Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Return

I think I'm back.  Not really in any substantial sense, yet, but enough that my daily routine has very much begun to take on its old, familiar, comfortable rhythm of wake up, tag a summit, sit at a desk trapped behind a computer for a few hours (thesis...), read a book, fall asleep, do it again.  It is rewarding.  And I've missed it. Mostly the tagging-a-summit part.

It has been nearly 10 weeks now since I tripped and inexplicably broke my fibula, so I went for my final post-injury check-up x-rays on Monday and all was good.  The cap of bone that my hamstring yanked off the fibular head has fully re-docked and fused itself back into the correct spot, and there is little to no soreness associated with the injury anymore, aside from some faint murmurings upon aggressive manipulation with the fingers.  I already tossed the crutches over three weeks ago and during the subsequent time have pursued a fairly consistent and progressively rigorous schedule of hiking to stimulate the final bit of bone growth and to begin reconditioning my legs to the demands of bipedal mountain travel.

(The only hitch in my progress came in the final weekend of July when I went for a hike up Arapahoe Pass in the Indian Peaks with Jocelyn and then the next day attended a trail work session on the Walker Ranch Loop.  This little outing consisted of repeatedly humping uphill the largest rocks one could carry in order to stabilize a steep section of trail, and my leg told me pretty quickly that it wasn't quite ready yet for the extra weight.  A few days of just easy walking around town, though, and I was back on track.)

Over the past couple weeks my outings have deliberately sought the steepest lines that Green Mountain has to offer.  Hiking on flat terrain is, for me, not very interesting, so I've been hitting the routes that--even if I were 100% fit--would require some hiking.  It's been a good reminder that A) it is very possible to completely destroy oneself on steep terrain without taking a single running step, and B) hiking hard uphill is a specialized skill that, once acquired, is an excellent thing to have in one's quiver as a mountain runner, especially over the 100mi distance.

A young Kilian marches to the 13,500' summit of Mt. Kinabalu during the 2007 Climbathon in Malaysia. This 21k event ascends 7600' in only 5.4 miles!
All of this has been even more brought into focus by the recent reports coming out of Europe regarding my compatriots' experiences at this past weekend's Sierre-Zinal mountain race in Switzerland.  Before moving to Boulder two years ago, I ran everything, period.  In 2006, after I had run my first 100 miler at Leadville, a friend asked me if I ever wanted to do Hardrock.  I remember replying derisively, "You mean 'HardWALK'? No, I like to run." Obviously, my thinking has changed.

Since taking up residence in Boulder--where the trails are far more technical and steep than anything in Colorado Springs (barring the Incline)--I still run every step on the established routes, but like my mindset had to first shift to accept the merit of even training on such paths as Amphitheater and Fern Canyon (each offer stretches in the 40% range), in the past year or so my mindset has again shifted to not only accept but embrace the merits of grunting up truly steep and unrunnable terrain in training.  Not only is there a compelling aesthetic about taking the most direct line to a summit, but the cardiovascular and muscular effort can be vicious whilst imparting virtually zero pounding on the legs.  Hence my current training plan.

Yep, that's called a trail here in Boulder. Green Mountain summit push from the west.
I must credit Geoff (who truly has a penchant for seeking out the steep, unrunnable stuff), Kilian (whose actions convinced me it was acceptable to hike some of the rollers on Cal Street at last year's WS100--we still recorded the fastest split for that section in the history of the race) and Joe (who couldn't care less if he was hiking or running, trail or not, as long as the line is pure and the summit is the goal) for contributing to this mental shift.  It will probably be another week or two before I'm consistently running to the summit again, but in the meantime I'll enjoy nearly as much getting there in an ever-so-slightly less dynamic fashion.

Geoff reaching a summit in Juneau, AK.
Kilian exhibiting the strain that hiking can incur at the Zegama Marathon in Spain.
Frogger channeling the aesthetic of his fell roots, in the Wasatch. Photo: Joe Grant.

67 comments:

Connor Curley said...

I'm happy for you dude.

