Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Double Tagged

I've been "tagged" -- twice!

Chris at "Never Trade..." (who I'm married to!) and Heather at "Will Run for Coffee" (who I'm not!) tagged me (and lots of other people) in an "11 random things" post. I'm not the best at participating in stuff like this, but since I'm not quite ready to launch the big secret EYD giveaway, I thought it would be fun and I'm extremely thankful to Heather and Chris for giving me the makings of a blog post during a time when I'm even more out-of-ideas than usual.

1. Post these rules
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself
3. Answer the questions set for you in their post (I answered both of theirs)
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
5. Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this. You legitimately have to tag 11 people! (Rules are meant to be broken.)
11 Random Things

1. I hate snakes. In addition to having been bitten by a poisonous snake, I've had non-poisonous ones get inside our hose and scare the bejesus out of me.

2. I was briefly popular in high school when I had the lead in our Senior class play. Afterward, I faded back into obscurity.

3. Chris and I recently celebrated our ten-year anniversary. Woohoo!

4. I love soft, furry kitties. Except when they take over my office chair but don't do any of my work.

5. I drive a Dodge Neon. I'm on my third one. It sucks that they don't make Neons anymore.

6. I was a Psychology major in college. Though all I've never had a job in which I've really used the subject matter of psychology, I do think the amount of study and writing I had to do in the major was good preparation for my career, and I got my first job (which led to the job I have today) through one of my professors. So, I can't say that my major didn't help me. And, it helped me cross rats off the list of animals that I haven't been bitten by.

7. I like to travel. We've been fortunate enough to do a whirlwind tour-type trip in Italy, Paris, and London and have gotten to go to Jamaica more recently. However, I don't have to go far to have fun. We've also had a good time in Natural Bridge, VA, and Atlantic City, NJ.

8. I love sports, but I am terrible at almost every single one that I've played. Baseball/softball is my worst. I was never able to catch even the most routine of fly balls. I did the best at basketball, having played on the school teams in 5, 6, 7, and 10th grades. I scored a total of 21 points in my career.

9. I'm still pretty mad about the ending of LOST.

10. My all-time favorite band is Van Halen. I have a joke that I'd make here, but I think I'll save it for a Van Halen post after I've listened to their new album next week.

11. One of my ancestors was killed by land pirates in the early 1800s. When I hear "land pirates", I can't help but picture a bunch of dudes walking around in pirate garb insisting that they are, in fact, on the high seas. I'm picturing something like this:

Land Pirate: "Argh, walk the plank ye scurvy dog."

Brian's Ancestor: "But...there's no plank to walk. We're miles from the ocean. You just have a donkey cart with my stolen goods on it that you happen to have a pirate flag hanging on."

Land Pirate: "Well, ye best be walking off of it before I run you through, landlubber."

Brian's Ancestor: "That's not even a sword you're holding, sir. May have my I things back?"

I'm going to pretend that he eventually walked off the cart and broke his neck in the fall, but I'm sure it was really just a traditional, boring highway robbery.

My Answers to Heather's Questions

  1. If you listen to music while you run, what's your "power song"?

I'm not sure I have a "power song", but I'll say "Something to Believe In" by the Offspring and "Move Along" (which always seems appropriate) by the All-American Rejects.

2. Which race has been your favorite so far?

That's a tough one. I'm going to cheat a bit and say my first time finishing a 5K (2007 Once and Done Turpike Run), 10K (MCVET 10K), Half (2009 Philly), and full (Shamrock). There have been more fun races and none of these are what I'd call my "best" races, but it's been a neat feeling of accomplishment every time I've finished a new distance.

3. What's your favorite training plan?

I've done such a crappy job in following them that I shouldn't answer this.

4. What's your go to post run fuel/food?

Donuts. (Not after every run, but I usually get a breakfast sandwich and a donut once a week after every long run.)

5. Do you reward yourself after a big event?

Yes. What else is the point?

6. If yes to #5, what do you do to reward yourself?

Out for a favorite dinner and a couple beers.

7. Have you motivated others to run?

I try to encourage people..."motivate"? Probably not.

8. Who motivated YOU to run?

Chris is always very encouraging, positive, and patient -- and the whole running thing was her idea! Kim, one of our friends who I met through Chris, given me lots of advice and encouragement as I tried different distances, ran an awesome amount of marathons, and has fought through more injuries than I could endure. I like running...she loves it more than anyone I know.

9. Is running part of a bigger journey for you, or is it just something you do?

It started as "I'm going to get myself in better shape." Then it became a nice way to turn my brain off, listen to cheesy punk music, and think about nothing but one foot in front of the other. Now, it's something that's very important to my self-image, something I can be proud of myself of and challenge myself with that isn't tied to my job.

