Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas Trip: There and Back Again

ORN: 1 mile, run/walk, considerable pain

It’s been a whirlwind the past 10 days. A trip to the west coast, illness, Christmas…all packed together. The time in Oregon was super, with excellent time with middle son Nathan, an enjoyable
Geocaching outing on Christmas Day and being in awe of the Pacific Ocean. As a native Midwesterner, I never get tired of watching ocean waves. I just posted photos of the outing, which are only of interest if you like cute babies and ocean waves.

On running…just where are we, given the ITB? When I last posted, I had had a bad day at work, a rigorous PT treatment and a 3 mile run that felt good. Well…

The next day, the knee felt rotten. Very painful, perhaps exacerbated by all the walking in airport concourses. Upon arriving in Oregon, I picked up a flu bug and slept for a day and a half. On Christmas morning, I got out and ran two miles along the Pacific Coast (did I mention I enjoy watching the waves?), which felt pretty good. The next day, we were back in Portland and I ran another two miles on 82nd Ave NE, from the I-84 Max station down to Gisler Avenue. It didn’t feel that great, but I made it through. The following morning, I went out to run again and didn’t make it 300m before the knee pain shut it all down. Discouraging.

We got back home and I had another PT session on Thursday, during which I described the sporadic progress/regress with the therapist. He said the current therapy will have done all it can do after another three sessions.

So, today, Saturday, I went out again in wonderfully mild 53 degree weather. And the ITB/knee felt awful. Despite some very careful stretching, I only ran about .6 mile before I had to walk, the pain was too severe. I gimped home…managing to run a couple of 100m segments but even that was too much.

What to do??? I don’t really know. This thing is getting worse, not better. Rest doesn’t seem to help; running doesn’t seem to help; therapy doesn’t seem to help. I’m stumped right now.

Fortunately, running does not define who I am. I’m quite encouraged in all other counts and am confident we’ll figure this thing out. I’ve chuckled several times at my decision to name this blog “Run with Perseverance” not really knowing when I started it what good advice that would be to myself.

Persevere. Yeah, persevere.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

“Run, Forrest, Run!”

ORN: Wednesday: 1 mile, mild pain
Thursday: 3 miles, minimal pain

Today was the second of my ASTYM treatments. The PT asked me if I was running. When I told him I did one mile on three consecutive days, he looked me in the eye and said “If you want this therapy to work, you have to run more. Run! Like the way you want to run!”

I felt like Forrest Gump.

He worked on my right leg, with particular attention to my knee. Man, it hurt at times. And felt good when he was done.

As a treat, my new pair of Brooks Aderenline GTS6s arrive in the mail today…there is nothing quite so much fun, to me, as the first run in a new pair of shoes. So, after dinner, I took them out in the 53 degree drizzle to see just how far I could run.

Three miles. I felt the ITB after only about 200m. Amazingly, though, nothing changed in how it felt until about 2.8 miles. At that point, it got tighter, so I decided I could come inside and see what treat the box of chocolates had for me.

Will this progress continue?? I really don’t know. I’ll try to share publicly what I’m feeling. I’m kind of in awe of this. And, wow, is it great to be running again.

But further blogging will be a week away. We’re up at oh-dark-thirty tomorrow morning to fly to Portland, Oregon. We’ll meet our son Nathan there and head to Lincoln City on the coast to celebrate Christmas together. The weather looks like grey and rain…hope to get some rest, some family time, some hiking, some geocaching…and perhaps a few more runs.

Many, many Christmas thoughts to share, but it is too late now…those will keep for next week.

Merry Christmas. May the blessings of the season be with you.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Therapy Starts; Is it for real?

ORN: 1 mile, no pain

I’m not sure what to make of all this, so I’ll just tell the story.

This afternoon, I had my first formal physical therapy treatment. I misspoke in my last post in that the treatment was not electrotherapy but rather a technique called
ASTYM. I’ve never heard of it but now I’m a patient.

