Monday, May 24, 2010

Mud Wrestling in Kansas City

Is the headline a cheap exploit to attract new viewers to my blog in ratings month or the latest road adventure training for my next marathon? Read on and find out….

I’m two weeks away from my next marathon (Déjà vu all over again) and I’ve entered once again the blissful stage of taper, or as I put it in my twitter on Friday, TGIT (thank God it’s Taper) time. If you have trained for a marathon, or are training for your first, you know that you typically plan and chart runs over roughly sixteen weeks. According to my spreadsheet, this week’s Thursday run called for a SL/G 5. A semi-long goal paced five mile run.

Before my sixteen week marathon plan, I know exactly what I plan to do each day over 112 days, but you don’t know what the weather will be like, will you be healthy, will you be nursing a “hitch in your giddy up,” or as a traveling sales executive, “where will I be?” Kind of a runner’s “Russian Roulette.”

Spin the wheel, and this week’s SL/G 5 landed in Kansas City. I’ve logged some great runs on the road; the Golden Gate Bridge, Stanford’s track field, and New York’s Central Park. I queried my twitter peeps, pinged my DailyMile homies, and’trolled for KC suggestions. Business got in the way of my running life, and I had to find a late afternoon run from a Marriott Courtyard south of the city.

With all that research, I relied on…the strongest source of information available. The front desk clerk at the hotel. Talk about “Russian Roulette,” you’re really “rolling the dice” by putting your faith in someone who doesn’t run that’s ready to get off their shift.

So I ignore, DailyMile, MapMyRun, and Twitter peeps and go with the “chicken scratched” note that starts behind the strip mall ½ a mile away. Hmmm…sounded suspect, but I was committed to “checking the box” and reporting to my running community and my conscience that I completed that day’s task.

The run was a “Beauty and the Beast” kind of run with some great characteristics and some, not so much.

The Beauty? You can’t go wrong with the idea of running someplace new and in this case, the route “mirrored” Kansas City’s Indian Creek—the bonus was that it was a crusher fine trail. On the continuum of what’s rough on the body, concrete is the hardest followed by asphalt. On the soft end is a dirt trail or best yet…the crusher fine trail. Cool weather on the verge of raining…ahhh…running bliss.

The Beast? On my left is the beauty. On the right was characterized by the “ass end” of several strip malls with the trash cans, grease disposal and graffiti.

As I indicated above, the weather was cool on the verge of rain. What I didn’t know is that it had rained for two weeks and I had to run serpentine style to dodge the deep puddles and soggy grass that had my socks wet by the ½ mile mark (a good thing this was only five because anything over seven with wet socks is a bad blister buzz.)

Then came the comic relief part, I approached a section of the path that dipped below a busy Kansas City viaduct. I’m used to this having run hundreds of miles along the Platte River in Denver. As I sped down the slight hill under the bridge, I saw mud, but it was too late the “throw on the brakes” and didn’t see a dry patch on either side. I assumed that the mud was shallow and would be a few feet in length. Wrong and wrong. This thing could have been a venue for either Saturday night’s mud wrestling contest or full length mud football game.

I’m lucky I didn’t take a "digger" taking the pool at full speed as the sludge rose all the way up to my ankles as I "muddled" through the gauntlet. Once emerged from the bridge, my shoes looked like chocolate covered strawberries, but smelled like smelly feet covered in sewage.

The only good news was that I had another five miles to shake off the slop and get the run done before the rain. As I indicated in the video clip of my run, I incorrectly mixed Caddyshack’s “I don’t think the heavy stuff is going to come down for awhile, I think we should play on” rain clip with “It could be worse, it could be raining” line from Young Frankenstein.

The rain started as my run ended, but as I also indicated in my video blog, it’s like the bumper sticker that says “A bad day of fishing is better than any day at work,” or as I put it, a bad day or running is better than any day at work. In this case, it wasn’t a bad day…it’s a great day to be a runner.

A footnote: I apologize to the Marriott Courtyard housekeeping staff who are likely not happy with the condition of the bathtub and towels I used to get my shoes clean enough to throw in a trash bag for the trip back to Denver.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Groundhog Day

"This is like déjà vu all over again.” (Yogi Berra)

How often have you been (gingerly) sitting in the “oh so comfortable” airport seats after a marathon waiting for your flight to board and find someone insane enough to be heading onto their next one? Are you kidding me? After a number of my marathons, I feel like Indiana Jones after he’s been dragged by the German Military truck in Raider’s of the Lost Ark. Karen Allen is trying to treat poor Indy’s wounds and is unable to find the spot where it doesn’t hurt. The last thing I’m thinking about is getting dragged by another truck.

How can you begin to think about running your next one within a week???? Such was the case on my flight home from Boston, when there was someone trying to get to London amidst the Icelandic ash to run the London Marathon a week after the Boston Marathon.

I can’t imagine that, but I’m getting similar odd responses from people wondering why I’m running my next marathon (the Steamboat Marathon) in beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado a mere seven weeks (minus one day) from my Boston run.

Call it unfinished business, or as my running group partner Karen asked, “you aren’t getting a bit obsessed are you?” I’ve talked about it before (The Boston Hangover) that part of the coping mechanism of having the euphoria of marathon training and the race over is too quickly jump into the same activity (are we talking about marathons, Tiger Wood’s issue, or crystal meth here? All are addictions; one much healthier than the others.

My daughter had the funniest comment, “don’t you have to train for that?” when talking about my upcoming Steamboat race. She knew that I was in a brief recovery period from Boston (two weeks) and figured I needed to start over my typical sixteen week training program. She didn’t take into account the 1,400 miles I’ve run since last July. Pretty smart kid. After consulting with my running coach Dave, he recommended, “You already have a massive endurance base from Boston and don’t need to do a ton of miles. It’s better to allow your body to stay fresh/recovered…than to push it too hard, especially in a race that you are running secondarily, for fun.” The tough part will be telling my body that it’s a fun race, and not a PR effort. The Steamboat plan was a little easier to build since I merely had to chart seven weeks vs. sixteen.

It’s a good thing I didn’t listen to the running demons in my head, because they originally tried to convince me to run the Colorado Marathon (similar to Boston in that it starts out wicked fast) but doesn’t throw nasty hills near mile 20. Only problem was that it was only a month beyond Boston and (true confessions) despite my groveling to the race Director (I’m a CSU alumni and lived in Ft. Collins) to accept another entry to a sold out race. Calmer heads prevailed and I opted for Steamboat ranked by Runner’s World as one of the top “scenic” destination marathons in the U.S. with a little more time for recovery. The added bonus will be that this will actually be the first marathon I’ve actually run in my home state of Colorado.

The “Groundhog Day” complex is a reference to the classic Bill Murray movie where he keeps reliving the same day over and over. I’m feeling a bit like Bill since I barely blinked after Boston and I’m once again charting long runs, speed work, in my excel plan and logging to my peeps on DailyMile. Where was my break from Boston (which was only four months after Sacramento?)…I must have missed it. As Boston euphoria has all but vanished, I’m left with “why is my alarm clock going off at 5:45” and “why am I running ten 800’s today at sub 5K speed? Insanity, addiction, and a sense of “haven’t I been here before?”

I’m trying to kick the post race demons where it hurts by laying out a plan of what I’ll do after Steamboat. A month of taking it easy will likely be followed by the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon (another barn burner that is literally almost all downhill) in August that connects two really cool Colorado mountain towns. After that, I will run something in the Fall (October?) before taking another year-end rest. Then…Boston…haven’t I been here before?

Déjà vu all over again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Slow Down You Move Too Fast

Slow down, you move too gotta make the moment last...

After my perplexing performance and last training session for the Boston Marathon (I know I'm way to hard on myself,) I once again did the post mortem on my race and training and drew some conclusions; I was tired before the race. I felt overtrained, but at the same time, I felt I built up speed, hills and miles. So other than the course is notoriously tough, why did I hit “the wall” so hard around mile 20? I didn’t hit the wall in my previous race and hadn’t really felt that “beat up” since my first marathon.

For quite some time, I have been hearing about the virtues of heart rate based training as being the next step in becoming a serious distance runner. While I’ve been dedicated to logging 500-600 miles per marathon, following a training plan religiously, and continuing to improve my training, I have also felt my training has “hit the wall.”

The epiphany came with reports of a woman who came in first place in her age group at April’s Boston Marathon. She is in my running group (Runner's Edge of the Rockies) and modified her training by having a Vo2 Max and Body Composition study done by CU (University of Colorado) Sports Medicine in Denver and incorporating a heart rate based training program.

