Tuesday, July 28, 2009


This is getting boring. I hate being injured and not running. Pout, pout, pout.

I'm finally back on the bike, which helps a little. I was spinning around Central Park this morning, envying all of the runners slogging it out in the humid air. I'm hoping that a few weeks of easy, steady cycling will help both my fitness and my mood, while I continue to wait for this injured piriformis to calm down.

What can I write that I haven't written already? The darned things is sore, possibly swollen, it's not really getting much better. I can stretch it a little now without the wincing pain I was having as recently as two weeks ago, but I still feel it all day, every day. It's either throbbing away, or it's in spasm and pressuring the sciatic nerve, which makes it seem like my hamstring hurts. At this point it's been hurting for so long that I can hardly remember how it feels not to be hurting.

In an effort to keep this blog from being a long series of "I'm still hurt" postings, I think I might do some musing on training and racing in future posts. Perhaps naively, I still hold out hope that I'll be back running at some point soon, so perhaps thinking through the kind of plan that one needs in order to start over again would be helpful to me and to you readers. We'll see, right?

Friday, July 24, 2009

30 years later

Just in case some of you might have an interest, I've started another blog with a very specific focus. One of the most-treasured memories of my final year of high school was our cross country team's season, which ended with a conference championship. That happened exactly 30 years ago. To celebrate that anniversary, and to take a look back at how we trained and thought about the sport in those halcyon days, the new blog will trace that season day-by-day, starting now in late July. I have entries in my running log detailing every workout and race from that season, along with some old, yellowed press clippings and photos. I think it will be a fun project to post each day's log entry on the same date (more or less), and then add some commentary from the perspective of three decades later. While the new blog is specific to a small-town Wisconsin high school team in 1979, it is my hope that the chronicle of that season might be interesting and may even evoke some memories for each of you.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

2009 is not my year

On the advice of the doc and the physical therapist, I tried my first tiny bit of "light jogging" last night. It was a complete and abysmal failure. The first three minutes hurt, but I can stand pain. Then the next two minutes hurt a lot, which made me start to worry. At that point (and remember we are talking only 5 minutes of jogging here) everything in my left hip and thigh just seemed to seize up completely. I am experienced enough to know the difference between pain that I can run through and pain that is telling me, "Hey you, stop, right now, and I mean it!"

So I walked back home, slowly. Sigh.

The pessimistic view would be that I'm just not going to come back from this latest injury. It's not healing, even with medical intervention. I'm done.

The optimistic view would be that it's just a little too early for me to try jogging. The piriformis is still not settled down, and perhaps there are still some underlying issues with my balance and alignment that need to be addressed before I can run again. I am simply not yet healed.

I prefer to be an optimist, but I will admit it's getting harder and harder to maintain that perspective.

I think what I'm going to do for now is limit myself to cycling for the next few weeks. I've used the bike to help bring myself back from injuries a few times before, so I'm hoping that it's going to be an effective method once more.

The bottom line is that I'm not going to be running the races I'd hoped to in August and September (the NYRR Club Team Champs, and the Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire, along with a couple of trail races). I feel pretty lousy about this. It's been a depressing summer in terms of running, and I'm not convinced that much is going to change this fall. I am going to take the pressure off completely, and not even think about racing for the rest of this year. I have to face the fact that I'm not even anywhere near jogging at this point, much less being able to run hard in competition.

I guess that 2009 was simply not my year for running, and I should just stop worrying about it.

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Needle

I've just returned from the Physiatrist's office, where two things happened:
(1) he did a nerve conductance test to verify the exact placement of the injured, inflamed muscle
(2) he shot me up three times with cortisone and marcaine, right into the piriformis muscle on my left side.

I have these comments about each:
(1) Apparently, when the piriformis was put into a stretch (rather uncomfortable), the nerve response was nearly zero. The thing is in spasm and swollen so badly that it's almost shutting down my sciatic nerve on the left side. It's a wonder I don't just fall over when I try to walk on my left leg.
(2) Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. Did I mention ouch? Picture this: I'm curled up in a near-fetal position in my underwear, and the Dr. is inserting this big 5 inch long horse needle into my hip, to deliver the meds right to the injury. I'm sweating bullets and trying just to breathe. He tells me midway through that I'm "doing well", but what he can't see is that I've begun to grind my teeth into small bits, my eyes are beginning to pop out, and I have a miniature version of Niagara Falls made of perspiration running down my back. When he would actually hit upon the injured muscle with the tip of the needle, it would sort of "snap" in a painful reaction. Man, eye-watering pain ... luckily only for a few seconds.

Now, take all of that, and multiply it by three.

My advice if you ever get this shot: do not, under any circumstances, actually look at the needle. Trust me.

The plan:
I start physical therapy later this week, and hope that I can learn some new stretches and/or strengthening exercises to get this thing under control and then keep it that way. The Doc said I could start running very slowly and gingerly in "about a week", depending on what the Physical Therapist said. However, he said my first runs should be only 1-2 miles long. Ahem. That's not really a "run", but what the heck, I must not complain at all if this is getting me back to running, even if on an extended timetable.

My summer is a complete wash anyway in terms of running. Once again, I now attempt a comeback. When you get to be my age, you look back at your running career and realize that it's really just a long series of comebacks!

But, you know what they say, there is no shame in falling down, only in not getting back up again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Back to the drawing board

Sorry, dear readers, I have been off the grid for some time. This is due to a combination of things: (1) injured, so not running still, (2) stress at work, (3) two weeks vacation in the gloriously unpopulated woods of northern Wisconsin.

My summer of 2009 has been without running so far, which is horribly depressing. Just before I departed for my vacation, I saw a recommended "Physiatrist", who diagnosed my problem as piriformis syndrome. That label scares the heck out of me, because my best friend had his running career essentially ended because of piriformis problems. Not good. Now that I'm back at home, I'll go to a follow-up appointment this week and undergo whatever aggressive treatments they recommend (I assume this will include an injection of cortisone/lidocaine to the muscle itself, followed by physical therapy). If all goes well, I might be back to running in 2-4 weeks. If all does not go well ... who knows?

It sucks not to be running, I'm sure you'll all agree. What's ironic is that when I'm running well, I take it for granted and/or even sometimes feel a bit resentful about getting out there everyday ... but now that I can't run, I would do anything to be able to jog even a few steps without intense, shooting pain in my left hip and hamstring. My 2009 running goals are all out the window at this point. All I want to do is be able to jog again.

Hope that your running is going much better than mine!