Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Got Time for a Quickie?

Hectic schedules and workouts don't often go hand-in-hand so it is often that I find myself with a break that is seemingly too short for exercise. This has been happening more lately as it seems that I have developed the mental block of "if it's not at least an hour, it's not worth doing." That attitude has got to change.

Yesterday was frigidly cold and I did not even bother trying to run outside (I left Canada so that I would not have to deal with cold like that). But my fatherly obligations in the evening meant I would not be able to get to the gym either, so I was determined to get a ride on my trainer. Between getting each kid to bed my window of opportunity opened, although it was only a half-hour window. Do I bother to ride for just 30 minutes, or do I just call it a rest day?

In the end I opted for the ride. Since I wasn't riding for too long I focussed on keeping my cadence high, occasionally dropping into the highest gear for some resistance. The result was a good workout that got my heart-rate going and worked my legs, but only took 30 minutes. Afterwards I felt great, and was so energized I ended up getting a lot of other things done that I would not have if I had just sat on the couch.

This got me thinking about what other times I have during the day that I could squeeze in exercise. What is not enough time for a workout, and is there even such a thing? Got a half-hour? Try a quick ride or hill repeats! How about 15 minutes? Pushups, planks and core! I'm beginning to feel that there are many opportunities for exercise that I am missing out on just because of my preconceived notions of what is "worth the effort." Time, after all, is not on our side and we have to make the most of what we have!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Core Training with Wii Fit

For the past year of training I have been incorporating core-strength workouts into my routine via Wii Fit. I believe it has made me a stronger runner, and it has kept me honest with exercises that can be easy to cheat. Now a lot of you (okay both of you) may be snickering at this point, but bear with me as I hope to demonstrate the usefulness of the Wii Fit as a training tool.

The main marketing strategy for the Wii Fit has been to appeal to families and exercise novices who may be intimidated by the gym environment. By monitoring your weight and center of balance, Wii Fit is able to provide some sort of accountability as you work on improving these through the exercises provided. These include yoga poses, "aerobic" activities, balance games and strength training. The yoga poses are great for flexibility, but I stopped doing them after a while as I found that the flow was interrupted too often by switching exercises. This has been addressed in the newly available "Wii Fit Plus" as exercises can be stacked together and performed one after the other. The aerobic activities are fun, but are definitely not a cardio-workout. The balance games are fun as well, and my kids love doing them. Showing kids that exercise is fun at a young age is important, I think, so I actually like this aspect of the game as well.

The real meat of the Wii Fit training comes from the "Strength Training" exercises. Hidden beneath this innocuous green button are some of the best core-strength exercises you can do. For starters there are rows of exercises dedicated to strengthening the hips and glutes. Some of these seem easy, but after 20 reps you can feel them working. For runners who experience leg injuries, such as ITBS (Iliotibial band syndrome), these moves are key. In addition, as the system is able to monitor your center of balance during the exercise it can tell if you are doing the move incorrectly. Nestled within these are the base exercises of an effective core routine: push-ups/side-plank, lunges, plank, jackknife, bird-dog, and bridged extension (the last one is included in Wii Fit Plus). Using the new "My Training" in the plus version to string 3 sets of each of these exercises together yields a roughly 40 minute core program. Does 40 minutes seem like a lot for 6 exercises? Then you haven't been doing them slowly enough! This is the big advantage of using the Wii Fit system, it keeps your timing honest. The board monitors each move and will not give you credit unless you execute it at the correct speed, which is mercilessly slow. This prohibits you from using any momentum whatsoever and makes you engage each muscle group fully for the duration of the exercise.

The strength training portion of Wii Fit is exceptionally suited to the distance runner. It is core based, which supplements muscle groups needed for running, and you are not going to pack on pounds of muscle from the low-weight activities. Throw in a yoga routine here and there and you can supplement your flexibility as well. All of this can be achieved in your living room, while being a point of entertainment for the rest of the family as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brighton Turkey Trot Race Report

My search for a suitable turkey trot had several criteria this year. First, knowing how much cooking I have to do on Thanksgiving meant that a turkey day turkey trot was out of the question. Also, I had signed up for church duties for most of the month, so a Sunday race was out as well. Finally, I did not want to drive halfway across the state to get to the race. I turned to's Turkey Trot Finder and discovered that the Brighton Turkey Trot fit the necessary parameters. I signed up "old-school" by sending in a check and registration form, and was committed.

Race day arrived and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my thermometer read 45F, so I decided I would probably wear a short sleeve shirt for the race as the sun would probably warm it up to nearly 50 by the start time. Not wanting to be cold beforehand I threw on my long-sleeve and fleece over the shirt and headed out the door. As I drove north to Brighton I was shocked to see the car thermometer plummeting. By the time I arrived there was frost everywhere, and the thermometer read 28F. Needless to say the T-shirt plan was out the window.

I headed in to pick up my race packet and timing chip (this was the first year for chip timing). The registration is held inside the Brighton Recreation Center, which is really nice to be able to keep warm and use heated restrooms. There was plenty of room for spectators to hang out as well. The rec center is located next to a nice little park as well, with a 3/4 mile path running around it, perfect for warming up! I ran around the park a few times and threw in a few 30 second sprints as well for good measure. I knew I wanted to hit the ground running hard and did not want to risk injury by going off cold. By the time I was lining up at the start I was down to just a long-sleeve shirt and shorts, plus my gloves and hat.

I lined up within two rows of the starting line as I knew I wanted to be in the lead group from the start. The gangly limbs and racing flats always leave me feeling a little outgunned, but I suspected from prior year results that I had a shot at top 15. I often wonder if and how other runners size me up, as I always feel like a bit of an outsider in those situations. The 30 second warning came, then someone yelled "Go!" and we were off! My body settled almost immediately into a fast pace that felt hard, but manageable and I knew it was going to be a good race. Watching the leaders snake around the corners in front of me I knew I was in the front 20 and my goal was to make sure I did not lose any ground. The first mile marker came in 6 flat and already some runners ahead of me had started to drop back. Ahead of me, the first female runner had already shaken off her two competitors and I made it my goal to maintain distance with her. Mile two came in 6:05 and I had only reeled in one other runner, I suspected that that would be the last of my advances. Through mile 3 I felt like I was just keeping it together, although the 6:01 split indicates I was handling things just fine. I stole a glance behind me around the final corner and tried to push hard to the finish line to hold off the racer behind me. 18:52 from the gun and my chip recorded 18:48, a solid 5k effort good for 10th place!

I ended up meeting up with two other racers at the end of the finish chute who were going to run the course again as a cool down, so I joined them for an extra 5k. They had run the race in prior years, and we had a lot to chat about as we ran back. It was great to engage with other runners who have similar training and racing philosophies. It was a good way to kill some time before the award ceremony which I was determined not to miss. When I checked the race results, I was shocked to discover that I had somehow been entered as "female" in the scoring system! I immediately reported the error to the scoring official, but I probably should have emphasized that the error affected the age group awards. I had erroneously won the female 30-34 age group! I hoped that they would have fixed the problem by the time the announcements were made, but unfortunately not, so I stood there red-faced as my name was read as the winner of the category. Afterward I was able to get my correct 2nd place award, but the situation was embarrassing and I felt terrible for the women who had received incorrect awards. It turns out that there were several racers in the wrong "category" so I hope the race is able to get this fixed in the future.

This race has a great "small race" feel, but is put on very professionally. The post-race food was good, and there was plenty left even when I came in after most of the racers had been through. The chip-timing was an added bonus. The only detraction from this great experience was the whole mistaken gender issue, which I hope will be addressed in later years. I will definitely be returning to run this race next year!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mileage Totals

Last year the holidays represented a pretty significant loss in fitness, which I hope will not be repeated this year. I think the goal this year that will get me through this period intact is the mileage total. Today I am at 1819 for the year, which is pretty far behind where I was last year around this time (1857 on Oct. 19th). I'm not worried about the drop in mileage (cross-training has more than made up for the difference in running miles) but it does mean that 2009 miles for the year will be a close call. Just close enough to keep me going through the coming weeks!

