Monday, August 25, 2014

TRANSITION

Today was the best first day of school in my entire life.

After 30 years as a classroom teacher, I decided to retire in June, and today marked the first official day of my retirement.

The weather was beautiful and I was able to crank out a hard, hilly 7-miler.

In the afternoon I held the first meeting of my cross country team at Penn State Schuylkill campus, where I have coached for the past seven years. Tomorrow is our first practice.

Then, this evening, I put the finishing touches on my second book about running, entitled, "Personal Best," which will be published sometime in September. Much more about that later.

The only bad thing about retirement is that you have to be old to do it, but, so far I'm loving the transition to my new life.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

EIGHT ELECTRIFYING REASONS TO ENJOY THE NEXT EIGHT WEEKS

The summer is season is coming to a close, school is about to begin, and for many people, those events evoke sadness.

For runners, however, especially here in the northeast, the next eight weeks may be the most enjoyable of the entire year.

Here are eight reasons why.

1. Weather-Mornings are pleasantly cool. Oppressive humidity seems to vanish, and even warm afternoons are tolerable. Rain is refreshing, not icy, and breezes are mild. Overall, weather conditions can be near perfect for running.

2. Scenery-Mother Nature provides the canvas for a magnificent mural, as leaves change colors and fall foliage explodes around us.

3. Races-Not having to worry about snow, ice, or tropical heat, race directors love to schedule fall events. Runners face difficult decisions as they decide exactly which race they choose to attend.

4. Going Long-Many runners are preparing for marathons or half marathons, scheduled during the months of October and November. Thanks to pleasant weather conditions, this is the perfect time of year to crank out big miles, in the form of long training runs.

5. Cross Country-It's great to see groups of young people taking over the roads, participating in the sport we love. By doing so, they're setting themselves up for a terrific, positive lifetime addiction. Forget about being Number One. The fifth person on the cross country team is as important as the top runner. And success is measured be personal improvement. Make it a point to go to a cross country race and cheer on the runners. We all love to have our running efforts validated.

6. Seeing the Light-Squeeze out the extra hours of light, as the earth makes its trip around the sun. The time change occurs in early November, plunging us back into darkness.

7. Cashing In-If you maintained your fitness level throughout the summer, and you turn in some killer fall workouts, you'll be able to cash in by running some good races during the next eight weeks. Select two or three race distances and concentrate on them. Your odds of having perfect race conditions, combined with your fined tuned training, will certainly pay off.

8. Pending Doom-Too bad we can't take the next eight weeks and project them into the spring months. In between, there's going to be icy...snowy...Ugh, I can't say it. Well, you know what I mean. Enjoy the next eight weeks or so, because many of the weeks after that will not be so enjoyable.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

START WITH THE SHOES


Injuries are the nemesis of all runners.

In previous blogs I have opined about a runner's daily logbook and how it may be utilized to analyze, prevent, and speed up injury rehabilitation.

If you have sustained a running injury, or feel an injury coming on, don't panic; rather, start with the shoes.

First, NEVER allow your shoes to be excessively worn down. Not only does that mean that you can see the white of the midsole, but look for compression of the midsole, and if you can feel every pebble beneath your foot, buy a new pair of shoes immediately.

Above, I have offered a personal pictorial tutorial of footwear's role in injury rehabilitation.

In May 2013, I fell during a training run, suffering two torn tendons in my left hamstring. Rehabilitation has been long, arduous, and frustrating. My 7-minute a mile training pace ballooned to nearly 10-minutes a mile. What was most frustrating, however, was the strength deficit, which caused me to drag the leg and clip the toe as I ran, producing several abrupt meetings with the sidewalk. I feared a future fall may occur in front of oncoming traffic.

An examination of the three left shoes in the picture illustrates the progression I have experienced in the past few months, as, finally, strength and flexibility has returned to my gimpy limb.

The shoe to the far left was worn during my most horrid running workouts, approximately four months ago. The front inside of the toe is worn almost to the nylon. During any given workout I would scrape the toe numerous times, and was always prone to a fall.

The middle shoe still has an excessively worn toe, but check out how the heel has been shredded. My mobility increased during this period, and I began to follow through with my stride, my heel taking the brunt of the impact.

To the right is the shoe I am currently wearing. I'm still coming down hard on the heel, but the toe wear is minimal. I would say I have regained 75% of my stride, and I feel safe on my training runs now, with a fairly good chance of remaining vertical.

So when the family pressures you to throw away those old running shoes, remind them that your stinky old running shoes are valuable research and analytical tools. Check your wear pattern. Is the inside of your knee aching? Perhaps you pronate. Set your shoes in front of you. Look at the heels. If they lean inward,  you do pronate, and you should find a shoe that addresses that issue. If you smash the insole of your shoes, don't buy the feather-light shoes on the market. Believe me, you need the cushioning more that you need an ultra light shoe.

Beginning with the feet, the knees, hips, and lower back will feel the effects of excessively worn or improper running shoes. Do your research, do your analysis, but always start with the shoes.




Monday, August 4, 2014

TAKE A HIKE!

This is my 38th summer of running.

Most of the over 120,000 miles I've logged over those years have been on the streets of my hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, a small city of approximately 16,000 residents.

Although running has become a bit more mainstream these days, and the sight of a runner on the narrow, mottled streets of our town rarely causes drivers to aim toward us, at least as much as they used to, it never ceases to amaze me that we continue to serve as lightning rods for the stupid.

This afternoon I turned in an enjoyable 5-mile training run. The final two miles of the run are largely uphill, so when I reach the '5.00' on my GPS wristwatch, I'm ready to walk the final hill to my home.

Heavy-legged and drenched with sweat I slowly strode up the final 200-meter incline.

At an intersection, a women who apparently knew me, although I had no idea who she was, offered a suggestion that now goes down in my mind as one of the most inane comments I've ever heard from the naysayers.

"You should have been hiking all these years Joe!"

Huh??

I scowled and replied "Whatever you say."

I'm not sure what prompted her scolding.

I enjoy nothing more than taking a hike with my dogs in the mountain behind my house.

Apparently she's never seen me or many of you at the end of our 20-milers. If so she may have said, "You should have been quilting all these years Joe."

I gotta tell you, the haters inspire me. They are filled with jealousy and rage over what we do.

I've been doing this a long time, and, yes, I'm not nearly as fast as I used to be. But I guarantee you this: If someone is slowing down in their vehicle to offer a negative or snarky comment, this old carcass will surely kick their ass at any distance.

There you have my blog/rant for the day.

Time for me to take a hike.

                                                               Mountain Hiking Trail



Friday, August 1, 2014

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

All of you reading this have probably been aware of this fact, but an article in the New York Times has now scientifically proven it.

"Running for as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely, according to a large-scale new study of exercise and mortality. The findings suggest that the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed."

Pat yourselves on the back. Tell the naysayers "I told you so." Look in the mirror and be very, very proud of yourself.

"So for the new study, published Monday in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers from Iowa State University, the University of South Carolina, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and other institutions turned to a huge database maintained at the Cooper Clinic and Cooper Institute in Dallas."

"From this database, the researchers chose the records of 55,137 healthy men and women ages 18 to 100 who had visited the clinic at least 15 years before the start of the study. Of this group, 24 percent identified themselves as runners, although their typical mileage and pace varied widely.
The researchers then checked death records for these adults. In the intervening 15 or so years, almost 3,500 had died, many from heart disease.
 
But the runners were much less susceptible than the nonrunners. The runners’ risk of dying from any cause was 30 percent lower than that for the nonrunners, and their risk of dying from heart disease was 45 percent lower than for nonrunners, even when the researchers adjusted for being overweight or for smoking (although not many of the runners smoked). And even overweight smokers who ran were less likely to die prematurely than people who did not run, whatever their weight or smoking habits.
 
As a group, runners gained about three extra years of life compared with those adults who never ran.
 
THREE YEARS!! I'll take it. You know why? Because, in the words of an old neighbor of mine who died at age 97, "When I'm dead, I'm gonna be dead for a long time."
 
The news gets even better!
 
"Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least, including people running as little as five or 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower."
 
You do not have to be a world-class runner to enjoy these health benefits. Slow or fast, long or short, running is simply really damn good for you.
 
As little as five minutes of running can extend your life. Tell that to your friends who whine, "I don't have the time to run."
 
So continue to get out there and work on your moving life insurance policy.
 
Thanks to this study a great sport has gotten greater.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

MARCO...

My wife and I are beach lovers, so most of our vacations take us away from the green hills of Pennsylvania to a beach...somewhere, anywhere.

Myrtle Beach is a favorite destination, and in October we plan to purchase a condo there as a an escape from our northeast winters, which often last from November to May.

Both my wife and I are runners, so what I call "maintenance running," maintaining fitness while on vacation, is important to us. A "runner friendly" atmosphere while vacationing is also essential.

For the past two summers we have visited the Dominican Republic. The place is beautiful, but running is not. Few runners are on the roads, and the sight of one usually invokes snickers, jeers, or downright contempt.

Not so at Myrtle Beach, where an early morning run, enjoyed by many, is greeted with waves, "good mornings," and "hellos."

Last week, we visited the beautiful city of Marco Island, in southwest Florida. Besides eating the best seafood dinners and watching the most magnificent sunsets imaginable, the running was fantastic.

Now, you could cut the humidity with a knife, and you pretty much had to be on the road by 8:00 a.m. if you didn't want to boil, but the smooth streets and sidewalks, as opposed to the pock-marked roads of my hometown, were a delight on which to run. Routes, of course, were flat, and the lack of a "crown," or slope in the road, was a welcome relief to my ailing hamstring. Off-season traffic was virtually non-existent. Drivers were courteous and cautious.

I ran 4 miles each morning, and I was greeted by friendly walkers, runners, cyclists, and roller bladers. I never ran on the beach, although the sand is hard-packed and suitable for running.

It was a great experience in a great tropical paradise.

Thanks southwest Florida!



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED...WHERE?

I guess I should be happy but I'm not.

 On January 1, 2014, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, despite a firm "No new taxes" vow from our current governor, imposed a 10-cent a gallon tax on gasoline, for the purpose of repairing roads and bridges. Another 10-cents a gallon will be added in 2015, and an additional 8-cents will be imposed in 2016.

As a taxpayer and a driver, I suppose I should be grateful that roads and bridges, everywhere it seems, are under construction, but as a runner, our already dangerous sport, one in which we've seen several fatalities involving runners this year, has become more dangerous than ever.

In my hometown of Pottsville, our main thoroughfare, Market Street, was resurfaced approximately five years ago. The road was beautiful...for a couple of months. Utility companies seemed to salivate upon seeing a smooth new roadway. They couldn't wait to dig it up for this 'line,' and that 'line.' The latest 'line' is a new gas line, which will have portions of the 2-mile stretch of road dug up for the rest of the summer.

The Mar Lin Road, a narrow, windy, hilly rural road, located to the north of our city, is normally quiet and lightly traveled. For years, it was a favorite route of my running mates and I. Now, it has become almost impossible for a runner, walker, or cyclist to use the road, as traffic, diverted from construction projects, utilizes the road as a new super highway. Cars speed by, sometimes hugging the curves on two wheels. The speed limit is ignored, and there is no police force to enforce any traffic laws. Many drivers are rude, filled with road-rage, or distracted in some way. The other day, as I scurried to the side of the road as a vehicle drifted toward me, I noticed the driver was texting, and may have never seen me.

Fortunately, I have attempted to run the road during the day. Friends tell me that rush hour turns the Mar Lin Road into a speedway.

There are more runners these days, but there is more road construction, and many more distracted drivers who pay more attention to their electronic devices than to the business of driving.

What can we, as runners, do to stay safe?

First, make sure you're visible. Invest in anything reflective, from your head to your toes.

If the weather is bad, do not run on a road that narrow or heavily traveled.

Face traffic, and be careful with YOUR electronic devices. I love my running power play list (recently enhanced with
several songs by the Ramones), but, again, if you're running, say, on the Mar Lin Road, it may be best to keep the headphones at home.

Do not hesitate to take license plate numbers and report aggressive drivers to the local authorities.

Don't be a macho man (or woman) A two-thousand pound vehicle is going to beat us 100% of the time. Get out of the way, then be angry.

Get off the road! I mean, sometimes. Utilize those trails and go to the track once a week. Cut down the odds of an encounter.

Finally, don't think your only danger lies on the open road. Driveways, parking lots, and folks who never mastered the art of backing up are equally dangerous. Be aware of these traffic morons at all times.

Remain vigilant and aware and you will remain safe on the roads, less traveled or not.