Thursday, November 4, 2010

Completing Number Three

As I am now four days post the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon, the soreness in the lower half of my body has finally subsided. Though I feel I did not "hit the wall" in the purest sense, the last few miles of the race were quite painful. Running experts will tell you the soreness in the lower extremities sometimes lasts up to a week. My very limited experience is mixed.

My first marathon was completed in Huntsville, AL in December of 2007. To say I hit the wall in that race would be a major understatement. The following week was quite uncomfortable as my legs ached from the lactic acid as it slowly worked its way out. But the longer term injury was what affected me most profoundly. My feet were completely worn out. My podiatrist recommended I not run for two or three months to let them recover. I only slightly obliged him.

My second marathon was again completed in Huntsville, AL two years later with drastically different results. Owed to superior training, I knocked 50 minutes off of my time and crossed the finish line feeling like I could do more. There was no wall to hit in that race and I convinced myself of the merits of logging more miles and increasing speed work. Unfortunately, a painful lower back sent me to therapy where my therapist suggested I not run for 6-8 weeks. So, once again, I spent January and February in rehabilitation mode.

A year later, I find myself analyzing my performance in the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon and making decisions about what to do next. The reference to muscle soreness does belie the fact that the race was unkind to me. Though I felt my training was quite adequate, something happened to my legs along the streets of D.C. It could have been the early miles of the race that undulated through the hills of eastern Virginia. It could have been dehydration as I unintentionally eschewed water along the course. Or, it could have been my running style that put demands on my legs that are unnatural. Either way, the last few mile split times illustrated how slowly I finished. Good news is forthcoming, however, because this time I have managed to emerge from the racing aftermath with no real injuries. I feel like I am primed to get right back on the streets and plan for the next challenge.

My reason for attempting this marathon was really two-fold. As most runners will attest, the sense of accomplishment at finishing an event like this is all the reason one would need. This year I had the opportunity to participate with a group of runners who, by virtue of participating in MCM, collectively raised over $40,000 in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Being part of a family that suffers from the effects of the disease has motivated me to become more activist. The opportunity to raise money to fight Alzheimer's presented me the avenue on which to actively do a small part in the fight.

So my larger motivation for doing Marine Corps Marathon has resulted in a personal achievement of $2,000 raised. The achievement was certainly a joint effort; my physical exertion and my supporters' financial backing. I want to thank each one of them again for believing I could conquer the challenge. Their faith in me and willingness to contribute have made this a successful venture. I proudly proclaim this marathon experience to be a huge success. I proudly record marathon number three as a race to be remembered.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gaining Strength in the Face of Adversity

As another August in my life winds down to completion, I am given pause to reflect on events of the month. It has been mentioned in more runners' tweets and blog posts this summer than most any other topic, but I will mention it again. This summer has been HOT and August was no exception. Over one 26 day stretch the daily highs never tarried under 96 F.

To say this had no effect on runners' training efforts is to beg insanity. But the real question, though, as the air temperature cools and humidity drops, is "Has it had a positive effect or a negative one?" Is it possible that the extreme conditions could have had done more good than bad? It all depends on how the runner has responded to the negative conditions. Proper hydration and nutrition and a healthy respect for the elements will go a long way towards insuring that training efforts are productive and not destructive.

On a particularly rewarding interval workout this morning, this writer was reminded of the physiological reality of the human body's reaction to stress. On the cellular level, the body must find a way to get the right amount of nutrients to muscle cells as they are put under extreme stress. The hotter the ambient air temp, the harder the cells must work to provide nutrients AND cool the body. So, it must not come as a surprise that cooler, drier air taxes the body less. The beauty of the bio-physics was experienced this morning and greatly welcomed.

As the layers of the training envelope are peeled back, it is expected that a more conditioned body will emerge. Though it has been hard to detect much improvement this summer, a glimpse of that anticipated conditioning is emerging. This body is gaining strength. This writer is beginning to see some flickers of light at the end of the steamy tunnel. Join in a welcoming hand of applause to fall weather. Join in praising God for the beauty of this world and the miraculous, indomitable human spirit.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Finally Committed

Don't let the title fool you. Though, it would probably be reasonable to assume I could be committed to an institution, that is not what this post is about. Just the past week, I finally decided for sure that I would be running the Marine Corps marathon in Washington D.C. in October. For the past three months I have been quite ambivalent about it because of the logistics of finding time to make the trip and physically getting to Washington. I guess the biggest obstacle was monetary but I have decided that this is a race I am meant to do and I will some way find the money to get there. In addition to being a participant I have decided to join the racing team representing the national Alzheimer's Association . I have committed to raising money for the research foundation that is concerned with finding a cure for Alzheimer's and giving support to those who have the disease and the families of those who have it. Since I have a family member that is diagnosed with it, I feel a strong draw to doing something to help the cause.

Thankfully I had planned ahead enough to at least register and be accepted to the race and begin training. As a matter of fact I am presently in week 12 of a 22 week plan and staying right on course. This summer has been a rough one making training especially challenging and I am thankful to be on schedule with my mileage. The weekly totals continue to increase, however, and I have got to get tough and stay true to the schedule. I think the tougher part, now, is going to be the fund-raising I have to do for the ALZ Stars (Alzheimer's running group). I have never been one to participate in a cause, but I feel this is one to which I can lend my efforts. I am now fully committed to running the MCM and honorably representing those who have been affected in some way by Alzheimer's.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Training for Anither One

Just a day past my daughter's 22nd birthday and we are well into the month of June. Living in the South means summer has already started despite the fact that officially it's not here until the 21st of this month at 7:30 AM EDT. But the fact that the sun hasn't hit it's zenith, yet, doesn't change the reality of heat and humidity; even at 7:00 am. Hitting the streets this morning for my long weekly run quickly reminded me how tough it is to run when the temperature already is north of 70 and the air is thick as molasses. This happens every year; this cruel reminder of how much a body can sweat and the toll this physiological phenomenon takes on a runner's stamina.

Since I managed to register for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon being held in Washington D.C. on October 31st, my sights have been set on the beginning of training season. I have been able to maintain a base level of fitness, while not the best, hopefully will give me a springboard into the regimen that will follow. 16 weeks of training preceding the late October date will mean training starts the last week of this sultry first month of summer. Though I have not decided which training plan I will use, I imagine it will be very similar to what I used last year in preparation for the 2009 Rocket City marathon. It takes a lot of hard work to get ready for a marathon if one desires to run fast. The question bouncing around my head right now, however, is whether my body can hold up to the training with becoming injured.

