Archive for the ‘injury’ Category

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#55 – Learning Lessons at the Striders Classic

29 April 2008

Start of the Striders Classic. I don’t know what’s up with guys putting hands on their butts!

It was a year in the waiting but I finally got to run the Striders Classic 10 mile road race. Last year I was signed up to run but wisely decided to withdraw due to a minor achilles injury. Ironically I’m currently recovering from a different injury, to my right hamstring, but it’s healed enough that I could handle a 10 mile training run.

The plan was to simply have fun and take it easy. Wednesday before the race I tested the hamstring on the treadmill and was happy to see that a 9:00 pace didn’t bother it. In fact, I even pushed it up to 8:00 for a while and then even 7:00 for half a mile, and the hammy was OK. After the 4 miles on the treadmill my hamstring was clearly fatigued, but not sore. So far so good.

In retrospect, however, that was problem number one – it had been a couple months since my legs were tested above an 8:30 pace and days before a 10-miler is no time for that. Live and learn, and learn I did…

Striders has a great reputation for well-organized, no-frills races that attract some quality runners and the 2008 Classic was no exception. Just $20 gets you signed up and when I arrived Saturday morning for registration all I received was a bib number and a polo shirt. Simply perfect! No plastic bag full of useless SWAG like sample packets of body lube, cheap water bottle designs from the 1980’s, hair scrunchies, toothbrushes, yucky-smelling lip balm, and countless tri-folds advertising races I have no intention of running… You get the idea. Yes, those are all examples of actual SWAG rotting (slowly) in the nearest landfill.

After relaxing for a while I headed into the high school restroom and when I emerged, the hallways were empty! It was still five minutes before the 8:00am start time, yet somehow all 262 runners disappeared to the start line within moments. I joined them and heard Steve Webster giving out instructions via bullhorn when I noticed that my bib was pinned crookedly (or “katty-wompus” as some would say) so I removed all four pins to straighten it out…

“30 seconds!!” yelled Steve. What?! It was 7:57 – I guess Striders doesn’t wait around. Hurriedly I fumbled to get my bib pinned back on and finally clipped the last safety pin (after bending it twice in my haste) when the race started. Unfortunately my bib was even more katty-wompus than before, but oh well – time to run!

Mile 1 of the Striders Classic.

My plan had been to start at a 10:00 pace and gradually speed up for a negative split, ideally finishing in 1:30-1:45. I was so busy taking a photo at the 1-mile marker that I forgot to check my time, but at two miles my time was just under 18:00 and that included 30-60 seconds stopped while taking a few photos. Dang, I was going too fast…

And I was thirsty already. That morning I forgot my water bottle that I usually drink from during the drive to the race. Just two miles into the race and I’ve already made four mistakes! Trained too hard on the treadmill, rushed at the start line, early pace too fast, and now already dehydrating!

Running past a farm where the cows wanted to race!

I consciously slowed down and when I reached the aid station I walked while drinking the water – to this day I still can’t drink from a cup while running without choking. Cruising along I often stopped to take more photos of the countryside but sadly many of them came out blurry. One of the blurred ones was this cute calf that was trying to race us, running through his paddock while being chased by his mom cow! Don’t know what got into the little guy but it sure was funny.

The “big” hill of the 10-mile course.

The course is advertised as being hilly but really it’s not that bad – just a rolling country road with one sorta large double-peaked hill. Finally I hit the turn-around of this out-and-back course in 46 minutes, just over a 9:00 pace. Definitely too fast as I hadn’t had a training run above that pace since injuring my hamstring in October. Mistake #5 – not realizing that when I meant to slow down, that I hadn’t slowed down.

Despite finally easing off the pace at mile five, it all caught up to me at six miles. I felt like crap – not bonky, but just tired. At the aid station I grabbed two large cups of water and walked for the next five minutes while drinking them. After putzing along for a while I decided to get back up to speed (if you can call a 10:00 pace “speed”) and definitely felt better.

With 2.5 miles to go I upped the pace a bit and still feeling good with two miles left, I nudged the throttle again. Around here is when I passed Lori Gaier – a softball teammate who was running her first ever 10 mile distance! She was just behind me until passing at mile 6, chiding me for walking by asking if my camera’s memory card was full and I couldn’t run anymore. 🙂 When I passed her at mile 8, she complained “I can’t believe you were walking and you’re still going to beat me!”

Lori finishes her first 10 miler! Congrats!

I managed to hold a 9:00 for the last two miles to finish in an official time of 1:35:37 – not bad considering all of my mistakes. Did I mention that Striders likes to keep it simple? There was no chip timing, instead just a volunteer ripping the tag off of my bib to record my placing in old-school fashion. Pretty cool, although it cost me 13 seconds due to starting at the back of the field. I guess that’s what you can call a “bib pinning penalty”!

That field was full of fast runners. The winner came home in under 55 minutes with 25 runners – almost 10% of the field – finishing in better than 1:05. The winners all got some cool prizes – no medals, but sweatshirts, gift certificates to Striders, and coffee mugs. Then another few dozen sweatshirts and gift certificate were raffled off in a random drawing of bib numbers. Someday, I swear, I will win a door prize at a race!

After the race I spent some time chatting with some of my co-workers who took part in the event: photogenic Dave Horne, Perry Cheathem, and Mike Mast. Our company is big enough that I don’t actually work with these guys, but thanks to running and/or softball I’ve had the chance to get to know them. I think I’ve met as many co-workers through those two sports as I have through the various programs I’ve worked on!

Telling my dad about the day he started laughing at all of my misfortunes and even teased me by asking if I’d ever run before. Truth is, though, I’ll never run a race where I don’t learn something. This is one of my favorite aspects about running – there’s always something more to learn, something new to discover, every time I put my feet in motion. At the Striders Classic this year, I learned a lot!

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#43 – 2007 Summary

1 January 2008

A year of good news and bad news, so I’ll get the bad stuff out of the way. 2007 ended not as I’d hoped thanks to my hamstring injury but at least it’s getting better with physical therapy. The downside was that I didn’t run a single mile during all of December, the first time I’ve missed a whole month since I started running four years ago today.

The good news is that I had a great year of running yet again. I ran 13 races including a post-high-school PR in the 5K and then lowered that mark with the help of my dog. It was all part of 1018.5 miles underfoot in 2007 so despite the injury, I was happy to crack 1000 miles even if it’s just a number. One of my goals for the year was to run 250 times but I only reached 207; however, I probably would’ve hit my target if I’d been smart enough to not overtrain into an injury. Live and learn.

Another positive is this very blog – since writing reason to run #1 back in April (which has been one of the most popular articles) there have been over 5200 visitors to Why Run?, much more than I would’ve thought my writing would attract. Thanks for reading!

Looking forward to 2008 my first priority is to get running again. Before the hamstring acted up I was hoping to try for a marathon PR in May and do some serious training for a sub-4:00 finish. Hopefully I can still go for that, but right now the prime race on my radar this year is my first crack at the 100K distance in August. Aside from that event I’m still working on sorting out my race schedule but I won’t be racing as many 5Ks this time around.

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#42 – Put Some Elbow Grease Into It

21 December 2007

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to schedule a physical therapy appointment!  Since my hamstring has been slow to heal I decided I better have someone take a look at it.  I had an appointment for last Tuesday but the trainer called in sick.  No other time slot was available this week and with next week busy with the holidays, I was looking at waiting a long time.

No way.  I wanted to get this leg taken care of – I really miss running!  So I called another branch of the rehab outfit and set up an appointment for first thing this morning.  As I’m eating breakfast I get a call that the trainer at that branch was sick!  I decide to call the original branch to see if I would be lucky enough to find a cancellation.

