Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wouldn't it be nice if we [weren't] older?

So, I’ve never been much of the disciple type, but I’ve become quite the yogi in the past two weeks. Non-yogies beware!

Not only have I been waking up early each day to do 30 minutes of yoga and coming home for another 60-minute session, I’ve begun selling my friends on it as well. My lower back has really improved in the past couple days. And it’s only mildly ironic that the injury occurred during yoga. But I have meditative forgiveness in my heart (and I’ve stopped forcing myself into poses I cannot do).

My friend Jeff injured the back of his right leg last night when he slipped while running outside during a thunderstorm. After I asked what he was doing running in a thunderstorm, I handed him a yoga mat and told him to have at it (well, it was a little more nuanced and cautious than that).

But while selling yoga to everyone in ear/eyeshot might be something I can be teased about for years to come, at least it’s a healthy thing to push. Like Greens Plus chocolate energy bars.

What has yoga done for me lately? Aside from giving me a great reason to wake up early each morning, I’ve been able to make it through the day with only 1-2 doses of anti-inflammatory meds instead of 4-6. Plus my breathing felt more natural and healthy on Wednesday when I took to the elliptical at the rec. center.

Melissa and I headed to the rec. center yesterday—she had her eyes on the weight circuit and I was set on walking. Slowly. I was almost around lap one on the track when I got bored and spotted an elliptical machine.

Had I not walked away feeling like I finally had the cardiovascular workout I’ve been craving and not feeling an once of soreness, I would have admitted it was a bad idea. But it wasn’t. Granted, it’s not the same workout as running, but some of the same muscles woke up and I was saved the impact for my still-injured state.

I ellipticalized for a little over 1.5 miles and 15 minutes before I met back up with Melissa and walked a mile around the track. During the walk I focused on stretching my legs and using my whole foot (not just the outside) to walk. And perhaps that attention will translate into running with my whole foot like a normal human being.

It was a relief to wake up this morning and still feel peachy. I’ve been stiff each morning, but it just wasn’t that bad today—and that always helps nurture a positive attitude as well. Alongside 30 minutes of yoga this morning, I swam 1,200 yards free at lunch today before spending some time in the hot tub. And I think that was more an indulgence this time. Woe is me.

It’s almost 3 p.m. and I’m happy on only one dose of anti-inflammatory from this morning. Not only do I not have to make an “eek!” or “ouch!” noise every time I step on my left side, I might be getting back at least some of my walking grace (what little there was anyway). And now I’m itching to find out if I’ll be healthy for a 10K race on July 7.

Time will tell. And I think it’s time for more yoga…

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

It’s been a week and a half since my last run, and in that time I’ve reinstated a serious yoga addiction and started an anti-inflammatory regiment for what turned out to be a problem with my sciatic nerve.

Neil and I went for a fun bike ride on Sunday with friends (we rode from mid-Stow to Hudson for lunch at Aladdin’s and, of course, treats at Main Street Cupcakes—I had to introduce new people!), which only left me mildly uncomfortable by Monday morning. The pedaling-while-seated action wasn’t bad at all on my lower back, but standing to pedal up hills and hitting some too-big bumps didn’t make my 6:30 a.m. yoga routine easy. But I’m back in the game!

So, the plan is to feel out the rest of the week and (fingers crossed) go for a very light run on Sunday morning. I’ve been doing plenty of walking, and I’m hoping that the combination of yoga, stretching, other exercises, regular heat and anti-inflammatory meds will enable me to get back on the road.

I swear for someone who believes the only roadblocks in life are oneself, I sure do hold myself up with my stupid injuries. But I won’t let it get me down: I’ll just think of myself like a car. Replace a few things that are broken and I’ll be as good as new.

And once I’m at least back at it, I’d really like to make my way to Cleveland Clinic whose optimal running program includes gait analysis, strength and flexibility testing, injury assessment and a conditioning program among other things. More than anything, I’d like to hear what they had to say (and recommend) about my running-on-the-outside-of-my-left-foot problem and how to correct it.

At least I know how I started running on the outside of my foot: when I began running in early 2006, I was kicking it with a pair of 1992 Nike running shoes that I wore for my brief track stint in middle school. It never dawned on me that a super-crappy pair of shoes could so badly damage my foot. They had absolutely no support (and now that I’ve been running with good shoes for the past year, I try those suckers on and don’t wonder at all why it took me a while to really get into running) and left me limping with some on-the-verge-of-serious foot/tendon/spirit problems.

The pain was primarily on the inner part of my foot, so I started walking/running on the outside to alleviate it. And here I am over a year and some later recovering from my recovery method. (No wonder people have coaches! It might behoove me to keep someone around to help me make semi-decent running decisions for once!) But the moral, kids, is that healthy shoes help keep your feet healthy.

Today: either a walk or bike ride at lunch, yoga in the evening, and perhaps another walk with Neil after that. I’m going to slowly increase the speed on my walks and test out the pressure and impact on my left side. Two weeks off shouldn’t be the end of my running fitness as I know it…. Right? I haven’t taken off this much time since I started, so I’m a light anxious about my fate, but eager to get going. Again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

At Least I Have a Reason to Hang in the Hot Tub

My lowerback is still gently nagging, but I feel at least one thousand times better than I did during the first half of this week, and about a million times better than Sunday.

