Thursday, October 28, 2010

Doctor, It Hurts When I Do This

That's it. I can't keep doing this. Time to see a doctor & not only get this foot fixed, but figure out what the heck caused the injury and how to avoid it in the future.

I made an appointment with the Sports Medicine Clinic (Northgate area, north of Seattle) for next Tuesday. Dr. McInnes was recommended to me by a local triathlete friend of mine (who has also had her share of foot injuries lately). This doctor is an endurance athlete himself, and specializes in sports podiatry.

Aside from running a 2-mile fun run next month with my daughter, I'm assuming there's a good chance I may be shutting down my running program for the balance of this year. A lot of you guys & gals have helped me to come to grips with that decision, as hard as it is. If running just short distances three times a week still causes pain, what's the point in continuing? Even in asking that rhetorical question, it's a struggle to even give that up. But knowing that long-term damage could sideline me much longer is enough reason to do the right thing now.

I'll report back after my first visit.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Unshod Experiment

My lack of posts is disturbing (a bit of a Star Wars reference there)...

I wish I had more to post about. Work has been busy (a BIG plus), so any planned videos are on hold. Running is still challenging and (to be honest) frustrating. My foot is still a problem. Last Wednesday's 4x800 track workout, followed by two hard miles within Friday's 4-mile run angered my foot. I felt the repercussions all weekend. I skipped yesterday's run to give it more rest, then got on the treadmill today. I kept the run short (3 miles) and slow (9:24 pace). I focused on my turnover rate and foot strike, trying hard to land midfoot, if not a tad forefoot. Once I hit 2.75 miles, I stopped the treadmill, took off my shoes and socks, and ran the last quarter mile barefoot. I'm hoping that doing this once or twice per week will gradually strengthen the muscles and tendons in my feet. If it worsens the condition of my right foot, I'll stop.

Speaking of stopping, I may be doing that...again...depending on feedback I may soon be getting. The circumstances that kept me from seeing a new PT doctor a few weeks ago have changed, slightly, for the better, so I have the green light from the Mrs. (a.k.a. "she who must be obeyed") to seek out treatment. This time, it'll be from a doc who specializes in working with endurance athletes. I've received three recommendations from local running friends for the same doctor. He's not close, but if he can not only fix my owie, but figure out what caused it, then the drive(s) will be worth it.

I'd be lying if I said that I haven't been experiencing a mild form of depression lately. The change of seasons (here, it's been dark, cold, rainy & windy lately), coupled with my inability to run like I want to has hit me pretty hard. Like a lot of us distance runners, I have a pretty strong connection (okay, addiction) to running. While I try not to let it define me as a person, it's certainly a major part of my life. Having it taken away (again...I've been through this scenario many times before) is getting harder to deal with. If I was a drinking man, I may be working on a fifth per day by now.

One positive that has come from the down time is renewed upper body strength. During the meat of my marathon training, I neglected any strength training I should have been doing. I could do about 25 pushups, max, at that time. A few days ago I managed 50 in one set (a PR for me), along with 14 pullups (most in several years), and 30 hanging dips (another PR). Look for me on the cover of Rock-Hard Studliness soon.

I'll sign off before I start rambling about my kids and my fantasy football teams. I hope you're running strong & healthy, and if not, that you heal quickly. And put in a long run for me. I REALLY miss those.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Age Grading, and McMillan Running Calculator

Hey Y'all!

Just a couple of running-related thoughts on my mind tonight.

Like most of us recreational runners, I usually don't run races to beat other runners. Sure, I pay attention to my division placing (and even gender and overall placings, stat geek that I am), but I'm primarily interested in comparing my current performance with a previous performance at the same distance. That's why I started using Cialis an age-grade calculator. I recently went through ALL of my past races (high school track included) and age-graded every one of them, so I could compare a 10k from last year with, say, a 10k I ran in 1985. I used a calculator on a site called Runbayou. An explanation from their site:

The Age-Grade Calculator is used to calculate your age-graded performance from your actual performance. This data can then be used to compare your performance with athletes of different ages.

They also offer this chart, for comparison purposes:

Age-graded performance level:
100% = Approximate World-Record Level
Over 90% = World Class
Over 80% = National Class
Over 70% = Regional Class
Over 60% = Local Class

There are other age-grade calculators (Runners World has one), but I like the one on Runbayou because it offers grading all the way down to a mile (1000m, actually) whereas most others bottom out at the 5k distance. Who knows which calculator is most accurate. As long as you use the same one to compare your own performances, it doesn't matter.

Some interesting data came from my own results. First of all, my age grade numbers are not at all impressive. That said, my highest average grade is in the mile, at 72.25. Not a big surprise, since this includes my junior and senior high school track seasons (when I was at my "peak"). Excluding track, the 10k distance has been my strongest (63.14). As a masters runner, I've only competed last year and this year. My 5 mile race earlier this year graded out at 64.53 (highest), while my rather disappointing marathon graded at 57.4. Even my five official half marathons graded at a disappointing 60.83 average, leading me to think I've not yet trained myself effectively for longer distance races, even though I enjoy them. Or maybe I'm just used to racing shorter distances, due to my high school track and cross-country training.

Have you used age grading? How do your shorter and longer races compare?

On a slight tangent, but somewhat related, I'd like to bring up the McMillan Running Calculator. I've heard some runners comment that it seems to work well for them in predicting times (primarily a marathon time, using a result from a recent shorter race). For me...not so much. Yes, I had a crash-and-burn experience during the late stages of my marathon, but I know I was NOT trained to run a 3:25 marathon, as the calculator would have me believe, even though I ran a 34:55 five mile race a month before (which is what I plugged in). Even if I plug in my half marathon PR from earlier this year, it shows me a 3:33 marathon. Perhaps I underestimate my abilities, but again, I don't think I was trained to run that. Why? Maybe inexperience since it was my first marathon. Maybe because I did zero interval training (although I did hills and tempo work). There are other factors that may have come into play (overtraining? terrible heat?), but given perfect race conditions that day, I would guess I could have run about a 3:40, give or take. Maybe a little faster, who knows.

If you've used the McMillan Running Calculator, has it been accurate in predicting your times?

Sorry – feeling a little geeky tonight.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thank You

I decided to disclose something to my running friends who visit this blog. As you probably know, I sell my running parody songs on this site. You may have heard them on Chris Russell's Run, Run, Live podcast. Several of you have purchased the first collection, and for that I thank you.

The funds have been sitting in my PayPal account from the first sale on. I recently decided that I would only spend the money on running-related items, services and/or donations. First, I donated a percentage to Chris Russell. We didn't have any kind of formal agreement, but I wanted to send him some as a token of my appreciation for playing them on his podcast. Then, I decided to purchase items that would help in the healing of my foot. I bought KT tape and, just today, I bought a pair of Zensah compression socks and ankle supports. Not that it matters, but I'll continue to spend these funds on running-related stuff (including donations), instead of cheap booze and loose women*.

I plan on having a second parody song collection available for purchase soon. Hopefully, those of you who have purchased the first collection will consider purchasing the second. Also, I hope you'll think of it as not just a donation to my running lifestyle, but that you derive a bit of enjoyment out of listening to them as well.

Until the next group is ready, the first batch is still available here, if you're interested and have not yet purchased them.

And if you have, again, you have my sincerest thanks – from both me AND my on-the-mend foot.

*that comes from a different fund altogether...and it's actually referred to my "one beer a week and date with my beloved wife" fund. But "cheap booze and loose women" sounds more dangerous.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Man, was it good to run with my running club buddies this morning! This was my first "street run" since August 10th, and my first run with the club since July 31st. The last three weeks, I've been gingerly running on the treadmill, along with one day a week at a local high school track. I was nervous about the hills, but aside from just a little discomfort on one downhill stretch, the foot held up just fine this morning. I finally received my KT tape in the mail yesterday and watched a couple of good youtube vids on applying it for certain foot issues. I taped up last night and ran with it this morning and it seemed to help.

I kept the mileage moderate – 4.1 miles at 8:02/mile pace. That pace felt harder than it should have, but that's no surprise since I've hardly run since early August.

At this point, my plan going forward will still be three runs per week; once on the treadmill, once at the track, and once on the roads – all 3 to 5 miles each. While the foot has mostly felt good, I know it's not completely healed. But this type and this amount of running will hopefully both strengthen my foot and let me maintain some semblance of fitness until I can start increasing my distances, frequency and pace later this year and early next year. Right now, I'll take what I can get!

