Browse Category: New Jersey

Such a Hottie

Well layered
Well layered

As I mentioned in this post from May 31, I’ve been working at acclimating to the heat with an eye toward enduring the temperatures during this race in 12 more days. Since the weather has been on the cool side this May in New Jersey, I’ve had to resort to artificial means of producing warm conditions. These means include wearing warm clothes in the house while going about my business, not using air conditioning in the house or car, running and exercising in warm clothing.

Today I went out for a run wearing these layers: a long-sleeved heavy cotton t-shirt under a heavy sweatshirt, sweatpants with compression shorts underneath (and underwear), wool socks (which I always wear while running), and a winter running hat. Yes, I got a few looks from other people who were out walking, running, biking. It was best for me to just avoid eye contact with any of them.

Today was another relatively cool day at 69° and cloudy, but look at that humidity! 80%! (See below.) These were the perfect conditions to bundle up and get my sweat on. However, I was mindful to stay salted and watered. I took two Endurolyte capsules before I started my run. I also brought along my new Amphipod handheld water bottle filled with ice and water.

80% Humidity
80% Humidity
My new favorite water bottle
My new favorite water bottle

I set off down the West Morris Greenway from Horseshoe Lake in Roxbury. I ran at a slow steady pace of about 11 minutes per mile and walked when necessary. My overall pace worked out to be 12:14. I didn’t want to be fast, just hot. I set a timer for 30 minutes. When it went off, I turned around and headed back to where I started. I ran 5 miles in total, taking in an hour’s worth of lush green scenery, as shown in this photo.

Half of this picture consists of reflections.
Half of this picture consists of reflections.

I kept the layers on for another 30 minutes when I got home to allow my body to slowly cool down. After 30 minutes all that wet cotton-wear got cold and felt like a heavy chilly blanket. This hour of running in the humidity while layered-up gave me exactly what I was aiming for. I need to continue these antics through this week (it’s going to be only 56° tomorrow) and into next week when the temperatures here are predicted to rise up to the low 80s. That, I hope, will prepare me for the race.

There's no denying I'm hot.  ;)
There’s no denying I’m hot. 😉

Discovering Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, Morris County, NJ

Saffin Pond
Saffin Pond

This afternoon I explored part of the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation in Jefferson Township, Morris County, New Jersey. Specifically, I ran along the yellow trail, making a slight diversion on the blue Highlands Trail to check out Headley Overlook. I had been intending to run the trails as Mahlon for some weeks since it’s only a 15 minute drive from home. What I discovered there was very runnable trails and pleasant scenery.

Here’s a link to a map of the trails in the area so you can follow along at home.

I parked at the Saffin Pond parking lot and began my journey on the yellow blazed trail heading south on the west side of the pond. I had not gone more than 100 yards when I stepped within a foot of two snakes. One darted off through the weeds and into the water. The other posed for a photo. Later I learned they were northern water snakes. They were sunning themselves on the side of the trail.

Northern Water Snake
Northern Water Snake
Northern Water Snake
Northern Water Snake

The first section of trail appeared to be rails-to-trails, flat, level, covered with gravel. This changed to ATV trails or some kind of old roads for vehicle access after maybe a mile. After the pond near the pumping station downstream along Weldon Brook from Saffin Pond, the trail began to alternate between ATV trails and single track. There’s no name for this pond on the map. Neither could I find one online.

Not far from Saffin Pond on the yellow blaze trail
Not far from Saffin Pond on the yellow blaze trail
Pond along Saffin Brook near the pumping station near Saffin-Rock Rill Area
Pond along Saffin Brook near the pumping station near Saffin-Rock Rill Area

What I like in the above picture of the pond is the swallowtail butterfly that made its way into the shot. It reminds me of the Swan Song Records logo:

Swan Song
Swan Song

(On a side note, here’s a link to a gallery of swallowtail photos I took many moons ago.)

Eventually the trail became primarily single track that meandered through the forest, up and down some hills. There were various rock formations, a few small stream crossings, fallen trees, and the usually stuff you find in a forest. The path zig-zagged uphill as it neared the area of Headley Overlook. This was the Zen section of my run. Keeping my feet moving, sweating, taking in the sounds of the forest birds and my own breath became like meditation. THIS is the aspect of running I love most. I can find it better while trail running more so than road running.

Near Saffin-Rock Rill area
Near Saffin-Rock Rill area
Somewhere in my Zen area
Somewhere in my Zen area
If no one was near when it fell, did it make any noise?
If no one was near when it fell, did it make any noise?
Don't get your feet wet
Don’t get your feet wet
On the Highlands Trail near Headley Overlook
On the Highlands Trail near Headley Overlook
The view from Headley Overlook with Lake Hopatcong in the distance
The view from Headley Overlook with Lake Hopatcong in the distance

Headley Overlook was close to 5 miles from Saffin Pond. I didn’t hang out long there, just long enough to take a few pictures. From there I followed a gravel covered trail for a short distance to reconnect with the yellow trail to complete the loop back to Saffin Pond. That mile and a half was good running. The complete loop was 6.65 miles. It took me about 90 minutes. I always think about how much faster I can run that distance if I didn’t stop to take pictures. But every minute spent in the woods is worth it, whether running or not. That’s where the Zen is.

