Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two Jims at the Great Gobbler

For the tenth year in a row, I ran in Nashua's Great Gobbler Thanksgiving Day 5K race. It is the only yearly race streak that I have left. The strategy was to jog through it and keep my hip safe and pain-free. After a year of trying to get my running going, I did about the same as I did last year just months after my hip surgery. I checked and I have only done about 50 miles of running since the beginning of September so that explains a lot  and I have done no run longer than 4 miles since then. Last year, I had put in some 8 milers before the race. I will say however that I felt so much more symmetrical this year. I enjoyed the mechanics of the race. I am just horribly out of shape. Last year was my slowest 5k race ever. This year I was a few ticks faster on the clock. I don't often get to do race reviews anymore, so I will recap the race from my slow-motion vantage point. There is nothing exciting here, expect if was a slow motion replay of many races I have run in the past.

Before the race, I was talking to a few Gate City Strider teammates  rows behind the front line including Jim Belanger. We are  both old-time gung-ho marathon runners who have lost our mojos. The gun went off and it took awhile to get to the starting line (at least according to what I am used to!) and off I went jogging in a pack of slowish moving runners of all types (young, old, male, female, skinny, fat). I was in the pack. I felt good as I merrily jogged along and was very happy that my hips felt centered and great as I only got little twinges in my glutes and adductors throughout the race. The course changed this year and had over 800 runners. Most of the first mile was on the paved surfaces of the high school parking lot and entry road. It was right before this point that something very familiar happened. Jimmy B. caught up to me. We ran together for a while and entered Mine Falls Park. I recall remarking to Jim, that this was like racing just a few years ago at The Boston Marathon. Here we were running in a large pack of road clogging runners, but both of us were going slower that the marathon pace that we used to run. I usually start out races fast and have run countless races where Jim catches up to me, we run together, and then he slowly pulls away to beat me. A couple of years ago, Jim ran his 15th and final Boston Marathon. I seem to remember him constantly running between 2:50-2:55 year after year. Here is a photo of us both after finishing one year (late 1990's or early 2000's-I have no clue what year this is).

Spacemen after the 1996 (100th) Boston Marathon
Sure enough after about 1 1/2 miles of running, just like the old days Jim started pulling away as I slowed down. He finished ahead of me (23:37 to my 24:33). We have seen better days, but it was good to run with Jim again and enjoy the pleasures of racing, even if we were doing it at a much slower pace. Here I am at the start already getting ahead of Jim for a short while. He is behind # 497. At least according to today's Wall Street Journal: One Running Shoe in the Grave: New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Benefits maybe we are finally doing things right! I just don't buy it.

I am still anxiously awaiting a visit to the physiatrist next week to see if there is something to do about the tightness around my hip and glutes. I have good days and bad days. I was happy with the race as I was only limping around a little bit afterwards and my hip did not tighten up much at all during the day. I was even able to put in a couple miles the next day. It was another low mileage week.

Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday: 0 miles
Wednesday: 0 miles (resting up- ha ha!)
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: 2 miles
Saturday: 2 miles
Sunday: 0 miles
Total: 9 miles

The muscles around my hip are extremely tight and I finally found a hip flexor stretch that doesn't stress out my joint. I have been using it that past few days to some success. Kneeling stretches just haven't worked well for my hip.

I also have started doing some deadlifts for my glutes. I wish I had more weight than my 50 pound kettlebell. Gray Cook expertly teaches the deadlift here:

Here are my Great Gobbler Race results over the past 10 years:

Great Gobbler race results:

2003 19:59 16th originally called a Nashua High School Alumni race.
2004 19:38 15th
2005 19:19  7th  (Awesome snowstorm during the race!)
2006 18:16  13th
2007 18:09  18th
2008  20:10 28th
2009 20:46 31st
2010 22:00 77th  (off the fumes of summer training as the labral tear kept me from running much)
2011 24:45 170th

2012 24:33 Chip time 24:42 Net time 166th

It should be easy to improve on that next place and time next year, but that is exactly what I said last year and nothing much changed!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Muscle Activation Technique: Session 8

This week I went for my 8th session of Muscle Activation Technique work as I try to put my body back together from years of dysfunction and compensations. It was not a good week for running. I thought I was getting somewhere and starting a string of consecutive days of "very limited running", but I realized I needed to end that. Here is what little I accomplished:
Monday: 2 miles (14 days straight of running. I probably should have taken the day off)
Tuesday: 0 miles I had to be smart and end my streak
Wednesday: 0 miles
Thursday: 4 miles (started to feel great again and overdid it)
Friday: 0 miles
Saturday: 1 mile treadmill
Sunday: 2 miles
Weekly total: 9 miles

The more I was running particularly as I ran over 2 miles, the more my adductors and glutes got tight and hurt. My running form looks better than is has in years, but something is pinching in my adductors or a tendon is frayed or tight, and it locks things up and then the glutes give out and get really sore.

Friday, I finally got frustrated enough and called the surgeon and explained things. I spoke to someone at the office and they said it doesn't sound like the joint is the problem and they had me set up an appointment with the physiatrist I last saw last winter. I am not sure what I am expecting, maybe an MRI to rule out a problem in the hip or tendons. I don't think I need any more trigger point injections or referrals for PT. The doctor's office did say it could be a nerve problem in the back region, but I reminded them that I had an MRI a year ago for that and they said my lower back looked great.

So I went to my M.A.T. session and explained to Greg what was going on and what my thoughts were and I got his thoughts too. I do think the M.A.T. has been extremely helpful. It has strengthened and straightened out my foot. My stride, walking and running, is so much better. I feel great, except when I start running. Are my muscles just tightening up to protect the hip joint from pain that is anticipates? Are they firing incorrectly? I wonder if having strong toes and a stride that is more balanced due to my using my big toe and toe joint is creating more stress in the inside hip area due to greater use due to getting rid of the compensations when my foot would just give in as I ran? I will be seeing the physiatrist in a couple of weeks and so I decided to make this my final M.A.T. session for now, until I can run again, or I can find out what is causing the pains in my hip.

Last week, after 14 days of running, things started to go off again, I stopped running, but did some light stretching and other movements on Monday that felt good at first, but set everything off and I had two uncomfortable days until it all resolved. The good news is that Thursday, I woke up feeling great and balanced again and most important I was still aligned well. I thought maybe all the M.A.T. work had disappeared and I was back to where I was two months ago, but it was still there. So like an idiot, I went for a 4 mile run and things tightened up again.

Two weeks ago, Greg said we had finished with the feet and legs and we would do the right (good hip) this week. After discussing it, he thought it would be better to do the trunk and I agreed. I feel like my good (right hip) is a bit behind my left hip and, strangely, doesn't bend and move as well as the left (labral tear) hip. I also feel that my lower back is very tight and stiff. Greg reminded me that there are a lot of muscles and tendons that attach to the hip joint: from below, with the legs, and above, from the trunk. The muscles from above can come into play in how the hip-pelvis works.

We went about the testing of muscles. I would be in a seated or lying position and move into a position from which Greg would push against my torso or legs to isolate certain muscles one by one. Interestingly, the inhibited muscles were on my right (or good hip side) and I was strong on my left (labral tear) side. Then he would palpate the origins or insertions of the week muscles and we would go back to the testing and it, like usual, would be amazing as I could not exert force from a position which moments earlier I could not. Greg also said that the fascia on the side of my spine was very thick and tight and this is a way that the body tries to protect itself when there is a problem. That makes sense as I recall that after having rolfing done about 6 years ago, that even one year later when I went to a chiropractor that he noticed right away how much looser my back muscles were around the spine after the rolfing. The rolfer I saw last Spring for one visit, also mentioned that my right side was the tight side. He gave me a stretch, but I could never get it to work. Some of the muscles that Greg worked on were my psoas and diaphragm, as well as muscles along my spine and on the sides of my back (like where junior high kids like to poke you to startle you). I forget all the names as there are so many. I do like that M.A.T. is a muscle by muscle approach.

