Thursday, February 2, 2017

Time flies when you're having fun...

My first few years of running were spent chasing down races and events because I was having fun, and that is what I was supposed to do, right? I recently realized that I have more fun running on my own, or carefully selecting specific events that have more meaning. In addition, I have been doing a lot of cross training, mostly at UFC Gym and Purenergy Studio. Most recently, I discovered the online world of Zwift and I have been putting a lot of miles on my bike without even leaving my garage!

Here are a few race reports from 2016 that I wanted to share:

I finally had the pleasure of running a trail race that I have had my eyes on for a few years--the Radnor Hunt Steeplechase. The course for this race is mostly grass fields, with a few gravel driveway crossings here and there, but the fun part is that there are horse jumps throughout the course, and a few water pits thrown in for the fun of it. I was able to run the race barefoot and had no problems. I would probably consider this race and course to be one of the most barefoot-friendly courses I have ever run. I also found out later that I was not the only barefoot runner there! The other barefoot runner must have been ahead of me because a few of the volunteers made mention of the other runner to me as I passed them. I had not trained for speed, so I was really just running this race for fun. It was a blast hopping and vaulting over the horse jumps, and the water pits were interesting--turns out they are gravel lined. This race benefits a charity called Students Run Philly Style and I think about half of the participants in the race were from this group. It was so much fun watching them have a good time, and it was also fun cheering them on after I finished. At the end of this race, there was a beer garden sponsored by Victory, one of my favorite local breweries. I was able to enjoy a post-run beer and taco and then continue on with my day.

In August, I ran Zane's Run, which I have participated in almost every year since I found out about it (I only missed one year because I was traveling at the time.) I have a personal connection to this race, as the person who puts on this race was in my high school class. The race is an event to raise money for SMA awareness and to help support families affected by SMA. The course used to be at a local elementary school and I used to ride my bike to the race start (they also used to have a 5-mile option which I preferred), but now it is at the district middle school which is a bit further away so I have to drive to the start (and they got rid of the 5-mile option when they moved the race here.) The organizers of this run, and the people who come to cheer others on are so nice and it is just such a positive atmosphere, which makes for a very fun race. The course is nothing fancy--a dash down the high school driveway, a connector path to a development, and then it follows a few neighborhood streets, finally making a U-turn to allow runners to return the very same way they came from. It is a somewhat fast course, but there are some hills in the development that add a little challenge for the return. I set my 5K PR on this course, and I have run it barefoot in the past (my 5K PR was set while running barefoot on this course!) I mostly enjoy this race for the people and the atmosphere--not necessarily the course.

Finally, my third and final race of the year was the Winterthur Run Inspired 10K. This run was held at the Winterthur property in Delaware, and it was beautiful. The race was in October and was very scenic. The race benefited a charity called Operation Warm, providing brand-new coats to children in need. I still prefer trail races, but every once in a while, there is a paved run that catches my attention and this one did just that. They have a video of the course on the web site and that video was what sold me. Of course, I also registered early and got a good discount on the race and that never hurts either. Run Inspired is going to be making a donation to Operation Warm for every entrant of this race, so I have already made a difference for someone in need. I was able to run this race barefoot as well, and thankfully the pavement was smooth enough everywhere except for close to the start/finish line. Again, I was not here to set a PR, but to enjoy the scenery and support a charity.

Here is an update on my past injuries and shoe preferences:

I spent most of 2015 trying to figure out how to deal with silly problems like Achilles tendinitis. I went through a phase in early 2016 where I was trying out padded shoes to attempt to combat the pain. I figured out that while they helped the symptoms for a period of time, the extra padding was causing other problems and those problems started to aggravate my Achilles again, especially when running trails, so those shoes are now pretty much retired already (although I will still use the Asics Gel Nimbus for longer road runs.) I finally found a better solution in 2016 while working with a mayofacial release therapist--she helped me find a few specific stretches to counter a leg length imbalance. Whenever I notice the pain starting to reoccur, I start doing these stretches again and find noticeable relief pretty quickly. My acupuncture therapist made the recommendation about the mayofascial release.

Right now, my favorite shoes for running are my huaraches made by Xero Shoes. I am still throwing in a few barefoot miles here and there for the fun of it (although not so much now that it is Winter.) It took me a long time to tweak my huaraches for comfort, but the time was well spent. I modified my Amuri Cloud's by replacing the rubber heel strap cover with the updated nylon straps. These straps feel so much more comfortable and provide the support that locks my foot in place and prevents any front and back sliding that I was experiencing. I also took the time to personalize the laces while I was doing this so I finally have the red color that I always wanted. These huaraches are my go-to shoe for road running and light trail use. They do not have a lot of protection for rugged trails, but that does not always stop me from using them. I did pick up the latest Xero Amuri Z-Trail model for more rugged trail runs, but I have been having problems with them rubbing uncomfortably. They eventually broke, and I exchanged them for another pair of Amuri Cloud's. When the trails get rugged, I usually just increase my cadence and I seem to do just fine with the huaraches. My go-to shoes for the trails are still my Inov-8 Trailroc's (the 235's work great for short trail runs, and 245's for longer and more rugged trails.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A tally of running injuries

I want to look at a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately as I have been suffering from sporadic knee pain recently--and that topic is running injuries. I knew that when I started running, I would not be able to avoid injury. Now that I have been running for a few years, I want look back at all of the various injuries that I have coped with since then.

Here is a list of the injuries I can remember:
  • Tendonitis (arch of left foot) - first running injury, too much too soon
  • Shin splints (stopped after I stopped using my old sneakers and stuck with the barefoot and minimalist running only)
  • Calf muscle pulls or strains (determined hydration was the biggest cause for me)
  • Plantar fasciitis (seems to be gone right now)
  • IT band syndrome (pain in the outside edge of my right knee)
  • Achilles pain (tightness on the right side)
Some of these are things I experienced as I was getting started and they have not reoccurred (shin splits, calf strains, etc.) but others have been nagging me for a long time (plantar fasciitis and IT band syndrome.) Thankfully, none have been bad enough to put me out of commission for any significant length of time. The longest I have stopped running was about a month after I ran the Livestrong 10k back in 2011, when I knew I ran too much and too fast, and was suffering from calf pains.

I have a nice collection of medical braces that I have accumulated over the years, including foam rollers, massage balls, ProStretch rocker, knee braces, ankle braces, night splits for plantar fasciitis, compression sleeves for just about every part of my lower body, and I am soon going to be adding an IT Band compression wrap to my arsenal. I have also experimented a lot with KT Tape in the past and have started trying it again. Every one of these tools has helped a little bit, but I am starting to feel like I run a doctor's office with the number of tools I have at my disposal. (In addition to all of the tools I have at home, I also get routine massages, along with routine chiropractic and acupuncture treatments.)
None of these injuries are going to stop me from running because I have found that I enjoy the activity too much, but I definitely need to slow down once in a while and just let my body heal. I have started introducing a lot of cross training into my routine, other than cycling, such as fitness boxing/kickboxing classes that include core training as well. These classes have been allowing me to stay in shape without abusing my legs too much and I have to say I am really starting to see some positive results (weight loss, a little bit energy, a much stronger core, and generally feeling more fit.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tyler 10K Trail Run Race Report

** My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. **

Training Update

I ran the Tyler 10K Trail Run on Saturday, April 6, 2013. Leading up to the race, I had been doing really well with my training, and then I picked up a stomach bug that put me out of commission for a few days. Once I got better, I picked right back up with my training and held close to the training plan I had put together on my own. About 2 weeks out, I started experiencing some severe tightness in my left hip. I worked through this with my acupuncturist, and then a few days later with a massage, and a few days after that, attending a hip opener yoga workshop. Everything was looking good, but a work trip was looking like it was going to get in the way of my planned long run, so I made the most of it, and found a beautiful rail trail near my hotel and got that run in anyway. I have been sticking to a schedule that never has me running back-to-back days, and I believe that has been the key to my success. I am not stressing my body, and I am varying my activities to keep my muscles guessing. My schedule has been pretty consistent.

Not my actual plan!
Monday. Rest. (Allergy shot)
Tuesday. Long run. (1-2 hours)
Wednesday. Bike or short recovery run.
Thursday. Speed work, hill work, or barefoot conditioning.
Friday. Yoga.
Saturday/Sunday. Casual paced trail runs, mountain biking and/or hiking.

I have been getting in about 20 running miles per week. For my taper leading up to the Tyler 10K, I just backed off on the intensity and distance. I am never sure if I should back off on one or the other, so I usually just back off on both. I figure the rest is going to do better for me, and at least I still get out there and do something almost every day.

Race Report
Me! Flying across the creek!

The race itself was great. I had picked up my race number on Thursday, so I just needed to figure out what I was going to wear. I was hoping to have been able to put the race number on a shirt before I left, but the weather had been pretty unpredictable and I was not sure what I was going to wear. Once I arrived, I went to the meeting area, picked up my freebies and then returned them to the car. I spent a few minutes warming up, at then made a decision on my layers and proceeded to the starting line. I set myself up for a position in the front quarter of the pack, figuring that would be a good place to prevent crowding and keep me in line to where I was hoping to stay for the race. That decision proved very helpful, because at the same race 2 years ago, I started towards the back, and spent the first half of the race passing people, and I know that had cost me time that year. When the race started, I settled into my race pace quickly and just went with it. Knowing that I had been training hard, I did push myself a little harder than usual. I did walk 2 short sections of the hills, but the hills on this course are plentiful and I had to. I used less energy and accomplished the same thing, so I do not look back on that decision with any regret. I was definitely in the right spot in the crowd because the same group of 4 or 5 people kept passing each other on the different uphill and downhill sections, and we were spaced out nicely at times where I was not feeling crowded in, nor forced to go faster than intended. I was able to enjoy the effort and run my race. Mile 6 was pretty difficult as I was pushing myself pretty hard, but I managed and kept pace. I checked my Garmin as I approached the 6 mile mark and realized I was well ahead of my 2011 pace, so I did start to back off. I saved my energy for the last 0.2 miles, where you go up a short hill, down a short hill , then finish on a 100 yard uphill. I finished the race in 55:14 and was very pleased. Immediately after finishing, I rested for a few minutes, went for water, then picked a spot near the finish to cheer some runners on (right before that last 100 yard hill!) This is where motivation is needed most!! I hung out there for a while before heading home. Unfortunately, I did not have time to stay for the awards.

Upcoming Race Plans

Now that Tyler is behind me, I am feeling much better about my upcoming 30K (Double Trouble) trail run in July. I have already done training runs of up to 13.1 miles in the past, so my plan is to build back up to that distance and then slowly increase my training distance even further over the next 10 weeks. I have a vacation in the there, but that fits nicely as a recovery week (however, we do not just sit on the beach for our vacations, so it won't be real rest!). My goal is to get up to 18 miles in training, preferably on trails. Now that we have daylight until around 8PM, and over the summer, as late as 9PM, I should be able to do this without worrying about running in the dark, although I enjoy some night running on occasion. I also recently made the commitment to the Blues Cruise Ultra 50k in October, so I will take a brief rest week after Double Trouble, and pick right up on training for that. For this training, I may have to do some distance/endurance runs with the local running club on pavement, even though the actual run is on trail. I will figure out those details later, but I am at least thinking about my options now. I've got some real training ahead of me. The biggest question I am facing right now is whether to continue self-training, or whether I should go back to my coach and get some guidance. I have been doing well on my own, but I could do better. But, I like doing things on my own terms and enjoy figuring it out!