TRAIL MIX!

The benefits of running off road.

Every runner has one of ‘those friends’. The non-running ones who are completely confused about this whole ‘running thing’ that we do. They just don’t get it. Some mistakenly believe that all races are marathons and ask you questions like “how many miles is this marathon?” or “Are 10Ks harder than 5Ks?”. It’s frustrating having to always explain to  friends and family that all marathons are 26.2 miles, and can be held ANYWHERE, not just Boston or New York City, and that K in races stands for KILOMETERS, so a 10K is twice as LONG as a 5K, not necessarily twice as hard (but it can be). If you live in the USA, you usually have to then explain how many miles a kilometer is.

Yet perhaps the most baffling concept for the non-runner to wrap their heads around is trail-running. Why would someone willingly run off road on rough terrain, up and down hills or mountains, through wilderness and possibly even across a creek or shallow river? It’s all about the benefits!

The Great Outdoors!

The SECOND real race I ever ran when I first started running was the Chobot Challenge 15K Trail run on July 7th, 2019. Back then, it was quite the experience, and I finished.  Today, I run about half of my races on roads, and half on trails. My favorite trail run in the April Foolish at French Creek State Park. My least favorite, NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN was the Halfwit Half Marathon up and down Mt Penn. That race literally brought tears to my eyes, and almost made me give up running altogether. It was the hardest race I ever ran. I prefer to run on road, but I’m a runner and a runner runs! I’m not going to back away from the occasional trail run, I just wouldn’t want to ONLY run trails.

The benefits of trail running are two-fold, both  mental and physical.

There is a beauty to being out in nature that has a soothing effect on the mind. Urbanites trapped in their concrete jungles miss out on the spacious skies, the verdant forest trails, and the sounds of water flowing over the rocks of a nearby river.

The further away from the city you get, the less noise pollution from cars and blasting stereos. The music in the air is birdsong .

There is something to be said about a beautiful mountain lake unspoiled by man because there’s no road to drive there.  You have to get there by foot because it’s miles from the nearest road.

There is something very satisfying in running up a snow-covered mountain and seeing a serene winter landscape of undisturbed snow.

And there is something very satisfying to the spirit in knowing  that wondrous sights like these belong to you and the small percentage of the population that understands that life is meant to be lived firsthand, and that the real world is the one outside your window.  

 A leg to stand on!

Running is good for you! The same non-runner friends who don’t understand why you run will also tell you that it’s bad for your knees, bad for your heart,  bad for your feet, etc! Poppycock! There are literally hundreds of books on the benefits of running and thousands of scientific studies proving those naysayers wrong.  We were born to run!

There are many muscles, tendons, ligaments,  and nerves in the human leg.

The muscles  are:

 Gluteus minimus and medius, gluteus maximus, Iliac crest, adductor magnus, , semitendinosus, biceps femoris, gracilis, semimembranosus, plantaris, sartoruis, gastrocnemius, soleus.

The tendons  are:

Iliotibial tract (IT BAND), plantaris, fleor digitorm longus, medial malleolus, fibularis longus , flexor hallucis longus, fiblaris longus, fibularis brevis.

The ligaments are:

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL).

The nerves are:

Tibial, and the common fibular.

Don’t even get me started on the foot.

Running on a flat paved surface such as a track or street works different muscle groups and tendons differently than running on a trail. So the physical benefits of trail running is that you are working leg muscles more, and improving balance by running on uneven surfaces.

When running the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus and medius  form what is known as the posterior chain, which allows hip extention. Now running uphill will work those glutes  harder, and make them stronger in the process. Would you rather have buns of steel to run up mountains , or a lead bottom  anchoring you to the couch so that you can become a mountain?

Hilly terrain works your calves, and strong calves mean faster propulsion. 

When you run trails, you straighten your tendons and ligaments because the constant need to stabilize your ankles, knees and hip joints works your connective tissues with every uneven step you take. The more you work these, these stronger they become and the less prone to injury. Proof that running is GOOD for maintaining knee health! Always remember that if you are not actively strengthening  your body, you are actively weakening your body. No get out there and hit the trail!    

You can find me at these upcoming races:

June 2021

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 3/7 June 17 @7:00 pm Reading PA

Lebanon Root Beer Half Marathon June 20 @ 7:00 am Lebanon PA

Be sure to check back  on June 27th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE BALANCING ACT!

All work and no play…

Balance is a feeling derived from being whole and complete; it’s a sense of harmony. It is essential to maintaining quality in life and work. –Joshua Osenga

There are 24 hours in a single day. That’s 1,440 minutes. Every person on Earth gets the exact same amount of time each and every day. The only exceptions are the day you are born and the day you die. How we spend each minute of our lives is entirely up to us. The secret to a long, healthy life is maintaining a proper balance in each area of our lives. We need a balance between work and play, sleeping and being awake, and exercise and recovery. We need to balance time and money. We need a balanced diet. Yes, BALANCE is the key!

The Grindstone
Work is called work for a reason. The NORMAL work day is 8 hours long, and a normal work week is 4 hours. This allows for 5 days a week to be split into three even segments of 8, allowing for work, leisure, and sleep. The weekend is for fun, recovery, worship, whatever we choose.

For a runner, the weekend is for official races! Races cost money, and we work so that we can provide the means to pay for the many things in life that we want or need, such as new running shoes, or the entry fee for next month’s half marathon. Work is a necessary evil, and we should be working not because we are forced to, but because we  want the means to achieve our goals in life. Constantly working to barely pay the bills is a sign of an unbalanced budget, or a poorly paying job. Taking on addition work such as overtime or a second job cuts into either our leisure time, or sleep time and decreases our performance. Sometimes we have no choice. Right now at my day job, I’m working 12hr days 5 to 6 days a week, and getting very little sleep. I’ve noticed this having a negative impact on my running since I have no time for training runs, and little recovery periods after races. In this morning’s 10K, my pace had decreased by a whopping 24%! 17 minute miles are not normal for me, and I was very depressed. Unfortunately, I have no choice as the work situation is not going to improve  until Autumn.

