Goldilocks Would Have Been A Runner

Goldilocks Would Have Been A Runner

Trying to recover is almost as much work as trying to train for a fast marathon: it requires much discipline, it takes time, cross-training helps. I’ve never really been a huge fan of cross-training. In my mind – most of the time – if you want to get better at something, you practice specifically at that one thing. If you want to get better at math, you don’t practice spelling. Running is a little different than that analogy, but not totally off. Sure biking helps leg muscles, and maybe weight training helps with posture and form late in a race, but the question is whether or not the time spent on the bike or in the gym wouldn’t have been better spent on the trail. The catch is that for some of us, there is no choice. We put work in on the bike or at the gym because our bodies couldn’t handle it if we put that time, effort and work into running. I know for me, my Achilles would quickly return to it’s broken status.

In an attempt to keep the Achilles safe, but still put some miles and work on the muscular and cardiovascular systems I hope to once again push, I’ve taken to cross-training. I’ve done a little weight stuff here and there but most of my cross-training has been time spent on the bike cruising at a whopping 18 mph, or power walking at a killer 12:00 minute mile pace. In truth, I don’t altogether mind the biking or walking; it gets me out the door and can even help me break a sweat, but after a time, there is only so much one can do.

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White lines and asphalt.

I know I’m not traveling that fast on the bike. In fact, I’m pretty slow, but all the same, it’s too fast. Pedaling down the road, pushing down the hills, even crawling up the hills, it’s too fast. For the most part, I ride with my head down, looking slightly forward. My view includes asphalt and a white line for the duration of my ride. Sometimes, I can catch a sight or two out of the peripheral, but if I actually turn my head away from the road ahead to glance at something more interesting, I find myself drifting towards those yellow lines in the middle of the road and I don’t foresee that ending too well. So instead I keep my head down, and follow the white line.

I don’t just run for the health benefits, I run to explore as well. Biking doesn’t allow for this. I suppose it could, but that would require another bike and trails upon which to ride. I’m not buying another bike, and I can’t really build a trail network. I could however explore on my walks. And so I’ve gone to the woods to do my walking, but while the bike is simply too fast to appreciate the natural beauty, a walk is too slow. Trees can be a magnificent installation on the landscape, but after staring at the same piece for a while, it’s time to move on. Walking img_20170214_114747doesn’t provide this, at least for me not quickly enough. While I enjoy getting out and getting the heart rate up a bit, I find myself almost bored with how long it takes to get from point A to point B.

For me, running is where it’s at. It’s just fast enough to keep things fresh, but not so fast as to require a helmet and all of my attention. I can explore at will. Running seems to be quick enough and technical enough to free my mind of any thinking, but at the same time, allow for it if I want. Walking is too slow for mental freedom, and the bike too basic. I suppose when I get healthy again, I’ll still do some cross-training, but I don’t ever foresee a replacement for just-rightness of running.

The Injury Post

So where have I been… Not under a rock. No, I’ve been healing. And healing always takes longer than expected. And I’m probably not healed yet, but I have been running some. So maybe, just maybe, there will be some fodder for me. Now whether or not I can get back into the habit of actually doing anything useful with the fodder is a different story. (Are there any studies out there on the life of a blog? Three years seems tops, unless it is your lively hood, I guess then it’s a different situation altogether.)

So where have I been? I’ve been moving, I’ve been homeschooling, I’ve been building. Unfortunately, I’ve been building nothing of any value, yet… Initially I believed my Achilles started bothering me in February 2014, as I looked back at my logs recently, it seems that it first started bothering me sometime in the winter of 2013, say November/December. In hindsight, if I had taken a couple of weeks off when it started bothering me, even a month, I probably would have been okay, and I wouldn’t have lost that much fitness in a month. But that’s not what I did, so no point in dwelling.

Getting There

Being a runner, and being hyperfocused, all I could see was my first go at 50 miles coming up in April – I had to finish sub-12hr to qualify for VT – and my first attempt at 100 miles at Vermont in July. I was getting my shoes for free or heavily discounted, and since you can’t complain with free, I left everything the same, ignored my Achilles, and just pushed on. Somehow convincing myself that it would hurt, and I would push through, and that after VT100, I could call it a day until it healed up. In reality, this could have been an okay plan, but runners don’t really know how to just stop, so when VT was over and someone informed me about a little 6hr race in New Hampshire, the plan to call it day after VT suddenly shifted to a plan to call it a day after Joe English. After Joe English, someone mentioned an indoor marathon in January, time to switch plans again.

