When sidewalks attack

So, I’m bike commuting to work twice a week now, with the intention of moving up to three times a week toward the end of the summer.  It’s been great – the 19.5-mile ride (one way) is feeling shorter all the time!

The best part is, I’m not climbing the walls because I can’t run these days!  (I’ll be re-visiting that at some point in the near future, but biking is NOT going away.  It’s so peaceful in the morning – I hit the road between 5:30 and 5:45, so I actually don’t see that many cars before I hit the W&OD trail in Vienna.

Another bonus – I’ve lost a couple of pounds over the last three weeks, which I’m happy about.  I’d like to lose about 5-7 more.

Everything was great, that is, until today.

Nearing the end of my ride, I’m on a side street.  There are cars parked on both sides, and a car kind of crowded me a bit.  Traffic ramps up a bit over the last couple of blocks of the ride, so I decided to just jump onto the sidewalk and dismount.  So I dumped into a driveway and came out on the sidewalk.  Before I could react, I hit a segment that was raised by a tree root, and NAILED it.  No time to pull up – just hit it full-force.  The impact nearly sent me over the handlebars.

flat
I suppose flatting two blocks from work is better than two miles from work…so there’s that!

I immediately heard that familiar hissing sound.  Dammit – I flatted my back tire just two blocks from work!

“No big deal,” I say – I’ll just walk the rest of the way, and fix it when I get there.

It became a big deal when I started walking.  I was holding the bike by the stem, and noticed that turning it took more effort than normal.  I looked down, and realized I had also flatted my front tire.

Well, crap.  Two flat tires.  Given that they went out at the same time, I’m surprised I didn’t wipe out right after hitting that mini-curb.

Oh, well.  Don’t have enough kit to fix two of them.  Off to the bike shop – gotta have my ride ready for Thursday!

What do I have to lose?

med symbolI had lunch with an old friend last week.  It had been years since we’d gotten together.

His son is a budding runner, so we spent a fair amount of time talking about his progress, and the challenges of parenting an athlete.  Eventually, the talked turned to our own pursuits.

Marc has been running more, mainly as a result of his son’s success.  It’s time he gets to spend with him, and he’s getting in better shape while doing it.  He’s run some decent 5K times, and has come a long way for someone who was a non-runner for a looooong time.

Eventually, he asked me what’s keeping me from running.  After explaining the road I’ve traveled, and the list of injuries over the last few years, he asked me a very pointed one…

“For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been a runner.  You love to run.  If injuries are keeping you from running, and there’s a surgery that might get you back on the road, why wouldn’t you do it?”

That’s a great question – one I’ve been avoiding for quite some time.  While it seems like the eventual answer to this Achilles issue is to go under the knife, I’m still very reluctant to even consider it.

The thought has been on my radar for years.  Despite the fact that I haven’t been able to run on a regular basis since 2013, I’ve clung to the belief that if I just persevere, do stretches (which I haven’t been nearly vigilant in doing), and strengthen my calves and hammies, that everything will work out.

Well, it hasn’t.  Part of the problem, I’m sure, is that I need to stretch and strengthen more.  I know I haven’t been as vigilant about following through on it, and I think that’s part of what keeps me from committing to the surgery – the thought that maybe I’m not doing enough to fix it on my own.

Time to fix that, one way or the other.

 

Return to fitness: a process

 

fence 66
Sunrise over I-66, before gridlock builds.  The streets I’m on are mostly empty.  I’ts strangely peaceful!

After months of fits and starts, I’ve decided that, for the time being, I’m going to have to eliminate running from my fitness regimen.  This has been a painful and difficult decision to come to, but I think I need an extended period off to strengthen my legs and give them a break from running’s impact, and just allow them to heal.

(But bear with me – it’s not all bad!!!)

It’s four years since I’ve been able to run for more than a couple of months at a time.  Just when I feel I’m starting to get back to normal, something happens, whether it’s my Achilles, my calf, or my hamstrings.

The final straw was April’s Parkway Classic.  I was concerned coming into the race, with my longest run only hitting six miles, but I took it slow, never going faster than a 9:15 mile.  By the fourth mile, I was tiring, which was expected, but then my right calf started giving me trouble.  By the fifth mile, it felt as if the calf was splitting in half vertically.

By the sixth mile, I was resigned to walking the rest of the way.  I tried a couple of times to start up again and maintain a slow shuffle, and only made it worse.  I wasn’t able to walk normally for three days.

About three weeks later, I tried to run a half mile at a 10:00 pace.  I didn’t make it a quarter mile before the calf reacted badly.

End result:  rock bottom reached.

At this point, I recognize the need to strengthen, but without the impact that running brings.

work route
The way out is nice.  The way back…not so much!

Fortunately, I started a new job this week, and have a trail available to me that allows me to get to work without being killed by texting drivers.  It’s about 20 miles one way, is fairly hilly, and will certainly give me my cardio and calf/hammy work.

I’ve got to add core work.  I’ve never been big on weights, but I’m getting older and have to acknowledge the need.  I’ve spent so much time on the shelf over the past few years that I can no longer deny the toll atrophy has taken.

I’m not sure how I’m going to feed my need to compete, but am considering aquabike races.  Of course, that’s going to require me to head back to the pool at least a couple of times a week, but I can make that happen!

I’m going to spend this week developing a workable routine to return to fitness.  The end result may or may not include the distances of running that I used to cover, but it will result with me getting back to the level of fitness I’m accustomed to.

The shame of stairwell stretching

I’m not sure why I’ve waited so long to simply get over the odd looks and occasional comments I get when doing Achilles stretches in my building’s stairwell.

They are almost always harmless – stuff like “You OK, man?” or “What’re you doing?”  Other times, it’s a confused look or the occasional “hmmph” as someone has to slide to the other side of the stair to get around me. Continue reading “The shame of stairwell stretching”

The beatings will continue until morale improves!

So I’ve simply decided to ignore Achilles pain and drive on with a conservative training regimen.

OK – maybe ignore isn’t the best way to describe it…. In the past, I’ve been advised to stay off the treadmill or trails for a couple weeks after a flareup.  It led to a cycle that played out something like this:

Achilles flareup -> one week no stretching at all -> two more weeks no running w/light stretching -> start running very short distances -> add a mile each week -> another flareup after a few weeks

beatings will continue
I’m looking at YOU, Achilles!

After several of years of this, I’ve decided that a more aggressive stretching plan is needed.  The heel drops and toe raises do not stop just because of a flareup, and neither does running, and a wider program is needed.

At the moment, if I run on a Monday, I’ll be somewhat hobbled on Tuesday, a bit better on Wednesday, and ready to do a split elliptical/treadmill run on Thursday.  So that’s the plan.  Run, stretch/recover from soreness for two days, re-engage.

I’ve noticed that even while I’m slowly increasing the mileage, my Tuesday soreness has lessened over the past two weeks.  I’m attributing this to the fact that I’m not passing on stretching and strengthening, regardless of the level of soreness.  Tuesday morning sees me limping a bit, but by Tuesday evening, after at least three stretching sessions during the day, I’m walking normally, albeit with some discomfort.

Starting this week, I’m adding more stretches and strengthening exercises aimed at the Achilles/calf/hamstring/glute chain.  While I think the real problem might be having a slightly reduced range of motion in my left ankle (many, many sprains in my youth), it can’t hurt to increase my flexibility.

After three weeks of NOT giving this thing a break, I’m starting to see results, which always makes me worry, as I wait for the other shoe to fall.  I’ve increased mileage to five miles, and my level of soreness is slowly dropping.

I’ve got the Parkway Classic 10-miler scheduled for April 23.  I will not be racing this.  It will be a slow run, aimed at nothing but enjoying the scenery (which this race is known for), and finishing.

If all goes well, I’m looking forward to a healthier summer than I’ve had in years!

What’s new? Random calf pain, flaring Achilles and a CPAP machine!

My apologies to my handful of followers for the long pause.  Lots of things going on, most of them not good.

I’m almost at the point where I’ve given up on ever running respectable times again.  Following a fairly successful (read: injury-free) fall and winter, including a surprising Army Ten Miler, I felt like I was on the verge of being able to return to the kind of times I wanted to run this spring.

Then the REAL fun started… >:-( Continue reading “What’s new? Random calf pain, flaring Achilles and a CPAP machine!”