Monday, April 30, 2012

Training Log 4/22 - 4/28

Well, well, well...lookie here! A training post. Well, not exactly. I'm not training. I'm running. Note the title difference: it's "training log"; not "training." Semantics, yes. But, it's an important distinction that I need to keep in my head to insure that I don't get caught up in too much, too soon. And, I definitely accomplished that this week. Last week: 26.5 miles. This week: 29. I thought a couple different times about adding on an additional mile to get to 30. But, why? It really doesn't make a difference. The key is to not overdo it. Plain and simple.

Here's the best news: over the last 2 weeks, the knee/IT band has been a non-issue. I haven't had any pain and only minimal tightness. That Dr. Jamie cat really does know what he's doing. Really, the limiting factor right now is my calves. The complete gait change is really taxing them, but they seem to be getting better with each run...and foam rolling. Needless to say, I'm very optimistic.

Onto the numbers...

4/22, Sunday: 5 - 40:44, Highland Green. This was actually my first successful attempt at three consecutive days. Calves were definitely barking by the...well, beginning, but they never got any worse. Soooo windy.

4/23, Monday: Off

4/24, Tuesday: 8 - 1:06:11, Neighborhood + Patriot Commons + Mt. A HS. My left calf, especially, bothered me for the most of the day on Monday, so I wanted to play it safe and stay close to home. With this odd configuration of laps/loops, I was never more than a mile or so away from home if things went south. The calves held up, but it wasn't pretty. I was somewhat miserable for most of the run. The wind didn't help. However, I ran 8 miles. That was a huge milestone.

4/25, Wednesday: 5 - 41:37, Highland Green. Calves were about the same as the previous day, so I just gutted it out. Still windy. Chased a hawk for about a half mile along the dirt road section. Went to see Dr. Jamie in the afternoon—didn't even look at my knee. That was awesome. My calves wish he looked at my knee.

4/26, Thursday: Off

4/27, Friday: 5 - 39:34, Highland Green. After treatment and a rest day, my calves felt pretty decent. It was windy again, which seems to be a theme. Nice to hit this loop in under 40, comfortably. In the past that's been a benchmark for my level of rest/fitness. I think that might change moving forward, since I'm already feeling so much more efficient with the new gait. And, I felt like I had it rolling pretty good this day. Dr. Jamie gave me some pointers, which helped a lot.

4/28, Saturday: 6 - 45:50, TARC Spring Classic 10k, Weston, MA. In December, I registered for the 50k not knowing that I would be sidelined all winter. With that distance out the window, I was excited to learn this week that I could switch distances. I'd already paid; I might as well run. I was confident that my knee wouldn't be an issue but was a bit curious to see how it would react to 6 miles of all trail. My only plan was to run as fast as my calves would allow. I definitely wasn't out to race.
After leaving the kiddo with my parents for the day, D and I made our way to Weston arriving in plenty of time to register, wait in line for the porta-potties, change and listen to the pre-race meeting. But, somehow, I barely made it to the starting line. I ran across the field and took a spot on the front of the line, just as the race director yelled, "Go!" I settled into a comfortable pace and just cruised along. By the mile mark, I was in fifth place and was already bracing myself for the "sandbagger" comments to come. I traded places and conversation with a guy in Five Fingers, Josh, for the next couple miles as we  enjoyed the trails and the real estate. The course was great: flat, mostly smooth and a good mix of double and singletrack. It had a ton of turns, but was marked flawlessly. We passed another runner around 3 miles and at right around 5 miles, I was behind Josh but starting to feel that race itch. I may have been pushing him a bit as he jammed his right foot hard on a rock. Remember those Five Fingers? He slowed quite a bit, and I jumped around telling him that "I'd let him cry by himself." About a quarter mile, I found myself really opening up my stride and moving at a pretty respectable pace once I hit a dirt road. I was just getting a great rhythm up, when I hit a boggy, rocky, wet section, which was probably a sign that I needed to dial it back. I cruised comfortably into the finish a very distant third as the first place man and woman were already posing for pictures with their awards. Plus, the majority of the stronger runners were running the longer distances, so the place was irrelevant. I was just happy to feel so comfortable and smooth. My calves felt the best they'd felt yet, and I'm already thinking about incorporating more trails back into my runs.
The rest of the day was a blast. I broke out the camp stove to grill up sausages and sketchy turkey burgers. Jamie and I may have downed a beer or two. I definitely got sunburnt. Hats off to the Trail Animals for hosting a terrific event. Hopefully, we'll get to another of their races soon. Of course, I wasn't just there to get fat, as I was race crew for D. She finished her third 50k battling a completely shut down stomach for the last 10 miles. She ended up 4th woman in 4:52. The Trail Monsters were well represented with Erik in the 10k; Brenda, Christine, Kate and Ann in the marathon; and Blaine, Nathan and George in the 50k. I hang out with some awesome people.

Post-race. Post-sausage.
Miles: 29
Trail: 5
Road: 24

That's a lot of words for a 29-mile week, but it's great progress. On top of that, I've also been semi-regularly getting the core work in. I can't get to the 4 times a week range, but I'm averaging twice a week. I hate it. I do believe the knee is behind me, and I'm looking forward to a continued easy ramp up of the mileage. It's really nice to be running again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's the Old Style

Quick visual addendum to my last post. Let's compare the finishes of two 5k cross country races, shall we?

Craig Cup, October 2011:

Eastern Massachusetts Class A High School Championships, November 1992:

I'd say I have a consistent history of heel striking. So, it's not going to be an easy transition, but I do feel like I'm getting it. Calves are a bit sore, but getting better almost daily.

And, in case you're wondering...yup, I got that guy from Cambridge R&L. And, yup, the younger me would already be cooling down by the time the older me finished. A beer to closest guess on the time from 1992.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's the New Style

Four and three and two and one...when I'm on the mic the suckas run. WORD!

Weeks of 22.75 and 26.5 since our last post, and things are looking up. I'm not ready to proclaim myself injury-free quite yet, but i'm very, very close to all systems go. Obviously, I'm still not training, but I am running.

My runs last week were interesting because the knee pain never manifested itself in the same way. It was minimal most days, but each time it seemed to appear in a different fashion. When I saw Dr. Jamie on Friday, he said that was a good sign because it meant that the issue was no longer in my knee but in something eiher above or below. And, based on what I describe to him and what he'd seen in all my visits, he worked a lot on my TFL—tensor fasciae latae, which is near the hip flexor. (I assumed TFL was the acronym for "Totally Fucked Ligament.") It made sense to me since I felt like I was getting the most from the hip flexor and quad stretches I'd been doing rather than the IT stretches. Also, he tested my strength and balance and noted that I was exactly where I should be. He said, "Well, the onus is on me to get rid of the scar tissue in your leg." In other words, I'm in the homestretch. He worked mainly on the quad-side of my IT, showed me how to foam roll my TFL and sent me on my way for 10 days. gulp Can I go without a fix for that long?

This week has been nothing but encouraging. Sunday I explored some really fun trails behind an industrial park in Waltham, MA, and it was the first run during which I experienced zero knee pain. My knee was cranky on part of my run on Wednesday, but actually felt better by the end. Two five-milers yesterday and today, and things felt perfect. All good news, and I'm ready to push out on some longer distances. For the most part, trails seem to aggravate the knee a bit more, so I've been staying away from anything too technical, but that will come.

Needless to say, there has been much planning and scheming. All along I've been looking at trying to hit 30 miles by the last week of April as my first milestone, and it looks like I should get that next week. Really happy to be at this point, and in another month, I think I'll know if I'll be ready to start training in earnest. I'm ready.

One thing to which I need to atribute my success begins with a mea culpa. I was wrong. As it turns out, just because I'd been running a certain way since...forever...doesn't mean it was right. After a lot of discussion with Dr. Jamie about my running history, my history of injuries, my physiology and physiology in general, he convinced me to take a long look at my running form. More specifically, take a look at my heel-striking. I've been heel striking since I "started" running, and I've been injured a lot. In his words: "If you're starting from scratch, you might as well really start from scratch." I took it to heart and did a ton of research. But, no, I still haven't read Born to Run. I'm not going to get a pair of Five Fingers. I'm not cutting the heels off my shoes. What I am doing is working on my posture and shifting to a midfoot strike. Thus far, it's felt very strange, but each time out something seems to click.  Downhills are still odd, but they'll get better. What is really telling is that when I purposely switch back to my old stride, my knee begins to hurt within a matter of seconds. Fairly conclusive. So, not only am I building back up, but I'm building a new running style. I'm convinced that long term it's going to pay huge dividends.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Project Resurrection continues here at Snowman Says Headquarters, and business is good.

I'm still seeing Jamie weekly, and he's pretty pleased with my progress. I'm down to one visit a week, as opposed to two, and after yesterday's appointment, he gave me the go ahead to run as much as I want—with one caveat: don't run through too much pain. Pain is the guide. When it hurts, it's time to pack it in. And, on all of my recent runs I've had tightness or "a ghost" in my knee, but very little pain—not enough pain to force me to stop. My range of motion is very good, and he feels we've worked out most of the adhesion. Right now, the area of pain is diminishing, and the focus is on the quad/IT connection. More work, more stretching, more not overdoing it.

I'm also starting to move from complaining about not running at all to complaining about how weak and out of shape I am. All of my runs to this point have been basically flat, as didn't want to aggravate anything. Yesterday's run was hillier, and it definitely bothered the knee. It also just bothered me in general to realize how horrible I feel on any kind of hill. No strength. No power. No nuthin'. I've also been mixing in some trail sections, and that's been eye-opening as well.

With my epiphany-induced change in form, trail running is a completely new animal. Even on my road runs, it feels as if I'm "seeing more." Instead of looking down at my feet, my gaze is further up the trail, and I'm uncertain of what I'm landing on. I know this sounds like I'm in week one of my couch-to-5k program, but it really is a radical shift for me. It's just going to take some getting used to, but it's already starting to feel "right." Maybe because it is. It's also feels like it's going to improve my efficiency. Time will tell. It's pretty easy to feel comfortable and efficient over 5 miles.

At this point, I feel safe to say I'm running again. I totaled 19 miles this week, and I'll be pushing beyond that next week. When I realized that I was seriously injured, I gave myself a goal of hitting 30 miles by the last week of April. Fairly arbitrary, but I figured if I could get there, I could think about possibly racing this year. At the beginning of March, I didn't think it was going to happen, but I'm feeling pretty confident now. Like I said, I'm running, but I'm not training. I'm certainly thinking about training. If all goes well, actual training begins on June 17. Stay tuned.