Friday, December 28, 2012

Quantified Me

There is a 'movement' of sorts that is known as Quantified Self. It boils down to people who like to collect real data about themselves and use it to learn more about themselves and/or adjust things to be healthier or happier. Those things could be obvious like dietary choices, medicines, supplements, or more complicated things like when to go to bed or adjusting yoga and relaxation methods for better results.

For almost a year now I have been experimenting with different sensors, devices, and tests. It started with just a paramedic's curiosity and has led down different paths that have really stimulated my intellectual core.

I have used/tried/checked out devices and apps from these sites:

Out of these I have come to favor a few of them more than others. The major criteria that I use is the service (and they are all services) needs to give ME information in a way that helps me to make better decisions. If it does not do that, I don't have the time or patience for it and that is why some of these are no longer on my list of 'go to' apps.

FitBit has been the most utilitarian of all these systems from my perspective (community, customer service, and the apps). Because I have a FitBit tracker and the Aria wi-fi scale, I know that in the last 10 months I have:
  • Walked and run 2.1 million steps or more than 1,200 miles
  • Climbed almost 7,000 floors or 70,000 feet (more than two Mount Everest climbs 
  • Lost more than 45 pounds (with many more gained and lost again!)

For managing fitness there are different or additional considerations. Weight loss and aerobic training are really the result of heart rates and foods eaten. These two things are the most critical aspects of your body to be monitored, measured, and managed. Nothing else is as important so you should focus your first efforts here!

Before I upgraded to a Garmin Forerunner® 910XTheart rate monitor, and foot pod I relied on iPhone based apps such as MayMyRun, DigiFit, and a few others that I tried along the way. If you are looking for an entry level app to get started with, I recommend you simply get a Polar Heart Rate monitor and pair it with the DigiFit app. With DigFit you can use their default heart rate zones and just get started with monitoring your heart rates. If you want to learn about the techniques, you should also pick up the book Heart Rate Training to get started.

I've taken this to the next level by doing treadmill testing with exercise physiologist Ken Nicodemus of FitStopLab. This initial test established my baseline and provided me with valuable information about 'how' I should approach my training and what my expectations should be for my body. This was really cool and invaluable! Look for another blog post just on this experience and what it has done for me.

I also came across the InsideTracker company and their services. For this one you first select and purchase your plan online, then go to a LabCorp facility for testing, and a couple days later you will get an email notifying you that your results are in. I will also write another blog post on this experience but in the meantime I have arranged for you to get a 10% discount if you use the promo code: RUNMED12012 at checkout.

What apps or devices have you tried? Do you have a growing collection of things that you've tried but no longer use?

Happy New Year!



Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Day Run? Maybe

Tuesday is a running day for me. Not sure if I will run though tomorrow. With the food, the gifts, more food, and more food. Plus a couple of beers...I don't know ...

I better go for a run.

Are you running on Christmas day?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

5 Gifts for Runners

Need a last minute holiday gift or an any time gift for the favorite runner in your life. Consider some of these gift ideas.

1. Calories - in the form of gels, bars, beans, or chews. I will eat just about anything while running, but if given the choice I prefer bars with texture, like a Clif Bar or Power Bar Harvest. For gels I prefer chocolate, vanilla, or berry flavors and will pass on anything citrus or tropical. A big canister of Gatorade powder or something similar is another good option. 

2. Compression socks or sleeves - I have used both and prefer the calf sleeves which give me the ability to wear regular running socks. 

3. Light - for winter runs a lightweight LED headlamp to illuminate the path and red and blue blinking LED lights are great for illuminating the runner. 

4. Head and Neck - for runs in the 25-35 F there is no better combination than a headsweats hat and the original buff (like they have on Survivor). For colder runs I keep the buff and wear a ski hat. 

5. Books - there are lots and lots of running books. Born to Run is really popular, as are the titles by Dean Karnazes. 

What are your runner gift ideas?

P.S. Click on the Road ID badge in the right side bar. There is no better gift than emergency ID. Plus Road ID sells my favorite LED lights to make me visible to drivers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Runner Safety Device: Dog Zapper

I am not a dog, so I don't know for sure, but I am not convinced that dogs find the freedom of an invisible fence to be joyful. Rather I suspect the dog finds the uncertainty of an invisible boundary to be stressful. Many time I run past dogs that seem to be much more stressed and fearful than joyful and happy as I skirt the border of the electronic field that keeps them from running into the road.

This morning a Labradoodle (an embarrassment to Labradors and Poodles) bounded to the edge of its lawn barking, snarling, and manically circling as I ran by on the far side of the road. As I secretly wished the dog would get a 100 volt zap (I don't even know if that is a lot of a little) from the invisible fence it broke contain and ran into the road. We both shared a moment of bewilderment - me wondering "Am I going to get bit?" and him wondering "Now what do I do?" When the dopey curls under his collar didn't start to burn I decided my best option was stand my ground and look menacing. He continued to bark, snarl, and spin manically. His owner now came into the road and began shouting unheeded (and unheard commands)






Fortunately the dog did none of these. It also didn't get flattened by an approaching SUV either (which I wasn't wishing for). Eventually Fido decided I was bored or it was more fun to be chased by a human shouting at it while waving a handful of pine bough garland.

In the intervening miles I convened this idea in need of an electrical and industrial engineer, as well as a Kickstarter campaign.

On the Run Dog Zapper
The device, about the size of a car key fob, would have these functions.

1. If the dog breaks contain of its invisible fence a single button push would immediately signal the highest possible electrical jolt from the dogs collar.

2. A double button push, which could be simultaneous to the near paralyzing electrocution, would emit a high pitch whistle that is only heard by dogs. Ear drum rupture may or may not be desirable.

3. A triple button push would deploy a Taser like probe with high voltage into the dog's owner.

I Love Dogs
I am a dog owner. I have run lots of miles with my dog companions. I will often stop to compliment dog owners on their handsome and well behaved dogs.

I have also been chased by dogs and even bitten (professor's dog bit me graduate school ... got an A in that class).

What do dogs really want? 
Dogs only do what they are reinforced for doing. Chasing something from your field of vision reinforces the behavior. Instead of being able to roam freely in the yard looking for trouble I think most dogs simply want to be at their owners side waiting for an ear scratch or compliment.

