Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018 Race Reports: 5K quick and Trail Run slow

Thanksgiving Day Holidays in the United States are supposed to be about two things:   Turkey and Shopping.   While I had a bit of turkey, I did no shopping at all.   I did, however, run two very different races.   Here's the story and a lot of photos.

Thanksgiving Day 5K

Like many cities in the US, we had a 5K fund raising "Turkey Trot" on Thanksgiving morning.   This one has really grown and in our small town we had over 1,300 people show up, donating a truckload of food and many thousands of dollars to our local food bank.   I volunteered at packet pick up for several hours on Wednesday afternoon, then ran to the race site, only a couple of miles from our home on Thanksgiving morning.

While most runners were casual about the event and ran with family members, that was not the case for me.  In planning for my Boston Marathon training, I had settled on using The Hanson's Marathon Method, which places a strong emphasis on both mileage and pace of every run.   They use the finish time of a strong 5K to set speed work.   So, I decided to push it and see what I could do over that distance on a cool day.

The race was straightforward.  I thought I could go under 8 minutes per mile and I tried to keep it steady.   And that's how it worked.   Here are my final splits from my Garmin:

I was thrilled with the even splits.   Since the course was short, I'm not counting this as a sub 24 5K but the 7:50/mile pace I'll take as I plan for Boston.

A good run gets a reward...see the missing pieces??    Yeah, I ate something besides turkey.   

And a Thankful treat was receiving this photo of our newest grandchild on Thanksgiving morning, all of seven weeks old.  

Black Friday FA 50K

The next day, a long race awaited.   Along with local ultra running friends Kate and Julie, we drove to Chain O' Lakes State park where the Ignite Running Group organized a Black Friday group trail run.   We could run as short or long as we wanted, all for free, all with others.  Here's the collection of people who showed up.

The trails are very familiar to me; between the HUFF and the Ignite Trail series, I've done 20 some trips on the route.   I ran Ignite's 40 mile race last April, have run the HUFF for all seven years it has happened at Chain O Lakes and will run HUFF again on December 29.   I like these trails.    

About 1/3 of the 20 mile route was single track, the rest wider.   Most of it was covered in loose layers of fresh, fallen leaves.   This made for some careful running, as I wasn't keen on tripping on any underlying roots or stumps.   

The day was beautiful...I ran in shorts the day after Thanksgiving in Indiana...amazing.   

A treat in many trail races is the "real food" spread at aid stations.   You never see this at road races.   The Ignite volunteers are first class and even for a free run they showed up and put three wonderful aid stations spaced over the 20 mile loop.   Above you see the spread at the Rally Camp site.   

And this is what I picked up at the Schoolhouse Aid station around mile 14...a hot, grilled cheese sandwich and a homemade pumpkin and chocolate chip cookie.  So nice to munch on for a couple of miles through the woods.  

Over the final couple of miles, I felt my right IT Band get a little tighter.   So, rather than continuing on the offered 50K full run, I hung it up after a single loop of the park.   Here are the stats and the map of my run.  

I was disappointed it took me nearly 5 hours to navigate one circuit of the park.  But when I got home, I looked up my time on the same course in April and this pace was a little faster.   So, perhaps it's just a tough course.   

So, it was a good running holiday.   I was able to go quickly on Thursday and then relax and drink in the beauty of a wonderful park on a lovely winter's day on Friday.   I'm a lucky guy.



Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Tale of Two Toenails; How to Fix Runner's Toenails

Lots of runners have a toenail story.   Here's mine, with photos and not for the faint of heart.   But if you've had blackened toenails from marathoning, you'll recognize a lot of this.   Here we go.

During the summer of 2016, as I was in a stretch of high-mileage training leading to my (failed) Boston Qualifying attempt at the 2016 Chicago Marathon, I noticed my right big toenail began to turn black and becoming "loose".   I'd seen this happen several times in higher mileage seasons previously.  I knew it would eventually fall off as a new nail formed below.

My left big toenail, however, was a different story.   Rather than laying flat on the toe, as was the case on the (blackened, ugly) right side, it was gradually pushing up, forming an "A-Frame" shape.   In fact, on the morning of that big race in Chicago, I bumped my left toenail as I got dressed in the 4:30am darkness.  It hurt like crazy but eased and I ran anyway and thought little else about the toes.

Unlike earlier times, though, both toes kept looking pretty much the same.  That right nail never fell off and the "A-Frame" started looking more like a Swiss chalet than a toenail.   Nearly a year later, they looked like this on August 27, 2017

Baseline--Aug 27, 2017
Here's a close up of the left nail...you can see how it was forming the A shape.  It was horribly misshapen. 

Left big toenail arch--Aug 27, 2017

Rather gruesome, actually.  Yet I didn't know what to do, got busy during the fall, it didn't hurt if I didn't bump it, I didn't want to think about it, so I ignored it and and and and....you get the story.  Running continued.  

Well, I eventually qualified for Boston on November 3, 2017 with these ugly toenails still tucked in my shoes.  In the new year though, the left toe started hurting more.  Increasingly, I'd whack it against my other foot while sleeping and wake up in pain, left toe throbbing.   

I finally asked my chiropractor about the toes.   He's a runner and winced when I took off my sock.   "You need to get those fixed, Joe" he immediately stated.   "I know a good podiatrist in town who can take care of you."   

I made an appointment for January 23, 2018 and took some photos the night before.   Super ugly.   

Before Podiatrist- Jan 22, 2018
Raising the roof on my tiny Swiss chalet...that arch on my left toe just kept growing.  

Left Big Toe, Jan 22, 2018

And the right toenail was dog ugly.  While I knew a new nail was growing underneath, it was not making an appearance.   

Right Big Toe, Jan 22, 2018

I drove across town on January 23, making my first-ever visit to a podiatrist, no clue what to expect.   I walked in, filled out the insurance paperwork and was shown the exam room.   I took off my shoes and socks, plopped into what looked like a slightly elevated recliner rocker (absent the TV remote control) and soon the affable foot doctor walked in.   He looked at my toes and asked "How did we get here?"

"I'm a marathoner."

"I would have guessed.  Toes like these only happen with folks who run insane distances or folks to work on their feet for many hours every day."  I wasn't really a surprise to him.   And it's good when your doctor isn't surprised by your condition.

We talked about what he could do and he offered an unexpected question: "So, do you want me to just remove those toenails?"   So, will they then grow back?  "No, I mean permanent removal.  Toenails serve no real purpose anyway.   I'll kill the base with acid."

Hmmm...had to think quickly.   "You know what, let's just trim them back and I'll think about the permanent fix later."   He was fine with that.   Yeah, so was I.

I was surprised he then just sat down on a stool, put a bright light on my toes and began to get to work.   For some reason, I expected a little more prep work, kind of like what happens at the dentist. Instead, he pulled out some tools and got on with it.  They looked like stainless steel electrician's tools.

I decided to close my eyes and lean back.   That proved a wise choice.

He started on my blackened, right big toenail.   I felt a few clips but in a minute or so, I heard him say "OK, that looks better."  Zero discomfort.  Nice.   I kept my eyes closed and he shifted and began to dismantle the A-frame mounted on my left big toe.

The first couple of clips felt totally different from the right toe.  I could sense the snap of each clip vibrate through my toe and foot.   I could tell he was clipping carefully and intentionally. I felt him position himself for each clip.   Then one clip really hurt.   My leg shook, involuntarily.

"How you doing?"   I'm OK, doc, but sure felt that one.   "Well, I have two more clips to make...can you make it or do you want me to numb this a bit? "    I paused briefly, mentally imagining myself at mile 24 of a marathon.   It all hurts, but we're almost done.   I told him to keep rolling.  

He did...and the final two more clips hurt.   But then he was done.   Turned out those final three clips were the "money cuts" as he extracted the ingrown toenail from the fleshy part of my toe.

I opened my eyes at last, looked down and was stunned by how different my toes looked in such a brief time.   The left nail was bleeding a bit...he put on some antibiotic cream, gauze and an adhesive bandage.   "Change that up every day and it'll be fine in a couple days."   And that was it.  

My left leg hurt.  I pulled on my socks and shoes...and, to my utter surprise, even in the first few steps walking out of the office, I immediately noticed how much better it felt.

Here's what it looked like after the visit.   The two toenails were cut way back.

Post Podiatrist, Jan 23, 2018
The A-Frame was gone.  The left side of that toenail had clearly pierced the skin, causing the pain.   The podiatrist cut it way back to relieve that pain and took off a lot of the nail.  The minor ooze of blood was gone in two days.   

Left big toenail, after podiatrist trimmed on Jan 23, 2018

That ugly black right toenail?  Gone.   Only this remained.   

Right nail close up, post podiatrist, Jan 23, 2018

The improvement was instant.  That entire day, I noticed my left foot landing much "flatter"...in retrospect, I realized I had gradually begun walking on the outside of my left foot, avoiding discomfort due to the ingrown left toenail.  While my left leg tingled for a few hours, that quickly diminished and I felt nothing but improvement the next morning.   It made me so glad I made the appointment and got the foot fixed.

