Let’s talk injuries…

The mind is a wonderful thing, it can be wildly constructive and lead to wonderful things and it can be just as destructive at the same time.

Back in July, after counting up my monthly miles, I had it in my head that I could hit triple digits. Heck, I was following loads of people on social media hitting 100+ mile months and if everyone’s doing it…

So in August I hit my goal of 100 miles ran in a month (110 to be exact), I felt great and unstoppable. Every day I was lacing up and heading out on 4 to 5 miles of pure running joy. I felt little to no pain or soreness, life was great.

Plantar Fasciitis, almost every runner that I know has had to deal with plantar fasciitis. It’s par for the course if you ask me. If you haven’t suffered from it, consider yourself lucky. I was able to identify the problem early and was able to treat it with a series of proactive stretches and massage. Remember that plantar fasciitis is the symptom, you need to treat the cause.

Treatment:

Stretches: SmashWeRX on YouTube, this series of stretches will help you prevent and treat your plantar fasciitis injury.

Self-Massage: Dr. Bruce has a video on an awesome technique and if done consistently I have found it has almost an immediate effect.

Stress Fractures, September rolled around and I was determined to hit my goal of triple digits again. And so every day I put on my trust shoes and out the door I ran. I noticed a twinge of pain in my left shin, but ignored it. After a mile or so, the pain would subside and it was easy to put the pain behind me.

By the end of the month my 100 mile goal was in sight, but my motivation started to dwindle. My mornings became a little harder to get going as well. I now would wake up to what felt like a bruised shin on my left leg. I could put weight in my leg without issue, but just the impact with the ground while walking would cause me to hobble. I would foam roll my legs, but as soon as I would hit a pinpoint spot on my shin, shooting pain would stab through my leg. And as the sun slept in and would rise later and later it started to take more coaxing to get out of bed. After much internet research, denial, and eventually seeking outside advice I have come to the conclusion that drastically increasing my monthly mileage lead to hairline fractures on both of my legs.

How to identify stress fractures:

I caution anyone looking to increase mileage to not exceed an increase of more than 10% each month. Treatment is no running for 6-8 weeks, and I would strongly suggest seeking the advice of a medical professional.

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Hex Hollow Half

It was oddly warm for a rainy and dreary December Sunday, but a bunch of us felt it necessary to run in the woods along some of the gnarliest, muddy, hilly, soggy, soul crushing trails in York, Pennsylvania in a 6.66 mile race known as the Hex Hollow Half. The race is held at Spring Valley County Park, in Glen Rock, PA.

Now it’s called a half since it is a 13.1 mile race if you decide to run the 6.66 mile loop twice. But let’s be honest, only the crazies attempt that. Since this was my first year, 6.66 miles was just enough for me to handle. So I guess I technically ran the Hex Hollow Half-Half.

Did I mention it was muddy?

The race begins on a downward trail that run along the border of the park’s woods. You feel great, the air is cool and damp, your footing is strong and the slight drop in elevation teases you into thinking Hex Hollow is a nice and easy quick race. I saw my 9:30 pace and chuckled as I jumped over some course obstacles. I left my Ultimate Direction hydration pack in the car, I mean it’s only a little over 6 miles, did I really need it?

The answer was yes. I’m an idiot. And it’s not because I needed hydration per se- it’s the fact that I started the race wearing too many layers. The pack would have been ideal for toting all my junk versus me awkwardly carrying everything the entire race.

Mile 1 was a freaking tease. The course never got any easier after that. What’s the saying? “What goes up, must come down.” Yeah, we went up alright and some sections we came down, but it never was easy either way. Going uphill seemed to be the theme of the day, and my heart rate was at maximum threshold the entire time. I would walk when the incline was just too much, but it didn’t seem to help the mental games the course played. I doubted myself in some spots, stopping was never an option because if I did I was calling it quits.

Miles 2-3 were tough. Coming down to the aid station at mile 3 was tricky. The trail was wide and looking inviting, it was a downhill section that was asking for trouble. The leaf covered ground hid rocks, twigs, and ankle twisting moss covered roots just salivating at the sight of runners. My quads burned as my internal Jake-brakes kicked in and I jarred and jolted my way down the hill. I’m not sure if I drank the water or just poured it all over my face, either way it was ice cold.

Most of the race was single track, sopping wet and muddy with no room for mistakes. The mud did everything it could to suck the shoes off your feet.

Miles 4, 5, and 6 weren’t any better. The stream crossings were refreshing and fording the knee deep water at one point was the highlight of the race. The air was cold, damp, and foggy, but as soon as your heart rate increased you could feel the humidity and weight on your chest. At mile 6 in a sharp incline an older woman passed me and grumbled something to God that there were no more hills. She hexed us, as we rounded a corner the hill only kept rising and if I had a rock I would have thrown it at her.

This race was a humbling experience. Beyond humbling if that. As I ran up to the finish line at 1:30:05 the race director asked if I had fun as he put his arm around me and matched my weak jog. I looked him in the eyes and said, “how do I politely tell you that I hate you guys? I’ll see you next year, I’ve got unfinished business.” He laughed and told me that is what he loves to hear, so many people have a love hate relationship with the race that it draws them back for more. He’s right. I’ll be back, it was an awesome race and a great experience I’ll remember until next time.

https://www.bibrave.com/races/hex-hollow-half-reviews/11306

December Training Plan

It’s no surprise that my running has slowed to a crawl. My August and September 100-mile months taught me a lot of things.  First, I’m not sure if I developed hairline fractures on my shins or not, but I can tell you my symptoms are pretty much spot on from what I’ve read throughout the internet and among my running peers. Playing things cool and keeping mileage low is my tactic for recovery – and it’s killing me because I just want to run. Anyway, now that I’ve had a few “ah-ha” moments, here are some hard-learned lessons I was served and my plan of action to overcome them.

Lesson 1, listen to your body and know when to rest. I think not taking time to properly recover was my downfall (among other factors) that lead up to my leg pains. Also, “running through” the pain is great advice when you are running through emotions and battling the thoughts in your head – it’s a great metaphor. Running through physical pain is sabotage.

Lesson 2, a major factor in my performance I feel is skipping weight/resistance training. I’m a cardio junky, not being able to run really kills my physical fitness, so being plagued with “leg pains” takes me out of commission. Having overall fitness is essential, and I dropped the ball on this one.

Lesson 3, you can’t outrun an unhealthy diet. C’mon Ken! I should honestly know better. I’ve gone a good 2 years of being mindful of my diet to practically letting myself go. “It’s okay, I’ll run 5 miles today” was pretty much my mantra as I consumed pure junk. No more! I don’t even want to know how much weight I’ve gained, I just know my size 32’s are getting snug and that’s no bueno amigo.

So now what? I’ve got two lessons I was served on a hot plate of reality and literally feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Should I wallow in self-pity and just let myself spiral out of control, or do I pick myself up and get my s**t together? I’m going to opt for the latter.

Plan of Action
Step 1.  Step out of my comfort zone and commit to something that scares me.  I’m already ahead of myself. I’ve signed up for two hellish trail races that have me nervous and scared at the same time.  The Hex Hollow Half (less than a week away), and The Frozen Snot a little over 2 months away.  I seem to have jumped the gun here, panic is slowly setting in… okay, I can do this.

Step 2. Outline and commit to a specific strength training and endurance building routine. I realize there is little I can do over the next few days to improve my strength and endurance for my upcoming race, so I’m going to hopefully ride on the coattails of previous experiences for the Hex Hollow, but for The Frozen Snot, I need to be better prepared. For starters my initial goal will be to hit the gym 3-4 times a week, first thing in the morning. This is a two-part step because it involves a disciplined sleep and wake-up schedule. 

Actions to Improve Performance
1. Weight Training in conjunction with Running
2. Stretching and Foam Rolling Daily.
3. Eat right.

Weight Training in conjunction with Running seems like a no-brainer, but I neglect the process every single time. It’s so easy to just go run that I have to force myself to weight train.  My goal is to build strength in my core and to hopefully help increase my endurance while trail running.  Lesson learned from not taking care of my core was putting all my eggs in my legs basket… err, something like that.

Stretching and foam rolling seems pretty trivial. Not one to perform either activity, who am I to judge? Also, this may have been the one step, post-run, that could have prevented me from getting nasty shin splints. After strength/resistance training, I’m going to spend a few moments giving myself a proper stretch and foam roll.

Eat right.  I mean c’mon, I’m preaching to the choir, but my lesson has been learned on this one. YOU CANNOT OUTRUN A BAD DIET, especially on injured legs.

Gym Routine

  • Warm-up with a 2 or 3-mile run, easy pace.
  • Strength Training focused on different areas of the body:
    • Monday – Arms/Chest
    • Wednesday – Low Back/Abs
    • Friday – Legs
  • Cooldown with a 1-mile jog, stretching and foam rolling.

Running Routine will focus on 3-5 days of at least 3 miles or more, Sunday’s reserved for long runs, all sessions immediately followed by foam rolling and stretching. 

Two Town Turkey Trot 2018

Thanksgiving 2018 marks the third year of this Annual Turkey Trot, and also my (and my family’s) 2nd year running this race. The course is semi-flat with slight inclines on some sections and perfect for catching a PR and laying down some speed. The scenery running across the river is breathtaking and running through the charming towns of New Hope, PA, and Lambertville, NJ on a crisp autumn morning has its perks. At $35 per registrant, the race is affordable and on-par with similar 5k race prices.

The first year we ran this race, everything met our expectations. The tech shirts were nice and comfortable, appropriate for the autumn weather. The medals were made with impressive quality and a real collector’s item. We missed the second Annual race, but the tech shirts and medals were also impressive and truth be told: I was slightly bitter we missed the race. This year carried high expectations, so I was slightly disappointed to find this year’s shirt was your standard cotton tee and not a tech shirt. The disappointment also carried on to find that participants would not receive finishers medals. I’m curious what happened? Why the change from tech shirts to standard cotton tees? Why stop with finishers medals?

I should mention as an avid runner I’m okay with not getting medals for 5Ks, and I’m fully aware that 5k races attract a wide range of experienced and inexperienced runners. And I understand a majority of these races help raise funds for local charities. This race supports the Delaware River Towns Chamber of Commerce and a local charity that helps feed local residents. But I can’t help shake the feeling that even though the entry fees remained the same, the entrants got less in return from previous years. Also for non-avid runners and those that are in it for the family fun aspect, not getting a finishers medal is kind of a bummer. My whole family runs this race, so the kids (and some adults) were disappointed no medals were involved.

Also for the inexperienced runners, no aid stations were offered, nor water for finishers. It was a little bit of a letdown, but not a deal breaker for me, but for the recreational runners, I’d expect at least one aid station somewhere along the course/finish.

I’m on the fence about registering for next year’s race. While I enjoy the course, I can’t see paying the entry fee for a family of 4 only to be dissatisfied again. I also would like to see the proceeds of this race benefit the local charity “Fisherman’s Mark” more than the chamber of commerce and its programs. It seems the organizers really stepped down the “swag” to their benefit. Eh, what do I know?

I finished 158 out of 680, finish time of 00:25:28

Book Review: North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott and Jenny Jurek is a wonderfully spellbinding book that brings you alongside the Jurek’s as they tackle the Appalachian Trail.

Because I’m generally impatient, I ordered the audiobook with Audible and immediately started tuning in.  I was captivated as I listened in as Scott and Jenny narrated their adventures along the AT.  Hearing the story in their voice, from each of their different perspectives was a delightful treat.

A real surprise for me was hearing the story from Jenny’s perspective. Jenny’s role is nothing short of a miracle worker. She describes the logistics behind being Scott’s support and lifeline along the AT. She shines a light on both the ups and downs of the AT, and brings a level of reality to the book. While Scott is grabbing a runner’s high in the wilderness Jenny is the real record holder for keeping a tight schedule and always being just a little ahead of Scott, ready and waiting. Her entries in the book are real, emotional, and fiercely truthful; it’s not all rainbows and sunshine on the trail.

Scott leaves nothing out as he describes the high highs and even the low lows. His journal-like storytelling puts you right on his heels as he tackles the AT with such detail that you can hear his feet hit the ground. Scott paints a vivid picture of his travels and all that he encounters. From the scariest tales of the AT (think banjos, fish hooks, booby traps, and tripwires set to injure “trespassers and hippies”) to the most beautiful stories of human kindness (trail angels that leave care packages for weary travelers), Scott and Jenny’s inspirational followers and Scott’s ultimate use of willpower to overcome the daunting challenges that await.

A truly awesome read, “North” is at the top of my list.

Book Review: Running with Raven

I’ve read my share of running books, some deal with addiction, overcoming tragedy, tales of endurance, fighting demons within… all of them captivating in their own way.  And all they have their place on my bookshelf, especially “Running with Raven” by Laura Lee Huttenbach aka White Lightning.

I couldn’t put this book down.  I know I’ve heard people say this and I have used this lightly in the past, but I literally carried this book with me and just could not stop myself.

“Running with Raven” is wonderfully unique.

Without giving too much of the entire biography away, the gist of the book is about Robert “Raven” Kraft, a dedicated runner who faithfully logs 8 miles every evening in South Beach Miami. Raven is a wonderfully colorful character that embodies all that is good in the world and in the running community. His commitment to the run gives new meaning to the “standing up for what you believe in” mantra. Reading this book riles your senses and you’ll find yourself believing in, and rooting for, Raven.

Runners who join Raven and run the 8 miles become a part of his story, it’s almost therapeutic reading of Raven’s empathy toward others as well as his remarkable memory of other runners birthdays, nicknames, and little details only a true friend would know. As much as Raven remembers about them, they too bring Raven into their lives and make him a part of their story. Running the 8 miles with Raven earns you Robert’s friendship and a nickname: your place in the Raven Run history – A rite of passage and badge of honor in the Raven Community.

The book has a documentary feel and draws you in as you learn about Raven and those that join him. Raven has touched the lives of many, and has inspired thousands. The book details all aspects of Raven’s life, so much so, that you almost feel as if your sitting on the couch right there with Robert as he shares his life’s story. You learn everyone’s story as Raven rattles off every detail of those that have earned their nickname.

Once the book was complete, I felt inspired and even reflected on my own running journey. Everyone is going through something, this book reminds me that running solves almost anything. Even though the book ended, Raven’s story continues to this day. Oddly enough, I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to know if Raven was still out there, faithfully running everyday. I wanted to know if the legend continues.

Raven recently “followed” me on Instagram and although I question the validity of the account it seems legit. Check out @ravenrunsouthbeach but maybe not after you read this awesome book!

Review: Jaybird Run

It was just after one of my many lunch runs, a nice 5 mile out and back, that I realized I really (and I mean REALLY) hated my wired headphones. In fact, I hated my off the shelf pair so much that I stopped listening to music on my runs altogether.

First off, I hate having to carry my phone during a run.  More especially when the summer heat is blazing and my hands are sweaty and I seem to fumble around with which hand carries the phone and back again. So the initial decision to ditch the headphones was a no-brainer. Second, while exchanging my phone from hand to hand, the wire would always somehow get caught and mid-arm swing would rip one of the headphones out of my ear. I don’t have time for any of this.  That’s when I hit the interwebs.

Jaybird RUN headphones, “High-performance, truly wireless earbuds that combine a streamlined, ultra-comfortable fit with premium sound, our Run headphones also feature a lightweight, water-resistant design for passionate runners in pursuit of their limits.Source: Jaybird Website

I think we have a winner. I looked around the internet for deals and reviews on all wireless headphones to find a match for me – Jaybird was leading the pack.  On price, quality, and internet reviews, Jaybird seemed like a winner.  I ordered my pair and anxiously awaited their arrival.

The first impression right out of the box, the headphones were a perfect fit. In fact, I’m even willing to say the unboxing moment was kind of special, everything down to the instructions was spot on. I immediately put the headphones to use and went on a 5-mile run to test them out and put them through their paces.

I cycled power to the headphones, connected, and disconnect them from my iPhone, played with the settings, adjusted the fit, the list goes on – needless to say, I was extremely pleased with my purchase.  So pleased, I forgot all about my origin concerns like; How well will these stay in? How well do they actually work? Won’t my sweat cause them to fall out? To answer all of those, a simple trial by fire was the quickest way to address all of my concerns.

I read a few reviews complaining about sound cutting in and out – and I can say I experienced a little of that when my iPhone was located closest to the LEFT earbud.  Just for clarification, the instructions do mention that the RIGHT earbud is the master device and your phone or MP3 player should be located on the right side of your body while running. I can honestly say that other than that one specific moment, in the almost 3 months owning these headphones that was the only time I had any issues.

Another complaint I saw was while watching videos, specifically YouTube, there was a delay in the video and sound.  Basically, a sync delay most noticeable when someone is talking and the camera is focused on them, their voice doesn’t match the movements of their mouths or facial expressions. While I’ll agree that this is not acceptable, let’s face it, who is watching videos while running? I’m not buying these for leisure activities, I’m buying them for utilitarian purposes: Music during my runs. Aside from these two negative reviews I found, the general census among runners was extremely positive.

All-in-all, these Jaybird headphones are the perfect running buddy.

PROS:
Easy setup and connection
Customizable sound with the Jaybird App
Comfortable Fit
Sweat-proof and secured while running
Ideal battery life

CONS:
Slightly noise canceling, so talking to friends while running can be difficult
Phone or music device has to be closest to RIGHT earbud
Per the internet, not ideal for watching videos
Per the internet, intermittent connection lost between earbuds