Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pure Adrenaline

We don't have many rainy days in Southern California so when we get one, I think it can be tough on my psyche.  I can't argue against the value of rain or our region's desperation for it, but I can't help but feel a bit blue when it comes.  But blue is good because it leads to deeper thinking and contemplating.  On our past rainy Sunday I contemplated the importance of running buddies and social running, and how injury can disrupt and sever this benefit.

Since being in Santa Barbara, I'd say I've only had a few months of truly healthy running.  There is an abundant and welcoming running community here, many of whom I've met, but I have yet to integrate myself into it.  I've been waiting for the opportunity to begin joining some of the workouts, but this is where injury has been most disruptive.  I can find ways to cross-train, but I can't find ways to cross-socialize when I'm stuck on an elliptical.  When I get the full green light to run again, I am going to take full advantage of as many wonderful opportunities to run with others as I can.  I simply miss that so very much.

When I make my way down south to the San Diego area, I usually am able to meet up with my running buddies and partners there, but when the Doc says "no running," I have not even been able to do that lately.  San Elijo group, the next time I'm down there, I'm running with you. Boo hoo hoo.  Lament.  Lament.  Lament.  See what rain does?  But there's a beautiful rainbow to everything that rain brings.

As for my rehabilitation, things are getting exciting.  Doc had given me the OK to begin adding back two days of running into my training schedule.  There were strict instructions but along with it he noted that my progress and healing have been very fast, without set-back, and even as I've integrated my runs, everything has remained solidly in forward motion.  This makes me happy and gives me just a bit of confidence to push it (within healthy limits of course).

My runs have been and are to continue to be on the track.  This is the best surface on which to run during rehabilitation.  My first few runs were amazingly pain free, though they were purposefully slow and very much in control.  I figured, therefore, I would let go a bit and run harder on the next outing.  Of course I would do the hard run first and then ask Doc later if that was a good idea or not.  Hee hee, hoo hoo.

So, along with my one faithful and fully competent running partner and husband John, it was onto the track for a tempo run.  Ahhhhhh.  A tempo pace draws on the cardiovascular system, allows the legs to stretch and stride, gives full heed to arm swing.  Oxygen is in high demand, and yes, there is the dreaded stress added to the calves and Achilles tendons.  Keeping within the number of miles Doc allotted me, I did my slow warm up, then long stretch.  My tempo miles would only be three, but in my mind it would be the quality that mattered today.  Nicely I began and got into a comfortable stride right away.  I really had no idea what pace I could do since it had been a while and I have had no clear marker of my current fitness, so I went mostly by feel.  My plan was to descend each mile so that my pace steadily grew more rapid throughout.  I'm sure Doc will think this is a great idea.

My first mile was completed in 6:30 and felt steady, relaxed and seemed to put little stress on my body or system, so I wasn't intimidated to pick it up a bit.  Oh ... the dilemma of how to describe how wonderful this run felt.  I was enjoying it as much as I've enjoyed any run in my life.  The second mile came through in a happy 6:14 and onward I loped.  Holy cowhide Batman, no pain at all, only yippy skippy, sunny, funny running.  Well with only one mile to go, I was yet again not intimidated by the pace and picked it up one more notch, wondering if I would crack, but thinking probably not.  The final tempo mile finished in 6:04.  You know what?  Yah it was only 3 miles but from my stance my body did what I asked of it, remained fully healthy and strong throughout, and hay, it's a step forward in the rehabilitation of a year long injury and I was ... happy with that 6:16 paced tempo run.  I bounded around for my mile warm down and felt like I actually finally went for a run.

Now to tell Doc.  I was able to bring to the table the fact that I had no problem what so ever, you know, with which to sort of make my case.  I entered my notes into my training journal, every detail, every mile time, and punctuated it with, "Ummm, was this okay to do?"  Then I sent it off in an email.  I would have to wait until Monday to get his reaction.

On Monday Doc told me ... Yep, not a problem to test your body while rehab'ing. 
"So can I test it every time I run?"
"As long as you're letting your body fully recover in between the hard runs and as long as there are no set backs, you can push it."  At least I think that's what he said.  That's what I heard anyway.  He explained the long-term goal of getting back as soon as possible into a smart but challenging training regimen and this was a great step.
You know that new Geico commercial where the wee wee wee piggy Maxwell is zip lining and pulls up to and even with the guy in front of him and says, "Pure adrenaline, snort, hee hee."

Well that's sort of how I felt.

So today on the track, I decided to add another mile to my tempo run, making it a 4 miler.  I'll do the extra mile first and will ask Doc about it later.  That seems to work well.  It was, how shall I put this ... another unbelievable run. 

