Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Unusual Intervals

I can't ever remember running an interval of 2K before, but since I was running alongside friend Lucas and following one of his typically unusual haiku speed sessions I figured what the heck. Here's a haiku from the warm up:

Night before the run
Tried mexican shepherds pie
Porta-potty please

Lucas was set to do a 2K with 3 minutes rest, followed by 3x400 with 200 rest in-between, followed by two easy laps then the whole damn thing again. I've been taking a longer recovery approach this time out, and I also like to keep the intervals at 600 plus, so instead I ran the 2K, rested about five minutes, then joined Lucas during his second 400 but turned it into an 800. A second five minute rest followed as I waited for Lucas to do the second 2K, and again I repeated the pattern with another 800.

2000 in 6:43
800 in 2:34
2000 in 6:37
800 in 2:30

With a four mile warm up and a 1.5 mile cool down I figure we ended up with about 10 miles with the recoveries included. The first 2000 felt very smooth and easy, and the first 800 felt fine but not great. The second 2000 found Lucas trying to bury me as I trailed a little at 1200, and when we came through about a mile in 5:18 I almost called it early. I stuck to my guns though and the resulting 6:37, while probably a bit too fast, felt great at the end. The last 800 in 2:30 came off a quarter of 76, so I was moving pretty well for the last 400 of it. At this point the legs felt done, and with 5600 of quality it felt time to call it a day.

While the legs felt quite dead during the short cool down, they are absolutely buzzing right now. It's easy to see how one can overdo this phase of training, as running fast after so many miles of moderate paces feels intoxicating. Easy day tomorrow in preparation for the early back to back sessions starting Thursday.

Again scones were waiting when I returned, and as usual they were delicious. Powered by their goodness I pedaled Haiden off to school, and while climbing the hill on the way back in 65 degree temperatures I realized that things can't get much better than this.

Training: 10 miles, including intervals of 2K, 800, 2K, 800 with LONG recoveries. Good day

Monday, October 30, 2006

Round and Round

The weeks keep flying by at a speed I'm not completely comfortable with. Twelve weeks of training are now in the bag, and I'm left with a scant five weeks to get ready for the marathon. Time in general is speeding along, and it seems that every day the kids get a little taller. Thankfully Haiden has told me that she doesn't want to get big; that in fact she wants to stay a little girl so she can play. Parenting breaks your heart this way, as deep down I agree with her but I know it's going to happen anyway. This pic is from last evening, where the whole family went to Trail Dust Town for some pre-Halloween fun. Both Haiden and Finn loved the carousel, though Finn was less pleased with his lamb costume.

Here's how last week went down:
Monday: 8 easy, feeling a little broken down from the 10 mile race the day before
Tuesday: 14 moderate
Wednesday: 10 miles in the morning, with 8x600 (first time on the track since May), did most at 1:52-1:53, then 6 miles easy in the evening
Thursday: 8 miles moderate in the morning, 4 easy in the evening
Friday: 12 miles pretty easy
Saturday: 10 miles with 7 at 6:08 pace
Sunday: 21 miles with 10 at 6:43 pace and 8 at 6:00 pace. Tough run.
Total: 83 in 9 sessions (EDIT: 93 miles, special thanks to my math coach)

While the mileage was nothing special, I did manage to spend a fair amount of time close to marathon pace. Sunday was probably my best long run to date, and the first track workout went pretty well all thing's considered.

My second of three week's worth of anaerobic training started today with 10 easy miles. My nutritious dinner from Costco's gourmet food stand included a slice of pizza, a polish sausage and a Mr. Pibb last evening, and again the caffeine and nitrates coursing through my veins kept me from a reasonable amount of sleep. The kids were both up before I left, so it took awhile to make it out the door. Still, the run went well and hopefully I'll feel recovered enough for some more work on the track tomorrow.

Do take a second and pay a visit to Thomas, who cracked 3:30 with an amazing performance at the Dublin Marathon. This guy was happy to break 4 hours not that long ago, and I suspect 3 hours will fall by the end of 2007 with his consistend training. Well done Thomas.

Training: 10 miles, 1:09:50, 6:59 pace

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Home Field Advantage

After yesterday's debacle it was with some trepidation that I approached today's long run. The script read 10 miles at 6:45 pace followed by 6 miles at 6:10, less if I felt bad and more if I felt good. Since the 7 miles at 6:08 felt like a bit of a chore yesterday, I didn't expect to fare much better today.

My last four runs with pace work towards the end have been a bit disappointing, and most of them have been done on the Rillito River path because of the relatively flat terrain and long, straight stretches. This time I decided a change of scenery might help matters (it certainly couldn't hurt at this point), so I decided to plod my well-worn routes around my neighborhood. Lucas was also kind enough to keep me company for the first 12 miles, and having a friend along always makes things easier.

The planned one mile warm up became two when my legs simply weren't ready to move after a mile at 8 minute pace or so. After two we were off, and while Lucas seemed fine at 6:45 I was a bit ticked off that things didn't feel easier. By five miles in I was starting to relax though, and after that point it didn't really seem to take that much effort to stay on pace. We finished the ten mile stretch (12 with warm up) by spending a minute in my driveway, and here I took a big swig of gatorade to steel myself for the pace effort ahead. At this point Lucas and I separated so he could finish with an easy mile to conclude his scheduled 90 minutes. As I started the watch and surged ahead, I definitely wished I was in his shoes instead. Still, the first mile went by quickly, and I decided I would just do multiple loops on my one mile time trial course. While it's a bit boring, it does afford some shade and the streets are fairly quiet.

As I rounded five miles I saw that my average was down around 6:01 pace for the effort, and I was now past the sticking point in previous attempts at this workout. I still wasn't feeling anaerobic, and I was happy to know I could finish the workout and at least make it to 6 miles of work. The next time around I still felt pretty much the same except for a little heavier breathing, so I decided to go for 8 miles. Here I forced myself to do the two mile loop instead, as I had a feeling that the temptation would be too great to stop at 7 miles (about 1/4 mile from my house). By 7.5 miles this proved to be a good decision, as this is where someone let the air out of all four tires at once. The breathing spiked and I knew that 8 would be it.

All in all I ran the 18 miles portion of the workout at 6:23 pace, which was a nice surprise. With the slow warm up and short cool down I made it 21 miles total, and while the lower abs and adductors are sore I'm feeling pretty good otherwise. Now please excuse me while I empty the fridge. Have a nice weekend.

Training: 21 miles, 2:18:11, 6:35 pace, w/10 miles at 6:43 pace followed by 8 miles at 6:00 pace. While there's still a ways to go, I feel like a champion today.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Not in the Mood

Stomach woes, allergies and a restless night on the couch worked hard against me this morning, and while I got the workout done I'm less than thrilled with the results. I had ten miles scheduled with 7 at 6:10 pace. While I've been doing these a bit faster, I'd been advised to take it a bit easier this week on the marathon pace efforts for today and tomorrow. I ended up managing the 7 miles at 6:08 pace, but between the wheezing, coughing and digestive issues it was far from the walk in the park I was expecting. It took me until I'd been home for an hour to want to eat, and only now (hours later) am I feeling close to normal.

I guess how I recover from this workout will be a better indicator of where I'm at right now. I know I'm fit, but I was really hoping this workout would feel like a cakewalk and it just didn't go down that way. I know my stomach will be sorted out by tomorrow, and I just hope the allergies ease off a bit too. The plan is 10 miles at 6:45 and 6 miles at 6:10 or faster. I'm shooting for 20 or so miles total.

The legs feel fine, my will is good, and tomorrow is another day.

Training: 10 miles, 1:04:24, 6:26 pace, with 7 miles at 6:08 pace. Stomach and allergies made this uncomfortable

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why Not be Kind to Mike?

