Monday, November 29, 2010

New house, new life...same foot injury

Last Monday (11/22), we moved into our new house. It was quite a busy day. We moved out of our apartment, closed on our new home and--oh by the way--moved in. Anne and I divided and conquered, really pulling off quite a whirlwind day. Over the weekend we got down to our last box and capped it all off by hanging pictures and fine-tuning our new digs.

So life in our new house is...wonderful. We love it. The views of the mountains from our back deck, great room and bedroom are breath-taking. I can't decide what's more beautiful--the snow-covered mountains glowing from the sun rising in the East, or the sun setting "behind" the mountains to the West. The city lights at night are pretty awesome, too. We have a big map of the Colorado Rockies hanging next to one of our windows, along with some binoculars and books about the mountains nearby.

Our new house is situated at about 6,150 feet in the Parker "hills." Our temporary "downtown" Parker apartment, where we lived from April to last Monday, was at 5,900 feet. I have been surprised by the fact that an additional 200 feet this high up can make a difference. I went for a very hilly 13-miler on Sunday and was working pretty hard at certain points. Or maybe I was working hard because I've lost some conditioning as a result of my foot injury.

Which brings me to an update on this incredibly stubborn case of plantar fasciitis (PF). This PF is without question the worst, most complex and unpredictable injury I have ever endured. It will not go away, but it is slightly better. I guess the wonderful effects of the cortisone have tapered off. I've changed back to stability shoes, am emphasizing calf stretching and am wearing my splint every night. I've even cut back my mileage...a lot. I went back to Dr. Ng last week and he wants me to wear runner-specific orthotics. I'm not sure about $375 inserts--I've run almost 20,000 miles without orthotics--but I am keen on the physical therapy he prescribed, so I'll definitely explore that option.

I do think I'll eventually beat this nasty case of PF, but it's going to take time. I just really hope it's over and done with in time for a spring marathon PR and the start of my Leadville 100 training.


"Rudy" is among my favorite films of all time. When you get down to it, "Rudy" is about am ambitious kid with limited athletic abilities who chases his own dream and doesn't let the world hold him back. With a little relentlessness and wearing blinders, he defies expectations and believes in himself enough that he achieves something far beyond his perceived limitations. In the process, he served as an inspiration to those around him. That's the way to live, and "Rudy" in my opinion demonstrates that most dreams are attainable if you go hard after them. It's the fear of failure that aborts dreams and ultimately leaves you wondering what could have been. Better to try hard and fail, having shed blood, sweat and tears, than to never have tried at all. And if you fail, try again! But I believe that if you try, you will succeed. That's what "Rudy" is all about.

And my favorite scene:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Poor Spot

"According to the prosecutor's statement of facts in the case, between 2002 and 2007 Michael Vick and his co-conspirators Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor killed thirteen dogs by various methods including wetting one dog down and electrocuting her, hanging, drowning and shooting others and, in at least one case, by slamming a dog’s body to the ground."

“If you want a friend in this world, get a dog.” -- Harry S. Truman, President of the United States (1945-1952)

Don't you just love Spot, the family dog? It doesn't matter how crappy your day was; when you get home from work, there Spot is with his tail wagging, showing all kinds of love and wanting your undivided attention. Spot's love is unconditional. How lucky we are to have man's best friend.

Now for a disturbing picture: What if someone threw Spot in a ring with another dog trained to mutilate and kill your best friend in the world? And what if Spot were still alive after the fight and electrocuted, drowned, bludgeoned, hanged, or shot to death for not being tough enough?

Spot's fate is horrifying not just because you're a dog lover, but also because you're a moral person.

OK, with that said, I'm going to quickly diverge from running to just get something off of my chest. It seems today a lot of people have forgotten what Michael Vick, the imminently talented quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, did that ultimately landed him in a Virginia state prison only a few years ago. He's playing great football this year and I guess a lot of folks have forgiven him for running an evil dog-fighting ring in Virginia and for personally taking part in the murder--yes murder--of dogs. I've heard people make all kinds of excuses for Vick, like, "Well, we all break the law now and then...." Or, "He paid his debt to society and should be allowed to return to work." Or, "Aren't we a forgiving nation?"

Look, yes, he paid his debt to society. Yes, he should be allowed to work. And, yes, as a person of faith, I do forgive Vick since he asked for forgiveness--even as this is a struggle for me since I love dogs. But no, he shouldn't be allowed to play in the National Football League, where he's going to make millions of dollars once his "probationary," "wait-and-see" contract runs out and he renews, becoming the highest-paid player in the NFL. No one in the real world would be allowed to return to their old job after going to jail for a felony.

For those who think killing dogs is no different than running a red light or double parking, I'll end with the following narrative as told in an LA Examiner column by Kate Woodviolet:
According to the prosecutor's statement of facts in the case, between 2002 and 2007 Michael Vick and his co-conspirators Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor killed thirteen dogs by various methods including wetting one dog down and electrocuting her, hanging, drowning and shooting others and, in at least one case, by slamming a dog’s body to the ground.
Michael Vick didn't make a mistake. He didn't "make a bad choice." Over a period of five years he forced dogs into deadly fights, and he personally killed, or conspired to kill, thirteen dogs. He didn't pick a quick, painless method of killing, but instead chose a variety of means that qualify as torture. Pit Bulls are powerful dogs. Imagine how hard you would have to work to kill a Pit Bull by forcibly drowning him.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reports, "Sometimes [the dogs] were starved to make them more vicious in the pit."
And Michael Vick didn’t confine the abuse and killing to his own Pit Bulls.
Quanis Phillips, like Vick and Peace, "thought it was funny" to place family pets in the ring with trained fighting dogs
According to a November 2008 news story, a report prepared by the USDA's inspector general-investigations division revealed that Vick, Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips and Tony Taylor also put family pet dogs into the ring with trained pit bulls.
The report, dated Aug. 28, 2008, says, "Vick, Peace and Phillips thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to [Vick’s] Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs."
And just think--today Michael Vick is making a hefty living and getting tons of accolades as QB of the Philadelphia Eagles. He's the talk of ESPN and sports-talk radio nationwide. He's the toast of "Eagles Nation." He's said to personify the great American story of redemption.

You can read more about Michael Vick's crimes against man's best friend by clicking here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ryan Hall's New Coach is God

Not that ESPN or the mainstream sporting news would ever report it, but elite American marathoner Ryan Hall recently parted ways with his longtime coach and also left the legendary Mammoth Track Club. He's now going it alone in his training and will allow his Christian faith to lead him down this new path in his storied career.

Hall winning the US Olympic Marathon Trials in 2008.
As Ryan writes on his blog:
I will be using some different sources to shape my training. Over the past 14 years of running I have developed a keen body awareness, which I will use on a daily basis, as well as advice from various experts, and prayer to ultimately shape my training. I believe that operating in this manner will allow me to run with a new level of faith and excitement.
In another blog post, he says:
Running has always been deeply spiritual for me. My desire is to have my training be more biblically designed, which has some very tangible applications and some not-so-tangible applications. Some of the more tangible applications come from verses like: Proverbs 24:6, “For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” and Exodus 34:21, “You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest.” Obviously, there are no training plans in the Bible, so designing a program is a combination of my knowledge of training that I have developed over the past 14 years of competitive running, advice from others, but mainly through getting on my knees every morning and asking God what I should do. In the past I have found it very difficult for me to make deviations from my training plan once I have one written, so now I don’t have a plan in ink, making it easier for me to hear and obey God. With that said, God has a plan and sometimes He shows me one day, sometimes, a week, and sometimes the type of running I need to be doing in my current season.
Wow! Does that mean Ryan's not running at all on Sundays? It's hard to imagine an elite marathon training program that allows a day off every week. But, I do believe rest is very under-rated in achieving peak conditioning. If in fact Sunday will be a day off, Ryan may just pioneer a new training philosophy.

Prior to these recent revelations, Ryan was training for October's Chicago Marathon and ultimately pulled out before the race because he felt physically not quite up to an all-out effort in the Windy Cindy. Ryan writes quite a bit about his Chicago decision, these challenging past few months and the role of faith in his life on his excellent blog at

Not surprisingly, Ryan's taken quite a beating from many over his decision. Some of what I've read is presumptuous garbage that draws a line between faith and success. Happily, other commentaries have been more balanced. Then you get into message boards, which are mostly rife with nasty diatribes written by people who don't even known Ryan Hall, what was going on with his coach and club, and what's deep in his heart. It's hard being open about your Christian faith in today's world because when you let people know that God is the ultimate director of your life, as Ryan's done, there are those who will accuse you of "losing your mind," being stupid and committing other offenses.

Ryan's an incredibly experienced, talented runner, and an argument could be made that he hasn't quite lived up to expectations even as he's accomplished so much as a runner and--I would argue--as a man in the first 27 years of his life. I wish Ryan all the best and I know many will be cheering hard for him in the spring when he toes the line for his next marathon. Go Ryan!


Congratulations to Highlands Ranch, Colorado, resident Scott Jaime on his awesome win at the Mountain Masochist Trail Run, a 50-miler in Virginia. In the spring I met Scott for a run in Deer Creek Canyon and he's quite a talent. Scott's race report can be found here. With his MMTR win, Scott now has an automatic entry into the 2011 Western States 100.


Last Sunday Anne and I watched the New York Marathon. I enjoyed every minute of it except for when Haile Gebrselassie, 37, the world record holder for the marathon (2:03:59), dropped with a knee injury...only to retire after the race. I'm so glad Haile has reconsidered his decision and will race again in the spring.

For whatever reason, this reminds me.... The Olympics should institute a 100-kilometer road race. I think people would watch in amazement and would honestly be freaked out by the site of guys and gals running 62 miles--hard--on the road. Why the 100K hasn't been instituted by now is a mystery to me.


My foot continues to heal nicely. This past week I ran just under 30 miles, taking Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off per doctor's orders. My strategy for the rest of November is to keep the mileage quite low, especially since we'll be preoccupied with moving into our new house on 11/22 and getting unpacked. In December, if my foot is in good shape, I'll start ratcheting up the mileage again, but the key goal for the rest of 2010 is to get healthy.


Over the weekend I watched the film "W," by Oliver Stone. Not surprisingly, this film took a lot of heat from conservatives. But almost all Oliver Stone films take heat, some justifiably so. His 1991 "JFK," while a good film just on the basis of acting, was full of lies, innuendos and distortions that conflict with solid evidence and known facts. "W" is also quite controversial and takes creative license in many areas. The elder Bushes are certainly cast in quite a negative light. But the fact of the matter is that "W," however much you hate Stone, is a damn-good film and I actually think it's sympathetic to Bush especially within the context of his parents. My take on "W" is this: Even if you love George W. Bush, watch the film because you might just like it. (I have to admit that I think Elizabeth Banks, who played Laura Bush, is very pretty, which is a polite way of saying she's hot.) And if you think the film is a hit-job on Bush, maybe this clip will compel you to rethink that position:

Here's the extended trailer:

In fairness to "W" and because I'm a trained historian, I'm planning to read Decision Points and may just embark on a quest to read every single presidential memoir.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's confirmed: I have plantar fasciitis. Now what?

Yesterday I saw a renowned foot and ankle surgeon, Alan Ng, D.P.M, FACFAS, at Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Specialists here in Denver. Upon entering the medical office building, I immediately knew I'd come to the right place. This very architecturally impressive building and its design were state-of-the-art, and the same could be said of Dr. Ng's office. He works for a large group practice and I noticed a few other athletes in the waiting room. In my mind, these were all good signs. As an added bonus, I didn't have to wait long!

Upon arriving, I was x-rayed, and then shortly thereafter Dr. Ng looked at the radiographs, examined my foot and made the plantar fasciitis diagnosis. Plantar fasciitis is basically the fraying and inflammation of the fascia running across the bottom of your foot and connecting your heel bone to your toes. It's a rather common injury in runners, women who are pregnant and people who are over-weight.

How did this happen? I've had a few bouts of plantar before but was always successful in managing the injury with ice therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises. With this recent bout, starting in July, I thought I could successfully manage it myself (as I have in the past) but ultimately had no such luck. I think with the long climbs out here in Colorado and all the extra stress put on my body as a result of running at altitude (especially those 100-mile weeks preparing for the Leadville 100), the plantar fasciitis got worse and worse. Finally, in early August, I realized I had to rest during the three weeks before the Leadville 100 or else there was no way I could finish the race. Well, I finished the race and I think the pre-race rest was crucial, but it wasn't enough to heal my foot. I know this because my plantar fasciitis came back with a vengeance when I started running again after Leadville. Through it all, I stupidly didn't see a doctor.

After examining my foot, Dr. Ng recommended a cortisone shot, some stretches and a splint to wear at night. The cortisone, he said, would take care of the inflammation and promote healing. I was a little leery of receiving a cortisone shot because in some cases it can actually weaken ligaments and tendons to the point that they rupture. And while Dr. Ng acknowledged this risk, he also told me that the chances of a plantar fascia rupture were rather remote. So I got the shot! And damn did it hurt!

I am allowed to start light running tomorrow (Thursday) and need to keep my mileage rather conservative for the foreseeable future. That's fine with me. We're moving into our house on November 22 and so between now and then I'm going to be busy and scaling back my mileage will be OK. In my mind, I'd like to start dialing it up on December 1, especially if I'm going to run a spring marathon.

So last night I wore my splint, which is an equally critical part of the healing process. The splint holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight so that they can be stretched more effectively--an important part of the healing process. Before getting out of bed, it's important that I do some stretches using a towel. Keeping the Achilles and calves stretched are vital to healing.

So at least now I have a treatment plan under way and can feel confident that my foot is actually healing. And if healing doesn't come as expected, Dr. Ng will fit me for a special runner's orthotic, but hopefully there will be no need for that. I told Dr. Ng I've run close to 25,000 miles in the last seven years and that my feet have always held up pretty well until now.

Now for the call to action! If you are experiencing heel and foot pain, see a foot specialist immediately. Don't delay like I did for nearly five months. I made a huge mistake in assuming I could manage my plantar fasciitis, and now I can only wonder what my Leadville 100 time might have been (a few hours faster? We'll never know!) had I gotten treatment on the front end. I also might have been able to do a fall marathon had I gotten treatment sooner. I've suffered for close to five months and this didn't need to happen. Lesson learned. Tackle the problem now by seeing a specialist!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time to recover and heal from this plantar fasciitis

After delaying what should have happened four months ago, I have finally scheduled an appointment with a foot and ankle surgeon. My appointment is tomorrow (Tuesday). I can only hope Dr. Ng will help me get this terrible case of plantar fasciitis over and done with. The PF hit me in July and hasn't let up since then. Some days and weeks have been better than others, but through it all the plantar fasciitis has still been there. With November now here and my 2011 race plans taking shape, I have got to get my foot in good shape.

Plantar fasciitis is a very misunderstood condition. People think it's inflammation of a big ligament under the foot, and in a sense it is. But when you get down to it, PF is a partially torn ligament--the fascia--in the foot. I have huge reservations about whether stretches and strengthening exercises are appropriate given the fact that a ligament is torn. It seems to me rest is the key.

