Thursday, August 31, 2006

The New Easy

It's a little hard for me to concentrate on running right now with the big reunion gig for my old band Starcrunch happening tomorrow. I'm busy working on cleaning up a guitar solo or two in an effort to save myself some embarassment, and wondering whether or not I'll have to put any "cheat sheets" down by my guitar pedals to help remember a lyric or two. As much as I obsess about such things, it all goes by so fast and so loudly that I doubt too many people will notice the screw-ups anyway. I've updated the band's blog with a photo of me ten years younger and probably 20 pounds heavier, and I've added another song in case the three people who listened to the last one wanted to hear something different.

I made it out to the evening run yesterday with the Running Shop gang, where we ran 10K at a very leisurely pace. It felt good to ride the brakes after two fairly tough runs, and I fully intended to do the same this morning. The 6 miles I had planned turned into 8, then finally into 10 as I was really enjoying myself. I didn't focus on the pace at all, but still wound up running under 7 for the run which was a surprise.

I'm starting to find that "easy" is getting faster, which also seems to be happening to Thomas these days. I take it as a good sign, and hopefully it means the body is getting in good enough shape to bounce back from tougher days a little quicker. The danger of course is letting the easy runs get too fast, but think I'm lazy enough to keep that from happening. Tomorrow will be a shorter long run, which I want to get out of the way two days ahead of the Labor Day 8 miler.

Training: 10 miles, 1:09:26, 6:57 pace. Felt easy
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles in 46 minutes

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Chipping Away

So it's real training now. No more "preparing to train", holding patterns, or other descriptions apply. It's time to coax what I can out of my body in an effort to make the most of these 8 weeks of conditioning. The more I can do, and the less I let the fall races distract me, the better shape I'll be in once I start really dialing up the volume.

During my last two Lydiard-based programs, each of the separate phases of training (conditioning, hills, anaerobic and coordination/taper) had its own set of stressors. While transitioning from one phase to another there were some additional stressors as I got used to the new types of workouts, but the overall training volume stayed fairly constant. The miles either decreased or would get easier as the harder, more stressful workouts appeared.

When I drone on about balance I'm talking about this type of natural shift, but there might be some reasons to re-think this strategy. It's possible that this kind of build (maintaining a fairly constant overall training load) actually works against the true goal of periodization, which is of course building to a very strong peak in fitness come race day. This go-around I'm working towards increasing the overall training volume all the way up to the taper, which is something I really haven't done since using Pete Pfitzinger's marathon plan back in early 2004. It's still Lydiard, but it does tweak the volume from what he's advocated in some of his later schedules (like the 90's version of Running to the Top.

The thought of each week building on the last, even with an on-off pattern, is both exciting and intimidating. Today it was a little of both. I was set to run 13 miles, the first 10 at 6:45 pace and the last three around marathon pace, or 6:05 pace in this case. Yesterday's 7 miles of 6 minute pace still weighed on the legs a bit, and so too did the the thought of these workouts, back to back, getting either longer or tougher (or both) in the coming weeks. On the one hand I like a challenge, but on the other, in order to "keep coming up" it will take a balancing act of recovery and trust in supercompensation to make it work.

The run went pretty well, with the first 7 miles or so zipping by at a good clip. The last three of the 6:45 "warm up" pace took a little effort, but it wasn't uncomfortable. The three miles of marathon pace definitely were tougher than the 7 I spent at a similar speed yesterday. I know I shouldn't be surprised, and I was happy to at least get the run done with 3 miles at 6:03 pace. It took some concentration to keep on pace for these three. Yesterday I was able to look at the watch only every half mile or so to see if I was on pace, which I usually was. Today, if my mind started to wander I would look down at the watch to see my pace drifting up 10 seconds a mile, which is apparently where the body wanted to be if left to its own devices.

On the homefront, I finally managed a good night of sleep after getting extremely cranky last evening. Three nights in a row of five hours of sleep or less finally caught up with me, and getting to bed at 8:30 for 8 solid hours of sleep definitely helped. I'm having the "nightmare" regularly now, though it will probably stop after my band's show on Friday. It's the same dream with three different scenarios-

1. I'm back in college, one final left to graduate. It's a class I forgot to drop that I never attended and I can't find the room.

2. I'm at a race (usually a triathlon), the course isn't marked, my bike is screwed up, I can't find my goggles.

3. I'm at a gig for the band, the P.A. system isn't set up, my amp isn't working, I can't remember what I'm going to play.

This is an exhausting dream, and the only scenario I can reliably wake myself up from is the first one. I know exactly where my college diploma resides, and when the dream gets too bad my brain can now intervene and say "Hey, I graduated already...13 YEARS AGO!!" You'd think I'd be done with this dream by now, but the dream isn't really about school, racing, or music. In my case, I believe it's about the fear of me not doing enough to be prepared, and the fear of things beyond my control working against me.

Training: 13 miles, 1:25:46, 6:35 pace, with 10 miles at 6:44 pace and 3 miles at 6:03 pace

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Closing in on Marathon Pace

I've been working my way down to running marathon pace (or what I hope to be marathon pace) at least once a week. Today's run followed a very rough night, with Finn waking up a few times and me getting to bed late after working too long with a new piece of guitar gear. I was so tired I slept through the coffee maker beeping, and I forgot to set my alarm. As a result, I didn't get out on the roads until 6:30 or so (gasp!).

Today I was hoping to run 7 miles around 6:03 pace or so, on my way down to what will eventually be 5:54-5:56 pace by the end of my build. After a two mile warm up it went down like this: 6:02, 6:00, 6:02, 5:57, 5:56, 5:57, 5:55. I didn't feel the effort or my breathing until about the 4 1/2 mile mark, and even then things didn't get too bad. I broke out my "fast" shoes, the Asics DS trainers, and that probably helped me a little with the workout. I run fairly quietly in these shoes, and their slipper-like fit and lower heel height let me tune into my stride a bit more (in fact my calves are reminding me about that lower heel height right now). What I noticed today is that I'm "bouncing" a little too much at 6 minute pace. In other words, I need to work more on driving forward with each stride instead of coming up off the ground so much. At 5:30 pace and below I tend to adjust automatically, but since I'm hoping to run the marathon around 6 minute pace I guess I need to focus on my form at this specific speed. The hill phase usually helps with this "driving forward". All in all it was a great workout, and I feel so much better doing this than I did about a month ago.

After I was going nuts analyzing my fatigue during my longer runs, the coach I've been emailing with brought up the change in my training paces from a year ago. This same week last year I ran 94 miles with an average pace of 7:21, while this year I ran 91 miles at 6:52 pace. Running an average of 30 seconds per mile faster should make me tired I guess, so I'm feeling better about things with that in mind.

This is it for now, as I'm between painting door number one and door number two on Finn's closet. Back to work.

Training: 10 miles, 1:03:11, 6:19 pace, with 7 miles at marathon pace in 6:02, 6:00, 6:02, 5:57, 5:56, 5:57, 5:55. Felt great.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Good Week in the Books

Busy day yesterday with band practice, a visit with Angie and family, band practice, dinner with my brother and his family, and some late-night internet searches for the perfect amplifier. Oh yes, and a long run followed by some fantastic blueberry/cream cheese coffee cake courtesy of Kiera.

I met up with Lucas and another teammate for the upcoming Labor Day race (Phil, you should pay the kids a visit and do this one) for a long run from my house. Lucas was only shooting for 105 minutes, so I set the alarm at 3:30 to get out for three miles by myself before the guys showed up. All in all my total was 18.5, and while I didn't feel spectacular I think I'm getting more used to staying out past two hours again.

I'm very happy with how the last week of training went, here's a look at it-
MO: 17
TU: 10
WE: 10 (am), with 8 at 6:07 pace
WE: 6 (pm)
TH: 11, hill work
FR: 10, with 8 at 6:25
SA: 9, with 2 at 5:31 pace
SU: 18.5
Total: 91 miles

While the miles still aren't over 100, things really went right for me. The week started with the long run I bailed out on the day prior, and I was happy to get those miles back. Marathon pace on Wednesday felt better than it has in months, and Friday's run at a quicker pace felt really good until a bee had to spoil the party. The time trial on Saturday looked like it would be trouble, but the second mile caught me feeling good and it ended up being a good day.

It's great to write about a "week gone right" after looking back at some old posts when things really didn't seem to be working out. I'm hoping for a repeat this week, but I'll try to stack more of the miles towards the beginning of the week in an effort to ease back a little during the two days before the race on Monday.

More later, have a good day.

Training: Today, 11 miles, 1:16:09, 6:58 pace, felt pretty good
Yesterday, 18.5 miles, 2:09:14, 6:58 pace
Total miles for the week: 91 in 8 sessions

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I Said it was Orange

Finn's new "tangerine" room.

A federal judge blocked Northwest Airlines flight attendants from going on strike Friday, handing a victory to the airline just hours before a planned strike action that could have devastated the cash-strapped company. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said he will issue an injunction to allow time for him to examine the case. -AP wire report

Why do I mention this? An envelope arrived on my doorstep with three round-trip airline vouchers from...you guessed it, Northwest Airlines. The vouchers come from Orbitz, courtesy of John Bingham racing. While I'm still upset with his organization for ignoring our pleas for information/confirmation of our trip to the Chicago Distance Classic, I'm happy that our team received at least partial compensation for our trouble. Thanks again to Duncan for finally getting Bingham's attention with a comment on John's blog. News reports suggest that if a strike eventually materializes, the carrier has a good chance of being wiped out for good. I'm hoping they come to some resolution.

Two mile time trial today, which took me over the same down and up loop I've been using for a few weeks. After about 4 miles of warm up and a few strides I started, and at first my legs did not want to turn over. I was managing 5:33 pace or so on the "down" portion, so at about a half mile in I was really fearing what would happen on the uphill portion. To my surprise, at about 3/4 of a mile I finally got my legs and started to feel a little better. I ended up getting to two miles in 11:01, which was a much better result than the 5:35 pace I averaged a few weeks ago. I had searched for my heart rate monitor before the run to keep an eye on what this effort translated into for beats per minute, but of course the battery was dead. I continued on after the interval and started my watch to see when my breathing returned to "normal" for 6:40 pace or so. By two minutes I felt like I hadn't even done the effort, save for a little stickiness in the legs, which is a good sign. I finished off the run with 3 miles at 6:35 pace, which felt much like the first few miles yesterday (running 6:30's but having it feel like 7's).

Tomorrow's long run finishes off the week, and I'm hoping that the improvements I've been feeling on the faster days of training will spill over into the longer efforts soon. During my last two builds it seemed that the long runs felt much easier, but looking at the slower paces during the first half of my conditioning phase (which I'm in now) makes it hard to compare. I do tend to think that running longer (more miles and more often) than I have lately would get me to that "nearly tireless state" that Arthur Lydiard writes about sooner, but hopefully by starting at faster paces and adding miles more gradually I will find myself running at consistently faster paces when that "tireless" state finally comes around. Also, I'd rather feel this way later rather than sooner if I'm really trying to build to a big peak for the marathon in December.

One possible problem with this approach is the danger of going into my fall race season a little less prepared to race. While my condition might be slower to come around for races in September and October (and maybe even November), I guess I just have to hope my will and tenacity to race well will help compensate a bit. We'll see.

Training: 9 miles, 58:51, 6:35 pace, with 2 miles at 5:31 pace. Felt rough during the first mile effort, but great afterwards

Friday, August 25, 2006

Maybe All I Need is a Shot in the Face

It hit me like a small stone catapulted from between the treadwall of some monster SUV, and of course the target was my left eyeball. With an audible SMACK I felt the impact, and my eye reflexively closed and started tearing. I started to veer a bit as I ran along the shoulder of Sabino Canyon road, and both hands instinctively started clawing at my eye when whatever it was that was stuck there starting buzzing loudly. It was then I felt the stinger sink in, and the fleshy bit below my eye started to feel hot. I finally scraped whatever it was out of my eye and continued, though I could only see out of the other eye at this point.

I was over the hump, 6 miles into an 8 mile effort at 6:30 pace when this occurred and I just didn't want to break pace. While I had been at 6:27 pace for the duration, the shot of adrenaline from this encounter resulted in me bringing the cumulative pace down a few seconds by the time I finished and weaved my way back home with a half mile cool down.

When I finally looked in the mirror the stinger was still lodged where the creature struck, so I worked it out with a pair of tweezers. At this point it's still swollen, but not too noticeable. Since this was my first (of what I assume was a) bee sting, I was glad to see I'm not allergic to the creatures. Much less painful than a scorpion sting.

I was happy with the run this morning, and I was able to fool myself into thinking I was running 7 minute pace for the first 5 miles or so at 6:30. After that point, and certainly after the sting a mile later, I was aware I was working a little bit but I felt much better at the pace than I have for months. I even saved enough energy for the second coat of primer on one of Finn's closet doors afterwards (yes I'm still at this but the doors are in the living room).

Tomorrow is another time trial, and I'll probably opt for 2 miles instead of 3 given today's effort and yesterday's battle with the hills. Since I'm starting to feel good about how things are going, I'm trying to keep in mind some of the advice Nobby has given me, which is echoed by the coach that has been kind enough to help me with my current Lydiard-based program. I spill this same advice occasionally, as well as some things I've come up with when I comment on other people's blogs, but I often don't follow it myself.

1. Think long-term, years not weeks: I think keeping an eye on the distant horizon can minimize rash decisions in the short-term. We're really preparing for next year with what we're doing this year. Keeping this in mind can put in check the desire for one too many "quick fix" speed sessions or other temporary fits of overcompensation that inevitably lead to overtraining or injury.

2. Find a way to "keep coming up": This one is my favorite. I see lots of athletes painting themselves into a corner with hard workout after hard workout. Sooner or later, with too much hard anaerobic work (I'm talking marathoners here since I am one), an athlete can either tenuously hold form or fall off. There simply isn't enough infastructure underneath to support indefinite amounts of improvement with hard training. I know periodization seems to get a bad rap, but I'm a firm believer in it. Lydiard probably wasn't the first to come up with it, but he was very good at it.

3. Leave a trail: Keep a log, and use it to analyze what works and when. Lydiard tortured himself with his experimentations of mileage and intensity. Over the years, he found the best recipe for him and tweaked it to work with his individual athletes. Without a detailed log, this would be impossible. When I look at some athletes' logs (if they post them), I often can't see any "trail" from the beginning of their program to the big race at the end. There is often no periodization, no foundation of fitness to work from, and no benchmarks along the way to chart their progress. When I look at these logs I often see a great workout here, a crummy one there, a good race here, a funk there...you get the idea. We put so much effort into our running, why not spend a little time charting it in an effort to find some concrete relationships between our training and our races beyond "I felt like crap" or "I was on today". There's more to it if you know where to look.

