30 December 2009

Running Is Good for Your Back

(DISCLAIMER: I'm reporting a study and my own experience. I'm not a doctor, physical therapist, certified coach, or anything other than an amateur runner.)

I don't have major back trouble. Several times in my life, I've misused or overstressed muscles in my lower back and have been down for a day or two. And, I have a small twinge in my lower back from time to time. Over the last 6+ years of running, though, I have experienced that I have much less trouble with my back when I run than when I don't. In fact, in those 6+ years of running, I have not had a single incident of my back going out. I also know that my twinge is much less likely to appear on the days I run than on days I don't run. A lot of that is probably attributable to the fact that I'm many pounds lighter than in my pre-running days.

Runner's World's Peak Performance reported on a study that showed that running is an efficient exercise for backs. So, there is a study that corroborates my experience. It's good to know that I have been doing something good for my back as well as my heart, lungs, and waist.

Here's the link to the actual study report:

Trunk muscle activation during moderate- and high-... [Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009] - PubMed result

All that being said, though, December has been a wash for me as far as running. I had some upper thigh issues around Thanksgiving and took 8 days off. Then, when I ran again, I was extra sore. Add in the rains, a trip to the US, vacation here, and now a cold -- I could count on one hand the number of runs I've had in this month. That will change -- not only do I like to run but I like to eat. :-D

Run well, y'all,

04 December 2009

Stinky Shoes

Ashland Dave talked about stinky shoes in his podcast of 26 September 2009 -- it was somewhere in the first 15 minutes of the podcast:

Running in the Center of the Universe

Stinky shoes are a real problem for me. I am a profuse sweater, so my shoes are always pretty soggy when I finish a run. They are relegated to a place on the porch when I finish running. They do all right until...

...until I run in the rain. For some reason, that seems to push them over the edge. Even though I take out the insoles and stuff the shoes with newspaper to get them to dry, getting them soaked that way seems to bring out the smell and make it permanent. I can wash them and, while it helps, they still stink. I've tried to spray them with Fabreeze and that works until I run again.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Until I find a solution, though, Shoes, you stay outside!

Run well, y'all,

03 December 2009

Runner-Friendly or Unfriendly?

While I'm sure there's more to the story than this particular take on it, Portsmouth, NH doesn't sound like a runner-friendly place to run RW Daily: Portsmouth to Runner: Drop Dead!

As I read the story, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have lived in the Far West End of Richmond, VA for 4.5 years. Not only are there a lot of friendly runners there, it's definitely a runner-friendly place -- wide streets and courteous drivers. I only recall two aggressive drivers and they had probably just had a bad day. I did have to dodge a couple of school buses. Nothing like Portsmouth, NH.

Run well, y'all,

27 November 2009

Exercise Prepares Our Bodies for Stressful Situations, Study Indicates - Mind Hacks - Lifehacker

Interesting. We runners knew this, naturally. After a long run, we're so stress-free that nothing fazes us except having to move out of the recliner.

Of course, one logical conclusion from this study would be that running only makes you calmer when you get dunked in cold water -- if, that is, you're a running rat.

Exercise Prepares Our Bodies for Stressful Situations, Study Indicates - Mind Hacks - Lifehacker

I'm taking a few days off from running -- 8-10 days. I have some fairly minor aches and pains and just don't have the want to that I've had. This will be the first planned break in 6.5 years.

Run well, y'all,

21 November 2009

Key Factors in My Running

I took off this morning intending to do 5.5+ miles. For some reason, I just couldn't do it and ended up cutting it short a bit. Lately, more often than not, my runs have just been hard. I think I have to face the facts.

OK, yes, I'm running at altitude (5500'+) and every run is hilly (there's just no flat run here). But, I'm also running more slowly than I did at sea level -- 8:00-8:30 at sea level, 8:30-9:05 at altitude -- so I shouldn't feel completely wiped out. Also, I'm bored with my routes -- without driving somewhere else in town (which I'm loathe to do), my options are limited. I'm used to the 300+ routes/variations I had access to in Richmond.

But, I think there are two factors that are probably more important than those -- weight and base mileage. Basically, I'm 12 pounds +/- heavier than when I was running my best. So, I just need to get rid of it. Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, my mileage has slipped. Rather than running 30-35 miles per week (or even more when getting ready for a race), I'm running 15-20 miles per week. That means a 5 mile run is 25-33% of my weekly mileage now but was only 14-17% 6-12 months ago.

So, I think I have some work to do.

Run well, y'all,

19 November 2009

RW Daily: One Gift You Don't Want to Unwrap

For all of you runners who have wondered what to give your family and friends for Christmas, check out this Runner's World article. Somehow, I don't think my family or friends would have much appreciation for my race picture on a mug.

RW Daily: One Gift You Don't Want to Unwrap

I did 5.6 miles in the mud this morning at a slow pace of 8:54 mpm. One water puddle covered the whole road! And these are paved roads (in Nairobi)!

Run well, y'all,

15 November 2009

For the West End (Richmond) Runners

This post is dedicated to my friends and running pals who ran the Suntrust Richmond Marathon and the McDonalds Half Marathon yesterday. You are my heroes -- I saw some good times in the results. Maybe these thoughts from Meb will resonate with you:

(Stolen from Half Fast who stole it from Running is Funny who stole it from ...?)

The words for the week are: rest, recover, refuel. Then enjoy running.

I got in my longest run to date in Kenya -- headed out after our worship service for a slow (relative, I know) 6.38 miles in 58:21. With the altitude and the hills, I figure that ain't too bad.

Run well, y'all,
Bob A

08 November 2009

Our "Home" City, 2005-2009

This is a shout out to my homies in Richmond -- John Rolfe 10K Training Team, John Rolfe Patrick Henry Half Marathon Training Team, Posse running group -- many of whom are running either the Richmond Marathon, Half Marathon, or 8K next weekend. Good luck -- you all are so ready for this. (Don't worry -- that's the end of my attempts at urban language.)

From May 2008 until July 2009, we lived in Richmond, VA. While we would have preferred to have been overseas, Richmond was a good place to live and a great place to run. This video gives an overview of some of the reasons for that (we didn't do all that's rapped about in the video) -- and it's a fun look at the city.

Run well, y'all,

05 November 2009

It's No Wonder...

It's no wonder that weight has become such a problem in the US among most age groups -- 34% of US adults over age 20. (See state-by-state trends here.) Browse through this selection of tempting desserts offered at American restaurants. Who would think that one could consume such huge quantities of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in a single serving of anything!

Slideshow: 15 Worst Desserts | Eat This, Not That

(Note: This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an endorsement of Men's Health magazine.)

Note that the better recommendations in the slideshow are not particularly healthy, but they are less bad than the worst offenders.

Those of us who run or engage in other types of strenuous exercise must be very careful to avoid the fallacious thinking that because I run, I can eat whatever I want. If I'm maintaining my weight with my normal amount of eating and current level of running miles, it would take an additional half marathon -- actually 13.28 miles to counter the calories contained in Romano’s Macaroni Grill New York Cheesecake with Caramel Fudge Sauce (1660 calories -- more than 3 Big Macs -- and the saturated fat equivalent of 57 strips of bacon).

A huge part of who you are physically (pun intended) is what you eat.

Off to run 5 miles or so.

Run well, y'all,

Kenyans in America and an American in Kenya

I've swapped places with Kenyan runners, Robert Cheruiyot and James Kwambai. Well, OK, that's a bit of hyperbole but they were in the US for the NYC Marathon and I've returned to Kenya, though certainly not to run a marathon.

The following is an interesting article on the final week of preparation by Cheruiyot and Kwambai for the NYC Marathon:

How the Kenyans Take On New York

It's interesting from a runner's perspective but also because of some of the cultural tidbits like this:
Later, at a buffet breakfast at the hotel...both drank hot tea with milk, and Kwambai poured in packet after packet of sugar, as if building a sand castle in his cup.
Chai -- hot tea, usually cooked in half mile and half water and with lots of sugar, is the national drink of Kenya. Every Kenyan I know, except those who are battling diabetes, puts tons and tons of sugar in their chai. Yet, most Kenyans don't like desserts because they are too sweet. Go figure. Those kinds of anomalies always make me wonder what kind of quirks we Americans have in our culture -- I'm absolutely sure there are many.

Enjoy the article.

I'm back in Kenya after a couple of weeks in Richmond for meetings. I enjoyed the boost of going from high altitude to sea level but now am back at 5700' above sea level and having to readjust. It's tough for an old guy! :) Did 5.2 miles this morning in 46:51. Not too bad especially considering that I woke up at 1:30 after only 3 hours of sleep -- thanks to jetlag.

Run well, y'all,

02 November 2009

Running Styles

For the last 2+ years, before we moved back overseas, I ran regularly with a great group of runners in the far West End of Richmond, VA (Short Pump) -- we called ourselves The Posse. Our twice-a-week group runs -- early Wednesday morning and longer runs on Saturday -- provided some needed variety to my running.

An interesting outcome of all those miles together was that I got to where I could recognize people by the way they ran, even in the dark.

I came back to the US last week for a meeting. On my first Saturday back (24-Oct), I didn't get up in time to run with the group but still ran fairly early. Sure enough, even though I couldn't see their faces (we were on opposite sides of a 4-lane street and my glasses were sweat-covered), I recognized several folks I know just by the way they ran. I wondered at the time if my running style was distinctive enough to identify me -- Naw, probably not -- I just run "normal".

This past Saturday, I did make the group run and really enjoyed catching up with family news on this group of friends. After I finished running, I was stretching and one of the ladies finished her run. We were chatting a bit and she mentioned that the previous Saturday, while she was running with some folks, she did a double-take when she saw me. Then the clincher: I recognized you by the way you ran -- you have a unique running style.

Well, there you have it. Now, I wonder, when Mary Beth said I have a unique running style, is that good-unique or strange-unique? I was so surprised by her comment that I didn't think to ask until later. I'm thinking, old-guy shuffle or you look like you're dying out there, about to keel over style of running. So, Mary Beth, if you're reading this, which is it? (Or, maybe I don't want to know! GRIN)

Run well, y'all,

Can Climbing Steps Be Fun?

This is certainly a good attempt to make climbing steps more fun and, thus, more appealing than using an escalator. Maybe this should be part of President Obama's health care initiative -- preventive care by enticing people to choose heart healthy alternatives.

Run well, y'all,

31 October 2009

Longest Run in a While

On a misty, cloudy Halloween morning, I got to run with some of my Richmond running group. NICE! Turned out to be about 3 smaller groups -- one group running a quick 13 miles getting ready for a half marathon, another group running a slower 12 prepping for a marathon, and then a couple of us at my pace.

I seriously doubted my ability to do 12 miles -- I haven't run more than 6.5 miles since July. But I did end up doing 8.8 miles at an average pace of 8:32 mpm. It felt really good -- temperature was about 59° and it was misty, so the weather conditions were pretty pleasant.

I ate a banana about an hour before we ran and then a Gu (Chocolate Outrage -- my favourite) about 10 minutes before. I carried my 22 oz bottle with Gatorade and ate another Gu at about 6 miles. The fuel and hydration seemed to be just perfect. There was no point in the run when I felt like I needed to quit and it's possible that I could have done the full 12. A good start to a Saturday.

Run well, y'all,

30 October 2009

Where Did That Come From? :)

I didn't sleep really well last night and knew that I had a full day of meetings ahead, so I felt like I really needed to run to get my adrenaline going. But, I wanted to cut back my miles a bit. My plan was to do about 4 miles but to push the pace a bit just to see. I've been running at high altitude (5500') for the past 6 weeks and have been back at sea level this week.

So, off I went at 5:15 AM. I hadn't mapped the route first so could only guess at the 4 miles. I really didn't feel like I was running particularly fast (for me -- yeah, I know I'm not an elite runner -- GRIN), so when I finished at 39:34.74 minutes, I figured I had ended up doing about 4.5 miles. Well, I mapped it and it was just under 5.1 miles -- a pace of 7:47. I haven't run that fast since mid-June when I ran 5.7 miles at 7:56. I'm pumped!

Tomorrow, I'm running with my old running group (well, old as in the group I used to run with -- all but one or two of them are 20+ year younger than I am). They're all prepping for a marathon and doing 12 miles. We'll see what happens -- it's been a long time since I tried that distance.

Run well, y'all,

23 October 2009

Observations at JKI Airport (Nairobi)

I'm looking forward to getting in a couple of runs in Richmond with my old running group, the Posse. Having been at high altitude (1 mile+) for the last 6 weeks, sea level should be fun.

I started my trip last night and thought somebody might be interested in my observations.

Though I'm certainly not new to Kenya or Nairobi, since we have come back after a 4.5 year stint in the US I've made a conscious effort to pay attention to things. Having worked with new employees, trying to help them get ready to move overseas, we are much more aware of the things that new folks see and experience. So, here are some of them from last night.

Last night, it took only 45 minutes to get from Hampton House to the Jomo Kenyatta Int'l Airport -- traffic through Nairobi wasn't too bad at 7 pm. That trip can take 20 minutes at 4AM and 2-4 hours at 4:30PM. Consequently, I was there almost 30 minutes earlier than necessary. The good thing about that was the ability to check-in and get through immigrations in a relaxed, rather than frantic and push-shove manner.

First thing was to go through the first of 5 security checks -- yes, 5. So, as I handed my boarding pass to the guard at the door into the terminal, he noticed that I was traveling to the US. He asked me to greet Obama. :) Well, OK ... President Obama, if you become my friend on FB or you happen to see my blog (in which I'm sure you can find some sage advice on international relations or life or ... whatever) and see this note, Pokea salamu za huyo askari!

I don't meaning to be giving you TMI or WTMI, but when you're checked in for a flight 3 hours before takeoff, there are certain necessities that must be taken care of, so off I went. First thing ... who in the world designed these stalls?! It is impossible to get inside and close the door -- or open the door from the inside to come out -- without straddling the porcelain fixture. IMPOSSIBLE!

Graffiti artists, budding poets, and generally strange individuals seem to get some kind of kick out of writing on stall doors. A small selection of the available reading material:

God is a life
IMB Going (As best I could tell, it really said that. Why? How do I answer that?)
Chris was hia (This one you have to read outloud with an African accent, which mean the "i" in "hia" is a long-e and the "a" is pronounced "ah".)

Earlier, I mentioned 5 security checks. I am flying BA, so it's true:

• X-ray bags and go through metal detector to enter the departure terminal
• Immediately have at least one bag searched by security personnel
• X-ray carry-ons and go through metal detector at the gate
• Immediately go through another identical security X-ray of carry-ons (they wanted me to take off my belt for this one) and go through another metal detector between the entry to the gate area and the actual waiting area
• Immediately have carry-ons hand searched by security personnel

Now that I've arrived at Heathrow (London), I had to go through yet another security check between the arrival and departure areas and I expect I'll have to go through yet another at the gate itself. Then, after immigrations and customs in Chicago, there'll be another. After all that, I'm probably not a security threat to myself -- I will have been checked 7-8 times!

Oh, the joys of international travel!

Run -- and travel -- well, y'all,

19 October 2009

Extreme Motivation

While not a recommended reaction, it's certainly understandable why University of Anchorage cross-country runner, Auston Ellis, ran a bit faster than normal a couple of weeks ago. UAA runner races a grizzly and gets lucky | Northwest News - The News Tribune (Seattle-Tacoma News)

Shared via AddThis

My run this morning was a bit more prosaic. It was rainy, cool, and messy-muddy but I slogged through 5.5 miles at a pace of 8:40 mpm. I think messy-muddy is going to define most of my runs for the next few months as we're supposed to be having El Nino rains. The last time that happened in Kenya (1997-98), we had 72" of rain from October to March and 116" of rain in the year, October to October.

Run well, y'all,

17 October 2009

Noisy Neighbours

We are very fortunate in that we don't have noisy neighbours. In fact, the house next door to us is empty right now, so things are pretty quiet. However, we've lived in downstairs apartments and know what it's like to experience this: Things That Go Bump in the Night.

If you have -- or ever have had -- noisy neighbours, you'll appreciate that blog post. (I'm not responsible for any of the language in the comments.)

Run well, y'all,

Defense Against Rude Drivers

I'd say there's a fair chance that this is enhanced but it's still funny. Would this work for a rude driver who honks at you while you run? I have no idea and I take no responsibility if you choose to try this even though I'm not suggesting that you do. :)

Run well, y'all,

16 October 2009

Running on a Lavender Carpet

Jacaranda trees are not native to Kenya -- they originated in South America -- but this time of year they bloom all over Nairobi and their blooming signals the start of the short rainy season. They have been planted all over Nairobi and are beautiful. One of the unique things about the Jacarandas is that they flowers fall while still lavender-blue and gives the impression of a lavender carpet on roads and walkways. So, the last few days, my runs have been on lavender carpets. Cool!

I'm still getting used to the altitude and hills of Nairobi -- it's getting better. It was raining pretty hard this morning so I didn't run. Yesterday, though, I ran 5.2 miles at a pace of about 8:44 mpm.

