Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rather be Running

180 steps per minute, no matter how fast or slow you go. It's a tough thing to do, especially since my normal inclination is to move my feet much more slowly. But now I'm counting my steps, moving the old legs as fast as they'll go. Counting the right-foot-forward movements, trying to get up to 90 of those in 60 seconds, I begin by dividing things up. I try for 45 in 30 seconds, 30 in 20, and so forth. The pain in my back, my left leg, my right Achilles are all a distant memory. Did I mention that I'm gasping for air? That's my concern at the moment, and it's so much better than dealing with pain. This is anaerobic exercise to the hilt.

Okay, that was yesterday, and it was in the pool.

I've been hitting the pool regularly, swimming and pool-running, and I'm sure it's doing me good. At least it feels good, and it's certainly better than nothing on one side, and hurting myself further on the other. And I'm doing other stuff too: more weights, pull-ups and core work than ever. It's all good. But there's one problem: it's not running. I'd rather be running.

Today's workout is beginning slowly. I put one foot in front of the other and begin moving. It's not too painful, so I begin moving a tiny bit faster.

This time I'm outside, running on terra firma, and loving it. I'm in the park, noticing the deer, the dark woods, the fields of goldenrod, the sunrise.

The run was just a shuffle, and it was only for a distance of two miles. And it was painful. But it was a run.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Aquarunning II (This Time It's Serious)

I'm no longer the Aquarunning Virgin I was a couple days ago. I discovered that the Rec Center actually keeps several aquarunning vests on hand for people in need. Like me.

Now I aquarun for twenty minutes. That's nineteen more minutes than I could do the other day, sans the belt. And I count my steps. I had read that one should aim for 180 steps per minute - about the same as for running at a good cadence.

It actually seems pretty easy. That probably means that I'm doing something wrong. Contrast that with swimming. I know I'm doing that right, because I can't hardly go more than a half-lap without a huge amount of huffing and puffing.

The best news is that I'm slowly getting better. I still have good minutes and bad minutes, but generally more of the former and less of the latter. I'm hoping that pattern holds.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Silly me. I thought that in order to do water running, you just get in the water and run. Turns out there's a little more to it.

As a proud new member of the Brunswick Recreation Center, I showed up for the first time today. Having never been a strong, or even a mediocre swimmer, I could only manage four laps. This is 25% more than the three laps I did a week or two ago in the Mayfield pool. I hope to increase my capacity by another 25% or so before long.

Still out of breath from that swim, I went over to the open deep end and tried to run. I wondered about whether water runners used some sort of flotation device, and if so, what. But I figured that if I tried it without such a device, I'd get a better workout.

Well I did do plenty of huffing and puffing. But not for very long - only a minute at a time in three intervals. You see, not being a good swimmer is related to not being a very good water treaderer. And those are both related to not being very boyant. In fact, I can't float at all - I just sink like a rock. So yes, I'm getting good aerobic workouts, but not long ones.

Then I googled aquarunning. I guess I have to get an Aquajogger flotation device, and follow all the guidelines for doing it right. Maybe then I'll be able to go more than a minute.

So instead of aspiring to run something like a marathon or an ultra, now my goals are to swim five laps and to aquarun for two minutes. Think these goals are attainable? Or am I biting off more than I can chew?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Good Minutes and Bad Minutes

How are you doing?

I get that question more often now that I'm experiencing these physical problems. Friends and family are genuinely concerned about my welfare, and sincerely wish the best for me. I only wish I could provide an answer that wouldn't evoke further sympathy. I really don't want sympathy; as a runner, I really want respect from non-runners, and fear from other runners. But none of that will happen anytime soon. I do try to appreciate the affection and concern that I do receive.

Those of us who suffer from various maladies will sometimes answer the question with, 'I have good days and bad days.' For various reasons, it's often quite true; I've been known to say it myself at times. But as of late, I've modified it a bit. To be slightly more specific, I've been explaining that I have good hours and bad hours, and now it's even more granular: good minutes and bad minutes.

Being in pain means less work getting done. It means not being physically able to do the things that one formerly took for granted. It means thinking of precious little else than the pain iteself. Having good minutes and bad minutes means that sometimes that pain is all-encompasing, and other times I feel almost normal. And these moments seem to wax and wane at surprisingly brief intervals.

I would like to be able to say that the pain is subsiding a bit. I continue to try to strengthen my back by various careful exercises, to be otherwise careful and to take ibuprofen as needed. But I'm not entirely sure how it's really going. All I can say for certain is that this is a good minute...

