Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Recap

I finished January in much the same way that I began it - running off beer calories.

This year, I am endeavoring to run at least one road race each month. This month got that goal taken care of quickly, with the January 1st Freezer Five miler. I tacked on an extra 5 to really ring in the new year.

I also started really training for the Half at the Hamptons. I found an 8 week schedule and jumped in on week 2. It's the first time I've incorporated speed work and tempo runs into my routine, which I have already noticed. My "comfortable pace" time has been steadily improving.

Finding the time to train has led me to getting up for cold pre-dawn runs. Turns out that I really love these, but I've already blathered on that enough on this blog.

Lastly, there's the blog itself. I've posted more here, on dailymile and twitter about my runs and I've been impressed. The group of runners on dailymile and twitter are nothing short of awesome. It's completely inspiring to read about and interact with people of all ages and abilities who share a love for being fit and healthy and just getting out there!

On the topic of getting out there, I was out for 105 miles last month.

On tap for February: The Hampton Half on Feb 21 and more of the same: run, run, run

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I'm that crazy guy you see out there

It's a rainy Saturday morning in October. More appropriate to describe the weather conditions as a deluge. The sky opened up in the late morning and hasn't stopped dumping liquid for hours. On a nearby rail trail, a young woman walks her dog. In the distance, through a misty cloud, she sees a figure moving toward her. As the figure nears, she makes out the form of a man, wearing a hooded windbreaker jacket and pants, moving through the downpour. As they pass on the trail, he smiles and says "Good morning". She shakes her head and moves on.

It's early evening in December. An hour ago, the sun set and the cold black of the New England dark blanketed the land. Evening commuters are traveling home after a long work week. These days, there is less sun. You head to work, sunless, and return home the same. On this evening, there seems to be something else on the roadways. Up ahead, on the shoulder of the road, there appears a bouncing light, moving in concert with several reflective horizontal lines. Headlights illuminate the shape of a hooded runner with flashlight, moving through the darkness.

It's January. Snow is falling in the new year. There is already a couple of inches on the ground. Plowmen are out, digging out their neighbors, trying to keep ahead of the storm. On a residential street, people stay bundled up inside, drinking coffee, watching TV. A woman peers outside at the winter wonderland and spies, through the swirling white - a hooded man running in the snow. He appears to move effortlessly on the snow and ice. Returning to her coffee, she thinks - "Some people are crazy!"

It's 4:45am. A news paper delivery man is startled. Jolted out of his somnambulist-like morning routine by something out-of-place on this day's route. Through the rear-view mirror, he notices a hooded figure, running through the black. Illuminated only by the moon on the horizon and the sparse street lamps on this residential loop.

It's 5 degrees (F). With the wind-chill, it's -16F. Parents are bundled up with their kids, waiting for the school bus. Around the corner comes some nut case in a hooded jacket. His only exposed skin: the few inches around his eyes. As he passes them, his smile is hidden under a tight fitting balaclava.

I used to sit on the couch. I used to mindlessly eat. I was a ridiculous sloth. But I woke up one day and resolved to change that.

Now I'm that guy, running through the rain, snow, dark or cold. I may not be the fastest runner, or the runner covering the most mileage, but I run. Running gives me a feeling that no amount of food, laziness, alcohol or drugs ever could - a feeling of freedom, of accomplishment, of health, of love, of feeling ALIVE.

Maybe someday I'll see you out there.

Until then, I'll run, run run.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Enjoying the Ups and Downs of LSD

We can't stop here man! It's Bat Country!

No, I'm not talking about lysergic acid diethylamide. I'm referring to the other LSD. The long, slow, distance run. It won't make you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel, but it can be a challenge if you are not prepared.

As your attorney I advise you to strap on a fuel belt, grab a pack or two of GU, and take it slow.

For god's sake man! I just want to run. Taking it slow is for sissies.

There seem to be two camps regarding the distance run in marathon training. In my limited training, I think that most plans call for your distance runs to be much slower than your actual race pace. Sometimes, even 1-2 minutes slower per mile. The other camp calls for you to just get out there and run. Training your body to run slower is counterproductive. I haven't really decided which side I prefer, but I also don't shy away from a challenge. This week I decided to "take it slow" but include a lot of hills on the route.

This morning's training called for 10 miles. I mapped out a 10.7 mile route using the mapping tool at Dailymile. I accepted a challenge (Honest Abe) which required 16 miles to be logged between Saturday and Monday. I was determined to hit this number with today's long run.

The beginning part of the course took me up and down some gentle hills as I made my way to the end of my street. This is about 3 miles, and as I turned the corner, my watch read 29:00. A little too fast I thought. I slowed down, as miles 3-6 were predominantly uphill. Mile 6 was sort of mixed, and most of Mile 7 was uphill as well. Around mile 8, I realized that I was actually running much faster than I thought I would (around a 10 minute mile). I decided that for the last 3 miles, I would alternate between running a bit harder, and slowing down to a nice slow jog. I ended up finishing with an average pace of 10:02 over the 10.68 mile distance.

The vertical ups and downs have an interesting effect on me. My mind chatter oscillates between things like "Well this isn't so bad, take it nice and easy." to "You fool! What made you think you could run TWO consecutive uphill miles?". My knees lodged several formal complaints on the longer uphill stretches.

However, after I had been out for 5 or 6 miles, a strange thing started to happen on these rolling hills. I began to get (closer to) comfortable. I won't say I was completely at ease with the hillier course. I used to despise hills. This is why I've made sure that my last few long runs have included ample hill time. I'm not about to let some stupid elevation change get the better of me.

So, in my limited hill running, I've come to several conclusions/tips that work for me. I thought I'd share. Your mileage may vary.

1. When running uphill, take smaller steps. I try not to reduce my level of effort, but just to cut down my stride length.

2. Lean forward. I sort of visualize myself falling up the hill. I try to keep my hips leaning forward while ascending.

3. When nearing the top of the hill, run through it. Don't let up until you have crested and are heading down the opposite side.

4. Use the downhill as a recovery period. This has been especially helpful on courses with rolling hills.

5. Have fun! Hills don't have to be the enemy. If you can get over the mental barrier and let yourself just have a good time with the challenge, they are a bit more palatable.

Up until this point I've only included hills on my LSD runs. I'll probably have to switch it up at some point and include hill repeats and some other type of hill training. If you've got any hill running tips, please feel free to share them!

Until next time: run, run, run.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In the dark, in the dark. Would you, could you, in the dark?

4:40am. I roll over in bed and glance at the time. The alarm isn't due to go off for another 5 minutes. Why am I awake? The last few days, my internal clock has pulled me from sweet slumber just before I hear the familiar 'Marimba' tone and roll out of bed to get ready for my early morning run.

These days, the temperature is right below freezing, and it is dark. I run on a residential loop near my house. One loop around is just over one mile. There is virtually no traffic. Occasionally, I see one or two people leaving for work. Perhaps someone walking a dog. This morning, I saw newspapers being delivered.

It isn't completely dark. There are street lamps. There are lights on houses. With no traffic, I can run in the middle of the street and avoid the icy edges and any irregularities in the pavement.

For the most part, I am alone. I've been leaving the headphones at home. It is cold, dark, and quiet. The sky is very clear. Glancing up, it seems I could snatch the stars. I'm alone in the freezing black morning. Alone with my thoughts. Alone with my breath.

It is quite meditative.

I'm very grateful that I've made the switch to running outside during these early morning sessions. For reasons that I can only attribute to my amazing proclivity for procrastination, I avoided gearing up and hitting the roads when I started these early AM workouts last year. I'd stumble down to the basement for another treadmill session. When the treadmill started to die (about a month ago) I decided to make the change.

So, it's 4:45am. Why am I awake? I've come to love these early morning, bone-chilling pre-dawn runs.

How about you?

Until next time - run, run, run.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Shoes! (and other gear, and a race registration)

This morning I went over to my favorite local running shop (PR Running) to pick up a new pair of running shoes. I had been running in the New Balance 850's for a long time, and I'm sure that I've logged many more miles than I should have before getting new shoes. Tread was worn, they were starting to feel less supportive, and with more distance coming up this year, I really needed to get a fresh pair of kicks. I just love the staff over at PR. They are always very friendly and are super knowledgeable. They perform gait analysis in the store and it is just an awesome little local shop.

