Train to Race or Race to Train, Lazy Bum, And Dropped By An 81-Year Old


Hi folks,

Well! My son and I finished the Eagleman race this weekend. It was one of those races where you wonder why you are doing this to yourself, as it was very hot, lots of people had cramps, and both of our runs were a mess due to cramping. This is when I have to remind myself that I race to train, not the other way around. I enjoy the races, but I don’t enjoy quad cramps during a run. This has only happened twice in my triathlon career/hobby, the other time being at the Buffalo Springs race in Lubbock, Texas, which is also an extremely hot race. Why do we get muscle cramps, I wonder? There are plenty of theories out there, but I think that the jury is still out on that one. My unruly quads resulted in my being passed on the run by an 81-year triathlete, Bob Scott (no ordinary 81-year old!). He gave me some words of encouragement, as he could see my problem, and then ran on. The most encouraging thing for me was his age! Lots of years left in me yet as a youth of 67!

I had no illusions about qualifying for Kona at this race now that I am nearly 68, as in age group racing the best times usually go to the youngest members of the group. Eagleman was no exception, as the five fastest competitors were either 65 or 66. That is the age issue in a nutshell – you get slower and slower overall. If you want to be a happy endurance athlete, races should be more about training and enjoying your level of fitness than about winning. That said, let’s see what Nigel and I can do in Lake Placid in about six weeks! I love that race! Will be my fifth time.

In order to continue training and racing you have to avoid or minimize injuries. A few weeks ago I received a question on foot tendonitis, which interested me because I recently developed tendonitis in my right ankle after running in light shoes with less support than my regular shoes, especially less arch support. It would appear that this approach, which came from my interest in Barefoot Running, is a dangerous one that has inflicted some damage upon myself and the questioner, Matthew (Chez Ollie). The problem is a simple one: it feels so good to run in light shoes. It really just does! Matthew is right, the root problem is biomechanics, which can be self-induced or equipment-induced (shoes being equipment!). I have been forced back to my regular heavy orthotic-laden footwear, having decided to move much more slowly into light shoes. I will make no further attempts to use my lighter shoes until my tendonitis is completely cured. This brings me to the foot-shake test that I recommended to Matthew, and which I developed after visiting several kinesiologists.

If you have a foot or knee pain that you suspect is due to tendonitis/fasciitis, shake your foot loosely from the hips. If the pain is due to a muscle spasm yanking on tendon or fascia the pain will magically vanish or diminish. This clearly works for plantar fasciitis, which is often a response to over-tight calf muscles pulling on the plantar fascia. Regular foot shaking can actually reduce the symptoms as long as you stop doing whatever is inducing them. I use this as a test for ‘tight muscle tendonitis.’ Once you find the cause you can start to work on a cure. This is the ‘sense-able’ or Feldenkrais-based approach to your body and running that is addressed in Edward Yu’s wonderful little book, ‘The Art of Slowing Down: A Sense-Able Approach To Running Faster.’ If you don’t know the cause of a problem, how can you fix it? One potential cause, ‘lazy bum,’ suggested to Matthew by his physiotherapist, means failure to engage the gluteal muscles, a common problem in athletes. There is a great little exercise in Edward Yu’s book that fixes this issue in one session, which I proved to myself by having Karen, my Feldenkrais instructor, talk me through it from the book. Try it! It really works! In fact, the effect on his throwing exercise is nothing short of magical.

Great little book, and the best part is the set of exercises at the back!

My advice to Matthew: (a) only water run until the tendonitis is gone, (b) consider exploring the issue with Feldenkrais, (c) work through the exercises in Edward Yu’s book, (d) do regular foot shaking, (e) repair the tendonitis using standard methods, such as ice and encouraging the tight muscle to relax, (f) try trigger point therapy (my son, Nick, swears by it), and (g) let me know how it goes so we can work together on what seems to be a common problem, but in a different tendon! And remember, never give up! Which reminds me, I just read an excellent book on not giving up that was based on a true account of the life of a great runner, Louis Zamperini. The book is ‘Unbroken‘ by Laura Hillenbrand.

A very interesting and enjoyable book!

– k Your Medical Mind


Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.