Saturday, April 30, 2011

A glimmer of hope?

Today I have experienced what may very well be a glimmer of hope.  I'm certainly holding onto it as best I can.  After getting my bike back, I rode it a little today and could pedal soft and hard with no pain in my hip, so I can at least get back to some cross training.  I also have no real fear about wiping out again.

Even better is the fact that after some test running, I might be turning the corner with my hip.  On Thursday, it still hurt like hell to run on it immediately, and I stopped after only about half a mile.  Today though, I was able to stride up and down at moderate pace with little to no pain during or after the running.  Of course, we're only talking about maybe a quarter mile total, but even that is a dramatic improvement.

I'm going to try an easy run tomorrow and see if I can make it without pain in the hip.  It is still sensitive, still bruised, and does hurt from time to time, but maybe, just maybe it is getting better.  Regardless, I'm still getting it checked out by a doctor because the hip is just way too important for running and I want to make sure there is no underlying damage.

I already ran the two best races of my life on a stress fracture, so my interpretation of pain is not reliable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Running Still A No Go

It only took me about 2  50 meter strides to realize running was not going to happen today.  Though I can walk largely with no pain, it only takes a few running strides for my left hip to start aching.  It only gets worse if I continue to run on it.

What makes matters worse is that it's hard to do much of anything, the hip is an extremely important joint that is involved in just about any movement that can get my heart rate up.  Combine that with the skin missing on my right knee, and I can't really do much in the way of strength training either unless my legs are not involved.

I am trying real, real hard to stay positive, but it is becoming impossible.  It's been 7 weeks since I've done anything resembling real running, my bike is still in the repair shop, and anything more than walking makes my hip flare up.  This wasn't supposed to be how April went...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A few days later, still not 100%

Up until I got injured, I could count on one hand the number of times I had missed a run since June of 2010.  Now, with my new stamp of approval, I've already racked up one.

My left hip is still sore from my bike mishap, so I threw caution to the wind and canned what was supposed to be an easy 3 or 4 miles.  I've also had a headache for at least part of the day yesterday and today which is not normal for me.  If this doesn't get better in another couple of days, I may have to get checked out.

I'm going to run tomorrow regardless to see how it feels.  That 5K this weekend is probably out at this point, I don't want to do anything to make this hip worse than it already is.

Patience, patience....

Maybe, just maybe, this mishap is giving me just that little extra time my leg needs to be a solid 100%.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Set Back: Wiped Out on my Bike

I have had little to no luck since turning 25 on March 15th.  Since I'm still not running everyday, I decided to keep up with the bike to get exercise in.  Unfortunately, I completely wiped out while riding today.

I'm visiting my parents on Long Island, and went for a ride through one of the back areas on the north shore.  It was raining earlier in the day, but the roads dried out well so I decided to go for an easy 20.  There was one area on the ride that goes out to a dead end as you approach the water.  The shoulder was uneven and lower than the main road bed, creating a small raised section running parallel to the road.  I've actually encountered obstacles like this in Baltimore City where there are raised slabs of concrete at bus stops.  If your wheel rubs up against the side of the raised portion of road, you can lose control.

I'm guessing I was going about 15mph when I kind of drifted to the shoulder.  As that happened, my wheels found their way right up to that little lip.  As soon as it happened I lost control.  Everything happened rather quickly at that point.  I can be thankful for 2 things.  First, there were no cars around me when I lost control.  Second, my clipless pedals probably saved me from something worse happening.

As best as I can remember, my front wheel jumped back up onto the road.  The rear wheel however was stuck on the lip formed by the uneven road.  The bike started rocking back and forth and eventually, the handlebar turned 90 degrees so that my front wheel was pointing all the way left.  Shortly thereafter, my center of gravity shifted left, and the entire bike along with me fell to the left.  Since I was clipped in to the pedals, the bike + me moved as one.  It was certainly better that way.  If my leg flailed out, I could have been thrown from the bike, or possibly had my leg hit at a bad angle and have something worse happen.

