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I Run Natural Twenties

I’ve seen less than consistent running in the first two months of the fall-season, and that’s on top of a random self-inflicted groin injury, and my recent ankle re-injury.  As a consequence, my mileage surplus has morphed into a deficit, and my resolution to run 1000 miles is suddenly in danger of failing.  To hit my goal by December 31st, I have to run 150 more miles, or about 2.5 miles per day.  Assuming I don’t get injured again, 2.5 mile runs are well within my reach, but I rarely run 7 days a week anymore, so (conservatively speaking) my actual goal is more like 20 miles per week, spread out over the days however I choose.

I know I can do this, and I have 60 days to prove myself right.

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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in No Easy Days

 

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Ankle Again

Ten days ago, I drove 320 miles to a race in Connecticut.  I had hoped that traveling with the college running club to complete in a NIRCA regional race would help me recapture some of what I had missed by not running competitively in college.

Sadly, I sprained my ankle during the warm-up, thirty minutes before the race started, and all I was able to capture was 640 wasted miles on my car.

Compared to last year’s sprain, this one was minor, and while I haven’t been running I have managed to enjoy the time off via weight lifting, ankle excercises, and excruciating ice-bucket-ankle-soaking.  I’m hoping to come back sometime this week.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2008 in No Easy Days

 

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Racing Focus

This weekend I ran a 6K race on a course that I had raced approximately 1-year ago. When I ran it last fall, I was going through some rough times, having recently broken up with my girlfriend of six years, and was generally preoccupied with desperate thoughts. I have been known to complain about not being able to focus in races anymore, but back then I had abandoned all hope of being able to concentrate on anything. I literally couldn’t even focus while tying my own shoelaces.

But I’ve healed quite a bit since then, and this time my head was mostly in the game.

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At the start I went out very slowly to protect my weak ankle (nothing like going out dead last in a race that includes competitors over twice as old as you). After the initial sprint I keyed off one of the veteran runners on our team – an impressively fast man we refer to as “Coach” – who was running about 100 meters ahead of me. Coach was wearing a fluorescent yellow long sleeve t-shirt, which helped me catch up with him just over 1/2 mile into the race. Again playing it safe, I decided to just hang with him for once rather than powering past him for a mile only to be passed in a humiliating way later on.

Coach is a consistent runner, and running consistently hard felt uncomfortable to me. I imagined for a moment that I was the comic book hero Spawn, and could summon the chains of the underworld to anchor me to my enemies. From then on I was attached to Coach by steel bonds, and I didn’t separate from him for another two miles.

When you run a race, there are constantly angels and devils whispering into your ears. The angels say “you can do it! pain is temporary, glory is forever!“, while the devils simultaneously whisper “the pain is too much! nobody will know if you slow down.” I listened to them both at various points in the race, but with half a mile left to go I was listening to the devils, who were saying “if you slow down now, then that man in black ahead of you won’t be close enough to catch at the end, and you won’t have to work as hard.

Because I tend to run races near people who are significantly older than me, I usually don’t get passed in the last quarter mile. In Sunday’s race, Coach passed me with about 600 meters to go, right after I had succumbed to the sweet advice of the racing devils and let the man in black get away from me. Something woke up in me then, and the voices of both the angels and the devils were gone. I put on a short spurt to catch coach and hang on his tail.

Coming down the final stretch I knew it was just me and Coach — I had judged from the cheering that our closest competitors were 30 meters back. With 300 meters left I was ready to drop the hammer and tear though the grass between me and the finish like an out-of-control tractor. But something strange happened. The world got quiet, and I decided to just finish with Coach. I had a Zen moment where the refractory bit of glory gained by burning down the final stretch was replaced with the satisfaction of running a smart, hard race with one of my teammates.

Maybe the devils were speaking to me then too, telling me that there was no need to work hard to pass my own teammate, but I think that I learned something important about racing, patience, and teamwork this weekend. I ran the 6K course 12 seconds faster this year, and that’s after taking four weeks off from running to heal my ankle.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2007 in No Easy Days

 

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My One Weakness

After a week of exercises, my ankle feels significantly better. The pain and swelling has been mostly replaced by a constant soreness, and my focus is now on rehabbing it properly to prevent re-injury. Yesterday I went for a short 16 minute jog on a flat paved trail near my house. My left ankle was noticeably weak, but it was great to be sucking wind and moving a bit.

My one complaint is that there’s something wrong with my achilles or heel area. The physical therapist said that I might have injured the spot where the achilles connects to the heel. This causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot when I extend my ankle fully, particularly if it’s bearing weight (e.g. calf raises). There seem to be a number of possible causes for this type of pain, but for now I think the only thing I can do is strengthen the area, stretch it out, and take it slow.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2007 in No Easy Days

 

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The Third Ligament

Like I mentioned earlier this week, I recently suffered an ankle sprain that has prevented me from running for almost two weeks now. At the recommendation of Tony and another friend, I made a trip to physical therapy this morning. It turns out that there is a new local law that allows patients to refer themselves to a physical therapist rather than going through a primary care physician, which allowed me to get an appointment rather quickly.

The ankle itself has healed quite a bit since Monday. My foot is still slightly bruised, and I get a twinge of pain occasionally when I take a bad step or put my shoe on too fast. The biggest problem is that it’s still swelling up some whenever I walk around too much, which gives the feeling that my whole foot is numb. I explained my symptoms to the therapist, who did a series of measurements comparing the flexibility and size of one of my ankles to the other. The range of motion of my injured ankle was down by as much as 30% in certain directions (that’s my estimate based on looking over her shoulder at the measurements). This isn’t terrible, considering that my “good” ankle is actually very flexible, but it helps establish a goal for the rehabilitation process.

She also felt my ankles up for a while to see where the sore spots were, and decided that I had stretched the posterior talofibular ligament. There are three ankle ligaments, shown in blue in the picture, and she proposed that the reason I was bruising more with this injury was that either I had never torn this particular ligament in previous ankle injuries, or I had reopened some scar tissue from previous injuries.

A lot of this is guesswork, but I feel like physical therapy is somehow more codified than, say, evaluating an ear, nose, or throat infection. The therapist prescribed an aggressive set of exercises, along with some biking and perhaps water running, and I’m going to go back in a week.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2007 in No Easy Days

 

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It’s Never Easy

When I was living at altitude in New Mexico this summer, I would often joke that as soon as I got back to sea-level I’d run a 5K, set my ‘post-high-school’ personal record, and then retire from running forever.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

The week I returned, I had an allergic reaction to the dog that my roommate Phoebe rescued over the summer. Suffering an asthma attack is not the ideal way to start a cross country season, but I got on my inhalers, and once the dog was made to live outside I started feeling better. Luckily, this wasn’t the precipitous end to my running career that it could have been.

My first race back home was a nice 3 miler on a flat and fast XC course on mowed fields and some trails. I ran it in 18:16, much better than anything I’ve done since high school. It wasn’t easy, but it showed that I was in good racing shape. The following Monday I decided to go for an easy nighttime recovery run. About 1 mile into it, BAM!, I twisted my ankle on a stray piece of wood and hit the sidewalk like a wet bag of groceries. After rolling around on the ground for five minutes I stood up and began the long, awkward, and excruciating hobble back to my house. (N.B. – If you ever happen to drive by someone dressed in running clothes who is limping alongside the road clutching their leg in agony, consider slowing down to ask them if they need help).

It’s been a week since that run. After 4 days of Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, the swelling reduced, but left in its wake some nasty bruises. Now it’s still bruised, and I can’t move the ankle through its range of motion without pain. This is the worst ankle injury I’ve had in years, and it stinks to be taking so much time off at the beginning of cross country. I feel like everything I worked for training over the summer is gone… Is it?

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2007 in No Easy Days

 

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