THE HAMMIE WHAMMY!

A world of pain!

According to a statistic stated by Dr. Nicholas Romanov (world renown running coach) 2 out of 3 people who run get injured. There are several reasons for this, ranging from poor technique to over training or simple freak accidents.  The likelihood of getting injured is a reality that all runners must face at some point. Many of these injuries CAN be avoided if you follow accepted training practices and techniques, as well as following good health and fitness advice. A strong, healthy body will resist injury or illness more readily than a sickly and unhealthy one. If you are not actively making yourself stronger, then you are actively making yourself weaker. It is imperative to maintain proper health and nutrition. The power that made the body has the power to heal the body, but that only works when you give it the proper building blocks it needs to maintain peak-level fitness. Your health is a form of personal wealth, treat it as such.

One of the most common injuries that runners face is the pulled or torn hamstring.

The hamstrings are three muscle-tendons on the back of each thigh that run from your hip to just below your knee.  Their names are the Semitendinosus,  Semimembranosus, and the Biceps femoris.

They function together to control the swing, extension, and retraction of hip and knee while running. A sudden jarring impact or weird twisting motion between landing and launching yourself while in motion can cause the hamstrings to strain beyond normal tolerances causing tears in the muscle fibers.  This is often caused by over-extending  one’s stride and landing heel first. Heavier runners, a.k.a  Clydesdales , have the added stress of a greater body weight increasing stress and strain on muscles and joints, making them more susceptible to injury.

Accidents happen!

Perhaps you got caught up in the moment during a heated race with a rival, or you simply weren’t paying attention because you were distracted and lost focus. WHAM! You suddenly felt a sharp pain in your leg, and or felt a popping sound. You overdid it. Accidents are never intentional, and so you injured your hamstring.  Now what?

When the point of breaking strain has been reached by the hamstrings, there are three degrees (or grades) of injury. Pray for the first two degrees.

1st degree– Mild strain causing sudden pain and tenderness at the back of your knee and thigh. Painful, but you can still limp and walk slowly. Go home and rest.

2nd degree– Partial tearing of the hamstrings, VERY painful and tender with some swelling and a loss of strength in your leg.  If you see bruising, you may want to see a doctor to have him check it.

3rd degree– Severe tearing or full detachment of the hamstring. Immediately go to the hospital! Your leg will be tender, swollen and very bruised, and you will have heard and felt the popping at the moment of injury. You will not be able to stand or walk, and hamstring re-attachment surgery will be required.  This is often a career ending injury.  Months of physical therapy will be required, and your leg will never regain its former strength. This is the worst possible hamstring injury.   

 The road to recovery

In the case of a 1st degree hamstring injury, recovery can occur within 3 weeks, a 2nd degree injury will take longer.  Self-care and rest is recommended, no hospitalization is required. IF you have a specific question as to the severity of your injury, you MAY choose to consult a doctor, but homecare is often the treatment for the 1st and 2nd degree injury. (If you had a 3rd degree injury, you probably left the race in an ambulance. )   

 As you recover,  it is important to take it easy. Avoid excessive physical activities that involve putting stress and strain on your leg. Favor your injured leg, especially when ascending or descending stairs. NO RUNNING!

Use the R.I.C.E therapy method. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)


 Light stretching exercises and foam roller therapy  will aid in the recovery process.

Avoid pain killers such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Painkillers mask the pain, pain is your friend. It tells you to STOP DOING THAT. If you can’t feel the pain you’ll keep hurting the injury without knowing it, making things worse. Use topical pain-relieving gels or ointments like ICY HOT, TIGER BALM, BIOFREEZE, or BLUE EMU. Pro-tip, always spring for the MAXIMUM or ULTRA strengths, and don’t waste your money on the dollar-store knock-offs.

The key take-away is rest up, slow down, take time to heal , and live to race another day!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

AUGUST 2021

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 5/7 August 19th @7:00 pm Reading PA

Be sure to check back  on August 8th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

SLOW AND STEADY!

80/20 wins the race!

At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, runner Emil Zátopek of Czechoslovakia won 3 gold medals. He took running’s highest honor at the games  in both the 5,000 (24 July 1952)and 10,000 (20 July 1952)  meter runs, and then decided AT THE LAST MINUTE to run the marathon (27 July 1952) FOR THE FIRST TIME!  Zátopek is the ONLY runner to win all three gold medals at the same Olympic games.  Runner’s World Magazine declared him to be the greatest runner of all time in 2013. He pioneered the use of High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T) known to most runners today just as intervals or speed-work.

Zátopek was a beast! A force of nature. His grueling training regiment topped out at 175 miles (281.63 kilometers) per week! Protégés who attempted to mimic his training methods burned out after a few years, or seriously injured themselves.

Speed-work is the most widely embraced method to improve running performance, BUT it is NOT the ONLY way. It is possible to get fast by going SLOW!

An unlikely coincidence

When Emil Zátopek first hit upon the idea of H.I.I.T (pun intended) he was working in a shoe factory in Zlin, Czechoslovakia. A couple of years later on the other side of the world, Arthur Lydiard was working in a shoe factory in Auckland, New Zealand.  He came up with the notion that the key way to maximize running fitness was by tacking on distance running at a slow pace. A quantity over quality approach designed to build up stamina and endurance.  Lydiard fancied himself to be in fantastic shape. He played rugby! One fateful day, his friend Jack Dolan (a central figure in the Auckland running community) goaded Arthur into running against him in a 5 mile race. Needless to say, rugby training doesn’t carry over well into short distance running. Lydiard got his ass kicked by Dolan. The race nearly killed him. His humiliation at the hands of his friend was what lead him to the idea of adding distance and decreasing the pace. 

Lydiard realized that no runner, regardless of training or ability, can sustain their top speed for more than  half a mile. After that, their pace would decrease incrementally over distance as fatigue set in. Any runner who has run middle to long distance races is familiar with the concept that it’s not the distance that kills you, it’s the pace. Runners who shoot out like jackrabbits at the start of the race sometimes find themselves being passed by runners who slowly crept back up by running at a much slower race.

Arthur Lydiard spent many months perfecting his slow training method. At the height of his training, he was running 250 miles (402.3 kilometers) a week!  This proved to be too much.  Lydiard soon realized that he felt best when running 100 to 120 miles per week, and that he could always run again after a day of training if he kept the pace slow. He also played with the pace, alternating distances, etc.

Once he had it all figured out, his typical training week was:

  • Monday 10 miles
  • Tuesday  15 miles
  • Wednesday  12 miles
  • Thursday 18 miles
  • Friday 10 miles
  • Saturday 15 miles
  • Sunday 24 miles

Arthur Lydiard never personally won a Gold medal at the Olympics, but he did coach protégés who took 2 gold medals at the 1960 games in Rome. His training methods evolved into what is known as 80/20 running. the 80/20 rule of running training states that 80% of your weekly training time should be done at an easy effort level, with 20% consisting of harder running. Getting the miles is more important than speed-work. This flies in the face of logic for many, but the idea is about maintaining your heart rate in certain zones, while training your mind that this running thing ‘isn’t so bad’.  Your pace should be below the ventilatory threshold, meaning that you can carry on a conversation while running,  and you are not winded and gasping for air.

If I only had a brain…

Running is more of a mental discipline than it is physical. As your body grows fatigued, your brain begins to say STOP. You start thinking to yourself ‘I can’t do this anymore’. Here’s the thing, our bodies are capable of going further even though our minds are telling us that we can’t do this anymore. It’s like a fail-safe. We ‘think’ we are at our limit, so our mind tells us to stop, but in reality we can push ourselves much further than we thought possible. By focusing on distance rather than time, we train the body and the mind at the same time. By keeping our heart rate in a lower zone by running at a slower pace, we can run further without setting off the mental alarm bells telling us to STOP! It really is all in your head.

The week of SLOW

The biggest mind challenge for the runner is to keep a slow pace while knowing that you can run much faster.  This is about distance, NOT time. When we race, we want the best time. 80/20 training is all about keeping it slow and steady. Training should never be at your race pace! 80% of your runs should be done at low intensity. You should feel like you can just keep running all day if you had to.  You were born to run! Running is as natural as breathing. You wouldn’t stop breathing because  you were too tired, would you? The remaining 20% of your training is done at moderate to high intensity, but also just shy of race pace.

AGAIN training is NOT racing. Save that burst of incredible speed for the big race, but don’t run so fast that you burnout 20% short of the finish line. Smile and wave as you pass the jackrabbits who shot ahead at the start.

80/20 vs the Clydesdale

Clydesdales are a race horse of a different color, and 80/20 training is a trickier proposition. A Clydesdale is a term for an larger, overweight runner. We are a separate racing division , pursing our own path to fitness. Depending on what source you site, the pace between running and walking transitions between 12mph and 15mph. Clydesdales usually run at a much slower pace than the average runner, so there is much less wiggle room to run slow. I am a Clydesdale, and the struggle is real. No Clydesdale is ever going to burn up the track and take 1st place overall in a race unless that horse is on fire!

My fastest pace mile to date is 10min 1sec. My average pace is between 12min and 13min per mile. I can sustain a 12 minute per mile pace for up to one hour, after that my pace drops like a rock. This is why I am studying 80/20 running vs. High Intensity Interval Training. This body was not built for speed.

A skinny runner who can manage a 6-minute mile can effortlessly transition to a 12-minute mile. A Clydesdale who already runs at a 12-minute mile is hardly running much slower at a 15-minute pace by comparison.

If a ‘skinny’ runs 5 miles at a 6min pace, they are done in 30 minutes. A Clydesdale running a 12min pace takes ONE HOUR to cover the same distance. Our race takes longer, and the mental fatigue telling us to give up is that much more intense at the finish. The ONLY way to overcome this is to condition our mind and body toward increased stamina and endurance via 80/20 training.

For more information on 80/20 running, I highly recommend the book 80/20 RUNNING by Matt Fitzgerald. The book also contains dozens of pages of training plans for 5K to full marathon, and was used as the source material for this article.

You can find me at these upcoming races:

JULY 2021

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 4/7 July 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

Be sure to check back  on July 25th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

OUCH!

It’s NOT supposed to hurt!

Chances are even if you are a new or novice runner, you’ve come across one or more of the following slogans:

No pain, no gain!

Pain is weakness leaving the body.

Seven days without running makes one weak.

Push past the pain.

Embrace the suck!

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Motivational mottos such as these are a double-edged sword. Pain is your body’s way of informing you that something is wrong, and ignoring that warning can lead to a worse injury. Always listen to your body.  Now when I say pain, I am not referring to the good pain that comes after a workout where you may have sore achy muscles and mild fatigue, I am talking about that bad pain where standing is an effort and every step hurts. The former is normal, the latter is not.

Running is normal and natural. It should NEVER be painful. If it is, you’re not doing it right, or there’s something physically wrong with you.

 According to statistics cited by Yale Medicine, each year more than 50% of regular runners experience an injury.  Sometimes it is associated with an accidental trip and fall, but more often than not the cause is poor diet, overuse injuries, and over training.

Common injuries include stress fractures, broken bones, torn ligaments or tendons, and knee pain. The good news is that most of these injuries can be avoided through proper diet and training. Running is NOT bad for you, it is in fact very good. You were born to run.

You are what you eat.

The power that made the body is the same power that can heal and restore the body, but that only works if you give your body the building blocks it needs to repair itself.

The typical American diet is high in fat and processed sugar, and lacking in protein and essential nutrients. As a result, two out of every three Americans is overweight and in poor health.

The human body requires calcium for strong bones, and protein and amino acids for strong muscles. As a runner, the first step towards insuring a strong and injury-resistant body is a proper balanced diet that supplies the essential nutrients you require. If you feed your body junk, you will have a junk body. Junk breaks easily and doesn’t last. You are NOT junk, you are a runner! If you are not actively working to make your body stronger, then you are actively working to make your body weaker! Now cut the crap, get rid of the junk food, and start eating healthy!       

 Switch it up!

You can avoid overuse injuries by alternating hard training with easy training Every run does not have to be done at your top pace, slow it down and save top-speed for race day . Don’t go for many long runs during the week, keep it short and save the long run for the weekend, either Saturday or Sunday, BUT NOT BOTH! Also, the day after the long run should be a rest day. Limit your mileage to 45 miles per week. (Yes, I know this is going to rub ultra-runners the wrong way but you guys are atypical, and awe-inspiring. )

SAY NO TO DRUGS!

