Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Autographs, Please.

I'll never be able to show my face in St. Francis County again without being mobbed. Or... maybe I won't be able to show my hip.

There was a story about Saturday's 5k in the Daily Journal and this is the photo they decided to include of me:

Awesome! It reminds me of this link that the Gomers posted on their facebook page:

The reporter actually took a picture of me smiling and trying not to look too horrible after the race, but she apparently decided this candid shot was better. I'll try not to let all of this major publicity go to my head!

I ran a completely new route after work today. It was too nice outside to run 6-8 miles indoors on the treadmill so I parked at the gym and went for my run through Fenton. It wasn't the most scenic route, but it's always interesting running somewhere new. I made a right coming out of the parking lot and followed the outer road until it dead-ended at the Soccer Park. Then I crossed under Hwy 44 and made my way back along the northern outer road. I ran past the exit for the gym and crossed at the next road that spans the highway. It was almost exactly 6 miles by the time I was back at the entrance to the parking lot and I stopped at an even 6 to walk back to the car.

Then I met Liz at the pool for another outdoor swim. 900 meters this week. As awkward as my breathing felt on the run, I felt more relaxed in the pool. More relaxed, but still slower than Liz! It's awesome swimming outside while the sun is setting. Some clouds rolled through and we thought the swim might be cut short by rain, but it blew over.

My back has been fine. It didn't even bother me after Sunday's Long Run. I'll call the PT tomorrow, but I think I might not need any more sessions. We'll see what she says.

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 6.00 Miles.
Time: 42:47. 7:08 Avg. (6:50, 6:49, 6:59, 7:15, 7:17, 7:33).
Route: Fenton Outer Road Loop.
Conditions: Mid-80's. 5:30PM.

Goal For The Day: Swim.
Distance: 900 meters. (200, 250, 250, 200).
Location: Fenton Rec Center Outdoor Pool.

Notes: I was still in a bit of a racing mindset and the first couple of miles were faster than they should have been. I would like to average 6:45ish miles in the next month or so, but it was too fast for this week so I backed off the pace a little. A nice, breezy head-wind for the first part of the loop. It was at my back for the back-stretch but not nearly as cooling.

Daily Miles: 6.00 Miles Run. 900 meter Swim.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 244.43 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 9,050+ meters.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Long And Short Of It

Yesterday's post was a little long and wordy but I felt like there was a lot from that race I'll want to remember. Today's post will probably be shorter even though my run was much longer. Liz thinks it's funny that I can write so much about a 3 mile race and then write so little about a 15 mile run. But a lot more happened in the race than on my Long Run.

The positive trend continued today with my Long Run of 15+ miles. A lap around the Lake is just over 3 miles so I planned to do 5 laps and I alternated directions every lap to try and break up the monotony of such a long run.

It was still cooler than the past month or so has been and there was plenty of shade for most of the run so I felt pretty good. I also put a big cup of water in the driveway so I could have a drink every 3 miles. I kept a pace I was happy with throughout the run and felt good about staying fairly consistent.

There are always people out walking, fishing, or doing yard work when I run around the Lake. Tammy Deschler was out doing yard work during one of my runs a while back and she started counting my laps as I went by her house. Now she starts counting every time she sees me run. Today, she was out for a walk and every time I passed her, she was stopped to talk to somebody new but she still counted the first three laps for me.

Another guy I don't know was working in his yard the whole time. Finally, on my 5th lap, he stopped and leaned against his rake. When I came closer, he asked, "How long are you going to keep this up?" I promised this was my last lap and as I passed, he asked how far I was going. I told him over my shoulder it would be 15 miles by the time I was done and he yelled after me, "What!??? Holy Shit!"

It cracks me up how things like running bring people together. Here's this total stranger that asks me what I'm doing because it's so bizarre and ridiculous to him. He probably can't imagine running 15 miles. The funny thing is, we had that interaction because we're so different but the same thing happens with runners who know exactly what it's like to run like this... it works both ways. People connect because of familiarity and because of differences. Awesome!

This week's Long Run was reassuring after last week's struggle. Last week I ran slower than I'd like and cut the run a 1/2 mile short. This week I was happy with the pace and ran about a 1/2 mile long. It all balanced out nicely!

Goal For The Day: Long Run.
Distance: 15.72 Miles.
Time: 1:54:47. 7:18 Avg. (7:23, 7:15, 7:09, 7:20, 7:41, 7:21, 7:16, 7:21, 7:17, 7:13, 7:17, 7:12, 7:19, 7:22, 7:07, 5:06*)
Route: 5 x Lake Loop.
Conditions: 70 degrees at the start. 78 degrees at the finish. 8:30AM.

Notes: A little breakfast and sips of water every lap definitely helped today. Pace felt good for a Long Run. At mile 12, I felt like I could go forever. By mile 14.5, I realized the marathon is 11 miles longer than today's run and I still have work to do. Reassuring day overall though. And my last mile was my fastest without intentionally pushing the pace!

Daily Miles: 15.72 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 238.43 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 8,150+ meters.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Race Report: United Way 5K

I LOVE small-town races!!!

My step-brother, Josh, and his girlfriend, Carla, came into town for the weekend so Liz and I went down to the Lake for some quality family time. Friday night, I decided that I would go ahead and run a 5K that was being held in Bonne Terre Saturday morning and got online to look up the race details. There was practically no info online but I found a map showing where the start would be and I thought I read that the race started at 8am.

We stayed up pretty late Friday visiting with everyone and when my alarm went off at 6:30 in the morning, I was disoriented and it took me a minute to remember where I was and why I was getting up. I got my stuff together and headed into town a little after 7am.

When I got into Bonne Terre around 7:15, I drove to the intersection I found online. I was driving down a road that ended in a field and there was no race in sight. I turned and drove back into town looking for signs for the race or a group of people. Bonne Terre is a very small town and I figured a race staging area should stand out pretty easily. I decided to drive down a side street toward the hall from our wedding reception and, sure enough, I saw a few tables with about eight people gathered around them.

I parked my car at 7:35 and thought to myself, "This is a perfect example of why I leave so early for races. I drove around town looking for this race and I still have time to register and warm up before 8:00."

I thought it was a little odd that there were only two other people there to run the race and it was supposed to start in 20 minutes. I was given bib #3 and I asked if they were expecting a lot of people today. One of the ladies said they had about 50 people pre-registered but I was wondering if many people were going to show. I started thinking this might be the smallest race I've ever run.

At about 7:45, I went for a 10 minute warm-up jog. When I got back, people were starting to arrive but it didn't look like the race organizers were even close to ready for the race to start. I walked around until 8:00... and then 8:05... and then 8:10. I wondered how long they would wait just so people who were pre-registered could show up. I realized something wasn't adding up and went over to the registration table. Apparently, what I thought I read online... "Race begins at 8:00." was really "Registration begins at 8:00." Oops. The race didn't start until 9:00.

I had almost an hour until the race started. I walked around town for a while and saw more of Bonne Terre in that 40 minutes than I've seen in the 10+ years that my family has been going down there. I ran another short warm-up and was finally ready to go at 9:00.