Rest and Recovery
IF you are in tip-top physical condition, recovery periods from intense periods of physical activity are greatly shortened. And if you’re also getting the proper amount of sleep each night, your body has the time it needs to repair the damage done by the stress and strain of daily life.

Three Squares?

The power that made the body has the power to heal the body. That only works when your body is getting the proper rest and recovery periods as well as a balanced diet.  Many Americans have poor dietary habits, which is why two thirds of the population is overweight. The Standard American Diet advises 2,000 calories a day as a base. Runners have different caloric needs. We burn that many calories OR MORE in a single half-marathon. Food is FUEL! Three meals consisting of breakfast, lunch, and dinner doesn’t work for us, especially on race day. Smaller meals and snacks consisting of a balanced nutritional consistency work better for us.  Every human being needs all seven essential nutrients, in the proper ratios for your body weight and activity level.  These seven essential nutrients are: Water, Protein, Fats, Carbohydrates, Vitamins, Minerals, and dietary Fiber. Sorry to say, but chocolate, candy, cake, and ice cream are NOT essential nutrients.   

So eat REAL food, (or sports food such as gel, running fuel, and recovery drinks meant for runners, NOT couch potatoes. )

Speaking of recovery drinks, be sure to drink those protein rich, amino filled drinks as soon as possible after a race, because your muscles become insulin resistant after about 45 minutes, and you lose the benefits . My go to recovery drink after a race is ReHab from CarboRocket.com! I swear by, and use  all their products! If you decide to check out their products, us my special code TOTHEMAX and receive a 25% discount on your 1st order.

The Race is on!

Since I’m currently stuck with forced overtime for the next six months at my day job, I’m forced to use vacation days for races as well as rest and recovery days. It’s not a pretty solution, but it’s the only one I have. NOT RACING IS NOT AN OPTION! I am a runner and a runner runs! I’m trying to fit some training runs into my hectic schedule, but waking up  tired and getting home exhausted  has left those practice runs few and far between. For the most part, the only running I’m getting to do is on race day. I should be doing some sort of daily exercise and strength training, but as I stated at the beginning, There’s only 24 hours in a day, and I’m spending more than half of those hours at work. My morning exercise ritual has gone the way of the dodo as I hit the snooze alarm again and again for “just another ten minutes”. Unfortunately, this means that I’m losing the muscles I worked so hard to build last year. If you are not actively working to make yourself stronger, then you are actively working to make yourself weaker!  There are no if, ands, or buts about it. In the end, we choose the things that are most important to us, I’m NOT a dull boy and I choose to run!

If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

April 2021

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 1/7 April 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run April 18 @ 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Elverson, PA 19520

Gettysburg Half-Marathon April 25 @8:10 am Gettysburg PA 17325

Be sure to check back in two weeks on April 25th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

IT’S NOT NUTS TO RUN!

It’s nuts to NOT run!

“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” ― Dr. Seuss

Besides running, there is one common thing almost thing every runner shares. Each of us has at least one person we know that cannot understand this entire running thing that defines us. They may shake their heads and chuckle every time we lace up our running shoes, but sadly the laugh is on them, not us. Ignore their negativity. It says more about them than it does about us. We are awesome and amazing, never forget that!

I had a friend who used to be afraid to loan me anything before a race. He asked me if I ever heard of James Fixx, author of the 1977 best seller The Complete Book of Running. Fixx is credited with starting the jogging craze in the USA, but he died at 52 from a heart attack while jogging.

Another friend thinks it’s funny to yell “No one’s chasing you!” when he drives past runners.

I’ve casually mentioned to people that I have an upcoming marathon only to have them respond, “You run?”

I could go on, but such negativity on their part is what sets US apart from them. It takes courage, determination, and a positive mindset to take that first step from the couch towards the track.  Negativity holds you back. It is a soul killer. You cannot have a positive life with a negative mind.     

Running is good for your mind, body, and spirit. Running clears your mind as you focus on the race. It is great therapy for working through personal turmoil or trauma, while at the same time strengthening and toning your body.  Since I ran my 1st 5K on April 28th 2019, my weight has steadily dropped. I feel great, and I feel better about myself.

My pace continues to improve, and I have run a marathon. Now I’m pursing my 1st 50K. This was unthinkable three short years ago back in 2018.

Additionally, running is a great way to build new friends through the community of runners. Local races draw the same groups of runners, so you begin to see the same familiar faces each time, and they in turn see you.

You may not always be aware of it, but all around you there are people that take notice of you and are watching. Your observable actions and positive attitude encourage and inspire these individuals as they work through their own journey of self-discovery. I cannot count the number of compliments I have received from individuals over the past two years as my progress improved. I cannot count the times fellow runners have told me ‘you got this’ when I was struggling. And I in turn cannot count how many times I have given back similar compliments and encouragement to other struggling runners. The mutual feedback of positive energy is uplifting.    

I have never found a more encouraging and accepting group of people than I have in the community of runners.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  (Proverbs 27:17. NIV)

If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

APRIL 2021

Halfwit Half-Marathon April 3 @ 10:00 am Mt. Penn Reading, PA

Shiver by the River 10K April 11 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 1/7 April 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run April 18 @ 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Elverson, PA 19520

Gettysburg Half-Marathon April 25 @8:10 am Gettysburg PA 17325

Be sure to check back in two weeks on April 11th for my next blog post.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE BARE FACTS!

The agony of ‘the feet’?

this is part two of a series on footwear.  For part one, read JUST RUN WITH IT!

In the human foot, there are 26 bones, 33 joints and over a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Having the proper sneakers that fit well are essential equipment for ‘most’ runners. Modern footwear provides protection to that other essential thing that most runners don’t usually even think about, their feet.  Keeping your feet healthy will improve your ability to run. Shoes that fit improperly will cause all manner of foot aliments, from simple blisters up to and including:  bunions, corns, and black toenails (from cramming your feet into the front of the shoe). Now if you’ve ever caught the toe of your shoe while running at top speed like I have several times on trail runs, you’re probably grateful for having the toe box of the shoe take the hit on that ‘invisible rock’. Slamming your naked toe full force into an immovable object is a surefire way to break a toe.  

Tenderfoot  

The soles of our shoes protect our feet as we run from any sharp or jagged items on the ground.  The cushioned insoles soften the impact of our feet hitting the ground. This two step protection prevents the natural build up of calluses on the soles of our feet. Calluses are thickened  layers of skin where friction, irritation, and  pressure repeatedly occurs. Our shoes are like armor for our feet providing  a barrier between our feet and the rough ground. They also alter the natural movements of our feet by restricting the ability of many joints  in our feet to flex like nature intended, and in turn have altered the way humans run. Instead of striking the ground with the balls of our feet, we now strike the ground with our heals. As a result, we need added shock-absorption in the heal area of our shoes, so we are constantly walking and running with our feet on a slanted plane. We should be launching ourselves from the balls of our feet.

The barefoot running movement.

Abebe Bikila was an Ethiopian marathon runner who won back-to-back gold medals in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. Amazingly, he ran the 1960 Olympic marathon completely barefoot with a record time of 2:15:16.2.  Think about that for a moment.  26.2 miles on the soles of his feet without any footwear what-so-ever. AND HE WON! 4 years later at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he won again, this time wearing shoes. His time was over 3 minutes faster at 2:12:11.2. If you’re curious, he was wearing Puma Osaka sneakers.  These were an innovative design with a minimal sole and a nearly non-existent heal-to toe wedge providing a ‘barefoot’ feeling. In modern footwear, we refer to this as a zero-drop shoe, meaning that the heel and the ball of the foot are on a flat horizontal plane with no slanted wedge.  

The best of both worlds

A zero-drop shoe is designed in a way that the toes and the heel have the same distance from the ground  allowing your feet to sit in a natural position that helps with spine alignment and posture. Minimalist running shoes all have zero-drop platforms with super-thin, ultra-flexible soles and fit your foot like a glove. Perhaps the most widely recognized brand in this category is the Vibram Fiver-Finger shoes, sometimes referred to by the slang term as ‘toe shoes’.

You don’t do ballet wearing combat boots!

The super thin soles, lack of insole padding, and soft flexible upper shells allow ‘barefoot’ shoes to provide the wearers with fully uninhibited motion of the entire foot. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of all the protective properties of traditional running sneakers. Proponents of the barefoot running movement claim that this natural foot movement eliminates many of the physical problems runners  sometimes develop such as shin splints, knee pain, IT band syndrome and a host of other ailments. As a person who has always worn traditional sneakers, I can neither confirm nor deny these claims. I personally like to think that the padding and thick soles protect our feet in much the same way that boxing gloves protect a boxer’s  hands as they’re pounding their opponents. As a Clydesdale, I’m pounding that pavement a lot harder than thinner runners, so I’m very hesitant to try this fad.

Full disclaimer: I am neither a podiatrist nor an expert in biomechanical muscular-skeletal movement. I’m just an avid runner making a guess from personal experience. It seems to me that perhaps it might work, maybe, but I’m extremely skeptical.  

The bottom line:


I’ve seen runners run in 21°F (-5°C) wearing nothing but shorts and sneakers because it ‘felt good’ to them.  Everybody is different, and every body is different. Listen to your body and do what you feel is good for you. I may give barefoot running shoes a test at some future date just to see how it feels. I am eyeing a pair of Xero-shoes sandals, but they never seem to have them in my size when I shop online. IF I ever do score a pair to try, it will be on flat pavement. So do what you think is right for YOU. Whether you choose tradition sneakers, minimalist running shoes, or no shoes at all, the choice is up to you.

I will recommend one thing though. After a long hard run, treat yourself to a therapeutic foot massage. Your feet will feel amazing afterward!

If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

April 2021

Shiver by the River 10K April 11 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 1/7 April 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run April 18 @ 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Elverson, PA 19520


Be sure to check back in two weeks for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!


JUST RUN WITH IT!

If the shoe fits…

(part one of a two-part series on footwear)

Sneakers is an American word used to describe soft rubber-soled athletic shoes. They have been around since the mid to late 1800s and go by many names. In England, they are referred to as trainers or joggers. Other names include: Tennis shoes, running shoes, runners, track shoes, sports shoes, gym shoes, kicks, and a plethora of other slang terms relating to usage, style, or manufacturers. Sneakers are so ubiquitous that they have crossed the divide from athletic usage to everyday casual footwear, and  the dreaded fashion sneaker.     

Just as people come in all shapes and sizes, so do sneakers. Just as all people are not runners, all sneakers are not running shoes. You should NOT be running in fashion sneakers. So if you’re going out for a run (an ACTUAL run, not a metaphorical one), or you’re gearing up for a race,  leave the Chuck Taylors and Vans® at home.

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.”

Henry Ford

It’s probably easier to pick out a car than it is to pick out running shoes. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, not all sneakers are running shoes, but all running shoes are sneakers, so for the remainder of this article, when the words sneaker or shoe appears, it is specifically referring to running shoes.

Just as there are many auto manufacturers, makes, models, and colors, the same holds true for sneakers. The list that follows is by no means exhaustive, but it was exhausting to compile.  (If I missed any popular ones, let me know in the comments)

Adidas.  Allbirds. Altra.  APL.  ASICS.  Brooks. FILA.  HOKA. Inov-8. Karhu. La Sportiva. Mizuno. Merrill. New Balance. Newton Running . Nike.  Puma. Reebok. Salomon. Saucony . Sketchers. Under Armor. Veja. VJ Shoes . Xero Shoes.

There are high end brands, and low end ones.  A sneaker does not have to cost an arm and a leg to be good, and sometimes the extra bucks are just paying for the company logo.

Brand loyalty will lock you into a particular company with shoes faster than you can say ‘RUNNERS, READY’. And sometimes, you will have a very limited color choice in that style. You may have a strong desire to own a particular brand, only to discover that they don’t fit your feet properly. Running is a very individual sport and everyone’s foot is different. Small, large, narrow, or wide all play their part as to what shoe is best for your individual foot. Just because your BFF running partner wears the latest from Saucony, doesn’t mean that they make it in your size.

When it comes to buying sneakers, you really have to do your homework, and you can’t buy cut-rate. Stick to well known brands and get your shoes fitted at a shoe store, one where they specialize in running shoes like Fleet Feet does.

Most quality running shoes will set you back about $150. Do NOT go to a place like a department store and buy  $20 sneakers. You get what you pay for. Before I actually committed to becoming a runner, I didn’t know any better. When you’re a newbie, sneakers are sneakers. I purchased a pair of no name running shoes in 2018 which I barely ever wore before I got my Nikes.  I was on vacation August 24th 2019 and I had ONLY the ‘no-names’ with me, so I decided one morning to go for a run on the boardwalk in Ocean City MD. This happened:

Yep. I ran so fast that my sole left my body.

So two lessons learned that day:

  • NEVER EVER EVER buy cheap no-name, or counterfeit running shoes.
  • ALWAYS have two to three pairs of running shoes in rotation, and a spare pair with you in your gym bag.

When  you do get around to shopping for your shoes, don’t fret about the color or obsess over a brand and style.      

There are only two real considerations you should be concerned with.

  1. What surface are you running on? Road, or trail. Some brands have both types, others specialize, but you need trail shoes for trails, and road shoes for roads. They are made different for a very good reason!
  2. How do they feel on your feet. It doesn’t matter if they’re the prettiest pink shoes you’ve ever seen, and all the girls in track have them. It doesn’t matter if your hero who took the Gold at the Olympics wears them. If they don’t fit, and they hurt YOUR feet, they’re worthless. And when you do go to buy shoes, always wear the same type of socks that you usually wear when you run, because you want these shoes to fit perfectly when you hit the road. Never wear brand new shoes for a race, or a long run. It takes five to ten miles to break-in new sneakers so take them out for two or three 5K training runs before you race with them.

BE PREPARED to spend about $150. You might get lucky and catch a sale, or a closeout on last year’s model, but don’t get your hopes up.

BUT EVERYONE WEARS THEM
Look , I understand that you may love your special brand, and that’s wonderful. My road race sneakers are my Nike Initiator running shoes, and for trails I don my  Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes.  I always wear MudGear brand socks.

The reality is, when it comes to sneakers, most Olympic runners wear Nike. Does it mean you should wear Nike? Not at all. I wear these particular shoes because I have an odd size foot, and finding shoes that fit me is a challenge.  If you find a brand that appeals to you, run with it! The only wrong running shoes are cheaply made no-names. If that’s ALL you can really afford, run with it. It’s better to run with inexpensive (but inferior) shoes than to not run at all. Just buy the sneakers you can afford without breaking your budget.

As for why elite runners chose Nike more than any other brand, the answer is simple. Nike is courting these athletes and seeking endorsements, while the athletes in turn are looking for sponsorships to pay for their training costs. For professional athletes and corporations, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Plus if everyone is wearing the exact same shoe at the Olympics, They’re all competing on a level playing field.  The moment  someone breaks the trend for something ‘new’, everyone cries foul!

The  Nike ‘Alphafly’ prototype shoes worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours in October 2019 have now been banned.

In 2019, 31 of the 36 podium positions in the six world marathon majors were won by elite athletes wearing Nike Vaporfly, as reported by the Guardian.

According to Runnersworld, at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, 404 of the 565 finishers wore Nikes.

Vaporflys have not been banned, but Nike must adhere to strict new guidelines. Critics state that these shoes which have thick, foam soles and carbon-fibre plates to improve speed give the wearers an unfair advantage during competition, but again, if all the athletes wear them no one can complain.

As of this writing, a pair of men’s  Nike Vaporflys cost about $425 depending on size and style. No, I’m not planning on buying a pair. I would never spend THAT MUCH on a pair of running shoes, plus Amazon doesn’t have them in my size.  

All good things must end
Remember the car buying analogy I made at the beginning? Just as car manufactures retire a certain style and replace it with a new model, the same applies to sneakers. The new model offered by your favorite brand might not fit the same or feel as comfortable as the old style of the same shoe. I’ve heard many a runner moan over the changes made to a specific shoe that they felt was ‘perfect’. The reason manufactures do this  is planned obsolescence.  The shoe must wear out after so much usage, and styles get changed and updated to keep the customers coming back to try the latest model.  If a particular brand and model feel AMAZING, buy two or three extra pairs and stockpile them as soon as possible. I am down to my last brand new pair of Nike Initiator running shoes, and I my ONLY Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes.

These are no longer in production, and as soon as they wear out, I’m going to have to find new sneakers that make my feel ‘happy’.

Running shoes last about 300 to 500 miles depending on the runner’s weight and running style.  If you have an uneven gait, and you get edge wear, or on the heal, your sneakers will not last as long.  Uneven sole wear will kill your shoes.

Also the more you weigh, the heavier you pound the pavement. A 250lb male will wear out his shoes faster than a 99lb female even if they both run identical distances on the same trails with the same frequency.  It’s not ‘fat shaming’, it’s science. Just another reason why it’s tough to be a Clydesdale. (But Clydesdales ARE tough!)

Lastly clean your sneakers regularly, spraying the interiors with a sneaker spray to kill bacteria and mold which can form in dark, damp areas of your shoe.

If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

March 2021

Ugly Mudder 10k Trail Race March 7 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10K March 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

April 2021

Shiver by the River 10K April 11 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 1/7 April 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run April 18 @ 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Elverson, PA 19520

Be sure to check back in two weeks for part two of this series on running shoes, The Bare Facts.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

SNOW IS A ‘FOUR-LETTER’ WORD!

Are you running in a winter wonderland?

Idiomatically a four-letter word is a swearword, considered rude and unacceptable in certain contexts.

Today is February 14th 2021 and its 23°F (-5°C) here in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. I was ‘supposed’ to be running a 10K race today, but it was postponed until the 28th due to safety concerns. The recent heavy snowfall has left many city streets narrowed down to single car widths with few accesses from the curb to the sidewalk due to the mounds of snow. Even where streets and sidewalks are cleared, there are still patches of snow and ice. So road races are not very safe under the present conditions.

Last Sunday, I drove 27 miles in a blizzard to run 11K (6.75 miles) up and down a snow covered mountain.  Mount Penn is a small mountain in Berks County  where Pretzel City Sports holds several trail races during the year. I ran up this mountain last year for the first time for the UGLY MUDDER 13K back on Feb 23rd 2020. It was warmer then, and there was no snow. This time the mountain was covered with two feet (66cm) of snow, it was still snowing, and it was much colder. This was my first snow-trail run, the CHILLY CHEEKS 11K.

193 runners showed up for the race that day.  

Whenever I do trail runs, I swap out my Nike Initiator running shoes for my  Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes. 

I always wear Mud Gear brand socks. I’ve run in cold weather, but I have never run in snow before, so I had no idea how the Inov-8s would perform. The aggressive cleats built into the sole of the shoe worked great on mud and dirt, and ‘should’ work as well on snow and soft ice. They also meant that I could not wear STABILicers ,YakTrax or any other brand of ice spikes. I briefly toyed with the idea of trying out a pair of electric socks to keep my feet warm, but opted instead to wear two pairs of socks.

While the Inov-8 X-Talons 200s did indeed work, the double socks failed to keep my toes warm. I SHOULD have purchased toe warmers, but as with doing anything the first time, you only discover these things after the fact.

Several of my fellow runners also used trek poles, a set of folding walking sticks that resemble ski poles and can help with navigating tough terrain. Unfortunately I have zero experience using these, so I had to rely on grabbing trees as I made my way up or down steep climbs. More than once, I chose to slide down the icy landscape feet first in the seated position like a sledder without a sled.

For half of the trek, I fell in with a group of 3 other runners led by Barry Elder.

We were the last group of runners on the mountain, and three of us were Clydesdales. People come in all sizes and shapes, and there is nothing wrong with being a Clydesdale. We may not be as fast as ‘the skinnies’ , but it takes a lot more physical effort for larger runners to maintain that pace. At about mile three, I could no longer keep pace with Barry, and stepped to the side and let Erin and Vanessa pass me while I took a breather.  I almost managed to catch back up to the group twice, but eventually I lost sight of them and was alone on the mountain.

Once again, I had come to a new challenge, only to discover that I had way underestimated the difficulty level. CHILLY CHEEKS is the toughest trail course Pretzel City Sports has developed. When you run with a buddy, you motivate one another to keep pace. Iron sharpens iron! Alone, you begin to play mind games with yourself as you begin to experience mounting levels of self doubt. If you’ve done something before, you know you can do it again, but the first time really tests your metal.

Just as I had hit the point of giving up, one of Pretzel City’s employees showed up.

Jules’ job that day was to remove the trail markers at the conclusion of the race. For the last half of the race, she managed to keep me motivated to press on and not give up. If she had not shown up when she did, I would probably still be up on Mount Penn sitting in the snow like a frozen Buddha. My quads were beginning to cramp from the effort, I was out of water, and my toes were numb from the cold. I was also sweating profusely since I had worn several layers but couldn’t really remove them because I had no place to stash them.

Now DFL is not a palatable position for me, I hate being last. Yes, I know ‘someone’ has to be last, but I’d rather that someone not be me.  It’s a matter of personal pride. Of course DFL is much better than DNF, or DID NOT FINISH. This was only the second time I’ve ever come in last, the first was my 1st ever trail run, The Chobert Challenge 15K in 2019. That was in the summer,  and here I was in mid-winter forcing myself to dig deep, being prodded onward by Jules as she keep telling me “you’ve got this, you’re almost there!”

And after 3:34 minutes, I did crawl up the final hill to the finish line, to cheers of Helene Horn calling me a rockstar, saying that she’s proud of me, and telling me I’m awesome!

The moral of the story? If you don’t push yourself to the limit, you will never know how far you could go. Many of your limitations exist only in your mind, and you will never have a positive life if you have a negative mind. So instead of saying ‘I can’t’ TRY, and if you struggle, don’t quit! There are people watching you and rooting for you that you are unaware of, and your accomplishments fuel their hopes, dreams and aspirations. No one wants to emulate a loser, so be a winner! If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for THEM. Like Sir Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through Hell, KEEP GOING!”

If you have additional cold weather running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

February 2021

Shiver by the River 10K February 28 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Arctic Blast 5K February 20 @ 10:00 am  Reading, PA (Relocated to Trooper Thorn’s)

March 2021

Ugly Mudder 10k Trail Race March 7 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10K March 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

RUNNERS, READY…

Running fun in sub-freezing temperatures!

