December 22, 2020

2020 - A Year in Review

 Ooof, what a year it has been!  I mean let's be honest it's probably about 1% of you reading this (the brainy scientists) would have had any idea that 2020 would pan out anything like it did.  I remember one coaching client early in the year mentioning how he thought things would unfold (this was before March) and I honestly thought he was being rather alarmist and over cautious - apparently not!  Another coaching client (one of those brainy scientists, Dr O) decided not to race a local half marathon in February due to the virus, and I've told her since that if it was anyone else I would have thought they were over reacting.  Yah, how wrong I was.

My birthday rolled around on March 14th just in time for the start of restrictions and 'lock down'.  I recall that I went for a walk with a friend (we decided that a restaurant lunch was too risky) and the week before I didn't hug my friend Jeanelle as already that was frowned upon.  On March 15th I had to go to work aka lead my marathon clinic (we still thought they'd be running BMO Vancouver marathon in May - oh my, those innocent times) and I was already standing apart from folks and whilst we went for post run coffee I stood at a bar table as I didn't want to touch any surfaces.  And well, that's really been the state of affairs ever since.  Odd, weird, unprecedented (in modern times) and impacting every form of our day to day lives.  To say that it's been a year like no other would not be an exaggeration.

Early on I was fearful that I would lose coaching clients due to race after race after race getting cancelled.  It's been my busiest year yet.  Apparently running is the one thing we can still do and it's been so heartening that the vast majority of folks that I coach have truly found that they love running simply for the sake of running - sure, some have understandably struggled more with the lack of fun races (having a big goal, traveling, meeting run friends etc) but for the majority I have seen a bigger commitment to their running and a love for having a training plan to stick to when the rest of the world is chaotic and unpredictable.  And wow, we've got creative and it's been super rewarding as a coach to see so many folks ending their year with big achievements.  Just a few examples below:

  • Dani in New York had probably only ever run for 3 consecutive days before March.  She's now on day 262 of a run streak (running a minimum of 1 mile every single day)
  • Oneal and Tom - the returnee runners who started coaching and getting back into running and fitness after a significant break.  It's so fun to see them record training PR after PR - biggest run weeks ever, faster run times each week, longest training runs etc etc.  Committing to that process is not easy but they are reaping the rewards.
  • Mya and Cam running 100 mile virtual races (I hope I haven't missed anyone who did!) - this is not something I would encourage for everyone (heck, there is no way I would do it myself) but some folks I know are determined enough to succeed at this and to me running 100 miles without aid stations and the formality of a race setting is hard.  Very hard. 
  • Vert challenges - we've had a few of these including Hideo who signed up for the virtual Hardrock race.  Hideo lives in the Surrey hills of the UK - not the San Juans of CO.  But it's amazing how folks find that if they really need to (and want to) they can go up and down some very small hills time and time over to get vert.
  • Pam hitting an impressive streak of consistency in her training.  Sure, this might not seem fancy or noteworthy, but we all struggle with consistency from time to time so simply hitting a real groove and sticking with it should be celebrated.

Of course there have been lots more achievements (I usually coach about 40 folks at any one time) and to be honest for many people the simple act of maintaining a run routine when working from home and looking after kids is an achievement enough.

For myself, it's been a low mileage year.  The ongoing, undiagnosed gimpy leg continues to hamper my running despite the best efforts of Dr Bovard.  That said, I've clawed my way back from a failed run/ walk program in March (I stopped at 9 x 1 min run, 1 min walk as it was not going well) and completed some 20k runs this year and currently can run 8kms or so numerous times per week.  A few achievements/ highlights of the year:

  • Peak bagging in the summer with Bill and the rest of the JSR crew.  Long days, the best of people, stunning views, tough and rough terrain.
  • Making it to the top of West Lion (thanks Bill!) and Black Tusk (thanks Kerry!) - technical scrambles and stellar views.
  • Completing the double GVRAT (see an earlier blog post).  That was my running peak of the year in terms of kms and also so much darn walking.  I found out that you can get very fit if you walk a lot ... and that walking takes much longer than running.
  • Comrades Virtual 10k with AM and Dave pacing.  It was either 42 or 43 mins (I think it was 43) which is slower than I used to race the last 10k of Comrades (89k), but it as fun to push hard and be part of the Nedbank team.
  • Consistent strength work when gyms were open.  MVMT Academy crew are the best.  Sure, I'm still terrible at pushups and can't do a single pull up - but I've showed up twice a week when I can and try my best. 

