Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Weight Training with Colleen!

I either will or won't qualify for the Boston Marathon in December, but regardless I'm sure having fun with the coaching that's leading up to the race.

This morning I met with Colleen De Reuck (Olympic marathoner and wife of my coach, Darren) for a one-on-one weight-training session. I've taken weight training classes and followed weight-training circuits from books many times, and I know my way around a weight room, but I've never had a one-on-one session like this--and certainly never with someone as knowledgeable about runners' bodies as she is.

I was a little nervous, not only because she's a celebrity (four times at the Games, winner of the Berlin Marathon, I could go on and on) and runs at a level for which I'll always be just a spectator, but also because I don't like talking about myself and my first-world problems and I feel I've been doing a lot of that lately. Back blah blah blah.....body fat blah blah blah.....steroid shot blah blah blah.....How could it not bore other people?

Moreover, I know from my own experience occasionally at my job that just because you're paid to help others doesn't mean it's always an enjoyable task. Don't get me wrong--most of the time my job is very gratifying, and I like helping most of our library patrons--but some days and some people just....get to you. I'm sure this is true in any job with a customer service component, be it taking orders at McDonalds, answering library research questions or giving weight-training advice to amateurs.

Turns out none of this was a problem. She was as nice as could be, and working with her was interesting and enjoyable enough that I completely lost track of time and made myself late for a much-anticipated lunch date with Cynthia (thanks again for being so understanding, Cynthia!). In the end, I came away with a series of 14 exercises to be done twice a week, and instructions on how to do them with proper form and so as not to hurt my back or anything else. She also gave me a great idea for a long run course in Boulder that will mimic that of the California International Marathon. Nothing like local advice!

I had almost an hour and a half with her. Half a day later, my back has protested not at all, something that hasn't been the case for me with strength training in a long time, barring my excellent Pilates sessions with Patty. I'm so ready for lunges, planks, hamstring curls, lat work and the like.

I'm a born-again strength trainee!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Too Many Doctors, but Some Running, Too

On Friday, I ran for 40 minutes! It's the first time since March that I've run more than four miles at once. A little boost from sea level air helped, though I like to think the massive humidity in Missouri, where I'd flown to collect my kids and see my parents (too briefly), cancelled some of the "thick air" advantage out.

Boy, my hat is off to all of you who contend with that kind of heat and dampness on a regular basis. It was like running with a wet washcloth over my mouth and nose. I'll take less oxygen any day if it means cool dry mornings.

Before leaving Colorado, I had two key doctor appointments. Here's a summary (since all of this medical stuff is starting to seem downright self-absorbed):

Last Tuesday, I returned to Jim, the physician's assistant in the orthopedic practice. He reviewed my MRI with me. It didn't show nothing, which was my greatest fear. I do have some disc degeneration in my lumbar spine, and as expected, they are recommending a steroid injection for the pain. Jim thinks with good core maintenance I should be able to be pain-free for a while after the shot, so I made an appointment for it. The downside: many people my age, especially those of us with a history of sedentary jobs involving a lot of sitting at a desk, have disc degeneration in the exact spot I'm showing it. My pain may or may not be related to it.


The next day, I visited Dr. Hansen, the chiropractor Darren wanted me to see about my tweaky right hamstring. I told him the boring story of my back and my return to running, and he ran me through several diagnostic tests (toe touching, twisting my legs around to see where the stiff places are, etc.). He feels that I may not need the shot but recommends that I keep the appointment for now and consider cancelling it if working with him mitigates my pain. He then gave me some active release therapy (ART) for my hips, back, stomach and the hamstring.

I liked Dr. Hansen. He's a longtime runner and high-school cross country coach himself, and he has a good sense of humor. He does his homework, and I trust him, even though I come from a background that's decidedly unfriendly to chiropractors (my dad's work resolving insurance lawsuits really biased him against them). The only thing he's suggesting that I'm unsure about is the Graston technique. I could find no real science backing this up online. Any Graston stories out there?


The situation right now is this: I have an appointment for a steroid shot on Aug. 22. The good news is everyone agrees I can run and train, that running hasn't and won't make whatever the underlying problem is worse (whether it's the discs or something else).  Dr. Hansen recommends keeping any speed work at tempo pace or slower for now until the hamstring completely resolves, and he's given me another routine of post-run moves to loosen my back.

I'd love to have enough of a reduction in my pain before Aug. 22 to be able to cancel the shot, largely because I'll have to cut back on anything strenuous the week following--cutting back is the last thing I want to do right now. But I'm dubious that I'll really be able to do that. The pain has been there for so long that it's hard for me to imagine any set of exercises or therapies will cut into it that quickly. I'll do my best to stay optimistic about it. Honestly, the only thing that's keeping me going to these doctors is the fact that I don't EVER want to go through this again, that I need to fix this now, or at least determine what can make it something I can live with and still run reasonably well.

Quitting running? Not something I'll ever consider.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How My Training Looks

I've been writing a lot of dull posts about rehabbing my back lately, so today I'm changing it up and writing about.....training! Because I have been! Not like some of you badasses who are earning Marathon Maniac shirts and winning races and running vast amounts of miles on all kinds of crazy terrain, but considering where I've been, I'll take it.

My typical training week right now, as written by Darren, my coach, looks like this:

Monday: an hour to 70 minutes on the recumbent bike with intervals at differing resistances

Tuesday: a 35-minute run with short pick-ups in the middle; I do this run outside on the flat gravel path where I did my first comeback run with Cynthia; after coming home and getting the kids off to preschool, I go to Pilates class with Patty; last Tuesday's Pilates session was my first ever on the Reformer; man, am I in love with that thing! I felt about two inches taller when we were finished.

Wednesday: back to my recumbent friend for another hour to 70 minute ride with resistance intervals

Thursday: a treadmill run of about 35 minutes, followed by a weights/core/stretching session at the gym

Friday: a 35-minute run outside with longer pick-ups than Tuesday's; yesterday's were the longest so far of the training session, at 75 seconds each; again, that doesn't sound like much compared with the speed workouts some of you are throwing down, but they make me feel like Shalane Flanagan right now.

Saturday: typically divided between an elliptical workout and a run; today started with 30 minutes on the elliptical and finished with a 30 minute treadmill run; paces on Saturday stay easy.

Sunday: Off (though I do some core work and foam rolling and often will take a walk)

This schedule can vary when I'm traveling or if something else unusual is going on, but it's been pretty consistent since I hired Darren in June.

I try to pay attention to my heart rates when I'm on the machines, including the treadmill, because when I'm all clear to do harder stuff, heart rate is going to be very important. It's interesting to me how much it can vary from day to day. This week, for instance, on Thursday's treadmill run, I felt vaguely crappy and my heart rate reflected that, soaring way higher than I thought it should have been for such easy paces. Today, in contrast, it stayed nice and low at paces that were slightly speedier than Thursday's. I could have run faster if had Darren let me--and this despite the fact that I'd already done an elliptical workout.

Medical Update: I had my MRI yesterday morning and will get the results on Tuesday. My fingers are crossed that the way ahead will be clear.

Kids Update: Will and Ruth boarded the plane to see my parents this morning and have already landed and are in the care of my dad and stepmom. We had no drama at the gate. Will was so eager to get down the jetway that I had to remind him to kiss me goodbye. Ruthie looked slightly more sober, but she's a rule follower like me and anyway her brother was going and she had a Rice Krispie treat in her bag. So down she went and she didn't look back.

Now Dan and I are.....doing whatever we want. For five days.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Physical Therapy Ch. 10: Headed for an MRI

It looks like I will be getting a shot.
Cathy (my physical therapist) yesterday referred me to a physiatrist. I had never heard of this medical specialty before; it's an orthopedic MD who specializes in non-surgical solutions to bone and joint issues. Today, I had an appointment with the physiatrist's physician's assistant, Jim. He listened to my long boring tale of back woe, looked me over and said I had done all the right things by trying PT, core work, ice, and ibuprofen courses--but that at this point I am definitely a candidate for a steroid injection. What started out as a sacro-iliac joint issue, he says, has caused chronic inflammation around my lumbar vertebrae. The injection should bring that down.
First, though, I have to have an MRI to confirm his diagnosis, rule out cancer and other unlikely problems that a shot wouldn't help, and also to reveal exactly where my inflammation is. That MRI is scheduled for Friday. The physiatrist, who will be the one to administer the shot, is on vacation for two weeks, so we're looking into August for the shot itself. (I shared all this info with Darren, and once again felt so glad I had hired him.I'll apparently have to take a week off of intense exercise after the shot. I'm hoping Darren can bring me back fast from that. I hate the idea of taking even seven days off!!)

Jim, the physician's assistant, happily, is pro running. He says running is actually not bad at all on its own for my kind of back problem. And he thinks as long as I keep my core strong (and you can bet I'm committed to that--Pilates forever!), I'm likely to be one of those people who doesn't show up again in five months needing another shot.
Fingers crossed that he's right!
On Darren's advice, I'm also going to see an ART (active release therapy) guy next week to deal with my recalcitrant right hamstring, which has been needling at me just a tiny bit for a couple of weeks now. Darren wants NO hamstring issues as we move into real training. And now that I know the prognosis for my back, I'm ready to deal with the hamstring, too.
Though I'm SO grateful to live in a place like Boulder, where sports injuries are taken seriously and there are plenty of skilled doctors, PTs and alternative practitioners around, I will say I'll be glad to move on to a few months with no doctor visits, no co-pays, no trying to fit appointments in between my job and my family obligations. I just want to work, raise my kids, enjoy my husband....and run.
It's time to get healthy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Darren's Answer, A Scary Sight and Summer Travels

When I got my answer from Darren about whether he thought I should be a pacer for one of those brave and hardy souls who run the Leadville Trail 100, it was what I expected. Here it is verbatim:

...definitely a no on the seconding this year...running that slow pace will not be good for your back and hamstrings. Unfortunately, we need to be somewhat selfish and focus on Terzah and getting you healthy and ready for your upcoming races.

So there you have it! I was sure enough of the answer that I actually said "No" the day I wrote the original blog post.

There's plenty of adventure to be had around here without Leadville. Tomorrow is my next physical therapy appointment, the one where I'll find out whether or not I'm headed for a shot in the back. I think I am. It's been more than four months since I started with PT, dry needling and massage, and while my core is noticeably (if not visibly) stronger, back pain is still a constant in my life. A shot can do a lot to calm inflammation that isn't responding to exercise, ice or courses of ibuprofen, all of which I've tried.

I've heard stories from people who've had shots, only to find the relief from them was temporary. I'm hoping that by continuing to be diligent about my core, I'll be in the camp of folks who are effectively cured by the shot. We'll see. I'm not nervous about the shot itself. I know it will hurt afterwards, maybe a lot, but I had a spinal when I had my C-section, so I know I can handle the actual needle part of it. And a few days of pain will be worth it to run and sleep pain-free.

I've had plenty of adventure on non-running fronts as well lately.

On an unhappy note: This morning, while on my way to the gym at 5:30 a.m., I was driving about two blocks from my house when I saw one of the beautiful little bungalows that characterize my neighborhood engulfed in flames. Both the front and back doors were alight. I stopped the car, grabbed my phone to call the fire department and headed toward the house, planning to knock on windows in case the occupants were in there asleep. Fortunately, their next door neighbors had beaten me to it. I watched as they lifted the family (a dad, mom and a 2-year-old) out of a first-floor window. They had already called the firemen. With nothing more for me to do, and my car in the way, I continued on to the gym to do my workout. It took me a good 15 minutes, though, to be calm enough to concentrate on the intervals I was supposed to be knocking out on the recumbent bike.

Later, I read that the police suspect arson. I'm no detective, but I had wondered too. It was just too weird that both the front and back doors would be on fire, but not the parts of the house in between. Scary. It brought to mind every weird person I've ever seen wandering my neighborhood, including one guy I saw around the same time of morning on my street two weeks ago when I was leaving for a run. He was walking slowly, staring at houses, and jumped when he heard my front door open (I have to drive to my runs for now, so I wasn't worried about him from my own personal safety point of view). I saw him again 45 minutes later when I was on my way back from the run, still wandering around the neighborhood. I know that person and this morning's fire are probably unrelated, but that's what witnessing something like that will do to your mind.

Shudder. I'm just glad they got the family out.

On a happier note: Over the weekend we took our kids camping with four other families from their preschool. It was an absolute blast (though my back does NOT like sleeping on the ground). If you're wondering how best to make little kids fall in love with sleeping outdoors, I recommend doing it with plenty of friends around for them to play with. We got home yesterday grubby, exhausted...and totally refreshed by our time out there. Even trips to the bathroom while camping can be magical. Ruthie, my daughter, saw a shooting star on one such trip, and I saw the Milky Way for the first time since our last camping trip last fall.

We have another trip coming up where we won't be camping (the cabin we've rented has comfy beds and a kitchen), but it will be rustic in the sense that "the facilities" are an outhouse and we have to hike to a main lodge to shower. Not sure how I'll get my workouts in during that time, but I do expect it to be fun!

Finally, after much discussion, Dan and I decided to go ahead and send the twins alone on a plane to visit my mom. They leave this Saturday. Tipping the scales in favor of this were 1) I can't take off work for long, but I can take enough time off to fly out at the end of their stay for a couple of days and then fly back with them, and they'll get a much longer visit with their grandparents than they would if they had to wait for me to be able to come for the whole thing, 2) it's only a one-hour flight and the airline (Southwest) takes good care of kids traveling alone and 3) Dan and I are excited about having some alone time together, even though we both have to work. What's good for our marriage is good for our kids.

This also fits in philosophically with my own desire that my kids learn, from an early age, that there are many things they CAN do on their own, that (when equipped with the right tools, such as, in this case, memorized cell phone numbers and good manners) they needn't be afraid in the world and that independence from Mommy and Daddy in age appropriate ways is a good thing. There are a lot of scary stories out there, but I firmly believe that these are magnified by the prevalence of the media in our lives and that the world my kids live in is much safer than even the (still safe) one I grew up in. I was allowed to walk home from the school bus stop alone from the early elementary grades. Ditto for going to the park or getting myself on my bike to a friend's house. I do not believe that very many people at all in the world I live in would ever harm my children, and I do believe that many would go out of their way to help them.

I know everyone has their own opinions and that everyone's kids' thresholds for this kind of thing are different. But if you're interested in learning more about "free range parenting," check out this blog. I read it regularly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why I'm Glad I Hired a Coach

Two weeks ago, the part of my right hamstring just above the knee began to bug me. After a week, it had tightened a little more. For three nights in a row I iced it. This helped. But on Saturday night it was still bugging me.

Since I hired Darren as my coach last month, Sunday has continued to be my one day of scheduled rest each week. Usually, I take a walk and do my Pilates routine. I have the energy, and I feel better doing something small than I feel doing nothing. This past week, due to the hamstring thing, I did absolutely nothing on Sunday. And on Sunday, I mentioned the hamstring for the first time in the online running log I keep for Darren.

The next morning, which was yesterday, I was reminded of why I have a coach. Darren had sent me this week's workouts before I mentioned the hamstring, but after that mention I found a note from him saying he'd modified the run scheduled for today: no strides as had been the original plan, he said; instead, I should run easy. He also gave me the name and number of a chiropractor and ART specialist, in case the problem persists.

Can I just say....it was so nice to have that decision made so quickly and firmly on my behalf. In the past, with the various aches and pains I get that all runners get, I've been pretty bad about erring on the side of "doing the workout as written anyway" rather than being careful. Sure, for something really bad, I might consult my blog readers, or my husband. And if there were a race in the picture, I might even call my doctor. But mostly I just relied on my own judgment. Which is faulty, because my own judgment fears appearing to be wimping out.

I wish I'd mentioned the hamstring to Darren sooner. From now on, when I'm sure some pain is real pain (as opposed to ephemeral and more normal soreness), I'm going to say something to him as soon as I start wondering myself.

I'm also going to consult him when certain opportunities arise. Today I got an email from an acquaintance who has a friend running the Leadville Trail 100 next month. This friend needs a pacer for 8 miles or so. Pacing someone in this epic race is definitely something on my bucket list, and saying no to these kinds of adventures is hard for me. Last year, I jumped onto a Colorado Relay team as a sub--just three weeks before my goal race at the time, the Top of Utah Marathon.

Looking back on it, I don't think I damaged the race by doing the relay, and I certainly had fun and felt good about helping out a friend (I love relays). On the other hand, would getting normal sleep and doing the scheduled long run that weekend have been better for me than driving across Colorado, spending all night in a van, breaking the run into four parts and sleeping very little? Probably.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is my number one goal. Getting healthy for the California International Marathon in December is the next step I need to take toward that goal. I'm still not sure my back will be up for that kind of terrain next month. Therefore, I don't know that pacing someone at Leadville this year is the best idea.

I sent Darren a note to ask what he thinks. What do you think he'll say?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review: Eat & Run

My head knows that running well and eating well go together. My heart would rather this weren't so.

Unfortunately my habits tend to follow my heart rather than my head.

This is why, despite a profound disinterest in cooking and meal planning, I'm attempting to embrace both. It's also why I picked up Scott Jurek's memoir. Jurek attributes his years of ultra-running dominance, in part, to his careful vegan diet. He's confident enough of the connection that there's a recipe at the end of every chapter of this book.

A plant-centered diet isn't totally foreign to me. Before I got pregnant with my twins in 2006, I had been a vegetarian for five years. Becoming one wasn't a hard transition for me. My husband, Dan, had been veg for a few years and easily converted me: I am an animal lover (and not someone who could ever hunt or in any other way imagine killing my own food), and I've never been a big fan of meat anyway. I resumed eating chicken and fish because I wasn't getting enough protein for the pregnancy and felt instantly better as soon as I added those things back. I think I grew my kids on scrambled eggs, in fact. After they were born, I never went back to vegetarianism, but someday I might.

Going vegan? More of a stretch. I love dairy. Ice cream is probably my single favorite food. And despite Jurek's assertion at the big book signing I attended the other week that ice cream made with almond or rice milk is just as tasty as the real thing, I am dubious.

This isn't to say that I doubt what he says about the benefits of a vegan diet are true. His running results, his clear good health, speak for themselves. He backs up his position with a lot of real science. Even my instincts tell me that he is right (and I think your instincts will, too, should you read this book). Moreover, the recipes sound tasty. I know I'd like all of them.

But as convincing as Jurek and the evidence are, I have no plans to go vegan. There are two big reasons why I don't have time for a diet like his, and won't have that kind of time for years, if ever:

1) Running (unfortunately but understandably) is not my job. The job I am lucky to have takes up 30 hours of my time each week in actual face time at work, plus another five hours factoring in my commute. That's 35 hours of waking time that I do not have to make rice milk from scratch, haunt the bulk aisles at Whole Foods, soak beans for hours, construct beautiful meals that are two hours in the making and chop endless quantities of vegetables these meals require--or plan for all of those things.

2) I have children. Outside of the hours required by my paid job, I am responsible for caring for them. This job is not limited to my waking hours. And it is even more unforgiving of the elaborate kitchen activities Jurek practices daily (including the aforementioned making of vegan milks from scratch, bulk shopping, bean soaking, vegetable chopping, multi-hour meals and planning). This is because the modern world provides many tempting shortcuts for busy parents trying to get meals on the table, especially parents like me who don't enjoy spending lots of time in the kitchen. In order to make time for running, reading, hanging out with my husband, blogging and having some fun with my kids, I frequently and unapologetically take many of those shortcuts.

Yes, I do try to make our meals as healthful as possible (and happily I have a husband who works harder on this than I do). Yes, I'm trying to do more planning and to avoid things that are processed. But I'm not above feeding the kids a box of Annie's boxed mac and cheese, and throwing chicken on the grill is much easier than hand-assembling lentil burgers.

Enough about me, though. You're probably wondering: what about the book? Isn't this supposed to be a book review?

The book is good. You learn a lot about the ultra-running psyche, which is endlessly fascinating. Jurek had a tough childhood, has been through a nasty divorce and endured years of sadness watching multiple sclerosis make his beloved mother sicker and sicker. Though he never says so explicitly, these are probably also big reasons he's so tough and gets so much out of painful activities like running through Death Valley. As with the Kenyans, whose hard lives contribute to their ability to run fast and far, Jurek's circumstances aren't easy to mimic (nor would most of us choose to mimic them, if we're honest with ourselves).

I came away from this book with a lot of respect for Scott Jurek. I'm glad it's a bestseller, too. It may well make many people's lives more healthy.

That said, I'm looking forward to the sequel. You know, the one he's going to write when he and his now-fiancee have kids. I have no doubt they'll solve the kitchen conundrum that I'm too lazy to deal with. Oh, and it's Sunday, my Sweets R OK Day. I'm going out for some Dairy Queen ice cream. The kind made from REAL milk.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Next Food Challenge

June was a mixed month for me on the fuel front.

Here's what was good:

1. I successfully completed Run to the Finish's Green Smoothie Challenge. By "success," I don't mean "perfect." I missed two days while at the ALA conference (I tried to make smoothies without a blender two of the days and it just didn't taste good) and another couple after I came down with a UTI last week (the antibiotic I'm on is rendered less effective by milk and milk substitutes and anything fortified with calcium, so no dairy or almond milk or anything like that was allowed; these smoothies just don't taste as good with water--I'm very big on taste). But the vast majority of June saw me downing some greens this way, and I really came to like it. Once I'm finished with antibiotics, I'll get back to smoothies for breakfast.

I never could get Will (or Ruth or Dan) to try a green smoothie, but he liked to help with the blender.
I also won some Vega Energize from Run to the Finish. I'm impressed with Vega products. I know they're good for you....and they also taste good. Did I mention it has to taste good for me to deal with it at all?