I know my dog is much more content when she is staring at me than when she is left alone in the yard.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Everyone Poops...

It's the one hour mark on my long run and I have that feeling again. It's like clockwork. No matter what I eat or how many hours it's been since I last ate I feel the urge. Running gets my GI track running. The feeling comes on quickly and urgently. I rarely have more then a quarter mile to find a place to stop and squat. In the summer I run fairly remote trails and there are plenty of places to go. Once I'm done I feel like I'm a new man.

The winter is a bit more problematic. Now I'm running in-town on roads. Folks don't take kindly to me using their landscaping as a pit stop. I've had to plan my runs so I'm in the business district when I hit 60 minutes of running. The other day I miscalculated and found myself deep in a residential area after an hour. I almost started going door to door. I came upon a baseball park, but the Rec Department had locked up the bathrooms for the winter. Disaster almost struck, but I was able to find a friendly espresso stand.

Anyone else have this problem? What have you done to prevent an accident? Should I run with Depends?

Friday, November 30, 2012

TEDX Video: Run for Your Life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far: James O'Keefe

I have been chewing on the theme - running too far and too fast has short and long term health consequences - of this video most of the afternoon.

I regularly reassure myself (and my worried wife) that running is better for me than not running. That the risk of a heart problem, while possible, is not highly probable and that many of the same or different risks come from a sedentary existence.

For now the best I can do is recommend watching this video, reading Born to Run, and join me in enjoying an outstanding Central Wisconsin Brewery Mud Puppy Porter.

Thanks to Dr. John M. for sharing this video on his blog.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Running in Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Outfits

Thanksgiving Day - Hot
Thanksgiving day was warm and windy. I ran 8.6 mile in shorts, technical tee, and a Road ID head sweats hat. It was a balmy and unseasonable 60F.

Black Friday - Cold
A cold front turned the weather on its head overnight. I woke up to high 20s, clouds, and very windy. Gusts above 30 mph. I ran an 18 mile out and back on the Ozaukee county interurban trail with a very different outfit.

  • Wind brief
  • Short sleeve technical tee shirt
  • Knit/acrylic arm warmer
  • Long sleeve technical tee shirt
  • Nylon vest
  • Calve sleeves
  • Tights (non-wind stopper)
  • Winter hat
  • Buff for face and neck
  • Knit/acrylic gloves

I wrapped the buff around my arm fairly early in the run, dropped the vest trail side for the final 1.5 miles out and first 1.5 miles back, and other wise only adjusted with zipping and unzipping the front of the vest.

Finding the right outfit is an ongoing challenge for this Wisconsin runner. What were the conditions for your Turkey Trot or post-Turkey run?

Race Report - My First - The 2012 Silver Strand Half Marathon

The Silver Strand Half Marathon starts on beautiful Coronado Island, goes across the Silver Strand, and ends a few miles North of Tijuana in Imperial Beach. This is an area that the US Navy Seals know well, with several miles of the course crossing their hallowed (and feared) training grounds. The course itself is point to point (one-way) and open to to runners, walkers, skaters, hand cycles, and wheelchairs.

I had been told that this is a perfect course for my first Half Marathon (HM) since it is mostly flat and mostly straight. Experienced runners often complain that it is too boring - yes the views of the beach, palm trees, waves, and sun can get boring.

We started the hour drive to the race around 5am and watched the thermometer drop down to 39 degrees midway there. At the beach it was around 47 degrees with a slight offshore breeze. It was a cold morning by Southern California beach standards and I had not worn any additional warming layers.

First, I dropped my wife Alaina off near the HM finish which also served as the 5K start - then dodged the people setting out cones and closing down roads to get to the Silver Strand State Beach parking area. Here I left my car (around mile 5) and boarded a bus to the start line. 

It was a couple block walk to the HM start line where I meetup with others from the West Coast Road Runners (WCRR), my running training group. Although some were familiar faces from the Saturday morning long runs, some were not because they meet up in other locations around San Diego County. All of them were very friendly and supportive with lots of last minute advice and suggestions. Notice all of the blue 'road runner' shirts in this random race photo!
2012 Silver Strand Photo - notice the blue shirts

Here I am (on the right) with John, one of the runners from the Carlsbad WCRR group that I normally run and train with:

John (left) and Nick (right) pre-race
It has been really nice having so much support and help from the WCRR. I'm fortunate to have the advice, encouragement, moral support, and new friendships. The group is very diverse with members from all walks of life and backgrounds, although I'm the only paramedic so far.

The marathon I'm training for is still two months away and I've just topped the HM distance with a 15 miler the week before. After finding others from WCRR we took turns at the porta-potties (there were plenty of those!) and then stood around waiting for the sun to come up having friendly conversation about experiences and strategies.

When it was time I moved into the corral for the pace I wanted to begin with (11:30) and found the official pacer is also a coach for WCRR at a different location so we did not know each other. I felt bad for him having to do our pace (to finish in about 2:30) because he normally does HMs in under 90 minutes. He provided his young daughter (around 10yrs old) with some pre-race nutrition advice and she quietly told us it was her 3rd HM! She was amazing and wore what looked like her school backpack! As the race got started her dad also gave me some some coaching about pacing and starting off slow, which is really my greatest weakness at this point.

Just after the start the course goes around the historic Hotel Del Coronado and America's Best Beach of 2012. This is what it looks like from above:
Hotel Del Coronado near the start of the race
Most of my training long runs have been on the beach, not on the sand but the Pacific Coast Highway 101 that parallels the beach. The Silver Strand course is very similar to that, which means it is pretty flat, not much ground cover or trees for shade, and often a slight breeze coming in with the waves.

Needing something to concentrate on outside of myself, I found a runner to follow that had a unique gait compared to the others so I let him pace me for a while. That's pretty much how the first 8 miles went for me although I was struggling to stay ahead of a couple of jogger strollers most of the time.

At 8.5 miles the course moves through a neighborhood before entering the US Naval Communications and Telecommunication Station San Diego facility. This is an in and out 3 mile loop so I was facing the faster runners as they returned on my way in and vice versa on the way out. I found this to be the most difficult part of the race because now I could see the faces of all the runners and most of them did not look so good. 

