Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Training

Spring has brought unseasonably warm (80+) weather and perfect conditions for runners and cyclists alike.  We took advantage of this last week during Katie's spring break week as we made our way to Pensacola, FL and back for rest, relaxation and some great training.


We kicked off the week with a Saturday "St. Patrick's Day" 5K in Nashville, TN.  I spectated while Katie ran her first 5K of the year.  She finished in under 24 minutes but thanks to a timing chip malfunction we aren't sure exactly where she finished but would have fallen in the top 10 of 300 females in her age group.  I thought this was impressive considering her back of the pack start and pushing through a crowd of 2500+ runners.


After arriving in Pensacola, we visited the the Gulf Islands National Seashore where I climbed up a roughly two story old artillery bunker and then went for a short barefoot run of about 30 minutes on the beach.  I forgot how incredibly difficult it is to run in sinking sand and the top of my right foot felt pretty sore but overall I was just happy to be running with my feet free and soaking in ocean water and air.

Later I went out for an out and back bike ride with roughly 15 miles of hard effort sandwiched between two easy spins for a total of 45 miles.  This was a mostly flat route with four "bridge" climbs over the harbor.


Monday Katie and I rode from Pensacola Beach through the Gulf Islands National Seashore to Fort Pickens and back to Pensacola Beach.  We did the mistake of riding with the wind first so our first taste of ocean headwind was a shock.  This barrier island is a "must ride" in my opinion as it is 48 miles long and almost entirely national park and natural beaches with few visitors.  There aren't many cars either, and either large bike lane shoulders or bike paths are on both sides of the road.  We fueled our 40 mile ride with some delicious vegetable and fruit smoothies as there was unfortunately no ice cream available on the island.

We also found a local running store called Running Wild and had to stop in and check it out.  We chatted with the owner and discovered that the area definitely has far more triathletes than trail runners (which I thought might be the case given how many aerobars on other bikes we saw while out riding).  We tried a new flavor of GU (Peanut Butter) which we both liked a lot, and got a new electrolyte drink that I especially liked.  I've not seen Nuun brand "Kona Cola" electrolyte tablets before but they made the water taste just like a watered down flat diet coke which might sound questionable but is great with a little ice.  I definitely will add these to my rotation of drinks.


We rode another "out and back" route on the island over a bridge to the mainland and back, with a stop for fish tacos in between.  Since we had the wind at our back we pressed through a "time trial" in what looked like Death Valley between ocean and harbor in the Navarre Beach Park.  Katie and I both tried to reach a "flat land speed record" and were each successful.  I topped out on the flat in my big chain ring at 37 mph which was a shock to me.  It was still extremely difficult to sustain this "max speed" for more than 10 to 15 seconds even with the mega tailwind at our back.  It was another good day of cycling ending with almost 30 miles.

After our ride, we also ran an "out and back" on the desolate park beach for about 25 minutes.  With the rough ocean washing up anything and everything, we saw a portuguese man-o-war roughly ever 10 to 20 feet along the sand so that added some extra challenge to the barefoot running.


Wednesday morning Katie and I ran along the Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway and then down to the Bay Bluffs Park for a total of about 55 minutes of easy running and hiking.  The Pensacola Bluffs Scenic Highway is definitely beautiful with nicely rolling hills, cliffs reminiscent of a California coastal highway, and beautiful views over the harbor.  I saw plenty of other runners and cyclists on this route, so it must be a local favorite.

In the afternoon I got in a longer ride north of Pensacola over the Highway 90 (Scenic Bluffs Highway) Escambia Bay Bridge to the Blackwater Heritage Trail (long paved trail) and then back for a total of 75 miles.  This was my first ever double road flat so I was glad I brought along a second spare tube.  There were plenty of reasonably challenging rolling hills along much of this route as well so I ended up reasonably beat by my return.


In the evening I rode an out and back 30 mile route to Pensacola Beach from the Pensacola mainland, crossing both the 3 mile Pensacola Bay bridge and the Pensacola Beach bridge.  This was by far the windiest day and I was absolutely decimated by the wind as I struggled to cross the 3 mile bridge at more than 11 mph.

On the way back, I then felt the true power of this wind over the 3 mile bridge.  Over the entire 3 mile bridge crossing I was able to sustain between 30 and 35 mph.  I felt plenty of fear as well as exhilaration as I tried to visualize how I would abandon my bike in the sea and swim to shore should I fly off the side of the bridge.  At this speed with gusts of wind pushing me forward this seemed like a real possibility to prepare for.  Regardless, it was amazing to push my big ring that hard and I briefly got an idea of what it must be like to be awesome (in the cycling sense).

For the week . . .

Racing: 1 5k for Katie

Running: 110 minutes with some walking mixed in . . . but who cares, I was running again!

Cycling: 220 miles

This was a great week for Katie and I as we both trained and ate well.  Also, with a little bit of running (finally) I felt a growing sense of confidence in my formerly injured foot.  I kept rolling my foot over a golf ball each morning and evening which really seemed to eliminate both any tightness and pain.  Had IU beaten Kentucky during our end of week visit to Atlanta it would have been a beyond perfect week.

Finally after we returned I took advantage of the Sunday weather and ran my first "real" run in months of 3 miles on the Bloomington Rail Trail with Katie.  I followed this up with almost 40 miles of cycling including some tough climbing on TC Steele road, and still came home with no foot pain.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I become a Newton Nerd

This last week I gradually began some weight bearing exercise, which will hopefully speed my return to running.  My loss of strength in the right leg, calf, and foot has been a little disappointing but at least the spot under my second metatarsal isn't hurting at all.  This is in contrast to the rest of the tendons and joints in my atrophied foot, which have been getting pretty sore.

My first experiment in rehabilitation began last week with pondering ways to avoid putting upward pressure on my forefoot when the toes are extended up on toe off.  At least for the time being, I think this will be helpful when walking around without the boot and hopefully transitioning back to flexible and low to the ground shoes.  After trying on a few shoes at the Indiana Running Company and testing various soles for stiffness, I found the two "stiffest" shoes that seemed to evenly distribute load on the metatarsals heads and felt great to walk around in.  The first was the Saucony Perigrine (trail shoe), which had the stiffness and almost perfectly shaped footbed I was looking for.  The other, was quite frankly a huge shock.  The Newton "Sir Isaac" trainer was flawless for my purpose.  My foot could roll off the front without too much of a forefoot bend, and the shoe was certainly stiff enough.

Newton "Sir Isaac" Trainer

This wasn't what I hoped to find out, as a I have long (and after a road test of 9 miles in a pair) harbored a dislike for the Newton shoes and sort of mocked the shoe in my own mind as being ridiculous both in design and price.  Function aside, I have to admit the shoe seems pretty well constructed and pretty much bomb proof.  It's no wonder people claim to easily get 1000+ miles out of these.  I'm still intent on transitioning out of these as soon as possible but am going to have to give a little more respect to the "newton nerds" from here on out.

My acclimation to weight bearing activity so far has been reasonable.  Since last week, my training has looked like this:

2 - 3 miles of walking around in the Newtons (calf muscles were pretty much wrecked after this but probably a good exercise in strengthening)

3 x 20 Individual Leg Extensions
2 x 10 Individual Leg Calf Raise Machine
3 x 15 Individual Standing Calf Raises
3 x 20 Side and Reverse / Front Hip Extensions w/ resistance using pulley
3 x 10 One Legged Squats (standing on box)
.25 miles of running
30 minutes on Stairmaster (up to 140 stairs per minute pace till almost failure)

3 x 8 One Legged Deadlift
3 x 10 Captain's Chair leg raises (core)
3 x 20 Crunch while balanced on exercise ball (core)
45 minutes on home spin bike, replaced pedal cages with SPD pedals first (much better!)

I finally decided it was time to get a comfortable and properly fitting pair of cycling road shoes.  I found the most well fitting pair I have ever tried on, luckily on sale at Bikesmiths, which was the SiDi Zeta.  I immediately followed this with a group ride with real cyclists, predictably ending in a drop at 25 miles and another 24 tired miles riding back into town with my friend Ryan for 49 miles on the day.  My legs were completely trashed.  The shoes were fantastic, my first real ride on a bike in a while was not.

