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Monday, December 31, 2012

Winding River Washout


On Saturday, I ventured outdoors for another walking journey. The previous day's workout was lackluster and uninspired, so I settled for 45 minutes of the slowest peddling witnessed by the human eye. This bike was especially stationary while was using it. So, I woke up with the urge to bounce back.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not care about my plans... and I did not care about Mother Nature's plans. I grabbed a few layers, a pseudo-rain jacket from Brooks that I picked up at the Marine Corps Marathon - which I didn't need at all since Hurricane Sandy wasn't far enough north yet - and headed out into the light drizzle.

Winding River Park looked like a ghost town, but wet. Not even the birdies were coming outside. Besides one man with an umbrella, I was the only living creature to be seen at the park between the hours of 10am and 12pm. It was eerie yet adventurous.

I wanted to walk on earth rather than the macadam path that traverses through the park. Each trail I turned down lasted just a few footsteps because of the water overflow that washed out so much the park's land. I continued on until just before the bridge section that overlooks the curving waterway. The park looked the same last year after Hurricane Irene; I thought the small pond was overflowing but upon further examination this time, it seems that the current was moving into the pond.

This one trail comically split off into two directions; thankfully that tree with the blue arrow pointed me in the right direction.


I went back through various trails and re-examined if I could make it over or through the sitting water that blocked their traversing. Some of the trails simply required me to jump over a newly formed stream or to create a make-shift bridge out of fallen branches. As careful as I had been, my feet still ended up soaked.

When all the trails were finished, I walked beneath the power lines that paralleled the park, dodging more puddles and marshy obstacles. I considered following the power line trail out to the nearest highway, but a gigantic puddle made it impossible. It was time to turn around and head back to the car.

It has been a difficult year for the environs of Tri-State area. Our parks and recreation areas have been battered by Superstorm Sandy and Winter Storm Athena, and winter has yet to begin it's chilling wrath. But we know one thing from Mother Nature and that man named Bruce: everything that dies someday comes back.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Walking! Yes, Walking!


With just 4 days left in the year, everyone is trying to predict the hottest trend for the upcoming year. And I think I've found it.

Walking.

Walking is everywhere right now. Justin Beiber recently walked on stage at his latest performance and was greeted with a cacophony of screaming tweens, teens, and weens (fans of Ween and Dean Ween himself). A toddler in Portland, Oregon just took her first steps after months of doing little more than lounging around; this promptly sent Fred Armisen scurrying to work on a new character. Need more proof? You are a tough customer.

Two running podcasts have recently profiled walking as an important tool for recovery, completing long-distance races and overall fitness. First, check out Dirt Dawg's Running Diatribe episode entitled "Pedestrianism and Edward Payson Weston". Ol' Eddie Weston was one walking son-of-a-gun. Impressive times, even for walking.

Follow that episode with a wonderfully on-point rant from Ashland Dave in the his 12/8 episode 168 called "Run! Walk? Run! Walk?". For years I had passed up the Running in the Center of the Universe podcast simple because I didn't want to be reminded of that majestic beauty beholden of the Pacific Northwest and how my trails - or lack thereof - couldn't even compete with the worst stretch of trail in Oregon. Turns out Ashland Dave is from Virginia - hey, I've run there! - and his best marathon time is 4:17 - hey, he's not some elite with ridiculous times, that's how fast I run! Plus, this dude isn't afraid of taking a walking break and bragging about it. I think I've got a few old episodes I need to check out.

To cap off all the walk talk, I'll share with you my Christmas Day experience with walking. At the moment, I can't run without feeling pain (and regret, I want to get healthy before I'm running again). Using the different stationary bikes or rowing machine at the gym doesn't entirely prevent my knee from feeling tension. Even walking on the treadmill feels cumbersome. But I just can't accept that I may be better off with my feet up on a couch recovering. So, I decided to go for a walk.

I treated this somewhat short walk - mileage wise - like a backpacking adventure. I geared up: hydration pack, energy bar, gaiters and a buff to cover my face. The temperature was about 40, but the sun was working hard to stay out and keep me warm. I walked about a mile before I hit the only trails within 10 miles of my home. This old dirt bike trail leads all the way to some railroad tracks that follow behind a retirement community. It took a long, long time to get to the train tracks. All the while I was conscious of leg turnover and foot placement. This gave me good walking form and little to no pain in my right knee. If it was for getting back to and getting ready for the Christmas Party, I would have stayed out longer than an hour-and-a-half.

When it was all over with, my legs spoke to me and smiled as I cooled down. My knee was alright, too. It was only 4 miles, but it was an achievement for me that signaled hope for the future. Hope for 2013.






Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gear

Yesterday, iRunFar published a review of the best trail running gear from the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Since some of this gear isn't even available yet and won't be until early next year, the seemingly late review comes at a good time.

These new products range from a $17 pair of socks (lime green color), a $150 backpack (with room to carry an axe), a $165 hooded jacket (weighing in at only a few pounds) and a $500 headlamp (with its own battery pack to carry). Yes, I want all four of these items.

Which begs the question: why would I need all this gear? The answer is: I don't. I live in suburbia and the highest point in my state is barely over 1,000 feet. Ironically, it's called High Point. This past summer in Colorado, I merely ascended a set a steps that topped such an elevation; shout-out to Manitou Springs and the Incline. I have dirt bike trails near my neighborhood that allow me to run for about 7 miles roundtrip. I simply don't need any gear.

But this does not stop the want I feel inside. And it does not stop the urge to facilitate a change in climate so that I will need such gear. What I'm trying to get across is that I will move to Colorado permanently (or another location with elevation above a few thousand feet) in order to need items such as a high-powered headlamp, a lightweight backpack with the capacity to allow me to comfortably get lost for hours on end, or an invisible waterproof cloak to protect me from freakish weather changes on the top of a mountain.

In three days, it will be Christmas. I will be hundreds of miles from the Appalachian Mountains and a mere few inches from level pavement. So long as Santa brings me a sweat-wicking long sleeve top, I think I'll be just fine.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Doctor's Visit

It wasn't until I started filling out the seemingly repetitive five pages of forms at the doctor's office that I realized my knee injury first began over a year ago. Perhaps I knew this fact already, but I had chosen to ignore it through 2 marathons and a 50-miler. It was finally time to pay the piper and may cost more than the $20 copay.

After a few x-rays, the doctor twisted my leg around to see if there was any pain in the knee. Fortunately or not, there was no pain. I'll need an MRI to for further diagnoses.

The visit today further hammered home the idea of running efficiently and being healthy. It was somewhat comforting that the doctor showed little amazement about my running accomplishments or my current condition. But he's a doctor that has seen his fair share of nimrods and I'm simply not that comfortable with that self-imposed label. So I need to make a change.

The year 2013 should not have me see another ultra or possibly even a marathon. It shall be about health and hopefully, regaining some speed. Trading the harsh pains of endurance running for the striking pain of tempo and speed training. If all goes well, 2014 will give me a 100-miler and allow me to regain my nimrod status.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cardio Workout

With my self-imposed limit on all running or lower-half cardio (elliptical or stationary bikes), I've been pained with an additional layer of blubber around the waist. While my weight has stayed the same since JFK50, my eating habits have strayed. The holidays have brought work parties, delicious donations, and random sweets laying about the work space. I don't want a repeat of last - rather, every - winter.

I love working out for hours at a time. Without the ability to hop on a treadmill or rowing machine for 30 minutes to an hour, I've been a little limited in maintaining my gym rat status.

In addition to the balky knees, I've had a somewhat serious issue with my right wrist. It began with CrossFit and ended with CrossFit. I rested the wrist for well over two months and noticed a major difference. But in preparation for JFK, I decided ease up on the running and ramp up the weight training. In the process, I re-injured my wrist.

Since I can't throw around the weight like last winter AND I can't do much cardio, what can I do to keep off the yuletide tonnage? Sure, I could simply stay away, but we all know that's not an option. I've been getting better as of late. On the 3rd day of a "gourmet" cookie binge, I started enjoying the cookies less. Before the pre-work party today, I forced myself to eat some carrots and broccoli first, followed by a mediocre cookie and a cannoli. This was impressive for two reasons: I had never eaten raw carrots or broccoli before and I consumed these vegetables at 8:15 am.

