Thursday, March 29, 2012

Three Things Thursday: PRE, Beach Runs, and Where I'm at

Three #running random thoughts for this Thursday from the confines of the Montecito Inn in Montecito, CA.

PRE Motivation

I had a recent blog post (Hump Day) that talked about my OCD obsession with running on the brain.  Just like Haley Joel Osment sees dead people everywhere, I see running everywhere I go.  I hit one of my nutrition gurus this week in Boulder and had to make a pit stop in a coffee shop to deal with my day job ( day job is not running or writing about it...wouldn't that be nice?)  On the table was Life Magazine's "Year in Pictures" issue from 1972.

Coffee shop mag speaking to me

Browsing the issue, I came across none other than running icon, Steve Prefontaine from that year's Olympics.  I remember the '72 Olympics as a kid notably the US vs. USSR in basketball, Mark Spitz gold sweep, and the drama played out on T.V. as Jim McKay talked about the Israeli hostage crisis.  At the time, I had no idea who PRE was nor do I remember his race.

In the 5000 meter race, PRE disregarded his race strategy and came out way too fast.  Expected to podium, he "bonked" one of the few times in his career and came in a disappointing fourth place.  A lesson we have all encountered at one time or another in a race.  Poignant with the Boston Marathon coming up next month with it's downhill start that lulls you into overconfidence.  Also important to keep in the back of my mind as my next race also starts out screaming downhill.  "Patience Grasshopper."

Nearly 40 years later, PRE is speaking to me through a tattered magazine in a coffee shop.  Don't burn through your energy in the first 15-20 miles and save some for the finish.  Kind of like an Obi Wan hologram talking to Luke.

Son of a Beach
Santa Barbara views on my morning run

I've decided that this week's cold will be the LAST time I get sick.  I've also decided that Santa Barbara remains one of the places I will retire should the Powerball come my way.  Timing could not have been better for a vacation as work and stress have piled up recently so the family took Spring Break in California.  My nose ran non-stop on the flight out yesterday, and I woke up in paradise with a throbbing headache.  

I hadn't run since Monday and with a 20 miler looming this weekend, I had an eight mile marathon pace run scheduled.  Despite better judgement, I took off for a run--how can I be blocks from the ocean and NOT run?  Screw the cold and the headache, I ran.  Surprisingly, I felt great.  Perhaps motivated by the scenery, I held to a 7:27 pace (slightly faster than planned,) and more importantly held a respectably low average heart rate of 140.

If I can run that well being sick...well, let's just say that was a confidence boost at this point in the training plan.

Where I'm At

My route today from Montecito to Santa Barbara
That leads me to "where I'm at."  I already told you I'm at the incredibly awesome Montecito Inn, but this is about where I'm at in the training plan.  After this morning's run, I am 74% of the way through my 16 week training plan for the Colorado Marathon.  388.3 miles logged with a mere 151 to go.  Three 20 milers out of the way with two more to go--one this weekend. The first time I've run that many 20+ training runs, and my first time using the FIRST Training Plan.  I am now looking forward to the taper and getting that last 20 miler out of the way.  Unlike others, I cherish the taper.  I consider it a reward and much needed rest right before the big race.

So where am I?  I have absolutely no idea.  I have had some ups and downs with my health during this plan, but (knock on wood,) no major ailments.  My energy seems improved from last year's over training malaise.  But seriously, I have no idea.  I won't know until mile 20 of the Colorado Marathon if the new plan I'm using will pay off.  If I listen to PRE, (may the force be with you Luke) and stick to my plan, I like my chances.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Bite of the Big Apple

Funny how running can bring people together. My best friend (Jim) from high school and I have reconnected in part through running (in fact, he flew in for my Portland Marathon--thanks Jim.) One of my other good friends, Richard is working through adult diabetes and wrestled with his weight and smoking over the years. He took on an 8K this last weekend. Way to go Richard! Which brings me to my first ever guest blog.
Kids growing up on Detroit Circle
Russ lived across the street from me in grade school. His parents actually gave me my first job out of college. Through Facebook, our Moms keep up on our lives. I started to become aware that Russ had become a race addict like myself.  He is similar to me as a runner in terms of goals and ironically race times.  He's further ahead than me on his triathlon game having punched his Ironman card.  His Mom (Sarah) sent me his recap of his New York City Half Marathon. A story too good not to share.

