Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dual in the Sun

Just finished Dual in the Sun. Story of the 1982 Boston Marathon where Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar battled it out head to head alone together. Great quick read, better than expected. Quite good really. The basic dramatic angle and thrust is that this intense race irrevocably changed these two individuals, forever. Each pushed themselves so terrifically hard against the other (Salazar ultimately "triumphed" by a mere two seconds) that it ruined them each in some sense. Beardsley, a few years later was badly hurt in a farming accident and became woefully addicted to painkillers. Salazar went on to win the New York Marathon soon after but then began a long gradual decline, dogged by sickness, injury, and depression. Neither was ever the same.

The chapters shuffle between a play by play of the race, and Beardsley's plunge into addiction and Salazar's desperate fight to regain his once world class running prowess. I loved reading about the intensity of both runners. Salazar, a world class star, in a Boston pre-race interview essentially discounted any serious competition. Beardsely, depicted as a bumpkin from from Minnesota, and nagged by insecurities, was implicitly pissed off by this dismisal and vowed to at least make Salazar work for it. And that he did.

Salazar resented Beardsley after the victory, regarding him as just an above average marathoner having a good day, in a ridiculous painter's cap, taking water from any kid on the course who offerred it. Beardsley, underconfidant compared to the cosmopolitan Salazar, later wondered if it was really he that had the upper hand, he had more marathon experience than Salazar and had focused on Boston preparation exclusively for months previously, had he actually ambushed Salazar?

I especially enjoyed, if that's the right word, reading of Salazar's frustration in dealing with his post race problems. He so defined himself through his running, he went to such great lengths to regain his abilities, from doctors, various remedies to no avail, to apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Yugoslavia, to Prozac (which ended up helping, though not curing, quite a bit.) Depression turned out to have been a primary problem.

Anyway, lots of good tidbits and quotes which I won't repeat. I'd recommend it. It's, appropriately, not too long. Still in hardcover; if you can't justify the price, try to remember it when it comes out in paperback (or go the library!)

Still not back to any real running, mostly walking and elliptical, nursing the quad/adductor/whatever. Dealing. Marathon Monday, power walked 4 miles on the Landice. Felt pretty solid Tuesday, so I ended up running 5.2 miles on treadmill, had no idea what I'd encounter starting out, but felt surprisingly good, almost no feedback from the thigh, a faint tinge at 1.2, then again at 2.7 and again at 3.8 when I cranked up to 6:40, was responsible and pulled back down to around 7:00 even. Too much optimism lead me to run again on Wednesday, only made it to 1.5 miles, nagging thigh, walked, ran steep uphill for a bit, 15 incline. Thursday rest, next three days on elliptical, 37 minutes, 76 minutes, and 92 minutes.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Marathon Monday

Patriot's Day. Cloudy, 50F, little breeze, beautiful cool clean spring day, close to perfect for long distance running. And so I drove with the kids and the niece to Wellesley for a look at the 110th Boston Marathon. At 13 miles, most runners are well warmed up butstill feeling the happiness, especially after the so-called Wellesley "scream tunnel". My wife, a Wellesley alum, especially dislikes the weird sort of commercialization of this primal phenomenon which has emerged in recent years - I mean there are scream tunnel T-shirts, good grief. It really is freaking loud though; we could easily hear it a half mile away where we parked. Last year we hung out there among them, an endless river of runners careening past down the long gradual hill into Wellesley center. A quarter mile line of girls, 2-4 deep just screaming, like a Beatles concert. And with hands outstretched, fiving the runners as they past. Like an energy source for them, both. But I couldn't face the deafening noise again, we watched from the town center.

We'd just missed the top elite women; the men were next. It was exciting to see Meb out in front with the lead pack of just three, followed by Culpepper's pack, just another three runners, about 50 seconds back, I was surprised by the large gap. Last year the lead pack in Wellesley must have been comprised of about twenty or more. Awesome to watch the elites, such lightness, ease, and relaxation; poetry in motion. A thin sparse string of elites followed. Spotted some Hanson-Brooks guys. Not too far back a blind runner, tethered to a sighted one, I'd read about him, had two guides, one for the first half another for the second - both guides themselves 2:30:00-something marathoners. Team Hoyt not long after (earlier start).

The stream thickened considerably after another 10 minutes, the "slower" guys targeting "only" a 2:30:00-plus finish. It would be interesting to see some kind of distribution graph. There are large very sparse gaps between the elites and the masses. There's a partitioning effect - either you're an elite, train full time, and are running sub 2:20:00, or you have a job and the best you can get to under those circumstances is 2:35:00. It's also interesting for me to see it's also there abouts, around 2:30:00-plus pace where you start to see a larger variations in body types and running forms; not everyone from here on out has natural genetic ability; some of these speedsters just don't even look like runners, awkard and painful forms, big muscle dudes, chubby ones even. Amazing. Those are the really inspiring ones.

Fun day. With lot's of luck and work maybe I'll be there next year. It was last year watching when I got an inkling that I might be able to do it. More confident now, if only I can shake this quad thing, still no running for me. Fmi, since last report, I did elliptical 65, 73, and 36 minutes on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Experienced my first deep tissue massage on Saturday, doctor recommended. Ouch. I didn't know it was supposed to be painful. I can take pain if I know it's good for me, I'm just not convinced it is. The massage therapist, Leo the Russian, said (in a perferct Boris Badinov intonation) "David, please, tomorrow, you no use swear words against me - you will be sore, it's okay". No worse for wear, not sure I'm any better either.

I must say the marathon coverage is really awful. Stupid commentary and lack of pertinent information. On the radio, the guy states that well over 90% of these runners "just want to finish." Right. After they announced the winner (Cheruiyot), it was like ten minutes before they mentioned Meb and Culpepper at 3rd and 4th (wrong, Culpepper was 5th), never mentioned 2nd (Maiyo) or Sells (4th) at all. On TV, M said they also never even mentioned the 2nd place finisher - was Bob Lobel high or what? And some idiot was running through the crowds at Heartbreak Hill trying to interview runners while running, just getting in way. And the coverage is always the elites and then all the human interest and charity stories, yeah, great stuff, but c'mon this is a sporting event, how about covering some of the very dedicated and talented local sub-elite runners.

So congratulations to any finishers of the 110th Boston Marathon who happen by. And, especially congrats to team USA, five of the ten top positions - Meb, Sells, Culpepper, Gilmore, Verran - awesome, the beginning of a new era, back to the golden age of Rodgers, Salazar, Go go go. Here's a good write-up of the race.

(Above, local college student vandalizes marathon course.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

4 Miles

Walked and ran 4 miles on the home Landice. Ran the middle 2.2 miles, high 8:00s to low 7:00s (down to 6:40 for last bit just too remind myself of better days.) Quad/adductor okay, not great, not awful, getting better, slowly; patience. Yesterday, 62 minutes on elliptical, same as last time, little quad tightness/presence, at the same time, 32 minutes in, all sensations there disappeared, nearly bonked, last 15 minutes really dying, typical after work workout.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pool Running

I love this time of year, though not my favorite (August). It's the time when *every* single day something changes. This is probably true throughout the year but I'm to obtuse to detect it. Trees begin awakening, one day they're dead, then they look a little perky, then they've got tiny buds, it quickens, it soon will go too fast for me to keep up with, and then we've climaxed, it's summer (and the livin' is easy.)

Up early yesterday for Z & J's soccer games; M drove them, I biked, a couple miles or so, and back, freeezing, 40F maybe, I thought it was gonna be warmer, underdressed. Surprised that the right quad didn't complain a bit biking, sitting or standing, especially since I'd figured biking while standing is virtually the same as elliptical, which nudged my quad last Friday.

