FEEL THE BRRR!

Baby it’s cold outside!

Today is January 9th, 2022 and it’s the 3rd week of winter. The unpredictability of winter weather can pose difficulties for the safety of runners.   

Today was ‘supposed’ to be a race day. It’s not  because of another four letter word, snow. Snow which melts a bit, then re-freezes and becomes known as ‘sleet’, or little pellets of ice. If it doesn’t re-freeze on its journey from the clouds to the ground, it arrives instead as ‘freezing rain’. If air turbulence bounces the precipitation up and down repeatedly for a prolonged period, allowing the snow/rain/sleet particles to melt, freeze, melt again, refreeze and merge with other particles as it hits them, we wind up with hail. Hail is pretty rare as far as precipitation goes, but it has been known to destroy cars, roves,  crops, windows and even kill people or animals not fortunate enough to find shelter in time.

You probably recall the terrible fate that befell a group of runners in China last year.  

On May 22nd, 2021 21 Chinese ultra-marathoners died from exposure to freezing temperatures. The ill-fated 100K race took place at 9am at the Yellow River Stone Forest in the Gansu province of China. The forecast that day predicted some wind and rain, but a freak winter storm caught the participants off guard at a mountainous section of the course. The unfortunate runners were pelted by hail, heavy rains and gales as the temperatures sharply plummeted three hours after the start of the race.

Two of the casualties included 31-year old Liang Jing, one of the most accomplished ultramarathoners in China, and 34 year-old Huang Guanjun  a hearing-impaired Paralympian marathoner. 

172 runners went missing in the limited visibility, but were found by rescue teams before they succumbed to the elements. 6 ‘comparatively lucky’ runners were rescued by  local sheep herder Zhu Keming. He had been sheltering the storm in a cave were he stashed emergency  supplies when he saw one of the participants. As he guided the man to the cave, four other runners arrived. A fire was built. Zhu then rescued a sixth man. The four men and three women  warmed themselves and dried their wet clothes until the storm passed.

There are two things to keep in mind here. 

1. You cannot predict the weather to 100% certainty. You can only make an educated guess based on available data. The officials running the Yellow River Stone Forest 100K made a horrible, bad call on allowing the race to start when they received late-breaking information of worsening storm conditions. As a result, good people died, and charges of criminal negligence were filled against the organizers of the race.

2. Expect the unexpected.  Ultramarathoners  tend to know their stuff, but sometimes that also leads to overconfidence.  I cannot imagine running 62 miles with an impending storm wearing only shorts and a light jacket, or worse, no jacket at all. Yet some chose to because they were comfortable wearing the lighter gear. It is better to have what you don’t need, than to need what you don’t have.  I have already had seasoned runners chide me about my large waist pouch, but it’s my choice to carry gear if I believe I may need it. I’m a Clydesdale, and I’m also not the fastest horse in the race.

My late mother used to tell the temperature by the calendar. It didn’t matter if it was one of those weird January days when the temperature nearly hit 60°F (16°C) and it was sunny. You had to put on six layers, gloves, a hat, boots, and a 12′ knitted scarf that you could wrap around your neck four times and still trip on.  The woman, God rest her soul, had no clue! You dress accordingly and everyone has a different comfort level. Listen to your body!  I have seen people run outdoors in winter wearing shorts, while others looked like they were dressing for an expedition to the North Pole.  

You can’t skip a season of running because it’s cold outside, and no one wants to run like a deranged hamster on a treadmill for months.  So sign up for those winter races because a runner runs and it’s fun to race with your friends and peers. Just dress accordingly.

The key is to wear layers, and have a hat and gloves SHOULD YOU NEED THEM.

You want to keep your core temperature at 98.6°F (37°C) and protect your skin from frostbite in cold temperatures.  When you are done with your run, you want to quickly change into warm dry clothing so keep a change of clothes (including socks) in your vehicle.

If you are running alone in winter, keep distances SHORT, and stick to well traveled trails. These is nothing wrong with doing a morning 5K followed by an afternoon or evening 5K. You just don’t want to get injured or stranded miles away from help.

If you are running in darkness, wear reflective clothing and use a light. Options include headlamps, sneaker lights, LED rope-vests, blinker bands, or a simple flashlight. Just make sure you  can see and be seen.

Wear appropriate footwear, with optional ice-cleat clamp-ons  for icy conditions. You can even purchase neoprene toe-warmers to wear over your socks.

Running outside in winter doesn’t have to be a bad experience as long as you dress smart and always keep personal safety in mind!

You can find me at these upcoming local races.

January 2022

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #2 of 4 NEW DATE January 16th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

February 2022

Arctic Blast 5K February 5 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #3 of 4  February 13th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Ugly Mudder 9.5K Trail Race February 19 @ 10:00 am Reading PA (still tentative due to my hamstring issue)

Be sure to check back  on January 30th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

It’s the Most ‘RUN’derful Time of the Year!

Shivering by the river in Muhlenberg PA

Today is the 12th of December 2021 and Christmas is 13 days away! It’s also the second Sunday in December and the start of the 34th Annual SHIVER BY THE RIVER 5K & 10K Winter Race series.  Each year this 4 race series is held by the PAGODA PACERS athletic club (PAC) , a regional Berks County running club founded in 1980.  Shiver by the River is held on the second Sunday of each month at 10AM from December through March. The course starts at Dietrich Park Muhlenberg  and loops though a nearby housing community before heading back to the park. The course is well-marked and staffed by volunteers to keep you con course . The race is timed by another local running giant, PRETZEL CITY SPORTS (PCS).

Although SHIVER is not specifically a Christmas-themed race, the  first race of the series usually marks one of the last times local runners can wish one another a Merry Christmas before December 25th. The  ONLY one other local race between now and then is PCS’s Humbug Bustle 5K on Dec 18th. On the day after Christmas, the PAGODA PACERS will hold a 5 Mile Kris Kringle Run in Leesport PA.  Many runners today, (myself included) dressed in Christmas running attire.

4 Winter Running Tips

  • Always have a hat and gloves YOU MIGHT NEED THEM
  • Always have a running jacket YOU MIGHT NEED IT
  • Always have shoe-cleats YOU MIGHT NEED THEM
  • Always have a dry change of clothes YOU MIGHT NEED IT

In the winter, temperatures can vary drastically by region. Today in Berks County, it was 43°F (6°C). The sun was shining brightly, but there were occasional wind gusts.  It was cool enough that I was very glad I had a runner’s jacket in my car. Just my red t-shirt would not have been enough, buy my Santa Cap kept my head warm.   Thankfully we have yet to have a regional snowfall, so the streets were nice and dry.  It was just warm enough that I could keep my jacket un-zipped to vent, so I did not work up a sweat. The key to safe winter running is to be prepared for the unexpected. On a short 5K loop, the furthest distance away from your vehicle may only be 2.5K (1.55 miles) but that can be a cold and miserable run back. You can always shed a layer if you need to, but it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Hypothermia kills.  

Know your limits

The Shiver series gives you the OPTION of doing a second 5K lap provided you make the first round before the designated cutoff time of 50 minutes.

I have ALWAYS run the second lap ever since I started in 2019. Today I had every intention of doing so once again.  Unfortunately for the past 5 months I have been plagued by a hamstring injury that just will not heal. I was doing well up until mile 2.5, then I began to feel the discomfort in the back of my knee. I did get my lap in before the cutoff time, but I could not be certain that I could finish a second lap if I dared it. I hesitated 15 seconds before I turned right to the finish line instead of left to an uncertain outcome. Yes, I was disappointed that my knee let me down once again, but IF I had not listened to my body and stopped when I did, I might have made things worse and possibly missed even more upcoming races.

Running is supposed to be fun

The joy of running these great local races held by both PAC and PSC is that you get to see familiar faces and are surrounded by friends. The power of a few encouraging words and thumbs-up from your fellow runners can be all the difference between a good time and a bad one.  I carried a small Bluetooth speaker in my running bag today and played upbeat Christmas music as I ran. I wished people Merry Christmas. I told people they were doing great, and they had this in the bag. I had a good time that my non-running friends will never get, and I outran everyone who sat home. I had a great time.

ANOTHER YEAR OVER, A NEW ONE HAS BEGUN!

In regards to running 2021 didn’t turn out the way I intended. I got hurt, missed races, and my times went from personal bests to personal worsts. The good news is that I was able to run as many races as I did. I didn’t quit, I didn’t give up. My times are slowly dropping back towards my normal, and hopefully by Spring I’ll be able to start running half-marathons again, and by November I’ll be ready for that elusive Philly Marathon that keeps slipping through my fingers. I would not be half the runner I am today were it not for the support and encouragement of all my running friends.

December 2021

HumBug Bustle 5k December 18 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Kris Kringle 5 Mile Run December 26 @ 10:00 am Leesport PA

January 2022

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #2 of 4 January 9th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Well this closes the book on another year, as Christmas is in less than two weeks. InstantCoffeeWisdom will return in the New Year. Be sure to check back  on Janury 9th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

STEP UP YOUR GAME!

Work those legs!

(This is the second article in a series of body weight exercises for runners. For the first article read WORKING THE PLANK)

Most health care experts cite a weekly minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of high-intensity exercise, or an equivalent combination of the two. Additionally, at least two-three days should be used for strength training.  A more basic rule of thumb is 30 minutes of exercise daily with one rest day off each week.  Two of the biggest excuses given by people for not exercising are:

No time to get to the gym

Don’t have the proper equipment.

The beauty of body weight exercises is that they can be done practically anywhere, and require little or no equipment.

Running is a body weight exercise. When you run your feet and legs are propelling your entire body mass forward. Just as a strong core means faster run times, so do stronger feet and legs. If you are not actively working to make yourself stronger, then you are actively making yourself weaker. So if you’ve mastered working the plank, it’s time to step up your game and focus on your legs.

There are five major muscled groups in the legs, the quadriceps, the hip flexors,  the hamstrings, the glutes, and the calves.

Think you know SQUAT?

Squats are essentially deep knee bends which work most of the muscles in the lower body including:

  • gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius (buttocks)
  • quadriceps (front of the thigh)
  • hamstrings (back of the thigh)
  • adductor (groin)
  • hip flexors.
  • calves.

While bending your knees, you lower your thighs to the floor until they’re parallel while keeping your chest upright.  Hold the position, then stand straight back up to the starting position. Pause a second or two and repeat. Shoot for 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

If a regular squat becomes too easy, you can add dumbbells to the routine, or you can always try a single leg squat, but this requires really good balance.

Step it up.

You don’t need a Stairmaster Machine to do step exercises!

Climbing stairs or just doing single step-ups are a very simple exercise. Who doesn’t know how to go up steps? You probably learned that shortly after you first started to walk as a baby.

Step-up  exercises are great as a lower body conditioning workout. It targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.  All you need is either a small step stool, and aerobic step platform, or just a set of stairs you can use.  It’s simple, you step up, you step back down, you repeat. Nothing to it.

If you do happen to have  a convenient  staircase you can run up and down, GO FOR IT.

LUNGING ONWARD!

The forward lunge exercise strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. They can be done as an in-place exercise, or as a forward lunge where you ‘walk’ while lunging. Begin by standing straight, then step forward with one foot until your leg reaches a 90° angle. As you are stepping forward, drop your hips straight down and  bend your rear knee until it is parallel to the ground.  Do NOT touch the ground with your rear knee, and your front knee should not extend past your toes. For an in-place forward lunge, simply return to the starting point by bringing your forward leg back as you stand up. Switch legs and repeat for 10-12 reps per leg.

 To do the walking lunges, pull your rear leg forward as you stand up. Again switch legs and repeat for 10-12 reps per leg.

Just remember that exercise only works if you do it correctly, and on a regular basis.   If any of these exercises become too easy, you can always add a lightweight dumbbell to the routine. Just don’t go too crazy on the weight, you’re a runner not a bodybuilder!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

November 2021

Crappy Year 5k November 20 @ 10:00 am Union Twp. Park  Birdsboro PA

Flippin Fun 5k Turkey Run November 25 @ 9:00 am Wyomissing, PA

Be sure to check back  on November 28th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

WORKING ‘THE PLANK’!

TARGETING THE CORE OF THE MATTER!

(This is the first in a series of articles on strength training exercises)

Running is a great cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise which raises your heart rate, increases circulation, and burns fat.  According to a 2020 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, about 15% of the US population regularly participates in some form of running or jogging activity. Kudos to you for taking an active role in maintaining your good health, you’re in the top 15%! But why settle for a ‘B+’ when you can shoot for an ‘A’ or even an ‘A+’ score?  In addition to running, runners also need strength training exercises to build lean muscles and tone the body. Running will get you in good shape, but strength training will get you in great shape! Every exercise training programs for runners incorporate both types of exercises, as well as cross-training activities such as cycling or swimming. Yet despite this, many new runners  (as well as a few seasoned weekend recreational runners) neglect or ignore strength training, and this can lead to sports injuries. Running is FUN! Getting hurt is NOT!

One of the most neglected sections of the body that most new runners overlook is your core, or midsection. You engage your abdominal muscles when running, so strong core muscles  are key to getting faster running times. One of the best exercises to strengthen your core is ‘the plank’.

What is a plank, and how is it different from a push-up?

The plank is a distant cousin of the push-up and both share a very similar form. There are noticeable differences between the two regarding arm position and movement.  As a result, different muscles are worked. While the push-up strengthens the chest and shoulders , the plank is an abdominal exercise that targets both your  core and lower back muscles. Push-ups will not help your core, but the plank will! Together these two similar exercises will help you build a strong body so let’s compare and contrast the two.

PUSH-UP

To do a proper push up, you get down on all fours with your hands placed slightly wider than your shoulders. Your head, back, and legs should be perfectly aligned.  Eyes should be looking straight ahead, not staring at the floor. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest almost touches the ground.

Pause a second then push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat for as many reps as you are capable of.

STANDARD VARIATION PLANK

To do a proper plank, your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your forearms are facing forward. Once again your head, back, and legs should be perfectly aligned, and you should be looking at the floor. The goal is to hold this position rigidly for 30 to 60 seconds with no sagging, arching  or drooping. You are only engaging your core abdominal muscles if and only if you are in proper planking position. The  moment your stomach droops to the ground, your hips sag, or your back arches up, you are no longer receiving the benefits of the exercise. Perfect alignment from head to toes is key!

SIDE VARIATION PLANK

Instead of facing the floor, you are propped on one forearm on your side looking off to the side. In this position you can work your non-planking arm or leg by raising them towards the sky, and you can work your core by doing a slight dip towards the ground, followed by a raise and hold. Always remember to work both sides equally when using this variation.  

SUPERMAN- The plank from another planet.

Look! Up in the sky! No, never mind you’re lying perfectly flat on the ground for this one. If you can’t do THIS exercise, it’s time to hang up your cape for good.  Your arms should be fully extended in front of you, and your toes are pointed back behind you.  This is the classic Superman pose as the comic book superhero would fly through the sky, and that is why the exercise is named what it is. Sounds a lot better than a floor plank, huh?

The ONLY movement you are going to make is to simultaneously lift your arms and legs off the ground and hold the position for 30-60 seconds. Then lower and repeat for as many reps as you can. This will work both your lower back and abs while engaging your core. Plus you get to brag to all your non-exercising, couch potato friends  that you were exercising like Superman! Now go and build up those abs of steel!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

November 2021

Crappy Year 5k November 20 @ 10:00 am Union Twp. Park  Birdsboro PA

Flippin Fun 5k Turkey Run November 25 @ 9:00 am Wyomissing, PA

Be sure to check back  on November 14th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS!

Rest and recovery take time!

“According to the brain-centered model of exercise performance, a runner achieves his race goal when his brain calculates that achieving the race goal is possible without catastrophic self-harm.” ― Matt Fitzgerald

Each year, more than half of all runners experience some type of injury. This is a higher percentage than in any other sport. The reason may be that unlike football, baseball and countless other sports, running has no set season. For both the elite runner and the weekend recreational competitive runner, this lack of a sport season leads to a cycle of endless running. We train and run constantly without allowing our bodies to have a break for rest and recovery. It is the constant push to attain faster speeds and run longer distances which pushes our bodies to the breaking point. Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong even though our mind refuses to accept the reality of the situation as we attempt ‘just one more lap’.

The number one goal of most new runners is to run a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles (42.16km) and this distance is very hard on the body of the newbie. Scientific research has concluded that after running 26.2 miles you experience significant muscle, cellular, and immune system damage which can last  for 3-14 days post race. Notice that the range of recovery differs from as short as 3 days to as long as two weeks. An experienced marathoner can recover much faster than a runner who attempts their first marathon. The more fit you are, the faster your body recovers and heals itself.  This level of health and fitness takes time to achieve, there are no short cuts! This is why all training programs for runners gradually increase the distance on the short and long runs over time to allow the body to grow strong and adapt. Compare and contrast training schedules for novice runners vs elite runners if you have doubts.

Given enough time and training, your body can be conditioned to endure physical achievements that would have been impossible when you first started out. When I began running in 2019, it took me a month to fully recover from my first half-marathon.

By mid 2020, I was capable of running a half-marathon every weekend, usually setting a personal record (PR) with each race I ran. By Fall of 2020 I had placed 5th in my division twice on 5Ks!