In short, I plopped onto a table; the PT guy lathered my right leg with cocoa butter and then began scraping my leg with a plastic device that looked like a really stiff spatula. He told me the mechanism was to trigger some microtrauma to scar tissue. Then, with aggressive stretching and (gasp) running during the therapy, the tendons will reform in a more functional manner. Here’s what the
treatment looks like and here’s their generic ITB treatment plan.

I asked the guy if I should go run tonight. His eyes lit up and said, enthusiastically, “YES.” Hmmmm, I guess I’ll give it a try.

As I walked out of the rehab office, my knee felt better already. However, when walking to my car after work, the knee felt flaky again. I was discouraging. After dinner and clean up, I stretched and headed out. On Sunday, I had tried to run and couldn’t even go 200 meters. Could I run a measly mile on Monday evening after getting my leg scraped??

I could.

Out I went, on my B course, and slowly, steadily and without a single tendency to walk I ran one mile. One mile. I could feel my right knee and it wasn’t perfect. But while I sure noticed it, I was not in pain.

Tomorrow morning, I will stretch and seek to run one mile again. I go back for my second of six treatment sessions on Thursday. Frankly, it all feels a little flaky to me but the proof is in the pudding. And my mileage will start small and creep up.

Thanks for all the useful comments on this. They are very helpful.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pinpointing the Pain

ORN: 3 miles, run/walk, considerable pain at the end

The quest continues.

On Wednesday, I had my first physical therapy appointment. The PT guy was helpful and appreciated my goals. He gave me a bunch of stretches, with two new things that I learned. First, I needed to stretch the upper, hip-end of the ITB just as much as the lower, knee-end. So, I have some new ways to yank the top end around.

Second, he told me to hold all my stretches for at least 30 seconds. He said since tendons are elastic and the objective is to lengthen the ITB so it will move around the protrusion of the femur more easily, I need to hold the stretch so that the tendon won’t recoil to the original length. So, I’m giving that a try.

And he asked me to resume running ahead of my next appointment on Monday, which will include some electrostimulation thingie to break down the adhesions.

Which leads me to today’s post. A magnificent day in Indiana, sunny and 56 at mid day. How cool to be able to run again. I was like a kid on Christmas morning all day, anxiously awaiting the chance to get out and run.

And while I didn’t exactly get a lump of coal, the pain came back very quickly.

Only 300 yards into the run, I felt the ITB along with a host of other leg-oriented complaints. The latter were related to not running for two weeks and grudgingly went away. The ITB did not. I could feel it moving back and forth across the femur protrusion on the outside of the knee. By 1.75 miles, when I involuntarily yelled in pain, I walked for a while.

And thought about this all the way back home.

I noticed that the instant I stopped running, the pain stopped. When I walked, I felt it, when I ran for a while, it just hurt badly.

For the first time, I could locate just where the pain was. But, since it doesn’t hurt when I stop, I’d forget where. So, when I got home, I make a quarter-sized circle with a Sharpie. That’ll tell the therapist guy the location.

I wore my Brooks Adrenelines today. I’m going to try my adidas Supernovas tomorrow. Does the shoe make a difference?? I just don’t know.

So, we persevere. And long for a pain-free run.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We each tell our own story

ORN: 32 minutes on a bike ride

I ran into a concept today I haven’t thought about in a long time; the
story. At its most basic level, any story has a protagonist, or main character, who seeks some greater goal. In so doing, he or she contends with the antagonist, the person or thing opposing progress towards the goal. If the protagonist succeeds, it is a comedy; if not, it is, in literary terms, a tragedy.

While this compresses and simplifies a lot of subtlety and variation (and I’m not an English major, nor do I play one on TV), it captures the nature of blogging. In starting a blog, each of us desires to tell a story in which we are the protagonist. What is unique about blogging is that one chooses which of life's antagonists frame the story. And so, it is no surprise that runners like to read other blogs about running; this fascination with piling on the miles represents the common antagonist. By learning how others grapple with this thing, we are amused, entertained, taught. When others tell a story that is merely boring, we tune out and find other story tellers.

