Sunday, October 30, 2016

Day 3,591: Going to get free Mizuno shoes (as a shoe tester)!

There are some benefits to not doing a long run every Sunday. Today I had a 7-mile run on the list but when I went out, I wasn't feeling it, so I came back early.

And during that time when I should have been running, I saw a post from the Atlanta Track Club that their main sponsor, Mizuno (who has their North American headquarters in metro Atlanta), was seeking shoe testers at the track club's offices in two weeks.

Basically, you sign up for a two-hour slot and test 11 different pairs of shoes, running in each for up to 5 minutes and then you say what you like or dislike about them.

And the best part of it is ... you get to take home the shoe model that you like! Easy peasy.

Luckily there was a time slot left that I could do this (when the little ones are in preschool). The rest of the slots went quickly, like within an hour after I signed up.

This will be great for me, since even though I lived for more than three years in Osaka, Japan, where Mizuno is headquartered, I've never tried any of their shoes. And I've always been on the lookout for any shoe that meets my needs.

Can't wait!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Day 3,588: The Dalton Red Carpet Virtual Half Marathon

Just another half-marathon.
In my mind, my next long run was really going to be weeks away. After the Chicago Marathon, I still had issues with speed that led to my initial consultation with a sports medicine doctor in late September and ultimately an MRI-confirmed stress fracture in my right shin.

This time, my recovery has been different. I hit two milestones last week -- the ability to run 10-minute miles instead of my typical 11s on Oct. 18 and then two days later, I was finally able to run under 10-minute miles.

But still ... I wasn't planning on doing any long runs until I felt I was ready.

Then I saw an announcement on Facebook. It was a virtual run offered by the Dalton Red Carpet Half Marathon. They just ran their race last Saturday and opened a virtual race, offering whatever they had leftover of their race shirts and medals if you registered (cost is $50 plus online fee). All proceeds would go to City of Refuge, their charity.

I am not fond of most virtual races but this was an excellent hook -- it's a way for a race to reduce their leftover inventory (that won't be good come next year's race) and raise more money for their cause.

So I signed up two days ago, planning to run today when I had a few extra hours. It is my second virtual race, after I ran a virtual Jeff Galloway 13.1 with a baby in a jogging stroller a year and a half ago just to be considered for streaker status in that race.

I set out to the park and hoped to just do 11 laps around Lake Clara Meer and then come home to finish it out. But of course, when I rounded the lake the first time a production crew was filming a speeding Jeep on the west side of the lake, blocking off access to that part.

I had to get creative and it mainly involved me running back and forth from the bowl near Park Tavern to the newer part of the park, Piedmont Park Commons.

My running was slow, I figured this would happen. I was a little surprised that by Mile 4, my Chicago Marathon race shirt felt too hot and I pondered going home to change. I stayed in the park but by Mile 6 I wondered if I would even be able to finish.

I convinced myself to stay through Mile 8 and then I convinced myself to go up and down past the dog park enough times until I could return home for 13.1 miles. I was able to speed up a little at the end but was pretty glad this was over.

I finished in 2:17:17, about four minutes slower than the 2:12:53 I ran in March 2015 for the Jeff Galloway virtual run, but who's counting?

Time: 9:29 a.m.
Temp: 64 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Chicago Marathon '16), shorts, Saucony Zealot ISO 2.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day 3,580: Back to the Silver Comet

HIRAM, Ga. -- It's been 10 days since I ran in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and I came out with the littlest one today to do a few miles on the Silver Comet.

I'm only realizing this now but I can't believe it's been a year and a half since I last ran on this trail that stretches from Smyrna all the way to the Alabama border.

My legs still were sore from the race but just yesterday I had a decent breakthrough -- the ability to run 10-minute miles instead of the 11-minute miles that I'd grown accustomed to after injuring my right shin after the Sept. 10 Craft Classic Half Marathon.

My cadence is still mincemeat -- I don't know how I can have a 0 step per minute cadence in spots through the run. Just a sign I'm not out of the woods yet.

Still I plugged along the trail. Everyone was pretty friendly today -- a few cyclists and walkers. I was pretty happy to also see the smart car of the Paulding County Sheriff's Office cruising the trail (it came by going and coming back to the car).

Time: 10:56 a.m.
Temp: 73 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short, shorts, Nike Free RN Distance.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Day 3,576: Fall trail running in FDR state park

PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- It's been a while -- so long that I can't even tell in my running log the last time I put on my trail shoes -- but today I had a chance to run on the spectacular trails in FDR state park.

What happened was that I was worried about parking at a large geocaching event and so I decided to park my car about a mile away at a trailhead and run my way in.

I didn't expect to see red, yellow and orange hues -- wouldn't you think they would arrive in the northern part of the state first -- but that's what I saw as I bounded my way along the rocky paths.

It was perfect, to do something entirely different. I still haven't recovered from last Sunday's Bank of America Chicago Marathon but I enjoyed every step of my 2-mile workout. I liked that I didn't have to worry about my pace -- I can't really run too fast over trails anyway, and it's a different kind of running as you have to pay attention to what's immediately ahead of you on the trail.

I bought my trail running shoes in the middle of last year, wore them once or twice and although they aren't my favorite (I'm pining away for a pair of Brooks Cascadias in the future), I had great confidence in their ability to provide traction and their overall light weight.

I'm looking forward to returning here again and running and geocaching more throughout the park.

Time: 1:02 p.m.
Temp: 79 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Champion red), shorts, New Balance MT101 trail running shoes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Day 3,570: The day I put a nearly 10-year streak on the line, part I (Bank of America Chicago Marathon)

Picasso's Cubist sculpture in Chicago's Daley Plaza adorns this year's medal. I felt similarly distorted upon learning I'd suffered a serious running injury weeks before the race.
You can tell me when it's over, if the high was worth the pain.
   -Taylor Swift

I was only a few blocks away from home finishing a run when I received the call.

"You have a stress fracture," the sports medicine doctor said. "Chicago is out."

I took a deep breath and stopped. This was not what I was expecting at all. Just two days before I was explaining my predicament in the doctor's nicely appointed medical complex, filled with autographed pictures and jerseys from players in Atlanta's pro and college football teams. I felt a little foolish about it, but there was just one thing.

I somehow could not run fast. Eleven-minute miles were about all I could do for days on end.

It had been 16 days since I ran an extremely good race in the Craft Classic Half Marathon and my recovery was taking an extremely long time for someone who has been able to run at pace just a few days after running in a marathon.

I didn't think it was my knee but there was a strange pain around it and my leg seemed to do all kinds of crazy things like it was no longer stable. And when I tried to push off on the ball of my right foot, my leg felt weak.

The doc listened to me and then did a bunch of tests all along my leg. Nothing hurt.

"The good news is it's not anything obvious," he said. "The bad news ... is it's not anything obvious."

So he set up an appointment for an MRI the very next day.

In the weeks after the half marathon, my mileage was dropping fast. I went from an average of about 50 miles a week to just over 40 miles the first week. That's when I tried to do my speed and tempo workouts and just couldn't do them after a few miles.

The next week -- just three weeks before the Oct. 9 Bank of America Chicago Marathon -- I had my last 16 mile run under the Hansons Marathon Method scheduled. Music Midtown had taken up my usual running route around Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park so instead I ran on the loop around the Atlanta Track Club's new offices, an industrial complex just off of Interstate 85 and the Sweetwater Brewery.

The loop was nearly perfect, about 1.3 miles and as flat as you could expect to find in hilly Atlanta. I could only run 5 miles before giving up. I ended the week with 31 miles.

Still, I pushed on. With just two weeks before the marathon, I ran my last significant run of length -- a pair of easy 10-mile runs on Saturday and Sunday. After I finished the Sunday workout, I felt like I'd felt after running the half marathon, slightly sore and particularly stiff around my right knee and leg. I could not walk down stairs normally with my right foot.

The wife scheduled my appointment with the sports medicine office, as she'd recently sought guidance for a runner's knee and had also had an MRI. Initially I wasn't convinced I'd need to seek help but after the second 10-mile run troubled me, I was grateful the appointment was the very next day.

The office for the MRI luckily was in the same medical complex and this was the first time I'd ever seen one in real life. You put your things away in a locker in another room, particularly anything metal that would love to fly around magnetically at a high speed. The tech asked me a few different times which part of my body would be scanned and if I had anything metal inside me, like shrapnel pieces or a pacemaker.

The main thing for me was lying down in the machine when my leg was being scanned. It was nestled very well to prevent me from moving but it really was just the thought that I was not supposed to move made me want to move even more.

Even wearing earplugs, the machine's noise was loud and made War of the Worlds-style buzzing noises. The whole thing took 25 minutes and the digital display I could see on the machine recording the time spent reminded me of all those weeks of speedwork I'd done leading up to this.

When the doc called me, there were 12 days before the marathon. I'd already told him that I agreed that I was no longer interested in running in the marathon since if I couldn't run fast for two miles, how could I expect to run a marathon?

Still, he warned me that my recovery would take longer if I ran in it and my leg could completely fracture.

The problem with being convinced not to run in a marathon that was going to happen in 12 days was there were still 12 days left, way too much time for me to think about it.

It was little things at first, the race T-shirt was cool, all of the daily reminders on social media from the marathon of how soon the race was approaching. There also was the fact that all of my travel plans were made way in advance. Not going meant eating probably $1,200 -- in non-refundable plane fares for a family of four, the $185 race fee and one reservation at Chicago's Palmer House Hilton, where I stayed when I ran in the race in 2010.

And then, in the back of my head, there was a little voice. It was actually more like a little thought, something you should never think when you are told you have a crack in one of your bones.

You can still run in this race.