I guess many muscles on the right side of my body are weak or inhibited in the torso area. A light bulb went off in my head. I may be feeling pain or tightness in my lower left back, glutes, and other areas, but maybe that is due to compensating for the right side, or because that left side has to work harder. This makes sense as for years my left side would get stiff or tight after running or racing. For the last 15 of more years when I run the Falmouth Road Race, I immediately go to the massage tent and meet a local Falmouth Chiropractor, who knows me from only the Falmouth race and the Cape Cod Marathon, but he knows to work my very tight QL (quadratus lumburon) on my left side after each race. Usually I feel better running after the race, then when I did running it!

I know I don't run straight or balanced, even above the waist as one side is always rotated and one shoulder is sometimes higher than the other. I had a Gate City Striders teammate, who used to laugh at me because I couldn't keep my racing singlet on my shoulder. It was always falling off on one side. This goes back many years. Here is a photo he took at the 1996 Mt. Washington Road Race as I was nearing the final massive climb to the finish with the singlet falling off. I was impressed by myself when I looked at the results. I knew my time (1:22:23), but I had forgotten that the GCS team that I was on finished third for all the open teams in that race and I was a scoring member (we were only about 1 1/2 minutes out of second place, but I did my part and beat the corresponding 5th place guy by 6 seconds). The other thing I remember about this race, besides not walking one step, was that the previous week was the first week I had ever gone to a chiropractor and had an adjustment. My lower back was much worse back then then it is today in my daily life. I used to have a hard time sitting pain free those days (but I could run!). I remember feeling great after the adjustment, but by the next day I was back to my old self, and it has been a long trip since then trying to get things sorted out.

After this week's  M.A.T. session I felt some new and better rotations in my right lower back and in the way I sit and move. I also feel better in my hips. It is still early to tell how much it helps, but I don't feel as much strain across the front of the hip where the hip flexor presses and the adductor doesn't feel as tight. When walking and running, my hips feel better balanced and the right hip seems to work better. I ran 2 miles today and it felt very good. My glutes did tighten up soon after the run, though. Greg has also been filming videos for me of some of the isometric exercises he wants me to do. This has been very helpful and a big bonus.

I guess that even as I improve my body, there is so much still to unwind. I think I became I master at running through dysfunction and finding my own path to move. It is embarrassing looking at some old photos of my stride, but I made it work. And I damaged my body. The goal now is to see if I can fix it and get back to pain-free running. I know that when I start my runs now, I feel so loose, good, and balanced. I was running today and could "feel" myself being able to run a marathon again, because I wasn't fighting my body like I did for years and years. It is just that I have to make sure I can run without pain. Will the physiatrist find something? Will I just need more time and patience to heal? Will the M.A.T. work on my torso be what I need to get rid of all imbalances all the way up the chain? All that I know is that like the Mount Washington Road Race, it will be a long, slow, uphill climb and that I don't want to walk it, I want to be running it. I feel I still got a lot of good years of running left in my body, so I can't give up now.

M.A.T. has been a really good therapy for me, even if it has yet to fix my hip problem. I "feel" so much better overall. It is too bad they didn't have stuff like this in the 1980s when I first started having imbalance and lower back problems. I may have had a much better and less painful running career. It is too bad there is not a lot of good information out there on M.A.T. One really good testimonial came out this month. Sport Illustrated had an article on the return of Peyton Manning to football with the Denver Broncos and possibly why he chose Denver to play for. The M.A.T. founder, Gary Roskopf, is in Denver and that is whom Peyton sees to treat his troubled muscles in his neck and other places.

"But most important in Peyton's resurgence has been his maniacal body upkeep with two Denver musculature gurus. Last season in Indianapolis, while Manning was fruitlessly racing to prepare his body to play following September neck-fusion surgery, he would pay every week to fly in Greg Roskopf, a Denver-based specialist in cutting-edge Muscle Activation Techniques—finding muscles that have been traumatized or strained and strengthening other muscles to compensate—who had become popular with veterans such as former Broncos safety John Lynch, a friend of Manning's. "There were weeks my arm was dead, and [Roskopf] was instrumental in rebooting my body," says Lynch. (Later, Lynch would be influential in getting Manning to sign with Denver, reminding the QB "what a tremendous luxury" it would be to play where Roskopf was located.)"

