CT Pace Per Mile Update: Running Clubs

In this Connecticut Pace Per Mile Race Report for January 30 – February 5, 2012, I will feature some East of the River running clubs.

This week, I am highlighting four local running clubs, the Hartford Track Club, the Manchester Running Company, the Silk City Striders, and the Shenipsit Striders.

Shenipsit Striders– The Shenipsit Striders call the Shenipsit Forest their home base and members share a joy of being in the woods. The membership includes trail runners, hikers, and outdoor athletes who compete in trail races, road races, orienteering and adventure races, snowshoe races in every possible distance. The club sponsors a trail sampler May, a trail hill race in the summer, a winter moonlight run, and, their showcase event, the Shenipsit Trail Marathon in the fall. The Shenipsit Strider calendar includes races, social runs, and training runs, and is available on their website and through a convenient subscription service. Or, connect with the Striders through their Facebook page for up-to-date information and last minute runs.

Silk City Striders – Based in Manchester, the Silk City Striders club is one of the largest local clubs. The club is affiliated with both the USATF and RRCA. They host and sponsor a number of local races and members can be seen at nearly every local race in their orange Silk City Striders gear. Family membership is $15 and individual membership is $12. Membership entitles you to a newsletter sent via email and the camaraderie of being a member of a large and diverse group. The Striders host weekly runs Tuesdays at 6:00pm at Mt. Nebo Park in Manchester and Saturdays at 8:30am at a location that varies depending on the time of year.
Manchester Running Company Running Club – In 2008, the Manchester Running Company started the Manchester Running Company Club, a USATF club. The goal of the club is to develop a community of runners with an emphasis on meeting the needs of diverse runners. Dues are $15 per year for an individual, and membership includes a host of perks, including: a MRC team shirt, 10% discount on products sold by the Manchester Running Company, free coaching plans from the MRC staff, $2 off any MRC hosted race registration, and more.

Hartford Track Club– This RRCA club hosts a variety of races in the Hartford area, including the Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon, the Solstice Sprint 5k, and the 8k Cross Country Challenge. Members receive The HTC Monthly newsletter  which includes race results, nutrition and injury prevention information, updates on Hartford Track Club events, and, according to the club, camaraderie and fun. The HTC has a variety of group runs that occur on most every day of the week in various locations around greater Hartford. Check out their website for complete, up-to-date information about the weekly group runs. The cost for membership is $20 per year for individual memberships and $30 per year for family or business memberships.

I hope you’ll consider joining one of these great groups on a social run. Each of the groups welcomes non-members and members-to-be at the social runs. Joining a social run is a great way to meet new people even if you don’t join the club. Of course, joining a club is a fun way to enhance your participation in the sport and ensure you always have running friends.

A few other notes:

If you’re interested in some winter running gear advice, check out my guest blog over at The Running Mike. Finally, a few events from past reports that might be of interest:

Fleet Feet West Hartford Saucony Groundhog Day Run, Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 6:30pm. At this event runners will run or walk a 1/2 mile loop as many times as they want, earning a playing card for each loop. The best poker hand will win a prize.

If snowshoeing is your thing, consider checking out one of the WMAC Dion Racing Series races. There are several upcoming races and races throughout the winter. Check the WMAC Dion Racing Series website for registration information and, more importantly, weather information. Obviously, snow is required for snowshoe races, so all the races are dependent upon weather conditions.

Keep running!

More Salt Lake City Miles

I had a great time in Salt Lake City and was feeling a bit sad to see my trip end. Luckily, I got to squeeze in a quick run before my last meeting and return trip on Saturday. Friday afternoon, I got an invitation for a Saturday morning run from Rachel of Utah Tri Girl. I love meeting online friends in real life, so I was delighted that we managed to connect. Rachel and I met bright and early Saturday morning for a few casual miles. She was an excellent tour guide. I got to see Temple Square, including a beautifully lit temple.

We ran past the Tabernacle and we peeked in to see the amazing pipe organ. We ran past the gigantic convention center and through a lovely little park. We chatted about running and triathlons and husbands and life. It was wonderful – a great run and great conversation (thanks, Rachel!). Unfortunately, we both had things to do, so we said goodbye just before sunrise. I headed up to my room to get ready for the day/take more pictures of the mountains.

Then, it was time to leave. Boo. I had a great time and some great runs in Salt Lake City.

Running in Salt Lake City

I’m in Salt Lake City, Utah for work and I have learned that it’s insanely pretty. I don’t know how anyone could ever get used to seeing the mountains every day. I got into Salt Lake City Thursday afternoon…

…and immediately went for a run. The fact that it was raining was not a deterrent because it was 45 degrees and the views were amazing. I met someone who is here for the same work event and we headed out together for 4 casual, wet miles. I was immediately aware that running Salt Lake City, at least compared to central Connecticut, is running at altitude. I was barely moving at a glacial pace, but my heart rate was super high. My new running partner and I headed up a hill. We were creeping along and both of our heart rates were redlining. Being in pretty good shape and from an area with tons of hills, I was shocked at what a difference the altitude makes. I now totally understand why people are so excited about training at altitude.

We ran past Temple Square. It’s amazing.

We also ran past the capitol building – amazing. And past some mountains – amazing. I spent the entire run in a state of total awe at how pretty everything is here. As if that weren’t enough, the people here are super nice, the city is clean, and it’s safe. The 4 miles flew by. We might have run more, but had to get back to work (since that’s why we’re here and all). This morning I got up at a ridiculously early hour thanks to the time change. It was too dark to run, so I headed to the gym in the hotel. It’s not an exercise room, but an actual gym with a nice selection of equipment. I discovered that marriage and family therapy researchers are a fit group. The gym was packed with people here for the same event. It was nice to see so many fit people and to talk running with others who had run around town the day before. Back in my room, I became obsessed with taking pictures of the sun rising behind the mountains this morning because it was so dang pretty.

I’m having a great time and I’m sorry I’m leaving so soon. I would love to take advantage of some more altitude training. Perhaps I can sneak in a quick run before I head to the airport.

Gear Review: Athleta Visor Beanie

I occasionally run with a woman who wears an Athleta Polartec Power Stretch Visor Beanie. Every time I saw it I thought it was a cute, functional hat. Thanks to a Christmastime coupon, I decided to try the Athleta Visor Beanie.

I initially liked the beanie’s soft, but somewhat structured feel. It feels like a typical fleece hat, but has a bit of a starchy feel. I have worn it on a few runs now and I like it. It isn’t the warmest hat out there, but it does the job, and the visor makes it a great winter running hat.

First, the hat is a nice size. The website suggests that it is a skullcap style hat. I found it to be a bit looser than a skullcap, but tight enough to stay on while running. It has contoured sides to provide extra ear coverage. It is made from a Polartec® Power Stretch®: Polyester/Spandex blend that provides thermal warmth without bulk and is breathable and wicking. It is very lightweight and breathable. This is a plus on most days, but if offers no protection from wind. It wicks nicely and generally keeps my head comfortable. One feature I really like is the ponytail hole. It has a ponytail hole that’s actually large enough for my thick hair. I love having enough space to fit both my hair and my fingers in the hole. It makes getting it on much easier. The brim of the hat is designed to keep sun out of the wearer’s eyes. I was initially skeptical given the short length of the brim, but it does a nice job of keeping my eyes shaded.

The instructions on the hat say hand wash. That’s never going to happen in my house, so I tossed it in a garment bag and into the wash with my other running clothes. I reshaped it and air dried it after washing. It survived just fine. Maybe it’s a little bit floppier, but several washes later it seems to be holding up. The picture above was taken approximately 4 washes into its lifespan. As you can see, it’s held shape nicely. I am not as impressed with the seam placement on the hat. There are two seams that run over the ears, one at the top of the ear and one at the bottom. I notice these seams rubbing on my ears and this can get uncomfortable after a while. Other than the seam placement issue, this is a great hat that fulfills a unique place in my running gear collection  – it’s keeps the sun out of my eyes like a visor, but with the warmth of a beanie.

