Pride goeth before the run

Our patriotic flag courtesy of a local Realtor

Today’s run (street): 5.1 miles

The route

Happy Memorial Day weekend. I kicked off this morning’s run with a couple of bruises to my ego. My plan was to expand my route beyond my neighborhood and run in a nearby business park. I was five minutes into the run when I heard a cheery “Good Morning!” from a runner who’d come up and passed me like I was standing still. He was no kid either. I wanted to yell, “Hey, I’m slow because I have a herniated disc!”, but he was already out of sight. Plus the fact that my slowness has little to do with the disc issue at this point.

A couple of minutes later, I detected motion to my left and saw a teenage girl pass me by. She was really moving, smartly sticking to the sidewalks for safety. I’ve developed a fear of our neighborhood sidewalks, whose uneven surfaces have caused me to trip a few times. This young woman gracefully floated by with no apparent concerns about that happening.

After those experiences, I resigned myself to jogger status and settled into my run. I crossed the middle school field that leads to a path to the business park. I hadn’t decided whether to run one or two laps around the main loop because I’m still avoiding hills whenever I can. I went around once and followed that with a half loop before heading over to an adjacent neighborhood. The temperature felt even cooler than yesterday and there was a noticeable wind coming from the west.

Yesterday’s run felt much harder, but I had run a minute per mile faster on Friday. I didn’t worry about my pace (not that yesterday’s was anything to brag about) and that made the experience extremely enjoyable. In fact, I felt I could run all day until I was a quarter mile from home and began to fatigue. It’s been a long time since I’ve covered five miles and my conditioning  reflected that. Still, it was my longest run this year, if only by a tenth of a mile.

Until I am fully free of my injury I’ll continue to focus on distance rather than speed. I’ve always found that when my base is solid, the speed will come. As long as I keep doing these long, easy runs, I should get myself back to a 6+ mile base by mid-summer. At that point I can decide whether I’m ready to think about performance and a possible late summer 10K.

The highs and lows of running shoes

Kayano & ISO (L), Virrata & Kinvara (R)

Today’s run (street): 3.5 miles

I’ve fallen down on my plan to continue my weekday workouts. Three weeks of testing alternative running machines made it easy to stay on schedule. I did those sessions at the end of my work days and left the office immediately afterwards. I did surprisingly well with those afternoon workouts and they really energized me for my long drive home.

I’d done no workouts since Sunday’s Runsketeer run at Bethpage so I went out this morning for a loop around the neighborhood. The weather was surprisingly cool – not even 60° – so I put on a fluorescent orange long sleeve running shirt and shorts. I wore my Saucony Triumphs to compare my last experience with the Kayanos.

I like both pairs, but I’m still preferring the lower, more minimal design of the Kinvaras and Virratas. SIOR, who is switching to ultra cushioned Hokas, pointed out that my flat arches better match low drop running shoes while higher arched runners like her prefer a wider variance between forefoot and heel heights. I feel it’s wasteful to invest in new Kinvaras while I have two pair of almost-new high end trainers, but I’m going to run in my well-used Virratas this weekend to see if I do better in them.

My disc issue is almost completely gone, although I still have a slight flexibility issue in my left hamstring. That’s causing me to land off-center on that side, resulting in slight mashing of my foot near the front. I’ll be curious to see if that condition appears with the low platform Virratas.

My run this morning went fine, although I did feel some aerobic challenge throughout the run. It’s hard to believe it was just a year ago that I managed through the Brooklyn Half. I have a long way to go to get to my 10K base.

It’s a three day weekend and that will provide time to string together three more runs. I really need to get out of the 3-4 mile rut and start edging closer to five or more. My orthopedist discouraged trail running while recovering from my disc injury, but I may be ready for a return to Stillwell at this point. I’ll be happy if this cool weather continues on Saturday. I want to enjoy the spring as long as I can.

Goodbye pain, hello speed


Illustration by Mr. Emerging Runner Jr. 

Today’s run (street): 3.9 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.6 miles

Happy Mother’s Day. We did most of our celebrating yesterday because we had a lot of stuff to do today. That meant family time during the day, followed by an early dinner at our favorite place. This weekend also included a couple of sunny outdoor runs for me that felt close to normal. The gating (or gaiting : ) factor is my stride that feels constrained on my left side. It’s causing my left foot to land differently, so that it jams up against the front of my shoe.

Both of my weekend runs were pretty much the same, although they were tougher than they should have been. The issue wasn’t my disc problem. Part of it came from an extremely heavy pollen count and high humidity, especially today. I’ll also blame the minimal road work I’ve done over the past couple of months. My street runs are generally longer than the treadmill and elliptical workouts that I’ve been doing. Plus, these outside runs produce a lot more impact than fitness machines.

