Running Through Clouds Slows Me Down

Wow, the weather really effects my runs!  Wednesday was extremely humid.  I thought I was being smart by waiting for the major showers to head out but most of the week has been humid with rolling showers and thunderstorms.  It could have been worse, I could have been running on Thursday during the intermittent torrential downpours, though that honestly may have felt better than the thick condensed air that I sludged through on Wednesday.

I’ve mentioned that I have some allergies and have been experiencing occasional breathing issues in the past few weeks.  I hadn’t had any trouble breathing with my new routine but by the last two fields on Wednesday I was really struggling to catch my breath.  It’s so frustrating when my body has more strength than my lungs and sinuses.

Needless to say, my speed did not improve on Wednesday; in fact it decreased but not dramatically.  While I came in at a slower overall pace than the run previous to it, I wasn’t slower than the run previous to that.  I do feel stronger.  While my foot is still giving me some trouble, it’s getting better every day and my body is adjusting well to the new pace.  Once I get more comfortable I’m going to try to push myself a little more and either go farther or job through the slow parts of the workout instead of speed walking.  I’ll decide for sure when I’m ready.

In other exciting news, both the RunKeeper Free version and Pro version have been updated for iOS4 and are available on iTunes.  I upgraded to the Pro version and used it on Wednesday.  The tracking is supposedly better and it did track me as going farther  and the trail it mapped looks much closer to the path I take.  You can see what I mean in the pics below: I didn’t really play with the new app features, but you can read about all of them (and about the new awesome changes to their website) on their blog.  Overall, I’m still very impressed with their software and website integration and I think the pro app was worth the $9.99.

I skipped Friday’s run due to other exercise that day and preparation for an all-day chair massage event tomorrow.  If you’re local, check out my Facebook Fan Page for more info.  Next run is Monday!

Short n’ Sweet

Oh poor ignored blog!  I apologize for my lack of regular entries.  Due to some family complications my writing schedule has been a little off.  Luckily, my running has been right on schedule!

I can’t believe how much I’ve improved in just four workouts.  The past three runs have been 1.58 miles (I’m sticking to the same path) and I’m continuing to run quickly through the fields and slow down to a light jog or fast walk around the wooded areas.  I’ve found this is both giving my foot a chance to heal and I haven’t had any breathing issues, despite sweating up a storm!  My speed has already increased so much that I’ve cut more than four minutes off the workout!  Woo-hoo!  Eventually I’d like to reintroduce distance along with the speed, but right now I’m enjoying speeding up and having a steady recovery from my foot injury.

I promised you guys a picture of the acupuncture needle I’ve been wearing in my foot and here it is!  

Under that little band-aid is a needle routed through a tiny magnet.  It’s placed on the Liver Meridian, point #3 (LV3) which, aside from aiding my foot, is also a stress-reducer.

I do have a funny story to share.  Yesterday, when I got to work my Vibram’s were still wet from some reservoir swimming I’d done the day before.  Since it was a bright, sunny day I put them on the roof of my car.  Well, around lunch time I headed into town for some grub and then to a client’s home for a consult.  Naturally, I completely forgot the Vibram’s were on my roof.  At the end of the day, I headed out to my car to grab my shoes and hit the trail.  You should have seen the look on my face when I found one sad Vibram clinging to my roof rack, while it’s buddy was no where to be found.  I was furious with myself (though, also amused by my stupidity).  I decided to start driving down the road and fully expected that if I was lucky enough to find my shoe it would certainly have been run over by then.  Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised to not only find the shoe, but I found it intact less than a mile away and near a turn around so it was even easy for me to park and pick it up.  I believe that was the last time I dry my shoes on the roof of my car!

Lastly, I wrote up a synapsis of how technology has aided my running in this week’s Tech Tails newsletter.  Here it is if you’re curious.  Also, if you enjoy my babbling you’re welcome to subscribe to Tech Tails and get a dose of Mac bantering in your inbox every week.

“I’m a Road Runnah”

Quoting M.I.A. means I must be having fun, right?  Right.  While I missed Monday’s run due to a weird fever thing with flu-like symptoms, I was back out again yesterday and had a blast with a new routine.  First off, my foot was feeling much better; most likely a mix of being off of it for four days and having acupuncture.  My acupuncturist also gave me stick-on needle/magnets that I’ve been wearing so I’ll try to get some pics of those for the next entry.  Between happier feet and perfectly mild weather with a touch of sprinkles, I had great conditions for my run.

This was a very different routine.  I wasn’t watching the clock or shooting for distance, I was really shooting for fun.  I walked five minutes as a warmup and then took off at a fast but pleasant pace; I’d say about 70-80% of what I had.  My strides were long and I felt tall and powerful.  After a couple minutes my breathing did catch up with me so I slowed to a light jog and then transitioned back to walking.  I basically followed this flow throughout the workout and aimed to outright run through every field and then slow down in the winding brush areas.

I had the privilege of having not one but two adorable labs with me, Toby and Maggie.  I actually outran them during a few of the times that I really took off; it really confused the hell out of them!  Have I mentioned lately how much I love running with dogs?  I highly recommend it.I felt like I took it easy yesterday but I sweat much more than usual so the good news is that it was definitely a workout!  I only went two miles, and I’m OK with that considering I’m still feeling a little under the weather and this was a new type of workout for me.  I will say that I’m reminded now of why I loved sprinting and jumping events in High School; I really love going FAST!  While I enjoyed challenging myself with the distance runs, this new routine seems to be re-motivating me and I can say with all honesty that I really truly had fun with it; not just fun that I finished a goal.

I’m probably going to play again tomorrow with this new workout.  Eventually, I’d like to develop a plan to increase my speeds or maintain the faster speed with a longer distance.  I feel that if I don’t set goals it’ll be too easy to slack off and I would like to find a nice mix between the workouts feeling like play but also increasing my strength and getting me in shape.  I’m open to ideas, as always!

RubiTrack vs. Runkeeper

This entry brings good news, bad news, and more tech-talk.  First off, a big “Thanks!” goes out to Lillian for suggesting the RunKeeper app as an alternative to Rubitrack.  RunKeeper is another GPS-enabled iPhone app that, like RubiTrack, maps my runs, lets me know my pace and estimates how many calories I’ve burned.  With the Pro version, which I have not tried yet, it also includes coaching encouragement during exercises and built-in iPod support.

I mentioned last week that while Rubitrack was accurate and easy to use, it was also pretty expensive.  I had only downloaded the free app, but if I wanted to sync the activities to my computer I needed to shell out $14.99 for the Pro iPhone App and then a whopping $39.99 for the desktop app.  Considering I’m not at the point where I’m completely gung-ho about running I really wasn’t ready to make a $55 commitment.  RunKeeper is only $9.99 for the Pro app, but even the free app is able to wirelessly sync with their easy-to-use website.

I also have to give RunKeeper props on their GUI, both in the app and on their website.  It’s easy to use and consistent with the Apple-app feel.  It’s prettier than Rubitrack, includes more workout types and seems to be much closer to the feel of the Nike+ app but is both easier to use and has more character; I felt both Rubitrack and Nike+ were a bit stale/sterile feeling.  The activities also auto-sync with the website and I can easily view the map of my runs and elevation, with each mile clearly marked and compare my activities.  I also really love their elevation vs. speed chart.  I found the accuracy to be identical to Rubitrack.  All-in-all, I’m sold!

So that’s the good news; I found a new app that I love.  The bad news is, I really struggled in my runs this week.  Out of the blue, I’m having breathing issues.  I’ve mentioned some breathing issues in humidity here, but this was worse.  Just a few minutes after beginning to run I found myself struggling for air.  I tried to power through, and in many cases did, but I had to walk occasionally to catch my breath.  Friday’s run was even worse as I was getting intermittent sharp pains in my back that seemed to be from my right lung.  I still ran, but only made it through 2.18 miles.  FRUSTRATING!!

It was such a bummer because Thursday night I had awesome dreams about running very fast through a forest.  It felt great!  I’ve also watched my speed naturally improving and it feels so good to run faster without feeling like I’m pushing myself.  According to RunKeeper, my fastest pace was close to an 8-minute mile and my average pace was around a 10-minute mile.  But, if my breath can’t catch up with me there’s obviously an issue.  I tried to be good and slow down, sometimes quite a bit, but even then I was getting those stupid pains in my lung.

To make things more frustrating, I saw the acupuncturist yesterday and she gave me bad news.  I explained that the fascial issues on the bottom of my right foot had greatly diminished, but I was still having fascia problems in the top of my foot (though it was better than it had been) and was now noticing pain in both joints of my big toe.  I also had stiffness on the medial arch of my left foot.  She poked around for a bit, tightening her jaw at times and nodding her head.  I could tell she wanted to tell me not to run, but instead she told me she thought I should, “Run less” at least until the foot heals.  She’s also not a fan of barefoot running, but again she won’t outright tell me that.  Instead, she told me I will make my own decisions (true) and I should do what my body tells me to.  She did also say that the first acupuncture treatment often brings up illnesses within the body from the past.  I used to struggle with exercise-induced asthma, so she thinks that could be why I’m having new breathing issues even though I’m actually running less than I did during the nine weeks of Couch-2-5k.

I had a Thai massage later that day and the massage therapist also noted that maybe running isn’t for me.  Argh!  I’m finally enjoying running, for the first time in my life.  I’m enjoying being outside with my dog, connecting to the Earth with my feet, and exploring the gorgeous trails near me.  I really don’t want to stop!  I also don’t want to hurt myself.  I’m even more dismayed because heart issues run in my family and I constantly struggle to find a cardio routine that works for me.  I love yoga and weight-lifting, but cardio and I struggle to get along.

For now, I still intend to try to run three days a week.  I’m not going to shoot for three miles, I’m just going to shoot for being active for 30 minutes even if that means walking for a bit.  I might also try fast running (since I find that fun) mixed with walking and see how that goes.  Honestly, when I run faster I feel like I run lighter, but I suppose my feet will tell me for sure.  I’m very open to advice/feedback here.  I’d also love to hear other ideas for outdoor dog-involved cardio that would be lower-impact than running.  Ideas?

Nike+ Gets a Big Fat Minus

Over the passed week I proved unequivocally that the Nike+ program is way under-tracking my runs.  Before I get into my little analysis, I do want to be clear that this could be due to a bad sensor (keep in mind I bought it open-box for $2) or it could be poor sensor placement.  I have friends who swear by Nike+ and love it, but after my experience I’ve found something I like better and that seems more consistent for me so I’m giving up on Nike.

I mentioned in my last entry that I was frustrated after my run on Friday when the Nike+ program told me I had only run 1.74 miles, but when I mapped my run in Google Earth I had actually ran close to four miles.  Things got even stranger when I ran on Monday along the Stowe Quiet Path.  I knew I had run less there than I had run on the Mad River Path, but the Nike+ program thought I actually ran farther; it measured my distance as 2.02 miles, though Google Earth, correctly, mapped me at 3 miles almost on the dot.  Here’s my path from that day, if you’re curious (keep in mind I turn around and run back so the path itself is only about 1.5 miles):

During that run, I had set the Nike+ sensor to calibrate, but I made the mistake of telling it to calibrate a three-mile run.  Since the sensor thought I only ran 2.02 miles it didn’t even give me the option to calibrate, and I was not about to run another mile just to appease it.  Instead, I found a better solution thanks to an old friend; Hank, I owe you one!

Hank responded to my last entry and told me about a program he uses called RubiTrack.  It works with GPS-enabled devices (like my iPhone) and it can actually map the runs and seems to be pretty darn accurate.  I also like that it can sync the information wirelessly with ones computer; a feature that I seriously don’t understand why the Nike software is missing.  All-in-all, RubiTrack makes the Nike+ solution seem antiquated.  That said, the price of the program is rather inhibitive: $14.99 for the iPhone App, $39.99 for the Desktop version.  So far I’ve been playing with the free iPhone version until I decide if it’s for me.

Today, I headed out with both the Nike sensor and the RubiTrack.  I decided to try to calibrate the Nike+ again, first with a mile of walking and then with a mile of running.  I also turned on Rubitrack to test it against the Nike+.  After walking 1.01 miles, according to RubiTrack (and Google Earth), the Nike+ program told me I had only walked 0.20 miles.  That’s it, I officially gave up on the Nike software.  I ran the mile back and RubiTrack tracked me correctly the entire time.

To appease the masses (heh), here is the basic placement of the Nike+ in my Vibram’s:

If you can’t tell from the picture, since that’s a curved area of my foot, the sensor does not sit perfectly parallel to the ground, though it’s pretty darn close.  I couldn’t find a way to center it better, unless I actually put it under my heel.  While that might sound crazy, while I’m running my heels generally do not touch the ground, so I definitely thought of that as an option.  However, when I walk my heels most certainly do touch ground, not to mention it’d be a PITA to take out before swimming post-run.

All-in-all, I think using RubiTrack is going to be the best option.  I won’t need to worry about a sensor in my shoe and I can actually end up with a real map of my run which is pretty exciting.

On a personal-health note, I had a phenomenal visit with the acupuncturist.  I’ll extrapolate in a future entry but I did want to note that while my foot is still in pain and I’m working towards recovery, it’s getting better every day and I do feel I can still run safely.

I am frustrated with my breathing right now, though.  The past two weeks have been quite humid in Vermont and my lungs aren’t handling it well.  I’m finding that I’m struggling to get enough air at times and that makes me want to stop running (in the moment, not for good).  It’s hard to push myself sometimes and without a program like C25K it’s definitely more of a struggle to get out and go.  I’m kind of sad to be saying that only two runs post C25K.  I hope that finding a new program that’s fun and setting some new goals will help keep me engaged and running!

C25K W9D2+D3; aka I Have Made Couch-2-5K My Bitch!

While the week got away from me blogging-wise, I stayed right on top of the running schedule and completed Couch-2-5K!!  Woo-hooo!!!  The last two runs were awesome and my last run took me farther than any previous run which means not only am doing well with the 30-minute duration, but I’m running faster and farther!

Wednesday’s run was not as phenomenal as Fridays due to extremely high humidity which slowed me down a bit, but I couldn’t have asked for better weather for the run yesterday.  I decided to go after work when the sun was a little lower in the sky and the humidity had settled a bit.  It was around 73º with 40% humidity and a nice breeze.  I was totally pumped to complete the last day and I added a new gadget into the mix; a Nike+ Sensor for my iPhone 3GS.  I snagged one for only $2 at Small Dog Electronics online Garage Sale (sorry to say it was the only one, but there’s other cool stuff on there).  The result of great weather plus a great attitude meant I ended up farther than I’d ever been before by an entire field!  I felt great after the run, despite some ongoing foot issues that I’ll discuss later.  Toby and I took the best refreshing celebratory swim before heading back to the office.

Speaking of Toby, not only have I been developing muscle (I’m up six pounds since I started the program and it’s all muscle, baby!), but Toby is a little beefcake now.  People in the office and friends of mine apparently find it very noticeable.  Even his collar is starting to get a little tight around his muscular neck.  Apparently, C25K is not just good for humans, it’s divine for dogs, too!  So, if you have trouble motivating yourself to get in shape, do it for your pooch! 😉

My new goal is to start working on speed.  I’m slow, and I’m ok with that, but I’d like to start slowly working towards averaging a faster mile.  That’s why I decided to check out the Nike+ sensor.  The good news is that I was able to securely slip it in the top of the Vibram FiveFinger KSOs.  I wore it on my right foot tucked on top of my ankle/top of my foot on the right side and I secured it with the velcro strap on top of the shoe; I’ll try to take a picture for a subsequent entry so you can see what I mean.  I didn’t feel the sensor, so it didn’t effect my stride, and it stayed perfectly in place the whole time.  Luckily, I remembered to remove it before running through the river.

I was pleased that the Nike+ program ran just fine along with the Get Running program that I’ve been using for the C25K program.  Though I’m a little sad that I’ve now “graduated” from the Get Running app; no more polite British woman coaxing me on!  The Nike+ program was fairly easy to use.  I chose a “Basic Workout”, which is completely open-ended, while I followed along with the C25K program.  What I neglected to do was calibrate the sensor.  Supposedly, before using it seriously one is supposed to calibrate it, which means either running or walking for over a mile and then confirming with the device how far you went so it can get your pace right.

I was pretty darn disappointed when I finished my 5K-ish run only to be told by the sensor that I had only travelled 1.74 miles.  This morning, I opened Google Earth and mapped the path that I ran and, sure enough, I had actually run well over 3 miles (close to 4, actually); the Nike+ tracked me at just about half the distance I actually ran.  My initial hope was to use the Nike+ in my last C25K run so I could figure out about how quickly I run each mile and then set some speed goals, but since the device was so inaccurate I’ll have to calibrate it and try again.  It also seems that for me to get an accurate reading, I have to wait until my five-minute walking warm-up is complete before I turn the Nike+ program on.

I’m excited about setting speed goals once I get an accurate read on my current pace.  Before I get there, though, I’m taking a proactive approach to figuring out what’s up with my left foot.  I’m still getting some dull pain around my adductor hallucus muscle, and adjoining muscles around the right side of the ball of my left foot.  It’s following the same pattern since it started last Friday; dull pain in the morning, dull pain when I start running but it feels good to run on it, pain goes away during running and post run, pain comes back a few hours after running and it’s worse late at night and in the morning.

From a Muscular Therapist’s point of view, it sounds like a fascial issue; since fascia warms up with movement and is closest to a solid state when cold.  Plantar Fasciitis is a major concern here, but it’s odd because that’s one of the ailments that barefoot running is supposed to help avoid.  Regardless, something’s up, it’s been a week now, and I’m heading to an acupuncturist today for the first time in years.

I personally tend to trust a well-trained acupuncturist or Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor over orthopedists for new muscular-skeletal issues because they are more inclined to look at the big picture and see the body as a whole, while any time I’ve been to an orthopedist in the past I’m always given pain killers and muscle relaxers as a “first step”.  Also, a good acupuncturist will always refer to an orthopedist if necessary.  I do need to mention my own internal conflict here as I’m a Muscular Therapist who was trained in a style of massage that was created by an orthopedist, so I obviously have quite a bit of respect for that field despite it not being my first choice for a new minor issue.

I’ll keep you all posted on the foot news.  As long as I get cleared to run I’ll be back out there on Monday getting the Nike+ calibrated!  I can’t believe I’ve made it this far and still want to do more.  It’s true what they say, running is addictive!!

C25K W9D1, Vibram’s Day 22

I RAN 5K, YOU GUYS!!  Honestly, I think I ran more than 5K because that’s based on a 10-minute mile and I think I’m going faster than that; more on that later.  That aside, Memorial Day was the big day for my first 30-minute run and it went so well I celebrated with a two mile walk down a river and then some unexpected climbing.

Memorial Day was gorgeous, albeit a bit smokey from the Quebec Wildfires.  My allergies had started bothering me the night before, so I ran with a couple tissues tucked into my shorts.  Surprisingly, as I ran the allergy issues went away; hooray increased circulation and air-intake!  Toby and I chose to run on The Stowe Quiet Path, since we were off from work that day and it seemed like the most straightforward path around here to jog down.  The town was filled with tourists and the path was the busiest I’d ever seen it.  Luckily, Toby behaved himself.

I had some challenges.  I mentioned in my previous entry that my left foot (specifically around the Adductor Hallucus muscle) was bothering me after wearing heels for a day last week and then running barefoot the next day.  It continued to annoy me over the weekend so I put aside plans to go hiking and stuck to self-care.  By Sunday, the pain was very dull so I did some yoga on the deck and by the end of the session my foot, and my whole body, felt much better.  When I set out to run on Monday, I felt some dull pain but…it was interesting.  As I ran, it made the pain feel good, like getting a massage right in the right spot.  About five minutes into the run my foot didn’t bother me at all and it remained that way through the rest of the day.  I’m pretty on the fence about this; foot pain is not good, but running seems to make it feel better?  Hmm, I’m going to mull on this and try to find an acupuncturist or TCM Doctor around since I really don’t feel like going to an Orthopedist only to be given pain medications and pat on the head.

Aside from the foot pain, I also struggled a little in the heat.  It was only in the mid-seventies, but it was humid and there was barely a breeze.  For most of the run it didn’t bother me, but the middle mile was completely in full sun and I was regretting not having water on me.  Luckily, after the polite British woman in my iPhone told me my run was complete (woo-hoo!) I made a b-line for the river and Toby and I happily jumped right in.  I have to say, the large rocks on the riverbed felt sooooo good on my feet!  Yummy foot massage.

I don’t run on the Stowe Quiet Path often enough to be familiar with the river there.  In fact, this is the first time I actually went into the river.  It appeared to follow the path back to the parking lot, so I thought it would be fun for Toby and I to trek down the river instead of back on the path.  I bravely put a lot of trust into the Marware armband I use with my iPhone and we started heading for home.

When we began, the river banks were easily navigable; there were paths from time to time cut into the bank to get up to the path.  As we ventured farther and farther down the banks became steeper and the paths cut through them were fewer and fewer between until they became nonexistent.  This was also about the time that the river began getting deeper.  We had walked well over a mile (I’m figuring around two miles by the time we got out) and we ended up getting to the bridge that leads to the parking lot.  Toby, who was adorably swimming beside me by that point, as he could no longer reach the river floor, began to sense my concern as I swung my head from left to right looking for the hint of a path that we could use to get out of the river.  There was nothing.

The most difficult part of trying to climb out of the river was that the banks weren’t made of trees and rocks, like they are along the Mad River.  The banks were grass, dirt and bamboo; none of which are good for leverage or could hold my weight.  After surveying several options, and debating back-tracking, I found and area where the bamboo was thick enough that I felt I could jam my feet into the roots and have it hold my weight for a few short seconds.  Luckily, all went well, my phone stayed dry, Toby and I got out of the river and the only injury I have to complain about is a small slit on my wrist that I didn’t even notice until we were in the car.

Today is the second 30-minute run.  The bad news?  Well, my foot still isn’t happy.  It’s about in the same state it was in on Monday, so we’ll see if this run makes it feel good again or if it makes it worse.  I just love being an experiment.

The better news is that as long as my foot thing isn’t really a big issue, I think I’ve figured out where I want to go from here.  Most people suggested I aim for 10k now that I’ve completed 5k.  However, I’m already stretching the limits of my lunch break and I’d like to keep my workouts within 30-45 minutes.  I’m thinking of purchasing a Nike+ Sensor for my iPhone (if I can get it to stay in the top of my Vibrams) and first figuring out how far I’m really running in 30 minutes and then I’m going to aim to slowly increase my speed.  I still feel like a slow runner and while that’s totally OK with where I’m at, I’m more interested in picking up my pace than increasing my distance (for now).  First goal, 8-minute mile!  Once I figure out how slow my current mile is I’ll actually set a due date for that one.

Happy running!