Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Dark Place

To say that it was chilly this morning would be an understatement. When we started out, it was about 8 degrees with a light wind - invigorating. We were setting out on a 12 mile run at a 10 minute pace. I had been looking forward to this run all week. This is the point in our training that we will be in double digit long runs until the end of April.

The group started out a bit faster than I really wanted to go. I wanted to take it easy today; but I kept up.  Then it happened, at mile 6 we stopped at a water stop situated at the pedestrian entrance to the Hot Metal Bridge on the South Side. It was probably only a minute or so that we stopped; it felt like an eternity. The wind was coming off of the Monongahela River and it was cold. My hip muscles started to get tight. After we got started again, my legs and hips felt like garbage.

Around mile 7, I started to lose steam and drop back. We were running on a paved trail along the river, and I couldn't keep up. I think it was a mixture of muscle fatigue and the music I was listening to - they were mellow tunes - not sure how they ended up on my run playlist. This went on for about two miles. I was in a very dark place. It was mentally tough watching the group fade off into the distance. At that point, I couldn't wait for the run to be over. I knew something needed to be done to salvage what, up to that point, had be a good run.

I went back to basics pulling out my ear buds and just listening to my body.  Things started to click. My stride felt descent even with the tight hips; I was able to push on. By mile 9, I had caught back up to the group. The final 3 miles felt as good as the first 6. More importantly, I fought through a rough patch and finished strong, which I know will serve me well on May 5th.

Hard-fought 12.1 Miles

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Runner-Land

A comment a writing friend of mine posted on FaceBook prompted me to write this post. He stated that three of his friends had posted something about running today. He proceeded to say that people who run in the cold and snow are “Cray, Cray.” (Cray , Cray = Crazy, for those of you, like me, who did not what this meant.) I had a good chuckle when I read it, and I proceeded to respond by telling him Runner’s thought people who would waste a perfectly beautiful day like today (25 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing) by sitting inside were crazy. (I am not hip and therefore, am not able to use words like Cray, Cray.) Ron’s a good guy and we share a lot of banter on the old FB. 

I get that non-runners don’t understand that why we subject ourselves to the coldest of temperatures during our winter training. There is something so exhilarating about running in the cold. Maybe it’s because it defies conventional wisdom to run in these conditions. I can’t say for sure; but, as soon as I hear the weather is going to be cold AND the forecast is calling for snow, I want to strap on my running shoes and get out there. In reality, once you are out there and moving, it really isn’t that bad. I was actually too hot today with three layers on top; I really only needed two. North Park is always hard to gauge. You never know what the wind off of the lake is going to be like.  When the wind kicks-up, it gets downright frigid. 

I do have to say that today really was a beautiful day. The air was crisp with a light snow flurry. I had some tunes on, and I was on my way. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

North Park
 Just look at the happy face on that handsome gent. I can't wait until it gets a little colder. Frosty-beard running is the best. If you don't know I am talking about, pray for some colder temps.

Happy Runner

Friday, September 14, 2012

Trail Running - A Preview

Prior to today, I have done all of 1.5 miles worth of trail running, and that was several months ago. Basically, I have zero experience. However, after after today I finally understand what all the hubbub is about.

My employer participates in the United Way Days of Caring. We are offered the option to sign-up with different groups that need help with manual labor or working with senior citizens and people with special needs. I always choose the manual labor - I'm a glutton for punishment. This year I signed-up to work with the Pennsylvania Trail Advocacy Group (PTAG) fixing up some trails at North Park near Pittsburgh. We dug several drainage ditches and performed other trail maintenance activities. It was hard work. So hard, in fact, I am considering this my cross-training for the day. (I sit at a desk all day. I'm not used to that kind of work.)

Walking along the trails to and from our work-sites helped me to better understand why some people love trail running so much. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, peaceful and the trails were delightfully challenging, and that was just walking in work boots carrying implements of trail maintenance. I cannot wait to strap on my running shoes to the hit trails running.

The nice thing about the trails at North Park - they are marked, and maps are available. The last thing that I want is to get lost in the woods. It's bad enough getting lost running in the City. I mean, not that that has ever happened to me or anything like that...

