Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Starting Line

Last year, Steve and Sam made a valiant attempt in breaking a barrier.  During this same time, I was wallowing in self-pity and cursing my own anatomy.  I stumbled on this blog, mainly because I had replaced all of the time that I once spent running, with browsing the LetsRun message boards and happened to think the thread title was intriguing (I don't recall what it was today).  I had lost 4 years of my aerobic prime to Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome and repeated misdiagnosis of that condition.  This condition came as I was just starting to make some real progress as well.  I wasn't necessarily faster than I ever was at the time, but racing and training was easy at that time.  I recall running as an open, unattached runner in a college cross county meet, and I set a modest PR for the course that day, but my old college coach came up to me and told me that he had never seen me so relaxed and in control while racing.  For the first time as a runner, I could put the hurt on other runners by surging in quick bursts, or gradually increasing the pace and putting the other runners around me in a world of hurt.  I was in control, and it was fun.  (Full disclosure, I was in control of the chase pack I was in, there were runners in that race that were well ahead of me, but I think you get the point)

9 months later...I was a newlywed lining up for a race in a town that would become the town where I live today.  The race is the 4th of July half marathon in Lander, Wyoming.  Admittedly. my training had tapered off for a few months due to a 22 credit semester getting my second bachelors in civil engineering, and this may have been one of the contributing factors to my pending fate.  Regardless, I had been in control of every race I had ran in the last year or so, so I thought this race would be no different.  My wife told me about the course and how hilly it is, and to relax the first 4 miles, and I didn't listen.  I scoffed at my watch when the first mile was in 7 minute pace.  I saw two runners (who happened to be extremely talented cross country skiers) starting to make a gap, so I quickly bridged the gap and settled into a more natural rhythm running closer to 6 minute pace.  This race turned out to be one of those races where EVERYTHING goes wrong.  First it was the bubbling in my stomach, then this bizarre cramp in my left calf that wouldn't go away started at around 4 miles, then the leaders pulled away, then I'm passed one by one until I'm out of the top 10 and trying to keep with a couple of super-masters runners that are anything but quick, then chaffing on the inner thighs to the point of bleeding.  I shouldn't have finished the race, and the time was certainly unremarkable.  I think it was maybe under 1:40, but a far cry from the half (first two legs of a marathon relay) I had just run in the fall at 1:14.  By they way, if you care to take in the festivities on the fourth of July, don't put your digestive system through that kind of punishment during an early morning race.  No hot dogs and chips for me that day, and I also had to spend the majority of the fireworks show in the bathroom.  I know it's legal, but for me, Imodium is definitely performance-enhancing, and I'll leave it at that.

For the next four years, running was depressing.  Some days I could a half mile before my calf would lock up and I had to limp home, and some days I could run quite a bit.  I remember being able to run my birthday miles that year (25 I think), and also got though the Bridger Ridge Run in Bozeman Montana (20 miles on a ridge-line trail and registration filled up in about 7 minutes that year), but gone was any kind of consistency. Gone were the 100-mile weeks, the 70-mile weeks, the 50-mile weeks, all the way down to about 10 miles a week.  It got so bad, that if I had a good day, I wouldn't run the rest of the week just because I wanted the feeling of a good run to be in my memory, and not be spoiled by the inevitable terrible run that would ensue soon there after.

Then there was the [wrong] diagnosis.  I had a tough 6 months after that half marathon.  After the Bridger Ridge Run, I decided that perhaps my heavy miles during college had caught up to me, and I needed an extended break, and I'd get back into running when I entered into the professional world.  I swam a bit and got on my bike more.  I love my bike, but it took hours to maintain any sort of fitness and of all the towns I have lived in, Bozeman is by far the worst to enjoy a bike ride (narrow shoulders and inconsiderate RVs everywhere), and really isn't that great of a town to run in if you ask me.  So I graduated, and got hired at an engineering firm, got insurance, and went to the doctor...A ruptured gastroc was the diagnosis...Great!  8 weeks of physical therapy, and you'll be back on your feet, accept I wasn't.  Next ortho had some running experience (an iron man), and he arrived at the same diagnosis...As did the next, and the next just told me not to run.  2008 had come and gone, as did 2009, then 20 10 and the majority of 2011, and looking at my running logs, I only averaged 0.43 miles over those 4 years.  Not even a mile a day.  I had 3 years where I ran over 4000 miles, one of which I had run 360 days.  Again, I occasionally ran during this time, and also embarrassingly won a few 5ks.  When you win a 5k in over 20 minutes, you don't feel like you earned it when you've lost 5ks while running in the 16s and 17s.  There's no satisfaction in it.

Then about a year and a half ago, I faked my way through a triathlon, and things got really scary.  The majority of my lower left leg was numb, and I had weird sensations of the feeling of heat and ice when I was sitting in front of my computer at work.  Now it was more than not being able to run, there's something affecting my comfort at all times.  I called my physical therapist and got a referral to an orthopedic doctor that had more experience working with athletes (A US Ski Team Doctor) then with a retired community, and it made a difference.  A nerve study and an office visit with the doctor and they suspected CECS.  A follow up appointment and it was confirmed, although not in the traditional way of course.  My resting pressures were high.  Apparently your inter-compartmental pressures should be below 30 mm hg at all time, and mine, while resting, were all in the neighborhood of 50 mm hg.  Congratulations Sam, You Win a Faciotomy!!! Yay!  I had a diagnosis that made sense, and with a treatment that had a reasonable prognosis.  I can't begin to describe how nice it is to now that what is wrong with you is not in your head.

Running again!  After the surgery on my left leg (September of 2011), it took until about mid December before I was running again.  It was a slow process, so I adopted a slow training philosophy (HADD).  My mileage started to creep up to the 40s, and then it was my right leg's turn to disobey.  April of 2012 and my second bi-lateral faciotomy.  All four compartments, both legs.  I figure I have about 36 inches of scars on my lower-legs now.  A feature that was an advantage when my quick-witted wife had some contractors convinced that she made me get calf-implants (not to brag, but I have huge calves).

Running again!  For the last three months, I've been running 5-6 days a week, including a long run and one harder effort.  I can run hard on one day without fearing that I won't be able to run for a week.  In fact, I think I can finally say that I'm not just training, but training.  Yesterday my wife told me she likes it when I run, she says I'm much happier.  And while life certainly didn't stop with my running, I've had two kids, completed my second bachelors, and started my career since I first became injured, when you are running, time flies.

Yesterday I entered into my first race since that sprint triathlon in July of 2011.  A small 5k road race that's a fund-raiser for the cross county team in my wife's home-town.  My wife won the 10k overall, and I took second overall in the 5k in a time of 19:12.  Not nearly as fast as I'd like, but who am I kidding, I'M BACK ON THE STARTING LINE.

I'm currently not sure how my involvement in this blog will evolve, but since the blog has been crowd-sourced so far, I suppose perhaps my involvement should be up to you...the readers.  Perhaps you have workouts for me to try, or perhaps you'd like to get a glimpse of how a father of two with a demanding career fits his running to his life, or perhaps it's all of the above.

Let me know, and see you on the roads, tracks and trails.

Sam (the other one)


  1. Great to read about you passion about running, and even better to know your on the mend and getting out running more and more miles. Perhaps we'll find ourselves pacing each other again in one of local runs. Read Wild Iris Mountain Run.
    - trey warren

  2. Wild Iris was pretty humbling last time, so yes, I will definitely have to tackle that again.

  3. Great read, good to know you're back at it. Adds a lot of perspective to healthy running