Pool running was something I've vaguely thought of doing but really figured I never would (same as I felt about elliptical a year and a half ago; I've since put in at least a hundred hours.) But with the thigh bothering me even on elliptical, and a suggestion from Duncan, I thought maybe I ought to at least give it a try. My health club turned out to have pool running gear. Took the plunge.

I went for 52 minutes of pool running. I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it right. The good thing was it wasn't as horrible and boring as I'd expected (novelty helped I'm sure.) But it just didn't feel difficult enough. I started with the ankle floaties, but took 'em off because they bothered me, but that probably made it too easy; next time I'll try to get them more comfortable. It was a while before for I felt comfortable at all, for the first half, I wasn't dorsiflexing at the ankles at all, which made them ache after a while, and I was using my arms too much. Relaxing the upper body helped, paying more attention to form and "landing". Finally got my heart rate up, according to my breathing anyway, to a decent level, I gulped a few quarts of water. It'll take some more sessions to get used to it. I'll give it a chance, but so far, elliptical is a far more intense workout for me.

Today, resting, can still feel the right thigh, even walking, just a little bit. Walked a half mile or so to Borders at lunch (got the Narnia DVD for the kids, and me) and back. Then walked two miles on the home Landice, 30 minutes, this evening.

April — A Child's Calendar
by John Updike

It's spring! Farewell
To chills and colds!
The blushing, girlish
World unfolds

Each flower, leaf,
And blade of turf —
Small love-notes sent
From air to earth.

The Sky's a herd
Of prancing sheep,
The birds and fields
Abandon sleep,

And jonquils, tulips,
Bloom bright upon
The wide-eyed hills.

All things renew.
All things begin.
At church, they bring
The lilies in.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Elliptical, 42 minutes. So I've calmed the hell down. Apologies for my crude outburst. Saw Dr. Z. He's quite certain it's not a femoral stress fracture, in fact he said he's never even seen one, not right in the middle anyway, quite uncommon. Not sure if this reassures me or casts doubts on his experience, but I'll go with the former.

He thinks it's probably an adductor or possibly sartorius strain, and not too severe at that. The ever literate Dr Z (he's always got lots of New Yorker magazines around, in fact I started reading an Updike short story there, My Father's Tears, which I just found online and need to finish), he educated me on the etymology of the word "sartorius". It comes from the Latin "sartor", a tailor, who used to cross their leg in a such a way that the sartorius muscle was employed to rotate it into position. The sartorius, btw, is the longest muscle in the human body.

So I'm relieved about this, both knowing the origin of sartorius as well as the not so horrible prognosis on the thigh. I overreact I know, but one, two, three weeks off is hard to imagine. But I've done it before, I can do this.

And the doc also recommended massage, gave me the name of his own massage therapist, a Russian brute named Leonid, at the health club.

Took it pretty easy on the elliptical, trying to "land" gently, could feel the thigh through most of it, not quite pain, it made its presence known. But decided to keep it up; I need to get the lay of the land with this injury, what makes it worse, what doesn't. I remember reading about some coach emphasizing that you always need to push the envelope — if you're running 30 miles a week and getting shin splints, try cutting back till it's okay, then increase it some more. This is basically what I did to finally beat my shin (MTSS) problems, run, rest, run, elliptical, run, elliptical, etc. It can be tedious and frustrating, but it can work, listen to the body.

It's weird, the last 15 minutes on the elliptical, I started pushing harder, and the sensations in the thigh diminished. I wish I knew what was going on physiologically when this kind of thing happens. Is it numb, loosening up, tightening up, God knows. I'm still under the influence of post workout NSAIDs and ice, but so far no worse for wear. This weekend's long (or any) run is out of the question though. Play it by ear. And calm the hell down.

I heard some program on NPR the other day about college admissions. Made me think about this classic college application essay by Hugh Gallager:

I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I'm bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don't perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat 400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


On the off chance anyone is reading this, please go away now -- whiny injured runner rant follows, just capturing the frustration for future reference, when everything is all hunky dorey.

Fuck me. Fucking piss me off. I'm so fucking pissed. Wicked. My fucking right quad, adductor, Idunno what is, is still sore. And after four days of no running (zero miles). And I'm getting really fucking cranky. Feel like all the work I've done (I know, I ain't done shit, but it was something, for me anyway) is going down the drain. I could miss VCM, hell, I could miss Hood to Coast. This could be the end of the line, I'm 46, it's over. What the fuck was I thinking.

I'm afraid it could be femoral stress fracture, that could be weeks/months to heal. I'm not sure if I can even elliptical without discomfort. I hope I'm overreacting. I'm seeing Dr. Z tomorrow. He will make me feel better, reminds me of John Updike, white hair, red skin, very calm. Times like this I realize how much I do like running, how it's infiltrated my life and personality over the past couple years, despite my dreading certain workouts.

After almost two years (actually, more like thirty), I seem to have finally beaten the shin problems (MTSS). And now, spring is here, and I've got this thigh problem. At least with the shins I knew what to expect, two, three days days off and I'd be back at it (for another couple days anyway). Four days now, and this feels almost no better.

Crap! What the hell it is it. I can hop on one leg, but not without discomfort, just short of pain, right in the mid upper thigh, but it feels like it's also sort of radiating down from the upper inner thigh near the groin. It varies depening on exactly how I step when I walk or hop.

My current hypotheses, based on my own moronic understanding of anatomy, is an adductor strain or tear, mostly where it connects to the mid thigh, or a stress fracture of the femur. Whatever it is, it can't be that bad, can it. It's not excruciating pain or anything, not at all, I could probably run 10K PR if my life depended on it.

Calm the hell down. We'll see what the doc sez tomorrow. Maybe it'll be okay in a few more days. Turn your attention elsewhere in the meantime. S'not like this is actually important. I've got Java code to write and a family to attend to. Get to it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

11 Miles

11 miles, to the lake, around twice, and back. 1:16:40 (6:58). Splits, 6:52, 6:27, 22:04 (7:07), 21:58 (7:05), 6:50, 6:28, 5:57 (7:26). Gorgeous day, winter is over! Very windy, felt like I was running in place against the wind around far side of the lake. Right thigh screaming on every landing but kept it together. Not screaming, yelling maybe, hollering, no, yelping, that's it, yelping, like a terrier, Boston. Don't think it's as worse for wear as it was after last weekend's 14, so I hope it's getting better; icing, NSAIDs, heat, magnesium, bromelain, epsom, etc. Maybe another light week ahead will do it.

Btw, check this out, during the Boston's Run To Remember Half Marathon, which I ran a couple weeks ago. A man had a heart attack. Another runner, a doctor, stopped and administered CPR, until EMTs took over...

The doctor went on to finish the race, within 8 minutes of his target time. Save a life in the time it takes to run a mile. How cool is that.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Against better judgement, ran 6 miles on the treadmill at work yesterday. Right thigh still an issue. After a couple miles, warmed up, not such an issue. Typical high 7:00's down to mid/high 6:00's. Does that mean it's not too serious I hope. Still diagnosing. Adductor maybe, but some groin issue, but mostly when walking. And hammy, Idunno. If I were to sit on a high chair, dangling my legs, and possibly placing something like a ping pong ball or tennis ball under my right thigh, just above the mid, there'd be some pain-ish. What is that. Tightness, knot, stress fracture.

Rest today, walked a mile or so on the home Landice this morning. Looking out the window, a giggle of Girl Scouts, including my beloved Z, readying themselves in the driveway for an overnight on a battleship; trying to get passing cars to honk. Some effort required to remember when that activity was entertaining, it really really was at one time. She's got her own life now. It's happening too fast ... stop the world, I want to get off ... and just sit back and look and enjoy for a moment.

Tomorrow, 10 or so is on tap, maybe. I need to be open to bagging it if the thigh is too much of an issue, don't run through it (though I know I will), don't jeapordize the VCM.