SiDi "Zeta" Road Shoe

1 mile walk in the Newtons

3 x 8 One Legged Deadlift
0.5 miles run in Newtons (till tendons all across top of my forefoot and toes hurt too much)
10 minutes on Stairmaster
22 miles cycling

This was a good few days overall, and promising for the prospects of recovery.  I continue to take an anti-inflammatory each day and have been repeating an ice to scalding hot contrast foot bath daily with massage and some rolling of the foot on a golf ball.

I'm trying to pay extra attention to balance and individual leg exercises for the time being, with the hopes of eliminating the stabilizer and strength discrepancies between my left and right legs as soon as possible.  My two favorites at the moment are the one legged squat, and the one legged deadlift.
1 Legged Squat

1 Legged Dead Lift

Monday, March 5, 2012

The New Fake Cure for Metatarsal Head Pain

Today I made the drive up to see a doctor at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis.  Although pretty far away (1 hour and 20 minutes from Bloomington), I think it was a worthwhile trip to get a second opinion on my ongoing foot troubles.  Even if I don't get a specific resolution out of this, I won't hesitate to recommend this doctor to friends because:

Diagnostics: Diagnostics of my gait, foot flexibility and particular characteristics of the pain were very thorough.  I also was satisfied with what I felt was a very methodical approach where I finally heard and saw testing being executed to look at specific issues that I recognized from my incessant reading of way too many articles about running related foot disfunction common in the metatarsal head, joint and surrounding area.

Time Spent: I also answered more questions than I can remember, and spent almost a solid two hours in the doctor's office actively being looked at.

Recommendation: Without getting into specifics, I got advice that made sense, was not simplified, and included a reasonably complex but logical approach to solving an injury that is also complex.  As I get into the follow up plan, I'll probably post about it.

Meanwhile, I've discovered a "cure" for metatarsal head pain.  After some new pain last week from stretching my foot a little too far, the joint has been aching just a little bit all week it seems.  This was all while wearing the "boot".  Yesterday, I took off the boot for the last time (after 6 weeks) and started prodding my foot to try and figure out what might still hurt and feel for any roughness in the joint.  I noticed a "creaking" when I gripped the 2nd toe and moved it up and down and the joint still felt like it was aching.

After reading some message boards for crackpot alternative treatments I might try, I settled on contrast baths with some gentle toe yanking with metatarsal pad massage.  I put my foot first in ice water, then after fifteen minutes stuck my foot in scalding hot water for another ten minutes.  While my foot was in the water, I massaged the bottom of my foot trying to circulate and hopefully rid the bottom of my foot of some built up tissue.  It did seem later that my foot was no longer any "thicker soled" than my left foot.

After my foot was nice and heated up, I began pulling my second toe out as if trying to pull it out of the socket.  I repeated this a few times (not too hard as I'm not an expert) and then tried moving the toe manually through the full range of motion in the metatarsal joint again.  I felt no pain that I could identify, and felt no creak or roughness of any kind.

Finally, I sat and relaxed with a pen over the second toe and under the big toe and third toe for a while, thus pushing the toe down.

Did this actually do anything to help me get over this problem?  Probably not.  But it felt good, so I think I'm going to try this new alternative therapy and toe yanking every day on the off chance it might help in some odd way.

Next up, I need to get my hands on some KT tape, this seems like another good candidate for an "alternative treatment".  I say this only because I stumbled on a video, and I haven't heard anyone else suggest this yet.

This is the continued desperation of the injured runner.  Send me any other ideas that sound safe and I'll try them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

One Mile Time Trial / The Running Wife

Over the past two months, Katie has been regularly going out on four mile runs and stopping on the way home to get in a workout at the Brown County YMCA.  Needless to say, she continues to improve which is especially exciting to watch for an injured armchair runner like myself.

This week, the Indiana Running Company and BARA (Bloomington Area Runners Association) hosted a one mile time trial at IU's Gladstein Fieldhouse indoor track.  This banked one eight of a mile oval is very fun to run on, and I have fond memories of warming up around the hallways of the connected Assembly Hall before interval workouts on the track.  I mentioned the idea to Katie and she was excited to give it a shot.  On wednesday night, we headed over to the fieldhouse for another excellent "benchmark" for Katie and some much missed runner socialization for myself.