Russ' NYC Half Marathon Recap

Have been building my Tri training regime quite a bit over the last 8 weeks or so, going from averaging 10/12 hrs a week to more like 15-17. As a result I have not been feeling good or strong or fast (duh) particularly in my running- and so was not expecting to run this race particularly well. In fact, I had pretty much written off this opportunity to qualify for the (NYC) Marathon, choosing instead to focus on another 1/2 marathon next month on Rutgers' campus. But my coach was kind enough to schedule a taper this week (cutting the workout timing back to roughly 10 hrs) and my body responded. 

Ultimately, going to the race this morning I was feeling better, lighter, stronger, faster than I have felt recently but still very unsure if I would be able to push to the pace needed to qualify. I needed to finish (13.1 miles) in sub 1:30, meaning my pace would need to average sub 6:50's/m - a pace I have not been able to maintain, even for 1 mile or 2, for the last 2 months. By comparison I ran a Marathon last November that was good enough to qualify for Boston at 7:40/m - nearly a minute slower than what I needed today. So showing up this morning confidence was low. 

I decided that today I would simply try to be around 7/m miles and see how it goes (focusing on next month's race). At the start I just decided to take it easy through about half the race and see how I felt. We did the park in a counterclockwise path which in my mind left us shorter, steeper climbs and longer down hill finishes - any time lost on climbing was more than made up on the back end as we stretched it out and took pressure off our lungs. Felt good all the way around and sure enuf as we left the park and started toward Times Square I was both on pace (slightly better than 7mm) and feeling good. 

Decided to push a bit for the next few miles as it looked to me like we were going down hill on 7th ave. Every race there is always some point where I feel good and want to push my pace, the question is always, where to let it go? Fearing a move too early only to run out of gas just when I needed it most, and now at only mile 7 here was too early to start. But it sure felt like downhill and so I gave in a bit to the feeling. Down thru the square - past the cheerleaders 'cheering' to LMFAO (those cheerleaders had beards!), past the 2 man band of Stand Up Bass player and drummer in a giant pink gorilla suit. 

Arriving on the west side highway and mile 8- I was still feeling good - but knew for me this was simply the start of the race. This is where you separate the wheat from the chaff. The last 5 miles are pretty desolate, you've left the park and the square behind you and now you're in the wind, on the flat west side highway, with little/nothing to look at and a long way to go. It was here I was supposed to push. Moved my pace up to 6:30ish and started moving past people I had been running with. One guy was dressed like Montezuma (I think) in full outfit w/feathered headdress that must of stuck up - mohawk style - 3 feet off his head - no really. I don't know how he ran so fast with that on but he got tons of love from the crowd. 

Went thru a few more guys - some competitive, that didn't appreciate the pass and tried to stay with me. Sometimes I would just blow by them, sometimes their pace would throw me and I would lose my technique for a few minutes. Trying to do the math in my head I wasn't sure what pace I needed after doing at least half of the race around 7m/m and not sure how many miles (if any) i had been under that pace - but I figured it needed to be close to 6:30's. 

Russ doing the math on how fast to run the rest of the race
About mile 10 I started feeling my body. Funny how you can be feeling great and then suddenly, in a flash, the pain comes and within a minute or two the wheels are coming off. Mile 10 started getting rough, hips and quads began barking and all of sudden I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep this pace the next 2-3 miles. Glances at my watch showed my pace all over the place at 6:40 and 6:35 - not good enough - and some hopeful ones, at 6:22 and even a 6:08. In the end I didn't know how I was doing but just pushed best I could in what was now becoming an outright fight with my body. 

The last mile or mile and half were pure agony, pain in my legs and hips was stupid bad, and I really had lost all sense of where I was on the course or how I was doing. As we went into the Battery park tunnel (tip of Manhattan) I lost all GPS info. Inside there was a race clock that said running time was 1:25 (I've got five minutes to qualify) but it also said we were at the 15k mark. This info thru me into a spin as I thought the race was roughly 20k - leaving me another 5k (3.1miles!) to go and only 5 minutes. Completely deflated it was clear I would not qualify today. Coming out of the tunnel I decided to keep pushing the best I could just to see how well I could do and as we climbed out and leveled off another race sign appeared - but this one said 400 yards! I turned the corner elated and could actually see the finish. A race clock to my right showed the time to be 1:29:08 - I had just under 1 minute. I took off like a sprinter moving as fast as I could hoping my legs wouldn't give out in the next 30 seconds. 

My heart was racing and my lungs began to burn just as I heard Laurie and the kids shouting me on. I gave a passing wave and finished 1:29:25 - slipping in under the qualifying time by just 35 seconds! Next year the 'qualifying' time for my age group goes to a brutally difficult 1:20 so getting in this year may be the only real chance I ever had. It was a nice surprise to get in.

(SBM Footnote:  Thanks for Russ and his Mom sharing this story.  Odd how we had so much in common in our youth and years later, we share the same passion for running.  Like Russ, I want to try and qualify for NY in August.  I will be seeking my fourth BQ in six weeks on my home court in Ft. Collins at the Colorado Marathon.  Given the recap above, we not only share running in common, but apparently writing as well.  Congrats Russ!)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Calculating A Runner's MPH: Blond Style

This was just too good to pass up.  I have talked about my infamous spreadsheets where I put together my training plan and track my actuals.  Built into it, I have a calculator that converts miles to my MPH and pace along with some other handy measurements.  I thought I knew it all until I saw this video.  Hopefully, this will help you figure out your weekend runs' pace.  Blond style.

If that doesn't work for you, here's a snapshot of my calculator.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Red Run

There's an old saying, "I'm gonna beat you like a red-headed stepchild" that I've always took subtle exception to..."wait a minute, I was a red-headed stepchild," but I was never beat.

Not sure if "green" adds 10 pounds

Redheads make up a mere 2% of the U.S. population, but have been the brunt of many jokes for a long time.  Growing up, I heard it all, "red on the head, like a ____on a dog" (un-fit to print.)  Glasses, braces, zits and red hair had me on a trajectory to be a 40 year old virgin.  Somewhere along the way, I became comfortable with my "gingerness" and out of college, it started to become cool to be red.  Nothing affirms this like the annual St. Patrick's week festivities.  St. Patrick's Day itself is one day of the year where many wished they were red.  While I'm not Irish, (actually a blend of Swedish and American Indian,) I have adopted the day (and week) as part of my heritage...even better than New Year's Eve.

I began my St. Patrick's week with my second running of Denver's "Running of the Green" Irish Irish marathon run in Denver's "LoDo" neighborhood.  Something about this race that smells of New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, Mardi Gras and New Orleans...oh...and the smell of a giant beer truck at the end of the race.  In terms of fun, this one is at the top or near the top of the list.

Murphy's Law threw a few curves at me that threatened my entry including the month of stomach issues (February) that lead to tests right before the race (any more detail than that would drop readership.)  My training plan called for an 18 miler at 30 seconds over goal pace (not trivial) the day before.  Since this wasn't my "target race" of the year looking for a PR or qualification, my goals were to;

1) Have fun.
2) Run sub seven minute pace.
3) Run a steady pace..don't run out too fast, suffer in the middle and have to die at the end.
4) Not set back my training plan.

New profile pic?
While the weather forecast looked fantastic, as I arrived Sunday morning in my singlet and 5-7K race shorts, I began to second-guess my clothing choices as runners were trembling a bit in the cold.  I hooked up with my local running group (Runner's Edge of the Rockies) for a pre-race jog (I hate that word, but that's what it was) of one mile before the race with some stretching and strides to limber up for the short race.

For the second time in as many times as I've run the ROTG, I mis-timed my piss.  With Denver's narrow downtown street start, 6000 racers started packing the starting area as I was still in line for the green phone booth.  The previous time I ran it, there were ample kids and strollers packed near the front of the line that contradicted the serious runners that were looking to place or win.  This year had waves (that were largely ignored) so I was happy to line up curbside for the second wave and take off with that group.  Unlike the last time, I ran it, I didn't spot Denver's young adults sipping Guinness at the start, but there were plenty of kilts and green wigs.

I'd have to say this was the best I've ever felt for a shorter (5Kish) race throughout.  I stuck to my goal of running a "steady race" on a fairly hilly course with a fair amount of right angle turns.  ROTG draws the best of Denver's elite so I had no visions of trying to place. 

It appeared that my FIRST plan may be paying some dividends as my core felt strong as I ascended and descended the hills and had a decent "kick" left for the end.  Final tally was a 30:14 finish with a 6:57 per mile average over the 4.4 mile course.  My sister (waiting for her husband's first race finish in 10 years) greeted me at the end as did the Killians' beer truck.   Ahhh..."baby's milk."

I finished that day back in my home neighborhood with another annual ritual of shaving my head for St. Baldricks benefiting kids' cancer.  A great cause and also a way for me to mentally amp up for race season by donning a short cut built for speed.   My first race is coming up in a mere seven weeks.  This weekend is the "Ginger friendly" St. Patrick's day itself.  The plan?  Carb load.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hump Day

There's a reason Wednesday is called "hump day."  Nothing to do with camels or consenting adult activity.  You're halfway there.  Monday is behind you and the weekend is within site.  As I plot miles logged in my training spreadsheet, I will literally crest 50% of the miles planned in my plan. I'm at "hump day" in my training.  Given that I've compiled my "David Letterman Top Ten" signs you know you're halfway through a marathon training plan;

1)  I've got some ugly feet. Despite lathering up my pigs with Body Glide before my longer runs, my feet are showing some mileage.  Blisters and calluses ruin any chances of me being a foot model.
2)  "Badge of honor"  Related to number one, I have one missing toenail already.  I eyeballed a toenail that looked a little long before a tune-up race two weeks ago.  Shifting to more of a forefoot strike, a longer toenail, and a fast race lead to "Mr. Purple" toenail which lead to a losing the little guy.
3)  Telling yourself, I only have (insert number here) 20+ mile runs left.  In my case, the number is three (after two already run.)
4) I lost my ass and it wasn't in Vegas.  Before marathon training, I suffered from "no butt."  I literally noticed in the last week, that my pants are falling off me.   As the miles pile on, the pounds peel off.
5)  I see running everywhere.  Runners on Wheaties boxes, Runner's World Magazine in the airport.  Running on the brain.
6)  Spring fever.  Temps in Denver are still fluctuating, but we hit the 70's yesterday.  Spring means race season.
7)  Diet.  My Achilles heel.  My attention to my "Racing Weight" and what goes into my body is heightened as I get closer to race day.  Carb loading, vitamins.  Garbage in, garbage out.
8) Speed work confidence is building.  The first time out was pure torture.  This week I was glad to see that the plan only called for two sets of six x 400's.  I ran them at sub six minute pace but felt relieved they were only 400's.  Yeah...but there were twelve of them.
9)  You use the words "short long run" and are happy it's only a 13 mile run that day.
10)  Rotating the tires.  You start plotting out the mileage on race day shoes.  Just as you wouldn't road trip to Vegas on tires with no tread, you can't have 500 miles on a pair of shoes nor do you want to run in a shiny new pair.  Time to get a new pair to loosen up for race day.  I have my eye on some ASICS DS Racers.

Where are you in your training plan, and what signs do you see that you're halfway there?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Barcelona Barts

Barcelona at night
Can you add a run to your bucket list AFTER you've run it?  I had the opportunity to run in one of the greatest cities in the world this last week. Barcelona, Spain now ranks right up there with my two favorite training runs; New York's Central Park and San Francisco to Tiburon.

The challenge was how to fit in two memorable runs with; an eight hour time difference, a three day conference, and client dinners every night.  Not complaining, but a 7 AM run and my body would be saying, "are you really running running at 11 o'clock at night?  Noon wouldn't work with work and evenings were all booked so I opted for late afternoons.

Down the street from my flat
I flew in on Sunday into Madrid and planned to take the train from there to Barcelona.  After a "packed" flight on Aer Lingus (who uses the word "lingus" in a business name?) the comforts of a club car on the Renfe train was the right way to go.  Much of the terrain looked like Colorado or New Mexico until I'd spot an old fort or stone church.  I'd highly recommend taking the train--the europeans know how to do a lot of things and trains are one of them.  We stayed in a recently renovated flat right near Barcelona University (and the Metro line) and La Rambla which is a famous stretch of shops and restaurants.I strategically decided to do my Saturday long run on Friday before I left since I knew Saturday was on a plane all day and Sunday I'd have no energy for a run that long.  No sleep on the plane nor train and despite better judgement, I crashed for an hour to temporarily charge my body's battery.  This allowed time on Sunday to check out Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Cathedral.  Under construction for over 100 years, it looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book or the liar from the Aliens movies.  Not exactly Olive Garden in suburbia USA when it comes to architecture or food.

In front of Gaudi's famous church

The streets are lined with buildings that have stood for 100's of years and characterized by ornate wrought iron and old stone.  Dorothy, we're definitely not in Kansas any more.  My first night in the city was a quiet one catching tapas in the gothic area of the city.  This part of the city was a labyrinth of massive stone that felt like I was on a movie set yet it was the real thing.  Very cool.  It's true what they say in that the city doesn't really wake up in the evening until ten and meals are meant to be enjoyed.  Tapas and some phenomenal red wine set me up for a great night of sleep, but late nights, heavy dinner, and red wine are not always a runner's friend.

I planned out my Tuesday speed work for Monday which called for six Yasso 800's plus warm-up and cooldown.  I charted a route that would run me under the Arc de Triomphe and head towards to Mediterranian boardwalk.  My "times" were all over the map and I forgot to start my Garmin again a couple times, but who cares, "I'm doing frickin' Barts (Yasso's) in Barcelona" I was thinking to myself.  Only challenge with this run was that I got lost on the way back.  How is that possible with a Garmin strapped to your wrist.  Guess, I'd better read the manual.

That evening offered a big client dinner at Sensi which was the best meal of the week and one of the most memorable meals I've ever had; tapas that included tuna tartare, filet of beef with dauphinoise potatoes, and a chocolate fondant--think the best chocolate volcano cake you've ever eaten.  

Looking like a dork and a tourist

After a late night of entertaining, I had meetings and a ton of walking the next day.  I probably suffered from not enough hydration (of the H2O kind) but I kept a liter bottle of water near my bed to try and keep up the fluids. 

After taking the day off from running on Tuesday, again, I went with a late afternoon run on Wednesday using a slightly different route that sent me down the full length of La Rambla until I again finished the first half of the route on the boardwalk--just past the giant lobster sculpture.  After my turnaround on the tempo run out and back, I started to realize things didn't look familiar again.  Yes.  I got lost for the second time, but turned around after a half mile to go back to where things looked familiar and found my missed turn. 
My "flat" neighborhood

I wound up logging eight miles on the second run and met friends for some Cave at the W Hotel on the waterfront.  I know...tough duty.

The restaurant with the loftiest expectations was Els Quatre Gats (four cats) and failed to meet expectations.  Dignitaries for decades have dined there including Jimmy Carter.  Picasso had his first exhibition of paintings in 1900, and a scene from the movie, "Vicki, Christina, Barcelona" was filmed there.  I couldn't help but think I had a two in 250 chance of rubbing my rump on the same chair as Scarlett Johanssen or Penelope Cruz--I probably got Rosalyn Carter's chair instead.  I (like Bardem from VCB) dined on a typical Catalan dish, bread with tomato paste and olive oil--except I was with three telecom executives instead of "Scarjo."  The service and food quality fell way short however. More like four dogs.  I would try it again to improve my odds on the Scarjo chair and giving them the benefit that perhaps it was an "off night."

Final verdict...add it to your bucket list!

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