Tag Archives: running

2013 Kris Kringle 5 miler

This has been my last race of the year for 2 years now. I’m kind of fond of it, despite how much this race tends to suck. Last year, this was my first time doing a 5 mile distance. I had only done 5K’s up until then. And for the 2012 race, it snowed quite a bit the day before the race, and much of the Kringle was run on a snow-packed trail. I thought 2012 sucked.

That was until the 2013 race. This year, instead of snow, we were graced with just-slightly-above freezing temperatures and a steady, soaking rain. Runners are a stalwart lot, however, and the crowd seemed undaunted.

Just a tad less than 600 runners showed up to race in the cold December rain

Just a tad less than 500 runners showed up to race in the cold December rain

I’m not one to complain. I learned during my years in the U.S. Air Force that people are waterproof. But I really, really dislike being wet. Just a preference thing. I bundled up as best I could.

Multiple layers to combat both cold and rain, but not turn myself into a furnace during the race.

Multiple layers to combat both cold and rain, but not turn myself into a furnace during the race.

When the race started just after 11am, it was 38 degrees Farenheit ( a tad over 3 degrees Celsius) and the rain was coming down light but steady. Just enough to get everything nice and wet.

Runners starting to gather in the cold rain

Runners starting to gather in the cold rain

Waiting at the starting line as the rest of the runners make their wet way

Waiting at the starting line as the rest of the runners make their wet way

I’ve been running 5 miles as my go-to distance lately as I’m ramping up for my spring race goal, so I wasn’t worried about making it to the finish line this year because of the distance. The conditions, however, really gave me a challenge this time:

  1. About 15 minutes in my iPhone did a panic shut down. I think it must have gotten moist in my “waterproof media pocket”. But this left me with no RunKeeper stats, and no music for the whole race. Not unbearable, but different from my normal. Not good for race day.
  2. Did I mention that I really dislike being wet? Bad military training memories. I got soaked. My older and well-traveled rain coat I was wearing totally failed me. I was soaked all the way through everything I was wearing on top. I would have been way more comfortable if my rain coat had worked.
  3. My running shoes are not waterproof. Puddle after icy puddle I stepped in bathed my feet in their frigid wetness. My toes started going numb just before mile marker 4. They didn’t get really bad because I kept moving, but each puddle made it a bit more miserable for my toes.

Okay. Enough whining. Here’s the stuff I really love about this race, no matter what the conditions are:

  1. You get a hoodie instead of a race shirt. I love seeing the older ones appear on race day, and really enjoy wearing mine throughout the colder months.
  2. The race starts out flat, but within 5 minutes goes up a really challenging hill. I train hills all the time, and just love leaving people in the dust as I power up the big hill. It gives me a real boost.
  3. It is the last race of the year. It is awesome to cap out the year’s races with a good distance like this.
  4. Even though it is after Christmas, the festivities continue for a bit. I love seeing the costumes and jingle bells out one more time for the season.
  5. I improved my time a little over 7 minutes from last year. 2012 time was 54 minutes. 2013 time was 46 minutes. Yay!

This really is a great race, and despite my grumbling about the conditions each year, it is a good challenge. There certainly are times when you have to dig down deep and get your mind over the matter. And as my training instructors in the Air Force used to say, “People are waterproof as long as they keep their mouths shut.” 🙂

How do you like to wrap up your racing year?

 

 

 

 

A Year In Motion – My 2013 Wrap-up

This has really been one heck of a year for me for running. Considering I only started running in the fall of 2012, I think I can take a few minutes and be proud of what I accomplished.

Personal Running Goal of 700 miles

So first thing in January 2013, RunKeeper started bugging me to set a goal for the year. I figured it was worthwhile, because I am an extremely goal-oriented person. I need to have that target in mind or else I tend to just flounder. I knew I wanted to run my first Half Marathon in 2013, but wasn’t sure when, so I made a semi-educated guess that I could run 700 miles throughout the year. Sounds a little ambitious, right? Yeah, it probably was. So here is where I ended up for the year:

Running Goal 2013

As of today, December 24th, 2013, I have run 607 miles. Yeah I still have a few more days left in the year. I’ll get a little closer to the goal, but there is no way I can run 100 miles in the next 6 days. I’d die.