So I am now publicly declaring my goal to run 2009 miles in 2009! If I stay consistent (30-40 mpw) it should be doable, but it may require a few last minute additions to the running schedule. Exactly what I need to get out the door that week between Christmas and New Year's!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soreness vs. Pain

Runners have to be acutely aware of the difference between soreness, which is a direct result of hard training, and pain, which is a result of injury. Any runner who has been running for some time is quite accomplished at blocking out pain, we do it all the time to get through tough workouts. So it should come as no surprise that we are quite good at blocking out pain from an injury as well. We can delude ourselves through all sorts of arguments, and if we are not careful, ignored pain can turn into a major injury.

I spent the better part of last week sore from my workouts. Coming off a two week hiatus I was eager to get back to full time training and I pushed a little too hard on Monday. Each subsequent hard workout for the week pushed me further into muscle debt and by Friday it was almost a full 5 miles before I felt "normal" on my run. Despite this, I pushed through the week as I knew that the soreness was a direct result of the ramp up in mileage, and that with my mileage base I would be back to normal after a good rest day. This week has been much better as my body reluctantly adapts to the renewed intensity of training.

That being said, if I experience pain that I feel is due to a potential injury I usually will return to rest almost immediately. For me there are several markers that I look for to differentiate pain from muscle soreness. First, is the pain acute or spread over a large region? Acute pain is never a good sign as it is usually due to a localized effect (either muscle or bone), while soreness is spread out due to muscle damage from training. Acute pain almost always sends me to the freezer for an ice pack and a prescription for a few days off. Second, is the pain aggravated by running? Soreness and tight muscles may feel pretty bad when you first start a run, but symptoms will often improve as you get warmed up. An injury, on the other hand, is usually made worse by running, so if the pain is nagging throughout the run or if it alters your gait in any way, pack it in early. The third marker is persistence. Living with soreness is a fact of life, but usually we know intuitively when pain does not fit that mould. Does the pain persist through the day after the workout is over? Is standing or sitting in a usually comfortable position now uncomfortable? Worst of all is dull throbbing pain that exists without any movement at all, a clear warning sign.

Making the decision to take a few rest days or even rest weeks during a training schedule is never easy, but it is essential that you listen to the signals your body is sending you. A little time off now can save you from a major recovery period down the road. Above all it will keep you running for years to come, and racing another day!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hard Work, Perseverance, and Hard Work

I did not come to be competitive in running through a high school or college pedigree. In fact, I did not start doing anything remotely physical until I was 25. So how did I get to where I'm at now? A lot of hard work and one seemingly insignificant conversation.

2 years ago I started running with a friend from work. He is much faster than I am and is more into the ultra-scene than I am. One day we were having a discussion as he was putting the screws to me during one of his easy workouts (I was out for a tempo). I remarked to him that I could never be as fast as him as I was not gifted with the runner's physique like he was. Being the good running partner that he is, he called me out on it. He said that he works his ass off to be fitter and faster, and that nature had nothing to do with it. Those words sank in somewhere deep in to my soul and I still carry them with me.

From that point I became much more dedicated to running. I am more serious about my training and racing and the hard work is paying off. Each year I am improving, getting stronger and faster, and I am achieving the goals that my running buddy inspired me to achieve with that one conversation. There is no secret to success in any endeavor, no predisposition to greatness, there is only hard work. I hope these words will inspire another beginning runner to set lofty goals and pursue them, just as it did me! Train smart, take advice from other runners, listen to your body, but above all work hard and you will achieve them!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Runner's Wish List

With Halloween gone, there is no denying the holiday season is approaching. In that light I thought it would be worthwhile to put together a list of runner essential items. As all the other lists out there seem to be way over the top (including pricy items like GPS watches, etc) I also wanted to keep everything under $100 and most items much less than that. So here it is: The Runner's Holiday Wish List for the Budget Minded Shopper!

  • Socks

    It sounds cheesy, but at close to $10 a pair, running socks are one of my most appreciated gift item. Sizing is forgiving, just make sure you get socks that are made of synthetic material (i.e. no cotton!)

  • Energy Gels/Chews

    There are tons of these on the market and most runners like to have the opportunity to try new fueling options during training. For just a few bucks you can stuff a stocking to the brim with these!

  • Hydration Mixes

    In the same vein as the energy gels, hydration mixes can be bought in powder form, ready to be mixed by your runner recipient. These come in packages, tubes, and tubs, and in tons of flavors other than lemon-lime.

  • Gloves/Arm Sleeves

    Even midsummer races start at the crack of dawn and most runners like to have a little something to fend off the cold while waiting for the gun to go off. Even cheap "painters gloves" which can be discarded when the race starts are great!

  • Race Entry

    What runner would not want a free race to train for? Especially one in the off-season to work off some of those holiday calories! 5k is probably a good distance, signing your runner up for a marathon may not be appreciated as much as you might think.

  • MP3 player

    This is a bit of a hotly debated topic in the running community, but even runners who are dead-set against music while running will reach for one for treadmill workouts. This is the most expensive item on the list, but the small ones can be purchased for under $100.

  • Magazine Subscription

    What do runners like doing nearly as much as running? Reading about running! Plus it's the gift that keeps giving for a whole year!

  • Granola Bars/Snacks

    Apart from running and reading about running, eating is the next most popular activity. Energy bars, granola, pretzels, trail mix, it's all good and it's all cheap!

  • Massage Gift Certificate

    Most runners need massage as a recovery tool, but most can't justify the cost.

  • Foam Roller

    This is just what it sounds like, a foam cylinder that can be rolled over sore muscles as an at home massage tool. At around $15 this is probably the best value for the money on the list. If your runner does not have one already, rest assured, they want one!

I hope this list helps some shoppers out there. Behind every great athlete is a great athletic supporter! (Sorry I couldn't resist)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday Tempo!

All I can say is: "Ouch!" Today marked the first tempo run in two weeks and boy I am feeling it tonight. Let me just say first of all that I hate tempo runs. Long runs I am okay with, I enjoy the challenge and reward of running for a long time, provided it's at a nice laid back pace. I also enjoy intervals, the speed I can handle knowing that rest is just around the corner. But the tempo occupies some space that my mind is not equipped to handle.

Mind: "Okay, so we're going to run fast. That's okay it will be over quickly."

Me: "Well not really, it's going to be like 7 miles before we can stop."

Mind: "Forget it, I'm outta here! Zone out on your own."

Me: "No way man, I can't run that fast without thinking about it, you need to be here!"

Mind: "You want to run fast for 7 miles AND think about it at the same time!?!"

While I won the battle today it was not without casualties, which my tired and sore legs are reminding me of tonight. They are also telling me I just went from 0 to 17 miles in two days and to go easy on them tomorrow. I am fine with easy days, just as long as they are well deserved.

Monday, November 02, 2009

2010 Approaches!

Now that I am finished with my two week recovery, today begins the beginning of training for my 2010 racing season! It was great to get outside again and feel strong for a nice easy run, but tomorrow I will have to suck it up for a tempo run that will more than likely leave me lying in a fetal position muttering to myself about "fartleks."

Speaking of speedplay, I have a rough outline of my racing schedule in mind. I plan to hit a couple of 5k races this holiday season to keep things snappy, a turkey trot and the Colder Bolder. Then I'm thinking about one of the Colorado Running winter distance series races as a tune up for the Platte River Half in April. Then I will culminate the spring training with the Bolder Boulder and a 50k (my first "ultra"). I hope to spend the summer working on speed, building up to the Denver Marathon in the fall. My plan is to shoot for 3:00 in Denver! Yes, you read that right, I hope to take a full 16 minutes off my marathon PR! None of this messing around with Boston qualifying times, it's time to shoot for the stars.

