Thursday, February 26, 2009

Apology to Lady Walking Her Dog

I promised myself that last night’s run would not be as fast as previous 7M runs, but that I was going to try and hit every mile near the high-end of my target range (7:30/M). I reminded myself of this, I even said it out loud before I started. “Slow down the first mile.” First mile, 6:43. It was at this point that I yelled out loud “slow down you stupid jack*ss!” It was as the final ‘s’ rolled off of my tongue that I realized there was a startled woman walking her dog. And, although I am positive any reasonable person would have realized I was talking to myself, she complied and began walking very slowly. When I actually passed her a few feet later, she tensed up—pulling her shoulders in and wore a face of great apprehension.

So, dear lady and your dog, I’m sorry I swore out loud, sorry it startled you, and sorry you were probably fearful of me thereafter. You see, I was trying to run significantly slower than my actual pace, and with my music on and my desire to hear my own voice berate myself, I had to yell at myself loudly. Plus, I didn’t notice you because I was looking at my Garmin as I prepared to finish my first mile. Hope that clears things up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Running Fast at Night

Running fast automatically means you are outside of your running comfort zone. Going outside of your comfort zone at races or at other times is a good thing; it challenges us as runners and lets us know where we can improve.

As part of my marathon training, I have incorporated mile repeats. Last night included a ½ mile warm-up, then 3 mile repeats at 10K pace, or 6:30/M.

Now the thing about running at night, and especially running fast at night, is that it is a total mind screw. Everything, I mean everything, seems further away. So my run-½-mile-then-turn-around at street light and head back seemed more like “I can’t believe how far away that light is, I’ve been running forever, this route must be longer than a ½ mile, everything is black except for the street light a mile away and my headlight, how fast am I actually going?”

So, you can only imagine how running outside of your comfort zone is jacked up exponentially by running at night. Not to mention that my light wouldn’t stay at my desired 45-degree angle while running fast, but insisted on facing straight down. Which caused a somewhat cool but eerie effect of having my breath, strangely illuminated by my running light, vaporize in front of me. I am not looking forward to doing the same thing, plus one mile repeat, next week.

Splits: 6:13, 6:20; 6:23. Apparently I was going a wee bit fast my first one.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Body of Work II

In my first post I discussed the word ‘body’ as it relates to a runner’s body of work, or their running accomplishments. Today I am going to focus on the word ‘body’ as it relates to our physical body. And if Mariah Carrie’s song “Touch My Body” isn’t running through your head right now, it should be. A few weeks ago I received a mailing for the 5/3rd River Bank Run. This is a tremendous group of races located in Grand Rapids, with the marquee race being the 25K (or 15.5M of you so please).

While looking through the mailing I noted the 5/3rd River Bank Run has a “Clydesdale” divisions for both men and women. If you are not familiar with what the term “Clydesdale” means for runners, I’ll let the flyer speak for itself. For men, the “Clydesdale” divisions are 185-199 pounds, and 200+ pounds. For women, the “Clydesdale” divisions are 145-154 pounds, and 155+ pounds.

I have only come across “Clydesdale” divisions a few times before, including the Flying Pig Marathon. And I find it strange that a race would be willing to differentiate on the basis of weight.

See, one reason I love running is that anyone can do it. A quick jaunt through several blogs and you will find fast runners, slow runners, obsessed runners, casual runners, and runners of varying weight. Yet, they all run. And running certainly promotes itself as the friendliest and most accessible sport—welcome to all people and all body types and any pace. I always see runner’s finish a race, turn around, and walk back to cheer on other runners. Every running store that has a running group promotes its “any pace, anybody” motto. So, it seems to me, that a “Clydesdale” division is somewhat dated.

Now, to be honest, I was rather caught off guard by the fact that I qualify for the lower “Clydesdale” division, and that only three pounds would place me in the upper division. Moreover, I would have to loose a dozen pounds to get out of it. And while I may not be Nitmos fast, I am a very quick runner. I’m also over six feet tall, so 197 pounds on me looks different than on someone who is five foot seven. Yet, body type is not taken into account, just weight.

Ultimately, I think it is sad that a sport which is overwhelming supportive of any fitness level and any body shape still holds onto some of its more dated traditions by classifying people based on weight. And, for those who will argue that ‘age’ classification are just as arbitrary, I would strongly disagree. Age divisions are meant to compare others around your age, “Clydesdale” divisions are solely reserved for what would be called “heavier” runners. There is no corresponding feather weight.

Happy running, no matter who you are or what pace you run.

Monday, February 23, 2009

To the People of East Lansing

Shovel your sidewalks. Seriously, it is good exercise. Plus, it is the law pursuant to local ordinance and carries a whopping $25 fine. However, if the aforementioned reasons are not enough, do it because runners will greatly appreciate it. Odds are you—who does not shovel—are also the same person who refuses to move over (even slightly) when a runner has the audacity to run on the street. But I wouldn’t run on the street if you would shovel your sidewalk. So there is another reason for you to do it.

And why do runners care about said sidewalks. First, likelihood of injury increases dramatically. Second, it slows me down. And third, it slows me down. Point in case: miles I ran this weekend on un-shoveled sidewalks (and where the street was too dangerous of an option) average time verse those on sidewalk 8:15/M to 7:30/M.

The ‘Winter Storm Advisory’ and un-shoveled sidewalks notwithstanding, this weekend was full of good runs. I again averaged 7:14/M on my 7M run Saturday and 7:54/M for my 14M yesterday.

Friday, February 20, 2009

It Was the Llamas

Nitmo’s absence has caused more that just a raincloud in the blogosphere, it has also caused quite a problem for local runners. In case you are unaware, Nitmos and I share common running routes.

Sadly, Nitmo’s self-imposed exile had allowed the local llama population to run wild. Although local runners are trying to pick up the slack, it is not looking good. Local authorities are baffled, local politicians are raving about ‘a loss of family values,’ and the local news refuses to cover the story. Don’t believe me, see what has happened to our beloved traffic circle below…

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rain to Snow

Last night I tried to sneak in my 7M run before the slight rain turned into snow. 34 degrees outside, but I still overdressed—the running coat was too much. Despite my promise to myself that I wouldn’t crank my first mile, and that I would keep it close to 7:25 to 7:30, I still ran a 6:53. Oh well, slow it down a bit and try to keep all of my miles below my goal of 7:30.

Finish time, 50:39. Average pace, 7:14/M. Spits: 6:53, 7:14, 7:17, 7:28, 7:30, 7:21, 6:57. Run done, snow begins. Nice.

As an aside, I was honored that the fine gentlemen over at Runner’s Lounge decided to take my question and, well…

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Things I am Not Faster Than

In my life, I have outrun several things. Once in 5th grade I outran my best-friend and won the mile for my class. In high school I outran many competitors. In college I would outrun my roommates to Cruchy’s for buckets of beer, and I’ve even—while intoxicated--outran an officer of the law.

However, there are things I am assuredly not faster than. I have never outrun a cheetah. Nor have I even outrun a bear. But, in all honesty, I have never laced it up against either of these animals. But, what I have been trying to outrun was this cold.

Race over, cold wins. And now I’m left with its victory chant (cough, cough, cough) all last night and today. My loss to cold didn’t prevent me from running my three, but I dropped it down to my long run pace of 8:27 pace.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Weekend: Turn Left

The snow and underlying ice made running outside a dangerous operation this past weekend; especially because both of my runs commenced at 7:30am. Therefore, I was indoor and on the track. For those counting, because I certainly was, my 6M pace run and 13M long run total 95 laps in two days. This is 380 left turns.

The problem with Saturday’s run is that I wasn’t fast enough to complete it before my Garmin battery died. I know, I sat there and twice thought about charging it Friday night. So, my first two miles were 6:59 and 7:00 flat—right on pace. And I’m extremely positive I stayed on pace for the remaining 4 miles. Only I can’t prove it. But, judging on how I felt and the fact that I didn’t inexplicitly add 20+ second to my second mile, I think I did.

Sunday’s run was long, and I was again ahead of my goal pace for my long run. My almost half marathon spits went: 7:36, 7:44, 7:51, 7:46, 7:58, 7:56, 7:48, 7:39, 7:46, 7:34, 7:56, 7:43, 7:08. Average of 7:43/M, or 22 seconds per mile fast. Oh, and the 7:08 last mile was more a please let me finish more than anything else.

But most importantly, I discovered this great little fact. The coffee lids (think Starbucks) that go on the Styrofoam cups at the gym work perfect for rehydration. You can run with them, take water, and not spill or choke on the water. Every local race should have these tops on their water, making it far easier for the runner to rehydrate while running.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Quick Three

I don’t get to workout until after 8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays because I help a boy named Phillip improve his reading and writing skills, and Phillip helps me become a better man. I get the better of this exchange.

Last night called for 3M at training pace, so between 7:10 and 7:30. Because I ran inside on the treadmill—thereby allowing me to watch Notre Dame dismantle Louisville—I had to run a treadmill pace of 6:54/M to hit my outside/road pace.

Finish run, stretch, then home. A good day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ode to the MAC Treadmills

You, of course resting inside,
For a treadmill outside is as lost
As a runner without a Garmin,
Trust me, this is true,
And yet, your warm enclosure
Which houses you so quaintly,
Lacks an ever-changing environment,
Attached TV notwithstanding,
And I, I run on you; and, because of
Your lack wind and your Chicago-esk
Elevation, I get super hot, and
Super board, and I feel I must
Run faster than as if I were
Outside, because these
Guys say so
, and so I run
Harder in a hot and sweaty
And no chance for a slight
Breeze to cool me down room.

But why, I pray tell, why is it
You make 6 miles seem like 8,
8 seem like 12, and 12 seem like
A marathon?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Body of Work I

This will be my first post of two dealing with the word ‘body’ as it relates to running.

Honestly, all runners are proud of their body of work. With the marquee resume points typically being races. Why do we talk about races so much? Here are my thoughts. First, any long distance race, say 10M or higher, requires training. Nobody goes from no exercise and no running for months to a 10M race the next day.* Second, races are fun and are an easily recognizable ‘event’ for non-runners. Tell someone you trained to run 20 miles, no race, just run 20M by yourself one Saturday morning, and they’ll think your strange. Tell someone you ran 20 miles as part of your marathon training, they automatically understand. Races provide the perfect excuse for obsessive runners, and can keep running interventions at bay. Seriously, think what your friends and family would say if you ran as much as you did and never ran a race?

Back to my first point, talking about races. To talk about completing a long distance race implies that a great amount of training was required. To the casual non-runner it is simply that you run a bit. To those who are somewhat in the know, quasi-runners, it is a realization that some time and effort and weekends were spent to prepare for the race. To a fellow runner, it means you have created a running plan, you have tried to dutifully (if not obsessively) follow it, you have researched and devised a hydration and refueling plan—including tasting almost every kind of Gu and Shot Blox you can, you have spent some time thinking about your shoes and even wiped them clean after a long run, you have made sacrifices to your social life to be better prepared for long runs, you have selected the best running music you can, you have talked about your runs to anyone not quick enough to get away, you discuss in detail your body’s functioning as it relates to the bathroom, you become partial to special clothing and designate your ‘race gear,’ and you may even start a running blog…just to name a few.

All runners know we go through this. Yet, often the first question we ask once we hear a fellow runner has completed a race is How did you do? It isn’t a bad question, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best questions out of the gate either. The race should be the pinnacle of our training, but not the pinnacle of our training experience.

I believe a better series of questions to ask are How was your training?, Did you enjoy your training?, What was your favorite long run? Why? Because these questions deal more with the runner outside of the race, and they deal with the experiences gained before the gun goes off. If a race is the last few miles in a long journey, maybe we should ask about the journey before we focus on the finish.

Monday, February 9, 2009

You Take the Good, You take the Bad

You take them both and there you have…running. Saturday was a 6M pace run. Now, a few facts before I talk about it. First, I played indoor soccer Friday night, I started my run 12 hours later, and of course I overdressed for 45 degree weather (including running tights I did not need). That said, the run was terrible. I was slow and then slower. This was frustrating, I wanted a good pace run. I hit my first mile, then fell apart. Granted, it was very windy, but that is not a good enough excuse to miss my mark by 43 seconds per mile on the low end and 23 seconds per mile on the high end. Saturday blew.

Sunday was sunny but only 35 degrees. No major wind, and I had decided to treat myself by running at Kensington Park (ok, I have a sister that lives nearby and we were having a family gathering there yesterday, so it was also convenient). The path was clear, but there were several icy spots because everything that melted on Saturday froze overnight. But the route is great, who doesn’t love markers every quarter of a mile, and I felt comfortable during the run (no running tights). I finish up, look down, and see I averaged a 7:27/M. And while that is nothing to complain about, I couldn’t believe I ran faster than my goal pace by 38 seconds per mile on the low end and 63 seconds per mile on the high end.

My pacing sucks, and on both runs I completely blew my pace. I ran my long run with a faster pace than my pace run. I need work.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Speed is the Key

Last night I had a special guest join me for my speed workout. Amanda, a fellow marathoner (Chicago and Detroit), triathlete, and blogger, thought it would be fun to do a little speed work.

Amanda had not done a speed work like this before, but she did a great job. She stayed strong and pushed each 300m. During our rest intervals I learned a bit more about how her and her husband ended up in Michigan from Wisconsin, and about her two dogs.

I felt we did a great job pushing the pace each time, staying strong throughout each lap. Amanda was enjoying the workout after three, and enjoying it a little less after six. But her effort never wavered, and we were done before we knew it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Very Cold 6 Pack of Miles

Despite the blatant drinking reference, there was no alcohol consumed either before, during, or after my run, sorry Viper. But after reading Sarah’s inspiring post about running outside in negative wind-chill weather, I felt compelled to suffer a similar fate.

So I layered up extra warm, grabbed my Garmin and went boldly down a new path (although it did involve covering some similar terrain). The goal for this run was to average between a 7:10 and 7:30 mile. So I was pleased with the result, a 7:22 average. Now I just need to work on evening out my pacing, having started off with a 6:56 mile, and letting my last mile slip to a 7:32. A little less at the beginning and a little more at the end would be nice.

Tonight is speed night, comprising of 9 300m runs with 2 minute intervals. I will also have a special guest joining me, so I’ll tell you more tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Have a Problem

While Vanilla may have a goal of not signing up for a marathon this year, I have found myself almost uncontrollably signing up for them. I’ve signed up for two thus far, and a third one seems imminent. Who do I think I am, Frayed Laces?

Well, I’ve never run multiple marathons in one year, so this is the year I do it. Last night’s 3M run was done indoors and on a treadmill, so there is nothing exciting to report.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Bowl 5K Race Report

I walked outside at 9:00 a.m., it was 34 degrees and sunny, and I though, “I’m overdressed and I’ll bake in this heat wave.” This is a good sign. The great thing about the SB 5K is that it is only five minutes from my house. If I wasn’t a completely lazy slob, or if I even remotely cared about the environment, I could have easily have jogged the 1.5 miles to the race. But I drove. Well, I’m from Michigan, and I support the auto industry and my laziness.

Although this race is not huge by any means, it has a large draw for a winter race. This year over 300 people registered, and the Running Gods responded with a sunny day. As I toed the line I realized I had not changed my ipod to my race mix, and therefore would not have the most exciting racing songs at the ready. Oh well, I was loving my new Asics 2130s, but not loving the massive blister that was still causing all kinds of trouble.

The gun sounded, the really fast were off, and then the rest of us were off. The route goes down a street, you have a ‘U’ turn, then down the street again until another ‘U’ turn, and then into a subdivision for a bit until you return back to the original street and a straightaway to the finish line. The street was pretty well cleared, not a lot of slush, so that allowed for the runners to build some speed. Which, of course, was completely killed at each ‘U’ turn. Worse, the subdivision was almost completely covered in built up snow and deep slush. Slowing us down in a big way.

I was feeling alright, but I was never able to get into my high gears. All I could manage was to keep pushing myself. The 11 miles from Saturday morning were not done exacting their toll. My splits were 6:24, 6:59, 6:46 (+ some change). The winner of my AG finished about a minute and a half in front of me. Seriously, he had enough time to finish, walk back past the finish line and up the course and then cheer me on. If he did this, I simultaneously hate and admire him. And I'm glad I managed to sneak in and snag an AG award.

Overall, it was a good race for my first one this year. I really enjoyed it and am excited to see how my training affects my next 5K (the MSU Law 5K) a little less than six weeks away.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One Foot In Front of the Other

The Chicago Marathon kicked me in the shin (or, more accurately, stomped and then popped my ankle joint capsule) and never looked back. But I have looked back, and I feel awfully dissatisfied. So a spring marathon is the only way to turn a bad race into a valuable learning experience.

Training began two weeks ago, and the running continues despite ridiculously stupid cold temperatures. Yesterday was the Super Bowl 5K and I’ll provide a race report tomorrow, because today’s I’m going to focus on my 11 miler Saturday.

Very much wanting a good run because I would be running for time, I was less than thrilled to see snow descending all day Friday. And it wasn’t a heavy snowfall, just the kind that lightly blankets cleared sidewalks and causes all kinds of slush—translating into a slow run due to poor traction. That left two undesirable options. First, an 11 mile treadmill run. Oh, painful. Or, running laps at my gym (only five laps per mile). I chose the 55 lap option. To help keep my sanity, and keep count of which mile I was on, I alternated my music on and off, with the exception of the last mile (which I kept the music on).

Reviewing my splits, I can tell when I was listening to music. Also, my goal for this run was to average between 8:00/M and 8:30/M. My splits went like this: 7:25, 7:19, 7:41, 7:36, 7:41, 7:40, 7:54, 7:36, 7:41, 7:32, 7:06. Well, so much for sticking to my goal pace.

Overall I felt great, and I was very surprised to see my splits. However, runs like this usually come at some cost…and my cost was one bloody toe on my left foot and one huge and crazy painful blister on my right (I’ll post pictures later because I know you want to see them).