Telegraph Trail

I haven’t written about running in almost a year.

I made running a part of my life beginning in March 2009. More than four years. I’m still at it, but am currently plagued by an ankle bursitis (the left retrocalcaneal bursa, if you care) that started niggling away at me two years ago, and got a lot worse this spring. The good news is that the bursa isn’t structural in the same way that bones, tendons and ligaments are, so I’m unlikely to do horrible permanent things to myself. The bad news is that I should probably stop hiking, biking and running and immerse myself if a sea of ibuprofen and ice for a month or two.

I can’t. I’ve tapered back: I’m only running a couple of times a week now, and nothing fast, and nothing over 10-11 km. But I can’t stop. I just miss it too much.

I finally got an xray which showed no calcification, no bone spur, nothing amiss except a lot of soft-tissue swelling around the Achilles tendon. The tendon itself is strong, flexible and pain-free. So I don’t suppose I’m doing damage by letting it niggle along. And among the recommended interventions are avoiding shoes with rigid or overly large heel-counters or tight heel straps (uh, I don’t use shoes at all 98% of the time). That part I can do.

Last winter I did a series of weekly running clinics and learned some stuff about form — hip extension, in particular — that is likely to be helpful in the long term. This spring and summer I’ve been running with some local friends who are well-matched. They don’t do as much distance as I’ve tended to, but they’re mostly up to 10k and so far they’re happy.

All my road runs are barefoot. My trail runs are occasionally partly barefoot, but I usually use New Balance WT00’s. I seem to have lost my good huaraches in Hawai’i: I need to get some more, because I’d prefer to use them on tamer trails.

So I have no big race plans at this point. I’ll probably do the 10k at the SufferFest this year, because my friends are doing it, but not trying for speed, just supporting them. Six months ago I had dreams of doing the [vertical mile] 45km Idaho Peak run, but this isn’t the year for that.

The Fitbit Flex

Two things have made the less-running less-biking thing work for me. First, I got myself a FitBit Flex, a little wristband gizmo that tracks my walk/run activity via digital accelerometer technology. I like it for other reasons too … it tells me neat things about my sleep, and has a silent vibratory alarm that I can use to wake me (and no one else) up, or to remind me when a lesson or meeting should be wrapping up. But because it tracks my walking and slow running indiscriminately from speedwork, I can focus on just logging locomotive activity, not necessarily running fast. When I wear my Garmin I know it’s recording information about distance and speed, and I can’t help myself pushing to optimize those. When I leave it at home and use the Flex, which I do most of the time now, I do a better job of taking things slowly and easily.

I’ve also been working more on strength. Pushups, pullups, squats, core strength, all those sorts of things. In the past I could only manage 8 pushups. Now I can do 70 push-ups in five sets. Recently I’ve been trying out the You Are Your Own Gym (#YAYOG) app on my iPad. So far I really like it: there’s tons of challenge there, and no special equipment required.

Running on