NSAIDS (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) are bad for you! Avoid painkillers like Ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen at all costs! All drugs have side-effects and they just mask the pain, they don’t cure the problem. If you can’t feel the injury, you also can’t feel how much worse it’s becoming as you keep running on it.   

DON’T OVER TRAIN!

There are many training programs for runners of all levels, many  available online and free. Stick to the program. It should keep you on track, but make sure the training program is suitable to your ability. If you are a NEW or novice runner, use a training program designed for new and novice runners.  When I trained for my first marathon, I used the Hal Higdon plan. I assure you it does work, and there is a plan for the new runner.  If your training program ramps up too quickly for your physical ability, you may need to modify it by repeating the earlier weeks until you can step up to the next level. BE AWARE HOWEVER, that if you are following a 20 week training program, you may miss your goal by adding extra weeks. That was why I started my 20 week program 26 weeks before my marathon was slated to allow time in case I was not ready. Always plan ahead and allow yourself extra time. Also, an essential component of training is the rest and recovery period between exercises. By following a training program, you will have set rest days listed on the grid to keep you from overdoing it.

KNOW WHEN TO STOP!

Okay, this next one’s a biggie, and I’m guilty of it! Sometimes, despite all the training and preparation, we get swept up in the moment. Maybe the excitement of the race or the spirit of competition was the spark that ignited our fire, but we chose to let it burn out of control. Sometimes it’s running beyond our normal pace and burning out before the end of the race. I’ve done that. Ran out too fast at the beginning and by the end of the race the runners I blew past are now passing me and I’m struggling to keep up. The worst however was my ‘accidental’ marathon on November 22nd 2020. I was running a 10-hour endurance race at French Creek State Park. My goal that day was to run the 4-mile course six times for a total of 24 miles, a personal distance record. (They also had milestone partial laps to gain certain distances like marathon, 50K, or even 50 miles.)  I did the 24 miles in eight hours, with two hours remaining on the clock. I had achieved my goal.  Suddenly I got a wild hair and decided to attempt another full lap, and a partial to complete a 50K! I would have been fine at 24 miles, but I didn’t know when to stop. I was tired, but I felt ok so I took off at break-neck speed. 1.23 miles into my 7th lap, I tripped on a rock and slammed into the ground full-force at top-speed. I had just past the marathon turnaround sign. The force of the impact triggered the emergence alert beacon on my Garmin informing my emergency contacts that I was hurt.

I bruised my IT band, and a few painful steps made it clear that I was incapable of finishing lap 7 and doing a partial lap 8 for a 50K distance. Since I was just 50 yards past the marathon sign, I turned back and limped in pain towards the finish line. It took me an hour to limp back that last mile. My knees and hip were bruised. I could barely stand and for the next three days I was hardly able to walk.  Again, had I quit when I was ahead, I would never have gotten hurt. I was VERY lucky the injuries were not more severe.   All because I wanted a 50K, but at least I got a marathon, albeit a painful one.

BUT MY FRIEND CAN!

Comparison is the enemy of contentment. I have running friends who can run six-minute miles, or can run distances of fifty miles or more. I also have non-running friends who are barely able to get off the couch. Last year I was training hard and I was able to run a half-marathon in under three hours. This year I’m struggling and my times are sucking. I’m envious of my faster running friends and my ultra-running friends. Someday I’d like to run a 50K or a 100K. My friends can do it now. I can’t. Likewise I have non-running friends who couldn’t run a mile to save their lives. It’s all a matter of perspective. Three years ago, I couldn’t run a 5K, now I’m capable of running up to 26.2 miles in a single day. You have to start somewhere, but the key is TO START! Nothing happens overnight or by itself. I am better, stronger, faster, and thinner than I was three years ago. I was inspired by a running friend then and decided to do something about it. Along the way  I met and was encouraged by new running friends. Now I inspire and encourage other runners who are new or struggling.  The bottom line is that your success or failure rests solely upon your shoulders. You are the ONLY one who can make yourself strong and healthy. You can do it, I believe in you!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

JULY 2021

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 4/7 July 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

Be sure to check back  on July 10th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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!

FOR THE RECORD!

How far, how fast? Who’s first, who’s next?

