Saturday, July 23, 2016

2nd Annual Poorly Organized Mugrage Park 6-Hour Run

Early on, the heat wasn't quite so awful. Here I am with Felicia Fago.  Harold Dravenstott photo

MP6 is yet another baby of mine. The club reserves the picnic shelter for the entire day of the club picnic. The picnic isn’t until 4:00pm, so I figure hey – why not run there for six hours in the morning? I guess now that we’ve done it two years in a row, that it’s now a thing.

And the poorly organized part? I think it’s best to set expectations as low as they’ll go. Then everyone may possibly be delighted when the poor organization isn’t all that bad. In fact, we had several truly wonderful volunteers again this year, and they deserve all the credit. All I do is put the event out there, and then run the thing.

It was hot this year. Even at the 6:00am start, it was getting toasty. Naturally it got hotter as the morning wore on. 38 intrepid runners braved the heat and humidity. I think they all enjoyed it immensely, in spite of the heat. I sure did. You could say that there were miles of smiles.

My goals were fairly modest: a) don’t die, b) if I don’t die, maybe run a fair amount of miles, c) if I can run a fair amount of miles, maybe run as many as 31 of them – 50K would be an achievement. But given my continuing Achilles Tendonitis pain and related poor fitness, c) would be a challenge.

The early miles were fine. I stopped every 5 of the 0.95 mile laps to refuel, and this wound up to be a pretty good strategy. I think that with all the stops I was initially averaging around 10 minutes per mile. I think it was about 8:45am when the heat began to take its terrible toll on me. But I was still moving forward, and at 3 hours, had around 17.5 miles. I slowed a lot after that: I didn’t hit 25 laps (around 24 miles) until 4.5 hours, and those final 5 laps, which I mostly walked, took all of an hour and 21 minutes.

That added up to 30 laps for 28.5 miles. Not bad, but not quite 50K. Did I mention that it was beastly hot? And oh, yes, I finished second to overall winner Theresa Wright. Yup, I was chicked. I guess I’ll get over it. Some day.
The whole gang after the noon finish                          Jennifer Case photo

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

AT: What Works, and What Ain’t

It’s been over three years now. I initially thought it might be plantar fasciitis, since that was another malady that I’d done battle with in past years. Then two years ago I received the diagnosis of Achilles Tendinosis. There are subtle differences between tendinosis and tendonitis, but tendinosis is generally considered to be the chronic form of the injury.


Chronic is right: Thirty-six months of pain. Of course it isn’t always the same. It’s subsided at times, only to come roaring back other times. But it’s never gone away completely. This post is my attempt to list and describe my experience regarding the “for better or worse” influencing factors.


Running, Part 1

Running hurts. The AT pain is significantly greater during the days that I do my morning run than for the ones that I don’t. Since I only take one or two days off each week, that’s a lot of pain. Naturally some types of running seem to influence the pain more than others. I’ll get more specific about this later on in this post.



When I received my diagnosis in 2014, the doctor prescribed nitroglycerine patches and Physical Therapy (PT). I used the nitro for about six months. There was no change to my condition.



The Novacare Physical Therapy did help, but only up to a point. Six months after seeing the doctor, I began this treatment. I went twice a week for several weeks. There was significant progress at first, but after a couple weeks there were diminishing returns. About four weeks and eight sessions in, my cost/benefit brain informed me that since the condition was no longer improving, there was no point in continuing to pay for the service.


Eccentric Exercise

Eccentric exercise in this case refers to simple heel drops done on a raised surface. Several articles, including this very good one, consider eccentric exercise the “gold standard” for strengthening and repairing the Achilles tendon. And my experience has been quite positive; I’ve been doing the lifts after runs for some time, and they always seem to provide some relief. Now, after re-reading the article for the umpteenth time, I’ve started doing even more heel-drops: 3 sets of 15, twice a day. I am instructed to continue this therapy for 12 weeks. It’s been three, and again, there’s been some improvement. The thing is to not re-injure it. Which, of course, I do regularly.



Ouch. No, that’s not quite right; OUCH! Yes, driving hurts. The AT is in my right heel, of course, and I don’t believe that’s a coincidence; I spend over two hours in the car each day, and that’s a lot of pedal pushing. The absolutely most painful thing I can do is to get in the car and drive somewhere soon after a run. BIG OUCH!! Unfortunately, a good percentage of my runs do involve getting into the car and driving afterwards.



Walking hurts, but only when I’m hurting more anyway. I am pretty sure that walking does not create any further injury.


The Boot

Wearing my night splint does seem to help. At least I have felt better the morning after wearing the clumsy thing. In fact, stretching the tendon such that my foot is more than 90 degrees flexed helps even when I’m seated at my desk and such. Some articles, however, warn against excessive stretching, and they note that night splints aren’t too helpful because they only flex one of the two main muscle groups involved. I don’t use the boot anymore.



These orthotics, as they’re also known, are sold over the counter. I like Superfeet brand. I wear them in some of my running shoes, and even some of my casual work shoes. They seem to help, but only a little. Very little.


Surgery and Other More Aggressive Treatment

I haven’t tried anything more aggressive than the other treatments noted here. Everything I read says that there is no proven aggressive technique. But new technology is being applied all the time. Maybe in the future..


Running Part 2

And now for some factors more specific to running:



Speed Kills. I hit the track about a month ago, the first time in half a year. I am still paying the price for that little workout. My usual slow plodding doesn’t appear to do as much damage as when I pick up the pace. I can’t even think about a shorter race such as a 5K or marathon.



Hills hurt horrendously. They’re almost as bad as speedwork.


Soft or Hard Surface

Soft seems better. I’ve done some long runs on the limestone and dirt surfaced Lester Rail Trail, and the slightly softer landings didn’t hurt, at least not any more than concrete or asphalt. Having said that, I’ve been careful about any other trail running. I’m afraid of uneven surfaces, even when they’re soft. Not to mention rocks or roots causing a sudden hard footfall, a twisted ankle or a partial or complete trip.


Soft or Hard Shoes

Minimalist shoes with low heel drops are definitely out. They may possibly be the primary cause, or at least a contributing factor of this whole thing; I’d been experimenting with them when I first noticed the condition. Having said that, I’m currently running in some Hokas and Sauconys that have somewhat lower than average drops. But the shoes not what you’d call minimal, and of course they have plenty of cushioning. That cush does appear to help. A little. Very little.



By a quick count, I believe that since my diagnosis I’ve done about six ultras and three marathons. I think it was that last 50-miler (Rock the Ridge) that really got me. The others had me limping a little afterwards as well, but not nearly as much as I am now. Before that April 30 run, I would have said that my Achilles can handle distance; it was only the speed that I needed to watch. Now I’m not so sure.


Running, Part 3

Here’s something I am sure about. Running hurts. I should probably quit until this thing gets all the way better…. Maybe after MP6. And NC24. And BW50K.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Twin Sizzler Race Report by Malcolm Dancer

Mom, Grandma, Vincent and I arrive at the Medina Gazebo. Where's Grandpa? Mom is a little worried since he was supposed to meet us here, but Grandma just says that he's probably still running around and not to worry. Eventually he makes the scene, carrying these pieces of paper with numbers on them along with some safety pins.

Mom pins the paper to my shirt. I hate the thing. I try to rip it off, but can only tug at the pins. What kind of paper is this? Mom and Grandpa inform me that I need this "bib" to run in the race. I still hate it.

Vincent tells Mom that he has decided not to run. "I want to let Malcolm win this time," he says. (I would have smoked him anyway. After all, the kid's two years younger than me.) Grandma will stay with him whilst Grandpa, Mom and I run.

We go into the street with a lot of other people. Mom tells me that we are lining up for the start. I still hate this darn bib on my shirt! Before I can complain again, a big horn goes off, and Mom and Grandpa say, "Let's run!"

As we begin running, Grandpa tells me, not for the first time, to start off running slowly so that I can save my energy. He says that a mile is a long way. The heck with that! All the other kids are running fast down the hill, so I do too!

This is fun! I run by the Policeman who stopped all the cars to let us run by. I come to some railroad tracks, and I stop to look for trains. Grandpa tells me that there won't be any trains today. He also says, "c'mon, let's keep running!" So I do. For a while.

I'm tired, so I stop. Grandpa tells me that I should at least walk when I am too tired to run. Instead, I run real fast again. Then I stop to rest again. And so on. Grandpa has a tough time keeping up with me when I'm running fast! And Mom is falling behind. Grandpa tells Mom not to worry, because he will stay with me. Ha! We'll see about that!

