Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Blogging Marathon DNF

Well, my attempt at a blogging marathon has failed.
I just wasn't in good enough mental shape to complete the 26.2 daily consecutive posts.

So I'll be taking a blogging break for a while to rest and recuperate.

Thanks everybody for reading.


Sunday, June 26, 2011


Blogging Marathon Day #8

OK, so I diagnosed with "Low grade chondromalacia"

Doesn't feel low grade. Ever since the marathon, even walking downhill hurts.

While it is good that they did not see anything serious in the X-Ray and MRI, I am still left scratching my head with what to do about it.

The explanation they gave me is that I am simply defective. My knee cap does not track properly so when I run it grinds up the cartilage underneath.

This is the same thing they said back in 2006. So they prescribed PT, orthotics, and stretching.
(See runner's knee post). None of that really worked for me back then.

The thing that doesn't make sense is this:

If I am defective and my knee does not track properly, then why did my knee pain decrease from 2007-2010 as  my mileage went up?

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Blogging Marathon Day #7

X-Rays. Cartilage looks OK there. Little bit of a groove worn in on the outside of the kneecap.

MRI from 2006. The neglected to send the me the records from the latest test.

Diagnosis: Low grade chondromalacia.

Hmmm. Sounds right, but why did it come on all of the sudden?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bonking at Bayshore (Again)

Blogging Marathon Day #6

As I hobbled down the road, past the 21 mile marker of the Bayshore Marathon, I looked at my watch.
My time read 2 hours and 56 minutes.
"Looks like I won't get that sub-3!", I laughed to myself.
When I had signed up for the race 6 months before, it was my hope to run under 3 hours there.

But things did not work out that way. It had taken me exactly 20 minutes to walk the last mile, and at that pace I still had another 1:40 to go. I have come to Bayshore 3 times because it is a flat, fast race, but have bonked 2 out of 3. Previous reports: 2004, 2009.

This day, the weather was a damp 55 degrees, which was perfect for running, but not so great for walking slowly in shorts and a t-shirt. I shivered and rubbed my arms, "Well at least it didn't rain like it was supposed to", I thought.

Right on cue, a light rain started to fall. I looked up at the sky, expecting to see some kind of deity giving me the finger, but there was just dark clouds.

Just then a van drove by with the words "SAG WAG" spelled out on the back.  "Hey!", I waved my arms frantically. I was ready to throw in the towel, take a DNF and a ride back. But the van didn't stop. Sigh. I even failed at quitting.

What happened?

Well, let me back up and start from the beginning.
On the plane to Michigan, I oscillated between trying to run the marathon and sitting it out:

PRO: It would be fun to run a race with my sister Monique and Shannon again
CON: The last 3 months I had only managed 20-30 miles a week, and my two longest runs were 12 and 13 miles.

PRO: But, in the last month, I set an Owls Roost PR, took first masters at Philosophers Way, and ran a pretty decent 5K at the airport
CON: I had to take a handful of Tylenol to run those races, and maybe pushing through those races were making my knees worse

PRO: I was traveling a long way, and spent a lot money to be there. What else would I do?
CON: My last run was 2 miles, and I had to walk most of it

PRO: Hey, couldn't hurt to try!
CON: Actually I could hurt myself a lot worse.

Should I run the marathon?
Lauren couldn't say at the moment. He was having his lunch.
(Taken in Traverse City)
My dad pickup us up from the airport. He asked about my knees, and I told him about my aches and pains (long whiny post here).

He told me about his lifelong experiences with rheumatoid arthritis. He had never talked to me about it before, because he is not one complain about such things, but I had heard stories from my mother.

When he was a child he suffered from crippling arthritis in legs and back. They gave him a series of cortisone shots which were experimental at the time, and for some bizarre reason put both his legs in casts for a year.

Today he is in great shape. He walks and jogs every morning, no matter what.
"My knees hurt like he'll when I get up", he told me, "but you just get out the door and get moving and work through it." He is 73 years old.

I flexed my fingers which had been feeling arthritic lately, and wondered if it was connected to my knees, the back pains, and the "idiopathic uveitis" that had attacked my eyes. Had I inherited his rheumatoid arthritis? I certainly hadn't inherited his stoicism.

It was then I decided I was going to try to run. If it was arthritis, resting was not going to help it. Besides, after talking with my father, I had no choice but to suck it up.

Even after not running the last 5 days, my legs were more stiff and aching than ever. As I walked from the hotel to the race start with Shannon and Monique, I had to laugh at how ridiculous it was to be limping to the start of a marathon.

Still, my last four races had started this way. After the 4 acetaminophen and the adrenaline of the race kicked in, who knew what would happen?

I have a long history of complaining of aches and pains before setting a PR in a race, so my Shannon and Monique where encouraging me to go for a that sub 3:00 PR. But I knew that was simply impossible, so I decided to hang with them as long as I could as they attempted a 3:19.

After about 3 miles, I was warmed up and the drugs had kicked in. I pain was pretty much gone, and I was feeling great. I did not get too excited, as I had a few training runs that started this way, and ended up with me stopping at 8 miles and walking home.

On the flat course, we were trying run an even 7:35 pace. We had to hold back my sister who gets impatient and wants to get it over with. Shannon was struggling mentally, unable to accept the fact that we were no faster than she was. "You guys are so fast!  I can't keep up with you!" So she dropped back.
So she ended up running about 30 feet behind us for most of the race. I would turn around a wave to her periodically.

Mile 15
Slowly my quads became more and more sore. I stopped to walk at an aid station and my quads started to cramp. "Go ahead, I'll catch up to you", I told my sister.

After a short walk, I started up again, and found a faster 7:00 pace actually felt better, and was easier on the quads. It was odd that such a slight change in speed would use different muscles.

I held onto that until mile 19. I had almost caught back up to Monique when my legs started to quiver, so I stopped to walk again and drink some Gatorade. When I tried to run again, my quads seized up. So I walked. Shannon came by, concerned about me but I waved her on.

A Good Day
After about 30 minutes of walking, my teeth started chattering, and I needed to generate some heat, so I decided to see if I had recovered enough to run again. But with a single step my legs buckled, and I almost fell over. I was done running for the day.

I was jealous of the speakers, who were staying dry
A steady stream of marathoners and half-marathon walkers were passing me. I fell behind a couple of walkers, hoping to draft off of them. But even a brisk walk was too much for my legs and they started to seize up. So I slowed back down to my 20 min pace, and resigned myself to a long, cold shuffle.

I scanned the side of the road, hoping to find some discarded throw clothes that I could scavenge for warmth.
The past few races I have taken my shirt off, but now I was looking to put a few more on. I was officially resigning from the "shirtless douchebag club".
 I came across a beige sweatshirt laying on the grass. It was soaking wet and had a muddy footprint on it. I stood and stared at it a while, appreciating the ridiculous situation I had put myself in. I decided I wasn't that desperate and hobbled on.

A spectator on the side of the road was cheering on the marathoners running past "Good Job! Way to go! Looking strong!", until she saw me limping by. "Are you OK? Having a bad day?"
I considered the question carefully, and smiled "Actually... I'm great. It's a good day".
Which was true. It had gone way better than expected.

I had assumed my knees would give out, be they were fine. Instead, my quads had failed me simply from lack of training. My lack of knee pain made me happy, and I strolled the rest of the way and had a good time with it.

I treated the next aid station like a super market and took food from every person holding out something. I got 4 pieces of licorice, 3 cups of pretzels and 2 cups of M&M's. I had my arms full, waddling along munching as a steady stream of runners passed me, pushing themselves hard. "Suckers.", I said, my mouth stuffed with food.

I passed a bunch of guys at a table handing out cups of beer, but no one was taking any.
They all cheered when I took one.
"Ah! Man that's really good!", I finished it and took another one for the road. "Thanks!"

It was a long walk, but I finally made it, so amazed and happy to have finished. I managed to run a few steps across the finish line with a time of 4:36:40 (4:36:31 chip time!), where Shannon was waiting for me.

Shannon had a slightly off day, and missed her goal but still managed a great 3:23:36. Only seconds off her PR.

Monique had a great race, running a perfect even split for a 3:17:22. She was 15th out of 641 women and 3rd in her age group. Most impressive is setting a 4 minute PR at the age of 43.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Knee Recap

Blogging Marathon Day #5
Running mileage and knee craptitude 

Well it's time for me to figure out what the hell happened to my knees, and what I can do about it.

For those of you who are healthy, this will be dull. But runners suffering from knee pain may get something useful from my experience. Der Scott just posted about his triumph over knee failure, which made me hopeful that I can recover from whatever is ailing me.

So let's look back to figure out what happened. Much of this is enumerated in a previous post here.

Before 2000
I ran sporadically. Never more than 3 miles, and never two days in a row. If I tried to run any more than that my knees would hurt like hell. I just assumed that was the way it was.

I found I could run for a longer time if I was out on the single track trails. I just figured because it was a softer surface. Still never two days in a row.

I ran my first race ever in 2003, after my sister talked me into it. I met Shannon and she talked me into running more races, and even a few marathons. I bumped up the mileage and started running more and my knees got correspondingly more painful. After the Salem Lake 30K in 2005 my knees swelled up like balloons, and filled with fluid.

I quit running for about a year, and sought professional help. They diagnosed it as "runner's knee" and recommended stretching,  strengthening, and orthotics. None of which seemed to help.
One doctor recommended lateral release surgery, which I declined.
I went to another doctor at Raleigh Orthopedic. After an MRI, he told me that there was nothing really wrong with my knees, and I could run if I could take the pain.

I started running again while icing my knees all the time and taking a lot Advil.
For some reason, my knees seemed to get better the more I ran. I stopped icing, pill popping and stretching, and ran more than 2000 miles in 2009 and 2010.

In February of 2010 I declared myself cured of "Runner's Knee". I thought I had it solved with "small steps".

Satan makes an appearance
In the fall of 2010, I was running my fastest times ever. I did a 3:02 marathon in Detroit, and followed it up with a surprising 1:23:58 in the City of Oaks half. I was feeling good.

But of course, the following week I had to push it too far.
In a single week, I ran 75 miles which included: a hard race at Raven Rock, some training runs, a PR at the IO Turkey Trot, and finished up with the Faust Marathon, where I had to give a tendon to Satan in order to finish.

I was never the same after that. I hobbled through December, trying to get some miles in for all the big races in 2011.

In January, I finally got over the tendon problem, and tried to cram in an 80 mile training week for Uwharrie, which was a bad idea. I pushed myself as hard as I could in Uwarrie but missed my goal by 5 minutes. Shannon did awesome, of course.

The week after I was battered and broken. Both of my knees were wrecked. Not under the kneecaps like with the "Runner's Knee" before, but instead it seemed to be the tendons in the back, on the insides, and down the shin.

I hobbled through the next months. I did not do much running during the week, but instead rested for the races on the weekends. I had to take Tylenol to get me through the races, and I managed to do pretty good.

However, after every race I felt worse. My right knee was making some horrible crunching and popping sound every time I bent it. Sometimes it would be a stabbing pain behind the knee that left me limping. A couple times it suddenly "gave out" and buckled for a second.

Obviously I needed to take a break. But the strange thing was that when I would take an entire week off, my knees felt worse, not better. It felt like some strange disease radiating and spreading out further from my knees.

Circling the Drain
I went back to the same orthopedic surgeon I had seen in 2006, who had told me to go ahead and run.
I wanted to see if it was something really serious, if I had done some damage or if I just needed to take a break. 

I told him how I was running less and less, but my knees seemed to be getting worse. His reaction was not encouraging: "Wow. You're really circling the drain," he said.

The X-Rays showed no major problems, but we would have to schedule a $2000 MRI for a diagnosis. In the meantime he recommended two expensive placebo treatments, glucosamine and hyaluronan injections.

I declined both of those  (I will do a post explaining why), and opted for sacrificing a chicken. I went over to Bospherous and got the chicken kebab.

How about a Marathon?
So at the end of May, Shannon and I were signed up for the Bayshore Marathon. Shannon was really looking forward it, I was not.

I was unable to even run a mile without either severe pain or taking a handful of Tylenol. In the previous 3 months, the only "long" runs I had done was the Owls Roost Half marathon and the MST 12 Miler.

It seemed insane that I would try to run it. Still, my sister and Shannon would hear none of it.

"Oh, you can do it! You will probably PR!"

Next: The Bayshore Marathon race report.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I am Reading a Book!

Blogging Marathon Day #4

A hand written note from the author

For most people this wouldn't be news, but I don't read a lot of books.

I do try to pretend I'm intellectual, by reading books like "Why we get sick". This book has sentences like this:
An individual homozygous for the normal allele has perfectly good red blood corpuscles but lacks the special resistance to malaria.

Unfortunately, I have the attention span of a gnat, so I've been reading it for 3 years and I'm still not done.

So I bought another book: "Running for the Hansons", which I will attempt to read in just 2 weeks, and then post a thoughtful book review. It is written by an a guy who runs at the elite level, but does not show up on the cover of Runners World or in shoe advertisements.

Instead he works at the Hanson's shoe store. Here is an except from the book
The third main type of customer at the Hansons is what I like to call a "Stroke". The Stroke is a middle-aged man who is somewhat financially well off... he is a runner and a triathlete and he lets you know that right away... He is usually obsessed with the latest running trends like minimalist running shoes and Vibram Five Fingers, and he will usually start telling you about the book Born to Run and a guy named Dean Karnazes.
For the record, I never said I was a triathlete.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Running Hazards: Copperheads

Blogging Marathon Day #3


Deadly Encounter
While my knees are preventing me from running, I have discovered that I can ride my bike as long as I don't push down on the pedals at a particular angle. So I was riding my bike through Umstead Park this morning, on my way to work, when I had a near death experience. This is what happened:

I was climbing up a hill, and a woman was running down it, coming towards me. She was waving her arms frantically and screaming at me:


Brown Snake Copperhead!
Clearly she was warning me of some danger ahead. But I couldn't quite hear her over my grunting, groaning and wheezing.  Robbers? Cops? "What was that?", I asked as I passed by.
"COP-O-ROB-O-POPA!", she repeated.

I stopped and turned around. "I'm sorry, what?"


"Oh my god! Thanks!", I said.

King Snake Copperhead!
Masters of Disguise
This actually happens quite often. About 4 or 5 times a week, when I am out walking the dogs, running, biking, or driving my car down the freeway, a passerby will warn me of a dreaded COPPERHEAD! up ahead.

I am lucky and grateful for this these warnings because I am  very bad at identifying copperheads. The ones people point out to me I would have mistaken for a black snake, or a garter snake, or a turtle. But copperheads come in many different colors and shapes, and are in fact, the only snake that exists in North Carolina.

I have included some pictures of copperheads here that are mistaken for other types of snakes.

Northern Water Snake Copperhead!
Near Death

Anyway, the only sane option was to ride back and take another trail about 7 miles out of my way to avoid riding by the snake. But I was late for work and really tired. So instead I continued up the hill, and hoped that maybe the snake had already moved on and bitten some other park visitor.

I scanned ahead, ready to turn around at the first sight of it. But when I did see it, it was too late.

It was directly to my right. Coiled up and staring at me, 14 inches of certain death. I was about 10 feet away from it, and moving fast, but I knew that would not save me. Copperheads are known to spring at lightning speed up to 25 feet through the air and bite people right in the face.

I closed my eyes and waited for it to strike...

But it didn't! Copperheads are insanely aggressive and will attack 99% of time, but I guess I was the lucky 1%.

Brown Water Snake Copperhead!
Be Careful!
So runners and bikers, be careful out there this summer. Always assume that there is a copperhead on the trail ahead, and that it will kill you.

The best way to deal with them is to buy a treadmill and run indoors. I recommend a Tigram Trail Treadmill. (Of course, do not order the deadly snake option).

Here we see Laurent Fignon, a French cyclist who was bitten
 in the face by a copperhead while leading the Tour de France in 1983


Monday, June 20, 2011

Welcome to Running Down

Blogging Marathon Day #2

About This Blog
I started this blog back in 2008, when Shannon and I had acquired this bizarre addiction to running races. We signed up for as many as we possibly could, sometimes two in a weekend. I remember staring at our ridiculous schedule thinking it was only a matter of time before the crippling injuries and afflictions started to pile up.

So I decided to chronicle my journey to self-induced infirmity in this blog, and name it "Running Down".
In case it isn't obvious, the name is a tribute to the irony of hurting yourself with an ostensibly healthy activity.

Oddly enough, the injuries didn't come right away. From 2008-2010, we ran 96 races, never really taking any time off. In fact, although I felt like crap, I was actually getting faster. So instead I just posted races reports, pictures, and feeble attempts at humor.

Run Down Complete
But it finally happened. The past 6 months I have gone from the best shape of my life to being completely broken down. My knees have gone kaput.

So for much of this blogging marathon, I will return to the original purpose of "Running Down", and discuss injuries, pain, doctors, treatments, and horribly bad decisions. I will finally post the race report for my major bonk at Bayshore, and at least one new gear review.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2011 Running of the Bulls 8K

Blogging Marathon Day #1

DNS (Did Not Start)
While I was signed up, I did not run this race, because my knees seem to be crumbling to pieces like peanut brittle. I will discuss my degenerating knees in a later post. Instead here is a slightly amusing story about how I was unintentionally signed up for the race.
Kim of Bull City rang the cow bell to start the race

Last Year
Shannon and I ran the "Running of the Bulls 8K" last year (post here), and both of us had a bad day.
It was unbearably hot, and we both ended up nauseatingly ill from over-heating. This, of course, is no fault of the race itself, as Bull City Running always puts on great races.

But just like she has vowed to never eat at California Pizza Kitchen again, Shannon vowed to never run this race again.

Which was fine with me this year. "I am not signing up for anymore races", I told her several times. It seemed clear we were not running it this year.

I Was Kidding
I find Shannon's irrational aversion to certain things amusing, and I like to tease her, such as threatening to take her to California Pizza Kitchen to eat.
So about 5 weeks ago, I sent her a chat message saying,
"Hey, Running of the Bulls is open for registration!".
I expected to get a "No way!" or a "Yuck" reaction, but instead I got back this message:
"OK! I just signed us both up!".
Ug. I was kidding.

Shannon runs with her dad Steve
So I didn't run, but I got a nice shirt out of it.
I tagged along with Shannon and her dad who ran the race, and took pictures and hung out.

I put the pictures I took up on facebook here:
Photo set #1
Photo set #2

Shannon, of course took pictures while she was running. Hers are here: Photo set #3

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Another Blogging Marathon!

I've been in kind of a funk lately. A lot of laying around in a stupor, wallowing in self pity.

Maybe another blogging marathon will beat it out of me.

So, starting tomorrow, I will again attempt 26.2 consecutive daily blog posts.

Don't expect much. I don't think I can match the last one.

Here I go...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Once A Runner

Can't run.
Can't bike.
Even walking can be painful.

Shannon tried to cheer me up.
"Let's go fly kites!"


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