The first modern Olympic games were held in Athens Greece from April 6th to 15th, 1896. 280 male athletes  from 12 different countries competed in 43 events. There were twelve track-and-field events held at the ancient Panathinaiko Stadium which was built around 300 B.C and is the ONLY stadium in the world constructed entirely of marble.    

One world record (WR) was set, a few Olympic Records (OR) were established, and nine of the 12 events were won by Americans. The events and winners were:

Track

100 m USA Thomas Burke 12.0

400 m  USA Thomas Burke  54.2

800 m AUS  Edwin Flack 2:11.0   

1500 m  AUS Edwin Flack 4:33.2

110 m hurdles USA Thomas Curtis 17.6 OR

Road

Marathon GREECE Spyidon Louis 2:58:50 OR (finish line at stadium)

Field

Long jump USA Ellery Harding Clark 6.35 OR        

Triple jump USA James Brendan Connolly 13.71 OR

High jump USA Ellery Clark 1.81 OR         

Pole vault USA William Hoyt 3.30 (height)

Shot put USA Robert Garrett 11.22 OR  

Discus throw USA Robert Garrett 29.15 WR

The most notable of these twelve events for the modern runner is the 100m dash and the marathon.

In 2009, the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt set the current world record for the 100 meter in an incredible 9.58 seconds.

When Spyidon Louis ran that first modern marathon on April 10th , 1896 he entered the record books to great fanfare. On the last lap he was joined in the run by the crown prince of Greece, and their entrance into the Panathinaiko to cross the finish line interrupted the pole vault event already in progress. Spyidon became a national hero, and retired from racing.

For the rest of the 20th century, marathon runners chipped away at his 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds.  In 1925 Albert Michelsen (USA) got it under 2:30 when he ran 2:29:01.8 on October 12th. By 1963, the record was whittled to under 2:15 when Leonard Edelen (USA) ran 2:14:28 on June 15th. The record time remained above two hours for the remainder of the 20th Century and was down to 2:05:42 set by Khalid Khannouchi (Morocco) on October 24th 1999 at the Chicago Marathon. The current world record holder of the marathon is Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. He ran 2:01:39 on September 16, 2018 at the Berlin Marathon. He is ALSO the first man in history to run a marathon in less than 2 hours, an feet he accomplished in Vienna in 1:59:40 on October 12th, 2019.

(This is NOT considered an official world record because it was not run in open marathon conditions, and was set on a course cherry-picked for speed. Kipchoge was accompanied by a dense rotation of pacesetters, and the event is considered to be a symbolic record.) 

Sadly, the mile is NOT an Olympic event although the mile is a standard for all modern professional middle distance runners.

Roger Bannister was the first man to run the mile in under 4 minutes, on May 6, 1954. His time was 3:59.4 and John Landy followed 46 days later with a time of 3:57.9 .  To date, over 1,400 athletes have broken a  four-minute mile. The current record holder is Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco who ran 3:43.13 on  July 7th 1999.

The point is this, the two most important record holders as far as the world is concerned are the person who established the first record, because there is ONLY one first time, and the current record holder because that is the mark to beat! Only elite runners will ever hold world records and compete in the Olympics, and that’s OK! The level of training and dedication needed to reach that tier of competition far exceeds the commitment times of the average runner. A lot of sacrifices need to be made, and even if you do manage to set a new world record, it’s only a matter of time before a younger. faster athlete claims the title. No matter how fast you are, there is always someone faster.

This is why the PERSONAL RECORD or PR is vital for the average athlete or weekend warrior. Seeing one’s progress is an essential tool for continued encouragement and self-esteem. I will never be an Olympic runner, nor will I ever be considered elite. Last year I set PR after PR, so I have my own times to beat. I managed to break into the top-five in my division TWICE last year, claiming 5th place each time.

