A year ago…

A blogger I follow had a short post up last night that was a look back through key times in her running life. Unfortunately, the post has disappeared. Maybe I’m not the only one who “Ambien posts.”

I like the idea, though. So here’s my walk backward along my blog’s November garden stones:

A year ago, I was injured with a tendon problem on my foot. This was three weeks before the California International Marathon. That would turn out to be a dreadful race, one that made me rethink everything.

Two years ago,  I hired my first coach. I was still on a post-race high from running 3:19 at Steamtown. I also had a cold.

Three years ago, I won my first age group award. This race was the culmination of many months of base training as I prepared to do my first proper marathon training cycle for a spring 2008 race (the More Marathon, in which I would easily qualify for Boston).

Four year ago, I was racing lots of local Turkey Trots. My race pace for a flat 5 miler was about 8:00. This blog was about six months old at that time. I was still fat and slow. But I was determined to improve. Four years on, I still am.

Random bloviations

Here’s my version of a Larry King column. Heavy on personal pronouns, inanity and randomness.

I use my Exogen 4000 bone stimulator daily. Sometimes twice a day. Is it working? I have no idea. Did you know these expensive devices only have about 170 uses? Then their internal battery goes dead. The maker claims you can’t replace or recharge the battery. Yeah. Right. Another four thousand dollars, please. I know we’re a capitalist country. But, honestly, we do take it too far sometimes.

I am also taking a product called Bone Up, a calcium supplement that’s full of Australian bovine something or other. It’s in the kitchen and I’m too comfortable at the moment to get up and go look at the bottle. It was recommended to me by a woman who has had many stress fractures. She says it works. I believe her.

I actually like this season’s Dexter. I didn’t like the last season, which felt like the writers were treading water with the character. This time around Dexter gets a quasi-girlfriend who may also have serial killer leanings (at the very least she is a victim turned vigilante), causing him to get sloppy with his protocol. That’s a plot development that rocks. I would not have thought of that. Also, Peter Weller is great in his role as scummy, bottom feeding private investigator.

I am also enjoying The Walking Dead, our first-ever zombie television series. I just call it The Zombie Show. I am still on the premiere episode, because not only am I too tired or too busy (or too asleep) to watch television most evenings, but also because Jonathan is not a big fan of the zombie genre. It’s a little hackneyed, but the cinematography is notably good and I appreciate the acting performance by the semi-aware-but-nonetheless-completely-zombified wife of one of the characters. That’s an acting challenge. The makeup and special effects are excellent too.

So my evenings are full of enjoyable violence.

I did the first of my two planned Big Name Runner interviews over the weekend. I know the article I want to write and how I will write it. I am determined to get this finished this week, although as usual my “pays the bills” work takes precedence and is heating up lately.

The nice thing about having a blog is that even if I can’t interest any of the usual outlets in paying me for it, I can just publish it here and I’ll be almost as happy with that. I’ll be surprised if no one wants it, but stranger things have happened. In general, I have quickly learned that it’s difficult to impossible to make a living just doing freelance running journalism. The fact that I’m not trying to means I can do the work I do in this area on my own terms. I’m still having fun with it.

I may get a chance to try out an Alter-G treadmill somewhere in Harlem soon. That should be interesting and educational.

I’m planning a trip to Switzerland at some point next year. It will probably be sometime later in the summer. We went there in 2007 and I’ve missed it ever since. The exchange rate is terrible, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Life is short. I want to go back to Zermatt, where a strained medialis prevented me from hiking up to the base of the Matterhorn. I also enjoyed Pontresina, the lower-key (and cheaper) sister town to St. Moritz. And, of course, the Jungfrau region, although I think this time we’ll stay on the Grindelwald/Wengen side, whereas last time we were in Murren.

Longer term, I’m figuring out where to go for my 50th birthday. Much as I would love to go somewhere weird and totally new to me, like Japan, or exotically third-world, like Indonesia, I think it’s going to be Norway. I guess I’m getting old, but I want a reliably civilized experience featuring a Western culture that I can somewhat relate to. There needs to be good beer and cheese involved too. I know it’s a few years off. But I like to plan.

Also, is it just me, or is anyone else annoyed by Haile’s petulant retirement announcement, followed by cooler headed reversal — which in the process eclipsed every other New York Marathon story? Everyone knew he didn’t mean it. Now. Do you remember who won the men’s and women’s races? You had to think about it for a moment, didn’t you?

Training: Oct 24-Nov 13

Well, it’s about time for another yellow post. I only post this stuff so that it’s easy for me to go back and look at what was happening. Plus I’m obsessive-compulsive and it bugs me when I have gaps in training posts.

I was a cross-training machine in mid-to-late October, but things dropped off in the last two weeks. These were two incredibly busy weeks for me with work commitments (I have two big freelance projects these days with many due “deliverables,” as we call them), the NYC marathon — and lots of time spent in in the medical realm.

Not just MRI facilities and podiatrists, but also an endodontist whom I didn’t like very much at all. But then, people in the dental professional have a hard time being liked in general. The fact that she made me wait an hour to see her, then spent 15 minutes during our consultation berating a vendor, did not help her industry.

