Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Celtic Solstice 5-Miler

I was feeling very pessimistic about the Celtic Solstice 5-Miler.  I'd had a run on the previous Monday where my old compartment syndrome symptoms were back and I'd cut an attempt at five miles down to a little over three.  It wasn't terrible, but my calves were very crampy (is that even a word?) and my ankles and seemed swollen, and when I turned around back to my car, I sat down on the curb, just to check, and sure enough, I didn't have the full range of motion in my left foot.

Just as running had started to be something I enjoyed again, it was back to this bullshit.

I rested, doing lots of stretching the rest of the week, and the race actually went ok.  I ran four miles of the five-mile race and didn't have any compartment syndrome symptoms during the race, despite my shins still being pretty achy that morning during the long walks back and forth from the car to the packet pickup area.  (These races at Druid Hill Park are fun, but the parking and traffic situation is a little bit of a mess.)

The race is hilly, with a steep, tough incline at the start, and then more moderate hills after that.  It's not as hilly as Dreaded Druid Hills 10K or, I'm told, the Zoo Zoom 8K, which I believe uses some of the same access roads as the DDH.  I enjoy how the course makes tight loops around the park; normally that would annoy me, but it was nice to be able to watch for Chris as I made the zig-zags around the park.   A significant part of the last 2 miles is around Druid Lake.  It's flat but also boring, and my progress seemed very slow at this point.  I took a one-minuteish walk break at four miles as I was heading around the south side of the lake toward the Moorish Tower, and as I passed the tower with a little over a half-mile (I think) to go, I knew it was literally all downhill from there; the slight incline around the rest of the lake and then down the steep hill we started up.

I finished in 56:33, a far cry from my 42:44 at this race in 2011, one of my best-ever finishes and not-coincidentally my last pre-compartment syndrome race, but a perfectly cromulent finish given my current conditioning and circumstances both within and outside of my control.  It's hard not to be disappointed when I see comparisons like that, but it's important for me to keep reminding myself that during the summer of 2011, I was dropping double-digit mileages several times a week and that I had been in what passes for marathon shape around here, and this summer I had six new surgical scars on my leg and didn't even start running again until mid July.  That simplified explanation ignores that 2012 and 2013 were plagued by injury, but also that there was a lot more I should have been doing to keep myself in shape even when running wasn't going well.

 So, in conclusion, I either should or shouldn't beat myself up too badly over this finish.

Race Review
Falls Road Running puts on a good race, and all their events are both fun and challenging (they have race team that's very competitive, but this race gets participants of all levels), but there's a few small ways that I think this race could be improved.   The start was very chaotic and crowded, so I think some more room in the starting area would help, and also pace signs.  I probably would have ignored them this year, anyway, but I think it would be helpful to at least get the idea in peoples' heads.

There is a good post-race party with hot wine from Boordy Vineyards, fruit, and cookies.  All the cookies were gone by the time we got there, which I thought was definitely not cool, but there were bagpipers at the start, food and beverages (beer was available for purchase) and a Celtic band playing Christmas tunes at the post race party, and a fun, fairly scenic course.  It's a race that I would definitely run again, and probably will. 

Another high point is the swag:  a custom Brooks running jacket that makes the $80 registration fee not seem so high.  You can also do $40 with no premium, but I really like this one:


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

64 Degrees

It was 31 degrees, according to the not-very accurate (I am convinced) thermometer at Northeastern High School, for my four-mile runs on Saturday morning and last Wednesday night.

According to the same digital display, it was 64 tonight.  Yikes.  I'm not convinced that it was quite that warm, but t was at least 20 degrees warmer when I headed out for my run at around 6:30 tonight.

I like running in cooler weather, as anyone who reads this blog knows by now, and any other week, I would probably wait it out for cooler temperatures, or run 2 miles tonight and four (which is my current long-run distance) another night.

Except that we're predicted to have 5-8 inches of snow on Wednesday. As much as enjoy running in cold weather, I loathe snow. If I don't get my run in today, who knows when I might?

So I ran it.  It wasn't fun.  My legs felt a lot more tired and I felt a little more out of breath than I did on Saturday, and I'm going to blame the temperature for that, but I'm happy I got some miles in.

Now I'm debating, should I run tomorrow or keep my legs fresh for shoveling? :-(

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Feel the Need...

I may say that I don't really care about pace, and of course care morning about how far I ran than how fast(ish) I ran it, but:
Wednesday Night:
4 miles, 45:58
This morning, same course:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Rocky Run 10K, Philadelphia

During my running career, there are two races in which I pulled an unexpectedly great performance completely out of my ass.  One was the 2012 Hershey 10K, which I PR'd in 52:33, a 10K time I had never, have never since, and probably will never again, come within 5 minutes of.  

The other was on Saturday, at the inaugural Rocky Run 10K.

I had no business -- no business whatsoever -- trying to run the 10K.  5K is the farthest I'd run since my surgery, and while I've finished that distance a few times without needing walk breaks, I usually needed to take a few, and I'd barely run the previous two weeks prior to this race (due to both some schedule issues and some motivational issues).  I'd needed several walk breaks during the third mile of a 3-mile run on the Wednesday night before the race.  On Saturday, I ran -- other than a stop to drink a cup of water and a short pause to tie a shoe -- 5 miles of this 10K before needing some walk breaks in the last 1.2.

I felt great during the race, and while I am a little sore after the race, it is not nearly as bad as I expected.  But most encouraging to me was that there was not even a hint of compartment syndrome pain, just normal soreness that I'd have after any run that was this challenging.

I couldn't be any more thrilled.  In the span of 1:12:54, my confidence level for the two half marathons I'm signed up for in the spring increased tenfold.  I need to train.  I know I'm not really trained to his level yet (I ran 4 miles on the Wednesday evening after the race, and while my knees hurt, there are again no compartment syndrome symptoms), and that the Celtic Solstice 5-miler in Baltimore's Druild Hill park will be (as "Druid Hill Park" implies) much hillier than this.  But for the first time in well over a year, it feel like longer distances are really possible again. 

But let's back up.

Race Day
Chris and I stayed with friends in south Philly, who kindly picked up our packets in addition to giving us some couch and floor space.  We left for the race, which had a 7:30am start time for the 5K, and an 8:15am start time for the 10K, which we were running, at 6:45, and were over by the starting area around 7:45.

It was freezing!  I like running in the cold, but temperatures were in the 20s and I am not very acclimated or in nearly as good a shape as I was in some of my past running winters, and I -- in my shorts, throwaway knit gloves, long-sleeve t-shirt -- was wishing I had my jacket, more serious gloves, and my cold-weather headband.  

Hilariously, our friends dressed as a chicken (him) and Rocky Balboa (her), hoping to win the race's costume contest by recreating the scene from Rocky II in which Rocky chases a chicken as part of his training.  There were plenty of Rockys, and well, that mostly it.  I did get passed by a few chickens (including my friend), a guy dressed as a giant piece of meat, and even 2 guys in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (representing, though, Rocky's turtles, Cuff and Link).

The race started promptly at 8:15.  I had been debating whether to run with Chris, how follows a modified Galloway plan in which she walks for a minute after every half mile, or use my own plan, a more informal approach of "run as much of the race as I can and then cross my fingers".  My legs felt good, and so I thought I'd run as much as I could without walk breaks.   

The 10K course is an out of back along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive).  It was a pleasant, mostly flat course along the scenic Schuylkill River, with a decline down to MLK Dr. from the art museum, meaning an incline at the end.  

I started out at what I felt was a very cautious, measured pace, because I knew if if I went for my old 9-10 min mile pace, I'd have no shot of running most of a distance this far outside my comfort zone.  My strategy worked.  I felt great for the first 3.1 and had plenty left in the tank.  I felt like the second half of the race was more difficult...which I guess is always true on a flat-ish out and back.  Aside from a pause for a water break and a brief re-lacing of my right sneaker, I ran 5 miles before I needed to take a few walk breaks to finish the race.  But running into the sun was challenging.  I'd be lying if I said it was "hot", but the sun was very bright and I was sweating my butt off.  I took my long-sleeve t-shirt off and was more comfortable in just a sleeveless tech shirt, and very glad I didn't have any of my real cold-weather gear to carry.  Even 4 days later, my forehead still feel sunburned.

This race has a lot of personal baggage.  Even though it's across the river from the second half of the Philly Marathon, which follows Kelly Drive out to Manyunk and back, I still had that "running along the Schuykill and wondering if I had enough left to finish" feeling.  Indeed, in that same race back 2011, I remembered at mile 11 and 12, along the same place on MLK Drive, knowing that I felt decent, but not good enough to have the type of second 13.1 I was hoping for.  On the other hand, this time, there was no sign along MLK telling me that I had another 14 miles to run; I just got to run back up the hill toward the Art Museum and finish -- just like in the two Philly Halfs that I count among my best races.

This one is up there with my favorite finishes, even though I know I didn't really earn it.  It will probably be a few weeks before I'm trained up to run a 10K or even 5 miles, but knowing I ran this far without compartment syndrome pain was joyous, and I lost control of my emotions a bit as I came up toward and crossed the finish line.  I finished the Rocky Run 10K, but now my training for the Shamrock Half must begin in earnest.

Race Review
This was a really nice event.  Fun theme, fast, scenic course, great medal, DJ's playing inspirational hits from the Rocky movies along the course, ample port-o-potties at the start, and free photographs.   I'm not sure if this will be an "every year" race because of the logistical challenges of a Philly race (although I said I'd dress as Adrian next year to enhance my friends' costume contest chances), but I would definitely run this again.

There's a few constructive criticisms, though.
  • I'd space out the water stops differently -- there were 2 on the way out, quite close together, and only one on the way back.  I can't complain too much, I certainly could have brought my hydration belt
  • I think I'd send the starters off in a few more waves, it was a very crowded field
  • There was no food at the finish line, only water, or if there was food there wasn't enough of it or it wasn't well-marked. 

Overall, though, a great first-year event with great friends, and a race that definitely has meaning for me as I attempt to make up for lost time in my now three-year quest for revenge.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Down with Couch-to-5K!

Coolrunning.com's Couch-to-5K Program, I'm sure, has helped many, many people begin running and train for their first 5K.  It's been helping me go back from lazy, post-surgeried couch pototato to elite (ha!) marathoner in just a few short weeks.

Again, just kidding.  I've been doing the Couch-to-5K program since July 19, which is 8 weeks.  There were a few "weeks" of the program that I repeated because I felt like I was still struggling to complete them, and then held myself back again over the last two weeks because been sick with some bad summer cold or upper respiratory infection.  Basically, I've been stuck at "week 4" for about 3 weeks now.

And here's the thing -- I think, if I follow the plan, I always would be.  From weeks 1-3, I think the Couch-to-5K progresses pretty reasonably.  I felt like I needed a repeat of week 3, but then bumped myself up to week 4 and was able to complete several times with mixed success (again, allergies and respiratory illness make for bad training partners).  The jump to week 4, where you are running 5 minutes at a time and your walk breaks are NOTICEABLY shorter, is a big one, but I don't think unreasonable.

But there's the thing:  Week 5 is a bitch.

So let me get this straight, Couch-to-5K.  The longest you've had me run is 5 minutes, and one week later, I'm supposed to run TWO MILES?    The progression to those first two workouts of week 5 seems reasonable, but going from running 8 minutes twice with a 5-minute walk in the middle to running for 20 minutes?  It seems like there needs to be another week or two of transition in there.

