Monthly Archives: November 2009

One more time around

This time last year I was laying in bed, unable to stand up lest my legs buckled under me and I fell to the floor. It might be more noble if this was workout induced fatigue, but it wasn’t, it was actually the effects of some monsterous stomach virus that had internal fluids coming out every orifice in my body. I’ll spare you the details. You’re welcome. Although this sickness, which lasted for a couple strength sapping weeks, was bad enough, it was only made worse as it became the point that so much in my life started to go downhill throughout the following year. This last year, I can firmly say, has been the worst of my life…..and I’m not one to make such contrived statements. It just seemed like after surpassing every obstacle another would rise in it’s place, usually sequentially bigger.

It started with the sickness. Then I was laid off after securing the best job I’ve ever had. Then it was months spent hopelessly job searching in the ever worsening economy and jobless rate. Then I was effectively limited in communication with my son who is living out of state. Then a good friend died tragically and suddenly. Then my sister died. It just wouldn’t stop.

But it’s deceptive to paint such a blackened canvas, because I’m still here, which means SOMETHING must have been getting me through all this mess relatively unscathed. That something, first and foremost, was and is the wonderful relationship I have with my girlfriend and her son….and my running. Through every bit of that mess my relationship and my running stayed constant, in reality always getting better and better no matter how bad everything else was turning out to be. I can solidly say those two parts of my life kept me from succombing to emotional extremes and the influences of such. Honestly, I don’t know what sorts of things I would have done to keep my head up during the struggle, but I’m satisfied knowing I didn’t have to.

Not to cheapen my relationship at all, which means more than anything else, but in hindsight my ability to continue running through all that mess held so much more importance than I could have ever known. Just simply having a daily routine to follow got me through those days when I didn’t have a job and had no promising leads. Knowing that before everything else I was going to run in the morning gave me a sense of normalcy, not to mention sparked the energy I’d need to search for jobs all over town. Running began every day that I effectively had nothing scheduled.

Running also gave me a sense of accomplishment during those days I had nothing to speak of. Knowing that I could still knock out 10 miles without an effort, or put in a session of hill work, or do 6 x 1 mile repeats all alone, when most people go through their day barely lifting a finger, gave me a sense of accomplishment that would prove invaluable when it was the ONLY thing I could do, the ONLY thing I could say was completed in a day without tasks aside from chasing money.

It also afforded me a continued sense of self-worth, to know that I have talents, that I have abilities when it seems everything with which I constructed my life around had no purpose for anyone at the time. At least I could still run. At least, if I was relatively worthless to everyone else, I could still appreciate myself and prove to myself everyday that I can do some pretty amazing things. I had to believe that if I can run like I do, that something else in me was going to be needed sooner or later. And luckily, that came through.

And when my good friend died in the canoeing accident, running gave me a stronger connection to his life as my daily route at the time took me by the very place he drowned…literally right by it. During those dark days I was able to run by the river that myself and his close friends took to embody his spirit, that represented our friend, and running by that river was like having Ethan running along side me. I didn’t fear his passing because I could still have that connection with him every morning.

And when my sister died and I headed north for her funeral, running in the beautiful terrain in Minneapolis allowed me to collect my thoughts and emotions to process what it all meant. Runnnig gave me the desperate privacy I needed badly at the time, to come to terms with her death on my own accord, by my own understanding. Then further, it gave me the outlet I needed to say goodbye, when a part of my Chicago Marathon was run on her behalf, with her in mind.

So now, we have come full circle, in the constructed abstract calendar year (that ultimately means nothing) and there are a few more constants in my life at this point. The two most important, my relationship and my running, are still here, but now I also have an incredibly solid and supportive job. Sure, I can’t bring back loved ones and my son is still always too distant from my life, but at least the latter can change. I can’t say how the next year will go. I dared never say “At least it can’t get any worse”, because it always can, but I seemed to have more to look forward to than away from.

This time around I plan to continue the progress I’ve made with my running, with more P.R’s, more successfull training and more enjoyable runs. I have no doubts that my relationship will continue forward with the comfort and happiness it gives all of us and I only hope circumstances are shaped that allow me to be with August once again, but of course, nothing is guaranteed. All I know is that I plan to run through it all. I just hope I’m running through more joy than I am despair.

Here’s to hopin.

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Movin forward

I’m still here, I promise.

When running isn’t going so well, my mood follows suit and I lose the positivity that enables me to share my running experiences, hence the on and off again posting pattern as of late. Things seem to be turning around though.

To rewind a bit. I stopped going to the chiropractor, primarily because I don’t have enough in my HSA to cover anymore visits and I wasn’t convinced anything was really changing anyways. It seemed like non-running rest was the only way to ease the wear and tear on my groin and adjoining muscles, so that’s what I started doing. I’d put in two or three consecutive runs here and there to see how things were coming along, but I still found myself backing off when my groin would scream uncle, or get angry enough to start stabbing me with every footfall. Somehow, through all this back and forth, I’ve managed to run the trails in Southern Indiana every weekend. And most recently, things seem to be healing up now. I’m still running more conservatively, but each day the noticeable pain and tightness gets subtler and subtler, allowing more and more continuous days of running, even giving me full trail runs with minimal to non-existent pain.

Speaking of trails, I put in a complete 2 hour run this past Sunday on Tecumseh and wasn’t encumbered by any piercing leg pain. I’m not saying I was 100% strong, but I was making it through solidly….that is until I ran out of energy as this was my first time out without GU or sufficient pre-run fueling. That started to look really bleak and I’m glad I turned around when I did. I made it back to the car almost submitting to the “survival shuffle” and downed the large bottle of gatorade Michelle had so thoughtfully procured for me before I headed out. Good thing too or I might not have made it back to the park to pick her up.

And speaking of Tecumseh. I have two more weeks until the marathon. This race is going to be run on a prayer methinks. I’m not quite ready to put in any serious workouts and at this point it wouldn’t matter anyways. I’m not going to gain any fitness this close to the race, so all I can hope for is that my body remembers the effort of running that long. My only strategy right now is to run continuously, allowing my leg to heal up in the process and building enough muscle strength to take the pounding of the rooted and rocky trail.

As far as strategy goes come race day…well, I’m not so sure on that one. At one point I was theorizing about the race being won on the flats and uphills. If a runner has the strength to move up the hills quickly, quite a distance can be put between them and the next to come, and the same goes for the flats. If the pace is dictated by the severity of the uphills and the restriction of the downhills, then the race will be run on who can push it solidly through the flats. This may hold true, but right now I’m just hoping to run smart enough to not completely break down from the pounding. This past weekend I went out for 2 hours entirely on the Tecumseh route and hit some new terrain I had yet to run…and none of it was any easier than the previous. I discovered a number of nearly knee deep creek crossings (imagine how that’s going to feel with the temps in the 30’s), more grueling hill climbs with 180 degree switchbacks, ankle breaking rocks and roots, and all sorts of other torturous fun. I have so much respect for anyone who has already run this race. It’s really incredibly nuts.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still going to try to be the first to break 3 hours. Because that’s my main motivation for running this. The key, I think, is to hold back enough to be able to attack the last 7 or 8 miles. Oh, and not getting lost on the trail. I wonder how many previous runners could have broke 3 hours if they stayed on the trail. As it stands right now, the trail is covered in leaves, but seems to become more visible with each weekend that passes, which isn’t to say that the leaves will be gone come race day, because they won’t. All we can hope for is that they’ve been trampled enough to make a clear line of demarcation to follow, for right now it’s not all that easy. And running at the pace necessary to break 3 hours is going to prove even more challenging with a line of leaves that winds left, right and then disappears. I really wish I could show you just how difficult this terrain really is.

“Good luck” truly means something for a race like this. Let’s hope I have enough of it on race day.

Race Photos

Speaking of fighting….This morning I woke up with a very slight, but recognizable tickle in the back of my throat. The beginnings of a cold? Me and my innards are about to duke it out. Michelle is filling me with oregano oil and Emergen-C. I’m coupling that with eating as little sugar as possible and drinking liquids like whoa. Usually something like this would have started to peak right about now with an incredibly scratchy throat, a nose like a faucet and achy skin, but I think I’m keeping it at bay so far. I don’t feel bad at all. I actually could have gone out for my hill workout today, but seeing as it was POURING and just barely breaking 50 degrees, I thought it best to sit this one out. I think I made the right decision.

Anyways, here are some photos from Saturday’s race. Thanks Michelle! http://www.chellecraig.zenfolio.com

 

The start

 

Gettin out front

Goin up the hill

Goin down the hill

 

The finish

Somewhere on the course I lost 1/2 a leg.

 

 

 

 

Snippets

So, I’m fighting through this one.

My last post was prematurely confident that I had kicked this tight right leg, coming off one simple run after a full week of not running. Well, I’ve given up on my non-running manner of getting through this restrictive tightness (it didn’t seem to be working anyways) and am going the opposite direction. I mean, if running caused this, why can’t running fix it? Is there such a thing as the mysterious, mystical healing power of running? I’m counting on it.

I ran Thursday and felt great. I ran Friday and got through it, although there was noticeable tightness. I ran a 15k trail race saturday and won by four minutes. I won the race and I won the overall series. I warmed up slowly to work out the tightness and got past all that once the race started. It was sore and weak after the race, but not debilitatingly painful like it has been in the past. I stretched like crazy yesterday trying to pull apart my muscles like taffy, but felt my leg most of the day today. Screw it, I was going running again anyways. Saturday’s trail race was an incredibly winded 9.3 miles and did not offer me the boost of confidence I needed going into Tecumseh, so I know I absolutely need to get in as much running as possible for the next 3 weeks.

I started off easy warming out the tightness when I hit one of my favorite crushed rock trails around town. Soon, I noticed I was moving effortlessly…and quickly…and I wasn’t tiring. So I kept pace and had one of those runs that makes you realize why you put in the mileage day after day. I was absolutely floating through all 11.5 miles….and quickly so. THIS was a confidence boost for Tecumseh that’s for sure.

Of course, my right upper leg is ridiculously tight right now, but I’ve got an appointment with a massage therapist soon. I’m tryin it all now. I don’t mean to pose that I’m throwing all caution to the wind and risking a serious injury that would require surgery, maybe I exaggerate a touch, for I know in the back of my mind that if it was really that terrible that I’d take more rigorous precautions. I still believe I can run right out of this annoyance. Time will tell….and I’ve got about 3 weeks of it.

Bring on Tecumseh.

I’m back?

Today I ran. Yes, a full solid run at decent pace with next to no muscle pain/weakness. And 5 hours later I only feel the satisfying sensation of overall tightness coupled with what I like to call the “loosey goosey” feeling after putting my legs through a period of full extension. This is so what I’ve been waiting for. I don’t know if I can attribute all this to my appointment at the chiropractor, but I certainly won’t rule it out and I’ve still got one last appointment tomorrow morning. Regardless, all week I’ve had a feeling like the building tension in a pressure cooker to get out there and get to running again. Part of it was certainly recognizing how soon Tecumseh will be here and wanting to make sure I’m getting in solid runs and staying loose for that effort. The other part was simply wanting to feel the joy of running far again.

Still, when I went out today I tried to hold back even though I felt smooth enough to push on. I planned on going out four miles and turning around to finish at 8, just to start my build up, but on the way back as I focused on the snaking asphalt in front of me I suddenly heard someone call out, “Spitz! Where you been!” I looked up to see Poray and Davis running up the other way. I immediately turned and started to run back up the trail with them. It was truly great to see them again, especially so spontaneously as this was our first run back together since our race at Chicago. That experience certainly hadn’t left any of us yet as we almost instantly started recapping our individual races. This was only Poray’s 3rd run back from breaking the crap out of the cuboid bones in his foot during Chicago and just another build up run for Davis who is going to be getting back into serious training for the US Half-Marathon Championships in January…making another attempt to qualify for the olympic marathon trials by running 1:05.

