Sunday, May 23, 2010
I have been bad.
On May 10th, during a 4 mile training run my left iliotibial band (IT band) decided it had had enough abuse and rebelled. My darn IT band exploded in pain. I was running really well when my IT band gave up the ghost.
I spent the next 11 days working on rehab. I rested. I stretched. I did strengthen exercises with a therapy band. I had 3 more weeks of this really boring routine to go. To quote Popeye the cartoon sailor, "That's all I can stands, cuz I can't stands n'more"
Rather than blame myself for my misery, I decided to blame my shoes! I thought I must need a stability shoe. I grabbed my running stuff and my old shoes. I made a sojourn to one of the best running shoe stores in the world called the Boulder Running Company.
I walked into the store carrying my old Nike Pegasus shoes and was helped by a humorless young man. He knew his stuff so I tolerated his dead-pan attitude. I told him about my IT band problems. I changed into my running shorts and my old shoes. I jumped on one of the treadmills for a video analysis of my gait.
By the way, I HATE running on a treadmill! I have heard people say they have run 4 miles on a treadmill. Although a treadmill is a good way to get some exercise, you don't go anywhere. When I run 4 miles I end up 4 miles from where I started. If I am on a treadmill I stay in one place! But I digress, which is nothing new.
So I am running on the treadmill and the video camera is going. He keeps increasing the speed. He asks, "Is that too fast?" I say, "No, my exploded IT band likes going 30 miles an hour!" He responds, "That is not 30 miles an hour and there is no such thing as an exploded IT band!" Eventually he stops treadmill. While we were watching the video he gave me the bad news. He tells me my ankles are in perfect alignment with centerline of my shoes. He says, "You are in the right shoe." I joked, “I would rather blame the shoes for my problem." He says, "Have you increased your mileage lately." I respond, "Yeah, I have", He asks "Have you been stretching and doing your PT exercises?" I go, "Heck no, those are boring," He puffs up and says, "You have to take personal responsibility to prevent injuries." I am too nice a guy. I say, “Thank you for your words of wisdom. Can we try a stability shoe now?” He says, “Ok, you are the boss.”
He pulls out a Nike stability shoe. I put the shoe and I immediately know the shoe ain’t right. I jumped on the treadmill. After three strides the humorless clerk stopped the machine. He says, “That shoe is not going to work.” I agree, “Oh brother those shoes hurt like heck!” He shows me the video. My ankles are rolling outward something fierce.
Sometimes I wonder if a runner buys the wrong type of brand XYZ shoes and after a few painful miles declares XYZ shoes to be a horrible brand. My wife looks at my pile of Nike shoes and blasts, “How can you wear those awful Nike shoes! They suck!”
I still needed new shoes. My old shoes were pretty much annihilated. He tells me he has no Nike Pegasus in stock. I have my older Nike Pegasus +25s and my newer Pegasus +26s with me. He asks what size I wear. I wear a 13 XD. I tell him the +25 shoes feel great but the +26 shoes do not feel as good. He looks at the +26s and tells me the shoes are XE’s. The shoes are the wrong size! Bingo! It could be the shoes.
He asks me what I want to spend on shoes. The Pegasus cost $85. I tell him I will spend whatever it takes to get a good shoe. He brings out a pair of Nike Zoom Vomero +5s. The shoes jump on my feet. He tells me to go outside and run on the shoes. I take the shoes for a spin. They feel great and are very cushy ride. The shoes are also extremely light! $142 dollars later I have new shoes. All that jazzy hi-tech wiz-bang feather-light stylish swooshiness costs a lot of money.
I was down in Denver. The temperature was an unbelievable 90 degrees F. After 9 months of running in freezing temperatures I wanted to run in hot weather. I don’t care if the IT band hurts. I am going running. I am an addict! To make a long story short, I ran for 40 minutes and enjoyed every step.
I am back!
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Almost every runner I know has nagging recurring injuries. Some have trouble with feet. My daughter battles plantar fasciitis. Knees give a lot of runners problems. My wife has knees that tend to pop and swell. A guy at my work is a triathlete. He has weak ankles and is often limping after an event.
My injury of choice is iliotibial band syndrome, also called IT band friction syndrome. The IT band is a strong thick fibrous tissue that runs on the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee. The IT band stabilizes the knee and the quadriceps. The IT band is attached to a muscle above the hip called the Tensor fasciae latae muscle, or TFL for short.
The TFL muscle and the IT band are vital when lifting the foot and driving it forward, aka running. The TFL and IT band stabilizes the leg so other more powerful muscles can drive the runner forward.
A tight IT band causes excessive friction over the hip bursa. The bursa becomes inflamed. The TFL can strain and tear. Then it is sayonara to your knees, hips, gluteal muscles and hamstrings. What does this feel like? It feels like a red hot spike has been driven into your hip and your knee has been hit with a hammer. The area between your pelvis and hip is on fire. An article I read said, "Pain can literally bring a runner to his/her knees". I think that is an understatement!
I really have no one to blame but myself. The pain is always on my left side. I had a flare-up last summer and went into intense physical therapy. Once I was able to run again, which took 6 weeks; the therapists gave me a set of stretches and strengthening exercises to prevent a future injury. I did those exercises for a while, but they were really boring so I stopped. Bad idea!
So what have I been doing to recover? Nothing! I am resting to give the inflammation time to subside. Tomorrow I start a regime of stretching and therapy band exercises. I can do some cardio on my elliptical trainer, but not too much. I can't run.
This really sucks!
Saturday, May 08, 2010
I am really starting to like quirky little mountain trial races. These races are not listed on any web site. Advertisement is largely by word of mouth. The organization is informal and somewhat amateurish. There are no race packs or electronic timing chips. Races do not start on time. Bibs are made with ink jet printers or by hand.
What do you get for your $15 entry fee?
You get to run on interesting and challenging terrain. The settings are beautiful and remote. The fields are small. The racers are extremely friendly. The organizers are happy to see you. There is a bond among the runners. These are hard races. Just showing up earns you respect. Nobody cares who wins. Even the winner doesn’t care.
High-altitude mountain races are not everybody’s cup of tea. The runners tend to be confident, poised and usually pretty darn fast. There is no such thing as a PR. The conditions and terrain are so variable that time is irrelevant.
Earlier today my son and I ran the in Lake George 5K. Ben is my oldest boy and is pushing 30. He can’t resist a trail race. I called him last night to invite him to the race. I knew he would be hooked. We had to leave at 6:00 am this morning to make the race. The race was a fair distance away over winding mountain roads.
When we arrived at Lake George the temperature was 33.8 degrees F. The wind was 11 mph gusting to 19 mph. I really didn’t know what to wear. The wind was very cold but the sun was shining. I considered wearing my fleece pull-over and long pants. In the end, I decided to wear a heavy long sleeve T-shirt, shorts and a headband. I was plenty warm during the race.
Lake George is at 8,200 feet of elevation. The course varied between 8,200 and 8,700 feet. There is not a lot air this high. At least I live and train at this altitude. The air is dry. The sun is bright white. Sunburn and cracked lips are a problem. In the cold a runny nose is annoying.
The field was pretty normal for a high-altitude race. There were 37 runners. I bet this was the smallest race on May 8th in the state of Colorado. Right before the race started, Ben looked around at everyone lined up at the starting line. He said to me, “Hey dad - I think you are the oldest and heaviest runner here!” I looked at him and shook my head, “Thanks Ben – that is exactly what I needed to hear!” The Starter blasted over a bull horn, “Runners get ready - GO!”
The course started on a narrow dirt road and was flat for ¼ mile. After the flat stretch the course went up a long hill. Why do these courses always have a long hill at the beginning? My Garmin recorded that this hill was ½ mile long at a 10% grade, which is not bad. After the first hill the course started to roll up and down. The course would go up for an 1/8 of a mile, and then down for an 1/8 of mile. Eventually we dropped down near the water and ran across a flood control dam near the west end of the reservoir. This was really pretty. The water was clear and crystal blue. The top of the dam was flat and I could really get rolling. At the end of dam the course turned left and went down a narrow path. The path went through Buck Brush and Pussy Willows. These scrubby trees smacked against me and hurt a bit. Since I was the widest person in the race, I think I took the worst of it!
The course then went over another flood control dam at the eastern end of the reservoir. At the end of the dam and course went up a very steep hill. When I got to the top of the hill I saw the most amazing sight. A long set of stairs snaked up the hill in front of me. These stairs were made of railroad ties and dirt. The stairs were equal to about 5 flights. Each stair was 2 to 3 feet long. I tried to bound up the stairs. Man did that hurt!
After climbing the stairs I could see the finish line off in the distance. I was really hurting! This last part of this course was hard. I drove to the finish line. Ben was already there cheering me on. As I crossed the finish line the time keeper called out 27:36! I thought that was pretty fast. I was pleased.
I moved out of the way, bent over and put my hands on my knees. I was breathing like a freight train. Ben came over and asked, “Do you want to know how you placed?” I gave him a breathless, “I don’ care!” He said, “You would care if you knew.” I snapped, “Ok Ben, how did I do?” He goes, “Well if you don’t care, I won’t tell you that you took 4th place!” I was shocked, “No way!”
Two high school cross-county runners took 1st and 2nd. These guys were wearing their cold weather Cripple Creek cross-country uniforms. I found out later that 1st place kid has an athletic scholarship to run for the Air Force Academy. Ben took 3rd and I took 4th. There was another guy running that was 50. (I am 53) He came in about 5 minutes behind me. I gave him a high-five and said, “Old guys rule!”
This is Ben. He is having shoulder surgery on Tuesday. He said his shoulder was "wonky" but he could run.
Here I am after the race. The temperature had warmed up to 36 degrees F when this photo was taken.
This is Lake George. I had this photo in an earlier blog. I just think it is a really pretty picture.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
I am drawn to high-altitude trail races. I live in the Colorado Rockies on purpose. I have been known to gripe about the lack of oxygen at extreme altitudes. Some of you have heard me curse the wind, cold and snow. I really don't mind winter weather. I just don't like nine months of winter weather!
Although I hate to admit it, the nose-bleed zone is my element. I seem to be pretty good at high-altitude running. A dubious skill at best. My next race is a 5K run around Lake George this coming Saturday, May 8th.
At least I will be freezing and gasping for air in a pretty place. Wish me luck.
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