Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Salty Dogs

Heading home on my morning run, I find a man standing at the bank of Crane Creek, just staring at the sun-flecked water.

"Gator?" I asked.

He turns to me. "I saw something flip, thought maybe it was a snook."

What he saw was a manatee eating grass, he said with glee. A huge smile broke out on his face.


"Gotta love it," I said.

Moments later I encounter a hawk sitting on the road. He turns his head as another hawk flies over and takes off.


If I leave, which is a distinct possibility, I will miss Florida deeply. It has been home to me for most of my adult life. I spent most of my career in journalism here.

But Thursday I will find out whether I still have a job at my newspaper. If I am let go, I will take my running shoes elsewhere.

I will miss many things about Florida, especially the wildlife, the beautiful rivers and lakes, the seashore.

But I won't miss the humidity.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Let's Get Physical (Therapy)

Long-term recovery from traumatic injury is a war of attrition. Every advance is followed by a fallback.

You inch your way forward through time and space, learning to adjust to the body's healing rhythm.

I've spent nearly two years recovering from a deep tissue injury to my right hip sustained during the Tupelo Marathon.

I was in a good place for most of the year through spring, running a 5k and upping the mileage on my roadwork.

I also was hitting the pool for workouts of up to 40 laps.

One day in June, the pain in my right hip exploded. I started a pain management regimen that involved Tramadol and copious amounts of red wine. It was not fun. Nor was it healthy.

I told my doctor and he sent me to a physical therapist. After about a month of therapy involving core-strengthening and hip-stretching I am able to run again. Gingerly, but healthily.

I've put in two runs this week at about 4 miles, concentrating on form -- running on the balls of my feet and tilting my pelvis forward while trying to keep my hips loose and swinging.

I'm not even thinking about getting back to my old pace yet. Slow and steady, you know.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Spring Roll

Wow! Coming back from my morning pace run, I realized that it has been three years since I ran my first marathon, the Mad City Marathon in Madison, Wisc.

I ran a respectable 4:36 that first time out. I also met elite marathon runner Chuck Engle, who's always encouraging his running friends on Facebook to run more.

Six months later, I ran my second marathon, the Space Coast Marathon right here in Brevard County, Fla., my home for the past seven years. I improved considerably, pulling down a 4:06 -- my PR to date.

This anniversary got me thinking about another anniversary that looms ahead like a laughing skull: Labor Day Weekend, when I ran my last marathon two years ago. I blew out my hip at Mile 20 and haven't been the same since.

Eventually, I found a doctor who recommended a series of epidural steroid injections right into my Sacro-Ilial joint. That treatment plus regular visits to the chiropractor and massage therapist, have made running possible. But I am going to need physical therapy to deal with some ongoing joint dislocation issues if I ever want to run another marathon.

And that is the goal. I don't want my sad, tragic performance at the Tupelo to be my last.

But every now and then, life throws you setbacks. The gall bladder surgery set back my training by more than the two weeks it took to recover. Before surgery I was running sub-9 minute miles. Now I'm lucky if I can run two miles straight at a 9:30 pace. But I'm improving, cross-training with bike and swim to rebuild those thigh muscles needed to bring a spring back to my gait.

Spring is all important. You want to strike mid-sole or on the balls of your feet, push your feet off the ground and lift your knee forward, driving ahead with a slight gravitational tilt for maximum efficiency. It's something my running coach taught us over 30 years ago, and it still holds true today. Check out this video on the New York Road Runners website. It is the same technique my cross-country coach at Northport High taught us back in 1974 and I am glad to see it still holds true. I like to call it the Spring Roll.

Form is so important to avoid injury while improving pace and endurance. Run more.

And run like hell.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back on the road again... again

I was running along my usual route on Bignonia Street Sunday when a friend pulled out of his driveway.

"Five miles an hour, not bad," he said as he rode along in his pickup truck.

"Considering I just had gall bladder surgery 10 days ago, I'll take it," I replied before wishing him a nice day.

Getting back on the road after major invasive surgery is an uphill battle. You start way below the level you were at just a week or two earlier, not realizing what a toll the procedure and laying in bed for a week recuperating had on your muscles, your lung capacity, your endurance. It sucks.

I was running at a sub-9 minute training pace right up to the day I went in for outpatient surgery. Sunday I was at a 12-minute pace.

The good news: it doesn't take long to bring the time down again. After one week of running I'm back to a 10:30 pace and hope to bring it down even further when I go out on Saturday for a long run.

On the plus side, I'm about 10-12 pounds thinner thanks to the post-surgery low-fat diet.

As T. Singh of Cornershop sang, "It's good to be on the road back home again, again."

And now, to cheese things up with some good ol' REO Speedwagon:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Raising the bar

At some point along the road to recovery, I knew I would have to get back on the horse and enter a 5K -- a real bona fide, sanctioned, timed running event.

I was putting it off until my pace had improved. I didn't want to run the risk of entering a 5K and finishing in over 30 minutes.

Turned out I had nothing to worry about.

Yesterday, I ran the Downtown Melbourne 5K, a charity run for The Haven for Children, a home for neglected and abused kids managed by my favorite shoe store, The Running Zone.

It was my first in two years. And I did it with brand new shoes: a pair of Brooks Ghosts.

I finished in 26:00.6, not my PR but a respectable 8:23 pace. I actually blazed the first mile out in 8:02.

I rewarded myself with a therapeutic massage after the race.

Frankly, I was surprised I did as well.

I'd been running e months for about four months following the steroid injection therapy into my SI joint, upping the mileage each week, trying to quicken my pace and gauging the pain afterwards.

I was afraid I'd never be able to run faster than a 9:15 pace. Glad I was wrong about that.

Next step, to up the ante. Get my pace down to 8 minutes per mile by the Melbourne Springtime Arts Festival 5K at the end of the month. My goal is 24 minutes.

See you at the finish line.

And now, here's Placebo doing their kick-ass version of "Running up that Hill."

Monday, March 28, 2011

High in the Andes

Back from Bogota less than a week. All I can say it's great to be breathing again at sea level.

I went for a few days of R&R, heard good things from friends who had been and looked forward to sightseeing, hiking the Andes, dancing the night away and maybe even some hang gliding.

I even took my running gear thinking I'd work in some mountain running.

Nobody mentioned the altitude sickness.

Day one was rough. I'd been up since 5 a.m., and spent about 10 hours traveling. When I arrived at the hotel I had to find a place to cash some travelers' checks, and was directed to an AMEX office at a mall around the corner. Walking across the street at a mild incline had me gasping for air.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I was exhausted. My lungs were burning. I downed a Club Colombia beer and slept for the next 14 hours.

The next day was better, but I never got used to the thin air at 8,600 feet. Didn't stop me from spending dawn to dusk exploring every nook and cranny of the city, from La Candelaria (the old colonial district downtown) to Usaquen in the north. So many museums and cafes and restaurants to see!

And Botero everywhere.

All that walking left me with no appetite to run, especially after taking the funicular up to Cerro de Monserrate, a beautiful cathedral on a mountain overlooking the city at 10,400 feet. Just walking the steps up to the cathedral took my breath away, let alone the view!

The real hike came Sunday, when I went to explore Laguna Guatavita, a circular lake of legend and myth. The Muisca tribal chiefs would paint themselves in gold and hurl themselves into the lake. I felt like doing the same thing after hiking an hour about 3,000 feet from the parking area.

We were above the tree line, looking down at an incredible countryside.

It wasn't until my last day that I discovered Coca Tea, which the Colombians drink to combat altitude sickness. Oh, well. I'll be better prepared next time.

Meanwhile, it's great to be back at sea level, breathing the moist, salty Florida air and running again.

And now, here's Cut Copy doing "Sun God," the last track off their latest album, Zonoscope:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dead Presidents Day Off

OK. So I took a personal day.

For health reasons.

After walking all over New York, pushing the envelope on my running schedule and swimming routines, my body pushed back.

Enough! said my hip. Give it a rest! said my shoulder.

My rib heads were popping out and my SI joint was burning.

So I decided to lay off today, and went to see my chiropractor and massage therapist.

The visit was long overdue.

John, my chiropractor, did what he could for my rib heads, adjusting me, applying moist heat and using the drop table to loosen me up.

Then he sent me into Tony for a 15-minute massage before taping up my shoulder and hip with Kinesio tape.

Something new. Kinesio taping has been promoted strongly by Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase. The book John lent me came with a huge disclaimer that he is not offering medical advice.

Kinesio taping is widely used by orphopedists, chiropractors, sports trainers and others as a way to treat inflammation.

Unlike traditional athletic tape, which compresses the muscles and restricts movement, Kinesio taping allows for free range of motion without over-extension, and widens the space between the skin and muscles to promote the flow of lymphatic fluid, according to Kase's manual.

Getting the lymphatic fluid moving supposedly helps reduce the inflammation causing all that pain in the first place.

John taped up my right back shoulder area and hip and told me to leave it on for 2-3 days to let it work. It's waterproof so I can swim and shower in it.

Nuff said. Here's Jay-Z with, you know....