I called my doctor this morning, however, to see if it was worth a visit. He's a fascinating man who speaks in old Hindu parables and always explains things to me in complex metaphors and morality tales. And what I pieced together from his story about an injured vervet was that antelope carcasses hanging in trees signal the presence of a leopard and rest is the only medicine for non-serious injuries like the one I have. (Oddly enough, I knew the antelope carcass factoid from The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.)

He said I was welcomed to come in, but after last week's run-in with the bear, I didn't want to hear a story about injured runners and roaming black bears. I've heard enough of those this week. Plus, he's in Willoughby Hills, which isn't a great distance, but too far to travel for him to tell me what he did over the phone. Although the vervet story was pretty interesting...

But on Wednesday I found value to this injury: I have a very valid excuse to spend some extra time in the hot tub during my lunch hour!

After several days of inactivity (laziness is beginning to set in and guilt over all of the cupcakes I ate this weekend is eating me alive!), I was itching to do something. Walking is still a little eh, and I've done some really light yoga -- sans sage of any other kind of twist -- and upper-body weight training, but I need activity! So, I went for a swim.

I didn't know what to expect of my injury in the swimming environment: would it hurt more? feel better? hurt less? My biggest concerns were a) that kicking with my bad side would make me cry and that b) I'd feel excruciating pain, wheeze and wince in response, choke on water and drown when I pushed off the wall on a turn.

Oddly enough, it felt great. Even pushing off the wall didn't hurt a bit. The only pain I felt was while flipping the first couple of times, but even that died off as I continued swimming. And it turned out to be one of my better swims since I jumped back on the wagon.

I swam a really loose and easy (but strong) 1,000 yards straight, which I haven't done in a few months. Sure, it isn't very far at all, but on a day when I thought I would be able to push 200 yards, it was fantastic. And since I had promised myself some take-it-easy time, I finished that 1,000 and spent some time in the hot tub with a jet massaging my lowerback. After about 10 minutes in the tub, I took to the showers and headed back to work in a relaxes daze. It didn't heal my injury, but it certainly made the prospect of swimming mid-day that much more appealing again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quick Update: On the Mend

Well, I made it to work on Tuesday and crawled around like a 97-year-old woman (no offense to 97-year-old women). I sat and rested for most of Monday and Tuesday antsy with the fear of losing my running shape and my general will to live.

But then Diana gave me Aleve and things started looking up. I'm always reluctant to take any kind of medication, but desperate times, man! Now there's no more shooting pain when I put pressure on my left leg, and I don't have to drag against the wall as I walk down the hall at work! My hope is that by the end of Wednesday the pitied looks (and even more of the 'that's what you get for exercising' glares) will fade away and that I will be able to try swimming over lunch.

What a bummer that every time I get on a running roll some obstacle jumps in the way? Fortunately, that obstacle tends to be me... and that's one thing I can control. (Well, most of the time.) I'm going to give my running self until Friday to rest before I test out a light jog. My fingers are crossed.

Monday, June 18, 2007

My First 100-Mile Month: Check!

Good news is that I reached my 100-mile goal, early I might add, with a 3.6-mile run on Friday and 11.05 miles on Sunday. Yeah!

Sage twist pose in yogaThe bad news is that somewhere in the middle of a sage twist during yoga on Sunday morning, I threw out my lower back on the left side (you knew it had been too long since the last time I hurt!). Boo!

I didn’t feel any ill effects while I was doing yoga, but the sage twist on my left side was the only thing I kind of forced (I know, I know: you’re never supposed to force). And that wasn’t very sagacious of me.

I had done some weight training for my legs the day before as well, so when I was running on Sunday morning in Euclid, I felt a little strain on my left side. It only felt like I was a little weary on that side, so I continued to run. Four miles in, I felt the pain creeping up the back of my leg toward my back. And, again, it didn’t feel like a pull or a sharp pain, but more like fatigue than anything else. I walked for a block or two and tried to stretch it out, then continued to run.

It was nice to be back on old stomping grounds in Euclid—I was visiting family this weekend and didn’t get my long run done on Saturday because I went to a bridal shower—where the sidewalks were endless and the largest animals were overfed, aggressive squirrels. I ran about 30 blocks from my mom’s house to East 185th Street, and then winded down a tributary off East 200th all the way to 222nd. Then it was while I was cutting down a street past my old high school that I started feeling a little more pull on the left side and walked a bit.

I picked up running again as I neared Babbitt Road at mile four, which I ran at 8:42 pace. Shortly before I started feeling pain, I ran into an old soccer and track coach of mine whose first words after not seeing me for ten years were, “what’s up with your left side?” At that point, I wasn’t compensating for my pain (yet) and was just running as usual. He had watched me run for about three strides and noticed that I have a semi-lazy left leg. I had always suspected it, but could never actually see my stride because I haven’t run in a hall of mirrors lately (I’ve tried to check out my shadow, but that’s always horribly distorted and unappealing ;-).

My left knee, however, doesn’t lift or bend the way it should, which is something I had felt while running but didn’t pay much attention to because my whole left side has always been kind of stupid. And he pointed out that the extreme wear on the tip of my left toe and the outer left heel on my shoes was damning evidence of my stupid left leg. The funniest thing he said was, “You better be careful or you’ll wipeout pretty hard someday.” Ahh, where was he two weeks ago?

