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Author Archives: Hank

Step by Step

The last week has been frustrating, but my mileage is starting to build back up step by step.  My down time in June and early July definitely set me back, but I am pretty sure if it was 70 degree tops with low humidity I wouldn’t feel so far behind.  As much as I love summer, running in the heat is tough.

On Sunday, the wife, the dog, and I set out for Sharpsburg.  My goal was six miles on the C and O Canal Towpath.  As we entered the little parking lot, Charlie, our three year old beagle mix saw another dog and immediately went mental patient crazy dog crap nuts.  The wife tried to discipline him in the truck instead of just getting him outside and letting him get his sniffs in.  As I tried to tell her my route plans (she intended to hang back and walk the dog), Charlie broke loose from her grip on his snout and let out a K9 tirade at the other dog in the parking lot.  I was frustrated, “Ok, see ya in an hour” I said, and jumped out of the truck.

In my haste and frustration, I took off way to fast.   I got to three miles and turned around.  At 4.6 miles, Charlie and the wife were waiting for me.  Had I not seen them, I probably would have kept going, but it was like running past my house mid-run, so I stopped and we walked back to the truck together.  I would like to say I could of kept going to 6 or 8 miles, but I was drenched in sweat, my breathing was off, and I just wasn’t feeling it.  That said, I am getting consistent again.  Since I started training again I’ve run a minimum of four days a week with a few good strenth workouts thrown in.

Despite feeling “miles” away from where I was back in May, I am extremely excited about running The Baltimore Running Festival Half Marathon http://www.thebaltimoremarathon.com/ in October.  A friend, a new runner himself (yes, newer than me), asked if I would run the relay with him and some other folks.  I was happy to decline.  Not that there is anything wrong with running a relay, but I’m proud of the fact that I can do a half marathon on my own when I could barely run a mile without wanting to die 13 months ago.  With Baltimore on the horizon, I’m totally focused on getting my runs in.  There are no shortcuts, at least not for me.  I either put the miles in and finish as strong as I possibly can, or I don’t.  I’m betting on the former and myself.

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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

and I’m BACK

They say nothing can ruin a training cycle like a vacation.  Phrases abound in the amateur sports and personal fitness worlds like, “I was really doing good until vacation screwed me up.”

Well, I didn’t go on vacation.  On the second of June, in the height of my busiest season at work, I married my best friend on a mountaintop.  The wife to be and I jogged for a few miles the night before our ceremony and then it was one thing after another for weeks.  Traveling, our reception with family a week later, the summer picnic and ballgame circuit, working my ass off through hay, small grain, and late planting season, couple with 100 degree tempeatures and 200% humidity made for very little running or gym activity.  That said, it was a season for celebration, so that is what we did.

And then I returned to work, printed out a training calendar and set out for the first run in over a month and realized, “I suck at this”.  The only excuse I’ll give myself is the heat.  Every other mile I missed was due to weddings and the subsequent celebration tour.  I ran three miles one morning at 6AM.  It was painfully slow and frustrating.  I took a few days off from running.  I got sidetracked by a landscaping project for three days.  I went out and ran 3 miles on a sweltering evening.  I thought I was going to DIE.  I ran four miles on the treadmill one night, finally giving up the sadism of outdoor running.  The whole concept of training was starting to feel normal again.

Last week I topped out at six miles on my best day and ran negative splits.  I could have kept going, but I want to ease back in.  I FINALLY feel excited about running again and anxious for the Baltimore Half Marathon in mid-October.  I need to find a couple of short races between now and then to keep things loose and fresh. 

On a personal note, I am enjoying being married to a woman who has stood with me over the years.  Granted, we have lived together for some time, but despite the “nothing really changes” words from friends, EVERYTHING CHANGES if you take vows seriously.  I take vows very seriously, so seriously that I do not make them unless I fully intend to honor my half of them 100%.  My wife is in agreement as we start this new chapter in our relationship to one another.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Who left the heater on?

The next race on my calendar is the half-marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival in October.  Coming off a good virgin half at the Frederick Running Fest (both Corrigan events), my training feels somewhat without purpose at the moment, but I haven’t lost my desire to train, so that is good.

I took almost a week off after Frederick to get my body together and to focus on some other things.  I’m getting married at a secret hiding place in the Pennsyltucky Hinterlands next Saturday and we’re holding a picnic/reception the following week at my Almost Wife’s family farm.  My short term goal for the next thirty days is to “MAINTAIN” in between all the travel and celebration.  My wife to be is very supportive and we’ve already scheduled a couple of runs together during our wedding week(s) in places we don’t get to go to very often.  New places always make for good workout venues for me.  Something about the change of scenery and not knowing what is around the next corner helps me settle into a zone for longer workouts.

My week off after Frederick, as much as it helped mend a few things, was definitely hard to come off of.  The temperature and humidty jumped significantly in that week and I just wasn’t prepared for it when I put the sneakers back on.  I set out for a nine to ten mile run on Sunday with some pretty intense hills thrown into the mix.  Coming back up the mountain at mile seven, I’d had it.  The last two miles back to the truck were “walk/run” (mostly walk) at best. 

The good news is, I’m adjusting (hopefully the entire summer is 85 degrees tops….yeah right).  That said, I need to schedule something between now and October.  5K’s and 10k’s are easy, as there are tons of them and they are usually open right up until the last minute, but if I’m going to sacrifice a weekend day to race I’d rather go longer distances.  There is a nice half-marathon near where we are getting married….but unfortunately it is the same day as the wedding and I couldn’t convince the bride to be that I could easily do both on the same day (not sure what her problem is 🙂 )   That said, I’m looking at the calendar and trying to get a few 5 or ten milers, maybe even a half marathon in this summer.  Any suggestions let me know. 

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Moving Forward…..

I’ve crossed one big fitness goal off of my list for the year with my completion of the Frederick Half Marathon yesterday.  My next scheduled race isn’t until October, another Corrigan event, the Baltimore Running Festival.  As I sit here today, I’m a bit burnt out.  I went hard this weekend and I pushed myself hard that last few weeks in rain, heat, sleet, and even SNOW during my training.  My mileage went up faster than it should have, but I built enough rest in to keep from injury.

That said, I need some time off to let things heal.  I plan to do some strength work and I have plenty of physical labor around my home to keep me busy, but I am going to give my legs, feet, and joints a few days off.

Looking at the last few weeks of training, I got caught up in getting in mileage and ignored stretching and strengthening.  Mentally, the extra miles prepared me.  I was not nervous running the half-marathon for the first time, because I knew I could cover the distance.  All other variables were out of my control at that point, but the mileage was within my known realm of physical ability. 

As I move forward to Baltimore (and most likely some summer races I haven’t signed up for yet) I will make a more concerted effort to get my stretching and strengthening workouts in.  As proud as I am of finishing yesterday, I know I can go faster and to do that, I need to put the whole package back together.

Now, if you’ve sat on your butt like I have all day, GO DO SOMETHING!  You’ll feel better!!

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Frederick Half Marathon, a Nutjob is (re)born

Well, if you didn’t think so already, I have a medal that tells the world I am an offical “NUT JOB”.  The Frederick Running Festival this weekend was a great success.  The race promotors, Corrigan Sports, give participants the chance to earn an additional medal for running the 5K on Saturday and a Half-Marathon on Sunday morning.  While I was a bit reluctant to run a race the night before my FIRST half-marathon, I wanted to run with my Almost Wife in a 5K.  While I didn’t want to mess up my chances of finishing my first half marathon, I figured if I ran at her pace, I would be fine.  I approached the 5K the night before as a “shake out” race since I had shut my training down for a few days prior.

Jenn and I ran at her pace for two miles before she got to the point where she had to walk.  I am proud of her, but she needs to get on a more consistent training schedule if she is to finish these races without walking.  While she hasn’t caught the running bug quite like I have, she enjoys the atmosphere of the races, so I know she will improve once she sets aside the time to train consistently.  My original intention was to finish the 5K in whatever time it took Jenn.  However after two miles I asked, “do you mind if I run this thing out?”  I finished strong and Jenn came sprinting in about eight minutes later.  I was very proud of her for going hard at the finish.

The next morning I got up at 4:30 and ate.  We got to the fairgrounds at 5:45 and I anxiously awaited the start of my first half-marathon.  I was excited to do my first race at this distance in what has become my adopted home city.  Moving to the Frederick area was a great move for me and I’ve done things here that I may never have been able to do if I had stayed elsewhere.   The people here are wonderful and when I think “home”, I think Frederick and Frederick County now. 

As the announcer beckoned us out onto East Patrick Street for the start, I lined up conservatively at the 11 minute pace marker.  The start was slow as the street was packed (there is no wider street in Frederick than E. Patrick) and I thought, “what a great event for the city!”

I was in the zone the whole race.  Usually when I run, I need about a mile and half to feel warmed up and focused.  Whether it was my warm up race the night before or what I do not know, but I felt good the whole race, rarely bothered to check my watch, and despite never having a wide open lane in front of me I never felt crowded or forced to zig zag.  I didn’t even bother with water until around mile 6.  I found the early water stops to be crowded, confused, and disorganized anyway, so I just found a lane and ran through them.

The middle of the race took me through some sections of town that I’ve never driven through.  I am a consumate lover of real estate (even if I don’t own as much as I would like to), Frederick’s old sections has buildings that would rival any major city or DC insider enclave, only cheaper.  My mind wandered as I looked at old architecture and dreamed. 

Around mile nine, the mass of people began moving backwards as I moved forwards.  Prior to that, I felt like the sea of people was going past me.  I’ve got enough races under my belt now not to let that bother me, I just run MY race.  Mile nine was where they really started dropping like flies.  I had seen IV-Bags and EMTs as early as mile 4, but the number of walkers and sideline sitters increased dramatically at mile nine.  At mile 11 I still felt great.  My goal had been to run this race in under two hours and fifteen minutes (easy really, but when I set out to do this, I had no baseline).  I was ahead of schedule.  I was not greeted by a wall at mile 11.  Mile thirteen and it’s bastard brother POINT 1 was by far the longest, hardest, stretch.  I’ve done a good bit of hill running, and the hill at the end of the Frederick Half is NOTHING by Frederick County standards, but its location at the end of the race and the only thing between runners and the finish line (and beer) makes for a dramatic finish.  I stayed in the zone while the carnage around me unfolded.  I saw people throwing up, falling down, and giving up.  I stayed the course as we wound through what is “Machinery Row” during the Great Frederick Fair.  We hit the horse track and picked up the pace all the way to the finish.  The track to the finish felt downhill for some reason, but it was a needed relief after the earlier incline.  I crossed the finish line at 2 hours 6 minutes and some change.

What a great feeling!  I’m a humble person, but I have not been this proud of myself in quite some time.  My Almost Wife met me in the celebration village.  Granted, my name wasn’t read on ESPN this morning and Mike and Mike in The Morning weren’t talking about my harrowing sub six minute destruction of my goal time, but it was a victory.  As I have stated in other posts, this hobby has snowballed into other aspects of my life in a super positive way. 

Here’s to looking forward to the next one! 

 

Race Review:

The Corrigan folks did a great job with this event.  I really got my money’s worth with this race experience.  The 5K the night before was a little disorganized at the start due to the band playing over the announcer, but we figured it out, “run with the other people”…not that hard.  If you are looking for a good, organized, race experience that is both personal yet grand, I highly recommend any event put on by Corrigan.  If you are looking for a big race, in a small city, I hope to see you in Frederick next year!  This town is a great weekend destination for the whole family.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
Aside

The first time I encountered a minimalist footwear/barefoot runner was in college.  Steve was on the cross country team and he trained 100% barefoot.  He was also a tall, lanky guy with a beard so naturally, he got the nickname “Jesus”.  You would see Steve running all over campus sans shoes.  He was a rarity at that time.  Nowadays, minimalist footwear and barefoot running are all the rage.  As an economist and a marketer, I am naturally inclined to trace things back to their logical origins.  I toss out conspiratorial hype about the BIG SHOE corporations out to cripple us all!  Please.  Big Government? I get it.  Big Pharma?  Ok, there are good arguments there despite all the good the industry as a whole does.  Big Agriculture?  Sure, arguments can be made there as well.  Big SHOE?  Give me a break!  This argument would hold a tiny bit of water if A) there was only a few companies making shoes and B) if we were all built exactly the same from top to bottom and C) we all had the exact same physical experiences.

People began wearing footwear for a reason, to protect themselves so that they could travel farther, harder, and faster with less risk of injury.  The tempermental nature of our feet is probably also why ancient man looked at a donkey, a horse, or a camel and said, “I should jump on his back!”  I digress.  I don’t buy the one size fits all mentality of purist zealots when it comes to what products people choose to buy and sell.

I have bad feet.  I have struggled with plantar fasciitis for about three years.  I’ve had orthotics do wonders for months only to eventually cause pain elsewhere.  I run in a supportive shoe, the Mizuno Wave Inspire http://bit.ly/KgJwbB.  I tried custom and OTC orthotics in them and then one day on a run I ditched them because they caused my heel to get “hot” from rubbing.  I have not put them back in.  I do however wear them in my work boots and they seem to help as I work mostly on concrete surfaces all day.  Overall, since I began running, my plantar fasciitis has become LESS irritating.  Some mornings, when this ailment is typically the worst, I don’t feel any pain in my feet.  I am convinced this is due to using stress, in my case RUNNING, to build the plantar region back up. 

Enter Jason Fitzgerald of www.strengthrunning.com and this post on minimalism:  http://strengthrunning.com/2010/03/using-minimalism-as-a-tool-not-a-way-of-life/

I had always kind of held the same thoughts on minimalism as Jason, but it was good to read his thoughts on the subject given his success as a runner and coach.  I decided I would give minimalism a try, not in my workouts, but in my day to day.  Could a minimalist shoe worn a couple days a week or while doing errands help my feet?  I was skeptical.

Problem one:  I work in a tough guy industry.  You don’t walk around here wearing your neon green Saucony’s or your Vibran Five Fingers without getting made fun of.  So I found the only shoe on the market that I felt was a fashion compromise, the Merrell Tough Glove in black http://bit.ly/rHrWWF .

I only wear this shoe to work on days I know I won’t be out in the fields and I wear it when we go grocery shopping or out to eat.   They are more inconspicuous than any other shoe in the barefoot style.  A few folks have noticed them and asked abou them, but they mostly go unnoticed.  To buttress against work teases, I referred to them as my “Ninja Shoes” and did the Karate Kid “Crane” pose the first time someone at the shop asked me about my strange new shoes.  I HAVE NOT RUN IN THESE SHOES.  After my Frederick Half, I am going to run in them for short distances once in a while for training purposes, but I really like the comfort and cushion of my Mizuno’s on long runs.

While I haven’t been magically relieved of all of my ills by minimally adding minimalism to my life, I have noticed even less foot and ankle pain since I incorporated the Merrell’s into my weekly footwear.  I also notice that if I wear them for too long the pain in my plantar region can get pretty intense, at which point I break out the frozen ice bottle.  What I LOVE about these shoes is how light and comfy they are.  They have also forced me to walk with less heel strike which has led me to run with less heel strike.  The bottom line is, I’ve noticed a marginal benefit via less pain, since adding these shoes to the repetoire.  If anything, teh fact that the zero heel drop makes me conscious of foot strike while walking, which follows me into my runs, has been the biggest help.  While I don’t know that pure minimalism will ever be possible for me (or necessary for that matter), the idea of rotating shoes and using minimalism as a tool (see www.strengthrunning.com) seems to be working for me in practice and not just theory.  The real test will be doing a few short runs in them, but I ultmately think for me, minimalism will never be more than a tool in my training.

Enjoy the gorgeous day and get some miles in! Regardless of what you do or don’t put on your feet!

Minimalism: Thoughts from my feet

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

And The Beat Goes On….

Spring is my busiest time of year, hence my lack of posts.  When your income is dependent on crops and the weather, you make hay when the sun is shining.   I have not stopped my training though.  My mileage is rising and I can’t believe where I am in regards to distance.  When I set out to run back in July, my goal was to finish a 5k.  I never knew I’d catch the fitness bug through RUNNING like I have.  I am down 15 pounds from where I began, my 34 pants fit again and I’m constantly making belt adustments.  I sleep better at night and my diet is finally falling into place.  Just setting one goal and then building on that goal has created a snowball effect and I like it. The spillover is having an effect on the other aspects of my life like I never thought possible.  If you’re reading this as a spectator and not an active runner, I highly suggest you get off your butt and do something.  Just do SOMETHING every day.  Maybe a jog.  Maybe some push ups.  Maybe digging a ditch out back.  Just do SOMETHING EVERYDAY and the snowball eventually picks up velocity and mass.  I am mentally, physically, and spiritually in an awesome place right now.

As per my training, we’re down to about ten days before the Frederick Running Festival’s half-marathon (my first).  While I won’t be the fastest white kid in the field, I am confident I could finish the race this afternoon if need be.  If I get one more 10+ run in I will feel even more prepared.

My longer runs have mostly occured on flat routes, specifically the C&O Canal, but about two weeks ago I started adding some hills to the longer routes.  This has really tested some muscles that I forgot about, but I think in the long haul it will make me stronger and faster.   I force myself into hill run situations by parking at the top of a mountain, running down it, around it, and then back up it.  Retrieving my truck forces me to push up that last uphill mile 🙂

 

PS-  I am extremely jealous of all the running events in the region right now that I CANNOT take part in due to my work schedule.  This region has SO many great events for all levels of interest and skill.  Hoping I can slip away for a few once things settle down a bit!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized