Mike has been experimenting with his body again. Let’s pull our minds out of the gutter for a second, shall we? That’s better. He’s been experimenting with not eating before running, trying to improve his marathon endurance by doing so.

I thought the idea sounded like something some kind of idiotic, stupid, moronic caveman would do. Like a runner growing a beard in the summer or something dopey like that. I was not on board with the idea to put it mildly.

Then I did some reading, and realized that Mike may just be a genius. An art-loving, song-singing, cheerleader-loving genius.

So, I am making public my most heartfelt apologies to Mike via my blog as requested by his lawyers. As a condition of the settlement, I was also required to try the whole fasting thing out for myself, and, honestly, I am a fan of the concept now. I took nothing more than two ounces of water, and was out the door for a 90 minute run. I ended up feeling great, completing a seemingly effortless 15 miles in 1:32:30. And as a final gesture of good faith, In Mike’s name, I will attending running camps this summer, distributing false beards to children who cannot grow their own. Boys and girls alike. Other than apologizing directly to Mike, his family, all of the members of his extended family living in the contiguous 48 states, any of his pets, either living or deceased, his podiatrist, dentist, hair stylists (yes, there are several), groupies, and Lucas, it’s the least I can do.

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Okay, here it is. I hesitate to write about this because every time things seem to be going well, something happens and I end up back at square one. Screw it. Let’s see what happens…

I did nine days in the pool rather than the ten I promised. Around day seven I started to have some odd shooting pains in my knees and a fair amount of cramping in my feet and calves. I was starting to see overuse symptoms from pool running! Too much of anything too fast is not good, I guess.

Fortunately, after day six, my calf injury was feeling better. Maybe 80%. By day nine it felt great, so I went for a ten minute warmup followed by a three mile run. By the end of that run, my OPPOSITE calf was burning and hurting just like the one that caused me to start this pool thing in the first place. Needless to say, I was beside myself with anger, fear, anger, anger, sadness, anger, and of course, anger. Then into the pool to stew on my situation for another 30 minutes

I stretched, did some calf raises, and tried to forget about the three miler. The next day I did seven and a pool run with no problems, and the day after that a five mile progression run, again with no problems. Four miles easy the next day, and a ten mile steady run at 6:15 pace the day after that. Still no problems.

So far, what has seemed to work is, of course, the complete rest from impact so the muscle could heal. As important, though, have been brisk walking warmups, stretching, tens and dozens of calf raises, and NO MASSAGING THE DAMN THINGS. I received that last invaluable bit of info from my wife, who insisted that grinding my thumbs into already injured muscles might not be helping. I think she’s right. The physio did a lot of that, but it was always followed up by 2ml of dexamethasone pumped directly into the muscles he was beating on. Net result was the calves felt better after that than before.

It’s not the same without the drugs.

So, no more deep-tissue massage unless it comes from someone who knows what the hell they are doing and can explain to me why it is going to help. So far, so good this week. I did eight miles easy with strides on Sunday, a five mile tempo (5:35 pace)yesterday, and eleven this morning with a relaxed final mile in 5:50. Total mileage the first week back was 29 in five days, and projected mileage for this week is 50-55. Hopefully by the end of July, I am back to 90-100 weekly until the taper. We’ll see.

One day at a time.

Sandals in the grass

June 24, 2006

Sorry for the lack of news this week. I’m back to running somewhat and feeling okay. More details to come, good and bad.

I’m writing this from a picnic blanket, sharing it with the rest of my family and some sandwiches. This is the good stuff, providing me some much needed perspective. I hope your weekend is going as well as mine. Cheers!

The Pool Update

June 14, 2006

Not a lot to report, but I’ll post anyway. I’ve finished day four of my Ten Day Exclusive Pool Tour, and I’m a bit surprised that my leg isn’t feeling 100% yet. I am still getting a pretty significant burning sensation up the lateral side of my right leg, along the peroneals, and still have some knots in my calf. The pain during walking is completely gone though, which is good I suppose. I’m going to begin light massage, stretching, and strengthening tomorrow, and gradually increase the load of each over the next three weeks. By the beginning of July, I should be able to start integrating some hill work, plyometrics, and drills which will hopefully be the insurance against this ever happening again.