 Oddly, it seems like once cross this gulf, the plan proceeds pretty reasonably once again, and it seems like the plan is transitioning the trainee from a program of 3 equal workouts per week to two run/walk workouts and then a "long run", which is how must runners train for longer races.  So, in breaking this down and criticizing it, I do think I see the logic behind it.

At any rate, I feel like I could do week 4 over and over and not really be ready for week 5.  It just doesn't seem like, without doing a lot of other cardio (and maybe that's the point, that I should be!) this this is big leap forward to be expected of new runners. 

So, this is where I get off, Couch-to-5K.  I'm back on the "Run half a mile, walk for a minute, run half a mile" plan that Chris and I have used on the 5Ks I've run w/her the past year and a half.  I used this back in January to try to train myself back up, hoping that I'd successfully physical therapy'd myself through injury. I've done this twice now this week, and there was noticeable improvement the second time, but I suspect it had more to do with the weather being 20 degrees cooler than any actual improvement in fitness on my part from Wednesday evening to Saturday morning.

Basically, what happens is I'll do this as-is for a week or two, then hopefully be able to get through the first mile with no walk breaks, but probably still need them on the second mile.  Then, hopefully, the next week or two I'd need the walk break at the end of the first mile, but then be able to get the second mile without walking.  When I can run 2 miles with no walk breaks, I add some back in and try for 3, and after a few weeks of this, I can hopefully run a 5K again.

So yeah, kind of like the Couch-to-5K.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

I don't mean to be bury the lead.  I hate when the Orioles text messages that I get from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network read "Jones hits two hits in 7-2 loss to cubs", but here I am doing the same thing.

After a great long weekend in Atlantic City, where I finished my first post-surgery 5K and just had probably the most fun weekend of the year, I'm going to write about how frustrated I am with myself and with the Couch to 5K program.  The "Chickie's & Pete's Boardwalk 5K" and the fun weekend in AC deserve their own blog post. I don't have time to write it and it deserves to be written when I'm feeling more positive.

Until Tuesday of last week (8/19), it seemed like everything was going well in the Couch to 5K program.  I'd repeated week 3, which is:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
But toward the end of the second week I was stretching the three minute runs into 5-minute runs and everything was going well.  

So, week 4:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
 I did one perfect version of this, on Sunday 8/17, with an extra 3-minute run tacked on the end to bring me back to my car.  I tried again on Tuesday, and was able to complete it, but just felt bad during the run and my legs felt awful for several days after. 

I rested the rest of the week, knowing that the 5K was coming on Saturday.

On Saturday, I completed the 5K, running half a mile walking a minute, repeat.  Legs were sore, but normal, good soreness.  My normal, pre-injury 5K time was around  27 minutes.  We finished the 5K in 45.

Today, I tried to do the same run/walk intervals as the 5K (intending only 2 miles, since I'm trying to train at my roughly my pre-injury training pace, which is closer to a 10:00/mile) and within the first 1/3 of a mile, I was wheezing as if I'd never run before in my life.  My legs felt fine, I just couldn't breathe.

I'm hoping it's just because I forgot my allergy medicine last night and because I tried to run this at the VERY hilly park near our house (I was wheezing way before I hit the big hills, though.)

Meanwhile, though, I think it's back to "Week 3" for a pretty frustrated me.  By the end of "Week 5", I'm supposed to be able to run 2 miles with no walk breaks.  Even before the bad runs last Tuesday and today, I feel like I'm more than a week away from being able to do that.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Road is Calling; Today is the Day

It's the middle of August and the temperature was in the low 50s for my run this morning.  Beautiful.  What is not as nice is the last two weeks of running.  Week Three of C25K gets quite a bit harder:  walk 5 minutes, run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes.

Three minutes is a big step up from 90 seconds and I repeated this week twice.  The second week of it was a struggle: Tuesday my sister alternated 3 minutes walking with 3 minutes running for about 30 minutes; Thursday I kept to plan, but my lungs felt so bad; and today I kicked butt --- substituting 5 minute runs for the three minute runs and feeling pretty well.

I forgot how tough and frustrating running could be, especially when starting out, but this is still just the start of a new story...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bilateral Compartment Syndrome Surgery and Recovery

As I've run less and less over the past few years, these blog posts have become less frequent.  But in those few blog posts there's a lot of space given to complaining about (mostly) and trying to recover from compartment syndrome.  After two years of trying avoid surgery, I finally decided to go under the knife.  I described the lead-up to surgery a few months ago.  Now that I'm (hopefully!) well on the road to recovery, although not nearly as far back on the road to racing again, I figured I'd take the rare opportunity to write a blog post that might actually be informative.

To very briefly recap, I started having symptoms in December 2011. I'd have swelling and discomfort in my ankles and calves, more pronounced in the left one, and a noticeable loss of range of motion.  Shinsplints were the initial diagnosis, with compartment syndrome being the next "option" when my problems didn't really respond to the main treatment of shinsplits (rest).  Any time I took a few months off from running, I'd come back and my symptoms would be better, only to come back every time I got back into some consistency of running.  That's why I won't know if this surgery worked for a few more months.

At any rate, a compartment pressure test confirmed the diagnosis in Spring 2013, and I tried a long program of PT to avoid surgery.  No luck.  I had surgery on May 15, 2014.

As I said in that initial post-surgery blog post, I woke up in a fog of post-anesthesia and painkillers, definitely in pain, but not as bad as I feared.

(a few hours post-surgery)

Despite that, those first few days were bad.  I frequently felt nauseous from the vicodin, and when I moved my legs, I would feel a tearing sensation in my legs in the area of the surgery.  If I touched those areas, they would feel hot to the touch, although I think that burning sensation was in my legs, and not actually heat that I was feeling, since my legs were pretty heavily bandaged at this point.  I limped around the house on crutches.  I expected to sleep like a rock that first night, but got very little sleep, and because of that I probably crutched my way around the house too much.  I had big ice packs that I'd wear over my legs (or wrap around them with velcro as I got a little more able to sleep in different positions) for long stretches of time for the next several weeks.

Still, just two days after my surgery, I was at least out of the house for a quick Dunkin Donuts trip.  It probably wasn't worth the discomfort I was in going up and down the stairs or how long it took me to get from the car to Dunkin, but I'd wanted very badly to get out of the house, and my Dr. had said it would be ok to try things like this as long as I was careful.

I'd love to say I got better every day, but there were good days and bad days over the next few weeks.  I felt "pretty good" a week after surgery when I went for my post-surgery consult.  The doctor said everything looked good and that the procedure had gone well, and that I could start to s l o w l y ween myself from the crutches...which would go more slowly than I'd hoped. I was to start out by trying to get around the house without them, but using them when I went outside. 

(Looking great 7 days post-surgery)

I had my surgery on a Thursday, and went back to work the following Wednesday.  It's important to note that I work from home.  If I didn't, I probably would have wanted the whole next week, and it was probably another two weeks before I could really sit at my desk in my upstairs office comfortably.  My legs were most comfortable stretched out in front of me, and there wasn't really a comfortable way to do that at my desk. I could work downstairs on the couch, but I wanted to be up in my office as much as possible so that I could receive calls on my work phone line.  People at work have my cel number, but if that got established, even for a short time, as my "main" number, I thought that would be very hard to put back  in the bag.  

I also had a massive gout the Thursday after surgery.  My gout flares up, usually in one of my big toes, a few times each year, but it seemed especially bad in the weeks after my surgery.  If I didn't drink a ton of water (and even sometimes if I did), I'd have gout flare-ups the next day.  My orthopedist would later say that for gout suffers, it's not uncommon for them to be more susceptible to flare-ups after surgery. And I was stupid -- I think it was because the day of my surgery through Tuesday, I'd drank massive amounts of water -- oceans of water -- every day.  But once I went back to work, I wasn't drinking as much...since I couldn't carry cups of water up to my office with my crutches.  Sports bottles were the easy remedy for this. 

The second weekend after surgery was Memorial Day weekend, and I pushed myself too hard. Chris and I went to an outdoor music and wine event at a local winery with some friends, and I walked around more than I should have -- and tried to be more independent than I should have been.  My attitude was getting pretty bad at this point.  I didn't want to be dropped off closer to where we were sitting.  I didn't want to not be allowed to carry anything while Chris made multiple trips.  The next day, we went out to eat in downtown York, and walked 2 blocks from the parking garage.  These adventures definitely set me back a little, and I was tired and sore over the next few days, and on crutches more often than not, even around the house.

I'd taken vicodin -- one in the morning and one at night -- on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and then generally stopped.  I didn't want to continue it longer than I had to because it's addictive, and because I stopped it so quickly, I'm not sure that I'd say it helped a lot.  I did take them the day of my gout flare-up and then for a few days following the Memorial Day adventures.  I took one vicodin twice a day, half the prescribed dose, at my Dr.'s suggestion, since the anesthesia had knocked me out so easily.  Like I said, it's hard to tell if one vicodin at a time really helped.  I took two the day of my gout flare-up, when I was just in agony, and two vicodin definitely made a difference.  Not entirely good, though, I felt VERY spaced out and nauseous.

(My right leg on May 28.  My right leg had the worse swelling of the two, 
and looked worse here than it did a week after surgery.)

Once the calendar turned to June, I turned the corner.  I was walking mostly with crutches, driving short distances again, and feeling much better.  My ankles were still very swollen, but I was making steady progress forward.  At my second post-op appointment on June 11, my doctor said it would be ok to start light exercise with no resistance (Chris and I started going for walks), but I was still about a month away from running.  I went way for a long weekend with college friends, walked a ton and drove all around Philly and Atlantic City, and needed my ice packs, but was ok. 

At my third and final post-op, on July 16, my Dr. told me I had no restrictions, and that I could start running again.  

So where am I today?  So far, my legs feel mostly fine.  My left leg -- which was the worse-afflicted with compartment syndrome -- is better than the right leg.  On my right leg, I've got some numb spots (which are a known risk of the surgery, they might never heal) and a little bit of swelling around the ankle.  I have 3 incisions on each leg, and the ones on the outside of my ankles are the ones that bother me most, because they continue to be persistently itchy as they continue to heal.

Did I make the right choice?  Here, 2.5 months later, I'm confident that I did.  If I keep running, and my symptoms return, then there was another contributing factor and it's back to the drawing board and probably off the racing circuit, but I'll worry about that in a few months.  

Right now, it's time to run.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Running Week 1, 2.0

I've finished the first week of the Couch-to-5K program.  I know, everyone line up for the parade.  But I have to blog about something, right?  (I do owe any readers that I might still have a longer post about the recovery from the surgery, since this is my rare chance to actually be informative.)

As proscribed by venerable C25K, I ran 3x last week:  5 minute warm-up walk followed by 15 minutes of alternating one-minute of running with 90 seconds of walking. It went as well as could be expected.  I did my run/walks last Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  My legs felt good, but I can tell I'm clearly out of shape, as I really had to catch my breath on the walk breaks.

This morning, I did the first workout of week 2: 5 minute warm-up walk, followed by alternating 90 seconds of running with two minutes walking for 15 minutes.  Both the running and the walking portions seemed interminably long after week 1.

It's way to early to draw any conclusions about my surgery.  I had compartment syndrome.  The pressure test quantitatively showed it.  What we can't say for sure if it was the sole cause of the problems I was having.  I won't be able to tell if I'm "better" until I'm in shape to pretty consistently run at least 2-3 miles a couple times a week.  If I get to that point and after a few weeks of it my symptoms aren't present, then I'm all better.  If they do, it's back to the drawing board. 

