Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Path Diverged

Originally, when I was thinking about this post, I was just going to talk about my ankle injury and related issues. That idea was entirely shredded when yesterday's events happened. I will still get around to updating you on my own little world, but it amazing how quickly one's issues can be put into crystal clear perspective.

More than a year ago I joined a community of runners, and I didn't even know I was doing so. It took me months before I began to reach out on this blog and other social media looking for like-minded individuals to learn from and share with, and I now find myself entrenched with all of you. Yesterday's bombing at the Boston Marathon was an attack on that very community, and I think we are all feeling the ripples more than anyone else in the world. Sure, this was an attack against my country, a city I have visited, and innocent bystanders, but it was an assault on an event that bases itself around the communal aspect of running we cherish.

People from all around the world come to Boston to do the same thing. Sure, it is Patriot Day, but many who arrive on our shores aren't here to celebrate our history; rather, they come to compete in one of runnings toughest events. We come together in one place to do one thing: run. Running is like a universal language where we speak with our legs and our times. We have shared experiences in races and training. We can look at someone at a race and know that they have done and are thinking the same things. At the beginning, we all get and chip and a bib. At the end, we all get a finisher medal. What other sport is like that? What other event can a 78 year old compete again an 18 year old? Where else can a man from Africa compete against a woman from China? I would argue, as a single event, a marathon, especially one as large and iconic as Boston, is the most important in the world.

What I am getting at is this: this attack has shaken us in a way we may truly never understand, but we can already see how powerful a community we are a part of. Just look at the immediacy of the #runforboston campaign; who else could organize something like that? Who else would simultaneously wear race shirts in memory of an event? I saw an article about our communities power in USA Today, and I couldn't be more proud! We are all feeling like our families were attacked because of how close we all feel. We can all sense what it would be like to be one of those in the videos coming to the finish line, joyous, exhausted and proud, only to immediately have reality crash down around us. We can all feel for those who have lost or will lose limbs and possibly never run again. I know I am changed, but I will not let this damper my love for running and for my community, country and fellow man/woman.

I wish I could put more of my feelings into writing, but I am just not that talented. I just hope this post is a catalyst for some thinking, and maybe it will put a bit of a positive spin on an otherwise tragic day after so much evil. Spend today counting your blessings, and take a second to look around and be happy you are here, healthy and able to do something so many others cannot.

As for me, my issues are so incomprehensibly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but in case you were wondering, I thought I would still include a bit of an update. After a bone scan towards the end of last week, I was told immediately that I have a stress fracture in my left ankle. I was told that I am not able to run for 6-8 weeks, and that I need to stay off my feet as much as possible. I don't have a cast or anything, but I still need to see an orthopedist for more information. I will probably make an appointment right after this post, but right now my ankle feels pretty good. I am just icing it, keeping it elevated, and I use crutches when I can. My job keeps me on my feet a lot, so I probably won't heal as quick as I could, but it isn't so bad.

I am just glad I decided to get the scan because I would probably have started running again if I hadn't, and I would have just made things worse. I have some mild pain killers and anti-inflammatories, but beyond that, I just need extra calcium. The big thing, and easily the most heartbreaking personally, is that I will not be able to run in the Flying Pig like I had been dreaming about and working so hard to achieve. Last week, and before Boston, I was really in bad shape emotionally, but now I am just happy to be able to get back out there eventually. Will I try for another marathon? I don't know. It was an awful lot of hard work to come up short, and maybe I am just not built to do it. Maybe I will focus on shorter races and speed? Maybe work towards sprint triathlons? Who knows, but I have plenty of time to think about it.

For now, I am just doing some weights and light stuff at home. My diet is destroyed by plenty of stress eating, and I am a bit lost without a goal or a way to get in cardio. I may be able to swim at the YMCA if my membership is still good, but it just isn't the same - I want to be out enjoying the weather I waited so patiently for. In the end, I am lucky, but this is still a bit of a personal tragedy, and I just have to figure out how to move on. We all deal with issues, but I would be tapering this week, gearing up to truly prove myself as a runner. I would finally be able to call myself a marathoner, and now I can't even run for Boston. It is hard, but I am not alone. I will cope, I will heal, and I will be back.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Tale Of An Ankle

Sometimes, as runners, we deal with injuries. Maybe it is a knee (been there) or a foot (been there, too), but now I am dealing with an ankle. I ran my first half marathon on Sunday, and my ankle had been an issue before, but now it has become something that has me on the sideline.

This is something that dates back a few weeks, and I think it is related to a previous issue with my Achilles. I don't know if I had simply subconsciously altered my form whole struggling with that, if my barefoot running just increased to dramatically, or if my minimal shoes are too worn down, but now my left ankle is shot. During the half, where I managed to finished at about 1:57, it started to hurt after the first few miles, but I just pushed through because I am stubborn. I didn't want to be that guy being carted back to the start, and I just wanted to get my finisher medal like everyone else.

As the race went on, I had an inkling that something was wrong, and I really started to feel it after I finished. By the evening, I could barely walk on it, and by Monday, I almost didn't make it to the shower in the morning. I made it to work, but I was able to get an appointment with my doctor, so I took the afternoon to get things checked out. He looked at the ankle, and judged by the location of the damage that my ankle might be broken. I got a cortisone shot, an x-ray, some painkillers and anti-inflammatories. The x-rays came back negative, but the doctor wasn't convinced, so he ordered a bone scan for today.

I just got back from part one of the scan, and I will go back in a out an hour. Hopefully I will have some answers by the end of the day, but right now I am on crutches, but I feel much better. I am not ruling out a hairline fracture of some sort, so I am glad I am getting the scan, but I am also becoming more hopeful that this is something I can recover from quickly. The key here is that I don't want to miss my marathon in May, but I am not going to push myself to do so. I am going to heal 100%, and if that happens in time to run it, then great. If not, I will just have to reassess and move on.

At this point, even if I heal in time, I will probably not be trained enough to straight up run the marathon through and through, but I'd like to at least shiw up and run/walk it. Time will tell, and today's scans will give me a lot of information. I am just going to have to keep icing, elevating, compressing and using anti-inflammatories. I will just monitor my progress and take it easy - what will be, will be!

I am still proud of myself for my half-marathon time, and endurance-wise, I was fantastic. In fact, the last 3 miles were fantastic because I had so much more left in the tank than a lot of people around me, so I was passing people left and right. If I were healthy, I can only imagine what kind of time I would have put up. This is just a step in the right direction with a little pause in my overall goals.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Farewell And A Return

Everyone faces tragedy in their lives; it is as inevitable as the sun rising or the leafs coming back in a few weeks. Regardless of inevitability, nothing can prepare you for some phone calls. This was the case, as I was teaching 2 weeks ago, and this is really the first time I have the time and mental-state to talk about it with anyone beyond those immediately affected.

With that being said, I want to start out by talking a little bit about mental illness/severe depression and my understanding of it. Most of us go throughout our days in cruise control. Somethings may take us out of our near zombie-like composure, whether it be something good or bad, but generally and in a short period of time, we are able to go right back to the way we were before. For those suffering from depression or mental illness, bad news or even any news, can put them into a downward spiral that they may not get out of.

For a friend of mine, I believe that moment happened several years ago, and he was never able to get out of it. Although my friend had support, I don't know if anything would have brought him back from his declining mental-state. No one knew how far down into darkness my friend was, and I believe this is the case for many, so when I got the call that he was gone, I was shocked. Sure, I knew there was something wrong, and that there were signs, but no one had prepared for or thought about the possibility that someone we loved would leave us.

So now, we are left wondering why? What could we have done differently? Did we do something wrong? Who is at fault? In the end, I don't think we will ever truly know, but what I do know is that I am left with a void in my life that will never be filled. I lost a great friend, and the world lost an even better person.

With all this in mind, I have now begun to refocus my individual efforts to better myself. I will continue to become better physically, but I also want to increase my mental strength and conviction. During the last few weeks, I allowed myself some slack, and my training suffered. This last week I attempted to get back into things, and I managed my first 20 mile run. Still. I could tell I wasn't as in-shape or prepared as I would. Hopefully, I can get totally back on track this week, especially in terms of my diet. This is all inconsequential in the grand scheme or things, but for my own happiness, I need the routine and normalcy. Hopefully I will be able to get back on a schedule with my blogging/writing as well. I apologize for my absence, but I am glad so many of you came looking for me; I was truly touched.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, March 11, 2013

Speed Vs. Length

Chicks dig the long ball and touchdowns. I am curious as to what is more appealing to people: speed or length (in running, perv). I ran my first race over the weekend, a 5k, and I was not remotely as fast as I wanted to be, nor was I as fast as I have been, despite my best efforts at speed work over the winter. It turns out that my marathon training, though allowing me to run far, has also slowed me down a bit. With that said, I realize I could probably do both, and I will this summer when I can run outside more, but I still think you can only be great at one or the other - hence why Olympic athletes are either built for speed or distance. If Usaine Bolt were to run a marathon, his wheel would come off! Would you rather be fast or would you rather be able to run long?

Personally, I just go with the wind - some says I want to go fast, and other days I wish I could go out and do a 50k. In fact, I think I will be entirely reevaluating my running after The Flying Pig. I also think I will simply go out and get back to running for the sake of running - just go out and run, no goals, no objectives, just get miles in and just get better in general. Then, I will decide what impossible goal I want to accomplish next. I am attempting to work towards benching 200 pounds, and I believe it to be possible. Beyond that, do I want to get under 20 minutes in my 5k? Do I want to try my legs at ultra training? Do I even have time for that? I will have a lot to decide, and I am excited about it.

I think being a runner is the perfect for this because I have time to think about it while I am plugging along! Additionally, I believe my body will give me an idea of what I should do. Right now, I think I will decide to work on my 5k because I am built more for that, being a little shorter - I just see myself as built for speed.


I had an okay week, but I didn't get out to run until Saturday at the 5k. I have been resting my Achilles, so I did one bit of cardio on the elliptical and another on the stair climber. Additionally, we had a last bit of winter weather spring up during the week, but the weekend turned out to be beautiful and warm. Sunday was my long run, and I out in 12 miles in what felt like 80 degrees, but it was only 65. It is crazy how adapted my body became to the cold weather, so now I am going to have to adapt in the opposite direction.

I have also been hitting my core like I am angry! Dead lifts and all different kinds of weighted abs/obliques are really making a difference! I am loving the physical and visual results I am getting! The key is really to approach your core like you are pissed off and punishing it!


Do you love speed or distance? Are you built more for speed or more for distance?

Anyone else get out and race? How was it?

Anyone else watch the Walking Dead? This season is amazing.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Your Runner Personality

Are you a different person when you stride out your door, laces laced, tights tight and GPS GPS...ed? I think I am. By day, I am a mild-mannered (sometimes) educator with a heart of gold (more like silver, but still a precious metal). By run, I am a man-on-a-mission; a stone-cold mile-slaying robot from the future; a carnivorous devourer of all that is mileage; an individual with a single-minded approach that is both insane and maniacal to the uninitiated. Okay, so that was a bit of morning-hyperbole, but I am certain different from one aspect of my life to the next.

I started thinking about this after an article I read regarding the running community and its acceptance/embracing of social media (don't have the link, but it just popped up while using the app Stumbleupon). I won't go into the article too much because the topics are different, but it was more of a catalyst for my own thoughts. While the article was about how social media aids in the running communities desire to meet each other and share our passion, I was more interested in the personalities that come along with the different aspects of our lives.

I think we are all a little like Michael Keeton in Multiplicity, just without the clones and piss-poor dialogue. Instead, we embody those clones inside our squishy core. Every day, we head off and act professional in whatever career/job we "choose" to suffer-through. Then we come home, maybe act like a father/mother, or a wife/husband. Later, you may go out with some gender-aligned friends for a few drinks and your "friend personality" takes over. Having running in the mix is no different - we each have a runner personality, and I think runners are the only ones that can understand this.

Like I alluded to, my runner-self is a bit more intense than my teacher-version. I go out for a run with a purpose, and I thrive in that regard. If I plan on running 15 miles, I am going to get it done no matter what. I also have blinders on when I am trudging along; I appreciate the world around me, enjoy the sights and smells, but I am in the zone. Running appeals to me because it is such a great way to disconnect and remove myself from reality for awhile. While some people use drugs or video games, I choose to strap on some weird-ass shoes with toes, and subject myself to discomfort and pain; am I a masochist? Are we all masochists? Maybe. Just not to the extent of this guy:

How different is your runner personality? Does it leak into your other personas? It does for me! Maybe it is the endorphins, but I think running has made me a far more upbeat person. Additionally, I am a bit more on the random side now, as I do and say things that are reflective of the insanity put into running. This part is hard to explain, but essentially it just makes me more of a verbal risk taker, and I am far more honest. In essence, we runners are all like Superman, and if you were Superman, wouldn't you be a little more confident as Clark Kent? Maybe even a little cocky in the knowledge that you do things other can't? Yeah, we've earned that right, I think.

So, what kinds of personalities do you have? How do you differentiate between them? Do you have any conflicts?

This last week was a mixed bag. I got through my 15 mile long run without any major issues, but I had to skip a run last week in order to rest an ailing Achilles. I have been icing this portion of my leg, much like I did with my knee, and I am confident that it won't be a major issue, but I just need to be careful. I still continued with my lifting/cross-training, and I have started to really emphasize the work on my core. This week will be a good test of my legs, as I have a time trial, and my long run goes down a bit in mileage. I may also be running a 9 mile trail run on Sunday, so I am excited about that.

What would you liken your runner personality to?

How have your changed since becoming a runner?

Apparently this is a half-marathon week for some training plans; do you have one planned?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, February 25, 2013

NASCAR Provided a Bigger Wreck Than My Long Run

February is almost over! I feel like I am just burning my time until that happens because I just dislike this month so very much. I am the type of person that needs something to look forward to for day to day and week to week, and February just doesn't have much of that; I mean, when I am looking forward to the Daytona 500, you know things are a little dull!

Regardless, I have made it this far, and I have found ways to cope. This past week had some highlights, both in training and otherwise, so I was able to make things bearable. Training-wise, I was really happy with my early week runs (even though they had to be on a treadmill in order to wear my Vibrams). I also had a powerful and successful lifting session on Wednesday evening. I really wish I had had time to blog during the week because it was just one of those sessions where weights didn't feel as heavy, and I was putting up everything. The problem is, I can't remember everything I did. I do know that I made a point of going heavy weight and lower reps all week because I had done so many circuits the previous week that involved body weight and higher reps.

As for running, which I consider the main event, I had one of my best runs ever and one of my worst, all on the same weekend. Saturday was a gorgeous day, and I was able to get out in my Fivefingers for 5 miles. I did wear my new Injinji toe socks with them, which was phenomenal, and I crushed the run from beginning to end. I knew it would be a great run when I started because I hit the first mile at a casual 8:00 pace - I had to do a double-take. After that, I just continued to push, and I never felt like I was working that hard. I ended up doing the 5 miles with an average pace of 7:40 - boo yah!

Oh, then came Sunday - son of a... I get angry just thinking about it! I had to get 12 miles in, and I should have done it in the morning, but I have lazy bones. Instead, I wait until after work, so I didn't get back in until close to 7. We were having people over for the Oscars, so the whole thing felt rushed. Additionally, it was cold, I was hungry, and I hadn't fueled correctly the night before or during the day - in essence, I broke every running rule and it happened to be on a long run day - ugh.

I felt sluggish the whole time, my calves were on fire from the start, my socks kept shifting, I had to pee, and I just wasn't in it. Regardless, I pushed through, and I am better for it. I woke up with sore knees and calves, but by noon the next day, I was close to 100%.

On a brighter note, I chose my long run to try some new goodies. As you may have read, I had used Gu gel shots previously, and they were basically disgusting. This time, I went to the running store and picked up the Gu Blocks shown above. Additionally, since they were right below on the rack, I grabbed some Nuun to throw in the ol' Camelbak. The blocks were an improvement for sure because they tasted 100 times better! I would say they fueled me just as well, and I liked the overall ease of use. Plus, I felt like I was eating something a little more real and solid - I would recommend them, unless you don't have the room (the package is a little bigger than the gels).

The Nuun, on the other hand, was a little underwhelming. If you don't know, Nuun is a tablet you add to water to supplement electrolytes. Essentially, this is far more important if you sweat a lot, so I think I will wait until it goes warmer. The taste was pretty good though, and it didn't leave too goop up my saliva too much. Eventually I will try doing a 50/50 Gatorade to water mix too, which has been mentioned to me before. I just wanted to see what all the Nuun hubbub was about.

For Laughs:

Where do babies come from?

Do you use Nuun? Thoughts?

What kind of long-run-fuel do you use?

Is it warming up by you, or are you dealing with all those blizzards?

Did you miss me this week?
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

So. Very. Cold.

Here I am, sitting on my tush, watching hockey.  Wait, hockey?  Yeah, I don't generally do that, but I did graduate college from a hockey school, and you have to tune in when they are playing outside, in Soldier Field, against Notre Dame.  So far, not so good, but they have a little more time to try and pull something out.  Funny (or not funny) fact:  I have never watched my Redhawks win when I watch them on TV... Yikes. (Update: my streak continues - booooo)
I feel like I earned my right to sit on the couch today because I am finally back into double digit long runs!  The last time I went 10 miles or more was Tough Mudder in October, so I was a little nervous and excited about today.  I made sure to not go out and drink heavy last night, and instead I had a pasta dinner.  I also got plenty of sleep, had a good breakfast of oatmeal, quinoa and chia.  I wanted to make sure that this run went as smooth and painless as possible.  Unfortunately, the temps were in the teens, and I do not do well in cold weather running, especially considering I need a couple pounds of extra gear on! 
I wish it had been this warm on my run.
 What did I wear?:  I got an app the other day that is specifically designed to help me decide what to wear.  You can find it in the app store under "What To Wear."  To be honest, I didn't really follow the app because it said to only wear running tights.  The weather on Saturday was similar to today, and I didn't like how long it took for my legs to get warmed up with just tights.  Today I added some track pants on top of the tights, along with my compression sleeves on my calves, compression shorts and two layers of socks.  Finally, I put on my Koppen long-sleeve tech shirt, North Face pullover fleece, skull cap, gloves and my full Camelbak. 

Overall, I felt like it was a good run.  I started out real real real slow, at just under 9 minute miles.  Again, my legs just wouldn't warm up!  In fact, I don't feel like I really got loose until mile 7!  Regardless, runners push through, and that is exactly what I did.  Besides, it was cold, but at least it was super gorgeous out!  I get so much energy from the sun, so I just fed off that.  I also decided to take a totally different route, which proved to be a great idea.  I found out that I have so much more safe running areas than I even realize, and all I have to do is head out my door.  I am excited to keep adding more and more distance to this new route, which will eventually include a scenic trip around a PGA golf course.
Try to get your chest as low to the floor as you can.
Yesterday I put together a training-prescribed 5 mile run, but again, it was slow.  I don't have much to say about it besides that it was cold, I was sluggish, and it wasn't even sunny.  At least I followed this disaster up with a quality gym-session.  I created two circuits that focused on my legs, chest, back and core.  For the first circuit, I did 10 push-ups with both hands on one medicine ball, 10 reverse push-ups using a bar, 30 crunches and 25 box-jumps to keep my heart-rate up between sets.  I did this circuit 4 times.  For the second, I did 5 squats with 115 pounds, 30 lateral jumps, 10 push-ups on each side with one hand on a medicine ball and 10 pull-ups.  I also did some machine work on the chest and back, as well as some extra core work.  Personally, I love circuits for the simple fact that my heart rate stays up, and I know I am getting a quality workout for my time-investment.

Diet Update:
I find myself constantly trying to figure out new ways to get protein into my diet, and I think I have come up with a delicious and simple way to do it.  Runner's World recently did a short article about canned fish, and how these are often forgotten or ignored ways to get fish into our diet.  Personally, I always find cooking fish to be a pain, especially when it is cold, and I can't use my grill, so the idea of a pre-cooked alternative was alluring.  I also grew up with canned fish because my dad always had it in the house.  Yesterday I went to Trader Joe's and grabbed a few examples: sardines, anchovies and salmon.  All of these fish were broken down in the magazine, and they all have some great advantages. 
Today I threw some anchovies onto post-run salad, and I was really impressed with how good it was.  These particular anchovies were salted, so it added some that flavor, which I liked.  I also thought the texture was just like having bits of chicken!  Some people are weird about texture, and I don't think you would have an issue.  The only problem for some people might come from the smell, which is very fishy.  I don't have a problem with it, but I also don't think I will be eating this in the teacher's lounge.  I may just reserve these for my post-run work, especially considering the salt will help with recovery.  If you like fish and are lazy like me, this is a great way to go.  I am excited to try all these different flavors! (Those worried about over-fishing, most companies have made tremendous efforts to maintain populations, so this is a much smaller issue these days)

Other Things:
I am super excited to have a three day weekend!  Having that extra day to sleep in tomorrow will be amazing!  I am also excited to have some close family friends over tonight for dinner.  We went over to their house last weekend, so it was our turn to host.  I love the idea of Sunday dinner, so this is awesome. Plus, I love hanging out with my friends' kids.

I also feel like I am in a state of limbo right now.  My parents have lived in Alabama for almost 10 years now, so I only see them one or two times a year.  Recently, my father has been searching for provost positions at universities back here in Ohio, and he might hear back about one this week.  If this were the case, we might be picking up and moving this summer.  Personally, I hate moving, but I would love to have my family close by.  I definitely have my fingers crossed!

Have you ever had fish out of a can?  Do you like it or does the idea weird you out?

Are you the type that will try anything or are you picky?

Do you have to drive somewhere to go for a run or can you just go right out your door?

Anyone else have President's Day off?  What are your plans?