Grandpa was right about one thing: a mile is a long way. I slow down a little, and keep running. We are passing some other people, but then they pass us when I slow down or stop. Grandpa seems to know lots of them.

Grandpa points the way to the finish. Like I needed him to tell me that it's right up the road.         John McCarroll photo

We turn onto a road made of bricks! Grandpa tells me to be careful not to trip. Heck with that! This part is downhill, and I am running fast again. Grandpa tells me that we can see the finish line far ahead. We finish running on the bricks, cross the railroad tracks (still no trains) and come up a hill to the finish line.

Naturally I outsprint Grandpa to finish ahead of him. That part was easy! And fun! Someone hands me a ribbon that's red, white and blue. Grandpa tells me that it's my award. I can't wait to put it in my room!

Vincent and Grandma are there to cheer me on. We all cheer for Mom as she runs in. Vincent has a dinosaur made of skinny balloons. I want one too, so we ask a lady to make me one, and she does.

And that's my story. Grandpa says there will be more to come! I sure hope so.

This is when I lowered the hammer to leave Grandpa in the dust!                                John McCarroll photo

Friday, July 01, 2016


That's my mileage for the first half of the year. Oh, and the average speed was 6.0 mph. Not to mention that I burned 129,065 calories whilst taking 2,337,516 steps. Gotta love that Garmin.

This AT thing has been really taking it's toll however. The second half may not be so stellar.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Thought, Therefore I Was

Rene Decartes walked into a bar and ordered six shots with six beers. The bartender lined them up, but then decided to ask, "are you sure you can drink all these?" Descartes paused, then said, "I think not." And then he immediately disappeared.

I love that one. Last week's long run went well. I managed the distance without mishap, and the old AT didn't hurt overly much afterwards. I began to think that perhaps I'd be able to get through the upcoming Buckeye Trail 50K after all. This week's long run is a different story.

It's mile twenty. This is where the Wall occurs for many runners. After hours of hard effort, a runner's glycogen becomes depleted, often at this point in a race, causing any effort at forward motion to be extremely difficult. Proper nutrition, sensible pacing, not to mention training, can help stave it off. Personally, I run so slow, and tend to my nutritional needs well enough, that I hardly have to worry about the Wall at all.

But this day, it rears it's ugly head. Things had been going fairly much like they had last week: I'd started on the Lester Rail Trail at four and run close to six miles before meeting up with Michelle Wolff, and run about twelve with her, and finally am now just finishing up with six to seven more. The difference between the last run and this one, however, is that this one started out in pain. By now the AT is really killing me. I believe it was Thursday's speedwork that really did me in.

Now I am really hobbling. The nine-thirty to ten-minute pace has suddenly changed to twelve to thirteen minutes per mile. It's like running through thick gelatin, and every time my right foot strikes the ground, I feel that shooting pain. Step, ouch, step, ouch...

The doubts creep in. Can I make it to twenty-four again? Should I even try? And of course, why am I even doing this?

Here are the answers. Yes (I do make it, but slowly), probably not (but I do), and mostly for training in case I still, in spite of everything, want to try BT50K.

At this point, I think not.

But I still haven't ruled it out completely.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

It's Now or Never

Partial lyrics from the song, It's Now or Never, by Elvis Presley

It's now or never, come hold me tight
Kiss me my darling, be mine tonight
Tomorrow will be too late
It's now or never, my love won't wait

These lyrics, along with other random thoughts, were going through my head at various times during this morning's run. The now or neverness refers to "training" for the upcoming Buckeye Trail 50K (BT50K). Yes, "training" is in quotes for a reason. It's only three weeks away and I'd sure as heck better get moving - especially by doing 20+ mile runs, of which I've done nearly exactly zero (notwithstanding last week's 18) in the past month and a half. In a recent blog post about Critical Success Factors (CSFs), I pontificated that at least one CSF for being able to complete a 31-mile run is to be able to run at least 20-miles. Today's saga begins at 3:00 AM.

3:00 AM
I'm awake before the 3:40 alarm. Must have had the old internal alarm at an early setting, even considering having been up late babysitting the grand-kids. I'm up drinking coffee and packing for my journey in no time at all. A CSF for long runs is providing oneself enough time to run. And for someone who does not like to be running late into the morning or worse, this means starting early.

4:00 AM
The run has begun; I'm a few minutes into it, on the Lester Rail Trail. I am beginning to think more seriously of making this a 24-miler. 20 would be acceptable, but 24 would be that much better. And I'm on the course where it's happened in the past. It takes four six-mile loops on this trail. Sounds tedious to some, but it usually (when I'm in shape) works out for me, You can call me lots of things these days, but 'in shape' isn't one of them. Guess I will see how it goes. The moon is setting in the west, and it's very pretty.

4:30 AM
The fireflies are making this an enchanted run. I fancy that they're blinking back at my headlamp, but it's more likely that they're just lighting up because they can. I am thoroughly enjoying myself in the dark here. I do need to be sure to save some energy for the later miles. In other words, enjoy, but not so much that I'm speeding up in an unsustainable way.

5:00 AM
Michelle Wolff has joined me as planned. and we're beginning another 6-mile loop. We discuss our (running) plans for the day. She's considering doing two 6-milers, and I've only got three to go. I'd gotten myself some water and gel, removed the headlamp, added a hat, and doused myself with repellent. The sun isn't above the horizon yet, but there's a pretty glow to the northeast.

5:36 AM
"What was that?" asks Michelle. We quickly turn back and retrace a few of our steps on the trail. There, crawling along, is a crayfish that Michelle had nearly stepped on. After discussing lobster dinner, I also wondered out loud if the little guy was running the entire six miles. Michelle mentioned that he may have a tough time with the couple road crossings. Not for the first, or last, time today, I swallow a small bug.

6:05 AM
The craw-dad is still close to where we'd last seen him, but he is still on the move. The 17-Year Cicadas, asleep during my first loop, are now singing away. I also spot a few of them alongside the trail. They're a whole lot of fun.

6:45 AM
Michelle is done. She probably ran around ten miles. I stop to talk before she drives away. I tell her how a fly bit my calf - one of the few areas that I didn't spray. I get some more gel and water before taking off for my final seven and a half.

7:20 AM
I am back at the car once again. I could have simply run by the parking area for my final four and a half, but thought I'd better get even more gel and water. I am still not sure whether 24 is in the cards for me today. It's getting warm, and that doesn't help. At least I'm nearly to 20; I can quite soon if I want. But 24 still beckons. The fuel will help.

8:05 AM
The fuel did indeed help; I made it the entire way. I finish up a bit slower than I started, but all in all this was a pretty good long run.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Home Runs and Critical Success Factors

There was a dearth of major league home runs back in the eighties. It had been several decades since Babe Ruth had hit sixty in one year, and even twenty-plus years since Roger Maris had hit his sixty-one in nineteen sixty-one. The question arose, why can’t any of the players approach those totals anymore.

The answer came back this way. No one can hit sixty home runs anymore because no one can hit fifty.

Yes, the home run kings in those years would hit in the neighborhood of forty-five to forty-eight. Only very occasionally would anyone even get close to fifty.

And then came goosed up balls, smaller parks and, most of all, better chemicals. But that’s another story.

What does this have to do with running, you ask? These questions and their answers come to mind:

Q: Why can’t you run sub 3:20 marathons anymore?
A: Because I can’t run 3:40 marathons.

Q: Why can’t you run 100 miles anymore (I only did once, by the way)?

A: Because I can’t run 100 kilometers anymore.

Q: Why can’t you run 30-mile training runs anymore?

A: Because I can’t run 20-mile training runs.

This gets into the area of Critical Success Factors. A Critical Success Factor for completion of the Buckeye Trail 50K (BT50K) is to be able to run twenty miles. Since RTR, I haven’t been doing long runs. In fact, I’ve hardly been running at all. Part of this is due to vacation, part to the illness. And then there’s always the Achilles Tendonitis. We’ll always have AT.

Yesterday, with BT50K looming less than a month away, I decided that it was now or never for a long run. Long is, as always, a relative term. I’ve always considered 18 miles, or roughly 30K to be the minimum to be considered a run long. I didn’t have a great deal of time; I’d have to hoof it just a bit. Did I manage to get at least 18?

Yes. The run was not half bad. It could otherwise be called a success.

Of course the AT is worse than ever. But that’s another story.