However, I think what's going to happen is that I'll wish I'd just have bitten the bullet and had the surgery a year ago.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Out of the Ashes, I Rise

Two months and a few days ago, I had my bilateral compartment release surgery. 

Today, I ran.  It felt great.  It was the first run of the first week of coolrunning.com's Couch-to-5K Program: 5-mimute walk then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 15 more minutes. 

I felt awesome during the run portions and then very much had to catch my breath during the walks.

It was glorious.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Under the Knife

Since the end of 2011, I've been struggling off and on -- more on -- with seems to be exertional compartment syndrome.  I was diagnosed with shinsplints in January, came back after a month rest, faster than ever, and then symptoms -- pain in the ankle and shin, loss of range of motion in the left foot -- became persistent again in the fall.  I rested again, started running again in early 2013, but was seldom pain-free, and the the rather-intrusive compartment pressure test showed that I did indeed have compartment syndrome in both legs. 

I really didn't want to have surgery, even though my orthopedist said that it was the most reliable cure for compartment syndrome, so I tried physical therapy. His opinion was that it was worth trying, but he was pessimistic that it would work. It seemed like it worked when I got serious about running again in January...until it didn't, and symptoms returned.  I made the decision to have the surgery.  I met one more time with my orthopedist, who agreed, naturally, that if I wanted to train for longer races again, that surgery was the best course of action for me.

I met with the surgeon in early April, and he explained that the procedure involves making incisions in the layer of fascia around the muscles in my lower leg compartments, which releases the pressure and should relieve symptoms.  He said that was a relatively simple procedure, and that I could have both legs operated on at the same time, which would make my recovery harder, or I could do one after the other, which would make recovery easier because I would have one "good" leg, but would take twice as long to get both legs "fixed".  I opted to have compartment release surgery on both legs, and I was scheduled to arrive at Wellspan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital on Thursday at 7:30am for the outpatient procedure.

I arrived, checked in, and was quickly taken back to remove my clothes (even my underpants) and change into a stylish surgical gown, and then put into a bed in a pre-op room to get ready.

As it turned out, my surgery almost didn't happen, because of this little guy:

This is Domo, aka, "The Fun Panther", our crazy little friend, who left an approximately one-inch long scratch ankle-level on my right shin when he jumped over my lap (I had my right leg crossed over the other).  When I was taken back for pre-op, the nurses quickly said that this little cut might cause my surgery to be delayed.  Cats have a lot of bacteria on their claws, and so they are extra careful with cat scratches because of the risk of infection.  After my surgeon looked at it, and said that it was ok to proceed because it was not near enough any of the incision areas, they shaved my legs and gave me an intraveneous anti-biotic and painkiller.  The anesthesiologist briefly visited and explained his role in the procedure, and then it was go time.

My bed was wheeled back to the operating room, and I slid myself over from the bed to the operating table, unintentionally giving some of the surgical staff a free show.  One of the surgical staff said that they would be giving me the anesthesia, and I would be asleep in about 60 seconds.  I don't think it even took that long...

...and the next thing I recall, I was in my bed with some nurses around me, my legs bandaged and painful, and my head feeling very groggy.  The nurses told me that I told the nurses I was going to make out with my wife and I asked them to bring me my kitty, neither of which happened, of course.

Apparently I made more incoherent conversation with the nurses and then Chris, who had talked with my surgeon while I was still asleep, was brought back so I could talk nonsense with her, too.   I don't really remember much of the conversation, but at some point I was moved from my bed into a recliner, and given my crutches for a brief practice with them, before being wheeled out of the hospital to Chris' car.  When we got home, I groggily made it up the stairs and plopped myself on the couch, where I've spent most of the past three days.

(My legs right after getting home.)

I was definitely in pain, intense at times, but I wouldn't call it excruciating.  I've got a prescription for vicodin, which makes my legs feel better but has made me nauseous at times.  Each of my three days since surgery I've less sharp pains in my legs but more muscle aches and pains.  I didn't sleep much at all on Thursday night, but slept very well last night, and somewhat successfully made my first post-surgery visit outside the house, when Chris took me to Dunkin' Donuts this morning.

I'll learn more about my rehabilitation next Friday, when I go for my post-op visit with my surgeon, and until then at least I'll be on crutches and quite useless.  I was told not to count on driving for four weeks, but that most people are back driving and feeling pretty well in 10 days to two weeks.

And my friend, Domo, who almost prevented my surgery?

He's been a nice little rehab friend.

For further reading about exertional compartment syndrome, here are two other patients' blogs that I've found to be very helpful:

Legs on Fire:  My Experience with Compartment Syndrome

Life After Compartment Syndrome

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

16th Birthday

"We're buying these party hats for people...not a cat," I said overly loudly to my wife as we walked through the dollar store, giggling helplessly.  "No one would buy party hats for a cat.  Who would do such a thing?"

Yesterday was Higgy the cat's 16th birthday, and since he's been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, it's in all likelihood his last birthday, so we decided to make a really big deal of it to celebrate the life of our weird, furry, treasured friend.

I can't say that Higgy did not hate his race-car themed party hat, but he did enjoy tuna, cake, and ice cream.  Not all at once...of course.  That's just gross.

Higgy's favorite part of the party was probably that the kittens were not invited.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Timex Ironman Triathlon, my A**

Back in December, Chris and I went on a weeklong cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore.  It was a wonderful week of relaxation, eating, tropical adventures, and eating. 

The time on the ship was relaxing and fun, but the highlights of the vacation were our two excursions in Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas.