Since I've already touched on this subject at least once, I promise to not waste too much more of your bandwidth, other than possibly another update in the next week or two. Then I'll start the big push.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Most Miserable Creature on the Planet

In case you haven't guessed it yet, I'll fill you in. The Most Miserable Creature on the Planet is, naturally, a Runner Who Cannot Run.

I realize that there are billions of people on this planet whose lot in life is financially, physically, emotionally, or some otherly way less fortunate than mine. So I'll be careful to not wallow too deeply into my pit of self-pity. But dad-burn-it, I love to run, and I can't.

Runners who can't run probably think about running more than runners who can run do. Runners who can't run see other runners and become immediately, ridiculously jealous, thinking, "*I* should be doing that!" Runners who can't run self analyze their injuries to death. Runners who can't run try to do cross-training, but whilst doing those other activities, can only think, "I should be running instead of this." And so on.

I did get a diagnosis, based on an MRI: a herniated disc between vertebrae l4 and l5. The initial message from the doc (I have a full appointment next week), is that it isn't impacting any nerves, and can be treated with pain management. *My* initial reaction to that is, if it isn't impacting any nerves, then WHY THE HECK CAN'T I STAND, SIT OR DO ANYTHING ELSE WITHOUT EXCRUCIATING PAIN??? But I suppose that she meant that it could be worse, and I we don't need to consider anything drastic at this point.

The best news is that although I still can't run, and can hardly even walk, the pain seems to be slowly subsiding, at least a bit. Drugs help.

My strategy going forward is to eat even more than I did when I was running 50, or a year or two back, 70, miles per week. I'm getting fatter already.

And the misery has only just begun.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Canton Football HOF Enshrinement Festival Pigskin Run, or, Eighty percent of success is showing up

Woody Allen's quote, Eighty percent of success is showing up couldn't be more true than for old geezers like me who drag themselves to races.

I've never been in more pain than I have over the last week or so. I can't even explain it; it seems to be deep in my bones, especially my back and pelvis. As of yesterday, I stopped using the nitroglycerin patches on my Achilles tendon, thinking that they could be the cause. I'll give it a couple days to find out. Of course my Achilles pain is still there as well.

Just running at all is a problem. I spent almost the entire the week on the mill, with the thought that if I got to the point where I couldn't continue, at least I could step off the thing. But I still drove to Canton for this race that I'd stupidly pre-registered for.

It was warm and very humid - about like it was for my last race, the Johnnycake Jog two weeks ago. That one wasn't as bad as it could have been. This one was.

I did about 7:30 pace for the first three and a half miles, but then fell apart and  finished right around 39 minutes. The funny thing is that I placed third in my ancient age group. Not so awful for such a big race. I guess it helped to just show up.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tales of The Kid, Part 2 - When Did You Get it?

The Kid arrives at Lock 29 at 6:30 AM, just like he did two weeks ago. This time it's raining and the Towpath is full of puddles as he begins his run with a few early-birds. The group only does a quick mile and a half out, before turning around and heading back.

Now The Kid has more company.There are about ten MCRR friends hanging around, waiting for an additional two tardy traveling teammates. And waiting. And waiting.

The Kid enjoyes this friendly banter as much as anyone, and The Kid doesn't like to leave anyone behind, even at the start. But The Kid needs to run soon so that The Kid can get done. He's due at the store at ten, which means that he has to be done running by 9:30, which means that he needs to start running before 7:20 in order to get the planned additional fourteen (including pit stops) in.

Figuring that it's the only way he can get his mileage in, The Kid very reluctantly begins to run by himself. He considers simply running out and then back again, and has actually turned back, when he sees Dave Eliason running towards him. Dave was feeling the same way. They run together for a while, hit the rest rooms and then hook up with more of the gang. Depending on the running mates at any given moment, the pace varies wildly. But The Kid is okay with that.

The rain is coming down harder, but eventually Dave and the Kid wind up running the final four or so miles with Renee Harden to wrap things up. Renee isn't feeling well, which means that she isn't pushing the pace beyond means considered reasonable by The Kid these days. The Kid finishes with 17 miles in a fairly reasonable time. Not bad for a wet Saturday.

But that's not quite the end of the story. The Kid goes to work, then home, then to a wedding that Saturday. Sunday morning his back is absolutely killing him. He can't quite figure out why or what he did. It's not as if he needed another physical (or mental) malady, but there it is.

Good thing The Kid had already been planning to not run on Sunday, because he can hardly walk. Sitting, standing and laying down cause extreme discomfort as well. That doesn't leave much.

The bad back is now close to seven days old. Which reminds The Kid of an old Three Stooges joke:

Stooge 1: I have a weak back.
Stooge 2: When did you get it?
Stooge 1: Oh, about a week back.