Aside from staying consistent and strong for Tecumseh, this just felt good to be moving again. I haven’t been letting on how much I’ve wanted to get back out there again. It was really eating me up inside this past week, but I wanted to make sure I was healing properly. I was still tentative getting out there to run, but soon everything fell into place and then running along with Poray and Davis was just like our lead up to Chicago. We started bullshitting all over and distracting ourselves from the effort, basically  just cruising almost effortlessly down the trail. God I missed that. We turned off to our neighborhoods and abruptly split ways, assured to meet up again soon for some more focused running once we all ease back into a full effort. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

For now, I have my last chiropractor appointment tomorrow morning and then will be taking Noah out for a run in the jogging stroller after work. Saturday morning is the last DINO series race and it’ll be great to see the friends I’ve made since last spring when this whole series started. Then it’s on to Tecumseh. I’m ready to get going again that’s for sure and today was a solid first step in that direction.

Organic Athlete podcast

Saul Bradley of Organic Athlete interviewed me for a podcast on the OA site. We discuss the Chicago marathon, veganism, nutrition, etc. etc. Here’s the link. Check out Organic Athlete, they have a great setup, great information and growing membership.

http://www.organicathlete.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=548213

Little Timmy goes to the chiropractor

After completing my own thorough attempts at alleviating the pointed and worrisome pain in my groin and thigh area, which by the way consisted of running, then not running, then running again, then not running, and finally, trying to run again. I only had relative success with this form of self-treatment before the nagging pain would return and I was forced to take more days off or cut runs short. I was done self-medicating with ibuprofen and started to get concerned that not only was I never going to run this away, but that I was continuously preventing myself from healing, which is when it was suggested that I go see a local chiropractor who specializes with runners and is the sports doctor for a local running club.

In typical me fashion I managed to ignore all the annoying proper procedures one takes before visiting a chiropractor, such as first establishing a primary care doctor who refers you to said chiropractor. I plan on taking my chances with insurance and dealing with that mess later down the road. Let’s not dwell on that too much now lest I develop a stress-related heart condition that takes me out of my running cycle all over again.

So I called the local chiropractor and set up an appointment, completely ignorant of what happens at a wellness center as such, but trusting that the doctor’s credentials were sufficient to deal with this problem of mine. Two days later I walked into the center, which was a little yellow house renovated into a relaxing space filled with tiny rooms containing various beds and almost medieval machinery if it weren’t for the baby blue padding to comfort the patient. A new-agey music was softly blowing from the speakers in the ceiling. I passed the time filling out insurance forms and catching up on the latest Running Times.

Finally I was called into one of the rooms where the nurse (?) performed some of the basic health checks such as weight (145) and blood pressure (100 over 60) before leaving. I then waited for Dr. Wilson to come visit. After about 5 minutes of analyzing a shoddy drywall and paint job Dr. Wilson come into the room and introduced herself to me. She looked at my chart and read aloud “A runner huh? Great…that’s my specialty.” To be honest, I thought to myself, “Go ahead, ask me what race I did last. Go ahead, ask me how I did.” She didn’t. I then went on to describe the pain I have been having, when it occurs, where it occurs, how severe and all sorts of other hyper-detailed points I thought she should know.

After getting the verbal assessment out of the way she had me lay face down on the padded table and started feeling around my pelvis area and feet to get a physical reading of my body. She assured me that most everything seemed where it should be, but that my pelvis was rotated slightly more on my right side then my left, actually making my right leg about 1/2 an inch shorter than my left. Fascinating! She then had me lie on my back and performed some range of motion movements with my right and left leg, determining exactly which muscles were causing me problems. She confirmed that the areas which hurt the most are being aggravated by the single muscle in the groin area where the pain is most pronounced. Lastly, she had me stand up, bend over and touch my toes to get a reading on my spinal alignment, which again she assured me was just fine.

After some more discussion of my pain and exactly the muscle that is causing it she told me she wanted to have me get x-rays across the street to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture. She said she had no worries and was confident that I didn’t have a stress fracture, but wanted to be 100% sure before moving on. After getting the x-rays she would bring me back in for specific physical work and then have me back running right away. The casual tone with which she said that encouraged me greatly. I went to the reception desk and made an appointment to return the very next day (today).

I drove across the street and had a series of x-rays taken at an ob-gyn office of all places. The technician read the “runner” description on my chart and launched into stories of high school x-country glory, because after all, everyone seems to be a runner. I won’t lie. In my head I thought, “Go ahead, ask me what race I just ran. Ask me how I did.” He didn’t.

Fast forward to today. Upon arriving at the chiropractor I was brought into a tiny room with that tall medieval-looking table I mentioned earlier. I got to study the table with all its knobs and levers intently as I waited for the doctor to come in. When she did we took a look at my x-rays from the day prior and she pointed out the suspicions she had, first assuring me that I don’t have a stress fracture and that actually my bone density looks “great”. Wha?! “Great” bone density and no milk?! How is it ever possible?! Please read the sarcastic tone. She then pointed out that my “spacing” looks good and spine alignment looks great and that my pelvis is rotated ever so slightly, probably contributing to the muscle pain I’m currently experiencing. She showed me a point of aggravation on the x-ray. Then we got to work.

She had me lay face down on the table, which slowly tipped forward till it rested horizontally, allowing her to manipulate my bones and what not most effectively. A titled piece of the table rested under my pelvis so that Dr. Wilson could press on to me forcefully and the table would catch the weight. It made a disconcerting slamming noise every time she did it, but the pain was non-existant. She began the physical work by pushing downward on various points of my pelvis and then checking the length of my leg by lining my feet up together. With each powerful push she brought my leg length more and more even to each other. Finally, with one last push my legs matched each other in length. Just like that. The work wasn’t done though, as that was more a continuous preventative measure than anything else.

Dr. Wilson then had me lie on my stomach and performed some range of motion stretching to concentrate on the specific muscle area causing the pain. She then focused pointedly on the muscle causing the pain and had me bring my leg towards me at a 90 degree angle, stretch it out flat and slowly lower it down……while she took her fingers and tried to stab that muscle to death!!! It wasn’t a massage that’s for sure. A handful of times I had to bring my leg in, extend it and lower it as she continued to press and manipulate the muscle into submission. It really didn’t feel good, but at least was nowhere near the tear inducing pain I experienced during a deep tissue massage I once had. This was merely uncomfortable. She explained that I would probably feel soreness in the area akin to post-workout soreness, but that was to be expected.

I was then led into another room where I was told I would receive an ultrasound on the area to “blast away the inflammation”. Honestly, I don’t really understand how that works, but am really open to anything short of some new-age hippy waving their hands over me to release my “negative energies”. So I laid on my side on the table and pulled my shorts and boxers down far enough to receive the ultrasound. And yes, it’s just what you would think when you hear the word “ultrasound”, just without the baby and nerve-wracking financial concern. The nurse applied a healthy dose of incredibly cold clear gel to my hip and groin area and started rubbing some sort of hand-held device around my hip, buttock, and groin area. In retrospect, this telling sounds quite uncomfortable in a sexual creeper sort of way, and I won’t say things were a little awkward, but once I settled into the process I just convinced myself the muscle was giving up and crawling back to its hole never to show its inflammed face again. After about 10 minutes of this gelatinous rubbing the machine beeped, the nurse put a washcloth on my hip and told me to come out to the waiting room when I’m ready. I was left to wipe up a ridiculously liberal amount of gel off my hip and was a little taken aback to find the top of my boxers and shorts coated in the goo. Thanks lady.

I walked to the front desk and was told the doctor wanted to see me one last time. I made an appointment for the end of the week and that was that.

So here I sit, again runningless, probably for the rest of the week until I get my last treatment, of which I’ll probably completely ruin by running the final DINO series trail race the very next morning.

To be honest, for whatever reason I think this is going to work and I’ve already started to feel less and less groin pain during my workdays, which is a very encouraging sign. So, until Friday, it’s catching up on daily errands while I DON’T run. It sure is going to be hard to hold myself back when I start up serious training again. 3 1/2 weeks to Tecumseh.