Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mother Road Marathon 2012 – A Hard Won Success !

Wow…what an amazing experience! I’d like to say that everything just went my way, it was nearly effortless, and I ran fast enough to qualify for the next Olympics. But that would take all the truth right out of it (not to mention the thrill of victory and the agony of de-feet). I WILL say this though…I had an amazing time at the race, and would definitely do it again. The race organizers did an absolutely fantastic job, and my hat is off to them. Very well done !
The morning started at the Joplin Athletic Center which is on the west side of Joplin, Missouri. I got there about 5:00 a.m. and just chilled in the car for a while, then slowly got outfitted for the race. There was a series of buses that left from there to go the approximately 26 miles to the starting line in Commerce, OK. They started leaving about 5:30 a.m., and one left every 20 minutes or so up till about 6:45 a.m. I skipped the 6:00 bus and got on the one at 6:20, since it was chilly outside and I didn’t want to just stand outside at the starting line until the 7:30 a.m. start. The bus ride should have taken about 25-30 minutes.

As far as the course was concerned, for the first 5 miles from Commerce to just outside of Quapaw (pronounced “O-Gah-Pah”…it is an American Indian word) the roads were completely closed so we had the entire highway. From there, we had probably a six foot shoulder to run on the vast majority of the time up till the 16 mile mark, where we had the shoulder of the highway AND a full lane. The shoulder was really good for the overwhelming majority of the race, free from rocks, holes, and other debris (at least for the most part). Back to the bus ride though.

We were happily tooling along toward our destination when, just on the other side of Quapaw, there was a police car blocking the road. No worries I thought (as did the rest of us undoubtedly)…they closed the road the first five miles specifically for the runners, and WE were the runners. They would simply let the buses pass on to their destination, and we would be good to go.

Au contraire.

The police officer “had his orders” apparently…the road was CLOSED. Logic would NOT rule this day my friend…that type of thing might be done in the big city, but not out in these parts. The bus driver of the bus I skipped earlier had been “having the discussion” with the police officer about this for quite a while, and by the time we arrived he was somewhat flustered to say the least.

But thankfully the situation didn't escalate, and to the best of my knowledge, the officer did not have to fish the bullet out of his pocket.

At the conclusion of this discussion, the bus drivers decided to execute a three-point turn using a narrow gravel road and find another way to the start line, which ended up being a little over 15 miles away from that point based upon the way we had to go. We arrived at the starting area about 7:20, which in retrospect was just about perfect. I walked the three blocks to the line, used the facilities, stripped out of the throw-away sweats I had on, listened to the National Anthem, and 178 of us started at 7:35 a.m.

The air was nice and cool, and everyone seemed relaxed and happy. The clouds had some amazing morning colors, and we were at mile 2 before the sun crested the horizon. The first couple of miles were easy and very pleasant. From about 1.8 to 3.7 it was a very gentle and steady incline, gaining about 50 feet. It was so gentle, it actually seemed flat. I was a little concerned that I was moving too quickly at this point, averaging 8:47 minutes per mile. I had planned on being more in the 9:15 to 9:30 range. I kept trying to ease off a bit by just taking slow, deep breaths and relaxing, but I seemed to be on auto-pilot from a pace perspective. I averaged 8:46 per mile through the first 6 miles, and things still felt nice and relaxed, although I was still concerned about the pace. This same type of thing happened to me at Cowtown in February (back then I was aiming for 9:30 and my average pace through 6 there was 9:03), so I wasn’t overly concerned at this point.

The next few miles were uneventful and fairly flat, with just very gentle rolling hills all within about 20 feet of elevation. From mile 9.5 to mile 11 the course gained another 50 feet. Shortly after that, there was a short, abrupt downhill and uphill right about the 12 mile point, but it wasn’t bad. About this point I tried to make a more conscious effort to slow down, since I had a growing concern that I was going too fast. I was averaging an 8:50 pace up to this point, so had slowed down only slightly. As a point of reference, at Cowtown I was averaging an 8:59 pace at this point, so while there was some concern, I wasn’t freaked out or anything. I passed the half-marathon point at 1:56:40, just shy of three minutes ahead of my Cowtown halfway mark.

Then, the wheels started to come off.

At the 13.9 mile mark, I just simply ran out of gas seemingly all at once. I felt like I had to take a walk break…I just felt drained and out of breath. At this point, the participants had really spread out, and that was very different from Cowtown, where there were people around all the time. From this point forward it wasn’t uncommon for me to be able to not see another runner in front of me, and then turn around and not see another runner behind me. I didn’t look back more than a few times (wasn’t going that way ), but it was a bit lonely. It wasn’t that way at all times by any means, but there was certainly never a crowd around me, and no one on the side of the course except at the aid stations every 2 miles. I did a run / walk type of thing, running whenever I felt the energy return and power walking when I couldn’t.

At a little past the 17 mile mark, I started to have muscle spasms in my calves and quads. Since I’m definitely NOT a fan of full-on locked up cramps, I would switch to a power walk whenever the muscle spasms would start (never in more than one leg or location at a time thankfully), and run when I could. Unfortunately, this is also where the elevation profile of the course really banks up, rising from about 800 feet at 17.6 to 1040 feet at 25.8. It was a real challenge to keep going at this point, because I REALLY would have preferred to just keep running, and the walking breaks would normally have been a bit demoralizing. However, for some reason I seemed to just switch to an ultra-running perspective (walk the uphills, try to run the downhills and flats, and keep moving forward), and just kept making the best forward progress I could make. I averaged 11:20 per mile from 17 through 22.

Just shy of the 23 mile mark I once again attempted a run segment but my body shut me down immediately, like within two or three steps, with rolling spasms in my calves (and sometimes thighs). I got the message loud and clear. I could either power walk it in, or lay on the ground in a full-on cramp. My body didn’t seem to care which one, and left the decision to me. Being the chicken that I am, I chose the less painful course of action and just focused on walking. I did try twice more over the next 3+ miles to lightly jog, but was shut down just as quick. It really felt weird to be walking across a finish line, especially when at Cowtown I really put the hammer down and sprinted across the line, but it was a true battle to just keep up the walking pace at that point. Even at that, I did manage to average 13:04 per mile over the last 3.2 miles of the course, and finished the race with a time of 4:29:30.

This was my third marathon, but I have to say that I just may be the most proud of this one. I actually ran a marathon distance in training by myself on December 29th of 2011 in 4:12:45, and I ran my first official marathon at Cowtown on February 26th of this year in 3:56:06. My second official marathon was on April 1st of this year, but I had to DNF that race at a little over the 12 mile mark due to heat exhaustion. Rolling back spasms and disorientation was just something I couldn’t work through. So this one was my third official marathon, as well as the third time I’ve covered the marathon distance. The difference here though was that it really felt like a true struggle on the back half, almost like a war at times, and I’m quite proud to have risen to the challenge. I honestly feel like I put forth the best effort possible for me that day.

I know that I left it all out on the course on Sunday, and there wasn’t any more to give really, so I’m pleased that I was able to rise to the challenges this race offered. After all, I knew going into it that it would be a challenge, having to deal with a sinus infection that started a week prior to the race, as well as not being able to train consistently due to a chronic calf strain that hung on for 8 solid weeks and that prevented any long runs not to mention cutting my mileage by a good third. I also didn’t get the best possible rest the night before the marathon, since there was a lot of yelling, door slamming, laughing and talking till nearly midnight outside my door.

Based upon my fitness, I could have and probably did go out too hard in the first half. Dialing it back in early might have at least staved off the run/walk segment for a mile or several, but that is just a guess. I felt well hydrated throughout, and drank plenty over the course of the run, so I don’t think dehydration played any role.

My plan at this point first and foremost is to just be gentle with myself, and return to training slowly. I won’t be doing any running until Saturday. I plan to do gentle walks or bike rides to keep things loose and flush out the system. The number one goal being to NOT repeat my typical pattern, and set myself up for another injury that I have to train through for months. On Saturday I’ll start with just a couple of miles, and I’ll ramp back to my normal mileage slowly. I have a feeling that just staying healthy and injury free will be a giant stride toward a better experience at my next marathon. From there I’ll probably be a LOT more diligent about keeping the early miles slower by at least 20-30 seconds per mile, then speeding up if things still feel good.

I placed 52nd out of 156 total finishers (top 33.33%).
Out of 83 male marathoner finishers, I came in at 40th place (top 48.19%).
There were 11 men in the 50-54 age group that finished, and I placed 4th among them (top 36.36%).

These were my splits...


Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Running Everyone !!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are We Having Fun Yet...?

Well, another month has come and gone, and my blog updating hasn't improved. Sorry about that.

To be honest, I've sort of been in a dark place for the last month personally, and my ongoing battle in dealing with my calf strain (and other issues) has really put a damper on my training for the upcoming marathon. After some really good months of training in July & August with an average of 165+ miles per month, September was down to just a bit over 100 miles.

A great deal of this I have to attribute to the calf strain that started in the middle of August, although I was also sick for a while as well. I was able to run only 13 days out of the month of September, which was also the last full month prior to my next marathon. In less than four days now. I would like to say that the remaining 17 days (at least most of them) involved other forms of cross-training...but that wouldn't be truthful.

Right or wrong, I felt like the calf strain was not specific to running, and that simply switching to cycling, walking, or an elliptical wouldn't provide the recovery it needed. Was I right...who knows, but it is what it is at this point. In any event, those 17 days were days when I did absolutely nothing aerobically. In fact, on 10 of those days I did nothing at all, with the remaining days only including some core work.

My longest run since the last day of August was 11.64 miles. Since September 1st, I've averaged 3.48 miles per day. In that period, I was also sick for two, three day periods with no activity. I'm currently on day four of a round of antibiotics for a sinus infection. Oh, and the calf strain is STILL not healed completely.

Are we having fun yet...?

With all this joy and sunshine, what surprises me the most is the fact that I'm still looking forward to the marathon this Sunday. Of course, this was never intended to be a race in which I had PR aspirations...it was always just a race in which I wanted to say I had participated and finished. And that is really my only goal. I want to do well of course, but given my current level of preparation and health I think I also need to be realistic. In some ways, the fact that I have a few strikes against me makes it a bit more fun. When the first few things go awry, it tends to aggravate and infuriate, but when it just keeps piling on, it gets kind of comical.

One bright spot at this point is that it looks like the weather will cooperate a bit. Saturday night there is a 60 percent chance of rain with a low of 57, but the chance of rain drops to zero on Sunday with sunshine and a high of 77. Since the race starts at 7:30, I should have a range of 57 to probably 70 for the run. Not ideal marathon conditions by any stretch, but not all that bad. After all....what could possibly go wrong.... ;-)

Of course one of the things I'm VERY excited and upbeat about, is my friend Bill's upcoming ING Hartford Marathon that will happen this Saturday. Bill, over at Impossible Is Nothing, has had a couple of pretty challenged marathons as far as mother nature is concerned, with the latest being one of the hottest Boston Marathons ever, and the other being the Bay State Marathon in 2009 where he was dealt a Nor' Easter with 35 degree temps, high wind, and pouring rain. Let's just say he is due to have a fair shake in the weather department. While he hasn't got in the training he might have liked, he had a very successful 20 miler a few weeks ago, in addition to a summer of solid training, and he is READY. Drop in on him if you have the time and read all about it.

My personal 100 Days Without Soda challenge was completed on October 2nd, and went well. I had thought I might celebrate with a soda, but I've yet to indulge. A bit perplexing really, since I have always been pretty hooked on sodas, and routinely drank four or five (or more) a day for years and years. I probably still have my head in the sand on this front, but I still don't believe they are bad for you...at least not the diet sodas I've been drinking since the late 80's. I don't "feel better" because I'm not drinking them, and although I spend less on drinks, it isn't like I have a pot of new-found money. Of all the challenges I've tackled this year, this one is probably one of the least satisfying at this point. Oh well, probably just a bit more of my "dark place" that I'm still coming out of.

The 100x Challenge, which started in January and set out a challenge per month, was discontinued by the blog author due to poor participation. I did manage the 100 minutes of planks for September, although I was one of only two others updating the spreadsheet, and the only one to complete that challenge. The challenges did help me introduce some core work into the routines, so it certainly wasn't a waste. I'll just need to ensure that I continue to make that a part of my ongoing fitness regimen.

Stay tuned, and Happy Running Everyone.....things are bound to start getting better, and if they get worse, we'll have something to talk about !!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Month of August....Gone (huh?)

Wow…a whole month has come and gone, and no update on the blog. I had a work situation change, which prevents me from updating this as often as I would have liked, but that is really no excuse (at least not a very good one), since I could have done it in the evening or on the weekend. I suppose that blogging has to take a back seat at times. That being said, let’s catch up on what has happened since I last posted (August 7th).

I’m doing the buildup for my next marathon (which I mentioned last time), and I believe things are going well, with only 39 days remaining till the race. I’m not on a particular “plan”, as in something you could look up on the internet or find in a book, although I do have a general idea about some key runs. Mainly, I’m focusing on just getting in a couple of long runs, and dialing in my lead up to those runs, the runs themselves, and more importantly (and I STILL don’t have this right yet) the recovery from those runs.

I almost always “feel” better and more able to run soon after a long run than my body is actually ready for, and by the time I realize it (usually about a week after the long run) it is too late…I end up with a minor, nagging injury every time. The long run I did on August 12th is no different, and I’m still dealing with issues in my right calf muscle.

I had strung three days in a row with a little over 8 miles per day starting on August 7th, and on the last run I noticed some tightness in my right calf. I took a day off, had a really light day the day after that, then did my 20 mile run….all with no issue. However, I took just one day off after the long run (actually I cycled 15 miles, it wasn’t “off”), then ran 8.2 the following day, feeling great.

However, the next day’s run is where the tightness and soreness of the calf was really noticeable. It was that way for a couple of miles at first, then eased off (so I completed an 8 mile run..smart, huh?). I’ve taken days off here and there ever since, and I’ve been foam rolling and icing it in the last week. It is much better, but not what I would call 100% yet (probably more like 80% at this point). I think I know how to plan out the time after my next long run, so we’ll see if I have the right idea. It has to be better than what I did this last time.

On my personal 100 Days Without Soda challenge, I've completed 72 days as of this writing. Nothing else really to report on this, just that soda is really not something I’m craving at all at this point. I drink low calorie Gatorade on my runs longer than 6 miles (a 10 ounce container on my runs in the 8 to 11 range), and Crystal Lite the rest of the time (with the odd bit of plain water occasionally). At restaurants, it is usually water with a packet of Sweet & Low, which tastes pretty much like iced tea to me (and saves a couple of bucks of the price).

All in all, it was a really good month, with a new high weekly mileage mark of 52.39 during the week of August 12 – 18th, and I ended the month of August with my second highest mileage month at 164.51 miles. I just REALLY need to dial in a better recovery method from my long runs, and ensure that I back off more conservatively than I’ve been doing.

From a cross training perspective, I focused most of the month on pushups, with about 4 sessions of quad and hamstring work at the gym spread over the time between August 7th and September 2nd. I worked in some pull-ups and abdominal work as well during that time, about 5 times for each of them. I find that I tend to “play it by ear” a lot of times, and not place it on a strict schedule. That being said, I only missed doing some type of cross training 4 days during that time frame.

I completed the August pushup challenge with 1200 pushups over the course of the month. It was fairly straight forward and not overly difficult for me, due in large part to the way I did them. I didn’t enforce a set time between sets, and would do 5 sets of 10 each day (or for 24 of the 31 days during the month).

This month’s challenge is 100 minutes of planks. To say I’m not a fan is putting it mildly, but I’ll give it a shot. The last time I did this challenge (March) I did 101 minutes total. I’m doing them this time in sets of 5 (5 one minute planks with 45 seconds of recovery between each one).

OK....for the boring part. I wanted to capture my log here for historical purposes during the month of August, so feel free to skip all this....in fact, you are REALLY bored if the following is entertaining. :-)

Happy Running Everyone !

These are the entries from my running log over that time:

  • (080512 - 0406) (82 degrees, S@9(G15), H62, clear) (8.24 miles – 8:51 avg. pace) Although I didn't really want to get out of bed, once I was two blocks into the run all felt right. The legs were a bit on the tired side, but things just locked in and flowed really well again this morning. 
  • (080812 - 0359) (83 degrees, S@6(G14), H61, partly cloudy) (8.30 miles – 8:56 avg. pace) I saw a couple of things on the run I hadn't before...nothing special, but just different. I saw a man riding a recumbent bike with full lights front and back (nice to see he was being safe), and a man riding a bike alongside his wife / girlfriend as she ran (neither with lights or reflective material...not real safe). The run itself just flowed steadily along, with my mind just sort of "along for the ride". 
  • (080912 - 0423) (73 degrees, S6(G18), H82, clear) (8.33 miles – 8:55 avg. pace) After the rain yesterday, followed by the clear skies overnight, we had a nice drop in the temperature (although the humidity was elevated). I probably should have taken the day off or cycled, but the cooler weather called me out for a run. I was a bit tired today, and my right hip and calf complained a bit during the first several miles. At 7.5 I was tracking towards a 9:03 average pace, but I picked it up from that point on to the finish. Tomorrow will definitely need to be a down day prior to the long run. My splits today were (9:08, 9:01, 9:00, 9:07, 9:05, 9:05, 9:00, 8:21, and 7:33 for the last 1/3 of a mile). 
  • (081112 - 0542) (72 degrees, W@1(G11), H54, clear) (2.50 miles – 9:09 avg. pace) Started this morning at 4:13 a.m. doing a bike ride over tomorrow's 20 mile long run route. On the back side of that route, I was riding on a sidewalk to check out where I'll be running, with a high fence on one side, and a grass patch between the sidewalk and the curb (with no driveway close)...when what to my wandering eyes should appear, but a skunk about 30 feet ahead. I slammed on the brakes and turned towards the grass to my left, unclipped my right foot...but not my left, and fell over. The skunk faced off to me (thankfully, it wasn't the other end) about 20 feet away. I wasn't hurt, and the bike was OK, so I got up, put the bike on the road, and pedaled off. I REALLY didn't want to be sprayed this morning :-). After the ride, I put on some running shoes and did a quick couple of miles on this beautiful morning. Tomorrow should be fun ! 
  • (081212 - 0318) (77 degrees, E@1(G10), H63, clear) (20.04 miles – 8:59 avg. pace) As far as 20 milers go, this went really well. Things didn't start getting tough until about the 15 mile mark, where I was just tired of going. Managed to complete the goal distance though without undue stress and was able to pick up the pace a bit in the last mile. Fairly even splits throughout the run as well, even though I would say that the first several miles were a little too fast. My splits looked like this (9:11, 8:47, 8:50, 8:44, 8:45, 9:03, 8:55, 9:04, 8:56, 9:11, 9:11, 9:10, 9:05, 9:09, 9:07, 9:01, 9:06, 9:02, 8:52, 8:39). Took a GU at 4, 8, 12 & 16, and went through 40 ounces of Gatorade light during the run. Really tired at the end...glad it was done !
  • (081412 - 0421) (75 degrees, E@6(G9), H49, clear) (8.23 miles – 9:12 avg. pace) What a wonderful run this morning. It felt so pleasant outside that I just eased back on the pace and enjoyed being out and about. The whole run felt nearly effortless...if only they were all like this. :-) 
  • (081512 - 0538) (70 degrees, SW@9(G31), H94, cloudy). (8.22 miles – 8:59 avg. pace) Started the run in a light, misting rain, with some pretty tight and sore calves...especially the right one. It was that way up until about mile 2 where I slowed a bit, but from there the run was just very nice. No pain or stiffness, the mist stopped about that time, and the breeze was nice and cool. By the end of the run, I was sort of sad it was ending...that good. 
  • (081712 - 0412) (72 degrees, WNW@5(G20), H88, clear) (8.24 miles – 8:54 avg. pace) Once again, the cooler weather (relative to where it has been) is nice. There was a lightning show off to the SE which flashed more or less throughout the run, but the storm itself was 30+ miles away. If it hadn't been for the tight right calf, this would have been absolutely perfect. Even at that, since it didn't really hurt so much as occasionally call attention to itself, it was pleasant this morning. 
  • (081812 - 0618) (73 degrees, S@10(G30), H75, cloudy) (7.66 miles – 9:04 avg. pace) Nice cool morning, but my right calf and ankle are pretty tight and sore. I should probably haven't taken the day off, but I wanted to get out this morning...I'll take off tomorrow. The legs loosened and felt better by about 4 miles, but never "right". Still yet, I enjoyed the run. 
  • (082212 - 0412) (66 degrees, SW@2(G7), H90, clear) (6.27 miles – 9:05 avg. pace) The weather was nearly perfect, and not a bad run for the first one back since Saturday. The calf tightness / soreness I mentioned last week was actually a strain in either the soleus and/or some of the other deep muscles in the right calf. My plantar fascia was also really sore, and necessitated a few days off. The bike ride yesterday went well, and today's run was good as well. There wasn't a lot of tightness, and there was no pain. That being said, the calf and the bottom of the foot were "noticeable" during the run...just gently calling attention to themselves without actually "hurting". I cut back on my normal distance, and will play it by ear as to whether tomorrow needs to be an off day or not. I'll be at least attempting to err on the conservative side so I don't sideline myself with something more serious.
  • (082312 - 0420) (73 degrees, E@8(G12), H66, clear) (8.21 miles – 9:00 avg. pace) First run with new Brooks Glycerin 10s. They felt nice and comfortable throughout the run, although right at first it seemed like they "slapped" the pavement...probably just me. Was able to have a nice, easy run this morning with no calf pain, but it did feel a bit tired and worked afterwards, so I'll knock off tomorrow and get out again on Saturday. 
  • (082512 - 0706) (79 degrees, SE@8(G18), H78, overcast) (10.32 miles – 8:38 avg. pace) I'm still not sure what really happened, but this was just a fantastic run. For some reason nearly every mile felt easy, and I established a nice flow early on. Just people watching, taking in the scenery, and enjoying it all. The overall pace never felt rushed, yet it was quite a bit faster than normal...still don't know how that all happened. This one also officially put me over 1,000 miles for the year ! 
  • (082712 - 0336) (74 degrees, calm, H91, clear) (9.32 miles – 8:56 avg. pace) The city where I live was doing mosquito spraying overnight, so I had to drive to the gym and do the run in that general neighborhood. Ran a nice loop, and it was a smooth, easy run even though there were some rolling hills. They never seemed bad though, and it never felt like I was having to really work at it. Slight detour to avoid a skunk (what is it with me and skunks..? :-), and saw a raccoon. Kind of pain having to drive 20 minutes to start the run, but it wasn't all that bad. 
  • (082912 - 0407) (73 degrees, NW@2(G10), H54, clear) (9.51 miles – 9:05 avg. pace) This is a hard one to categorize. The weather was wonderful, and it never really felt like I had to put in any effort...just flowing along. A new loop as well (an extension to an existing one really) that was also nice. That being said, my right foot started to hurt in heel, the inside of the arch, and the first metatarsal joint at about the 4.5 mile point, and was a problem for a couple of miles. At 8.2 I had a momentary "cramp" in my right calf, which passed quickly but hurt like the dickens. Didn't have to stop as it only lasted for a stride or two, but Hey ! I'm not really sure what is going on, but my right leg from the knee down apparently would like a vacation. Thinking of leaving it at home on the next run and giving it a chance to think about its behavior lately. :-) 
  • (083012 - 0417) (77 degrees, NNW@1(G17), H56, clear) (8.21 miles – 9:11 avg. pace) The full moon was out and shining, with the occasional cloud passing by just making it a really nice outing. I took it a little slow today (first couple of miles around 9:20), to see how that affected my foot / calf. The calf was just a bit tight, but no real issues this morning. A calm, relaxing effort this morning. 
  • (090112 - 0431) (80 degrees, S@9(G24), H70, clear) (11.34 miles – 8:53 avg. pace) I didn't think it was a "go" at first because the right calf was sore and painful for about 2 blocks, but things settled quickly after that with no pain or problems after that. It was a bit warm when I was heading away from the breeze, which made it seem like a bit of work. Had a car come pretty close to me (hate it when that happens), happened upon a young man walking in a darkened area which was a bit odd (but no big deal), and had a truck blow its horn at me for no real reason. Not the most peaceful run I've ever done, but the pace was nice and steady and from a physical effort perspective it was a good one. 
  • (090112 - 0835) (79 degrees, S@7(G24), H77, Sunny) (1.00 miles – 9:57 avg. pace) My six year old wanted to see if he could run a mile without stopping (he had never done it before), and he made it all the way !!! So proud of him. :-) He wanted to stop a few times during the run, but just a bit of encouragement kept him going. At several points he said (Wow...I can't believe I'm STILL going !). Pretty cool :-) 
  • (090212 - 0348) (78 degrees, S@8(G16), H71, clear) (6.31 miles – 9:21 avg. pace) After the longer run yesterday, and to take it easy on my calf, I intentionally slowed this one down and just made it an easy effort. I just sort of wandered around the neighborhood, enjoying the early morning peace and quiet. :-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Robot pace, Commitment to a Race, and Squat About-Face

I had a nice week working out, with some consistent miles and distances. In fact, it was sort of weird in that way. Not only were all the distances within 5/100ths of a mile, but the durations were all within a 9 second window, with the overall pace within a 4 second window. Funny, I didn't "feel" like a robot while doing them (and the individual mile splits were not that close), but it sure looks that way on paper. My first mile is typically my slowest mile, as I just ease into the run most of the time. From there, it just seems to pick up as I get in the groove. I usually don't push the pace until the last half mile, and many times I don't even do that.

Another thing that was different about this week (or at least not typical for me) is that all my aerobic workouts were running...no walking, swimming, or cycling this week. There was really no conscious effort to avoid those things, I suppose it just fell out that way. I can say that on the two days I took off from running, I didn't do anything at all, where in weeks past I would cycle on those "off" days. It was only the third week in more than 14 months that I've had a "one discipline" week.

I've also decided to stop using my heart rate monitor for a while...at least for every single run. I had found that I stayed within a fairly narrow range anyway, and it wasn't really adding value to my training. It was just something else to track, so I've set that aside for now. I also don't really use the foot pod for every run either. I found with that as well, that I tend to operate within a fairly narrow range (between 192 and 198 steps per minute) regardless of the effort, hills, or distance, so that wasn't providing any real value to the training either. I'll no doubt use each of them sporadically, but not all the time.

On the commitment front, I finally signed up "officially" for my next marathon, which is scheduled for Sunday, October 14th. I've had the Mother Road Marathon in mind for quite a few months, and was sort of on-again / off-again about it for some reason....probably because it could be a bit intimidating due to the time of year. In that part of the country, it is likely that this will be a warm one, starting in the low to mid 70's and progressing up into the 80's (at least that is what happened last year). That being said though, I've been running in that temperature range all summer, and there is still a couple of months of summer here in Texas before the event, so I should be as acclimated as I'm going to get.

Part of the charm of the event is that it allows one to run in three different states in one marathon. Starting in NE Oklahoma, it winds its way up into Kansas, then heads east out of Kansas and into Missouri, ending in Joplin.

Of course, part of the challenge (other than the normal weather at that time of year) is the elevation profile. It isn't horrendous my any means, but you can see that it is "relatively" flat until about mile 18, and then it is pretty much rolling hills and a net uphill the rest of the way. This area begins about a mile after we turn east towards Missouri. From there, it is about 4.5 miles to the Missouri line, leaving just shy of 4 miles from the Missouri line to the finish line in Joplin. This will be its third year running, so at least some of the "kinks" should have been worked out.

I've only done one long run (20 miles) this summer, back at the beginning of June. It started out about 77 degrees, and ended up about 73 degrees. So my plan is to try to fit in two more prior to the race itself. I'll be doing one of those 20 milers (or at least that is the plan) on either the 11th or the 12th of August. I'd like to say that distance no longer intimidates me, but I'd be lying. It isn't as bad as it once was, but I've only run 20 miles or more 4 times in the last 14 months (since I started running again), so it isn't second nature yet. Wish me luck !

On my personal 100 Days Without Soda challenge, I've completed 44 days as of this writing. It seems that I'm pretty much on auto-pilot with the challenge at this point, with no real desire for a soda. I drink low-calorie Gatorade on my runs (about 10 ounces while getting dressed, and 10 ounces with me), and a mix of water and Crystal Lite the rest of the time (more Crystal Lite than water though). I may actually make this. :-)

In my running this last week:

  • (073012 - 0411)(85 degrees, S@3(G17), H53, clear) Even though the temperature was a bit higher than it has been, the humidity was correspondingly lower so it all felt about the same. After yesterday's day off (except for the weight workout), this felt nice and easy.
  • (073112 - 0409)(80 degrees, S@6(G18), H64, clear) Nice flowing run along a slightly different path, adding a jaunt into a neighborhood I hadn't explored previously. Even though it really wasn't, it felt a bit cooler this morning, at least at first. This run puts me at a new high mileage mark for a month as well ! :-)
  • (080212 - 0403)(82 degrees, S@9(G23), H58, clear) For some reason I just felt energized and good for this run. The overall pace isn't really that different than "normal", but it was just really a pleasant outing. These are the runs that make up for the ho-hum and the OMG-Not-Again / Why-Me runs !
  • (080312 - 0410)(80 degrees, S@9(G20), H66, clear) Just a nice, quiet run this morning. For most of the run I turned off the 1/2 mile time / distance / pace feedback from RunKeeper and just let things be quiet. I turned it back on towards the end to see where my pace had been, then sped up just a bit in the last half mile.
  • (080412 - 0559)(79 degrees, S@10(G23), H70, clear) What a pleasant morning run today. I waited till a lot closer to dawn, so that I got to do my run as the sun came up. Nice seeing the world wake up, and easing into the day with a flowing run.

This is what last week looked like...

Day   Activity   Distance (in miles) Pace
Sunday Rest Day --- ---
Monday Running 8.20 8:54
Tuesday Running 8.21 8:53
Wednesday Rest Day --- ---
Thursday Running 8.21 8:54
Friday Running 8.21 8:53
Saturday Running 8.26 8:50

 These are my time and distance totals for last week:

Activity   Time Total   Distance Total (in miles)
Running 6:04:55 41.09
-------------- -------------- --------------
Overall Total 6:04:55 41.09

Day   Activity   Sets Reps Recovery Interval Weight
Sunday BB Squats 6 15-15-10-12-15-15 3:00 50-70-100-90-80-70
Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Monday Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Tuesday Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Wednesday Rest Day --- --- --- ---
Thursday Pushups 5 10 --- BW
BB Squats 4 15-15-7-6 4:00 60-80-100-60
Crunches & Knee Raises 2 20 --- ---
Friday Pushups 5 10 --- BW
Leg Extensions 4 10 3:00 50
Saturday Pushups 5 10 --- BW
Crunches & Knee Raises 2 20 --- ---

I had to switch up some of my leg-centric cross training this week. Sunday's squat session was just fine...in fact, it went better than any previous to it. However, when I did the Thursday session things didn't go so well. The first two sets were fine, but the sixth repetition of the third set I had a significant (but not sharp or crippling) pain just below my right knee. The next repetition felt the same, so I stopped that set and dropped the weight from 100 back to 60. It felt fine for the first 5 repetitions, but the sixth one hurt in a similar manner, so I stopped the workout completely at that point.

I don't really know what was different about what I had been doing, but I decided to actually USE the gym membership I pay for and use their leg extension machine instead for a while. This didn't produce any pain, yet worked the muscle group that I'm trying to hit for cross-training / muscle balance reasons just as well if not better. I'll do this for a while, then go back to the squats and see if it was just a fluke, or if there is something I'm doing incorrectly from a form perspective. Squats (at least for me in the past) have been a challenge in achieving and maintaining proper form, and it just isn't worth getting hurt doing it, especially for the reasons I'm doing it.

I also started the pushup challenge for the month of August, so I've thrown these into the mix. I'm finding that 5 sets of 10 (with no strict timing between sets) is working well for me, and appears to be something I can do nearly every day. We'll see where that leads me, and go from there.

Happy Running Everyone !!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Earndit Challenge Results and New High Mileage Month

First, an update on the Earndit Challenge that I mentioned in last week's post.  This particular challenge was $5 to get in, and was a challenge to see who could accumulate the most points over 21 days, with a daily cap of 76 points. This required me to either run or walk at least 7.6 miles, or cycle 25.4 miles each day with no rest days, since points don't "carry over" to subsequent days. Since this was also a bit more than I had been doing, it would push me that way as well.

Out of the sixteen people who joined the challenge, there were 6 of us who completed the challenge by gaining the maximum number of points possible. As such, we each got a piece of the pie, so I can now say that I've made money running & cycling. :-)  A whole $12, but it was an interesting challenge, and it really pushed me. I think I got a lot more out of the experience by having to step up my game for three weeks, than anything else. I had already completed an eight day streak of working out prior to the challenge, so this put me at 29 days without a break. By the last day, I was dragging and was certainly glad it didn't continue for any longer.

A nice side benefit to the challenge was that it set me up for the possibility to set a new high-water mark for monthly mileage. My previous record was 157.35 miles (May 2012), but with my run this morning (the last for this month) I managed a new monthly high of... 

167.38 miles !!!

On my personal 100 Days Without Soda challenge, I've completed 37 days as of this writing. I'm definitely settling into the routine and I've pretty much lost the desire for a soda...at least I don't sit around wishing for one. Just about blew it at lunch time though. My son filled his glass to the absolute brim at a restaurant, then needed a lid so he just handed it to me and walked off. I very nearly took a drink off the top to make it manageable, but caught myself at the last instant. That probably wouldn't be called out by some since it is just something parents do, but technically that would have violated the challenge and reset the clock. This may be trickier than I thought.

In my running this last week:
  • (072312 - 0412)(79 degrees, S@9(G17), H68, clear) Although a bit warm, the breeze was nice when running into it, and everything just flowed along nicely. The effort didn't really feel tough this morning, and was a pleasant start to the day.
  • (072412 - 0410)(77 degrees, S@9(G23), H80, clear) I did this route backwards from the way I have been doing it this morning. The entire run was just very pleasant, and running in the breeze was nice. Felt strong throughout the run, probably due to the extra bit of sleep I got last night, but who knows...sometimes a run just comes together.
  • (072712 - 0408)(81 degrees, S@8(G21), H67, clear) After a day off, this was a really nice run. The pace felt easy, yet was a bit quicker than it had been. I enjoyed the challenge I was in on Earndit, but I'm glad it is over. 29 days straight without a day off was wearing me down.
  • (072812 - 0551)(79 degrees, S@5(G13), H73, clear) Waited until it was light outside this morning, and got to run as the sun came up. Lots of people outside to greet, and it was nice to run through the nature trail towards the end. Great run, and I had a nice time.

This is what last week looked like...

Day   Activity   Distance (in miles) Avg. Heart Rate Max Heart Rate
Sunday Cycling 26.24 --- ---
Monday Running 8.01 145 167
Tuesday Running 8.09 146 163
Wednesday Cycling 26.21 --- ---
Thursday Rest Day --- --- ---
Friday Running 8.20 150 166
Saturday Running 8.11 150 167
Mowing Lawn (Walking) 0.26 --- ---

 These are my time and distance totals for last week:

Activity   Time Total   Distance Total (in miles)
Running 4:47:39 32.41
Walking 0:23:38 0.26
Cycling 3:37:12 52.45
-------------- -------------- --------------
Overall Total 8:48:29 85.12

Day   Activity   Sets Reps Recovery Interval Weight
Sunday Pullups 10 6 2:00 BW
BB Bench Press 5 10 2:00 90
Crunches & Knee Raises 2 20 --- ---
Monday BB Squats 4 15-15-15-12 2:00 60-70-80-90
Tuesday Rest Day --- --- --- ---
Wednesday Rest Day --- --- --- ---
Thursday Rest Day --- --- --- ---
Friday BB Squats 5 15 3:00 50-70-90-80-70
Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Saturday Crunches & Knee Raises 2 20 --- ---

I took a few days off in the middle of the week to rest....I was just spent after the challenge. In the coming month, we will be revisiting the 400 pushups in a month challenge, so I plan to shift away from the bench pressing and back to pushups for the month. The last time we did this in February, I believe I did 650 total, so we'll see if I can beat that this coming month.

Happy Running Everyone !!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Earndit Challenge, and a Calm Week

One of the web sites that I've been a member of since June of last year is Earndit. I've probably spoken about the site before, but I find that I really enjoy some of the challenges. About 8 or 9 months ago they started the concept of "challenges", where one of the site's members (it is free by the way) sets up a challenge to see who can get to the target point total first, or who can get the most points over a given number of days. Some of these are open-ended as far as the number of points one can accumulate in a given day, and others have limits. Some of these are even "paid" challenges...in other words, you have to put some money in the pot, and the winner gets the pot at the end (or winners get to share the pot at the end if there is more than a single winner). Until recently, I always avoided the paid challenges, but at the beginning of July I entered one. This particular challenge was $5 to get in, and was the most points over 21 days, with a daily cap of 76 points. 

The site grants points in several ways, but generally you can use either RunKeeper, Garmin, or Nike+ to track workouts. One gets 10 points for every mile either walked or run, and 3 points for every mile on the bike. Partial miles get partial point totals as well. So, to get the maximum number of points in a day, I would need to either walk or run at least 7.6 miles, or cycle 25.4 miles. This was going to be a stretch for me, since I normally take a day off during the week (if not two days off), and my normal runs were between 6 and 6 1/2 miles, or 20 miles on the bike.

Sixteen people joined the challenge, and it has really been fun and motivating to try to stay in the running. At this point, I've managed to earn the maximum number of points each day one way or another, and there is a day left, with 6 of us tied for the lead. It isn't really about the money of course, since even winning the whole thing solo wouldn't make one rich, but having a little something "on the line" does make it interesting. There have definitely been mornings when the thought of just staying in bed for another couple of hours seemed appealing, but wanting to stay with the leaders got me going.

If you find that you could use some extra motivation, I highly recommend the site. The points you earn can be spent on "coupons" that give you a discount on a wide variety of products and services, or donated toward a cash donation to a worthy cause such as health care for 100 children in Guatemala, chickens to produce eggs for an orphanage in Zimbabwe, or assistance to the Genesis House providing transitional shelter for homeless families to name only a few.

On my personal 100 Days Without Soda challenge, I've completed 30 days as of this writing. I'm at the point now where I seldom miss it, and have more or less settled with either Crystal Lite, water with a sweet-and-low packet and a dash of either lemon or lime juice, or just water. It will be interesting to see if I get strong urges for it again during the challenge, or if it continues to get easier.

In my running this last week:

  • (071612 - 0406)(72 degrees, S@4(G15), H87, clear) A very pleasant run this morning. The knee is really starting to feel much better, and with the cooler temp and clear sky it was just a relaxing experience. The route provided an opportunity to really enjoy seeing Jupiter, Venus, Aldebaran, and a crescent moon. Their positions have changed since I first noticed them about a month or so ago, but it is still cool.
  • (071712 - 0408)(76 degrees, S@8(G19), H83, clear) A little excitement early during today's run, as a couple of dogs ran out at me in an area where they never have before, but once I yelled at them they retreated. I sort of expected that metallic taste of adrenalin afterwards, but it never came...I must be getting a bit used to this type of thing. The legs were tired today for some reason, but not so much that it took the enjoyment out of the run. 
  • (071912 - 0421)(79 degrees, S@7(G14), H70, clear) Although it was a bit warmer than it has been, the humidity was bit lower as well so it was probably a wash there. The planets and stars were really clear and bright this morning, and the run was peaceful throughout. Right at first I had a bit of discomfort around and behind my right knee up to the first mile marker, but after that everything was pain-free and smooth. Just felt pleasantly tired after the run, probably due to the increased temperature and a slight ear ache I've been dealing with for a couple of days.
  • (072012 - 0422)(81 degrees, S@8(G15), H64, clear) Even though it was warm, this was a nice run. The legs felt good, and the effort felt smooth and steady. I did the route backwards from my normal direction, and the amount of time I felt like I was going uphill seemed like it was much more pronounced. It took a bit of effort right at the end since that is mostly uphill. Beautiful, star-filled sky with no moon, and the light breeze was nice when I was running the right direction to enjoy it.
  • (072112 - 0347)(78 degrees, S@5, H68, clear) This was my first time on this route, and it was a nice change of pace. There was a voice in my head (there are quite a few, but this one was shouting) at about the 8 mile mark saying "Nice run, now just hit the button, stop and walk home". That happened again at about the 10 mile mark, and at the 11 mile mark as well. I started with about 18 ounces of low-cal Gatorade frozen solid, and that was gone at about 10 miles...could have easily used another one. This was a tough run, but the pace was normal and I'm glad I accomplished it.

This is what last week looked like...

Day   Activity   Distance (in miles) Avg. Heart Rate Max Heart Rate
Sunday Cycling 26.05 --- ---
Monday Running 8.08 145 200
Tuesday Running 7.71 153 196
Wednesday Cycling 26.15 --- ---
Thursday Running 8.08 155 173
Walking 0.53 123 147
Friday Running 7.82 153 178
Saturday Running 12.29 155 188

 These are my time and distance totals for last week:

Activity   Time Total   Distance Total (in miles)
Running 6:33:35 43.98
Walking 0:07:59 0.53
Cycling 3:35:13 52.20
-------------- -------------- --------------
Overall Total 10:16:47 96.71

Day   Activity   Sets Reps Recovery Interval Weight
Sunday BB Squats 3 15 2:00 50-60-70
Crunches & Knee Raises 5 20 --- ---
BB Bench Press 3 10-10-8 2:00 85-100-120
Monday Rest Day --- --- --- ---
Tuesday BB Squats 4 15-15-15-10 2:00 50-60-70-80
DB Bench Press Squats 3 15 2:00 30-35-40
Crunches & Knee Raises 1 20 --- ---
Wednesday BB Bench Press 5 15 2:00 80
Crunches & Knee Raises 2 20 --- ---
Thursday BB Squats 4 15 2:00 50-60-70-80
Friday Rest Day --- --- --- ---
Saturday BB Squats 4 15-15-12-10 2:00 60-70-80-90

I really feel like I have to give credit where credit is due. The barbell squats are REALLY helping to resolve my runner's knee issue that I've having over the last couple of months. True that it wasn't the only thing, since I've tried to mix in cycling as well, but the strengthening has really helped.

The other "new" addition was the bench pressing. In the past I've gone too heavy and hurt my shoulder with this, so I need to focus on keeping the weight down to a reasonable level and keeping the reps up. The first session (with 120 lbs in the 3rd set) was a bit too much, but the session on Wednesday felt almost perfect.

