Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Long Run of 2011

Even writing this 20 hours after the fact, it is hard for me to get my brain around...but I actually did it ! I ran my first marathon distance with no walking, Of course, I'm paying a bit for it still, but I knew it wouldn't be a cake walk, and it wasn't.

I got up yesterday morning at 3:00 to let the dogs out, and ate one of those Oikos yogurt single serving cups. I then went back to bed until the alarm went off at 3:50, and got around slowly and did a bit of stretching. I then went to our spare room where all my "stuff" is, and poured 4, 10 ounce bottles with Gatorade, and started getting dressed. The dogs had woke my wife up for some reason, so everyone piled in for a morning visit and she wished me luck. I drank a total of about 8 ounces of Gatorade prior to leaving.

Yesterday was my weight-check morning as well, and for some reason (I've never done it before) I weight myself once I was all "kitted up". It appears that "fully loaded" with 40 ounces of liquid, six gels, pepper spray, keys, headlamp, pouch, and clothes, it adds almost 9 pounds total. <--- [Interesting, but largely irrelevant fact :-)]

Once fully dressed and ready with headlamp and all, I went in to say goodbye...all the while really not even wanting to head out the door. I just didn't want to do it. Like I said, the longer distances at this point are still just intimidating to me (and I knew it was going to hurt a bit). As I walked out the door, I just had to resolve to myself that since I had been sick for the last few days, if this was nothing more than a four mile run, then I would just reset and do it some other time.

I had setup a roughly 9 mile loop, and the weather conditions were perfect [39 degrees, west wind @ 4-6, low humidity]...perfect for shorts and a sleeveless shirt as long as you're moving along. I got started at 4:50.

I'd only been running a little over 30 minutes before I had to make a "nature stop". It didn't seem as if I had drank all that much before starting, and I only tend to drink 2 to 3 ounces every two miles (one 10 ounce container per six miles), but in these conditions (on this day anyway), that would prove to be a bit too much. I suppose it is better to be over-hydrated than under, but it was still annoying to have to make the brief stops (probably about 20 seconds each) at miles 4.5, 7.75, 10.0, 12.75, and 18.0.  I'll have to dial in my hydration a bit better though, because stopping like this won't be as easy or quick on a race course...not to mention just the hassle of having to break stride and get started again.

Although RunKeeper has a pause button, I didn't dig out the phone and pause it for these...I just let it run. I'm pretty lucky that my neighbor still has some home construction, so there are actually port-a-johns here and there, and it was dark until almost 7:00.

The only other stop I had to make was just after 15.0 miles, I had begun to notice that my right shoe seemed tight, and was starting to really hurt the top of my foot near the ankle (yesterday there was a bruise afterwards about the size of a dime, but it looks better today). I didn't "stop the clock" for this one either, but it was more of a challenge to be sure. My hands were a bit swollen, and since I knot my shoe laces (I may have to rethink that and go with one of those lace-locking systems) I like to never got it undone and retied. Probably took me a minute or maybe a bit more. What a pain.

Throughout the run, at least from about the 8 mile mark on, I found myself just aiming to complete the next couple of miles. I recalled all my long runs, and then aimed at over-taking that distance one-by-one. Once I passed my longest since I started working out again, I set my sights on just getting to 24 miles. By that point, I had willed myself past 5 or 6 different 2 mile chunks, so I just did it one more time. This was one of those times when I was really glad that I have RunKeeper set to give me feedback every quarter mile.

I had considered running with music, or at least taking earplugs with me for later in the run to do so, but in the end I'm glad I didn't. It allowed me to really focus on my form and concentrate on the upcoming mile goals. I also like to be pretty aware of what is around me, so I don't have a car back out of a driveway into me (nearly happened twice), or a dog run out at me without me hearing it coming.

I also had various pains come up throughout the run. For a couple of miles, it was the inside of my left knee on every step. Not excruciating, but noticeable. Then it was the outside of my right knee where the IT band connects. Then my lower back on first one side, and later the other...with each step. After a while, it got to where I knew that whatever the current pain was, that it too would pass. The only kind of scary one was when my right thigh started to cramp at 23.75...that one felt bad, but it never progressed then went away, to be followed by the feeling that my left glute was imminently going to cramp up till the 25.75 mile mark. I suppose this is just normal stuff, but I had never had this happen to me on a long run before.

Below is a couple of graphics from RunKeeper with my distance, time, pace, and the elevation...

... and my split times.

Now I know for sure that I can make this type of distance (although the weather may not always cooperate like it did, each course is different, and I didn't have to dodge a single person on my run :-)). For me, that takes an area of psychological concern off the table. Thanks for reading along (if you made it through all that) to my ramblings, and Happy Running everyone !!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shaking the sinus cold and favorite app

Yesterday the sinus cold that I picked up over Christmas was really kicking me, and a four mile walk pretty much took it out of me. Felt pretty rotten last night, but got to bed by 9:00 and slept straight through until almost 7:00 this morning...I almost NEVER do that. It seems that I'm almost always up to answer a nature call, or let one of the dogs out to do the same, but for some reason the dogs left me alone and I slept straight through. My head feels quite a bit better this morning (not perfect, but much better), although I do seem to have picked up a bit of a dry cough. Hopefully this will all subside so I can still do the long run tomorrow...if not I'll postpone a day or so, since I don't want this to be an epic fail due to any lingering weakness from the sinus thing.

I think I mentioned previously that I'm a RunKeeper fan. I found this application at the end of May, and since I was primarily walking right at first (and then cycling), it was easy to carry my phone with me. I just put it in a fanny pack along with a copy of my drivers license and insurance card. The application is very good with it's accuracy...probably about 96% to 98% accurate. It can be a bit weird on corners sometimes, but with the various twists and turns I typically do on routes, it all evens out. I've checked the reported distances with the car odometer several times, and it is always spot-on. After the workout, I just hit the Done button, then Save and it saves it on the phone and uploads the data to the cloud / website for further review. It reports mile splits, and elevation which is kind of cool. Of course it also reports an overall total elevation climbed, calories expended (based upon weight that you enter on the website), MPH, pace, distance, and overall time.

After the workout, you can access three screens of information on the phone. The first is sort of a summary page. The screen shots are from my walk yesterday...

The second gives you mile splits:

And the third provides a map of your route:

In years past I was never a fan of running with anything, but I found that when I added running to my workouts this summer that if I simply put a wadded up plastic Wal-Mart bag in the pouch and then put the phone in, it didn't bounce around, and I've been doing it that way ever since. I also added a flashing red clip-on bicycle light to the back strap (so I can be seen from behind), and due to some dog / people issues, started carrying a small pepper spray canister (about 4 inches tall, and an inch around).

Another "toy site" I also use (it's free to do so) is the Earndit site, which is kind of interesting. This company has several partners that offer discounts that you can "purchase" with points you earn from workouts. It interfaces with RunKeeper (as well as Garmin Connect, Nike+, FitBit, BodyMedia Fit, and check-ins at Fitness Centers via Foursquare), and will give you 10 points per mile for walking or running (as long as there is map data, which means it can't be on a treadmill), and 3 points per mile for cycling. There is also 15 to 20 points given per day for a check-in at a gym (20 points if you are a mayor). There is a maximum of 60 points per day, and virtual trophies for various accomplishments. That would certainly not appeal to everyone, but it is kind of cool and the price was right.

Till tomorrow...happy running everyone !

Monday, December 26, 2011

Last Long Run of the year coming up...and the longest yet.

Last night I noticed that I was coming down with a mild (at least at this point) sinus cold, and I woke up with it this morning as well. Nothing serious at this point, but I'm just feeling a bit on the "blah" side with a runny nose. I went ahead and slept in since this week is a holiday for me, then got started on the workout about 7:30.

As I typically do when it is on the cold side outside, I started by spending 20 minutes on the Elliptical machine on Level 8 / Incline 1 for my pre-run warmup, then went out and had a nice run of 4.06 miles @ a 9:05 average pace. I'll have to be sure that when I do my next planned long run that I dial that back to the 9:30 area (or slower).

I didn't really notice any weakness during the run, but more than my normal level of "snot rockets" to keep things cleared out. I'm hopeful that this will pass quickly, since the long run is planned for Thursday morning early. The weather should be perfect for it (predicting low 40's with no rain and very light wind), so I hope this cold doesn't stand in my way.

I do find that the runs longer than 13 miles or so tend to seem intimidating to me leading up to the runs, and this one is no exception. Every time I've attempted on longer, I've just had to stop thinking about it that morning and start out on auto-pilot. I've mapped out a nearly 9 mile loop through my sub-division, and my plan is to "go the distance" for the first time in my life...three loops up to 26.3 miles (26.21875 is "officially the marathon distance, so I plan to just tack on a bit to have it covered).

Although this will be a physical challenge for me, I think it will be a lot more mental. Since I'll be right by the house at or just slightly after 18 miles, and my longest continuous run ever was 21 miles back in the middle of November, I'll be sorely tempted to just "call it good"...I can see that coming. The last time I did a long run it was roughly a 7 mile loop, and every time I passed the house I had to just sort of "zone out" and keep going. I find that if I DON'T think about quitting, that is what has got me through in the past. We'll see how this one works out.

It would actually be a success to cover 24 miles, and I wouldn't be completely bummed out if that is what I'm able to achieve. That being said, I would be really close to a full marathon distance (even if it is in training and not an official race), and it would be cool to be able to complete that distance in 2011.  Maybe I'll try this....

I'll do a very light cycling workout tomorrow (probably on a stationary bike at the gym since it isn't going to be overly warm outside), then nothing on Wednesday.

I've got to say that I really like the challenge of these longer efforts, even if they are sort of intimidating to me at my present level of fitness. I'll do this like the last one, with no support crew or outside aid, carrying my fluids, GU, and electrolyte capsules with me in my running pouch. I'll have 4-10 oz. bottles of Gatordade, six GUs, and 4 electrolyte capsules. I have RunKeeper call out time, distance, and average pace every 1/4 mile (I like the feedback), and I drink about 3 to 4 ounces at every 2 mile mark, take a GU at every 4 mile mark, and an electrolyte capsule at every 6 mile mark. That should exhaust my fluids and everything else at around the 24 mile mark.

Success or not, my plan is to post an update of the effort on Thursday sometime. Until then, happy running everyone !

Sunday, December 25, 2011

How it began...

Welcome to my initial post...I've wanted to get started for a while now, but had just been putting it off, so no time like the present to get started.

At 52 years of age, I found that I had really let myself go and wasn't happy with what I saw. I had a 40 inch waist (at 5 foot 8), weighed 186.2 pounds, and had a body fat percentage of 26.9%. I had lost a good bit of weight five or six years earlier, but had managed to simply gain it all back.

Of course, at the level of fitness I found myself, I couldn't just "hit the gym" as I had previously (I've had a love for the sport of running for nearly all my life, and although I was never really good at it, had enjoyed running 25 years ago). So at the end of April, 2011, I started just by walking the dogs around the neighborhood, taking progressively longer and longer walks. Let's just say it wasn't pretty.

This quote is just SO true..."If you're sick of starting over, you have to stop quitting". Let's just say that I hope this is the last time I quit being healthy.
 I also ditched the "See Food" diet I was on. I started eating breakfast, and stopped eating all sweets. I also ate ONE plate of food for the evening meal, and tried to make it primarily protein-based, with good carbohydrates and low in fat.

So that was how I got started chipping away at all the fat to see what I could find underneath (although I didn't look anywhere near this good from the waist up :-)

At the end of May, I bought a bicycle (a hybrid between a road bike and a mountain bike) and started riding it regularly around my neighborhood. It was at that time that I also started using an app called RunKeeper on my iPhone to track distance, pace, calories, etc.  My first attempt at running again was not pretty. I made it about a mile and half before I was walking back home.

I very gradually started to introduce running into the mix during June and July (I was still walking, and cycling regularly), and had managed to build up to running 7 miles (@ a 9:56 pace, 1:09:41) by the end of July...before I severely twisted my right ankle on a morning run about a mile and 3/4's into the run. I hobbled the 1.2 miles home in the pre-dawn darkness.

For the next 4+ weeks I cycled (I could ride "carefully" in a couple of days), and swam in the pool at the gym. After about a week I found that I could add back some walking, and did my first run after the injury about a month to the day afterwards. Just a couple of miles, but I could do it.

During this time, I had also picked up a pretty decent (very bright) headlamp that I was using for cycling and walking since most of my workouts were accomplished in the pre-dawn hours. Part of the reason I twisted the ankle was because I didn't see the uneven pavement ahead of me in the dark. So from that point forward, all my "darkness" runs would be with the headlamp, which was surprisingly easy to get used to. I tried it on my waist, but the light bounced around too much, so around the headband was the best place.

With an initial target of 155 lbs. (and size 32 jeans), I reached that goal at the end of September and have managed to maintain my weight between 150 and 155 since then. Currently (from the starting point), I've lost nearly 34 pounds, dropped 7.25 inches from my waistline, and my body fat is at 16.1%. Over the course of the year thus far, I've cycled 1548 miles, walked 267 miles, swam 24 miles, and run 338 miles.

I've also run two half-marathons, and I'm signed up for the Cowtown Marathon on February 26th. I've started this blog to log my continuing journey to complete a marathon, and just maintain my weight and health. I've certainly learned that getting in shape (both losing weight and building mileage) is a tight-rope balancing act at my age and ability, between slow progress and injury.

Thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to stop by and check on my journey whenever you like. Also, please feel free to share any wisdom, comments, or suggestions you might have...I can use all the help I can get.