Friday, October 14, 2016

Good News, Bad News, Bad News and Perspective

So Wednesday, Dr. Michelle Wolcott and I examined the MRI of my knee. The hope was for something easy like a meniscus tear. Go in snip, snip, back on the roads in three weeks. No such luck! Bad news.

There is about a 2cm section of the cartilage in my left knee that is gone. Yeah, like gone, disappeared, vanished. Surgical options: microfracture surgery (see Six weeks on crutches, five or six months rehab. The two other options had to do with cadaver cartilage and very strange things, so I quit listening. Bad news 2.

So what's the good news? Oddly, the good news is very little arthritis (especially for a guy with 109,000 miles on his legs). I'll take it where I can get it.

Sunday, three weeks before the race, I will withdraw from the New York City marathon and be able to guarantee entry for 2017. Yep, keeping the options open. My plan is to have the surgery in December prior to a four week stretch where I do not have gigs booked. Good recovery time, right?

I've been sick about this for a month, and cannot imagine not running for that long (the elliptical is not my friend). It's been difficult to say the least. Yesterday, however, it all changed. As I sit next to my youngest son Ryan, lying in his cardiac care room of the South Aurora hospital (he'll be okay), perspectives change and the things that are really important become just that: really important.

I will run again. Most importantly, he'll be fine. Good news, Bad news, Bad news, Great news.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

Today I had a follow-up visit to Dr. Michelle Wolcott. She is my orthopedic surgeon. Orthopedic surgeon, you ask? Yep. Things have gone from better to worse, to better to worse since we last posted.

Growing out of my butt issue, came a knee issue. Extreme tightness and pain behind my knee which got so bad on two occasions that I would get 2 - 3 miles out on a run and have to walk back. The first thought from my usual Doc, the magnificent, Carly May, was Popliteus muscle (my thought too). So just before she went off to vacation time, we scheduled an X-Ray. That X-Ray, instead, returned a finding of some mild arthritis. Really? Some "mild" arthritis after 50 years and 109,000 + miles of running? As I stated in the last blog, I'll take that after all this time.

I existed on a crutch for a few days and was progressing nicely until I was demonstrating a stretch and went to use my left leg to get up and the knee completely collapsed under me. I'm good, generally speaking, with pain but this was pretty, stinking, big time, painful. Back to the crutch, and off to see an orthopedic surgeon to find out what the problem really is.

A new set of X-Rays were ordered as orthopedic surgeons have their own way they like to look at things. Dr. Wolcott ("call me, Michelle") didn’t completely ruled out a possible meniscus “weakening,” although, she found no reason to think a tear was present after a thorough examination. We spent a lot of time discussing cartilage and looking at my x-rays. I have “a good amount of stuff” floating around in my knee and while it could be cleaned up through arthroscopic surgery at some point, she was not thinking that is the immediate problem. Her general conclusion was (and I had her let me record it) was: 

“You don’t really have arthritis but the cartilage is starting to crack and break down a little bit and that’s causing friction and some swelling in your knee. Because of that swelling the muscles aren’t firing quick enough on impact to support the knee and so the feeling of weakness and pain.”

She gave a couple of immediate options, and to tell you the truth I don’t remember them. I did opt for the steroid injection. I'd never had an injection in my knee before so I was a bit apprehensive. She got it done quickly and frankly, I really didn't notice it happening. My knee was supposed to be numb for a bit and if I was feeling ready and had no issues after 48-72 hours I should try a light, short run. SO, I did. This was two weeks ago.

I pretty much shuffle jogged day one (the third day) and decided I was pressing my luck. I took another day off and then hit the woods in the Cherry Creek State Park for 3 miles (flat, soft, wide trail - just what the doctor ordered, so to speak). Not pain free yet, but not bad. Over the next 6 days, I ran 3,3,4,0,3,5 miles. Then after the okay 5 miles, I went to open the door for someone at Walmart (that'll teach me to be a gentleman at Walmart), and my knee just gave out. A shot of pain up the side and OUCH.

Clifton 3 by Hoka
In the several days to follow, every time I would stand or move in a "not perfectly straight, supported manner," I'd get the pain. So today, I was back in for follow-up with Dr. Michelle. The check up was quick, as the immediate plan was MRI. She is believing the issue now to be a degenerative meniscus tear, but is open to whatever is found. We discussed the options if that, or something else concrete, is found, including surgery. We'll see about that.

In the meantime, I ordered a kick ass pair of Hoka Clifton 3's. They arrived yesterday. I'm waiting to run in them.....

Monday, August 29, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: the Final Post

The final post? Where are the others?

Confession: the other posts of How I Spent My Summer Vacation have yet to be posted. They include excitement ranging from the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon to the USATF Junior Olympic Track meet in Sacramento. All good stuff, and way overdue, but last things first.

