These last two weeks since my last post have been filled with football, school business, and my on again/off again love affair with ITB pain. It’s been mostly football and stuff at school since we’ve passed our midterms time and are plodding right into presentations and papers that need to be written. In the time off from that, there’s been a lot of fun stuff we’ve been doing in the Owl Photography Club with workshops and I even gave a 101 presentation on the basics of controlling exposure in your photos. I am trying to plan the next workshop but have not come up with a good topic just yet, I think I have about two weeks before I need to be ready, so I hope the presentation gnomes visit me in my sleep to plant ideas. Last week’s Owls game versus Middle Tennessee State was much better than our home opener even though we lost again. The Owls managed to rack up perhaps three times as many total yards against MTSU than they did against Western Kentucky, so things should be even better in our remaining home games.

Yesterday (Sunday) was my first official 5k in six weeks since the Freedom 5k last month. It was overcast — it has been raining for four days straight with most of South Florida flash flooding on Friday night — so the temperatures were excellent for a great run. How great? So great that I PR’ed the race at 30:15.6, a 5k PR I am definitely proud of. That is 61 seconds faster than last month and over two minutes faster than my race in July. But it gets better! How? Thanks to now being 30, I snagged 5th in my age group! I even managed to best my old coworker Pepe by over a minute even though his group of four served as my pacers for over half the race. I ended up pulling away from them at about the 2.3 mile mark, at which point I also pulled my shoes off. I am not sure how I did it but I managed to hold their roughly 9:45 pace the whole time I was running. Frankly, I am not sure how I even held that pace the whole race! Even when training, I rarely hit splits close to the 10:00 mark, let alone running an entire race fifteen seconds faster than that. I am super excited about this new time since I am seeing time improvements despite only running once a week on average since the race last month, even with the ITB injury.

Coming up this weekend is the Champions Mud Bash, a race I have been anticipating since May or June. It will be my first mud run/obstacle run so it should be a ton of fun based on materials I have seen from other, similar runs. By the way things are looking, I am going to be running at least one of these a month until next summer although I may be doing two this month if I am up to doing the Superhero SCRAMBLE in Deerfield Beach next week. This also happens to be the site of December’s Warrior Dash, so it would basically be a warm-up for that race. My only worry now is that I will be getting my only pair of shoes super dirty here pretty soon and since my recent barefootin’ has only resulted in more hip pain, I need to get some new shoes STAT! I would like to try out some Brancas but I also want to try out the new Merrell Road Gloves from their 2012 collection but they are not being released for another few weeks. I may even finally try out some monkey toe shoes from Vibram or even those weird Adidas Adipure Trainers. I have eyed Vibrams for years and have never taken the plunge but I finally have a reason to, plus I could use another pair of shoes any way, I am already wearing through the flip flops I bought two or three months ago.

While not running related, as I was writing this, I took my niacin supplement and it just kicked in. I truly hate taking this stuff but my doctor seems to think it will help with my overall cholesterol numbers. This stuff sucks terribly. For those of you who have never had the displeasure of taking it, it flushes your skin after you take it. It does this by rapidly expanding your blood vessels and rushing blood to your skin. What does this feel like? Well, the first time I ever took it, I felt like I was going to vomit and my skin was on fire. I was very nauseous and I really felt like I was on fire, my skin was incredibly hot to the touch. Now that I have been taking it and my body is used to it, the flush is not as bad as it used to be but it still feels awful. Think about the last time you went to the beach and got sunburned, that’s how I feel right now. This stuff is awful. I want off this crap as soon as possible.

This weekend was the inaugural football game in Florida Atlantic University’s brand new football stadium! It was a total BLAST! The stadium itself is beautiful and is a welcome addition to our campus. While I think the name of “FAU Stadium” is boring and generic, I hope that next year it will be renamed to Howard Schnellenberger Stadium to honor Coach Schnellenberger who has worked for the last 13 years to get a stadium on FAU’s main campus in Boca Raton. If that name sounds familiar, it should, he is the former head coach of the University of Miami’s national championship team in 1983, worked with Bear Bryant at Alabama (and recruited Namath there!), former head coach for the University of Louisville and now he has built up the FAU football program for the last eleven years. The stadium is the culmination of his work at the university and we are all indebted to him for it.

While the FAU Owls did not bag a win in their home opener — or score :( — it was so much fun. The stadium was abuzz with life and energy, even in our terrible fourth quarter slump. I cannot wait for next week’s game against Middle Tennessee State, I just hope I don’t tailgate too much! Speaking of tailgating, the OWL Photography Club was on-hand for the campus’s first ever tailgate and it was a campus-wide party. We parked all the way in one of the south lots furthest from the stadium and by the time my girlfriend and I got to the stadium, I think I saw people tailgating in every parking lot we passed. The Breezeway quad was packed to the gills with frats, sororities, and other clubs all partying it up in school spirit. I took a ton of pictures that still need to be edited but will be on our Facebook page. In the upcoming games, I hope that we will be able to get some media passes to shoot the action from the field. For this game, our treasurer Melissa was on-field shooting but I want to push to get at least 5 or 6 of us down there to broaden the experience for everyone in the club. I am anxious to see her shots but may have to wait since she was shooting for the school newspaper, the University Press/UP. We will make sure that we get some FAU Owls coverage before the season ends in December!