Enough with the platitudes, I'll take a seat in my glass house now. I've just been reading too many blogs lately that seem to want to "qualify" who is and isn't a "real" runner by whether or not they use an mp3 player, a GPS or similar, and subscribe to Runner's World. I'm not asking that we all join hands here or anything, but the quality I look for in runners (or running blogs for that matter) is what I strive for myself (sometimes without success), and has absolutely nothing to do with what you read or what you wear; Quite simply, an honest desire to improve and the follow-through that desire requires. Trying to follow 1, 2 and 3 above help me in that regard, and my desire has nothing to do with my equiptment or reading habits. It's all heart.

And yes I know Running Times is way better. I may be sanctimonious at times but I'm not an idiot.

Training: 10 miles, 1:05:30, 6:33 pace, with 8 miles at 6:25 pace. Felt great except for the sting

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Day of 100 Hills

I dragged Lucas along for a workout that consisted of running up and down all the serious hills we usually avoid around my neighborhood. This included my hill-repeat peak, as well various sections of Snyder road where the grade gets fairly serious, and the hill up to Canyon Ranch by Sabino Canyon. We focused on just running steady up all the hills, as the gravity working against us made it difficult without intentionally adding to the effort. Once over the big hill on Snyder, Lucas spotted what looked like a nice hilly trail that we veered on to. Of course, after a rocky ascent the trail led down and dead-ended at a house, forcing us under an "unbarbed" wire fence. After this interruption we tackled one more large hill that took us into the Fairfield neighborhood, then back on the road for three faster miles back to the house.

We managed to work the pace down during the last few miles, and by the time we got home I was fairly spent. I blamed this in part on joining the Running Shop for an easy 6 miles last evening, which made for my first double in awhile. Instead of recovering and eating right after the run as I should have, I spied an empty diaper genie box that Haiden and Finn were playing with and that Haiden was calling a "bus". I decided to turn it into a bus for her, cutting out wheels and wrapping the box in craft paper. I added windows, headlights and all the other good stuff with a sharpie and let her color it. By the time I was finished I was weak with hunger and dehydrated, but hey, this was a pretty cool bus! That being said, I fully expect it to be destroyed by the time I get home.

Training: 11.3 miles, 1:21:52, 7:13 pace. Very hilly run with lots of steep grades, tired by the end.
Yesterday pm., 6 miles in about 44 minutes, somewhere close to 7:30 pace

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On the Radar Screen

While I'm months away from the marathon in California in early December, today I feel like I crossed into the same hemisphere. Given the stomach bug I'm kicking and the fatigue I felt during my last run, it was with some trepidation that I headed out the door for 7 miles of 6:10 pace effort. This was my third week of this type of workout, which should culminate in 8 weeks with 8 miles at 6 minute pace. By that time (5 weeks from now), I'm supposed to feel that 8 miles at that pace is a walk in the park, and that I could literally turn around and repeat the workout. As of last week, when I ran 7 miles at 6:14 pace, I was a long way from feeling nice and relaxed. The week prior to that I made the mistake of just taking off out the door and running 6 miles at 5:58 pace, which turned into anaerobic hell. It was at that point I decided (with the urging of the coach I've mentioned) to back the pace off and slowly work towards 6 minute pace week by week.

When it comes to these kinds of weekly workouts, it seems two schools of thought prevail. There's Jack Daniels, who advocates repeating the same workout (or similar workouts) several times at the predetermined pace, and working towards making that pace feel easier and more relaxed week by week. Lydiard seems to be more about getting the paces to come down "naturally" week by week, so you're running the workout a little faster each week without even realizing it. I guess I'm trying to get the benefits of both approaches, that is getting the workout to feel easier week to week while simultaneously reducing the paces. The best of both worlds? Who knows. Daniels says he likes to keep the paces constant to keep runners from "racing" themselves into the ground by trying to beat their times from week to week. He has a valid point there. I'm hoping by trying to get an honest read on how I'm feeling during these workouts, and not pushing too hard I can avoid that pitfall.

Back to the workout. I was planning on 7 miles at 6:10 or so after a one mile warm up, in an effort to build upon what I did the week prior. This time I set the watch to record each split and headed off on my newly extended 1.06 mile loop, which is slightly uphill for half and slightly downhill for half. I think this minimal variation in terrain is a nice feature of the course, and it gets me to focus more on maintaining a consistent effort, even as the paces go up a few seconds on one half of the course and down on the other. Mid-way into the first mile I knew I was going to be all right, and the 6:10 that resulted felt calm and easy. I rattled off the next four miles all at 6:07 pace, then ran 6:02 and 6:06 for 6 and 7. At this point I still felt good, so I extended the effort one more mile and finished with a calm 6:06. At this point my breathing had elevated a little bit, but I felt well below threshold for the duration of the run.

After a mile cool-down I'm back home, and for a change I'm feeling very happy about the workout. For the first time since, well, the early stages of the last marathon, near-marathon pace felt controlled and relaxed. It's a good feeling. Have a great day.

Training: 10 miles, 1:03:15, 6:20 pace, with 8 mile marathon pace run, splits of 6:10, 6:07, 6:07, 6:07, 6:07, 6:02, 6:05, 6:06

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Settling In

I haven't been agonizing over many training tidbits lately. Not much searching out of new nutritional methodologies or blood lactate analysis either. No comparisons between my training and what those around me (in the blogosphere or my more immediate neighborhood) are doing. I've pretty much just been running. Well, running, painting, and getting over a stomach bug.

I attribute this feeling of relative peace in part to getting into my third Lydiard-based build. I'm now in week three of eight, and while the legs are a bit tired on some days I feel like I'm starting to move forward. I also think that corresponding with a coach that shares similar training philosophies has helped. Instead of reinventing the wheel with this third go-around, so far I'm just making a few small tweaks (based on the coach's suggestions) to what I've done in the past.

What's the same:
1. Focus on building endurance through long and medium-length runs.
2. Three "longer" runs a week (in theory at least).

What's different:
1. Slightly less daily mileage, which makes number two possible.
2. Faster daily paces, with the goal of keeping "easy" runs at 7 minute pace or below and moderate runs between 6:30-7 minute pace.
3. More focus on marathon pace runs (6 minute miles or just slower), at least one per week.
4. A weekly "examination" time trial of 2-3 miles at fast pace, with an emphasis on the time it takes to recover afterwards.

While I'm a little concerned about running closer to two hours instead of 2:30-2:40 for long runs, I know that I'll be working up to making those runs longer, and performing them at a faster pace than I'm used to. My hope is that this faster daily running (for shorter and long runs) will get me feeling more comfortable at marathon pace, and so far this seems to be the case.

Here's the tentative schedule for the marathon on December 3.
8/6-9/30, 8 weeks, Conditioning: 75+MPW
10/1-10/21, 3 weeks, Hill training: 95+MPW
10/22-11/14, 3.5 weeks, Anaerobic/coordination: 95 MPW or less
11/15-12/2, 2.5 weeks, Taper: 50 MPW or less
12/3, 2:35 marathon

Seems simple enough, right?

