Monday, November 30, 2009

A Big Pain In My ... Ankle

Ok, there's been way too much pablum about running sleeves on this blog lately. Time to get back to more important topics, like ME! ;)

I have been dealing with foot pain since Hundred in the Hood in late September. For the first few days, I believe it was my right peronus brevis giving me woe. In fact the pain at the base 5th metatarsal was so bad, I wondered if I had actually fractured it. But five days later, it was good as new. And when I started running again it didn't hurt at all. What did hurt was the inside of my right ankle. But I just kept running and it too went away only to be replaced by a mirrored injury on the left. Same injury, same treatment, right? So I just kept running, thinking it would go away in time, but it didn't. Once warmed up the pain subsides, so I could run on it okay, but after the run, it would hurt a lot.

Finally, I admitted it was time to do something different. So in the beginning of November I took eight days off - really OFF - no running or even cross training. But at the end of eight days, things didn't seem much better, so I did what any ultra-runner would do: I said, "Screw it!" and started running hard again. But I am certainly not ignoring the injury. This is my Plan of Attack:

1)Web-Based Learning: The first course in medical school is anatomy; it makes up the bulk of the first semester. The concepts involved are ridiculously simple, but the volume of info is over whelming as the student is challenged to learn all the muscles, origins, insertions, innervation, and blood supply along with all the other organs, bones and ligaments in the body. By the time we got to the last section - the lower leg - my brain was saturated. Plus, it never had its own exam, just 10% of the final, so I crammed just enough to get by. So my foot anatomy was tenuous to begin with and 15 years of disuse didn't help, so it was time to turn to the source of Knowledge of all things good and evil: the Internet! I've been brushing up on my anatomy these past few weeks.

2) Special Exercises: From the internet I got some special strengthening exercises. They hurt like Hell, so I figured they must be working. By the third day, I couldn't take it anymore so I went back to the internet. I think my original diagnosis of posterior tibialis tendonitis was wrong; now I think it is the anterior tibialis tendon. As much as I hate being wrong, this made me happy as PTT sounds catastrophic leading to foot collapse and tendon rupture, but ATT is basically just the tendon version of shin splints. This makes more sense, too, as I had those big goose eggs on my shins after HH. So I am walking on my heels some, but mostly I stooped the special exercises.

3) Shoe Inserts: A lot of the web stuff talks about orthotics for ankle tendonitis. I had orthotics made in the spring but never used them because my issue was drug related and not due to bad biomechanics. So I got out my orthotics. They blistered the arches of my feet so badly my skin looked like bubble wrap. I let them heal, taped my arches and tried again - more bubble wrap. So I put the othotics in my slippers for walking around the house and taped little foam arch support "cookies" in my shoes. Seems to help a bit.

4) No Cute Shoes: High heels are a no-no, so my cute shoes are all hibernating for the winter. Just flats and old lady clogs (Dansko's) for the time being. Oh the sacrifices for running!

5) Barefoot Running: It's not like I was looking to let out a primal scream as I tossed away my shoes to run like my Neanderthal predecessors, but it did seem pretty obvious that my foot tendons were my "weakest link. " So I was ready to buy into the hype and give it a go. The first day a half mile felt pretty good and I was encouraged. The second day a mile didn't seem all that wonderful. My third try was after some intense intervals. My ankle hurt like crazy when I took off my shoes to run. So I gave that up.

6) Seek Professional Help: Obviously, I have no idea what I am doing (see #1-5 above!), so at long last I have admitted defeat and called the physical therapist. I have an appointment Thursday.

Despite the pain (again, mostly after a run), I am running pretty well these days and even hit 70 mpw last week and am aiming for the same this week. So if the PT doesn't have the answer, I'll just continue with my awesome home remedies. ;) Also, let me know if you know the "cure" for anterior tibialis tendonitis, as I am obviously open to trying many different things.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Blog Angel Answers My Prayers - Sort Of

Monday I went running in my Moeben sleeves. That's right, I said Moeben, as in honest-to-God name brand technology (with a trademarked logo!).

