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Checking In 7/31/2021

Hello once again from Big Bear Lake. I did indeed make the trip.

This time around I decided to book the full weekend and drive up early Saturday morning, similar to my original plan last month (scuttled by bad sleep and waking up late), and this time I was up early enough to make it work.

Because I cannot check into my lodging before 3pm, I parked at my usual spot and hiked with my backpack to get coffee on Moonridge, a nice 5K hike that took me through wood-covered Big Bear neighborhoods and gave my still-recovering left leg some easy extended exercise.

It still did hurt a bit to run across a couple streets as needed, though it’s worth noting I was carrying a 30 pound backpack (probably my first extended excursion of any kind while wearing the pack since Chicago) so maybe it was the extra effort that made it hurt. Still, some random movements still do hurt a bit.

This is one issue I often run into when injured or dealing with similar issues. I don’t suffer conventional injuries. There’s no predictable movement pattern that produces pain, that I can knowingly avoid. Some movements are fine sometimes, and sometimes they hurt. Pain may randomly show up when moving, but if I repeat the motion later I may not feel anything. So I can’t take any preventative action to avoid certain movements, without shutting things completely down and letting the uninjured parts of me atrophy.

That said, I found yesterday that I could run without pain for the most part, and at the very least (unless I wake up feeling like a truck hit me) tomorrow morning I can go try to run a few miles until I get too tired to maintain the needed form and/or until it starts to hurt. Then I can just hike back and call it good for the weekend.

With no long workout scheduled next week I’m thinking now when I return to Vegas to just shut it down for next week, cross train lightly and strength train in the evening, walk out work breaks, and see if a week of downtime from aerobic training gets this all to heal up. If by the following week I get back to training I’ll have lost trivially little aerobic fitness.

As for right now, at some point I have to take that long hike back to where I parked, have a good meal, and head to my lodging (I’m waiting until check in begins at 3pm). From there I’ll play a relaxing evening by ear before tomorrow’s workout.


Checking In 7/30/2021

Woke up late after sleeping in so I have to hurry on this one….

Vegas is very overcast this morning after more monsoon weather rolled in last night. I like this weather, and am almost bummed that it’s supposed to be cloudy in Vegas this weekend. But I’m happy to go experience (hopefully run) in some 50-60 degree morning temps instead.

It may also be the last best chance to travel out of town for a bit, if Delta variant Coronavirus conditions cause a rumored lockdown or restrictions in a couple weeks. I may be forced to tough out treadmill long runs for a bit… presuming gyms stay open (which I believe they probably will).

Given how the Delta situation rolled through Europe so far, it may be a quick wave of restrictions, so I’m not too concerned about Indy being cancelled. I have other training plans and projects for after Indy, and if somehow it was wiped out I could just pivot into those. But again I’m not expecting a cancellation for now.

Meanwhile, my hamstring is actually feeling mostly better, lingering soreness hinting that it’s still healing up. My left groin is still a bit sore, and I’ll continue taking things carefully today and obviously during tomorrow’s scheduled day off (which is also a travel day: lots of sitting!).

I’ve been sitting on the Orb Mini much of the last couple days and have noticed a big positive difference in how my leg feels from that constant fascia stimulus.

I actually overslept this morning after having trouble getting to sleep last night, so I managed not to lose much sleep despite it.

At the gym last night I did a bunch of rehab exercises and stretches, focusing on engaging the psoas and iliacus as well as obviously the glutes (medius and maximus). However, I think the lack of aerobic training was a reason why I had trouble getting to sleep last night, so tonight I plan to cross train again since tomorrow my plan is to drive and do nothing other than walk.

If I’m feeling good, I will take a work break test run this morning. Obviously I’ll shut it down the moment I feel any sort of undue pain or stiffness outside of simple soreness. But hopefully it goes fine and progress will continue.

Not leaving tonight but will drive out early tomorrow morning, so I’ll have tonight to relax a bit after the gym.

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Checking In 7/29/2021

One thing yesterday appeared to cause aggravated pain in my hamstring/groin. I go sit in the grass in a park area near work during lunch. Often I will get up without my hands, hinging through my legs and transferring weight before I rise up.

I went to get up, and quickly noticed that my weight bears/transfers through the exact spot that’s hurt… because it hurt to do it.

Could this be a key contributing factor to my issue? If so, then simply not doing it anymore (or at least turning the other way to get up, or just using my hands to support like most people) would remedy that contributing factor.

It doesn’t heal the issue, obviously, but perhaps this is inhibiting healing.

I haven’t talked about this much but my arms have been kind of sore the last few days. I have some sort of lingering issue in my left deltoid, though I’m certain it’s overuse from everyday life and I’m actively working on not using or bracing on that arm so much.

But the overall soreness was real strange, given I had only done a moderate strength training workout on Monday and nothing else upper-body prior to last Friday. That is, until I remembered I had started using the elliptical a lot more, and that the arm handles require constant movement and work while exercising. Okay then, that would make your arms sore.

In last night’s brief session I made sure to hold the static handles on the front instead of the moving handles, and hopefully they’ll rest up soon. I also forewent my planned push workout, wanted anyway to focus on rehab strength exercises for my legs with the hamstring situation. I don’t have another upper body workout planned before Monday so hopefully that’s enough to heal things up.

Yesterday I researched some functional anatomy and stretching/fascia work, as now I’m thinking a combination of muscular imbalances and possibly impinged nerves are contributing to the hamstring and groin problem, both right now and cumulatively over time. I’m able to move without pain, except with certain movements.

The key anterior hip (front hip) muscles that can contribute to subsequent hamstring overwork, imbalances and pain are the (illi)psoas and iliacus. Obviously, the glutes in the rear are important as well, but it’s often tightness and inhibition of these deep superficial anterior hip muscles that lead to the glutes not sufficiently working and the hamstring etc therefore overworking and straining.

Having dealt with some degree of anterior pelvic tilt my entire life, I know for sure these anterior hip muscles are tight and overactive, and need to be extended. I admit I haven’t worked on these as much in recent months as I’ve ramped up training. And apparently I am paying the price as my hamstring begins to act up, a common ripple effect when you combine the tilt with added training volume.

There are four things you can do to actively combat this without pain:

  • Leg Swings. I do these sometimes as a running warmup and cooldown, but doing them more regularly as a limber-up exercise will help release the anterior hip and hamstring complex, plus activate the glutes. Also, if the hamstring is in fact injured, it will help loosen up adhesions and scar tissue along the affected areas.
Exercise for Low Back Pain - Body and Soul Wellness Center
  • The Psoas Stretch. This kneeling stretch (shown on right) isolates and extends the often tight and inhibited psoas muscle. Typically, you’d avoid static stretching ahead of any physical activity. But when it comes to tight overactive muscles like my anterior hip muscles, stretching them before a workout inhibits them and this can actually help engage the muscles that are being inhibited from these tight muscles being tight… like, in this case, my glutes. It also can help release the over-extension and tightness in my hamstrings and groin, while relieving them of the overwork that has caused my current issues.
  • The Iliacus Stretch. This is similar to the Psoas Stretch. The difference is that the rear foot is elevated to accent the Psoas, while laying the foot and shin flat on the ground accents the iliacus. What you see in the image mixes both worlds.
  • Fascia rolling with a ball. I use the Orb Extreme Mini (pictured right), a rippled massage ball the size of a tennis ball that’s much better at what people generally use a tennis/lacrosse ball for. I’ll sit or lay on top of it with the ball under whatever muscle group I want to massage, sometimes moving along it to roll out the muscle. This helps loosen and release fascial adhesions along harder to reach muscles, much better than foam rolling. I’ll sometimes sit on this to help massage my hamstring, and I hadn’t used it much until just recently.

So I went to work with these four approaches last night and this morning, and while my hamstring needs time either way, all of the above have certainly helped me feel better than I otherwise had.

In particular, one crazy Let’s-Runner on their Message Board once claimed his hamstring problem went away in three days with nothing more than leg swings. I don’t know about that, but I’ve certainly felt better doing those throughout the day.

I’m still not convinced this weekend’s going to be a wash, and that I won’t just have to shut everything down for a few days. But I’m also still not convinced that somehow my aggressive recovery (this plus nutrition and vitamins plus rest and good sleep) won’t quickly turn things around in three days. I’ve had quick recoveries before, and even my prior hamstring injury from 2019 was healed enough to run again after a bit over a week of rest. But I totally realize how these issues can compound into serious problems if you don’t recover and rest enough.

Now, I don’t plan to run today or tomorrow, and as mentioned Saturday is a total rest day. I’ll even scale back my walking routes on work breaks today to minimize any need to jog across a street or similar.

At the gym tonight, I’m going to forego aerobic cross training for a full slate of dynamic and static recovery stretches and some easy rehab exercises. Barring a miraculous recovery, tomorrow will be more of the same even if I’m feeling better.

As mentioned, I have to decide by Friday evening if I’m going to cancel my weekend trip (after which I could not get a refund). To some degree, I would definitely scale back my planned long run either way, whether the outright volume or to make it a long Galloway-style run-walk session. I’d at least want to be able to walk a while without any issues. I’ll see how today and tomorrow feel.

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Checking In 7/28/2021

Last night I ground out a full 60 minutes on the elliptical without pain, though once I climbed off my lower body felt heavier than excess baggage. I ate a rather large meal and Garmin reports I got some good deep sleep last night.

I woke up this morning with two changes from yesterday.

First, my hamstring while a bit stiff is feeling better. I don’t feel pain except a little bit every so often, depending on how I step or stride. This improves on yesterday where I pretty much felt it most of the time I walked.

Secondly, though, I now have some occasional pain in my left groin, where it meets the leg. This however feels more like soreness than a possible issue or injury, suggesting this part of my body simply overcompensated for the hamstring issue rather than got strained or injured.

I attempted a brief test jog this morning and running did feel a bit better and easier. I will at least attempt a work break jog in the morning, and unless that feels terrific I’ll probably shut down on running again for the day just to be safe. I’ll walk through remaining breaks and continue tonight with cross training (plus I’m due to strength train this evening).

The hope is that the morning break feels reasonably pain free, and the brief stimulus of running on my lower body plus this evening’s training further spurs recovery overnight and beyond.

I’ve been leaning on my Hammer supplements during the last few days since the issue arose, taking closer to the normal dosage each day (I normally take just one pill a day, way below the recommended dosage). I’d like to think they’re working but it’s hard to tell. Am I healing more quickly than would be normal? Am I healing normally and it’s having negligible effect?

I’m holding out hope for Saturday’s trip into altitude, and Friday by 6pm is the V1 date to decide on cancellation. Obviously if my condition worsens in any way before then I should shut down for the weekend and cancel.

But there’s a large gray area where I may be pain free (well aware of a possible relapse at any point) or may have lingering pain, and could run with it. Saturday being a scheduled rest day before Sunday morning’s scheduled long run is also a factor. Could a full afternoon and evening of relaxation with a night’s sleep improve the situation further?

Tonight I’ll return to the elliptical and chase it with a hopefully brisk effort on the spin bike, before strength training.

Even if this heals up and is just a blip, it’s also a welcome rest for the rest of my body after a few weeks of solid training.

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Checking In 7/27/2021

I went for a lunch run yesterday and my left hamstring started hurting, more than random aches and pains or lingering soreness. The pain while not that bad did not subside and I shut down the run after 0.3 of a mile.

It was the same hamstring I hurt two years ago on the treadmill, though I’m not totally sure if it’s the same spot or related to the same injury.

It certainly isn’t anywhere near as bad as that injury, in which I felt a pop and the pain was immediate. I can also walk fine, and in fact I can even jump with no pain. It’s only when I attempt to run do I feel it at all. It’s a dull but slight ache and when I do feel it it’s high, near the buttock.

As I did when I got hurt two years ago, I tested multiple cross training machines at the gym to see what I could do without pain, and it turns out I could use everything I tried with no problem: The rowing machine, the elliptical, the spin bike. (I also strength trained, though that was all upper body and core work.)

I still feel hamstring pain this morning, though a bit less so than yesterday, and it’s my hope a few easy days will resolve the issue. In my experience, total days off don’t help as much as continuing to train however I can, as the bloodflow is important to spurring recovery, not to mention being able to maintain aerobic and whatever neuromuscular fitness I can.

I won’t run today, and if feeling better I will attempt light jogging tomorrow (a brief test at home this morning found I could do that pain free, but I’ll give running a rest instead of chancing it today).

Today, I’m going to give the elliptical 45-60 minutes, and that’s going to be a workout as I found my 20 minutes on it yesterday a bit of a challenge. But again, I felt no pain on the elliptical, so that’s going to be the trainer of choice for now. And maybe sustained training with the different whole-body motion will provide some sort of breakthrough once I’ve returned to normal.

If it lingers or doesn’t fully improve before Thursday, I may consider cancelling this weekend’s road trip since the goal of that trip was to run.

My hope is that this isn’t a cumulative stress reaction, that I just unduly tweaked something while out running at lunch, or perhaps aggravated something tweaked during Saturday’s long workout… an isolated incident.

Rest and recovery has not been an issue. As mentioned yesterday, I’m sleeping much better lately, and recent nutrition has been more consistent and supportive. I slept well last night.

As usual, I am not taking any NSAIDs or drugs to deal with any pain as it won’t help with recovery, and feeling any pain is important feedback.

I also have over 14 weeks until Indy, so it’s not like if I must take a break for a week that it would derail anything. But, if I can cross train through this to stay aerobically fit and progress, then I will do that however much I reasonably can.

Hopefully, in a few days of work and rest, this is all a moot point.

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Checking In 7/26/2021

I feel like a paradox: My legs feel sore, and yet I feel noticeably stronger through my lower body. This was the first weekend in 3 weeks where I stayed home, plus my long workout was indoors, allowing me to rest and nap quite a bit over the weekend. This plus aggressive protein-rich eating probably plays a role in why I’m feeling stronger than usual after a hard long run.

I’ve also been sleeping better the last several nights, consistent and at least 7 hours after too many fitful sub-7 nights. This has probably helped as well, and as mentioned before the cooler weather may be a factor in why my sleep has improved.

My plan this week is to run-train all week (no scheduled weekdays off), and then do a remote long run out of town Sunday.

Because I’m still a bit sore I probably need to take it easy today (though I’m still going to run a bit and strength train after work). Rain may still fall this morning so it may take away a work break run opportunity, which will help rein me in.

About that rain: Vegas got pelted with serious thunderstorms last night, a stark contrast to the completely dry summer we had in 2020. The current weather now is much cooler and overcast.

But like last week, while temperatures are and will be markedly lower than the recent heat waves (around 95-100°F tops), the humidity will also remain higher than normal, over 20-30% for at least the rest of this week.

In other parts of the country, 30% feels much better than the usual 50-80%… but temperatures typically are in the 70’s-80’s°F. In Vegas, you notice any humidity over 15%, especially with temperatures well over 90°F.

I’ve gotten into a good relaxing morning routine that’s set the tone, and once again I’m reluctant to resume early morning runs, even though the current weather may better allow it. But I could be tempted to run a couple times in the morning this week in lieu of a night run. We’ll see. I still like how my evening gym sessions are feeling and those runs are a part of that.

The Olympics started this week, and someone on Twitter made an asisine comment I won’t give traffic to, that these Olympics are meaningless.

I’ve talked before about how the Olympic experience may be a letdown for the participants. While I think it may be disappointing, it certainly is not a meaningless experience.

If anything, the reason it could be so disappointing and a letdown for the participants is because this Olympics are so meaningful to them. They all worked extremely hard for years to get here. This should be for many one of the biggest extended moments of their lives. To be shuttled from isolated locale to isolated locale and quarantined in an Olympic Village before performing in mostly empty venues isn’t what a lot of them were hoping for.

Meaningless? Hardly. The Olympics are still a huge deal and this edition is no exception… even if the experience in the flesh isn’t what they dreamed of.

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Checking In 7/25/2021 (+ a long-treadmill-run recap)

I ran 12 miles on the treadmill yesterday, easily the farthest I’ve gone on the human hamster wheel in one session, let alone without a real rest break.

I knew inevitably I’d have to do a long run on the turbo. Vegas was simply too hot in the mornings for a quality long run outdoors even before the sunrise. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t afford to drive out of town every weekend and run in a cooler, practical high-altitude locale. Even though my current gym has good air conditioning, you can still get hot and humid running on a treadmill for any extended period of time.

This weekend was a good window to try, with a 12 miler scheduled and between planned trips. (Plus, it turns out weather wasn’t great in any potential weekend destinations anyway)

One issue: Gym treadmills are designed to let you run for 60 minutes maximum plus a 5 minute cooldown.

Thankfully, my gym isn’t anywhere close to crowded enough where I need to get out at 60 minutes, so I can restart the machine and keep going. But, to minimize the break (because I want this to be a continuous run, not two 60 minute easy running repeats with a 1+ minute rest), I have to make sure to restart the machine and get it back up to speed as soon as possible once stopped.

I started the morning relaxing with coffee and a croissant, and ate a sandwich at Starbucks right before heading into the gym armed with only my 17 oz water bottle. I made sure to treat the morning more like a pre-race routine because I knew this task was going to demand a lot from me. The longest I’d recently run without a break on the treadmill was 50 minutes, and 12 continuous miles was going to demand a lot more than 50 minutes of running. I’ve gone over how challenging I find running on the turbo for extended time.

I’ve played around with pacing on recent treadmill runs, but made sure to keep a consistent moderate but sustainable pace for this extended run. I’ve also experimented with running without my glasses to minimize distractions, and ran most of this run without mine on this time. I also made sure to sip water on schedule every 10 minutes. How much is a sip? The bottle only ran out after 2 hours of running, that’s how much. I did pick up the pacing at 60 minutes to more of a marathon-pace effort for about 3 minutes, before the shutdown and restart.

I hit stop on the machine, and powered past the slightly dragged out shutdown sequence by jamming the button until the display went completely off, then jammed the go button until the display came up again and showed the starting countdown. Once the machine started I immediately restored my original running pace.

As complex as this sounds, it took about 45-50 seconds. During this time, the belt kept moving as it decelerated to zero, so I still was able to log a tiny bit of distance before it stopped. I did take more than a sip of water as the machine worked to restart. But if this was any sort of rest break, it wasn’t more than a few seconds, akin to stopping to tie your shoes or fidget with fluid at an aid station. I certainly didn’t feel like I was recovering.

Into the 2nd hour, I finally started to truly battle fatigue at around the 80 minute mark. Again, I had the pace set to a more moderate effort and certainly faster than I usually run long outside, so this didn’t surprise me.

At around 100 minutes the lactic feeling was rich in my legs and maintaining my pace was starting to feel too arduous to continue for another 20 minutes. So I went to an old trick I’ve seen coaches recommend: I threw in some pickups, kicking the pace up to threshold/10K pace for 60 seconds. Then I’d pull way back to an easier pace than I was originally doing for about a minute, to get my legs back, before resuming my moderate pace.

I did this surge bit at 1:41-1:43 (38:00-40:00 on the previously restarted display) and it worked like such a charm I wished I had thought to do it sooner. I did it again at 1:51-1:53 (48:00-50:00) with an even faster surge and again it worked great for making the moderate pace feel more do-able. Once I got to 2:03 and the machine once again demanded a cooldown I kicked the pace up to marathon-effort again and made sure I got to 12 miles before shutting everything down at about 2:07.

This was the first long run in a long while where I felt sore after the run, and it’s also the hardest I’ve pushed on a sustained run since… probably since the 2018 Chicago Marathon (even Vancouver 2019 was more of a sustained easy run out of circumstance).

Something I never really did in prior marathon training cycles was steady-pace long runs. All were usually run as easy as necessary to cover the distance and that was it. And while that’s still valuable and I obviously still intend to run long runs like that, I also want to do long runs of 2 hours, possibly more, at a faster moderate pace. This one went remarkably well, and the soreness plus the completion of the entire planned workout as intended tells me this was a significant breakthrough.

Then, after slamming a bottle of Gatorade, I went and did some lower body strength training, which certainly didn’t help with the soreness but felt good to limber up with after the extended running. I left and got a steak burrito before heading home and taking a nap.

Sitting here the following morning with coffee, I’m still sore but it’s more a lingering soreness than an intense soreness. It’s certainly not delayed onset muscle soreness because there was no delay in feeling it following the workout.

I’ll probably ride the spin bike today (we got back together recently) to circulate things a bit, but otherwise take it easy before a big training week next week. The plan’s to train all five weekdays next week before another travel weekend and remote long run. How easy Monday’s training will be depends on how sore I’m feeling tomorrow morning.

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