Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brain on Vacation .... Body to Follow

Leaving tomorrow afternoon for a 4-day weekend at the beach, and having a hard time staying focused on my painfully large to-do list. Is it a good sign or a sad commentary that I have my running and cross-training planned out for all 4 days, and am looking forward to that as much as lounging on the beach?

I gave myself my first exercise day-off on Monday in a long time (no running, stretching, lifting, biking, swimming, etc.) since I could tell my energy supply was running very low. Got in a run yesterday morning that didn’t agree very well with my foot issues, but I think I’m still adjusting to my Superfeet insoles and that the discomfort is less about the Plantar Fasciitis and more about some general soreness in my feet. Walked 1 mile to loosen things up, then ran 4 miles at an average pace around 8:30. Already crazy hot when I got started at 6:15AM, but it was a good sweat. Feet don’t feel any better or worse this morning, so I remain optimistic that my body will respond well when I ask it to start full-scale training in about 3 weeks.

Quick unscientific insole review for anyone interested. I used SofSole Airr insoles in my shoes for my last marathon training. These things feel really good on your feet (very cushiony) especially in the Gel Nimbus shoes since they are neutral shoes and also very cushiony. However, the Airr insoles don’t offer a great deal of firmness in supporting the arch, which I think contributed to my PF issues. Over the last month I’ve switched out the SofSoles, and tried the green Superfeet insoles, and the Powerstep Pinnacle insoles. These two generally seem to provide very similar support in terms of the heel cup and the more rigid arch support, but the arch support is much more forward (toward the toes) in the Powerstep than in the Superfeet, where the support is more towards the heel and feels better aligned with my feet. The Powerstep support also seems a bit higher than the Superfeet. At this point I’m going to go with the green Superfeet in pretty much all my shoes, and see how they work for me. In terms of running they are considerably less cushioned than the SofSoles were, but I think I may need a bit less cushion to strengthen the bottoms of my feet. I’m also learning that the arch in my right foot seems a bit higher than in my left foot, so I may end up with different types of insoles in my left versus my right shoes. So many variables … so much fun.

Another unsolicited review …. I’m trying out the Hammer gels since they’re on sale at REI right now, and since they’re the gel sponsor for the Outer Banks marathon in November (but mostly because they’re on sale). Thumbs up on the Apple Cinnamon. Kinda neutral on the Vanilla flavor. I’m a huge fan of most anything vanilla flavored, but I didn’t think the Vanilla hammer had much flavor. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t very vanilla. I’d give the vanilla gel advantage to Gu, which I thought tasted pretty OK. Next up I’ll be trying the Montana Huckleberry, mostly because I like the name of the flavor. Admittedly my criteria for choosing which flavor to try seems to lean a bit less towards serious athlete, and more towards something my 8-year-old daughter would use. As long as I don’t start listening to Miley Cyrus while I run I think I can still take myself somewhat seriously.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tarzan Couldn't Take This Kind of Hot

The brutal heat continues to broil North Carolina, 97 today and 99 predicted for tomorrow, and although I generally like to spend some quality time with the Air Conditioning, when it comes to running I’m loving every blazing minute of it. Not just because I like running in the heat and working up a quality sweat, but also because for the second time in three days I was able to get out and run like the wind …. or perhaps like a slight breeze.

My foot wasn’t feeling exceptionally happy this morning when I got up, but I went through the usual massage and stretching routine, and it felt good enough to give it a run. Walked the first mile, then ran for 3.07 miles (meant to do 3 miles, but got caught up in a good tune on the ipod), then walked the last .93 miles. Went ahead and stepped up the pace a bit on the run today to see how that would feel on my foot (splits 8:44, 8:44, 8:34), and generally it felt OK. I’m definitely not over my PF issues, but hopefully I can keep this momentum going and keep on training without any major setbacks.

Finally listened to the entire new Train album (Save Me San Francisco), and found another good running song …. Parachute. Adding it to my regular rotation.

REI is having a Summer Sale & Clearance, and one of the things they have on sale is Hammer Gels for $0.89, versus the regular price of $1.25. I know lots of runners use the Hammer Gels since they’re less prone to potentially upset the stomach than Gu or some of the others. Looks like the price is good through 7/5, so hopefully this helps folks save a little money. I’ve never had any trouble with Gu, but Hammer is the gel sponsor for my next marathon, so I’m starting to try them out. Only got a chance to try the Apple Cinnamon before I got hurt, and thought it was pretty tasty, as far as gels go. Will start sampling the others with this nice little price reduction. Anybody have any flavor suggestions?

Need to get myself a second pair of running shoes and retire a pair with about 250 miles on them. To Nimbus or not to Nimbus … that is the question. Time to go try on some alternatives and see where I end up.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crawl then Walk, Walk then .....

Abruptly awakened from its lengthy slumber it rapidly adjusted to the burdened thickness of the air and the blazing brightness of the pale sky. Despite the extended break, it quickly recovered its natural instincts and began the search. Eye to the sky, craving unseen hulks maintaining a safe distance but constantly watching. The search started slowly, but once the first was found the pace quickened. Soon two, then three, then enough to satisfy its need. With a quick flash of zeros and an eager anticipation of impending movement the Garmin was back.

Reunited, and it feels so not entirely bad.

1.93 glorious miles run this morning. Started with a .8 mile walk to check if I was really going to be able to step up to a run, then finally shifted into a run, followed by another ~1 mile walk to cool down, much stretching, much ice, and much Advil. So far the aftermath seems to be OK. My first steps tomorrow morning will probably be the true test, but for now I’m just enjoying the fact that I got through a run, and that I may have actually been patient enough to allow myself to recover without heading back to square one. Sticking with my ‘listen to my body’ approach to getting back to training, yesterday my foot seemed to be telling me that it was time to give it a try. Not something that I can really explain, but something just seemed different in a vaguely positive way.

Not sure what this means in terms of next-steps, short-term or long-term schedules, etc., and resolved not to worry about any of that right now. For approximately 2 wonderful miles I was a runner again today, which made me and my Garmin very happy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Smart? ... Perhaps. Not Dumb? ... Definitely.

I am a person who likes to set schedules for myself. Short-term, long-term, and all terms in between. This is especially true for running, especially since I’ve made the move from jogging to training. That was the beauty of the marathon training plan – weeks and weeks of schedules and targets. Piles and piles of data to load into Excel and analyze into pivot-table/graph/report bliss. Interim goals to gauge progress. Every long training run over 12 miles became my new ‘longest run I’ve ever done’. The monkey in my brain in charge of schedules was in Skinner-box heaven.

Then I done got broked.

Yesterday was a significant day not in terms of what I did, but rather what I didn’t do. I had set a timetable with my Plantar Fasciitis recovery such that Sunday was going to be my first attempt at running after having shut everything down for 2.5 weeks. After I got up and went through my stretching and massage on my foot and took my first few tentative steps of the day, I realized that my foot just wasn’t quite ready. Rather than going for a run anyhow, which is how I usually work based on the schedule I had set, I decided that I needed at least another week before I tried to run. Amazingly, my mind and body struck an agreement, and no run was attempted. No happy reunion with my Garmin, no sweating like sasquatch in the lovely 97-degree Raleigh weather, no listening to any new iTunes downloads. Did it make me happy? No. Do I feel good about the decision today? Yes.

I did end up going for a couple-mile walk at a decent pace, which didn’t feel too bad. I replaced my insoles last week with Smartfeet insoles, and the added, more rigid arch support seems to help. Spent a fair amount of time on my feet doing yard work, and didn’t deal with much in the way of pain. Next Sunday I’ll reassess, and maybe that will be the lucky day when I can run again. Or maybe not. I will once again let my body tell me what to do, rather than my arbitrary schedules.

In non-running news, my family took me to see Toy Story 3 in IMAX 3D Saturday night as an early Father’s Day gift, and it was GREAT. I love the first 2 movies, and really most everything Pixar has done with the exception of Cars, which I didn’t dislike, it just didn’t do much for me. Anyhow, Toy Story 3 was once of the best movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. Very cool mix of people that were at the showing too, including college kids that would have been very young when the first one came out, and grew up with these movies and these characters. I can’t recommend this movie enough. What a great way to spend an evening with my family.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Accentuate the Positive

Enough with the injury posts. I’m even bumming myself out. Inspired by the ‘Suggestions’ post by Emz at ‘If I can’t convince you, I’ll at least confuse you’, I thought it was time to take some time and smell the roses (figuratively and literally) and find the things that make me smile. The things that fill the large stretches of life’s road between the inevitable potholes. The things that make me feel like the windshield, rather than the bug. A small sampling:

- Grilled food, and grilling in general. Nothing like cooking on the grill with a cold beverage in hand. Major bonus for the dramatic reduction in cleanup required. Daddy like.

- The beach. Just spent a long weekend there with the family, and there’s something about the coast that gets me centered again. Thrilled to see that my kids are as drawn to the ocean as me. Hopefully we won’t start measuring the ocean in terms of octane rating rather than water-temperature. BP can suck it.

- Landscaping and blooming plants. Have always enjoyed the challenge of working the earth and trying to make new things grow. My wife gives me grief about how crazy beaten-up my hands and arms get in the Spring and Summer while landscaping, but I almost never wear any type of gloves. Need to feel the earth in my hands. Perhaps explains the case of poison ivy I’m finally getting over.

- Ice cream. Big bowl of Breyer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream on a hut summer night. Much love.

- Good customer service. Recently had an issue with the shipping of an Amazon order. Contacted UPS and they couldn’t have been less helpful or friendly. Got off the phone with them and contacted Amazon, and they couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly. Completely erased the UPS bad vibes, and actually made my whole day better. If only this were the norm.

- Random hugs from my kids. Never underestimate the power of a hug.

- Childhood memories. Between the ages of 3-6 my family lived in the Philippines (Navy family). The quantity and variety of creatures and critters there were amazing, especially for a little kid. Once night came around, the critters were even more fascinating. When I took our puppy out one night last week I found the following critter on our front porch. It’s called a Luna moth, and they were everywhere in the Philippines when I was little. The caterpillars are even more spectacular looking. I don’t think I had seen one of these in over 30 years, but just seeing that one reminded me of a great time in my life. Haven’t seen another one since, and may not ever see one again, but it was an unexpected trigger that made me smile.

- Rain in the summertime. Nothing better than running in a cool rain on a hot summer day, but even if I can’t run in it I still like a good storm in the Summer. Also like the song by the Alarm, but not as much as the rain itself. Never listened to the song during a rainstorm in the Summertime. Might overload the awesome circuits.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Random Monday Musings

Random observations from the world of the injured:

Being hurt blows.

Driving by runners out for their workout while driving to work and injured blows.

Being injured while at the beach - doesn't blow nearly as badly.

Getting cool things in the mail from other running bloggers - awesome.

Toasted coconut ice cream - a little round ball of heaven in a bowl.  Discovered this over the weekend - holy crap it's good.

The Long Walk - one of the more disturbing and stays-with-you books I've read in a LONG time.  Took it to the beach and couldn't put it down.  This is a pretty old book by Stephen King (written as Richard Bachman) that I hadn't read for many years.  Maybe it's just because of the running and the marathon experience, but this was a riveting read.  Not for the weak of heart, but I would recommend it in the same way that you would recommend something like Silence of the Lambs or No Country for Old Men.  Hard to say you 'enjoyed' it, but emotionally it left an imprint.

20 minutes with your foot in a bucket of ice - not fun.  Amusing, however, when the puppy decides to jump in the bucket.  Not so amusing for the puppy, however.

There are an incredible number of torture devices for running injuries/stretching.  My wife finally commented on my growing collection of oddities (foam roller, The Stick, Footlog, frozen cans of beans, etc.).  If only there were an easy roadmap to which ones really work.

My Plantar is still behaving like a piece-of-fasciit.  Finished up my self-inflicted 'rest' period, and have commenced with the stretching phase, with a dare-to-dream target of running again this coming Sunday.  Will try to introduce a fairly long and past-paced walk on Thursday and see how that feels.  The saga continues...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Real Deal to Heal my Heel

I got, and greatly appreciate, some very helpful feedback from my last post about my busted wheel.  Such good advice, in fact, that I'm going to share what I'm doing for my foot in hopes that the runners out there who have slain the Planter Fasciitis beast might pass along some more ideas for what to do, or equally importantly what not to do as I try to get my right leg to fall in line with the program.

Quick recap of my latest deterioration:

  • I had finally gotten over the worst of my IT Band woes, when I started noticing some soreness in my right heel, mostly on the outer rear of the heel (started about 3 weeks ago)
  • Soreness would persist for about the first mile of a run, then mostly go away, but by later in the day it would be back, usually a little worse each time.
  • I was scheduled for my usual every-other-day run this past Friday, but the pain was noticeable enough that I skipped that run, and decided to shut down running completely for at least a week.  I haven't been to a doctor for this (yet), but most everything I've read or heard points to the early stages of Plantar Fasciitis, so I'm trying to self-treat for that, and will go to the doctor if my efforts fail.

Here's where I currently stand:

  • Have eliminated running completely, with my last run being last Wednesday (6/2)
  • Eliminated biking as well, so my only current aerobic activity is swimming, which I've been doing every other day, including this morning, but am planning to cut out for the next few days too since I feel some discomfort while swimming as well
  • Still lifting every other day, but mostly just upper-body, with the exception of quad extensions
  • Have continued with my daily IT Band stretches, but am going to eliminate those as well until Sunday, since it's hard not to get my calves involved, which in turn stresses the injury
  • Have eliminated any of the lunges or balancing strength exercises for my knee from the usual routine to minimize stress on the injury.  Only doing a series of leg raises right now to maintain inner quad strength
  • Icing my foot 4x daily - morning and night, foot submerged in bucket full of ice&water for 15 minutes - hurts so good.  Lunchtime rolling a frozen can of beans under my foot for about 15 minutes.  Evening/dinner-time - foot on a frozen bag of peas for 10-15 minutes.
  • Taking 3 Advil 3x daily for 7 days (currently on day 4) to try and break the pain cycle.
  • Bought the Footlog (, and rolling my feet on it 2x daily for about 5-10 min each time.  Doing this pretty lightly now, but will start increasing pressure gradually in about a week.
  • Wearing running shoes pretty much all the time now, with the exception of showering.  No barefoot, flipflops, etc. for the foreseeable future.

I think that's it for now.  Planning to keep this routine up until this coming Monday (6/14), when I'll start adding some light stretching to see how things respond.  Hopefully by the following Sunday (6/20) I'll be able to start some very light running and see where things stand.

Anybody see anything that I'm missing?  Anything I'm doing wrong?  Anything else I should start or stop?  Anybody want to trade feet with me?

Desperately missing running .... serenity now.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Runner, interrupted

I was really hoping that by this point in my blogging evolution I would be past the injury discussion, and rambling on about how my training was proceeding and how life was shaping up in the warm-weather months.  However, the lower right portion of my body seems to have different plans.

Although my knee still likes to remind me of its presence every once in a while, and although I'm still doing my PT streching daily - mostly out of paranoia, I think I'm past the worst of my IT Band issues.  Unfortunately I started getting some pain on the outside of my right heel about 3 weeks ago, and this week the pain has gotten progressively worse.  Based on the absurd amount of web trolling I've done around heel pain, everything presents itself as plantar fasciitis.  I've been icing it, and stretching it, not going barefoot, elevating, rolling tennis balls under my feet while working, etc., and yet every day it's a little bit more sore.  I tried doing my new yoga routine last night, but had to shut that down after about 25 minutes when the calf stretching was giving me heel pain.

