Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Useful Tips at a Price

A few days before the fast & near deadly Half Marathon I did last month, I went to a running clinic run out of UCSF.

They actually gave me some great advice that helped me run much faster. Specifically, they explained the need to take in a gatorade and electrolyte snacks in a steady flow during longer events. The rough formula was 8 oz of gatorade spread out over the span of 6 miles or 60 minutes. Otherwise, take in a single shotblok for each mile you run, with water to wash it down.

In retrospect, the advice on staying fueled up was what allowed me to stay fresh throughout most of the run.

The other advice they gave, though, was a bit embarassing.

They gave me a 23 page printout explaining everything that was wrong with me biomechanically and the exercises I needed to do to address my problems. According to them I;

- Have no lower back and abdomen strength to speak of;
- No strength in my butt muscles (interpreted another way, I have no ass);

This all leads to an odd circular swinging of my thighs which wastes energy. They also seemed surprised that I had no lower back problems given that (according to them) I have no ass and no back muscles.

Interestingly, they didn't think much about this whole heel strike vs. forefoot strike debate. To them it seemed a bit of distraction.

Was I naive to trust in a great book.

Friday, November 6, 2009

An Unexpected High and a F*&*-ing Awful Low

Last Sunday I ran my second-ever half-marathon, the US Half Marathon here in San Francisco.

It went a A LOT better than I thought it would. The weather was perfect. The course was incredibly beautiful. Having ridden across the Golden Gate Bridge so many times by bicycle, I never had the chance to really appreciate the view. Running across the bridge behind a few thousand other runners, the clear skies above, the dense fog directly below, the mists shrouding the city, it was a great moment.

And speaking of the few thousand other runners, I forgot just how much of a difference it makes being able to draft behind a huge group of runners. The first seven miles even with the hills were easy.

Somewhere just past mile seven I checked my GPS. I was running much faster than I expected and didn't feel fatigued at all. My last half marathon I had just missed getting in under 2 hours. Looking at my splits and my time at mile seven, I decided to go for it. I decided to see if I could get in under 2 hours.

So I floored it.

The last six miles were perfect for making up the time. It was downhill from the bridge then nothing but flat terrain along Crissy Field. When I checked my splits, my minutes per mile kept dropping until the very end. I was able to come in just under the two hour mark.

That was the the unexpected high of the day.

The f@#@-ing awful low happened later that evening.

I had read that immediately after a long hard endurance workout your immune system is basically wrecked. You should rest, pound fluids and carbs, and not do anything too strenuous.

I didn't consider a major clean-up of our closets to be a strenuous workout. Nor did I consider hauling several large loads of old junk down several blocks to the charity donation store to be anything too challenging. Lastly, I thought the three beers I drank in the early evening constituted a form of carbohydrate reloading. After all, the Hash House Harriers have been doing that for decades!

Sometime around 1:00 AM I woke with a burning feeling in my gut. No biggee I thought, take some maalox, go back to bed.

Then 3:00 AM rolled around.

The gut no longer burned. Instead, it felt like a dagger was being shoved in there, and twisted left and right.

More maalox.

5:00 AM rolls around, one more round of maalox. No luck.

At 6:00 AM, I conclude its food poisoning. That stinky Dutch cheese and spicy dried Italian sausage I ate as a snack probably were too much for me. I call in sick. I also discover I have a fever.

12 Noon. Had some pepto, it helps a little, I go back to bed.

3:00 PM. The twisting dagger returns and gets me good. The pepto didn't help. Fever is even worse.

4:00 PM. M and I head to the emergency room to see if this is something more serious.

The doctor does some initial checks, tells me I might have an appendicitis. I start flipping out. I have images in my head of my belly being cut open, hands diving in, and parts being snipped off.

I get subjected to six hours of blood tests and cat scans. They inject me with a buttload of saline, morphine, and God knows what.

Sometime after 9 PM the doctor comes by.

Doctor: I have good news, you don't have an appendicitis. But you do have kidney infection.

They released me and gave me a prescription for some drugs that can probably kill my organs as well any bacteria crawling around inside of me.

A kidney infection -- how the hell did I get a kidney infection?

The usual warning signs weren't there. No burning or bloody pee. No infections to my bladder or urinary tract. And on top of that 24 hours before I was in tip top shape.

Unless of course it was the Half Marathon that did it to me....

In the span of 24 hours I put in a personal best athletic performance, and suffered through one my the worst illnesses ever.

Is it true then -- could running actually be bad for you?

I'm Back

I haven't written anything in two months. But a lot happened. And there is no way I can do it in chronological order.

The next several entries won't be in the order they actually happened. Please bear with me.