The Great Outdoors

4 03 2008

I ran outdoors yesterday for the first time this year. The New Year’s Eve “Resolution Run” was pretty rough on my knee, so I had been sequestered indoors on a treadmill ever since. Yesterday’s run went amazingly well, and it felt great to be outside again and taking in the cool fresh air. I went out at a very slow and deliberate pace, knowing that running outside adds myriad subtle strains not included with the virtual reality of the treadmill. The sidewalks were all clear and dry, but my usual gravel pathway was a complete skating rink. I had to walk on and off for most of the run, and I kept it short to avoid any re-injury, but I was pleasantly surprised to come home and see that I had run just over 4k in just under 25:00. Take out the walk breaks, increase the effort a little, and I think a sub-25:00 5k is entirely within reach again (I had only achieved this a couple of times in training last fall).

While the optimism is still coursing through my veins, I’m also happy to announce that I officially signed up for the 10k race being held in May at the Bluenose International Marathon. I was also glad to read that they allow you to upgrade or downgrade your registration up to the day before the race, so if I’m injured I could take it down to a 5k, or if I’m feeling particularly energetic I could ramp it up to the half (which had been my pre-injury goal for the Bluenose).


Bracing For It

21 02 2008

Hello… well they don’t call it the off-season for nothing! I was shocked to discover I’m still getting some readers despite the two-month wait since my last post. Things are looking up now and it feels like spring might be around the corner. I should be a lot more active on the blog again soon. For those who are curious, here’s the “keep it short” version of the past two months:

1) Ran a race with my wife for the first time on new year’s eve (Resolution Run, Halifax). It was in the dark, after a major ice/snow storm (those running types are loathe to cancel anything), over 5k of icy sidewalks and shoe-soaking puddles of slush. Around the 3k mark I also realized that my left knee injury was here to stay, so I had to walk at least half of the final 2k. I don’t think I’ve marked down the time anywhere, but it was over 30:00, which is slower than my first-ever 5k back in May, 2007.

2) Depressing realization that my left knee still hurts (yes, it warrants a separate item). I haven’t run outside at all since the Resolution Run. Since the original injury at the end of October, 2007, the treadmill was a part of my “take it easy on the knee” strategy, but I realized at some point this month (February) that even on the soft, flat treadmill my knee will still start to hurt after about 22 minutes of slow running. I have subsequently been doing only about 10-15 minutes of treadmill mixed with 20 minutes on a recumbent bike

3) Glorious revelation that a knee-brace actually helps. Last night, I picked up a lycra knee tensor with plastic bracing on both sides. I have no idea why I waited so long, because this had my knee feeling downright bionic. Previously, I would mope and concede to my wife that a brace might help a bit, but I felt certain that something more drastic (surgery) would need to be done to either repair a torn tendon/ligament or remove a bone chip. Surgery might still be the only long-term solution, but I ran a solid 25 minutes with the brace on last night and it was fantastic.

4) Re-kindled dreams of the Bluenose International Marathon. Well, not the marathon itself, but I had indicated in a previous post that I would like to run the half marathon at the 2008 Bluenose in Halifax. This would be a lofty goal even without a bum knee, as I’ve only raced in 5ks before and only run a full 10k in training twice. With the knee problem, this was a complete impossibility. 20 pain-free minutes doesn’t buy much progress in a 21.1Km race. With my trusty brace (need to think of a name for it or something), I’m thinking big again. Maybe the half is still just a bit nuts, but I think I’ve got a couple weeks to decide what type of training plan I’ll be on. I would love to do the half if I can ramp up to it without further damaging my knee, but I think a 10k would be a nice goal too since I’ve never raced in one.

Well, there you have it. Two months of pain and pessimism, undone by one run with an elastic around my knee. My short-term goal will be to test the knee by running outside (with the brace of course) at least once over the next week. Stay tuned!

Back On Track

29 11 2007

Hmm, well my lower back was absolutely killing me yesterday after placing bread in the fridge the ‘wrong’ way.  It was very painful to even roll over to sit up. Slept not so well last night, but felt somewhat better this AM. At least I could walk around without looking like I need a cane. Now I just got back home from an appointment with the chiropractor who helped me out with my sore neck two months ago, and things are feeling great. I avoided seeing a chiropractor nearby yesterday, and the wait was worth it. This guy is not your typical back-cracker. He’s rather cynical of the traditional practice of chiropractic, and focuses more on deep connective tissue rehabilitation and massage. I was used to the 5-7 minute ‘adjustment’ sessions, but I just spent 75 minutes having my back muscles worked over every which way without a single ‘pop’. I told him I was skeptical about whether I could run my race on Saturday, but by the end of the session he was confident that I’d be ready to roll. Of course I’ll wait until Saturday to decide for sure, but the way my back feels right now, giddyup! My expectations won’t be high given how light my training has been this month, but just the idea that I should be able to complete a 5k within 72 hours of that crazy back spasm would feel like a tremendous accomplishment in itself.

Change Of Plans

28 11 2007

I was supposed to be going for an easy outdoor 5k today in preparation for my Dec 1st race. Unfortunately, whilst putting bread in the fridge, I just threw my lower back out. You have got to be kidding me! At least I can use the same ice pack I picked up for my left knee pain (which seems to be doing fine). I’ve had a history of throwing out my back/neck while doing stupid things; case in point: this is not the first toast-related injury. However, this now makes three separate incidents over the past three months. First, I injured my upper back after two days behind the wheel at the start of September. Then just a couple weeks later I wrecked my neck while stretching and changing positions in the middle of the night. Both of these got better with time and a few visits to the chiropractor. I wish I could remember whether I felt significantly better within three days or not, to give me an idea of whether I might be able to run/walk/crawl on Saturday. If there’s any lingering pain in my back, I may have to call it off. Argh! I’m not entertaining the notion that “running is bad for your back”; I’ve thrown out my back/neck on average about once a year for the past 18 years and only been running for 8 months. I do agree that if my back is susceptible to injury, then running probably is an added stress. I think I need to be a bit smarter in terms of prevention like doing exercises aimed at strengthening my back muscles, as well as working on stretches to help my flexibility. Making toast shouldn’t hurt this much!

Ramp Or Taper?

26 11 2007

The physio rehab on my left knee has been going well. Still no definitive x-ray results though. Since re-injuring the knee on the 17th, I took a full week off with no running. The timing has been particularly annoying because I’ve got a 5k race on December 1st, so on the 24th I ran 30 minutes on the treadmill at a slow pace (covered 5k in 30 min). Then today, I decided to run outdoors on a flat gravel pathway but just for 3k. Given that I have run only about a third of my October mileage this month, I feel like I need to ramp up this week to get ready for the race. But at the same time, if my knee is still tender at all, I don’t want to wear it out. I think I’ll do one more training run on Wednesday and then take two days off leading up to race day. Something tells me I shouldn’t hold out hope for a sub-25:00 5k, but I did just set a new 3k PB of 14:21 today when I was trying to take it relatively easy. With any luck, there’s still some residual benefit to be mined from my October training even after I’ve been coasting all of November.

Let’s Get Physio

20 11 2007

Well, my run this past Saturday was a little bit of a disaster. It had been two full weeks since my left knee injury; one week off entirely, and the second was symptom-free on the treadmill. About 4k in to my Saturday run and in the middle of a long climb, I could tell my knee was still messed up. Once I made it to 4.43km (half of my intended 5.5 mile Ryan Shay memorial run), I reversed course and backtracked instead of facing the longer and steeper hills had I continued.  By 5k the pain was every bit as bad as it was two weeks before and I resorted to walking. This was tremendously frustrating, but the ‘smart’ (i.e., rational) thing to do. Of course, as soon as I started walking I was seeing more and more runners on the path. Once demoted to a walker, I felt the double humiliation of no longer being worthy of the Runner’s Nod/Wave, while also progressing slow enough to draw “Hello”s from dog walkers and stroller-pushers. So, whenever the path would approach any semblance of flatness, I ran again. The flats were virtually pain-free, but any incline reawakened the daggers in my knee. With this combination of mostly walking and brief running spurts, I made it back home in a surprisingly quick 57:00 for 9k. This was helped greatly by a first 4k in just over 20:00, which I think is a new PR for that distance. My short-term goal is to get under 25:00 for a 5k, but that’s all moot if I’m injured.

I want to treat this injury as effectively as possible and it seems serious enough that two weeks of taking it very easy didn’t fully alleviate the problem. So today I went and saw a physiotherapist for the first time. While there is a little bit of hamstring tendinitis towards the outside of the knee, this wouldn’t be the source of the severe pain. The physio recommended x-rays to see whether I might have a little bone fragment floating around back there after I bashed the kneecap in at the end of October. That’s a little more serious than I thought, but at least it would be a logical explanation for why I can walk and run on a treadmill with no problems but the hills kill my knee. It will be a while before I know, but in the meantime they put me on this muscle-twitcher device that provides pulsing electrical stimulation to the area to reduce inflammation. Weird sensation, but so far so good. I’ve been told to take it easy, but I’m just keeping my fingers crossed I can get a few decent training runs in before my next race on December 1st!

Mini Rehab

10 11 2007

Well, unfortunately it’s been a slow week for running as well as posting. At the end of October, I smashed my left kneecap down on a rock while kneeling to position myself better to take a photograph (my other hobby at the moment). This resulted in some bruising, but otherwise I didn’t notice any effects until I was about 7k into my usual training route on November 4th. On a long climb, my left knee started hurting a bit and an outer rear tendon around my knee felt like it was sticking/clicking with every step. I kept running for a while, but pulled up short and walked the last k home. I took the next three days off entirely, and then hit the treadmill for some low-intensity training. The knee felt fine when running on the treadmill, but it’s still a little tender and feels ‘clicky’ when I get up from sitting down for a long time. I’m itchin’ to get back on the streets, but I think I’ll have to be good and stick to the treadmill for the next few runs. I’m registered for a race on December 1st, so I don’t want to blow it and be a no-show. The weather’s making it easy to stay indoors though – our first major snowfall is coming down as I type!