Running in the mist

Mother Nature is definitely having some kind of mid-life crisis. The weather in Maryland has been incredibly unpredictable the last few weeks, so much so I’m never quite sure what to wear to the office for fear that it will be snowing when I leave at the end of the day. I know, not a funny joke, especially for my Colorado friends who still continue to get snow.

IMG_5428_headerThe beginning of the week dawned sunny and 70 and borderline humid, yesterday it was 48 and rainy and just raw feeling. Actually it wasn’t really raining it was misty. That frustrating precipitation that is slightly above dry but not quite raining. As a runner, this is incredibly frustrating. I would much prefer to run in a downpour than in a misty conditions. It’s as if Mother Nature is all wishy washy and can’t make up her mind. Seriously, either rain or don’t!

However, despite wearing a hat, I still had to squint my eyes to keep the rain out…something that honestly ended up giving me a headache while NOT keeping the rain out of my eyes. Also I wasn’t sure how to dress, I had on shorts and my windbreaker, but even though it was 48 degrees, I was sweating like crazy about a mile in but feared taking my jacket off because I didn’t want to end up getting wet and cold. Plus my feet were wet, there is nothing more in the running world that I despise than wet feet! IMG_5427

Despite my frustrations with the precipitation and my wet feet and socks, I got in a pretty solid run. We might have broken the rules slightly by running along the portion of Carroll Creek that is still under construction, hey those chain link fences were just a suggested path right? There is not longer the hoses and piles of brick and gravel that we use to run over so I figured it was all good and far safer. Plus we got to see the beautiful iron work on the new bridge.

It was a nice solid 4 miles at roughly a 12 minute pace, Runner Keeper gave me a slower average but we got stuck at a few red lights and we did have to climb a fence at the other end of Carroll Creek so our pace slowed at a few points. Overall, we maintained a pretty solid 12 minute pace, in the mist.

Most importantly I got my miles in, any Thursday I get to run is a good day in my book. I’m anxiously awaiting the end of the semester with my every other Thursday Audit and Assurance class will no longer impact my training run.

Slightly Misplaced

This past weekend we went away with a group of about 20 friends to the Cacapon State Park in Berkley Springs, WV. It was a fantastical weekend, with beautiful weather and far too much good food….and perhaps a little adult beveraging that included my first ever Not My Father’s Root Beer. Can I just say holy cow that stuff is amazing.

garryOne of the group members, Garry (with two R’s) is participating in a half marathon next weekend, while he did his longest training run the day before he as anxious to get some hill work in on Sunday morning. For those unfamiliar with West (by God) Virginia, there isn’t a level or flat spot in the entire state, so finding hills to run wasn’t that difficult.

Sunday morning dawned sunny but chilly, temps were hovering somewhere around 39-41ish. Lacking decent service unless standing on a chair holding tin foil and singing the first three stanza’s of  Let it Go, I wasn’t able to check the Weather Channel app. I went out with an extra layer, while Garry wore socks on his hands. My wife asked later if they were clean, I said I couldn’t be sure but that I saw he washed his hands before breakfast.

Frustratingly chilly temperatures affect my asthmatic lungs more than anything else, shortly into our run I was struggling to fully catch my breath. While Garry ran, I walked up the steepest section of the hills and ran the rest. Garry was practicing Chi Running, which is something I’m not incredibly familiar with and found attempting made running even more difficult. (Note to self: learn more about Chi)

I eventually got into a pretty good rhythm using my usually running method of one foot inIMG_5386 front of the other and had an amazing run. This was my first time running in nature like this, where literally all that could be heard were my footfalls and the leaves rustling. The air, albeit super chilly, felt amazing on my face. I could literally FEEL the clean of the air.

Because I had spent a good bit walking the 1800′ elevation, I turned back a little before Garry did so that I wouldn’t be late for the 9am church service that was being held in the living room of the cabin. Garry and I crossed paths and we shared our plans, he said to keep an eye out since he would be back around 8:35. Off I went, when I got to the bottom of the road we were running on, I turned right. About a quarter of a mile down, nothing looked familiar. (Can I just say that trees all look alike) But none of the cabins or other park like things looked at all like anything I had seen when we started out.

I turned around and ran a quarter of a mile back to the intersection I had come from. For a brief moment I thought I would plant myself on a tree stump and wait for Garry, but it was chilly and I didn’t want to cool down more in the 10 minutes that Garry would be gone. I pressed on moving forward…..after about a half mile I realized that perhaps I had gone the wrong direction again.

Lacking tin foil and a magic service calling chair, I found an open spot in the middle of the road that allowed me a few bars (or dots in the case of Verizon) allowed me to pull up my Google Maps….following the route that the map laid out I pressed onward….in the wrong direction! Another quarter of a mile and I realized that I wasn’t getting any closer.

I texted my wife and let her know that I had somehow managed a wrong turn, and that I was still in the park but that I wasn’t quite sure WHERE in the park I was. There ahead I saw a Park Personnel van and flagged them down…or attempted to, they initially thought my two handed over the head wave was a rather energetic hello. (Note to readers: If you see a red nosed running waving her arms frantically, STOP)

I said where I was staying, only to be told that I was going the wrong way and I needed to turn around. With a good luck, they drove off, leaving me somewhat stranded in the middle of nowhere. At thought point I started to get nervous, I wasn’t scared, but I could feel my heart rate kick up a little.

During this time I had been texting with my wife, sending her the screen shot of where I IMG_5412was on the map. As I turned around and texted that the park personnel had informed me I was going the wrong way and then left me to make my way back; I let her know not to worry that I was heading back to the cabin, in the direction from which I came. At that point, I was more worried that I wouldn’t get back with enough time to spare so I could shower before church, after running six plus miles I can barely stand being around me I didn’t want to subject my friends to that as well.

 

As my brain was working through the process of what pace I needed to run and how I was going to get back, I spotted the headlights of my adorable GTi racing towards me. My wife, without being asked had gotten in the car, and using screen shot map had found me. (Tent included on image to show estimated location of cabin. Please note objects appear closer than they actually are) Her Boston temper was flared at the staff that had left me alone knowing that I was turned around, and the hilly curvy route that  would have taken me about 15 minutes to traverse running she did in a couple minutes…while I gripped tightly onto the door.

In the end, I made it safely back, though with no time for a shower, I sprayed myself with Febreeze and put on a dry shirt, and enjoyed the service followed by an excellent omelet brunch. And the knowledge that my slightly misplaced self resulted in a friend learning how to take a screen shot.

Total distance was a little over 6 miles (planned was about 3.5) and 1800′ of elevation gain. Also realized that while I struggled up the hills, that I needed to add some more consistent hill work into my training. As I begin to write my training plan over the next few weeks I will be sure that hills (and orienteering) are included.

Have you ever had a training run not go quite as expected? In the comments below, share how you handled the unexpected and what you learned from it.

They see me rolling…and my hip flexors hate it

Mid terms and a crazy work schedule have stalled out my training a bit. I’m finding that juggling work, classes, training and being an adult seems much harder as a 30-something than it did when I was in my 20’s. However, I refuse to accept defeat!

I have set the goal of doing something everyday that betters my fitness level. I set aside 10 minutes every evening to roll and stretch; focusing predominately on my hip flexors. For 10 minutes you can find me rolling, grunting and occasionally swearing as I focus on my insanely tight hip flexors.

For those that may be unfamiliar, the hip flexors are a group of muscles dehipflexorep inside of the thigh that are responsible for flexing you at the waist line and also for bringing your femur bone up inside of the pelvis. Because many of us spend hours a day sitting in the same position at our desks, the hip flexors are often short and tight which results in some impingement in our movement as runners.

Tight hip flexors have personally caused issues and discomfort with not only my hips, but my lower back and in some cases my knees. Because they impact ones mobility, they can be the cause of a host of seemingly unrelated pains. Disclaimer: Please note, that I am not a medical professional, this statement was based on my personal experience. If you are experiencing unfamiliar pains, please seek medical help.

There are a myriad of solutions to hip flexor issues, but for me I have found that rolling is an easy solution that can be done while watching television or whenever you have a few moments. This weekend I was rolling while completing a project for my accounting course, though I did learn that writing and rolling isn’t really the best combination…hey I was trying to time manage and multi-task.

The rolling technique that I learned from my trainer starts with getting in a plank position and position the roller just above my knee, my second leg is bent at a 45 degree angle and parallel to the end of the foam roller. The goal is to keep the weight on the foam roller and not on your other leg.

I roll in short bursts, back and forth a couple inches at a time,  and then stopping. After each burst, bend my knee for five bends, doing my best to keep a consistent pace and ensuring that my toes face forward. I then move up a little bit more and repeat the process until the roller is at my hip space.

Then I slowly roll in a continuous motion back to my knee, I do this about 3 times. I repeat the process on my other leg. When I find a particularly painful spot, I will allow my body to settle into the roller and in a gentle sideways motion work out the knot.  It’s not really an exact science and some days the pain is unbearable, but I know that in the end the increased mobility will pay off by improving my stride and movement.

After I work on my hip flexors, I make sure to work on the opposing muscle group by rolling my hammies. I start at my “knee pit” and slowly move up to my glute and back down. I go at a moderate speed, I don’t usually have too many knots or kinks in my hamstrings so I don’t have to stop too frequently for kinks. I then sit on the roller and work on my glute area as well.

I always make sure to work opposing muscles so the entire muscle is equally rolled. Rolling is never really a fun process, though I do notice an almost immediate relief afterward. I have found that through consistent work on my trouble spots that I am seeing improvement not only in my stride but also there is a decrease in pain post run.

If you have issues with your hip flexors, please leave a comment below on what strategies you have found that help you!

As always, thanks for reading!
JJ

 

 

A four mile run in the sunshine

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Spring has finally sprung in Maryland. Or at least by mid afternoon, the mornings are still a bit chilly. Last nights run with Regina, Becky and Regina’s adorable dog Stella was really nice. The 60 degree temps were a little cool at first but by the end of the run with the bright April sun shining down on us, we were all sweating like a summer day.

Overall, the run felt fantastic. I felt light on my feet and energized. I tried to focus on my posture and keeping my shoulders down and back and my core engaged. It is not uncommon for me to have my shoulders hunched up and resting on my earlobes (well maybe not that extreme but pretty close to it) by the end of a run, so I am working on keeping my torso a little more relaxed.

Post run though was a bit of a different story, while stretching my left hamstrung cramped up in a way I have never felt before. It was probably the most painful cramp I have ever experienced. I managed to work it out enough that I could get home and onto my roller. I am incredibly grateful that the residual pain I felt last night was gone when I woke up this morning.

I’m looking forward to more spring days like last night so that I can start to ramp up my outdoor miles.