Some of them looked like they were near death and I did not find that very encouraging. I made sure to greet the WCRR runners that I saw, and there were a lot, with a wave and a hello which helped my spirits a bit and hopefully helped them too!

As I left the base I found myself next to another WCRR runner from a different group, we had never met before. She was quite a bit older than I and was doing great. Anyone that was ahead of me was doing great! We ran next to each other for the final half mile when she encouraged me to go for it, to cross the finish line before her.

I had a very brief conversation with myself at this point, wondering if I had enough left in me to go or if the effort would cause me to collapse within sight of the finish line. I didn't want to get any special attention from the paramedics waiting near the finish, like I've done many times before myself. I decided to do it and picked up the pace.

I swear as I ran down the final straight away that Chariots of Fire music was playing

I was sure that I was screaming by all the others in that last half mile. I don't remember many details other than passing  a lot of people as I found my maximum pace for the finale (9:45). When I got to the finish line I saw the photographer and had enough sense to try to look victorious!

I did it!

At that point I was totally spent and  made it to the side where I had to stand for a few minutes to catch my breath and compose myself. My wife found me there, slightly concerned for me but we found a spot to sit down for a few minutes before the bus ride back to our parking spot.

My wife Alaina and I after the race.
My time was 2:32:46 so I have a new goal to break at the San Dieguito HM in February! I can't say at this point if I would do this race again, that would probably depend on how things go next fall and whether I can get up into the ultra distances (30+ miles). It is a beautiful course but not as much as where I normally train up the coast an hour (see, no trees in this pic!). 

So I would have to agree with the others who said it is a boring course although it is a great training course in that there are minimal course challenges to overcome. The challenges are 98% mental!

Shown in the photos are my RoadID Wrist Band Slim, Hoka One One Bondi Bs, Zensah Compression Sleevesand iPod shuffle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Week: Avoiding a Setback with a Tempo Run

After a long day of work and driving the hockey practice shuttle last night I finally got out for a run at about 7:15 (which in Central Wisconsin means it has been dark for about 2 hours).

I ran a loop route that brought me through downtown Stevens Point and the UWSP campus along with some dark miles on the Green Circle Trail. Miles 1, 2, and 3 were almost all on the crushed limestone trail through the woods. I always think I am running faster than I am in the woods. Once I busted out of the woods and on to the sidewalks of Main and Water streets you can see my pace quickened. My goal was to run 8 (became 9) and run a tempo pace.

Thanksgiving week with the combination of deer hunting, travel, and feasting is a challenging week for runners. I am doing my best to put in the miles rather than the pounds on my bike and feet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Stride by Stephen Paske

I received a copy of Breaking Stride (Amazon affiliate link) in my pre-race bag from the Fox Cities Marathon. I have received lots of coupons, samples of balm and lotion, water bottles, shirts, movement bracelets, and race announcements, but never a book.

Last weekend I tucked Breaking Stride into my hunting supplies and brought it with me into the tree stand. Since I wouldn't be running my normal Saturday long run I figured that I should at least read about running.

Breaking Stride is a short novel about two high school track and cross country runners from rival Minnesota high schools. The narrator, a teammate of one of the competitors, chronicles the development of the runners, their growing rivalry, and their eventual only head to head race in the Minnesota state high school cross country race.

Ferocity of Racing
The most compelling aspect of the book is the visual details and rich description of the racing. I felt as if I was running stride for stride with the racers. I could feel their aches and pains as their muscles and brains gasped for more oxygen. The author eloquently writes about the anguish and exhilaration of distance running. He captures the gut busting exhaustion of a one mile time trial, "Lactic acid scorched my quads. My eyes raged with the fury of Satan. I grimaced, focused forward, my only goal in life to live until the next straight."

Short of the Finish Line
Perhaps because I was in a tree and frequently scanning the woods for whitetail deer I missed some critical plot developments. The story was narrated by another runner that was a teammate but not a central figure. He was among many characters that entered the story but then didn't continue in a meaningful way.

My favorite sentence of the book was about teammate Carrie Amundson. The narrator describes her this way:

"She had long black hair, a petite runner's body, and a chest that filled out a jog bra with shocking fullness."

Unfortunately that was the last we heard of Carrie and a few paragraphs later the narrators role flickered out of the story as well.

Part of the One Flight Fiction Series
Breaking Stride is part of the One Flight Fiction series - books meant to be read in a single plane flight (about three hours). It is a quick and enjoyable read with especially pleasing race sequences.

Do you have a favorite running book? Or are you a runner and author looking for a book review?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Running and injuries - The 10% rule - Part 2

I learned quickly that when you are taking 10, 20, 30, 40, thousand or more steps during a run (in general a 5k run = 5k steps and a 40k run -a marathon- is 40k steps) there is the potential for repetitive motion injuries. Seemingly very minor things can lead to big issues over the course of a run because of the repetition. 

I have found the ChiRunning ( people do a good job of describing the physiological issues and this short video is a good visual guide.

As you increase your step count 'per day' and 'per week' above what your body is used to, the mechanics of taking steps needs to addressed - and I had not done a very good job of it before this point.

A very small adjustment to the insert in my left shoe was needed, literally about 4mm, after which I felt great. The following week (let's call this week 2) I even set a new personal running record at 6.9 miles on Saturday. Later that day I also went for a 4 mile walk with my kids followed by a 7.8 mile solo run on Sunday. At 27 running miles for the week it was a big jump up in mileage but it felt great and I decided to start training for a full marathon!

The following Saturday (week 3) I met up with the West Coast Road Runners who were training for a full marathon and ran (survived) 10 miles with them. It felt good to have accomplished that distance for the first time ever, although my body was pretty numb. The next morning I did five miles to recover and that week 'only' completed 26 miles due to a business trip.

Saturday of week four my personal goal for the day was 11 miles even though the running group was heading for 13. The first half I felt great and was able to focus on preserving energy while learning about how to hydrate and refuel while running so I decided to for the 13. Progressively through the miles I had right ankle pain that became so bad that I had to stop running and mostly walked back to the car. 

I made a big - strategic - classic - new guy mistake and broke a fundamental training rule even though I was vaguely aware of it! "Do not increase mileage by more than 10% in a week"! 

My mileage increases were:
Week 1: 66%
Week 2: 55%
Week 3: 30%
Week 4: 17%

That's when I became aware of the statistic that 70 - 80% of running injuries occur at or below the knee. For me so far it has been 100%! Stay tuned to find out what happens next.

9 Most Challenging Days of the Year

Today starts a stretch of the most challenging days of the year that will challenge my healthy eating habits and regular exercise routine. In a few hours I will be arriving at our annual deer camp in Central Wisconsin - there will be an unlimited supply of nacho cheese sauce, venison sausage, cheddar cheese, hot beef sticks, old fashions, hearty beers, and left over halloween candy.

Throughout the weekend I will be mostly sedentary in a tree waiting for a wary whitetail to wander by. The sitting will only be interrupted by more of the above plus a venison roast, venison chili, scrambled eggs, bacon, homemade pies, and fresh baked cookies.

After surviving the weekend the challenges will continue with the kids having 3 days off of school, a road trip over the river and through the woods to grandma's house, and of course the Thanksgiving feast. Oh and then we have the leftover pie, snacks, and turkey.

Somewhere a midst all of this traveling, hunting, and eating I hope to take several bike rides and have a 30+ mile running week.

And oh yeah ... the dog will need walking, there is yard work to finish, Christmas decorations to unbox and scatter, a tree to fell and raise, and it goes on and on ....

Challenging days for any runner, but also favorite days for this hunter, friend, father, son-in-law, and husband.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Night Time Bike Ride - Lighting System

Since the time change two weeks ago I have had a few bike rides after dark. I enjoy running and biking after dark, primarily because it makes the familiar routes seem new. When I run I wear reflective clothing and a flashing light on my waist, but I usually eschew a headlamp. I like the challenge of finding the path.

For night time bike riding I think I have finally found the right light combination:
  • 2 watt handlebar mounted light
  • Knog frog light, white bulb, strapped to my helmet
  • Knog frog light, red bulb, strapped to seat post
  • Road ID Supernova, blue bulb, attached to back of jacket
In addition I wear a reflective vest.

In a future post I will share my layering system to stay warm during a bike ride when the temps are well below freezing.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Snacking ... before and after running

Runners World sent me a link for 5 Healthy Snacks.

These are some of my favorite snacks:

  1. Roasted and lightly salted almonds
  2. Corn chips (with as few ingredients as possible - ideally corn and salt)
  3. Banana, lightly yellow not green and not brown
  4. Gala, Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apples
  5. Pistachios
  6. Spoon hits of crunchy peanut butter with chocolate chips
  7. Strawberries and natural applesauce (no sugar or corn syrup added)
Since Halloween I have been supplementing with kid candy (I call it Daddy Tax). My favorites are butter fingers, snickers, and peanut m & m's. 

How about you? What are your favorite snacks before and after running? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Presidential Campaign by the Numbers

Since the January 3, 2012 Iowa Primary (what I consider to be the official start of the Presidential campaign) I have compiled these stats and numbers - some important and some not important.

0 ... political television ads watched (I am forever grateful for the DVR)

0 ... robo calls answered

0 ... conversations with door to door canvassers

0 ... reviews of over-sized post cards or leaflets

0 ... campaign events attended (this was more from a lack of availability than a desire)

0 ... candidate banner ads clicked (although tempted to help spend the candidates money while supporting some of my favorite websites)

0 ... dollars donated to Super PACs

1 ... primary vote cast

1... general election vote cast

4 ... battleground states run in (Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, and Ohio)

6 ... races run in (see race reports)

8 ... total states run in (the above plus Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Arizona)

Countless ... articles read in local, state, and national newspapers (online editions)

Countless ... political podcasts and radio shows listened to (online as well)

1212 ... miles run on streets and trails

How about you? How many miles have you logged since January 3?

Go Vote!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Logan Creek Adventure Run: Trick or Treat?

Halloween in the Flathead Valley in northwest Montana can be a scary time. Dress your daughter as a princess, and chances are pretty good that the costume will end up hidden under a large winter coat and hat. Dress your son in a warm gorilla costume and chances are just as good you will need to treat him for heat stroke. You just never know.

October 31, 2012 dawned in a fickle mood. It could have gone either way, cold and wet or partly cloudy and warm-ish. It was with this uncertainty that I decide to hit one of my B-list adventure runs (my A-list runs are in the alpine zone of the surrounding mountains, and currently have a slushy snow pack). The Logan Creek loop, according to the Flathead National Forest Mountain Bike map, is 9 miles of forest service roads and single track trail. The climbing looked to be about 1800 feet. I figured it would take about 3 hours. I would find out that this map was the first trick.

I emailed my wife my itinerary and headed out the door with my running pack and supplies. It wasn’t until I was about 3 miles from the trailhead that I noticed there was still snow in the area. I had hoped that it had melted off at the 3000 to 5500 foot levels I would be running in. I parked my car at Tally Lake (the deepest natural lake in Montana) and I headed out unsure if I was going to complete my loop. Perhaps this would be an out and back. The run begins on a Forest Service dirt road (#913) along the lovely Logan Creek. There was about 4 inches of snow on the road, but hunters in trucks had cleared two rutted tracks. The climbing was constant but easy.

Turning left on to the only section of pavement brought me to more climbing along Star Meadow. This is the only place I saw a cars. It is the heart of the hunting season and I expected to run into more traffic. I took a left on to Forest Service Rd #313 and then another quick left on to #2912. I was pleased to see someone had driven up this remote road in the recent past. The snow was getting a little deeper, and it was nice to run on dirt ruts cleared by the trucks. The road forked and I went right on to #2912b.

Here is where things started going a little sideways. As I climbed the dirt road the snow started to decrease as I went up in altitude. This is counterintuitive, but helpful. I had to leap multiple puddles and little streams in the ruts. The map said the trail began where the road ended. The road steepened a little, but I made good time. I got to the end of the road, but no trail. I was now 8 ½ miles from my car on a planned 9 mile run.