I knocked out a 10 mile run this morning in less than 90 minutes and felt fairly well, but I sure wanted to stop and walk more than once. I thought about the multitude of runners starting their training plans for fall marathons and decided to tough it out and keep running. This is where the ole bod gets in top shape; pounding out the miles when the weary legs and labored breathing say, "pack it in, big guy, and walk a while." This is the time when running through the pain is what creates a tough resiliency to quitting. Uncomfortable as it may be in the steamy mornings of summer, the payoff will come when one breezes through 26.2 miles and sets a PR. Now, if I can only keep that focus for four months.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Commitment to Run

I was up Saturday morning early but didn't get out until 7:00. The weather looked beautiful out the window but when I got out in it I realized our old friend humidity was back. You got to love running in weather like this. It takes a whole new level of commitment to get in and stay in shape in an environment like this. The past week has been tough running and I have been struggling trying to put my finger on the reason. I have been running continuously now since late February and consider myself in reasonable shape but lately it feels as if my legs are made of lead. My conclusion has got to be the weather. I have read somewhere that an increase in air temperature and humidity has a profound effect on the body's response to physical exertion and I am here agreeing wholeheartedly. That really goes without saying but the magnitude of the effect is startling.

I am to begin my fall marathon training in about a month. This is where it really gets fun. I remember how the training went last summer and how effective it was in getting me in shape for the December Rocket City marathon so I am looking forward to that same level of response and achievement. There is nothing like working hard through a training program and experiencing the results. But, if only I didn't have to sweat so much! Oh, I will sweat alright and it is going to happen at all hours of the day. If my at work schedule repeats itself from last year I will be up running at some ungodly hours and sweating all the while. Anything to get myself in shape.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Struggling Through It

Like rain falling from the edge of a gutter-less roof, the drops of sweat fell from the bill of the runner's cap. The regularity and constancy of the drips suggested the cap was completely saturated and could absorb no more. The stride of the runner caused the arms to cross in front of his body and under the bill of the cap. Each drip of sweat falling on the arms conjured up thoughts of Chinese water torture, as the level of annoyance rose. As long as the run continued and the level of activity remained high, the generation of body heat and the perspiration and the saturation of the cap and the dripping of the sweat continued.

Summertime running is made of experiences like these. But when the summertime experiences come in late spring it really doesn't seem fair. Of course, to suggest that fairness has any relevance when dealing with the weather is to beg lunacy. There will most certainly be days like these in every runner's life; days when it feels as if the legs are filled with lead and breathing is labored and uncomfortable. Runners' commentaries are filled with references to the dog days when one "just doesn't feel right." Thankfully, days like these are few and the memory of the "good run" lingers more prominently in the mind. If this were not the case, running would not have the reputation it has.

Struggling through the bad run is the only way to deal with it. The tough days will come and they will present one with some temporary challenges but by struggling through it, the next one will be better and before it is realized, there will be so many good days that the bad ones will quickly fade into the distant past.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Will I Ever Learn?

Running journals are replete with references to proper nutrition. The science of nutrition has taken its place among popular topics of discussion for athletes desiring to achieve higher levels of conditioning. The human body reacts favorably to physical exercises if it is fed properly. So, it should not come as a surprise to anyone participating in a physical activity such as a ten mile run that doing so without the proper nourishment will yield unpleasant results. In addition to needing fuel for the process of creating energy, the body must be hydrated sufficiently. The body demands
a tremendous amount of caloric input in order to perform well under physical exertion.

Why is it, then, that a runner would go for a run on a beautiful spring weekend day without properly feeding his body? I consider myself of reasonable intelligence but that was not demonstrated on Saturday. The day started out differently than most of my long run days. I like to get my runs out of the way early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in and in some strange way the relative quiet of the morning solace helps me perform. A late night before kept me in the bed longer and by the time I got up, the morning window of opportunity had passed.

Busily starting my day, I failed to eat breakfast, which is never a good thing. For some reason, though, there have been times when I have rushed off to work without performing this important day starting activity. It is never good to get into a day without kick-starting the body's metabolism with a good breakfast. If one is going to skip a meal, don't let it be this one. OK, mistake number one. My next folly that morning was a failure to hydrate. This is not unusual for me. For some reason, I have always had a problem drinking enough water. This is a habit I certainly have not established and on this day, the effects were telling. Mistake number two.

I had to go into work to take care of a few things and before I knew it, the day was approaching its midpoint and I still had a ten mile run to complete. Not only was I getting stressed by the minute but my fuel gauge was nearing "E". Whenever I go to work, I tend to get absorbed in completing tasks and forget certain needs. With a period of bodily exertion looming on the horizon, I was setting myself up for a rough time by neglecting to eat and drink. When noon arrived, I had enough. Grabbing my gear I changed clothes, cranked up the Garmin and hit the uptown streets of Columbus. The plan was to run down to the river and along the riverwalk for five miles and then traverse that path to make my ten. I had thought this was a good plan, but ultimately it would prove to be ill-conceived considering I was now going on about 14 hours since I had eaten and having had not nearly enough water to drink.

The day was beautiful with skies so dark blue, they almost looked black, and I felt pretty good. The plan was to average an 8:30 pace and the first few miles rolled by obediently. The riverwalk was fairly crowded that day and I alarmed more than one pedestrian with my extremely heavy breathing. There is a reason a body needs proper nutrition before an activity like this. For me, this was a fast pace I was maintaining and that level of exertion comes at a price. By the time I made the midway turn my fuel tank was empty and hydration was at a low. My legs starting protesting the demands I was placing on them. Their requests for energy were refuted because of my failure to prepare for this run.

The run was completed in approximately the time I had planned; 10 miles in an hour and 24 minutes for an 8:24 average pace but what was telling was how I felt at the end. As I train for races later in the year, the goal is to get stronger for greater demands that marathons distances will place on me. The way I felt Saturday at the end of that run suggested I couldn't run 26.2 miles if my life depended on it. I console myself in the fact that I haven't really starting my training program, therefore I shouldn't be so hard on myself. But, I had committed a cardinal sin this day. No training activity should ever be attempted until the body is ready for it. I was not ready for this one. This is not the first time I have made a mistake like this. This is not the first time I have gone out and abused my body because I wouldn't take the time to get properly nourished. I certainly hope its the last. As I contemplate the races I have scheduled this year and as I ramp up the demands I will place on my body the need is only going to be greater.

Maybe there is a reason so much emphasis is placed on proper nutrition in the running ranks. It should not be such a revelation to me. If one is to reach a certain level of fitness, one must listen to what the body is trying to say. "Feed me, water me, give me nourishment for those demands you are placing on me." I need to learn a lesson from this. We all need to learn from my mistake. Good running preparation starts with what we put into the body. If we do it right, we will be able to get out of the body the performance we desire.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Paradoxical Wonder

We live our lives in a shell that has been described in a multitude of ways. The human body is a wonder that defies imagination and tests the ability of one to properly put into words how intricate and delicate yet durable it is. We see examples of these extremes every day. A freak accident takes someone's life and we are left shaking our heads at the senseless nature of it. A simple slip in the shower or misguided step in traffic and we experience an event that has catastrophic results. On the other had, a twisting fall from 10,000 feet that leaves one broken yet still alive and the question arises as to how one could survive. The paradox of the human body never ceases to amaze.

The deep and unanswerable were brought to the forefront of this writer's mind last week when the observation was made by my son of the indomitable nature of the human heart. From the time one is born until they die, the heart never skips a beat. In a variety of situations and under conditions that are often far from ideal, the beat goes on. As the hardy, highly developed, muscle responds to electrical impulses from the brain, its pulsing forces life-giving oxygenated blood throughout the body.

After only a few weeks of development, a fetal heart, though just a simple tube, occupies a large portion of the fetal body. Despite its simplicity, its beating serves a vital purpose in the development of the new life. As active growth takes place in the womb, the heart supplies much-needed nutrients to the still small, yet amazingly complex human life. From its earliest inception a human heart begins its relentless life of beating in a myriad of situations. It is amazing to think that such a delicate mass of muscle could be so capable of surviving so many adverse situations.

The tireless, sojourning heart insures our tired and worn bodies are supplied with the life-giving blood we need. But what about the opposite end of the paradoxical scale? If the heart is such a tough survivor, why does it also seem so delicate and vulnerable? In our society today a sea of maladies lap at the shores of good human health. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in this country. Such a durable organ can be taken down in a relatively short period of time by the unfortunate consequences of life choices; high stress, poor diet, lack of exercise. All of these poor habits play a part in the onslaught the human heart has to withstand. Yes, it is a tough organ, but it can be delicate as well.

Regimented aerobic exercise taxes the cardiovascular system. But in the life of a healthy heart this taxation only makes it stronger. The heart pumps a volume of blood each day that staggers the mind. An average heart can pump somewhere around 2000 gallons per day, while it has been shown that the heart of a world class runner can pump five times that amount. A good workout of hard running or swimming can work the heart like no other exercise. The heart is a wonder. Let's make sure it is healthy and able to do its job. In most lives, if proper care is given it, the heart will pump continuously for 80 or more years. So tough and yet so fragile. The heart amazes. The heart is unwavering. Let's make sure it can do its job. Let's keep it healthy. It is a paradoxical wonder so let's make sure we give it the best chance at working nonstop for the rest of our lives.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Correr en Monterrey Mexico

The better part of this week was spent in Monterrey, Mexico on a business trip. It was my first visit there and I was taken by the majesty of the scenic vistas. The views from the work site made it almost enjoyable having to be there. Despite the upside of enjoying the Sierra Madre range and being in a new and different place, the downside to the work I had to do there was the inability to do much running. As a matter-of-fact I didn't do any until my last day there. I brought my gear in case I had the opportunity and my training schedule definitely called for mileage this week so I needed to get some time in where I could. It is tough to train for a race and miss several days so I was bent on doing some kind of aerobic exercise. The work I had to do at the truck plant required me to be on my feet all day long so it wasn't as if I was sitting at a desk but I still needed cardio work to keep me in shape.

Being in a strange place where the language is different is a little intimidating but I was staying in a well-known hotel chain so there was some similarity. My wife stressed to me over and over the need to be prudent and watchful wherever I went so with the cautious tone etched in my consciousness, I decided to save running on the streets for another time and settled instead for the hotel treadmill; or "dreadmill" as it is so affectionately known. If you have ever run any appreciable distance on a treadmill you know it is tough. My training schedule for thew day called for a 7 mile run so I knew it was going to be a challenge.

During the trip to Monterrey one of the most difficult aspects was the language barrier. My frustration with not being able to comprehend the spoken or written word was continually tempered by the realization I was, after all, a visitor in another country. The source of my frustration was none other than my inability to understand Spanish. So, it should not have been a surprise to me that when I got to the exercise room, or gimnasio, at the hotel, that everything would be written in that native language. Like most hotel exercise rooms, posted prominently on the wall was a list of do's and don'ts for accepted behavior. I couldn't help but laugh at one of the rules that stated that the participant should discontinue exercising at the first signs of stress. Ha! If that was the case, I doubt I would ever get very far in my daily regimen. It seems I can never get into a good run without feeling some measure of stress.

I realize the difficulty I have with running on a treadmill is purely psychological. The body really has no knowledge of the environment it is inhabitating. The legs move in response to the moving belt in an effort to keep from falling off the end. The heart and lungs react to the increased need for oxygen to the leg muscles and the heat generated by the whole system causes one to sweat. Hopefully one is exercising in an environment where the sweat can sufficiently evaporate and draw heat away from the body. All of this is happening whether one is on the street, on a track, or on a hotel treadmill.

So, why is it always such a difficult run? I believe it is the feeling of a lack of accomplishment. One of the reasons I run is to get the feeling of having gone somewhere and having covered a distance; as if to say "I ran to so-and-so today" or "I ran up that mountain or down that trail last week", or "I ran in the fiercest rain storm last week and splashed through a thousand puddles and did it all in record time." No, the reality that you have spent an hour fighting against the relentless motion of a rubber belt stretched between two pulleys is hardly my idea of a thrilling time. After the exercise experience, the body knows no difference. Calories have been burned and muscles have expanded and contracted in measured accord. The mind's reaction to the experience is quite different, though.

My time of running in Monterrey was certainly esoteric. I am glad I was able to get some "sweat time" in but I vow to do it differently next time. My runner's thirst for adventure was not quenched on this trip. I promise the next time I make this trip that correr en monterrey will be more than using the hotel treadmill but actually pounding the pavement in a new and exciting place.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tough it Out

The weekend quickly disintegrated as plans to travel to a customer's plant in Garland, TX materialized. The urgent need to address a problem necessitated the change in weekend plans and had me on a flight to Dallas Friday evening. Thankfully the visit on Saturday went well and travel back to Georgia was complete. I can claim the visit went well for my objective was met; inspect and certify my company's product in the customer's facilities. But with every success there comes a price. The price for my success Saturday was a sore and aching body on Sunday. The work I did took its toll on me and muscles were protesting as a result.

I make that diatribe to reinforce how tough it was to get my long run in this morning. I typically make my long weekly run on Saturday but since I was inspecting iron castings yesterday I was not able to run. Sunday would have to be the day or I would miss my training schedule for this week. I arrived at my pity party this morning ready to justify just sitting on the heating pad and basking in my rebellion. Then I thought of the euphoria I would experience after completing the run and the discussion with my wimpy side was over; the run was on.

I have benefited immensely from my association with the circle of running fanatics with which I have befriended. I read daily of the accomplishments and victories experienced by these running warriors and it inspires me in times of ambivalence. I ended up having a great run. Sure my back was sore for most of the run and my arms dangled at my sides with much less of the strength and form I usually call on them to have. The run was a good one. I covered 10.36 miles in just under 1-1/2 hours for a respectable 8:35 average. A little slower than the 8:30 I wanted to run but much better than the result of playing hooky. Thank you, my faithful running community. You continue to instill in me a desire to tough it out and reach for a new and reachable challenge. Until the next opportunity...tomorrow in the pool.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Equalizer

For the past few weeks I have resumed my participation in a local Masters' swim class. The class meets twice a week from 5:00 AM to 6:00 AM and to say it takes a great deal of will power to get there on time is putting it mildly. Since I made the decision to try out the FIRST training program which incorporates a good bit of cross training each week, the need to take part in a non-running activity like this is important. I love to swim but as I have said on at least one occasion recently, it is tough getting back in shape. This morning's workout heightened my awareness of this fact and gave me a chance to consider what it is takes to be a well-conditioned swimmer,

I now just suck it up and dive in the still, uninviting waters of the new local YMCA pool. No more 90 degree water in this pool; the temperature is kept at a constant 82. Sounds warm if you are talking air temperature, but not water. The shock of the cold lasts all of 5 seconds and then all is evened out. The warm up period is no problem; just getting the heart pumping and muscles loosened. "Oh, heart, you are in for it today." The kick board exercises are always tough for me. I bob down the lane like a listing, slowly sinking boat. I look to my left and right and curse my fellow class members as they swiftly pass me. Well, I guess "curse" is a strong term. i do like my class mates. The wake from one young man almost capsizes me as I grope for the wall. OK, just two laps to go. The instructor agrees to let me put on fins to finish the kicking exercise. I still am baffled why I can't seem to get in the groove.

Swimming is a blast. I love it; but today was TOUGH. I have always considered myself a good athlete but as I struggled to finish the exercises I was fully aware I was not the only one out there completing those laps. And I am definitely not the fastest. So, what is they have that I don't? In order for one body to move through the water at a greater speed than another, it takes technique and strength; neither of which I have now, both of which I hope to have someday.

That pool has become in my eyes a great equalizer. A place that sorts out the unfit and leaves only those who determine to REALLY get in shape. There are many moments like today when I HATED it and vowed never to return again. But, as I sit here now, I long for it again. I know the next time will be a little better and the time after that even better. There is no substitute for swimming those laps; no way to build stamina in the dry. A few days reprieve are at hand, but time to hit it again will be here soon.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Back to the Riverwalk

Back in 2007 when I trained for my first marathon and then again some last year, I spent a lot of time making long runs on the Columbus, GA Riverwalk. If you have ever been in town running this is a great place to do it. The city/county government got together several years ago to plan and develop this 15 mile walking/biking path that winds in a north-south orientation all along the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama-Georgia state line. The project was well planned and resulted in a beautiful and easily accessible location for enjoying the outdoors in west central Georgia. For a portion of the year, it is really quire pleasant down on the river; especially in the spring and fall. A few months in the summer can be rather stifling but that's life in the South.

The new training program I am following calls for only three runs a week, incorporating a fast track workout, a mid distance tempo run and a long, slower paced run. Today was my day for the long run and I decided to revisit the Riverwalk. I was to do 8 miles and frankly, I have been tired of all the hills around my house. The Riverwalk is somewhat hilly but they are long and gradual and much easier to negotiate than the steep ones in Midtown Columbus. With air temperature still hovering around freezing this morning at 7:30, I parked at a convenient spot by a marina, got out, stretched for a few minutes and took off. Oh, before I started, I met a friend of mine who was just finishing up her Saturday run. We have been friends for a few years and have enjoyed seeing each other at our local Toastmasters club and on certain Saturday runs at the Riverwalk. She and her running partner get to the river a but early for me on Saturdays. She is usually there and on the run around 5:00 am...too early for a Saturday. I do enough of that during the week.

The day dawned gray and cold and if I was doing anything but running it would have been dreary. But, anytime I can get a run in, the day is anything but dreary. Thanks to those endorphins, a run can turn the nastiest of days into a bright and cheery experience. Today was no exception. The first half of the run was quiet and secluded. I didn't see a soul until I turned around and headed back where I passed a couple of folks and saw another of my friends who is back in town for a while from an extended assignment in Montana. His influence on my love for running is another example of the benefits of the running community and the positive benefit it can have on ones' life. Thanks, Mike, for being such a good running role model.

I have many good memories of running down on the river. I have run anywhere from short, fast four or five milers to long, arduous ones spanning over 20 miles. I have managed over the years to progress from a 220 pound, out-of-shape pavement-pounder to a 190 pound running athlete. I am proud of the transformation. I am glad to be back running at the river.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just the Right Tempo

In the running online community one can meet a wide and varying array of individuals. One of the helpful and interesting aspects of getting to know these fellow athletes is the benefit of learning about trials and tribulations without actually experiencing it yourself. So many events in our lives have a way of turning out good despite an unfortunate beginning, as evidenced by the following episode. Several weeks ago one of my friends expressed frustration and disappointment following a running injury. In the course of describing the injury, she made the comment she was in the midst of training in the FIRST or Run Less, Run Faster program which has been touted among other places in the Runners' World magazine. She had been following the training program when an injury put her out of commission for a spell. It is always disappointing when a fellow athlete has to endure the pain of an injury and the resulting decrease in fitness level when training is interrupted. But, if we can learn from their experience, it turns failure into success.

As I explored possibilities for my training I took a look at the program my friend had been using and even purchased the book at a local book retailer. The authors of the book and founders of the Furman Institute of Running & Scientific Training (FIRST) make the point that one does not have to run a lot of miles to get in proper shape for a running event. What the runner must do, however, is run efficiently and at the proper tempo in order to properly develop one's cardio-respiratory system. The idea is to mix weekly running sessions with cross training sessions so appropriate running muscles can rest and recover. Some die hard runners may refute the worth of the program on the basis that running less interferes with a true runner's desire to run at any given opportunity. Despite this, however, there seems to be a growing interest in this type of training.

