Thursday, January 27, 2011

Treadmill 1 - On the bus...Running 0

Slight lag between when I finished the post and actually posted since we lost power last night...and this morning.  Back up and running now (so to speak)....
I’m coming to you live from colonial times, well, that is if they had computers in colonial times.  I’m typing this post by candlelight as this winter’s “storm force” lands a substantial blow on the D.C. area.  I was fortunate enough to flee work at 3:00 today before the mass exodus began.  Mrs. Onthebusrunning has been on the road for four hours now.  It took me 1/4th the time to cover nine miles last night in my tempo then it has for her to cover the same nine miles by car tonight...but I won’t bring that up.
Anyway, because I was lucky enough to get out of work today, it afforded me sufficient OCD time to get my run in.  Normally on days like this, I’m the first out the door to take to the golf course and tackle my run in the snow storm outside.  Tonight was a little different.
First off, my knee felt the effects of yesterday’s run and the sharp incline/decline on the golf course hills has beaten me up lately.  Rather than combat the slippery roads and sidewalks, I decided to take things inside and onto the treadmill.  
I’ve made it clear how I feel about the treadmill.  Lately, however, I’ve had pretty good success on it.  Other than not being able to spit, and the odd feeling of wearing shorts and t-shirt while watching the frigid wind rip through the bare trees outside, it’s been just fine.  
So I had few reservations about getting on tonight to crank out five miles.  Instead of driving to the gym, I decided to fulfill my appetite for running outside in the snow by taking the golf cart path that was rapidly disappearing.  Roundtrip, this would give me 6.5 miles for the day.
I pulled on some wind pants, an old pair of running shoes, stuffed my ipod and gym card into a zip lock baggy, and trotted outside.  
The solitude is really what draws me to running in the snow.  The storm pulls a white blanket over the world that stills the ambient noise and settles in the silence.  It’s one of those loneliness of the long distance runner moments where you’re slushing along by yourself, just listening to the snow pack under your feet, and the tinkling of sleet skating over the snow.
Contrast this to the harsh fluorescent lights and thumping music at the gym, I don’t think there’s any debate to be had.  But that’s just me.
When I got to the gym, I was shocked to see other people as stupid, I mean as dedicated, as me already there.  Including on the treadmill.  I nearly lost it when I looked over at the treadmills and their users just whirring away.  On second glance, I saw that there was indeed one open.
I shook the snow off, tucked my soaking winter garments into a cubby hole and went to work.  The stream of thoughts went something like this:
Yes, sir.  5.4 miles, 40 minutes.  Piece of cake.  What’s on TV?  Oh, yeah, the storm.  Huh, 4-11 inches, way to narrow things down.  $%^&* Oops, don’t drift and fall off. Ok.  How we doing?  1:37.  Ok, stop looking at the clock.  Lot of snow out there.  Is that woman looking at me?  Why is she looking at me?  I didn’t fart.  I could, but I won’t...on purpose.  Crap, I didn’t bring any water.  Whatever, it’s only 5.4 miles, that’s now 5.2 miles.  Hmm, wonder how much time has gone.  2:45.  Don't be a clockwatcher. Oh, I like this song.  You can look at the clock again when the song is over.  Ok, just a quick peek.  3:20.  Huuumph.  
And so it went.  Fifteen minutes in, I took a look around and noticed that I had the whole gym to myself.  It’s as if everyone came to their senses at once and split.  You can guess the first thing I did.
Secondly, I discovered the pause button because I became very aware of how thirsty I’d gotten and the large amount of sweat I’d flung onto the screen.  I hopped off, took a couple gulps of water, then got back to it.  Slowly.  I felt exhausted and the clock seemed to be turning backward.  If it had been a nightmare, I also would have looked down and realized I was naked.
I slogged through the second half of that workout.  When the clock mercifully hit 40:00, I pounded the “stop” button and teetered back to the aerobics area for a quick stretch and to let some of that sweat dry.
When I did finally leave, I half expected to come out of the gym and have it be the next day because I’d been at it for so long.
The best part of the trip was of course running back through the snow.  It had gotten significantly deeper, so much so, that my original tracks had already been covered up.  The sleet and wind intensified, which stung my face.  I ran a good portion either turned to the side or with my eyes closed.  But I relished it.  I felt better in the snow for those 10 minutes than I had on the treadmill.  
Go figure.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

January's Word of the Month

Ok, I admit it: I’m a convert.