The bright spot in today’s run happened near the end when I came down a long stretch and saw a couple walking in the distance. I picked up the pace to pass them and held it long enough to determine that I wouldn’t cause a relapse of my upper thigh pain. My overall pace for the run was still very slow, but that last quarter mile was in the mid-8:00 range. No pain during or after.

Tomorrow I’ll finish up the formal testing of alternative running machines. I want to keep the momentum of weekday workouts after this program finishes. I don’t like using the locker room at my company’s fitness center, but if I schedule my workouts for the end of the day, I can towel off with gym wipes and then head straight home. That’s what I’ve been doing during this testing period.

Over the weekend, my son created a running graphic for me (above) that looks like some of the artwork I’ve created for this site. I like his running man (or woman!) and I think he nailed both the concept of running and a forward leaning stance in karate. I haven’t had to combine those two things to date, but if I do, I’ll have an icon to represent it!

Two runs and a Trailview hike

The view from Mt. Olympus

Yesterdays run (street): 3.25 miles
Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

The first story I saw on the local news this morning was a feature on the LI Marathon/Half Marathon. The race happened today and if it weren’t for my current injury, I’d probably be participating in one of the races. One year ago, I was in my last two weeks of training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. That turned out to be a disappointing performance, but it was a really fun experience. These days I feel like I’m a million miles from doing that. 13.1 anyway.

I’m trying to maintain some perspective in terms of my current running expectations. Three weeks ago I would have been thrilled to run a mile without experiencing acute and constant pain in my hamstring. Last weekend I made great progress with my recovery with a couple of slow but mostly pain-free workouts. I’ve made further gains this weekend, although they weren’t as dramatic as last week’s.

I also hoped to improve my speed over Saturday’s and got off to a good start. There was residual discomfort and tightness in my leg but no real pain. I moved along well and tried to focus on opening up my stride and getting more power off my back leg. Like yesterday, it felt like a tough workout. After mapping today’s run, I calculated my pace. My improvement over yesterday: one second per mile!

Another carved tree in Trailview

The weekend weather has been superb so my son and I decided to visit Trailview park for an early afternoon hike. We like Trailview for its simplicity and the fact that it has a few technical sections. A couple of minutes into the hike, we saw a large oak tree with the word PROM carved into it in six inch high letters. We were flabbergasted, disgusted and saddened to see that someone had carved a swastika inside the letter O. There was more vandalism in other trees. My son said we shouldn’t let someone’s hate and ignorance ruin our experience.

We continued our hike until we reached “Mount Olympus” and watched from that overlook before turning back. I did pretty well on the steep sections and I think the uneven terrain gave my quads and hamstrings some sorely needed work.

I may not be ready for a Half Marathon or even a 10K right now, but I am glad to be running outdoors again. Three more workouts on the test machines next week will further help my fitness without providing any aggravating impact. My motto these days is, “No pain, my gain.”

A ruptured disc is an Annular event

Workouts this week (hybrid fitness machines): 3 sessions, 8 miles total

Well I’m back to weekday workouts and I feel better than I have in months. I suspect one reason for that is because I’ve added three more workouts to my weekly schedule. I’ve been testing fitness equipment and those sessions are providing me a lot of of additional energy. Committing to this testing forced a level of discipline that I really need right now.

Another reason I’m feeling good relates to the recovery progress I’m having with my disc problem. I finally had a conversation with my orthopedist who read my MRI and confirmed both a ruptured disc and torn annular ligament. The rupture may not completely heal, but the inflammation seems to have abated. The soreness is almost gone and I have no ill effects when or after using these alternative running machines.

I’ve done workouts (treadmill, elliptical, test units) almost every day for the past two weeks. Last weekend I had success running on pavement and on the track. Not quite where I want to be, but it was a big gain over the previous weekend. I’m planning to do a neighborhood run tomorrow morning and hoping to see even more improvement. I won’t say much about the testing I’m doing except to note that the experience of running is very hard to duplicate on a machine.

Passing the pavement test

Following the flattest route possible

Today’s run (street): 3.1 miles

If my orthopedist correctly diagnosed me as having a herniated disc, I must be having a remarkable recovery. Based on what he told me, I should be having a lot more pain when running. That’s not the case and I’m thinking of getting a second opinion. I’m still waiting to meet with this guy to go over the results of my MRI. It’s taking a lot longer than promised, because he’s canceled my last two appointments. This is the place that canceled my original appointment but didn’t let me know until I showed up for it. I’ve just about had it with this office.

I’ve been using our elliptical machine at home and have also been testing hybrid running units at a different location. These no-impact workouts have helped me maintain some fitness without aggravating my disc problem. I’d felt incremental improvement in terms of pain prior to my run last Saturday, only to have it return in a big way during that run. Yesterday’s one mile treadmill session was a test to see whether the pain was still present while running. I ran slowly and my gait felt awkward, but the stabbing pain from last week was gone.

There’s a big difference between running on a level treadmill and hard pavement. I had hopes for a painless outdoor run, but feared it was too soon to expect much improvement. The temperature was only in the high 30’s when I headed outside. I dressed accordingly and felt comfortable with the gear I’d chosen. Once my Garmin showed ready, I was off.

I wore the Kayanos rather than the Saucony Triumph ISOs this morning. The Triumphs made my feet feel squished at the front during last Saturday’s run. The Kayanos did the same thing today. It’s clearly related to my current stride and foot strike. Although I’ve continued to work out despite these running problems, ellipticals don’t provide the same level of intensity as a treadmill. Due to that, I’m feeling some conditioning gaps when I run.

I started today’s run along my usual route. The first left off my street goes about a quarter mile up a 2% grade. It’s enough to notice, but usually not an issue for me. Today it felt like I was running up James Street during the Great Cow Harbor 10K. If you’re not familiar with Widow Hill, it’s the stuff of nightmares. For me anyway.

There was no real pain during the run, but my stride didn’t feel very natural. I ran slowly to avoid triggering a problem. My plan was to do my distance and then evaluate both my fitness and my readiness for increasing mileage and pace. For a three mile run, it felt like a lot of work, but I’m very pleased that the soreness hasn’t returned.

I’m going to add 10% more distance tomorrow and I’m thinking about going to the track to take advantage of that soft, flat surface. Someday, I’d like to go there to run intervals. Tomorrow my hope is to do a little more and hurt a little less.

Runsketeer reunion: first spring run!

Our traditional selfie, courtesy of a random Starbucks customer (photo credit to TPP)

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 3.6 miles

Take a look at the picture above. Why is this man smiling? Is it because he ran 3.63 miles today, his first run in two weeks? No, definitely not that. The reason for the smile comes from the people to his right and left. While I suffered through a difficult and painful run this morning, I ended up having a great time today. I will admit most of that happened once we hit Starbucks.

I’ve been feeling good about my recovery. I’ve still experienced pain in my left hamstring that’s likely caused by my recently diagnosed herniated disc. I’ve tried a few easy strides along the halls of my office to better gauge my progress. Things have felt pretty good and I was both encouraged and excited to run with my buddies this weekend. But when the (blown and carbon) rubber hit the road, that familiar feeling of being stabbed in the leg with every stride was clear and present.

Our plan was to start out in our usual place, just north of Haypath Road. SIOR and TPP wanted to run longer than my planned 3 miles, so they arrived earlier and ran south for about 1.5 miles before turning around. I texted them when I arrived and SIOR texted back suggesting that I head their way so we could meet up on their way back. After just a few steps, I realized that this was going to hurt.

I took it slow but every step was painful. At least I could run. My doctor said I should avoid hills. Unfortunately, there are quite a few on this path. I made it to the top of a short, steep hill where I saw my friends coming from the other direction. We exchanged hugs and hellos and headed north together. There was no way I could keep up with them today (could I ever?) but they stopped periodically to allow me to catch up.

I had neglected to restart my Garmin when we met up. Fortunately I discovered my error at the point where I started so all I needed to do was double the initial distance to get my true mileage. We continued together but soon I watched my buddies disappear into the distance. I was not enjoying myself and it wasn’t just the pain. I realized that the combination of fewer workouts and less intensity (the elliptical can’t match the treadmill) has taken a toll on my fitness.

Somehow I made my way through the run and, as I approached my endpoint, I saw that TPP and SIOR were waiting near where I’d parked, talking to a person dressed in white. As I got closer, I realized that this person was on a bike and I was happy to see that it was TPP’s paramour, JC. We caught up briefly and JC suggested that steroid shots may relieve the pain from my disc issue. I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Happy birthday to me – thanks SIOR!

We left JC to his ride and the Runsketeers started a convoy to Starbucks. I led the way which involved Route 135, Old Country Road and South Oyster Bay Road. At one point, SIOR texted me asking if I was lost. She thinks she is funny. When we got inside Starbucks, SIOR presented me with a birthday gift – a SPIbelt – one of the best things you can give to a runner. Mine is getting old, ripped and frayed and I rely on it a lot. I’m happy to have a new one that I don’t have to worry about breaking on a run and dumping my credit cards, cash and cell phone on the street.

