Sunday, January 31, 2010

Will I be ready to tackle The Stillwell XTERRA race?

I debated taking a rest day today after realizing I've run or elliptical-ed every day since last Wednesday. The workouts themselves have not been especially difficult but I am still rebuilding my strength and endurance daily. The process of recovery draws a fragile line between making modest gains and undermining progress through pushing just a little too hard. I'm happy with my progress and I'm okay with my relatively slow paces because I'm seeing that this program is working. I can definitely see myself returning to pre-January performance levels within the next month or two. This morning I made a decision that will test my recovery plan and I am happy for the challenge.

I was reading TrailRunner magazine and saw, in a letter to the editor, a mention of the website Eastern Trail Racing. It's a website devoted to east coast trail racing and I looked through the listings and discovered an upcoming race at Stillwell Woods. The information was on a website called that has lots of information about the LI XTERRA trail run series. I signed up immediately and looked at the course map that covers a good part of Stillwell Woods. 4.75 miles over some of the toughest technical trails on Long Island. I sure hope I'm ready.

If the race was held today I would be staying home, my conditioning has a ways to go before I can tackle that distance under those conditions. My wife encouraged me to do today's run at Stillwell and I initially planned to run four loops around the field that would total about 3.4 miles. I took off feeling good, the 27 degree weather was no match for my layers of running clothes. The trail was a mix of frozen mud, icy snow and soft packed dirt. My Helly Hansen Trail Lizards gobbled up the terrain without complaint and the conditions were good until the loop cut north and wind hit head on. I felt fine running but I was aware of some increasing fatigue and while I could have pushed it I resisted the temptation and kept it to a couple of loops plus a short detour into the wooded paths to remind myself of what Stillwell is really all about. In all I only covered 2.25 miles in around 23 minutes. It wasn't what I'd wanted but it was exactly what I needed.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A good run despite the cold

The temperature has been holding steady below 20 degrees despite the prediction on that it would warm to 25 degrees by early afternoon. It was closer to 10 than 20 when I got up at 5:30 AM so I decided to wait until later to run. Our local high school had a Wellness Fair this morning and we headed over there. I was impressed by the number of companies and exhibits, most of them focusing on nutrition, safety,  medical care and mind-body activities. There were lots of yoga places, acupuncturists, orthodontists and karate schools but only one place - a local athletic shoe store - that had anything related to running. I did spend time talking with a person who sold chia-based energy products such as energy bars and snack mixes. I tried a couple of samples of chia energy bars which tasted okay. Chia was mentioned in "Born to Run" as a staple of the diet of the Tarahumara people who ascribed great benefits to the seed included heightened strength and energy. Before all this the only use we had for chia seeds was to grow vegetation on Chia Pets.

After lunch we stopped in at TJ Max, a great place for finding good sports apparel at bargain prices. I bought a Layer 8 thermal wicking zip top for less than $14, a New Balance long sleeved technical shirt for $7.99, a warm wicking winter hat for $8.00 and three pair of Keen Merino wool socks for $3.00 a pair. I also bought a pair of over-the-shoe traction devices (like YakTrax) for almost nothing. I couldn't wait to try it all out.

By 3:00 it was obvious that it wasn't getting any warmer so I set out into the cold with most of my new gear. Despite the cold I was doing well with three layers of tech shirts plus the thermal zip. Below I had a pair of compression shorts (a previous Layer 8 bargain from TJ Max) and over that my long Champion compression pants. I decided to run about 30 minutes, slowly, so I mapped out a route in my head and followed that path. The wind was blowing hard and I was grateful to reach a point where I could change direction. I had no problems running and I tried to focus on front foot landing. I did start to cramp up at the 5 minute mark but I promised myself that I'd eat a banana when I got back to restore my potassium levels. Eventually the cramping passed and I wound my way through the neighborhood, covering a total of 2.88 at 10:11/mile. When I checked my Garmin I saw that the footpod battery must have died midway through the run so I Gmaped my distance to calculate my pace against elapsed time.

Overall I was happy with the run. I wished I'd covered more ground in the time I ran but I did want to keep it slow to aid my recovery. I purposely avoided some side streets that would have added time because I knew pushing too hard would be trouble. My stamina seems to be pretty good overall. Tomorrow I'll go out again. I'd love to see it warm up so I can hit the trails once again.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Indoor running occasionally makes sense

So far, the toughest part of my morning was not from running on the treadmill but from standing on the platform at the train station. The super-chilled wind buffeted me and made me seriously consider going back to using contact lenses in the winter. The winds were hitting me straight on so the contact between my glasses and my face became pure torture. I was wishing I had my balaclava that I occasionally wear on the coldest and windiest running days. With this weather there's a big difference in tolerance depending on if you are stationary or in motion where your body can become a mini-furnace. I was looking at my posts from a year ago where I mentioned more than once about going out freezing and coming back hot, even when temperatures and wind-chills were in the low teens.

Running indoors is much warmer and I'm glad I followed through with another treadmill run this morning. In keeping with my recovery plan I took it fairly easy and covered about 2.25 miles at a moderate pace. So much of what I'm reading in ChiRunning and in online articles debate the "No pain, no gain" point of view. I far prefer the view that you can build endurance and improve performance by pushing to, and not past, your limits. My return to the treadmill has been fairly positive because I've taken the approach that time spent running (and not increasing my speed) is my primary goal. The trick is getting to the point where an 8:30 pace feels as easy as a 10:30 pace. I think it can be done but I have a ways to go in my recovery.

I'm hoping to hit the trails and report on that experience over the weekend. As long as I'm only dealing with cold and not snow I should be good to go.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A nice change of pace

I decided to partake in some elliptical training this morning rather than repeat yesterday's treadmill run. My legs need a little more time to strengthen and I thought a lower impact workout would be the right choice. Although I much prefer running to any other athletic activity I appreciate my sessions on the elliptical as a good change of pace. Unlike the treadmill, the elliptical is quiet enough to allow me to watch the television at a normal volume so I can enjoy the mindless junk that they show at 4:00 AM including oft-repeated graphically disturbing PSA's about the dangers of smoking and commercials for anti-depressants that spend half their duration warning you about their dangerous side effects.

Like my current program for running I took it easy on the elliptical and programed modestly low resistance. My goal is to rebuild my endurance, not my speed, as speed will come in time. About ten minutes into my workout I began to sweat and that always makes me happy because I know I'm doing some work. I was somewhat surprised and pleased to see that I was striding on my forefoot without even thinking about it. Perhaps the fact that I am trying to reinforce that style in my running and walking spilled over naturally to the elliptical. It's been a good transition so far and I have not experienced soreness in my calf muscles from the change.

Tomorrow I'll return to the treadmill and this weekend I hope to hit the trails again. That will be a great moment for me and I'm excited that it could happen so soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spending time in my happy place

I like to run because it's fun and healthy and it provides an opportunity to measure progress in scientific way. There's a lot of science in the sport of running and as a technologist I appreciate learning the physics of the sport and understanding the ways that changes to form and style can increase the efficiency and speed of a runner. On the other hand, while running is as simple as it gets in terms of sports, there's a whole lot of cool technology available to satisfy my inner tech geek.

I like to look at running stuff in stores, everything from clothes, to tech accessories, to shoes. Especially shoes. Running shoes are cool. They are like little high performance sports cars designed to help a runner reach his or her potential. I love the subtle differences that represent competitive advantage between companies. Each company serves a segment of the market. While I'm no fan of Nike they do have some great performance shoes and have actively responded to the minimalist running movement with the Frees. ASICS makes great performing shoes that feel great. They are the luxury cars of the running world. Brooks makes purposeful shoes with great designs and very smart technologies. They are my favorite shoe company and part of the reason for that is their focus on putting sustainable materials into their shoes. There's probably a dozen more companies I could mention that differentiate in interesting ways.

