Monday, October 31, 2011

Natalie's Diagnosis

After seeing her doctor, Natalie's heel pain has been diagnosed as issues with her growth plates. This is good news. No hairline fractures, no tendonitis, no bone bruises, no spurs, etc. The doctor said the condition would cease when do I put this delicately so as not to embarrass my daughter...reaches the next step in maturing as a woman (which will probably be relatively soon).

Can she still run? Yes, but with a little less intensity for awhile. Perfect timing, since cross-country is over and track doesn't start until next spring. We'll run a couple of races together between now and then, but any other running she does will be pretty low-key.

She'll still see the PT on Wednesday to get more info on how to treat the problem. Her doctor today said that stretching & icing the achilles and calves would help, along with adding heel cups to her shoes. She also said that if there was too much irritation for too long, it could result in my problem - Haglund's Deformity. Hopefully that won't happen.

While I'm not happy she's had to go through this pain, I am relieved it's not a more serious situation. I'll follow up after our PT visit on Wednesday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

If It's Good Enough For Ed Whitlock...

If you're not familiar with Ed Whitlock, he's a now 80-year old Canadian distance runner who, at the age of 73, became the oldest person to run a sub-3 hour marathon (2:54:48). At 75, he ran a 3:08. Recently (at age 80) he clocked a 3:15 marathon. All of these are world records for his age group. Unbelievable stuff!

How does he train (or claim to train)? He runs 2-3 hours very slowly around a cemetery every day. He says his only true "speed work" comes in the form of frequent races. Due to an Achilles problem and arthritic knees, he avoids hills and speed in his training.

For the next few months, I'm going to adopt his approach...well, minus the 2-3 hour runs and the cemetery. I will be keeping ALL of my runs slow, 3-5 miles, focusing on a low heart rate. To a great extent, I've been doing that, but my competitive juices (and my impatience) have led me to sneak in some tempo running...or flat-out speed (a 6:42 mile I had no business running, sandwiched between a couple of slow miles three weeks ago), plus a few tempo-ish runs that got away from me. As I continue to rebuild from this injury (or "these" injuries, as my old knee injury is acting up again), I need to continue building a fitness base; increasing my capillary beds and cardiovascular fitness. I will also keep this mindset when I'm on the bike trainer twice per week. I was on the trainer twice this week, and both times I hammered more than I should have (and my knee said "ouch"). As for the pool, it'll be harder to hold back. Whenever I try to swim too slowly, I feel like I'm about to sink. At least a moderate effort in the pool won't hammer my heel and knee.

So, until the end of January 2012, my training will remain slow, but any racing (no longer than 5k) will be at tempo/threshold pace. Hey, if it's good enough for Ed, it's good enough for me. I'm sure my first couple of 5k's will be embarrassingly slow. I hope to run 1-2 of them per month next year.

A quick update on my daughter Natalie (who has some heel pain). She will be seeing her pediatrician on Monday, then a specialist (sports PT) on Wednesday. I'll post whatever we find out sometime next week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Natalie's XC Season Wrap-Up

Natalie's 7th grade cross-country season ended yesterday with her District meet. This was the only meet of the season in which 7th and 8th graders were split into separate races. Here's how she fared, by the numbers:

Distance: 1.5 miles
Time: 11:00
Pace: 7:20/mile
Place: 10 of 34 (2nd of 7 for her school)

For this race, she averaged a pace faster than her previous best 1 mile time (7:21), which bodes well for a possible sub-7 mile in track next spring. In her first meet, she averaged 8:04 per mile, so she improved quite a bit, even with a very sore heel.

Which brings us to our next step — getting her heel checked out. I'll be making an appointment with a local PT doctor soon (today, hopefully) to see what's going on. We're signed up for a little 2-mile fun run on November 12th (which she ran last year), but we'll play it by ear. I see a lot of potential in her as a runner, and we certainly don't want her to begin her running career with a bad injury.

I'll follow up with any news after the doctor's visit.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Natalie Update

My 7th grade daughter Natalie ran her last home cross-country meet of the season yesterday. This was the first time this season that she's run twice on the same course, so she could make a direct comparison of a past performance. She had both an excellent race and a painful race. Her time was 11:42 (:24 faster than her 12:06 on the same 1.5 mile course a month ago), and she finished 5th overall (out of 22 girls) and 3rd for her team. Her finishing kick is developing into her signature move, as she once again chased down and passed 2 girls in the final 200-300 meters, and very nearly finished 4th. I'm not sure I could take her in a finishing sprint!

However, this race came with a price. Her heel has been aggravating her all season, and yesterday BOTH of her heels were hurting badly during the race. At about the halfway point in the race, she gestured to me that she was in a lot of pain. I wasn't sure if she was going to drop out or push through it. I should have known she'd push through (she's proving to be very tough), but I also cringed at the thought, since I'm still fighting a similar injury.

Last night, she alternated ice with heat on both heels. She'll take it easy until the District meet next Tuesday. Then she'll pretty much shut it down until we get her to a doctor and figure out what's going on. We do have a little 2-mile race we're running together on November 12th. Hopefully she can still run it.

Even with this injury, she's had a great season. I'm seeing signs of a potentially very good (if not great) distance runner in her. If she continues, she'll be a much better runner than I ever least by comparison, but quite possibly literally! She's showing some mental toughness that I honestly wasn't sure she had until this season. I'm just hoping her heel problem is minor.

As for me, I'm still doing my usual routine of 3 runs, a bike ride and a couple of swims per week. Steady as she goes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I hope you're still buckled up if you're riding this roller-coaster with me.

Or maybe it's more a case of "athletic schizophrenia." I have bad days and good days. Bad weeks and good weeks. This was a good week. I managed to get in a bit of a breakthrough swim, a nice bike ride and three successful runs, topped off with a pain-free 3.2 mile run this morning. My average running pace is slowly improving, while keeping my heart rate in the same range. My injuries still seem to be against me doing any back-to-back runs (which I did this week, and had some soreness afterward), and runs longer than around 4 miles still aren't in the cards. But I seem to have found a bit of a groove that's working. I won't get into great shape on this program, but I'll take what I can get. Through this whole process, I'm learning how to be patient (never a strong point for me).

What's interesting is that my heel seems to be doing pretty well, while my knee (same leg) has been acting up. The knee injury is at least 15 years old (had an MRI in '97 that showed degenerative cartilage and a partially torn meniscus), yet it never acted up during my marathon buildup early last year. I also seem to have a Baker Cyst behind that knee. I may have to finally go under the knife sometime soon. But, like today, there are times when things feel fine. There is a definite limit to my pace, volume and frequency, though.

So while a lot of my running friends are out killing fall marathons, I'm learning to be content with whatever I can do right now. Although I do have the itch to train for another marathon.


Sunday, October 9, 2011


I've been remiss in posting here lately. I'm not sure I much new to say. I feel like it's the same old story, different day. I have runs that seem to go well, some that don't, and some that have not-so-pleasant after effects. I had one such run last Thursday. My Tuesday run was kind of a bummer (for a variety of reasons; mostly aches and pains OTHER THAN my usually offending heel), so what better way to erase that memory than to run a fast mile during Thursday's run! After a slow mile, I kicked it into gear and ran a 6:42 (very fast for me at my current fitness level), then finished off with a slow mile. It hurt bad, but it was satisfying. Unfortunately, it hurt bad in a different way the next two days. My recently bothersome right knee was very angry, along with my right Achilles and parts of my right foot (ironically, the heel itself seems to be dormant recently). In fact, I had shooting pains coupled with tightness on either side of that knee all day Friday (lots of ice). Consequently, I bailed on my Saturday morning club run.

So what now? There are days when I feel like my comeback is eminent, and others when I'm ready to walk away from this sport for good. I hate wallowing in self-pity (and really don't want to drag others down with me), but it's so incredibly frustrating. There's another doctor I've been wanting to see, and I know I need an MRI on my knee (I had one in '97, and it showed damage way back then), but my running injuries are turning into a money pit that I can't afford to keep financing.

I know, I didn't answer my own question. I guess I don't have a concrete answer at this point. I guess it could be as simple as continuing with the swimming program, and also working on my cycling. If I can just bag the idea of running fast and far for awhile and focus any hard efforts on the swimming (and possibly cycling), that might be the course I'm stuck with.

It's times like these I wish I didn't love running so much.