Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 year in review

What the heck has happened to this blog?!

Two things, primarily. First, I've been engaged in an ongoing pursuit of a new home, a process which consumed a great deal of attention in November - December particularly. Second, I've been taking an online class for work (pretty tough class, incidentally). This is on top of normal stuff - work, family, etc. That doesn't leave enough time for reading other blogs or writing my own. The class ends in a month, and with any luck (though it's been limited so far) the real estate search will wrap up this winter.

I've always been reflective at the end of a calendar year, while thinking ahead to the next year. So, let's review 2008.

2008 began well with a gradual buildup in running, continuing what I had started in 2007. By January 2008 things were moving forward, I was running three days a week, and my long run was at 4-5 miles. Rather than run more road 5ks this time around, I got into trail running. Here are some of the running highlights and low points of 2008:

January - increased weekly long run from 5 to 7 miles
February - First race in over a year - Valentine 5K Run at Silver River State Park in 25:37. Pretty satisfying given the soft sand and very relaxed first mile.
-increased weekly long run to 9 miles
March - Trout Creek 15K Trail Run in 1:24:06. Technically my longest race ever, this featured a totally unfamiliar course and flooded bridge crossing at 5K. An epic running adventure.
April - Flatwoods Four Trail Run in 34:35. Crowded, twisty, rooty first mile, but ran middle two miles under 8:00 each. Good effort.
May - increased long run to 11 miles and spotted black racers seemingly with every run on the Florida Scenic Trail.
-joined local runners group and began running more on roads and hills.
-injured right Achilles tendon.
June - rest/recovery. Working on 100 pushups challenge.
July - rest/recovery. Still working on pushups.
-moved to CT.
August - more rest/recovery. Did 40 straight pushups.
September through December - Easy walking/running. Trying to get used to hills. Pushups kinda fell through the cracks.

Two steps forward, one step back. Hopefully 2009 will see another step or two forward in fitness. I'm looking forward to getting in shape for more trail runs this coming spring.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October wrap-up & rebuilding progress

October turned out to be my best month of running since May, before the Achilles injury. I've been walk/running three times a week - twice a week early on roads and once a week off-road. In the last two weeks I've dealt with cool rain and with increasing cold - 33 degrees one day last week. Not bad if you're dressed for it.

My favorite October running moments were stepping outside one frosty morning to a clear sky full of stars, and a Saturday trail run that featured glowing fall colors. I forgot my camera that day but it was good to travel light.

I hadn't been a big fan of running on roads in recent years but oddly enough it seems to be working for me right now. My Achilles is getting stronger with the firmer running surface, and my shins are doing fine as long as I don't overdo the downhills. I try to get out on trails on weekends for some variety and some "soul" running. Apparently I need more of it as I've found myself easily fatigued trying to avoid rocks while running up leaf-strewn slopes. I'm still doing very short distances but increasing a little each week.

I'm also thinking about something I read in a triathlon training book this summer. This writer felt that developing good running technique, particularly in terms of foot strike (forefoot or midfoot strike vs. heel strike), was more important than sheer running endurance and that the former should precede the latter. This runs somewhat counter to a lot of other running advice I've read or followed. I think I've tended to be a bit of a heel striker, which I thought was good for shock absorption, but from what I've read - not so good for speed. Your foot stays on the ground longer with each stride. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I've been working on my form and I like what I've seen so far. I seem to be landing a little more on the midfoot, staying on the ground less with each stride, and taking more strides per minute. A couple days ago, I ran on a track for the first time in many months and it was a positive experience. The flatness of it made it feel like I was running slightly downhill. I thought my three minute "comfortable" runs might cover only 500-550 meters. Actually, although I may have been a little excited by the setting, I covered 600-650 meters each time, which after crunching numbers is a faster pace than I managed in my three trail races in Spring 2008. Granted, this was a very short distance, but I was not running hard, just turning my legs over faster. I think I can stay with this form as I build endurance and sustain this pace for a 5K - at least I hope so.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October colors

This is one of my favorite times of year in New England. The weather is very good for running - temperate and often dry. The trees are at their peak. It's been over a decade since I've seen the fall colors, and they're even better then I remember. I've made a concerted effort to get outdoors on the weekend to see the sights.

The last two weeks have seen encouraging progress on the running front. I'm doing walk/runs three morning a week, twice on roads and once on trails. I start with a walking warmup for ten minutes, then run a short distance several times with an equal walking recovery. I'm actually running for time, not distance, e.g. 1 min run, 1 min walk, repeat, or run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 90 seconds, etc. I conclude with a walk of ten minutes or more depending on how much time I have. In the morning before work, not much. My lungs are not where they were this spring, and I really feel the hills, though I'm doing minimal running on them to ease my Achilles back into running shape. One exception is that I am doing a little bit of downhill running to maintain, and improve, my ability to make use of gravity on the downhills. In retrospect I see that long running layoffs in Florida, and running mostly on flats, left me unable to cope with running down big or steep hills - my shins would get overwhelmed. I want to work towards preventing that. There are two sides to hills and you really need to train on both I think - uphills to strengthen legs and lungs, downhills to strengthen shins and allow one to use gravity instead of braking.

My weekly trail "run" is generally on fairly firm surfaces - I want to avoid the loose sands that may have contributed to my Achilles injury in Florida this past spring. Most of the trails in Connecticut are much firmer and can be quite rocky depending on the trail.

The trails at Bluff Point State Park are hardly a state secret - they seem to get a fair amount of use. They are wide and relatively smooth and can accommodate bikes, walkers and runners. I tried to get a few pictures of the fall colors but it was early in the morning and still shady.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In honor of Wordless Wednesday

Anne at Run DMZ has this terrific concept. Every Wednesday she posts a photo under the caption "Wordless Wednesday" and lets the photo speak for itself.

Under the idea that imitation is the sincerest flattery (except for photo quality - I'm not even going to try to match Anne in that category), here is an entry that captures a little bit of summer in CT. Oops - couldn't resist a few words.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hanging in there

For those of you who haven't given up on me or this blog, thanks. I am hoping to slowly resume a little running this week, on top of doing more walking. This has been a pretty long layoff for me - 4+ months with essentially no running except for short tests to see how the Achilles was doing. Until late September, it was not ready. Now, perhaps it is.

My hope now is to steadily rebuild the fitness I've lost. It's going to be slow going, as I could not do all of the cross training I would have liked to, and I also did not do perhaps all that I could have, even given my injury limitations. It's funny how your world shrinks sometimes, and you feel that even walking a few blocks is too much because it's uphill. I felt sort of closed in after the move from Florida because I was suddenly in hillier terrain, and I did not want to strain my Achilles further on the hills, even though I wanted to build my strength up. It's been frustrating.

I'm still doing some pushups but not as consistently lately. If I can regain some consistency I can resume my quest for 50 straight.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bumps in the road

The late summer weather in Connecticut has been wonderful overall. I've been able to enjoy some short walks in the woods and I've seen a few wild turkeys, which are surprisingly common around here now.

On the fitness front I've had a couple more minor setbacks in the last month. First, I managed to fall down and bump my head. An embarrassing incident - I usually like to think I have a modicum of balance and agility - but it wasn't really an athletic failing, more of an "in the wrong spot at the wrong time" thing. Then, I experienced some swelling behind my knee and started to come down with a couple of symptoms similar to Lyme Disease. I didn't detect a tick but no matter, it was off to the doctor and time to start antibiotics. So far so good - things didn't get too bad but I will continue to monitor it.

On the positive side, with my new health insurance in effect, I was finally able to see a sports medicine doctor about my Achilles area. I'm cleared to do low impact exercise like a stationary bike or elliptical trainer. I can even run as the doc feels I'm a low risk for a serious injury, but I'm going to rest further as I'm still not 100%. I have some more knowledge and more techniques for coping with it now. He told me it may take awhile, which wasn't news as it's been three months and it's not right yet. This is starting to rival my most significant running injury in years. I had tendonitis in my shin years ago that took months to heal, and was too uncomfortable to run with. This is more deceptive because I feel I could do any one run at any speed with this condition without much discomfort... until afterwards. Which is pointless.

So I watch the fall races go by, like the leaves starting to drift down, and tell myself - someday, another day. I just have to do what I can for now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Open water swimming

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. The whole moving business, combined with a total lack of running (waaaah!) to report on, has kept me largely off the blogosphere lately.

A couple weekends ago, still resting my Achilles, I watched the Niantic Bay Triathlon (sprint distance - 0.5 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 3.5 mile run). It was the first triathlon I'd ever watched in person, and was well attended with over 500 entrants and probably an equal or greater number of spectators. The whole event was inspiring enough to make me think of trying it myself next year. The idea of getting a lot better at swimming and biking is intriguing.

I watched the swim from a hill above the beach, and marveled at the speed of the swimmers and the distance they were covering in ocean water. Then I headed over to the transition area to study what sort of gear the athletes used, and how they handled the transition from swim to bike, and then from bike to run. I literally took notes as this was new to me. My only experience with triathlons pretty much comes from watching parts of the Ironman on TV, and reading a little about triathlons online and more recently in library books.

A week or so later, inspired by the triathlon and also by the Olympics on TV, I headed out into the ocean myself on back-to-back days to try a little open water swimming. My goal was to get myself introduced to open water swimming, so that it would not seem quite so daunting mentally or physically. The first mental/physical hurdles were the weather and water conditions; they were virtually identical each day: about 60 degrees air temperature at 6 am, water temp around 73-74, flat calm. So no problems there. Yes, I swam early... it's light here earlier in the day than in central Florida, and I like to get up and get my exercise in and have the rest of the day free. I was pleased to feel warm enough which was a minor concern after living in Florida until July. The next mental/physical hurdle was dealing with the large number of jellyfish inhabiting the bay. Apparently there is a bumper crop of them this year. My technique was to swim between them, and I guess I got lucky, as I escaped unscathed. One beach walker was surprised I got in the water with them at all. Another told me I deserved a good day for swimming so early. I thought that was nice. I've never been stung by jellyfish before (I used to catch them in my beach pail as a boy, actually) so I'm either lucky or the jellies like me.

Speaking of technique, I found that my swimming technique was much worse than I feared. I learned that it's one thing to flail across a pool, or swim the length underwater, but something else entirely to swim hundreds of yards in open water. You have to actually breathe. Imagine that! Swimming without breathing doesn't work well for longer swims (which I define as 100+ yards). It's tiring trying to swim with mostly your arms (again, still resting the Achilles) while keeping an eye out for jellies.

I have a very long way to go indeed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New latitudes

I have now relocated to Connecticut and I am settling in and enjoying the cooler temps. The humidity has been a lot more tolerable than in Florida, where sometimes the air seemed so thick you could cut it with a knife. The sun is not quite so blindingly bright. It's a nice time of year.

I still have limited computer access for now, aside from being busy establishing myself as a CT resident once again.

I'm still resting my Achilles until I can get a professional opinion on it. It's frustating to not go running, but there are worse things in life.

On the plus side, I did a new pushups test and completed 40. :-)
A little rest does wonders. I'm probably the only one who can tell, but the arms and shoulders are showing more definition. I feel like my shoulders have biceps now (granted this is on a runner's, not bodybuilder's, overall physique).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Moving to New England (!)

Big news: I am moving my family to New England this summer. I have deep roots in that area - many relatives - so it is a welcome return home of sorts for me. There are many people I will miss here, and I will miss the Florida trails I've run.

Running in New England is going to be very different. I will have to get used once more to hills and, eventually, the cold. But I'm looking forward to new challenges, exploring new trails, enjoying the change of seasons, and spending time with family.

I have much to do to prepare for this move, and face limited computer access for a time. So, my blogging is going to have to slow down/stop for awhile. I may have a few minutes to read other blogs but I probably won't be able to comment for some time.

Until next time, good luck with your own running and fitness journey.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Phoenix

(Caption: The Phoenix as depicted in the Aberdeen Bestiary, courtesy of Wikipedia)

I was trying to think of a symbol for my running rebirth in the last year, and the Phoenix came to mind. The Phoenix is the mythological bird that is reborn after a cycle of years. I like to think that we all have the ability to improve ourselves and significantly remake ourselves if we choose.

From the ashes of inactivity and couch potatohood, a new runner has been born.

