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Posts Tagged ‘Injury’

Today I pay tribute to a streak ended.

Yesterday my friend Adam was forced to end his 510 day running streak because of a sudden injury.

510 days!

Just to put that into perspective, as of yesterday my streak now stands at 140 days. Even if I were to do that 3 consecutive times, I would still be 90 days short.  My streak stands at 20 weeks.  Adam’s streak ended one day short of 73 weeks.

That’s a lot of running.  That is endurance.  That is commitment and dedication.  That is strength.

***

What happened to Adam you may ask?

On Saturday Adam, while hiking the trails, he was forced to defend his family from a bear that tried to attack them. After bobbing and weaving away from the bear’s fierce claws, Adam punched it right in the nose. Stunned, the bear began to back off, but just for good measure Adam threw in a powerful side kick to the bear’s stomach.

The bear turned tail and ran for the hills. There was much rejoicing, that is until the adrenaline began to wear off.  That was when Adam realized he had twisted his ankle with that final kick. His ankle began to swell and he feared the worst.

On Sunday, Adam valiantly attempted to run. After a mile (the official daily minimum) he was done…he would not run on Monday. He knew that although he had defeated the bear, the bear had broken his streak.

I would like to emphasize, the rumors that Adam twisted his ankle heading out his patio door are patently untrue and in all likelihood were invented and  spread by the bear’s embarrassed family.

***

All joking aside, much respect to Adam and his 510 day streak. I look at that number with awe and respect.  A lot of things can go wrong over the course of 510 days that prevent a person from continuing, and somehow, through it all, Adam always managed to get at least one run (and sometime two or three) in.

Adam on the trail.

Adam on the trail.

A pox on the bear and his family…and on patio doors too!

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tick tick tick tick tick...

tick tick tick tick tick…

It is now less than 30 days until the TARC 100.

Cue mild panic attack.

Less than 30 days until I make my first (and possibly last) attempt at covering 100 miles on foot in less than 30 hours.  30 hours is the cutoff.  The race’s website states that if one is not on at least 30 hour pace when he or she reaches the various aid stations then that person will be pulled from the course.

30 hours. That’s 3.33 miles per hour.  18 minute mile pace.  Seems simple enough…until you really think about it.

Gah!

My buddy JB and I have set our goal to finish under 24 hours, with an A+ goal being sub-20; but this plantar fasciitis thing has proven to be harder to shake than hoped and that has set back training for the last few weeks.  Sure I’ve continued to run through it to keep #AutismStreaks alive (I know, not wise) , but I haven’t been able to put in the miles one should when training for a 100 miler.

Sigh.

So what to do?

My thinking now is just finish.  In my head now I’m thinking if we go sub-24, that would be fantastic, but in reality, if I can cover 100 miles in anywhere between 24 and 30 hours, I will be pleased as punch.  In a perfect world I would have done a 50-miler last weekend.  Instead, I ran a total of 4 miles.

The world’s not perfect; training doesn’t always go as planned; ultimately we need to make adjustments to our expectations.

That’s life.

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I’m not a mechanic, and I know way less than I should about cars, but I do know that every once in a while, the service guy or gal will tell me that my tires need to be balanced – makes sense to me, sorta.  Making sure that your tires are centered correctly can ease the wear and tear of time.  What I find fascinating about the process is that for a car that weighs thousands of pounds, the adjustment is a little tiny weight on the rim of the wheel.

***

I’ve been watching runners in my neighborhood.  I’m happy to say that I see a lot of them, more than I have in the past – maybe the population IS taking this whole obesity thing seriously.  But there is something I have noticed with several recreational runners – many of them carry their music in their hand.  Now, carrying music in your hand in and of itself is not be a bad thing – on longer runs I will often carry my hydration in my hand – but what I see in these runners is running with an over exaggerated compensation due to the extra weight they are carrying on one side or the other.  While one arm swings properly, bent at the elbow at 90°, never going too far forward or backward, the other swings wildly.  This swing then ripples out and affects gait and rhythm, causing this weird, almost Igor “Walk this Way” the Assistant type stride.