And whilst the world is not going back to normal once January rolls around, every day we keep on moving forward is another day closer to more normal living. So long as it is safe to do so, I'm super excited to volunteer at some races in 2021 and maybe jog a few myself (Comfortably Numb and Gunner Shaw would be nice).

Merry Christmas (or Merry whatever your holiday of choice is).  Keep running, keep hiking, keep lifting, and just keep showing up and giving every day your best.

x Ellie

And if you really want the stats:

 Running/ hiking: 2800kms

Vert: 99 300m

Walking: maybe about 1000 kms of purposeful urban walks.

Gym sessions: no idea - 2 x week when gyms were open.

Biking: hardly any, there's not been many places to commute to since we're all staying home.

Swimming: Awesome from January to mid March (5 x week or so), none since.

Stretching: Let's not comment on that.


September 11, 2020


 Last Sunday I went out on an outdoor jaunt with two friends, Bill and Pat.  It was a grand day in the mountains - getting up above cloud inversions, surveying from afar the peaks of Squamish and those much more distant,  sampling numerous blueberries and huckleberries, chatting up a storm on topics ranging from religion to ultra running to politics to the merits of Sour Patch Kids (I am a recent convert).  We spent some 13h45 on the trails and mountains and covered some 26kms/ 16 miles.  I can already see some of your brows furrowing and you shifting uncomfortably in your seats.  'Just how did they go THAT slowly?"  And that is me being on the optimistic side - Bills watch said 26k, mine said a mere 22k - which would mean that we pretty much moved at a pace of one little lonely mile per hour.

Sure, we bumped into Eileen and her friend Shawn so spent a good 15 minutes chatting and taking group photos for one another, and yes - on one peak we spent maybe 10 minutes looking for the whisky cache (more to come later - it's a North Shore thing), and on another peak we took a few minutes ensuring that we were on the actual peak (which is not as odd as it sounds) but other than that - no long picnic lunches, no lengthy swims in mountains tarns, no mountain meadow siestas in the sun, just plodding along steadily and with purpose - and that got us at a pace of a hair over one mile/ hour.  Welcome to North Shore peak bagging!

In recent years, 'peak bagging' has become more and more popular locally - in a similar vein to Colorado's 14ers (peaks that are 14, 000ft or more) some locals have come up with a list of some 84 or so distinct peaks on Vancouver's North Shore.  The concept I guess was mostly the brain child of David Crerar and others and with the publication of their book (The Glorious Mountains of Vancouver's North Shore) and the Bagger Challenge Facebook page more and more have followed in their footsteps.  The ambitious and foolhardy (or those who don't work 9 to 5) may attempt to summit all 84 or so peaks in one summer season, for others it's a lifetime project.  I guess I fall somewhere in between - and in fact I am not even registering the peaks I have attained on the official register - instead I am smugly summiting peaks without a care for outside recognition from my peers ... tho looking back I did do three Instagram posts based on last Sundays outing alone, so I guess I am indeed in search of a little back patting and kudos from the online world.  Heck, why not - 13h45 on the trail - and it was an 12k cycle each way on a non-motor road to get to the trail!  Even in mid summer this would be a headlamp outing. 

