Sunday, December 30, 2012

Not Running With Al in Boston

"Nothing endures but change" - Heraclitus

As I write this on Sunday night, tomorrow is New Year's Eve, and as this is Running With Al, I have to think that this week, I have been somewhat of a fraud. You see, I haven't run since LAST Sunday. That was a pretty good 17 miler with my training group back in Birmingham. Then things (life) began to get in the way of my running. We had a trip planned to go up to Boston on Wednesday, the day after Christmas. My wife & I would spend a day with our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren, Adam (3) & Emma (16 mo). We would then be thrust in-charge of babysitting for 3 days while mommy & daddy go on a playdate (to Las Vegas). Well, I hadn't planned to run on Monday (the day after the 17 miler), and Tuesday was shot as I woke up to a terrific, down-south series of  spring-like thunderstorms and tornado warnings. Wednesday was also derailed with a full day of traveling, so that made 3 days without running.

Things just careened from there once we got to Boston. Oh sure, I could have squeezed in a run pretty late at night or in the wee-wee EARLY morning hours (talking 2-3am), but my heart just wasn't in that. You see, babysitting these two was a lot more challenging time-wise, and physically, than I anticipated. I mean it was constant with two extremely active little humans from basically an hour before sunrise to about 8-9 at night. They both take one nap per day, but they kind of overlap some, but not totally, so they get that power nap, we don't, and I guess I could squeeze a run in then, but  I always had this fear that what if something happened while I was out galloping through the streets of Boston...It just didn't sit right. Plus, after doing my power lifting all day (the two kids), my back was pretty stiff (something that seldom bothers me), and my ankles were worse than after I do my long runs! What the heck is all that about?

So, as I said, now it's Sunday night, 7 days without running. I will try to get a run in tomorrow ( the playdate kids get home tonight), but it's supposed to be 15 degrees in the morning and the high tomorrow a windy 33. Great!! Then travel all day Tuesday, so there's a good possibility I may extend my runless streak another 2 days, making it 9, the longest I can remember EVER taking without an injury. Not crazy about it, but it came at a good time - end of a year in which I reached my mileage goals, 8 weeks out from the Mercedes Marathon, and taking care of the kids was still the shoveling I did today after a 5 inch snowfall last night! I hate cold and I'm sure not crazy about how fast your fingertips can freeze making a snowman (but, yes, it was worth it because Adam said "Grandpa, can we make a snowman?"). 

As a physical therapist, I know a week without running won't destroy 34 years of the base I've built up, but I sure do miss it when it goes a few days. I look forward to days off, but when you string a week or so together, nah, not how I'm wired these days. I don't have speed to worry about, my races are not races, and my challenges have become to put one foot in front of the other for a rather extended period of time. I think I've gotten that part down. This grandparenting thing though, it has got a lot of challenges that I have to work on...Wonderful one's, terrible two's, troublesome three's...all the way up to the stupendous sixties...hopefully, like those tough long runs I've been through, it all smooths out. But, they change, and we change, so next time we come up, the challenges of what to make for breakfast/lunch/dinner, how long I can take Richard Scarry cartoon videos, what's the right clothes for them to wear, and how many adjectives I can come up with when I encounter a poopy diaper will all change too. Just flow with it and do the best you can.

I hope you all have a great 2013. I plan to. As I always say...I'll see you down the road...I just might take an unexpected short break here and there - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world" 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Going to a PT - From the Inside

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good" - Steven Wright

Almost every Sunday, I'll be asked, in the parking lot before our long run, a question about a little niggle or strain that one of our runners is having. Having been a Physical Therapist for over 40 years and a long distance runner for over 30 years, I guess I have some street cred on both counts. The streetside consults I give are pretty superficial and very brief - after all, I'm usually ready to run, just finished running, freezing cold, or the question only requires a brief response. I honestly don't mind at all giving some honest, fairly straight-forward advice to my fellow runners, but sometimes, things happen and you don't have a friendly runner/PT right there in the parking lot and you find you actually have to go to a medical office for your care. What to do and how to act?

First of all, if you have an injury that requires medical attention, find a Doc and/or a Physical Therapist that understands what you do and your passion for the sport. The most effective path to take for this is simple word-of-mouth through your running community or the local running shops. Whatever you do, don't go to the Yellow Pages and blindly pick a health professional just because they say they treat sports injuries. Once you choose someone, go in with the open frame of mind that you are going to do exactly as he/she says. Sure, you've already researched your problem on the internet, but put your faith in a specialist that you trust, rather than throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the problem. If you enter a therapist’s clinic with the preconceived notion that you are beyond repair, you’ve already created a self-fulfilling prophecy for yourself.  I have much better outcomes with patients who have a positive attitude throughout their treatment. Patients with an optimistic mind-set are generally more likely to follow their rehab program and get better faster.

When a patient (athlete or not) presents to me, I like to give them a simple question like "So, what brings you in?" and let them open up. Usually, I find a patient will tell you 50% of what you need to know before you ask another question. After gaining a fairly comprehensive history and physical, my first treatments will usually consists of teaching them some home exercises to begin with. That's when the fun begins.

One of the first questions I like to ask my clinic patients during a follow-up treatment is “How are you doing with the exercises I gave you?”  If they look at me like a deer in the headlights and they say “umm, I didn't really do them”, then chances are it will be a prolonged recovery and a lot of frustration on my part and the patient saying therapy doesn't help.  A major reason for patients not performing their recommended exercises or stretches is because they fail to see the correlation between the exercise and their injury.  They think “how can this possibly help?”.  Athletes will usually have a good grasp on the connection between rehab exercises and their injury, but with non-exercisers, well, it's a battle for them to connect the dots.

It amazes me that even the first time I see a patient may be right after they get a cortisone shot, which is a strong anti-inflammatory...then they're compliant with their therapy for 3 weeks, start to get better and then hit me with "I guess that shot is starting to take effect". Geez!! But, some will make the connection and continue to be compliant with their program. However, some will stop there and the mechanical cause of their injury will resurface and they're back in the same boat.

It's like when you first began running. Let's face it, all the pieces didn't fit together just like that unless you stayed with it. Rehab has to start easier than you want it to. I'll get these super-fit folks (except for their injury) and they're very reluctant to start with the pink "girlie-weights", but that's where they HAVE to begin! Most of my common folk (non-athletic) patients don't do as much as I want them to, and most of my athletes want to do more. It's a balance I go through all less...Aw heck, just please do what I tell you! Percentage-wise, I see many fewer athletes than I see regular folks, and so, I try to make every rehab program for them as simple and fundamental as possible. But, I like to think the fact that I'm a runner sways some of the athletes into thinking that I might actually have an idea what I'm talking about and they might actually accept what I say. The point is, if you go to a therapist, LISTEN, like you would your mechanic, plumber, accountant, or whatever. I may not know a fuel pump from a sump pump, but I can help you understand why running downhill hurts like the dickens and running uphill doesn't. Or why you can run some days and the next day you can't walk. Or why some days you can't even walk without your knee buckling. If you want to frustrate your therapist, perform some hill repeats when you’re nursing a strained hamstring, hammer out a set of fast intervals on a bad Achilles, or get that 20 miler in when you’ve been told you need two weeks off running..."Al, this therapy doesn't seem to be working!". Good Grief!!! 

Sometimes, a Parking Lot consultation just doesn't get it, so if one day you find yourself engaging the assistance of a therapist, the best thing you can do for yourself is to enter their clinic with an open mind, positive attitude, and willingness to put as much effort into recovering as you do training. Sure, it can be frustrating to be sitting on the sidelines lifting the Girlie-weights, but take it from me, if you have a plumbing problem, DON'T try to fix it yourself - call a Plumber before all hell breaks loose!! That is not an analogy, but the plumber story is the subject of a future blog post.

By the way, along the PT lines, on my post this week on TRAINING WITH AL, I addressed form while running, so some of you might be interested in reading that.

Also, I just want to repeat that those of you training with us for the Mercedes Marathon, we will be running on the Mercedes course on January 13th and February 3rd. Email me for more details.

I hope you all have a great Holiday and be mindful of things to be thankful for. For those of you in Birmingham, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Piles of My Stuff

“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans” - John Lennon

Good grief! Have you ever looked around and seen how much room your running stuff consumes? I mean, I was thinking that I have little stuff to speak of and if you concentrated my stuff into one pile, that pile would be pretty puny. That was UNTIL I took a quick inventory. I won't even count all my old running shoes since I just donated a slue of shoes that were worn out or just didn't work out for me (I guess they weren't fast enough). Even after this generous donation, I still have 3 road pair (1 old for rain, one new for everyday, and 1, that despite having more miles than the tires on my car, I surprisingly just wear for long runs - don't ask!), and 3 trail pair (1 Hokas, 1 high top, and 1 pair of Merrells that for some reason I can't part with). So, what's left? Here's an inventory:
3 drawers -
Drawer #1 is just for cold weather! You see, I hate cold weather and refuse to EVER be unprepared. Don't know what to buy me? Get something to keep me from feeling cold and you're safe. I've got something like 16 long sleeve shirts, but I'm so anal, I have them split into LIGHT long sleeves in one stack and heavier ones in another! Then there are (Good God) 12 pairs of gloves of various protection, 3 tobaggon hats, and arm sleeves.
Drawer #2 houses all my shorts and tons of shortsleeve shirts separated into 3 stacks - technical, cotton, and singlets. Also, in this drawer are two pair of  worn-once-in-a-while compression socks. I like the idea of the compression socks, but mostly just for recovery. I haven't quite been able to hurdle the "dorky" aspect of wearing them on a run.
And then Drawer #3 are my socks, sweat cloths, and as an overflow from Drawer #1, my cold-weather tights and the all-important windbriefs (Don't laugh - you don't know the thrill of getting caught without them on a 20 degree windy day!).

Ok, so now let's move on to my closet. We have a windshirt (which is great), one running vest (also great), one cycling rainjacket, one perfect lightweight technical, waterproof, breathable rainjacket, a nylon running suit, and 6 pairs of various weight and material running pants (though I hardly EVER wear pants when running). In addition is my most used jacket - a non-breathable, non-waterproof Tyvek Extra-Large jacket that I picked up as a $5 throwaway at an Expo at least 9 years ago! You've all seen them - white, thin, funky feeling. You'd think this thing would have been discarded long ago, but it has been to a ton of ultramarathons with me because it's light as a feather, can be stuffed literally into a  pocket, and if it's warmth you're looking for, remember, it doesn't breathe, but if it's real cold out, believe me, you won't sweat up a storm. I wear it on most of my early morning, dark, cold runs because of the above accolades plus it's white, so I wear it under my reflective vest - perfect. Oh yeah, did I mention it was 5 bucks? Pick one up at your next Expo - I know Mercedes will have them, but I think they're up to $7 now. Oh, and don't forget the 15 or so hats I have to run in...what do I need 15 hats for? There are only 2-3 different ones I wear. But don't even talk to me about which ones I would get rid of. Any runner understands this line of thinking.

So now we move to my downstairs closet. Here is a box that houses my 2 waterbottle belts (each with one 20oz waterbottle) and one Fuelbelt with 2 8oz bottles. There is also 2 handheld bottles, one of which I use MUCH more than any of the belts or the other handheld. In addition, for some reason that completely eludes me, in this box are also 6 loose waterbottles. Do I think I'll keep these in case the other waterbottles wear out? I don't know. I really don't. Also, in another area in the closet are one box of Gu and two boxes of Clif Bars. Oh, don't forget the carton of recovery Boost and the box of the VERY important HotHands. 

So, you can see the pile just grows and grows. I go to the local running stores or to a race expo and just stare aimlessly saying "I really don't need anything". It's almost disappointing not to be snapping up new stuff, but doggone it, I've got way more than enough old stuff. And I'm sure you do too...oh yes you do - just look around. But, like me, just try to clean out a little...ha, that's a good one. Too many memories in all that junk. And no need to beat around the bush - you're going to just add to it. 