Will all these goals come to pass? I'll never know unless I set them and go for it!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quality Speedwork, In About an Hour

Finding time to run is a challenge with hectic schedules, so I usually find the best time to run is during lunch. This can somewhat limit workout choices if I am limited to just an hour. Today I ran a hard workout that was taxing enough to be quality training, but was finished in about 50 minutes including warm-up and cool-down. As the workout was based on time intervals rather than distance anyone can complete this workout in the same time regardless of pace or course profile. I thought I would share in case there are any similarly time constrained runners out there looking for a good workout.

  1. Warm-up: 8 minutes easy jog

  2. Interval: 3 minutes (should be fairly hard effort, 5k race pace)

  3. Recovery: 1:30 easy jog

  4. Interval: 3 minutes (5k race pace)

  5. Recovery: 1:30 easy jog

  6. Interval: 3 minutes (5k race pace)

  7. Recovery: 1:30 easy jog

  8. Interval: 3 minutes (5k race pace)

  9. Recovery: 1:30 easy jog (If you are running an out-and-back route this is where you turn around)

  10. Interval: 3 minutes (5k race pace)

  11. Recovery: 1:30 easy jog

  12. Interval: 3 minutes (5k race pace)

  13. Recovery: 1:30 easy jog

  14. Interval: 3 minutes (5k race pace)

  15. Recovery: 1:30 easy jog

  16. Interval: 3 minutes (5k race pace)

  17. Cool Down: 8 minutes easy

As long as you don't go too hard at the beginning of this workout you should be near where you started if you turned around at halfway. This accomplishes both the speedwork goal (hard intervals with short recovery) and even split.

I consider this workout a "short" run, so if you are not used to running 1 hour+ then scale back the intervals accordingly. You should be able to find a good balance of effort/time. Your lunch hour will never be the same!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Timex Ironman Review

Feels a little weird to be reviewing a watch, but honestly there are a lot of features that go into a decent training watch and I think this one hits pretty close to the mark. The watch is the Timex Ironman 50-Lap Sleek and it has a lot of features that cater to training.

First off comfort. The term "sleek" is maybe marketing a little bit, but it certainly has a low profile and it does not look too big. The band is also an appropriate size for my "runner's wrist" and includes a little catch on the band restraint to keep it at the end of the band. This means that it does not move as I run which has been an annoyance with other watches I have worn. As for timekeeping, I do not really wear a watch outside of running, but the display is easy to read and it displays the date along with the time. There are also options for two time-zones and three alarms. The watch features "Indiglo" as well for all of the functions, which is useful if you like to run your track workouts at 4am when it is pitch black. The light is no substitute for a headlamp though and it will not help you if someone happens to leave a hurdle on the track the night before (I'm not saying that I know this from experience).

From a training perspective is where this watch really gets going. The chronograph is easy to read and will continue running even as you access the watch's other features. The start/split button is located on the watch face, which is essential in making it easy to push and find when you are timing splits in a race. When you hit the split button during a workout it displays the split and the lap time for a few seconds before changing the display to show the split and the next lap time. Having the current lap time displayed is great as I can check on my pace before the interval is finished (i.e. I can check the 400 split on an 800 repeat without having to push the split button). After you are done running your session you can store the time and splits, for up to 50 lap times. The watch will record the time and date for the workout as well for you to log later, which is probably the most useful feature given that I often do not get a chance to log runs for a couple of days.

Another feature that I anticipate making more use of in the next few months is a dual interval timer. You can set two interval times (i.e. an interval time and a recovery time) to repeat indefinitely during a workout. So you can start the chronograph, warm up and then start the interval timer. It will then beep when you need to either start or end an interval, recording the number of repetitions as it goes. Once you are done with intervals, you can stop the timer, and cool down with your total workout time still recorded by the chronograph. This will help with my speedwork this winter as I find it tough to get to the track, so I can run timed intervals on whatever route I choose. This feature can be set in seconds, minutes or hours so it can also be used to remind you when to take gels or electrolytes on longer runs.

These features easily make this the best training watch I have owned, the only feature lacking in this model is heart-rate sensing, but I believe there is a higher-end model that includes this feature. In my case the lack of heart-rate monitor is actually a plus as I find this interferes with the treadmill sensor. I can now wear my HR strap on the treadmill and monitor my HR there while timing the workout with the watch.

A well balanced review always includes some cons, so here are the minor annoyances I can think of. As I mentioned above the watch has no GPS/foot pod/HR capabilities, but I think these features are unnecessary anyway. Another minor inconvenience is the fact that the watch band is stuck in a "round" position and is quite rigid. This makes it easy to put on, but it will not fold flat for easy storage in a gym bag pocket.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Shoes

I know I'm breaking out of my box here. It used to be I was a one-shoe guy, the Brooks Adrenaline. But lately I've been branching out more, wanting to try shoes that are closer to racing flats, transitioning with the Launch (Review here). Those shoes felt so good that I wanted an everyday trainer that approached that model. So I am trying out the Ravenna, which is filed in the "guidance" category and designed to offer a little less stability than the Adrenaline or the Trance. I have not yet had a chance to do a full evaluation, but I got them out for a run today and am very pleased so far. The shoes fit just as well as my Adrenalines (although under advise I ordered a half size up) and they feel great. Noticeably more stability than my Lanches, feeling pretty hefty underfoot, but definitely lighter than the Adrenalines. They stood up well to almost 14 miles of pavement with no hot-spots and I was glad to have the extra firmness as I was pushing the joggy stroller today.

It's nice to have something new to put into the rotation and I think switching up shoe types will only help strengthen the foot and ankle (as long as the shoes aren't doing damage). Ideally I'd like to get to the point where a good portion of my weekly miles are done on shoes that have very little support at all. As my running stride adapts I hope this brings about an improvement in my running economy, which can only help with strength and stamina. As it is I am glad to have such a wide array of shoes to choose from in my preferred brand!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Return to Training

Last week I tried to ease back into training, but was slowed down a little by a tight hamstring. I decided to not push it and opted for some cycling instead for a good workout. But by Sunday I was ready to try a long run again, so I went out for 11 with no expectations. The run turned out okay, but I definitely felt fatigued much earlier than I thought I would. It was pain free, however, so I think I'll be back to ramping up my mileage.

One of the big reasons I feel I have made such advances in my speed this year is due to continual training. Even though I have taken brief periods to recover from races and illnesses I have been able to keep up with speedwork and long runs pretty consistently. I hope to keep this style of training up over the winter (especially through the holiday season) so that I will be ready to race well next season. This may be easier said than done as it is always tougher to get out when the weather sucks and there is so much good food to eat, but I think if I stay flexible I'll be able to keep focused even if I'm not training everyday. I'd like to try to fit in a winter 5k or 10k as well to keep the motivation for speedwork.

With such a successful race to end this year's season I'm feeling good about what is yet to come. I also have a new toy to play with thanks to Boulder Running Company. I went by there today to pick up my age group award and it was a Timex Ironman watch! I will post a review once I've had a chance to use it a few times, but the biggest advantage I can see for it so far is that it can store splits for multiple workouts in a day. Even my Polar HR monitor can't do that!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Indian Summer Half Race Report

Well it's been a while since I did a race report as I haven't raced since the Bolder Boulder. The summer training has been weird what with being burnt out, fired up, burnt out, and fired up again, but more often than not, consistent. At the end of all of it I can take away two amazing results: one, a new half-marathon PR bettering my April time by almost 2 minutes, and two an age-group podium finish (2nd)!

This was the inaugural running of the Indian Summer Half Marathon put on by the Boulder Running Company and other great sponsors (of particular interest to me Brooks and Avery). In this case the collective experience of the organizers really made this a well run event even though it was the first running. Saturday I drove up to Boulder to pick up my race packet and was already impressed by the sweet pint glass and restaurant gift card included in the race goodies. My race number was "9" and the lady who gave me the number remarked "no pressure"...nice. In reality even with all of my assertions to others that I was running for fun, I was holding myself to a higher standard. My improvements in my speedwork have been steady through the summer and the leg speed has translated well to faster long runs, I felt I would be able to break my April PR. I definitely had pre-race jitters throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning but they melted away by the time I hit the starting line.