Although I should have seen it way back in June, it was finally the marathon in January that made me dial way back and stop signing up for any races. See, back in May, while training for Vermont, my Achilles had gotten so stiff in the morning, and so sore in the afternoons, that I finally dialed back my training. I cut my mileage, canceled quality workouts and started hoping that the work I had put in over the last six months would be enough to carry me through my first hundred miler. Of course, on occasion I still tried to get in a good Q-workout and while they usually worked well enough, it was almost unbearable the day after. (By no means am I comparing myself to someone with chronic back pain or anything like that, but when you have a constant nagging feeling of some physical ailment, not only is your psyche effected, but your interactions and patients with others around you is also diminished. This is less than ideal when you have two small children at home.)

I don’t really know how I managed to get through Joe English, but I did. It almost gave me some hope that things were getting better, but then the indoor marathon happened. I ended up running 3:00+ (I think it was 3:08ish? Results give me a slower time because I showed up after the start – snowplows!) and wasn’t exactly enthralled by that time. It was ten minutes slower than my very first marathon, and near 20 minutes off my pr. Perhaps it was a bit of pr vanity that I stopped signing up for races, or maybe I honestly felt like it was time to call it a day. I don’t know for sure, but either way, after that marathon, I dialed my mileage back. That was January 2015, almost two years ago.

Rather than just hang it up, I had a running streak that I wanted to get to a year, and figured easy short mileage would suffice. I could keep my base up, and let things heal. Wrong. Over the next two years, I would dial my mileage back, and run until things felt better. Once better, I’d up my mileage ever so slightly only for the pain to come back. I’d lower my mileage to where it was before, but the pain would subsist until I dropped mileage even lower. It was in this fashion that I finally walked my mileage down to zero and ended a 600+ day run streak on March 23rd, 2016: 3,700+ miles after the initial injury.

With a streak dead, I had no push to carry on. I wanted to run, but at this point, it was time to just sit on my laurels and do nothing. I tried to do some cross training with weights and the like, but it never really caught on. It’s a poor excuse, yes, but it’s what I’ve got. Eventually I would find myself riding a tri-bike my brother gave to me, but in the end, even that gave my Achilles some undue stress and it was shelved. (Don’t worry, I’ve got it back out and am riding outside in January!!!)

The Doctor Side

So what did I do during this hiatus, and what if anything worked? I don’t know. I tried some Graston Technique at the local chiropracter, and while he was a super nice guy, the therapy just didn’t cut it for me. I tried doing it at home, but still, nothing. I’d had x-rays done and there was no bone spur, which was a positive. It meant that the irritation in the tendon was not due to an off-structural appendage in my heel that would take surgery and a cement chisel to remove. However, nothing on the x-rays also meant that this was totally a soft tissue thing and an MRI would be needed. Now what did I want an MRI for? I don’t really know. I think my main concern that this was such an ongoing and persistent thing, I had somehow managed to cause a minor tearing and the scar tissue was so dense, I was totally up a creek. Again, blessings be, this was not the case. The case was simple: I scuffed and stretched, rubbed and frayed my Achilles something fierce. It would heal, but it would take time. Lots of time.

Deeper Than Accupuncture

So it’s been a while, but when the writer of a blog about running ceases to run, well, there’s not much to write. Sure I’ve dabbled here and there, but there isn’t a whole lot to share about a junk mile filled with discomfort. And I’ve been busy.

Back when this whole Achilles thing first happened, one of the therapies suggested was dry needling (along with Graston and a bunch of others). Of course, I was slow to go with any therapy, but eventually I gave Graston a shot to no avail. In fact, it seemed to make things worse. Not long after the Graston didn’t work, I gave up on running – March 23, 2016 – altogether. I think I can say that over the last six months, things have improved, but I’m not entirely sure. The progress has been slow. Small nags, morning stiffness, discomfort. It’s all still present.

I can’t say why I finally went for it, but three weeks ago, I jumped on the dry needling. I didn’t really do my homework before hand. I knew I was going to have some needles stuck in me. I knew there’d be some discomfort. I knew the trigger points would (hopefully) be released. I did not know how much discomfort would be following me around for the next day and a half.

Generally speaking the needling wasn’t that bad. When he would find a knot and stab it a few times, that’s when the discomfort would escalate a bit. I’ve read of people likening it to an electric shock, and I guess that is true to some degree, but while a shock seems to let go after a bit, the dry needling holds that shock. Imagine a calf cramp – the type that wakes you up  at night with your toe thrust downward while you fumble to find your toes and pull them back up – well dry needling isn’t that bad, but it’s that prolonged cramp feeling that leaves you feeling exhausted and sore afterwards. Not having run an actual workout in at least a year, the exhausted ache afterwards was just the bump I’ve needed.

The first dry needle course really did a number and I wish I had taken the advice I received over two years ago and gone with the dry needling right away. The amount of Achilles discomfort subsided significantly.  It was exciting – and hopeful, so hopeful. I’ve had a second course and while things are better, it’s not ready yet. I’ve read of Achilles taking a year or more to recover. It’s not ruptured, so there’s that glimmer. For now, I just need to keep getting needled for my exhausted-muscle fix.

Runningskirts.com, Dude.

The first running skirt I went with was something from runningskirts.com. They’ve been around for a while, eleven years I think, and they were the first brand mentioned on twitter. When I first went to their site they had a ton of patterns that I was pretty excited about. Unfortunately, because I’m not a lady but a man in ladies clothing, the sizing was a little bit of an issue and the number of patterns to pick from was hugely limited.

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Wide waist band.

There were also two sizing options; I could have gone with their running skirt which has a built in brief or their athletic skirt which is a tad longer and has built in compression shorts. I went with the athletic skirt. I’m not sure how the brief would have fit, but I’m guessing that a brief built for a woman is going to be built a little differently than a brief built for a dude. But then, I’m not an underwear designer, so I don’t know.

Like I said, my print selection was limited, so I went with the pink plaid. The skirt fairy (their customer service person) told me that the pink isn’t really that pink and the gray tones it down.

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Does this make my butt look big?

For all intents and purposes, it did, and in truth, I was quite comfortable with my choice of pattern. The skirt was about mid-thigh, which is longer than I typically wear my running shorts, but for some reason, it made me a little uncomfortable and I wanted it to be a shade longer. Of course once I started running, it was fine.

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Velcro Pocket…

It had a pocket with a nice little Velcro clasp, but I’m not sure what you could actually put in it. I suppose a key would fit but I’d be worried it could easily escape.

The biggest issue I had with the skirt was probably the sizing. I used their chart and opted for a size 4. My waist is about a 31/32 depending on the time of year, and I wear a size 14 women’s in women’s jeans. Going by waist size I should have been a size 4, by women’s pant sizes I was a size 5, so I opted with the 4. In reality a 3 would probably be better.

The main problem I had with the fit was the looseness of the waist. Not a tenth of a mile down the road and I had to hike it up. If I wasn’t going for just a short run, I’d have turned around and got changed. Every 45 seconds or so I had to hike my skirt up.

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Look at those calves!

For me this was the end. Maybe a size 3 would have worked, but who knows. Overall, it is an option for dudes looking for a skirt or a kilt though the lack of pleats leaves it looking much more skirt than kilt.

Kilt, Skirt, Whatever

I think it was seeing a picture on Facebook of Gordy Ainsleigh in a running skirt, or maybe it’s my fascination with gaudy, over-the-top patterns (have you seen my B.O.A. collection?). Either way something caught my attention that I liked.

As far as I can tell, a running skirt is no more than a pair of compression shorts with something to give the naughty-bits a little coverage. I’ve always worn compression shorts for soccer, so why not for running? One afternoon before my wife got home from work I gave one of her Target skirts a run out. (Shhhhh…). I didn’t totally hate it and so I started looking into what kind of running skirts they have out there that are dude friendly and found two things: there’s not a lot of options, and these things are freaking expensive.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were coming so I figured I’d give some of the options a go and if they didn’t jive, just return them.

Realistically there are three or four options in the way of running skirts or kilts. None of them are particularly cheap, but they do make for some fun running. Follow the links to individual reviews – from a dudes perspective.

Sport Kilt
Running Skirts
JWalking Designs

Third Annual Wildcat Ultras

When we were up in Vermont, I somehow managed to put on a couple of races. There was the Twin State 50 that kind of morphed into something else as it was decided that New Hampshire was just to risky. There was another Fat Ass that kind of failed in an attempt to raise money and sent runners on a snow covered loop during muzzle loader season.

After a couple of these, I decided to try directing a real race. Everything was setup, permits in place, sanctioning paid for, port-a-john rented, people registered, and then a job in Dublin, Georgia popped up and it was moving time. I was pretty close to canceling the event, but my brother – who was co-rd’ing with me – stepped up and made it happen. It sounded like everyone had fun and it made me glad, but not being able to be there and see it unfold was difficult.

So here I am in Georgia trying to figure out routes to run, potential loops or point to points, when I got an email from the RD of the Wildcat Ultras wondering if I had any interest in helping out with third running of the event. Of course I was interested, but there were a few people I had to talk to first. Well, one, anyway. I got her blessing and hopped on board. The dream is not dead!

So this coming Labor Day, I’ll be in Pensacola, Florida at the fine Escambia Equine Center helping to make sure everything runs smoothly as a bunch of yahoos attempt to run from a 50k to 100 miles. Not only did it get me back into rd’ing, it got me fired up to start some things in Dublin. Sure they might be a year out, but the wheels are turning.

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Also, you should sign up here.

U.H.T.P.: Urban Hippy Tripster Pack

I have two bags from Orange Mud, the Modular Gym Bag which I failed to review (but will one day), and the newly released Urban Hippy Tripster Pack. The UHTP was in the pipeline for a long time. We kept hearing whispers of how awesome this pack was, and finally we saw a picture of the prototype. We were awestruck and couldn’t wait it’s release. Josh took it to an expo in Texas, and  while it was in his car, some jack-hole broke in and stole it, along with his Mac book. Que setback.

Anyway production finally picked up and the UHTP started shipping earlier this month. Like all the OM products, the UHTP is an over-engineered beast. It’s not your typical backpack with chintzy zippers you hope will last the school year, or low-grade canvas that will rip by brushing a rose bush. This thing is made of high quality 1680 denier nylon. (Truth, I had no real idea what that was until I Googled it, but rest assured it’s Quality.) I have no doubt you could really beat on this bag and it would hold up without issue.

The straps are a thickly padded material that doesn’t allow digging into the shoulders when the pack is fully loaded. There is also a padded section on the lower back area. Anyone who has ridden a bike or skateboard with heavy, hard objects in a backpack knows the genius of this aspect of the bag. The straps also have two plastic D-rings that let you clip on gear. (I have a dog leash clip because strays are the rule down here.) You can also clip or hook things in on the straps as I’ve done with that bright orange thing. (I’ll explain it at the end.)

The last sweet external feature of the pack is the cup/bottle holders on the outside. There are two – one on each side. They easily hold my kids water bottles, and I have no problem stuffing mine in on the other side – I use a glass spaghetti sauce jar. According to the website they can hold a 25oz water bottle or a big beer. I’m not sure you could get a 40oz in there, but a 22oz tall boy is a for sure fit.

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Beverage pocket.

Quality taken care of, it is time to move into the pack. Again, familiar to all OM fans, there are pockets and sections galore and if you didn’t have a guide book, you wouldn’t find them all. The main section is quite roomy and allows for any number of things. I keep a running ‘go bag’ inside that includes a pair of shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, and buff. Along with my gear is usually a book ranging in size from a Bible to slim paperback. (You never know when you’ll find the perfect place for a run and God forbid I get stuck somewhere with nothing to read…). While I don’t have a laptop of any sort, if I did, the UHTP comes with a built in case. It’s a super padded, zippered envelope like case that velcros into the pack. I use this for delicate things like my tablet or the current issue of UltraRunning magazine.(When visiting the PT I brought three pairs of shoes in the pack and had room for more.)wp-1448853175496.jpg

If you look at the picture you can kind of see the bottom of the main pocket. It’s built with a foam type liner. It gives the pack a little bit of shape, and allows items to be a bit protected while not being too rigid.

In the top of the pack is a soft stretchy pocket that – according to the website – provides enough room for two pairs of sunglasses. I would disagree and say that unless you’re wearing dinner plate glasses you can easily fit four or five pairs in there. The pocket material reminds me of the same shoulder pockets familiar to users of the Hydra Quiver or the Vest Pack2.

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Below the sunglass pocket is the coolest pocket on a a backpack – ever. Most backpacks have a back pocket that becomes a trash receptacle of broken pens and pencils, melted gum and candy wrappers, and any other assortment of lint and broken paperclips. The UHTP comes with a ‘pen panel’. It’s essentially an organizing system for your pens with room for electronic devices. (Check the website for specs. I’m not into all the fancy-schmancy pods and electronics and such…). I like to keep a couple of pens handy along with hair ties (me or my daughter), and some snacks. This pocket can fit a box of granola bars with plenty of room to spare.

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But the best part of the pen panel? It’s velcroed in. What? Yes, velcroed. When the pen panel is removed a secret compartment is revealed. It’s big enough to fit an 8×12 document. Think passports, cash, etc.

