Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Confessions of an iPod Noob

I have to admit it...up until just this past month, I've never owned an iPod. Shocking, I know. I never ran with music and rarely found myself in situations where one would be useful, except for the gym, but they have tv and music stations on all of the treadmills to help there. Rebecca, on the other hand, is the proud owner of 3! But, I never had any interest in one, so I never bothered to borrow one of hers. So I just continued on with my life as a non-iPod user.

But then came along my team at work's holiday party in December. We had a raffle, with the top prize being an iPod Touch. Sure enough (even though I wasn't even paying much attention during the drawing), I won it! I was now faced with the task of figuring out what to do with it. Of course, Rebecca being the master iPod queen, helped set everything up and I was good to go chock full of music and podcasts.

After a couple of runs with it, I can see why people like to run with music. However, I keep the volume very low and just use it as background noise. I can still hear my breathing and footsteps. So when I am out there running solo, the company of something else on long, quiet runs is kind of nice.

But that is not what this post is about. If you've made it this far, there is a story to tell about my run at the gym last week. Due to some terrible wind, I had to move my normal weekly tempo run indoors. When on a treadmill, one needs some type of alternative distraction, otherwise the monotony is just brutal. So I set out for about an hour or so of running varied paces with the my new running buddy, my iPod.

After about 15 minutes of warm up running at an easy pace, I jumped into my main set and began picking up the speed. Shortly into the set, I glanced down at my watch to check my rising HR and make sure it matched where I should be.

(A quick side note about the treadmills at the several gyms I've been to - they are all calibrated differently and are usually WAY off, which each one reading out differently. For example, a 9:00/mile pace on one I frequently use is usually about the equivalent of an 8:20/mile and it trickles down the faster you go. So I usually use HR as a back up to help self-calibrate the treadmill to find my proper paces. At this point, I know what my different running paces feel like, so it isn't really difficult. It's just a matter of using my HR as a secondary guide to make sure it matches my feel. Just make sure you either use a properly calibrated footpod or a HRM to find your pace. Don't rely on the treadmill. Otherwise, you may not get the intended benefit of your workout if you are running faster intervals!)

As I was putting my arm back down toward my side, it slightly caught the headphone wires. And you probably know what happened next. Unfortunately, it wasn't my headphones in my ear that popped out. Oh no, those stayed secure (which on any other occasion is a great thing). My brand new iPod took a nice little bunny hop off the treadmill pocket it was sitting in and onto the treadmill belt. And because I was running at about 6:30/mile pace at the time, the belt flung it nicely off the treadmill about 5 feet behind me! In an immediate reaction that I am still trying to figure out how I managed to do without hurting myself badly, I turned to my side and jumped off the mill as I neared the edge of the belt while it still ran and picked up my helpless iPod. In the same motion, I jumped back on the mill and tried to continue on as if nothing happened. Luckily, there were no casualties...except my ego as I'm sure others looked on to see the highlight of their day.

I've been told this happens to everyone at some point. Anyone else have that happen before?

So the lesson of the day is to watch out for those pesky headphone wires! Actually, I did learn a valuable lesson that is practical to maintaining running form. The key to not snagging your headphones is by completely eliminating your arm crossover. For me, this tends to happen most often during harder running sets when I get tired and my form starts to falter. So it gives me another thing to focus on...gotta look at the brighter side of things!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Increasing Flexibility

One of the keys to not only racing faster but also staying healthy is maintaining a flexible body. For most people (including myself), this is a challenging thing to achieve. Most people who sit in chairs all day, or cycle a lot, find that they have very limited mobility in the lower and upper body. This is primarily due to the hip flexors being in a shortened state (bent) and also the shoulders being rolled in (due to poor posture). I have always struggled with this, but I am here to say that I have come across a resource that has significantly helped me improve my flexibility over the past 1-2 months. I came across this resource, while taking one of the training courses for becoming a running coach. And let me just say, that resource alone, has significantly improved my flexibility. But before I get to that, let me first tell a personal story of my struggles with flexibility.

I've always prided myself on the fact that I am the least flexible person in the world. It's one thing to not be very flexible, but it is another to be truly inflexible. How inflexible?

Well, when I was growing up, we had to do the "sit and reach" test in PE class (anyone else remember that?). It was a simple test where they put a box at the end of your feet with your legs extended, while you reach as far toward your toes as possible. The box contains a measuring stick, where you get a score based on how far you can reach. We were always told that a score of around 30 was normal, which was essentially the distance of reaching your ankles. I sat there and watched some people in my class reach past the box, where they actually had to grab an extra ruler to measure how much further. Well I knew I wasn't going to be doing that! So i sat down, extended my legs and began to stretch. And then our PE teacher told me to actually stretch. I was! How far did I get? I couldn't even touch the box and barely made it past my knees! They had to take that same ruler and measure it the other way from the box to get my score, which turned out to be a score of 12....worst in my class. Ever since then, I have always maintained that same lack of flexibility. I've tried yoga and had some limited success, but the 30-60 minute routines typically proved too time intensive for me to consistently fit into my schedule. I can typically go past my knees, but it is still horribly inflexible when compared to others.

So when I found something I could do that takes only 10 minutes, I was instantly hooked. While doing something similar to this routine 3-5 times a week (sometimes every day), I have achieved far more noticeable gains than anything else I have ever tried. In fact, he was the one who taught us in the training class! If you are having a difficult time with flexibility, I strongly recommend this simple routine - watch each of the videos here to help best understand exactly how to do each stretch.

As a frame of reference, I have about 20% more mobility in my hips and in a straight leg stretch on a good day, I can nearly get to my toes. This helps me every day with my running and ensuring proper form doesn't break down. If it can improve my flexibility, it can definitely do the same for you! There is still hope for the inflexible people of the world!

Monday, December 20, 2010

On Becoming a Running Coach

From my earliest days as a high school sprinter/cross country runner, I was always interested in learning more about running and the reasons behind why we do the workouts we do. Not everyone was, as some just showed up and ran their workouts. I somehow knew it would come in handy later on in life.

As an unofficial "coach" for many friends and family, I've helped a number of people move in the right direction and take on some of their goals. And although not everyone likes to listen to me, I usually am trying to be helpful ;) I'm just glad there will be others who are interested in hearing what I have to say, because I've got a ton of stuff up there in that brain of mine!

So when an opportunity recently came up to become a coach at one of the local distance training programs to prep for the National Marathon, I jumped (or ran?) at the chance.

It's one thing to be a self coached runner and be responsible for your own progress, but it's another thing to take on the responsibility of others. As a coach, your responsibility lies in looking out for what is in the best interest of that particular athlete. Everyone is different and each person requires a different application of training. It will certainly be a challenge to find out what works best for some, but not others. In the end though, I'm really there to support them, encourage them to work toward their goals, and provide as much (or as little) assistance as they need.

Our program began just a few weekends ago, with the past few weeks of introductory runs - in the neighborhood of a nice little 8 mile jaunt. This week's biggest challenge was the snow/ice on the trail. Rather than extending the run distance, running 8 miles on that kind of surface honestly felt a lot closer to 10. Over the next few weeks though, that distance will surely increase. I'm really looking forward to the challenge ahead for both myself and the runners as we begin to take on the challenge of the marathon.

Stay tuned for more updates in the future!

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Jingle All The Way 10k Photos

Because I ran in the middle of the race, there weren't many photos of myself that I could find. So I'll leave you with the 1 photo I found, along with a number of the more "interesting" ones I could find out there.
I'm pretty sure I try to run with my eyes open!

And here was the female winner - who says you can't dress up a bit and still win a race!?


Some highlights below (left to right):

- Captain America
- The Snowman
- The Grinch
- Not sure what this guy is doing (high stepping it in?
- Why bother with the bag check when you can run the whole race with your stuff!
- Contestant for the ugly sweater contest?
- Santa joggler
- Milk and cookies for santa

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Running in the Cold

How to handle the recent cold spell when air temps were 20F, with 25 mph winds, and wind chills near 0:

- Base layer thermal: Check
- Technical layer on top: Check
- Wind resistant jacket as outer shell: Check
- Reflective vest for night running: Check
- Base layer boxer briefs for extra warmth: Check
- Warmer 2 layered running tights with wind resistance: Check
- Running gloves: Check
- Wind resistant hat with ear flaps: Check
- Headlamp for night running: Check

To be honest though, after about 10 minutes of running, I forgot how rough the conditions were. It became pretty enjoyable being the only one out there running. Who needs the treadmill anyways!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jingle All The Way 10k Race Report

Being a competitive athlete, I try to enter each and every race expecting a PR. After all, that's what we train so hard for. But sometimes, I need to be reminded that a PR does not necessarily have to be the goal of each and every race. Despite my race plan, things changed after talking to Rebecca the day before the race. I quickly became aware that this race should be more than just another PR. So I decided to just have fun for a change. Typically, we run 1 race together each year - the Turkey Trot. Well since this year we were traveling during that time, we never got to do that. This would be our chance to make up and (for me) to have fun doing it.

Despite not necessarily having a time goal, I know pretty objectively what Rebecca is capable of running at any time (contrary to what she may think she can run, which is usually slower than I know she can run). So in my head, I was targeting 60:00, which is what I believed she was capable of running. And I try to make it a fun game of being the pacer to get things to work out ideally. For me, that involves consistent feedback from her and me monitoring her as we move about the course. And when the plan does work out, I get just as much joy and adrenaline in seeing her success, than I do when I achieve my own.

So with that in mind, we set out with some friends to run the race, where I would serve as the pacer. I set out to utilize a negative split race strategy, which is always ideal. The only complication is that Rebecca loves the run/walk. She does best when she has those breaks built in there. So we set out with a 9:00 run/1:00 walk strategy and I just hoped I could nail the paces to get us to the finish line sub-60. Here were our splits:

Mile 1: 9:51
Mile 2: 9:39
Mile 3: 9:37
Mile 4: 9:37
Mile 5: 9:27
Mile 6: 9:09
Last .2: 7:56 pace
FINAL TIME: 59:35

We went out the first 5k in 30:30 and finished the 2nd 5k in 29:05, giving us a solid 1:25 split. Each mile was faster than the previous one and Rebecca really booked it at the end to nip me by 1 second ;) Who said I'm not chivalrous!

For her recap, you can read it here. Despite rough racing weather, it was a great race and a fun time. Stay tuned for hopefully some fun pictures from the race.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pre-race Thoughts - Jingle All The Way 10k

It's about time for another race! The Jingle All The Way 10k. Last year when I ran this race, it was about 40 and drizzly. This year's forecast - 40 and rain. Lovely! Well, I'll just have to make the best of it. But this time, I'm bringing a crew of family, friends, and coworkers to share in the holiday running spirit!

The good news is that I can learn from last year's race. The biggest thing I learned was not to over-dress. You know, the whole 20 degree rule - dress like it was 20 degrees warmer, because that's how you'll feel once your actually running. Last year, I wore a hat, gloves, running vest, etc and by the time I got to mile 3, I was cooked! This year, I'm thinking I'll be able to pull off running in tights and a long sleeve shirt with no hat, no gloves and no vest. Trust me, it'll be much better to be a little cold early on.

As far as the race goes, I ran it last year in 42:05, which I am pretty sure I'll handily beat, considering the last 10k I ran this year was in 41:37 in April and I am coming off the fitness from my recent 1/2 marathon. Based on some recent baseline tests (which I'll get more into in another post), I'd say I'm ready for a big PR. While I don't like to list specific time goals, I will say I'm expecting to knock a fair amount off that time. How much? You'll just have to come back and see!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Training Manifesto - Part 5

My intent of this series is to document my thoughts (as of today) about what I know and how it is influencing my training moving forward. I have read quite a bit recently, as I mentioned in my previous post. After having the time to think about all of the information and map it to myself, I have developed a few principles that I plan to follow and believe apply to most others. Each principle consists of a section below.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Changing Training Stimuli

Around this time last year, I wrote about the base training methods I incorporated into this year and the fact that I feel strongly of its importance to the majority of people that don't come from a strong aerobic/endurance background. That a solid period of base training builds the foundation for which we add everything else on top. Without it, you can still get fast quickly, but you bring more risk into the equation, such as injuries, which I personally try to avoid where possible. You also limit the potential increases you can see across a season, because this method typically leads to plateau, as I've witnessed firsthand in prior seasons.

So back to the point of this post. After I stopped seeing returns from the training I was doing, it was important to change the training stimulus. After your body gets used to one kind of training, changing things up is a surefire way to earn some new fitness. While base training certainly had its place, the type of training that gets us ready to race is the kind that begins to incorporate more of the faster stuff. And while I specifically stated that intervals, tempos, Vo2Max , etc workouts can be dangerous, they are also the most effective workouts at getting us "race ready". So the ways to incorporate them into your training are to first establish that foundation of fitness and THEN slowly incorporate the "sexy" kinds of workouts into the plan. And that is where you really start seeing the results by adding to the base you've already established.

But the magical gains you achieve from this type of training aren't necessarily the kind where "more is better" works. And I think that is where a lot of people get lost. It is a fine line of dancing between high levels of fatigue (overtraining) and improving your fitness. As the saying goes - "It's always better to enter a race 10% undertrained, than 10% overtrained or injured".

The things I'm specifically cautioning against are adding in too much interval/tempo work too quickly or running too fast "because you can". The problem with these kinds of workouts is that the potential to do more harm than good is so great. A little bit of speed goes a long way. However, a lot of speed does not necessarily go further. Just because you CAN run 8 x 800m @ 6:00/mile pace doesn't mean you SHOULD. For one, if the pace is too fast for your current level of fitness, you're not utilizing as many muscle groups, which means that those great adaptations that are intended to result from this kind of work won't happen. Additionally, you're likely to become too fatigued from this 1 workout to actually run other quality workouts. The point of your training week is to do all of your workouts, not have 1 awesome workout and struggle through the rest of them. Similarly, your goal is not to set PRs in training sessions. Typically, if this is happening, you're running too hard. Races are when you set PRs. Save those big efforts to race days. Fatigue can manifest itself over time in your body and denial is a surefire way to let things get too far in the negative.

So how do you know when you've hit too much fatigue? Well one way is to actually listen to your body. It sounds simple, but it is really hard for self coached athletes to understand that it is ok to take an easy day or even (gasp) a day off. It is during this much needed down time where the fitness is gained through muscle regrowth and recovery. Of course, nutrition also plays a huge role in that as well...crap in = crap out (but not in the lightening your load, kind of crap way ;) ). The other way to check your fatigue levels is by tracking your training. You can do this by perceived exertion, how you feel when you wake up, or through several online tools (and I'm sure others) that use algorithms. Use one of those methods, because it is the only way you'll keep track of it.

So what I am really trying to say is this: Once you have established your base and begun incorporating these more stressful activities (and really any time), listen to your body to determine when it is appropriate to take off and go easy. And when you decide on a "hard" workout - run it within your abilities, not what you wish you could run or what you could run because you wanted to prove it. Use your recent performances to determine what is a realistic pace. If you just ran a 25 minute 5k, you probably shouldn't be running 6:00/mile 800 repeats, even if you can. Improvements take time and patience and without both, it is difficult to keep up and meet your goals. Think about it this way - If you have to think about it and question what you are about to do, err on the side of caution. There is always tomorrow to hit it hard. Play it safe, stay healthy, repeat, and improve your fitness. I think that is a good plan to follow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Introspective Runner

Don't think I haven't thought about writing...I have. Trust me. Its just that every time I start writing, I lose my train of thought and any post I write turns to mush. I have so much up in my head right now, but none of it has wanted to come out. I think I can sum up the whole situation as being more of an introspective runner these days. I like sharing and hearing other's thoughts. That is part of the reason why I started this whole thing. But lately, it has all been locked right up in my head and I can't explain the shift. Whatever is it though, has been working pretty good. Let me explain.

Being more introspective has its perks. I feel more in tune with my body and mind, like they are in synch. My run mojo is as high as ever. The past month or so of running has gotten more focused. Following my half marathon, I had to take about a month to give myself that downtime. The mental and physical break we all need each year. You simply can't go year to year without having some type of downtime. It just isn't a process one can maintain for a very long time. And we're all planning to be doing this for a long time, right?

So anyways, that downtime happened to coincide with a slight calf issue I was dealing with as a result of my race, which worked out well, because it forced me to physically slow down and focus on the basics of strengthening and becoming more flexible. Since then, the mileage is back up and the calf is much improved. I can feel some tightness occasionally, but I have a much better handle on it now than before. Part of that was due to new shoes that, although they were neutral, didn't seem to be supporting my leg the same as the shoes that I had been wearing previously. So I gave them up and went back to wearing the same model I've been wearing for nearly a year, Brooks Ghost, which I am now on my 4th pair of, but also bought a 5th so I'm not tempted to change shoes again. I'm sticking with what works!

Anyways, I'm hoping to get back here posting, because I think some of the thoughts I wanted to post about are starting to come back. At least it feels that way now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marine Corps Marathon Expo - See You There!

Are you going to be there? Just like last year, I'll be there too! Once again, I'll be at the Clif table handing out delicious samples of Clif products. Interested in the reformulated ClifShots and ClifShot Turbo? Planning on using ClifShots out on the course (they'll be at Mile 13) but don't know what flavors you like? Come by to try them all out and say hi!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Race Report: Heritage Half Marathon

Sometimes, you feel totally prepared to race and rock out to the tune of an amazing time. Other times, it just doesn't work out. Fortunately, this was not one of those other days. I haven't posted much recently, but I've been training pretty hard over these past months. Specifically, I've been training with the great community of people at Marathon Nation. But I was just training to "get faster", without specific focus. It wasn't until about 2.5 months ago though, that I was actually training for an actual race. I figured I'd be running a handful of fall races and when an opportunity arose to get in on a half marathon, I stepped up to the plate and dialed in my focus.


Race morning was nice, cool and in the mid 40s...perfect for running! After a brief warm up, it came time to quickly line up for the start. I seeded myself about 2 rows back from the front, seeing as how some top area talent came out for the race. Before I knew it, we were off!


Miles 1-3
The pacing plan was to go conservative for the early miles, where my goal was to average 7:22/mile. I knew mile 1 would be fast, due to the adrenaline and a mostly downhill mile. At my first glance down at my watch, I noticed I was running 6:35/mile pace - oops! I quickly slowed and really held myself back, knowing it would pay off later in the race. Here were my paces:

Mile Planned Actual

1 7:10 7:08

2 7:25 7:24

3 7:25 7:24


Miles 4-10
Now it was time to get to work...well sort of. Though a tradition pacing plan would have me working hard at Mile 4, it was almost entirely up hill. So while I was working harder, I knew I wasn't going to throw down too fast of a pace. I slowly began picking it up by effort, which resulted in slightly faster paces, but I was feeling really good. After Mile 4, I started picking people off that had passed me in the early miles. I felt totally smooth and in control.

Mile Planned Actual

4 7:15 7:17

5 7:05 7:06

6 7:05 6:58

7 7:15 7:08

8 7:00 6:56

9 7:00 6:54

10 7:00 6:44

Only thing was, I hadn't seen a runner in front of me since Mile 8! If it weren't for the great support at the aid stations, it would have been pretty lonely out there.


Miles 11-13.1
I knew with just a 5k to go, the Mile 11 was largely downhill, but the last 2 miles were the steepest uphills on the whole course - what a way to end a race!

Mile Planned Actual

11 7:00 6:49

12 7:00 6:51

13.1 7:00 6:51

Overall time: 1:31:35
Avg pace: 7:00/mile
Avg HR: 167 bpm

Comments: I ended up getting 2nd in my age group! I couldn't have felt better during the race, despite the hills toward the end in the last 2 miles. Even more notable, was that I also set a new 10 mile PR WITHIN the race (1:09:34) over the course of the last 10 miles of the race.

Monday, September 27, 2010

When Tri Shorts Become Unwearable

Yea, its been a while since I posted, but I truly couldn't miss out from sharing this little nugget of classic hilarity yesterday.

So...I decided to give tri shorts a go when I was schedule for a recent run at the track yesterday. It had been a while since I've worn them (about a year!), so it took some digging to find them. Sure enough I found them, threw them on under my regular shorts, and headed out for a few errands with Rebecca before stopping at the track for a run.

Once we got there, I started changing into my running shoes, while Rebecca came around the car. At this exact moment, I was bent over grabbing my shoes and I immediately heard laughter. Now, Rebecca laughs at me a lot, but this was one of those truly authentic, laugh from the insides kind of laugh. Something must have been really funny. It was me. The back of my tri shorts was completely see-through! Now, I've seen thin see through, where it's probably best to retire the shorts, but these were apparently see through in the truest sense. Let's just say that Rebecca was able to see a few too many details ;)

Still shocked at how I was able to put these on without realizing they were so worn (I guess there was a reason they were buried in my closet!), I replied that it probably wasn't as bad as she was making it out to be. She assured me, it was and wouldn't let me go any further...afterall, there were some kids playing football on the field at the track and she didn't want me being arrested for indecent exposure!

So I dig around in my car for the only thing I could find...swim jammers! As I'm sure most people know, swim jammers aren't always the most fashion forward kind of style. I had no other choice, so I threw them over my tri shorts. To add to this picture (I wish one of us had taken one of me), I was wearing knee high white compression socks and a little neoprene belt to hold the ipod I was planning to listen to while I ran. I truly do hope you can picture this, because I looked like I was a runner from the late 70s/early 80s. It was awesome!

Needless to say, I had a great run, likely due to the fact that in order to wear something like that, you better throw down!

When I got home, I checked myself out and was appalled. I know they had been sitting unused, but there was must have been at least a period were I was wearing them in close to that condition! How did I ever wear these? Sorry to anyone who I may have offended previously!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meh

Haven't really had the desire to post anything lately. I'm not short of stuff to write about. I just haven't made it to post. I'm sure most of you know the feeling. You get a great idea out there while training, you come home and unwind, only to go "meh" at the thought of writing something up. So it happens from time to time.

Things have been very busy all around, but great. Great running, even some great riding!, great everything (except for those 100+ degree days we had - those were not so great). Aside from that though, I can't really complain.

I've got some updates to write about on the training front, but I need to muster up the effort to write them out. It is all still meh to me right now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yum

Yesterday, while returning from a weekend in NYC, we stopped at a deli in NJ, which was recommended by a friend. I'll let the picture do the talking:

Nothing finer than a pastrami sandwich piled high!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Restless Legs

I've never really had this problem before for an extended time, but for the past few days, I've been suffering from restless leg syndrome in my right leg. Have you ever had it before? I've had it once or twice randomly at night, but man does it suck!

This time though, I feel it occasionally throughout the day, but it truly affects me when it is bed time. You know that comfortable position you get into right when it is time to town out and lights and go to bed, and how good it feels to finally just lay down from a hard days work? Well, I can't get that feeling anymore because of this. I lay down and just hope that I won't get the achy, creepy, tingling sensation from my hips down to my ankle. Unfortunately, the past 3 nights have been rough and it seems like there is nothing I can do about it.

On average recently, I've been able to fall asleep within 30 minutes of tossing and turning. Normally, it takes me about 5 minutes to get to sleep. Like clock work each night, I've popped out of bed at 3 am to find myself suffering the worst case of achy legs. You know what stinks about having this happen at 3 am? Its 3 am! So I toss and turn and stretch and kick my legs around for a good 30-40 minutes before eventually finding myself in some type of position that is awkward, but sightly less painful, and allows me to get back asleep.

That lasts all of an hour or 2 before it hits again. This morning when it hit me again at 5:30 am, I said screw it and just got up and went for a morning run. Nothing is more frustrating to me than not being able to fall asleep and stay asleep. It has come so easily to me since I was a kid. And now, this whole thing is ruining sleeping for me.

The only silver lining is that it forced me out of bed to go on an early morning run. That's about the only thing keeping me in a good mood. Otherwise, I'd be pretty cranky today and nobody wants that ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Try Not To Judge But...

Seriously, I don't like to be one of those people that looks at something and immediately makes a judgement based on that single fact. But obviously, sometimes we're just forced to judge. I saw this as I was walking out of work the other day:



And I thought to myself:

WHO WOULD PUT THEIR KID IN A CAR WITH NO ROOF OR DOORS?!?!?!?

Seriously. What is wrong with people.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Race Report: Fair Oaks Volunteer Fire and Rescue 5k Ambulance Chase

After my last race, I knew of my single goal - don't run the 1st mile too fast! I repeated it over and over and over. I even practiced my race start with some strides in the days before to practice my goal pace for Mile 1. Fortunately, because this race took place less than a mile from our house, it was super easy to get to. I got to the race about 30 minutes prior to the race start to check in and do a quick warm up. Temperatures were looking pretty good (low 70s) for an 8:30 am start, but with the sun starting to come up, the air began heating up pretty quickly.

Race:

Ambulance chase - This is the view for the whole race for the 1st place runner

I seeded myself just behind the front row to ensure I didn’t have to fight for position at the start. The challenge with the first mile in this race was that it had 2 decent hills, both within the first .5 mile, so pacing was certainly a challenge. I went out at my comfortably fast pace, knowing I was holding back pretty good. Once we got past those 2 hills, I opened up just a little and tried to find some people to pace off. I noticed 2 people just in front that had remained in the same position relative to me since the gun, so I figured they would be a good set of pacers, since they had not faded and looked to be running smooth. We crossed the Mile 1 marker in 6:30, which was about 10s faster than planned, but my legs still felt like they had life and I knew the hardest mile of the race was behind me.

I made it my goal to begin picking up the pace as we started Mile 2, which coincidentally, so did my pacers. More or less, I just stayed on their shoulders. Mile 2 had quite a few turns and I was worried that it would take some kick out of my legs, but I pressed on. I opted not to grab water at the only aid station, because it was located out of the way from where we running (poor placement on their part) and would have cost me valuable time. I figured with 10 minutes to go, I can suffer. We came through Mile 2 in 6:15.

With the last mile to go, I picked up the pace a bit more and took advantage of a nearly .5 mile downhill, because I had to go up another hill, before turning around and back down it toward the finish and wanted to get a good pace rolling into it. I was still hanging on the shoulder of the two pacers and when we finally hit .25 miles to go, I began picking it up some more. I passed one of the pacers on the final uphill to the finish and hit Mile 3 in 6:11. With just .1 mile to go, I opened up my stride and sprinted home, finishing just behind my other pacer, who ended up being the women's overall winner, finishing with an identical time to me. Final time 19:31.

Like most shorter distance races, the biggest challenge is pacing and maintaining the mental strength to continue to push through the pain. In addition to my "don't run the first mile too fast" mantra, I also adopted another - "it's only 20 freaking minutes!". I nearly said that out loud toward the end, when I had to dig deep to keep pushing. Fortunately, I only needed to say it in my head

I think I finally learned a lesson about pacing! I find it funny that my Mile 1 splits were 50s apart between my 2 most recent 5ks, but the 50s slower split yielded a 34s faster finish time. Teach yourself the pace you want to run, so there is no guesswork on race day!

Post Race:

We stuck around for the awards ceremony after the race and I found out finished 1st in my Age Group (30-39) and 6th overall. The prizes were some free bowling games and a gift certificate to Target - woo hoo!


I Listened to Myself!

The short story:

- Finished in 19:31 (5k PR of 31 seconds)
- 1st in Age Group (30-39)
- Time to celebrate!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Repeat After Me

I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast. I will not go out too fast.

Ok, that should do it! After my last race, I don't want to make the same mistake twice. On the agenda tomorrow is a nice little 5k being held close to our house.

More importantly, is hopefully a sub-20:00 5k. I've come so close too many times and at this point it is all about race execution, because I am more fit now than ever before:

  • Start off comfortably hard through Mile 1 (6:40/mile)
  • Pick it up and run strong for Mile 2 (6:20/mile)
  • Give it everything I have for Mile 3 (6:15/mile)
In theory, I should beat this goal, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Sub-20 is a realistic goal and then we can go from there. That should bring me in at about 19:55, which should be totally doable...if I execute correctly ;)

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Found on Google Maps

Lately I've been a bit busy - with work, life, training, etc. But one of those reasons I've been busier than normal is due to travel for work. When you work with the Government, you don't necessarily travel out of the immediate DC area too often. However, my recent project has required me to travel south to North Carolina. It's kind of nice to be able to get away and explore a new area for a few days, before being whisked back to reality.

So the point of this story is the fact that I've been using a combination of local running stores, mapmyrun, and Google Maps to find running routes near the places I've been staying. Its actually been a lot easier than I thought it would be to find decent places to run.

A few weeks ago when I was on a trip to Greensboro, NC, I went out and started figuring out my run course. Once I had the route figured out, I used the street view feature to get an idea of the intersections so I know where to turn and what to expect. I'm sure you've seen sites that provide random things found in google maps, such as this one. Well here is another one for the collection, because this is what I came across:

At this point, I'd to open up the floor to anyone who would like to propose the story behind this, because I think the whole thing is just awesome. Any ideas?

BTW - I did not have the pleasure of seeing this same sight when I ran through it, though I secretly hoped I would.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Just Not The Same

Today is "Bike to Work Day" for a lot of cities throughout the country. Here in DC, we set a new record for the most people registered (more than 8,500 people!). I was one of those people. But unlike previous years, where I would just go for a morning ride out to one of the central spots, grab my t-shirt, snack on some stuff, and head back, this year I ACTUALLY planned on biking to work. It's funny too - because I used to live right close to a trail that would drop me off only a few miles from work. Now, I'd ride virtually the whole thing (approx 14 miles each way) on roads with cars. I guess I just wanted to give it a try after all these years of "faking it".

We'll I had my route planned and was starting to figure out the logistics as far as bringing work clothing, "showering" after the commute in, where to stash my stuff in the office, etc. And then I got the news just 2 days ago that I'd have to head downtown for a morning meeting.

Once my meeting was over, I watched lots of folks out on the roads with their bikes, as I drove myself back into the office. I really wanted to be one of those people. It was truly motivating. In fact, I saw people riding everything from cruisers with baskets on the front to your standard commuter bike complete with panniers. The weather couldn't have been more perfect either (mid 60s in the morning up to low 80s).

All may not be lost though - I am trying to convince myself to just give it a try on a random Friday. And I will! I'll just have to work out when. It sure would make it easier though with lots more folks out there on the roads to let drivers know that cyclists deserve the same respect of the roadways. Who knows...maybe it will turn into a semi-regular thing ;)

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Weekend of Triathlony Stuff

I wrote this up last week, but due to travel and other issues, it sat in draft form waiting for me to post...

No – I didn’t throw any surprise races into the mix. I am still staying true to my break from tris this year. However, that doesn’t mean I can be involved in any of them. Last year, I officially became an official. Well this year, it is time to up the ante. Not only will I be working quite a number of events, but I am also movin on up by serving as the Head Ref for a handful of races as well.

My triathlony weekend began by fighting traffic to make it down to Lake Anna State Park for the Kinetic Half and Sprint races. Normally, this would be a simple shot down 95, taking no more than 1:15 or so. But making the trek on a Friday typically involves traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. Rather than taking the straight shot approach, I went the long way, which took about 2 hours in total, but I’m pretty sure I A) Took less time than if I had gone on 95 and B) Kept my sanity, because I encountered zero traffic. It was shortly after 9 pm, by the time I got down to the park.

Due to some unforeseen logistical issues, I could not manage to get the key to the cabin I was originally going to stay at, which was in the park. So I called up Lindsay, who was also officiating (she was Head Ref on Saturday, I on Sunday) and she was nice enough to offer me a space at the house she was staying at. It became even more fun when I got to sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed…better than sleeping in my car!

Saturday morning came about rather early, waking up at 4:30 to be in transition by 5:30. It was dark, but warm outside, so it wasn’t that bad. The biggest issue with Saturday’s conditions, which for anyone who races on the east coast last weekend would know, was the winds. It actually wasn’t too bad in the morning for most people out on the swim, unlike what happened at some other races that weekend, but it got worse while most were out on the bike course.

It is at this point, that I must offer a word of advice. Just because you have a disc wheel, doesn’t mean you should use it at EVERY race! The cross winds out there were ridiculous. I was out there on a motorcycle monitoring the course and we were getting blown around! I saw so many folks out there fighting the crosswinds and getting blown all over the course. Most of them had rear disc wheels.

In the end though, the race was great. Some major age group competition showed up, with many folks trying to qualify for the 2010 ITU Long Course World Championships in Immenstadt, Germany and the race also served as a Halfmax Championship qualifier.


So with Saturday’s officiating in the books, I went for a nice hour and half run through the park, running most of the run course and a whole bunch of stuff out in the woods. It’s amazing how enjoyable it is to be on endless trails and have no idea where the trail is going to go, versus being able to see the next mile of road ahead when running on pavement. I may have to explore some of this trail running a bit more in the future ;)

Saturday, I was able to (finally) get the keys to the cabin, so I had a place to stay within the park (and with some sweet rocking chairs that looked out onto the lake!).

I went to bed, woke up, and had déjà vu all over again. Except this time, I was able to sleep in a bit more till 6:00 am so I could make it down to transition by 6:30. It was kinda nice to be able to roll out of bed and the race was only a short stroll down the hill. This would be a good idea to remember in case I ever decide to race this.

In my head, being Head Ref brought about a whole set of new responsibilities and ownership of the decisions made on race day. But in reality, my day went a lot like any other officiating job, but tack on a few more responsibilities. Plus, I got to wear the Head Ref jersey (think NFL zebra stripes), which was pretty cool and made me the most recognizable person out there.

It looks something like this, only minus Ed Hochuli's guns

The extra role included measuring the water in the morning (70 degrees), assigning jobs to the officiating crew for during transition in the morning, and out on the bike course, conversing with each official regarding their findings out on the course to verify any penalties that were observed, and writing up the Head Ref Report, which identifies all penalties for the race and is posted next to the results at the race. It may sound like a lot, but it really wasn’t that much extra work (or at least less than I felt it would be in my head).

I guess the biggest thing is the responsibility that comes with posting the penalties next to the results. Typically, once they get posted, a handful of people will come up and argue that “there was no way I was doing that”. Well, here is when the role of an official gets the test. When we write up penalties, we try to be as descriptive as possible.

For example: “#135 a male with age 45 on his calf, wearing a red top, with black bottoms, riding a blue and grey Cervelo, and a grey helmet was observed riding less than 1 foot behind another rider for 30 seconds and did not make a pass.”

