One Jump Forward, Three Steps Back - Learning Not to Do Stupid Things

longjump.JPG

Something I don't mention much is my involvement in a local youth track and field organization. As part of that involvement, from time to time I volunteer to help at local youth track meets.

Last Saturday I worked the long jump pit at the Ventura County Youth Track Championships. Although the meets take up a large chunk of a Saturday, they are a lot of fun to watch the kids compete. Working the long jump pit makes you feel like you're part of the action.

In any case, after all of the kids were done at the long jump pit except for two that had to return to the pit after being called out for other events, there was a lull in the action.

We were joking around a bit and I came up with the brilliant idea of - hey, who wants to jump?

Sounded fun at the time. I wasn't wearing sneakers and hadn't sprinted for years or long jumped for probably 45 years.  But hey, let's see how far we can go. Why not.

So without any warmup or stretching, I ran down the long jump runway towards the long jump sand pit. Having not practiced or thought through in advance anything whatsoever, as I neared the jumping board, it dawned on me that I couldn't even remember which foot to propel myself from.

I flinched at the last minute and jumped using my left foot. My body propelled forward about as far as the 7 year olds jumped. This was not a good idea.

My flinching at the last minute caused me brief pause and, although I felt ok afterwards, the next day was a different story.

Things started out fine. I decided to run for an hour. The first 40 minutes I had no problems. But suddenly there was a sharp pain in my left calf.

As I usually do, I kept running, figuring the pain would go away (it often does). Not this time. It worsened to the point that I could not run anymore. The pain was too sharp. I was relegated to walking.

That single long jump attempt in worn down casual shoes, no warm-ups. no stretching and wearing jeans, was a dumbass move on my part.  Now I'm stuck with a new injury.

One jump forward, three steps back.

I used ice and Advil to calm the soreness. Next day I couldn't run, On Tuesday I was able to run 2 miles flat footed, but it was still sore.

I wrapped compression tape around the lower calf and it seems to help a bit. Oddly, there is no pain when I walk. The pain is only there when I run.

As with every other injury I've ever had, I will recover from this. But more importantly, perhaps this time I will learn from my own stupidity not to do things that are indeed stupid.

Today (Sunday), it felt a little better, so I attempted the same one hour loop from a week ago. I lasted about 35 minutes without much pain, when the soreness came back.  I walk/jogged home.

2017 Annual Running Report - Low Point But Still Running

2017 marked a personal low point in my training since I started running on a regular basis in May 1993.  A series of injuries led to a total of 119 missed days of running, nearly a third of the year, in 2017.

My particular challenge this year stemmed from lower back spasms that came and went, but for an extended period in the fall escalated into pain and numbness in my left quad.

A two-week consulting project in Westwood contributed to my ailment in late August, when the combination of a long, stressful commute and sitting in a chair that was not particularly comfortable led to a blow-out back spasm. The type of spasm that kind of just takes over all aspects of your life.

The pain migrated from by lower back to my left hamstring/glute area and I decided to get a 90 minute sports massage in attempt to alleviate some of the pain.

The massage therapist worked quite hard in that area and I was hoping that would do the trick. To the contrary...the next day I developed numbness in the inside of my left quad, along with deep soreness. It was hard for me to walk, let alone run.

I thought my running days were over. For 37 days I refrained from running, not by choice, but by incapacity. 

While not running, I tried to stretch and my severely tweaked iliotibial band as much as possible and keep moving.

On September 30th, I ran 2 miles - the first time I ran since August 23rd. The inner leg near the knee was still numb to the touch, but I was able to slowly jog. I ran 3.5 miles the next day. Then I took the next six days off.

From there, the numbness slowly dissipated. But I continued to take it easy the rest of the year, running seven miles at the most.

My annual mileage was a PW (Personal Worst) of 1,233 for the year - 456 miles less than my previous PW in 2016.

However, as I write this in February 2018, I'm optimistic that my running will continue. As with every single other injury I've ever had, rest and the passage of time seems to have resolved the latest one.

It has been 4 1/2 years since I last ran a marathon. I'm actually feeling the itch to run one again...if I can get in the training.

 Yes, I'm a nerd. I've been compiling my daily mileage since I started running on May 5, 1993 on an Excel spreadsheet. I'm on row 9054 of the spreadsheet on the day I'm writing this. Apparently Excel worksheets have a capacity of 1,048,576 rows, so I will be safe using this one spreadsheet this lifetime.

Yes, I'm a nerd. I've been compiling my daily mileage since I started running on May 5, 1993 on an Excel spreadsheet. I'm on row 9054 of the spreadsheet on the day I'm writing this. Apparently Excel worksheets have a capacity of 1,048,576 rows, so I will be safe using this one spreadsheet this lifetime.

Good to Diagnose Injuries After You've Tried to Run Through Them

After six to nine months of grappling with a nagging injury in my right knee, I finally visited an orthopedic doctor this week to determine what the problem is.

I hate going to doctors, not that I don't like doctors, but I'd prefer to save my money and time if it all possible. That strategy has generally worked for me in the past in that I've been able to "run through" injuries that go away on their own over time (with the exception that I've had positive experience battling injuries through chiropractic care).

That said, the problem with my outer right knee has not gotten any better. I  recall in the summer, when riding bikes with the kids, that the knee issue would flare up, to the point that I'd have to reduce pressure on the right leg while peddling and peddle stronger with my left leg.

Same with the running. I've been able to continue running with the nagging, sometime sharp pain in my outer right knew by focusing on running on the inner knee. Not a simple feat. But then out of the blue, the injury flares up.

Every morning when I do my run, the knee hurts as I run downhill. But after a mile or so, it gradually goes away. But then later in the day, I could be walking the dog, and once I attempt to move at more than walking pace, I feel the nagging pain, like a little LEGO character holding a dull knife and stabbing me in the knee.

The first thing they did was x-ray the knee from all angles (can't wait to see the bill). But the good news from my very smart doctor at the Southern California Orthopedic Institute in Thousand Oaks is that, mechanically, the knee looks fine. There is an appropriate amount of space between the bones, etc. 

Good. That rules out knee replacement. Whew.

What he believes it to be is iliotibial band friction syndrome, possible lateral meniscus tearing and chondromalacia (which according to the Interwebz means a problem with the cartilage under the kneecap).

So, he recommends evaluation and treatment via physical therapy. I suspect they will show me particular exercises to do that will hopefully alleviate the IT band issue and allow me to run carefree again. We shall see.

One Injury Leads to Another and to Another , Then Things Get Better

It has been 6 weeks since my last update here, a month and a half of ups, downs, more downs, now possibly thing are looking up. I hope. I think.

Once you have one injury, if you don't address it properly, it's possible it can lead to other injuries. After developing soreness in what I thought way my upper left hamstring (since debunked by my chiropractor - explained later),  I chose to keep running through the pain, which was fairly moderate, but annoying.

So I was running with a bum right knee and a sore what my chiropractor subsequently told me is my piriformis muscle. But one night, while running with my older son's cross country team, less than 10 days after my race, I decided to "open it up" a bit. I started really slow but I started to work into a groove and sped it up with another parent.

After a few miles of showing up the kids, I felt a twinge in my left calf area, kept running, then a more distinct pain that ultimately stopped me in my tracks.

My piriformis issue was still there and I was overcompensating by running on my toes more and developed a third issue.

I took some Advil, iced it quite a bit that night, and went out for a run the next morning, very slowly. And I kept doing my daily runs very slowly for several weeks. It didn't feel good, but I've run through plenty of injuries in the past.

But...that wasn't working for me this time. It got worse and worse, particularly the calf issue. So I forced myself to take off 8 straight days of running.

The 8 days ended on Monday. I ran very hesitantly on Tuesday and felt ok. Today it felt even better. Rest. Try it. It works.

So in the meantime, I still have the soreness in my piriformis muscle, a muscle that starts at the lower spine and connects to the thighbone, behind the glutes. It runs diagonally and the sciatic never muscle runs vertically beneath it.

 My Foam Roller

My Foam Roller

Today I asked my chiropractor if my hamstring stretches are good to do. I generally do the hurdler's type stretch and the standing hamstring stretch where you put your leg on a bench or something and bend toward the food. He said....NO, NO, NO. Those are not good to do and aren't even that effective.

I asked him what I should do then. Other than icing the area, one thing he mentioned was pressing a tennis ball into the area to work it a bit. I have a foam roller contraption too that I will be rolling my rear on more frequently to get the blood circulating in that area.

In the meantime, no races planned. I don't like to commit to a race when I'm running injured.

2015 Bulldog 25K Race on August 22nd Was Fun But I Just Quite Missed My Goal

 The sign indicating you are about to encounter pain :)

The sign indicating you are about to encounter pain :)

Having run the Bulldog 25K (and previously 30K) race in Malibu Creek State Park half a dozen times, I must be a glutton for pain coming back for a 7th time on August 22nd. 

The course is one of the most challenging around town, with over 4,000 feet of elevation climb over 15 1/2 miles, including cresting the 2,528 Bulldog peak and dealing with the relentless downhills after reaching the top.

Having not raced particularly much this past year, I hadn't given much thought to doing Bulldog again this year, until I bit the bullet and registered on July 31st. That's not a lot of time to prepare for a tough 25K, but I was pleased to be running fairly injury free for several months and had run (as much as you can run) up Boney Mountain a couple times. I also ran the Bulldog course a couple time slowly, just to gauge the distance. 

Ultimately what prompted me to sign up was that I looked at the course records for the race at trailrunevents.com/bd and noticed that the age group record for my elderly 50 to 54 age group category seemed a bit light at 2:05 and change. I could beat that and get my name forever emblazoned on the Internet, I thought. I ran a 2:02 at age 49, so I figured I could get close.

For months however, my latest ailment is a right knee that has been problematic mostly the first few miles of the morning run. Could be a meniscal tear or something, but it has been on and off for many months. Sure enough, it got worse. Pretty much the day after I signed up for Bulldog, parting ways with $100.

As it got worse, I finally started wearing a patella knee support strap under the knee, which helped me continue running as I decided to see if it would go away on its own, like most ailments do. I noticed it seemed to get worse when I was riding bikes with my kids. Old age can really suck sometimes!

So in any case, the weekend before Bulldog, I go on a road trip to San Diego with my youngest, to see both the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on back to back days.  It was fun indeed, but my knee pain was escalating, so I couldn't run at all. 

My 9 year old wanted to work out in the hotel gym. I was overseeing him for a bit, then he wanted to jog on the treadmill (which was a complete surprise to me because he has never shown an interest in gyms or treadmills). So I decide, knee brace on, to try the elliptical machine as an alternative to running.

ROOKIE MISTAKE! Only problem is, I'm not a rookie! I'm a veteran! But veterans make mistakes too.  At least in my case.

I could have ellipticaled (or whatever you call it when you use that machine) for 10 minutes or so, but NOOoooo, I decide to go for FIVE MILES on that machine. Stooopid move.

I got off the machine and my legs felt numb, like I was walking on air. But not in a good way. I was going pretty hard on the machine too.

Sure enough. next day, my left ass cheek was sore. Quite sore. Like ran a marathon yesterday sore. And it stayed sore the entire week. Just the left side, not the right, I think because I was overcompensating for my bum right knee.

A little Advil and Aleve gave some temporary relief, but the entire week I felt that soreness and knew that I made a mistake that can't be undone.

The soreness was not as bad on race day, but it was also tight. I was hoping for a miracle and that it would suddenly "open up" for the race. Not that I was running badly or anything. I ran well, But the stiffness in the upper hamstring area impeded my stride, it seemed mostly on the (rare) flat sections of the course and the downhill. Not to mention, I was wearing my right knee brace, but my downhill was slightly impacted by my right knee problem.

So in any case, I gave it my best shot and finished in a respectable 2:06:25, goof for 12th place overall.  I was not far off my race goal, so I'm happy about the performance overall.

The first place woman, 30 year old Caitlin Jacobsen, blew past me mid-way into the freefall descent portion of the race, where you drop roughly 1,500 feet over about 2 1/2 miles. It is brutal as always. I could not keep up with her, but I kept her in my sites, finishing 34 seconds behind her. She ran quite a strong race.

So I looked at the course records again as I typed this and notice that the 5 year age groups have been changed to 10 year age groups.  The 10 year record is 2:02:40, a formidable time on that course run by 56 year old Ron Paquette last year. He ran another awesome time this year at age 57 - a 2:03:29 - good for 8th overall. Kudos to him! 

