Thursday, May 28, 2009

Head Game

A story to help explain why I make my life so very difficult.

My car key resides on a different chain than my home/work keys. Because they are best friends they are typically together. Sometimes they separate. If you think this causes them some anxiety, try to imagine how I feel.

Several times I have driven home in the evening only to discover I’ve left my home/work keys at work. Now I can’t get into my home and I can’t get back into work to get my house key. Instead of sleeping in my car, I drive to a nearby shareholder’s home and ask to borrow his key (and I’m sure he is thinking “we hired this moron?!?”). The last time I showed up his eight-year-old daughter said “Hi, did you forget your key again?” as she answered the door. Instant. Shame.

Knowing all of this, the other day I was walking out of work and I paused. My car key is in my hand, but where is my home/work key. I’m 95% sure I’ve left those in my car, so I can just let the work door shut and walk to my car. But I’m a nervous 95% (which is more like an actual 82%). I think, I can grab a rock and prop the door to go make sure the keys are in my car. A sensible idea.

But then the thought: ‘Look you coward, the keys are in the car. If you prop the door, then confirm they are in the car, you will have to go back and remove the rock. That will take less than a minute and you are too busy for that. Plus, you’re too smart to screw this up again.’ And I can’t help but agree (my 95% is starting to feel more like a solid 95%).

But I pause still; I linger with my work’s front door ajar. I could go back into work and see if the keys are on your desk. Then the thought: ‘Go look back inside, WHAT! NFW, I’m telling you the keys are in the car, and I’m you. Can’t you trust yourself? It was a rhetorical question, go to the car and stop wasting my time.’

My fingers reluctantly let the handle slide away and gravity begins to pull the door shut. Instant panic: ‘Do you really want to show up again at his front door and again ask for the key?” I lunge and grab the door handle before it closes. I’m safe, I grab a rock and prop the door open. I even get a step away. ‘So this is what it has come to, eh? Might as well return your Man Card. You are a disgrace.’

Well, I don’t want to be a disgrace, so I turn back around, kick the stone away and confidently walk to my car as the work door slams shut. My home/work keys are nowhere to be found in the car. And I am once again forced to drive to the shareholder’s home to borrow his work key.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bayshore Race Report

This will be quick and dirty. But first, thanks to my friends who were kind enough to hang with me over the weekend. Also, I ended up placing H2O bottles on the course and they were there during the race. Lastly before the race report, the weather conditions were cloudy and low 50s to start. Basically, perfect.

The first 17 miles were amazing, nothing higher than a 7:10 mile. Miles 18-20 went 7:18, 7:26, 7:25. I was happy with all of these splits—everything was coming easy and consistent with all of my training runs. My average mile for the first half was 7:00/M even and after 20 miles my average pace was 7:05.

But during mile 21 my calfs began to cramp. Painful and terrible cramping. I had failed to apply BioFreeze before the race and I instantly regretted the decision. Although, regarding hydration, I had consumed enough Gatorade and H2O and salt tablets the days leading up to the marathon and during the run that I felt this would not be a problem. I was wrong.

The calf cramps prevented me from running at anything like the pace I was cursing through before. My last six miles went 7:52, 8:24, 9:19, 9:54, 9:34, 8:58. Average pace over the last six miles was 9:00/M.

All of this notwithstanding, I finished two minutes above my goal, and I’m very proud. It was a great run; I wouldn’t change anything despite the collapse during the last 10K.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Bayshore Goal

I’ve never trained for a marathon the way I have prepared for Bayshore. My first marathon, the Flying Pig, was just about finishing. I didn’t know about Boston (other than it was a famous race); heck I didn’t even know about elevation maps. I didn’t own a running watch, I drove my routes to gauge their distance (no or Garmin Forerunners), and I was even naive enough to think taking fluids during a run was a sign of weakness. When I was at the starting line of the Flying Pig my sister Thor asked me what my goal was. I didn’t have an answer—I hadn’t even considered it. In fact I had no idea how fast I could run a marathon. She told me to line up with the 4:30 pacers—and I did.

It wasn’t until I began training with Lil last summer that I discovered the culture of marathon running. So, this training period is my first focused effort dedicated my time goal.

And what is that goal? Patience; first some running goals in general. Now that I know what the big whoop is, I want to BQ. I want it bad. I loath the city of Boston (for purely sports related reasons) and swore as a child I would never step foot in that place (stupid Larry Bird and Bruins). But every rule has an exception, and running the Boston Marathon is my exception to my ‘never enter Boston’ rule. Another running goal includes an ultra.

So, what is my goal time for Bayshore? 3:15. And, for the record, a 3:15 will not give me a BQ. “What about all the above BQ talk?” the crowd screams. Well, when I sat down to plan this running year my goal was to focus on two marathons: Bayshore and Chicago. I looked long and hard at my running times (the few races I ran by myself) and the pace a BQ requires. I was honest with myself. I kept hearing my track coach saying “times speak for themselves.” I knew I needed to be realistic about my weight and my fitness. I wasn’t overweight by any means, but my fitness level was low.

I believed I could run a BQ time; but I needed time to get my body back to the shape and speed and fitness level it used to have when I ran hard consistently. I primarily want to run Bayshore to get the bad taste of last year’s Chicago out, and to use it as a template and base for my BQ attempt in Chicago 09. My training has been good for Bayshore, but it isn’t quite where I want when I attempt to BQ.

I’ll be honest, a sizeable part of me thinks, “a 3:15 is awfully close to a 3:10; you can give it a go!” But pacing wise it isn’t that close. A 7:15 compared to a 7:26 is sizeable—especially over the course of a marathon. We’re talking about a 2:30 difference per half. And, the plan has always been to run hard but smart.

So, there it is. 3:15. I will be OoF (out of office) Friday; but I expect to post a race report sometime early next week.



* One small note of dread, temperatures are expected to hit the high 70s. This does not bode well for me as I get killed in the low 70s.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chasing my Taper: Capitol Bancorp Race Report

First and most important, massive congratulations to Sun Runner who went down to Cleveland and BQed, drop in and give her some props!!!

After two disappointing runs this past week, including one run where I doubted whether I should even run this race, I begrudgingly awoke when my alarm sounded. Now a selling point of this race, aside from the $250 cash money award to the overall male and female winners (so just try to top that purse), the race was moved to begin before Lansing’s 150 celebration parade (which I’m sure has garnered massive national media coverage sufficient that you are now exhausted hearing about it) and promised large crowds to cheer on the racers (the ‘crowds’ arriving early for the subsequent parade never showed).

As I was walking around the grounds and preparing for the race I managed to completely ignore a friend. Fortunately she said “Fine, don’t say Hi!” and snapped me out of my zone. This is the second time I’ve done this at a race this year—completely ignored someone I made eye contact with and even smiled at as I walked right past. Social skills before a race = zero.

The weather was overcast with a slight rain fading into a mist with pretty solid wind gusts, and almost all the local running rock stars were present. Any chance at some bling would require a PR.

The gun sounded and off we went. The first mile was nothing special to report other than a near twisting of my ankle as I stepped on the ridge of the sidewalk passing a runner and thought “Wouldn’t that have sucked a week before Bayshore.”

About a mile and a half in I attempted to pass a runner. I managed to surge in front of him only to have him surge back and retake his position. I surged again as we ascended the rising arc of a bridge; only to have him pass me on the down arc. It was at that moment I realized this guy was not just another runner…he was my taper. He was tormenting me. He was harassing me. He was giving and then taking away. He was pissing me off. We rounded a corner and began up a hill. I passed him again. He passed me on the downhill and distanced himself by about fifteen feet.

The course ends with a downhill followed by an uphill, about .1M flat, then the last .2M on a slight uphill. On the last downhill I made the decision my taper would be punished for tormenting me.

I caught up with my taper at the end of the penultimate uphill only to watch him surge away. I thought, “Well, that’s it, game over.” And then, all of the sudden I was right behind him. I had owned him on every uphill this race, so I went for broke. I passed my taper. I disrespected it right there in the streets of Lansing. I didn’t even look back. My taper pushed me as hard as I could go and even momentarily broke my spirit, but I responded.

And this is important because running is not just about time. It is learning about yourself and how you respond to adversity while never forgetting that today’s success is only possible because of prior failures and struggles. Sometimes the response is that moment. Sometimes the response is the next race. Sometimes the best response is simply lacing up your shoes and running the next day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marathons and Supreme Court Nominees

In case you don’t follow such things, Supreme Court Justice David Souter has announced his resignation after almost 20 years on the Court. President Obama will soon announce (likely next week) his selection to replace Justice Souter. (Note: the nominee will have to receive at least 51 Senate votes to be confirmed)

Regardless of whether you care or not about such things, I would like to direct your attention to a quote from then Senator Obama as it relates to the confirmation of now Supreme Court Chief Judge John Roberts.

[W]hile adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95 percent of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95 percent of the cases -- what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5 percent of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.

Again, I don’t really care how your feel about judicial nomination or judicial philosophy—there is another blog somewhere for that—but I like the part about the last mile being dependent on your value and depth and character; even if he failed to mention the .2. Plus, it isn’t often that my two worlds collide.

On a running note my 6M run last night was a disaster. Temperature was 60 degrees but it was cloudy and windy and supposed to rain. I had wanted to keep it around 6:40s or low 6:50s. FAIL! I overdressed, wearing a black Smartwool long sleeve shirt and a hat—both of which were absolutely unnecessary because it was 60 degrees—and a short sleeve shirt over it. The rain never came, just the humidity. The course is also a very hilly course. My average came to 7:05/M.

My poor clothing choices didn’t matter, even had I not overdressed I doubt I would have hit this run on target; tired legs and difficulty breathing again. Ominous runs these past two days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hello Wall

The ‘Wall.’ The enemy of every long distance runner and destroyer of BQ dreams. The inspiration for the movie “Run Fatboy Run.” I know the Wall, I hit it at my first marathon around mile 21. The Wall is breaths of exhaustion piled upon one another and cemented by a mixture of fear and doubt.

So, needless to say I was quite surprised to see the Wall—not to mention run smack into it—during last night’s 4M run. Yes, I hit the wall in a 4M run. At the start of the second mile I was doubting myself, questioning if I should ever race again, and how on Earth I was going to make it the entire run—let alone a marathon.

But that wasn’t the Wall. No, the Wall showed up shortly into mile 3. Bamm. Legs mush into jelly, every breath was a massive struggle. I wanted to walk. Walk, on a 4M easy run?

It is not a guarantee you will hit the Wall every marathon, but when you do the only questions that matters is how you will respond. Fortunately, I kept gutting it out and kept fighting, thinking only of moving my feet and pumping my arms…repeating the words “I believe.” Stupid Wall. Splits: 6:10, 6:38, 6:52, 6:42. In the end my average was right where I wanted it to be, but it was a struggle.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The River Bank Run

My oldest sister Emma and her friend Melissa were training for the River Bank Run 25K. Unfortunately, Melissa got injured close to the race and my sister was facing the prospect of running the event by herself. I have never run this race or a 25K at all, so I thought it would be good fun to join her. My schedule had a 12M run, and I felt a 15.5M run wouldn’t screw with my taper or offend the taper gods. Best of all, Melissa decided she was going to give the race a shot.

The weather was overcast and it poured my entire drive to Grand Rapids, stopping briefly as we walked to the start of the race. And, as if the starting gun pierced the clouds above, it began to pour again immediately after the start. Fat, ugly, heavy rain.

Not allowing the rain to dampen our spirits we began our 15M quest. And, not to get all Nitmos on you, but running the race for fun was actually quite fun. I really enjoyed running with Emma, and our protracted conversation about donuts and life and donuts. Sadly, Melissa’s injury proved too much, and she bowed out around mile 3—but rallied and ran the final 2 with us.

I would defiantly recommend this race as the after party was hopping despite the rain and cold winds. But, more importantly, I would defiantly recommend running this race with Emma and I sometime, because we had an awesome time.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Hidden Miles

I keep track of the mileage on my shoes. Right now my red 2130s have 257 miles on them and my Kayano 14s have 256…or do they!?! I’ve been thinking about all of the hidden ‘miles’ on my shoes. For example, I first put my running shoes on in the locker room. I walk from there to the stretching area, walk around to get some water, back to the stretching area, then head outside (occasionally to the restroom first), and then I turn on Garmin the Great. My runs rarely end at the front door, but GtG stops as quickly after the number of miles I’m scheduled to run—usually an additional .01. But then I walk to the gym, to the stretching area…you get the point. When I do intervals, the clock stops but I walk around a bit as I try to recover…more unaccounted for steps.

So, like many Dominican baseball prospects, my shoes have more mileage on them than their official records show.

Why is this important? Where do those hidden miles go?* Isn’t the additional mileage on my shoes likely to be a mile, maybe four at absolute maximum over the course of their lifetime? Good point. Alas, this is what I fret over during taper.


“It’s rude to count people as you pass them. Out loud.”
---Adidas ad

* Do they hang out with Bigfoot in the Hidden Valley eating carrots with delicious ranch dressing?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Statistics is Just a Fancy Way to Lie

There are lots of ways to look at the raw data (provided by Garmin the Great) from my tempo run last night. But first I have to talk about a mild injury. It seems I have strained a glut—which is fancy medical talk for saying my left butt cheek hurts. I went to the sports doctor yesterday and she said it was a simple strain, nothing serious at all. What is strange is that it doesn’t hurt at all when I run. But it causes mild and very dull pain at random times during the day. The good Drs advice was to stretch and rest but no need to alter my training. Whew.

Now to manipulating the numbers to make myself feel better; my goal for the tempo run was to hit a 7:30 first mile, then crank it up to 6:40s to 6:45s for the remaining 7 miles. Well my first mile was a 7:10 (FAIL). Mile 2 was a 6:32 (faster than goal, but still a FAIL). Mile 3 was a 6:44. Miles 4 and 5 were 6:51 (slow and therefore FAILS). Mile 6 was a 6:38 (faster than goal, but still a FAIL). Mile 7 was a 6:41. Mile 8 was a 6:39 (close, but a FAIL).

I don’t like all those fails in the above paragraph. So, like all great slackers, I’ve downgraded my standards to meet my performance. And by that I mean I’ve decided that going faster than 6:40 is good, thereby removing three fails. Just like that, things are looking up. The two 6:51 were against a headwind and on the hilly part of the course, and six seconds is pretty close considering those two factors…and presto, they are qualified fails. Moreover, my average pace for my tempo run was 6:42, right within range! And the 7:10 fail, who cares what my first mile is so long as it is not slower than what I had originally planned. Therefore, all things considering it was a very successful tempo run.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Deal

After last weekend’s brutal Borgess (Nat City) Half and Race for the Cure my legs felt a little spent. This is not the feeling you want heading into a heavy mileage week—even if it is your last week before the blessed taper. I had two 10M runs (one at pace) and then a 22M to 24M long run looming on the schedule.

So, I offered a deal to my body, the preverbal olive branch. My mind said to my body. “Alas [my mind loves this word], I know you and I have had our disagreements over the years. How we ever managed to get through college together still bewilders me. But, here is the deal. I need you to perform well over this upcoming week so that I may begin to feel confident about the race—and remain confident during that tricky taper madness. So, if you make it through this week, I will respect the taper and not ‘bad pride’ you into doing anything stupid.”

The body responded. 5M at 6:22/M, 10M at 6:52/M, 5M at 6:55/M for my Tues-Wed-Thurs runs. Then on my 10M pace run it provided a 6:42/M average with 6:35 being the fastest mile and 6:52 being the slowest. What is best about that run is how close the splits are for a 10M run.

Sunday I managed 23M at 7:13/M pace. Considering the fast 10M run the day before, this was a good run. As to be expected the latter miles were difficult, but they felt good and I wasn’t throwing down 7:45s and 8:00s like my last long run (my slowest mile being 7:31).

So the body had met its end of the bargain, the taper has begun, and now my mind must respect the taper. ‘Alas, I shall do my best to capitulate.’

Friday, May 1, 2009

Make Yourself Less Miserable Later by Making Yourself More Miserable Now

I received a running tip from Randy Step, employee of the fine running store Running Fit, in his weekly e-mail. Randy suggests you (or I) slightly overdress on runs now, while the weather is transitioning from Spring to Death-by-Heat Summer. So, although you could simply run in shorts and a short sleeve shirt, you should overdress a bit on cooler day. Such a trick will help acclimate your body to the looming warmer temperatures.

Alright, sounds crazy enough to try; but does it work? I decided to give Randy’s advice a shot last night. I wore a long sleeve Smartwool undershirt and a short sleeve running shirt over it, and my usual running shorts. Temps were in the high 60s despite rain all day…and I mean all day except for when I step out to run at 8:30pm. With the temp around 68 degrees I went out for my 5M run slightly overdressed. The result? It made my run significantly more difficult and uncomfortable. I could tell I was working harder than normal and that my body temperature was significantly elevated. My splits went: 6:40, 7:01, 7:03, 6:59, 6:52.

As for the ‘suffer now to suffer less later,’ check back this summer and I’ll let you know.