Today is January 31st, 2020 and here in South Central Pennsylvania we are poised to get the first significant snowfall of this year. Friday was the coldest day of the year locally, and yesterday was not far off.  Likewise today we are also experiencing sub-freezing temperatures as we prepare for the storm.

Saturday also marked the first live-in-person race of this new year. The HumBug Bustle 5K had been delayed from six weeks prior due to a state-wide prohibition against large gatherings in December and part of January. As a result several local races either were either rescheduled or became virtual runs.

It was great to be among the 216 committed runners who showed up to race in the 20°F (-6°C) cold. My amazing friend Bruce finished just seconds behind me.

Pretzel City Sports is a local race timing company owned and run by Ron and Helene Horn with the help of their talented and professional staff. They hold their own race events as well as the races of other running organizations such as the local Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club.

When I ran my first ever 5K race, BEAT BEETHOVEN  back on April 28th, 2019 it was timed by Pretzel City Sports  and just as they have been supporting me from day one, I support them by running in as many of their races as possible. Although I continue to express my gratitude to Ron and Helene because I personally feel I could not be where I am as a runner today without them, they continue to remind ME that I am the one who made the commitment and did the work. To quote Ron from an e-mail he sent me last year after I completed my first marathon:

“While we were glad to offer encouragement along the way, what you accomplished in that period is all about YOU! YOU ran the training runs. YOU ran thru the pain! YOU altered your diet to drop the pounds. YOU went out and did those long runs. Not us. We were honored to be “along for the ride” but it was YOUR ride and you’ve done a life-changing job at it.”

Words have POWER and I hold these words forever in my heart. Ron is absolutely correct. NO ONE can do the work of improving your life for you. YOU must do it yourself, and that requires perseverance and commitment. You will never know what you are capable of succeeding at until you have accomplished it. Once you have achieved your goals, you do not stop! You continue to set new and better goals and plans for the future. Then you ‘pay the universe back’ by providing the support and encouragement to others as they set forth on their own journeys of self-discovery. As the word of God says,’ iron sharpens iron’.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17

Yes, it was cold outside yesterday. A runner runs! This means running in all kinds of weather and temperatures. It is nice to have other runners out there with you, but sometimes you have to go it alone if you are maintaining your training, or if there is no race or fellow runners available. You must not stop training or you will lose the training effect and any progress you have made you will lose. In conditions too hazardous to run such as deep snow and ice, or temperatures significantly in the negative zone, your only option may be to run inside on a treadmill.

If you are able to run outside in the winter, there are several important tips that you should follow.

1 Run with a buddy. If there is an in-person race, sign up for it. If you have a friend who can run with you, set up a time and place to get together. If you MUST run alone, stick to manageable distances and established trails.  Make sure you have your cell phone fully charged and with you. If your GPS watch or a running app on your phone allow for ‘live tracking’ set these features up so that your friends monitor your progress and can be notified and able find you in an emergency. You do not want to be lost alone in the woods in freezing temperatures. This can be a fatal mistake.  I bit off more than I could chew on New Year’s Day because I am doing Run The Year, but I was on an established trail, being live-tracked, and came upon a fellow running who was able to pace with me back to the car when I was struggling the last few miles.

2. Always carry water and running fuel. Running burns calories, and your body will burn more calories in harsh temperatures as it struggles to maintain your core temp. Likewise, you must replace the water your body loses while running. You will sweat as you exert yourself, and you may also overheat depending on your clothing. You will lose body fluid in the form of water vapor in your breath while you breath. You may need to stop and urinate. Does a bear piss in the woods? Runners do as well. You need to replace lost fluid. You need to have  some kind of running fuel to provide energy should you suddenly need it. I always run with a packet or two of Accel Gel (a glucose gel similar to GU Energy) from Pacific Health Labs in my running waist-bag. I keep post-run granola or cereal bars in my car. I mix CR-333 in a sport bottle or two for drinking while running, and also have a bottle of post run ReHab mixed up to drink as soon as I reach my car at the end of the run. CR-333 and Rehab are available from CarboRocket.com I swear all by their products. If you decide to give them a try, you can use my personal code TOTHEMAX to receive a 25% discount on your first order, or click this link:  https://carborocket.com?sca_ref=283788.xst8wM5N56  

3. Dress appropriately for the temperature. You will sweat while running and you will heat up, but you do not want to be drenched in sweat and overheated. You know your body comfort zone. As I said, it was sub-freezing yesterday for The HumBug Bustle 5K. There were people who ran wearing shorts. I was passed by a very fast female runner who was only wearing a sports bra. It’s possible for many advanced or physically fit runners to do a 5K in under 20 minutes. It takes me twice that on average. I’m a Clydesdale. The last ten people to run yesterday took more than fifty minutes to finish. You need to have a balance of heat loss and core-heat retention. You will lose most of your heat from your head and fingers.

So first and foremost, HAT AND GLOVES!

Wear an appropriate cold-weather hat, preferably with ear flaps that can be deployed if necessary. Wear premium runners gloves. A face buff can protect your face as well as warm the air you breath.

Next layers!  

The fabrics closet to your skin should be moisture-wicking. After that a hoodie and cold weather windbreaker if necessary. Both should have a zip-up front that allows you to vent if needed. Remember you will heat up as you run. Dress as if it’s 20°F warmer than the ambient temperature, but don’t neglect the wind-chill factor or potential precipitation.  You DO NOT want be outside in sub-freezing temperatures underdressed, being pelted by wind, snow and ice. EXPOSURE CAN KILL! As soon as you stop running, you will get cold.

Lastly keep a dry set of clothes in your car.

As soon as possible after your run, change into warm dry clothes.  Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running. You will get cold very quickly especially in clothes wet with perspiration.   

AND THEN THERE WAS COFFEE!

