Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ankle Therapy

After breakfast on Sunday, Cathy and I checked out of our luxurious accommodations. The food was fantastic at the Old Tavern Inn. They bring fresh baked scones when seating you for breakfast. They are infinitely better than the ones at Starbucks. Real fresh squeezed orange juice, real butter, and real maple syrup are just a few of the other nice touches we enjoyed there.  A hike seemed a good way to cap off a three day weekend. We loaded up the car and headed to Jaffrey, NH.

Cathy and I have driven by Mt Monadnock many times when the mountain taunted us to hike it. I've only hiked it once, about 10 years ago when my mother was over. Cathy has hiked it several times with other people since then. I had strong reservations about tackling such a technical climb. This climb lies right in that perfect middle ground, where it is not all hands and feet scrambling nor all smooth path. It is non-stop ankle biter terrain. This aggressive climb would quickly tell me if my ankle was fully healed or not. I was going to wear my lace-up support. I probably needed to worry about rolling my good ankle more than anything else.

The summit was socked in with clouds when we first saw the mountain, but the cloud deck lifted just enough to clear the summit by noon. I had no trouble climbing the White Dot trail. Climbing big step-ups at an aggressive pace is just like riding a bicycle up a steep grade. My body is well conditioned for it. My ankle felt stable. It is all concentric muscle contraction. Cathy found going up aerobically challenging, but with hundreds of people going up the mountain, nobody passed us on the climb. I paused a couple times for Cathy, logging less than an hour of moving time. We overheard other people three hours into their climb and still only 3/4 of the way up.

Cathy scrambling up steep section.

It was wicked windy up top and cold at first, until the sweat dried up. Then it was pleasant. Despite low cloud deck, visibility was probably greater than 50 miles. I reached the summit a few minutes before Cathy did. I was watching for her, wondering where she went. Then I hear a woman squeal behind me, see someone topple over, slide on their back into a crevasse and was unable to get out. It was Cathy! She came up from a slightly different direction and when she saw me, she took a misstep. Other than a scrape on her arm, she was all right. Freaked everybody out up there though. After chowing on fruit and Vermont cheese and crackers, we started heading back down. We would take a slightly different route down, the White Cross trail.

Summit view, looking north.

The descent is what weirded me out. I never roll ankles on climbs. I barely used my hands climbing the mountain but used them continuously while descending. Then some little four year old kid comes flying by me, parallel feet hoping from big boulder to big boulder. Was I ever able to do that? What I wouldn't give to be that nimble again. My ankle was doing fine. My knees where a whole different matter.

Cathy coming up section that would later give me
the willies going back down.

It is the eccentric muscle contraction that kills me on descents. This is where your muscle elongates while under tension. Normally while riding a bike, muscles contract while under tension. The eccentric contraction is a whole different beast and it responsible for most DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) people get. I can get terrible shin splints from hiking down steep grades. And tender knees. I really need to do more of this. I think it would make me less prone to injury, although hiking like this is very risky initially, until I toughen up. More weight bearing activity like this would help my skiing too.

Don't need to show the profile for this one. Many sections
were over 60% grade.

Cathy had no trouble staying with me on the descent, and I went as fast as I dared. She no doubt could smoke me down this mountain if she tried. She runs throughout the year, so she did not feel any of the weaknesses I did. The good news is this 2.3 hour hike did not bother my injured ankle any more than my right ankle. I'd have to say that is about as close to 100% full recovery as you can get. I do need to do one of two things though. I either need to buy a second ankle support so I reduce risk of rolling either ankle, or I need to do more impacty weight bearing activities to strengthen my lower legs. One is easy way out, the other is right thing to do. I have poor track record on committing to things that do not directly make pedals go around.

After the hike, we went to Kimball Farms in Jaffrey. I've heard many people rave about their lobster rolls there. I've never been to this Kimball Farms, but I've been to the one in Westford Mass several times for icecream. Then I saw the lobster rolls were $16.95. They can't be that good. Too rich for my Dutch blood. I opted for a fish sandwich platter and large bowl of pistachio icecream afterwards. That was twice the size of the Ben and Jerry's I had the day before, easily over 1200 calories worth. I told myself I earned it.

It was so nice in the evening when we got home, I just had to jump on a mountain bike for an hour. I was dismayed to see the hill behind my house is finally getting developed. Maybe the economy is turning around. Last I heard, large "estate" homes were going to be built up there. When I moved to Pelham 13 years ago, I had a 40 mile ATV trail network right from my neighborhood. There were many 400+ foot peaks to climb. Now the network has been fragmented by development, and police have cracked down on illegal ATV use. When ATVs lose, I lose too.  They keep the trails rideable.  It was a great weekend, logging over 10 hours of aerobic activity and around 14,000 feet of climbing.


Anonymous said...

Doug: you're probably aware of all the studies of bone density loss in elite cyclists (if they don't run/weightlift enough, etc)...just fyi if you haven't seen them...

Luke S said...

If you're worried about knees and ankles going down mountains, grab a pair of trekking poles. They easily adjust so you can have short poles going up and long ones going down. They make going down much easier on knees and ankles.

Hill Junkie said...

I've heard about the bone density tests on pro cyclists a few years ago when the news first broke. My skate technique skiing probably isn't impacty enough to make up for potential calcium loss in the summer months. One study showed mountain biking helped, but mainly in spine density. Since my fracture, I have begun taking 1260mg of calcium fortified with vitamin D per day. I plan to get a bone density scan soon. I don't think I have a problem, but I need assurance. Typical bone density scans usually measure the pelvis and/or spine, not the legs.

Luke - I borrowed trekking poles for a hike last year. They did seem to help. I told myself I need to get a set, but alas, riding my bike makes me forget these things. There is an EMS near my house, so maybe after work today I'll pick up a pair.

Mookie said...

An old timer used to always tell me, "the body becomes its function." I did a 2+ hour hike on Saturday with Em and the hips and knees weren't happy. Need to do more of it so it's not such a shock to the system.

Poles will definitely help your cause on the descents.

Alex said...

As strange as it sounds, the faster you go on the descents, the less painful they are... this is dependent on getting back all your proprioception and being used to impacts, but when you're moving faster, your weight is on top of your feet (as opposed to behind your feet) and the impacts are less when you keep your feet moving fast. Good trail runners always lean forward on the downhill, and its much less jarring than leaning back trying to slow onesself. Sort of like roots/rock gardens on a mtb...

The alternative is hiking poles - if I know I'll be hiking slowly, I rely heavily on the poles, as they seriously lesson the load on your knees. Also make it safer for your now-weakened ankle.

Hill Junkie said...

Per Luke's suggestion, I did pick up a decent pair of Leki poles last night at EMS. They were even on sale!