I tried on 4-5 different pairs of shoes before settling on the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9. I still tend to pronate quite a bit, and these shoes feel/appear to correct that, while not feeling as heavy as the NB 850s.

I also decided to try out a fuel belt. I have never run wearing one of these before. On my longer runs, I've been throwing pint bottles in the pockets of my outer shell (North Face jacket). While this works, I found that the bottles were bouncing around during my run and were quite distracting. I figured I'd give the fuel belt a try. The particular model I picked up was a Nathan 2 Speedpack. It has spots for two 10oz bottles, and a pouch for storing GU packs or bars or other items you may need during your long runs.

In other news, I signed up this week to run in the Half at the Hamptons. This is a 1/2 marathon race held in Hampton, NH. The race is set for Feb 21. I understand that the course is mostly flat. The post race celebration will include lots of SmuttyNose ale. That will be a great reward!

I've looked around online to find a 1/2 training program. Even though I have already run the distance, I figured I'd drop into a training schedule, partway through, and start to incorporate some of the missing elements (tempo runs, speed work) to my regimen. I ended up settling on the intermediate plan found here. It is an eight week plan, so I'm jumping into week two.

Even though today is a scheduled rest day, I couldn't resist breaking out the new shoes and taking them for a test run. I did the little loop in my neighborhood a few times, which totals a 5k. The shoes felt great! Excepting one encounter with an annoyed little spitfire of a dog, the run was quite enjoyable. I ran at a comfortable pace, which turned out to be around a 10 minute mile. Tomorrow is a pace day. I'm thinking of making it a stretch goal to run the 1/2 in under 2 hrs. My last few times running that distance, I was around 2:09 and 2:13. So, the sub-two-hour will be a good target to shoot for.

With that in mind, I'll head out tomorrow and try to maintain a 9(ish) pace on the same course.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Yak Trax in the Snow

I couldn't resist. Last week I got a pair of Yak Trax Walkers. Today, with a few inches of snow already on the ground, I slipped on the coils and hit the road for 3 miles in the snow. The Yak Trax worked out great! I had 100% traction while running on serene, untouched roads, covered with snow and ice.

The only sign of life: yak trax in the snow.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Goals for 2010

I've been thinking about running goals for 2010. I've decided to keep it pretty simple.

  • Strive to run at least one road race per month.

  • Complete at least 1 half-marathon. I'm already registered for the Vermont Covered Bridges Half.

  • Complete a full marathon. I'm currently leaning toward the Bay State Marathon in October.

Day 1 of 2010 brought almost 10 miles. That's a pretty good start.

Freezer Five

Today I ran in the Freezer Five road race. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a run. No snow, just around freezing, very little wind. My companion for today's race: Mighty Joe Young (my father in law). A two-time Iraqi war veteran, and 8-time marathon finisher who hasn't run a road race since his last tour, 5 years ago. My main goal for the race today - run side by side with a man that I am truly honored to even know, let alone have as part of my family.

We arrived about a half-hour early. Joe registered. I got my t-shirt. We stretched a bit and gathered near the start. Quite a turnout.

There was even a pace dog.

Joe has been running at the gym on the treadmill, at a pretty consistent 10 minute/mile pace. We started out slow. The first mile, however, we actually cruised at 9:30 or so. A bit too fast for Joe. So we slowed down. He urged me to go ahead, but I knew that I was going to tack on an extra 4.7 miles after the race. I had decided earlier that I wanted to get some extra mileage (long run for the week). So, I had no problem taking it nice and slow.

There were some small rolling hills in the middle of the race, nothing too serious. We saw Jenni and the kids partway though the race. Great to have a cheering section, and photographers.

Here we are coming down the final stretch.

My main goal was to have him finish ahead of me, which he did, in about 53 minutes. I wasn't out to set a PR, but it was a "personal best" for sure. I'm glad to have run with Joe, and I hope the race "put a bug up his ass". His words :)

After the race, I clocked an additional 4.7, over hilly terrain. I finished this segment in just under 47 minutes, so right around a 10 minute average, which I'm happy with right now, for my distance runs.

It was a great day for a race, and a great way to start the new year; with a fun run, family, and post-race food!

Until next time: run, run, run.