Thursday, August 28, 2008

So this is what it's like!

Work, I mean. Wow! What a trip! In many ways, it's good to be back. (FYI, school hasn't started yet, so there are no kids in the building. Just meetings on top of meetings squished between meetings and a trip to Staples in there somewhere; not to mention the start-of-the-school-year celebrations, which are seemingly required-- boozing optional, but most choose to partake.)

So running. Here we go.

1. I'm back in Physical Therapy. If you recall, this was great fun last summer. It continues to be great fun. And helpful too, I believe. I have appt number two tomorrow afternoon.

2. There have been two runs this week. One was yesterday morning (like 6:15 AY EM morning) which was three miles--just the rezzie. I can tell my legs are out of practice. Lots of cobwebs to shake off. The other was this evening, which was a bit longer--maybe four miles? Not entirely sure of the distance, but after about seven or eight minutes, I settled into a nice rhythm.

Other than that, I've fit in my exercises, the stretching and rolling business, and the icing. I cannot even feel the ice on my knee anymore. It's far too used to the cold. Guess that was a boring post. My creative side has been stiffled lately and replaced with serious talk of students and curriculum. Apologies.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Three out of five ain't bad

If there's a way to make the last week of summer vacation seem ENDLESS....it is to endure it with NO running all the while agonizing over the possibility of another injury. Which is exactly what I did last week.

After doing a bit of cardio in the earlier part of the week, I felt aches and pains all up and down my leg. So I promptly stopped that business in favor of rest, ice, and PT exercises. By Friday, I was a nervous wreck before my (orthopedic) doctor's appt.

Since my doc is so popular, it's not unusual to wait quite a bit for his expertise. But shortly upon arrival yesterday, I was ushered in for X-rays, which took all of 3 minutes, and before I could text some concerned folks, they sent me into an exam room.

Let's see. My X-rays revealed no broken things or torn things. The doc then did some twisting, turning, poking, and prodding and announced that there was no fluid on the knee (like last time, when I was a regular storage unit for excess fluid), and that it wasn't even my IT band. Say what?!? It's not ITBS?? Then I really don't care what it is! Ok, that's not entirely true. I do care what it is. And apparently it's possibly Runner's Knee, which is the technical term for Patellofemoral Syndrome, which is what you have when it's general knee pain. What does this mean for me? It means I now have experience with three of The Big Five, the five most common running injuries. Just when I'll get to deal with Shinsplints and Achilles Tendinitis remains to be seen. But currently, I am batting 600 when it comes to running injuries!

I am allowed to cross train and my PT gave me the green light (as long as I don't feel any pain!) to run a shortie. So this morning, after shaking off some vodka remnants from last night (hey, at least it wasn't tequila!), I headed out the door for a mini run. It started with a half-mile walk to CP. My plan was to circle the reservoir because it is A) flat, B) a dirt path, and C) short. I wish I could have circled it multiple times like a hamster on its wheel, but I cut out after one loop and ran into some Flyers. I had to decline their invitation to run some with them (apparently, the going rate is 15 miles these days) so I filled them in on my plight. I ran the rest of the way home and took to my stretching, leg lifts, rolling, and icing with delight. In total, the run was 24 minutes. But 24 minutes of pain-free running.

I'm still not entirely sure I am injured. But a few weeks of physical therapy can only help. I haven't given up on Eleven-Two, but I plan to ease back into training. Running is too important to me to chance it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cease Fire

Ever since I came down with that unfortunate bug in Mexico, things have not been going too well. I'm mostly concerned about my knee and have decided to stop running indefinitely. So far, it's been five days--five very long days. I have an appt with my doc at the end of the week, and I'll probably return to PT. I'm not entirely sure that I'm injured; it's not so much pain as it is discomfort. But I know that the IT band is incredibly tricky and can manifest itself in an infinite number of ways. And honestly, so what? What difference is two or three weeks going to make for me? I keep hearing about these Olympic athletes who were injured, got surgery, took years off, and have now returned to the competition. To me, that is so impressive. And as I've said before, part of being an athlete is dealing with injury.

After several days of complete rest, I am back to doing my exercises. The full routine requires an impressive arsenal. Picture it, if you will: a yoga mat for stretching purposes, a foam roller, the Stick, two 5lb ankle weights, a bag of ice, and occasionally a stability ball just in case I feel like throwing in some abs at the end. The whole deal takes about 20 minutes, not counting gathering supplies and icing (or the occasional ab workout).

Unfortunately, my cross training is limited at the moment due to my healing right elbow. Yoga is on the back burner since it requires supporting oneself with one arm at times. I can ellipticalize, which I tried yesterday with success (30 minutes). And cycling seems to work, too. I enjoyed about ten miles on the (flat) west side highway this morning. I also learned how to put air in my tires--no small feat. The knee feels good today, but its penchant for mood swings has got me up on my haunches (not literally).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

If you are what you say you are...

The CDC has issued a statement saying the course was incorrectly certified. The current official distance is now: 13.2762 (instead of the half-marathon distance of 13.1094). While many runners, including yours truly, are suspicious that this adjustment is not enough (ie the course was longer still), I am happy to see that some action was taken in a timely fashion.

With this new information, my self-adjusted half-marathon time would have been more like: 2:01.30 (avg pace of 9:16). Obviously, two minutes is no big thing, especially for someone who was not out to PR. But to many runners, this is simply unacceptable. I have been watching the drama unfold on letsrun.com, and it's just one big unfortunate story for all those involved.

Being part of the running scene for almost eleven years has allowed me to see just how much has changed since 1997. Internet was prevalent, but not everyone had it. At some of my earlier races, you'd find your (gun) time on a printout shortly after the race. That was all you got. There was no chip or anything. And no forum with which to post your positive or negative comments regarding the race (people would use the land-line for that, I guess). It's very easy these days to point fingers and "yell" and "scream" at the race directors anonymously over the Internet. And since many races are so big now and so expensive, I guess runners feel as if they deserve perfection come race day. It's times like these that I try to remember why it is I register for races and what it is I'm paying for. More importantly, how exactly does an organized race differ from a training run? I've picked five things to analyze.

A. The course. In a race, the course is mapped out in advance and certified or measured accurately (most of the time). On a training run, I may decide to add or subtract some mileage or perhaps chop off the third Harlem Hill in favor of another loop of the rez. I also resort to gpeds or similar for rough mileage estimates.
B. Aid stations. You should expect water (and enough of it) on a race course (unless you are told otherwise due to the specific event). Perhaps even some sports drink. And you might expect a fluid station every one or two miles. Also, should you need it, some kind of medical attention should be available. On a training run, you are responsible for your own aid.
C. Traffic. While racing, you should not have to deal with traffic. Whether or not traffic is shut down entirely, sentenced to one lane, or stopped by a volunteer, traffic should not be the racer's responsibility (you should still exercise caution, however). Obviously, when I am running on my own, I better look out for vehicles, or anything else that could run me over.
D. Scored results. A big reason people race is to have an "official" time. Unless it is a fun run, participants should be given a finish time. This time is important because it signifies an accomplished goal. With the technology we have now, the timing aspect can get pretty screwed up.
E. Goodies. This includes t-shirts, refreshments, and other souvenirs participants receive at races. Some races have a phenomenal spread at the finish line; others offer stale bagels and crushed fruit (no names here).

I'm sure there are many more things I haven't discussed (fans and spectators come to mind) but these are my primary reasons for racing. Every year, road races get bigger, more expensive, and more publicized. I still do 'em, but I try to keep in mind that it is only a race, and as long as I am safe (and preferably uninjured) at the end of them, then all is good. But another part of me feels quite cheated when something as significant as the course distance is fouled.

Besides following this drama (watching the Olympics, visiting with friends, etc), I've been trying to recover from Sunday. Today I spent some time at the gym with a four mile run (flanked by two half-mile warm up walks), lots of stretching, and just about all the PT exercises I know. Knee seemed okay. It's just going to be a one-day-at-a-time kinda thing.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chicago Distance Classic

In addition to watching the Cubs and the Sox play ball, I participated in a race today. I was lucky enough to be able to run the CDC with my friend, C, a long-time friend and TS member. This morning we arose IN THE THREES!! in order to be there for the 6:30am start. Perhaps we overestimated the time we needed for race-prep, but a nice side-effect was that we got to leisurely sip chilly soy lattes in a warm car. Oddly enough, it was actually cold this August morning in Chi-town. (Of note: I am wearing my old college running club sweatshirt--a shout-out to the Alma Mater)

Chicago races have always impressed me, and today's race was no exception. The cushy bathrooms at the Hilton void of lines, the 1:5 porto-potty to runner ratio, the helpful and cheery volunteers (at least six of them knew where to find extra safety pins), the short and sweet baggage drop, and the wide-open starting corrals were just some of the reasons I enjoyed the experience this morning.

C and I easily found a spot near the nine-minute mile marker. Yes, it was cozy, but there was no pushing, and we even partook in some friendly banter re: the theoretical prohibition of headphones for this race (both C and I along with hundreds of others were sporting the illegal earbuds). Though it is a story for another day, I, personally, feel headphone use should be left to the runner's discretion. Plus, we sign waiver after waiver giving away every last right when we register for these races. Why prohibit when you can simply discourage? But I digress. The start was smooth--technically a "wave" start but really more of a group one/group two/group three, etc. type deal.

My goal was simply to run without further injuring myself (I have been on a rampage lately). The first six miles were along Lake Shore Drive--flat roads with the wind at our backs.

Mile 1: 8:56
Mile 2: 9:07
Mile 3: 9:11
Mile 4: 9:21
Mile 5: 9:31
Mile 6: 9:05

There was some consistency, I suppose, but mostly I was just running without paying any attention to my speed. About half-way to mile seven, we made the turn around. The entertainment factor picked up due to the lakeshore path, the lake, and the boats on the lake. The wind factor also picked up (remember--Windy City). For some reason, mile seven was excessively long--I kept looking for the mile marker, and when it finally came, my split was outrageous. And to my knowledge, I had not slowed down my pace.

Mile 7: 10:53

The rest of the race was along the lake (with plenty of cooling wind). I remember seeing the skyline up in the distance and realizing how just far was left in the race (at time it seemed daunting).

Mile 8: 9:13
Mile 9: 9:07
Mile 10: 9:44
Mile 11: 9:06
Mile 12: 9:29
Mile 13: 9:34
Point 1: 0:59
Total: 2:03:10

Obviously, not my best half mary. But not my worst either. For most of the race (ie. all of it) my right leg felt tight and untrustworthy. I kept waiting for it to die on me. It never died, but it seemed weak and, dare I say "on it's last leg?" My pace indicates that I was nursing the dying leg, but some of it could be attributed to my lack of attention to pace. Either way, I'm concerned re: my marathon training future.

Post race, C and I easily reunited and spotted our peanut gallery (my p's). They were champion spectators, arising in the fives (no small feat), and coming down to cheer us on. In Hutchinson Field, there was lots of stretching, meeting up with friends, and snagging a bag of ice for the knee from the medical tent.



After refueling with breakfast at Hashbrowns, it should have been naptime. Unfortunately, I am not very good at napping. So instead, I watched the White Sox beat Boston--reclined in a very comfortable chair--and am now watching the Cubs. I ♥ the Cubs.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Woe is Me (part deux)

I must be going through some sort of disaster-prone phase lately. In the last month, I have suffered from two illnesses, a twisted knee, lots of worry, some strife, and now I have a traumatic "fall" to add to my collection.

My current locale is Chicago, Illinois (Fukudome, anyone?). I flew in Wednesday morning, which includes a stressful story of barely making my flight (ie. absolute LAST person to board that plane) and dealing with a "delayed baggage" situation. (Note to self: pack running shoes in carry-on if planning on barely making the flight.) Yeah, so my short run planned for Wednesday would have had to have happened sans the running shoes and proper apparel. Needless to say, it did not happen.

Thursday morning, the luggage was delivered! I immediately put on my running outfit and headed out the door (with both p's on bikes) to try my "test run." For some reason, the weather here is absolutely gorgeous!! Sunny and warm, but void of humidity. My knee was a bit stiff, but not painful. The flat roads and friendly weather made this an easier fun. I managed seven point two five miles. Then, after stretching, PT, and icing, an unfortunate event occurred...

I'm a pretty big multi-tasker. I tend to do a million things at once (subscribing to the "do it fast" philosophy instead of the "do it right" one). Yesterday was no exception. My blunder: While attempting to accomplish many things simultaneously, I fell down the stairs. (I will pause here for any laughter that needs to take place....) There's no need to list all the things I was doing at the time of the "incident," but I will say the number could be counted on no less than two hands. Tumbling down wooden stairs, void of soft carpet to diminish my speed, is *not* pleasant. In fact it's downright scary. At the bottom of the staircase, I took some inventory. The edges of each stair delivered a series of blows to my back, but other than some red marks, I had full range of movement. I had several cuts, but nothing a little Neosporin couldn't handle. The worst was my right elbow. What started as a mild discomfort soon swelled to a sizable ache. Good thing I had just been icing my knee, because I now had a new use for that bag of frozen cubes. The elbow pain brought with it a whole new set of fears: what if I broke it? when will I be able to extend my arm to its fullest degree? and most importantly--will this affect my running??

This morning my sore elbow has lots of company--sore neck, sore back, sore arms, you name it--it's sore. The elbow is considerably better. Still quite sore, but less so. But now it seems I will need to complete another test run to see if I can run with such a malady before Sunday's half effort.

What have I learned from all this? I need to seriously SLOW DOWN! When I get off an airplane after a long flight--ease into the sprint to the immigration counter. If stairs are part of the itinerary, utilize the banister(s). Make three (preferably two) the magic number, as in things I should be doing at one time. Hey, baby steps.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Woe is Me

Spending a week out of the country on the Pacific coast proved to have its share of rest days. Anticipating less-than perfect conditions for any sort of long run, I fit in a long run of 12 miles the Friday before I left. It was pretty easy going, though my quads suffered from what might have been DOMS from Thursday's Yassos. To combat that soreness, I took a full day off of running to fly the friendly skies and enjoyed an 80 minute Theraputic Massage.

Sunday morning called for a run on the beach. A shortie at best--only three miles--but we (RC and I) had to avoid incoming waves and deal with the sand factor. Running with one water-logged shoe is not ideal, as was hammered home after I failed to side-step a surprise breaker.


Monday morning we asked about running on the roads and were told there were miles of roads easily accessible to pedestrians. This was proved true when we spotted plenty of runners truckin' back and forth. Because the sun was slow to rise in our particular time zone, we were able to start at 7:45 and fit in two miles out & two miles back before the sun became a pest. The flat ground was much easier to run over than the challenging impediments of sand on the beach.

Wednesday, RC and I put forth a 6.25 mile effort on these same roads. It was a nice tour of the surrounding area, complete with its own sanitation facility (or at least what smelled like one). Lucky for us, the sun stayed hidden behind clouds that later released quite a few raindrops. This weather inspired a few members of our party to display some advanced diving techniques off the side of the pool. I believe one such member nearly perfected the triple-twist backflop...(he probably would have nailed it had he just put down the glass of Johnny Walker...)

The gym at our resort was somewhat primative, so lifting consited mainly of free weights of an unknown quantity as well as some stretching and PT. I managed a decent effort the first few days. Then, an unfortunate twist of fate entered the picture...

Let's just say that when I caught some type of bug (ie. food poisoning), my standard vacation routines were interrupted to account for the 48 hours or so of bedridden discomfort necessary to fully process the bug. Needless to say, there was no more running on this trip, nor were there gym visits. I would have liked to fit in one more run with RC, but it was not in the cards. Instead, I rested, took it easy, and employed "aquatherapy" (ie. playing in the pool and/or ocean) to revitalize my spirits.

Soon after recovery, it was time to fly home. This is where it gets complicated. Currently, I stand in a place of purgatory. I have sentenced myself to several rest days on account of a mishap that occurred shortly after I stepped off the plane. Sitting still for six hours is not my fave. (Sitting still for any amount of time is typically not my fave). But I was stiff and tired and upon stepping into JFK, I perhaps may have twisted something in my knee region (Yes, that knee) giving me yet another reason to hate JFK. When I got home, I iced like a madwomen, popped a Vitamin I, and hoped for the best.

Sunday morning was my planned long run: 15 miles. Bummer that I had missed the LTR the day before, but a Flyer I bumped into early in the run assured me that I had the better weather day (and perhaps the less-crowded-park-day as well). Long story short, the run was okay. I hung in there, circling loops and rezzies multiple times. Near the end of the run, my knee was a little stiff. Not "holy hell I'm in pain!", but just a bit sore. I walked more often and stopped to stretch during the last two miles, hoping that I was not doomed to the sidelines for all eternity. For the rest of the day it was more icing, more NSAIDs, and more worrying.

For the past two days, I've pulled out all the stops: Ice, acupuncture, ibuprofen, rest, and a paranoid visit to my PT, who is pretty sure I am fine. He said I was a bit tight in the band area (no surprise) but was loosening up over the course of the visit. After lots of stretching, deep tissue (OW!), rolling, and icing, he sent me on my way, urging me to try a run when I feel comfortable. I am grateful for his help, especially on such short (and frantic) notice. He is the best!!

So this is where we stand. I'm giving it another day--I'm still somewhat sore from the fifteen on Sunday--and then we'll see how three or four miles feels tomorrow. If everything's golden, I'll shoot for six on Thursday. If still golden, then I can taper for my upcoming half mary this Sunday. If not, I'll be phoning my Orthopedic Doc and returning to PT. I don't have any knee pain at the moment, but that thing is crazy unpredictable--not to be trusted! So I am erring on the side of caution and trying to keep a level head about me.