Run well, y'all,

06 October 2009

Running the Mountain (Krugersdorp, So. Africa)

Tuesday morning's run included a hill that went from 5261' to 5537' above sea level in just shy of 0.7 miles, all uphill -- lungs were burning! That was some more hill! Total run of 2.53 miles at a pace of 9:28 mpm. Slow, but good considering the hills and elevation.

I'm staying at Achterbergh Conf. Center, near Krugersdorp, South Africa. You can see it on Google Earth at coordinates 26°03'59.19"S, 27°46'47.15"E. It is a beautiful place -- we're in the valley.

Run well, y'all,

27 September 2009

We Love You Like Fried Chicken (ing'okho) (Edited)

(Picture from Public Domain Image)

[Bear with me -- once I got started, this turned out longer than I anticipated.] Great cultural tidbit this morning in church. When they sang to those having birthdays this week, one phrase was "Tunawapenda kama ing'okho." The pastor explained that ing'okho (I suspect it's a Kikuyu word. EDIT: Wrong! It turns out to be a Jaluo word.) are the free range chickens that run around in African city or town streets and you have to chase them down to catch and cook them, but when cooked they are oh so goooood! So, they were singing, "We love you like sweet-tasting chicken" -- somewhat akin to a Southerner (US) saying "I love you like fried chicken."

Language and how it's used provides so much insight into culture. Would Linda (my wife) appreciate me telling her I love her like fried chicken? I don't think so (wrong culture). Western cultures have romanticized love (not a bad thing at all, even if I have trouble verbalizing that). That's perhaps typified best by this:
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints!---I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!---and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
But in a Kenyan context, saying "Tunawapenda kama ing'okho" made sense. Not that a Kenyan man would say that exact phrase to his wife nor would a person say that to a close friend, but the analogy was completely understood. For many urban and suburban Kenyans, meat protein is a rare thing -- it's just too expensive. Even in rural Kenya, many don't have the luxury of meat every day -- only on special occasions. So to get meat is a really good thing. Though it's changing with the under-40 generations, for many Kenyans, love is practical.

There's still a touch of that practicality in our culture. Remember the joke?
Wife: You never tell me you love me.
Husband: I told you once. If I change my mind, I'll let you know.
One of my favourite scenes in Fiddler on the Roof involves love as a practical thing.
"Golde, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become engaged to our daughter, Hodel."

"What??? He's poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!"

"He's a good man, Golde. I like him. And what's more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves him. So what can we do? It's a new world... A new world. Love. Golde..."

Do you love me?

Do I what?

Do you love me?

Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion

"Golde I'm asking you a question..."
Do you love me?

You're a fool

"I know..."
But do you love me?

Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared

I was shy

I was nervous

So was I

But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?

I'm your wife

"I know..."
But do you love me?

Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

Then you love me?

I suppose I do

And I suppose I love you too

It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know

(Lyrics from St Lyrics)
So, is one better than the other? Is western culture superior to Kenyan culture in this respect? While there is much to be said for some romance in love, I don't think one is inherently better than the other (I may get in trouble for that comment) -- they're just different.

So, how would you complete the phrase, I love you like....?

Run -- and live -- well, y'all,

26 September 2009

Racing Trucks

I was up early this morning. Something woke me up at 4:00 -- I mean ain't-no-way-I'm-going-back-to-sleep awake. I stayed in bed for another half hour just to see and then got up, made a cup of chai, and read some e-mail. Figured I'd be too tired to run, but around 6:00 I wanted to hit the road.

Headed out my normal route for Nairobi (have I ever said how much I like running different routes each day?). There's one road where I run about half the length and turn around -- right at the top of a short but very nasty hill (it drops from 5767' to 5729' in 0.085 miles). This morning, though, I thought, Why not? Nothing better to do. If it kills me, I'll just run shorter. Down I went. What in the world was I thinking? I have to come back up this monster! Since there's little worse than turning around in the middle of a hill and running back up, I kept going.

After turning around and heading back (flat section), I misjudged the height of a small tree limb and it caught me right in the head. Owww! Is it bleeding? Wiped my forehead with my fingers and, Yes, it's bleeding. Rats! I'm a mile or so from home so nothing to do but keep going. I kept checking -- not bleeding badly and after a half mile, it quit. Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, I had to run back up that nasty hill. Just before I got to the bottom of the hill, a truck passed me -- a bit smaller than a dump truck but definitely bigger than a 1-ton pickup. Well, it hit the hill and I heard the driver downshift. He ended up practically crawling up the hill while I caught up to him and passed him. That was a good feeling. Seems like running all the hills in Short Pump (far westend, Richmond, VA) has done some good after all! Score a point for runners!

I ended up running just over 6 miles -- my longest so far at this altitude. It wasn't fast and I was tired at the end, but it was good. Very slight bruise on my forehead and a red dot of dried blood. Just another runner's trophy to go with my missing and black toenails.

Maymont X-Terra Half Marathon started just a few minutes ago. Here's a shout out to all my running partners in Richmond who are running the race -- Go get 'em, PHHM Training Team!

Run well, y'all,

19 September 2009

Urban Trail Running

No, I haven't found any real trails in Nairobi, but while I was running this morning, it struck me how much running on Nairobi streets is like trail running. I get a lot of trail-like training here dodging potholes, uneven surfaces, loose rocks (not always gravel or stone-sized), jumping ditches. It's probably pretty good for the muscles that control stability in my ankles, knees, and hips. One stretch of road is so bad that I can run it faster than cars can be sensibly driven on it.

I'm slowly getting acclimated to the altitude and the hills.

This morning: 5.2 miles at a pace of 8:46 mpm.

Run well, y'all,

12 September 2009

Running in Nairobi 2009

Running here is going to be very different than running in Richmond, VA. I was really spoiled by how easy that was. Several differences:
Altitude is certainly one: going from 150' to 5700' above sea level is a huge difference. I'll reap the benefits later and this will actually become a Nairobi advantage but starting out is tough.

Road conditions: Short Pump/Richmond has nice wide, smooth roads; Nairobi -- well, let's just say they leave something to be desired. They're not runner-friendly -- narrow, mostly in very poor condition for either running or driving, little or no verge, very dusty (even when tarmaced). Friday, one one stretch of road, I was running faster than drivers were able to navigate their cars over, around, through the potholes.

Running time: Because the road surfaces are so irregular, I don't think I'll be able to run in the dark. That means waiting to head out until almost 6AM -- it's light at 6AM almost year-round. My normal Richmond starting time was 5:15-5:30AM. Factoring in cool-down, showering, breakfast, etc., an 8AM meeting is much more likely to interfere with running here.

Runner-aware drivers: Richmond is a runner-friendly city. In 4 1/2 years of running there, I think I was run off the road only a couple of times. Here, because of the amount of traffic and the generally poor driving, drivers are not watching out for me. In a country that produces the greatest long-distance runners in the world, you would think that would generate some respect for runners. NOT! by drivers. When you're fighting the traffic in a 4+ million person city where good infrastructure is either non-existent or deteriorating, you're not paying attention to runners.

Route variety: in Richmond I had a couple of hundred different routes mapped out. Some were only minor variations of others but I almost never ran the anywhere near the same route twice in a week. Here, I'm limited -- there are lots of dead end roads and I'm somewhat hemmed in by a major thoroughfare. So, without driving somewhere else to run (which I hate to do except infrequently), I suspect my routes will be much more repetitive.

Climate: While I enjoyed the change in seasons in the US, I didn't enjoy running whenever the temperature was above 70° and the humidity was 90%+ -- that was most mornings between mid-May and mid-September. Here, early morning temperatures will rarely be above 62° and the humidity is closer to 50-60%. I'll miss the crispness of running in sub-freezing temperatures but overall the climate will be more conducive to running.

Friday, my first run here since getting back, the temperature was something like 55°. I was able to do just under 4 miles at a pace of approximately 8:30 mpm (if you want the exact figures, see my Running Log on the right (scroll down a bit). It's good to be home!

Run well, y'all,

Wright Socks: Running II -- Second and Third Runs

I was really disappointed after my first run in the Wright Socks, Running II. However, after washing them a couple of times, I think they're going to be a regular part of my sock rotation. They're still a bit large and I don't know if they'll work for a long run, but they are comfortable.

Friday morning, I got in my first run since moving back to Nairobi, Kenya. Jet lag has really hit me hard and I haven't felt like running any of the other days (we arrived Tuesday night). But Friday, I wore the Running II socks for a 4-miler. Frankly, my feet felt as good on that run as on any in a long time and I think the Wright Socks were a part of that. Of course, it's also possible that I was distracted by the fact that breathing at 5700' above sea level was a little tough!

I would still buy the socks in a size L rather than XL, but I would now recommend the Wright Socks: Running II as a good choice.

Run well, y'all,

02 September 2009

Kill Devil Hill -- Wright Brothers Memorials

I'm spending the week on the No. Carolina coast (Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks) with my wife, our 2 adult kids, and our daughter-in-law. It's been relaxing and a great chance for us to all be together before Linda and I head back overseas and Stephen and Anna head back to Boston for their 2nd year of graduate school -- our daughter will continue in her current job in Richmond.

The weather has been cool and the wind pretty strong for the last couple of days so we haven't spent a lot of time on the beach. Actually, the red flags were out today, warning people to stay out of the water. So, we went to the Wright Brothers Memorial -- the site of the first powered, manned, heavier-than-air, sustained airplane flight.

I was pretty impressed -- not so much by the exhibits, etc. but by how quickly air flight developed. Unpowered, manned glider flight was still fairly new in 1900 when the Wright brothers decided to give it a try. The technology was way underdeveloped, to the point that Wilbur and Orville were ready to call it quits after their first attempts -- it was too dangerous. But, something turned things around for them and over the next year, the Wright brothers actually developed much of the control technology that is still used in the modern aviation. Another year later, they had built their own, aluminum block engine and perfected their propellers and flew 4 successful flights within a period of about 2 hours on 17 December 1903. They would have flown more, but a strong gust of wind flipped the plane and basically broke it. From that point, technology developed at an almost inconceivable rate -- the first trans-continental flight (across the US) took place only 8 years later.

After the presentation, we wandered out onto the grounds. It was amazing to see the difference in the distances covered between the first 3 flights and the 4th flights:
1st flight -- about 120'
2nd flight -- about 175'
3rd flight -- about 200'
4th flight -- about 852'

Then we went up to the monument. Being the beach, the 90' high Kill Devil Hill gives one a pretty good panoramic view of the area. The picture is a stitched composite of 9 pictures that I took.

A fun afternoon!

Running here has been interesting. I don't really like running a perfectly flat course. While hills are not necessarily fun, they do provide some variety. Plus, the wind is interesting. The wind was the primary reason the Wright brothers chose Kill Devil Hill as their testing ground. The 10-25 mph winds do make it a challenge. If you're interested, here are my routes:
5.48 miles
6.11 miles
5.14 miles
Run well, y'all,

28 August 2009

Healthy (?) Eating at KFC

Cutting back on carbs and going high-fat and high-protein? Well, here's KFC to the rescue -- that is, if you live in Nebraska and Rhode Islad:

Whew! Not for me. Give me smart carbs (low glycemic), something low in saturated fat (maybe some good ole omega-3's), baked or broiled chicken, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and I'm a happy camper. Haven't had KFC in a very long time and the Double Down does NOT tempt me to change that.

Why, or why, is running so difficult these days? Since dealing with a hamstring strain in mid-April, my times have just gone to pot. Pre-hamstring trouble, 5-8 miles at a pace of 8:15 mpm was pretty easy. Now, 8:30 seems hard. This morning, for instance, I did 6.1 miles at 8:55 mpm and was just dragging. I don't know if it's just a plateau or what. Maybe it's the 10 pounds I could stand to lose? (Another great reason to stay away from the Double Down.)

Run well, y'all,

27 August 2009

TIART: Fuel for the Long Run

Runners Lounge is hosting its normal Take It and Run Thursday today. The topic is fuel for the long run. If I'm running 10+ miles, here's what I usually do:
* about 1 hour prior to running, I eat half of a whole grain bagel, toasted and either plain or a bit of peanut butter. I also eat a banana

* about 15 minutes before running, I eat a Gu (I love the Chocolate Outrage) and drink 10-15 ounces of water

* every couple of miles while running, I drink Gatoraid

* at about mile 6-6.5, I eat another Gu
Why? Because it helps me get to the end. Even so, in the heat and humidity of this summer, I still feel pretty wiped out at the end, but I don't tolerate heat well at all (my running group has put me in an elite category of one of the top 3 perspirers in the group).

Run well, y'all,

Wright Socks: Running II -- First Run

A few weeks ago, Wright Socks gave away 2 pair of socks to everyone who posted about running socks in the Runner's Lounge. I posted and my socks came in on Monday. I eagerly opened the package -- I have used Wright socks before and really like them. First thing, though, I was disappointed that they sent the size based on my running shoe size and NOT the size I specifically told them I wear. Wright Socks is the only brand that I've seen that recommends an XL for men's size 12 shoes -- I always buy L. Well, OK, I thought, I'll give them a try. Maybe I've been using the wrong size.

Tuesday morning, I pulled them on and they felt great except ... they were too big. If I pulled them snug, the heel portion was over my Achilles tendon. If I put the elasticized band over my arch, even at the back of the arch, there was too much sock under my foot. I decided to hit a happy medium between the two positions and give them a try, heading out for a 6 miler.

I like the feel of the socks. They have a bit of cushioning and they are 2-layer. However, it wasn't long before I realized that my feet were sliding around in the sock because of the XL size. By the end of the run, I had hot spots on my feet -- no blisters but not perfect comfort.

To be fair, I have always found that Wright Socks work best for me starting with the second run -- not the first. So, they are washed and waiting for me to use them again. I won't try them on my long run but for my next 5-6 miler, probably on Saturday.

Run well, y'all,

26 August 2009

It's Not All the Same

While I've never tried to hide my most deeply held convictions on this blog, neither have I tried to regularly use it as a forum for discussing those beliefs. But, I read a blog post by Dr. Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, that touched those convictions in a positive way and felt the need to post about it.

Up front, let me acknowledge that there are all kinds of examples of individuals, groups, and movements that claim to represent biblical Christianity that are an embarrassment to the name of Jesus because of what they propound. There are many, even within the group with which I'm intimately identified, who hold biblical beliefs but who express those in ways that are unChristlike. I am also sure that there have been times -- probably more than I care to acknowledge -- when I have fallen into one or the other of those camps. None of that is a surprise to me because there is no perfect person, not even the most saintly of Christians. While I would plead with people to judge Christianity based on Jesus alone, it is natural that Christianity is judged by the words, actions, and attitudes of (less-than-perfect) professed followers of Jesus.

One of the most foundational tenets of Christianity is Jesus' claim to exclusivity found in John 14:6 -- Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. In many ways, that single statement -- two short sentences -- sums up the entire message of the Bible. It is the motivator behind the desire of Christians to share the good news (gospel) of Jesus with their friends and neighbors and people around the world. We hold that statement as immutable, absolute truth. Or do we?

In his blog today, Dr. Mohler says that maybe there are many who are changing. The fact that many people are changing and perhaps moving away from that doesn't change the truthfulness of that foundational belief. Absolute truth is not dependent on the whims of a majority vote -- it just is, even if no one accepts it as truth.

Here's what Dr. Mohler had to say: Are We a Nation of Hindus?

Shared via AddThis

Run (and live) well, y'all,
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

25 August 2009

magicJack -- It Really Seems to Work

(DISCLAIMER: At least as far as I know, I get no kickback or benefit from mentioning this.) As we're preparing to move back overseas, my wife and I have talked about how to best stay in touch with family and friends in the US. E-mail is our primary method and I don't really see that changing -- I can write at my convenience and they can read and respond at theirs. Blogging and Tweeting are fine but they are best for primarily one-way communication or very short updates. iChat/Skype instant messaging works but that can be tedious for anything in-depth.

Skype voice works but is cheapest for computer-to-computer calling. We've used Vonage VOIP as our primary phone for the last 4 years -- they advertise as being $24.99 per month but taxes and fees run that up to $30+ per month -- still better than most landline or cell phone services because all US/Canada calls and now calls to landlines in about 60 other countries are included, unlimited, in the plan.

But, the best option seems to be magicJack. You purchase the USB dongle for $20* and for $19.95 per year, you can make and receive unlimited calls to/from any phone in the US and Canada for no extra charge (yes, that's $19.95 per year). You do have to have a good internet connection. Since most of the people we would talk to are in the US, this works well for us (assuming that our internet connection in Kenya is good enough).

The one downside we thought we would have to deal with was having to have a phone attached to our computer. But, we only have to have the fairly small USB dongle and we can use a headset or even the built in microphone and speakers in our computers. And, one dongle (i.e., one account) can be used on multiple computers so whoever wants to talk, plugs the dongle into their computer at no extra charge.

If you're looking for an inexpensive way to make US/Canada long distance calls, you might give it a try.

Run (and talk) well, y'all,

*You purchase the dongle for $39.95 but that includes the cost of the dongle and the first year's service. magicJack is offering a free 30-day trial but it's cheaper to go to CVS pharmacy or Radio Shack or another supplier and purchase the magicJack and pay state sales tax than to pay the shipping that magicJack charges.

