November 30, 2009

Five days of running for a total of 26 miles this week, 14 of them on hilly trails. It feels good to be working my way back up to a decent amount of running again. My formula of going back to the old shoes plus doing more trail running plus doing that quad strengthening exercise seems to be working. However, I still notice some not-quite-right feelings in my knee once in a while, particularly after rest days. Still, things look pretty good. If my knee stays healthy for a couple more weeks, I’ll register for the Hagg Lake 50K, which I’ve done two years in a row now.


Drymax vs. Injinji

November 28, 2009

I’ve seen a lot of blogging ultra-runners and trail runners praise Drymax socks (warning: a video plays when their page loads), so I ordered a few pairs from my favorite online running store (ZombieRunner). Today I managed to get in a 10-mile run on Wildwood Trail (which, sadly, is a long run for me this last month) and I wore the Drymax trail socks. They don’t seem to work for me. My feet may stay pretty dry, but I get blisters. I think the problem is that I need a clingy sock, one that moved with my toes. These don’t. I can imagine they might work pretty great over a thin liner sock, but it’s easier for me to just stick with socks that work on their own. I still like the Injinji toe-socks.

I have forgotten how to run

November 24, 2009

I have also forgotten how to blog.

Two Saturdays ago I did a couple different running events: an easy 4.6 miler along the waterfront with some people in town for the SC09 conference, and a very difficult three-miles-or-so at the Dirty Birdy. The latter was a 5K “mud run” at the motocross track in the infield of the Portland International Raceway. For some reason, costumes were encouraged. I threw on an ugly Hawaiian shirt and found my way there. (Which I found a little tricky.) Running up and down the steep, mud-drenched hills of the motocross track very quickly left me panting and ready to die. Further sapping my motivation, the organization was a little lax: nobody was there to guide us at a key turn after the first lap, so a large number of us ended up missing a third of a mile or so, and I never did figure out if there was actually a finish line, or if you just stopped whenever you felt like. After three laps, I figured I was done. Still kind of wheezing, I peeled off all my mud-crusted clothes, stuffed them into a trash bag, put on some dry sweats and headed home.

That would be the last time I would run for nine days. Monday morning I got a call from my Mom, who lives in Eugene. My grandmother had just died. Sadly, this wasn’t a greatly mournful occasion in and of itself, for Grandma had been deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s dementia for a number of years and thus lost to us in any case. Mom and I still were going to go to the funeral, though, on Wednesday, in New Jersey. (I am of a Jewish background and Jews, who do not embalm the dead,  hold closed-casket funerals with plain pine coffins within one or two days of death.) I bought plane tickets, a rental car and a hotel room for Mom and me and early Tuesday morning we headed for the airport. The flights took us all day Tuesday. By the time we got there, it was clear I had a cold. I probably ended up giving my cold to everyone in New Jersey. By the time it was done, I was so sick of the cold and of air travel that I didn’t even feel bad about that.

It was after 8pm east coast time when we landed, and about 10pm by the time we had picked up the crappy rental car and made it to the hotel. The hotel was about half a mile from the rental car place, but in the wrong direction along this tangled mess of spaghetti-like highway that winds by the Newark airport. After several failed attempts to get there, I managed to get thoroughly lost and quite agitated. Thankfully, I had brought along my GPS in my luggage. I pulled it out and found that it knew how to get there. I kicked myself for not using it in the first place and didn’t make a single drive the rest of the trip without it. I have no idea how people in New Jersey managed before they had GPS.

The funeral and the family get-together afterward took up all of Wednesday. I had packed very light and so didn’t bring running clothes, and even if I had, my cold was pretty bad. (And even if it wasn’t, I would have had no idea where to run — certainly not on the highways around the hotel.)  Thursday was another day spent on airplanes and in airports. As I write this, it’s Tuesday and my ears still haven’t fully unclogged from Thursday’s flights.

I went in for half a day’s work Friday, then pretty much stayed in bed, sick, until Monday, when I started feeling a little better. I went to join the usual group run Monday night. The run started off feeling OK. We headed out at a 7:45 pace or so and it felt good to be moving.

I bonked at about a mile and a half. (“Bonk, v.i.: to hit the wall; to cease to be able to run in a normal fashion.”) I just didn’t have the aerobic capacity for a decent run. I slowed it down some, then some more, then tapered off, until I was wheezing along doing 9:40 miles or so. I finished the six-mile route feeling wasted and brain-dead. Good times.

The Shooting in Tualatin

November 11, 2009

From The Oregonian, Witnesses describe bullets flying at Tualatin lab shooting:

Inside iGrafx, a software company, some workers also heard loud noises but thought it was coming from roof work. […] At some point, a bullet apparently blew through the common wall, past Kenyon’s office, and traveled down a 90-foot hallway, into a wall near Ken Carraher’s office.

Not a big deal compared to the tragedy in the lab where the shooting actually took place (one victim and the shooter both dead) but still rather close to home when you consider that I work at iGrafx. At least I don’t sit along that hallway though! Luckily for us, nobody was hurt on this side of the common wall. Every police unit for 20 miles deployed to the scene afterward, and we all got to spend some time standing around outside while they did what police do with crime scenes.

Runner’s knee; back to old shoes; hitting the trail a bit

November 8, 2009

Yes, the knee was still bothering me this week. I did some more digging around on the internet to try to find a diagnosis and treatment that I liked, and I still believe it’s plain old runner’s knee. Here’s the article I’m basing this on.  This paragraph sold me on the diagnosis:

Physicians can diagnose this from the other side of the room: joint hurts, no particular injury caused it, worst going upstairs and downstairs (or walking down an incline or running down a hill which tightens the thigh muscle pulling the kneecap down into the groove causing a painful rubbing), stiffens after sitting awhile, like it needs to be stretched. That settles it.

