Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ankle Injury Report - 11/20/10

UPDATE: I had surgery on 1/6/11 to repair blown out ligaments and started slowly running again on 2/18. I look forward to posting on my first official race back!

I normally only post about the races I've run, but being that I won't be running for the foreseeable future, I wanted everyone to know why.

I made it a year and half since my last major injury. It was my right foot then. This time, it was my right ankle. It was a 50/50 challenge about midway through the second half of my soccer game. I was steamrolled by another player at which point my ankle must have rolled over. I knew without a doubt that this wasn't a get up and and walk it off injury. I made it to the side of the field and took off my gear, which I now know to be a mistake, and immediately my ankle had already swelled up significantly. My old team was there getting ready to play after, and a number of them rushed over and taped me up, gave me ice and ibuprofen, and even piggybacked me over to my team.

After the game, the general consensus was that I should go to the hospital given the pain I was in and the fact that it swelled up so quickly. I wasn't going to argue, I knew that this was the worst ankle injury I've had so far, and it could't hurt to rule out a break, and get some pain meds. Two of my teammates, Nora and Zoe, hung out with me at the hospital, even getting burritos delivered which was a great distraction. By the time the burritos came, the pain medicine was in full effect and my ankle was numb for the most part. The doctor, the nurse, the xray technician, and the guy who wheeled me up to xrays all felt the need to say "Whoa, that's swollen." Yes, thank you for confirming the obvious, that is why I'm here. Xrays showed there was no break, and I was released with the instructions to go see a specialist. By this time my dad had driven up, I needed him as I knew I was in no condition to take care of myself for the next few days. I couldn't even walk. We left the hospital as sheets of rain came pouring down, and thunder and lightening filled the sky. Appropriate weather for what I knew my mood was going to be for the next month or two.

By the time I packed my things and got back to Danville, my ankle was bigger than it's ever been, and the pharmacy was closed, so I'd have to wait until the next day for my pain meds. It's interesting what you think of when you first get injured. Naturally, the first thing I thought of as I lay on the field was that I was done with running for awhile, and then I thought why couldn't it have been my left ankle so I could drive. But it was when I was in bed that I really started to realize what this meant and the tears began to fall. I couldn't walk, I couldn't drive, I couldn't run, and I had no idea for how long. Crutches are helping me getting around, though I'm terrible with them and I've come close to falling numerous times, especially when trying to navigate around my parents dogs. Driving is going to be a problem. Luckily I don't drive very much these days, but I'm going to have to rely on my friends in SF for rides when I need them, and I hate more than anything having to feel dependent on other people. I've no idea how I'm going to get to work, and I'll probably have to work from home until I can at least walk with a boot or something.

The real issue though was of course the running. The day before I did a 16 mile run which kicked off marathon training for a marathon in Arizona I was going to run in mid January. I was excited because I had a fun training schedule all planned out that included numerous trail races. I was going to miss the Turkey trail race I'd signed up for on Thanksgiving, and the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon on December 5th. Luckily those were the only two races I'd registered for. It was depressing to think of how far I've come with running in the past year and half and that I'd have to start all over again. I was down to an 8 min mile on all my training runs, and some of my half marathon times were getting pretty impressive. I remember coming back from my foot injury after 8 weeks and not being able to even run 4 miles at a 9:45 pace without stopping to take a break. It was going to be a long road back. But more than anything, running helps me to work things out in my head, it makes me happy, and it makes me feel really good about something. Not having that, even temporarily, scares me.

I woke up this morning (which is the day after) and as I look at my toes that are now swollen as well, I'm trying to have a positive attitude, but I'm having a hard time finding it. I've come up with three things. This is only temporary. The time off of running will let all my minor aches and pains heal. Once I can start walking without crutches again, hopefully a week or so, I'll talk with a personal trainer about what I can do to start working on my core strength which will hopefully put me in a good position to start running again.

This kind of thing makes me question whether I want to continue with soccer. I put myself at risk for this kind of thing every time I step onto the picth. My sports med doctor suggested I use a wobble board to strengthen my ankles since I've had problems with them in the past. For the past four months, four times a day I've used a wobble board religiously. Unfortunately, no amount of time on the wobble board was going to stop this from happening. The impact was just too strong. But like running, maybe to a lesser degree though, I really enjoy playing soccer. I enjoy the team aspect of it, and the social aspect, and I venture to guess that I'll be back once I'm healed.

I'm thankful for all my friends who were there to help me out, especially those from my old team who helped me immediately after the injury, and to those on my new team who stayed at the hospital with me. And I'm thankful for all those who checked up on me and sent me good wishes. Having those kind of old and new friends in your life that do those things for you, really make you feel good. And I'm thankful for my parents who will be waiting on me hand and foot for the next few weeks!

