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"Those are for people looking for help"

A long time ago I drove for hours upon hours, deep into the heart of upper Ontario from my home in Wisconsin.

I found my way down gravel roads and finally came upon a campfire with a few stooped bodies soaking up the heat.

I'd found race headquarters for the 50K I noted in UltraRunning magazine; it was time to gear up for the event.

Rolly Portelonce, a very tough coal miner and 100-mile runner, was RD. He introduced himself, and I blurted out my immediate concern: Did anyone have any PowerBars? I'd left home without them and was concerned for my energy needs while on the course.

"Those are for people looking for help," said Portelonce in a monotone yet serious voice.

I never forgot that comment and have used it on many occasions since. Now, as I'm dealing with a degenerating right knee, it may be appropriate yet again. I AM NOT advocating that knee braces and other support mechanisms are to be avoided. Yet, for me, I have wondered about the healing powers of the body - when we encourage it to heal, versus placating our own regenerative powers.

I've done the knee brace thing on and off for over two years, and have not seen improvement within that period. However, when I started to increase mileage without the brace, while using a gentle stride and chirunning tactics, I found improvement. I believe that I prompted my body to adapt to a more forgiving stride, within a more biomechanical position.

Maybe chi did flow, and the renewed power healed. Or maybe my fitness and training made me more adaptable. While in rehab for my bad disc/back and leg trouble, I was told my left leg was slightly shorter, and to use a heel lift in my shoe. I chose not to. I'd rather work on adaptability than correction, to teach my body to find a natural fix, rather than a synthetic cure.

So it goes. The Green Swamp 50K looms ahead tomorrow morning and I'll pull out of the garage for the two hour drive down at 3:30 am. It's a typical ultra day.

Let's rock and roll and run and have fun.


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