Friday, July 31, 2009

TEMPO Thursday, Sunburn Sunday

I made two slight adjustments to my normal tempo run this week. First, I decided that I would wait until 8pm to run, as oppose to my normal 5pm time. The difference in time, 3 hours (but the mathematically astute out there already had that one figured out). The difference in temperature, 8 degrees. The difference in angle of hot and angry sun glairing down on me, 35 degrees. The difference in ease of effort, massive.

My tempo runs have been strong all training long, and this was no exception. The main difference is how much easier and natural it was to make this tempo run happen.

The second, and more important adjustment, was inspired by Ana-Maria’s post the other day. I included her mantra and it inspired me in the last two miles where I was feeling tired and somewhat demoralized.


Saturday I rocked 22M out at Kensington Park. I ran early, but the Running Gods still found it necessary to taunt me again. I had a cloudless sky and a sun to accompany me on my long on. Then, of course, it rained all evening in Lansing. Decision to run early = backfire. I hit a strong 7:28/M average, excellent considering the hilly nature of the course and the ever-rising temps.

And then Sunday I rediscovered why sunscreen is so important. I made this discovery by failing to apply the sunscreen I brought. 4 hours of beach v-ball left me red like a lobster and in immense pain. Ouch!


Finally, Morgan over at Caution: Redhead Running was kind enough to award this very blog with an award she was awarded with. Basically it’s the same way I ended up with MC Hammer’s Grammy. Thanks Morgan!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There Are Two Errors in the the Title of This Post*

Oh, I’m not just an attorney and a blogger, I’m also a poet and a philosopher. Running my speed workout yesterday I came upon one of the great philosophical questions all runners face: If you blackout while running repeats in the hot and angry sun, does it count against your rest interval?

And if I my wax philosophically (and I shall, it is my blog), having the FIRST speed workouts repeatedly humiliate me—week after week after week—I keep thinking about ‘why.’ Why does this hurt so much? Why do I keep doing this?

But the answer is simple. Because there is nothing better in the world. If it was just easy, if we didn’t find ourselves dripping in sweat, breathing hard, muscles aching, feeling used but strangely satisfied, we wouldn’t do it. And I was describing running sickos.

We all complain about the aches and pains, but we know this is the cost going in. And we all dream of PRs and Boston, but we know these things don’t come without effort and pain. Sometimes, after a particularly taxing workout the ‘Why’ seems like an albatross around our necks.

But after marking days off, tallying miles, and earning it; and as we prepare for the starting gun to fire, the ‘Why’ isn’t a question at all.


* This is a reference to this awesome book; something I used when teaching undergrads philosophy while also making it fun.

Monday, July 27, 2009

‘Patio’ Carries With it a Soft Definition

This past weekend I celebrated a birthday. Because this birthday didn’t move me into a different age group, it is of little or no racing significance (unless it somehow may affect the Shamrock 5K age group—who knows how that process works).

To celebrate my birthday I headed out to a local eating/drinking establishment. My group was ‘placed’ on the ‘patio’ (read: three tables that just happen to be outside). Things only proceeded to go downhill from there. Fortunately the tables and chairs were made of plastic, so no damage resulted when we threw them over the fence. Eventually almost the entire ‘patio’ moved to the parking lot. Ah, adults acting like children…priceless.

But all of these shenanigans resulted in bumping my morning run to an afternoon run (yep, a noon long run). Yes, this has been a trend, and a trend that has not resulted in good things. So, instead of high 50s and rain (ideal running weather for me), I had sunny and mid 70s. Hot and humid only getting hotter and humid-er. A bad long run.

Worse, my PF ached for the remainder of the weekend. Begrudgingly following my doctors orders I skipped out on Ele’s Race. But I’m optimistic my stretching and icing will heal this baby quickly and I can get back to race a 5K soon.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Far From the Madding Crowd

If you recall (dig deep in that cortex system of yours) last summer I did speed workouts with the MMTC, and it was a blast. This summer I’ve done my speed workouts alone—except for when some fancy kids prevented me. And while Lam wrote a great post about to long run alone or not to long run alone, I think speed work is done best with others.

That said, I’ve think I’ve avoided hitting a MMTC workout due to fears that I won’t be fast enough. I decided to hide away from others suspicious judgment of me as I attempt to whirl around the track, running shirtless and exposing my egg-white skin to harmful UV rays that refuse to alter my pigmentation.

But because I just can’t seem to nail my speed workouts, I may have to force myself to run with others.

Also, in honor of my beloved Sesame Street, today’s post is brought to you by the letter P. As in “painful” and “plantar fasciitis;” which I was officially diagnosed with yesterday. Stupid heal…

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Michigan Fall Weekend in July

This past weekend held the first of five 20+ mile runs for my FIRST training program. However, a late night watching Star Farm (an awesome 80s band) made my plans for a morning run unrealistic. So, like last week, I had an unwelcome guest sitting around all day Saturday. Worse, this guest was of the 20M variety—the worst kind of unwelcome guest.

The temps on Saturday were in the low 60s and it was overcast all day. So when I stepped out at 7pm I wasn’t facing the same kind of grueling weather I did for my 17Mer last week. To date, my training has gone like this. Speed workouts are all hot nasty fails. Tempo runs are right on target. Long runs have been going well ahead of schedule. The only problem with my long runs is that I want to run them as close to marathon pace as possible. So, yeah, I’ve been ignoring my marathon pace plus 45 seconds instructions. Thus, while my long runs have all been well under the FIRST requirements, they have all fallen short of my expectations.

I’m able to endure these failures because I know that the first month of training is designed to build your strength and fitness, and that the times should come easier down the road. Now, if I could only stop staring at the red fail lines in my training log.

But that ended on Saturday. As I started I felt good, aiming to keep a consistent pace. And with the exception of three miles, I was always at my goal pace or under. My splits: 6:55, 6:56, 6:58, 7:09, 7:07, 7:20, 7:07, 7:02, 7:02, 7:07, 7:15, 7:21, 7:03, 7:11, 7:10, 7:15, 7:06, 7:11, 7:29, 7:12. A 7:09/M average.

What I’m most pleased with is my last five miles. Usually I start dropping 7:20s or worse from mile 16 on. This past run I managed to keep everything consistent except for mile 19.

As the first of five 20+ mile long runs, I couldn’t be happier.

Sunday morning I joined Sun Runner for a nice little 4M recovery run. I got a chance to run around her home town and even see the famous graveyard.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hero Worship

Last Thursday I was nearing the end of a rather taxing tempo run when I noticed a unique man walking a pleasant dog. Although I wouldn’t describe his shirt as tight, (say, like that of the frat guys around campus) I could easily see well defined pecks and raw speed hidden underneath.

Now I’ve known for a while that Nitmos and I live very close to each other, but I hadn’t had a chance to stop and officially say “Hi.” And as I rapidly approached I recognized my hero a few feet away. I immediately stopped my run and dropped to my knees as a sign of respect.

After allowing me to look him directly in the eyes and speak to him, I requested an autograph. Unfortunately, neither of us had a pen so I asked him to flex his amazing pecks. He said “Absolutely.” It was amazing. I then asked if I could stop by for dinner sometime, and he said “Absolutely not!” I can tell we are going to be fast friends.

Finally, we discussed an upcoming local race and then we went on our way. I can say without reservation that I was honored to meet my local running hero.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Red Tuesday

Seemed simple enough. A 2M warm-up, 5 1Ks and then a cool down. I decided to forgo running on the local high school track (which Nitmos is so fond of running on) and hit up the track at the local Big Ten University. The idea being that faster people than me run on this track and are paid given scholarships to do so; therefore I’d assuredly run faster on their track.*

In route to the track I had to weave through hordes of incoming froshs getting their official campus tour during orientation. Yep, wave after wave of wide-eyed Spartans learning the names of buildings they will assuredly puke on next fall.

When I finally arrive a sign informs me the track is closed for ‘varsity athletics.’ Phffffttttt. Well great, how am I going to do my 1000m repeats? I can’t just run on the sidewalk because I’ll be weaving through the mob of walkers, I had to find an alternative course.

I finally located a suitable stretch (only crossing two partially busy roads) and begin the torture of 1K repeats. Temp, 77 and sunny. Only one cloud in the sky and there is no way that little sucker is even going close to the sun. And it was dry, dryer than my sense of humor…that dry. One red angry sun.