In my personal running experience I have suffered various injuries I feel have come about because of over-training. Though I have taken in pride in logging a 55-60 mile week, I have often been left with a bittersweet aftertaste because of pain and soreness. The FIRST program appeals to me for this and other reasons. So just two weeks ago, I began training for a 10K using the program. One of the premises of the programs detailed in the book is that runs are done at a fast pace. No more of this going out and doing a 9 to 9-1/2 minute mile. The philosophy of the FIRST program is to develop a runner's ability to run faster and then give them a chance to recover the next day. The point is made repeatedly throughout the book, however, that just because there are only three runs a week doesn't mean they are easy runs...not by a stretch.

So, this fine late winter morning, I found myself on a planned 6-7 mile run trying to keep up the tempo as ascribed in the training plans for a 10K race. Today's scheduled run called for a 1-2 mile warmup run and then 4 miles at an 8:15 pace and then 1 mile cool down run. Some of you seasoned runners may laugh at the idea of running a paltry 8:15 pace but for us slugs this is a major accomplishment. Armed with my Garmin Forerunner strapped to my right wrist, I made an attempt at trying to maintain this pace. There is a huge difference between running an 8:15 and an 8:30, that I promise. There is a significant output of energy required to keep a body moving at 7.3 mph versus 7.1 mph. My winded self can testify to that fact as I struggled to keep up the tempo. My "gas" mileage for the morning took a hit as I burned energy at a much faster rate.

It remains to be seen if I can properly train for races this way. My plans are to do a late spring 10K, two or three summer triathlons, a fall marathon and an early 2011 marathon. Until I discover otherwise, I am going to continue the FIRST programs and find out if running less can get me to my goals. In the meantime, if on a visit to Columbus, GA you come across a seriously beleagured runner struggling to keep up the right tempo, know you have found me, aiming for that next PR.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Once you learn to swim, you never forget...

Can one make a statement that once you learn to swim you never forget? Or does that only apply to riding a bike? I learned to swim many years ago as a very young boy and have always enjoyed it. I have enjoyed it so much that I continue to come back to it as a way to exercise and experience some measure of accomplishment. I enjoy it so much that I have managed to push way back into the recesses of my mind the traumatic experience of my first summer swimming competitively.

I can only remember flashes of that fateful day. I am sure my parents could elaborate with much more flair the events that unfolded. As a six-year-old standing on the starting blocks at Eastside Swim Club in Birmingham, AL it was most apparent to all those attending the meet that day I had serious doubts about diving into the deep end of that 25 yard pool. It might as well have been the rushing Amazon or the shark-infested waters of the Great Barrier Reef into which I was diving. Those would have been more welcoming. I had joined a neighborhood swim team at the insistence of my parents and after a couple of weeks of practice our first meet was being held. After much coaxing from my coach and parents I managed to climb the three wooden steps to the diving platform. Once atop the block, I stood, surveyed the water ahead and the crowds all around and decided swimming was not for me, at least not competitively. After several tearful minutes of protest, the gun sounded, I dove in the water...and sank to the bottom. My coach was the closest to the side of the pool and made the dive to save me. The trauma of the moment has blanked out the rest of the day. I don't remember if I swam anymore or just how embarrassed I must have been, but that painful day was the start of a life-long passion for swimming that I hold still.

On Monday of this week, I re-enrolled in a Masters' swim program at our local YMCA. I have gone through this program in the past and enjoyed it immensely. As spring is approaching and I contemplate triathlon participation it is time to whip myself into shape. If any of you think yourselves to be in good shape, do a little swim training under the tutelage of a zealous Masters' swim coach. It will amaze you how poor your condition really is. I may have not forgotten how to swim but I sure have lost what unique abilities I once had. It is more than humbling to struggle 25 yards down the length of the pool and find yourself too tired to even hang onto the side in winded desperation. As I inwardly critique my sloppy and choppy stroke in the water I am amazed at the smooth and effortless motion I see in so many seasoned and conditioned swimmers. The proper way to swim is truly a thing of beauty. Maybe some day I can find myself back in that kind of shape.

No, you never forget how to swim. But swim well...that's another matter.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not Like Mom Makes

Following a recipe to the letter never guarantees success. There are nuances to preparing a food dish that just can not be captured on paper. Like most situations in life, there is simply no substitute for experience. We have all heard and used the saying, "The older I get, the smarter my parents get". Well that is certainly the case when it comes to trying to replicate a recipe my mother has perfected through the years.

I awoke this cold, crisp morning determined to make pancakes for breakfast. It had been a while since I had attempted the task and for some reason, I had a craving. The recipe for the dish was not too difficult to follow and I know it probably lacked that one ingredient that would have made them great. I forged ahead anyway, mixing milk and eggs with baking mix. I am certainly not a purist, as I stop short of mixing the dry ingredients from scratch. Baking mix is all ready to go requiring only the eggs and milk to make the batter. How much simpler could it be?

There are a myriad of variables that come into play that combine to have an effect on the outcome. Adding basic ingredients in just the right proportions, mixing them with the right amount of energy, properly adjusting the temperature of the pan in which they are cooked; these all must be done just right. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a pancake could tell the difference between good and bad. Light and fluffy is how I would describe a good one and the way mine turned out today is how I would describe a bad one. A stack of eight cakes should stand taller than 2 inches. But, when a key step in the process has been skipped or handled clumsily, this is what you get.

There are times when I wish I could tap into the resources my Mom has to offer. I can promise you she could describe perfectly how to make the perfect pancake so help should be as close as a phone call. But, somehow I get the feeling its not that simple. Kind of like getting Monet to give instructions on creating a beautiful scene on canvas.

Should it be a big deal that my flapjacks were really "flat"jacks? When you are as passionate about eating as I am, this is serious business. The next time I get a craving for a light and fluffy pancake, I believe I just may jump in the car and make the three hour drive to Mom and Dad's and experience once again the handiwork of a master. Thanks, Mom.

Monday, February 8, 2010


"Take your seat on the stool here and let's see how you're doing," my physical therapist directed and my fourth visit in spinal rehab was under way. Normal procedure on my previous visits have included a session whereby the PT feels the movement of the lumbar vertebrae as I bend and twist my back to the left and the right. He claims he can feel if there is dysfunction in the movement and hence a condition under which my overcompensation in other areas creates over use and hence PAIN. "Now just what exactly is my problem"? I have probably asked him the same question on every visit, and I think the answer finally sank in. Because of bad habits or possibly an injury in the past my lower vertebra have moved unnaturally and caused me to alter the way I move my hips when I walk, run, lift, etc. This dysfunction has caused the vertebra facets to impinge and irritate nerve endings in the general vicinity of my lower back and create PAIN. Evidently this condition is one which has developed over long periods of time and will take an equal amount of time to correct. The bottom line, however, is I am making progress.

