Category Archives: Health/Fitness

Half Marathon SUCCESS! Health/FitnessNews

It was a rocky road leading up to the rocky trail but, with Heather’s support and patience, I lived – and finished in the middle of the pack.

Since my last update I didn’t keep track of my miles as religiously but I know that in week 5 I topped out at 20 miles and then started to go down hill. With 3 weeks to go I went out for my standard 5 mile morning run and, while crossing between a park and sidewalk, banged my knee on a guardrail. It swelled up pretty good and kept me from running for a few days but could have been much worse. One week later, on the same morning loop and very near where I hit my knee, my ankle started clicking with every step. Then it started hurting and I ended up limping the last mile home. Lots of ice and massage to the calf loosened things up but I’m still not sure what causes the strange clicking. I know it’s worse when I sit with my feet crossed over and the heel of my opposite foot resting on a particular tendon on the top of ankle. I’ll sometimes sleep in this position so I think it’s ironic that I might be injuring myself while napping!

I barely ran the final two weeks. I got out for 6 miles for the annual 9/11 memorial run and a easy 4 miler a few days before the race just to keep things lubricated. I focused on getting lots of sleep that week and prepped everything I would need including securing a hotel a few miles from the starting line. The night before the run Heather & I drove out to Philly and just crashed. I woke up before the alarm and took a walk around the motel. It was HOT already! I picked a Fall run because the heat really kills me. So, what do I get? A near record breaking heat wave. I wanted an Indian Summer, not a summer in India! Adding to my angst, I failed to enter the location of the race start in the GPS and, though I had studied the route, a road turned out to be named something different so we got lost. The final straw was when I tried to grab an extra bottle of water from the cooler. The whole thing turned over somehow and dumped water and half melted ice into my dry clothing bag. Arrrgh!

The race director was on top of things though and assuaged my biggest fears by adding two more water-stops along the course which allowed me the freedom to not carry a bottle. Just in case though Heather agreed to drive down to the half-way point and cheer me on/hydrate me as necessary. She was carrying the special bottle of home-made sports drink (Equal measures fruit juice, Pedialyte & seltzer) and was met there by our friend Amy who lives in the Philly area and was cool enough to swing by and help keep Heather sane while waiting for me. It turned out that the half way point was one of the water stops so Heather & Amy volunteered to help distribute H2O & “G”. I reached them just over an hour into the race. I was doing great at that point, and had even been conversational, but I had done a lot of 6 mile training runs so that’s to be expected. The back half would be the real test. While the first 6 miles were almost entirely trails, the next 3 miles were on a paved bike path. I’m no fan of blacktop running so I plodded along on the grass just to the side of the trail and used the opportunity to run backwards for a bit to give my legs a taste of something different. Yeah, I’m a very odd runner apparently. =]

The final water break was at mile 8.4. It took my dehydrated and oxygen deprived brain a few minutes but I figured that gave me less than two miles to go. Cake walk! Alas, that’s the point I hit the really hilly part of course. I fought cramps & fatigue the last mile but ran every step of every hill – unlike the group in front of me which walked the hills and was passed/passed by me at least a half dozen times. When I rounded a turn and saw the finish line I dumped what I had left into my legs and kicked for the finish completing my run in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Awesome! That’s a 10.36 minute mile pace throughout.

I collected my prize – a cuckoo whistle imported from Germany – and walked around sipping water for a while before Heather & Amy returned. My legs felt like rubber – both the overly quivery rubber and the hard dry-rotted kind – and I had half a headache. After re-hydrating and yummying down on a sausage sandwich I started to feel almost human again. After some stretching work I was ready to go again!

So, that’s my tale. I survived! Thanks to the race coordinators for the extra water stops, GU-CHOMPS for providing me some electrolytes along the way & Heather & Amy for being my support crew. I’ll also apologize to my friends that I blew off the past few weekends because I had to get in some long training runs. To make up for lost time I’m taking a long weekend and going biking in Central Park on Friday and camping in Voorhees State Park on Saturday & Sunday. I believe I’ve earned some R&R!

Before I even completed the half I was asked if I would continue on to run a full marathon. I doubt it. The time investment is way outside of what I’m willing to give to something that basically just hurts. I won’t say that wont ever try one… but it would take an early retirement (and probably the collapse of the GPS system) to give me that motivation. No matter what though… 13.1 is off my bucket list!

