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!

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.

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 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!

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.