The therapist proclaimed I had graduated and asked that I return for one more session only if I felt it was needed. I asked the appropriate and pressing question about a return to running and he acquiesced that I could SLOWLY get back into the activity. "You're not out of the woods, yet", he said "but well on your way". That permissive statement was music to my ears as I finally contemplated getting my running affairs back in order.

The past six weeks have been tough. There have been moments when I loathed the sight of my PT because of his diagnosis. I realize now, though, that this was a needed sabbatical in my training routine and I am going to be a better runner because of it. It is amazing how God works. His wisdom so overshadows ours and is everlasting and true. I pray I can glorify God in a more profound way as I explore the limits of my athletic abilities.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It Takes a Community

Several years ago a certain well known politician who is married to another well-known politician wrote a book about their philosophy of child-rearing. I never read the book and therefore am not qualified to give a review of it but from what I gathered from other reviews of the book and from comments the author had made, I didn't exactly agree with the point the author was trying to make. Maybe it was because I felt a social agenda was hidden in its pages, though I can't say for sure.

Despite my general distaste for the author and the general theme of the book I had pause a few days ago to reflect on a social phenomenon that has created in my mind a similar tone. Various forms of social networking have become immensely popular in our society and despite detractors from their worthiness, I have actually found satisfaction and joy from using them. You have to understand some of my underlying psyche to appreciate the fact that networking of any kind has always made me extremely uncomfortable. So, to think I would spend even the slightest ounce of energy on Twitter or Facebook is surprising. I guess I have to admit the past few years I have managed to crawl out of my shell.

So what does the book "It Takes a Village" have to do with the use of social networking devices? While I strongly disagree that children need to be raised by groups in our society I have developed a strong opinion that there is a place in the life of an athlete-in-training for support and encouragement from others. Coming from someone who enjoys spending time by himself, it is a bold step to admit there is real benefit from interacting with others. During the past couple of years it has been a startling realization how much it helps to get and give encouragement to those experiencing similar life challenges on the journey to athletic accomplishment. To read a runner's post about a recent injury and how it has devastated them and being willing to offer a word of encouragement or a suggestion for treatment is fantastic. To share in a friend's jubilation over a recent personal record in a race creates a wonderful feeling. I have been bowled over by the support given me by individuals I have never met face-to-face. To reach out across hyperspace and connect with a struggling athlete is therapy that can't be measured.

Lest you think I have become a fanatic over the use of social networking, I proudly admit there has never been nor will there ever be a substitute for those in my life nearest and dearest. I have been blessed with a wonderful family that give me all the love and support I need and want. I am so thankful, however, for the eye-opening experience of getting to know others I will never personally meet who live in places I will never go.

Does it take a village to raise a child? That is certainly debatable. Does it take a community to make an athlete? Not really, but, I believe it takes a community to to enhance and develop the experience of training. It takes a community to lift up and support those who are struggling. It takes a community to reach out across the miles and proclaim the message that you feel their share in their feelings of elation and help lift up their banner of accomplishment.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rails to Trails

Several years ago, the city of Columbus made a commitment to its citizens to build a walking/biking trail on the site of an old Norfolk-Southern rail line. Having been decommissioned years ago, the rail bed was the perfect location for a pathway of this sort. The path covers a distance of a little more than 10 miles and is a handy link between northeast Columbus and the Riverwalk downtown. Currently in phase 2 of a 3 phase project, the city is soliciting suggestions for a name for the trail but for now I'll call it:

Columbus Rails to Trails Pathway

I spent a little time on Saturday walking/jogging on a portion of the trail adjacent to Columbus State University and Hardaway High School. It is a really nice development. I congratulate the developers of this project for the first class work that has been done. Like any new idea, its inception/progress has not gone without detractors. Because of the nature of the rail bed on which it is built, it crosses several roads on its winding journey from the hills east of Columbus to the Chattahoochee River. Sure, there is potential for dangerous interaction between pedestrians and motorists but if one is to run/bike on any street, that is going to be the case. In response to those negative comments, a friend of mine has commented, "If you don't want to put up with the traffic concerns, run on a treadmill."

Most of the course is well off the main traffic flows through town and offers seclusion and an opportunity to experience the outdoors right in the middle of town. As the path approaches the downtown area, it is much less in the cover of trees but still offers a smooth, level and protected place to exercise on foot or on two wheels.

Much of the trail east of town is unfinished at this point in time but I have every intention of covering the distance from start to finish as soon as my running is back in full swing.

An Older New Year

On a cold and windy Sunday morning I concluded the first month of this new year's exercise regimen. Despite the mandate against running I have managed to cover a distance of 72 miles. That's really not too shabby since about 90% of the distance was covered at a walking speed, albeit a fast one, and the longest daily distance I covered was just shy of 6 miles. It is too much of a cliche to state "this year is flying by" but as we wave goodbye to January 2010 the fact that time passes too quickly is validated once again.

The rehabilitation continues on my lower back and hip on the right side. Since the physical therapist has directed me to walk only, the occasional jog I throw in with my daily ambulatory exercise is technically breaking the law. My problem is a matter of trust. I am doing everything he has prescribed except for the jogging. My sessions have been spaced out to three week intervals now so the treatment plan is getting drawn out. The prognosis is good and Mr. PT has declared I am improving. I have slight soreness in the lower back but no pain. The leg numbness comes and goes but is never unbearable. I guess you can tell I am justifying my decision to indulge in the occasional run. It does feel good to get back into that activity.

As February dawns, I am eagerly anticipating Spring though I realize we still have weeks to go before we're there. On the chilly mornings, it is difficult to envision how hot and humid it will be in the Chattahoochee valley in a few short months. Enjoy the cold while its here. All we Southerners should embrace this realism as the new year matures and approaches warmer days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What to Wear?

I can never again denigrate my wife's love of shoes or chastise her for the inventory of shoes she carries. Her love for shoes affirms her fit with the female stereotype; so what's my excuse? My philosophy of show wearing has always been to get a good pair and wear 'em until there are holes in the soles. And in the case of nice leather dress shoes, take them to your friendly neighborhood cobbler and get them re-shod. A good pair of shoes never wears out. That philosophy has changed in the past few years and I owe it all to my love for the sport of running.

