After last year’s transformative trail running trip around Mont Blanc with Adventure Running Co, I soon signed up for another trip with their wonderful guides: Andy, Kim and Aaron. I chose their Yosemite Camping Tour! I hear this is one one of the most majestic hiking/trail running areas in the country, so I signed up with the intention of training and being ready for this tour.
My life rarely goes as planned! Last December, I sprained my right MCL with a partial meniscus tear while learning how to ski in Utah. Although it seemed to heal rather quickly, a few rock climbing sessions seemed to re-injure it in April. During May, I broke out in hives during an ayurveda cleanse that cleared up just before I left for Yosemite. So, yet again, I embarked on another trail running trip without proper conditioning. The only two things I had going for me was consistent strength training and yoga.
Mike, my trainer at Summit, has been working the muscles I’ll need for hiking/trail running/mountaineering. And, just as Mike predicted, I was not sore this time around! But, my cardio was poor and I wasn’t unable to run uphill with ease like I’ve had in the past. (Walking lots of miles does nothing for running up mountains!) Running uphill was my saving grace from all the time I lose on the rocky descents. Running downhill on rocks scares me! I don’t want to break my ankles, but I realize I need to get over this fear to get faster.
Whenever I am in mentally and physically challenging situations, I come out the other end more inspired, rejuvenated and motivated. Sometimes I need to shock myself to appreciate the small things and help me focus on the important things. Yosemite gave me exactly that and more.
*Photo credit: Adventure Running Co/Andy Holak
The elevation in Yosemite is not that high (around 7-8,000 ft), but I felt the altitude on day 1. I was experiencing headaches and toe/foot cramps from not drinking enough electrolytes and water. I thought, we’re only going 11 miles and there are no crazy climbs. I’ll be fine with 2 liters of water. I was wrong! I could’ve used another 2 liters and should’ve brought my water filter. The guides also had filters with them, but the days are like a race to go as fast as I can so I don’t hold the others up. I feel the need to go as quickly as possible - even though that pressure is my own doing (the guides and others do not make anyone feel so).
Because we’re staying at the campground within Yosemite, each day has a massive climb and an equally challenging descent. The trails are rocky and steep, but there are rewarding views at every turn. The payoff was the best I’ve ever seen. I’m willing to lose a toenail, get blood blisters and push myself to the brink for majestic views not many people are able to see!
Due to record snowfall over the winter, many of our original routes were closed and our guides gave us new itineraries each day. Instead of 75 miles over the course of 5 days, we’re going for a total of about 65 miles. For once, I’m not mad about less mileage given my knee hasn’t been trained properly. I was feeling good after the first three days. I could run, fast hike, carry my 10# of water because I wasn’t going to repeat day 1’s mistake again. But, the 4th day was brutal for everyone - even for the runners. The rocks were high, uneven and unforgiving. I wasn’t on track to finish all 16 miles given how slowly I was climbing uphill. My ego wanted to go all the way, but my knee was really slowing me down. I only went as far as Yosemite Point and completed 10 out of the 16 miles. The descent took me FOREVER. I slipped once, rolled my right ankle a few times, and knew my right knee was done for. I went into a meditative state to help me get down without major damage. After I finally made it down the mountain, my right knee was so swollen I could barely bend it.
I was already asking the guides what I could do instead of running/hiking on the last day because if there’s another day of climbing, I think I was going to end up breaking something. Luckily the last day was an easy day in Sequoia National Forest with an option to take a shuttle bus to shave some of the uphill/downhill. I ran small parts near the end to keep up with the others who wanted to save time, but looking back, that was not smart!
*Photo credit: Adventure Running Co/Andy Holak
After the trip, I could barely go up and down stairs. Getting an appointment with my orthopedic doctor, Dr. Michael Ciccotti, Sr., was 2 months out, but I called each day to see if there were any cancellations. Never take no for an answer! I was able to see him within a week and ask him why my knee keeps reinjuring. I don’t like this feeling that I can’t do the things I love. More importantly, I have to get better in time for our Adventure Wellness Retreat in Chamonix. I don’t want to miss out on the amazing hikes we have planned for our group! Dr. Ciccotti prescribed me a strong anti-inflammatory to help reduce the swelling above my knee in time for our retreat. I also went to my favorite acupuncturist, Chris Hudson at Rittenhouse Acupuncture, to help with healing.
Weight lifting around my injury and Iyengar yoga is already helping my knee get better, but I’m still slow going up/down stairs. This week, I’m taking it easy, icing, wearing a knee sleeve again, and looking forward to hearing what I need to do for my knee to withstand all the fun we’re going to have in Chamonix and the Alps next week!