Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conquering The Monster In My Basement

When we were children, my sister believed that a monster lived in the basement, behind a concrete block wall. She sought to placate it, religiously tossing bits of pb&j sandwiches into the deep, black hole formed by one removed block. Eventually, a portion of the wall next to that missing block was removed to expand the basement, and there lay the stash, petrified evidence of multiple feedings. It is one of those family tales that still is repeated today.

Now, I have a monster in my basement. It sits there, blinking and beeping at me, spewing little dots as red as fire from the mouth of a dragon. I stand in front of it, transfixed and immobile. It waits to be fed.

Have you ever been stuck in one place in your life, and somehow, that sense of being stuck creeps into the rest of your life? It has become that way with my running project. I've been stuck in one place for some weeks now, and the immobilization is beginning to slither into other aspects of my life. So, it's time to force myself out of this place, and move forward in all directions.

For the most part, I've tried to describe this running experience without spending a lot of time on tedious details about my physical problems. I wanted the focus to remain on the sacrifices our military service men and women have made. But, in order to get back into the program, a little lamenting of my own challenges is necessary.

The very conservative training program I'd mapped out seemed to move along quite well for several months. I had gradually increased my running distance, and even figured that if I couldn't quite get the whole 3.1 miles in on the day of the race, I'd give myself a rare break and just walk a few hundred feet to finish, if necessary. Then, I'd keep training to reach the goal.

That was before the return of those familiar calf cramps at the end of February, only a few weeks before the Bellator Wounded Warrior 5K. But, these were not the long-standing, ordinary little calf cramps that plagued me prior to corrective surgery for compartment syndrome. Nor did they occur while running. No, these were relentlessly-knotting, writhing-on-the-floor, screaming-for-help calf cramps. My legs would draw up so tightly during these episodes that I couldn't even touch my feet to the ground. And, the aftermath -- suffice it to say that simply walking around was very uncomfortable for weeks.

Since I have to be able to walk to earn a living, I had to make a painful decision to forego the Bellator Wounded Warrior 5K and take time to heal. Disappointment. Frustration. Embarrassment. Multiply those by 1,000. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

I've pursued several possible solutions during the break. My cardiologist performed vascular studies on both legs. No circulatory problems there, and that was very good news. So, I went to my family doctor in a great deal of fear and trepidation, and asked for drugs. Seriously. This problem has gone on about thirty years too long. He was very sympathetic to my complaints, and provided me with just enough muscle relaxer to get the job done.

And, now, to start over. Someone stated to me recently that although folks make off-handed remarks about a runner's addiction, anyone who loves to run knows the real bottom line: runners dare not stop -- not because they can't, but because if they do, it will take forever to return to the previous distance and condition. Just thinking about spending another four months getting back to the 2.5 mile marker is discouraging.

But, I've had some time to heal and develop a plan for recovery.

  • Get a gait analysis and a new pair of shoes.
  • Supplement specific nutrients, the lack of which contributes to cramping, and which are excessively depleted by some medications taken by cardiac patients.
  • Dramatically increase water consumption to avoid symptoms of dehydration, which can contribute to cramping.
  • Adopt a program of concentrated stretching in order to counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time, as required by work.
  • Focus on cross training. For me, it will be bicycling.
  • Conservatively use muscle relaxers before each training run.

Today, I go to feed the monster.

(Note: A contribution has been made to the Wounded Warrior Project in honor of those courageous individuals whose names appear to the right of this blog.)


  1. I would highly recommend a gait analysis at your local Podiatry clinic. It may well be that you have a biomechanical abnormality that is causing your pain after running. A Podiatrist can prescribe orthotics for your shoes which can provide extra support and comfort if necessary. Maybe your gait will be perfectly normal but it's best to rule it out.

  2. Thanks so much, progait! As a matter of fact, I had the analysis performed yesterday, just as you describe! It's good to know I'm on the right track. Thanks again for the comment!


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