Friday, March 31, 2006

Something I Learned Today

No, not the Husker Du song, though it's a fine tune. I was thinking about an anonymous comment on this blog that said in part, "I would say that your life is not set up for competitive running. It seems that someone is always sick or puking or not getting enough sleep." This was followed by a kind mention of my perseverance. I started thinking about whether this person was right, and I have to say no. Though Kiera's illness, Haiden's short-lived virus, and Finn's assorted maladies I've been taught some lessons in true perseverance, courage and resolve.

My wife has an incredible tolerance for pain and discomfort, and manages to keep a brave face on for the rest of the household even in her most difficult moments. Childbirth is an obvious example, but her recent suffering through sinus and ear infections that resulted in an eardrum rupture is a current one. Even while waiting an hour and a half past her scheduled appointment for a different medication (the first one isn't working), she felt worse for the others in the waiting room with worse maladies. A couple with a small baby hooked up to oxygen that she told me about comes to mind. At her most sick, Kiera still is patient with the kids and puts up with my griping about having to do everything, which pushes my running schedule around. I wish I could be more like her, minus the puss-filled ear of course.

Haiden, our 3 1/2 year old daughter shares some of her mother's fine qualities. When she caught her latest 24 hour bug, which left her throwing up with a sore stomach most of the day, she had an incredibly positive attitude. No cries about "Why does this happen to me", which is something her wimpy father is prone to doing, especially if I get the slightest sniffle. Up until the 10 seconds before throwing up she just made do happily, just stopping to cry in time for me to grab the vomit-bowl. Between Kiera and Haiden's use of said bowl, it's previous role as a cookie mixing vessel will probably never be repeated. Anyway, what I'm getting at is that a child isn't born with the persecution complex I carry along. It's a learned thing, and probably a cowardly alternative to just accepting that bad things happen sometimes for no reason and moving on appropriately, which is what Haiden does.

Finn, our 9 month old son, has gone through wearing a helmet 23 hours a day early on, and has suffered from the usual sniffles that come with sharing a house with an older sibling. He is certainly strong-willed, even at this young age, and while I'm sure this is partially me projecting, he certainly seems to enjoy life. He especially likes attention from any member of the family (or friends), and he is always looking to interract with others. Since the second he figured out how to pull himself forward he has been a relentless crawler as well, and will do his best to circumvent any obstacle, even if it means crawling over a sister intent on impeding him.

These are the examples I have to learn from, and while there are always scheduling conficts, sleeplessness, inadequate recovery, money woes and plenty of vomit, I can't imagine my life without them. Pain tolerance, a positive attitude and outlook, and perseverance are all traits a marathoner can use. And the vomit, well, that comes with the territory.

Back to some semblance of normal today, with a nice morning run.

Training: 16 miles, 1:53:10, 7:04 pace

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What Next, Locusts?

I'd like to thank everyone for all the kind comments over the past few days, it's nice to know that so many bloggers out there are concerned about me and my family. Your words are certainly appreciated by myself and Kiera.

Kiera's eardrum ruptured sometime late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, so her pain is finally subsiding. She is going in to the doctor today, though I doubt there's anything that can be done. Haiden is in school, and I'm back at work trying to catch up. Hopefully this is the last in my series of "tales of woe from the Salkowski household". I'm worried about Kiera, but she's a trooper and thankfully she only has 9 month old Finn to look after.

As for me, I'm paying the price of schedule-shuffling and caretaking of the household for four days. Last evening found me in the windy Tucson night with my headlamp, heading out for 16 miles at 8pm., after everyone was asleep. I'm used to being asleep by nine, so the thought of having only half of my run done by then was not very appealing. I decided on a few different loops, and the tough part was not just running home at the end of each. "Hmmm, if I head back now I'll have 8 miles, which is respectable given the circumstances." "I can just make a left here and get in 12 miles." Still, I pressed on, though the wind was making things difficult and cars kept trying to kill me, even with the light. I kept speeding up along the way, more to be done than for any hope of gaining fitness by the increased effort. I was rewarded when I looked at the Garmin in the driveway, 7 minute pace for 16.

Trader Joe's calzone was on the menu afterwards, mostly to replenish my stores for the morning run and not out of hunger. Eating at 10:30 at night just doesn't work for me. Off to bed by 11, then rudely awakened by Finn's crying at 5:15. Children have no pity for the weary. Haiden was up two minutes later, and so begins another day. After feeding and bathing the kids, we popped in the "Schoolhouse Rock" DVD for Haiden and Kiera put Finn down for a nap. This gave me just over an hour to do my second hill workout before taking H to school.

After a shorter warm-up I dug into the hill, trying to keep good form and remember what Lydiard wrote about steep-hill running and what Nobby Hashizume has emailed me. Very short steps forward, drive the knees up high, straighten the take-off leg for a good push off the forefoot. It's tough today, and each of the four repetitions proves more difficult than the last, probably due to last night's fresh effort and everything else going on. Still, I got it done and returned home from the 7 miles in just over an hour, in time to take H to preschool.

Last night's effort, coupled with the tough workout this morning is my line in the sand. I will be ready for June 4. During the run last night some thoughts of the marathon in January came back to me. I'm ready to suffer for it, through hills, track workouts, grinding time trials and pace efforts. If I can knock out the last two workouts within 12 hours of one another, after the week I've had, then I am ready to give more.

Training: Today, 7 miles, 4 hill repeats with 3 minute efforts, plus 4 sets of 3x100 windsprints
Last night, 16 miles, 1:52:08, 7:00 pace

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


It's still the same around here, though Kiera has started antibiotics she is still feeling quite rough. I'm missing s second day of work, and entering my 4th day of solo-parenting. This must end soon, for everyone's sake.

Through stubborn determination I did get out at 8:15pm or so for 9 miles in the low 7:20's. It was dark and I was feeling pretty sore in the glutes from riding the brakes down the hill after each repeat on Monday. This time around the calf muscles are fine, which is a sign that my body is getting more used to this uphill thing through my weekly hill runs during the conditioning phase.

As I ran away from the house with everyone asleep I was felt a wave of relief (from all the duties), followed by a garage-door of guilt closing on my head. Kiera does this daily somehow without complaint. I can't manage to feed the two of them while feeding myself, so my meals have been sporadic and out of synch (cereal for dinner at 9:30 last night comes to mind). The blood sugar roller coaster surely is affecting my moods, so I'm trying not to think about anything too deeply. I guess we both have our roles, but I seriously cannot wait to get back to work so I can get some rest.

Finn is crawling now, which is great but also terrifying. Lots of new things to put out of reach. What Finn likes to put in his mouth: newspapers, dirty tissues (or whatever is in the trash can), microscopic specs of food/dirt/other. What Finn likes to do: pull cable to computer from the baseboard, which pulls out coupling nails that are great to try and swallow. He also likes trying to crawl into the fireplace and trying to remove plastic outlet covers.

Time to read to Haiden, hope everyone is well out there.

Training: 9 miles, low 7:20 pace

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Streak Ends

I've mentioned before that I like scheduling my long run at the beginning of the week. During the early phases of Lydiard training, it's probably the most important run, so planning it within the first few days of the week ensures it will get done, even if it has to be rescheduled. Wait until the last day of the week to do it, and-well, all hell can break loose.

As I was getting dressed to leave for 22 miles on Sunday, Kiera went into the bathroom to try to throw up. She had been having bad headaches on Saturday, but I guess things really went wrong at night and now she was feeling awful. I decided to postpone my run until naptime, thinking things would improve. They didn't. They haven't. Kiera's been running a high fever with chills, throwing up, and probably a sinus infection in her ear and throat (not that you can ever get in to see a damn doctor on Monday). I didn't run at all Sunday. My only chance was at about 8:45pm., after both kids were finally down for good and I was just shot. I chalked it up as my first skipped day since August 4, set the alarm for 4:00am the next morning, hoping to get in 90 minutes or so and to be home by the time the kids got up.

3:52am and Haiden is screaming. She's thrown up in bed, and is very unhappy. This was the story yesterday. Kiera was still as bad, and I spend the day carrying a bowl behind Haiden while watching Finn. At one point, with the bowl out of reach, I manage to catch a surprising amount of puke in my cupped hands. Not our best day here. Mercifully, everyone but me goes down for a nap at 1pm and I get out for 9 miles and my first Lydiard hill circuit day. They are all still asleep when I return, which makes me feel less guilty.

When the kids wake, it's off with both of them to pick up the Death Cab for Cutie concert tix at will call across town. I'd surprised Kiera with these, but now she was too sick to go and of course they're non-refundable. We pick them up, sell them outside the theater, then Haiden wants to try eating dinner. As we are in the courtyard of a nearby pizza place she starts crying, which means I have about ten seconds until she starts puking. We do make it outside in the double-stroller before she lets loose, but it isn't pretty. ...And she still wants pizza. She does end up eating some while I feed Finn, and we all make it back across town by bedtime. Dishes, shopping and finally dinner for me follow around 9, which is bad since I haven't eaten since breakfast (before the run). Needless to say, no double.

I set the alarm for 4 again with hopes of a run and getting home by 6, when everyone should get up (like yesterday), and Kiera is awake and unhappy on the couch. Thankfully she's going to the doc at 11 today. As I'm drinking my coffee Finn gets up, so he's in here with me and I'll try for a run during nap again. I'm hoping Haiden will be well enough for school, and I'm taking the day off from work to care for the little one.

Since the computer is in the bedroom (where Kiera has been resting) so I haven't been able to check and blogs or the like, but hopefully everyone will be well soon. The only blog I've checked in on is Rubbish Runner Thomas, who unfortunately had a rough time at the Connemara marathon. He's had some trouble with sickness too, so wish him well, I feel for him.

Training: none so far today
Yesterday, 9 miles, 1:16 or so, with 4 hill circuits of 13 minutes or so
Sunday: 0
Total miles for the week: 88

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Dirty Double

My "doubles" are probably easier than most, as I usually just run 4 easy miles in the dark, usually after the kids are asleep. Still, after baths/pj's/tooth-brushing/reading stories/tucking in/more stories/dishes/cleaning up toys, it it damn hard to get out the door. It's so nice to sit down, maybe watch The Daily Show or catch up on some blogs, read, or actually talk to your spouse without interruption.

Last night was one of those nights, but after looking at my training log and doing some calculations it became clear that in order to run 110 miles without doubling the day before or the day of my long run, I had to get out there. Is it that important to get to that number? It is to me, at least this week. I remember saying to Kiera as I put down the log, before heading out, "I hate setting goals sometimes, especially right now."

Will those four slow miles in the dark last night make a hill of beans of difference? Will it get me from 2:39 to 2:35? Yes it will. Not the action, but the decision. As melodramatic as it sounds, I think about being a better runner every day, usually several times a day. Not always in concrete terms, like being a sub-2:30 marathoner or a 15-minute 5K runner, but in much the same way I think about being a good dad. It's seizing opportunities and doing what's right, which often isn't what's easy. Read that Calliou book for the 50th time when your daughter holds it up, even if you need to shower and shave before work? Yes, usually, though I don't always get it right. Hell, I get it wrong plenty of times. We get plenty of chances daily, during our normal goings-on and during our runs.

"Right" won out last night though, and I spent the 4 miles breaking in the "fast" Asics DS trainers I'm trying to get the courage to race and eventually train in. Running the 4 last night led to 12 easy miles this morning, which puts me 22 away from 110 for the week. Tomorrow's long run will get me there, and hopefully in style with some time at marathon pace if things go well.

Training: 12 miles, 1:19:44, 7:29 pace
Yesterday pm., 4 miles, 30:48, 7:41 pace

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cry it Out

Worst parents ever. I'm grinding my teeth in bed as 9-month-old Finn howls in the next room. He's old enough now to not need a feeding at night, especially since it's only been three hours since we put him down. Just like there are a million different ways to train, there are as many or more ways to raise a child. After consulting with his doctor, we're letting him cry it out, starting now. We still go in and comfort him if he carries on too much, but no more snacking. We've drawn our line in the sand, sleep be damned.

Haiden joined in the fun of our sleeplessness with some nightmares of her own, so it seemed no one in the house got a good night of zzzz's. My plan for 22 miles today evaporated, as I couldn't lift off the sheets at 4:30. I'll have to do it Sunday, which left 16 for today. I dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 or so, just before Finn woke for good. Haiden soon joined us and the whole family had some time together before I headed out.

These mid-week 16 milers can go either way, but today things really clicked. This surprised me a bit after doing some tempo work yesterday, but maybe the legs are finally getting some snap after a few weeks with some faster paces. I started very slow, and kept increasing the pace by small degrees throughout the run, finishing with a few miles at 6:30 pace or so. Days like these are welcome, I really enjoyed myself and also arrived home with enough time for a bowl of cereal and some powerade endurance drink before taking Haiden to school.

I'm anticipating at least a few nights of very poor sleep in the immediate future, and I'm trying to plan accordingly by hopefully going to bed earlier and working on my attitude, two things I need to do more of. I'll still try to work in at least one more double, probably tonight, and hopefully I can finish the week around 110 miles or so.

On another note-the marathon in June in San Diego is on. I registered last night, and I'm really feeling good about having a chance to take down my new-found personal best at the distance. As far as a goal, I'm going to see how the training goes, but I would be lying if I said I didn't want to run at 6 flat or below for the distance. In an email Nobby reminded me that now (in the conditioning phase) is not the time to worry too much about marathon pace. The analogy he favors is of someone pulling up on a plant to see if it has taken root. Now is the time to train, the tests will come later. I'm trying to keep my "marathon pace" runs in a more nebulous form, focusing on what I feel is marathon effort. Some days this is 5:55, some days it's 6:05. The day it really needs to be 6 flat or under is June 4, so I'll keep working towards that end for now.

Training: 16 miles, 1:52:32, 7:02 pace

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Again with the "Balance" Thing

Arthur Lydiard's approach to training focuses on balance. There is no single "killer workout" that will ensure success. It seeks to perfectly balance all the elements of training, starting with an aerobic foundation, adding strength, stamina, and speed in appropriate, time-specific doses. The end result-running your best when it matters most.

It is a puzzle, with lots of pieces to fit together. After thinking about my questions on fueling during, before and after the run, which I wrote about yesterday, I realize that it's just a small piece of the puzzle. Sure, maximizing my glycogen stores before the race and learning to replenish them (partially) during the marathon will help, but that alone won't power my legs along at 6 minute pace or under.

That being said, "under" was the order of the day. I had originally planned to do my long run this morning, but after doing a 6 mile evening run with the Running Shop gang, eating dinner too late, and not sleeping well, the alarm at 4:30 was quickly silenced and ignored. This means a long run tomorrow or Sunday, but 10 miles with 4 miles of tempo running today.

After 5 miles of relaxed warm-up I took my mark and started accelerating to tempo pace. My course for this is a two-mile out and back, slightly uphill and out of the wind for the first half and the opposite for the second half. My wind-aided 10 mile race pace is 5:38, and my half marathon pace from a week and a half ago was 5:48. I hoped to run 5:40-5:45 for the duration, but would defer more to effort than pace. I'm finding lately that the first 2 miles on my faster days (marathon pace or below) are difficult, but I usually feel better after that point. This was the case today, as I practiced my "jump-cough" combo and tried not to get too much spit on my shirt as I tried to simulteaneously run in the "5's" while hacking up the remainders of my sickness. At the turnaround I was at 5:43 pace cumulative, and I figured right there that I would win the battle. Heading back on the slight downhill the wind felt cool in my face as I clawed along. I managed to make up another second along the way and ended up running the 4 in 22:47, or 5:42 pace. From here I limped along for another mile to make it an even 10 and got home in time to take Haiden to school.

These are tough days, but I feel good about the end result. When I look back at my first Lydiard conditioning phase I notice lots of days in the low 7's to high 6's. This is great for an ultra-marathoner planning to run these paces for a race, but not optimal for a guy like me hoping to run 6:00 pace or below for 26.2 miles. This time around there are more 7:30-7:50 days, but also more time spent at marathon pace and tempo pace, which was completely ignored during the conditioning the first time around as I struggled just to get the miles in. Hopefully these efforts will pay off.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 6:47 pace, with 4 miles at 5:42 pace
Yesterday pm., 6 miles, no watch but probably 7:30's or so.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I had a post a few days ago that provoked some comments and discussions regarding fueling before and during the run, specifically the long run. Kristine (Kconnor) from Austrailia posted this article in the comments to complement the other two articles on the subject I mentioned.

Here's my pre-run-ritual, which I described this way back in September-
1. Wake at 4:30am, stare up at the dark ceiling in bed for a few minutes.
2. Start the coffee, dunk the whole-wheat english muffin in the toaster, pour some o.j..
3. Eat the muffin with peanut butter and jam, drink the juice, coffee and a glass of water at my daughter's miniature ladybug table in the kitchen with the lights off so I don't wake the kids up.
4. Lace them up and head out the door (stuff a few salted pretzels down my gullet if it's 16 miles or over).

It was lighter in September, so I sleep longer now, and I also skip the pretzels since it isn't as hot and I don't need the salt. I've never gone into a run after fasting, and since I almost always run in the mornng I can't do the oft-repeated "eat 2-3 hours before running" fueling refrain. I figure my meal is 550-600 calories or so, and while the juice and jam probably give me a bit of an insulin spike, it's a routine that works for me.