Usually when you describe something like that, they still dispute it, but in reality, it was you dude. We aren’t out there to nail people. We are trying to ensure a fair race. And there has to be sufficient evidence of the penalty, such as the one stated above. The individual must be clearly identified in order to issue a penalty and so must the behavior. If it isn't, there is no penalty.

So with that, my triathlony weekend was over. I enjoyed being out there and WATCH the race. I’m still very much enjoying the break. I love the sport, but am not ready to come back….yet.

On the agenda for this weekend...another triathlon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Race Report: 5k Run for Celiac Disease

So this wasn't on my calendar, but it was sort of planned. Its been 3 years since we've run this race and it was 3 years since I remembered how painful a hilly 5k can be! They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. If you remember my last race report, one of the big mistakes I made (pacing), well you ain't seen nothing yet! It seems that I need to learn these things the hard way.

Let's get to the race:

I seeded myself just behind the front row to ensure I didn’t have to fight for position at the start. With the sound of the gun, we were off and moving pretty quickly. After only 3 short blocks, we took a right onto a 3/4 mile long hill. Still trying to push the pace, I moved up the hill pretty well, with the race leaders only 10 ft in front of me. Once we crested the hill, it was a short downhill before hitting the 1 mile marker. As I approached the Mile 1 marker, I started hearing the splits. I was afraid to look at my watch, because the feelings in my legs as we crested that first long hill told me all I needed to know. As I got closer to the timer, I heard my split. Mile 1: 5:50 – WAY too fast, given ¾ of that was spent climbing a pretty steep hill.


I knew after that first mile split, that I was in for a treat of pain today, because after a very short flat section, most of Mile 2 was also spent climbing to the turnaround, before heading back down that hill we just moved up. My legs were really starting to fatigue and I felt little juice left. The combination of the hill and the act of turning around at the cone, made it a challenge to pick the pace back up. I struggled on and came through Mile 2 in 6:39, a sharp contrast from Mile 1.


Based on my descriptions of Miles 1 and 2, you can probably guess that Mile 3 also included a hill. Actually, it was 2 hills, because you climbed 1 hill for about 4 blocks, took a left to another street, only to find that you have to continue climbing an equally long hill for another 4 blocks. The good news was that the last ½ mile was all downhill. You just had to get there. I got there alright. I just had nothing left. I tried to pick up the pace and did finish a little stronger after I crested the hill, averaging out the last 1.1 miles at 7:53 (6:53/mile pace) and 20:05 overall, which was a 5s improvement on my 2007 time. I crossed the line knowing that I placed well overall, but that I could have done better. After the race was over, I felt fine. I was tired, but the legs felt ok.

Post Race

We stuck around for the awards ceremony after the race and I finished 3rd in my Age Group and 9th overall. Not bad, considering the lack of race execution. I know I could have moved up a few spots with some better pacing and significantly improved on my time. I do plan to run another couple of 5ks in the next month or 2 (hopefully less hilly), so look out for some applied lessons learned and the end to this insanity!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Things That Plagued Me Yesterday

Yesterday started out just like any other normal day. Wake up, get my foam roll on, do some stretches and get ready for work. What I did not anticipate, were a few things. Specifically, 2 bad things and 1 good thing.

Lets start with the BAD:

1) When I got home from work, I quickly changed from Clark Kent in my suit to Superman in my running gear. Except as I started on my way, I got the hiccups! So much for Superman. I highly doubt he ever got hiccups. Have you ever gotten hiccups while running? They suck. They come at the most inopportune times, like when a car pulls up right by you with their windows open to stop at a stop sign. HICCUP! Ooopps...and I just continue running and play it off. Eventually after about 20 minutes of running, they went away.

2) So remember my recent race report and how I noted that I was pouring water on my head to try and cool me down? Well here is a lesson that I learned, which I will share with you at no charge. Don't dump water on your head! Want to know why? Because all that nice cool water has to go somewhere. And where does it go? Into your shoes, making your feet wet, soggy, and very prone to blisters. Sure enough, when I took off my socks after the race, I had the nastiest of blood blisters. It progressively got worse over the next 24 hours until I finally sucked it up and tried to treat it. After a nice warm shower to soften the skin, I drained it. Disgusting? Yes, but very necessary. Well, I had put a band aid on it to help it heal. After another 24 hours (by yesterday morning), I went to take another look at how the healing was going to re-dress the blister. Well....my toenail kinda came off with the band aid. (It's ok for you to get nauseous now) At first, it hurt and was a shock. But as the day went on, it hurt less and actually felt better than any other time since the race. As a matter of fact, I ran 6 miles yesterday and all was good. So, we'll see what happens on the re-growth front in a little while. In the meantime, maybe its not so bad.

And now, the GOOD:

1) A few months ago, Rebecca and I went into DC to see a movie. We parked in a legal spot that was only zone parking during the day, which expired by the time we parked, thus no quarters or anything required (they are pretty rare in DC). When I got back to my car after the movie, there was a ticket for not having proper registration tags. Well, I knew this was wrong and filed a report to repeal the ticket. Of course, I realize that it doesn't happen very often that they overturn things, but I figured I legitimately had a case. I submitted evidence and nearly 3 months later, got a letter in the mail. Read the below for the results:

Onward and upward - temps are supposed to hit 90 this weekend, so maybe I'll be able to finally start adapting to higher humidity and stop suffering ;)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler Pictures

I have to give credit when credit is due. Not only were official results posted before the end of race day (Sunday), but race photos were available the NEXT day! This is actually the first time I have ever had this quick a turnaround. So kudos to both companies for the good work!

Despite the expectations of terrible pictures from my race report, I'm actually quite happy with a few of them (although I look like I am suffering). Unfortunately, I won't be buying them due to the outrageous prices, so you'll have to deal with the crop job of whats left of the logo on top of the pictures.

For your viewing pleasure:

Either really sweaty or drenched from water I was pouring on my head

Is it just me, or do I look BEAT?

So close...

Closer...

Almost there, and ready to be DONE!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Race Report: GW Parkway Classic 10 Miler

Where to start, where to start...

I last did this race in 2007, where I posted by fastest 10 mile time of 1:13:49. I've run a few other 10 milers, but was not in what I would consider good fitness to beat that time. As I stated previously, my expectations for this race were to handily beat my PR. This race is advertised as a "net downhill", which simply means that you finish at a lower elevation than you start. What it does NOT mean is that it is generally flat and downhill. Yes, I ran this race, but the mind tends to forget the bad over time and only remember the good. Someone should also have reminded me (besides Rebecca who was yelling my ear about it) that Rebecca ran this race last year, so maybe she would have a better idea of the course. Did I listen? Nope! Lesson learned - listen to your wife ;)

Sorry about that - back to the race report!