In Nassau, we had the chance to cruise around town on Segways, which I can't recommend enough.  We had guides and they did tell us stuff about Bahamian culture and history, which is very interesting, but all that edumacation is balanced out by riding around on such silly vehicles.

Our other excursion, in Freeport on Grand Bahama, was very educational.  Our guide's pride in his island's culture and people just shone through in every word he spoke.  We saw learned a lot, and saw many historical sites, and also had a chance to go snorkeling at a place called either "Paradise Cove" or "Dead Man's Reef", depending on which sign you looked at.

Here, at this gorgeous beach, I had a great time swimming and saw many beautiful fish.  I made it back, but my until-then trusty watch did not.  After a few minutes in the water, the time jumped an hour forward, causing me to think that our whole group was going to miss our ride back to the boat and be stuck at Dead Man's reef forever.  I'll be honest, I wouldn't have really minded.  A little while later, it stopped working altogether, and when I got out of the water it fluctuated between complete watch death and displaying nonsensical signals that probably signaled the Bahamian Apocalypse.

(Cause of death: drowning)

I took it to the jeweler last week to see if a new battery would save it, and he said the inside was corroded.  While it's my fault for A) waiting months to take it in and B) thinking I could snorkel with a $40 watch, the watch was supposed to be water resistant up to 100 meters and it is branded "triathlon".  If Timex is going to call a watch that, it should be able to go for a swim.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Remember Your Victories, or "From Russia with Love"

I'm pretty good at owning my failures.  When I screw up at work, which is rare, I take accountability for fixing the problem.  Now that I'm completely out of shape, I recognize that there are no excuses.  I'm the one who didn't work hard enough.  I'm the one who didn't eat right.  And while I'm not so great at fixing those things, I am really, really good at kicking myself when I'm down and feeling like a complete loser compared to where I was a little over two years ago.

And yet, one positive thing that's happening within my little Brian brain recently is that despite the pain and struggles (lots of compartment syndrome symptoms on my last two runs), I'm starting to think of myself as a runner again, and I think that's somewhat I'm important.  But I also want to do a better job of owning my successes.  I may not be anywhere half-marathon or marathon shape, but I still ran two of each.  Those accomplishments are not taken away from me.  I don't say that so that I can rest on those laurels, but to remind myself of what I accomplished once, what I can still be proud of, and what I hope to accomplish again.

Shaun White lost in his bid for a third-straight Olympic gold medal in the snowboard half-pipe tonight.  They don't take away his gold from Torino or Vancouver.  He's still the greatest-ever in his sport, and indeed probably the only one from his sport that a lot of Americans can even name. 

I am not comparing myself to Shaun White.  He finished fourth at the Olympics.  I suck at running right now and would need some walk breaks to finish a 5K.  But those medals, from Virginia Beach and Philadelphia, they are still mine. I want to run to those distances again, and I'm going to work to get back to racing shape and to my goal weight, but even if I never run those distances again, those moments -- those successes of which I am proud -- they are part of me and they can't be taken away.  

I think it might help me to occasionally remember that.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

By the Old Garmin and the New

Remember when I lost my RoadID?  I finally broke down and ordered a new one, and then found the old one the very same day that its replacement arrived.

It's a good thing I learned my lesson.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

 You see, I'd misplaced my Garmin at some point in the Summer, and it had gotten to the point where I was using that (as an admittedly weak) excuse for being even more sloppy in my training than usual.

Following the KidsPeace Orioles Trick-or-Trot 5K, Chris and I stopped at Charm City Run's McHenry Row store, and I purchased a new Garmin Forerunner 10.  Of course, one week later, I found my (somewhat) trusty Garmin Forerunner 201.

As you can see, the Forerunner 10 on the left is roughly half the size of the 201.  Indeed, it is only a little or no bigger than many non-GPS sports watches.  I've been wearing as a watch a little too often, since my Timex Ironman died in the Bahamas, which is a blog entry for another day.  Still, since you never know when a 5K might break out, I don't see the harm in that.

The Forerunner 10 also picks up satellites much faster than 201 did, and seems to connect with them a little more often to give a slightly more precise measurement.  I've meant to wear both of them on a run to compare their measurements, but A) that's really dorky and B) I have enough trouble remember to bring one GPS. The Forerunner 10 connects easily to upload run data to www.garminconnect.com, where run data and maps are displayed.

The Forerunner 10 isn't all pizza and beer, though. It does have a few disadvantages to the 201.  I prefer the 201's larger display, which lets me look at time, speed/pace, and distance all one screen to the 10s smaller screen that only displays two measurements at a time. In the photo above, time and distance are displayed are displayed on the 10 and time, speed, and distance on the 201.

That said, I chose the 10 for it's relatively low price point and the salesperson's advice that would provide features and functionality similar to the 201, which has been discontinued.  That is definitely true, even if the display is set up differently.  Since I only use speed, pace/distance, time, and occasionally the virtual training partner, the Forerunner 10 is certainly sufficient for me.

I've been warned that battery life on the Forerunner 10 is limited to about 4 hours.  I'm a long way from testing that, but if that proves to be the case I'll have to go back to the 201 for longer marathon training runs...but that's a long way off.

I should also mention that the band on my Forerunner 10 broke when the unit was less than two months old.  While that's a negative, I got excellent customer service from Garmin, which replaced the band very quickly at no cost.  Replacement bands are available when I need to replace it again, hopefully in a more normal timeframe.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Negativity Reigns

Usually on Monday morning, I'll remark to one of my coworkers, "Is it Friday, yet?"  I suspect I'm not alone in wanting to rush through the work week to get to the fun part.

Unfortunately, it didn't take too long into this year for me to say "Is it 2015, yet?"