Where I'm trying to change things is in the way my body utilizes fuel in the later stages of my long runs. We all read about how the body uses primarily carbohydrates, stored as glycogen as fuel for working muscles. We also know that we can only store so much of the stuff, and when we deplete this fuel source the body starts to burn fat in tandem with glycogen. Finally, when there's no more glycogen (and exercise continues), the body finally starts to break down muscle as it continues to burn fat. We slow down dramatically at this point.

I seem to have some trouble when the body transitions from using primarily glycogen to depending more on fat. I'm hoping to find a way to make this transition more gradual-to start burning fat sooner while conserving glycogen. One way I'm trying to do this is by not confusing the body by feeding it more calories (usually in gel form) when I start (or sometimes before I start) to feel a little tired. If the body knows it will get a quick shot of 150-200 calories everytime it starts to feel the burn, there's no reason for it to learn to conserve what little glycogen is left after 90-120 minutes of running. By doing more 22 milers without gel, hopefully I can get the body to adapt and start saving more glycogen by burning more fat earlier in the run. Hopefully, this will help me when I actually do use a gel or two during the marathon (or during longer marathon pace runs).

One of the potential problems I see in this approach is finding myself too depleted too often. As in the article Kristine posted, this can seriously suppress the body's immune system, leaving it open to sickness (hmmm, I know about that) and injuries. To combat this, I need to remember to stock up on carbohydrates and some protein right after these runs, when I'm most vulnerable. Again, this isn't for everyone, and it isn't strictly Lydiard although Nobby did suggest it. My guess is that Arthur would say to do whatever you need to do to get the workouts in, and for some that would mean a gel for every run over 10 miles. As always, the most important thing is to keep running, even if if means strapping a box of jolly-ranchers to your back.

Training: 12 miles with Lucas, 1:27:22, 7:17 pace

From the Mouths of Babes

"Daddy, I want you to be happy." She's only three, which is an age I can't remember being myself, but memories from my (slightly) later childhood flood back to me nonetheless. She knows I don't want to be doing this, that I'd rather be doing just about anything else. Memories of my dad being ticked off, attempting some ill-concieved home-improvement project, upset at my mom, who sometimes assisted. Mom read the directions, dad never had the patience. I know now they weren't yelling AT each other, but it made me nervous none-the-less.

I'm in the kitchen with my bag from Ace Hardware, finishing what is my third trip to the hardware store today as she looks up at me with worried eyes. Installing a new faucet for the kid bathroom shouldn't involve the patience, steely resolve and pain tolerance of a long tempo or marathon pace run, but it does for me. I am not a do-it-yourselfer, but I'm even less of a pay-someone-elser. But the valve continues to drip, even though the water supply is off, my shoulder is cranked to an impossible angle as I bloody my knuckles trying to turn the wrench in the 1 inch of clearance between the sink and cabinet. My back and hair are soaked now, the body tired from the various contortions necessary for any plumbing process, but it's done. Haiden is thrilled to have a faucet she can turn on and off herself. The old one had the plastic "mini-Epcot-Center" ball for a handle, which her hands weren't big or strong enough to turn. She washes her hands, turning the water off and on about 20 times. She brushes her teeth, because she can, even though it's about an hour before dinner.

I want to be happy too. Drive H to dance class, drop off insoles at podiatrist, go to hardware store, return to podiatrist, meet family for lunch with friends, back to the hardware store. Under the sink, multiple curses, back to the hardware store, back under the sink. I am happy at some level, though I need to keep it closer to the surface around the wife and kids, even when things don't go to plan.

I can do this when I run. Even when I'm tired from six miles the evening before that got me back to the garage at 9pm. Even when I still can't shake being sick, and I'm sputtering with coughing fits and clouded-over lungs. I can be happy, climbing up through the hills of Sabino Canyon, to the top of the road and back down again, splashing through the overflowing creek crossing twice, once each way to even out the soaked shoes.

I can still manage a smile when after almost 10 miles of difficult, hilly running I can break into six miles at marathon pace. If I kind of jump before I cough, I can keep pace and not feel the sting as bad in my adductors. I shake my head and continue as I hit the uphill section after the turnaround, knowing that while it's a difficult day I will be able to do the workout. Even with just over a mile of effort left, when the school bus jumps ahead of me only to stop, forcing me to suck the exhaust of the 7 cars behind it and simultaneously dodge the kids getting on the bus, I can be happy. Even when this pattern repeats itself 2 more times (it's nice to run on the bus route), I know with one turn there's less than a half a mile to go.

Finding a way to manage everyday life the way I manage my running is the challenge. My runs, even when difficult, are almost always positive affairs that leave me smiling at the end. I know that part of it is the fact that I'm able to run (for the most part) on my own terms, school-buses aside. Real-life certainly isn't this way. I see my potential as a runner as almost limitless, the challenge is to see the other 22 hours of each day the same way. That's the example I want to set for Haiden and Finn.

Training: Today, 16 miles, 1:50:28, 6:54 pace, with 10 miles of strong hilly running followed by 6 miles at 6:02 pace
Yesterday pm., 6 miles, 46:24, 7:44 pace
Yesterday am., 6 miles, 46:16, 7:40 pace, easy with Haiden in the jogging stroller for a muffin run

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Patrick's Loop

Ran with Lucas and Dan from the Running Shop this morning way out in west Tucson. Dan showed us Patrick's Loop, a 13 mile run mostly on washboard dirt roads, with lots of rollers and amazing scenery. Aside from it taking a good half an hour to get there, it was a great run. The first two miles were a persistent uphill, and I thought for a few minutes I would get dropped prematurely even though we couldn't have been running under 7:30 pace or so. This worried me a bit, but after a few miles of downhill I actually started feeling good. In fact, by about 9 miles in I was really loosening up and feeling like a real runner again.

The last 2-3 miles were at a pretty steady downhill, and the three of us opened up a bit and ran fairly strong back to Dan's truck. I was surprised to see when we finished that an advertised 13 mile loop was actually almost 13 miles. Most training runs with an advertised distance are usually at least 10% shorter, so this course at 12.75 with the Garmin was pretty close. We ended up averaging 6:47, which for me was a good effort. I was planning this to be my third "faster" day of the week, since Dan and Jason (who ended up being sick and stayed home) are both much faster runners than me. Thankfully Dan took it easy on both Lucas and me, though, so it ended up just being a really nice run on a cool Tucson morning.

We finished just as some building clouds started to drop a bit of rain, so the timing couldn't have been better. I'm hoping for another short shakeout run tonight to get the miles a bit more over 100 (not the 110 I had planned though), and hopefully I'll have a nice day off with the family.

This ends week 6 of my Lydiard conditioning phase, and I'm hopeful that a hilly run like today, plus my weekly trips into Sabino Canyon will help me transition fairly smoothly to the four week hill phase that begins in a week. This week, aside from feeling crappy on my long run, was really the kind of running week I wanted for more of my conditioning phase. I managed to sqeeze in a fair amount of marathon pace, a little tempo, a good amount of hills, and three doubles (so far). In a perfect world I would have done some striding (though the day isn't over yet), and I would have fit in a few more miles at tempo pace. Have a good rest f the weekend.

Training: 12.75 miles, 1:26:21, 6:47 pace

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Well, it finally happened. Since moving up to the Sabino Canyon area last April, I have never been passed by another runner in my "neighborhood" (6 square mile area where I do most of my running, including the Canyon proper). It happened today. He had headphones on, an old race t-shirt, and baggy running shorts. He was of similar height but had at least 20 pounds on me. I first saw him when turning to run home on Sunrise Drive, at which point I had about 1.5 miles to go on my 8 mile route. He approached, then turned around and began running on the opposite side of the street, facing traffic like you're supposed to. I don't do this for half of my out-and-back routes, in order to even out the stresses on the IT band that come from always running on the same side of the road.

Even with three lanes between us I could hear him puffing, and I knew he was making an effort to get by me. When he drew even I gave him a polite wave and continued trudging along at 7:40-something uber-recovery pace. He then shouted across the road a "Howdy, how are you today?" or the like, very pleased with himself for drawing even. I responded in kind, but I never really know what to say (or how much to say) when someone has headphones on. Then he slowly started to pull away, dropping me for the 1/8 of a mile I had left on the road before turning into my neighborhood.

So I was the old guy getting passed, stopping to hack up sick-juice every few miles with hands on knees. It doesn't matter, recovery was the order of the day. When I run slow like this my brain seems to open up and I'm able to better work through things, which I enjoy. Kiera had some scones ready when I returned, and I actually had time for a decent shower and breakfast before heading off to the gallery for my last workday of the week.

Training: 8 miles, 1:01:46, 7:44 pace

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's Not My Fault!

Blogger has been screwy for the past day or so, the post below is from last night. I apologize to anyone unable to reach the blog (all 4 of you).

Today's post should be titled "Payback Time", referring to my 22 mile death-march this morning. I guess a half-marathon Sunday, 6 miles of marathon pace Tuesday, a very hilly and difficult 16 miler Wednesday and 4 miles of marathon pace plus 2 miles of tempo yesterday had to be paid for eventually with a crash.

Nothing went well today. The gut was out of whack, and I had several nasty coughing fits. It just wasn't the "nice and controlled" long run I wanted. I brought the Garmin but didn't check it until the end, where I saw I ran my route at 7:08 pace. I'm fairly certain I slowed for the second half, especially on the uphill, but at least I grinded it out and got it done. I've decided to ditch the gels on these runs in an effort to get the body to learn to transition smoothly from burning carbohydrate to burning fat, which invariably starts to happen after running long enough. Duncan swore them off not too long ago, and Nobby and I have emailed back and forth about the topic. It was with his urging that I made my decision, and while I desperately could have used some glucose (especially at about 17 miles in), I really think it's worth trying to teach my body to deal with the depletion that invariably comes late in the marathon. This is not something I'd suggest for every runner, and I do carry one just in case. I've been taking 1-2 gels during these runs for the last 8 months, so it will take a little while for my body to adjust to not having the sugar.

This is a nice article from on teaching your body to burn fat by changing caloric intake before and during long runs. Interesting food for thought (sorry about the pun). I might have mentioned this one before, but I'm posting it again if I have. This is a nice article By Greg McMillan, who is on the board of Project Lydiard 21. He writes about fasting before the long run as well as during in an effort to make the body more efficient at burning fat and conserving glycogen. Again, this isn't for everyone, but someone like me who tends to run out of juice during the last 6 miles, it's worth reading about at least. He does make a special case for "progression runs", or marathon pace/race simulation runs, where he says to go ahead and fuel like you plan to during a race. At this point I still plan on taking on a gel or two in San Diego in June.

While the run today wasn't fun, I did muddle through and I know at some level I'm better for it. It has been a good week of training for me, and with a tough day ahead on Sunday I hope to take it easy this evening and tomorrow.

Training: 22 miles, 2:37:07, 7:08

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Could Look Worse

This is where marathon world-record holder Paul Tergat nipped me at the line at the NYC Marathon. After posting the photo from the race this morning I had a few comments on my form. First Scooter wrote, "I looked at the picture and looked again, and from what I see, it looks like you're about to make a heel strike. I don't know when this picture was taken, but hope it's late and your form was suffering. Are you a heel striker? (I trust you recognize that if you are, your workouts beat you up far more than necessary AND you likely require heavier shoes, which will hurt times.) " Then my new buddy Sasha wrote-"Mike - do you have a way to get your VO2 Max tested? I would guess that yours would be quite a bit higher than Lucas' and Andre's. Yes, I know you saw through that. It is a polite way to tell a runner that he does not have a good form. I have the same problem, and unfortunately I do not quite know how to fix it. The only thing I know is that if I run downhill fast, things get better. I found that consciously trying to fix the form is mostly ineffective, at least in the heel/toe issue. I can force myself to run on my toes, but if I have to force it, I do not run any faster. One exception to this I've found is that focusing on relaxing the quad, and engaging the hamstring earlier helps me combat the onset of fatigue. If you feel you need to heel strike, do it. When your body is ready to run on your toes, it will without you having to think. Just make it run fast, and it will figure out the best form."

While I'm certainly no Baryshnikov while pounding the pavement, I don't have a huge problem with heel-striking. And for those who think it's dreadfully inefficient, I just had to put my foot-strike next to Tergats to illustrate that while I'm certainly carrying some extra pork-chops and my arm carriage is a little off-kilter, we are both heel-strikers and are hitting the ground with our feet at a similar angle.

I'll agree with Sasha that actively trying to "fix" my form while running at moderate paces hasn't really helped me, but I'll step in and say I'd never want to run on my toes. Maybe Baryshnikov could, but for the rest of us striking on the forefoot would be enough.

No evening run tonight, I'm saving up for tomorrow's long run after three doubles in a row. Whew.

The Battle for 8th Place

It ain't pretty. The often mentioned but seldom seen Lucas is in the middle. Check out our cool Running Shop singlets. Results are up here.

I hate to admit it, but I have to thank Sasha for lighting a fire under my butt this week. After going back and forth with him a bit, I spent some time looking at his workouts. While the whole "VO2 max" intervals aren't in the cards during Lydiard's conditioning phase, Sasha spends a great deal of his training time at marathon pace and tempo pace, which is perfectly acceptable and encouraged during my base-building. Arthur's boys ran most of their miles during this phase at 6 minute pace. This is impossible for me at this point, but there's no reason that I can't devote parts of three workouts a week to marathon and tempo pace. There's an old saying that a runner can only expect to run a marathon at the same pace as his 26 fastest miles of training in a week. While I doubt this is an absolute, I do feel that by now I should be acclimated to higher miles, and thus I did a second workout this week with some time at both marathon and tempo pace.

After another 4 easy miles last evening and a decent night's sleep, I left myself time for 10 miles before taking Haiden to school. I decided on a one mile warm-up, 4 miles of marathon pace, two miles easy (on the hilliest part of the route), 2 miles of tempo, then 1 mile cool-down. I like leaving the more difficult running to the end of the workout, when I'm thoughoughly warmed up and my heart-rate fluctuates the least. The first mile of marathon pace was easier this time around with a mile warm-up, but during mile 2 I had to stop for 10 seconds for a quick coughing fit and some hacking. The Garmin kept on timing, so I had to work hard to bring my cumulative interval pace down below six again. At 4 miles I backed off and saw that I had averaged 5:58 for the effort. I cruised for two miles through the hills and up dog-poop trail, then started the two miles of tempo pace. It took awhile for the lungs to relax, but I managed two miles at 5:42 before cooling down for a mile.

The half marathon does put these efforts into perspective, which is why I'm glad I did it in hindsight. It's easy to get complacent and get trapped into running easier paces day after day when building mileage. Eric has mentioned this happening to him during his build-up weeks, where he averaged well over 100 miles but didn't run much of it under 7 minute pace. Downeast Andrew had a similar lament after punching the clock with some high mileage weeks awhile back. Now that the miles themselves aren't taking as much of a toll, it's time to work on bumping up my threshold, or my maximum steady-state.

After toweling off it was time to take Haiden to school. She missed a day while sick, so when a cute little boy saw her back he said "Hi Haiden, I missed you!" Makes a father wonder...

Training: Today a.m., 10 miles, 1:05:05, 6:31 pace, 4 miles at 5:58, 2 miles at 5:42
Yesterday p.m., 4 miles, 30:40, 7:39 pace

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Getting There

The boost of confidence from the half marathon on Sunday is still powering me through this week. I'm two for two so far in the easy-evening-doubles department, and while I've lost my voice from coughing, I did sleep fairly well last night with only one Finn feeding at 3 or so. The body is slowly remembering how to handle threshold running, and hopefully more miles and more marthon pace and faster will continue through the rest of my conditioning phase.

Last evening was 4 easy miles, thankfully before dinner, that were so bland I hesitate to even mention them. This morning was a challenging 16, most of which was run with Lucas. He lives on the opposite side of Sabino Canyon, so we each ran a few miles to meet at the eastern end of the park. We ran up the road to the top, then down a side trail, and I followed him back towards his house at the end to make the run an even 16. This was even hillier than usual, and while the legs felt a little heavy, it felt good to go over some undulating terrain.

My first Lydiard build-up featured fewer hills during conditioning, but usually a 16, and 18, and a 22 miler each weeek. This time around I'm adding more running at faster speeds, and I've pretty much switched my 18 miler for a very hilly 16 miler. I'm doing this because 16 miles still gets me close to 2 hours of running, and with the added toll of running faster and running hills something just had to give. I figure my endurance is much more developed than my first go-around, simply because of the 26 week build I started at the end of last summer to run the marathon in January. If I was starting from scratch I would probably be keeping the 18. As it stands, it's much easier for me to want to run faster the day after 16 miles than it is after 18 miles.

As for the home-life, or "life in the hot zone", Haiden is fine and back to school, Kiera is still in the thick of it, and Finn seems to be turning a corner and is no longer wincing when he coughs. His ears are clear and there's no strep, only a bad cold. As for me, I'm coughing more than ever and losing my voice, but the lungs are clearing and I'm running well so no complaints.

