Sunday, October 26, 2008

No Cape Cod....

Well, not that I really had too much faith that my knee would miraculously mend in time to run Cape Cod, but just about the time I should be basking in the glow of my first marathon finish I am sitting here on my couch wondering exactly what is wrong with my knee. I am not going to lie or sugar coat anything, but I am pissed off that now that I have health insurance I can't afford to go to the doctor to figure out what exactly is wrong with me. Especially when I haven't done anything strenuous for a week, and though it doesn't 'hurt' in the traditional sense, it just feels like something isn't altogether right.

Maybe I just need another week or two or true rest, but it doesn't help my irritation with the health care system and the current election candidates' lip service on the issue(s). It is like both are just towing the rhetoric to election day hoping that their empty promises will get them elected. This really isn't injured runner rage; It is just a concerned citizen wondering what the hell people are thinking about while their country falls apart around them.

I know, I know, stick to the thoughts on running, but honestly, does it bother anyone else that the reason Obama may very well get elected is not because of new fresh ideas that could evolve an elevate the country? I am not affiliated with any party and have read each candidate's major stances and plans (I use that last word loosely) and neither seems to be willing to risk to much to inevitably do what is best for the country. Oh well, enough of that.

This morning was weird. The weather seemed to mirror my feelings of the whole situation with training for nearly three months, getting through all of the longer training runs, including the 25 miler, only to get injured on an easy trail run for no apparent reason other than perhaps tweeking something on the uneven terrain. When I woke up it was misty, cold, and gray - about as depressing as I felt. As the morning progressed the clouds broke up, and just about the time I anticipated finishing the race, the sky was a deep blue with a bright sun bringing out the Autumn colors of the remaining leaves on the trees.

Allegorically, I feel like this will pass and I'll go from this seemingly gray period into a bright blue sky of happy healthy running. I guess the hardest part of the injury is that I was training to simply complete a marathon, not qualify for Boston or run a certain time oriented goal. I know injuries don't discriminate or happen only to those runners training hard, but I was definitely giving myself ample recovery after long runs. I guess I am also upset because running is my preferred method of stress relief and dealing with the anxiety issues I have. Not being able to run almost adds more stress and brings up some of the faith-based questions and issues I have found a bit of peace with through something as simple as a quiet hour of running on a secluded forest trail, or along the shoreline.

In any event, if you have read this far, perhaps you are willing to add to the discussion. I write this blog to share my thoughts on running and life, but in so many ways I think we need to act as a community. I love reading other's stories, and that is one facet of the community, but based on this post an how I am feeling, I'd like to offer the following questions and the invitation for anyone who reads this to respond. Post your response in the comments, or post your response on your blog and just leave a link in the comments here.

1.) What does running do for you?
2.) Have you had an injury that has been over an extended period of time? What got you through that time, and how did that time being injured change your perspective on running or shaped your running goals?
3.) Regarding the forthcoming election and the current state of the U.S., are you an optimist, pessimist, or a little of both?
4.) Do you find a spiritual component or connection with running?

As you can see my time as a College Composition and Rhetoric Instructor is showing - don't worry, no one will be graded!

Here's to Open-Mindedness and civil dialogue! Cheers!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Documentaries, War Movies, and Film Scores (This is about running).

As if reading other runner's recent race reports (Yay, Alliteration!) on the various blogs I enjoy:

Fatozzig's Place - Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon:

Breakheart Trail Running - Diamond Hill Trail Race:

Sherpa John's Run Across New Hampshire:

was not enough to provide temporary soothing to my injured knee, I have had a rush of media adrenaline coming at me all week!

First, I got confirmation of my items being shipped from Amazon. Two movies - "Spirit of the Marathon" and "The Runner" (The David Horton versus the Pacific Coast Trail Speed Record flick). That got me pumped and I know after spending an evening watching these two movies back-to-back (it is just inevitable) I am going to be charged with energy and filled with the spirit to put my broken self on the line at Stone Cat.

I also picked up the "Band of Brothers" series set at Newbury Comics the other day. I believe war is a horrible thing, and I think I am a fan of war movies because of the sheer emotion and the reminder of the duality of humanity, and the need to be reminded of why we need to make a conscious effort to at least be civil to each other, instead of finding new and better ways to destroy each other. Don't peg me as a total hippie, because I do agree that sometimes you have to fight to defend yourself and your family, but I digress.

The first episode of the "Band of Brothers" series is called "Currahee", and it follows the soldiers of Easy Company during their time as new recruits at Camp Toccoa in Georgia. One of the resounding elements of the episode is the training on Currahee Mountain where the fledgling paratroopers are sent running up and down the mountain:

Sure, it is often punishment and always PT, but for anyone who has run Cross Country, it has that certain something that always made hellish hill workouts bearable. I always ran the hills for my teammates, that is what got me through some of those college XC hill workouts running up and down the same two hills for 45 minutes. "Three miles up, three miles down!" Perhaps it could be "STONE CAT! 12.5 miles out, 12.5 miles back - plus that 1.2 that gets tacked on!" :-)

In addition to the movies, I found an Internet music player ( with a "Soundtracks" station - under the 'Classical' heading, if you go. New project at work has me doing research most of the day, so I usually have this station on my headphones, and I can't help but get pumped by some of the selections:

Fighting in the 17th - "Backdraft" - Interesting note about this one, I once was known to put this on repeat on my MP3 player and run as fast as I could down Central Street in Saugus toward Lincoln Ave. and Cliftondale Square, I know, it is sad.

He's a Pirate - "Pirates of the Caribbean" - Makes me want to get my bandanna and eye patch so I can swing from the masts, or run 26.2 miles of trails!
Many selections from Braveheart, for which I am always a total sucker!

Of note, but not on the slacker soundtracks play list are ANY of the training montages from the Rocky Movies. Particularly my favorite is the Rocky 4 montage where he runs up the mountain in Russia while "Hearts on Fire" blasts in the background.

I also got a catalogue from RaceReady this week. Their gear is awesome for anyone running long distance races, check them out at

Amid all of the influences, I am still carefully optimistic. I am still holding out hope for Stone Cat. Aside from the 30 minutes I ran this week, I have been really good resting the knee and this week my goal is to cycle for at least an hour Monday through Saturday as long as it doesn't aggravate the knee. I think I'll be less anxious about toeing the line at Stone Cat without any running as long as I stay consistent with my cycling regimen.

So I guess you could say that if I am a good boy and ride my bike, my reward in three weeks is to run 26.2 miles... there is something very wrong with that!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Half-Hour of Hope...

I had no intentions of running when I got home from work tonight. After Sunday's reminder that injured body parts are subject to their own healing schedule - resisting the Mind-Body tangent - I was positive that the Cape Cod Marathon and the Stone Cat Marathon were events that would be whisked off into the realm of DNS's I have accumulated over the last couple years. Not that anything is ever certain at any weight, but I have found injuries can just appear out of thin air when you are carrying extra weight.

When I got home from work after the first LONG day of work I expect to be facing for the next couple week - new deadlined project - Fun stuff, but about six weeks of work stuffed into two weeks, all I could think about in the car was running.

So when I got home I just got my reflective gear, headlamp, and laced up the shoes and headed out. Going slow, but not expecting I'd get very far. Initally the goal was 20 easy, but as I ran I felt like I could bump that to 30 minutes. Though I have been feeling congested all week, everything felt great for the first twenty minutes. I can't say the last 10 minutes hurt, but I started feeling the knee get tight and uncomfortable. Regardless, I was elated to get the 30 minutes in.

It was sort of comical getting to about 15 minutes and having the internal conversation with myself about possibly running Cape Cod. I guess I should be happy that I might be able to swing Stone Cat as long as I stick with low impact training on the bike, and really give my knee the time to heal. I guess the only caution would be that it was the trail that jarred the knee in the first place.

Whether or not I run Stone Cat, I guess I am realizing I need to take the steps to make sure that one month of down time (if that is what it is going to take) doesn't result in two months of recovery and greatly diminished performance. I worked hard to get back to some semblence of being a long distance runner, and this injury is the first real challenge to my fitness. The last time I hurt myself it simply meant time off and then getting back to learning how to run 2 miles, then 3 miles, etc.

Most of all, the run tonight made me realize that I need to cherish every mile and be at peace with what I can do. Yes, there is the desire to strive for more, but as any who have taken up this crazy sport know, odds are if you keep running, you will get faster and develop the ability to go farther. In a weird way I saw these marathons as the pre-requisite to run an ultra, but as I discovered on the last run with Dan and Brenda, with the right pace and the proper motivation, ultras and marathons are sort of the same beast.

I guess this is where the goals for next year begin to rattle in my head, and when USATF-NE comes out with the 2009 Grand Prix Road Series schedule, I may finally have the right fitness to run all of the races, become an "Iron Runner" and then cap it off with my first 50 miler.

Best of luck to everyone tapering for their Fall marathons or ultras - one way or another I'll see you on the trails!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Training - 10/11 - "Look at Me, I'm Invisible!"

For all you running purists that want to crunch my stats from this week, you might want to go elsewhere! For others, prepare to be entertained or offended!

Sunday - 0 miles - Normally a recovery day, so I was only on Defcon 5 at this point. Additionally, my left knee was sore as hell from pushing it for an hour and a half more than it probably wanted yesterday. Not sure if it is a lateral ligament sprain or if it is an IT Band issue. I have had IT issues before, and at least you can stretch the IT band and be ready to run a marathon in three weeks!

Monday and Tuesday - Rest and hopefully recovery.

Wednesday - My legs feel like thoroughbreds in the starting gate, desperately in need of some exercise. My knee still feels funny, and anytime I twist it the wrong way I get that uncomfortable "cease and desist" order. It is going to be REAL cool when I back up 16 weeks of marathon training with three weeks of nothingness! Fark Moo!

Spent the night enjoying the mindless sludge cable has to offer, started watching this show "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and I sort of threw up in my mouth a little bit. At least it is good to know that when society falls apart trail runners will be okay, but these vain.... yeah... will be in trouble.

What kind of reality does one live in when they call their sugar daddy because they want to go out and buy a full loaded Escalade on a whim, AND what kind of reality does the sugar daddy live in when he looks at the $65,000 price tag and says, "Sure".

Thursday - Descended into utter sloth. Two pints of Tetley's English Pub Ale deep, sitting on the couch in my underwear, bag of Goldfish, and Remote, watching American Chopper at 11:52 pm..... Now that is what I call training... Help....

Friday - Nice to have the weekend rolling around. Knee feels somewhat decent, no pain, but there is a tightness? I am not even sure I would use that word. At least it feels like it is getting better. No beers, lots of icing, so I guess I am a big winner today! Still pissed I have to work Monday, but my favorite band, Great Big Sea, did a live studio set on NPR's World Cafe - AWESOME stuff. Check it out:

Saturday - Beautiful Autumn day, hard not to lace up the sneakers and tool around the block for a while, but I promised myself I'd give my knee a week to heal. Perhaps tomorrow I'll run 3 miles? I did cheat a little and went out for a twenty minute walk because the kids were driving me nuts, and it was far too nice of an afternoon.
I guess in summary I do feel infinitely better than I did last week, but I have noticed another lovely issue - perhaps a hernia. It feels like a lower abdomenal strain, but one that doesn't get worse with activity and one that seems to not be getting better with rest. I had an abdominal strain last year and I can say that it was easily aggrevated, so I guess I am a little worried, but I am choosing ignorance at this point. Plus, thanks to the healthcare structure, If I weren't employed I'd be able to afford surgury, but because I am working I am not sure I can... but that is whole other can of worms, but it is totally screwed up if you ask me. I have so many political tangents I could go off on right now, and not to worry they are all bipartisan.
Sort of in a weird place right now, but we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Runner Quirks - Injury times suck!

I hate this!

I have been very fortunate over the last 8 months because I haven't had to face any injuries. Where that is good, it provides the necessary forgetfulness of just how crappy (trying to keep this post "G" rated) injury time can be.

It sucks coming home from work and just plopping on the couch. I thought running after work took time away from doing things at home, but I have found over the last few days of no running, that the time where I am usually running I don't get anything done anyway!

The lack of endorphin has also made me crabby, and I am having that internal conversation about "getting fat". I know, really masculine, right? Not to validate the thought, but I know running a marathon at 185 pounds is easier than running one at 190. Then there is the rigmarole of thoughts about not running Cape Cod to heal enough to run 26.2 at Stone Cat in four weeks, or to run Cape Cod and not Stone Cat, or if it is just a lateral motion issue, and I should buy a knee brace and that will fix the issue... Sometimes being lost in your thoughts is worse than being lost on the trail!

Plus, I get my hopes up with my knee feeling fine after a day of getting up out of the cubicle to walk to the printer or to the head, and then I walk up the five steps at my apartment building and feel a twinge in the side of my knee - not pain - a twinge, which suggests to me that I need to continue to rest it. (This is usually followed by internal swear words because the wee ones are around).

Ah, and then, after assuming I was looking at a long holiday weekend forthcoming, I found out that my company does not observe Columbus Day as a regular holiday. As a runner, I guess I shouldn't mind because they do observe Patriots Day...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Roots and Rocks - An Amazing Feat for a MA runner! (Oh and I have news, too!

Right off of the top, I want to extend huge congrats to Carol O'Hear of Brookline, MA for her 1st place finish at the Arkansas Traveller 100 mile run this weekend. More impressive than being the first woman, though, is the fact that with this finish she completed the Grand Slam of Ultra Running. I have never met Carol, I believe she runs for Team Vasque, but any local runner who completes the slam deserves a couple props. Heaven knows it probably won't make it into the Globe or Herald!