I was in the mood so I walked the two blocks to City Sports yesterday to see what was new. I only spent 20 minutes there during lunch but I had a great time looking at the new models and the niche brands like Karhu, Newton and Zoot. I finally tried on the Brooks GTS-10's and I have to say they lived up to their reviews. I love my 9's but the 10's fit, wrap and spring off the forefoot were much improved. I'm still considering a more minimal/front strike shoe like the NB M800, the Newton's or Brook's new Green Silence which has a mere 8mm offset from heel to toe. I didn't buy anything yesterday but I left happy.

I'm also happy to note that I ran about 2.25 miles on the treadmill this morning. According to the Garmin my pace was around 9:40 but that seems faster than the moderate pace I attempted to maintain. I did focus on front foot landing throughout the run so perhaps I managed more speed with less effort. I was glad to get back into the week day running routine and I'm fully energized for the work day. That makes me happy too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I've learned to listen to my body

One positive thing about my recent illness is that it taught me that I have limits and that I need to respect those limits. Otherwise I might end up back in the hospital. I had a couple of good runs over the weekend and rested yesterday. I figured that this week would be the right time to slide back into my daily running routine. The only modification I'm making this week is that I'm running indoors on the treadmill rather than the road at 4:00 AM. Last night, after an energizing day at work, I started to feel ill on the train. I was suddenly fatigued and had quickly developed a headache. That carried through the rest of the night and when I woke up this morning I debated whether to push through it and do my run or get back in bed and rest more.

Prior to my pneumonia I would have definitely pushed through and run. I've had success in defeating colds by overwhelming them with activity. This morning that felt risky and while I felt a bit guilty about it I knew I needed to listen to my body and rest. I ended up sleeping another hour and then slept the 40 minutes on the train into the city. Three cups of strong coffee and two ibuprofen have brought me back for the most part. Now that I'm feeling better I'm wishing I still had running clothes in my office so I could do a few miles in Central Park at lunch. In the end I know rest is the better cure so I'll live with not running today. I'm planning to run the treadmill tomorrow morning if my body tells me I can.

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 Running Goals

I would have completed my 2010 running goals in late December but my bout with pneumonia got the best of me. Even during my recovery I was a bit diffident in terms of what I'd be capable of accomplishing as a runner. My weakened condition made me feel like I'd never run again like I had in the fourth quarter of '09 where I did my best running to date. After this weekend's runs I feel much better about what I could accomplish. I was reading fellow runner/blogger EZEthan's recent post if his 2010 running goals and it prompted me to focus on mine.

2010 Running Goals 

1. Fully transition to mid/front foot running style. I'm still very intrigued by the things I read in the book "Born to Run" about the Tarahumara running style. My father, who has been walking the streets of NYC for decades, told me that he's moved fully to a front foot walking style and is seeing great benefits. I'm right behind you Dad!

2. Raise at least $200 for charitable causes by donating per race mile.

3. PR in a race - preferably in a longer distance than 5K (but I'll happily take a new 5K PR!).

4. Run trails at three or more NY state parks that I have yet to visit.

5. Run a continuous 10 mile route under 9:30/mile.

6. Participate in at least 5 races. Bonus points for running one in NYC.

7. Finish the year as excited about running as I am right now.

I think my approach to running in 2010 will be less focused on competitiveness and more on perfecting my style and efficiency. I really want to consistently reach the state of fully pleasurable running. I think achieving that will be a gateway to longer distances (13.1 miles?). In the meantime the goals are set. I'm ready to start knocking them down.