Within the two months of 2014:

  • Our nice old cat, Higgy, who is almost 16, was diagnosed with kitty lymphoma -- the vet drained over a pound of fluid out of him.  He's comfortable and happy, as much as we can tell, for now, but there's nothing that can be done for the poor little guy other than give him meds to slow the buildup of fluid around his lungs and spoil him rotten for as long as we can.
  • I had the flu, and as soon as I got better, Chris got sick.  So we were collectively ill for about two and a half weeks.
  • We had to spend more money on my old car, which I do love, than is probably worth sinking into a 2004 Neon with 140,000ish miles on it, but due to another consideration, it made sense to avoid another car payment.
  •  I got some bad news about my job, which was demoralizing in context of the massive amount of work I did last year and seems to be continuing this year.  
  • Lost our power in the big ice storm that hit the Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday.  Power was restored about 40 hours later, meaning that were actually relatively lucky, but during that time we just felt, well...powerless.

(Higgy the Cat, shown in front of his favorite heating vent, doesn't know anything's wrong, but
 he is SUPER pissed that he had to be shaved on the coldest day of the year.)

  I know there's an easy counter to each of those:  "It's good that you got have your cat for that long and that he had a great life"; "You weren't that sick"; "At least you have a car"; "Too much work is better than not enough"; "At least you have a (usually) warm house to live in."

I know. I know.  All of those are completely true, and I recognize that overall, I've got it pretty good and that almost everything I'm complaining about is a "first world problem".  Still, it's been enough bad luck in such a short time that I'm just feeling like it's one bad thing after another this year, and having trouble getting out of that negative mindset.

Since I can't make 2015 get here any faster, I need to find a way to reset my way of thinking, and since running had -- until this week -- actually been starting to go pretty well again, I think it's time to cut this blog entry short and head out on the road.

I'm sure that it'll also help when we win the Powerball tonight.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Don't Call it a Comeback...Yet

My running goal for January was to be able to run two miles without any walk breaks by the end of January.  Nailed it.  Let's not talk about the weight loss goal.  January was a bad month for a lot of reasons, but I've got to get with it.

My goal for February is to be able to run four miles by the end of the month with no walk breaks.  I think I'm off to a pretty good start.  I ran 3 today, although I did take the "one-minute walk break every half mile" at 2 and 2.5 mile marks.  Total was 3.0mi in 32:18.  I can build on that.

What wasn't so good is that for the first time in several months I really felt the compartment syndrome symptoms.  I'm not going to panic, yet, because I don't think I was hydrated well, I haven't been as diligent with stretching and strength-training on off-days, and this was the first time I've tried a run this far since a sloppy 5K in December where we did a lot of walking just because of the muddy and snowy terrain.

So, while I'm not quaking in terror, I'm not jumping for joy, either.  


Sunday, January 26, 2014

2 Miles Down, a Lot to Go.

One of my goals was to be able to run two miles without a walk break by the end of January.  


2 miles, 20:07, 0 walk breaks.  I'm back!  Atlantic City Half Marathon here I freakin' come!  Ok, not quite.  But I can build on this.

I was surprised that today's run was relatively good, whereas my last run, on Monday, was relatively bad (I took a walk break every half mile as planned, but still needed an extra one at the end to get through 2 miles) and I hadn't done anything else all week other than stretching.

I think my secret was that it was under 20 degrees today, and I somehow get stronger as the temperature drops.  Sadly, 2 miles is not far enough to get a massive ice buildup in my beard.  My Viking invasion will have to wait. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Makings of a Race Schedule

A few weeks ago, I posted my training schedule, which due to work, weather, and health (a bout with the flu) hasn't really come together as well as I'd hoped.  Still, I think 5 miles by the end of March and an at least surviving Sole of the City is still pretty likely. 

So what am I training for?   I guess that was in the previous post, too, but I'm really lacking inspiration for posts these days, and a race schedule is starting to take shape.

Kelly St. Patricks 5K, Baltimore, 3/16
I'll be honest, I run this one for the after-party at the pub with my friends.

Sole of the City 10K, Baltimore, 5/12
I'll be honest, I run this one for the swag and the chance to make a fun Orioles-oriented weekend out of it.

Color Run,Hershey, 6/1 
I'll be honest, I'm running this one because I'm susceptible to even the mildest and most benign peer pressure.  I still don't really get the appeal of  this.  Still, at least I probably won't break my tailbone like last time I went along with the crowd!

Atlantic City Half Marathon, Atlantic City (duh), 10/19
I'll be honest, 'm running this one because I'm a wimp who's had to defer two years in a row.  Run, walk, or crawl, I need to do this because I need even more so to be able to do at least the half, and hopefully the full, at Shamrock 2015.

Across the Bay 10K, Annapolis, 11/9
I'll be honest, I'm running this one because it just sounds fun.  To the extent that running can be fun, I mean.  Of course.  

That's all I'm registered for currently, but I'll mix a few more 5Ks in.   Even in my crappy Running Year 2013, I ran more races than this!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Belated New Year's Resolutions

I'm not good at New Years Resolutions.  I didn't keep a single one of my 2013 Resolutions, and most of those carried over from 2012.  Injuries were partly to blame, but again, I don't want to use that as an excuse.  I didn't do what I needed to do and I have to own that.

In 2011, my single resolution was just "to kick ass."  That's stupid.  What does that even mean?  How do I measure success?  Do I have to kick everyone's ass or just one person's?  I made all my running goals for the year and it remains by far my best running, but in terms of my vaguely-defined goal to become more confident and assertive, it was a complete and utter failure.

In order to try to set resolutions that I can keep, I think I need to need to set better resolutions.  A lot of companies use the acronym "SMART" as criteria for business objectives.  Objectives should be:


"Kick Ass" is not any of these things.  I did a little better with last year's:
1. Run Shamrock Half Marathon in March 2013
2. Under 6:00 mile (carried over from last year)
3. Run one marathon this year.
4. 10 races total
5. Lose 20lbs.  (I freaked out earlier in the year when I was 150. I'm 160 now. I feel best when I'm under 140.)

I did ok with measurable and perhaps time-bound, though I wasn't specific enough.  1. was probably was not attainable given where I was at the end of 2012 and in the context of health, neither was 3.  By setting goals that were too high and partially (PARTIALLY!) out of my control, it makes it easy to throw in the towel on everything.

So, here goes:

1. Lose 30 pounds by July 1, 2014.   As of this morning, I weigh 166.8 pounds. We have a trip to Texas coming up in July for a friend's wedding.  It's really, really hot in Texas, and I need to be lighter if I'm going to take the heat.  I'm happy with my weight being in the 140s, but I want to be on the light side of that for that trip.  Let's make this even more specific:
a. Weigh 159 pounds or less by February 1, 2014
b. Weigh 149 pounds or less by April 1, 2014
c. Weigh 139 pounds or less by June 1, 2014
d. Weigh 137 pounds or less by July 1, 2014
e Weight 149 pounds or less at the end of each subsequent month.  Like I said, I'm ok if I'm in the 140s but that needs to be the line.  I'm not a tall person and I was under 150 until I was almost 36.  I can get back there.

2. Be able to run 6 miles by April 12, 2014.  I'm signed up for sole of the city 10K again.  I limped through this last year with the help of prescription anti-inflammatory drugs and it was the farthest I ran all year.  I can't run two miles now without talking walk breaks every half mile right now.  So let's break this one down, too.
a Be able to run two miles without walk breaks by the end of January.
b. Be able to run four miles by the end of February.
c. Be able to run five miles by the end of March.  This would probably leave me needing some walk breaks to get through Sole of the City and would still have it in my stretch zone, but I'll be better off than I was this year when I didn't really have any business trying to run six miles.

3. Run the AC Half Marathon in October 2014.  By the end of this month, I'll have sent in my deferral for Shamrock Marathon for the third straight year and I've now deferred the AC half twice.  I can't put these off anymore.  I need to get myself in at least position to run the Shamrock Half in 2015 to get it off the books, and to have a hope at the full, I feel like I need to be in half shape by the fall of this year.  By setting my sights on a fall rather than spring half, I think I'm setting a goal that's attainable.  I'll have a mileage plan to get from Sole of the City to Atlantic City, but I I'll set after the 10K. My half PR is just under 2 hours, but I know this isn't a PR race.  I hate running on the boardwalk and I know even if I'm in good shape, I'll need to do some walking on that portion of the race.

4. Get my 5K time back under 30 minutes by May 1, 2014 and under 35 minutes by Kelly St. Patricks in Baltimore in March.  I'm guessing my average time until mid 2012 was in the 26s, but on the right course in the right weather I could get into the 23s.  My PR days are probably behind me, but I still think I can get back some speed.  I say May 1 because that will have me ready for the bulk of 5K season.

Then there's three that I don't think I can put into SMART:

5. Don't care about being the one everyone likes.  There's one part of my social circle where one of my goals is "to be the person everyone likes".  And I think I am.  But, in doing so, though, I've let a status quo that I'm not happy with endure far too long rather than trying to change it.  I'll write more about this one on my other blog.  Not "Orioles Update".  The other one that you don't get to read.

6. Leave the world a better place in 2014 than I found it.  I'd like to contribute more positively to society.

7.  Find a new hobby.  Right now, my hobbies are eating and watching sports.  The first ties back to goal #1.  The second leaves me with my self-esteem tied to closely to a meaningless activity over which I have no control.  I felt like running freed me from that to some degree.  I still loved watching sports and I still lived and died with two of my teams, but I had something of my own to be proud of.  I don't feel like I can depend on running to save me anymore.  I have not always fought as hard as I could to come back, I know that and I will own that.  But I have to know that it's possible that I will give everything to get back and not meet my goals.  I did work really hard in early 2012 to come back, and the shins didn't cooperate.   My attitude wasn't as good after that, and I also know that even if running doesn't work out, I still need to lose the weight, but I want to have another hobby, which could be but doesn't need to be athletic, that fills that same mental role. 

"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."
                                                                             - Dean Karnazes

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Lost Year

2013 was not without its moments.  I made some great new friends.  I had some fun adventures. But as the year ended, I'm as burnt-out, depressed, and out-of-shape as I've ever been and I realized yesterday that I just couldn't see any way out of it.

I've let the stress of my job, which generally comes with a panic-level approximating an emergency room despite lives NOT hanging in the balance, ruin the past year.  I don't want to use that as an excuse. I'M the one who didn't get up and run the next morning after working late.  I'M the one who stress-ate everything in sight.  I'M the one who reached for a beer on nights on which normally I would not. I'M the one who didn't get to the gym enough when I took a few months away from running (again) to rehab my compartment syndrome. I let myself have the mindset of a victim, but I was the perpetrator all along.

So this year, I must fight.  I have to fight to get the miles in.  To get to the gym.  To eat more salads and not so many delicious burgers.  To try to make that workplace culture a better one, rather than just complaining about it.  To be a better friend and family member and a better all-around individual, and not only a great employee.

Talk is cheap.  Words on a mostly-defunct blog are worthless.  Trying to have a new positive outlook doesn't change my workload or deadlines or magically reduce my stress-level.  It doesn't make me weigh less or able to run 5 -- hell, 3 -- miles again.  The things that suck, still suck.  I can try to have a new positive attitude, and I know from trying before that it will last only day...if that.  My only hope for making this year a better one is to actually take actions to do the things that will make me feel better about myself.

Run the miles.

Lose the weight.

Re-engage with the friends and loved ones I've neglected.

Don't have another lost year.

"We're from Philadelphia and we fight."
                                        - Chip Kelly, Head Coach, Philadelphia Eagles