles with no signs of problems.
Here I am. In about one week I will be running the Laurel Highlands 70.5 miler! The few short runs I have taken this week have gone very well aside from the wicked humidity and heat that has descended upon Western PA as of late. The time off did not cause any loss in fitness and most likely has allowed me to heal more than I would have allowed myself to. It is all just blessings in disguise. From here on out it is light and easy miles, race prep, and generally avoiding doing stupid things that could cause me to hurt myself. Until next time, run strong and run happy!