Long walks

2 weeks post surgery I had a follow up visit with the surgeon. I wanted to know when I would be able to run again. He wants me to wait 4 weeks. He suggested I could go for brisk walks so I have started walking most days approximately 3 miles.

I have heard that others have got back to running much sooner, but the majority of results of Google searches will indicate 6 weeks post surgery so it seems reasonable. I do not want another setback. Of course, runners will always try to push the limits and I think I did that this week.

He did say a brisk walk, so I pushed a bit and averaged 14:54 per mile over a 3.4 mile walk.

This did include a 14:26 third mile to bring the average down to below 15 minute miles.

Since then I have had some discomfort. It seems like the surgeon is correct and I’ll be taking things more slowly from now on.

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Running and an inguinal hernia

It has been a long time since I wrote about running. Last spring things were going well, but over the summer I had some minor problems again including mild Achilles tendinitis. It never seemed to get worse so I simply started running more.

From August 2019 to April 2020 I averaged around 40 miles per week with no problems (the Achilles tendinitis disappeared completely within the first few weeks.

Sometime in late April I developed a pain in the groin while running. It would go away after the run, so I assumed it was some sort of pulled muscle. It was also intermittent (in retrospect it makes sense why that might be the case now I know more about hernias) so I just kept running.

In the first half of May I had a 4 day weekend and ran every day. I had no problems at all on those days. The following day I took the kid to play soccer at the park and the pain was back. Again, it eased, and the following day I ran again. This time the pain got gradually worse during the run, and in the shower after I noticed the bulge in my groin.

I was convinced it was a hernia so went to the doctor and had it confirmed. The doctor wanted me to get a CT scan, and insurance denied it (because an ultrasound would be sufficient), so there was a delay. I never got an ultrasound sorted out, and simply contacted a surgeon because I do not need referrals with my insurance.

After that consultation it was unclear how long I would have to wait for surgery. Hospitals were backed up, and more restricted due to covid-19, which meant that the earliest chance to get it done would be with an open surgery at a surgery center, instead of laparoscopic surgery (which would have to be done at a hospital).

This whole time I could not run, and any activity could cause me problems – one short walk ended with having to be picked up and driven home. Any walk or bike ride would result in a day of nausea.

My surgery was scheduled for June 23 – one day under 6 weeks from my last run.

In the week leading up to the surgery I had to get blood work and an EKG, and then a covid-19 test. I was pretty confident I hadn’t been exposed, but I was still paranoid that things could get delayed if it came back positive. I was anxious to get the surgery over and done with and be back on a path to getting back to running.

I hadn’t been under general anesthetic before, so that was a new experience. I expected to get that countdown from 100, but I must have been out pretty soon after the IV went in. People have different experiences coming round after (according to the nurse) but I came out quickly and with no side effects. I expected to at least be drowsy.

No visitors were allowed at the center, so they called my wife to pick me up. I was told to have someone with me for 24 hours, but in my case I needed a bit more than that. The hours after I got home were pretty rough. The main problem was trying to get in and out of bed (the only place to go was the bathroom, but that was needed fairly frequently). On one attempt to get up I twisted in such a way that was very painful, and resulted in me throwing up (which was also a painful experience). Although I felt nauseous several times over the nex 24 to 36 hours, that was the only time I threw up.

The surgery was on Tuesday and Thursday evening was the first time I ventured downstairs to eat with the family, and on Friday I was joining work calls and checking email (from my bed) but only for half of the day.

Things are gradually improving. The discomfort is decreasing a bit each day, and I’m not quite as tired (the first few days of this week were exhausting and I probably should have taken more time off in retrospect.

Yesterday, 8 days following surgery, felt like a bigger improvement. I am under orders to not drive or lift anything (even a gallon of milk) until my follow up with the surgeon on Wednesday.

I plan to keep this blog up to date with my recovery and return to running, whenever that may be.

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First ride on Halfbike 3

For my first ride on the Halfbike 3 I decided to more or less repeat my Halfbike 2 ride from 3 days ago. I extended it slightly to include the hill out of the park and back in again so I could comment on the gearing for hills.

This is the first time I’ve ridden a hill on a halfbike since a crash last August. That crash was caused by a rear wheel oscillation that turned out to be impossible to control in that particular scenario – I was riding too fast (crash happened at 17.6mph), down a hill, and on a bend. I’d had that oscillation before but had always been able to get it under control. I lost some of my confidence with the halfbike but it hasn’t stopped me from riding it, I’m just more cautious now particularly with speed. I don’t know why I ended up riding that fast that day but I had typically kept the speed below about 13mph and I make sure I do now just to be sure.

It might be the case that the new geometry on the Halfbike 3 eliminates the oscillation issue so we’ll see as my confidence builds.

As for today’s ride initially it felt like it was more twitchy, but it didn’t take long for me to get used to it.

Halfbike had asked me what sort of gearing I wanted and I had chosen the 17T option which is better for hilly riding.

However, with 4 gears now i found that even on the flat I was mostly in 3rd gear. When I did try 4th gear I found that when I slowed (there are some rough paving spots on the ride that I would rather slow for) I would shift back to 3rd to get back up to speed.

As for riding over the rough surfaces I actually felt more stable on the Halfbike 3 than on the Halfbike 2 so once I had built some confidence I was riding over them faster.

One thing to be sure of before you ride is to tighten the quick release levers enough. I thought I had but part way through the ride I heard a rattling noise so stopped immediately. One of the bottom ones had dropped out of position, but once I had put it back in tight enough I had no further problems and it was still tight at the end of the ride.

On the hill I found that second gear was a bit too much so I dropped down to first which felt good (I think I just need to get fitter). Given my lack of downhill confidence I used the brake which controlled the descent very well. The brake definitely seems like an improvement (although part of that could be due to how old the Halfbike 2 brake pads are).

My average speed for the ride was faster and my heart rate was similar (132 vs 135) even though a hill was added to this ride.

Here is the Garmin data from my Halfbike 2 ride, followed by the data from today’s Halfbike 3 ride:

Note: I am a Halfbike ambassador but I like to make sure people know what they are getting into when they are considering buying one so I will always be honest (see my previous posts). If anyone in central NJ would like to test one out I am always happy to help.

The following code is good for $50 off a Halfbike 3 until April 2020: KHPCPXFG

This link should work for a discount on the Halfbike 2 and will always give the best available discount at the time of use: https://halfbikes.com/?a=XHJVQ

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Halfbike 3 initial review

I’ve been using my halfbike 2 more again to try to help with my running issues (nothing major, but things like Achilles tendinitis typically means less running) but I’ve been looking forward to the Halfbike 3 coming out because of the improvements it is supposed to bring.

Yesterday I got my shipping notification with a delivery date of today. It arrived mid afternoon which was useful because I had taken the day off work for other reasons so I was able to assemble it.

The instructions were pretty straightforward on the whole. I took a few pictures along the way that may help if anyone gets confused.

UPDATE: Halfbike have informed me that I have installed the rear wheels upside down. That triangle section in the photo right above should be underneath.

The tool that comes with it is all you need to put it together.

I seem to remember that the halfbike 2 was harder work. Including unpacking (and stopping to take photos) it took about 45 minutes.

First ride

As soon as it was assembled I took it onto my street (a quiet dead end street) for a quick spin.

My initial response was that the ride felt lighter and smoother. Turns were much more forgiving and almost too easy. It took a few tries to get used to it. It felt like it allowed for more lean and I just wasn’t expecting it to allow me to go that far.

It definitely seems like a big improvement and I can’t wait to get out on a longer ride (probably tomorrow after work).

Halfbike 2 and 3 side by side

The difference between the width here is presumably responsible for the handling improvements, plus the positioning of the springs.

The difference in size is noticeable (in a good way). It’s definitely lighter. Positioning of the gear lever is excellent but as my old one had the gears added later by me, they may not have been in the best place on my old one.

Initially I couldn’t get the lever into 1st gear, but quickly discovered that the cable wasn’t properly in place at the lever end.

Update: my latest post talks about my first ride on the Halfbike 3.

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I’m back!

Running the NJ Half Marathon on 4/28

Almost 9 months since my last update on what was happening in my running world (at the time, nothing at all), I’m back. I’m planning to fill the gaps to record what has happened in that time, but here’s a summary:

  1. In August I had a crash on my Halfbike which put me completely out of action for a while. Note that is is very difficult to crash hard on a Halfbike, and I will definitely avoid the combination of going too fast (17 mph), down a hill, and on a bend in future.
  2. I started running again, but I was still having problems, but also found that taking care of my tight calf muscles helped me get out and run.
  3. At the end of February I discovered the Hyperice Hypervolt because of my massage therapist. It has really helped with my tight calf muscles, and kept me running with no issues at all.
  4. I got my mileage up to 100 to 120 miles in the last 2 months.
  5. I ran the Garden State 10 miler faster than I expected, and with it got a new goal for the New Jersey Half Marathon. It seemed ambitious with only a couple of training runs at that sort of distance, but…
  6. I beat that goal and ran the half marathon in 1:35:39. It has been 3 years since I ran a half marathon at that pace.
  7. Now it’s time to keep gradually increasing my mileage and get in more longer runs. I’m aiming for even faster in the fall.
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Where’s the perfect running weather?

This past weekend was the Ruth’s Chris Newport Half Marathon, and for the first time since I started running with RVRR I didn’t even make it as a supporter due to other commitments.

The problem with this race has always been the unpredictable September weather. The previous weekend runners to perfect fall running weather, but the heat and humidity, unfortunately, made a return.

The number of finishers was down a little compared to the last few years which could be down to the weather. Although I wasn’t there I heard stories about people succumbing to the heat and humidity on the course, while others were definitely feeling the effects towards the end with slower times later in the race.

It would be great if this race moved to October so that the weather had a better chance of being favorable, but it won’t stop me from doing it again once I’m back running (which could be soon!).

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Ruth’s Chris Newport Liberty Half Marathon

It’s coming up on that time of year again, it’s almost time for what is now officially called the “Ruth’s Chris Newport Liberty Half Marathon” (abbreviated from the “25th Annual Ruth’s Chris Steak House Newport Liberty Half Marathon”).

My plan for the year was to be at this race and get somewhere near my old times. Of course the weather is always the unknown in this race, so that may have put pay to that idea. Unfortunately other new and fun injuries have stopped me training over the last couple of months.

Last year I didn’t race either but I went along to take in the atmosphere and take some photos of the RVRR runners out there. This year it’s unlikely I’ll make it between my son’s travel soccer and my daughter’s photography hobby as the Highland Park Arts in the Park Festival is that day and she will be presenting her photos at a booth.

There’s still time to sign up for the race if you haven’t. The large, but not overwhelming, field and great on course support, along with the views, really do make it worthwhile.

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What happened?

As always my intention is to keep this blog up to date with my progress, but time slips away and life gets busy. The other simple fact is that there has been no progress.

In my last post I mentioned the pain in the ball of my foot. Over the following few weeks it gradually got worse and my foot was often swollen. The doctor diagnosed metatarsalgia, and I was also told I could run through it. I’d already taken some time off before getting that information, and vacation was coming up, so I decided to be more cautious. I didn’t run for 4 weeks, and then tried again. After a few runs over the space of about 10 days things seemed to be worse again.

That brings the blog up to date – I’m not running again. I’m not sure how long I will take off this time but it will likely be more than 4 weeks. This definitely means that the Newport Liberty Half is no longer in my running plan (I had hoped it would be).

In the meantime I need to stay fit. Between my Halfbike and my road bike, I’m hoping that will be the case. I already pushed myself hard on a very humid day to ride 53 miles on the road bike and I haven’t ridden that far for a long time. I will also join some RVRR club runs on the Halfbike as I have done before.

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Spring Lake 5

Today was the first time taking part in this “must do” race. So many people take part in this year after year, and its popularity means you have to register early to get in. In previous years I decided not to set an alarm for the 6am start of registration, and by the time I was up (and remembered to look) it had already filled up.

This year I checked when I awoke and there were still spaces available. I was still hesitant due to the various issues I’ve had, but signed up anyway.

In the last week and a half I was slightly worried I wouldn’t make it to the start. It felt like a bruise on the ball of my foot and it hurt. I didn’t run for a week and everything seemed fine, so I ran again on Wednesday and the pain returned. It seems that, during my recovery, my reliance on a single pair of Vivobarefoot shoes caused a callus to form on the ball of my foot, and it had got thick enough to start hurting. I’ve worked at it with a pumice stone but even walking from my car to pick up my race t-shirt and pint glass was a little uncomfortable.

I have a pair of Newtons which have more padding so I took them with me to the race, and wore my typical “longer run” shoe – the Merrell Trail Glove. A short run in both seemed to suggest it wouldn’t make much difference to my foot so I wore the Merrells. I’ve never been completely comfortable in the Newtons because I feel too high off the ground and more unstable.

Several RVRR members were there, some who do this race every year. The advice was useful – it’s important to get near the front if you don’t want to end up running a 12 minute or more first mile with all the crowds.

RVRR pre-race

The first mile was fast as I tried to find space, but then I settled into a pace with a plan to hang on as long as I could before either my foot or my hip slowed me down (I’ve had hip pain in some runs, and it felt like it was there early in the race, but eased after a couple of miles). I was able to push pretty hard despite feeling very stiff for the first 2 miles. The heat took its toll and I stopped for water at 2 and 4 miles which isn’t something I would usually do in a race of this distance. The last mile was definitely slower due to the heat.

My time was comparable to my Newport 10k race a couple of weeks ago, and given the effect of the heat I’m pretty happy with that. Chip time 35:22.3

My foot didn’t hurt during the race which is interesting (adrenaline?), but the pain is definitely there now. I’m hoping that I can soon be faster than the 7 minute mile barrier over these distances soon. Target for the Newport Liberty Half is around 7 minute mile. I’m hopeful that the right training can get me there.

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Racing again – Newport 10k and Highland Park 5k

Since the NYC Half Marathon I have focused on shorter runs, limiting longer runs to 7 miles, so as not to aggravate my hamstring. Luckily this allowed me to run the Newport 10k this year (after missing it last year). Progress has been good, but not without its challenges. After the hamstring issue seemed to disappear, an issue with my right hip took its place, but with a week to go before the race, everything seemed to have been resolved.

My plan was to run cautiously. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, I don’t want the hamstring or hip issues to return, and, secondly, the following day was the Highland Park 5k – this race is an important one for me. It was the reason I took up running 8 years ago. Without this race I can’t imagine that I would be a runner (I’ve written about this before, here). As I am now also a race director this also means a very busy weekend.

I started the race with an RVRR teammate who I’ve run with fairly regularly this year. We’ve pushed each other hard on some of our runs so I assumed we would be running a similar pace. When you start a race plans don’t always come to fruition. We were both pushing slightly faster than we said we would in the first two miles (we were running around 7:15min/mile) but then I decided I felt good enough to pick up the pace a little (the weekly RVRR track workouts I’ve been attending are probably responsible for this) and so I started moving ahead. I had felt a very, very dull ache in my hamstring early on so this may not have been the best move. Later in the race it became a dull ache, but now I had locked in on a pace I didn’t want to slow down. My legs are not conditioned for the distance, but I managed to hang in to finish with a time of 44:21 which was over 90 seconds faster than I expected. After stretching it seemed like the aches eased but my legs were definitely feeling it.

After grabbing some food and drink at the finish line (love the bagels, but there was plenty there besides) I headed back to the car so I could help at packet pick up for the HP 5k and then submit bib numbers to the timing company and get everything loaded into the car for Sunday.

On Sunday morning my legs were still tired, but after ensuring registration finished up smoothly I headed to the 5k start line. I typically know who I would be running near in this race year after year, so I was hoping to be near them this year after dropping back last year. As we headed around the first corner I was side by side with someone I hoped to be able to pace with, but who I knew would likely get ahead at some point, and I watched as another runner I wanted to stay near eased ahead. Then I felt that my shoelace was undone. A little while later my other shoelace came undone. I did not want to stop and just hoped that I didn’t end up tripping or having a problem with a loose shoe.

As expected, the person I was alongside near the start did ease ahead and I was left feeling alone in a bit of a middle ground. My muscles were tight, my hamstring was threatening with the same dull ache I’d had the day before, but, yet again, I did not want to slow down.

It paid off. After mile 2 I could tell that I was possibly catching back up to one of the runners I wanted to finish near, and somewhere in the last half mile I managed to pass him. I had no kick left at the finish so I suspected he might be able to come back and take me, but I stayed ahead, and surprised myself with a time of 20:54.

The Highland Park 5k has grown over the last few years (2 years ago, despite high registration numbers, the number of finishers took a dip because of the weather), and this year had 581 finishers. The kids races also attracted a large number of kids.

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