One mile at a time

At physical therapy yesterday afternoon, my PT (Caroline) approved me to run a single mile and see how the hamstring did. Stretch before, run, stretch afterwards, then ice it down. And that brings me to today – sitting here with my leg chilling with the ice. The mile went well, although it was very stiff almost as soon as I stopped running.

Today’s lesson:

  • listen to your PT
  • don’t push it
  • stretch, stretch, and stretch again
  • ice is your friend

PT and the Hammy

PT and the Hammy sounds like the title to a cute children’s book – but not to a runner.

I have been sidelined for 3+ weeks now after pulling my left hamstring during a hot, 5-mile run. Of course I kept running to the end since it wasn’t a tear or anything at that point other than an irritation or sore leg. It was later that night that I knew something wasn’t quite right.

That night, the pain was running up to my butt, down to my calf. So, it was ice several times and a couple of ibuprofen before bed to make things better. It made for one very restless night. In the morning, I almost dropped to the floor when I got out of bed for the first time, so more ice, stretching, and ice again. Finally on Wednesday after hobbling around Boston, I knew I had to call a doc. Since moving to Connecticut, I haven’t had a sports med doc like I did in Richmond, so had to peruse the available docs on my current insurance.

After finally locating one that was taking new patients, the first appointment was ten days away. So, continued stretching, a bit of running, and lots of ice were in my required self-diagnosis. One doc appointment later, I had a script for physical therapy. Another week plus later, I was finally able to get to see my PT for an initial consult. She did a few measurements of my restricted motion due to the tight hamstring, figured out that one of my legs is 1/4 – 1/2 inch shorter than the other, and that I seemed to be walking with a bit of pronation. We set up appointments twice each week for the next month. The work would begin two days later.

We’re currently doing stretching, heat, electro-stimulus, with external cortisone added this past week. I’m stretching twice each day, some days fully, some days less, and not running. I can see my fitness flying out the window and my 1/2 marathon on October 12th becoming a vision of a DNF. I only was able to see my PT once this week due to work travel, but will be there twice this week and will be doing my best to stretch twice a day between now and then. Hopefully, I can start some running beyond the slow walking I’m doing today. If I take it easy, stretch often, and listen to my PT, maybe I’ll be able to regain enough stamina and fitness to at least attempt the Hartford Half Marathon in just under ten weeks.

A Little (running) Gear Tells a Story

This morning, I ran in my first race of the year. This race was actually advertised via the discount site Living Social. It was a 5K, benefiting United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Hartford, and was the 3rd running of this event in Manchester, Connecticut. I signed up early, through the Living Social link, and had no idea how this run would go for me. While I have not been running much over the past two weeks, I had built a pretty decent base. I have had a difficult time getting in the solid runs I need with my schedule, but continue to pound away using the 3/1 run/walk ratio.

Sunday took me to New Haven to catch the Acela train to Washington, DC where I spent four long days attending a conference and just a single morning running on the treadmill. The gym at the hotel was nice, with a few empty treadmills when I started but all full when I finished. I cranked through four miles and felt great all day.

This morning, I walked to the start line early, and was chatting with an older gentleman who was wearing a hat with sunglasses up on the brim. We were discussing where we lived, when we moved to the area, and where we moved from. Both of us had moved from Virginia, and then he removed his glasses from the hat’s brim to show that it was from the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K – an historic Richmond race that I’ve run many times. We had a good chat about Richmond and went on our way. After the race, I spoke briefly with his wife that worked just up the street from my old position. All, as you know, because I saw his hat from a common 10K.