My running continued with my new and improved toenails.   Yet, another nagging problem was revealing itself, one about which I had similarly been in denial.   I noticed how my left heel would hurt, sometimes very badly, when I took my first steps out of bed each morning.   In mid February, on a planned 18 mile long run, that foot shut down, forcing me to walk home.   I had to admit...Plantar Fasciitis was in my life.   I think it was no coincidence that the PF occurred in my left foot...I strongly suspect the involuntary pivoting of my left foot to avoid pain from the ingrown toenail over many months, perhaps a year or more, contributed to the strains which describe PF.   I'll write more about the PF in another post, eventually. 

I took about five weeks off from running, getting restarted in late March, 2018.  I eased into a couple of half marathons as the PF got better, with no complaint from either big toenail.   I even ran a 40 mile trail race in late April, the second longest run I've ever had.    

By mid-May, the toenails were growing back nicely, dare I say, almost looking "normal".   It had been quite a while.   

4 months post podiatrist, May 12, 2018

I was astounded how steadily the left toenail flattened out.   

Left Big Toe, May 12, 2018.

Right Big Toe, looking better, May 12, 2018

As they grew back and not wanting to re-do this ordeal, I ordered these toenail trimmers that looked more like the podiatrist's tools as opposed to the dinky clippers that didn't get to the corners.  I've been very pleased with how precise and strong these clippers perform.   I feel like I'm staying ahead of the toenails now.   Note: these are very sharp and should never be available to children.   

These bad boys are sharp and precise

The toes faded as an attention getter to me.   My running got back on track and I finished  The Sandhills Marathon on June 2, as well as other local races.  

But by mid summer, I noticed a disappointingly familiar pain, this time in my right big toenail.  The pain showed up when I pressed down on the toenail.  The toenail, growing into the toe, pressed harder and triggered pain.   The good news in this was I knew who to call.    I set up an appointment with my friendly podiatrist and headed back.   Here's what the toes looked like the night before my second trip for a trim.   

Looking better but pain in right toe, July 16, 2018
It's interesting to me how the image of the nails is not nearly as grim as the earlier examples.   I'm sure this is because I acted sooner, rather than later to address the issue.   

This trip to the podiatrist was really quite easy and had hardly any discomfort at all.   The doctor made a few key clips and pronounced it good.  No blood, no oozing this time at all.   Here's the "after" photo.  

After 2nd trip to podiatrist, July 17, 2018
The obvious change was merely a shortening of the right nail.   But he dug it out of the flesh and the discomfort went away immediately. 

So, that's the story for now.   Here are my toes five months after the second trip to the podiatrist.   

Nov 2, 2018--How I hope they stay

A long story I hope continues to have a happy ending.   I hope this may have been helpful for you runners with similar toenail stories.  

Persevere.  No matter the condition of your toenails. 


ADDENDUM, December 1, 2018

An Ultra-running podiatrist in one of my on-line running groups read this and offered some useful professional insight.   Many thanks to Dr. Bill Johncock of Hickory, NC for his generous perspective, below, in italics.  

Podiatrist here.  Here are some of my take-aways: 

1) Toenails will likely be lost/black/irritated if you run long enough.  It's kind of a badge of honor. My record is losing 6 of 10 toenails after a 100K trail race in Virginia after kicking multiple rocks buried beneath leaves on the trail.  Yes, they all were sore, yes I lost all of them, yes they all grew back. 

2) Black toenails are OK and will typically eventually come off on their own.  But if they are infected, you need to have them addressed.  Preferably by a Podiatrist or someone that know what they are doing. 

3) If the nails grow back irregularly so as to become painful (see Joe's story above), go see a podiatrist and they may need to address the issue. 

4) Losing toenails can increase the risk of getting toenail fungus.  This can be much more challenging to resolve. 

5) Pedicures are not evil, but you must be careful to see someone who cleans their instruments well between their clients.  If they don't clean their instruments well and that person has fungus, you may well obtain the fungus yourself.  It is not a well regulated industry.  Again, pedicures are not the problem.  Bad pedicurists are.  Just be sure they are using clean instruments, clean supplies, etc. 

6) As for the question on how to prevent black toenails, having about a thumbnail length from the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe is important to be sure the shoe is not too tight or too loose.  But again, if you run long enough, you're likely to get black toenails at some time.  My 2 cents worth!

Many thanks, Bill!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Race Report: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2018

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:33:51, 10:28/mile, run thru 20, then 4/1 through 25, then run

Summary:  I finished a marathon, felt good, on a perfect day to run.  Yet, I left a little disappointed.   On reflection, I figured out both the disappointment and the plan forward.   And, once more, I realize every marathon has its lesson.


I finished the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 3 and, once more, it was a very good experience.  It brought back a ton of very fond memories, since one year earlier I qualified for Boston at this race.

Having run this race at least six times now, I have the logistics figured out.   Or so I thought.   I got a break, when a friend of a friend was available to pick up my packet for me on Thursday evening before the race.   That simplified things.