Training: Today, 16 miles, 2:00:18, 7:31 pace, extra hilly in Sabino Canyon with Lucas, felt pretty good by the end
Yesterday p.m., 4 miles, 29:22, 7:22 pace

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Personal Bests and Marathon History

Personal Bests:

Marathon, 2:37:08, 5:59 pace
102nd place, 11/2/08, New York City Marathon

Half marathon, 1:12:49, 5:34 pace
4th place, 12/4/05, Tucson Half Marathon

10 mile, 54:52, 5:29 pace
16th place, 10/22/06, Get Moving Tucson

10K, 34:11, 5:30 pace
7th place, 1/29/06

8K, 25:32, 5:20 pace
10th place, 10/5/08, Jim Click's Run'n'Roll

5K, 16:07, 5:11 pace
8th place, 5/21/06, Tucson 5000


12/3/2000, 3:11:46, Tucson Marathon
12/9/2001, 2:59:17, Tucson Marathon
1/11/2004 2:56:54, Phoenix Rock'n'Roll Marathon
5/30/2004, 2:47:57, Vermont City Marathon
6/5/2005, 2:50:16, San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon
1/15/2006, 2:39:58, Phoenix Rock'n'Roll Marathon
6/4/2006, 2:43:50, San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon
12/3/2006, 2:37:32, California International Marathon
10/7/2007, 2:48:04, Twin Cities Marathon
12/2/2007, 2:41:00, Tucson Marathon
1/13/2008, 2:37:43, Phoenix Rock'n'Roll Marathon
11/02/08, 2:37:08, New York City Marathon

It's Going to Take More

It stands to reason that if I train the same way, I'll get the same results. Yes, there will be an increased aerobic benefit with each successive build-up, but that's probably the only advantage. It's going to take more stimulus to improve on what I've been able to do during my first Lydiard cycle. In the end, I'm not training to run 2:40 marathons anymore, I'm training to beat the 2:40 marathoners.

Faster, longer, and smarter this time around. So far it's honestly been a mixed bag. The overall mileage is up from last time, but the paces, while generally a little faster, aren't close to where I should be running. I'm hoping the half-marathon two days ago will help kick-start my efforts to spend more time at speeds between my tempo and marathon paces. According to Nobby, sometimes an athlete can have a great marathon only a week or two after a lousy one because the body learns to buffer itself against the effort necessary to run at a strong pace for a long time. 5:48 on a hilly course for 13.1 miles fits the bill, so we'll see if this is the beginning of more serious training now that I have about 5 weeks and 475 miles of base-bulding in my legs after recovering from January's marathon.

I did get out for a second run last evening after the kids were in bed, though with everyone still sick I almost forgot about it. Let me tell you, pushing away an empty plate of nachos and heading out the door for four easy miles is not a good idea, even for someone with an iron gut like me.

Last evening was very difficult, with all four of us coughing pretty much non-stop. Haiden is down to a dry cough, Finn is worse with lots of snot and a painful cough, Kiera is woozy, has no appetite and is coughing. I'm coughing more now and still dealing with the crud, but otherwise am fine. After almost no sleep, I delayed my 16 mile run until tomorrow. Instead, after lollygagging around the house this morning I found myself with a sparse 40 minutes to run before taking Haiden to school (other than the cough she's fine). With some re-arranging I figured I could do a six mile marathon pace run this morning, then go out easy tonight for another 6-8 miles. These ideas always sound good in my head.

I headed out the door, into the wind and the uphill, and battled to get down to 6:00 pace on the Garmin by the end of the first mile. I was remembering some emails to coach Glenn McCarthy about his planned marathon pace runs, where he mentioned that he didn't really have his athletes warm up too much, as marathon pace shouldn't feel that difficult. Hmmm, I'm pouring it on and "not that difficult" isn't how I would describe the effort. After two miles of having my heart in my throat the body finally gives in to the effort and stops fighting. By the end of downhill mile 3 I'm at a cumulative 5:55 pace. I turn around and head up the 1/2 mile hill, thinking I'll drift back to 6 minute pace but now I'm actually starting to groove a bit. I bring it down to 5:54 cumulative and cruise through the last two miles fairly comfortably. It still feels a little fast for a whole marathon, but considering a double yesterday and a half-marathon the day before, I figure I'm doing ok. If I can do this type of workout 3 times a week or so, and maybe do one day around 5:40 pace, I'll feel better about improving my threshold during these last two weeks of base-bulding.

A quick change of clothes and I'm off with Haiden to school, where I get a note. "Your child may have been exposed to strep throat on March 9". Hmmm. Finn is going to the doc at 11:15 just to be sure.

Training: Today, 6 miles, 35:29, 5:54 pace, felt amazingly bad for two miles and surprisingly good for four.
Yesterday p.m., 4 miles, 30:58, 7:44 pace. Nacho, nacho man. I've got to be a nacho man.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Looking Forward

Last week, through fatigue, sickness and racing, ended up being pretty light on mileage. 86 miles looks pretty skinny compared to the 4 weeks before it, and this week I'm hoping to work in a few more doubles to get closer to 110. I'm also hoping to spend more time at and faster than marathon pace (6 minute miles) in an effort to start transitioning to the coming hillwork and speedwork that will soon follow.

Today is recovery though, and I'll be honest and say that when Finn woke at 2:30 this morning for a snack I felt like my legs were cemented in bed. After the feeding I was still able to sleep a few more hours, and when everyone woke at 6 I was feeling a little better. I ended up trudging around for 10 miles, and I will hopefully get out for another 4-6 this evening (depending on if Haiden goes with me or not). The legs feel a bit dead, but there's no acute pain anywhere so I don't think I did any damage stomping through the last 2 miles trying to beat one guy.

I think Sasha and I are on the same page now, and I look forward to hearing more from him. I know I'm not blindly following anything, and when Sasha clarified his comments I realized that he didn't really mean that literally. I'm in agreement with him that it is important to closely monitor your body and its signs when following any program, and to be willing to make adjustments if things aren't going well. He's also right that real-life obligations sometimes interfere with the best laid plans, and further adjustments are sometimes called for to deal with said conflicts.

Lydiard training does work for me, and so far I have the results to prove it with PR's in the 5K, 10K, 10 mile, half-marathon, and marathon since starting the program. I've been in the trenches of building miles this way before, and while it is difficult I know I'll come out the other side a stronger runner with better endurance. Hopefully the speed will follow.

Training: 10 miles, 1:14:01, 7:24 pace, recovery after yesterday's race
Total miles for last week: 86 in 8 sessions

Sunday, March 12, 2006

1:15:50-something, 8th place

Day has begun, and I stumble to the front
There's no real control of a random event

And I will take my chances
'Cos anything can happen
I don't believe it's over
'Cos anything can happen

I could never give it up, I could never relent
And I can't wait to see what will happen to me next

-Finn Brothers, "Anything Can Happen"

A crazy winter storm left snow on all the mountain peaks around Tucson, but luckily for us the rain and to some extent the wind relented for the Arizona Desert Classic half marathon, a John (the Penguin) Bingham joint. Yes, a race for every pace.

This race came a week after my longest run ever, and at the end of my half-way mark of Lydiard conditioning. I've been sick, the kids have been horribly sick, and Kiera really caught the worst of it last night. Not the best of circumstances, but it was a free entry and a chance to run as part of a team, and also a chance at a free trip to Chicago if our Running Shop team could finish ahead of any other Arizona shoe store team.

Given my well-documented "difficulties" in running tempo pace last week, as well as my dead legs, mucous-filled lungs and mystery-groin-adductor-inguinal-hernia pain, I wasn't expecting too much beyond trying to run fast alongside my friend and teammate Lucas. Our other teammate was Jess, who is a good female local runner.

To add to the drama of the start, with about 5 minutes 'til gun time I couldn't find my car to stow our warm-up gear. I was separated from Lucas, who somehow found the car easily, and by the time I found him (and thus the car), we only had a few minutes to get to the line. With 30 seconds to go we were at the back of the pack. I worked my way through quickly, with (mostly) polite nudges given to (mostly) understanding runners. Lucas got caught about half-way.

The gun went off and Lucas and I quickly found each other. An elite group with a few Kenyans and some others quickly flew away from us, and we found ourself at the front of a second chase group of about 6 athletes. The race is on hilly course, and the first three miles had a net uphill. We went out conservatively, as was our plan, and hit the first mile in 5:48. As we continued, a few fast starters came back to us. We passed all but one, a fellow named Andre who is a good triathlete and also a 2:42 marathoner. He knew us, we knew him, we all knew we had a good thing going so we started to work. This quickly meant the end of our other compatriots, as we were able to run them off by the end of mile 2. Not much too exciting took place for most of the race, we all took turns, had our good and bad moments, and probably ran fairly even splits, although most (if not all) of the mile-markers were off. For example, I had 5:48, 11:53 (for 2 and 3 combined), 6:09, 5:18, 6:20, 11:05 (7 and 8), 5:54, 5:51, 5:55, 5:56, and 4:59.