Reward yourself after your winter run with a nice hot cup of coffee, cocoa, or if you prefer, tea. Nothings takes off the edge of winter then having a nice hot drink after a long cold run. You can have your hot beverage of choice waiting for you in a thermos or hot mug your car, or stop for carryout on the way home.

If you have additional cold weather running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:

February 2021

Chilly Cheeks 11k Trail Run February 7 @ 10:00 am Reading, PA

Shiver by the River 10k February 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

Arctic Blast 6k February 20 @ 10:00 am  Birdsboro, PA

March 2021

Ugly Mudder 10k Trail Race March 7 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10k March 14 @ 10:00 am Muhlenberg, PA

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

RUN THE YEAR!

HITTING 2021 RUNNING!

2021 is a whole new  year and now that we’re done putting a bow on 2020, it’s time to dust off the ashes of the old year and do what needs to be done to make 2021 a better year than the dumpster fire we all just survived. I don’t think that there’s a person alive today that will look back on 2020 with fond memories.

So here we are in this new year with another chance to start over once again. As I stated in my previous blog post, this year I’m changing the format of InstantCoffeeWisdom.com a bit.  New content will still be uploaded on Sundays, but only once or twice a month instead of weekly, and I’m shifting the focus away from finance and politics towards running and fitness. You may be asking yourself why. The answers are simple. Over the last three years, I have provided you all the tools and advice you need to get your financial house in order.  I’ve proven by my example to you that just as I am having a comfortable life free from the self-imposed monetary burdens that enslave many people, you too can free yourself from these chains. I have written over 100 articles on budgeting, saving, planning, and investing. I’ve provided you the keys, now you must open the locks and free yourself. You must do it yourself, I cannot do it for you.

As for the lack of discussions of politics, let’s just say that I’m done with politics for the foreseeable future. The results of the 2020 presidential election broke my heart, and I see dark days ahead for my country. Donald J. Trump was the president America needed. May God have mercy on our fallen nation.

As I have said many times in the past, your health is your wealth. Staying strong and healthy will shift the odds in your favor of a long and happy life.

I started 2021 by hitting the ground running. I mean this both figuratively and literally. The phrase ‘hit the ground running’ means to start something and proceed at a fast pace with enthusiasm. On New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2021 I did something again which I did last year. I got up early and went out for a run. Unlike last year though, this time it was a solo run, as well as a virtual race.

Last year when many of my official races were cancelled, I discovered ‘virtual races’. If you are unfamiliar with the term a virtual race is one when you sign up online and pay your entry fee.  Then you pick your own course and distance, and time yourself with your GPS runner’s watch, or phone. You upload the results and you get your medal in the mail.

Now I had signed up for not just one but TWO virtual different virtual races. One for just that day, and one that lasts the entire year.  For New Year’s Day, I selected a virtual race called ‘Run out of the 2020 Zone into the 2021 Zone’ because the finisher’s medal had a Twilight Zone theme to it. This race was sponsored by Goneforarun.com  I was only intending to run a 5K, but I got caught up in my enthusiasm and kept on running. I don’t know what I was thinking when I passed the 10K turnabout point and kept going. It was below freezing and I was not prepared for a long run. For some odd reason, the thought of running a half-marathon popped in my head, but by the time I had run 4.7 miles (7.6K) down the trail,  I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew and had to turn back.  The final 2 miles were a struggle, but another  runner who had passed me earlier was now heading back as well, and she was able to provide encouragement and conversation as we matched pace and ran back to the start.  It was a good thing Kris happened by when she did because I was discouraged and just walking at that point because I was cold and tired. I ended up finishing with a 15K (9.3 miles) that took 2 hours 38 minutes 46 seconds to complete.  The temperate was 24°F (-4°C)

What prompted me to press on beyond my initial intention of just running 5K (3.1 miles) was the OTHER virtual race I had signed up for. For 2021, I had opted to join the RUN THE YEAR CHALLENGE. This is a yearlong virtual race offered by runtheedge.com where you run 2,021 miles in 2021. It has a beautiful finishers medal that anyone would be proud to display.

Now how you run this seemingly impossible distance is entirely up to you. The key is to have a plan, and this is where the 6P Rule comes into play. Simply stated  the 6P Rule is: ‘Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance‘.  Memorize that phrase, learn it and live it. If you are going to be successful, you MUST plan. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Without a proper plan firmly in place at the onset, failure is inevitable.

When you divide 2,021 miles by 365 days you get 5.53 miles per day. That’s not a bad exercise goal to stick to for the year. I do not own a treadmill, there is no space in my apartment.  Running outside is far better, and it’s free. The problem lies with the weather. There are days when running outside is a miserable option, or even out of the question. As I said, right now it’s bloody cold outside, but I am managing to run about  20 miles a week despite the cold weather and the 60+hour work weeks I face at my day job. I’m trying to run distances of at least 7.5 miles at a clip. Sundays are my long runs, so anything up to a half-marathon is possible , weather permitting.  Last Sunday Jan 17th 2021, I ran a winter half-marathon for the 1st time ever. Temperature was 36°F. I chose the 2020 Dumpster Fire Half-Marathon from virtualstrides.com

Just like 2020 was a Dumpster Fire of a year, so was this run. To my credit, I did not give up despite the cold, but this was my worst time ever for completing a race of this distance. 4hours 26Minutes 55seconds. Normally I can run this distance in about 3 hours or less, but I have NEVER run this far in temperatures this frigid, so there is no sense beating myself up over this.

Last night I ran 7.5 miles, and it was a much faster pace.  So far this month I have run 50 miles. Today is Sunday Jan 24th 2021 and I’m going for a long run, probably a 15K again. As I RUN THE YEAR, I will continue to post progress updates as well as upcoming races where I can be found.

