Monday, December 31, 2007

Where has the time gone?

Wow . . . I just realized that it's been more than two weeks since I posted anything. I have been running, but I haven't been giving my full attention to blogging about it. The family events of the Christmas season, the closing on our new house (yea!), finishing up the year at work, and my sister's upcoming wedding have all taken precedence over my blog.

So I'll try to catch up today and write a little bit about each run.

12/17/07 -- Hills at Kenyan Way. Warm up, Hills, Warm down. It seems like I haven't run hills with KW in quite some time. For the first time ever I was the fastest one in the group, after passing someone about eight minutes into the run. 3.75 miles total. 2.56 of Hills run at a 7:50 pace for 20 minutes.

12/18/07 -- Rice Run. 6.06 miles, 46:28, 7:39 pace, Avg HR = 148, Max HR = 164. Last mile in 7:04 -- starting to feel like I'm back 100%.

12/19/07 - 12/21/07 -- I'm not back to 100%. My knee is nagging me, and I decided to take three days off before attempting my 22 mile long run on 12/22/07. I'm hitting the Omega-3 fatty acids pretty hard (mostly in the form of fortified eggs) hoping the pain will go away. It's not too bad, and I don't mind running through the pain, but I'm worried about permanent damage and not being on top of my game for Houston so I think it's good to rest. That being said, I'm starting to worry that my recovery break between the two marathons will be so long that my fitness level will decline. We shall see how I feel after my three day break (the longest since I started running, I think). The 22 miler is somewhat of a make or break from a confidence perspective.

12/22/07 -- 19.02 miles, 2:31:52, 7:59 pace, Avg HR = 150, Max HR = 159. I wanted to run 22 miles at an 8:00 pace. I hate running that far by myself, especially since I'm on unfamiliar turf in Baton Rouge, visiting the family for the Christmas vacation. But establishing a pain-free 8:00 pace over that distance would prove to myself that I was back to my peak performance. Unfortunately I wasn't able to do so, casting further doubt into my mind about my ability to qualify for Boston during the Houston marathon. My knee pain started almost immediately -- a bad sign. But it went away after a few miles so I pushed forward. This is a tale of two runs. I did a loop of the lakes with Julie and then meandered through LSU's campus to the Mississippi River levee for about 7.5 miles -- average pace = 7:39. Then I took the levee down river over big rocks and a bit of mud. The rocks really punished my feet and made the run miserable. In addition, I was almost completely alone, without water, and unshielded from the wind since the levee is the highest ground around. I really started to hate it -- average pace over those 8.5 miles = 8:03. After I got off of the levee my feet were hurting, my knee was hurting and I wasn't enjoying life. I managed two more miles at an 8:58 pace and decided to cut my run off before I hurt myself and before my average pace rose above 8:00. Overall I finished this run with a feeling of worry that I'm running out of time to heal, yet be in top form for Houston.

12/23/07 -- 1.54 Miles, 13:55, 9:00 pace, Max HR = 152, Avg HR = 132. I ran with Julie through a painful knee along the neighborhood route she's been running for years. I tacked on an additional hundred feet or so in order to get my average pace under 9:00. The only good thing that came out of this run was a chance to run with Julie.

12/24/07 -- 5.52 miles, 44:46, 8:06 pace, Max HR = 169, Avg HR = 145. Julie and I around my mother's neighborhood today. The knee bothered me most of the run, but went away after about three miles. I'm still worrying about healing in time, but I'm not figuring that I'll put in my miles as scheduled and use the last week of taper to heal. I ran the last mile in 6:47, and the last half at a 6:24 pace. The highlight of this run was a tour of the homes around the area. It's fun to get decorating and remodeling ideas now that we own a house. After the run I did a few hard minutes of core exercises.

12/25/07 -- Merry Christmas! No running today, but I managed to keep the diet in check and not gorge myself. I spent about six hours in the car today driving from New Orleans to Houston.

12/26/07 -- 5.02 miles total, structured as 1.01 warm up, 3.01 threshold (6:32 pace), and 1.00 warm-down. The threshold run was supposed to go on for five miles, but I gave up early knowing I couldn't maintain the pace, and generally feeling out of shape. I came to the conclusion that my recovery period coupled with my knee injury has taken me way off of my game. It's a disappointment, but I had hoped to use this threshold run as proof to myself that I was close to my top form. I proved the opposite, and I'm feeling pretty down about this run. Threshold miles = 6:32, 6:40, 6:26

12/27/07 -- Treadmill run (2 miles at 8:20 pace and 2% incline), Max HR = 156, Avg HR = 146, Stationary bike for 30 minutes with HIGH turnover (90-110), medium to high resistance (7?), 9.2 miles, Max HR = 159, Avg HR = 146. I wanted to run 45 minutes on the treadmill today, but I was feeling too tired to run. I don't know if it was real fatigue or just mental weakness, but I got off of the treadmill and immediately hopped on the bike. I didn't want to let myself off the hook so easily, given my early exit yesterday as well, so I pushed as hard as I've ever pushed on the bike before.

12/28/07 -- 5.04 miles, 39:37, 7:51 pace, Max HR = 166, Avg HR = 151. I wanted to run my Rice route today to see how I felt. My time wasn't too bad, and I felt pretty good. The knee didn't really bother me, so I was pretty happy in general. But I checked out my heart rate later on and compared it to some of the other times I've run the same route. For the same distance and speed my, my heart rate was higher for today's run than prior runs. I think this is absolute proof that I've lost my fitness level. It's disappointing because I still want to use the Houston Marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. If that happens, it will have to lean more heavily on guts and less on my fitness. But this run felt easy, so I'm feeling confident that qualifying is possible. Miles = 8:22, 8:06, 7:50, 7:42, 7:24

12/29/07 -- 12.02 miles, 1:28:26, 7:21 pace, HR info skewed but averaged about 160 and peaked at 170. I viewed this as my last chance to prove myself before the Houston Run. I wanted an 8:00 pace and no pain from my knee. If I could do that, it would be two solid runs in a row. I ran back in Baton Rouge because I went home for my sister's wedding. But this time I was able to meet up with the group from Varsity Sports. They only wanted to run an 8 mile route and they seemed to be reluctant to run 8:00 miles, preferring something around 8:30. But I decided that it would be better than running along, so we set out together. I don't know if it was because of me, but we ran the eight at a 7:27 pace. I didn't really want to run that fast, but I felt GREAT for the first time in days and I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. I was talking and joking, we weren't stopping for water, and I felt like I could run forever at that speed (which is only slightly slower than my marathon pace.) I was nervous about running the final four miles by myself, but I didn't figure it would be much of a problem. In fact, I ran the final four at a 7:02 pace and I still felt great. This is exactly the confidence booster that I needed. I finished up the run with some core exercises and a work down with my Christmas present -- a massage stick. I've been using it every day since Christmas, and it makes a world of difference in terms of reduction in next-day muscle soreness.

12/30/07 -- 4.09 miles, 35:34, 8:41 pace, Max HR = 147, Avg HR = 136. I ran the big LSU lake with Julie today. We took it easy, which is a good recovery day from my run yesterday. The pelicans are in town, and I joked that they were following us the whole way. There aren't as many as I remember in years past, but it's still a beautiful sight.

12/31/07 -- 1.03 hill warm up, 2.39 miles of hills, 20:11, 8:27 pace, Max HR = 166, Avg HR = 152. Today is my sister Laura's wedding day. Thoughts of my speech dominate my mind, and a hill workout is a good way to clear the mind. Julie and I went out to Highland Park and found a hill loop. I didn't hit this as hard as I do sometimes, but I'm supposed to be tapering so it didn't bother me to let up a bit.

So that's the last 2+ weeks in a single blogging session. It's dull reading, I know, but it gives an accurate picture of the lows of knee pain and self-doubt, and the highs of a strong long run and the apparent end of knee pain. I think I'm ready to kick butt at the Houston Marathon.

As this is the last entry of 2007, here are some totals since I started tracking my outdoor miles with the Garmin on 3/29/07:

1188.36 miles
8 days, 1 hours, 32 minutes, 41 seconds
8:53 pace
Avg HR = 141

* The number of miles I ran is equal to running from Houston to Baton Rouge 4.4 times.
* I ran two miles at an 8:04 pace on March 29, my first tracked run, and my heart rate got up to 180 BPM. I ran those two miles as fast as I could as a baseline. Now I run my easy distance runs at that pace and wouldn't hit that high of a heart rate even if I ran a marathon at that pace.
* I ran an average of 4.25 miles per day (including days that I didn't run at all).
* On average I ran 2.9% of every every hour of every day since 3/29/07.

I can't measure it, but my quality of life has improved more than I could describe. Running isn't for everyone, but it is for me. And even if something should happen that makes it impossible for me to continue running, I'll always be a runner at heart.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Afternoon Run with Julie

3.27 miles, 27:28, 8:23 pace

Julie and I bundled up for a run in the cold weather after mass. I wore three shirts, gloves and a skull cap on top. Shorts are ok for me as long as it's not too cold. We found out quickly that we were overdressed because the sun was out in full force to provide some heat via radiation.

I wanted to do my normal route of five miles from home to Rice and back. My left knee had no pain this morning, so I though I'd run at least five and tack on some more if I felt up to it. But unfortunately my knee started hurting about a mile into the run, and I decided to head back home via Hermann Park.

8:54, 8:12, 8:17, 2:02 for .26 miles (7:49 pace)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kenyan Way Long Run #6 - Running in the Rain

Appx 13 miles, Appx 8:00-8:30 Pace, No Heart Rate Information

My approximations are the result of forgetting to bring my watch to the run today. It wasn't that big of a deal because I wanted to make sure I didn't run too fast, and the watch usually causes me to pick up the pace rather than slow down. It's only been six days since I ran the Dallas Marathon, and I need to be very careful not to push myself too fast or too far.