But the self-fulfilling prophecy continued. After he helped me a little more with sagely coach’s advice, I was running down Babbitt Road past my brother’s house when I wiped out again! It was the same type of fall as last time, but I’ve been so mentally prepared since last time that I fell and hopped back up with only a scraped hand. Luckily my brother wasn’t home, so I escaped with some shards of my pride. Can you see why I run alone?

Oddly enough, my left side felt considerably better after the fall. But I took my pace way down: 9:10, 9:16, 9:20 for miles 5, 6 and 7. I ran all the way up Babbitt Road to Lakeshore, and then took Lakeshore almost to the Euclid-Willowick border (it was going to be a cross-Euclid trek, but I passed my old street and took a turn to check out the former hood) before turning back and heading home. And that was when I started feeling a little achy.

I ran mile eight at 9:29, which is the nice, slow pace I’ve been targeting… but I had hoped to achieve that pace from mental training and effort rather than pain and surrender. I ran the next mile at 9:23 before I really focused on running at a moderate pace with an active left leg. Employing my left leg as an active partner in running didn’t feel anymore physically exhausting (my right leg was grateful), but it was something I truly had to think about stride after stride. How difficult can putting one foot in front of the other be?

I finished the last 11 miles of my 100-mile goal with 9:18 and 9:15 tenth and eleventh miles. It wasn’t until after I showered and cooled down, however, that the real back pain set in. Right now if I put weight down on my left leg my lower back screams. Or maybe that’s just me. So, I’m taking the day off my feet to see if it’s something that needs medical attention. I might, however, need some mental medical attention for pulling something in my back and then running 11 miles, but that’s a different story.

Running throughout Euclid, as I mentioned, was awesome despite the wincing end. Not only was it nice to be somewhere I couldn’t get lost (I grew up there and it’s built on a grid) and whose sidewalks didn’t abruptly end in 45-mph roads! The only hazard was running into someone I knew and having them tell me I’m doing something wrong. But sometimes that’s precisely what we need.

Once I’m on my feet again, I’m going to hit the track (perhaps I’ll check out the outdoor track this time) and work on educating the stupid left leg. It’s difficult to communicate the extent of my left leg’s lack of coordination, but let’s just say that when I danced ballet we would do exercises on my graceful right side and then I’d almost knock down the class on my left. By now I think it’s my left side’s inability to move as directed and 27 years’ worth of frustration. But at least now I can focus on something simple. One foot at a time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

89 Miles Down, Plus: Your Fashion Tips

It’s amazing how quickly the week can get away from you: I skipped a run on Monday for whatever reason, and that guilt carried into Tuesday’s swim (but was mitigated by the Cavaliers game—it was still awesome to be there) and only mounted yesterday.

Despite it all, I covered 7.33 miles at lunch today (that leaves 11 miles to go!), including a 1.11-mile warm-up and 6.2-mile run at 8:42/mile pace. And I think I have found my very comfortable pace for distance-building between 8:35 and 8:45/mile. For months I struggled with running too fast too soon: remember the whole 7:37/mile on my first 10-miler? Silly G!

Now I can start running at a comfortable pace without having to brainwash myself, burn in the heat or insist on singing to gauge my intensity (although it’s still fun).

While I didn’t understand the importance of the long-and-slow when I started running, it’s all making sense now (and I definitely wouldn’t have made it to 14+ miles by now). It had been my impression that if I had built endurance at a slower pace, I would never be able to improve my speed. But that’s just silliness. And I know that many, many people tried to explain the concept to me, but sometimes you just have to make sense of things yourself.

I am, however, still working on my pace and trying to find my optimum intensity. And getting back to my HR monitor could help. I haven’t used it in the past month because I suffered some pretty awful chafing from the thing on one of my long runs on a hot day.

Aquaphor is the stuffSo, as I get back to understanding my HRM, I’ll also be a big fan of skin protectants like Aquaphor (I received a sample of Aquaphor from the Cleveland 10-miler in April and have become a big fan; I’m always skeptical of free samples, and was pleasantly surprised), which has really helped me recover my pride from my recent wipeout.

Today’s run took me back inside: after the wipeout and the car incident, I’ve decided that on days when I really want to intently focus on my stride or pace or anything but my surroundings, I will either run on a [bearless] trail or at the track (Kent State also has an outdoor track, so I might check that out soon too) despite my previous prejudices toward the perfect terrain.

But alas, someone had let their children run rampant on the track, so it became an obstacle course at times. At least this time, as opposed to the bear, car and ground incidents, I was bigger. I didn’t make anyone cry this time, but there were a few close calls and severe tackles.

What are your favorite shorts? My other distraction on my run was my shorts. So, I wanted to know if anyone had any running fashion tips: what’s a good running short? I have spent most of my life utterly opposed to wearing shorts, but after spending 1-2 sunny runs in pairs of dark cropped pants, I’m ready to be converted.

While the shorts I already own are good for general exercise, they’re not made for distance running. In fact, they’re good for 3-4 miles, but then get a little… cranky, we’ll say. I’ve been checking out different styles online, would like to get opinions and will eventually check things out in person before I amass a new collection of runnable clothing.

The Cavaliers games have started so late in the finals that my superstitious running routine has been utterly shot—at least now we know what the problem has been. Sorry Cavs fans! And I had something bad-for-my-stomach to eat today, so I was whipped when I came home and couldn’t head out for a bit at 9 p.m.

One final funny note:
Salty is an awesome runner from the blogosphere who kicked butt in a 5K on Wednesday. I was reading her race report, in which she logged that her first-mile split was 5:50, and realized that her first-mile split was my running-for-my-life-from-my-fear-of-bears “split” from last Sunday’s run through the wilderness. I felt like I was literally flying at that pace, and she ran it in a mid-week 5K race. How awesome is that? Way to go, Salty!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Still Proud to be a Cavs Fan

I may not have had the opportunity to run on Tuesday, but I did go swimming and get my cardiovascular and larynx work in at the Cavaliers game. Despite the loss, it was awesome to go to the first-ever basketball championship game in the city. There was an energy downtown that I don’t recall experiencing (even during the ’95 and ’97 world series games—curse you, Jose Mesa!), and I hope it returns each spring for many years to come.

But I have to get back downtown ASAP to get a photo with the big LeBron banner before ODOT makes them take it down.

I’m a little horse this morning, but I definitely got in some major shoulder work from all the clapping, abdominal exercise from the cheering and some serious vocal overworking for yelling about bad calls, awesome plays and the inevitable cherrypicker (ahem, Bowen).

But on the tri-training side, I made it back to the pool for a measly 1,500-yard swim, which included:
  • 300 yards free warm up
  • 400 yards IM
  • 4 x 200 yards free

The swim started off really because I was pumped about some potentially good news I may reveal in a few weeks. But midway through the 200s I couldn’t find my rhythm. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t tight. I just didn’t have it. In fact, swimming the last two 200s was near brutal. Where’s Flipper when you need him?

But I feel like such a sloth this week: I haven’t run since Sunday and still have 18 miles remaining on my 100-miles-by-next-Tuesday goal. Rest, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And perhaps I could get in a few miles this week if I get back to my first-quarter running routine for the Cavs. That’s what’s been missing!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Running Sc-sc-scared!

So, aside from seeing a BEAR on my Sunday morning run, it was a really pleasant weekend for getting back in the yoga swing and then being outdoors. After ending my Friday workday huddling in our back hallways tornado shelter with my co-workers, I was ready to enjoy a springy couple of days. And so I did.

But taking a few steps back, I have to mention that my early-morning yoga has really taken off and appears to be paying off as well. I’ve noticed that—aside from the much-heralded benefits of stretches, meditation and poses—getting up in the morning to do yoga is much more satisfying than waking up to drag myself to work.

Not only do I wake up easier, but I sleep better and feel more relaxed, yet more energetic, throughout the day. Plus, my sinking, bad posture doesn’t hit me until later in the day when I’m ready to go for a run or swim anyway.

Yogi TeaWhat’s more is that I got my hands on a kick-butt tea at Trader Joe’s: Yogi Tea. Apparently it’s not uncommon; it’s new to me. But it’s a really tasty organic tea with lemongrass, green tea, licorice root, jasmine green, alfalfa leaf, burdock root, Irish moss and other healthy stuff. It’s invigorating yet relaxing. Just the scent kicks your breathing into ujjai pranayama.

And that’s how I’ve been waking up and settling down since last Thursday. Sigh.

But on Saturday afternoon, I hopped up (after a nap) and went for a 14-mile bike ride with Neil from Stow to Main Street Cupcakes, where we rewarded ourselves with vanilla sundae cupcake for me (that’s fudge-filled vanilla cake topped with chocolate ganache and buttercream frosting) and two classic chocolate cuppies for Neil.

Get yourself some cupcakes already! I’ve never felt more motivated to go for another 14-mile bike ride in my life! Wonder what I’m doing next weekend?

It was a great ride: pretty uphilly, particularly on the way back, with a mix of trail, road and gravel. It was rough in spots (Like the gradual one-mile incline out of Hudson that we didn’t notice on our way in, and a gargantuan mountain of a hill right as we made it into Stow. I think one of us proclaims that we hate the other one at least once each time we take that big hill!), but the perfect afternoon made it an easy ride despite the terrain.

We’re really inching forward with cycling progress, and I think I’m right on the verge of being ready to bike it to work. How awesome would that be? But I’m still wheel-stupid and have figure out how to put my tires on correctly so my brakes don’t press against my tire when I hit a certain speed.

A couple weeks ago Landon asked if I have quick-release wheels… and I believe I do. The dirtiest part for putting my bike back together is getting the chain back on the rear wheel. I’m almost positive I’m doing it all wrong (I know I shouldn’t have assumed that Neil was listening better than I was when the guy at Eddy’s showed me how to do it; it was, after all, my bike), so if anyone has any secrets of bike-wheel-putting-on, I would really appreciate it. I even get a little anxious flying down big hills, wondering my tires are ready to pop off at any moment. It’s a good thing I wear a helmet.

Maybe I just need practice and should stop being afraid of the big, bad wheel. It would be nice to take my bike places without my wheel fear. And it might be easier to ride without that wheel-popping-off thing weighing on my mind.

But for now I’ll have that bear-coming-after-me fear weighing on my running shoes. This week I took my Saturday-morning long run on Sunday morning. There was a 50K bike race trolling the Summit Metroparks trails on Sunday, so the typically desolate paths were pleasantly populated.

I’m bored with the same old streets I’ve been running for the past several months, and was, for once, not looking forward to running this weekend… until I saw the trails as a possibility.

I started an even-paced jog down a path, which was fairly peopled with cyclists, walkers and joggers when Neil and I rode it a couple weekends ago. But 2-3 miles down the trail, all of the racers turned off onto a road and I was suddenly by myself. I was certain that someone had to be around on other parts of the trail… but no-oh!

So, I tried pushing out of my head recent news stories (and the scoop about the lady on very nearby OH-303 getting bitten by a coyote a couple months ago) and staying focused on my running until I hit a more populated area. Or at least something I could recognize! Finally, I ran up a steep, steep hill and hit a fork in the road that I knew led back to a residential neighborhood a mile down the path in one direction and downtown Peninsula in the other.

I saw a flippin' bear and it looked just like this...But as I turned around at the top of the hill, wondering which direction to choose, I saw a big old furry animal sloping down the hill. I stopped for a minute to figure out what it was. And I recognized that shape, that fur, that gait—it was a BEAR!

No joke: the bear was totally headed in the opposite direction, but I took off running (the path toward the mile-away residential hood) faster than these stubby little legs have ever moved. And according to my iPod, it was my first ever sub-6-minute mile!

When I reached the neighborhood, I didn’t stop running, but I slowed way down (obviously!) to the 8:41/mile pace I maintained for most of the run. I cut through the streets and hit a main street that led me through Hudson, around Stow and onto a path that had people on it and only much, much smaller animals on it. And much to my surprise, I was able to finish my run pretty comfortably after running for what I considered to be my life.

The only downside is that while I ran 12.07 miles, I had greater distance to go. As I was jogging down the path toward my car (I could see it glinting in the sun a mile away), my knee felt a little tweaky.

Before (in my previous life as a runner… three weeks ago) I would have kept running through the pain and ignored the very signs that tell me something is wrong. Instead I stopped. I walked for a bit and tried to pick it up again, but my knee didn’t feel right. So, I walked the remaining mile. I hydrated and rested for the day, and tried to stay off the knee for a while. And today I feel much better.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Two-a-Day To-a-day

After several weeks’s worth of listless mornings in which I awoke at 6:30 a.m. but didn’t get my butt out of bed until 7 a.m., I got up when my eyes opened on Thursday morning and took to my latest thing: Namaste Yoga.

It was the “yoga for distance runners” program, and while it involved plenty of stretching and hammy work, I didn’t quite seeing the direct benefits to runners. And while it is a great yoga program, it’s a little too esoteric to explain why this particular episode is gear toward runners.

Nevertheless, it was a great way to kick off a morning. I must admit, however, that between my early-morning stiffness and extended absence from yoga, I have lost much of my flexibility. I’ll have to increase my stretching during the day and pre-yoga to see if I’ve just gone eternally stiff or if there is still hope for these achey bones.

Yet they weren’t too achey for an afternoon swim. I’ve been getting nervous these past several swims—because of the distance between each of my workouts—that I’ll suddenly forget how to swim or not be able to swim more than a lap at a time. But that’s the thing I’ve always like about swimming: I never seem to lose too much in the way of shape. Sure, my endurance wanes, but I never lose my technique or feel like a fish out of water… in the water.

And thus, on what I hope will be a longer stay in a swimming regiment, I swam an 1,800-yard ladder:
200 yards free
250 yards free
300 yards free
350 yards free
400 yards free
Warmdown: 200 yards s-l-o-w IM and 100 yards butterfly kick

During that first 200 yards, I actually thought my arms were going to detach themselves from my body in protest to what I was doing to them (it was less about the swimming pain threshold and more the more-intense weight training I did for two days before). But as pain thresholds have it, I loosened up about 150 yards into the second set and cruised for the rest of the way. Granted, I was a little more tired than I was swimming these distances a couple weeks ago, but I’ll be back to un-tired soon!

I was un-tired enough last night to take an evening run around 8:15 p.m.—it was meant to be my pre-Cavs-superstition run (they needed a warm-up game anyway!), but tip-off was at 9 p.m., and I didn’t want to run too late—for 3.54 miles, which puts me at 70 miles on my 100-miles goal with 11 days to go. I’m fairly confident that I can complete 30 miles in 11 days. I’ll just have my fingers crossed that neither my body, uneven sidewalks or inconsiderate vehicles stand in my way!

It was, thankfully, a wholly uneventful run—even with the late-evening mugginess and waning heat. And it’s uneventful hot-runs like this that make me wonder whether I’m breathing better when running because I a) am in better shape; b) have improved the way I breathe during exercise; or c) haven’t seen nothing yet! Then, of course, there is hidden option d that suggests my breathing wasn’t the problem, it was my brain. But I’m willing to argue it’s a little of each option. Although I hope the building summer won’t get so bad I regret ever thinking there was some semblance of improvement!

You know what’s not getting better? My stitch. Almost every time I have run over the past several weeks (except the track run a couple days ago) I have ended up with one of those irritating, run-stopping stitches that crops up out of nowhere and just won’t quit. I’ve tried to get rid of it every way I know (i.e., stretching my sides, deep inhaling and exhaling on my left-foot stride, hopping on one foot while sacrificing small animals), but even if it fades, it comes back with a vengeance. What’s up with that?

When I first started running, I had the most difficult time reaching my first mile because I would get crippling side-stitches that not only bad it impossible to run, but made me uber paranoid about the mysterious things. So, I looked it up.

Most resources say that stitches are: “caused by stretching the ligaments that extend from the diaphragm to the internal organs, particularly the liver. The jarring motion of running while breathing in and out stretches these ligaments. Runners tend to exhale every two or four steps. Most people exhale as the left foot hits the ground, but some people exhale when the right foot hits the ground. It is the later group who seem more prone to get side stitches.” And they suggest breathing deeply, stretching and exhaling when your left foot hits the ground.

Today I tried massaging the stitch as I ran (so, really, it was just me poking at it from stride to stride), and it went away! It was a great accomplishment until I felt a more painful cramp immediately below where the original stitch had been stabbing. Grrr.

I guarantee a Nobel Prize for anyone who can find a cure for stitches.

And, finally, the KNEE REPORT:

Both of my knees (knock on wood) are back in working order this week. I still have some external discomfort on my left knee, which is sporting some pretty youthful-looking scabs from last Saturday’s wipeout. I was really afraid that the fall would put me back a few weeks with my knee health, but I’m beginning to think that despite the initial soreness, that big bang might have just knocked something into place.

I am, however, having a difficult time trying to justify my nice trip to my shoulder, which is still dark with a bruise and some scrapes. Boy, do I feel like a clumsy-but-spunky-and-scraped kid again!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

One Last Spring Fling

Let’s see a show of hands: who in NEOhio is ready for this spring weather to depart?

These past few days of wholly appropriate spring weather will make way for the sweltering stuff again. Starting tomorrow. But to take advantage of these last few moments of pleasant coolness (how spoiled am I?), I ran 5.53 miles at lunch today.

I warmed up with my regular one-mile jog to the rec. center to drop off my stuff before my run, but I picked up some shin splints along the way. I’m considering picking up a locker at the rec. center so I don’t have to carry a bag over each day. Protective of my stuff (and thrown off by the weight—however light it is), I think I jog a little stiff.

So, it took about two and a half or three miles for me to warm up. And it probably didn’t help that I was wearing my knee brace for the first time in a while. Why, you ask? Well, just as I was getting back from my big spill (which happened right when my knees started feeling just peachy), I stood up in my office and twisted my knee.

Seriously, I must have given up all of my good karma on Cavaliers games (yes, yes, I’ll be donating the rest of it for the finals) because I’ve been an unbelievable klutz lately. Have you ever heard anyone with less grace?

I was walking out of my office when I felt my knee tweak, so I was leaning against my doorway shaking it out… right when our AVP walks by wondering what was up. And then, of course, he started singing the “hokey pokey.”

It didn’t hold me back too much on my run, and I’m happy to report that I’m 66.4 miles into my 100-mile goal with 13 days to go!

Although I didn’t have the proper atmosphere for doing the Namaste Yoga for distance runners today, I’m going to get to it tomorrow. And barring any car alarms triggering at 2:45 a.m. for seven loud, loud minutes, I might even have time in the morning. For several weeks, I’ve been waking up at 6:30 a.m. and just tossing for 30 minutes. Perhaps I can just use that time for something yogi.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Taking a Yoga Night

Even though I am still recovering from being a clumsy idiot, it doesn’t mean it’s all downtime around here.

I had to hold off on swimming today because my upper arm, shoulder and elbow are still a little tender (I’ve been living minor-injury-to-minor-injury like some people live paycheck-to-paycheck). While I could have taken a run on the pleasantly brisk day, I opted for an hour of yoga and light weight training instead.

Have you heard of the FitTV series Namaste Yoga? It’s a fairly stylized program that features an at-times intense flow yoga workout, which I did for about 22 minutes this evening. I caught the title a while back when searching my digi cable guide for NBA Basketball (what else?) and recorded a couple episodes on my DVR. And despite its mildly distracting production, Namaste Yoga is a good yoga program.

Tonight’s yoga started out with three cat series that rolled all of Saturday morning’s bad vibes out of my back. I’ve been a little creekedy these past couple days (and I realize more and more each day how different it was to fall at 17 compared to 27) and was a little wary about getting into yoga. So, as usual, I inched my way in. While there was a little bit of pain at the beginning, I really warmed up after a few poses and some deep breathing. I think I’m just about ready to stop being a wuss and get back to being my full self again.

I hadn’t realized, however, how out of yoga shape my arms had gotten over the winter (I’m a winter yoga slacker, I admit it). After about three repetitions of cat pose to cat stretch to upward dog to downward dog, I could feel various tri- and bicep-area muscles creeping out from hibernation. They feel pretty warm right now, but I’m sure they’ll be quite alive and kicking tomorrow!

But the yoga won’t stop here. I’m very eager to check out the Namaste Yoga I’m recording this evening, which was described as flow yoga for distance runners. I have noticed that after I do yoga, I have considerably better posture for at least a day after a workout. And then I slump back into my frumpy stance. But that posture carries over into my running. It not only improves my focus and the way I carry my weight; it opens up my chest and helps me breathe better.

So, I will definitely take to my yoga mat tomorrow night and pass along the yoga secrets of the running people.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Regaining My Training Legs

Under most circumstances, getting caught in the rain isn’t the worst thing that can happen on run. But after Saturday’s run-in with the sidewalk, I felt a little wary of inclement weather and opted to renew my confidence on the long-neglected track at the rec. center.

And, you know, it really wasn’t bad.

I ran a mile to the rec. center, 6.13 miles on the track and then another mile back to work. The day’s 8+ miles put me at 59.1 miles with two weeks remaining in my run to 100 miles goal. I have been targeting the century mark since April, and it appears I might actually make it this time (knock on wood). At this point I am 12.5 miles ahead of my target… so, at least I have some wiggle room in case of emergency.

