Monday, December 27, 2010

And Just Like That, My Running Days Were Over.

Forrest Gump. And not forever. Just for now. I'm in week three of no running. Not that I am counting, but this is day 18. (If you don't count my ten foot run down the hall of my house) I think by this point, I've made peace with it. Yet, when I see someone running down the street, I have to look in the other direction so I don't get too depressed. The other day, I got frustrated with Lauren when we were in New York because she didn't want to run. I thought about how if I had the choice, I'd seize the opportunity to gear up and go feel the cold air on my lungs. Her reasoning, by the way, was completely sound. The roads and sidewalks were pretty icy and running would have been risky to say the least.

I am using this down time as a chance to try some other things. That's proven to be a bit difficult because I have to limit the useage of my ankle, but I am getting creative. I started pedaling on the old man bike at the Y...boot and all. You know what bike I am talking about. It basically has a recliner on it. For the first time in my life, I brought a magazine with me and actually read it as I pedaled away. If you can read while you exercise, your workout probably isn't that strenuous. I've never knocked off a chapter of the latest novel I am reading while doing mile repeats on the track. After a couple of days of that bike, I had pretty much had it. I decided to test my legs on bike on which the seat was backless. I found it feel much more like riding a real bike. Still, I can't crank up the resistance and stand up, but at least I can break a sweat.

My swimming style is infamous. Many who have seen it have laughed, possibly felt concern. Despite all that, I have been pretty consistent with my trips to the pool. The first two attempts, one with Jackie, another solo, I swam for one hour. I just jumped in and swam. The challenge, besides the fact that I have no idea what I am doing, is that I can't kick. Any sort of flexing of the ankle adds stress to a bone that is trying to heal. So, I put a bouy in between my legs and just rely on my arms. Every time I swim, I can't help but fixate on the energy I am wasting. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I needed someone to tell me what it was. Bring in Billy Shue. Billy spent an hour with me in the pool at the MAC on Wednesday, teaching me drills and giving me one simple tip for improving efficiency.

Sunday, a breakthrough. Lauren and I met Mr. Contario and Jesse at the Newark High School weight room to use the equipment. After two days of the stationary bike at the village gym, I was ready to change it up. I got on the cross-trainer (which is like an elliptical/stair climber), telling myself that if I felt even the slightest pain, i'd hop off. An hour later, and the best sweat I had experienced since running, I was pain free.

I have a follow up with Caitlin's doctor on January 6th. I am hoping he will give me the green light to try some light running by the end of the month. He's a member of the running club and a triathlete, so I can only assume he knows the mental toll an injury like this takes on someone as insane as myself. Of course, I know he's no miracle worker. If it's still broken, it's still broken.

In writing, December looks like a bad month. I got a stomach bug that knocked me out for two days. I broke my ankle. Right now, I am battling a cold that has robbed me of sleep, a clear airway and a speaking voice. But in the grand scheme of a life that doesn't always revolve around running, December has been a great month. Lauren and I got engaged on December 21st. She is much better at telling the story than I am, but suffice it to say, we are both really happy to be officially spending the rest of our lives together. We both got to spend Christmas with my family in Newark. Lauren and my family are constant supporters who love me hobbled or not. And I love them. It's those things, those events, those people that remind an injured athlete that not all is lost. It's how you get through breaking your ankle without breaking your spirit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Das Boot

If you missed it on Facebook, I am hurt. Not like, sore hamstring or tight calves, but rather, fractured ankle. So, really hurt. I went to OrthoCarolina this morning, hoping the doctor would laugh at me, ask me why I was wasting her time with a silly little sprain, and tell me to go "run on home." Instead she pointed out a hairlike line on my fibula three times and fitted me for a cumbersome, uncomfortable and quite frankly ugly, air boot. Oh yeah, and she told me I wouldn't run for another 12 weeks. I think she could tell how dejected I was.

Obviously, when you walk into a room with a boot on your foot that resembles something an astronaut might wear, people ask you what happened. I can tell them that I have a stress fracture in my fibula and that is about it. I have no idea what happened. In the two months leading up to December, I was running 90-100 miles a week. Since running the Richmond Marathon on November 13, I have run a maximum of 65 and it was a gradual build up. So, how I developed the fracture is a mystery.

Oddly enough, the doctor asked me about my supenation. I have always been diagnosed as a pronator, so this came as a surprise to me. One of the first things I will do when I can run again is get my gait reanalyzed and look into changing up shoes. But that is not going to be happening anytime soon.

What can I do? Not a whole lot. I have been told not to do anything that puts weight or stress on the ankle. That eliminates cycling and the elliptical, where are my two top choices for cross-training. It does leave me the option of the pool, or as I like to call it, Aquahell. I'm not a good swimmer. Lifeguards try to save me because I look like I am drowning. Besides swimming, I can aquajog. Is there anything more boring? I will attempt to recruit some friends to spend at least some of the time treading water beside me. I can also do strength and conditioning. Of course, I don't have a lot of room to grow in the muscle department, but I can do my best to add to my already bulky physique.

I think 12 weeks is excessive. I have to use the boot for five more weeks, and then I go back for a check-up. I have never heard 12 weeks to recover for a stress fracture. I hope to be logging miles...albiet just a the first two weeks of February. Until then, if you want to find me, I'll be in aquahell.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Injured Runner finds Time to Write, Rant

It started with a tiny pain on Wednesday night. I was doing my second run of the day; a four mile loop along the light rail line. I got home and my left ankle hurt just a little bit. No biggie. As I ran with the Dowd crew Thursday morning, it got just a little bit worse with every step. Four miles in, and I knew nothing good could come out of continuing to run. So, I turned around and made the long walk/jog back to the YMCA. 36 hours later, I set out for my pre-race run and didn't even make it to the end of the street. I have no idea what is wrong with me. My left ankle throbs with every step. It even hurts as I sit here. But, it's not swollen. I am going to make a doctor's appointment first thing Monday morning.

The bad news is, I had to drop out of the USA Track and Field Club Cross Country Championships which were at McAlpine on Saturday. Also, it appears there is a lot of spin classes in my future. There is nothing more mind-numbing. Although, going to spin class at 1:15 is better than sitting here watching Atlanta roll over the Panthers today.

The good news is, it's December. I was taking this month easy anyways. Aaron got to run as me at the club XC race and got himself a new PR.

Tyler let me borrow his cycle cross bike Saturday morning, so I could ride around the Thunder Road Marathon course. Congrats to everyone who ran. I don't want to list any names because I'm bound to forget one, but I do want to mention Lauren's PR performance in the half-marathon. I am really proud of her.

And that is what I want to rant about. Not Lauren. Thunder Road. Even though, I have only run the half-once, I think this has the potential to be a great event. The expo is well-done, the course is challenging and scenic at times, there are friendly volunteers and a unique theme that mixes foot racing with car racing. But it seems like the city sees it as a big burden. There is no better proof than the city's forced moving of the event from December to November. The December date was one of the things that made this race attractive to runners. It only competed with one other regional marathon and no major marathons, and was a great opportunity for people who wanted to close out their year with another 26.2. Now, it will be up against marathons like New York, Richmond and Outer Banks. The reason: Charlotte's shoppers complained about the traffic. I know people complain about traffic in every city, every time there is a race, but it is absurd to me that this city caved. We are talking about an event that pours money into the economy and brings thousands of people into an uptown area that is constantly begging people to visit. Is that not worth four hours of detours one Saturday morning in December? The race doesn't even go by any major malls.

Other cities embrace their marathons. There are always a handful of grumblers, but for the most part, it's a chance to show some city pride and welcome visitors. Obviously Boston and D.C. make a big deal out of their marathons because they are on the top of a lot of people's lists. But so do similar sized cities with similar sized races like Richmond. On race day morning, the Richmond Newspaper had a story about the marathon on the front page. The night before, the local TV stations did extensive live coverage. The day after, one station did a half-hour recap show. What kind of media coverage did Thunder Road get? It wasn't even mentioned on the front page of our paper (although Theoden's blogs were prominently posted on the website), and besides a brief interview with the race director and defending champion (on the show I produce), it only recieved brief mentions on the local news. That's really the only difference to be me between Richmond and Charlotte. The expos are about the same. The volunteers are just as friendly. There is a little more crowd support, but not much separates these two events. Unfortunately, the one major disparity is a very noticeable one.

It doesn't make sense because Charlotte is a very active community. We have a thriving running and triathalon scene. Yet, we can't support what many consider to be the holy grail of long distance running. The rest of the country is embracing marathon running. It's participation has soared 10% in just one year. Charlotte has a chance to get on board that train before it leaves the station, and we have a well-organized, top caliber event that will gladly lead the way. But until the city sees it as a boost instead of a bother, it can't possibly reach its potential.