Sunday, January 29, 2017

Step on a Crack

Is there no end to the lengths my body will go to prove that I'm a big pansy? I get it, injuries happen. I don't mind the ones that make sense. Here are some nonsensical injuries that have happened to me over the years.

  • I cut myself peeling an orange
  • I injured my knee eating chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant
  • I strained my wrist looking at pictures on the internet
  • I pulled a muscle in my back petting a dog
If I were born a hundred years ago, I'm pretty sure I'd be dead by now. Luckily modern medicine has made it their mission to keep unworthy blokes like myself alive and kicking so that I can bore you with nonsensical gibberish.

The Set-Up
One of the injuries that makes sense are repetitive stress injuries that happen to idiots who do not-so-intelligent ventures. This explains my Achilles tenderness that I've been nursing since September. During the off season, these injuries typically go away unless you find something stupid to keep you moving. For example, I signed up for a running challenge called the 100/100. This means that I pledged to do 100 runs in 100 days. As of this past Thursday, I had run n+1, where n= the number of days since the challenge started. A run is defined as 30 minutes of actually running, no walking allowed. Should you be doing intervals with a passive recovery, then the clock stops until you start moving at a gait where both feet leave the ground along opposite vectors. My average run, thus far, has been 37 minutes and all runs have been longer than 4 miles. This challenge is not for the weak minded. Or for anyone with a brain. Therefore, it's perfect for the likes of me.

This recent Thursday, I was out for a nice morning run (as if you can include the words 'morning' and 'run' in the same sentence and accuse them of being 'nice'). The goal was 5.5 miles of nothing special. Ironically, 'nothing special' is the bread and butter of endurance training. Given 8 runs in a week, 6 of them should be nothing special. And, even better, that number could go as high as 8 and still be listed as high quality training.

Not my foot
At right around the 3 mile mark, give or take a quarter of a mile, I stepped on something. I'm not sure exactly what. It might have simply been a crack in the pavement. It definitely wasn't a dead animal or a downed tree, of that much I'm confident. Said stepping was evidenced by the fact that my foot hit the ground (weird, right?) and that there was a sudden shooting pain in my left foot. For those of you who have studied anatomy, the pain was radiating outward from the the 3rd and fourth metatarsal, roughly 1 inch shy of the phalanges.

Initially, I ignored it and ran on. I assumed it would be similar to the sensation of stubbing one's toe, only further upstream. I expected the pain to subside on down the road. At the 3.75 mile mark, I stopped running and dutifully stopped my watch. Then, I peeled off my gloves. The temps were in the low 40ºs and the wind made gloves necessary. The lack of gloves aided in the loosening of my laces. My foot had taken on some fluid. I walked for a bit, with the watch still stopped, of course.

Crunching the Numbers
My Garmin doesn't normally tell the time of day. I have to specifically ask it for that information as it's typically not important in the context of sport. However, in the real world, I have a job that is ever obsessive about the time of day and gets grumpy when others disregard time's importance (unless, of course, it's a meeting where they are leading...). At the 4 mile mark  I was still walking and fumbling with the Garmin. Note: this is the geographical mark, not the Garmin mark, since the Garmin is not allowed to see me walking. It was clear that I was going to be late. What was not clear was if I could be in the late, but almost acceptable range or if I was going to be late enough that calling off the entire day was the better decision.

How my brain works
Doing maths was a great distraction to the reality of the situation. I pondered that the average person can walk at about 15 minutes per mile. According to the pace manager, I was limping about 19 minutes. Arrival would be about 30 minutes later (because I would likely stop to get the mail as long as I was out), putting me into the potential 'call the day off' category. I made the decision to try and run. At the apex of the tiny hill, I went for it. I turned on the Garmin because I wanted documented evidence that I was putting forth the effort and I'm an idiot by rote. This burst let me hit a pace of about 9:30 per mile, which doubled my previous speed, and lasted for about 3/10ths of a mile. Then, I beeped off, stopped, peeled off my gloves, and readjusted the laces on my ever-constricting left shoe.

It was at this moment, for the very first time in my life, that I wished I ran with a cell phone. I would have called the Wife and begged her to come and get me. Since the Garmin doesn't have a call function, I was stuck obsessing over the ever slowing walking pace and how much time it would take to get home.