My Bib and Cubs Cheer
But logistics got a lot more interesting when an email arrived late Friday afternoon from the Race Director telling all participants the traffic would be "complex" on race morning the next day.  None other than President Trump came to downtown Indy for a Friday night rally.   Further, he was staying in a hotel one block from the start/finish line.  Oh my, the RD in me grimaced for the race staff.  As a result,  many streets near all the race parking areas were cordoned off completely from 5pm Friday until 11am Saturday.   This also hampered Friday night packet pick up (I was sure glad I had mine in hand).  Traffic patterns for this race are normally tight, with 13,000 runners converging and this only made it worse.   So I studied the street maps and literally had  route Plans A, B, C and D ready to get to my already-reserved parking spot.   And decided to leave even earlier than planned.   

I left home at 4:48am, had an easy drive to Indy and quickly determined Plan A was a bad idea.   I shifted to Plan B and it was blocked off too.   Plan C gave hope until a half block from the entry ramp for the parking garage.   Plan D activated, I made a turn and, wonderfully, discovered the small, single-lane, back entrance to the parking garage.   The QC code worked perfectly and I eased into a parking spot about 60m from the finish line at 6:04am.   Two hours ahead of the gun, I was set.  

Pre-race in Parking Garage
I got the legs comfortable by walking around the start/finish area early, the calm before the storm, so to speak.  I saw the security set up around the hotel at which the President stayed, as well as a few of the protesters gathered who, frankly, looked comical.  I went back to the car, relaxed, got dressed and walked to the starting grid about 30 minutes before the 8:00am gun.  

It was a perfect, perfect weather day on which to run.   Zero wind, sunny skies, temps around 40F at the start and around 50F by the time I finished.  Wow...so rare to get such a day on which to run a marathon.

I went out, as planned, with the 4:30 pace group (which is a 10:18/mile pace).   It worked...we crossed the 10K timing mat at a 10:15 pace and hit the half marathon mark in 2:14:11, also a 10:15 pace.  I felt pretty good until mile 18, when I started to feel some odd cramping in my right leg.   I hit the 30K timing mat still with the pace group but starting to leak a bit, slowing to a 10:18/mile pace.   By the 20 mile mark, I finally had to let the pace group continue.   The cramps/tightness in the right leg was just too much, my endurance lagging.  

I had to shift to a run/walk from my steady run and the pace group slowly drifted out ahead of me.   While it was disappointing to slow down, that was the best I could do with the right leg acting up, inexplicably.   It was a time of reflection, remembering how I "toughed it out" in this very same section of the course a year earlier.   Not so today.  

We made the right turn onto Meridian Street and I finally got it back together by mile 24.5 and ran the rest of the way...with one wonderful exception.  At the mile 26 marker, in front of the State House, were our son and his wife, waiting for me!  David had run the half marathon and Susan was there to cheer him on and they stuck around for two more hours, waiting to see me in.   What a treat to give them a big hug and let them know how much I appreciated them.   With an extra hop in my step I hauled around the final right turn and crossed the finish line in 4:33:51.   

Immediately Post Race, at Finish Line

I didn't hang around too long, post race, just enough to enjoy some chocolate milk, get my gear, change into some dry clothes and eat a bit.   

One fun fact:  This was the first time I wore my new Purdue singlet at a big race...what fun that was!   Got a lot of "Boiler Up!" cheers along the way, a big deal in a town that seems to favor our arch rival from the southern part of the state.   I'm pretty sure I'll wear this same shirt in Boston. 

On the drive home, this introverted runner-engineer could finally process the day and came up with two big lessons.  

Quality of training matters.   I simply did neither adequate miles nor any speedwork through the summer or early fall.   I messed around too much with a "low mileage" approach to training as I came off the PF I had last spring.   And that meant I was only set to finish a marathon but not run it strong.  There are no short cuts.   This became clear.

Appreciate the days when it works.   It was a year ago at this very marathon I BQed, on a day when everything lined up and worked perfectly.   Those days are rare.   When it happens, embrace it.   I'll likely seldom, if ever, have as perfect a weather day in which to run as I did in this event.   Yet, even with that, the race was not what I had hoped it would be. 

Where to go next?   I've done quite a bit of thinking.   With Boston looming in April, I'll do some rethinking on training going forward.  Lots of cold weather runs, of course, here in Indiana.   I'll find a system and see if I can come back.  

Final Stats:  First half, 2:14:11 (10:15/mile); Second half, 2:19:41 (10:40/mile).
Placement: Overall 2,996th.  Men (65-69), 27th of 51.
Marathon/Ultra finish #84 

Thanks for reading.