Consider the following changes...
Longest run, Feb. 2007: 0 minutes
Longest run, July 2007: 10 minutes
Longest run, Dec. 2007: 50 minutes
Longest run, Feb. 2008: 90 minutes
Longest run, May 2008: 110 minutes (personal best)
Weight, Oct. 2007: 177 lbs.
Weight, July 2008: 161 lbs.
Improvement in one mile time trial, Dec. 2007 - May 2008: 45 seconds
Improvement in two mile loop course, Dec. 2007 - April 2008: 2 minutes

Saturday, July 12, 2008

From 0 to 4 in one week

After three weeks of no running due to probable Achilles tendonitis, I got in my fourth (short) run of the week this morning. I woke up early again - my body clock seems to be resetting itself nicely for morning running - and did one meager mile*. It was another sweat bath - humid and 76 degrees despite the early hour. I want to run farther but there's some slight lingering tightness in my right calf/Achilles that I can feel after running. Until that is gone I have to listen to my body and work through this.

I'm skipping Day 3 of pushups this week (Week 3). Day 2 kicked my butt and Day 3 looks even tougher. I just read Ellie's interesting idea about dropping down a level, and I'm considering doing that next week. Alternately I may go to 2 days a week and lift dumbbells once a week, something I haven't done in a few weeks now. I still like the goal of 100 pushups but I may need to take my own path to get there.

*This is an estimate. Most of my runs are measured by time, not distance, but occasional time trials and races tell me a lot about my pacing. Perhaps someday I'll own a Garmin, but not right now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pain: a warning sign, or weakness leaving the body?

I gleefully ran another early morning mile yesterday, continuing to ease back into regular running. Daily calf stretches seem to be helping.

The previous night, hours after doing pushups, my arms ached at bedtime and I took a pain pill so I could get to sleep. So, the bottom line for Pushups Week 3/Day 1 - (a) I did not complete 5 sets of pushups, and (b) my arms got seriously achy. Rough start to the "week" (I am falling out of alignment with the calendar week, oh well).

Tonight was Week 3/Day 2 of pushups. The program calls for 27/19/19/15/max (25+) with 90 seconds rest.

I did 27/19 (felt like max effort)/12 and stopped. Whew! I could add more rest between each set, but I think I'd feel I was getting away from the program, and I don't have all day to do these.

So, I'm finding my limits this week and earning some pain.

Looking ahead, Day 3 calls for 30/22/22/20/max. That is clearly beyond me right now, unless I take maybe an hour break between each set. I'm weighing pressing the reset button on Week 3 next week, or rolling these gains into a revised program of my own. I like my exercise goals to be challenging but attainable.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's nice to run again!

Yesterday was my first run in three weeks (!). I got up at 5:30 am and did one easy mile nonstop (as easy as one can do that in the warm, humid Florida July air). No problems with the Achilles, and the left forefoot has been fine for over a week now. Yeah!

Today was Pushups Week 3/Day 1. I tackled them right after work, relatively fresh and hungry. I did 25 in my first set, which felt like the easiest 25 in years, if not ever. :-)
In the next two sets I did 17 & 17 as required, but the third set of pushups was a max effort to reach 17.
The next set called for 15 and I managed only 5. I stopped there.
I did all of these with about 60 seconds rest - pretty intense when all I've been used to for a long time is 1-2 sets.
All in all, I did 25/17/17/5 = 64 pushups. Some progress there, and I'll continue the week's program, but Week 4 will not be next week. Oh well - any progress is good, right?

The virus is spreading - I've got my brother doing the pushups now too. He'll probably catch up to me pretty quickly.

Friday, July 4, 2008

No rockets' red glare under my shoes today

This morning I got up and headed out to watch, not run, the annual 4-miler on the 4th, aka the Freedom Run. I'm still in recovery mode. It would have been easy to overdo it today, so I decided to play it safe, and simply not enter. I did show up to wear my American flag T-shirt and cheer on the runners though. Particularly impressive was one mother who pushed a double stroller through the event - running, not just walking. It's frustrating to be sidelined, but I know I should be grateful for the running experiences I have enjoyed to date, and for the progress I've made this year.

Pushups update: I took a few days off to rest up for a new exhaustion test earlier this week. Result: 35 pushups, a slight improvement over the 33 I did before Weeks 1-2. I was pretty disappointed, figuring I had 40+ in me at this point. All I can say is it was getting late in the day, I wasn't really mentally into it but still gave it a try, and grew fatigued rapidly after 20 pushups. So far, the training is making me stronger at doing sets of 10-20 pushups, and making me sore otherwise. Looking ahead, Week 3 looks brutally tough. I'll take a couple days off and try Week 3. We'll see how it goes. I'm not sure the 4th and 5th sets are helping. Comparing this to running... I don't push myself that hard running. If I did, I'd be hurt quickly. For example, assuming I was running, I wouldn't run at max pace 3 days a week, for any distance. It's not sustainable. The pushups? We'll see. I'll come back after the weekend and start Week 3 a little more rested, at least in the arms. I'll be curious to see how everyone else handles the transition from Week 2 to Week 3.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Great places to hike and run in Florida: Torreya State Park

(Caption: Jeff and daughter ready to hike the Weeping Ridge Trail, March 2008)

Since I'm still on injured reserve and don't have any actual running to report on, I thought I might get back to my original intent, part of which was to blog about trails I've explored.

Back in March, I went camping with my family at Torreya State Park, way up near the Georgia and Alabama borders. We went there for the scenery and we were not disappointed. Anyone who thinks of Florida as just flat should see this park - it is mountainous by comparison with south Florida.

Our first hike was on the relatively short Weeping Ridge Trail, which leads to a view of a small waterfall, a rare treat in Florida. [Regrettably most of the trail photos on this weekend trip were taken with my new camera phone and did not come out well. It's not too hot on landscape photos or anything more than 10 feet away.] We followed this up with a tour of the Gregory House overlooking the Appalachicola River from surprising heights. The are two hiking trails in the park, each 5-7 miles long (I forget the exact distances but you might be able to find them online), and I opted for a solo run on the 6-7 mile Torreya Challenge Trail loop.

The Torreya Challenge
The park ranger and park literature both cautioned me sternly to take food and large amounts of water, not to start to late in the day, and to tell someone that I was going. I was really excited to do the loop as a trail run. My long run was 9+ miles at this point, so I figured I could handle 6+ miles of hilly terrain with a little walking. The thought of being 3+ miles away from the trailhead (already in a semi-remote area for Florida), on an unfamiliar trail, with a limited water supply, and the possibility of encountering poisonous snakes, had me somewhat nervous but pretty stoked. The word "challenge" in the trail name was a big reason I chose this trail rather then the other park trail, I had to admit to my wife, who was not surprised by this latest wacky trail run idea. On the two previous weekends, I had run in the Trout Creek 15K and run on the Florida Trail through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness.

