Food for Thought

I’m not a doctor  or a physical therapist… nor do I play either of these roles on TV. Also important to note is the fact that the last science class I took was in high school where I used a “collaborative approach” to get through my self-paced chemistry class. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not claiming to be a medical expert on anything I am about to write regarding injuries and illnesses in this, or future pieces.

Yet, what I do bring to the table regarding these topics is experience. Lots of personal experience from injuries I’ve had, as well as many stories from other runners.   Injuries, training, and illnesses are hot topics in the running world. In fact, if I had to pick a “specialty” (or two) in this arena, it would definitely be the treatment of plantar fasciitis (I’ve had it three times… if you have it, buy yourself a boot. ), and the location of porta potties and bathrooms in the Greater Milwaukee area (sorry, no link but I think iPhone has an app-). For these two topics, I’d go head to head with anyone on Jeopardy and guarantee a win.

Further, I would bet that on any given day, when you see two people (or more) running together, at least one of them is talking about their training and all of its nuances. My running friends and I have covered running gear, shoes, orthotics, socks, and sports bras. We’ve discussed Shot Blocks, gels, Sport Beans, Power Bars, and pre-race meals. Gatorade flavor debates have lasted miles.  From injury prevention and treatment (and subsequent PT discussions and referrals) to talk of massage therapy, foam rollers, ice baths, and the benefits of cross training… a runner will cover literally every angle of his or her training regime whenever given the opportunity.

I admit it. Runners… are a little geeky. But geeky or not, you have to give us credit for throwing our heart and souls into doing something we love.  So, with all of this energy put into running, one would hope that on race day, runners could get through successfully, without physical or mental harm. Right?

Well, here’s the problem. Despite all of the planning, research, training, and care that we as runners put into our “craft,” the bottom line is, we are still human, and therefore still quite susceptible to injury or other demise on the day of our races. Things that we never imagined can come up, and put a wrench in our well laid plans for a great run.

Take my brother’s case. At age 50, he was ready to make a fabulous re-entry into the world of marathons, his last one being at 28, with an impressive 3:16 time.  This spring, he had trained hard for the Green Bay Marathon, and was even looking to qualify for Boston. Things were looking good for him, until the Sunday before the marathon. He woke up with a horrible sinus infection. As any runner would do, he promptly sprinted to his doctor’s office the next morning with the request, “I’m running a marathon on Sunday. Please give me something that will knock this sinus infection out!” His doctor told him to rest and hydrate all week… and then prescribed an antibiotic called Levaquin. Satisfied and hopeful that all would be good to go by Sunday, my brother left his office and went home to rest. He took the drug as prescribed, then showed up at Lambeau Field on Sunday, ready for action.

Initially, things felt okay during the first two miles of the run. But, somewhere between two and three, things headed south as can be seen from his email excerpt:

Felt great at 2.5 miles and bam, mid calf pain…thought it was a cramp…slowed, stretched at a phone pole, and resumed…gradually caught up to have 330 pacer in sight.  At 2.8 or so, bam, left hammy cramp…then later right hammy cramped up… the next 23 miles sucked. There were periods where one or more of the areas didn’t hurt a lot, but randomly there would be sharp pains and the muscles would seize up… which would make me slow, stop, stretch, etc.  Everything acted like cramps [I’ve pulled my hamstring before and it didn’t feel like a blown hamstring], so I really thought I was just cramping up. Therefore I thought,” just gut it out…” As it turned out I definitely think it was pulled or torn hamstring, and maybe pulled tendon in the calf muscle… also, noticed at the end of the race my left Achilles was very sore.

To put it lightly, probably not a fun experience. Well, the problem with runners is that we don’t let the agony of a run like this die with the race- we take it after the race too, and beat up on ourselves, wondering why we couldn’t have done better. As my brother was doing this, a friend told him about the side effects of Levaquin. Apparently, one of the drug’s major side effects is that it is “associated with an increased risk of tendonitis and tendon rupture.” In addition, many sites regarding Levaquin state that those taking it should avoid even light running.

I tell this Levaquin story for a few reasons. First of all, it’s a reminder to all of us, as we give 100% to running, biking, swimming… whatever… to always be careful. As much as we hate to back off when injured or sick, we need to remember as Kenny Rogers said, “You gotta know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em…” I guess we need to know when to say when based on what our bodies tell us.   We can only do so much to prevent or treat an injury, and if all hell breaks loose, we need to go easy on ourselves.

Secondly, it’s a reminder when taking any drug to ask lots of questions of our doctors, and do research on our own too. Make sure you know what you’re taking and what it could do! When you do find out something important or interesting, like this Levaquin story, share it with your running geeks! Also…tell your running friends about the time you nearly died of heat stroke because you didn’t drink enough water. Tell them how doing Pepto Bismal shots before long runs might provide temporary relief but cause permanent damage and a trip to the ER. Tell the story of Jenny Crain again and again to make drivers and runners more careful as they go about their business. It never hurts to share what you know and potentially help someone stay out of trouble.

And finally, this whole story is just another testament to the power of your people. Whether you get all geeked out with your peeps talking about running, golfing, painting, or nautical rope tying… never underestimate the important place they have in your life. Find something you enjoy, and someone to enjoy it with… and I think you’ll be pretty happy.

Copyright 2010
Abbey Algiers

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