The plan Lucas and I came up with was to run and work together through mile 10, then go if either or both of us were feeling good. We knew from running the course a few weeks back that there was a fairly long downhill from about mile 11 all the way to 12.5 miles or so, and it was obvious that while I was the pace-setter on all the uphills, Andre could drop the hammer on the downhills. It would be tricky, especially since the last 1/4 mile was also net downhill, though there was about 800 meters of mean uphill separating the downhill slope of the finish from the downhill section we were coming to. With this in mind, I did some gesturing on Andre's blind side to Lucas to indicate I was going to give it a go while we were still on the uphill. Apparently Lucas and I need to work on our secret signals, because he later told me he thought I was shaking out a cramp. Go figure. I surged on the last section of the uphill, trying to break Andre before we pounded downhill. I anticiapated dropping him, then running scared the rest of the way. He stuck like glue, I just about blew up, and all I ended up doing was separating myself from Lucas. Now we were on the downhill and Andre, with his fluid stride, started to put the hurt on. It was the Tucson half-marathon all over, getting passed and dropped with less than two miles to go.

But anything can happen. Just when I was at the limit, and still losing ground, Andre hit the uphill section and I started gaining. He was slipping back and I was giving it just about the maximum to keep it that way. I drew even and passed, and ran like hell. At the last turn I looked and he was gone. I broke 1:16, but not by much. Lucas came in just after Andre, but because of his late start he actually beat him on chip time, which embarassed Lucas to no end.

We ran a very slow cool-down, with me having to stop everytime I had to cough for fear of the "tearing my leg off" feeling I get from the mystery pain (it's only this bad when I'm utterly spent). All in all, cool-down included, it was probably about two hours of running for about 19 miles. We won the team competition, which supposedly means a free trip to Chicago for another race. No baby-sitting though.

I came home to the house full of sickies, and finally relieved a very weary Kiera, who desperately needed a nap. So it's back to kind-of-sick dad now, feeding kids and getting them down for naps. All in all a solid days work, and a minute faster than the same race last year. The legs felt good, it was the lungs (and probably the sickness) that made it tough. I feel good about where I am for half-way through conditioning, and I'm looking forward to the future. Hope everyone had as nice a weekend (except for the whole super-family-virus thing).

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mike's Problem is...

You have to love a comment that includes that phrase.

The other day I grumbled a bit about a botched tempo run, where trying to run a series of miles at 5:40ish pace took more effort than I thought it should. I ended up doing two miles, then running easy, then running one more mile at that tempo. Sasha made a comment about something being wrong with me if the pace was difficult, and later added this regarding my following of Arthur Lydiard's training principles-

"The problem with blindly following a great coach is that his program may not be something that you will respond to - your body may not be the type that belongs to the percentage that made him a great coach." Hmmm. Should I take the bait? Not yet, but maybe soon. Maybe someday I'll get into how in many cases (and in his most famous cases) Lydiard coached runners (including Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and Barry Magee) who were not exemplary physical specimens or even elite athletes when they started under him. Many coaches only recruit and take on athletes who are already extremely successful or genetically gifted, but not Arthur. He simply didn't recruit, athletes (good and bad) came to him over the years and he tried not to turn any away. Maybe someday I'll go on about how periodization of training isn't some unproven hypothesis, but a sound training program proven right by 40 years of results. Maybe someday I'll go on about how telling me I'm "blindly following a great coach" is...well, just plain rude. But not today.

Duncan followed Sasha's comment with some kind words. "In my humble opinion, nothing is wrong with struggling one day at tempo pace. You're human. Stick to your Lydiard guns and don't contemplate newfangled stuff. I know you won't, but I somehow feel obligated to write this."

Sasha followed with, "Duncan, The problem is that from what I have seen in Mike's blog it is more than one day. And I never see an entry that says "I was going 5:40, it felt like almost a jog, I went 4 miles, turned the legs over on the last one, 5:25". No matter whose training method you follow, if the routine is working, you'd be having many days like that if your marathon PR is under 2:40.

Mike's problem is that he does have a job and a family to take care of while trying to maintain a very challenging mileage for that situation. This means if his boss yells at him or gives him a stressfull assignment, there goes his recovery from a 16 mile run. If his kid wakes up at night, there goes his recovery. So the same routine may work one week, but cause a disaster the next. I've been in those shoes in 2002."

Sasha, like you I suspect, my family is my strength. Yes, sleep can be a challenge, and yes, any job has it's tough days. But Lydiard training, especially during the first (conditioning) phase, isn't about feeling great while running 5:40's. It's not a week to week thing. It's about going through the process, building fitness slowly and deliberately over a period of months. Later it's about sharpening that finess by precise degrees, learning pace and increasing speed. It's about bringing out your absolute best and unleashing it during the most important part of your competitive season. And once you've done it, it's about studying the results and doing it again...even better the next time.

I've said it before, I've done the standard "club-runner" routine of racing fairly well and feeling fairly good most of the time. It doesn't do it for me anymore. That being said, I have nothing against runners who do just that. I admire anyone who is able to race well year-round, it requires immense strength and resolve. Follow Daniels, Pfitzinger, Coe-Martin, Renato, whatever. But this blog is about my efforts to understand and train the way Arthur Lydiard advocated. I appreciate comments and questions, and I make an effort to keep things positive, but when what I'm told that I'm doing nothing more than "blindly following a great coach", I honestly have to wonder if that person has actually been reading what I've written over the past seven months, or taken note of my improvements during the same period.

Oh crap, I guess I took the bait.

Half-marathon tomorrow on the Running Shop team, wish me luck.

Training: 6 miles, 43:36, 7:16 pace

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sick Kids

Do not let the smiling face fool you, he is not a happy camper. Haiden and Finn are both running fevers of about 101. Snotty, rubbed-raw-by-tissue noses continue to produce copious amounts of mucus, eyes are often full of tears, and sleep is scarce. At least Haiden is old enough now to communicate her sorrow in words. At 2am, when she refuses to take the ibuprofin, she says "I just want to lie down and go to sleep." The sentiment is echoed by mom and dad, but sadly, no one is sleeping much.

Speaking of sleep, mystery-adductor-groin-inguinal hernia pain reached a fevered-pitch yesterday at noon. I was visibly limping for a few hours, and it felt like my leg socket just didn't fit my leg right. By evening I was feeling fine again, but I still didn't chance it by going out for the planned 4 easy evening miles. I blame this pain on sleeping on my side. For some reason I end up exacerbating the pain I sometimes get in my right leg when I do this. I feel it after getting up in the morning, but it's fine while I run. Upon completion of the run, or when I cough, it sometimes hurts a great deal. Sometimes it's fine. If I sleep only on my back or stomache, it rarely bugs me at all. Kiera gets a kick out of how I blame my leg pain on sleeping rather than running, since it seems I do about equal amounts of each activity.

I woke up today with no pain at all, so I just ran 8 miles easy...very easy. Recovery easy, I assure you. I didn't do any strides, mostly because of yesterday's pain. I finished the run feeling better than when I started, which is a good sign. Tomorrow (and perhaps this evening) will be more of the same in anticipation of the half-marathon Sunday. I'm still a little nervous about how it will go, but there's not much I can do about it now except rest well (hah) and eat right.

Training: 8 miles, 58:40, 7:20 pace, easy, easy, easy

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Turning a Corner

...or at least I hope I am. Ran 4 easy after putting the kids to bed last night. Haiden is (predictably) sick after her first week of school, and it seems that Finn has a touch of what she has. Finn screamed for about 90 minutes straight, starting at 9:30, then got up two or three times after that (I lost count). During one of his fits I turned off my alarm, figuring the kids would be up early enough to get me out the door. You know what happens when I do that.

At 6:35 Haiden finally comes into our room, which gets me up in a panic since I had about two hours of running planned. A super-quick breakfast and I'm out the door for 16, where I follow my plan of ignoring the watch and running solely by feel to get a handle on just how tired I am.

The miles rolled by fairly quickly, and even the tough 4 mile uphill stretch on the way back home was manageable. I finished the run and finally looked at the watch to find that I ran at 6:59 pace. I actually was hoping it would have been a little faster since I seemed to be moving, but it's still a good run after running twice yesterday, which I'm not used to.

My right adductor is giving me a little trouble now that I'm at work, and I have to figure it's just getting used to running a little more often. I'll keep an eye on it, but while it's hurting I'm really not able to do any core work, which would probably help alleviate the stress on it. I know, the vicious cycle. You can't strengthen something while it's hurting you, and the hurt won't stop until you strengthen the muscle (or the supporting muscles).

This was my last "longer" run until the half-marathon on Sunday, and I'll be doing a "mini-taper" until then with both reduced mileage and intensity. The race should be a good test of my aerobic fitness, but not much more than that. Hopefully I can still run fairly well, even though it's shaping up to be a 95-100 mile week.