The best part of our stadium besides the awesome Jumbotron? You can see the Atlantic Ocean from the press boxes, only stadium in the country with that kind of view!

The magic started by my lacing up shoes in the first place, but I was damned determined to run today, ITB pain or not. This was pretty boneheaded of me to even think, just sayin’. But today, I was in a mood to get shit done since my professor decided to end class 3 minutes after he walked in and asked us to hand in our papers — I did not drive all the way to campus for something I could have emailed. So after I got home, full of gusto, I threw on some running shorts and decided to conduct my final running experiment of the last month: running in (real) shoes. Not my huaraches, I honestly cannot wear them for running any more, they just do not stay put no matter how tight I tie them. I find they are great for yard work but not for running, sadly. Once those nylon webbing laces get saturated with water/sweat, they stretch out hardcore. I tossed on my Trail Gloves for the first time in what must have been three months, coincidentally it has been about that long since I last wore any shoes that were not flip flops. After filling the water bottles up and starting the Garmin, I was off.

That’s when the magic happened: I ran 3.29 miles nearly pain-free. I was expecting to cut the run off after a mile or so since that has been the point at which the ITB pain just gets too much to bear recently, but not today. Not today! The last time I was able to run continuously for more than a mile was a few days after the Freedom 5k on 11 Sept 2011. Nearly a month to the day since I started plodding along in pain in training.

But not today. The first two miles were glorious and were easy! I maintained a great pace over those miles — about 10:37 — and the only time I stopped was for traffic and to pull a stink bug out of my shoe since it was doing an excellent job of stinging me. Right around that 2 mile mark is when I started to feel the ITB pain again but it was very minimal and not the searing, burning, excruciating pain I have experienced in previous weeks. It was more of a dull and annoying pain, almost like someone gave me a Charlie horse in the hip. I also experienced no SI or lumbar pain in the piriformis region, great news! The worst part of the run was, aside from wearing shoes, I did not bring a towel or shirt to wick away sweat and my sexy headband is more for looks than anything else. All that searing, sweaty man glaze burned my eyes for the last 1.3 miles of the run. I could really use a hat!

So for now, I will no longer be training strictly barefoot. I have two races in the next three weeks and I need to get my body back up to speed for the distances. I will more than likely run the races barefoot or in new huaraches that stay tight to my feet (Brancas, perhaps?) but training will be strictly shod. As sad as this makes me, I have to run in a way that keeps me moving forward and out of the doctor’s office. I hope this change is not permanent, the feeling of running barefoot is second to none.

My first 5k in a month was a smashing success even if there was no one around to witness it, it made me feel like a titan.

Last week’s visit to Health-Fit Chiro was a fun experience. While there were not any cool gadgets to take pictures of like when I jumped in the BodPod at SMAC a few months ago. Nope, just some BOSU balls, jump stretch bands, yoga mats, and blocks in their play examination area. I went in to get my left ITB looked at since it has been bothering me all month and they confirmed my suspicions: it’s tight and pulling abnormally. Luckily, this visit has double benefits, I get to do some rehab/PT exercises followed up by some active release technique (ART) massage in my lower back. I have only run once since last week and I got roughly a mile into the run before my ITB flared back up, so I have to figure out a way to keep up my cardio activities while I am sidelined.

The doctor diagnosed me with some hip extension issues that look to be related to external hip rotation, so my left hip only has partial range of motion while in extension rather than flexion, which he told me was pretty strange. I believe it is related to tightness and soreness I am starting to experience in my lower back just above the pelvis. It gets extremely tight and sensitive to touch after a run, whether my hip hurts or not, so I think I have a combination ITB and piriformis problem. Or on the flip side, one injury is definitely causing the other, I just cannot identify which way it’s happening first. It is probably something with my running form that is the cause as I do not have the same pain during TRX or other intense activities. My only run last week was a split of grass/trail and pavement and only after a half mile or so on pavement did my hip start to hurt, so I may no longer be able to run solely barefoot on paved surfaces. I had absolutely no issues on the grassy areas, so we will see what the doctor has to say on my next visit. I am just looking forward to the massage, it makes my back feel so much better and I just have not figured out how to replicate that at home, yet. ART may be a bit painful but it is an absolute delight.

This minor injury is annoying since I have three or four races lined up between now and the end of the year that I may not be able to complete which would totally suck. I am going to try my next run either solely on grass or in my huaraches to see how that affects me. I hate cutting off my runs at 1.5 miles just to limp back to the car and feel fine the next day.