Ok guys, that's about it except to let you know that if you're training with us for the Mercedes Marathon, we have scheduled two training runs on the marathon course for 1/13 & 2/3. Details to follow (or if you can't wait, just email me). In the meantime, stay warm and I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world" 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How 'bout Just a Friendly Wave

"If you run 100 miles a week, you can eat anything you want - Why? Because: (a) you'll burn all the calories you consume; (b) you deserve it; and (c) you'll be injured soon and back on a restricted diet anyway."- Don Kardong

Several months ago (maybe years, who knows?), I was running on the Lakeshore Greenway with my buddy Moha, and this runner comes up the opposite way. Being the jovial, friendly runner that I think I am, I give a hearty "Good Morning" as my runner-friend zips hi, no wave, no grunt. Moha saves the day with a "Good Morning Al". I immediately answer with a "Good Morning Moha". Ever since then, this has become pretty standard between us whenever a greeting to another runner goes unacknowledged....Good Morning Al...Good Morning Moha. I had to let out a laugh the other day when I was running with my training group on a long run. Moha didn't make it (read: slept-in, hung-over, too cold, etc) and when a runner coming in the opposite direction failed to even notice my "Good Morning", one of our new trainees stepped right up to the plate with a "Good Morning Al". Perfect! 

I remember, way back when in the olden days of yore, when two runners would pass each other, they would exchange cordial hello's, waves, or some other greeting that would convey that we are each members of the secret Society of the Running Brotherhood. The unusual thing was when a runner lumbered on by and didn't say anything. Boy, when that happened, it really would frost me! I always took that junk personally. Of course, I would just let steam blow out my ears, but my old sidekick, Bill Tucker, would dog-cuss the old fool. Yeah, Bill was quite the piece of work! Can't count how many times we had to put our running skills to work to keep from getting chased - I remember we were running early on a long training run one Sunday when these yahoos in a pickup truck, probably returning from an all-nighter at the Fuzzy Mule, whistled at us. Without hesitation, Bill yells back "Your mother loves it!". My initial reaction was "crap" as brake lights lit up and the truck doing a u-turn. All I remember was running through back yards, down alleys and up a wooded hillside to elude Bubba and his buddies. You know, they say a good friend will bail you out of jail...but your best friend is sitting next to you in the cell saying "man, that was fun". Geez!!!

Ok, where was I? Oh yeah. These days, we runners hardly ever exchange verbal greetings anymore. At best, we'll give a slight wave, or my favorite, the-serious-game-face-nod. Still, we are better than cyclists. Usually, it's nothing at all, BUT, if I'm lucky enough to get any recognition at all, it will more times than not be the standard, secret cyclist club wave - four fingers extended downward from the unmoving hand positioned on the handlebar. Quite subtle, but in the right light you can catch it! That's what you get from a "friendly" cyclist. I must say, when I do yell in semi-anger, it's usually more at a cyclist than a runner, I guess because I know he's moving away from me at 20 MPH and probably can't hear me. Actually, I must admit, there are several times when a cyclist will go whizzing past me in the opposite direction at 20MPH and yell "Hey, Al", but honestly, with sunglasses and a helmet, I haven't got the foggiest idea who it is. I do good enough to remember folks names when they're standing next to me, not moving at all, undisguised. My standard default..."Hey buddy"..."Hey Girl".

Ok, let's get back on track here. About 6 months ago,  I was running along with another of my running pals, Mark, and I greeted this oncoming runner with my usual "Good Morning" and was answered with a lively "Thank You"! Still don't have a comeback for that one except "you're welcome". Then there was the time recently when a runner beat me to the punch and rather sheepishly said "how-ya-doin?". I was so surprised, in answer, I very enthusiastically said "Let me tell you, I am doing GREAT". I know he thought "What a frickin' nutcase".