Half Marathon? Eric must be Cuckoo! Health/Fitness

After much hemmage and hawdling I decided that this would be the year I finally upped my miles and ran a “half”. That’s a 13.1 mile race with my current long being 15K or 9.3 miles. I’ve been told by a few people that if I can run over 9 miles then 13.1 is just mental.

Not entirely. I’ve broken down every time I’ve tried to get my legs to churn out more than 5-6 miles at at time for a few weeks. The most I’ve ever run in a single week is 18 miles – and that broken up into 5 easy runs. What I’ve learned from these set-backs is that my miles have to come off-road. I deliver too much of a pounding to my joints when I run on the streets & sidewalks. In the Summer my form suffers as I get dragged down by the heat & humidity. There’s no hotter place to run in the Summer than on blacktop! So, I’m spending more time outside in the perpetual 90 degree days and netting most of my miles on trails. For these reasons, and because I get BORED looking at cars going past during a run I needed a trail run half marathon which is somewhat rare.

Poison Ivy - Feels just like home!The first one that came to mind is the “Half-Wit” race in my old hometown of Reading. It’s nationally recognized as an annual train-wreck. It is half trail-run and half trail-blaze with stream crossings, unnecessary hill climbs, sticker bushes and rock scrambles. I helped work one of the water stations a few years back and the people coming down the hill looked they had been through a war. This is a fun challenge and I’ve run a few of their other adventure races but this is NOT what I need to break into the world of the Half Marathon. I shopped around the internet looking for races. I explored traveling but without knowing what the “trail” is really made of it’s pretty difficult to judge the course. Crushed gravel is OK but some sweet single track  (see example at right) with enough log hops and creek crossings to keep my short-attention span is what I want! I wanted some elevation changes but not sheer hill climbs just for the sake of adding difficulty.  Plus I didn’t want a big race with thousands of runners either. And within driving distance would be nice.! Yeah, I’m pretty picky. Just when I was starting to think I might not find one this year I get an email from one of the race clubs touting the Sloppy Cuckoo Half Marathon! Saturday September 25th. 10AM. 13.1 miles of rolling hills and varied terrain. Limit 500 runners. Just outside Philadelphia. Perfect!

I quickly sent in my registration before I chickened out or made up some kind of excuse. Now I’m committed – like all the other Cuckoos! With just 8 weeks to prepare I set out a schedule then promptly began to ignore it based on the weather. Here’s my training log after two weeks:

Week 1: 14 miles in 3 runs (5,2,6). Too damn humid. Got a little bit of cross training on the bike though.
Week2: 14 miles in 3 runs (2,4,8). The 8 miler is my longest run since November. Plus 5 miles on bike & 5 by hiking boot & 5 by kayak. That’s cross-training!
Week 3: Less of an adventure than last week I hope. Depending on the weather we’ll see how it goes.

In six weeks I’ll post another entry here with my success story – or my tale of woe. =]

I’ll never grow up until The Simpsons dies… Brain DrippingHealth/Fitness

The past two months have been tough for my “never grow up” edict. First I went and turned 35. It’s not just another year… it’s the first one that rounds up to 40! Next I had to admit my limitations on my quest to run a half marathon sometime this year. Every time I start training I injure myself. Just minor complaints mostly but enough to slow me down or force me to take rest time.

Now the biggest blow – possibly ever – has knocked my perpetual puerility for a loop. The Simpsons is no longer on in syndication. I’ve been enjoying my daily D’oh for as long as I’ve been shaving. Since before I could vote. Almost as long as I’ve been driving. How could this be? The Simpsons still was the highest rated show in its time slot this past Sunday, even in reruns, and Homer was just declared TV’s greatest character so again I ask; How could this be?! The worst part? They replaced it with life-long Jon Stewart wannabee Craig Kilborn’s new show. This is the guy who thinks he owns idea of asking his guest 5 questions and is so painfully uncharismatic that he originally needed writers to create a persona for him. I’ll say this for the guy: He’s apparently in good with the roaches… he just refuses to die.

Of course, my venom is mostly just in reaction to what he has replaced. I wouldn’t have had a cow, man if Fox overlayed TMZ. This almost felt personal and I had to find answers so I hit No mention of the Kilborn show. Interesting. Google was a bit more enlightening – it turns out the show is being tested in only a few markets! That means somewhere children of all ages are still enjoying 10-15 year old 21-23 minute comedic masterworks from the glory days of the show. There is hope! The test-run is only for 6 weeks – ending August 6th.

There are those who say the show is no longer relevant. Those naysayers have apparently allowed themselves to get old. For shame! Truth be told, I don’t watch the re-runs every day or even every week but it’s a comfort thing to know they’re there. I will also admit that the show isn’t what it used to be. It couldn’t be because I’m getting older and no longer fall into their target demographic. Impossible! No, the blame lies squarely on The Simpsons itself – in setting the bar too high. In a few years the Powers That Be will decide that the show has run long enough and I will… probably cry like a baby. Until then all I can do is wait and enjoy it while it lasts. Six weeks from now I may return to the glorious TV of my youth. Until then, Craig Kilborn can eat my shorts.

Score: Cannoli 2, Chompers 0. Health/Fitness

Ok, so I’m like hanging out with some friends at a pizza place and someone says they want a cannoli and the next thing I know we like all have one and I’m eating it and I don’t know what happened but it was crispy and so like it broke my teeth. Yeah, like two of them. Seriously! Dislike!

For the past 4 years or so I’ve had problems with the lower right molars. They don’t like cold. They don’t like hot. They really don’t like when I eat “Jolly Ranchers” or chew gum. Standard tooth pain and no big deal. Two dentists radiated my face and couldn’t find anything structurally wrong.

Score: Cannoli 2, Dentists 0. Undefeated!

It did not hurt when they went but something didn’t feel right. I excused myself and visited the lavatory where I spit & rinsed. The fragments were nowhere to be found. I’m assuming I swallowed them or the were pulverized into vapor by the mighty cannoli crust. Upon closer mirror-aided inspection, both teeth lost their interior side and part of the top. It blows my mind that two could break at the same time – possibly on the same bite! On second thought, maybe it’s not such an odd thing. After all, they are the same age and they had both been filled nearly 20 years ago by the same dentist.

All that’s left is part of the original enamel & a jaggy hunk of plutonium or whatever they used to fill teeth with back in the 80s. I’m kinda broken up (ha ha) about having tooth shards but I’m glad the teeth finally decided they had enough of being pains in the gum. For the moment they’re more sensitive being all exposed but hopefully I’ll have them capped and then… no more pain when I slurp a cold drink or breakfast up a hot bagel. I’ll be trying to arrange some dentistry this week to find out what can be done. Until then I have to do most of my masticating on the sinister side and resist continuously exploring my new mawscape before I wear off the side of my tongue.

The Cluster of 2009 Health/Fitness

Around Christmas late last year I started into a cluster cycle of headaches. It’s been a long while since I wrote about these so I’ll retell my tale of the pain in the brain. Cluster Headache is in the migraine family. A typical day in the life of a Clusterati has me feeling a little strange about 3 hours after waking up and then spending 15 to 30 minutes with a serious headache isolated exclusively on the left side of my head. Unlike a regular headache the pain is sharp and constant. My left eye waters, I get extra sensitive to… pretty much everything & once in a while it’s enough to give me the classic migraine nausea. Once in a while they’ll just cease but they usually peter out after several minutes. Often, I’ll be due for another episode 3-4 hours later and then done for the day. This is the largest thing that separates them from standard migraine. They seem to be directly tied to the circadian rhythms AKA, your sleep cycles. This particular cycle was a little out of the ordinary in that I was frequently getting them in the evening and twice in the middle of the night.

It’s been a week now since I had a full-blown attack so I’m definitely coming out of this cluster pattern. This is the other defining factor and where Cluster Headaches get their name. They come in groups over a few months and then completely vanish for as much as a year or two. My current cycle will have lasted almost exactly two months, which is on the short side, but I’m certainly not complaining.

