Monday, February 17, 2014
Sunday, 16 February 2014, I ran my 18th marathon, the Austin Marathon. This race was also my first marathon, back on 14 February, 2010. I had hoped to make Sunday's race my Boston Qualifying race, but it was not to be.
The first half of my four month training cycle leading up to Sunday went very well. And then two months ago began a series of sequential training disruptions -- a sinus infection at Christmas, a bruised heel after I recovered from that, a fall resulting in a bruised tailbone, then a chronic problem with my right heel that took a few weeks for me to identify (and correct) the root cause -- all of which meant that I entered Sunday's race under-trained and unprepared to run at a peak pace, especially since the problem started just as I was ramping up my long runs. I finished only one 14 mile and one 16 mile run coming into this race. Before that, my only long run was the Wineglass Marathon back in the beginning of October.
On top of all this, Sunday's weather was not a marathoner's friend. It was mid-60's and extremely humid. The air was so saturated in the first half of the race that you could actually see your breath, even though it was not cold. Fortunately, it was totally overcast for the entire race so the Texas sun was not an issue. There was also a breeze, especially later in the race. But it was not a comfortable day to run.
Nevertheless, the disrupted training did not mean that I had lost my endurance, just that my stamina had been considerably reduced. I once read definitions of "endurance" and "stamina" that work for me: Endurance is the ability to cover a distance, even it you have to slow down to do it. Stamina is the ability to cover a distance without having to slow down.
So the key to finishing Sunday's race was to find a pace that I could comfortably sustain and to slow down as needed. And that's just what I did. I was actually quite happy with my final time, 5:17:37, which was good enough for 5th in my age group.
Here are a few pictures from the day.
The race begins behind the Texas Capital bulding. Here a view of it from the front, facing the finish line:
Here I am standing behind the Capital in the pre-dawn, facing the Starting line:
DH was in the spectators somewhere between miles 18 and 19. We have just run north from downtown, mostly uphill, to this point in north Austin. Trust me, I look better than I felt at this point.
Just for fun, here I am at roughly the same spot four years ago.
Shortly after this, we run back south to downtown, mostly down hill, thank goodness. The race ends by the Capital, but we have one really big hill to climb just before we get to the finish. Here I am again, just having crested the hill and headed to the finish:
They served beer at the finish line, but after taking a cup, I discovered that you could not leave the finish area with it. So glug, glug.
One more race on the books.
Monday, February 03, 2014
Plantar fasciitis is a type of tendinitis that affects the plantar fascia connective tissue (a piece of connective tissue that’s most similar to a tendon. It runs from the heel to the ball of the foot and supports the arch). The pain is commonly more severe in the morning and tends to be located closer to the heel of the foot.
It’s caused by continuous and chronic irritation to the plantar fascia without allowing for adequate recovery. As the foot flattens during mid-stance (the plantar fascia acts like a spring and absorbs energy by elongating during the mid-stance phase of gait), this puts additional strain on the fascia. Weak musculature causes excessive flattening and if you’re not strong enough to handle this constant strain, your risk of developing PF is significantly higher.
In addition to weak foot musculature, the following can also contribute to increased strain on the plantar fascia: excessively tight calves, significant pronation, and significant supination. These cause abnormal movement patterns of the foot during mid-stance.
The pain is most commonly located at the heel because this part of the fascia is pulled on the most to lift the body while walking and running. Pronation will also cause excessive pull on the part of the fascia closest to the heel.
Labeling PF as a type of tendinitis is actually somewhat misleading because it implies a level of inflammation. However, your plantar fascia is most likely not inflamed – and therefore can’t be treated effectively with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen) or ice therapy.
Instead, plantar fasciitis is more likely a degeneration of the tissue. In other words, the fascia is damaged, due to overuse, by microscopic tears in the connective tissue.
"While ice, rest, orthotics and pain relievers may ease the discomfort, the injury can come back again (and again) unless you address the underlying cause—weak and tight muscles and tendons that make up and support the foot," says Irene Davis, Ph.D., P.T., director of the Spaulding National Running Center, Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As soon as you experience pain on the bottom of your foot on or near the heel, the likely culprit is PF and you should start these treatment steps:
1. Stop running. There’s no getting around this! Running will make it worse – so don’t run.
2. Manage the pain. While PF is not an inflammatory condition, some inflammation exists when the injury first begins. Icing can be helpful to reduce this initial period of inflammation and provide some relief. Just be aware that pain management is not itself a cure for your PF.
3. Evaluate your shoes. This applies particularly to the non-running shoes that you wear most of the day. Shoes that promote poor alignment can not only weaken your feet, they can prolong recovery and further aggravate PF symptoms.
(I find that wearing my Orthaheel sandals all the time really helps when I have PF. First, they support the heel and arch and discourage excessive sideways movement (pronation or supination). Second, they encourage (even require) more flexing and movement of the toes and foot. My foot is more "active" in these shoes.)
"Most people are unaware that the answer to plantar fasciosis is in the toes," says Ray McClanahan, DPM, sports podiatrist, founder of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon, and long-time competitive distance runner. "Repositioning the toes to the location nature intended--splayed and in line with their corresponding metatarsal bones--reduces tension on the flexor retinaculum and allows sufficient blood flow to reach the plantar fascia tissue."
4. Foam roll the soleus and calf muscles. If these muscles are tight they can exert additional strain on the plantar fascia.
5. Use a small ball (like a golf ball) or a small trigger point roller or a rolling pin to perform light self-massage of the plantar fascia and arch. Roll the underside of your foot to break up any muscle adhesions, scar tissue, or trigger points. Massage will also increase healing blood flow to the area without adding extra stress.
6. Do exercises to strengthen your feet and don't forget your hips, too. Many injuries can occur from weaknesses in the hips, including plantar fasciitis. Since the hips stabilize each leg during the stance phase of the running gait, strength in that area is particularly vital.
7. Do a test run once you are experiencing no pain during normal activities. The goal of this run is to simply see if you can run without pain – it is not to gain any fitness.
I find this the trickiest time during my recovery, because it is easy to over do. First requirement, of course, is that there be no pain during the run. But more important is to evaluate how the foot feels an hour or two after a run. If there are signs that you are aggravating the condition even if it doesn't hurt to run, stop running (again) . Sometimes a balance can be managed by keeping the runs very short.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Today is my five year anniversary on Sparkpeople.
Yesterday, I reviewed some blogs from the last five years that documented my recent progress. I did not really begin blogging until I took up running. At that point, I was already close to my weight loss goal, and running and body composition became the focus of my attention. So I have written very little about my weight loss journey, but it has been on my mind as I consider the path forward.
My journey did not start five years ago, of course, nor is it over as I write this blog today. But it has taken the past five years for me to truly understand just what path I have been traveling for the past 40 years.
I did not have problems with my weight (at least not that I was aware of), until I was in my late 40s. I was a skinny kid with a good metabolism and pretty active. I grew up before the days of video games, cable TV, personal computers, cell phones and social media, before every teenager had his/her own car, before there was a fast food joint on every corner. I lived in a small town. I walked a lot or rode my bike.
I went off to university and gained five pounds. That put me at 130, which at 5'7" seemed a good weight for me. I stayed at that weight into my 30s. As I approached my 40s, my natural weight set point increased to 135 and stabilized there. That didn't worry me too much, but what did bother me was that, even though my weight was stable, my waist line had been slowly but steadily increasing. As I entered my 40s, it was about three inches larger than it had been when I graduated, even though the scale had only increased by five pounds. I also acquired a small but growing abdominal pooch. Too bad I didn't pay more attention to these signs.
As I approached 50, I started gaining weight for the first time. It caught me a little by surprise because I was used to just cutting back on portions a bit when my clothes started feeling tight and having that be all I needed to do. Not so this time, and before I knew it, I was at 160. Clearly some serious calorie tracking was in order, and I decided to go on my first weight loss diet. This is also when I first discovered the Spark nutrition tracker. My company had a contract with Spark to put the tracker on the company wellness web site, and I used it to lose 30 pounds, back down to 130. However, my waist line was still 3 inches larger than it had been when I weighed 130 in my 30s, and I still had my abdominal bulge. Frustrating, but I unfortunately accepted the received wisdom that this was an inevitable part of aging, especially for women.
I found it difficult to maintain 130, in part because I was not willing to restrict calories all the time. My weight gradually increased until it stabilized in the 135 - 140 range and I was satisfied with that. That continued until the time period that brought me back to Sparkpeople, my late 50s when I gave up my office at work and started working from home. That meant a drastic reduction in my physical activity and I started gaining weight again. I was soon back up to 155. As before, I lost all of the weight (back to 130), but not all of the inches (my waist line was now 4 inches larger than it had been in my 30s).
The story from here has been chronicled in my blogs. How my discovery of running took me to the gym, where I had a body fat assesment and learned that while I was not heavy, I was in fact FAT -- 33% of my low weight was fat. That was extremely difficult for me to come to terms with because it was totally foreign to my self image. I did not think of myself as a fat person. But as they say, the truth shall set you free. I replaced my short term strength training plan with a long term commitment and started down this new fork in the road.
I now see the last five years as the mirror image of the years leading up to it. From my 20s into my 50s, I did not get a lot heavier but I did get a lot fatter (as my waist and abdomen were telling me had I but paid attention). For every year I did no resistance training, I lost about a half pound of muscle. Since I wasn't losing weight, that meant the lost muscle was being replaced by something else of equal weight -- fat. In the 40 years from 20 to 60, I lost between 15 and 20 pounds of muscle. No wonder my metabolism had slowed down. It really has nothing to do with getting older except in the sense that more time elapsed meant more muscle lost. But this loss is not inevitable and can be prevented or reversed. You can keep the metabolism of your youth as you age by preserving (or restoring) your muscle mass.
And that's what I've been doing for the past 4.5 years, restoring my metabolism by rebuilding muscle. For four of those years, the increase in muscle has been offset by a decrease in fat so that my scale weight has stayed the same, the reverse of the process that got me fat in the first place. But for the last six months, either the rate of muscle growth has slowed (it is close to what it was in my youth), or the rate of fat loss has increased, but in either case, I have lost some weight, my waist now measures what it did in my 30s and my abdominal pooch is almost gone.
My stats this morning:
One year ago these last two numbers were 131 and 19%.
The best part of this (to me) is that I do not have to restrict my calories OR my nutrition to maintain these results. But I do need to commit to a lifetime of healthy food, healthy physical activity and resistance training to maintain my hard won muscle. It is mine to keep but only if I use it.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Tomorrow, 01/26/2014, marks my fifth anniversary on SparkPeople. That's a lot longer than I expected to stay when I signed up all those years ago. I was just looking for a Nutrition Tracker to use for a few months while I lost weight (my goal was six months, which I made).
My, how things can change. Today, I spent some time looking over the blogs I've written to mark milestones over the years. Tomorrow, I will assess where I currently find myself and where I plan to go from here.
(6/03/2009) MY NEW PATH
"Everything has been turned on its head since I did my first 5K last month. Suddenly becoming fit enough to be a distance runner has become my primary objective. A healthy weight is now a means to that end."
(7/01/2009) REFLECTIONS ON THE VALUE OF STRENGTH TRAINING
"Then I ran a 5K and discovered that I really loved to run. I wanted to run more, and longer, races. To do this, I needed to strengthen my body to be able to perform better and remain injury free; I needed to enlist my body as an ally; I needed to learn how to develop its full potential. Over the past few weeks, I have discovered that I really like the process of training, of seeing what even a 59 year old body can do if it is respected, challenged, and cared for."
(8/09/2009) 6 MONTH SPARKVERSARY
"So here I am, a work in progress. No one will ever confuse me for a Joan Benoit or a (female) Lance Armstrong. But every day I'm a slightly stronger, slightly faster, slightly better ME."
(9/25/2009) RUNNING AS WINNERS
"The memorable thing is not to excel against others but to excel against yourself."
(7/16/2010) MILESTONES AND REFLECTIONS ON MAINTENANCE
"Today, I look at the scale and see the same weight I saw one year ago. But today, my body fat is 25% of my weight. In the past year, I have lost 9 pounds of fat and gained 9 pounds of muscle. Running saved my life when it sent me to that gym. And believe it or not, I now look forward (almost) as much to my strength sessions as I do to my running.
I can't see it on the scale, but I can tell the difference every day in the way I feel, in the way my clothes fit, and in the way I can now run."
(12/10/2012) WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT RUNNING
"Races are just one step in a runner's road. Don't make them the sole validation of your running journey."
(6/13/2013) REFLECTIONS ON FOUR YEARS OF RUNNING
"I guess my point is that there are lots of ways to make running interesting and lots of different kinds of goals that allow you a sense of accomplishment. That, in the end, is what makes it fun for me. It really is about the journey."
(7/07/2013) TODAY MARKS 4 YEARS AT GOAL WEIGHT
"BUT a life style is actions, what you do every day, and BEING healthy is a process. It is not about reaching a number (even a nice one like 19% body fat.) It is not something you 'win,' game over."
(07/08/2013) FOUR YEARS AT GOAL WEIGHT, PART TWO
"You can brute force a training program for a few weeks, or a few months, but the only way to do it for years (and years) is to enjoy it, to find value in it, in short, to want to do it more than the other options that exist to occupy your time. "
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