Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Run While Injured


I've finally cracked the code. I don't know why I didn't discover this ages ago, but somehow I missed it. I've figured out how to run through severe injury pain, and the solution does not involve drugs or alcohol. Not that I would ever run under the influence anyway, but this new discovery promises to be the breakthrough all of us broken down runners have been seeking.

In an effort to launch Scott 3.0, I've started slowly running again. I'm limping and shuffling around a track for 30 minutes even though all the injuries of the past 8 months are an ever present source of nasty, persistent pain. My knee aches. My hip flexor flexes painfully. My achilles kills me. And my PF is blackmailing me with nasty letters made with clippings from articles in the latest Runner's World magazine. But I think I have beaten them all at their own game.

While running around the track today in the 95F heat, with the symphony of pain from my various ailments blaring their awful muzak in my sizzling brain, I fell down. Yes, I know I'm an idiot. Yes, that's sad that I fell on seemingly flat ground (I swear there was a root!). Yes, now shut up and listen because this is the important part!

I banged my knee pretty hard on the pavement, and it hurt like hell as I started running again. But lo and behold, none of my other ailments could penetrate my brain with their songs of pain. My bruised knee out-sang them all! And I ran semi-normally for the first time in as long as I can remember.

The solution, as you have surmised, is to mask pain with MORE pain. Works like a charm! So, if you see me out on the track in the next few weeks punching myself in the nuts as I run, you'll know why.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Scott 3.0

222 miles. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Seems like a lot if you are talking about running. Not so much if you are talking about running mileage over EIGHT MONTHS. Sadly, that's true for me. I've been totally busted or partially busted since last October. I've muddled from plantar fasciitis (finally gone! woo hoo!), to a Baker's Cyst, which I burst on long trail run (hurt!), to a strained hip flexor (no conjugal activies?! ARGH!!!). Of course, you aren't surprised. I'm the king of injuries after all.

What IS surprising is that I'm not as depressed about all of this as I would expect. Not that there isn't some depression, but my life is good, better than the vast majority in the world even, so I try to maintain some perspective. But not running is indeed quite a bummer.

So, I'm initiating Scott 3.0. I'm starting over from scratch. I'm rebuilding from my pathetic base just as soon as my latest hip flexor is flexoring properly again. But before that starts, let me tell you about Scott 1.0 and Scott 2.0.

Scott 1.0
Oh, how I miss Scott 1.0. That was the Scott who joined the cross country team in high school so he could goof off in the woods with his friends. The Scott who could run a sub-20 5K with only minimal puking at the end. The Scott who rarely trained hard, and never raced hard, preferring to run at the back of the pack and talk smack for the entire race. "You so slow, they time your 5K with a calendar!"

Scott 1.0 faded away in college, replaced with marathon sessions of studying and homework, and pizza eating. But he returned after college, again running 5Ks a bit over 20 minutes. But Scott 1.0 had no sense. He had never learned to train. He had never learned to run for fitness. Inevitably, he imploded, along with his knee. So he switched to rock climbing, snowboarding and mountain biking. Much more knee friendly in Scott 1.0's brain.

Scott 2.0
It took Scott 1.0 about a decade to totally destroy his knee, but by god, he managed it. Who knew landing big jumps on a snowboard were bad for an already battered knee? Not Scott 1.0. When the knee had finally had enough, and the work-life balance scale had crumpled under the weight of 70 hour work weeks, Scott 1.0 slid down the slope of obesity and bad health. 25 year old 128 pound Scott 1.0 landed on his 185 pound fat ass at 38. And then promptly fell into a hospital bed with a litany of stress, weight, and lifestyle related auto immune issues. Followed shortly thereafter by 2 more reconstructive knee surgeries (ACL, MCL, meniscus, kitchen sink, etc.)

From that pudgy, sick pile of Scott 1.0 arose Scott 2.0. Determined to turn things around, Scott 2.0 went on a long 3 year journey to reclaim his health. That tale of that journey is for another time, but it involves caffeine cave monsters, sour dough dragons, and the flaming sword of fiber. Truly an epic tale.

Scott 2.0, returning to health and happiness, decided to take up running once again. That tale has been written in the pages of this very blog. Stupidity, forever inscribed into the great halls of the interwebs.

Sadly, Scott 2.0 had little more sense than Scott 1.0 when it came to running. True, Scott 2.0 had a more seasoned and mature perspective on life in general, but running still seemed to involve Scott 1.0's smack talking lizard brain. 222 miles ago, that road ended in pain, and the end of Scott 2.0.

Scott 3.0
With the sad, slow, 222 mile death of Scott 2.0 now truly and utterly complete, I embark on the journey of Scott 3.0 - The Way of the Plan and The Plan of the Way. Stay tuned for the next chapter in the epic Saga of Scott.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Falling Off The Wagon - Running of the Bulls 8K

The first race back after a long injury layoff is a peculiar event. You are filled with fear, excitement, doubt, hope, and more fear. Sometimes I think a physical injury in a runner requires 90% mental recovery and 10% physical recovery.

Standing in the starting corral for the 2014 Running of the Bulls 8K, I felt about 20% recovered mentally, and about 7.5% recovered physically. So, just about normal for me. As the race began and the crowd swelled up the first hill, I temporarily lost my my mind and broke into a strong run. Luckily, my body has a new alarm signal to inform the racing insanity center of my brain. My cranky right knee sent a few level 7 pain signals firing into my adrenaline addled brain, and I settled down to a stately walk. Going up hills is a big problem for my right knee, which I guess is lucky for me, because I hate hills.

Walking along as the crowd surged past me, I settled into the normal mental debate mode that my brain seems to occupy during a race. Debate team A consists of the ever optimistic, bright siders who live near the endorphin production factory in my brain. Debate team Z consists of the cynical, cranky old people who live near the pain receptor facility in my brain. The debate consistently goes like this:

Team A: Woo hoo! Race time! Giddy up mud butt! Let's pass some people and set a PR!

Team Z: Shut. Up. Feel that twinge from your right knee. In a mile or so that will be a tsunami of pain.

Team A: Run while you are feeling good! Maybe you'll make it all the way to the end! Besides we can surf the pain tsunami to a new PR! Wooo!

Team Z: You guys are IDIOTS. You don't surf pain waves. You are swallowed by them. You are pounded into so much hamburger on the reef of reality.  And then you are eaten by the injury shark.

Team A: Hey, that old woman and that 9 year old kid just passed you! You can't let that happen! Crush that old lady! Pummel that kid into the pavement with your awesome speed! Pain is just weakness leaving your body! Yee Hawwwww!!!!!

Team Z: Aww hell, we give up! We'll talk again during your next visit to the physical therapist. Pass that annoying little kid!

One day, I hope Team Z will actually win this debate. One day...

Before I knew it, I had passed about 100 old ladies and a dozen or so annoying kids, and I was closing in on the finish line. Not a PR by any means (well, maybe a pain PR, but I purposely do not track those), but I had run-walked most of the race. Glad to be done and still in relatively one piece, I picked up the pace around the outside of the ball field which served as the finishing chute for the race. I imagined that I was flying. Surfing along on an endorphin wave of victory, I ripped turns on the foamy pain break near the top of the wave.

And then I tripped over the finish line timing mat. I sailed downwards towards the  hard, red, infield dirt. Thumping the ground, I knocked the breath out of my heaving lungs, and dust and dirt filled my watery eyes. For a moment I couldn't see or breath and panic engulfed my brain.

Finally managing to open my eyes, I was confused by a white sky which moments before been clear blue. I shook my head and a ceiling fan came into focus. I had been dreaming. I had fallen out of bed. My knee throbbing, I crawled back into bed to dream about bitter beer and sweet, pain free running. Soon. Hopefully soon.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Being the Best

I've never been the best at anything, even the things I worked hard at. Oh, I'm mediocre in lots of areas, and even above average in a few (for my weight, I'm a decent beer drinker), but nowhere am I brilliant. However, I'm beginning to change that.

Slowly, it has begun to dawn on me that I may have discovered my hidden talent. Since I started my second athletic life several years ago with this whole running thing, I've had grand aspirations to be slightly better than average. To finish in the top half of the field. To perhaps even squeak out an age group award. Alas, lack of talent has prevented my attainment of that lofty goal. Well, lack of talent, lack of training, lack of will power, and lack of restraint in beer drinking have factored in heavily as well.

But now, I think I've found the true measure of my greatness - illness and injury. No one, and I mean NO ONE can injure themselves as easily as me. Over the past few years, I think I have tweaked every single joint, ligament, tendon and bone from the tips of my big toes to the base of my skull, all simply by running. On the illness front, I've spread more contagion in race starting corrals than Typhoid Mary could ever dream of at her pathogenic best. I've been sick before, during or after every single race I've run for the past 3 years. I'm thinking of changing my trail name to Symptomatic Scott.

Think you have the stuff to challenge me? Think you can depose my monarchy of malady? Well, let me leave you with a taste of what you are up against.

If you've been reading this sad blog, you'll know that I gave myself a raging case of plantar fasciitis at the Medoc Trail Marathon way back in October. In and of itself, that's not so grand of an injury. However, since that time I've been struggling to recover. I've been cross training. I've been visiting a very bemused physical therapist. And I've been lamely attempting to run again, on a foot that seems to be permanently busted. Four months after my injury, still struggling to heal, I missed my favorite local trail race this year because of that latest injury. Sitting out the Umstead Marathon was it's own exquisite torture - a masochistic volunteering pleasure.

Oh, I had big plans for even my volunteer activities at Umstead. I couldn't run, so I volunteered for bike duty, and was lucky enough to get one of the lead bike assignments. I would pace the leaders through the race and into the finish. How exciting is that?! So, weeks before the marathon I began biking. I hauled my bike into work, and spent my lunch hours pounding away the miles in Umstead, beating my quads into shape. Of course, I injured myself. I gave myself a wicked case of patellar tendonitis, and had to drop out of the biking volunteer duties.

That's right. I injured myself trying to train for volunteer duties at a race that I was already too injured to run. Think you can top that? I think not. I am the best!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Blood and Whisky - Uwharrie Mountain Run 8 Miler

Whisky is the answer. The questions are many, but pointless, especially after whisky. But here's one to ponder - how do you make Uwharrie Mountain Run your first trail race after a long injury layoff? Whisky. Just trust me on this.

Ok, I don't blame you for not trusting me. Hell, I don't trust me when it comes to running, racing, or training advice. But stick with me here, there's a more important idea behind my madness that I'll get to eventually.

The Long Suck
I've never been a great runner, but I do like to run. Actually, I need to run. It's what keeps me healthy and sane. Having a doctor tell me that I couldn't run for at least 2 months and possibly up to 6 months (or risk permanent disability) was like being smacked in the face with a porcupine. It sucked! Of course, I couldn't complain too much. It was my decision to run my last trail marathon with an injured foot. So don't feel sorry for me, that's my job anyway.

After 2 months of suck, filled with pool running, bosu ball balancing, and innumerable sessions of stretching, I finally ran again. For ONE minute. Starting back slowly was one thing, but this was ridiculous! But I stuck to the plan of my physical therapist (also a runner, who sympathized with my situation) and slowly ramped up over the coming month, making it all the way back up to 4.25 miles. Not that my foot was perfect, it hurt after every run, but I was moving again.

Great Friends And Bad Decisions
I had long ago given up hope of running Uwharrie this year. I just didn't have the training miles or the health. Luckily, I have a co-injured running friend who is even more prone to rash decisions than me. Although it was stupid beyond belief, Ryan and I goaded each other into running the 8 miler at Uwharrie.

As soon as I committed to running the race, I started worrying. Originally I only wanted to drive down and pick up my race shirt, and then hang out at the finish to see friends. Actually running a race again, especially Uwharrie, scared me. Deciding to run the race from the rear of the field and committing to have as much fun as possible, was the smartest decision Ryan and I could have made, although it wasn't even close to leveling the overall stupidity of the situation.

Blood And Whisky
Determined to have fun, even if I self destructed on the hard, rocky trails of Uwharrie, I brought some decent whisky along for the trip. We bought a couple of McDonald's coffees (and an apple pie or two) just before arriving at the check-in. I dumped Maker's Mark into my cheap McDonald's coffee and less than an hour later, poured my decrepit old body onto the trails of Uwharrie.