We also choose how deeply we weave this story. Do we bring in plots and subplots? Do we describe the struggle with weight, which might be the real protagonist? Do we describe the stress of an unsatisfying job, the pain of which running dulls? Do we tell about the surprises along the way that complicate or simplify the tale? Or do we keep the story sterile, describing only distances and splits? We each choose.

Life is a story and each of us are interesting in our own right. One of the greatest gifts we give to another person is to listen to his/her story. To tell our own story usually helps each of us make sense our various antagonists.

Thanks for listening!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Tale of Two Doctors

ORN: zero

The severity of my right knee pain during and after last weekend’s marathon attempt, coupled with the stubborn continuation of the knee pain ever since the Portland Marathon on Oct 1 prompted me to get a real medical opinion on the situation. And it has proven most instructive.

Just after 12 noon on Monday, I had a break at work and called my regular doctor’s office for an appointment. He’s an internist, not a sports med guy, yet in our insurance system, he is also the gatekeeper to further help. Amazingly, he had an opening at 1pm and so I skeedaddled across town to see him.

At a physical about a month or so ago, he was very complementary of my blood pressure/resting heart rate combo. When I presented on Monday with knee pain, however, he was a little less certain. He plopped me on the exam table, yanked, poked, pushed and twisted. He seemed to think I didn’t have a major injury but then asked “Would you like to see a sports med doc?” Yeah, I would. So, he wrote up a referral. Then he asked “How old are you?” Fifty-three. He looked a little patronizingly at me and said “Well, you know, as one ages, one can’t always do the things one wants to do physically.” Oh my. Anyway, I had my referral.

The sports doc had a slot open for me on Wednesday, which I took. What a difference. He’s an orthopedist and is well connected with Purdue and local High School athletics. On the wall of his practice were photos of all sorts of sports teams and track/cross country runners. I took my running logs and the last two pairs of shoes I’ve used. When he came into the room, he immediately realized I liked to run and wanted to continue to run. He asked about my weekly mileage. He did the same poking and prodding and then sent me down the hallway for an x-ray of my right knee. He got the films, brought them into the room and walked through the anatomy of my knee with me, treating me as an intelligent person.

His diagnosis was clear. No damage at all to the knee. The pain was clearly an ITB inflammation. The path ahead?? Some physical therapy with a therapist who specializes in runners, a couple weeks of rest, perhaps an orthotic to shift the angle of how my knee aligns at foot strike. I asked about my shoes, since I switched to the adidas Supernova a couple weeks after Portland. He examined my old Brooks Adrenalines, then the adidas, and said “Hey, the Brooks were working…you should go back to them.” Which was what I was thinking anyway.

He then shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said “Keep running. Don’t stop. You are not hurting yourself. Stay with it.”

Doctors have an amazing task. The human body is so complex and the study of medicine so vast that no single physician can know everything about everything. My doc is darn good at internal medicine and I’ll trust him with my blood work and stomach pain. But it sure was good to connect with a doc who could relate to my interests in running.

I’m encouraged. And persevering.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On taking risks

ORN: zero.

I’m still basking in the terrific weekend at the
Tecumseh Trail Marathon this past weekend. Darrell has posted his Race Report and then added his Photo Post of the race, as well as a Thoughtful Post, philosophical musings on a weekend of running. All are worth your browsing.

By reading the reports, you can see that Darrell and I had a terrific time together. Probably not something folks would predict about two middle-aged engineers who had never met each other face to face. Yet it happened and we are both the richer for it.

I had sensed that Darrell and I had a lot in common, much beyond running. This proved to be even truer than I had thought. Darrell is a deep thinker and a dedicated Dad, professional and citizen. We both have a keen interest in the world outside the US, particularly in the developing, poorer parts of our world. He, like I, tries to avoid simplistic, typical answers to substantive issues. Instead, we both grappled with how our worldviews, abilities, tendencies and faith can come to bear on very real problems. Yeah, it ran deep. I felt challenged by Darrell and am better off for it.

And it all happened because he was willing to take a risk.

As he put it, humorously, how crazy is it to fly to the barren tundra of the forgotten state of Indiana to get in a car with some guy you’ve never met and even share a hotel room??? Yeah, crazy, it would seem; we live in a wacky, weird world. Yet, his sense and mine, was that this risk was worth it. Part of that happens by being open in blogging. Part of it is a sense that “this is OK.” Yet there is still a risk.

By taking that risk, we are both the better. And it strikes me that this is a vital lesson in most relationships. Extending out of my comfort zone, to discover something new; not easy, but gratifying.

Thanks, Darrell, for taking the risk.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Race Report: Tecumseh Trail Marathon

ORN: DNF; 9.5 miles, severe right knee pain

Race Summary
On a beautiful day for a marvelously difficult
Tecumseh Trail Marathon, my right knee gave me fits and I had to drop out after 9.5 miles. Despite the disappointment, I learned (and am learning) much. Darrell and I had a marvelous time together. He ran a super race and I’ll let him tell you about it on his blog.

All the Gory Details

Darrell and I have been planning this event since mid summer. Thus, it was cool to have it come off, as planned. On Friday afternoon, he got to Indy 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We met at security, started talking and didn’t quit talking for a day and a half!! I can’t even describe how enjoyable it was to be with Darrell. I will try, however, in a separate posting in a couple of days. Suffice it to say, meeting up with a fellow running blogger was even better than either of us had anticipated.

The weather played a big factor in this entire marathon. The huge storm that dumped heavy, wet snow all over central and northern Illinois on Wednesday and Thursday also unleashed 4” of rain on southern Indiana. We first found out just how severe this was when we tried to go to registration on Friday night. Arriving at the turnoff to the state forest that had race HQ we encountered a phalanx of parked cars and milling people. The road was cut off by flood waters. Oh my. We eventually found the “back road” to HQ and, an hour later, took it. Appropriate to a trail marathon, the drive in included two stream crossings, where we took my little Saturn through, not over, two gushing stream.

Our hotel worked fine and, like a slumber party, Darrell and I stayed up, talking and talking. Eventually we fell asleep.

Race morning started with the alarm at 5:15. We dressed and took the “back road” to HQ once more. Getting there early was a good idea…we got a primo parking spot, saw the sun come up over the lake at the finish line and had some great conversations with other runners. Eventually, 12 school busses lumbered to the area to take the 500 runners to the start line. Having been early all along, we got on the first bus which headed out at 9am. Now, a school bus is hardly a Lamborghini, so the trip on narrow forest roads to the start line took nearly an hour. By the time the 12th bus arrived, our 10am start time was 10:45. We’d been up for over five hours, including nearly two hours traveling…everyone was antsy to get going. The 29 degree temperature also had the pack collectively shivering while standing around. But we were grateful for the clear blue skies, the lack of wind and the chance to spend the day running in the woods.

At last we started and it felt better than most races just to be moving. After giving us a quarter-mile on asphalt to stretch out the pack, we moved into the woods. It was simply beautiful. There is not much to say about pace or splits. We simply ran in the woods and enjoyed it.

Darrell and I had agreed to run the first 6 miles or so together and the plan worked. We had a great time finding a comfortable pace and others were with us. Up and down the hills. Over the streams. Switchbacks. Ridge trails with falloffs on both sides. Across earthen dams.

The heavy rains caused the dominant feature of the race; mud and water. Each time we went downhill, we knew we’d find muck to pick our way through and a tough stream crossing; typical trail running conditions. It was a race in which one just kept moving and that was enough. Darrell carried his super-small, super-cool camera and he’ll have some great photos of the course, I’m sure.

Early on, my ITB felt fine. I wasn’t pushing the pace, walked most of the uphill sections and exercised care through the muck and slippery footing. It was fun and I felt OK. While I did sense that Darrell could push it harder, our original plan seemed good and we stuck with it.

