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.

Setbacks and restarts

I intended to keep up this blog with my progress as I tried to get back to running regularly. A couple of times I was about to write something and then had a new setback. Looking back I suspect my reluctance to write was because I wanted to have something positive to write.

I’m still not sure, but I am cautiously optimistic as of today.

Over the Christmas period I was off work and my intention was to run 2 to 3 miles every day, as this seemed achievable at the time. It seemed to be going well. Each run started with some discomfort in my Achilles tendon, but the swelling in my ankle was down, and didn’t seem to be coming back. I was also being very good about stretching and rolling (which I am still making sure I do). On the 5th day of running, the run itself was just like the others, but later in the day I had pain on the inside bottom of my foot when I put pressure on it. The next morning it was the same, but strangely, within a couple of hours of getting up, it disappeared as quickly as it started. A trapped nerve perhaps?

Over the next 10 days I only ran a couple of times, testing things out, and when I thought things were okay I started running more often again. I ran every day for a week between 2 and 3.5 miles at a time with no issues so things were looking very positive.

That Saturday I decided to push a little further. I got to 4.3 miles and suddenly I felt pain in my ankle, in the exact spot where it had previously been swollen.

With the ankle swollen once again I should probably have taken things easier than I did. A few days later I went out to run and found that I was in pain after about 2 miles. When I got home I discovered that the muscle along the bottom of my foot was rock solid. It massaged out quickly though.

I took 9 days off completely (from running at least – the Halfbike came into play during that time and did not aggravate my foot in any way). I also had a better sense of what muscles are likely causing my problems and had a massage that focused on that area – my upper calf muscles were very tight. That brings us to this past weekend.

I was unsure about trying to run again but thought I was okay because the massage seemed to have helped. I got on the Halfbike for 5 miles before the RVRR club run, and then I thought I’d start running with the group and see how things went. I intended to cover 2 miles at most. I got talking to someone during the run, and felt good, so went out a bit further, and I did feel a small amount of discomfort at 1.5 miles so that’s where I turned around.

One theory I was toying with was that perhaps my form is not as good when I’m running slower, so on the return part of that run I picked up the pace to between 7:50 and 8:30. I felt no more discomfort. Stretching and massaging the calf through the day seemed to stave off any discomfort.

I wanted to run on Sunday, but I also wanted to be cautious (and I had been out late drinking on Saturday night), so I did not. Today is Monday – I ran 3 miles on the treadmill (keeping the pace in the 7:30 to 8:20 range), and things seem fine.

Now I have to decide whether to run tomorrow, or wait until Wednesday. I think I’ll wait, even though that optimism is trying to tempt me into running again.

Keeping it up on vacation

I was recently away for 8 days – this included travel from NJ to DC, then 2 days later, from DC to Williamsburg, VA, and then 3 days after that from Willliamsburg to Rehoboth Beach, DE before heading back to NJ on the last day.

That’s a lot of travel days, yet I still managed to run 4 times during the trip (I surprised myself with this). I arrived in DC on the Friday, and it was a very hot and very humid day and there were already plans in place for the day. I had planned in advance and discovered the DC Capital Striders group runs and the run on Saturday morning from Dupont Circle was in a perfect location.

The route that day took us through Rock Creek Park on a hot and humid morning, but the club were very welcoming so I’m glad I went along.

Running with the DC Capital Striders this morning

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I had decided I wanted to run The Mall too, so I got up early enough on Sunday to take a run before we had to check out of the hotel.

This is how runners go sightseeing

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With plenty to do in Williamsburg, VA in the time we were there, I did wonder whether I would be able to run. I solved that problem by running from the hotel to Colonial Williamsburg (figuring that it was so hot I would be sweating anyway, so what did it matter if I was already sweaty from running).

Ran here from the hotel

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The trip to Rehoboth Beach was a last minute addition to the plan. On Thursday there was some cloud cover and it was a beach day, so I took the opportunity to run along the beach when we got there before going into the ocean (there’s something great about running into the ocean at the end of a run).

I was carrying my Xero X-Trails (which I haven’t reviewed yet, must do that) so I could put them on if I felt I needed to, or if I decided to run up to the boardwalk. As it turned out, I just kept going barefoot, covering 3.5 miles along the edge of the water. My feet felt it, but not quite enough to actually cause blisters (I think the previous runs in the Xero Shoes may have actually helped condition the soles of my feet a bit, along with my very occasional barefoot run).

Barefoot beach run

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Do you run on vacation?

Training when injured

Injury is more likely during a training cycle so it’s important to have a plan that’s not too aggressive to limit the possibility of getting injured

Of course, there’s never a fail-safe way to avoid getting injured, and it may be something not directly related to your running that causes it.

My own “injuries” in the past (I use quotation marks as I’m not sure they count) have been minor and have barely stopped me from running. Invariably they were caused by tight muscles and usually originate in the calf. The first time it happened was relatively minor and I was soon able to determine what was pulling on my knee and massage it out myself. The second time was more uncomfortable and more widespread, but finding a massage therapist sorted that one out (and I’ve had monthly massages since).

Right now I’m in the middle of a marathon training cycle (a marathon I’ve already declared to be my last for many years, but which I am running for charity with no time goals) and just over 2 weeks ago I felt the pull on my knee that indicated to me that I had another muscle issue.

Given the timing, the fact that this was worse than anything I’ve had before, and that I have good insurance, I booked an appointment with a Physical Therapist. By that time I had pretty much decided that what caused this was an overenthusiastic Bodycombat session a couple of days earlier (the pain happened during my first run after that class and I had been giving the kicks everything I had).

So what did I do to keep myself active in the hope that I wouldn’t lose too much?

  1. Rowing machine – my morning routine includes going to the gym near my office, so rather than getting on the treadmill I used the rowing machine (at first the bike was also pulling on my knee but the rowing machine caused no issues)
  2. Strengthening exercises as indicated by the PT
  3. Occasional attempts at running – at first my knee would hurt half a mile into a run, so I would run half a mile, or extend it out to see how I coped. I wanted to see how quickly it recovered. As things seemed to be working themselves out through PT sessions, regular stretching and the strengthening work, recovery was better, and the distance I felt I could safely run got longer.
  4. This final exercise was the unusual one. Just a couple of months ago I had received a Halfbike which was the outcome of a Kickstarter campaign. I will write a full review of the Halfbike in my next post, but I have to say that, whether it helped or not overall, it was mentally the best thing for me. It kept me out with the running club and I was surprised at how much distance I was able to cover on it.

Clearly the type of injury and advice from doctors or PTs will make a difference to what you are able to do. I was able to isolate my injury to primarily one muscle and that helped determine what I could do. I’m happy to say that after 2 weeks I have now managed to run 4 miles pain free so hopefully I can build on that safely.

New Year, no posts….until now

I’ve managed to do it again – neglected my blog. What I have not been neglecting, however, is running.

It can be a tough time of year to get motivated to run, so what gets you out when it’s (well) below freezing?

Here’s my list of what is keeping me going:

  1. Upcoming races: Although I have no speed expectations this year (deliberately so), I still want to be race ready, and with the first USATFNJ Team Championship race coming up on March 20 (Miles for Music), there’s not much time left.
  2. A Running Club: Whether it’s for other people to run with, or just knowing that others are out there, this can seriously help with motivation. For me, it’s good to know there will be a good crowd out for the RVRR Wednesday and Saturday runs – in February RVRR provides extra motivation with a “breakfast incentive” in the month of February – make it to all the Saturday runs this month and you get $10 towards breakfast after the final run (not bad for a membership that costs $23).
  3. Just keeping active: just knowing that you can’t stop – I know if I don’t run for a while I am likely to be more cranky. Also, if I didn’t run I might have to cut down on beer and food.
  4. The London Marathon: Yes, I’m running the London Marathon in April – this will be my last marathon for a long, long time now that I’ve determined it’s too far for me. This one will mean a lot to me, as I’m running in aid of Myeloma UK in memory of my dad.

All you need to carry on running whatever the weather is the right clothing. Layers are good and I find that Merino Wool works well for me, quality cold weather gloves and a hat (or balaclava for the really cold days). I don’t worry too much about socks and footwear (in the really cold weather this past weekend I did wear merino injinji socks and trail shoes for a little extra warmth).