Here's the skinny: I've been near 300 lbs. for years and need to lose weight. I'm married to a wonderful lady, and we have a family. One of our boys often asks if I'll run with him. I've always had to tell him, "No." In August of '09, my wife learned about a couch-to-5k running program, and I agreed to try it with her. This blog chronicles our progress on that training program. I hope I'll soon be able to surprise my son by telling him, "Yes, I'll go running with you!"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 52 (week 8) - DEFEATED (almost)

Well, our little gamble with the weather really paid off. In addition to being about four degrees warmer than it was when we woke, we actually got out during a short break in the rain--the first such break of the day!

I was so excited to try on my patellar stabilizer, but my excitement soon turned to a bit of discouragement. Although they sent out an XXL brace, it was still a bit snug on my leg. I gave it the benefit of the doubt, figuring that it may have been designed that way for extra support. I tried placing a call in to our clinic, to see if I could talk to someone on the sports medecine team, but I ended up on hold for an extended period of time and we really needed to just get out of the door.

Because I had the brace on, I didn't wear that extra set of polyester long johns I used on Monday. I didn't want to risk tearing them with the extra bulk and the edges on the hook-look straps.

We parked another block further away today, to ensure we had our full warm-up in before we began. If we went a little long on the warm-up, we figured that would be fine, too. As I walked the distance, my brace-equipped leg didn't feel right. Despite its snug-fitting construction, the top part seemed to be working down a bit, and bunching up behind my knee. It felt very tight, so I made a few adjustments along the way, and again when we stretched between our walk and the run.

As we finished our stretching and prepared to start our run, however, our cover was almost blown and our secret was almost revealed. Running down the trail, coming right at us, was one of our son's close friends. We quickly made an admonition not to reveal our secret. Had I been thinking more clearly, I would have extracted a vow on pain of death...

And so we began. Almost immediately, however, I could tell that something was wrong with my gait. The brace felt tight, my knee was sore, and I had pain behind my knee. We stopped. I spent a few minutes adjusting the brace, then I reset my playlist to the start of the run and we began again.

My adjustment did little to alleviate my discomfort. I pushed on, but noticed that the way the brace was bunching behind my knee was causing it to constrict me there. Each heel kick felt like someone was driving a thumb into the soft tissue behind my knee. I kept going, however. My pace was clearly and significantly slower than it had been on Monday, in fact, it reminded me of my worst day last week, but this was only the start--the second start--of this run. I was worried.

Within a few moments, I was fighting hard to maintain a good stride. I could already feel the running limp begin. As we approached one driveway along the trail, perhaps five minutes in, I yelled out to Mrs. F to continue on without me. The discomfort caused by the brace was now so strong that I could not fathom going on for another 20 or more minutes. I slowed to a walk and then stopped--somthing I said I'd never do.

The next few minutes were extremely difficult for me. I quickly adjusted the brace and tried running again, but now the original injury was also causing me pain. I slowed again and walked on. I did something I told myself I would never, ever do: I gave up.

Part of my mind tried to comfort me by pointing out the circumstances. "Well, I'll just wrap it myself and try again tomorrow," I told myself, but the other part of me was already conceding defeat. I walked a few meters more and noticed one of the benches I had been so desperate to stop at during one of the early weeks, and I sat down.

I put my hands on my knees and took a deep breath, the music of my playlist reminding me that I was not moving ahead. This, I thought, was the end of my Couch to 5k running program.

The funny thing is that I just spent a considerable amount of energy last night in a discussion thread on, encouraging another runner who had gotten away from the program for a couple of weeks. I made it clear that she could not give up, because I, for one, wasn't going to let her get away with it. Yet, there I was, sitting on a bench and lamenting the fact that it was all over.

I loosened the brace. As soon as I did, I felt a rush through my leg as blood started moving unrestricted. I pulled the brace down and fingered the area of my knee that led me to wearing it in the first place. Another song had started--the third--so I knew Mrs. F would soon be at the end of the trail, where we would normally turn around.

I don't know exactly how much time went by there on the bench. All I know is that I was mad at myself for having stopped, and my mind was focused on getting the brace on well enough to allow me to walk back to the car when Mrs. F came into sight. I strained every muscle in my arms and shoulders to get that brace, particularly the back half of it, further up onto my upper leg. Once I got it positioned as best I could, I tightened up the straps (though not as much as before), and I got up. My mind wanted me to turn left and head back toward the car, as I figured that Mrs. F would eventually catch up to me, but I just could turn that way or even look that way. My eyes were focused on the trail ahead of me--that segment of the trail where I should have been running before I sat down and gave in. I kept my eyes there, and my feet began to move.

One, two, three steps walking and then I tentatively began my run. The brace was still uncomfortable, and the knee seemed a little off, but it was better than it was before I stopped. Another song change hit my ears, and I found myself matching my pace closely to the beat. Little by little, I extended my stride. I still hated that blasted brace, but I was moving again.

The sheer elation of realizing that, in the face of defeat, I had gotten back up and started running again washed over me. For a few moments, it was as if I didn't feel anything. I was just a body running down a trail, as if I were in some surreal movie scene presented where the character moves through the frame gracefully while the soundtrack is silent. Then, almost as quickly as that sensation began, it ended. The full force of the cold wind swept across the surface of the lake and cut into me like a knife. I reached into my pockets and pulled out my gloves. That's when I realized where I was on the trail--I was not far from the dam end, yet Mrs. F had not yet passed me on her return. For a moment, I worried that something may have happened to her, but then I figured that she likely just ran a bit further ahead, across the road and further down the trail.

Sure enough, just as my turnaound point came into sight, I saw her crossing the road and heading my direction. When she reached me, she turned again to run with me, back to the end of that section of trail. A song had just ended, and I told her I was going to restart it, since I lost time to the bench. I reached the end, and turned around.

For some reason, that turn made me feel as if we were starting all over again. For the next five to eight minutes, I struggled again to maintain my pace, but I seemingly did so, staying within 10 feet of Mrs. F throught the repeated song, and into the next one. Yet I could not maintain that pace, so she eventually pulled ahead. The pinching pain and constricting discomfort were still there now, but they seemed less prominent in my mind. The run began to feel good, and I enjoyed watching the whitecaps marching across the water. Another song, another burst of energy, and then a slow pace again. I played games with my pacing to keep myself going--faster, slower, a little faster, faster still--and it worked.

As the final song began, I saw the landmarks that told me that the end of the run was near. I could not muster the same strength I discovered on Monday to finish the day, but I maintained a strong run. Mrs. F, again, lovingly circled back to me so that we could finish together. The final bars came with some meters yet to go. "Your're done," I told her, knowing she had run four or five extra minutes. I continued on to the end of the trail before slowing to a walk.

Today's run left me with mixed emotions--I had given up, but yet I was able to restart again (not just once, but twice!). I was able to run when the easier option would have been to walk toward the car. I was able to run when I could have claimed a legitimate reason for stopping and staying stopped. Yet I ran. Oh, does that ever feel good!

So, when Friday comes, I know one thing for certain: I'm leaving the patellar stabilizer at home. I'll wrap it again in the manner I did on Monday, and I'll use masking tape again to fashion my own stabilizer. Oh, yes, I'll call the sports medicine practitioner to see if they have one in a bigger size. If not, I may go a little MacGyver on the brace and cut a big hole in the back, to prevent it from bunching up before giving it another try.

All in all, a difficult run, but I'm glad I got back up and finished it. I may not have finished today's 28 minutes without walking, but I did win a significant victory today. I was defeated--almost--but I got back up again.


  1. Mr. F., you proved yourself today. In my opinion, it's easier to do this program when you've got some good momentum and no set-backs and no stops. It's much harder to have injuries or something that stops you in your tracks and then gather the strength to GET UP and keep going.
    So, I see today as a stronger statement than any of your previous runs, that you can do this and you will do this because you will not let one (or two or more) setbacks completely knock you out of the game.
    This is real life. You should feel proud of yourself.

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Amy.

  3. Good for you! What an inspiration you are, to muscle through the adversity and get yourself moving.

    A word of advice--there is a taping technique that some physical therapists use instead of a brace or a wrap--it does the same job, but it will only hold from the front. A friend of mine was struggling with a knee injury and her therapist used the taping rather than a brace and it gave her better results. Perhaps look in to that technique. It's a sports or medical type tape that they use to do it and it stays on through showers--it gets changed once a week or so.

    PS--I am getting ready to do workout #3 of week 6, so my second long run with no walk breaks.

  4. Speaking for myself - you did not give up. "Giving up" in my mind is the decision to stop the program. But stopping to deal with pain, which we all need to feel because it's the only way our body can tell us something is wrong, is smart. You dealt with the situation so you could run another day. In fact, you dealt with it so you could run *THAT* day! How cool is that?!?!?!?

  5. JenLo,

    Thanks for the information on the taping technique. I'll ask about it at a therapy session, or when I next see the sports medicine practitioner.

    I hope W6D3 goes well for you. I found that, after W5D3, the first two runs of W6 were really tough. I like the long runs better than the intervals (a common theme I've seen in discussions on, too!).



    The thing that is amazing to me was that, when I sat down, I had decided to stop the program. I figured there was no sense in going on. You're right, though. I did get up after mucking with my leg, and I ran again. That is what most amazed me about the run.

    I'm one of those guys who would throw an entire model away if I lose one little trim piece while building it (silly, I know, but it's one of those compulsions I have. I can't stand damage to my books (something inevitable with kids around the house), and I simply despise failure--even temporary ones that don't look like a big deal to other people. So that's why my reflections on that run note that I felt it was a personal victory. I finally beat back my 'neurotic' self (for the lack of a better word) and didn't give it all up.

    I'm looking forward to your next blog post, by the way. ;)


    Thanks to both of you for reading, and for your comments!

  6. Mr & Mrs F-

    You were right--The first two long runs were killers, but I survived. I am thinking I will like the steady running better than the intervals. It seemed to be hard to restart after taking walk breaks. Plus, I did my intervals with no music so I could time without getting distracted, and now that I am going for long stretches, am going to add some musical distraction ;)


Curious? Surprised? Have some good tips? Please leave a comment for us here. We especially would love to hear about your successes, or to hear your words of encouragement. Knowing you're out there will help us to keep at it!