The turnout was still pretty small, so I started thinking I was likely to finish pretty close to the front and there was a possibility I could win. I recognized a couple of guys from other races in St. Louis but I couldn't remember if I usually run faster than them or not.

After the Opening Act 5K, I was determined to go out at a more controlled pace this time. Two other guys and I got off to an early lead and one of them dropped back in the first two minutes. The pace felt manageable and I was tempted to step it up a little, but I decided to hang with the guy next to me. If the first mile ended up being a little slow, I would have energy left to pick it up over the next two miles instead of fading as the race went on like in the Opening Act.

About a half-mile in, the guy I was running with turned and said, "Hey, good luck today." No one has ever wished me luck... or talked to me at all... when we were competing for the lead. It's common for runners to give each other encouragement when they see someone fading. You'll often hear people in the middle of the pack passing other runners and saying something like, "Keep it up." or "You're almost there." Runners being passed will even congratulate the people passing them... "Nice work." or "Way to finish." This guy started a conversation while we're in the lead with a lot of race to go.

I thanked him and wished him luck too. I told him I would do my best to keep up with him. He said he was thinking the same thing and that he's not used to running this far... he usually runs Miles. When he told me he's used to running a mile at a time and he can run a 5:50, I knew he was a good runner but he was probably running this first mile too fast.

The race was organized by a group of high school students and it wasn't very well executed. There was a bit of guessing where we were supposed to go. I asked my new friend if he knew where we were going and he said he only knew the next few turns. After we topped a small hill, he said, "This next hill is going to be a bitch." Not long after we started up it, he started dropping back. I wished him luck and decided to try and gap the field a little while I had the chance.

Training in Eureka helps me on hilly courses. The Opening Act 5K caught me by surprise and I struggled with the hills after starting too fast. I wasn't expecting this course to be so hilly either, but I handled it okay because I was more conservative in the first mile.

Every turn I came to had a volunteer standing at it to direct us but I had to make some noise to get their attention. The first several volunteers weren't prepared for us at all. At one point, the road came to a 'T' and there was no one standing there. I stopped for a second before I saw a volunteer a block down to my left. After that, the course looped back on itself a couple of times and I was able to find my way without too much trouble. Normally, I can just follow the people in front of me. It's a rare thing for me to be alone out front.

It was a really hilly course and I felt like I was slowing in the last mile but I tried to keep the pace up. It's not a good idea to look over your shoulder in a race, but I admit I checked a few times in the last mile to see how far back my competition was. There was a guy creeping up on me but I still had a pretty comfortable lead with a half-mile to go.

It's hard to push yourself as hard as you can when you're running by yourself. I didn't know how fast I needed to go to hold the lead and I didn't know how fast the guy behind me was coming up. Luckily, the last quarter-mile was all downhill so I could open up my stride and made it to the finish line in first place.

I finished in first place overall in 19:37. I averaged 6:19 a mile and not only held my pace through the race, I ran negative splits! I got a nice little trophy but more importantly, I was much happier with how I ran this race compared to my last 5K.

In a blog I started but abandoned, I once wrote about how the place you finish doesn't necessarily mean as much as how you run the race:

I ran 20:04 in the Opening Act 5K and finished 7th. I ran 19:37 in this race and finished first. But a 19:37 would have only moved me up to 4th in the Opening Act. The winner of that race ran a blazing 16:31... a time I've never even come close to! There's always someone better so I try to focus on competing with myself.

After the race, I was 'interviewed' and had my picture taken for the local paper. It reminded me of the farm town my Mom grew up in. If we went to Ramsey, IL to visit family for the weekend, we were in the local paper. Small-town races usually have smaller attendance, a better chance at winning, and can be a nice ego boost. But if I let it go to my head, I would be in for a rude awakening at the next big race I ran.

Goal For The Day: Race!
Distance: 3.1 Miles.
Time: 19:37. 6:19 Avg. (6:37, 6:28, 6:20)
Conditions: 78 degrees/sunny. 9:00AM.

Notes: Not my fastest times but one of the smartest races I've run. It was a messy morning, but I'm glad I ran the race. Good times! It was fun chatting with people after too. There probably won't be more results from this one since they didn't keep anyone's info, but I'll keep an eye out. Hopefully, I'll get to see the article in the paper too. How funny!

Daily Miles: 3.1 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 222.71 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 8,150+ meters.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Long Time, No Bannister

It's been a while since I've visited Mr. Bannister and his pesky 400's. With yesterday's positive experience, I was a little worried that today would put a premature end to my up-swing. These 400m repeats are at the fastest pace I run during my training and I didn't know if pushing the tempo that much was going to cause problems with my back. Even if my back held up, 400's always hold the potential to be a miserable experience.

(Sir Roger Bannister)

Luckily, the workout went well and it's shaping up to be a good end to the week! I took and easy run to and from the track again but there seems to be plenty of room in the parking lot if I'm ever pressed for time and need to drive. For once, my watch actually reported the exact same distance in both directions.

I could tell my sense of pace was a little off but after the first interval, I locked in again pretty well. My stride is usually different when I run on the track for some reason. The length of my stride is all over the place and I go from over-striding at a slower turnover rate to quick, short strides at a faster turnover. Today, I tried to keep a more natural stride and it really seemed to help. Instead of trying to sprint, I tried to think of it as a normal run... just at a quicker pace. I felt a lot more comfortable and it seemed to take less effort than the other Bannister workouts I've run.

I hope to get up to 10 Bannister Repeats on Fridays but after such a long hiatus, I dropped back to 6 intervals for today. I'll work my way up to 10. I'm considering a 5k for tomorrow morning so keeping today at 6 intervals is probably a good idea anyway.

The streak is still alive. Feeling good!

Goal For The Day: Bannister Repeats.
Distance: 6.18 Miles.
Time: 6 x 400m. (1:17, 1:14, 1:15, 1:15, 1:15, 1:14)
Route: Eureka H.S. Track.
Conditions: 72 degrees. 7:15AM.

Notes: 2.34 Miles to the track. 6 x 400m. 2.34 Miles home. Not as cool out as yesterday, but still pretty nice. Wearing a shirt the whole time makes for a wet shirt on the jog home... nipples are a little tender.

Daily Miles: 6.18 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 219.61 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 8,150+ meters.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Cool!

Ahhhh... 68 degrees and low humidity. How sweet it is! I've been feeling like the tone of my blog has been more negative than I would like. I'm not used to dealing with injury and I obviously don't like running in extreme heat. Then I went from feeling proud of my consistency to feeling disappointed by time off to rest my back and a couple of missed days.

Yesterday was another missed day. I slept horribly Tuesday night and overslept Wednesday morning. Then I decided an evening workout on the hottest day so far this month would make this morning's workout less likely to happen (or at least less productive if it did happen). So no workout on Wednesday. To be completely honest, if it had been a cool evening, I probably would have gone out to run some hills. But the heat chased me indoors.

I felt like I might be slipping into a funk and missing yesterday didn't help so I needed a good day and a good run to help me get back on track. Today was that day and it involved a first... relaxing sightings... personal insight... progress... and an all-around positive vibe.