I don't think I've ever had such a good time during a trail race! The whisky helped, of course, but running with a like minded friend made most of the difference. Not that I could ever strip down to some questionable bikini briefs for most the run, like Ryan, but running with no goals and no worries was pretty damned nice, especially on a gorgeous day in Uwharrie.

Yes, Uwharrie is insane.

And gorgeous!

Not everyone can or should attempt this
sort of douche-baggery. Eventually, afraid of tripping
and smashing my front teeth on a trail rock, I had
to run in front of this distraction.

A beautiful day in Uwharrie.

Good to be back.


Epilogue
Have you ever been scared to do something you love? Scared of failure? Scared of injury? That's what coming back to running after a long recovery from injury was like. Thank goodness for Uwharrie. And great friends. And good whiskey.


Totally worth it.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ultra Marathons Are Easy

That's right, ultras are easy. Trivial. Formulaic. Combine the right training and a dash of stubbornness, with an insouciant attitude towards suffering, and anyone can run an ultra. Hell, if a broken down 40 something dude with middling running abilities can finish an ultra (or TWO ultras within TWO months), absolutely anyone can.

You are nodding your head, screaming at your screen, politely disagreeing or totally confused at this point, but don't worry, I do have a point to make. For those of you nodding your heads - internet high five! For the screamers out there - settle down, it's only a blog. For those who politely disagree - I politely disagree with your disagreement. For the confused - read on.

Easy?!
Ok, perhaps "easy" isn't the right word. But in the grand scheme of the ultra marathon achievement, and in hindsight of my own ultra runs, it's close enough. Hindsight is the key here. I've "done" it, so I can tell you that all your doubts about achieving a distance milestone, be it a 5K, a half marathon, a full marathon, or an ultra marathon, should be laid aside. You CAN do it. The only difference between you and the zombie hoard of naysayers out there is your decision to actually get off your ass and do the training to achieve the goal. If this seems simple, it's really only because it IS simple.

There Is No Try
I know what you are thinking. There are a million different reasons (injury, disability, age, laziness, etc.) that would prevent an individual from running an ultra marathon. And you are correct. But I'm not writing to those people. I'm writing to the person who is reasonably healthy and actively running. The person that looks at the half marathoners, or marathoners with incredulity. The person who thinks ultra marathoners are super human, alien life forms. Yeah, you. If you've really ever considered, even for a split second, running an ultra marathon, but immediately dismissed it as some endorphin fueled brain fart, here's your virtual face slap (SMACK!). Now, sign up for that 50K, or 40 miler, or 50 miler, or even 100 miler. Put together a reasonable plan and get out there and become an ultra human.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Done With Running

I'm sick of running. Sick of the monotony. Sick of the training. Sick of the fatigue. I'm ready for a break. I mean, there are only so many trail races I can run and so many reports I can write before the whole enterprise becomes a tedious exercise (ha! a pun!) in masturbatory self promotion. You're tired of this whole mess too, right? Right?!

OK, I admit it - I'm not done with running, but running seems to be done with me. I'm hurt. Injured. Wounded. Decrepit. And currently, out of action. The left foot had the last laugh following my most recent marathon. Unfortunately it was the sort of evil laugh a sadistic executioner might use upon discovering that his beloved beheading ax was duller than the butter knife he included with your final meal - a meal of bread with no butter.

What's wrong with my foot you ask? Well, sit back and let me tell you all about it.

I. Don't. Know.

Yeah, that about sums it up. I have no f'n clue what's wrong. What seemed to be plantar fasciitis has morphed through several different stage of painful, indistinct suckitude. Doctor Google tells me it is a combination of plantar fasciitis, post tibial tendonosis, and heel fat pad atrophy, served with a demi-glace of calcaneal stress fracture. My running bud, Randy, says my foot has been infested by tiny, evil gnomes. I think Randy has better odds of being right.

So, I'm off to the doctor, again, for x-rays and probably an MRI. With my luck, the evil foot gnomes have been hammering tiny iron nails into my foot bones, which will all come exploding out of my foot like so much reverse shrapnel when the MRI cranks up. I can only hope it takes out a few of those little bastards at the same time.