Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's Bacon...On a Stick!

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  (I feel like that could be a good alternate title for this blog.)

It seemed like a GREAT idea, actually.  I love bacon.  I love Orioles baseball.  When the two came together to bring me "Bacon on a Stick", I had no choice but to try it.

One of the great things about Bacon on a Stick is that there are no surprises.  The name is exactly what it is.

The second great thing about Bacon on a Stick is that half of the ingredients are bacon.  (I'm sure stick aficionados are happy that the other half of the ingredients are stick.)

I'll be honest, though, bacon-lover that I am, Bacon on a Stick was not for me.  I like my bacon very crispy.  This was not especially crispy.  It wasn't floppy bacon, mind you, it was just very, very thick and so it still tasted fatty.  If you're a fan of very thick bacon, you'll love it.  It was well-seasoned and the lean parts of the bacon were tasty.

If I get it again -- and I make no promises -- I might see if they can do an extra-crispy slice for me, as they are cooked right there at the Bacon on a Stick stand.

(I had another picture of me eating Bacon on a Stick in which I looked less troll-like, 
so I decided to post this one.)

 And, since this blog post is completely unrelated to running or injuries and kind of worthless, anyway, it can only be improved by a random picture of Adam Jones at the plate:

The Orioles would go on to lose the last game of this series with the Dodgers after taking the first two, but their fans went home with full stomachs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Sole of the City 10K

I was really dreading the 2013 Sole of the City 10K.  I haven't been able to get even a 5-miler in since the 8K in Virginia Beach, and I have only one 4-miler. Even with aid of prescription-strength anti-inflammatories, most of my runs just haven't gone well.

This one didn't go all that well either, but it wasn't as bad as I was afraid it would go:  I ran 4 miles of the 10K course, but then needed some walk breaks to get through the last 2.2 as my compartment syndrome really flared up.  

The damage?  1:08:21 -- compared to last year's 57:17.  The good news, if I can call it that, is that it felt like my conditioning is coming back.  I paced myself well, didn't feel completely out of breath, and ran (most of) 6 miles for the first time since July or August of last year.  The bad news, and I can definitely call it that, is that even with a steady diet of naproxen leading up to the race, my symptoms were pretty bad.  There are sometimes where I've limped back to my car with aching shins and lack of range of motion in my left foot where I think I unconsciously exaggerate my limp a little because it's embarrassing, but I was really limping pretty badly during my walk breaks.  (I could run somewhat more normally, it was just more painful and I needed some breaks.)

(Race organizers suggested people wear blue and yellow to honor the Boston
Marathon bombing victims.  We also had a signs pinned to our backs, 
but mine ripped off when I put my long-sleeve shirt on.)

I like this race, but there's not a lot to distinguish it from other local races.  The swag is nice, but other than that it's the generic Baltimore race around Inner Harbor and Key Highway.  The course is challenging, in my opinion, because the second half of the course is hillier than the first half, but I didn't struggle as much last year when I was less injured and better conditioned.  

(Men got a blue quarter zip Under Armour running jacket. 
 Women got a full-zip.  Hey!  I want a full zip!)

It was very crowded at the start and could perhaps use a waved start, but is generally a well-organized event.  I thought the start of the race was better handled last year; this year the race started about 15 minutes late and I wasn't able to hear announcements or the National Anthem at all (last year they had an amazing National Anthem singer, this year I couldn't even hear it well enough to know when to yell "O!")

The post-race party was more spread-out this year, with the beer truck parked farther back from the finish than it was last year, when everything was crowded by the Greene Turtle (the bar that is one of the main sponsors).  The array of snacks was good, they had several wrap options including vegetarian and free beer.  The beer was Bud Light, however.  I just ran a race -- I don't need to have a low-calorie, flavorless beer!  Still,I shouldn't complain; free Bud Light is better than no free beer at all, and it was cold and refreshing on a cold and windy day, but one in which I was feeling pretty heated since the sun was out for most of the race.

I'll probably run this race again next year -- and hopefully be about 15-minutes faster whether or not I have those pesky muscle fascias in my left leg weighing me down!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Compartment Pressure Measurement

Earlier in the month, I went to the orthopedist to talk again about the persistent calf and shin pain I've been having, mostly in my left leg.  With x-rays and MRIs coming back clean and rest, stretching, and calf exercises not doing much to help, the doctor determined that it was time to take the next step and do the test for Exertional Compartment Syndrome (which I'm going to call ECP).

Unfortunately for me, the test for ECP involves big needles being jammed into four places on each leg, then me running until my symptoms flare up, and then needles attached to a pressure-monitor being stuck in again.

I'm a wuss.  I've been dreading this.  The doctor and his assistant put iodine on my leg and used a small needle for local anesthetic, and I'll be honest, the procedure itself wasn't as bad as I feared.  It was probably worse for the doctor, who had to put up with my nervous banter between him, his assistant, and Chris (who was kind enough to accompany me for moral support and to drive me home).  I think I did crack one good joke during the procedure:  As the doctor was using a pen to mark where on my leg where he would insert the needle, I deadpanned "that wasn't as bad as I thought."  It was pretty much downhill from there.

When I left the office with the assistant, who accompanied me to show me the likely direction that would be safest for my run, my calves still felt a bit numb.  The run itself seemed ok considering I didn't take any naproxen, I didn't stretch, and I didn't wear compression socks.  All of these anti-precautions were in hopes of making my symptoms flare-up badly and quickly.  Instead, I ran for 20 minutes and while my calves became very sore, I didn't have the level of shin pain that I normally have.  I did feel kind of stupid running around the medical center, but I never run on treadmills and so I thought it was best to go outside.

Despite the lack of shin pain, I sat down to check that my left foot didn't have the full range of motion and given the level of pain in my calves, I figured I was "good" to go back and be re-tested.

The second round of tests hurt a bit more than the first,  but not as much as the results (positive) and the aftermath (calves extremely sore all day).

The measurements showed that even at rest, the compartment pressures in both my legs was higher than normal, and after running the left leg compartment pressure rose even more, while the right leg stayed pretty much the same.  These results do confirm Exertional Compartment Syndrome, and confirm that it's worse in the left leg.

My best option is surgery, but with my doctor's blessing I'm going to try a few weeks of physical therapy first.  It probably won't work, but really don't want to have surgery.  I can't stress that enough.

A second is option is quitting longer distances.  Stop running or stick to the mile, 2-mile, and 5K.  I admit this option is tempting after a frustrating, often unenjoyable last 16 months of running.  But on the other hand...if I'm going to give up running, I really don't want to go out like this either.  I'm probably not going to be a frequent marathoner, ever.  But I'd love to get back to my 2011 form in which I could run 8-10 miles several times a week and train myself up to a half without much trouble.  More specifically, I would really like to be able to run the AC half this year and either the half or hopefully the full next March in VA Beach. 

I've quit a lot of things in my life when they got too tough:  tee-ball, soccer, basketball, cub scouts, jobs.  I don't want to quit running yet.

Still, before I get ahead of myself to the surgery/no-surgery decision, I'm going to cross my shins and hope that PT will do the trick. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

F*** This

I wanted to just take a moment to offer thoughts and prayers for all the runners, spectators, and friends affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy.

I'm sure there are a lot of good, thoughtful posts out there offering sympathy and condolences.

This is not one of them.  This is just the anger of a fellow runner.

I hate that some asshole, whoever they are, was able to ruin what should have been a great, triumphant, and hopefully fun moment in so many peoples' lives. Whatever he/she was trying to make, I'm sure it had nothing whatsoever to do with the thousands of people running 26.2 miles today or the even more thousands of people cheering them on.

To whoever you are:  I hope you don't think you won.  You didn't.  People are still going to train their asses off for Boston.  People are still going to cheer them on.  The BAA is still going to put on one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.  I'll be honest.  I never cared much about working to qualify for Boston or running the Boston Marathon.  But now I want to.  Just to give you the finger.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5K, Pottsville PA

I know I shouldn't complain.  One of our running friends ran a marathon in Michigan this morning with four big metal screws in her hip.  Her husband ran the half.  Both had a space-alien theme complete with probes, death rays, atomic cats, and flying saucers*.

 But, if you read this blog at all, you know that if I didn't complain, there would hardly be any posts at all.

So here we go:  This was the  Hilliest. 5K.  Ever.  This race was ridiculous.  I think Dreaded Druid Hills is hillier, but that's the only hillier race I've ever run.  (Which means it's the hilliest race ever, of course.)  Which totally excuses that this was my personal worst 5K.  I've had a few too many of those lately, but I don't feel badly about this one at all.

  I'll stop the complaining now, though, because Lager Jogger was fun.  The whole first mile was uphill (I thought it would never end), the second mile was a mix of gentle downhill and very steep uphills (yes, I took some walking breaks!), and mile three mostly a gentle downhill with a very steep downhill right at the mile 3 marker and a downhill finish for the last .1 (which seemed long to me.  I did take a walk break on the third mile, when my shins were bothering me.).  I can feel my conditioning starting to come back a little, since I've been able to run a little more w/the help of naproxen, and I'm happy with my effort,which led to a finish time of 33:01, smashing my previous P-dub of 31:24.

(I wore my sexy 2011Yuengling Shamrock Marathon pullover for part of the race and the after party, 
and Chris wore a Yuengling Shamrock jacket before and after the race.)

But, the crowd support was unbelievable for a 5K, the course was quite scenic, and the weather was very Brian-friendly (cold and windy).  Of course, Brian-friendly weather during the race makes for very chilly conditions after the race, but that didn't dampen the fun after party outside the Yuengling Brewery in downtown Pottsville, with plenty of Light Lager to be had.  I admit to being somewhat of a beer snob, but Light Lager is a very good light beer. (Yuengling Lager has been a trusty standby since college and Lord Chesterfield Ale and Yuengling Black & Tan are my favorites of the Yuengling line.).  

 (This photo is presented without comment.)

In addition to the Light Lager beer party, racers had the opportunity to tour the Yuengling Brewery.  Chris and I took advantage of this, and we had a fun time!  Yuengling claims the title of "America's Oldest Brewery" (that's one of two things the first tour guide wanted us to remember. I forget the other one.), having started brewing operations in 1829 and moving its brewery to its current location in 1831, after a fire destroyed its original building.  The tour was quite educational, and an interesting contrast if you've had a chance to tour a larger, newer brewery like Miller's main Milwaukee plant (which does have some neat old buildings) or Anheuser-Busch in Williamsburg (the other big breweries I've toured.).  Yuengling has newer, larger breweries outside of Pottsville and in Tampa (which is also outside of Pottsville, I suppose.)


 In summary, this was the hardest 5K I've ever run, but also one of the most fun.  I'm way not ready for Sole of the City 10K next weekend, but that's a topic for another post, and also the least of my worries right now, which is also the topic for another post!

(I got swag.)

*I just made this up. The Martian Marathon seems does have a fun Martian/alien theme, though.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Movie Madness 5K, Manchester PA

In my last post, I basically whined about my injuries and complained about how I'm probably going to have to have surgery.

Today, on the other hand, I laid down a perfectly acceptable 30:01 at a local 5K.  How is this possible?  

Naproxen, baby.  Roughly 1000mg of prescription-strength anti-inflammatory goodness coursing through my veins.  I'm Lance Armstrong without all the trophies, yellow jerseys, fame, and fortune.  Though, in my defense, nor do I have a decades-long web of lies and intimidation, either.

I'm torn between taking a very conservative approach in my running and recovery right now, waiting to go off to have big needles stuck in my lower leg (see previous disgusting post), and trying to make it through the two upcoming races that I've already paid to run in : Yuengling Light Lager Jogger in Pottsville next week and the Sole of the City 10K in Baltimore the following.  With a little luck and a lot of naproxen, I should be able to get through Lager Jogger, but the Sole of the City distance is well outside my comfort zone these days.

But anyway.   That's all stuff for other posts.  I hadn't been planning to run this race, but after I bombed an indomethacin-assisted 3 or 4 miler after two miles on Thursday night, I decided that I might as well sign up for this.  Injured and out-of-shape as I am, today would fit into my running schedule anyway and two of my best recent runs were races in Baltimore and Virginia Beach.  Between trying a new anti-inflammatory and the adrenaline of race day, maybe this would help get me a little farther than I've been reliably able to go lately.

It did.  I started out very conservatively as the race began behind Northeastern Middle School.  The first 3/4 mile was mostly uphill, and I paced myself cautiously (starting out slower than my normal pace seems to have been another strategy that's helped in my good runs).  I seperated from Chris as we ran up a steep hill going around the Middle School toward Board Road.  We were now on my usual running route.  I hit the first mile marker right around minute 10, which means that after my conservative start I probably took off a little too fast.  Likewise, I think I ran most of the second mile in "overcompetitive asshole mode", because when I started out the third mile, the couple I was chasing started pulling away from me and I started to feel like I was running out of gas.  

Still, I ran the whole thing at a 10/minute-mile pace, improved over the Shamrock St. Patrick's Day 5K, and finished strong.  It wasn't one of my better times, but given the circumstances (which include that I'm just not in my best condition for reasons both within and outside of my control) I'm very comfortable that I gave my best effort today.

If I'd run the event in November, and scored an average time, I would have won my age group (at the time I was in my "month off" and couldn't have run a mile, probably), but today I think even my PR would have only got me third, I believe.  I'm in a tough age group here in the local running community!

The weather was very Brian-friendly:  cold and windy.  Great for running, in my opinion, but not so great for standing around for the medal ceremony!  I'm glad we stuck around though, because Chris took home her first-ever age group award!  Congrats to her for bettering her time from the last Movie Madness and picking up some hardware, to both of us for running good races, and to everyone who participated in today's Movie Madness Race Series.

I thought this was a fun event.  Chris ran a Movie Madness 5K in November in Manchester, and she said this course seemed a little tougher and that they seemed to put a little more production into the theme and the event itself.  I thought the course was moderately tough: a lot of uphill at the start, but then basically flat for most of the middle third of the race, and then mostly downhill at the end...with a finish on the high school track (which is not one of my favorite things, but it was just the finish, not a cheesy way to add distance). The t-shirts were nice (I signed up at the last possible second and didn't get one) and for the first time ever, in addition to the medal (I'm kind over getting medals for every single race, but that's probably also a rant for another blog post, too.), I got a FINISHER BOLOGNA SANDWICH! Awesomeness.

Overall, this was a fun little race.  I'm glad I ran it, and I think USA Road Running did a nice job.  (There was also a half marathon, which I think would have been a challenging and scenic course, based on looking at the map.)  

Now, excuse me.  I have to go grind up some Naproxen tablets.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Follow-up Orthopedic Appointment: This is Not Good

Since my shinsplinty-things seem to be getting worse -- or at least more consistently present -- I'd scheduled another follow-up visit with my Orthopedist.

Here's what I hoped would happen:

My orthopedist confirms the diagnosis of shinsplints and sends me to physical therapy.  I learn a bunch of new stretches and exercises and go on to qualify and probably even win the Boston Marathon.

What really happened:

My orthopedist found that I have good strength in my leg and foot muscles and that -- regrettably -- it's time for us to more seriously explore Exertional Compartment Syndrome as a possibility.  This will involve a huge needle being jammed into my leg muscles both "at rest" and after a long-enough run to induce symptoms (so probably 10 minutes, roughly one mile).  If the test confirms ECS, then my best option is surgery.

Good.  Great.  Terrific.

Basically, Compartment Syndrome is when a fibrous tissue membrane, the fascia, around a muscle is too tight to account for the muscle's swelling during exertion.  (Please consult medical websites for a more scientific description.  I'm -- surprise! -- not a doctor).

Here's a website with a good picture that demonstrates this.  (Note:  DO NOT do a "Google Image Search" for "Compartment Syndrome".  Trust me, it's a lot of gross surgery pictures that make me want to retire from this running thing.)


I'd guess that my problem is going to be in the anterior compartment and lateral compartment on my left leg.

So, bad luck for me.  But, excellent for you, since if privacy regulations allow it, I'm going to have my staff photographers (me and my wife) take some pictures of the compartment syndrome test, and maybe Chris can even be in the operating room taking pictures and interviewing surgeons as they cut out parts of my leg.

The test is scheduled for April 16.  I may push it back if the doctor thinks that the test itself is traumatic enough that it will prevent me from limping through Sole of the City, with some help from anti-inflammatory meds, on April 20.

I'll keep everyone posted as I freak the hell out.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool

On Saturday morning, I popped an indomethacin and ran 4 hilly miles in 42 minutes.  I felt like I was back on track.  I felt like I had a chance.  

Today, I didn't take any magic pills.  I ran 1.2 miles in 12 minutes and my shin and the side of my calf hurt and I couldn't move my foot the whole way.  I limped back to my car and I just feel like maybe I can't do this any more and it's not worth trying.  Have I just reached the point where I should just look back on the good times, take all my DNSs, accept that this part of my life is over, and start whatever the next chapter is?

In reality, no.  I clearly haven't gotten there, yet.  

It's been about a year and a half since I first started having these troubles, but I did seem to have a nice comeback last Spring including 5K, 8K, and 10K PRs.  I relapsed rather badly in September and took basically two months off.  Since starting to run again in December, it seemed like there was progress, but it's only been the last month in which every single non-drug-assisted run is bad.  Indomethacin probably isn't a good long-term solution, but  I haven't been back to the orthopedist since November (I've got my appointment tomorrow).  I haven't been through PT yet, although I've got a feeling that's where I'm headed.  I haven't had surgery. I've still got 25 pounds I need to lose.

There's still a lot left to try. I know that.  And I both know of and know personally runners who have come back from more severe injuries. I'm not ready to quit, but now that runs like this are the norm, it's just too easy to wonder whether it's worth trying anymore or if I'd be happier if I just gave up.

 This slug, seen on my run this morning, 
would beat me in a 5K right now if I don't take indomethacin.