Last Friday, I went in for a lower lumbar MRI, without contrast (which I have no idea what it means, but it sounds cool). The problem was/is, my butt. Around early July, I began to notice a nagging pain in the ass (not other people, actually in my glute). Being an experienced runner, I self diagnosed Piriformis Syndrome, an ailment to which I have been subjected on several occasions in my running career. Being a veteran, I opted for self-healing and began the injury evasion dance. Restaurant chairs were bad, but airplane sitting was the worst and I will confess that after a flight to San Diego ten days ago, I could BARELY walk off the plane. 

After missing the San Francisco Marathon as well as my 50K debut in Squamish, British Columbia (mucho dinero down the drain), it was time for some professional intervention. It was time for the incredible Dr. Carly May. Carly has cured me through an earlier Piriformis episode, Plantar Fasciitis, Popliteal inflammation, Hamstring problems, and most any other running related injury you can imagine. Three visits, several rope flex tortures, countless dry needles, and a lot of cracking later, Piriformis left the list of causes of my never-ending pain. 

What was left? What could be causing my extreme pain and discomfort, especially after sitting for any period of time? She decided maybe, just maybe, a herniated disc. SO, the MRI. Results: after significant trauma surrounding the noisy MRI tube and my mild claustrophobic moment, it was found that all I have is "very mild degenerative changes of the lumbar spine without significant spinal canal stenosis or nerve impingement."

My reaction? That's nothing. If this is all my spine has going on after almost 65 years on the planet, 50 years of running, and nearly 110,000 miles pounding the planet's surface, then BRING IT ON (I owe it all to good feet)!

So what is wrong? Well, I have to tell you that we're not sure. BUT, it's getting better. I have begun a vigorous routine of deep water running, the elliptical, my strength and core workouts, along with some targeted stretching and I'm feeling pretty darned good. Lost in the treatment was the discovery that my worst pain came after sitting, as previously mentioned, for long time periods EXCEPT when the sitting happened in my car. Huh, my car, a sports car that sits me back and drives my knees up. SOOOO, now I have my little rolled pad that I can tuck under my knees when I am desk or table bound. So far it is testing well, as the researchers might say. Today, I sat for 25 minutes and no pain.

Running? It's coming. With less than ten weeks until the New York Marathon, there is no time to be wasted. By the end of the week, I hope to hit the soft trails and we will see where it goes from there. 

Like every tight distance runner, I vow to stretch, lift and do all those exciting things to take care of my body, hopefully preventing a relapse (or some other injury). Vow, a funny word meaning promise. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, I am looking to a future being back at what I love.

Run on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Track and Field Kind of Summer

The three ring circus has nothing on Hayward Field

I've always been a sucker for a good track meet. Well, even a mediocre one too. Since my first one, the Huron Relays in March of 1967, I'm hooked.

When P.T. Barnum added the third ring to his "Greatest Show on Earth" in 1882, he indeed invented the three ring circus. He was, however, a little behind in this whole three ring thing as the first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. The Greeks expanded the circus to include the pentathlon and everything went big time when the Romans picked up track and field around 200 BC. Talk about a three ring circus....

Don't get me wrong, a circus can be pretty fun, and a football, baseball, basketball, or hockey game can be extremely sensually stimulating. But in today's "modern" world, a well oiled track and field meet could have as many as seven events going on simultaneously. While the schedule rolls through the running events, spectators can also get their full of throwing, jumping, and vaulting in every corner of the stadium. I loved running in them, I loved organizing them. I digress.

Spring (and summer) is track season. This one has been very special.

First, my Grandson, Mason, had a fabulous season running mostly the 1600 and 3200 meters for Eaglecrest High School. As a sophomore, he regularly competed with the best distance runners Colorado had to offer and became an outstanding runner with an exciting future. Each meet was fun, each meet was personal. And as you get to know the other kids on the team, every event becomes a little personal as they try to summon the best they can give.

Next, I spent four days watching the NCAA Championships on the television. Collegians attempting to become National Champions and All-Americans is very cool. I remember the Penn and Ohio State Relays in college. Fantastic atmospheres. 

Last weekend, Mason ran in the USATF (track and field's governing body) State Junior Olympics. He won the 1500 and 3000 and qualified for the regional in three weeks in Albuquerque. The hope is that he will make it to the Nationals in Sacramento at the end of July. 

If all that isn't enough, tucked in the middle is a trip to the USA Olympic Track and Field Trials at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, OR. Linda and I set it up as a "reward" for Mason's great season tagged onto a present for his sixteenth birthday. Of course, there could be a bit of selfish motive behind the choice of the gift as I have never attended the Trials. Oh well.  

So, it's a track and field summer. Pretty exciting. Somewhere in the middle of that, we might sneak in the San Francisco Marathon. That's a topic for another time.

Run on (in circles, well, ovals).

Monday, May 23, 2016

A For Accomplishment

Lately, my running has provided few highlights and fewer accomplishments. This past week marked the end of that trend. Four, count 'em, FOUR things went very right this week: mileage, long run, weight loss, extra sessions.

First and foremost, I didn't travel this week so it allowed for some focused mileage. The total for the week was 57. This followed a nice 48 week. This one we'll back off a little (46 ish). In my younger days I tended to build for three weeks and recover for one, now I move to a two/one ratio. So 45-46 this week and then back up.

Next, the long run. I went 14 yesterday. Granted 14 is not 20 or something, but I haven't been that far in a while. In fact, the last long run of a similar distance was the 15 on Magnolia Road back on March 6 (see: Don't get me wrong, it was not easy, smooth, or anything like that. It was, however, 14. I'll take it. 12 this week and then up to 16-17.

In 2015, I lost a lot of weight. Unfortunately through an injury, the holidays, and a complete disregard for any semblance of discipline, it has all come back. Last week, however, I dropped 7 pounds (actually 9 in the last 10 days). Understanding that this kind of rapid loss is not sustainable, and while I am not believing that slimness is just around the corner, I like progress and am happy to have made some dietary changes that reflect my concern for my well being for the future.

The "Workout Room"
Finally, I hit the strength and core program. Like most other workout oriented things, consistency takes discipline. The thing is this: I have no idea what makes this particular thing so challenging. All I have to do is walk downstairs. Everything I need is there. No trip to a gym, no fighting for a machine. Worse yet, once I begin, I love it. So three workouts down, I strive for consistency.

That's it. A rare good week. Hoping to make good weeks the norm.

Run on. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Struggling With Juggling

There are just a little more than thirteen weeks until the San Francisco Marathon. Three weeks after that is the Squamish 50K. I should be firmly entrenched in some serious base training, ready to begin a strength phase. I am not. I am struggling with juggling.

The last four weeks and the next nine are some of the busiest ever. Teaching and prepping classes, traveling, and marketing for the fall schedule seem to take huge focus and much energy. Add in Mason's track meets, a McKenzie feis, or Kim's recitals, AND trying to be a husband and all around nice guy...... Yikes. Fitting in productive runs is challenging, especially when there are so many opportunities to do otherwise.

So, what is the answer AND is the question so unique?

Let's take the second question first. Everyone is busy (just ask them). My issue is not unique. Everyone does some semblance of juggling their lives to meet the demands of everyone and everything in it. It becomes a matter of expectations and priorities. 

You (and I) might think that if these "races" are important I will find/make the time to train adequately to prepare. In the real world, however, there are only 24 hours in a day and only so much energy to fill them. Noted sports psychologist and author, Jim Loehr said, "energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of peak performance." So let's find me some energy.

The answer may be a focus on quality over quantity. It's entirely possible that last year's string of fifteen weeks of 70+ miles per week might not fit this time around. Less mileage means less time commitment, right? Of course, we're not factoring in the reality that I LOVE to run. It's my BEST time of the day. So less may not be more. Less may be less.

Of course, if I were "motivated" for these races, the time and energy might take care of themselves. With the right motivation, I'm all in, right? Maybe not. After nearly 500 races and close to 109,000 miles, I have learned two things: motivation is a moving target, and REAL motivation doesn't come from the race, it has to come from me.

So, maybe the answer lies in expectations. If expectations were lowered, I wouldn't feel as driven to train with the same amounts of vigor and commitment. I could look at these events as just that: events. Maybe I might even take a day off once in a while. 

Wait, wait, wait, I know how this goes. While I am completely able to consciously lower expectations today, I know that when I reach a/the starting line, I want to GO! Lowered expectations be damned. Then, and almost fifty years of running and racing tells me this, when my performance is disappointing, I'll be kicking my proverbial ass all the way home. That is not going to work. My ass is sore from self-kicking most of the time anyway.

So, what's the answer? I don't know but I feel a little better acknowledging that I have a problem (that's half the solving, right?). 

My name is Rich Sands and I am struggling with juggling.

I guess I'll go for a run.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Worst Race EVER, So I Kept Going Anyway

The start, where it's always okay.
Forty-Four years ago, I placed 14th in the Florida Relays Marathon. 2:58:24. Today, amazingly, I ran roughly the same time for a half marathon. And I'm not sure which makes me prouder.

In 1972, I had just run a very comfortable 1:50:00 twenty mile tune-up. It meant I was ready to run under 2:30. So, while 2:58 is an okay PR to have in my basket, I was neither proud, or happy about the race. Today, while I am embarrassed; borderline humiliated, I am also proud. Cliche time: proud that I finished.

It didn't begin well at all. Last night after a day in flip flops I noticed my left arch was bugging me. Not wanting to risk further issues, I contemplated not starting. But I did anyway. Upon arrival, I had wild stomach cramps. Hadn't noticed it when I awoke, it just sort of evolved. Two puke stops prior to the start and I thought I might be good to go.

But there was something just not right. Standing around, my heart rate was 115-120. Should have been 65-70 pre race. Immediately after what seemed like an easy enough 9:30 ish first mile, my HR is north of 170. Not a good sign. But I kept going anyway.
Me, #125 Circa 1972

I thought I settled in a bit in miles 2 and 3. Stomach still bugging me, but hey, my foot was alright. Then, it hit. The stomach went all off and any semblance of energy left my legs disappeared. I had bonked at like 3 miles!!!!! NO way! I could run through this. I hear about people who literally pull a Lazarus in the middle of a race. Why not me?

At mile 4, I took some water and immediately could not keep it down. "This is going to be a long ass 9 miles from here," I thought. So I decided to pack it in. I stepped off the trail and began walking back. I would do that two other times.

"Where are you going, stupid? You've felt plenty worse than this before? AND did you notice it's a long ass way back AND it's not your car, it's Brian's car and he won't be back for a long ass time." Argument 1; won (or maybe lost - ask me again tomorrow). So, I kept going anyway.

I thought the next four miles sucked. I mean, I never felt completely dead, but never got back anything close to a decent feeling. Some where around mile 8, my calves felt really tight and my right hamstring was cramping. "Really? Are we at the 22 mile mark of a marathon, here?" I began to look for every opportunity, to leave the course, catch the Light Rail and call it a day. Problem is the train is at least a mile away. So, I kept going anyway

Then it set in: the walking. My hamstrings didn't cramp when I walked, my stomach felt okay when I walked. So I would walk for roughly a minute, run for two. I began to notice that my mile splits were in the high 13's AND my heart rate was still sky high. It's going to be a long ass way. So, I kept going anyway.

Me, Angela and Brian. I am so blessed to have
wonderful family.
Somewhere after ten, I began looking for friendly people that might give me a ride to the finish (never actually ASKED anyone, I was just hoping someone would offer). Brian and Angela have surely finished by now and who really needs one more medal. I should just stop. So, I picked up the pace anyway. 

What I also noticed was the people running near me were not my usual racing cohorts. It was a much different crew. As each person passed by, I thought, "I will never not appreciate the back of the packers again." Each had their own saga, their own pain.

At 11, I was done. Completely. I could run some going downhill, but the ups seized and cramped my hamstring WAY beyond what was comfortable or even tolerable. But, there was only two miles to go AND in a mile, I would hit twelve and at that point, as my Mom used to say, "Anyone can run a mile." See? Sometimes math and a Mother's advice are counter productive. So I kept going anyway.

I couldn't drink, cuz I couldn't keep it down and I was now working on 2 and a half hours with no fuel. No wonder I was cramping, no wonder I was a little dizzy. And at twelve miles comes the big uphill, a bit more than a half of mile of nastily placed elevation. BUT anyone can run a mile, right Mom?  So I kept going anyway.

The finish was uneventful, except that I made it. Didn't look at the time, didn't stop my watch (and had removed my heart rate monitor back when I decided my HR was never coming down no matter how slow I ran/walked).

After finishing I must have looked like hell. I could not eat because I couldn't keep anything down. I couldn't drink for the same reason. I just wanted Scottie to beam me home. The train ride back to the start area was a dizzy, crampy, nauseated journey. Angie and Brian were patient saints. Several times a nice guy named Michael asked if I was alright. "No, but I'll be okay."

No comment.
I was given a medal at the finish. At the time, I was embarrassed to take it. Now, I'm kind of proud of it. This was my worst race EVER!!!!!!! (can't over exclamation point that). But I was kind of proud I had fought through and made it till the end. 

Please understand, what runners go through out there sometimes is often referred to as suffering. We don't suffer. People in third world countries suffer, people in the inner city suffer, military prisoners and people with cancer suffer. I never confuse the pain and discomfort of what I CHOOSE to do with suffering. 

I could rant about all of the mistakes I made, how I let 6 months of great weight loss go down the tubes during the winter. I could complain about a lot because I brought this on me. In August I will celebrate 50 years of being a runner, I've run over 108,000 miles and these 13.1 were some of the worst. Yeah, I could complain, but I'm not going to.

I'm going to keep on going anyway. 

Hug a back of the packer today. They deserve it.