Progress update, or “why I should have had PT earlier”

My intention was to keep my blog updated on progress mainly so I can look back on this time if it can help me in the future, but as usual the intention has not turned into action. So, here’s the last month in summary, and now I hope to update more often.

It is clear now that I should have gone to Physical Therapy sooner. The weakness in my right hip probably got worse over the last year as I continued to run with the ankle issues. PT has been working to get rid of my Achilles tendonitis and to strengthen my right hip. I have difficulty finding the time for the exercises every single day but I am gaining strength, and the Achilles problem is getting better.

This past week I decided to run a couple of 5k races, partly because I wanted to see how fast I was, and partly just because I have not done any speed work for a while. On Saturday it was the Pancreatic Cancer 5k in Edison where a 6-year-old girl beat me (she happens to hold the world record for 5 and 6-year-old girls). My time was about what I expected given the circumstances (21:40). My Achilles hurt in my warm up and a little early in the race, which is pretty typical now. My second race was the first RVRR Summer Series race of the year. As it was hot on the day I decided to take it easy but it’s easy to get caught up in the race and soon it turned into another speed workout. This time there was no Achilles pain at the start, but there was after the race.

I finally decided I need to apply my coaching toolbox and set myself a plan to get back to form, so last night I planned to run an easy few miles with RVRR. Early in the run I realized that my cadence seemed low (at least for me – historically I’ve run at 195+), so I wondered if that could be causing issues and spent the rest of the run trying to keep my cadence over 190.

Will it make a difference? I’m not sure, but I ran longer than planned (4 miles instead of 3) and mostly felt good so I will try to maintain that. At around mile 3 I did wonder if my Achilles would hold up as I could feel some pain creeping in, but it ultimately didn’t cause any problems and felt reasonable when I stopped.

Grape Gallop 5k

I recently posted about being contacted by the organizers of the Grape Gallop. A few weeks ago I went along to their 5k at Alba Vineyard.

The race start was 10am and I arrived at about 8:50. When I got there, it was clear that the race was going to be relatively small so I would have been okay arriving a bit later, but it was a very pleasant morning so having a bit of time to look around the course wasn’t a bad thing. I walked the first half mile, and later ran with my kids up part of the longest hill (yes, it’s hilly) as a bit of a warm up. I was being cautious because I didn’t know how my ankle was going to react (on Saturday I started a short run only to stop within a few steps because of it).

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

All the organizers and other participants were very friendly. It looked like there might be a couple of relatively fast people. One in particular approached me early on, a young guy who clearly knew a bottle of wine was at stake for the winner and was there to get it. I was able to reassure him that I was in no shape to keep up with him, and likely would not have been able to even at full fitness.

The race was two loops through the vineyard on gravel/stones and grass. As a side note, with many of my shoes, as they are minimalist, I would have had problems with those stones, but I had with me a few options and my latest pair – the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG – were perfect for this.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

During the race my ankle held up reasonably well, but lack of overall fitness showed. As expected with the small field of participants, the race split – the fast guy there to win pulled easily well ahead from the start, and I possibly went out being a little overenthusiastic. I felt okay though, and I was in second with a decent gap opening up between me and third place.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

After the first loop I wasn’t looking forward to the big hill again. My lack of overall fitness was definitely kicking in and I knew I was going to struggle up it the second time around. At this point I was just hoping to be able to hold on and not get caught by anyone else so I could claim the second place.

There were a lot of walkers and run/walk participants taking part and that meant passing them on the second loop. This wasn’t a problem because there was plenty of space for passing.

I did hold on, and the third and fourth place were a couple who were running together, including the 1st place woman. My time was 23:50 which is my slowest 5k since my very first, but given the tough course and my recent issues, I was happy with that. First place was 20:05 (he had run a 5k the day before in the 18s). The first place woman came in at 24:18.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

After the race, you pick up your wine tasting glass (if you’ve paid for that – you can enter for less without the tasting) and tote bag for carrying wine bottles. The set up was great for socializing with the other runners, and was very relaxing.

I’m not sure if any results get posted for this event, or even if they were even recorded outside of the first place runners. The race was not chip timed, which brings me to what to expect from the race.

  • Don’t expect competitive field – it’s more like a community event (and I actually really appreciated that).
  • Don’t expect awards/medals – outside of first place male and female there are none. The first place runners got a bottle of wine each.
  • The course was well-marked, but no volunteers were out on the course other than at the end of the first loop to make sure you took the correct split there. This includes the water station (you help yourself from the table if you need it). I did hear that some people may have gone down the wrong way at one part of the course but didn’t see that myself – it wouldn’t have cut much off, but if it ever gets to be a more competitive event, that could be an issue.
  • You will get a scenic course – very scenic.
  • There had been some rain during the week and some parts of the course were soft. I imagine very heavy rains could make some areas very muddy.
  • If you like a small race feel with very friendly people, this is definitely worth a look. I imagine bringing friends to make a day of the wine tasting and food truck festival would be a fantastic day out. I was there with my wife and kids and grabbed some food before we left (we had other things to do later so didn’t stick around past 1 – food festival started at noon). There were not many food truck options. I don’t know if we just got unlucky as I did spot a Facebook post from someone disappointed by the fact there were not as many options as previous festivals at that venue.

In summary, this was a fun event you can make a day of with friends or family and I recommend it for that. I would hope that if it were to grow and attract competitive runners they would introduce more awards to recognize more than just first place (based on the participants that were there, it makes sense to keep it small).

I can’t help but feel the race is a bit too expensive. $35 for a “designated driver” entry (no wine glass/tasting) is a bit higher than most road or park 5ks that have more costs incurred by road closing. For example, I am a race director for the Highland Park 5k, which has an early entry fee of $25 (if you include the $10 entry to the food truck festival as a race cost then it is a similar price, but still without road closing costs). Admittedly those races tend to have sponsors which help to keep the cost down, but if you’re choosing what races to do based on your spending budget, it may put this one lower down your list of choices.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, it was fun, but with the caveat that it’s best planned as a day out with friends.

If you use discount code RUNNJ17 you will save $3 off the registration fee.

Not racing

It’s been a lot longer than I intended between posts. In that time there have been ups and downs, and with the Newport 10k imminent I have to decide whether to run. So far, I have not been able to run the NYC Half, Garden State 10 mile, or the NJ Half this past weekend.

There have been times I’ve been able to run the 10k distance with only minor irritations, but now 3 miles seems to be my limit. I’ve started Physical Therapy (finally) so I’m counting on that to get me running again but obviously with the race this Saturday there’s not enough time.

It’s a shame that, as a blog partner, I may not run it this year but I hope I’m back in time for the Newport Liberty Half (as I’m writing this there is still a bit of time to get the discounted entry for both races) – maybe I’ll run slowly and see how it goes.

My next post will be a review of the Grape Gallop – the post is almost ready but I’ve been delayed by not being able to find my daughter’s camera to use her pictures.

Cautiously coming off rest

I hadn’t meant to leave it this long to update on progress. Originally when I signed up for the Newport 10k again as an official blog partner, I was hoping that the race might be my comeback. In my last blog post I explained why I was taking some time off.

I was stretching, doing core work, riding the Halfbike, doing classes at the gym, etc. in the meantime but my muscles remain (seemingly) as tight as ever. A couple of weeks ago I was very surprised to notice that my ankle was slightly swollen again. How was that possible? If I had run I would have put it down to that again, but this time I hadn’t been doing anything out of the ordinary and it’s been a couple of months since I finally shook that off.

The swelling didn’t last long, but I decided it was enough to call for a visit to the doctor. He sent me for some blood work which all came back clear and is sending me to PT, so we’ll see where that leads.

In the meantime, if it’s not the running causing the problem, I might as well get out to run again. I started by keeping it short, with only about 2.5 miles at a time (about when my lower back starts aching slightly), I’ve extended runs this week to just over 3 miles, with one run of almost 4.5 miles but my Achilles tendonitis has returned.

My speed won’t be there for Newport, or any other race I’m signed up so far, which includes the Grape Gallop on April 23rd (see my last post for a coupon code for any of the 3 Grape Gallop races this year), but it looks like I will probably be there if I can keep things under some sort of control.

Grape Gallop races (run and taste)

I was recently contacted by the organizers of the Grape Gallop series of races to see if I would be interested in running one of their races, and to offer a discount for my followers (RUNNJ17 will give $3 off any of their 2017 races).

I had seen these races advertised last year and Alba Vineyards location was appealing, but it didn’t fit with my schedule. Being sidelined a little this year, it seems like a perfect opportunity to run there.

The races are a little more expensive than your typical 5k (the October 21 race is actually 3.5 miles – an unusual distance, but an automatic PR perhaps?) but, if you plan to make a day of it, what you get for your money adds up to make it seem more reasonable.

The location is great. I’ve been to festivals at the Alba Vineyard before and it’s a beautiful area. The races run around the vineyard which makes a change from the usual road races, and you get a wine glass, wine tasting, entry to the food festival, as well as a tote bag and the more typical race benefits of race shirt, photos, and your name on your bib if you register in time (you can enter for $15 less without the wine tasting and glass). They are also partnering with the Lustgarten Foundation for pancreatic cancer research.

The race organizers have offered me a free entry for the October race, but I’m looking forward to it enough that I have decided to run on the April 23rd race too (at my expense). I plan to make it a family day out so let’s hope the weather is good that day!

If you sign up, don’t forget to use code RUNNJ17 for $3 off.

Don’t hesitate if you want to sign up for the April 23 race – the price goes up at midnight tonight.