Category Archives: running

Just a short run

Yesterday afternoon, as the holiday stand down was coming to an end, and the new week loomed, we needed to do some chores.  I was short tempered with the kids and snapping at everything because I felt we had not accomplished as much as I hoped and the kids were not moving fast enough.  Anna looked at me and suggested I take Mack for a short run.  I snapped back that there was no time for running, we had things to do!  So I grabbed my coat and went out to the barnyard to get things done.

In the evening, I realized, it had been a week since I had worked out.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, it was that I didn’t make time. This morning, after getting up at 5:30 as I scrolled through FB, I noted a friend who posted about a workout and I scoffed, thinking, that doesn’t even really qualify as a workout.  But then I realized, I had done nothing.  Who was I to judge another for what challenged them, when I was doing nothing.  So after working on some chores around the farm, I grabbed my gym bag and tossed in my running shoes, some shorts, and a top appropriate for the 50F weather that had surprised me during chores.  Off to work I went.

When lunch came, I was hesitant to go to the gym.  Maybe I should skip the workout and work on a project over lunch?  No.  I left the office and headed to the gym.  Before I arrived, a massive rain storm started.  I was planning to run outside (I hate running on a treadmill).  Oh well, no workout today.  But then, it stopped.  Ok, no more excuses – I picked up my bag and headed in.  Once at my locker, I realized, I forgot to grab socks this morning.  Oops.  Guess I will have to just hit the pool instead.  No.  My shoes were designed to run without socks, and I had run without socks almost as much as with socks.  So, I changed into my running clothes and went outside.

It was clear from the humidity and clouds in the sky, the odds were not in my favor of making it through the run without getting overtaken by another rain squall.  I started out at a steady pace.  About a quarter of a mile into the run, I encountered a puddle on the gravel path.  As I started to weave around the puddle, I discovered the grass was a mushy, muddy mess.  So, I went through the puddle in my sockless, minimalist trail shoe.  And I resolved, that no matter what I encountered on my path, I would go through it, not around it. I was hit with spray from the water as waves pounded into the rocky shoreline.  But I ran on.  It started to rain.  But I ran on, through every puddle I came to.  In fact, I went straight into a puddle that was slush mixed with ice, water, and snow over my ankles (my feet were not really cold until that one).  And I ran on, hoping to regain the feeling in my feet lost from the ice bath.  Then it was over.

This wasn’t a huge run.  It was 3 miles that took a little under 30 minutes.  But this run was significant.  On this run, I got back what I had been missing since my concussion, nearly a year before.  I have had very few headaches over the past 2 weeks.  And today, I found the mental release I was missing that lets me ponder everything, and nothing.  The clarity to analyze my life and recognize what I’m doing wrong.  And when it was over, I had the feeling that I’ve missed.  I can’t describe it, but if you run, you probably know what I mean. Somewhere between accomplishment, calmness, zen, and the urge to run some more.

Tomorrow it will be in the teens, so maybe I’ll just ride my bike on the indoor trainer.  But maybe I’ll take some running clothes to work, just in case I stop making excuses.  Just a short run makes a big difference.

What fixed my sciatic nerve pain

At the Naval Academy in the late 90s, I ran a lot.   I ended up with a double Achilles injury at one point. I also ended up in PT (physical therapy) for sciatic nerve pain. Then I went to the fleet, gained weight, quit working out, etc. In 2009, I got into triathlons and lost 30 lbs. For about the first 2 years, everything was great. No real injuries or problems.
Then, in 2012 injuries started. Subtle at first. More tightness than normal. Then the sciatic nerve pain returned, in particular, after a fast run like a 5k race. I started stretching more and tried to get around the problem. By the fall of 2012, I was back in PT and completely off running trying to fix the now constant sciatic nerve pain. The PT didn’t really help. The stretching provided only a short duration of relief. After 3 months of no running, I was given the OK to return to training, SLOWLY. I did. But 1 month later, I suffered a serious concussion and running was put on hold again.

Fast forward to recently. While I am not over the concussion, I have decided to give up on waiting and just run anyways. The intelligence of that approach can be debated. However, I was still having sciatic pain, and I wasn’t even running. Then, one day in the gym, I was on a treadmill with a mirror in front of me. I noticed my right foot turned to the outside at about a 20 degree angle as I ran. For the next few minutes, I forced myself to twist my foot straight. When I got off the treadmill, I could feel how dramatic the difference was in the improvement of my sciatic nerve pain. So I started trying to understand what was going on. I was already in the process of listening to “Born to Run” on an audio book and then followed that with “Running with the Kenyans”.  The more I read about “barefoot” running, the more I thought I wanted to give it a try.

