Apr 30, 2010

Friday: Towson University Track

Today's run was a little off the course - I went to Towson U. track for some work and ran for while there before heading back home. The run from Towson to Mount Vernon is really fun and I should try this again. The track at the Johnny Unitas stadium is the best I've seen in the neighborhood. Highly recommended. Today's run was 11 miles @ 8:25 min/mile.

Apr 29, 2010

New Home

The past few days have been super-busy not only due to work deadlines but also due to the recent move to my new house. I'm still living out of boxes but running as usual; mostly around the Fort area. A summary of the week that has been:

Sat -  Moving
Sun  - 19.2 @ 7.9 min/mile
Mon -  7.5 @ 8.0 min/mile
Tue  -  8.3 @ 7.7 min/mile
Wed -  7.5 @ 7.3 min/mile
Today - 4.0 @ 8.0 min/mile

Apr 20, 2010

Monday/Tuesday: Recovery Runs

Spent yesterday and today doing recovery runs:
Monday - 3 mile @ 8 min/mile + 30 min bike
Tuesday - 6.5 miles @ 7.3 min/mile

This is a busy week. I have a conference deadline on Thursday and I'm moving from my current apartment by end of this week to a nice comfy house in Mt. Vernon. Lot of boxes left to pack!

Apr 18, 2010

Savage Love: Mountain Maryland marathon

Picture this:

  • Official Time: 3:44  Garmin Time: 3:52**
  • First trail race
  • Stunningly beautiful course on Mt. Savage
  • First high altitude race
  • Reasonable race organization 
** Forgot to turn off my Garmin at the finish line.


Marathon #3 for 2010 is in the books. I ran this race with Jay and unlike any other race I've run we decided to drive to the race venue on the day of the race. I left Baltimore around 3:40 AM in the morning without having slept much at all. This was a race against odds - crazy terrain, Piriformis injury, and no sleep. I survived.

Cumberland is a beautiful little town in MD and we knew we were up for some great sights when we spotted the big hills on our way there in the darkness. We reached there perfectly on time for the packet pickup, thanks to Jay's driving and everything sailed perfectly to the start of the race. I only wished I had a jacket with me in the beginning and the end of the race.

This was my first trail race and I had no idea what to expect. I did not get any trail shoes since most of the surface was crushed limestone gravel. Trail running is a different beast. For almost the entire run you are alone, except the stunning views Mother Nature provides. "This is where wallpapers come from", was my thought as I ran through the course.

Your only human contact is other racers and the good folks at the aid stations which are much fewer than most road races. So, there is no opportunity to feed into the positive energy created by the cheering spectators. There were lot of times during the race where I could not see any other runner before or after me. Which also means you have to be very careful and watch out for those trail markers to avoid getting lost.

This was also my first high altitude race. The race itself involved a climb of 1000ft on Mt. Savage. Nothing in my training had prepared me for this and the first half of the race felt like riding an untamed horse.

This the second time this marathon is being held. Credits to the organizers for pulling off a nice race but hope that next time the volunteers will be more prepared -- a lot of times it appeared they had no idea. Also if you are running this race (highly recommended), it's a good idea to carry your own supplies. The only thing you can rely on is water and watered down Gatorade. Oh, they also had bananas and whole apples at the aid stations if you had time to stop and munch!

I finished the race in 3:44.  The Priformis injury seemed under control except for a dull pain throughout the race which kept me from pedaling harder. The medal is made of porcelain and makes a fine coaster/paper weight. It's also fragile so another thing to take care of after your run.

Apr 14, 2010

Wednesday: Fartleks

I'm a sucker for distance and have hated doing tempo runs; probably because I started running naturally and never began running with a "training plan". In fact, the first marathon (SF) I ran was an impulsive decision made just weeks before the actual date when I overheard someone talk about how excited they were for the upcoming marathon. I thought, I've been running for fun as long as I can remember; how difficult can this be? With that thought I registered. I was wrong. I did finish the marathon but was completely unsatisfied. At the finish I was all exhausted, and a well meaning doctor at the medical tent said to me, "You won't do this again. Will you?". I replied, "Of course, I will" with a grin that failed to mask my pain. Everyone says your first marathon is a life changing experience. It was in my case but in a different way. I already had the love for running but after my first marathon, I started approaching running with an academic vigor. I read, and still continue to do, everything I saw about nutrition and training.

I still dislike following a training plan as it sucks the fun out of running, and as consequence I don't have "tempo run" days. Fortunately, I discovered that I could mix tempo runs in my distance workouts. Later a friend told me that this was called a "Fartlek". I thought he was joking. Thank god for fartleks. This is also a great way to get rid of the late afternoon sluggishness. I got some quality workout today at the JHU track playing "human fartlek" :-)

Apr 12, 2010

How many donuts?

At the time of this writing, I have logged a bit over 685 miles in 2010. Just wondering how many donuts I could have burned in the process? After a bit of Google search and a little back of the envelope calculation it turns out to be around 359 donuts till now. That's slightly more than three donuts a day. 359 donuts, just the thought makes me bristle!

