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)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

No Race Today

5.46 miles, 42:05, 7:42 pace, Avg HR = 145, Max HR = 178

I worked too late to run the 5k race at Rice. Much of the work I do is daily/weekly/monthly reporting and analysis. All of my other positions were mostly project oriented which allowed me to schedule my work hours around my schedule to some extent. But I don't have that degree of freedom in my current role. It's a bit frustrating to know that every month end, month beginning, and the 4-8 times each month that I close the books I will have little opportunity to get out of the office at an early hour, despite the fact that I could show up at 4AM that morning to make up the time. But to counter that, it can be a rush to know that the information I generate is time sensitive and critical. I like my job and I love being a part of such a great team. I'm just a little sad that I wasn't able to run the 5k today.

I planned on making this my breakout 5k time. I think I've come far enough and I'm in good enough shape to crack 20 minutes, and it would have been nice to do that on my "home territory" where I run 75+% of my miles. The course was allegedly challenging, with many turns, but I heard it would be attracting top talent which would have pushed me even further. It would have been a fun race with strategy and sheer willpower coming into play.

As for my quest for a 20 minute 5k, perhaps it's for the best that I didn't attempt it today at Rice. I always had in mind that I'd do it at the Turkey Trot in Baton Rouge in front of my family. They wouldn't care if I didn't do it, but I'd be upset if I came up short for that one. That's the motivation I'll use when I'm out of gas and want to stop my kick during the last mile of that race.

When I first started running I had one goal -- breaking 20 minutes. Shortly thereafter I added a sub 45 minute 5k at the New Orleans Crescent City Classic (in order to win a poster). And quite a few months later I added this marathon nonsense into the mix. But I've never forgotten my first goal to break 20 minutes. When my willpower is low, or I'm feeling particularly spent during a run, I'll focus on the number 20 (and sometimes even say it out loud) for motivation.

Nevertheless, when I got home I changed into my running clothes and made the best out of the rest of the day. Julie rode alongside of me on her bicycle, and we chatted about our day and our house search, which was very nice. I started out for an easy run but decided to gradually pick up the pace. Since I didn't get to race today, I opened up the throttle for the last four minutes and ran a 6:01 pace to stretch out the legs. It wasn't quite my race kick, but at least I impressed Julie as she struggled to keep up on the bicycle.

Tomorrow I'm carbohydrate loading and resting for my 24 mile long run Birmingham, AL run on Saturday. I think it might be hilly and chilly! It should be fun.

8:40, 7:55, 7:53, 7:38, 7:12, 2:44 for .45 miles (6:04 pace)