SIOR also bought me coffee. I should have birthdays more often! The three of us hadn’t got together since the morning of the Hangover Run  (Jan 1) so we had a lot to catch up on. They patiently listened to me describe my job and company and we recounted our various adventures in travel. SIOR wins hands down with her transatlantic crossing via catamaran from South Africa to Brazil.

As usual, we ran out of time long before we ran out of conversation. Despite the painful run, I ended today’s workout in a fantastic mood. The Runsketeers cannot go another four months between our runs! My current injury will make it hard to keep up with my friends for a while, but we know it’s the non-running part that puts the smile on our faces.

Wishing SIOR a great race tomorrow at the MORE Half Marathon in NYC. I tease her about it being a woman’s-only event, but I really do support it. It was a little less than a year ago when we all ran the Brooklyn Half. A lot has happened since then in terms of my running. At least I’m seeing an orthopedist and just had an MRI, so I can understand exactly what’s causing this pain. What to do about that will be another story.

The lost workout

Onion volcanoes and warm sake –
Emerging Sister-In-Law (L), Mrs. Emerging Runner (R)

Today’s workout (elliptical): 45 minutes

In the almost-seven years that I’ve been running, I’ve prided myself on my meticulous process to record workout metrics. I can look back on Garmin Connect to see the detail about every run and elliptical session that I’ve done since early 2010. If I want to go back further than that, I can look at MapMyRun stats, or see my earliest running data on the Nike+ site. I also have years of Daily Mile records that capture different information like shoe mileage.

In addition to all this, I can look at the Emerging Runner archives for measured mileage on every run. All this data recording takes time, and over the last year my record keeping has gone from meticulous to casual. I stopped recording my runs in Daily Mile last July and most of the time I don’t even wear my Garmin when I’m on the elliptical. It’s because of this that I cannot remember whether I did a workout on Friday.

I’ve been on vacation this week, but my time off has been more busy than relaxing. On top of that, I needed to go into my office on Wednesday. That made this vacation more like a couple of long weekends. Friday afternoon my brother and his family came to stay for a few days and my dad and his wife came out on Saturday afternoon. Later we went out to a local hibachi place and had a great time, but I don’t recommend the lukewarm sake administered via a squeeze bottle.

With all that going on, I didn’t have the opportunity to do a workout on Saturday, because our guest room is also our fitness room. It’s also my office. Maybe we should take page from the local elementary school and call it the multi-purpose room.

So I may have done an elliptical session on Friday morning. I know I did a workout this afternoon. My pain from the herniated disc has been manageable, although it does give me a small zap if I move my leg in a certain way. I’ve been applying heat and that seems to help. It’s no worse after today’s elliptical session than it was before I started.

My biggest concern is that I’m returning to a week of commuting. That means three hours a day sitting in a driving position. I’m convinced that driving has been a factor in this disc compression. My standing desk (or as they put it, “stand up desk adaptation”) gets installed on Monday. I’m hoping that will help me counteract all that drive time. I’ll know more about the problem on Friday after my MRI.

Disc error

I discovered I’m not a diagnostician after meeting with a real orthopedist this afternoon. He shot down my piriformis theory in about two seconds. I went to the same office that screwed up my appointment last time because it’s five minutes from my house and convenience counts. This time the doctor was in. I was curious to find out the true cause of the sciatic pain that I’ve had since early December. After chilling (literally) for 30 minutes in the freezing checkup room, the doctor came in and started asking questions.

After a quick check of the source of the pain, he said, “I think it’s your back.” He took some X-rays and we looked at the results that showed that my hips and pelvis looked fine. I must say I photograph well from the inside. Then we looked at the spinal view where he pointed out compression in my lowest segment – a herniated disc. The disc problem was putting pressure on the sciatic nerve that makes it feel like the injury originates from a lower place.

I asked the doctor if this meant no more running. He said that running wouldn’t do any harm, but I should avoid hills. Yay! The doctor also suggested that I run on a soft, flat surfaces like the track or the treadmill. What he really recommended was to lay off running and focus on the elliptical for the time being. He showed me some stretches that would be beneficial and suggested I keep heat on my lower spine as much as I could.

I’m going back next week to get an MRI. I’ll follow his orders, especially the one about not running hills. I think I can do that one really well. I told the doctor that I’d read that trail running helps injuries because the soft dirt and the constantly changing surface supports many different muscles. He said trail running’s fine, but don’t run hills. So much for Stillwell.

I have my heating pad working and I’ll run through the stretches tomorrow. I’ll stick to the elliptical for now and sneak a treadmill run in when I can. The good news is that I don’t have any torn muscles, tendons, or – apparently – piriformis syndrome.