I'm STRONGLY considering some Zensah compression socks to add to my KT tape treatment. I've got a few running friends who swear by them. If you've had experience with them, I'd love to get your take on them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Video Friday

Another music video for your pleasure (based on an old Bob Dylan tune). It has NO BASIS IN FACT WHATSOEVER! Purely fictional. Yep.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Running Kids

I was pretty excited yesterday afternoon, getting to watch my oldest daughter run her first race. She's in sixth grade and running cross-country. The sixth-graders don't get to run the meets with the 7th & 8th graders, but once per season they're allowed to race over part of the home course.

Early in the race. Natalie was leading the girls, and was 4th overall.

Natalie, still leading the girls. She was passed shortly after this pic.
Natalie ended up running 7:15 for just about a mile, finishing in 2nd for the girls.

This little race did a lot to boost her confidence. When the season started, she wasn't sure she wanted to stick with it. I was able to convince her to hang tough, that her body would adapt and her fitness would improve. I know she has potential to be a good runner. After she finished, she was pretty excited. Her previous best timed mile was 9:06, so she shaved nearly two minutes off that time.

Last night, she even told me that once cross-country season ends, she wants to run with me (assuming I'm not hobbled by my foot), which we did a little of during the summer. We're going to run a local Fowl Fun Run (2 miles) next month. I want her to enjoy it, but I also want her to race it. I believe that, if she ends up finishing strongly in her age group, she'll really start believing in her abilities. I think young runners (and even us older runners) need confidence builders. So much of running is mental, and if you start having successes, they build on each other. You also need to learn how to bounce back after bad runs & races, but if you don't have breakthroughs to get excited about – especially as a kid just starting out – you're more prone to throw in the towel. That's why I nearly got choked up seeing her do so well yesterday. It was a big hurdle to clear and she did it.

With all that said, I'm not going to push her and pile expectations on her, either. It has to be fun. But a little success definitely adds to the fun factor.

So, as a parent of a new runner, I'm excited about how she's doing and what she can (and hopefully will) do in the future. And I'm excited to see HER excitement!

Monday, October 11, 2010


Before we get into the meat of this entry, let me share with you my running status. The previous three weeks, I ran three times each week. My total mileage for week 1 of my current comeback was 4 miles. Week two was 8 miles. Last week totaled 9.8 miles. Today I began week four with 4 miles on the treadmill. I've been doing my Monday and Friday runs on the treadmill and my Wednesday runs on a local high-school track. My foot pain has been up and down, with not as much rhyme nor reason as I had thought, given today's run. It was my longest run since my layoff, followed by 70 minutes of pushing a lawnmower around our yard (which includes a hill...which normally makes my foot very angry). Tonight, the foot feels great. Last Friday, however, 3 miles on the treadmill caused foot pain and discomfort for the next 12 hours. As of now, the foot seems to be a day-by-day issue. My three days per week of short, flat runs will continue for the foreseeable future.

Okay, with that out of the way, I'll get into some good stuff. This is a running blog, and I'm indeed a runner. But, since my days of running around with the Rat Pack, I am first and foremost an entertainer. Ah, the stories I could tell about Dean Martin and I hiding Sammy Davis, Jr's glass eye...

But I digress. For some reason, tonight's dinner table conversation turned to snake talk. With my daughters hanging on every word, they asked me to tell them about my various experiences with snakes. Now, Steve Irwin (God rest his soul) I am not, but I've had a few interesting encounters. Here are four vignettes:

1. I spent my middle school years in St. Petersburg, Florida – home of many varieties of snakes; many of them poisonous. We had a garden tool in our shed that resembled a hoe, but with a straight, rather than bent, blade. I dubbed it my 'Snake Killer' (to this day, I don't know its intended use). One hot, muggy day I went out to our backyard to play and spotted a large, gray snake. I grabbed my Snake Killer and chased the snake back and forth across the outside wall of our house. I finally got a chance and successfully chopped its head off. It was only then, standing there in shorts and flip-flops, that I noticed the row of rattles at the end of its tail. I decided against telling my mom about that incident. This story just reminded me of a more recent summer drive across Washington state. While at a rest area, our dog nearly stepped on a coiled Western diamondback hiding in scrub brush. Wow. Not sure why she didn't smell it. Crazy as she was, she would have tried to play with it.

2. Once again in our FL back yard, there were three long black racers. I heard a ruckus and looked out my bedroom window to see them raised up in the air, the front three feet of their bodies straight up, trying to bite the two or three mockingbirds that were screeching and swooping down on them. It was pretty surreal. It was as if I was in India and someone was playing a clarinet as they swayed and danced. Just substitute a wicker basket with several angry birds.

3. Florida again, this time as an 18-yr old (visiting my mom during summer – by this time I lived in WA state with my dad). A friend and I went on a canoeing trip down a river with his mom's church. I'm not sure if it was entirely my fault that we kept drifting toward the bank, but I'll take the blame. I was in front, my friend in back. We were stuck under low-hanging branches. I ducked and tried to paddle our way back to the center of the river, while my friend fought the branches. He reached up and ended up pulling a fat and very poisonous 6' water mocassin into our canoe. He screamed a bunch of not-church-friendly words and flipped him out of the boat with his oar. By the time I turned around, the pastor of the church was beating the snake (now in the water) with his oar from his canoe, behind us. I may have wet myself just a little that day.

4. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it here, but it may not surprise you that I had a long, distinguished career as a practical joker. I did my best work between 1985 and 1994 (the last time I was employed by anyone other than myself...thus losing the opportunity to advance my jokester career. No, my wife is not a prime target). One of my crowning achievements happened during the summer of 1987. I was 20 years old, working in the warehouse of an electrical parts distributor in Kent, Washington (my home at that time). There were 7 of us employed there; one of whom was a very yuppie, pink shirt, white collar, slicked-back hair, "hey big guy"-saying, outside salesman (but a nice guy). Russ had a MAJOR fear of snakes. So...I did what any post-teen pratical jokemaster in that situation would do. I waited for him to leave the office on a sales call. I proceeded to take a small box with me to the shrub-laden field behind our office and collected about 12 garter snakes. I taped up the box, wrote "attn: Russ" on it (supposedly from our Seattle branch), placed it on his desk, and waited eagerly for his return. When he arrived, I was a bit uneasy as he decided to get on the phone with a customer AS HE WAS OPENING THE BOX. Seconds later, there was a shriek reminiscent of a teenaged girl at a Duran Duran concert (back then, of course), a flying phone receiver, a flying box, a dozen flying snakes, and one sharp-dressed, slender outside salesman standing on top of his desk with a look of terror on his face.

It was two weeks before he spoke to me again.

I did some of my most creative work at this particular place of business and was actually thrown into our dumpster by two of my coworkers once, who apparently didn't appreciate the artistic genius of my craft. I was in my prime, I tell ya!

So, there you have a summary of my history with snakes, along with a small glimpse into my former jokester life.

More running stuff soon, I promise.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Runners Round Table, Episode 101

I was privileged to co-host tonight's Runners Round Table (episode 101), for which the topic was "Course Management: Things to Remember on Marathon Day."

We were hosted by Mark Ulrich (who is running the Chicago Marathon this weekend). Co-hosting with me were Chris Russell, Stephen Tarleton and Pete Larson (who just ran his first BQ marathon this past weekend!)

They even forced me to play clips from a couple of my parody songs ;-)

I was in the company of FAR more experienced marathoners than I, so I looked at it as a learning experience and didn't feel like I had a heck of a lot I could offer in regards to running marathons. Someday, though...

But I always enjoy my experiences on the show. Give it a listen, if you haven't already.

Northwest Runner Magazine Article

Here's the article I wrote for NW Runner Magazine (click for larger view):

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's A Major Award

I have even more incentive to get my bum foot completely healed. I was just notified by the race director of Ragnar - Northwest Passage that the video I put together for our team this year (Extreme Cow Tippers of Mill Creek) won first place in the video competition. With that, we get a free team entry next year (over $1000). That's pretty exciting, if I do say so myself!

In case you missed it, here's the video (warning - the song gets stuck in your head):

Friday, October 1, 2010