Instead, my left leg (mainly my left hip) slammed into the ground, along with my left arm.  I slid a little, but must have already applied some braking because I stopped pretty soon after hitting the ground.  I was probably close to recovering, but since that rear wheel was stuck on the lip, I couldn't stop the bike in time.  While sliding, my left temple just where my helmet no longer protects my head banged into the ground.  By that point, my leg had really absorbed most of the impact so I didn't really hit my head all that hard.

I was able to stand up pretty quickly.  No one saw me crash, but cars did come by as I was standing up.  I had more than a few people stop to ask if I was ok.  Of course I waved everyone off (but was certainly happy that people do care).  After standing in shock for a minute or two, I proceeded to pick my bike up and throw it off the road onto the sand alongside, rip my helmet off and chuck it, then cursed up a storm.

After recollecting myself, I assessed my bike for damage.  The chain had fallen off the drive train, my handlebars were 90 degrees out of alignment, and my rear wheel wasn't true anymore.  Realizing the bike would not get me back, I called my dad to come pick me up.  My left hip was and still is really sore.  I tried to pace up and down the road to walk it off, but people kept stopping to ask if I was ok.  After getting tired of telling people that someone was coming, I just stood by my bike until my dad got there.

I will give a shout out to the two runners who stopped and really asked if I was ok.  Runners are awesome.

I don't think I broke anything in my hip, it might just be sore.  I also certainly didn't suffer any kind of concussion even though my head hit the road, it barely hurts at all.  Things could certainly be a lot worse right now.

But, this still frustrates me to no end...

Friday, April 22, 2011

4 Mile Run

Normally, an easy 4 would just be a one liner in my log, a run to be forgotten amongst many easy miles.  Today though, that easy 4 meant as much to me as a big PR.  I was able to run the entire distance with absolutely no pain in my leg.  I felt nothing during or after the run.  Just a few weeks ago, this would have been enough to cause pain in my leg for days.

An easy 4 is certainly not a sub-16:30 5K, it's not my sub-2:40 marathon hopes, and it is certainly not enough training to get me anywhere near where I have to be.  But yet I am almost as happy and proud of myself as I would have been running Boston.

That will be my only run for the week, making my first week back a whole 4 miles.  Next week, I'm going to do 4 or 5 on Tuesday and another 3 or 4 on Wednesday to see how I respond to back-to-back days.  The Tuesday run will be at moderate pace rather than easy pace just to see how things go. I'm giving myself a hard cap of 15 miles for next week, so I should have the chance to run 2 more times.  If I still feel good Wednesday, I may throw my name into a 5K that weekend, but only if I still feel 100%.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"You can start running again"

A quick visit to my doctor has shown that everything seems ok.  I have absolutely no swelling in my left leg, and I feel no pain when it is put under stress.  As my doctor put it, we can't know for sure that it is 100% healed, but it should be enough along the way that I can start running again.  I have to watch out for that pain and back off if it comes back, but with a slow buildup, he thinks I should be fine.

More importantly, once it is 100%, it should be like it never happened.  I should not really be more susceptible to re injure it, meaning that what I learned from this mistake will still apply.  The limit I found should still be a pretty good guide moving forward; there is no reason to think that the bar has to be lower.

Of course, now I need a plan for a comeback.  I'm leaving things open for the next two weeks before I come up with anything solid.  The "training wheels" are on for now.  My first real test run is going to be Friday morning, either 3 or 4 miles at easy pace.  That was more than enough to cause excessive discomfort when I stopped.  Now, it's time to see if I can do that again with no pain.

Next week, I'm going to bump up to 10-15 miles total on about 3 days of running.  If after my second run I still feel good, I'm going to throw my name into a small 5K race on the 30th.  By then, I will have had an extra two weeks of essentially minimal running, to push my grand total to about 8 weeks of little to no running, which should be a solid amount of recovery time.

That 5K will serve two purposes.  First, it will be a real test of how healed I am.  There is really no point in me wasting time jogging around at 8 minute pace and running excessively low mileage for months on end.  I'm here to run hard and I need to know when I can do that again.  Second, it will give me a really good assessment of my race shape.  I really just need to run a race to evaluate that.  I sincerely doubt I can still run a sub-17 5K right now, but I still have to figure out exactly what I can do.