After returning from the race and getting cleaned up, it was time to head to Lowe’s. Not thinking anything of it, I put on a Carytown 10K shirt. Carytown is an artsy part of Richmond, home to an annual watermelon festival and many cool restaurants and coffee shops. This particular shirt has the Richmond Road Runners’ logo on the right sleeve. The fact that I was in the left hand self-checkout meant that the logo on my right sleeve was visible to the self-checkout on the right. There was a couple on the right and, before I left, they looked at my shirt and asked if I was from Richmond. After a couple of back and forth conversations, we realized that we both lived in the Far West End of Henrico County, both moved during 2008, and both moved from Richmond to South Windsor the same year. It was a very odd set of coincidences that we left, then ended up at the same place at the same time. Furthermore, the fact that we both ended up in Lowe’s at the same time and the fact that I happened to wear this specific shirt today was even more of an odd coincidence.

So wear your running gear with pride. You’ll never know who will recognize an event, or location and will reach out to say hello based on what you’re wearing!

A Spring in My Step

Connecticut Tulips

Tulips from just outside our front door.

There’s something special about spring in New England. After any particularly harsh winter, the ground is dry, hard, and still cold, well into March. Around the first of April, the first sign of spring arrives. Robins appear, brown grass starts to turn green, and the buds start to show if you look close to the trees.

I’m the first to admit that I am not a cold weather runner. I hate getting out of bed to strap on a headlamp, gloves, tights, and a jacket to run a few miles, especially when my gym is less than 4 miles away. But when spring starts to pop, it’s time to get outdoors! One challenge remains with the light and, on several occasions, the cold early morning temps. The Wednesday after the Boston Marathon bombing, it would have taken an act of God to keep me inside. I ran that day four miles. One mile for each Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and Lu Lingzi, then another mile for everyone else injured. Little did I know at the time, that there would be another victim, Sean Collier of the MIT Police Department. I left my music at home, really thinking about the victims and how they were there to support their friends and family. While several runners were severely injured, the supporting family members were hit hardest. And as Forrest Gump says, and that’s all I have to say about that.

Yesterday, I knew that I needed a long run. The weather was in the upper 50s when I left, and I didn’t really know how far I was going to run. Leaving without a plan is not really in my nature, but wanted to run as long as I felt good. After starting on my street, I considered heading into the park, but didn’t really want to run with so many people. Instead, I took the big loop around the adjoining neighborhood, then turned right and headed down a long straight away for a couple of miles. At a stop sign, just after crossing out of my town, I turned right. This loop is one I’ve taken in the past, but not a favorite at this point because I can see the hills ahead of me and know that the hills will kick my butt.

The fourth mile is my current least favorite. While it seems to be a daunting hill, there is really only 130 feet of elevation but it nets a 25% grade over the distance. While I was running using a 3/1 run/walk ratio, my time pretty much goes in the crapper for this section. I did run up a good portion of the hills, slowly, but also walked a bit further than planned so I could finish the run. At this point, I was in my middle mile, so know there’s quite a distance ahead of me. I have a longer loop that I took during my half marathon training that ends up at the same point, but the road to get to this elevation was a long, less dramatic hill.

All in all, I was very pleased with my six miles. The 5th mile was actually my fastest and still included a long hill, and my 6th mile was my second fastest. I’m not quite sure what that tells me except that it takes me a while to get going, and my plan for starting slow actually works! I did cut my mileage back in April but will crank it up in May. I plan on many more outdoor runs and far less treadmill time as the morning light starts earlier every day! My workday starts earlier now, so if I can get out the door at 5, I’ll get in my run and still make the daily 8:45 meetings.

Joy, then horror in Boston

Boston Marathon Finish LineAnger is an understatement. I cannot put into words how bitter I am right now. The events that unfolded in Boston yesterday afternoon left me somewhat in shock and disbelief. How one human can conceive of, then execute setting off bombs in a place as sacred to runners as the finish line of the Boston Marathon? The fact that runners, future runners, and spectators had mostly lower torso (leg) wounds makes it worse. You cannot run if you cannot walk.

I knew many running yesterday. All that I know were safe, either by finishing before 4:10 or by being diverted just shy of the finish line. A classmate of my daughter has an uncle that is currently in critical condition and being treated for his injuries. While I don’t know the names or conditions of anyone else, I know that the running community will pull together and help those injured or the families of those killed. Runners always help and always stick together. We are a family in that way, and a very determined one at that.

Running is a very personal sport. It’s your legs, your body, your will to start, your will to finish. Yesterday’s events made this much more public. It will certainly make many who may have a marathon in their future question if they should continue. So if this event changes your mind, reach out to your extended running family. We’ll get over this and move on, stronger for the challenge that lies before us.

Contemplating the Marathon

I have been thinking about running a marathon for a few years. With me hitting my 50’s a few years ago, the goal either needs to be to finish one soon or it’ll never happen. As my knees age, they are feeling the distance I am covering with each run, with each week, with each month more every time. The Jeff Galloway method has been a godsend. It has allowed further distances with less pain and much shorter recovery times. While the longest road distance I’ve covered so far with the Galloway method is just about a 10K. Living in New England and being a cold weather running wimp, I did it with little road training but many treadmill runs.

Logically, the only marathon that I would run would be my hometown one in Hartford, Connecticut. The marathon is fairly flat, runs partially through my town, and is early enough in October to bring typically cool weather without it being cold. October 12th is just 183 days from today. Six full months. Six short months. It’s all about perspective.

There are a few big questions about running a fall marathon that I need to consider:

  • Can I commit to getting to bed early every Friday for early Saturday long runs?
  • Do I train with a team or go this solo?
  • How serious can I get with this whole cross training thing?
  • Can I actually cross train and not feel guilty about not running?
  • How will I handle long runs in the heat of the summer?
  • Can I go from where I am in my training today to full marathon distance in 6 months?

Once I can answer these questions, I’ll have my goal set. For now, it’s time to investigate training plans and just get out there.

Outside, finally!

I have run outside just two times since Thanksgiving. We had spectacular weather three weeks ago where I ran a self-directed (almost) 10K. Today, the weather was about 50 degrees and sunny and since the markets are closed on Good Friday, my office was closed. After futzing around for a few hours, and after two cups of coffee, I got dressed and headed outside to run a bit over 4 1/2 miles.

The pace was relaxed, averaging close to 11 minute miles with a 3/1 run/walk ratio. I ran through my neighborhood, the loop around the adjoining neighborhood and a loop both around and through our local park. This was the first time I had been through our park in months – and many people and a bunch of runners joined me. The dogs were enjoying the weather in the bark park, and probably 10 others were running the loop on the exterior of the park. I’m pretty sure that everyone but me was having fun (I was – just in a different way)!

At one particular part of this loop, the path goes from the lowest elevation to the highest of the entire run in about a quarter mile. This has always been the most difficult part of the loop, sometimes making me run the opposite direction which gives me a gentle rise in elevation rather than the in your face one that my normal direction does. This nemesis will be overcome during the next few months and I’ll someday laugh at my current inability to take the hill on with a smile and the confidence knowing I can make it without walking. There was a hill similar to this in Richmond that was at the end of whatever run we took from the grocery store lot. This hill went from the light at the bottom of the hill to the parking lot entrance where we started and ended our runs. It took me a few months of running it several times per week until I succeeded once, then each and every time afterwards. I just need to think of this hill as my very own Richmond Hill and know that I will overcome and then laugh at the difficulty it now brings!

Old Goal, New Focus

My Injinji toe socks. While a pain in the butt to put on, once on correctly, they do an amazing job of protecting my overly sensitive feet.

My Injinji toe socks. While a pain in the butt to put on, once on correctly, they do an amazing job of protecting my overly sensitive feet.

One of the things that has been on my bucket list since I started running was finishing a marathon. I have toyed with this in the past, especially before running the past two half marathons. In the midst of actually running, I was positive I would never want to run further. Today, I am pretty sure that I have a full marathon in my future.

I have been running 3 miles at a minimum but mostly either 4 or 5 miles with each trip to the gym. It has all been treadmill mileage but 14 – 18 miles in a week have been adding up. If the week goes well, I run 5 miles on Sunday, 4 on Monday, 4 on Wednesday, and 4 – 5 on Fridays. So with the higher Friday run, that is 18 miles in all. This is what I did this week, except for the fact that I ran 5 on Friday morning and then again 5 today.

I’m still using the Galloway method, and the GymBoss as a timer to get my run/walk ratios down to a science. Mostly, I have been using a 3 to 1 ratio of running for three minutes, walking for one minute. My run intervals have been pushed faster after warm up, still retaining sub ten minute miles back to back. When I move my runs outside, it will be interesting to see what my speed is – but is sure to be slower than inside but less painful than it has ever been thanks to the walk breaks that have become an integral part to my current success.

Working on the Weight

This looks like every road in our neighborhood and on the drive to work. While pretty, it is a fast reminder that winter is still going strong and spring is at least a month or more away.

This looks like every road in our neighborhood and on the drive to work. While pretty, it is a fast reminder that winter is still going strong and spring is at least a month or more away.

The contest at work to lose five pounds in six weeks has just two weeks to go. I weighed in this week after a hard 4 1/2 mile treadmill run using my GymBoss and a 3/1 ratio. I knew that I had lost water weight, but generally have been feeling better since I’m working much harder on the treadmill. I was down a total of eight pounds since the contest began – success in any book. I attribute the loss to being somewhat more aware of what I am eating and significantly more aware of how hard I am working in the gym.

I’ve had my Nike+ Fuelband for over two months now and have made my daily goal with only a few exceptions. The funny thing is that if I work from home, I miss my goal each day. If I’m at work, I have to haul my butt down the 1/4 mile tunnel to the main building multiple times. I use that walk as an opportunity to get in a spurt of exercise – walking with conviction and not taking a leisurely stroll like most people do. One half mile later, I’m back from the main building (aka The Big House) with a bit more oxygen hitting my brain and a few more fuel added to my fuelband.

So success to date for the contest, and a few weeks more to hit it out of the park with a very successful completion. Time to run through the finish line and not come to a screeching halt at the end.

A Contest at Work

Last Friday, we got a bit of snow. The temperature was so cold that the snow crystals looked different. The temps were in the single digits and the snow was very, very light - so much that you could have used a snow blower to clear a driveway.

Last Friday, we got a bit of snow. The temperature was so cold that the snow crystals looked different. The temps were in the single digits and the snow was very, very light – so much that you could have used a snow blower to clear a driveway.

We are having a bit of a contest at work that should be, individually, easy to win. The contest is to lose just five pounds in six weeks. During this time, there are several holidays, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and six weekends. Being the motivator I am, I threw out another challenge to my work teammates to join together and provide camaraderie to help everyone make the goal. Of course, I am the team captain for the team. The company program will have a prize drawing for everyone losing the weight in 6 weeks – something like an iPod.

I work with a team of computer architects – very smart and very competitive. We have three such teams within my company, but only one other team is co-located with ours in a separate building. We work closely with that team but they have a different manager and are also highly competitive. So what better way to build team cooperation than to create a contest between their team and ours. They have a total of 12 individuals that make up their team and we have 11 that make up ours. While the real contest at work is for individuals to lose weight, we decided to make it, how can I say, interesting. Nothing like a little inter-team competition, right?

The winning team (that is to say the team that the most individuals meet the goal of the 5 pound loss in 6 weeks) will be served a healthy breakfast by the members of the losing team (again, the team that did NOT lose the weight). While there are more detailed rules, this pretty much covers the bases. There is an additional drawing that will be held at work three months after the initial 6 weeks for anyone who has kept the 5 pounds off (another iPod). So we are upping the ante one more time and having the prize of the healthy breakfast delivery happen again for the team that keeps the weight off for that period as well.

All in all, a healthy way to foster both team building and team competition at work.