Due to the quick onset & (hopefully) rapid departure of the pains, taking medication isn’t really a solution. A few times in the past 2 months I had dull (for clusters) headache that just lasted all day. In those cases 12-hour pain caps took the edge off but for most of the days there’s just nothing you can take that will do more than slowly make you immune to the pain dampener. The only thing I’ve found that can truly beat down a cluster headache in full swing is a terrific rush of endorphins & adrenaline. If I’m at home I’ll hit the basement where we store the free weights. If I’m out and about I’ll do a few wind sprints. If I’m at the office – and this is where the headaches most frequently occur – there’s not much I can do. While working in New York I used to take a walk to the stairway and knock off a few dozen flights. 10 down and 16 back up followed by a walk on the roof usually did the trick. The panic inducing vertigo of looking down 16 stories onto the streets of Manhattan sometimes provided the finishing touch.

The correlation between circadian rhythms and exercise beating the pain is something of a mystery to me but I can see that getting the blood flowing & opening up the capillaries in my head is the solution. Now I just need my current employer to put in an additional 15 stories of building.

Navesink Challenge Health/Fitness

After training for the past several months for no particular reason I decided I wanted to run an official race this fall. A race on a Sunday in which Heather could participate would be perfect. Enter the Navesink Challenge – a local race that featured a 15K & 5K along with an after-party at Outback Steakhouse. Perfect! We pre-registered and were all set.

The weather looked to be a potential rainy problem early on but the night before forecasted that the rain shouldn’t start until noonish. Of course it decided to start at 5 AM instead. When the race kicked off at 10 AM it was 41 degrees and raining. Yuck!

The 15K started 10 minutes before the 5K and I misheard the announcement. As the starting gun sounded I was clear on the other side of the field so I ended up starting dead last. Fine by me. This way nobody can pass me!

I had decided early on that I would attempt to run every step of the race. The last time I tried a 15K it was the Mount Penn Mud Fest and the trails were often steep, narrow and crowded. This meant I had to walk portions. As I ran it with my cousin Terri I didn’t mind the walk as it gave me a chance to catch my breath and keep up my end of the conversation. I only walked a few tenths of a mile over all but I couldn’t really say I “ran” a 15K now could I?

This time I’m proud to say that I did run all 15K except for a studder-step-dance while I tossed a water stop cup. It got a little hairy early on when I hit the large back-of-the-packers trying to funnel over a narrow bit by a steam. I went over a guardrail and around about a dozen people but didn’t have to stop and walk! Most of those folks passed me in the next few miles but I got the positions back on the hills. I’m much more of a sprinter than a distance runner so hills don’t bother me as much as they do others. Well, the uphill parts anyway.

The downhill parts give me another problem – bouncing. For the final long hill I decided to spare my quads the typical pounding and just increase my turnover and wheel down the hill by converting some of my forward motion into bounding strides. For some reason this creates side stitches on my right side as the bouncing does something evil to the muscles. I’m no doctor but I know what hurts. With only a mile and a half to go I started cramping badly. It completely locked on me with just under a mile to go.

I could either walk and try to get the cramp out or I could (literally) gut it out and finish slow. I finished slow. 8 people passed me on that last stretch which was disappointing as I had worked really hard to get past them in the final few miles but at least I finished and accomplished my mission!

It rained off and on throughout the race but, thanks to an early Christmas gift from Heather, I was warm and dry in my weatherproof jacket. I had picked out the jacket a few months earlier and didn’t think I’d need it until true Winter hit but I was glad it was available today. Nature is all good but nothing beats good new-fashioned petrochemical science-crafted synthetic goodness to keep you comfortable when the weather gets ugly!

After I finished and walked off the cramps I found Heather and learned that she finished her 5K successfully and even thought she could have went longer. Yay! Adding to the fun was that my bib number was lucky 75 representing my birth year & winner of a random prize – a t-shirt and bag combo. The bag says X-C and features a cross-bones motif. I guess this means Cross Country. Hey, what do you want for free-random-prize-swag? Heather won a door prize too so both of our numbers came up lucky today!

Heather hooked me up with a sports massage when we got home and then we cashed in our free appetizer & drink voucher at the local Outback and enjoyed a victory meal. I think we earned it.

After seeing her picture on the results page Heather remarked that she wanted to do another race. I’ve created a monster!


Eric grunts through the finishing chute

Race Results: