Thursday, February 24, 2011

Boring Training Update

Just a quick update on the training this week. The windy long run around Inner Harbor on Saturday made me think that my knee is strong enough to attempt the marathon, but that I needed to get my conditioning back, since I'd been running shorter distances and less frequently since the end of January.

I seem to be off to a good start this week. On Monday night after work, I set out to run 8 or so miles. Everything was going fine until about mile 3, when it started snowing pretty hard. It was a wet, sleety snow at the time, and a bit rough on the eyes, so I called it a night at mile 7, the point at which I got back to my car, rather than making an extra 1-2 mile loop through "downtown" Manchester.

Yesterday afternoon was gorgeous, and I took advantage of it with an 8.5 mile run in 1:20. My legs were tired from physical therapy in the morning, but the knee felt as well as it's felt during any run I've taken since hurting it, and this was my second-fastest paced run of 2011, which is not to shabby since the other one was just 4 miles in which I booked it (and failed by seconds) to keep under a 9-minute mile pace.

More importantly, my knee felt fine after the run and feels as close to normal as it's felt in weeks. I'm going to try to get out for 4 or 5 miles this afternoon before the rains come. There won't be a long run this weekend -- instead I'm going to try to for 8-10 miles on Saturday morning and 8-10 miles on Monday morning. I have March 5 to try to for one last long run -- 17 or 18 miles is probably the most I dare attempt, and then the next week. We're signed up to run a 5K on the 13th, so on March 6, the day after my last long run, I'll take 2 or 3 mile recovery run to see if the 5K is a good idea or not. It's been quite awhile since I've run two days in a row, so I think today will be a good test as well.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Against the Wind

Today's run was an adventure. A ridiculous, perhaps ill-conceived adventure, but an adventure nonetheless. A friend from my training group and I tested our will, and our legs, against gale-force winds at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Somehow, the wind seemed to be in our faces much more than at our backs both on the way from our start at (I think) Canton Park to Fort McHenry and back.

There were several times, particularly as we ran the seawall at the fort, where I felt like I could barely push forward through the wind, and another time where I rounded a corner into the wind and was almost blown right into the harbor. A swim would have been a shortcut, at least. And maybe cleaner, as my poor face was sandblasted by dust and grit at several windy points in the run.

(I'm sure you wanted to see how much Inner Harbor debris was stuck to my face when I got home.)

Still, it was a really enjoyable and scenic tour of Baltimore that took us through Fell's Point, by the Under Armour factory, past Federal Hill, and around all the familiar touristy sights of what I always thought of as the Inner Harbor. Baltimore really is an awesome running city --I was amazed how many other crazies we saw running on such a wild weather day. Proper layering was essential today; the wind was cold, the sun was hot (for February!). I was very, very glad that I brought a windbreaker to start the run, but I was in sleeveless by the last four miles.

This has been a tough running week for me. (I've been saying that too often lately.) Between fighting off a respiratory infection earlier in the week and a crazy work schedule, I'd gotten just six miles in on Wednesday night and nothing else this week. My calves felt like they never recovered from that, and they were my downfall today. The IT band was sore but bearable. Whether illness, wind, or just lack of conditioning from my bad month of running, or some combination of all of these, this run was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be after last week's 12 miler and I had trouble keeping up today.

(My eyes felt like they had been immersed in the Harbor.)

That said, we did finish 14.3 miles in rough conditions in 2:36, and the knee held up ok. I think the implication of this is that I can nurse it through the marathon, but I absolutely must make sure I get in more frequent weekday runs, even if I don't have time to make them 7-8 milers, to build my stamina back over the next month. I've got to do my PT exercises. I've got to get back to lifting, as my shoulders were really sore today. And most of all, I have to find time to run. If I fail because of my knee, so be it. But I won't not succeed because I was too busy to train hard in the last month.

Game on.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I'll be Back, Scrambling

I had the best post-injury run so far on Saturday, 12 miles in the Timonium Maryland area. The knee was fine for about the first 8 miles, and after that there was some pain and tightness, but not terrible. I felt like my conditioning had suffered a bit from my two light weeks, but overall very happy with it. A friend also shared some techniques for taking pressure off the knees when going uphills (sit back a bit to use the butt muscles -- to use the medical terms -- and take some weight off the knees) as well as some product recommendations that I think will help. The Gatorade "3" tastes gross, but I drank a bottle after the run and felt more alive afterward, and I would recommend "The Stick" to anyone who is having IT Band trouble -- it's like a portable foam roller and it brought me back from "I'm not sure I can make it back out to my car" to "Ok, that's not too bad" in just a minute of use.

Despite "The Stick", stretching, and foam rolling, I was pretty sore Saturday night and Sunday morning, but not only was this twice as far as I'd gone in two full weeks, but I think I underestimated how hard on the knee a couple hours walking around Hershey Chocolate World later in the day would be. I definitely think I'll be ready for 5-6 miles on Monday or Tuesday, 6-7 on Thursday, and 13-15 on Saturday.

A friend and I are planning to run the Inner Harbor on Saturday, and it will be nice to see how the knee holds up on a mostly flat surface. I don't think I have enough weeks to get my mileage up into the 20s, but I think if I can get back up to 17 or 18 that I can do it. There will probably be some "stop at the medical tent and stretch" breaks during the marathon, but after getting back to the double digits with over a month to go I feel like I've got a shot at this thing again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Here Today, Cone Tomorrow

I know this is supposed to be my running blog, but I realize it's been more of a "*****ing about my knee blog" lately, so I am sorry for that.

I admit I've been pretty stressed out lately, but I've got nothing on one of my great friends:

1. He's had surgery to remove bladder stones.
2. He's conquered diabetes
3. He's got a nuclear thyroid that is eating him alive

And now....AND NOW:

4. He's the 1 in 1000 cats with an allergic reaction to methimezole (his thyroid medication, which was working quite well, by the way), an inflammation right in front of his ears that he keeps scratching till it bleeds, causing him to be fitted with a cone.

One small step for a giant leap for catkind.

I admit, I thought this would be hilarious and I was ready to laugh at him. Couldn't they have at least given him a white cone? Couldn't it have rainbows, or racing stripes, or a jungle theme? If you're going to make my already funny cat look funnier, make him REALLY funny.

But, instead, it was just sad. We took him home from the vet and since he was just lying on the back of the sofa and not scratching his ears, we didn't put the cone on right away. Once he started scratching, though, we had to put the cone on, and he was terrified. He does run into things, which is what I thought would be funny, but he just seemed so sad and scared and determined to get the cone off that I just feel terrible for him.

Last night, I left him upstairs on a little Pooka nest of fleece blankets, so that he would be near his litterbox if he had to go. (I wasn't sure yet if he could navigate stairs with the cone on.)

This morning, I found him downstairs lying on the armrest to our old fold-out couch. When I sat down next to him and started petting him, the brave not-so-little guy surprised me by purring loudly.

Me: "Don't worry, bud; things will get better."
Pooka: "Yeah, they'll get better when I've killed you and I'm eating your corpse."

Now it's Friday, a day formerly reserved for ass-kicking. Lately though, it seems like a lot of people (and cats) that I know are having a tough time of it and are just feeling a little (or a lot) beaten down. We all have our plastic cones to bear, but sometimes they come with rainbows. May you all find the rainbow in your cone today.

"I don't care about your **** rainbow.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


On Monday, I broke down. I got less than half a mile before I could go no further and in hindsight, even though the knee felt good that morning, I was clearly pushing myself too much to run two days in a row.

Yesterday, my PT suggested that I wait till today (rather than yesterday or resting until Saturday) to run again, so that became my plan.

I was terrified. I've been quite nervous before some of my races...ok, before most of them for various reasons. But now my fear today was about how my knee would react and how much pain I would be in, not just whether I could finish a distance or how hot it would be. The knee in question felt good this morning after I did my stretching and foam rolling...and I was afraid to mess that up.

But, I also know that I'm approaching the point where I probably will be able to tell in the next two weeks or so
whether this is something I can manage through stretching, foam rolling, and PT (and maybe some ibuprofen, too) and thus it may be realistic to continue training for the marathon, or whether I should defer my entry and rest completely for a couple of weeks. If I keep on my current course "barely being able to walk after every run and needing 2-3 full days to recover"; then I'm probably toast, but I need to find out.

I took the first couple steps and the knee felt good. There was some stiffness, as well as fatigue in both legs, but I got through the first half mile and felt pretty good. As I continued, the knee mostly felt good, but there were a few spots where it felt like I was really starting to limp and the knee wouldn't hold my weight. Each time, I would slow down for a bit and it would loosen up and I could continue. I decided not to run my usual seven-mile course in case it started to feel worse, but I went five miles in 47 minutes without major discomfort during or after the run...except at one point while foam rolling afterward, where I guess I hit a bad spot along the IT band and briefly later when my leg went numb because a giant cat was flopped against my IT band.

I felt like it was a good run. If I can do the leg exercises I learned in PT tonight and tomorrow, I'll probably try to add a little distance on Saturday. If I can barely walk tonight or tomorrow, as was the case after my runs last Thursday and Sunday, then I need to re-evaluate. I was cautiously optimistic after those runs, too.

It's five hours later and the knee still feels pretty good, which was not the case after my last few attempts. That, at least, is a good sign, but again how I feel later tonight, tomorrow, and two days from now will be the real test.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Foam Rolling and You: A Guide for Beginners

Since I hurt my IT Band (doesn't that sound like something you call Geek Squad for?) several people have recommended foam rolling, including runners with a lot more experience than I have as well as my Physical Therapist.

I was not familiar with foam rolling, and I thought some of my readers might not be either. No, foam rolling is not the latest dance craze that's sweeping Europe. Foam rolling
is "a Self-Myofascial release (SMR) technique that is used by athletes and physical therapists to inhibit overactive muscles. This form of stretching utilizes the concept of autogenic inhibition to improve soft tissue extensibility, thus relaxing the muscle and allowing the activation of the antagonist muscle."


In English, I believe that translates to "sit/lie on this here Styrofoam cylinder, moving so that it is rolled across the injured area of the body, kind of like a massage except not as expensive or relaxing."

Make sense? No. Ok. Let's take a look at some pictures demonstrating the correct and incorrect use of the foam roller.

Here's an exercise for the all-important IT Band:

Got it? Good.

Here's one for your hamstrings:

Now you're already to get rolling.

If you don't think you're ready yet, here are some sites with actual information about foam rolling:

Foam Roller Exercises for Easing Tight Muscles

The (almost) Magical Foam Roller

I've only been at it a week, but it seems to be helping.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Third of a Mile to Frustration

I had a pretty good run yesterday, all things considered. Normally, I would have given the knee another day of rest, since I usually run closer to every other day even before my IT band betrayed me. And foam rolling seemed to be helping. I was really sore last night after the run, but before bed I tried the foam roller and it just seemed to hit exactly the place that was causing the problem. I went from lots of pain bending the knee to almost pain-free instantly. I thought I'd found the magic bullet.

I felt pretty good this morning, so when I saw the weather reports for the week, I thought I would try to see if I could get 5 miles in at lunch. I stretched and I foam-rolled, but when I started the knee hurt a lot more than it did yesterday. I was clearly limping and as I approached my car I tried to bargain 5 miles down to three, but I knew that the smart thing to do was abort the run rather than risk further damage.

My marathon is March 20, and right now it's looking a bit grim. I'm supposed to run 18 miles this Saturday. I can ill-afford a week or more off of training, but maxing out at 6-7 miles and needing two days to recover each time isn't really helping me, either. Maybe rest is the better option. PT is Wednesday morning, and Wednesday lunch or evening would be next run. I'll seek guidance and hopefully have a better plan of attack after that.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Can Build on This!

6.87 miles today in 1:08, plus a few walking breaks which aren't counted in the time or distance. Within the first quarter mile I thought "this is a bad idea", and not like "bad" as in "awesome", but "bad" as in "bad."

Then, fortunately the knee loosened up a little bit and the discomfort was quite minor for about 5 of the 7 seven miles. The last two miles I was dragging a bit, but it was bearable. Throughout the run I was more conscious of my stride than usual, and I tried to keep my bad (left) leg in straight-forward, even strides. I did my stretching exercises immediately after the run, and though I did tighten up when I got home, I don't have as much discomfort as I did after Thursday's run, where I admit I challenged myself a little more. My legs felt much stronger today than they did on Thursday and last Sunday.

Overall, though, I'm encouraged by this. After an icy morning, it turned out to be a (relatively warm), beautiful day for a run.

I ran with my sister today. She's been running much longer than I have, and has plenty had knee problems of her own -- the solution to which seem to have been her switch to the Vibram FiveFingers (aka the "barefoot running" shoe). Since things were going fairly well for me, I considered myself too risk-averse to them, but now perhaps I'll give them a try after the marathon.

She tried to show me Yoga poses, which have helped her. I found that I couldn't stand for most of them without holding on to something, or I would laugh because they have funny names. I did a pretty good "tree pose", but failed at "warrior 1" and "warrior 3" before going back to my PT exercises and foam roller. The weather will be challenging this week -- of course! I think that I'll try to get out for 3-5 miles tomorrow, 6 or 7 on Wednesday, and then 10 on Saturday.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Frustration levels are at an all-time high right now. Between the knee acting up and the snow or freezing rain we're getting approximately twice a week, marathon training is suffering a severe setback.

The knee feels pretty well this morning, and I was looking forward to a nice, flat 5-10 miles (I had ambitions of 10, but 6 or 7 is probably all that's realistic right now) around Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Instead, I slid off the road 3 times within 3 minutes of home and wisely, no doubt, turned around. I suspect things are fine at the Harbor, but I never would have gotten there in time to meet the group. Reaching 83 without clipping some mailboxes, at least, would have been unlikely.

So instead of doing one of the few things that improves my mood, I'm spending Saturday morning working on a 80ish slide PowerPoint presentation for work. (Well, yeah, not right this second, but you know what I mean...)


(At least it was warm when this picture was taken)

I'll try not to be completely negative, today, though. The somewhat good news is that the knee does feel fine right now, and another day of rest probably isn't a bad thing. I say "somewhat" because it felt fine on Thursday, too. It's how it feels during and after a run that I'm worried about. I went to PT on Tuesday and have at least two more sessions (and they'll probably suggest more than that, but they're also sympathetic to my high copay) scheduled.

My physical therapist suggested a series of weird stretching exercises 2-3x a day to loosen up the thighs, where the IT band is located (despite problems being manifested as sharp knee pain). It's probably something I should have been doing more of previously. The days of "stretch the quads, stretch the calves, and go" are done. I also bought a foam roller, the use of which seems to get a little less painful every day.

The funny, and cute thing about PT so far is that whenever I'm doing my stretching, Elizabeth the Kitten usually comes over and tries to help. I'm not sure how purring in my face, rubbing her kitten nose on me, and lying down right where my legs are supposed to go is helping, but it's the kitten thought that counts, I guess.

Weather's supposed to be better for a run tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes..

Thursday, February 3, 2011


It turns out I bid adieu to the Adidas Supernova a bit prematurely. It turns out it's only the Supernova Glide that I'm leaving behind for now.

It's been a good run, and third and most recent pair has been a good pair of running shoes, with my best half marathon, mile, 5K and all my longest runs achieved in them. But, it's been recommended that I try something with more stability, and this pair should have been retired months ago, anyway.

I returned the replacement pair that I'd already bought and I tried shoes from several manufacturers including Brooks, Saucony, and Asics before selecting...the Adidas Supernova Sequence.

I tried the Adidas on first, and wasn't impressed. The other pairs all felt like they had more cushion both as I stood and when I jogged on the treadmill. The salesperson recommended that I try different shoes on each foot as I ran, and when I did that, the Sequence felt the best to me, probably because it was most familiar. They're not as cool as the shoes I exchanged, but they're a considerable appearance upgrade over the yellow and black monstrosities pair.

(It has a pro-moderator? Not an amateur moderator? AWESOME!)

(They come with a free kitten? I'll take every pair!)

I took my first run in them today, and they felt very uncomfortable. I'm not too worried, I hated each pair of the Glides when they were brand new.

More importantly, the knee felt...alright. It's hard to tell when I'm worrying about my knees every step instead of thinking about what to eat when I get home. I noticed my legs felt week, so I'm not sure if this a result of doing some PT (more on this later) in which I stretched things that hadn't been stretched in 34 years, or just because I've been pretty inconsistent in my running the past few weeks. I think more frequent, shorter runs during the week is what I'm going to have to try.

Overall, I'm encouraged.

Nevermind. Knees are hurting. It's not sharp like Sunday, but things are not right down there.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I've been a pretty easy shoe sale for the past three years.

Me: "Do you have the Adidas Supernova in a size 9?"

Salesperson: "Yes."

Me: "I'll take them."

I'm on my third pair, which as I mentioned yesterday, are LONG since overdue for retirement. I'd already purchased the fourth pair earlier in the month, but was trying to get into February on my old shoes so the new ones would last me through the Marathon. Now, since the doctor recommended stability control shoes, I'll be exchanging them.

Which is too bad,
because they're cool.

I'm a little superstitious about my running shoes, so I'm sorry to be leaving the Supernova, especially when I'd bought a pair that's considerably less ugly than the current pair.