Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Gear Under the Tree

Boxing Day. Time to test some of the gear I received as gifts this year. On list to test: Nike Livestrong thermal cap and gloves. Under Armour wicking base layer tights and wind-proof pants, and a Nike Dri-fit base layer shirt.

The temperature this morning: 30 degrees. A dusting of snow on the roads. Most of the roads are treated, and there is minimal ice accumulation. Slush on the sides. I was on the fence about running this morning, until I drove to the grocery store and saw another runner out there. That convinced me.

My course this morning, an out-and-back to the local elementary school. Six miles total. On torso: dri-fit wicking shirt, my EMS wind block layer and my trusty green wind/rain jacket. Legs covered by Under Armour. Hat and hand and hand protection brought to me by Nike.

No head phones.

Starting out slowly, the first couple of miles are net downhill and I want to evaluate the clothing. I'm totally comfortable without a fleece layer. The wind is minimal. Any wind gusts are easily blocked by the layers. I don't feel hot. This layering combination seems to have worked pretty well for these conditions.

Mile 3 is all up-hill. I get to the turn around spot and I'm feeling good. While I'm not focusing on time, I glance at the timer and see that I'm pacing <10:00, which is fine by me. I keep the same pace and run comfortably. Back down the hill, around the corner through the thick pines and over the bridge by a frozen pond.

I'm nearing the end. I still feel strong. I don't feel cold. I don't feel hot. Looks like Santa got my gifts just right.

I'm really looking forward to using the new gear again this Friday at the Freezer Five. I'll be running to burn off the evil baked goods I voraciously consumed with reckless abandon over the last few days.

Until then: run, run, run.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Freezer Five + Three

Yesterday I decided to go test the Freezer Five course. For good measure, I tacked on a few miles, totaling 8.15 miles. You can see the route here.

If you followed the link, you'll notice that I've signed up for Dailymile. This site is great! While I enjoy the social aspects & support of Sparkpeople, it just isn't designed well for runners/athletes to track their workouts. Dailymile has a simple, intuitive interface, and seems like a really great way to track my runs and meet other runners. Check it out if you are looking for another tool to track your workouts.

With my route mapped, and my gear on, I drove over to the starting point for the race. As part of my ongoing winter gear experimentation, here's what I went out with yesterday.

Head: Seirus comboclava
Torso: Techwick short sleeve shirt, cotton thermal shirt, EMS wind blocking layer, Northface wind-breaker jacket.
Hands: Liner gloves, thicker cotton gloves
Legs: Compression underwear, hind tights, champion stretch gym pants
Shoes: New Balance 850 Stability

My main goals for the run were:

* Run the Freezer Five course
* Really focus on running slow and finishing strong
* Test out cat-crap again
* Test run different layers
* Test comboclava fit again

With a slow pace in mind, I started out on the course. The beginning part of the run goes under highway 190 and just past the Sterling airport. The course is mostly flat, with some gentle hills here and there. At the point where the race would turn around and head back to the start, I continued on for about another 2 miles. This two miles proved to be mostly uphill. Every time I felt like I was starting to get a good groove and I felt my pace quicken, I made every effort to slow back down while fiddling with the comboclava and my glasses.

As you may have guessed, this week's experimentation with cat crap didn't go flawlessly, but did work a bit better than last week. I was fog free for about the first 2-3 miles. Eventually it didn't matter, as the loose-fitting comboclava was driving me mad, so I ended up pulling it down over my mouth for most of the run.

After my turn around spot, I was coming back downhill to the halfway point of the race course. About 6 miles in, I noticed my achilles was really rubbing (right foot). This could be excessive hills, or an excessive up tick in mileage. Or, as I hope, I just need new shoes. These old dogs have logged a few miles this year, the majority of which were me with a lot of extra baggage attached. Time for a new, lighter shoe.

At about mile 7, I decided to open up for a half mile or so to see how I really felt. I'm happy to say that I felt really strong. I had packed a Gu but didn't feel like I ever needed it. Just some half-frozen water and I was feeling fine. I finished up the course knowing that I had plenty left in the tank. Did a few sprints in the parking lot to stay warm during my cool down.

The layering worked great. I wasn't too cold, or over-heated. I feel like that combination will be a good approach come race day (Jan 1).

This morning I did a few miles on the treadmill to loosen up and get warmed up. I may need to go out and shovel soon. Some kind of cross-training!

Until next time: run, run, run.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Registration Complete!

Too many years ago, when I was a bright-eyed youth full of enthusiasm after just having completed a 2 year journey of personal transformation, culminating with the Kona Marathon, I heard about a half-marathon race in New England that sounded absolutely wonderful. While I was in (decent) running-shape, I never did manage to get around to registering for the race. The pounds crept back on and I lost my opportunity.

But this year, I found out about the Vermont Covered Bridges Marathon early enough to register. The time-window for pre-registration is small. Last year, they filled around 2,300 spots in about 82 minutes, and were anticipating higher volume this year.

On Monday, at 7:04pm EST, I managed to get in my registration. I waited over 24 hours for the confirmation e-mail. Turns out that they closed registration in an astonishing 19 minutes. Over 5,000 people visited the registration site, so I guess there is still a strong interest in this race, which takes place on June 06, 2010.

I'm really looking forward to the race, which passes under/over 5 covered bridges on what I've heard is a very scenic route. Here is one of the bridges that I found on Flickr.

I'm still on the fence about running a marathon in May. I might just focus on 1/2's for now, and add a full marathon later in the year (October maybe).

Anyway - I'm really excited about this race, even though it is more than 6 months away. :)

Until next time - run, run, run.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The accidental thirteen.

7:00 AM.

The weather reports says it's 15 degrees (F) outside, but it feels like 3. I lace up and head out for a 10 or 11 mile run. This morning's run is my second (>5k) in the freezing temperatures. Just like the first time, I've got some new gear and a new layering strategy to test. And oh yeah, I got some cat crap.

I wanted cat crap to see if it could help with foggy glasses when wearing the balaclava. You can grab some cat crap at EMS. That's where I was, last night, when I was also convinced to get a new wind blocking layer. I met a couple there that is in the middle of training for a couple of events, including a triathlon and the 2010 Boston Marathon. The guy swore by it, so I figured why not give it a shot?

This I morning I layered up with compression shorts, running tights, and jogging pants over my legs. My torso covered with a tech wick t-shirt base, a long sleeved wick away Hind shirt, and the EMS wind blocker. I threw on my North Face wind-breaker as an outer shell. Combined with the balaclava and doubled up on gloves is how I embarked.

Out on the road, I start out fairly slow. The middle portion of my run takes me by the Wachusett Reservoir, and up and down some hills. After the Hot Chocolate 5k, I realized that I need to work on getting comfortable on hills, so I used the map route feature on Sparkpeople to plan out a course with hills, but finishing with some flat stretches. I feel pretty comfortable as I come by the old stone church and as I cross the reservoir, I am greeted by the rising sun.

Sun rising over Wachusett Reservoir

The air is cold, but manageable. The cat crap seems to work, a little. I started out wearing the mask up above my nose, but now, 5 miles into the run, the fogging is too much. I'm guessing I need to lather on the crap a little thicker next time. At any rate, I continue on. Up by the little common in West Boylston and back down the other side of the reservoir. I am keeping a pretty decent pace. I stop to fiddle with my socks. My achilles is rubbing against my shoe oddly. Maybe its the new socks?

It's now about 65-70 minutes in and I'm coming up on River Rd. I down a Gu (Chocolate Outrage) and have some more water. I get to River Rd, which I thought might be a nice scenic portion of the run.

River Rd.

What you can't see, is that in the distance, the road is closed. I run down the street anyways. It's barricaded. Inches of snow and ice are all I can see beyond the block. I turn around. I call home. Navigate alternate route.

I've been out here in the 15 degree weather for 90 minutes or so, and I'm still feeling pretty good. My water is maybe 2/3 gone. Surprisingly, it is not frozen. Also, I am not that sore. My breathing is regular and my heart rate seems pretty steady. My alternate route takes me on a stretch of road that runs parallel to highway 190. It is a shining example of how a road seems less hilly in a car than it does when you are running it. I push through the hills and get back to my road.

Only a mile and a half left. How the hell long have I actually run? Seems like longer than 10 miles already. Something must be off with that route mapping that my navigational assistant provided.

I push on. Suddenly, a new challenge decided to smack me in the face. My street turned into a wind-tunnel about 1/2 mile from home. I began to climb the final (back breaking at a run's end) hill, wind gusts punching me in the face and chest.

I was met by the kids at the living room window as my run completed. Not a bad end to a good run in the freezing sun.

Something didn't feel right about the mileage. So we went out in the car to see exactly how long I had run.

12.9 miles.

Now the time of 2:14 made a bit more sense. I ran the 13.1 two weeks ago in 2:09. I was pretty happy with that time despite not being focused on time at all. I still ran around a 10:25 average, even with the extra hills, the cold, fiddling with my shoe and being on the phone for 3/4 or a mile while we figured out an alternate route.

Lessons learned from this run:

- I didn't use enough cat crap.
- Layering gloves is a great approach, as you can shed as needed.
- I might need to look at another mask. Maybe one that is a little tighter.

Time to rest.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sound of silence in freezing temps

In Central Massachusetts, we got anywhere from 2-6 inches of snow overnight. I had planned to out for 4-5 five miles today, and I wasn't about to let the snow and ice deter me. With the Freezer Five just 3 1/2 weeks away, I thought today was a perfect opportunity to test layering; how I would feel in the cold, how I would tread on ice.

I'm still trying to figure out the appropriate layering strategy. If anyone reading has any tips, feel free to share them! This morning I geared up with some old Hind tights, some compression shorts, and a pair of old gym pants. On top, I had a tech wick shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, sweatshirt & windbreaker. I donned a vented ski-mask and gloves. Believing the axiom "rather be hot than cold", finally, I threw on my wind-breaker. With my green hood and mask, I looked as if MF Doom had taken up snow-shoeing.

Just the cold and me
I headed out for a familiar 4 mile road route near home. It is an out and back with a few very low grade hills. The roads were pretty empty (around 7:50am) so I felt safe enough to avoid the ice that had gathered up on the banks, and run in the road, only occasionally moving over. I encountered maybe a handful of drivers. Since I knew I'd be road running, I decided to ditch the headphones in favor of safety. This had an unexpected, zen-like effect.

I had forgotten how fantastic it can be to just get out there and run. Without the pounding beat of a soundtrack, the lap-splits. Without checking my pace or hearing the iPhone alert me with a text message or e-mail. Just me and the cold, empty road. The wintry wonderland around me. The sound of my shoes hitting the pavement and the swoosh of my wind-breaker, my breathing and heart beat - the perfect soundtrack in the otherwise silent winter morning.

I ended up shedding the mask about half-way through the run. And, I was probably a bit too warm with the sweat-shirt. But if the Freezer Five is any colder than today, it's good to know I can run with all of this extra bulk.

This layering in the cold seems like it is going to take some practice.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hot Chocolate 5k

Today we woke up early, bundled the kids up in winter gear and drove out to Northampton, MA for the 6th annual Hot Chocolate 5k Run. The weather was somewhere around 35F and more than one weather prognosticator prognosticated snow. We arrived an hour early, picked up race packet and timing chip. I ate a banana.

We met up with Fishadad and his clan. Bill and I went out for a quick jog to warm-up. It has been great to meet friends at the last couple of races. It's a trend I hope to continue through the winter. Bill might even try his first half-marathon with me in 2010!

After warming up, I took my place in the chute, between the 9:00 and 8:20 pace signs, and waited.

The race was running (no pun intended) 10 minutes behind. There were probably around 4,000 people! The atmosphere was more like a marathon than a 5k. And, there were some characters. We saw a polar bear and a turtle, giant marshmallows ran, and paired pajamas ran in tandem. The polar bear says he runs a 7:00 in the suit. Not too shabby!

Eventually we began, and the first bit of the course took us uphill and around the corner for a short stint on Main St. We then went along routes 10 & 66 and through Smith college, eventually coming back down Elm and Main, back to the race start.

I started out slow, running maybe an 8:40 first mile. I picked it up in the second mile, running somewhere around 8:20 but hit some unexpected hills in the third mile and ended up slowing way down to somewhere around 9:41 for the last 1.1. At the time of this post, the results are not posted yet. But my unofficial time was 26:46, for an average of around 8:39. It wasn't a PR, but I feel very good about the results. I felt like I ran strong, on a hilly course, in near freezing weather.
I saw the monkadoos on my way out, and as I made the final descent to the finish, there they were on the sidewalk, cheering me on. I waved. It has been great to have friends and family at the last couple of races!

For me, there are no greater cheerleaders than the monkadoos yelling "Go Dad!".

I'm already looking forward to my next race: The Freezer Five on New Year's Day. I might need to get some warmer gear.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday. Fifty minutes past the fourth hour. UP. Laced. Down stairs.


Decide to try some speed work. Two miles, faster. Last race was an 8:25 pace. Set to 8:00.

First mile great. Struggle a bit finishing second mile. Slow to 10:00 for third mile.

The Hot Chocolate 5k is Saturday. Thinking about a slow run tomorrow morning instead of a day off. Saturday is normally the long run day. I may run a medium distance Sunday, straight through Monday & Tuesday.

002 3.1 4-5 003 003 XXX 003

Found a nice table for mapping speed to pace on treadmills. Included adjustments for incline.