I got up early so I could get my run in and still have a full day for family activities. I brought along a fanny pack with my camera phone (no cell phone reception though - if I hurt myself on the trail I would be getting myself out, or waiting for someone to come along), trail map, sunglasses, hat, Clif bar, whistle, handheld water bottle, and pepper spray. According to the park, I was bringing insufficient food and water, but I was planning on running, not hiking for hours with a heavy backpack.

Living in a flat-to-rolling part of Florida for the last decade, I was almost totally unprepared for the hills on this trail. I don't have any tools for calculating elevation changes, but this trail was almost relentlessly up and down. The uphills were so steep that I had to stop and walk multiple times. I was glad there was no one there to see that. In fact I saw no one on the whole loop, though I passed a campsite area behind trees and heard voices once.

After one big hill, I stopped to munch my Clif bar and considered whether I was getting in over my head and should turn back before I got far enough in that completing the loop would be shorter. Would I admit defeat to my family? Nope, I was going on. The downhills (for every up there was a down) were so steep that I had to stop and walk some of those, for fear of either careening out of control or abusing my quads by braking too much. In between this huffing and puffing, there were about ten shallow stream crossings, most of them with delightful little bridges, but three of which required wading or jumping (I could just clear them by jumping). I surprised three groups of deer (seven in all) but could not get my camera out fast enough. The camera phone turned in a poor showing on this run actually, which meant I would be going with the heavier real camera on future trail runs. There were a few turns were I had to be careful I was still on the trail, but I never strayed more than a few feet. No snake encounters as it turned out. The trail followed the edges of two ridges with steep drops, which felt more like North Carolina to me than Florida. After an hour of running and 45 minutes of walking mixed in, I had completed the Challenge with a big tired grin on my face.

We also made a side trip to Florida Caverns State Park, which I highly recommend. It's unlike anything else on public lands in Florida. You can tour the main caverns, which are not quite as cold as caves farther north (60s and damp when I was there), but don't miss the outdoor trails, one of which, the Tunnel Cave trail, is aptly named and quite unique (watch your head if you're over 5 feet tall though - I clunked mine). The camping area was closed while we were there, so we had to drive over from Torreya.

Aside from some noisy camping neighbors (playing music past 9 pm, etc.), and surprisingly early-in-the-season mosquitoes at the campsite, we had a great weekend. Floridians - try Torreya for some exposure to real hills. Be advised the park is some distance from civilization (no stores, restaurants, hospitals, etc. within miles) and pack accordingly.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pushups and more pushups

Week 2 of the hundred pushups challenge is in the books.
Day 2 (earlier this week) was pretty tough, though I made things harder on myself by inadvertently taking only 60 seconds rest in the first four sets, then a few minutes as usual before the max effort.

Day 2 totals: 16/13/11/11/max(20)

Day 3 today was even harder. I'm sore in muscles I didn't know I had, and the soreness grew with each set. Sets 3-4 required virtually all-out efforts to reach the minimums.
Day 3 totals: 15/15/12/12/Max(18) =72 pushups

I'm through Week 2 and now the program calls for a new exhaustion test. At the risk of sounding like a slacker, I'm thinking of taking a few days off, doing the exhaustion test, then a few more days off, and starting with Week 3 after that - basically taking one "easy" week. I want to be fresh for the test, and fresh for renewed training. I'm fine with hard work and sweat. Soreness in the same muscles every day? That suggests my body is not catching up with new stresses, and I'm already recovering from other physical issues.

I enjoyed another spinning session indoors yesterday and pushed myself a little more, increasing the rpms and getting out of the saddle some more. Twinges in my right Achilles told me this might be too much. Sigh. It had been doing so well too. It's looking like I won't be crossing any finish lines on July 4 and will have to settle for cheering on the other runners.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Can lawn mowing count as cross training?

I passed the lawnmower test this evening. That is, I walked behind my lawnmower in the warm, humid Florida air and my Achilles (injury #1) was fine. It's been just fine walking, including going up stairs. Even better, the ball of my left foot (injury #2) is improving. I forgot about it until I was done mowing. It had sustained some kind of impact injury, possibly from dashing across a parking lot in the rain in my work shoes about 10 days ago. Bad idea! Looking in my journal, I've traced my Achilles problem to the road run following my 11 mile trail run in May. According to this source and others, running on sand can aggravate your Achilles. That presents a dilemma as the trails around here (north central Florida) are sandy and quite soft in some places. Hills are also tough on the Achilles, and I had been running hillier courses too - in fact I noticed the problem on hillier road courses during the week with my fleet-footed local running group. The articles also referred to Achilles injuries as common in less flexible middle-aged runners. Ouch! Time to do more stretching - can't do anything about my age. I like the line from Indiana Jones: it's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

This wasn't the extent of my cross training today. I also fit in a spinning session, going slightly harder than last week, and my Achilles was fine, and my left foot was no problem.

I also completed Week 2/Day 1 of the hundred pushups training program: 12/12/9/7/max (21). I'm not claiming great form. I'm taking 2-4 minutes of rest before the max effort (equal parts rest, psyching myself up, and helping kids with something around the house). The psychology of this is interesting. Each time on these max efforts, I've felt like 5 or so is probably all I can do before I start, but I refuse to stop until the arms won't go, and I've managed to exceed the minimum each time (granted, I was doing some pushups once a week before this program). Maybe it's the rock 'n roll music. Andrew's blog got me started on all this (100 pushups, not rock 'n roll) and he's doing well. Ellie has also signed on. Anyone else game?

I hope to get back on the roads and trails soon. I'm eager to run a 4-miler on the 4th that I've run twice before, but it's somewhat doubtful now. I hope my biking is safe on my Achilles and this strange forefoot problem. If anyone has any experience coping with these things and has any cross training ideas, feel free to chime in.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to ruin a marathon

No, I haven't entered one yet! I just came across a funny running-related article in The Onion that is good for a laugh. This one is family-friendly I think, which is not always true for this site. I like The Onion, but it is not for everyone, so fair warning if you try their other articles.

In cross training news, I enjoyed my first spinning class ever yesterday. 51 minutes of high (for me) rpm work. Took it somewhat easy so as not to hurt the quads while I recover from running injuries. It was neat to be able to see my heartrate, rpms and mileage constantly updated.

I also tackled Day 2 of the hundred pushups challenge yesterday: 12/12/10 (getting tough)/10/max=19 (exhaustion). Oddly less sore today than yesterday.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cross training time

If you've been tagged with a running meme recently, see below....

I haven't been posting about new trail runs because there haven't been any. I'm still recovering from 2 problem areas in my lower legs/feet. I'm trying to stay positive and think that this is my body's way of telling me it's time to start cross training. I've been easing (so I don't destroy my quads) into some outdoor biking to get some low impact aerobic activity. I'm as weak biking on hills as I was at running them several months ago, which is to say pitiful.

I'm also going to try the Hundred Pushups Challenge I saw listed on Andrew's blog. I don't think I've ever done more than 40 or so consecutive pushups, even in my younger, lighter days, so this should be "fun". I have done 1-2 sets a week this year and my initial exhaustion test this weekend was 33 straight pushups.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

5 questions (and answers)

I've been tagged by Anne.

Here are the rules:
Visit 5 blogs and leave invitations to play, referring others back to your blog for more details. On your own blog, list the five questions and your own answers to them. Also, let the person who has tagged you know when you're done.

Here are the questions and my responses:
1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?
Yikes. Pretty aimless. I did a little here and there, a few miles at a time. I don't think I entered any organized events that year.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?
The races tend to stand out more in both cases.
Best: I ran cross country in college (Division III: no scholarships, an average runner on an average team in our region). In my freshman year, I started out basically 8th on the team, if you had to make a competitive depth chart based on practices in September. The week of our first home meet (fourth race of the year), I hurt my leg and had to hobble back from a run. Race Saturday was a rainy and muddy, and things weren't really looking up. But an amazing thing happened. I caught up to a line of my teammates in the middle of the race and moved up from 8th to 4th on my team and held onto that spot. To be fair, our top runner was out, and some of the other guys probably started too fast that day. Still, I went on to place in our top four in three other meets that season, and I felt like I had arrived as a competitive runner, at that level.
Worst: going out too hard and cramping up in my final high school AND college cross country races, an ugly symmetry of wasted efforts. Thankfully there were many good days in between.

3. Why do you run?
To improve my health and fitness. To seek out new trails and new challenges. To enjoy the company of fellow runners. Plus it makes me happy.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
Best: improve gradually by stressing the body, then resting.
Worst: go out really hard in distance races, like 30 seconds faster in the first mile than the pace you can realistically average over the whole distance, instead of running within yourself.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people know.
I am descended from the sister of a real-life 18th century pirate who sailed from Rhode Island to Florida and back. We have some things in common. He found gold in Florida waters. I also found treasure in Florida - my wife. We were married ten years ago today. :-)

Now, I get to tag some others.

They are (drumroll please):
Beth at 6 a.m. Running
Andrew from New Zealand
Just a Trail (Running) Fool
Ellie at Against the Wind (if/when she's not backpacking)
bloggers I've tried to tag with this meme, but was too late - they'd already been tagged: 3
(one to go)

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Achilles heel

This is frustrating, because I've been feeling in the best shape I've been in all year. In addition to extending my long run further, I've done some road running and found my shins are holding up well to downhills. However, I've had a day each of the last couple weeks where my right Achilles area felt tired. I backed off a little, but after my last longer run on roads, my Achilles flared up, and was sensitive the next day just walking around.

I'm skipping my long run this weekend and taking a zero day tomorrow, in trail hiking parlance. Not just a zero day, but a zero weekend. It looks like I'm guilty of the old "too much, too fast, too soon" trap once again. This time I think it was the "too much" category.

This is a new sort of running injury for me. I'd been prey to shin splints/tendonitis before, but have managed to keep those at bay this year with gradual mileage increases, running many of my miles on sandy trails, and using both sides of the road when running on roads (recommended only on quiet roads and without listening to music). We'll see how it feels next week.

Friday, May 30, 2008

New personal bests (and an open letter to trail spiders)

This past weekend's 11 mile trail run was my longest in some years in distance, and my longest duration run ever (1 hour 50 minutes running time, not including walk breaks). There were some neat changes of scenery, from oaks to pines, to open areas with fewer tress, to a (controlled?) burned area. On the way back, I scared a black racer next to the trail, which slid rapidly away, and to my astonishment, it crawled right over another black racer! If I interrupted a reptilian romantic moment, I apologize.

If that was an unusual sight, there were some weird parts to the run, such as a 15' x 10' paved area seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with the trail running right over it. Bizarre. I also ran past a number of white vertical pipes sticking out of the ground, again seemingly far from anything other than a dirt road.

The worst part was the bugs. The biting fly season season is really picking up. Two weeks ago, 2 deerflies. On this date, 18 flies dispatched, a new record. Technically, I think these are actually yellow flies, not deerflies, based on their focus on my legs more than my head. They were on me pretty quickly when I took walk breaks, which discouraged me from taking too many photos, and encouraged me to get running again quickly. Fortunately, they were not up to full speed, and I was able to outrun them without much difficulty. However, as I recall from previous years, as the season progresses, it requires a full sprint to elude these flies.

Another less-than-fun aspect was repeatedly getting hit in the face with spiderwebs, which has prompted me to draft the following...

An open letter to trail spiders
Ok, arachnids. You have my attention. Last weekend, running on the Cross Florida Greenway, I ran through web after web, destroying your beautiful work, quite by accident. You see, I often cannot see your webs on these trails at running speed, and even if I could, avoiding them could be a real challenge. Some of you went so far as to rebuild your webs after my first pass, unaware that I was running an out-and-back course that day. That's a lot of work, without much to show for it, if I may say so.

I would like to propose something mutually beneficial. If you could simply build most of your webs off the trail - there are plenty of good locations between trees there - I would not run through them. This would save us both a good bit of grief. In return, I would leave for you any and all deerfly/yellow fly carcasses you may find along the trail.

Thank you for your consideration!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Every path leads me to somewhere

After my last long run I happened to hear Alice in Chains' "Rooster" on the radio in my car. I might have changed the station, as these days I tend to prefer something more upbeat than the often bleak Alice in Chains songs. For some reason I paused for moment - could this song be related to running in some way?
Ain't found a way to kill me yet
Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me to....

...nowhere is the next word in the song, which is about where my interest in the song waned that day.

When you're running on a new trail, I suppose there is a risk that it will turn out to be a dead end, or seem like a trail to nowhere if you will. Even then, though, I think you could argue that every path taken is a path to somewhere, whether we realize at the time or not. It could be the greatest running trail you haven't yet discovered. Or it may be a bit of a disappointment, but still offer you a chance to learn something. A run can be a meditative experience.


I've been tagged by Beth at 6 a.m. Running.

The challenge was to come up with a 6 word "memoir" to describe my life, then tag at least five more people. I could easily use the 6 words I began this post with, but I thought I'd use something different. So, here's my pithy statement:

Kid at heart, making a comeback

I still like games of many kinds, even as an adult. Sometimes I like games just for fun, sometimes for the competition. My running comeback features a bit of both. I'm doing it for my health, sure, but for other reasons too - to push myself, to have fun exploring trails, to make new friends.

I'm not an expert on tagging etiquette, so I hope this works out ok. Below are some of the blogs I've been reading, but I've not yet been a regular commentator. A couple are new to me, and the others read I've off and on for awhile this year. As you might guess, these blogs are about trail running, or they've at least had a post about a trail run or a run at a place near or dear to me. These individuals may not know me, but now they may know one of their readers a little better, perhaps.

I'm tagging:
Rafael at Fat Trail Runner
The Running Chick with the Orange Hat
Anne at Run DMZ
David at Adventures in the Thin Trade

Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to:
1. Write a 6 word (max) memoir.
2. Post it on their blog and include a visual illustration if they wish.
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post.
4. Tag at least five more blogs.
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stay on target! Stay on target!

I missed a day of running this week due to a cold, which I think is my first missed day due to illness this year. The other few days off have been while I was recovering from long runs and my body needed some extra rest. This doesn't mean I run 7 days a week or anything. No, just 3 days right now. I like the hard/easy, stress/rest formula. It's working. Should I add some cross training? No doubt....

This is a challenging time of year for me, though. In the past I've made New Year's resolutions, done more running in the winter, and gotten injured and/or otherwise fallen off the wagon by May.

How do I avoid that this year? How does anyone stay motivated, stay on target?

Here are a few of my suggestions (in no particular order):
1. Use a running journal (or equivalent) to track your progress, see what's working and what isn't.
2. have a goal race/event/distance on which to focus (for me, half-marathon right now, but not a specific race...thanks for those who have reminded me of the importance of a goal event).
3. stay in the habit by running at the same time each day/week and making this part of your lifestyle.

One thing that hurt me in the past was not having a specific time to run. Now, I'm a morning runner. For more on reasons to run in the morning, visit 6 a.m. Running. Doesn't matter if you run at 5 am, 6 am, 7 am, etc. This is also a great place to go for beginning running tips and inspiration.

4. run with someone else.

This is another area I've neglected to my detriment. I'm a bit of an introvert, and pretty happy doing my solo trail runs on a regular basis. On the other hand, it's boring to run around my neighborhood by myself every week (my non-trail days). Running with someone else is easier and often more fun. And, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that my fastest times all occurred when I was part of a team, running 6 days a week with others.

I'm happy to report that this morning, for the second straight week, I ran a few miles with people from my local runners' club who meet almost every morning at the YMCA. I had avoided joining them before because I was not a morning runner, and 5 am sounded downright scary. You know what? It's all what you're used to, and human beings can get used to quite a bit. How does anyone run a marathon? We're adaptable creatures.

Everyone was very nice. I had also been concerned that my returning-to-running tortoise pace would leave me way behind everyone. Not so. The group (and I bet this is quite likely true for your area too, dear reader) has people with a range of running paces, and they are willing to take turns running with someone new. (Thanks everybody! See you next week!)

5. variety - not only the spice of life, but of running. Vary your routes, terrain, distances and speed. If your running is boring, make a change.

Your thoughts? If you've gotten to the point where completing 4-6 miles or more nonstop is doable, what are your tips for keeping things going in the right direction?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Race recap #2: Trout Creek Trail Run - March 9, 2008

Trout Creek Trail Run 15K
I wasn't sure what to expect from my second trail race of the year. Although I was slowly getting stronger, this event was three times as long as the 5K I had run back in February, and I had only recently increased my long run to nine miles. Plus, this was an unfamiliar course that I would see very little of before the start. My primary goal was to finish, running as much as possible, and otherwise just do as well as I could.

It was a cool morning for Central Florida (40 degrees), so I brought some cold weather gear along and settled on shorts, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, a cap and my new polarized prescription sunglasses for a combo of sun and cold protection. It turned out to be a pretty good balance, as the course would consist of both shaded trails and wide-open berm (dirt) roads.

One thing that was slightly unusual in this race was that the start and finish were not close together. I wanted to ensure I was familiar with the starting area, and scouted that out early. However, this cost me the chance to check out the last mile of the course, and I later wished I had a better idea of where I was in the last mile.

The start itself was unique - straight up a short but steep climb up to the top of the berm. The 15K and 5K started simultaneously, with the 15K runners heading left and the 5K runners heading right, sharing the same finish. I placed myself near the very back. At the start I swallowed my pride and began this race by... walking. I joined a few others in this approach. I just felt that the race was very long for me, and I did not want to start by pulling some muscle from the get-go, on a cool morning when I had minimal warm-up (at that point 15K was enough running). Once up on the berm, I began running conservatively, with nearly the entire field in front of me, the leaders already distant. The course followed the berm for a short distance, then turned down into the woods among the palmettos for most of the first 5K. It was narrow at first, more crowded than I was used to, but having other runners pull and push me along really helped. I kept things relaxed for the first three miles or so and felt pretty good.

And then something totally unexpected happened. A long, low bridge over a stream was flooded and completely underwater. The course did not detour around this obstacle. Two women in front of me paused, and conferred on whether to remove their shoes or just go for it. Somewhat stunned by this whole development, I paused momentarily too. I could pretty much tell running through this would completely soak my socks and shoes, and I would face about 10K of running with wet, heavy shoes. On the other hand, taking them off would cost time at both ends of the bridge, to say nothing of exposing my bare feet to whatever lay under the dark water. Another man quickly caught the three of us. I kicked myself for delaying and ran on into the waters, which soon covered the tops of my Asics, well up my shins, and deep enough to slow my pace. The water soaked through and was cold. And my shoes were heavier. I told myself that everyone would have to deal with this same issue.

I actually still felt pretty good until we reached the middle of the race with an extended portion out in the open, up on the berm. I tried to pick up the pace a bit and found I did not have another gear available due to my lack of speedwork to that point. A few guys passed me here, so quickly I wondered if they were out doing some speedwork of their own, not running a 15K. What were they doing behind me before?

The last 5K was back on trails and grass and I tried to make up some time despite feeling far from fresh. Most likely I was just minimizing the slowdown process. With a lack of mile markers, it was hard to tell my pace or exactly where I was. At least the turns were generally well-marked. There were four water stops, and I used all of them and seemed to stay hydrated ok. The last mile included another surprise ( I had heard something about this on the web, so it wasn't really a mental shock, more of a physical one). A steep, narrow hill the size of a sand dune, with a trail up it so steep and narrow I had to walk up it, and down, for fear of toppling on my wobbly legs. The finish came soon after, with a long straightaway perfect for unleashing a final kick. I picked up the pace but I was too far back to even give someone else a good push to the finish.

The finish area featured a DJ and good food and drinks. I had done all right for myself this day, though the race results told a sobering story. I finished near the bottom of my age group, and many men and women with 5, 10, and in some cases even more years on me, had crushed me today. These Tampa-area trail runners proved to be a tough group indeed. The overall winner, a men's masters runner, set a new course record. Congrats to the race director, Jim Hartnett, on a great event.

Pros: well-organized race and well-marked course, four good water stations
Cons: if I'm being picky, and maybe a trail newbie... very few mile/distance markers (exception - a good one in the last1/4 mile reading "it's monkey time!")

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Beware the fury of a patient man"

I've been thinking about my last post and for some reason this quote came to mind. The quote is from John Dryden, I believe. I confess I don't know the full context, and fury is not a word I generally apply to myself, but I think this quote is applicable to running. Like many Americans, I often want things to be quick and easy. Running isn't like that, is it? Building up a base of endurance requires time and patience. One building block at a time, no shortcuts.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to increase long runs safely?

Yesterday was my longest run of the year, and I'm glad to find minimal soreness today. My legs are adapting to longer runs, and to slightly faster downhill running when I have the opportunity, better than they were two months ago, when I had plateaued at 9 miles and my legs were protesting the addition of a bit of faster running to my week.

Still, yesterday was far from easy. The heat and distance made it a significant effort, and I was more relieved than overjoyed at finishing. The thought that this was only about a third of marathon distance is almost incredible. Although I was in my typical post-run or race good mood for some time, I grew tired by evening.

I've noticed in the running literature that many half-marathon and marathon plans call for increasing your long run by 1-2 miles every week. I can see that in the case of someone who is fit and is building a new base after a finishing a racing season, as in cross country or track. But what about someone who has either not run this far before, or has not done so in years (that's me), which amounts to about the same thing? Two miles a week for weeks on end? Maybe if I had lower legs of titanium. Is this just something I have to get through to complete a half-marathon or more? Has anyone else struggled with this aspect of training?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Summer weather is here, and so are the snakes... new section of the Florida Trail - I-75 Land Bridge trail

I successfully increased my long run to 10 miles (estimated) this morning on the Florida Scenic Trail. I kept the pace pretty slow as this would be my longest run of the year, and it was already 75 degrees when I got up before dawn. I was concerned about fluid intake, so I planned on splitting the run in half, running west from the trailhead, returning to my car for a reload of H2O, then running east, out and back. I normally prefer running a single out-and-back run, or a loop, but I'm glad I chose this plan as I drained my single water bottle by mile 4. I needed some walk breaks today to cope with the heat and a surprisingly hilly (for Florida!) stretch. This old Barge Canal project area is not as flat as a pancake! After 5 miles I stopped to get more water and met two fit-looking guys just returning from their own trail run. They had Camelbaks and suggested I give 'em a try, so I expect I will. My second half featured increasingly tired legs, so the flatter terrain was appreciated. I did get a treat on this stretch - yet another black racer sighting. I came right up behind this one before it knew it, and then it shot away.

Kudos to the volunteers maintaining these sections of the trail - it was totally clear of downed branches and trees.

Wildlife report: 1 deerfly attack, 2 spiders crawling on me, no mosquitoes, 1 small skink, 1 black racer - 3rd in 3 days - I saw one while running Friday and another behind my garage when I got home (wildlife report does not include the more common squirrels and barely glimpsed small birds and lizards).

Trail pros and cons (this section and time of year) -
+ mostly good shade throughout (I skipped wearing a cap and shades and didn't really miss them), western section heading across the I-75 land bridge - varied terrain, no observed poison ivy
- eastern portion had two areas loaded with poison ivy (recommend high socks) and I got some spiderwebs in the face (occupational hazard for trail runners though)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On the direction of this blog

This is a new blog, and I'm new to blogging. I'm having fun with it so far, but I haven't been to go back and describe the evolution of my transition from nonrunner to three-days-a-week runner (some might say "jogger" given my pace) over the last several months. It's enough to keep up with the present, so that's probably what I will do, most likely. I hope to write about new trails I find, and new trail races I enter (or re-enter in the future). I plan to go back and report on my three races from 2008 for anyone curious about Florida trails. (An aside: I keep spelling trails as "trials" when I type too quickly. They can be trials as well as trails, but they're the kind I deliberately seek out to test myself, and so are preferable to the other kinds of trials life springs on you).

If anyone is in their first few months of returning to running, or starting running, I've just been through that initial stage and will be more than happy to discuss it. I've made some gains but I'm not satisfied; the challenge now is not to lose focus. I do want to run a trail half-marathon, so it's time to pick one, even if it's not until fall, and get my long run from 9 miles (current) to 13+.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Penguin waddling a little faster

I had no race on my schedule this past weekend. I skipped the local 5K because it was (a) a 5K, and I've done a few of those before, and (b) it was on pavement and this year is about new running experiences - and TRAIL running above all. Yet, I felt like running fast (well, for me). So I opted for my fourth one-mile time trial of the year to gauge my progress (a technique recommended by Galloway's Book of Running). The good news is that for the third straight time trial, I improved by 10+ seconds. Still at "penguin" speed - and there's nothing wrong with that - but waddling a little more quickly each month. I had enough left to run a two-mile cooldown jog to make it a five-mile day too, and I could not do that back in January - one hard mile and I was spent.

A couple things concern me though. With the weather heating up, there are fewer trail races in my area (and I mean a two hour driving radius). How to stay focused and motivated? Will building my long run to half-marathon distance be enough? I may need to set a specific target race. Also, along with the hot weather comes deerfly season, which makes many trail locations miserable. I have neither a gym membership nor a treadmill right now. I'll probably stay on the trails until I'm forced off by those winged fiends.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Florida Scenic Trail - Santos

New trail yesterday. There's nothing like finding a new place to run and enjoying it. I ran on the Florida Scenic Trail, starting from the Santos Trailhead near Belleview. I found this stretch well-maintained and encountered only two other parties (excluding wildlife) during my 90 minute run. This stretch of the trail, running southwest from the trailhead, is flat and well-shaded. I brought my sunglasses but found them unnecessary thanks to the foliage. I drained my Ultimate Direction water bottle in about an hour and will need to explore other hydration systems for longer runs, especially as the weather heats up. It was "only" 61 degrees when I got going but was into the mid-70s when I got home.

On my way back I started thinking how relatively rare it was to see a snake while actually running. Whamo! Within seconds - I kid you not - I came right up behind a 3.5 - 4 foot long black racer on the trail. He/she was facing away from me and we both paused to size each other up. Then, before I could whip out my camera, he was gone, as black racers will do. I was grateful to see this critter.

To sum up this trail...
pros: shady (!), quiet, reasonably firm footing for the most part (for a FL trail)
cons: narrow, many spiderwebs, much poison ivy at this time of year (winter/early Spring may be ideal)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Race recap #1 - Flatwoods Four - April 6, 2008

Ok, this is way overdue. I'd been meaning to report on this year's trail races, but this blog began after I actually ran in three events in '08. I've seen little written about them, so I thought I'd make my own small contribution. Here's the most recent event....

The Flatwoods Four Trail Run was held this past April 6 near Tampa. I'm posting this belated race report (I only started this blog since then), as well as those of two other Florida trail races I've run this year (forthcoming), for the benefit of anyone who might want to try one of these events.

This was my second event of the season, and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do on a shorter course following the earlier Trout Creek 15K. As I was running somewhat out my area, I did not see anyone I recognized before the start of the race.

The start was quite crowded. In fact, it was the most crowded first mile I've run in my life (including high school and college cross country, and various road races)! I placed myself maybe 2/3 of the way back from the starting line, and it took a few seconds to get to the line after the race started. After that it was wall-to-wall runners on the first trail segment, the "shell road". Very difficult to pass anyone. Next we headed into the woods on a very narrow, rough, twisty trail over roots and through palmetto. Kinda dark in there for my shades, but I had decided to wear them to protect myself in the more open middle part of the run. At this point in the woods, runners had to go single file, and things were so bottled up that I actually had to stop and walk three times because of the traffic! One guy behind me complained a couple of times, but I took the slowdown "in stride" as part of the experience. The first mile split was 10:27, which I think is my slowest first mile split in any distance race, ever. Once we got out of the woods, the trial widened and I was able to open things up a bit (relatively speaking) and try to make up some time. The middle two miles, a mix of grass and sand, were wider and sunnier, though I was glad the sun hid behind some clouds part of the time. While the sun was hiding, I removed my cap, and replaced it when it got brighter. The last mile essentially repeated the first mile, minus the crushing crowds. Despite being flat, it was twisty with a little rough footing, and I found myself going into oxygen debt. Back on the shell road I was able to pick it up and put on a closing burst to the finish. I had my typical "Give me air/I think I'm going to throw up" minute or two but that passed, thank goodness.

All in all, an enjoyable day for me.

Race pros and cons, IMHO...
pros: well-marked course, well-organized, excellent post-race food (great job,!)
cons: parking and bathroom access were less than ideal. Depending on your perspective, a very crowded, overly narrow first mile; as with many trail events, do not even consider comparing times with a typical road race, despite the flat terrain... if you care at all about your time, consider your starting position carefully.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Favorite running books

One of the books I turned to in resuming running was my tattered copy of Jeff Galloway's Book on Running. Galloway has been a significant influence on my running - I've always liked his emphasis on proper rest, as opposed to pounding the roads every day of the week. As I was starting over from scratch, I felt this formula would work for me. There are many running books out there, but a lot of them either do not cover, or gloss over, an important part - the beginning.

I also acquired a copy of Galloway's Half-Marathon: You Can Do It. I was going to need to rely on walk breaks as I built up my endurance, and this book is a good source for planning. One of my goals I set for myself was to run a half-marathon in 2008. As I increased my running in the fall of '07 (slowly, gradually), I came across Dean Karnazes' Ultra-Marathon Man. That was very inspiring reading for me, but more on that another time.

If you have any suggestions for practical or inspirational running reading, let me know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Starting is tough

There were a few other signs of declining fitness I was noticing last summer that troubled me. One was that my gut was getting big enough that I was less flexible in the middle. Second, I was slower to get up from a seating position, whether from a chair or from the floor of my house (a frequent place to sit when you have young children). Third, the stairs at work were leaving me winded.

As an admitted running snob, these realizations galled me (apparently I could pull off being a running snob without actually running). I knew my health and fitness levels were not where they should be, and that things would not improve unless I took action.

I had to start basically from ground zero. Rather than go out and pick up a nice case of shin splints in the first week, I started by walking to re-establish the exercise habit, and gradually adding running segments of as little as 1-2 minutes at the beginning, gradually increasing in number and length. This was NOT easy. One minute of running at a slow pace was my limit; two minutes left me winded.

the journey begins... (summer 2007 recap)

First, a little background...
I used to be a runner, eons ago. I ran cross country in high school (small school) and college (Div. III). After that, well, life happened. Full-time work. Marriage. Kids. Etc. Although I didn't fully realize it at the time, with other distractions (er, focuses) and without other people to run with, and without races coming up every weekend, my motivation to run waned, and my fitness level dropped. Every several months I would try to pick things up, do more mileage and start doing some speedwork. And, every time, I would do too much, too fast, too soon, and get injured. And take time off, losing more fitness. Eventually, by the summer of 2007, I was essentially a non-runner. My energy level had dropped, my waist was expanding, and running around in the yard with my young kids got me winded. My pants were getting too tight too tight in the waist. Looking in the mirror, I was clearly growing a paunch, and if things progressed much further, would become a candidate for a "bro"!
I decided it was high time to draw a line in the Florida sand. I would take up running once more and get back in shape, this time armed with my experience in how not to get in shape. I would go slowly, gradually, laying a foundation one mile at a time, minimizing risk of injury. And I would have goals, and I would have fun.