I started out with the 3:30 group, but left them within a few minutes. Sometimes I think running too slow can be just as bad as running too fast, because it forces an unnatural gait. I caught up to the 3:15 group and ran with them for a while. Gio, a friend from Kenyan Way, started out a little late and caught up to us. At about mile 8 we broke away from the 3:15 group and clicked off a few miles at a 7:45 pace, if I had to guess. Gio is a pretty cool guy with a laid back attitude, and it was good to get to know him a bit better while we ran together.

A blinding rain storm passed through about the time we broke off from the 3:15 group. I like running in the rain because I feel hard-core. A casual runner won't run in the rain, but the serious runner won't let the precipitation slow them down. And it is crunch time for serious runners, because the Houston Marathon is just around the corner. Runners are getting in their miles all over town, and it's a neat sight to drive around Saturday morning and see all of the groups. The rain halted the run at mile 13 (as opposed to the scheduled 24), but I didn't have plans to run more than 15 anyway, so it worked out well for me.

Overall I felt good during the run, but my left knee bothered me for the rest of the day after the run. It didn't help that my shoes were extra heavy because they were soaked with rain. I iced my knee for an hour or so and took some NSAIDs.

On another note, I practiced eating gel during the run, and I think I'll carry about four during my next marathon. Also I ran with a new pair of shoes, Mizuno Wave Inspire. I picked them up for $40 since they are last year's model. I wanted to give them a spin today to determine if they would be my wheels for the Houston marathon or just training shoes, but the rain voided the test.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Health Check 1

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I intend to update my health information from time to time. I tracked down my latest checkup from work the other day, and will list the data from that.

You may recall me mentioning that I had an appointment a few weeks ago to measure my VO2 Max. A typical, comprehensive test includes an oxygen mask to measure the percentage of oxygen and carbon dioxide generated while you are exercising at your maximum capability. The free test I signed up for was not a comprehensive test. They put you on a treadmill to run 1.5 miles as fast as you could, and then doubled that to get a 5k time. From that, they used your age and sex in a look up table to find your predicted VO2. I was disappointed when I found out their methodology, and I ended the test early.

Tests taken on 9/26/07:
Height 5'11"
Waist 33"
Blood Pressure 126/78
Fasting Glucose 81
Pulse 62
Total Cholesterol 178
HDL 48
LDL 119 -- "near optimal"
Triglycerides 54

Weight/% body fat today:

VO2 Max, per 19:18 5k at 11/22/07 Turkey Trot

There is some great info on VO2 at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hampered by the Hammys

2.52 Miles, 23:48, 9:27 pace, Max HR = 132, Avg HR = 126

I took off today for a leisurely run around the neighborhood with Julie as she rode the bike. After no more than 100 feet I could tell this wouldn't be a fast run. My hamstrings have been tight all day, and the fact that they didn't immediately loosen up made me decide to reign in the horses and take it easy today. The last thing I want is a hamstring pull that bothers me for the next six months, a la Terrell Owens.

So, for those of you who wonder if I run too hard all the time, and for those of you who DO run hard all the time -- this is what I do when something doesn't feel right. Today I cut my intended run in half and ran it about two minutes slower per mile than I was expecting.

Now, for the more important question: what caused this? I'm going to point fingers to that darn elliptical machine I used on Tuesday. I think I exercised my hamstrings in a way that they don't normally get used, and they are a bit sore and tight because of it. The long term solution is to hit the elliptical (or some similar hamstring exercise) more often, but the short term solution is to not go within 50 feet of that elliptical beast until after the Houston Marathon.

Unless I feel like Jesse Owens when I wake up tomorrow, I'm taking tomorrow off and pondering how far and how fast I'll run with the Kenyan Way long run group on Saturday morning.

9:21, 9:29, 4:53 (.51 miles for 9:34 pace)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Not Quite Back

5.02 miles, 38:35, 7:40 pace, Max HR = 160, Avg HR = 148

This evening I hit the normal route not knowing what to expect. I didn't know if I would be able to finish it or how fast if I could. (I'm not above stopping if things don't feel right.)

Overall I'm feeling fine, but my legs feel flat. I don't have the spring in them that I had prior to the marathon. I'm sure a few more days of easy to moderate running should get me back to where I need to be.

Despite the flat feeling, I managed some decent mile splits.

8:13, 7:40, 7:47, 7:34, 7:11

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Double Shift

PM - 30 minutes on the elliptical (with incline)

This is my second workout of the day. This morning's "Back on Track" workout felt so good that I decided to give it a go with another low-impact workout. Both of the bicycles were occupied, so I tried the elliptical machine. It has a standard workout that has some serious incline, so I opted for that. The machine has lights corresponding to the different leg groups that are being worked out at any given time. (butt, quads, hamstrings, calves). But I never really felt the isolated strain indicated by the machine. I tried to keep the RPMs up to about 180 (just like running), but in general I'd say my average was closer to 165-170.

I'm so used to running motions that I wasn't very good on an elliptical machine. I try not to lift my feet too far off of the ground while I'm running (think "shuffling"), but the elliptical motion had me on an incline similar to shallow stairs. My feet kept sliding off and my knees would lock up from time to time when I fought against the repetitive motion. I had to hang on to the bar pretty much the whole time for fear of falling backward. Overall I probably looked like a crazy person, but the workout felt great. I'm feeling so good that I'm probably up for a 10-15 miler this weekend. This is very encouraging because I didn't know how well I could prepare for the Houston marathon with a long recovery and taper built into five short weeks.

Incidentally, I crossed a threshold a few weeks ago without even noticing it. I've run more than 1100 miles since I started tracking my runs with my Garmin watch on March 29, 2007. That's about four miles a day overall, and it doesn't even take into account the miles on the treadmill (since the GPS doesn't work there.) The watch can interface with a foot pod for indoor use, which uses an accelerometer to approximate distance. In other words I could work out inside, but still get my distance info for the data analysis that I love to do. That would be really cool, but I'll probably put that purchase off until after the Houston marathon.

Back on Track

3.21 miles run/walk, alternate .25 run/.25 walk, Max HR = 148, Avg HR = 109

I can't tell you how good it felt to run today. All marathon recovery programs will tell you to take it easy, which is exactly what I did today. I ran a quarter mile and walked a quarter mile twelve times. My legs feel sore, but without pain. I think this is going to be a quick recovery, but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.

My soreness is pretty much isolated to the quadriceps. My calf muscles are only slightly sore. Interestingly enough my left quad is more sore than the right. If I had more time before Houston I would start a weight training regimen to strengthen each leg evenly to minimize this effect in the future. But I'm hesitant to make any late modifications to what's worked for me, particularly when there isn't going to be a lot of time to recover and then taper.

Quarter Mile Splits Measured in mile per minute pace(R=Run, W=Walk):
R 11:40, W 17:44, R 9:25, W 17:59,
R 8:20, W 17:04, R 7:49, W 16:52,
R 7:36, W 16:40, R 7:36, W 16:49

Overall Run pace = 8:44
Overall Walk pace = 17:08
Overall Pace = 13:08

Monday, December 10, 2007

Recuperate and Refocus

Today: 30 minutes exercise bike at moderate effort and appx 85-90 RPM

It's been a full day after my debut marathon, I have a few more thoughts about my marathon and the direction of my running. First and foremost I'm really happy I competed and I'm anxious to meet my BQ goal in Houston in about five weeks. I really had a great time.

With Julie's help I did a bit of research about my condition over the last 1.5 miles. It seems as though I had the classic symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar.) My experience was eerily similar to this person's attempt to qualify for Boston:
"I started out at a moderate pace and never went more than 4 seconds above or below my goal pace of 7:15/mile, staying slightly ahead of the 3:10 pace group. Near mile 19, I was passed by the pace group, but managed to stay with them with a little extra effort. By mile 22, I had to work hard to stay with the pace group, but I was focused on staying with them because my goal was to qualify for Boston with a 3:10 time."

I was passed by the 3:10 pace group at mile 21, but kept within 20 feet of them until I completed mile 24. I knew they were ahead of pace by looking at my watch, and I knew I'd qualify if I finished within 50 yards of them.
"By mile 23, I was still at the tail end of the pace group, but felt I was exerting myself as much as possible. I began to get a little dizzy and see some spots. I was concentrating hard and telling myself that I had to stay with the group, and that my discomfort was part of reaching my goal."

I started getting dizzy at mile 25.
"By mile 24, I began to fall about 50ft behind the group, and noticed my field of vision began to narrow. My pace slowed by about 5 seconds, but I was still running. I was concentrating so hard on keeping running that I forgot I had a Cliff Shot in my pocket."

I started getting confused and my field of vision also narrowed during mile 26. I remember seeing this crazy person riding a bicycle on the course shouting out commands. Even though I could hear him perfectly, I couldn't understand why he was there or what he was saying. Later on it dawned on me that he was a race official telling the marathoners to finish to the left, and the half marathoners to finish to the right.
"Shortly before mile 25, I got an extreme case of tunnel vision, and could no longer keep up a fast running pace. Suddenly, within a few hundred meters, my vision blacked out and I stumbled to the side of the road. A spectator or race volunteer had to help me from falling down. He kindly encouraged me to sit down, but I made a feeble attempt to keep walking. He said I was in bad shape, and that 'I should save myself for the next marathon.' Within about 20 seconds, I could no longer stand and I gave up. I did not lose consciousness, but I could hear myself slurring and I lost control of my bladder and could hardly move."

Thankfully I never progressed to the stage of collapse or blackout. But my pace slowed to the point that I missed qualifying. The Garmin is inaccurate due to GPS error and other factors, but through 24 miles it registered a 7:10 pace (probably closer to 7:12), and the remainder of the run registered an 8:01 pace.

Look here if you want to view my marathon on Motionbased.