Even better, almost…  they had me on the schedule for right that minute.  What?!  For some reason I got put on the schedule at both branches at the same time.  If I could leave at that moment, I could get there in time for a therapy session so Amanda and I rushed out the door, I dropped her off at 2 Feet 4 Paws and then buzzed on over to the rehab facility.

The trainer started by testing the strength and range of motion of both hamstrings.  He discovered that my injured right hammy was a bit less flexible, but the strength in it was virtually the same as the left.  After double-checking for any palpable muscle tears, he was able to conclude that my hamstring was not an acute strain but a significant case of micro-tearing.  Basically I overdid the running, which I had guessed was the cause in the first place.

So far, so good – everything was making sense.  He checked out my right knee and hips to ensure there was no related injuries and then started my leg cooking under a heating pad.  Once warmed up he prepared for some deep tissue massage.  Upon hearing this I remarked: “Sounds like fun” to which he replied: “Um, no it might actually be painful.”

HOLY COW!!  Was he ever right – it hurt.  He was actually using his elbow on my hamstring and leveraging his entire weight into the effort.  Ow ow ow, but in a good way.  There was no sharp pain, just a strong soreness, if that makes sense.

After the massage he worked on flexibility.  While lying on my back he grabbed my right foot and next thing you know he’s pushing it up to the ceiling while forcing my knee to remain locked.  It was a pretty tough stretch but not too bad, then he asked me to push down with my leg against his hands.  It’s difficult to apply much force when your muscles are fully stretched out but I got a good push in.

Then he had me stop and relax the leg, after which he stretched it farther up and out!  Yow!  Once again another push against him, relax, and then he stretched it even further!  My foot was in a position relative to my head where I haven’t seen it before.   He asked me to push down again and all my leg could do was tremble.  Finally he put my leg back down and and with that I was done.

I’ll be going back next week for a follow up with instructions to do a lot more stretching in the meantime.  He strongly recommended that I use The Stick so I went out and bought one tonight.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about them and I’ll let you all know how I like it once I get a little more experience with it.

Thankfully my leg was never badly injured and the trainer was confident that I’d be running again soon.  He asked what level of running I wanted to get back to and I told him 20-40 miles per week.   He replied: “OK since it’s winter I’ll just write down 10-20 per week.”  I had to correct him; I run all year round outdoors.  He thought I was crazy enough but when he found out that I’m eyeing a 100K this fall, he flat out called me nuts.  That’s OK – sometimes it’s fun to be a little nutty.

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#41 – Not Running is No Fun

6 December 2007

I haven’t written much lately for a couple reasons:  1) Amanda and I have been busy starting up our new business, and 2) I haven’t been running.

The latter is significant because much of my blog is about my running and without that, what do I write about?  OK there are plenty of other topics, but also important is that not running can be depressing.  It frustrates me to no end that I haven’t been able to run – I missed all the good 50-degree weather in early November and now with snow and ice on the ground I can’t even ride my bike.  I’ve used the stationary bike at home a few times but that’s even worse than a treadmill.  I did get in a great long ride in mid November – 35 miles in 2.5 hours, and it was fun the whole way.  Since I don’t have clips on my pedals it’s hard for me to engage my hamstrings, which is good for my injured right one.

I don’t think I ever recovered from the Harvest Hustle and Doggie Dash, running 5K PRs on back-to-back weekends.  Or rather, I didn’t allow myself to recover.  I was feeling so strong after those races that my next couple workouts were faster than usual and after the second one my hamstring tightened up afterwards.  I took a couple days off and then ran a couple more 5-milers, the last one on Halloween, but it was still feeling tight, so I figured I’d be conservative and rest it for an entire week.

After the week off I ran a couple short runs under 3 miles with a day rest in between, and my hamstring felt no better than before!  Ugh.  So I took TWELVE days off with no running, although I did get some cycling in.  I ran on Thanksgiving day for 3 miles with Haven and my hamstring felt great!  No problems.  I took the next day off just to be sure, then ran 3 miles with Beacon and as soon as I got home and stopped running, my hamstring was more sore than it’s ever been and I was even limping for the rest of the day!  What the heck?

