Categories
Climbing Running Weather

Winter Weather Fun

It’s been a fun week of weather here in central Maryland. As predicted, we got an icy, slushy mess on Wednesday. NWS did a pretty good job forecasting this storm. Earlier models showed the potential for more snow in our area, but predicted amounts were dialed back as the low pressure center showed signs that it was going to track farther inland. Ultimately, we got pretty much exactly what was predicted for the area. A few days back, I read an interesting article that explained one of the reasons why snowfall totals in this area are so difficult to predict. Apparently, it’s because we live along the Atlantic Seaboard Fall Line, which is where the Piedmont meets the Atlantic Coastal Plain. I hadn’t really thought about that before I read the article, but it makes a lot of sense.

Wednesday morning, before the weather, I managed to get out to the climbing gym. Weekday mornings are always a good time to go, and I feel like I climbed pretty well, tackling a few overhanging routes rated 5.9 to 5.10a. I still need to work on my upper body strength so that I can climb longer on these kinds of routes without getting as “pumped”. Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out onto the mean streets of Elkridge for a run. It was my first afternoon run in awhile, as I usually go early in the morning; but yesterday, I was concerned about icy roads. There were still some icy spots in the afternoon, mostly in shady areas, but it was not as bad as I had feared. I was able to follow my usual 5-mile route. I brought YakTrax along for insurance, but didn’t need them. Yesterday was also unique in that unlike my morning runs, I had already logged a couple of hours on the treadmill desk before I went out. I was definitely a little more tired at the end of the run than I usually am.

This morning, I was hoping to get out on the mountain bike, but unfortunately, it never got quite cold enough to freeze the trails. The predicted low was 26º, but when I woke up, it was still hovering at 31º. I went outside and saw that the puddles in our driveway were still liquid, so knew the trails would be a mess. I think the overnight cloud cover is what did us in. Next week is not looking promising for frozen trails, so it might be awhile before I get back out there. Maybe we’ll have a Christmas miracle. 😀

Categories
Biking Climbing Geocaching Running

Longer than planned

With temperatures still pushing into the 60s, and Old Man Winter slated to arrive this week, I really wanted to get some outside time today. I already had a 5-mile hike planned with our Scout troop, but also wanted to get some biking in before tomorrow’s predicted washout. So, I headed out of the house in the predawn twilight and biked a loop through Columbia, Savage, and Jessup. The route took me past Lake Elkhorn, along the entire length of the Patuxent Branch Trail, through Savage, and back home via Corridor Rd and Dorsey Run Rd. I even found a couple of caches along the way. I ended up notching over 31 miles, which was more than I had planned. When I left the house, the temperature at BWI was 53°, and based on that, I decided to wear shorts. I was regretting that decision for about the first 10 miles of the ride, but things soon warmed up enough that I was comfortable.

By the time I got home, it was after 10:00, leaving me about an hour to rest before I had to round the teens up to head to PVSP Hilton Area for our troop hike. We hiked a loop that took us along Santee Branch Trail, down Vineyard Spring, west on the paved Grist Mill Trail, and up Sawmill Branch, where we rejoined Santee Branch and followed it back to the starting point. The park was (predictably) busy, with Grist Mill being the busiest of the trails we hiked — nothing like it is on weekday mornings, when it’s just me and a few regulars. Other than that, though, it was a great hike, and the other trails didn’t feel crowded at all. There’s a lot of room out there in the woods.

Based on the weather forecast, tomorrow is shaping up to be a treadmill day. I’m hoping to get a ride or two in this week, as well as a run, and maybe some climbing at the gym, but we’ll see how much of that the weather will allow.

Categories
Running

Running Reboot

I’m almost afraid to write anything about this, for fear of jinxing myself… but, I’m back to running again. My last real attempt at running regularly was last spring. I have a regular walking route that’s a little over 5 miles, and I thought I could gradually re-acclimate myself to running with a run-walk-run routine: start off with 0.1 mile of running per mile covered, and gradually increase. Well, I must have tried to do too much, too fast, as after a few weeks of this, I developed the worst case of plantar fasciosis I’ve ever had — at least, I’m pretty sure it’s PF, as the symptoms mostly mimic PF. It initially shut me down, and I did very little walking for most of the summer, falling back on swimming, climbing, and biking instead. Over 6 months later, it still hasn’t 100% cleared up, but I’ve learned to effectively manage it. Foam rolling and stretching (calves and peroneal tendon) are helpful, but not overly so. I’ve found that what relieves it the most is the yoga “toe squat” pose. You start with a box pose, curl your toes forward, and then kneel with your weight on your toes. It’s uncomfortable as hell, but really helps.

The other thing that has helped is walking on a treadmill while I work. Over time, I’ve become convinced that most of my nagging physical issues are a result of sitting too much. With the treadmill, I’ve gotten out of my chair a lot more, and have gotten to where I’m logging about 20,000 steps a day, which is over twice what I had previously been averaging (according to my phone’s health app). I think this has helped condition me to the point where I’m better prepared to run successfully.

Anyhow, this time around, I’ve dropped the run-walk-run routine, and am doing a warm-up walk, followed by a run, followed by a cool-down walk, covering my same 5.2-mile route. I’m up to running a little over 5K of it so far. I’m also reading “Run for Your Life” by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, which has been very instructive in improving my running form. With all of this going for me, I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep it up this time and stay healthy. Let’s see how it goes!

Categories
Health Running

Weak ankles.. or not

I used to be convinced that I had “weak ankles”. It seemed like every time I went hiking, I would twist my left ankle, usually while hiking downhill. Sometimes, all it would take would be a bump on the sidewalk. It got to the point where I thought my left ankle might be made out of rubber. My right ankle, being my dominant side, didn’t seem quite as prone to rolling, but it wasn’t immune, either.

In 2017, during a time when I was doing quite a bit of hiking, I developed a Morton’s neuroma on my right forefoot between the 3rd and 4th toes. I went through the usual bevy of podiatrists, cortisone shots, and orthotics (thankfully stopping short of surgery), before some internet research eventually led me to try minimalist footwear. Over the next year, I started wearing shoes with flexible soles, minimal cushioning, wide toe boxes, and no heel elevation. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that this was an easy change, but in the long term, it was a game-changer. The neuroma went away, my feet are stronger and healthier, my posture has improved, and I can stand for longer periods of time. But that wasn’t all: about a year later, I was hiking along one of my usual routes through Patapsco Valley State Park, when it occurred to me that I hadn’t twisted an ankle in a really long time. I thought about it some more, and couldn’t even remember the last time it had happened. It seemed that minimalist footwear had also cured my “weak ankles”.

There’s a scientific explanation as to why this happened. Think about a simple lever. A lever has two parts: a beam, and a pivot point, or fulcrum. The longer the beam, the less force is required to apply torque to the fulcrum. If you think of your foot as a beam and your ankle as a fulcrum, it follows that the higher the ankle is elevated off the ground, the easier it is to torque or twist. Minimalist footwear eliminates heel elevation, so the ankle is closer to the ground, and more force is then needed to twist or sprain the ankle. Most conventional hiking boots have about an inch of heel elevation, and you wouldn’t think eliminating that would make a huge difference, but trust me — it does.

So… if you think you have weak ankles, try minimalist footwear. You might be surprised.

Categories
Biking Running

Reboot

I’m easing back into biking regularly after taking most of July off to rest my hip.  It’s still not 100%, but it’s manageable.  I honestly don’t think the time off the bike made much of a difference.  The soreness is in the front part of my left hip, and it happens on downward pedal strokes, as the hip is extending.  Lowering my seat a bit made a huge difference with this.  If the seat is too high, I get discomfort almost immediately.  With the seat lower, it seems to put less stress on the hip joint.  Occasionally it will bother me when I’m at rest, i.e. sitting at my desk or lying in bed; when this happens, a heating pad helps to relieve it.  I’m pretty sure I caused the injury riding fixed gear with my saddle too high.  It’s looking like my fixed gear riding days may be over.  All you 20-something hipsters out there, enjoy it while it lasts.  🙂

On a positive note, the downtime from biking has allowed me to rediscover running.  After about 6 weeks, I’m to the point where I can run around 2 miles, barefoot or with minimalist running shoes, 2 to 3 times a week.  I’m hoping to be up to around a 5K distance by the end of the year.  This time of year, I have to run in the morning, so on days I plan to run, I’ve cut back on my morning biking mileage so I can get to work earlier and run.  This has worked out really well.  The reduced biking has helped with my hip, and the running works different leg muscles (calves in particular) that don’t see much action on the bike.  I’m hoping I can keep it up over the long term.