Stay-tuned and I will let you know how my adventures with trail running turn out. Happy Running!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Injury Time-Out

Down but not out. I went to the doctor yesterday (Saturday) to have an X-ray done on the outside of my left foot. I have been having a pain just past the pointy bone (at least that's what I call it). It has been bothering me for over a month without much change in the pain level. The X-Ray came back negative. At least they couldn't see anything that was obviously wrong with it. They did send the films out to a radiologist for a double-check.

The diagnosis is a deep tissue bruise. The doctor told me to rest it and for two days and apply ice. She also said that if I didn't hear from her by Sunday night, I could resume exercise on Monday. Well it's Sunday night, and no news is good news. I will be out bright and early tomorrow for my easy run, a 30 to 45 minute run at slow pace.

My foot is still bothering me but the pain is not terrible. It's more uncomfortable than anything. It is just taking forever to heal. I think part of the reason it has been slow healing is because I have not been good at icing it. I know the importance of icing an injury when the treatment calls for it. See, I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee a few years ago. Part of the treatment was icing the knee after Physical Therapy. I cannot tell you how wonderful my knee would feel after applying ice.

Naturally, when I began running, I would apply ice after each run. Guess what? I had little trouble with my knee post-run, and I haven't had to ice it for a very long time. So, knowing what I know, I should have been applying ice to my foot this whole time. Perhaps, I'd already be back to 100%, or at least on to the next injury. For you seasoned runners, you know what I mean. For you beginning runners, you will soon know what I mean.

In any event, I am going to continue running and cross-training; but I will be sure to apply ice regularly while elevating my foot until it gets better. Doctor's orders. So long for now, it's actual time for my next ice treatment. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Addiction Sets In

My friend Mel asked me how I became so addicted to running. Her follow-up question was how can she become addicted to running. I can answer the first question no problem, and I can offer some advice on the second question.

My addiction did not take hold the first time I ran. The first month or so that I really started training was terrible. I would say I hated it about 40% (or more) of the time. Running wasn't as easy at 35 as it was when I was as a teenager. I was running 7 minute miles in Jr. High and now I could barely run 7 minutes. That realization really got into my head. It made running  mentally and physically challenging for me. I struggled so much during those first weeks.

Then one day it happened. I became a runner. I wish that I could tell you that I had some epiphany; that the Running Gods smiled down upon me, their latest follower, and opened up the heavens while hosts of Heavenly Angels sang the Hallelujah Chorus. It was a little more subtle than that. My runs started to suck less. I could run up the hills I previously had to walk up. More and more, I looked forward to my runs. 

The rest is, as they say, is history. I got better and better with each run, and I continue to get better each time I go out. The best part - I still have a long way to go. Each run is a challenge in its own right.

To answer Mel's second question as to how she can become addicted, well, I can provide some pointers. 
  1. Get out there and run.
  2. Pace yourself. So much of my trouble during my first runs resulted from me running too fast too soon. 
  3. Sign-up for a 5k. This will give more reason to get out there and run. This is especially helpful when you first start out running.
  4. Join a Couch-to-5k program. You will be running with other beginners and that could make all of the difference.
  5. Find a running club in your area. The running club I belong to is a tremendous support team. 
I cannot guarantee that you will become addicted to running after following these tips. Hey, it's worth a try. 

Before starting this or any other exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor. I did.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I'm Back!

Today was the first time that I have run since completing the Peace, Love, Run 13.1 Half Marathon on June 24th. I always take at least 3 days off after running a Half Marathon. This time, however,  I ended up taking off 15 days. Why so many days? That wasn't my initial plan; but, in the end, I was glad I did it.

The Monday after Peace, Love, Run 13.1 I was stricken with a stomach virus. I was in the bathroom 30 minutes after eating (Sorry if that was TMI). That joyousness lasted until Thursday night. To rest my body from that wonderful experience, I decided to take off the rest of the week. I have found that in the long run my body responds better if I take a couple of additional days off after symptoms from an illness have dissipated.

Then last week, we took a family vacation to visit my Dad in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. I had every intention of packing up my running gear so that I run while I was down there. As I was packing, I decided to leave the gear at home. There's very few things that I love more than running. Spending time with my wife, children, and Dad happens to be one of them. So, I left the gear at home. That time with my family was time well spent. It truly was one of the best weeks of my life. I know! It is hard to believe I could have had such a great week without running being involved. I'm still boggled by that one.

Alas, that great week with my family at the beach had to end, and we headed home Saturday afternoon arriving home at 1:30 am on Sunday morning. With Sunday and Monday being non-running days for me, today was the first opportunity that I had to run, and it was all that I could think about all day. The run did not disappoint. Running up and down the hills in my neighborhood was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. Best of all, the temps were in the low 90s. It was totally awesome.

I have no intention of taking another two week hiatus for quite some time. However, I will be taking advantage of any rest days that I have between now and my next big race - the Hershey Half Marathon on October 21. That race is another reason why I think tonight's run felt so good. It was the official kick-off run for my fall race training. I am really upping my game this time by increasing the number of days per week I will be running and I am adding cross-training in the form of P90X. Here's to being back in my running shoes and embracing an intense training regimen.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why I Run

People ask me why I run (no one’s really asked me that, but I couldn’t come up with a better opening line.) Ok, let me rephrase that. If someone were to ask me why I run, I would give them five really good reasons. I run for the “Thrill of the Race,” Me Time, fitness, camaraderie, and one bonus reason. Sorry, you’re going to have to read to find out.

When I first started seriously running last year after a 10 plus year hiatus, it was as a result of the “Thrill of the Race.” I say seriously running because I would make attempts to start running again, but never stuck with it. That’s for another post. Back to last year. My brother had talked my wife and me into running the Shamrock Shuffle 5k race to take place on March 17, 2011. For my wife, who was part of a relay team running in the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon, it would be a great training run. For me, it would be a way to get back into running. I’ll leave the details of this race for another post; but let’s just say after this race, I was hooked. It’s the anticipation of the start, the agony, I mean, joy of running the race, and the elation of crossing the finish line. As a writer, I should be able to describe the sensation; but I wouldn’t do it justice. If you haven’t run in a race, you’ll just have to go out and experience it for yourself to see what I mean. Since that fateful day in March, I have only run in six races – primarily because races alone do not drive me.
Three children, a wife, a dog, and a full-time job can quickly consume one’s life as it does mine. Finding time for me can be difficult. I’ve discovered that running is that haven. It’s the place(s) I can go for some “Me Time.” I have no responsibilities to anyone. I don’t have to think about anything. I can focus on me; on my stride; on my breathing; on anything I want or anything I don’t want. I am in full control. Some would argue that I am at the mercy of the elements or my surroundings, and to a point, they would be correct. If I am running and it starts to rain, I can either let it affect my run or not affect me. Nine times out of ten, it doesn’t bother me. I love the challenge that the elements bring to the party. Running in inclement weather only makes me mentally stronger. I have a great story to share about running in frigid temps – again, a story for another post.

While inclement weather makes me mentally stronger, other aspects of running are helping to make me physically stronger. Fitness has become an integral part of my life. Last year when I started running, I was starting to gain weight. Now, I have never been overweight, and wasn’t when I started to run; but I was starting down that path. I’ve always had a great metabolism, and for the most part, I still do. I did notice it was starting to slow down. After all, I am in my mid-thirties, and these things happen. I found that the more I was running the better I felt, and the less I wanted to put crap into my body. It has become a cycle, a cycle that has reduced the amount of junk food in our house tremendously and introduced running to the next generation, my children.

Running has also introduced me to a whole new community, a community of like-minded individuals of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds.  I have met more wonderful people in the last year than I have since college. These are people who are supportive of complete strangers, people who welcome you with open arms and are willing to give you advice for no other reason than to see you succeed, and because they were a newbie once too. The camaraderie in the running community is amazing.

The bonus reason why I love running…(drum roll please)…I get to spend more time with my wife. As I said, we have three children; so, we rarely ever run together. Thanks to our babysitter and my in-laws, we run races together - something we lovingly refer to as Dates. Yes folks, instead of dinner and movie, my wife and I get our running gear on and go racing. In fact, we have a weekend getaway planned for October to run in the Hershey Half Marathon. Isn’t it romantic?

Running has become an integral part of my life. I owe my big brother a tremendous Thank You for getting me back into running. My wife and children deserve an even bigger Thank You for supporting my habit, er, I mean my running.

These are the main reasons that I run. Why do you run? Or if don’t run yet, Why don’t you run?