Running Archives

Pain in the backside

Up until a week ago I had my running headed the right direction. Suddenly today I was ready to head out for a run and paused to take a peek at my logbook. I was shocked to read that I had not run since last Wednesday (a week ago). I was on track to run more miles this month than I did last month. Then I took a strange week off. It has been cold and rainy at times during the last week and I have been busy. All of that added up to one excuse after another to derail me.

I only fell 8 miles short of beating last month and was still better than many of my other recent months. Just surprised that the month ended and I hadn’t realized that I threw away a week.

Over the last 5 weeks I have been developing a horrible pain in my right leg. It is piriformis syndrome. I am not entirely sure what caused it, but three of the main causes are running, biking and sitting. Other than sleeping I think that describes just about everything I do. Thankfully it is only in one leg.

Piriformis syndrome is when the piriformis muscle squeezes on the sciatic nerve and causes a pain down the leg or up into the back. This can be due to an injury that causes damage/swelling to the region, or because of excessive muscle tone. I am not sure how I feel about the thought that my rear end muscles may be the most developed ones I have.

The way it effects me is that when transitioning from a sitting to standing position it feels like my muscle spasms and locks up tight over that nerve. When I give it a few seconds to relax the sharp pain goes away as quickly as it started. It does not bother me at all while running, walking or performing any normal activities. It is mostly just that one movement when I flex the muscle to extend the leg that it bites me in the bottom.

When I remember to do stretches and take lots of ibuprofen the pain subsides wonderfully. But each time I have a good day I make the mistake of not being as religious about the exercises and the medicine. That sends me into another day of intense pain.

I will get over this. Or at least get to the bottom of it.

Running Review and Bike Riding Too

Running
The last couple of weeks have not been spectacular as far as distances go, but I have been running consistently and am in general pleased with my progress. I have done some longer runs between 6 and 7 miles, but shorter runs during the week.

My last long run was completely in the rain. It was wonderful! I left my MP3 player at home since I did not want to get it more wet that it normally does from my sweat. That allowed me more time to think and pray than I normally do. The rain was not a complete downpour, rather a consistent steady rain all day. I explored new territory and enjoyed the fact that it was a wet Saturday morning which kept some of the cars off the roads. The only thing I regret is not using my BodyGlide on the prone-to-chaffing areas (i.e., nipples). Will I ever learn?

Other than that long run, which was almost 7 miles, I have run 3 days a week keeping the runs between 2.5 and 4 miles.

Biking
I have put several miles on my new tires, though most have been from commuting rather than for exercise. I did, however, have a really nice 30 Km (almost 20 miles) ride last Saturday. The trip out was into a slight wind. The road I was on did not have any turns and very few lights. I did not have to stop any going out and only 3 times coming back. Because I was coming back with the wind in my favor I ended up riding a negative split of about 3 minutes.

While I have narrower tires on the bike now than when I got it–but it is still not a speed demon. I rode an average of 14.5 MPH. The bike would not go into the highest gear because of poor adjustment on the dérailleur. I have since remedied that and should be ready for the next fast ride.

My interest in taking a multi-day tour on my bike has been heightened and I am planning something for when the weather turns consistently favorable again in the spring. That is what I get for trolling around some bicycling blogs.

Run around the block

Saturday I was glad to get a nice run around the block done. While it is a very large block, it is still mostly a run-of-the-mill block. There is a little variation on the shape on the top corner though.

I have not talked about my running much lately not because I haven’t been running, but because I haven’t been very excited about it. The numbers have not been too thrilling. I am motivated by what my training log tells me. While I am not really discouraged when I have to log fewer miles, I get excited when I log the higher miles in a week or month.

Saturday’s run was a bit over 6 miles which brought me up to within a few miles of my best month so far this year. I should easily be able to top my best month by the end of the coming weekend.

The year started out with me still recovering from an injury back in September. As I was able to run more consistently in February, I was thrilled to see the miles pile up that month. March and April were paltry months because of moving to Argentina and not having a place to call home for almost 5 weeks. But all that changed in May. We have gotten settled into our house and have a regular schedule that allows me to know when I will be able to run for the week. It is nice to feel like I am getting my running back in control.

For the first time in over 6 months I feel like I am going the right direction with my running again. I have a half marathon planned in the fall, but would also like to look at training for a marathon distance again. My goals through the summer (winter for me) is to get my miles back up to 20+ miles a week. When I start my half marathon (and maybe marathon) training the end of July I should be ready for a 20 to 30 mile per week training schedule. That will put me back to where I was 2 years ago when I started training for my first marathon.

Running is getting exciting again.

8K Mercado Regional

Yesterday I ran a race in La Plata, Argentina. It was my first race in a few months and my first one in the southern hemisphere.

Pre-Race
While I have not been training for any particular distance, I have been running more regularly in the last 2 weeks since we got into our own house. I learned of this race just a week ago and was not sure I could still do a good 5 miles. I went out last Tuesday at an easy pace to test the distance. I enjoyed a nice casual 6 mile run and knew that a 5 mile race would be something I wanted to do. On Thursday I just did some shorter intervals. That was my specific pre-race training.

Circuit
The race was held at a large fruit and vegetable market. I thought we would just start there and then run through the neighborhood. But we actually did the whole race right on the market grounds. They set up a 2 Km track that wound back and forth through the huge quonset hut type buildings. We did 4 laps. This was not my first time to do a multi-lap race, but this one doubled back on itself so often it was pretty easy to watch the front pack as they fought for position. The track allowed the runners to also be spectators.

Times
The winner finished the race in 25:20. That is not a screaming fast pace, but at 5:06 per mile, that is a lot faster than I was running. The last runner finished in 54:46, which is still a very respectable 11:02 per mile. I remember when I started running that 11 minutes per mile was a goal to be achieved.

Not knowing the running community here, I was concerned when we got started that I would be the last runner. It seemed like there were some very serious competitors in the crowd. I was pleased when the race started to know that there were some people behind me and I passed a few on every lap of the course. I ended up in 127th place out of 152 runners.

My time was 45:03, which is a PR. I was in 11th place for the 40-44 year old men. With the exception of the first and last kilometers, which were my fastest and second fastest respectively, my split times were almost identical. They only varied by a few seconds from one Km to the next.

Observations
The race was held at 3:00 in the afternoon. That was an odd time. I am not sure if it was because the market area was busy until then or because they just wanted an afternoon race.

Because of the timing of the race I was able to stick around for the awards which I have rarely been able to do. The winners got a nice fruit and vegetable basket (plus some cash I think). These weren’t your typical little fruit baskets though. They were about 2 foot by 4 foot at their base and packed full of things for the winners. I guess that is one of the perks of having the race sponsored by the fruit and veggie market.

At the end of the race there were bananas and oranges available. In Mexico many of the races would have fruit after the race too. But there I almost always had to get my race bib marked in some way to show that I had already gotten my food. The concern (a very real one) is that not just the runners, but the spectators would come over and fill their pockets full of the “free” food. When people were not guarding the tables closely enough I have seen spectators filling up purses and bags of food that was reserved for the runners.

However, at the race yesterday you were free to take as much as you wanted and there was nothing to prevent a spectator from taking food from the runners. No one was loading up their pockets to feed their extended family. I also did not see any spectators taking from the food that was obviously for the runners. The difference between the way the food was handled here and in Mexico is a difference in mentality and level of respect for others.

I enjoyed my introduction to racing here in Argentina. I am afraid I won’t be able to do as much racing here as I did in Mexico though. Like Mexico, most of the races I have seen advertised are on Sunday. It is a rare treat to have a Saturday race. But in Mexico we would run races early to avoid the heat. That is not as much of a concern here. On Sundays in Mexico our church services started at 11 and most races were at 7 or 8 in the morning. It was easy to be done by 9 and cleaned up for church. Here in La Plata most of the races I have seen advertised start at 9 on Sundays and church starts at 10. I will take part in all the races I can, but I just won’t be able to race as much as I have in the past.

Book Review: Staying the Course

Staying the CourseI read, and reviewed, the book Duel in the Sun a few years ago and learned about the 1982 Boston Marathon, which has gone down in the history books as one of the most exciting marathons of all time. Last weekend I did some volunteer work at a race where Dick Beardsley was speaking. Beardsley is one of the two runners involved in the duel of the ’82 Boston Marathon.

I got a chance to chat with Mr. Beardsley at length. He was signing books and chatting with the crowd. Because I was a volunteer there I was able to catch him when there was no one around. I really enjoyed my 10 minute conversation with him. I bought the book he wrote several years ago titled Staying The Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race.

Staying The Course is an autobiography of his running career and his involvement with and recovery from addictions. The first half of the book takes the reader through that famous Boston Marathon while the second half leads you through his spiral into substance abuse. Unlike Duel in the Sun though, this book has a much more satisfying conclusion. While Dick Beardsley’s story is not yet over, this book concludes with an air of certainty of where his life is headed. At the end of Duel in the Sun I was not sure that Beardsley had gotten in control of his addictions. Staying the Course removes my doubts.

If you ever get a chance to meet Dick Beardsley you will find that he really is as upbeat and positive as his book portrays him to be.

As I was reading the book I was struck by how much I enjoyed reading a man brag about his accomplishments. Of course he has to tell about what has taken place in his life, but you don’t feel like he is bragging. The man makes his living by going to races and talking about himself. He has learned how to talk about himself so that the audience does not feel he is being braggadocios. Therefore his memoir is readable and not boastful.

Signed my shoesThe writing style did not flow very well at times. Some passages had to be read over to understand what was being said. However, when I was reading those same passages out loud to the family, they seemed to make more sense. I think some of the writing was probably just a transcription of speeches he has given. It sounds good to the ears, but sometimes hard to read for the eyes and brain. People talk about being conversational in your writing style; this book may be a bit too conversational.

The book contains some swearing, which was a big reason I did not like Duel in the Sun and considered taking it back to the store. But the amount of foul language in this book was minimal. And, unlike Duel in the Sun, it was limited to direct quotes.

I highly recommend this book. My opinion of the book may be skewed because I have met the author and had a good experience with him, but that is part of the “Dick Beardsley Package.” How could I have a bad opinion of the man who indulged me enough to sign my New Balance running shoes?

Staying The Course by Dick Beardsley. 2002. University of Minnesota Press. 203 pages.

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