Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ouch, what was that?

It's that time in training: the point at which the workouts stack up, the niggling aches and pains surface, and the doubt creeps in. It's also that time where I live by the watch, with every workout being a benchmark of my conditioning and speed. No long aimless runs in the hills, no 5 miles around the block; break out the Garmin and measure your pace as often as possible (hey when will we be able to project our pace on the inside of our sunglasses?).

It's also a time to run alone on these days, as I like to prioritize hitting the pace vs getting in a social run.

Today's workout was 11 miles at marathon pace, which is 8 min/mile. I didn't have trouble with the pace, aerobically I wasn't working too hard. But my knee is still hurting from the 20 miles I did on Saturday. It was painful from 3 miles on, not a grit your teeth and try not to stop pain, just the level of pain that tells you not to tempt fate.

My back hurts too. Sore all the time. At night it takes me a few seconds to stand up straight. It isn't so bad that I can't get through it, that I know. No killer injuries, just normal pain after going 20. But it made getting through today's workout a challenge, mentally and physically.

Hopefully the rest of the week will be fairly uneventful. I have a track session Thursday (3 x 1 mile a 6:40) and the Kaiser Permanente Half in SF on Sunday. That should be fun, I know probably 10 or more runners and look forward to seeing them on the course. This race is perfect for that due to the out and back along Ocean Beach. Goal time is 1:40, which is doable but will definitely be an effort. PR for the distance is 1:32 but that was 10 years ago, so I don't plan to get back there immediately... Race prep tomorrow, race report coming.

IN OTHER NEWS: So what do we think of Obama so far? He conducted his first TV interview of his presidency this week, and he chose an Arab network.

Part 1
Part 2

He is definitely acting quickly, apparently signing executive orders during the inauguration. The interesting thing is that this meltdown may give him the same support for tighter regulations that Bush had for clamping down on national security post 9-11. Economists and conservatives will be chomping at the bit to criticize the rollbacks in free-market poicies, matched with economic stimulus, but they will have to bide their time, there is no political support for laissez faire ideas at the moment, who wants to trust the free market to get us out of this mess?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In other alternative sports news....

+ It's the year of the comeback at the Amgen Tour of California. A long list of accused and or convicted dopers will make their "triumphant" returns to the peloton in the hills of California:

Ivan Basso
Floy Landis
Tyler Hamilton
That guy on Astana who would likely sue me if I wrote his name on my blog.
No comment from the Ulrich camp.

This will be one great race.

+ The Home Depot has discontinued its practice of hiring Olympic hopefuls to work part-time while training. Is 2012 the year that china finally overtakes us in the medal count

+ US Soccer fans enjoyed a 3-2 beatdown of the Swedes tongiht. Get on board now, next game is versus Mexico

+ A very respectable week for me as I round into marathon shape:
- half-marathon pace run (7:30) for 6 miles on Tuesday, not too diffcult
- 1000 and 2000 meter repeats on Thursday at 6:28 and 6:44 pace on Thursday
- 20 miles at 8:25 today
- Plus master's swim class (got to do that more often) and a spinning class

+ Next week is a heavy week, with 11 miles of marathon pace and about 4 miles of track work, then the Kaiser Permanente Half on Sunday. Goal time will be sub 1:40, let's see where we stand...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Things no one needs to tell you

Still, having the data is helpful, cuz God knows I'm tempted:

A group of Swiss investigators have shown that adding a small amount of alcohol to your sports drink produced a "significant decrease" in performance while forcing a higher "heart rate response and perceived exertion." We recommend the Swiss next try adding chocolate to a sports drink; it seems more their style and more likely to improve performance. On the other hand, a highly regarded British team found that caffeine added to a sports drink improved an endurance time trial performance by 4.6 percent when compared to a carb-only sports drink, and by 9 percent when compared to water. Those are big numbers in sports performance.
Source for Alcohol study: Alcohol Alcohol (we're not making this up).
Source for Caffeine study: Medicine And Science In Sports And Exercise.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The things we carry

I set a new record for drops today. First, my key popped out of my back pocket. Despite claims to the contrary, my hearing is very accute and so I stopped when I heard the sound of the key hitting the gravel. Lucky. That would have been a disaster. About 2 miles later, a women rode up from behind with my glove, which I had dropped as well. How I missed the sound of that falling I'll never know. And finally, the water bottle popped off my belt probably four times. Each time was a nice excuse to stop for a moment, but after 10 or so miles it gets tough to bend over and pick my stuff up off the trail.

We ran through the Guadalupe downtown trail, which is a surprisingly nice weekend trail. It has a bit of a "San Jose downtown" feeling as we run past junkyards, Alviso, the airport, the homeless encampments on the river, etc. It's quiet, flat, and with no traffic there is little smog. Today I did 16 at about 8:15 to 8:30 pace. It was more of a "long fartlek" since we were constantly yo-yoing between the prescribed slow pace (8:30) and a 7:30 pace, which for some in the group feels more natural (I can hang but it feels quick...). Thank God for GPS watches - whenever things got too quick someone would look at their watch (occasionally prompted by yours truly) and recommend an easier pace. Ian had the route downloaded on his watch and it kept us right no track, very nice feature and, well, I FREAKING WISH I HADN'T LOST MY GARMIN!!! Ahem...

Today was also the day to break the news of my lack of employment to the group. This is not an easy thing for me but it is beoming more natural and quite necessary since we never know where our next job will come from. Maybe I'll start carrying my resume with me on these runs too.

Which beings me back to the title of today's post. The point here is that as I've gotten back to long runs, I've become much more self-contained, preferring to bring gear with me and not sweat the extra poundage. Today's list is a bit shorter than normal as the weather was a bit warmer, but here it is, with a tip of the hat to Tim O'Brien:

1) wicking "muscle shirt" champions brand from target. Possibly my favorite running shirt ever and also one of the cheapest at less than $12 bucks. They need to stick to solids though, black, grey or navy. Their color combos are hideous.
2) Long-sleeve Big Sur Marathon Shirt
3) Sugoi Short Tights. I've switched to short tights for the long runs to help with groin pain
4) Asics socks
5) New Asics 2130s, bought for just $54.99 at Sports Authority
+ A quick not to the Brooks Adrenaline. They have been my favorite shoes in a long time. My last pair was also a favorite. They wear great, they are comfortable, the fit is perfect for me, and stability is apparently just what I need
6) Super Feet Insoles
7) Acrylic gloves, light cheap and warm enough
8) Amphipod belt loaded with
+ 1 ten ounce bottle of H20
+ 1 ten ounce bottle of Accelerade (whatever flavor we have at the moment)
+ 1 five ounce bottle of Hammer Gel (4 ounces gel, 1 ounce water to make it easier to drink. I am SOLD on this method of Gel intake and it is the main reason I will wear a belt at the Napa Marathon for the first time ever - I hate opening gel packs and sucking half the gel, then carrying them for 15 minutes and sucking the rest, then stuffing the sticky empty in my shorts for lack of a convenient trash can. See, I can change!)
9) Descente Ear Wrap. Perfect weight for a day like today, warm enough to keep the chill off, easy to stick in the belt when it warms up
10) Five Salt Stick Salt Tablets
11) 1 Ibuprofen
12) $5 (actually I forgot to carry $$ today, but usually I do)
13) 1 NUUN electrolyte replacement tablet that goes into a 10 ounce bottle when I refill
14) Car Key
15) Nike running hat

No MP3 player today since I was running with a group. No Nike running vest either (I love that thing).

I think that's everything, so I guess dropping stuff once in awhile is forgivable.

Heavy week: 19.5 miles on Saturday, which took over five hours due to a very hilly course; 1 x 11 mile marathon pace at 8 min/mile; Spinning Class Monday; 4.5 track miles, 6 x 1200 at ~5 minutes each Tuesday(that one was tough); and 16 flat today at steady pace. I should've gotten in a swim day or another ride but, well, I didn't.

As my son Graham said to our Italian cousin last night: "Ciao for now!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gotta Write

Since I last wrote, I've had two great runs: one was a near twenty mile epic adventure in the Santa Cruz mountains. We started at Highways 9 and 35 and looped down into Castle Rock campground before emerging onto a gorgeous overlook of the valley and , off in the distance, the ocean. I ran with the SJ fit crew for the first 12 and Pat and I did an extra 7.5 alone to get in the requisite miles. Really a once in a very long time January run, pics will be posted when I get them developed :)
The weather right now is unseasonably (sp?) gorgeous, with highs approaching the 70s, so it is ideal early morning running weather. That run wore me out for a couple of days, but today was track day and I got in 6 x 1200 at around 5 minutes.

A lot of my life right now is like running. I put out a schedule, I do things without anyone nagging me to get them done, and I check things off as I go. It requires a bit of belief: e.g. if you do you're training and follow the schedule, you'll have a successful marathon; if you meet your milestones, establish your contacts, and re-vamp your resume, you'll find that job. If you sit at the keyboard on days where you have nothing to write about, over time you'll have enough written to call it a respectable blog.

Tomorrow is an unscheduled day: a round of golf with my wife's father and uncle. What's it gonna hurt right? Thursday is 11 with my old work crew, and Saturday I come down to 15 miles. Oh, and Milestones 3, 4 and 5 on my job search project need to be complete by the end of the week.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Solo runs, podcasts, and damned lies...err statistics

We all have our preferences when it comes to what to listen to on the solo run: Some enjoy the solitude and the sound of their footstrikes; others engineer a playlist to mirror their expected run, ya know, start slow and easy, build to the big crescendo, and then take it down at the end with a nice easy cool down; and there is a group of people that like the spoken word, whether that is talk radio, an audiobook, or a podcast. I have had periods of satisfaction with all of the above. In fact I spent at least one year of serious running with no music at all, totally focused on the run itself, convinced that the focus would make me faster. I have spent many long Sunday runs switching between "Weekend All Things Considered" and ESPN's Football Pre-Game show. I engineered a long playlist for the Big Sur Marathon (I was a Rhapsody subscriber at the time and had a music selection that would make a DJ envious): I don't remember everything on there but I do know that Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend" was supposed to take me over that big hill (it did, but unfortunately I did not have anything on my playlist to accompany me for my ten minutes in the port-a-potty at mile 22 - suggestions?).

The Audiobook is an elusive prey. It is rare for me to find one that I can listen to for an hour straight during a run, perhaps because of the need for concentration on both sides (the run and the book). I have done well with light non-fiction: Freakonomics was by far my favorite; Game of Shadows was also very listenable. Mayflower worked surprisingly well, especially when training for a November race; lots of impressive facts that you can discuss at Thanksgiving. And one last book that will make you feel like - well - a big wimp during your long run is River of Doubt, a book about Teddy Roosevelt's mid-life crisis journey down one of Brazil's undiscovered rivers after losing his bid for a 3rd term (i think... I'll fact check that later maybe).

Ok, so that brings me to yesterday's run. These days I am listening to more podcasts and so I loaded up the music playing device with the year-end Phedippidations and the daily version of NPR's Marketplace (are the hyperlinks driving you crazy? They are me...). Phedippidations is a great running podcast, as the guy does much of the broadcast while on his long run (thanks Justine for turning me on to this). Unfortunately, it was too darn funny yesterday, and I could not run while belly-laughing, so I switched over to Marketplace where I came a cross the fact of the day: did you know that Americans go through 25 million plastic bottles everyday? That statistic took my breath away for a minute but got me thinking: 25 million bottles, 300 million Americans. So that means basically if we throw away or recycle one bottle each every twelve days, we are dead on average. To do our part to slow the rate, we'd have to get down to one bottle every two weeks, and maybe someday one per month. I thought I was doing OK, reducing my bottle consumption considerably, but I'm sure I'm above that number still. And apparently the need for recycled bottles is slowing so recycling doesn't even do much for the conscience these days. So I guess there is my take away from yesterday's run: 1 bottle a month people! Do your part, save the world from being overrun by little plastic bottles.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tri-Sport Year in Review

It's time for the year in review, and for this post I'll stick to my multi-sport year. 2008 was a great year for training and racing: after a several year lay-off (with the exception of the big Sur Marathon in 2007 I got back to training and racing. Our friend Celeste (over "a few" drinks at the school Christmas party in '07) convinced me that Triathlon would be the right sport, and she would not take no for an answer, so in late December 2007 I joined a gym with a pool, dusted off the bike, and started to focus on triathlon training. My approach was not particularly rigid: I wanted to build up my swimming endurance, spend a bit of time on the bike, and work on running speed rather than the long slow distance I'd become accustomed to for my marathons. What I discovered (and this will be no surprise to anyone who has switched from running to triathlon) is that the mixing in swimming and cycling is extremely enjoyable and it opened me up to a whole new world of training and competition. Like many, I was concerned about getting in the pool, but I found that my muscle memory from my adolescence was still there, and swimming became a relative strength of my races. Cycling on the other hand, not so much. I ride fairly well, but many of the fatster age groupers spend lots of time on the bike, and since it's the main time portion of most races, it was a bit of a disadvantage for me. My running was fine, not the stregth I thought it would be, but not a weakness either. In my first race (Stanford Treeeathlon) I ran a very quick 5K, and at Wildflower (my main race for the year) I ran an 8 minute pace over a very hilly course.

I did three triathlons (the above two + San Jose International) before winding down for the summer. In addition I joined Kalei (a friend from college) in a swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco (easier than I thought) and finished two half-marathons. So not a bad year, and for awhile approaching Wildflower I was in the shape of my life - or at least of my 5th decade...

What I am finding now though is that I have an unscratched itch: that perfect marathon. So over the holidays I've been adding up the miles and the speedwork in prerparation for a more serious return to marathon racing. In 2009 the goal is two marathons, a spring (Napa Valley) and a fall (TBD). I am focusing a lot more on quality and cross-training now, so I hope to be well-positioned for a half-ironman as well, time and life allowing.

The numbers for the year are below. I need to work on formatting, so forgive me the mess.

In summary: nearly 900 miles running (goal for 2009 is 1K)
1800 cycling miles (maybe 2K next year?)
and with 3 straight days of swimming at the end of the year I made it to 80 miles. 100 might be doable but swimming is always last on my list.

JAN 64.65 145.50 7.71
FEB 69.67 125.00 5.80
MAR 68.48 154.64 10.89
APR 74.49 178.30 9.51
MAY 59.25 243.30 10.91
JUN 47.60 304.45 3.89
JUL 81.27 206.20 6.11
AUG 33.50 251.30 12.35
SEP 51.00 99.30 0.00
OCT 114.44 0.00 2.34
NOV 116.50 81.50 4.60
DEC 108.26 69.00 5.89
TOT 889.11 1858.49 80.01

Today's Run: 8.4 miles at Quicksilver, from Mount Umunhum Road to Providencia Pond, lots of hills, good run but lost one of my water bottles. No mountain lions!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day at the track

Well, it's good to save a little bit on New Year's eve so that you can start the New Year on a good note. There were a lot of options to choose from - the Dammit Run, the Hamilton Hill Climb - but I chose to stick with my training program and do some trackwork today. Nothing too early since I was up until 2:30 last night, enjoying the traditional neighborhood New Year's eve crawl - 6 x 800 at 4PM was fine.
I always love the track sessions as they are so challenging. Today the goal was to do the above described at a pace of 3:13. The first one was too slow and also tough, so I was a bit discouraged, but as I got going I found that I could just hold the necessary pace. I kept all 6 within 5 seconds, with my first being the slowest. 2 were at 3:12, 2 at 3:14, 2 at 3: 18 or so... Then it was over, just like that.
Here we are in 2009, hope you all did something fun, or have a good day planned over this long weekend.