Pre-race

Race morning came very early, because of the logistical issues of a point to point race. We had to be at the finish line in time to catch the bus that takes everyone 10 miles down to Mount Vernon to the start of the race. Well in order to get a decent parking spot (ie within stumbling distance from the finish line), you have to get there pretty early. The buses started making trips to the race start at 5:30 am. The race didn't start till 8 am. That is a long time. We boarded by 6 and made it to the start area by 6:20. And then it started to rain. Ugh. It was cool, but very humid (95% humidity) and the rain wasn't helping the situation. Fortunately, it stopped about 30 minutes before the race start, which was just enough to leave the roads slightly slick.

My race plan was to go out relatively slower for the first 2 miles, before upping the pace for the middle 6 and going with whatever else I had left for the last 2 miles. I knew that my recent race times would yield a very good time if I things went according to plan.

After a 15-20 minute warm up, I felt ready to go, so I kissed Rebecca good luck and made my way toward the front of the start line with about 5 minutes till the start. After a short hold, they sounded the horn and we were off.

Race

Elevation profile in brown, HR in red

Mile 1 - My plan was to start off with a 7:09 mile, but I did not take into account the HUGE downhill almost immediately after the start of the race. I found myself running relatively easy, but knew my time would reflect harder work. I came through Mile 1 in 6:48. Ouch. Was I working too hard? I think so. My HR was a bit higher than I was hoping for the first 2 miles, but I wasn't sure if it was from the excitement of the race or something else. I should have held back some more, because an alarm went off in my head after I saw the clock that today is going to be a long day if I don't slow down.

Mile 2 - As usual with a big downhill, it is followed by some up hills. In this case, it was a series of rollers. I forced myself to slow my pace to try and get into my goal pace, which I mostly achieved with a split of 7:06.

Mile 3 - My plan called for me to pick up my pace starting at Mile 3. Given that I busted out a goal pace mile in the first mile, I didn't want to big too deep a hole so early. So I told myself that if I also took Mile 3 at a similar pace, it would at least do some damage control. I held constant and began to slowly pick up the pace toward the end of the mile, which came through in 7:02

Mile 4 - It was around this time that I started noticing my HR creeping up a bit higher than I thought it should be. My paces were alright, but something wasn't right. I started getting very hot, but I was racing in (short) shorts and a light t-shirt, so there wasn't really anything different I would have done. I just knew that my body was starting to have issues dealing with the high humidity and keeping my core temperature down. When I hit the next aid station, I threw one of the cups on my head and it seemed to help a lot. I snapped out of my funk and pressed on, coming through in 7:01

Mile 5 - Based on my time at Mile 4, I knew my legs weren't going to fire up the goal paces I was targeting. I was still moving at a good pace and running strong, but I knew things were going to fall apart at some point, I just didn't know when. I hit a dark moment when I realized that I was only half way through, but could feel my body to start to revolt. My split was 7:04, which put my 5 mile time at 35:05, right at a 7:01/mile pace, which was slightly slower than my goal pace, but still well within where I had hoped to be.

Mile 6 - Aside from all the negative feelings I had, Mile 6 was largely downhill, which kept my spirits up and my hopes alive that maybe I was just feeling "off" because I was working so hard and that it should feel this way. I happily posted a 6:55 split.

Mile 7 - Mile 7 continued more of the same from Mile 6. It was one of the only flat miles on the course. I started struggling toward the end of this mile, but the realization that if I kept this pace up, it would all be over in less than 25 minutes kept my focus. However, my head started to feel woozy and I was starting to get blurry vision. I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other and it would all be over soon. My pace from Mile 6 mostly continued through Mile 7, which was 6:59.

Mile 8 - I knew I had just under a 5k to go and mentally this also became a struggle. I was hurting and I knew the Mile 9 had two major hills that would wreak havoc on my situation. I tried to hold back a little to reserve enough energy to get through things, but my issues with my head started to get worse. I could only see right in front of me and did not know much else other than that. I couldn't care about anything other than getting to the finish line and being done. I was over heated, could not cool myself down, and was dumping 2 cups of water on my head at each water station. It felt good for about 30 seconds, but would go right back to blurry vision and woozy feelings. Mile 8 came through in 7:16.

Mile 9 - The one thing I DID remember from my last time doing this race was that Mile 9 would not be kind to my legs or my body. And given the issues I was already having, I knew it would not feel good. First it was a longer 1/2 mile climb, followed by a short break, which led to the beginning of a short (2 blocks long) but very steep hill. I knew it would be slower and I contemplated just walking it in from there, because I was basically running blind, with tunnel vision. I had to start slowing my pace, because I didn't feel comfortable in my body's coordination at the time and feared I would just collapse if I went faster. You can see that my HR went gradually downhill from Mile 8 to the finish, except for when pushing hard going up hill. Mile 9 came through in 7:28.

Mile 10 - At just the foot of the steepest hill, I started Mile 10 and was not sure whether I would make it up it. I honestly did not know if I would make it to the finish line. I have zero recollection, but I made the climb and headed for the last mile straight, which led all the way to the finish. In some ways, this is the worst mile of them all. Nearly a mile out, you can see the finish line. But, what normally seems like a flat road on any day when you drive through the area, becomes a false flat up hill the whole way to the finish. I don't remember seeing anyone, though I know the streets were lined with people. My tunnel vision got worse and worse and I continued to slow until I finally headed toward the finish line. I heard 2 people (1 male one female) yell my name, but honestly had no clue who it was, because I couldn't see. If anyone saw me, I'm afraid to know what I looked like. I crossed the line with a split of 7:35. Ouch. Not exactly bring it home strong.

Final time: 1:11:17, a PR of 2:32
Avg pace: 7:07/mile
Avg HR: 179
Place: 138/3995
AG Place: 27/366

Post Race:

After I crossed the line, I stumbled out of the finishers area. I couldn't walk straight and I felt the urge to use a porto-potty (that should mean I was drinking enough, right?). I also knew that I needed to get help in the medical tent. As I started thinking (or trying to), I realized that if I made it all the way to the porto-potties, I probably would not make it to the medical tent and collapse somewhere along the way. It was at this point that I made the executive decision to go straight to the medical tent. I collapsed into a cot and they immediately began to take my vitals. My core temperature was over 100 degrees, my blood pressure was a bit high (and I tend to have very low blood pressure, which means it was probably very high for me), and my face was apparently ghost white. They placed a number of ice packs on my head and on my body to try and cool me down, which seemed to start helping after a bit. Shortly after I was feeling a bit better, my hamstrings and calves started to cramp. I immediately popped up to apply pressure to my hamstring and prevent worse cramping. That seemed to do the trick and after 5 minutes of self massage, it sort of went away. Since I was already sitting up, they took my vitals again and I was much improved. My temperature was down to normal and my blood pressure was within a good range. I was finally able to take in some fluids and over the next 20 or so minutes took in about 80 oz of Powerade, which seemed to help bring me back to life. It was after I was completely coherent again and talking to the medical staff that they told me how pale white my face looked when I stumbled in and how glad they were that I was able to feel better so quickly. Shortly after, Rebecca and our friend jokingly thought that I would be in the medical tent, when it was long after the race and they hadn't found me. Sure enough, there I was!

In all, several things may have contributed to this. Most importantly, was that my body was not used to the humid conditions and this created big problems when I asked it to function at a high level. Secondly, I'm pretty sure that first mile didn't help the case. It felt easy, but I should have known to go even slower and start off stupid conservatively, given the not ideal racing conditions. In other words, I may have burned too many matches in my matchbook too soon.

Despite the poor race experience, I still managed to PR by 2:32! Not too shabby if I do say so, once again, given my training methods thus far. It says a lot about the potential I am reaching for.

And once again, Rebecca proved to be the all star of the day, rocking a 13 minute PR over the same course a year ago!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Adaptations

Now that I got that last baseline test out of the way, I was really interested in seeing what a true test would show. Despite pushing it off in favor of more solid training over the past few weeks, I managed to squeeze another test in this past weekend, in the hopes of getting some idea of whether or not I can run what I'd like to run at my next upcoming race.

So here are the results compared to January's test (my last real test):

January
- 140 bpm: 9:20/pace
- 150 bpm: 8:20/pace
- 160 bpm: 7:35/pace
- 170 bpm: 6:28/pace

April
- 140 bpm: 8:58/pace
- 150 bpm: 8:03/pace
- 160 bpm: 7:06/pace
- 170 bpm: 6:20/pace

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with some of the higher HR stuff.

But my numbers at 140 are a bit lower than I'd describe for where I am at. I recently wrote about a problem I have when running at easy paces. This proved to force a tricky testing environment for me at the 140 test. You see - it's at the lower intensity stuff that my mind has a chance to think. And as we all know, I like to visualize. More specifically, I caught myself visualizing about this upcoming race. I also get just as excited for these baseline tests as I do for races. And since the lower HR stuff allows the mind to wander a bit more, I found my HR holding me back a bit. Lately, no matter what the distance (anywhere from 4 - 10 miles), I've been averaging around 8:48/mile at a HR of 140 or lower. So, I was hoping for a better number there, but oh well.

In any case, my recent race experience has led me to believe I should be able to hold a pretty fast pace (by my standards). I've been putting a ton of miles out there in training. In fact, the last 2 weeks have been more miles than any 2 consecutive weeks during marathon training.

Am I fully rested for this race? No. I'm not training specifically for this race. Bottom line - this race is gonna hurt! I'm going to run my hardest that my legs will give me on Sunday, just like I have for every other race. Though I don't like putting specific goal numbers out there, I expect to handily beat my previous 10 mile PR. Its been a little while since I've raced a 10 miler and the GW Parkway Classic is a fast course.

So I can make only one prediction: PAIN. LOTS. OF. PAIN.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Not Conduct a Baseline Test

I meant to post this a little ways back, but it got lost in my drafts...

What are things they say that you are NOT supposed to do in order to ensure consistent testing environments? Drink? Stay up late? Get no sleep? Sudden change in weather? Those sound about right.

You may remember this post a while back. Well I can now confirm that it is true and you can add another sample to the study (n = 2). But let me go back to the start before I get ahead of myself.

It had been a solid 6 weeks since my first baseline test and I wanted to get some numbers figured out before my 10k race down in Richmond. I had been planning to conduct my 2nd baseline run test, but it just kept getting pushed off for random reasons. Since it had been so nice out, compared to the much colder weather we had been getting, I didn't want to spend a nice opportunity to put in good miles out on the road at the track running circles for an hour (not that I don't enjoy that too).

Because my first test was essentially estimated due to some technical difficulties with my HRM (I took my HR as I crossed the finish line of each run, but had generally knew how hard to push for each one so it didn't end up being too far off). I had some rough numbers to go by, but I've been putting in some good miles lately and I wanted to know where I stood, just a week before that first race of the year.

Several factors contributed to this epic baseline testing fail:

1) Drinking and staying up late: Enter March Madness and the fact that Syracuse was a 1 seed (no complaints there). Well the top seeds typically get prime time airtime, which means that their 1st round game tipped off at 9:55 pm. You know I'm not going to miss the game. And while we're at it, let's watch the game at a bar with some friends. Needless to say, Rebecca drove us home.

2) Lack of sleep: We didn't get home until about 12 am, but we still had a bunch of stuff to do at home to get ready for the next day, because we were volunteering at the National Marathon. Anyone who is familiar with the course, knows that most of the roads in DC are closed because of the race. Well that meant we'd have to metro in from some point. This also meant that we'd have to factor in more time. We were staffed at Mile 1 and were to report there by 6 am. We woke up at 4:30, which means we got a total of about 3 or so hours of sleep. Yikes!

3) Weather: Though I am not complaining, at the time, we hadn't had many warm days so far. So when the temperatures hit the upper 70s combined with sun, my body was in for a shock.

So what was the end result? I took down the numbers to record them, but they were so far off, it is almost embarrassing for me to post them, compared to my normal numbers, which I will be sharing in a future post. Here they are compared to my 1st baseline test, which was conducted in January:

January
- 140 bpm: 9:20/pace
- 150 bpm: 8:20/pace
- 160 bpm: 7:35/pace
- 170 bpm: 6:28/pace

March (influenced by all of the above factors)
- 140 bpm: 9:58/pace
- 150 bpm: 8:54/pace
- 160 bpm: 7:41/pace
- 170 bpm: 6:51/pace

Needless to say, the March numbers were not accurate. As evidenced by my numbers I've shared from other posts around the same time, my 140 bpm average was hanging just under 9:00/mile for nearly 14 miles, let alone a 1.5 mile jog, as was conducted in the baseline test.

What was funny to me was the fact that I felt so much better toward the end of the day (the feeling that I was no longer hung over), that I went out for an easy 4 mile jaunt just to shake things out. And guess what? My pace was 8:48 with a HR of 139. My body just needed about 12 hours to process and get rid of the alcohol. Lessons learned: Don't run hungover!

Stay tuned for a follow up post on my latest numbers which I took last weekend. With another race coming up on Sunday, this test will hopefully shed some light on what I hope to run.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Visualizing Too Much?

Visualization is something that almost all successful athletes do. Whether it is visualizing hitting the game winning shot, picking it up the last 10k of a marathon, or just remaining steady throughout a long day of training, visualization helps to mentally prepare for the battle ahead.

Whenever I am out on runs, more specifically longer runs, my mind tends to wander into the realm of visualization. However, I have noticed this has caused an unexpected reaction - higher heart rates.

Let's take a test - take your heart rate right now. Recorded it? Good. Now think about your next upcoming race and start visualizing all the keys to success in achieving your ideal goal for that race. Think about hitting the last mile and really picking up the pace to bring it on home. Once the picture in your head is crystal clear, take your heart rate again. Notice a difference?

For me, just visualizing these kinds of things can cause my resting heart rate to jump a solid 10 bpm! Well, when you are out on a training run and trying to hit a specific heart rate, this can prove quite troubling. Often times, I find my mind wandering into visualization territory, only to look down at my watch and find that my hear rate is WAY high for my effort. Then I remember to stop visualizing and it goes back down.

Just a fun little quirk I noticed...maybe I should keep the visualizations limited to when I am at home and not working out.
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