Hills **ARE** My Friends

I can't find the blog now but earlier this week, I read a running blog in which the writer talked about running a race and how her positive attitude about hills really helped her push through and to have a good race. She contrasted her attitude and results to that of a fellow runner who hit the last hill in the marathon and let the hill defeat her.

Yesterday, I needed to run a slightly shorter loop (@5 miles) and, since I hate running the same route 2 runs in a row, decided to run a route that included a couple of really nasty hills, back-to-back -- here's the elevation chart -- the nasty hills are between mile 3 and 4:

I had run these hills only once before and dreaded them from the moment I set out. I remembered the blog post and began to talk to myself about running them with a positive attitude. Then, just before I got to the first of those hills, I passed a guy who was walking. I greeted him and he commented about how good the slightly cooler weather felt. I said something like, Yes, it feels great but I'm not sure how I'll feel after these hills.

He said, It will be worth it after you finish. What a great statement! Between the blog inspiration and the wise words of a walking stranger, I conquered the hills and they weren't nearly as tough as I had mentally made them out to be.

Lesson learned (maybe): A positive attitude about challenges can make them easier.

Run well, y'all,

23 August 2009

An Eternal Perspective

The Ringmaster writes about life and running on her blog, Mile By Mile. Her blog is always a good read. On Friday, she talked about her frustrations with tapering before a race and with not being able to run as she recovered from a non-running injury. Then she talked about her husband's gracious acceptance of his inability to do something he dearly loves. Her reflection on that really resonated with me:
I’m reminded that God’s grace is not about me! When I’m benched, when I’m disciplined, when I’m taught something about character and grace and endurance–not in sport but in life and faith–it’s about something much bigger than me.

And in the end, I pray I always remember, while I want to be a great runner, I want to be a great Christ follower more than that.

While I want to get a medal at my next race, my true goal is to earn a crown that will never tarnish.

And while I would love to hear the crowds roaring as I come to the finish in–dare I hope it–1:48–more than that, I want to hear the quiet voice of my Lord saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

God, give me an eternal perspective–yes, even on my knees!
As much as I love to run, if there every comes a time, either temporarily or permanently, when I cannot do that, I want to remember that there is something much more important. I want to keep my eyes focused on the right one (Hebrews 12:2)

Thanks, Karina, for the reminder.

Run well -- and run the race of life well -- y'all,

18 August 2009

Canicular Weather

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day for today, 18 August, is quite appropriate for those of us who are trying to run and train in this canicular weather. Hydrate well, every day:
canicular \kuh-NIK-yuh-ler\ adjective: of or relating to the dog days (the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere)

Example sentence: During the canicular heat of August, many of the town's residents venture to the local swimming hole in search of a way to stay cool.

Did you know? The Latin word "canicula," meaning "small dog," is the diminutive form of "canis," source of the English word "canine." "Canicula" is also the Latin name for Sirius, the star that represents the hound of Orion in the constellation named for that hunter from Roman and Greek mythology. Because the first visible rising of Sirius occurs during the summer, the hot sultry days that occur from early July to early September came to be associated with the Dog Star. The Greeks called this time of year "hemerai kynades," which the Romans translated into Latin as "dies caniculares," or as we know them in English, "the dog days."
Run (and hydrate) well, y'all,

17 August 2009

Geriatric Chick Flick

Since returning to the US for a temporary assignment in 2005 (we're headed back overseas in about 3 weeks), my wife and I (and our daughter, when she's at our house) have enjoyed having digital cable TV. It gives us lots of choices and more flexibility than standard TV, though I'm not sure we actually took enough advantage of those benefits enough to justify the cost. Frankly, we ended up watching a rather narrow range of programming. Probably the most watched channel, though, is the Food Network. They have the best reality TV (The Next Food Network Star, Bobby Flay's Throwdown, Chopped -- is Chopped a FN show?) and there's usually nothing offensive. I like the dry humour and the great information of Alton Brown. So, food has become a prime interest in our house -- well, eating food has always been a prime interest.

So, when the movie Julie & Julia began to be promoted, my wife and daughter were certainly interested. OK, I must confess, so was I -- intrigued by the idea of the movie. Saturday, we went to see the movie. I've blogged about that being my first senior citizen discount.

Well, we walk into the theater and I immediately realize that I've paid to see a geriatric chick flick. First of all, I think there were 2 other men in the whole theater and they were slouched down in their seats like they were trying to avoid the possibility that another man would actually see them. (I think all 3 of us temporarily lost our mancards on Saturday. How long until we get them back? Maybe we have to do something ultra-manly like ... well, I'll let your imagination -- PG-rated, of course -- finish that thought.) So, obviously, this is a chick flick of major proportions.

Now remember, I got a Senior Citizen discount to get into the afternoon movie, so I'm not young anymore. But, I tell you, my wife, our daughter, and I were the youngest in the whole place. Hmmm. I'm now wondering if I'm going to like this movie -- I'm thinking I made a bad mistake.

It was weird. The audience actually laughed at the funny, quirky parts of the movie. And, there were parts of the movie that were really funny, but the laughter was unusual -- I think the humour really connected with the female audience. The profanity was totally unnecessary -- why do we (that's a collective we) think that it's so cool to use obscene, profane, vulgar language? It's so totally unnecessary -- and that bothered me. The smoking by Julia and her contemporaries was pretty shocking -- very realistic for the '50's and '60's but after finally being able to enjoy eating in a restaurant without having to inhale cigarette smoke (well, except in Virginia), it was surprising to see.

If you can't stand to watch the Food Network, then you probably won't like the movie, Julie & Julia. But if you like cooking and can ignore or tolerate the profanity, it is a pretty good movie and has some funny segments. Meryl Streep did a remarkable job portraying Julia Childs. She is good!

I've encouraged my wife to adapt the idea -- cook through all the recipes that have accumulated in her recipe card boxes and blog about them. We'll see. She's a great cook so it would be fun for me.

Oh, running -- I intensely dislike running in temperatures above 69°, especially when the humidity is above about 75%. My running has been hard for the past 2 months. I ran 6+ miles this morning and, if the scales at my mother-in-law's were correct, I lost 5.4 pounds during my run.

Run well, y'all,

15 August 2009

Senior Discounts -- Senior Running

It's been a while since I last posted -- I've been running, just not posting. Life has interfered.

A couple of weeks ago, I was running with a group training for a half marathon. We had a 14-miler scheduled (SIDE-NOTE: I don't think God designed me for summer running!) and I ended up by myself at about mile 11.5. One of our group was not running that day but was hitting various spots on the route encouraging folks. At mile 11.5, he was jogging the course in reverse and passed me. He asked how I felt -- my response, Like I'm 55 (which I am).

Actually, I've felt 55 on most of my runs over the last couple of months. I don't know what gives but almost every run is a struggle even though I'm running slower than ever. Some days it's like I'm starting all over again.

In some places, being 55 years old makes me eligible for Senior discounts. Now, that bothers some people, but not me. If someone wants to give me a discount for being 55 or for being mostly bald or for being left-handed or for having big feet, that's all right with me. I figure a discount is a discount.

That being said, in the 3 months since I turned 55, I've never actually been in a place to get a Senior Discount until today. My wife, our daughter, and I went to see Julie & Julia (maybe I'll blog about that some other time) and I saw that they offered a $1 Senior Discount for those over 55. Voila! So I asked for 2 adult and 1 senior ticket. Well, that didn't compute with the cashier (my wife understood why, I don't but that may be because I'm a Senior) and she gave me 2 Senior tickets. I was signing the credit card receipt and knew the price was less than I expected but I wasn't really paying attention (another senior moment) but my wife was (she's not a Senior). So, we pointed out that we wanted 3 tickets, not 2 and she sold us another one -- a Student Ticket rather than a full adult (the cashier was definitely NOT a Senior, so either Senior Momentitis is contagious or I was suffering from something else). By that time, there was a line behind us so we just took the tickets and went in to watch the movie.

My first time to use a Senior Discount and things get messed up! Go figure?!

Run well, y'all,

06 July 2009

Who Do You Run For?

Normally, I would say that I run for myself. Lance made me think:

Run well, y'all,

29 May 2009

Good News -- Gait Analysis Results

This is a bit long. Maybe this will be helpful to someone else.

No pain this week. I've run 26+ miles so far this week, with 7-9 planned for tomorrow, at about 8:30 mpm and have had NO pain.