2. I continued to avoid sugar except on Sundays. Avoiding sugar on this schedule has become a habit. I love it that I have to remind myself on Sunday that candy is OK. This way, I can have my cake (and M&Ms and chocolate chip cookies and Dairy Queen dip cones), and eat it too (not crave sugar constantly).

Here's what was not-so-good:

1. I went crazy with things like tortilla chips and Stacy's Pita Chips (the naked flavor; they're like crack). I wouldn't say this completely negated the good I'm doing avoiding sugar most of the time, but it partially negated it. My last three weigh-ins have been identical, at 130.8 (most recent one was this morning). In mid-May, I was solidly between 127 and 128. You might think three pounds isn't a big deal, but it is. I can see it in my upper arms, my belly and my thighs.

2. Meal planning went out the window. This is bad not just for my waistline and my running but also for my family's checking account. On the days I was at work, four days a week, I found myself at Alfalfa's, the organic grocery store across the street from my library, every day for lunch (and dinner on Tuesdays, when I work until 9 p.m.). One evening, I bought one of their prepared peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. At check-out, when they rang me up, I found out they were charging $5 for that sandwich. That's when it came home to me that this meal-on-the-fly thing has to stop.

So my eating plan for July and onward is:
1. Plan meals in advance, concentrating at first on work meals. My eating on the days when I'm home with the kids is better (I don't have easy access to junk food at home, and I hate taking the kids to the store so impulse buying just doesn't happen). It's still sort of aimless, though. I'll tackle that once the work piece is a habit.
2. Stock up on my planned lunch and dinner staples at Alfalfa's on the first day of my work week, which is Sunday. This means apples, nuts, energy bars, bread for sandwiches and finger vegetables like baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. No pita chips, crackers or corn chips allowed. And after that shopping trip, I'm not allowed in there AT ALL until the following Sunday.
3. I also am not allowed in Starbucks or any other coffee shop. I spend far too much money on tea at places like this. Tea is really easy to make both at work and at home, and it's way cheaper.

So far this is going well. I spent money at Alfalfa's this week on Sunday only, ate the lunch I had on hand at work all three days I was there and have no receipts in my wallet from any coffee shop tea indulgences.

I'm hoping these changes will be enough to ease the burden on our checking account and get those three pounds back off. Ultimately, I'd like to see even lower numbers than 127, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Rome, as the cliche goes, wasn't built in a day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June Recap, July Preview

Since my hiatus from running began back in March, I haven't done monthly recaps. March, April and even May would have mostly said the same thing: "no running (maybe Alter-G), lots of recumbent bike."

As I'd hoped it would be, though, June was the magic month when running came back to me. So without further ado, here are the numbers:

I ran 9 miles on the Alter-G and 15.5 miles (approximately) at full weight for a grand total of 24.5 miles for the month of June. My running mileage total for the first half of 2012 is just under 300 miles. It's nothing like last year and nowhere near what I'd hoped it would be--but I'm content. (I didn't keep track of the miles I "rode" the recumbent bike because I was paying attention to heart rate, RPM and effort level instead of distance. Trust me when I say that I was on that thing a lot--and I'm still on it twice a week, at least for a while.)

Last week brought my first week in ages that included three runs. I did a very short and easy one on the treadmill on Saturday, followed by 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer (even a new machine felt like being let out of a cage). This week will feature four runs, but also a full day of rest tomorrow. I wonder if Darren is giving all of his runners the holiday off, or if it's just because he wants me to get ready for three runs in a row. The first of this week's runs, this morning's 35-minuter, was beautiful. I got up early and went to the park where Cynthia and I ran on gravel paths two weeks ago. A thunderstorm last night had cooled everything off (briefly), and the air smelled clean and sage-y. It was over much too quickly.

How is my back handling this? Not as well as I'd like. I can keep major pain at bay with Pilates moves and stretching. But I can't slack off of those two things at all. They must be done every day. And even with them, the back is stiff and sore most of the time, particularly in the mornings. My next physical therapy appointment is on July 17, two weeks from today. I'm wondering if Cathy is going to pull the plug on this--and order up a steroid shot for me. I suspect she will.

Anybody out there ever had a steroid shot in the back? How long did it take to kick in and make things better? Was there a lot of pain just after the injection? When I had one in my foot for the Morton's neuroma, things were markedly better in two days---but it hurt a lot initially.