Yesterday's splits according to the Garmin:
1 - 7:15 -- started close enough to the starting line to see the elite men. It's windy and a few drops of rain are falling here and there, but I'm wearing a ridiculously looking pink skull cap and a long sleeve tech shirt and I'm not too cold
2 - 7:00 -- Ryan catches up with me and taps me on the shoulder. We were supposed to run together, but I was nervous when I never saw him. Turns out he got there late and had to sprint to catch up. Knowing he is there makes me feel better. The streets are wet, and I'm feeling my shoes slip just a bit with every step.
3 - 6:52 -- Feeling great, but I feel overwhelmed and nervous about the fact that I still have 23 miles left. This split is fast because there was a downhill near Breadwinners on McKinney, a great breakfast restaurant.
4 - 7:12 -- Running Along Turtle Creek, looking at the beautiful houses. I think Jerry Jones has a house somewhere around here. The Christmas lights around here are worth the trip to Dallas.
5 - 7:12 -- Significant uphill as we veer off of Turtle Creek and near the highest point of the course. I'm only three blocks from the old alma mater, SMU, but I can't see it from my vantage point. I take off my pink skull cap and hold on to it in case I need to put it back on.
6 - 6:59 -- Cross over US 75 (aka I-45) and ditch the cap to a cute spectator. I can only imagine what she must have been thinking.
7 - 7:00 -- I pass the Grenada half way into this mile as we turn onto Greenville, and I joke that I'm going to stop by to see what band is playing and catch back up to the group.
8 - 7:06 -- Now I'm really close to where I used to live, and I've forgotten how beautiful it is this time of the year. Trees line the street, and the leaves are in full color. At this point I quit worrying about my run and had fun the rest of the way. I started to hi-five the kids, wave at the spectators, and thank the race volunteers the rest of the way. This mile marked the point where I knew I would run another marathon. Just when I don't think it can get any better, I see Julie for the first time and she looks beautiful. I ditch my long sleeve running shirt, and now I have on only a running tank, shirt, and gloves. The temperature is perfect, despite the occasional very light precipitation.
9 - 7:13 -- I pass some spectators with a sign that says "Free beer for runners." I'm having fun, but not that much fun. I think back to how I drank a mid-race beer at the Crescent City Classic last year, and how I'd be all over it today if it weren't so early in the race.
10 - 7:18 -- This is where I got lost the night before the race while trying to drive the course. I get my first look at White Rock lake which will provide background for me for the next 10.25 miles. Just before I get to the lake there is a sharp incline, which, coupled with a water station, contributed to a slow split. It's been windy all day long, but running next to a lake makes it worse because there are no trees to dissipate the force of the wind.
11 - 7:10 -- I'm really in the groove now. I don't want to go out too fast, but I'm really enjoying this and I start to whip off series of fast miles. I've been running with the 3:10 pace group but it's difficult to navigate the water stops with so many people, and there are a few lanky runners who make it difficult to bunch up. I decide to run in front of the group, and I follow Ryan.
12 - 7:02 --
13 - 7:04 --
14 - 7:03 -- I hit the half way point at 1:34:01, for a 7:11 pace and a 3:08:02 predicted finish. I programmed my watch to look only at overall time and last half mile pace, so the half way point kinda snuck up on me. In fact, most of the race I couldn't have told you what mile I was on because I was so focused on running according to how I felt that I didn't become a slave to my watch like I usually do during training runs.
15 - 7:08 --
16 - 7:05 -- The boy scouts have an aid station here, and I grab a gatorade.
17 - 7:17 -- I think this is where I saw Julie again. Ryan is looking strong and made a move ahead of me. I decide to conserve some energy and roll back the pace. This comes as the wind is really slowing me down, averaging 11 MPH at the airport and possibly higher at the lake. Somewhere around here I hear a girl with two guys catching up to me. I'm not sure where they came from, but I'll end up just ahead or just in front of them for the next four or five miles before they get away from me.
18 - 7:16 -- Will this lake ever end? I'm pretty sure there was some sort of mistake and either 1) this is my second lap or 2) we were accidentally routed around one of the Great Lakes. I run by the White Rock Waterfall, which has always captivated me despite the fact that it's man-made and not particularly beautiful.
19 - 7:12 -- The Hooters aid station is here, and a slightly obnoxious DJ is cheering us on, but I'm digging it. I'm still feeling strong, but I make my mistake here and pass on the opportunity to get gatorade and gel packs. The Hooters aid station has a "Start" line, complete with balloons. I guessed correctly that they were referring to the "wall" at mile 20. There is a common adage that a marathon is composed of two races . . . the first twenty and the last six. I'm still feeling strong, and I scoff at the sign referring to the "wall".
20 - 7:41 -- This split is slow because it's all uphill. Even though my legs are tired, I'm feeling fine and excited to be headed down the home stretch. There is a sign saying that you're entering the "Dolly Parton Hills." I'll let your imagination take over for a second . . . welcome back. There were a couple of guys dressed in drag with baloons in strategic locations. I ask and get permission to touch the balloons for good luck. Shortly thereafter I see another sign saying "free beer for runners." I declined the fist go-round, but I'm not going to be so foolish as to decline twice. I grab about two ounces of beer to the delight of the two guys handing them out. They probably don't get a lot of takers in the 2:30-3:30 groups.
21 - 7:25 -- The 3:10 pace group catches up with me and catches me off guard. I'm upset that I'm being passed, but I don't give it much thought and I step up the pace to make sure they don't leave me.
22 - 7:08 -- Down Swiss Avenue, and I'm kicking butt to stay up with the 3:10 group. Although I'm not looking at my watch to gauge the pace, I have this feeling that we're running too fast. Based on this split I guess we were running slightly fast since our target was 7:15 miles.
23 - 7:08 -- I pass by Baylor Hospital, Julie's old workplace. I picked her up from work many a day when we lived in Dallas. Downtown is in the background and I'm way ahead of schedule to qualify for Boston. I'm really tired at this point, but not unlike the end of any of the other long runs I've done in the past. I haven't taken any fluids or nutrients since mile 18 or 19 (2 oz. of beer excluded), but nutrition and hydration are the last thing on my mind right now.
24 - 7:21 -- I get my first look at the half marathoners, who join us at the end of 24/beginning of 25. I prepare myself for some problems because they started the half an hour later than me, but will be finishing about the same time. My pace = 7ish per mile, their pace = 10ish per mile, and we're about to merge.
25 - 8:20 -- I've already written a bit about my collapse. I lost a full sixty seconds during this one mile. Had I been able to maintain a 7:15 pace on this mile I would have qualified for Boston. But it wasn't a question of willpower or desire -- I didn't have anything left.
26.2 - 7:48 pace -- I saw Julie about 100 yards from the finish, but I was concentrating on not falling on my face at that point and didn't muster much of a response. She must have screamed at me to get my attention because there were hundreds of people. I felt so terrible that I couldn't enjoy the most enjoyable part of the race where everyone is cheering you on. But I saw the finish line and managed to cross it.

On my condition: I usually chew on shot bloks, but it was too cold throughout the race to get them out of my pocket while wearing gloves. So I didn't get the sugar I needed and I crashed during mile 25. After you stop running (or when you start running slower) your body is used to generating so much heat, and all of a sudden you're not generating as much heat by exercising. So your body continues to give off heat, but not generate it. That's why they meet you at the finish line with those metallic blankets to help keep your core temperature up. In my case I slowed down significantly and stopped at the end of course. Right as the course entered the downtown finish the wind amplified (as they always do in downtowns.) And hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) accelerates hypothermia because of some biomechanical things that Julie understands but I don't.

so, hypothermia set in b/c
1) hypoglycemia
2) slowed down my pace at end
3) as I slowed down the wind really picked up

The good news is that this is a learning experience, and that it didn't have to happen to me if I had been more diligent eating the shot blocks or gells that they pass out, or even drinking more gatorade during the run. I like to believe that I would have finished better than my goal time if I had taken the proper nutrients throughout the race. I'll know better next time.

And next time is Houston, which is five weeks away. I wanted to run Dallas hard and qualify so I could run Houston easy with some friends. But now H-Town is my qualifying race and I'm excited. I'm sore, but everything is muscle related and I have no joint pain. My toes (which have been my weak point) feel fine, and my IT band must have rested duing the taper period because I didn't have any pain from that area. Basically I feel the way I felt after the first time I ran 13 miles back on July 14 at a 9:05 pace. I'm sore, but I'll get better in a few days and I'll probably do a long run this weekend. So I started the road back today by biking 30 minutes.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Humbled by the Rock

26.2 miles, 3:11:54, 7:19.5 pace

I'll break down and analyze the race later, but right now I'll share my general thoughts.

This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. At the start of the 1956 Olympic Marathon, running legend Emil Zatopek said “Men, today we die a little.” The White Rock Marathon humbled me today. I left everything I had on that course, and I am a changed man because of it. Today I died a little. But rather than the typical understanding of death as a reducing agent, I feel as though I’ve gained instead of lost. I’m a better person now that I’ve paid the marathon price.

My result was not what I wanted. I hoped to meet or exceed the Boston Marathon qualification time for my age group of 3:10:59. Instead I missed the qualifying time by 55 seconds. I felt strong through about 24 miles until I could no longer keep my pace. I felt dizzy and disoriented during the last mile. After crossing the finish line I could hear people talking to me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It was like I was drunk and trying to understand a foreign language. All I wanted to do was eat anything in site, but I could barely will myself to take a single step and I couldn’t speak a coherent sentence.

After I picked up my finisher’s medal and took my race photo, I was tapped on the shoulder by a good friend. Unfortunately I wasn’t much of a conversationalist so I couldn’t catch up like I wanted, but he helped me out by letting me lean on him. After that I headed straight for the food inside, taking a tremendous amount of time negotiating a long stairway. I had an insatiable appetite for anything, and ate like a pig. After I got some nourishment I found a chair and sat down, tightly wrapped in my metallic blanket handed out at the finish.

Then something else happened to me. I broke down and started crying. I’m not sure if it was disappointment at missing my finishing time, or relief and/or despair that my journey has come to an end, or elation for completing my task, or just random stress-released hormones rushing through my veins. But I sat there at the table shivering and crying.

I girl saw me there and asked if I needed any help. I declined a few times, but she kept insisting and I broke down and let her take me to the medical area because I was very cold and couldn’t warm up. She told me she was a lifeguard and that she had an eye for people in distress. I am very fortunate that she recognized my distress and took action.

At the medical tent they took my temperature, and their digital oral thermometer wouldn’t register. So they put something under my arm which also wouldn’t generate a read-out. My body temperature was too cold for their thermometers to work. They stuck me under some blankets and a bair hugger (hot-air blanket) and took my temperature a few minutes later. It read 92.3 degrees. I spent about an hour there and finally got up to about 96 degrees before I left -- still shivering, but in a state that my body could finally generate its own heat. My nurse, Kendra, took great care of me, and I am thankful for her gift of volunteering her healing hands.

I greatly appreciate the help and support I’ve received from all of my friends and family through my training. The phone calls, the text messages, and blog comments and the unspoken support were greatly appreciated. Thank you for being there.

After I left the medical area I found my way back to the post race party and did a few laps looking for Julie. At this point it had been at least 1.5 hours since I finished, and I still hadn’t seen her since she cheered me on about 100 yards from the finish. Then I saw my lifeguard friend again, and she checked up on me. I thanked her for her help and she loaned me her phone so I could call Julie. Minutes later I was reunited with my wife, and ready to make the drive back to Houston.

If I wrote a hundred pages of prose I could never accurately describe the joy I get when I see Julie after we’ve been separated for any amount of time. She lifted my spirits with her smile and support four times during the race, and I got a spring in my step each time. She was a sight for sore eyes.

Julie is my inspiration, and the reason why I was able to accomplish what I did today. Her support never wavered when I was grouchy and tired from running too much, and antsy from running too little while tapering. She stood through cold and hot to catch a few short glimpses of me during multiple distance races. She pushed back her hunger countless nights because I worked late and had to run before dinner. She was the first to offer encouragement when my spirit waned, and advice when my spirit waxed too high. I could, and probably should, go on and on. But I’ll leave it at this – I am a better person because of Julie, and for that I am forever indebted to her. I’ll pay her back with a lifetime of love.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Countdown . . . One

2.31 miles, 20:02, 8:41 pace, Max HR = 145, Avg HR = 135

Today's 20 minute run was the last time I'll run before Dallas. I ran to Julie's work to get something from her, and I took the train back home. All in all it was uneventful.

I did some errands geared toward the race . . . bought shot bloks, picked up a rain poncho (more on that later), got some peanut butter and bagels for breakfast on race day, got a haircut, booked a hotel room in Dallas, printed out the course map, checked the starting time and signed up for a 3:10 pace group. While I was on the White Rock website I noticed that it sold out!

So about the poncho, or more specifically the weather forecast for Dallas on Sunday morning at 8:00 AM. I've been eyeing all week long, hoping for some divine intervention. You know what they say . . . if you don't like the weather in Texas, then wait five minutes. And sometimes the weather forecast did shift dramatically over a five minute period. But what I know, as of this very minute, is that the temperature is projected to be 67 degrees at 8AM and rise to 70 degrees by 11AM. There is a 90% chance of thunderstorms, 90% humidity (isn't rain 100%?), and 14-15 MPH sustained winds. This is far from ideal.

While the weather report is a bit discouraging, I'm glad it's not the 70-80 degrees forecasted earlier this week. As you may recall, I've been preparing myself for the wind and rain. I'm not worried about precipitation, and I'm hoping the wind won't cut me down. I just wish it was about ten degrees cooler.

Some random thoughts:

If you want SMS or email messages tracking my marathon splits, you can go to:

You can find a course and elevation map at

My schedule looks like this:
Tomorrow I’ll drive to Dallas and arrive at the expo around 11 or 12. After the expo I’ll take in a large carbohydrate lunch, and swing by an old neighbor’s house afterwards to check up on him. From there I’ll go to mass at St. Thomas Aquinas, and then go to visit Julie’s cousin for an authentic Italian pasta dinner, and more importantly, a visit with Ollie Julie’s one year old cousin. After dinner I’ll head to the hotel for a low key evening and an early bedtime. On race day Julie will drop me off at the train station where I’ll commute to the race start. She will join some friends to watch my racing partner and me along various points of the course. After I cross the finish line I don’t really care what happens. I usually have an irrepressible urge to sleep after a long, hard run, but I’m sure the adrenaline will push me back along the course to cheer on my fellow competitors, and onward to take in some post-race festivities.

I haven’t been very motivated about this race over the past couple of weeks. When I put in my two high mileage weeks, it seemed as though I was running all the time, and I was perpetually tired. During the taper period I had to fight the urge to quit altogether. I resorted to my old TV & couch routine. But for whatever reason, today I snapped out of that funk and I’m geared up for a big performance. So . . . 3, 2, 1, blastoff!

8:56, 8:28, 2:35 for .3 miles (8:36 pace)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Countdown . . . Two

3.76 miles, 33:27, 8:37 pace, Max HR = 148, Avg HR = 130

I have two more runs until Dallas (including this one). Today's run was just what I needed. Julie's schedule finally matched up with mine, and we ran together today. It doesn't matter how much time we spend together, I still appreciate the opportunity to spend an extra few minutes with her. That's the reason why I rode with her to work the other morning, and ran back home. She's very competitive, and if I run side-by-side with her, she will always pick up the pace. So I have to either be completely ahead of her, or slightly back. Otherwise it's just a matter of time before we're sprinting!

8:54, 8:42, 8:38, 6:08 for .76 miles (8:04 pace)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Countdown . . . Three

4.10 miles, 30:02, 7:19 pace, Max HR = 153, Avg HR = 143

I have three more runs before my marathon. Today I felt strong as I ran around my 'hood, and the pace reflected it. I'm having to do everything in my power to convince myself to get off of the couch and run. I'm lacking motivation and this key time.

7:36, 7:11, 7:13, 7:17, 0:40 for .09 miles (7:24 pace)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Marathon Pace Miles and Goal Discussion

6.05 miles (warm-up, three at marathon pace, warm-down)
Warm-up, MP1, 7:08 pace, MP2, 7:09 pace, MP3, 7:16 pace, warm-down

The theory of this workout, if I am guessing correctly, is to get the body acclimated to the marathon pace. Since most of my running is significantly faster or slower than this pace, it's a good idea to find my "groove". It wasn't particularly easy to do one mile at this pace, and to be honest I can't imagine doing 25 more at the same speed. But I did run them a bit faster than my target of 7:15.

So I guess the cat is out of the bag. I have been hesitant to proclaim a "goal" because it just didn't feel right to have any expectation whatsoever. The marathon distance is daunting to me, and I couldn't wrap my mind around a target time.

When I started my marathon quest I hoped to finish with an 8:00 mile pace. That equates to a 3 hour 30 minute marathon. I tried my first long run with the Kenyan Way 3:30 group, and I did well enough to give it a shot with the 3:15 group the next week, where I struggled. I did better the next week, and ended up running quite a few of the next long runs alone for one reason or another. When I came back I decided to give it a go with the 3:00 group, and shocked myself with a strong performance.

Four events led me to a specific goal time:
1) A 6:48 pace over my 10 mile race in Chalmette which is equivalent to a 3:08:45 marathon
2) A 7:02 pace over 25 kilometers in the Houston Masters Race which is equivalent to a 3:10:28 marathon
3) My Yasso 800 reps with a 3:08 average, implying a 3:08 marathon
4) My 19:18 Turkey Trot 5K which is equivalent to a 3:04:46 marathon.

I should mention that the Kenyan Way race predictor calculator is aggressive, and other calculators tack on a minute or two more for the marathon time.

And perhaps more than anything else, what drove my goal is the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon for my age group: 3:10:59. This should matter the least, since it's an external factor not under my control, but it's a target right in the vicinity of my current performance.

To be honest, I don't believe that I'm capable of that time. But I'm hoping that I'll be able to dig extra deep on race day and perform above my capabilities.

I will need some help in order to overachieve, and so far the weather is disagreeable. An ideal running temperature would be about 45-50 degrees, and it's been projected to be between 70 and 80. If that's the case, a 3:10 marathon is probably out of the question. But I'll be keeping an eye out as the forecast is updated, and update my goal if necessary.

Let's be frank . . . finishing upright is enough to make me happy. But you only get one chance to qualify for Boston on your first marathon, and it motivates me. This goal isn't like some of the others I've set, where I was pretty sure I could take care of business. I genuinely think I'll fail in my marathon goal. I hope to harness that primal fear of failure, and turn it into speed. We shall see.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

10 With Stephanie's Group

10.39 miles, 1:22:37, 7:56 pace (9:14 including breaks), Max HR = 155, Avg HR = 130

The bulk of the Kenyan Way runners are training for the Houston Marathon, and this is their longest run weekend similar to the 24 mile run I did in Birmingham. But since I'm only scheduled for ten miles today, I joined Stephanie and her group. Stephanie was my coach at Power in Motion, and she's been there for me ever since to offer encouragement and advice. So I was particularly excited that it worked out for me to join her.

The one drawback to her group runs is that everyone takes extended water breaks and my legs sometimes get a little cramped. I like to take a few ounces of water and push forward. It makes me feel a little more confident that I can handle the long distance since I don't really stop, but in reality I'm pretty sure a two minute break every three or four miles has a negligible effect from a fitness perspective as compared to running continuously.

8:37, 8:06, 8:20, 8:11, 8:12, 7:51, 7:47, 8:03, 8:09, 8:09, 1:08 for .15 (7:33 pace)

Friday, November 30, 2007

MD Anderson to Home

5.22 miles, 45:42, 8:45 pace, Max HR = 146, Avg HR = 136

As we get older, we tend to get wiser. Sometimes. Often I manage to buck that trend.

I shouldn't have played soccer the other day. I didn't injure myself, but I'm still feeling sore in some muscle groups that I apparently don't use when I run. I'm sure everything will work itself out within a day or two, but right now I'm wondering why I took the chance. (I scored a goal on a deflection!)

I took yesterday off to recover and because I went to see the LSU women play the University of Houston women in basketball. Julie and I started off with a pre-game meal of Vietnamese noodles at a restaurant just outside of the gates of the university. I wish I could remember the name. The LSU women opened up an early lead and took care of business 77-46.

So this morning I hopped a ride with Julie to her work. It's kind of nice to do a one-way run, where you end up in a different place than you start. I took this one easy.

9:25, 8:32, 8:36, 8:48, 8:42, 5:46 for .18 miles (8:02 pace)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kenyan Way Speed #12 - One Last Push

AM:6.5 miles (warm-up, 2M, 2x1M, 4x800), 6:19 pace (rest and warm-up excluded), Max HR = 173
PM: About an hour of soccer

Today's speed workout is the last difficult workout I'll have before Dallas. I've already discussed a general laziness that seems to be creeping up on me, and today was no exception. I hit the snooze button a couple of times and I almost talked myself out of going to Kenyan Way today, but I decided to go and give it a half-way effort in lieu of the full workout.

On today's menu was
1) 2 miles at 6:30 pace, 5 minutes rest
2) 2x1 mile at 6:30 pace, 2 minutes rest
3) 4xhalf mile at 6:30 pace, 2 minutes rest

I figured I'd see how I felt and probably cut out the 800s to save some time and effort. But when I got there Sean paired me up with Brian, a fellow runner in the 3:00 marathon group, so I knew I'd be in for the whole workout. I simultaneously felt dread because I had to do the whole workout and relief because I knew I would do the whole workout and not chicken out.

I've run with Brian on a few long runs, and he's a lot faster than me. Running with him certainly makes me better, and because of him being there today I managed to exceed my targets.

2M = 13:00 (6:30 pace)
1M = 6:23
1M = 6:20
800 = 3:04
800 = 3:03
800 = 3:02
800 = 3:02

The PM soccer match was a stupid idea because of the possibility of injury, but I went ahead with it anyway and managed to escape without any lingering injuries. I never was very good at soccer, but not playing for the past three years has taken it's toll on what little skills I had.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Night Run at Rice

5.04 miles, 40:07, 7:57 pace, Max HR = 161, Avg HR = 141

I haven't been running around Rice as much lately. I guess I'm partially burned out on that path, and I'm still nervous about running there after dark because of the potholes and roots on the path. The last thing I want to do is fall down and injure myself to the point that I can't run.

But despite that I hit the Rice trail today after work. It must be getting close to "marathon season" because the loop was populated with a disproportionate amount of serious runners today. I'm glad I didn't see any running my direction (counterclockwise is my typical route) because I wasn't in the mood for competition. Yesterday took a lot more out of me that I would have suspected in terms of muscle fatigue and knee soreness. So I didn't want to run faster than an 8:00 pace over five miles. If I see someone pass me I can get defensive and competitive, and pick up my pace to a place where I don't always want it.

I listened to my MP3 player during the run. It seems as though I only use it about once every two or three weeks. I usually have so much on my mind that I don't typically need the distraction of tunes, but today I just wanted to veg out. Did I already mentioned that I'm ready for this marathon to come and go?

8:11, 7:51, 7:51, 7:56, 8:00

Monday, November 26, 2007

Adaptive Reasoning

5 miles on treadmill, 36:30, 7:18 pace

I'm somewhat afraid I'm taking this tapering business a bit too seriously. After taking yesterday off, I very nearly took today off as well. I'm just not in the mood to run. It's not the actual running, but the time commitment. I just want to be lazy and sit on the couch rather than dedicate 45-60 minutes of my life to any activity at this point. But if I let up now, I'm afraid I'll sacrifice performance.

Today's plan was to run six miles at an 8:00 pace with no elevation on the treadmill. Since the treadmill shook violently and noisily with no elevation, I upped it to 0.5 so the slight angle of the belt would act as a shock absorber. The noise differential was noticeable.

After three miles I was ready for this to be over so I could get back to Monday Night Football. I upped the pace to 7:00 so I could get the run over. After the fourth mile Julie was packing up to leave, so I decided I'd only do another mile. I try not to adapt my runs to be easier while I'm running them because I think that's being mentally weak, but I made an exception this time by reasoning that I'd at least run the last one HARD. So I got crazy and set the treadmill to a 5:30 pace to see how long I could hang on. The first quarter wasn't too bad, but I was feeling it by the half mile mark. I pushed through and felt fine once I was on the final quarter mile "lap" and could "see" the finish line.

So there you have it, I clocked a 5:30 mile. Yes, it's on a treadmill which is probably wildly inaccurate. But even if the outdoor, measured equivalent to this run is 5:45, this is still significantly faster than the 5:55ish I ran in high school for fun. So this is yet another confirmation that I'm in the best shape of my life. (The other people in the gym may disagree based on the post-run hacking.)

Dallas is days away, and I'm sure that an isolated 5:30 mile has no effect on my training, but it's a confidence booster if nothing else.

8:00, 8:00, 8:00, 7:00, 5:30

Saturday, November 24, 2007

14 Mile Long Run with Jake

14.04 Miles, 1:50:42, 7:53 pace

Today was on the cold side and wet (44 degrees with rain and wind), but I was scheduled for 14 and I didn't want to miss it. On race day you can't pick your conditions, so I wanted to tough this out as a preparation for potentially poor conditions in Dallas.

My sister Melanie's husband, Jake, joined me for the first half of this run. Melanie and Jake are in town for Thanksgiving, and for a a baby shower for Melanie. I'm scheduled to be an uncle to their child early next year!!

Jake graduated from the Air Force Academy, and was a decorated boxer for their perennially ranked team. A little bit of precipitation and cool temperatures were child's play for him. I've always thought boxing and distance running share a lot of qualities in common -- specifically the need to say "no" to the voices that are telling you to quit.

I picked up the pace on the last couple of miles. It was nice to go out for "only" fourteen miles today, as copared to some of my other long runs.

8:31, 8:24, 8:18, 8:00, 8:13, 8:11, 7:53,
7:51, 7:35, 7:41, 7:38, 7:44, 7:13, 6:43

Friday, November 23, 2007

Nine in Shenandoah

9.03 miles, 1:15:16, 8:20 pace

Julie joined me today for the first 3+ miles. The weather was great for running, and I had to fight the urge to run too hard now that I'm on a complete taper. The marathon is only a few days away.

I ran by an old house I used to live in when I was a child, and it's for sale. Looks like a steal at $199K.

9:05, 8:49, 8:25, 8:04, 7:57, 8:13, 8:14, 8:02, 7:59

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Analysis of Turkey Trot

5k, 19:18, 6:12 pace, HR data unreliable

Half Mile Splits according to the Garmin:
2:59 (5:58 pace)
3:06 (6:12 pace), 6:05 first mile
3:16 (6:32 pace)
3:02 (6:04 pace), 6:18 second mile
3:07 (6:14 pace)
3:03 (6:06 pace), 6:10 third mile

What can I say . . . I'm shocked that I was able to perform at such a high level. The best I could have hoped for was something in the range of 19:30-19:45. But today I operated at or beyond my capacity.

Some notes:
* I ran the mile fun run with my two sisters-in-law, so that gave me a heads up on the course. The mile was structured as an out and back along the 5k course. Therefore I was able to get a great visual about when I was a half mile into the race, but more importantly, when I was a half mile from the finish.
* I finished 16th overall, but I may never know how I placed in my age group. I've found Baton Rouge races to be pitiful in most aspects compared to Houston Races. Posting of timely results are one of the many shortcomings.
* The turnaround point (out and back course) was a welcomed sight, because I still felt very strong. I ran the first 1.5 miles in 9:21, and the second 1.5 miles in 9:12.
* Weather = 49 degrees, very gusty in certain spots, 9.2 MPH average wind speed recorded at the airport
* Just before the last half mile a runner passed me. He caught up to another runner who was ahead of me the entire race. So with half a mile left I had two guys about 20 feet ahead of me. I started my push to reclaim the lead of our trio, not knowing if I had enough in my tank to last the entire half mile. It's times like these that I try to rationalize in minutes and seconds. For instance, a half mile at my fastest speed is just short of three minutes. So I tell myslef that I only have to push for three more minutes. It was my intention to blow by them and break their spirit in case I had to let up after passing them. But the rush of passing someone who led me almost the entire race, and passing another who thought he could beat me was enough to cause me to pick it up even faster after I passed them. I stole one glance back with about 100 yards to go, and they were both well back. It was an exciting finish for me.
* I forgot to stop my watch at the end, so I don't have reliable information for the last .1 mile. But the course was a certified 5k, so I feel comfortable that it was measured correctly.

Thanks to my family for coming out in droves today. My mother, my step-father, both of my sisters, my step-brother, my brother-in-law, my future brother-in-law, my wife, my two sisters-in-law, and my uncle-in-law were all in attendence. Most of them ran as well, and I'd love to post their times but those are currently (permanently?) unavailable.

Baton Rouge Turkey Trot 5K

Happy Thanksgiving!

19:18 -- a new PR.

I'll write more later after the turkey-induced coma subsides.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Taking it Easy

3.24 miles, 30:01, 9:15 pace, followed by 30 minutes of exercise bike on low resistance

I took this run particularly easy so I would be fresh for tomorrow's 5k race.


Today's post is about eight months late. If I could have envisioned the change my body would undergo after eight months of running, I would have recorded aspects of my health in order to get a baseline for comparative purposes. But I didn't, and today's post will have to serve as a baseline.


