Monday, April 7, 2014

Stumbling Into Spring

Photo credit: Andy, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
"Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here ...
Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear ..."
From The Beatles "Here Comes the Sun" written by George Harrison
(my favorite version is by Richie Havens)

Finally, after an interminable winter, small signs of spring have begun to arrive. Yesterday in our garden, the first tiny points of spring flowers began to push through the dirt, and I think I even spotted an ant or two scurrying about.
Photo credit: Bre LaRow
I've had a rough winter running season, with very little mileage and non-stop struggles with my left hip - another case of piriformis syndrome. I will likely write a post on this common runners' injury soon, but for now I'm getting myself fired up about an upcoming race, my first one of the year: The Zumbro 17 mile trail race, first stop on the UMTR 2014 Grand Prix Trail Run Series.
In 2013, I managed to put together a consistent trail running season and pull off what I'd consider a bit of a miracle by winning that series. However, I came into last year with a solid base of training mileage and no nagging injuries. Ah, yes, good times. This year is very, very different.

I know in my heart that I'm not ready to compete at the 17 mile distance. I would probably be okay at half that mileage, but 17 is going to be tough. I'll need to run cautiously and under control the entire way, and focus more on myself than on any kind of competition. And pack in some calories, because I'm imagining that I'll be out on that course for quite some time. I'll leave the competition part to my wife Monika, who is coming off a strong training cycle and I think will be a force to be reckoned with during the 2014 series. We did a 10.5 mile trail run just over a week ago on snow-covered trails at Lebanon Hills Regional Park, and she was just floating along. I'd like to run with her next weekend, but I suspect she'll drop me early and simply run away. And I'll be the proud husband wobbling in, well-behind!

I hope your winter miles have come more easily these past few months. Good luck to all as you tackle spring 2014. I'll be back with a race report on the Zumbro 17 after the weekend. A brief search just now couldn't turn up any detailed race reports from the past two years, so if you know of any please post a link in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is Hibernation an Option?

It's winter in Minnesota. That sounds rather mundane, I suppose. But in Minnesota winter should always be written as WINTER, or perhaps WINTER-IN-YER-FACE.
Must. Find. Front. Door.
Earlier this week, I returned from a short family vacation in southern Florida. I took off from Fort Lauderdale, mildly sweaty in the 82 degree Fahrenheit temperature. I stepped out of the airport terminal in Minneapolis about 4 hours later into 15 degrees below zero F - for those of you who are counting, that's 97 degrees colder. 97. Did I mention NINETY-SEVEN?!

I did a couple of short runs in Florida, but I'm keeping my running miles to a bare minimum right now. That's partly because my left hip is continuing to bother me (I'm sure it's my old friend piriformis syndrome, but that's worth another post on another day). And partly because, well, it's WINTER-IN-YER-FACE in Minnesota. I heard on the radio today that people were ecstatic because the temperatures would be above zero today. Ecstatic + above zero should probably not occur in the same sentence.

So, I keep wondering if hibernation might actually be an option.
Or perhaps technology can offer a solution, so that our winter training program looks something like this:
Minnesota Runners Ideal Winter Training Regimen
How do you cope with cold weather running? I'm usually not that intimidated by cold snaps, but when the temps are below zero for weeks-on-end, I slowly lose motivation. Thank goodness I've got one of these torture devices in the basement. My cat looks at me funny when I'm whirling away on the thing, but it keeps me in shape (and possibly gives her something to cat-laugh about).

No, that's not really me, but that IS really my cat. She's convinced that I'm a complete idiot. 
Here are a few tips for running outdoors in the "polar vortex" winter weather:

1. Layers. This is old advice, but it's truly effective. Wicking layers against your skin, wind-stopping layers on the outside. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on fancy stuff, but you do need to avoid cotton at all costs. And get some nylon shell mittens to put on over your running gloves.

2. Screw shoes. Don't read that incorrectly, it means "put hex head sheet metal screws into the soles of your running shoes". These really, really work. I ran a winter trail race once that was just sheer ice, and I beat at least a dozen younger, faster runners who were simply sliding all over the place. All I did was chug along with my screw shoes providing a firm grip. Here's an good post about how to do screw shoes.

3. Petroleum jelly. I lather this stuff on my lips, nostrils, eye lashes, eye lids, and any exposed skin. It protects against cold and wind burn, and it prevents your eyelashes from freezing together when you blink. Yes, that happens. Did I mention WINTER-IN-YER-FACE?

4. Lights. Winter running often means running in the dark. A headlamp is a must. I like the Petzl Tikka - fairly light, durable, and bright enough. I combine mine with rechargeable batteries and I'm good to go all winter long.

You probably have your own advice to share, go ahead and comment below. Good luck out there, stay warm and stay safe.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is It Really October Already?

Whoa, 2013, slow down a bit please! Can't believe how fast this year has sprinted along. Does it seem that way to you, too? I feel like I barely have time to catch my breath, and never seem to find a moment to write anything coherent on this blog. I smell a 2014 New Year's Resolution brewing ...

Halloween is nearly upon us, and the racing season - at least here in the northern plains - is winding down. Oh, sure, we've got a smattering of Turkey Trots and Christmas Jogs on the calendar, but trail racing is just about done for the year and that's where I find the most pleasure and satisfaction.

I will be racing at the Great Pumpkin Chase 10k this coming weekend. It's the final race in the 2013 UMTR Trail Race Grand Prix Series. I've really enjoyed the races in this series over the past year, and - unlike last year - managed to stay uninjured and thus hang in there consistently enough to take home the top prize in my age group AND OVERALL. Have to be happy with that! There is a potluck gathering a awards ceremony coming up next month (Potluck! You've got to love the Midwest sometimes).

On staying injury-free: Really, I'm just talking about major break downs, because I've had my share of sore spots and nagging little stuff, like ITB tightness, piriformis twitches, and an intermittent odd pain in my left ankle. Still, I've managed to run at least a few times every week for most of the year. The rest of the days I'm either cycling pretty hard or whirling around on my elliptical in the basement, nose pressed into Netflix on the iPad. I'm going to go on record to say that the elliptical was a good purchase for me as an "older runner". Even though I much prefer being outside (regardless of the elements), the ability to eliminate most of the injury-inducing impact of gravity while still getting a quality and similar-motion-to-running workout has been really valuable. And thank goodness for lots of (mostly old and bad, but what the heck) Sci Fi stuff on Netflix! I've found that I can do a pretty good set of intervals by finding old shows/films with plenty of chase scenes, just a tip. Oh, and comedies are no good for me - I can't workout and laugh at the same time!

I hope you are prepared for winter, and plan to stay fit and active regardless of the season. I'll be back at some point with a complete recap of 2013 and look ahead to 2014. Keep running!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We Forget How Fragile We Are

I was having a pretty good summer, really. Running fairly strong, doing more cross-training than ever before in an effort to stay healthy and avoid over-use injuries. Even (gasp!) eating fairly healthy foods. Seemed I was checking all of the right boxes.

Then, boom! One kid with the sniffles crosses my path, and within a day or so I'm laid out in bed with a fever, chills, hacking cough, and blinding headaches. Argh!

These little tiny things called viruses are truly amazing things. Get a couple into your system on the wrong day and you might as well have hit yourself repeatedly with a hot brick. I was a wreck for 3-4 days, then dragged myself (stubbornly) out for a short jog ... which of course knocked me right back down for 3 more days (we runners are a stupid lot, aren't we? Thinking we can "run it out of us". Sigh.).

Now, at day 11, I'm finally feeling almost myself again. Not 100% , but darned close. It's amazing how strong and capable we can feel one day, and then down and out the next. Over and over again, we forget how fragile we are.

And this is one of my favorite songs, too, Stevie.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wait ... you RAN to work today?

Well, yeah, I did. But wait, it's not THAT weird. Well, maybe it is a bit weird, but I swear it's getting LESS weird year-by-year. Allow me to elucidate ...