I actually got up early today because I had a lot on the schedule. I was out the door at 6:30 and set out on my usual 8 Mile course. I ran down to Route 66 State Park but when I got there, the gate still had a padlock on it. I've lived in Eureka for three years and today was the first time I got to the park before 7am. I assumed the park opened at sunrise since it closes 30mins after sunset, but apparently it opens at 7 o'clock. I guess every time I've gone for a run earlier than that, it's been around town but not to the park.

I paused for a minute to contemplate my options... I could hop the fence, I could tack on 2 miles somewhere else in the run, I could try going the long way around to the other park entrance... just then, the park ranger drove up and opened the gate for me. I'm glad I wasn't hopping the fence!

About a mile around the 2-mile loop, I came across my first group of deer. I was the first person in the park for the day and the deer were everywhere. I took a moment to hang out in the quiet of the park with a few of them until a mini-van came by and reminded me I should get moving.

A little farther into the loop, I turned a corner and stood facing a young buck. I couldn't help stopping again... it was too nice of a morning.

When I got on my way again, I was surprised by the chill of the breeze. I sweat more when I stop moving and my sweat isn't evaporating so when I got going again, I gave a little shiver. The rest of the run went really well and I kept thinking about how much the temperature helped. I've always known that I run my best in the 40-70 degree range, but today I realized just how much the temperature affects my running. I kept a significantly faster pace today and it felt great. When I got to the hill on Central, I charged up it feeling surprisingly light. On hot, humid days, I slog up that hill with heavy legs struggling to suck in air. On cool, crisp days like today... "Num, Num, Num, Num, Num!!!" I gobble them up and eat those hills for breakfast! Hot days are my kryptonite.

I averaged 6:53 per mile and felt great! Then I took a quick shower before turning around for a PT session that went really well. My back is feeling good and recovered amazingly quickly from Sunday's tightness.

After slumping for a couple of weeks, today felt like a turning point. I'm back in business!

Goal For The Day: Speedwork. (Didn't happen.)
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 8.20 Miles.
Time: 56:29. 6:53 Avg. (7:12, 6:48, 6:51, 6:51, 6:47, 6:53, 6:47, 6:59, 1:16*).
Route: To Rte. 66/1 Lap/Home.
Conditions: 68 degrees! 6:30AM.

Notes: Feeling re-energized and ready to go. Just in time... the mileage is ramping up and the next month is really important. I hope this trend continues.

Daily Miles: 8.20 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 213.43 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 8,150+ meters.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Balancing Act

I'm getting busy and I need to get better about managing my time. Yesterday was a full day. I had physical therapy at 8:30 in the morning, worked until 5:30, and then taught my first class of the semester at Jeffco until 9:30pm.

Physical therapy went well. I was assigned some new exercises and my back loosened up faster than I expected. By this morning, I was feeling good again and my back hasn't bothered me all day.

This morning, I overslept... again. It's Trash Day and I owed the garbage man some donuts for taking a bunch of scrap wood off my hands last week. So I not only woke up later than I planned, but then I had to hit the store and make sure I was around to deliver donuts this morning. That meant saving my run for the gym tonight.

I worked later than planned today so my time at the gym was limited. Instead of my scheduled 8 miles, I only got in 3.5. It was a comfortable run with no back problems and I ran negative splits. I'll take it! I wouldn't have liked 8 miles on the treadmill anyway and I got to swim with Liz so it was still a good workout.

The indoor pool was closed but we were happy to take advantage of the outdoor pool before it closes for the summer. By the time we were wrapping up, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset!

Between work, physical therapy, and teaching, I'm putting more demands on my time and I'm also cranking up the mileage in my training. I'm getting to that point in my training where I have to plan ahead more if I want to find time for everything. I'll need to start getting up earlier as my runs get longer. Thursday will be my next scheduling challenge. I have PT at 8am and then work until 8pm. It'll probably be an early morning.

There just aren't enough hours in the day.

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance... Modified to Short Run/Swim.
Distance: 3.50 Miles Run. 950 meter swim.
Time: 25:03. 7:09 Avg. (7:30, 7:13, 6:58, 3:22*).
Route: Fenton Rec Center Treadmill/Outdoor Pool.
Conditions: Stuff indoor run. Awesome outdoor swim! 5:45PM.

Notes: The run felt great! My back feels better than I expected. It was so tight Sunday afternoon I was sure it would be a problem this week. The swim was good too but I still have to focus a lot on my breathing. I don't inhale naturally. I think I'm taking in too much air when I inhale and it feels awkward. I need more practice.

Daily Miles: 3.50 Miles Run. 950 meter swim.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 205.23 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 8,150+ meters.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Two-Mile Rule and 200 Blog Miles

From Again to Carthage by John L. Parker Jr.:

  Early on he had felt "pretty much like dog-doo" (as he would write in his log) and was dreading the fast part, but then it had gone surprisingly well once he got into the rhythm. Workouts often unspooled like that. Years ago he had come up with what he called the Two-Mile Rule, which said simply that you shouldn't try to figure out how you're feeling until at least two miles into the workout. The phenomenon seemed to apply in the other direction too: Some days he felt great out the door and then just fell apart a few minutes later.

This morning's Long Run got off to a rough start. I was feeling slow and sluggish but decided to see if the Two-Mile Rule would apply and the rest of the run would feel better. After the first mile, I did pick up the pace but it took a lot of mental effort and I was having to really focus to keep at the tempo I wanted. My stride felt stiff and I was working hard today.

It didn't help that it was really humid and the air was still. Between the lack of air movement and the fairly flat route I chose, it was turning into a long, boring run. I've said before that I would rarely run more than 6 miles at a time if I wasn't training for something. Sometimes my Long Runs are more of a mental struggle than physical. Today my heart wasn't in it and I was getting bored. When I get bored, I feel tired. (That's why I try to avoid treadmills.)

The Two-Mile Rule didn't save me today and about halfway through the run, I backed way off the pace. I wasn't hurting (my back felt fine this morning) and I wasn't really that tired... I just didn't have the mental side together today and I gave in to the urge to slow down.

The pace of the second half was actually about where my schedule suggests I should be for a Long Run. I've been keeping my pace faster than suggested so far. The idea would be that a Long Run should be slow and relaxed and the shorter runs during the week are closer to Race Pace. But I wasn't slowing down today because it's recommended, I was slowing down because I felt like "dog-doo".

There are plenty of reasons that could explain today's rough run (the humid weather, I didn't fuel well, it's my first Long Run since taking two weeks off, etc.) but that doesn't make it much easier to swallow. It's just one of those times I have to remind myself that one workout doesn't make or break my training.

Goal For The Day: Long Run.
Distance: 13.45 Miles.
Time: 1:42:26. 7:37 Avg. (7:51, 7:13, 7:07, 7:18, 7:08, 7:08, 7:03, 7:59, 7:43, 7:49, 8:17, 7:59, 8:05, 3:40*)
Route: To Rte. 66/2 Laps/Home by way of Allenton Loop.
Conditions: 74 degrees at the start/humid. 7:30AM.

Notes: I know to fuel better than I did today. I need to practice Race Day fueling. My back tightened up this afternoon but it wasn't like last time... not nearly as bad. Seems to be responding to stretching this time too.

Daily Miles: 13.45 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 201.73 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gear Check - Amphipod AirFlow Microstretch Belt

Just a quick gear check today. Last week, I went for a bike ride that turned into a bike carry. My first mistake that day was leaving my cell phone at home... A decision I made because I didn't have any pockets to keep it in.

Last year I bought an Amphipod AirFlow Microstretch Belt. (I had to look up the specific name for it. I just knew it was a waist belt for running.) The belt is designed to hold anything you might want to carry on a run. Your wallet, cell phone, some emergency money, a Powerbar, some GU, etc.

I bought the belt before the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon with the intention of carrying my cell phone so I could take pictures. I was also hoping it would hold some GU packs in my next marathon. This particular pouch is made of a somewhat stretchy mesh and can hold more than you would think. As an added bonus, the belt comes with toggles that can be used to attach your bib # so you don't have to put pins in your shirt.

Unfortunately, I found that the bounce of my stride caused the belt to ride up as I ran. I tried adjusting how tight it was, but it kept creeping up to my belly. I spent the whole race pulling the belt back down and trying to find a position that didn't bounce it as much. I just didn't find the belt comfortable while running.

But... if I had slipped my phone in the pouch and clipped on the belt before my bike ride last week, I might have been able to call a friend for a faster (and less painful) ride home.

Liz has a similar pouch that she has used successfully and I know a lot of people find them useful. There are even water resistant models available. It isn't a good fit for me on a run, but I definitely plan to use it on more rides.

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: We had a great time hosting a baby shower for Ben and Maja. A lot of family, friends, and food. That's how to spend a day off!

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 188.28 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Climbing Hills Under Cloudy Skies

A storm came through last night so it was cooler and breezy when I left for my run this morning. It was still mostly cloudy which is much appreciated in the summer. During the spring and fall, I'll take a nice, sunny day but during the summer, I like an overcast run.

Apparently the clouds weren't as thick as they were for Tuesday's run in the rain though. I ran the exact same course as I did Tuesday but my watch reported almost a quarter-mile farther for today's run. Tuesday reported 8.26 miles in 1:00:00. Today was the same route but my watch read 8.41 miles in 59:49. I might not know which distance is accurate, but I know today was 11 seconds faster.

Today's 8 miles felt more consistent that Tuesday's. Tuesday, I started strong, slumped in the middle, and finished strong again. Today seemed more steady throughout the run. My back felt great and my stride felt smoother and more natural than it has been. I'm still not in the form or at the pace that I'm aiming for, but I still have a lot of training left. All in good time.

On the way home, I paused to shoot a quick video of the sky. The clouds were breaking up and I took a moment to enjoy the view before heading up the Days Inn Hill. Beautiful!!!

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 8.41 Miles.
Time: 59:49. 7:07 Avg. (7:16, 6:51, 7:08, 7:06, 6:56, 7:13, 7:00, 7:27, 2:48*).
Route: To Rte. 66/1 Lap/Home.
Conditions: 74 degrees/cloudy. 7:15AM.

Notes: The park was busier this morning. More people but no deer. A new restaurant opened selling fried pies. I'm eager to check it out. I hear it's like gourmet Hot Pockets. I'm not used to having to check traffic crossing that parking lot. It was odd having to watch for cars there this morning.

Daily Miles: 8.41 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 188.28 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Psoas What Hurts

No running today. I met with the Physical Therapist this morning before work and then I worked late so today was a day off.

I felt like my trip to the PT was very productive. I left the appointment feeling good about the information I was given and feeling confident that my back pain can be taken care of. I'm sure part of my sense of satisfaction is due to the fact that I like the PT's diagnosis better than the chiropractor's. She told me I'm experiencing pain in my back because of muscle imbalance and problems with my hip flexors. She actually said a lot over the course of the appointment and I don't remember all of the specifics, but she noticed a lot of the little things I've noticed over the past few months without me having to prompt her.

I'm probably also happy with the appointment because she seemed so thorough in her evaluation. I spent over an hour with her while she tested range of motion, strength, checked for pain, and made adjustments to my hips and back. I felt like the chiropractor had me in and out of the office very quickly and wasn't as thorough while trying to diagnose my pain.

My favorite part of the appointment was toward the end of the hour. She felt like she had a pretty good idea of how she wanted to proceed with treatment and was explaining a stretch she wants me to do. While explaining the stretch, she pressed down near my hip bone and it felt like she had reached in and squeezed my insides. That was when we found out just how tight my psoas muscle is. The psoas travels from your ribs to your thigh through your hips and attaches to your lower spine. Mine was tight and painful and could be causing a lot of the pain I'm experiencing. She dug into the sore spots one by one until the pain subsided. It was painful and awesome at the same time. Just last night I was kinda massaging that area because I noticed some tightness. I was barely applying pressure compared to what she did, but I felt better afterward.

When it's all said and done, PT will cost less than the chiropractor, but it's still going to be expensive. She wants me to come in twice a week for about a month (give or take a week). I scheduled another appointment for next Monday but I'll see how long I stick with treatment. If the exercises and stretches she has me doing at home help, I might not continue with the appointments.

It's good to know there's hope for my back. It's annoying that hope is expensive.

Goal For The Day: Physical Therapy and Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: I think mileage is more important than speedwork this week. Since I missed today's workout, I'll probably do Middle Distance tomorrow instead of Bannister Repeats.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 179.87 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim  7,200+ meters.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Feeling Cautious

Today was my first day back at the track for speedwork. Coincidentally, it was Eureka High School's first day back at school. I wasn't sure how the parking situation would work now that the kids are back so I thought it was safer to just run there and back instead of driving. It's about 2 miles each way so it doubles my warm-up and cool-down which isn't such a bad thing.

My legs are still more sore than they would be if I hadn't taken two weeks off. I'm also a little nervous about causing problems with my back again. So I went into today's workout planning to adjust it as needed to avoid injury.

I decided to just pick up the speedwork schedule where I left off so today was supposed to be a 'Step-Up' workout. 2 x 400m, 2 x 800m, and 2 x 1200m. It's tough hitting the goal time for the 400's in this plan on a good day so I knew I should shoot for 1:15 each instead of 1:10 each. But I was hoping the 800's and 1200's would be okay as planned. They weren't.

I had an effort range in mind and I didn't want to exceed it. That way, I could feel confident that I wasn't going to hurt myself. I figure I can always pick up the pace next week if this week goes well. Staying in that effort range meant missing my goal times on every interval. Not by a lot... only a few seconds each time, but still not quite on target. The goal paces are slightly slower as the intervals get longer but by the last interval, I was pretty worn out.

I started the last 1200m interval and it felt horrible so I stopped about 150m in. I walked the rest of the lap and took a jogging start into another attempt at it. I hit the 200m mark right on pace that time but it still felt awful to I bailed out. Mentally, it hurt to cut the workout short by one interval, but physically, I wasn't going to gain anything by running a sloppy, painful final interval. I figured it was better safe than sorry and headed home.

For my first day back at the track, things went pretty well. My back hasn't bothered me all day, so it seems like the speedwork didn't make anything worse. I think the extra cool-down I got from jogging home helped keep things loose. Tomorrow morning, I'll see the PT and hopefully put my back behind me... so to speak.

Goal For The Day: Speedwork.
Distance: 6.65 Miles.
Time: 2 x 400m (1:14, 1:13), 2 x 800m (2:46, 2:47), 1 x 1200m (4:23).
Route: Eureka H.S. Track.
Conditions: 76 degrees/humid but cloudy. 7:15AM.

Notes: Goals were: 400's in 1:10-1:15, 800's in 2:45, and 1200's in 4:20. When it was just me and the sports teams at the track, I was okay with shedding my shirt for my workouts. But now that school is in session and there are a dozen classrooms overlooking the track, I couldn't bring myself to ditch my shirt. Thankfully, it was cloudy most of the time so it didn't get too hot, but it was humid and I was hating my shirt late in the workout. Mental note: They close and lock the gate to keep cars out of the track area once school starts so I have to go the back way out... adds about 1/4 mile to the run home. 2..07 miles to the track. 2.33 miles home.

Daily Miles: 6.65 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 179.87 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Feeling Good Feels So Good

I've said before that one of the great things about going for a long, hard run is how good it feels to just be still afterward. It's like when you're sick for a week with a lot of sneezing and coughing, and a runny, stuffy nose. When you finally feel better, just breathing easy feels miraculous. My back feels great today and I went for a pretty long run that wasn't anything special but felt awesome because it was pain free.

(I feel good!)

I left work early today to see my doctor for my annual physical and to get a prescription for physical therapy. He agrees with Ben and suspects I strained a muscle and keep straining it. He doubts the arthritis diagnosis. However, he's glad I'm following up with a PT to make sure I address the problem.

Because the visit with the doc was short, I was home in time to go for a rare afternoon run. It's my favorite time of day to get out on the road and I was out the door around 4:00pm. It was drizzling and I expected to get rained on so I left my iPod at home. I wish I hadn't because the rain never really picked up and I saw several deer in the park. I guess the rain scared people away because the park was deserted but the deer were out and about. I came around a bend in the road and found myself face to face with a fawn that looked like it walked right out of a Disney movie. We stood staring at each other for several minutes before it casually walked away and I went back to running. I wish I had my iPod with me so I could grab a quick video of Eureka's Bambi.

Most of the run went really well, but I hit a definite trough about 3 miles in. I eased off the pace for a mile or so and got a nice second wind for the run home. Overall, I felt strong and everything feels good!

Goal For The Day: Middle Distance.
Distance: 8.26 Miles.
Time: 1:00:00. 7:16 Avg. (7:50, 6:53, 7:14, 7:30, 7:15, 6:46, 7:12, 7:20, 1:55*).
Route: To Rte. 66/1 Lap/Home.
Conditions: 80 degrees/light rain. 4:00PM.

Notes: Have I mentioned I feel good? I feel kinda silly going to the PT Thursday. I guess we'll see how returning to speedwork tomorrow affects things.

Daily Miles: 8.26 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 173.22 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Motivation Monday - Beautiful Weather

Just a quick post today. After yesterday's run, I was nervous that I would wake up this morning and find my back had regressed. Luckily, everything seems to be okay. So far, so good!

Between feeling healthy for the first time in a while and the break in the crazy heat and humidity, I have an abundance of motivation right now. Sometimes I have to search for a little extra inspiration but I can't wait to get out there tomorrow morning. It was 65 degrees this morning and the highs aren't supposed to get out of the 80's this week. I cut the grass tonight and it felt like spring or fall, not the middle of August. I Love it!

I see my PCP tomorrow for a physical and hopefully the PT Thursday morning to take another look at my back. But it looks like training resumes in full swing tomorrow!!!

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: I actually felt a little soreness in my quads and calves today. It's good to feel that ache again but it's an indication that this could be a rough week after so much time off.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 164.96 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Triumphant Return?

Everyone had a great time this weekend celebrating with Dan and Stephanie and the wedding was absolutely beautiful this morning. The happy couple couldn't have asked for better weather! In fact, Liz and I got home with about an hour-and-a-half to spare before meeting friends for dinner so I decided to squeeze in a run.

I haven't run since August 3rd and it's about time I got back on the horse. My back had been feeling much better most of last week but started acting up for some reason yesterday and today. It wasn't hurting too bad, but it felt... out of place. So I was unsure how today would go.

When I stepped out the door to stretch, I noticed this guy staring at me:

He's the biggest praying mantis I've ever seen and I decided he was a good omen for my return to running.

I decided to keep my little test run fairly short and made sure I took it easy. I could tell I've been resting because my stride felt smooth and easy and there was that well-rested spring in my step. Everything went really well and I didn't have so much as a twinge in my back the entire time. I caught myself speeding up a little more than I wanted a couple of times and had to pull back on the reigns a bit, but I decided not to even glance at my watch until I got home. When I finished, I was surprised that my pace was much faster than it felt. I stayed controlled and relaxed and still averaged 7:13 a mile.

After the run, we went out to dinner with some good friends and spent the evening with friends and neighbors. My back felt good all night and I'm hoping this means I'll be able to resume training without problems. We'll see how my back feels in the morning.

Goal For The Day: Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Goal For The Day: Easy Run.
Distance: 4.12 Miles.
Time: 29:45. 7:13 Avg. (7:08, 7:00, 7:08, 7:29, 0:57*)
Route: Old Town Eureka Loop w/ the City Hall Extension.
Conditions: 84 degrees/breezy. 4:00PM.

Notes: The weather is awesome! A warm run but the first day in a long time with a breeze that actually cools you off. Also the first day in a long time that sweat kept getting in my eyes and really stung. It's how I imagine pepper spray feeling, only dialed down some. An awesome weekend with family and friends and my first good run in almost two weeks!

Daily Miles: 4.12 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 164.96 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"A Comedy Of Errors" or "The Day My Bike Rode Me"

My brother-in-law is getting married this weekend so I was scheduled to pick Liz up from work at 2:00pm to head out of town. I worked a very short day and decided I would squeeze in a quick bike ride before loading up the car and heading out. I planned to ride hard and see if I could get to Rte. 66, ride a lap, and get home in 30 minutes. From the very beginning, I made one bad decision after another and ended up on the worst bike ride of my life.

Mistake #1: Before I left the house, I decided to leave my cell phone at home. I wasn't wearing any pockets and my phone doesn't fit in my saddle bag because my spare tube takes up too much space. I figured I wasn't going far from home and I was wearing my RoadID so I would be fine.

Mistake #2: I have a small hand pump attached to my bike in case of a flat tire. It isn't much good for high psi tires though and on my last couple of rides, the handle has slipped down and been annoying. I keep compressed air in my saddle bag, so the pump is redundant and as I was leaving the driveway, I decided to turn around and leave the pump at home.

At first, I was cruising pretty well and felt good about pushing the pace. It felt good to get my legs moving hard again and I was looking forward to getting 8 or 9 fast miles in.
I was almost 2 miles from home when I stopped for a red light at an intersection. I was at a complete stand-still for almost a minute when my back tire very suddenly and very noisily went completely flat.

At first, I thought this was only mildly annoying and it would just mean I wouldn't get to ride as far as I'd hoped. I started taking the wheel off and grabbed my spare tube from my saddle bag, planning to be back on the road in a few minutes.

Mistake #3: A couple rode by on their bikes and asked if I needed any help. By then, I almost had the new tube in and the tire back on the wheel so I told them thanks, but I was fine. I let them ride away.

Shortly after the couple disappeared, I tried to fill my newly repaired tire using my compressed air. It gave a very brief hiss of air before falling silent and proving itself completely worthless. I had no air.

I was almost two miles from home and starting to worry that I was going to be late meeting Liz. I lifted my bike onto my shoulder and turned to walk home but I was wearing my cycling shoes with metal clips on the bottoms. Every step made the sound of metal grinding on concrete and I was worried I would ruin my shoes

Mistake #4: I decided to take my shoes off and try hoofing it barefoot. I was doing fine until I walked up the hill on Central. By the time I got to the top, my feet were developing some nasty blisters. I slipped my shoes back on and clip-clopped my the last mile home.

My 30 minute bike ride turned into a 75 minute ride/walk that left me with sore shoulders and blisters the size of quarters on the balls of my feet. I made it home just in time to take a quick shower and load up the car but I spent the rest of the day with very tender feet.

Goal For The Day: Bike Ride.
Distance: 1.73 Miles.
Time: 6:28. 16.0mph Avg.
Route: To 109 & Central on the bike... back on foot.
Conditions: 86 degrees. 12:00PM.

Notes: A lot of lessons learned today. My blisters should be alright in a day or two and I wasn't late so no harm, no foul. The weather has been great!

Daily Miles:
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 98.53 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

False Taper

My back feels pretty good again today but I definitely notice some soreness if I slouch for too long at work. All of those lectures I heard growing up about how bad posture will ruin my back someday... I should have listened!

I work late on Thursdays and I didn't get up early enough to get to the gym so no workout today. I'm hoping for a bike ride or swim tomorrow and then a test run sometime this weekend.

All of this time off from running has been like tapering before the marathon. Those last few weeks when I cut back on my mileage leave me feeling unusually energetic. I can feel how rested my legs are and I'm getting 'the itch' to get out and run off some of this pent up energy. I feel like a rubber band that has been pulled back and is just overflowing with potential energy. I just want to lace up my shoes and fly.

At this point in my training, I should be slowly wearing myself out. I want to start every run feeling not quite 100% so I can get used to running tired. I want to get used to pushing through fatigue. Then I can taper for real and show up on Race Day feeling like a new man.

(The signal for "False Start". Also the signal for "Mmmm, Yummy".)

This early, self-imposed taper feels like a false start. I'm ready to get back into it.

Goal For The Day: Amended to a Rest Day.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: Scheduled my annual physical with my PCP for next Tuesday. Hopefully, he'll write a prescription for PT so I can get a second opinion from the Sports and Physical Therapist on Thursday. Tired of writing the same old stuff about my back. Ready to get back to writing the same old stuff about my training.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 96.80 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200+ meters.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Too Many Variables

Success! The chiropractor was kind enough to e-mail my x-rays so I can now take a look at my spine anytime I want!

(Front view of my spine. Kinda cool.)

(Side view. The disc space of concern is circled in red.)

I sent a copy to Dr. Brother and he is still doubtful that my pain is being caused by the narrowing of that joint. He still suspects a muscular problem, but like a good doctor, he recommends I follow up with a specialist for a second opinion. I tried to schedule an appointment with the physical therapist that treated Liz, but I forgot that they can only treat patients with a prescription. So I either have to meet with my primary physician, or convince him to fax a prescription for PT so I can get in early next week.

I've been going over all of the possible causes of my back problems and there are just too many variables to narrow it down to one thing. Was it related to the triathlon training? I don't usually swim and bike that often. Is it the cushionless seat on my bike that hurts my sitz bones? Am I running differently with all of this speedwork? Are my hamstrings too tight? Are my abs too weak? Is my iliopsoas muscle too tight from slouching in my chair at work? Did I cause an imbalance from sitting with the same leg crossed all the time while I'm in session with a client? Does it have to do with the lack of cushion in my chair at work?

So many possible causes and no way to sort them out one by one. For now, I'll treat the symptoms with meds and rest and hopefully, I'll see the PT on Monday. I've been feeling much better since Monday so I'm hopeful that this plan is working.

Goal For The Day: Bike Ride.
Distance: 14.63 Miles.
Time: 52:06. 16.8mph Avg.
Route: To Rte. 66/3 Laps/Home
Conditions: 74 degrees! 7:45AM.

Notes: A rare morning ride. Not as many people out and about and I left too late to see any deer in the park. But the weather broke late last week and it felt amazingly cool this morning! Not a bad ride, but the weather makes me want to run.

Daily Miles: 14.63 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 96.80 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200 meters.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Doubting The Diagnosis

Yesterday was a long day so I didn't get to put up a post. I was also hoping to have a copy of my x-rays from the chiropractor to add. I got a copy of the x-rays but for some reason, my computer doesn't want to read the disc so no pics of my insides again today.

My back was feeling pretty good yesterday. Only very specific movements caused any kind of discomfort and the majority of the day was pretty comfortable. I met with the chiropractor after work for the verdict.

The doc pulled up my x-rays and reviewed my list of symptoms. He proceeded to explain that I have Osteoarthritis in the joint between my L4 and L5 vertebrae. OSTEOARTHRITIS! I'm 31!!!

He showed me the nice, fat gaps between my other vertebrae and then the more narrow gap between my lowest two vertebrae. He explained that this is because of a build-up of extra bone due to an old injury (likely from when I played rugby in college). He said I probably hurt my back years ago and my body responded to instability in that joint by growing extra bone... because bone is a stable substance, of course. The doc was clear that the injury wasn't a result of running. In fact, running has probably helped keep the joint mobile which is a good thing. But now the condition has progressed to the point that I might have flair-ups of pain like this. Osteoarthritis is treatable but not curable. The condition can't be reversed, but you can delay further degeneration.

What was the suggested treatment? 25 chiropractic sessions over the next 15 weeks. Each session would include a short massage and "an adjustment". I went ahead and had a session while I was there so I could get a better idea of what I would be in for. The massage was much more helpful this time. It focused on my lower back and the top of my butt and felt awesome. Apparently, the last massage was a mistake. Then I went back into the doc's office for the adjustment. He had me lie down on the table and he popped my back. I changed positions two more times and he popped my back both times and we were finished. The entire adjustment took less than 30 seconds.

So now I'm left to decide if I believe this is what's wrong with me and if I'm ready to shell out $1,000 to have a bunch of massages and my back popped. This treatment would probably be helpful. I'm sure the doc is knowledgeable and he doesn't seem like he's only out to make money. I'm just struggling to accept that I have a condition that I shouldn't have for another 30-40 years.

My little brother is a doctor (and from what I hear, he's quickly becoming a very well-respected doctor) so I gave him a quick call and ran it by him. He suggested a second opinion from a sports specialist or physical therapist. He also named 3 or 4 other problems that could cause the kind of pain I had. He suggested 5 days with high doses of ibuprofen and avoiding impact on the joint to see if killing the inflammation solves the problem.

So, here's my plan:

Writing this blog was intended as a way for me to stay motivated through my training and to log my journey to New York (and hopefully, Boston). I've heard from several people who are checking in on the blog and I now have the added bonus of feeling somewhat accountable to friends and family that are following my progress. I also feel some responsibility to provide a good example for anyone that might consider training for a marathon some day. So I'm trying to be smart about this injury and do what I would want someone I cared about to do if they were in my shoes.

I'm following Ben's advice and loading up on the ibuprofen. I'm also planning to take another week off from running to avoid any aggravation of the joint until the inflammation is dealt with. I plan to swim and bike a lot this week so I don't have a drop-off in my fitness. This week is a scheduled Recovery Week anyway, so I'm not missing a lot of serious mileage.

I plan to call the physical therapist that treated Liz's runner's knee. I'll get a second opinion and weigh my treatment options.

Today was almost completely pain free (following two doses of ibuprofen) so I'm hopeful that the problem isn't as serious as the doc says. I guess time will tell.

Goal For The Day: Rest.

Goal For The Day: Swim
Distance: 1,000 meters. (5 x 200m)
Location: Fenton Rec Center Outdoor Pool

Notes: My back feels really good today. It's going to be hard to stick to the plan if I feel this good all week. Some light lifting at the gym before swimming with Liz. It was nice to have a warm, but not hot, day to swim outdoors. A good workout but relaxing!

Daily Miles: 1,000 meter swim.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 82.17 Miles.
  Swim - 7,200 meters.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Logging Miles Without Breaking My Back

I logged onto weather.com yesterday afternoon and the radar showed a pair of thunderstorms heading to Eureka. We had a two hour window between the storms to fit in a bike ride. Unfortunately, by the time we finished some work around the house, the window was closing and the hot/humid weather was enough to talk us out of the ride.

Saturday is usually a scheduled day of rest and yesterday was no exception. My back has been feeling marginally better the past couple of days so it wasn't hard to convince myself to take a day off. With no workout yesterday, I decided to go for a ride today instead of a run. This way, I can take tomorrow off too and that will be a full week without stressing my back with a run. Then I'll see the chiropractor for my follow-up appointment tomorrow afternoon and hopefully get some answers.

Liz and I took the bikes out at 10:00 this morning. It was already hot and humid but it wasn't bad as long as we were moving. Liz took her second test-ride of a friend's road bike. This was her first long ride with clips. She almost bit it before we reached the end of the street, but she did great after that. I definitely fell more often when I started using clips!

It was a relaxed, slower ride with lots of chatting. We rode through The Legends and over to Rte. 66 for a quick lap before heading home. I think Liz is liking the feel of a road bike but the one she's on isn't fit to her, so it isn't as comfortable as it could be.

(Riding at Route 66 State Park.)

It was nice to keep my legs moving without jarring my back but I'm ready to get back to running. It's supposed to be cooler this week so I would like to get out and take advantage of the morning temperatures.

Goal For The Day: Bike Ride
Distance: 0.00 Miles (Postponed).

Goal For The Day: Bike Ride
Distance: 14.49 Miles.
Time: 1:19:42. 10.9 mph Avg.
Route: Through the Legends/To Rte. 66/One Lap/Home.
Conditions: 83 degrees and humid.

Notes: A nice 'Romance Ride' on a Sunday morning. Made up for any calories burned with an early birthday lunch with Mom and Rick at Red Robin! Yummm!!!

Daily Miles: 14.49 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 82.17 Miles.
  Swim - 6,200+ meters.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

I had another rough time trying to sleep last night. If I'm flat on my back, my lower back tightens up and starts to hurt right at my pelvis. During the day, it's only bothering me every now and then, but at night, it's waking me up a lot. So, I'm continuing with my plan to avoid running for the next couple of days.

I was so proud of my consistency up to this point, it's been hard to skip the past few workouts. I know it's the right thing to do, but it's still frustrating and I'm getting a little jumpy. It reminds me of the introduction to the 'Marathon' section of the book, The Quotable Runner. At one point, the author is discussing the pain a marathon can cause and the option of dropping out of a race. He said:

"Of course, you can step off the course, but there's a lot of mental anguish involved in such a step--enough that I am not sure whether it is an act of cowardice or courage to drop out of a marathon."

I've never started a marathon that I didn't finish but it isn't hard to imagine how much it would 'hurt' to have to drop out before reaching the finish line. I'm trying to remind myself that sitting out this week is similar. I'm not slacking off, I'm staying the course by resting an injury.

I couldn't find the exact quote, but there is a time in one of John L. Parker, Jr.'s books (I think it was Once A Runner) when Quenton Cassidy is in the middle of a race and reminding himself, "Stay calm in the pack." For some reason, anytime I get worked up or nervous about anything related to my running, I find myself thinking, "Stay calm in the pack." It doesn't really apply to most of the situations I use it for, but for some reason, it makes sense in my mind.

Today, I decided not to just rest idly. I went to the gym after work to do a little lifting and get in a swim. I got to burn some energy and feel like I'm still training without putting any impact on my back. It was a nice compromise. Tomorrow, I'm planning a bike ride with Liz. I might not be able to run right now, but I can adapt my training to keep fit.

Goal For The Day: Swim
Distance: 800 meters. (4 x 200m).
Location: Fenton Rec Center Indoor Pool.

Notes: It turns out I swim a little better when I don't go for a run on the treadmill first. It was frustrating not running today because it's cooler and cloudy. We even had our first thunderstorm in weeks!

Daily Miles: 900 meter swim.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 67.68 Miles.
  Swim - 6,200+ meters.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. Instead of a ton of tightness and wide-spread pain in my lower back, I was back to very localized pain and even that seemed somewhat improved. I decided if one day off helped then two days off couldn't hurt. So no running today. However, I did go to see a chiropractor this afternoon.

I took advantage of an offer for a consultation, exam, x-rays, and a massage for $20. I figured $20 wasn't a bad price for a massage so even if the exam didn't produce any results, I didn't have anything to lose.

I've never been to a chiropractor before so the doc explained what he does and why he does it. He assured me he isn't out to steal my money or condemn me to a lifetime of chiropractic adjustments. We talked about my pain and he put me through some range-of-motion tests. Based on what I told him and what he saw, he made it sound like I'm probably dealing with tight hamstrings and IT bands. It didn't sound like a bulging disc or a fracture were likely but he wanted to be sure before offering an official diagnosis or treatment. He took a couple of quick x-rays and asked me to come back Monday to go over the results. (His office is closed Friday through Sunday and the golf clubs in his office made the reason for this very clear.)

On my way out, he dropped me off in a dimly lit room with relaxation muzak playing softly. He said "one of the girls" would be in to give a quick massage just to work out some of the adhesion in the soft tissue then he would follow up with me Monday.

I've never had a massage before so I wasn't sure what to expect other than some pain. When the girl walked in, she apparently hadn't talked to the doctor because she asked, "Where are our problem areas today?" I said my lower back is the problem and she told me to lie face down. This lady spent 15 or 20 minutes massaging, rubbing, and digging painfully into my upper back and shoulders. She hardly touched my lower back and never touched my legs (which I thought was where all the tension was hiding). Don't get me wrong, it was relaxing and my shoulders probably needed a good massage, but I don't think it helped my lower back at all.

So I'll head back to the doc on Monday and take a look at my insides to see if anything is messed up. Between now and then, I've decided to give whatever is so angry in my back a chance to calm down. As much as it's killing me to skip days on my schedule, I'm going to try taking my own advice for once and rest.

I've decided no running today, tomorrow, or Saturday. If I'm feeling okay, I'll see about going out on Sunday but it probably won't be the full Long Run I have scheduled. I'm hoping that some serious stretching and repeated use of the foam roller with break up any 'adhesions' and loosen things up. The days off will give any inflammation a chance to subside. The sad thing is, the weather is finally breaking and today was the first not-scorching, partly-cloudy, I-even-saw-a-couple-of-rain-drops-on-my-windshield day we've had in weeks. So complete inactivity will drive me crazy. Maybe I'll get in a bike ride Saturday.

Missing a couple of days this early in my schedule won't hurt anything, it can only help, but it's still frustrating and I hope to get back to work ASAP.

Goal For The Day: Rest & Recover.

Notes: Awesome weather for a run and I'm sitting on my butt. Blah. I need to work more abdominal exercises into my routine. More core work. Feeling unbalanced.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 67.68 Miles.
  Swim - 5,400+ meters.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gear Check - Foam Roller

It's been a roller coaster of a week so far and it's only Wednesday. Sunday's Long Run put me out of commission for the rest of the day. I took Monday off to rest and tried to do lots of stretching. Monday night, I pulled out a fairly recent purchase: our foam roller.

For such a simple piece of foam, this thing can cause some serious pain... which leads to some very relaxed muscles. You just lay down on it in various (sometimes awkward) poses and roll back and forth over it. Your body weight presses down on the foam and works the kinks and stiffness out of your muscles and connective tissue. It makes you hurt in places you didn't know were tight!

I took about 5 minutes and really worked my hamstrings, butt, lower back, and IT band. It hurt like crazy, but everything felt less tense afterward.

Tuesday morning, I woke up a little stiff but seemed to loosen up pretty quickly. Most of the day, I felt pretty good but there was still some nagging pain and tension. I decided to try a light run at the gym that night to try to work out some of the stiffness.

I got to the Rec Center before Liz as usual and did some stretching and a few sit ups before getting on the treadmill. I started off slow and gradually sped up as I became more and more confident that my back wasn't going to seize up. I got in 4 good miles without any real problems. Every now and then, I would get a little 'twinge' that would throw my stride off for a step, but it was a fairly uneventful run!

Then I met Liz for a swim. It was good to get a nice, long, low-impact workout in to keep things loose. By the time we were done, I was hungry and tired.

I used the roller again last night and was feeling good about Tuesday on the whole when I went to bed. But then I had trouble sleeping because of a very focused pain in my lower back.

So, it's been very up and down. I decided to take today off just to let it rest even though yesterday was positive. Today has been pretty good and I'll go for a run again tomorrow as long as I don't get worse again.

A friend posted a link on Facebook for a special her chiropractor is having so I took it as a sign and scheduled an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully, they'll be able to diagnose and/or treat whatever is going on.

Goal For The Day: Easy Run
Distance: 4.00 Miles.
Route: Fenton Rec Center Treadmill.
Time: 29:28. 7:22 Avg. (7:47, 7:30, 7:13, 6:58)
Conditions: Indoors = Air Conditioning!

Goal For The Day: Swim
Distance: 950 meters. (150, 200, 250, 200, 150)
Location: Fenton Rec Center Indoor Pool.

Notes: My back is feeling better overall. Lower back seems to have loosened up some. Still some pain. Not really soreness. Feeling it in my 'glutes' today. Good run yesterday. The swim was a little slow but it felt good to get in the water.

Daily Miles: Run - 4.00 Miles. Swim - 950 meters.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 160.84 Miles.
  Bike - 67.68 Miles.
  Swim - 5,400+ meters.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Motivation Monday - Running With The Buffaloes

After yesterday's Long Run, I spent most of the day lying on the floor or the couch with my back completely locked up. By the time I went to bed, it was starting to feel a little better and today wasn't horrible. I was even able to mow the lawn tonight.

I'm still thinking it's a muscle problem, not something more serious, but it's going to be a problem if I can't get a handle on it. I still plan to see a doctor about it, but I also looked up some good stretches and trigger point therapy to try and loosen things up.

I'll see how I feel in the morning. I have 6 Miles on the schedule but Liz and I are also planning a swim tomorrow night. If I'm still hurting in the morning, I might wait to do an easy run at the gym tomorrow night.

In the meantime, I thought this was a perfect time to look at another one of my trusty running motivational tools. I've been re-reading the book Running With The Buffaloes: A Season Inside With Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross-Country Team.

It sounds like a dissertation title and the book probably reads like a dissertation to most people. I recommend plenty of books about running that I think anyone would enjoy. Then I have books about running that I think people interested in running would enjoy. This is a book that only a specific portion of even the running population would like.

Written by Chris Lear, the book follows CU's cross country team through the 1998 season as they try to win the national title. Coach Mark Wetmore is a fun character and it's great to get inside the head of a well-respected coach. The star of the team is Adam Goucher and the '98 season was his attempt to become the national champion while propelling his team to the championship as well. I found Goucher cocky and arrogant and not the kind of guy I want to root for, but the rest of his team is likable enough to make up for it. Since college, Adam's career has been riddled with injuries and he hasn't fulfilled his potential. However, his wife, Kara, has become a world-class runner and now outshines him. In fact, Liz is reading Kara Goucher's book, Running For Women, right now.

Reading Running With The Buffaloes for a second time, it reminds me of this blog. It's an almost-daily report of the team's training. The book holds my interest because it's similar to my own training but on a whole different level. I like reading about the workouts and the stats and numbers. It amazes me what kind of times these guys run. To the casual reader, the distances might not make sense and the workouts might be harder to visualize. The training might be too foreign of an experience for some readers to connect with.

Ironically, a lot of the season involved runners struggling with a variety of injuries. Since this has been the most injury-prone I've ever been, I can feel their pain.

So, if you want to read about the day in, day out training of a high-caliber collegiate cross-country team, I definitely recommend Running With The Buffaloes. But if you're just looking for a good book about running, hang in there... I'll have plenty of better recommendations.

Goal For The Day: Rest.

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 156.84 Miles.
  Bike - 67.68 Miles.
  Swim - 4,450+ meters.