Partly I can “blame” Beacon.  We ran at what felt like a 9:00 pace but when I mapped it out afterwards I was alarmed to learn that he had pulled me to a 7:30 pace!  Still, it felt easy and I was paying close attention to my legs and never felt a twinge of anything until after the run.  Now I’m in the middle of another forced layoff and just hoping that my hamstring will actually heal.

Hopefully it is healing.  I haven’t felt any tightness in about a week and I’m actually considering running on it – very slowly and very briefly – sometime soon.  Yet there’s some trepidation because the last two times that my leg felt healed it turned out not to be, so maybe I should wait another whole week just to be certain?

I know that healing takes time, but what’s so odd to me is that my initial injury never felt anywhere close to serious.  Just a little stiffness in the hamstring; in fact I’ve had that before after some speed workouts.  It’s never hurt to the point that I couldn’t run without pain but I wanted to catch it early before injuries started cascading.  This has never felt like an injury that would’ve required more than a couple days to heal, yet here I am.

The good thing is that Amanda and I have been busy with 2 Feet 4 Paws so most days it’s easy to forget that I’m not running that day, but I can feel the effects.  It’s harder to wake up when I’m “not a runner” and food doesn’t taste as good when I haven’t been exercising.  Time heals all wounds and eventually it will heal this one, but boy is it tough having to wait!

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#16 – Speedy Recovery

24 May 2007

If you’re ever unfortunate enough to get injured in an accident, the speed of your recovery will most likely be proportional to your fitness at the time. Take for example, Danelle Ballengee

Ballengee is one of the world’s top endurance athletes, most notably as a mountain runner and adventure racer. Last winter she was badly injured when she fell 50 feet down a rock face while on a training run with her dog, Taz, who wound up being instrumental in saving her life. This happened in December 2006, and doctors figured she’d need up to six months to heal her shattered hip before she could walk again.

Well, guess who competed in a 12-hour adventure race under the name “How’s This For Rehab?” about a week ago? Five months later and she finished among the front-runners! In fact, some believe that her injuries at the time would’ve been fatal for most people. Not only did she survive, she recovered in remarkable fashion.

Running sure is fun, but it can also be a great insurance policy even if running caused the malady. Go Danelle!

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#10 – Learn to Exercise Prudence

21 April 2007

It’s Saturday morning and I’m signed up for the Striders Saturday Classic 10-mile race. Sadly, I’m sitting here writing this entry instead. Why? I’ve decided to be conservative and rest a minor injury.

Last Sunday I ran 16 miles exploring the countryside, then Monday I ran 6 miles; after the Monday run my left achilles became quite stiff and sore. It seemed OK during the run but when trying to stretch out afterward, I had far less range of motion. Even walking was difficult the rest of the day.

Fortunately Tuesday it felt great and I even got through softball practice with no problems. So Wednesday I set out for a 5 mile run and after one mile the achilles got stiff again. I should’ve stopped right then, but I was running someone and didn’t want to leave him hanging, so I toughed it out. Oops. The stiffness and soreness returned.

This time I hadn’t regained full range of motion by Thursday, a day later. Still, I went to softball practice and survived, but this time I could notice that my ankle wasn’t 100%. By Friday the range of motion was back to normal, but not without a feeling of tightness when pushed to the limit.

Alas, reasoning that 10 racing miles on the road would bring the problem back as bad as ever, I decided last night to skip the race. My ankle feels good now, but if it’s only “Tuesday good” then trying to run 10 miles could lead to a more severe injury. What a bummer – I was really looking forward to this race as Striders puts on good events and the course is reputed to be quite hilly. I even got a cool bib number: 88. Reminds me of a certain quote from Back to the Future! “When this baby hits 88 miles per hour…”

I believe I made the right decision, but it’s not easy to pass up a fun race, especially when I currently feel OK and could probably have finished. Further straining my achilles, however, could have grounded my running ways for a long time.