Open Road
When The Journey Is The Destination,Every Moment Of Every Mile Matters

Strange Days Get Stranger

After a week and a half break in my exercise routine, I returned to the gym yesterday morning for a run. I didn’t expect much, and I wasn’t disappointed.

A two mile run went just okay, with a short walk break about halfway through. I worked up a good sweat, stretched out, and returned home to begin my day.

By mid morning, I noticed a pain in my right foot back near the heel that I hadn’t felt before. Funny, but in a, “oh geez, now what” kind of way.

I stretched my feetlast evening, and also stretched my calves, which were extremely tight after the run. They knew I hadn’t been to the gym in more than 10 days.

So went one more day on the road to the Fredricksen Library 5K next month, a 100K bike ride in August, and an 8K in December. I know that, if I were more consistent in my workouts, I likely wouldn’t have these odd new pains that crop up when I start back. Consistency must be part of the plan for the rest of the summer.

20140610-065857-25137161.jpg

That, and likely not ingesting whatever it was that triggered the strange dream from early this morning.

I dreamt I was running, so that’s a good thing. I dreamt I was running well, pain free, really striding and covering some ground.

I came to a five-lane highway. Cars were approaching from either direction, but I had plenty of time to get across, so I headed for the opposite berm, and then I slowed down. Two careening cars missed me by inches, and I made it to the other side.

In the dream, I wore a silver watch. Odd, but it’s what I had. The time was 14 minutes after the hour, and I remember thinking I could know when I’d run for 30 minutes because the minute hand would be at 44, or just under the 9.

I ran on, and came to a set of camps, a compound with barracks set on cement slabs like you see on a military base. People were in meetings outside, and I ran past them. With the meetings behind me, I ran through swarming clouds of flying carpenter ants that I swatted away with a hat. The camp fell away behind me.

Descending a small hill, I ran into a place that felt very familiar. A river flowed on my left bordered by a wide grassy expanse under the shelter of three concrete bridges that ran parallel to the river. Trash dotted the grass: some garbage, and some old, discarded clothing. Barefooted, I picked my way through the junk, and ran on.

The last thing I remember before waking was thinking I needed to call Mayor Papenfuse and report the trash. Very odd.

I jotted this note upon waking: “No pain. Just running. Felt great.”

That is my dream.



A Long Way Back

Written two weeks ago, but the post is still pertinent. Update at the end…

It’s been an interesting start to the year, and exercise has often taken a back seat to other priorities. I’m glad I was able to focus on family, and humbled to have support at work and in my myriad commitments to attend to what mattered most.

With the home fires burning strong, though, I wanted to get back into shape. While I have no runs or races scheduled yet, my sideways glances in the mirror were becoming more and more dreaded, as were the trips to the scale.

Time to Run

I had been adding running miles the last few weeks. Progress has been slow, which is okay, and I thought it was slow enough.

By Feb. 23, I had added enough time to take on my local road loop, lovingly dubbed the Beacon Hill Burn. I kept at it, ran throughout an early March vacation, and dropped my time on the same loop by 2:30 in two weeks; great.

And then the heel twinge.

Looking back over my RunKeeper activity, I failed to note when the pain began. The twinge didn’t usually occur while I ran, but appeared after the run as a dull ache in my left heel. Never too bad, the pain subsided soon after each run, and I usually forgot about it.

Eventually, I felt tightness in the morning when I first put my feet on the floor. Again, it wasn’t bad, and disappeared quickly. No big deal, until last Friday.

Pushing to extend myself to hit a 30 mile goal by the end of the month, I added distance to a treadmill run. When I stepped off the treadmill, I couldn’t walk without limping due to the heel pain. I stretched at the gym, but later in the morning a burning pain intensified. I limped into work; never a good way to begin the day.

By the end of the day, miraculously, the pain disappeared. Fantastic, I thought. I’m good to go.

20140325-071939.jpg

Not wanting to push my luck, though, I tried a trail run on Sunday. A recent Running World article advocated running on trails to help with form and to reduce the pounding joints endure on a treadmill or from road running.

For the first two miles, that held true. While muddy and uneven in spots, the trail seemed to be good medicine for the heel, until it wasn’t. One more step, and zing, the pain shot up my left heel. I stopped, swore, and walked the rest of the way.

Something’s not right. Who ya gonna call? The internet, of course.

A quick search turned up a diagnosis that appears to hit all the right notes; Achilles tendinitis:

The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated (tendinitis). It makes up 11 percent of all running injuries; eight percent of runnersworld.com poll respondents dealt with it this past year.

WHO’S AT RISK?
Runners who dramatically increase training (especially hills and speedwork) and have tight, weak calves are vulnerable.

I didn’t think I had weak calves, but I couldn’t argue with the fact that I’d been adding miles, likely more quickly than I should have. Self diagnosis is to take a few days off of running, ice the ankle, and try to do some calf strengthening exercises. I haven’t run since Sunday, and while I’m not limping, the calf is still tight.

Have you dealt with this kind of running setback? What’s your recommendation for how to add miles after a running hiatus?

Update

A minute or two of morning heel stiffness continues, but there’s no pain. I haven’t run in two weeks, so that likely played a large part in the healing.

Next step is to get back on the treadmill tomorrow morning and see what happens. Wish me luck.


New Year, Same Me, Good Friends

I can’t very well tell my daughter she should write if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain. No, I can’t

A quick glance at the next most recent post will show that I’ve been far less diligent in updating my progress towards the 5K and all other things health related. Forgive me, but it has been almost exactly three months since my last post.

This is the point in the writing process where I typically update my blog theme, scroll through Facebook, respond to a tweet or three, check my inbox, etc. I procrastinate far better than I write.

This is a new year, though. Although I am very much the same old me, I can make new patterns. I can tread upon new ground. And, I can even keep promises to myself.

Promise One? Write more.

First post? What I did last fall.

Briefly, I met my goal of running the SMT Turkey Trot, a 3.1 mile run through New Cumberland at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

Although the coldest run I can recall, the SMT Turkey Trot turned out to be a marvelous run. With temps in the low 20s, light winds, and a high, clear sky, I finished the course in just under 31 minutes. No PR, but I was thoroughly pleased with the result.

Considering I violated Race Day Rule One – don’t try anything new – the outcome surprised me even more. I ran in a thermal compression top and leggings for the first time. Along with a black t-shirt, wool knit cap and knit gloves, I felt great when I finished the race, so the outfit must have been just right for the conditions.

Sup Sports TopOpting to not spring for the Under Armor, I instead chose the Sub Sports top and leggings. The reviews sounded good, and Amazon service proved to be super with delivery in only one day. I felt a little silly in the tights, but after a warmup run around the park left my arms and legs toasty, I was a believer.

The best part of the Turkey Trot, though, was having a chance to run with friends Brian Polensky and Steve Chevarria. Brian is a good friend from Harrisburg Tweetup. He and I have run together before, but in far warmer conditions.

I also met Steve on Twitter. We then met in real life a couple times for coffee, before Steve provided me a wealth of encouragement and support while I recovered from a foot injury. In fact, without Steve checking in on me often, I probably wouldn’t have sought out a physical therapist, wouldn’t have recommitted to running, and definitely wouldn’t have been on the streets of New Cumberland with a couple thousand other runners on Thanksgiving Day.

Steve helped pick me up when I was down. That’s what friends do.

Now, Kate, time for you to write. You can do it.


Running Along The #C25K Path

IMG_2911

The adage goes that well begun is half done. With a day, I think it very much holds true.

Because I perform better when I exercise, Monday mornings at the gym have recently become my norm. I may not walk back through the doors again until Friday, but that Monday morning kickstart is becoming almost essential.

With fall weather slowly getting around to central Pennsylvania after a tropical depression blows through this week, and the days undoubtedly becoming shorter, my regimen has shifted from biking to running.

I haven’t run consistently since early last summer when I injured my left foot on a bike ride. That threw me out of whack for months, and I only recently got back on track thanks to a referral from Kelly Leighton and some time with a physical therapist.

Now that I’ve made adjustments to my gait by relearning how to load each stride through my big toe, and also been turned on to the POSE system and its relative merits, I’m back on the Couch to 5K (C25K) path to running for 30 minutes at a clip. It’s a path I traveled two years ago, and one that, while it may not work for everybody, seems to fill the bill for me.

Briefly, C25K purports to take a non-runner and, in the course of eight weeks, turn him or her into a person who can run uninterrupted for 30 minutes or 3.1 miles. Through a series of three escalating workouts per week, a person goes from running in 90 seconds bursts to being able to complete a 5K.

My first time through, I encountered some high hurdles. I had a hard time making it past Week Five of the plan, plus I needed to learn how to stretch properly after each run to alleviate some left knee tightness.

With those hurdles, cleared, though, I ran a few races, with my best time coming in 28:24 at the Father’s Day 5K on Sunday, June 17, 2012. It was a great event for a great cause, and it was the last race I’ve run because, a month later on August 19, I popped a tendon in my left foot on a bike ride, and slipped into inactivity.

A week after that, work intensified, and my excuses mounted through the fall and winter. My activities per month, as tracked by RunKeeper, slipped to an average of six from September, 2012 through last March. And I gained weight I thought I’d lost for good.

Not good.

Fast forward to this summer, though, and my personal clock is beating faster. I bought a new road bike, finished my first metric century, and remained active throughout a transition to a new, demanding job.

Why not run?

I picked up in the midst of C25K because I figured I was already in okay shape from the summer biking. My weight had plateaued, and I wanted a way to drop 10 pounds I gained in the last year. Running worked for me before, so I’m running.

Last week went well with three workouts all following Week Five of C25K. The final workout of the week is a somewhat daunting 20 minute uninterrupted run. Even though I delayed it for a day due to a late community meeting Thursday, and did not eat clean Friday, I completed the run with little difficulty Saturday morning.

Using RunKeeper, I logged 11.4 miles last week via eight activities that burned 1,884 calories completed over 2 hours and 23 minutes. I’ll take it.

Even more importantly, I’ve registered for my first 5K of 2013, the SMT Turkey Trot in New Cumberland on Thanksgiving Day; just 52 days away. Time, and a positive attitude, are on my side as I head into Week 6 of C25K that caps with a 22-minute run.

I know I need to train on the road for a few weeks before the race, but I should be able to complete C25K in time to successfully make the transition. There’s time, and shoe leather, enough for that.


Frank and Me; Our 2013 Three Creek Century

Having already completed the Covered Bridge Metric Century (CBM) earlier this year – a story for a later post – I began looking for another way to stay in shape as the summer wound down.

Earlier this year, I’d read an article in which the writer said he never told anybody he exercised. Instead, he always told people he was training for one event or another.

IMG_1201

Me, at the start of the race in LeTort Park, Carlisle, with temps in the 40s.

That seemed like a good idea, since motivating myself to get to the gym somedays seems a monumental task. Instead, I could set incremental goals, register for events two or three months out, and shoot to be prepared by the time they rolled around.

Having finished 62-plus miles in Lancaster County in August, I found the Three Creek Century (TCC) run by the Harrisburg Bicycle Club. With three separate loops – a 50-miler and two 25-milers – I could ride what I wanted to ride and stay pretty close to home.

I checked with Frank, my father-in-law, got him on board, and registered. Cost for the ride is very reasonable at $20 per rider before August 15 including a lunch, snacks, cue sheets, water stops, etc. and the most omnipresent SAG wagon I’ve seen.

Frank and I rode the CBM together with several of his friends, but the TCC would be just us. We loaded my bike onto Frank’s rack before 7 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15 and headed for LeTort Park in Carlisle.

Now, I’m no expert cyclist. I bought my first road bike this summer, and I’ve ridden in two major events. I know what I like, and what I think could be improved, and I’m aware it is just my opinion.

With that caveat offered, I thought the Big Spring Meander on the TCC was a terrific route, well planned and plotted, with a few minor drawbacks.

First, the water stop at mile 16 was located inside a fish hatchery building. Frank and I rode right past it, and didn’t get any real break until we reached Newville. No big deal, but this stop could have been much better marked.

Second, and I have no idea how immense an undertaking it is to mark every turn on a 50-mile course, but the TCC markings could be improved. The colors for the different loops were difficult to differentiate in the low, morning light, and some turns came up pretty fast because the marking was located very close to the turn.

On the CBM ride, turn markings were copious and well executed. They appeared well in advance of turns, and even with five hours of rain, you could always make out which ones you needed to heed.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 1.10.55 PM

The Big Spring Meander, a 50-mile loop on the Three Creek Century. Via RunKeeper.

Finally, near the end of the 50-mile loop, Frank and I totally missed a turn across Walnut Bottom Road onto tiny Baker Drive. We added less than one bonus mile to the ride before we realized our error, but were followed by some other riders who also missed the turn. Perhaps a large yard sign or some other overt signage at this intersection would be helpful.

All that aside, I enjoyed the ride, a lot. We lucked out with some remarkable weather, even though I didn’t thaw out until we reached Mount Holly Springs after about nine miles of riding. Regardless of the frigid fingers, it was all worth it.

Early in the ride, the scenery was tremendous. The course ran along a ridge line from Mount Holly west towards Walnut Bottom. At the crest of a small rise, I snapped a few pictures of the early morning Cumberland County countryside.

IMG_1203

Click to expand.

IMG_1202

Panoramic shot. Click to expand.

The other riders were tremendously helpful and collegial. From calling out at intersections to wishing you a good morning, everybody enjoyed the day.

And the Harrisburg Bicycle Club outdid itself at the Newville rest stop. With copious amounts of space to stretch out, a bike repairman and his full kit, and amazing snacks at hand, you almost didn’t want to return to the road.

IMG_1205

Best snack of the day came from the gentleman sans cap in the long sleeve yellow shirt. A slice of banana and some peanut butter on a Nilla wafer. Wow! Amazing stuff.

IMG_1207

Newville rest stop on the Big Spring Meander loop of the 2013 Three Creek Century.

A few moments from the ride stick with me.

Early, with the sun having risen on my left and a cornfield on my right, the sun was warming the damp brown cornstalks. The rusty autumn aroma of decay baked off the plants flavoring a short downhill stretch with a sharp, end-of-summer note.

IMG_6750

Later, having left Newville and endured a couple challenging climbs, I was riding alone with a cornfield on my right and a small grassy area on the left side of the road. Wind rustling the corn leaves was one of the few sounds I could hear as I pedaled along a flat, sunny stretch of road. I felt isolated, but not really alone, as I also made out small animals moving on the floor of the field.

Finally, approaching Carlisle near the end of the ride, we came up a small rise to an old stone farmhouse on a corner with a barn immediately across from us at a three-way intersection. Along with a few other riders, we swept around the left-hand turn, and I could almost believe I was creeping through the back roads of Cumberland County, whispering over the blacktop, disturbing no one as I pedaled back to the park.

The things you think after three hours on a bike. Geez.

At the end of a day that began before dawn, and featured my coldest bike ride yet, all I wanted to do was digest the amazing gift of a day with Frank. Well, that and a Steakhouse Wrangler cheeseburger at Dodge City; the icing on the cupcake of a tremendous biking day.


Week Ending Sept. 28 – A Better Week

After I completed a 50+ mile bike ride on Sunday, Sept. 15, I dropped back to some bad habits; specifically, not exercising. I would have done well to keep up the momentum I built prepping for the Three Creek Century, but that didn’t help me get to the gym during the work week.

Regardless, every failure is another opportunity to succeed. So when another new week rolled around, I resolved to make good on the promises to myself and return to Golds Gym.

And it’s been a much, much better week.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 9.44.32 PM

Monday began with intervals on the treadmill, working through the Couch to 5k program I used a couple years ago to start running. Given that I was in okay shape from a summer on the bike, I started with a slightly tweaked version of the Week 4 program: 3 minutes running; 60 seconds walking; 5 minutes running; 90 seconds walking, repeat for 30 minutes.

I finished Monday with 2.82 on the treadmill run, and felt pretty good afterward. My legs tightened when I got to work, but nothing with which I couldn’t cope.

And then, another lull. More excuses kept me out of the gym until Friday, but I returned with a solid interval run covering 2.86 miles. I stretched more effectively immediately after the run and again at the office, and felt great throughout the day.

Saturday mornings are made for bike rides, as far as I’m concerned. This weekend was no different, and I logged a solid, challenging 22 miles on a route I hadn’t traveled before.

The new wrinkle was a turn off Lisburn Road onto Mount Allen Drive just after the railroad underpass east of Bowmansdale. I thought this route might be a bit easier than riding out of Bowmansdale on Lisburn Road.

Wrong.

From that intersection to the top of the hill, the average grade turns out to be only four percent, but it kicked my rear. By the time I reached the top of the hill, I had a side stitch and could barely catch my breath. Obviously, I’m not in as good a shape as I’d like to believe.

The rest of the ride went well, though, and I tacked on an additional new loop through Green Lane Farms, across the iron bridge, and along Cedar Cliff Drive.

The weirdest part of the ride, though, was a line painting crew. At the start of the ride, I had to wait for the crew to move on Beacon Hill Boulevard. Then 90 minutes later, I ran into the same crew on Poplar Road, and had to unclip before turning onto Limekiln Road.

No big deal. Instead of trying to scoot around the three trucks, I waited somewhat patiently, and made it back home none the worse for wear.

Tomorrow is an off day, and then it’s back to the treadmill to start Week 5 of Couch to 5k.


The First Post

IMG_1111

Why a blog?

Several reasons:

  • I haven’t written for me in a while. For a lot of reasons, I haven’t spent time stringing together words in any sort of creative way. It’s time to end that drought.
  • I need to exercise more, and a workout buddy will help me be more faithful to my goals. Who’s my buddy? Simple; everybody who reads this blog.
  • There’s always some kind of story to be told after a good workout session.

While I won’t ever be confused with blogging friends Sara Bozich, Kelly Leighton or Mark Schaefer, that’s not the goal. Instead, I’ll share insights on what’s working for me, what isn’t, my goals, stumbles and successes.

Come along for the ride.