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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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

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