Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Running through quicksand

After Sunday's poor attempt at running, I made another go at the walk five minutes, run five minutes for a total of 20 plan. I was rested and ready to go.

I still felt like I was running through quicksand. The good thing is, I learned from this article by Pete Pfitzinger that, "During the first few runs you will just be getting your body used to the running motion again. You may feel as though you have never run before. Rest assured, this feeling will go away after a few runs."

When my legs felt weird, I ran a little slower. I looked like this:

But because I was able to run at all, and because I finished without pain, I felt like this:

Pants on fire

It would appear that our friend Mr. Jackson Wasser (pictured with superhero friends), is enjoying a lying phase. I consulted renowned child psychologist Dr. Google, and he says that such a phase is common among preschoolers and can take two forms: tall tales and attempts to get out of trouble. Jack, gifted child that he is, employs both techniques.

Steve and Jack went to a Halloween party on Saturday while I was volunteering. Jack told me that he was very nice at the parade and shared his candy with other kids, including "some kids who had broken legs and could not get their own candy." I told him that was very nice and that I was proud of him. I was less proud when Steve told me that Jack did share his candy with other kids, but that there were no kids with broken legs.


Then, Steve discovered some marks in black pen on the back of the bathroom door. Turns out that Jack is some kind of graffiti prodigy. I confronted Jack with the evidence and he swore that he didn't do it. He was so adamant and so stubborn in not admitting any kind of wrongdoing that I think he could have passed a polygraph test. Dr. Google says this is common - kids Jack's age work so hard to lie to get themselves out of trouble that they believe it themselves.

Dr. Google further says that preschool aged kids are not quite ready developmentally to understand that lying is wrong. I shouldn't let it go, but I shouldn't make a big deal out of it either. Good thing, because I have some kids with broken legs to give candy to.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Race Report: Pumpkin Dash

Once again, we have a race report in which I am not actually racing. Hopefully this will not be too common of an occurance.

On Saturday afternoon, I volunteered to help with packet pick-up for the Pumpkin Dash. If you're a runner and have never volunteered for a race, then you should. It's definitely good running karma, and it's really a lot of fun. I basically hung out for a couple hours at my running club's offices, gave people bibs and t-shirts, took some money, and talked about running with friends. What's not to like? Plus I got one of the race t-shirts for my troubles, and it's really cool: a long-sleeved technical shirt with cool pumpkins and scarecrows on it! I have to admit, the fact that I'd be scoring a long-sleeved technical shirt was about 20% of why I wanted to volunteer! After my shift ended, I went next door to the running store and got a pair of inserts for my shoes, as recommended by my orthopedist. They are lovely and cushy.

Sunday morning, Steve decided at the last minute to run the 4K race (there was also an 8K), so the boys and I got dressed and headed out. The race was held at Credit Island Park, and I was immediately bombarded with sense memories of cross country races that I ran there in high school. There was a picnic shelter that I specifically remember standing by while my teammates and I cheered on the boys' team. It's a really pretty place on the Mississippi River, and it was a perfect fall day - great for running!

Steve headed to the starting line, and Jack and I walked about 3/4 of a mile away so we could find a spot to cheer for the runners that was away from everybody else. Steve almost missed us - he had his iPod on and wasn't expecting his cheerleaders to be in a spot so early in the race.

After we cheered for all of the runners, then all of the walkers, we moved to a spot near the finish line. We got to see the 8K leaders cruising past the 4K finish line, then started clapping for the 4K finishers. When Steve approached, I held up Jack and the two of us started yelling for him. Steve gestured for Jack to join him, and they crossed the pumpkin-lined finish together. Steve did very well, beating his goal of 10 minute miles.

Half an hour later, it was time for Jack to run the kids' race. Costumes were encouraged, and really, it doesn't take much to encourage Jack to wear a costume. In fact, he has so many that it's nice to have the opportunity to rock out more costumes than just the one worn trick-or-treating. For the race, he selected his Venom costume. People got a kick out of it because it has built-in muscles and Jack looked totally ripped.

Steve and I walked Jack to the starting line and showed him the cone that was the turnaround point. After some good luck hugs, we went to the sidelines to watch him. As always, I absolutely love watching Jack run. He has a look of pure joy as he races along, one that I always try to bring to mind when I'm struggling with a tough run myself. Jack ran great, smiling all the way, then happily collecting his finisher's medal, adorned with pumpkins.

That night, I decided it was time to attempt some running of my own. I set my Garmin (praise be thy name) to beep at me every five minutes. The plan was to walk five, then slowly run five - and to stay on the grass as much as possible - for 20 minutes.

How'd it go? Results inconclusive. The biggest thing is that running didn't feel quite natural. It was like I had a weight on my left leg and my stride never felt quite right. In retrospect, it wasn't the best day to try running again. I was on my feet all day in ballet flats, so my feet were tired before I started. I'm going to try the five-five 20 minute test again tonight, after a relaxing day of sitting at my desk. Right now, I'm not optimistic, but I want to try so I can really see what I'm up against. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Walk this way

Good news, Internet!

Today, I walked a mile with no pain in my shin.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try two miles.

And if that works, I'm going to try some slow, easy walk-running.

I am so happy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bad luck duathalon

I cannot wait for the fling I am having with biking to end so that I can get back to my true love, running.

I planned an hour-long bike ride this morning and did my best to enjoy it. I tried not to think about how I'd really prefer to have my feet on the ground and just use my own body to move forward. I cruised through pretty neighborhoods and enjoyed the fall leaves.

Then, a mile and a half away from home, something screwy happened with the bike. The pedals locked up, there was something wrong with the chain, and basically, the damned thing didn't work anymore.

Crap in a hat.

And while they say that you never forget how to ride a bike, I can promise you that you do, in fact, forget how to fix the chain on your bike when it goes kablooey.

I had no choice but to start walking home, towing my useless bike along with me. All the way, I thought about how if I were running, this would not have happened.

Running is simple, beautiful, and free. There is no equipment that can suddenly fail in the middle of a run that keeps you from finishing. You either keep running, or you walk home... and if you walk home, you don't have to lug a stupid bike with you.

The good news is, a mile and a half long walk did not hurt my leg. I may be able to switch from biking to walking, which would be great.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Like riding a bike

I decided recently to take a break from moping around feeling sorry for myself that I can't run by doing some other form of exercise. Normally it's the kind of thing we call "cross training," but apparently there are other people who just straight-up ride bikes for reasons not at all related to running. I know! It's a crazy world out there.

I went to the gym (which again, I have heard people do for reasons not at all related to running) and logged 45 minutes on the stationery bike. The gym I go to is at one of the local colleges, so while I pedaled away, I was able to watch dancers rehearse for the upcoming halftime show. Wasn't it considerate of them to put on a show for me?

The biking was... okay. I was indoors instead of outside feeling the wind in my face, and I didn't actually go anywhere, so that's a drawback. I was far from experiencing the freedom that comes with running. But you know, it was better than nothing. It felt good to sweat, work hard, and get my heart rate up. I will keep plugging away at it until the glorious day that I can lace up my shoes and RUN.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Race Report: Nancy Kapheim Memorial Classic

Here's a first for me: a race report with no actual racing involved, at least not on my part.

Friends, my leg is still in bad shape. It still hurts when I walk, stairs are still tricky, and going from sitting on the floor to a standing position is more challenging now than it was when I was pregnant. The situation really blows. Not only am I without the outlet of running, but let's not forget: my leg hurts. It's not especially bad, and I'm not taking anything for it, but it's a constant reminder of something I'd rather not think about.

That's a long way of explaining that no way was I going to be able to run the Nancy Kapheim Memorial Classic, a 5 and 10K race put on by my running club on Sunday. Instead, I asked the race director if I could volunteer.

Race Day preparations were not especially different for me. I still woke up early, drank coffee, and hada light breakfast. I still gave some thought to what I'd wear. It was very cold outside, probably in the 40s, so I put on a comfy pair of track pants, knee socks (cotton, argyle, cute and totally inappropriate for running), a long-sleeved t-shirt (cotton, totally inappropriate for running), a sweatshirt that I planned to exchange for the race shirt when I arrived (again, inappropriate), a striped hat, and at the last minute, a pair of thin gloves.

The race was held at a pretty park along the Mississippi River and had a bike path that I should check out some time soon. The race director told me that I'd been assigned to work the finish line, removing chips from the runners' shoes. Cool! I helped set up the timing mat at the starting line, then busied myself with chatting with my running friends. For the first time ever, I stood off to the side while my fellow runners lined up to start and watched them take off.

When the runners were away, it was strangely quiet in our part of the park. What had been a hive of activity was just a handful of people. After a few minutes, we rolled up the starting map. Then I killed some time by drinking a cup of hot cider. We chatted about when the first 5K finishers would cross the line; everybody figured that based on the field, it would be around 17 minutes. With just shy of 15 minutes on the clock, I took my position on a folding chair in the finishing chute, along with two other volunteers.

Sure enough, shortly after the 17 minute mark, the first finisher crossed the line, well ahead of the runner in second place. From then on, we were steadily busy. Chip removal was a great job to have. I got to watch every single runner cross the finish line, chat with the other volunteers, admire really cute running outfits (which would probably only happen when all three volunteers were women), and cheer for everybody, especially my friends.

The only drawback is that it got really cold. I could have used an extra pair of socks, as my toes were getting numb. One of my running friends brought me a cup of hot coffee and thus proved himself to be a special kind of running angel, a running angel who doesn't help fellow runners, but instead, icy volunteers.

The 10K finishers started to slow up, and after a while, we heard that there were only two women left on the course. I moved my chair closer up to the finishing line, and the other two volunteers departed. It was the first time I'd ever been there to see someone finish last in a race, and I'm happy to say that the women with that distinction crossed the finish line with an exhilarated smile on her face. I sat around for a few minutes, rather than yelling, "Okay, last place just cross the line. Let's pack this up!" That smiling runner had just finished a 10K, maybe her first. I wanted her to enjoy her moment no matter how many runners finished ahead of her.

After the race was over, I dove into a huge catered breakfast that was free for all of the volunteers and runners. There were eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, and muffins. The food was delicious, and everyone had fun hanging around eating, despite the cold.

Just like I do when I finish a race, I am already making plans for my next. I am afraid that, in two weeks, I am still not going to be up to running, not even a slow 4K. But I can get out there and help my fellow runners by volunteering. I know that, in time, I'll be back there toeing the line with the others. Until that day comes, I want to bank some karma by giving back.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mrs. Brightside

But it's just the price I pay
Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
'Cause I'm Mr Brightside

I'm not seeing the bright side to my injury today. I don't want to think about how it could be worse. To be honest, I'm pretty down.

Sunday will mark two weeks I've gone without running. The pain in my leg is better than it was, but it's not gone. Still there, after almost two weeks of resting.

I am used to being strong and capable. Now I have to walk down the stairs slowly and carefully. I ran a few steps yesterday to catch up with Steve and Jack in the parking lot, and it was very painful. I have a bin of summer clothes that needs to go to the basement. I am afraid that if I try to carry them down myself I will hurt myself, so I am going to have to ask Steve to do it for me. He will, of course, without complaint. But I don't want to have to ask help for something I should be able to do myself without thinking.

I experimented with wearing high heels again, even just low ones. When I'm not in running shoes, I am in heels, but apparently not now. That experiment made me come to the conclusion that it was time to buy some more flats. Flats are cute, and I don't want to look cute. I want to look authoritative and sexy. Ballet flats aren't going to cut it.

My running club has a race in a few weeks, the Pumpkin Dash. There's an 8K, a 4K, and a 1/4 mile costumed kids' race. I've signed Jack up for the kids' race. Today, I was emailing Steve about the possibility of our running the 4K together. It'll be a full month after the half marathon, so that seemed like a good amount of recovery time before easing back into running. He'd help me keep my pace slow and easy, and it would be fun to run it with him. Then I decided not to register now, to play it by ear and see if I am up to it.

The fact that I am wondering whether or not I will be capable of running a slow race of around 2-1/2 miles is really depressing.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The injured runner

An injured runner is a sad creature. We want, more than anything, to be out running. When you're injured, every glance out your car window reveals a veritable army of fellow runners, racing happily down the sidewalks. Every weather forecast might as well say "Perfect running weather! Sucks to be you!" And your running shoes, naturally, taunt you.

Running is a favorite activity, a way to rationalize eating a cookie, an opportunity to spend time with friends, a chance to be alone on a Sunday morning, and the best stress relief there is. Without running, what to do?

I am trying to be the best injured runner I can possibly be.

If running was the first thing to go for me, the running diet was the second. I am not burning the calories I was just a few weeks ago, so I am being much more mindful of what I eat. In addition to keeping the cookie quantities in check, I'm also working to strengthen and heal those bones that are giving me a hard time by eating more calcium rich foods. My new snacks of choice are yogurt and cottage cheese.

Like most (slightly obsessive) runners, part of me fears that if I miss a workout, my legs will atrophy and I'll be the slowest slug out there. So yesterday, I literally dusted off my bike and helmet and went for a ride. It felt good to get my heart pumping again, and the exercise didn't bother my leg at all. Of course I would rather be running, but it's better than nothing.

Finally, I don't want to shut myself off from the running community. I'll be posting updates from Injury Land, and of course I'll still read my favorite blogs. And there's a race on Sunday that I had been planning on running. Since that's not in the cards, I'm going to volunteer. The time to give back is long overdue, and if I can't run myself, at least I can support those who can.

It could be worse

It could be worse. When I googled "injured runner," here's one of the pictures I got:

I am continuing to rest up my leg and stay positive. The race director took me up on my offer to volunteer on Sunday morning. I am going to be "course control," which I believe consists of standing on the course, telling everybody which way to go, and making sure nobody cheats. It may also involve wearing an orange reflective vest. The really great thing is that I get one of the race sweatshirts (totally okay to wear a shirt for a race you didn't participate in IF you volunteered instead) and can join the post-race breakfast.

My biggest inspiration during this time is a guy in my running club, John. John started out the marathon/trisko training program with me, but had to quit his training because of a really bad injury that had him in a cast.

John quit training, but he did not quit coming to training runs. The guy showed up at the crack of dawn every Sunday morning. While we all ran, he rode his bike, made sure everybody was safe, and gave us words of encouragement.

It had to have been hard on John to see everybody else running when he couldn't, but he had a smile on his face every single time I saw him. Near as I can tell, he is one of the planet's all-time greatest humans.

So, if John can come out with a cast on his leg, smile, and be supportive, I can most certainly suck it up for a while.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The doctor says...

The injury that started screaming at me after Sunday's half marathon trisko continued screaming on Monday. It screamed so loud that, without delay, I picked up the phone and made an appointment to see my doctor.

I was pretty sure how that appointment would go: he'd take a good look at my leg, ask me some questions, determine he could not tell what the problem was, and refer me to an orthopedist. It's a little dance the two of us have done before, and sure enough, that's exactly what happened this time. The only things that were different were that he gave me a prescription for some pain meds... and that his nurse misunderstood me when I said I ran a half marathon. Apparently she took that to mean that I ran half of a marathon; that is, that I tried to run a marathon, hurt my leg, and only ran half of it.

If that's not a strong argument for re-naming that race, I don't know what is.

So, I spent Monday through today hobbling along. The leg has gotten a bit better every day, but I still look pretty pitiful. I was really eager to see the orthopedist today and find out what was what.

They started out by doing an x-ray of my leg. Then, I met with the doctor and she asked me some good questions about my injury, how long it had been bothering me, how severe the pain was, and how many miles I run at any given time.

She showed me my x-ray and said that she is 95% sure that it is not a stress fracture. Without a bone scan, she can't tell for sure, but evidence is that it is instead a stress reaction.

I know: stress reaction sounds totally made up. But I got a second opinion from Dr. Google. He explains that it is a trauma to the bone that doesn't actually fracture it. Silly name, bona-fide injury common in the tibia in distance runners.

So, here's the plan: no running for a while, though biking and swimming and the like are fine. Gradual return to running. I invest in a pair of orthotics. And I am also investigating the possibility of some physical therapy to build strength.

It's sad to be injured, but I know it could be a lot worse. And come next spring, I'll be back and ready to race more half marathons.