Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Running: You Should Try it!

4 weeks to the day of my knee surgery, I went for a run.  Those of you who have run long (half, marathon, ultra) know it is important to have more than 1 goal.  It can be crazy, mind bending goals, such as Ron Irwin, in the recent Dirty Girls 48 hour race:  100 miles, 200K, 200K+.  What allowed Ron to set such lofty goals was a near-debilitating training program, coupled with an intense love of running.  Yes, running can be boring and seemingly pointless, but if you can find 2 or 3 good things about every training run, the race is in the bag.  Training for a 50K typically involves logging 1,000K.  Unless you want to do well in the 50K race, in which case you need to up the training distance...

4 weeks after knee surgery, the "goals" seem almost pathetic, especially for someone who has run fairly long races.  It is good to keep in mind that those just starting to run would love to reach a goal as modest as what I set for myself.  Yesterday (Tuesday, August 14) was my first real run.  I had run/walked a couple of times in the last week and I have been attending physio, but I now wanted to give the knee a modest test:  Run 2K, then asses if I could complete 7.5K of the Creemore Vertical Challenge.  I was told to run on the road by several people, but my reason for running trail was twofold:  1.  Running pavement would be high impact on my recovering knee and 2.  I have trouble running slowly along a road.  This run HAD to be at a slow pace.

I reached 2K without any knee pain and although the pace was slow, surprisingly little issues with my current lack of conditioning.  After a bathroom break, I decided to press on.  My mantra was "keep it slow, keep it easy" as I ran the first 6K of the CVC course, followed by the last 1.5K of the course (up and down the cliffs).  I would be lying if I claimed there was no knee pain, but aside from a couple of twinges, smooth sailing!

My 7.5K probably took about 50 minutes, but I could not be happier.  I awoke with almost no stiffness this morning, although the knee and legs were stiff this afternoon.  I did not run today (chopped wood) and have physio tomorrow, so I might try a short run (4K) after physio, to see if the knee can start handling some training.  I've signed up for 25K at the Toad, which is my optimistic goal.

Dirty Girls:  View from a Volunteer

I ran for 25 years before volunteering at a race.  It just never dawned on me that helping out at a race could be anything but tedium.  Eventually, Lee Anne (my wife) started running such long races, that I helped out to avoid the boredom of waiting around for hours, for her to finish her 1,000,000K race...

I sometimes exaggerate.

Guess what?  Volunteering can be as much fun as running the race.  For those recovering from an injury (hi Kinga) it can also be painful to see your friends and race peers tearing up the trail while you hock water, HEED and boiled potatoes.

This year, Diane and Henri (race directors) decided that it would be fun, fun, fun to hold a 48 hour event, along with the 30K (32K this year), and 6, 12 and 24 hour options.  Let me try to clarify what this means, from an organizational perspective:  Little to no sleep from 2 days before the event, until the entire race site is cleaned up and everything shipped out.  For a 48 hour race, this stretches to about 5 days.  Yeehaa!  And the details!  Food, timing schedules, weigh-in for the 48 hour runners, supply logistics and answering a never-ending stream of questions from the racers and volunteers.

Volunteering has its pressures, but nothing a nice glass of red wine won't fix.  Yes, I smugly sip my wine while cheering on the runners.  If they had volunteered instead of running 232K, they could be beside me, expounding on the merits of an Australian Shiraz...

Seriously?  Helping out at a race is amazing.  I'm not just saying this to drum up some vollies for next year's Creemore Vertical Challenge.  After a while, you get to sense what a runner, in considerable physical stress, needs to make it out there, to the next aid station.  It can be as simple (to you) as coke with ice, but to the runner, it has kept the DNF hounds at bay, for a few more precious minutes.

So definitely plan to run more races, but also consider the benefits of volunteering.  Entry to some races requires volunteering.  Many elite runners pace or vollie at a race they intend to enter the next year, to become acquainted with the venue.

Did I mention we are seeking volunteers for the Creemore Copper Kettle Festival, on August 25?  Did I also mention that Creemore Springs is providing beer tickets to the volunteers, for the Copper Kettle Festival, later the same day?  2 hours work, for a free beer and some fine music...

If you can help out, please contact Lee Anne at 705.466.3253 or email


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Running Approaches

Okay, I've learned over the years that you should never give doctors too much information.  They tend to jump at the chance to draw conclusions and lay down maxims that do not agree with my lifestyle.  This rule applies to most people.  For example, try asking a runner if you should run through an injury.  Make one up!  My chondial Milastis is ruptured.  Should I continue running?  I won't even bother to provide the hypothetical answer.  We've all been there and know what the advice will be.

But with doctors, let's even specify surgeons, the big problem is that one should actually listen to their advice and against all your hopes and aspirations, continue with the painful process of not running.  I have run since my knee surgery in 1975.  I have taken long periods of time off, such as 5.335 days when I had PF in both feet.  Back in the 1990's, there was even a 16 day hiatus, for no better reason than a minor back problem that made standing incredibly painful.

I have now "NOT RUN" since The Limberlost Challenge.  3 full weeks.  21 days.  21X 24 X 60 X60 seconds.  Okay, you get the picture.  So it was with extreme happiness that I received the news from my physiotherapist that I could start runwalking this weekend!  I'm not sure what runwalking is, but I nodded my head and quickly left before he changed his mind, or worse yet, explained what he meant by runwalk.  Here is my interpretation:

Walk to the driveway, run for 3 hours, then walk from the driveway back into the house.

Don't worry, I realize that the duration may have to be tailored to suit my current conditioning.  It may even have to be cut short if my right knee starts a dialogue in which stopping before 3 hours is on its wish list.  In reality, I have some trepidation about running outside.  If the knee turns south quickly, it might not be such a good idea to walk 5 - 6 K back home.  Compounding this conundrum is the fact that I am not at home, so using the treadmill is currently not an option.  I'm in Toronto and heading for Niagara-on-the-Lake, then St. Catherines later today.  So here is the plan:  Bike 50 - 60K to warm up the knee and see how it stands up against a bit of exercise, then try running very short.  No more than 20 minutes.

What could possibly go wrong?

Oh!  Synopsis:

The knee is feeling great.  I think my physiotherapist is a bit perplexed.  Every exercise he throws at my knee, it performs without a problem.  He asks if I'm in any pain and invariably I reply "no".  I am starting to wonder if my years playing rugby and running ultras has changed my perception of pain.  He was almost overjoyed when I walked into his clinic on Wednesday and he exclaimed "Your limping!".  He looked a bit chagrined when I mentioned that it was due to my back, which was acting up after chopping wood for 3 days.  The knee is fine.

So, after 3 weeks of forced inactivity, I will once again try the sport of running.

Stay tuned!