And now for a collection of pics on the progression of my swelling:

at the hospital

later that night. meet my cankle.

the next morning. attractive, huh?

27 hours after injury

3 days after injury

7 days later. Swelling going down, bruising/discoloration getting worse.

2 weeks post surgery.

Monday, November 8, 2010

US Half Marathon - 11/7/10

For the sixth Sunday in a row I was awake before the sun had risen to run a half marathon. This weekend it was the US Half Marathon right here in San Francisco. Thankfully, due to the time change I got an extra hour of sleep so I was feeling pretty good when it was time to wake up. Packet pick up was on Saturday at Sports Basement so I didn't have to get there too early since I already had my bib, but it was a 7am start. The start was near aquatic park and originally I had planned to take the scooter, but with the rain, I had no choice but to drive. Driving down Van Ness, I had a near heart attack when a car that was parked on the side decided to pull out right in front of me. It was still dark outside and coupled with the pouring rain, visibility was an issue, but to make matters worse, this jackass had no lights on on his car. He pulled out right in front of me, oblivious to my existence, and if it wasn't for the fact that the lane next to me was empty enabling me to swerve around him, there's no doubt I would have plowed into him. Nothing like a near accident to get your juices flowing before a race.

When you're driving to a race and your windshield wipers are on at full speed, you know it's going to be ugly out there. I sat in the parking garage not wanting to leave my warm car because I knew as soon as I stepped outside I was going to be soaked. Eventually I had no choice and made the move towards the starting line. I was following these three young guys, one of which was saying how he recently did a Susan G. Komen walk and was bragging about how many chicks were there. Um, dufus, you do realize that's a walk for a cure for breast cancer, don't you?! Of course there are going to be a lot of women there! I got annoyed with them so veered off in another direction as they continued to talk about how it was a good place to meet women.

I soon found myself in the huge line for the porta potties. I stood there for about five minutes when I realized I really didn't have to go. Why was I in this line? Maybe it was just habit, so I left knowing I'd be better off trying to find a place under some covering to get out of the rain instead. Unfortunately, all those places were taken already. I ditched my sweat bag and proceeded to the start. I was determined to start in the front of the pack this time and this meant getting up there early. I stood there for 15 minutes in the rain. By the time the race started there was not a dry spot on my body. I was shivering and cold, and ready to get running. As the race started we ran up a hill to put us onto Bay Street, and we passed the porto potties and all the people who were still in line for them. Luckily the street was wide enough that the people were able to move over to the side so we didn't collide with them, but ultimately, I don't think it was the best location for them. Starting out in the front is definitely the way to go. While there were still slower people at the front, you didn't have nearly as many to weave around, so I was able to come out with a 7:50 first mile and was pretty much free from the larger pack.

Initially, I wanted to wear my Nike Free Runs, but they are such a thin shoe I figured that wouldn't work with all the rain. I soon found out it didn't matter what I was wearing on my feet, they were soaked before the race even started. In fact, I wished I would've wore my Free Runs since they are a much lighter shoe then my Asics Gel Nimbus and wouldn't have been so heavy when water logged. This course was similar to a few others I'd run so I was very familiar with it. We headed down the Marina Green to Crissy Field passed the Sports Basement where they have their usual crew of employees out cheering everyone on. Mile four brought us into the Presidio which meant hills. Most of them I've run before, they aren't that long, but they are challenging.

After looping around the Presidio we found ourselves on the Golden Gate bridge. We weren't running the bed of the bridge, it was open to vehicles as usual, we were running on the walkways. The bridge itself isn't flat and you battle a constant uphill on it as well. When we reached the other side we circled down and under the bridge on a muddy dirt trail and came up on the other side. As I was running down the one side I realized that things weren't quite right. The faster I ran, the more I got a side stitch and I couldn't pinpoint why. I never have a problem with picking up my speed, but today I apparently was. It wasn't severe, but enough to make me back off a little and not feel quite as comfortable in my pace. As we came up the hill on the other side, I used the opportunity of a slow pace to eat my GU. It was the first thing I'd eaten that morning, and I started wondering if that was what my problem was. I'm usually very good about eating a little something before races, and that's the only thing I did differently. Regardless, at this point I was just over half way and started the run back on the other side of the bridge. I always like this part because you get to watch all the runners on the other side. And you'd be amazed at all the drivers who honk and yell words of encouragement out of the their windows.