Happy Running Everyone !!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Fizzless Squatter Kneeded to Fix Another Flat

I've got to admit that this was a very pleasant week overall. I had a pretty decent balance between running and cycling, and the knee is steadily improving. I'll be the first to admit that not only finding that balance but attempting to maintain it is nearly a full-time job in and of itself, but I do manage to achieve it briefly every now and then. I credit that to not only the mix of cardio work, but also to the barbell squats I've included in my cross training. The overall strengthening of the whole leg and hip area has brought a balance back that was obviously causing me some grief. I was able to either increase the weight a little each time, but will probably stick with a relatively low weight and increase the sets and reps as I move forward with this.

One of the things that I'm most surprised by as I continue running is the degree to which any weak (or weaker) link can cause pain and/or injury. It is certainly counter-intuitive, at least to me anyway, that the way to resolve knee pain was neither a layoff from running or noninflammatory drugs, but a strengthening routine. I've certainly gained a renewed appreciation for the necessity of cross training. Not simply as a mechanism used to insert variety and give run-specific muscles a day or two of rest, but also as cure and prophylactic for common running injuries, which I've been introduced to one by one over the last year or so.

Last Saturday morning started with a bike ride that lasted less than 10 minutes before I had a flat and had to walk it back home and go out for a run instead. Amazingly enough (and I certainly hope this is not any type of "trend"), last Saturday's bike ride lasted less than 13 minutes before things felt...funny. I stopped to check it out, and discovered yet another flat. On the same tire. Oh joy !

So once again I walked the bike back home, changed into my running shorts and shoes, and got a nice run in. When I changed the tire this time, I found the hole in the tube (of course), but nothing in the tire itself. I literally turned the tire inside out in an attempt to find the culprit, but came up empty. So I put it all back together again, and it has held up thus far for a little over 50 miles of riding. I'm confident that there isn't something still embedded in the tire that might be causing a re-puncture...perhaps it was just bad luck. So that means I went 2,240 miles before my first flat, and only 54 miles before the second one. Let's just hope it is a bit further between flats going forward.

That being said, I would much rather it be a simple flat tire than to be something more serious which might cause a wreck when it breaks. I probably need to get the chain looked at (or learn how to check it myself) so that a busted chain isn't the next problem.

On my personal 100 Days Without Soda challenge, I've completed 24 days as of this writing. The first option was tea, to be followed by Crystal Lite. While I like the taste of the Crystal Lite, it does get a bit old after a short while. It seems that I've noticed a sort of "twang" to it occasionally, so I've moved to just water with a sweet-and-low packet and a dash of either lemon or lime juice. I hate to say it (because I was against it for so very long), but it looks like I may end up actually preferring plain water before this is over. I'm not there yet, but I can see the writing on the wall. :-) I'm finding that I don't miss it nearly as much as I thought I might, but my challenge isn't over yet either.


In my running this last week:
  • On Monday I just felt tired and ready for it to be over from the 2 mile mark on. It rained very slightly between mile 1 and 2.5, but stopped after that just leaving it muggy.
  • Tuesday's run was much nicer, since it was a few degrees cooler and being lost in thought reflecting on a presentation I'd heard a couple of days earlier, the miles just flew by.
  • On Thursday I ran a route that I've biked several times but never run, which was a nice change of pace. It is a good eight mile loop, with few busy streets to cross and no dogs to worry with (at least not so far).
  • Friday's run was good overall, but I noticed an irritation on the ring toe of my left foot about a mile into the run. I eventually stopped at about 3.5 and removed some foreign object from my left shoe (I didn't actually find anything, but once I took the shoe and sock off and put it back on, the irritation and pain stopped). Whatever it was, it was cutting into me, since when I got home the sock was a bit bloody and so was the outer webbing of the shoe in one place. It doesn't seem bad now...hope it doesn't develop into something though. It seems like its always something.
  • The unplanned run on Saturday went well, but the heart rate monitor's strap had loosened somehow and wouldn't stay in place. Since adjusting the strap on the run in the dark is apparently not one of my "gifts", I took it off mid-way through the run and adjusted it later, so no heart rate data for that one.

This is what last week looked like...

Day   Activity   Distance (in miles) Avg. Heart Rate Max Heart Rate
Sunday Cycling 25.86 118 146
Monday Running 7.01 154 194
Walking 0.90 124 152
Tuesday Running 7.85 151 163
Wednesday Cycling 25.76 113 141
Thursday Running 8.01 151 166
Friday Running 7.92 151 171
Saturday Cycling 2.72 --- ---
Walking 0.71 --- ---
Running 7.31 --- ---

 These are my time and distance totals for last week:

Activity   Time Total   Distance Total (in miles)
Running 5:40:31 38.10
Walking 0:24:04 1.61
Cycling 3:38:31 54.34
-------------- -------------- --------------
Overall Total 9:43:06 94.05

Day   Activity   Sets Reps Recovery Interval Weight
Sunday Crunches & Knee Raises 4 10 --- ---
Jump Rope 3 50-60-100 --- ---
Scissor Leg Raises 3 10 --- ---
Monday BB Squats 3 10 2:00 50-55-60
DB Bench Press Squats 3 15 2:00 30-35-40
Crunches & Knee Raises 5 10 --- ---
Tuesday Rest Day - --- --- ---
Wednesday BB Squats 3 10 2:00 50-60-70
Crunches & Knee Raises 5 10 --- ---
Thursday Pullups 5 8-8-8-5-5 2:00 20-15-10-5-BW
Crunches & Knee Raises 5 10 --- ---
Friday Crunches & Knee Raises 5 20 --- ---
Saturday Crunches & Knee Raises 5 20 --- ---

This week I've continued with the barbell squats, and some other light weight lifting. The jump rope was sort of an "impromptu" thing, since my son was out on the patio doing it and ask me to join in. My, but that is quite the workout...it winded me for sure. The abdominal work is becoming more of a habit as well, and I'm able to increase the total amount of work on several days.

The real trick to all this seems to be the scheduling of the effort, since doing so immediately after a morning run / bike ride is seldom the right time for me...I just don't have the energy to hit the weights after my runs / rides. I tend to do this when I get home from work, either before or after the evening meal. Fortunately, I have found that I don't have to wait 90 minutes after a meal before working out like some, so that really helps.

How do you like to schedule your non-running workouts..?  Do you offset from your running (morning vs. evening), or just string it all together at once?

I hope you have a great week this week whatever your mileage or goals, and thanks for stopping by.

Happy Running Everyone !!!