Archive for August, 2009

18-Mile Weekend

Posted: August 30, 2009 in Marathon
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If you were to tell me at this time last year that I would wake up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday just so I could drive 20 minutes to a trail in the woods and run 18 miles, I would have laughed so hard I might have suffered a hernia.

But that’s EXACTLY what I did this past Saturday. No, not the hernia part.

After skipping my 12-miler last Saturday out of fear that I might have a stress fracture (thankfully that wasn’t the case), I got myself psyched up to run the longest distance I have run in my entire life. It seems like it was just two weeks ago that I was running my previous life-long distance of 15 miles.

When it comes to these long runs, it’s as if the running Gods are smiling down on me. I awake to cool temps in the high 60s and overcast skies. Sure, it would be better if it was in the 50s, but high 60s in Atlanta in August is almost unheard of. I was expecting much worse. There was even a light drizzle hitting my windshield as I was driving to the start point of the Silver Comet Trail in Smyrna.

The night before the run, I didn’t load up on as many carbs as I did on my 15-miler, mostly because I simply didn’t plan as well. But in the morning, I have a mini bagel loaded with peanut butter, a banana and a small bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.

cheerios

Instead of my usual water bottles of Powerade Zero, I decide to fill my two 8 oz. bottles with grape-flavored G2 because it has more sodium in it. I figured it would help me to replace the sodium I would lose through sweat during the run. I also packed two GU gel packs with me.

After making sure I stretch and stretch some more, I hit the trail for my 9-mile out and back. I feel pretty good at the start and decide to try to run at a 7:45/mile pace. I still don’t have a watch or a GPS, so I just kind of run on “feel.”

I’m actually starting to think this is the best way for me to train. I know people who run with watches or GPS and they tell me that they can become too obsessed with their splits. If they fall behind their pace, they will try to speed up a little to get back “on schedule.” But if your body is telling you that you shouldn’t pick up the pace and you force yourself to do so, I imagine that this would snowball and make it harder with each passing mile.

I could be wrong, but I’m sticking with what works for me.

I try to get into a good rhythm and not focus on how many miles I have covered. The first five miles go pretty quickly. At about the 8-mile mark I run over a spectacular bridge built about 100 feet above the ground. It might be higher, I’m not really sure. I wanted to stop and take some pictures (there’s a golf course on the left), but I keep my pace and know that I will get a second look at the view on the way back.

Before crossing the bridge, I sucked down the first of my two “Espresso Love” flavored GU gels, making sure I swish it around in my mouth with a large gulp of G2 to dilute it.

At the 9-mile mark, I’m still feeling plenty strong and know that this is a pace I can maintain all the way through. By the time I hit the 12-mile mark though, my right hip starts to feel a little stressed. I press on.

When I cross the 15-mile mark, I remember something a colleague once told me. She said “when you reach the point where you have run the most you have ever run, savor that moment.” I make sure I do. As I pass a sign that marks 3 miles from the start, I smile and thrust my arms into the air in a mocking finish line pose. I’m sure the people coming at me and those behind me were wondering what was going on, but I didn’t care. It felt good and made me smile. I figure anytime you can smile during an 18-mile run you should do so!

Over the final 3 miles, my right hip is starting to hurt a bit more, but for the most part my legs feel pretty good. Even my left calf is feeling ok. Looking back, I conclude that my decision to skip last Saturday’s long run was a very smart move.

As I reach the 18-mile mark, I keep up my pace into the parking lot, grab the car key from my running belt, open the car door, grab my iPhone and hit STOP on the stopwatch. I’m stunned to see 2:15:36! I had hoped to break 2:30, but to come in at 2:15 was truly surprising.

Whew!

I suck back another bottle of G2 that I had kept in the car, stretch, towel off, stretch some more, change my shirt and head home.

When I arrive, it’s time to put some ice on my calf muscles…

icecalfs

And some more ice on my knees…

iceknees

If I didn’t ice them, I can only imagine how I would have felt on Sunday. As it was, I woke up determined to get in an easy 3-miler. Turns out, this wasn’t so easy. I can barely get down the stairs in my house. Once I finally hobble outside, I stretch and stretch some more.

superfeet

For this run, I decide to to use the new Superfeet insoles my podiatry doc gave me. (I was told not to use them on my first long run.)

Over the first 1/2 mile, I kind of shuffle along. There’s not much “running” going on. After about 3/4 of a mile, I start to loosen up and manage to get through it. It was probably the hardest 3 miles I have ever run.

By Sunday night, my legs are still very sore. Yowzah… thankfully, Monday is an off day. Tuesday calls for 6 miles, then 5 on Wednesday and 4 on Thursday. Depending how I feel, I might take one of those days off.

I realize that I need to listen to my body and not push myself too hard. I have exactly 2 months until the marathon and I certainly don’t want to hurt myself.

Yo Jersey!

Posted: August 26, 2009 in Marathon
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So, I was back in Jersey for the first time in awhile.  I spent 20 years in the Garden State before moving to South in 2003. It was good to be back home.

water

After getting the good news from the doctor about my lack of a stress fracture, I planned to do a few runs during my stay. I have an 18-miler coming up on Saturday, so I knew I had to break in my new insoles and keep my legs fresh.

On my first morning, I went for a quick 3-miler along the waterfront in Jersey City and was REALLY surprised how nice it was. The hotel I was staying at, the Westin Jersey City – Newport, was located right across the street from the waterfront.

As a bonus, the hotel provides guests with an index card that maps out 3-mile and 5-mile running routes. The routes were a tad bit confusing to follow, but I figured it out. That college education is finally paying off for me.

911The routes both took me along the boardwalk area and sidewalks with views of Lower Manhattan at every turn.

At one point, I run past a small 9-11 memorial. It’s an important reality check.

boats

As I look at the Lower Manhattan skyline, I take special notice of where the Twin Towers stood and flash back to that day and imagine what it must have been like for those in Jersey City watching it all unfold. To be so close, yet so helpless. Gone, but not forgotten.

After two days of running along the waterfront, I am dreading what the weather will hold in store for me on Saturday in Atlanta. 18 miles in hot, humid conditions could prove to be the toughest test yet. Oddly, I look forward to the challenge.

A very quick update on my bothersome left leg.

tendon X-rays were negative and didn’t show any stress fractures. That doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t have one, it’s just not an obvious one. A more in-depth bone scan could show that I have one, but for now Dr. Julien wants to treat it as Posterior Tibial Tendinitis.

He has run the NYC Marathon 9 times, including once with a stress fracture.  Clearly, I have come to see the right man.

tendon1When I told him that I am running it for the first time, he didn’t want to do the bone scan out of fear that it could put an end to my quest. He basically told me that if I can stand the pain, to continue training. The biggest indicator in my favor is that my leg pain doesn’t get worse when I’m running.

However, he gave me a list of 4 things to do to take care of my leg.

1. Stretch

2. Get new arch-supporting insoles for my shoes (which he provided)

superfeet1superfeet

3. Ice my leg for 15-20 minutes every night.

4. Go to see a sports massage therapist every 2 weeks.

Of those four things, he said the most important one is the massage. It’s a deep tissue massage and will really get at the tendonitis, he said.  I just won’t be able to do a long run after the massage because it will HURT, he said.

I also need to get new running shoes very soon.

The good doctor also told me that I can now start to cut back on my training. Instead of 5 days a week, I can probably just do 4 days a week. I wish I didn’t have the pain to deal with, but this is the best news I could have hoped for at the moment.

Oh, and one other thing, Dr. Julien also lives a double life as a photographer and has been shooting fashion and music since the 70s. He has a great Website. Have a look.

I’m off and running again tomorrow. 4 miles.

Is it a stress fracture?

Posted: August 20, 2009 in Marathon
Tags: , ,

Lately, I have begun to wonder about the pain I continue to have in my left leg. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the pain was not in my calf, as I had originally thought. My calf is fine. There is no tightness or soreness in the muscle.  I’m also pretty sure it’s not shin splints. I’ve had them before. This is a different type of pain. What could it be?

On Twitter, I “Follow” a @Runningnews and there’s a link to a woman’s blog a read called Frayedlaces. Runningnews posted some links to entries from frayedlaces recently and while flipping through her blog, I came across a section in which she writes about a stress fracture. She fractured her pelvis. Yeow! I know my pelvis is fine, but it got me to read more about stress fractures…what causes them and how do you know if you have one?

tibia_fibula140

This article told me everything I am afraid to know. It points out EXACTLY where I am feeling the pain.  After reading this, I realized that I can’t keep ignoring it and need to get it checked out. My leg isn’t gettting any worse, but it certainly isn’t getting any better.

This article also has me worried.

So, I quickly searched for some podiatrists in the Atlanta area specializing in sports medicine. I didn’t want to go to my family doctor and waste time having her tell me to go see a podiatry specialist.  A quick search for “Atlanta Foot Leg Injury”  brought me to the Atlanta Foot and Ankle Center.

I call, find out that they accept my insurance, and make an appointment for Monday. I will see Dr. Perry Julien. The name sounds familiar to me, so I do some quick research and find out that he is the foot doctor for the Atlanta Thrashers NHL team. I see the guy ALL the time in the hallways of the arena on game days. What a bonus. He also was the co-medical director for the Peachtree Road Race and coordinated all podiatry care during the ’96 Atlanta Olympics. Sounds like I’m going to see the right guy, at least.

But now I’m stressing about my possible stress fracture. Argh! Typically, stress fractures take 6-8 weeks to heal. The NYC Marathon is in 73 days…

In the meantime, the pain isn’t so bad that it has kept me from running. I did 5 miles yesterday and 4 miles today. My leg hurts when I begin running, but while I’m in the middle of the run it’s not too bad. Hmmm… what to do, what to do?

I have nothing on my running schedule for Friday, but I have 12 miles planned for Saturday.  At this point, I am going to go ahead with it.  This might be a foolish mistake, but without any specific diagnosis, I am going to continue my training.

Then, I may or may not  skip the 4 miles I am scheduled to do on Sunday, depending upon how I feel after Saturday’s run.

I am dreading Monday’s doctor visit… I sure hope it isn’t anything too serious. To put it mildly, if it is a stress fracture, that would REALLY suck.

It’s DARK outside at 6 a.m.

Posted: August 18, 2009 in family, Marathon

So, today was my first day running in the morning since the kids returned to school. This has added a whole new wrinkle to my training schedule.

It appears that this is going to be a bit of a chore. Both kids are going to elementary school this year (One is in Kindergarten and the other is in 4th grade) and need to get on their way by 7:30.  Because of this, I have to get up at 6 a.m., so I can be back in the house by 6:45 to help get them up and ready.

Today I did my usual 4-mile (3.8 actually) route. I got out the door at 6:07 and returned at 6:35… 28 minutes.  Average pace:  7:16. It was a good run, but there’s one MAJOR difference running at that time: IT’S DARK OUT!

When running through the neighborhood, I find myself having to remain very alert for traffic coming at me. I’m sure most drivers at this time are having their morning coffee and not really paying too much attention to the road. It gets worse when I get out on the main road. Over the final mile, there’s a dirt path I run on along the edge of the road. This path has small rocks and tree roots that stick out of the ground. During the day, I can see them easily and avoid stepping on them. (I don’t want to twist my ankle.) But at 6:20 a.m., it’s hard to see exactly where I’m stepping so I have to be cautious.

Perhaps, I might have to look into getting one of these:

headlightSure, it might look a bit dorky, but it beats getting hit by a car… I would think.

As I was running, it dawned on me that I wasn’t even sure how many miles were on the schedule for today. When I finished, I saw that I was supposed to do 5 miles, not 4. I guess this makes up for the 4 miles I ran on Sunday when I was only supposed to do 3. It all evens out in the end, I suppose.

Tomorrow also calls for 5 miles. That should add another 7-8 minutes to the run, meaning I will have to make sure I’m out the door before 6:10 to be back in time for school to start.

Then it’s 4 on Thursday and 12 on Saturday. Next week is a BIG week. Saturday calls for 18 miles. Oofdah!

Last Day in Minny

Posted: August 16, 2009 in Marathon

Like Brett Favre, I am reluctant to say good bye to Minnesota, but I feel that it is the best decision for me and my family to just come clean and end the speculation.

It’s true, I will be leaving tomorrow. It brings tears to my eyes.

brett

I closed out my week in Minneapolis with my standard 4-miler from the hotel. I Didn’t think I was going to be able to get in in due to rain in the forecast, but it held off. It felt good to get out and stretch the legs after yesterday’s 15 miles.

Turns out I was only supposed to do 3 miles, according to my training schedule. But I didn’t realize this until after I had finished. Oh well, no big deal. It has been a great week. It’s now time to get back to the Atlanta heat. Ugh!

Wow. Plain and simple, what an awesome run!

I couldn’t have asked for a better place to complete the the longest single run of my life. All of my worrying about my sore left calf muscle was nullified by the scenery and surroundings of the route I took in Minneapolis this morning.

But before I get to the the actual run, let’s talk about the night before. I really wanted to run a good time, make sure I didn’t run out of energy, or cramp up, so I had to prepare myself.

First I read this…  to get some advice on what I should eat the night before. So, after reading it, I ordered this from hotel room service.

dinnerAnd I don’t even like peas, but apparently they are complex carbohydrates. Who knew? The chicken was ok (I asked for it plain), and the mashed potatoes were average. But that wasn’t the point. Carbohydrates were the goal.

I woke up at 6:15 when room service knocked on my door. A banana, raisin bran and bagel with peanut butter were consumed before and after my quick shower. I grabbed my two GU energy gels, put five sports beans jelly beans in the pocket of my shorts, filled my two 8 oz. water bottles with grape flavored Powerade Zero and headed out the door.

I was back a few seconds later when I realized I forgot to grab the big Powerade bottle I wanted to bring with me for after the run. Then I headed out the door again. I was back a few seconds later when I realized I forgot my car keys (at this point, I hear my wife laughing at me in my head). Then I head out the door again. Third time is a charm!

uptownTo get where I need to start, I drive through Uptown Minneapolis, passing right by the restaurant where I went to dinner with a high school friend and her husband just a few nights earlier. It’s a very cool, trendy sort of area.

The only problem with this area is that it can get a bit sketchy in certain areas. The road I decide to do the first 5 miles on (Lake St.) is a tad bit rundown in certain parts. But I figure nobody is going to mug me at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I sure did get a lot of odd stares though.

After taking two days off, the first few miles were pretty tough. I just felt kinda weak and sluggish. Then again, I wasn’t very motivated by the urban scenery.

After completing the first 5 miles, I hit the lakes.

calhoun

Man, what a beautiful spot. There were hundreds (and I’m not exaggerating) people running, biking and walking on a gorgeous day. With temps in the low 70s and a slight breeze blowing, the morning was perfect. As I went around Lake Calhoun, I started to feel stronger and get into a good rhythym. My calf felt ok and I was making sure to maintain a comfortable pace. I knew I was going pretty quick because not a single person passed me.

When I got halfway around Calhoun, I stopped for a few seconds to ask for the right way to get to Lake Harriet. After making my way through a connecting street I ended up at Lake Harriet.  All around, people were setting up for picnics and there was also a concert setting up at a band shell. Lots of activity everywhere.

After going around my second lake, I cut back over to Calhoun and finished making my way around the second half. From there, I cut over to Lake of the Isles for the final 3-4 miles. At this point, I notice two things:

1.) The Body Glide I applied to certain “areas of concern” is starting to wear off, so I have to take my shirt off and tuck it into the back of my shorts.  Chafed nips, yet again! Ok, that’s it…band aids next time, I promise myself.

2.) My back starts to hurt. This has never happened before. I really think it’s because my shoes are toast. I vow to get new ones before my next long run.

Finally, I finished all 15 miles and stop running when I reach my car. I’m anxious to see what my time was. (I use a stop watch on my iPhone, but don’t run with it) Even though I feel like I kept my normal pace, I really have no idea to expect. Sure enough, I broke 2 hours and finish at 1:55. I’m pretty happy with my 7:37/mile pace.

Even better, my legs feel stronger than they ever had after any of my previous long runs.

With some time to kill, I drive a few blocks over to see the house where my father-in-law grew up. There was a garage sale going on!

sale

After snapping a few shots, with the guy in the chair giving me the evil eye, I drive around the block to see my wife’s aunt, uncle and cousins. I can just feel the brownie points stacking up!

Oops, I ring the doorbell at the wrong house for about five minutes. It’s a nice-looking house, but it’s the wrong one.

wronghouseThen I make my way over to the right house a few doors down.

righthouseOverall, it was a VERY eventful morning in Minneapolis. A great run, with perfect scenery topped off with an unexpected visit with extended family. That’s tough to beat.