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!

WELL RESTED?

The spirit is willing but…

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. Genesis 2:2

Today is Sunday May 9th, 2021. In the USA it is Mother’s Day. It is also this first day in weeks that I have not had a race, so I slept in, and boy did I ever sleep! Unless I am burning  vacation days , Sunday has been my ONLY day off this entire year, and for the foreseeable future. Worse than the lack of time off is that fact that due to a shortage of personnel at my day job, I’m straddled with mandatory, forced overtime. The abundance of 12-hour work days is great for greedy individuals who never seem to have enough money, but it is hard on the body. If you add commute time to and from work, I am DEFINITELY not getting enough sleep. Every day I get home from work exhausted, and each morning I wake up tired. My co-workers are in the same situation, as are many workers across the US who are likewise being impacted by a shortage of employees in the workplace.

Another downside of constant work is that I can no longer find time to train for my races, so my performance has returned to where it was when I began running and this is very depressing. Training requires both time and commitment, but the training effect runs both ways. When you are training, you get faster and build muscle along with stamina and endurance. When you stop training you lose all the benefits of training as your body naturally reverts to its normal state.  Training must be consistent, and scheduled.

My day job is a physically demanding one, I’m outside all day long, running up and down stairs carrying packages and making deliveries. It’s not uncommon for me to walk 7-10 miles every workday.  The only thing I can control right now is my level of nutrition as I hope for a return to a normal 40-hour work week NEXT YEAR. This year however is completely shot. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak so I’m just going to have to face facts that my performance times at races this year are going to just plain suck.  It’s demoralizing knowing that you are capable of running a 10-minute mile, and now you are barely capable of running a 15-minute mile. I just don’t know what else to do at this point, and I am frustrated and I am running on empty .

You can find me at these upcoming races:

May 2021

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

Be sure to check back  on May 30th 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!

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!