If I feel no pain after that race, I'll bump up to the mid-20s for mileage and reevaluate at that point.  If I can still run at least a 17:30, I'll probably throw in tempo work before speed when I finally do get around to adding it back in.  In the mean time, I'll continue to supplement my base fitness with my bike and cardio equipment.  I think in a few more days I'll be able to stand the elliptical again, especially if I don't have to use it everyday.

My next big decision is whether to run the Delaware Half Marathon or defer my entry.  It's only a month away which might be pushing it.  The Baltimore 10 Miler on the other hand is two months away.  For both these races, finishing is not the issue.  If someone pointed a gun to my head and told me to run a half, I could do it.  However, if I'm not going to be able to even break 1:20, it may not be worth the energy investment.  I'd rather be in solid racing shape for one of those taxing distances.  5Ks and 10Ks are better for "evaluation" races since the physical cost of running them is not all that high.

At the very least I can run again, and that's all that matters!  Everything else will work itself out in due time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

And so Monday comes to Pass, and the Sun still Rises

Now that today is over, I can finally just forget about this last month.  It's kind of funny that I have yet to run since turning 25.  Regardless, I heard those who ran Boston had awesome weather and took advantage.  That is great to hear.  I feel somewhat relieved that today is finally over.  Until this afternoon, I could still feel the sting of missing my goal that I've already waited so long for.

It's time to look to the future now.  The future will become clearer on Wednesday.  I can already do all kinds of stuff on my bad leg without feeling any pain, all I need now is the blessing of my now trusted medical professional.  I fully intend to come back strong this fall, most likely at the Philadelphia Marathon.  By this time next year, I want to be a mid-2:30s marathoner, and see no reason why that would not be possible.

I got greedy this year and paid for it.  That won't happen again.  Being slightly more conservative in my training approach and possibly taking a few days here and there is better than what I've experienced this last 6 weeks and ultimately, make for a better runner.  Uninterrupted, consistent, and steady training got me to where I am today and will get me to where I want to be.  I know my limit now and will be setting steadfast training rules which I will only challenge when I truly believe I can handle more.  When in doubt, I will more likely stay at a level I know I can handle.

70 miles or less a week with 7 days of running and about 10 total runs, with 1-2 workouts a week and roughly two races a month week in and week out was sustainable indefinitely.  75-85 (up to the high 90s) for 4-5 weeks straight was ultimately, unsustainable.

Once I'm back 100%, meaning 50-60 mile weeks are cake walks, I will make sure that I run no more than 2 consecutive weeks above 75 miles.  That third week will be a step down of roughly 20%.  Additionally, once above 75 miles per week, I will run no more than 2 weeks without a day off, less than that if I honestly need it.  In February, I was so worried about missing one run and slowing my progress that I obviously completely blew up and missed a whole month!  It is just NOT WORTH IT.  A couple of days easy/off here and there, a couple of easy weeks once in a while are what will keep me healthy.  I cannot let this happen to me again!

The sun rose today even though I didn't run Boston, and I'm willing to bet everything to my name that it will rise again tomorrow.  It's time to look forward.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What to do on a Sunday?

Thanks to all the terrible rain we got on Saturday and my complete lack of motivation to go anywhere near cardio exercise equipment, I spent most of that day around my apartment thinking about how much it sucked not to be in Boston.

I was certainly not going to spend another day doing that.  Despite 10-20mph winds with gusts up to 30mph, I decided it was time for a real long bike ride.  I cleaned my bike Saturday including the chain and put fresh lubricant on it, so it was time to take it for another spin!

I created three loops of varying length that added up to 50 miles.  My plan was to drive to the Pretty Boy Reservoir area, park right in the middle of the place and do each loop in succession, stopping at my car to refuel each time.  My bike has room to carry more than the one water bottle I have right now, but I've been too cheap to go buy more holders, so this was my compromise.  I got started at about 9:50AM.  About 45 to 50 minutes later, I got through the first 12-ish mile loop.  That place is like a roller coaster with massive hills.  These hills are certainly no joke and I was already pretty tired.  I was largely shielded from the wind thanks to trees but every once in a while, I would into a bad head wind which was almost as bad as riding uphill anyway.