And so last week I did something I have resisted for the past few months--I took it easy and ran just 45 miles. I did mix in some nice quality, such as a speedy tempo run on Friday morning, but my thinking has been to keep my mileage below where the pain in my foot starts. It could be that quality will also have to go by the wayside.


Having said all of that, on Sunday morning I met up with Henry and Steve at Green Mountain in Boulder to run some trails and enjoy the beautiful fall scenery. Driving to Boulder, I was really pumped as I've been wanting to get to the mountains lately and there's just something about Boulder that I love. The view of Longs Peak from the highway coming into Boulder was thrilling. It was a tad overcast--rare for Colorado--but I hoped the sun would burn away the clouds. I got really excited when I could see Green Mountain. There is something magical about Green Mountain, Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak.

From Chautauqua, we headed up the Saddle Rock Trail, hooking up with the Greenman Trail, which eventually brought us to the summit at 8,144 feet. Our second mile gained more than 1,000 feet. I was not having a good day, lagging behind and really struggling up the mountain. I'm not sure what my problem was--probably just a bad day--but my respiratory capacity just wasn't there. We hung out at the rocky summit for about 10 minutes, taking in the spectacular views of the Indian Peaks and the beautiful city of Boulder. It was still a little overcast but we nonetheless had great views. Only in Colorado....

Steve lived in Boulder for a long time and knows the trails well, so he led us down the mountain. I wanted to summit South Boulder and Bear peaks (especially Bear--it's the highest of the three), too, but I knew that would be a tad stupid with my foot problems. We ran pretty hard down Green, taking the Ranger and Gregory Canyon trails back down into town. There were some very technical sections, reminding me once again that I really need to work on my trail running skills. It's a game of confidence.

On the way down we passed (going in opposite directions) a group of runners that--how to say it?--consisted of epic talent. It's not every day that you see so much talent right there in front of you--Anton Krupicka (Mr. Green Mountain himself), Geoff Roes, Dave Mackey, Darcy Africa, and Krissy Moehl.


Sometime next month I'm going to write a year-in-review post. What 2010 has meant is still percolating in my mind, but I tend to think this hasn't been a good year of running. In 2008, I set new PRs in basically every distance. In 2009, I won a 100-mile race after focusing on it like a laser beam for about 18 months, put up a decent time in my first 50K road race and surpassed 130 miles in my first 24-hour race. This year, there have been some fairly good moments, like placing fifth at the Greenland Trail 50K (my first race at altitude) and earning the big buckle at the Leadville Trail 100 (though my 24:47 time left a lot to be desired), but overall 2010 has basically sucked.

I honestly think I was in my best condition in early May, thanks to months of focused intervals and tempo runs (which helped produce the good showing at the Greenland Trail 50K), and it all went downhill from there. Once in Colorado, the altitude took a major toll on me. I think living at 6,000 feet and having relatively easy access to mountains as high as 14,000+ feet will eventually make me a better runner. For now, it's just really hard. On Sunday's run at Green Mountain, I felt like I was breathing through a straw. A few weeks prior I felt great summiting 14,115-foot Pikes Peak. At altitude, you have good days and bad days. The bad days are really bad.

I also think my stress level for the first six months of the year was very high. Moving across the country and selling a house in a horrible market can be mentally draining. No excuses, though. This crappy year is all on me, and I do believe 2011 will be a much better year.

In 2010, I never got in a road marathon because our move conflicted with Boston, a race I had entered and so wanted to do. I'm beginning to see that the success of a year is measured quite a bit by the times I log in the marathon. At the end of the day, the marathon is, in my opinion, the greatest measure of a long-distance runner. I do believe that my 2:58 marathon PR is more than ripe for a challenge. And so with my eyes now on 2011, it is so important to me to get out of the gate with a quality road marathon at sea level. I was previously considering the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, but it's in mid-May. I think I'm now leaning toward the Publix Georgia Marathon on March 20 in Atlanta. I can spend time with my family, while also going for a new marathon PR. Frankly, the thought of intervals and tempo running all winter appeals to me. But only if my foot is healed by then.


A final note: I registered for the 2011 Leadville Trail 100. At this point, all I can say is that my goal is to finish in under 22 hours. But before I focus on Leadville, there's a marathon to run.


Here's a song that really inspires me through the miles.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cannot shake plantar fasciitis

Here are the numbers for October:
  • 319.97 miles run
  • 46,500 feet of climbing, 45,000 feet of descent
  • 3,300 miles for the year
On paper, it looks like a pretty solid month, and it started pretty well. Last week I wrote all about how I'd achieved a beautiful rhythm in my maintenance training as the winter sets in and the goal becomes adhering to a solid base until the mileage build-up begins early next year. But, alas, last week my left foot, which has been hit hard by plantar fasciitis since June, took a turn for the worse.  I'm back to experiencing heel pain (but thankfully no arch pain), and I can't break my reliance on KT Tape--my foot needs the support. On top of it all, I battled a nasty virus all week, enduring GI issues along with congestion and fatigue. During Sunday's run, I found myself taking a few short walk breaks. I don't take walk breaks. If I do, it's because I'm sick. Really sick. But I still got north of 70 miles for the week.

I think the time to see a doctor has finally come. It probably came a few months ago. I've decided to scale my mileage back for a few weeks and I'm going to force myself to see a doctor. Runners do not like seeing a doctor.

Update: I have made an appointment with my doctor for next Monday morning.

I've also decided to switch back to stability shoes. I've been wearing neutral-cushion shoes for the past 15 months and in that time I've had two foot problems, including this one. My feet seem to need the support of stability shoes, albeit the lightest-possible stability shoes. You won't see me in any Kayanos that weigh 15 ounces. My rule is no more 12 ounces and preferably under 11 ounces.

The goal now is simply to heal my heel. If I sound discouraged, it's because I am. I think ultimately I'll be OK, but it's the here and now that are so frustrating. I've never had a nagging injury like this.


I've been meaning to comment on the Boston Marathon. To the horror of many runners, Boston filled up in 8 hours a few weeks ago. People were astonished and old-schoolers yet again outraged and saddened. There were many who tried to register but couldn't because of slow Internet service on Boston's end. The days of mail-in registration are over; today, it's online or forget about it. What a shame. Last year, Boston filled up in two months and people were outraged.

Boston needs to get a grip on what's happening to America's greatest marathon. For starters, the standards need to be tightened. The fastest men's qualifying time is 3:10:59 and for women it's 3:40:59. The men's time should drop to 3:00:00 and the women's to 3:20:00 and then go from there for older age divisions. Also, the extra 59-second cushion should be kaboshed. Finally, a reported 5,000 of the 25,000 spots were apparently reserved for charity runners and corporate sponsors. No more. Leave those spots for qualified runners and encourage all entrants to run for charity. The latter recommendation is very feasible.

Bottom line: Every single Boston Marathon entrant should have earned their way in.

Those measures alone would make Boston more accessible to those who've earned it and restore the prestige of this great race. One day, I'll return to Boston for my third Beantown Classic.


I'm loving our new diet without high fructose corn syrup and other super-sweet chemicals. For Halloween, we took Noah trick or treating and so far I've been able to resist all the chocolate candy bars and such that were handed out. As the days pass, refined sugars look less and less appealing. Plus, I'm just feeling better. I think high fructose corn syrup isn't well-handled by the body and so you feel pretty awful after a binge. No more for me; I'm liberated and loving it.

Look in your cupboard and fridge and you'll find that HFCS is in everything from your preserves and mayo to cereal and ketchup. It's everywhere...even teriyaki sauce, the jelly packets you get in restaurants, restaurant ketchup, etc. Of course, soda pop is the worst HFCS offender--the stuff is just flat out poison. Eliminate HFCS from your diet and you will feel better.

Check out the video below. Additional segments are available on the right side of your screen in You Tube.