"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't you know running's bad for you?

I followed up a solid long run with a Rose-Fern Monday night, in the dark, the way it's supposed to be run. This time I kept things a little cooler than my 6:00 pace a few weeks before. 6:30s was more like it. Each of these runs holds a little more significance, because I'll be moving into the city, likely near Cleveland Park, at the end of June. The road loops that have been my stomping grounds for more than two and a half years will now require a metro trip. The tipping point was the distance. As long as I work in the city, it makes less and less sense to live out in Virginia. Adding in my social life and resistance to owning a car, along with the increased commuting times on the weekends, and the only compelling argument for me staying in Virginia is the running- I think it is unlikely I will find the quality of road loops that I enjoy now, and certainly traffic will be an issue. More conceptually, I love being a Virginian. Since the first time I was in the commonwealth for something more than driving somewhere else, it's been a place I want to be. But those 90 minute return trips home in the evening, the inertia to get going anywhere, the waiting around near the end of the orange line on weekends, the shuttle bus service between East and West Falls Church, the fatigue and irritation I feel at the end of the trips, the 1:45 it took for me to get to Regina and Clay's two Saturdays in a row...it may be worth it. I could have looked for a job in Virginia, but I didn't move here to work in the suburbs. There will be a time in my life where it will make sense for me to live in Virginia again, but during this process, I'll enjoy each run where I go 15 minutes without seeing a car just a little bit more.

I was feeling a little tired Tuesday night, so I opted for eight easy, watchless miles on the Westmoreland loop. The mileage I was missing would be easy to make up Friday during my workout.

Wednesday's track workout was just fine, but very unsatisfying. We ran 5x mile, all fast- 5:10, 5;06, 5:00, 4:58, 4:51. The group was so large that running consistently in the pack was impossible. One fellow in particular kept weaving in and out of lane one, making the entire mile a series of lulls. I wanted to do a sixth, but by that point, the big dawgs wanted to push it and despite running 70 for the first lap, I was off the back. All I really wanted was to run 4:50, anyway.

Thursday night, I returned to the Catholic loop, which I had neglected for months. I added a bit up to Riggs and around Lower Senate Park. 6:30s.

Friday, I boarded a Megabus for Pittsburgh to surprise my friend Nate for his 30th birthday. That's why I was shocked when I looked up and saw the Pigeon Coop and Camden Yards. Baltimore has no business on a trip between Washington and Pittsburgh. I inquired to the driver as to why we were there, and she admitted she was lost. I directed her back to I-70 and cautiously returned to my seat, aware this six-hour trip, already bloated, was going to be much longer. After a stop in Morgantown, she told us that dispatch center wanted her to wait for another bus to take us, because the transmission was fading. Instead, she drove us to Pittsburgh at about 40 mph. From the passenger's side, I watched us cruise by some dirt roads parallel to I-79 and I imagined running on them early in the morning, like when I worked for the Herald-Progress, like I was going to do when I took those newspaper jobs in western Maryland. I started second guessing my choices to move into the city, but the reality at the time, that I was riding a bus during a four-day weekend trip, reminded me to get with the program.

After reaching Pittsburgh, I waited 45 minutes for a bus to Highland Park, near Nate's house and an opportunity to get in a nice long workout before the party. I stuffed my bag in the park, right near where drug dealers leave stuff, Nate later told me, and warmed up around the outer loop to the park's inner loop. The inner loop could be a great place for a five-mile race, if only the full thing was shorter. The road loop is 1.1 miles, but by cutting a bit off using an access road, it's an even mile. My plan was 2x4 miles- 5:30s then 5:20s. I would be doing it with only one reference point for time- the mile. I got going and nearly missed the access road. It was pretty dark, and I thought it was going on a little long. Then it turned to the right, which didn't make sense. I realized I had missed the second turn. I kept things going and got back on track and hit 6:01 for what turned out to be 1.13 miles- 5:19 pace. I got it right the second time- 5:28, but when I finished the second mile, the aggregate of time I spent sitting on buses- almost nine hours, caught up with me, and I stopped. I ran a few laps around the reservoir and headed back around the remote outer loop. As I came around a curve, I saw a car headed my way, pretty odd considering the road really only went around the inside of the park. The car got closer and I realized it belonged to Nate- the very person my friends and I were trying to surprise. I hid my face as much as I could in case he took a second look, then as soon as he passed me I ran into the woods to hide. For the rest of my cooldown, whenever I saw a car, I hid behind a tree. This had a chilling effect on a few walkers who thought I was up to no good, but honestly, all I wanted to do was keep someone from seeing me...

The party setup went well, and despite several hints that would have given it away, Nate was surprised. He later asked me if I had been running earlier -- he had indeed seen me -- and said he had been running just about the same route an hour before- right when I would have been in the middle of my workout had the bus trip not been delayed.

The next morning, I drove out to Hampton to visit Javed and Jess. They moved from Fox Chapel, so runs from their house no longer involve a ridiculous hill at the end. Jess and I set out for a 13 miles run with a few loops around a horse riding thing. Farm? Playground? We cruised along at 7:40 pace, and I didn't mind at all, it was just right. Unlike my run with Jess in March 2010, this hills didn't bother me at all. When we finished and I headed back to my mom's car to head home for a nap, but suddenly my tailbone got really tight and weak and I freaked out. I jumped to the worst conclusion I could think of, a stress fracture, and texted the Red Fox, telling him I thought I broke my crotch, like he had. I definitely assumed the worst.


I took the rest of the day easy, by the time I went to Matt and Hilary's 30th birthday party I was so tired I was out of it. I got to see Brandon G and Greg, and talked to another runner named Todd who had it worst than me- he slipped while running and broke one of his vertebrae.

Sunday morning I met up with Nate, Mo, Ciccone, Websterm Nate's cousin Jessie and Scott for a run in Highland Park. It was the first time I had run with Webster since we were on the Mt. Lebanon track team together in 2000. He's been a loyal runner in the last few months, and is evidently planning to do a leg at the Pittsburgh Marathon relay! We dropped a few people off after four, did another loop to get to six, then Scott and I took Mo back to her house and finished up eight miles. I met Scott in 2008 when I hit on one of his grad school classmates at the Spring Thaw, and he turned out to be a delightful fellow. He and his wife, Sarah, are moving to Seattle, which is a bummer for Pittsburgh. When we were finishing up the last few miles, though, the left side of my pelvis start hurting. It wasn't good. I was convinced then that I had a stress fracture.

I headed back Monday evening. Wednesday morning I managed to get an appointment with an orthopedist out in Reston. Before he even heard my complaints, he asked about my running routine. As soon as he heard me say 90 miles a week, he went off on an anti-mileage screed and told me I could run three-mile runs and be fine. After some checking, he told me it was very unlikely I had any stress fractures and that pain I was feeling was a muscle sprain. I can attribute that to treating myself like a pack mule and carrying too many groceries at once home before having people over for brunch in January. The pain near my thigh was a hip adductor issue. A total of two weeks off should do it, but I was free to cross train. The oddest thing throughout all of this was the striking resemblance the guy bore to Matt Centrowitz (right), which gave the idea of those anti-running sentiments even more cognitive dissonance.

So I went back to work with a huge relief -- I would likely only miss about two weeks of training, and two of those days had already passed. With a swimming pool featuring a diving well on my way to work and a stationary bike in my office's basement, I had the tools to stay in shape and a short enough timeframe that I could keep the intensity up. I couldn't imagine doing it all much longer than that. I'm fortunate that the injury was not caused by running, so I don't have to re-engineer my form or anything like that.

That evening, I rode the stationary bike in the basement. It was miserable. I made it an hour, plus the fits and starts for a warmup. In the hour, I "biked" 21 miles.

Thursday, I realized I left my lock at the office, so I put off the pool and biked again. This time 75 minutes. Made it 25.8 miles in an hour this time, with more resistance.

Friday morning I woke up at 5:30 to get to Washington-Lee by 6. I took the plunge and returned to the refuge of the damned and injured. I hadn't done any serious aquajogging since 2002, when dealing with a stress fracture suffered in my pre-Richmond running days. Back then I had Jon Lauder, Nick Lauerman, Ian and Paul to keep me company. Now I was on my own. In my first two minutes, I wondered if I'd be able to keep it up, but after a while it became tolerable. For a while, Kristi the Pacer was at it, too, but my late start meant I'd eventually be on my own when she left. I made it 80 minutes before the stitch in the lining of my running shorts-swim trunks facsimile became too much for my inner thigh. I spent the rest of the way with my wool trousers irritating my skin. Work took too long for me to hit the bike before attending a happy hour with Murph to promote the Father's Day 8k.

I'm the black guy
Saturday morning I slept in rather than read to the pool, so I returned to my office gym for more biking. It was a rough day, to say the least. I made it 15 minutes on the bike before my focus started to wilt. I tried the elliptical, which I hated, and stopped after 15. Back to the bike- 15. That was enough. A shower and a bus ride to watch the Majority Whips take on Scare Force One in the roller derby, the only activity I could hope to boost my heart rate.

Sunday morning I woke up, took the metro out to Vienna, then biked out to Oak Marr, the only pool nearby that opened in the morning. I got there right at 10, and headed over to the diving well, where some people were swimming. I popped in and start to do my thing, when the guard told me it was closed for diving class. I headed over the lanes where people seemed to be doing rehab work, but the water was only four feet deep. Back to the swimming lanes, where some dude yelled at me. I tried to negotiate use of the half the diving well not being used, but liability concerns prevented that. So, with nowhere to do my cross training, I biked over to GMU to watch Aubrey, our one GRC athlete, run the 3k. Only it started at 2 and I was there at 11, so I watched some races about which I cared little, then took splits for Aubrey and then supervised a post-race workout outdoors. The GMU track looks pretty nice under the blue sky with bare trees to the south, and soft fields to the west. I wished I could run.

Monday morning I joined Cris and a few other ladies in the pool, and I truly appreciated their company as I churned my legs for two hours. I noticed how quickly the sun was filling the sky and I wondered if I was becoming a morning person. I biked for 80 minutes in the afternoon, having less trouble breaking through to a sustainable effort this time.

Tuesday morning I was alone in the pool for most of the two hours I was in there. I warmed  up and cooled down for 15 minutes each and did 45x one minute on, one minute off. It was almost easy. In the afternoon, I warmed up for the bike with 30 minutes, 11.1 miles, while reading, then I ditched my kindle for some music and biked 24.8 miles in an hour.

Wednesday morning, I slept in and prepared for the push for the next three and a half days off my feet to keep me in shape for what remains of my spring season. Fun Lizard and I will head up to the Van Metre five mile, then I'll train up until the Cherry Blossom race, where I will hopefully run fast enough to get a comp to the Pittsburgh Half. If not, then I guess I'll have to find another half before it gets too hot. I guess we'll see on Sunday if cross training works.

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