Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Monday, August 28, 2017

High activity at low ebb

My own running has been curtailed (new information on this toward the end). The World Athletics Championships ended two weeks ago and cross-country season hasn't started yet. There's not much going on in the elite road-racing world in August. This is, in theory, as good a time as any to neglect this superfluous webpit.

Nevertheless, a few things are happening in my running orbit. Not all of them are good.

First, I learned some distressing news from Eric Kobrine, a friend I ran and worked with for several weeks in Orange County back in my comparatively fast, or at least ambitious, days fifteen years ago: a Southern California runner I met in 2002 was killed in a hit-and-run last Wednesday. (Eric is the one in the light-blue shirt in the video.)

I ran with Juan numerous times over a period of weeks and was one spot behind him in the SoCal Half-Marathon in January 2002. Quiet yet effervescent, he was extremely popular and his reach into the community only grew over the years.

Have you ever met someone who was so tranquil, friendly and accepting -- but clearly free of drugs of any sort -- that you almost wondered what was wrong with him? That was Juan. Not only did he have only positive things to say, I don't know if anyone or anything could have provoked him to say anything negative. He just had a bearing that suggested that whatever attitude he held about a particular race, event or situation was precisely the one you should have if you wanted to be the person you imagined yourself to be.

I was annoyed with my showing in that half-marathon and I can be a little, well, precious when I don't race well. But within a few minutes of us finishing, he had me considering four or five ways the experience had been positive. Yoda himself couldn't have done that.

Eulogies are facile, but there's nothing gratuitous or contrived about any of this, as the words of the people in the clip attest to. (The woman in the navy-blue windbreaker, Kathy Smith, is Eric's wife. She was 4th in the 1983 Kinney -- now Foot Locker -- National Cross-Country Championships and ran for Stanford.)

In happier tidings, Lize, Brad and I have a time and date for our Young Runners at the Top event at the Boulder Book Store: September 7 at 7:30 p.m. (Yep, "book store" is two words, per the business.) More on this as the date approaches, as if Sept. 7 or any other future date has a choice.

After exactly five weeks away from running and attempted running, one ER visit, and two visits to specialists, I gave it a go again on Monday and got through 20 minutes okay. I wound up doing some easy running every day last week, in fact, gradually ramping up to 33 minutes last night. Initially my legs were sore just from the pounding -- it doesn't take long for leg muscles to lose their resiliency in this way, something that was true when I was younger and is obviously more so now -- and now that this is mostly out of the way I can more easily monitor the trouble spot around my right knee. The site of the most acute pain hasn't bothered me, but the whole thing still seems in the grip of an ominous deeper ache.

I've kept up with my daily cycling of 30 to 90 minutes as well; I had dismissed this as trivial in terms of exercise load, but I think it's been good enough to keep me fairly fit (my resting morning HR is already back in the mid-40s or lower) and it's done a lot for my sanity too. As I've already noted, having a shitty bike is a great way to get in a workout without the risks of higher speeds; 15 to 17 MPH on a machine designed for large pre-teens is fairly challenging and I'd rather have grandmothers on bikes with aerobars blowing by me than me tempted to race them because I'm on a decent ride of my own.

When I was still hobbled and thinking that I was suffering from "runner's knee" (patellofemoral syndrome) rather than fairly low-grade meniscal damage, I set up a series of PT appointments, starting in the middle of next week. I will keep these no matter what because I don't see them hurting me in any way and I can pick the brains of the PTs I see for exercises and overall habits that might prevent other mayhem down the line.

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