Back to the exercise portion of this post. My workout this morning was awesome. It wasn't until I got changed that I realized that I had released a lot of sweat. No one exercise turned the heat up for me. It was a consistent workout that kept my heart rate up. I began with a series of lifts concentrating on the shoulders with a 12-pound weight. Then, I started three exercises I read about in September's UltraRunner Magazine that focuses on strengthening the core. The article, by Andy DuBois, beautifully illustrates how most core exercises fail to place the same load upon the core as running. These new exercises were difficult, but effective. I followed up with some reaching side planks and a series of machine scattered near my workout mat.

While its not the same as the typical cardio workout, its the best that I've got right now and its quite the metallic silver lining.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Recovery

Recovery means different things to different people. To some, it relates to moments of resistance to drug or alcohol-related addictions. On the Jersey Shore and parts of New York, it pertains to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Others simply lay in hospitals or move slowly in physical rehabilitation centers as part of their recovery.

Three weeks ago I used every fiber of my being to run 50 miles on a compromised right knee that had little training to begin with. Now both knees are sore and I am unable to do the one thing that liberates my soul. As part of my recovery - so that I am able to move again for 50 miles in a single stretch - I must remain as inactive as possible until the new year.

Though this mild undertaking has proven incredibly challenging for me to cope with, it is nothing in comparison to the recovery experienced by many others. Mine is the issue of the blessed.

Good luck and God bless to all those in recovery.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Inspiration


In hopes of posting daily on Running Pride, this author needs content to publish. With enough inspiration in my personal pursuits/exploits to fill a few days a week, I'm still short several others. In the off-season - which is now - I might be down to a single day of content. And even then, I don't think detailing an hour-long core workout is all that exciting.

So, I search for inspiration. It starts simple by checking running tips from the weekly email I receive from Active.com. There's some information on speed work, nutrition, recovery... nothing exciting or enlightening. Just the fundamentals which are always great to touch base with from time-to-time. The emails are a great reminder to keep it simple.

Then, things get not-so-simple. I read about Andrew Murray from Edinburgh. Before I knew his name I heard about his astounding accomplishment on Saturday Night Live. My first thought was, "An ultrarunner made it on SNL!" Congratulations on completing a logistically improbably feat: 7 ultramarathons on 7 continents in 7 days. Kudos.

After unsuccessfully trying to view some adventure sport videos, Wim Hof popped into my head. Who is this two syllabled named person of indistinct gender? Wim is the hairy chested man from the Columbia Omni-Heat Electric jacket commercials that eagerly dives into ice water presumably somewhere near the Artic Circle. I annoyingly make it a habit to analyze every commercial I see, so when I noticed some fine print at the bottom of the screen I had to rewind and pause. It reads, "Wim Hof is a professional." So this guy isn't an actor in front of a green screen?! Apparently, this Dutch gentleman can control his body temperature - scientifically proven! - and holds the Guinness World Record for full-body ice immersion at 1 hour and 52 minutes.

The moral to all of this is that the human body can endure a lot. The limits of the mind are endless.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Western States Endurance Run

Today was the Western States Endurance Run lottery and as I watched the names of strangers roll by on the screen as they were selected, I kept asking myself, “Do I really want to see my name listed?”

When I first considered signing up for the 2013 edition of WSER, it was in the wake of completing JFK50. I had completed my second marathon in three weeks and my knees were incredibly balky. I had a mega-blood blister on my second toe (right foot) that resulted in an orthopedist popping off the weathered nail. Oh yes, December is a time for recovery.

I entered my vitals into UltraSignUp two weeks ago with hopes of getting skipped today. It was simply a strategy of sorts in order to give me a better chance in 2014, when I’d receive a second lottery ticket along with improved chances of getting selected. My hope is to broaden my training this year to include a lot of speed work to go along with an improved diet to result in a few less pounds to schlep around. The year of 2013 should be a year of good form, complete recovery (balky right knee since JFK 2011), and a heaping helpful of PRs.

But what if my ticket was drawn?

While I had my hopes on having that fantastic 2013 in regards to running, my professional life was a little less hopeful; I was going to become unemployed starting on January 1st. What better way to spend my free time (read: ten hours a day) than to immerse myself even further in running culture and in a running lifestyle. Training for WSER would allow me to take my mind off pressing pause in regards to professional and family plans.

At approximately 1:45pm EST, the 2013 Western States Endurance Run was not meant to be. This time next year, I hope to a much closer to both Squaw Valley and one of those beautiful belt buckles.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where's My Head At?

More importantly, where's my body at?

It has been about four weeks since the last day of school and I'm not exactly in the best shape: mentally and physically. Sure, the tragic and untimely death of a pet along with a two-week vacation filled with nearly 70 hours of driving has me just behind schedule in several areas of fitness.

It hasn't helped that upon my return from hiking in Colorado and biking in Chicago with my wife, I've had muscle soreness in my neck (ongoing), random 24-hour lower back pain, and a sore right wrist with possible muscle tendonitis. If that's not enough, I ripped up the skin across my right hand, exposing some bright pink flesh. Oh, and my right knee still barks a bit from an ill-advised New Jersey Marathon in May that saw me take nearly 5 hours. So... I've got that going for me.

With somewhat of a game plan together for the upcoming two months before the school year begins once again, I'm wondering which road I'm going to head down. Continue with weight lifting five-plus days-a-week and increasing muscle mass (and weight)? Commit myself to the lifestyle of CrossFit and corresponding meat-based Paleo diet? Push myself to recapture the glory of last summer/fall by training for and completing a 50-mile ultramarathon, sticking with vegetarianism - or turning to fruitarinism? - in the process? I don't know which to choose.

Due to the obvious scheduling conflicts of so many activities, each pathway detracts from another. Gaining muscle weight will undoubtedly slow down my run and possibly my ability to stay injury free. Losing weight to help with the weekend long runs will assuredly lead to some muscle atrophying when at the gym.

Perhaps I should just feel happy that I'm even able to do so much. I'd really prefer to excel in one area, but being pretty darn good in all three will feel quite nice, too... so long as the injuries from paragraph 3 continue to rear their nasty little heads.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm Back!

Back in running. Back in marathon training. And back to posting on Running Pride. The addiction to running is back in veins. Here we go!

Spring break wasn't very kind to me at the onset. I acquired a stomach flu that kept me house bound for two days. I wasn't eating much and doing absolutely no training of any sort. (Weight training had become the new favorite activity once my legs began disobeying me after JFK 50 in November.) I slogged my way through 10 miles on Tuesday and suffered a somewhat painful case of achilles tendinitis. Sure, I wasn't running consistently, but the real culprit were the minimalist shoes. It was my fault for wearing them as my feet, ankles, and pretty much everywhere else below my waist was under-trained and weak.

After staying off my feet for four days (not counting the :50 and :30 sessions on a stationary bike), I was well rested for a long run today. The organizers at the New Jersey Marathon were kind enough to schedule a 10 and 20 mile training run in Long Branch today, but I was reluctant to wake up fairly early on my last day of spring break and drive an hour-and-a-half round trip to Long Branch. I geared up - only forgetting electrolyte mix - and set out to tackle some substantial miles.

Winding River Park in Toms River was the destination. I started off much faster (according to the Garmin) than previous runs and was able to keep the pace as I pushed myself much harder than any run thus far. Though it was somewhat slower than I've been in the past, I was able to keep the miles under 9 minutes.

I knocked out 7 miles and felt good to do another 7 as I refueled my water bottle, applied more sunscreen and caught my breath. I wanted to keep the same route as the first 7 miles but a swarm of carpenter's bees were making it difficult at the bridge in the park. I considered going through the gauntlet again before turning back to make up the mileage elsewhere. When I was finished, I had completed 14 miles in 2:00:03. Not too shabby. I rewarded myself with a dip in the lake... which may be downstream from Ciba Geigy. This may be the last time I do that. The dip was made more enjoyable by a 9-year-old labrador retreiver named Dallas who was fetching a bright orange ball nearby.

I was also able to listen to several ultra running podcasts that got me back in the mood for running. With just 3 weeks until the New Jersey Marathon - and truly just 2 weeks for real training - I plan on devoting myself towards having a good performance on May 6th. A week ago, I thought breaking 5 hours would be difficult. After today's solid run, I think I can get under 4 hours. Much of which will probably depend on how well my legs will respond to 10+ miles during the week and a half-marathon this upcoming Sunday. Though I haven't yet signed up for the Unite Rutgers Half-Marathon, I think I'll make the official decision this week to run. A race with hundreds of competitors should help me push myself even further than today.

After 14 miles and a rejuvenated spirit, I'm back!