Rain Run

We appear to be back in a rainy weather pattern for at least the next several days. When it’s wet or rainy out, and I want to go running, I’ve always focused on trying to keep my feet dry. Vibram FiveFingers with toe socks do not work — the water ends up soaking through the socks, and my feet get cold. I’ve also used my Xero Terraflex hiking shoes (particularly in the winter) and they work well with wet pavement, but not rain, as they aren’t fully waterproof. The only truly waterproof shoes I currently own are my Altra Lone Peaks, and while they’re fantastic for mountain biking, I find them too heavy and bulky for running. Xero makes a waterproof trail shoe, as does Vivobarefoot ($$$), and either of those might eventually be an option. Today, though, I decided not to bother trying to keep my feet from getting wet. Instead, I wore the Vibrams with heel cups and no socks. I ran 9 miles with the temperature in the low 50s and off-and-on drizzle. My big worry was that my feet would freeze, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I noticed kind of a wet suit effect: the insides of the shoes got wet almost immediately, but thanks to body heat, the water never felt uncomfortably cold. It was definitely more comfortable than wearing the Vibrams with socks, although it likely wouldn’t work in really cold weather. I’d be interested to see how it works with temperatures in the 40s. Rounding out my wardrobe were calf compression sleeves, running shorts, long-sleeve athletic top, Gore-Tex running shell with hood, and Sweathawg head band. Most of my shorts have leg pockets which I use to stash my phone, but today, I used a small lumbar pack which fits underneath the shell, and it did a good job keeping my phone dry. Running without socks is going to require that I wash the Vibrams more frequently, but overall, this seems like a good option for rainy days during the warmer months of the year.

Run to UMBC

I tried my hand at running from home to UMBC today, which I had never done before. I had spent yesterday afternoon setting up a new computer at the office, and needed to pop in this morning to make sure the Apple Migration Assistant had finished moving all of my stuff over (it took several hours, but it worked great). I only needed to be there for the morning, so it worked out well to run over and then get a ride home at lunchtime. I stuck to roads, following a route that I’ve biked thousands of times. It was interesting seeing everything from a different vantage point. The overall route was just under 7.5 miles, which is about the same distance as my usual weekday loop from home. A couple of months ago, I picked up an Osprey Duro 1.5 running vest, mainly as a way to carry more water with me in the summer. It came in handy today, because I carried more stuff than I would on a typical run, and while the Duro 1.5 isn’t exactly a backpack, it had the extra capacity I needed. This was the 3rd or 4th time I’ve run with the pack, and it seems like it will work out fine. There’s a little bit of sloshing from the water reservoir if it’s filled to capacity (1.5L) but I ran with 1L today, and didn’t notice any sloshing. The vest doesn’t get in my way, and it doesn’t seem to rub anywhere where chafing might become an issue (July and August will be the true test, though). As I had kind of expected, it does get rather wet from perspiration (particularly from my back) so I’m probably going to have to wash it regularly in the summer to keep it from getting too funky. To me, it seems like an acceptable trade-off to being able to carry more water, which I definitely need in the summer. If I combine the 1.5L reservoir with my 16oz soft water bottle, I’ll be able to carry about 0.5 gallon. I just need to supplement that with something that will replenish electrolytes (gel packs?) and I’ll be ready to take longer runs in the summer.

This and that

Yesterday, I participated in my first organized run in almost 22 years: the inaugural Open Gate Gallop. I ran the 8-mile route from the Guinness Brewery, into PVSP, out to the swinging bridge via the Grist Mill Trail, and back via River Road. It was a great time. As a long-time solo runner, it was interesting to run with so many other people. Even though it wasn’t a timed race, it was hard to resist trying to run fast. As a result, I clocked in at 9:25/mile, which I’m pretty sure is the fastest I’ve ever run any distance 10K or over. I’m not particularly competitive, but I like the fact that most of these runs support good causes, so I might try to do more of them. Last 4th of July, I was tossing around the idea of running in the Arbutus Firecracker 10K, but decided to find a geocache at the top of a pillar instead. If I don’t do something similar this year, the 10K might be fun.

Today, I took my first Sunday morning bike ride in 3 weeks, a 30-miler to Odenton and back. Due to travel and bad weather, it was only my second or third bike ride in the past month or so. I do expect to pick up the weekend rides as we get into the warmer months. The wet weather this year has made for horrible mountain biking conditions, and there’s more bad weather on tap for the second half of this week, but I think I’m going to try to sneak in a mountain bike ride on Tuesday morning.

Lastly, I didn’t have much time today to work on my pool pump replacement project, but I did get home in time to glue up the T-junction for the new suction piping. After due consideration, I decided to run each of the two vertical 1.5″ suction pipes directly into a 2-way Pentair valve, then into a 2″ elbow, and then into a single 2″ T fitting. The challenge was gluing everything together so that the T fitting ended up level, in spite of the suction pipes not being perfectly vertical. I think I managed to pull it off.

Right foot nerve again

I have been having issues with the nerve on the ball of my right foot for about the past week, similar to late last summer. Interestingly, this time around, I’m noticing the discomfort more so with running than with climbing, which is the opposite of what I reported last September. The lack of issues while climbing could be because of my shoes — last summer, I was climbing in Scarpa Force Vs, while lately, I’ve been wearing a pair of Tenaya AraĆ­s. Maybe the latter just agree with my feet better. The Scarpas are awaiting a resole, so I won’t be able to test that theory any time soon. It could also have something to do with my footwork, which I believe has improved over the past year or so.

Where running is concerned, I think I should adopt a new motto: “It’s the gait, stupid”. I started today’s run with a metatarsal pad on my right foot. Metatarsal pads have their place, and I’ve found that they often help with walking, static standing, and driving. Today, though, the pad seemed to aggravate the problem nerve. Two miles into the run, it was really bothering me, so I stopped to take the pad off. The nerve was still painful without the pad initially, and I was thinking I might have to cut the run short. Then, I noticed that on the right side, I seemed to be landing and pushing off towards the outside of the foot. I corrected that, mentally trying to engage the side of the foot towards the big toe, and the nerve discomfort improved significantly. Doing that must take pressure off whatever nerve is irritated. Flexing and relaxing my toes frequently, to keep them loose, also seems to help. Ultimately, I was able to complete my planned distance of 10K.

All of this has me wondering what is causing this recurring issue. It could be a combination of things: gait irregularities when walking/running, poor climbing footwork (climbing on the balls of my feet instead of the toes), etc. Hopefully, as I work to correct these, I’ll start seeing this problem less frequently. In the meantime, travel and other activities are going to prevent me from running or climbing as frequently as usual over the next couple of weeks, which might be a blessing in disguise, as it’ll give my feet a little bit of a break.

Airport Loop Run

I finally ran the BWI Trail loop today, accomplishing a goal that I first set for myself last summer. Various sources list the trail’s length at anywhere from 10 to 12.5 miles. I mapped it at 10.7 miles on gmap-pedometer.com, but my actual running distance, according to my Apple Watch, was 10.5 miles. I started and ended at the Lindale Middle School (formerly Andover High School; my alma mater), and ran clockwise, at an average pace of around 10:30/mile. The temperature was in the low-to-mid 40s, with wet pavement after some overnight showers, but no major puddles or washed-out areas. Being that it was a weekend, I saw several other bikers, runners, walkers, etc. (particularly around the Thomas Dixon area, which is the most popular place to park) but not as many as I would have seen on a warmer day. The run felt fairly easy — while the route has some rolling hills, the total elevation gain is only about 400′, compared to 700′ or so for my usual 10-mile route closer to home. I could definitely see myself running here more often, although unlike home, there are no shortcuts, so I have to make sure I can commit to running at least 10 miles.

I’ve decided that my running goal for 2024 is going to be to run a half marathon, or 13.1 miles. Given the distances I’m running now, I think it’s a realistic goal, but I also think it will require me to pay more attention to what I eat and drink before, during, and after my runs.

Run notes

My runs lately have not been all that noteworthy. I’ve been averaging 3 runs per week, and my runs are typically 6-8 miles, sometimes more, sometimes less. Today, I ran 10 miles for the first time since early December, and it was a really good run. I ran at a fairly relaxed pace, finished strong, and felt like I could have kept going. Can’t ask for much more than that. After a few setbacks last fall that resulted in me scaling back my weekly mileage, I feel like I’m finally back to where I was back around September/October. If all goes well, I may try running the 10.7-mile BWI loop soon.

Snowy Run

I had my first chance to run in some “real” winter weather this afternoon. The temperature was right around freezing, with light snow, but (fortunately) not much wind. I waited until a little after 2:00pm to head out, as I figured that’s when the road conditions would be the best. I wore my Xero Terraflex shoes with wool socks and Correct Toes. While they’re not the perfect shoes for wet conditions, they’re the best I’ve got right now, and they worked pretty well today. My socks ended up a little bit damp, but my feet never got cold. Had I worn my Vibram V-Runs, my feet would have been soaked through and freezing. The run itself went well. My energy and form were good, and I ran 7 miles, at a relaxed pace, owing to the non-ideal conditions. There were a few slick spots, but for the most part, I had good traction and did not slip. With conditions expected to worsen tonight, I’m glad I was able to get out today.

Sick House

Everybody in the house has either COVID or some COVID-like illness this week, except me. I think it’s the same, or similar, virus as what I had back in November, because of the killer cough. As for me, I had a slight scratchy throat for a day or two, and have occasionally felt under the weather, but have not (yet) gotten sick.

It is shaping up to be another mild, rainy winter, which is becoming more and more the norm in this area. I have been able to keep up with running and (indoor) climbing, but have not been out on the bike as much as I would like. I have not worn metatarsal pads for my last two runs, but have continued to work on keeping my ankles loose, and my heels have been happier. Today, I forgot to foam roll my right hamstring, and by the end of the run, it was obvious that it had been making a difference. Based on our pattern of 1 to 2 nor’easters per week, I’m thinking mountain bike rides are only going to be happening in the early mornings when the trails freeze overnight. I’m hoping to ride to work on Wednesday or possibly Thursday, and may see if I can get out another day this week as well. We will just have to see what the weather has in store.

First run of 2024

Today is the first “normal” work day of 2024, and I left the house at 8:45am and ran 7.75 miles along one of my typical weekday morning routes. The temperature was in the upper 30s with a stiff NW breeze. I had two pieces of egg bake and coffee at 6:30 and a protein/spinach smoothie at 8:20. I wore my usual Vibram V-Runs, Tuli heel cups, wool toe socks, calf compression sleeves, New Balance running pants, Under Armour long sleeve athletic shirt, Patagonia running jacket, headband, and light gloves. Atypically, I didn’t take any of this gear off during the run — usually, I end up removing at least the gloves. Must have been the chilly breeze. Several things of note:

  • I spent a few minutes foam rolling my problem right hamstring prior to the run, something I haven’t been very good about doing.
  • I ran with Strutz metatarsal pads.
  • I made a slight biomechanical adjustment (see below).

Recently, my heels have been telling me that something is off with my gait. I’ve been dealing with a bursitis-like issue on the left side, but there’s some soreness on the right side as well. I have a theory that I’m not flexing my ankles enough, which is causing me to heel strike. Today, I made a concerted effort to keep my ankles loose, letting the forefoot drop when I lift the foot, so that I land more on the forefoot and the arch absorbs most of the impact. I found that when I did this, it seemed easier to engage the hip and glute muscles to help support the running motion, both my right heel and right hamstring were happier, and I felt more stable, particularly when running downhill. I wore the Strutz pads mainly for my left foot, and had no discomfort on that side at all, nor were the pads all that obtrusive, although I’ll say that my goal eventually is to not need either the pads or the heel cups. We will see how things go. While this wasn’t my fastest time ever, it was a really good run, I had plenty of energy, and I was able to maintain a high average cadence of 183 steps/minute.

Run Notes

I had a really tough run today. I ran my intended distance of 10K, but was really struggling towards the end. It was the worst I’ve felt at the end of a run since November, when I was sick. I hope I’m not getting sick again, but my gut tells me that wasn’t the issue. I rolled out of bed at 6:30, and instead of my usual breakfast of egg bake, I started off with coffee and waited until around 8:00 to drink a protein shake. I started my run at 9:40, and ran until 11:00. It could be that I was dehydrated, could be I was low on electrolytes, or it could have been something else entirely. I don’t know. One thing of note was that instead of my usual Vibram V-Runs or Xero Terraflex shoes, I ran in Altra Escalantes. I’ve been battling some sensitivity in the outer area of my left heel that I suspect may be bursitis, and cushioning the area relieves the symptoms. The Altras have a lot of cushioning compared to my usual running shoes, and they’re very comfortable around-the-house shoes, but I didn’t really like running in them. Coming from ultra-minimalist shoes, I had a hard time getting used to all of the Altras’ extra cushioning in the forefoot area. It seemed like the cushioning was absorbing kinetic energy, to the point where I was struggling to maintain a fast cadence. The best analogy I can think of is that compared to my V-Runs, it felt like I was running through sand. After a while, I also felt like I was starting to let the shoes absorb impact instead of my leg and core muscles, and I could feel it in my knees after I finished. All of that said, this isn’t really a fair assessment, as I clearly was not 100% physically. The run might have gone much better if I had been. So, I really can’t write off the Altras as an option just yet. I’ll probably give them another chance at some point, but where the bursitis issue is concerned, I’m not sure they’re going to be an improvement over using minimalist shoes with heel cups. If anything, I may try adding metatarsal pads, as I’ve noticed that they seem to help a little bit more than just the heel cups alone.