Not knowing what kind of course support to expect I had studied the course map that morning to keep the turns fresh in my mind. As it turns out the only confusion was when everyone lined up facing the wrong direction at the starting line, but the race director quickly had that straightened out. Unfortunately some runners walked around the starting line, and others just crossed over so it ended up that by the time everyone was facing the right direction I was further back in the pack than I would have liked. The first part of the course is a loop around the parking area, which is kind of tight so it was challenging maneuvering through slower runners for the first few hundred yards. It had taken me longer than expected to pick up my chip and get situated before the race, so I was not warmed up at the start. As a result the first mile felt tough, but I stayed with Todd as planned and he pulled out the first split in 6:44, perfect! At that point it was evident to me that keeping to Todd's pace was not going to happen so I let him go off on his own, resigning myself just to keep him in my sights as long as I could. By the time a few miles had ticked by the field was pretty strung out, but there were a few people around me running similar paces so I was able to keep myself running decent splits, between 6:40 and 6:50. When 7 miles had gone by I could tell that there was very little fatigue in my legs (unlike last week's tune-up) and I knew that I would be able to maintain a strong pace for the rest of the race, the question was how much I could ramp it up. At 8 miles I knew it was time to start my push. I dropped the pace down to the 6:30 range, and started reeling people in. While the first part of the course traverses paved and dirt roads at this point it transitions onto the gravel path that runs around the backside of the reservoir. This makes it a little more challenging as the path snakes around quite a bit and it is not really clear where you are heading next. Throw a few little hills into the mix and the pacing really started to be become difficult. I thought for sure I was slowing down as I was passed by a couple of runners who I had passed before, but my final splits were still consistent so it was likely the cumulative damage of this red-zone effort that made the mental game tough. I was pretty much cooked when I finally entered the finish area, but I caught sight of the race clock as I came in and it read 1:26:52. I decided I was not going to let it get past 1:27 on me and poured it on to get through right at 1:27. The 9 seconds that I had spent getting to the starting mat got me a chip time of 1:26:51.

Apart from the PR and unexpected age group finish (2nd age group, 29th overall, so there were a ton of faster runners but only one in the 30-34 age range) this was a fantastic race. The course is really pretty, running through the farmland of the foothills with views of the Flatirons. The volunteers were great and did an awesome job of directing traffic and manning the aid stations. Post race activities were outstanding with lots of recovery food variety (everything from orange wedges to croissant sandwiches) and of course the essential Avery beer garden! With 392 finishers this year and the stellar Boulder running community (winning time was 1:15:56!!) I think this was a great start for what I am sure will be an awesome race in years to come.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Not wanting the grass to grow under my feet this past long weekend I convinced myself to head out the door on Saturday for one last long run before the half. Seeing how I only planned to run 11 miles I figured I would take the opportunity to do a little race tune-up. I decided to start out a little faster than easy pace and try to keep the pace low for as long as I could hold on. I had just done tempo on Thursday, but only for 7 miles, so my goal was comfortably hard for the full 11.

After a half-mile warm-up the first mile ticked off in 7:30, second went by in 7:15, third 7:08 and still comfortable. At this point the trail mile markers end and I have to run based on feel, always a challenge given that the path climbs up the backside of a dam. I still felt strong though, so was able to push up the hill and reach the turnaround point in 40:37. This pace was perfect as I was just starting to feel fatigue in my legs and knew that it would be a challenge to keep everything together for the return split. By the time I hit the mile markers again I was moving fast, but feeling the cumulative effort. I continued to push the pace and managed to hit close to 7:00 for the final 3 miles, finishing the cool down with a slightly positive split, 1:21:35.

I believe that one of my greatest strengths in running is pacing and this workout plays right into that. Being able to relax at the start and come out hitting my pace right off the bat gives me the chance to finish strong. This means that I have to have an idea of what I can realistically run for a race. Running the tune-up gives me a chance to train both at once, first, gauge how race pace feels off the line and, second, what kind of effort I need to summon in order to finish at that pace.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Uber-taper

I am in the midst of an "extended taper" for my half-marathon coming up on September 13. After feeling ill last week, this week has not provided much more in the realm of motivation and mostly I have been deciding to bag any run that does not provide a specific training benefit. This means that I have been good about my long run, speedwork and tempo efforts, but the "junk miles" are out the window. As a result I am feeling well rested, nothing is hurting and I'm running fast. The race is still a week away, however, so there's no guarantee that I won't seize up due to lack of activity at mile 10.

I'm not too worried though as:

  1. I already have a good half-marathon PR for this year

  2. There is no pressure to hit some magical qualification time

  3. All of my long runs are longer than the race distance

  4. Being rested on race day will offer more benefit than any training I can squeeze in now

  5. I am really just looking to recapture the joy of running and kick off a great off-season

With nothing to lose and so much to gain and enjoy I may be poised to pull out a breakthrough performance! That or I'll just crash and burn, regardless there will be beer at the end. My current race plan is to try to keep up with Todd, who will be feeling hungry after his Leadville experience. If I can roll with him for 11 or 12 miles I will have a good chance to crank a fast time.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nuun Review: The Good and the Annoying

One of the biggest variables I have yet to dial in for racing/training is my hydration strategy. As a result I'm always looking for new products to try on my runs. My tummy is pretty tolerant of foods while I'm running, so gels, blocks, and even solid foods seem to go down okay. So carbs are okay, and water is good, but I still seem to be missing electrolytes in the equation. Some have advised that the electrolytes in gels etc. should be enough, but I have not found this to be the case. I actually sweat out a lot of salt and I routinely come back from longer runs with salt encrusting my face, on hot days cramping usually results if I am not taking some sort of electrolyte replacement.

I was intrigued by the concept of Nuun, a flavored electrolyte replacement with no calories. In other words Nuun leaves the nutrition up to gels and other sources and just amps up the salt. As a bonus it comes in tablet form, so you can turn any water source into electrolytes on the go. I tried a tube (12 tablets) of the Lemon flavor and am pretty impressed with the taste. It is not sweet, just mildly lemony and a little salty (the salt taste is enough to be not so pleasant if you are not thirsty). It also dissolves very well in my water bottles, which has been a problem for other products I have tried. I have not had any problems with cramping even on the hottest days, plus I can drink this with energy gels without having to worry about a carb overload. In all I think this is a great product and best of all it feels a lot better than popping electrolyte pills.

Now for the annoying. When you drop the tablet into water it bubbles a lot like an antacid. This would not be a big deal, but unfortunately a lot of gas remains dissolved even after the fizzing stops. When I close up my water bottles this builds up inside resulting in a blast of gas the first few times I open the bottles on the run. Also, it can force the water out of the bottle as it shakes, dripping all over my hands. For my Ultimate Direction bottle, which can remain open without spilling, this is not such a problem, but for my Nathan bottle it is a pain. Is it annoying enough for me to stop using Nuun? Frankly, yes, if I really need a portable electrolyte replacement e-caps are really much less hassle, and probably a lot cheaper. But that doesn't mean they won't work for everyone, especially if you have an aversion to pills!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bad Blogger

I know, it's been more than a month since my last post. There are no excuses for that lack of activity, but frankly I haven't even been feeling like running lately, let alone writing about running. It's not that I'm not training, I've been able to run most days and fit in speedwork and long runs on a semi-regular basis. Honestly, I'm probably in better shape now than at any other point this year. But I think I'm really bored with the training routine.

