Running – seriously this time

For years, a full marathon continues to sit at the top of my bucket list. I get the feeling that this will be much more achievable next year if I get a half in this year and substantially build my base. It is my agenda to be moved by mid spring to a home much closer to one of the best trails in the state. Living less than a half mile from it will remove excuses to get out there both on my feet when running and on my bike for excellent cross training opportunities. While I have used this trail a dozen or more times for good bike rides, it is a 25-30 minute drive from my apartment so not ultimately convenient. Living 1/2 mile from it takes that excuse off the table. One of the issues I have with my current apartment is that to run, I need to run through an area that is not the safest area. To address that, I could get in my car and drive but I’ve found that to be the reason I’m not running.

As 2016 starts, I find myself joining the hoards of people headed back to the gym after a long absence. The thing is, I haven’t been absent that much. I have pretty much skipped the mid-week workouts and only have been hitting the gym on one of the two weekend days. My intent this year is to get back to running consistently. I have been doing a Runner’s World 45 minute treadmill workout for most of my runs. It allows me to run without killing my knees and, generally, feel good when I’m done. The one thing about that workout is that it starts with 5 full minutes of running – and I find that difficult to do when not properly warmed up. But, I work through that and move through it. There is a 4-minute run, followed by a minute of walking, then a 5-minute run. Those about kill me, but it’s time to set hitting them as a goal over the next month or two.

One concern I have regarding running both a half and a full marathon is that I plan on doing the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method. Finding a group for long runs will require that I find another group using similar methods. But whe running o. My own, using my gymboss timer is challenging at times because I cannot hear it or feel the vibration at times, and it is set to a solid number of minutes in and with the intervals. That said, in the gym, the timer works very well. I have no idea how the Galloway method works with group long runs. I guess I’ll figure that out!

Last one in the gym is a rotten egg!

As 2014 came to a close, I was the last one in the gym at my apartment complex. It was 9:15 or so and I did a 45+ minute run/walk workout from Runner’s World (and Jeff Galloway). It’s a workout I do often, although have problems running the full 4 and 5 minute segments in the later part of the workout. But last night, I successfully did both of them at 6.1 MPH. My slow run is 5.6 (2 minutes) followed by an easy run at 5.8 (3 minutes). A minute of walking, then 2 minutes running, walk for 1, etc. Eventually, it gets up to multiple 3 minute runs followed by a minute walk, then the 4 minute run, 1 minute walk, and 5 minute run. It ends with 2 minute and then 1 minute runs, each followed by a minute of walking. All in all, it’s 45 minutes if you stick to the plan. Yesterday, I kept going to take it above 50 minutes with the last few minutes of running at a much faster pace. Then, a brief cooldown and a cold walk back to my apartment. All in all, it was a great way to end 2014 on a high note!

Making the switch to fitbit!

I have used my Nike FuelBands for about 18 months now. I say Fuelbands because during those 18 months, Nike has replaced the band twice. I purchased my fitbit flex at Costco for $95, so the cost was significantly less than the original FuelBand ($149).

One of the reasons to switch to a Fitbit is the number of integration points with other apps. For example, the MyFitnessPal integrates beautifully with my stats from fitbit. The new fitbit app for my iPhone also works with the GPS integrated into the iPhone to provide closer approximation to where you walked when outside. I have yet to try this since it is a recent update, but will try it over the upcoming 3-day weekend.

Another reason to switch is that it was reported this spring that Nike will exit the wearable tech business. As a lifelong technologist, there is just no reason to stay tied to a company where there will be no further development on the platform you use. The closed technology environment and lack of integration with other platforms always bothered me and I failed to listen to my own gut for staying away. I’m just sorry I talked my youngest into the same platform, although she is more aware of her activity and can use that in time display mode to get away with wearing it at work (watches only are allowed, no other jewelry).

Among my friends, many more have fitbits than Fuelbands, so it’s way easier to challenge people I know. Among my co-workers, almost none had even heard of a Fuelband – and many know about fitbit. And finally, among people living in my part of Connecticut, it’s a no-brainer – fitbit is king (at least between Nike and fitbit).

So I’ve made my switch and will track metrics for a while. So far, I don’t really understand the lights but do use my iPhone to turn on and off sleep mode (for tracking sleep) and for managing the silent alarms that buzz the fitbit on my wrist so I can get up without waking up anyone else.

For a review and images of the Fitbit Flex, click here!

5K at work

This week, I ran the fourth 5K at work. Our company is a very strong proponent of a healthy lifestyle, not surprisingly since my company is a major insurance company. The first two years, we ran the 5K out of our Connecticut office. Then, it was on a Saturday and had an entry fee to support both tee shirts and a United Way donation. After two years of donating practically no money to the United Way after tee shirt purchases and paying multiple police officers to manage traffic and security, it was determined that this model was not sustainable.

In the second iteration of the 5K, the company determined that a healthy lifestyle was the real goal. So the race would be focused on health, no tee shirts, and held during the work week. Both the CT and MA campuses would have their own events, and would be based on timing of campus construction. The first 5K for our Massachusetts office was held during the fall (so was the Connecticut office’s race), but was moved to the spring this year due to construction scheduled for the fall. The advantage of having a huge campus is that we can run the entire race within the fence that surrounds our buildings with only one spot that is repeated to get the full 5K.

We had beautiful weather and a well organized event – plus over 300 participants in the event this week! This shows the real effort that people are making to live a healthier lifestyle, and most of the participants ran (or were at least listed as a runner, not a walker). My time wasn’t fast (31:11) but kept to just about a 10 minute mile pace. Again, not fast, but respectable considering how little I’ve actually run outside this year. For the first race of the year, I’ll take it.


Plodding along, ready for Spring

So here it is, Fat Tuesday. It sounds so appropriate because it’s so easy to get down on myself for the lower level of activity this winter. But truth be told, I am only a few pounds from my lowest weight in years. I’ve been somewhat stationary for the last couple of weeks due to my annual sinus infection, but trying to work through it. For now, I am just hoping that I can make it through each morning’s workouts!

Sixty in December

On the first day of winter, the temperature in Connecticut reached a remarkable 60 degrees. This is, to say the least, quite uncommon. Last Monday, for example, it had a low of 6 with a high somewhere in the mid-teens. This is quite a change, although certain to not last more than a day or two. I’m heading for an outside run and will return after that run.

A couple of weeks ago, I determined that my existing treadmill-only shoes were long overdue to be replaced. Using Dailymile, I track the mileage and saw the mileage over 450 miles on those shoes. Since 350-500 miles is the recommended replacement distance, I knew it was time. So off to Fleet Feet in West Hartford for another pair of Brooks. While there, I tried on a few other brands but went back to the comfort of the Ghost series of shoes used many times in the past. The Ghost shoes are neutral, cushioned shoes and feel great on my feet. My outdoor shoes are Ghost5 so moving to a Ghost6 for the treadmill worked.

While at Fleet Feet, I also spotted a new flavor Gu – salted caramel (with caffeine). I can only hope that it’s as delicious as other salted caramel items I’ve tasted in the past – with the Dunkin’ Donuts Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate coming quickly to mind. Yum. Filled with both calories and flavor, it’s great during a long early morning drive when coffee just won’t do.

So I went running outside Sunday for the first time in a long while. While the temps were high, the snow was not all melted so the trails through the park were sloppy and wet. I didn’t mind the cold, but after three miles of running through slop, it was enough and I was done. Too much time on the treadmill has made me soft, I suppose. SInce I was on vacation, I opted to run inside on Monday, but only got in two miles before needing to leave and head to a doctor’s appointment with my daughter. So it was a slow, low mileage week but I’m on vacation for the next 11 days or so, so expect to get back into my routine on Thursday (tomorrow is Christmas Day), and for all of next week. I just don’t need to pull myself out of bed at 4:45 in the morning to do it.

A week of vacation

It’s been a while since I last posted but only a week since any real activity. I was actually very consistent with running and lifting over the past month or two, but took the past week off since I was on vacation until this morning. As I write this, I am awaiting a call telling me that my wife is finished with her colonoscopy. Since she did her prep yesterday and was in no condition to join me, I started the day at our YMCA on the treadmill. December has started and there will be enough interruptions due to the holidays that I needed to get in a run first thing. I only ran a 5K, but decided that it was enough to get my blood flowing and brain working as I head back to work. I also determined that I really need to replace my treadmill shoes before covering too many more miles. They have 450+ miles on them, but that is all inside on the treadmill. Needless to say, it will be cheaper to replace them than to pay for a few doctors visits when I screw up my legs continuing to run on them.

Last Friday, I drove 500+ miles to Virginia to spend time with the guys on an annual fishing trip in Deltaville. I have missed this for the past few years, but decided that I had both the time and need to see the boys. On Saturday, we played two sets of tennis outside (and it was cold). I played in my “normal” walking shoes – old and cheap. The tennis was fun but my calfs were both screaming at me for days after the activity. I attribute the pain to lack of use in a back and forth motion, since running doesn’t have the same sort of lateral movement associated with tennis. It had been over five years since I even held a racket, so was pleased with a few of my shots and not overly disappointed in my overall playing. I took my time coming back to Connecticut, visiting with a few friends on my way home. It was relaxing to spend time away from work and not worry about working out, eating right, but enough is enough. One good thing is that when I stepped on the scale this morning, I was right where I was when my slack off week started (give or take a pound).

On Thanksgiving, my daughter and I headed to our local turkey trot a just under 5-mile race named the Manchester Road Race. She has been having hip pain for a few years now since her body is totally out of alignment. She was a sport, trying to run a few times but mostly giving up to walking the majority of the route. Since it was purely father/daughter time, I stayed with her the entire time. We nearly froze at the start since it was in the upper 20s with a wicked wind blowing through the streets. Since we both planned on running, we were both wearing at least one layer too few on our tops and both fingers and toes were feeling the cold enough to ache. We were very thankful to have the starting gun go off at 11, although the feet were so cold it was hard to feel them as we started. One really cool thing about this race is the number of celebrity runners that it attracts. Amby Burfoot (former Boston Marathon winner and 51 times finisher of this race) and Desiree Davila from the women’s side both ran in the 77th running of this Thanksgiving day tradition. This year there were 15,000 participants. It’s amazing that this small town race gets such a huge draw of big names each year – especially with it being held on Thanksgiving day!

Working through the runs

After starting another round of physical therapy, I seem to be making progress with my hamstring injury. Yesterday, for example, I ran 4 miles outside. I ran 4 on the treadmill on Monday, 5 on Wednesday, and a bit over 3 on Friday morning. Yesterday was the first outside run in a few weeks while I allow time for healing. All in all, it was the highest mileage week for me in months. The hamstring still bothers me when I sit. Apparently when you sit, the top of the hammy is irritated and that seems to be the source of the pain. This morning, I’m sitting on the MBTA commuter rail car after an hour drive (in my car) from home to Union Station in Worcester MA. It started bothering me about 20 minutes into my drive and now is just irritating enough to make sitting in almost any position uncomfortable. I’m perfectly happy to not have a seatmate so I can fuss without bothering some poor soul. My PT has been moved to my office, consisting of twice weekly, 30 minute sessions involving deep tissue massage and ultrasound treatments. They seem to help, right up to the point where I’m sitting still for over 15 – 20 minutes.

Since this injury, unlike many running ones, impacts me more when I’m not running than when I am. So to allow myself heal properly I have basically cancelled plans for any fall races, but am determined to keep building my base mileage and stay as injury free as I can. This mostly means 3 – 4 runs each week and mostly on a forgiving treadmill at the Y. Now that the weather is becoming cooler, I am anxious to get back on the bike as well. The upcoming weekend might just be the right time for that activity. I just purchased a new headlamp and over the summer, acquired arm warmers and warmer gloves. Additionally, I should be receiving two new short sleeved bike shirts emblazoned with my company’s logo. Some big European manufacturer was engaged to produce these for the biking community at work. We received a 50% discount (still a steep price) so I ordered a couple of them. Since Europe basically takes the month of August off, we’re expecting them to actually ship soon. I’ll be styling when I ride during the ever shortening evenings after work. If I’m cold, I will add the arm warmers.

So it’s going slow but sure – ready for a healthy spring with a great (treadmill) base!

No fall repeats

After weeks of pain when I’m not running in my upper left hamstring, I finally decided to not run the Hartford Half Marathon this fall. I am woefully unprepared due to this nagging injury and know that running it without being prepared would just be dumb. Even when I run on the forgiving treadmill, I am sore later that day, especially when I’m just sitting still. Yesterday, I took my wife on a long drive to the wine country in the northwestern part of Connecticut. It wasn’t 10 minutes of sitting in the car until I was in incredible pain. I put up with it, stopping to stretch every 30 minutes or so, but was pretty much in agony much of the time. There’s just no reason to push it anymore until this heals.

So the decision is final. I submitted an email today to receive a partial refund of $50 (total less $15 processing fee), so will put that away for next year when I’m sure to be healthier than I am this year. I will stretch and I will ice my leg all year to stay healthy. For now, however, I am going to rest the leg and let it heal.

Anyone up for a bike ride?

Five miles before work

This morning, I ran 5 1/4 miles. Since pulling my hamstring almost two months ago, I have not run further than 3 1/2 miles outside until today. I did run 6 miles on the treadmill once but think that this was when I knew it was injured and needed to stay off and head to the docs. Today, I actually felt pretty good and am not overly sore now (late afternoon). It was an intentionally slow run at a sluggish 11:17 pace. Afterwards, I stretched a bit before sitting on ice until my leg was numb. I live such an exciting life.

Today, while most of the distance was covered on the track at our local high school, I ran there and then back through the park. I also used my GymBoss timer with a 3/1 ratio of run/walk, although headed down to almost 2/1 after pushing faster on a few laps of the track. The recovery was needed since my coughing got the best of me (the sinus thing is better but still hanging on). I also ran outside for the first time in months with music in my ears. Apparently the music was motivation enough to push me through. I listened to about half of my newly downloaded 1/2 marathon RockMyRun playlist. While I don’t like all of the music, it’s random enough and well mixed enough that I just put it on and hit play without having to ever hit the next track button.

I finally replaced my headphones with a pair of blue Yurbuds that neither fall out nor cut out when the connector is touched. I’m hoping that these will last longer than the Seinnheiser MX-85s did but doubt it. In any case, they fit better and work well for running since they don’t hurt my ears after wearing them for long periods of time.

So tonight I will stretch and do my hamstring exercises before icing it again. Then on Friday, I’ll hit the trails again for another, shorter run before my last day of work before a week of long overdue vacation!

I’m still not sure of my fall half marathon plans – it sure seems like I have a long way to go, a bunch of weight to lose, and a whole lot of catching up to do.