20 July 2014

A Slice of Runner-Cyclist Harmony on the W&OD Today

I'm fortunate to live right by the W&OD trail, but I avoid it in the summer, at least after 6 am or so.  Too much traffic.  As an early morning runner-cyclist, I find there to be less traffic on the roads, and I feel more visible, and -- oddly enough -- safer.  Yes, I'm lit up like a Christmas tree.

But this morning I started my run about 5:15, and I put in the first couple of miles heading out west on the trail, through Falls Church and to the hill by Shrevewood Elementary.  Usually there aren't cyclists at that hour, but today there were a few.

I'm used to the silent "whoosh" coming up from behind.  And then I will usually say "Good morning!" to their rear-ends.  I like to think I've shamed them, but I doubt I have.  And then I try to stifle my bad thoughts about them, because I too am a cyclist, and I always warn runners/walkers (and cyclists) that I overtake.  Okay, I don't always warn people wearing ear buds because I figure they're deliberately drowning noisemakers such as me.  But I don't wear ear buds, so I expect a warning upon being overtaken.

Anyway, today in that two-mile stretch, I was passed from behind four times by individual cyclists.  Each time I got a polite "ding" or an "on your left."

I always say "Thank you.  Good morning!" to cyclists that pass me.  Good behavior should be reinforced.  And it costs me nothing.  Makes me feel good.

Today, the last one passing me wished me a good run.  No joke.

At that point I knew it was too good to be true, so I picked up the pace and finished up that portion of my run on the trail before some Tour de France wannabe spoiled it all.

It is remarkable, though, the difference that courteous behavior makes on rail-trails.  Sometimes I'll have a great ride or run and have to finish the last mile or so on the W&OD, and I can have my mood spoiled by someone with poor etiquette right near the end.  I shouldn't let that get to me, I know, but that's how I'm wired.

Included for your enjoyment below is the obligatory stock photo of runner-cyclist conflict.

The man is actually saying, "How did WE become the poster children for bad behavior?"
(Credit:  runwashington.com) 
It's a beautiful day.  Hope you're able to exercise outside.

20 April 2014

Making Progress on ITB Recovery

As all of my non-readers know, I've been dogged by iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome in recent weeks.  February and March were particularly dark for me, because I was increasingly concerned that I might not ever be a "runner" again.

So while I've been hunting for recovery techniques, I've noticed that by keeping my runs at 5k max, things have gotten better.

(We interrupt things right here to answer the question that all the teeming millions of none of you are certainly asking:  Todd, why don't you just see a doctor about this?  The answer is simple.  There's an ethical issue involved.  The pain only occurs when I run, and so the doctor could well say to me:  Don't run.  And in truth, that would eliminate my pain entirely.  But because I have insurance, I could press for a series of expensive tests, which may or may not help me, but for which undoubtedly someone would have to pick up the tab.  It wouldn't be me.  So, I see this as something I can fix on my own.)

Back to the show.  What I've noticed is that when the ITB problems really came on strong several weeks ago, my fitness routine was totally unlike last summer, when I was running fine and working my way up into the 5 mile range.  Back then, I would alternate biking and running, and I'd walk about 2-3 miles each day.  In the early winter, however, the weather prevented much biking or walking, but I was determined to run.  Thus, I suspect, that led quickly to over-use.

So I'm doing a lot more cross-training, pigeon poses, hip/butt strengthening with the Theraband, and a moderate amount of foam rolling.  It all seems to help.

Yesterday I was able to run 4 miles with only minor twinges.  It was the longest, fastest run in months.  I was incredibly happy.  Wow.  This is how my week looked:

15 April 2014

Morning Ride in the Rain

The best rides in the rain start out in a light mist.  That was this morning.  The radar showed heavy rain on the way, so I figured I'd just get in a quick half hour before it all hit.  Better than regretting not going and feeling frustrated all day.

After half an hour, I was already soaked and loving it.  Generally, I won't start a ride in the rain, but on days like today it's always fun to be soaked and to just enjoy it.

I was also thinking that 65 degrees and wet would be great any day over cold and icy, which is what we had for a good chunk of the winter.

On a related note, saw this random post on Instagram from a spot near me last Sunday and had to shake my head.  I don't understand people who shell out that kind of money to ride a handful of times a year.  I like to think I'm not the judging type, but in some cases, apparently I am.

12 April 2014

Adjusting to Spring

This is such a goofy time of year.  Now that my morning bike rides start out at 50 or 55 degrees, it's like I've forgotten how to dress for it.  It was just last week, after all, that temps were in the 30s.  It's hard to let go of the light winter gloves, long cycling tights, and windbreaker, but I'm sure in another week I'll adjust.  :-)

What to do?

30 March 2014

Falls Church City Mulls Ideas on Improving the W&OD

Falls Church City is arguably a blight on the otherwise wonderful W&OD trail.  Much of this is due to history and the City's many at-grade crossings of what used to be the railroad.  Still, the City hasn't been imaginative until lately, other than the controversial bridge built over Rt. 7 several years back.  (Residents complained to high heaven about that, but everyone acknowledges now that it's been good all the way around.)

Up for discussion at the City Council last week were a variety of improvements.  Full City proposal here.  Here's hoping that many of these ideas come to fruition -- and that Falls Church cyclists will turn out at subsequent meetings to support them.  Otherwise, the NIMBYers who fought the bridge will bog down the debate.

At the Intersection of Double Doom by Taco Bell.
On the west side of the crossing at Great Falls Street.

Entering Falls Church from Arlington.

29 March 2014

Rosslyn's New Crosswalk of Doom

Most runner-cyclists know to avoid this area at Arlington's Rosslyn Metro Station, but bike commuters may not have a choice.   This is only a few blocks away from the infamous Intersection of Doom.  Said intersection now has a helpful Bikeometer, which displays how many cyclists are put at risk daily, monthly, and yearly.

Photo credit and link to article.

27 March 2014

A run last Sunday

So I had a good run on Sunday morning.  Three miles.  Not huge, but when ITB daggers have been starting at 1 mile for the past 6 weeks, this is huge for me.

To be clear, let me explain the difference between "daggers" and "twinges," at least for me.  "Twinges" don't affect gait.  You can feel something going on in your knee, and you know that twinges in various parts of your body can come and go on a run.  Some twinges become painful; others you quickly forget.  ITB twinges, for me, can make me rethink how I'm going to land my foot on the ripple in the asphalt ahead, but they don't really slow me down.

When I get ITB daggers, it's like landing and having a knife shoot up and into the side of the knee, like shucking an oyster, making me feel like my leg will collapse.  There is no running after that point.  And it's not a question of whether it's a pain-threshold issue; it's a matter of will my body go crashing to the pavement because the leg is going to give out.

Back to my run.  (It's here at Run My Route.)  This time the first mile is great, and right as my Garmin beeps the first mile, I get the twinges.

Part of me thinks this is psychosomatic (now called psycho-physiological or something like that).  In truth, some of this is in my head.  It's the brain that generates the pain, and I've noticed that if I can take my mind off my left knee, the running is better.  Sometimes, I try to "will" the pain to the right knee to see if that does anything.  In the run before this, when twinges turned to daggers, I walked for about three minutes and resumed running.

This time, I continued running past the mile mark.  Twinges continued, but no outright pain.  At three miles, the longest I've run without interruption in more than a month, I decided to quit when I was ahead.

So the ITB mystery grows.  I've stopped the foam rolling of the IT band.  And yet I haven't done the hip abductor exercises I mentioned in a previous post.  I can't account for why the twinges didn't turn into daggers on this run.

I did go for a bike ride (18 miles) the previous day.  In general, bike riding doesn't inflame my IT band.  Looking at my logs, I recall a recent run the day after a bike ride that also went well.

{Sigh} So you see the various factors at play.  Ugh.  Where to start?

24 March 2014

Waiting Out the Winter of 2013-14

I was up plenty early this morning, by 5 am, and I easily would have had time to bust out an hour around town, my typical funtime ride that I like to do at least a couple times a week.

But it's just not in me today, and I'll go out in 20-degree weather, even somewhat happily, as long as there's no wind.

But at this point in the season, when we've already had a couple tastes of 60-degree days and 40-degree mornings, I'm declaring sub-freezing mornings off-limits for bike rides until next fall/winter.  With luck that means my lull will only last until this weekend.  If not, I may have to rethink my pledge.

To the several bicyclists I saw this morning, I salute you.

21 March 2014

Detour into My ITBS Journal

So, originally I intended this blog to be about ruminations I have during running--endorphin insights.  Some of that alleged wisdom seems profound when you're on Mile 5, and less so by the time you get home and showered off.  It's like that late night scrawl you made on a scrap of paper just before passing out. In the cold light of the next morning, you're trying to link together Jacques Derrida, gymboree, and "hotdgggs."

Anyway, I have a bunch of these stored up insights that will eventually be released upon the world, for better or for worse, but in the meantime, in recent months I've come down with a bad case of the ITBs -- Iliotibial Band Syndrome.  This limits my running to one pain-free mile and then as much as I can take before the daggers at the knee do me in, usually after two more miles.

So for now, this blog is swerving into "My ITB Journal."  I've spared all of my non-readers with what I've discovered by playing Dr. Internet to date.  (Some guidance says rest; some says run as long as it doesn't affect the gait.)  In recent weeks, I've done foam rolling of the IT Band, the pigeon pose (love her accent on this video), and other stretches.

Now, I'm told -- and I've been seeing this more and more -- that foam rolling the IT band is wasting time.  It won't stretch...it's like rolling a rubber band.  Now I need to work on hip abductors.  Off to research that.  Starting points:

Here and here. Source of links:  Mark J. Pitcher.

But above it all, the frustrating thing is whatever effort you put into it, the payoff won't come for several weeks, and in the meantime, it's a lot of work, and sometimes pain, with a hefty pile of uncertainty in the balance.

Photo credit:  MOMSteam.com

PS.  Just went to that site looking for a photo, but it seems they have good resources on this topic too.  I'm off! 

09 February 2014

The Trouble with Bike Lanes in Winter

I love Arlington, VA, for its amazing commitment to dedicated bike lanes.  It can be tough in the winter, though, because the county uses street sweepers to get the roads clear of sand and grit as a result of recent snow and ice events.  As you can see in the photo, though, the bike lane is like a walkway to a sandy white beach.

It's hazardous, frankly, and it gives pause to those who would otherwise take up bike commuting.  It may lead them to think it's hard to rely on a bike year-round, even in good weather, as it was today.