Glancing at the time of day, I tried the running thing for yet a 3rd time. This happened between 4.65 and 4.90 miles into the run. The pulse emanating from down yonder made it clear that my best move would be to curl up in a ball and hope someone has pity. Unfortunately, it started to rain. On the bright side, I didn't need to ice my foot. Mother Nature was numbing it for me. Fueled by my need to not freeze to death, I hobbled the last 0.6 of a mile at roughly a 22 minutes pace. Aside: This experience is roughly the same as the average IM run for the Banter. Run a bit. Walk really slowly. Run a bit more. Walk even slower. Repeat until the finish line. /End Aside.

Me, out of the shower
True to my word, I stopped to get the mail. I entered my home, slowly and nearly frozen, at 7:25 am, which is about 30 minutes later than planned. If I hurried, I could make it to work by 8:00-8:10. Late but in the acceptable range. The most obvious problem is that I was incapable of 'hurrying'. I sulked in the ridiculously warm water of the shower, standing on 1 leg. I glanced down to survey the damage. My left foot had swollen to the point of looking like a sewed in structure commonly seen on a Cabbage Patch kid. I considered calling off the day. Then I got dressed, put on a compression sock, and went to work.

The Prognosis
As the day went on, I had no improvement. The swelling didn't increase (probably because it might not have been possible). The pain sure did. I'm assuming that the natural endorphins from the initial experience wore off allowing me to experience the damage in all its glory. Having gone in late, I left early to get an X-ray. I was at least 87% sure that I had some sort of fracture.

I'm of the opinion that "Urgent Care" doesn't live up to its name. There was nothing urgent nor caring about the experience. When you walk in (using the term 'walk' loosely here) and tell them that you may have broken your foot and, as a result, they have you walk (again, loosely) another 3 miles (undocumented, of course, since I didn't bring my Garmin) from one desk to another to another to finally get an X-ray back to the original. At the original, a perfectly able bodied nurse and a physicians assistant give you the news that there is no break in the bone and instruct you to stay off the foot. That shows you how much my 87% certainty means. Then they send you walking (loosely) out to your car without any offer of a mobile assistant device. All done in just under 3 hours. Aside 2: If any young entrepreneurs out there want a business idea, I'd suggest Valet Parking at the Urgent Care. You would have had my money that day. /End Aside 2.

On the bright side, healing is going well. If there's one thing I excel at, it's being an idiot. If there's another, it's embracing my inner sloth. Doing some more maths, I conclude that I could be back running by Wednesday. Next Saturday at the latest. If you don't believe me, re-read what the first thing I excel at is. Should this come to fruition, my metatarsal and my Achilles will both be healed and I'll run myself into a different repetitive stress injury that makes sense by the time race season starts. Hey, you gotta have goals, right?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

On the Need for Equality

Just in case you've been living in a bubble or happen to be reading from the future, there's been a lot of women's activism in the world lately. Thousands of womens have been gathering in municipalities in various countries under the umbrella of equality. I, being of the middle aged, middle class, white male variety, don't fully understand what they hope to accomplish. That doesn't mean I don't understand the need.

Training teaches me so much about the workings of the world. As it happened, I was out for a run. Weird, I know. Especially since I suck so much at the discipline. Don't get me wrong, I have to work exceptionally hard to suck this bad. One can only imagine what lack of speed I could achieve without the work. Since I have these delusions of actually accomplishing something in triathlon, something that the word "qualify" could apply, I choose to do the work.

This morning, the need for equality glared at me while I was out working. The plan was for a 5-mile base run, which means slow. (As if I could accomplish anything with the adjective of 'fast' attached to it.) I live out in the country which the planners decided that they would align the roads in grids. I believe that they were drinking when they planned my specific area of the county since the grid is obvious but the scale is messed up. East to West- Road 1 to Road 2 is 0.6 of a mile. Road 2 to Road 3 is exactly 1 mile. North to South- Road 1 to Road 2 is 1 mile. Road 2 to Road 3 is 1.5 mile. (or is it miles, plural? My English writing background never understood how to reconcile plurality for numbers between 1 and 2.)

The conditions were quite nice for this time of year. The temps were sitting in the low 40s with ridiculously high humidities. As a result, the world was wet and foggy. Visibilities were less than a quarter of a mile. I know this because I have the route memorized down to the interval with landmarks readily available. I couldn't see the next landmark, which was a mailbox. As I trudged on, a faint oblong object began to take form. It was another runner, an oddity around these parts. Normally, I'm the only idiot out on the roads. Perhaps the lack of frigid temps encouraged others to embrace their own personal idiocy. Once I realized that the other object was a runner, my pace picked up without my approval (lousy male-competitive gene strikes again).

My route takes a left hand turn at the first road, the 0.6 interval. It was clear that I was gaining on said fellow runner (odd for me). At the 0.75 mile mark (which is a driveway with an evergreen at the nook), there was a commotion coming from one of the neighborhood houses. It sounded as if a woman was pretty upset with something and her volume made it clear that she wanted others to know about it. I noticed her discomfort. So did the other runner, who was roughly 100 yards ahead at this point with the gap narrowing. I glanced at the commotion. So did the other runner. Then the other runner glanced at me.

At this distance, I could finally make out distinguishing features that I couldn't see before. For 1, the other runner was horribly under pronating and flinging their heels way outside their natural plane of momentum. There was a lot of wasted energy in that technique. For 2, the other runner was a female. She glanced back and made eye-contact, a clear indication that she knew I was there. For 3, she didn't speed up. Apparently she didn't possess the male competitive gene.

Shortly before the 1 mile marker (which is a telephone pole), I made the pass. She had moved all the way over to the side of the shoulder. She was dangerously close to falling off the road. Being that there wasn't much traffic on this Sunday morning, I moved to the middle of the lane. Aside: Holy crap! The conditions on the middle of the lane are exquisite. No debris. Flat sans road camber. I might start running out there just for the comfort. /End aside.

As I made the pass, I do the same thing that I do for each and every runner I see out on the roads (n=6 since the start of the year). I smile and say, "Good morning" in a happy, cheery voice. The voice intonation is not forced. Despite my lack of prowess as a runner, I truly enjoy the experience and am happy to share it with others who are brave enough to try it. My road mate, on the other hand, was clearly uncomfortable. There was a look on her face that was in the nervous/ afraid end of the emotional spectrum. I stayed out in the middle of the road for what I think is longer than necessary for the passing zone. There was still scant traffic and I was still enjoying the mid-road conditions. Eventually, when I was well past my running colleague, I merged back onto the shoulder.

I'm still haunted by the look on that woman's face. Given that I'm not that good looking, I'm used to getting weird looks from the ladies. Despite my lack of appeal, I'm not normally perceived as a threat. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm in bottom end of the intimidation factor, based on popular opinion. I suspect that I am less concerning than 99% of the populace, just below old ladies with walkers and babies being pushed in strollers.

I can only surmise that her response was a learned behavior. I'm pretty sure that a vast majority of women in our society have experienced some sort of unsavory behavior displayed by unscrupulous individuals, likely males. Aside 2: I have a hard time believing that women running have experienced any negatives from running men. I suspect (and I mean hope and pray) that runners take care of their own, regardless of gender or skill. Then again, I'm rather naive to such things. /End aside 2.

By the 1.5 mile mark (which is a driveway), I was far enough ahead that I couldn't see my running mate. It's clear that she slowed down. In her defense, that stretch is uphill. It's possible that she was struggling to maintain pace. It's also possible that I'm more intimidating than I thought, perhaps because there have been members of my gender that haven't treated this awesome runner of a woman with the respect that she deserves.

I suppose what I don't understand is the need for inequality in the first place. My brain lives in a world dominated by the take home message of Bill and Ted. Then, there wouldn't be a need for any marching.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Running

I'm pretty sure Thomas Jefferson was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that he died a good 150 years before the first actual triathlon. A little known fact: Most of the Declaration of Independence had nothing to do with succeeding from the British Empire and more to do with the desire to have a better network of biking and running paths.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... Thomas Jefferson was the captain of the Philadelphia Triathlon and Running Club, which we refer to today as "The Forefathers". The meetings that that lead towards the creation of famous historical documents were really just adaptations of club meeting minutes.
Thomas Jefferson grew up in a tiny Virginia town called Shadwell. I don't know if any of you have ever visited Shadwell, but if you missed it you ain't missing much. There wasn't a whole lot of action happening in the Virginia outback. You could get a girlfriend, which is why they coined the "Virginia is for Lovers". There wasn't a lot of other things to do. Tommy, not being very good looking, decided that he needed to be in shape if he was going to partake in the stately pastime. "You gotta do the best with what you got." -Thomas Jefferson (probably).

Therefore, Tommy started running. He typically started his runs early in the morning, since Virginia can get unpleasantly warm and humid in the afternoon sun. Plus, Tommy was fair-skinned and sunscreen hadn't been invented yet. He knew he wasn't going to pick up the ladies with a nice red hue to his skin. They liked 'em paisley white back then. (More evidence that I may have been born into a wrong era).

Tommy also knew that he was quite stinky, post runs. In an effort to mask his musk, he took to swimming in the Rivanna River. He developed a system of swimming against the current.  The trick was to find a current strong enough so it would look like you weren't moving at all. (Later, entrepreneurs were studying Tommy's training techniques and developed the Endless Pool.) Swimming against the current had several advantages. See, even back then, swimmers weren't that popular. When you swim downstream, you wind up in a completely different town and had to perform the walk of shame to get back home, all in your swimming gear.  By swimming upstream, you could just float back to the beginning, change into your regular clothes, and no one's none the wiser. As a consequence, Tommy could get in a good run, swim and hydrate at the same time (not recommended in present time but men were stronger back then), and be clean by 10:00 when the UV risk was starting to get, well, risky.

By his late-teens, it was clear that the women of Shadwell just weren't interested. Tommy was sick and tired of striking out and grumpy with the state's motto for not living up to his expectations. A friend of his heard that Philly was where the action was. So, he got a place with some dude who was West Philadelphia born and raised. Shortly thereafter, the roommate got into a playground fight and ended up moving to California (but that's a story for a different post). This only increased Tommy's workout fury. But, since he was in the big city now, he added biking to his repertoire since he couldn't afford a car due to having to pay the rent on his own.

What the history books don't tell you is that Tommy did a lot of his best thinking while working out. (It appears that Tommy and I have that in common. One stark difference is that he was far better at remembering and recording his gibberish than I.) Most of his popular quotes were about sport.

Look at these Tommy quotes with translations immediately following:

"Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you." This was about race performance

"I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." This was about the importance of speed work.

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." This is about choosing to train instead of sleeping in.

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." This was in response to why so many people set goals of qualifying for Kona yet fall short. It's a nice way of saying that you don't have the talent.

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." Liberty was Tommy's term for running.

Tommy, having given on females at this point, decided to join a tri-club. Philly had a huge club which included sports stars such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Ben Franklin. Samuel Adams provided refreshments for club meetings while the boys talked sport. Hancock was club secretary and near-sighted, which caused his writing to be at a larger font than desired. The guys got along famously!

Most of the ideas for the official Declaration of Independence were developed on group runs. They came up with this concept (as seen on the right) while out for a particularly frustrating workout. The Redcoats tried to tell them that they weren't allowed to run 2 abreast while on Chestnut Street. Once in a while, the books will state that he may have been 'running from the British', which is a gross misunderstanding of the truth. They were just out for a run. Running is life. Running is liberty. Running is happiness.

Tommy made it his mission to get a better pathway system on the Delaware and the Schuykill  Rivers, which still exist to this day. The British disapproved of this because they know that it's easier to defeat an enemy who is fat and lazy than one who is in shape in the 3 disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. Luckily, Tommy and his clan had more pull with the locals.

Tommy's excellent ideas and leadership skills were what finally made him popular with the ladies. Tommy married Martha, who was the first woman allowed in the Forefathers Tri-Club. They eventually moved back to Virginia so that Tommy could finally make the state's motto proud.

There's a rumor floating around that Tommy and Martha's bloodline is alive and strong. One of their kids may have moved out of mom and dad's basement and relocated to Pennsylvania. From there, it's pretty obvious that the Andy Potts is carrying around Jefferson DNA. But I'll let you decide.

So there you have it.