After some refueling, I attempted to start my second loop but got semi lost and ended up in PA (as I found out once I checked the map).  I was never truly lost, because all I had to do was double back on the road I went out on.  At that point, I was probably close to 30 miles total.  As it turns out, the cue sheet I printed out from told me to take a right when it should have said to take a left.  I tried to figure out why it said "right" but could only conclude that their software completely messed up.  Good thing I didn't pay to print it out and just used the print screen trick instead...

After getting back to my car, I refueled and made a second attempt at finding this loop.  Once again I came up empty, but only went a few miles out of my way.  I decided instead to just follow the loop backwards.  After some hellish hills and a lot more riding in the open (i.e. lots more wind, and really bad crosswind too!), I started to loop back around to my car.  I ended up taking a wrong turn when I was quite close to getting back and ended up adding some pretty serious distance.  After going a few extra miles out of the way and using my judgement on direction, I eventually made it back to my car.  Apparently, I can only pull up a map on my crappy cell phone by searching for a place of business.  I can't just enter a street corner.  Honestly, if cell phone companies are going to program their non-smart phones this way, why even bother having features like this?  I'm not going to buy a smart phone, so just leave the programming out; the half ass features are not going to convince me to buy one.  Next time I'll take a compass.  It's really unfortunate that our reliance on GPS has made it nearly impossible to buy good road maps anywhere (my preferred method of navigation).

I like using maps because every single person I have ever met who uses GPS all the time has absolutely no clue where anything is or how to go anywhere.  But I'll get off my soap box now...

Thanks to my handful of detours, I didn't need to bother with my 3rd loop and ended up with approximately 51 miles for the day, in about 4.5 to 5 hours.  Certainly less than 12mph is a bit slow but I still suck at riding up big hills, I ride a heavy hybrid, and it was windy.  I've learned that cyclists can actually blame their equipment and riding conditions much more than runners can!  I also know my way around that area pretty well now, and will make sure to do a good check on mapmyrun cue sheets since they are completely unreliable for even basic turn directions.

Now I just need to get through Monday without going crazy, then hopefully, get back to running!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tough Week

At 12:42 today I should have been on a plane to Boston.  Instead, I'm in Baltimore.  The day the doctor first told me of my injury was a really bad day.  I was out of it the rest of that day and part of the next.  I actually completely forgot where I parked my car that evening and the next morning forgot one of my passwords at work.  By that afternoon I moved on and accepted my circumstances.

Things were ok for a while, I was cross training hard, riding the bike, keeping Boston out of mind.  But now that it's race weekend, I haven't been extremely pleased these last few days.  To make matters worse, I've become so sick of using cardio equipment that I can't bring myself to do another minute on an elliptical or any other device.

My pride took another shot this morning.  I threw my name into the mix to be a pacer for the Baltimore Marathon, but due to my injury, the organizer (and rightfully so) is hesitant to accept me, especially for the faster paces.  Apparently, I'll be lucky to get in with the 3:30 group.  I completely understand and am not angry, but rather upset with myself that people may not see me as the ultra reliable, unbreakable runner I once was.  I think I can relate to the phrase "what have you done for me lately" that elite athletes have to deal with.

Going forward, I'm going to use my bike more and back off the cardio equipment for now.  I actually started doing one of the strength training circuits they have at my gym and will go with an every other day type of thing for that since it will certainly help me.

This Wednesday I see the doctor again.  I can already hop on my bad leg without feeling any pain.  If I get cleared to run, my next demon is going to be my own self-doubt.  Right up until my injury, I was so confident in myself and in such good shape that it really never mattered how I felt before or during a run, I would just suck it up and hit the pace I needed.  Even in that B&A Half where I felt off for the first half, I just stuck with it until my body hit a groove and ran the second half hard.

I wonder what it's going to be like when I start up again...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cross Training Takes Too Long

I've come to the realization that I'm actually spending more time cross training than I do running.  I have also realized that things are a lot less flexible than usual.

I was unable to get anything done Friday (which is why I have to default to riding my bike to work so I at least get something in everyday!).  However, I certainly made up for it Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, I rode a quick 2 miles to the meet up point for the weekend Back on my Feet long run.  After they all started, I rode over to the gym and hit their cardio equipment hard for 2 hours:
65 minutes on the elliptical
30 minutes on the arc trainer
25 minutes on the stationary bike

Afterward, I rode back to the long run meet up point and swept one of their 10 mile loops looking for straggling runners, then rode home.  All in all, I biked about 16 miles.  In the afternoon, I met up with a running partner to do some biking around the Pretty Boy Reservoir.  I ended up doing about 13 miles of some of the hilliest riding I've done.  He completely kicked my ass too.  Of course, he did have a road bike and cycling experience while I only had a heavy hybrid and arrogance.  However, it was good to get humbled (and know what it must be like to run with me).  I also learned a thing or two about proper pedaling, and even got to try out clipless bike pedals which are more efficient than standard platform pedals.  By clipping your feet to the pedal, you can transfer much more power to the bike at all points in the pedal arc.  I'm already hooked (no pun intended) and will be buying clipless pedals and shoes really soon.

On Sunday, I went for the same 40 mile ride I did last week, but this time did it in 3 hours instead of 3:30.  I then went to the gym and managed 30 minutes on the elliptical, but I could feel it in my legs!  I focused on going hard uphill and pedaling (rather than braking) on downhills.  Compared to Pretty Boy, the "hills" on the BWI airport loop, the B&A Trail, and Richie Highway approaching Annapolis are a joke.  However, I flew over them much more efficiently and quickly than last week.  Once I get those new pedals, I should really be able to put some power into my drive train.  I'm looking to bump that long ride to 50 or 55 miles next week.  I just have to find that much space to ride...

On Monday, I also had no time to X-train (more reason why I need to bike to work 5 days a week).  Tuesday I should be able to make up for it.  My bike is in the shop for a warranty tune up; my rear brake is quite loose and my 6th/7th gear seem off.  All of this is normal during the "break in period" for a bicycle.  I also blew out another tire right by the stem while doing a pre-ride inspection (it was probably already damaged).  I guess those inspections do help!

Now that I have basic bike maintenance down such as cleaning the chain, keeping the bike clean, lubing the chain, and changing flats, I'm going to try and learn about some of the basic tune up stuff so I can save time instead of driving my bike to a shop and loosing it for a day!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When will I get this bike thing down?

I think I have had enough experiences over the past few weeks to write a freaking book:

"Cycling for Runners: Your Body is Less Tempremental."

It's not that I have a bad bike, it's actually really nice.  The real issue is I'm riding that poor thing a ton and don't fully know what I'm doing in terms of taking care of it (and in some cases, myself).  However, I've learned a lot and continue to do so!

With the nasty storm I got caught in on Saturday, and another on Monday, I was beginning to realize that maybe my chain was not in good condition.  I had also ridden on the NCR trail a few times and really got my bike dirty.  All this probably contributed to gunking up my chain.  Combine that with the fact that I have put some good mileage on my bike in a short time, and that chain really needed some attention.

So I went and spent yet more money on supplies.  I bought a hard bristled brush, some degreaser, and some chain lube (both dry and wet).  I spent about two hours completely cleaning my chain and the rest of my bike's drive train.  I then went and applied dry lube which repels dirt better than wet lube, but washes off easier in the rain.

Today riding to work was so much easier.  I was easily 3-5 gears higher the entire time and pedaling was just so fluid.  Part of that may have been because I took Wednesday off to give my legs a breather, but the difference was so dramatic that the clean chain had to play a role.  Looking at my chain and drive train, you can even see how much cleaner it is now.

So yet another lesson learned.

After a day off Wednesday, I rode to work (27 minutes, very, very close to the time it takes me to drive), rode to the MAC, did 65 minutes on the elliptical and another 20 on the arc trainer, then rode home.

I'm getting more comfortable riding in the city and have learned that "taking the lane" as they say is actually better than staying as far right as possible.  It forces cars to only pass you when they truly have enough room.  It also lets you avoid the perils of the side of the road, and parked car doors opening.  It helps that in decent traffic I can pedal hard enough to go the same speed as cars now!

Biking through the city is truly faster (and cheaper) than driving.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting Really Impatient

Yesterday I received my free pair of Asics Gel DS Racers that I was supposed to run in for the Kentucky Derby Marathon.  That was a tough one to swallow, seeing those shoes at my doorstep.  I'm also getting emails from the BAA about how close Boston is.

It makes it tough to let it all go.

Today was a relatively easy day, I biked to and from work and hit the elliptical for 35 minutes.  My quads are kind of sore and a little tired, so today was easy and tomorrow I'll probably take off.  My damaged tibia is currently giving me no pain at all.  In fact, it's been close to a week at least since I've last felt pain.  I get nothing when I wake up, nothing at night, nothing with all this cross training.  I also feel nothing walking slow, walking fast, or knelling in awkward positions at work (which I have to do a lot).

All of that has to be a good sign.  Of course, I can just feel my legs itching to go run.  I actually thought to myself, "Just run one test stride, 75 meters, no one would know, not even your doctor."  I held back, but those are dangerous thoughts aren't they?

Counting down the days until April 20th...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keeping it up

I've had a rather epic last 4 days though I miss running so badly right now.  I would give up anything to be running!!!

Friday: 65 minutes on the elliptical, 30 minutes on a stationary bike.  Generally speaking, I go with level 13 on the elliptical and hit 10-11 mph most of the time.  The stationary bike is usually a "random" workout on level 10.

Saturday:  AM: 20 mile bike ride, mostly easy pace on the Gwynns Falls Trail
                  PM: 45 miles total, one loop around the BWI Airport Loop, then down the B&A Trail all the way across the Naval Academy Bridge.  I got completely dumped on by a freak thunderstorm right in the middle of the ride.  It was so bad that I couldn't see anything for a while.  But it passed, my clothes dried out (mostly) and I finished the ride in about 3.5 hours.

           AM: 15 minute aqua jog, 45 minutes on the elliptical, with a bike ride to and from the gym (roughly 5 miles total)
            PM: 33 miles.  I started on York road but the hills almost killed me, so I cut back to the NCR trail at White Hall, rode up to PA and then back down to Sparks where I started.  I'm definitely still not cut out for real hilly bike rides!


Rode to work after my usual circle up with Back on My Feet.  It was a 10 minute ride there, then a 27 minute ride at haul ass speed to get to work.  It's about 6 miles, including time I had to slow down or stop for traffic, I was probably averaging near 15 mph.  Not too shabby for a runner on a hybrid with a back pack.

After work, I rode about 2.5 miles over to the MAC, did 30 minutes aqua jogging in the pool and 65 minutes on the elliptical.  Then, I biked home (after inhaling a burrito from Chipotle).

It's not running, but it will do...

Friday, April 1, 2011

The future becomes clearer

Thankfully, the organizer for the Kentucky Derby Marathon has found a replacement for me for the 3:20 pace group.  My replacement originally could not commit because of a stress fracture in his foot, but is now good to go.  This runner apparently suffered a tibial stress fracture in college.  It took him 4 months from the initial diagnosis to get back, but he ran on it to the point that it hurt constantly on a day to day basis.  I feel essentially little to no pain during my regular routine.  All of my cross training is also producing no pain.

I can only hope that I stopped soon enough for a quick comeback.

I also sent an email to the race director for the Delaware Half Marathon, which I am classified as an "elite."  My 1:15 predicted time is hardly elite, but for them, they consider it so.  Since I have that mark and races to back it up, they have given me the option to defer if I choose to next year, which they do not do for everyone.  The race would only cost $20 next year, and I can tell them whenever I want.  That means I could theoretically wait until right before the race to bail.  I'm going to leave this one until the last moment, but am not too hopeful.

All that's left now is to beg the BAA to defer my entry into Boston.  I'm going to eat the Cherry Blossom race fee though, it's just too close to the race and I don't want to bother the organizers with a sob story.

Now it's time to bike to the gym, hit some of that cardio equipment for even longer than yesterday (thinking 1 hour 45 minutes total) then bike back.  I'm beginning to realize I can hit this equipment real hard because from a cardio standpoint, I'm in awesome shape.  My body is also so used to running that this non impact stuff takes so little out of my legs that I can just keep hitting it hard day after day.  It's me versus all these machines to see who or what can last longer.  My vote is me!