Monday, May 24, 2010

You're better than your last run

A view of Griffith Park Observatory taken last week from the deck of the house in the Hills where I stay when visiting LA. It is a 5 mile round trip from where the picture is taken to the Observatory and back.

I still haven't tried out the new Brooks Cascadias yet. I plan to do a trail jaunt this week as soon as I recover from the most brutal run I've ever done. It all started yesterday a.m... I remember it as though it were yesterday... I awoke around 6:30 feeling pretty good - maybe a bit sluggish. But nothing a bit of coffee and oatmeal couldn't cure. I took my CoQ10 and some potassium. I swallowed a spoonful of chia. I had a quick shot of EmergenC. I don't normally do EmergenC prior to a run, but since the weather was hot and humid, I thought that having some extra electrolytes might be a good idea. I also grabbed my Amphipod belt with a water bottle (something else I don't normally carry). I was a bit concerned about the heat. I also did something I never do - I brought along identification. I don't know what was going on in my mind. The day (or maybe it was just me) felt a bit different than other days I had gone for a run.

So I took off heading south into a pretty strong headwind. The route I was on would require running into it for about 4 miles before turning perpendicular to it. As I ran, I felt OK, but not in top form. As I came upon the 6.2 and 8.5 mile bailout points, I thought that perhaps I should take one of them. But I chose to continue, thinking that I usually run through any issue. And I couldn't specify what felt wrong. At about the 6.5 mile mark, my right quad began to hurt. Each step was a little bit painful. I drank most of the bottle of water, and slugged down a shot of Accel Gel that I had brought along. I hoped that I'd get an energy burst. The burst was never to arrive, however. The rest of the run became a painful slog.

To get through it, I tried several different things. I tried to think of my right leg as unnecessary. I concentrated on pushing off on my left leg, and letting the right one flow along. I counted steps and cracks in the pavement. I watched sweat stream off my cap like a small waterfall. Nothing really worked. I thought, at several points, how good it would be simply to stop and walk. But I stupidly have an issue with that course of action ever since reading the book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. He doesn't like to walk when he sets out on a run. I, for some reason, subscribe to that philosophy as well (though after yesterday, I think I'll change that plan in the future). I can't recall ever feeling as bad during a run.

When it ended, I bent over and remained in that position for a bit of time, trying to ascertain what was wrong. I took an Aleve when I got indoors. Had another EmergenC, then sat down. For the next two hours the muscles in my legs would fire off in painless spasms. It was interesting to watch, but it kind of freaked me out because it had never happened before.

I'm taking today off. In the next couple of days I plan to do 2-3 miles on the levee or on trails in order to ease myself back in to the groove. The plan is to cut down on miles a bit this week and next - with the longest run being 8 miles next Sunday. That should put me right on schedule for a good time at the Hospital Hill half marathon in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Udo's Oil and Other Offerings: my sustenance and supplements

While I may drop dead from a heart attack or an aneurysm tomorrow, I, nevertheless, am in probably the best shape of my life. Several years ago, I dropped about 65lbs, took up running, and became a vegetarian. A few month ago I gave up one of my two remaining bad habits when I quit smoking. I had been down to about 5 a day for the past 4-5 years. And, when I noticed that the smoking was getting in the way of my running, I dropped it. It was actually easy this time, because I had found something to replace it that I liked doing more. I wrote about this in a previous blog a while ago, but wanted to revisit it as part of this posting on health maintenance.

A common question I'm asked (both due to lifestyle and the industry in which I work - Natural Products) is what do I consume in the way of food and supplements. That is both an easy and a difficult question to answer. The best answer would be: It varies.

I'll start with food. For breakfast most mornings, I have either Wheatabix mixed with GrapeNuts or oatmeal. With both I use either soy or rice milk (I try to stay away from animal milk products as much as possible). I usually have a banana later in the a.m. or after a run (I run in the a.m. about half the time). Lunch is usually a soup and a vegetable. Dinner is usually a salad or a really hearty soup (I've really been into making super spicy asian noodle-type soups lately), sometimes coupled with a wrap filled with something light. In the evening, I snack on nuts, apples, or crackers, and every now and then a bowl of orange sherbet. I don't have a problem with varying this diet, or eating out. I'll do pizza, Asian, or my absolute fav, Greek/Mediterranean foods whenever any friend wants to dine out. I do pass on fried foods, meals with a lot of carbs, and sugars. I'm lucky with respect to the last item, because I don't have a huge desire to chow on sweet things, and don't ever have a craving for things like chocolate.

As far as supplements go the list is long and varied. Every morning, I take a swig of Udo's 3.6.9. Oil, a CoQ10 capsule, and a potassium supplement. Udo's I take for essential fatty acids (EFAs), CoQ10 for heart health, and potassium mainly for cramp prevention when running. During the day, I'll chew a few of Pines wheat grass tabs, or mix some wheat grass powder in water. I do this for general vegetable nutrition; the idea that you should get most of your vitamins, minerals, protein...from a whole food source, which wheat grass is. Less frequently, I'll take Flora's DHA capsule. I'll also take an effervescent powder from Either Trace Minerals or EmergenC to restore electrolytes after a hard run. My sports doctor recommends taking Ibuprofen before or after all workouts. Honestly, though, I only take it when I have some sort of pain related to a workout. It seems to help with the occasional muscle or joint pain. Late in the day, I'll take another swig from Udo's bottle, and finish off the day with an ounce or so of Lilly of the Desert Aloe Vera Juice - a wonderful product. During runs longer than 8 miles, I take any one of a number of gel shot type products - Accel Gel, Powder Bar, Cliff's... They all seem to do the trick.

After my long runs on Sundays, I almost always take a bath (I have a jetted tub which makes for a nice bit of relaxation). On the advice of my massage therapist, my rolfer, my sports doctor, and the chiropractor I see on occasion, I always add epsom salts to the water. Honestly, I don't know how much doing that helps. But, if nothing else, the salts do make my skin feel better.

Finally, a bit more about running. My Mizunos are hanging in there, but have suffered a bit of damage on the periphery from too much running on gravel. And, with a trip to Colorado coming up in the not too distant future, I decided to give them a break and buy a pair of running shoes designed for trail running. Last night I settled upon a pair of Brooks Cascades. As soon as I get a bit of running in them under my belt, I'll put down some thoughts on them. They'll be the first pair of Brooks I've ever owned. My beloved Asics Gels will go into semi-retirement. The Mizunos will now only be used for the road, as intended.

One final item: if you're looking for a place to donate old running shoes, Garry Gribble's passes along their customers' old shoes to an organization called Soles 4 Souls. The shoes go to places like Haiti. Very worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back to my favorite run

I flew back home from LA yesterday. As those of you who know me know, I love LA. As a runner, LA boasts my favorite places to run - challenging routes that involve a bit of technical skill (when adding trails), a whole lot of hills, an abundance of wildlife, and very little traffic (eat your heart out NYC). It seems crazy, but on the runs I take in the City of Angels, I never feel as though I'm in an urban area until I reach a vista point where the metropolis unveils its vastness before me. Usually, I'm less worried about traffic, and more concerned about coming upon a rattle snake, coyote, or (in the back of my mind, please god no!) a mountain lion.

I did my favorite run the first day. It begins from the doorstep of the place I stay in the Hills. A quick half mile run downhill to the mouth of Griffith park, followed by a 2 mile uphill to the observatory, and then home. It's a nice 5 miler with no flats. My LA running buddy, Joe, joined me for the run.

On day two, Joe and I met up with his regular partner a pied, Steve, on a five miler along Mulholland. That was a truly nice run, involving some gentle hills, cool winding roadways, and fog-shrouded vistas. When we finished, and were driving back, Joe suggested doing the Griffith Park run again. So, we grabbed a scone and coffee at Trails (a stunningly good little outdoor eatery in the park), and then, reloaded, the two of us charged up the hill. The Sunday running total fell somewhere between 8 and 9 miles. Not bad for a city more know for traffic than trails.

I hope to have some pics to post next week.

Some advice for those traveling to LA in the near future: Blow off Malibu. Right now it is cold as heck and blanketed in a cloudy/foggy haze - total disappointment. Do go to: The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve - a state park near a rather unpleasant little town called Lancaster. The drive out is amazing, and the 8 miles of trails they have that meander through fields of poppies is really beautiful.

That's all for now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Trying to set off cramps...don't try this at home

Last week was pretty good for running. The weather here has been unseasonably chilly with strong winds... Well maybe last week wasn't so good for running. But I still logged 27 miles - with a couple of runs being very good. I calculate my weekly mileage from Sunday through Saturday. Sunday is my longest day and kicks off the week. The next longest is usually Wednesday or Thursday. The other days I usually just put in three or four miles.

Yesterday I got up pretty early and was out on the roads and pathways (which oddly could also be written roadways and paths)by 8 a.m. The weather (as I previously stated) was unseasonably cool. It was a relatively uneventful run. Nothing too taxing. So a little past midway, I added 1/2 - 3/4 mile to it by cruising up a spur to an area that overlooks the lake. Just that little change up in the run seemed to refresh the whole vibe. So, while the NPR types chattered away in my ears, I ran along the last portion of the course back toward civilization. I did have one thing to report. Since the run was now over 12 miles, I wanted to see if I could trigger some sort of leg cramp. And I noticed that by increasing speed, I started to feel a twinge in my right calf as well as in the muscle that runs down the back of the upper portion of my leg. I slowed my pace, took about 1/8 teaspoon of salt (which I now carry with me for cramping), and the sensation went away. I'll try to trigger it again in a couple of weeks and will, I hope, be able to again stave off the cramps. I'm not doing this because I'm a pain junkie, or because I like to test limits, but because I don't want to have an issue on the Hospital Hill run like I had on the last three miles of the Kansas 1/2 Marathon.

The rest of the day was spent looking at an ultra-modern house in North Lawrence, a Mother's Day meal with my parents, and hanging out with friends at night. My friend, Terra, has started to run a bit. She's started to do a mile a day. She started out running and walking, and now, a short time later, is up to running the full distance. She'll probably be adding more as it gets easier. I'm going to try to talk her into doing a 5 k some time in the next 3-4 months.

Movie Moment: I finally saw The Hurt Locker over the weekend. It wasn't the best movie I saw last year, but was certainly a respectable choice for the awards it garnered.

For the next posting, I'm going to be back out on the left coast doing my favorite run in America - one I have designated the Griffith Park Observatory Run. The way I do it makes it a 5 mile run with 2.5 miles downhill, and 2.5 uphill. No flats to be found anywhere. There is also a startling temperature transition that happens 2-3 times on the run. It is such a great run - in the wilderness, yet in the middle of LA - that I don't really have words to describe how exhilarating and at the same time relaxing an experience it is. I usually do the run with my friend, Joe, who knocked out an LA area half marathon a month or so ago as well. I'll try to have some pics of the run for the next post.

Until then...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bah Bah Bah Bah Bah Bah, Oh Honey Honey

I have allergies. There I, wrote it. They're nothing I'm proud of, but they smack me down every year or so in the Spring and Fall. I used to take Claritin and pills of that ilk like a child to a bowl of candy. Nothing really seemed to work that well. I'd lie awake at night trying to breathe out of whichever nostril wasn't filling with fluid like a nasal version of Titanic. Or, I'd shoot spray up my nose to clear up the congestion, only to get mildly addicted to the stuff for a month or two a year. The options weren't good.