One more thing - Runners's World just posted their top 100 running blogs for 2009. The Emerging Runner came in at #4!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Good progress, surprising distance

After yesterday's invigorating run I was anxious to get out this morning and duplicate my good experience. It's due to rain fairly hard today but it was dry at 8:20 AM when I began my run. It may have been a little warmer than yesterday at that time, closer to 30 degrees than 25, and there was some moisture in the air that made it feel even warmer. Like yesterday I wore three top layers but I traded the running tights for lined running pants. That was a good choice and I remained comfortable throughout my entire run.

I'd covered 2.15 miles on Saturday which was a good distance in terms of progress and my current readiness. I mapped out a route this morning that would add about 10% more length fthan yesterday's run. Somehow during today's run I forgot some details of the route and I ended up covering 22% more distance - 2.75 miles in 28:15. My pace was slightly faster than yesterday's: 10:16 per mile although I didn't think at all about speed. Instead I tried to focus on my forward lean and front and mid-foot landing. I only monitored the time on my Garmin as I ran and ignored the other metrics. When I passed 25:50 I thought wistfully of recent past glories - back in November I PR'd in a 5K race at that time. Today I ran 2:25 minutes longer than that but covered 11% less distance. My reaction to running 2.75 miles at 10:16 was great happiness. I didn't want to go as far as I did but I recovered well, re-hydrating with a can of coconut water. As of now, I feel no inclination to rest or nap.

Next week will be a test in terms of my returning to my usual 4:00 AM running schedule. I'm thinking that I'll rest on Monday, treadmill run on Tues and Wed and rest or elliptical on Friday. That's the plan for now. If I'm dragging during the second half of the work day I may need to cut back a little on that program.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Emerging Runner returns to the street

Looking back I'd say it was a pretty good week. My doctor gave the okay to return to work on Tuesday and although I struggled through the mid-afternoon hours I managed to rebound with some strength. It was great to see my colleagues at work who were incredibly gracious and welcoming.  I missed them a lot. After Monday's treadmill run I decided to suspend any exercise for the remainder of the work week. The changes in sleeping schedule, the early morning commute and the work day challenges were enough to consider for my recovery. I saw Adventure Girl yesterday for the first time in over a month and she said (owing to my my pneumonia and flu induced weight-loss) that I look like a serious runner. I may look the part but I have a ways to go before I feel like one again. Today was a great first step in getting there.

I wanted to put some structure to today's run to make sure I didn't push past my capabilities. I mapped a route in my neighborhood that I had run many times before so I knew what to expect in terms of elevation and progress. My ego is still thinking that I am an 8:20 racer and 9:00 recreational runner so I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't going to run anywhere close to those paces today. It was in the low 20's when I set out at 8:00 AM and I wore three layers of tech shirts, my mid-weight, full length running tights, a warm, wicking running hat that covered my ears and running gloves. I'd anticipated that the relatively short run at a slower pace would mean I'd remain cold during the run. That was a good assumption. I set out at a modest pace, just below 10:00/mile and I was happy that I had no trouble with my breathing despite the cold air. People told me my first time back out on the street would be hard but it wasn't. As I passed the half-mile mark I started to wonder if and when "the wall" would come. I didn't check my pacing but I could tell that I'd be covering the 2.15 mile route in more than 20 minutes.

As it happened I finished in 22:24 at 10:25/mile, perhaps the slowest 2 miles I've ever run. I was very pleased by this run for a couple of reasons. First, I finished thinking that I could have gone another mile or more without taxing myself too badly. Second, the experience felt great, pleasure not work, and it reminded me again why I love running. I downed an 8 oz. bottle of Ensure that I had bought to boost my nutritional intake when my illness depleted my appetite. They should rename that product and market it as a recovery drink. Good stuff. I may go out again tomorrow for another two easy miles.

The Emerging Runner is back.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Saturday I hit the streets again

Okay, I'm psyched for tomorrow. I'm planning to get 8+ hours sleep and then go for a 2 mile neighborhood run that I've mapped out on Gmaps. I know that I need to mitigate my speed from the beginning and not fall into the "This feels great, I can push harder" mindset. I made that mistake on Monday when I slid the speed control far enough over that I ran in the low to mid 9's for the first mile. I dialed it back after that but the damage had been done and I was fully spent after 15 minutes. I was so tired from the run that I fell asleep 30 seconds after I finished. I'm sure that if I had started with a more modest pace I would have felt much stronger by the end. I probably would have been able to go a full 20 minutes as planned. My plan for tomorrow is use a modified version of my race strategy - start at a moderate pace and reserve enough energy to push hard at the end. In the case of tomorrow it will be: start slow, stay slow and have enough left to finish my planned route.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Impatience and apprehension about my return to running

Another morning without a run. How long can I go without my daily workout? I've reached the point where my impatience to run is beginning to compete with my need to support a full recovery. Earlier in the week I had designs on running on the treadmill and working out on the elliptical while incorporating rest days in between. My return to work, with the early commute and a challenging schedule has been exhausting and I've done none of that so far. While I've been tempted to push through the fatigue and exercise I keep thinking that it may do more harm than good.

The question on my mind is whether I'm being smart about resisting this temptation or whether I'm just apprehensive about facing the fact that I need to rebuild everything I've worked for over the last 16 months. I really want to run outdoors, ideally on a trail. Trail running inspires me and I miss the experience a lot. I also miss my neighborhood runs and as I drive the streets I think about how I used to own them at 4:00 AM - my streets, my playground. I know that the first time I go back out  it will be tough. Those early, 20-25 minute maintenance runs that I would do 3-4 times during the work week will present a very different challenge to me today.

I know I'll get to where I need to be, and soon. I have a 5K scheduled for April and there's another 5K in March that's tempting me. It would be nice to have a short term goal like a race to help frame my expectations for getting back to peak conditioning. I'm conflicted about whether to run tomorrow on the treadmill or just wait for the weekend. I'll see what my body says, I'm ready to listen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Many thought running caused my pneumonia

Rest days are the theme of the week for me. I had planned to do an elliptical session this morning but I figuratively hit the wall on Tuesday afternoon and dragged myself home. My wife said it's crazy to work out when I still haven't adjusted back to the work-week schedule. I took that as sound advice and skipped today's workout. Perhaps tomorrow I'll try again or I may just wait for Friday for a moderate run.

It's hard to write a blog about running when you're not actually running. People have been very gracious and encouraging in their comments and I guess some of the reason is that we've all been forced into recovery for one reason or another. According to what I've read more than 65 percent of runners suffer running related injuries each year. Many haters people probably find that to be solid evidence that running does you more harm than good. My wife said she was asked numerous times whether my running caused my pneumonia. She simply responded by saying that my conditioning probably helped keep the illness from being as debilitating as it might have been. My brother had great response when someone suggested that my pneumonia was triggered by working out too much and keeping my weight too low: "So would he have been better off packing on the pounds and sitting around on the couch than exercising and running?"

With everything that's transpired over that last three weeks my weight has actually dropped lower than I want it to be. That's what happens when you go two full weeks without an appetite. Well my appetite has fully returned and I'm tempted to regain about five pounds via junk and comfort food. I'm happy to say that I've been good about not doing that so far. My weight will come back to the proper level on its own - that's one thing I thing I know I can count on.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Patience is a virtue. If only I was more virtuous.

After yesterday's treadmill session I far better  understand my limits. I know that I cannot expect to go out and run for 40 minutes or more like I could a month ago. The doctor said 20 minute runs will work for now and, frankly, I'd be happy to go a full 20 but my body isn't ready. I'm thinking that I'll do an elliptical session on Wednesday, rest on Thursday and run again this Friday. I'm not looking to quickly return to outdoor running at 4:00 AM because I'd be concerned about over-committing to distance. With hope, I'll be able to run 20 minutes on the treadmill.