NEXT 2 UPCOMING LIVE RACES:

HumBug Bustle 5K Saturday Jan 30th 2021 Reading PA

Shiver by the River 10K Sunday Feb 14 2021 Muhlenberg PA

When the weather gets warmer, I should be able to run further distances and more frequently.  I only have 1,971 more miles to run, and I have the strength and motivation to accomplish it. Perhaps my fitness journey will encourage you to pursue one of your own.  The year is still young. As always I wish you success and happiness!

WATCH IT!

Another record broken!

watch it

‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ —Henry Ford

Stopwatches in one form or another have been around since before the USA was even a country.  The very first stopwatch was called a “physician’s pulse watch” invented by Samuel Watson 1695 as a custom project for surgeon John Floyer. It was able to measure an accuracy of 1/5 of a second.

In 1816 Louis Moinet  created the “compteur de tierces” (1/60 second counter), which looked remarkably like a modern stopwatch, and could be reset at the touch of a button.  This personal scientific instrument was way ahead of its time (no pun intended). It would take another century before a more precise stopwatch would be produced. In 1916 the Heuer watch company produced a  stopwatch accurate to 1/100 of a second.

Since the nineteenth century stopwatches have been an essential tool in  the racing circuit. By 1881 they were joined by the ‘photo finish’ invented by photographer Ernest Marks at a track in Plainfield, N.J to determine winners of  horse races that were ‘too close to call’. These instances where the outcome was to ambiguous to be determined by the naked eye used to be referred to as ‘dead-heats’. In the result of a dead-heat, officials had no choice but to declare the result a tie. Now in the current day improvements in technology, including digital super-slow motion replay, computer tracking,  pressure-sensitive digital timers,  and chip timers have rendered dead-heats all but extinct.

In 1962 science fiction author John D. MacDonald wrote the novel The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything. In the novel Kirby Winter inherits a remarkable stopwatch that can literally stop time for everyone and everything, except for the person holding the watch. Kirby uses this incredible watch to change his life for the better.   

Last month I brought an incredible watch to change my life for the better too, although it’s not as awesome as the watch Kirby Winter had in the aforementioned novel. It was an anniversary gift to myself was I was coming up to the one-year as a runner date.

Just over a year ago I started training for my first  ever race. The event was called Beat Beethoven and held at Alvernia University in Reading PA on Sunday April 28th, 2019.

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The event was timed by Pretzel City Sports, a local race-timing company owned by Ron Horn. I was both excited and terrified. I finished the race and made by goal. I vividly remember being told I did great by a woman who I later found out was Helene, Ron’s wife. My second race was a 15K the Chobert Challenge, also timed by Pretzel City Sports (PCS). My first half Marathon was the Bird-in-Hand Half on September 7, 2019. Although PCS was not timing the event, Ron and Helene were in attendance and again gave great encouragement.  All in all I ran nearly a dozen races last year, picking up tips and making many friends along the way.

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Two things I noticed about my fellow runners, besides the encouragement.

  1. Many of them wore these long socks.
  2.  Many of them had special runner’s watches.

In 2020 I planned to run two dozen races and compete in my first ever full marathon. Then  COVID-19 struck and the virus that shut down the world closed all the gyms and then began cancelling one race after another.  To date all my official timed races that had been slated for April and May have been cancelled or postponed, and June is now looking iffy too. As I had been relying upon timing results and marked distances from these races to chart my progress, this became problematic.  You don’t know how far you’ve come unless you keep accurate records to chart your progress. I don’t even have the treadmill at the gym right now due to this stupid virus!  A runner runs and I refuse to let some  virus  derail my marathon goal!         

Fortunately I have good friends to run with, marked trails to run on, and I was using my smart-phone to keep time, more or less. If you’re going to do any job well, you need the proper tools. Most of my running friends have runner’s watches. So I bit the bullet and made the purchase. (This watch cost more than any of my first 3 used cars!)

I decided to purchase the top-of-the-line tri-athlete Garmin Forerunner 945. Garmin makes one other even more expensive ‘total’ sports watch, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro, but as far as runners are concerned it’s the Forerunner line, and the 945 is the top!

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There are many players in the sport-watch field, but Garmin is widely believed to be the industry leader.

Most runners have the discontinued Forerunner 235 that came out years ago. This is Gina’s 235:

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My 945 has many features that earlier models do not have, as well as all the common features that  runners have come to rely upon. After using my watch for just one month, I have seen a definite improvement in my performance.  For a more detailed list of feature specs on the watch, this is from the Amazon listing:

  • Premium GPS running/triathlon smartwatch with music
  • Download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer (may require premium subscription with a third party music provider)
  • Performance monitoring features include Vo2 Max and training status with adjustments for heat, altitude Acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution (available for supported cards from participating banks) lets you make convenient payments with your watch so you can leave your cash and cards at home
  • Full color, onboard maps guide you on your run so you never get lost during your workout
  • Safety and tracking Features include incident detection (during select activities) which sends your real time location to emergency contacts through your paired compatible smartphone
  • Battery life: Up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours in GPS mode with music or up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode. Display resolution – 240 x 240 pixels

I haven’t  yet mastered all the features as I am still in the learning phase, but this is definitely the king of sport watches, and I have never been more happier with a purchase of a wearable tech product.

The watch tracks and records  all my runs via GPS. It lets me know when I make a new personal record!

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It monitors my heart rate and oxygen levels.

It has a coaching function.

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It makes predictions based on my performance.

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I can download maps!

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It  has a compass!

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Oh, and it can tell time.

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Because of the expense of this item, I highly recommend purchasing an extended warranty, and investing in a screen protector like I did to keep the watch face from getting scratched.  If you are a serious runner, you want to protect this invaluable tool for as long as you own it. As always, I wish you success and happiness!