"To feel all of the pressures of a hard pace, face it squarely, dare it to drop you, conquer it and walk away unscathed is a thing of beauty." (Cindy Abrami)  Pure adrenaline.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

So ... How'd it Go?

This morning Mo Mo, the community cat, meowed below the staircase, waiting to scurry into whichever office door opened first.  Mo Mo's my bud, so I called the fat, animated rainbow colored tabby to come up with me to Doc's office.  When Mo Mo settles into the waiting room chairs he is clearly in his intended environment because he blends perfectly into the fabric.  Swiftly to sleep he falls and I am summoned to room #1.

Says Doc, "So ... how was the jog?"
I hate that word "jog" profusely.  It should be stricken from the English language.
I walk smoothly and steadily to the Chiropractic face slit bench thingy, being careful not to lend a hint of any type of limp.  I have no limp, but I don't want to accidentally limp and have my "jogging" ripped again from my fragile grip.  Ugh!!  Such drama.  Healthy smile on my face and spark in my eye.
"It was fffffffabulous."
A doubter's stare stabbed at me.  "Mmmmhmmmm.  No problems?"
Well that's not a fair question and requires some interpretation.

Wednesday was a much anticipated day for me.  The last command barked to me as I exited Doc's office on Monday was, "You get one slow run on Wednesday.  That means not today and not on Tuesday.  Only Wednesday."  Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday.  Hurry up already.  I felt like an adolescent girl waiting to develop.  Where are you guys already??!!

On Wednesday I carefully packed my backpack with all of my running essentials: shoes, socks, watch, sunglasses.  Running is so simple isn't it. 

When I pack for swimming I have goggles, cap, paddles, pull buoy, suit, parka, towel, shampoo, conditioner, hair dryer.  It's like packing for an overnight trip. 

But not so for the track.  Shoes, socks, watch and glasses ... boom (oh, oops. Little iPod Shuffle too)!!  Happy, happy, happy.  I love you puke purple Nike Free's.  Let's go do this.

Doc was real clear about running surface.  "Run on the city college track."  Like a little angel conscience person, he sat on my shoulder when I arrived on my bike to the city college track.  Hmmm 2:40 pm.  City college track practice.  Track closed to lowly non-team members.  I dismounted and studied all posted signs.  The little beasts were blocking all the lanes.  Hurdles everywhere.  Do they really need all 9 lanes?  This is my track today.  This is my Wednesday.  My run day.  Options?  Options?  Did Doc really say my only option was the track?  I flicked the little angel conscience guy off my shoulder, got on my bike and headed over to the harbor.  Surely the beachway concrete path was a reasonable substitute.  "Do NOT do an out-and-back run."  I flicked him off my shoulder again.  Annoying.

Alright, so I'm not going to run on the track but I am going to run.  Shoot, and it's going to have to be out-and-back.  But I'll be careful to do everything else in full compliance.

The prescription:  One mile extremely, horribly slow to warm up.  STRETCH for a long time.  Three not quite as horribly slow, but still nauseatingly slow miles.  One hidiously, painstakingly slow mile to warm down.  STRETCH again for a long time.

My greatest tool, besides my puke purple Nikes, was my Garmin which would be my monitor.  On asphalt, I began a slow gait to warm up.  With a continual body checking going on, I noted that my system was shocked.  What!!  We're running?  How do you do that again?  It was tediously slow on purpose and I was so very, very careful and smooth.  As I warmed a bit, I began to feel that old familiar bounce in my step.  My right side had been bounceless for over a year.  Today I was bouncing off my toes ... and smiling at passers by.  Please don't let there be Achilles pain.  That was my mantra.

The warm up mile finished in a satisfactory 8:40, and I settled into my long stretch.  An inspirational play list can work against a person in such a situation.  I was filled with "Rocky-like" energy as I stretched.  I envisioned running down the path with a crowd of people latching on to my slip stream, moving ever closer to those Philadelphia stairs.  Tame it baby.  Pull back the reigns.  A deep breath and then I was off on my 3 mile out-and-back.  My Garmin read 7:03 pace.  Bad Garmin.  You must be broken.  6:45 pace.  Seriously?  I put on the brakes.  There is no point in taking any risk.  I wanted to finish this thing pain free.  Out ... smile, smile, smile ... back ... elation.  You can do it.  No pain.  No pain.  No pain.  Sounding like Rocky again.  My bouncy gait came to rest at three miles on my patch of grass starting point/stretching area.  7:30 pace overall, but I spent nothing to do it.  Heck, that elliptical may not be half bad after all.  Slow mile warm down and another long stretch and the verdict:  no pain in the Achilles.  The right knee was grumpy and I'll have to tell Doc, but the Achilles which has been the real problem and real focus, was wonderful.

