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What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.

Everyone who’s done it has a story of the first time with a marathon.  Some reach their goal of time, some reach their goal of finishing, some unfortunately don’t.  Some come fully prepared, some come less prepared.  This is a story of the latter (despite efforts).

Why Running When Nothing Is Chasing You?

Growing up, I spent most of my life on a baseball field.  Running is a part of it, but not for hours on end.  When I stopped playing due to some back injuries, I needed to find something to do.  Photography was fun, but didn’t give me the competition aspect (now I take picture while I run – win/win).  So I ran.  I had a 3 mile-ish loop that I could do from Greensboro College to UNCG with a nice A/C break with water at halfway at the UNCG basketball gym.  I never timed myself, no records.  Did it for the love of the game as they say.  Sometimes I’d run 3 days a week, sometimes none.  I pretty much kept this aimless wandering of exercise up until starting DPT school at Elon in 2011.  Put 40 healthy individuals in a building all day – they’re gonna exercise at lunch time!  A few of us struck up a good friendship, and we started running.  I blame Evan/John for the addiction that ensued.  Garmin satellite watch – purchased.  Tar Heel 10 miler race entry – check.  Eventually cycling and triathlons ensued, but this is not that story.

And So It Began

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The beginning, Tar Heel 10, April 2011.

The Tar Heel 10 miler is a great event, Chapel Hill in spring, lots of hype and excitement to spare.  I ran well and enjoyed it (despite Laurel Hill – locals know). Within 2 weeks, I had signed up (and paid – a key part later) for a half marathon in Sept and a full marathon in November, the day before my birthday.  Not knowing much better, I got a generic training plan online – one that progressed distance but did not provide me with any pace or effort guidelines.  I did well through the half marathon in September with no real trouble, good pace, and felt hopeful for the marathon.  A few weeks later, I noticed that in the middle to ends of long runs that I was having some pain on the outside of my left knee/thigh.  Like most people, I though resting would take care of it so I took a few days off.  I then did a medium run (6-7 miles) and the pain came back but sooner.  At the time I had just gotten started into PT school so I knew enough to pick out what it might be but didn’t know enough to treat myself.  I talked to a few staff members at school who were PTs but without being an actual patient, we tried to treat with mostly home stretching and exercise.  While this can be effect as a part of any treatment strategy, it is not a replacement for the important hands on in clinic work that I now do on a daily basis.  I would most likely would have benefited from trigger point dry needling to help reduce myofascial trigger points that were most likely the cause of my pain, deep tissue laser for healing, and hip strengthening exercises to improve biomechanics (how I ran) to prevent the problem from returning.  Unfortunately, I have 6 more years of knowledge and clinic skills now than I did at the time, so that is not what happened.  This did:

I did some light stretching, rested for a week or two, and took some pain medication.  I tried to return to running and guess what: pain was still there, just a mile or two further into the run.  Thus began my “uh oh” moment (that lasted about 1.5 months).  I had worked hard to get where I was.  I am not one that will quit something if there is any chance I can get it done.  I also had paid for this thing.  I was NOT about to skip something I had paid for unless I literally could not walk (that comes 3 years later).  I still couldn’t run though.  I decided to completely shut down from running for 3 weeks.  I biked, swam, and walked almost every day for cardio but didn’t run.  Finally, one week before the marathon, I went for a few short 3-4 miles with very mild pain complaints but still knowing that it probably would come back the longer I went.  I talked to the wife, and then ignored her and my own common sense – I was going to run the event, despite pain and not running longer than 16-17 miles.

I Chose To Do This, and Actually Paid Money For It!

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NC Marathon Before Pic, Nov 2011

Date: 11.19.2011.  Location: Showplace, Downtown High Point, NC.  I knew going in the pain would return at some point.  I decided I would run as fast and long as I could, then adjust when the pain started.  I went about 14-15 miles before the pain started and boy did it start.  The idea of walking/running off and on was gone.  I was just walking for the rest of it, with pain for every step.  At somewhere around 20-22 miles, I went to a porta john just to sit and have a brief watery eye moment (those allergies you know).  A few moments later I decided that I would keep going.  A mere 5 hours after starting, I made the last turn in downtown High Point, summoned all I had left, and “jogged” across the finish line.  I had never really felt what a wave of emotion felt like until that moment.  Ask my wife today and she will tell you that this is one of the few times she would say I cried.  Maybe not so much cried as a manly, snot-filled breakdown (common colds, you know) – but just for a minute mind you.

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It’s OVER! Looking at this picture again, it looks like I was the only one doing the race.

To this day, this was one of my finest, hardest, “I’m in a glass case of emotion” 5 hours in my life.  I view it like a scar.  It caused me pain and suffering in the moment, but now it serves as a lesson learned, an achievement met, and a lifelong passion fed.  As Mater pointed out in Cars 2, learn to value your dents. Every one of them bears the beauty of grace and redemption.  That experience helped shape me as a runner, as well as person – I would hope to say for the better.  As most, for the next week or two I spoke repeatedly about never ever doing something like that again (it lasted for about a year – I signed up for the 2nd marathon for Nov 2013).

Coming Soon:  Training Month 1 Reflection

 

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Running with Friends: Free on the App Store – and on Wed and Sat.

So it may or may not come as a shock to you, dear reader, that I am kind of an introverted person.  I am to introverted as a Reese’s Egg is to awesomeness.  So it might be a little weird that I have a blog where I share the inner workings of my mind – what can I say, I’m expanding my barriers.  As a relatively quiet, let’s say, reflective individual, I tend to do a lot of things solo or with just a few people.  Go hiking by myself for a few hours – done it several times.  Go to a race at Martinsville alone – check.  Ride a bike or run for hours without seeing another human, just farm animals – sometimes I choose it.  My best friends: my wife, my son, my golden retriever. It would probably be no surprise by now if I told you that the majority (96.788% to be exact – give or take a tenth) of my running and exercise is done solo mio.  I’ve often pictured myself as the latter-day Forrest Gump, a folk hero running across America with nothing but the clothes on my back, a glorious mane of hair flowing in the breeze, a masterful beard draped across my chin – imparting wisdom to those that pass by (“stuff” does happen).  Perhaps a little less dirt and some improved fragrance status but none the less – rugged and free.  There are only a few problems I’ve encountered so far: 1) I cannot grow a beard, just can’t.  My wife finally gave me permission to do so and I think she did because she knows I can’t. 2)Unlike Mr. Gump, whose high commercial acumen (he got invested in that fruit company) created a vast quantity of free time, I have to work.  3) Running alone for long distances can get really boring once you run out of things to talk to yourself about.

Enter RunnerDude’s Fitness

Date: Feb/March 2017.  Location: Living Room of House. Activity: Facebook surfing. Enter title RunTheBoro on a friend’s page.  A few clicks later and I see the idea “A field trip for runners.”  So I took a test: Am I a runner? Check.  Do you like field trips? Check.  Is it free? Check.  After a few emails with Thad, I was signed up to be a pacer (someone who runs a specific speed as a guide) for the 8 week series of runs that took place in various neighborhoods in Greensboro.  I knew that there would be a decent group of people coming out but it was consistently 100+!  Week 1 started and I was running in a group but just being my quiet self.  As the run goes on, you typically get in a small little pod of similar speed runners.  I ended up running most of the run with someone that we will call “The Russian.”  The Russian and I spent about an hour or so running, talking about our running experiences, work, kids (I get to do that now, not just dogs), and chicken and waffles.  By the time we finished the run, it felt like we had only been running for a short period of time (we had run 8 miles).  At that point, something that most everyone already knew hit me.  Time passes faster when you have fun conversation.  I was hooked, group runs for everyone, every day from here to the end of time!  The next week, I went back.  I dragged Kenny, the Sportscaster out.  The same thing happened – the long run felt shorter than my short runs at home alone.  A few weeks later, Kenny and I had decided to do a marathon and use the group training aspect at RunnerDude’s Fitness to get us there sane.  We were also able to add another one to our 4 hour pace flock – Lisa the Lawyer.  Now, each week I look forward to getting up really early on a Saturday morning to go run several hours with a group of friends that help pass the time, motivate when the run gets hard, answer physical therapy related questions, complain with about the hills and the heat (more frequently recently), and to celebrate our progress.

So if you are in the Greensboro area, and you like to run, check out RunnerDude’s Fitness and tell Thad that Mike sent you!

Next up:  “Running” My First Marathon

Week 3 Training so far:

 

 

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Goals: What are they good for? Absolutely Everything. Say It Again

Goals.

We hear about them all the time in various parts of our lives.  Go on an interview or a job evaluation and you’ll get the thought-provoking question: “Where do you see yourself in a year? 5 years?”  Maybe we can even think back (some us longer than others) to a school essay, provoking us to examine – “What do you want to become or be?” Despite these queries happening over and over throughout our trek through life, we all seem to have some difficulty articulating, developing, and ultimately performing the self-assessment required to create something to plan our lives around.

A PT’s Quick View on Goals.

As a PT, I deal with the idea of goals (and writing them) daily. Goals are everywhere at work.  Every new patient I see has their own personal goals to reach (lower pain, get back to work, sport, etc).  As part of examination and evaluation, I look for individual parts and pieces that may have impairment, which creates those limitations that people seek help to fix.  Weekly assessment of progress towards goals is an emphasis of every treatment plan. Goals in PT (and in life) have to be achievable, measurable, time-sensitive.

Goals and Running

So how do goals factor into running and training?  I’m so glad you asked.  The first marathon that I ever did (11.2011), I only had one goal: Finish. That day. On two feet.  It was achievable, technically measurable, and time specific.  It was, however, not very helpful in planning.  I knew I had a distance to reach – 26.2 miles, and a time – course limit of 6 hours, but I did not plan anything else out.  At the time, I knew very little about training plans so I googled it.  I found a generic plan of distances for long runs each week and ran with it (pun intended).  I ended up increasing distance too quickly, knee pain ensued, and 5.5 hours of marathon struggle later – I finished my first marathon.  Did I technically reach my goal? Yes.  Did I feel accomplished?  Not that much, I felt hurt.  More about that in a few weeks.

Since that first marathon, I have completed DPT school, worked for 3 years, ran additional races, and got plugged into an awesome training plan/group through RunnerDude’s Fitness.  All of that experience has changed how I look at setting goals for running, and therefore, enhanced my training.  Remember the PT goal rules? Achievable, measurable, and time-sensitive?

Like many who run, I have a lofty goal of qualifying to run in the Boston Marathon in my lifetime.  For my current age group, I would have to run a 3 hour and 5 min marathon to qualify.  My last marathon in 2013 was 4 hrs and 30 mins.  I just had 2-3 months of minimal running due to a newborn. Expecting me to be able to reach that goal at this point in my life would be akin to expecting my golden retriever Tessie to wake up one morning and know how to fix me breakfast, or use the toilet – you get the point.  It would be awesome for Tessie to learn how to use the toilet for those rainy days.  She gets soaked so quickly – anyway I digress. Those goals are not achievable at this time.  This is where having a good coach like Thad comes into play.  Give him some recent shorter run race paces, with some background on weekly running habits, throw in a bit of pizzazz and boom: achievable marathon pace pops out (he might say it takes a bit more work than that).  Mine for this marathon at this time: 4 hours.  There is your measurable part.  Of course, the time-sensitive part is a given in this case: Nov 4.

The “Take Home and Write on Your Mirror” Part

Long term goals are great and they help give you an end result to shoot for but perhaps the biggest part of using goals is developing the strategy of how you are going to get there.  A vivid goal of a marathon time, becoming a regional manager (or assistant to the regional manager for you Office fans), or returning back to work or play after an injury is relatively impractical without an action plan.  Good training programs are composed of workouts geared to improving endurance and speed to reach the desired end goal, while being reflected in a week by week basis.  This “short term goals to long-term goal” approach is key because it allow us to take gratification in success along the way, building in self-encouragement to continue towards our end goal that we have set.  So if you have some goals out there, whether its running, physical therapy, work, or home related, write them down, talk with someone who can help/support you, and come up with a route for how to get there.  We’re all headed somewhere, why not make it a carpool with some directions.

A peak of what week 2 training looked like:

 

Training Starts: Fun Fourth Shenanigans/ Bagels & Biscuits – Wk 1

OFFICIAL TRAINING HAS BEGUN!! WEEE DOGGIE (it’s a RunnerDude Thing)

I imagined that being my alarm sound at 5 am this week for morning runs, but behold – it was simply the uninspiring sound of a old car horn.  Nevertheless, the 18 week training plan kicked off this week in anticipation for the Rock ‘n Roll Savannah Marathon, and I jumped into it with both feet and ready to, dare I say, rock ‘n roll.

For the most part, a typical week of training will consist of a few shorter runs, a medium length run, and then a progressively longer run, typically on a Saturday.  There is a variation of to what types of runs will make up the week’s workload.  I will be taking time each week to update some the finer, more interesting aspects/challenges to these sweat sessions.

Freedom 10K/Fun Fourth Festival – Downtown Greensboro – 7.3.17

Training kicked off with a bang(perhaps a firework bang??) with the running of the Freedom 10k.

One of the difficult this about this race was the time.  It started at 7:15 PM.  I am usually at 6-9 am runner guy.  I have a few reasons for this:  work, it’s cooler, want to get it done early, and I like to eat dinner.  Other than the change of time, it also meant it was pretty hot.  The dew point was moderate – high (will explain in later posts on how this changes things), which ultimately made running Captain America fast pretty challenging.  Regardless, I was able to sweat out a 60th overall finish and 8th in the age group.  Since my long term goal is the marathon and I didn’t specifically train to beast this run, I though I did pretty alright.

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Thursday Speed Workout

I was excited to get back the morning runs before work for Thursday after Monday’s race.  I got dressed and got my Brooks GTS Adrenaline 17s on and walked outside – into a cloud.  I could see about 100 yards out before seeing a vast pale whiteness.  I decided to look up the weather info – 99% humidity with a dew point of 70.  At this point I vow to never complain about cold weather again.  Anyway, it was a good run overall with intervals of fast and slower running.  Summary pic below:

7/6/17 Run Summary

Cloud City Running

 

RunnerDude’s Fitness Group Bagels & Biscuits Run – 7.8.17

Thad (RunnerDude) got all of us race trainees together for a meet and greet to kick off our first long run.  We took turns introducing ourselves, talking about what race or event we were starting our training for this fall.  There are 10+ that will be joining me in Savannah come November for either the full (26.2 miles) or half marathon (13.1 miles).  On another very warm and humid morning (so ready for fall 60s), Kenny, Lisa (another Savannah marathoner), and I -plus 67 others- set out to complete our various distances for this week’s long run.  Ours was 11 miles and, despite plenty of perspiration and hills, we had a great time.  In celebration (or perhaps in moment of empathy), bagels and biscuits were waiting at the finish.  Personally, I have to have some time (usually the drive home) to cool off before eating but plenty were happy the food was there.

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Kenny (left), me, and Lisa on a “water” break.