“To what?” you might ask. To daily core and general strength exercises.

I’m not going to start preaching or drop a Tony Little infomercial on you, but, people, believe me when I tell you: This. Stuff. Works.

When a team is skidding, you often hear coaches revert to the time honored cliché: back to basics.

While I wouldn’t call my recent injury bout a skid, I certainly wouldn’t shy away from calling it a “less than ideal start to the new year.” Like any dedicated athlete, though, I didn’t want to sit idly by, let all that previous hard work go for naught, and do my best Jabba the Hut impression. Rather, I’ve taken to active rehab…trying to strengthen the areas that I could still work and will ultimately improve my running once I can return, i.e. now.

If I had to give January a word (and I must, otherwise the meaning of this post is lost), and not a four-letter word that might get a bar of soap jammed in my mouth, it would be this: elemental.


Rather than getting “back to the basics” of running, I’ve tried to incorporate exercises into my daily routine that coach Jay Johnson (the same Jay Johnson from the book “Running with the Buffaloes”) calls elemental to every runner.

These are simple core exercises targeted at the hips, glutes, abs, quads, hammies…you get where I’m going here, the parts that make our running-selves work.

I ran across these exercises about a year ago in an issue of the Running Times; however, I never did them with as much dedication as I do today. Really, it began over the summer, but I’d only do each workout following a run, whereas now, I do them whether it’s a running, lifting, or resting day.

The exercises themselves are fairly simple. In fact, the most “elemental” exercise, is a series of leg lifts a la the old-school Jane Fonda workout tapes. I can remember walking in on my mother in the family room bouncing around to Jane Fonda. I still wear the emotional scars (just kidding, mom. Love you!). But I digress….

Though they’re simple, they burn! And you quickly realize just how weak and neglected those areas are.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that while running can be so beneficial for your health, you have to take care of the parts that make the machine work. The first time I saw my ortho he asked, “Do you do anything weight-wise to make your legs stronger?” I flashed a cocky smile and said, “I run hill repeats.”

Six months later, I was back in his office.

I now see his point.

So, whether I’ve just come in from a run or am decompressing in front of the TV, I’ll take an extra 5-10 minutes to do these “elemental” exercises. Now that I’m laced up again, I can tell that, while the stamina is taking a bit more time to come back, the strength and mechanics are there.

As bad as I want to pound the electrolytes and dive mouth first into a PB-smothered bagel at the end of a long run or speed workout, I take those extra five minutes to get this dynamic cool down done.

Check out the podcast series.

To ward off that empty hunger for a few more minutes, I picture myself cresting Heartbreak Hill. Mile 21 becomes but a flash as I go by throwing waves to the BC kids. Five extra minutes a day for that?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Start Spreading the News

On the New York.
On a whim (ok, obsessively at least once a day for the past week), I happened onto the New York Marathon Web site to check and see if my status changed from my "Lottery" to "Accepted."  You see, after I prematurely entered the lottery on November 8, the day the early-lottery opened, the day after Shalane Flanagan turned in a gutsy second place finish, I entered but didn't realize that in order to be accepted through qualification, you weren't supposed to apply until January 10.  My bad.  I was excited.

So the kind folks at New York Road Runners told me to check back on that date.  Into the Outlook Calendar it went.  That's where I found myself today, checking back, on my lunch break.  Day in and day out, I braced, I winced and it still read "Lottery."  So today I just went in expecting to find the same.  

Lo and behold, "Accepted"!  Finally!

I channeled that excitement into my first speed workout -- an 8x1 min at 5K pace fartlek -- since rehabbing the knee.  With no pain to speak of, I hopped back into the car to ride home from the gym (an ice storm forced me back onto the treadmill, go figure) and blasted "Empire State of Mind."

New York is one of the major marathons I have yet to add to my running resume...yet.  After I realized that I qualified for New York (in last year's National Half Marathon, thanks to a 1:21:48), I knew it was time.  That means two marathons in one year.  

I know that people do this and even take on more, but venturing into the two marathon territory in a span of six months is new for me.  I tend to get so beat up from one marathon that I can't fathom a second in less than 12 months, but 2011 is the year: Boston in April.  New York in November. 

As I get ready for Boston, I can't help but think of New York.  I still get chills thinking of Meb breaking away in 2009 and darting through Central Park by himself -- or by himself on the course, I should say.  Because the crowd erupted when Meb went by, and with the finish line in sight, he started pointing at the "USA" on his jersey, which nearly incited a riot...and then tears.

As Frank Sinatra sang, "I want to be a part of it...If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."

So New York Marathon veterans, help me celebrate.  Tell me what to expect this November when I'm part of it....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Plugged in and Tracking

On Sunday, my wife and I took the dog to Burke Lake for what I hoped would be my first successful foray outside and off the treadmill.  If I couldn't have the flatness of the treadmill, I could at least have the trail's forgiving surface.  

Burke Lake, though a picturesque loop that offers stunning views in any season, always seems to give me trouble stamina-wise, no matter what kind of shape I'm in.  Still, I figured if nothing else, I could always walk up or down any of the hills if need be and just consider the effort a hike/run.

I walked down to the water and took in the lake, a steely, gunmetal mirror that reflected the bare trees.  Rangers skated over to a patch of ice on their boots and knelt down to inspect a larger hole.  I took in a couple nervous, cold breaths, then picked up the trail just off the boat launch.  I started a cautious jog around the standing puddles left over from the week's earlier dusting and relished the cold against my face.

After a few awkward strides and some slight discomfort, I found my stride and began to drop the pace.  Each step chased away those lingering doubts, and I started thinking more about the surroundings than, "Does it hurt?  Did I tweak something?  Is that pop bad? Can I take it up this hill?  Should I try and run down?"  I started to run again.  I darted in and around walkers, dogs, and other runners.  At each clearing in the trees, I took in the view of the lake.

Around mile 1, actually exactly at mile 1, my watch beeped.  Confused, I checked my wrist.  Sure enough, 1.00 mi at a 7:15 pace...and counting.  You see, this run also became my first trial run with my new GPS watch.

My parents graciously gave me a gift card to a local running store for Christmas.  Normally, I'd get some shorts or a singlet I'd been eyeing.  But this time, I was at a loss having just gotten new shoes and some new winter gear.  Then it hit me, I could get a new watch.

I've resisted the idea of getting a GPS watch for sometime.  For the last five years, I've gotten by on a cheap-o $10 watch from Target.  I calculate the pace in my head, or simply run by feel and plug my time into my training log when I get home and let it spit the pace out for me.

Plus, these watches ain't cheap.  Not to mention the fact that I carry some OCD as it is, and feared that I would focus too much on what my pace is this second and oh, God I'm falling off my pace, I need to push harder, but I can't I'm tired, self-doubt, self-doubt, self-doubt and...whew, you see what I mean.  So, rather than obsess, I'd just be unplugged.

Then I started doing some research.  I settled on the Garmin Forerunner 110.  Simple, not too bulky, calculates pace, distance, and time.  What more did I need?  So I bought it.  Then I got injured and never got to use it.  Until this past weekend.

Truth be told, having the watch proved a nice distraction from obsessing over my knee.  Now I had the lake, the trail, and the watch to think about other than, "Does my knee hurt?"

When I felt particularly good, I checked the pace to watch it drop, when I hit a rough patch, I just ignored it and soldiered on.  Every mile I got a beep to let me know I'd knocked another one down. This I found to be the most valuable part.  I always get slightly tweaked not knowing how far I've gone on a trail and it's hard to click it out on google.  This completely takes the guessing out of it.

After 4.51 miles, I arrived back at the parking lot.  I clicked the watch, saved my workout, and walked back to the car.  My knee hadn't even registered any discomfort since mile two (which I can say definitively since my watch told me so), and the watch hadn't thrown me off my game as I once feared it might.

There may come a time where I decide to leave the watch at home as I did over Christmas and simply run for the sake of running, completely unplugged from music and time, but for now, I'm plugged in and ready to get back on the bus.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Treadmill Rules of Engagement

The first rule of running on the treadmill: there is no farting on the treadmill.  Not only is it rude to the people around you, but it's hard to blame that kind of thing on someone else when you're in such a confined environment.

Let me back up.

After spending a week's worth of workouts running at my gym on the treadmill, I've learned, quirks...I've developed over the years running outside that perhaps I hadn't noticed before.  Or, I can say with more certainty, are not so socially acceptable inside versus outside.  I told my wife about these discoveries and she just furrowed her brow and said, "No, I don't do anything like that."  So, I leave it to you the reader, the runner, or both, to decide if you think I'm crazy, or can relate at least on some level.

Over the years, I've not made it a secret that I hate running on the treadmill.  Give me a blustery wind so cold that your face feels like it's going to fall off over the monotonous, humid, soul-suckingly boring treadmill.  I'll live with the chapped hands and cracked lips.  But, in rehabbing my knee, I needed a flat, forgiving surface to enter back into the world of runnerdom.  In essence, I had no choice.

So for three days, I dug out my summer running clothes, drove to the gym, peeled of my warmups and in place I ran. 

Sort of...

...Because there are only so many treadmills and apparently very few people enjoy running outside in the cold.  So you have to wait.  There's a whiteboard and marker where you write your name down and the time your frustration began.  The rule goes that if someone is waiting, the people on the treadmill have a 30 minute time limit.  More clarification is needed, however.  Is it 30 minutes total?  So if I'm at 25 minutes, do I have to get off in five minutes?  Or is it 30 minutes from the time the name goes up?  The latter is how most would argue it, but just to make sure, you'll see the treadmillers discretely slide something over the timer.  

Another counterpoint to running on the treadmill: I have yet to wait for someone to finish so that I can go run outside.  I'm just saying.

Finally, 32 minutes later, I'm up.  The motor starts to whir.  The conveyor belt begins to turn.  My music ramps up as I start the slow jog and wait for the treadmill pace to catch up to my prescribed setting.  A couple seconds later, I'm off and "running," sort of.

I have other runners on either side of me with maybe a three foot gap.  The treadmills face the window, which looks out over the woods and the covered pool.  But that doesn't matter, because it's night and the only thing to stare at is yourself in the reflection of the window or steal creepy, judging glances at the runners on either side of you.  

I don't need to see myself running.  I don't need to see every other step how my right foot kicks up and out to the side and is probably some of the cause for my ITBS.  I don't need to obsess about that for 15-20-30 minutes.  I also don't need to stress about taking one misstep and ending up tangled in the adductor machine.  Plus, I have yet to get a treadmill that is in front of a TV.  So it's just me

Another treadmill rule: do not make fist pumps, hand gestures, or air-drumming without expecting to get funny looks from those around you.  

Apparently I do all of these things while running.  The rub is that when you're outside, alone, no one else is there to see you do these things...and judge.  When a good tune comes on, sometimes certain parts of said song are fist pump worthy.  When U2's "Desire" comes on, there's a slight pause after the intro and Bono let's out a breathy, "Yeaaah."  I like to say the "Yeaah."  Aloud.  I also like to do the rock scream at the beginning of Red Jumpsuit Apparatus' "You Better Pray."  I don't actually scream but there's a fist pump and my mouth is open as if I'm screaming.  I've also been known to throw in a little drum solo.

Let's review: outside?  Fine.  Inside?  Funny looks from the girl next to you, who's passing the time reading her  "People" magazine.  I'm sorry, I can't read and run at the same time...and I'm willing to venture a guess that you can't either but you don't want the person who just put their name up on the whiteboard to see that you've been at it for 22 minutes.  But I know.

Now, back to where we started (which on a treadmill is always the same place).  Rule number 1.  Let's be honest.  We're runners.  We have a rich, fiber-filled diet.  When I'm outside, I don't think twice about sputtering along.  In fact, my running partner and I were doing that in front of one another on only our second run together.

When you take your game inside, well, the rules change.  You can't let one slip and just run away from it.   And, good luck cinching that in while you're pounding away.  I'm of course writing in abstract terms here.  This has not actually, errr, happened to me.  But if it did, I would imagine several noses twitching, maybe some disgusted sidelong glances -- that don't last too long because you don't want to risk getting twisted and falling -- and of course some grand arm gestures to try and fan one away.  Drum solos are perfect for this.  Again, I'd imagine.

Thankfully, I returned outside today.  My wife and I ran around the 4.5 mile loop around Burke Lake.  While I wasn't completely pain free, I'd call it a success.  So much so that I will only be returning to the gym next week to lift weights.

I ended today's run with a huge fist pump...and I didn't care who saw me do it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Relay Epidemic

Going in, we knew it was going to be dangerous. The potential for signing up was a hazard. In truth, I think before the credits even started rolling, our mind had been made up, yet no one said anything.

After sitting through some awkward interviews, the lights dimmed and the soft footfalls of a runner piped in. A slight, middle-aged woman comes into view, slogging through some miles in the middle of the night. A narrow shaft of light guides her. She looks disheveled and strained. Out of the darkness, another figure comes upon her and overtakes her in a flash. Laughter went up and you could see the vigorous nodding of approving heads silhouetted against the screen. We could relate.

On Tuesday night, five of us got together, venturing out into the oncoming snow storm, to see the one-night event, Hood to Coast.

We met up beforehand for dinner and drinks, and, pulling off our coats, each revealed our “Got the Runs?” team shirts from the Ragnar Relay.

Though Ragnar was nearly four months in the rearview, it was an event that really solidified our group of running friends. I guess spending 32 hours in a van with five other sweaty, smelly people can do that for you…or, I suppose, the complete opposite if you've chosen poorly.

Aside from barefoot running and minimalist shoes, covering vast distances in two vans and on foot with 11 fellow runners seems to be the fad du jour in the running community. Like the marathon, everyone wants in…and everyone can be. From elite runners looking to crush the field, to mid-packer teams, to teams who are there simply to cover the distance and look good (or funny) doing it, these relay series have them all.

Hood to Coast followed four such teams 197 miles, from Mt. Hood to the Oregon coast. It was exceptional. The movie did an incredible job capturing the feeling that you’re part of something larger than yourself. I can remember running Ragnar and not only forging bonds with my fellow vanmates but with the other teams around us that we happened to keep bumping into at the exchange points. Knowing that there were others out there experiencing this odyssey. And to that point, the movie somehow felt the same. Here were a 100 or so people sitting in a theatre in Ballston, VA, watching the same movie as others gathered around the country for the same reason. It’s what made having this movie a one night event so brilliant. There was even a camaraderie between viewers.

As many loop members can (and have attested to), these relays leave you euphoric for days, even weeks, after you’ve crossed the finishline. Once the original delirium subsides from not sleeping for however many ours and the physical and emotional exhaustion melts away, you realize that you actually have to get back to real life. A little bit of that post-race hangover creeps in, at least for me, and you simply can’t wait to do it again.

It’s why when a friend asked if my wife and I wanted to do American Odyssey, we hardly hesitated to accept. And our only hesitation was mine because I’d be running Boston just two weeks prior. “Eh, I can just pick up one of the shorter legs,” I reasoned.

Where else can you find that it’s acceptable to eat a salami sandwich at 7:00 in the morning and not think twice about it, or wake up on a soccer field and not remember how you got there. While there are moments of snippiness, when you find yourselves somewhere on the back roads, maybe lost, maybe fighting sleep in the middle of the night, there are moments where you feel the team gelling: prepping supplies for the runner who just finished and getting food prepared for the one who’s about to take off, sharing "sticks" and becoming more familiar with your teammate, um, bodily functions than perhaps you ever thought you'd be….

Once the teams crossed the finish line and the lights came back on, we walked out together and formed a small circle before going our separate ways for the night.

“Hood to Coast, 2012?” Five nods.
“How could we not?”

Indeed. How could we not?

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Fresh Start OR the 70s, Pre, and Bye Bye Beard

The Beard of my Discontent's final hours
"Oh, no!" my wife said.  She tried to steady the camera but couldn't keep it still as the laughter poured out of her.  "Thank God we didn't grow up in the 70s." 
In the past, I've grown beards to sprout good luck, to sport the grizzly look whilst camping (or simply out of laziness on vacation), and even to try a playoff beard on for size.  Actually, I can remember as far back as my senior year in high school, and my first (failed) attempt at a goatee.  Just never could get that connector to grow in.
But never had the beard been a symbol of my discontent.  Rather, it was something to be celebrated.  This time around, the itching wasn't simply something to endure, it was torturous.  Still, I kept it.  It became, as one co-worker pointed out, a revolt, a firm stand against this senseless punishment my body seemed fit to dole out.  In the words of Dee Snider, "We're not gonna take it.  No!"  This time, I couldn't wait for it to come off. 
Once the ortho told me Sunday could be the day, I aimed my focus there.  I just wanted to cover two measely miles on the treadmill (a flat, forgiving surface).  Two miles.  A distance that was once a warmup would now become a triumph.
Prefontaine, the 70s, and my dad's singlet
from that era, what could possibly go wrong?
I stretched all week, sometimes twice a day.  I could feel the relief coming in those tight, crunchy ligaments around my knee.  The hours crept by on Sunday, and finally I got up the nerve to drive down to the gym.  There were four cars in the parking lot.  All four people were on the treadmill.  Seriously?  Don't these people know how lucky they are that they could be running outside?