So, next year, next race, whenever it is, I'll be putting a Post-It on my running shoes that says "Don't Do Something Stupid!" 

22nd Year of Running in the Books: Another Average to Mediocre Year

2014 was the 22nd year that I've run on a consistent basis, the 21st full year; I started a third of the way into the year in 1993.

I've been tracking my mileage in an Excel spreadsheet since sometime in 1993 when I decided it would be more effective than tracking solely in my day planner. Actually, I do both. I attempt to jot down my approximate mileage and time spent running in my planner book, then at some point in time I type this information into the spreadsheet.

Life in the Fast Lane: My 22 year old Running Excel Spreadsheet.

Years ago I would update the spreadsheet on a weekly, sometimes even daily, basis. I would go back and look at my training in the weeks/months prior to a marathon and analyze what worked and what I should change. I would make notes in the spreadsheet, now 1.8 megabytes in size, about if I was sick, injured, traveling or sore on a given day.  Sometimes I would go back and review these notes, but not often. 

Now it is a chore updating this spreadsheet as things are quite different for me...married, with kids, busy, busy. For the last several years I update the entire year's worth of running data at the end of the year and it is something I don't particularly look forward to doing. A chore and a bore. BUT...I'm glad I forced myself to track my mileage for so long over the years because I'll know when I need to trade in my body, which has now logged over 53,000 miles.

I vaguely recalled years ago that Excel spreadsheets have certain finite number of rows that could theoretically require me to create a second sheet at some point. I decided to look it up.

Back in the day, versions of Excel up to 7.0 limited the number of rows to 16,384, which would mean that I'd have to create a separate spreadsheet when I'm 73 years old (my spreadsheet is currently near 8,000 rows).

But versions 8.0 through 11.0 quadrupled the maximum rows to 65,536 (and 256 columns) and version 12.0, which is what I now use, expanded that by a factor of 16, to 1,048,576 rows (along with 16,384 columns). So I can safely say that my current spreadsheet,will suffice for tracking my time into the twilight of my life.

2014: How Was It? Mediocre at best. I ran zero marathons in 2014, having to bail on the Los Angeles Marathon after tweaking my right hamstring/sciatic nerve in a half marathon training run.

I actually had a pretty good start to the year, having run a pretty solid 1:24 half marathon off of moderate training, 3 weeks prior to the injury. And then in early April I was able to run a slightly sub-38 minute 10K. But my motivation level dropped and my 50th birthday mid-year travels and fun made it ever more challenging to train for anything.

So it was a pretty uneventful year of running, but I managed to rake in 2,123 miles on the trails and roads. So far 2015 has not been much different...but I'm still running, and that's a good thing.

Today's run up Powerline (Edison) Trail. Danger Ahead? Steep Dropoff? Nah. Just enjoying the view.

Finished Half of a Half Marathon Last Sunday and Ran Trails on Christmas

This past Sunday, I ran half of the Holly Jolly Half Marathon in Camarillo, ending the year of racing with a thud. So why is there a photo of a Santa to the Sea bib number below? More on that later.

The bib number that I did not wear

Why just half of a half marathon? Why not just run the 10K or 5K? Because I fully intended to run the full half marathon until my right hamstring gave me grief about 3 miles into the race. Not a sharp pain or pull or anything; just a tightness and soreness that gradually shortened my stride and caused some discomfort.

This was a low key local half marathon/10K/5K in Camarillo, mostly flat, about 80% on roads, 20% on a bike path, double loop course. I signed up for the half marathon about 4 days prior because earlier in the year I had purchased an entry into the Santa to the Sea Half Marathon on December 14th. That half marathon I didn't even make it to.

Let's go further back. On Saturday, the 13th, my wife requested that I put up additional Christmas decorations in the front yard. Somehow I managed to tweak my lower back while working on the candy canes. My back is not very forgiving...later that night I determined I would not be able to run 13.1 miles in the morning.

2014: A year that I turned 50 years old and...felt it! A year that had some promise at the beginning, but quickly fell into an abyss of lower back and sciatic nerve problems.

While the year was not a great one for my racing, I did manage a sub 38 minute 10K back in April and for the most part I've stayed healthy and my injuries, although frequent, were dealt with expeditiously.

So, back to last Sunday. This low key race started out fine. In fact, I found myself in the lead at mile 1, where I looked at my watch and saw 6:24. This pace seemed perfectly fine to me. It translates into a 1:24 half marathon, on par with the half marathon time I ran in February.

A younger fellow passed me by shortly after that first mile, and I made no attempt to stick with him. Having not done a wink of speedwork or shorter distance races for many months, I did not feel another gear in my transmission. But soon thereafter the sciatic nerve issue that caused me not to run the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon reared its ugly head.

The beauty of a double loop course is that it gives you the opportunity to call it a day mid-way into the race and move along with your day. That's just what I did. Having experienced this same hamstring / sciatic nerve issue in the past, I took it in (diminished) stride, stopped, stretched and drove off to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day that it was.

I do believe that sitting too much is not helping my problem. So I get up as often as I can, change chairs, sit on a pillow, occasionally work while kneeling on the ground on a pillow, etc. The issue appears to be a chronic one as it has taken me out of a number of races in recent years, so I'm grappling with how to deal with it. I do find my chiropractor is able to help. Perhaps more stretching would help.

BUT...today is Christmas, and after spending the morning with the family, I was able to take off for an hour long run on the trails, injury free. Just getting out there, running without pain, was enough for me to not have a care about the mediocrity which was the last 8 months of my racing, or lack thereof.

Trails like this take me to my happy place, regardless of how my latest race went.

I've Been Running in Sketchers Before I Knew Meb Keflezighi Ran in Them

Today I just bought 3 pairs of Sketchers running shoes, including a Go Run 3, a Go Run Ride 3 and a pair geared towards trail running. Yes, 3 pairs in one day, bought with a 20% discount I had. Came out of the store with 3 pairs of shoes for about $200, including taxes.

For too long I've been running in 2 pairs of Saucony Kinvaras, also a lightweight trainer, and a Go Run 2. For the 4th time this year, yesterday I was running in the trails, my foot hit a rock, and I slammed into the ground. My right knee is pretty banged up and I've got a dime-sized lump of skin missing from my left palm from the impact, but otherwise I'm ok. But I decided, I need to buy some new shoes to get my spirits up. Not to mention, my current shoes need to be retired.

I like Sketchers running shoes because they're light, yet feel like they are giving me adequate support. They are comfortable. And I like their pricing. $80 isn't cheap but I like the nice, even number. There's something appealing about the simplicity to me.

So getting back to my latest fall. This time it happened within 5 minutes of the start of my run. And I hit the ground so hard that the pain was too much to continue, with skin and blood involved, so I walked back home.

Chatting with another of my geezer running friends, he believes as we get older, we don't lift our feet as high when we run. That could be a factor in my 4 falls this year. The last fall I thought perhaps it could be due to my Sauconys feeling slightly too big for my feet. Today's fall was in my Sketchers, which fit perfectly fine.

Deep down inside, what I really believe to be the issue is...not enough sleep. Running at 6:45am off of 5 1/2 hours sleep is not conducive to good training. Yet that's what I've been doing. I enjoy too many things, one of which is maintaining this website until the wee hours of the night. And of course my running, taking the kids out, etc. Something's gotta give.

But yes, here I am, typing this at 12:15am, when the creative juices flow the most for me.

In lieu of getting to bed earlier, my plan is to find time to take one solid nap each weekend to rejuvenate my body. If that doesn't happen, which it probably won't, I'll be pondering a plan B.

The Occasional Hazards of Running Trails

I've enjoyed running local trails for over 15 years and am on them almost every day, barring rain and mud. A majority of my mileage is on trails and I enjoy the variety, the peace and quiet, the scenery and the chance of spotting wildlife, like a coyote off in the distance.

For the last few years I've been carrying my camera with me when I run so that when something photo-worthy appears, I'll be ready. Kind of a hassle for sure, in that the camera is not light, and I hold it in one of my hands (switching off to the other hand from time to time).  But occasionally it comes in handy.

This year, 2014, so far I've managed to trip and fall on the trails not once, not twice, but THREE times. I'm not talking a simple trip and catch myself, but a full on, snag my shoe on something, then topple almost flat on my face fall.

No, this is not a pile of poop on the trail. It is a root sticking out of the ground, I believe a remnant from damage done by the Springs Fire of 2013.

This has never happened to me before. Ever. Never have I fallen flat on my face before while running on any surface, and I've run all types of surfaces and have run and raced trails like Bulldog at Malibu Creek, the Catalina Marathon and all around town.

Mostly just scrapes and cuts from my latest encounter with the ground on a trail run.The other day was the worst of my three trip-and-falls. I was running along, la la laaaa, thinking of all the exciting workday activities, when, BAAAMMM, I was down. My right foot snagged either a rock or a root, and I had no time to react. But I did manage to get my right arm on the ground before my head, which saved my face, but got my right arm pretty good. Just scrapes and a little blood. Nothing broken. There were some minor scrapes and scratches on my shin and lower back. THANKFULLY my knees and face were spared.

After my body finished sliding, I got up, assessed the damage, picked up my camera (held in a case, so it was safe, unlike my body), and ran home.

So WHY does this keep happening? I'm almost afraid to continue running on trails because next time I may do some more serious damage.

I think it is one of, or a combination of, three things. I've noticed that the Saucony shoes I currently wear feel slightly too big. I have to re-tie them more often than most shoes I wear to make them more snug. I suspect that this is the main culprit...my shoes are too big and they are snagging things on the trails and damn near killing me.

But perhaps the other issue is that I'm carrying this camera around, looking around for nice shots. Maybe I should be looking at the trail more and the surroundings less...at least when the trails are rocky and technically challenging. That would make sense now, wouldn't it?

Lastly though, I'm turning 50 in a few months. Maybe I'm, well, just getting OLD. Yes, maybe I'm not lifting my legs up as much when I run (which actually is a good thing on the roads, as it is more efficient). Maybe I'm going blind (well to some degree I am, after dealing with a detached retina a few years ago and its impact on my eyesight). Maybe I'm just going senile.

Or perhaps it could be all of the above. I dunno, but I'm gonna continue running those trails until it kills me. Probably. Literally.

In the meantime, time for some new shoes.

Sciatic Nerve Back to Normal Three Days After the Marathon I Didn't Run

The Channel Islands seen from Newbury Park the night of the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon.

After bailing out of running the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon due to a lingering sciatic nerve issue in my right hamstring, I thought about driving downtown to pick up my number as a momento, as well as to pick up my t-shirt and goodie bag and scope out the vendors.  I really wanted to go, but it was a Saturday, and between the several hour round-trip drive and dealing with traffic and crowds, I decided to ditch the idea and spend the day with the kids.

From an economist's standpoint the $170 entry fee was a sunk cost since the entry was non-refundable. Some would argue, how can you NOT pick up your t-shirt and goodie bag!? You PAID for it! Sure, I would have loved to get my 2014 LA Marathon t-shirt. But the cost of retrieving that t-shirt would be about $20 in cash, wear and tear on the car and about half a day's time. And my kids didn't want to go. I passed.

On Sunday, marathon morning, March 9th, I ran for about an hour. Though I was still impeded by the injury, it wasn't quite as bad that day.

I turned the TV coverage of the marathon on and, as usual, was disappointed.  There was way too little coverage of the race, tons of commercials and lots of fluff. I may not be in the majority on this, but in the rare times that a full marathon is televised, I want to see the top runners, both the elite athletes and the faster amateur runners. I'm a purist. I want to see runners and running when watching a televised marathon. There are other shows for human interest stories.

But watching the marathoners in the heat made me a bit thankful for my injury, as I would not have enjoyed running in the 80+ degree heat the runners experienced. My injury was a convenient excuse to kick back and relax that day and to steer clear of the unseasonable heat.

Three days later, on Wednesday, March 12th, I awoke, laced up my shoes, headed out the door, and....to my surprise...no annoying pain in my right hamstring. I ran cautiously down the street, thinking the respite was only temporary. But lo and behold, the pain was gone.

By the following weekend, I felt like I could run a fast marathon, but there were no other marathons to run and I had other plans. The injury gave me an extra week of taper. All rested up and nowhere to run.  This week I'm not quite 100% as the loss of an hour's sleep due to DST my body is still revolting against. But for the most part I'm running injury-free.

Time to start pondering when and where to use my current level of fitness. Or at least maintain it.

The 559 local Ventura County area runners who completed this year's L.A. Marathon is at THIS LINK.