That's not to say I haven't done anything interesting. I have a new shoe that I have been trying to incorporate into my running, the Brooks Launch. I've put almost 100 miles in on these shoes and I have to say I am really happy with the results. Primarily I bought these as a "lightweight" trainer, to train speedwork and to race in. Honestly, these weigh in closer to the middleweight class, but as I have only run in the Adrenaline series and the Cascadia trail shoe I thought these would be a good starting point for me. The transition on these shoes is really smooth and the cushioning is soft enough to let my foot move the way it wants to. The end result is that I feel like I am running on little clouds. With less stability I definitely feel the difference in my legs, I tend to land a little closer to my midfoot with these on and the first few long runs I felt sore in my calves. That soreness has long gone now and I do not hesitate to take them out on 14-16 mile runs. I think in the end that the Launch will be my permanent marathon trainer/racer with the extra cushioning for longer mileage. They are probably a little heavy to race a 5k or 10k in though, so eventually I may try to move down the racer line a little more.

With the end of my Team Gangels crewing duties it is time for me to focus on the next race at hand. The Indian Summer Half Marathon on September 13! At one point I was thinking I could PR at this event, but this week I have been feeling under the weather and with just a few training weeks left I may not have enough to pull out another sub-1:30 effort. So my plan is to go out and have fun, if I'm feeling good it will happen. Even if I crash and burn out there I will still get the pint glass!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trial by Fire

Full disclosure: I will never, ever, even come close to even considering running Badwater. I am a full on heat wuss, my body just is not happy running in the heat of the day, and in fact the opposite is true: I seem to thrive on cold temperatures. But heat during the summer is a fact of life so these past few years I have been trying to improve my heat acclimation. This year has gone fairly well as it has been the coolest summer than I can remember since we moved to Colorado. But there have been a few days in the mid-80s/low-90s so I have tried to get out for easy runs or walks in the heat of the day. All this has improved my tolerance a little, and prepared me for my run today.

This weekend is a busy one for us, and I knew it would be a challenge to squeeze a run in on either day. So after all of my chores for the morning were done I realized I had one small window to get it done. I had to make it to a rehearsal at 5 but it happened to be fairly close to the gym so I decided to run from the gym and grab a shower before heading to practice. I thought if I left by 2:30 I would have plenty of time to crank out 16 around the reservoir, aiming to be back by 4:30. The plan started out well enough and I felt good for the first 4 miles, so I kicked into tempo/race pace mode hoping to keep it up for 9 miles. That went well until I started to head up the backside of the dam which seemed to have direct sunlight and little breeze. Bear in mind that it was only 85 degrees, and the humidity was low so we are not talking oppressive heat, just enough to throw me off my game. I finished 6 miles at tempo before saying "uncle" and seeking refuge under a tree to cool off a little. Keeping the pace easy I knew I could finish, but I was worried I would not make it in time. To add insult to injury the two water bottles I had brought were running on empty.

Fortunately I still had my wits about me and I decided to inquire at the park entrance about a source of water. It turns out there is a tap not more than 10 yards from the path I regularly tread, which makes me feel a little foolish as I have often been in need of water in that area and never found it. I was able to take a good drink and fill up both of my bottles for the final 5 miles of the run. The mental lift you get from knowing you can drink your fill is pretty potent, so I was able to boost my pace up a little. I also poured water over my hat every few minutes to keep it going. In the end I was able to finish fairly strong, although it was a tough effort. It took 2 hrs and 15 minutes, so I was still able to chill out in a cool shower, but not for as long as I would have liked.

All in all I survived, and managed to get a long run in that I probably would not have done at all, if not then. The direct sun of mid-afternoon really takes it's toll, especially when there is not much shade on your route. With enough water though and plenty of common sense it is manageable.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ticking away...

Man I love running on the trails! Check out the awesome descent awaiting me after I crested the Black Bear trail at Golden Gate State Park this weekend. Unfortunately the time/strength required for such training seems to be weighing on me, and I don't know how much I can commit to this endeavor. It's one thing to jaunt off to Cherry Creek State Park for a 20 miler a couple of times, the whole trip only takes 3 hours. But trail running is a whole other ballgame! This weekend I ran for just over 3 hours and only covered 16 miles. And I started running right from my campsite, most times I have to drive at least half an hour to a good trail (Not that I'm complaining mind you, Colorado is awesome). All of this adds up to a good chunk of time away from the family.

Coupled with the feeling that I've been spinning my wheels a little bit lately I'm going to try to return my focus to road training. I've got enough of a taste of speed to want more, and I think that with my base and some added cross-training I can make a serious push for some fast times. I'll still try to get some trail running in this summer as I want to be ready to pace at the Leadville 100, but getting back to consistent tempo and speedwork will be my priority. In that vein I've updated the upcoming races to reflect the Park to Park 10 Miler which I've been kicking around in my head for some time now. I may still decide to opt instead for a fall half marathon, but at least this gets something on the books for me to set my sights on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day Hike

My Father's Day was awesome! The day started with Kashi Autumn Wheat cereal with blueberries, that stuff is great! Then we were all off to Mt. Falcon for a family hike. I had run Mt. Falcon last weekend and thought that if we drove up to the upper parking lot and did the Parmalee trail that would be a good hike. Unfortunately what I thought was a mile and a half was actually closer to two and a half, so there was some dissension among the ranks. But we all made it through and the kids seemed to have a good time. They certainly napped well when we got home!

The kids are actually pretty good hikers! Their shoes aren't so good, so they were slipping around on the steep sections which resulted in some skinned knees. But they were troopers and they gave it their all. I only carried Miles for about half the hike, and he would go through spurts where he wanted to walk so it was not contiguous. I was very proud of my family as I tend to forget that not everyone is used to 2+ hours of physical activity.

My Father's Day ended with some bicycle maintenance and a tasty fish dinner! All in all I can't think of any way I would have rather spent my day.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Falling in love with running all over again!

After a pretty intense 2 month race season, I'm taking a bit of a break from hardcore training. Ironically I'm feeling almost as tired and sore this week than I was after the marathon. The reason is that I am transitioning more into trail running. During the past week I have run trails in Boulder twice, the second of which was a pretty intense hill climb. Although my quads are sore from Tuesday's descent, I am still fired up to spend time in the foothills again. Trail running is a totally different experience than my usual training. There is an ebb and flow to it, hard climbs, majestic vistas, crushing descents, calm meadows. I take time to absorb my surroundings in a way that I do not get to experience when I am road training. When I do speedwork, the only motivation is the potential for a faster race. When I'm cranking up a trail, the view at the top offers an immediate and tangible reward for the exertion.

Despite my physical weariness I feel rejuvenated in my running. When I arrived in Boulder on Tuesday it was pouring rain and 40 degrees outside, yet I eagerly bounded out the door to tackle Mt. Flagstaff. By the time I finished I was soaked to the bone and covered in mud, grinning from ear to ear. The only other person I saw the whole time was a park ranger who remarked on what a beautiful day it was. He understood what we were both experiencing. Shrouded in clouds, I could only catch glimpses of Boulder below, and at many times I forgot it was even there. All that remained was my struggle with the mountain in the rain.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bolder Boulder

What can I say about the Bolder Boulder other than "Awesome!" I came within 17 seconds of my sub-40 goal, which I thought going in was a little out of reach. Once again I have nothing to complain about as my pacing was pretty much right on, and I even had a bit of a kick at the end. The hills/altitude make this a challenging 10k, and the field is outstanding so this is a great race to really see how you stack up against the best runners. A humbling experience to say the least.

My Platte River Half race qualified me for the AA wave this year, which is the second wave to depart the start, right after the "citizen elite." Lining up at the start was already an experience as I felt totally outgunned standing next to collegiate runners and other rail-thin harriers. There was very little time to soak in the sights and sounds before the gun was fired and we were off. My goal was to time my kilometer splits, and hit the first kilometer in 4 minutes. This would be right on pace for a 40 minute finish, and more importantly not too fast for the downhill start. Checked my watch and I was at 3:54, but it felt so fast I was not sure I could hold on for the whole race. Cruising around the turn onto Pearl street I was greeted by the cheers of my family, and it was great to see them while I was still fresh. In the Bolder Boulder the miles roll by as the hills greet you seemingly at every turn. The strategy is always to try to hold onto the pace over the hills and come bombing down the backside. My kilometer splits kept hovering in the low 4s and I struggled mentally to convince my body that it could keep up. Finally I was up and over the final hill at 4 miles and I knew it was time to push hard for the finish. My legs felt weak and my breathing was labored but once I rounded the corner back onto Folsom I knew I was in the home stretch. The last push into the stadium arrived and I felt so slow, but I focused on reeling in runners ahead of me as I sprinted to the finish line. I thought for sure I was going to puke all over some other runner's shoes, but the feeling passed as I walked through the finish chutes.

I really like this race, and my only regret each year is that it is over too quickly. The spectators are great and the wacky people that line the course are something that must be experienced. What is even more amazing, though, is the steady stream of people that flow into the stadium for the next 4 hours. Seeing 50,000+ people all participating in such an event is pretty amazing really.

Well, what's next? My upcoming races sidebar is rather barren at this point as a little rest will do me good. I am looking to get some more trail running in now during the summer to prepare for my Team Gangels pacing duties at the Leadville 100. I'm also eyeing a September race, maybe a half-marathon or some other middle-distance race. No more marathons for the time being.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Multi-sport (sortof)

Well it was inevitable I suppose, last week I finally broke down and bought a bike. I have been wanting one for some time now as I dreamed of commuting to work via bicycle. My last bicycle, however, was stolen when I moved to Irvine and I had not been able to justify replacing it. My bicycle aspirations had some stringent requirements, so the "Target Special" was not an option for me. If I do ride everyday, the 150 miles per week would have reduced such a bike to rubble within a year. Also, I have always been a fan of the right tool for the job, so using a mountain bike to ride roads all the time seemed silly. Finally, I decided that if I ever wanted to do a triathlon, having to go out and buy another bike for that purpose was not an option. All of these requirements pointed to a decent road bike, however the $1k+ price tag was out of reach. Watching the web for good bike deals got pretty frustrating as everything in my price range ($100) was pretty much junk, and I had almost given up hope. But patience prevailed and last week a deal came up that met all of my requirements.

The bike is fairly old, but has obviously not seen much use, so all of the components are like new. I put a bit of work into it this weekend (grease, oil, new tires, new grip tape), and now it is a working commuter/weekend/tri bike. All that remains is for me to get used to it. I have not been on a bike in about 12 years, and I have never had a road bike, so most of this is new ground for me. But hopefully with a few miles on the roads around my house, I will be able to venture out and ride it to work regularly. One Less Car!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fort Collins Marathon Race Report

There were scattered showers throughout the day on Saturday, and by Saturday night the sky had really opened up. But, having endured the Denver Rainathon 2007, I felt like I was prepared for anything. Knowing that it would be an early start, we were all off to bed at 8 to the sound of rain on the windows. I had a restless night, with nerves and a youth baseball team on our floor keeping me awake until after 10, but I was able to get a few hours sleep before rising at 3 to begin race preparations. I questioned many times, as I ate breakfast, why the race started so damn early. I took some consolation in the fact that the rain, persistent through the night, had stopped and the skies were clearing. I had just enough time to eat, dress, and pack my race bag before it was time to head to the buses. I arrived at the parking garage at 4:15, and made my way along with throngs of other marathoners to the buses that would carry us to the start. I boarded the bus, thankful for the warm environment, although it was clear that rain and cold were not going to be issues for this race.

The bus ride to the start was uneventful, as I could not see much of the canyon in the dark. I chatted with a guy in the seat next to me about our marathon training strategies. Driving the marathon course beforehand can be daunting as it becomes apparent just how long 26.2 miles is. In this case pleasant conversation made it pass quickly. The bus arrived at the start at 5:30 and parked as we waited for the race marshal’s signal to exit the buses. Some of the runners were antsy waiting and elected to get off then, but I was content to remain in the warmth and comfort as long as possible. At 5:45 the buses started dropping people off and we were informed that the race start would be at 6:15, leaving plenty of time to hit the port-a-potty. There was a long line, but plenty of “potties” so I was through in no time. All that remained was for me to doff my warm clothes and head to the bag check before lining up at the starting line. Soon enough the announcement to “go” was made and we were off.

The sun was just starting to rise and light the sky, and mist was descending off the canyon walls from the night’s rain. The field stretched out quickly and soon the sound of footfalls gave way to the chirping of birds as the sun began to illuminate the canyon. The canyon walls were wreaking havoc on GPS signals and I chuckled as a runner urged his friend to slow down as, according to his watch, they were running at 6:30 pace (we weren’t going faster than 7:30). By the 3-mile mark I had settled into a reasonable pace and was no longer having to pass slower runners. I tried to focus on my pace, but it was easy to drift with the scenery of the canyon flowing by. There are no spectators on the canyon part of the course, and the aid stations are 2 miles apart, which makes for a solitary run the first half of the race.

Soon after the half-marathon start is passed, the course starts leveling off into farmland. The confines of the canyon give way to open spaces remarkably quickly and added to the solitary feeling. All I would see for long stretches of road were a couple of runners in front of me, and occasional livestock. This was interrupted only by the arrival at “Ted’s Place” and the first spectator area of the race. Here the supporters crowd into the road forming a single-file space for you to run through. The cheering gave me a real charge as I finished one of the few uphill sections of the course. I fed off of the energy and ran one of my few sub 7:00 miles for the race here.

It was at this point that I began catching up to some of the people in the half-marathon, which had started an hour after the marathon. At first I did not understand why there were people walking along the side of the course, but soon I started passing people who were running slowly and realized they were half-marathoners. It was a strange feeling after running most of the race near the lead group to suddenly find myself at the back of the pack. Now it was even more difficult to find other runners to catch up to and pass, and motivating myself to keep running quickly was even harder with everyone moving so slowly around me.

Around the 20-mile mark that the race transitions from the road to a bike path, and it was here that I hit the wall hard. I found myself cramping up and I had to slow my pace substantially. This was hard for me as I knew that I had been on pace to make my goal (3:10), but now that goal was slipping away. I did not give up hope, however, and I battled to keep my pace as fast as I could, fixating on achieving a personal best time. Others were struggling around me though, and I passed a couple of other marathoners who were beginning to fade in the final miles as well. Each step became more of a challenge as fatigue set in, but I knew I would finish. Finally, we turned off of the bike path and the finish line was in sight. I fought hard to the line weaving through groups of half-marathoners as I went. As I approached the finish I heard the announcer call my number, “Marathon runner number 28…hold on we’ll get a name for you here…” I never heard my name, but that didn’t matter to me. What mattered is that I was finished.

Exhausted, I moved through the finishing chutes in a daze, but I heard the announcer calling the arrival of the fifth female marathon finisher behind me. I turned around to congratulate her. For most of the race she had been nearby, sometimes in the lead, sometimes behind, but her pace was amazingly consistent, and she had fought through to the end. She is only 23, so I have a feeling we will see Amanda Brown on the leader board again in the near future.

As I met up with Melissa and the kids I found it hard not to get emotional. It is difficult to miss a goal that you had been confident in achieving, even though the actual result is still a significant victory. I realize now that I ran this race better than I have run any other marathon, and was on pace to achieve a 3:10 time right up to mile 21. This course is deceivingly tough, with the continual downhill and banked curves taking their toll. Also, I realize now just how much energy I take from spectators, and the solitary nature of this race made motivation difficult. While it was certainly a scenic race, at the finish I felt like I was lost in a sea of back-of-the-packers. The announcer’s comment as I crossed the finish line seems to be a humorous reflection of the anti-climatic feeling of this race.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Fort Collins Marathon

First off, my time for this race was 3:16:04, so no Boston qualifier yet. It was certainly disappointing not making my goal for this race, especially with my confidence going in. I was pretty emotional at the end, but I realized pretty quickly that this race was a huge PR for me, even coming only 6 months after my last marathon. So what happened?

I don't really know what went wrong in this race, perhaps nothing went wrong. If there is one thing that is true about the marathon it's that anything can and will go wrong over the distance; all you can do is do what you can with what you get. Today was great from a pacing perspective, and every mile for the first half was right where I wanted it to be. Unfortunately, I experienced some intestinal issues and was forced to use the port-a-potty at the halfway point. This took away about 2 minutes of time and I ended up crossing the 13.1 mark in 1:36:44. This would mean I would need a big negative split for the race, but I was confident I could make up the time. I spent the next 8 miles slowly catching up to one of the other racers that I had been running with for a while. She had been holding a very steady pace and I knew if I could get back I would have a shot. We hit a fairly big uphill and my pace dropped to 7:37 from the 7:07s I had been holding, but the next mile (20) was back down at 6:55. I was confident with only 10k remaining. At mile 21 though I hit the wall hard. I started cramping up pretty bad and had to slow down and regulate my breathing to keep going. My pace dropped to 8:20, but I was able to battle back and keep it in the low 8s (a considerable victory given how I was feeling). But, the loss took its toll and with 50 seconds or so gone on each mile the deficit added up over the last 4 miles and 3:10 was out of reach. I fought hard to finish, and I realized that this really was a tough course. With the continual downhill and the banking curves this course deals out plenty of pain.

I am really happy with how I fought through the pain at the end to keep my pace in line. Even though I missed my goal I ran a strong race, and it was paced perfectly. Without the "pit stop" I could have been in the 3:14 range I think, but you never know how things would end up. It was a great day for a race and a great time, I have nothing to complain about.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Fire it up!

The hay is in the barn and the taper's done. I succeeded in keeping my mileage low these past two weeks with 46 miles last week and 32 miles this week. I kept up some quality miles this week as well with a couple of mile repeats on Monday and an acceleration to marathon pace yesterday. Also I've taken 2 rest days this week. All in all I think it has been a pretty ideal taper, and if I'm feeling flat on Sunday it won't be due to lack of recovery.

But today I am fired up, and almost uncomfortable with the extra energy. It's an amazing feeling to discover that you are used to living your life with a tank that's half-full, and that with some rest everything starts operating at a higher level. The human body is a marvel of adaptation, and with continued training it can accomplish amazing feats. My body is prepared for just such a feat, and on Sunday I will barely notice the miles roll by until 17 of them are gone. Then the real race will begin!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


With the running of the Boston Marathon this Monday I have been a little preoccupied lately with this historic race. Monday's race was incredibly exciting, with two American runners (Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher) placing third in their respective races. Watching the coverage, I was sucked into the energy of the race and was finding myself wishing I was running there as well. But a significant hurdle still lies in my way.

For those of you who may not know, entry to the Boston Marathon is not gained via lottery as in other major marathons. It is achieved via a qualifying standard. This means that in order to enter in and run the Boston Marathon you have to run another marathon during the qualifying period that is faster than the standard time. For my age group that time is 3 hours, 10 minutes.

It is my goal to achieve this time for my marathon on May 3, however with all of this fervor around Boston I feel that my focus has drifted somewhat. My focus needs to be firmly on my race on May 3, and not on the thought of some future race in Boston. I have several key tasks to accomplish and I need to rededicate my mind to them. I need to taper well for the next 10 days, keeping my speedwork consistent while ramping back my weekly mileage. I need to continue to eat well and get my rest so my body can recover from training. I need to visualize my performance, and layout my plan for achieving my goal. Finally, I need to go out there on May 3 and race according to my plan. Accomplishing these key points will bring me success in this race, and no other race matters.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Well since my last post dealt with my running doldrums I think it is about time I gave an update. I'm officially fired up again! The half marathon could not have come at a better time in my training, and after the result I achieved (1:28:49 and 10th in my age group) I am brimming with confidence for the marathon. Even with the hard effort for the race, I was able to hit the ground running (pun intended) and complete both my intervals and the last 20 mile run feeling strong. I was also consistent with getting out the door for my easy runs. This was somewhat challenging as I spent the week hanging out with family, making my schedule a little inconsistent.

Needless to say this was just the kick in the butt I needed to get going into my taper. With less than three weeks to go now to the marathon, I will be scaling back the mileage to help my body heal up and go into the race strong. I have always felt this stage of the training to be difficult as I never really know how much or how little to run. I think last year I was a little high on mileage in the last weeks, and I hope to scale things back this year from that. Ideally, I should be feeling like I'm bouncing off the walls by the last week. The hard work is done, however, and I think that this will be a good race, barring any unforeseen circumstances. With the marathon, anything can go wrong, but I feel like my training has equipped me to handle the challenge ahead.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Doldrums

Man I just never see it coming, but the doldrums of marathon training have officially arrived. Fortunately, timing is everything, and I am only one week away from the official start of the taper. Last year this point arrived 4 weeks away from taper, and virtually killed the main training period for the marathon. This year I have been able to stay focussed and get my key workouts in for the past 4 weeks.

I seem to get to this point during every marathon training season, I feel totally unmotivated to run. Once I force myself to go out, I always enjoy it, but getting out the door gets harder and harder every day. This was especially true for my interval workout today. I did not want to go to the gym, once I was there I did not want to run on the treadmill, once I was running I did not want to start my intervals. Instead I just went through the motions, not allowing myself to walk away, and ended up having a very successful workout.

I made it to 10x800m today, which is a milestone in all of my marathon training seasons. The 10x800 workout (invented by Bart Yasso of Runner's World) says that you should be able to run 10x800m repeats with 90s rest in between at the corresponding minute:second time that your hour:minute marathon goal is. In other words, I have been aiming to run all of the 800s at 6:18 pace (about 3:07 per 800) and my marathon goal is sub 3:10. In past years I have kicked off marathon training with 6-8 800s and tried to hold on the entire 16 weeks, but this year I fixed the pace and starting from 4x800, slowly worked my way up. I think this method has been successful in that I haven't burned out too early this year. Today's result gives me the confidence I need to start tapering, knowing that the hard work has been successful.

Another point of excitement is that I have scheduled a training race this year, so I will race a half marathon (see sidebar) on Sunday. This will be a great change of pace from the weekly long run and I can get away with skipping my tempo run next week as well. My plan is to run the half marathon at my marathon goal pace (7:15 minutes/mile) which should have me finish around 1:35. I most likely could run faster than that, but the "A" race is the marathon and I don't want to be too sore so that I can still complete my workouts next week. I still have another interval session and a 20 on the weekend to do next week before the taper. It looks like the weather may be the best factor in keeping me honest as we are due to get a fair amount of snow on Saturday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Longest Training Run Yet

Today I did my second "20" of this marathon training and managed to crank out another couple of miles at the end for 22 total. That's the longest "training" run I have ever done as I have usually shied away from runs longer than 20. I have talked to a few people about the Ft. Collins marathon and all have remarked on the downhill grade as a tough test of the quads. As a result I decided to do a couple of my long runs on similar terrain to the course. It turns out that running from my house down to Cherry Creek State Park and then to Cherry Creek Mall satisfies that requirement pretty well. With a loss of about 800 ft the profile is pretty close to the first 20 miles of the marathon. With this 22 mile run and the 20 miles to come in three weeks I should be ready for race day. 6 weeks to go!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Breakdown of a horrible run

I always think I learn more from my mistakes than from the things I do right, so here is an analysis of what went wrong for my run today. Hopefully I'll take something away from this and use it in the future. Every training session seems to have at least one disasterous run, and hopefully this will be the one for this marathon.

To summarize the cumulative problems for this run I'll use the word "attitude". I just did not have the right attitude going into this run, and I suffered the results. My past two 18 mile runs have been incredibly successful, I have felt strong and have been able to incorporate some tempo miles during the run. Since the goal for the 20 miles today was just to finish at a good long run pace, I really was not taking it seriously. In retrospect my fueling last night was nowhere near what it should have been with protein and fats taking the lions share of the plate. Also, yesterday marked a pretty significant variation from my usual routine where I did a strength training session instead of an easy run. I didn't think that it would affect me that much, but I think it did as I didn't really have the "pep" that I usually have. Unfortunately without the proper preparation the attitude could not really get any better over the course of the run, especially with the intestinal issues I experienced. I have had several "uncomfortable" runs over the years, but I have fortunately never had to seek out a port-a-potty until today. Unpleasant to say the least.

Did anything go right today? Yes, I can say that it did. Once I realized that the run was going to be a disaster I completely shifted my goals for the workout. In the end I decided that despite all the setbacks I could still experience a good training run by merely seeking to finish the 20 miles regardless of how long it took. There is some benefit to being out running for 3 hours (approximately the time I hope to finish the marathon in) even if I am not running the whole time. In the end I finished the run with an average pace that was just a little slower than I was hoping for, so even though it was unpleasant I was still moving fairly quickly. My fueling on the run was pretty good as well as I took my gel early enough that I was not totally run down before it kicked in. I think I will try to be doing that more on future runs as well.

Now it's time to put this run behind me and look to the next run. A well deserved beer tonight will do the soul some good.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Inspirational Words

I was fortunate enough to read a blog post from David Goggins. David Goggins is a Navy SEAL who has taken to running ultra-marathon events in support of charities. He was one of the "Heroes of Running" for Runner's World last year. In his post he discusses an experience in which he sees the look of defeat in the eyes of another man. Goggins says, "everybody comes to a point in there [sic] life when they want to quit. But it's about what you do at that moment that determines who you are."

This quote rings true with so much of what I believe about life. Last year, when I registered for the Denver Marathon, the application form asked "Why do you run?" My response was that "I run because it is not easy." People will always try to sell you the old lie, that by doing something you will make your life easy. In fact this lie will rob you of life itself, for in moments of pain and in trials exists the true joy of life. Work is not easy. Friendships are not easy. Parenting is not easy. Love is not easy. Walking with Christ is not easy! Rejoice in trial, and who you really are will be brought to light!

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death -- Ps. 118:17,18

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Cooperative Weather

Well so far this year the weather has been extremely cooperative. We have had fronts move through every once in a while, but they have mostly been confined to the early parts of the week, allowing the snow to mostly melt by the weekend. As a result, marathon training is in full "gear-up" mode with a 14 miler last weekend and 16 miles this weekend. Since last year I have dropped my long run pace significantly, and my intervals/tempo paces have dropped too. I hope to keep these paces around where they are now as I ramp back up the mileage, but so far things are feeling pretty good with two 50 mile weeks down already. The big task now is to not gear up too quickly and peak too early, I'm trying to keep the mileage out of the 60s until I hit March. I am also considering a tune up race in April. I was looking for a half marathon 4 to 6 weeks out from the marathon that I could use as a hard race test. I found one today that looks interesting, so I have updated my links on the left.

I think I'm far enough down the road now that I will be able to finish the training necessary for a spring marathon. If the weather is crappy for the early long runs it starts to get to the point where you don't want to bother with it. But once you make the investment in a few 2+ hour runs, it's harder for the weather to throw you off your game. I have also come to embrace the treadmill this year, with my speedwork and tempo runs being done on it exclusively. Unlike the track, where my body can slow down as it gets tired, the treadmill does not care about my weakness. If I set it to a 6:05 pace, it will continue in that fashion until I finish my interval or I fall off. That can be a good motivational technique.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dizzy World!

Yes, the rumors are true. I am registered for what will likely be the most expensive marathon that I ever plan to not run competitively. Seriously, the price of the Disney World Marathon is up there with Boston and New York! This year "Goofy's Challenge" (run both the half and the full marathon for an extra medal), is priced at $40 more than the price of the individual events combined. It used to be that it was called Goofy's Challenge because you had to be a little goofy to attempt it. Now you'd have to be goofy to pay for it!

Regardless of the price, however, this will be a fun marathon. I don't plan to run this too hard as I want to soak in the sights and sounds of the Disney experience. My goal for this race is 3:30, but depending on the fall training that may change slightly. If the goal of this race can keep me from putting on the pounds during the holidays then that would be mission accomplished as well. The other reason that this will be a fun time is that I will be able to watch Melissa run the day before in the half-marathon. This will be quite the family affair!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marathon Training?

On the heels of my last post, expressing my interest in more racing this year, I can report that I have begun marathon training again...sortof. I'm eyeing the Ft. Collins Marathon, which runs down the Poudre Canyon into Ft. Collins. I wasn't really thinking about a spring marathon, but a friend brought it to my attention and it looks like a scenic course, that's still fairly close to home. I have not yet registered though, so plans may change if the weather takes a turn for the worse, or if the marathon fills up.

My training kicked off this week with a couple of speedwork sessions on the treadmill. While treadmill running for long distances can get dull, for speedwork it's actually quite useful. I can set the pace I want to train at, and the treadmill will not let me slow down unless I give in and hit the "slow button". That doesn't make it any easier to run, however, and I found myself struggling with the workouts without any recent speedwork to build off. Consistency will help with that of course, along with the new core strength workouts I have been incorporating. My hope is that coming into a 16 week program fresh off a nice break will help prevent the burnout that I experienced last year.

In closing I'd like to include this quote, which I think sums up a lot. It is from Haile Gebrselassie, the current marathon world record holder (2:03:59), and is his response to an inquiry about how a global financial crisis might affect future corporate sponsorship of marathons.

"People always ask why I’m smiling. Well I’m in business, I’m also suffering, but I’m happy, because I run." - Haile Gebrselassie

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What's to say?

I had all the good intentions of posting a wrap-up of 2008, but it just sounded cheesy to me. A little too much like patting myself on the back. Besides, 2008 is all in the past now, and what is yet to come is 2009. So perhaps a look ahead to 2009 is a better way to go.

Along that line, I think it is time for a re-arrangement of the blog. It needs a fresh new look, just as I need a fresh new approach to my running. Along the sidebar you will now note that I have removed the milage tracking from two years ago. I keep track of all of my milage now through an online training log, so that's really not necessary. I toyed with the idea of putting my race PRs in the sidebar, but I think that's too much looking back at the past, so instead I have put my goal PRs, which may or may not be achieved this year. Since the blog has become more about running than it's scotch tasting beginnings I thought about changing the name, but I realized that uisge beatha (water of life) has much more significance in my life now than it ever did before. So the name stays. So now that the blog represents more of where I am going, I should summarize some of that in this post.

It's time to get serious! I know many of you (two) may be thinking "Where was I for not serious?" But in reality my training these past years has not benefitted from significant direction. It has been fun, but not necessarily beneficial. Running long miles at a slow pace has built the base that I need to improve, but now it's time to get more consistent with my speedwork. Having an idea of what each workout is supposed to accomplish before I head out is key, as well as thinking about what I can best accomplish in the time that I have to train. I want to get faster, and that will not come through anything but hard work.

In that same vein, I think that cross-training is going to be the most significant thing to add to my training this year. Incorporating core strength exercises at least a couple of times a week will be important for my improvement. I am also hoping to increase my flexibility, which I hope will help keep me running injury free. In short, I actually hope to run fewer miles this year, but expand the number of workouts. After all, I'm not getting any younger, despite how I feel.

The final element to my running I believe comes through fellowship. Some of my running buddies are moving into new stages in their lives, which will mean fewer opportunities to run together. But those relationships will be strengthened through the time that we are able to spend together. Also, the door is opened for new running partners, and I hope to be able to continue to inspire and encourage others through those avenues. Finally, I hope to run more this year with my family. The taste I had last year of training with my wife (As Fast As My Feet Will Carry Me) with the kids in the joggy stroller was enough to leave me wanting more.

I cannot help but notice the parallels that my running life has with my walk with God. In both cases I find myself having to ask the same question, "What are you really doing?" Are you coasting through this life, or are you seizing it? Are you adequately preparing yourself for the challenges ahead? How can you help others to fulfill their potential? These are questions I need to consistently ask myself both as a runner and as a follower of Christ.

To summarize my goals for the future I'll use one word: quality. More quality time in training, more quality time in relationships, and most importantly more quality time with God. To do otherwise would be selling this life short.