I would love to get to the Muttontown Mystery trail this weekend for my first trail run since coming back from pneumonia. I'll let Friday's experience determine how ready I am for that. I'm guessing that the toughest part of coming back will be to maintain enough patience to keep me from pushing my distance and speed beyond my present capabilities. Intellectually I understand that, right now, performance is irrelevant. The challenge is for me to get back to the point where I can duplicate my old form (or ideally, develop a new and better one) and efficiently move from anaerobic to aerobic breathing as I run. It was great to be back into the run and to generate some sweat for my efforts. On the other hand it was difficult to admit that I couldn't go any longer than 1.5 miles yesterday. I know the speed and distance will come and that I need to be patient and keep my recovery moving in a positive direction. Where will I be in a week or a month? Hopefully much closer to where I was in mid December. We shall see.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Doctor's orders: It's okay to run again

I had my follow up visit with my doctor this morning and my condition has improved enough to allow me to return to work tomorrow. It's been a long time since I've been in the office and I'll admit to being a little ambivalent about the whole thing. While I miss my co-workers and the energy of the work day it's hard to give up that extra sleep and the happy avoidance of the commuter trains. All the same, it's time to come back. The best news I got was that I am now permitted to run so long as I keep the distance to 2 miles or so. That is until the weekend when I can expand my distance and duration based upon how strong I feel. The doctor still cautioned me that I should run easy this week. No problem, I am not anxious to set any speed records at this point, I really want to get back into the rhythm of the run.

After I got the go-ahead from the doctor I decided to hit the streets for a 20 minute easy run. Although I haven't got far enough into ChiRunning to do anything useful in terms of technique I've read enough to start incorporating some elements into my style. Along with that is the form I had been working on prior to my illness using smaller, more frequent steps and midfoot striking. By the time I finished doing some necessary tasks plus spending time with my daughter doing homework and practicing her skateboard skills I felt like I was running out of light. Yesterday, while driving in my neighborhood I twice came upon some women who were doing their "health walking" in the street, side by side. They took up half the road, and foolishly, they were walking in the same direction as traffic. I tried to signal to them that they should move over but they clearly did not appreciate my advice.  Later I came upon them blocking another street. How they could trust people who speed through the neighborhood while talking on the phone? It's stupid, naive and a tragedy waiting to happen.

So to be safe I did today's running on the treadmill. 15 minutes was enough to humble me. I did the first mile at 9:30 without feeling like I was exerting myself too badly. The remaining distance (totaled 1.52 miles) was at a slower pace but my overall pace was about 9:50. It was a tough run and I can see that I have to be patient about my recovery. It doesn't matter though. 15 minutes today, perhaps 25 minutes this weekend and then a gradual increase in speed and distance will get me back to my late-December performance levels. It was great to run today - guilt free!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

ChiRunning, Tarahumara style and Uechi-ryu - a powerful combination

I'll admit that waiting for the doctor to green-light my running is a little frustrating. I have finished my medicine and I feel as strong as I ever have. My appetite has come back in full force and really want to get outside and move. I could probably get away with a run today but I won't. I know I can run so what else do I need to prove?

Yesterday I spent some time at a Waldenbooks store at a local mall. Apparently the parent company, Borders, is closing 200 stores and this one was in its final days, selling off merchandise and books at deep discounts. There wasn't a lot of inventory left and nothing was in order but I managed to find a copy of ChiRunning discounted to $7 so I snapped that up. Since reading "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall I've been intrigued by techniques that promote a more natural running style. In Born to Run, the author writes about the running style of the Tarahumara natives of Mexico who practice a style of shorter, more frequent steps combined with mid and front foot striking. It's definitely an efficient style of running and my experiments (prior to my pneumonia crash) showed that I could run faster with much less effort.

ChiRunning has many similar concepts. The author of the book, Danny Dreyer, uses the concept of Chi, a way of centering and directing energy, to help perfect his running style. Between what I am learning from about ChiRunning (not much at this point since there is a prologue, an introduction and three expository chapters before you get to the actual techniques) and what I've learned through my years of martial arts training, I am understanding where there may be some real opportunity to increase performance. Dreyer credits a T'ai Chi master who taught him about Chi and helped adapt the idea to running.

The increase in cadence with the Tarahumara style, the balance of martial arts transitioning and the forward lean and mid/front striking (common to both Chi and Tarahumara running) seem to be great combination. I am hoping I get the go-ahead for Monday so I can begin my rebuilding process for running.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mea Culpa on the run. Now what's my next shoe?

Although it did not seem to affect me negatively, yesterday's treadmill run was clearly too much too soon. After weeks of illness I began to feel strong enough to run a few minutes to benchmark my current conditioning. What was supposed to be 5 minutes of slow running turned into 12 or 13 minutes of slow to moderate running - enough to work a sweat. Up until that point I followed my doctor's advice to the letter and that brought me to the point where I felt strong enough to try this run. I had walked about a mile on Tuesday. Yesterday afternoon I walked for 30 minutes without feel tired. I'm getting there.

I finished my course of Avelox yesterday and I'm working through my second course of Tamiflu to ensure my Type B flu is eradicated. I'm sleeping more than I had prior to contracting pneumonia but I'm finding that I need less and less sleep each day. The real test will come next week when I return to waking at a very early hour so I can make my 6:20 AM train. I won't be running Tuesday morning but if my doctor allows it I'll try a short neighborhood run on Monday. I certainly didn't mind being on the treadmill yesterday. In fact you could say I loved every second of the experience. Much of that was due to the realization that I could still run and that I wasn't transported back to mid-2008 when I struggled to cover a few long streets without a break.

I've been looking at the Brooks Running site and wondering whether the Green Silence is my next running shoe.  I'll admit that I'm still very curious to compare the Adrenalin GTS-10's to my GTS-9's and I wonder if anything could ever feel so good on my feet as the ASICS Kayano's. Life has many many choices and I like having options. The question is this: should I be true to the idea that less is more and that the best thing to do is to return to running with minimalist shoes? Or should I be seduced by the great new technologies introduced for 2010? Then again, those GTS-9's are still a mighty fine pair of running shoes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Listen to your body, not your doctor!

Years ago, when I worked for a newspaper in the Midwest, the publisher decided to create a portfolio highlighting his senior executives. We were each professionally photographed and then asked a series of questions about who we were and how we motivated our teams. One question asked us to describe ourselves in a single word. My answer was: "Doesn't follow directions." Needless to say the publisher was unhappy when he saw the glossy brochure with  this in my profile. It didn't really matter in the end though. A month later I was off to NYC after having accepted a position at another paper. Being a little rebellious was fun and much appreciated by my colleagues.

I'm still a bit that way. Despite yesterday's post about POSTIVELY not running until next week I felt I needed to test the waters. I felt very strong this morning, as though I had turned a corner on my recovery, and it did not seem to be a big risk to hop on the treadmill for ten or so minutes. It was exciting to change into running clothes for the first time in over two weeks. I had no expectations for performance and I left my Garmin on the side table so I wouldn't be tempted to meet any speed or distance numbers. I started with three minutes at a brisk walking pace and slid the speed control to the point where I could comfortably trot without feeling as though I was doing a lot of work. I moved the slider up to quicken the pace and I maintained a constant awareness of front and midfoot striking, leaning forward as I ran. The time passed quickly and I increased the belt speed to a full run for the last couple of minutes. It felt great. I cooled down for a few more minutes by walking and that was it.

In all I probably covered a mile to a mile and a half. I wasn't the runner I was a month ago but that was fine. As long as I keep my progress modest I think I can rebuild my conditioning in the next 30 days. I didn't follow directions but I'm happy I listened to my body. I didn't push past my limits and I'm happy with today's workout. Just please don't tell Dr. L.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The long road to recovery

"I want you to listen very closely. Do not run today. Do not run this week. When I see you next Monday I'll let you know when you can start running again."