Today’s run, however, was all about getting my confidence back. I know most people need to retrieve their confidence from memories of a bad race or a bout with injury or illness. Well, I had to get it back from the concrete on the corner of Kent Road and OH-91.

Although I ran on Saturday night, in my pre-Cavs ritual, it wasn’t a comfortable run at all. I was uneasy, scared and wholly unfocused—I didn’t know whether to worry more about unfriendly cars or uneven sidewalks—at that was just a little over two miles. So, I started out slow.

I almost forgot how easy it is to run on the track. No hills, no wind, no godforsaken heat and humidity! Not mention the even and friendly surface. And after an 8:59 warm-up mile, I aimed to build a touch of speed for each mile because it was going to be a short run on such simple terrain.

I picked up mile two to 8:47 and three at 8:40. I wasn’t even winded after an 8:37 fourth mile or 8:30 fifth. So, I came cruising in at 8:00 for the last mile and then cooled down for a few laps for a 53-minute run.

Also: I am most happy to report that my knees have been quite awesome. Despite the Saturday scare and weekend soreness, they have really felt great when running the past couple weeks. All it took was a little doctor scare! My left knee is still scabby and sore to the touch from the fall, but feels great in my stride. (My left arm, however, is a different story: after landing, flipping and skidding on my upper arm and shoulder, weight training and swimming will take some slower getting used to… I’ll see how it feels in the pool tomorrow).

The one-mile runs to and from the rec. center were nice bookends to the workout. It was a little awkward to jog with a tote bag (and trying not to sweat too badly on the way back because I had already showered), but I made it work. It was better than wasting gas to drive across campus… and only took a few extra minutes.

Next on my list of ways to integrate training into my work day: packing my bike. I would like to start bringing my bike to work. I’m not yet in cycling shape to make the ride to work (correction: I’m not in shape to make the ride to work and then actually want to pedal home at 5 p.m.), but it would be nice to have my bike to ride to places like the rec. center or anywhere else wind-blown helmet hair might be appropriate. It just breaks my heart when I have to drive somewhere, and I’d really like an alternative when there just isn’t enough time to walk.

Now, if only I could get my wheels on and off without a big, dramatic and greasy scene, I would be all set.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Last I checked there hasn't been anything this awesome in Cleveland in quite some time. I hope you're all going nuts right now celebrating (and if you listen carefully, I think you can hear Joe whooping in Vancouver too)!

I ran my 2.24 miles before the game. And the tradition continues!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Have a Nice Trip and See You Next Fall

Since Thursday, I have run twenty miles, swum 1,000 yards and biked six miles; celebrated the Cavaliers’ win and tried to generate some good b-ball karma for tonight; been surprised at the Indians’ ability to bounce back; and been stunned at my ability to bounce of concrete when I wipe out in the middle of a run. Here’s how it all went down…

I missed lunch to be a lower-calf/ankle model for a JMC ad being shot in our office (no, I don’t have glamorous lower calves and ankles; I was the most gullible and least busy-looking that afternoon). I only mention it because I had to pose standing on bricks wearing a pair of running flats, which I had never seen in real life. I’ve only read about them.

Outtakes from the flats shootWhat’s funny is that as I was wearing them I thought, “I could see how Salty could have experienced calf trouble after racing in a new pair for the first time.” The heel is substantially lower than traditional running shoes (hence the name, eh?) and they were light as air. But as I walked around and stood and posed in them for a while, I could feel a different stress in my legs than when I wear non-flat shoes. From what I understand, racing flats mimic running in bare feet, the way nature intended, and improves your foot-to-ground power transfer.

We had a thorough discussion regarding flats as I was wearing them and it was cool to try on a pair. I don’t think, however, I would benefit from running in a pair anytime soon. Unless they have a secret jet-propelled compartment in them.

Since I missed another lunchtime run, I came home and headed straight out after work. Then, of course, I ran 2.34 miles before a thunderstorm broke out. By the time I made it home, took a shower and towel-dried my hair, it had stopped raining and the sun came out. Darn it! So, right before the Cavs game began, I felt inspired to at least make five miles for the day. I headed out and ran an addition 3.36 miles around my neighborhood to make 5.7 miles for the day.

The latter run overlapped with the first quarter of the b-ball game, as had been the trend for three of the five games, and I have now become superstitious. So, in spite of the injuries I’ll detail below, I will be going to for a good-luck jog before tonight’s game. I realize that the world doesn’t revolve around me. But I need to keep the good karma alive!

I FINALLY made it to the pool! No joke. I had some anxiety about getting into the pool because the last time I was in April. So, I just promised myself that I would swim 500 yards and forgive myself for falling off the wagon. But I didn’t lose as much as I had thought! I jumped in (and my goodness is the water frickin’ freezing this time of year!) with the intention to push through 100-200 yards for warm up. But after 100 I felt fine, and then after 200 I was OK too. I swam right through to 500 yards with only a little bit of fatigue. How awesome is that?

One thing I did notice, however, was that I was a little more winded than usual when I swam that first 500 yards. Just like you get more winded when running after just too much of a break. But it was the first time I experienced and recognized it since I began swimming again.

Many of my friends who are trying to get into swimming have said that they can’t get their breathing down… and I thought they were talking about the physical act of turning their heads and sucking down air. Now I think I have a clue. And maybe I’ll be able to help. See, all this skipping swimming has an upside!

But I wasn’t really that winded. So, I rounded out 1,000 yards with a 400-yards IM (one-armed fly, backstroke, breaststroke with butterfly kick and free) and a 100-yard free warm down.

I mention the IM sequence because I a) didn’t want anyone to seriously think I could swim 100 yards fly after that break and b) wanted to mention a bit about my knees. For all my life, my knees have rarely bothered me when swimming. When I turned into my breaststroke laps yesterday, I made my first kick and couldn’t believe how much my knees wanted to pop off. It killed!

My knees have felt great while running lately, but they don’t seem to keen on moving in that circular-stress direction. So, I swam breaststroke with butterfly kick, which is a good way to swim knee-pain-free and look like you’re drowning without slowing down too much. I’ll have to take that stroke slowly and see if I can somehow achieve all-around knee health one of these days. Maybe they just needed a wakeup call.

The 1,000 yards didn’t take remotely as much time as I had for lunch. I quickly showered, dried, dressed and then hit the bikes! I cycled 6 miles on a rec. center stationary bike and then hit the track for a mile. I had my own little lunchtime triathlon!

I didn’t keep time, but it was nice to get back into swimming with a mini-brick workout.

It started out well. I woke up early to blue skies and singing birds. But it must have been 85 degrees by 9 a.m., so I put on a sleeveless shirt and a pair of shorts for my Saturday-morning long run.

Greens Plus chocolate energy barsFor all my life, I’ve been a little uncomfortable in shorts, but I thought it would behoove me to go cool today. I spent a little too much time worrying about how they would fare on a hot, long run, but I did it anyway. I ate a GreensPlus awesome bar and washed it down with water for breakfast (it tastes and feels much better than it sounds), packed an Orange Burst GU, and hit the trails.

And for the first time I was able to slow myself down to a 9-minute/mile pace! It was probably my most even long-distance run to date, even though it was a severely hilly path. I started out with four even-paced miles (9:03, 9:06, 9:11, 9:07) that were uneventful and left me feeling warmed up and not at all tired. So, I picked up my pace a tad for the next four miles (8:44, 8:47, 8:48, 8:48) before making a water and GU stop at Handel’s in Stow (nothing like hitting up the ice cream shop in the middle of a run!).

The Orange Burst GU tasted all right (I think I’m a lemon sublime girl), but I could feel the caffeine go straight to my head. I’m not much of a caffeine taker, so it probably hits me a little more than the average person. Or maybe I’m just more caffeine-paranoid than the average person. Anyhow, I felt a little water-full when I resumed running—I was glug-glug-glugging down the street—and I slowed my pace again to 9:04 for the next mile.

Heading toward mile ten, however, I started feeling warmed up again and energized, so I was picking up my pace and running really loose. I was on track to run my first fifteen miles and feeling great about it around 9.93 miles into my run when I must have tripped over uneven sidewalk and totally wiped out on Kent Road in Stow.

Did you see Grady Sizemore’s much-heralded catch in the outfield against the Tigers last week? Well, that’s pretty much what I looked like, except there was no ball, no grass and no protective clothing. I hit on my hands and my bad knee first and then skidded on my left arm and shoulder as I flipped butt over head onto the sidewalk. I can only imagine what the cars driving by were thinking (other than, “hey did you see that idiot?”), but, man, did it hurt! In case you missed it (I didn't, however, get up as quickly as he did):

My knee was bleeding and hurt like nothing else while my palms were scraped a bleeding a bit from trying to catch myself. What’s more is that I was just covered with dirt and pebbles that seemed to be attracted most to wherever I was bleeding.

So, I picked up my bleeding, dirty self and had to finish the last 0.07 miles of the ten-miler. If you have a look at my graphed out run, can you tell where I fell?

Once I hit the 10-mile mark, I hobbled the mile and a half to Walgreens (I was tearing up a bit and swearing in every known language the whole way) where I picked up some Gatorade and cleaned up a bit.

But after I was hydrated and collected what was left of my dignity, I was still nearly three and a half miles from home! As I said, I still had some of my pride remaining, so I couldn’t call Neil to come pick me up. How would I ever live that down? So, I started walking home.

My knee (it had to be the bad one, didn’t it?) was pretty sore and still bleeding. I walked at a hurried pace and tried to get my legs warmed up. More than anything I just wanted to get home faster, and walking just wasn’t doing it. So, after I felt comfortable with my legs, which betrayed me, again, I took to a very light jog home. It was a very long and slow trip home, but I made it. And when I walked into my apartment with my bloody knee and sad, pouting lower lip, Neil got out the peroxide and helped me recover. And that made all the difference!

In the end, I ran 13.31 miles, which puts me at 48.7 miles in my 100-mile goal with 17 days remaining. Almost half way there!

So, on that note, I’m going to try in an hour or so to take a light jog in honor of my new Cavaliers tradition. If I can make it through a superstition-driven hobble around the block, I hope the Cavs can pull off what was once impossible (knock on wood). And then we can all rest happy.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I Am One Happy Camper

Yeah, I ran 5.7 miles today and tried on racing flats for the first time. But most of my cardiovascular workout came from the Cavaliers game, which has just ended.

And I hope that we all have 48-point days at work tomorrow.

Now, I must sleep. More on today's activities... tomorrow.