Saturday, November 24, 2012

The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges

I just discovered that there is a photograph of me slogging it out through the Kalahari Desert on page 6 of this book! Cool....and I've completed 2 of the races mentioned in the book. Now I'm motivated to sign up for the next one!

This is the pic:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One year since my horrible hamstring injury

It's been a year since my awful hamstring tendon injury...a tough and painful year at that!
I'm still in pain, however the severity has diminished and it's the most severe after prolonged periods of sitting, like driving a car for 20 minutes or more as I am placing pressure on the injury and stretching it in this position. I was completely incapacitated the first 3 months following the tear of my hamstring tendon at the ischial tuberosity insertion site, after which I started walking and slow jogging and built up to 2 marathons in April (6 months after the injury). I could feel that the injury was still pretty severe after this and decided to get an MRI to ascertain the severity of the injury. I thought they (the medical professionals) would tell me that I was being a baby and that nothing would show up on the MRI, but instead I discovered that I was not a baby and that I did indeed have a very nasty injury. The orthopedic surgeon/sports medicine doctor I was referred to was absolutely awful. He had zero personality, zero compassion, was completely disinterested in my case and basically just gave me a referral to get an MRI. His nurse was even worse and actually threw the pamphlet for the MRI service at me and told me to make the appointment myself. Neither of them made eye contact with me at all during my consultation and both were obviously very miserable with their own existence. Regardless I had the MRI and the result was as follows:

"Left hamstring origin is thickened. The semimembranosus origin remains intact but the conjoint tendon (combination of the long head biceps femoristendon and semitendinosus tendon) are torn from the ischial tuberosity.... Small region of fluid between the conjoint tendon and the ischial tuberosity....there is some enthesopathic change in the ischial tuberosity. There is T2 prolongation in the anterosuperior labrum compatible with at least degeneration. In the radial sequence, anterosuperior labrum is probably torn."

Basically this means that my left hamstring is completely damaged at the hamstring insertion site into my sitting bone and it has torn away from the bone.

Here is a diagram of what tore off the bone:

Response from the lovely doctor. "There is nothing you can do for this sort of injury and it does not require surgery. If you want to do physical therapy you can." He then went on to say that he would only refer me to a certain physical therapist in Honolulu itself who I would not be able to make appointments with on a regular basis given that I live 40  miles away and work many hours, making it inconvenient and not sustainable.

So I've been treating myself with a combination of acupuncture, chiropractic sessions, massage, stretching, strength building exercises,fast walking, progressing on to slow jogging combined with cycling. The jogging and cycling I've slowly been increasing in distance and feel that the injury is status quo, maybe improving slightly and feeling slightly inflamed after an exercises session but not significantly worse....and let us not forget Tango! Dancing has kept me sane throughout this long rehabilitation process and I am so thankful for it.

So here's hoping and working towards continued improvement and more adventures in my future!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

2 Marathons in 2 weeks: running after a hamstring tendon injury

Finisher medal for the North Shore Marathon 2012
After a lengthy period of "down time" to allow my injury (which I sustained in the first 10 minutes of the Peacock 100K trail race) to somewhat heal, I am pleased to announce that I'm back on track, that is, back on the road and trails. It has been an extremely difficult time for me, firstly sustaining the injury from a fall right at the beginning of an extremely tough trail race which I then limped and dragged myself through and completed, but not within the official cutoff time. Then the difficulty was physically actually not being able to run due to extreme pain for months, but on the bright side I learned and sharpened new skills such as patience and other activities like horse riding. I could also still tango as long as no one led me to doing high boleos or other fancy leg maneurves with my left they say "if you can walk, you can tango". The injury was damage to my left hamstring tendon at the insertion site to the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone), so aside from not being able to run, I also found it excruciating to sit for prolonged periods of time and driving on my long commute to work was an ordeal. I sought out therapies such as chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and of course conventional medicine but alas there is no magic pill or quick cure for this type of injury, only patience and time and then the body can heal itself. Five months have passed and I have done minimal gentle jogging without much mileage to build myself up again towards my first marathon since the fall, the North Shore Marathon, on my home island of Oahu, Hawaii. This is the second year that this marathon has taken place and it was fantastic to run in a race that was literally in my neck of the woods. The race started at Kaiaka Beach park in Haleiwa at 5 am when things were still nice and dark and cool, after 2 loops around Haleiwa town, we ran through Waialua, the old sugar plantation town and then on towards Mokuleia, past Dillingham airfield and all the light recreational aircraft, with the beautiful Waianae Mountain range on the left and the untamed Pacific Ocean on the right with a turn around at Kaena Point, the most north westerly tip of Oahu and back the way we came, along Farrington Hwy which was now decidedly hot with a fortunate light trade wind. My aim was to test my left leg out and see whether I still had a marathon in it. I was concerned about re-injuring it and most people tried to disuade me from running the marathon for fear that I had not waited long enough for the healing process to take place. I did not push myself at all, I just ran along at a happy pace without a watch, as I did not want to pressure myself by watching the time and finished feeling fine. My injured leg was tender but I could tell that it was not re-injured, so now that I know it can withstand a bit of punishment I am hoping to be able to improve on my performnace from here on.
Waianae Mountain range
Looking down at part of the route from the mountain, Dillingham airfield at Mokuleia

The start of the 2012 Big Sur marathon
The second marathon in 2 weeks was the Big Sur marathon in California. This race had to be revisited, as I ran in it last year which then, due to a severe storm the course was an out and back from Monterey to Bixby bridge. Usually this is a point to point marathon, so that was my motivation for doing it again. At 3:30 am on the morning of the race we were bused out to the start line 26.2miles/42 km along HWY1 along the Big Sur coastal road. It's always cold in the early morning in California but on this day the temperatures weren't too bad, I could discard my warm clothes immediately prior to the start which was situated at Pfeiffer State Park in the Redwood forests. I felt really good for the first half of the race and was happy with my pace of around 9min/mile. The second half was a house of pain around my injury site but I jogged along trying to block it out mentally and focus instead on enjoying the scenery, the hills (2359 ft elevation gain and 2692ft descent) granted not much in comparison to other races I have done but still not exactly a flat course, the 40 mile per hour gusts of icy fog laden winds interspersed with sunny stretches, the musicians along the side of the road and the great volunteers along the marathon course.
Little Sur

Bixby Bridge in the Fog

Pretty much sums it up

Hurricane Point, one of the many lovely hills along the course
This was my slowest marathon time ever and my hamstring and it's tendon were in excruciating pain by the finish, a bit dissapointing as the first half was going so well and I had run it an hour faster last year. Fortunately I found a bag of ice at the finish and sat on that for 30 minutes in the beer tent after the race. Now I realize that I need further down time as these two marathons aggravated and inflamed the injury.
After the race my friend Sabine and I continued on a fantastic road trip, stopping off at Esalen hotsprings a health retreat, for a lengthy soak in the hot baths situated on the cliff side overlooking the Pacific ocean and a blissful massage to the sound of the ocean. Talk about an endorphin overload! I was stoned immaculate on a natural high at this place that is close to being heaven on earth. On an excellent recommendation we took the road less travelled along the Nacimiento Ferguson road which traversed across the mountains away from the coast offering the most spectacular scenic eye candy.This mountain road took us to the top of the world giving us grande vistas of the coastline and dense forests below and wound back down again through shaded glades and past bubbling creeks, making our word of the day become "wow"! We stumbled upon the San Antonio mission which was a fascinating find, rich in history and an oasis in the middle of the hotter, drier plains surrounded by fields of wild spring flowers.

Olive tree outside the mission buildings was planted in the 1700"s
 Returning to San Francisco I had a fantastic time experiencing many of the things I love, including art, music and dance. I was fortunate enough to go to the cd release milonga of Trio Garufa : Argentino Tango in Berkeley, tango nuevo at Cell Space in the Mission district, street art, exhibitions, a drive out to the quaint seaside village of Bolinas in Marin and an overall fabulous experience.
Finishers medal for the Big Sur Marathon 2012
I am not sure what is going to happen next in terms of the rehabilitation of my injury, so stay tuned for further tales of my running adventures.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If you want to be inspired read "Dare to Run"

Below is a forward that I wrote for my friend and fellow ultrarunner Amit Sheth for his book "Dare to Run" which is a collection of very inspiring stories, thoughts and experiences that Amit has experienced personally on his road to becoming a long distance runner. The concepts in the book are universal and inspiring across the board and motivating to anyone reading them whether they run or not. It imparts the feeling of "YES I CAN" achieve any goal that I feel passionate about and put effort into achieving. I have bought this book as a gift for many of my friends and family and the feedback has been so positive and inspired that I would love to share this book with everyone I know. The book is available for purchase online at

My (unedited) forward:
"The first time I ever read a story about running written by Amit was on the Comrades Marathon forum in 2009. I was incredibly motivated and moved by the humorous and passionate way in which he told the story of how he dared to run. Amit has the ability to inspire all runners with his wit and style regardless of their abilities as well as those that dream about perhaps running one day. Whenever I meet an aspiring runner looking for direction or motivation, I give them his stories to read and it has the desired effect without fail, they go out and run and suddenly believe that there is a possibility that they too can achieve what they never thought they could. There have been many books and articles written about elite athletes and their stories, training programs and thoughts on the subject but the truth remains that the majority of marathon runners are recreational athletes who have full time jobs, hectic schedules and little time to train and these stories are a reflection of what many of us have experienced in our battle against our own mortality to go above and beyond our comfort zones.

I have had the privilege of meeting Amit and his delightful family in Durban, South Africa at the 2009 Comrades Marathon race. Leading up to that event he was an extremely motivational cyber training partner and subsequently has shared many of his tales from the road with me and has been a tremendous source of encouragement to me in my quest to achieve my own ultra marathon goals. I hope that the stories in this book will inspire the readers as much as they have inspired me."

The Sheth family in Durban South Africa
Amit and myself in Durban before our 89km race in the Comrades Marathon

In addition to all of that Neepa Sheth was the first woman from India to finish the Comrades Marathon ultra marathon in South Africa. Some of the comments I've had are : "Amit really knows how to inspire on a human level"; "I had to put the book down in a restuarant because I started crying"; "I feel inspired to achieve my goals in life" (this was from a non-runner); "Amit has an awesome gift for writing and really get's into the heart of the reader", "I was laughing one minute, crying the next".