Those were the words of my pulmonologist when I saw him on Tuesday. I totally understood his position. He had just looked at my X-Rays which show that I am still battling pneumonia. He stepped up my Avelox and my Tamiflu doses. "This is a serious illness. Do you understand?" Yes doctor.

Later that day my wife and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. We covered about a mile and it really helped me understand that my level of conditioning has dropped. Any thoughts about immediately returning to 5 mile runs under 9:00 min per mile were quickly dashed. Yesterday I ran up the stairs with some laundry and found myself winded. I'm beginning to realize how long the road to recovery might be.

On the positive side it's almost like starting again and I can go into my return to running knowing things to avoid and things to expect. I'll try to maintain the front/midfoot striking form and hopefully that will become a natural style for me. I want to try out some less cushioned running shoes to strengthen my feet and better support the Tarahumara running style. I spent the last year as the Emerging Runner, going from inactive to plenty active. This will be the year of the re-Emerging Runner - version 2.0. I can't wait to hit the road but I will respectfully wait until I'm ready. Doctor's orders.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Metaphorically, a house fell on me last week

The last time I sat down to write a post on the Emerging Runner I had no idea what was in store for me in the days to come. I was on my end-of-year vacation and was experiencing some symptoms of a coming cold but I still had enough strength to have run four miles of trails the day before. On Wednesday the 30th I went out for a fun family lunch event and by mid afternoon my world had started to crumble around me with a force that I could never have predicted. What began as a series of chills, intense fatigue and coughing along with a complete lack of appetite led to a week-plus of hell that included a five day stay in the hospital that involved a course of anti-viral and anti-biotic megabomb IVs around the clock.

Due to the New Year's holiday I was unable to see my doctor until Monday morning. He immediately diagnosed pneumonia and sent me to a pulmonologist who put me through a series of tests and X-rays before sending me to the hospital. My wife and I followed the grim and tedious process of getting checked into the hospital and I found myself hours later saying goodbye to my wife and kids as they brought me into a small airless room and began sticking needles in me everywhere. The time passed and I was eventually moved into the hallway accompanied by numerous others whose horrific coughs and other noises made me wonder how sick they must be. After hours of laying there on this stretcher they moved me into a room facing dozens of patients. I discovered that I needed to be isolated because I was deeply contagious. My pneumonia, characterized on the diagnosis sheet as "Severe Community Acquired Pneumonia" was very bad. I had patches on multiple lobes of my lungs. The level of discomfort was intense.

I was eventually moved upstairs to a quieter room that had its own bathroom (sort of). The bathroom was like something you'd find on a boat where the unit could be swung out from under a cabinet. The days in that room were horrifying dull and I began to hate the isolation, the depressing surroundings and the constant changing of the IVs. My wife was an incredible friend and resource for me. She'd arrive as soon as she got the kids off to school and she stayed with me until she had to leave to be there when they arrived home. Mid way through the week my doctor, who initially indicated a two day stay, broke the news that the earliest I would be leaving was Friday. My mind became focused completely on what it would be like to leave to hospital. I felt as though I'd never get there.

When the doctor gave me my release on Friday morning I was beside myself with joy. It still took hours to complete the processing but when I finally reached the point of crossing the threshold between the hospital and the outside world I was hit with an intense feeling of freedom. That was easily the most depressing week I had ever spent, anywhere. I still have a ways to go to get past the residual pneumonia and I have full course of powerful antibiotics to get through over the next couple of weeks. I feel stronger today than I have for over two weeks and I'm starting to think about getting out for a mile run as soon as my doctor gives me permission.  As a marathoner himself, I'm hoping he'll keep an open mind. I am so happy to be back reporting on the progress of the Emerging Runner. Looking ahead to my next run is giving me something I haven't had in weeks - hope.

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