Running quote of the week

"For me, as for so many runners, there really are no finish lines. Runs end; running doesn't." - Dean Karnazes

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Throwing caution to the run

Gimme shelter
Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

We have guests staying with us until Tuesday, so I've lost my running locker room (AKA the guest room) for a few days. I got my stuff together early so I could go out before our visitors arrived. My goal was to run about 5 miles. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way.

The soreness I've experienced over the past two weeks seemed to be going away and I had high hopes that I'd be free of it by next week. When I started my run, the pain was even more noticeable than it was at the beginning of yesterday's run. My plan was to do a couple of loops around the business park and then add some miles in an adjacent neighborhood. After running a mile in my neighborhood, I felt concern about overdoing it and modified my route in the name of caution.

I ended up staying on my local streets and kept it moderate. As I warmed up, the pain began to minimize and I wondered if I should do some extra dynamic stretching or put direct heat on the sore area right before my next run. It was chilly this morning so I had a couple of thermal bottom layers that probably contributed to my fast warm up. Along with that, I wore my new-old running vest and an actually new ASICS PR Shelter beanie that I got last week.

Even though I cut it short, I was glad that I was able to get in a run this morning. Better still, the soreness has diminished throughout the day. I'm hoping that means the inflammation that is triggering my sciatica is lessening. I'm continuing to run easy, even though I want to start picking up my training pace so I can prepare for racing in early 2015. I just have to be a little more patient.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New life for some old gear

Aging like fine wine
Today's run (street): 4.3 miles

I was recently in SA Elite looking at their holiday sale items. They had ASICS running vests for 20% off, but the price still seemed high for a jacket without any sleeves. Since then, I read a piece on winter running that mentioned the benefit of keeping your core warm on very cold days. A warm core helps keep your extremities and the rest of your body warm.

I didn't buy a running vest, but with this morning's wind chill, it felt like 28° outside. Rather than put on two long sleeve layers, I put on an acrylic fleece Sports Illustrated promo vest that I had from my Time Inc. days. The vest is lightweight and has a mesh liner inside. After a decade using it to keep warm in my office, it had a new use.

After choosing the vest, I needed to pick the shoes I'd wear on today's run. I'm no longer concerned that the Kayanos are causing my sciatica, but I decided to go back to my Sauconys to see how they felt on a run. The appropriation of the vest as running gear inspired me to pull my ancient Brooks Adrenalin GTS 10s out of the closet and use them instead. The 10s probably have 1,000 miles on them, but they are still viable.

I've always worn my Adrenalins when dealing with minor injuries because they seem to correct whatever problem is plaguing me. My shoe size has increased in recent years and the toe box is too tight for longer distances. If they were a half size bigger I'd put them into the rotation. The soreness in my glutes was there when I started, but it wasn't as pronounced as it was at the beginning of yesterday's run. I was hoping for a further reduction in the pain once I began to warm up.

Some mild discomfort remained throughout the run. Surprisingly enough, I found the pain to be a good distraction from the boredom of my neighborhood roads. I decided to be cautious and keep the run under five miles today. I may go further tomorrow. I'm out of the office until January 5th so I'll have a lot more days to run during the week. I'm really hoping to be free of this soreness by the time me and my buddies do the LIRRC Hangover run on January 1.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Acquitting the Kayanos

Not guilty
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

I've been worrying all week that my persistent soreness might be caused by my new Kayanos. In the past, I developed an injury that related directly to a pair of running shoes. In that case, the shoe had almost 700 miles and the outsole was worn down to the point of imbalance. Although the Kayano is a stability shoe, (which should probably help a problem like this) adapting from more minimal trainers could still cause an issue.

In terms of pain, I've been reading an article in Running Times (RT) that says soreness lasting more than 72 hours could signal a chronic injury. I'm going on two full weeks with mine. This morning I had to make a choice to try to run or find some other form of activity. All week I've been using the massage stick and doing both dynamic and core stretching. I had less pain when I got up, so I figured I'd try a run.

I wore the Opedix Knee-Tecs that promote stride alignment and also provide warmth. I needed the former to help with my injury and the latter to deal with the chilly temps. Due to my concerns about the ASICS, I probably should have worn my Virratas. I opted instead for the Kayanos to see if the problem got better or worse after the run.

I felt trepidation after my first few steps. The pain was radiating back to front but not to the degree where I had to consider stopping. The RT article said if pain decreases during a run, the injury is probably less serious. I hoped the pain would minimize once I began to warm up. At the half mile point I began to feel some pressure on one of my arches and started to question the shoes again.

I thought about how unfortunate it would be to discard these $160 running shoes (which I saw for $99 at Sports Authority last weekend and actually bought for $64). As I ran further, the pain had reduced to minor discomfort and the arch pressure had gone away. The big question was how I'd feel when I got back home.

I finished the run and concluded that the Kayanos did no further harm. I used the massage bar, iced the tender area and was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt better than before I left. So far so good. I'll try to step up the mileage tomorrow and I hope to continue seeing improvement. After some success pushing speed last weekend, I'm anxious to get back to faster paces.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I think I have a syndrome

So far, December has been a very low mileage month. Some of that has to do with my schedule, but this week it's mostly due to a persistent soreness that may or not be sciatica. Sciatica's root cause points to scary sounding things like lumbar spinal stenosis, isthmic spondylolisthesis and Piriformis syndrome. As bad as they sound, most relate to disk compression or misalignment. I think Piriformis syndrome, when the sciatic nerve is irritated by inflammation, is the most likely culprit.

I bought a massage stick and have used it frequently since Sunday. It helps me put pressure where I feel the most pain but I suspect that I'm not really getting to the source of the problem. I get relief immediately after using it, but the next morning the soreness returns. Despite everything, this ache hasn't lessened much since the last time I ran. That's frustrating because I want to run tomorrow, but I'm very concerned that will worsen the problem.

If I was smart I'd take this opportunity to shift to a form of cross training that provides cardio benefits without aggravating my injury. But that would require me to use weights or do push-ups or something. The elliptical is a possibility, although my hope is that I'll wake up tomorrow pain free and ready to run.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gaining SKLZ to beat the pain

Sticking it to sciatica
Today's run (street): 4.25 miles

Dedicated runners often endure discomfort for extended periods of time. That's a great attribute, but it's always important that they listen to their bodies closely enough to distinguish between good and injurious pain. This can present a dilemma - when is it okay to run and when is it best to rest? I thought about that today after waking up with the same soreness that plagued me since last weekend.

Pushing hard during yesterday's race was the likely reason for the return of this pain. I like to do a recovery run on the day following a race and was anxious to get outside this morning. Although my hamstring/glute area remained tender, there was no sharp pain. I weighed the benefits of running easy with the possibility of exacerbating the problem. I decided to go for it and gauge whether I was doing more harm than good as I moved along.

My start wasn't encouraging. Yesterday I came across the starting line with a lot of energy. This morning my legs felt heavy and my stride felt out of sync. The soreness was there, but I didn't feel as though I was making it worse. I'd committed to an easy pace and was concerned that I'd be tempted to pick up my speed as I went along. I watched my progress carefully to make sure that didn't happen.

The pain subsided as I warmed up through the run, but it never fully left. I would have liked to cover more than 4.25 miles to get a little more distance into my weekly volume. I chose to cut things short rather than invite further injury. Hours later I'm happy with that decision.

This afternoon I picked up a SKLZ massage bar that is similar to the "Stick" and other muscle rollers. I liked this design because it has some heft and the rubberized roller turns more smoothly than other devices I'd tried in stores. I put it to work as soon as I got home and it definitely provided a pinpointed soft tissue massage experience. Whether it will help my muscle pain still needs to be determined.

Tomorrow is my usual rest day and I'm going to extend that at least through Tuesday. At this point I'm pretty sure my soreness issue is sciatica. It's still uncomfortable but I'm hoping that a combination of rest, heat, ibuprofen and massage-barring will help address that quickly.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Race report: 2014 Jingle All the Way 5K

Post-race coffee club (L to R: ER, TPP, SIOR)
Today's run (Jingle All the Way 5K): 3.1 miles - Time: 28:20 (9:08 pace)

After many months of resisting the call of competition, I returned to racing at the Jingle All the Way 5K in Seaford today. Joining me on this chilly morning were fellow Runsketeers SIOR and TPP, both of whom finished first in their age groups. The early results showed TPP at #1 and SIOR in the top three, but later she was bumped up to first as well. I'm sure there was no bribery involved in that decision. Well, pretty sure.

I didn't podium, but I had my best race performance in a year, finishing 5th in my division. This meant something to me, because my performance has suffered since January and I'd lost confidence in my ability to attain a credible pace (even on a 5K). There's still room for improvement compared to past years, but I did beat my expected time by over a minute.

I arrived at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford around 8:00 AM and missed the registration area as I drove through the park. I ended up parking about a quarter mile away because I saw a group of people, some of them running, and figured that was it. That turned out to be a soccer game, but I was quickly redirected by some kind spectators and made my way to check-in.

I dropped off my toy (the event is sponsored by the John Theissen Children's Foundation), got my number and found SIOR. She and I headed back to my car so I could store my jacket and affix my bib number. Unfortunately, the package contained no pins, so I ended up back at registration to get some. Along the way, we ran into TPP who was doing a warm-up jog and the reunited Runsketeers all headed toward the start.

This race is fairly small, with only 222 people participating, but they did a nice job, including placing wood burning stoves where you could toast marshmallows (and keep warm in the 30° temps). The downside of that was the possibility of smoke inhalation. After they played the national anthem, we were ushered toward the road for the start. I got a fairly forward position because there was no timing pad at the starting line and I wanted my net and gun time to be as close as possible.

That position probably helped me overall today, because I kept up with many people for the first mile, which turned out to be my fastest. The course itself is not that interesting. It's a lollipop-shaped route with a turnaround at the bottom of the "stick." Heading toward the turnaround, I first spotted SIOR among the leaders. Not long after that I saw TPP and soon rounded the bend to start my way back to the top.

My biggest concern about this race was being able to hold a brisk pace for the duration. Even though it's not a long distance, I've done very little to prepare for prolonged running intensity. Last weekend I played a bit with speed, but suffered some glute, hamstring or sciatica pain afterward. I decided to push harder than I normally would on a training run and see how it turned out. The course was relatively flat, but there were some elevated sections, including one that had us running directly into the wind.

Once I got to the circular part of the route I knew I had only about a mile to go. I maintained my speed, but didn't overdo it. Had I looked at the Garmin, I may have upped the effort enough to make up the 25 seconds I needed to average in the 8 minute range. As I got closer to the finish, I saw TPP's boyfriend JC who was on his bike, cheering us on. JC shouted some words of encouragement as I passed by and I soon entered the finish chute where I saw TPP and SIOR watching and cheering me in.

JC left to do a two hour bike ride (he's a hardcore triathlete) and SIOR and TPP located a Starbucks for our traditional post-run coffee break. SIOR was taking her daughter and her friends into NYC for an important birthday (13) so she needed to leave first. TPP and I hung out and caught up for a while before we headed off to start the non-race portion of our day.

I'm very pleased with today's result and proud of my buddies who led their age groups. I checked to see what I needed to pace to have podium-ed today and saw that there was a lot of distance between my finish time and the third place runner. I'm going to have a low mileage week but that's okay. I wanted to give my "injury" time to heal. I did feel soreness during the race, but it was minor.

Tomorrow I'll do some easy miles. The weather is supposed to be warmer and I'm looking forward to a nice recovery run. I'm not sure if I'll race again before January, but at least I'm back in the game.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Paying the price for running too fast

 
Today's run (street): 4.5 miles

Yesterday afternoon I started experiencing muscle pain from my left side glute down to the hamstring. The pain isn't sharp, but it's noticeable. My first thought and concern was that the new Kayanos were throwing off my gait. I realized that was unlikely because my only prior run in them was on Friday, when I covered a scant 3.3 miles. I took ibuprofen before bed last night and hoped the ache would be gone in the morning.

That wasn't the case. When I got up, the pain was there. No better or worse than last night, but it was enough to notice. I've been injury-free for over a year and I was puzzled by this condition. It felt more like sciatica than a muscle or tendon tear. However, if that was the source then analgesics should have helped.

My opportunities for running are skewed to the end of the week and the weekend, so missing a Sunday run for rest would have an effect on my weekly volume. I decided to go for a very easy run and carefully monitor the pain. The last time I had something like this, it quickly went from moderate discomfort to bad pain. So bad, in fact, that I needed to abandon a run after a quarter mile and limp back home.

I wore the Kayanos again because they have stability features that would provide a correction for a pronator like me. I generally ignore that need because I prefer a neutral trainer. My old Brooks Adrenalins, which had a firm medial post, would do a great job of solving issues related to gait.

I took off with a conscious focus on the sore muscle and soon realized that running wasn't going to exacerbate the problem. At the same time, my quads and hamstrings felt tighter than normal and I knew I had no chance of matching yesterday's speed. It was then when I realized the pain I felt was probably due to those episodes of fast running during yesterday's workout. It's been a while since I've pushed my pace so hard for so long.

Nice weather we're havin'
The other factor that worked against me today was the weather. According to Garmin Connect, conditions during today's run were 37° temps with a 23 MPH wind. The wind chill made it feel like 26° and at times I felt like I was running last year's Long Beach Turkey Trot. I had no illusions of meeting my performance target. Besides that, the purpose of this run was recovery.

I expected to cover about 4 miles - less if my pain grew worse. Since that didn't turn out to be the case, I hung in for an extra half mile. When I was done I was ready for a nap. Hours later, my muscle soreness remains, but it's no worse than when I got up this morning. Rest has always been my best approach to injury, so I'll be doing that for the next couple or days (at least). This doesn't seem to be the same type of pain I had last time. I hope so, because that injury took me off the road for over a week.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Taking on all comers

Five loops with one variation
Today's run (street): 5.4 miles

Things looked fairly bleak this morning when I looked outside to gauge weather conditions. It was raining, not a surprise, but I was still disappointed. I'd prepared myself for that possibility and my plan was to run outside as long as the rain remained moderate. I put on water-friendly running gear, including my ASICS running rain jacket and C9 running tights before heading out the door.

Once outside, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rain had completely stopped. I didn't know how long that would last, so I planned a route that kept me close to home in the event of a spontaneous downpour. I'd run this 1-mile loop a few times before. The first half has a 2% net incline and the second half has a 1.5% downward slope. I like it because, though modest, I get most of the elevation done by the half mile mark.

Since I frequently whine about the lack of visual stimulation I get from running in my neighborhood, you'd think following the same loop five times would be especially tedious. Surprisingly enough, I like this route because the cycle is so compartmentalized. Push through the first half and cruise through the second. No time wasted thinking about whether to turn left or right. Follow the loop, repeat as required.

I did vary one loop a little just for a change, but the rest were the same. I had a couple of situations when another runner entered my path, going in the same direction. In both cases, I was faced with the challenge of either passing them or being left behind. My competitive side kicked in and I took off in hopes of putting some distance between us. I was able to gain a lot of ground both times, especially when I was on my last mile and I pulled out all stops. I kept my pace in the mid-8 minute range for the last half mile.

It never rained during my run, but the skies opened up soon afterward. Despite that couple of faster segments, I didn't end up with a great overall pace. Some of that may be due to my failure to stop the Garmin when I finished my run. By the time I discovered that mistake, a minute or two had elapsed and this distorted my data.

Even so, I was pleased that I was able to turn up the jets when the situation required it. Of course it's easy to beat someone in a foot race when the other person doesn't know you're racing them. Can I maintain that intensity throughout the whole 5K next Saturday? Probably not, but when it counts, some tactical speed could come in handy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

First impression of the new Kayanos

So far so good
Today's run (street): 3.3 miles

It wasn't until I was ready to put on my running shoes that I remembered I had a brand new pair of ASICS Kayanos sitting in a box in my gear cabinet. I was excited to try them out and experience a very different platform. After years of low, minimal running shoes, I'm returning to a more cushioned trainer. It's a little like going from a sports car to a luxury sedan. Both are great, but for different reasons.

Today was going to be busy and long and I was grateful not to have to do my long commute. I got myself out the door early enough to keep on schedule but (unfortunately) it was just in time to play "dodge the school buses and recycling trucks" in my neighborhood.

Once my Garmin got its signal I was off. The Kayanos definitely felt different from my Virratas. It wasn't the pillowy float that I had expected. Instead, my impression of the shoes was a combination of comfort and purpose. The shape of the mid-sole facilitated a good rolling gait and that meant something today. My legs were not feeling too springy.

I really liked the Kayanos but, as short as it was, I didn't enjoy the run all that much. It may have been due to all the things I needed to do once my workday started, but it was probably more related to how I felt. Despite being far below aerobic threshold, I had some labored breathing during the first half of the run. Warming up corrected that, but I began to feel some leg fatigue near the end. Some days are like that, even on shorter runs.

I ended up pacing decently - still below target, but better than prior weeks. I think the responsive Kayanos actually helped me today. I'm disappointed to read that rain is expected overnight and into the morning. I really don't want to face the roar of the treadmill, so I'll run with my rain jacket if it isn't a downpour. If that's the case, I won't be wearing my new shoes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Faint praise for the elliptical

ProForm CE 6: I look different in workout clothes
Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

It's been another busy week, but at least tomorrow is Friday. Today was my first opportunity for a morning workout and my intention was to do a treadmill run. I got up this morning and decided that I couldn't deal with the treadmill's racket, so I fired up the elliptical instead. Although I've never warmed to this unit (it's far less substantial than its predecessor) the Pro-Form does provide a good cross training alternative.

Compared to the treadmill, using the elliptical is a breeze. Besides the fact that it's self propelled and quiet, the elliptical doesn't make me constantly worry about a bad slip and fall. In fact, you can use the elliptical with your eyes closed. That's something I'd never recommend doing on a treadmill. I ended up getting a decent workout and avoided a noise-related headache.

I always look forward to Friday's because I can get outside in the morning for a few miles prior to starting my working day from home. Tomorrow will be extremely busy so I'll need to get out early to fit in a workout. I'm getting mixed messages online about Friday morning's weather. One prediction calls for morning rain and the other calls for cold but dry conditions. I'm hoping for the latter.

I'd like to avoid the treadmill if possible. And as much as I appreciated it today, I'm not in the mood for another elliptical session.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kayano say good deal?

My bargain babies
Today's run (street): 3.4 miles

Thanksgiving break seemed like it would go on forever but Sunday is finally here. We had morning plans, so I went out for an early run. Although I didn't intend to run with a lot of intensity, I kept my max HR between 81%-91%. This produced a nice speed improvement over yesterday. I'm still outside my target zone for performance, but I've brought my pace down almost a minute over my last four runs.

There were two factors that held me back today: a miscalculation in terms of dress (too many layers for 50°) and an 11 MPH wind that hit head on during a couple of long stretches. In neither case was I particularly uncomfortable, but I did wish for shorter sleeves and a gentler breeze. The smell of burning leaves enveloped the neighborhood and inspired me to push a little harder. In fact one of my splits was my fastest mile this year, not counting track intervals. I'm sure the Garmin was confused to see me running in the eight minute range.

The real news of the day happened after my run, when we did some end of break shopping at the Gallery at Westbury Plaza. After some awesome Thai coconut curry at Noodles & Co., I stumbled upon one of the biggest running related bargains I've ever seen. My daughter was looking for some new running shoes so we stopped into Famous Footwear to see what they had.

I usually view Famous Footwear as an outlet for low end models and slow selling remainders, but they do occasionally surprise me. As I scanned the shelves in the men's section, I noticed a pair of ASICS Kayano 20's with a sign that said $64 | regular price $159.99. I knew that ASICS had introduced the 21s, so I would have expected to see these discounted (at best) to the $110-120 range. $64 seemed way too good to be true.

Note the $95 "price conflict"
I found a pair in my size to try on. I figured that if they fit as well as Kayanos usually do, I could ask the actual price and see if it was still competitive. I was slightly ambivalent when I put them on, but after a few quick steps at the back of the store, I wanted them. I asked the assistant manager for the actual price and she said, "$159.99." I showed her the shelf tag and she said I could have the Kayanos at that price - that it was their error. She was really nice and even let me use their deal of the day (buy one pair and get another at half price) to buy my daughter her shoes.

Needless to say, I'm very excited about this purchase. After five years wearing lighter, more minimal running shoes, I've been thinking lately about the industry's pendulum shift toward more substantial and cushioned models. I'd considered the Hoka Cliftons as well as the Brooks Transcend and the new Adrenalin 15s, among others. The Kayano is THE classic stability trainer and I'm curious to see how I'll do in a shoe that weighs 25% more than my Saucony Virratas. I suspect I won't miss the lightness at all.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jingle on the way

Today's run (street): 3.8 miles

There are sure a lot of Christmas themed 5Ks on Long Island. I ran the Ho Ho Holiday race a couple of years ago and last December I ran the Hot Chocolate 5K with SIOR. There's also the Jingle Bell run, Stuff the Sleigh, the Toy Trot and the Holiday Fun Run. It's been months since I've raced and I'm feeling ready to return to the starting line. I'm excited to be running the Jingle All The Way 5K with my buddies on December 13.

I used to avoid 5Ks because it took a lot of time and effort to do something that goes by in less than 30 minutes. 10Ks were my favorite distance because they're short enough to require tactical speed, yet long enough to require a smart pacing strategy. However, after many month's hiatus from racing and little performance focused running, a 5K seems like a good way to restart competition.

This morning I woke up with a pain under my arch and I wondered if I'd bruised a tendon during yesterday's rough trail run. I'm always concerned that I'll develop plantar fasciitis, which is the fourth most common running injury. I debated whether I should take a rest day to help my foot recover. After having some coffee and walking around the house, the pain diminished and I decided to go out for a few miles to see how it held up.

It was very cold this morning, so I went with the Opedix Knee-Tecs once again for warmth. My objective was a 3-4 mile tempo run. I planned to start easy and increase speed after a couple of miles. If my foot pain returned, I figured I would keep to the original pace or shut down the run. After 15 minutes without pain, I stepped it up and maintained a faster pace until the end.

I ended up improving my second half pace by a full minute over the first. It still wasn't to the level of performance I'm hoping to attain on the 13th, but it's going in the right direction. I'll see if I can maintain a higher intensity in my runs leading up to the race date. There's nothing like having a race on the calendar to motivate you to try a little harder.
 

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