On Feet, Spurs, and Pain

If you’ve been following along, my mom is my best running friend and my favorite race partner. She’s always ready for fun, and willing to try any new race or event. We love racing together.

IMG_0518.JPG

Lately, mom has been on injured reserve, taking some time off due to injury. As much as I missed my race buddy, I was sorry to see her hurt and missing what she loved. In this post, my mom shares her experience of diagnosis and treatment for a heel spur, including the dreaded cortisone shot.

Mom says:

In August, I began to notice a slight pain in my right heel as if I had stepped on a stone with bare feet. I put it off as too many days walking on paved surfaces training for a half marathon. A day off I thought would rest the foot and I could continue on. The next days were a succession of off and on days and no relief for the heel tenderness.

In September, I headed to Michigan to visit family. Although I took all my workout clothes and shoes, I could not walk a mile. Research led me to think the culprit plantar fasciitis so I ordered new shoes, compression socks, and various shoe inserts. I tried a few foot exercises half heartedly. Nothing seemed to help. I bought more inserts, this time from Dr Scholl, that had cushioning since just wearing a shoe was painful
When I returned home, I called my general practitioner and got an appointment. By then, walking to the mailbox was a teeth gritting event. She took x-rays, a heel spur was the culprit of the pain.

Next stop was a podiatrist who reviewed the x-rays. She pointed out that I had arthritis in both big toes (suck it up, Buttercup), a spur on my right heel, and another on the bottom of my foot. The spur on the back of my heel was causing no discomfort unlike the one on the bottom of my foot. Plantar fasciitis untreated probably caused the spur to develop. Her plan to “get me back out there” was a shot of cortisone, prescription Meloxicam, foot exercises, and a night time foot brace.

I had heard the horror stories about cortisone shots but was pleasantly surprised when a topical numbing spray was first applied prior to the injection. Pressure but no pain. The injection site would be tender for several days, but that was minor compared to the relief. My heel would feel odd for several days as if a wad of cotton had been shoved under the skin. Not numb, but pain free heel area made life better.

Now the end of November and I’m headed back for a check up. I have been following the exercise plan, taking the Meloxicam, and feeling much better. I added air plus gel orthotic shoe inserts to my shoes. The gel inserts are superior cushioning for my heel area, better than any other brand I have tried , and I’ve tried almost everything out there. I replaced all my walking and running shoes and am trying new types that offer more arch support. I am more careful of the miles on the shoes and the type of miles, replacement cost is minor compared to the months of pain. It feels great to be back out, even short distances. Although not running yet, I hope to soon.

Wine, Dine, and Rain

I love all things Disney. I especially love runDisney events – each event is unique, and super fun. This year, I decided to try an event I had never done, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Mom and I signed up to do the half marathon months in advance and eagerly anticipated race day. Before I knew it, summer was over and Wine and Dine was coming up fast. Unfortunately, mom had been having some foot trouble – first with plantar fasciitis, then with a hell spur (poor mom!) so her training wasn’t quite as strong as she had hoped. Determined to persevere, mom made the decision to do the race despite her less-than-perfect training. I’m in the middle of my marathon season, so I was planning to use Wine and Dine as a training run where nice people happened to hand me water. Both of us were ready to have fun and enjoy a few miles around the parks.

As race day neared, the forecast grew more and more depressing. First a chance of rain. Then rain and cold. Then, 100% chance of rain, cold, and all of it starting around 10pm. Sigh. If you’re going to get rained on, at least let it be as Disney.

A night race is a strange thing. Mom and I got our gear together and took pictures of our flat runners.

#Flatrunner

Then we waited. And waited. I read a terrible book from the lending library at my mom’s golf course clubhouse. Mom took a disco nap. Finally it was time to leave for Epcot, where we would park, and get ready for the race. We drove up to Epcot, parked easily (and without any waiting at all), and hopped on a bus bound for ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. We got to the staging area with about two hours to spare. Mom likes to be prompt. :)

In the staging area, a DJ was playing dance music and teaching popular line dances. Photographers were taking pictures. Characters were available for photos. Generally, everyone was upbeat and milling around in a big field. We took a few pictures.

Wine and Dine waiting

We did some dancing. We sat on the ground and watched people. I was delighted it wasn’t raining. Mom and I had grabbed cheap, flimsy ponchos at the local dollar store, so we were prepared just in case. About an hour before the race started, we made our ways to the corrals and found a curb to sit on. We eagerly awaited the start of the race, scheduled for 10pm. At about 9:45pm it started raining. Then it started pouring. By the time our corral started at 10:30pm, we were wet, cold, and ready to see the finish line.

The course for Wine and Dine isn’t my favorite runDisney course. It begins at Wide World of Sports and follows Osceloa Parkway (the Highway to Hell, in my family’s lingo) for three miles to the main gates of Animal Kingdom. Once in Animal Kingdom, the course winds around and past the beautiful sights of Everest and the tree of life. Seeing the attractions lit up is a true highlight of the race. All throughout Animal Kingdom, the rain poured and the temperature dropped. Mom and I made time and hustled along – both to stay warm and to get to the finish faster.

After Animal Kingdom, the race course goes back out on Osceola Parkway and along toward Hollywood Studios. Finally the rain eased up and we were able to take our ponchos off and enjoy the run. It was cold, way too cold for my shorts and tank ensemble, but I was having a great time.  I didn’t know it, but Hollywood Studios had already decorated for the holidays and it was gorgeous. We ran through a road all lined in lights!

Hollywood Studios during Wine and Dine

Onward we ran, stopping to take pictures with our favorite family, the Incredibles.

Incredibles

Just after we exited Hollywood Studios bound for Epcot and the race finish, it started pouring again. I had stupidly tossed my poncho in a trash bin miles earlier, so I trudged along, soaking wet and really cold. We ran along the Boardwalk and around the Beach and Yacht Club hotel area. Amazingly, the volunteers all along the course cheered. They were amazing, and totally undeterred by the cold and rain. I am so grateful to them all for the cheers, smiles, and support those last few miles.

Finally, blessedly, we made it to Epcot and to the finish line under Spaceship Earth. I have never been happier to see that shiny ball in my life. We got our medals, mylar blankets (best. thing. ever.), and food boxes. Mom and I were smart and had stashed clothes and towels in our car, so we headed directly there, cranked the heat, and changed into dry clothes. After warming up, we made our way back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had a small gift card to spend there and planned to use it. We enjoyed a bratwurst on pretzel bun, some nachos, and guacamole before the park shut down at 4am. We closed the party down!

Back at home, I took the best hot shower ever and crawled into bed at 5am. It had been a crazy day, but the most fun. There’s nothing like a runDisney event for a little bit of running magic!

Up the Tempo

As a running coach, I work with a lot of runners looking to increase speed. To run faster you have to run faster, and many runners are hoping to do just that, myself included! We’ve all heard the terms tossed around – tempo, fartlek, and intervals, but many runners aren’t sure how to combine those runs to make a training plan that not only makes sense, but helps them get faster. To start, its essential to understand the different types of runs and the purpose behind them.

Let’s talk tempo. A tempo run is a run that is done at a “comfortably hard” pace. Depending on who you ask, there are several different types of tempo runs. I will focus on the most traditional, the lactate-threshold (LT), or threshold, run.

Most runners have heard of lactate. Lactate is often blamed for muscle fatigue, though it’s really lactate plus some other acidic by-products of metabolism that build up in the muscles. At any rate, as your body works harder, acidic stuff builds up in the muscles and makes them less able to work as hard. You slow down when lactate accumulates faster than your body is able to clear it. When you run at lactate-threshold pace, you’re training your body to run at the fastest pace at which you can keep blood lactate levels pretty stable, thus keeping the muscles going and the pace steady.

A LT tempo run is designed to help your muscles get better at using/clearing the by-products of metabolism so you can run for longer at a faster pace. The more training you do at a quick pace, the longer you can keep blood lactate stable and the higher your “threshold”, or the level at which muscles reach their acidic limit. Basically, by running at your current threshold pace, you increase your threshold pace. Higher lactate threshold leads to the ability to run faster, longer, at easier effort.