Inevitably, this will cause injuries because the runner’s body is attempting to compensate for this imbalance.

There are a few things one can do to make sure this doesn’t happen (or at least keep the effects to a minimum).

  1. Ditch the music.  There is something to be said about running with nature and environment as your soundtrack.  It also gives you a better chance to listen to your feet (are they pounding the ground too hard? are they scuffling along and dragging?).  But that’s a pretty hardcore step for some.  Music is a great motivator – I discovered that on Sunday when Psy’s Gangnam Style actually quickened my pace up some tough hills.
  2. Alternate hands.  When I run with hydration, I tend to take a hand held water bottle.  I like it better than the belts (but some people swear by the belts – personal preference).  20 ounces of water can be quite heavy over the course of 5 – 20 miles and your bicep will eventually tire.  That is why I will alternate hands every mile.  At first, this is very uncomfortable for your unfavored arm, but eventually you will get used to it.  By alternating which hand you are holding your music or water bottle, you avoid the fatigue that leads to the flailing arm.
  3. Bring it closer to your center of gravity.  The further out you hold something, the more weight it exerts on your arm.  By bringing your arms closer to your torso and keeping the elbow bent at 90°, you decrease the effects of carrying a music player or hydration,  A better solution to carrying your music however, is to carry it on either your waist, bicep or head.  There are several choices out there to attach your music player to your body – hip clips, hatphones, armbands (my personal preference).

When we suffer injuries from running, more often than not, they are due to little things we could have done differently; little tiny ripples that over time gain strength from repeated use before ultimately crashing down on us like an injury tsunami.  Maintaining good form throughout a run will go a long way in keeping you injury free.

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Symmetry

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A big, fat 0.

That’s the number of miles I have run in the last 7 days.

0.

Zip.

Nada.

I’m definitely starting to get a little grumpy.

But now I am battling myself on two fronts.  The fire, that internal engine is still stuck in neutral; motivation to train is at a low; but even if the desire were back, I am now facing an issue of pain in my right heel, my right knee and right hip.  The latter two, I am convinced, are offshoots of the first.

Not to get too graphic, but a callused part of my heel decided couple of weeks ago to crack. That has led to a sharp pain in my heel, which has led me to alter my gait, which I am convinced has thrown off the fine-tuning on my right leg.  It doesn’t help that my right leg has always been noticeably smaller than my left, that I am weaker on the right side.  My symmetry has always been a little off, but this cracked heel has thrown everything way off balance.

Those aches and pains that have kept my motivation down these past several weeks are waxing, not waning.

It is not the expected result of rest.

I’m going to have a serious problem if things don’t turn around in the next week or two.  I still believe I can be ready for my next marathon on 5 weeks training, maybe even 4, but the last time I tried to fake my way through on anything shorter (my first marathon), the result was frozen quads at mile 20.  At least if it happens at Around the Lake, I’ll be no more than a mile and a half from the finish.

Ugh.

I hate this feeling.

My motivation may be in the crapper right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to run.

I.

Want.

To.

Run.

I want to sweat, I want to breathe hard, I want to feel spent.

It is my therapy.

Hopefully the heel heals soon and a modicum of symmetry is returned to my body.  I really think that once I stop limping, the knee and hip will right itself.

At least that’s my hope.

I hope I’m right.


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In recent months Brooke has struggled with her environment. The Fall transition has not been particularly easy. Brooke’s autism is infused with pervasive anxiety.  Over the last several months, her anxiety levels have increased just ever so slightly, leading small trickles to compound into crashing waves when the environmental conditions are just so.  A baby’s cry, a child calling for its mama, or even big sister Katie sniffing because of a runny nose – all these things can lead to meltdown.

Little things becoming big ones.

Glitches becoming catastrophes.

Jess and I are working hard to anticipate and re-direct, attempting to keep those trickles as just that…sometimes with success, sometimes in vain.  We’ve learned to identify some, but not all, of what induces the paralyzing anxiety.

I tell people that being the parent of a child with autism has made me a better father, a better husband, a better man. You learn patience. You learn compassion. You learn to suck it up.

***

What I never thought, was that being a parent of an autistic child would make me a better runner. Brooke has taught me perseverance, tenacity, and drive. She wants to be able to break through her walls.  The perfect example is when she insisted we get  a dog – this despite the fact that she was deathly afraid of them.  We spent the first three weeks of having a dog with Brooke’s feet never touching the ground when our dog was in the same room.  Today, she has overcome that fear and now loves dogs.  I mean she LOVES dogs!  Perseverance, tenacity and drive – I used all of those things at both the Smuttynose AND New York City Marathons. In one race I used those lessons to cruise to personal victory, in the other I used them simply to survive.

Something else I did not realize until recently that I learned from Brooke as it relates to running was anticipation.  I don’t meant the “licking you chops can’t wait for this dinner” kind of anticipation.  No, I mean preventative anticipation, defensive anticipation.  As runners we can often be hyper-focused on the training at hand.  We will pay close attention to the pace, the distance, the training, but if presented with a niggling pain we will brush it off as just part of the training.  Much of the time, that is just what it is, but how often have you suffered an injury and in retrospect known exactly when it happened?   Prevention is much more powerful than reaction. The time spent ahead of the curve packs so much more wallop than time spent recovering from disaster.  We (I) need to learn to anticipate which of those niggles are an indication of more to come.

In Chaos Theory there is something called the Butterfly Effect. Put in very, VERY simple terms, the idea is that in a closed system (like our planet’s environment or our bodies) we are all connected. Because of that intra-connection (and explained with a lot of high level math I don’t pretend to understand) the flutter of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can initiate events in our atmosphere that eventually lead to a class 5 hurricane off the coast of South Carolina. The problem of course is that the math is so complex that in the end, the connections seems to be random, chaotic. Trying to determine which butterfly’s wing will cause the next Hurricane Andrew is practically impossible.

The math isn’t quite as complex when it comes to our running and our bodies. I am learning to filter out the normal aches and pains of running and focus on those that feel like they could be more serious; those that could be evil butterflies.

***

Watching my little Brooke recently, I’ve seen the little things that set off a chain of events leading to disaster. Our (Jess & my) job is to attempt to anticipate which little things, which butterflies will cause the hurricane. Sometimes it’s a single event; sometimes, like many pebbles thrown into a once calm pond, it is many events. The difficulty is knowing which pebbles to catch and which butterfly to squish.

***

Awareness makes us better people, in all things. The more we know, the more likely we can manage to stay calm in the face of adversity, the more likely we make the choices that lead to a desired ending.

Whether it’s protecting my little one or protecting my body from injury, it’s about looking out for the “right” butterfly – and squishing it.

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I’ve taken some time off to rest my knee.  In fact, when I resume my marathon training schedule on Wednesday with a medium long run (12 miles at a nice and easy pace), it will be my first run in exactly 2 weeks.  My original plan was to take 10 days off, but that meant starting yesterday with a 17 miler.  Felt a little much, so I decided to give myself one more day before resuming my schedule.  Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) the schedule said that today and tomorrow were off days.  With 8 weeks to go I have the luck of coming back on a recovery week.  Nothing like a well-timed injury.

That said, I’m still a little nervous.  The knee feels pretty good, but I know that can change with one misstep, one tweak.  Maybe I need to face the fact that I’m not 20 anymore and that I can’t push myself as hard as, well, as hard as I wish I had pushed myself when I was younger. 

Isn’t it a shame that youth is wasted on the young?

Had I had the determination I have at 40 at the age of 20, who knows what kind of runner I might have become?  World-class?  Definitely not.  But could I have run a marathon with a 2:–:– handle?  Maybe…just maybe.

I am in better shape now than I have ever been in my life, save maybe when I was 16 or 17, when I was practicing kung-fu 2-4 hours a day, 6 days a week.  But being in the best shape of my life doesn’t change the fact that I’m 40 years old and I don’t bounce back as quickly as my mind and will would like.

Looking ahead at my schedule (I’m following the Pfitz 12/55 program from Advanced Marathoning), there are some interesting weeks coming up.  Some lactate threshold runs, some marathon pace runs and some VO2 Max runs – all sessions that produce a little extra pounding on the knee.  Running in VFF’s help reduce that pounding, but the fact that I’m still a heel-striker doesn’t help.  I’m actually toying with the idea of buying some shoes that may play to my heel-striking tendency – not to convert back to regular shoes, but just to mix it up.  My buddy Pete is pretty convinced that he has remained injury free in part because he mixes up what he puts on his feet from run to run.  There’s actually some science to that – maybe a topic for another post.

Where am I going with this?  I don’t know.  The heart and mind are determined, but the body is not as enthusiastic or resilient.  Is that enough?  Can it be enough?  I’ve only been running for 20 months.  Do more experienced runners go through this?  Or are they simply physically more gifted? How do they adjust?

The next couple of weeks will be telling.  I want to be able to complete the plan, knowing that if I do, and am healthy, I’ve got a pretty good shot at 3:20:59 at Smuttynose.  I have two friends, Brendan and the aforementioned Pete, who will be running it as well.  Brendan is shooting for 3:20 like me.  Pete, if all systems are go, may be shooting for a 3:15.  Running with those guys will be a big help to all three of us.  Like any daunting task, it’s much easier to tackle 26.2 miles with a group as opposed to alone.   The thing is, I can’t push myself to complete the plan and go into the Smuttynose hobbling – defeats the whole purpose of training, doesn’t it?  I do think I have to finally face the fact that I’m older now, so maybe it’s a little more important to stretch, do the warm up runs, do the cool down jogs and stretch afterward.

So I take my first steps back on Wednesday with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.  I’ll have to resist the urge to go all out, but also have to be careful not to run too conservatively.

When did I get old?

What’s your approach to training when coming back from an injury?  And for the older runners like me, has your approach changed with time?

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I am a runner.

I run.

A lot.

You know this.

So does just about everybody else.

“Hey, do you know Luau?”

“Who?”

“The running dad.”

“Oh yeah! I know him. The guy with the funny shoes, right?”

Yes, anybody who knows me, even tangentially, knows me as a runner.

***

So what happens to a runner when he or she can’t run, or as is more my current situation, shouldn’t run.

Two marathons in two weeks beat me up far worse than I initially thought. The pain I am in gives me an even greater appreciation for what guys of Operation Jack and MarathonQuest250 are doing. My right knee just is not a happy puppy right now. The right thing to do after my Providence and Boston combo was NOT to run. But purchasing the new Bikilas was too much of a temptation to resist, so I ran. And then I ran again.

And as awesome as running in the Bikilas were, an injured knee is an injured knee. What’s a runner to do? Running has come to define me. It is who I am. It is my therapy to deal with the craptastic issues I’m dealing with in everyday life. It is my medicine. My escape. My release.

What am I to do when I can’t run?

I go to Plan B.

I love running, but one of my favorite parts of running is the sweating.

When I break a real sweat, I feel cleansed. When I am exhausted, I feel energized. When my muscles ache, I feel great.

It the paradox of running, but running isn’t the only way to achieve those feelings.

I have been inspired by my friend Jersey, who gets up every morning at 4:00 to hop on to her elliptical for an hour. She uses her hour of redlining it much in the same way I use my runs. She is just about as crazy as I am when it comes to needing that rush, that escape. So at least for now, while I know I shouldn’t be running, I am going to go with Plan B. I’m taking it easy on the knees and hopping on the elliptical for hour every day. Thank God my DVR is overflowing.

And you know I’ll still be wearing the Bikilas!

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