The reason that peak bagging tends to be a relatively miserable pace per hour affair mostly comes down to the word 'peak' - significant vert usually makes up for the piddly mileage total.  For example in last weeks 26ish km adventure Bills and my watches agreed on vert - it was something north of 3000m.  Not bad.  I think these stats are now making it abundantly obvious that this is NOT trail running - at times it is trail hiking but routinely it is blueberry bushwhacking and heather slope scrambling - no established trails,  some rough goat tracks (though sadly I have yet to see a mountain goat on these adventures), and an occasional fixed rope pull up some rocks (for which I am always very grateful to those who have installed the ropes).  It's rough, it's steep, it's technical, it's a lot of fun.  And somewhere along the line someone decided to make this a lot more fun by starting the tradition of whisky caches, so it's not unusual that as we huff and puff out way up the final metres of a summit we ask one another, 'Does this one have any single malt?' and then the group spreads out, turning over rocks and cairn piles often to be rewarded with some Macallans or similar.  (Side note - it's COVID times so hygiene is a must, bring your own mug, safety first!)

And whilst peak bagging is becoming all the rage here in our local mountains it's worth remembering that we are far from the pioneers in this task.  I couldn't but help think that I was treading in the footsteps of some of the women who were part of the group to first ascend Mount Dickens in 1908.  And one can only assume that First Nations folks explored these mountain summits long before the Europeans came.  I slightly over dressed last week in 3/4 tights and my HOKAs got damp in the mud from recent dew, but I was sure as anything impressed by Elizabeth Creech, Mary Fowler, Miss Wickwire and the men of the first ascent - long skirts, wool pants and leather boots were no doubt their attire of some 112 years ago as they made it to the heady 1300m summit.  I doubt they had CLIF drink or Sour Patch Kids to fuel them either.

So instead of following the ethos of my favourite website iRunFar, I have found that iHikeSlowly can be a lot of fun too.

August 26, 2020

The Power of 'I'll try'

Whilst sharing a stage last year with the famed Dylan Bowman, Dylan referred to myself and Gary Robbins as 'the blogger generation' and whilst I have rather fallen into a lapse (an understatement if ever there was one) on blogging and moved more over in trying to keep up with the Instagram generation, maybe one or two of you are still listening out there.

In April of this year a coaching client of mine (Adam Benkers of Ten Junk Miles) asked what I thought about him doing the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee.  I hummed and hawed, said I'd seen something about it on social media but not looked at it much.  After a quick bit of googling we agreed that the 8.3 kms daily average required to complete this challenge, the brainchild of Gary Cantrell (aka Lazarus Lake), seemed doable and so I have him Coaches authorization to sign up.  I hung up on the Skype call (Zoom had yet to become the rage), sent out details of the virtual race (that soon became commonly known across the globe as GVRAT) to a few other clients who I thought might need some inspiration in COVID times and then began to think about it for myself ...

It has been many years since I have trained for a race, sure from time to time I've toed a line when the perma aches and pains have been at bay, but I've not truly dedicated myself to training for something since sometime in 2018.  This was probably a smart move given I gave up on speed work in January of this year due to a bad hamstring and in mid March abandoned my run/ walk program once I got to 9 x (1 min run, 1 min walk) and generally felt like a bag of rattling old bones.  But then COVID hit and by end of March our gyms and swimming pools started to close - I entitled my final swim workout (aka trying not to drown) on Strava as 'I'm screwed'.  No gym, no pool, too many aches and pains to run.  Don't even suggest ocean swimming in March in the Pacific North West.  But I'm not one to give up lightly so in April I acquired some basic weights (thanks Bev and Deb), I tackled some stair reps (whilst scowling at anyone who did not keep a 2 metre social distance) and started walking.  Walking felt pretty awful to start but as the old legs got moving they loosened up ... and I got back to run/ walk on the local track (3 x 1 min run/ 1 min walk).  So naturally by end of April it was tempting to sign up for a virtual race across a state that I have never been to that required me to cover just over 8k (5ish miles for the Americans and Brits).  It made zero logical sense but then probably most concepts that Laz comes up with don't make a lot of sense and that's why they appeal.

So on May 1st I was registered with the attitude of 'I'll try'.  My top goal - bail if I started to get more injured.  My 2nd goal - bail if I started to get more injured.  My final goal - bail if I started to get more injured.  By nature I like to finish what I start but this was a case of actually being smart for once and trying something that my head might be ready for but my legs might not.  I has 123 days (the four months of May, June, July and August) to just keep moving.  I figured I probably wouldn't have time to walk all of my miles but I also calculated that I could not run too many - that seemed far too ambitious (recall the failed 9 mins of running in mid March).  In addition to the online race tracking I drew up my own spreadsheet and I started walking and jogging and logging my miles.  I am generally not a fan of the word 'jogging' but I am a fan of glorious, aimless junk miles (please note - this is not what I advocate as a Coach, but it's the way my brain is badly wired) and this is probably one of the reasons that GVRAT appealed to me - it's not fundamentally about speed, but it's about plugging away day after day after day after day ... for 123 days (or less).

... And by the closing days of June I realised I was on track for a double GVRAT!  Ok, not quite - I was a little behind but somehow I had logged far more than my required 8.3km average per day, and was closer to 16 kms/10 miles days.  Go figure, you might think I used to be an ultra runner or something.  So of course the double appealed and I knew I had to start playing catch up, so late June was a bit of a push and probably my main error of the project - I tried to play catch up too soon and whilst I completed a single GVRAT in less than two months, a few too many old aches and pains were appearing.  Boo.  Nice try Ellie, and I abandoned the thought of a double crossing (1200 or so miles) and instead settled on a mere 1000 mile/ 4 month goal.  As an added bonus, Laz rewarded 1000 mile finishers with a cool pin - which seemed far more of an incentive than the map of Tennessee for double GVRAT finishers.  Sure, I have two silver Western States belt buckles but some small pin that is probably mass produced in China seemed quite the draw.  Ultra runners truly are not very smart.

To reach my 1000 mile goal I figured I needed a little extra motivation - another two months of dedicated training seemed a little daunting (the online tracker had overnight gone from saying that I was 100% complete for GVRAT to saying I was 50% for the double - ooof, way to downgrade a runner/ walker!) So at this stage I started to try raise funds for a cause close to my heart - Band of Runners which aims to bring veterans into the community of trail running.  Please do check out their website here for info and a super eight minute video shot at their annual camp in 2019.  No quitting now - numerous folks made kind donations so I just had to keep walking and jogging, but it did feel like added pressure to have other folks know what I was doing and now the risk of failure now seemed higher.  And then another funny thing happened - about 10 days into July on my 1000 mile quest I found that I was bizarrely still ahead of the double GVRAT goal ... and my aches and pains had subsided.  Like I said, I do enjoy glorious junk miles and somehow by taking the pressure off and deciding not to do the double I was still on track.  Ok, back on the 1200 mile/ 10 mile a day goal!

I can honestly say it was no small feat for me to complete this task last Sunday.  In 115 days I had propelled myself forward on my own two little (well, size 9.5) feet for 2043k or 17.8kms per day (11.04 miles).  A little over half my miles were running, I hiked up mountains, I bushwhacked up gullies, I walked for 30 mins at the end of runs when I was too tired to run any more, and I went for 3hr urban walks to chomp away at the miles.  It was hard, it was time consuming, it was fun, it was rewarding, and it was double the distance I set out to accomplish on 1st May.  


So the next time you're not sure you can do something, how about saying 'I'll try'?

Happy trails to you all, stay healthy, stay safe and stay happy.  And if you have read this far (thank you!) and are so inclined - please do consider a small donation to a very worthy cause, Band of Runners (click here).  It would mean to world to me and my tired legs (I'm taking an easy week right now).

December 13, 2018

2018 - A Running Year in Review

To make progress and reach your goals and ambitions in running, it's good to look back and assess come years end.  My 2018 review in 12 photos. What have you achieved this year and how will those experiences carry you into and shape your 2019?