Back at the office, with Mo Mo my bud, I lay face down with electrical pulses surging through my hips and leg.  I told Doc that everything was great except my right knee.  That little statement earned me some punishment in the form of ART in the pertinent area.  OUCH. 
"Alright.  Great job.  Have a great weekend.  See you next week."
"Oh. Uh. Well can I run again?"  Come on Doc.  Give me my pill.  Does he NOT understand the addiction?
"You may run up to twice a week on the CITY COLLEGE track.  Make sure there's at least two days between runs.  Ice.  If there is ANY pain, stop.  Do all your other cross-training in between runs."

I love my doctor.  Corned beef anyone?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Doctor's Orders

It's cloudy and cold, not the kind of day that beckons you to come play, but for the runner who is trapped daily in a gym, it's as good a day as any.  I swing my leg over my bike for the four block trek to Doc.  It's been four weeks since I began seeing the doc.  I look forward to the bionic outcome, but for now I lament the need for treatment. 

When I came to see him I was deep into the healing process of a year-long injury and I thought all was progressing forward, though not fast enough.  He felt otherwise.  First order of business ... stop running. 
"What?  Like, stop running for a few weeks?"
"Well, we'll see how long.  I need to get you straightened out.  You're kind of a mess."
"Gosh ... I hadn't noticed Doc.  I thought that knee cap was supposed to be down over there, and that rib was supposed to be up over here."  I felt like Igor as I blinked disappointment at this "no running" announcement.  The open-ended status of "we'll see" had me quite nervous.

So I hunkered down for maybe a 3 week sabbatical but now three weeks has turned into four and I'm staring at week number five when I ride into the office for my first of two visits for the week.  He notices my bike needs several adjustments.  Among Doc's many talents is elite cycling coaching and bike fitting.  Apparently my bike, similar to my body, has things in the wrong location, at the wrong angle.  But that's another story all together.  Back to my ever extending running sabbatical.

"So Doc, what exactly are we waiting for before I can maybe try to run again?  Cuz I am about to lose it on the elliptical."  My eyes were wild and I felt a snarl appearing across the bridge of my nose.  Just keep it cool and be nice.  Smile ... sweet eye blink.
"Well, how is your Achilles feeling?"
Blink, blink, smile ... "It is absolutely wonderful.  When you were digging into this morning I hardly flinched."
"We can't take it too quickly or it will become irritated and slow progress.  I know how you runners are.  I give you a mile, you take ten."
Smile.  Sweet eye blink ... twice.  "Not me Doc.  I will do just what you ask.  If you give me a mile, I will take it."
"You do realize that if I give you a mile, that doesn't mean in the form of repeats.  You can't run your mile, rest, then repeat."
Irritated smile.  "Fine ... I'll take my single mile, just please give me just a smidgen of running."
"Ok.  This is what I'd like you to do.  Start out by going on a speed walk for an hour."
No more smile.  Tears begin to form.  Blink, blink the tears back.  SPEED WALK.
"No.  Listen Doc.  I have NO pain and I have to run.  You gotta give me something.  I walk all day long in my job.  I can take more.  How about stadium steps." (This is the give and take strategy.  He gives me speed walk, I give him stadium steps and we eventually meet somewhere in the middle).
"No.  No stadium steps.  That's the worst thing you can do.  Alright, let's have you try a short, easy run on the city college track.  I want you to warm up slowly, as in walk, and then stretch.  Then do an easy three miles.  Stop if there is any discomfort.  Then an easy warm down and final stretch.  Then go home and ice.  This is to be done on Wednesday so that we can see how it goes at your Thursday appointment."
Elated smile.  Sweet eye blink.  "Alright.  Thank you, thank you, thank you."

I trust this doc.  He knows what he's talking about and he cares.  So Wednesday I will be at the city college taking in these precious few miles with appreciation.  The miles will be followed by a tough master's swim workout and I predict that I will be happy.  Will I be tempted to run hard ... yes.  Tempted to detour up the stadium steps ... yes.  Tempted to run farther than prescribed ... yes.  But my desire to be healed is a greater desire than all these temptations.  Isn't that the best way to defeat temptation:  Be passionate about the greater goal.  Make IT a greater temptation.

I added a new song to my playlist this weekend.  Lyrics can be so appropriate.
Changes by Butterfly Boucher and David Bowie

First verse and chorus:
I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

(Turn and face the strain)
Don't want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strain)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time