Rob Timko said...

Great to hear! Just in time for some nice cool mornings on the summit!

Devon said...

Welcome back!

William said...

Sweet news. Enjoy my friend!

garobbins said...

Congrats on getting back at it Tony! I'm all about the steep hike up, run back down training and couldn't agree more about the benefits of developing ones steep terrain hiking abilities.
I hope the rest of your summer is filled with tagging beautiful summits.
GR

Jackalope said...

Welcome back sir. This is good news. Keep writing by the way.

Ian said...

Woop woop! Glad to see the road to recovery is almost complete.
Hang tough Tony.

Michael said...

Congratulations Tony! Welcome back!

RJM said...

Good to see that you are back at it. I'm curious though, have you ever thought about getting a DEXA scan done to see where you stand with respect to osteopenia or osteoporosis? With your kind of past mileage you could certainly be at risk with either. And it is certainly good to be aware of these things too(i.e., having such tests done to ensure you maintain safe health).

ShooterMcGavin said...

Glad to see you back. Can't wait to read about your new training regiment.

trailrutger said...

Back on track, the mountain trail train is off again. enjoy your time up on the trails on your way to another summit.

Greetz from the Netherlands,
Rutger

Kirk said...

Good to see you back Mr Kupricka, you're an inspiration.
I've just completed a 22 mile mountain race in the UK at the weekend. All went reasonably well other than chronic knee pain whilst descending after about the 8 mile point. It's looking like IT band syndrome. Have you any experience or advice if you've suffered similar?
Many thanks.

StefanP said...

waited for this moment..
Red it with a smile on my face.
I'm so happy for you!

phil said...

In celebration of your return I thought it a 'great opportunity to take my shirt off' on my trail run in the French Alps....welcome back

david said...

so happy to read you!
enhorabuena!

can´t wait for more posts to come sharing summits and trainning!!!!

Malcolm said...

The return of the king. Happy trails Anton, hopefully this means more regular blog posts ;)

The UnaRunner said...

you have learned a lesson many never understand, that to finish it the key regardless of how you get there. Some very wise people convinced me to incorporate walking into my run training as I prepared myslef for my first ultra. So when I could run and was forced to walk I did not feel as if I failed. It was only when I could no longer walk... Good luck as you return to full fitness.

Olga said...

Hooray, Tony! And it's never bad to hike uphill, often you can whip those (around) who try to run:)

Footfeathers said...

YES! Been waiting for this post. Welcome back, Tony. Going to be an exciting year, next year, for ultra fans.
Tim

Doug said...

Very happy for you! And its good to see you writing again.
Your blog has been very inspirational to me in reaching the goal of finishing my first ultra this year.

All the best!!!

matteo said...

back in business!

mr everyday guy said...

No other "sport" allows for multiple people of multiple skill levels to compete on the same course. - paraphrase from Rod Dixon

Glad to see someone of such caliber continuing to enjoy a passion for the outdoors and not crying about what they may or may not have lost or gained. Noble.

Kevin

Jame said...

Glad to hear that you're back on the trails! Hopefully I'll see you again soon on the way up and down Green.

Though, since the last time I saw you on Green was the day you got injured, maybe I'm bad luck . . .

Dominic said...

Yeah man, our local AC legend Tommy Neilsen really helped me appreciate the benefits of a strong hike in training this year. Whether it's the course gettting ridiculously steep or your stomach going south, there's usually going to be some point in your career where hiking comes to the greatest fruition and proves to be the realistic thing to do..

Yet, I still believe training hard will make more miles on more routes "runnable".

Dominic said...

No new music bro? The cool kids on letsrun message boards are dying to hear what you're into lately ;)

Anton said...

Thanks all, I'm definitely psyched to be back.

Dominic-Agree about the training thing; I stubbornly run all kinds of grades in training that I never would during a race because I think there's something to eventually gaining the benefits of the strength that comes from doing so. Having said that, there are absolutely some grades (40%+), especially at altitude, where hiking is not only more efficient, but also faster, but you can run into trouble if you haven't trained those muscles/that technique. Also, re: music, check out The Joy Formidable if you haven't yet. Caught them down in Solana Beach (where Jocelyn's from) last week at the Belly Up.

jeremy_foobar said...

Welcome back !!
I have just got a broken foot one week before the CCC (UTMB little sister race). I wanted to say thank you for giving me the hope and the inspiration to get through the recovery time.

tankterrain said...

Fantastic!

Great to hear that you are feeling stronger!

You are an inspiration to me and many many more.

Best wishes.

Jon, sweden

djconnel said...

Good paper here: http://jap.physiology.org/content/93/3/1039.full It shows walking is always more efficient at the same speed (if you can walk comfortably at that speed).

Court5km said...

Glad to hear you are back out running and hiking the mountains! I have to say your writing is so purely authentic and genuine. I appreciate that you have such a connection to your true self and connection to the natural world. Reminds me of a quote: "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a paint a particular picture, or carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the queality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.- Thoreau

I am sort of dealing with a hip issue/piriformis and this line froma previous post really shined through to me: "The break has also created a space for me to re-realize my most essential motivations in all this, and it's almost silly how quickly and clearly racing takes a backseat to the simple need to be outside, moving pain-free, under my own power". As a runner, we sometimes forget how absolutley exhilirating it really is, just to move without pain. To just enjoy that and be with that feeling is the best.... So, in the meantime- I'm reading some Anton Krupicka, in hopes of healing up quick!

Willowsteps said...

Anton, glad to hear the recovery is going well. Overcoming injuries is a satisfying experience. I just wanted to address what RJM stated in regards to the DEXA scan and assessing osteopenia/osteoporosis. Young, athletic (not to mention ultra-athletes) males are not at all at risk for osteoporosis. In fact, the more active one is, the more the risk of osteoporosis decreases. Weight bearing exercises strengthen bone tremendously. If anything, Anton's mileage has resulted in a much healthier bone in terms of bone mineral density. Osteoarthritis is a different matter, but his joint space looks great on his xray so he definitely does not have osteoarthritis right now.

pasi.koskinen said...

Congrats! And now easy - step by step for riding in the wind. I`m waiting your next posts - they inspire !

Derek said...

Welcome back!

Björn Grass said...

Good news! Great to hear! Welcome back, Tony!

Jason said...

Happy to hear you're back up and on 'em. The impatience and anxiety that comes with waiting on an injury to heal can be maddening.

Also, was that you on a single crutch at the Barr Trail race last month? If not, there's someone out there who looks a lot like you.

RJM said...

@Willowsteps: That's not quite true; indeed, exercise does help create stronger bones but these conclusions have not been reached in the presence of physical exertion that would include, e.g., high mileage(for some definition of high mileage).

Further, diet plays a role here too; with an increase in physical activity you have a corresponding increase in certain nutrients required for normal function.

Additionally, genetics has a role as well. With genes that predispose you to osteoporosis, it essentially does not matter how much you exercise, as it will provide little help in thwarting it(this has been observed); too, certain races are also more prone to osteoporosis(and identifying these genes in these races is something that is actively being researched), e.g., caucasians and asians while africans seem to have very high bone density.

Scott Dunlap said...

Great to hear you are back in action!

Unai said...

...keeping it real mate...

MV said...

Great news Tony! I'm so glad to hear that you are back at it again. I love you thoughts on incorporating hiking into a running workout. As I have transitioned into ultra distnaces in the mountains I have found this to be very helpful. I think that doing some hiking has helped me avoid some of the overuse injuries I used to struggle with.

Paul B N Wales said...

Hey glad to see its fixed now and things are coming back together for you.. Good luck on the summit bagging and happy trails

Paul B N Wales said...
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Barry Bliss said...

Awesome.

Sumemrtime said...

Spotted you at Fish Hatchery this year on the runners' return to Leadville, watching the race. Too bad you couldn't be running in thsi year's race. My friend Jesse Crandall and I camped on Hope Pass for last year's race (2010), and he snapped that photo of you jetting-up Hope Pass, in that easy style of yours. That's the photo at the top of your blog. Feel free to give him a shout out. I bet he'd appreciate it. Good luck w/ your recovery. - Summer

abel Noé said...

Really happy to hear you will back soon!!! ooops I forgot to say you are one of my heros!! check mine review of you, please! : http://www.entrenoenvigo.es/referentes-2/

Mike Rubsam said...

Hey man thanks for cheering us midpackers at the beginning of the PPA!

Greg Fell said...

Awesome News Tony... looking forward to seeing you out there again

Tony Mollica said...

Great news Tony! I am so glad to hear your recovery is going well! The sport just isn't the same without you!

Krista said...

fan-freakin'-tastic! So glad to hear! Looking forward to your future adventures!

Barón de Benta'ko Erreka said...

Welcome back Tony¡¡¡¡¡ This is goog news

zjones said...

It was so nice to meet you in Manitou last weekend before my race. I'm glad things are healing up nicely.

mi55ter said...

Happy things are getting back to normal for you, Anton. You deserve it!
Have you been over to Geoff's blog lately? You two really do a lot for the community with your posts! Hope you keep enjoying yourself.

Agiofws said...

Good to hear you are recovering so fast...

Moshe said...

Happy to hear you're getting better.
Good luck.

Roys said...

Good to know you are back on your legs! So what will you do about UTMB ? are you gonna go anyway and be in the support crew for Geoff, Scott and Joe? I'm sure you dont want to miss that.

Marco Denson said...
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Marco Denson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marco Denson said...

Anton,

happy to see you back on the trail and on the blog. Just curious, when you ran WS100, did you run all the way to the top of the escarpment at the start of the race or did you hike at all?

marco

Andy said...

Great, indeed, to hear you're back in the playground. The exuberant posts have been missed. And hiking the steeps is a great metaphor for ultras and life in general: work hard, take small steps, find your rhythm, and it's amazing how high you can go. Welcome back!

stamanu said...

Hi Anton!
I've followed your journey and all your ups and downs from across the pond (in the French Alps)and I'm glad you're up and running again.

By the way, for people who wish to follow the UTMB and keep track of the runners' progress you can check out this official website:

http://utmb.livetrail.net/

Hope to see you there next year

Manu de Grenoble

AshleyD said...

you have been missed.

benfromfrance said...

hey, congratulations ! I wish that you'll be soon in great shape for your summits !
Benedicte and Paul from France

benfromfrance said...

hey, congratulations. I wish that you are soon in great shape ! I follow your aventures from south of france (provence)
ben

Paul said...

Great to see you back Tony. Really enjoyed your post on walking. To me it demonstrates you are not a running snob and nurture an open mind. I wish I could run like you, but I've been forced to appreciate the value of efficient walking after repeatedly timing myself, evaluating heartrate and percieved effort running and walking the same inclines. Last Sunday I walked 90% of the Pikes Peak Marathon passing at least 50 "runners" on the way up, came in under 5 hours and won my age group. I'm no where in your league so obviously it's diiferent, but I had similar results at the Leadville 100 walking past frustrated runners. I never look at walking as giving up or talking a break, it's just a different form of maintaining the same effort. Run if you can, but walk well if you can't.

Speedgoat Karl said...

Psyched you are on your way back,me as well, maybe this fall we'll all have some strong results.

Joe Grant photo: Hiking up the Pfieferhorn, Little Cottonwood Canyon, my home turf.

Hiking is good, I've been working on a strategy to "hike" the Wasatch 100 in 24 hours. I think i'ts doable. :-)

Jim Ellis said...

Hey Anton. Sorry to hear about your leg, good to hear you are back running.

Am curious, after a long run or race, what does the week after look like for you? Do you go out a run low mileage? do you run at all?

I'm curious. Just ran a 52 miler on Saturday, and not sure whether I should go out and run, or not. Any input would be great, or input from others too!

Running with purpose,

Jim

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