Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shaving Time

Marathon runners are typically in search of any edge they can to help achieve their goals mainly setting a new PR. Most are legal, some are not including the story of elite runner, Eddy Hellebuyck who "came clean" with his use of EPO in the Runner's World article this month. I've done some crazy things myself including shaving my legs for the Chicago Marathon, usually cutting my (head) hair short for race day and even wearing tights in warm weather from Skins who touted their products help legally break records. Some people have tried the Strassburg sock...I own two of them. Wear one one of those bad boys to bed and you're guaranteed to stretch the achilles and plantar while you sleep and guaranteed to remove all romantic thoughts from your bed mate at the same time.

Some people drink a can of coke before a race...I'm still trying to find the magic formula for race day morning but that's a blog story for another day.

Aside from the usual list of odd products and routines are the products that fall into the "snake oil" category.

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from "Outlaw Josey Wales" when Josey confronts the carpetbagger on the ferry;

Carpetbagger: This is it... one dollar a bottle. It works wonders on wounds.
Josey Wales: Works wonders on just about everything, eh?
Carpetbagger: It can do most anything.
Josey Wales: [spits tobacco juice on the carpetbagger's coat] How is it with stains?

My bedroom bathroom cupboard has a myriad of such magic elixirs. Ironically, many are purchased at expo's the day before a big race & others have come home from the health grocer. Both are obvious sources for runners trying to get a race day advantage. Some of the products I'm either proud or embarrassed to admit owning;

Dr. Singha's Mustard Bath. Really?!?! No I didn't make this one up. My brother turned me onto this one. Touted as "an aid in relieving many ailments. These include stress, muscle and joint soreness..." Sign me up Doctor! I use this after a long run in my bath...usually combined with Epsom salts.

Jones' Formula 23 instant Pain Relief. I bought this one at an expo before the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon. Insert hook in mouth. This one is sort of a liquid BenGay. It did seem to put my bum wheel (leg) at ease on the expo floor, but did nothing to rid the pain that plagued me that whole race. I should have looked closer at the label that showed the J23 logo...was Jones trying to channel Michael Jordon's mojo into his product?

Power Balance Bracelet
. This one my "jury's out." I bought my first (at an expo) before my first BQ and I've been wearing one ever since. Power Balance shows many professional athletes who wear their kryptonite bracelets and necklaces that guessed it, power and balance.

Body Shop Hemp Foot Protector. Talk about "happy feet." This is one of the best at providing relief from the hundreds of miles put on my feet. Probably due to better socks and my good friend, Body Glide, my feet don't have the blisters they used to, but a little of this ganja lotion on my feet go a long way towards keeping the feet in working order.

Total Pain Solutions Anti-inflammatory cream (diclof/bupiv.) Individual results may vary and consult your physician, but I need to buy stock in these guys. After taking x-rays of my sore heel and consulting with my running physical therapist and podiatrist, my podiatrist prescribed this cocktail I apply to my sore heel. Part of the problem is that circulation is not the greatest in the back of my heel and oral anti-inflammatory products circulate through your whole system. Applied directly to the heel...early feedback on this stuff is two thumbs up!

Today marks 110 days away from the 115th running of the Boston Marathon in April. As you can tell from the crazy list of products in my cupboard, I'm willing to do just about anything to shave some time off my time and arrive race day healthy. You just won't catch me shaving my legs again.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Turn Your Head and Cough

I remember as a kid when playing little league football, you were required to have a physical & hand deliver the clearance note to your coach so you could play. I just had a flashback of the intimidating white lab coat handling the ice cold medical instruments (were they stored in the fridge I wondered?) and the awkward "turn your head and cough" treatment--what was the point of that?

Anyhow, this week was the equivalent of the little league physical to clear myself & commence the 600 training miles in preparation for the upcoming Boston Marathon in April. Yes, it's that time again. This check-up was voluntary. As I've blogged about, the race I had in Portland in October was a tough one for me which resulted in heel pain I've been dealing with since then. I've had a long layoff to heal the heel and to rest from over-training. Erring on the side of caution, I even went in for x-rays to make sure I didn't have anything serious that would have wasted my BQ not to mention the condo and airfare I've already booked.

In the back of my mind, I knew that while the x-ray showed no obvious breaks, it wouldn't necessarily show the nasty four letter word; stress fracture (okay that's fourteen letters.) To provide peace of mind, I scheduled two appointments; with Mark Plaatjes (one of my running guru's, and physical therapist) and a local podiatrist.

Heading into Plaatjes office in Boulder, I was concerned that I'd get the lecture, "why didn't you come see me sooner," or "we'll have to get an MRI on that." While I'm walking without pain, and & I started pre-training miles this week without issue, pushing on the back of my heel still produces a dull pain. The good Dr. started asking about my last race injury and I confessed that I'd made a rookie mistake by using a different lighter race day shoe (Asics Speedstar) with not enough miles on them (rule 101 in a marathon says "don't try anything new on race day.") After Portland, my achilles tendons were as tight as thick piano strings & I pointed blame at the shoes. I'm going to burn them in a podcast. Plaatjes put my deepest fears to rest that the affected area is not a common stress fracture area & pinpointed it to a bursa; rectrocalcaneal bursitis.

I have run races and trained through a malady of injuries, but this one sounded like something I could muscle through; pun intended. The usual list of treatments were recommended; strength conditioning, stretching, more stretching, ice, heat, massage, and time with my foam roller. Plaatjes had previously diagnosed part of my problem was a left leg slightly shorter than my right which lead to a lift in my running shoe. I also have a second toe slightly longer than my big toe (again on the left foot.) As far as the shorter leg, you can imagine the unorthodox torque that puts on the body over 600 training miles and an all out race of 26.2 miles. It's no wonder that most of my injuries have been on the left side. Upon inspected the lift in my shoe, the 1600 miles I've put on the cork-based lift had flattened it. I left Boulder with a new lift glad and happy that I didn't hear the four letter word.

I debated whether or not to cancel the podiatrist appointment but figured it wouldn't hurt to get another look at it. Ironically, the podiatrist was a marathon runner himself which gave me confidence that he knew runner body issues. I "replayed the tape" of Portland and the visit to Boulder & brought the x-rays taken from the month before. For the most part, he confirmed what I'd learned earlier in the week, but tendonitis was also mentioned as a possible culprit. An inspection of the x-ray showed some "build-up" around the area, but the specialist dismissed it as common for the amount of strain a marathon runner puts on the body. Essentially, the same treatment was prescribed along with a topical anti-inflammatory ointment. After an inspection of my orthotics, I was once again cleared for take-off and out the door.

For this weekend's short long run I will have my medical permission slip figuratively in my head as I head into the ramp of Boston training miles. Lucky break.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Punched Tempation in the Nose

I'd fallen off the wagon. A mere eight weeks ago, I was in peak running shape having just completed my fourth marathon in 10 months. Suffering from exhaustion, over-training, and a wicked pain in my left foot, I put myself on a running sabbatical. While I focused on cross training and strength training as a substitute, my diet went into the toilet...poor timing with the first of three gluton holidays on the calendar.

I'd like to say, I've put on ten pounds of muscle, but my inner runner freak feels I've put on ten pounds of fat. Temptations were all around me; the Thanksgiving menu with all the trimmings, stress, and a few business trips with less exercise and more dinners. The "final straw" was the running devil delivered a goodie vending box to the office this week. No mas! Today kicked off my first day back running followed by a healthy Larabar and Vitamin Water after the lunch run. Running devil..I spit on you! Ptewey!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Wall: Rated R for Running Language After Mile 20

As I took in Roger Water's recent Wall concert in Denver, I could not help draw the parallels of "hitting the wall" as a marathon runner. As far as the concert, it was well worth the $250 price tag for the reprise of the concert production first staged 30 years prior. The concert began with a half built wall across the entire length of the stage and as the show progressed, stage hands deftly added bricks (all in all, it's just another brick in the wall) as video projected onto the wall showing anti-war and oppression images.

As a marathon runner, I have dealt with hitting the wall in virtually all but one race. San Diego's Rock and Roll Marathon was my first in 2007. I'd entered the race with visions of qualifying for Boston in my first ever marathon (yeah...right...) having self trained myself only armed with internet research and having read Hal Higdon's Marathon Guide. All seemed well until I hit the 20ish mile when the wheels began to fall off. Having ignored a slight hitch in my giddyup, a sore hip prior to the race turned into an inflamed throbing pain that had me running with a notable slump on my whole left side. As proof, one of the photos I'd purchased showed the grimace, the slump, and some dude 20 years senior to me about ready to pass me. While San Diego is picturesque the last few miles (of the old course) prior to entering the Marine Corp base is a "Mad Max" barren wasteland with slight highway overpasses that felt like hills from back home in Colorado. Hmm...they didn't use this in the brochure. And to really piss you off, there was a downhill stretch that had the mirror uphill stretch on your left as you ran down the hill in the heat that emerged.

Thoughts and phrases that entered my mind in San Diego and other races since then upon smacking the wall include;

"This is my last race."

"I'm going to retire."

"How much did I pay for this?"

"Can't this be over?"

"I quit."

"Hey cabbie!"

"How 'bout I walk my way to the finish."

"I think I'll take up cycling," and

"Go fuck yourself" (to the individuals who say, "you're almost there" when you know you're not.) I apologize in advance to my mom and those that view SeekingBostonMarathon as a family show but that's what the running demons in my head said, not me.

Other notable walls included my only mountain course; Steamboat Springs with the hill around mile 18 combined with a 4-5 mile stretch without a water station. Really?! Last years' Boston Marathon whose downhill start lulled me into a fast start and overconfidence then lead to deep knee bends in the later water stations. Then there was Portland where the wall hit me like a Mack Truck. Portland was the culmination of four marathons in ten months. Insanity. Even Meb and Ryan don't run four in ten months. What was I thinking? Obviously the marathon addiction had clouded my judgement and I paid for it as with it as the video showed a confident 13 mile mark which was contrasted by the old man shuffle I was doing at Mile 25.

After Portland, I had a pain in my heel that had me concerned enough to get x-rays on it; you know it's a tough wall when it leads to x-rays. Subconsciously, I was worried that I may even have a stress fracture again. I ran Chicago on a stress fracture (but didn't know it) which combined with record heat meant "one whale of a" wall and the pace group leaving me in the dust somewhere after Chinatown.

Skipping an MRI after Portland, I self prescribed five weeks of no running. That's like telling Dennis Rodman he can't go to Vegas or Charlie Sheen he can't trash a hotel room. Cold running. Redirecting my energy, I have done eliptical, spin, and weight training to give the running part of my body a chance to heal while strengthening at the same time. Included in the weight training is plenty of quads (I call them Meb quads cuz that guy has some wicked pistons,) hammies, multi-hips, and abductors to have a strong set of wheels for the hills upcoming in Boston in April. The good news is that I feel rested, my heel feels great as does the sore plantar associated with it.

Just as Waters' Wall concert ended with the wall crashing down and thunderous applause , I will once again try and tear down the marathon wall starting with my Boston training plan in two weeks. "All in all, it's just another brick in the wall."

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine