The knife awaits?

So…the picture accompanying this post is from today…Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. For the first time since my September 6 emergency room visit and herniated disc diagnosis the following day, I gutted out the pain and numbness in my left leg (the back pain is minimal at this point) to get an easy 3.5-mile run in.

Why? Because today I saw the orthopedist again and this time he had the images from my recent MRI exam. Based on what he’s seeing, he thinks I may need a surgical procedure to fully address the pain/numbness in my leg. Sleeping is still an issue and it is still taking me hours to get going in the morning. As evidenced by my run today, there are times when I hardly feel anything. But it doesn’t last and by dinner time, I’m barely able to stand for more than a few minutes at a time. His thinking is that this isn’t getting better as fast as it should be.

I’m seeing a surgeon tomorrow to discuss my options. Surgery is one. The other is to continue physical therapy and get an injection into my spine to hopefully relieve the pressure on the nerve that is causing the pain in my leg.

This is problematic in so many ways. In addition to the Crest Best 10 Miler on October 7 and the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18, my family is going on a Disney cruise in early November. Now, I don’t know the details of any potential surgery, but a quick Google search shows varying degrees of recovery time for back surgeries. One said recovery time for resuming normal activity is 3 to 4 months (!!!) with a full recovery for sports, etc., being about a year (yikes)! However, another said that a procedure specifically addressing leg pain is minimally invasive and has a recovery time of 1 to 3 weeks (I’ll sign for that right now!).

So…this may be crazy, but I want to see if the surgeon will sign off on the following plan. Assuming he says I need the procedure and assuming it’s the minimally invasive one with a 1-to-3-week recovery time (and, yes, I plan on getting a second opinion), I want to see if this is an option:

  1. Try the injection immediately and continue physical therapy and hope it’s enough to get me through the 10-mile race on October 7;
  2. Schedule the surgery for just after October 7 anyway and, if the injection/therapy approach isn’t resolving my issues, get it done.

Again, assuming this is the procedure with a1-to-3-week recovery time, this would have me just about recovered in time for the cruise in early November and still give me some time for a extremely accelerated/condensed training cycle for the Philadelphia Marathon a couple of weeks later (I understand there’s a walking/running track on the cruise ship).

All I know is that this really stinks.

Just like that, race season is here

So…since Facebook is a trash fire platform run by a trash fire of a human being, I deleted my old account back in June (and Twitter is hanging on by a thread). I do still have a profile there through a secondary account I set up years ago in an aborted attempt to use that one to manage my podcast pages. But it basically exists solely to interact with other pages that handle things like sign-ups and notifications only through Facebook. I don’t plan to return to posting there at all.

Therefore, I have returned to posting here and on my long-dormant Tumblr account for sharing links, musings and other things, like weather updates. So feel free to check that out every now and then to see what I’m up to. 

Upcoming Races

This has been a weird year for me. I don’t usually do too many races during the spring and summer months. But for the past few years, I’ve taken part in Philly’s 10-mile Broad Street Run in May and a 5K held at my alma mater, Rider University, in June.

This year, however, I wasn’t able to run Broad Street because of an all-day, all-hands-on-deck work commitment — even though my job was eliminated through a reorganization about a month later (yeah…more on that later). And the Rider University 5K didn’t happen either.

Even worse, my favorite annual race, the Trenton Half-Marathon — a race I’d done every year since 2014 (after doing the event’s 10K component in 2013) — that was supposed to take place in late October or early November was canceled earlier this year.

Basically, I haven’t taken part in an organized race since last November’s Philadelphia Marathon. Now, I have been training (running, cycling and swimming) for a good chunk of the past nine months, but it just seems odd not having any events to prepare for during that time.

But now, the events I have been training for are suddenly just weeks away. First up, is the Hightstown (N.J.) Triathlon on September 9. I’ve done this sprint triathlon every year since 2014 (it was my first triathlon) because it takes place about 20 minutes away from where we live.

Next is the inaugural Crest Best 10-Miler in Wildwood Crest, N.J., on October 7. This new race is presented by the awesome Wildwood-based DelMo Sports (who oversee a bunch of events in South Jersey, including the Atlantic City Triathlon I did in 2014…and hope to do again next year) and I’m really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, that conflicts with yet another race I usually do, but won’t be able to do this year — WXPN’s Musicians on Call 5K.

Finally, I’m returning to the Philadelphia Marathon for a second year in a row. I finished in 4 hours, 51 minutes, 22 seconds IN 2017. I’m shooting for between 4:30:00 and 4:40:00 this time out.

Cough Wars: The Recycling Strikes Back

Of course, with all these races now within a few turns of the calendar, I seriously messed up by back a couple of weeks ago. Not during training, of course. But by being taken by surprise by a violent coughing attack as I was bending awkwardly to pick up a piece of wayward recycling while taking it out to the curb one morning.

Ugh! I have never been in so much pain in my life (and that includes slamming my shoulder into the back of a Chevy Suburban during a bike ride in 1986). What’s not helping is that I’ve been trying to train through it. In fact, a few hours after it happened, I went out for a triathlon brick training session that included an 11-mile bike ride and a planned 5K-distance run that I had to cut back to a mile because I just couldn’t handle the pain. Shortly after that, I drove out to a local swim school to do a little more than a half-mile in the pool.

The next day I tried to go out for a 5-mile run, but struggled just to get through four.

Even worse is that it has led to an apparently related leg issue that crops up when I’m sitting. It seems when I put pressure on my left lower back/butt, it leads to pain in my thigh.

I’m mostly OK when I’m standing, though. I even managed to get through my first 10-mile run since January a few days ago. The only thing that’s really bothering me on my runs right now is the lingering cough that sneaks up on me.

So, yeah, training has not been ideal for the past two weeks. Hoping things are better by this weekend.

Looking for Work

So, as I alluded to earlier, I’m no longer working at George Street Playhouse. I was let go in early June as part of a reorganization that eliminated my position. They are in the process of streamlining operations ahead of the move into the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center next summer. Honestly, I had been trying to find something closer to home anyway. Despite how it ended, I’ll have mostly great memories of my four seasons there.

Cruisin’ 

The big news is that we’ll be going on a Disney Cruise while school is out in early November. I have never been on a cruise before and not sure what to expect. It will be the first time on a plane (our cruise originates from Port Canaveral) with our boys, as well. That’s kind of making us a bit nervous, especially since Benjamin doesn’t like to be contained for long periods of time. Hopefully, we can work it out so that he’s sleepy for both the departing and return flights. But the vacation is a gift and we are very grateful for it. Our boys will definitely enjoy it.

Music Moments

Although nothing much became of the musical aspirations I had as a teenager, this year does mark the 30th anniversary of what I consider the first real song I ever wrote, “Time Takes Over.” I recently documented the full story behind the song, and added vocals and some other light instrumentation to the original instrumental demo I recorded to cassette back in October 1988, which you can listen to here:

I’ve also dipped my foot back in the songwriter’s pool recently with some creations I consider “sketches” to use in possible future works. The most recent of these was something I did completely in GarageBand on my iPhone and is more or less a complete song, from a structure standpoint. I’ve been listening to The War on Drugs a bit recently and I’ve become rather obsessed with how their songs really don’t do much structurally, but tend to stick to a groove and just build/add or subtract elements to create atmospheric ebb and flow patterns. Here’s an untitled project I recently recorded using this approach. Again, this was more of an experiment in structure, so the patterns and melodies here are essentially placeholders…but I still kind of like it as a starting point.

I haven’t been to many concerts this year. Alison and I saw my favorite current band, Lo Moon, in March. I had seen them in November 2017 on my own and then saw them again at WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival in late July, so I’ve already seen them three times. I really love their sound…lead singer/band leader Matt Lowell is very much influenced by the greatly under-appreciated Mark Hollis of Talk Talk. Matt is also a huge fan of The War on Drugs (with a couple of members of that band appearing on Lo Moon’s self-titled debut album) so that’s why I have become a little more interested in TWOD recently.

Also, keep your eyes and ears open for emerging soul/R&B singer-songwriter Devon Gilfillian. He played the Marina Stage on Day 3 of this year’s XPoNential Music Festival, just before Lo Moon were to hit the River Stage. I didn’t plan to watch his set, but I went over to take some photos (which came out terrible). And it wound up taking a lot of effort on my part to tear myself away to get over in time for a good spot for Lo Moon. Devon was far and away my vote for biggest surprise of the entire festival — and he’s also caught the attention of Rolling Stone. Great band, great performer, great set. The Philly-area native who now calls Nashville home has one EP out and is working on his first full-length album in Los Angeles. Here he is performing his latest song, “Troublemaker,” at the XPoNential Music Festival:

In June, I had the awesome and rare opportunity to catch music legend Midge Ure (Ultravox, Rich Kids, Visage, Slik, Thin Lizzy and — nearly — Sex Pistols) perform an intimate acoustic set in the tiny room at Randy Now’s Man Cave in Bordentown, N.J. You might not know the name, but Midge Ure has been Bob Geldof’s right-hand man with all matters associated with Band Aid and Live Aid over the decades. In fact, Midge wrote and produced “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Geldof gave him a snippet of a discarded Boomtown Rats song at the beginning of the writing process, but has said in at least one interview years later that it’s really Midge’s song) — a song with which he’s had a love-hate relationship over the years, but he seems to have come around to embracing it more recently. Here’s the first part of an amazing documentary, narrated by Midge, about the making of that historic record.

I will be seeing Simple Minds at The Basie in Red Bank, N.J., in late September, which is going to be incredibly awesome.

Anyway, here are photos of me with Midge Ure and Lo Moon to close out this update.

Help me join the Super Bowl champion Eagles in taking on autism

I recently signed up to run the 5K component of the Eagles Autism Challenge on May 19, 2018. Not only is it a chance to hang out with the reigning Super Bowl champions, but it’s a chance to raise money for autism research and programs. This is especially important to me as my 3-year-old son is autistic.
So, today — World Autism Day — I write to ask you for just a small donation to support my Eagles Autism Challenge 5K run. It would mean the world to me — and to my son.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
– BKunnamed.png

DONATE NOW!

Helping Eagles Autism Challenge is Easy.
Your donation will count towards Brian J Kelley’s fundraising efforts.

My Year in Running: 2017

Just wanted to end 2017 with a quick look back at my running achievements during the past year.

654315_254682350_XLargeMy most important running milestones in 2017, of course, were running in the first two marathons of my life — first, the New Jersey Marathon on April 30 and, then, the Philadelphia Marathon on November 19.

Although I was thrilled to finish my first 26.2-mile race, I was generally disappointed in my marathon debut at the Jersey Shore.

On top of that disappointment, I had to prepare for the 10-mile Broad Street Run the following weekend. Two days after the New Jersey Marathon, I went for a 5-mile workday run during lunch and began experiencing excruciating pain in my right knee at about mile 3. I stretched it out a bit and was able to continue, but it kept on happening during my runs that week.

I tried to doing some things to mitigate the knee issue (ice, stretching, massaging, etc.) and had to resign myself to the fact that I may — for the first time — be unable to finish a race.

But — wearing a knee brace not at all suited for running (because it was all I had at the time) — and fighting through some discomfort the final five miles, I wound up finishing the Broad Street Run in a personal-record 1:27:03.

After the Broad Street Run, I took a three-week break from running to get my knee right again. I would have taken more time off, but had to tune up for a 5K held at my alma mater, Rider University, each June to benefit women’s athletics. Even with my knee issues and the heat that day, I managed to complete that in a respectable 25:02.24.

The next race I did was one that I wasn’t sure I would do until about a month before the event, and that was the Hightstown (N.J.) Triathlon, a sprint-distance tri held each year not too far from where I live. Amazingly, even though I didn’t do any open-water swim training and squeezed in only two or three training rides on the bike, I still finished 76th overall in the event with a personal-best time of 1:21:21. Somehow, despite the 1/4-mile swim and 11.2-mile bike ride preceding it, I ran what was likely one of my top-10 5K times to set that PR with a time of 25:49 during the run portion.

At that point, I turned my attention to training for the Philadelphia Marathon, with the lone exception being one last short race — the WXPN Musicians On Call 5K in early October. Even though the course may have been short by a bit, I finished that race in 23:39.69 — and then got to stay for the ever-popular post-race 80s dance party!

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Crossing the finish line

Then it was back to the Philly Marathon. Sadly, I was only able to get in two really long-distance training runs — a 16-miler and an 18-miler — leading up to the race. But I had done a lot of pacing work on my shorter runs and felt ready to vindicate myself from the disappointing marathon debut in April. I just wanted to finish in less than five hours.

And despite wet, brisk conditions and ridiculous, swirling 40+ mph wind gusts, I managed to do just that, finishing in 4:51:22.

So that was my year in running. Oddly, except for the Hightstown Triathlon (the event I made a last-minute decision to do each of the last two years), I don’t have any events lined up yet for 2018. But I’ll be running somewhere. Just trying to figure out what races to do.

Happy New Year!

2017 Philadelphia Marathon recap

Finishing the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon
Finishing the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon

Sorry for the lack of posts, but just wanted to write a quick recap of my run in last Sunday’s Philadelphia Marathon — my second marathon, both all-time and this year.

As you may recall, I was disappointed in how I finished my first 26.2-mile race, the 2017 New Jersey Marathon held last April. I had estimated the Sport Beans fiasco from that race cost me a good 30-45 minutes. I definitely knew I should have finished in under 5 hours.

So…let’s start at the beginning. First of all, overnight rains stopped not too long before the 7 a.m. start of the race. But in its wake were strong 15-20 mph winds with up to 45 mph gusts — and overnight temps near 60° F falling into the upper 40s during the race. This meant wind chills in the lower 40s. Ordinarily, that would be pretty comfortable running weather, but the wind was a bit of a wild card and it affected my strategy.

For my first marathon, my goal was to run a sub-hour 10K and then gradually gear down to a 12:00/mile pace for the next 15 miles or so, which I did before running into trouble around mile 18.

This time out, I wanted to try to run at an even 10:30-10:45/mile pace throughout. But I knew most of the first six miles were going to be with the wind at our backs, so I made a starting-line decision to push it a little more when I could use the wind to my advantage.

Even though my first 10K (1:00:38) wound up being 39 seconds slower than my New Jersey Marathon 10K split, I hit the halfway point of the Philly Marathon (2:10:23) about four minutes faster than I did last April. Again, I was right where I wanted to be — actually, better than where I wanted to be.

But then the race reached Kelly Drive, which we took along the Schuylkill River into the party neighborhood of Manayunk. This is where you could see the front of the pack making its way to the finish line down the other side of Kelly Drive. And even though the wind was in our faces, you could see the fallen leaves blowing into the runners going the opposite direction. This meant the wind was swirling so I could tell around mile 15, the wind was going to be an issue for most of the next 11.2 miles.

At that point, I just decided to keep going as hard as I could and take it super-easy the rest of the way. I figured there was no point in fighting the wind. Instead of walking for three miles straight (like I did in April), by mile 19, I wound up — generally speaking — walking for five minutes then running for five minutes or so over the final 7+ miles.

Since the Philadelphia Marathon utilized a real-time race-tracking app called RaceJoy, which could tell me anticipated finish time at each mile, I knew when I reached mile 24 that I was going to finish in less than 5 hours, even with the walk/run plan I was doing at that time. I decided to walk most of mile 25 and just run it out the last 1.2 miles.

And that’s what I did, and finished in 4:51:22 — a little more than 23 minutes better than my previous marathon. Considering the elements and the fact that I hadn’t trained nearly as much as I would have liked, I was much happier with this effort.

Oh, and I forgot the most important part…I discovered something I could ingest mid-race for nutrition that wouldn’t screw me up — squeezable apple sauce! Screw you, Sport Beans!

My Philadelphia Marathon result - click for details
My Philadelphia Marathon result – click for details

 

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2017 Broad Street Run recap and time to rest

Well, exactly one week after my disappointing 5:14:25 finish in my first-ever marathon, the New Jersey Marathon, I lifted my spirits with a PR in my third Broad Street Run in four years on Sunday, May 7. Even that wasn’t easy, though.

During my training runs the week between the two races, I was experiencing pretty excruciating pain in my left knee that usually popped up around mile 3 or 4 of the run. That resulted in my having to walk or flat-out stop to stretch it out before continuing. On top of that, a persistent cold that I really haven’t been able to completely shake the past few weeks began to flare up again the Friday before the Broad Street Run.

Fortunately, I was able to fight off the cold, but all I could really do was rest and ice the knee…and hope I could get through the 10-mile run down Philadelphia’s Broad Street.

I knew I had to go better than an 8:59/mile pace to conquer the 1:30:00 mark, but I really didn’t know if I could maintain that with my knee in the shape it was in. Once again, around mile 4, I felt discomfort. But then I stumbled upon a temporary, in-race solution…by landing more on the back of my foot, it seemed to take stress off the knee. It was just a touch, but it was enough to relieve the pain enough to keep moving forward.

And I did…at a pace in the ballpark of 8:45/mile.

My Nike+ app was off by about two-tenths of a mile, but I did know that I started about 17 minutes after the elite runners started. So when I saw that the race clock said 1:18 and change at mile 7, I knew I just had to maintain my pace the final three miles to achieve my goal.

And I actually picked up the pace by a few seconds during the final three miles…finishing the 2017 Broad Street Run in a personal-best 1:27:03.

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However, I nearly couldn’t walk back to my car, which was parked nearly a mile away from the finish area. About a third of the way of the way there, my knee tightened up so badly, that it was a struggle just to step up a curb. Just as I was reaching my car, it nearly gave out completely and I almost fell.

What turned out to be fortuitous was that I struck up a conversation with a fellow runner in my starting corral. I mentioned how my knee had tightened up and was causing me pain after running the marathon the week before. He said that he suffered from something similar – IT bands. I read about iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome when I got home from the Broad Street Run, and it sounds exactly like what I have been experiencing so I’m going with that diagnosis.

And that means I’m going to take a break from running for a week or two and gradually work my way back into a routine. I have a 5K at my alma mater on June 10, but that’s it for organized races in my immediate future.

Hopefully, by then, my knee will be OK because I’m announcing it here — now — that I am officially registered for my second-ever marathon…the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 19, 2017. It’s a couple of weeks after the Trenton Half-Marathon, which will serve as a nice marathon training run.

I just need to get the disappointment of my first marathon out of my head.

If you want to join me in registering for the Philadelphia Marathon — or the Philadelphia Half Marathon, Liberty Bell Challenge or Independence Challenge, use the link below to register:

https://runsignup.com/Race/PA/Philadelphia/ThePhiladelphiaMarathon?raceRefCode=qoGqlrRk