Body Fat %:

Max HR:
191 (as measured on 4/28 at 5k race)

Resting HR:
40's? 30's? I wore my Heart Rate Monitor last night while I slept and got this graph. The raw data says the lowest recorded reading was 30 BPM (got a few data points at this rate), and several readings in the mid thirties. The average over the night was 48 BPM. But I'm not sure how accurate any of those numbers are.

I weighed 185# before I started running, which means I lost about 42#. I've basically bottomed out at around 145# around a month or two ago, which seems to be my ideal weight for peak fitness. Any less and I think I'd be sacrificing muscle. Thankfully I don't really need to watch my caloric intake. I eat until I'm full, but I do my best to minimize fatty food and maximize fruits, vegetables, and otherwise "good" foods.

In about two weeks I have an appointment to measure my VO2 max, which is "the peak oxygen use of an athlete at maximum exercise and is measured in milliliters of oxygen. This metabolic test is an excellent indicator of aerobic fitness."

I also had some blood work done at work the other day, which I'll try to track down and post as a further baseline.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pre-Holiday Easy Run

6.29 miles, 52:59, 8:25 pace, Max HR = 162, Avg HR = 137

I'm not sure why this felt so hard, but my legs were heavy and I wasn't really into this run.

I've been assuming I'd take tomorrow off so I can save up for Thursday's race, but now I'm thinking I'll do an easy few miles tomorrow morning instead.

8:54, 8:35, 8:34, 8:21, 8:33, 7:56, 2:01 for .29 miles (7:12 pace)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kenyan Way Hils #7 - Sixteen Laps

Warm up: 2.25 miles, 21:15, 9:27 pace, Max HR = 141, Avg HR = 128
16 Laps of Hills: 2.52 miles, 19:39, 7:42 pace, Max HR = 173, Avg HR = 154
Warm down: .54 miles, 5:47, 10:39 pace, Max HR = 140, Avg HR = 131

.08 up hill, .08 back down (.16 total)
1:18, 1:22, 1:18, 1:14, 1:13, 1:10, 1:14, 1:14,
1:13, 1:11, 1:14, 1:11, 1:12, 1:10, 1:10, 1:06

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Building Mental Endurance

30 minutes on the exercise bike before Mass with high RPM (90-100) and moderate resistance (6/10)
6.02 miles, 46:13, 7:40 pace, Avg HR = 135, Max HR = 165 after Mass

It rained all morning. It's been a while since we got the wet stuff, so I guess that's a good thing. But I can't say I was particularly enthralled about running in the rain with 63 degree temperatures. I considered the "dreadmill", but I decided to weather the weather (yes, I know that's not funny) and tough it out. I don't always dislike running in the rain. During the summer it acted as a great relief from the heat. But the problem is that I've grown averse to having wet feet on a run, and I'm also afraid about sliding in mud or skidding on wet pavement.

You never know what you're going to get from the weather on race day, so I wanted to get outside solely to toughen myself up. As it turned out, it wasn't so bad. I had to modify my normal running route, because puddles tend to cover up holes in the Rice/Hermann Park running paths making a knee injury imminent. So I took off down Braeswood Bayou for three miles before turning around and heading back through the streets of Hermann Park.

Braeswood Bayou was swolen to the top of the concrete barrier, and the rapid currents were fascinating to watch as I was running. The water was only a few feet away from my feet (ok, no more double entendre), which gave me a mental pause. A slip could have plunged me into the water. I likely would have been able to navigate out, but I also could have ended up in the Gulf of Mexico. Regardless, I had no intention of completing a triathlon by following up my stationary bike and run with a swim, so I stayed well away from dangerous edge.

Do I sound like a wimp, worrying about injuries from mud, wet concrete, deep puddles and raging currents? (The correct answer is "yes".)

I wish I could say that Braeswood Bayou was a pretty run, but it was pretty much a dump. The bayou overflowed at some point today or last night because a trashy flood line littered the running path. You're surrounded by concrete bridges and canals, and your view is obscured by the grass embankments that prevent flooding once the water exceeds the concrete portion of the bayou. BUT, the concrete running surface is in great shape and I didn't have to worry about cars for long stretches, so I'll probably be back -- just so long as it's during the day because it turns into a homeless hangout after dark. In case you didn't pick it up earlier, I'm risk adverse.

I should have been more tired after a long run yesterday and a moderate bike workout earlier this morning, but my times spoke otherwise. I really pushed the last mile because I was upset with myself for giving into fatigue yesterday over the last two miles.

8:24, 7:59, 8:00, 7:39, 7:24, 6:39

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Kenyan Way Long Run #6 - One Last Push Before Taper

22.25 Miles, 2:46:39, 7:29 pace, Avg HR = 147, Max HR = 162

I ran with the 3:00 Marathon group again today. They are the fastest Kenyan Way pace group. Our group started out with about seven people, and I'm pretty sure I was the slowest of the group.

I had the "home field advantage" today because the running route featured loops around Rice and Hermann Park. Two people mentioned that it must be difficult to run by your house and not think about going home, but the opposite appeared true for me. I felt stronger since I was running a route that was so familiar.

That's not to say it was easy. In fact it was really hard. Our group of seven slowly dwindled down as people took shorter routes and returned to base. By mile 12 it was only me and two others. It seems as though we picked up the pace each time we dropped someone, and I really struggled to keep up from mile 12 onward. I pretty much abandoned hope of finishing with the other two guys and let them go with about two miles left. But I stuck it out with the fast guys through 20 miles, so I'm pretty happy about that.

This is the last long distance run I'll do before the Dallas Marathon. While that's a bit scary, it's also nice knowing that my workouts will be on the decline from now on. I've run 152.31 miles in the past three weeks (50.77 per week avg., 7.25 per day avg. including rest days) and the down time will be appreciated. Even so, I'd really prefer about two more weeks to train at this level before tapering for Dallas. I've seen tremendous improvements over the past month or two, and I think a couple more weeks would go a long way toward a better time in Dallas.

It's not uncommon for people to get injured during the high mileage training period. I'm lucky because I never suffered an injury that forced me to stop running. I took an extra day off here and there as preventative maintenance, but there was never a day I couldn't run due to injury.

Highlights today:
* 7:09 average pace for the last 10 miles
* 6:50 mile tucked into that distance

Lowlights today:
* feeling of defeat with about 2 miles left, which makes me question my mental and physical endurance for the marathon. I have the speed, but do I have the endurance? And when the endurance ends, do I have the willpower to keep going?
* We took 10 water breaks today, and my adjusted mile pace was 7:43 if I had kept the clock running during those breaks.

8:25, 7:38, 7:28, 7:28, 7:30, 7:18, 7:37, 7:46, 7:22, 7:27, 7:17,
7:16, 7:07, 7:20, 7:07, 7:00, 6:50, 7:14, 7:08, 7:08, 7:23, 7:12

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Five Kilometer Goal

5.02 warm up, 38:25, 7:39 pace, Avg HR = 142, Max HR = 150, no rest,
3.12 threshold run, 20:02, 6:25 pace, Avg HR = 168, Max HR = 176
1.04 warm down, 10:01, 9:35 pace, Avg HR = 133, Max HR = 139

I've mentioned this before, but my first goal that I set when I started running was to break 20 minutes in a 5k. My first chance to do that will be one week from today at the Baton Rouge Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day. I've been nervous about meeting that goal because I haven't trained for a 5k race since the summer session of Kenyan Way ended. At that point I began my focus on longer distances. That's not to say I haven't done speed work, but I'm not sure if it's applicable to 5k distance. It probably is, but from a mental perspective I haven't given much energy to breaking 20 minutes.

It's been a long time since I clocked 24:38.2 on 3/31/07 at the Bellaire Trolley Run (Julie beat me at that race!), and now I'm hoping and expecting to shave off nearly five minutes from that time. In preparation for that race, and because I missed my speed workout yesterday, I decided to run a 5k around the perimeter of Rice today at my top effort so I could find out what kind of time to expect. The short answer is that it looks good for me on Thursday. The 20:02 in 3.12 miles equates to 19:56 in 5 kilometers.

Race day could yield worse results because:
1) The Garmin probably underestimated the distance I'll run at the Turkey Trot.
2) The Lap around Rice has no sharp turns, and the Turkey Trot course is going to be more challenging.
3) The weather was great today, and adverse Thanksgiving weather could affect my performance.

But race day could yield better results because:
1) I turn in better times in a competitive environment.
2) I'm not going to warm up with five miles of 7:39 running.
3) I'll probably take a day off before the race to taper.
4) My family will be there to cheer for me.

The bottom line is that today's run gave me a confidence boost going into Thanksgiving.

warm up
7:43, 7:29, 7:57 (traffic crossing), 7:33, 7:37
6:30, 6:27, 6:20, 0:41 (.12 miles, 5:41 pace)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quick Moring Six in Oswego

6.01 miles, 45:41, 7:36 pace, Avg HR = 142, Max HR = 164

I went out for a quick run this morning before I headed off to the plant for a day of tours and Q&A. It was dark at 5:28 AM when I started and the sun had yet to rise when I finished at 6:13 AM. The temperature was 41, which felt great despite some wind gusts and an average wind speed of 5.8 MPH.

Since the season has changed I've been running a lot more in the darkness. I'm not particularly keen on it, but I don't run for a living so obviously my hobby has to take a back seat to my profession. I wear a reflector on my left ankle (not sure why I chose that leg) to make myself a little more visible to cars, and I stay away from trails that aren't level. A friend at work recently tripped on a root in the dark and scraped herself up a bit, so I've decided that braving the streets and cars is a bit better than the hazards of sidewalks and trails.

I wanted to finish up strong today, and I managed to do that from a time perspective. My last mile was sub-seven.

8:24, 7:42, 7:48, 7:54, 7:02, 6:43

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oswego Run with Kimberly

3.83 miles, 45:16, 11:49 pace
2.25 miles, 16:45, 7:25 pace, Max HR = 146, Avg HR = 158

I'm travelling for work this week. I'm visiting a plant with a co-worker, Kimberly, and we are in Oswego, NY on the shore of Lake Ontario. The weather is fantastic for running (46 degrees) and the season is perfect. The rolling hills are full of trees bursting in all sorts of orange, red and yellow hues. It's such a nice view that it almost makes you forget that you're hitting some pretty challenging hills.

Kimberly and I drove straight in from Syracuse, NY and hit the street for a 45 minute run before dinner. She's a determined, self-made woman with a wonderful husband and two beautiful children who are the center of her life. Her determination shows through in her work ethic and her values. And it was no surprise to me that she hit the streets in the same way she tackles work and life -- like nothing was going to stop her.

And nothing did. We meandered along the river, through downtown, and through the neighborhoods and tackled the hills like we were natives. My favorite part of the run was the quarter mile loop we did around Fort Ontario, where we got to see the sun set as we looked out over Lake Ontario.

After we completed our loop and made it back to the hotel parking lot, I took off for an additional 2.25 miles at a 7:25 pace to stretch out the legs. Today was supposed to be my day for speed work, but I was pressed for time because we had a 5:30 dinner with some people from the plant. So the 7:25 pace was a feeble attempt to stretch out the legs in lieu of a full speed workout.

Running isn't always fun. But today was one of those days that keep you coming back.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kenyan Way Hills #6 - Recovery Hills?

AM 3.96 miles (1 mile warm up, 2x10 minutes hills with 5MR, warm down), Max HR = 164, Avg HR = 121
PM 30 minutes on the stationary bike, kept heart rate below 90

As you might have read in the last post, Sean recommended that we skip the hill workout in lieu of a recovery jog. For better or worse I opted against this advice since I planned on taking it really easy on the hills, and because I always pay close attention to my need for recovery and injuries. I would have stopped in a second if anything felt abnormal.

My quadriceps were sore, but the morning hill workout made my legs feel better. And it was good to do the core exercises that I've been neglecting for the past month or two. The highlight of this run is that Sean joined us for the first time I've ever seen. He's a machine getting up those hills, and he made the rest of us look like we were standing still.

After work I hit the stationary bike for a 30 minute spin. I kept the resistance really low because I just wanted to get the blood flowing in the legs and hopefully speed up recovery. I'm not sure if it works this way, but I imagine waste products building up in the muscle tissue after strenuous exercise, and gentle movement helps to cleanse the muscles.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Race Info

This is the video of me finishing. It's so grainy that you can't tell who I am, but that's me with the chest strap heart rate monitor. The temperature at Hobby Airport started at 66.2 degrees and climbed to 73.4 by the end of my run for an average of 69.8 degrees.

This is an email from Sean Wade, the Kenyan Way coach, regarding the heat and how it affects performance:
"Hi runners, this email is really for those of you who ran the 25K. I guess I should have issued a heat warning in my previous email last week. When the weather is hot like it was Sunday it is virtually impossible to achieve the goal you set out prior to the race. In those conditions if your goal pace was under 8 min per mile I would give an allowance of 15-20 seconds per mile and if your goal pace was above 8 minutes then an allowance of 30-40 seconds per mile seems appropriate. Now the problem is if you went out too fast you may well have died (bonked) the last last and lost much more time. Do not worry if you struggled out there. 95% of you did. You need to make sure you recover this week and get ready for the long runs coming up in cooler weather. The bulk of our training takes place in the next 7 weeks. If you are in the speed work program skip hill tonight if you did the 25K. Do what ever it takes to recover this week. Come out Wednesday and take it easy on the workout scheduled or just jog easy on your own. Stay hydrated and make sure you run easy/slow to recover. "

I don't know about knocking 15-20 seconds per mile off of my time, but it's reassuring to think that I probably would have cracked 7:00 in 50 degree weather. I'm hoping for 40-50 degrees in Dallas.

Houston Masters 25K Road Race

25 kilometers (~15.5 miles), 1:49:27.4 (chip time), 1:49:52.4 (gun time), 7:03 pace (chip), Max HR = 180, Avg HR = 164

Official Results Page

Today I ran the Houston Masters 25K Road Race, one of the series of warm-up races for the Houston Marathon. It's a three lap race on Memorial Parkway from downtown to Shepherd and back. The course is somewhat hilly (816 feet of cumulative elevation) thanks mostly to overpasses and underpasses.

Congratulations on the strong performance of my friends who also competed today:
Andrew Keller - 1:39:24.3 (5th in age group, 24th overall)
Greg McLauchlin - 2:15:35.2 (49th in age group, 370 overall)
Chuck Bach - 2:27:53.9 (80th in age group, 634 overall)
Tracy McLauchlin - 2:28:10.0 (37th in age group, 647 overall)

The race had 1608 total finishers.

I finished 12th in my age group (Male 30-34), and 71st overall. I knew this would be a big race, and that this would be my one chance to simulate a marathon experience prior to my debut in Dallas. I wanted to: 1) feed off of the spectators, 2) learn how to maneuver through crowds, 3) practice hydration and nutrition, 4) run a 7:00 pace, 5) finish strong.

Spectators: The crowd was great . . . Julie cheered me on at the beginning of each new lap, and the vision of her smiling face kept me motivated well into each new five mile stretch. I also got a shout out from Biff, a strong runner and friend who I turn to for advice from time to time. Stephen King, one of the area's top masters runners, was in attendance at about the 2 mile mark, and he cheered for me (and everyone else). I was surprised to see him as a spectator, as I would have expected him to take the master's division. He doesn't know me from Adam, but I spoke to him while in line for post-race concessions after the July 4 race this year, and he seems to be a great guy.

Crowds: One of the chief complaints I've heard about the Dallas marathon is that the tail end of the half-marathoners merge with the marathoners deep into the marathon course. This causes the faster marathoners (not elite, but fast) to have to weave in and out of the crowd, who is often walking. This race simulated that, since I lapped quite a few people and probably almost got lapped myself.

Hydration and Nutrition: It was hot today, and I drank a lot more water than I normally would have consumed over this distance. I picked up the pace slightly into the water station, and accelerated out of it. I think think I managed a solid pace through each station. I think I took seven water breaks, but my favorite stop was when a little girl about five years old handed me a water. She was so cute out there helping my fellow runners and me. As for nutrition, I made the mistake of taking a Shot Block even though I didn't need it. I had to spit it out after about a half mile. In the future I'll only take nutrition as I have in the past -- when I start to have an empty feeling in my stomach. For future reference, I had a half of a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast.

7:00 pace: I didn't hit my goal of a 7:00 overall pace. Based on my chip time, I ran a 7:02.8 pace. It's close, but if you consider three seconds over 15.5 miles then all of a sudden it's 47 seconds behind schedule. That would translate to even more over 26.2 miles. But I'm not too upset with my pace, because it was pretty hot and I didn't exactly taper the way I will for my marathon. 7:03 was enough for me to be happy with my results. But there is a lesson to be learned. My Garmin read 7:02, and was off because I had to weave through the crowd, didn't always run the perfect tangent, and the watch itself tends to slightly overestimate distance by almost 1%. The lesson is that I need to run slightly faster than my watch says once I set my pace goal for the marathon, or risk being disappointed once I find out I didn't get the finishing time I calculated.

Finish strong: I don't like to get passed at the end of the race. But where does the "end" begin? I suppose that's mainly a question of strategy. I can tell you I felt relieved when I saw that only 5k was left (3.1 miles). I tried to pick up my pace, but I don't think I did anything except think I was going faster. At that point I did start to pass a few people because others started slowing down. At the first split I ran the 15th fastest in my age group. At the second split, again, I ran the 15h fastest in my age group. At the last split, I had the 10th fastest split. So even though I slowed down, I ran faster in comparison to my fellow age group runners. The last half mile of the race is characterized by the biggest hill (up, not down). I didn't really start to make any pace changes until that final half mile. I outsprinted two or three guys and a girl over that space, and ran a 6:26 pace over the final .59 miles. The girl finished eighth overall for women, so I guess I got beat by seven women. I wasn't really out of breath at the finish, so I should have been kicking harder . . . but my legs were exhausted. I think my lungs are in much better shape than my legs.

Overall this was a humbling experience. There was even a point where I questioned why I was so stupid as to want to do a marathon if fifteen miles was making me feel the way it was. But I guess I'll practice selective memory and keep pushing toward Dallas, which is now less than 30 days away.

As I was watching the finishers and looking for my friends, I saw a girl head down the final stretch at about 2:30 into the race. The finish line split off of the loop in a way that wasn't completely clear to me or some other runners. Basically you take a U-Turn to start another loop, or go straight to finish (even though the sign said "relay transition"). When I saw this girl at least half of the people had already finished. She was following the bulk of the crowd and heading toward the finish line before she stopped to ask a race volunteer a question. Then she backtracked and went for another loop. That girl still had one more lap to go after already running two and a half hours.

She inspired me more than any other runner out there that day, because she could easily have given up and followed the slippery slope toward quitting. She was only a hundred yards away from the finish line, the music, the refreshments, her friends, and the beloved rest. But instead she headed toward the loneliness of a mostly vacated final five mile loop to finish her race. Her act took courage and resilience, and made me embarrassed that I ever questioned myself about finishing. Distance running can be very lonely, even in the midst of the pack, because you have only yourself on race day. Your support team (spouse, friends, coach, partners, etc.) is crucial during training, but on race day it's just you and the pavement. And you must do everything in your power to say "no" to the voices telling you to slow down or quit. Hooray to that girl who said "NO!"

6:59, 6:58, 6:55, 6:54, 7:04
6:52, 6:54, 7:04, 7:01, 7:03
7:08, 6:58, 7:17, 7:05, 7:14
3:48 for final .59 miles, 6:26 pace

Friday, November 9, 2007

Running on My Rest Day

5.36 miles, 45:05, 8:24 pace, Max HR = 139, Avg HR = 149

Fridays are usually rest days, but since I'm running a Race on Sunday I'm going to take my rest day on Saturday.

