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.

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 few good weeks and a fall half marathon!

After a few crappy months running, I have had a couple of good runs over the past few weeks, and have committed to two races. Let me start by saying that last week, I ran, if you can call it that, on Sunday. I had ridden my bike a bit over 13 miles on Saturday in 88+ degree heat with something approaching 95% humidity. Since I don’t live in Florida, I normally don’t have to live, yet alone run in this sort of heat index. I was pretty much spent after the Saturday ride, but then proceeded to mow the lawn doing another 2 hours of labor in it. I just couldn’t get enough liquid in me to cool off that evening.

Back to Sunday – I  knew that I needed to get in a good run, so I had good intentions to head out early but was still feeling the ride and outdoor work from the previous day. It was close to 10 AM when I finally got my butt out the door – way too late. I started with a 10:25 mile, and it slowed down from there. The fourth mile was just walking – and a slow one at that. After three miles, I was done – but a mile from home. Note to self – never ever go this late when the heat and humidity is so high.

Tuesday, I took off on my normal 3.7 mile loop. This loop circles the outer streets of an adjoining neighborhood, then into and around the park next to our neighborhoods. There is a path from the streets near my house into the park, then a great loop around the park – about 1.5 miles in circumference. I left 3+ hours earlier, and it was 30+ degrees cooler, sitting right at 52 degrees when I stepped out and practically no humidity. After feeling like a complete failure on Sunday, I regained my confidence with a solid run. It wasn’t fast – just under 11 minute miles, but the slow speed was intentional and I was religious with my 3/1 run/walk ratio. I pushed up the hills but walked when my timer buzzed.

Thursday, I decided to get in some laps on the high school track – going for consistency in effort and a progressive run. The first three miles felt great – it’s 3/4 of a mile to the track, so the first 10:22 mile was rockin’ for me. I followed with a 10:07, then a 9:43 mile which is very fast for me, and a part of that was on the track and rest in the street as I headed to the park and home. My last mile was a  bit over 11 minutes which was fine based on me pushing hard in the 3rd mile.

With these runs under my belt, I have committed to two runs in the future. On Saturday, I’m  heading to a run in nearby Manchester, CT. This is a charity run that was inspired for me my a Groupon (or similar) half priced deal. I’m not ready for it, but need to at least get in some race and pick up a new tee for motivation.

The final run that I’ve committed to is the Hartford Half Marathon in October. While I’ve run this before, it was neither a good run nor was I well prepared. This year, I’m determined to change both. The run is through West Hartford – very different from the race three years ago. Last time, I was trying to run the whole thing and this year, I’m determined to run it using the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run method that I’ve been practicing. My knees and my wife thank me. I’m neither spent, nor sore for a long time after a long run.

So I’m committed – now to figure out which plan I will follow. See you at the Hartford finish line in October!

Bike to Work Day

Yesterday, I rode the 22 miles home from work on back roads with a co-worker. George and I scheduled this more than a month ago based on the fact that this was the annual Bike to Work Day. While I was looking forward to the ride, I was a bit nervous considering I have done almost no cycling in 2013. I have been running, both on the treadmill and on roads and trails around home, so knew that my overall leg fitness wasn’t going to be a problem. What was in question, was if the hills I drove were really as steep as they were in my head when it came to reality. And then that pesky task of unclipping at a busy intersection.

One of the hills goes from the US Headquarters for Lego, past a few prisons, both in Enfield, CT, and down a long hill as you pass into Massachusetts. Of course, I would be riding UP that same long hill. I almost never drive home that way, although I do take those roads into my office occasionally. The hill turned out to be only a slight hill, with a very mild, consistent climb component for all of five minutes.

My bike is a Trek 7500 hybrid, with a fairly heavy frame, a bit over ten years old. I’ve kept it is good mechanical shape considering it was basically unridden for almost seven years after it was purchased. A few years back and after relocating to Connecticut, I found a deal for Tolland Bicycle – half-price, pre-season tune up. Since my daughter was taking violin lessons at UConn once per week, I drove by the front door of that shop every week. I had started with cycling (spin) classes at my local YMCA, so had the notion to start to actually ride my bike that had been sitting idle for the past 7 years. I had the tune up, purchased spin / cycling shoes, and swapped out my regular pedals for clips. Eventually, I had what I thought was enough experience to try the clips outside of the stationary bike at the Y and rode a time or two outside. My first experience was terrifying to say the least.

I eventually found out about the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, a mature rail trail less than 15 miles west of me, just past Bradley International Airport. Several co-workers told me that it was a fantastic bike trail, fairly flat, and a great way to cover 15 – 30 miles with minimal traffic on most weekends. I started riding there and on the first weekend of riding, found out that I was a complete, inexperienced klutz when it came to clipping and, more importantly, unclipping. I think my clips weren’t quite adjusted correctly, taking extra effort and twisting to quickly unclip. Several bloody knees and bloody wrists later, I finally got the hang of it; maybe the clips became worn-in. Yesterday, I unclipped at intersections with the unemotional ease of an experienced rider. It still takes me a few rotations of the pedals to get fully clipped in, but it no longer worries me that I’ll just fall over at an intersection due to my inability to unclip quickly and before I come to a complete stop.

Overall, the ride home yesterday was a complete success. While I’m not sure I could ride both in and home on the same day, the single direction travel was well worth the effort and will absolutely be repeated!

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.