Yesterday, I returned to the Sports Medicine Doc for a gait analysis so that she could see if there was something I was doing that caused my hamstring problem. It was interesting. The Physical Therapist had me warm up on the treadmill -- she said about 15 minutes. They needed to turn the AC down! It was hot in the office and it didn't take me long at all to break a serious sweat. After about 12 minutes, the PT came back and used a digital camera to video me from 5-6 different angles while I was running at a 10 mpm pace (I could have gone a long time at that pace). Then I sat down with the Doc.

It was interesting and revealing:
1. I let my arms cross in front of my body causing my hips to twist. Not only does that waste energy but it throws my stride off. I know that you're supposed to swing your arms straight and thought I did pretty well with that but the video showed clearly that I don't. It's possible (my theory) that this was exaggerated by being on a treadmill but after having her point it out, I know I do it.

2. I run in what she described as a modeling runway style. My right foot -- and, to a lesser extent, my left foot -- crosses over and lands in front of my left rather than to the right and front. It's like I'm running on the line on the road. This puts extra strain on my leg muscles.

3. My alignment (head, torso, hips, legs) is good through most of my stride -- basically a straight line. The exception is just after foot strike when I bend slightly at the hips. Again, extra stress on the leg muscles.

4. My foot strike and stride length were almost perfect with my foot landing under the center of my body and my lower leg perpendicular to the ground. I know that I've shortened my stride length (i.e., not stretching as far in front) since injuring my hamstring because the farther in front I stretched, the more I could feel the strain on my hamstring. She speculates that if she had seen me run 6 weeks ago, that she would be correcting that.

5. I overpronate -- that's no surprise but it does put extra stress on my feet and joints.

6. I tend to push off with my big toe rather than all toes. Since injuring my hamstring, I have noticed that when I consciously push off (and I end up using all of my toes to do that), there is less strain on my hamstring.
She gave me the video clips so that I could review what I'm doing. She's also given me a series of exercises to do to both strengthen certain muscles and to retrain my muscles to run correctly. These roughly correlate to the items above:
1. HANDS LOW: Practice swinging my arms straight, forearms and hands at waist height, emphasizing the backward swing to get my elbows well behind my body, **and** keeping my hips straight. This will be difficult because of a bad habit I've acquired.

2a. WHITE LINE DRILL: She wants me to follow a line on the road, making sure that I plant my feet on either side of the line rather than on the line.

2b. RUN SIDEWAYS: Run sideways to the left, crossing my right leg in front of my left, for about 50m. Repeat to the right, crossing my left leg in front of my right, for 50m. Repeat. This strengthens the hip abductors (outside of thigh at hip).

3. LUNGE STRETCH: Do a lunge, abdomen in a crunch position (basically tucking my abs), and leaning my upper body back to stretch and strengthen the hip adductors (inside front and inside muscles of the thigh).

4a. STRIDE: Concentrate on landing correctly -- keeping my stride length shorter (for now) and increase my stride rate, approaching 180 steps per minute. She thinks this is the main thing that will keep my hamstrings healthy.

4b. RUN BAREFOOT OR IN SOCKED FEET: 50m x 4 repeats on the pavement. This conditions my body for a proper footstrike. Basically, she said I will land correctly when barefoot because I'll break my heel if I strike too far in front and land on my heel!

5. FOOT FLIPS: When sitting, keep my knees together and rotate my feet outward to the outside edge of my feet. When standing, rotate my feet outward to stand on the outside edge of my feet. Advanced version is to stand on one foot and rotate my foot outward. More advanced is to stand on one foot on a pillow and rotate my foot outward. The purpose is to strengthen the muscles that control my pronation so that I pronate less.

6. PUSH OFF: Concentrate on pushing off with all of my toes rather than doing so with my big toe.
There is one thing I can't control. When I asked her why my hamstrings suddenly decided to go bad when I didn't change anything (that I know of) and had been running for almost 6 years. Her comment, with a grin: Your muscles have never been 55 years old before. She also commented about my ability to the foot flips: Most (ahem ... cough) middle-aged men who over-pronate can't do those. Basically, I'm old!

She also suggested that I consider cutting back on my running and add in some cross-training. But, when I explained that I'm about to move overseas to a place where biking or using an elliptical would be difficult (Kenya), she didn't push it. (Besides, I really like to run.)

I'm encouraged.

Run well, y'all,

27 May 2009

No (Hamstring) Pain, All Gain

6.8 miles at a pace of 8:28 mpm this morning. It even included some fartleks. No hamstring pain or even tightness -- none, nada, hakuna -- first time in about 3 weeks! Overall pace is still off from my normal daily runs but I'm really trying not to push it.

Run well, y'all,

26 May 2009

Encountering the World of Islam

There is a fascination in the US with Islam. I think it is rooted in a number of issues: the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israel, the events of 9/11, the war on terror, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, events in Iran, etc. And, for many Americans, Islam is different and unknown and that intrigues us.

The beginning of the following video clip puts a personal face on Islam -- it helps one understand that the concerns of Muslims in the US are very similar to those of all other Americans. The video is produced from a Christian evangelistic perspective -- I don't apologize for that but do want to be upfront about what you will see -- I'm not trying to come in through the back door on anyone. :) Nor am I promoting this particular organization (though I do think they have some excellent resources for Christians who want to understand Islam and know how to minister to Muslims and to share Jesus with them).

If you're interested in learning more, the book, Encountering the World of Islam, is described here -- and available for purchase. (DISCLAIMER: I am in no way connected with this organization nor will I profit from you visiting the site or buying the book.)

On the running front. My post from yesterday grew out of frustration and a bit of fear about what might happen today when I ran. But, though today's run was very hard for some reason, my hamstrings felt as good as or better than any time in the last 3 weeks. I ran 6.4 miles at a pace of 8:30 mpm -- still slower than normal and with a shortened stride. Maybe I've turned the corner but I won't hold my breath as I've thought that before.

Run well, y'all,

25 May 2009

This Makes No Sense!

No, I'm not referring to the insanity of an economy that is dependent on people spending more and more and more each year! My hamstring is the issue.

OK, last week but one I go to the doc on Tuesday and hadn't run in 3 days. On Wednesday, I take it slow and do 3+ with no trouble. Gradually increase speed (not intentionally, it just happens) and distance until that Saturday, I ran a total of almost 9 in 3 segments (.6, 5, 3.3) at an average pace of 9:53.

Sunday, I flew to Denver and didn't run that day. Monday, I ran 6.7 miles at 8:12 mpm with no pain -- well, OK, I was sucking wind at 5400' above sea level but I didn't even know I was going that fast. Tuesday, I head out and the hamstring was a wee bit tight but I'm fine through 3.8 miles at 8:38 mpm. I turned a corner and my hamstring grabbed me hard! Why? I have no idea. Wednesday, I tested it but 2-3 steps was all it took to let me know that running would be a bad idea so I walked at a very moderate pace for about 6 blocks. Thursday, I ran 4.2 miles at 9:04 with only moderate discomfort. Friday, 4.2 miles at 9:00 with only slight discomfort. Saturday, a total of 8.5 miles (3 segments of .6, 6.2, and 1.7 miles) at 8:52 with very little discomfort. Today, 6 miles at 8:37 and felt really good. What will tomorrow hold?

I cannot figure out what I'm doing or not doing to irritate my hamstring -- that's what makes no sense.

Run well, y'all,

18 May 2009

Running In the Shadow of Rockies

What a beautiful place to run! I'm in Denver for a meeting of our Trustees and for the confirmation of employment of new folks headed to Africa (7 units to Sub-Saharan Africa). This is the view out of my 6th floor room -- snow-covered Rockie Mountains behind the city of Denver. God is an artist.

We're at just over 5300' above sea level but it's like a plateau. Elevation changes on my route this morning were no more than 46' -- it was basically flat. That was a surprise. Perfect morning for running with the temperature at 6:00 sitting right at 52° and the humidity at 58%. When I finished, it was 58° and 48% humidity. So very pleasant. The sun was bright, painfully so at times. Not far from our hotel, Denver has put in really nice pathways that are, for the most part, well away from the roads -- some are wide concrete paths, others are hard-packed dirt with very small gravel. I put in 6.7 miles in 55:04 -- my best pace (8:12.8 mpm) in 2 weeks since pulling my hamstring. Here's my route (I added a bit at the end -- to the end of the block and back into the hotel parking lot to get to 6.7 mi.).

The hamstring is doing fine. It's still tight; pain is more low-level soreness now (roughly 1.5/10). Heading to meetings now.

Run well, y'all,

12 May 2009

Hamstring Report

Just got home from the doctor, Dr. Teresa Stadler, and the news is not too bad.

I have a very small tear in the middle hamstring muscle (semitendinosus -- shaded blue in the graphic to the left) -- it should heal fine. She's said NO stretching, period. No NSAID's (ibuprofen, Advil, etc.). Eccentric exercises to strengthen the right hamstring. There's already some minor atrophy after only 12 days -- I apparently have favored my right leg when I have run over those days. I go back for recheck, gait analysis, and massage therapy in 2 weeks. I can run up to the point of awareness, so will be limited to less than 5K and probably, at first, to 2-2.5 miles easy.

Cool thing: the gait analysis may show some weirdness in my gait that she suspects may be causing the problem. If so and if I will do the work to correct it, not only should I prevent hamstring trouble in the future but she said I may be able to knock 15 seconds off my mile time. I laughed and said maybe I could reach my goal of a <45:00 10K -- she said that was her goal this year.

The other problem I am having is tenderness just in front of and adjacent to my inside right ankle. The doctor said the ankle and hamstring are not related. She pretty well ruled out a stress fracture. First, with a stress fracture I should have definitely not been able to run and that's caused me no pain, at all, when running. Second, as long as I've been running, an ankle stress fracture would be unusual. Most conclusively, rubbing across the tendon caused more discomfort than rubbing along the bone. I have a topical anti-inflammatory for the tendon and have to march on my heels with my toes pointed up while I brush my teeth -- in other words, 2-3 times per day for 1-2 minutes each time. If it doesn't clear up, she'll image it to be absolutely certain it's not a stress fracture.

So, maybe a short, easy run in the morning is possible after all.

Run well and pain-free, y'all,

10 May 2009

Best Excuse Not to Run in the Morning...

...and the funniest comment I've read on a blog in awhile.

From Vanilla, at Half Fast:
Lately I’ve been getting to the office a lot earlier (so much for banker’s hours) and I frequently work from an office that is much farther from my house which means that if I wanted to get in a short [morning] run at my lumbering pace I’d need to wake up somewhere around 4am and as I’m sure you’re all painfully aware there is no such thing as 4am. So essentially it’s not even physically possible for me to run in the mornings anymore.
I'm still going to do my runs in the early mornings -- well, whenever my hamstring will let me run -- but if I even need a good excuse, thanks, Vanilla, for providing the perfect excuse!

As for me, I'm pretty frustrated. When I got up yesterday, my hamstring felt great. I headed out to go meet my group -- I do my warm-up in the .62 miles from the house to our meeting place -- and it felt a little sore but no problems. We headed out at an easy pace and no problems. But, we hit a flat spot and all of a sudden I had problems. It actually stopped me for a few seconds. I was able to complete 6.7 miles at an 8:30 mpm pace but was hurting from about mile 2.25 or so. I'm calling the doctor tomorrow. :(

Run well, y'all,

06 May 2009

Destined to Run? Just Not for Speed

It must have been fate that I would wind up loving to run. This is what was happening in the world of running the day I was born:

Unfortunately, it was not fate that I would be as fast as Roger Bannister -- or have the mental stamina that he had.

Disappointing day for me with running. My hamstring felt good when I got up. So, out the door (56° -- YES!). But, after a mile or so, the tightness was back. I ended up running 5.25 miles. This is the strangest thing. It doesn't hurt when walking. It hurts more going uphill than down or on flats. It actually hurts most as my leg straightens just before heel strike. And, the pain is in the upper hamstring. It makes me wonder if I have a tight piriformis muscle that is causing my hamstring (specifically, the semimembranosus muscle). Back to the ice and NSAID's and rest. :(

Run well, y'all,

04 May 2009

Hamstring Soreness

Well, after a 3 day hiatus in my running, I headed out this morning to see what the hamstring would do. I had hoped it would be OK and I could do 7+ miles. Well, the hamstring wasn't perfect but the traffic kept me from doing 7+. I couldn't believe it -- it was so heavy that I couldn't cross the road. Of course, I had slept in a bit and didn't leave until 7:15 so I was fighting going to work traffic.

My hamstring was sore, especially on uphill segments. But, it didn't seize up on me like last week. I guess it's overuse but really don't know what precipitated it. I'll see what it feels like in the morning. For now, I'm off to ice it.

Ended up doing 6.16 at a 8:07 mpm pace. Visiting my mother-in-law while we speak at a couple of Columbia, SC churches. So, I had a change of scenery.

Run well, y'all,

30 April 2009


After yesterday's run, my right hamstring was a little sore. Got up this morning -- hamstring felt better and it was 53° (way better than the 60°+ of the last several days), so I headed out to see what might happen. I chose a route that kept me within a mile and a half of home for the first 3 miles in case my hamstring acted up but also gave me the option of going 7+ if everything was OK.

Mile 1: no problem, in fact most of the soreness went away.

Mile 2: no problem

Mile 3: no problem until the 2.6 mile point. I was going up a slight hill (not the first one) and all of a sudden -- BAM! -- I got spiced by Emeril!

Oh, wait, no, I was running, not watching Food Network. ...all of a sudden -- BAM! -- my hamstring started seizing up. I tried slowing down but it did no good. So, I stopped and gently stretched my hamstring. It eased off and I tried running gently -- after just a few strides, it seized up again. Walked a bit and tried again. It's odd -- I could run a few strides and then swinging my right leg forward would be painful. Walking, on the other hand, cause only very mild soreness.

So, I walked the rest of the 1 mile home (OK, a few jogging strides here and there).

I am bummed but I'm going to lay off running for a couple of days. If my leg feels OK Saturday morning, I may try a couple of miles (yeah, I know, I should just forget it ... until at least Sunday). Seriously, I am bummed. Looks like my early mornings (and evenings) will be spent with ice on my hamstring.

Run well, y'all,

25 April 2009

Exercise and Don't Sit

So, maybe this is one reason I'm having trouble losing the extra 10+/- pounds I'm carrying. The study, reported on Runner's World's web site, doesn't mention weight, just mortality but ...

It's Not Enough To Exercise; You Need To Stop Sitting Too
We first mentioned the new science of inactivity physiology just a month or two ago. Now a major research center has produced a study giving a strong boost to inactivity physiology. They did this by studying mortality rates among more than 17,000 Canadians for an average of 12 years. The results showed a linear relationship between sitting time and mortality rates. This was true for exercisers as well as non-exercisers. Conclusion: "In addition to the promotion of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and a healthy weight, physicians should discourage sitting for extended periods." Source: Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. More
I think I need to get up and walk around more often when I'm in the office!

I hadn't planned to run today -- I usually take Sunday off after a long Saturday run. But, I woke up early and thought, Why not? So, I left planning to do 4.7 -- basically an out-and-back. But, at the halfway point, I thought, Wait, I'm not training for anything, I have some time, and Linda (my wife) is unlikely to need to find me. Let's do something different and unplanned. So, I turned right where I had planned to turn left. Ended up doing 5.7 miles. I really had intended to take it easy at about 8:30-8:45 mpm. But, when I figured out my pace, it was 8:09. Maybe I'm still reaping the benfits of running last week at 5500' above sea level.

Run well, y'all -- and sit less,

Who Turned Up the Heat!?

Summer -- go away ... NOW! Aihhh! This morning summer descended. OK, I realize that 67° is tolerable ... when you've had the chance to acclimate and when it wasn't 48° two days ago and 40° yesterday. Drew and I headed out at 6:00am to do 13.1. We wimped out and cut just under 2 miles out. I ended up doing 11.4 miles at an 8:36 mpm pace. It was tough but doable but I oh, so prefer 35°-55° for running.

This weekend, our church is celebrating its 20th anniversary. They decided to do a Gayton Gives Back event and do community service from 9-12. So, I finished my run, took a (relatively) quick shower, wolfed down breakfast and then pulled wire grass out of flower beds at an assisted living center for about 2.5 hours. Then, home for lunch and out to cut our yard full of weeds grass. Now I'm drinking a mug of chai, reading blogs, talking with my wife and daughter, and watching the Food Network. Heading back to the church in about 30 minutes for a BBQ dinner.

I think I'll sleep well tonight!

Run well, y'all,

15 April 2009

Good Idea: Hotel Safe

This may be old hat in South Africa and in Europe, but I thought it
was a really good idea. It's always a dilemma to decide what to do
with valuables in hotels in Africa. While the vast majority of hotel
staff members are hard working, honest folks, theft from rooms is a
real problem. And, it's a real pain to decide what to do with things
like a camera, laptop, and other items when you go eat or to the pool/
beach or wherever.

Well, this is the solution offered by the Birchwood Hotel in
Johannesburg, South Africa -- they turned their walk-in closets into
safes. There is a steel gate with an electronic lock on each closet.
You key in your own 4-digit code, close the door, and kumbe, your
stuff is locked up. I wouldn't mind having a closet designed like this
in the house where we will live in Kenya when we move back overseas in

I ran 4.65 miles in Jo'burg this morning in 38:31. Wow -- what a
difference running at 5500' -- who stole the oxygen?