I circled the area for about 20 min looking for any sign of a trail. Fortunately, it was still early (about 2:00) and mostly downhill to the car. I always try and leave a little extra in the tank on these adventure runs, so running back to the car wouldn’t be pleasant, but it wouldn’t be desperate. My GPS showed the car only 2-3 miles away, but that was straight line distance. I knew that was 2 to 3 miles of up and down, over downed trees and a few swamps and cliffs. Nope, there was nothing to do but turn back.

Going downhill I made good time skipping over puddles and such. A mile and half into my return… there it was! How did I miss it? It was right on the turn with a standard, reflective forest service sign. I was expecting the trail at the end of the road, not midway up the hill, and I was looking at my footing not the side of the road. All told, I ran an extra 3 miles.

I ran up the trail and came to road. “Oh, I wonder where…” Crap, the same road I had just ran down. The trail continued again in caddy-corner direction across the road with another… yep, large reflective sign. That will teach me. Three tricks this Halloween. I hope the single track is a treat.

And, it was. The single track was beautiful with yellow larch trees and medieval fog, but little snow. The climbing got steeper, much steeper. I kept my eyes peeled for the junction with trail #800. It should be easy to see, but with my luck I didn’t want to miss it. There were many trees down across the trail after the last storm. I kept climbing until I came to the “summit” and the trail junction. I had another 2 ½ miles to my car - all of it downhill. I had ran 12 ½ miles and climbed 2800 feet. The trail was fantastic and I worked on keep my fatigued form in check. There where some wonderful views of Tally Lake and the Salish Range.

All and all this was a fantastic adventure. I got out into the mountains in the fall and did a nice run. I accomplished my goals of 1) having fun, 2) burn fat, 3) don’t get hurt. The lesson learned is to pull my head out of my arse. I was never lost, just misdirected, but it could have been a bad deal if it had been later, or I hadn’t left any fuel in the reserve tank. But, I guess if everything went perfectly it wouldn’t have been an adventure. I need some tricks and treats on my Halloween run.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Don't Avoid Mud Runs and Relays

In response to Greg's post (Avoidance-of-Mud-Runs-and-Relays), I provide the following response:

You make some good points but there are some other considerations I'd like to propose.

On one side are the folks more interested in having a good time while doing some running (without a specific objective or goal) for whom a well organized mud run might be a great option. That can take some of the 'pain' out of constant training. To your point about injuries, someone I know was very recently injured in a mud run and looks like surgery is now being planned... that is a real risk of obstacle courses!

The team building aspects (or opportunities) of preparing for and completing a 200 mile relay race, with 6 or 12 people running (one at a time), is pretty special. It takes a certain amount of preparation and committment for that to come together in a way that many in EMS are not well tuned for, that is setting and achieving long term goals.

The bonding opportunities are many and not everyone needs to keep the same pace or have the same level of preparation for it to work. This is obviously going to be more attractive to those willing to put a bit more into it than a 5K project.

There aren't many team/group opportunities for runners unless you join a running group or otherwise make friends... and not many chances to do 'fun stuff' especially if you have a spouse and/or kids that can't keep your training schedule.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Avoidance of Mud Runs and Relays

I have avoided invitations to run in mud runs, hero dashes, and relays for many reasons. First and foremost I plan my annual race calendar around a couple of "A" races. Other races need to be part of the training plan. 

Other reasons I have avoided relays and mud runs. 

1. Fear of injury. I have heard several stories of extremity fractures in mud runs. A fracture could undo a year of training. 

2. Matching goals and passion. I am not sure if I could find a good team match. I am pretty focused on time and not sure I would fit well with a relay team that wanted to interrupt beer drinking to go for 4 to 6 mile runs. On a related note I don't want to push my race goals and performance expectations on others. 

3. Expense. My budget can only handle about one destination marathon per year. I am not sure I have the room for a relay. For non"A" races my needs are pretty simple - good course, accurate timing, and good support. A t-shirt, fancy obstacles, live music, and a big party are not high on my list of race needs. 

4. Logistics. An ideal race is to easily drive and park at the start area. Warm-up for a few minutes, stroll to the start line, and run. Relays span multiple days and parking and travel details seem a bit more than I am ready to take on. 

How about you? Do the benefits of relays and mud runs outweigh my concerns?  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Running and injuries - It's the little things - Part 1

As a new runner, having started (moved up from walking to regularly running further than 100 yards) just three months ago, I wanted to set a reasonable and achievable first goal. Having no real idea what that goal should be or what anyone else would do, my starting goal was to be able to run a mile without falling over dead. 

It did not take long to get there and after only a couple weeks this was easily achieved and it was time to set a new goal. It became finishing a 5K (3.1 miles) 'race' by walking and running as much as possible. BAAM! that was done and then the goal became to run a complete 5K without walking - and so my 'running career' started!

These were great goals for a beginning runner, an athlete in training (I did not feel qualified to be called an athlete), with zero confidence in myself, I did not want to make these goals known publicly for fear that I would not be able to accomplish them. Then they came and went with very little fanfare although I felt great about each one.

My next goal was to complete a Half Marathon (13.1 miles), this time I wasn't as worried about dying during the attempt as much as whether I could stay upright long enough to finish in under 3 hours (the fastest runners usually cross the finish in just over 60 minutes). Could I actually stay moving for more than three hours???

To help train for this I started reading books and joined a local running club ( and then before I knew it I was running 5 miles on a Saturday and again 3 more days that week (20 miles!). 

BAAM! Suddenly my left knee and right foot started hurting, enough to make running very painful. A visit to the local sports specialist ( who treats professional athletes and Olympians in addition to being a five time IronMan finisher herself - quickly got the root of the problem causing the knee pain. A 3-4mm adjustment to the shoe insert cured that problem almost instantly and I felt great.

According to some research, if you run regularly you'll have a 37 - 56% chance of getting injured. Some estimate that up to 70% of injuries are likely to recur  It was time to think about the health risks and benefits, putting them all in perspective resulted in more running!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Photo from Fox Cities Marathon

I stumbled across this photo from Kim Thiel photography that was taken at the Fox Cities Marathon. Thanks Kim for allowing me to embed here and share with friends and family. See the full gallery.

kim thiel photography: Fox Cities Marathon 2012  FCMarathon-2012_345
A few feet from the finish line, totally exhausted (me in the white t-shirt and Road ID hat)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Training Plan for Running the Goofy

My next event is the Goofy at Walt Disney World in January 2013. The Goofy is running the WDW half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. After resting for 2 weeks after the Fox Cities Marathon I have started a new training schedule.

  • Monday - cycle or other easy activity
  • Tuesday - run easy or tempo run
  • Wednesday - off or easy and short run
  • Thursday - speed/interval run
  • Friday - cycle or other easy activity
  • Saturday - run
  • Sunday - run double Saturday's distance

My main goal is to get my body ready for two consecutive long runs culminating with a 10 mile Saturday and 20 mile Sunday run 3 or 4 weeks before the Goofy.

This past week I logged about 35 miles. 7 miles on Saturday and 14 miles on Sunday with the last two miles at half marathon pace.

Have your run the Goofy? What training tips or plans worked for you? 

Other Runner Rule #2: Fear Response

Other Runner Rule #2: I am not responsible for your fear response

If you are running with ear buds, ear phones, or another type of audio output device stuffed into your ears you cannot react with a fear response such as a shudder, gasp, hop step, arm jerk, head snap, or similar body movement when you are overtaken by another runner moving in the same direction.

Trust me I attempt the standard notifications - cough, throat clearing, loud step, and verbal announcement of "on your left". Consider leaving Lady Gaga, Daughtry, Katie Perry, Cold Play, or their ilk on a lower volume setting or even running without music.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Other Runner Rule #1: Wave, Smile, or Nod

This is the first of many "other runner rules" I have been composing in my head during many miles of running the streets, trails, and sidewalks of my hometown as well as the many communities I travel to.

Other Runner Rule #1: Mutual Greeting

Attention Other Runners: When a runner approaches you from the opposite direction and that runners offers a polite wave, nod, smile, or other form of greeting it is appropriate and possibly even expected that you will offer a return greeting of a polite wave, nod, smile, grunt, or other verbal response.

Happy Running.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Everyday EMS Athlete Profiles

Two new Everyday EMS athlete profiles have been recently added at Everyday EMS Tips. 

Read about paramedics Josh Knapp and Nick Nudell

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Running Makes Me Hungry

I just finished an interval/speed work-out. Warm-up followed by 4 x 1/2 mile and 4 x 1/4 mile with 90 to 120 seconds of rest between each interval. This run was at the end of the workday in a light drizzle on a rapidly darkening evening. Running in general makes me hungry but running right before dinner makes me particularly hungry. Some of the things I enjoy the most after a hard running workout include:

1. Wheat thins - like the salt and bite size
2. Cheez-its - see above
3. Peanut butter spoon hits dipped in chocolate chips
4. Bananas, oranges, or apple slices
5. Chocolate milk

What does running make you hungry for?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fox Cities Marathon 2012 Mementos

Fine looking race bib and medal from the Fox Cities Marathon. I like having my name displayed and being cheered for by name by complete strangers. 

Available for download from the Fox Cities webpage.

Read my race recap for the 2012 Fox Cities Marathon

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: Running Ahead of the Sun

Marathon Runner and Blogger Greg Strosaker compiled his 2011 training blogs post and daily mile updates into an ebook, Running Ahead of the Sun. I found the book in the Kindle owners lending library.

Free Kindle download on November 5, 2012.

The training log is nicely divided by essays about training, types of runs, setting goals, race preparation, and race execution. I found several great training ideas and inspiration as a seasoned marathon runner and I think a new or aspiring marathon runner will learn lots of lessons from Greg's experience.

The author travels frequently for business, is married to a physician, and is the father of 3 boys. Somehow he finds time to run 50-75 miles per week, usually well before the sun rises. With considerable home and work responsibilities and being a sub 1:25 half marathon and sub 3:00 marathon the author writes with a humility and genuine voice that I appreciated.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Heat Shortened Races: Will there be a long term impact on road racing?

Road running races continue to shortened and cancelled due to heat. In May heat and humidity forced the closure of the marathon course at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon. Two weeks later, based on a hot and humid forecast, the Madison Marathon was cancelled and runners were allowed to switch to the half marathon. Tomorrow's TC Half Marathon in Minnesota has been shortened to a 5 mile course.

I am wondering what the long term impact will be on road racing of heat forced course closures and length reductions.

1. Will runners learn more about heat emergencies and get better at in-race prevention?

2. Will races move from their traditional dates to dates less likely to be impacted by high heat? Which could mean races being impacted by cold, snow, and ice.

3. Will participation decline in late Spring, Summer, and early Fall road running races?

4. Will race organizations increase water stations, use of misting fans, etc. to every mile or half mile?

5. Will runners be encouraged to be more self-supported with fluids, ice, and other cooling mechanisms?

6. Will races direct more resources to medical planning?

7. Will race day medical personnel increasingly be paid professionals with specialized experience rather than volunteers from a mish mash of medical backgrounds?

What do you think the impact of heat forced race cancellations and course reductions be on the sport of road racing? 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Race Report: 5K during Cellcom Green Bay Marathon Weekend

My 5K race report is posted at

Other 5K race tips:
1. Get in your best spot for success in the start area
2. If you are really racing taking fluids is probably unecessary
3. Leave something in reserve so you can drop the hammer the final half mile

Monday, May 21, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Video: Medical Preview for the Green Bay Marathon

It's going to be warm Sunday. Glad I am doing the half this year. Will be making plenty of water stops but also trying to keep a reasonable pace so I don't spend too much time outside in the heat and sun.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

One Blog is Better than Two Blogs

During the winter, the idea must have come to me during a run, I decided that I should have a dedicated running blog (everydayrunnertips) in addition to my dedicated EMS blog (everydayEMSTips). These blogs were to be in addition to the two podcasts (EMSEduCast and Medical Author Chat).

I have come to the realization that I have the capacity for one blog right now, not two. Thus my running and racing related posts will continue to be at Everyday EMS Tips. The best place to start is my race reports and Everyday EMS Athlete profiles.

Time to go running ... Enjoy!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Race: Iola 15K

Tomorrow I am running the Iola 15k - a trail run at the Iola Winter Sports Park.

The course map doesn't do justice to the hills I expect to encounter.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Q1 2012 Running Stats

2012 January, February, and March Running Totals
I spent a day and a half running already this year.

For readers that are in health care you might benefit from reading this article I wrote for about drug shortages, including the looming oxygen shortage.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Race Report: White Hall 15K

The White Hall 15K is a race in the Baltimore Road Runners Club Grand Prix Series. Business travel had me in the Baltimore area and able to participate in this small, local, club race on the NCR Trail.

Race Day Eve
The day before the race I spent as a tourist in northern Baltimore County. We visited REI, several other shops, and went for a short hike at the North Point State Park on Chesapeake Bay. Saturday evening was my annual work party. I had a a great pre-race meal of seafood dip, salad, crab cakes, and a hot blondie (a brownie variation) with ice cream. I also enjoyed a couple of Dog Fish Head beers with a former bottler from Dog Fish Head brewery.

Race Morning
Since we knew the race was going to be small we planned to arrive less than 30 minutes before the start. Figuring this would give us plenty of time to register, warm-up, and use the bathroom. I enjoyed an English muffin with peanut butter and a cup of coffee for breakfast. The start was about 15 miles north of our hotel, just off I-83.

NCR Trail
The race was run on a section of the NCR Trail which is a rails to trails path from the northern Baltimore suburbs to York, Pennsylvania. I have run on several sections of the trail on past visits, but this section was new to me. In 2011 the race ran north from the start line, gradually uphill, and turned around to run south and gradually downhill to the finish line. During registration we overheard that the course was reversing directions to run south first and then run north after the turn around. I had not studied the elevation profile for this section and was a little worried about the second half of the race being totally uphill.

The trail surface is crushed limestone, hard packed, and smooth. Generally the trail is wide enough for several runners to stand shoulder to shoulder. Oddly, the narrowest trail section was the first 100 yards.

Club Race
Most of the racers seemed to know each other as members of the club. We were greeted warmly and I am pretty sure we were the only Wisconsin entrants. I estimated there were 50 to 100 runners (88 finishers in the final results). The fee of $6 for non-club members was a great deal for a timed (hand) race with on course water stops, controlled intersections, and food at the finish line.

1st 7.5K
We bunched up at the start line a few minutes after eight for the start. With a bang we were off. I wanted to be mindful of my pace, especially with a downhill start. My goal was to run a little faster than 7:30 per mile and if I felt good to gradually speed up.

The course, a former railroad bed, was fairly straight with gentle turns as it followed a small creek through the woods. The scenery really is spectacular on the NCR trail.

I settled into a good pace with a few other runners around me. I was able to pass a few as we headed south and I did not get passed at all. I generally finish at the back of the front of the pack and I was right about that position.

Out and back courses are fun because you get to see who is in front of you. I met the first few runners just after the four mile mark (so they were more than a mile ahead of me!). I also like to see who I might be able to pass. There were 5 runners in front of me that I thought I might be able to pass on the return to the finish line. All of them were a little more broad in the shoulders and heavier than me so I was hopeful the uphill finish would slow them down.
Whitehall 15K Elevation profile

2nd 7.5K
I made my first pass right after the turn around. Then I was running in no man's land for the next several K I couldn't see anyone ahead of me or anyone behind me.

As I ran north I realized the course was more rolling up and down. Although, it was predominantly uphill it was a mix of gradual rolling ups and downs.

About 5K from the finish I saw 5 runners ahead of me and knew I might be able to make a couple of more passes. Of courses as much as I wanted to catch them they certainly wanted to catch the people in front of them. I gradually caught one runner and soon after made a 2nd pass. The 2nd guy kept stopping to fiddle with his iPod so it was an easy catch.

I was able to run negative splits in the final 5K and was pleased with my finish. I had enough in the tank that I could have run a half marathon distance comfortably at my current fitness. I also had enough in the tank that I could have pushed the pace a bit harder, especially in the first half of the course.
White Hall 15K Race Splits
A photographer was not far from the finish and snapped this photo of me. I look and felt pretty comfortable in this photo. Perhaps I could have pushed the pace harder.
Nearing the finish line of the White Hall 15K

After the race, photo of NCR Trail

All road crossings were controlled. Thanks volunteers!

Self-Portrait after the race

Amanda nearing the finish line

White Hall 15K Official Results
Baltimore Road Runners Club
NCR Trail

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blogging vs. [Insert Alternative]

Blogging vs. Running

I choose running.

Blogging vs. playing basketball with my kids.


Blogging vs. watching the Mad Men premiere.

Don and the gang, of course.

Blogging vs. catching up with my feed reader.

Toss up.

Blogging vs. the rest of today's to- do list.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Happened to Winter?

Four runs in March in a row wearing shorts and a t-shirt. This photo was taken yesterday when the thermometer neared or passed 70F in Central Wisconsin. Only about 40 degrees warmer than normal.

Probably as soon as we get used to this unseasonable warmth and the screens back in the windows we will get walloped by another snow storm and extreme cold. You never know ...

First run warm enough to wear my new Road ID visor

Monday, March 12, 2012

Easy Run Tips

Is there such a thing as an easy run?

Today coach prescribed 30 minutes of easy running. I heeded coach's instructions and left my house after work/school with my son leading the way on his bike. We did one of our usual loops with some slight variations.

To keep a run at an easy pace try these tips.

1. Don't have a specific route, mileage, or time goal.

2. Run with a slower runner or kid on a bike.

3. Don't look at your GPS watch.

4. Carry an easy conversation without any pauses for breaths.

5. Stay close to home to avoid an errant turn that extends your mileage.

6. Leave the food and fuel at home so you have to return.

7. Stop occasionally to say hi to a neighbor, admire the scenery, or enjoy something you might breeze past on a day you are trying to hit pace goals.

How do you keep your easy runs easy?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Too Many Questions for a Saturday Morning Run

1. What is the weather like?

2. Is it windy?

3. Should I wear shorts?

4. What direction is the wind coming from?

5. Should I run on the trail?

6. Which direction should I run on the trail?

7. Are there other people out running?

8. What are they wearing?

9. Are they wearing shorts?

10. Do you think I should wear shorts?

11. Can I use your watch?

12. Where is the turn around for the 4 mile route?

12a. If I ran 4 miles out and 4 miles back would that be 8 miles?

12c. Should I turn around at Bonniewell?