Denis Leary: Dave, let me explain something to you, okay? People…hate you, you’re a dentist.

Campbell Scott: Is that right?

Denis Leary: They can’t wait to get out of your office, okay? They think about you, they think “pain.” They would like nothing more than to never have to see you again. And your best work never even sees the light of day.

Campbell Scott: Well, you’re going to lose every tooth in your mouth, my friend. You’ve got one of the worst cases of gum disease I’ve ever seen.

The Secret Lives of Dentists

But the less said about my ongoing dental drama, the better. Except this: my problem is not due to neglect, if you must know. If it’s even a problem, that is; it could be total tooth apocalypse or just a mysterious shadow on the x-ray (I’m hoping it’s the latter when I go back in to find out). But whatever’s going on traces back to a bike accident I had in 1989.

Just to put this in perspective, here are some things that also happened in 1989:

  • Mikhael Gorbachev was named president of the Soviet Union
  • The Berlin Wall came down
  • We invaded Panama to capture Manuel Noriega
  • “Roseanne” and “The Cosby Show” were the top shows
  • “Wind Beneath My Wings” was Record of the Year
  • …and everyone had fluffy, fluffy hair and big shoulder pads!

I already had a root canal 10 years ago because of that accident (in addition to the three I had at the time to reconstruct three of my teeth). I did not have dental insurance then. I do not have dental insurance now. I will never have dental insurance. There is a very good reason for why I do not ride bikes except ones that are indoors and stay in place.

A state of the art cell phone. In 1989.

Basically, I am sick of sitting in traffic or hauling around on the train/subway, waiting around in horrible waiting rooms, having unpleasant things done to me, and then writing large checks for the privilege. So I’m taking a break from it for a few weeks.

The endodontist can wait until after Thanksgiving (a day I will probably be working — and the gym is open that day for losers like me!) as I’m doubtful my teeth will crumble or fall out in that time.

I am taking a wait-and-see approach to doing anything further on the osteitis pubis front. I know what I have, which is inflammation. Now I need to see how it responds to the return to running over the next week or two. If running obviously aggravates it, or it simply isn’t getting better, then I’ll take action. If it continues to improve, even slowly, I’ll let it ride.

The big change in cross-training is that I have returned to weight-bearing lower body work, but cautiously. I am careful with the leg press machine in particular. And walking lunges pissed off my right hamstring yesterday, so those are out for awhile. But I must do standing squats and deadlifts to strengthen the muscles that support my, er, pelvic region. And I’m back to rolling and stretching, since I can already feel my IT band and other muscles knotting up again.

I did another grassy field run today, half an hour this time. That did irritate my poor tendon (and brought back a very faint pain in the gluteus). Not exactly encouraging. But it’s early days yet. I probably won’t try a run again until Wednesday. The good news is that it was not as spiritiually demoralizing as Friday’s run. I truly think that second run back after a long layoff is the worst one.

So there’s the recap. In summary, I didn’t do as much training as I would have liked and I’m finding doctors to be tiresome.

Ran today. Hated it.

Today was my second attempt at running since the last attempt, which was roughly two weeks ago. That last run’s discomfort was largely obscured by the oh my god I’m actually running novelty. It’s been over three months since I’ve run, after all. But I knew based on that experience that today’s run wouldn’t be a good run. I figured it would be mediocre. I didn’t expect to actually hate the experience.

I understand now why most people who take up recreational running don’t get beyond January 7th. Being a new runner sucks. That’s essentially what I am now: a new runner. I can imagine someone thinking, “People do this for fun? They find it gives them pleasure? But how?”

I know that my aerobic system is in great shape, but when it comes to running I’m like a jet engine attached to a Radio Flyer. My body is not used to running and everything else I’ve been doing does not translate, at least at this point in time. I feel like I weigh a thousand pounds and it’s like running on stilts. (Plus my legs, which have been permanently browned since 2007, have gone all Johnny Winter on me in just three months of sunless existence. Thank goodness tights season is on the way.)

I ran around a baseball field again. Nice, soft grass. Jonathan and I went together and he was eager to run with me, despite my foul mood. I’m shocked he hasn’t left me, since I complain basically all the time. He told me his second run back (I think he’s on his fourth or fifth) was the worst one. It will get better. Jeez, I hope so.

I had to remind myself that I’d already done two hours of hard exercise just a few hours before, on top of hard work in the pool yesterday, on top of whaling on my legs with 90 minutes of weight work on Tuesday.

I managed 25 minutes. I’ll try 30 next time. Probably on Sunday or Monday.

We did see a man who appeared to be drunk chasing some Canadian geese around at the edge of the field. That was funny.

Running Times: Tamara Karrh profile is up!

My profile of Houston Hopeful Tamara Karrh is up on the Running Times website.

This is old news (especially since Tamara already ran the Twin Cities race the article mentions anticipatorily*). But what the hell. I thought it was worth posting for anyone who doesn’t get the print edition.

Running Times > Tamara Karrh Training for the Trials


*You like that? That right there is a thirty dollar word.

Diagnosis, prognosis and status

“Oy, my bursitis!” Listening to people talk about their medical ailments is about as much fun as walking up a broken escalator. So I’ll make this brief (brief for me, that is). I’ve seen two orthopedists (whom I’ll call Ortho 1 and Ortho 2 in the Seussian tradition). Ortho 1 is my primary giver of treatment, Ortho 2 is…well…I’ll get into that.

Diagnosis: Make that diagnoses: stress fracture of the right sacrum; osteistis pubis. The first item is a bone crack. The second one is inflammation of the tendon that attaches one of my adductor muscles to the area of bone that is cracked.

Prognosis: Good to excellent. I will run again, even if I’ll never play the violin again. The fracture is healing up nicely and the tendon problem is getting better, although it’s taking its own sweet time in calming down.

Status: Ortho 1 says I can start running for 30 minutes every other day, but they must be very easy runs. And no hills. Coach Sandra says the plan will be for 1 day running with 2 days no running for two weeks, then every other day running for the following two weeks. She’s being conservative and that’s fine with me. I also need to do strengthening work on hips/glutes/core and stretch the hell out of the adductors going forward. I started that yesterday. I haven’t done lunges or leg presses since July. They were easier — my legs have gotten quite strong from all the other stuff.

I may also be getting a steroid shot to the tendon if its pokey recovery continues. That was a source of major confusion. Ortho 1 said last week, “I’m sending you to Ortho 2 for the injection since it’s in such a specific place and may require special equipment to pinpoint.” For weeks and weeks, “injection” has meant “platelet rich plasma injection.” So I went to Ortho 2 and said, “I’m here for a PRP injection.” He said that wasn’t what I needed (because that’s for the bone, not the tendon). So I felt like an idiot.

It turns out that communication between Ortho 1 and Ortho 2 was garbled (or perhaps non-existent) and I’m just the dumb patient trundling between their Manhattan offices brandishing my MRI images, my checkbook, and lots of misinformation. The upshot is that Monday’s 10 minutes with Ortho 2 were a total waste of time and money. When I told all this to Ortho 1 yesterday, he was a little dismayed and said he’d clear things up.

But, quite honestly, I’m disinclined to go back and get the stupid shot. I have run with adductor pain much worse than this (for 10 weeks about two years ago), and as long as I know it’s not harmful to do so, I can live with it. Also, Ortho 2 (and his facility) does not take our insurance and he is Expensive with a capital e. Monday’s adventure cost me $300 plus parking. This is on top of the $517.23 I pay per month for my Totally Fucking Useless health insurance policy from HIP. Did I mention that Ortho 1 does not take our insurance either? But these are supposed to be two of the best sports orthos in the country. So I pay. And laugh at everyone who gushes about how great a hobby running is, because it’s so inexpensive.

Ortho 1 mentioned that he used me and my MRI in a lecture he gave over the weekend. So if any of you were at a talk about running injuries and a “45-year-old woman with a sacral fracture and osteitis pubis” was mentioned, that was my hoohaa up there on the big screen.

In the meantime, I’m borrowing an Exogen 400 bone stimulator machine from my stepmother. I’m to use that for 20 minutes a day for two months. I’m getting a new training plan this week which will incorporate road miles, but all my hard running workouts will stay in the pool. I ran into Sandra at the gym yesterday and asked if I could possibly run the Joe Kleinerman 10K early next month. She looked doubtful — and wondered again how I can enjoy running in sub-freezing temps so much; but her blood’s Caribbean and mine’s Norwegian — and would only offer that we’d see how things go.

Coaches are there, in part, to keep you from doing stupid things. Racing a road 10K on hills in a month is a stupid idea. Still, it’s an appealing one…

NYC Marathon 2010: Racing Verité

Rinus from Holland put together this “runner’s eye view” of the marathon. He’s compressed his 4:17:19 run into 00:07:11 of footage. I think we refer to that sort of timing as a “New York Minute.”

Posts I wish I’d written

The NYC Marathon may be over, but there are plenty of other races coming up. Learn how to not be a crappy spectator in this helpful post.

Washington Ran Here > The Spectator’s Guide to Running

NYC Marathon Photos: The banquet and the elites

I took lots of shots from the finish line banquet, and got nearly all of the male and female elites coming in. As a teaser, here are two of the better pictures. View the whole album here > NYC Marathon 2010 on Picasa.

Edna Kiplagat

Gebre Gebremariam

NYC Marathon 2010: Faces at the Finish

Teodoro Chavez (photo by Stacey Cramp)

I’ll do a writeup on how I spent the earlier part of Marathon Day in New York. But for now, here’s a link to what I did with my afternoon and evening. I spent about two hours with photographer Stacey Cramp, interviewing runners along one of the arteries leading them off of Park Drive and out onto Central Park West.

Almost everyone was willing to spend a minute or two talking with me; just one person was too exhausted, and two others begged off only because they didn’t think their English was going to be good enough.

Stacey’s photos capture how spiritually elated, and how physically humbled, a runner can feel right after completing a marathon. I am grateful for these runners’ generosity and patience yesterday. I hope you get as much inspiration and enjoyment out of meeting them as I did.

Here’s the slideshow: NYC Marathon 2010 Faces at the Finish