This all changed in 2021. Suddenly I was ending races in last place, and hitting my worst times ever, slower than when I began. Yet I kept pushing myself because my mind was telling itself that I was capable of running 10 minute miles even as I struggled to run 18 minute miles. Eventually this constant over-training lead to a hamstring injury in July. Still I tried to force my body to heal itself faster. THERE ARE NO SHORT-CUTS! I re-injured my hamstring in August when I attempted to run the DOUBLE TROUBLE 15K Trail run at French Creek State Park in Elverson PA. I tripped on an ‘invisible rock’ at mile three, twisted my leg the wrong way to avoid slamming into the rocks, and then limped in pain to the water station where I pulled myself from the race. My first DNF (did not finish).   Last month, I forced myself to run The Bird-in-Hand half-marathon. I struggled the final four miles, but I did actually finish. Dead last, 1169 out of 1169.

It was worth it, but it also forced me to accept the reality that my mind was rejecting. My body needs to heal and this is going to take time.  The Bird-in-Hand half-marathon is my last long race of this year. For the remainder of 2021, this has lead me to the difficult decision to STOP ALL long distance running and focus on strength training, short distance runs, and speed-work. Sadly I will not be able to run in 3 upcoming half-marathons,  nor will I be able to run the Philly Marathon, The OLEY Classic, and the Dirty Bird 15K either. For the next 90 days I will not run any distance greater than a 10K. It’s the only choice I have at this point as I have tried EVERYTHING else to avoid this drastic decision . THERE ARE NO SHORT-CUTS! The sad fact in that the endless 60+ hour work weeks at my day job  have left me in a state of perpetual exhaustion, and I cannot properly train under these conditions.   My mind keeps telling me that “today would be a beautify day to go for a run”, but my body is screaming “are you out of your mind?!”

The Road to recovery.

The plan for the rest of 2021 is to take it easy and stick to the three goals of strength training, short distance runs, and speed-work.  Hopefully I will be able to get my 5K times close or better than my PR of 33min 22sec. Come January, I will re-initiate the Hal Hidgon training plan for novice runners with the goal of running the Gettysburg half-marathon Sun April 10, 2022 Gettysburg, PA 17325 US  and setting a PR. Forcing myself to not run is a hard thing to do, but when you’re confronted with the choice of sacrificing a few upcoming races verses never being able to run again, it’s definitely the smart thing to do.

You can find me at these upcoming races:

OCTOBER 2021              

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 7/7 October 21st @7:00 pm Reading PA (The last TTT of the year is a night race in the dark followed by Halloween Dress Up party!)

Be sure to check back on October 31st for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

A BIRD IN THE HAND!

A half marathon to remember!

 The Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon was held  September 11th 2021 at 7:30am. This was the very 1st HALF MARATHON  I ever ran back in 2019, (it was not held last year) and I was very excited to run this race again.  This was the longest race I ran since injuring my hamstring back in July. There are no refunds or transfers allowed, and nothing was going to stop me from running it. I was not expecting to beat my prior course time of 3 hr 46 min 22 sec. I was just going to cross that finish line and be happy to do it.

Each year approximately 2000 runners from across the USA and around  the world converge  on the small town of Bird-in-Hand PA deep in the heart of Lancaster County.

This farming community is populated by two religious sects, the Amish, and the Mennonites.  The two communities were originally part of a Swiss Anabaptist group led by Jacob Ammann before splitting into two separate groups in 1693. The Amish chose to be much more strict, shunning all modern technology and living in an exclusive and closed community. Their first language is a dialect of German known as PA Dutch with English as a second language. Education only lasts until about the grade in one- room school houses.  They ride horse drawn carriages, do not have electricity in their homes, and live in a very 1800s way.  

Mostly they farm, breed animals, do carpentry, leather work, blacksmithing, and make their own clothing. They are not EVEN allowed to ride bicycles, instead opting for a large metal push scooter, lacking a seat or pedals. In case you’re wondering the Groffdale Machine Shop in Leola manufactures over a thousand of these scooters a year “from scratch”. The owner is Amish and doesn’t want his name mentioned.   

Now that you know about the community, let me tell you about the course. You will be running through 13.1 miles of mostly flat paved country roads. I think there was at least one hill up and down. At the one mile mark, there usually is a country band singing as you run by. Little Amish children at various mile marks will eagerly hand you cups of water. Some will even offer Gatorade. The fields off of the road stretch off as far as the eyes can see in beautiful unspoiled farmland. Occasionally you may see some of these farmers plowing their fields. This scenic vista is nick-named the “Valley of No Wires.