I retreated to what I can only call the "aerobics room," where I stretched...and waited.  

Finally, one became free.  Then it hit me all at once.  I actually had to run now.  So I climbed on.  Visions of my knee buckling and me ending up tangled (and mangled) in the quad extension machine behind the treadmill flashed in my head.  

I started slow and let the machine gather speed.  I hit 8:30 pace and was off on a slow trot.  One of the many things I hate about the treadmill though is that it always feels like you're running much faster than you really are. Thud! Thud! Thud!  The clock ticked and the distance gained.  Point-one miles and no pain.  "Really?" I thought.  No, not really.  The pain came.  It started on the inside of my knee where "me-as-a-fetus" failed me.  But I pressed on.  Then it disappeared...and surfaced in my IT band.  Still, I ran on, deciding now to increase the pace.

At one mile, the pain had traveled to the front of my knee.  I increased the pace more.  Hey, it seemed to help.  

I started looking at the odometer and breaking it down by laps around the track.  "Two laps the track," I repeated. The pain eased the faster I got.  I could hear things crackling, as if the running was shattering all the badness that had accumulated over the last few weeks.  "One lap the track!"  I focused on my reflection in the window.  Trying to eek out some good form and put these two miles behind me.

"Beard of my Discontent"?
The bell tolls for thee.
"2.0" it said.  I smacked the board with my palm trying to find the decrease speed button, before I noticed the big red button that simply said "stop."  I don't know how to work these things.  I hopped off, a smile breaking over my face, and walked back to the aerobics room pain free.  I stretched, popped up, and walked out of the gym into the cold afternoon.  I ran my fingernails through the beard, one last gesture of good bye.

My wife got home from yoga and asked how it went.  "You've still got a beard," she said with obvious concern.

"It went...mostly fine.  I waited for you so you could take pictures."  (I have a blog after all.)

So we went upstairs and celebrated the removal of beard of my discontent...and had some fun at its expense. 

Fresh face, fresh outlook, fresh start. 

As RunDanRun commented, I've "got a date with Boston."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Plica for Your Thoughts

"Floor hockey has betrayed me," I wrote in my last blog.  Upon further inspection, this is not the case.  Apparently, this whole time, my right knee has been a ticking time bomb waiting to go off for some 29 years.  Who constructed this bomb you might ask?  Who could be so devious as to want the inside of my knee to swell up leaving me frustrated, face itchy, and holding my breath?  

It was me.  

But not the me of today.  Not the me of yesterday or even the me of five years ago.  The answer lies in the womb.  Let me explain.

This morning, I went through the motions of an arm/ab session at the gym.  And while drifting from machine to machine, taking time to stroke the beard of my discontent between sets, I did some dynamic running stretches to test the waters.  Everything appeared to be ok, save for the normal morning stiffness that I'll just chalk up to "getting old."  

However, when I get stressed, it pools in my stomach as an acidic, nausea-inducing puddle of bile.  I imagine it to be a mustardy-brown cesspool with gloppy bubbles inflating and popping on the surface and....I digress.  Let's just say, I was nervous about my upcoming doctor's appointment. 

Finally, the hour of reckoning was upon me.  I swung my legs back and forth on the table while waiting for the doctor.  My eyes darted around those pristine white walls at the various framed accolades and athlete signatures.  Anything to calm my nerves and try not to feel as ridiculous as, well, I felt in the oversized shorts they made me slide on.

The doctor entered.  We shook hands and did the quick chit-chat that I'm sure they've heard a thousand times a day: "Haven't see you since May...but I guess that's a good thing, right?"
"I hoped it would be longer," I said back.  Yuck yuck yuck.

