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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2 Miles x 2 Times

Tonight was a long tempo run (or maybe long intervals). Coach asked me to run an easy warm-up, run 2 miles, rest for 2 minutes, and then run another 2 miles.

Tempo running, generally at a faster than marathon pace, is my favorite type of running. I like the effort and the euphoria from the speed, but don't miss the after effects of a long run.

I am new to using a heart rate monitor so during the rest I was thinking about how much my heart rate might drop during the rest period and then if I would get back to the same level as the first two mile effort or if it would be higher. As I look at this Garmin data I am pleased with the drop and the return to about the same level of exertion.

After the 2nd two mile interval I ran easy the rest of the way home.

Do you run with a heart rate monitor? What do you look for in your HR monitor data? 

Video: IT Band and Foam Rolling

5 to 7 years ago I had significant IT band problems. I did a stretch of simply raising and extending my arm towards the other side of my body.

Recently I have not had IT band issues, but my wife has had some as she began a half marathon training program. She is finding that ice after running and simply becoming a stronger runner as well as cross training is helping her.

I have never used a Foam Roller but know they are quite popular. Have you used a foam roller? What techniques are working well for you.

The reality is I do very little stretching, core strengthening, or flexibility exercises. How about you?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day!

I heart running because:

1. Running is good for my heart.

2. Running helps me look good for my sweetheart.

3. Running makes me feel good.

4. Running shows that I care.

5. Running while my son rides his bike helps strengthen our love.

6. Running lets me eat some chocolate every now and then.

Why do you love running?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hockey Skating: Marathon Cross Training Activity

My son has always been interested in ice hockey. Several winters ago we bought him skates through Craigs List and I bought a pair of skates as well. I had skated a few times in my life, but never had lessons and I didn't play hockey. I did have a Roller Blading phase in college so I had some basic skills and confidence on skates.

Last fall we signed our son up for introduction to hockey. He has been skating two days a week working on basic skating and stick and puck skills. He is making great progress and having lots of fun. I considered helping as an assistant coach but didn't have the time to complete the orientation and I didn't know if his interest would be enduring. Next year ...

Despite our crummy winter (warm temps and low snow fall) we have had several family skating outings. Our neighborhood rink never got surfaced so we have had fewer skating opportunities that I hoped.

Perhaps the poor winter weather is the logical outcome of the fact that I am now the proud owner of a hockey helmet, stick, and several pucks. In the last couple of weeks we have made several trips to the Goerke park rink and skating area.

I have been using these skate sessions for my cross training on off running days and finding real value in skating for these reasons.

1. Low impact. Skating is a pushing to the side motion. The impact, at least at my novice level, is low on my joints.

2. Different muscle usage. I am using my leg and core muscles in different motions. I can feel different muscles being used as I skate forward, backward, cross over or turn.

3. Engages my brain in skill development process. Skating is not natural for me yet. I still need to think about the process of crossing over or turning. Skating backwards is a real opportunity for growth.

4. Emphasis on balance and stability. I want to stay upright on my skates and the fine adjustments I make to stay balanced strengthen my core, ankles, and knees.

5. Bursts of speed. My skating pace is quick bursts of push-offs and glides. Unlike a training run which is at a nearly constant pace. These quick bursts might be helpful for when I want to pass another runner, accelerate up a short hill, or hurry across a busy street.

6. Time with my family. Unlike cross training on my bike or the pool I can skate with my kids. We can be together shooting or passing the puck or simply skating at our own pace around the rink.

7. Hand eye coordination. Combining skating with  handling the puck raises the engagement and adds a hand eye coordination element. Also chasing a puck, shooting the puck, or turning to reach the puck is making me a more natural skater because I am not thinking as much about the actual act of skating as I am advancing or moving the puck.

This morning my son and I watched a bunch of videos from on YouTube. I am hoping to add a hockey stop to my quiver before the ice melts.

Ice Skating with GPS Watch

This is what 30 minutes of ice skating looks like when tracked with a Garmin 305 GPS watch. Sort of like a wild etch a sketch.

Friday, February 10, 2012

7 Miles and 7 Reflections

Just back from a 7 mile run.

Mile 1: It is cold and windy. I turn to run with the wind while I warm up. Today was a productive day highlighted by fresh snow fall.

Mile 2: As I turn north and into the wind the sun is setting. Cars are rushing by on the road next to the Green Circle trail. I am enjoying my slower pace and the sound of the snow crunching under my shoes.

Mile 3: Wow it is windy. I keep pushing into the wind knowing the further I run into the wind the longer I will have the wind at my back.

Mile 4: At the chime of 4 miles I slow to walk to look around. I am in a neighborhood. Light is streaming from kitchen windows. Inside the occupants are warm and comfortable. I am sweating, chilled, and alive!

Mile 5: If I had a longer run planned I would want to be taking some food about now. Instead with two miles left I push away the hunger pangs and lengthen my strides. A hit of Gatorade would be nice about now, but will have to wait until I get home.

Mile 6: The sun has fully set and the moon will be rising soon. Before it does I look up at the stars. Orion is brightly lit in the sky. Regrettably Orion always makes me think of the ridiculous movie, Face Off, and the villains named Castor and Pollux.

Mile 7: The last stretch of sidewalk has not been shoveled. As I lope towards home I look down and see the puffs of snow being backlit by car headlights. I am looking at my shoe inside a moving snow globe.

Another Easy 4

All week long I have been battling a head cold - lots of congestion, sinus pressure, and general fatigue.

Tuesday and Wednesday I just took it easy with no exercise other than a morning walk.

By Thursday afternoon I needed some activity and was feeling better. I went out for an easy 4, just like I ran on  Monday. It was good to get back out and the combo of cold and movement helped clear some copious mucous that was still clogging my sinuses. Now splattered across the pavement.

Now that I am on the tail end of this cold I plan to get back onto my training plan.

Go Running!

Monday, February 6, 2012

An Easy 4

Coach's plan for today was an easy 4 and that is just what I did. I am in the midst of head cold and it was nice to just have an easy run. My cold is in my head - lots of sneezing and congestion, but I think it might be moving into my lungs. I am doing my best to pound fluids and trying to take 2 or 3 Airborne tablets a day but I don't know if that matters. Might just need to let this run its course.

Today's heart rate data reflects that I don't have good electrical conduction for the first 6 minutes or so. Once I get a little sweat on the band it seems to level out. I have been wetting it down but I might need to look for some conducting gel.

Everyday EMS Athlete Profiles

At Everyday EMS Tips I regularly feature and profile EMTs, Paramedics, and Firefighters that are runners, cyclists, and triathletes. Check out their Everyday EMS Athlete profiles.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ice Skating: Cross Training

Saturday was a cross training day. I combined a walk around the neighborhood with a trip to the indoor skating rink for my cross training time. 

When ice skating I am always surprised by the number of kids and adults that skate without a helmet. My kids, me, and two other kids were the only helmet wearers out of dozens of skaters. I saw plenty of kids take big wipeouts which included face to ice or head to ice collisions. 

The way I see it is my family needs my brain to work right so I can continue to put food on the table. Wearing a helmet is an easy way for me to protect against a head injury. 
Enjoy this video from a previous skating excursion.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Long Run aka Puddle Jumping

Our unseasonably warm winter continues. Although the roads are dry the melting snowbanks are leaving big puddles where the sidewalks cross the roads or where the sewer drains are still blocked with snow and ice. Thus yesterday's long run was regularly interrupted as I tried to navigate my way around puddles and my son tried to find his way around on his bike.

As an early season "long run" this was a relatively short run. I warmed up for about a mile to remove the lingering stiffness and soreness from Thursday and then tried to run a steady 5 miles at just over 8 minutes per mile. I felt good and was able to keep a steady pace except for the aforementioned puddle jumps.

Hat tip to my son. He has done back to back 6+ mile bike rides. I can't imagine there are many kids his age in central Wisconsin that are logging bike miles this early in the year.

Downward spikes show slow downs to run around the puddles. Long and wide spike is waiting for a traffic light

Friday, February 3, 2012

Alternate Routing: Free Running

Posted at Loving the Run: Free Running

My response to a runner/reader question about making a healthy comeback to running.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tempo Run

Today's plan called for a warm-up, 2x1.5 mile with a short rest interval, and cool down run.

I am still coming to terms with the fact that this is going to be remembered as the winter that wasn't winter. With a starting temp in the low 30s I was lightly dressed and in good shoes for a run on dry roads and sidewalks.

My warm-up, easy pace run, was a little more than a mile. After ascending a very short hill I began the first 1.5. Felt good and kept adjusting my pace to stay in the target zone.

Spent the short rest interval walking. Just as I was preparing to run the 2nd interval my training partner (riding his single speed bike) announced he needed a bathroom break. We extended the rest interval by nearly 10 minutes as the power of suggestion led me to also need the bathroom. I jogged a bit after leaving the bathroom before starting 2nd interval.

2nd interval was fine. Cool down was probably a little more distance than I needed. I think I was aiming for 5 miles total and I ended up running just more than 6 miles.

Morning Walk

I still slow my pace or even stop at the places the dog liked to stop to smell.

He has been gone for more than a month and didn't really walk with me in his last year because of his hips, but I still hear him around the house or rustling as I get ready for the morning walk.

Of course this is just some hard wired neural connections, just like he had. As I pull on my boots my brain expects him to be standing expectantly by the door. As I pass by the garage shelf I fell my arm reaching to where his leash used to rest.

Sousa and I walked our "loop" hundreds of times. I still get up and walk the loop. I need to breath in the fresh air and see how our neighborhood has changed during the night. Today the ice is pulling back from the middle of the road towards the curb. Patches of grasses are pushing through the melting snow. A fine fog is blowing through the amber of the street lights. He would have smelled all the dogs that had passed since his last patrol and alerted me with a snuffle of his lips as he gulped in the scent filled air.

Until tomorrow and another morning walk.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cycling Rollers: Cross Training

Today is the first workout on my new training calendar from the coach.

I spent 30 minutes on my cycling rollers doing my best to not ride through the wall. Still not sure on how to adjust Garmin 305 to not have GPS on. I didn't really have 1400 feet of elevation gain in my basement.

Welcome to Everyday Runner Tips

I am a marathon runner.

I don't run everyday.

I think about running often.

I talk about running as often as I can.

When I am running I often think about running.

When I am running with others we often talk about running.

While I am running and talking about running I am often thinking about running.

Everyday Runner Tips is mostly going to be my running journal, race reports, and connections to running products and resources.

Also in 2012, for the first time, I am going to be working with a coach. My coach will prescribe workouts, rest days, cross training days and help me prepare for races. My 2012 race calendar is not finalized but I am aiming towards two "A" races, the Bellin 10K in June and a Fall marathon (hopefully New York City).

I will also be running the Green Bay half marathon in May with MyTeamTriumph-Wisconsin and looking to do a few short triathlons during the summer.

If you are looking for more from me you can visit:

Let's go running...