This year was a little different, as the Arkansas Traveller 100 is not normally one of the slam events, but with the cancellation of Western States this year due to forest fires, Arkansas took over as the fourth race in the series.

Here are the races and Carol's finish times:

Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run - July 19-20, 2008 - 24:15:03
Leadville (Colorado) 100 Mile Trail Run - August 16-17, 2008 - 28:31:31
Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run (Utah) - September 6-7, 2008 - 35:37:43
Arkansas Traveller 100 - October 4-5, 2008 - 22:28:22

(Note - Western States Endurance Run is typically the last weekend of June)

Those not familiar with this feat, it is indeed about running four very tough 100 mile endurance runs, but it is also about doing so in a short period of time. Some people train for ONE endurance run of 100 miles over the course of a year and a half, not to mention the fact that some people need months to recover from these types of events. Terrain, altitude, training time, travel time, recovery practices, etc. all factor into the equation when one sets out on such a journey. So one can appreciate that the challenge extends so much farther than the Start and Finish lines of each run.

Congrats Carol, this trail runner simply stands in awe!

In true melodramatic form, I got my Bib number for Cape Cod!

Not that it didn't already feel official with the registration and acceptance, but today I got an email from the Race Director of the Cape Cod Marathon with my Bib Number. Very cool!

With three weeks until the race, I am sort of chomping at the bit, but also hoping that I can heal and get properly rested for the big day. Which I have to say, isn't all that 'big'. I mean, it is because I have sacrificed and trained for over a quarter of a year to get into the shape to be able to even enter a race of this distance. Not to mention the fact that whether or not I achieve both goal races this Fall, I have already accomplished the over-reaching goal I had for 2008.

As the saying goes: "Never forget where you came from", and though it typically applies to ascendancy into wealth or success, it certainly applies to the last year of my life as a runner. I have mentioned this a couple of times in this blog, but last Summer and Fall I was entering 5ks hoping just to finish, and running 23:00 for 5k was impossible. My final race of 2007 was a 5 miler where I made it to 4 miles, feeling spent, pushing to break 40, and held on to run 39:10. Needless to say, I was WRECKED after this race!

In those days the thought of running a marathon was a figment of my imagination. The following winter I found more trouble with bad weather, overuse injuries, and a plateau in my attempt to shed some pounds. After injuring myself once again in February, I took some more time off, feeling somewhat healed, I stood on March 1st at 212 pounds, realizing it was simply time to start from scratch. I worked on getting comfortable just running 3 miles, adding in a "long run" of 6 miles when I felt I could run/walk the distance. The only way I can characterise these early runs is by saying that they were mentally tough because most of the effort was used to make sure I didn't stop and walk. I also added in some of my first trail training runs, and really fell in love with the unique challenges inherent in running trails.

So sitting here having lost 25 pounds, and possessing the ability to join a couple of my running friends to do a training run of 21 miles and having the ability to just go out and run for NUMEROUS hours without too much trouble is TRULY a blessing. It isn't the Ultra-Runner's Grand Slam, but there is something so simplistically sweet about knowing that I have effectively changed my life for the better. If I prove myself worthy of the task, that finisher's medal will be nice, but standing on the Starting Line knowing I have a right to be there is definitely enough to bring a happy tear to my eye.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Mr. Murphy and his Law" - Training W/E October 4th

Sunday - 13.5 - Trail run/Long Run. Hit the Bay Circuit for some trail training since I have committed to running the Stone Cat Marathon. Another humid day, sort of weird to have to deal with humidity this close to October, but I dealt with it. Still feel somewhat off because of the sickness this week, but I got the mileage in. Felt spent by the end of the run. Also had my first trail run in with unsavory individuals using the shade to conduct dastardly deeds, I threw in a surge to make sure I got as far away from whatever they were doing. I also had to re-route because of flooding on the trail - WHAT ELSE IS NEW! 13.5 in 2:12 (9:45 pace). Not bad, but felt logy at the end of the run, probably not a great pace to attempt to run at Stone Cat, then again, I am obviously not 100% right now, and the conditions sucked.

Monday - None - Partly due to feeling like trash from being sick. Rest Day after going longer yesterday.

Tuesday - None - Sinuses are hurting and I have all sorts of congestion. I guess I am not out of the woods just yet!

Wednesday - 8.2 miles - Trying to remain honest with the training plan and include a second longer run of over an hour, I switched what could have only been 5 miles, to 8 miles. It doesn't sound like much, but with the darkness coming sooner, and getting home from work later the last couple of weeks, AND having energy sopped because of this sinus stuff, I was glad I got more mileage down.

I tried running conservatively and wanted to stay close to a certain pace window comparable to what I'd like to run for Cape Cod. In retrospect, I averaged 8:57 for the run, which is great (places me with a surplus of 1:36 after 8 miles), but it also didn't feel as effortless as I had hoped. It is a quandary I haven't been able to figure out, that is, how running slow and controlled can actually feel sort of uncomfortable.

The day after I feel no soreness or strain, so it must have been fairly effortless on my legs, and the discomfort is most likely due to respiratory issues from being sick.

Thursday - Work happened today. Not making excuses, but ahhhhhhh... Let's just leave it at that!

Friday - 'Old Reliable' 3.3 miles. Got home at a reasonable hour (while the sun was still shining!) and just went out and run the 3.3 out and back that I really like because it is very quiet and pastoral. Put a watch on it, but just ran easy, turns out that was 8:04 pace. Good all around!

Saturday - Long Run, Trails - 20+ miles. It is so hard to simply slap a tag on this one run because there were so many good elements to it, yet, as I sit here and type I still feel soreness and pain in my knee. Amid the soreness, I am so glad I ran this morning because I had a chance to hook up with the Breakheart Trail Runner himself, Dan, and with a true Iron Woman, Brenda. Speaking of which, I guess I shouldn't be surprised on group runs anymore when we start running and start the banter to pass the time, and someone throws out something like "Oh, yeah, I did an Ironman Triathlon this year, it was like my fifth". Honestly, though, when you decided to spend your early hours on Saturday meeting friends to run for a couple hours or more on trails you are bound to meet other endurance addicts that have taken on many challenges in many different places.

At this point in my training schedule I wasn't sure I'd be up for as much as 20 to 22 miles, as I was a little concerned about recovery and making sure I properly taper before Cape Cod, then again, Cape Cod is three weeks away, and this is a trail run, so the benefits or an extended run all on trails had far too many positives, especially with my lingering doubts about how I'd be able to handle Stone Cat.

The morning began with a distinct chill in the air, perfect with the foliage. Met up with Dan, and then Brenda followed. We started out in Willowdale and headed along my patented 5.5 mile Willowdale loop o' trail fun - complete with mud, water crossings and great views of the changing colors. Where I anticipated a little water we found about 150 yards of trail covered - a little more than expected! But in true trail running fashion we made our way through the water and soldiered on (is there really any other way?). Adding a couple other out and back spurs on the loop we managed to get about 6.5 miles. Restocked with fluid for the next excursion we headed along the Bay Circuit trail that cuts across Willowdale North to South. This loop was a tad shorter, but got us up over 10+ miles. Back to cars to patch up and analyze wounds, and refuel for another loop through Willowdale. The final jaunt through Willowdale took us back over the previous Bay Circuit loop, but this time we added more of the Stone Cat course over to the Doyon School. As we followed the trail along the north side of Willowdale I found the running to be a little more technical, amplified by the onset of a little "trail runners knee" in my left leg.

I pushed through the discomfort, taking a couple moments to walking and hydrate, and we arrived back at the fishing bridge after nearly 4 hours and. We added on a little distance along the Ipswich River on the Bradley Palmer State Park side, making sure it was truly 20 miles.

I gained a lot of confidence over this run, and thoroughly enjoyed spending the time with Dan and Brenda. It just goes to show that there is some hope for the human race. Where three people who have very briefly met, or haven't ever met at all, and can come together and spend time chatting and enjoying each other's company while focusing on a similar goal. There were no uncomfortable facades that often are present in the workplace or most other areas of life. We arrived to run, no strings attached.

Weekly Miles - 46

Mr. Murphy and his law showed up this week. My left knee is really sore. I suspect it was simply from running over the uneven terrain at Willowdale Saturday and turning my knee a few too many times, but either way I am forced to simply rest the knee. Sitting here typing three days after the run Saturday, I have felt a marked improvement in my knee. It is still a little tender to the touch, but I can flex it and put weight on it without pain, so I don't believe it is damaged.

Also, if worst comes to worst, I have three weeks until Cape Cod, and I have to rest it for a couple weeks and ramp up to the marathon in that final week instead of the solid taper that is scheduled, I am fine with that, too. Yes, I am a little worried about Stone Cat, but Saturday was sort of paradoxical because though I felt the pain in my knee over the course of the run, if it were the actual Marathon I would have found a way to get to the finish line, no matter what.

Until next week...