We passed the nine mile marker shortly after we came off the bridge and I knew the course was basically all downhill from there. We ran down to Marine Drive and followed that to the point, and then headed back through Crissy Field. The rain was still coming down just as hard as it had been the entire time, but now it was coming down at such an angle that it was pelting me in the eye. I really wished I would've had a hat to keep it out of my eyes, but ultimately it was just more of an irritant than anything. I'd turned into a prune already back at mile five (pic taken after race), my clothes were plastered to my body, and running through six inch deep puddles ensured that my socks were nice and squishy. I can only imagine how awesome I must look in the race pictures and can't wait to see them.

It was around mile 10 that I started getting really tired. More tired then I usually do, and the next three miles reflected that in my pace. Mile 13 saw my pace drop all the way down to 9:26 which is not good considering it was all flat at that point. To somewhat of my defense, this is when the wind was at it's worst and we were running right into it which was torture. As if the rain wasn't enough. I was actually surprised how many spectators were out despite the rain. At one point during mile 13, there was a lady with her two small daughters out cheering everyone on. Our bibs had our names on them so people often cheered for you by name, which I love. I turned to her and said thank you, and she just started cheering more. The three of them were like my own private cheering squad.

After running back along the Marina Green, we ran up through the park at Fort Mason and this is when you could start to hear the announcer at aquatic park. There was also a female runner who had already finished that was walking towards us and telling us we were almost there. I always think it's nice when finishers cheer on people who are still running. I started wondering what her finishing time was and realized I wasn't paying much attention to what mine was going to be. I was so wet and miserable, and not really feeling like I was having a very good race that I just wanted it to end. And soon after it did. My GPS watch clocked me at 1:53:24 for 13.1 miles, but my official time was 1:54:20 due to the course being about a tenth of a mile longer. I thought my time was decent given the conditions and the hills on the course. I finished 45th out 506 people in the 30-39 age division, which is the top 9%. Total there were just under 3,000 participants with runners from all over the country and Canada.

It's disappointing the weather was so bad because this would've been a great race. The course is beautiful, but with the rain, looking out to the bridge or the water was just gray. I felt bad for all the people that flew in for it considering it was beautiful and clear the day before and day after it. You really did get a lot of bang for your buck for the race too. I found out about a groupon for it on dailymile that enabled me to register for $40 instead of the usual $80. Despite the discount, even for $80 it was still a well priced race compared to some of them I run. We each got a blue, long sleeved tech shirt that is quite cute, and when we crossed the finish line, instead of getting a bottled water, we were given water in a stainless steel water bottle with the US Half Marathon logo on it. They had a ton of free food including plates with rice, veggies, and chicken, or you could go the breakfast route and have oatmeal with all sorts of toppings including a touch of yogurt. I chose the oatmeal which I thought was delicious especially since it was warm. They also had self serve frozen yogurt, and all the usual hand outs from muscle milk, honest ade, and Gordon Beirsch was even there filling up your water bottle with beer as well.

All of our sweat bags were thrown in a pile under a gazebo which looked like a nightmare, but luckily for me as I walked up, I saw mine lying right in front of me. I couldn't wait to strip off my wet shirt and put on my dry jacket. I had pre-paid for a massage at the expo because I knew my adductors would need it given how they felt after the previous weekend. When I went to the tent they offered to give me a refund if I just wanted to bail, but I knew the massage would do me good, even though I really feel massages should be free at the end of a race (which usually they are). As I stood there waiting for my turn, this nice spectator saw me shivering and put his blanket around me. I wanted to give him a huge kiss I was so grateful for his kindness. When it was my turn the massage therapist told me he recognized me and that he thought he worked on me before. I told him he hadn't, since this is only the third massage I've received post race, and he said that he has definitely seen me around at races before then. I'm not sure if he was confusing me someone else, but I guess I have done my fair share of races. After 20 minutes of massage heaven where I was covered under warm towels, it was time to go. A hot shower never sounded so good.

I set out to run six half marathons in six weeks and this was the last in the series. I'm not sure why I wanted to do it, probably just to see if I could. I told myself that when I'm training for a marathon I would be putting in equally as many miles if not more, so what's the difference. Truth is, there is a difference. Marathon training runs are not races and I run them at a nice and easy pace. For each of these races, I ran really hard, and with the exception of the San Jose Rock and Roll doozer, I'm happy with all my times. I've learned a lot about my body and recovery during these six weeks through the help of my sports med doctor who I will continue to see on a regular basis. I also know that while I'll still keep running, it's time for me to take a couple weeks off from racing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Half Marathon - 10/31/10

This was the first race that I seriously considering skipping in favor of sleeping in when my alarm went off at 5a. Not only was I exhausted, but I'd consumed more then my usual self imposed two beer limit before race day the night before. I didn't have much more then two, so I wasn't necessarily hungover, but I was definitely dehydrated and not looking forward to having to get to San Jose for the 7a start. As I pondered what to do all snug under my warm down comforter, I weighed my options. Option 1: Sleep in, forget the race, and be mad at myself later for not just getting up and doing it. Option 2: Suck it up, run the race, come home satisfied and take a nap. It didn't take all that long for me to decide option number two was the way to go, after all, I was already awake.