Return to Peroneus Brevis Hill

Peroneus Brevis Hill - The scene of the crime.
Peroneus Brevis Hill – The scene of the crime.

Today was my first return to “Peroneus Brevis Hill,” as I now call the hill upon which I sprained my ankle badly while running at the Delaware Water Gap ten months ago.
There’s a picture of it to the left. It’s a bit steeper than it looks in the picture. It’s covered with loose gravel, shale, and other stones. (Click here to read a fascinating article on the geology of the Delaware Water Gap.) It was a wobbly stone that did me in last year. It may have been shale. It may have been sandstone. It was hard to get a good look at it while falling down the hill. I already wrote about that fall. You can read about it here. Right now I’m going to write about the path I’ve been down since injuring myself, some of what I’ve learned a long the way, and how good it felt to be running in the woods again.

Et tu, Peroneus Brevis?

Who is this one, Peroneus Brevis, of whom I speak? He sounds like a Roman of treacherous character, one who would betray and murder the emperor.

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Peroneus Brevis is one of the tendons that runs from a muscle in the outside of the calf around the outside of the ankle and attaches to the outside of the foot. It everts the foot. Which means it pulls the foot to the outside.

Mine betrayed me. It tore when my ankle rolled.

(There is also the Peroneus Longus tendon in the same area. Peroneus Longus is a man of noble character.)

Here are a few ways in which I feel betrayed:

  1. Betrayed in my physical fitness – I went from 100 mph to zero in regard to my physical fitness. I had been logging a good amount of running miles every week. Then suddenly I could not run at all. I had done several races in the few months before my injury, including the Hyner View Trail Challenge (photos here), the Asbury Park Half Marathon, and a race on ski slopes (photos here). And then everything stopped.

    I also gained 21 pounds while dealing with and recovering from this injury. That was largely due to being depressed over my situation and being lazy about doing other types of exercise. The appetite I had developed to sustain all the running I had been doing did not diminish. It increased as my self pity increased. It wasn’t very long until I began overeating and stuffing my face with lots of junk. (But those Wise potato chips are SO GOOD!)

    Half way up that mountain today and I regretted every potato chip, cookie, and cheeseburger I had ever eaten. This is how it felt:

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  2. Betrayed financially – My wife said, “When I told you to go out there and crush it, I was not referring to our deductible!” This injury took me through months of physical therapy, 73 sessions all together. That’s a lot of copays! Plus, seeing as my ankle had a torn tendon and was not simply sprained, it needed surgery to put it back in working order. The bills came rolling in. In the beginning, my doctor had me go through two months of physical therapy to get the swelling down. Healing wasn’t progress as well as hoped at the end of those two months. He sent me for an MRI. (Another bill.) When he saw a tear on the MRI results he said, “Let’s try four more weeks of PT to see if that does the trick.” It didn’t. He then had me see a surgeon who quickly determined I needed surgery. One month after surgery I went back for more PT. The new year came and brought a new deductible to be met before PT was finished. Bills, bills, bills. I had no choice but to go through the treatment.
  3. Betrayed in my goals – At the time I injured myself I was registered for several races. I had a 50K scheduled just six weeks from the date of my injury. It would have been my first. I attempted it and couldn’t finish. I wrote about that here.

    I was registered for the Runner’s World Festival in October. That’s where I ran my first half marathon in 2014. I was looking forward to being there for my third year in a row. I had to defer to next year. By October I was deep into the Wise potato chips.

    Another race from which I had to withdraw was the Hyner View Trail Challenge, which actually took place today.

Mile 19.8

All that talk about Peroneus Brevis and his Brutus-like betrayal being said, the difference between me and Julius Caesar is that Caesar died. I on the other hand am starting to make a comeback.

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The thing that motivated me to get out the door early today, indeed to prepare my running clothes last night, was the thought that today the Hyner race was taking place and I could not be there, BUT I could make this the day of my return to my favorite training grounds. I was so excited last night that I had a hard time getting to sleep. It was like that nervous excitement like one gets the night before a big race. On my way to the Water Gap this morning, at mile marker 19.8 on I-80 west, where you get the first glimpse of the Gap, I felt that nervous excitement like butterflies in my stomach, something my wife refers to as “a wee in her belly.” There it was in the distance and I couldn’t wait to get there.

It was wonderful to be in the woods again! It was wonderful to plod my way up 1,100 feet of elevation. It was wonderful to feel the rocks under my feet. The first time I tweaked my ankle, which smarted not just a little, I remembered what my surgeon said when I saw him last month: “That tendon is healed up. It’s fixed. You can return to whatever activity you want. You have to build up strength in your ankle again. But no activity you do now is going to harm that tendon.” So I carefully and happily continued on. I went down Peroneus Brevis Hill as if my little injury never happened. By the time I got back to the parking lot I was feeling so good that I ran out to the bridge on I-80, across to Pennsylvania, and back, adding another 2.7 miles to the 3.3 I did on the mountain.

I still have a way to go in recovery and much farther to go in training. But I’m back in the game. And by that I mean I signed up for that same 50K I couldn’t manage last year. I’m hoping for a much better experience this year.

Oh yeah, and I lost 9.5 pounds so far.

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Point Mountain

A few pictures from a brief hike at Point Mountain with my son. This is two months after surgery on my ankle. Just going a few hundred yards on the trail hurt pretty good. Running on trails feels so far away.