I’m going to keep the goal of 700 miles for 2014. I want to try harder to hit that this coming year. I’m pretty sure I can do it this time.

First 10K

So yes, I was setting goals for a Half-Marathon and 700 miles for the year before I even ran my first 10K. I was doing 5K’s pretty easily and knew I was ready for the next level. It didn’t take long. In early January, I decided to go around the chute at the Shiver by the River 5K and go back out for another lap and finish the 10K. I finished in 1:01:34. Not too shabby for the first time out.

First 10-mile

I decided to push my luck in March and go for a 10-miler. At this point I had signed up for my first Half Marathon in June, and I needed to start pushing the distance to see if my body was getting ready. It wasn’t. My first 10-miler was miserable. I went up to Quakertown for the run, it was very cold and even snowing a little, and I was still learning how to fuel my body. I hit the wall. Hard. I finished the 10-miler in 1:54:01, which was just abysmal, and dedicated myself to learning how to fuel myself or a run.

First 1/2 Marathon

I wasn’t quite ready to sign up for this, but a good buddy of mine wanted to run this together, so I caved. Unfortunately, he got injured before the race and was not able to compete with me. Boo. But I understood. I trained my backside off, learned how to fuel my body for the run, and trained some more. I went out and hit this one with all I had, and learned a ton. I ran the ODDyssey Half in Philadelphia, which wound the 13.1 miles through beautiful Fairmount Park in early June. It was simply gorgeous. I finished in 2:15:05, and I was quite happy with my time. Very decent showing for a 1st-timer.

This was ~Mile 9. I was feeling good and charging on towards the finish line.

This was ~Mile 9. I was feeling good and charging on towards the finish line.

Second 1/2 Marathon

This one was my little sister’s fault. She’s been running longer than me, but wasn’t going past 5K for the longest time. She decided she wanted to do the Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas in November and asked for takers to go with her. I bit. I started training in July a little after a month of downtime after the ODDyssey. Again, trained my butt off. This one really bit me. First I think because of the time zone difference, and second because the race is run in the evening which felt even later to my body because of the jet lag. I had finished my 13.1 training run in 2:09:00 and in my head I wanted to finish Vegas in under 2hrs. Unrealistic goal I see in retrospect. I fueled as best I know, but the factors were against me and I hit the wall hard at about 11 miles in. I just couldn’t pick my legs up anymore. I was hot, sweaty, tired, and just beat. I had a blast though. That was a race for the bucket list. Amazing scenery and crowds. I finished in 2:12:02.

Probably hard to tell from the picture, but I seriously could barely stand up at this point. I gave it everything I had.

Probably hard to tell from the picture, but I seriously could barely stand up at this point. I gave it everything I had.

Started this blog

I blog professionally quite a bit. Ok well not so much this year as in past, but it is a part of what I do. I realized I had a lot to say about running and getting fit, and my journey towards all that, and started up this blog.

 2014 Goals

  • I’m going to carry over the 2013 goal of running 700 miles in the year. I’m going to hit it in 2014.
  • I am going to run the Garden Spot Village Half-Marathon on April 12th. I am going to have a realistic goal of finishing under 2 hours. I started a Sub-2hr Half training program today.
  • I am going to run my first full Marathon. I don’t know which one just yet, but after my spring half, I plan to choose a fall marathon and then get to training. The Philadelphia Marathon in November perhaps? I might not be able to wait that long.

What fitness goals to you have for 2014? The hardest part of the journey is the first step.

The New Multi-Vitamin Debate

 

It’s been all over the news lately. The latest research on multi-vitamins is saying that not only do multivitamins have no measurable benefit, but can also cause harm in the long-term and everyone should stop taking them.

Does this seem strange to anyone else? I certainly accept that as we advance in science and medicine that new things will be discovered to challenge conventional wisdom. But this one really leaves me scratching my head. Every family doctor I’ve ever seen has encouraged me to take a daily multivitamin even as recently as this year.

How should we interpret as athletes? Here’s a few questions I have heavy on my mind before I take any action:

  • This research were based on “three big studies”. Ok. I want to see hundreds of big studies on all types of people.
  • I want to see a study specifically done on athletes (or even better, runners). I cannot believe that the vitamin requirements of an extremely active person are the same as someone who is sedentary.
  • I want my doctor to tell me to stop taking my vitamins based off of hard data in my own blood chemistry.

I’m pretty good at seeing my doctor every six months. It usually includes blood work, and so far there are no signs that I am anything but healthy. For me, I’m going to continue taking my multivitamins every day until I have more concrete evidence that I shouldn’t. For the record, I take GNC MegaMan Sport Vitapack. I still feel that this is an essential part of my health and wellness routines.

What do you think?

Run Santa Run 5K

This past Saturday, December 14th, 2013, I finally made it out to West Reading to run the “Run Santa Run 5K”. I wanted to do the race last year, but already had a race scheduled for Sunday and was really unsure about running a race two days in a row. This year is a different year.

We started in front of my favorite running store, A Running Start, in West Reading, PA. The store is small but fabulous. The staff are all avid runners and can steer you to the right gear. They are also huge supporters of our local running club, the Pagoda Pacers (of which I’m also a member). Everyone racing was unsure if we were going to race at all because of an impeding snow storm. We lucked out that the meteorologists were wrong and the storm didn’t really start until well after the race was done.

The race started on time in the frigid cold. My intrepid wife, Gia, has been joining me for races this winter. I love doing this stuff together.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

I’ve done a few other 5K races in the West Reading area, and remember it as being a little hilly. In case you were wondering, it still is. 🙂

There were over 600 Santas out there on Saturday. It was a really great race. West Reading is very charming, and there is really no better way to see it than out and around on foot.

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!

 

We both turned in respectable times. I came it at 26:54 and Gia got 33:31. Not a record for me, but I’m happy with it. Gia’s been training up for the last 6 weeks or so, and I’m really proud of how well she’s doing.

I’m already looking forward to next year! Do you have a favorite holiday run?

 

My Runner-versary

I read somewhere (probably in Runner’s World Magazine) that you are officially “a runner” after you run your first race.

I ran my very first competitive race on September 30th, 2012, exactly one year ago today. It was Zane’s Run in Sugartown, PA. It was chip timed, and not quite a true 5K, measuring out at 2.8 miles in the end, which was a little disappointing for my first time. I finished in 28 minutes. And yes, that is all from memory. I think it’s like your first date, or the day you purchased your first car, or even your wedding day. Which is why I’m calling today, and every September 30th from here on out my “Runner-versary.”

In the spirit of any anniversary, I think it is worthwhile to spend a little time and reflect on the events of the past year and speculate a little about the next year.

From a year ago today, I am 20lbs lighter. I have raced competitively in over 15 timed events. I have increased my race distance from 3.1 miles (5K) to completing my first half-marathon (13.1 miles). I have gotten my 5K PR down to 24 minutes, which is pretty fast for an old desk jockey like me.

For the next year, I’m already training hard for my next half-marathon, which I will run in mid-November. After that, I’m planning on setting my sights on a full marathon some time in the spring of 2014. Very loose plans on that front for now. I will spend the winter running again, as I did last year, competing in some of my favorite local races like the Shiver by the River series, and the Chris Cringle 5 miler just before Christmas.

My thought for the last year. Something I have noticed frequently when I talk to others about being a runner. Nearly every time, I hear at least two or three excuses why a person can’t run. Then I talk a little about the excuses I used to give for not running. I used to always say my “Golden Rule” was that I only run when I am chased. It would always elicit a chuckle or two, but it was an excuse nonetheless. I used to have trouble with my knees. It was my biggest excuse for not running. It turns out that my knees hurt so much because my legs were weak. Once my legs got stronger, my knee pain disappeared! I mean completely disappeared. I also used to not run because it made me feel terrible. Once I got stronger, lost some weight, and built up a little endurance that went away, too. In fact, I feel worse on days I don’t run now. I certainly understand that some people have legitimate reasons why they can’t run, such as past knee surgeries or the like. Those are legitimate reasons and not excuses. I’m really just speaking to the excuse-makers here.  My challenge to you, excuse-maker, is to create two or three excuses for why you CAN run.

My very first timed race, Zane's Run 5K in Sugartown, PA, September 30th, 2012

My very first timed race, Zane’s Run 5K in Sugartown, PA, September 30th, 2012

The Goodness of Us

The world watched a week ago aghast as two bombs erupted at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The madness of the ensuing week were difficult to grasp as reality. It almost seemed like a movie to me. The people of Boston endured and now a mere week later, one suspect is dead and the other is in custody. Race running has been changed forever.

It is easy to focus on the horror during events like these. We tend to focus on these terrible people and what could drive them to inflict such pain on innocent people. Especially against a running event. This event was very personal to me, and in many ways, I feel like I’m going through this for the first time when the rest of the nation was able to go through it after September 11th, 2001. That was a different event for me, since I was still on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. My mind was in a different place back then, and I don’t think I experienced the full weight of the tragedy like most everyone else did.

In my previous post, not even 24-hours after the Boston attack, I think I was feeling much like I did when I was in the military. Anger, vengeance, defiance. I still feel those feelings, but they have been sidelined by a sense of hope and community. On Sunday, April 21st, 2013, I participated in the annual Valley Forge Revolutionary 5-mile Run. Less than a week after the tragedy, many of us went out to run in a place sacred to the Freedom of this country to show solidarity. It was stated during the opening remarks of that race, that our fraternity of runners was attacked. This was against us all. And so we ran. While the weather was a little on the cold side for a Pennsylvania April day, it was beautiful. And you can’t ask for a better venue than Valley Forge National Park. I’m guessing it was 3-parts hard training and 1-part inspiration for the day, but I got another personal record for this 5-mile race. My RunKeeper stats:

Valley Forge Revolutionary Run 2013

And then just one day later, on Monday, April 22nd, 2013, I had the privilege to participate in a local fundraiser run where all of the proceeds were donated to the Boston One Fund. I wasn’t sure what to expect for an event like this in Reading, PA. I was very pleasantly surprised. Over 800 runners showed up to donate to the fund and show our community we are not afraid. Among those 800 were 12 who had run in the Boston Marathon. It was moving to me that they were present, as probably the 12 among us most affected by this event. And yet, here they were, proudly wearing their marathon gear and running with us. The local news media was out as well. Channel 69 News aired a small segment about the run (the last 3 minutes of the video on this page). Our local newspaper, The Reading Eagle was also there, and also published a short article and 10 photos of the event. Another inspiring event, and it shows in my times:

Run For Boston 2013

 

I started to run in June of 2012 because I needed a new way to achieve my personal fitness goals. I’d tried diets, gym memberships, all kinds or gear and tech, but nothing was getting me where I wanted to be. I remembered struggling with running while I was in the military, but never really gave it a second thought after I separated. I never anticipated the community aspect of running, and today I sit here in awe. I have said before that runners are some of the best people I know. They are competitive and tough, sure. But they are also encouraging, supportive, and welcoming. The outpouring of the goodness of us leaves me humbled. It reminds me of an excellent posting I saw on Facebook right after Boston. I can’t sum up how I feel any better than comedian Patton Oswalt did:

“Boston. Freaking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” – Patton Oswalt

My Thoughts on Boston

Like most of the world, I’m still reeling from what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday afternoon. The various news networks are all on-site showing every detail of the sheer horror that this cowardly act has wrought. I sat watching the news last night, debating if I should write this yet, or wait a while to sort out my thoughts a bit more. I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning to the news pouring in. Instead of sitting and staring at the news, I put on my gear and went for a run. It’s really when I do my best thinking. That act alone decided for me that I needed to get fingers to keyboard right away. There are a few things that need to be said that aren’t being said yet in the major media.

While I have no idea who did this, or what their motive was, I can tell you that if whoever did this was trying to scare runners, they were sorely mistaken. Distance runners are not just physically tough, but mentally tough. Really, really tough. Short distance running is all physical. Long-distance running is all mental. These marathoners know how to pace their bodies and keep on running when that little voice inside their head starts screaming for them to stop. Twenty-six miles is no joke. Think about it. Most people I know think driving in their car somewhere that is 26 miles away is “too far”. Marathoners RUN that. Without stopping.

Another thing not being discussed is how runners are a community. A strong community. Most people who don’t run distance races might not know this, but runners are extremely positive and encouraging to other runners. This was something I didn’t realize until one of my first “long” races, where complete strangers were giving me high-fives and words of encouragement as I completed my run. I found myself starting to do the same. The pattern perpetuates itself in a very affirming and positive way. You can’t shake community like that with anything.

To me, running is a celebration of life and health. I’m 40 years old, my hair is turning gray, but hey, I’m out there and I can still run. Nothing is going to turn me away from that. I’m pretty sure that most of the runners in Boston feel the same way. So whoever did this, you lost before you even started. Nothing you did is going to stop runners from running, or stop the Boston Marathon (or any other big run around the country) from happening in the future. We are runners, and we’re tougher than you. We are runners, and have faced down injury, fatigue, and long miles. You don’t frighten us. Not even a bit. Now that you decided to mess with our pinnacle event, this community is going to do everything it its tough power to bring the full weight of justice to bear on you. I hope you can run fast and long, because you’ll have to if you think you’re going to outrun us. We’re going to catch you.

Quakertown Rotary Club Run for Youth 10-Mile

This one was tough. There’s really no other way for me to describe it. Easily the most challenging run I’ve done so far. But for my first 10-mile race I think I learned a lot of important stuff, which is why I did it.

Here’s my course and analytics from RunKeeper:

RunKeeper stats from Quakertown 10 mile race on March 2nd 2013

RunKeeper stats from Quakertown 10 mile race on March 2nd 2013

If I drew a fancy little trend-line on my pace there, you can see I was steadily decreasing in speed as the race went on. Overall I’m happy I held up as well as I did. My pace was fairly consistent. Many of those walk-spikes in my pace you can see directly correlate with a steep incline. This was a STEEP course.

Some important stuff I learned on this one:

  1. I ran this race to see if I was physically prepared to take the next step up to a half-marathon. Clearly I am not, yet.
  2. This was the first race where I really had to be concerned with fueling during the race. Thanks to my long-time friends Christy Ianelli and Chneih Lee for giving me pointers on race fuel. Turns out that even though I fueled, I didn’t fuel enough. At about Mile 8 I hit my wall. 
  3. This was the first time I really hit my race wall. Shortly after Mile 8, I simply ran out of juice. My legs felt like they were made out of cement, and my gait turned into a sad shuffle. While I carbo-loaded the day before and fueled before the race, I think I waited too long in the race to start refueling. This was a HILLY course, so I likely burned off my pre-race energy pretty early.
  4. This race was nearly all about fuel for me. I did not feel overly taxed in the cardio-vascular area. Granted I wasn’t running very fast, but I decided on a conservative pace due to the terrain and the distance. I simply ran out of energy in the end. It was challenging to just pick up my foot and take another stride.

New Gear

I had some new gear in play this race that I hadn’t used before. I mentioned in my last post that I got a new pair of running shoes. Those felt great for the most part, but I still need some more time in them. My feet and legs have not yet adjusted to having more support in my feet. That will come with time and training. Not worried. The Cho-Pat knee braces I also mentioned last time work really well. They give my knees a little extra support and help things move the way they should. I’m going to start seriously focusing on more strength training in the coming months so I don’t need such things, but for now, I still need them. At the advice of my friends, I brought along stuff to fuel up during the race. I’ll talk about the fuels themselves in a moment, but to carry the liquid type, I got a Fuel Belt. I found this to be really easy to wear. I hardly noticed it at all, and I loved the ergonomic-shaped bottles. I went with the 8 oz. bottles which delivered a perfect sized shot of hydration without the need to stop at an aid station.

Race Fuel

A couple of posts ago I posed a question about race fuel, and my two friends I mentioned above answered me. I took a combination of their advice into consideration this time. First is breakfast on race-day. I’ve struggled for months to find something I could eat in the morning on race day without giving myself cramps during the race. I finally found something that works for me. This recommendation actually came from Runner’s World magazine. I found that I can tolerate an Ensure shake quite nicely. I drink the shake shortly after waking up in the morning and it doesn’t give me cramps during my run. I also found that I can tolerate a Gatorade Prime gel taken 15 minutes prior to my run start. In retrospect, I think I should have had 2 of the Ensure shakes in the morning before the race. About 30 minutes before the gun, my stomach was growling again. The Gatorade gel took the edge off, but I think I was still hungry going into the race. I’ll experiment with the amounts in the future. For during the race, I picked up some Clif Shot gel chews. These fit very fine in my pocket and I didn’t even notice they were there. These were great. They are like a big fat block of gummy bear. I think I started eating them too late, however. Again, in retrospect, I started the race hungry, but waited until Mile 4 before I had my first Clif Shot. My theory is that I started too late, and was fighting a negative balance from earlier on than I felt it, because by the end, I had nothing, and no matter how many more of those I ate, I couldn’t convert them to energy in time to make a difference. The last part of my fuel formula was Nuun hydration tablets. I put these into the water bottles in my fuel belt, and in my water bottles back in the car. I had some the night before, a little in the morning before the race, 16 oz. of it during the race (8 oz times 2), and about 32 oz. after the race. I really liked the Nuun water. It sat better than Gatorade ever has in my stomach. It had a nice flavor, and during the run was a good shot of electrolytes, fluid, and even a little salt. It was perfect.

Other thoughts

This was a great learning experience for me. I’ve found that distance running is like a big puzzle, and I’m fascinated by trying to figure it out. So I’ll keep experimenting and improving each time. I had a few great moments during the race. I was really nervous about this race ahead of time, because of how long it was. But during the race I had a few nice realizations. As I passed the 5k mark, I thought to myself “I used to think I could never run this far”. Again at the 5-mile mark, I thought “Back in December, this was the furthest I had ever gone.”. Then at the 10K mark, I thought, “Wow, In January, this was the furthest I had ever gone, and I’m still going”.

So what next? On Sunday, March 10th, is the 4th and final 10k in the Shiver by the River series. I’ve run all three previous, and don’t want to miss the last one. Then, I’m going to dial back my mileage for a while. I need to focus on strengthening up my body more before I push it this hard again. My plan is to strength train 2 days a week, and have shorter runs most other days. That will help keep me moving without the stress the longer runs put on my feet and knees. When I feel I’m ready again, I’m going to either do another 10-miler, or perhaps shoot for the vaunted half-marathon of 13.1 miles.

Pain in the Ass

Sometimes, running can be a real pain in the ass. Literally.

At some point while training for my last run, the Shiver by the River 10K, I learned a few new things about my body. I think when I mentioned in my opening blog post that my knees felt great, that I jinxed myself, because not long after that a few things got dicey. What did I learn?

First, I am flat-footed and was wearing the wrong running shoes. I was in a pair of Nike Lunarglide Plus‘s. But because of my flat-footed gait, I tend to pronate a bit more than I should with my left foot when in a normal stride. This was causing me to have some mild runner’s knee in my left knee, which I was complaining about a bit in my last post. I discovered this because of another rather unpleasant thing I learned about my body.

The second thing I learned is that I got myself a nice little case of piriformis syndrome. Thus the title of this post; I had a moderately annoying tight pain in the left side of my butt. At first I thought it was just muscular pain from some uphills I did either in a training run or on race day. But when it didn’t go away after a few days, I got a little concerned and sought some medical advice. It turns out that because of my uneven gait when I was running (because of the over-pronation) I caused the piriformis muscle to get irritated, and it inflamed, pinching a portion of my sciatic nerve. Ouch! Thankfully, once I knew what it was, it wasn’t that hard to alleviate. First ice. I sat on some ice packs for about 20 minutes at a time, 3 – 4 times a day. Then heat. The next day I got out the electric blanket, sat on it, and turned it on high to try and help the muscle to relax. There are also a few stretches I found online that are extremely helpful.
Piriformis Stretch 1
Piriformis Stretch 2

It took me the better part of 2 weeks to get it to finally let go and start feeling better. The next thing to do then after resting up was to get a better pair of shoes and try a few easy runs. I took a friend’s advice and took a little drive up to Emmaus (near Allentown, PA) to visit the Finish Line Running Store. Great recommendation! They have a super-knowledgeable staff and were able to see right away what was getting me in trouble. They sent me home with a pair of Asics Gel T-2000‘s. I could feel the difference right away.

I also invested in a pair of knee straps, to give my kneecaps some additional support while I re-train in my new shoes. I went with a Runner’s World Magazine recommendation and got the Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap. The straps feel great, and take the pressure off of my kneecaps extremely well.

So very cautiously, I have returned to some slow, easy training runs. I can certainly feel the difference now with better shoes and being more conscious of staying properly aligned and running with good posture. My right leg is definitely more sore after my runs because it is finally having to share the burden more evenly, which is a very good thing. There are no signs of any returning Piriformis Syndrome, which is also a very good thing. My runner’s knee is still present, but getting better. I have a few races coming up, which I am inclined to do rather than forfeit. If I race one and don’t feel good, I’m going to take a break for a while longer much to my chagrin. But I ran the last two mornings and feel really good, so I’m hoping the trend will continue for my next race this Saturday, the Quakertown Rotary 10-miler. It will be my longest distance to date. I’m being cautiously optimistic, but as of today, it’s still a go in my mind.

Why do I run?

I’m probably the most unlikely runner you’ll ever meet. If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be running races and loving it, I would have laughed so hard I would cry. Seriously. Why? Simple. After 8 years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, I learned just about every bad way there is to run, and often got hurt. My feet ached, my knees hurt and would swell up painfully. Running in formation is bad for me. I’m 6’3″, so short choppy steps over and over are not the best way to run mechanically. I’ve struggled with my knees ever since, and that was over 10 years ago. Coupled with being a nerd and not athletically inclined, I just had bad ideas about running in my head.

Fast-forward to today. Now I’m 40 years old, have a demanding desk job where I sit all day. And sit. And sit. I don’t have a gym near by that is convenient to use, and I don’t have enough home gym equipment to make a big difference. I’m a tech nerd, so I started trying to use technology tools to help keep my weight in order. I’ll be writing up reviews of all of the apps and tools and equipment I’ve used over the years in more detail later on. Back to the story. Round-about last summer (July 2012), I was inspired by my friend and colleague Dallas Marks who started tweeting the fact that he was using an app called Couch to 5K. I thought about it for a long time, but kept thinking that I can’t run. It hurts my knees and my feet. But finally on a day when I tipped the scale at 215lbs, I knew I had to try something very different. I downloaded the app and I gave it a try, and I haven’t looked back since. And guess what? My knees feel great. The stronger my legs get, the less knee pain I have. Oh they still get a good ache on if I get to aggressive or hit too many hills, but overall they feel better than they ever have.

I found out quickly that not only could I run, but that I really enjoyed it. I mean REALLY enjoyed it. I ran my first 5K in September 2012 and finished in just under 30 minutes. No awards won, but a respectable time.

Just before my first 5K race in September 2012

Just before my first 5K race in September 2012

My results for Zane's Run, Malvern, PA September 30th, 2012

My results for Zane’s Run, Malvern, PA September 30th, 2012

The question at hand, “Why do I run?”.

I run because I love to get outside and breathe the fresh air. I love to get some good, efficient exercise and make my body leaner and stronger. I love to be competitive and race in organized events, constantly striving to get a better time or go a longer distance. I love meeting positive-minded healthy people at these events. I love how I feel after a good, long run. I love being able to eat more of what I like, because I burn so many calories on a good run. I love that no matter where I travel, I need only bring my running shoes and I can keep up with my workout routine.

I hope to use this site for a couple of things. I hope to catalog my runs and races, to show whoever is interested that if a desk-jockey computer nerd like me can do it, nearly anyone can. I also hope to use this space to discuss and review the technology I use and new things I try to keep myself on track. Thanks for reading. Get out there and run!