I was out the door in record time and it felt odd that my morning was just beginning when clearly there were a number of people whose night had yet to end. As I headed toward the freeway I passed a lot people still in costumes, looking a little worse for the wear, stumbling home. In a way I was jealous that they were all headed for their beds, but I knew I'd be back in mine as soon as I finished. On the way down, I tried to combat my dehydration by drinking as much water as I could. Immediately when I arrived in San Jose I had to go the bathroom. Luckily, the previous day when I'd picked up my packet at the Hilton San Jose, I scoped out a bathroom so knew exactly where to head. Much better then standing outside in a huge line for a porto potty.

I ventured over to the start and still had a good 20 minutes before race time, but I wasn't ready to give up my jacket and sweatpants because it was freezing out. So I found a corner to hideout in in hopes of blocking out the elements and I sat there watching everyone. Runners are funny people. Everyone has their pre-race rituals. A lot of people do silly stretches which I'm not sure are actually even useful, and then there's the runners that feel the need to run up and down the streets. I assume they do it to warm up, but personally, I've never understood this. The way I look at is I've got 13.1 miles to warm up. No need to warm up before the race just to cool down again when you're standing in the corral waiting for gun. Me, I like to expend as little energy as possible and do absolutely nothing until the race starts.

With ten minutes to race time I had to relinquish my sweats to the volunteers at the UPS van. Now I was really cold, so I folded my arms into my shirt which made me look like a double arm amputee. Ultra-marathoner, Dean Karnazes, said a few words of encouragement before we all took off. I was ready to go knowing I'd warm up quickly. We departed at the same time as the full marathoners. It was a bit crowded for the first mile, but I blame myself for not starting closer to the front. I promised myself when I made the decision to run while still in bed two hours earlier, that I wouldn't push myself. Having run a PR the weekend before, I was feeling pretty satisfied and didn't feel the need to try and set another one. Plus, I was too tired.

The race started only a few blocks away from the start of the San Jose Rock and Roll I ran a few weeks back, but this was a completely different course. I could only hope it wouldn't be a repeat of that horrible race. I soon found out it it wasn't going to be. At least I didn't think so. I experienced something I rarely ever feel when I'm running. I felt like I was running really slow, but in all actuality I was settling in to a fairly quick 8:20 pace. Despite the fact that I was running that pace, it still felt like it took forever to reach mile 4. For much of those first miles we wound our way around residential neighborhoods which was entertaining because a lot of the houses were decorated for Halloween. Some families who clearly weren't affiliated with the race were outside drinking their coffee with their kids and dogs watching all of us run by.

Not long after mile 4, we passed Willow Street Frank Bramhall Park where I saw a lady with two dogs the size of labradors, but with full, thick coats of longish hair. They looked like they were wearing sweaters which immediately disgusted me. I'm not a huge fan of dogs wearing clothes unless it's a Halloween costume. However, as I got closer I realized they were wearing plain white t-shirts that were written all over with messages of support for a runner. I thought that was a great idea. Forget holding a sign yourself, have your dog wear it! And yet another exception to the dogs shouldn't wear clothes peeve of mine.

It was right around this time where there was a young kid, maybe 14 or so, who was running around our pack. He'd pass us, then slow down, and we'd pass him, and this went on for awhile, which isn't that odd for a young runner, or older runner for that matter. What was odd was that every time he passed, I could hear him talking to himself. But I couldn't really understand it, he was just muttering phrases, and he sounded incoherent. There was a part of me that was actually kind of concerned for him. Shortly after mile five I passed him right as we turned onto a trail. As I passed him, he was talking gibberish again, but I did mange to hear him say Los Gatos Creek Trail which was the trail we were on. I'm still not sure what he was saying the rest of the time, but that was the last I saw of him and I can only assume he was just reading aloud signs that he saw or street names we were on, but it was very strange. Regardless, I'm always impressed with these young kids I see running long distance races.