Now that I broke my running streak at 14 days, the only streak I have left is that I have done every single Great Gobbler Thanksgiving race held in Nashua (since 2003). You will find me at the starting line ready for a slow jog of a race (to see if I can break 24 minutes) this Thursday (race PR of 18:09 just 5 years ago). Hopefully I haven't lost more than 2 minutes per mile in the past 5 years!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kim Jones: Dandelion Growing Wild

Kim was a Reebok runner for two years
because of Alberto Salazar.
Kim Jones ranks as one of America's most accomplished marathon runners. She could be found at the front of many prestigious marathons in the 1990s including second place finishes at both the Boston and New York City Marathons. I recall hearing about her asthma problems and that she had two daughter when she was quite young before becoming a marathon star. Other than that all I knew was  that she was that blond pigtailed runner consistently rated as a top marathoner, but who never made it to the Olympics. When I saw she had an autobiography out, I decided to read it to find out more about this American runner.

Dandelion Growing Wild: A triumphant journey over astounding odds by American marathon champion Kim Jones is a wonderful and heartbreaking story about overcoming adversity . It is not really a running story, as that is not the most remarkable thing about it. Kim grew up knowing poverty and pain. She would eat whatever she could find, even cow feed, due to her hunger and lack of food at times. Her family is a picture of family dysfunction, with more mental illness, suicides, and tragedies than you would think possible. The first third of the story deals with her family and upbringing. It is a horrible glimpse into the lives of people who try to cope with adversity, poverty, and struggling to overcome poor choices and genetics that lead to many family members struggling with schizophrenia and other diseases of the mind.

It is hard to put down the book as you read about Kim's family life, but you know that eventually she will find out that she has a gift for running and that everything will turn out all right in the end. Of course, you would be wrong if you believed that! Kim does discover she is a tremendously talented runner despite having a crooked toe that gets in the way of her running stride. You also realize, through her writing, that Kim is blessed with an empathetic personality that is gracious towards those in her life who can't quite get it together. She does find that she is a great runner in high school, only to end up pregnant as a 16 year old. Kim's life is full of these moments that she must overcome. I noticed three things in the book that were just glossed over, but that could have added to the tragedies in her life. While living as a successful runner in Spokane, she had chillingly close encounters with a serial rapist, a serial killer, and a stalker who followed her on runs and knew all sorts of information on her. While still a child, she avoided an encounter with a child-molesting grandfather. Those are the things that didn't happen, wait until you read and find out the many terrible things that did happen.

Kim eventually rises above her upbringing and makes her way towards being a successful marathon runner. The second third of the book deals with her running career and it serves as a great reminder to the steadiness of her career, how close she kept getting to winning Boston or New York, and how bad things seemed to hit her right at all the important moments like the Olympic Trials races.

The final third (much shorter) of the book seems almost like a fairy book ending and starts after an accident before a race crushed her foot and led her to retire from racing. It almost started to feel Disney-esque in its happiness and outcomes. Kim's new boyfriend, Jon Sinclair who was one of America's top road runners for years, just happened to be the guy that she saw on television years earlier and inspired her as she decided to run her first race. Her two daughters had grown up and were doing fine. Then, one final and immense tragedy befalls Kim. You have to wonder how much she can take. You also see how she has grown beyond the family troubles that have left siblings and family members in mental institutions and prisons.

I really enjoyed reading Kim's book and getting a personal glimpse into the triumphs and tragedies of her life. She is a very much a wonderful story teller. I appreciated how well she connected elements from her childhood to events in her adult life. This is not a book just for runners. It is an true American story of pulling oneself up from the bottom rungs of society  to reach the top with her many achievements. On a lighter note here are three things I learned about Kim (1) she likes to eat - a lot! (2) she likes to watch classic television - a lot and (3) she likes to clean - a lot! The most important thing about Kim, though,  is how she loves and brings up her two daughters.

Here is a recent Runner's World interview with Kim Jones that informed me about the book.

Patience and Consistency

Being consistent and not doing too much were the themes this week. I ran every day for a total of 18 miles. I did try to push further Friday and Saturday, but that might not have been the best idea as things still tighten up beyond the two mile point. I am keeping patient and testing things until I feel ready to run longer.

Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday: 2 miles (treadmill)
Wednesday: 2 miles
Thursday: 2 miles
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday 4 miles
Sunday: 2 miles
Total for the week: 18 miles
Total days running in a row: 13 days

Nothing exciting there, although twice this week my wife saw me running and said my legs were straighter than they have looked in years.

Here are some words of wisdom from Don Kardong, the fourth place finisher in the 1976 Olympic Marathon held in Montreal. If you believe that the winner was doping as the German files from that era suggest, then Don would be the silver medal winner and Frank Shorter would be a two-time gold medal winner.

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”

“Avoid any diet that discourages the use of hot fudge.”

One of the best things about running is that it gives you permission to eat more ice cream!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Muscle Acitvation Technique: Session 7

I had my 7th weekly session of Muscle Activation Technique (M.A.T.) on Saturday. Thank goodness Wells Fargo sent me a surprise check for overcharging my account a few years ago on my mortgage and that I have a wife that advocates for me to continue with the therapy because she understands how important fixing my stride is to me. Without either of those, I would be still hobbling around. The interesting thing going in to this session was that I felt myself feeling more solid as the week progressed without any regression at all. My feet feel strong. almost too strong. as I am not used to using my big toe and MPT joint so much. Greg worked on my toes, feet, and lower leg again. I feel this is the most important part of getting my alignment and stride to stay straight. It was a typical session of testing, palpating where necessary, doing some isometrics, and retesting. After 7 sessions I am extremely confident in Greg's expertise and skills. I would not be continuing on if I didn't think 100% that we are on the right track. I am going to take a week off and go back after two weeks and we are going to work on the right hip (keeping away from the problematic left hip). Strangely, although my left hip is weak and gets sore as it adjusts, it is actually the right hip that my body says needs some work as it feels a bit behind the left and my right leg is a bit awkward when easing my foot down to the road. I think I am getting close to being done with these sessions and it is time to keep working on the slow build up and to see how well all of this work sticks with my body.

Two weeks ago I ran a total of 10 miles doing 5 two mile runs. Then I took 2 days off.

This week:
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 2 miles
Wednesday: 2 miles
Thursday: 2 miles
Friday: 2 miles
Saturday: 4 miles (I doubled my mileage after hearing my buddy Mike Wade had run his first 50 mile ultramarathon. It  was also right after my M.A.T. therapy session.. Halfway through the run, I knew it was still too far for my hip to run smoothly, but I made it and was justly sore afterwards.
Sunday: 2 miles

Total for the week: 14 miles (barely a long run in total) It is hard to be patient and while it doesn't sound like much running to me. It is the first time since in over 2 years that I have run 5 days in a row. I am still going: as of today it is now 8 days in a row. I want to get that hip used to running properly and to be strong before I push the mileage. The good news is that when I run, there are times that I feel so loose and balanced that I can recognize the racer inside of me ready to burst out and I can feel that ease of running that has been long gone returning (and it feels good!).

I am still getting a pinching on the inside of my hip and am still debating whether to call my surgeon and see if I need an MRI. I started taking Advil in case there is inflammation in the hip area. Since I started doing that, he pinching isn't as bad and I can flex my hip a whole lot more, so either the Advil is working or it is a temporary thing as my muscles adjust to running again.

Sunday, after my run, my wife was standing there with two thumbs up. She had watched me run home and said my stride looked straight and even. My left leg was not twisting around and things have really improved.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Debbie Heald: Amazing race and story

The December 2012 issue of Runner's World has a fantastic article centered on a grainy video clip of a race and a 16 year old American running phenom. In 1972, Debbie Heald, the 16 year old high school runner, toed the starting line of  the USSR-USA indoor meet in Virginia. Along side her was Doris Brown, 29, the US champion and five-time world cross country champion, Tamara Pangelova, 28, who had set the world record in the indoor 1500 meters in the European Championship the previous week and Lyudmila Bragina, 29, who would win the Olympic 1500 in Munich that summer. The 16 year old had duct taped her racing shoes together as a shoe rep from Adidas had not thought her worthy of wearing a new pair of their shoes. What happens next is mind boggling and the old video can be seen here:

Debbie Heald's amazing race and finish is quite remarkable and was the new world record at the time. Her winning time is still, 35 years later, the USA girls indoor high school record for the mile, even though it was run on an 11 laps to the mile track. The life she has lived after this fantastic race is chronicled in the Runner's World article. It brings up issues of childhood abuse that she suffered and a turn into mental illness along with her many injuries. There is also her former fourth grade teacher who has maintained a friendship and stood by her side throughout all her difficulties.