I served as the starter and lap counter for all the heats, including Katie's heat with a number of other mostly female runners.  I completely enjoyed watching her developing smooth stride and fitness on display.  Halfway through her eight laps she look relaxed and at ease, easily keeping pace with the group's "rabbit" (Ben Bartley).  This continued and she ran well with an excellently executed last lap at a faster pace.  I talked to her after the mile, and she had felt at ease and ready to pass the "rabbit" after the second lap, but didn't want to mess up the pace of the group so held off and kept running easy.  Yet she still finished the mile in 6:36!

I'm not sure when the next local 5K will be, but I'll excited to be there and watch Katie race again.

To Pool Run, or not to Pool Run

After three weeks in the "boot" and a week prior to that of absolutely zero cardiovascular exercise I started to get a little bit restless.  My recollection is that after about two weeks of inactivity and the initial grouchiness I actually started to settle in more happily to my new "inactive lifestyle".

That being said, I'm used to taking inventory of my goals, and creating in my own mind at least detailed plans of the habits I'll need to cultivate to reach them.  Right now that goal in terms of running isn't a specific race, but it is to achieve a healed right foot and arrive to a disciplined and slow return to training with a base of aerobic fitness.

Exact belt I've been using, free for use at the SRSC

So three weeks ago, I began "pool running".  To the uninitiated, this means fastening a foam flotation belt to my waist and running up and down a lane in the pool or some other body of water.  It's basically running in place while suspended in deep water and moving forward at an inch by inch pace.

I have heard some call it aqua jogging.  There's even an aqua jogging world championship held in Finland each year since 2004.  Regardless, much like most runners don't like being called "joggers" I think I prefer the pool running terminology.

I thought it would be extremely boring, but I was surprised to discover just how hard I could push myself running on top of "nothing".  After almost three weeks and 1240 minutes of sometimes twice a day workouts in the pool at the CBAC or SRSC I've grown to love it.  I imagine trails, hill climbs, or open grassy plains and vary my gait and cadence accordingly.  The mental trick works, and I've found my heart rate to vary accordingly from 125 at a pedestrian "easy" pace to as high as 185 during simulated interval training.  It's not hard to find reports online from elite athletes who have faced injury (including Deena Kastor and others) and returned from injury with the fitness to set a PR because of pool running.

I've decided I like running in the very deep "diving" well best, mostly because of the relative isolation from swimmers and warmer water temperature.  The warmer temperature actually makes the effort level a little harder, and I end up sweating a decent amount from my above water head.  I might be wrong but I think this gives me the bonus benefits associated with acclimating and training in warmer temperatures.

I've run two almost 2 hour long runs each of the past two weekends, one with my also injured friend Alex.  The social aspect of pool running is pretty much the same as going for a long run so that was nice.  Otherwise, I've been the weird guy wearing a hat in the pool with an ipod shuffle clipped to the brim and ear buds dangling from under the cap into my ears.  It works, and I've gotten some focus by isolating myself with music or distracting myself with a podcast.

Excellent interviews with top ultra runners,
and perfect for long runs in the pool.

I've been doing all of this with no pain in my foot.  Well, that is until this week.  I thought that impact and the force of pushing off my bending forefoot were the primary causes of irritation in my metatarsal head injury.  Unfortunately, I discovered during a physical therapy session this week gone awry that my foot still hurts if my toe is stretched to it's upper limit.  Excruciatingly so, actually.  After that the metatarsal head or joint hurt again all week and hurt more while pool running.

So now I'm back to doing nothing.  I didn't think it was possible to be sidelined from pool running, and I'm not sure if I should be doing it right now anyway.  I had noticed my forefoot feeling "tight" after last few pool runs so maybe that was a sign of detriment to the healing process for this particular injury.  I'm checking out another doctor at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis this week so I'll see what kind of feedback I get on doing any further pool running.  I've heard nothing but rave reviews from other runners about St. Vincent so I'm also eager to get a new doctor's take on my injury.