Then, one day I was speaking with a friend who suggested that I purchase locally-produced honey. He said that if I took 1 tablespoon a day, that my allergies would clear up. While I understood the odd rationale behind the witch-doctor-like proposal; that locally-produced honey would contain local pollens, thereby assisting the immune system in building up defenses, I just didn't think it would work. Well, three days later, all symptoms of allergies were gone. And even without taking honey the next year, all symptoms were gone. Not even a little sniffle or eye-watering. So a week ago, when I came down with a ferocious allergy attack, I ran out to the local co-op and purchased the most local honey I could find - from a little burg called Iola, Kansas. And guess what... three days later every symptom and manifestation was gone. Completely. Finito.

I heard a piece on NPR or KPR from an expert talking about how this cure is a wives tale, but I now know so many people who have been relieved of their symptoms through this that I believe the 'expert' to be wrong. And I really don't think that I had a placebo effect. Because the first time I tried honey as a cure, I had no belief in its efficacy whatsoever. My friend, Mark Robison, who initially suggested the treatment to me is vegan, and informed me last night that he and his wife no longer use the honey cure (and I have another vegan friend who also doesn't do it). But, if you're not vegan, and suffer from allergies like hay fever, you might want to give local honey a try. The worst-case scenario is that you'll just have a tasty treat while supporting a local business.

I am pretty fortunate that the allergies, which I am now over, never interfered with my running. Other than doing a few well-placed farmer blows over my shoulder, running continued unabated. I knocked out a 31 mile week, taking Saturday off for some tennis (An aside here; we were the first people to play on the new tennis courts at Lawrence High - pretty cool). Most of the runs were uneventful, except for one. I did an 8 miler on Wednesday. The wind was, well windy. It averaged 20 mph, with gusts up to 40. There were wind advisories for all counties surrounding us, but not for Douglas County. So I set off on a route that I believed to be mainly perpendicular to the wind. At the two mile mark, I knew I was going to be screwed. At a 'T' intersection, I had the choice of going into the wind for two miles, or with the wind for two miles, and then back into it for my return. I opted to delay the inevitable and cruised along a slight downhill route with the blow at my back. And so, dear reader, when I turned around after two miles, I got a full force gale right in my face. And it really sucked. It was 2 miles of uphill into the wind. For the first time ever on a run, I actually thought of just stopping and walking, because I wasn't going much faster than a British chappie out for his daily constitutional. But I soldiered on. It seemed to take forever. I couldn't even get my MP3 player to go up loud enough to cut the wind noise out of my ears. When I finally turned out of the bluster and gusts (after what seemed like an hour), I could've cried with relief. That evening became a 2 ibuprofen experience, because for some reason, my right knee (who I take along on all of my runs) began swearing at me and the only way I could calm him down was with the anti-inflammatory painkiller.

Yesterday, I ran my normal 10 mile route backwards. That sounds funny. I should write that I ran it in the opposite direction than the one I normally take (for the record I was facing forward the whole time). It was such an incredible day. Out on the edges of the country, where this route goes, there are a few runners, but mainly cyclists. I was passed by a couple of friends I used to spin with around the Kansas countryside. And as much as I love bicycles, I didn't regret that I was a pied rather than on two wheels. I only saw a couple of other runners out near the dam. I didn't go too into the zone on the run, but was never taxed. And I didn't need any ibuprofen or ointments for any muscle or joint issues when I was finished. It was just a good, solid run on a beautiful day.

First Finally: I saw The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo over the weekend. I'd recommend it with a couple of reservations. If you want to see it, be prepared for a 2.5 hr experience. It also has some pretty serious adult themes - rape, incest, serial-killing, torture, and fibbing - so leave the kiddies at home. I have one friend who read the book who took us to see it. I have another friend who read the book who refuses to see it. After seeing it, I understand why.

Finally Finally: Rafa continues his tear on the clay courts in Europe this season. Yesterday he beat David Ferrer in a rain-delayed match to win in Rome (his 5th time to take home the trophy in that tournament). The new guy to watch however, is Ernests Gulbis of Latvia (I believe), who smacked down Roger Federer in the first round of the tourney, and took Nadal to three sets in the semis. It was a pretty darn good showing for a relatively fresh face on the tour.

See you next week.