To get this great effect, you have to train at the right intensity. There are several ways to determine if the intensity is right. Most experts say that a good tempo/LT pace is the pace at which you could run for an hour, but no more. For me, that’s hard to pinpoint, so I use some other, well established, methods to find the right pace.

  • Recent race pace – LT pace is usually about 25-40 seconds slower than your all-out 5k pace
  • Heart rate – LT pace is around 85% of your maximum heart rate

LT pace will vary based on how you feel, the terrain you’re running, and other factors related to training and stress. To make it a little easier, I often use simpler tests to determine my tempo pace. Tempo pace is about an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale of rate of perceived exertion (if 3-5 is easy and 9-10 is racing a 5k). Tempo pace is also the pace at which you can only utter a few words (and those words make sense), but can’t form a complete sentence.

Once you’ve found the right intensity, the next step is to determine the amount of time to spend running at that pace. A good tempo run should have an easy warm up and cool down, with a period of comfortably hard running in the middle. There are three usual types of tempo runs, short tempo runs, classic tempo runs, and long tempo runs. Easy, right? A short tempo run might be a 12-25 minute run with a pace at the fast end of the LT range. These shorter tempo runs are best for short distance race preparation, like 5k or 10k training. A classic tempo run includes 25-40 minutes of steady running at LT pace, and is a great run to include in the training plan for any distance. Finally, the longer tempo run, a tempo run that’s done at the high end of the LT pace range, with that pace held for 40-60 minutes, is a great run for runners training for longer distances. Longer tempo runs have the added benefit of training the body to run in a slightly uncomfortable state for longer periods of time, a mental and physical skill essential for success at half marathon and longer distances.

If you’re hoping to get faster, a tempo run is a great run to add to your training plan. Start with one every 10 days or so, and move up to one tempo run, or other speed-development run, per 5-7 days of training. Now, let’s get speedy!

Here, There, and Everywhere

Sitting in front of my computer, thinking about what I should write for this post (maybe one of the 10 ideas I have written down…), I started to look through my recent pictures. What I realized is that I’ve been running here, there, and everywhere.

I recently wrote about my trips to pace races, but that isn’t the only travel I’ve been doing lately. A few weeks ago, I headed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for work. The highlight of Milwaukee is the food. I absolutely love German food, and I made sure to get a lot.

Bratwurst

Running in Milwaukee is great. The streets have wide sidewalks with well-timed walk lights. The drivers are Midwest nice and allowed me to run across the street pretty much whenever I wanted. The best part about running in Milwaukee is the great scenery at the Lakeshore State Park. Lakeshore State Park is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and features miles of paved trails and amazing city and water views. I made sure to get there for my morning run and had a great time running along the waterfront for miles and miles. I saw fish jumping, bait fish schools moving, and lots of fishermen. It was the perfect lakefront run.

Just last weekend I was in Washington, DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. I had never run the Marine Corps Marathon before and was thrilled to finally get my chance. I ran as part of Team BEEF, a team of runners who use lean beef as part of their fueling strategy for a protein-rich training diet.

Team BEEF

I had been looking forward to Marine Corps for some time, and flew in early Saturday morning for the Sunday race. Saturday was a day for packet pick up and touring. My crew got to packet pick up bright and early and were greeted by a really, really long line outside of the Armory. After waiting about 45 minutes, we made our way into the pickup area, which was well organized and easy to navigate. I got my bib, did some shopping, and met up with friends. After the packet pick up, my crew and I headed out for sightseeing. I couldn’t be in DC and not enjoy the sights.

DC

After a delicious dinner, it was early to bed for this marathon girl. I got up Sunday morning ready to run. I donned my Team BEEF gear and made my way to the race start. There was more waiting in line for a bus, and then even more waiting in line for security checks to get into the runners’ area. I hadn’t really anticipated the amount of waiting in line, or walking. The race start is more than a mile from the bus drop off and most of that time was spent barely moving in a crowd. By the time we got to the line to get into the secure area, the lines were crazy. We stood in one spot for over 30 minutes. Suddenly, an hour into our wait, the line started moving. They had abandoned the checks to get everyone to the start (still a half mile away) and we all rushed in, dropped bags, and hustled to the start minutes before the race start.

The start of the race is really special, with paratroopers and flyovers from military members. It was really exciting.

Fly over

The race started on time and within minutes I was on the course. The course was more crowded than I expected, but everyone was running about my pace and seemed to be having a good time. It was organized chaos. There were plenty of spectators with great signs, loud cheers, and lots of high fives. I ran with a friend and we chatted easily for most of the race. I loved seeing all the spectators and the huge crowd support in every part of the course. The course itself is beautiful, winding through some of DC’s most important landmarks and best neighborhoods.

Around mile 20, I started to have some cramping in my left hamstring. The whole thing was tight and randomly hit me with charlie-horse type pain. I slowed to a walk, stretched, and hobbled along through the final miles of the course. Even thought I had a tough race, I loved the Marine Corps Marathon. The course is beautiful, the crowd support is amazing, and the scenery can’t be beat.

MCM finish

Janji Projects Launch!

My friends over at Janji are simply amazing people. Aside from designing, producing, and managing a popular clothing line, they are always looking for ways that runners can tie back. The Janji line donates a percentage of proceeds from the sale of every item to amazing charities across the world. Now, they’re taking it one step further by launching Janji Projects.

Janji Projects is a crowd funded giving platform that allows runners to help others. Here’s how it works – the Janji guys will post a campaign to Projects.RunJanji.com and works kind of like KickStarter. The campaign will feature a particular apparel item that is linked to a specific cause. If the campaign is funded 100% the apparel will be manufactured and the cause will be funded.  It’s that easy. Anyone who backs the campaign will get one of the limited edition shirts and will know that their money went to an amazing cause.

The first Janji Project is the Uganda Run for Another shirt. The shirt is made of performance blend of polyester and rayon and features a pattern inspired by Ugandan basket weaving. The linked cause is the construction of water access points in rural Uganda. If the campaign is funded 100%, production of the shirts will begin along with parallel construction of the water point. Awesome! The water point will give 350 rural Ugandans access to clean water. Backers will get their limited edition shirt, and the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make a real difference for Ugandans.

Clean water dispenser

The crowdfunded project launches at noon EST on October 27th on Projects.RunJanji.com. The design is exclusively available for preorder and, once the 100% mark is reached, the project will be taken down from the site. The shirts are expected to ship before December 20th.

Clean water dispenser 1

A little background on Janji from Dave:

The idea for Janji began at the DIII Track Championship meet, where Mike Burnstein and Dave Spandorfer raced the 10k on a stifling hot day. Needing copious amounts of water to just finish the 25 lap race, they were inspired to use their sport as a way to give people access to something they too often took for granted: clean water. After the meet, the two college teammates launched Janji. Now sold in over 100 stores around the country, every piece of Janji apparel has a design inspired by a country and, when a runner buys it, the runner gives clean water to that country.

“Our goal at Janji is to help inspire runners like ourselves to give back and run for another,” Spandorfer says. “By launching Janji Projects, the giving is direct. A runner can head out for a run knowing the shirt on their back provides access to clean water to 350 people in Uganda.”

My Pace or Yours

One of the best parts of being a runner is the opportunity to inspire others. I coach other runners and I love seeing them achieve their goals. I also have a great time as a professional pacer. I work with MarathonPacing, a great marathon and half marathon pacing company, and absolutely love the work that I do as a pacer. Recently, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to pace two great races, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon and the Wineglass Marathon events.

The Wineglass Marathon and its associated events is a great weekend of racing in an adorable town. Wineglass takes place in Corning, New York, a charming small town famous for the glass company and museum.

Corning, NY

The race runs through nearby towns, past farms and small communities. It runs over small bridges and past forests full of turning leaves. The scenes are lovely and it’s one of my favorite half marathon courses around. This year, like last year, I paced the 2:30 half marathon group.

Wineglass 2014

I had a great group. We ran together, told jokes, and had a great time. I coasted into the finish with perfect timing and a very happy group of finishers.

The next weekend, I was signed up to pace the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, pacing the full marathon group. I had the assignment of pacing 5:30, the course cut off. I was to be the last place finisher and guide runners who were close to the course cutoff. The Mohawk Hudson River Marathon is a great event in Albany, New York. Albany is a great town, with a charming old fashioned down town. The race is well organized and supported by a local running club.

MHRM

The race begins at a  local park, with lovely views of the changing leaves.

Mohawk Hudson

Running the course cutoff is a funny thing. Turns out that no one wanted to just squeak in at 5:30 – they wanted to crush their goals. I ran along the bike paths near the river mostly alone, but enjoyed the views and quiet connection to nature. The course is almost entirely run on bike paths through suburban parks. It’s really very nice with a few gentle hills in the middle. I loved the course and enjoyed working with my team.

Pacing is a wonderful thing and one of my favorite things to do as a runner. Next up for me is the Palm Beaches Marathon in Florida in December. I can’t wait!

Troy Conquers 26.2: Shut Up Legs

Here’s a great piece from my brother about his first run with me!

 

Mistakes were made – that is how I categorize more than half my running. Whether it is signing up for things I shouldn’t (Dopey 2015!), starting out too fast (4 minute miles are amazing!), or running too far out on an out and back. Mistakes were made and now I suffer.

I volunteered to help Rachel move to her new home in Connecticut a few weeks ago as any good brother would. I know how much work moving is and understood what I was signing up for in that regard. However, Rachel decreed that while I was in Connecticut, I would join her running group for a taper run and put up 12 miles. Ok. Fine. Moving is a tremendous amount of work but a decent run should still be possible.

I was wrong. Mistakes were made. While I knew how much work moving would be, I did not know that Connecticut had hills. No one told me about this. I expected gentle rolling valleys with beautiful trees just starting to turn colors. The hills, no these mountains, in Connecticut were more than I could handle and had no preparation for attacking. Behold my normal training run (11 mile in MI):

Michigan Run

 

Elevation change of 28 feet and that is because I purposefully ran down to the river and then back up a hill. I try to add in inclines whenever I do a treadmill workout but those are by no means a HILL workout. There is one course I like to run that does have some gentle rolling hills. But not this – this is CT and this was too much.

CT Run

Garmin tells me 401 feet of gain and 362 feet of loss.

After spending two days moving Rachel I was not able to tackle the mountains of Connecticut for the full 12 mile run. I had to drop out at 8.5 miles and was very thankful to the Fleet Feet coaches for getting me back to the store and helping on cool down. As someone who had never been to Connecticut, let alone run there, I have to give a lot of credit to the running community. Not only are there more runners than I am used to, they tackle these mountains (to me) with an ease I could not.

Next time I will know what I am getting into and come planning to run hills. I just may have to train to come to CT to train again.

 

On The Move

I’m on the move. Over the past weekend I moved from my house of six years to a bigger house a few towns over. I can say with 100% commitment that moving sucks. All of my things have been in boxes for weeks now and it’s getting ridiculous. I’m covered in bruises from running into boxes…

Moving bruises

All I can see are boxes…

Boxes everywhere

And unpacking them just creates a pile of more boxes…

Pile of boxes

I swear that this will ruin cardboard for me for life. I don’t want to see another box again ever!

The worst part of moving is how it has impacted my running. I have only run a few miles all week – and the miles I did run were painful. I’m lucky to be marathon tapering right now, so at least I’m feeling a little less pressure to get in the miles, but I’m missing running. I’m starting to get the no-running taper madness. I feel stressed, sleepy, and sluggish. I need a run, but there seems to be so many other things that need my attention (boxes!). I’m sure the cross training of hauling, cleaning, moving, and unpacking is good for me, but it just isn’t running. It’s time for a real run! I’m just going to unpack one more box first…

Troy Conquers 26.2: Evolution of Running Gear

In this Troy Conquers 26.2 installment, my brother discusses the evolution of his running gear. From casual, any shorts will do running, to serious marathon training (and the gear to match!), he’s getting more serious. Here’s what he had to say:

While the marathon training is new to me and the mileage is something I have never seen before, ramping up distance is not. Ramping up distance is a learning experience for me and I learned a lot about clothing.  Long before the WDW 2014 Half, my wife and I ran a couple of local 5K events.  When we decided to sign up for these we went to the local sporting goods store to buy some clothes.  It is funny looking back and our choices.

I grabbed the long, heavy basketball style shorts – the ones with two thick layers that hang down past your knees.  For a shirt, whatever – grabbed one ‘tech’ shirt and one cotton tee thinking those would be just fine.  For shoes it was whatever was there and felt comfortable on my feet, but yet priced ok in case this whole running thing fell through.  This was what I trained in for that first race: generic shoes, cotton socks, cotton boxers, heavy ‘tech’ shorts, and a cotton tee shirt.  You can already see the issues in my gear choices.  These outfits were fine for short (mile or two) runs, but even then I started to have issues with chafing.  I was confused at first – I had running clothes so why did running suck so bad?  Besides running in a Gulf Coast Texas July, what I was wearing was hampering my run.

After moving to Michigan the training for the WDW Half started to pick up and it was time to get serious.  We visited the local running store, Runners, for the first gait analysis and shoe selection.  Shoes matter and there was a definite improvement for me and a whole new world of pain-free running for the wife once we had properly fitting shoes. Next was clothing and time to get a couple new running outfits. An assortment of true tech tee shirts and Feetures running socks were the first items purchased along with some wicking boxers.  Sadly, only one new pair of shorts as I yet insisted on wearing basketball shorts for the short training runs.  This was me learning about the right kind of gear for running distances.  At this point I had no idea what compression gear was.  This basic arrangement served me well doing the first half marathon.

Troy at Disney

After a year of running, and, now training for a full marathon, I have completely changed my outlook on running gear.  My outlook it is still changing as the distances have started to increase.  Now all my shorts are actual running shorts, even those nice ones that have a zippered pocket in the back.  I had no idea how much I needed that before hitting a 10 mile run and desperately needing a Gu.  All my running shirts have lost the graphics and screen print – just plain tech running shirts to prevent unnecessary chafing.  A multitude of socks reside in my drawer, all meant for running.  I have wool socks with toes, thick padded socks, thin socks, Elite version socks with arch support, and compression sock that go to my knees.

Troy's socks

Calf sleeves for recovery were new to me until after my first half and I can’t explain how much I love them.  So many things I didn’t know I would need when I started that have made the training so much better.

I am getting close to breaking 13 miles in training.  I have never run farther and don’t know what lies beyond.  Maybe I will need new gear, maybe not.  I have some fancy new Lululemon running shorts if nothing else!

Great Finds!

I’ve mentioned before that I look for, and pick up spare change along my running route. Most runs I pick up a few cents, sometimes I find a quarter. I make about $5 every year just from spare change. Most runs I find a few cents.

Spare Change

This week, on my long run, I had to stop for a bathroom break. As is the case for most long runs, when I realized that I had to pee I was miles away from a bathroom that was available for use that early. After waiting and running for several miles, I finally made it to a Dunkin Donuts. As I ran across the parking lot, I had visions of donuts dancing in my head. I wanted a donut so much! I realized as I got closer that I didn’t have my usual water bottle – the one that contains my emergency cash. I was so sad that I had only collected three cents so far during the run. I didn’t have enough money for a donut. I immediately thought that it was too bad that I hadn’t found a dollar bill, which I have before. It would have been just enough to get a few donut holes. Sadness. As I walked in the empty store and headed toward the bathroom, I looked down. There was a folded dollar bill on the ground! I couldn’t believe my luck. The running gods had smiled on me! And the Munchkin I bought was the best donut I have ever had.