Thursday, November 12, 2009

End of the road?

(update of original September 2007 post)

I always said I’d quit running when my body told me to stop, not a doctor or my Mother or anyone else. But with a nagging pain in my lower back for several years now, it makes me wonder if my body is now talking, and loudly. Frankly, I had planned to run for a couple more decades and be one of those really old and greyed guys slogging down the road. So just a few months shy of fifty-five, contemplating the end of the road hurts more than my back does.


I started running during the First Running Boom, in the mid-70s, after college. I ran in some 10Ks, and then on a lark, my buddy Roy and I ran the Miami Orange Bowl Marathon. Being young and springy, we decided we would run at least one marathon every decade thereafter.

I ran 13 marathons, collecting New York, Boston and Chicago runs like prized trinkets, posting a PR of 3:38 early, and crossed a marathon finish line in my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

Once I ran a 10K in 40:40, but I was never very fast. I just kept at it, year after year, logging my miles and goals and chronicling injuries in black-and-white Composition notebooks. I have a shelf full of them.

The running logs gave me a history of where I’d been and where I wanted to go.


Like a good coach, running made me eat better and forced me out the door to sweat regularly. It kept my triglycerides in check and my heart strong, resting at 54-55 beats per minute.

Before I stopped smoking and drinking for good in my late 30s, running reminded me how these things were killing me.


Of course, the Antirunning People insisted that running was a harmful excess and would eventually get me. It would ruin my knees, they said. Running marathons in particular was very unhealthy and, inferred, stupid of me. They always talked like they knew something, which no one did.

My argument was simple: Whatever, I like it, I’ll stop when my body tells me to.

So now in my current state, were the Anti’s right? I don’t know, but I’d do it all again. If I could get rid of the back pain, I’d go out for a run today.


I ran with epilepsy. To protect against breakthrough seizures, I took extra meds before long races and long training runs. Still, I had seizures on the road, once in a race. Another time I woke up in a ditch in the dark, slightly bloodied, and walked the wrong way home until the fog lifted. Another time I dropped on A1A as a car skidded to a stop inches from my head. I don’t remember any of it. The worse part was starting up again; running made me face deep fears.


My favorite run ever was Boston, the 100th, in 1996. Everything clicked that day. I missed breaking 4 hours by 5 minutes, but otherwise, the endorphins poured into my blood from an open faucet for 26 miles.

My toughest marathon run ever – the second New York, 2003. The first was run in a 50-degree Nor’easter monsoon, bad enough. But the second was a hot, dehydrated, cramped event that just whacked me to the Far Side. In my last Chicago, I ran ill-prepared with a respiratory infection and that one took longer to recover from – six months – but nothing hurt more than the last NY run, when instead of gorging on a big steak to celebrate, I ate chicken gumbo soup in my hotel bed and passed out.


Another unforgettable run was a 20-miler on the morning that Hurricane Francis blew into South Florida. In the dark, I snuck past the cops who had closed the Atlantic bridge. I headed to the beaches, which had been evacuated, and ran a deserted AIA as dawn broke. As a Francis crept closer to the coast, she cooled me down with a series of weirdly cold and violent feeder bands.


One year in my 40s, I ran just over a thousand miles, with time off to go skiing. 20 miles/week average. Pretty good.


Back in 1981, it was a low-mileage marathon plan by Jeff Galloway in RW that got me to thinking about running a marathon. Roy, like so many other over-indulgences since we were teenagers, was quick to jump all over it.

Years later, I convinced my friend Andy to quit smoking and run Disney with me, and my brother Kurt to run Chicago. Kurt went on to run several others and Andy went back to smoking. Roy wore down all the cartilage in his right knee. But it was a bum knee to begin with. The 15,000 miles or so he added after that first marathon probably didn’t help.

Roy and I ran that first Orange Bowl Marathon side by side and though we started many, many races together; we only finished one other together – 18 years later – at Disney. After that first year, we discovered he was fast and I wasn’t. So it went.


I’ve had my share of injuries, which has been central to my running experience. IT Band Syndrome, my longest running pain. I’ve worked through bouts with plantar faciitis, a groin pull, meniscus tears, hematuria, stress fractures, shin splints, tears in my calves and ankles, and the spasming lower back.

How many times have injuries become obstacles to running a marathon? Most, if not all. It’s why I’ve always said the toughest part of marathoning is getting to the start line. I wasn’t talking about completing the mileage – but avoiding injuries.

Still, injuries have been great teachers. I’ve freely passed along everything I know about inflammation and muscle knots and trigger points, et al, to anyone who will listen.

Injuries have also taught me persistence, otherwise I would not have made it to many start lines.


I also ran up to and through my 2008 treatment for prostate cancer. My oncologist was amazed at how I seemed to glide through the nine and a half weeks of radiation, with few complaints about fatigue. He could only explain it away by my fitness level for a typical fifty-six year old patient. That would because of the running.


So why can’t I run now? What’s different?

The back problem won’t clear up. I struggle to run a half mile, or even sit in a chair for long. Not running like I once did, I feel like I’m aging fast.

End of road – or another injury to persist through? Is my body screaming to stop?

I’m not sure yet, but I don’t like what I’m hearing.


Update November 2009:

Since I first published this post in September 2007, I've gone through severe and mild bouts with my lower back. I've tried a Medpak of super-anti-inflammatories. Extended chiropractic and massage treatments. Ab work. Treadmill-only workouts. Nothing works.

An MRI revealed a couple narrowed disk spaces, probably pinching nerves in my spine during the pounding, and a couple bulging disks; nothing operable. The result of years of running? Or just genetics?

No one can say.

My marathon days are finished, halfs are questionable. But I've adapted. I've given up the longer distances for shorter, slower runs, and conceded miles to the MRI in that I don't push the back when it acts up.

So far, so good. Back on the road again ...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Aging Runner Manages Herniated Disk with Chiropractic Care

(Ed. note: Interviewed myself for Suite101 story about a comeback from painful half-mile on treadmill to 20-mile weeks -- over three months. Back issues returned, but Dr. Nate's chiropractic care helped me get back on my feet. I continue to run with a herniated disk. Written Novmeber 2007. SCV)

Like most aging runners, Steven Curtis, 54, has dealt with his share of injuries -- IT band syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, assorted muscle tears. But none threatened his running like a chronic bout with low back pain.

"It shut me down," said Curtis, who began running during the first Running Boom back in the late 1970s. "I went from a steady diet of 20-mile weeks for years and years, down to a half-mile on a treadmill before I had to quit. The pain was just too much. And I couldn't shake it."

Self Therapy Didn't Help

During a 15-month period, Curtis tried to add more stretching and strengthening to his daily routine, iced constantly, and took anti-inflammatory medications. But every time he began to feel better and begin running again, the low back went into spasms and the pain returned.

"After 30 years, I started thinking that this might be the end of the road," he recalled, in an interview with Suite101 on November 13, 2007. But a visit to a chiropractor, Dr. Nathan Kraner in Delray Beach, Florida, finally began to turn things around.

"Had Doubts" at First

An x-ray of Curtis' spine showed minor degenerative spondylosis -- regarded as normal "wear and tear" for someone in their fifties, Curtis said. But the x-ray also revealed narrowing spaces between two sets of vertebrae and a "seriously bowed" spinal column. Either situation may have produced a bulging or herniated disk, which could impinge on a nerve root in the spine and cause persistent lower back pain.

Although only an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test could definitely identify a herniated disk and a nerve impingement, Dr. Kraner assured Curtis a conservative chiropractic approach could solve the problem, he said. "Frankly, I had my doubts, but nothing to lose."

Back Pain Common in Runners

Low-back pain is common in runners--running stance, pronation problems and weak abs can trigger episodes. Traditional Western medicine, however, has a poor reputation for dealing with it, according to Joe Ellis in his book Running Injury Free (Rodale Press, Inc., 1994).

"Treatments...range from heat to ice, medication and taking up another sport....all too often, little relief is provided. These failures send runners looking for answers outside traditional medicine," Ellis wrote.

Chose Conservative Chiropractic Care

Changing sports was not appealing, nor was surgery or more NSAIDS, already bleeding his stomach. So Curtis went ahead with twice-a-week conservative chiropractic adjustments, along with heat/cold and electrical stimulation therapy on his lower back. The $35 sessions lasted 45 minutes to an hour. "I figured if this didn't work, my next stop was an orthopedic surgeon," Curtis said.

For the first month, the progress was slow and uneven; although every "session" provided relief from any back discomfort -- relief that lasted for increasing periods of time. After six weeks, the visits were reduced to once a week, and after nine weeks, to every other week.

All the while, Curtis added specific daily abdominal and lower back strengthening and stretching exercises, and began running on a treadmill to lesson impact on his back. Over two months, Curtis worked up to 20-mile weeks again on the treadmill, and gradually began transitioning back to the road.

