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

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!

Hershey Half Marathon Results!

Let me start off by saying that the Hershey Half is one of my favorite races of the year. I think Hershey has a lot of great things going for them, and being able to support the Children’s Miracle Network is a major win.

The course is challenging with its share of hills and twists and turns, but it’s not soul crushing like some other races I’ve entered. The venue, packet pickup, and attractions- all good. Like I said, it’s one of my favorite races all around.

However, my only complaint (rather suggestion) is that they:
A. Have the runners sign up in waves based on pace
B. Assign corrals, and Include pacers

To clarify, at the very beginning of the race, they tell everyone to line up based on their pace – but no clear direction is given, everyone just crams to the front as best as they can.  Having corrals will ensure the fastest runners are in the front, and progressively slower runners will make up the rest of the pack.  During the start there was a mad dash or confusion as I passed people by and people passed me by.  Corrals would certain help with congestion and make it safer than having runners cut you off in a tightly packed herd. Also during the race, pacers go a long way in keeping the crowds moving… and purely for selfish reasons I do better when I can spot pacers, it helps me regulate my speed.

I realize pacers and corrals carry their own logistics, but the Hershey Half is a seasoned race where the added extra steps would go a long way and I’m sure the event organizers could handle the change.

Anyway this year’s race went rather well – I felt good about my training, my nutrition, and my overall plan of attack for the 13.1 miles.

Training is what it is, my goal of running 100 miles a month really helped me put mileage on my shoes and prepared me physically for the endurance needed to succeed.  Despite whatever weird pain it is that I have in my shin, I was able to maintain a fairly stable pace throughout the entire race.

Nutrition is clutch, leading up to race day and during the race, fueling can make or break your success. I made sure to eat balanced meals the entire week before the race, and took extra care to not over indulge.  I drank plenty of water on a daily basis to stay properly hydrated and the day of the race I made sure to maintain my hydration levels.  I also decided to use Tailwind Nutrition’s Endurance Fuel over the course of the race to help sustain my energy levels. Fueling on the move can be a pain, and I didn’t want to have to mess with gels or jelly beans during the race, so I made the decision to go with Tailwind.  Spoiler: It was an excellent move.

Having a Plan of Attack is always a good idea.  Since I’m pretty horrible at knowing how far I can push myself, I decided to pick a comfortable pace and just maintain it throughout the race.  I know I can run 8:30 min/miles for 4-5 miles, but was concerned at 13 miles if I would crash and burn after I passed my safe zone.  So, I decided to pick a safer pace and I know I could maintain with easy effort.  I settled on a 9:30 min/mile pace, knowing that I could always increase my speed near the end as long as I had the energy.

The plan paid off, it was painful at first getting passed left and right, but my patience to maintain my pace rewarded me in the end.  In the beginning I didn’t mind getting passed by… but after mile 9 came and went and I was still getting passed, I started to doubt my pace of choice.  It wasn’t until mile 11 that I noticed I was gaining ground and passing a lot of the people that had initially passed me.  I ended up really picking up ground on mile 12 and just felt unstoppable.  I entered the stadium with blazing speed at a 7:45 min/mile pace and hurried past others like they were standing still – the crazy thing was, by the end, I still felt like I could have kept running.

Well, thanks for sticking around to the end:
2016 finish time was 2:14:00
2017 finish time was 2:13:51
2018 finish time was 2:01:57

September Miles! Triple Digits

Welp, I did it again! I got my monthly goal of 100+ miles in a month… and it feels awesome. It might seem like I’m going backward, but October I’m going to reel things back and reduce my mileage.

And here’s why.

As you can imagine, after increasing my average monthly mileage from 70 to 100 miles, I was bound to find new injuries along the way.  Calm down Uncle Jim, my knees are fine – what I did discover:

I was having issues with tenderness in my plantar fascia.  Plantar fasciitis is a fairly common ailment among runners and easily treatable.  I won’t go into all of the details (Google is your friend), but I found my heels and arches were often sore following a long run. After a quick YouTube search, I was able to pinpoint that the issue is in the calf-muscles and not properly stretching AFTER my runs.

I found that giving myself a somewhat painful and deep tissue massage along my calves and plantar fascia, I was able to reduce and relieve the pain.  Also, foam rolling after runs has helped drastically reduce soreness and tenderness.

Second, I’ve been experiencing some tenderness in my lower left shin, almost like a wicked bruise that won’t go away.  I’m not sure if this is a stress fracture on my lower leg, or if a tendon is just bruised and needs to heal. Either way, I’m taking it easy to hopefully not exacerbate any injuries, I don’t want to take any chances.  Also, I don’t know how to describe exactly what I’m feeling other than the pain is similar to a bruise.  I don’t experience pain when I walk or put weight on my leg, so it doesn’t seem like a fracture is an issue, again just soreness.

The Hershey Half Marathon next weekend, and for the most part, I have only logged 18 miles in the last 11 days.  This upcoming week (before the half marathon) I’m not going to run at all, maybe a slight jog around the neighborhood – like I said, I just want to take it easy.