I ran to work this morning, about 4.5 miles on the slightly-more-scenic route (for those of you from the Twin Cities: this included heading north on Pleasant and Grand and Bryant, then picking up the Midtown Greenway east until I could climb up at Nicollet and weave my way past Eat Street and over to the MIA where I work). I wore a backpack with some essentials, and I didn't push the pace. It took me just over 36 minutes, and it felt good. Of course, I ended up rather sweaty, despite the unusually cool weather we're having (low 60s F, but rather humid in the morning).

Those essentials in the backpack? The answer has two parts:
Part One: I keep the following in my office all the time - belt, shoes, shirt, deodorant, towel, wet wipes, hand sanitizer. So I can rely on being able to towel off and clean up a bit. I'm also lucky to have an office with a door that closes, so I've got a place where I can change.
Part Two: My backpack - I recommend a Camelbak, because they are lightweight, offer plenty of straps, are built to haul water so they are built to be sturdy and to fit tightly, and finally I can adjust mine to ride relatively high between my shoulder blades so it's not bouncing on my waist. In my backpack this morning I brought along: cell phone, wallet, keys, socks, underwear, khakis (rolled up), and food (apple, yogurt, carrots, and a bag of dry cereal and raw almonds).

I should also confess that I don't run to or from work very often. I usually commute by car, mostly because I typically wear a suit & tie and often attend offsite meetings or lunches on a tight schedule. I sometimes commute by bike - which takes me almost exactly the same amount of time that it does to drive - but can be a hindrance if the weather is cold or wet, or when I have those afore-mentioned offsite meetings. So why run to work today?

I ran to work today in part because I was in a car accident earlier this week. Some guy ignored a red light and sort of t-boned my car in the middle of an intersection. I was lucky, he hit me on the driver's side but closer to the back wheel, so I just got spun around 180 degrees and came to a stop. I'm fine, just a nice bruise on my rib cage, but the car is toast. I'm dealing with the insurance companies and all of that complexity - I've never been in a car accident before, so it's all a mystery to me and I'm finding it pretty hard to find a helpful soul in the insurance biz. Sigh. Part of that chaotic milieu is the arranging for a rental car for awhile ... at least until the final decisions are made about my damaged car. That rental car is supposed to arrive today at my place of work (I do like that Enterprise Rental cars will "pick you up"), so it was simply easier for me to travel very lightly this morning (i.e., no bike). And, of course, what the heck!

A few things to note about commuting by foot:

  • National Run to Work Day is actually on the near horizon! Friday September 20, 2013. To be accurate, they call it RUN@WORK day, and you can learn more about it at the RRCA website. See, maybe it's not so weird after all, right? It's "national" for goodness sake.
  • Runner's World has posted a funny article about running to work, a bit focused on the whole getting cleaned up thing, which I acknowledge can be a challenge. I guess I'm lucky in that I'm just generally not a stinky guy. I know everyone is different in that regard, so what works for some of us may not work for others.
  • There is a blogger called The Run Commuter who has published careful notes on how to become a run commuter
  • The Guardian has another how-to article online.
  • And, check this out: there is a service called Home Run in London that will not only help you run home from work, with a group if you'd like, but they will also carry your bag home for you so that you don't have to. As they say in England, "Brilliant!"
Of course, commuting by running is not for everyone and I'm not trying to be an evangelist here. I did have a little fun with it this morning, and I'll try to do it a bit more often in the future, because frankly it's not as difficult as it may seem and it's just plain good for me.

Do you run to and/or from work? Do you have any other useful tips or links? Please post in the comments.

Run on my friends.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A (Partial) Guide to Running Road Relays

Author's note: This - rather long - post is meant to help my fellow runners plan for and accomplish a point-to-point relay race. It is based on my personal experience, and I've shared one version or another of this content through various channels since 2005 (wow, that's a long time ago). Also, As with a lot of the advice-related things I write, this guide is meant to be both informative and (at times) irreverent ... and hopefully occasionally entertaining. The goal, as always, is to combine a zest for life with a passion for running, and to express it not only with our feet but also with our smiles and laughter. Along the way, we collect life-memories that, well, no one else will really understand, you-had-to-be-there kind of stuff. So, try to read this with just enough attention to remember most of it, your teammates will probably be grateful (or at least they’ll hit you on the head less often).

What exactly is a point-to-point relay?
Essentially, you take a carload or two (or six, or whatever) of runners (and ‘temporary runners’ as needed) and you get them from a starting line to a distant finishing line. One-at-a-time, each runner is logging miles while the others drive, support, guide, chide, photograph, tease, get lost, flirt with the competition, eat, argue over radio stations, nap, etc. While that may not sound all that tough, believe me, these things can come unraveled quickly without preparation. There are numerous obstacles to overcome, being prepared will vastly reduce the headache factor and allow you and your team to focus on enjoying the race, instead of on throwing bananas and empty Gatorade containers at one another. A point-to-point relay isn’t your run-of-the-mill race: It takes considerably more planning and shared resources to organize a relay team. By comparison, for an individual race it’s you alone who will or will not be on time, have a decent race, forget your pants, etc. … if things go wrong, no one ‘suffers’ except you, so no big deal. Well, friend, now you’ve got actual teammates who depend on you to be there, do your best, and help them do their best. I’m not going to lie to you, this does add a bit of pressure, but it’s also really fun and exciting (trust me, you’ll see). We’ve all done our share of boring road races that are forgotten a month later, but you will remember your relays, forever. That’s pretty cool.

Getting There (Registration, Transportation)
Team captains will collect information and signatures to get teams entered, please respond quickly and accurately when they bug you for this kind of stuff. Oh, and send in that entry fee check you promised! Team captains (hey, here’s an idea: volunteer to be one next time!) will also be organizing (read: begging and pleading for) cars or vans for race day, and will arrange meeting points for transportation and pre-race gathering. On race day, here is how you can help the most: Be there on time (or even – gasp! – early!), and if you are a driver show up with a clean and fully-fueled car. It is simply not an option to saunter in late for one of these events … I think I’ve belabored that point enough, right?

Wait! What do I bring??
At the end of this guide, you’ll find a basic gear list. Pretty simple. Your team captains may or may not provide you with a more-specific list, but this is a decent starting point. You’ll notice that there are several items on the list that are shared. “Aha!” you say, nearly spilling your bowl of corn flakes, “So that’s why they keep bugging me about this team meeting thing!” That’s right, we will need to get together well before the race to decide who’s bringing what, among other important things.

Team Meeting Thing
That’s right, there are many good reasons for a pre-race meeting, the list of which is too long and varied (and boring) to include here. However, there will always be some sort of logistics to iron out, so when your team captain(s) set up a pre-race meeting in the weeks before the event, be there.

Race Rules
All of these relays have rules, some similar and some quite unique. The races typically have websites listing all of the details, best if you look them over (preferably while relatively sober). At the Team Meeting, team captain(s) will highlight the most-important rules for your specific race. Some rules will apply to runners; some rules will apply to support vehicles. If you violate these rules, your team can be penalized or even eliminated from the race, both of which would, well, totally suck. So don’t blow it for others.

Driving and Supporting
Yeah, okay, it’s a race and all, but that does not give you carte blanche to ignore traffic laws (or the laws of physics). Not to mention, you will probably spend time driving someone else’s car, so be cool about it. Drive sanely, keep it safe. And keep an eye on the gas gauge, nothing worse than sputtering out halfway to the next stage, and stranding the entire team. When you decide to stop and support your on-course runner, find a legal spot to pull over, and please respect the local residents. If you hand your runner a drink cup or bottle or a gel pack, then it’s your responsibility to pick it up after they’ve dropped it. Best approach: as you stop, decide on one person to provide the refreshment, who walks back up the course about 100 meters, and one person to gather the refuse, who walks the other direction down the course 100 meters. Simple, right? Lastly, some runners like to be screamed at Vince-Lombardi-style, others prefer a quiet word of support, some like to hear loud disco music, others just want cold water thrown on them every half mile … do you know how you find out someone’s preference? You ask! Amazing, isn’t it? Be a good teammate, and find out how to help the others on your squad. Oh, and say thank you when others help you … like I said, simple.

Check the forecast, and bring the right stuff. And remember that driving in bad weather is harder, so prepare for it. Hints: in cold weather, a thermos of hot coffee, tea, or cocoa is a miracle. In hot weather, bring one or two of those big ‘super-soaker’ style squirt guns and have fun blasting each other to stay cool.

Communication and Emergencies
Everyone with a cell phone should bring it, fully charged. Team captains will collect numbers for each support vehicle. Stay in touch, and when two or more support vehicles cross paths, exchange any updates that might be helpful. Please keep your team captain up-to-date on anything of importance (well, unless he/she is currently running, then you can wait until the next leg). As far as emergencies, just keep in mind that people are always more important than a race; if someone needs help, from your team or even from another team, the race immediately becomes a lower priority. When in doubt, get help via calling 911.

Most of the point-to-point races cover so much territory that it is impossible to block all traffic or to mark the course perfectly. Therefore, it is the job of each runner and each support vehicle to know the route. Best approach: each runner should bring copies of his or her stage maps in ziploc bags folded carefully so they can be viewed (stuffed into your shirt while you run). The support vehicle should carry a master copy of the entire set of course maps. In the support vehicle, one person drives and a DIFFERENT person reads the maps. Hint One: If you are in the support vehicle, and you notice an unmarked or tricky intersection, then stop nearby and get someone over there to direct your runner. Help each other! Hint Two: Zero out the vehicle’s trip meter at the starting line, this helps keep track of the race miles and thus simplify navigation.

Running Part One: Pacing and racing
Warming up: You won’t have a lot of time to get ready, so a complete warm-up (like you’d do before a typical race) is unlikely. Try to get in at least a 5 min. jog and 5 min. of easy stretching before you run, but don’t fret too much over this, you’ll be so fired up that it will be easy to get going (trust me).
Pacing: This is the hardest part about running a relay. You usually have to run more than once, so pace yourself accordingly. Typically, you try to run "tempo pace", which is about 85%-88% of your maximum effort (add about 7.5% to your per mile 5k race pace to come up with splits, but adjust for terrain, weather, time of day, etc.).
Competing: Relay teams vary in the types of runners they put into each stage. Try not to ‘race’ the runners immediately around you, just establish your pace and stick with it. If you can use those ahead of you for motivation, okay, but don’t freak if you get passed - that runner could be from a weak team with one fast person, you never know. Do your own thing, ignore the others, we’ll sort it all out at the end. If you start chasing someone, then blow up and lose five minutes in the last couple miles of your stage, then you’ve let your entire team down.
Cooling down: Just like the warm-up, finding time to cool down can be a problem. Here are some hints, but please inform your team before you jog off, disappear, and confuse everyone:
- After handing off to the next runner, continue on up the course for a mile or so of easy jogging, tell your support vehicle to pick you up enroute (cover up your race number if you do this, we don’t want to be accused of any strange-doings).
- or - After handing off, just jump right into the support car. As soon as the car makes its first support stop, you jump out and jog around to cool down and loosen up.
- or - Ask your support driver to drop you off one mile from the beginning of the NEXT stage, then jog in ahead of the upcoming runner to join back with the team (cover up your race number on this one too).
Handing-off: Every team has their own style of handing off from one runner to the next, just make sure to agree ahead of time. Most races give the team a wristband to pass along, my advice is don't try to be fancy, just take it off and hand it to the next runner.

Running Part Two: Recovering, running multiple stages in one relay race
Assuming you will run more than one stage, follow this routine after each:
1. Cool down, as you prefer (see above)
2. Towel off, and immediately change clothes – do not sit around in wet gear!
3. Store your sweaty gear in a sealed bag, your teammates will be grateful
4. Hydrate: replace what you’ve lost, and use drinks that sit easy on your stomach
5. Eating: re-fuel, use foods that you know you can digest appropriately before you have to run again
6. Hint: petroleum jelly can work miracles, use it on any skin surfaces that tend to chafe or blister
7. Wear a new set of running clothes and shoes for each stage that you run

Running Part Three: Finishing
It's common practice for the entire team to jump into the race just before the finish line, to accompany the "anchor leg" runner across the line. Plan ahead for it, get there on time, and enjoy the moment. One word of practical caution: If your last runner is engaged in a tight race with one or more other runners, don't get in the way, just jog in right behind and enjoy watching the competition unfold.

Team Etiquette
Attitude: It’s not always easy to be with the same guys and gals all day (especially if one of them has really old running shoes!), but do your best to maintain the peace. (Vehicles have roof racks or rear bumpers, tie the shoes there!). Find out how to help your teammates and do it. And if someone annoys you (for example, say, oh, an overly enthusiastic and obsessive writer of team guidelines), then just let it go. Finally, you are part of a team now, so you are respected not only for dishing it out, but also for being able to take it. After all, we’re all silly, fallible humans, might as well laugh about it. 
Smells: Yes, it’s going to be many hours in a car or van with people perspiring all around you … hmmm, why do we do this again, exactly? Anyway, at least for those of you with functioning nostrils, things can get a bit ripe, so everyone please adhere to these basic principles after each time you run: clean up, change clothes, store old clothes in ziploc bags. One last thing, if a teammate is in need of, say, a bit of improved hygiene, it is considered rude to remark “you stink” followed by faked gagging and vomiting sounds. Instead, use the the code words: “Man, I didn’t realize they had so much livestock in this state!”
Support: Things that no runner EVER wants to hear from a teammate:
a. “Are you all right? No, really, are you okay?”
b. “You’re not doing all that bad, really.”
c. “Why is everyone passing you?”
d. “The fat old guy is catching you again, hurry up!”
e. “It’s all uphill from here!”
f. “No, no, we’re not laughing AT you, we’re laughing WITH you!”

Woo-Hoo, Yippee, Hooray, etc. Hey, have fun, okay? The reason for this guide is to get all this silly junk taken care of ahead of time so that you can just let it all hang out on race day. Don’t fuss over these things, just take care of them and then relax. Isn’t that the point?

Don’t Panic! (or, Here’s what to do if …)
Things will go wrong, such is life. Here are some situations I’ve seen or been through myself, and what to do about them. Main thing is to keep your head on straight and stay calm (although it is possible to imagine situations for which hysterical screaming, bawling, tantrum-throwing, and general carrying-on might be effective … we’ll leave that up to your discretion).
1. “Uh oh, my vehicle just pulled away without me”: Walk along the route, they’ll be back for you, at least we hope so. If they don’t show after 20 minutes, start hitchhiking, other teams will pick you up. Explain the situation to them. Allow them to chuckle knowingly.
2. “I’m lost!” (while running): Pull out your course map, check. If needed, backtrack to nearest intersection and check again. Watch for other runners and support vehicles. Backtrack until you are on-course again if you have to.
3. “We’re lost!” (while driving): Stop. Check course maps. Are you sure that you are lost? If so, backtrack until you are on course. Call your other support vehicle and ask for help. Allow them to chuckle knowingly.
4. “We’re out of drinking water!”: Most relay maps will show service stations and grocery stores, plan to stop at one as soon as you can. Next time, bring more water!
5. “One of our runners is hurt!”: This is the nightmare scenario. First, get that runner any help he/she needs. Once that is dealt with, IF you can get the team back in the race, here is the usual scenario: The next runner jumps in to finish the stage for the injured runner, then the other runners all move up one stage, in serial order. This will leave the last stage ‘unoccupied’. Consult race rules for what to do about this (some races require a specified runner, others will allow any runner to serve as the substitute). The bottom line is that someone is going to have to run more than they planned, or the race is over for that team.

Basic Relay Packing List - you will likely need more than this, but start with:

Other great resources
Here are a few links to other great resources available online for planning and accomplishing a road relay. Have a ball out there, folks, maybe we'll cross paths at one of these events in the future!
So you want to/are/got roped into running a relay
Why Team Road Relays Are Flourishing
Relay Packing List - another version

You probably have something to say too
Please add your Relay-related tips, links, funny stories, etc. in the Comments below.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Pain in the Knee

Recently I've had a few runner friends contact me to ask about pain in their knees. It's a pretty common complaint, especially for any runner who is ramping up his or her training by increasing frequency, mileage, intensity, etc. As the autumn marathon season approaches, this includes a rather large percentage of runners out there.

Pain in the knee is really annoying for runners. Of course, I'm assuming here that we are talking about so-called "ordinary pain": your knee is hurting, but there is no discoloration or obvious swelling, and you did not bang your knee into something hard or fall down/twist your leg to cause the problem in the first place. In fact, you can't really pinpoint the exact day that the pain started, but it's there now and it just won't go away. And it's begun hurting so much that you can't really run on it. Most likely the pain feels like it's in the kneecap (patella), or just under the kneecap - although the pain *may* radiate a little bit up or down the front of the leg to the patellar tendon or the tendons that attach to the lower quadricep.

In other words, it's probably a classic case of "runner's knee", which isn't serious but could set you back for a time. And runners do not like being set back!

Caveat 1. I've written it before and I always mean it - I'm NOT a doctor, not even close. I am a runner of many years who's seen a lot - and personally experienced a lot - of injuries. I've coached and supported hundreds of fellow runners, and my home-spun advice has seemed to work in the past, but it may not work at all for you. Really. So promise me that if the pain gets worse (or the knee becomes discolored or swollen or you really can't bend it without wincing), please ignore my advice and go see a real physician.

There, there ...
Caveat 2: If you have different symptoms than described above, it could be another problem entirely. In that case, stop reading this post and go see your doctor!

In the meantime, try this:

1. Ice your knee, 2 to 4 times per day, for 20-30 minutes each time. Do this for one week. Ice wraps are great, so are ziploc bags full of ice cubes. The old runner's trick is to buy a cheap bag of frozen peas and just use it over and over (but I don't recommend eating them later, yuck - so mark the bag with permanent ink just to be sure).
Yes, I know that's on his ANKLE!

2. Take at least 48 hours off of running, walking fast, cycling, or other leg-intensive exercise. After two days, cycling might be your best bet as cross-training. You may need to take up to two weeks away from running (let pain be your guide here, if it hurts don't do it).

3. Go to your favorite natural vitamin store and buy some Bromelain in pill form. This is a natural substance from pineapple that helps to reduce inflammation. Take 2-4 of the pills per day for 1- 2 weeks, then re-evaluate based on pain. Please don't take the stuff year-round, of course, it's for treatment not maintenance.

4. Strengthen your quadriceps. Do the exercise shown at the very end of this Runner's World article .
You can also do simple leg lifts (just straighten your leg and hold it for a count of five, 10 times in a row, a few times per day) when seated at your chair at work. The key is to work your quadriceps - when they get stronger your knee cap will track in the appropriate plane and the pain should go away. This is the most-important thing you will need to do, so be diligent about it. You are a runner, diligence should be part of your middle name!

5. Runner's World also has a short video that demonstrates several exercises that can help runners prevent knee pain. Some of these may seem almost silly, but taken as a combined set they essentially create strength in several muscles which can then take some of the strain away from the knee area. Well worth a try.

Be patient, work those quads, and you will get back out there quickly. If you ignore the pain and refuse to stop running (try to "run through" this injury), I predict that it's going to set you back even longer in the near future. Yeah, I know you hate to hear that, but truth hurts sometimes. What's the old adage? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? That's similar to the case here: when runner's knee arises, quickly nip the injury in the bud or suffer with a very long layoff and possibly lots of appointments with doctors and physical therapists.

Good luck!