Then another red light (as in a red traffic light) during my third repeat. Rapidly approaching the red light I could see a bus fast approaching (stuffed full of incoming froshs I’m sure)—decisions time, try to outrun the bus or stop. The knowledge that a bus doesn’t stop easily and my willingness to risk death resulted in my fastest repeat.

Then another red light, the failure of my iPod—stupid battery. But the most consistent red light was that of my fails for my repeats. I was about 2 to 7 seconds off for all of them.

However, despite the epic failure, I’m sure the hot temperature was the reason I was only slightly slow. Had this run occurred in more moderate temps, I believe I would have made it. It was this thought that I held onto so tightly as I cried myself to sleep last night.

* The worst part was that they weren’t even using the track, merely the filed within the track.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend Wedding

This past Saturday my ‘weekend’ roommate (aptly named because he comes into town on the weekend for his job and crashes at my pad) and his lovely fiancĂ© got married. It was a wonderful wedding and the reception was loads of fun. Of note, I was able to convince the waitress to bring our table French fries after noting how it was not only unfair that small children had received fries, but that they were probably violating a law by discriminating against our table on the basis of age. They were delicious.

But the reception ran late and I didn’t get home until an unreasonable hour. As I was setting the alarm for my morning 17M run I was already doubting whether I would really wake up and run it on so little sleep. Not surprisingly, I didn’t make it out the door for my morning run.

So like an unwelcome guest, those 17M sat around my place all day Sunday. It watched TV, took a nap, and ate cookies. Finally, I realized that it wasn’t going to leave unless I did something about it. So, at 6:30pm I began my long run.

Although my average pace was good, the run itself was spotty. The hot and dry conditions persisted throughout the run because I began too early to receive the benefit of a setting sun and cooler temperatures. Nope, 74 and sunny the entire run. But, the hope is that runs in such conditions will help improve my calf cramping issues.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spike’s Family and Random Things

I come from a running family. My dad (Buck) taught me to run when I was a child. I have three sisters who all run. One has completed a marathon and a tri, one consistently runs the Grand Rapids 25K River Bank Run, and one is a daily but not distance (not yet) runner. I also have several cousins who have run high school track, cross country, and are 5K racers. In fact, we usually have a large contingent of runners show up for the Boyne City Independence Day races. We show up to get some bling in the 2M or go for bling in the 10K (except for the few of us each year who go bandit).

And yet there is another large family that shows up at the BCID races with matching shirts that say “racing is relative” on the back. Well, my family is not one to be outclassed, so we are currently designing ‘family’ shirts for next year. The leading slogan for the shirt is “Second place is the first loser” but I’m pulling for the “I just relatively passed you.” Regardless, you can be sure there will be a skull and crossbones on the shirt.

And if you think we are competitive when it comes to running, you need to see us play cornhole. We have a ‘rules’ committee and match officials. There have also been more than a few grudges and maybe one or two fists thrown over our putt-putt contests. We are serious competitors.

Tuesday I saw something quite unusual. As I was running to the Michigan State track I saw a girl on her bike ride into a car. No, the car didn’t hit her, she hit the car. I was the first one on the scene. I quickly made sure the biker hadn’t lost consciousness, made sure she could move her fingers and toes, and that waited for the ambulance to arrive. She probably sprained her knee, but otherwise was fine. Bikers.

Speaking of Tuesday, my speed workout was alright, hitting most of my goals but falling hard on two of them. They are getting better, and I’m rocking my other FIRST workouts, so that helps.

Finally, I’ve decided that, like Maverick, I should only play beach v-ball in jeans. It should elevate my coolness by at least four points.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bandit Baby

My family has a history of running bandit. Yeah, we’ve been cool before it was ever cool to deny a local charity some much needed money in exchange for a cotton t-shirt and a stop-watch timed event. But we have principles, we don’t cross the official finish line and we don’t eat the donated food. And I sleep fine at night thankyouverymuch.

So, on the 4th I laced it up without pinning on a bib. A 15M run in the hills north of Boyne City awaited me on the 5th, mandating a conservative race approach. The Boyne City Independence Day 10K is mostly flat and run along the bay for the first five miles (the course is basically an out/back). The sixth mile brings the only uphill, and it is only a ‘mild’ hill. It is a small grade but slightly over a quarter-mile. This uphill is only notable because of the downhill finish. With roughly half a mile left a steep rollercoaster-type hill propels racers flailing down. It is my favorite finish ever.

I ran a comfortable pace and tried to pick off runners, and ended up running even splits. I finished in 40:40, hitting a 6:33/M average. My time would have put me 6th in my AG and 26th overall. It seems there are a lot of fast kids that show up to this rather quaint and small race.

The following day I ran 15M in beautiful and hilly country. FIRST called for a 7:45/M pace average, and I personally hoping for a 7:30 average. The first and third miles were 7:37, and all else were sub 7:30. I was actually getting faster and stronger in the latter part of the run, and I finished with a 6:51 mile (my fastest). This was a nice run to cap off a sweet weekend with the family and on the beach.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Next Run

Following a bad first week pulled from the wreckage by an excellent half-marathon run, week two stood waiting for me. Tuesday was a mile warm-up, then 4 x 800m at a 2:38 pace. Now, the 800 is my favorite race. In fact, Runner’s World agrees (and how dare you even think of disagreeing with Runner’s World). RW said, “[w]e actually think it's the most exciting, and probably the greatest test of an ‘all-around’ running talent. It's also the one with the widest range of strategies; don't count out the guy or gal who seems to be lingering at the back of the pack.”

800m is not quite an all out sprint, but it is a ‘give everything you have and then some’ race. I’ve seen spectacular comebacks (in the 3200m relay) and epic fades. No race is more exhilarating or more frustrating.

In my glory days (yes, high school) I could pop off a sub 2:00 800m. But I honestly thought I would have to run my legs off to hit a 2:38. And, like all FIRST workouts, the rest interval was short (2 minutes).

Surprisingly, my first two were both 2:39. Excellent. Then exhaustion combined with a headwind to equal a 3:03. I don’t really know what went wrong, just that I wasn’t moving fast at all despite every effort to. But I regrouped for a 2:42 last 800m.

I may run a 10K this 4th, I may not. If I do, I’ll report next week. Otherwise, I’ve got a 7M tempo run tonight and a 15M long run this weekend. If you are racing, or running, or whatever, enjoy the 4th and blow something up…but do it safely.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The First Week of FIRST

Last week was my first week using the FIRST program, and my first run seemed simple enough; a 10-20 minute warm-up, three mile repeats with one minute rest intervals, and then a 10 minute cool-down. ONE MINUTE REST INTERVALS!!! I mean, why even rest? All one minute of rest does is remind you how tired you are and that the pain is only seconds away from starting all over again. stupid one minute rest…

Now, in the past two weeks I’ve only run once, an easy 8M with a friend. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was ‘unprepared’ physically, but to compare my ‘physical fitness’ with the Empire’s skeleton crew on Endor to guard the all important Imperial shield generator would be relatively accurate. Things started out so good and got ugly fast.

Goal pace for mile repeats, 6:30 to 6:40. First mile, 6:31. Nice. And then one minute is over and I drop out a 6:55. Ouch. By now, I’m just hoping the +90 heat index will kill me. I’m so exhausted I can’t even spit cleanly; I just end up hitting myself. Last mile, 6:48. That time is the most amazing of them all because in my head it felt like a 7:30.

I then somehow managed to eek out an 8:30 pace for the 10min cool-down before heading home to stretch and cry. Oh, but I didn’t cry. Not because I didn’t want to or my body didn’t try. I laid there in the fetal position twitching and heaving myself around. It was just that, I was so dehydrated, my body couldn’t produce tears.

Then I had a 2M “short” tempo run stuck between two sets of 2M at easy pace. I hit a 7:25 pace for my first two easy miles, and then tried to crank up to a 6:08 pace. Oh, and the temp was in the low 90s. My second day of training equals a second massive fail. My last two easy miles were at an 8:28 pace, both of them.

After posting two terrible fails, my only hope in salvaging my first week on FIRST rested on a 13M run at marathon pace plus 30 (7:30/M). Basically, my fourth run following three weeks (and third run in the last week) needed to be spectacular where every prior run had not. Yeah, I can do that.

And I did, hitting a 7:29 average. Sure, the early miles were a little faster while miles 10-12 a little slower. Amazing how one run can change everything.