Saturday, March 31, 2007

Finding Threshold

About 25 minutes and almost 4 and a half miles into a 5 mile effort this morning I found my threshold. I've been looking for the darned thing everywhere, and it just popped up in front of me as I pushed into the slight uphill grade that constitutes about a quarter of my one mile Concentration Loop. Lately I've stopped short of this tempo-type effort unless I'm crossing over it quickly en route to some anaerobic fun, but today I lingered on the edge for a lovely quarter mile before getting my breath back for the final downhill stretch to end the workout. So, for whatever it's worth (not much I imagine at this point), the check engine light pops on at exactly 5:42 pace after traveling for 4-point-something miles. I could see the exit ramp ahead though, and there were no worries about having enough juice to get up it and off the freeway (hey, is that a Stuckey's I see?).

Today I acted as pace-mule or training hack for my friend Scott, who is following Pete Pfitzinger's marathon plan. He's about three weeks out from Boston, which means a final 5 mile tempo run to either boost the confidence or irreparably damage the psyche. I joined him in hopes of it being the former. The goal was to run five miles around 5:45 pace, and to work closer to 5:40 if he was feeling good. Overall the run went very well, with both of us only out of our comfort zone for a minute or two while running side by side the whole way. I've followed Pfitzinger's plan twice in the past, so I have a soft spot for this type of work and I was very happy for Scott that it went well. While I was hoping my threshold was a little higher, I chalk it up in part to being a little fatigued after running at fairly steady paces the rest of the week. The heart rate was 164 immediately afterwards (a little high), but down to 124 by one minute.

Tomorrow I'll make a focused attempt to back off a bit, as I'm sure today will take a bit out of me. I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Training: 10 miles, 1:02:51, 6:20 pace, w/5 miles at 5:42 pace

Friday, March 30, 2007

Running by Feel

As far as daily paces go, Patrick made what sounded to me like a good suggestion in the comments yesterday. "I totally agree of going with the flow when you're feeling good. It's the best way to learn to read your body, something that's invaluable in races. Just don't be afraid to let the pace lag on days you don't feel your best. That's my big weakness. I have this threshold that I don't like to let the pace drop past, even on easy days (usually 7:00 miles). But I've seen some Kenyan training logs that show they'll start out a lot of easy days at 9:00/mile pace and some days they'll go 6 miles in 45 min for their a.m. run. It's all about recovery."

I like reading Patrick's blog, especially for the way it brings me back down to earth when I feel like I'm putting in serious training. I'll post about a good run, then head over to his blog and read something like this: "Is there something wrong with me if I think 28M is slacking for a long run? Somehow I've gotten it in my head that if I don't run more than 3 hours or 30 miles it doesn't qualify as a long run. Upon reflection I have to ask myself, 'What?' I suppose somewhere along the line as I've been training for the ultra distance races I lost some perspective." While you're shaking your head at this, keep in mind that he's writing this after finishing a 28 miler, the day after winning an 8K. Wish him luck at the 100K championships against the likes of Greg Crowther, who is also a good fellow to root for. Duncan did a nice interview with Greg not too long ago that I took some inspiration from.

Anyway, back to the point. What Patrick says about the futility of trying to outrun your own recovery needs rings true for me, as I've done it before and set myself back for a few days (or a few weeks if you count what I did after the marathon). Eric is one runner who seems to get this, and he spares no opportunity to tell me how I don't. I think this run is a perfect example of taking recovery when you need it. Yes Eric, I'm linking to the only run you've done that's been at a slower pace than mine over the past six months. Abadabajev, a frequent commenter here mentioned a little while back that Arthur Lydiard said something to the tune of "You cannot run too slowly". I think Arthur was talking about recovery here. I take from his books and lectures that he would be the first person to tell a runner to slow down and ignore the workout (or prescribed pace) if the body wasn't prepared to absorb the correct stimulus that the run was supposed to offer.

So what's a runner to do when things seem to be going well? My pal Jason has some opinions about it. "...I think what I am getting at is merely the fact that everyone is different. If I have learned anything from running the past eight years, it is 'listen to your body'. Most of my PR's have come off of running mileage and spontaneous threshold runs (based off feel of course). Therefore, how I feel on a day to day basis guides what pace I will run--easy, moderate, or hard."

Today I headed out with at least 10 miles in mind. Last evening I was able to squeeze in a second run of four easy miles while pushing Haiden and Finn in the jog-stroller, but as they keep growing it's getting more and more difficult to classify any run while pushing them as "easy". The legs were a little tired, probably in part due to the different posture required to push the stroller, so again I just ran by feel and ignored the watch. After three miles or so the body seemed to be cooperating so I just kept easing down the pace, though not nearly as much as yesterday. It ended up being a nice run, with only a bit of fatigue during the last mile. The final mile of most of my runs is on an uphill grade, which might explain why I'm often grumping about it.

Training: 12 miles, 1:17:57, 6:30 pace
Yesterday pm., 4 miles, 30:10, 7:33 pace

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Don't Waste a Good Day"

I remember reading this quote in some old issue of Running Times where members of a training group in Kenya were being interviewed (if anyone else remembers where this is from please let me know). I thought about these words two miles into the run today as I worried about getting home in time for Kiera to get her run in. Everyone slept in until 6:30, which is quite amazing, and as a result our schedule was much tighter than usual.

My original plan was to take things fairly easy today after two days of decent paces in a row. The evening run with the The Running Shop yesterday ended up being a record breaker for 10K (6:40 pace instead of the usual 7+ minutes per mile), so I figured I would just lope along and perhaps throw in 6x200 strides en route. However, at two miles in I noticed I was already down to 6:40 pace and I was feeling good. Since I only had about 65 minutes for a 70 minute run I decided to just press a little and turn today into a steady progression run, with the goal of getting to close to my aerobic ceiling by the end of the run. After about ten minutes of this I was tempted to look at my pace but instead I resisted the urge in order to avoid racing myself.

I think it's a good idea to just go sometimes when it feels good, which was the meaning I took from the quote. Finishing a run strong and seizing the opportunity a good day provides is what running is about. I know this might sound strange coming from a guy who obsesses over daily paces, but much of that is me trying to get the most out of the training time I'm willing to give to the sport. When I just stumble into a day like this it's nice to just enjoy it for what it is- a good run.

Training: 10 miles, 1:02:26, 6:15 pace
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles, 41:25, 6:40-ish pace

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Weight off Shoulders

More running by feel today as I followed close to the same route as yesterday. I did cut out the section that follows Dog Poop Trail, which made the run a little less hilly. The legs felt much the same as yesterday, though I did feel a little fatigue during the last mile.

I do think that the 8K performance this past weekend was more a problem of being tired than anything. There is also the question of "will", which is a little more difficult to answer. When the leader and eventual winner trailed me off in the first mile, I allowed it by not accelerating away from the pack with him. While I was hoping to run around 5:20 for the first mile, sometimes pacing and expectations should get thrown out the window when I have a chance at a win. He went through the first mile in 5:15 tops, which wouldn't have killed me. As difficult as it is to accept, I think the real reason I didn't stay on his shoulder through at least the first mile is because it would have meant I was putting myself out there to either break him or be broken by him, which took more guts than I had that day. Knowing Greg's (the winner's) history and pedigree in town intimidated me, and I lacked the courage to try and take the win even with the odds against me. By anonymously drifting behind him instead of putting it all on the line I wouldn't have to suffer as badly, and thus I made the easier choice. Chad mentioned a favorite quote of mine by Theodore Roosevelt here. "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.” I chose to run in the gray twilight. I'll get to make the choice again soon enough.

The batteries seem to be recharging this week as things get back to normal at work, and if the last two runs are any indication I'm still in decent shape. I know Abadabajev and others think I'm over the edge and need to focus more on recovery, but quite honestly I think backing off of the intensity of the anaerobic work will do the trick. Eric seemed to think that I might have lost a bit of endurance, judging by how I've fallen off the pace in the latter stages of my last two races. He may well be right. What he and Evan suggested is pretty much in line with my thinking as far as training goes for the next two weeks. There will certainly be a day or two when I feel like heading out to the track, but collecting miles at steady paces will fill most of my time.

As far as running slowly for recovery goes, I have been putting in a few easier miles here and there, epecially if I add an evening run. Also, most of my runs start with 2-4 miles at or above 7 minute pace before I inevitably start speeding up a bit. On the subject of recovery, I think it's necessary to remember that it's a very individual thing. I'm starting to learn more and more about what breaks me down, and quite honestly I don't think it has much to do with whether I'm running 6:40 pace or 7 minute pace. Rather, I think it's digging in too hard or for too long in anaerobic territory does much of the damage, as does racing too often and not getting enough rest. The coach has cautioned me against this sort of thing, and while I do try to listen I sometimes still get carried away.

Training: am., 12 miles, 1:17:57, 6:29 pace

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nice

After sneaking in five miles last evening post-dinner I was surprised to be looking forward to the effort this morning, as the legs usually complain after an evening run. Kiera took the early shift, which meant I got out at about 7:15. This is pretty late for me, but the sun was warm and things pretty much started clicking after a few easy miles. I ended up starting out on a different route than usual so I could stay out for close to 90 minutes without repeating much. I tried to just run by feel without putting the hurt on myself, and I could feel that the legs had some good spring by how soft I seemed to be landing. The general clunkiness I felt during the 90 minute run last week was gone, and I found myself feeling quite good.

I hit the lap button after getting some Garmin-Garble at 7-some miles, and was surprised to see that I was now running right around 6:30 pace as I headed into Sabino Canyon. I had assumed I was cruising right around 6:50 or so, as the breathing was still in check and things still felt smooth. I tried to keep my momentum as I continued on, and when I looked again as I approached the garage I saw that I had averaged 6:27 for the last 5.5 miles or so.

I love days like this.

Training: a.m., 12.9 miles, 1:24:47, 6:33 pace

Monday, March 26, 2007

Where am I?



Do you really need to see another mouth-open, jimmy hand-waggling, white-singlet-wearing finish line approach shot? I thought this one snapped by Kiera after the race on the playground looked a little better.

The 8K race ended what felt like a week of marathon training, with only one short workout of 200 strides accounting for any "speed" before the event on Sunday. Here's how the week went down-

Mo: 10 easy
Tu: 9.6 miles w/7 at 6 minute pace
We: 10 miles w/7 at 6 minute pace
We: 6.2 easy, easy, easy
Th: 13.2 miles
Fr: 9 miles w/6x200 strides/accelerations
Sa: 6.3 miles easy
Su: 9 miles, w/8K race in 27:27
Total: 73 miles in 8 sessions

Hmmm, the week felt tougher than it looks here. The gallery I work for had a two-man-show on Saturday, which I'm really glad to have done. Getting home from work at 11 and having Finn get up before 5 made for a tough race morning, and for the first time I can remember I felt exhausted after two easy miles of warm up on the race course. I told Kiera I was considering just not racing, even though we both knew I wouldn't drag the whole family across town to NOT race.

As for the race itself, once the gun sounded I got my head into it and after a few incredibly sharp turns on a narrow walking path I found myself in no-man's-land, in front of the pack but behind the lead runner. I knew the fellow in front, as I've done some long runs with him and he finished one place ahead of me at a 5K in February. He started to stretch out his lead and I felt right at the edge of what I could maintain as we raced a bit into the wind and uphill. I glanced at the split after one mile and saw 5:21, which was right where I was hoping to be. While I took the rest of the splits I never looked at them, and this ended up being a good thing since I had the third mile at 4:14 and the fourth at 7:03 (I don't know why putting out accurate markers is so difficult). While I kept the leader in sight, I simply could not find the strength to gain on him. The course had a few 180 degree turns and followed a strange route on and off bike paths, across overpasses and along dirt embankments, and the constant pushes to keep an even pace throughout wore me out a bit. It seemed that the fourth mile took forever, and instead of making up ground I started to fall back a little further. The last almost-mile found me in damage control mode, trying to maintain as much of my momentum as I could while the form started to deteriorate. Any thought of reeling in the leader was long-gone at this point.

While this race wasn't a huge priority for me, I am a bit disappointed to have run as slowly as I did. On my best day I should have been able to challenge the winner, as my 8K PR is right around what he ended up running. While I'm certain the course slowed me down some, I should have enough strength to minimize this sort of thing.

So I guess I'm in limbo at the moment, three weeks out from my next 5K on the track and running slower than I think I should be. Conventional wisdom suggests a peak in performance can last from 6-8 weeks with proper maintenance, and quite honestly I feel I've slid down the other side a bit since the 5K on the track (my first race of the season was the last weekend in January so I've been at it for awhile). I'm finding the second-half of races more difficult than when I really seemed to be "coming up", and that feeling of strength and calm during the latter stages of racing seems to have vanished.

The temptation for some runners at this point would be to pack on more speed work, but at this point I don't think just working on turnover and efficiency with reduced volume is the answer. Another choice is to go back into a preliminary build, focusing more on volume and running steady paces. The question about this approach is whether or not I have enough time for it to have a positive effect on my racing on April 13, 21, and May 6 and 20. To add to the problem, the biggest races for me are the first one and the last one (4/13 and 5/20).

The coach has suggested training more by feel for the next few weeks, so I'm doing some soul searching about exactly how to approach things. My natural tendency in the past has been to overdo things, but during the last few months I think the coach has somewhat cured me of this. Finding the line between enough and too much while touching on all the elements I'll need to race well in a few weeks will be a challenge.

Training: a.m., 7.4 miles, 49:56, 6:47 pace. Legs a bit tired, but a nice progression run with Lucas
p.m., 4.8 miles, 33:42, 7:10 pace, easy

Sunday, March 25, 2007

88-Crime 8K

Up in Phoenix to visit the family today, so this will be short. I placed 2nd in the 8K this morning with a 27:27 or so on a difficult course. It was a fun race and the kids had a ball (Haiden got to hug McGruff the crime dog). It would have been nice to win, but it wasn't my day. More later no doubt, though the internet is out at home.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fresh Perspective

Yesterday's run found me a bit off following two days spent around marathon pace. The plan was to stay out for about 90 minutes, but I found myself wishing to be done sooner. This doesn't happen often, so I figured I just had to ride it out. I progressed from about 7:20 pace down into the 6:40's for an average by the end, and though I tried slowing down a few times it seemed to make me feel worse rather than better. All in all I'm glad it's in the books, and I'll leave it at that.

I woke this morning to thunder, lightning and rain. Finn's alarm went off extra early, and as I groggily got out of bed I wasn't really looking forward to getting soaked to the bone and splashed by cars for an hour. Luckily for me, I had no choice since my friend Scott was driving up to our neighborhood for his last 20 miler before running Boston. It's hard to stand a guy up when he's parking in your driveway. I was planning on fitting in my 6x200 strides on the roads while with him, but after about two miles as we approached the rock hard track we decided that he would do a loop through the canyon while I did my track work. The infield was abandoned, probably due to the downpour, so I had no worries of being kicked off again. I knocked out the 200's while splashing through puddle-filled lanes 1 and 2 at 36-38 seconds. While the trainers were soaked, I still felt pretty good all things considered. When I rejoined Scott he mentioned how nice it was running through the canyon, and we started talking a bit about the surroundings. Sometimes following your usual routes with someone who doesn't travel on them often gives you a fresh perspective. Sure it was raining buckets for much of the run, but I couldn't help but get caught up in the enthusiasm that seems to present in everyone during their last month of marathon training. He's ready to roll, and by the end of the run I felt ready too. Not ready enough to join him on the 11 miles he had left to run alone, but ready enough.

Training: Today, 9 miles, 1:00:20, 6:41 pace
Yesterday, 13.20 miles, 1:28:36, 6:43 pace

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Big Plans

I have to admit the legs were a bit cranky at the prospect of repeating yesterday's seven miles spent at six minute pace. During the first of two easy miles leading up to the effort the brain was skeptical too, but both mind and body eventually gave in when I hit the lap button as I passed the familiar fire hydrant that acts as my starting line on these. While the first mile went by a little hot at 5:55, I was able to back off a little and get to the end of the seventh mile at an average 5:58 pace. I did tire a little during the last mile, but overall the effort felt very similar to yesterday. One thing I notice now about 6 minute pace that has changed is how it doesn't really feel "fast" anymore. Sure it's hard and it takes concentration, but perhaps getting more time on the track at faster paces has made marathon pace feel less like speedwork and more like...well, marathon pace I guess.

Two days of these runs in a row got me wondering what average pace I could run if I tried repeating this run for four weeks at my best aerobic effort. The coach suggested something like this some time ago, and this guy actually just finished doing it. Here is where he quote's Mystery Coach's suggestion. I applaud Ingo for giving this a go, and I'm excited to see how his running progresses as he follows the template the coach came up with.

As for me, I'm still gunning for a few more spring races. This weekend is the 88-Crime 8K, and I'll follow that up with a 5K on the track at the Southern Arizona Distance Classic on April 13. On April 21 I'll represent for the Dragons at the Spring Cross Country Classic 5K. My favorite 10K follows on May 6, and my racing season will end at the Tucson 5000 5K on May 20.

Think I can get fast by then?

10 miles, 1:02:52, 6:17 pace, w/7 miles at 5:58 pace

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Duplicate Copy

Today called for 7 miles at about 6 minute pace, or up to 6:10 or so if I felt too uncomfortable at 6 flat. This was an interesting workout, mostly due to the fact that I'm supposed to duplicate it tomorrow. The goal is to have two even efforts, so in the back of my mind as I cruised along I kept thinking, "Am I relaxed enough to do this tomorrow?". The answer most of the time was yes, though there was a point as I was rolling towards the end of the uphill section on mile 4 where the lungs had a different opinion. The strange thing was that after a few tough minutes where my average pace drifted up to 6:02 or so, things started to calm down again an and I began feeling better. The feet were a little noisier than usual, and it felt like I was clomping along more than I have been, but it wasn't too big of a deal. I do notice that when I finish the fifth mile of these efforts I'm usually fine for the rest of the run. I blame this in part on the body recognizing that most of the workout is over, and the brain realizing that I'll be able to finish the workout on pace if I just don't freak out about it.

All in all it was a good day, though the pace did feel a little tougher than I remember it feeling in the weeks leading up to the marathon. The thing is, it's not always a breeze, and it's not always the end of the world when something that should be very comfortable just isn't quite there. It's easy to have this perspective when you get to go out tomorrow and give it another shot.

Training: 9.6 miles, 1:00:28, 6:17 pace, w/7 miles at 6:00 pace

Monday, March 19, 2007

Back to Work

One day weekend since we have an art show this week, so I'm back to work with the rest of the world. I could feel the legs getting back to normal during the run today, and I finished off eight easy miles by adding on two quick ones once Lucas and I went our separate ways. I got word from the coach that we would get back to a little volume this week, including back to back days starting tomorrow of 7 miles at 6 minute pace. I have the go-ahead to back off a bit if I feel I need to, though I hope to feel smooth on both days. I'll follow these efforts up on Thursday with 90 minutes of running, which is more than I've done mid-week in awhile. All in all I'm looking forward to backing off from the sharpening (save for some 200's on Friday) and getting back to putting some miles in.

Training: 9.8 miles, 1:08:31, 6:58 pace

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Another Race Week


Haiden's newly "customized" helmet

Looking back on the week it looks a bit light, but the race on Friday really was one I wanted to be ready for so I'm glad I backed off. Here's how the week went down-

Mo: 10 miles easy, sour stomach, 5 laps of 100 sprint/100 jog
Tu: 7 miles
We: 5.5 miles, w/5x100 accelerations and one 800 at 2:15 (69/66)
We: 6.2 miles very easy
Th: 6 miles easy
Fr: 3 miles easy
Fr: 7 miles, w/5K race in 16:14
Sa: 6 miles easy
Su: 8 miles
Total: 58 miles in 9 sessions

I honestly felt like I needed to recover both yesterday and today from the race, which has not been the usual this year. Most of the time I feel ready to roll after one recovery day, but this race really took more out of me, even if the result doesn't reflect it.

Next week ends with the fairly low-key 88-Crime 8K race, and I'm giving some thought as to how to approach it. I'm honestly looking farther off towards April 13, when I'll hit the track again for a second attempt at breaking 16 at an honest 5K distance. Part of me wants to just focus on rebuilding things a bit this week with some longer intervals or hill runs and more miles at steady paces (thinking strength and stamina over speed for a short time), and treating the race as a very hard workout that happens to fall on the last day of the training week. I'll of course be looking for help from the coach on this, as finding the balance between maintaining conditioning while being ready to race is tough. Lydiard and others have said that it's impossible to train hard and race well at the same time, and while I need to remember I'm training to race and not "training to train", I have to imagine that at some point too much tapering and freshening up before too many races and then having to recover afterwards eventually leads to either a plateau or de-training. At some point this is inevitable, which means going back to a conditioning phase and hopefully starting over at a higher level, but hopefully I can continue to race into early May when the race season ends.

Hope everyone had a good week. After the run today I took both kids in the bike trailer for a muffin while Kiera and Angie put in their monster trail run, then the kids and I hit a bicycle "block party" at a bike store in town (where Haiden pimped her helmet) and topped it off with a visit to Chuck E. Cheese. It's been a nice weekend, thanks as always for reading.

Training: Today, 8.1 miles, 55:08, 6:48 pace, calves still a little sore, and I'm a bit tired
Yesterday, 6 miles, 42:41, 7:07 pace, sore calves

Saturday, March 17, 2007

16:14



It hurt.
74, 75, 77, 77 (5:04), 77, 77, 79, 80 (10:19), 81, 80, 79, 77, 35. No, I didn't take these splits, but my pal Lucas was kind enough to take them for me (just staying between the lines was hard enough for me without clicking a watch every lap).

I got in the ring, I gave it my all and was completely empty at the end. I would have loved to have broken 16, but I just couldn't get it done tonight. I have a great wife and some great friends who shouted encouragement the whole time, and I wish I coul have given them a better show.

I'm glad I did it. Probably a few more thoughts later.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Winter?

Current conditions, 2h30m until the gun sounds.

It could certainly be worse.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'm In

I'm the 19th seed of 35 runners for the 5K tomorrow night, and the field has a PR spread from 14:10 all the way to 18:17. Is it just me or does that seem like a whole lot of people running a whole lot of different paces? The track is going to look like a big, ovalized merry-go-round with skinny college kids in place of horses spread out all the way around lane 1. It looks like mostly kids from Arizona colleges along with a few random entries from Illinois, Utah and other places. This will be fun.

The whole family slept until 6 this morning (nearly a record), and once again Kiera was ready to roll out the door before I had even poured my coffee. I think she's starting to catch on to the fact that the first runner out of the house gets the cool weather while the second runner gets to change diapers, then make and clean up breakfast for the children. I couldn't blame her for wanting to get out the door, as the weather is absolutely perfect for running with temps in the high 50's-low 60's (f). Upon Kiera's return I got out for 6 easy miles, which felt like just a warm up. I joined the Running Shop gang for an easy 10K last evening, and for both runs the legs felt great.

Not much left to do now but get a few miles in tomorrow morning and then head to the track for the race after work. The original start time of 9:50 has been moved to 8:25pm, which is good news for me. It will be warm, but conditions should be good overall.

As far as tactics and a goal goes, I'm hoping to legitimately get under 16 and to not fall down. Beyond that, it would be nice to finish the last 800 strong, as I know if I wait to accelerate until the last lap that all the real track runners will make short work of me.

Training: Today, 6 miles, 41:54, 6:59 pace
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles at about 7 minute pace

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stuck in a Moment

After meeting the family for dinner out after work last evening I took some time by myself to do a little shopping. I was in a good mood and had just started walking out to my car after picking up some things for work at an office supply store when it hit me: I felt great. More importantly, the legs felt great. This epiphany didn't do me much good at that specific time and place (8:32 pm while strolling in a parking lot), but it was still comforting. I knew at that moment that if someone handed me my racing flats that I could have turned out a solid 5K right then and there. It would have to be a multi-loop course around the Chilis, the Circuit City, the Office Max and Shoe Pavillion, but I could do it.

I woke this morning with the same optimism, earlier than usual in order to drive out to the decent track for a quick workout before Kiera had to go for her run. 4-6 strides followed by one 800 was the deal, with the goal of hitting the first lap at 70 then turning it up for the second one. I know this might seem incredibly short for a workout, but I was excited about getting a shot at going fast even for just two laps one last time before the race. After three miles of warm up and strides I walked to the line and started the watch. I was at 18 seconds out of the turn while still accelerating, then 35 at 200. I locked into pace and saw 1:09 at halfway. The second lap I focused on trying to keep my hips from bouncing while keeping my eyes focused straight ahead up the track. I could feel a smile start to tickle the edges of my mouth as I dug in and could feel myself still speeding up. At 600 the forearms started to tighten a little, but it wasn't until the last 100 that the chassis started shaking a little and the lungs began to burn. I was gassed when I hit the line, but seeing 2:15 on the watch gave me another quick rush.

I know, it was just one 800 meter repeat. Hell, it's not even a repeat since I only did the one. But even a short burst at this speed is something I've never been able to do, even back in high school. The body has changed, at least a little, and the mind is starting to change with it. I can run with the guys in the group ahead of me. While I might never knock out 6 or more 800's at this speed, there are faster times ahead for me, even at 35 years old.

If this workout was supposed to sharpen me up, I feel it did the job. I can't wait for Friday.

Training: 5.5 miles, w/5x100 accelerations and one 800 at 2:15 (69/66)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Back to Even

The bug has come and gone and I'm back to my old self.

Finn's alarm clock woke the family at 5:45, and Kiera was ready to run before I had even poured my coffee. I stayed behind and played chef, waiter and bus-boy to Finn, who seems to be a bit bi-polar when it comes to food. He gets frustrated easily when he can't get his fork to shovel the waffle in quickly enough, which results in him yelling at his food. Since I used to work the breakfast shift on weekends at Carl's Jr. while in high school I'm used to this behavior, though usually with a much older crowd. When the waffle has disappeared it's on to a banana, which elicits a similar reaction. Who screams at fruit? Somehow Haiden manages to sleep through the racket.

Usually when I have to wait through part of the morning to run I start to lose motivation as hunger sets in (hmmm, I could really scream at some toast with honey about now), but today I was feeling good. I ended up knocking out the original Slow Down loop at a decent clip, sawing off a few seconds with each passing mile. The hands that were pushing on my shoulders over the past few days have released me, and it feels good to run again the way I've learned I can over the past year.

Training: 7 miles, 46:56, 6:42 pace

Monday, March 12, 2007

So-So

For some reason my stomach hasn't been cooperating with me. During yesterday's 12 miles with a group of other runners I constantly had my eye on the horizon, hoping for the sudden and miraculous appearance of a porta-john. Eventually the run route passed near where my brother lives, so I sent the guys on a short loop I knew while I stopped in to use the facilities. By the time the run was over I was more than happy to be home, and the rest of the day found me feeling a little off. I blamed dinner the night before for my woes, and hoped things would be better when I woke up today.

Well, no such luck. I ended up sticking close to Sabino Canyon's visitor center out of necessity, and once again I was very happy to get home. I did get in my five prescribed laps of 100 sprint, 100 jogs, but unfortunately I had to do the last half mile on the roads after being asked to leave the track (school was in session so I expected it).

I'm a little bugged by the pattern of the last three days, which found me working a little hard for the pace I was running on Saturday, then having stomach issues yesterday and today. I know little bugs like this just happen, but the timing is a drag as the 5K I've been working towards is set for this Friday evening.

Here's how last week went:
Mo: 8 miles
Tu: 10 miles w/3200 in 10:28, 3x400 in 73, 73, 70
We: 10 miles in the morning, 6.2 in the evening
Th: 10 miles w/6x400 in 72, 72, 70, 70, 68, 68
Fr: 7.5 miles
Sa: 14 miles at 6:32 pace
Su: 12.25 miles
Total: 76 miles in 8 sessions

This week is all about sharpening up for the race while scaling back on miles (not that the miles have been through the roof during the last month). Hopefully I can get back that go-fast feeling in plenty of time.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1:08:18, 6:50 pace, w/ 1.25 miles of 100 sprints, 100 jogs
Yesterday, 12.25 miles, 1:26:50, 7:06 pace

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Nudge, Nudge

Today was fairly short for a long run, and while I kept waiting to get comfortable at pace it just never happened. Getting to bed late and getting up early certainly didn't help things, but I can't really blame one bad night of sleep for a less than stellar run.

I set out this morning hoping to cover 14 miles at a steady rate, and only running 7 miles yesterday should have made this feel easy. Instead I kept feeling like I had to continuously nudge myself along in order to slowly bring the average pace down throughout the run. Normally I try to tackle these efforts as progression runs, starting in the mid to low 7's per mile and gradually getting things down into the high to mid 6's. The legs weren't sore, but I noticed my feet were hitting the ground a little harder, and the quads felt a bit "full", for lack of a better word.

When I finished the run I was happy to be done, which hasn't been the case often these days. Usually I'm game for at least a few more miles and I finish pretty full of energy, but not today. Hopefully catching up on fluids and getting some more rest tonight will find me fresh for a run with some other locals tomorrow. They'll probably take it easy on me.

Training: 14 miles, 1:30:48, 6:32 pace, a bit tired

Friday, March 09, 2007

Finn Demonstrates Proper Leg Turnover



Some people are just born with it.
My favorite part is where he stops half-way through to stretch out his calf muscles while leaning on the table.

Running and Waffles

After yesterday's workout at the track I was glad to get a call from Lucas asking to join me for a run this morning. He was recovering from his own workout, and the thought of following his plan of 50 minutes easy sounded great. We both seemed to have fairly heavy legs, so were certainly in no hurry while tracing most of the original Slow Down loop.

While the run was relaxing, coming home and opening the door to the olfactory festival that is Kiera's waffle factory was easily the highlight of the morning. The good of 7.5 miles traveled was easily circumvented by the choice to indulge in a second waffle, but it was well worth it. Hope everyone out there had a good run today.

Training: 7.5 miles, 52 minutes or so, 6:55 pace

Thursday, March 08, 2007

400's

Since I seemed to enjoy my short attempt at poaching 400's with Lucas on Tuesday, the coach assigned me six (or more if I felt like it) of the repetitions this morning. While the legs felt great during an easy 10K last evening with the Running Shop gang, for some reason they felt a bit sluggish this morning. I extended my foray from the strip mall where I park to the track to four easy miles, hoping that the legs would wake up. After a few strides and giving the eye to two throwers on the high school track team jogging slowly and taking up lanes 1-3 while tossing a medicine ball back and forth I took to the line.

While I was hoping to run fast, my primary objective was to stay as relaxed as possible. To that end I decided to ease into the first 100 of each of the first two reps, focusing on all the stuff I've been blabbing about for speedwork over the last few weeks. The short version: 72, 72, 70, 70, 68, 68, all with slow 400 recoveries.

The first two were definitely the easiest, with a slow start and just a little pressure on the last straight for both. For number three and four I started feeling it just after 200 or so, but I tried to stay relaxed while resisting the temptation to fight against things by tightening my arms and flailing (my usual response to stress on these). For the last two I took a different approach and focused solely on propelling myself forward with a strong push off. Thinking about only the legs seemed to take the pressure off my upper body, but the calf and hamstring muscles started burning at about 150 in on each. During the last repeat any hopes of doing a few more disappeared as the quads joined the chorus, singing "all done" in harmony with the calf muscles and the hamstrings.

The three mile cool down left me dragging a little towards the end, but I think it was more an issue of needing food than anything. I'm still not used to doing workouts the morning after a double, even if it's an easy double.

All in all I was glad to quit while I was ahead, and it was nice to see the good side of 70 seconds for a few of the efforts for a change. This helps put the series of 77's and 78's I ran a few weeks back into perspective as well.

Training: 10 miles, w/6x400 (400 recovery) in 72, 72, 70, 70, 68, 68
yesterday pm., 6.2 miles in 42:50

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hostage Crisis

"I don't need to race myself today," I said aloud to no one in particular after noticing the pace starting to drop after a little over a mile of running. I'm less than ten minutes into my run and I'm second-guessing the effort already. Hey, you would too if you found this in your inbox-



This all started a few days ago when someone pinched my prized California International Marathon technical long-sleeve shirt while I was in the middle of a workout. I was certain this guy was the culprit (I mean come on, doesn't he look guilty with that beard action?), but it seems with this updated photo and ransom note that there's a new wrinkle in the case. A quick check of the IP address log shows that the note and photo above came not from sunny North Dakota, but from a place called "Kerry" in a country conveniently called "Ireland".

A quick check of the globe revealed that this "Ireland" is in fact a real country, and a search on wikipedia revealed that it is mostly inhabited by nutty ultra runners and their hell-raising children. These are not people to mess with, and as the conspiracy to keep me from my daily paces and my dear marathon shirt grows, so too does the damage to my psyche. One thing was certain from the note: I had to slow down today.

What these dangerous types didn't count on was my ace in the hole: Hills, lots and lots of them. I knew by veering off my usual Slow Down loop and heading deeper into the ridges of Sabino Canyon I could still get an upbeat run in while slowing the average pace. To those who would steal from me and leave threatening notes, I give you the new, Super Slow Down Loop! Behold!


Boys and girls, I've found my courage. You may slow me down, but you will never stop me!

Training: 10 miles, 1:08:20, 6:50 pace

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Where is my Mind?

First I managed to forget my shoes (I had to drive two miles back to the house for them). Then after warming up and visiting the restroom I left my key in the stall. I realized this after Lucas and I had just jogged a mile to the track from where we park our cars, and I didn't want to delay the workout any longer than I had already after the shoe incident. I felt a bit like Mr. Frumble from our daughter's Richard Scarry books. At least no one stole my shirt today. Speaking of that, there's been a break in the case, so tune in tomorrow. Now back to the track.

The goal was 3200 meters of even 78 second laps. Lucas, who was running 1600's was hoping for 5:10 for his second interval, so it was agreed I would run four laps with him, then finish my interval alone. Lucas is a good pace mule, so I dropped slightly behind his outside shoulder and we got to it. We saw 77, 78, then 80, which is when we switched spots. I think the third lap was more a lapse of concentration than anything, and when we hit the final lap in 78 or so I tried not to be bothered by the 5:14 I saw (I was hoping for 5:12). The second mile found me at 78, 79, 78 and 77, and I finished the 3200 at 10:28.

I felt some stress in the forearms again at about 2K, but otherwise I felt it was a good effort. The lungs were certainly working, but the legs felt like they were just on the limit of what I could run while still feeling fairly smooth. All that said, I'd be lying if I said the 4 extra seconds on the books didn't bother me at all.

When I finished Lucas soon zipped by on his last 1600 repeat, and soon enough he was recovering for his 4x400's (yes, his speedwork session is about double what mine is). I had the go-ahead from coach to run some 200 meter strides or accelerations, so I stepped to the line with him to run the first half of his 400. I ended up actually feeling quite good, so instead of stepping off I ended up finishing the 400 at 73 or so. I joined Lucas for his 200 jog, and felt ready for a little more when he started his second 400. I accelerated a little more slowly this time, reaching cruising speed at about 150 meters in. Again, I just felt easy and went on to another 73. At this point I could feel Mystery Coach giving me the evil eye all the way from his undisclosed location. As we neared the end of the rest I told Lucas I could only do one more, so we agreed I would sit one repeat out in order to join him on the last one. As I jogged in the opposite direction I still felt good, and when I joined Lucas for the last interval the final 100 felt like I was gliding above the track until stopping the watch at 70.

It seems to me that my top cruising speed is still lacking a bit, but the strength and stamina seem to be coming along well. With almost two weeks to go until the race on the track, hopefully it will all come together in time.

Training: 10 miles, w/3200 in 10:28, 3x400 in 73, 73, 70

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ahhhh, Weekend

The family made a tag-team visit up to my parents' house in Mesa this weekend, so I'm busy trying to get caught up after a few days of pot roast, merry-go-rounds, ice cream, and even a few Shiner Bocks. The kids had a blast, and I was able to meet with a client and deliver a painting while I was there. Luckily I managed to squeeze in a few runs as well.

When I mentioned some soreness in the quadriceps during both the end of Friday's run and the last quarter of Saturday's run, the coach sent me the email I was expecting. Two easy recovery days of no more than an hour were my marching orders, and I dutifully obeyed. The coach doesn't often tell me to run less, so when he does put a cap on either miles or time I know he believes I'm close to or over the edge of what I can effectively recover from.

A little less than two miles from my parents' house I ended up finding a nice dirt path that ran between a golf course and a canal full of effluent water (I remember Duncan writing about these canals some time ago when he was in Phoenix). I ended up running easy 8 milers on both days, with no mind on pace. On Sunday I could still feel just a hint of soreness on the surface of the muscles, but today the whole run was effortless.

Tomorrow Lucas and I will meet at the track, though we'll be doing two different workouts. The plan for me is 3200 meters of straight 78's, which should be interesting. Hopefully those two easy days will pay off.

Training: Today, 8 miles, 53:49, 6:45 pace
Yesterday, 8 miles, 55:56, 6:59 pace
Miles for the last week: 83 in 8 sessions

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I'd Almost Forgotten

It's been three months since my last marathon, and three weeks since I've done anything similar to a long run. The 5K's I ran last weekend and the weekend before pretty much pulled rank on the long run, and the tame mileage during those two weeks show as much.

With two weeks off from racing the coach has me working on maintaining my stamina, and I'm guessing to a lesser extent my endurance with back to back workouts this (Friday-Saturday) weekend. Yesterday was 7 miles around marathon pace, and today was set for 10 steady miles at 6:45 pace, then 3-4 miles at 6:05 pace.

It's been a crazy day at work, and I'm off to Phoenix now so I'll keep it short. While there was a bit of soreness in the quads towards the end, it was a nice workout. I ran the first ten (after a mile warm up) too fast, but it just seemed comfortable. The faster stuff at the end felt good for about three miles, but I was a little anxious to get the last one over with. Overall it was a good result and a nice re-introduction to the world of stamina. Slow tomorrow.

Time to pack!

16 miles, 1:44:06, 6:31 pace, w/10 miles at 6:37 followed by 4 miles at 6:01 pace

Friday, March 02, 2007

Compare/Contrast

Looks like Eric and I ran the same workout today, though he was stuck on a treadmill while I was in short-sleeves (for most of it) under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-30's. The plan of course was to show Eric up, since I read his report before heading out this morning for my run and I knew this was my one shot at one-upping him. Let's compare:

Eric: "Marathon pace workout on treadmill. Two mile warmup (13:54), then seven miles at current MP (based on heart rate of 151-156) in 6:02, 6:03, 6:03, 6:05, 6:09, 6:10, 6:11. Adjusted the speed to keep HR around 155, which got tougher as the run went on. HR went as high as 159 for a short period, which was also around the time when I was feeling the best (mile 5 and 6). Seemed like the lower end, 151-153 was less comfortable than the 155-157 range. My form seemed to fall apart and breathing was a bit heavier. Interesting."

Mike: "Marathon pace workout on the roads, since only sissies run on treadmills. Two mile warm up (14:10, damn, he's already ahead of me), then seven miles at Mystery Coach's suggested 6:05 pace. I tend to use the 'average lap pace' with the geek watch on these and try to zero in on the correct speed over the course of the whole effort, but I noticed I passed the first mile at 6 flat. Adjusted to try to stay closer to the target, but found the average pace fluttering between 6 and 6:01. At two miles I ditched my second layer by the side of the road and continued, still feeling comfortable and under control. By mile four the breathing was a little heavier, but still felt relaxed. By the time I started mile 5 the pace was now between 6:01 and 6:02, and it was only when I began the 6th mile that the quads started to feel heavy. I noticed it took a bit more effort to move them through quickly, and I guessed the 2K on Wednesday had something to do with this.

As I rounded the turn to finish mile 6 I was confident I had the edge on my bearded friend from North Dakota. Unfortunately, he had one more trick up his sleeve. Somehow Eric sent a covert agent to observe my run (to make sure I wasn't cheating, I suppose). When it looked like there was no stopping me, the agent made off with my prized California International Marathon technical long sleeve, which I had dropped on the side of the road where one lap ends and the next begins (my one mile course). As I approached my "marker" I noticed it was gone! Immediately my breathing increased as I angrily cursed my carelessness. About a quarter mile later I finally regained my composure, and remembered that a cool last mile would be my best revenge. I finished the run with a 6:02 average, then searched in vain for my prized shirt instead of taking my heart rate. With a fist shake and an expletive aimed squarely at Fargo I jogged a final mile back to the garage door."

The score: Eric gets the mileage award, since he ended up with 11 to my 10. I feel I took Eric down on pace, but I get negative points for running 3 seconds faster per mile than instructed. I feel I was quite relaxed (save for the stolen property incident), so I score a point there. I guess that puts us about even, but I am prepared to concede if Eric's agent brings back my marathon shirt and leaves it by the garage door. You'll earn your own damn shirt soon enough.

End note: The comments about treadmill running were made for comic effect, and in no way reflect the actual opinions of the author of this blog. Also, Eric and any of his accomplices are considered innocent of all accusations unless proven otherwise in a court of law.

******UPDATE*********


Eric emailed me to taunt me with this obviously doctored photo of my Cal International shirt (nice try Eric, but everyone knows it was leprechauns last year. The unicorns mating was on the shirt the year before). I'm fairly confident my shirt is still in Tucson, and I won't be the least bit surprised to find a ransom note in the coming days.



An anonymous tipster also submitted this map, which clearly shows the route the likely assailant used to intercept my prized garment. Oh, this isn't over. Not by a long shot!

Training: 10 miles, 1:03:13, 6:19 pace, w/7 miles at 6:02 pace

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"You can't train hard and race well at the same time." -Arthur Lydiard, quoted in this impressive article.

I think I've subconsciously tried to keep too many balls in the air this week with my training, which seems almost inevitable when I'm feeling good. My run on Monday was perhaps a little long and a little too hilly for the day after the race, and Tuesday's run found me grinding down the pace a bit instead of trying to fully recover before yesterday's track workout. The coach marked both of these days as recovery, but as he says he's not here to "sit on me" (his words) to make sure I take it easy enough on the easy days. As we all know prolonging one's own recovery causes a bit of a domino effect, and it calls for quick action to flick one piece out of the way to keep the chain reaction to a minimum (days instead of weeks). I'm guessing the combination of not recovering enough and the hellacious wind might have made yesterday's track workout less than optimal (plus me being a wimp), and while I felt good during an easy 10K last evening with the Running Shop gang, I knew that this morning was my last chance to break the cycle with a "real" easy day before Friday and Saturday's back to back workouts.

This is where having two young children comes in handy. Twin meltdowns during different stages of the night (one for Kiera to fix and one for me) left me feeling haggard at 3:45am (when Haiden finally fell asleep). The last thing I did before going back to the couch to sleep is to turn off the coffee maker and alarm, which were scheduled to sound a little more than an hour later. I'm on the couch these days as the allergies have been bothersome again, and yesterday's wind most likely didn't help. By the time everyone woke up the pressure was on for both Kiera and me to get our runs in, and since she was chomping at the bit to go while I was still sipping coffee she got the green light first. This is all a long way of saying that by the time I was able to run I felt tired and fried enough to definitely take it easy, and Kiera helped in this regard by loading up the iPod shuffle with tunes for me while I was putting on my shorts.

"The Killers" and I put in 10 miles, with a little help from Ben Folds, The Cure and Modest Mouse towards the end. I ended up feeling good for the run, and I consciously had to hold myself back from dropping the pace during the last two miles or so. Hopefully I'll be rested and ready for tomorrow.

Training: 10 miles, 1:07:20, 6:44 pace