“The test is hard and uncomfortable. I decided to use this test as a new tool in my training and it really paid off. Since I got a 3rd last year in Boston, I was aiming for a first this year and I knew I could fall victim to over training. The biggest mistake is to run too fast on those long runs. When you throw away the pace and just train in your appropriate heart rate zone, you will gain huge benefits. Basically what happened is I was able to run faster at a lower heart rate by the time I went to Boston. I stuck with the 3:30 group and stayed right in my training HR zone...all the time. It was difficult to not take off with the faster people in my group but I knew what would happen on race day. I did one speed work session per week and kept the very hard work under 20 minutes total....this did not include warm up, cool down or recovery in between bouts. You are young so you can handle mileage and speed but rest and recovery is very important and I am the queen of long tapers. I have run Boston 12 times now so I know the course can really hand it to you. It is so strategic and the placement of hills, both up and down, presents a real challenge.”

I felt “guilty as charged” when she spoke about the “biggest mistake” of running too fast on long runs. Too often, my DailyMile workouts posted comments of “Fast recovery workout.” Sometimes the "truth hurts." While my 800M, 5K, and 10K times improved, I was running too fast too many days of the week. How often have you heard that your long run should be 45 seconds to a minute slower than your goal pace? How many of you run them too fast like I did? Guilty again…

So yesterday, I put my ego aside and paid a visit to the CU Sports Medicine Center with an appointment to see Dr. Iñigo San Millán, PhD for my Vo2Max and Body Composition test in the Exercise Physiology and Human Performance lab. Wow…that’s a mouthful…I’m not sure if I’m filming a Gatorade commercial, a guinea pig, or some kind of Dr. Seuss character with the apparatus they planned to hook up to me.

The first 30 minutes were taking in some basic information; weight, body fat (damn that guy who has the $1 candy box in our office,) and “what brought you here.” I explained the woman's success story (above) and how despite pushing myself hard in my last marathon training program, I felt drained and hit the wall big time in my last race. I sensed I was in the right place based on all the autographed Tour de France jerseys and other elite athlete paraphernalia in the office…wait it minute, what am I doing here?…I seemed to have stumbled into the elite athlete lab.

The next phase was the testing itself, strip down to the running gear and hop on the treadmill for a little warm-up. Essentially, there was 8-10 minutes of warm-up at a fairly slow pace, then he hooked up the polar heart rate monitor and Dr. Seuss Lorax looking thing to me for five minute increments starting out slow and ratcheting up each interval. Before turning up the speed each time, the good Dr. would pin prick my finger for a lactate blood sample (just a little pin prick…is there anyone at home, just nod if you can hear me…Pink Floyd interlude.)

I gotta say, there was nothing natural about having the Lorax tube hooked up to me, but eventually got into a rhythm as much as possible. Prior to the test, and based what times I’ve run my marathons, Dr. Millan mapped out the intervals to start at 6.5mph and finish at 9mph (under a 7 minute mile.) He asked at a 6:40 mile pace if I wanted to go again, and I plead “uncle” knowing that he likely had enough data at that point.

The final 30 minutes after a shower Dr. Millan walked me through the results. For as smart as he was, he did a phenomenal job of describing the topic in layman’s and runner’s terms in a very straightforward manner. I won’t begin to go into all the science and jargon. I’ll leave that to the expert(s.) Fundamentally, he described the various muscle types, how they’re trained and how athletes (distance runners, cyclists) convert glucose into lactate.

Lactate = acid = bad (the more lactate, the more your muscles say, why the hell are you doing this to me?)

He drilled down into my results and understood why I “hit the wall” so hard in Boston based on the chart that showed the correlation of my heart rate, mph to lactate production. Put another way, I disregarded coaches orders of recovery day or slow/cross train day and ran too fast. Put another way, there are tempo type muscles (trained at a lower heart rate) and sprint muscles (faster…at a much higher heart rate.) Testosterone got the better of me and I ran too many times too fast. Looking at my chart, he explained that with the right heart rate training, I will eventually even out the lactate curve (you want it somewhere around 1.0.)

I am now shopping for the appropriate heart rate monitor and likely waiting for the new Garmin 105 coming out in June 2010 (it’s the smallest yet with HR monitor, GPS, and correlating software.) Today, I improvised without the monitor and did dreadmill running at a modest 7 to 7.5 mph which should have placed me in a 130ish heart rate. I feel liberated like a golfer who finally figured out what was wrong with their swing. This will take weeks and months to slowly condition my muscles to handle speed without pain over 26.2 miles, but Dr. Millan was quite bullish on my ability to improve my time.

It was well worth taking the next step and will update as I progress with the heart rate approach. So if you see slow times posted on my DailyMile or Twitter, do me a favor and say, "Great job!, go slower!"

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine