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....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Manhattan Marathon

Running around Manhattan for four days must have been just the cross-training I needed because the second day I got home I ran 9 miles at a solid 10-minute pace.

That was the good part.

The downside of all this is that about eight hours later I was having a blazing muscle spasm in my left hip.

That was odd. I've spent the last 18 months recuperating from an injury to my right hip's SI Joint, culminating in three months of steroid injections.

So what's this?

Fortunately, the spasms hit toward the end of the work day. I managed to get through the last hour, walked out to my car and popped a Tramadol and a muscle relaxer. By the time I got home, the pain was subsiding a little bit. Two glasses of Cotes du Rhone later and the pain was gone.

This morning, I feel like my old self again. Which is to say, a little sore but ready to run.

Maybe I'm ready for a half-marathon, after all.

And now, here's The Stranglers, with "Something Better Change."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Telltale Signs of Wear & Tear

The pool where I swim is one of those places where triathletes gather to train, shoot the breeze, compare performance times and trade war stories.

One of those triathletes is a friend I'll call Wolf. He's about two years older than me and had a hip replacement two years ago and has recovered marvelously. I see him running every now an then at a pretty good clip on the same street  run on, and he is swimming, biking and doing yoga.

Yesterday, I told him about my hip injury from the Tupelo Marathon a year and a half ago, the terrible time I had getting a proper diagnosis, and the steroid injections in my right SI joint that got me back on the road to recovery. Because of my lingering concerns about hip deterioration and thinking one day I might need hip replacement surgery, I asked him what sort of signals he was getting from his body before he needed surgery.

"I broke my leg running the New York City Marathon," he said He'd been running with a hairline fracture that broke clean through and left him laying on the pavement waiting for an ambulance.

The hospital repaired the damage with a bunch of pins, the hip got infected and after several surgeries he had the hip completely replaced.

His hip is fine, he said. Now it's his left knee.

"Sucks getting old," I told him.

We had a laugh about that but it got me thinking. What if I've been running with a hairline or stress fracture and don't even know it? I could be running merrily along when, Pow! My hip breaks, or my femur shatters and down I go. That feeling I had at mile 20 in the Tupelo race sure felt like something snapped.

Stress fractures don't show up on regular x-rays. You would need a PET scan, my chiropractor friend John said over drinks at the pub last night.

I'm sure that's not the case with me, just arthritis from age. As I told Wolf, it sucks getting old.

Which reminds me. Time to sign up for the NYC Marathon.

And now, here's "Duchess" by The Stranglers:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stars of Track & Field

Because I was unable to run the Melbourne and the Beaches Music Marathon this past weekend, I did the next best thing: I volunteered.

  • Out at the starting area and registration table at 6:30 a.m., greeting runners in the light drizzle and cheering them on.
  • At the starting line just before 7 a.m., a megaphone thrust into my hand, telling everyone to stay to the right of the orange cones if they wanted their race chips to activate.
  • Moving boxes to the storage trailer and heading over to the finish line to await the first finishers for the half-marathon.
It was at that point that Deb, the volunteer coordinator, handed me a key to the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce building and said, "Go over there and open it at 8 a.m. for the elite runners."

It wasn't what I had in mind. I had imagined myself handing out water and Gatorade at one of the dozens of stations along the course, or riding my bike back and forth looking for stragglers, the injured or the lame.

But staying out of the rain and cold for a couple of hours wasn't such a bad thing, and I'd still get to watch the middle-pack runners come across the finish later. My people.

I was sitting at a computer in the lobby when the first runners came in. They startled me so that I grabbed my flimsy styrofoam cup of coffee and spilled it on the floor. After cleaning up, I started greeting the incoming runners -- among the best amateur athletes in the nation. They'd come from Colorado, Chicago and northern Pennsylvania to run in our little race.

But the biggest moment of the day came when Bill Rodgers (seated in photo at right) and Frank Shorter came into the room. Rodgers sat, exhausted, drenched in sweat. I shook his hand and told him what a fan I had been since high school. We chatted about his performance a bit, the course and the weather. 

Shorter came in moments later, wearing a hat and sweating. He said he had run the course backwards. I told him it was because of him and Rodgers that I began running cross-country in high school and continue to run to this day.

They both seemed like really nice, down-to-earth guys -- and a lot smaller than I'd imagined.

Zola Budd (standing in photo) was there, too. And for the record, yes, she was wearing running shoes.

It was a grand moment in my life, and my reward for helping out. From now on, whenever I'm injured or not ready in my training cycle to run a marathon, I'd gladly volunteer again.

And now, here's Mercury Rev with "Goddess on a Highway":

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grease is the word

When you haven't run real distances in a while, say anything over 4-5 miles, you sometimes forget one crucial ingredient: grease.

Last week, when I wound up running 9 miles, I forgot to grease up the legs and I suffered all day for it with raw, chafed skin on my inner thighs.

Today, before I kicked off a moderate 7.5 miler, I applied Vaseline to the upper legs. 

What a difference a little lube job can make.

So, from now on, whenever I run over 6 miles, out comes the jar of petroleum jelly.

The hard part is washing it off afterwards. I recommend Dr. Bronner's peppermint castile soap.

For the record: 7.5 miles at 1:18:52 for a moderate 10:30 pace. That's far off from what I was running before my SI Joint and hip socket injuries, but I'll take it.

The idea for now is to increase distance on weekends, and increase pace during the shorter runs during the week.

Swimming complements the road work perfectly. The muscles I work out running get a rest when I swim, and the swimming strengthens the core for when I'm running.

Thursday's swim was so much better than Monday's. I cannot wait to get into the pool again.

And now, for your musical entertainment, here's the original video of Flaming Lips doing "She Don't Use Jelly."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reasons to be cheerful

This has been a really good week for me. My SI Joint  pain is nearly gone, although the hip socket is a bit tender, most likely from all the running.

I ran a very good, steady pace Wednesday for a 38:52 four-miler, which was a minute less than the same course I ran the day before. Running back-to-back pace days seems to be working for me, but I am really feeling the need to lay up today, maybe swim this afternoon.

That was coming off a weekend of a 9-mile run on Saturday followed by a 4-miler on Sunday. The long run took a long time to recover from -- all day.

But it feels like my body is getting conditioned, bouncing back from extra-vigorous workouts and settling into the routine of four-mile runs at sub-10-minute paces. I am grateful that I have the legs to run, the lung capacity to breathe and the good health to be so active.

I wear a bracelet that reminds me not all people in my life are not as fortunate to enjoy such robust health. My friend Karan made it. She has Cystic Fibrosis, and is a survivor of a double lung transplant.

She asked her friends to wear it to keep her in their minds and heart as she goes through a rough patch. Wearing it on my left wrist reminds me of her bravery and cheer, and that for some people breathing is a struggle.

And so, I run for Karan. I can be her legs and her lungs and she can cheer me on in my recovery from my hip injury.

And I will whine a little less when my hip aches or my muscles are sore.

The first day I wore the bracelet running, Ian Dury and the Blockheads' "Clever Trevor" was the last song to play on my iPod Nano. It's inspirational. Quite.

Here it is again. Enjoy: