Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Fabulous (Final Four) Day

As part of my training, I’ve made the bold decision to hit the sack early every Friday and Saturday night, only to get up early for my weekend runs. Why, because I’d like for my body to become accustomed to going to bed early, getting up early, and running at the time the race starts (that’s 7:00am), and not getting to bed late, sleeping until 8:15ish, then starting my long runs around 9:00am.

Now, not everyone in my life is thrilled with this decision—and I’ve gotten a fair amount of crap for it. Oh well, just put it on the list of things I do for running.

This morning I woke up early and started my 19M long run at 7:00am. It was 37 degrees with a light rainfall. The rain remained innocuous but for two miles where it was a downpour. I love running in the rain, and this was a great run. I finished with a 6:57/M pace, with my splits going: 7:01, 6:50, 6:52, 6:55, 6:56, 7:06, 6:54 (gu H2O), 6:57, 6:52, 7:00, 7:03, 6:55 (gu H2O), 6:57, 6:52, 7:04, 7:06, 7:02 (gu H2O), 7:00, 6:41. I then took an awesome nap.

I awoke in time to watch Michigan State defeat Louisville and earn a trip to the Final Four in Detroit. What a great day!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Two Sides of Pride

Pride is a great double-edged sword. Good Pride can challenge you to try something difficult, like your first marathon. Bad Pride is the kind that takes you off the preverbal bridge—right after your friends jump—just like your mother warned you. Good Pride tells you that you are stronger and braver than you believe; Bad Pride tells you that you are invincible and the guy in the bar who just happens to look like a professional cage-fighter is really a softy who will fold like a chair once you deliver a devastating right hook. All of this is obvious.

But my run last night got me thinking about Bad Pride. Or, Bad Pride masquerading as Good Pride. Why? Because Bad Pride never gets you what you want, and leaves you ever unsatisfied. I know this lesson all to well. In high school I was blessed to be a member of an extremely talented track team. We were a league powerhouse and competed for a state title every year. Such sustained success brings along with it tremendous pressure to be the best. To carry the mantle so to speak.

And while my coaches were only about helping each of us to become the best runners we could, and such accolades like league, regional, and state titles were second thoughts to them, they did push us to work hard.

An important aside: I also played on a talented football team that won states my junior year, and we were expected to repeat, plus ranked in the nation for my senior year. But I would say somewhere in my junior year I began to motivate myself by Bad Pride. Why, because it gave me an edge, a recklessness and drive which produced both on the field and on the track. Because of Bad Pride I always felt disrespected, I had tremendous hatred for my opponents, I fueled every training run, every workout, every repetition on the bench with a desire to prove I was better than what “they” said. And, of course, there were no actual “they,” it was all just self-imagined.

Constantly pushing yourself on Bad Pride is exhausting. It burns through your natural talent quickly. Emotionally, is creates a dark mood—always. The imagined disrespect extends to family and friends. I became angry, because that anger had to be ever-ready to fuel my next race, or my performance at our next game. But I kept using it because it was helping produce results. My times were improving.

Worst of all, Bad Pride destroys all joy in any accomplishment.

It took a summertime volleyball game in college to realize what I had done, and what it was doing to me. Details aside, it can be quickly summarized by saying that my desire to win a meaningless game between friends lead me to verbally berate a friend and force her to stop playing. Sadly, it took this kind of ugly incident for me to learn about myself.

From that point, I’ve made it a goal to only challenge myself and motivate myself with Good Pride. And I started thinking about Bad Pride last night before my run because I was still sore and tired from Tuesday and Wednesday’s brutal runs. Plus, I could feel Bad Pride just gnawing at me. “You aren’t good enough because you are weak, and you are weak because you refuse to be reckless. Run angry, it works.” I though, yes, I want tonight to be a good run, and I want to run hard, but I won’t push myself to ‘prove’ anything to anyone. I’ll just run hard and let the results be what they are. Yes I’m tired, I should be, I’m in the middle of training for a marathon and I’m working hard every week. But fear will not provide any lasting improvement. And today, I just run because I love to run. I push myself to become better, not to earn any imagined success. But it is a thin line for me, and I need to be ever diligent to make sure Bad Pride has not found a cleaver way in.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Displeasure with the Running Gods

Tuesday was repeat miles and the Running Gods provided 20-30mph winds to make it interesting. Yesterday was a 9M pace run and the Running Gods thought a repeat of 20-30mph winds would be appropriate. Oh, and yesterday’s winds were swirling, so it was pretty much against me the entire run.

Running Gods you are sick and cruel…sick and cruel. On top of that, my legs were drained form my repeat miles on Tuesday, so every step was a fight between soreness and fatigue and a desire to run fast. So while last weeks pace run was a relatively easy one, this week’s pace run was a mile by mile struggle. And, although I was well within my pace range, I can’t help but feel a little beat up and underwhelmed with the run.

Now, as either a sign of their kindness or a continuation of their mockery, they have decided to give me sunny skies and no wind for my easy 4M run. I think they are just being jerks, but I’ll take it.

Splits are still with Garmin at home, but to the best of my memory went something like 6:26, 6:46, 7:01, 7:02, 6:58, 7:01, 7:10 (ouch), 7:21 (what happened?), 7:02 for a 6:58/M average.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

I have a secret, and I’m going to share it with you. I believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And I’m not alone, there are many, who agree. Usually I’ll have a healthy bowl of cereal (sometimes not so healthy), and sometimes I even put fruit on that bowl of grains.

And by now I’m sure you are wondering why I’m talking about breakfast when I had to do repeat miles last night? And while I could bore you about not getting to the gym before 8:15pm, noticing I forgot my running shorts, seriously considering running in my boxers (it was dark, nobody would have noticed I told myself), running home to get them and debating whether I should run the repeat miles from home (before noticing the sidewalks were not at all lit around my home), returning to the gym only to start at 9pm, then facing 20-30mph winds—I’ll spare you.

My secret is that, lately, I’ve only been eating Pop-Tarts for breakfast. Only Pop-Tarts, and for a long while. I know, unhealthy and full of empty calories. But they are delicious, and come in flavors such as Smores and Vanilla Milkshake. And last night, after my exhausting repeat miles, I had to do some shopping. While at the store, I noted a sale on my beloved Pop-Tarts, four boxes (each with four tasty pairs) for only $6. Delicious and cheap!

Do not tell my mother…pinky swear you won’t. Oh, and the numbers: 5:51, 6:07, 6:14, 6:10.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Other Weekend Runs

After waiting around for 45 not-stretching-minutes because I was too busy practicing my AG acceptance speech, I headed out for the remaining 6M on Saturday. I had no ‘official’ time goal for this run, I just wanted to keep everything in the 7:10 to 7:30 range. The first mile was brutal, as my body was utterly unwilling to regroup for another run. I was paying for cooling down. After a 7:20 first mile, I decided to turn it up to close to 7:10, and my last five miles went like this 6:54, 6:55, 6:54, 6:50, 6:37. Apparently there was still a little left in the tank. Average pace was 6:55/M.

Sunday I decided to run with the Cows and do my 12M in the fields and among the hills (well, as much ‘hills’ as we get around here). Instead of even pretending to try to run my long run pace of 8:05 to 8:30, I thought it would be fun to turn this into a ‘keep it around 7:00 per mile’ run. Given the elevation change in this route, this should make for a solid challenge.

The miles clicked by and I felt good, fighting each hill and trying to keep the momentum as I crested. My splits went: 6:47, 6:52, 7:00, 7:01, 7:00, 7:07 (Gu/H2O), 7:04, 6:50, 7:03, 6:54 (Gu/H2O), 6:51, 6:36. Yeah, that is a negative split second half by 44 seconds. Average pace was 6:55/M; equivalent to my pace run range (6:50/M to 7:10/M).

And with that I said goodbye to easy Week 9. Now I begin the difficult part of my Bayshore training—starting with 5 repeat miles tonight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shamrock 5K Race Report

The only reason I did this race was because it fit into my training schedule better than any other option (and I was forced because another race up and decided to move its race date). And I did this race despite past grudges. All of this notwithstanding, the race drew a nice crowd of 370 runners. The weather was a chilly 33 degrees and snowflakes were descending, but not accumulating, under completely grey skies. Perfectly acceptable race weather. I had a soft goal of getting around 19:50, thereby greatly improving from the disaster that was the Super Bowl 5K.

At the gun, the crowd got a bit pushy and I almost bit it hard. Fortunately another runner was pushed into me and we helped each other maintain our balance. Thank you random race guy, I appreciate it.

There are no meaningful hills on this course, so I knew I wanted to give a strong start and try to maintain. The crowd thinned rather quickly and I was moving briskly along listening to my race 5K mix. As I approached the first mile, there was only a volunteer announcing times (as oppose to a clock prominently displaying the time). I decided to take this as a sign to not look at Garmin but to focus instead on keeping a steady pace (which I failed to do anyway, as Garmin later told me I added 20 second to my second mile). I just wanted to keep running hard but not crazy hard.

Then entire second mile I was slowly reeling in white-shirt-green-shorts-guy (wsgsg), but shortly after the start of the third mile I was unexpectedly passed by red-hair-college-kid (rhck). I do not like being passed, but I knew that this was not the time to make my move. Instead I did a slight increase and used rhck as a means of catching wsgsg—keeping in mind Viper’s post about passing with authority.

Around the mid-way point of the third mile, as rhck was passing wsgsg, I passed them both, putting the accelerator down for a few meters and stomping on their sprits as I ran by. I then summoned everything I had to bring the hammer at the end of the race (and still without any idea of time).

As I rounded the last turn I saw the finish line and was surprised to see the clock was well under 19 minutes, inspiring me to pour it on for the last .1ish. As I crossed the finish I couldn’t help but think that I had surely earned an AG award.

This good feeling and cocky assumption kept me from quickly starting the remaining six miles I still had to complete. So, instead I stood around not stretching and eating ‘victory’ bagels while waiting for the race results. Of course, they were taking their sweet time and about 45 minutes elapsed before I heard the results were posted. Not caring about this delay because of my forthcoming bling, I sauntered over to see how I faired in my age group.

And that is when I learned that my age group was from 18-49. No joke, 18-49. I’m pretty sure someone saw me kissing my imaginary AG award goodbye. Just as I was on the verge of forgiving the Shamrock 5K for its prior transgressions a new and grave insult was struck. I mean, most age groups are in 5 year clumps, sometimes they are 10 year clumps, but a 32 year age group. I hate you Shamrock 5K, you are my enemy once more.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pancakes for Dinner

While I was endlessly blabbering on about my latest run a few weeks ago, a friend invited me to assist in coaching a small running group. I smiled and laughed, “What makes you think I can coach?” “Simple” my friend said, “you seem to run more than any of us, so you seem like you could help.” I was flattered, and I agreed.

I have coached a little before, including some high school track, so I was honestly very excited about helping. Tonight is the group’s first meeting, and we are having a pancake dinner. I love breakfast for dinner! And I’ll be there early to help bake the batter.

Like I stated once before, running is simply putting one foot in front of the other to prevent you from falling on your face. Anything beyond that, like socks or no socks, fast or fast or half-fast, dedicated or wholeheartedly zealous or gearing up for the Seattle Marathon, are just minor details.

Have a great running weekend.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Wednesday Pace Run

Last night was my pace run for the week, moved from Saturday to Wednesday to accommodate for my 5K race this weekend. The temp was in the high 40s but cloudy and a medium breeze. Telling my tired legs that everything would be alright because tomorrow is an extra rest day, I made a promise to myself (and my legs) to go hard but not crazy; especially because Tuesday’s 4M averaged a 6:38/M pace.

Now, after last Wednesday’s run—wherein the wind managed to crush my pace and cut my stride—I have been thinking about how to best run into a headwind. Do I just keep my pace and accept that the mile will be slower, do I push harder (and thereby exerting even greater amounts of energy to simply maintain a particular time), is there a smart way to run into the wind using minimal effort and obtaining maximum results? Any suggestions or strategies you have discovered?

Well, I didn’t have to wait more than a mile before I was faced with a headwind and forced to put my philosophizing to the test. I decided the smartest way to run into the wind is to stay relaxed and slightly increase the effort (say a 3 to 10 second per mile effort increase) to try and neutralize the wind. And it seemed to work, keeping my splits close.

My splits went: 6:23, 6:47 (hw), 6:49 (hw), 6:51, 6:55 (hardest mile of route), 6:52 (second hardest mile of route), 6:53, 7:03 (hw), 6:35. Average = 6:48/M. In a perfect run, I would have kept mile 7 under 7 minutes and slowed down my last mile by about ten seconds.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Week 9

Week nine plays out to be an easier week due to it being a step-down week in mileage, an additional rest day inserted to accommodate the Shamrock 5K, the moving of the pace run to Wednesday evening, and the split of 9M run into a 5K race followed by 6M extra at a slow pace. It also represents the completion of my first half of Bayshore training.

All of this makes me look forward to week 9, and somewhat dread the realization that—henceforth—it only gets harder until the taper. Or, six weeks of serious pain and serious miles.

Regardless, I’m excited about getting off the racing shelf and hitting a road race, even if it means I’ve had to forego past grudges. But I’m thinking about wearing a t-shirt that says “a shamrocks’ clovers are as numerous as miles in a 5K!” or the more obvious “you owe your correct logo to me, and you are welcome!”

Monday, March 16, 2009

T-E-M-P-O Runs are Hard

On Saturday I tried my first temp run of this training schedule, and to help ensure it went perfectly I was on two days rest as oppose to my normal one day for a pace run. I was to go slow the first 1.5M and then turn it up to a 6:40-6:45 pace for the next 5.5M, then back to my 7:30 pace for my last mile. Well, basically I was a pacing disaster—again.

I nailed my slow 1.5M, then busted out a 6:29, then a 6:44, then (my laps were a bit screwed so this half mile came in the middle and not the beginning) a 3:26 half (slower than pace). Then the wheels come off a bit on the two hardest miles of the course and I plop down a 6:59 and a 6:53 before cranking out a 6:30 mile. Overall my pace was 7:00/M, and my pace during the tempo part was 6:44, just inside my goal. But it was an extremely hard run and I felt like I was crawling at times. Tempo runs are hard.

Then came yesterday’s 17M slow run. And, like every other ‘slow’ run this year, I of course went much faster than my 8:05 to 8:30 pace. But, I’ve been running long enough to know that you take a good run and go with it when everything is coming easy, and that was yesterday’s run. I started out hot and kept it going the entire time, keeping every mile at about the same pace except for two (mile 6 and its hills; and mile 15). I averaged a 7:10/M pace for the entire run. Nice. I then proceeded to devour Girl Scout cookies. Even nicer!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An East-Blowing Wind

Last night’s route was an unusual 8M loop shaped like a trapezoid. Why does this matter you think? Well, because when you have an East-blowing wind racing at about 20-30mph, the route lays out such that the wind is at your back for exactly one mile, but directly against you for 2.8 out of the last 4 miles.

Now a thoughtful runner may have noticed this and perhaps reversed her/his route to take advantage of this, but such runners tend to be more thoughtful than I. And, even if I were a thoughtful runner, I would still have lost the battle to my pride/ego (Are you going to let a little wind make you change course—what are you a boat!?! No, you are a runner and you go hard and strong into a headwind regardless of how difficult it may be!), I never stood a chance.

The last four miles were brutal, feeling as though someone were actively pushing a board against my chest and resisting my every effort to move forward. Fortunately, the slight twists and turns prevented an entire straight mile against the wind. When it was all said and done I had completed 8M in 55:46, for an 6:58 average where the entire first half were 6:50s and the entire second half were 7:05s. And it was 26 degrees outside. But, my Kayano 14s broke 100M yesterday--you are getting so big now.

Dear Spring, what happened? You came over, we hung out for a few days, then you are out of my life and nowhere in sight. Please come back Spring, I miss you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Past Grudges Forgiven—Mostly

Thanks to the great suggestions I have decided to do what is best for my training, and skip my longstanding grudge against the Tower Guard and their Shamrock 5K. So, next week I am going to move my 9M pace run to Wednesday evening, and then race plus some extra miles on Saturday. I have removed my ‘off’ Thursday from this week to next week.

Last night was a 4M limbo run, but I feel as if I cheated because I was on a treadmill. It’s pretty easy to increase speed every mile when you just have to push a button and either keep up or go flying off the treadmill (which I have done before, it is more embarrassing than you would think) and are forced to fake an injury to save face. Plus, after running 24 combined miles in the rain last weekend, I couldn’t handle another soaked 4.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dilemma Part II

So last week I explained how the people responsible for the Shamrock 5K have offended me and my subsequent boycott of that race. Well, this weekend I was supposed to run the MSU Law 5K. This would be the second year for this event, and I like to support my alma matter. However, I found out last week that the event has been moved to April. Umm…thanks for completely screwing my training schedule. Now, I’m left with two options if I want to maintain my goal of running a 5K every month of training.

My choices are the Shamrock 5K on the 21st or the Run for the House on the 28th. The Shamrock 5K fits better in my training schedule, but there is the issue of past offences. And, the Run for the House has replaced the Food and Fitness 5K (which was a 20+ year race that pulled up its stakes this year).

So, which race to I run? Hummm…Also, this weekend's runs went very well despite the pouring rain both days. Saturday’s 8M pace run was run on pace and yesterday’s 16M long run was run at a 7:35/M pace.

Friday, March 6, 2009

For All U Irish—A Dilemma Part I

Every year a very good student organization at Michigan State, known as the Tower Guard, puts on a 5K race. This annual race is called the “Shamrock 5K” and run around St. Patrick’s Day. This race has consistently pulled between 120 to 180 people every year, but has grown in the past two years to include 322 in 2007 and 461 in 2008—some very respectable numbers for a local 5K. This rise notwithstanding, I have a major issue with this race.

But first, a little bit of Irish and St. Patrick’s Day trivia for you. 1) A four-leaf clover is considered by most Irish folk to be a symbol of good luck. Anytime you find yourself a four-leaf clover, consider it your lucky day and go play the lotto. 2) St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the life of St. Patrick, the man who brought Catholicism to the heathens in Ireland. And legend has it that St. Patrick used a shamrock to explain the “Holy Trinity” to the aforementioned heathens. As the word trinity suggests, he used a three-leaf clover to explain the ‘tri’ aspect.

Now, sidestepping the issues of whether the wearing of a four-leaf clover on St. Patrick’s Day is a misnomer (although you won’t find anyone in Ireland sporting a four-leaf clover on St. Patrick’s Day), the logo for the Shamrock 5K had always been a four-leaf clover.

Well, one day back in 2005 I decided to send an e-mail to the fine folks of the Tower Guard and inform them of this information. Their response…a very curt statement informing me that my unsolicited ‘facts’ were incorrect and unwanted.

And yet, every year since, they have always had a true Shamrock as part of their logo. But their insult has cut deep, and I have sworn off ever participating in this race until I receive a full public apology. I remain waiting. But, now I have a dilemma which may cause me to make my peace with this race—I will discuss next week.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fast Two Days

The past two days I’ve run outside in sub 30 degree weather (sorry Viper, I couldn’t abide by your protest). Tuesday was 4 repeat miles with splits at 5:53, 6:15, 6:12, 6:17. Ummm…those were surprisingly fast, much faster than my 6:30 to 6:35 goal.

Then last night I raced the sunset for an 8M training pace run (7:10 to 7:30 pace). And I had one of those ridiculous runs. One of those, great run wrong time kind of runs. My splits went: 6:26, 6:42, 6:48, 6:46, 7:04, 7:06, 7:05, 6:49 for a total of 54:45. A palindrome run. I like that.

Today I will run at pace even if I have to carry a sack of potatoes. I’m not complaining, I’m just surprised.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The “Home” Miles

A conversation between Sun Runner and myself got me thinking about those miles that are close to “home.” For me, those miles are a 1.5M stretch shaped like a candy cane that lead from Buck and Bunny’s old house to a main road, where I could then proceed to run South, East, or West for any number of miles. But that first stretch out, and that turn back onto that stretch are significant to me. Those miles carry more of a sense of “home” to me than any other miles I can think of.

I could run those miles with my eyes closed. The trees create a perfect canopy, there is little traffic, and the hills are rolling. In fact, I used to name the hills. Heading out from my home: the first and biggest hill was called “the sledgehammer,” the next set of three quick hills were called “the dragon’s back,” and the final medium hill was called “the bounce.” (Disclaimer: I didn’t say the names were cool, or that I was cool for naming them. In fact, I’m positive I wasn’t cool.) Yet, I still name hills to this day.

And now, I am inspired to make a trip back to those old stomping grounds, and to run them once more before the Bayshore Marathon.

Do you have any miles that seem like “home” to you? Or, do you give nicknames to parts of your runs?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter Hacienda

This weekend I was able to spend some time with my very good friends and have a winter version of our summer Hacienda trip. I also got the chance to see the first baby born into the Hacienda group—and he is a little sweetheart. Although we didn’t have a pizza roll eating contest, much shenanigans were had, and we thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. We even played a little Nintendo Wii, very fun.

Saturday was a 7M pace run, and I’m happy to say I nailed it. Although I did crank out another fast first mile, I didn’t swear or offend any local residents because of it. I also stayed strong throughout the run and finished with a time of 49:01. Nice.

Sunday I started my 10M run in Indiana and proceeded north for five miles, crossing into Michigan at one point. What is neat about my run is that it was the first time in my life that I started a casual run in one state, then crossed into another state, only to return to the starting state (note: the Flying Pig marathon went from Ohio to Kentucky and back, but that was a race). It’s little, but I thought it was cool. I’m sure people who live along the boarders of states are thinking—so what. Oh well, I liked it.

The run itself was extremely windy, as if Michigan itself was telling me not to enter her frozen lands; but the wicked wind blowing across open fields only made the run back that much faster and easier. Every mile on the way back was faster than my fastest mile on the way out—it was that windy. Goal pace, 8:05 to 8:30 per mile. Average 7:33/M. It seems my long run pace goal might be too slow. Or I’m a fool for running too fast during my slow recovery runs.