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.

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.

Aside from some foot pains related to barefoot running, I have now suffered my first real running injury: strained IT band. It started on Sunday night after the Freedom 5k, I took a nap and woke up with a sore left hip. I thought nothing of it even though I had not properly stretched and knew I should have. For the next day or so, it was still sore but then it cleared up…until Thursday. Yesterday, I went for my first run around FAU’s Boca campus between classes and most of the run felt great. I noticed some slight pain and tightness in my left hip but either it subsided or I was simply more worried about the terrible state of the concrete sidewalks at FAU. All of my classes are on the “old” part of the campus where buildings have stood for the better part of 30 years or more, whereas the sidewalks on the newer side of campus — where the fabulous new Rec Center and football stadium are located — are absolutely delightful. They are smooth, flat, single pour concrete, incredible to run on. But those sidewalks on my side of campus? Like running on gravel. Gravel with no give. I was hoping to pull a 5k run but was cut short due to time but I am glad I did not run further because I was in some serious pain after I was done. Besides my feet throbbing from the battered concrete, thanks tree roots!, my pelvic girdle was screaming at me. In hindsight, I simply should have run in the grass or on the road as the sidewalk made me seriously alter my form to heavily overpronate and roll my feet on each fall. Looks like I may be running in my huaraches at school rather than barefoot.

That’s where it all went downhill and it only got worse as the night went on. As I walked to the campus Starbucks, I truly realized how much my hip was hurting and how badly my lower back/girdle was starting to hurt. Eventually, simply taking a step or two sent pain down my pelvis thanks to poor form during my run. Just sitting in class was painful so I ended up leaving and coming home to stretch and I jammed through my typical stretching routine while adding in Mobility WOD’s couch stretch (FYI: it hurts like hell, try the super couch if you like pain). When I woke up this morning, it was even worse and I hobbled to my office to work. Throughout the day I was so uncomfortable that I would go outside frequently to stretch out my IT band. I must have done ten different stretches and it took finally getting off work and onto my couch for the pain to subside. For the most part, mobility has been restored and pain is gone but it is still a tad sore, which stinks because I was going to go to Strong Owl training but may default to TRX Bootcamp if I can get over to campus before sign-up closes.

My running this week was already way down but now thanks to my terrible upkeep and a dumb IT band injury I could have avoided, next week’s training is compromised too. I was hoping to start ramping up mileage to start working on a 10k distance but that looks like it will be put on hold until this band stretches out but at least I can get some free cross-training in since I am pushing off any more races until next month. Plus, I really miss running with my running buddy, I have had to forgo running with him for something like two weeks in a row and it makes me feel terrible. I feel like the worst running partner because of my own stupidity.

Hopefully things will improve next week.

Today is September 11, 2011. Ten years ago, the World Trade Center towers fell and America has never been the same since nor will we ever be, especially the people of my generation and those after mine. Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters were ripped from this world. 343 valiant firefighters heroes, 60 unwavering police officers heroes, and 2753 people are forever memorialized. Over two million brave service men and women heroes have been deployed in the fruitless aftermath of a decade’s long war that will drag on another decade, I thank each and every one of them I encounter whenever I see them. I thank my nephew, who even as an officer candidate and has never been deployed, for his future service to my country. I wish my mother a happy birthday with a smile on this day every year. Ten years ago today, my generation’s Peal Harbor occurred and we will never forget it. I was only 19, just a few weeks from turning 20. Now, here I am 29 and soon to be 30. I cannot recall a day that has gone by where I have not thought about that fateful day.

But today was different. I got up this morning at 6am to run the Operation Homefront Freedom Walk & Run 5k. When I got to the course, I was greeted by over 800 runners, at least 100 volunteers, and dozens of public service men, Marines, and members of the Army. I thanked all of them that I saw, each of them with smiles on their faces and it made me feel so incredibly inconsequential. It was a sad day to be sure but you would not know it from all the laughter and smiles, it was infectious. I ran alone today as my girlfriend could not make it to the event and truthfully, I am grateful for that as it gave me time to reflect on what this meant to me personally. I ended up PR’ing the race with an official time of 31:22, although my Garmin said 29:55. Physically I felt great, I only cramped up mildly about halfway through and the gravel-based concrete was hell on the soles of my feet, but I was never winded, exhausted, or really felt like I was overexerting myself. I did run rather slowly for about half a mile when my feet were really feeling it, I noticed my heart rate dropped significantly, to about 88 BPM down from the 160s. But once the street transitioned to smooth blacktop I immediately picked up pace and finished very strong, pulling fast (for me) 10 minute miles. Out of the 800+ runners, I was again the only one running barefoot with some Vibram runners intermixed into the crowd. It is amazing how much you stand out by simply not wearing shoes.

I spent the entire race thinking of only two things: how much the concrete was hurting my feet and of the service members in my life. I thought about my girlfriend’s father and step-mother, both retired from the Army and Air Force respectively, and of my step-father, a retired Army captain, helicopter and test aircraft pilot who passed away this year. I ran this race in his memory as he inspired and molded me into the adult I am today as much as my biological parents did. He taught me an incalculable number of things about life and what was really most important at the end of the day. I do not think there is any man on this planet that affected my life more than my step-father, even as we fought, argued, and did not speak for months at a time, his hard-nosed attitude effected me greatly. Thank you Chuck, I will never forget you. I miss you and love you.

Ten years ago today, ten years in the future. Never forget, never forgotten.

Ah, I forgot how busy the first few weeks of school are. And I forgot how much I typically hate them. I am going into the third week of classes now and I am ready for the newness to wear off. However, this is a semester I am not looking forward to as it is one required class (Interpretation of Fiction) and one fun class that’s just a lot of talking (Russian art). Unfortunately, classes in my major of Anthropology are getting to be slim, I have only taken one interesting Anthro-related class in the last year. Not only have they scaled back the classes, there are fewer qualified teachers for the classes which really stinks. Many of the classes offered now are not even in my specialization or realm of interest, it is just mostly archaeology classes and Latin American history. Neither of those are very interesting, I promise. North American Prehistory was boring enough and it was chockful of data memorization of names and dates, I cannot imagine doing the same thing for other Archaeo classes where I just endlessly memorize things rather than learn and interpret data. I cannot wait to be done with this major.

Last week was fairly busy. I ran the Summer’s End 5 on Sunday and managed to run another 5k on Tuesday, which completely surprised me. I had come home after school feeling pretty tired and run-down, definitely not the way I want to start an easy run. I was more worried my ill mood was going to make me choose to stop the run shortly after it began, I just felt really negative/down which is not like me. I felt like I was searching for reasons to not run other than I just did not want to. I knew my legs felt good and not to beat up from Sunday but my feet were another question, especially since I had a pretty big blood blister on my big toe. Things went even further downhill as I neared the one mile mark and I was running on some gravel-based concrete that I hate running on, it just makes my feet hurt uncontrollably and I knew it would cut my run short if I stayed the course. Luckily, I found aside road that had a black-top sidewalk that was smooth and cool since it had just finished raining. Once I hit that black-top, I instantly picked up pace and I felt great. I just kept running and running, my body barely felt the effects from running two days prior. I know this is not a big deal to those running double digits but it was pretty surprising to me. I did not run for almost a week after my first 5k, my body just felt ripped up. This time, I simply felt like I had gone out for my normal run and pushed myself a little too hard. Before I knew it, I was coming up on the road to my house and I did not feel like stopping yet so I kept on going. Then I went some more. Then what do you know, I am at 2.5 miles and was coming up to my street and I just felt like I could push on through to 5k distance. Something about that smooth sidewalk just felt so nice on my naked feet. So I pushed on through to 3.1 miles and was utterly drenched in sweat, it felt great. I did not run for the rest of the week but did not feel like I needed to, especially with the schoolwork I had to complete.

The week was rounded out nicely with the start of college football season, which is the only season I observe. Down where I live in Florida, we do not really have seasons based on the weather, it is either hot or less hot, that’s all there is to it. But then we have football season and my girlfriend and I get all geared up for four months to watch games every weekend until December and it is my favorite time of the year. My teams went 2-2 this weekend with TCU playing poorly against Baylor and barely pulling out a loss, Auburn won their season opener just like they played last year (winning at the last moment), Boise State had no problems handing Georgia a loss, and Oregon just did not come to play with a loss to LSU. I was surprised at the sheer number of cramps I saw in all the games I watched. There must have been 4-5 guys cramping up in the first two quarters of play in the 7 or 8 games I watched. Everyone was cramping up and all they did to try and fix it was guzzle down gallons of Gatorade, stretch out, and get IVs put in for fluids. I think they need to take a clue from endurance athletes and fix their hydration regimen. TCU/Baylor and Boise State I can totally understand, it was insanely hot in Waco, TX where TCU was playing and Boise State had to play their first game in years in Georgia humidity, there is no way to prepare or plan for that. But Auburn and LSU? They are used to that stuff and had no logical reason to start cramping so early except due to poor training. They needed more salt and should have taken a page from Mark Ingram’s playbook; last year he was cramping up in the Iron Bowl so he was drinking jars full of pickle juice. I do not know what happened to the pickles but he was drinking that stuff like it was the only thing keeping him alive. I can already tell that it is going to be a good year for college football, a lot of underdogs either won their games over better opponents or played the best they have in years, that is only a trend that will continue over time.

The site will be up and down over the next few days as I am moving hosts from Limestone Networks over to Wired Tree and I am downgrading from a dedicated server to a VPS. This will be the first time in almost five years that I am not in total control of my server or its hardware and it is going to be hard to give up. Luckily, all I need is the web hosting and MySQL hosting, all of my email is handled by Google Apps, which was my only concern. I went with Wired Tree over getting a server from my own company because frankly, I know how awful our hardware is and our support is abysmal, I do not want to go down that route even if I would get a very steep discount. That is just asking for trouble all around and I am not going to do that. DNS should propagate fairly quickly since I will do forced DNS pushes but we will see, I just hope the new hardware is as zippy as my current server. I will be sad to not have a dedicated server but I just do not need that much power any longer and I do not want to pay the bill any more just to run one site. I read a lot of good things about Wired Tree so we will see what happens, the support guys from LSN have been nothing but awesome for the last three years, WT’s support has a lot to live up to.

I am not looking forward to class tomorrow, I think I will go to bed now just to decompress from a long and extremely boring day at work.