Here is a Sports Illustrated Vault article on the race from March 27, 1972: They're Sweet 16 and Deserve a Kiss. I know I have seen this race on youtube before, but I can't remember if I watched this when it was on television at the time. I do remember the US-USSR races. I was somewhat attuned to girls track and field at the time as I had a classmate, Johanna Forman, who was an outstanding runner at the time and had made the Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd" for her racing as a 12 year old just a couple of months before Debbie's race. I still recall the assembly at our school for Johanna when she made Sports Illustrated and hearing about all her running accomplishment. She went on to be a national and international class runner as a youngster and attended Harvard.

Here is a 10 year old article from the LA Times on Debbie Heald: Rough Run.


Mary Cain breaking Debbie Heald's indoor mile record with a 4:32.78 .

This is a video I took of Mary Cain breaking the high school indoor two mile record.

Mary Cain breaking the indoor mile record a second time at The Millrose Games

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Power, Speed, Endurance: Mobility Chapter

Power Speed ENDURANCE: A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training is a new book written by Brian Mackenzie. The mobility chapter was written by Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD fame. Kelly introduces this book on his blog:
 I want to be clear.  The amount of performance that runners/bikers/swimmers leave on the table is astounding.  This is the first book I’ve ever read about these disciplines that literally goes to the heart of this matter.  You should be able to run, bike, and swim until you die.  You should also be able to perform these skill and never, ever get hurt.   And you should be fast, and move like a human being.  Biking is legit, but running and swimming are vital human skills like eating and communicating.  Get this book.

He then gives a link to the mobility chapter on the upper legs, hips, and trunk so that you can check it out. A lot of the mobility work presented can be found on Kelly's Mobility WOD site and his videos are definitely worth checking out, but it is good to see these presented in a book and on this PDF file. It is also a good preview of what is to come when Kelly releases his own book Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance next year.

I would highly recommend checking out the mobility chapter and seeing if this is a worthwhile book to purchase. Here is the book description from Amazon.

Power, Speed, ENDURANCE is a highly effective training system that has catapulted thousands of endurance athletes to the next level. Developed by CrossFit Endurance founder Brian MacKenzie and featuring instruction from some of the world's top endurance and CrossFit coaches, Power, Speed, ENDURANCE unveils techniques, drills, and training strategies that will optimize your performance and overall work capacity while decreasing your susceptibility to injury.

Through thousands of step-by-step color photographs and detailed narrative, Power, Speed, ENDURANCE breaks down proper running, cycling, and swimming mechanics like never before. MacKenzie's unique system of building strength, speed, and power is aimed at reaping continual results, without injury. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to the "broken down" athlete, equipping you with the knowledge to prevent, repair, and treat injuries brought on by poor mechanics and tight overworked muscles. In addition, MacKenzie outlines a straightforward approach to nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte balance that will increase your energy, boost your performance, and accelerate your recovery.

Whether you're a self-trained athlete looking to compete in your first endurance event, a seasoned competitor looking to reach your highest potential, or a CrossFit athlete looking to increase stamina, Power, Speed, ENDURANCE will help you reach your goal.
In this book, you will learn how to:

    develop proper running technique using the Pose Methodproperly fit yourself on a bikeimprove cycling mechanics on a road, time-trial, and mountain bikeswim effortlessly and improve freestyle-stroke mechanics through skill-based drills and exercisesaccelerate work capacity and minimize fatigue by building muscle, speed, and powerincorporate a CrossFit Endurance strength-and-conditioning program into your training routinemaximize nutrition, hydration, and electrolyte balance to improve performance and body composition
    prevent, repair, and treat nagging injuries associated with endurance sports and improve range of motion using Starrett's Movement and Mobility Method