I have had the fortune through the years to make friends with some fine individuals, many of whom I consider good friends. I have benefited from the wise counsel of those who have suffered similar injuries and offered proven treatment plans. I have gained solace on the cold, rainy mornings knowing my running buddies are up and at it just like me. One of the more expensive passions I have developed through my association with an excellent and interesting runner who has become somewhat of a mentor to me is a love for running shoes. Lest you think me vain and shallow, let me state up front that it has been proven that most running shoes have a useful life of only 400-500 miles; more or less depending on running style and mass of the one wearing them. So, there is proven, scientific weight to my reasoning for keeping a variety of shoes in my stable. Besides, when you look a the miles a marathon or ultra-marathon runner piles up in a year, that translates to a lot of new shoes.

Of course, one approach to the dilemma of keeping fresh shoes in the face of a 2000 mile year is to purchase and wear them in a sequential fashion. Get a pair and wear them day in and out until you have fairly flattened them and worn them out and then purchase the next victim. Another approach is to keep a collection and continually rotate them. "A pair for every day of the week", my wife has been heard to say. The latter approach is the one I have chosen and in addition to the the perception that it is a vain way to go, it does have practical merit. A regimen of long miles takes its toll on shoes and the feet inside of them. I have run in a variety of weather conditions including rain and stifling humidity; both of which thoroughly soak any clothing I may be wearing, including my shoes. It is not unusual for a pair to take a day or two to dry and no one likes to put on pair of wet shoes.

So, I will continue to feed my passion with running shoes, never partial to any brand or make, always looking for a new and interesting feature. I vow to never malign my wife for her verve for a new flat or snazzy pump, as long as she can lend an understanding ear to my pleas for another pair of running shoes.

Attention all running shoe manufacturers: "I am available to do shoe reviews."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Firm Foundation

"Therefore anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock. The rains came, the wind blew...but it did not fall. But anyone who hears these words and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rains came, the wind blew...and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:24-26 NIV

Many of us know these words that were spoken by Jesus as he delivered one of his most famous sermons recorded in the Bible. He was speaking to a group of individuals about practical ways of living and everything he said could be applied to our lives today. It was like a bolt of lightning when it hit me the other day how this passage applied to my life right now. So many times we get so caught up in our woes we forget the lessons that have been laid out for us and how we can learn from them.

When I crossed the finish line in the 2009 Rocket City Marathon last December 12th, I was on top of the world. I had just completed a 26.2 mile foot race in 3:40. Some 53 minutes faster than the last one I did and well ahead of the race goal I had set for myself of completing the race sub 4 hour fashion. Yeh, this time is nothing special in the realm of world class runners as the winners of this particular race were showered and on their way back to Kenya by the time I finished. But it was special to me because of what I had done to accomplish it. I was joined by members of my family that affirmed my special feat and was proud to hear my Dad exclaim I had become a well-trained athlete.

In the days following the race I was excited with the prospects of improving my time and even being able to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This race is so renowned and is considered the Holy Grail for all marathon runners. It is so popular, in fact, that participants must complete a qualifying run faster than predetermined times. The times vary depending on age and gender but for me that time is 3:30. Having just run one in 3:40, I felt the goal was more than attainable. I had been crafting my 10 week training plan for a local qualifying event when I had an episode which put it all to a screeching halt. My first visit with a physical therapist was scheduled for Wednesday, December 16th and it was there I began to understand why I had been suffering for so long with a sore lower back and numbing right leg. The therapist showed me the best way he could how my right hip was mechanically out of wack and this misalignment was causing an impingment on nerves and generally fostering a hodge-podge of painful events. “What I need you to do,” he began, “is to stop running for a while.” “How long is a while?” I asked incredulously. “long enough to get the situation under control.” He said. Well, I can tell you that response was probably the most nefarious thing I have heard in a while. The nerve of him to suggest I suspend an activity that had become such an important part of my life the past couple of years.

It wasn’t until one day last week, that the realization that this time off from running may be the best thing that ever happened to me. I immediately thought of the passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Without a firm, lasting foundation upon which to build, nothing will last. That goes for any experience in our lives; athletic training included. Over the past few weeks I have begun rebuilding my walking posture with the intention of translating this to my running posture. I have plans to insure I am developing a running style that is most conducive to injury-prevention. Does that mean I will never get injured again? Probably not. But it does mean I am going to be less proud of doing what it takes to run the right way and more concerned with enjoying the running experience each day and not taking it for granted.

God has given me the gift of athleticism. I will get back to where I was before and as I travel that path I am going to be building on a firm foundation of physical, emotional and spiritual development. That will be my gift to Him.

Monday, January 18, 2010

PT Visit Three

As luck would have it, I contracted some kind of vicious stomach ailment Sunday afternoon that had me down for the count...and down on the bathroom floor for around 12 hours. I don't know if it was something I ate or a malicious passing virus but it treated me unkindly. So, my scheduled PT appointment for 7;30 Monday morning looked doubtful. My wife came in at 6:45 to wake me from the recliner to which I was banished for the night and I peeled myself free and took a quick shower. The nausea had passed but I had very little energy. If these PT appointments weren't so hard to make, I would have passed but decided to tough it out and go.

I guess you could call me chief of all skeptics because I have the tendency to question anyone or anything I do not understand. So, it is with the procedures my physical therapist goes through when we meet. He has me sit on a stool, with my back towards him and places his hands on my lower back as I bend to the left and the right. He then has me sit on a bench with my legs hanging down and has me lift one leg then the other. From this he can tell I have made improvement. I am feeling less pain in my lower back and less leg numbness but he admitted that may never completely go away.

At the end of the 10 minute session, I popped the inevitable question. "When can I start back running?" He proclaimed my continuing improvement but failed to utter the words of accommodation. A few more weeks before I can be back in business. He did say I could start mixing some jogging in with my walks. Well, that was some consolation and I intend on stretching the envelope all I can.

It is tough showing restraint but I have got to use some creativity in coming up with ways to stay in shape in the face of these restrictions. Walking religiously, maybe twice a day and swimming should serve the purpose. Anything to ward off the ugly slide back to being unfit. That is one state in which I never intend to be again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Missing the Run

A scuff of the heel against the concrete curb and I was off into a running gait...for only an instant. You know the situations where you trip and in an attempt to disguise the fact that you are clumsy, speed up to a run, looking around and hoping no one is watching. Well, this particular morning, I had done the same but I knew no one was watching because it was 4:30 am and the streets were deserted. Though I really wanted to keep running I knew better. My treatment plan prevented it.