You see, after my post last week, a munificent reader felt sorry for me and my pathetic sock-sleeves and sent me this overly kind e-mail:

Hi, Pam

Read your funny and useful blog post. I have 2 extra pairs of Moeben sleeves (plus six others) and I'd like you to have either one, I really do. One is a plain navy-blue, and one is white with HR100 logo. neither have been worn. It looks like white is a small size (what you might prefer) and blue is medium. Your pick. Shoot me your address - I can not possibly wear all of them in my life, and you deserve to look fast and furious, because you are!

Based on the final line, I could tell my blog angel had to be extremely hypoglycemic and not thinking straight, but I wasn't about to argue with an offer for free sleeves! This weekend my glorious nylon arm-tubes arrived.

Monday we had a beautiful sunny day here in Salem, but with a crisp chill in the air. It was pretty standard long-sleeve shirt running weather, but why would I wear a long sleeved shirt when I could sport my new ultra-cool accessories instead?? So I set off in a cute pink short-sleeved and the Moeben's for an easy 5 miler.

I wanted to love my new sleeves, but the thing is, I didn't. Mostly, I don't think the size was right rather than there being a fault with the product. The sleeves are a size small (what I would consider myself), but they seemed way too big. As I ran they would slink downward and bunch right above my elbow. Not only was it awkward but it tragically left my upper arm exposed to the cold, wind and mutilating winter UV-rays! Moeben does make extra-smalls, which would likely be a better fit for my extra-puny arms. But now I am back to wondering if it is really worth thirty-two dollars to find out...

I made my sock sleeves (the Benmo'es) last winter in all seriousness, but I knew they were crappy and lame at the time - that was the point. They were an invention of necessity for racing on a frigid day: how does one stay warm up to the start but shed the extra layers without worry when the gun goes off? By wearing worthless and ratty clothing that one can toss without thought onto the side of the road. That was the intended fate for the Benmo'es, but at the last minute, I decided it was TOO cold and I changed into a long-sleeve to wear the whole race. And so the Benmo'es survived.

Because they were small, I carried them in my pack as back up on a couple of cold spring runs and then I discovered they could be useful in conjunction with my work clothes. But my Benmoes didn't get any real face time, er um, arm time until this fall. I took them with me after twilight at Hundred in the Hood, but only wore them for a few miles because I was too hot. And then they had their real coming out on Halloween. But even that was more of a joke than seriousness.

But for joke or for serious, I am not alone. My running partner confessed to racing a half-marathon with sock sleeves, and I was passed at MacDonald Forest 50k by a chick wearing socks on her arms! So I am not the only one who has thought up the idea of home-made sleeves. The Moebens win the fashion prize hands down (arms down??), but in terms of functionality, the reality is the sock-sleeves and the Moebens are pretty much the same (in my experience; though, the sock sleeves would not be good for a hot day). And the sock sleeves are as budget friendly as you can get. And I still can't understand why it is such a big deal to take a long-sleeved shirt on and off.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving. May you be thankful for the things you have. Even a crappy pair of socks on your arms is better than nothing (on second thought, maybe not, but you get the idea.)

(A BIG THANK YOU to my "blog angel." I am grateful for your generosity. I think the Moeben sleeves will be perfect after a few thousand bicep curls.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Heart On My Sleeve

(Author's notes:I wrote this in March, with the intention of posting on April 1, but I didn't complete the "photo-journalism" part in time. Though tongue in cheek, there is really no "fooling", as this is all true. I post it for today because this gloomy Monday needs a little levity.)

The Sleeve Story
I have been running for 20 years or so, but as a recent convert to the world of ultra-running, I've been introduced to a whole new arena of running gear. There are hydration systems, electrolyte products, trail shoes, gaiters, GPS watches, and compression socks. But the product that fascinates me the most are Moeben Running Sleeves.

Leg warmers are a fashion relic of the 80's, and a complete faux-pas in the modern era. But arm warmers... well, arm warmers are sky-rocketing in popularity; they are all the rage. Racing in a sports bra (or singlet) and tiny shorts used to be the way to announce yourself as hard core, but these days you'd better be donning sleeves, too, if you want people to take notice. Stud Vibes just ooze from those nylon tubes. The sleeves shout: "I am hip! I am fast! and I am cool! - at least in my own mind!"

But beyond fashion, these sleeves are functional. One no longer has to make gut-wrenching critical decisions like "Should I wear a short sleeve shirt or a long sleeve shirt on my run today?" Nope, just take off in the short sleeve shirt - with your running sleeves, of course - and adjust as necessary! Save your brain power for other pressing dilemmas, like 'How will my training log be complete if my GPS loses signal?' or 'What should I use to wipe if nature calls in the woods?' Plus, each sleeve is equipped with a micro-pocket, which gives the ultra-runner a chance to employ those under-utilized bicept muscles for carrying extra gear. You could even stuff toilet paper in the pockets and you've just solved one of the above conundrums!

I would love to have a pair of sleeves, but with a price tag in excess of $30, it is an expense that is hard to justify. I mean, none of my running shirts cost that much and that was for the whole shirt, not just the sleeves. And there are already some pretty big expenses associated with running ultras, like buying shoes every 6 weeks, paying for entries, traveling to races, and getting marriage counseling.

So, like the well known Screw Shoes, I have come up with a budget friendly home solution. All you need is a pair of knee high socks and some scissors. Cut off each foot, and voila! - You have sleeves! If you are feeling especially wild, use argyle socks! I like to call the ensuing creation the Ben-mo'e Sleeves, because they've "been mo'e" than just sleeves, indeed, mine were my soccer socks for two seasons in the Portland adult league! Sadly, my soccer career had to end (due to complete lack of talent), but my socks have risen to new glory!
Everything you need for a budget friendly pair of arm warmers.

And my Ben-mo'e Sleeves aren't just reserved for running. They've helped me out of a pickle at work, too. You see, every day I have to look professional in a 65 degree environment. This seems to be a comfortable temperature for men with their high metabolic rates and middle aged women with their doughy insulation and hot-flashes, but for a skinny ultra-chick, these conditions are downright arctic! By wearing the sleeves as an extra layer, I can stay warm and look professional, too - a win/win situation!
Looking professional...
...while staying warm!

And so I encourage you to go out and get some sleeves. And if you can't afford the real ones, make your own!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Race And An Accidental 60 Miles

Last Sunday I did the McDonald Forest 15k. When I got home after the race, I sat down to blog but I just didn't have a Race Report in me. It was a 15k, not an ultra; I barely felt like I had even raced, it was so short! And even with a serious climb covering over two and a half miles, it seems pretty lame to claim, "I ran the entire thing." By virtue of turning 35 a few weeks ago and cushy 5-year age groups, I came home with a nice blue ceramic mug for my 71 minutes of effort, while the 3rd and 4th place ladies went home empty handed. Sorry ladies, but you've gotta respect your elders! I am happy to report that I did NOT get beaten by a 13 year old, as I had Bend phenom Piper McDonald hot on my heels in 6th place. I was also comfortably ahead of my hubby's 15k road PR (1:19). Hey, a girl has gotta have goals, you know! But most importantly, the race swept all of those cobwebs from my muscles, the ones that have been growing over the last month while "recovery" has kept me from dusting off my sinews. After the race I felt GOOD, which set me up nicely for an "accidental" 60 miles this week.

I arbitrarily set Nov. 15th as the date to get back into "training;" until then I am only running "socially." But this week I was quite a social butterfly! I ran with my peeps on Tuesday and Thursday morning (10 miles each morning), did Wednesday night with the running store crowd, and kept a friend from blowing off her run Friday night. But the real fun came on the weekend. On Saturday, I donned my Halloween finest for a fast 16 miles through Minto-Brown. A couple of other runners were wearing orange, but overall everyone was dressed like it was just another day in the park. What the hell, people? Why would you not want to run around Salem dressed as a fairy princess?? I am utterly baffled!

"Halloween finest" = clothing scavenged from my 4 year old's dress-up box!

And then today I joined the Corvallis trail runners on a glorious fall day for some leaf-kicking and mud-stomping back in McDonald Forest.
Who could pass up a run on a day like today??

So the cobwebs may be gone, but they've been replaced by general achiness. Mostly to be expected after four weeks all below 40 mpw, but my ankles (now both, not just the right) are still bugging me some. I am hoping that it is nothing a few 75 mile weeks won't cure. ;)