Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Learning from mistakes

Actually, I may not of yet have learned but I might be starting to wise up. I have had a history of running through injuries and a history of minor and a few major injuries. All of my major issues have happened away from running that is until last fall when I messed up my ankle and my calf..

Here is what I have proven by running through these injuries, I did not heal as quickly as I could have and might have caused myself some other compensation injuries. Because of these injuries, thus far this year I  have not been able to run any races. My latest race to miss is Afton. What if I had done a better rehab, would I have been able to race?

I thought I was on track to run Afton by dropping down to the 25k but it is not to be.This weekend when the calf tightened up after 3 miles and then again yesterday before the first mile, I have had to face my reality, I am not yet healthy and need to work the calf back into running shape. Since I have worked to get the ankle back working right it only makes sense that now that it is almost healthy my calf is an issue. I am sure some stretching and maybe some PT will get it stretched out again. Last fall, my Doctor told me that the calf would probably be more of a problem than the ankle. Well, he was wrong for 6 months but it appears he now may be right. Ugh.........

So today, I emailed John S. and said do you need another volunteer for Afton? He emailed me back and said sure he could use some cleanup help. I knew when I sent the email that his race was almost full so I wouldn't have much time to make my final decision. Tonight, during church, I decided I should go ahead and sign up for the 25k, since he needed post race help, I might as well gamble and go for it as I would have plenty of time and heck it's only a 25k.

Ok, you might be thinking to yourself that this is the thinking that has gotten me into trouble and fate intervened, I just checked and his race is full.

So for this year I will not risk additional injury at Afton instead I will volunteer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Walking the plank - Proprioception

I was planning on running tonight after work, two things got in my way. A thunderstorm and a reality check. I had to admit to myself that I may have overdone it a little over the weekend as my ankle is sore. Not painful just sore. So an extra day off of running will probably be a good idea.

What do I mean by walking the plank, well that is the exercise activity that I have been doing that I think has helped the ankle. The Dr. that I saw that suggested that I work on improving my proprioception 

Definition of Proprioception from

The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. In humans, these stimuliare detected by nerves within the body itself, as well as by the semicircular canals of the inner ear

He said I should pick a 4" x 4"x 8' cedar beam, since I had 4 2" x 4" x 8's I went low cost and nailed then together and now have16 feet of plank to walk.

I walk forwards and backwards and am just starting to get a feel for doing it with the eyes closed. Ok, I should say that I can stand on the beam with my eyes closed as I have yet to be able to walk the entire length and back with my eyes closed. I can stare at a distance point versus looking down at the beam which is an improvement. Since I first started doing the beam, I have made quite a bit of progress and considering the cost and how I can't do it very well, it's well worth the investment and time.

So instead of a run, I walked my plank for 5 minutes. Hopefully tomorrow the soreness will be gone and I will get in a run. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Minimalist Running begins

Stopped at TC Running on Thursday and checked out their trail shoes. Kurt D. assisted and I ended up getting a pair of Saucony ProGrid Peregrines. These are kind of an intro to minimalist running since they weigh around 9 oz although they do only have a 4 mm drop versus the normal 10 to 20 mm drop. They fit and feel like a slipper. I probably went farther than I should have yesterday but I didn't have any issues, actually I was surprised as the lower heel didn't seem to matter at all.

Here is what they looked like at the start of the run
Here they are after 5 miles

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Potawatomi Recap 2

Ok, I wasn't going to publish this report but I decided I should for a couple of reasons. First I did take the time to write it back in April and it was a different experience for me that I think is worth noting meaning trying to be a pacer versus a racer. At Potawatomi, I had planned to run one loop by myself as I wanted to give a bit of thought to things from my past, my reason for that is that the race was on my Dad's birthday. He died in 1983 and I thought it would be good to take the time to remember things. This is a long post so sorry about that but I debated breaking it up and decided since it was personal most folks would understand.

As to the race, my plan was to pace Wayne and Karen for the first 2 loops, run loop 3 on my own for myself and reserve 2 more loops for them. As a reminder, Wayne and Karen were doing the 100 and I was hoping to do 50 miles but my main goal was to help them and give my ankle a reasonable test. It was Wayne's second attempt at a 100 and Karen's third attempt at McNaughton. On the drive down we went through many race scenarios all of which were contingent on things going well. If the weather and the course were good, I knew that they would both finish. If conditions turned bad at McNaughton, well it is a tough course and that would be a problem was our conclusion.

The weather when we arrived was in the mid 60's with a forecast for upper 70's the next day. The water in the creeks was low, so we were expecting very good running conditions. Our plan was to try and mimic the pace from last year plus about 10 minutes, that meant a 2 and 1/2 hour first loop followed by a 2 hour and 40 minute second loop. Not too fast, I think we thought that the initial part of the race would be easy, relatively speaking. One thing not in the forecast was the rain we got right before the race. Unfortunately, the rain made the course almost un-runnable. Part of the issue was I chose to run in my Brooks Cascadia's, not a good mud shoe at least with the steepness of the McNaughton hills. The hills were scary on the way down and very slippery on the way up, grabbing small tress and branches was required.  With regards to our plan, the mud made it not happen, the first loop took 2 hours and 50 minutes and it felt like we pushed it a lot harder than we should have had to. The second loop took almost 3 hours.