Run well, y'all,

13 April 2009

Suspicious Footlocker

I've had baggage checked before but have never seen one labelled
"SUSPECT". This was on my footlocker (trunk) when I arrived in
Johannesburg. I wonder what about this particular piece of luggage led
to this status being assigned. It was put on in Richmond within about
30 minutes of my checking in for my NWA flight. Everything was still
inside -- as far as I could tell -- though my shirts were a little
more wrinkled for the experience. I'm glad someone is looking out for
and checking suspicious baggage.

Run (and fly) well, y'all,

Running in Johannesburg

Arrived in Johannesburg early Sunday night -- 9:05 pm -- after an easy flight from Amsterdam. The KLM flight was less than half full so I had the whole window section (15A-C) to myself. It was still economy class but I had a bit of room to stretch out and got some decent naps -- I rarely sleep more than about 30 minutes at a time on an international flight but got a couple of 2-hour naps along the way.

Lots of renovations at the Jo'burg airport since I was last here a year ago. We had to walk forever from the gate to Customs and then baggage claim. My bags were slow coming out (maybe that's bag lag) but both got here with no damage and nothing missing (that I can tell).

A colleague met me outside of customs. That was a pleasant surprise as I was expecting to have to catch the hotel shuttle. Thanks, Wade! He had even bought me a couple of bananas, an apple, and some muffins. Friends are a blessing.

After unpacking and showering, I hit the sack. Up just before 7 and on the road at 7:15. It didn't take long to start feeling the 5500' altitude. Being used to running in Short Pump at what, 240', I was huffing pretty heavily. Still, I managed 4.6 miles in 37:37. Today, Easter Monday, is a holiday in South Africa so traffic was very light, even at around 8:00 when I finished. The rest of the week will be a bit different and I'll have to keep an eye on traffic. I do have to remember to look in opposite directions. You drive on the left here -- run on the right -- and that takes some getting used to.

If you're interested, here's the route I ran: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2722258

Run well, y'all,

11 April 2009

Running and Trans-Atlantic Flying

Well, OK, the title would be more accurately stated, Running **Then**.... This will be a first for me. It seemed like a great idea earlier in the week. I ran 6.8 miles this morning before heading to the airport for about 26 hours of international travel. My thinking was that it would be good to be active (and, maybe, tired) before flying. We'll see.

While we were running this morning, I began to question my sanity for running almost 13 yesterday and then doing almost 7 this morning. My legs were definitely not happy. We had planned to go out slow but ... those with Garmins kept saying, "We're at sub-8's". We ended up averaging something like 8:17 mpm. One of those mornings when being with a group was a good motivator to keep going.

I'm hoping to get some higher altitude runs in during the next week. Johannesburg sits at about 5700' above sea level. Should be fun.

True meaning of Easter: Matthew 28:1-20

Run well, y'all,

10 April 2009

Things You Don't Say to Your Wife

This has nothing to do with either running or Easter (although, if you do say these things, the ability to run fast and faaaaaar would be very useful), but it's hilarious (thanks to Yoni Freedhoff at the blog, Weighty Matters):

Running? This morning I did a Good Friday 12.8 miles in 1:48:07. It was hard, but, then, 12.8 miles is a long way.

Reflect on the meaning of Good Friday: Matthew 26:17-27:66

Run well, y'all,

09 April 2009

Grass or Roads?

The question as to whether running on grass or trails is easier on one's joints than running on hard surfaces (i.e., roads) has perplexed me. On the one hand, it seems to make some intuitive sense that the softer surface of grass or trails would absorb some of the stress of the pounding. On the other hand, it would also seem to be only a very slight advantage and any advantage might well be offset by the greater stress on those same joints caused by running on a less stable (more uneven) surface.

Well, an Australian study that will published in Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise and that has been reported in Runner's World's Peak Performance and on PubMed, indicates that there may not be any significant difference in the actual effects of running on grass or roads. Inflammation and chemical indicators of stress were higher after running than before running and were higher after high-intensity workouts than after lower-intensity workouts. However, there were no differences between doing the same workout on grass or on a bitumen (asphalt or tarmac) road surface.

Since road surfaces are much more convenient to me for running it's nice to know that I'm probably not doing any additional damage to my knees and other joints by taking the more convenient route. I do enjoy running on trails because of the change and the scenery.

I'm planning a long (12 mile) run tomorrow morning. If the rain holds off or isn't too bad, I'll do another 4-6 miles on Saturday morning before heading to the airport to fly to South Africa. While in South Africa, I hope to get in at least a few higher altitude (5700') runs.

Run well, y'all,

The message of Easter: He is not here; he has risen just as he said. (Matthew 28:6)

07 April 2009

More Speed

In the 2 major marathons this past Sunday, Paris and Rotterdam, Africans took 28 of the top 40 spots (top 10 for men and women in each race) -- 19 by Kenyans, 8 by Ethiopians, and 1 by a Moroccan. That's a pretty impressive day and speaks to the dominance of distance running by African runners.

Pretty impressive times, too -- 4 men under 2:06 and 10 men under 2:07. A 2:07 marathon is a pace of 4:50.84 minutes per mile! Gives us something to shoot for (yeah, right)! Running Without Limits speculated that these may have been the fastest marathons ever. Could be -- in the top 40 spots, there were 22 personal best times, including 6 debut marathons.

Paris Marathon, 5 April 2009

MEN (7 of top 10 from Kenya, 2 from Ethiopia, 1 from Morocco) -- 8 personal best times, including one debut marathon:
1. Vincent Kipruto Limo (KEN) 2:05:47 (PB)
2. Bado Worku (ETH) 2:06:15 (debut)
3. David Kemboi Kiyeng (KEN) 2:06:26 (PB)
4. Yemane Adhane (ETH) 2:06:30 (PB)
5. Rachid Kisri (MAR) 2:06:48 (PB)
6. David Mandago Kipkorir (KEN) 2:06:53 (PB)
7. Jonathan Kosgei Kipkorir (KEN) 2:07:31 (PB)
8. Shadrack Kipchumba Kiplagat (KEN) 2:08:11
9. John Kipkorir Komen (KEN) 2:08:12
10. Daniel Too Kiprugut (KEN) 2:08:38 (PB)
WOMEN (5 of to 10 from Ethiopia, 2 from Kenya) -- 6 personal best times, including 3 debut marathons:
1. Atsede Bayisa (ETH) 2:24:42(PB)
2. Aselefech Mergia (ETH) 2:25:02 (debut)
3. Christelle Dauney (FRA) 2:25:43 (NR)
4. Ashu Kasim (ETH) 2:25:49 (debut)
5. Julia Mombi Muraga (KEN) 2:29:10
6. Worknesh Tola (ETH) 2:29:19
7. Leah Malot (KEN) 2:30:29 (PB)
8. Maria McCambridge (IRL) 2:35:29 (PB)
9. Azalech Masresha (ETH) 2:35:56 (debut)
10. Maja Neuenschwander (SUI) 2:36:48 (PB)
Rotterdam Marathon, 5 April 2009

MEN (9 of top 10 from Kenya, 1 from Ethiopia) -- 7 personal best times, including 2 debut marathons; 3 runners beat the previous course record:
1. Duncan Kibet, Ken 2:04:27 PB, course record old 2.05.49 William Kipsang 2008)
2. James Kwambai, Ken 2:04:27 PB (correct)
3. Abel Kirui, Ken 2:05:04 PB
4. Patrick Makau, Ken 2:06:14 PB debut
5. Jackson Kipkoech, Ken 2:08:54
6. Alfred Kering, Ken 2:09:19 PB
7. Mesfin Ademasu, Eth 2:09:32 PB
8. Robert Kipcumba, Ken 2:09:54 PB debut
9. Richard Limo, Ken 2:10:09
10. Mariko Kipchumba, Ken 2:12:17
WOMEN (1 of the top 10 from Kenya) -- 1 personal best time:
1. Nailya Yulamanova, Rus 2:26:30 PB
2. Lydia Cheromei, Ken 2:28:09
3. Adriana Pirtea, Rou 2:36:36
4. Sue Harrison, GBr 2:37:27
5. Viktoria Ryazantseva, Rus 2:40:33
6. Luzia Schmid, Sui 2:52:14
7. Marta Esteban Poveda Esp 2:53:48
8. Minna Kainlauri, Fin 2:56:01
9. Katja Merlin, Bel 2:58:10
10. Birgit Kraemer, Ned 2:59:42
Run well, y'all,