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.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...