I wasn't happy that I failed to get them through the first two loops any faster and that it took a little more out of me than I had hoped. I sent Wayne and Karen on their way and took a chair. I was hoping that I had slowed them down and that without me slowing them down that they would find a nice pace. Rick said he was going out on his own to take some pictures. I liked his idea and decided to do the same thing except I grabbed my phone to take pictures. As I started the third loop, I could tell the heat was coming on but it also was drying up the course which was good. I had even more ankle pain. To quantify the pain, during the first two loops every step hurt a little when I landed or pushed off and occasionally the steps hurt a lot. The third loop seemed to be more of the "lot" versus a "little".

To take my mind off of my own issues, I started to try and remember things about my dad, he died in 1983 at the age of 54, he was overweight, smoked, drank too much beer, loved to play golf, listen to the Cincinnati Reds and IU (Indiana University) basketball, he was a caring man and I wish he had lived much longer. He died of a heart attack while in his Doctor's office. He was in a preventative program to reduce his risk of a heart attack and had just completed a stress test when his heart went in a-fib but they couldn't get it stopped (to be honest, I may be wrong about it being a-fib but that is what I remember). On a related note, his father died the evening after he did a stress test (back in the 70's). My older brother has told his Doctor he will never do one. Not sure how I feel about doing one.

I then thought about my mom, she died in 1989 of colon cancer. She was alive when our first daughter was born and I still have strong memories of her with Katie. We have a picture of them together with the Easter bunny. I do wish that my parents could have lived to see our girls grow up but it wasn't meant to be. I have the memories but my girls do not. I also thought of my niece Sarah who was born 6 months ahead of Katie but died before her first birthday. She had neuroblastoma, was diagnosed in 1986 and we thought that part of what kept my mom from recognizing her colon cancer was the time she spent trying to help my brother and his wife as they dealt with their cancer stricken daughter. Those were not easy days on my family and for me living in MN, I felt even more removed and helpless to help out. Thankfully I have 3 brothers and a sister who carried the load of dealing with Mom. I should really write a bit more about my mom but will save it for another post.

Next up in my thoughts was our daughter Kellie who died before she was born. She would have been our second daughter but was stillborn at 25 weeks. Needless to say my wife and I were devastated when she no longer felt movement and then we went in for the ultrasound where no heartbeat was heard. They were able to determine what might have caused her death, my wife has a blood clotting issue (it is called anti-phospholipid syndrome - her blood clots too well). After the diagnosis we decided to try again right away to have another child which led to our miracle baby, Kristin. I remember my brother and his wife the Christmas after Kellie when we discussed her, how one of them said that our loss was harder than theirs, we had no time with Kellie but they were given almost a year with Sarah. That made me feel better but I still can't imagine their loss.

My wife had to give herself heparin shots throughout the pregnancy to manage the clotting problem, we dealt with many Doctors, she endured nose bleeds when the heparin dosage got too high, hematoma from one of  the 3x daily injections. It was not an easy time but the result was worth it, our baby girl is now looking at colleges as she finishes up her junior year. I still remember our eldest daughter saying that she hoped that this baby would live. Katie has now graduated from college, is working out in the real world and has developed into a great young lady. Needless to say we are quite proud of both of our girls.

My mind wandered and the miles floated by, the ability to have this happen during an ultra is one of my reasons for loving ultras, it just doesn't happen for me during shorter runs. It was a surreal experience and I struggled to keep it all together. Meaning, there were times I just stopped and had to take a deep breath to hold back the emotions.  I kept thinking how blessed I have been with a wonderful wife and my daughters. Part of my struggle, I admit was that my ankle was killing me, the downhills were brutal, the uphills hurt and the flats weren't much fun either so I was forced to walk more than I ran and I had doubts about if I would be able to help Wayne and Karen. I knew I had committed to do it so I was going to give it my best shot.

I then started remembering the homes that I lived in when I grew up in Columbus. My mind moved through every room at our housed on Pearl street, I remembered friends and things I did in that neighborhood. Then I moved my mind towards our house on 734 California where we moved when I was in high school. Then I remembered my Grandmother's house which was on 732 California. My parents moved into it after my grandmother died. A weird thing was that I was able to remember the house when my Grandmother and Grandfather lived there but my parents redid the house and I could not for the life of me remember it properly. I kept thinking about where the kitchen was and the back porch which got transformed into my parent's bedroom. I think part of my issue was that they redid the house after I was in college or was it after I graduated, anyway the memories I should have had, I struggled to remember.