I am on week four of my running abstinence and every time I go for a walk I experience the same temptation. If it wasn't for the fact that I had no pain when I ran, it would not be such a difficult tug on my conscience. The pain comes later when I am resting. A misalignment of the my right hip is impinging on nerves in my lower back causing pain in my back and numbness in my right leg. Neither condition is terribly painful; just an ever-present reminder that something is amiss. My physical therapist is a so-called expert in spine rehab so I guess he knows what he is talking about but his proclamation that I "stop running for a while" has caused me more than one moment of extreme consternation. "What if he doesn't know what he is talking about?" I ask myself. The answer keeps coming back that I need to rest and BE PATIENT! Being patient is definitely not one of my truest virtues but one I know I need to cultivate.

So, I press on and selfishly mourn every time I read about another runner training for an upcoming event. Not maligning their achievements but missing mine. The Albany Snickers Marathon, the Mercedes Marathon, the Nashville Rock-n-Roll Marathon; they're all out. If things continue to drag on, the Spring marathon season will be over and the next opportunity to race one will be in October. So, I really should be thankful. I should be thankful God has given me an opportunity to do something that brings so much satisfaction and joy. All you runners know the feeling. The experience of the run is nothing like anyone can describe. It is what pushes us all and what makes a mundane activity seem so exciting. It is what motivates us to run when we know we are way back in the pack and far from the pinnacle of recognition...except our own recognition. For we recognize the transformation in ourselves as we finish another race, log another long run, cover that unbelievable distance one more time. I miss the run. I hope I will find it again soon.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Layers Against the Cold

Stepping out onto my front porch this cold January morning I wondered if it was really as cold as predicted. It seems I remember something in the vicinity of 16-18 F. Had it warmed during the night or did my application of layers of running attire really do what they were intended to do? A further advance onto the street and into the teeth of the wind confirmed the latter. Yeh, it was cold , but I had dressed appropriately.

Alright, I may sound like a wimp for complaining about a little cold. You may even think I have no room to talk in the face of 16 F cold but you have to understand I have never lived further north than Charlotte, NC. Career choices and a very warm-nature wife have secured that fact. I've got Southern blood coursing through these veins for goodness sakes! So, this is really cold to me. The layers felt good, that is for sure. I thought they were adequate, until I turned a corner and headed north into the teeth of the wind. It never cases to amaze me how effective the wind is at robbing us of that layer of air that clings close to our bodies serving as thermal protection. But, wind chill factor is as real as anything. If the wind really blows, it doesn't matter how many layers you have on, you are going to feel it.

My decision to follow the treatment plan of my physical therapist has me walking this morning as I have done for several weeks. I have bemoaned and complained about my plight and I realize it is s simple choice; suck it up and treat the problem or ignore and let it get worse. Now, having made the choice to treat the problem, it is time to be quiet and move on. A component of that decision was the realization that I did not have to completely abandon all aspects of my previous running regimen. I have determined to get up and out at the same time I have done in the past and get in whatever exercise the PT would allow me. OK, it doesn't include running right now, walking only, it will in due time.

That brings me back the original purpose of this day's entry; talking about layers. The cold can't stop my progress or slow my goal of sticking to a regimen. If it takes layers to keep warm, so be it. So as I peel off the layers after 35 minutes of brisk walking, I am thankful for another chance to exercise. I'm not ready nor willing to tempt the full fury of winter weather by moving to the upper mid-west. I am content in the fact, though, as long as it doesn't get much worse, my layers are going to keep me warm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

PT Day 1-6-10

I started the day out with devotional time then to the YMCA for exercise. For 25 minutes, the treadmill, set at 4 mph and no incline, was my residence. I met a friend of mine who has been giving my ideas on how to build up my core muscles and get in good enough shape to run pain free. Sounds like a plan, doesn' it? After Robert spent some instructional time with me it was time to head to my physical therapy session. I have been looking forward to this for the express reason I want to get on with the required plan of action.

As best I can phrase it, my condition is the result of a hip that mechanically misaligned. This misalignment creates a condition where the muscles in my lower back have to compensate and consequently are forced to "lock down" and create pain. These muscles also swell and this contributes to back and leg pain. During the PT session, the therapist bends me up like a pretzel and in the process is able to mobilize my hip so I once again have free range of motion. This is a good thing but the problem is that my normal motion forces my hip back into an unnatural position. It is going to take time to develop a routine of stretching and strengthening muscles in my core to make a lastiing difference. The treatment plan seems to be fairly vague; I've just got to trust the therapist knows what he's doing. I really miss the running, though!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday January 3, 2009

Happy New Year Everyone!
Its great to be writing in a new year my first blog of a new decade. I have every intention of being more active in my posting this year. It is really a paradox that I do not write more as I really enjoy writing. Could it be the time it takes to transfer thoughts to keystrokes? I guess if this was my day job I would be in trouble.

Since this is the inaugural passage of this new year, it would be appropriate to speak of new year's resolutions. The only thing with that is I do not usually make them. At least not intentionally. I guess we all make them in some indirect way, but I shy away from shouting it from the mountains. I guess my beef with verbalizing resolutions is we often make these promises that are not only unattainable but down-right unrealistic. How about this one. "Hey, I resolve to lose 50 pounds this year, but do I have to really change my eating habits and start exercising?" Or, maybe this one. "I vow to be a better person this year. Oh, but does that mean I have to stop my back-stabbing to get ahead at work?" Need I say more?

OK, so maybe my hesitancy with making resolutions is more about making commitments Wouldn't it be great if we could make our resolutions retroactively. I guess we would claim more victories than we could imagine. I had no idea when 2009 started I would train for and complete a marathon and do it in record time. So, my retroactive resolution for 2009 will be "To train for the Huntsville Rocket City marathon and complete it in record time." OK, enough of resolutions.

Three weeks ago, a visit to a Physical Therapist revealed my back pain of many years was probably caused by a hip misalignment. He (the PT) went on to recommend I stop running for a period of time while he worked with my condition in an effort to correct the underlying problem which was causing my back pain. Walking only. You could not have hurt my feelings any worse. I mean, just two days before I had started making plans to train for and run in the Albany marathon in March. I felt like I really could run a marathon in a time that would allow me to qualify for the Boston marathon. Then, I found myself sitting there realizing those plans would be shoved to the back burner. Its time for patience and healing.

So, on this third day of January, 2010, I continue a program of reduced physical activity meant to aid in the healing of my body. My hopes are that this will be a speedy process but I pray I will have the wisdom and patience to faithfully follow a plan of action that may take more time than less.