Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dragging

The last days of winter are the hardest for me.  It seems like winter goes on and on and on, with no let up in sight.  Growing up in Texas, I just accepted that winter ended in February, and Macrh was Spring. After living up north for 20+ years, One would think my body has readjusted.  But it hasn't.  And a particularly long, brutal winter like this just reinforces that seemingly interminable cycle of cold, snow, gray dreary days.

On that cheery note, yesterday epitomized the effect of the days.  A long day of work, followed by a workout I was really, really not into.  For me, a workout is a gym/treadmill session followed up with a train ride home (and an intervening shower).  I really did not want to do it.  I wanted dinner, a glass of wine, something else.  But, as I keep an eye on my goals and motivations, it is these kind of days that are the days that build the foundation and the basics.  Andif you let them go, you can't get them back.  So off I went, running on the treadmill, but I set it a little slower to just get through it.

I was dragging myself to the gym and through the workout.  And it turned out Ok. I didn't get that big "wow, that was a GREAT workout, and I am so glad I did that!" feeling.  But I was glad I did it.  At the end of the day, our training and base is the combination of tons of runs, and choices.  And the decision to run last night on a truly non-motivated night when it would have been much easier to blow it off, is the kind of good choice to make that I will be happy I made later.  Small drops add up to puddles, that add up to buckets. 

Rome wasn't built in a day.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Long time gone, and never too old to try

Yes, it has been a while.  That is a combination of factors, including a busy fall, crazy winter and general lack of motivation.  So to preserve my running record for posterity, a brief recap is in order.

Fall 2013 -- I was out of shape, but in decent enough shape to consider running NY marathon in November.  I had completed an 18 miler in good shape, and a couple other longish runs.  Then, ien early October, I had a trip to Dallas scheduled, and planned on doing something I had always wanted to do, but had never done -- run White Rock Lake.  The basic route around is approximately 9 miles, and my plan was to go 2x around for an 18 miler.  I planned for it extensively, and was ready to go.  Well,one thing I should have remembered October is hot in Dallas.  And White Rock Lake is windy.  So the day started at about 84 degrees with high humidity.  And about a 11-15 mph wind on the lake (there were little whitecaps).  That's not good.  I was drained from the get go, drenched in sweat and battered by the wind.  I made it a little more than once around and pulled the plug to fight another day.  So yes, I ran the rock. But that day also really, really affected my confidence.  I was not on a long history of training.  I didn't feel strong running; in fact, I was surprised when I did well (like my 18 miler in Central Park in Septemeber).  And then I caught a little cold.  That was enough for me to pull plug on NYC rather than risk serious injury in a race I really wasn't ready for.  After that, I fell off the wagon and enjoyed my fall 2013, running maybe 3 times in  a month.  I did run a 9 mile race in December to finalize my entry in 2014 NYC marathon.  And not a bad race either (I think I averaged 8:20 or so, which I was pleased with.)

Winter 2014 -- Nothing.  No running.  And a bad diet led to weight gain.  So, after a ski vacation that totally sapped me (I was not re3ady for physical rigor and altitude), I simply knew it was time to get back in the game.

Now -- I have been back at it for about 3 weeks.  The running is harder, but hey that is to be expected.  The pay off for this will be this summer when hopefully I will feel stronger.

One thing I am for sure committed to this time is more lifting, stretching, body strength.  The Runners World article in March 2014 convinced me, and I have started the IronStrength workouts (basically about 40 minutes of body iso and plyometric exercises).  Very, very hard, but thatmeans it is working, right?

And I am in NYC 2014 from efforts last year.  So that's the goal race, some 8 months out.

In other news, I bought a Garmin 620.  Nice device, crazy software.  After I have more experience with it I will post my thoughts.

And I have missed everyone in the running world!

Friday, September 6, 2013

New Shoes, New Minor Injury and a Fuel Belt

I have previously commented that I barely remember my first NY marathon.  I wasn't blogging, I did not keep a running log, and really don't remember much about it.  And as my recent training has been going on, I haven't been blogging, and have missed providing some of the crucial details that allow me to remember and be more invested in the travails of my training to learn from the good and the bad.

First -- a couple of weeks ago I served as a pace leader for a long run in Central Park.  I had planned to pace for 11 miles, and that worked great.  I was spot on.  They needed pace makers for miles 11-16, and though I had originally planned to bail, miles 5-11 felt great, so I figured, .. Why not?  Well, now I know why not.  I had a...ummm.. GI issue at mile 11, and missed the gel and food station, so I had zero calories in me.  Fluids yes, calories no.  About mile 14, I turned to my co-pacer and said...I don't feel good.  As in I REALLY don't feel good.  Felt nauseous.  Could hardly run.  I cracked off the back of the group and walked half a mile or so, then trudged home in a slow mile 16.  Ugh, not a good ending to an otherwise great day. Note to self -- eat calories during long run.

Last weekend I decided to run 15 miles in a long run.  By the way the day worked out, I had to go at 2 pm. It isn't boiling hot here this summer, so I really didn't pay much attention to the weather.  Plus I had just bought a fluid belt, so I knew I could carry water with me. (More on this later.)  BAD plan for a run.  I ran 6 miles over hills and then a flat 10 or so.  The first 6 hilly miles blew up my legs, and I did Ok on the flat part until about mile 11 or so.  And then I noticed,  Gee, it is kind of hot out here.  And humid too.  In fact it was 86 degrees, with 80% humidity, heat index of 91.  And I had not eaten much the couple days before (still on a diet trying to lose weight).  I was sweating like CRAZY.  I drank 20 ounces at mile 6.  Drained 20 ounces from my fluid belt over miles 6-11, refilled at mile 11 (thanks Dunkin Donuts!), drained another 20 ounces on way home in miles 11-16.  And still felt terrible.  I am hitting the wall around mile 13 or 14 or so.

These long runs make me think...no way can I run a marathon in two months.  Doing a post mortem, I am not so harsh on myself; I can see the heat was really brutal.  And the fact I basically ate about 2000 calories total in the two days before really did not set me up well to run 16 miles in the heat.  Thankfully, I had my fuel belt with me.  Seriously, it was the first time I had run with one ...ever...and it really saved me.  I was never in real danger or anything, but if I had not been able to consume 40 ounces of water over the last 10 miles, I would have had to abandon the run and found water.  And it wasn't that cumbersome or jiggly or anything.  Very good addition to the gear repertoire.

So after that shitty long run on Saturday, I took Sunday off, and ran on Labor Day.    Labor Day last year was the day I hurt my calf so I kind of have bad karma for runs on Labor Day.  This run started off super strong...I was crushing the pace.  I started to feel something in my right high ankle/shin but kept running through it, figuring it was just one of those running pains.  Ran 6.3 miles in 51: xx; great run.

Except for that shin pain.  And when I stopped...oooouccch.  Hmm.  This is bad.  Stress fracture? Overtraining injury can you say?  Ice all day.  Compression sock.  Elevation.  Very sore to the touch.  Some Dr. Googling, and it is either a shin splint or the beginning of stress fracture.  Felt MUCH better Tuesday, so I am guessing shin splint.  And I think I am right, btw.  But what could have caused it?  I have never had a shin splint in my life.

The victim: a new pair of shoes!  My trusty Gel Kayano 19s, are worn out.  I felt the worn out-ness in the last run, so I brought home my gym shoes to run in (I keep a pair of shoes at they gym.)  Those are Nike LunarGlide5.  Really comfortable, cool shoes.  And I had run both Labor Day weekend runs in them (23+ miles) in two days.  Hmm, and one of the causes of shin splints are shoes not appropriate for foot and pronation type.  Hmm, doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots...So LunarGlides are out.  Back to Asics (order new pair of GT-2000s (more support) and Brooks GTS 19 (Have run in Brooks before and love them).

So, this weekend...a 4 mile race in Central park.  I plan to tack on another 10 miles or so to get my long run in at the same time.  I have never done that...run a race and then add more to get miles.  The pace and adrenaline from a race screws up the long run mentality for me.  So I will see if I can do it...But I will eat today.  And not wear the LunarGlides.

And I haven't even discussed the new Garmin.  All I can say, new Garmy is like old Garmy ...finicky, unpredictable, but a thing of beauty when it works.  Like an old friend, but one that is crotchety and one you have to invest care, time and energy to maintain the relationship.

And I need to keep blogging so I can recall the details, the ups and the downs of training.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Great Running Weekend and a Race Report

After the session with the running coach, i had a couple of unmemorable workouts.  But I knew I had a pretty big weekend lined up...the Team Championship on Saturday and a long run on Sunday.  The Team Championship is for really fast runners.  It is 5 miles around Central Park, and to put it in perspective, I ran this race in 2009 at 7:02 pace  -- and finished in the bottom half.  So I didn't have any expectations on the run, just a fast tempo workout.

Race day was fine -- 70ish, humid, but no rain during the race (that came later). And i welcomed a new friend -- my new Garmin 410!  I bought a refurbished unit, and it arrived the night before.  After a charge up, was ready to go -- maybe my old one was defective, but the new one is light years better.  the buttons, the battery everything is better.  And it seems like it just works.  After a suggestion from DC Rainmaker, I used the heart rate strap from my Polar HRM with the Garmin receiver snapped on front.  It worked great -- much better and more consistent data than the Garmin strap.

Race was pretty standard -- Mile 1 downhill, two and three rolling but basically up hill and 4 and 5 flat with the exception of cat hill (about  400m long) at end of Mile 3.  My goal time was...40 minutes.  A strong 8:00 pace on the hilly course, humid morning.  I don;t remember much about the race except it seemed like EVERYONE passed me.  My race number was in the 7000's, which is highest I can ever recall, so i started way in the back.  And it still seemed like everyone passed me.  To cut to the chase, I ended up at 39:11, for 7:50 pace, so I was quite pleased, AG of 60% -- and I finished in the 75% percentile.  That's right, basically bottom quarter.  Running can be humbling.

After the race, I walked back to my car, and stopped to get cash at a little deli.  Inside was a Cuban kitchen making homemade, from scratch food.  I never eat in places like that, but I thought, eh, why not?  A plate of scrambled eggs, with green pepper, onion and ham, smashed green plantains and a slice of bacon.  Beyond delicious. 

Then Sunday, I need a long run.  I thought I would just go around my typical route around home, and then I decided, why not go back to Central Park?  My family is gone for the weekend, I had nothing to do, so why not run in a truly great place?  I geared up (packed a bag with water and Gatorade to leave in the bushes, found a perfect parking spot) and set off.  Goal was 10 miles at 9:00 pace.  It was the afternoon though, a quite a bit warmer -- 82 or so, and the day after a pretty good "tempo" run in the race from day before.  And the hills of Central park.  But I hit my paces pretty well, and heart rate wasn't crazy, so was a good long run -10.25 miles at 1:31. After running though, I was really wiped out.  I stiffened up, but really felt pretty good.  And another gorgeous day in Central Park.

All in all a pretty gosh darned awesome NYC running weekend.  Weekends like that make me love the city and being a runner.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Running Coach

For those new to my blog and world, i have never had a running coach, or a running team or any formal training, mentoring or monitoring.  I do what I think is right based on how I feel, and what I read.  And that has served me pretty well.  At least until I get hurt, and have to sit out for awhile.  But, after trying the "lets just do a lot of what I do and I will get better" approach in golf this year -- which was a miserable failure -- I decided to work with someone on running basics.  I don't need workouts and training so much as someone to say yes that right, no that isn't, here work on this, keep this mental image in mind.

So i met with a coach last night.  I genuinely enjoyed it.  The good news is that I am not doing anything radically wrong, in his opinion.  I feared I was over-striding, but he didn't think so.  My arms need work, my knees need to come up more, and I am "carrying some weight in the midsection" that isn't helpful.  (Politest way I have ever heard that I need to drop a few!).

It was about stretching, loosening up to promote flexibility.  Strides.  Speed drills.  Arm position and drive. All of which I can work on and intend to in the coming months.  Also I am working on the "midsection" girth issue.  Was it life changing?  No.  Was it helpful? Absolutely.  I was also just ..fun ..to have someone to talk to about running, my theories, my form, my training.  My wife is not interested (not that I blame her), but it was good to have someone who is genuinely interested and intrigued.

I intend to meet with him once very several weeks over the next couple months to evaluate progress, pointers, etc.

And it was a gorgeous night in Central Park. Easy to lose perspective with the sun setting over the Reservoir in 80 degree weather on a summer night in Central park.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Gear Update -- Nike Plus Watch, TomTom Runner

As always, I have probably bought every running gadget out there trying to find the perfect mix of headphones, clothes, shoes, GPS and software and still searching.

GPS Watch

As noted, my old Garmin 410 died last fall.  The battery simply would not hold a charge.  Garmin would install a new battery for $99, but I was ready to move on to new technology.  So, at a friend's advice, I bought the Nike Plus running watch. I only ran with it a couple times before...I promptly misplaced it.  Ooops.  But that's ok, I really didn't like it that much anyway.  I did like the clever built in USB charging port. (It is built into the watch so no more cords, and ANT sticks.)  But the data read out was very simplistic...went only to Nike Plus, and was a hassle to get into SportTracks (which I found a work around.) And the day and a date kept resetting to January 1, 2010 every time the battery went to zero.  Not overly impressed, but OK.

After I misplaced Nike, I bought the new TomTom Runner Watch.  TomTom made the Nike watch and the interface is similar.  But the hardware -- the watch itself is great. It is small.  It connects to GPS signals in a flash.  The buttons work. As a running watch goes, during the run, it is pretty close to perfect.  But then the run ends, and the software comes into play.  I will be charitable and simply say that the software is a work in progress. But right now it is only partially functional; that's right, it only works about 2/3 of the time.  It is designed to upload data directly to Tom Tom running site.  That running site is so rudimentary and basic that it is essentially useless, and makes Garmin Connect look like a work of art.  And the data has errors (time and date).  No lap data, no splits, BASIC graphs. You can't delete or edit workouts. And, whatever data it has it won't upload all the workouts.  Ok, so forget that, I will just use SportTracks again (get the data in file format and import into Sporttracks, just  like with old Garmy).  Except the files won't sync to my computer.  i can see them on the watch, but they won't synch to the web or my computer.  And it won't write for all of my workouts.  And right now, when I plug into my Windows machine (also been using a Mac) it is trying to update the watch firmware and gets caught in an error loop and won't do anything at all, so the watch it won't offload any data anywhere; it is nonfunctional.  So that obviously is a nonstarter.  The watch is going to be returned; it simply doesn't work.  I have owned it for about three weeks (maybe 10-12 workouts) and the software has never worked correctly after a workout -- not once. But mark my words, when TomTom gets the software right, it will be a GREAT competitor in the space.

One thing the Nike and Tom Tom watches made me do is buy a new heart rate monitor strap.  I bought the Polar Bluetooth H7, and it is awesome.  Incredible.  The data is smooth, consistent, much less spikey, and no wild fluctuations or crazy numbers.  A revelation.

So reluctantly, hat in hand, I bought another 410 from Garmin.  A refurb unit, with a new heart rate monitor for $159.  I feel like I at least know how it works, its pluses and minuses.  It isn't sexy or cutting edge or new or whatever...but it works. Should arrive in a couple days.

And then I found my Nike watch again.  So, soon, I will have a Nike and a new old Garmin.

Headphones

At last report I was raving about the Jaybirds Blue Buds X Bluetooth headphones as the end of the game. Eh, not quite.  They are really really uncomfortable over a long period of time.  And because they are a "bud" they stay in via a plug in the ear canal.  I found that when I ran, the bud came out and fell out, messing up the sound and it felt like they were going to slide out.  Plus the form of the plastic on the bud itself (presumably where Bluetooth receiver is located) hurt my ears.  Just a really uncomfortable experience over 30 minutes.

So I started using Mrs. Wolve's Beats over the ear LeBron James headphones.  Liked them...they were $149 and a good experience.  But they aren't mine.  So in buying those I stumbled on Monster Athletic ones, and they work great.  I bought the Livestrong version on sale for $59 (normally $149), and really strong headphones -- sound great, stay in the ear, don't even know they are there.  My current go to.  I also bought the Sennheiser over the ear type (not so good sound) before the Monsters,  and the Bose SportIE2's  (haven't used them much yet -- been digging my Monster's.)

In actual workout news, I ran a super solid 8 miles on Saturday morning.  At exactly my goal pace (well, not exactly -- I had wanted to go at 9:00, and ended up 9:01 -- eight seconds off, and not sure how that happened; I was spot on, but maybe ended up getting eight seconds cooldown added at the end or something).  I actually negatively split the workout, and not sure how I did that -- I didn't feel any different.  I felt fantastic, and felt like I could have run further and faster.  But I held it in.

Of course it would be nice to have my data, but it is stuck on my TomTom, unable to free itself except to the TomTom website, which won't show splits or graphs or anything.  That would really be aggravating if I was super intense Mr. Training Type right now, which I am not.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Queens 10k Race Report and Worst Race Pic Ever

Last weekend I ran in the Queens 10k.  For those not following NY weather, the previous week and Saturday were brutally hot -- like 95 degrees and humidity.  I saw one report from Friday the 19th where it was 99 and felt like 109 in NYC.  That is crazy.,  So, for the 10k planned for July 20, NYRR cancelled the event (still gave everyone NY marathon credit though).

Sunday though, brought cooler temps -- in the mid seventies, and relatively mild humidity -- and a Queens 10k around the Flushing Meadow Park.  Getting to the race was a little confusing, and I ended up parking in the back forty and had about a mile to walk to the race.  And then the race had run out of  t shirts, which was a mild bummer because the shirts were a technical running shirt, not a cotton tee (NYRR has ordered more and promised to mail one to me).  And there was a big crowd -- nearly 7,000 runners.

The course itself while technically in Flushing Meadow Park (home of the Unissphere) was really not very picturesque.  The vast majority of the course was around the edge of the park, running parallel to highways.  And the Park includes natural water from the Long Island Sound, which at low tide is mudflat.  And smells bad.  The course also had some mud on it in a couple places, for about 30 or so yards.  My shoes and clothes got muddy, with stinky swampy mud.  Ugh.

The race itself was Ok, and I ended up finishing right at a 8:10 pace and 51 minutes.  I felt good, my heart rate didn't go crazy and ran a pretty solid race.  And finished in the 1600's.  I was kind of disappointed because I thought I had done well, but I guess a top 20% finish is Ok.  I can't post any of my run data (or even examine it) because my new running watch, the Tom Tom runner, won't update and let me get the data off.  I will refrain from passing judgment on the watch publicly until later. All in all I felt pretty good about it.

And then yesterday, the running photos came.  Oh wow, was that depressing.  I didn't dress to look studly, in that I wore compression socks up to my knees. (Haven't worn them enough to know if they help.)  But the look was terrible, with my green running shirt.  I  looked fat, like a pudgy Jolly Green Giant, with mirrored sunglasses and a yellow/black running hat.  And my running form looked atrocious.  You know they "keep on trucking" guy?  That looked like me, heel striking, leaning back..



(Imagine that guy in green, with about 50 pounds on him and you have my running pic).

I am used to bad race pics, but wow, this one took the cake.  I know the event is a run and not a fashion show, but i have this mental image of myself as like a locomotive, steady strong, poised.  Not the Jolly green giant heel striker.  Motivation to lose weight and improve form, and a lesson for the future...