13. Are you impressed with my stretching?

14. How long will it take me to run?

15. If you were listening to me and I wouldn't have to ask so many questions. What are you doing?

My only question, "When are you leaving?"

Also notable, silly runners, running tights are for winter.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trail Report: York County, Pennsylvania Heritage Rail Trail County Park

This afternoon I ran a short out and back interval training work out on the York County, Pennsylvania Heritage Rail Trail County Park which runs from northern Maryland to York, Pennsylvania. I have run several sections of the trail which is near the headquarters of my employer. 

It is a wonderful crushed stone trail that cuts through high ridges and most of the time runs alongside a rapidly flowing creek. 

Trail sign

Ran down that hill and returned to this point

In my home area all of my running is on real flat terrain so today it was nice to run downhill and uphill. If I knew the trail better I might have tried to run uphill first and then run downhill. Next time. 

Down, down, down and up, up, up

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quarter Mile Intervals

Yesterday I ran one of my favorite work-outs, quarter mile intervals. Coach prescribed this plan:
1) easy warm-up
2) 8x400 with 1 minute of rest between each interval
3) easy run cool down

In the past I have always done this work out with 2 to 2 1/2 minutes of rest between intervals. In retrospect I think I should have done a little more mental prep for the shorter rest interval.

We still have snow and ice on the ground so instead of running at a track I ran on the streets and an asphalt running/biking path. I set my Garmin to Auto Lap at a quarter mile.

To reach my pace goal I really had to push it. When running quarter miles on the street instead of the track I try to do these things:
1) Get-up to pace as quickly as possible
2) Look up and ahead instead of down and near
3) Lengthen my stride and increase my cadence
4) More pronounced arm pump
5) Pick out landmarks - light poles, mailboxes, street signs - for my next glance at my Garmin

My splits were nicely bunched:
1:27 (pretty happy to have my fastest time closer to the end)

My total workout distance was 7 miles.

How do you make sure to meet your pace goals when running speed/intervals?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tips for Running on Icy Roads and Sidewalks

I am willing to run in almost any temperature, but the weather condition most likely to keep me inside is ice covered roads and sidewalks.

Last night I started my long run just after sunset. Earlier in the day we had about an inch of wet snow. During the day most of the snow melted but the sidewalks and roads didn't have time to dry leaving a thin film of moisture on all surfaces and standing water in low spots like cracks and dips in the sidewalk. I ran over and around many icy spots on the asphalt paths and concrete sidewalks in my running area.

When running in the dark (usually without a headlamp or with the benefit of street lamps) this is how I avoid ice:

1. Look out for "shiny" spots which usually means ice

2. Run, step, or jump over cracks

3. Avoid tar poured into cracks on asphalt paths

4. Look for duller colored spots on asphalt paths as this is usually dry pavement

5. Slow down as I approach turns and street crossings

6. Shorten my stride

7. Keeping looking ahead 10 to 20 feet instead of down at my feet

I only had a couple of foot slips and no falls last night. My only mis-judgement was the depth of some slush where a driveway crossed the sidewalk. I took a full right foot soaker at about the mid-point of my run. Fortunately it was in the low 30s (F) and my foot didn't get too cold.

What are your tips for running on ice or avoiding ice?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Running with My Special Heart

Around the year 2000 I was kicked in the back of my calf by another basketball player. He was one of the dirtiest basketball players I have ever played with and I believe his kick was intentional. The immediate pain was severe and I was initially worried he had broken my leg. I limped off the court and went home to apply RICE - rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Over the days to come I was able to bear weight on my injured leg, but the pain was severe and very localized. I could not find a position of comfort, the pain kept me awake at night, and seemed unresponsive to ice or NSAIDS. After several days of no relief I went to see the doctor.

An x-ray concluded I did not have a fracture but an ultrasound found a very small blood clot deep in my calf. At the time the doctor (or PA ... I don't recall) suggested I continue with RICE.

A few days later and antsy for exercise I decided to take an easy jog. A few steps down the gravel road we lived on and I was so winded I could barely stand upright. I caught my breath and tried to run. Again so winded I couldn't continue. I also began to experience chest pain. Most significantly was the leg pain was gone.

I limped home and rested. The next morning, still having chest pain, I went to urgent care. At the time I was either not yet an EMT or in EMT class, again this was more than 10 years ago. A male in his late 20s complaining of chest pain didn't cause any alarm with the triage nurse.

After a long wait in the holding area I was finally seen. One set of questions led to more questions led to more assessment. Before I knew it I was having a chest x-ray, ultrasounds, 12 lead ECG, cardiac ultrasound, and being scheduled for a stress test. The cardiologist decided I wasn't in any immediate danger. In passing he added "has your valve defect ever given you any problems?"

Ummmm ... my valve defect?

"Someday you will have to get that replaced," he casually added.

"My what," I asked?

He went on to explain that my aortic valve should be a tricuspid but it is a bicuspid. This is quite common that instead of having three flaps the valve only has two flaps. Over time, usually in old age, this becomes a problem and valve replacement is required. A valve can be replaced with either a mechanical valve or a pig valve.

A few days later I did a cardiac stress test and rocked it. The doctor decided I was out of the woods, fit, strong, and healthy.

Ever since I have been interested in learning more about the impact of endurance sports on the heart. Stories of marathon runners experiencing sudden cardiac arrest in a marathon receive lots of publicity but the actual risk is very low. There is also ongoing research about the stress marathon running causes on the heart. This article, Short-Term and Long-Term Injury to the Heart with Exercise, presents some new findings.

My wife, partly because it is her nature, worries about me when I go out for long training runs or race a marathon. I worry to, but about more likely stuff (I will trip, I will run out of water, I will get hit by a distracted driver, I will get chased and bitten by a dog).

When it is all said and done though if my destiny is sudden cardiac arrest I would much rather have it happen at mile 20 instead of hour 20 of a Jersey Shore TV show marathon. Life is full of risk. I still believe the benefits of regular exercise and eating well far outweigh the risks of heart injury from exercise.

What do you think? Does the research about exercise and cardiac injury cause you pause or concern? Are you also running with a bicuspid valve? Or are you running with a replacement valve? Share your views and experiences in the comments section.