Saturday, January 27, 2007

Discouragement, then Encouragement

ORN: 3 miles, 31:41, R4/W1, 10:34/mile

One of the most enjoyable things about running is how it teaches. I’ve learned more in the past four months with this persistent ITB hassle than ever; more about my anatomy, more about myself. This week was a prime example.

In my professional life, I am responsible for driving process excellence in our company. My other blog,
Learning about Lean, describes my implementation of the Toyota Production System. Central to the TPS is W. Edward Demming’s famous PDCA cycle, for Plan-Do-Check-Adjust. It is a simple, systematic and phenomenally effective way to learn anything.

Therefore, it is not surprising I apply a similar perspective to running. I’ve described here (in painful detail…sorry) the effort to recover from the injury. This past week is the first full week of running I’ve had since mid-November. The plan called for Monday 3; Wednesday 2, Thursday 3 and Saturday, 3.

Monday’s run went OK. The 2 miler on Wednesday was tough…I couldn’t complete the run. Then came Thursday; I knew a week ago running two days in a row would be a test and I was right about that. Thursday’s run was awful…I could not even run one mile. Not one. I was yelping in pain just past the half mile marker. I turned around and walked home, hurting. It was a true low point in the past three years of running. My leg ached the rest of the day, a constant reminder of the injury. To say this was discouraging would be an understatement. It seemed as if nothing at all had changed since last October.

Therefore, my planned 3 miler for today was a big mental challenge for me. After morning errands and 3 hours at work (yeah, working on processes), my leg hurt. I decided to stick with the plan and thus went out into the 20mph wind at 30 degrees pleased to be outside but unsure how the leg would hold up.

I tried two new things on today’s run. First, I went to an extreme Run/Walk ratio (run 4 minutes, walk 1), thanks to some comments from some of you. Second, I wore a
Knee Strap which I picked up recently on recommendation from a work colleague. Third, I had a day off before running.

And it seemed to work.

The ITB hurt most of the way. But the combination of the knee strap and the run/walk routine made a big difference. Every time I walked, the pain subsided. I finished strong without the knee hurting all that much. After a shower, it was only a minor annoyance.

What did I learn? How does PDCA work here?? On running; the “adjustment” needed to be pretty severe. I was surprised and pleased at the help the R/W and the knee strap offered. I’m interested to see how that continues. I also see that, for the time being, I must accept I can only run every other day.

On the mental side, it is largely a deeper understanding of priorities. Running is so real, so measurable, so physical, so visceral it is hard at times to remember it is only a sport and not life itself. My family, friends and spiritual life all take priority. Running can serve these things but dare not take first place.

Did W. Edwards Demming ever run? I doubt it, he was quite a curmudgeon. But his principles work. I’ve adjusted the Plan for next week to doing 3 milers on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, all with a R4/W1 ratio and knee strap.

Yeah, we’ll persevere. There is still much for me to learn.

Monday, January 22, 2007

“Ow! Ooooh! Yeow! Ahhhh!”

ORN: 3 miles, no watch

David asks in a comment today “Tell us how it feels on your ITBs when the massage therapist puts his/her fingers to the connective tissues. Do you feel/hear the popping?”

Oh my. Did I ever.

I’ve never had a massage before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. When I shook hands with the guy this afternoon, I felt like my hand disappeared into his. The grip was amazing. His forearms looked like Popeye. This will be different.

I plopped onto the table and he started working my right ITB. He seemed a little surprised, yet pleased, that I knew a bit of what I was talking about. He worked up and down the ITB, pressing hard. Most of it was OK. Then, David, yes, he did find one dandy knot, one adhesion, one spot of real “popping” on the ITB, just above knee-level.

“Yep, that’s a good one,” he said. “The rest of your ITB is tight but all runners have tight ITBs. The problem is in that knot.”

So we talked a lot about stretching, warm up, cool down, shoes, racing. He thought most of my plan made sense, though he encouraged a longer cool down and more stretching at the end of my runs. Further, that the cool down length is proportional to the time I run. Seemed to make sense.

Will it help? We’ll see. I had a decent 3 mile run this morning. Run a mile, walk a minute; seemed to work. Mostly it was great just to be out in the dark at 5:30am. Running. Like back to a rhythm, sorta, again. The knee hurt some but not bad later in the morning. A couple of ibuprofen seemed to set that straight.

We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.

Oh, one more thing…how about the Super Bowl? We are in a unique location, halfway on a direct line between Indianapolis and Chicago. The Bears-Colts game will have us hopping for two full weeks now!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Cautious Re-Beginning

ORN: Saturday: 2 miles, no watch

A couple weeks ago, I described my Plan C, a route to running again using rest, massage and ibuprofen. The rest portion called for a couple weeks off, targeting running again on Saturday, January 20.

Late last week I was at meetings in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. While it was very cool to be able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the span of only 3.5 weeks, it bugged me to not be able to run on the many scenic (and flat!) bike paths all over that beautiful, lush, green island. I took a long walk on Friday during a break in the meetings and it was a bit discouraging to feel my ITB acting up, even on the walk.

I flew home on Saturday, shoehorned into back-of-the-bus seats on two very tight aircraft…not a way to loosen up the knee. Finally, I got to go for a run after supper.

In short, the run went OK. The ITB was still there. It cropped up early. Stretching seemed to help. I utilized buddy Darrell's plan of “run a mile, walk a minute.” That seemed to help; the ITB did not get worse during the second mile. In fact, an amazing thing happened towards the end of the run…I actually forgot about the ITB and just enjoyed the run.

So, I’m started.

The schedule cooperated to get me a sports massage on Monday. Ibuprofen seems to really knock down the pain when it creeps up. I’ll know a lot more a week from now. The schedule calls for 3 miles on Monday, 2 on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday and 3 on Saturday. What will happen on those back-to-back days??

I’ve learned much during the lay off. And thanks so much to all of you for your encouragement.

And, yes, I’m persevering.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Soldier in Baghdad

ORN: Zero, the middle of two week rest period

Long-time readers of this blog (both of them) may remember our oldest son, David, is currently on his second tour of duty as an Army Medic in Iraq. He's in a Baghdad-based transportation company which means he goes out on convoys regularly, serving other Army bases in and around Baghdad. He's the medic on the convoy, meaning he's the first guy to stabalize any injuries that happen while on the roads.

As I listened to the debate in Washington this week about our presence in Iraq and in Baghdad in particular, a wave of emotions came over me. Can't even begin to describe it but I did feel distant from David, really wanting to talk to him or have some contact. Imagine then my joy when he emailed this photo to his wife Susan and us about 30 minutes ago.

David is on the left. These four guys spend their time in a truck. A "Band of Brothers"? Yeah, probably. I'm thrilled to see them smiling. I'm thrilled to see them wearing their flack vests.

Smile with me. Thanks for your prayers for David and all our soldiers.

Persevere. David sure is.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Now, moving on to Plan C

ORN: zero

Recovering from this ITB injury remains fascinating to me. I have learned so much. We moved through another major step this week. I’m trying to describe the whole process publicly, as it makes sense of it for me and, I hope, may help others.

Plan A was one of denial. On October 8, one week after the Portland Marathon, I ran a 5 mile race locally and had pain in my right knee. It stayed through the following few weeks. I really didn’t take it seriously and hoped it would just go away. This “game” extended until I bonked at the 9.5 mile mark of the Tecumseh Trail Marathon on Dec 2.

This triggered Plan B, consulting medical professionals. I saw a doctor on Dec 4, went to a sports doc on Dec 6 and started aggressive physical therapy with
ASTYM. This ran through December and saw my pain increase, with progress stuck in reverse.

Last Wednesday, Jan 3, I had another ASTYM treatment. My therapist was half-hearted, discouraged that I was not seeing progress. He looked at me and said “What do you think?” I told him I thought I should move in a new direction. He didn’t disagree. We shook hands and wished each other well.

Thus, Plan C began on Jan 4. This plan has two weeks of rest, ibuprofen to lower swelling, an appointment with a local sports massage guy, plenty of stretching and foam rolling and then a very gradual return to running. This plan is built on the experience of other runners, with particular kudos to
David: Adventures in the Thin Trade and Dianna: Running Chick with the Orange Hat. David was very direct with me via a comment, based on his experience. Dianna gave me a wonderful gift in an email describing the timing and nature of her battle during 2006 with her ITB injury. Distilling all of this, coupled with what common sense I may muster, leads to Plan C.

And it has been fun. As I’ve often said, half of the fun of running is in the plan.

I sat up late Thursday night with a calendar and papers and race dates and my mind buzzing. I’ll run for the first time, I hope, on Saturday, January 20. For two weeks, I’ll alternate a very simple 2 and 3 miles, for four days a week. On Monday, February 12, I begin week 1 of Hal Higdon’s
Intermediate Half Marathon Plan, leading to the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, on May 5. I’ve used this plan before and I think it is prudent. The “Mini”, as it is known around here, is the biggest half marathon in the country, having sold out with 35,000 registrants by early December. I really want to run it.

And, if I can then run another 13.1 miles on May 12, I will reach my first goal of 2007.

So, that’s the plan. Will it work?? I dunno. I do know a couple of things, though. One, I’m sure grateful for all my on-line running pals. Two, it will eventually clear up.

As someone who has enjoyed good health my entire life, this injury has also given me a new found sense of empathy for those with chronic pain. I was at work this morning and talked with one of our key manufacturing associates, a delightful woman in her mid-30s who has battled chronic lower back pain for the past two years. It just won’t let up for her. I have nothing to complain about…she’s carrying a real concern.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Goals: 2006, 2007

ORN: 2 miles, sort of comfortable

One year ago today, I published here my
2006 Goals: A Full and a 2. Quite simply, I set out to run a sub-2 hour half-marathon and a full marathon during the year. And I did it, having both goals done by early May. Then I did it again, with another marathon and a second sub-2 half.

At the start of the year, both seemed beyond reach; I think the sub 2 even more than the full. But it happened. And that makes for a good year. The recent ITB struggles notwithstanding, it was a darn good year, for which I am very grateful.

So, here’s my goal for 2007:
Run the half-marathon distance on two consecutive weekends, pain free.
Right now, this seems about as distant as last year’s goal did on January 1. And there is one difference; once I reach this goal, I’ll state a new goal for the remainder of the year. But, if I can’t get to this one, there is no point in worrying about specific races or targeted times. Right now, I have to get the ITB cured and get back to what I really enjoy; the long runs on the weekend.

So, that’s it. Goals help focus the mind and provide a basis for grounded assessments. All treatment options for the ITB must move towards this goal.

And, hey, I had a nice run this morning!! Our local club, the
Wabash River Runner's Club had our annual “Run in the New Year” fun run at 10am this morning. This social event (with no times and each person could select to run 2, 4 or 6 miles) used to go at midnight but we all got too tired to stay up that late. We had 100 people run, followed by breakfast at a restaurant near the start. Met some folks new to the area, caught up with some old friends, got plenty of empathy for my ITB travails and, perhaps most importantly, got the name of a highly-regarded sports massage therapist with an office less than a mile from my work. I ran a simple two miles in 21 minutes. The ITB was there but not debilitating. I ran the entire way and almost enjoyed it. Spending 15 minutes stretching before the run certainly helped.

I wish you well on this New Year. May each of you be an encouragement to those around you.