So, I went to a local store and found a pair of Merrill M Connect shoes, which are a minimalist shoe that encourages a forefoot strike instead of the heel first strike. I took them back to the gym and ran for a few minutes on the indoor track. It was amazing. I immediately transitioned to a forefoot strike. And it felt awesome. It felt easier and faster. I was careful not to overdo it, but over the next couple of weeks, I kept doing some easy runs of 20 minutes or less. However, the most amazing realization was, my sciatic nerve pain was gone. The first day I ran in the new shoes, I had NO sciatic nerve pain for 48 hours. Since then, I can actually feel the stretching in my right hip as my foot is realigning with the natural motion it had lost.

What fixed my sciatic nerve problem? Forefoot running.

how I ran 2 very important miles today

This afternoon, the temps were about 54F.  So, I put on my running SHORTS! and strapped Amanda into the jogging stroller.  Alex hopped on his bike, and I got out the nicer leash for Mack to come along.  And then, we ran (Alex biked) for just over a mile, turned around, and ran back.  It was at about a 9:30 pace, which is pretty slow for me.  My legs are already a little sore.  Oh yeah, that is the FIRST time I have been running since my concussion in early January.

The past two weeks have been significant improvements for me.  While yesterday, I did come home from work with a migraine bad enough I needed to take some meds and head to bed, that was the first time I had to nap in over a week.  In fact, I have only taken meds for a headache about 2 times in the past 2 weeks.

While I know I am not back to 100% and I don’t intend to rush things, it is nice to finally feel like I am making progress.  I am also happy to report that I no longer need the reading glasses prescribed by the optometrist.

How I fell off the wagon, and why I got back on

In May of this year, I participated in a Ragnar relay with a group of friends.  Ragnar is a relay race that lasts about 24 hours and, in this case, covers about 175 miles.  My portion of the relay was 3 legs of running totaling about 24 miles.  Afterwards, my sciatic nerve was bothering me, so I took it easy leading up to the Mystic YMCA triathlon at the beginning of June.  The race was only a sprint distance, but my lack of bike training showed as my times didn’t really improve over the previous year.  Then, in June, I got sick with a bacterial infection in my intestines.  I didn’t swim, bike, or run for over 6 weeks.  That made it official that I wasn’t doing any more tris this summer.  Without the tris, I had no goals related to fitness.  That was fine, I needed to focus on my Equine Sciences studies, and with the increasing trimming business, it was easy to push the workouts to the back burner.  Before I knew it, I was only working out a couple of time a month.  Then my sciatic nerve started bothering me again because I was still doing occasional hard and fast runs, but didn’t really have the fitness to support the effort.  That’s when I realized, I was off the wagon.  I haven’t done laps in the pool but twice in the past 6 months.   I haven’t ridden my bike for training but once in the same time.  I was even considering getting rid of my winter biking apparel.

Then, at dinner the other night, Vicki asked a question completely out of the blue.  “Daddy, how do people get diabetes?”  I imagine the fact that Grandpa had just been visiting had something to do with it.  Regardless, Anna and I ended up in a conversation about diabetes and healthy life choices.  It made me realize, I had abandoned my fitness regimen, and put my health at risk.

Today I got back on the wagon.  I might fall off again, but just like in horseback riding, you have to get back on.


Sometimes it is good to go back and review out goals from the past.  In case you missed it, this is my story to fitness, when I got on the wagon in the first place.

This is my story to fitness.

In January of 2009 I was at a personal crisis with health, career, and family stress.  I knew that I could not continue on my life path in the same way without losing something; I felt like I was near the breaking point and my marriage and family were at risk.  I weighed almost 200 lbs, wore a size 38 pants, and couldn’t walk up stairs without getting winded.  My hair was always greasy and I was unhappy, mostly because of my appearance and health risks I had developed.  While only about 30 lbs overweight, in the military, that made me the fat guy.  My single biggest fear was diabetes.  The family history, my lifestyle, and my weight made me worried that every time I had blood work done, the results might indicate diabetes.

I realized the changes were within my control, and no matter how many external factors contributed to my choices to that point, I was to blame for my health.  In February 2009, I quit smoking and chewing tobacco.  I tried to develop a workout routine, but while at sea I was only able to manage 2-3 workouts a week.

In May 2009, I transferred off USS Annapolis at 195 lbs.  The job change relieved most of the professional stress and gave me the time I needed to decompress mentally.  I started a regular workout routine and set a goal to lose 20 lbs.  At first, I could only run short distances and was at >11:00/mile.  Others in my office were into cycling, so I began to use my mountain bike to ride to work occasionally.  It was 7 miles each way and took over 40 minutes when I started (about 10 mph).  I enjoyed swimming some because it was low impact; 1000 yds was a long workout at the time.

By October 2009, I had worked up to running 5-6 miles at a time, but it hurt and took a few days to recover.  A friend from the Annapolis who had started a very similar journey at the same time was preparing for his first marathon in November and was running 20 miles.  He had decided to do triathlon training after the marathon and was going to race in 2010.  Since I am a goal oriented person, triathlons seemed perfect for me to keep a varied workout schedule and continue on my fitness journey.  Along the way, my mental health had recovered and I was gaining satisfaction in all areas of my life.

The idea of competing in triathlons re-invigorated me.  I bought a used road bike and continued to occasionally bike to work.  I ran more often and faster.  I swam more.  By January 2010, I weighed 186 and realized my workouts were not resulting in the weight loss I desired.  I started to focus on my diet and, on the advice of my wife, finally began a food log in March.  I ran a half marathon (the first in my life) on February 28, 2010.  My goal was under 2 hours; I completed it in 1 hour 57 minutes (8:59/mile average pace).  Goal met.

As Spring in New England arrived, my training intensity increased a bit.  I worked out every day.  My weekly averages were usually >800 calories burned a day from exercise.  49 weeks after setting my 20 lb weight loss goal, I completed it.  I am now at 171 lbs.  I had to replace all my pants with size 34’s.  I recently completed a 2.7 mile race at a 6:59/mile pace (over 4 minutes per mile fast than a year earlier).  Now the only family stress is when I haven’t worked out and feel cooped up – my wife sends me running to fix it.

My first triathlon was the Mystic River Valley sprint triathlon in Mystic, CT on June 6th.  I wasn’t nervous, I was ready.  I had been training for 7 months.  I completed the race in 1:20:19 which was 76/254 overall, 6/15 in my age group, and my family was there to cheer me on, including a new 2.5 week old daughter.  By the way, that friend I mentioned ran the same race, also as his first triathlon, and placed 10th overall.

I no longer worry about diabetes myself; however, I worry about the rest of my family and friends.  So 1 week later, on June 13th, I biked 100 kilometers for the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure.  I raised over $500 for the ride and it was the longest bike ride I ever completed in one day; I specifically chose that event because of the significance diabetes played in my choice of fitness.  June 17th was my second triathlon.  I’m hooked and have races planned for about every 2-3 weeks through the summer.  I chose fitness.

I have shared my story because I hope you will also choose fitness.  Start small, but dream big.

5k PR

Today was the annual North Stonington Education Fund 5k race with kids races.  Since the race starts only 3/4 mile from our house and supports the local schools, we decided to attend again this year.  I ran to the start, Alex and Vicki rode bikes and Amanda rode in the trailer behind Anna’s bike.  Of course it was hot and humid (73F and 80% humidity).

Vicki and Alex had fun running their 1/4 mile and 1/2 races respectively.  Alex ran just over 6 min for the 1/2 mile, but was a bit slow because he was running for about 30 minutes while waiting on the race.

I actually set a new PR (Personal Record) for the 5k (3.1 miles).  I ran a 20:39, which is more than 3 minutes off my time from the same race last year (which was a PR last year).  It was also good enough for 1st place in my age group.  I still have some work to get below the 20 min mark, but I am pretty pleased with the race.

What is a RAGNAR?

A couple of months ago, some running friends asked me to join their Ragnar Relay Team. From the Ragnar website:

“Ragnar is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. A team is made up of 6-12 individuals; each individual runs 3 legs. The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, from 3-8 miles, allowing elite and novice runners to run together. Over 2 days and 1 night, teams run across 200 miles of the country’s most scenic terrain. Pair that with crazy costumes, inside jokes, a great finish line party and unforgettable stories. Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. We call it Ragnar.”

So today, I will join a large number of people who have decided to pay people for the privilege of running a lot. We are running Cape Cod, from Plymouth, MA to Provincetown, MA for about 186 miles.

I am runner #7 on our team and my total is 24 miles. Hopefully I will still be able to walk when this is over.