Sunday, July 29, 2018

It's The Little Thing That Gets You. SF Half Marathon Report

The last few weeks, my knee has gone from good to great to lousy and back. There have been days when walking was painful but as soon as a run would begin, the pain went away. Weird, right? I confess that recently I've had more good days than bad, however, so I was excited to test my "somewhat better" knee at the San Francisco Half Marathon. The problem: the little thing that was becoming more and more consistent.

The little thing? Yep, the little thing. When it comes to an injury, sometimes they bring pesky little things, sort of injury outgrowths (like those pilot fish that cling to the whales). In the case of my knee, the little thing has been this popping/cracking thing that only seems to happen on downhill parts of runs. I determined it had to do with hyperextension of the knee. Mostly happening on steep descents, especially right at the outset of one, so..... I have focused on footstrikes and landing patterns that minimized my knee's opportunities to engage that uncomfortable activity.

It wouldn't really hurt. It would pop/crack, and feel like it was unsupported. Then the next step, it would be fine. Weird, right? The issue was that some runs would go without this annoyance, on others it would be an "every five minute thing." The last few days..... nothing.

Off to the Golden Gate City I went in the hope that my new found painlessness might hold up during what is lovingly called the Second Half Marathon. You see, San Francisco has a full marathon, and two halves. The first half covers the initial 13.1 miles of the marathon course, the second covers the final 13.1 (tricky, huh?). Originally scheduled to conquer the first half, I changed to the second when the race sponsors eliminated the Golden Gate bridge crossing from the course.


Almost the first six miles (5.7ish) of the course happen in Golden Gate park, a very nice place with lots of trees and a plethora of hills. While the first mile is mostly downhill, the second and third have some serious upness to them. My plan was to run under control and steady through the park and then unleash my awesome second half surge. I have to say that, for the most part, I executed that plan pretty well. In fact, my fastest mile was mile 8.

One of the perks of the Second Half Marathon was that once you left the park, it was all downhill. Allegedly. HA! So much for that. Don't think so. Now, I have to say, it WAS mostly downhill. Some of the uphills, however, were long or steep. And with those came long (not too bad) or steep DOWNhills (THOSE were a problem). Amazingly, however, I was on a roll. Then, just before the 10 mile mark, the first pop hit. I audibly announced, "OUCH!" It was a bad one. I nonetheless trudged on.

Then at about 10 1/4, I was hit with what Redd Foxx would call, "the big one" ("I'm coming Elizabeth..."). This time I not only reiterated "OUCH," but almost went down. That was it. It was all downhill (from a pace and pain perspective) to the finish line. 

I don't know for sure, but my crude calculations show me losing somewhere between 4 and 5 minutes jogging in the last three miles. What could have been a decent Half, turned out just like the others; moderately disappointing. Not fun at all.


The drive from SF back to Vallejo brought with it stiffness and swelling. An afternoon of frozen corn has done little to relieve either. The worst part is that barring some sort of recuperation miracle, the 200+ day running streak is likely ending.

On the upside, we have had an awesome time here in the Bay area with Linda's family. The Expo and shakeout run yesterday were fun. AND I was, once again, able to hang out with the man, the myth, the legend, Dean Karnazes.

I originally met Dean (the Ultramarathon Man), in 2012 at a race in Georgia just two weeks after I had broken through the 100,000 mile barrier. After the shakeout we chatted about creeping up on 113,000 miles and 52 years as a runner. It was nice (Dean always makes you feel like YOU are the inspiration, not him).

In the end, it's time. It's time to take this knee thing seriously and have someone else look at it (my original "surgeon" will never get to see it again). Something is going on in there and I guess it's time to find out what.

So, Run on. I have to take a few off, I guess.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

But officer, I didn't mean to Streak!

It began innocently enough. I was compiling miles on June 29 to be able to know my mileage for the first half of the year. Because I don't use an online log, I actually write in one in pretty much diary form, I also use this time to flip through some pages as well as check my math. While working my way through the front half of 2018, I had a thought: I don't think I've taken a day off this year. Despite the knee issues, the butt issues, and life in general, I don't think I've missed a day. Lo and behold, It is/was true. I have strung together, somehow, a streak of sorts.

The next step was to grab the 2017 edition and see how far back this phenomenon goes. I knew I had missed a bunch of days/weeks/months post surgery, but had no idea when my daily running dose became consistent. Huh, not that far. The last day off in 2017 was Christmas Eve.

SO, long story short, today was my 200th day in a row. A streak is born.

A streak, yeah right. I've had plenty of longer streaks. In fact, long ago, I bundled up almost 1000 days in a row (falling short when jinxed by my ex-mother-in law - that being another story for my memoir). But if I have to be honest, this one was kind of a pleasant surprise. I did not, at the beginning of the year, set out to run every day. I have had years where that was one of my goals. This time, nope: didn't even think about it.

So how did this non event occur? Cycles. Cycles? Yep, cycles.

I think runners with any kind of longevity go through cycles. The Creation cycle, when you first discover the activity; the Competition cycle, when everything is about racing, competing, PRs; the Creative/Challenge cycle, when we attempt to find ways other than the competition to excel; the Comfort cycle, when we merely fit it in and it becomes, while still semi-important, more low key; and the Cornerstone cycle, when we realize that fast or slow, this running thing is deeply a part of our lives until it no longer can be. I am in the Cornerstone cycle (or maybe they're more like phases). I don't run because I want to or need to or I'm hoping to qualify for this or that, I run today because today is a day and a big part of any day is the run.

By the way, I don't think there is a set order for these cycles/phases. I have gone in and out of the competition phase at least five times in my almost 52 years running. There is no set duration. I've comforted out for a few months, sometime longer. From the end of 2000 to the end of 2008, I sat in the Comfort phase knowing that I was in a place that really didn't allow me to devote the time and effort needed for competition or challenge. What's become important to me is understanding where I am and (most importantly) being okay there.

Right now, I like this Cornerstone phase. There's no need to dazzle anyone, no need to adhere to anyone else's expectations of me as a runner, and most importantly, no judgment of myself. I am a runner, albeit a slow one, but a runner nonetheless. Because I am firmly impeded in that, I can both celebrate and dismiss this 200 day streak. I like that!

Run on.