Survey SAYS!…

Well, that’s up to you, really.

Here’s an online survey I threw together to gather input from runners about what they want from race directors.

Take the survey now. You know you want to.

Various and sundry

Just a bunch of random stuff.

The injury clouds part (seemingly)

My right hamstring and ass felt — well, they felt normal today, actually. Which for me means they felt fantastic. I felt nothing there — like a normal person. No pain, no limping. Are you generally aware of your ass and hamstring? Well, me neither! I think giving $200 to a gym yesterday must have cured the problem. Ha ha. See? I haven’t lost my sense of humor.

So I hinted to Coach Sandra via an email this evening that I’d like to try running soon. In a typically terse response (English is not her native language, so she’s a telephone kind of gal), she said not to run (I picture her picturing me as a troublemaker, going all rogue on her and her plan). Or, rather, she thinks I should try again on Monday. That’s fine, as I was going to give the wonderfulness of a pain-free ass and leg time to establish itself as something that isn’t temporary.

Cross-training continues

I did another session, this time on my own, on the evil elliptical. It went better. I was able to run hands-free when “ellipticaling” (what do you call what you do on the elliptical?) normally. I still had to grab on for the faster surges I did, but not as much. I’ve determined that you need to change your form slightly when moving faster. I’ll try again on Sunday, probably.

Then, after some stretching I’ve been assigned, another 30 minute bout of pool running, also on my own. This I can confidently say that I’m getting the hang of. I was able to establish good running form, and with that I proceeded to do a bunch of 45 second intervals. It still sucks, but at least I know what I’m doing now.

And now, a few hours later, I am beat.

Tomorrow is another virgin voyage, a spin class. This is a break from the elliptical that I welcome. Also, the spin bike supposedly doesn’t engage the gluteus in the way a regular stationary bike (which I have at home) does. After spinning, it’s — yes — another half an hour of pool running. Then another aggressive session of myotherapy.

Another day, another byline

I got my second assignment from Running Times. This time it’s for the feature in the Racing section (toward the back of the magazine, after the regular features) for the Jan/Feb issue. I won’t give away too much, but I will say that I will be asking the online runnersphere to participate in a survey that I’m putting together. I hope to launch that tomorrow afternoon. Your participation is important! And I’m looking for input from the entire spectrum of runningdom, not just you highly competitive types. So get ready, people. A detailed survey is coming.

As for the first one, a profile of masters phenom Tamara Karrh, who qualified for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:40 (!) — that should appear in the November print edition in roughly a month.

Bye bye, Summer — don’t let the door hit you

I think we’ve seen the last of the hellacious dryer blast weather. It’s cool and lovely here. I wish I could run in it, but for now it’s enjoyable to get up and feel a cool breeze wafting in. Sometimes I just go sit outside on our porch to feel the non-heat and non-humidity. The cat is in a considerably better mood these days too.

The elliptical and pool running: initial impressions

Today I made my way up to Briarcliff Manor to Club Fit, a HUGE gym off of Rt. 100. Coach Sandra lives about 5 minutes from the gym and is herself embarking on an ambitious regimine of cross-training and will be spending 2-3 hours a day on her own fitness activities. And Club Fit was having a deal — two months for cheap (for both Jonathan and me), no long-term commitments. Perfect timing! Sandra can show me the ropes and probably train with me more days than not, assuming we can coordinate our schedules.

It’s bigger, cleaner and more well-appointed than the Y. And about the same price. For now. I’ll worry about the fact that it’s 3x as expensive annually later on.

I have never belonged to a gym. I had been to one gym exactly once in my life prior to this — a visit to my (sort of) in-laws’ gym in Pretoria, South Africa a few years back. I was totally overwhelmed that day and similarly overwhelmed today. I felt like a hapless member of some remote Amazon tribe, plunked down in the center of the Mall of America. How do these lockers work? Where do I find the tiny towels? Is it okay for me to be naked in this room? What’s this thing for?

I threw myself on Sandra’s mercy and, when she occasionally disappeared into the multi-corridored abyss, on the mercy of those around me. It worked out. I’m in at least through October. I may just keep the membership beyond that as they have a 200m indoor track and I get really pissed off about not being able to do track workouts all winter. Plus they have about 30 elliptical machines, three pools and a sauna, among other goodies. It’s a good thing I don’t have a real job, as I’ll be spending quite a lot of time there over the coming eight weeks. I’m apparently still expected to go there, even when I can run again, to do major weight work twice a week and spinning, both of which Sandra swears will pay dividends when I hit the last 10K of a marathon.

First, the elliptical. At first, this felt like an exercise machine designed by a prankster. Whee! Your feet go round and round, but you feel like you’re going to fall off the fucking thing every five seconds. So today’s session was “learning how to use the elliptical.” I started out holding on for dear life, then learned to relax my hands (which was good, because my shoulders were killing me after 10 minutes). Eventually, I got to where I didn’t have to hold on and could mimic a proper running form. I was told that this was good progress, less spastic than most. But when trying to run faster, all bets were off. I still couldn’t keep my hands off the thing, the little temptress, when trying to do faster running. I’m told in two weeks I’ll be doing intervals like a pro. Okay.

Elliptical grade: B

Next, pool running. The first thing I discovered is that the AquaJogger belt sucks dead donkey dicks. I may as well strap a large block of styrofoam to myself with duct tape. It’s about as streamlined and comfortable. The thing rides up and fucks with whatever progress I’m managing to make with my “form,” which in itself is laughable. Since I’m going to be doing a lot of this, I’m biting the bullet and buying what Sandra had on, a Wet Vest. It’s thin and it actually fits. Sure it looks like a giant diaper, but that is the very feature that keeps the thing from riding up around your neck.

Simply put, pool running is really hard. It’s difficult physically, in that getting to a point where you’re using an actual running form is hard to do. And it’s difficult mentally. You run and run and run and, while you go somewhere, it’s nowhere fast. Imagine running a 400m repeat as hard as you can while trying to push a wheelbarrow full of sand. That’s what pool running feels like. Side note: the upper body work involved is not to be sneezed at. Sandra says I’ll have incredible strength up top after about six weeks of this. Maybe I’ll be able to bench press the elliptical.

I’ll get better at it with work. But learning how to run in the pool reminds me of taking ceramics a few years back and trying to learn to “throw” clay — meaning form symmetrical objects on a wheel spinning at incredibly high RPMs. Preferably things like vases that didn’t weigh 30 lbs. It got easier, but it took forever to make even a little progress. I finally decided that I would save ceramics for my old age, when I would presumably have a lot more free time for messy, pointless endeavours. I’m motivated to move along the learning curve of this particular messy endeavour as quickly as possible so I can actually get some real training done. For my bigger pointless endeavour.

Pool running grade: C

If you don’t like reading about the elliptical, pool running, weights and spinning, then stay away from this blog for the next couple of months. I hope I can run again at some point, but I have put it out of my mind. At least I have plenty to distract me in the meantime.

Blog: Washington Ran Here

Here’s a new blog I made my way to via a circuitous route. I think it was Angry Runner.

Anyway, she’s funny. And interesting. And fast.

Google search oddities

“new york 10k lady races”

This one, while an apt path to this blog, struck me as funny. It’s so retro. “Lady races”? For some reason, Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie spring to mind…

In which I seek solace from a dead poet

I recently purchased Tim Noakes’ seminal work The Lore of Running. I had to put something into my Amazon cart to get free shipping and I’d always meant to buy this book. So I did. It can best be described as a compendium of running physiology, but shot through with a whole lot of wisdom.

Weighing in at 931 pages, it’s not a book I can see myself reading through cover to cover. Instead, I keep it on the dining room table and once or twice a day, when I’m having breakfast or lunch, I dip in and read a few pages. Today I ventured into the chapter entitled “Training the Mind”. I thought I’d pick up some tips in preparation for the day that I line up for a race again.

But it seems I could not escape my current predicament, even by studiously avoiding chapters about injury. There, on page 556, a section entitled “Psychology of Injury” began. On the next page was a subsection: “Typical Response to Injury,” which enumerates the mental stations of the injury cross in a form that would make Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proud (except…what, no bargaining?):

  1. Denial: At first, the athlete refuses to accept that the injury has occurred and simply denies its possibility. Examples of runners who ran to their deaths, denying that they could possibly have heart disease, are detailed in chapter 5.
  2. Anger (rage): When the injury can no longer be denied, the athlete becomes enraged and blames either the doctor, a spouse [ed. note: oh, yes — that’s why runners should always hitch their wagons to other runners, who will call them on their shit], or some third party for the injury. Occasionally, athletes will blame their bodies for this betrayal and may even subject it to further abuse, for example, by continuing to run. [ed. note: or, in my case, by consuming tremendous amounts of wine.]
  3. Depression: When denial and rage no longer work, the athlete moves on to the (penultimate) state of depression.
  4. Acceptance: Finally, the athlete learns to accept the injury and to modify ambition to accommodate the inadequacies of the mortal body. When this occurs, the athlete is likely to be over the injury.

That last line bears repeating, in case you missed it: When [acceptance] occurs, the athlete is likely to be over the injury.

Isn’t that tragic?

But probably true.

I am almost afraid to note this, since I’ve had so many false alarms over the past couple of weeks. But I think my original problem (crippling muscle knots) has abated almost completely and I have actually replaced that problem with a new one: a pulled adductor muscle. Maybe it’s a compensatory injury from my wonky walking, but I’m more apt to blame it on the insane pedaling I’ve been doing on the stationary bike over the past week.

The past few days (and especially at night and first thing in the morning), the adductor magnus, or maybe it’s the brevis, hurts a lot. I did three hours of cross-training yesterday, 2.5 the day before, most of it on the bike. Today I didn’t do anything other than take a hot bath and, earlier, wander the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond, not buying things (sometimes I do this for no apparent reason, sort of a reverse osmosis consumerism). If I do anything tomorrow, it will be going to the Y and trying out my water running equipment. But if that irritates the problem muscle, I won’t proceed.

So. To review. The good news is that the original problem seems to be going away. The bad news is I have a new problem. But I’ve dealt with adductor strains before — I even trained with one for 10 weeks — and they are not a big deal. I know this particular monster and it’s not that scary.

Might this be a light I see? I know better than to hope when the right thing — the only thing — to do is to simply wait. I almost hate to trivialize T.S. Eliot by applying his words to something as lightweight as a running injury. But, on the other hand, I think he had a lot to say about accepting hardship and even quietly embracing it as a worthy experience unto itself (if one accepts that things that are worthwhile are not always necessarily pleasant):

I said to my soul be still, and wait without hope; for hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith. But the faith, and the love, and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

“This is nothing.”

That’s what Jonathan said to a despairing me the other night as we embarked on another possibly pointless home/amateur massage therapy session to try to treat whatever is ailing both of us.

He’s right. Read this.

Thanks, TK.