Grade: A-

Suggested retail price: $34 (the savvy shopper will wait for a coupon or pair this with another Gap purchase to get the free shipping on orders over $50)

Guest Blog: Walking My First 5k

Are you thinking of walking, jogging, or running your very first 5k? In this guest post, my mom shares her advice and the story of her first 5k. Here’s her experience…

This past fall, I walked in my first 5k. What I had hoped would be a test of how far I had come, was an test of grit thanks to a fall and knee injury earlier in the week. Cane in hand, I was determined to compete, even if it was just to finish.

The South Foster RI race (Dr. Rachel’s note – Fall Foliage 5k) was held on a wonderful partly cloudy day in the countryside. My daughter and I arrived about an hour and a half early to check in and get our race bibs. Volunteers were on hand to direct parking and the way registration desk. There was a bit of a line as the race allowed same day registration, but it went quickly. A map of the race was posted, but being directionally challenged, it was of little help to me. Number, safety pins. and a race shirt were handed out to each registrant. I learned the shirt was not to be worn during the race (only dullards do that) but the number was to be affixed with all 4 pins to my front. Next stop was the bathrooms and another line which got only longer the nearer to the start of the race. The time went by very quickly and we had only a bit of extra time to warm up and stretch before the start.

The start area was for both the 5k and 10k, walkers and runner alike. Runners moved to the front and walkers to the rear where we arranged ourselves with the swiftest in front. Cane left in the car (a bit of vanity took over) I was at the very back of the walkers and on the right side of the pack, the slow lane. I need not have worried about the course directions, volunteers were at each turn directing participants and signs and mile markers were posted as well. A water station, on the right, had cups with cool water and a bit beyond, a trash can. I appreciated that several volunteers from the sidelines asked if I need help, but generally left me to limp along. I also had a couple runners pass, asking as well, not breaking their stride. Glad I was far to the right as several large groups ran by.

The countryside was just beautiful with grazing horses and sheep, an old dog watching from the end of a driveway. I wished I’d brought my phone to take pictures. The track was “New England flat”, some on pavement and some on dirt road. The end was up a hill and through a roped chute where volunteers awaited to take a tear off from the bib to record time. I had read in a runners’ magazine to enter a race because “you won’t be last”. The only reason I was not last, dead last, was my daughter let me go first. No one cheered any less or made me feel bad, quite the opposite. I had done it, gritted teeth, limp, and all.

Burgers and hot dogs awaited finishers and picnic tables were scattered about. We ate with a couple of runners who told us about another beautiful race course we should put on our list. Runners, walkers, kids, all mingled and talked about their time or the course, enjoying the occasion.

No one even mentioned my less than stellar performance.

I have entered another race and will take what I learned from this one:
1. Arrive early, the bigger the race, the more time needed.
2. Check your shirt before you leave the registration desk and don’t be afraid to ask for a different size. You might not be able to exchange it, but it never hurts to ask.
3. Find the bathrooms early, the closer to the start, the longer the line.
4. Line up at the start according to your ability, and be honest with yourself, slower people to the back. If you are slower, stay to the right of the pack.
5. Take advantage of the beverages along the route.
6. Don’t assume the limping or stopped participant needs help; ask, but respect the reply.
7. Finishing the race is a great goal, sometimes the time is not that important. One person’s personal best may be different than yours.
8. All finishers need to hear the cheer.
9. It’s ok to be last or next to last, there are no lasting effects from this.

I know with certainty that I will have a new personal best, that I will finish, and I will meet some pretty neat people.
See you there!

CT Pace Per Mile Update: Running Groups

In this Connecticut Pace Per Mile Race Report for January 23 – 29, 2012. We’re still in the Racing Desert in Connecticut, but it’s the perfect time to find some new running buddies. This is the first of two posts featuring local running groups.

This week, consider joining one of the Fleet Feet West Hartford weekly runs. A group of runners depart Fleet Feet Mondays at 6am and Wednesdays at 6am and 6:30pm. The groups include runners at all pace and skill levels and the Fleet Feet staff have prepared a set of routes for nearly every distance. Even better, Fleet Feet has a nice bathroom and a place to store your keys and gear. These runs are cancelled in the event that roads are unsafe or impassable due to snow, ice, or thunderstorms. You can get more information by following Fleet Feet on Twitter or Facebook, joining their group on Meetup, or by subscribing to their weekly newsletter (link and subscription information is on their website).

Fleet Feet also sponsors the occasional fun run. There are three special events coming up –

The Saucony Groundhog Day Run, Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 6:30pm. At this event runners will run or walk a 1/2 mile loop as many times as they want, earning a playing card for each loop. The best poker hand will win a prize.

Moving Comfort Diva Night, Tuesday, February 7, 7-9pm. This is a special event for ladies only. There will be wine, cheese, chocolate, and bra fittings. There is a 100 lady limit, so RSVPs are required.

Saucony Dudes’ Night, Thursday, February 9, 7-9pm. This event, for gentlemen only, features nuun pong, a chili cook off, and Hooker beer. There is a 100 dude limit, so RSVP early.

If you’re looking for a new running group in your area, check out Meetup.com. There are several east of the river groups, including: The Mansfield Trail Runners, The 5k Runners Meet up, and a Grim Reaper Racers group.

Next week’s report will feature a few local running clubs, the Hartford Track Club, the Manchester Running Company, the Silk City Striders, and the Shenipsit Striders. Stay tuned.

Also, if you’re interested in some winter running gear advice, check out my guest blog at The Running Mike.

A few holdovers from past reports that might be of interest:

If snowshoeing is your thing, consider checking out one of the WMAC Dion Racing Series races. There are several upcoming races and races throughout the winter. Check the WMAC Dion Racing Series website for registration information and, more importantly, weather information. Obviously, snow is required for snowshoe races, so all the races are dependent upon weather conditions.

I’m still featuring one trail race, the Belleville Pond 10k Trail Race, Saturday, January 28, 2012, 10am, North Kingstown, RI – This is the third race in the South County 4th Season Race Series.

Stay warm out there, runners!

When You Can’t Run…

Snowshoe! We finally have enough snow for snowshoeing so I invited a running friend out on the trails. He cross country skied and I snowshoed alongside. It was the perfect day for snowshoeing. It was about 25 degrees, sunny, and clear. The snow was light and fresh and the ponds were frozen. Deer tracks crisscrossed the trail and disappeared off in the distance.

Some brave explorers crossed the pond, but we stuck to the trails. Some were well-traveled, but on others we were moving through fresh snow. It was a quiet day in the woods.

Though I miss the days of the unseasonably warm weather and dry roads, I’m thankful that we had one good day for snow sports. It was a lovely day and a much needed substitute for my long run.

The Knee Bone’s Connected to the Hip Bone

As I got settled into running on my post-surgery knee, I began to realize that my gait had changed dramatically. I passed through the Inspector Gadget phase (explanation) and the pronounced limp phase and then into a strange new place. I knew my gait wasn’t what it used to be, or should be, but I didn’t have a plan about how to fix it. Physical therapy was primarily about activities of daily living. Since I could walk to my mailbox, get in my car, and shower without help, they were satisfied with my recovery. I wasn’t. I wanted to be returned to my pre-surgery state, or at least a state that didn’t involve worrying about my gadget knee and its influence on the rest of my body. Then, like a miracle, I won a gift basket from my local running store that included a certificate for Dartfish Video Gait Analysis.  I couldn’t schedule my analysis fast enough.

I met with the Dartfish Guy (DG since I didn’t ask him if I could use his real name) for a consultation and recording session. He inquired about my running and sport history, every injury I’d ever had, and my typical running week. He asked about any concerns and we talked at length about my surgery and my history in PT. Then DG began the recording phase of the analysis. I ran on the treadmill for about 20 minutes while he recorded my stride from every possible angle. As soon as I was done running, DG asked me if I wanted to see the recording because he had noticed something about my stride that was so bad that it didn’t require slow motion replay or still shots to see. Yikes. I knew my stride was bad, but not that bad. I watched the video of me running that was shot from behind me. It was horrifying. My right hip (the surgery side) is so weak that I had a noticeable 80’s thug lean. DG didn’t seem bothered by this. I wasn’t so optimistic, but DG assured me he would develop a plan to fix my gadget knee.

After about a week, I met with DG to go over the results of my gait analysis. I got to see a lovely still pictures and slow motion replays of all my gait maladies, particularly my hip lean.

See the little red line? That’s the line of my hips. It should be flat. My line was decidedly not flat. Not good.

Yep. It’s pretty saggy. Turns out that the childhood song is right – the knee bone’s connected to the hip bone. This is what happens when you have major knee surgery and aren’t allowed to rotate your leg for 4 months. My right hip is unstable and weak. When I have my full weight on my right leg, my hip isn’t strong enough to support the weight, so it drops, shifting my weight off to the side. My poor gadget knee, in an effort to control the side-to-side motion, shifts laterally. All bad things.

Not to be outdone by my right hip, my right knee has its own contribution to the mess that is my gait.

As you can see, I hit the ground with my right leg basically straight, resulting in a peg-leg like motion. Also not good.

That was the bad news. There was some good news. According to DG, my stride is “powerful” and very even on the left side. I don’t pronate or supinate or shift through my feet. I’m flexible and well-balanced. I have the ideal leg flexion and extension on my left side. Generally, everything was just right on the left side, making the right side all the more pronounced. DG had prepared a list of exercises to work on my right hip. They are ridiculously hard and exactly what I need. I can go on forever doing the exercises with good form on my left side. On the right I can barely make it through two pathetically wiggly reps.

I met with DG a second time about a month after the feedback session. He’s given me more exercises that I struggle to do. They’re perfect for me and, given how sore/tired my hip has been for weeks, seem to be working. All in all, the Dartfish Video Gait Analysis was one of the best things I’ve done for myself and for my running. I finally feel like I’m making progress and have found in DG someone who understands my struggle and has a plan. He’s optimistic and funny and I am so hopeful that following his plan will be just the thing I need to transform my gadget knee into a real, working knee.

Dreams

It seems like all the cool kids are doing “wordless Wednesdays”. I’m jumping on the bandwagon this week with a semi-wordless Wednesday. A little picture I like, and think of every time I’m on the treadmill…

 

Treadmill Thoughts

The weather has driven me inside. I guess I am a bit of a fair weather runner, but I just can’t run in single digits or freezing cold rain/sleet. Therefore, I’m stuck on the treadmill and not liking it. I find running on the treadmill hideously boring. Despite that, this week’s treadmills runs have felt great. The reason? I can run really fast (well, not objectively fast, but fast!).

I started out running on the treadmill as soon as I was allowed to run after knee surgery. Everyone starts on the treadmill because it’s soft and there are no unpredictable cracks, rocks, or sticks underfoot. Plus, it makes it easier for unstable knees to have the belt coming at them at a steady pace. That first run was either hilarious or horrible – I’m still not sure which. I was lopsided and had a pronounced limp. I thought that I looked a bit like Inspector Gadget (from the old cartoons) when one of his gadget limbs malfunctioned. I love Inspector Gadget and if you watched the cartoons you know exactly how I looked when I was running those first few months. I “ran” pathetically slowly – about as fast as most people can walk. I kept going and got faster and faster. I clearly remember running at 4mph (a blistering 15 minute mile) for the first time. I felt so free. My gadget leg and I faithfully hit the treadmill for months before braving outside running. Just before I ran outside for the first time, I was running at a top treadmill speed of 4.8mph (12:30 per mile). This week I hopped on the treadmill and started with an easy warm up jog. I looked down at the treadmill and found myself running 5.6mph (10:40 per mile) at an *easy warm up jog*! I couldn’t believe it. I know a 10 minute mile isn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt like I was flying. Watch out Kara and Shalane, here comes Rachel! I suppose this is perhaps something that only the recently-injured experience – pure, uncomplicated joy at running a glacial pace. That’s why I run – to feel free.