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.