Life, Running, & Medicine.
Notes on life as I see it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: Sof Sole premium inserts

Recently I had the opportunity to try out two different Sof Sole insert products: The Adapt and Stability.  I used them in place of my factory insoles in my Nike Air Equalion +2's and Saucony Hurricanes.
"Adapt" overall: 4.5 / 5 stars
The Adapt is a heat-moldable insert (225-degrees in oven for 2 minutes then wear in shoe for several minutes while cools) that provides a lot of cushion and support in the heel.  I really liked this one because it kept the toebox wide while really hugging my heel.  This really felt like a custom insert.  After doing a few 10K training runs with it I was very pleased to note that I never "noticed" my feet - exactly what we should be shooting for.  Impossible to say whether this heal support and cushion will pay off in the long run but it sure seems like it.  These inserts also good for just walking and standing a lot - I wore them several days to work and in the operating room.  Again, I did notice how they really support the heel, but absolutely no complaints.  Will plan on keeping these in until shoes are dead, and will likely buy them again after my next factory insoles start getting a bit flat.
"Stability" overall: 4 / 5 stars
These are ready-to-use out of box with no heat-moldable action.  I did notice they give a lot of medial foot/heel support to prevent pronation, and they work quite well to that end.  Similar to the Adapt, after running/walking/standing on these for several days I have no complaints.  They most certainly brought new life back to my 14-month old Saucony's.  When running I do tend to notice that anti-pronation support a bit more than the Adapt but this did not cause any problems during my 2-week trial.  I think these inserts are excellent premium replacements but personally I favored the Adapt a bit more.
For sizing both of these they come in a range of shoe sizes that then require trimming.  I simply used my factory insoles as a template to cut the Sof Sole inserts with heavy scissors.  I can see how messing up the trimming could botch these as they would either be too big and crowd in areas or too small and slip around. 
It is important to note that I wasn't really considering buying insoles, but was given these on a promotion to try.  I had thought of getting some for my older shoes to get more mileage out of them, but had gotten no further than the grocery store foot pharmacy in my quest.  At $30 a pair these are probably most valuable to the person with slightly worn shoes, rather than brand-new.  Of course for specific problems like over pronatation (despite a stability-class shoe) or heel issues these may be worth a look earlier.

Available at these retailers, among others:
Sports Authority
Rack Room Shoes
DSW Shoe Warehouse
Athlete's Foot
City Sports
Finish Line

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lazy Runner

Running Lately:
10.5 miles sunday afternoon (cool and clear).
last week did two 6-milers at 6am at Peidmont Park (yikes COLD!, around 25 and 30 degrees, add some wind).
was planning a medium length run tomorrow but looks like the rain will stop me...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Turkey Runs

A couple of chilly runs lately.  First was Thanksgiving morning in Florida with a cold high-30s run down some old dirt roads.  Ground was a bit damp still but that had the advantage of keeping dust out of the air.
Next was not until today back home in Atlanta when I agreed (stupidly) to a 5:45am Piedmont Park run.  Did about 6 miles via 3 progressively smaller loops (spiralling inward).  Took a full 2 miles to get "unchilled" in the mid-30s high-wind weather.
Winter is coming quickly.  Finding the time and weather to run gets difficult.  The Elliptical looks better and better by the degree...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The [Douchey] Doctors

Wow disturbed to catch on daytime TV yesterday a show called "The Doctors" hosted by that ER guy Stork who was on Bachelor a lifetime ago.
What a crappy show, but I guess speaks something about the stay-at-home moms still finding blonde young docs hot.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Second Review of Sole E35 Elliptical

Please refer to my first early review of my new elliptical machine.  I now write a brief followup to that review after about 6 months of use.
Price: $1299 at, includes shipping.
Pros: price, quiet, very sturdy/heavy duty feel, adjustable "pedal" angles, multiple workouts, remembers my weight/age
Cons: remote HR monitor requires a hairless chest and even then its iffy
Weird: The calorie calculator consistently reads about half the calories of a similar workout on a LifeFitness or Precor, the fan is so weak you can barely detect its on, there is audio input & small speakers & audio output (the output is pointless)
Sound bite: A durable high quality low-frills machine at a good price, much less than its competitors.
Would I buy again: YES!
I admit I haven't used it as much as I had hoped.  I used the machine quite a bit in the heat of summer to get a run in here or there, probably averaging twice a week.  We have sort-of built a little home-gym around the elliptical featuring a TV, iPod stereo, wood floors, some inspirational posters and a towel rack.
One place this has really helped is with my IT Band problems.  This elliptical does not quite take your knee through 30-degrees of motion (at least for me), so even when my knee is flaring up I can run on this with very little problem.
After using only this elliptical for a while then getting back on the LifeFitness at the gym I must say I like the Sole E35 a lot better.  It has a much smoother "running feel" with what seems like less "up and down".  I didn't think that would be true with a front-flywheel but it is definitely noticeable.
The near-silence of the machine is huge plus.  After a couple months I noticed a "rubbing" noise like there was some extra friction going on somewhere.  Turns out the plastic/rubber guides in the back were not really lubricated (I never lubed them).  I used the supplied "elliptical lube" and put a couple drops on the guides and voila! Silence.  Now when I work out my wife usually just hears my huffing and puffing and not the machine at all.
Our home gym is on the second story of our wood-framed home.  I was a little worried that using the elliptical would make the whole house shake or vibrate (like the washer does sometimes).  But no, no such problems.  Unless immediately below the elliptical downstairs you can't tell anything is going on at all.
One recommendation I definitely make is to put your machine on some kind of hard flooring.  Since this is my house and not the gym I definitely notice that I make a virtual sea of sweat when I work out more than 30 minutes.  It is disgusting to think that if this were on carpet all that sweat would get soaked in.  On the wood floors I just wipe it up with a towel (and of course do regular floor cleaning).  BTW I have the machine on top of a cheap WalMart 3/8" rubber mat; no damage or denting noted to the bamboo floors yet.
Anyway if you are thinking about a machine I think this is a great alternative to the high-prices Precor or LifeFitness, and far better than the department store cheap-o's.  You can try out some models in person at Dick's Sporting Goods, they are an authorized retailer but I went with the factory store to save money on sales tax.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Looking for a Place to Run

Wintertime blues.  Just when I'm feeling motivated and have a little break at work I see the race schedule for Atlanta in December is BLEAK.  I was hoping for a nice little wintertime 10K or maybe even 13.1 (I will be gone Thanksgiving) but only the Hillgrove Holiday Classic (a small race at a highschool with only 50 finishers last year).  What I see is a host of 5K's, and a Braselton 8K.  Is there anything I'm missing, or am I destined to do my long winter race alone?
December 08 Atlanta-area races:
ATC December Cross Country 5K Marietta 12/6
Mistletoe Run 5K Alpharetta 12/6
Run for Reading 8K Braselton 12/6
Run to the Star 5K Douglasville 12/6
WCA 5K Monroe 12/6
Hillgrove Holiday Classic 10K Powder Springs 12/6
Optimistic Flapjack Fun Run Jasper 12/6
Sleighbells on the Square 5K Marietta 12/13
Jingle Jog 5K Loganville 12/13
Jungle Jog 5K Atlanta 12/13
Viginia Highlands 5K Atlanta 12/20
Flashlight 5K Lawrenceville 12/31
No Sweat No Run 5K Kennesaw 1/1

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yikes the knee!

Admittedly I've been lazy since the marathon about running.  This morning I headed out for what I hoped would be a long run.  Atlanta was beautiful today - clear, 50-degrees and breezy.  Very nice for running.  At about mile 4 I felt my left, then my right, IT band acting up at my lateral knee.  I tried to be careful about my mechanics and stay on smooth asphalt but finally at about mile 5 I had to stop.  The pain was too much and I was worried I would hurt myself further.
Turns out my right IT band was the worser.  I walked the next mile-and-a-half home.  Defeated.
Being my hard-headed self I then went out to try my new Bike for a road test.  All I've really done so far is tool around the neighborhood getting used to the gearing and adjusting the seat.  Why should I let a bum knee hold me up?
So I headed for a ride over to Decatur (about 16 miles round trip).  The bike went great. I had to adjust the seat again, actually higher than I liked but made for better pedalling.  Only at about mile 15 did I start to get a twinge of the knee pain again.  It was actually quite funny to see how (relatively) fast I did this trip cycling as it seems like it takes forever to run it. :)  The other "funny" thing was to see my cheap-o Bell bicycle computer go flying off the handlebars at 20mph and skip into some bushes... Nowhere to be found.  It's only funny because I do actually have a sense of humor.
My knee now OK but will rest it some this week.  Will also try some stretches to get the IT band loosened up.
I thought about reinventing the wheel and devoting a blog to IT band treatments but there are plenty of other sites out there that do already.  Here's One.
Stretch on!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Bike for a Runner

Today I picked up my new (cheap-o) road bike.  For the past couple months I've been thinking about doing some biking to mix up my workout routine as well as add a little bit of simple commuting here and there.  I wanted something I could do some good aerobic training with, would take a beating (at least wouldnt hurt so much in the wallet), and would let me commute a little.
Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I've never really been "into" biking so am quickly catching up on all the lingo and gear options out there.
I decided on a very lightly USED aluminum-frame noname bike with entry-level Shimano components.  New from discount online retailer this bike was $600.  I got for under $350 after just 50 miles use, and seller threw in $20 computer, clipless pedals and underseat bag.  I figure its a good cheap way to figure out exactly what I want for a serious bike one day OR its a cheaper way to figure out I'm not really a cycling kinda-guy.
I picked up a cheapo helmet, lock, and pump from Wal-mart after gawking around Performance Bicycle (a great store but will wait a bit before over-upgrading my hobby).  I zipped a few times around the block today, trying to figure out the gears and whatnot (my last bike was a 1997 Gary Fisher Marlin with gripshift shifters; not nearly as much education required). 
The specs:
Model: Mercier Orion AL ( brand) 54cm
Front Fork: Kinesis carbon fiber
Crank: TH RPM 52/42/30T 165/170/172.5
Seatpost: Al / Carbon thing (?)
Shifters: Shimano Sora STI
Brakes: Tektro
Front Derailer: Shimano Sora
Rear Derailer: Shimano Tiagra
Rims: AlexRims D22
Tires: Michelin 700x23C
Pedals: cheap-o alloy
Weight: 20 lbs
I know the purists out there will hate that I got a "cheap" bike sold at an online discounter.  While a "starter bike" costing around $800-900 at a local bike shop wasn't totally unreasonable, I just dont see the expense being worthwhile right now.  If I keep riding then this basic setup will get turned over and upgraded soon enough, and the guys at the SoPo Bike Co-op will have great fare for a stylin' fixed gear.
Run on! (and ride a little)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This Man did it!

At just under five hours I finished my first marathon today. Chicago
was a bit warm, and sunny, leading many to jump ship and some to get
carted off. I can't say I'm super happy with my time but am
satisfied, and it certainly gives me something to improve upon.
The frst half went great - as planned - averaging a 9:30 pace.
Starting about mile 16 though things slowed down drastically. I
started hitting every water stop, walking through the stops. My run
became a shuffle and had to outright stop twice to stretch cramps out.
Finishing though was great, as was able to catch enough wind to finish
the last 1/4 strong. BTW have never felt so much muscle pain before.
What a blast! Now I'm preocupied looking for next year's.

Sent from my mobile device

Friday, October 10, 2008

Here we go: Chicago 26.2

Just got dropped off at the airport and in a few minutes will be
departing for the windy city. Admittedly I'm feeling a bit anxious,
nostly worried about the possibility of failure.
In less than two days we will know.
After a night out with old college friends tonight will spend a day in
recovery and preparation.
Goodluck everyone.

Sent from my mobile device

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chicago Marathon: The taper begins

Hopefully I'm not too little too late.  My attenuated training has left me hitting only 16 miles (today) as my maximum distance.  In less than 14 whole days I will be trying a race 10 miles longer.
The good news is my exhausting 16-miler today came on the heels of a tough week for running: a PR 10K 8 days ago, 3 days of running since with 8 miles yesterday, and less-than-race-quality nutritional status (multiple Mohitos and Cuba Libres last night).  I'm hoping that correcting those factors (plus the fact Chicago is FLAT) will get me the additional 10 miles.
The [revised last minute] Plan:
1. Only short elliptical workouts for the next 9 days or so.  Will keep doing nautilus / abs to keep in shape, but will stop that too 5 days or so beforehand.  My best races have come after 2-3 weeks off totally.
2. A salad every day starting tomorrow.
3. Limit red meat and fatty meat.  Replace with fish.
4. Day/Night before: No alcohol, no fat, carb-load, in bed early.
5. Morning-of: Power bars x 2, coffee x 1, water at least 1 hour before running.
6. During race: Will hit probably every-other water/Gatorade stop, alternating between the two.  Will walk 30sec or so during drink stops.  Will bring spare dry socks.  Will do a Gel at 12 miles, then the one provided at 18 miles.  No iPod.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New 10K PR

Something about this week brought about my best couple of runs lately.  After getting beat up in Hitlon Head last weekend doing an 8-miler in the humidity and just a few hours after seafood dinner, I redeemed myself with a good run around the neighborhood thursday.
And today at the Four Seasons Run for Research 10K in Atlanta I heartily beat my old 10K PR with a 50:10 time.  Looking back I left a little bit on the field and probably could've beat 50:00 if I planned a little better.
The course was a tow-lap midtown Atlanta course that didn't enter Atlantic Station (thank God for the change of scenery).  The hills were slow rolling, and only about 2 hills (times 2 laps) with lots of gentle downhill and flat.  Aside from a run along the river, it's as flat as Atlanta gets.  There was music, a DJ, and Falcons cheerleaders to root us on.  Best of all it is a Peachtree Qualifier.  In all it is a really great run with good sponsorship but oddly pretty low runner numbers (maybe a couple hundred in the 10K).
Headed out to Chicago tomorrow for some conference action and related festivities.  Going to do my best to get in a little pre-marathon warm up while in town.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

New PR @ Grant Park Shade Festival 5K

I have raced the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival 5K the past three years.  While I wasn't explicitly trying for a new PR I did think I stood a chance as lately I've been keeping a pretty quick pace with my training.  The course however is a bit hilly, and I've discovered that near the end of a race I just can't run downhill fast enough to make up for a slow uphill.
I did the first mile at a 7:16 split.  I think a little too fast as I had to recover some for the second mile.  I was able to pick up the third a little and have a strong finish - some 4 seconds faster than my previous PR.
Next up: Run for Research 10K Sep 20.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Distance PR 13.9 mi

The past few days I have been working fairly hard on medium distance, doing "fast" 5 milers on the treadmill at work Thursday and Friday evenings.  Saturday I did a 6 mile Galloway run in the fastest pace group (I was a guest of one of the group leaders).  Last night I felt so beat I had to go to bed early.
The rain overnight started me afresh though.
I wanted a change of "pace" so I drove up to the Freedom Partk PATH in an attempt to follow it for a few miles.  The portion of the path through the park was a nobrainer but when the path emptied onto the streets there is practically no marking.  I quickly fell off the path and just did a scenic run to Decatur.  Thanks to the Forerunner I was able to pick my way back through the neighborhoods to get back home (took a different route back).
I intended really to just do another medium distance run at pace, but quickly discovered running hard was not in the works today.  However, I felt great jogging at about a 10:00 pace (slowing some to average 10:30) so I just went with it.
In all, it felt great but should've looked up some waterfountains or brought a drink.  Wound up drinking from two different water hoses at various construction sites.
I will take a day or two off but need to keep my training strong for the final ~5 weeks or so before marathon taper.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Running Hot

The past two weeks have brought the heat down in the ATL.  I've been doing a lot of running indoors, including the treadmill and elliptical.  I (barely) completed a 10 miler sunday, mostly limited I think by a tanked-up stomach and some leg cramping (lets hope anyway).  I ran strong on the treadmill today, averaging a 8:20 pace or so with 2% incline... and NOTHING on TV.
Leading up to the Chicago Marathon are the Grant Park 5K, the US 10K Classic and the Buckhead Sizzler 10K.  I also just learned of another 10K (officially certified) to support research at Grady.  All these 10K's hopefully will help keep my pace-training on track.
I'm also approaching the marathon with a little weight loss in mind.  Hopefully I can dump about 10-15 lbs the next 6 weeks to make the run all the easier... we'll see...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Democracy, human rights a backburner issue in Beijing

The 2008 Olympic Summer Games had what most would agree was the most awe-inspiring Opening Ceremonies.  Truly a gargantuan assemblage of human capital and technology to make it fly and it went off without a hitch.  Some would even say it was intimidating to Americans to see such a demonstration of national ability and pride by another country, and a red country nonetheless.
However a story that quickly fell of the radar to Page 6 news seems to overshadow the whole affair: Joey Cheek (2006 Winter Olympic Gold Medalist in 500m speedskating) was denied his travel visa to China just hours before his trip.  Also refused for travel include Kendra Zanotto (2004 USA Synchronized Swimming Team), Chris Boyles (decathalon and soccer), and Brad Greiner (Water Polo turned model turned activist co-founder of  From what everyone can tell, and what is public information, it looks like the only reason for the visa revokation was the three's involvement in, a human rights website promoting awareness and peace in Darfur.  The Website was founded by Cheek and Greiner, among others.  It has a following of over 400 registered world-class athletes who have signed up in support.
The Chinese Government has taken heat for multi billion-dollar investments in Sudan (mostly for oil) while ignoring the humanitarian crisis, many say they are enablers of the genocide.  China denies wrongdoing of course.  It is a huge hypocrisy to host the Olympic Games and disallow peaceful activism.  Somehow this made news on the TV networks for about an hour then I never heard anything more.  I almost assumed it had been resolved.  I feel like the world media outlets have a greater responsibility to the people to carry this story a little further.  NBC I am disappointed.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Decatur Run

This morning did a nice 9-miler to Decatur from the house, ending at Sweet Melissa's for a great omlette.  Was fairly warm and humid out, and despite the dry-cool socks I was wearing still got soaking wet feet.  Additionally felt a little heavy and slow all morning, probably from the humidity and my crappy diet the past 3 days (eating out nearly every meal).  If you check my MotionBased record of the run (left pane) you'll see I had a few long pauses for water and even a short walking spell.
I've got a long way to go for the marathon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Running Behind

Almost from day 1 of my "marathon training schedule" I have been behind.  My schdule calls for me running three runs a week, two mid week medium distance and one long weekender.  So far I have been doing pretty poorly at keeping up.
I've been able lately to get in some midweek 6, 7, or 8-milers but long weekend runs just aren't happening.  My goals for the Chicago Marathon are getting reevaluated.  I've adjusted downward to a "strong finish", hopefully averaging a 10 minute pace.
In other news, a week after the Peachtree Roadrace I did the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation 5K , a fun charity run hosted out of Atlanta Station.  I was impressed at the attendance here (several hundred runners).  The course was the Atlantic Station "back loop" 5K looping westward around Hemphill and 17th streets rather than Midtown.  All in all a good race with a near PR time.
Goals for August:
  1. Run more.
  2. Blog more.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Peachtree Madness

My first running of the Peachtree 10K Roadrace Friday was a blast.  I didn't submit a qualifying time so I got placed way back in Corral 5 (50,000's).  We actually started the race some 10 minutes after the winner finished.  Regardless though it was a blast.  I left my iPod at home and chose instead to talk to complete strangers - most of whom were running by themselves with their families looking-on.
Every half mile or so of the race was met with another band, DJ, comedian, you-name-it.  I stopped for a quick snapshot with the onlooking wife at Uncle Julio's Casa Grande near the halfway point.  At about mile 4 I threw any hope at a PR out the window and gladly accepted an ice cold Milwaukee's Best to help with Cardiac Hill.
From a technical standpoint the race is a nice fun run through Atlanta, highlighting the Buckhead and Midtown commercial areas.  Basically he first 3 miles are downhill, and the last three uphill.  It not being a loop or "out and back" also adds some appeal but also some logistical hassle.
But who cares about the details?!  It is one big sweaty 6 mile party that I will surely find myself in again next year.
Godspeed.  And Chicago is just 3 months away...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Running, the iPod, and Hearing Loss

Since my wife got me an iPod Nano some 2 1/2 years ago I have been hooked.  Only recently did I fill up the 2 GB memory and have begun picking "favorites" with my music and leaving some music on the PC out of necessity.  The iPod has been there for most all of my running, in fact until only recently I found it difficult to run any distance without it.  I feel like the iPod definitely keeps my spirits up and helps to pass the time when things get tough on the road.
So when my ear buds went dead (from sweat I think) I felt it was the perfect time to replace them with an upgrade.  Of course in my professional life I am constantly dealing with the effects of my patients' hearing loss, and know about the warnings associated with headphones and loud "leisure noise".  Non-professionally I like the earbuds but wish they fit a little more snug.
Noise and Hearing Loss:
It is well known that loud noise causes hearing loss.  Generally this is loud noise over a sustained period of time, but sometimes a single close "gunshot" can cause permanent damage.  OSHA has set some safety guidelines for workplace noise exposure that is a decent guide but unfortunately a little arbitrary and non-scientific.  OSHA limits are 8 hours @ 90dB OR 4 hours @ 95dB OR 2 hours @ 100dB OR 1 hour @ 105dB.  Some estimate that hearing loss can happen with sustained volumes of only 85dB.
For example, a quiet room is about 30dB, normal talking about 60dB, major highway 90dB, jackhammer 100dB, jet engine 50m away 150dB.
The iPod's earbuds get up to a volume of about 115dB at maximum volume.  As you can see, at this volume this is way too loud for safe sustained listening.  There are no well studied recommendations for "maximum personal listening device volume".  However, the best rule of thumb is to never listen so loud that you can't hear people talking around you.  In other words, if you can't carry on a normal conversation while listening, then you are probably turned up too loud.
There are a few good studies out there that seem to indict "personal listening devices" as culprits in early hearing loss (here and here).  In science it is extremely difficult to prove a causal relationship - for example we still can't prove that tobacco causes cancer.  Most of the studies look at hearing tests of young adults that are frequent listeners compared to those that are not.  They find that frequent listeners have some decline in their very high frequency hearing (4KHz and above).  There is not much that we listen to in these very high frequencies but it has been established that most sensorineural hearing loss starts very high and then works its way down into the more moderate frequencies as it progresses.  So this very high frequency loss is the first sign of damage.
Choosing Earbuds:
I swapped out my older iPod plastic molded buds for Skullcandy-brand.  The Skullcandy's come with three sets of silicone molds that can be exchanged to get a secure fit in the ear canal.  I thought this would be great for running and exercising because it provides a "tight fit".  But ahhh I forget so quickly about the occlusion effect - when you plug your ears (say with your fingers) every noise from your body gets LOUDER, and of course the outside world is silenced.  While the medium earbuds fit the most snug and comfortable, the noises of my breathing, chewing, talking, the earbud wire rubbing on my neck were overwhelming.  Wearing this while running sounds like a freight train.
The occlusion effect also amplifies the music by up to 20dB (which is 100-fold, as the spl scale is logarithmic).  The net effect is that if you use these while running you are probably listening at around 100dB or greater to overcome the "personal noise" and forget about hearing the outside world.  They do a good job of "noise reducing" but while road running not hearing your surroundings is unsafe.
I wound up switching our the silicone mold to the smallest ones which do a good job of holding the bud secure but does not cause too much occlusion effect.
Honestly the classic iPod buds may be the best for running if they fit your ears.  Nike also has the Vapor and Flow headphones which utilize a behind-the-ear anchor like a Blutooth cell phone headset.  If these stay on while running they may do the best at protecting your ears as the mechanics are not forcing the bud into the ear canal and it allows you to hear plenty of background sounds.
Safety of iPods on the Road:
The USATF has recently taken the position to ban personal listening devices during their sanctioned races (Rule 159).  They cite the physical danger of running while being distracted (and possibly deafened) as well as the concern that some elite athletes will disguise communication devices and get an "edge up" on the competition.  They also claim that runners will not be able to listen to race instructions or listen for important notices along the way.  Personally I think this is a strong and unfortunate position they are taking.
I have never had a problem running with headphones in on suburban streets.  I can't find any studies about headphones making you more prone to getting run over by cars.  I keep the volume low enough that I can still hear cars approaching and still talk to my running buddies.  The music is just there in the background.  In a race scenario this would even be safer as the course is closed to traffic, and it's not like you can do much to stay out of the way of an aberrant fellow jogger anyway.  I will admit that I usually don't wear headphones when I do my 5pm downtown Atlanta runs from work.  I would worry a little about getting distracted.
The bit about not hearing race instructions is bologna.  Keep the volume to an acceptably low level and you're good to go.
As for the elite runners using headphones to cheat... I may have an answer:  Only actively disqualify headphone users from the top spots (ie money or placements).  This will allow the 98% of other slower runners who don't care about placing to keep using.  (This is more or less what the USTAF has been doing as they are not actively disqualifying average runners yet).  Just make it a rule that you can get an official time but not place.
I think there are a lot of folks out there who would be fatter and slower if it weren't for the iPod.  Lets not discourage its use.  Some simple adaptations can keep you listening safely for a lifetime.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hot Seven Today

First off you'll notice my lack of posts recently.  My life is a mess.  I had a very rough May and so far no releif for June.  On call this weekend, and after rounds this morning went out for what was to be a leisurely jog.  Unfortunately it seems summer has already arrived.  The scorching hot weather combined with my general state of dehydration and not a water-fountain in sight made for a hot little run.
I actually was able to find a restroom and drink from the sink... pretty bad I know.  Anyway I finished seven and quit.  Was hoping to make it up to ten or so, but will have to be a day when it's cooler and when I'm rested and hydrated.  I guess the deadly heat of summer will give the elliptical machine another time to shine.
Still planning on Chicago in October.  Next race coming up is the Peachtree 10K on July 4, which is mostly a 6 mile social (with 55K participants and me being non-seeded).  Should be a good time at least.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bad Blogger Bad!

My last post was some 17 days ago.  Since then I've worked two straight weekends (got Memorial Day off though) and several nights of call.  Got in this morning at 5:30 and left tonight at 7, which unfortunately has been par for the month.  On top of it all I gave a "Grand Rounds" this morning (about an hour long scientific talk) to my peers which took a lot of preparation.
Somehow on Memorial Day I squeezed in a half marathon training run.  I set out to do only about 8 or 9 miles but popped a Gel and was feeling too good to stop.  I made it to 13.1 on the Garmin and then walked the mile or so home for cooldown.
During the week I have been using the elliptical some, though not as much as I'd like.  Not enough miles worth logging.
My June will be equally busy then a slight improved schedule for July through Oct (I think).
OH and the other good news is I got a number for the Peachtree Roadrace 10K.  It should be a lot of fun - Hope to see you there.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sole E35 Elliptical Review (early)

So here' s my first review of the Sole E35 Elliptical Trainer.  I will plan to give another review after a few months of use and of course will append as necessary if there are any issues.
Ordering & Delivery
Ordering directly from saved me the sales tax over going to Dick' Sporting Goods.  Also included in the price was free freight delivery to the doorstep.  Ordering could not have been easier online.  I got a confirmation that night in email and a shipment confirmation with a tracking number the next day.  They said it would take 10-14 days but got a call from the freight company saying they had it in Atlanta just 6 business days later.  It was delivered to the sidewalk in a large heavy box, undamaged.
All in all it took about 1 hour to move the parts upstairs and assemble.  Hardest part is the flywheel unit which must've weighed 100 pounds.  Would definitely recommend some help with moving it.  Assembly is pretty clearly laid out and easy to follow.  I bought some Locktite thread glue to put on the bolts to keep them from loosening but forgot to use it.  Oh well.
First off this machine is very impressive in its durability.  It seems like it is made very heavy-duty with big heavy steel parts and tightly fastening bolts.  I don't see how normal use could hurt the frame components.  It has the look of a stripped-down industrial machine.  Operation, thus far, has been very quiet.  I worked out this morning just one thin wall away from my light-sleeping wife who did not notice.  I was careful to really tighten all the bolts and make sure of no cross-threads when assembling.  If any do work loose I will locktite the threads to keep it from happening again.  I bought some 3/8" thick interlocking floors pads from Wal-Mart for the mat over my wood floor.  The base sits only about 20" wide and 82" long.  Seems very strong.  The machine weighs some 220 lbs and has a 30-lb flywheel.
The console is appears to be no-frills.  Only a few buttons, no crazy displays, no crazy stickers.  A lot of cheaper treadmills seem like they put a lot or colors and lights on the console to sell them.  This is not the case with this machine.  It has a fan that does almost nothing (don't even notice when it is on).  It has simple speakers for your iPod and interestingly also has a headphone output that I can't figure out what it is for (if you had an iPod why plug it in to the machine just to plug your headphones in to the machine?).  The workouts seem adequate (hills, intervals, fat burn, manual and a user-programmable one) as is the 16 levels of resistance.  Weirdly there is also a heart-rate control program, but the Sole website says this machine does not have that setting.  Interestingly the console will record you running in "reverse" mode but doesn't have any programs that take advantage of this like the gym models.
One point of interest is that it seems like the console reports about half the calories burned as the LifeFitness models I use at the gym.  On the LifeFitness, a comfortably hard workout for me burns 15cal/min.  A similarly "comfortably hard" workout on the Sole burns me only about 8cal/min.  There is obviously wide variability in these calculations and it may change after the machine is more broken-in.
Pedals and Smoothness
Very smooth.  No jerks, very comfortable and natural.  The 20-inch stride is the same as the commercial LifeFitness models I have used.  Trying out the cheaper shorter stride ellipticals at Dick's was useful to really see the difference.  The shorter the stride the less like running and the more like bicycling. Also practically no swaying or rocking.  The pedals have a 2-degree rotation on them to take pressure off your knees, so it is more like running.  Also they have adjustments to add up to 10-degrees of forward tilt which they claim helps with the problem of some people's toes/feet going numb after a long workout.
Heart-rate Monitor
The chest strap seems to only work when I am really sweaty and it is pretty tight.  The palm grips work best after your palms are sweaty but is much more reliable.  After reading some other sites out there it seems those chest straps are universally notorious for unreliable monitoring.  So far have not been able to get the heart-rate controller to work because can't get the chest strap to pick up my heart for long enough.
First two workouts
No complaints.  Pedals are comfortable enough for barefoot (though maybe not recommended).  The heart rate strap reliability is not quite there yet.  There could be more frills with the console, like saving workout/user data, etc; but the simplicity is nice too.  The calorie counter being "different" from the other machines I use is a little disappointing, but I don't know which is more accurate anyway.  All-in-all it felt like I was on a commercial-quality machine, and so far would recommend to anyone wanting a "home gym".

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Intervals Anyone?

This morning I did a 2 1/2 mile run to the local high school track (the school interestingly has a "green roof" with about a 1/3 mile running path on top of it, in addition to the track).  I took to the track and did some intervals - basically going from my usual 9:30 pace to a sub-7:00 for 1/4 mile at a time, then back to a slow cool down 1/4 mile.  I did five of these intervals total, the last one running at about a 5:30 pace.  I then ran back home for about 8 miles total.
This is the first time I've done real intervals.  My workout time was overall shorter, and my overall pace quicker.  I will have to continue these on a weekly basis; I especially like today where I got in a longish run in addition to the intervals.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Caution: Running Must Merge with Oncoming Life

My long run for the weekend was cancelled due to a) illness in the family pet saturday morning that required a 6:30am vet trip b) rain the rest of Saturday and c) a commitment to take on hardwood floor installation for a small bedroom in our house Sunday.

I did manage to get in 6 miles last night at the Power's Ferry Park on the Chatahoochie River and another six this morning in the neighborhood. I wanted to do more this morning but I only got about 3 hours of sleep last night and that took its toll.

And FYI the hardwood floors were installed to set the platform for an elliptical trainer (just ordered the Sole Fitness E35 model last night). We put down a vertical bamboo flooring (nail-down), given its softness probably not the best for a home gym, but it looks great and serves as the trial room for doing the other bedroom floors later. We've been looking at ellipticals for some time, and while I definitely prefer actually running, a few pros come to mind: great low impact workout for a pavement break or when injured, my wife will use it, and just anything inside my house will effectively double my opportunities for a workout. I'll leave a full review in a few weeks after I give the elliptical a whirl.

Later this week starts a tough block of several months at work for me, making training even more difficult. So far I have been doing good with my mid week runs but have missed my long weekender twice now. Good news is my pace has been improving on my shorter runs.

I was hoping to shoot for a PR for the Komen Race For the Cure 5K in Atlanta May 10th. If I feel as good then as I have been lately it is a possibility.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good Week

So I'm finally feeling like I'm back on the bandwagon again.  Did a 10 miler Monday, and while the first five were brutal my breathing and muscles finally leveled out and I found a groove.  I could've run a couple more (but alas! I must return to work).  Today I followed it up with a 6 miler.  My legs were sore, but I'm glad to say they were the right kind of sore.  Cardio-wise I felt great.
I'm planning a longish run this weekend, probably around 12 miles or so early Sunday morning.
Also, a followup on my new Nike Equalon+ 2 shoes - I've been alternating running with those and with my Saucony's.  While I still notice myself everthing my right foot, I am conscious of it now and actively work on correcting it when running (It especially becomes apparent when I fatigue).  I've had no further problem with the Nike's rubbing my inner toe despite my asymmetric running.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lactate Threshold & Maximum Sustained Heart Rate

Multi-step process for estimating Anaerobic Threshold using Maximal Sustained Heart Rate:
This is fundamentally different from the other two methods I posted previously in that you are estimating a heart rate that corresponds to your anaerobic threshold, NOT a specific pace.  Using this method your pace will vary a bit, but the idea is to run at a specific heart rate regardless of pace.  This is probably more accurate.
This technique is quite laborious and requires repeated 45 minute runs on a treadmill.  The premise is that your LT correlates very well to the maximal heart rate sustainable (HRms) for a thirty minute period.  It is described in Vobejda C et al. Estimating MLSS From Heart Rate … Int J Sports Med 2006; 27: 368–372.
STEP 1: Initially you should set your target HR at 165 or 175.
  1. First you need a heart rate monitor that measures and outputs in real time.
  2. Get on a treadmill, adjust grade to 1%.  Slowly increase pace over 15 minutes until you hit your target HR.
  3. Run for 30 more minutes at this target HR.  Continuously adjust the pace up or down to keep your target HR.
  4. If you must stop early, then stop early ("exhaustion")
STEP 2:  Next we start repeating the test, with a 1-2 day break in between, adjusting target HR.
  • Increase your target HR by 10 beats and redo the test above.
  • When you reach an unsustainable target HR (exhaustion), redo the test above but decrease your target by 5 beats.
  • The goal is to zero-in on the max HR you can sustain for 30 minutes (HRms) regardless of pace.
Note that this estimates your LT as a heart rate, not a running pace.  So to train using this method you need to constantly adjust your pace in order to maintain your personal HRms.  As you continue to train at your HRms won't change much but your pace at the HRms will improve.
An example:
Martha runs on a treadmill, starting slow and building up speed over 15 minutes until her heart rate is 165 (for her an 8 min/mile pace).  Over the next 30 minutes she is able to keep her heart rate 165 by slowly decreasing her pace to 9 min/mile.  The next day she gets on the treadmill and slowly increases pace until her heart rate is 175 (a 7:45 pace), and is able to maintain HR 175 for 30 minutes by decreasing her pace somewhat as she runs.  On day 3 Martha runs again and reaches HR 185 (a 7:00 pace).  She struggles to keep from exhausting.  Finally despite reducing the pace she is too fatigued to keep up a pace high enough to give her HR 185 and she quits early.  On day 4 Martha redoes to the test, slowly increasing pace to get her HR to 180 (7:30 pace).  She is able to run for 30 minutes at a HR 180, even though reducing her pace to 8:30.  So Martha's HRms is between 180 and 185.
Martha can then tailor her runs in the in the future to keep a 180-185 heart rate (by wearing a HR monitor and adjusting pace).  This will build her endurance the fastest.  If Martha is in "pretty good shape" to begin with her HRms probably won't change, but her distance running pace should improve.  I suspect that if Martha was "a little fluffy" still her HRms would creep up after further training.
Let me know if anyone has tried this method.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Already back in a rut?

My planned "long run" in Kiawah Island last week turned into a 10K jog Saturday before heading back to Georgia.  It was the hottest run (about 80 degrees and sunny) I've done since last summer.  I ran the first couple miles along the beach, the cut back through the forest trails to our villa.  A wintertime marathon in Kiawah is awesome I bet.  I will have to add it to the list one of these years.
That being done I ran some at work monday night but got cut short by the ER.  I wound up with 5 3/4 miles of farklet-style training.  The run was quick, I felt strong.  But this morning's 6miler was all-but brutal.  My average pace well above 10 minutes.  I just don't get it - last week had the pace down to about 9 1/2, now almost a minute slower.  Once again I am amazed at my fluctuations.  [Note to self I did gorge on pizza and heavy stout beer last night]
I plan to next run Thursday or Friday then a longish run over the weekend (11 is on the marathon training schedule).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Re: The Lactate Threshold

In reference to Brian's question about the lactate threshold (LT):
[Insert here a disclaimer that (a) I am not an exercise physiologist and (b) everything published below is available from a quick google search]
LT is essentially a physiologic state at which lactate begins to accumulate in your body (your blood specifically).  For energy, your body breaks down glucose into an intermediary called pyruvate.  Under aerobic conditions your body then must INPUT a little energy into the Kreb's Cycle to fully break the pyruvate down and get OUT the most energy possible.  This is very efficient and allows for the maximal "bang for the buck" in terms of energy per sugar molecule.  The problem is that when your body is really pushing hard you run out of the energy needed to jump start the Kreb's Cycle, so the pyruvate can't get fully metabolized.  This is when we switch to anaerobic metabolism.
In anaerobic metabolism the pyruvate gets fermented into lactate, which created energy as byproduct.  It is faster but produces far less energy per sugar molecule.  The lactate accumulates either until you rest and it gets converted back into pyruvate and enters the Kreb's Cycle, or it finds its way to the liver to get turned into sugar.  Basically, lactate accumulation is a marker for your body entering an anaerobic state.
We care about LT because studies have shown that LT is the best predictor of endurance sport success.  In other words, winning runners have to run faster to accumulate lactate than losing runners.  It follows then that training to specifically raise your LT will get us quicker faster.  This is a little odd because we generally consider distance running to be an aerobic sport, so it is counter-intuitive that training anaerobically is useful.  I think of it as improving aerobic 'reserve'.  Most recommendations for improving LT have to do with training at or just above your personal LT.  Interval and Fartlek trainings aim to do this (interval trainings shoot well above your LT, Fartlek aim to be just at or slightly above).
Really determining your LT requires serial blood tests at various training intensities, to literally measure when lactate blood levels start to rise.  This is preposterous for most of us.
The two easiest (but less accurate) methods for determining LT are the following:
  1. Heart Rate Method.  At 85-90% of maximal heart rate (MHR=220-age) you are at your LT.  For those badly out of shape its more like 60% of MHR (in which case you shouldn't be doing LT training yet).  This varies between individuals so I would make sure this is concordant with the Race Pace method below (for runners).
  2. Race Pace Method.  Your 15K race pace roughly approximates your LT.  If you run less, use your 10K pace minus 20 seconds or your 5K pace minus 30 seconds.
In short, LT training aims to be an efficient method of training for endurance events (do fewer miles but do them harder). 
Good sources for LT info:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kiawah this Week

Later today I'm headed out to Kiawah Island, SC for one of those "doctor conferences".  I hear there's pretty good running there - they host a marathon every year.  Most notable though is the golf at Kiawah, arguably the best in the SE United States.  I'm still a 100+ golfer, but lately have been driving and pitching well, which makes the game A LOT more fun.
So far still on my (new) marathon training schedule, even ahead a little.  After the half last week I took Monday off, I ellipticalled for 450kcal Tuesday, then 700 Wednesday.  Friday I did what I guess you'd call a "lactate threshold" run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, just over 600kcal (20/minute) at a constant 7mph but the "hills program".  My Friday treadmill LT run was with the new Nikes, which gave no probs.
Monday this week I ran about 6 on the road with the new Nikes.  Disturbingly they gave a little trouble... The inside bottom edge of the right great toe was getting worn by the Nike sidewall.  No blister formed but it got pretty tender.  After further analyzing my gait it looks like I follow with my right foot everted just a little, making a little extra medial-to-lateral force on my right great toe.  This caused my toe to put extra pressure on the medial sidewall of the shoe.  Hopefully I don't always run like that.  Maybe I was splinting a little from a hard week last week?
I put back on the old Saucony's today for a 6 miler.  No problems.  I paid special attention to gait, and it seems I do have a tendency to evert my right foot.  I forced it straight today.
ll try to get in one or two longish runs in Kiawah (my schedule calls for a single 10 miler once more this week).  I'm only bringing the new Nikes.
See you out there!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Feet: Nike Air Equalon+ 2

My Saucony Hurricane 8's have been excellent running partners the past few months, but alas they hit 400 miles just before the ING Georgia Half Marathon last weekend.  Before they totally go to the dogs I went ahead and made the investment in a new pair of shoes.  Previously I had only been a discount shoe shopper (got the hurricanes on discontinuation clearance for $60), but with my longer and longer runs and a marathon on the line I decided to get fit by the "pros".
I went down to Phidippides in Atlanta to get checked out by the experts.  I sort of had a suspicion I might be a pronator (given that most people are, and the suspicious wear pattern on my sole) but have never done any sort of critical analysis before.  I was never in love with my old Reebok's or New Balances, then some Asics came along that were nice at the time but mostly because they were slightly better than the NB's, then the Saucony's were here and I loved them.  They looked and felt a bit like boats on my feet but the cushioning and motion control were awesome... turns out its cause they are really good for pronators who like cushioning.
So playing total dumb with the salesguy/gait analyzer today my top two shoe picks were the Saucony Hurricane 10 and the Nike Air Equalon+2.  I honestly could not tell them apart from a cushioning standpoint.  The Nike has a metatarsal cushion that is noticeable but actually quite comfortable.  It aims to keep the metatarsal heads from crunching into one another.  The Hurricane 10 has a more low profile upper that is much less boat-like, and boasts a full-sole "progrid".  They were priced at $130 each.  Interestingly the rep had me up my shoesize by 1/2... I've always felt like a 9 3/4 size, but usually buy 9 1/2's.  The size 10 gives a little more breathing room for the feet, but still good support.  Also I was told I probably have a slightly wider foot than just regular, something I never thought before.  They say not really a full size wider, just that I need to be sure to pick a shoe that doesn't squeeze much.  The final determining factor was that the Hurricane 10's were same color as my current shoes and I wanted something new! [have also heard some warnings about getting too addicted to the same shoe]
We will see over the course of the next month or so how the Nike's pan out.  I will try to max out their life by keeping them on road and wearing the Saucony's still quite a bit, before they go the way of the Asics and get retired to the OR.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

ING Georgia Half Marathon Completed!

For the longest run of my life I finished strong - a 2:00:53, well shy of my 2:10 goal.  By the last 3 miles I realized I could be shooting for a sub 2-hr time, which was exciting.  I worked to pace myself and unfortunately the Forerunner did me wrong a little and had me hitting 2h at with still a 1/4 mile or so left.  How frustrating!

The race started with a suprisingly wide open and free parking at the CNN center deck (I guess everyone took Marta).  We got there around 6:30 so plenty of time to find the start and get chilled in the 43-degree springtime weather.  The race had a staged start with the elite runners and the seven corrals having staggered start times by about 3-4 minutes.  I ran as "pace" for a friend of mine doing the full marathon.  The course winded through downtown, then north on Piedmont - suprisingly there was a water station at 1 mile (I'm not sure how at 43-degrees, full on pre-dawn still, and after having really only "run" 3/4 mile anyone could want water).  We then continued on through Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, L5P, Highlands, Morningside, Piedmont Park, Midtown, Georgia Tech and finishing back at Centinneal Park.  Water/gatorade breaks were plentiful.  There was even a mile-9 GU station for the Half Marathon.

All in all I was very excited about my time and glad to see myself "finish strong".  The course was nice, especially going down all the smaller and medium neighborhood roads.  The weather was perfect for running, poor for spectating.  Biggest downside was coming back through midtown, seeing the Centennial Tower and Equitable Building and thinking the end was right around the corner, then an abrupt northwest turn looping us behind GA Tech and Howell Mill was a heartbreaker.  Equally disappointing was the Hill on Marietta at Mile 12/25.  Best parts was the weather, the crowd support, and the fact that a lot of the Half-Marathoners got to "run with" the elite marathoners on the last leg of the course.

I look forward to the ING Georgia's third running next year - hopefully by then I will be up for the full marathon.  Congrats to all that joined me today!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

ING Georgia Marathon Approaching

ING Georgia Marathon (and half) March 30th, Atlanta.
My first ever half marathon is approaching next weekend.  Since my 10K last weekend I have kind-of been on a taper, having only run once this past week.  I will do my best to get in a "long" 8 or 10 miler this weekend if the pager will keep quiet.  I have only run a 12 miler once (a few weeks ago) and it was tough.  I am hoping that a good raceweek diet, a week rest from running and raceday adrenaline will get me through it.
Also, the Chicago Marathon is now less than 7 months away.  I devised a training program that I will start the second week in April (after a week-long rest).  The program has me building a single long run each week at a 5% weekly distance increase.  Then two other runs during the week will be 6 and 8 miles each.  Every fourth week is a break with only 4,4, and 6 mile runs.  I am starting at a long run distance of 10 miles, and will get to a long of 23 miles 3 weeks before the marathon.  I will end with a gradual taper then a week-long rest before the big day.
I chose to schedule this out using only three runs a week because of time constraints.  I would love to run 4-5 days a week but my life is too unpredictable to count on for a scheduling the extra days; I will still try to run extra when I can.  Also, I used a 5% weekly increase (really <4% given that I break every fourth week) rather than 10% because it will be more forgiving for the weeks I can't get in any runs.  The break weeks give even more flexibility to this end.
I know it's not perfect but it seems like it will get me there (to 26.2), especially if weather is good and terrain flat.  I can work on speed building for the second...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Somehow Pulled It Off: Atlanta Shamrock n Roll 10K

Wow I actually finished this race with a great time (for me).  Given that my training has been spotty, and that I've done 4 other tough runs the past 7 days (usually averaging 10min/mile) I still managed to do this 10K at an 8:26/mi pace.  I was expecting to finish around a 9:45 pace, but running with the 8 1/2 pack was feeling reasonable so I did my best to keep up.  I even had gas left for a nice sprint to the finish.  Funny I finished 8 minutes faster than I told my wife, so she didn't see me and we couldn't find each other for 30 minutes.  As for consistency, my mile splits were within 24s of each other.  The official time has me a little slower because I started in the back of the pack and didn't get my chip scanned at the end for a full 20-30s after the finish line.
Either way, the race went great.
The race is a mixed 5K/10K (the 10K serves as the last qualifier for the Peachtree roadrace July 4).  The course starts at Atlantic Station courtyard, winds through the outdoor mall then heads West.  There is 1 big hill, a couple other smaller ones and the finish is on a downhill.  The major criticism is that the 10K is basically 2nd lap around the 5K course with one small variance.  I'm sure it's done that way to be cheaper (more money for the charity) and easier, but it means the route isn't very scenic; so you're running for running's sake, not for the view.
So I think another long run mid-week and then I'm resting up for the Georgia Half Marathon in 2 weeks.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Atlanta Tornado

The Ides of March brought brought a fierce wind to downtown Atlanta.  Around 10pm last night the winds fell from a sky illuminated blue and eerie green with lightening.  I was visiting a neighbor for surf and turf and thought it a good time to walk back home, and just in time apparently.  All night long all I really noticed was the thunder (which my dog noticed more) and some torrential rain.  This morning I didn't find the occasion to check the television but got a few calls from family to "check on me".  Watching CNN I discover that sure enough an F2 tornado, some 200yds wide took a 6 mile long swipe at the city.
Touching down near the downtrodden Vine City neighborhood just west of the Congress Center the twister proceeded to hit the CNN center / Philips arena directly, marched eastward right on top of the EQUITABLE building, found the interstate then headed down towards my house, causing quite the havoc in the historic inburb of Cabbagetown (about 2 miles from my house).  Most notable were the holes in the Arena roof shaking up the SEC playoff game, the windows blown off the CNN center, and nearly the entire top floor of the Cotton Mill Lofts collapsing.  Other notables are the Congress Center being flooded with water (the now popular staircase waterfall pic) and the large monoliths at Olympic Park collapsing.
So far no deaths in Atlanta reported.  My thoughts are with the families of the handful of people in outlying counties that were killed by some of the sister storms.
I've always noticed Atlanta to get quite the wind sometimes.  Oft I've found myself traipsing the neighborhood looking for my patio furniture cushions.  We even had our upstairs balcony doors blow in once.  Several times my route to work has been diverted by fallen trees or cleanup left by "ordinary" overnight storms.  Coming from Florida I kind of look forward to a good hard thunderstorm, but destruction is another thing.
Some good amateur photos already up on Flickr today:

Tough Runs This Week

I don't know what it is about Chicago but since my seven miles there I haven't been the same (could it have been the absent recovery period or the filet at Morton's?).  I did a "short" four miles before I left Chicago and was tight as a guitar string.  Yesterday I got in 6 miles in between rain showers and just felt terrible with stiff legs and sore muscles all over.  Was all I could do to finish strong.
I guess that inadvertently I ramped my running upwards quite a bit this week, with 23 miles or so in total.  For a couple weeks there I was only doing about 15-20 miles a week, which obviously took its toll.
I am reminded that tomorrow I'm off to the Shamrock-n-Roll 10K.  I never really planned on it being a PR-type of run, and the way its working is it will just play into my half-marathon training (ING GA Half Mar 31).  I will be running tomorrow with only a 36 hour recovery period after a torrential run.  It will be ugly.
I will try to get in a longish run mid week then probably hit the brakes and let the legs cool for 10 days or so before the half marathon - maybe only heading out for some 1 mile leg-stretchers.  I used to worry that more than 4-5 days was too long a break to take before a long run, but before the Chickamauga 10 miler (with an astounding time for me) I was resting a bum foot for over two weeks.  I felt great and didn't feel like I lost a thing.
I'm going to have to get onto a real training program if I want to make it to Chicago in October.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More Chi-town Running & The Forerunner 405

This morning (the warmest yet) I just finished a little four mile loop around Grant Park and back to our hotel.  Much of the ice has melted off the lake, but still a cool 34-degrees out.  Wind was light but definitely present.  The fourmiler was a bit weak as my legs were exceptionally tight the whole time.
Yesterday I sat out from running, walked about 10 miles through the city though.  Monday I ran a big South Downtown loop, first south through Grant Park, around the Field Museum / Soldier Field and doing the Northerly Island loop.  I came back through the financial district, right under the Sears Tower, on the way to our Hotel.  It was just over 7 miles in total and I felt great throughout.
While walking through the Mag Mile yesterday I stopped into the large Garmin store.  They did not have the Garmin Forerunner 405 on display yet, but after bugging the salesperson he brought me into the back and showed me an "engineering model" they have been hiding.  It is MUCH smaller, and much more watch-like than the 205/305.  Even more of the wristband is taken up by the antenna.  It has a touch bezel (iPod-esque) to rotate through the menus, but unfortunately this feature gave some trouble during my test drive.  Also disappointing is that it lacks biking and swimming modes, so it only does running; I really don't see how a few extra lines of code to interpret bike/swim data would be prohibitive.  Of course it's got the wireless sync in exchange for the shorter battery life.  Price point will be $299 without heart rate sensor (you can use your sensor off the 305 too) and $349 with the sensor.  All in all pretty good but I'm pretty happy with my 205 and will wait a generation or two before upgrading.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chicago Lakefront Chill

We made it into Chicago Saturday afternoon.  We started our journey at Pizzeria Uno with a classic Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (Pizzeria Uno is the refuted home of the deep dish).  Next a walk down the magnificent mile looking to look for earmuffs, and finally an early retirement to the Hotel.
Sunday morning I met up with an old college friend and went for a run, leaving the hotel (Hotel 71) and heading down the river to the Lakefront.  We ran up the Lakeshore sidewalk about 2 1/2 miles, then cut back through neighborhoods to get back.  The temperature was around 25 degrees, the coldest I've ever run.  It felt great and was an excellent way to start the day.  Suprised to see how well I felt given it was so cold.  Pain is all about the mind I guess.
The rest of day was spent at the Field Museum (after the wife got up), Cafe Ba Ba Reeba (Another college friend lives in Lincoln Park), and wound up down at The Billy Goat Tavern near our hotel.
Planning to head out for another run today but currently gloomy and snowy, so will push it back to the afternoon...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Shamrock n Roll

So I can't say I've been proud of myself.  Since last Thursday (?) I've only gotten in 4 miles, and that was on the treadmill last night.  The past few days I've been a little tied up with other things.  I had a large medical exam on Saturday, which was supposed to have occupied a lot of my free time with study (all it really did was occupy my free time with procrastination and worry).  Then I finished the rest of the weekend on call at the hospital.

I may just head out tonight for a little moonlight run if I can get this cheap Chinese food digested.

My wife and I did register for the Shamrock n' Roll 10K in Atlanta March 16th.  I'm running the 10K and she'll be doing the 5K.  The race is complete with a live Celtic band and no doubt lots of Irish fare.  I don't know the course, but it starts in midtown at Atlantic Station.  I ran the Susan Komen 5K from there last year and had a great time.

Also upcoming is the Climb Atlanta race to the top of the Bank of America building in Atlanta.  This one is a crazy "sprint" up 55 flights of stairs.  The starting line is staggered so there's not too much pandemonium.  Proceeds benefit the American Lung Association.

see you out there

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Six in the COLD

Well yesterday brought some wicked rain and storms to the area, culmonating in a snow dusting last night.
Today I managed to knock off around 4pm and head out for a little recovery run from my 10miler monday.  I wound of doing six at a reasonable pace, but in the brutal windy cold.  In all felt great at the end but also glad was time to come in and get warmed up.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Good Ten

Didn't get a chance to do any running this weekend really.  A little let down but did get in 9 holes of golf yesterday (and just to be nerdy I hooked my Forerunner up to my golf bag to track our progress).  In all my driving and mid game have improved but I'm totally incapable of finishing it on the green.  Interestingly my golf partner took a direct hit to the shoulder with an aberrant drive at the exact instant the golfer yelled "FORE!".  Why do I pick these sports that take years and years of practice and have too many variables to adequately EVER account for?!
Today was a great day for Hillary Care.  Our first case got started late.  Our second case had to cancel because he was "sippin' on some coffee" this morning instead of showing up for surgery (a shame because he's got what looks like cancer and needs a biopsy).  Score one for cancer, and score one for me getting done early I guess.
Was a beautiful 65-degrees and sunny.  A great day for a run.
I first got to take off running around 4pm but called back at 1/2 mile point to deal with some nose bleeding problems (of someone else), so I had an hour intermission.  Starting again, I extended my Candler Lake/Lullwater loop today and ran through the Emory campus, making a long leg out to the IM fields.  For a mile or so ran right by a beautiful little stretch of creek, which since the recent rains is a little like whitewater.
I finished relatively strong at mile 9.4 (not including my 1 mile false-start).  I was starting to notice some tension at my right IT band though.  I've never had the IT band problem, so don't really know what it feels like.  Hopefully it won't turn out to be a worsening problem...
Rains are coming back tomorrow, so this is probably it until the end of week.  Cheerio.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blog Site Stats

Well, in the interest of full disclosure and perhaps some blogucation for others wanting to run or optimize thier blog, I am giving some site stat summaries from my first 5 months in real existence.  Note this only includes the web site, not the Feedburner Feed, which is a real limitation.  FYI right now I have about 10-12 "subscribers" to the feed, a third of which are some kind of search engine or aggregator.  All stats here were generated by Google Analytics:

Date of first post: October 20, 2007
Total posts to date: 45
Total pageviews to date: 1,516
Total Unique views to date: 1,099 (much more important, unique views disregards multiple same-page loads by the same visitor)
Visitor Trends:
Late October an initial bump with 50 unique visits the first week
Second Week: 39 visits
Third through Seventh weeks: about 13-15 visits/week
Slow increase in visits through late December
Week of Jan 21st had 89 visits
Week of Jan 27 - 148 visits
Week of Feb 4 - 144 visits
Week of Feb 11 - 123 visits
Week of Feb 18 - 193 visits so far!
Popular Content:
Although this is primarily a running blog, the most attention by far has been from two articles on non-running subjects.  I guess that goes to show us runners are still in a miniscule minority on the web, and even a runner blogging about John McCain or medical software will still get more hits than a runner blogging about running.  Interesting philosophically but also a good tool if you're interested in getting your site some new visitors.  I never really meant the blog to be only about running, it's just what I mostly interested in spending my free time writing about.  Notice nearly 2/3 of visits come for two articles that are not running related.  All of the top pages reference other things or people.  One is a semi-scientific article with a reference to a full text scientific report.  Bottom line is if you want to get hits then reference things.  People are more interested in your thoughts about things than just your thoughts.
Visitor Loyalty:
  • 76% visited once and never returned
  • 11% visited 2-8 times
  • 3% visited 9-25 times
  • 3% visited 26-50 times
  • 4% visited >50 times
Traffic Sources:
I was added to the CRN running blog network,, and in late October, so it's tough to see an impact those made.  Jan 27th I was listed to BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog.  I have since dropped MyBlogLog.  I also added and dropped Romlet in late January.

Sorry for the long one!  Hope this provides some insight into starting a blog.  Despite trying to gain readership probably the most fun part is reading the comments from other runners.  So it's not all about the numbers...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Threemilers and bird watching

I know many of my readers might find these topics equally exciting.  The weather and certain extracurricular obligations have kept me from putting in more miles this week.  I did another "quick" three miles on the road last night, trying to get a start-finished-showered-and-ready-to-go-to-dinner time under 40 minutes.  I did make it.  It's still amazing to me how I can go out and run 8 miles at a 10 minute pace and feel great but doing 3 miles at an 8:45 pace is killer (granted its hills).  I guess there's something to this interval training thing I need to be doing more of.
In other news the past few weeks have brought much avian attention to my birdfeeder.  I put up a nice birdfeeder last year behind my house.  Seems like the first few months it was slow to catch on with the birds.  Now, however, they will go through a pound of food in 2 days (black oil sunflower).  I had to buy a 40-lb bag.  Every week there is the cycle of it being empty, me filling it, no activty for about 2 days then BAM an assault and its gone over about 3 days time, then it usually sits empty 2-3 days before I refill it.  This morning was the first time I saw a bird fly up to it to eat right as I was walking away from filling it.  I guess they are getting used to me.  BTW I have yet to see a squirrel in it, so I think its all birds.  Also BTW I am not a bird freak or anything, just thought it added to the landscape, kinda like watching a fish tank.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Rain Came

Just when i was all ready for a nice medium distance run today the sky fell.  They are predicting 3 inches over the next 24 hours in Atlanta - that's about two inches higher than our reservoir given the drought.
Rather than head out into the muddy abyss I borrowed by neighbor's basement and ran on his Horizon Treadmill.  I must just be too used to gym-quality equipment, this thing was under-impressive honestly.  He said he spent around $800 on it (he actually does A LOT of running, several marathons, etc and only uses it for the occasional bad weather).  It has an air cushion under the running platform that was just too awkward - when running at about 7mph my weight coming down on the platform slightly deforms the platform (the "cushion"), causing the belt to "pinch" and slow down.  This makes for an awkward "trip" and almost fall every time this happens.
Anywho, I finally adopted an odd run pattern to keep from tripping, but my boredom and perceived treadmill exhaustion finally caught up at 3 miles and I stopped.  Oh well, a good cool down coming off the 12 miler this past weekend I guess.  Too bad tomorrow will bring more rain.
Till next time...

Monday, February 18, 2008

New Personal Distance Best: 12 miles

Run Data Here

I knew I felt about 90% over the cold - all I had left was a stuffy nose and the occasional sneezing fit. Sunday morning I decided I would head out see how far I could go to try and make up for lost training this past week. I figured this would be 6 or 7 miles then call it day.

About halfway through I was feeling good enough to try and do 10. I did 10 last week, but that was flat and on the treadmill, much different. At about mile 8 or so I realized I could do a little extra. Should I try for 12? One time in high school I completed a 20K, which is about 12.6 miles, but I've never run that far again. I hardly even count it anymore because it was so long ago and my training/build-up recently really has nothing to do with back then.

So I set the mark for 12 miles. The last 3 miles my pace really dipped... also I was entering a very hilly stretch (right near my house) so was little worried about hurting myself. I came into my neighborhood at about 11.5 miles and wound up having to do a few silly laps down the road to get it up to 12 miles.

But I finished. I was very tired and a little disoriented. There was no one there cheering me on. Just me. I had to waddle (very slowly) back up the hill to my house.

The hot shower never felt so good.

1771 kcals! (1 pound of fat = 3600kcals)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The 'Epizootie

Sorry all.  Running not happening this week.  Got knocked down yesterday with the cold, which may as well be plague.  I trudged through four cases today and a full 40-some-odd clinic tomorrow.  To top it off I've got an oral exam Saturday and somehow have to figure out how to put in a cochlear implant by Friday.
I did get all dressed up after work, insisting that running would make me "shake this thing", but the second I got outside and saw the car in the distance the thought of home, a fireplace, and an early night was just too tempting.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

10 miles on the 'mill with a negative split

Wow today I put in a 10 miler on the treadmill!  Was a beautiful day outside but being on call makes it hard to run outdoors (although as my wife tells me I could just do a "lot of small laps" around the house).  I decided to do a long run on the treadmill at the hospital.
All said I ran 10.12 miles in 89:08 (8:47 pace) at a 0.2 incline.  Not bad pace.  Ran the first 5 miles at 9:11 pace, the second 5 miles at 8:24 pace.  After the first three miles I thought I would die of boredom, as always when I run on a treadmill.  I watched the same Headline News cast repeat 3 1/2 times.
I usually put the incline up to at least 1.0 but unfortunately the machine in front of the TV had the incline broken.
I also figured out how I can log these treadmill & elliptical runs on MotionBased: I just record a very short "workout", a few seconds or whatever, then upload that as a workout to MB.  The data fields for distance and time are not changeable but I just indicate the real workout info in the workout "name" or comments area.  Of course this method is pretty featureless but its something.
As a cool down I tried on of those Gatorade G2 drinks - the "diet" energy drink.  It has far less sugar but supposedly the same electrolytes as regular Gatorade.  I got it on promo for 3 for $2 at Kroger.  I must say it sounds like a good idea for a post-workout drink; I've always wondered why pumping yourself with extra sugar calories at the end of a workout is a good idea.  Anyway, the lowdown is it fairly tasty but does have a bit more salty or acidic taste than a full-sugar drink.  I think I will continue to buy these (or the Powerade version) in the future.

Chicago Marathon Registration Open

The Chicago Marathon is back with a new namesake sponser - Bank Of America.  Registration opened Feb 1 for the nation's most popular beginning marathoner's marathon.  Price is a steep $110 but the loot includes a technical running shirt, I'm sure a goodie bag, and a ChampionChip to borrow.
I don't know what the demand is exactly, but it its only open to the first 45,000 registrants - I'm pretty sure they fill up every year.  I just registered minutes ago.  In case you want to find me, I'll be in the "Hopefully 4:30" pace group.  :)
It will be my first marathon.  My first half marathon is coming up in March (The ING Georgia).  Right now I'm up to long runs of about 8 miles, but I feel like that can be bumped up to 10 or 11 whenever time allows.  I should be in the position to run a 12 or 13 miler BEFORE the ING Half Marathon March 30.  Then my hope is a slow build up to around 22 miles before Chicago - so the marathon will have about 4 miles of "uncharted territory" as far as my running expectations.  I am not doing a plan really.  I've found I have too unreliable a schedule; often going a week or two without being able to run.  So far the slow and steady has worked without injury.
Hope to see you there!  Get your registrations in early!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

McCain's Darn Parotid Gland

Being an ENT I can't help but notice that the recent photos of Senator John McCain shows his left parotid gland to be enlarged.  I first noticed it a few weeks ago during a news interview; I  was shocked because I thought he had a tobacco chew in...
I did a quick Dr. Google search and found that he seems to have had a melanoma of the left shoulder around 1999 or 2000 that was removed.  At that time he also had what sounds like a left neck dissection and superficial parotidectomy to remove any lymph nodes that might be involved.  He is apparently pretty hush-hush about this so there's not a lot of news out there on it.
So diagnosing through the television I hope someone is on top of that gland...  The most worrisome possibility of just what the heck that could be is recurrent melanoma.  Other more friendly things might include a second new parotid tumor (usually benign), an inflammation of the remaining parotid gland (parotitis), or possibly some "post surgical change" / scarring.
Included here are a series of photos snagged from the internet of McCain from 2004 to 2008.  It's hard to deny the left parotid is bigger now than it ever has been.  The 2006 image demonstrates the classic sunken retromandibular space where the parotid was previously removed.  Also clear here is that long up-and-down scar, that is particularly odd because it is the wrong scar for a parotidectomy.  The fatty, enlarged area in 2006 seems to be over the cheek region, not really in that retromandibular area.  There is usually some parotid tissue in that area, but not that much.  You can also see where he has a good deal of swelling below his jaw on the left.  That looks like his submandibular gland has just "slipped" or become ptotic; that happens with aging.
Hmmm.... so does anyone have the scoop?  Is someone looking into this?  Has McCain said anything that hasn't yet made it to the net?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The twisted ankle

Last week I ran upon a college-aged kid holding his leg rolling around on the ground, obviously in great agony.  "Great," I thought.  Being a doctor can be a huge inconvenience at times.  Like at thanksgiving when Aunt Elda asks about her incontinence, or at my grandfather-in-law's funeral when I'm getting the third degree about the hospital that "killed him".
I say "Great" sarcastically.  Anyone in medicine knows that all docs don't know all things.  Furthermore, aanyone gone to med school knows that orthopedics and orthopedic injuries (those involving the bones/ligaments/tendons/muscles) are only known to those appropriate specialties.  LITERALLY, my formal education of the foot consisted of a 50 minute anatomy lecture followed by a 2 hour cadaver dissection that was to include everything below the knee.  And that's not to say I am dumb or went to a dumb school (my board scores are about 95th percentile).
Anyway, I kinda know the pathology of an incontinent bladder and can visualize a sprained ankle.  But treatment?  What I say might as well be voodoo.  Most of my education about orthopedic injuries has come from the web, looking at exercise websites, blogs, and the occasional expert opinion.
So between breaths I asked the kid if he was ok (a good starting point I thought.  In advanced life support they teach you really obvious things like "if the person can talk then they are doing better than if they can't").  "Yeah, I just have a cramp".  Oh thank God.  "Sorry, there's nothing I can do about that..."  I ran on.  From the looks of things his pride was a little hurt that another male only a few years older was offering him help.
It got me thinking that I really don't know how to treat the common athletic ailments any better than the average athlete.  I find myself telling people things like "alternate cold and hot compresses, take advil, elevate it, rest it but keep it active".  What does that mean?  Where did I learn that?  It's all just made up based on hearsay and what may be common sense.
So tonight I read a little about ankle sprain, a very common complaint, especially for runners.
To not be too redundant, there is a complete review article published in the American Family Practice Journal last year that takes a scientific look at treatment.  It is available free here:
In summary:
1. There is something called the Ottawa Ankle Rules that is simple way to diagnose severe sprain or ligament tear with reasonable accuracy.  It was designed to sort out who needs xrays and who doesn't, to save the health care system money.  Basically, if you have swelling, bruising, pain, and an "anterior drawer test" (looks at the abnormal laxity of motion around the heel joint) there is 96% risk of a serious tendon/joint injury.  Without all 4 of these things, risk is 14% and declines with declining severity.
2. ICE is the treatment.  Not heat.  There is some (limited) scientific studies that icing ankle injuries not only improves pain but speeds recovery.  HEAT IS NOT RECOMMENDED.
3. Taping a sprained ankle seems to help some, but not greatly.
4. Using compression taping or a brace seems to help.  Lace-up semirigid braces are best.
5. Taping/bracing or icing seems to help EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE AN INJURY.  You can reduce your risk of injury if you use braces on joints that have old inactive injuries, maybe even to be totally preventative.
6. There is even some evidence that icing non-injured muscles and joints (after workouts) can reduce the risk of injury.
7. Meds: the use of NSAIDS (ie ibuprofen and the like) seem to speed recovery.  Take it not just for pain but for swelling.
8. Research supports avoiding immobilization, ie you don't want to just rest your ankle totally.  Some function is important to recovery.  Of course act within reason; probably walking is enough early on.
9. Surgery, even for severely sprained ankle, is not the first line of therapy.  First try physical therapy / exercise.  Many studies show no long term difference between surgery and physical therapy.