Sadly this morning I decided to skip my run and shut down the running for a bit to see if I can get this under control.  Looked back through my training log, and what this means is I've had a total of 2 runs in 2010 where I wasn't dealing with an injury.  Hurt my calf on January 6, then worked through IT Band issues, and now dealing with my foot.  Extremely frustrated to say the least.  Trying to stay positive, but starting to wonder if my body is trying to tell me something and I'm just refusing to listen.  Hopefully a few days off will do a body good.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Man vs Yoga

In an attempt to live up to the name of the Blog, I have made several changes since crossing the first-marathon finish line back in March, both in my running life and my personal life. I’ll try and cover those in another blog post as a way for me to personally take inventory, and share some of the results of those changes. One change that I’ve been slowly working up to is adding Yoga into my cross-training mix, and last night I finally got my Yoga on.

*Not pictured: Me

Kind of hard to really give a review of the experience since it was a lot of stopping and watching the video to figure out what exactly they were doing, but overall I can definitely see this becoming a regular part of my training. I did a 60-minute base strength routine, and by the end of the routine I think I had most of the sequences and poses figured out. Synchronizing the movements with the breathing is going to be a bit of a challenge, and in the many words I’ve used to describe me ‘graceful’ is not one, so I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, but pretty is not what I’m shooting for. First impressions:

  • Despite having done my PT stretches every day, and sometimes twice daily, for almost 2 months, I’m still crazy inflexible, mostly in my hamstrings. Didn’t help that of the three people in the video doing the movements, the guy could have bent over and touched the toes of a person standing downstairs from where they were shooting. However, by the end of the session I was within striking distance of my toes when I bent over.  Dare to dream.
  • Really need to move the furniture around in the kids’ playroom if that’s where I’m going to keep doing this. I’d like to say that is a function of Feng Shui to allow for proper Namaste, but it’s actually a function of making it look more like yoga and less like me practicing martial arts on the couch, chairs, and anything else unfortunate enough to be within my YogaJudo reach.
  • Need to close the door so my kids and/or the puppy don’t come in every 10 minutes to see what’s going on. Hard to get centered when someone’s asking you how much longer until they can use the Wii.
  • Think I may need a bigger yoga mat. Don’t know if there are actually different sizes, but I’m using my wife’s mat and I was having a hard time staying within the mat boundaries. Again probably more a function of my Yoga-ninja impression than the mat, but it’s easier to blame inanimate objects.

In other news, we’re mourning the death of the hard drive on our Tivo. I’m not a big TV watcher, so the Tivo meltdown wasn’t a big deal to me, but dead Tivo = unhappy Mrs. Evolving. We were one of the first folks to jump on the Tivo bandwagon many years ago, and although we’re on our third box we’ve rarely had any issues, but Friday night Mr. Tivo went into full Hard-Drive-Cardiac-Arrest, and despite our best efforts we weren’t able to revive him. Casualties included the not-yet-watched final episode of Lost, the last 6 episodes of Season 2 of True Blood (also not yet watched), and the season finale of Biggest Loser. Aside from my wife being highly displeased with the lost shows, it made for an interesting social experiment with my kids, who have never really experienced real-time TV, where you can’t pause, rewind, pick a recorded show from a menu, etc. It was actually pretty funny. Already ordered a replacement hard-drive, and surgery should be complete by the end of the week, but in the meantime the family is living like savages, having to watch shows when they actually come on the air.

Running right now is a bit of a mixed bag. Had a great run on Saturday where all of the body parts felt like they should. Yesterday I went 6.3 miles, the longest I’ve tried to run since my knee turned sad, and had a fair amount of heel pain. My right heel has been getting increasingly more sore over the last couple weeks, which appears to be the early onset of plantar fasciitis. Good news is that my knee is doing really well, but the traveling hurt seems to have taken up residence on the bottom of my foot now. Icing, stretching, etc. to try and get it stopped and turned for the better. We’ll see where that goes.

Realized on yesterday’s run that it’s time to invest in a running hat. Anybody have any suggestions? Stopped at the local Inside-Out-Sports over the weekend to see what they had, but they all had a giant store logo on the front, and I’d rather not be a moving billboard.