Friday, January 8, 2010

Two hours in the emergency room

I woke up this morning and could hardly walk. Despite icing my calf for an hour and a half last night it was swollen this morning and damn painful. The family ended up taking me to emergency today because I couldn't drive. Despite booking an appointment I waited for an hour and a half and when I finally got in the doctor's first comments were "So, you're a runner and you're 45. There's your problem". Then he smiled. He was being funny not sarcastic...he was a great guy. He gave me a full examination and gave me the good news. It is not a torn achilles but a tear at the bottom of the calf muscle where the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles come together. The doctor boosted my ego with the comment that the reason it had likely happened is that I have very large calf muscles from running/hiking/working out for the past 30 years. That may be true about my calves but I have quads like a seagull. The doctor proceeded to give me heel cups to elevate the back of my heel and reduce stretching on the tear, gave me crutches for the next two weeks, recommended high doses of ibuprofen for the next two weeks and twice daily icing and elevation. Oh...and to cap it all off he said that at this point this was likely to be a recurring injury. Sweet. I'd say my big eyed dreams of running 1000 miles in a year might be very much at risk and I'll get back to lifting weights and building back the upper body mass I had started stripping off to lose weight for running. When my legs back in action maybe I'll get back to cycling on a daily basis instead. Until then I can honestly say that I am disappointed, angry, feeling old and generally disillusioned. Pretty much how I felt when I tore both rotator cuffs a couple of years ago and couldn't work out properly for 18 months. Crap.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An old wound from Scifoo lets go again so onto the bike trainer tomorrow

When  I started this journey on January 1st of this year to run 1000 miles this year I was starting knowing that I had an old injury hanging over from my visit to Scifoo '09 in San Francisco last year. While I was out there I took a run one afternoon and about a mile into the run I came off the sidewalk and felt something pull in my calf muscle. I limped home that day and over the next few months I'd take a few weeks off and then start running again only to have the pulled muscle/achilles (not sure which) return. Every night I've been the running I've been feeling that area in my calf but have been managing to run through it as its not painful per se, just uncomfortable. That's not the situation right now...I hit 1.7km into my 5km run tonight and everything came to a grinding halt as my calf muscle or something in that area simply let loose and I went hopping down the treadmill on my left leg trying to hit the stop button. At this stage I'm sitting on the floor with my leg on a big ice pack. I'd say I'm done for a few days, maybe longer and I'm going to have log my miles on my indoor bike trainer. I'll likely have to swap an hour of bike training to equate to a 5km run but so be it. Damn my leg hurts...advil before bed...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Asthma in the Williams Family and the Potential to Raise Money for Asthma

Asthma is a horrible disease. It affects 7% of the US population and 300 million people worldwide according to Wikipedia. I had asthma in my late 20s into my early 30s when I moved from Ottawa, Canada down to Rochester, NY to work for the Eastman Kodak company. Within a few months of moving south to upstate New York I was having what I thought were panic attacks. I would be running most afternoons from Kodak Park over to Seneca Zoo and back and generally clocking 5 miles during those runs, probably 4-5 days per week. During the process of running around Kodak park I was moving a lot of air through my lungs, and with it, moving a lot of pollution coming from the stacks of Kodak park into my lungs. When I ended up at a doctor gasping for breath he did some very basic tests, declared that Rochester was one of the pulmonary disease capitals, said welcome to Rochester and handed me a prescription for albuterol telling me that I definitely had asthma. Over the next few years I kept became more of a struggle with time. I was involved with testing research medications. Stress definitely made it worse. Frosty winter mornings made it worse. Lack of sleep made it worse.
Today I don't take asthma medication at all...I moved south to North Carolina where the air is cleaner and came off the meds. Now, maybe they are not related. Maybe there's no correlation. I do get tightness in the chest when I go to cities such as London and Moscow but it goes away when I return home. I believe I am still asthmatic but cope well with it in general...but respond to bad air pollution as many others do.
I am the father of twin 7 year old boys, Taylor and Tyler. They are wonderful boys and I am truly proud of who they are. One of our boys had asthma earlier in his childhood. He has allergies to multiple things - blue and red colorings, dust mites, chemicals etc and has a negative reaction to albuterol...he gets very wiry and wound up and hard to manage after he's dosed. Nevertheless we use the medication when we need to. For the past 3 days Tyler has been sick with a cold. Colds always go to his lungs and he has been on an inhaler every few hours. A few weeks ago he was diagnosed with H1N1 and it developed into pneumonia. His lungs have had a lot of stress in his early years and I hope that the rest of his life has him grow out of the disease and not suffer the challenges of gasping for breath, feeling like he's drowning with his head above water and not being debilitated by not being able to breathe.
Despite his breathing problems once in a while he is a wiry little guy, loves tumbling and gymnastics, does karate, loves swimming, soccer and football and with his brother they are quite a team.Our whole family started running 5km races together late last year, our first one at Thanksgiving. The picture below is of the three male members of our family after one of the races (L to R: Taylor, Me, Tyler). The fact that our boys are running 5km races in about 37 mins when they are so much smaller than me truly impresses me...their legs move like little motors. The fact that Tyler is doing it with his asthma and lung challenges is truly impressive!
I've been wondering whether there is a way to monetize my next year of running to raise money for asthma. I'm looking for help and guidance to have an online system where I can post my progress and have a central organization collect sponsorship and finally hand it over to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. I've just started work in this direction but if anyone out there has experience in conducting a personal sponsorship event like this I'd be interested in hearing from you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day Three and Popping with Energy

Day: 3/365
Total mileage: 11/1000

It's the third of January and I added a 5km run onto the total tonight at around 11:30pm. I bought a new pair of running shoes a couple of weeks ago and they are just starting to break in. Despite the fact that they are wide enough for me they are rubbing slightly on the left foot and by the end of tonight's run I'd added a third blister to the other two I have on the little toe of my left foot. I'd hoped to add a 5 miler tonight but unfortunately I was biasing the run in a way that my right calf was feeling the result of favoring the left foot. I've heard all types of advice over the years regarding blisters and that they should be left alone in some cases and popped in other cases. I'm all for the slice and dice approach to get it over with and let it recover..that comes from climbing 14000 foot mountains with a few hour hikes and going up and down the Grand Canyon in a few hours...down the South Kaibab and up the Bright Angel..starting by flashlight at 3am. Finishing at 5km I released the pressure on the blister. My wife did a great job today running outside at around 9am with one of our sons, Taylor. Taylor and Sharon did about 1.3 miles together and then Sharon added on another 5 on her own. It was about 20F with wind chill so that was good running!

My right calf took a little hit tonight and I ended up doing a lot of stretching of the achilles/calf to compensate. Not sure how it will feel tomorrow so I might take a day off or add a couple of slow miles only.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What's it all about this 1000 miles in a year venture?

If you're reading this blog post then you have either come across it because you know me as ChemSpiderman or you have happened across it based on some type of search about running. The blog title is 1000 miles in a year and is a declaration of my intent to clock a 1000 miles of running in the next year from Jan 1st 2010 until Jan 1st 2011. That's actually not that's only about 2.7 miles per day, about 20 miles per week. Not much compared to the people who are running their marathons and half-marathons on a fairly regular basis.
For me it's a good target. I've got a lot of reasons that I might fail and I'll cover them on the blog over the next few months as I face them as challenges.

Bottom line though the challenges include: 1) A very demanding job with about 60-70 hour work weeks at times 2) A beautiful wife and twin 7 year old boys that I like to spend my time with 3) A lot of additional distractions that I enjoy - writing (book chapters, scientific papers, blogs, poetry, other stuff..) 4) Age...45 years old and years of pushing my body through some interesting challenges 5) Injuries - multiple sustained in recent years and still nursing a calf/achilles issue from a run in San Francisco a few months ago. 6) Lots of travel that consumes a lot of time and gets in the way of a healthy lifestyle. 7) The wackiest diet you can imagine and one that dieticians say should have put me in the ground years ago!

That said these are all EXCUSES as to why I might fail. There's no reason that I cannot run 1000 miles in a year. In fact my original thought was 1500 miles...or even 2000 miles in a year but for the first time in a long time I decided to make it something achievable rather than something that I would overly obsess about and push too hard at. I wanted a stretch goal that would achieve a series of things for me: 1) Push me outside my comfort zone 2) Give me a fixed goal that would take a long time to achieve 3) Give me an opportunity to lead my kids by example that exercise is a good thing 4) Offer me the chance to run alongside my wife as she takes on her own running challenges as a new distance runner 5) Offer a physical advantage to a new distraction..getting fit 6) Give me a chance to interact with a new group of people outside of my present network of scientists and scientific bloggers.

I'll be using an iPod and Nike+ device (more about that later) to track my progress towards my goal. I'm on Nike+ at laying claim to my moniker from my job as host of ChemSpider, a website for chemists that was acquired by the Royal Society of Chemistry in June of 2009 after 2.5 years of going it alone.

I started running on New Years Day after a late evening that saw me head to bed at 2:30am after a party in our house. That night I clocked 5 miles on the treadmill close to midnight and capped it off with a 5km run on the treadmill at the YMCA in 29 mins. The challenge is underway and I'm excited, leery and concerned to see how it goes. I'll be tracking different stats and info as I gather them over the next few weeks and will start soon with weight, body measurements etc. This is going to be "fun"...right?