10. What's your favorite time of year to run?

November-March. I love running in cool and cold weather, and I'm bummed that my injury setback happened during my favorite time of year to run.

11. Is running a solitary event for you, or do you share it with others?

I run mostly by myself, but Chris and I run the same races and so do some of our friends, so there's a social aspect of it, too.

My Answers to Chris' Questions

1. If you're a runner, what was your first ever race?

The 2007 Once & Done Turnpike Run 5K. It was a neat race, over and back across a just-completed but (obviously) not-yet-open-to-traffic bridge on the PA Turnpike. 26:29

2. If you could have one super power, what would it be?

Super speed! London Olympics, here I come! I mean, come on. I've been bitten by so many animals how was one of them not radioactive?! It would be super speed at everything, too. I'd power through a long work-day in 30 minutes, and then spend the rest of the day doing fun stuff very quickly.

3. What's your favorite sport to watch?

Football and baseball. But I also love the 76ers.

4. When you were a kid, did you play any sports? If so, which one/s?

Baseball, soccer, basketball. Basketball, as mentioned above, was the only one in which I had the slightest modicum of success.

5. With the Olympics coming up this summer, do you prefer the winter or summer games?

I think I like watching the Winter Games a bit more overall, just because they're more unique. I really enjoy the Summer Games, too. Looking forward to watching (highlights of) the marathon, and seeing Usain Bolt use his superpower again.

6. With that being said, what is/are your favorite sports in the games you chose?
Hockey, Speed Skating, and Downhill Skiing

7. What food do you wish had no calories? Or drink?

Pizza and Beer.

8. Show some blog-love, what blog do you love to read?

In addition to "Never Trade..." and "Will Run for Coffee" of course: (links to all of them are over on the left)

Quest for Running Perfection

Running Jackalope

The Running Moron

For Love of the Run


Run With Jill

The Boring Runner

Running Shorts


Running Joke

Running is Funny

The Adventures of Daddy Runs A Lot

9. What's you're favorite vacation spot? Why is it your favorite?


10. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Astronaut or Pro Athlete. In a somewhat (but I guess not much) more realistic realm, I'd be independently wealthy and volunteer in the cat adoption room instead of working. In an even more realistic world, a writer...just a different kind of writer than I am now. (My problem: multiply the amount of writer's block I have w/this blog by a thousand...)

11. Do you have a saying you live by or just a favorite quote?

It's cheesy, but one year the Eagles' playoff slogan was "Own the Moment". They totally didn't own the moment and got stomped, but I tell myself to "own the moment" all the time, while racing, while working, right at about that time where I feel like the *&^s about to go down.

Who I tagged

I'm not actually going to tag anyone because I'm that non-confrontational . If you're reading this and want a free idea for a blog post, consider yourself tagged!

My 11 questions for anyone who wants them:

1. What's your favorite race distance and why?

2. What race do you consider your best and why?

3. Favorite running book?

4. What's your funniest running-related story?

5. What's your "bucket list" race?

6. What's your running goal for 2012

7. What's the most interesting animal you've been attacked by?

8. What's your favorite sport to play, other than running?

9. If you follow running as a spectator sport, who is your favorite runner to root for?

10. Of all the places you've run, whether it was a race or just a training run, where is your favorite?

11. Bacon: crispy or floppy?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Obligatory Post

  • The comeback trail is now within sight. February 10 (Saturday the 11th probably makes more logistical sense, though) was the arbitrary date on which I decided I was going to end my month off. Getting sick hurt, but I've been trying to do a decent job w/the cardio; I've done well in getting back into the groove in lifting (I probably lifted more in December and January than I did in all the rest of 2011) ; and I'm looking forward to getting back on the road.

  • We've now signed up for the Kelly St. Patrick's Day 5K in Baltimore. It's on March 11, the day of Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day Parade, not St. Patrick's Day itself. The 5K is a fun race albeit one with some crowd control problems, so I'm hoping that the legs are ok and that I can get myself back in some semblance of racing shape by then. Chris will have this 5K, and then on the following weekend will run both the 8K and Half at Virginia Beach.

  • Not that I am usually full of brilliant or hilarious ideas for posts, but I'm completely out of ideas right now. Therefore, I'm going to be running my first-ever contest here on the blog, with an actual giveaway from an actual sponsor. People have to be willing to make fun of themselves a little bit, but I hope it will be fun. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cross-Country Skiing? Not Quite.

After a nice stationary bike and elliptical session at the gym last Monday, I felt like I was back in the groove of getting good cardio workouts in.

Nope! Instead, what I got was an upper respiratory infection. I felt sick most of last week....I would start to feel better, and then the next day feel worse again. Symptoms were shifting from the throat to the nose, but it was a aching in the lungs and wheezing that drove me to the doctor's office yesterday.

My doctor, who I really like, is a strong believer in practicing good antibiotic stewardship. While some the other doctors at the practice hand out antibiotics pretty quickly, mine is reluctant. But when I told him that I had been using several OTC meds plus all my usual allergy-asthma meds (I'd never really been considered to have chronic asthma, but especially during allergy season one of my daily meds is an albuterol* inhaler -- the rescue inhaler of many asthmatics) plus had felt like I'd had bronchitis or at least cold symptoms on-and-off since December, he gave me three days worth of azithromycin and prednisone. I'm still pretty phlegmy, but otherwise feel a lot better.

Anyway, now that I've bored you or grossed you out with an episode of General Practitioner, let's move on to exercise, shall we? I got up at 5:00am this morning to drive up to the gym, only my venerable Neon had other ideas, a cracking noise from the rear of the car when I backed up. A visual inspection revealed no obvious problems or anything (ice, weird evil wildlife) that I'd backed over, and as I drove up the hill there was a rubbing noise from the rear of the car. My gym is 25 minutes from home, in the complete opposite direction from where I'd take the car, so I decided not to chance it.

Disappointed and worried about the car, I still wanted to get some exercise in. So, I did 40 minutes on this:

That's right, a Nordictrack Ski Machine. My parents had one of these when I was in high school and college (they still have it, I think) and I always felt like I got good workouts on it. Back then, I would usually do just 15 minutes on it, going as fast as I could. That was probably why I fell of the thing fairly regularly. (It's easy to do!) I bought our off a friend's parents 12 years ago, and had used it sporadically over the years when I didn't have a gym membership, but hadn't touched in at least 5 years since I started running.

This morning, I just focused on keeping a steady pace, which turned out to be 8k/hr (I'm not sure why it has a metric odometer). I felt like it was a good workout -- I worked up a good sweat before opening the windows to the winter air. It's non-impact, but I feel like it makes me work my calves pretty hard, and I need that. Unlike a standard elliptical, where my feet stay flat on the pedals the whole time, I lift my heels when I'm on the NordicTrack, so I'm hoping that even though there's no impact it's simulating some of the motion of running on my calves moreso than my other adventures in cross-training.

The main problem is boredom -- I did 40 minutes and that was about all I could stand. I tried to read a magazine, but it's tough since I do use the arm part of the machine. Perhaps I can find a book rack for it, which might make it easier to read or might allow me to watch videos on the Kindle.

I want to run again soon, and I also need to do better (and have better luck!) about getting to the gym for cardio, but I know there will always be mornings where I just don't get myself up in time. This old machine could be a big help to me in getting back some conditioning and a good cross-training option even when I'm back on the road.

*Spelllcheck wants to auto-correct "albuterol" to "butterball". Awesome.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I've Been Bitten by More Animals than You

I can't run, and I've been sick all week, so the usual subject matter of this blog has been a complete washout. Therefore, it's story time...

I believe everyone has a gift. Maybe yours is running, or being really good at cooking, or perhaps Parchesi. Whatever. My gift is a singular talent for getting bit by animals.

The crown jewel of my own personal When Animals Attack is that I've been bitten by a poisonous snake. It was the summer before 2nd grade, and I was at a YMCA day camp, not far from where I currently live, actually. Amidst all the swimming, and archery, and arts & crafts that we did, we were also supposed to learn. My group was out on a nature walk, and I got to see nature a little bit too closely. We were walking roughly in single file on a path in the woods, and I was the last one in the group. I felt something prick my left ankle. I looked back, expecting to see a twig that had popped up as I stepped on it. Instead:

Needless to say, I did not respond in a calm, rational manner. I ran to the head of the group, where the counselor was leading us, all the while screaming "I'VE BEEN BITTEN BY A SNAKE!!!" Of course, freaking out raises your heart rate and spreads the poison faster, so this was actually the worst thing I could do. The counselor doubted my tale of woe. "It was probably a rabbit." Really? I was terrible at archery; I was not the best at basketball; and my arts & crafts were less than stellar, but even at that young age I could tell a snake from a rabbit with 100% accuracy, and I assured him that it was not a damn rabbit. I don't recall whether he looked, or others went back a few minutes later, but eventually they found the snake still lying in the path, stepped on by every kid in the group, no doubt.

If you consult
A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America (Second Edition) entry for "Northern Copperhead", you'll see that I was supremely unlucky.

These snakes are generally quiet, almost lethargic, preferring to lie motionless or to make a slow retreat when encountered. When sufficiently agitated, however, they can strike vigorously and may vibrate their tails rapidly.

Meanwhile, I was taken to see the camp nurse, and she tried to suck the poison out of my leg with a needle, to no avail. 911 was called and I ended up in the ER. Copperhead bites are relatively minor, seldom requiring antivenom. However, because I was eight years old and really, really small for my age, this was a big deal. My leg swelled up to roughly the size of a basketball, and every day the doctors marked how high the swelling had progressed. A plastic surgeon was called in, and I guess there was at least a chance I could lose the leg. And since I was the first victim of a poisonous snake in York County in 20 years, they had to bring antivenom in from California.

At any rate, however, I recovered, even had a mention in the newspaper, and went on to live a productive life of getting bit by other animals...

I've also been attacked by a chicken. This isn't nearly as fun a story, and my memories of it are a lot hazier. I was at a friends house, and his family had a small farm with a couple horses, goats, and chickens. One of the chickens was rather ill-tempered. In reality, I'm sure the chicken was fine, and it was just that my friend and I liked to play and build hay forts in what the chicken considered its territory. And of course, that's what happened. We startled the chicken, it freaked out, flew at me, and pecked me in the stomach. No hospitalization was required this time, since it wasn't a venomous chicken.

I suspect more people are bitten by mammals than by birds or reptiles. Don't worry, I've got that covered. I've been bitten by dogs and cats (I'm bitten by cats almost every day), but where I probably have the drop on you is that I've also been bitten by rats.

It's not as gross and scary as it sounds. During my senior year at college, I was a lab assistant in the psychology department, and one of my responsibilities was to care for the department's rats and assist the freshman in their behavioral science lab, in which they were supposed to train a rat to press a bar in exchange for water. I had a very friendly and well-trained rat of my own, named "Skinner."

Each rat lived by itself in a small, plastic cage for the duration of the semester. After the semester was over, we tried to find them homes. However, three were not adopted by the time the next semester's rats arrived. Those three lived together in a big wire-mesh cage and chased each other around all day. On a few occasions, I was careless as I reached into retrieve the rats from the cage, and had my other hand on the cage as I opened the door. This would always result in rats biting my fingertips, which was quite painful. Overall, it wasn't a bad job. I learned a lot about statistics and got to collect and analyze data for sensory psychology experiments, too. But I've been bitten by rats and most people haven't.

Still, the grandest prize of them all has eluded me. My wife has been bitten by a tiger and I have not. Sure, it was a cute baby tiger, hardly larger than our cats, that was playing at our feet and nipped her leg as we held and were photographed with another cute baby tiger at the Natural Bridge Zoo. Still, that does not change the fact that she was bitten by a tiger. It should have been me. It should have been me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Race Plan Takes Shape

In a previous post, I complained wrote about how Shinsplints & The Mystery Bump (That's what I'm going to call my band if I'm ever in a band.) had wrecked havoc on my spring racing schedule.

Well, I think things are starting to sort themselves out. I signed myself up for the "Sole of the City 10K" in Baltimore on April 21. I'll have build my endurance up, but I did a half our of high-resistance hill training on the stationary bike followed by a half hour of elliptical at the gym, and it seems like my conditioning will be fine, I'll just have to get used to the impact of running again. A couple weeks of rest seems to have done wonders for the legs.

If I'm committed to doing 6 miles on April 21, I should probably be back in 5K shape by March 11, so "yes" to Kelly Shamrock 5K as well. Townebank 8K at Shamrock Sportsfest in VA Beach? I think I'll wait as long as I possibly can to make that decision.

Broad Street 10-miler on May 6? That's probably pushing it. Instead, we're considering the
Fit to Run, Fit to Dream 8K in Williamsburg, VA. If we run that one, it's because a race happened to occur when/where we were planning a trip, rather than planning a vacation around a race!

I'm sure I'll run the usual assortment of 5Ks in the summer, but it would probably be wise to pick my battles instead of running every single one for a PR. And the Harrisburg Mile, of course. Health permitting, of course, it's 5:59 or bust.

I'm still debating a full or half marathon in the fall. Right now, I'm leaning toward a half. That'll keep me from having to log 30-some mile weeks in the summer, when running is not my friend. I had a great summer of running, but I think pushing through the heat was part of the reason why I was so burnt out on running by October. And though the sample size is very small, it seems like going directly from the fall marathon to training for the spring marathon took too much of a toll on me. A fall half seems like it would give me my best chance to go to the 2013 Shamrock Marathon healthy and motivated. I could try an earlier fall marathon than Philly, I think my feelings about hot weather long runs are pretty well known!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another World

"I rallied as hard as I could. I'm in shock. I'm disappointed but need to turn my attention back to the 10K. i kept telling myself someone will come back. They did, but not enough. It's not my coaching, maybe I'm not meant to run the marathon. I want to be a marathoner. But maybe it's not in the cards. I've gone through so much at one point I thought I'd never run again."
The part of this quote that really jumps out at me is "...maybe I'm not meant to run the marathon. I want to be a marathoner. But maybe it's not in the cards."

These don't sound like the words of someone that just ran a sub 2:10 marathon, does it? But this quote is from Dathan Ritzenhein, who finished fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Saturday, where he fell short of his goal -- 3rd place, which would give him a spot on the team, by just eight seconds. I can't even imagine being that fast...I mean all four of the top men's finishers ran their marathons pretty much
3 hours faster than I run a marathon. Even more so I can't imagine how hard they had to work to be that fast and the possibility of being that fast and it being just not quite good enough, or being that fast and even better in another event to the point that he seems to be considering not running marathons competitively (As fast a marathoner as Ritzenhein is, he's even more elite in the 10K!). I'm completely awestruck.

It just seems like a completely different sport at the elite level. That's true of every sport, I suppose, but it seems more real to me since I actually am hanging onto the bottom rung of this sport and have finished this distance (albeit in over twice the time!), vs. other sports I've tried where the closest I've come to "the bigs" is beer-league softball or 4-on-4 backyard football with my college friends.

Chris and I caught the end of both the men's and women's trials yesterday, and it was impossible not to feel especially bad for the fourth-place finishers, who came so close in this all-or-nothing event; I'm hoping Ritzenhein makes the U.S. team in the 10,000, where his coach, Alberto Salazar, thinks he has a chance to do some damage.

I wish the best to Shalene Flanigan, Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher, Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, and Abdi Abdirahman as they chase marathon medals for the U.S. in London.


After coming up eight seconds short in Olympic marathon trials, Ritzenhein ponders future, Denver Post

Sunday, January 15, 2012


The road to recovery looks a little longer and a lot colder than it did on Friday. In just a little bit over an hour today, I rode just short of 10 miles. It's 22F degrees right now with a "feels like" of 17, and I suspect it was even cooler than that when I set out. Though I enjoy running in the cold, once I get through the first few minutes and body warms up a bit, biking in the cold sucks! I did a decent enough job layering, with an Under Armour Cold Gear shirt, a Brooks Equilibrium long-sleeve, and my old Chicago Bulls (I can't defend my high school self against the charges of bandwagonism) Starter windbreaker, winter gloves, and a Nike headband to protect my ears.

The problem was the wind cut right through my running shoes and my feet were freezing! I also need to find a better solution for keeping my face warm w/o impeding breathing. I have a hood/neck-warmer thing that I pulled up over my mouth and nose, but it was very warm when I was out of the wind, so I'd pull it down, but then when I was going into the wind it was necessary to use it to re-cover my breathing nose and mouth, but made it a little too hard to breathe, especially since it got all wet with condensation. Perhaps some kind of biking facemask or just staying on the stationary bike until spring is the right answer?

The encouraging thing about today's workout was that I did an hour of tough cardio, which is about how long the 10K that I (foolishly?) just signed up for would take me.

The the less encouraging aspect was how much bigger the hills seemed! I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to hack it in the hilly development (actually some roads that are supposed to be a development but where no houses have been built yet) where I was planning to ride, so I did most of my mileage in the high school parking lot. Even the inclines in the parking lot, which I didn't even notice in the spring and summer, seemed challenging now. Next time I'm on the stationary bike at the gym, I think I need to crank up the resistance and worry less about speed...not like I'm going anywhere either way, right?

Friday, January 13, 2012

It's Fun to Stay at The...

As I mentioned in my last post, Chris and I joined a gym, the Harrisburg YMCA (I'll probably be at the West Shore branch almost exclusively), but I had yet to get myself over there until this morning, when I did 45 minutes on a stationary bike at about a 16mph clip.

I'm not really sure if that's good or not, I hit the "interval workout" button and started pedaling, and I don't have an accurate distance (about 12 simulated miles) or calorie count because I accidentally reset the workout after 20 minutes instead of pausing it. Still, it was good to get some cardio in and it didn't feel like I lost all my conditioning in the last three weeks like I pessimistically feared.

I'll probably mostly bike for all next week, and then mix in the elliptical, since I remember from the last time I had a real gym membership where I used cardio
(2001-2003), that I burned more calories on the elliptical. I might see if there's a spin class that fits my schedule, and I'd like to swim once a week, too, but right now I'm happy to just have the monkey off my back.

I know what you're all thinking: "Brian, what about the mystery bump?" Mystery bump didn't bother me during the ride. I wore my compression socks, which I'm sure made me look very cool, and when I pulled them down after my ride to check on mystery bump, it wasn't initially visible at all but then quickly puffed to its full size, which is kind of disgusting to watch. This seems to indicate the compression socks are doing their job, and it also makes me wonder if I have/had some overtraining injury in my left leg unrelated to mystery bump, since these were the same compression socks I wore on my last run in Jamaica, where I had considerable pain in both legs. If it's something that's only going to bother me when I run, well, that's a problem, but I still have a few weeks before I should worry about that.

One of the challenges of riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical machine or treadmill is boredom. The scenery doesn't change, and there's not even the challenge of trying to keep from falling off the bike (I used to fall off NordicTrack all the time, though) or avoid getting hit by cars. At least on a bike I can read. With my Shuffle at fall blast and a magazine in front of me, it wasn't too bad.

Today, I had an issue of Running Times magazine, which Chris got me for Christmas. Running Times is published by Rodale, which also publishes the better-known Runner's World. That seemed odd to me, but at first read, it seems like Running Times is geared toward the more serious runner...in fact, it's probably a little too serious and technical for me even though I'm sure I'll learn a lot from it. Runner's World has a lot of useful stuff and good feature writing, but also a lot of fluff, in my opinion. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it, but it means I get through an issue really quickly. Ideally, there would be a weekly (so I have constant reading while I'm using cardio machines) running magazine that's right in between the two in its level of seriousness. Get on that, Rodale.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Go/No Go Decisions

It's been a little quiet around here. (To make myself feel better, I'm going to pretend that people noticed!) It's supposed to be a running blog, and I've run a total of 2.5 miles so far this year.

That's ok. It's only been two weeks, but it's actually been kind of nice to not feel pressured to find time to run or head out in the cold in the dark of night (I do like running in the cold, but it's hard to get started!). My doctor thinks that some of my problems are linked to over-training (which I suspect is more the combo of finishing Philly/rushing back a little too fast to do a better job training for Shamrock/running the 5-miler much faster than was prudent moreso than just running too many miles) but beyond that it had just seemed like I've been burned out on running since October.

I enjoy the races, and on long run days, I love being able to say, even if only to myself, "I ran 20 miles this morning," but I think the way I found every possible excuse to skip mid-week base mile runs in October just shows that the love wasn't there right now, anyway. It had just started to feel like a chore. So, I'm sorry to miss my chance for another shot at Shamrock (and its great post-race party and cool finisher's hoodie), but I'll enjoy the break from running, too. And, luckily for me, my injuries are not ones that cause a lot of discomfort when I'm not running, they're just hopefully minor ones that just won't heal without rest. (And that, in the case of mystery bump, I just probably need to learn to deal with.)

It's also nice to not plan my sleep/meal schedules around running and it's great to actually be able to stay awake in the evenings rather than falling asleep in front of whatever show I'm trying to watch.

While I admit I'm enjoying the rest, there are some clear negatives:
  • While I would gladly admit I don't love running in and of itself as much as a lot of other serious or somewhat-serious runners, it does play a pretty big role in how I see myself. I'm a runner; running is the thing I do that lets me be proud of myself. If I can't run for a month, I sort of wish my doctor had also said that I can't do my job for a month, either.

  • I'm probably enjoying my rest a little too much. I've been lifting regularly, in fact I lifted more in December and January than I did all last year. I've re-discovered my enjoyment of it and I can tell that my upper-body strength is improving. That's good.

    What's bad is that I haven't done any cardio at all since my last attempt at running. Chris and I joined a gym on Monday, I'm just having trouble finding the motivation to get up and go before work to use the exercise bike, elliptical, or pool. I admit I'm a little scared how the mystery bump on my leg will respond, but it's laziness that's really keeping me from going, even though I know my return will go better if I can keep as much conditioning as possible...

  • As the title of the post implies, I've got some decisions to make regarding races to sign up for.
  1. While I could conceivably do the 8K (March 17) at Shamrock, it seems like after a whole month off that this would probably be unwise to be locked into one of these. If I can decide at the expo the day before the 8K to sign up for it, maybe this will be an option.
  2. Registration for the Broad Street 10-miler opens on February 15. I'll be (hopefully!) starting to run again by then, and the race is in May so as long as I get off my but and do some cardio, I think this is conceivable. The problem is that this one will sell out in a day or two, so I have to make that decision very early in my recovery.
  3. Kelly Shamrock 5K, March 11. I should probably be ok signing up for this one. I ran this while tapering last year and nice and easy would no doubt be the order of the day if I do sign up.
  4. There's a new race in Baltimore, the Sole of the City 10K on April 21 that sounds fun. I suspect I'll be able to do this by then, but the problem is, like Broad St, that I think I'll have to make that decision before or right after I start running again.
  5. Chris and I have been talking about the Atlantic City Half in October, and I'd been thinking about the full since I love AC and I suspect the course would be flat. I'd have to marathon train in the summer more than I did in 2011, but it would also give me an extra month of recover time before...
  6. I wasn't planning on returning to VA Beach every year, but since I can't run the Shamrock Marathon this year, I'd really love to give it a shot in 2013. I won't run Philly this year, so my legs will hopefully be fresher as I train for it.
So, I need the shinsplints and the mystery bump to cooperate, but I also need to get off my ass.

(Yeah, this has been pretty much what I've been doing the past two weeks.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

All Work and No Running Make Brian Something Something...


After my failure of run on Wednesday and the consistent struggles I've had over the past couple weeks, I went to see the doctor today. I hit the nail on the head with my diagnosis guess for the right leg: a classic case of shin splints, the doctor was able to demonstrate pain as he pressed on different places on my shin.

On the left leg, things are a little more vague. There was nothing to indicate a sprained ankle or strained ligament, so the diagnosis of varicose veins stands for now, but the fact that I've had some weird tingling, tightness, or burning (makes it sound worse than it actually is) in the muscles in that area made him think that a nerve is getting caught up in some repetitive-motion injury. He suggested that rest should help this settle down as well. He can't tell if that's what's causing the pain in lower calf or if it's just related to overtraining, but rest, again, is the prescription.

On one hand, I'm a little relieved. I mostly haven't felt great since the marathon, and I'm sure if I I probably made things worse when I pushed myself so much at Celtic Solstice. In addtion to these lower-leg problems, my quads just feel really tired and weak on every run and a month or so off will be a good thing, even though I'll have to build my endurance back up. I would hope I could be ready to go for Broad Street (10 miles) in May, but since registration will open in February and be sold out in days, I probably don't want to pull the trigger on that since I'll just be starting again.

On the other hand, I really wish I could have hung in there till after Shamrock. However, I can't even reliably run 5 miles right now, there's no way that I could manage this through the 18, 19, and 20 milers ahead. With the disclaimer that the left-leg diagnosis is still kind of a guess, I also recognize that I'm getting off pretty easy in the world of running injuries.

Not running is going to drive me nuts, but I know it's probably for the best.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Walk of Shame

(No, not that walk of shame.)

I went out for my run at about 6:15 last night without any real goals in mind. I didn't care if I ran 3 miles, 7 miles, or anything in between. I just wanted to run without the pain I've been having in my calves and shins.


As I started out, my legs felt very tired but there wasn't any pain. At the end of the first mile, I could tell things weren't quite right, but I felt better than I did on my second run in Jamaica and thought I could gut it out. Things kept getting worse though, and as progressed past the two mile mark, I was having bad pains in both lower legs. The left leg seems to have more soreness on lower part of the calf or higher part of the ankle, and the weird swollen bump was back. On the right leg, the pain is more pronounced in the shin.

It just got too bad, and I had to stop about 2.5 miles into my run and walk about a mile back to the car. (I definitely debated calling Chris to come pick me up.)

I'll try to go back to the doctor tomorrow, and hopefully get a consult with my orthopedist, but I think the Shamrock Marathon is probably not going to happen and I kind of suspect that I have some injury or maybe even different conditions in each leg that only a longer period of rest is going to help, and even a couple weeks off will put me too far behind in marathon training.

If I had to guess, I'd say shin splints, at least in the right leg.

What is weird though is the intermittent-ness of the problem. On 12/27 on my 7-miles in Jamaica, it seemed like the compression socks really helped and that my struggling on that run was more due to the tropical heat and humidity and the remains of some respiratory disorder. Then on the 30th, even though my legs felt fine that morning before my run, it was clear very early that things weren't right down there.

If I have injured myself, I'm curious about when it occurred. Early in December, I really started feeling good again after the marathon. I ran 10 on December 3 and felt ok, 4 on the hotel treadmill in Dallas on 12/5 and felt ok. (Stopped because I felt like I was overheating in the hot hotel gym, not because of fatigue or pain). On the Saturday December 10th, I ran almost 13 miles on the rail trail and didn't feel good -- I had a lot of the problems that I've been having over the last few weeks, but was able to push through for the distance I wanted and I seemed to feel better as I went along. But then I felt fine (though tired) for a 10-mile bike ride the next day, 6 mile run on Monday, and Yasso 800s on Tuesday.

I wonder if it was the Celtic Solstice 5K. I don't remember any symptoms in that race -- in fact, I felt great! -- but pushed myself harder in that race than I had any business doing so. Since that race, I've pretty consistently been unable to get going again. The decent, relatively pain-free 7-miles in Jamaica throws a monkey wrench into my theory, but I'm pretty sure this isn't just in my head (and the weird bump on my leg seems to agree!) and it doesn't seem like it's in my lungs, either. Though I've had some respiratory problems throughout the month (probably bronchitis), I felt like I was breathing fine during my run yesterday.

Up until the holidays, I'd done a better job of getting my mid-week base miles in, but I had only just started to get the long runs going again, so I haven't obviously overtrained. However, since late November I finished a marathon that I probably shouldn't have finished, ran my first speed workout in forever, and killed myself on a pretty hilly 5-miler, so it seems like somewhere in there was probably the recipe for injuries.

I'm hoping for the best, but I've got kind of a bad feeling about this.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Trouble in Paradise

After a busy running 2011, I have yet to log a single mile in 2012. That wasn't my intent, but a result of my leg problem seeming like it will be more trouble than I thought it would.

To recap, on Christmas Eve, I ran 4 miles, was struggling quite a lot, and drove right to the doctor's office when I saw a large bump on my leg where there shouldn't be one. I was diagnosed with varicose veins and the doctor recommended compression socks and putting my leg up as much as I could.

On December 26 at about 12:45am, Chris and I drove to Philadelphia to catch a flight to Jamaica, where we had the chance to spend a wonderful week at Couples Swept Away in Negril in celebration of our 10th anniversary.

It was an awesome trip with amazing sunsets, a gorgeous beach, and delicious food and drink. It was exactly the week of relaxation that I needed and we had a wonderful time, but I was not planning on being idle. Our resort had a jogging track and what it billed as the nicest gym on the island, and I brought ample workout gear.

My first run in Jamaica was a 7-miler on Tuesday morning. It seemed to go decently; the heat and humidity was a challenge and my legs felt tired, but the compression socks seemed to do their jobs very well. I had planned on running mostly along the beach, but I found that it took three minutes to run the whole length of the resort's beachfront walk and I didn't want to bother other guests on their way to and from breakfast by running back and forth along the resort's busiest path, so I opted for loops around the half-mile jogging course. It was a nice place to run, but the repetitiveness did make me long for my Shuffle, which I'd left at home.

While the run went well, my weird vein problem bothered me intermittently throughout the trip, and when I went for what I hoped would be my "long run" on Friday morning, I had to stop after three miles when my leg was just hurting too much to continue.

I'd planned to run one more time (Yasso 800s) on vacation, but decided to bag it and rest. The leg bothered me intermittently throughout the trip. I didn't completely rest, though. I lifted three times on the trip, and the gym was very nice and lifting is much more enjoyable when you're basically outside. Still, I definitely feel like I gained 10lbs on the trip!

Relaxation and fun was the point and in that regard it was a complete success. I am nervous about my next run, which will be tonight, though. It was kind of vacation where I now feel totally out of shape, but I know that feeling will quickly pass if I can get back on the roads. However, I also know that if I'm not able to have a good January, the Shamrock Marathon is a really dicey proposition for me. I wanted to do everything right for this one and kick butt, but right now I'll just be happy if I can run it and finish.

My plan for tonight is just 3-5 miles, but I think it will be a key data point as I wonder how worried I should be about my leg and how challenging it will be to manage. My leg is elevated and my fingers are crossed!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year! Sorry, I'm a little late with these:

1. 5:59 or better mile.

2. 22:59 or better 5K

3. 4:50 marathon -- I'd love to do better than that but my goal is modest improvement.

4. 10 races total

5. Lift weights 3x/week -- I'm off to a good start on this one. I lifted 3 times on vacation. Running on the other hand, didn't go so well as I'll explain in my next post.

All of these, of course, have the disclaimer of "health permitting." Right now, it seems like my leg issues, detailed in an earlier post, may be a little worse than I thought and I'd say that right now I'm pretty nervous about being able to run Shamrock. (Stay tuned!)