Training: Today, 16 miles, 1:51:44, 6:59 pace
Yesterday p.m., 4 miles, 28:40, 7:10 pace

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Had a nice 8 miles plus with Lucas again today, a little faster than planned but we were both feeling pretty good towards the end so we surged for a half mile or so which brought the average pace down. It's a windy day in Tucson, so while we had a headwind for two miles going out we reaped the benefits on the way back.

I've had a few comments I wanted to, well, comment on. The other day Mike asked if I run with a heart rate monitor. He also wondered how much of my running is done at or near my "threshold" (use whatever term here, LT, AT, or the point at which your smiley face becomes just a little frowny). I call it my maximum steady state, which is a term Lydiard favored. My answers: No on the heart rate monitor, I dropped that pretty much after training for the Vermont City Marathon in 2004. At that time I used it frequently during tempo runs to see how my heart rate reacted with each mile. These runs (under Pete Pfitzinger's plan) varied from 4-7 miles, and I could record and review my average heart rate per mile during the run. Sound tedious? It was, though going back later and reviewing the data proved very valuable. I was definitely able to pinpoint my true "tempo" effort (pace would vary a little depending on wind, terrain, etc.) this way, and while I don't use the monitor anymore I feel I can still tune in to the effort without too much difficulty. I still use pace to dictate tempo, but I do try to factor in the variables that can throw that off. How often do I run at or just below threshold? Not nearly enough. My goal during this Lydiard conditioning phase is to spend at least two days of the week running at paces close to threshold, though so far I'm not doing it as much as I would like. Some of it is fatigue, some of it is scheduling, some of it is...well, it's just plain hard sometimes, though I'm not complaining.

Sasha also commented on the trouble I had one day running tempo pace by saying "...if 5:40 feels hard something is wrong. Also, if you have been doing mileage, and have a hard time sustaining a certain pace after 1 mile, that is another indicator that something is wrong. I have had this happen to me before, and I am still not 100% sure what it is, but I have always been able to fix it with a mix of 400 meter repetitions and tempo runs." Sasha goes on to say that economy is the key, and that his best results come from running very fast at high volume.

I can't argue with Sasha's results, and while I appreciate the advice, it's in direct conflict with the Lydiard style of training. Many athletes, (myself included in the past) have fallen prey to the following scenario; "I'm tired, my times are getting slower instead of improving, I'd better run some very fast intervals to get my speed back." Lydiard writes that doing this often sends athletes into a spiral; Faster times will come for a very short time, perhaps, from the injection of intervals, but soon the fatigue of running these fast repetitions on top of the previous level of fatigue will cause a crash. Without endurance and strength, an athlete cannot get the maximum benefits from anaerobic training, and in turn will not run as fast or as long as he would have with a proper foundation.

Lydiard training is about balancing all of the aspects of training. First you build endurance, then you add strength. Speed comes next, then economy and pace judgement. Finally, the athlete should be able to arrive at the most important race in the best shape possible. It takes a long time, there are no shortcuts, and hopefully it's worth it.

Can I still work on economy and run fast during Lydiard's conditioning phase? Yes, but not with 400's. Doing strides, or running fast for shorter distances (think 100-150 instead of 400's) with a longer, complete recovery should help with form and economy to some extent. His tempo run suggestion? I think he's spot on.

Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs (the best band you've probably never heard) said once about performing, "When I get onstage and play in front of people, I honestly believe we are the greatest band in the history of the world. If I don't believe that, then I'm a joke." The point is, you have to have faith in your program and believe it will lead to improvement. Faith in this case comes from understanding why you are doing something, something Lydiard provides (if you can read between the lines and bug people like Nobby enough). Many athletes are like dogs chasing cars, or day-traders chasing the latest market trend, always a step or two behind, going from fast repeats one week to progression runs for no clear reason except that it sounded good on a message board. Seeing an entire program through, Lydiard or otherwise, is difficult. Is it the best program available for maximizing your potential as a runner? Well, I'm committing to it for three years, so if I don't believe it's right for me, then I'm a joke.

Training: 8,25 miles a.m., 57:16, 6:56 pace

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Why So Glum?

52 weeks in a year, right? A difficult week where I actually feel slower happening once in awhile is really no reason to be alarmed in the grand scheme of things. Still, today was another fairly tough one, though I guess I set myself up for it with my 28 mile run two days ago. After 8 yesterday morning and a skipped second run, where I played with Haiden in the yard and mowed the lawn instead, I was left with my hilly 16 miler today. I couldn't put it off, since doing so would push my second medium-long run to Friday, which would in turn probably make the half-marathon on Sunday even more difficult. Races really have a way of screwing up a schedule.

I did a fairly similar run last week that thoroughly did me in, but for some reason I left the house undeterred. I reversed the course of the run, which meant I saved going up the big hills to the top of the road in Sabino Canyon until the end. This seemed like a good idea at 6:30am for some reason. When I hit the top of the road and started heading back down I was pretty spent, even though I had a good 5 miles left. Eventually the run ended, but I can definitely feel some residual fatigue from Sunday's run, which is now buried beneath today's fatigue.

Yes, it hasn't started out as such a great week...again, but I'm committed to working hard through tomorrow's double and Thursday's 16 miler. After that Friday and Saturday will be very easy in anticipation of Sunday's race. Nobby kindly emailed me and reminded me that training is supposed to be hard. It's funny how hearing something so damn simple from someone else can bring things into perspective. It's not when you run that you improve, it's when you rest and your body buffers itself and gets more resistant to the running stresses you apply to it. Hopefully doubles, eating well and sleeping well will help to that end, and perhaps some strides (Nobby's suggestion) might get some snap back in my legs for Sunday.

Training: 16 miles (Garmin went dead at 7:16 pace after 11 miles).

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Road Back

It's time to start feeling good again. Last week was honestly difficult for me, and I'm trying to figure out exactly why. I stalled getting out on the roads several times, and I ran slower and shorter than I planned. I'm sleeping better, I'm eating fairly well, I am a little sick but just the coughs at night and lots of snot in the morning which isn't bad. My body just didn't handle the training very well last week.

This week I'm trying to do things a bit differently. Instead of singles, I'm breaking up some of my shorter days into two runs. Hopefully this will help me recover better, which is something Nobby told me awhile ago. One of the goals of my conditioning phase during this second go-around with Lydiard training was to spend more time at faster paces, and it's necessary for me to feel good in order to run faster.

A second issue is a half-marathon that comes at the end of this week. While it's not a high priority for me, I would like to run well alongside friend and Running Shop teammate Lucas. A half-marathon is an aerobic effort, so I don't feel like I'm breaking Arthur's insistence on not running at anaerobic paces during the conditioning phase. It would be nice to go into the race feeling good instead of dragging.

Speaking of Lucas, we dragged around together for a little over 8 miles this morning. We didn't head out until 7, so I was able to get a good night's rest after yesterday's endless run. Hopefully we'll both be up to the challenging course by Sunday, and the rest of the team will run well.

Training: 8.43 miles, 1:00:00 (yes, Lucas runs by time), 7:07 pace

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Running Through the Demons

I have a problem. Somewhere between mile 16 and mile 22 of every marathon I've run (that's six, by the way) I've run into difficulties. I get that "bonking" feeling, where I get a bit light-headed, the legs feel shot and hard to pick up, and my breathing becomes labored and shallow. It's hit me at different points (sometimes earlier and sometimes later) and burdened me with varying amounts of torture, but it's hit me everytime. Even with Lydiard training. Yes, I went out too fast for my January marathon after training the Lydiard way for six months, but I worry that it would have hit me regardless. My reserves, or what carries me through to the finish after the crash have also varied. Sometimes I've managed to cruise in at only 5-10 seconds slower per mile, sometimes it's meant adding a minute to each mile split.

So what's a guy to do? One answer, something Nobby suggested and something I read in Ron Daws' "Running Your Best" as well as Lydiard, is to simply run longer long runs on occasion. How long? It depends, but in my case I'm settling on 28 miles, which was on my plate today. The goal was to run far enough to get past that bonking feeling and teach my body to conserve fuel while teaching my mind to be tough enough to endure the strain put on my body. I wrote about this a bit here.

My original plan was to drive down to the flatlands and do the entire 28 miles on the Rillito River path, where bathrooms, water-fountains and soft dirt are available in spades. However, after waking up early I heard Finn and Haiden as I was making coffee. I decided to let Kiera sleep a bit more, so I got Haiden some water and put her back to bed, then made a bottle for Finn. He still wouldn't sleep after eating, so everyone ended up awake by 6 or so. I stalled some more, sliding back into bed with the whole family for a few minutes to play, then I knew I had to get going. Since it was so late now, I didn't want to add to the time I'd be away so I decided to just run from the house.

First I ran a six mile loop that ended back in our driveway, where I downed a water-bottle full of gatorade I'd left there. This left me with my usual 22 mile long run, which seemed a bit daunting after already being out for 43 minutes or so. I set off and ran straight to the half-way point at 7:15 pace, stopping once for water along the way. While eating a gel and getting a sip of water eleven miles away from home with 17 miles covered, I have to admit I was a little doubtful. I chose to put myself in this spot, knowing full well I'd have to contend with getting back home. I set back out and felt fine until about two hours in, when my reserves started to run low. Ah, yes, that splendid feeling of running out of fuel before running out of road. Still well over an hour to go, so no use stewing about it. I downed a second gel with 7 miles left and drank a little more water, which got me going again. The four uphill miles that lead to the last two downhill miles were the worst, just as I knew they would be. Still, I did get my marathon split at the end of the hill, which was 3:09:52. Two miles to go and I'm done.

This was my hardest week of training, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly why. I've been eating well and getting more sleep, but I'm starting to think that doing all the miles in singles isn't letting my body recover. Most of my "shorter" runs are 12 miles, and I just don't think the body is able to repair itself. I may try breaking things up next week while keeping the mileage up. I think the trick is to make small adjustments and listen to the feedback my body is giving me. Just like any science experiment, change one variable at a time and monitor its effects. We'll see.

Sidenote: Duncan ran the Napa Marathon today, pay him a visit and keep your fingers crossed for a great result, he's put the work in. UPDATE! Duncan ran to a 2nd place overall finish today with a time of 2:36! Now stop reading this and go congratulate him!

Training: Today, 28 miles, 3:22:41, 7:14 pace
Yesterday, 6 miles, around 44:30, 7:26ish pace, with Haiden in the jog-stroller for a muffin run
Miles for the week: 93.5 in 7 sessions

Friday, March 03, 2006

If You Like This Blog, You'll LOVE This Blog

Hunter, who lives in Ontario, Canada has started a terrific blog dedicated to his training in the Lydiard mold. You can find it here. Hunter started his blog in Chinese, so for awhile I couldn't read a damn thing, but he's shifted to writing it in english so we're in luck. Hunter is a true student of the sport, wears crazy minimalist shoes, is full of enthusiasm, and is also adept at bugging Nobby Hashizume for the goods on Lydiard training. In today's post he writes about some of the differences between Coe/Martin training and the Lydiard method, and he quotes an interesting email from Nobby, who dispels the notion that you can't run "fast" during Lydiard conditioning. He points out the difference between "fast" and "anaerobic", and how one doesn't necessarily blend into the other.

Hunter sets an ambitious schedule for improving his times across the board, from the 5K all the way through the marathon. I'll be reading about his progress and I hope you will too.

Shifting Motivation

I've been keeping this under my hat, but I've been thinking about it more and more so I'm just going to spill it. I'm not sure I want to focus on a marathon this spring. In the afterglow of my first marathon with Lydiard training I went ahead and immediately started planning my next marathon with hopes of more big gains. When I started planning Nobby Hashizume mentioned that I should consider taking steps to improve my speed at shorter distances in the spring and summer, then perhaps do a fall or winter marathon. His reasoning? The classic Lydiard quote, "Everything is important". By working more on basic speed and turnover at shorter distances I would improve my times in the 1 mile to 10K disciplines. Then, when I went back to marathon training for the fall or winter, I would have not only a well-developed aerobic base, but also more developed speed and leg-turnover, which should make holding a faster marathon pace seem easier. After looking at the relatively small amount of shorter races in Tucson this spring, I decided to put off the move to speed training in favor of a June marathon, which would place the few spring races as faster time-trials en route to the June 4 Rock and Roll San Diego race.

But something strange is happening. I missed (maybe intentionally) the early registration date for San Diego, and while my conditioning training is going fairly well, I'm getting more excited by the shorter, faster days of training than I am about the longer (15+) mile efforts. My first go-around with Lydiard I pretty much just focused on completing the increased mileage (which was really all I could do), whereas this time I'm trying to spend more time closer to my "best aerobic pace". Also, this week I was going to do my first 28 miler, but after going to a concert and getting home after 11 (and then trying to get up at 4) I settled on doing 14.5 today and pushing my long run back until Sunday. This also allowed me to finish my run at Haiden's new school, where I was able to see her play for awhile before getting a ride home with Kiera.

So anyway, this going shorter and faster in order to eventually go faster longer is starting to appeal to me. I haven't decided 100 percent yet, but if I do switch gears to focus on shorter events this spring I will have to adjust my Lydiard timetable in order to be ready to race in mid-April and through May, rather than peaking on June 4. Either way it will still be hard work (maybe harder since I haven't done too much really fast running), and plenty of miles, with maybe some doubles. In the meantime I'll keep doing my conditioning work, which with Lydiard is pretty much the same for all distances during conditioning.

Training: 14.5 miles, 1:42:42, 7:04 pace

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Honest Effort

Lydiard training, especially during the conditioning phase where an athlete builds up his endurance, requires listening to the body. Some of Lydiard's schedules list each run's effort from 1/4 to 4/4 (though 4/4 or all-out isn't used during conditioning). Lydiard also advocates running your "best aerobic effort" frequently during the first few months of training.

"Best aerobic effort" is kind of a nebulous term, but many consider it to be the fastest you can run before becoming "anaerobic", or the point at which your body isn't able to process and utilize as much oxygen as it needs to maintain a given pace. Call it lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, the fastest pace you can hold for an hour, whatever suits you.

I guess the goal is to just "feel" when your body shifts into the red (or anaerobic) zone, and to stay below that. What I'm starting to find with my second go-around with Lydiard training is that this point is constantly shifting depending on how fatigued I am, and the pace where I'm just below red-line can vary from 5:30 all the way to almost 6 minutes per mile. So do I beat myself up and worry about my condition when I'm starting to huff and puff at 5:50 pace when 5:30's felt just as easy last week? Usually. Seriously, I'm trying to put it all in a bigger context now. Patience is key, and today's workout was a frustrating lesson in patience.

Since my last two sessions of tempo work didn't go completely to plan with others, I decided to go it alone today. The goal was 4 miles or so at 5:40-5:45 pace during the course of a 10 mile run. It didn't go well. After a warm-up of 2 miles I started, but after two miles at 5:45 I was clearly running too hard so I shut it down. I ended up cruising at a good pace for another 4 miles, then trying again. This time I managed one mile at 5:43 pace and just called it a day with a one mile cool-down.

Patience and perspective; Yesterday was a very difficult 16 miles in the hills, preceeded by an unusual 8 mile evening run. Tomorrow is 26-28 miles of long run. I think the body was just tired from yesterday and the mind was begging me to slow down considering the workload the day before and the anticipated suffering the day after. What it comes down to is honest effort. Did I give what I had to give today or could I have done more? Was I fooled into complacency and just happy to have an excuse for it? I hope not. Last week I bonked during the long run after running two hard days before it, and here I was in the same situation again a week later due to scheduling snafus.

In the end I'm hoping for the best of all worlds; Enough quality to hopefully get some improvement and supercompensation, but hopefully not enough to make tomorrow's long run a suffer-fest. Tune in for the exciting conclusion.

Training: 10 miles, 1:05:09, 6:31 pace, with two miles at 5:45 pace, four miles of cruising, 5:43 for 1 mile

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Good Kind of Struggle

A tough two days for me, but thankfully both are behind me. I wrote briefly about missing my chance at running yesterday morning due to Kiera's sickness, Finn's sleeplessness and Haiden starting school. Luckily Kiera was feeling better once I got home from work, so I was able to head out for 8 easy miles in the warm Tucson evening. I never run as well after a day at work, and I was nervous about how I would fit in all the quality and the miles I had scheduled, so I just ran easy.

After two shorter days in a row, I had to combine my hill day with a 16 miler this morning. I ran the whole run in and around Sabino Canyon, going to the top of the road and back, then looping around on side trails and the other paved roads in the Canyon and close-by. This was a tough, warm run, and the hills really tested me, but it was a good kind of struggle. I knew I had the endurance to handle the run, and even after starting to run low on fuel at 13 miles I was able to go back up Sabino Canyon road (uphill of course) to add the distance necessary to get in all 16 plus the .4 miles I missed on my run with Lucas.

End result: A good, confidence building run on tough terrain and tired legs. Days like this, while difficult, make running mean even more to me than the occasional weightless/effortless runs when everything goes right. I feel like I earned some fitness today, putting another brick in the foundation of my fitness for the marathon in June.

Training: Yesterday, 8 miles, 59:24, 7:26 pace
Today: 16.6 miles, 1:58:52, 7:15 pace