About 90 minutes into the race, we got to the aid station at 6.5 miles. In a brief conversation as we headed back into the woods, I encouraged Darrell to carry on. It was the right time and I really wanted him to be able to run his race. So, off he went and he went well.

I continued the pattern of walking uphill and running the flats and downs, a pattern that a lot of other folks were employing. It felt good and I continued with this for another 20 minutes or so. At that point, I started to notice my right knee. It was getting uncomfortable. It felt better after I walked uphill. But then it started hurting when I ran the flats or downhill sections. Then, it got to the point where I couldn’t run at all without serious, wincing pain. I realized the race was done for me. It was clearly not going to get better. At 8+ miles, there was no point in trying to go the full 26. I needed to pack it in and avoid more serious injury.

I was still in the woods, however. I knew the next aid station was around the 9.5 mile mark. So, I just walked. It was humbling to step aside, repeatedly, to allow folks I had passed earlier to now pass by. The multiflora rose thorns that snagged my nylon shell each time I stood aside were a cruel reminder of my new status. But I chose to shift my attitude; I decided to be a lucky guy to have such a nice walk in the woods on a beautiful day.

Eventually, I came out of the woods at the aid station and the crew was very helpful. One of them gave me a ride back to the finish area, where I got into some dry gear and began to ponder what happened and what will happen next. This will be the subject of more blogging in days to come.

At the finish line, I was able to watch two-hour’s worth of runners while waiting for Darrell. That, in itself, was very helpful to me; I’ve never watched a marathon from that perspective.

Darrell made it in, looked terrific and I got a nice photo of him at the end. Wow, did he run well over a very difficult course. You’ll enjoy his perspective. After he had a chance to get some food and get dry, we took off, having had a most enjoyable day. We grabbed some food in Bloomington, (don’t ask me about bleu cheese) and drove back to Indy. Talking all the time, reliving the day and running in general, we capped off a wonderful weekend. Dropping him off at airport, we knew we’d formed a new, substantive friendship.

My next step? I’m calling the local sports med center on Monday. I need to get a real diagnosis of the knee problem. My self-diagnosis clearly has not worked. We’ll see what the pros think of it. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, the knee hurts a lot. I can’t really bend it much and am limping noticeably. Running right now is only a dream.

In it all there is much I’ve learned. I’m really quite happy with where I am. Running is a long-term activity for me and dealing with an injury is part of that. Thus, this is an important lesson for me. Will I pass the test? We’ll see. Like the
Running Chick with the Orange Hat did during her tough injury earlier this year, I’ll keep you apprised of how this goes. The community of runners is important. And Darrell was front and center in this community. Thanks, Darrell.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Headin' out the door

ORN: Zero. Last rest day

It is 5:50am as I type this. By 3pm today, I'll be on my way to the Indy airport to pick up Darrell and we'll both head another hour south to checkin for Saturday's Tecumseh Trail Marathon.

A marathon in Indiana in December. Nuts.

As I sit here, the rain is pounding my windows. The temperature has hit its high for the day already at 39. We're supposed to have up to 3" of snow by late afternoon, with winds gusting to 45mph.

Which makes me thankful we're not running the race here, today.

We're running the race 2 hours south of here. Tomorrow. And the forecast for Bloomington calls for temps around 30 at the 10am start time, heading for 40 by early afternoon, with full sun and a mild wind of 5-10mph from the WSW. Much nicer.

Darrell is ready for the distance but worried about the weather. I'm pumped about the weather but worried about the distance. I suppose if we could combine the two of us, one would have a marvelous race and the other would crash and burn altogether. Better, let's hope we both enjoy the time. My ITB is responding well (it seems) to the rest, roller, stretching and quad strenthening work I've been doing. But how it will hold up over this distance remains to be seen.

But one thing's for sure. I will persevere.

Stay tuned for race reports and, hopefully, some pix.