Planning to Run Half Marathon

"I would have opted for surgery to run again and be out of pain," said Curtis, a marketing executive. "But taking the conservative chiropractic approach worked."

Curtis, who has run 13 marathons including Boston, Chicago and New York, continues to visit Dr. Kraner twice a month -- for general maintenance, he says -- and plans to run in an upcoming local half marathon.

"I'm running again and pain free," said Curtis. "I wasn't a believer in chiropractic care when I started, but I am now."

(Postscript: Ran Palm Beach half marathon pain-free, but two months later ran Miami Half in considerable discomfort.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ed's Air Force Marathon recap


The Place: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio, September 15, 2007
Start Time: 7:35 AM

By Ed Smith

Arrived early at the parking area on Saturday morning and spent about an hour sitting in the rental going through the check list. As it turned out the hotel I stayed at was outside the base main gate and only 12-15 minutes from the start line. I arrived early… I was happy that I had dressed warmly as the predicted 48 degree start was right on. Throw in a little wind for good measure and I shivered right up to race time (cold arms). The pre-race had the usual fanfare – presentation of colors, singing of God Bless America, and various base senior staff thanking everyone… As the wheel chair racers kicked off at 7:30 two of the Air Forces finest fighters blasted overhead and just after they passed a large flight of Canadian Geese in perfect “V” formation passed thorough the rising sun. How did they ever stage that?

At 7:35 a neat and orderly start of approximately 1800 marathoner began the quest. This race has split starting times in that the half-marathoners (2000+) started half an hour after the full marathoners. At my pace I expected to see some of them around mile five.

The first 1.5 miles was flat as we headed across the base tarmac and then turned left up a gradual incline (about 5 degree) for the next 2 miles. The weather was clear and cool, muscles getting lubricated, still observing my breath and aircraft over head. Does it get any better? Had some thoughts about the possible stress on legs as I reached the crest but was relieved when I saw the next half mile was level. Then a second kicker as the course once again shot up (about 10 degree this time) for another quarter mile. As this upgrade crested it leveled off for a half mile and then headed sharply downward for less than a mile. For me it was very hard to hold back and I’m sure this had an impact on my legs but finally down to a relatively level roadbed.

Miles 5-10 meandered thorough the base with very few spectators (restricted area) but had much encouragement from volunteers at the water stations. They did make a small adjustment this year by ushering us out a base gate and looping us through a local town for the pleasure of a few hundred hardy fans (terrible street pavement). At the 10 mark I was somehow well ahead of pace (good to bank a few) and was feeling excellent. Also between 5 and 6 I did see several “halfers” as they turned around at 6+.

Miles 11-14 were uneventful. This portion reached the outer extremities of the duty runway and, being open, added a stronger wind to the now low fifties temperature.

But the sun was up and we’re half way.

As I crossed the timing mat I saw several of the busses that brought over the relay participants as this was a baton passing point. There where at least a dozen relay teams (mostly military) that participated for bragging rites. At mile 14 I felt a slight twinge in my left calf followed by the feeling of a small foreign particle in my left heal area. This particle, sometimes feeling the size of a rock, stayed with me the remainder of the race and it’s interesting how many different ways one can contort ones foot trying to dislodge an annoyance… I’ve preserved this adversary for future testing.

Miles 15-20 went very well as a respectable pace was maintained and I marveled at the fact that I was still wearing the cheap throwaway gloves I’d gotten in Chicago. Mile marker 21 passes by and that good feeling you get knowing only 5 to go moves you forward.. Nutritionally I’ve started taking mostly Gatorade at the tables at the half way mark. The first half it was water only and a few raisins. I took a kick of “GOO” at 16 and another at 20. Just slurped on a little water and ate half a banana after 20.

As a corner is turned at 21 a slight twinge is felt in the right hamstring, nothing severe but worth noting. In front of me I see a severe incline, probably 20 degrees and looking lot more. This is the backside (down slope from mile 3) that climbs for nearly a mile, levels for a bit and then continues up. This was a killer for me (and many others), sharp pains up right side of left calf and occasional pulling on right hamstring. Slowed to a snails pace
(had a 15 min. mile) I found ways of altering pace to accommodate the pain. Plod on the crest is in sight. I had figured in my mind that there was another leveling and then one final crest to conquer. I had already done the mental preparation for that when reaching the crest I saw nothing but a long downhill into the base and the finish… I erred for the good… Going down hill the leg issues disappeared and the pace got respectable for the last 2 miles. I’m always amazed at the number of folks you can pass in the last few miles even if you’re walking…

The last .1 of this race is unique and really cool. Headed towards the finish line you pass through a row of vintage aircraft and still have the flyovers six hours after the start. Each medal is presented by a senior air force officer (something reserved for the Kenyans) a salute and a hand shake. I managed to at least remember to take off my hat, hey 5:44:30(13.09pace) by their count. Not my best, but respectable.

Ending temperature 54 degrees, another lovely northern day…

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Chiropractic BS

Yesterday a chiropractor told me I didn't have much long-distance running in front of me because of my age. "Fifty-three? I didn't know," he says. "Your knees, your back...people weren't built to run marathons." Maybe, but that's still the last time that guy gets my business. Not because he's telling me something I don't want to hear, but because I simply asked him what I needed to do to get back on my feet.

The guy's got $150 of my money for three adjustments and two massages, trying to get my hip back in alignment. At least he could've advised me to let the injury heal, then add more stretching and strengthening. Instead, he's telling me I'm done. Then adds: "Of course, you could come in here three times a week for adjustments and keep running."

Now here's a guy advising me that it's okay to run on an injury as long as I pay him 90 bucks a week to push my hip back into place. It's no wonder his patients can't run longer as they age -- or for that matter, walk the mall.

"As we get older, our muscles get tighter and our bodies get thrown out of balance. The key is stretching and lengthening and balancing." --65-year-old masters runner Shirley Matson (Runner's World, August '06)

Stretch, strengthen, lengthen. I guess I already knew what to do. I got into this mess with my hip because I jumped back into running after a long layoff, and my hammies and abductors and calves and IT band tightened up like a snare drum. I continued to run on the tightness. After one week, the drawn up muscles simply pulled my hip out. Over the last 10 days, as soon as any mobility returns, I try to run and re-injury the area deep in my hip. Spasms. Inflammation. Pain. More downtime. Back to the chiropractor.

"You're at a point where you'll always be injured," says the chiropractor, again implying the only solution at my advanced age is regular and frequent adjustments.

I've been hearing about the crippling effect of LDR since I was 25 years old. About how it would wreck my body. And it surely will if I get hurt and don't let the injuries heal and don't do the things I need to do to strengthen and lengthen muscles, especially at my age.

That guy's history. I've had some good luck in the past with a chiropractor. Certainly massage has gotten me through numerous injuries. But bodies at any age need time to heal. Add strength and length and there's no telling how far you can go -- on individual runs or through the years. Unless you listen to self-serving doctors like my ex-chiropractor.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back on the road

Midsummer update: 14 weeks to Chicago....16 weeks to NY.

Roy & Marabelle: Looks like they're headed to NY the first weekend of November. Roy's knee is holding up as he puts in 10-milers-plus and he reports the half-dollar size chunk of floating cartlege has recessed back inside the knee. This is a good thing? Marabelle just blazes ahead....

Kurt: The quest continues for sub-4, although in South Florida where he's now a resident of Coral Springs. Targeting the flatness of Chicago. As suspected, Kurt says the humidity down here is worse to train in than the summer heat in St. Louis. More threatening is the chronic ankle injury that has kept him off the roads for the past week...

Nick: Retired. One track season and a 5:17 mile with no training was enough. Although he does run an occasional 3 miler with me.

Ed: Have no clue what the intrepid walker is up to. I believe he's targeting the Goofy (half, full, back to back) at Disney in January....

Me: My right arm is strong as steel rebar from another 20,000 batting practice pitches since February, but the rest of me is a mess. Baseball is over, so I'm back on the road this week. Not sure where I'm headed, if anywhere: NY (paid to roll it over last year) if I can run a full marathon, or Chicago's back half to pace Kurt if that's all I can do. After three afternoon runs to start Week #1, I'm exhausted after 3-4 miles @ 9s in the heat....not good. Although two years ago, I ran a 4:29 in Chicago with Kurt after running 14-week program with no base. More to the point is if I want to put in the long runs. After one week of running, hip outage. Already in the chiropractor's office...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Kenyan bests Nick (5:17 PB) in County championship

A Kenyan? Well, it’s mostly true, if profiling is allowed in a Palm Beach County middle-school track meet. I mean, the kid with the #1 seed and a 5:13 qualifying time had the look and long leggy stride of every winner wearing the wreath after Boston for two decades. It was Nick’s biggest fear. “Please, no Kenyans at the start.” But sure enough, there he was, in the field of 16, lining up one place away from Nick. Still, the Kenyan’s time was not insurmountable, so Nick’s strategy was to tuck in on the guy and not let him run away—then leg it out with him in the last quarter. It was a do-or-die tactic – but also Nick’s last race ever, why not? At the second turn, the Kenyan breaks away from the pack and Nick goes with him, breathing down his heels and it looks like a two-man race all the way. You could tell it was a very fast pace, but Nick hung with him, hair-flying, my Asics going faster than they’d ever gone…..until somewhere in that third quarter, Nick finally began to lose his grip – a space yawned opened, and Nick sloooowly dropped back toward the pack. The Kenyan surged. He opened up a huge gap on the field and finished with a remarkable 5:02. Nick, meanwhile, turned the last corner with 100 yards to go, still in second place, with the field right behind him now. Kick or no kick was the question? Answer: No kick. His legs were shot. Two guys passed him in the 30 yard stretch, and another clipped him at the finish line. Nick finished at 5:17. A personal best. Fourth place. No banner in the Omni gym, but he achieved his goal for the day, he said. “The girl miler winner ran 5:22. I wanted to beat her.” So there you go – the modern runner’s credo: If you can’t take out the Kenyans, take out the women.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Boston 07.... New York 07?


This week I paid for my guaranteed entry into NY -- about 80 bucks -- with the intent of rolling it over into another guaranteed entry and another 80 bucks next year, when we may run it. May not. But it's tough giving up the entry. Roy's flipping his as well, and entering Marabelle into the lottery. Hopefully Kurt is paying his money for the lottery. 2007...08? Hard to say, right now training through the summer seems beyond the pale, a task my body no longer wants and is having a horrible time handling. Whatever the training, it will be rather brief (14 weeks) and fewer days per week. Heavy gym going in -- and religious IT build up front. The goal would be my first comfortable finish in the Big Apple. What a novel idea. It's possible Marabelle, Roy and Kurt could all come, which is why we're even considering this. I mentioned to Kurt a weekend with Lorraine and TJ in the Hyatt???

Eight months prior to NY is Boston 07 -- a target for Marabelle and Roy, and if we want to run as bandits, for me and possibly Kurt. I'm conflicted about the bandit thing, but I'll never qualify at 3:40. It's 4:00 at 60. But let's be real. If I want to chug up Heartbreak Hill again, it's have to be as a Hyatt????

Hopefully Doug stays employeed with my favorite hotel chain.

Nick's 5:36

Who knew? Nick’s first track meet – three middle schools, including high-powered Odyssey. He’d blown away everyone on his team at the mile and half-mile distances, but how would he do against real competition? His coach gave him the mile to run. At the gun, he tucked in behind another willowy kid from Odyssey who looked pretty fast and Nick stayed on his shoulder for the first lap. Then he makes a move, and I’m thinking, Oh no too fast too soon – but immediately puts some space between him and Odyssey kid. Halfway through the second quarter, he’s on his own and I keep looking for that spacing to shrink. But nope, second lap stays smooth. His strategy on the third lap was to run easy, and he did, and actually adds spacing, now the gap is about 75 yards and holding steady. The fourth quarter he starts to push again and opens up an even bigger gap and the Odessey kid is now fighting for second and cramping. This race is all Nick’s…unless….unless….those stupid little Omni shorts he’s wearing halfway down his underwear suddenly slip to his ankles, trip him like a potato sack and we end up with dental bills. But the pants stay up and he shifts into another gear over the last straight-away….yes, there was sprint left….and he wins by 100 yards. 5:36 mile. Of course he said he had more if he’d had anyone to race against.

Omni boys win the meet – beating the Odyssey team by 1 point – the boy’s first win in something like 5-6 years….

A real Dad day.

Now I've tried to find the significance of the 5:35 in Florida. They don't seem to keep all-time middle school records. But you can find major meets and championships in the 1600 meter, just slightly shorter than the mile. Basically, Nick's 5:36 is within 15-20 of being a top 10 in the state of Florida at last year's Middle School Championships. The best time seem to run around 5:00 to 5:15.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Miami Tropical Marathon '06

A Little Off

Miami Tropical Marathon 06. Kurt's 4:05 left him no worse for wear on a warm day and Ed racked up a personal best 5:31 -- weather means nothing to the intrepid walker. I did the half in an unremarkable 2:03, after running the last mile in 13:30 after missreading my GPS.

The Quest Continues

One year ago, Kurt and I began to train for a sub-4 marathon in Chicago this past October. A bout with asthma/allergies in late summer hurt my training. Kurt, on the other hand, had rebounded nicely from stress fractures. By the time the race rolled around, he was ready. He'd put in the time and training -- but came up a four minutes short.

Rather than packing it in, Kurt tweeked his program and trained through the dregs of the St. Louis winter to run the Miami Tropical Marathon on January 30th, where he ran an almost identical race. The weather that day was the warmest in the month. If it had been cool in the 40s and 50s, the sub-4 would've been a done deal. Does he try again? He trained in earnest for one year, and now he's distracted with selling his house and moving to Florida, so time will tell.

Ed is most impressive, I can't even count all his walking marathons and halfs. He clocks them off in 5:35s, which is an amazingly fast time. Nashville, Chicago, Arizona, Miami, plus halfs in Palm Beach, Tampa -- did I miss any? All within one year. I think he's taking a break from devout, monk-like training because my Mother (his wife) is insistent on Ed completing household projects he's skipped during his year-long training blitz.

I got more sick of running this year than any time since my 10-year retirement from racing in 1984. I've run 1000 miles a year for each of the past 2 years, and I'm just tired. Right now, I'm on a mental break but I'm sure I'll eventually find my way back.

I do have a guaranteed entry to New York to renew this spring. It's like throwing 80 bucks to the wind to keep it alive. Otherwise, I have to put myself back in the lottery pool if I want to run NY again. I'll probably waste the money in the hope that I feel like running it in 2007. But I don't see any marathons this year, although the Goofy thing at Disney (half and full on consecutive days) has crossed my mind. Kurt?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Chicago Marathon '05

Finishers Chicag05. It wasn't pretty for the bookends, but we all got there. Run onward....

Next time, let's meet where there's better head rests.

Feeling spry 26.2 later, and why not -- he got off the course much earlier

Eddie drinkin' da beer in shytown at da fountain.

Before the Expresso, after the death march.

7:05 a.m. Steve, Ed, Kurt. Does Ed's cap look a bit small? Or is his....

 What's with the glasses?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Finish Line -- Chicag05

26.2 is a wicked distance that can't be cheated. At the 24M mark, Kurt had the 4:00 Pace Team in sight 100 yards ahead, but his legs wouldn't go. He came up 4 minutes short on a terrific run on a cool, sunny day in Chicago. Me, at 4 hours, the original time goal, I was shuffling along with two inflamed IT bands, a twitching back, legs caked in lactic acid in Chinatown and another hour of running to go. Nothing went right. Since mid-August, I'd spent nearly all my miles on a treadmill, trying to stay out of the heat and minimize the fatigue, but my legs weren't ready for more than 16 miles of real road pounding and my repiratory problems never went away. I never felt so horrible for a start. I thought the cold temps might help but.....You can't cheat the distance. For me, #13 was cursed for the last 6-7 weeks. Kurt, on the other hand, had a great race but, for whatever reason, his legs lacked a final drive. So he takes his summer training, punches it up with more tempos and drives down his 10K times another few minutes, maybe he makes it next time -- all other conditions being equal. Ed walked the distance as well, around 5:50, but not satisfied with his time either. He didn't care for the crowds and packed waterstops of the bigger marathon. Over 26 miles of Chicag05, there were all sorts of harzards....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The shits

Kurt has the shits, an intestinal bug run amok. He's paranoid of falling down the stairs and twisting an ankle or stubbing a toe or wrenching a knee doing something routine. Hey, it's nearing showtime and, well, shit happens. Count on it. With 11 days to go, Kurt is feeling the extraordinary time commitment and effort he's made since February. How many miles? How many hours? Doctors visits, spinning classes, time trials, 20-milers? Add it all up, man, you're vested. You've made the sacrifice. Paid the price. Now you want the payoff. Why the hell put your body through that grind without the money run? The sub-4. For 12 months now, that notion of a marathon with a "3" to define it seemed so compelling, it ruled his free time. No, it was his free time--beyond dog school. It wasn't always fun but it wasn't always that bad either --especially when you could feel yourself getting faster, stronger, leaner. That part was good, very good, maybe even surprisingly good. He may have liked running more than he ever imagined. So the road to the startline was it's own reward, and there were so many obstacles along with way that were avoided or side-stepped. That was good too. Just watch out for those stairs and doing something stupid. Because at this point, the biggest enemy to a sub-4 is something you can't control: Weather.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Taper Time, Week 1

Taper Time is a wonderful time. You've done the work, now it's time to coast. Eat your protein steak and eggs to repair damaged muscle. Get as much rest as you can, shake the fatigue. Run progressively less. De-stress, feel good, no pressure. Plan a massage. Hey, it's been a haul, but you sidestepped through the minefield of injuries, illness and natural disasters and you're almost ready to go.

Week 1 of a 3-weekTaper, however, still "counts." It's a good week to get in a final mid-distance marathon pace run and maybe a final 5K time trial. I did the 5K time trial yesterday, midweek, and ran a 7:43 (in low 80s temp), which was one second faster than what I ran in June, but 40 seconds faster than two weeks ago; this past weekend, I tried a 5K and had to walk the last mile home. That was Pre-Inhaler. The 7:43 time suggests, according to Coach Bensen, a sub-4 hour marathon, but it's a razor-thin close call. 5K trials aren't as accurate as 10K trials, which aren't as good as Yasso 880s (10 of them would be the best test). Also, 75% of the last 150 miles spent on a treadmill will be an interesting test to see how road-rugged my legs are.

I have one hard run left -- a 10-12 mile MP or 10 Yasso 880s? I need a track for the 880s, which could result in more muscle damage than you want to take on two weeks out. My mileage this week is 75% of peak-- around 30 miles. Next week half, around 20. Most of the runs next week will be 3-6 mile marathon pace runs. That's the plan.

I'm starting to look at weather in Chicago this week. By this weekend, I'll be able to see 15 days out and begin the ridiculous exercise of freting over temperature changes on race day as posted on Accuweather. It's tradition.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Puff That Magic Dragon

Bring on my inhaler. After a month of bending over to suck air only 15-30 minutes into every run, we now have an answer why. It's exercise-induced asthma, which I suspected a year ago but it never raged like this year's month-long episode.

Having puffed my new favorite running aid yesterday, I ran the treadmill for 8 miles at 9 and 8:30 paces comfortably. I even experienced a "second wind" -- a squirt of endorphins -- which has been non-existent in my miserable, breath-sucking, death runs this summer. Thank you, Dragon....

My doctor, who was reluctant to prescribe the inhaler until I saw a pulmonolgist (in two weeks!), will appreciate the numbers (I love being right with doctors!): Comparing Sunday's pre-puff run to yesterday's post-puff run, my heart reached 145 BPM at 10:42 and 9:13 paces, respectively. Yeah, incredible. My heart was working much, much harder with my bronchial tubes constricted, inflamed, engorged, and gooked with mucus. Two puffs 30 minutes before running, and I was clear to go. There's still irritation in there from Sunday's 18 miler, but it's ridiculously better.

Did I lose training time? Sure. About of a month, at the worst possible time. I still averaged brutal 40 mile weeks (except for the flu bug week), but at very slow paces, with no improving intervals or tempos that would drive down my overall pace and improve conditioning. In fact, I kept getting slower. Inexplicably slower. From that standpoint, it was a waste. However, on Sunday, I realized I might only be able to complete a half-marathon. Now I can run the full.

Most important, I'm enjoying it again. Puff on, man....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Peaking Ugly

It's peak season for this year's fall marathon, and I'm experiementing with a new tactic during these few critic weeks when you really want to racchet up your conditioning and get your head ready to meet all physical and mental challenges on the big day. I'm laying down. Why run and tire myself out, it never made me faster before. Labor Day, the day I always put in a 18 to 20-miler, I slept for, oh, 18 to 20 hours. Oddly, I felt about as good I usually do after the long run-- fatigued to the point I layed down again.

If this summer went from good to bad to ugly, I'm deep in ugly now. On the back side of my stomach flu and still trying to shake an upper respiratory infection that's been dogging me for three weeks, I'm at the point where I can now run a day then need a day(s) to recover after my body revolts. When this cycle ends, I don't know. Meanwhile, me and the hours whither away till race day. Let me lay down and think about it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Running into trouble

Less than three weeks till the taper begins. Both Kurt and I are battling physical problems.

Kurt, who was running lights out with a sub-46 10K and blistering 10-miler at 8:20 pace in San Francisco last week, is now hobbled with shin splints. Last week's dazzling SF runs were on asphalt, his first off the relatively cushy dirt trail he's been running all summer at home. Changing surfaces can do it. My recommendation was to return to ice, ibruprohen and bike spinning for a week. His shins should be fine, without losing any conditioning. The only issue is skipping his first 20 miler this weekend. He could run just one 20 as scheduled before the taper -- or go to a two-week taper, opting for two 20s, on the second and fourth weekends out. Depends on how the shins feel in 10 days. Problem on the latter option, if he injures anything with only two weeks to go, you have less time to recover. Worse case may be he lines up with one 18 under his belt and possibly only one 20; the endurance side of the equation would be less than ideal but manageable.

Lingering fatigue from long runs in the heat, a touch of IT band, and a strained hamstring are bothering me. I should be okay with rest, although the R-IT that tightened this week is troublesome. I never like to see that pop up at this late date. I'm taking a couple days rest and planning on 15 this weekend.

Perhaps more threatening is the new tropical wave developing slightly north and east of the Leewards. Hate to see storms brewing in that area.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Kurt's sub-46 10K

On a relatively cool 65 degree morning in San Francisco, Kurt laced up, found a hill-less six-mile stretch and destroyed his old personal best (50:12) for a 10K. The new PB: Just under 46 minutes, around a 7:25 mile pace. According to all the expert coaches I'm following, that means Kurt's VDOX is around 44. Potential marathon time around 3:32 to 3:40, depending on who you read, if the endurance training is in place and weather permits. Weather is always the biggest factor in reaching potential.

More important, the 10K time translates to a 8:37 MP pace at a comfortable 75% effort, or even an easier 9:03 at 70% effort, just to break four hours. However Kurt wants to run Chicago, the potential is there for a fast time if he stays uninjured (doesn't overtrain) and puts in the remaining longs -- a couple more 20s and a couple more mid-distance runs in the 13 to 15 range. Followed by a good taper. Should be good to go.

Boston qualifying time for late 40s is 3:30. That's a game day decision, based on weather, and a dangerous one at that. Running at that fine line between aerobic and anaerobic thresholds (80% effort) brings the Wall into play around 20 with lactic acid-soaked legs. You could end up at 4:15. But if you can drive that 10K down to 44-45.....the potential is there. I tried once from there (40:30 10K), ran 8s through 20, hit the Wall and ended up with a 4:02. You take your chances.

Training note: With a month to go before the taper, the tempo runs and longer MPs, where my legs are learning to efficiently move out lactic acid, would be key weekly runs, along with the longs.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ten from hell

There are bad runs, and then there are bad runs. Last night was the latter. I decided to replace the 8 MP on the schedule for an easy 16, get it out of the way this week. I felt like running.

As I said months ago, the wild card for training hard in the summer would be the heat; and wouldn’t you know, South Florida is in the midst of one of the worst heat waves in decades. Mornings, nights, the humidity and temperature produce a “real feel” heat index of over 100. During the day, it spikes to 110. Weathermen are advising to make sure you hydrate well if walking to your car. It’s ridiculous.

So I head out to run16 miles, at about 7 pm. Real-free 100+. But I'm well hydrated, carrying Gatorade. First couple miles were okay but by three, things started failing. By six, I'm toast. As bad as the end of any marathon, shuffling, cannot breath, feeling dyhdrated, utterly spent. Sometimes I stop to suck oxygen from the moist air every 100 yards. Six miles and I'm in serious trouble. I cut off the run and make it home by 10, unable to talk by then and tell Lorraine I'm near death.

After 7 hours sleep, I still haven't recovered. The residual effect of that run has left me dizzy and fatigued and generally beat up. Shuffling in last night, all I could think about was never doing that again. Fuck the whole marathoning thing. It got me home.

I was set up for a bad run, though, having run or cross-trained for 10 of the last 11 days. When I recover from this, I'll probably head back to the treadmill, which isn't getting my legs rugged enough for a marathon. But this kind of heat can't be run through, not by me. It's just too much, and too dangerous. This morning, I actually feel lucky I didn't get in more trouble than just feeling bad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Kurt has offered to shield me and my foot from the winds off the lake. Here's a peak at the turn back to the east, a view of left shoulder drafting....

Into the pool

I read somewhere a running equivalent for aqua-jogging is your in-pool heartbeat plus 13 beats per minute, due to the fact the water keeps you cooler and your heart pumps less blood to your skin. My pool is 80-some degrees, so I'm not sure I can add the beats. Without them, I kept my in-water BPM in the 120 to 150 range, with spikes to 160 during four 2 1/2-minute killer aqua-intervals. I also figured out some abdominal exercises with beats in 130 range. Stayed in the pool for 80 minutes, comparable to an 8 mile run, with easy and interval segments. After rolling out of the pool, I stretched quite a bit and did more core work, which I usually don't do after my runs but seemed to fit nicely into the workout. My body is so tight and inflexible, this cross-training may be what it needs.

On the right-heel: It's sore, stepping out of bed. No change. Will ice all day again, take 1800 mg of ibrurophen.

PF history
In 1996 and 1997, I broke down with PF during the early Boston and mid-summer NY campaigns. Both times I tried to run through it and it took 8-9 weeks before it went away. I'd get a long or mid-distance run in and have to stay off my feet for 2-3 days. That pattern kept repeating. Lots of icing and ibrupropehn and hematuria during runs from the NSAIDs. Speed runs were few and far between, mainly I was trying to stay on my feet to get the mileage in. In my notes, I mention numerous hip and back problems, possibly from altering stride. Most often, the heel warms up and hurts after the run, and for the next day or two.

I ran both marathons. The Boston PF bout cleared up in the fall, well before the April run (4:05). The NY bout, which started in week 12, began to clear three weeks before the race when I began tapering (4:25, IT band and monsoon) and didn't seem to bother me during the run.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Stopped running

I’m stopping running for at least a week. After three days of off and on discomfort in my right heel, I ran 8 yesterday on the treadmill with a mild discomfort early in the run, but it warmed up. Last night at Nick’s baseball practice I ran after two fly balls, and that was the end: I limped off the field. I keep hoping it’s a heel bruise but all the references say plantar facitis. It's acting like PF, sore in the morning, sore in that cushy spot under heel, and sore all around it. I'll go on 7-10 days of heavy ibruprophen, icing. Switch to workouts in the pool, lift 3X this week. I'll reconstruct the last 5 weeks of the schedule before tapering, pushing my next 20 off a week or maybe two. If the foot heals, I can still fit two more 20s in. I doubt I'll be able to run hard for two weeks, except in the pool. I don't know if that's optimistic. I'm reading that it takes considerably longer; hopefully I'm catching it early.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Good news

It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get worse.
--Steve Prefontaine

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ed's doing it

Just do it, so he is. Ed has entered Chicago to speed-walk the loop from downtown to Wrigley to Comisky and back, his second marathon of the year. He walked Nashville in April. Lorraine and Nick have decided not to go, as Nick has finals for his first quarter 8th grade that week and possibly some baseball games that weekend.

So Kurt, Ed and I will be staying in the McCormick Hyatt, at 70 bucks a night, complements of Lorraine's brother, Doug, who works for Hyatt. I think the rate otherwise would be up in the $250-300 range. The McCormick Hyatt overlooks the lake and is next to the expo, a 4-stop subway ride to the Start/Finish.

Seven weeks of conditioning left

Where we're at
Kurt has run a 16 mile long and turned in a quick 50:12 10K; I've reached my first 20 miler but haven't run a time trial in weeks due to the heat and travel to North Carolina (the last time trial was in early June, a 7:44 pace 5K, my fastest 10K a 50:28 in late April). Today we both ran half-mile intervals, averaging seconds just below and above 7:00 paces (3:30 halves). I don't think we're that far off; Kurt has successfully overcome the stress fractures, adjusted to the orthotics, and gotten on track with a program that has little room for downtime; I've avoided overuse injuries so far, in particular the IT band, with extra rest and an elongated program.

Driving down 10K times
Seven weeks to go before tapering. Despite what some of the calculators say, I'm not confident we can take current stamina levels, add several 20s, and make the sub-4:00. Assuming I could run a 50:00 minute 10K, I think we need a bigger cushion -- maybe drive the 10K times down between 47:00 to 48:00. Why? At the current 50:00 10K times, Coach Bensen's effort-based training charts say we'd be running our 8:45 targeted marathon pace at 80% effort, which the coach says is not likely sustainable over 26.2 miles for rec runners. A more realistic and sustainable effort might be around 75%. If you can run a 48:00 10K, a 75% effort translates to a 8:49 pace. For 47:00 10k, it's a 8:37 pace. So you can see the effort becomes less -- and easier to sustain -- as you drop your 10K times. This assumes you've put the endurance part of the equation in place; in other words, run your 3-4 18-20 milers.

The biggest risk
The main thing is to continue to do the once a week intervals/tempo runs, the marathon pace run, and the long -- WITHOUT overtraining. If I feel tired or have a strange tightness, I will drop any thought of a fourth run for extra rest, and sacrifice building mileage that week. The biggest risk in trying to drive down the 10K times is getting hurt by doing too much and being too aggressive. But I think we're on the right path.

Running intervals

From: Kurt
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Today's run
Ran half mile intervals each around 3:20. 5 of them with 1/2 mile slow jogs / walks in between for a total of 5 miles. I gave it my all. The best I can do right now. It was a little humid this AM which I'm sure factored in to the times.

From: Steve, later in day, ran:
3:46 At this point, you were not my favorite person for this workout.

Subplot: 90 degrees, 105 real-free, 70% humidity
Sun came out for #’s 4 & 5.
I wanted to see if I could keep them all under 3:30s but that’ll have to be another day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Back on the road. After 6 weeks of rest and rehab from four stress fractures, Kurt showed off his bike-spun VO2 this week with his first 5K time trial -- a speedy 24:30, under 8 pace. Now the careful transition to 20-30 mile weeks this month, and hopefully some custom inserts soon -- and he's back on track.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Treadmill vs land running

Cranking the treadmill up to a 1% grade is equal in the effort of a land run. So says this bit of research, A 1% TREADMILL GRADE MOST ACCURATELY REFLECTS THE ENERGETIC COST OF OUTDOOR RUNNING, J Sports Sci Date Of Publication: 1996 Aug. The study demonstrated equality of the energetic cost of treadmill and outdoor running with the use of a 1% treadmill grade over a duration of approximately 5 min and at velocities between about 9:00 and 5:20 per mile pace. You can't substitute substantiatial treadmill workouts for the road -- but in the plus 80/90 heat and humidity, it works for me. I recover faster and can run harder longer. Crank her up...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Still dizzy and queazy from severe dyhydration an hour after NY 2003. Shortly after this shot, I slumped on a curb in west Central Park while Lorraine flagged down a taxi. Couldn't function. Ate chicken dumpling soup in our hotel room and passed out. It was the second NY marathon that wrung me out, two out of two disaster runs. Eating the dumpling, I swore the marathoning was over. Yesterday I got picked in the lottery for some future 26.2 mile lap through the five boroughs. My memory, obviously, is still bonking. (Kurt was not selected, neither was Marabelle, Roy is guaranteed. We may roll the guarantees until we're all selected.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Training Zones CALCULATOR

Just plug in your max heart rate and resting heart rate, and it gives you the ranges for the 5 training zones. MHR is genetically predetermined and lowers by 1 beat a minute as you age--not much you can do about this number; but resting heart beat indicates fitness level and lowers as you get fitter. This marathon guide suggests a few ways to determine MHR, including running some uphills. A monitor is probably the only way to get an accurate number. Otherwise, they tweek the formula, suggesting: 214 - (.8 x age).

The link to the training zone article gives some good information on this whole approach to training and what to look for if in the market for a monitor. I'm getting close. Taking my pulse with my finger isn't cutting it.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Training zones & MHR

Here's a better way to figure max heart rate. This is important in figuring training zones – how fast to run intervals, longs, tempos.

217 – (.80 x age) = MHR (for running)

Max heart rate is also sports specific. It will be different running than spinning.

To figure heart rate for training zones:
MHR x Intensity % + RHR (resting heart rate).

For me:
173 MHR – 54 resting heart rate = 119 X intensity (ex. 70%) = 83 + 54 RHB = 137
137 now equals 70% of max heart rate.

Calculating MHR helps you establish the training zones for different kinds of runs.
1. Easy/Recovery = 60 – 70% (long runs up to 75%)
2. Endurance/Strength = 71 – 80% (MP goal is 76-77%)
3. Strength/Long hills = 81 – 85% (tempo runs, just below lactic threshold)
4. Intervals/Hills/Race pace = 86 – 90% (5K and 10Krace pace) (intervals 880s)
5. Speed/Racing (short) = 91 – 100% (sprinting, short races)

RW calculator for training zones

Pace killer: Heat/humidity

Curious about how S. Fla.'s high temps and humidity were impacting my runs in the summer, I looked everywhere for this. More science: Above 70 degrees, heart rate increases 1 beat/min per degree F. Interestingly, the oxygen demand doesn’t increase in the heat (the sucking wind portion), but your cardio system must pump more blood to your skin to enhance heat dissipation and cool you down. Higher humidity also increases heart rate, because it decreases your sweat evaporation rate. Research shows a 10 beat increase in 90% humidity, compared to 50% humidity.

My heart works very, very hard on those 90/90 days, which is why it takes so long to recover. Treadmill lets me run faster longer, and recover quicker, without the knee pounding. Boring as it is.

Lose weight pick up the pace

For every pound you lose, you are one minute faster in a marathon. Science.

At 182 (4:29), if you could get down to 152, you wouldn't have to do anything more than you did last year. Theory.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Crosstraining/Running Equivalents

You can minimize the wear and tear on your body by replacing up to 25 percent of your mileage with biking, swimming, deep water running, elliptical training, or other aerobic non-weight bearing exercises. Do these activities at a pace that will get your heart rate in your training range and count how many miles you would have run during the time spent doing the alternative training as “running equivalent mileage.” This according the NY marathong training recommendations.

Kurt, what is your heart rate in a spinning class for an hour?

Heart rate formula

Here's the most common and simplistic formula to measure effort based on heart beats:

220 - your age = maximum heart rate (MHR)

For Kurt, 220-48=172 MHR.
77-78% MHR for marathon = 132 beats per minute

See Coach Bensen's site (below) on effort-based training. He says 77-78% MHR is realistic for running a marathon, so we need to get our fitness level in that range for 8:45 pace. Once heart rate and pace matchup, and we put in the longs, we're realistic for the sub-4.

INTERVALS: He also suggests never to run your 800m repeats (intervals) over 90% MHR (155). So anything that approaches 155 MHR would give you a maximum VO2 benefit, without risk of overtraining. Recovery jogs of 400 meters should be around 70% (120 beats).

Friday, June 03, 2005

My desktop. New York's blue line through Central Park. Lottery in mid-June, both Kurt and I are in the pool. 2006?

Now the fun starts

I once read a ditty in RW that said you know you're a marathoner if 18 weeks is an important block of time. So here we are -- 18 weeks to showtime. Everything up till now has been prep.
So how did we do?

Me first: Did I work out in the gym as often as planned? No way, but better than usual. Averaged less than 2X a week when 3X was the game plan. Did I run consistently? Absolutely. Followed the 14-week basing buildup to 25 mpw, plus the long 12 miler. Hills? Nope, only a couple sessions. Speed? At least once a week-- a tempo, interval or time trial for 10 weeks, which produced pretty good results: Completed a 5K time trial this week at 7:44 pace, a 36-sec/mile improvement. Best of all, I managed to run faster and consistently for a total of 14 weeks during baseball season -- and without injury.

Which brings me to Kurt.

A nasty kidney stone and 4 stress fractures sent Kurt to an alternate Winter/Spring Training Plan, spinning on the bike for cardio and no running to let his tibia bones heal. In the next week or so, his 6-week rehab is over and he transitions back on the road, with custom arch supports from his doctor. We may not know till late June whether an October marathon is realistic or not--but it's doable. Not just finish-doable, but break-the-3:59-barrier doable. A lot depends -- no, it all depends -- on whether he was able to spin his VO2 Max to something that can deliver a roughly 25-minute 5K (8:05p) in June. Then his VO2 is in the ballpark, and maybe his lactate threshold. The goal is to get our 5k times to around 22:45 (7:20 pace--which should give us a nice VO2 cushion for a marathon) by mid-September, while racheting up the longs every other week. He has time for three 20s or longer. Weekly runs include 1 long, 1 easy, 1 speed, 1 marathon pace run.

But yeah, Kurt's stress-fractured legs have to hold up. Enter the orthotic. My bet is that does the trick. Other potential problem areas? Well, there's not a whole lot of room for any extended downtime. But getting it all done is always a tight fit.

18 weeks to go to 3:59. Stay healthy, stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Calculating weekly tempos/intervals

Great site for calculator. Plug in your latest 5K or 10K time trial....and it tells you how fast you should be doing your easy runs, tempos, and intervals to increase VO2.

Work backwards from your marathon goal time, and you can figure out where you need to be in 18 weeks. I'm using this calculator to figure weekly speed runs after time trials. This should help notching up speed safely.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Now stress fractures?

I've always said the toughest part of marathoning is getting to the start line. By that, I mean it's so difficult avoiding the minefield of injuries, sicknesses, weather calamities (hurricanes come to mind), and anything else that forces you off your training schedule. Downtime is especially deadly to a goal time.

Kurt is a perfect recent example. He's already suffered through a kidney stone and suspected chronic shinsplints, although we now have a correct diagnosis after a bone scan -- four stress fractures along both tibia bones. His orthopod recommends eight weeks off the roads, two of which are completed. He can't run until early June, at which time he'll be fitted with a custom orthotic and hopefully that fixes the biomechanical problem causing the fractures.

So what now? Six weeks off the road, with this 3:59 time goal looming, is tough to overcome. So do we give up Chicago (Oct 9)? Move to another marathon down the road -- NY (Nov. 8), Palm Beach (Dec. 4), or Disney (Jan. 8)? A later run makes a lot of sense to sensible people, just ask Kurt's orthopod -- but my first question is, is Chicago salvagable? And still run 3:59.....

Maybe -- and a wild and fascinating experiment it could be. The first key is that Kurt spins on the bike like a maniac for the next 6 weeks (improving his oxygen uptake, effectively substituting the bike for hard speed runs), then acclimates to the road during June (run and walk on soft surfaces, continues spinning) , then starts a 14-week program in July that builds to three 18-22 milers and includes two weekly speed and marathon pace runs. Total mileage tops off in the high 30s to 40. Doable?

"I have to be perfect," Kurt says this morning. "There's no margin for error."

True enough. Of course, any hope of success rides on the custom orthotic. Kurt's body is not efficiently distributing the stress of his footplants, hence the fractures. But I'm optimistic. I had a suspected stress fracture a year ago after not wearing my custom orthotics. After months of battling what I thought was a shinsplint, I took a couple months off, then trained and ran Chicago in my orthotics without another problem. Good chance a custom orthotic for Kurt will do the trick too.

No, it's anything but an ideal situation, but if successful, Kurt's second marathon will be that much more powerful. And I'll have someone to run with.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Spinning to a sub-4

Kurt is officially chronic with another bout of shin splints, and heading to a sports physician next week, probably ending up with a new pair of $300 custom orthotics—but in the meantime, more downtime. So now what? Kidney stones, shin splints, he can’t get out of the blocks. Schedule is going to hell. Well, he’s hitting the weights and took his first spinning class. Can you get there with X-training? Consider

Back in 1996, the year Roy and I ran the 100th Boston, his knee was acting up badly during training and he headed into the gym and skipped a bunch of running, focusing instead on strengthening the knee with weights and increasing aerobic capacity on the bike. I did my normal running, building longs, up to 24 miles for the first and only time in training. No speed work to speak of, just racking up miles.

Flash forward to race day: After a few jammed up miles early, we settled into running 9s, threw in a couple 8s to make up some time, and kept the pace until mile 21, Heartbreak Hill, the fourth of the Newton hills. Lots of people were walking, but Roy and I ran up it. About two-thirds the way, however, I began to lose it. After 4 hills, I just didn’t have the strength to maintain that pace, and Roy shot ahead. His weights work and biking obviously gave him an edge that I couldn’t match. So I fell behind, finishing at 4:05, short of our goal for a sub-4. At the finish line, Roy was waiting. I looked at his watch. 3:59:52.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Up Missouri Hills/Florida Bridges

Hills (for me, bridges over the Intracoastal and I-95) start this week on our schedule. Here's suggestions from Jeff Galloway, for sub-4 guys. Run these hill workouts, once a week, over the next 4 or 5 weeks; maybe we try to run 4 of these during this six-week session:

4-6 hills in a 5-7 mile run
7-8 hills in 7-8 mile run
9-10 hills in 8-9 mile run

Pick a hill 400 to 800 meters long, gentle grade and run at 10K speed or a little slower (8:50 to 9:00's is probably reasonable), don't sprint. Run up and over, and walk down.

He insists hills build leg strength that weights can't duplicate (static vs dynamic), and that hills should be done early in the schedule (he's scheduled hills 23 to 28 weeks before race, which is where we are now, taking out the rest weeks) and before speed work starts.

Cement legs antidote: Tempo runs

You know that feeling at the end of a marathon or long runs where your legs tighten and grow excessively fatigued, like you're running in cement? Blame it on lactate acid, a by-product of burning sugar for energy in your leg muscles. Is there a way to prevent this from happening? So they say: It's training at a "lactate threshold" pace.

What's that? It's more or less your 5K pace, plus 20 to 40 seconds a mile, or your 10K pace, plus 10 to 20 seconds. Top coaches believe you should regularly do 20- to 40-minute runs at your LT pace (tempo training), to increase your body's ability to transport lactate out of the muscles and prevent cement legs. For example, yesterday I ran 4 miles at 9:00 pace (36 minutes), a pretty good tempo run at this stage--and jogged home another 4.

In our schedule, I built in intervals (3rd session) and time trials for speed work, but not enough tempo runs. Tempo runs should be another option to mix in. The upcoming Marathon Pace runs (we have two 4-milers this session, at 8:40 pace) will serve as rather quick tempo runs for this session. (See Runners World, May 2005.)

Obviously, if tempo runs help the body become more efficient at moving lactate, the last 10K shouldn't be as stressed.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Wrapup Session #1

The first 6-week session down, four to go. Just like that. We had a kidney stone, illness, shin splints, bought core ball, new shoes, and started this blog. Kurt and I ran our last week 5K time trials at a 8:18 to 8:07 pace, respectively. I averaged 16 miles a week (about right, a 19 and 20 the last couple weeks); and a disappointing 2 weight-workouts per week. That will not get the results needed to sustain harder-faster running later. Ran four 8s, still my favorite distance, in last three weeks, trying to run fewer days a week to accomodate baseball.

Strangely, Kurt, after being off his feet with the stone, has developed shin splints after one week back, which suggests he tried to do to much too soon.

Times talk:
Based on our 5K trial times, Coach Bensen's training model makes these assumptions: My current 9:20p 8-milers are being run at 75-80% effort, which is exactly where we should be for the marathon and very comfortable now. But the time needs to drop to 8:40 MP at that same effort, and be equally comfortable. So I'm a long ways off.

Our 5K time trials -- and these, again, are just markers to see where we are in relation to where we need to be to run under 4 hours -- are way off as well. It says to run a realistic sub-4 at 77-78% effort at a 9:05 MP -- we need to run 8:14 pace for 10K (51:00). However, because we're really shooting for 8:40 MP, to accomodate delays from all the people and water stops, the 5K time should get down to 7:18 pace (22:38) -- or 10K time at 7:34 pace (47:00).

So, after Session One, we're both looking at dropping roughly 1-minute off 5K times and around 40 seconds off comfortable (77-78% effort) MP runs.

Looking ahead to Session #2:
Mileage up--18-20 per week, basing. Starting a hill workout every other week. My goal is still 3X weight workouts per week. 10K time trials at end of each of the 3-week cycles. Introduce 4MP runs at 8:40p. Long is still only 6-8 each week. I may start substituting 880 intervals for a couple of the 5K trials on schedule--there's 4 of them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Leftovers, Week 30

Progressing nicely with running/workouts till this week5, when baseball took over. Five-game tournament over the weekend, and a couple more games during the week, pretty much ruined the routine. Tactic between games and practices: Running 8s to compress two days into one. *** Kurt is back on the beam, traveling but working out in his room, he tells me. Sounds like he's fully recovered from kidney stone, counting down the days. *** I'm looking at 9 weeks of strength 3x-week workouts, before ratcheting up the longs. *** Looking, also, at 5 to 7 pounds of blubber that needs to go. *** Bought one of those big balls for core work. Leaning against it and rolling down a wall for quads and knees. *** Roy is planning to have the broken cartilege floating in his knee taken out. *** 80/80s this week (80 degree temp/80% humidity) for summer preview....

Monday, March 07, 2005

Jogger's hematuria

Blood in the urine. Who wants to read about that? Well, for years, I couldn't read enough about it. I couldn't talk to enough doctors about it. Because I couldn't figure it out. And it got so bad and so frequent, it threatened all my runs over 8 miles. It burned, it nauseated, it slowed me during marathons, it could even stop me. And then I started bleeding after just 3 what the hell was going on?

Spotting of blood in the urine is actually fairly common among runners. And it scares the, well, okay, piss out of you the first time you see it. A couple drops mixed in with urine turns it the color of a California Bourdeaux. Pre-Running Boom, hematuria was known as Marcher's Syndrome (WW II), because soldiers would pee red after long marches. Dyhydrated, the walls of the bladder would slap together, breaking capillaries filled with small amounts of blood.

I thought my problem was that simple so I followed the recommended Rx of staying well hydrated and using liquids as a cushion for the bouncing bladder walls. Didn't work. I tried cutting out coffee. Spent hundreds of dollars on special supplements. Consulted and spent hundreds more on an "alternative medicine" doctor. No, no, no.

Last fall, the light finally turned on: My Vioxx. Even the doctor who prescribed me the Vioxx for assorted aches and pains never put it together. Earlier this week, just to make sure, I performed a scientific test: My arm killing me from throwing 500 baseballs in batting practice at 13-year-olds, I ate a couple Vioxx tabs. Within two days, yep, there it was. My burning Bourdeaux.

For anybody interested, all of those NSAIDS and Cox-2 inhibitors, as great as they are for pain and inflammation, can wreak havoc on the urinary tract and cause bleeding. I still have a Vioxx stash for a really bad day, but basically....back to icing. And no Vioxx 48 hours before a run over 5. Another damn rule.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

You know you're a marathoner when....

You say you're going out for a short run, and come back two hours later.....You shower 12 times a week.....You start buying energy gels in bulk.....Eighteen weeks is an important block of time. (RW 10-02)..... You start thinking about a morning run a year or two in advance....You pee blood and shrug.....

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Kurt's stone

Postscript on yesterday's post: The docs decided the stone was too close to the kidney to obliterate it with shock waves. So Kurt opted for them to "go up and get it," a non-medical term for -- oh, forget it -- rather than going home and passing it in his spare time. Forget that! Training is now on hold until, well, until his thing works again without the flaming fire below.

Upside of having a stone: You try your damndest to stay hydrated before, during and after runs. Dehydration of the kidney creates an environment for calcium crystals to form, grow and eventually pass. If you're doing a good job at hydrating, your kidney is flushing the calcium out of your system before stones can crystalize. Obviously, long distance running is constantly using up liquids for cooling, and it's sometimes hard to keep up with, especially on hot or humid days. After passing a stone, however, this idea of hydrating properly has your full attention.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Marathon vs. kidney stone

Which hurts more? It's not even close, actually. Take your worst-ever ending of a marathon, the one where you're bonking badly, dehydrated, cramped with a screaming hammie or two, immersed in a fatigue that weighs on you like warm death, throw in a dizzy spell with flashing bright lights, the "wall" is as thick as the 10K you still have to run....

Now compare that to the passing of a silly millimeter kidney stone, and you'll take the dehydrated bonk any day.

Kurt's passing his first stone as we write. Or make that, the doctors have decided it's a a bit chunky to pass on its own, so they're going to puverize the little beast with some shock waves. No big deal. The hard part is behind him. The part where you crawl up in a ball as some alien beast attacks from the inside. The part where you think you're gonna die and say hurry up. For Kurt, dopey on demerol and soon to have a sore ab from the shock waves, this part is like the long walk in mylar. You're weary, but the rage is over.

For the record, I've run 12 marathons and passed 4 kidney stones, so I write this with some authority. Kurt finished his inaugural marathon in October and now the first stone. I'm not sure if he's just trying to keep up or compete in the Worst Pains Ever Department, or what. If he gets pregnant soon, I guess we'll know.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Plaguing shinsplints

Back in 1983, my first serious bout of shinsplints sidelined me only weeks before my second Orange Bowl marathon with Roy. Talk about disappointing. I didn't know any better and tried to run through them, big mistake. Anyway, I may have had another bout or two since, but generally, shinsplints have not been a problem. Until the last year.

Now they've popped up twice for extended periods, in the December to February timeframe. I'm assuming my legs are just breaking down after fall marathons, continued hard running and some races. So my problem is probably lack of strength and flexibility, rather than shoes. However, switching to a new shoe is always easier than taking time to strengthen and flex.

Kurt suffered shinsplints last summer, in his first marathon campaign, which coaches say is not unusual for a new runner. It takes a gradual build for the tendons to strengthen along the shin, and that takes time for somebody new to the roads. Strength is probably the issue for Kurt too.

I've found two good exercises to strengthen the lower legs and prevent shinsplints. 1) Get one of those big rehab rubber bands, attach to your toes, and stretch against the resistance while watching late night reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. 2) Hang your legs over the bed, and raise your toes with a weight attached to your foot.

Other tips: Get a good orthotic. Warm 'em up and stretch 'em out a bit, especially before intervals and time trials. For my current nagging bout, I'm also going to go out and buy a new cushiony shoe....

Friday, February 25, 2005

Your 10K target for sub-4

Bingo! This Coach Benson site is great. This particular chart gives you the 10K time (51:00 min/8:14 pace) you need to be running, in order to run a realistic sub-4 marathon, without stopping. It also suggests that 77-78% effort is where you need to be for running 26 miles--that's about a 9:05 to 9:09 pace. With walk breaks and congestion of a big marathon, I think we need to be around 8:40-45. (Roy, tell me different???) So move up the middle "pace" column to 8:45, slide to the left, and you can see that your 10K time needs to be 49:00 min/7:54 pace. Those are probably pretty good targets, assuming all sorts of things on race day: cool weather, no injuries, max 20 second stops per mile average including bottlenecked turns, no excessive pissing, blood on the highway, no stopping for a beer in Wrigleyville, etc.

For pacing (effort) on other runs (like recovery or intervals), see chart in earlier post on Effort Based Training. I really think these charts give you a model to gauge effort without overtraining. Keeps you focused on the gradual build. Yet, it provides goals to hit. I'd really like to see the pacing information above related to 5K times as well.....maybe it's too short of a distance.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Spiffed out in mylar and Breathright. (Kurt, Chi04)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Squeeking orthotics

It's pre-dawn, still dark out, wife's asleep, you put on your shorts, tank, socks, shoes. Squeek! Like you're killing a mouse with each step. Squeek, squeek, squeek. You leave the house. Oh hell, forgot something. Back inside. More squeek, squeek, squeek. Years this has been going on....till this weekend's discovery: Just sprinkle some baby powder, baking soda or, in my case, Gold's powder underneath the orthotics. You can move around again like a burgler.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Effort Based Training

Based on 5K or 10K times, how fast should you run on an easy or recovery run (60-75% effort)? Or a 20-minute tempo run (80% effort)? Or hill repeats (80-95% effort?) Or an interval, like a series of 880s or miles (90-95% effort) Or the recovery jog after (70%)? Here's a handy chart:, then look in Book Forms, Section B. Obviously, as the 5k and 10k time trials get faster, you move along in the chart. Great way to push at a graduated level, without over doing it, and especially easy to monitor with the GPS on your wrist. Full of tips today.....this Running Times mag, which I signed up for at the PB Marathon and got a free jacket, is pretty good.

Rethinking the wall

Hitting the wall may have less to do with running out of glycogen, more to do with damaged muscles that send signals to the brain to slow down. The body, smart as it is, sends that signal in a package of extreme fatigue. New research suggests eating protein on the run to prevent some of that muscle damage. Several times I've wondered why when I've drank a lot and eaten plenty of Gus that I've still bonked. Maybe this is it. Also, plyometric training (jumping drills) helps increase muscles' resistance to damage. (See April's Running Times)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Leftovers, Week 34 (first week)

Germs from traveling left Kurt sick all week, an occupational hazard. As new training gear, he's thinking about wearing a white surgical mask through airports. *** Will Roy's wife Marabelle be running? Is her year-long bout with plantar facitis behind her? She puts us all to shame, perrennial 3:45er *** Overhead lunges suck. Wabbly footing; hurts my knees. Returning to hanging weights at my side. *** Ed says he's walking his first marathon in April, in Nashville. Figure 6-6:30. That's a looooong walk. Unaided by GUs, would you still hit the wall around 18-20, like a typical runner, or would glycogyn stores run out earlier? *** Looking way ahead: Kurt and I applied for the NYC lottery in June; Roy has guaranteed entry. Marabelle? for 06? ***NY has delivered two of my worst ever runs. An ITband painfest in a monsoon (4:25 in '97) and last year's cramped, dehydration shuffle on a humid 75-degree day (5:07). I'd like to do it comfortably just once. *** I caved on managing baseball. Reluctantly took a Junior League (13-14yo) team this spring. So I'll be mixing in running with practices/games twice a week, plus three days of Bandits baseball (13s), plus basketball for another month. I agree, it's too much. Thank God the Vioxx is coming back....

Friday, February 18, 2005

NEWS BLAST: Vioxx coming back?

AP, CNN and others reporting this morning that Vioxx may be coming back out on the market. New science shows the unique benefit of the drug outweigh the risks (I coulda told them that), and Merck may bring it back. I was willing to sign a waiver that I wouldn't sue the company if my heart exploded, in exchange for a handful, but this is too good to be true. Hopefully by spring those golden tabs will be back. I've got just enough left in my stash to get me through the winter.

This news also greatly enhances Roy's chances of getting to the Start, as Vioxx is his drug of choice for all things related to the knee (see below).....

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Rabbit Roy?

Imagine a knee so screwed up, pieces of cartilage, about the size of a quarter, float around freely, unattached, in the joint's fluids, occasionally surfacing in the kneecap -- and which need to be excised. This happens about as often as the rest of us get flu shots. A knee permanently bloated with godknowswhat. A knee that hasn't straightened for over a decade. A knee protected from bone-on-bone scraping by the last sliver of cartilage, about the thickness of a ply of Charmin.

That's Roy's knee, and he now tells me this morning that he's in. In for the 26.2 mile lap around Chicago in October. And no, despite having the most deranged knee you've ever seen, he's not in the wheelchair division.

This, of course, may not be the greatest idea. But this is a guy running a nuclear power plant, so hey -- who am I to judge. But still, reasonable people will ask, Why take the risk? Have you lost your mind? Well, I suppose it's a little hard to fathom, unless you've been running for 25 years and now sorely miss the regularity of it all. So, you pick your moments and take your chances. Roy, also 52, after reading this blog yesterday, decided to pick Chicag04 and join Kurt and me. No, his orthopod is probably not onboard. Actually, the orthopod wants to replace the knee, or at least a major section of it. So Roy's thinking is, if it's a throw-away part anyway, well...

Roy believes he can super-strengthen the knee in the gym for the next 16 weeks, run through the summer, and give it a go. He's done it before. Back in '96 (see post Boston '96), the knee was a globe of excess fluids and adrift cartilage chunks, but strong enough to leave me halfway up Heartbreak Hill and squeeze out a 3:59:52. Planning is everything. Since then, he's also finished a hilly San Francisco and a couple Disneys, basically on one good leg.

Okay, so he ain't no bullet-train anymore (PB 3:14, back in the First Boom, in '83). But if I breakdown, damn good chance Roy -- if he can just get to the startline -- will be there to pace my mid-life-crising brother Kurt to his sub-four.

Backup has arrived.....

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Kick my butt with (overhead) lunges

My butt feels like somebody poured concrete in my glutes. Or whacked the hell out of it with a two-by-four. Sore sore. Tenderized. I need one of those foamy-thick cushions that look like a toilet seat for my ass, just to sit here. Last week, I'd been doing a not-too-strenuous 100 feet or so of lunges with a pair of handweights hung down by my side. No no no, that's not the way to do it, Kurt tells me. Raise those hand weights overhead, now do your lunges. Now walk up and down what would be the length of a basketball court a couple times. Yeah, okay. Now see what it feels like to literally get your ass kicked.

Neck (and upper back) takes a royal beating too. Definately a runner-specific exercise.

Where's my Vioxx?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Shorter on marathon training specificity

Sounds boring already, and I promised. But it's been bugging me. Do we get faster by training longer at marathon pace? Or should we stick to the old formula of running long a minute or two slower than MP, mixing in an interval once a week, and believing it'll all come together on race day?

So I asked Frank Shorter at the Miami Tropical Marathon Expo in February, what's the deal? Shorter definately came down on the side of the old school formula, of slow slow longs, which he explains in his new book. When I mentioned Kalid (and other elites) endorsed up to 15- or 16-mile MP runs, he either frowned or was genuinely surprised. He must not read RW. Shorter was quick to point out that Kalid surely was not divulging his whole training regimen, which I'm sure is true. Still, Kalid says it's a key component. (Frank frowns again.) I'm assuming Shorter was dismissive of long MPs, because they were contrary to the LSDs he recommends in his new book.

Of value, he did say most people run too long in weekly intervals. He kept his intervals at 3 miles/wk when he trained for Olympic Gold in '72. A surprisingly small percentage of his weekly total of 140 miles. (Before he hit it big, we use to see Shorter logging his mileage around Gainesville with the Florida Track Club when we were undergrads at UF.)

Training for Chicag05, Kurt and I are going with Khalid's longer MPs at mid-distances up to 12-13 miles (somewhat of a compromise) and Shorter's shorter intervals.

I won't be buying Shorter's new book, he said there's nothing really new in it anyway (which I'm sure his publisher loves, if he's saying that at Expos across the country). However, I definately will check it out at Books-A-Million, because he said it had lots of pictures in it, mostly of his girlfriend in running shorts, who was standing in the back of the Expo in skintight jeans and spiked heels, a mid-30ish dropdead strawberry-blond with a gold medal stack.

Thirty-three years after Olympic glory, it's still good to be Frank Shorter....