We ran along the Los Gatos Creek Trail for the next seven miles. This was by far the best part of the course. Without sounding like an old lady, it was really lovely. It was a paved path, but it runs alongside a creek that is lined with eucalyptus trees and lots of other trees I couldn't identify. It reminded me a little of last weekends trail in Livermore, especially in the sense that we passed a few small parks on the way, and went under a number of overpasses, but this trail was much more dense with greenery and seemed further away from traffic. Having seven straight miles of trail was fantastic. Sometimes it's fun getting to run down the middle of the street during races, but I love that feeling of being out in nature, not hearing cars driving by or the busy sounds of the city. Maybe it's because living in the city, I don't get the opportunity to run on trails as much as I would like.

I was running well. For the first nine miles I kept a very steady pace of 8:20, my splits only fluctuating a few seconds on either side. I knew I was going to slow for a PR, but I was happy with how I was feeling so I just decided to do what I could. The thing is, I always want to do good, and unless I feel like shit, I'm going to run as fast as I can because it's so much more satisfying at the end. Just as we hit mile 10, the trail took us through Vasona Lake Park, that given the name, not surprisingly, had a good size lake in the middle of it. There was a decent number of spectators here cheering us on which was much needed at the time. I was starting to get a bit tired, but knew I still had a good three miles left.

For much of the race I was running with males. I'd venture to guess most of them were doing the full marathon. This was a bit hard for me because I like to focus on a female ahead of me with the intent of passing her. It keeps me going at a good pace and gives me a short term goal. There was a good stretch of the trail where I couldn't find any women to focus on. That all seemed to change when we hit the park. Not only could I pick out female runners ahead of me, but there were a few that were passing me as well. After placing in last weekends race, and having looked at the previous years race results, I thought I stood a very slight chance at doing it again. I was wrong, but I didn't know that then, so every time someone passed me I'd try to guess her age to see if she was in my age group. Regardless, it usually made me step up my pace a bit, even passing one or two of them again, while some I never regained the lead from.

When I hit mile 10 is usually when I can get a good feel of what my finishing time will be. I looked at my watch and calculated that I could possibly finish under 1:50, but it would mean I'd have to make up some time, which I didn't think I had in me. I tried though, but when my next split was 8:36, I knew that wasn't going to happen. At mile 12.5 we exited the trail and entered into Los Gatos High School where we ran along 2/3rds of their track. This is where the marathoners split off and continued back to the start, and where we went to the finish. At the split, I was shocked to find that two of the women who had passed me, that I wasn't able to catch, went the route of the marathon. I was a bit in awe. They were on track to run a 3:40 marathon, which is a BQ time, something that seems so unattainable to me right now. They'll never know it, but they really motivated me. Seeing them has really made me want to work on my marathon times because I know I have a lot of room for improvement there. For that matter, I even have a lot of room for improvement on my half marathon time if I ever want to get to a sub 8 minute pace.

Immediately after the split we ran into the ballpark and ran along the circumference towards the orange and black balloon finish line. By my watch the course was about a tenth of a mile long, though I'm sure this was a result of my weaving in and out of traffic. At 13.1, I stopped my watch with a time of 1:50:30. There were two of us coming in at nearly the same time, and the announcer called out both of our names and cities. I love it when they do this, it makes me feel special. My official time was 1:51:14. Luckily for me, there was only a very short line at the massage tent, so I quickly got a 10 minute massage to loosen up my legs. By the time I was done, there were so many more finishers that the wait was over 30 minutes. The massage was much needed given that I started getting some piriformis and hamstring pain the previous week. I'm fairly certain it's due to some new strengthening exercises I started doing, but I figure I'll let my sports med doctor work it out. After all, she's worked wonders on all my other running aches and pains.

This was a point to point course so I jumped on the school bus after getting my sweats for a ride back to the start. When we got deposited at the finish area for the marathoners which was only a block from the start, I checked to see what place I'd finished in. It turns out I came in 7th out of 77 runners in my 30-34 division. Even if I had run a PR, I still wasn't close to the 3rd place finisher who came in at 1:42. I really enjoyed this race, not only was the course great, which I owe a lot to that trail, but having been held on Halloween made it a little more interesting. A number of the volunteers manning the aid stations were dressed up in costumes, one of the police officers directing traffic got into the spirit and wore a witches hat and accessories, and there were even a number of runners dressed up as well. One guy was running in a a nacho libre type mask. How he ran with one of those on is beyond me.

I left feeling great. I ran the race in a much faster time then what I was expecting when I was trying to decide if I wanted to get out of bed four hours earlier. I had passed the 1,000 mile mark for total miles run in 2010, and as I knew I would be, I was pleased I was able to motivate and get to San Jose. Not only that, but I left with some new motivation to push myself a little harder to become a faster runner.