Down to business.  He listened to my plight.  Knew to ask how the summer training went, when Boston was in April exactly.  Then the manipulation.  "If I press here, if I turn it this way, push down, pull up..." and so on.

My favorite exchange came while I was lying on my back, right leg bent at 90 degrees.  "Ok, now straighten that leg...straighten that...I said straighten your leg."
"I am straightening it...that's as far as it goes."
*loud exhale*
"You've got some tight hamstrings, my friend."

And after much poking and prodding, after the realization nothing he could do hurt, the verdict came down: I have plica knee syndrome.  

He explained it as the thickening of the joint fluid, which causes inflammation, which irritates other areas of the knee, which means back off of running, ice, and anti-inflammatories.

The all important question came next: "When can I run again?"
"Take a couple more days and get after it on Sunday or Monday."  

It's as if he pulled the plug on my cesspool.  Relief washed over.  No meniscus tear, no ligament damage, no structural damage.  Only orders were to incorporate some quad and hamstring weights into my routine to strengthen the areas around my knee to hopefully prevent this type of flare up.  

But, we of course live in the age of information, and wikipedia, and WebMD.  I had to look up more info on plica knee syndrome.  Here's the sabotage part: 

Often called "synovial plica syndrome," this is a condition that is the result of a remnant of fetal tissue in the knee. The synovial plica are membranes that separate the knee into compartments during fetal development. These plica normally diminish in size during the second trimester of fetal development. 

My fetal development has failed me.  I am as yet undeveloped and am forced to now deal with these sacs that are prone to inflammation.  Curse you, fetus!

But, barring the discovery of the flux capacitor and any other form of time travel, it sounds avoidable with a little preventative exercise, some strength training, and some iburprofen.  

My running partner and I were e-mailing today about this and he summed it up best saying, "It makes sense.  We're at a level now where we need to get stronger to maintain this."  Amen.

In the meantime, I'm getting the shaving cream lathered up for Sunday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Beard of My Discontent

Things are getting hairy.
"Now is the winter of our discontent..." begins Shakespeare's Richard III.  But for my own purposes, "Now grows the beard of my discontent!"  You see, in my effort to back off, to be fresh for my Boston training, I somehow managed to get injured playing floor hockey.  I've decided to wear my anguish and frustration on my face in one grizzly, coarse, black beard.

Floor hockey has been my sanctuary, not my detractor for the last two years.  Whenever something running -related has hurt, floor hockey somehow managed to use those muscles differently and soothe whatever had been ailing me.  

Floor hockey has betrayed me.  

During my last two games, I've felt a slight tweak on the inside of my right knee.  So I backed off even more.  No running.  At all.  As my friend Rohan says, "Ice, rest, and stretch.  Ice, rest, and stretch."  And so I did.  

When my wife and I went down to Florida for Christmas, I brought running clothes that never saw the light of day.  Every time I tried to move laterally, I felt that twinge that was enough to say, "Not yet."  

Christmas came and went.  Then last Wednesday, I figured I could get a mile in.  See how it felt, then ramp up from there.  I'd already sacrificed three days of Boston workouts.  I rationalized that I could still get three workouts out in and even my 14 mile long run on Saturday.  Fail.

Two hundred meters into the run, the pain was on the outside.  Then it spread to the inside.  I felt like I had undone all of the "ice, rest and stretch" I'd done.  I got to the house and dialed up my ortho.  Now I'm waiting until Wednesday morning at 9:20 for the diagnosis.

And while time passes, the beard grows thicker as my mood becomes broodier.  

"What is this?" my wife asked over the weekend.  There was a sour look on her face as if she already knew.  I ran fingernails over rough cheeks and fire roared over my face.
"This is the beard of my discontent," I said.  She laughed.
"And what does that mean?"
"It means I'm not shaving it until I can run again.  It will symbolize a fresh start."  She wasn't laughing now.
"Hummph.  Fine.  I hope the doctor has good news on Wednesday."

You and me both, I thought...this thing is itchy.

Admittedly, things are feeling better today.  Not enough to want to try and run on.  Not enough to cancel my appointment on Wednesday.  But enough to raise a spark of hope.  Perhaps training can resume on Monday.  Perhaps my Boston dreams aren't dashed just yet.  Just maybe I will get to run again.  

A bit dramatic?   I hope.

But until then, the beard grows on.

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