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Now, earlier, I mentioned that Orange thing in the picture. It’s a parachord bracelet which is pretty nice. Rope is always good. If you look closely at the buckle you’ll see on one end there seems to be something strange on the buckle.

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That strange thing, that’s a whistle. A very loud whistle if you want it to be. Take my word for it. Or ask my five year old…

Now the parachord bracelet doesn’t typically come with the UHTP, but for Cyber Monday the folks at Orange Mud are giving it away with any purchase, free shipping on orders over $40, and 20% off. And all you have to do is enter the gift code CMON20GIFT.

The pack comes in black with orange straps, or olive straps. (I chose olive.) There’s also a camo version with orange straps that looks pretty dope. And starting to ship on 12/4 is the black with pink strap version. Should look pretty schnazzy.

Also going on today, SKORA Running is having a sitewide 25% off sale, plus a Soleus GPS watch for only $50 with every order. Can’t beat that!

Lots of good deals and it’s all pretty easy, so enjoy your Cyber Monday, ya’ll!

Turkey Trots and Sales

Kind of strange still being injured. This was the first year in a long time – maybe a decade? – that neither me nor my participated in a turkey trot of some nature. For the last few years there was a Trot in New Hampshire that I had run – a 10k the Sunday before that always seemed to be freezing, before that was the Troy Turkey Trot in Troy, NY.

Here, locally in Georgia, there were a couple of races, but not much. On Saturday there was a 4/2 mile. I helped out at the finish line, mashing buttons as folks crossed; my wife opted to stay home and prepare for her sister’s arrival on Sunday. (I met and had a wonderful conversation with Dolly, an 83 year old walker, but that’s another story for another day.)

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Helpingg out at the Jingle All the Way 2 and 4 miler. (After my morning mile of course...)

The next local race was the actual day of Thanks and it was a half marathon. My wife showed some interest until she learned it was only a half marathon, at which point all interest was lost.

Instead we ended up running in our backyard, in circles on the grass track. She did 20, I did 12. It was a gamble for me, and while my Achilles has yet to flare up from it, there was some fullness in the days following. But hey, three miles, its the farthest I’ve run in months.

Of course after Thanksgiving comes Black Friday and while there’s a big push for folks to get outside instead of shopping, there wasn’t much different in our house. (Except that the lounging outside was in shorts and included some sun block.)

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The views from my Black Friday.

Of course just because your outside doesn’t mean you can’t still peruse the sales online. Check out the 25% off sale over at SKORA running. The sale goes all weekend and I’m sure they have something special planned for Monday. The same goes for OrangeMud.

I also have some discount codes for anyone who might be wanting one. 10-15%, just ask.

Rose Tinters

I think I can say, without much dispute, that the majority this blogs audience are runners, or other athletic types of some nature. Anyone who has been way-laid from their sport of choice, has an idea of what happens when we aren’t able to walk outside, close the door behind us, and disappear for an hour, two, three, or even more. I don’t think there is any one single reason we need to venture off for fractions of our day, but for me, it has something to do with exploring.

Zipping around in cars, on the same roads every day, we forget to see things. We stop looking. We might see the oncoming cars, or the roadkill that wasn’t there last night, we might even notice a field slowly turning colors as the seasons plod on. But on foot, we see more. We have more time to admire the little flourishes of God’s paintbrush all around. We can truly examine the natural world; see colors once thought unnatural outside of a Crayola box, witness purples melding into creams, greens turning to orange without border – we can see things we can’t see from the comfort of our bucket seat or the swivel of our desk chair. On foot we see things few others do. We are privy to a world that only a select few take the time to admire.sunrise1

Not running, I started noticing that I was missing these things. I was focusing on how not being able to cruise for 15 miles at a clip was forcing me to stay in a tiny sphere (there are only so many routes to go when you’re running a mile at a time.) I began noticing how much noise there was in my head and how impossible it seemed for me to escape them. All these things started adding up, and driving me nuts.
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It’s taken a while, but I’m starting to get over all of the missing. I’m starting to realize that while I can’t get out and cover 20+ miles at a time, I can still explore. That there are smaller things to see. That walking lets me see things I might not on a run. That sometimes a walk with the family can be just as enjoyable and mentally quieting as a 60 minute jog in silence. Sure, these sunrises would be better seen from the road with miles behind me, but they can be just as awe inspiring from the comfort of my porch, coffee in hand, dog at my feet, child on my lap.sunrise

I’m not done. I will continue to plug along, and hopefully someday – soon – I’ll be back on the road, putting down some miles. And if not, it’s the little things that will have to suffice.