Three items are on my "to do" list for training this week.
1. Recover from race
2. Run first track workout since May
3. Back to back efforts on Saturday/Sunday

We'll see about number three starting tomorrow, and number two seemed to go off without too much trouble. It's number one that I've probably neglected a bit this week, which is a trap I often fall into. I'm not the only runner who has this fault, and it reminds me of a few passages in the Buddy Edelen book I just finished. In A Cold Clear Day the author Frank Murphy writes of the difficulties Buddy's coach Fred Wilt had in getting Edelen to rest or recover enough. This passage recounts some of the notations Fred left on Buddy's training logs, which he sent along by mail every few days.

"Fred knew what he was up against and he tried regularly to get Buddy to understand himself well enough to change: "the compulsion to run and restlessness comes from mental inferiority complex"; "here comes the old insecurity again"; "you are just now to the point where you could go too far"; "I cannot kill your spirit but you are your own worst enemy. Why not be kind to Buddy Edelen? Why kill him now?" Fred's protests illustrate the sharp edge in Buddy Edelen. The same motivations that made Buddy a good runner could also destroy him."

Now I'm not comparing myself to a runner anywhere near Edelen's caliber, but when I look at the results for my last two marathons I would be hard pressed to say I should have worked much harder in order to obtain better results. For someone with a history of averaging around 50-60 mile weeks the workload I tried to adapt to over the past year seems like plenty. Aside from pacing errors during the early portions of both races, I simply don't think I structured the workouts effectively enough for me to get the most out of them. More rest was probably one of the problems.

Downeast Andrew had a good comment about the effort level during the anaerobic phase for a marathoner under Arthur Lydiard's training and its effect on recovery and maintenance of endurance. "During this phase, the focus is on developing the anaerobic system so the "off" days should be done at a low intensity. However, I think a lot of Lydiard's runners did not run the marathon and therefore could sacrifice distance to gain greater recovery from the speed work. In our case, the opposite may be true. We may need to tone down the intensity at the track so we may maintain recovery running in the double digits."

What I'm finding in my own training now is that there doesn't really seem to be much of a difference in how I feel during the "off" days. I head out the door with ten miles or so in mind, but whether I keep it there or stretch it to 12 or 16 miles I tend to feel the same if I keep the paces moderate. The temptation of course when feeling this way is to push it and run these days faster to see where the fatigue develops, but "fatigue" shouldn't really be in the vocabulary on these off days so I'm trying to keep things fairly slow.

Speaking of slow, I did sneak in an easy four miles last evening. I wanted to check on the legs a bit more after the track workout Wednesday, and they seemed to be feeling fine. This morning I had ten scheduled but stretched it out to 12. I've been starting these slowly and today was no exception. By the time I was still feeling fresh and the pace kept coming down, so I think I'm on track to start the back to back workouts tomorrow. Have a good day.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1:23:30, 6:58 pace
Yesterday pm., 4 miles, 29:55, 7:29 pace

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Holding Steady

I'm in a bit of a holding pattern for a few days as I wait for the back to back efforts with marathon pace on Saturday and Sunday. I'm pushing the longest run back to Sunday so that my wife and Angie can run early on Saturday, and since I'm still recovering a bit from the race the only other hard effort of the week was the track workout yesterday.

I was able to make the shop run for 10K last evening, and thankfully we ran the first half very slow. The legs felt a bit sore from the race, and that fatigue was certainly compounded by the 600's in the morning. I haven't been on the track since May, so fast running is a bit of a shock to the system.

After a late dinner and an ill-advised Mountain Dew I was unable to fall asleep until after midnight. My allergies and sinus problems are back, which means a fair amount of coughing and hacking during the night and during runs. It didn't affect me too much yesterday morning but it was a bit of a pain last night and this morning. I ended up sleeping out on the couch for most of the night until the kids woke around 6:30, which meant I had time for eight miles before riding Haiden on the bike for school. I was originally hoping for ten, but I may have a chance to sneak in four this evening with or without Finn in the stroller. For the most part I just ran easily by feel, but I put the clamp down a little over the last two miles with a 6:20 and a 6:15. It felt good to turn the legs over a bit after shuffling along at 7 minute pace for 6 miles or so.

While I've likely accumulated as much endurance as I will for the marathon in December, I still have a hard time figuring out just how much to do in order to maintain it. Most of Lydiard's schedules taper off on the distances of all the runs at this point, long run included. However, I think for his runners the endurance they brought along had roots that went back for years. For someone like me without as long a history of base building, I somehow feel the need to keep the distances up for at the very least one and hopefully two runs a week in addition to the long run. The danger of this approach is the risk of compromising my recovery from the faster workouts between these days by running too much, and also compromising the effectiveness of the workouts targeting my fast-twitch muscles by going into them tired from too much running. Sometimes when I'm adding 4-6 miles to a 10 miler with thoughts of adding or maintaining my endurance base it feels like driving back home a mile just to check and see if I remembered to close the garage door. Yes, it's closed. It always is. Get over it already.

Training: Today, 8 miles, 54:36, 6:49 pace with last two miles in 6:20 and 6:15
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles, a slow 46 minutes or so

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On the Track

Good ol' fashioned intervals today on the Catalina Foothills High School track. While nowhere near as nice as the Olympic quality Sabino High, it's a fair amount closer to the house. After about 2.5 miles of warm up I got right to the 8x600 I had planned. 1:55, 1:52, 1:53, 1:52, 1:52, 1:52, 1:52, 1:52 followed, each with about a two minute rest interval. After four repeats I started to walk the first 30 seconds of recovery, which seemed to help me bounce back quicker than running slowly the whole time. I tried to concentrate on when the lactate seemed to hit the legs during the efforts. By the fourth repeat I could feel it creeping in at about 400, and by the sixth effort it was there at 300. The seventh and eighth were a bit rubbery after 200, but since I kept hitting the times I kept at it.

All in all I'm happy with the workout, though when it came time for the cool down with Lucas the legs felt quite dead. Running downhill for a mile and a quarter afterwards then having to work back uphill sealed the deal, and I was happy to sit down in the car afterwards.

Lucas followed me back to the house, where Kiera had just pulled a sheet of scones out of the oven. Yes, I lead a charmed life, and yes, I realize it. The bike ride to take Haiden to school had the legs complaining a bit on the way back, but I'm feeling pretty energized at the moment. Hopefully I'll get in another six miles with Lucas and the gang from the shop after work. Have a good day.

Training: 10 miles w/8x600, 2 minute recovery. Feeling good

Monday, October 23, 2006


The perfect family moment, just after an elbow to the crotch and just before a bite on the arm. OK, that second part was just acting on Haiden's part- she's no cannibal.

For anyone keeping score at home I thought I'd do a quick review of the Lydiard-based training I've been following over the past 11 weeks, as well as a preview of what's to come during the six weeks I have left before the marathon on December 3. With a great amount of help from a coach the following schedule has emerged-

8 weeks of conditioning, 8/7-10/1: Mileage varied from 74 to 93 miles a week, and I focused more on increasing the speed of my daily paces from previous builds. Most days were kept under 7 minute pace, and most weeks included at least one day with an extended period of 6:30 pace or faster and one day with a two to three mile time trial around 5:30 pace for the purpose of evaluating my adaptations and my recovery. During this period the coach I've mentioned also suggested a back to back block which included one day of 10 miles with 7 around 6 minute pace, followed the next day by either a standard long run or a shorter long run that started at 6:45 pace and ended with 3 or more miles of marathon pace. Endurance and stamina were the focus of these eight weeks, and by the end I felt I was a bit ahead of where I was after doing 12 weeks of less intense training last year.

3 week hill phase, 10/2-10/22: Two hill workouts a week, plus one day close to 6:30 pace and several days of fast, relaxed pick-ups. The back to back block remained the same during this period, though the long runs increased in length. In the past I did three hill workouts a week, but in an effort to continue focusing on stamina while building strength keeping the back to back days seemed more important than more time on the hills. Mileage varied from 83 to 96 miles. Gaining strength and getting the stride mechanism to work correctly were focal points during these weeks, though the tough stamina and endurance work continued as the miles and paces stayed constant or increased.

3 week anaerobic phase, 10/23-11/12: I'm starting this phase this week, and as the name suggests it involves intervals and fast running. The plan is to run a few days of longer intervals (600's-1600's) . In the past I've kept to fairly short recoveries, but this time around on I'm going to focus more on keeping the speeds steady and recovering longer. The point of these intervals, as I understand it, is to activate the fast-twitch fibers and condition them as much as is possible to help during the later phases of the marathon. For a marathoner it's more important to work these fibers for a longer period, which is possible by resting longer between intervals. The struggle of course is to run enough faster reps to stimulate and condition the fast-twitch fibers, though not overdoing it so much that the endurance I've built up over the past 11 weeks starts to suffer. Hopefully the double-header workouts and long runs will "keep the lid on my endurance", as Nobby is fond of saying.

3 week taper, 11/13-12/2: I'll be cutting back quite a bit more than I have in the past, and I'm putting my faith in the mystery coach on this one. Since I've never really raced "rested", I'm not exactly sure how it will go. Hopefully I'll carry enough fitness into these last three weeks and the rest will allow it to bubble up to the surface in time for race day. During this phase the anaerobic efforts will shift towards the shorter "sharpener" workouts Lydiard advocated, such as 50 sprint, 50 floats over two miles or so. This give a big anaerobic stimulus but are short enough to recover from quickly.

With the above plan in the back of my mind I headed out for 14 miles today. I feel I'm still recovering from the race, so I mostly just had in mind staying on my feet for 90 minutes or so. While I started out slowly, the pace kept getting quicker without me forcing it. At the end I was feeling good, though I probably ended up running a little too fast overall.

Finally, a note of thanks for all the kind words about the race this past weekend.

Training: 14 miles, 1:35:41, 6:50 pace

Switching Gears

Eight weeks of conditioning: check
Three weeks of hills and transition work: check

Today this tired old body graduates from the second phase of training and heads into anaerobic country for three weeks. The big finish to the hill phase was the 10 mile race yesterday, and I was pretty happy and relieved by how well it went. The splits were all fairly close with a few exceptions-
5:29, 5:28, 5:29, 5:35, 5:28, 5:35, 5:28, 5:22 (short/downhill), 5:33 (long/uphill), 5:19

As I said yesterday, Lucas and I ran this race almost completely alone, though we split after the 6th mile. For what was mostly a long drag race down a straight road, I was amazed by how far the leaders were ahead of me. The race started with about 600 meters of uphill, followed by an abrupt 180 degree turn that led us charging back downhill in the opposite direction. From there a few turns led us to about 7 miles on Broadway, a six lane main drag through Tucson. I had originally expected to be in a group of five runners, but for various reasons this situation never materialized and thus I just fell into time trial mode. As the miles sped by I was amazed to feel somewhat comfortable at 5:30 pace, which is usually what I would consider 10K pace. At mile 5 I had the epiphany I mentioned yesterday, and while it seemed silly at the time to have that kind of confidence the body simply felt right. Maybe it was the short taper beforehand, but the legs were turning over and I simply knew I was on a good day.

At the mark for mile six Lucas seemed to be laboring a bit and we finally split, which left me even deeper in no-man's-land, as the nearest runners in front of me seemed at least a minute up the road. Soon I was speeding downhill under the giant snake bridge (our tax dollars at work), where I laid down my fastest mile, though I think it was marked a little short. With less than two miles left it seemed like a great race was in the bag, but suddenly footsteps could be heard coming up behind me. It was Toby, the fellow I ran the 8K with and managed to drop, only the tide had turned on this day as he glided even and edged ahead. He looked too good for the speeds we were running now, and I simply kept on my given pace. If I were smarter or thinking more clearly, I should have gotten right on his tail then and there. It's easy to say these things afterwards though, since it's so much easier to think clearly when you're not in an anaerobic stupor. Still, I kept him in sight and mid-way through mile 9 we were both forced to dodge the large packs of walkers from the 5K as their course merged with ours. As soon as Toby punched a hole in-between a group of six walkers it would close again, leaving me stumbling to get around or through the herd via a different route. He hit the line a few seconds to the good of me, but seeing "54" on the minute side made me smile as I ran across the line myself.

Today found me a bit tight and sore from the race, so I took things easy with an easy 8 on my "slow down" loop. Chores and kid-stuff are eating up the rest of the day, but I did manage some cross-training with a muffin ride on the bike with Haiden and some Karate Kid wax-on, wax-off with one of the cars to work on the T-rex arms.

Training: 8 miles, 57:48, 7:14 pace

Sunday, October 22, 2006

#14 is 14th

I like to make it easy for the people who tally the race results, so I made sure to slide into the chute in 14th, which coincidentally matched my bib number. Actually, I had no idea where I was placed at the time, as the race stretched out fairly quickly with the gazelle-like Kenyans and and a few current and post-collegiates sprinting away from us in short order seconds after the gun sounded. Any hope of Lucas and I having any pacing help evaporated as we found ourselves alone, save for one foot-slapping-heavy-breather who we knew wouldn't last. We were right.

I'm too tired for a report now, save for the important stuff.
Get Moving Tucson 10 Miler
54:52, 5:29 pace
14th place, PR by 1:17
Results are up here (Thanks Deb!)

One thought during the race that stands out-
Finishing mile 5 and seeing 27:32 on the watch, I said to myself that I would run the second half faster. This is where I've usually just tried to hold on for dear life in the past. I'm a happy camper at the moment.

Kiera and the kids surprised me by coming to the race, and we had a great time afterwards with Haiden attacking the jumping castle and Finn emptying the post-race buffet. More to come.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Are You One of the Fast Guys?"

How does one answer this? I was at the registration table picking up a bib for the 10 mile race yesterday and was asked this question after the volunteer spied the "grand prix winner, comp entry" I had written in over the "entry fee" box on the race form. I mumbled something along the lines of "Maybe top 20?", and she tore off the cellophane around bibs #1-20, which were kept separate from the other numbers. Eddy has a handful of Kenyans training under his tutelage who will most likely take all the prize money as well as many of these low bib numbers, but since I registered first so I got my choice. It's always been "14" for me, ever since I first saw my dad wearing it on his back when I would watch him play softball as a kid. Hopefully it will bring me good luck tomorrow.

I ran an easy 6 miles this morning, and while the top of my foot is still a bit sore, the rest of the cylinders seem to be firing. I arrived home afterwards to the smell of fresh muffins coming out of the oven, which made watching the kids while Kiera and her friends Lisa and Angie ran in Sabino Canyon a bit easier. I'm a lucky guy.

I'm still going over the race plan for tomorrow, but I know it's going to involve trying to find what I believe is my threshold during the first half, then slowly pushing into the red for the second half. Of all the distances, 15K to half marathon races seem to be the most enjoyable for me, and my race times for said events seem to reflect that relative to longer and shorter distances. There's not much I can do at this point except eat and sleep well. Hopefully I'll be able to report back with good news.

Training: 6 miles, 42:53, 7:09 pace

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wait...Did I Just Run?

Annoying feel-good post ahead, proceed at your own risk. Honest to god, when I pulled off the shoes after 9 miles this morning I felt exactly the same as when I'd put them on just over an hour ago. The cool, dry air left my clothes almost dry, my breathing wasn't at all labored, and I was quite ready to go out and run again. The goal was strictly easy recovery after yesterday's 20 miles, as I'm trying to rest up for the 10 mile race on Sunday. I ignored the watch and headed out into the dark over the same roads and trails I ran yesterday and just enjoyed the quiet, cool morning. The one concession I made was to skip the strides I had planned, as the top of the third and fourth metatarsals are a bit sore. I think this is due to yardwork, as the slides I wear in the yard dig in right where the soreness appeared when I'm squatting or kneeling. It's nothing a little ibuprofin can't fix, but I didn't want to aggravate it by getting up on the balls of my feet too much this morning.

It's nice to feel good in the days before a big race, and the fact that I feel fresh after running for more than two hours yesterday is even more encouraging. This is a far cry from the days leading up to the last 8K race, where I felt completely dead during the run-up to the event. It was only when I was finally on the starting line that I felt ready to race.

Last year I ran 94 miles the week of this race, including a hill workout two days before and 8 miles pushing my daughter in the stroller the day before. I ran 56:09 that day, which equates to a 5:37 pace and a big PR. I think by getting my hill workouts and my long run done earlier in the week, and by dropping the weekly mileage total closer to 85 that I'm doing all I can to set myself up for a good day. Let's hope it's enough.

Training: 9 miles, 1:05:14, 7:15 pace. Didn't even break a sweat.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Shake it Out

I woke up this morning fairly sore all over from the yardwork, but the aches and pains were worth it when I looked out the sliding glass door to the backyard and realized I didn't have to do a damn thing out there after my run this morning.

I'm glad I skipped the evening run, as by two miles into my long run I was already down to my planned pace. 20 miles at an even, easy effort was the order of the day, and I spent much of it running various loops around my time trial courses and Sabino Canyon. After about ten miles the legs did start to drag a bit, and while slowing down didn't seem to help, speeding up a little did the trick. The best part of the run was the last mile home, which found me feeling fresh enough that I actually thought about stretching the run out a bit. Sunday's race looms off in the distance though, so I called it quits and was able to get breakfast down in time to take Haiden on the bike to school. These rides, which I'm trying to get in twice a week or so actually make the legs feel better after a run. With each passing day the long uphill between the school and our house after I drop H off flattens out a bit more. Good day today.

Training: 20 miles, 2:17:52, 6:54 pace

A Cautionary Tale

This book excerpt goes out to Evan, Greg, Zeke and Dallen. All of these runners will be tackling the Chicago Marathon this Sunday, and I wish them the best of luck.

I'm to the part in "A Cold Clear Day" where Buddy Edelen runs his first marathon. The author Frank Murphy talks about the strange things runners do before a race and why we do them. In Buddy's case, he decided on eating a tin of sardines on race morning after they were offered to him by a friend, instead of eating a more stable breakfast of toast and eggs or similar.

"That apparently reasonable option overlooks the mind games athletes play. They manipulate events. For example, when a good runner does something prudent in preparation for a race, he expects to run well because he has been prudent. On the other hand, from time to time, a good athlete feels the burden of expectations and does something imprudent, stupid if you will, intentionally. The athlete knows that if he does this stupid thing he will run well because doing a stupid thing, a self-destructive thing, relieves the pressure on the athlete by giving him an excuse to fail. With that excuse in place, he can relax. Relaxed he will run well. It is an athlete's version of Catch-22. No matter whether he is prudent or imprudent he will run well. So Buddy ate the can of sardines on the morning of his first marathon."

..."By six miles Buddy was catching sardines on the way up; in doing so he became nauseous and cramped; nauseous and cramped, his legs went out from underneath him. As his legs went out, he slowed; as he slowed, he grew discouraged; as he grew discouraged, he slowed. Buddy trudged along the road from Windsor Castle to Chiswick Stadium without any hope in the world. Up in front a race was being run and he had no place in it."

..."Unfortunately, Buddy used no speed in his inaugural marathon. He used only his determination to finish what he started, no matter how forlornly."

Buddy finished 9th with a 2:31, while the winner crossed the line in 2:21. Be smart in Chicago, rest and eat well these next few days, and for god's sake stay away from those sardines. As for Greg and Dallen, I hope you finish within 5 minutes of Buddy.

The Truth Hurts

Kiera left an old book of Doonsbury cartoons open to this page and put it in front of my place at the table the other day. I thought about it today when I arrived home after my long run at 8am to find the kids fed and watered, all the furniture moved and the house vacuumed and cleaned. She even made time to scan the cartoon for me. No scones though...sigh.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Battle for the Backyard

I win. It took wolfing my dinner down last night and getting as much earth moved as possible before sunset, then another two hours of grading, smoothing, raking, planting and dressing (the seeds, not me) this morning to finish, but the ryegrass is in. Getting up at 4am and doing most of my last hill workout in almost complete darkness made it all possible. Luckily my friend the security guard was not on duty, and after 6 miles of stumbling along the dark streets I made it through my four ascents and the accompanying windsprints at the bottom. Three weeks of hill workouts are now in the bag.

I'm supposed to join the Running Shop gang for 10K this evening but I've decided to bag it after evaluating how my back and upper body are feeling from my recent landscaping foibles. I'm also short on sleep, I haven't gotten to see the kids much, and I'm running long tomorrow. There, that's a long enough list of excuses. The old me would probably just pile the evening run on top of everything else, but I'm really trying hard not to overdo things with the 10 mile race coming up on Sunday.

I'm planning on an easy 20 miles tomorrow, then probably 10 on Friday and 6-8 with some strides on Saturday, which will hopefully leave me feeling fresh for the race. It's hard getting the ingredients mixed in exactly the right ratio, especially for a race I'm not peaked for. However, I followed a similar regimen during the week of the 8K and things ended up working out fairly well.

Work is calling, so that's it for now.

Training: 12 miles, 1:33:15, 7:46 pace, hill repeats with 3 minute effort, plus 3x100 sprints at the bottom, all x4

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Runner in the Rye

It's overseeding time in Tucson, which means spending the day grinding the remaining bermuda grass in the backyard down to tiny nubs, raking up the remains, then repeating the task. Since my mower is one of those ancient, push-powered numbers, I can't get the grass down low enough so I end up using a weedwacker. Just to make things more difficult, this year I've decided to pull up and remove several pieces of flagstone that serve as pathways across the grass. With two small children frequenting this area I'v taken to calling these large, heavy, decorative steps "skull-crackers". This activity left me pretty weak for the rest of the day, though my resolve was tested further when I was forced to wrestle 7 bags of "topper" soil from the Home Depot isle into the back of the car. There they stayed until this morning, where in my oxygen deprived, post-run state I finally summoned the courage to drag them all out to the backyard for more fun this evening.

When I was doing triathlons I actually had arm muscles, but after only running and cycling they now they look like elongated, anemic T-Rex arms, dangling uselessly from my frame.

I'm spreading this reseeding chore over a few days, as I have a tendency to overdo things and cripple myself for days by doing too much in too short a timeframe. I don't want to blow 11 weeks of good training by straining a hamstring while lifting a stinky bag of manure.

Yesterday's fun in the yard left me feeling a bit tired this morning, and I started out at a very slow pace. I've noticed since I've stopped obsessing over average paces during the hill phase that my runs are often turning into progression runs without any real effort towards that end. 7:30's become 7:15's, and after halfway I found myself still speeding up. I hit my favorite neighborhood at 9 miles and decided to do the long loop for 12 miles instead of the planned 10. By the time I was finished I was edging up on marathon pace, which surprised me considering how I'd felt 80 minutes ago. Good run.

Training: 12 miles, 1:19:51, 6:39 pace

Monday, October 16, 2006

Moving On Up

I spent Sunday driving up to Phoenix to pay my parents a visit with daughter Haiden as my sole companion. A day spent with these nice folks gets you an afternoon in the park, two carousel rides, an ice cream, an indoor playground, a solid dinner and more ice cream. Haiden had fun too.

Sunday also finished off week two of three of my hill/transition phase, so Lucas and I knocked out just under 13 miles in 90 minutes. I expected to feel broken from the long run the day before, but after a few slow miles at the start I felt right as rain. The air was cool, and we probably got down to 6:30 pace or so by the end. I'm bouncing back from the workouts better and faster than ever before, which hopefully bodes well for December. Here's how the week shook out-

10/15, 12.8 miles, 1:30:20, 7:04 pace
10/14, 23 miles, 2:34:21, 6:43 pace, tired at the end
10/13, 10 miles, 1:02:50, 6:17 pace, w/7 miles at 6:01 pace. Good day
10/12, 10 miles, 1:09:40, 6:58 pace, 2 sets of pick ups (2x200, 1x400) sore calf/ham
10/11 pm., 6.2 miles, 43:43, easy
10/11 am., 12 miles, 1:34:31, hill circuit w/3 minute effort & 3x100 windsprints, x4
10/10, 10 miles, 1:04:46, 6:29 pace, 4 sets of pick ups (2x200, 1x400, 10x100, 2x200)
10/9, 12 miles, 1:36:00, hill circuit w/3 minute effort & 3x100 windsprints, x4
Total miles: 96 in 8 sessions

I'm hoping stretching out the hill days to 12 miles and getting in some longer runs will either extend or at least hold my current level of endurance, and I'm looking forward to diving into some faster efforts after the hill phase ends this Sunday with a 10 mile race.

Today's run was pretty much a carbon copy of last Wednesday, though the trucker bomb was gone. Unfortunately, that annoyance was replaced by a morbidly obese security guard at the top of Sabino Mountain. Apparently the entire 1/2 mile road spiraling up to the gated community where he was planted is private property, and he let me know as much. First time up it was a small hassle, the second time up he was occupied and just glared at me, and the third time up he gave me the business. I told him there wasn't a sign posted at the base of the hill with "no trespassing", but he assured me there was. I muttered something about "go ahead and call someone if you want, I'm just running" and headed back down. To save myself a fourth encounter I cut the easy section at the top of the hill short the last time and turned around as soon as he was in view. Wednesday is my last workout on the hill, so I guess I only have to put up with this one more time.

Training: 12 miles, 1:33:13, w/3 minute effort uphill and 3x100 strides at the base, stir and repeat 4 times

Buy this Book

This fellow paid me a very nice compliment on my write up after the marathon I ran back in January, although it's only now that I'm realizing it. He compared a bit of the drama of my race to an event from the book "A Cold Clear Day", which I've just started reading. The book is a biography of Buddy Edelen, a before-the-running-boom marathoner who broke the world record for the distance in 1963, marking the first time since 1925 that an American had done so.

I'm serious when I say you can stop passing around that tattered copy of "Once a Runner" now. Buy this book for any marathoner on your list and you will not be disappointed.

After suffering through the awkward prose of Harriers, which I desperately wanted to recommend but can't, I am taken aback by the writing of this book. I try to mark passages that I think are especially affecting as I read, and I was left with a total of four for the entire Harriers book. While only on page 42 of "Day" I'm up to ten marks or so already. The author Frank Murphy had to have runners in mind as his audience, as much time is spent detailing Edelen's training as well as the systems followed by his predecessors and fellow competitors. Duncan will enjoy reading about Emil Zatopek's favorite workout leading up to the 1952 Olympics, which consisted of 20 times 200 meters, followed by 40 times 400 meters, followed by 20 times 200 meters. Reading Murphy's descriptions of what these athletes suffered through makes my legs ache while just sitting in a chair, and the doggedness and determination of Edelen illustrates the true meaning of competition and commitment.

Buddy's coach Fred Wilt describing Edelen- "Buddy had an unusual stride-I can remember people around me in the stands remarking about it-but I thought it was fine. Better yet was his attitude. Most people don't have the courage to lead in an important race. Buddy did. When he ran, a change came over him. You could see the amiability in him right to the time the gun sounded. Then his eyes darkened, his features flattened, his chest expanded, he stood up a little straighter. As the race progressed, he had a quality almost like meanness. He just would not let up."

Great stuff

Saturday, October 14, 2006


As I stopped the watch at the end of the run it read 2:34:21. All I have to do now is figure out how to squeeze 3.2 more miles of running into that amount of time and I'd have one hell of a good marathon.

For the first time in a few weeks I had a plain-old vanilla long run scheduled for the day after the marathon pace workout. With no fast miles planned at the end I decided to run from my door, which for a 2+ hour effort usually means a few downhill miles towards the beginning and a few tough, uphill miles through gut-check alley on the way back. As far as pace goes, anything under 7 minutes would do, but I was hoping to average around 6:45 if things didn't go south.

The first 12 miles or so zipped by without complaint, but at mile 15 I started to grind my way through the uphill portions of the run. I don't mind a progression run where you actually get the confidence boost of running progressively faster, but having to run harder just to keep the same pace or not to lose too many seconds while toiling uphill is not the kind of progression I enjoy. But son, it builds character. This is the marathon, especially towards the end when you can turn a quote by Greg Lemond on its head. "It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster", he says. It's more like "It just gets tougher, and while you feel like you should be going faster you're lucky to even keep the same pace."

Once up and out of the Valley of Doubt I started home, but my plan to stay out for 2:35 or so meant a few additional laps on my time trial course. The legs were heavy at this point, but the speed kept getting just a tick faster per mile. At 19.5 something punched a hole in the gas tank, and my mind started to go a little negative. Any thought of an impromptu "fast finish" run evaporated here, but I was able to hold pace until I made it back to the garage.

The legs definitely worked today, though in the last hour they've pretty much gotten back to normal. It's nice to have this run out of the way and to be able to coast through my last training day of the week tomorrow. Have a nice weekend.

Training: 23 miles, 2:34:21, 6:43 pace

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Kind of Rut

One day a week for 8 of the last 9 weeks I've done pretty much the same workout, which includes 7 miles around 6:04 pace. For the first month or so I really feared this workout, as the pace didn't often feel easy. Afterwards I would find myself feeling less and less confident about my ability to hold around 6 minute pace for the marathon in December. In the last few weeks my attitude has changed somewhat. As sick as it sounds, I actually look forward to this run now, as finally I'm feeling more and more relaxed for these efforts. A few rules of thumb the mystery coach has tossed my way come to mind here-

1) Workouts show what condition you are in, they don't make you into that condition.
2) How easily you recover from a workout is a better indication of your condition than the workout itself.
3)Always thank your wife in the blog for the scones!

I occasionally have problems remembering number 3, but the first two are on my mind today. While running the 7 mile effort I felt very relaxed and controlled, and the thought of 26.2 around this pace didn't seem intimidating at all. I felt right in the middle of a gear, with plenty of torque left to pick it up a little if need be. I also had trouble slowing down for the cool down, which is a good sign that the run wasn't too taxing. As far as recovery goes, the legs are actually feeling better now than they did after yesterday's run. With all the moaning I do about the days when I'm running on empty, it's nice to get a confidence booster like today.

As far as health in the home is concerned, no mystery pain since yesterday morning, Finn's fever and ear infection are improving, and Haiden is still on a sugar high from being left unattended at the dessert table of a pre-school potluck for a long 3 minutes.

Training: 10 miles, 1:02:50, 6:17 pace, with 7 miles at 6:01 pace

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mystery Pain Strikes Back

Late post today, as our modem is shot at home and I've been wearing out Google at work trying to figure something out. The running is fine, by the way. I was a bit tired after running 6 miles easy with Lucas and the Running Shop gang last evening, but I knocked out 10 miles this morning. I stopped doing pick-ups after my first two, as my right calf and hamstring were complaining a bit about the hills I ran yesterday.

Unfortunately, running is taking a backseat as I try to figure out what the hell is going on with my body. For several years I have had intermittent episodes where I feel an intense burst of what I guess is nerve pain where my right lat muscle and armpit converge. At the same time, I get a slightly less intense burst of pain just above the back of my right knee, along what feels like the largest tendon near the hamstring. The pain feels like an electric shock, and lasts from one to ten seconds. After it stops, it will often come and go again in fits and bursts for 1 to 5 minutes. If I'm carrying something I immediately have to put it down, and I usually try to either brace myself for it by leaning against a wall or a chair, or by lying down in a fetal position. The latter strategy was used at home this morning, though it was quickly followed by Finn sitting on my head and Haiden covering me with a large, down comforter. These things did not help. After 5 or 6 bursts it went away, and aside from one more occurence about an hour later it's been fine.

What's really frustrating is that this pain will crop up once every three or four months and "buzz" me several times over the course of a few days or a week. Then it vanishes.

I had a case of shingles in college, and Kiera was convinced that the pain is associated with that. Unfortunately I had the shingles on my head, and on the other side of my body so I'm doubtful. It's also goofy that the pain happens both above and below the waist, since that means it's happening along two different nerve tracts. This doesn't seem to fit the normal profile of sciatic pain.

I thought I'd put my malady out there just to see if any of the friends or strangers who read this blog have any idea what this could be. So far it hasn't happened during a run or a race, and for that I'm thankful. It also doesn't seem to happen while I'm sleeping. Google has been amusing, but I haven't come across anyone else suffering from the same type of pain.

With luck this will pass again quickly, and hopefully I'll get through the marathon before it finds me and strikes again.

Training: 10 miles, 1:09:40, 6:58 pace, with 2 sets of pick ups

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mr. Independent

Sure he can feed himself, but he can't drive himself to the doctor. Our family practice has a punchcard promotion, so after Finn's visit today we only have to take him three more times to earn a free kidney.

Back on the hill for more repeats this morning. Aside from two big diesel trucks hogging the shoulder and idling on the side where I do strides in-between repeats the run was fairly uneventful. As far as form for the hill running goes, I've been working on exaggerated knee lift and leg drive for the steep hill running, kind of like a high-knees drill while slowly progressing uphill. The steepness of the hill keeps me from leaning back, and similarly if I lean too far forward I can't get my knees up to around my hips. All in all I look fairly ridiculous. I've also started to work in some bounding, where I try to cover as much ground as I can with each step up the hill. I really have to drive my arms to get my legs moving for this exercise, and after about 20 seconds of this I'm pooped enough to go back to slow, steep hill running. All in all these efforts last three minutes, then I spend another 90 seconds or so running easily to the top of the hill. Four repeats up and down, plus four sets of 3x100 strides at the base takes up five miles and 45 minutes or so. Add a 6 mile warm up and a one mile cool down and you have a fairly tough day. I'm kind of glad to only be doing this two times a week instead of three like I've done in the past.

Yes, the trucker bomb is still there. It has a burnt down and gnawed on Swisher Sweet to keep it company now.

Training: 12 miles, 1:34:31, scorching 7:53 pace overall; hill repeats w/3 minute efforts +3x100 at the bottom, all x4

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Quick Ten

"Finn B" is back, though he's more of a B+. Since my wife doesn't really have allergy troubles, I took it upon myself to pass those specific genes on to both of our children. Haiden is through the worst of the change of season, but Finn and I are in the thick of it. He wakes up often coughing with a dry and sore throat, and this morning at 3 or so Kiera went in to take care of him when this happened. As a result, she was beat at 5:45 when I was about out the door for a run and just wasn't ready to get up for good. I pulled off the shoes and just sat with the little guy in the rocking chair next to his crib, and in the soft glow of the nightlight we read a few books and just hung out. Finally he was ready for a few more minutes of sleep so I put him back in the crib and tiptoed out. With work getting busier and the long list of projects to check off at home, I don't often just get to sit quietly with Finn. This is a shame, but I guess if I wasn't disappearing for 90 minutes or more daily to run this wouldn't be the case.

With the full house in slumber I hit the road at 6:45 for a quick ten miles. I had originally planned for a longer, slower run, but I had also promised Haiden I would take her on the back of the bicycle to preschool. While it was a little tough getting up to speed, by about three miles in I was down under 6:50 pace and I did the first of four sets of pick-ups. The rest of the run flew by as I kept the pressure on, and by the time I got back to the driveway I was feeling pretty good. In a perfect world I would have done a slow mile or two to cool down, but I had enough adventure ahead of me with the bike ride. Haiden and I flew down Sabino Canyon Road to her school, which sits at the bottom of a long and steady downhill. She loved the ride and of course can't wait to do it again. I felt the same way until I had to pedal my way back up and home.

Training: 10 miles, 1:04:46, 6:29 pace, w/4 sets of pick ups (2x200, 1x400, 6x100, 2x200)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Uh Oh, Urine Trouble Now

The legs started out a little sluggish today, so an extra long 6 mile warm up led me to old, reliable Sabino Mountain Road for my 4 sets of Lydiard hill repeats. The road curves upward for almost 1/2 a mile, where an automatic gate is installed to keep the riff-raff (and goofy-looking, high-stepping joggers) out. At 6:30 am, the stream of vehicles heading down from this protected enclave of high dollar homes consists of Hummers, beamers and other high dollar vehicles on their way to work or to drop off their kids at school. Meanwhile, the cars climbing up the hill and queing up at the gate for interrogation mainly consist of large construction or landscaping trucks, on their way into the subdivision to maintain and improve these mini mansions

As I searched beyond the road's shoulder for the boulder I use as a start line I spied a plastic bottle resting against the curb. Sure enough, it was a trucker bomb, probably tossed on the way up to work by one of the trucks that buzz me on the way up the hill. I was lucky enough to get to run past this eight times, four times on the way up and an equal amount on the way down. At first it glistened in the morning sun, but as I passed it for the last time on my way down a chilling wind and fast moving clouds had moved in. Just as I was trying to decide which way to run my last set of windsprints the hail started. After several days in the 90's last week this weather was strange and unexpected. At first the hailstones were few and far apart, but soon enough the clouds opened up and the volume and velocity of these annoying projectiles left me sprinting for cover. After getting beaned multiple times on the head and shoulders I finally found shelter under the awnings of a nearby gas station until the storm eased.

All in all it was a strange and wild morning, and I was glad to have the workout over. I bet that bomb is still there Wednesday, and I'm not touching it if it is.

Here's how last week ended up:
10/8, 14.5 miles, 1:43:45, 7:11 pace
10/7, 19.25 miles, 2:07:30, 6:37 pace, 10 miles at 6:43, 5 at 6:04, 2.5 at 6:44. Dead
10/6, 10 miles, 1:04:42, 6:28 pace, w/7 miles at 6:01 pace. Good legs
10/5, 10 miles, 1:09:30, 6:57 pace, w/4 pick-ups
10/4 pm., 6.2 miles, 44 minutes or so
10/4 am., 10 miles, 1:22:30, hill circuit w/3 minute effort & 3x100 windsprints, x4
10/3, 12 miles, 1:24:00, 7 minute pace w/4 pick-ups
10/2, 10 miles, 1:23:00 or so, hill circuit w/3 minute effort & 3x100 windsprints, x4
Total miles: 92 in 8 sessions

Training: 12 miles, 1:36:00, with 4 hill circuits and 4 sets of 3x100 windsprints

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Two Posts on a Sunday?

So here we have the photo of my dear wife's scones. Soon after posting this image I was given some photography advice from Scooter (see the comments), where he noted the faults in my technique. "Photo lesson time - most cameras focus (and adjust exposure) on center, that's why the foreground is out of focus. Next time, try to set up the shot, then move the camera down to center the foreground. Next, half press the shutter, this should lock the focus and exposure. Move back up to reframe the shot and squeeze the shutter the second half. Give it a try.".

I was dubious about the stated technique, but fortunately another blogger sent me this photo, stating "I tried following Scooter's instructions, and what do you know? Clear as a bell!" Hopefully Scooter has a sense of humor, as I have to admit this had me rolling on the floor.

Credit Where Credit is Due

These were waiting for me and Lucas after our run this morning. Yes, we're lucky dogs.

Yesterday's comments reminded me yet again that my better half gets neglected in my postings. This is usually fine with her, as she's secure enough with herself that she doesn't need to ramble online about her day the way I apparently do. My wife makes all of my running possible by caring for the kids while I'm out, and often she still makes time to have scones like these ready when I get home (or muffins, or coffee cake). While they leave their indelible marks (in my case just above the hips), they are very good nonetheless. I've yet to find goodies in any bakery that can rival her creations. Thank you Kiera.

I'm sucking up because it's our anniversary today, and like many couples with kids we are spending it apart. She's up in Phoenix shopping with my sister-in-law, and I'm at home with both of the kids. This is a good present for her, though we will get dinner by ourselves later on thanks to Kiera's family watching the kids.

Kiera did give me time to get out for a recovery run with Lucas. While I only had 70 minutes or so planned, I felt good enough and we went slow enough that I stretched it to accompany Lucas for his planned 1:45. We racked up about 14.5 miles in this time, which puts the lid on a good but tiring week of training. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, I'll be scrambling here.

Training: 14.5 miles, 1:43:45, 7:11 pace. Legs felt fine once I warmed up

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Look on the Bright Side

When a workout quickly goes from good to bad I often drive myself crazy trying to figure out why it happened. However, it's certainly no mystery this week, as the weight from Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday's runs pulled at me like a giant magnet under the Rillito River path. The plan was for 17 miles with the first 10 at 6:45 pace. The second half of the run was to be determined at that point; 7 miles around marathon pace if I felt great, 3-6 miles if I felt good, or just another 10 or so at 6:45 pace if I just wasn't up to it. After 1.5 miles easy I ran the first 10, and as I got further and further away from my starting point (it's mostly an out and back) I started to get nervous. 6:45 pace didn't feel terrible, but I doubted I could just drop the pace 40 seconds or so without really feeling the effects of yesterday's workout.

I decided to give it a go after the 10 miles had elapsed, and for the first mile I thought I might be able to manage it. Unfortunately, soon after the legs started to feel very heavy, and the lungs started drifting into the "tempo-run" atmosphere. It was getting ugly. I made a fresh deal with myself with each mile, but during the fifth mile I really had to work to keep the pace from slipping down to an average 6:05 from the planned 6:04. I was cooked, and the last quarter to get to five felt much harder than it should have.

I jogged in the rest of the distance, which gave me 19.25 for the day. Yes, I was too much of a sissy to get to 20 even. I stopped for a drink at a fountain by the Swan underpass, where I'd parked my car, and just didn't feel like doing an out and back for the last .75. Imagine that, me too tired to indulge in my most basic anal-retentive running habit (ending on an even mile).

Looking at the watch afterwards I tried to find the silver lining of the workout, and here's what I came up with. My blow-up shuffle-in pace has dropped to 6:44 per mile. I know it isn't much to brag about, but it's nice to know those workhorse, strictly slow-twitch fibers are still firing after two hours in the sun.

Training: 19.25 miles, 2:07:30, 6:37 pace, with 10 miles at 6:43, 5 miles at 6:04, and 2.5 miles at 6:44

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Blast

Ten miles were on the schedule this morning, with 7 around marathon pace at 6:05 or so. Dark storm clouds loomed, with their edges reflecting a red glow from the sunrise around 6 am. Rain was possibly brewing, and while I had second thoughts about the shoe choice I laced up a new pair of blizzard white Brooks Adrenalines. Nothing browns up a pair of trainers like an hour spent running through storm drainage.

It's been a slow, somewhat sore week for me, which I'm blaming on the race this past weekend and the new stimulus of clawing up Sabino Mountain road at a snail's pace. Aside from some pick-ups, I haven't been even close to marathon pace all week so I figured this workout would be a shock to the system.

Two miles of warm up at 7:40 pace was anything but encouraging, but soon enough I was starting the watch and picking up the pace, running the first mile along Sunrise Drive with the wind at my back towards my usual time trial loop. The pace jumped down quickly to 6 minutes per mile, and aside from the legs feeling stiff and my abdominal muscles feeling sore things started to click. One mile in I was actually trying to slow a little, as I knew that if I got too far ahead of pace it would surely come back to bite me tomorrow. As I was trying to ease off during mile two the rain started. It began with gentle taps on the shoulder, but within a few minutes it was coming down in sheets, which actually felt great since it brought the temperature down. The course I run for these efforts is within an old subdivision, carved from the desert south of Sabino Canyon maybe 20 years ago. There is no drainage to speak of, and within a few minutes of the rain falling in buckets water was streaming across most of the roads at depths ranging from 1-3 inches or so. The spenco insoles I use act like a sponge in these conditions, and soon they were audibly squeaking as my heel to toe transition squeezed out some of the accumulated water with each step.

Instead of slowing me down, the energy of the storm was a great motivator. Getting out of the lightning and drying off was another motivator. The end result was a very smooth marathon pace run with an average pace of 6:01 for the 7 miles. I splashed through the biggest puddles I could find on the one mile cool down with a smile on my face. It was a great day.

Training: 10 miles, 1:04:42, 6:28 pace, with 7 miles at 6:01 pace

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Arthur Lydiard's first phase of training is in part geared towards getting a runner in what he calls "a nearly tireless state". Sometimes I think I'm closing in on this, but the phrase that often goes along with it is his insistence on finishing the runs at a pace that leaves you "pleasantly tired". This week I'm tired, but there's nothing particularly "pleasant" about it. If it sounds like I'm complaining I don't mean to be, as having some residual fatigue from day to day means I'm working and thus improving, at least somewhat.

Today I repeated my run from Tuesday, which meant a steady pace with a few pick-ups thrown in every 15 minutes or so. Again I tried to determine the overall length of the run based on how tired I felt. Here's where it gets difficult. What seems to be happening is that after an hour or so I feel a general leg fatigue (probably due to the hills the day before), but the lungs feel pretty much fine. I figured I would decide to end the run when my pace either flattened out or slowed, but this doesn't seem to be happening. Instead, I find myself thinking about breakfast, taking Haiden to school, and recovering for the next run, and all the while the pace keeps getting a little quicker with every mile. I finally call it quits on an even number and get on with my day.

I guess the feeback my body is giving me is indicating that my low-end endurance is pretty much there, which means I can probably run 7 minute miles for a damn long time. However, at the same time my legs are tired enough that I can't really crank the pace down much more and still feel recovered. Here's where a phrase from the coach who is helping me starts ringing in my ears. "Think optimum training, not maximum training." As I shut off the engines at 10 miles instead of beating the dead horse for another 15 minutes I'm hearing these words, and hoping I'll be ready for the weekly double header that starts tomorrow.

Training: 10 miles, 1:09:30, 6:57 pace, with 4 sets of pick-ups including 2x200, 1x400, 6x100 strides, 2x200. Dead legs good lungs
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles in 44 minutes with the Running Shop gang

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just Like Starting Over

Second day back on the hill for repeats, and while the legs are a bit tender I was able to get the knees a little higher during the efforts. These workouts feel more like exercise than running, and truth be told I much prefer just running. Still, as I said before the soreness must mean the muscles are working so I'll just hope things get easier next week.

My boss is back in town after being gone for almost four months, so I don't have much time to write today. I'm hoping for a second slow run this evening with the Running Shop gang of six miles or so, then back out for 10-12 miles tomorrow with four sets of pickups. Things are actually starting to get a bit specific now, so the runs are requiring a little more concentration. This means a little less daydreaming, but I still visualize the arms raised as I cross the line under 2:36 in California at least once a run. A man's gotta have dreams you know.

Thanks for all the comments about the race this past weekend, it feels good to put it in the books. One PR of note I omitted from the weekend comes courtesy of Canada Mike, who ran a 3:14:56. Nice work Mike, I hope you celebrate by buying some new shorts.

Training: 10 miles, 1:22:30, blistering 8:03 pace. 4x hill repeats with 3x100 strides at the bottom

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The First to Go

The legs were the limiter today. Even though I took it very easy on the hills yesterday during my first hill work out, the adductors and quads were a bit tired. I know you can't really force recovery, and trying a workout yesterday will probably set my recovery back an extra day or so. I'm just hoping to feel fresh by Friday.

In my mind I wanted to run 12-16 miles, and after noticing that my stride was a little awkward after 8 miles I settled for the former. I'm treating my hill phase as more of a transition phase this time around, which means that in addition to the short 100's I'm doing at the base of the hill during those workouts I'm working in some accelerations lasting 1-2 minutes during the other runs of the week. Hopefully this will get me ready for some of the harder anaerobic work to come in three week's time. Today I did two pickups of 35 seconds or so (200's in my mind) after 15 minutes, one pickup of 75 seconds (400ish?) at 30 minutes, 6x100 strides at 45 minutes, then a repeat of the first set at an hour. These were not as fast or as relaxed as I would have liked, but between the hills yesterday and the race on Sunday I didn't expect much.

My adductors seem to give me the most resistance during both speed training and hill work, and if you're a regular reader you know that these are what seem to fail first during the marathon. The sensation of just not being able to pick your feet up for a forceful stride seems to grab me somewhere between mile 16 and 21, and the burning seems to start in the adductors. I'm not sure why these are the first to go, but I guess it's a good sign that they get sore from both speed and strength training as it means they're working. The only thing that concerns me is that in the past they've ached enough to almost suggest an inguinal hernia, especially when pain starts to refer up to my lower abdomen. I like to call this "mystery pain". No signs of this yet though, and truthfully I don't expect it.

Here's a glimpse at a rough schedule for the next three weeks of hills-
Mo: Hill workout, 3 minutes strong hill running, plus 90 seconds cruising to the top, followed by 3x100 strides at the bottom x4, about 10-12 miles
Tu: 60-120 minutes with 4 sets of 1-2 minute pickups
We: same as Monday
Th: 70 minutes, with 4 sets of 1-2 minute pickups
F: 10 miles with 7 at marathon pace
Sa: easy long run or 10 miles at 6:45 with 7-10 miles at MP
Su: 70-90 minutes with 4 sets of 1-2 minute pickups

I'm expecting at least one evening run during the week, and I'm hoping to keep the miles at 90+ for this phase. This should be fun.

Training: 12 miles, 1:24:00, 7 minute pace

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Real News

Finish line in sight

While a puny PR at the 8K distance is nice and all, the real news today comes from Downeast Andrew, who after many attempts finally crushed the three hour mark in the marathon with a stellar 2:57. Andrew PR'd by six minutes, and negative split the second half by running it three minutes faster than the first half. Andrew's was the first running blog I ever read, and I've been delighted to see the progress he's made over the past year through hard work and intelligent training. Andrew also won a 5K outright during his build up to this race with a 17:06, which is funny now after looking up a comment he made to me awhile back where he said he hadn't run 5:30 pace since either high school or college. Nice to see some "glory days" for someone in the 30+ crowd.

As for my race, the results are posted, and I stand in awe of the new course record by Ernest Kimeli, who ran a 24:08 for 8K (4:51 pace), beating local Abdi Abdirahman's old mark. My friend Lucas was a stellar pace-setter for the first 3.5 miles or so, and he really helped me get through the toughest parts of the course. I felt worlds better during this race than I did a few weeks ago for the 8 miler on Labor Day, and whatever tenacity or will I lacked during the last mile at that race magically returned for my last mile yesterday.

I was nervous at the starting line, but once we were on our way I felt very calm and relaxed while blowing through the first mile. I always run this mile too fast, so Lucas and I were intentionally holding back, and I fully expected to hear a 5:30 called out by the timer as we approached the first mile mark. Turns out as we passed we heard a "5:12" and I couldn't help but smile. I knew at this point a good day lay ahead, as this pace usually puts my heart firmly up at the top of my throat and instead I was still calm and relaxed.

I fell in behind super-tall-windbreak Lucas for the next two miles, only edging ahead of him if I felt any slowing, and the next two miles ticked off right on 5:24 pace, which was our goal. Mile 3-4 is the toughest, as it's bookended by two underpasses, which always slow things down. Inbetween these was a long stretch on a slight uphill, where we squinted into the sun and ran into the wind. This is where the race is lost. Lucas started to struggle here, and as he dropped back a bit I took up the pacemaking along with Toby, another local runner who seems to be improving daily. Together we hit the four mile mark and I was dismayed to see that we'd run 5:40. At this point I turned to Toby (who I had urged to run with us during the first mile by announcing our goal) and said we could still break 27 if we stepped on it. I was a little on the edge, but week after week of two mile time trials where I'd gotten used to suffering just to see how quickly I recovered left me ready to suffer to beat the clock. I also had to lose Toby, mostly because I knew he was an old guy like me and beating him could be the difference between a free pair of trainers and a $25 gift certificate I'd never use. I used an old bike racing tactic and decided to make one strong surge out of a sharp turn that left us with about 1200 to go. Sprinting out of a corner works well because it gives the illusion of more space between you and your competitor. Unfortunately it also hurts like hell. A few turns remained through the winding campus of the University, and while my legs were getting wobbly I tried to hold as much as I could of my acceleration. I crossed the line at 26:53 after a last mile of 5:11, and was later glad to hear that Toby had also squeaked under 27.

All in all the race was a nice way to end 8 weeks of Lydiard conditioning, which means today started my three week hill phase. I headed back to good old Sabino Mountain, where I pretty much just went through the motions of my typical hill day. Four times up and down the hill, four time through sets of 3x100 strides, plus a long, slow warm up and a short cool down. 10 miles never took so long.

Training: 10 miles with four hill sets, 1:23:00 or so.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Question:

"You haven't been doing squat lately at paces relative to your 8k PR so how the heck can you expect to PR this distance? Hmm?" -The question portion of Duncan's constructive critisism the other day.

My answer: Volume. Steady and consistent miles over many weeks at progressively faster paces, which lead to increased economy and stamina, that's how. I knew this before the race but waited to answer until afterwards, as I had a feeling the words would have a little more weight then. I guess I should thank Duncan for firing me up after ticking me off with this and the rest of his comment.

8K Run and Roll Results:
7th place
17 second PR, 30 second improvement over last year
Free shoes for me, since I'm a grand old 35 years of age now

Quick synopsis to follow tomorrow, but I wanted to mention how much fun I had meeting fellow Arizona-blogger Phil at the race. Our whole family was also able to get lunch after the race with buddies Lucas and Angie.