This was an easy 45 minute run around Rice before work. I wanted to get this one done in the morning since it would give me an extra 10-12 hours of recouperation before my Sunday race.

9:09, 8:00, 8:25, 8:24, 8:13, 2:49 for .36 (7:49 pace)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Easy and Then Hard

8.06 miles, 1:03:30, 7:53 pace, Max HR = 163, Avg HR = 145
40 minutes stationary bike immediately afterwards

I started out on an easy recovery run around Rice, and then someone passed me at about 4.5 miles. I seldom get passed while running at rice (Memorial Park is a different story altogether.) Now common sense says to allow myself to recover and let Mr. Speedy go on about his own business, but I had a racehorse reaction and bolted after I was passed. I suppose I should be less competitive with external forces in regards to running. The battle is within, and I'll only be disappointed if I compare myself against other runners because there will always be someone better than me. What can I say? . . . I guess I'm not that mature. Incidentally, I didn't pass him before he quit running.

8:41, 8:11, 8:14, 8:11, 7:39, 7:34, 7:33, 7:13

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kenyan Way Speed #11 - 10x800 with 1MR

AM:1 mile warm up, 10x800 (goal of 3:10) with 1 minute rest, Max HR = 183
PM: 40 easy minutes on exercise bike, Max HR = 123, Avg HR = 94

1 - 3:12, 1:00 rest
2 - 3:11 (this measured a bit long), 1:00 rest
3 - 3:11 (this measured a bit long), 1:00 rest
4 - 3:03, 1:03 rest
5 - 3:10, 1:01 rest
6 - 3:06, 1:00 rest
7 - 3:06, 1:00 rest
8 - 3:08, 1:02 rest
9 - 3:08, 0:59 rest
10 - 3:06

Average 800 = 3:08

I was really intimidated by this workout because of the lack of rest between reps, and the number of reps. I wasn't sure I could do it in my goal time of 3:10. After about seven I was really dragging, and considered cutting it off at eight, and coasting the final two. But I told myself that under almost any circumstances I can do "one more" in my goal time, even if I had to do it at an outright sprint. So at seven, I really only had to struggle with two more (eight and nine). So I did the two more, and then completed the tenth by sheer determination. I was exhausted after finishing, but my heart rate dropped down pretty quickly. My legs were tired at work, but I felt only a bit of fatigue by the end of the day.

This workout is a modified version of Yasso 800s, which I wrote about in a previous blog entry two months ago. Cory also has a blog entry about Yasso 800s. The modification is in the rest . . . Sean had us rest only 1 minute (immobile) whereas the Yasso 800s have you jog your recovery in the same time it took to run the 800. I asked Sean about his modification, and he said he thinks a longer rest is too easy. He can be a slave driver like that.

My stationary bike ride in the evening after work was probably a waste of time. My heart rate barely climbed, but I wasn't in the mood to crank up the resistance. If it did do any good, it was simply because I kept my legs moving at 90 RPM which hopefully helped to flush out the waste products within the muscles generated by my speed workout this morning. I'm going to run tomorrow morning and take Friday off in preparation for my 15 mile race on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Apartment Gym

35 minutes on stationary bike warmup, 5 miles @ 8:00, 1 mile @ 7:00, 5 minutes stationary bike warmdown.


I don't like the stationary bike at all. I find that my perceived effort on the bike is much higher than running when the heart rates are the same. In other words, 150 BPM on a bike is MUCH harder to me than running a pace which causes 150 BPM.

It was a good idea to hit the bike, though, since I can still slightly feel my Saturday run.

No incline on run today.

I have an important speed workout tomorrow, which I'll do at the morning, so I had to fight the urge to haul on the treadmill.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Aborted Run

2.53 miles, 24:33, 9:42 Pace, Max HR = 146, Avg HR = 125

I skipped running yesterday -- not so much because I was sore and needed the rest from my 24 mile jaunt (which I was), but because I decided to be a tourist in Birmingham, and then fly back to Houston.

The rest was appreciated, though, because the big toe on my left foot started to hurt on Sunday. I had visions of a nagging injury caused by my tough 24, so I favored it the whole day on Sunday hoping it would get better. The curious thing is that it took a whole day to start hurting -- I felt absolutely no pain at all on Saturday. Julie's nursing capabilities convinced me that it was just some swelling, and an extra strenth dose of NSAIDs knocked it out.

I didn't wake up early enough to run on Monday morning, and I had a family obligation on Monday night. So I had to squeeze in my run after a large mexican dinner and an exploding belly late on Monday night. I wanted to get in three miles and then 20 minutes of hills. Unfortunately I barely got a mile before I started to feel the urge to use the restroom pretty badly. At mile 2.5 I don't think I could have taken another stride without my need to go to the restroom becoming past tense, if you follow me. So I walked it home and called it a night.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama

24.02 miles, 3:11:00, 7:57 pace, Max HR = 155, Avg HR = 145

The Olympic Marathon Trials were held this weekend in New York City. The event was overshadowed by the death of Ryan Shay a mere 5 ½ miles into the race. I couldn’t possibly compose anything that would do Mr. Shay any justice, so let me be brief and say that I pray that the Shay family finds peace.

I ponder life and death rather frequently. Have I earned my life? Have I increased the utility in this world? Why haven’t I done a better job? If I am remembered for one quality (good or bad), what will it be?

Today’s run was a tough 24 miles through Birmingham, Alabama. This is the longest run I will complete prior to the marathon. I have a 22 mile run scheduled for Nov 17, and nothing else exceeds 16 miles until after I run my marathons.

My goal today was to complete the run with an eight minute pace. The toughest, most intimidating part of this run was the unknown. I didn’t know what to expect regarding hills, running surface, turns, route, weather, hydration stations, lighting, etc. And I ran by myself starting at 5:13 AM, almost two hours before the 7:08 sunrise time.

I chose my route based on the advice of a Danny, a running coach associated with the local running store called Track Shak. Danny runs a C25K program (couch to five kilometer) in Birmingham, and can be reached at Just like the name implies, the goal is to transform people from a fitness level of TV watcher extraordinaire to complete a goal race of a 5k. I get really excited about couch to 5k programs, because that’s essentially what I did back in March when I started with Power in Motion. As I said, Danny gave me some advice on the route. But I ended up missing half of the route because it was too dark to follow and I thought I was at the end of the trail.

Overall I conquered 2,142 feet of elevation. That doesn’t mean I peaked 2,142 feet higher than I started, it just means the sum of all of my inclines equaled 2,142 feet. I could try to explain it, but it’s easier to understand by looking at the picture below. It shows elevation in green, and the corresponding heart rate in red. It’s interesting to see how my heart rate climbed ever time I hit a hill.

The steepest I had to climb was 13.3% grade, and the steepest I declined was 16.1%. Overall my average grade was 3.4%. I tackled most of the hills early in the run, and paid for it in terms of fatigue from about mile eighteen onward. To be honest, I have no idea if those numbers are impressive or just plain average for the rest of the runners out there. But it’s flat in Houston, and by way of comparison my other long runs have all averaged well under a 1% grade.

You might notice that my heart rate fluctuated in the high range at the very beginning of the run. I’ve seen this happen over the past few weeks, and I’ve been attributing it to faulty readings of the heart rate monitor. I assumed it was time to change the battery or something. But after hearing about Ryan Shay, I started to think I should try to confirm whether or not the initial high readings were realistic or not. It could be some sort of psychosomatic response to initial exercise stimuli. It’s only started happening recently, but I’ve recently ramped up my training so I hypothesized that maybe there is a correlation.

But I think I figured out that none of that is the case, and that the sky isn’t falling. The weather has also changed recently, which means I’m sweating less and later into the run. The heart rate monitor works off of electrical impulses of the heart, and needs a good “connection” to my chest in order to work. Water or sweat provides that connection. During the summer the simple act of stepping outside produced a layer of sweat sufficient to make good contact. But now that it’s colder I’m not forming that layer of sweat until after a quarter of a mile or so, and my heart rate monitor is generating initially erratic readings. I’m going to prove this theory by making sure the heart rate monitor contacts are wet at the beginning of all future runs, and checking to see if the erratic readings continue.

The “gold standard” of physicals for endurance athletes, if there is indeed one, would be the stress test. Doctors measure your heart beat and respiration while placing you under increasing levels of stress on a treadmill until your maximum heart rate is achieved. In certain cases heart defects are found, and the athlete is treated and educated. The bottom line is that endurance running is not for everyone, and that it can actually harm your health if you have preexisting heart disease.

Some more notes about this run:
* High for the run: 7:30 last mile, and knowing I can run a 3:30 marathon
* Low for the run: .02 miles I ran at the end (it was difficult to stand and I had ability to make lateral movement) and frozen hands (45 degrees warrants gloves)
* Ugly but painless blister on outside of little toe on right foot.
* Breakfast = bananna, southwest airlines peanuts package, half a blueberry bagel
* water => few fountains on trail, so I averaged about 5-6 miles between water stops.
* nutrition => ate two clif shot blocks, but I could barely get them out of the zipper pocket of my shorts because my hands were numb.
* people finally started showing up during the last hour of my run, but it was lonely and quiet for quite some time.

The Tigers took on Alabama today, and won after converting a late Alabama turnover into seven points. I'm happy to have witnessed this victory firsthand, but I can't help but be a little perturbed that the Tigers continue in their normal mode of committing penalties and dropping passes. Let's hope we can correct some of these mistakes over the next couple of weeks before we have to face Arkansas on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Geaux Tigers!

8:07, 7:57, 7:33, 7:36, 7:51, 7:55 (46:59 for first 6 miles)
7:46, 7:48, 8:08, 8:15, 8:03, 8:05 (48:05 for second 6 miles)
8:00, 8:04, 8:03, 7:51, 7:52, 7:59 (47:50 for third 6 miles)
7:42, 8:18, 8:31, 8:03, 7:36, 7:30 (47:40 for fourth 6 miles)