(Assuming plain donuts with 185 calories per donut. Don't forget to factor your average pace and body weight.)

Apr 11, 2010

Sunday: Cherry Blossom


  • Chip Time: 01:13:08   Gun Time: 01:15:44   Garmin Time: 01:12:30**
  • Fun race, Great weather!
  • Meeting Bill Rodgers
  • Free overnight stay in DC, thanks to Couch Surfing and Glen!
    **Garmin time is the time I spent actually running; not counting the one time I used the porta john.
Thanks to a friend, Genevieve, I got an entry into the Cherry Blossom this year. I had no idea about the history of this race when I signed up for it; it's been around for 38 years and is a popular tune-up race before Boston. This is also the first time I ran a 10 mile race. The weather was great and I enjoyed the race like it was a fun training run. I found this race better organized than the National Marathon right from the expo to the facilities at the start/finish line. Every race, I find one running poster from the cheering spectators stand out from the rest. This race it was "Run like you stole something!"

Not only was the expo good but I also got to meet Bill Rodgers in person. Bill is one of my running heroes and seeing the man in person was a pilgrimage like experience. For the 10-15 minutes we talked, I walked away with some great trail running tips and a sense of awe.

For the first time, I used Couch Surfing. It's a great concept and thanks to my Couch Surfing host, Glen, for the overnight accommodation. Glen also happened to be the one of the most interesting & well traveled person I've met. We also went to a great restaurant, Busboys and Poets, for Saturday dinner; I had brown rice and beans with a side of guacamole  -- splendid!

The Piriformis stretches and the low mileage payed off. Today's run was pain-free but then again it was only 10 miles on a reasonably flat course. I will still be cautious for the Mountain MD marathon next Sunday. Keeping fingers crossed.

Apr 10, 2010

Know your injuries: Piriformis Syndrome

Injuries are best recognized early. Last weekend, I noticed a pain in my glutes during a long run that I had never experienced earlier. The pain was so severe that I had to cut short my long run to 12.5 miles. As a seasoned runner, it's easy to distinguish between discomfort and pain. Discomfort is what we runners long for; if you don't feel the discomfort towards the end of your training runs, you're not training hard enough. Part of the training experience is running through discomfort. But pain is an entirely different story. Running through a pain is reckless and often an invitation to injuries. One of the reasons I avoid taking NSAIDs and other pain killers during runs is that they suppress this vital signaling system in our body. If you're in pain your body is telling you there is something wrong and you better listen to it.

I had a tough time putting a finger on this pain. With Google as my sports therapist, I was trying to find what running injury can make you feel as if you have a golf ball pressing against your butt when you sit and can cause severe pain when you run. I went through the inflammation symptoms of every muscle in the hip and glutes and finally narrowed it down to the Piriformis muscle. Reading more about Piriformis Syndrome only confirmed it. Inflammation of this muscle will apply pressure on the Sciatic nerve and hence the pain.  Of course, Google can never replace professional medical help but given the state of my grad school health insurance this was my first instinct.

With that plausible diagnosis, the suggested course of action is:
1. Stop running for a few weeks
2. Stretch the Piriformis
3. Seek medical help if it becomes worse

Not running is unthinkable. I don't remember when was the last time I did not run continuously for days together. I prefer to tread cautiously. I have significantly lowered my training volume this week (from 65-70 to 30) and that seems to be helping. But what really helps are the stretches. I've never been a fan of stretching but I can swear by this one. I am doing stretches in this video religiously now.

I will still be running Cherry Blossom normally as a test run for the Mountain MD marathon. No marathon has worried me like this one. This tortuously hilly marathon can wreak havoc on my glutes and hip muscles. The verdict is on Sunday.

Apr 4, 2010

Sunday: Fleet Street

I took a detour from my usual Fort route to Fleet Street today. What an awesome weather!

17.39 miles in 02:36:28

Apr 2, 2010

Friday: Fort run

11.97 mi @ 8:05min/mile
Running to the Fort never bores me. I've been on this route so many times that I know exactly where the potholes are, where the curb is broken, and where to watch for gravel. But one thing I figured today was if you need to drink water and the Fort is closed, it can be tricky. Luckily the Science Center was open and I got a sip from the fountain. Lunch was a big burrito and I repented eating that. Not only it made me thirsty but also burritos give you that false sense of being full. Towards the end of my run, I was out of gas and had no desire to run but the promise of a tall glass of chocolate milk kept me going. It was 12 miles and I called it a day (for running).

Next week will be a very busy week but looking forward to the Cherry Blossom run on Sunday. I usually don't sign up for small races unless they are in Baltimore but after hearing so much about it, I decided to do it this year. Also thanks to a friend who gave her entry!

Apr 1, 2010

Thursday: Harbor run

Today's run was a short 7 something miles followed by a relaxed couple miles back home.

7.25 mi @ 7:31 min/mi + 2.21 mi @ 8:26 min/mi