Training: 10 miles, 1:09:48, 6:59 pace, mostly in the rain. Stomach is still a bit off so I wasn't in a hurry, and I felt a bit like someone was pushing down on my shoulders for much of the run.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Failure and Redemption

I was planning on finishing out last week with a 17 mile long run with Lucas and another teammate for the upcoming Saguaro National Monument 8 mile race on Labor Day. The winning team gets $400 or similar, and this time I think the prize will actually exist. Unfortunately, at about 4 miles in my stomach starting giving me intense pain. At first I blamed dinner from the evening before, but after making three unscheduled pitstops by the 11 mile mark I realized that the problem went way beyond indigestion. I told the guys to go on ahead, and figured that after one more stop I would hopefully be able to catch up to them by taking a short cut. Unfortunately, after a quarter mile or so the pain got worse and I started feeling fairly nauseous. I was alone, in trouble, and at least 4 uphill miles from home. Luckily my brother and his family lived only a mile from where I was stalled, so I was able (barely) to make it to their door. Sadly, I hitched a ride back home from them and arrived (somewhat sheepishly) just as my running companions showed up with their 17 miles bagged (compared to my 12.5).

I spent the rest of the day in and out of the restroom, and in a bit of a haze. I did manage to survive a good band practice, and for some reason took advantage of a few minutes at home alone in the evening by cutting the grass. Do I know how to take it easy or what?

By this morning I was feeling better, and Lucas once again came over to run 80 minutes. We started out slow enough, and I was able to ease into a pretty good run. We finished 11.5 miles at 7:02 pace, and after drinking a little gatorade (I could tell I was seriously dehydrated from yesterday), I announced I was heading back out. During the first miles with Lucas I realized just how invested I was in the upcoming marathon. Worse than feeling sick yesterday was knowing that I had bagged out of a long run. I started thinking about all the good stuff that happens to the body once you pound the pavement for 90 minutes plus. Arthur Lydiard trumpeted how these long runs were the foundation of training, and the increase in number, length, and density of capillaries that results from these runs are invaluable. I ended up putting in the rest of the miles I had missed yesterday, so I ended up with 17 in a little under 2 hours.

Here's how last week looked:

Total: 74 miles in 7 sessions
8/20, 12.5 miles, 1:26:30, 6:57 pace
8/19, 8.5 miles, 54:01, 6:28 pace, 5K in 16:58 (5:29 pace) & 5K at 6:01 pace
8/18, 10 miles, 1:08:48, 6:53 pace, felt good
8/17, 14 miles, 1:37:34, 658 pace, a bit tired at the end
8/16, 8 miles, 55:41, 6:58 pace
8/15, 10 miles, 1:05:48, 6:35 pace, with 7 miles at 6:14 pace
8/14, 11 miles, 1:19:40, 7:19 pace

I wished I could have ended the week with a long run, but at least I got it done a day late and thus didn't have to kick it aside until the next weekend. I feel like I'm on the road back, and hopefully the mileage total for this week (with two long runs) will make up for what ended up being a fairly conservative week.

Training: Today, 17 miles, 1:58:06, 6:57 pace
Yesterday, 12.5 miles, 1:26:30, 6:57 pace

Saturday, August 19, 2006

It's Down There Somewhere

I'm slowly figuring out that the reason last week seemed so much easier than this week is due to the fact that I was tapering for three weeks before starting last week's training. That, and I wasn't painting last week.

I took a night off from the trim brush last evening, as Kiera was heading out for the evening and I just couldn't paint and watch the kids at the same time. I knew a good dinner, and early bedtime, and plenty of rest would be required for this morning's workout, so I watched a TIVO'd track meet from Hayward field, drank a beer and just relaxed once the kids were in bed.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was scheduled to be Lucas's training hack this morning. Since he drives all the way out to my house a few times a week to run, the least I can do is keep him company during some of his workouts. I was planning on a 2-3 mile time trial myself, so running a 5K fast, followed by a short rest and a 5K at marathon pace sounded like fun. I'm sick this way.

We met on the river path at 5 so I could get home in time for Kiera and Angie to poach some closed trails in Sabino Canyon upon my return. Luckily they didn't arrive home with a ticket. After a discussion on probable pace and a slow, two mile warm up we were off. While the first mile seemed pretty difficult, we finished it at 5:31 pace and gradually ground down the average pace to 5:29, which meant a 16:58 5K. I was spent, but I felt worlds better than I did after just two miles at 5:35 pace or so a week ago. I think running on a straight road and having some company made things seem easier, though immediately after finishing I wondered how the hell I would run a second 5K around 6 minute pace. Lucas mentioned that after running 5K at 5:30 pace, 6 minute pace usually feels pretty easy. I doubted this, though it was in keeping with the unfortunate way I've handled my pacing at the beginning of my last two marathons. We were soon off again, and as Lucas predicted we settled right into 6 minute pace without too much difficulty. We dragged a little over the last mile, which I didn't mind since I wouldn't have time for any sort of cool-down, and we finished with a cumulative pace of 6:01 for the second 3.1 miles.

While I was fairly tired watching the kids afterwards, I'm feeling pretty fresh now. I know I'll pay for this effort during tomorrow's long run, but it was nice to know that there still is some fitness lurking down below the surface. While we were running fast, we certainly weren't racing, and I didn't really tie up at all. While I won't be doing any real "sharpening" or anaerobic work for 10 weeks or so, this weekly time trial is at the very least a good way to keep track of where I'm at as I approach the fall racing season.

On an entirely different note, my band is officially on the bill for Friday, September 1.

Training: 8.5 miles, 54:01, 6:28 pace, with one 5K at 5:29 pace, a few minutes rest, then a second 5K at 6:01 pace

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bring Back Cap'n Caveman

While my caveman beard is long gone (sorry Eric), I feel more pangs of loss over Duncan's decision to put his daily training diatribes on indefinite hold. This news is akin to me wandering out to the driveway in my bathrobe (I don't actually have a bathrobe but I wanted to spare you the vision of me in boxer shorts) one morning and finding no newspaper waiting for me. Actually, it's worse than that. It's more like finding no newspaper, then hearing from your neighbor that the paperboy was mauled by a puma and as a result the delivery of my daily dose of sunshine has been cancelled indefinitely. The letter writing campaign starts tomorrow as this will not stand. That's right, it's all about my needs.

At 4:47am this morning I made my decision to run the California International Marathon on December 3rd. It was either this race or the Rock and Roll marathon in Phoenix a month later. I'm drawn to the California race by the promise of that elusive "hometown feel" that some marathons can pull off with ease. I'm a low key guy, and low key races like this appeal to me. The clincher was the informal tone of the information page on their website.

1. Get to the start on time. Duh.

No, I didn't add that last part. While I have nothing against the massive Rock and Roll empire, I feel we vote with our feet as runners, and the races we participate in are bigger than our individual performances. Duh. Vermont City marathon, where I broke 2:50 for the first time, was a fantastic experience. I have so many fond memories of that race, and my experience there left a more permanent impression on me than all but the last mile of my PR in Phoenix. Now if John Bingham would just send me that voucher he promised...

I painted more last night, ran this morning, then painted again before work. This is getting old. Finn and Haiden agree with me on this, as I apparently I spoke too soon about their newfound camaraderie as temporary roommates. Finn had a freak out around 11:30pm, which in our sleep-deprived state made moving Haiden into our room seem like a plausible solution, with Kiera on the couch. H wouldn't fall asleep and Finn still wouldn't calm down, so I made the command decision of moving him back into his mostly painted room and returning H to her bed. Since I'm only painting a door and some trim at this point I couldn't smell any fumes, though the ceiling fan, open window and open door hopefully kept him from suffering any permanent damage. He got further revenge by waking up one minute after I decided to run the California marathon.

Oh, the run. I made it out for 10 miles this morning, and I worked on relaxing as much as possible in an effort to save up for tomorrow's workout. I was set to do another 2-3 mile time trial, but Lucas had an interesting workout scheduled by his masochist coaches that I just couldn't pass up. Apparently it's a 5K time trial, followed by some sort of recovery (probably not much), then another 5K time trial at marathon pace. Who could resist such tom-foolery?

Training: 10 miles, 1:08:48, 6:53 pace

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Adaptability

"Where's Daddy?", Haiden asks.
"He's in the shower", Kiera answers.
-pause-
"He should be painting," Haiden says.

I've come to terms with the fact that I have a part-time job. In addition to my regular gig at the art gallery, I'm now a painter part time. For the past three days, after my run and a quick shower, I put on my wretched "painting shorts", which are still pink in places from painting Haiden's room last year. I eat my cereal in these disgusting shorts, then get to work. I'm on coat 4 for the dreaded deep-blue trim, and I'm finished with the orange (with the exception of a few touch-ups). I'm also on a better schedule now, with two hours of painting before work and three more hours of painting after dinner.

I can't wait to quit this part-time job. My thanks go out to Phil and Dusty for the painting tips. Next time I go with Dunn-Edwards paint instead of Home Depot, and I'll never go with a shade this dark again.

The kids have adapted well to the painting situation, as Finn now has a nightly "sleepover" in Haiden's room. Night one was full of screaming, but Finn settled into his pack-and-play right away last night. I thought Haiden would be protective of keeping her personal space private, but now I think she likes the company.

I haven't adapted nearly as well to this situation, as my back has been aching, my hips are feeling arthritic, and my left hand seems permanently bent into a claw from holding roller and brush. My feet are also complaining, as I've done all my up-and-down work on the ladder barefoot.

Adding faster paces and increased mileage on top of a pretty stressed body has made things a little tough the past few days, and today was no exception. Today's 14 miles were a little more stressful than I was hoping they would be, and I was content to average 6:58 for the run instead of trying to push the pace down to 6:30's for the second half. The humidity is still oppresive here, and the weather shows no signs of easing up.

I go back to Arthur Lydiard's books when I start feeling like this- tired, worn out, and generally overextended. While it's important to back off once you're over the edge, his books emphasize consistency and perseverence. It's easy to get out there after a day off, three square meals and eight hours of sleep. There is some satisfaction that comes from grinding out a tough run in the middle of difficult circumstances, and staying on schedule on a day like today makes suffering through a race seem just a little easier. After all, no one forced me to paint.

Training: 14 miles, 1:37:34, 6:58 pace

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What am I Doing Wrong?

I'm using a tinted primer. I bought a fancy Purdy brand 2" trim brush. I bought Consumer Reports' choice for the best paint.

Painting Finn's room will be the death of me. After painting from 9:30am until 12:30am (yes, just after midnight), with only two 1/2 hour breaks, I was still only half-finished. I went to bed with hips and feet aching, and woke up 4 hours later in order to get in a run this morning and get back to painting. It must be the goofy orange and dark blue combo that's making things so difficult, since I don't really think I'm that inept at painting.

As you might imagine, I felt quite out of it this morning, so I just ran 8 miles at just under 7 minute pace. I thought about dragging it out to 10 or 12, but I'd rather take it a little easy after yesterday's never-ending chore.

Today has been pretty much the same, with me painting from 8am until almost 3pm, when I had to come in to work to relieve my co-worker. The painting still isn't finished, but I hope to have everything but the closet doors done by bedtime tonight. I'm just hoping that bedtime comes a little sooner than it did last night.

This blog should be back to normal tomorrow, once I get the paint fumes out of my lungs.

Training: 8 miles, 55:41, 6:58 pace

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Just Checking In

So my laptop is broken, I'm trying to feed two hungry kids their breakfast, our daughter starts her fall semester at preschool, I'm painting our son's room orange and blue, and I'm determined to get the garage cleaned enough to fit both cars in...today.

Ran 10 miles, 7 at 6:13 pace. After getting an email from the coach I've been corresponding with, I decided to ease off from last week's 6 minute effort. Felt pretty good as a result. Off to get things done, hope everyone had a good run today.

Training: 10 miles, 7 at 6:13 pace.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Free Pass

Sunday's long run of a paltry 16 miles hurt, especially towards the end. Jason and Lucas met at my house at 5:15, and the goal was to run 2 hours or so at a relaxed pace. About 12 miles in I really started to feel like we were speeding up, but in fact we were just holding steady at 6:55 pace or so. Jason eventually dropped Lucas and me at about 13 miles, leaving us to flounder about for the last three miles home. Lucas made the brave move of staying out even longer to finish the run with an even two hours, but I was content to follow the original route and call it at 1:50 or so. My quads were so, my back was tired, I was done.

This made for three days in a row of me feeling "not so fresh", and Lucas was also feeling a little tired, so we gave ourselves a free pass for today's 80 minute run. Instead of obsessing over keeping under 7 minute pace, we relaxed and ran the first two miles at about 8 minute pace then naturally started taking the pace down. Including some hills and a rocky trail section in Sabino Canyon we averaged 7:19 for 11 miles, so we must have been under 7 minute pace for 8 of them or so.

Tomorrow will be back to the usual for me, and I'm hoping to have a week fairly similar to last week. I will be adding in a few more miles, and I hope to end the week feeling better than I did this past week. Here's a look at the last seven days-

MO: 7 miles, 6:09 pace, with 6 miles at 5:58 pace
TU: 12 miles, 6:48 pace
WE: 10 miles, 6:50 pace
TH: 9 miles, 6:32 pace with 8 at 6:27 pace
FR: 14 miles, 6:57 pace
SA: 9 miles, 6:49 pace with 2 at 5:35 pace
SU: 16 miles at 6:54 pace
Total miles: 77

Aside from feeling farily crappy for three days and not killing the 2 mile time trial on Saturday, I'm happy with how things are going so far. I'm definitely running faster on a daily basis, and it feels like it's getting easier to do so. I did feel good on the run today, especially with the slower warm-up. While I'm still focused on keeping things under 7 minute pace, one "free" day like this a week might be the ticket to keeping my head fresh. I know the miles are less than usual, but the added stress of the faster paces seems easier to adapt to if I start with fewer miles and add on 5 or so a week. We'll see how it goes. If I get too far behind in mileage I guess I can start running 33 a day or something.

Training: Today, 11 miles, 1:19:40, 7:19 pace, easy with Lucas
Yesterday, 16 miles, 1:50:52, 6:54 pace
Miles for the week: 77 in 7 sessions

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Egg on Face

It's one thing to publicly declare you are in 34:10-34:20 10K shape, but it's quite another when you can't run two successive miles at 5:30 pace within a week of that declaration. This is the spot I find myself in, and while I'm not freaking out about it, I am set to over-analyze it as usual.

I mentioned in my last post that I was feeling tired (and wired) during the end stages of yesterday's 14 miler. This was the first "bad" day I'd had in awhile and I thought it was an isolated event. However, the legs felt tired from the get-go this morning, with a little soreness in the outer sections of the quads. As a result I ran the first 4 miles of my run at 7:25 pace or so, resting up for my planned 2 mile stretch at 5:30 pace. Usually I look forward to an effort like this, but I was a little concerned as I started off on my .9 mile time trial loop (where each successive mile starts further into the loop). Immediately I found myself stuck around 5:40 pace as my breathing increased. By about a half mile I had worked things down to 5:34 pace, where I would stay through the first mile. I seriously thought about stopping after one mile, as something was definitely not clicking, but for comparison's sake I continued, clocking the second mile in 5:37.

I slowed to a quick stop and took my heart rate for 20 seconds, which when multiplied by three came out to 156 BPM. This was strange, as tempo runs (which in the past were around 5:40-5:48 pace) usually found me at 163-168 or so. One possibility is that I was using a heart rate monitor during the effort then, and I waited maybe 30 seconds before taking my heart rate at a stand still after my effort this time. I started running again at this point, and within 2 minutes or so I had my stride back and was clomping along at 6:45 pace or so for the last three miles of the run. My legs were tired, but my lungs and breathing were fine and showed no residual signs from the effort.

So what does it all mean? I could be in worse shape than I figured, but today's lapse could also be due to the 14 miles yesterday and the accumulated stress of running more of my miles at a little quicker pace. This is probably one of the reasons the coach I've been emailing suggested adding back mileage slowly after my taper. I'm hoping to actually strap on a heart rate monitor for next week's effort to get some additional data to confuse me, if I can find the damn thing. While I don't think I'm overly scientific, it will be nice to have some idea to compare from week to week.

I'm planning on running two hours with Lucas tomorrow, and hopefully I'll feel better than I did today or yesterday. Have a great weekend.

Training: 9 miles, 1:01:23, 6:49 pace, with two miles at 5:35 pace. Felt sore at the beginning and overtaxed during the 2 mile effort.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Delicate Constitution

I pride myself on having an iron gut, meaning that I can pretty much eat whatever (or not) before a run. I've been doing the "not" for a few months now, save for coffee. However, I met my match today when I ran out of coffee filters and ended up using that goofy metal-mesh reusable one that comes with many coffee machines these days. Yes, it was still coffee, but all the acidity that the paper filter usually removes flowed freely into the carafe, which made for a jumpy and edgy runner.

I just never settled in to the run this morning, and at about 8 miles my stomach started with the "hunger knock" that usually only comes on after two hours of running. My legs took a hint from my stomach and started to tire also. While I wanted to call it a day early, I stuck it out for the 14 miles I had planned, finishing them at an average 6:57 pace. Part of me wonders if I'm just a little worn from a fairly quick week, but it's possible it was just the coffee. It's also possible it wasn't even the coffee, but just a bad day. Regardless, it's over with now.

I'm closing in on the end of my first of 8 weeks of conditioning, and it's been interesting comparing the speeds of this week to where I was at during my previous two builds. For example, I only averaged under 7 minute pace for a total of 8 runs during my first 12 week stint of conditioning training a year ago (races excepted). During my second build, where I did 7 weeks of conditioning, I ran a total of 13 runs under or at 7 minute pace. So far during the last 4 weeks of running I've run all but three days below 7 minute pace, and two of those were days off. I am running fewer total miles at this point, but that will be changing as this build progresses.

Let's face it, finding the magic point where ideal mileage and ideal average pace are joined together in harmonious bliss is all but impossible. Even if someone succeeds with this once, I'm sure it's a moving target and what will be a perfect mix one week won't be ideal the next. 7 minute pace isn't nirvana, but I believe in my case running that speed or faster works a greater percentage of my muscle fibers for a longer duration (I thank the mystery coach for this knowledge). It's this struggle to find what works best for us that keeps training interesting, and I'm not even involving anaerobic in the mix in an effort to keep my head from exploding at this point.

On an unrelated note, what's up with the blogger.com spell check? My only alternative for "carafe" was "carboy". "Flowed freely into the carboy" makes an interesting end to a sentence though.

Training: 14 miles, 1:37:12, 6:57 pace

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Finn-man

My boy can dance. Kiera called the other day to tell me that when she put on Modest Mouse's "Float On" song, Finn walked into the room and right up to the stereo, where he started shrieking and dancing. I hate missing this stuff while I'm at work.

I had to dance out the door myself today, as I had 8 miles at 6:30 pace to tackle. The toughest part of these runs is getting up to speed fairly quickly. Even with a cup of coffee in me, dropping the pace right out the door is difficult for me, partly because the first 3/4 of a mile out of our subdivision is a snaking uphill. By the time I was mid-way through the third mile I was finally down at 6:30 pace, and while I was just trying to hold steady the pace eventually dropped to 6:27 for the effort. I felt good for almost the whole run, as the huffing and puffing on the uphills was mitigated by cruising easily on the downhills. I added a mile of easy running at the end to cool down a little to make the run 9 miles.

It's a good feeling to be fairly comfortable at 30 seconds slower than marathon pace, even though it might be due to me running fewer total miles during the week. For someone like me trying to run at 6 minute pace for the marathon, being able to cover a fair amount of ground at a pace that's less than 10% slower than goal effort should hopefully be good preparation and a good indicator of fitness. As I mentioned before, these days at 6:30-6:00 pace will get longer as I get further into my marathon build, and hopefully they will feel even easier in two month's time.

Training: 9 miles, 58:28, 6:32 pace, with 8 miles at 6:27 pace

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Past is Prologue

First of all, for those who would enjoy a great summary of how to approach and implement Arthur Lydiard's training, hop over to this page on the Lydiard Foundation's website and download the ridiculously large (5 meg) PDF file posted by Nobby Hashizume and his associates. The article is a fantastic resource and a must-read for those who are even the least bit curious about training the Lydiard way.

As I start building again for a December or January marathon I've started to look more and more at my training log. The coach I've been emailing started me down this path of reflection after diving in to my running past. "All the answers are in your training log" was what I remember him writing. Lydiard training revolves around the premise that training should be separated into different phases, and each progressive phase builds upon the work that precedes it. While Lydiard's writing guides runners with an approximate timeline for each of the phases of training, the right time to finish each of the unique phases should fall at the point where you've gotten the most you can out of that phase's training, rather than some arbitrary "4-6 weeks" or the like.

Easy to say, hard to do. We are inevitably tied to the calendar, as the dates for our races are set in stone after sending in the registration fee. This is where learning from the past comes into play. In my case, this coach pointed out that after about 8 weeks of conditioning training I was able to run 20-22 milers fairly comfortably at 6:40-6:45 pace. The times didn't really drop any further after this point, whether I was entering the hill phase (like my second build) or continuing conditioning training (like my first build). It would stand to reason that 8 weeks is probably a good amount of time to allow for conditioning this time around. Somewhere in Pennsylvania I hear "But your base doesn't magically disappear after one race". He's right of course, but I like starting from scratch, especially when I look at how slow I was running in the month after the last marathon. I feel the body needed the break I finally gave it, though your mileage may vary.

For the hill phase, 4 weeks seems to be the magic number for me. I've done this same amount twice before, and both times I came out of the phase feeling very strong and ready for fast running. Why mess with a good thing?

For the anaerobic and coordination phases, I'm still investigating. I think shorter works better for me than longer, though I think I need to pay more mind to shifting from longer, less intense efforts to shorter, more intense efforts as this phase progresses. I believe I might have flogged myself a little too hard through this phase during each of its two previous occurrences. More 50-sprint, 50-floats and less 5K all-outs in the last few weeks, which will hopefully better preserve the conditioning I will have worked hard to attain.

Finally, neither of my tapers have worked to my satisfaction. My tapers in the past have been described as either "too short" or "that's-even-shorter-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you!!!" I guess going longer will be the ticket this time.

This is part of why I harp on other runners to keep blogs for other runners to pick apart. There is some accountability there, and also it counteracts the brain's tendency to only remember the highs and the lows, when it's the day by day battles and miles that really count.

Training: 10 miles, 1:08:23, 6:50 pace

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's Official

I'm through with the tapering/recovering/rejuvenating/re-connecting with my inner-child phase. Three weeks is entirely too long to take it easy, so it's great to be back to "real" training. Yesterday's 6 miles at 5:58 pace actually stuck with me a little this morning, and I was a little slow to get out of bed and get moving.

Lucas joined me for 12 miles today, but our run was interrupted about 1/2 mile in when a guy walking a huge dog in my neighborhood stopped us and asked if we had a cell phone. He had seen a cat that was advertised as missing on about 100 fliers around the area, but with his dog in tow he couldn't get close enough to take the cat home to call the owners. Lucas waited with the cat (who was deaf and had one yellow eye as described in the flier), while I raced home with a flier in hand. While I'm sure I woke the owner up with a call at 5:30, she was happy to hear the cat was safe. By the time I ran back to meet Lucas, the cat's family, which included an infant girl, were walking up to retrieve their animal. I love a happy ending.

The rest of the run went by without incident, but my legs definitely felt the uphills as we slowly worked the pace down to an eventual 6:48 average. The heat isn't so bad here right now, but the humidity is still stifling, and it's always a big relief to get back into the air conditioning after the run.

This week begins at least eight weeks of Lydiard conditioning, and I'm looking forward to building back up to higher mileage. The paces this time around will for the most part be faster than during my last two builds, and how quickly I add miles will be determined more by keeping an eye on my everyday paces. The rough plan is to stay under 7 minute mile pace daily, with a few runs closer to 6:30 pace, one run around 6:20 pace, and one day with a shorter tempo-ish effort of 5:20-5:40, which I'm planning to use to evaluate my fitness. While I doubt I'll be back at 100 miles per week in two weeks, hopefully I can take advantage of these weeks spent hovering at a lower overall pace. In short, it's more of the same, just a little different.

On a different subject, our daughter (almost 4 now), has taken to asking deep questions at bedtime. Kiera fielded these three gems the other night and wrote them down for me.

1. Is Finn going away to college? (Finn is her 14 month-old brother)
2. What is college like?
3. What is love?

Kiera's answer to number three was, "Love is giving you kisses even after you've been really annoying!" (I can vouch for the annoying part)

Training: 12.2 miles, 1:22:56, 6:48 pace

Monday, August 07, 2006

Taper for (Insert Race Here) Ends

With some "help" from Duncan, John Bingham finally responded to my request for information on the half marathon. The information is that there is no information. The trip is off, due to Fila dropping out as a sponsor. John was gracious enough to offer our team vouchers good for a flight to a race of our choosing, which is generous. He also apologized for the information not getting to us, but when three emails to his organization and several phone calls to one of his employees results in no new information, it is very frustrating.

The end result is three easy weeks for me, or a taper for nothing. I probably needed the rest after jumping back into training so soon after the marathon in June, and it did allow me to adjust to running faster daily paces on easier mileage. Hopefully this break, which officially ended yesterday, will give way to a stronger build for my next marathon in December or January.

Lucas and I put in a little over 13 miles yesterday, which was a little short for a long run but fine for what was still technically a taper. While the Garmin locked up and wouldn't cooperate for the first 5 miles, we averaged 6:53 for the last 8. I figure 6:55 would be a good guess for the whole run. Dan and Jason were planning to join us and bailed, so Lucas and I ate theirs and our shares of Kiera's apricot scones.

The week went down like this-
8/6, 13 miles, 1:30 or so, 6:55 pace
8/5, 8 miles, 51:46, 6:28 pace, felt easy and smooth
8/4 10 miles, 1:09:05, 6:55 pace, legs a little tired
8/3, 10 miles, 1:12:33, 7:15 pace, tired from yesterday’s effort
8/2, 10 miles, 5x1600 w/400 rest in 5:30, 5:29, 5:29, 5:29, 5:28, felt great
8/1, 12 miles, 1:23:43, 6:59 pace, legs were in no hurry
7/31, 8 miles, 52:45, 6:35 pace, worked fairly hard, hilly and wet
Total miles: 71

I was happy with the paces for the week, and my hope is to start adding miles to these runs while running the same speeds or faster. Look for a clear outline next week.

Today was a quick one, 7 miles with 6 at 5:58 pace. Once a week I'll be trying to run this pace, and the eventual goal will be to run 8 miles at 6 minute pace or below and feel good enough that I could turn around and do it again. This workout was suggested by the coach I've been corresponding with, who is also an Arthur Lydiard devotee, and would probably correlate to Lydiard's "3/4 effort" for his conditioning phase. At this point I was glad to slow down for the one mile cool-down at the end, and the thought of turning it around and doing the same run again at that pace had the appeal of an IRS audit.

Training: Today, 7 miles, 43:10, 6:09 pace, with the first 6 miles at 5:58 pace. Breathing was a little strong for the pace.
Yesterday, 13 miles, 1:30, 6:55 pace or so.
Miles for the week: 71

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Hybrid Runner

Woke up early this morning for a quick run so that I could be home in time for my wife to run with Angie. Amazingly enough, while the air was wet it was also cool for the first time in recent memory. I doubted it was much over 70 degrees, so I took this as a sign to move a little quicker. I wanted to keep my feet dry, so I made a fast attempt at the 8 mile "slow down" loop.

It took me two days to fully recover from Wednesday's intervals, but the legs felt good enough today to slowly notch down the pace from 7 minutes for the first mile to a cumulative 6:28 for the day's effort. I'm starting to feel the different "gears" again in my running, and lately I've been experimenting with a visualization method I came up with after reading about pulse driving, a technique drivers of cars with hybrid technologies use to get better mileage. In short, pulse driving involves the driver accelerating up to the desired speed, then easing off the gas enough to try to keep the hybrid car in the "sweet spot" between where neither the on-board battery or gasoline engine are used.

Like the linked article suggests, I try to get up to what I feel is the right speed, which for each day varies for me but stays in the aerobic range, then I concentrate on expending as little energy as possible while holding that pace. If I notice the pace start to drop, I press down on the accelerator just a tad, which is enough to get me either back up to speed or a little over. From there I try again to relax and minimize my energy expenditure. Some days this "sweet spot" is easy to find, especially when I'm recovered, and some days it's elusive. Today I was in the pocket for almost the entire run, and the added efforts required to get up the hills or across some of the rougher trail sections was almost instantly given back on subsequent downhills or easy, paved sections.

I admit this is whole post might sound goofy, and I also admit it was brought on by car shopping and research, but it really is an interesting mental exercise. It's also very similar to how bike racing used to work for me, although most of the "coasting" was spent at the back of the peloton.

Training: 8 miles, 51:46, 6:28 pace

Friday, August 04, 2006

What's it Gonna Be?

As the previous post indicates, I've all but given up on the half marathon next weekend. I do have the time reserved to get off work, but I will probably still be here next week and not on a plane to Chicago.

In better news, the road closure that eliminated a majority of my running routes has been cleared, though there is still some water running over the roadway. I took advantage of this and visited dog poop trail and the surrounding areas for the first time since Sunday's impromptu aquathon. All told, it was 10 miles this morning at 6:55 pace. The humidity is still ridiculous and we're in for more rain this weekend, but this will have to end soon. The worst part is, we're still in the middle of a drought, even with all the recent rain and the carnage it brought along with it.

As I give up hope on the half marathon I'm looking to the horizon for the next marathon. Jason has put the idea of the California International Marathon in Sacramento on December 3 in my head, which sounds tempting. It's a slight downhill course without many turns, and without the 26 bands I've suffered through during my last three marathons. It seems like a nice, low-key affair that still offers a fair amount of prize money, though a 2:35 would only fetch 15th place or so and no share of the cash. One drawback to this race (aside from the usual travel woes) is that it occurs one week before the final race of my club's Grand Prix competition, which I won last year while the fast guys in town were MIA. This year I'm in a lowly 4th place, though I've missed one race in the series which I could get back by running well at the Tucson 1/2 marathon. I'd gladly trade the free shoes and year of race entries I won last year for a 2:35 marathon this year.

The other option is going back to Phoenix for the Rock and Roll marathon on January 14. This would give me more time to prepare, but would also leave me fighting to peak late enough if I ran the half marathon a month before. This gave me problems last year.

I have some time to think about this, but I'm leaning towards getting back to business next week and preparing for the California race. Stay tuned.

Training: 10 miles, 1:09:05, 6:55 pace

No Reply at all

Dear John Bingham,

I'm with the Running Shop running store team from Tucson, Arizona that won the shoe store team competition at the Arizona Distance Classic in March. We were told that John Bingham Racing was awarding us a trip to the Chicago Distance Classic next weekend. It's now 9 days to the race and no one has contacted us regarding itinerary. All of our runners have jobs, and some also have families and school, so knowing the information regarding the trip is absolutely critical at this point. We have repeatedly asked for this information over the past four months to no avail.

Our contact, XXXXXXXXXXXX, who works for you, has no information for us regarding when we leave, when we return, where we stay, what transportation we will use to get to and from the race, etcetera. He has given up at this point and asked us to email you directly about this, and I would sincerely appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. I have emailed the manager of johnbinghamracing.com twice with no response.

Please let me know the status of this trip, as all of our athletes have prepared through the summer for this race.

Thank you,
Mike Salkowski


____

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Touring the Wreckage


I stole this photo from Angie, who has some great photos and descriptions of the flooding here in Tucson.

Lucas and I were both a little beat from the workout yesterday, so we spent much of our run visiting the flooded out portions of Sabino Canyon, where this photo was taken. There is now just a gaping hole, probably 20 feet across and 8 feet deep where one of these bridges used to be. We turned around when we reached the washed out bridge instead of descending into the muddy waters below, our lesson learned from the past weekend. We cut across the canyon on the Bluff trail, then ran along the flooded Sabino creek and stared at the overflowing water from Sabino Dam. It's a mess around here.

The uneven terrain of the trail, plus a slow first mile put me over the 7 minutes flat goal pace I've been at for a few weeks, but after yesterday I really didn't mind. We ended up with 10 miles at 7:15 pace.

While I'm looking forward to the half marathon, there has been a distinct lack of any travel information for the race. John Bingham Racing keeps telling our liason here that the trip is on, but will not give any more information beyond that. Things are smelling fishy at this point, and there's a chance this taper will end up just being a transition to my next build. Honestly, missing the race wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, especially after my last travel debacle getting home from Reno.

I am feeling energized again, and if I don't hear anything more about the race by this weekend I may start building up again next week. Frankly, I'm looking forward to getting the miles back up, just so I won't feel like a slacker.

Training: 10 miles, 1:12:33, 7:15 pace

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Back to the Oval

I met Lucas at 5:15 for 1 mile repeats at 5:30 pace with a slow 400 recovery. Luckily Lucas had originally read the workout wrong, so we were only scheduled to do five of these instead of the six I had mentally fixed in my mind. I've only been on the track once since the end of May, so I really had no idea what to expect. Also, for the last two weeks my speedwork has been two sessions of 3x1 mile at 5:30-5:25 pace with a mile recovery. I've suffered on these, though both workouts were run in trainers on roads.

After a slow two mile warm up I slipped on a fresh pair of Asics DS trainers (racers for me), and we headed for the stellar track at Sabino High. The weather had washed some sand onto a straightaway, but other than that the surface was perfect as usual. After a few strides and some talk about whether or not we would be able to complete the whole workout on pace we started out.

The short story: 5:30, 5:29, 5:29, 5:29, 5:28. Lucas, with the cool pace judgement of a Nike-clad metronome, dialed in the first 800-1200 of each repeat with me running beside him, and I took over pacing duties for the last 400-800 depending on when the pace started to lag. It was a great workout, and while I felt a bit spent for the first 200 of the recovery, I was hopping to go by the start of each rep. I think saving the track for special occasions has the effect of motivating me much more than doing these reps on the road. My stride felt long and smooth, and while my breathing got a little caught up during the second halves of the 4th and 5th rep, the workout was more invigorating than tiring. All in all, a far cry from how I felt doing about half the work with more than double the recovery for the two weeks prior.

5:40 pace will be tough for the half marathon next Sunday, but after this workout I'm convinced I could still run 5:30's for a 10K so I'm about on target. The key will be not overtaxing myself for the next 9 days, hopefully I can keep reminding myself of that. If not I'm sure some loudmouth in cyberspace will do that job for me.

Training: 10 miles, with 5x1 mile repeats with 400 recovery in 5:30, 5:29, 5:29, 5:29, 5:28

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You Can Count on Children



to tell you what adults won't. I'm laying on the couch yesterday, with Haiden perched beside my feet. "Daddy, you need some new toes." "Why?", I ask. "Yours are all broken." I can't really argue with her, it's two months after the marathon and my feet are still a mess.

This morning marked the third day one of my two escape routes from my neighborhood has been closed due to flooding. This forced me to run a few circuits of the "slow down" loop I usually use for recovery runs, with lots of steady uphill and downhill and plenty of turns and no chance to get into a steady rhythm. I was a little tired from the combination of a faster pace and some severe hills yesterday, so I had a little trouble getting things into gear. I ran 12 miles at 6:59 pace, and I really didn't feel like going any faster. I was right on my prescribed pace, but for the past two weeks 7 minute pace has felt easier than it did today.

Tomorrow will be my toughest track workout since May, and I'm anxious to see how it pans out. I'm hoping the overall reduced volume of the past two weeks will start to pay off about now, and that 6 miles at 5:30 pace will be a possibility with a 400 rest interval. If it starts getting out of control I'll probably opt for switching the effort to 800's or 1200's instead, finishing each of Lucas's reps but starting them part-way in.

I'm looking forward to being done with this half marathon next weekend, mostly so I can get back to serious running. Mentally I've felt like I've been dogging it a bit the past two weeks, which is usually how I feel when I'm tapering. The mind starts to wander, and I start feeling a little detached from running. Certainly the weather isn't helping in this regard.

I do hope that running at faster daily paces does help things this time around. I figure today is as tough as 7 minute pace should feel, and that ultimately my conditioning will get to the point where I will be running 30 seconds faster per mile on a regular basis (look at Eric for an example of this in action).

I am enjoying my three days off from work after 10 pretty intense "art" days in a row. Lots of play-doh pizza, mini basketballs and toy trucks.

Training: 12 miles, 1:23:43, 6:59 pace