Last week, I had my most unusual 5K race ever. I was pacing myself differently, concentrating on my cadence and my breathing in a attempt to improve my time which has taken a nose-dive this year.  You tend to know who you are competing against in your division, and the final leg of the race I was neck and neck with fellow Clydesdale Joe Marano.  It’s great to have someone of a similar pace to run against. Iron sharpens iron! I HONESTLY BELIEVED there was one spot left in the top 5 for Clydesdales, and I was eager to reclaim that honor. I let Joe know in no uncertain terms that I was not giving up, and like Rocky and Apollo Creed we were going to the 9th round! I had the EYE OF THE TIGER! With 100 yards to the finish line Joe cried “LET’S DO THIS!” and we both broke into a mad dash for the finish line. I have never had to race against a competitor in the final seconds of a race, and I gave it everything I had. Joe beat me by ONE SECOND.  38:40 vs 38:41.

seconds after crossing the finish line.

As dumb luck would have it, the 5th place spot had already been claimed ten minutes earlier, we actually placed 7th and 8th respectively. Joe was better than me that day, he beat me fair and square.  I still have another five races in this series to attempt to break back into the top 5 once again. It may NOT happen this year. 28 minutes is 5 minutes faster than my PR for a 5K. Every race is different, and the runners in the starting line-up changes constantly.  Best I can do is to try and chip away at my time each race.

I’m content with being in the top five, and taking 4th place is my NEXT GOAL. I may NEVER achieve a first place victory, but I’m a million times better than the couch-potatoes who choose not to run. Becoming a runner back in 2019 changed my life for the better!     

You can find me at these upcoming races:

JUNE 2021

Dumb Dutchman Half Marathon June 13 @ 8:30 am Reading PA

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 3/7 June 17 @7:00 pm Reading PA (race day sign up only! $13)

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

Be sure to check back  on June 13th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

FOOLISH RUNNING!

Once more, with feeling!

Today is Sunday April 25th, 2021. I am in Gettysburg running the half-marathon, bib#1305.  I consider the last Sunday in April to be my ‘runnerversary’, or the anniversary of my first-ever race 2 years ago. That was the BEAT BEETHOVEN 5K  on April 28th, 2019. The race was held at Alvernia Universary and timed by Pretzel City Sports.  My original intent in 2020 was to run all the races I ran in 2019 to see if I improved, but all of the races I ran that first year either were cancelled or went virtual. As I begin to enter my third year as a runner, there have only been 3 courses that I have gotten to do a re-run on. Today in Gettysburg will be my third re-run of a previous course that I have run in the past. Although typically held the last Sunday in April, The 2020 Gettysburg Blue Grey Half Marathon was postponed to October 18th. I ran 2:57:56.8 and my  bib was #883. Hopefully I will beat that time today, but an insane workload at my day job has seriously impacted my training and recovery days.

The OTHER two courses I had the privilege of running again this month were the Third Thirsty Thursday 5K course at the Thun trail in Reading PA and the 1st Annual April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run in French Creek State Park (both are Pretzel City Sports events). My time for the April 15th TTT 5K was just about 4.6 minutes shy of my 33:22 PR, but I have six more attempts this rear since this is a monthly race held the 3rd Thursday of each month from April till October.

Last Sunday April 18th, 2021 was the 1st Annual April Foolish 10 Hour Endurance Trail Run. Now you might be puzzled on how a person can run a FIRST ANNUAL race for the second time, but that takes a little explaining. Let’s start by saying that I ran FOOLISH before it was FOOLISH!

In 2020 many races were canceled, postponed, relocated, or even made virtual. I spent 2020 training very hard for the 2020 Philly Marathon which never happened. Pretzel City Sports has an annual  LABOR PAIN 12 Hour Endurance Trail Run normally held the Sunday before Labor Day on Mt Penn. In 2020, the city of Reading refused to grant a permit that year, so the race was moved to a temporary location in French Creek State Park, changed to a 10 hour race, and re-scheduled to  Sunday November 22nd, 2020. By sheer co-incidence this was the exact same date as the cancelled 2020 Philly Marathon, so I signed up. This was my first, only, and LAST LABOR PAIN. I am usually out of state the tradition weekend it is held, and I have run up Mt Penn enough times to know when to quit. It may be a small mountain, but it has some treacherous climbs best left for skilled trail runners. If Chilly Cheeks 10K didn’t ram that point home, the Half-wit Half Marathon up and down Mt Penn nailed that notice to my door with a railroad spike!

The alternate course and location for the 2020 LABOR PAIN proved to be a hit with local runners who found it easier, but still challenging. As a result, this alternate course became a new race in its own right, and The ‘FIRST’  (kinda, sorta, in a way….) Annual April Foolish Endurance Trail Run was born! 

I have run less than a dozen trail runs, but this is my favorite trail course. Both of my two marathons were run on this course.    

My first attempt last year resulted in a injury. I hit the ground so hard at the 25 mile point so hard that I triggered the emergency alert on my Garmin 945 Forerunner.

My IT band painfully informed me that my attempt at a 50K was over, but I could still limp back and earn my first marathon which I did. I had a few cuts, my legs were covered with bruises, and it took me over a hour to limp that last mile, but I did it! My awesome friends waited for me and helped get me and my gear to my car.

Stephanie and Justin Kershner, Greg Aramptzis, and myself.

 I was unable to walk for two days after the race, but I mended fast and was even able to run a 15K trail run two weeks later.   

Now for my second attempt at this course I had one goal. DO NOT GET HURT! I still wanted a 50K ultra, but I definitely wanted to run this race pain-free. I paced myself entirely differently than I did the first time I did this course. 

The course is basically a 4 mile loop on the trails around Hopewell Lake. At about the 3 mile point, there is a picnic area where you can set up camp and restock your gels, snacks, and drinks, or take a rest between loops if needed.  

At about the 3.7 mile mark, there was this hellacious mud pit that was 3-4 inches deep which threatened to steal my shoes!

Half of the course was flat or paved.  About one third was uphill. There was a series of steps to run down near the dam.

There was ONE long paved downhill section of nearly a half mile, which you only had to go back up if you were doing a partial out-and-back milestone distance.

The rest was true trail running territory, rocks the size of baseballs, twisted roots of evil, thorn bushes, etc.

Again this was a TEN HOUR endurance race, however many times you decide to run the loop was up to you, but if you couldn’t complete the final lap of the day within the TEN HOUR TIME LIMIT, based upon prior lap times,  race director Ron Horn would not allow you to continue beyond 10 hours, no exceptions.  If you were going for a milestone distance such as MARATHON, 50K or 50 MILES, there were signs posted on trees with instructions to turn back at that partial point of the lap and run back to the start/finish line. 

It sounds a little complicated, but it’s really not. Here’s an example for the marathon distance which is what I ended up doing, again, just injury free this time. You run six laps of 4 miles each, for a total of 24 miles, next you run a partial 7th lap running out 1.1 miles to the turn-back sign. From that sign, you run the 1.1 miles back the way you just came, giving you the final 2.2 mile distance needed for the 26.2 mile marathon goal. Simple huh?  

And you don’t have to run the entire ten hours either. If you just want to run 4 or 5 loops and go home, that’s ok. This is YOU vs YOU. You decided when enough was enough. Of course, there always are runners who are there to compete and try to get the next course distance record.  In 2020, the distance records were held by M: Andrew Simpson – 72 miles in 9:49:51 and F: Dixie Bonner 52 miles in 9:34:37 and those records still stand today.

Of the 228 runners of this race, 17 including my friend Greg Arampatzis ran distances of 50 miles or more. 141 ran 50K or more including my friend Justin Kershner. I was one of 22 people who opted for the marathon. I really wanted the 50K, but I wanted to not get hurt more. I took it slow and steady, running at top speed only on flat or paved surfaces.  

My official time was  9:35:43 exactly 14 minutes slower than last year’s 9:21:43. I’ll take that.  Marathon distance is no joke, and trail running is not for the faint hearted.  I heard that one runner took off at top speed early in the race, and received an injury that required a hospital trip.  There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself way out of your comfort zone, but it does come with risks. A comfort zone is a nice safe place, but nothing grows there, and you will never know what you are capable of accomplishing if you refuse to take it to the limit. In 1994 TLC released a song titled Waterfalls which had the line “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to…”  Let me tell you from personal experience that that is a load of crap advice fit for losers! The same people who don’t chase waterfalls, don’t run marathons!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

May 2021

PA Dutch Half May 2 @ 7:00 am Marietta, PA 17547

Chobot Challenge 15k Trail Run May 16 @ 9:00 am Rustic Park, Birdsboro, PA 19508

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 2/7 May 20 @7:00 pm Reading PA (in-person race day sign up only)

Be sure to check back in two weeks on May 9th 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!

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!