Beth Runs!

After sitting on my butt all winter, knitting and watching Craig Ferguson into the wee hours, it's time to get up, get out, and move!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hobble through the tulips...

...and God bless us everyone. That's a picture of me yesterday, from the 1911 edition of A Christmas Carol. I went back in time and posed for it. See, I just wanted my arms to be as sore today as my legs were yesterday. (Ever tried going up stairs on crutches? It helps to go backwards.) You think maybe I wasn't ready to run on Sunday after all?

Today I'm sore, but at least I'm no longer feeling that putting weight on my knee will cause it to snap right out from under me. I left the crutches home, but read the following article from last week's New York Times: Is Marathoning Too Much of a Good Thing for Your Heart? I e-mailed my doctor to request a spiral CT scan. He hasn't responded yet.

I'm in competition with my sister Ellen for the most doctor visits in a year. She's having a hysterectomy and blogging about it: She gets her second Lupron shot a few days before coming to Florida to cheer me in my marathon (assuming I don't hack off my legs with a chainsaw before then.) Crazy times!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

The difference between pain and pain...

The aftermath of the Half Marathon was awesome! Toward the end of the day, my quads and hamstrings and glutes had really begun to stiffen up. By the next morning, I could barely get out of bed. I moved like a 95-year old with a recent double hip replacement. Going upstairs and getting up out of a chair hurt a lot, but going downstairs and sitting down into a chair were nearly impossible without a lot of loud grunts and groans to ease the pain. Still, I had a huge smile.


Because my shin didn't hurt! My knees didn't hurt! My toes didn't hurt! The only blister was a tiny one I found on the bottom of my foot hours after the race ended! The sore muscles will be healed in a few days and end up stronger for the abuse. The parts that matter are great!

How many exclamation points am I allowed to put into one post?!?!?


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tape, Tiger Balm, Tea, & Taft

After finishing up with Matt Sheehy a week ago, my shin hurts worse than ever! I planned to do some deep water running on Friday in place of my normal run, so I walked a mile to Temescal Pool only to find out that they close at 2:30p.m. now that school is back in session. Bloody buckets of blood! So I walked for a while instead of running.

Today, I did my 7 miles despite the pain. I know it's wrong and bad and stupid and just inexcusable, but I did it anyway. First, I rubbed Tiger Balm into the sore spots and then taped up the leg with an Ace bandage. It felt warm and tingly and smelled like Chai. I can think of worse things.

During the run, the shin hurt intermittently. Interestingly, it hurt less when I ran fast than when I walked. I jogged down Memory Lane, a.k.a. Taft Avenue. Hoped to say hi to Mr. Taft, but he was no where in sight. The fat orange cat at the end of the street is still there, and now there's a new orange kitten a block away on Kales. Progeny of Mr. Taft perhaps?

The losers that kicked us out of our old house have dug up the California poppies that I planted, so now there's just a big empty patch of dirt.

Ran through a street party on Lawton and was almost taken down by an errant rubber ball. The folks could have at least offered me a hotdog, but I guess it would have been hard to eat while running. Plus, I think they'd already seen me choke and splurt my water onto the sidewalk as I approached, so they weren't taking chances with valuable meat food product.

Got home and immediately applied ice (frozen peas and corn) and ibuprofen. Then mixed up a couple of batches of homemade ice cream with Michael. Not a bad day. We'll see if my opinion changes after the Advil wears off.


Saturday, August 19, 2006


When I started this blog, I expected it to be full of ecstatic effusions on my new-found joy of running, deep existential realizations, meditations on the wonders of the body and on the natural world as I race by. I did not expect this blog to be full of medical terms and technical issues and boring details of workout plans. I mean, of course I knew there would be some of that. But I also thought I'd transcend the mundane details at some point and get to profundity a lot sooner.


I've learned not to come to a meditation retreat with expectations of anything but experiencing the moment, whether the moment is serene or blissful or agonizing or just plain boring as hell. I thought I was approaching running in the same way.


So far running has been: physical pain, wishing I could stop, wanting to throw up, and being really, really glad when each run is over. There's a lesson in this, but I don't yet know what it is. Anyway, here's to plugging along. A new plan and a new medical term:

Medial tibial stress syndrome, a.k.a. shin splits

I went to see Matt Sheehy again last Friday. Took him my X-ray from Maryland Kaiser. He ran his thumb along my inside shin and said, "You have shin splints, here (Ouch!) and here (Ouch!) and right here (Ouch! Ouch!)" He could feel these little knots in the tendon and knew exactly where the pain would be before I winced. He showed me how to massage my leg, told me to do it every morning along with ice, and recommended running only 3 times this week, again no more than 2 miles.

Matt also evaluated my running and told me I was improving a lot. Still need to work on keeping the right leg straight. The key to ending all this bloody suffering, according to Matt, will be to straighten up this damned leg. I thought I WAS keeping it straight!

A New Running Plan

Once again, I'm revising my plan. I think that in order to complete the 1/2 marathon on October 22, I'm going to have to give in and walk some of it. It's the only way I'll get in all the training without ruining my leg. So, I'm modifying John Bingham's Run/Walk plan from Marathoning for Mortals. Instead of running continuously, I'll do intervals of running and walking, which is actually what I had planned on doing from the very beginning before the trainers at 24-Hour Fitness filled my head with delusions of Super Heroic grandeur.

Thursday, after figuring out how to set the interval timer on my new Timex Ironman Triathlon watch, I did intervals of 3 minutes running and 2 minutes walking for 45 minutes. It was nice to follow my old route out to Berkeley campus and back. The walking intervals were a relief but also a let down. My ego had gotten so inflated. Each time I stopped to walk, I'd glance around, embarrassed and humiliated, to see who was watching.

If this running thing is teaching me nothing else, it's that I'm not nearly as enlightened as I thought I was! It's kind of cool, in a way. Like being hit over the head repeatedly with a blunt instrument could be cool, in a way.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Soft Tissue

Link to Official SF Marathon Photos Here.

Writing from Ellen's computer in Bowie, Maryland. Spent the last 4 days at my parents' house in Beltsville and have used my dad's treadmill twice to get in my runs. The temp here is 80 degrees at 4 a.m. and into the hundreds during the day with sauna-like humidity. A couple of days ago we took a very slow walk around Greenbelt Lake in the afternoon. But running outside in this weather is out of the question.

Yesterday morning, I woke up with my right shin very sore. This is the same shin pain I've been writing about. So I made an appointment at Kaiser Urgent Care and went in for X-rays yesterday evening. Fortunately, there is no fracture, stress or otherwise. It's some kind of soft tissue injury. (What does that mean???)

The doctor advised me not to run for 6 weeks! Okay, that's not an option. Especially since nothing is broken or cracked. I'll continue my 1-2 mile baby runs until I see Matt Sheehy on the 11th and see what he says. In the meantime, I guess Advil will be my friend and running partner.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Just like starting over...

Wow. I have so much to catch up on. I lost momentum. Being unable to run, I felt lost. I had no program to follow. It was difficult to get to the gym when I had so little motivation. And it was difficult to bring myself to write about it when I felt so disoriented.

But help is on the way in the form of Matt Sheehy, my physical therapist at Kaiser. I had my appointment with him this past Friday. Matt is a runner himself and his specialty is sports rehab. Not only did he examine my body, but he put me on the treadmill and observed my running form, noting 4 things I'm doing wrong which are contributing to knee problems:

1) Holding my posture straight up. Instead, I should lean forward from the ankles, like a skier. This prevents the next thing...

2) Landing on my heels. I should be landing on my midfoot. Landing on the heels is like putting on the brakes. It causes a lot of impact on the knees. Leaning forward will help me land correctly.

3) Allowing my right foot to turn outward. I already knew this was a problem. Matt says I can correct it by doing hip adduction exercises (squeezing in with the thigh) as well as simply focusing on keeping that leg straight at all times, especially when running. It feels really strange to keep it straight. He says if I am diligent, I should be able to correct it myself within a month. And after examining me, he feels that my muscles are strong enough that there should be no reason they can't hold my leg straight with practice. It's just a weird habit that has developed over time rather than an actual defect in my body.

4) Low stride rate. He counted 78 strides per minute. I should be running 85 strides per minute, taking quicker, shorter strides. This will help me land with less impact. He wants me to purchase a clip-on metronome to help me learn to run at the correct rate.

Some other things he wants me to do:

1) Read the book, ChiRunning, by Danny Dreyer, and learn to run using the form described in the book, which is based on principles of Tai Chi. This form includes the forward lean, landing on the midfoot, relaxing the lower leg and ankle and using more of the core muscles to run, and picking up the feet. Matt says that all his running patients cleared up their knee problems by adopting this running style. And he was able to demonstrate it for me himself; so as strange as it feels, I know it can be done.

2) Switch to soft Bio-foam insoles. He thinks Superfeet insoles, which I have been using, are too hard for running. And he agrees with Dr. Augé that I should be wearing well-cushioned neutral shoes rather than the heavy motion control shoes I was wearing.

3) Use a different stretch for my quads after each run that is less stressful on my knees.

4) Run 3-4 times per week, only 1-2 miles each time, focusing on improving my form rather than on speed or distance. Then, come back to him in 3 weeks for evaluation.

So, I purchased the book as soon as I left his office and have done 2 runs since then. So far, no knee pain whatsoever. The form feels very strange, but I'm actually able to run faster than I ever have before. Yesterday, I ran a 10:24 mile on the treadmill: my fastest yet. The forward lean is like a gas pedal, according to Dreyer. The more you lean, the longer your stride has to be to keep you from falling, and if you maintain your stride rate, you will go faster.

The only pain I'm having now is the soreness in the left side of my right shin. Dreyer says that shin pain is caused by overusing the lower legs and also landing on the toes and balls of the feet rather than the midfoot. I do think that I have been overcompensating for the heel strike by landing on the balls instead. My next run, I'll focus on picking up my feet and landing flat-footed.

So, new plan: I still have an opportunity to participate in the San Francisco Marathon. I found out today that they have a Progressive Marathon. You fill out a sheet showing runs you've done in the last few months adding up to 23.1 miles and then complete the final 3.1 miles in a 5K race during the SF Marathon. You can run or walk the 5K, so I can still do it even though I'm not supposed to run more than 2 miles. Then, you end up with a medal and a T-shirt. It will be nice to salvage something from my previous plan!

As far as the Nike Women's Marathon: Matt thinks I should switch to the 1/2 Marathon on October 22, which agrees with Dr. Augé's opinion. I'll see how I do in the next few weeks before I make that decision.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thank you

Alanis Morissette has a song called, "Thank You." The refrain goes:

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

Here's my version. I think the sentiment is the same:

Thank you injury
Thank you anger
Thank you disappointment
Thank you weak knee
Thank you hopelessness
Thank you thank you descent

It's looking more and more like I won't be doing the 1/2 marathon on the 30th. I saw Dr. Augé yesterday. She thinks the knee problem is being caused by a rigid hip flexor combined with a deformed right foot. Well, she never actually used the word "deformed." But she did say my feet are unusual. She gave me a series of exercises to do and then worked on my right leg all the way from the bottom of the foot to the top of the hip. What she did hurt like hell. But when it was over, my leg felt looser and freer than it ever has. And the foot pointed forward instead of to the right.

Dr. Augé said she couldn't guarantee that I'd be able to do the 1/2 marathon on the 30th. When I asked when I could start running again, she said I could try whenever the knee felt better but to not overdo it.

So tonight I tried. I mapped out a 1-mile loop around Aunt Ann's and planned to run it 3 times. As I approached the office after the 1st loop, feeling pretty sure that I'd be able to do it again, BANG! There was the pain again. CRAP!!!! I limped to the back door and came inside.

So what can I do? My pride and my ego have taken a beating this week. I spent Sunday consoling myself with huge bowls of angel hair pasta and chocolate pudding. Now I have to get real. I'm not giving up. I just have to change my strategy. I've learned that I can create a plan and stick to it. Now, I need another plan. This one will not be as exciting, but I'll do it.

I've got exercises to do several times a day; and I'll do them. I need to find an alternative type of cardio workout to keep my heart and lungs in shape while I'm healing my leg. (Swimming? Can I do the elliptical trainer without pain?) And I have an appointment with a physical therapist at Kaiser in a week and a half (less than that if Dr. Augé can get them to fit me in sooner.)

So why the Thank You song? Because the real goal here is not to run a 1/2 marathon or marathon. Those are just targets to get me moving. The real goal is learning. Learning to listen to my body and give it what it needs. Learning to make a plan and stick to it, but also learning to be flexible when circumstances cause the plan to be changed. Learning not to give up in frustration in the face of disappointment. Basically, growing up and learning how to deal. I don't have kids to teach me these things. I've got to learn them myself.

I still plan to run a 1/2 marathon and marathon. I just don't know when they will happen. Anyway, the title of this blog is "Beth Runs!" Not "Beth Runs 26.2 Miles!" So it's definitely not over yet!


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Here I sit, broken hearted...

I went to bed last night with a throbbing headache from crying all day.

Yesterday, I got up early with an aching knee to make it to an 8AM event at the little Marina Green in San Francisco, kicking off the 15-week Nike Marathon training program. It was really just a day to sign up and get more info about the program. Oh, and have Nike try to sell us some new shoes. But they also had all the participants do a 1-mile "getting started" run, which I sat out because of my knee. My little big huge ego was shouting, "Hey everybody! You don't know me, but I just ran 8 miles last Sunday! I could do your stupid 1-mile baby run if my knee wasn't hurting from all the training I've ALREADY been doing!"

But this was not why I cried all day.

All along the green were vendor booths: Nike (of course), Jamba Juice, Luna Bar, See Jane Run, as well as Dr. Nancy Augé, a sports therapist, who looked at my new frankenstein running shoes and said, "Wow. I think you are severely over-corrected in those shoes." Great! This is my third pair of shoes! Am I soon to be purchasing a fourth??? I told her about the pain I'm having and made an appointment to see her Monday at noon.

I had to walk about a half mile along Marina Blvd to get back to the bus stop to go home. That is when my knee REALLY started hurting. Not a constant ache, but a sharp pain every time I stepped on or off a curb or did some other random thing I still haven't figured out. All I could think about was my scheduled 10-mile run the next day. I'd walk 20 feet without pain and start getting hopeful. Then, just as I thought, "Maybe I can run tomorrow if I wear my knee brace," the pain would shoot through again and go, "No! No you are not running, you idiot! What makes you think you can run? Mu ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

Still, I did not cry.

I got to the bus stop, rode to BART, descended into the BART station one very slow step at a time, and found a bench. That's when Michael called. And that's when the tears began. I cried all the way home on BART. I cried all over Michael when he met me at the station with my knee brace. I limped and cried all the way home with Michael. And when I got home, I sat on the couch and just cried for an hour.

All day, I cried until I was dehydrated. Then, I ate some food and drank some water and cried some more. Drink, cry, drink, cry. I watched 3 DVDs. After each one was over, I'd cry again.

I cried because I was so afriad of having to give up my dream. And I cried because I didn't know what to do. Should I try and run tomorrow? Should I just give up this week altogether? Would I still be ready for the 1/2 marathon if I missed one of my long training runs? What if the knee is ruined and never gets better? I finally understood how Michael felt when he broke his collarbone. Plus, I was having PMS, which doesn't create sad feelings, but certainly magnifies the ones that are already there.

Finally, some sense worked its way into my emotion-clouded brain and told me that I should not do anything involving my knees until Monday when I see the doctor. I've trained for 12 weeks. I'm not going to lose what I've developed by taking a couple of days off. But I could lose everything by overdoing it.

And for a bit of insurance, I took 2 valiums before going to bed. Valium knocks me out and leaves me hungover the next day. It strips me of most of my drive and motivation. This is usually an undesirable effect, which is why I've managed to save almost a whole bottle for a year. But in this case, I was worried that drive and motivation might cloud my judgment in the morning and cause me to do something I shouldn't. I wasn't going to take any chances.

Today, I feel fine about my decision not to run. But that's probably just the lingering effects of valium. Plus I started my period this morning, so the PMS flood has subsided. I need to go water my plants now. They've been neglected, as have most other aspects of my life that are not related to running. Obsession is a powerful thing.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Damned Right Leg!

Argh! My right knee is killing me! Okay, it's not killing me. But I don't think it's supposed to feel the way it's been feeling for the last 2 days. And on top of that, well actually below it, the left side of my shin is hurting too. Ever since I got out of bed yesterday morning.

Then, to add anxiety to injury, I was reading a new book on BART yesterday called Marathoning For Mortals in which the author emphasizes going slow and stopping training when something hurts. He's all full of scary warnings about how your legs will fall off and you'll be stuck in a wheelchair eating through a tube in your nose and no one will ever love you if you run when your legs hurt. I know! I know! But I just want to do this Half Marathon! I really want to do it! Can't I just wash down some pills with a big glass of tasty denial juice and keep going???

So I didn't run my 3 miles today on the road. I used my new Aqua Jogger for the first time at Temescal pool. (No, that's not me in the picture. Just imagine a navy blue bathing suit and maybe 15 more pounds. And no, I'm not posting a photo of me in a bathing suit on the web!)

I was starving, so I had a big hummus sandwich on the way to the pool: just the thing your mother tells you not to do. I didn't get a cramp and drown, but with the Aqua Jogger belt tight around my middle, I felt like I was going to barf.

Anyway, Temescal pool is much nicer than the gym's. The pool is big and outdoors and goes to 10 feet deep. I hung out in the deep end and ran in place for 35 minutes. It took a few minutes to get the hang of the rhythm of underwater running without looking like a spaz, but soon I was chugging right along. I just hope that doing this today gave my knee enough of a rest and the rest of me enough of a workout to do my 10 miles on Sunday!

Other things I have learned from Marathoning For Mortals that will be goals for the coming weeks:

1) Add 10 minutes to EVERY SINGLE run to warm up and cool down. That means, walk for 5 minutes before running and then walk for 5 minutes afterwards.

2) Add more time after the run to fully stretch all the relevant muscle groups. (This one is actually in my training manual, with illustrations, but I have been lax. Not stretching enough is probably part of the reason for my pain now.)

3) Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Damned Right Foot

A Souvenir from Walt Stack 10K Feh! Trying to remove the blister bandage Monday night, I accidentally ripped open the blister, and this is the result. Ouch!!! I tried to do my 3 miles on the treadmill yesterday at the gym, but every step felt like I was stabbing my foot with a sharp knife. After 7 minutes of torture, I switched to the stairmaster, a non-impact machine which, according to my training manual, is the closest thing to actually running. (The up and down stairmaster, not the moving stairway.)

When I got back to the locker room and took off my shoe, I saw the source of the pain. Even though I had covered it with a large bandage the night before, the blister had leaked all the way through and soaked my sock pink! GROSS!

So I won't run my 4 miles today. I'll wait and hope and pray that it is healed enough for me to run tomorrow. Have to remember to buy Preparation H. Yes, believe it or not, the book says that it is the best cure for blisters.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Kitchen Surgery

First, a bit of logic: This blog is about running. Running is a physical activity performed by the human body. Some things about the human body are gross. Therefore, some things written in this blog are going to be gross.

Here is one of them: remember the bruised toenail? Well, after doing a bunch of research on the web this morning, I found out that the pain is caused by blood built up under the nail and that the only way to stop the pain is to relieve the pressure. Several people suggested "drilling" a hole in the nail with a hot needle or other sharp implement. I tried that, but some instinctive force of self-preservation (or just general wimpiness) prevented me from pushing hard enough to actually make a hole.

So instead, I took a nail clipper and just started digging under the nail and clipping away at the nail and the flesh until suddenly, oh my lord, out spurted a light red geyser! They were right! So I made the hole a little bigger and then squeezed and sqeezed (yes, it hurt) until all the liquid was out. It wasn't actually blood but kind of like the liquid inside a blister mixed with a little blood. Afterwards, I disinfected it, put some antibiotic ointment on it, taped it up, put on my running shoes, and did my 4 miles. It's an hour later, and the toe is not even slightly sore. Yay for information on the internet.

Tomorrow, I'll work on the left toe.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

A minor setback...

Well, this is the first week that I have not completed all four runs. Thursday, after my successful and exhilarating 4-mile run, I went to the gym for a little Tuelo punishment. I think she was mad that I cancelled last Tuesday because she about killed me. Had me do deep lunges all round the gym (think Ministry of Silly Walks) alternating with reps of The Mountain Climber exercise. Notice that this is one they do in the military. I always thought she'd make a good drill sergeant.

Afterwards, Friday, I was so sore and stiff, I could barely move. Yesterday (Saturday) was not much better. I debated whether to run yesterday. I consulted many sources on the web, and they all seemed to agree that exercising very sore muscles does more harm than good. I was disappointed that I wouldn't get in my 4 runs, but I also didn't want to set myself back even further with an injury.

So, I skipped my 3rd run this week (the 3-miler) and did the 4-mile run this morning. My legs were on fire, especially my right shin. And I felt like someone had turned up gravity: my run was so slow and just seemed like it would never end. The first part was slightly downhill. I dreaded the return, which would be uphill. But surprisingly, my legs hurt less coming uphill than down. That was a relief. Still, my mind was screaming with thoughts about how I ought to stop at 2 miles, and then after I'd done 2 miles, how I ought to stop at 3. All the way, I heard these thoughts and didn't stop. I was miserable and kept going anyway. Every minute that I didn't quit was a small victory. Looking ahead to the marathon, I can see how it might be a series of small victories to the finish. I'm certainly training the mind as much as the body.