Walking the BAA 5K

I had decided a month ago to enter today’s BAA 5K. I had a number and it’s part of the Boston Marathon weekend celebration. It was nine weeks after rib surgery and I was not yet cleared to run. So I was prepared to walk it. I aimed for 45 minutes, a 14:20 pace. I had been mostly water running and StairMastering to maintain some aerobic fitness. A bit of walking – but no more than three miles at a crack. So two weeks before the race I went for a brisk six-mile walk. Averaged 14:53 and found the last mile really taxing. A 45-minute 5K was looking ominous. Then the week before the 5K I upped the tempo for 4 miles to a 14:00 pace. I started thinking 43 minutes might be in the cards. Two days later, I walked 5 miles with two one-mile intervals of 12:47 and 13:17, for the first time throwing in some light jogging along with walking.   Now I was thinking sub 40:00! Then two days before the race, I did two more mile splits with more jogging at 11:59 and 11:46. I was being cautious but testing the ribs. None of it hurt … Continue reading

Surprise #4 – Learnings

Recovering from an injury and/or surgery tests one’s patience. As runners, we’re eager to get back to running. We also tend to think we’re tougher and more resilient than most. And that our recovery should be way ahead of the curve. We count the days, maybe weeks, but certainly not months. At least this has been my mindset. The truth is we don’t know and can’t know how things will progress. Assuming we listen, our bodies tell us the real story as it plays out. It was eight weeks ago today I broke my ribs. It seems closer when I walk down the stairs and see the dent in the wall my suitcase made as the other side drove through my ribs.   I started PT after five weeks and of course felt what they gave me was elementary – I kept asking for harder exercises. After all, I’m a tough, resilient runner! But I learned they knew their stuff. I go weekly and each time they add new exercises I do daily. These often leave me a bit sore, which actually feels good. The symptoms have moderated considerably. The ambient pain is largely gone, though I trigger a reaction when … Continue reading

Ed Whitlock – Last Lap

Ed Whitlock died on March 12 at the age of 86.   In running circles Ed Whitlock was an icon, an enigma, and someone who defied the aging process. He set world records at various distances after turning 70. Five months before his death he ran a 3:56 marathon in Toronto. Physiological tests indicated the highest VO2 Max of anyone measured at his age and his muscle retention astounding. He was a rail at 110 pounds, carrying no extra baggage. I had dinner with Ed and Bill Dixon a few years back at the Stockadeathon. Ed was a pretty understated and unassuming guy. Had a twinkle in his eye and clearly enjoyed being around the races. He didn’t like to train and was known for his endless laps around a local cemetery. He didn’t listen to music – just ground it out. Maybe he experienced a runners high in the races – he certainly did not in training. Ed did nothing but run – no weights, stretching, or cross-training. Ed died from prostate cancer that had apparently spread to his bones. He didn’t say anything publically about it, which is why it caught most everyone by surprise. Surely Ed knew something was … Continue reading

Surprise #3 – Turning the Corner

Overall, the recovery from surgery has seemed quite incremental. Little steps here and here. But during course of the past 32 days, there have been some key checkpoints: (1) getting off pain meds, (2) incorporating water running and StairMaster in addition to walking, and (3) sleeping through the night. It hasn’t been all-or-nothing with the pain meds, which to be clear were narcotics only during the first 10 days. Since then it’s been Tylenol and Advil. Lately after a full workout I may feel stiff and sore and it helps to take a couple pills. But during the normal workday, nothing is necessary. I’ve never been a pill popper and being free from it is, in a word, freeing. I started StairMaster a week ago and water running a few days later. I’m now up to 40 minutes for each, with small increases in time and intensity each time. I was very timid getting into the water the first time, concerned the belt would put pressure on the ribs and the arm movement jostle things. So I cinch the belt up above the ribs under my armpits and do abbreviated arm swings. Just walking was becoming boring and I knew … Continue reading

Surprise #2 – The Prognosis

I saw my surgeon, Dr. Dasilva, yesterday for a surgery follow-up, 19 days after the surgery and three weeks after the fall. He looked at new X-rays with me and noted “It’s all looking good!” A welcomed comment for sure.   The four plated ribs were perfectly aligned with the unplated ones tagging along. Exactly as it’s supposed to be! This was of course the news I wanted to hear. In spite of lingering low level pain, and sleeping difficulties, I was moving in the right direction. And my hopes rose that I would be able to start running in another two or three weeks. Right? Wrong! Dr. Dasilva proceeded to explain how the healing process works: it takes six weeks for basic bonding of the bones and then another two months for things to solidify. I could then expect to gain full strength six months post surgery. His advice was to see him in three months and not run before that. This was not what I wanted to hear! I actually flashed back to the fall, remembering how clear it was in that excruciating moment that it would be a while before I would run again. And so it was … Continue reading

Surprise #1 – The Fall

One misstep and down the stairs I went, landing on a suitcase I was carrying. Breaking eight ribs, four in two places with displacement. With the wind knocked out, I yelled for help. Neighbors came to my aid and called 911. First an EMT arrived then an ambulance, taking me to the ER at Brigham and Women’s in Boston. It was all a painful blur. After several hours in the ER, I was moved to the ICU, due my age and the severity of injuries. The next day, the head thoracic surgeon stopped by to discuss the options. He explained how X-rays showed roughly 15% of my lung capacity was lost due to the collapsed ribs, technically called flail chest. Suffice it to say, as a runner, this caught my attention! He described a fairly new surgical procedure, developed only in the past ten years, called “plating.”    This procedure is offered only in situations where ribs will not heal on their own, due to multiple breaks and/or displacement.   Prior to the development of plating, one had to remain in the hospital on a respirator relying on mechanical ventilation for several weeks to inflate the lungs; in hopes the ribs would … Continue reading

The Gift of Injury

Going through some papers, I came across this piece I wrote 21 years ago, about midway through my running career. I am not sure what I did with this and if anyone else ever read it, but it reminded me how critical a juncture this was. The injury was patellar tendinitis, reportedly the 5th most common running injury. I did not run for over three months. But upon returning, I did so progressively with a commitment to avoid this going forward. Thus began my consistent use and tracking of running equivalents, mostly water running and Stairmaster and by incorporating REQs an adherence to daily workouts. It also marked the start of taping my knees with Leukotape right below the kneecap to take pressure off the patella tendon. The physical therapist used this during rehab and I just kept doing it. I buy Leukotape in bulk and don’t leave home without it. I tried the Cho-Pat, but find tape works much better. Also at this time, I began a regimen of weight exercises for my legs and knees four to five times a week. Specifically for the knees I use the quad machine, but rather than isotonic (up and down) reps … Continue reading

The Inside Game

Tom Derderian, coach of the Greater Boston Track Club and fellow 60+ runner with a 2:19 marathon PR, summed it up pretty well when he said after a USATF-New England Grand Prix race last year, “I know what to do, I just can’t do it” Granted, Tom’s standards are high. However reconciling memories of past times with current reality proves a challenge as we age. When Father (or Mother) Time starts visiting varies significantly among runners. Debilitating injuries interfere with our mechanics. Maladies such as knee arthritis or worn cartilage make sustained training problematic. And the longer we have run, the more likely overall wear and tear. There are as many training plans and life circumstances as there are runners. But the questions remain: Why do we slow down? And what can we do to delay the onset? To answer the first question, it’s critical to probe what is really going on in our bodies as we age. First, muscle strength is critical to performance. And assuming no change in training regimen other than aging, a study of active men aged 15 to 83 by Taylor Lexell showed both a change from Type II (fast twitch) to Type I muscle … Continue reading

How Many Pairs?

When I worked at Marathon Sports, I was surprised how many customers came in to replace their one pair of shoes. Often the old ones were way beyond worn. Maybe I’m spoiled, a collector, or both, but I feel my closet is empty without a choice of running shoes. At the store, I didn’t want to come across as hard sell – out to boost sales. But my motivation was sincere. So I tried various ways to broach the topic. Sometimes successfully, more often not. So, how many pairs is enough? As with most things, it depends. Do you just run on roads, just trails, or both? How many days a week do you run? How far? Do you race a lot and/or do regular speed workouts? Are you a bigger or smaller person? Is your gait light to the ground or do you tend to strike hard? You want an answer, not more questions. OK! Simplistically, for most runners I suggest three pairs. Your main pair is your regular trainer. Something with a basic amount of cushion, such as a Brooks Ghost or Adidas Energy Boost for neutral runners or an Asics 2000 or Saucony Guide for those needing … Continue reading

Running Times – Gone!

Running Times started in 1977, the year I took up distance running. There really weren’t good running books back then so the magazine became my go-to source. I devoured every issue, usually reading it cover to cover the day received. Without fail, there was something, usually many somethings that could be incorporated immediately into one’s training and racing. I kept piles of RT around, only discarding them when making long distance moves. There were regular features. I loved the Shoe Guy, J.D. Denton, who owed a Fleet Feet store in Davis CA. His offbeat articles on life in a running store were funny, refreshing, and educational. The Owner’s Manual, written by various authors but often Pete Pfitzinger and Owen Anderson, provided a plethora of training advice. I lost count the number of times I had developed an injury or training impasse that the current issue addressed, as if the writers had been talking to my training partners! Nutrition, coaching, shoe reviews, performance tips, race results, and the latest discoveries in sports medicine and psychology were regular topics. Generally an accomplished masters runner was profiled along with their training regimen, providing many good ideas to try. Every year they ranked the … Continue reading