About then, my loop was coming to an end and it was getting hot, real hot. The forecast had changed to the upper 70's/low 80's. Since we had had 0 days over 60 to train in, it was going to be hard on Wayne and Karen. I made it back chatted with Rick, his dad and his friend. I hung out until Wayne and Karen came through and then I went into the tent to try to get some sleep. Rick was going to finish out his 50 with them and then I would continue. I had a heck of a time dozing off but finally did. They got me up before they arrived so I had time to get my bearings and get my mind back into it. As they came into at 60 miles, Rick told me that they had gotten pretty quiet and that I should just keep them moving.

The ankle was hurting but I was going to try and do my job as pacer for the second time. I asked them what they wanted and they really weren't too talkative, I moved ahead of them, stayed along side of them, asked occasional questions and tried to help at the aid stations. We were mostly walking which was ok by me, it was pretty at night, peaceful and the temps were still very pleasant, not hot but definitely warm like on a summer night. We continued around the loop, I was trying to keep the pace quick and tried to keep our stops in the aid stations short. Frankly, pacing is hard (meaning I am not very good at it, much easier to run your own race). During this loop I kept having an internal debate could I do one more loop with them? Should I do one more loop with them? The battle within went from yes you can, no you can't and as we crossed the last creek, I was really struggling. I moved up ahead of them to try and pull them along. As we came up over the last hill, they started to talk amongst themselves which was odd as they had been quiet during the entire loop. I had decided that I should/couldn't go on and was trying to decided how to tell them, I didn't want to let them down but I didn't think I could make another loop. Turns out their discussion was that they were quiting but they wanted me to finish my 50 so they were discussing that they would do one more loop with me. I told them no and we called it an evening.

We were all disappointed but the course conditions and the weather had been brutal up to that point. If they had continued, the temps on Sunday got up to 86 with a very strong wind. I think they made the right call.

I have to end this post with an update, Wayne finished his 100 at Kettle where he figured out how to tolerate another tough weather day. Karen went down and helped pace him, she was far more effective than I was. I am thrilled that Wayne got his first 100 except knowing Wayne he might now be thinking about running the Potawatomi 150 next year and be looking for a pacer, I think I will recommend Karen :-).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Running thoughts - future choices?

Now that I am slowly becoming a runner again I have been giving a bit of thought to what do I want to accomplish for the remainder of the year? If I sign up for races like the Afton 50k, Twin Cities marathon and Surf the Murph 50 miler, I will hurry myself  to ramp up the mileage and end up injured which is what I want to avoid.

So over the weekend I did a couple of test runs and here is my conclusion - I am in pathetic shape but I did not have ankle pain. I know part of me being pathetic was the heat since I have had zero days running in it and both days when I went running it was in the 80's but realistically, I have a lot of work ahead of me. So all things considered what do I want to do?

First, I have to say kudos to Wayne for running and finishing a 100 mile race over the weekend, yes the same weekend day when I couldn't make it 6, unbelievable and a well deserved kettle. Looking forward to add a link to your race post :-).

Back to me, I thought more about focusing on TCM but I would rather take the $100 and run a few more races like Wild Duluth and Big Woods and Walker or ...... well, you get my drift. So what am I going to do?

Well, I have given it a bit of thought and here goes. I am going to work on the things that really are holding me back. Which in my opinion are two primary things, make that three: My work-life carryover, my weight and my injuries. I personally think the injuries and weight go together at least a little but realistically I have been injured since last September and did less than 10 days of cross or alternative exercising. Heck my wife does 10 days of alternative training in 2 weeks so I have to get realistic and do a better job of identifying and doing alternative workouts. The work life thing is about priorities and is something I have to work on, I could now run almost every day before work yet I haven't, why? The answer is I have had a lot of things going on at work and have hurried in and had to stay later to get the projects done, I need to invest in myself. So I am thinking that if I only try to run 3 miles before work, then most of my excuses on time go away. I historically have only wanted to do runs of 5 to 7 miles or longer, why waste my time for 3 miles? Well, I am slow enough that 3 miles takes longer than it used to, meaning years ago 3 miles took between 20 and 25 minutes, today it's like 35 minutes at least on trails and you know what that's a decent workout.

So where am I heading with this? I am thinking about working on aligning my desire to do shorter workouts with something that might help me on the injury front. And what does this mean, it means I am going to venture into the world of minimalist running and invest in a pair of "somethings" that help me (ok make that they will force me to) work on my form. Right now, I am doing the research at the link above (great reviews on some of the minimalist shoes) and various other places and blogs on the net and then I am planning on heading over to TC Running to take a look at what they have. If I end up buying a pair, I will post about the learning curve it takes for me to convert to a midfoot running form. I have read many of the books on minimalist running such as Chi Running, Born to Run and others and I think there is merit in mixing it into my routine. So for me, this can be my alternative exercise and don't worry as I go down this path, I will ease into it as I don't want it to cause other injuries but it would seem like a natural thing to do for a 3 mile run before work run.

One last thought or maybe it's a bitch, I have now run 2 days before work in Hyland and both days I ended up with a wood tick on me (I hate when I feel something crawling on me). I have run in Lebanon Hills for years without any, go figure.


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