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On the Go at the C&O

I really like where I live because it offers so many different outdoor options without being so far away from civilization that the Almost Wife goes nuts.

This is 1/2 mile from my front step:

Potomac at Weverton

The river is as high as I have ever seen it, short of flood stage, for as far back as I can remember.  The C&O Canal trail (also called the “towpath”) however is in great shape.  One would expect lots of washouts given the amount of rain we have had, but the path is exceptionally dry and level.  For those unfamiliar, the C&O Canal is a National Park that goes from DC to Western, MD.  It is simply one trail and the ground between the trail and the river.  There are many places to enter the park along its nearly statewide length, but the one with the “most parking to least people” ratio is at Brunswick, MD.  I enter the part just a bit farther West in a little Appalachian trail stop known as Weverton.  From here, it is about four miles to Harper’s Ferry and it is one of the less boring stretches of trail you’ll find.  When you hit the Harper’s Ferry area, you can walk up the steps of the foot bridge, cross into West Virginia, and try your legs on the hills of the historic town if you dare.  These hills are BRUTAL.

Yesterday was beautiful so I set out to run four miles, anything beyond that I would consider a bonus.  I felt great and ended up going eight miles, four out, and four back home.  In Harper’s Ferry, I noticed folks looking up.  I was confused at first until I realized there were rock climbers on the cliffs.  While I don’t like to speak in absolutes about things I may one day decide to do, something about a small piece of rope between me and imminent doom or damage BY CHOICE doesn’t seem like something I’ll ever do.  But then again, I said the same thing about running more than a mile not long ago!

As I ran I was reminded of how technology constantly replaces itself.  The old canal used to be the heart and soul of commerce in the region and a major contributor to commerce of the nation.  Now only ruins remain.  Nature has taken it back.  Folks with iPhones and iPods and Garmin watches now hike, jog, and bike along it.

Old C&O Canal lock

Entire industries and many people once depended on this.  Now it is just a ditch.

I hope everyone is enjoying the warm weather.  We’re surely going to pay for this.  Now get off the computer and go do something!  You’ll FEEL BETTER!

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Rest is GOOD (but frustrating)

No matter how many times I hear, “take your time, go SLOW”, I don’t listen.  This has been my modus operandi since kindergarten when every single piece of coloring I brought home had, in the teacher’s handwriting, “PLEASE SLOW DOWN!!”.  Coloring never interested me much though, so getting that crap done, usually in one color, and handed the heck in was fine by me.  My parents never forced the issue…..just like when that same kindergarten teacher told my parents at conferences, “He seems to have trouble skipping during afternoon activities.”  She’d play music and we’d have to hop, skip, jump, and what not around the room. My mother freaked out, “OH MY GOD HE CAN’T SKIP!” as if I had been diagnosed with MS or something.  My Dad, in his gentle but stern tone said, “Dear….do you REALLY want your little boy to skip around like a fairy?”

So I couldn’t color and I sucked at skipping.  When I am passionate about something though, I do it like my hair is on fire.  Running and age have quickly taught me that I CANNOT always go that hard all the time.  I cannot just add miles each week in ridiculous increments.  My knees say, “NOPE, TIME TO STOP DUDE” and stop I did.  After paring back the mileage, focusing on rest and ice, stretching better, and doing some strength training to help weak spots, I can feel things starting to come back.  Obviously, my goal is to add mileage.  The guy sitting down and signing up for a race at a new distance says, “Just finish, don’t worry about speed.”  The little fast coloring, non skipping devil inside of me says, “RUN 40 MILES A WEEK ON HILLS AND SPEND A DAY DOING SPEED TRAINING AND FINISH WITH PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THE HECK THEY’RE DOING!”  I will listen to the more rational voice from now on, even when I desperately want to add mileage.

I could not have done this a short time ago.

My focus in the coming weeks is to get back on pace with my training, but to add an extra rest day.  I will RELUCTANTLY pare back the overall mileage but I will do my best to protect my weekly long run.  I will focus on my form and bio-mechanics to help my body adapt and learn the right techniques.  I may rest, but I will not QUIT.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Welcome to sunny Jacksonville! I mean Northern, VA

First and foremost, in my entire life of living in the Mid-Atlantic region I don’t recall a New Years eve being so warm.  At 10AM, I ran a 5K in a t-shirt, and by the end of it I was wishing I hadn’t worn long pants.  This weather is crazy!

SO, I woke up at 4AM yesterday which isn’t far off of my normal wake up time. A few hours later, my wife to be and I headed down to Ashburn, VA for the Ringing in Hope 5K and 10K.  I had no doubt earlier this month that I could improve my time, but my training got all out of whack in December due to my own jackassery.  My time ended up being about 18 seconds slower than than my last 5K, but I’ll take that as a “held steady” given the fact that I was a total holiday party whack job in December.  This race was what I expected as far as the course was concerned.  It was a total tour of your typical Northern, VA townhome, 1/4 acre estate, planned community, sponsored by the folks that built it.

As for my performance, I totally should not have run at all on Thursday.  I did a fast two miles on Thursday and I was sore on race day despite taking off on Friday.  The 3.1 miles of identical homes on top of sore legs totally made this run feel like FOREVER.   That said, given my half ass December of road and gym work, I held my own and I look forward to shaving off minutes come spring.

The Brambleton Ringing in Hope promoters did a good job with the 5K and the 10K.  My only suggestions to race planners who may be reading this would  be that they 1) put more signage leading INTO the giant planned communities off of main roads so people can find them (come on, these developments all look THE SAME) 2) GET A REAL PA SYSTEM!!!!! 3) convince the local shops and restaurants to open early.  The race ended at 10:28 for me and it would have been cool to have been able to grab a meal in the Blue Ridge Grill or Johnny Rockets with the Family without having to wait an hour.  The race promoters did however have awesome snacks and drinks laid out in a way that didn’t crowd the finish line, so great job there.  I crossed the finish line and within thirty yards I was hit up by girls with snack trays….which would be awesome if it happened every time I ran.

While I wanted to shave some serious time this go round, December has been a busy month.  I’m ready to focus back in on my goals, my diet, and my training.  Today, Jenn, my wife to be, picked up my copy of The Washington Running Report and totally decided she wants to do her first 5K in March.  She really enjoyed the atmosphere yesterday.  If she can get the time off, we’ll be at the race on March 4th in Salisbury, MD….she will do the 5K and I will do the 10 miler. This makes me very happy as I know Jenn will enjoy this as much as I do and it will be one more thing we can share in and encourage one another in.

Happy New Year and Happy Running.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Stress Redux Monday

Today was just all wrong.  I don’t normally have bad days as I refuse to let them happen, but today was stressful and annoying.  Certain voices just became like nails on the blackboard.  Routine tasks gave me no satisfaction.  A migraine set in not long after I OD’ed on caffeine this morning.  It was one of those days where a person just feels like they are stuck in the mud.

I cut out a half hour early and headed home.  I picked up some vegetables on the way.  My mood soured further as the girl on the cell phone, in front of me in line of course, read off her lotto numbers and the lotto numbers of the person she was on the phone with to the clerk.  Lotto tickets make no sense to me.  You give additional after tax money to the state in hopes of winning a giant prize that they tax.  Granted I don’t have much of a savings with interest or investing strategy that the average person could implement right and I’ve found my econ and finance lectures generally fall on deaf ear.

When I arrived home, my mood started lifting.  I saw my house in the daylight!  I saw my dog, waiting for me outside of my house in the daylight.  My beautiful wife to be was inside my house making me dinner.   I had vegetables in my hands and a quarter of a leftover chicken in the fridge for STEW.   Nothing fixes a mood like a good home and good food.  We ate and I made up some stew for tomorrow, nothing fancy, just some leftover meat, veggies, broth, and my 14 herbs and spices that that fake colonel stole from me, but MAYUN is it good!    After dinner settled, I headed to the gym for a quick treadmill run, as Monday is usually a rest day for me.  I busted out two miles at sub-9 minute pace which is a huge improvement for me. My goal is to burn a minute of my time of 28:08 in my next 5k, Ringing in Hope down in Brambleton/Ashburn, VA.  My schedule got a little off this weekend due to the 3-2 Flu, but I still think my goal is in reach.

I hate running on the treadmill but it is hard to get motivated to run in the dark.  In my last post, I alluded to the good night conditions around here, but tonight I figured I would do a quickie on the old mill, watch some football pregame stuff, and do some weight work at the gym.

Do you think my mood lifted after those two miles?  YUP!  The worst thing you can do is let your mood keep you off the road or out of the gym.   Sure, a bad workout or a bad run can happen and ultimately add insult to injury, but the odds are that if you go and get a good sweat going, you’ll feel better.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Cold Night in SmokeTown

I ran a little over 3 miles last night in 30 degree temps.  I know it will get colder, but I really haven’t had to deal with the cold yet this year.  Last night, winter officially made it’s presence known.  The biggest issue for me to overcome in the cold air is the whole breathing thing.  That cold air just has a way of making it harder for me and my nose likes to freeze shut at times, especially when the days and weeks before saw 50 and 60 degree temperatures.  Like anything, you make the adjustment, autonomously or otherwise.

Brunswick (SmokeTown) isn’t a bad place to run at night.  The streets are pretty quiet after 6:30PM and the sidewalks are ample should you need to get off the pavement to let cars pass.  Most of the houses in the older sections of town are built up on hills with retaining walls in the front yards down by the street. It isn’t uncommon to have a cat sitting eye level on a retaining startle you, but none of them have ever gone Pet Cemetary on me (yet).  While hills are abundant here, there are plenty of flat spots on days you just don’t feel like hitting hills.

Last night the smells of winter were all around.  The diesel from the railroad travels farther and everyone’s woodstove was puffing away.  Every now and then I’d catch a whiff of pine from someones door wreath or Christmas tree that hasn’t made it inside yet.  It was a good night for a run and a great way to clear my head. 

Now get off the computer and go do something!  You’ll feel better!

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Quick Run in the Rain and Testing new Orthotics

This evening had me really torn.  To go to the gym and suffer through treadmill boredom or get a quick 3 or 4 in on the road, in the dark, on a warm but rainy night?  As I stepped on to the porch, I made up my mind.  TO THE ROAD!

I ran a 5K and I wish I had brought my watch.  Despite doing some leg resistance training last night, my legs felt strong and fast.  I focused on getting a quick foot turnover and while I don’t know what my pace was, I know I was operating at a notch higher than my normal pace.  I wasn’t out of breath at the end, but I was pushing myself.

Yesterday, I slipped in some Dr. Scholl’s CF 340 Orthotics into my running shoes.  A year or so ago after a bout with plantar fasciitis, a podiatrist gave me a cortisone shot and fitted me for custom orthotics.  My foot felt GREAT after the shot (I’d be a pin cushion if cortisone was sold OTC).  A few weeks later, my orthotics came in.  After about two weeks of wearing my $350 CUSTOM (as in plaster casted to MY foot and no one elses) orhotics though, not one, but BOTH of my feet hurt again.  I yanked them out, threw them in a drawer and bought a pair of the cheapo Dr. Scholl’s orthotics for $7.99 at Wal-Mart.  Within a week, my feet were fine aside from the first few steps in the morning ($500 worth of podiatry later).

When my knee started acting up, I figured I’d try some of the $50-75 Dr. Scholl’s “Custom” fit (custom as in generic but in more varieties and based off of the foot kiosk they now have at Wal-Mart’s recommendation) orthotics to see if they helped balance things out.  Everything I’ve ever read on knees says, “feet, hips, and muscles around the knees” are critical, so why not start at the bottom.  I ran last night with the new orthotics on the treadmill and my feet got a little sore before the pain subsided.  The same thing happened tonight, I got about a quarter of the way through and the burning in my arches went away.  I’m hoping this is just my feet adjusting to the new addition to my shoes along with the orthotic getting broken in.  Putting an extra 1/4 inch of material in a good pair of shoes always seems silly to me, but I need to experiment and see what works.  These “custom fit” Dr. Scholl’s are a lot firmer and longer than their cheaper versions, so we shall see.

The good news is, my legs felt GREAT tonight, knees and all, and I finished up a quick 5K in the light rain in strong fashion.  Dodging the raindrops was nice too.  Nothing against a little weather when I work out, but I’m not trying to catch pneumonia.  Winter is supposed to come back tomorrow evening, so I’m glad I got a nice outside run in before the changeover.   Running on the treadmill is a good alternative, as is the weight work that can be done at the gym, but beating the street really opens up my senses.

Now get off the couch and go do something!  You’ll FEEL BETTER!

UPDATE:  I’m up to about 10 or 12 miles on the Dr. Scholl’s CF 340 orthotics and they offiically feel great!

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Speed Work

When I set out after my first 5K race in Baltimore to shave 3 minutes and 47 seconds or more off of my time in just over a month, I knew speed work would have to be brought in to the picture.  I began doing intervals on the treadmill, 4×400 one week, 5×400 the next (400 is 400 meters, which is like a 1/4 mile), so on and so forth.  This helps build up the fast twitch muscle fiber I think.  I enjoy these workouts as they really push me over a relatively short period of time while breaking up the monotony.

I still haven’t taken the time to study this workout and variations of it to see what is recommended from a speed standpoint.  So far I’ve just kind of let my legs and lungs do the talking.  Tonight while doing this, the tv mount on the treadmill came loose and all of a sudden the TV was swinging from a single screw.  I finished my interval, went to my truck, got my tools, and fixed it for the gym.  For the record, this part of the treadmill was broken before I got on it.  Oh well, at least I looked cool walking in with a tool box after I looked like the dork who knocked the tv off its mounts trying to run super fast.

If you’re reading this, you should get up and go workout!  You’ll be glad you did.  I FEEL GRRRREAT!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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