As far as the workouts go, so far so good. I am able to abuse myself sufficently in the pool and on the elliptical machine that I get off of or out of one or the other with my legs feeling like I just finished a 20+ mile run. The pool workout today was especially tough. I did ten minutes to warm up, then five reps of five minutes hard with a one minute float (ha!). I was able to get my heart rate into the 150s and my breathing was labored to say the least. Thankfully, I managed not to inhale any water while I was sucking air. I finished with a cooldown and totalled fifty minutes. Even though the workouts leave my legs dead, I find I am feeling totally fine by mid-day, and am well recovered by the next day’s workout. That tells me that the cardiovascular system can tolerate a lot more work than the muscles and skeleton can. I guess this has been well demonstrated by cyclists and swimmers, many of whom train upwards of four hours a day. There are precious few people on this earth who could run four hours a day for any length of time without completely breaking down.

Back to the YMCA tomorrow for hopefully thirty minutes on the elliptical and sixty minutes in the pool. I’m averaging about an hour of aerobic work per day so far, which is half an hour short of where I was. I can’t do much about that without breaking in to the YMCA at 4:30 am, so it will have to suffice. The quality does seem on par with my steady run efforts, though, which I couldn’t do every day on the roads. I suppose it balances out. I’m hoping to get at least eight hours per week of training in during this rehab phase, which would be approximately seventy miles plus per week on a minute for minute basis. It may not eqate in the real world, but it makes me feel better, so there it is.

Pool Runner

June 11, 2006

I finally hit rock bottom on Saturday. My name is Eric, and I have a calf problem. After a great week of reduced mileage, running huge hills, and not having any pain or even tightness, I got back to the flats, threw down on a couple of ten milers, and the calf problem is worse than ever, with the exception that it is on the opposite leg now and in a totally different area.

I plunked down my $48 for a one-month membership at the YMCA this morning, and jumped (don’t worry, I planted with my good leg) off the pool deck onto the pain train. I don’t dislike pool running, but it’s boring and the effort is harder. Based on the first workout, this is going to be a really positive thing. I can already feel my shins, hips, quads, and adductors are getting some much needed attention. I was able to keep the heart rate up in the high 130s to low 140s for the 45 minute workout, which is great. About half of the effort felt like a tempo run, and the ventilation pattern was similar to what I would get on a run at about 5:30 pace. The other half was warmup and cooldown.

Then it was on to the elliptical trainer for a 30 minute ass-kicking. The machine I was on didn’t have quite the range I was looking for, so the strides felt cramped. After a few minutes I got used to it though, and did 3×8 minutes with a two minute recovery for a total of 30 minutes. I got the heart rate even higher (140s to 150s) on the elliptical, but it felt much more like a steady pace running effort. That really worked my glutes and lower back in a way that running rarely does.

Overall, the workout was really different and challenging. And in such a way that I can’t wait to get through the next two weeks. Cross-training is a lot harder than running, both mentally and physically. My plan is to do pool running and/or elliptical exclusively for about ten days, then add the strength exercises recommended by the physical therapist for week two, then add about 20-30 miles of running in week three, followed by 50-60 miles in week four with some light plyometric exercises. Week five should be back to normal at 70-80 miles, but normal will now include regular strength training, plyometric drills, and strides. Obviously, the plan is subject to revision depending on how things go. I would say, though, that revisions would be toward being more conservative.

The toughest part started today: no running for ten days. I’m satisfied that the aerobic work I’m able to do in the pool and on machines will put me in better condition in a month than I am right now, so I’m not too bent out of shape about lost time. Part of me is still worried, but I will have 12 weeks to go when I am done with the rehab plan, and 12 weeks is still a lot to work with. It’s funny that two months ago when this whole mess started, I was freaking out about missing a day or two of running. Now I’m making a matter-of-fact decision to stop running for almost two weeks! Strangely enough, I couldn’t have done this back then. I believe it when people say you have to hit rock bottom to make the right decision.

I wish the YMCA didn’t open so damn late, though. I can’t believe 5:30 is the earliest these lazy yawners will open the place.

P.S. World Cup football kicks ass! I got to see the first goal of the Argentina – Ivory Coast match, but otherwise have been having a tough time seeing any games on tv. I remember the 1998 WC you could catch a match a day somewhere with just basic cable. My buddy Maddog and I watched an assload of soccer that summer while we were both underemployed. Good times.

En vacance

June 8, 2006

Sorry for the long dry spell in posts. For some of you, this was probably reminiscent of the early days of my blog when a monthly update was the best a reader could hope for. I should be back to posting two to three times a week again now that I am back home. My vacation will last through Monday morning, and then it’s back into the trenches, so I will try to make the best of it until then.

The family vacation. Challenging with a two year-old and a five month-old, but still a great experience. We will certainly look forward to the chance to take trips with the kids at every age, and we will always look forward to getting settled back at home with them after a few days in a new, strange place. We visited San Diego, California where we discovered the hills are steep and the food is best when it’s cheap. The Sea Lodge at La Jolla Shores Beach was home base for a few days of relative relaxation, where we had a beautiful oceanfront view thanks to the good folks at Expedia. We paid for the $199 special, but got the $349 room due to overbooking. The upgrade included enough extra space for the kids to have their own crib corners, and a full kitchen for making paper plate pasta dishes that rivaled, and some would say exceeded, the haute cuisine that San Diego had to offer. I was able to do some out-and-back running on the beach, which was a total of 1.5 miles long. Running was nice on the compacted, fine-grained sand, but I could only take so much of the repetition, and soon headed out to the La Jolla hills. I spent some time running around the Birch Aquarium / San Diego State University campus area, which was really difficult. The hills were immense by anyone’s standard, one that I measured climbed 330 feet in just over half a mile. Nothing to Lance Armstrong, maybe, but certainly hors categorie for me. Going up, I was generally around 7:45 pace, and coming down it was a struggle to hold back 6:00 miles. I wouldn’t want to train here regularly, but if I did, I would probably need titanium hip and knee replacements in a few years, as well as daily massage and a steady supply of morphine for my quads.

As far as the running goes, I’m glad to be home.

We didn’t take in the San Diego Rock-n-Roll marathon as we had planned due to the logistical impossibilities of marathon day traffic and the short window of opportunity available due to the kids’ needs. We would like to have seen the elites run by, as well as Mike, but it just wasn’t in the cards. We were able to meet up with blogger Mike and his running pal Jeff for a bite to eat in downtown San Diego at the Cheese Shop, one of the few places we ate at in San Diego that I would actually recommend. It was here that I shared, in retrospect, some bad advice with Mike, telling him to go out at 5:40 pace in the first few miles to really shake things up. The advice was bad, but the pastrami was fantastic.

I am officially done with physical therapy. What a f$@king joke. I have good insurance, but it is still going to cost me nearly $400 for the 10 or so treatments I received. I would feel better about the whole process if I thought it had helped, but it didn’t. I think the money would have been better spent on half a dozen really brutal massage sessions. I haven’t had pain now for over three weeks, but I still have knots forming and a burning sensation in my right calf every couple of days, usually following a harder or longer effort. I’m just getting started on the stengthening exercises, and I have backed off my mileage quite a bit in the last 10 days, but so far I have the same issues after a four miler as I do after an eight or ten, so I’m going to be treating it day to day with massage, ibuprofen, and as much running off the concrete as possible. It’s just a thing now, like a neuroma, a black toenail, or any other of a number of chronic impairments that runners have. It will be my constant companion, like the travel size bottle of scotch I keep in my waistband to ward off the demons while trudging down the sidewalks in the wee hours.

Not a lot to report as far as running due to the above mentioned reduction in mileage. I ran once a day in San Diego from four to eight miles, usually with a couple of faster miles thrown in due to the downhills. The hill work was good, and I didn’t elicit any complaints from the calves the whole week. That was the goal, so mission accomplished. Yesterday was my first run back on home turf, and it was good to be home. The first mile was very comfortable in just under 7:00, which generally means a steady stream of 6:00 miles, plus/minus 10 seconds, is on the way. Ten miles passed in 1:00:25, and with the exception of two miles on grass in University Park, they went by with little perceived effort. It’s good to be home.