 There is a two mile stretch near the end where you run though an Amish field and then though an actual farm. All I can say is that this is one of the most beautiful areas you will ever run in. You will quickly fall in love with this race.

This race has been featured in various sites on running, including ACTIVE.com which listed it as a must-do race. There is no race-day sign up, and you must pick up your participant packet not later than 7pm the night before the race. Online registration usually opens in January. This always sells out, so sign up early or risk missing out on a truly memorable race.  It has been traditionally held on the Saturday after Labor Day in September, so in 2022 that date will be September 10th, 2022. If you are the type of person who likes a warm-up race the day before the big race, there is also a BIH 5K race the night before the half-marathon. This is a separate event, but you can register online as well. www.bihhalfmarathon.com

The Finisher Medal! 

This is one of the most unique finishes medals in all of racing and a must have for the medal collector. Each medal is hand made from a actual horseshoe worn by a horse who trod through Bird-in-Hand. They are collected after use, cleaned, polished and a metal plate is welded to the back. lastly a strip of leather is tied to the medal. No two medals are ‘identical’ as each horse’s hoof is a different size shoe. Since I live 8 miles from this race, I intend to run every year as long as I am physically able.

So how did I do?

As I previously stated, I have had a rough year. My training has been a mess, I’m working six days a week, and up to 12 hours a day. My entire body hurts, and I’m tired all the time. 2021 has not been good to me. Now I had my two friends Bruce and Suzan to keep me on track.

I was ok until mile number 5.  At that point I could no longer keep pace with my two friends.

I got passed by a woman from Arizona and I cheered her on as she blew past me. I cheered her a 2nd time as she passed me again heading back from the turn-around at mile 6, which I hadn’t even reached.

I knew she was from Arizona because she was wearing a top with the state flag. I told her “You got this! Save me a whoopie pie!” I can’t tell you the number of positive times I’ve been encouraged as I raced, and I always encourage others. If you’re not enjoying life, you’re living all wrong.

By mile number 9, I was one of the last two people still running. The race van pulled up, and the woman from Colorado threw in the towel.  Her last words were something like “I’ve run over a hundred halfs. I’m tired, I’m 62, I just got done hiking in the Rockies and I have NOTHING TO PROVE!” The driver said “you ok?” I said, “Sure, only 4 miles more.” 

  At mile 10, they checked me again, I said ‘Still ok, 3 to go.” As I came to mile 11, I texted Suzan and said if that van comes again, I’m getting in. She texted back “YOU GOT THIS!”

Just at that point, an Amish man riding one of those push scooters came along side me and said “you’re almost there, 2 miles, you have a good pace.”. I thanked him, told him I was struggling, and he rode along side me for the last 2 miles as we talked about various topics including God and Amish push scooters. I never caught his name, but without him encouraging me and keeping company those last 2 miles, I probably would have quit. As we approached the final 50 yards, two race officials asked if they could ‘run with me to the end’ I said sure, and with one on each side of me we sprinted the final 50 yards. 

As soon as I crossed the finish line I collapsed to my knees in exhaustion. My final time was 4 hours 30 minutes, 13 seconds. Dead last, but I FINISHED!

Suzan was waiting at the finish line, as was the lady from Arizona, #1158 Julie Brownsberger. I was shocked and humbled that she waited to see me finish.

Bruce was nearby waiting in the tent. (his knee was bothering him, and he needed to sit.) This is the beauty of the running community. The reason we race isn’t so  much to beat each other, but to be with each other! In some ways we are a tighter community than the Amish, united by our love of running and our fellow runners.

You can find me at these upcoming races:

OCTOBER 2021              

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 7/7 October 21st @7:00 pm Reading PA (The last TTT of the year is a night race in the dark followed by Halloween Dress Up party!)

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

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

Be a hero, not a zero!

“We’re all on our own journey. No matter where we came from, what language we speak, the color of our skin or anything that seemingly makes us different, in the end, we’re all just humans living our own story. And it’s up to each of us to be the hero of our story, which inspires other people to do the same.”–Zach Horvath

Thinking is one of our greatest ‘superpowers’.  It is our ability to think about complex problems or ideas and how to solve problems which sets us apart from animals.

You may have heard of a thought experiment proposed by renown physicist Irwin  Schrödinger called ‘ Schrödinger’s cat’.

Schrödinger stated that if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat (poison, a radioactive atom, etc ) in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was (in a sense) both “dead and alive”.

Now let’s replace the happy little cat with YOU. The box is now your apartment, and the poison is junk food and television. Are you dead or alive? Maybe thinking that being in front of the television watching movies or playing video games while  munching on Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew sounds pretty good to you. But are you ‘living’ or simply existing? Part of living is growing and changing. Without growth and change as an individual you are simply passing time until you die.

Let’s make one third and final substitution to this thought experiment we are pondering. This time we’ll replace your  apartment with your ‘comfort zone’. A comfort zone is a nice, simple easy place to be in, but nothing ever grows there. No matter where you go, there you are living in your comfort zone repeating the same day, doing the same things and calling it a life. Is that all there is to your journey? Is that your story? Are you happy? REALLY???

The Hero’s Journey

The common template of all good stories involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed. It’s commonly referred to as The Hero’s Journey or The Monomyth.  There are other aspects but this is the simplest description. You leave your comfort zone, discover new ideas about life, and become forever transformed as a better version of yourself.  But the journey doesn’t begin until we leave our comfort zone behind us and head into uncharted territories.  Life is an amazing adventure and is a journey filled with twists and turns. Everyone has a story to tell, and usually we are at the center of the tales we tell. Everyone wants to be the hero, and we convince ourselves that we are always in the right, so sometimes we fool ourselves into believing that our comfort zone is great and wonderful and we are happy sitting here on our comfy couch.  Living in the comfort zone and going nowhere is The Zero’s Journey. Don’t be a ZERO, be a HERO! Heroes inspire other people to become greater than they are. Everyone wants to be a hero deep down inside if they are true to themselves. It just takes that initial leap of faith and the guts to ignore the naysayers and continue moving forward.    

LIVE A GREAT STORY

On July 4th 2012 Zach Horvath hopped on a plane to Europe with a one-way ticket. Like many young adults, he was trying to figure out the meaning of life and didn’t really have a plan but knew he needed to change ‘something’. So he decided to travel Europe for seven months and visited 17 countries, explored 50 cities, and met dozens of new friends. It was a life changing event. As a result he came to realize that no matter what our background is, we are each living our own unique story, and we need to make it count and make it great! He started his own company selling inspirational stickers, t-shirts, banners and buttons encouraging everyone to LIVE A GREAT STORY!   Your personal happiness is directly related to your outlook on life, so it is vital that you pursue self-improvement, and encourage others to do the same. We all rise higher when we help lift up others, but this is only possible if we are the best us possible. So don’t quit, move forward, travel and see the world, do new things , experience new adventures, and meet new friends. All around us each day there are people studying us without our knowledge. What message do we want to pass on to them by our example and actions?

If you’d like to check out the LIVE A GREAT STORY merchandise available visit Zach’s website at  LIVEAGREATSTORY.com

THAT’S MY STORY AND I’M STICKING TO IT!

Four years ago, I started my blog InstantCoffeeWisdom.com to encourage and inspire people to become greater versions of themselves through self-improvement. I realized that in order for people to be happy and successful they needed to be in a good place financially, spiritually and physically. Two-and-a-half years ago I took up running, ran my 1st 5K race and the focus of my blog turned towards running because your health is your wealth. Just as you have one story, you have one body and one life. I encourage you to live it to the fullest! I am headed down to Ocean City MD for JEEP WEEK and my well-deserved summer vacation!  I hope everyone has a great rest of the Summer!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

SEPTEMBER 2021

Bird-in-Hand Half-Marathon  September 11th @ 7:30 am Bird-in-Hand PA

Halfway to St Patty’s Day  5K   September 8th @6:45 pm Reading PA

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 6/7 September 16th @6:45 pm Reading PA

InstantCoffeeWisdom will return with another article on September 12th 2021. Be sure to check back then for the next one.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

STRIKE A POSE!

Is there a right and wrong way to run?

There is nothing more normal and natural than running. After months of crawling as babies, we learned to take our first steps as toddlers. Like any new skill, it took time to get the hang of it and there were a few falls along the way. Then the transition from walking to running seemed to occur overnight. Once we had found our center of balance and the muscles in our legs grew strong enough to support our little bodies, we were uncontainable! We were born to run!

According to Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion, a body at rest remains at rest, but a body in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.

Unfortunately, it seems that for most people today, that outside force stopping our motion is modern society in general. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but the greater modern society abhors running.

Those of us in the running community are a tribe apart. We are the exceptions to the norm, and we stand (or rather, run) apart! We are better, stronger and faster! We are exceptional, amazing, and awesome!  We are rock stars and superheroes because we have made the choice to turn off the TV, get off the couch, and run! Runners have re-discovered what society has largely forgotten. That running is healthy and normal. But is there a wrong way to run that we need to avoid?

Each year, two out of every three runners experience an injury.  Running should NEVER be painful. Slight muscle soreness after intense activity is normal. Pain is not! Pain is a sign of an injury, and means that we did something wrong.  

Running is an athletic activity and EVERY runner is an athlete. As athletes, we need to focus on three key issues: diet, training, and equipment.

Diet is easy. Cut out the junk, eat organic, drink plenty of water. Make sure you’re getting all seven essential nutrients in your diet. Water, protein, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, fiber. Don’t take in more calories than you can burn off, and make sure your meals have the proper 40-30-30 split of protein, carbs, and fats. Adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle if you see fit as an additional healthy option.   

Equipment is also easy. Basically dress for the weather in proper moisture-wicking athletic attire of choice, and wear the correct running shoes. (Or run barefoot if you dare.)

Training is hard.

A month ago, I got hit by ‘The Hammie Whammy’ when I pulled a hamstring by overtraining. I was pushing myself very hard and trying many different training strategies, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Needless to say it was a bad idea. Overtraining is the leading cause of injuries in runners. The next major cause of injuries is improper training. There are literally hundreds of training manuals on the market, each claiming to be the correct method.  ONLY ONE makes the bold claim that it can teach you to run faster, farther, and injury-free– for life! Pose Method Training.

According to Dr. Nicholas Romanov, creator of the Pose Method there is a natural running form which utilizes the body’s biomechanics  in conjunction with the force of gravity.

Running is flying!

In his best-selling  science fiction series The Hitchhikers  Guide to the Galaxy, the late  Douglas Adams wrote that in order to fly, you just needed to fall and miss the ground. This is pretty much the same claim made by Dr. Romanov in his book on pose method, The Running Revolution. In the very first paragraph of the introduction, Romanov states that running is flying, citing that Usain Bolt spent nearly twice as much time airborne as he did on the ground when he ran his world record 100-meter race in Berlin in 2009. 9.58 seconds total time, 6.38 in the air, and 3.20 on the ground.

To simplify the pose method, the runner repeats a controlled cycle of falling forward while simultaneously launching themselves upward and essentially ‘missing the ground’.

Romanov even refers to these motions as the falling phase and the push off phase. Because of the forward angle of the body, you are running on your forefoot, so you must be wearing minimalist or barefoot running shoes to allow for the foot’s natural ‘springiness’.  You should always maintain a short stride because long strides make forefoot running impossible. The rest is all a matter of muscle strength and physics. Always remember, you can build muscle strength, but you cannot change the laws of physics! Just ask Scotty.

Since you are using the force of gravity to propel you forward, the greater the angle of falling, the faster the run.  The reason Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world is because of the extreme angle he races at. At top speed, Bolt is running at an angle of 21.4 degrees. This is the upper limit of angular body position one can lean forward and still be able to recover from this controlled fall. A deviation of an additional 1.1 degrees would spell disaster, causing the speeding runner to stumble and slam into the ground at top speed.  The most critical thing to remember  is that as you fall forward, gravity is the downward force vector acting upon your body’s torque.  Too far forward and you cannot escape the gravitation pull of the ground. Your body’s torque  is determined by the force of gravity acting upon your center of mass (your hips) as it moves beyond your axis of rotation (your support foot in the run).  

How it all works.

To recap how all this controlled falling and launching cycle through, a typical stride using the pose method of running would begin with this paradigm: Pose, fall, pull. In the running pose, the heel lifts as the body begins falling. The falling ends when your swing foot passes your support leg, and your trail leg pulls up, entering the flight phase. The forefoot of your trail leg makes contact with the ground, becoming your current support leg and returning your body to the running pose position.

Switching from your current style of running requires mastering the pose method technique and developing a proper body awareness. To learn more about The Pose Method developed by Dr. Nicholas Romanov , read his book The Running Revolution. This 200 page manual is filled with exercises, workouts, training guides, and extensive descriptive photos of each. Is it all just hype? Read the book and discover for yourself if the post method can really provide injury-free running for life. According to Dr. Romanov and his disciples, pose is the only way to fly!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

AUGUST 2021

Double Trouble 15K Trail Run August 15th @9:00 am French Creek State Park Elverson PA

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

Be sure to check back  on August 22nd for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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!