Thank you as always to my loyal and valued sponsors, who have been beside me on the trails and road, from mountain tops to valley lows.  Hoka One One, Drymax Socks, CLIF bar, Sundog Eyewear, Flora Health, Stoked Oats and Suunto (Canada).

January with Vancouver Falcons Athletics Club coach John. Post trail intervals, reviewing the numbers.

  Photo: AMM

My 7th Chuckanut 50k finish. This race is an excellent test of training in March - you need to be proficient on technical terrain and hills, yet speed in the legs is invaluable too. 4th F.

Photo: Michelle Ford.

Run Ridge Run 20k or so in the snow, was more about staying upright than race times, but happy with a 2nd place finish and a solid effort on the trails.

Photo: Coast Mountain Trail Series.
Come April it was time to start Wednesday night training running with the Kneeknacker crew. Although I have not run the race for years, Wednesday nights are a great chance for a group run on some of North Vans finest and technical trails.

Photo: Salvador Miranda.

BMO Vancouver Marathon half marathon in 1:19:21 in early May. Stoked to get sub 1:20 - pushed hard on my level of fitness, a long way from a PB but a great race and training stimulus.

Photo: Catherine Wei.

PACE Trail Race Series Wild Horse Traverse 50k in Kelowna in June. Loved these trails, loved the event, stoked for the win.

Photo: Folk & Wild.

July in the Wasatch mountains of Utah - not a bad spot to volunteer at Speedgoat 50k and get some great hiking in.

Volunteering on home turf at Bucking Hell 50k. A busy day at the station as runners negotiated a tough course in hot weather.

Hiking in Cape Wrath, Scotland in August. Exploring on two feet is always fun - whatever the pace and weather.  

October road trip to the Canadian Rockies. The weather was mild and the late fall colours perfect for this long run/ hike in Lake Louise, Alberta.

Band of Runners camp outside of LA in November was a highlight of my year. As a mentor it was wonderful to meet and guide some wonderful veterans on this trail camp weekend. I also completed a 2-day NOLS Wilderness First Aid course and learned a lot to stay safe on the trails.

Photo: Lisa Krantz.

December in Vancouver means rain which means a perfect time to tackle a XC race at Gunner Shaw 10k. A 25 second improvement on last year, and a masters female win. If you want to learn how to race, race XC.

Photo: Jan Heuninck.

August 31, 2017

A good old fashioned foot race

A couple of weekends ago I toed the line at another race for a bit of fun and in an attempt to try work my way back to fitness.  I had never raced Squamish 23k before, although in past years I had raced the 50k and 50 mile distance, but both of those are beyond my capability levels right now and so instead it was time to attempt to run fast and yet what is also a long distance for me currently.  It was a weird mixture of having to remind myself to work harder and push a higher intensity on trails that I am used to exerting an ultra effort on, and yet I also knew that I am not really fit enough right now to really push hard for 20+ kms.

The gun went off and so did the front of the field, I had placed myself a little bit back as I didn't want to get in the way of the handful of speedsters who I knew would be considerably faster than me.  Not surprisingly my super fit and speedy buddy Anne-Marie pulled ahead right away but I was a little disheartened to see my other buddy, Ramsey Ezzat, running stride for stride with AM up the initial climb.  My last experience of racing with AM & Ramsey was at my last ultra, Chuckanut 50k in 2016, and during that race we had spent a bunch of time together as a happy little trio trudging up Cleator Road together and yet now it was clear that (a) I was much slower on uphills than them and (b) this was a sub-ultra race and I didn't have the speedy wheels that they did.  Hey ho, a reminder to focus on running my own race.  I had only had a couple of loose goals heading into the race - position was not one of them as I had no idea of the other ladies racing and nor did I have a time target as I had never run the race before.  So instead my goals were to run as hard as I could and to aim to be just under ten minutes behind AM at the finish, a sensible target given we had raced together two weeks previously so I had a gauge on our relative speeds, it wasn't that I was racing AM but I just wanted to use her as a good motivator to work hard.

The nice thing about Squamish 23k compared  to the two other races I have done so far (Buckin' Hell 15k and Green Race 25k) is that Squamish was a bit of a bigger race and so I had fellow racers in sight for 99% of the race.  This made it easier to work harder, to strategise and to stay focused on pushing a good effort.  In the early kms of the race I zig-zagged back and forth with a good little group of men and women and this was great to keep the energy levels up.  Compared to Green Race where the long 12.5k uphill didn't really play to my strengths, the Squamish course weaves up and down, back and forth - it's fun, it's dynamic and it keeps you constantly changing gears.  It reminded me how much I had missed running on these trails and whilst I typically lost contact with the runners ahead of me on each small uphill, I was still pleased with my ability to rally and run more uphills than I hoped.

AM has won SQ23k every darn 6 years the event has been held.  Amazing.  Photo: SQ23.

 However I soon got a little confused along the race course - each twist and turn would bring back memories of having raced the 50k and 50 miler here, and yet it didn't make sense - these landmarks were really close to the finish and yet I had only just started racing.  Something just didn't add up.  It was then that the reality hit, yah - 23kms used to be the finishing push in a race for me, and now it was my entire race course.  Ok, ok - best to not just think about that, afterall I had more things to be concerned about - like the fact that I was 11kms in and could I really carry on at this effort for another while 12kms?  I really wasn't sure.  Having done no tempos runs at yet, running this distance at a higher intensity was well out of my comfort zone and so I was grateful that at this point I started to catch Ramsey and have some company to distract from my fears.

From there on til the finish, Ramsey and I would shift back and forth - he'd pull ahead on an uphill, I would rally and often catch him on a downhill.  Whilst my cardio fitness and leg strength for uphills are currently lacking, it was fun to be able to weave through the roots and rocks somewhat proficiently on the downhills.  The final 2kms or so of the race course end on some very flat tarmac and gravel trail.  As I headed onto this long drawn out straight away I saw Ramsey's bright blue shirt ahead of me - ok, time to put the hammer down for a head to head.  I can honestly say that that was one of the highlights of my race - my lungs were burning, my arms were pumping and my legs felt like they would not hold on for very much longer at all, and yet I caught Ramsey, we both passed another runner, and then Ramsey re-caught me before we both stumbled, pretty worked, over the finish line.  As Ramsey so perfectly put in a text message to me later, 'Thanks for the good old fashioned foot race today.  Good to be able to see you able to push that hard too'.  There is nothing more fun than a head to head with a friend and there is no better way to really work on your fitness than chasing right to the line.

Womens podium: AM, me, Vivian (despite a little detour!).  Photo: SQ23.

August 8, 2017

Baby races

Running in Castlegar ahead of The Green Race 25k.  Photo: Martin Cai.

So after very, very, very little racing in 2016 I launched off my 2017 race season with a local 15k trail race ... in July.  Sometimes I find it's better that I don't over analyse that sentence as it's just not exactly encouraging.  Sure, I have since followed that 15k race up with a 25k race just two weeks later - but that still amounts to just 40 kilometres with a race bib on ... when I used to consider a 42.2k race as a mere training event.  In 2012 I raced a total of 950kms ... in 2017 I have so far raced 910kms less and I can't see that I will be making a huge dent into that 'deficit' in the remaining three months of the year.  I guess that's ok.

Buckin' Hell 15k finish line with a couple of local running friends.  Photo: Scott Robarts.

I guess I should be a little optimistic - I mean, I have managed to string together some weeks of running that made me think I could race 25kms and not suffer too many injury setbacks afterwards.  I say not too many as I am far from running without any aches and pains.  Sure, I know many of you reading this will say 'well, I always have aches and pains, get on with it' and that has certainly been the reasonable feedback many folks give me - but I just don't know how much discomfort in the form of possible injuries I'm prepared to run and race through.  Time will tell.  For now I am still a very long way from creating anything that resembles a training plan or a race schedule, and I am still very unsure if I will be able to reach the minimum distance (50k) that is required to be able to call myself an ultra runner again.  But most weeks I am trying to add a couple of kms to my long run and I will see if I can build on that week on week.  I have made it up to a long run of 33kms so far - I almost died but didn't - so that's a positive!  I have also been making it back to my run club weekly trail intervals which was a huge goal of mine as I love those workouts and those are definitely what is needed to try get me back in any sort of shape again.  You may think that getting back into running shape is easy but I assure you, it's not.  To put things in perspective - I ran 25kms on July 1st of this year and that was my longest run in 14 months (since BMO Vancouver Marathon in May 2016) - yah, my endurance is shot, my legs are not strong and you can now see why I am unsure if I can build to ultra distances quite yet!  But I'll keep plugging away and see where the coming months and years take me.  Weekly strength work with my trainer (Michelle) is a big part of that too.

Hill repeats with VFAC.  Photo: Nic Browne.

I certainly have made enough progress that I only see my physio every two to three weeks now (yay time and money savings!) and I am hoping to start working back with my running coach as I feel I have a somewhat shaky but still workable base that we can springboard from to get me back running a little faster and maybe even further.  In the two races I have run so far I had no goals other than making it to the finish line as fast as my current fitness would allow and not getting injured.  If I came dead last - fine, so long as I was exhausted and no more injured at the finish than I was at the start.  I successfully achieved these goals at both Buckin' Hell 15k and The Green Race 25k, and came 2nd in both (against some great runners)!

As many runners might be starting to wind down their race season, I'm hoping I can soon get out of the starting blocks without too many false starts.  But that's ok, because running has no seasons - it's a lifestyle and one super lifestyle that I hope I can lead again, ideally in the not too distant future.

Making my way up the 1200m climb of Mt Sentinel in The Green Race 25k.  Photo: The Green Race.

Dr, race winner, Salomon teammie, friend.  With AM in the smoky Kootenays.

April 14, 2017

One massive, complex & confusing jigsaw puzzle

Firstly, please ignore if you are looking for a post with scenic trail pics or race reports.  I appreciate the injury updates can be pretty boring stuff for most folks out there but it's a month since my last update so I figured it was time to update again on my progress ... or lack thereof ...

When I last updated I was in the middle of a series of prolotherapy injections to try stabilise my lax sacroiliac (SI joint).  This involved a weekly visit to the doctor for six consecutive weeks to have 60 injections at a time into my SI and lower back area.  Luckily I got local anaesthetic injections each time too so it felt like not much more than an intense session of IMS, and Dr. Gillies - an older British woman - regaled me with stories of cycling in Thailand to distract me.  Many folks react quite strongly to the injections and have limited mobility for a few days, but I found I didn't react too badly and was fairly mobile after each session - but that doesn't indicate that the injections (which are dextrose and tighten ligaments) aren't working and in fact they did.  After six weeks Dr. Gillies was very pleased that my SI was much more stable, though I will be going back for a booster session in a few weeks time to increase chances that it stays that way.

Throughout the course of prolotherapy I was not allowed to do anything that might make the SI shift so that basically meant to activity - no running, no gym work, no hiking, no biking, no swimming.  I knew I was getting desperate when I asked if I was allowed to do yoga or not - I'm not sure if I was relieved or not when I was told that that was not allowed either.  I was allowed to walk for 2 x 15 minutes day, oh well - at least I could go grocery shopping then!  After six weeks of zero activity and much over eating and youtube video watching (I don't have a TV) I was allowed to try a 30 min jog.  Man oh man, I can't tell you how terrible that felt.  I'm super out of shape right now (but that's the least of my concerns) but everything just hurt - I was tight, tense and my legs were sore to touch.  I knew that a lot of this was because I was simply deconditioned to running (or really any movement) and even after a few days of 30 minute shuffles I began to feel a little more human again - my shoulders and back had loosened up and with thanks to the foam roller my legs were beginning to feel a little less like concrete blocks.  I wouldn't exactly call it progress but I was getting back to not feeling much worse than before the prolotherapy so that was a positive.

My doctor has been checking my SI most weeks since the completion of the six weeks of prolotherapy and so far it is (almost) as good as it was right after prolotherapy, despite a slight increase in activity.  So far I have been allowed to try some easy hiking, easy cycling and easy runs, all wearing an SI belt as an insurance policy to hold the SI in place.  There's nothing better than wearing a tight band around your hips when you already feel pretty chunky ;)  But the basic problem remains that my left leg just doesn't work like my right leg does.  This is pretty darn frustrating as I was hoping either the prolo or the six weeks of total rest would really help (and I wasn't too fussy which would help, so long as one did).  Don't get me wrong, having a stable SI is pretty much essential for an ultra runner, but getting that tightened up has not really resolved the underlying issues of my original injury at all.  The original pain in my groin of a year ago is not there (for now) but my adductor is constantly overworked, my left glute refuses to do any work and since around Christmas time my hamstrings have been shouting and so far have not piped down much.  Of course with being injured for this long it becomes pretty obvious that it's unlikely fixing one thing will solve the puzzle or that the puzzle will be solved overnight - there are many components at play and it's trying to get them all lined up at the same time that is proving the tricky part.

For now I am running a small amount every other day.  I really have to emphasize that it is a little - so far 8km/ 5 miles is a long run for me and I don't plan going over that sort of distance any time soon.  It's not pain free but it's tolerable and it's keeping me sane - some folks might under estimate that but if a short jog is only slightly uncomfy but keeps my overall body feeling ok and gives me 30 minutes of enjoyment then I feel that is important.  For now, SI stability permitting, I'm easing in some other activities to try just maintain my minimal fitness and to get outside, these privileges will be revoked by my doctor at anytime she feels my SI is getting worse.  I've been a little scared off strength work for now (a gym incident in January truly showed that my body was fragile) but I'd like to get back at that when I can as I know I have lost pretty much any strength I had, but that's what six weeks of lying on the sofa on the back of 10 months of curtailed activity does to you.

I'll be seeing, yet another, physio next week to check out a new angle and I'm waiting to get an MRI (which could be a few months) just to double check the hip area again (I had one back in July but worth re-checking and this should be a contrast MRI which can show more detail).  I made two goals at the start of the year - 1, that by December I hope to have run a 10k race (I don't care how slow but at a proper race effort) and 2, that by December I would also run a local trail route that's about 15kms (Headwaters to Norvan Falls for any locals reading).  Now we're in mid-April  I'm not sure if these are realstic goals but there's still a few months to start making progress.

At this stage I am truly grateful for both my sponsors and the medical folks who have helped me along the way.  I am also super proud and grateful to my coaching clients - I currently have about 35 clients all over the world training for anything from a half marathon to a 200 mile race, I absolutely love my coaching work and it's always a pleasure to help guide folks to achieve their dreams and personal goals.  Whilst my own personal running goals might be on hold for now, I'll never tire of talking about running and helping others to weave their running ambitions around family commitments, busy jobs and sometimes far from ideal training grounds.

Special thanks go to:

Salomon Running
CLIF bar
Drymax Socks
Sundog Eyewear
Flora Health


Dr. Jim Bovard (he says he's getting stubborn, I'm glad because I sometimes feel like giving up).
Dr. Jean Gillies (prolo treatment)
Bobby Crudo RMT (especially for saving me at 4pm on a Friday when my SI gave out in the gym that morning).
Chris Napier, Marylou Lamy, Carolyn Bliss (physios)
Joe Uhan (physio and gait analysis)

 Happy trails,

I helped iRunFar with race coverage at Chuckanut 50k.  It was a fast and furious race to watch!

Hiking in the rain.

25% off sunnies til end of April!

It's not really been great cycling weather but hoping for more sun for more skinny tyre miles.

Fun times hanging out with CLIF bar in Whistler.

Trail conditions in North Van, April 10th.