Ok, I'm finished letting off some steam about 21st Century runners. It's not really a big deal, but then again, what is? No sense getting all steamed about something I can't control. I think I'm probably exaggerating some and really most runners are happy to initiate or respond with some form of Hello to another athlete in misery agony training.
If I see you running along one morning and I say "Good Morning", for Pete's sake, at least give me one of those serious game-faced nods. For sure, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Consistent Running...Consistent Blogging

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” 
― W. Somerset Maugham

I love to write. I wish I could write better than I do. Ever since my early schooling, I always enjoyed writing and felt I could do it pretty well. I was one of those weirdos in school who didn't wilt like a dieing flower when I came to the essay questions at the end of a test. If I didn't know the answer, I still felt pretty confident I could eloquently present a wheelbarrow of BS and maybe be able to slide by. I found that tactic worked easier in Junior High than it did in college. 

I always marveled at newspaper writers that can put out editorial pieces and news opinion columns 3-4 times per week and always wondered how do they do that? Especially the ones that are do they come up with these one liners and catch phrases over and over again? Surely they must crash against a wall of solid writer's block once in a while. Heck, I don't have any deadline, but I've put out this weekly blog for over two and a half years, but sometimes when I sit down to write RWA, I stare into my mind and all I see is a void. I mean, there is just no idea at all. Most of my ideas will hit me during a run, either like a bolt from above or because of something one of my running buddies comes up with. Most of the time, I'll forget this brilliant stroke of genius before I get home, but sometimes from that void comes something that I can share with whoever chooses to read it. And then, maybe, I'll get some comments that make me feel good - I
 love to get comments, so keep them coming - and other times the comments are not that great...I try to stay clear of politics and God knows I'll never mention Sarah Palin again. Four years and my butt still stings from the whippin' I took on that one! 

But, to me, blogging is so cool. I can sit down in almost complete anonymity and have the freedom to write whatever I want. I'm not sure that anyone really wants to read my thoughts and I'm certainly not fulfilling a service, but after running long distances for over three decades, I have all these memories and feelings about running, so I believe there is some catharsis in it. Maybe it's my own form of self-therapy. I just know I feel good after clicking the "publish" tab on Blogger. There are thousands of blogs out there. I have read well written ones and some not so well written but they all provide insight into the blogger's psyche and that's what you have to read into when you're reading somebody's blog. True, they're not all literary masterpieces like mine, but there are some very excellent blogs to read. And they cover all aspects of all subjects, and each blogger decides which direction his or her blog will go. 

I decided long ago that this blog wouldn't bore you with daily posts of my mileage, because my daily mileage bores me! I feel pretty confident no one wants to read the blow by blow details of my workouts day after day. I don't care if you're an elite runner or not, it's boring. If you want to know my training secret for blazing along year after year, you'll have to slow down on a training run and I'll be glad to share the exciting details with you. 

Also, I hardly ever talk about the newest running fashions and try to convince you that you have to have these to run better. As much as I go on & on about my Hoka shoes, I will never say they are the shoes for you. They are the shoes for me. Period. I've got rain jackets and arm warmers and compression sleeves and wool socks. Are they for you? How the heck should I know? So, I don't blog about that they are the latest and greatest.

At my age, I also will spare you with the hyping of books that claim to have a new and revolutionary way to train. Sorry, you can't reinvent the wheel and there isn't a new way to throw or catch a ball, so I don't preach that there is a new way to train for distance running. Maybe we are Born To Run, but figure it out for yourself. Nobody taught me how to throw a rock at a squirrel, but I just threw the rock. Running is base conditioning, strength conditioning and sharpening, that's how it is and always will be. Run to run better. Run long to run long well. Run fast to run fast well.

And finally, I'll try not to tell you about new foods, supplements,etc. that will improve performance. I've seen them come and go over the last 35 years. Many are designed to pick your pocket. Eat well, eat balanced, don't eat stupid too often and you'll be fine. As somebody said "Everything in moderation, including moderation". Sometimes, there are some pretty awesome breakthroughs like Gels and Gatorade, but you don't need me to break the news to you.

So my friends, I plan to keep blogging away and I hope you keep reading. The only way I know is if you comment, so c'mon, don't be shy. Let me know what you think. In the meantime, like always, I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"