Check, check, check, check. I have to admit I was further sold by the article’s opinion of the surgical options:

Despite what you may have read, arthroscopic surgery helps perhaps one out of 10,000 sufferers. Mechanically smoothing the rubbing surface of the kneecap can last for six months or so, but unless your biomechanics have changed, it’s a borrowed time fix. Cutting the retinaculum, the connective tissue holding the kneecap in place to loosen it in the groove, is also only temporary. It eventually scars down tighter than it was before. Sooner or later, you’re back where you started.

The author blames runner’s knee on two things: over-pronation and a weak medial quad muscle. He says with orthotics for the pronation and strength-building exercises for the quads, runners knee will go away in a month.

Now, I ran for two years without getting runner’s knee, so I’m not convinced I actually need orthotics. But look at this:  I got the knee thing two or three runs after I got my last pair of new shoes, which were a different model year of the shoes I’d been wearing before that. And that new model year felt totally different from the previous one, if you ask me.

With this in mind, I bought a pair of the shoe I used to wear (Brooks Addictions) on Monday. I don’t like the “feel” of the current Addictions (they feel heavy and stiff and clunky) but I’d worn them for quite a while without injury. It’s reasonable to hope that they were doing a better job of controlling my pronating than the new shoes. I’m also trying the quad-strengthening exercise suggested in the article.

With the new shoes, Monday and Wednesday’s runs and recoveries felt much the same.  Not bad, but not perfect, and I was often conscious that my knee wasn’t quite right. Saturday I dared to do a trail run for the first time in a while, and went for six miles on Wildwood, north of Germantown road.

I’m not sure if this was really a smart thing to do. On the plus side, the soft trail is low-impact. But I’m not sure how much my knee issues have had to do with impact, anyway. Also on the plus side, trail running is just what the doctor ordered for building up leg strength. If my quads have gotten weak from extended flat-road running, putting in some miles on rolling wet trails may be just what is called for. But the potential downside is obvious: all those ups and downs could hurt.  (“…tightens the thigh muscle pulling the kneecap down into the groove causing a painful rubbing,” right?)

I felt the knee a little after four miles on the trail, but no more than I have been after four miles on road, so I think it turned out pretty well.  And it was great to run on Wildwood again. I had my usual culture shock adjusting to just how much slower I am on trails, but I love it out there.

My knee has felt great since that run. As always, a couple of good days have me wildly optimistic — fingers crossed that next week bears out my hopes.


Criminal nuisance

November 3, 2009

We were woken up last night at one am by a knock and the doorbell. I tried to ignore it, but a second doorbell a minute later convinced me I had better go see who it was. On the way to the door, I saw flashing police lights. A cop was at the door.

“Are those your garbage bins down there?” he asked.


“Two of them?”



“Er… two big carts and a little glass debris bin.”

“Well, one of the carts might be salvageable but the other two are destroyed,” the cop said.

Hmmm? We walked down the driveway to the curb, where I had, earlier that evening, put out the garbage, yard debris, and glass for this morning’s collection. What a mess. The little glass bin was torn apart and most of the glass in it was shattered all over the place. The garbage was tipped over and strewn about a bit. And the yard debris bin, that had been full of wet leaves? I didn’t get a look at it then, because it had been pushed — presumably stuck under a car or truck — around the corner of the road and left in a ditch. Its wheels were still laying there, though.

I said I was surprised the noise that all must have made didn’t wake us up. He said a drunk neighbor had called it in, saying he heard something hit, back up, and hit again. It all looked deliberate. Someone must have had a total junker or a stolen car. I started trying to pick up the garbage bin and the cop told me he still wanted pictures. He said he’d drag what was left of the yard debris bin back over to my house.

The cop took my name, gave me a case number, and told me to call my garbage company. This morning, when I called them, they weren’t at all interested in the details… they just said they’d send out new bins next week, pretty much no questions asked. I cleaned up the garbage and a lot of the glass this morning before work.


November 2, 2009

zombieHalloween was fun this year. Bride-and-groom zombies. I didn’t do a great job on my makeup, but the hair, teeth, and outfit made up for it. This wasn’t my real wedding outfit, just some cheap stuff we got at Goodwill. I think the shirt, pants, and jacket were all six or seven dollars each. The bow tie was a three- or four-dollar novelty item from the party store.

My original plan for messing up the suit was to lay it on the ground and whale away on it with this replica medieval flail I have — a heavy ball with sharp points, connected by a chain to a handle. I was hoping it would create a lot of puncture marks, kind of like a shotgun blast effect. The clothes proved surprisingly flail-resistant, though. It got them dirty, but the holes were few and small. Plan B, hacking away with a kitchen knife, worked a lot better. I also got out the blowtorch — you can see one burn mark on the front of the shirt. Then I dripped on this blood gel stuff. You had to heat it up for it to flow, then it solidified (some) as it cooled. It worked OK, but probably wasn’t worth the trouble vs. red paint or something.

The teeth were effective. They were pretty cheap at the party store, and they came with this epoxy stuff that hardened into a springy rubber compound. I thought it was just a dental glue or something when I bought it, but it was much better. You mashed the two epoxy components together, stuck the result into the bite tray in the teeth, bit down into the hardening rubber and waited the five minutes for it to cure. Once it did, you could take the teeth in and out whenever you wanted, and they fit well since they were molded around your own teeth.