Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mount Diablo Peak to Peak to Peak Trail

Sunday morning in Castle Rock Regional Park
Well, when I said that I would be posting less I didn't mean posting only two posts this month.  However, I am having computer woes ( mine died) which means that I have to borrow my wife's until I can afford a new one, hopefully soon!

That said,  there has been a lot of running with my goal for the month to build my base by running an average of 30 miles a week.  I did well the first two weeks and slipped the last two weeks.  However, I have though finally blasted the roadblocks of the last few months where I run just enough to feel uncomfortable to not enough to build a solid base.
Just outside China Wall

This week has been awesome though.  My wife and I have been able to squeeze in two runs up on Mount Diablo.

On Saturday, we took our traditional run through Castle Rock Regional Park over to China Wall and back.  The sun was just coming up over Diablo with a nice bit of high clouds providing wonderful shadowing across Pine Canyon.  It was an awesome run.
Deer off of Burma Road

Right above Sunset Trail, off Burma Road, I came across a doe and two of her yearlings.  They were unimpressed by me and allowed me to get within 10 feet of me before they slowly made way off the trail.  Most of the deer on Mount Diablo are pretty wild and pretty jumpy around humans which made these deer pretty different.

Trail up to North Peak.
Today, our kids went back to school, with our oldest beginning middle school and our other kids beginning a new elementary.  I took the day off to walk them to school and help with the adjustment.  After, my wife and I decided to drive to the top of the mountain to explore the trails around North Peak and Prospectors Gap.


I have been wanting to get up to this area since I have been looking for alternatives for summiting other than Juniper Trail ( wonderful technical single track that is great to run down!) from Mitchell Canyon.  It was in the eighties when we got up there which made for a warm run (normal for Diablo).

First we took the quick 0.7 mile loop at the top, then took Summit Trail to North Peak Trail.  This is a real nice piece of single track also!  Half way down we came across a bunch of hogs, which I have never seen on the mountain.  Once we got to the Prospector Gap intersection, and our prime objective completed, I continued up to North Peak while my wife headed back towards the car.  
Mount Diablo's North Peak

North Peak is a nice climb with the final 500 hundred yards being steep and pretty loose, however, I made quick work of it.  The peak itself is not as nice as the main mountain is in full sun.  After a couple of moments I turned around and headed back to the car.

Once back to the car, my wife suggested I run down Juniper Trail and she would drive down to the campground.  I never pass on technical so I was game.  Besides I wanted to see if I could beat her down by foot.  She arrived four minutes before I got down, but I was really satisfied with our run.

It was definitely a great run and felt very strong and best of all two special runs with my wife!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Being on the Ball...My Achilles Heel

Well, for the last month I have been having nagging Achilles issues in my left leg.  Pretty straightforward stuff: a burning pain right where the Achilles attaches to the heel right when I get up in the morning, if I had been seated in a while, and the first 3 to 4 hundred yards of a run.  After I begin moving though, the pain goes away.

The pain is not like the Achilles tendonitis that I suffered from last year.  That paid made it difficult to run at all.  If I warm up, with a brisk walk, the pain goes away within the first half mile.  I believe it is more Achilles bursitis.

While I know it really is a minor problem, it is funny to see how people have noticed and commented on it though.  In fact, someone the other night asked how I injured my leg, quickly jumping to a statement to the effect that if I didn’t run I wouldn’t have the pain.   Well, when I was much heavier (about 240 plus) I had the same pains and probably what I am experiencing was more due to the wear and tear of the additional weight than any amount of running has done.
I know what the main contributing factor is:  I have too many miles on my road shoes.   While I am really good at rotating two pairs (I am a Brooks Adrenaline fan), I have put over 1,000 miles on both of them.  And like clockwork, the Achilles pain began right about the time I hit 400 miles on the first pair.  It got really worse when I hit 400 on the second pair.  So I finally broke down and bought a pair of the Adrenaline GTS 12 that were on clearance.
My first run on them was today and boy can I tell the difference!  My pain was virtually non-existent the entire run which was great.  It’s really funny to me that how adjusting something so basic makes such a change.  
I guess someone who may have read Born to Run may call out that I run in stability shoes with a 12 mm drop and that I am probably shortening my tendon.  And they are probably right to some degree.  However, I do run in Cascadia 8’s with a 9.6 mm drop have had no problems with switching between shoes.  Mind you, since a trail is typically uneven, any need for stability and the related problems with over pronation go out the door. When I need the help of a stability shoes is on the day to day slogging on pavement.

Now, there is also another contributing factor to the pain.  When I sit in a chair for an extended time, I do so with by ankle rolling to the side.  I noticed last year, when I had an extreme case of Achilles tendonitis, that even using a clutch (after not using one in 11 years) exasperated it.  
I have especially noticed the pain at work where I have caught myself doing this on a regular basis.  There is an easy solution for this: using an stability ball as a chair.  When I began running a few years back, I experimented with sitting on the ball at work more to work on my core muscles.  However, I quickly noticed that to properly stabilize the ball you need to keep your feet flat on the floor.  In fact, last year I noticed that my Achilles tendonitis dissipated pretty quickly once I began using one. So I am reincorporating it into my work station to see if it works with this injury..
Now I know using the ball is somewhat controversial and I do not recommend it to everyone.  It is something that you have to work up on, maybe 1 hour a day and moving up to the full eight over the next few days.  To properly use the ball, you need to keep your feet flat on the floor and keep proper posture.  You will find to accomplish the perfect posture; you do need to flex your abdomen and oblique to some degree.  You will also notice that you back muscles may burn for a bit until you have attained the full eight hours. 
 It is key that you have a ball that is properly inflated and that it is the proper size.  If you don’t you may start to feel some strain around your vertebrae due to poor posture.  You may also find that your hip flexors may feel sore because while stabilizing a poorly inflated ball.

For more tips on using a stability ball as a work chair see this video:

So far so good though with the ball and I am really excited about my shoes!  I hope in no time I don’t look like an old man getting out of a chair and hobbling across the street. 
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