Sunday, May 13, 2007

5k PR: Carlsbad 5000

I have a new PR for a 5k: 19:29. Of course, I'd run only one prior 5k, so I had a 50/50 chance of doing better. Because I hadn't had a lot of time to train, I concentrated on speed work. My schedule was (and still is) track intervals on Tuesday, track or hill work on Thursday, long run Sundays.

The result is that I've improved my speed substantially. I figure I'll concentrate on being faster since I can't run as much as I'd like. The nice thing is that the 19:29 5k is an "equivalent" time for a qualifying marathon. In other words, the 5k time means I should be able to reach my goal with proper training.

The race, Carlsbad 5000, was great. The course is super-fast and by the beach. Weather conditions were almost perfect, and I'd read an article that suggested you should run your first mile a little fast when running a 5k. Kind of the perfect storm for my PR.

My wife, son and I made a weekend of it and stayed there. I love the way my family supports my races. It's nice to see them at the finish line.

The race is great for spectators because each age group/gender had a separate start time and the elites go last. That way we mere mortals can watch the really fast people. Because the course is a big "T" and runners cover the perimeter of the shape, spectators sitting near the intersection can see runners pass by three times: just after the start, right in the middle, and just before the finish. That's what we did, and we saw the women's leader miss her previous world record by a hair.

It's time for bed. But it's nice to be back. Next time I'll have to write about my shoes.

Has it been that long?

Work is still a bitch. Many days (2-3x/week) I'm there from 8 AM until midnight. Most days at least 12 hours. I haven't had weekends free, either.

I've been able to squeeze in a few runs and a few races, but finding the time to write has been tough. Running-wise, I can usually make three runs per week, but my weeks are 20-25 miles per. I'm hoping that next month will be better. I'm nearing the end of my huge project, so I'll have more time.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Weekly wrap up

I'm getting concerned with my lack of miles. I'm 23 miles behind my goal after allowing for a zero-mile week. Otherwise it would have been a 53-mile deficit. Thank goodness next week is the last recovery week. It'll take some 35-40 mile weeks to get back on track.

Tally: Monday 4, Thursday 5, Saturday 7.5, Sunday 9. I'll call it 25. No blisters or injuries. Shiny new shoes.

First "long" run in the Kinsei

When I trained for my first marathon, my buddies told me that at the peak of training, a ten mile run would seem like a tuneup. I thought they were crack smokers. At that time, my longest run had been six miles or so. Ten seemed like a looooooong way.

They were right. Or else I've been smoking the same crack. Progressively longer runs have made 10-milers less significant. Last year, 20-milers became routine. During the holidays, I would do one every other week without killing myself. Such an effort would have made me a bed-ridden pile of goo in the past.

So it pains me to say that today I did a long run of nine miles in the Kinsei. "Long" and "nine" seem like a contradiction in terms these days. When did that happen?

Nevertheless, the run was great. It was cool and overcast. I ran with friends for the first time in a week, which was a welcome change.

Another welcome change was that I had no problems breathing during the run. I was hacking beforehand, but an albuterol and atrovent cocktail seemed to do the trick.

The only niggling problem was that I got a hot spot on the forward part of my arch. No blister, but it probably would have developed, given time. My right shoe was probably a little loose. It had to be the shoe or the lacing because the socks were tried and true standard Asics.

The run for next Sunday? That one goes to eleven. Next week I'll feel like a runner.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Midnight run

It's 12:20 a.m., Saturday morning. It's 36 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm running past large vacant lots, thinking, "I've seen coyotes out here before. What the H-E-double-toothpicks am I doing?" The answer: I'm squeezing in a run where I can. I grab a stick off the ground and keep running.

Work has been killing my running recently. This sets off a chain reaction: running suffers, fitness suffers, happiness suffers, family suffers. When work eliminates my greatest relief from work-related stress, the vicious cycle makes things bad.

Thursday morning I woke up at 2:30 a.m. Not from an alarm, but from sheer panic over getting a long-term project finished. I worked until about 7:30, took the kids to school at 8:00, then started a run at 8:30.

Five miles easy. It was supposed to be seven miles, but I had a meeting at 10 a.m. I would make it up Friday.

Weather was great, overcast and about 60 degrees. For the first time since the marathon, I didn't have trouble breathing. I was a little late for my meeting, but the stress relief was worth it.

Seven miles Friday was going to be a challenge. I had a long day ahead of me. My goal: get to work early and run at lunch. I wouldn't be able to run after work because I planned to work from 8 a.m. until at least 10 p.m.

My plan failed. My son made me 45 minutes late for work. The chain reaction begins anew: late for work, no run at lunch, no stress relief. Crap.

I finished work early (9:30), got home, and put my kids to bed at 10. Then came the realization that at midnight I had to go to my kids' school for registration. Registration started at 4 a.m., but my wife and I are the kind of psychos who want specific teachers for our kids. Over the past few years, successful registration has required progressively earlier wake-up times. 6 a.m., then 5 a.m., then midnight.

I wasn't going to sleep, so I came up with Plan B. I would get to the school at 12, run for an hour, then wait in line. I checked the temperature, 39 degrees. This would take some planning.

I got my running clothes, double-layered, and grabbed a headband and reflective vest. I packed jeans, warmup pants, a boatload of warm clothes and my inhaler. I made a thermos full of coffee, snagged a bottle of Gatorade and a Kirkland Weight-loss Shake (my favorite recovery drink at $1 for a perfect 4:1 carbs:protein ratio). No need for a cooler. It was cold.

I got to the school a couple minutes past midnight. There was already a small crowd. I got my number: 31. I talked to a few people and found out that some poor soul (psycho) had been there since 7 p.m. Next year is going to suck.

I stuck my number and car key in my pocket and started my run. Within a mile I couldn't breathe. This was going to be a long morning. I wheezed my way through 7 miles at 9:38 per. Yuck. 8x 100 yard sprints and I was finished. But I avoided any coyotes.

I changed into my street clothes outside my car. I spent the rest of my morning talking to other parents, drinking coffee, stretching, freezing my ass off, and hacking up a lung. My left piriformis was sore and both my puny triceps hurt from carrying a 3 foot stick for 5 miles. And I felt great.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Kinsei

Hit the treadmill in my shiny new Kinsei last night. Easy 4 miles while watching Jack Bauer get duped again. After 5 really bad days in his life, he should know that everyone is trying to screw him, but I digress.

I wheezed a lot less this run. I guess that's good. Not wheezing at all would be better. I used a different inhaler this time, atrovent, because the albuterol stopped working. Atrovent is effective, but you have to use it several times a day. It's a pain in the ass. It tastes like ass. I'm not speaking from personal ass-tasting experience; it's metaphor for tasting really bad.

Back to my shoes. As a mini-torture test, I wore socks that previously gave me blisters. My feet felt great all four miles. The run was short, slow and on the treadmill, so it was hard to make a true assessment. I'll get a better idea as the week progresses.

I'm planning three 5-mile runs and eight on Sunday. I can't wait. I had to leave my running stuff at home to force myself to rest today.

That was too bad, because I like to look at my new shoes. They're very sparkly.

Therein lies the value of new shoes for me. Granted, they have fresh cushioning and support, thereby softening and correcting my stride. But more importantly, I want to run in them because they're very sparkly.

I want to try them on the treadmill. I want to try them on long runs. I want to hit the track with them and run my favorite hill. I want to show them to my running friends so they can look on in envy or roll their eyes in disdain. I want to race in them and try them on my favorite courses to see if they make a difference.

For my money, new shoes are good for a month or two of good hard effort just because they're new. Pairing them with different sock and insole combinations can tack on an extra motivating month or two. That's 250-500 miles of motivation. Even at the ridiculous price I paid, they're probably worth it. And they're very sparkly.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Buying new shoes: like a kid in a candy store

I went to a running store for the first time about six years ago. This was before I started running. My friend, Chuck, who would later convince me to start running, was trying to convince me to start running. We went to a store and tried on shoes.

After watching me run around in different shoes, the shoe person told me I over-pronated and would need a stability shoe. For the uninitiated, an over-pronator is a person, often flat-footed, whose feet roll inward (toward each other) during the footstrike, collapsing and stressing the ankles, legs, and knees. A stability shoe is built to correct this problem. The recommendation: Asics GT-2070. I was very happy with these shoes because I rarely ran in them.

I would use the Asics GT series for the next several years. I was happy with them, but not ecstatic. I always felt that there must be a shoe that fit me better, that would be a little more comfortable. I never found it. Until today. What I didn't realize until a few weeks ago was that I was looking at the wrong kind of shoe.

My epiphany came at the Pacific Shoreline Marathon's running expo. The RoadRunner Sports booth had a pressure-sensitive pad connected to a PC. Just for kicks, I asked for analysis. To my surprise, the shoe guy told me (and graphically showed me) that I don't have flat feet. They just look flat. Moreover, I wasn't a severe over-pronator, as I had thought. I was more neutral. In fact, one of my feet seemed to supinate (roll outward). I'd been looking at the wrong shoes for years. I decided it was time for new shoes.

Today I hit the brick-and-mortar RoadRunner in Anaheim. I grabbed my son, my last two pairs of running shoes, and my thickest, thinnest and middle-of-the-road socks. After a one-hour drive, I arrived shoes in hand and son in tow.

It started badly. All the shoe reps were busy with others. I waited 45 minutes. During that time, three other sets of people walked into the store and were helped while I sat patiently, then not so patiently. They knew I was there. I had helped one of the reps answer another customer's question. But still they helped others.

I picked up my shoes and decided to walk out. Before I took a step, a friendly young salesman asked if I'd been helped. I tried to temper my annoyance when I explained I'd been waiting almost an hour. He kept a positive attitude.

I told him a brief history and showed him my shoes. He looked at the wear and confirmed that I wasn't over-pronating. He showed me how all the wear on my shoes was on the outside edge of the sole. There was very little wear on the inside, near my arch. This indicated that my foot was rolling slightly outward, not inward. Ideal wear would be in the middle of the shoe.

We tried on a lot of shoes, primarily Asics. I tried on the Cumulus, the Nimbus, the Speedstar and, last but not least, the flagship Kinsei. Definitely not least--the Kinseis were probably the most expensive shoes in the store. There were a lot of other shoes, but I can't remember them all. My buying experience was getting a lot better. The salesman was knowledgeable, friendly, and patient.

Almost all the shoes felt great. I ran inside, outside, and around in circles. I liked them all, but it came down to the Cumulus (the cheapest of my choices) and the Kinsei. The salesman and I went outside so he could watch me run in the Speedstars. These were the lightest and least stable of the shoes, but I was looking at them for races and speedwork.

He watched me for a couple of minutes, running back and forth in front of the store. His diagnosis: I was almost neutral, but my right side over-pronated slightly. His two suggestions: use an over-pronation insert with a neutral shoe or buy the Kinsei, which was a neutral/stability tweener.

I couldn't help myself. Because the Kinseis fit like a glove and looked super-geeky-cool, I took 'em. They were ridiculously expensive, but the salesman said they'll last 600 miles. We'll see if that's true. Also, my sticker-shock is temporary because I won't have to pay retail next time I buy them.

I've been wearing them around the house for 4 1/2 hours now. They still feel great. I can't wait to hit the road with them, faster than ever.

Back in the saddle and weekly wrap-up

Valentine's Day worked out better than expected. I bought cards ahead of time, got flowers and chocolates the day of. Although I was pessimistic about fitting in a run, my wife let me squeeze in an easy run. Except it wasn't so easy. The marathon and subsequent layoff made the easy run slow and plodding. And it was treadmill. At least I got to watch "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel during the run.

One disconcerting aspect of the run was that I had a lot of trouble breathing. Not gasping for breath, but I had noticeable congestion in my lungs/bronchial area. This chest congestion has been recurrent since the marathon.

The congestion seemed to drive up my heartrate. That makes sense, because I'd be getting less oxygen, I think. Laughing hysterically at times during the TV show didn't help. The laughing usually ended with a small coughing fit. On the upside, my legs were creaky, but pain-free.

Put in another five-miler on Friday at lunch. Unfortunately, California had a heat wave and conditions were warm. Not as much trouble breathing during the run, but definitely had issues afterward. Legs were somewhat sore, but not too bad. I could have run Saturday, but decided to play it safe.

Today was a seven-miler. I ran around my neighborhood, which has plenty of hills. It was still warm outside. Knowing I might have breathing trouble, I hit the inhaler (albuterol) before the run. Nevertheless, I was congested from the git-go. Legs felt great, though.

Seven hours later, I'm not 100%. I have no significant aches or pains, but my breathing is still affected slightly. We'll see how next week's runs go. They're still primarily recovery miles.

Weekly miles: +17. Sense of self-worth: +95%.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Still no miles

Yesterday was a disaster. I hate when work gets in the way of training. I forgot I had to teach a class in the afternoon, so I wasn't able to run at lunch as I had planned. Then I picked up the kids, dropped them off at home, and went straight to a swim team board meeting (the kids' team, not mine).

I am trying to get off the board, but the only people who showed up to the meeting were the current board and a few people who couldn't serve. That made elections impossible. Instead, we kvetched about the apathy on our swim team. That bitch session lasted three hours, so I went home and collapsed.

I have not run in nine days. Today isn't looking so hot either. Although I bought my wife's cards in advance, I still need to pick up flowers and such during lunch. I doubt she'd appreciate, "Happy Valentine's Day, honey. Mind if I go for a run tonight and we can get romantic when I get back?" Maybe I'll convince her that it'll make me hot and sweaty. Yeah, and maybe she'll convince me to sleep on the couch.

There's always tomorrow.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Weekly wrap up: no miles

Today was a blogging milestone for me. Somebody read my blog. Not that my buddy Nick, my wife, and other friends aren't somebodies, but this was a STRANGER. And despite my parents' warnings, I talked to him back. I feel all grown up now.

Not running this week has really screwed up my sleep schedule. I go to sleep early or late, wake up in the middle of the night, whatever. It also screwed up my blogging. I chose not to do a series of "What I Didn't Run Today." That would have been riveting.

I was tempted to run here and there, but I forced myself to be sit. I had avoided post-marathon illness for the first time and didn't want to screw it up. I'll start running tomorrow.

My YTD mileage is the same two weeks in a row. That sucks. I remind myself that my yearly mileage goal allowed two idle weeks, but it's small comfort.

On the upside, this week I baked my first decent bread (the kind that people eat out of preference, not pity). My previous bread attempts sat for days, sealed in a Ziploc, conscientiously ignored by my wife and kids. After they grew mold, I threw them away in despair. The loaves, not my family.

This weekend, I finally made bread that my kids love. Chewy, crusty, Italian-style fare that works great with dinner and with sandwiches. My only brick-like failure was the whole wheat. I'll perfect that the next off week I have.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Haiku for the runner's family

day off day break run
draws time away from kin yet
they hail my finish

Getting a PR despite my own stupidity

My new nutrition plan was a bust. Without getting too graphic, it was painful and explosive.

There is a racing axiom: don't try something new on race day. In my enthusiasm, I lost my senses and did it anyway. Three days of carbo-loading before the race and massive amounts of carbs the night before.

The morning of the race, I woke at 3 a.m. to eat first breakfast: 3 weight-loss shakes, a double bowl of raisin bran and 32 oz. water. At 5 a.m., I was supposed to eat more, but couldn't. I sucked down a chocolate milk and hoped it was enough. Whenever I think of second breakfast, I think of hobbits. At 6 a.m., an hour before the race, I had a banana and 16 oz. water. That was it until 10 minutes before the race, when I had 10 oz. of Gatorade.

And we're off. I'm running with my young and speedy friend Nick. It's Nick's first marathon and he's busting at the seams with enthusiasm. I'm busting at the seams with carbs, but I feel okay at this point.

His enthusiasm calls him, like a siren, to what I feel will be his doom: 15 seconds faster than our planned race pace. I lose him by mile 3. He will go on to finish in 3:23. It's going to be a lonely day. My day becomes a lot lonelier as soon as I realize that I need to go to the bathroom. Number two.

I'm able to hold out for a while. I see my lovely wife and kids at about mile 6. I hit a set of public restrooms. What's behind door #1? I can't tell 'cause it's locked. Damn. Door #2? Locked. Door #3 holds the prize: a stainless steel toilet with no sink. I guess I'll use my left hand to grab water and Gu.

I check my watch to see how much time I'll lose. It ends up taking me about 90 seconds. Damn. My splits so far: 7:52, 7:49, 7:47, 15:47 (for two miles), 8:01, and 9:09 for the bathroom-interrupted mile. That's okay. I'm still on pace for sub-3:30.

I get back on the course and fight the urge to make up time. 7:50, 7:49, and I can't believe I have to go again! Same drill with the restrooms, but this time it's behind door #2. This delay is almost two minutes. I hit the button for mile 10 and come in at 9:25. The bad news is that my stomach still feels upset. The good news is that I'm otherwise right on pace, so I should still break 3:30.

Back on the route. My stomach's bothering me. I'm also a little worried about my calves because they feel tight. I have the iPod Nano on now. "Love Song," the 311 remake. I play it twice because it reminds me of my wife. 7:42, 7:43.

I see my father, who is attending one of my races for the first time. He was lamenting the fact that he had no pictures of me running, so I invited him to take some. I try to look cool despite my stomach, bowels and calves. I fake it okay, because I don't look like I'm in pain in the photo. At mile 13, I really have to go again. I can't believe it. Not a bathroom or portable toilet in sight. 7:50.

At the next turn, the 1,000 marathon runners have joined the 10,000 half-marathon runners. It's bad. I'm weaving in and out of people, trying to hold everything in, thinking about my calves. Why is it that walkers tend to walk five abreast, taking up a full lane?

I'm starting to wonder if I took a wrong turn because I can't see anyone with a marathon number. I only see half-marathoners. This is not the psychological edge I was hoping for. It's hard to run with full effort when you're wondering if you've gone off course. This goes on for a quarter mile until I see another marathoner. I still have my doubts until I see a second, then a third. I reach a mile marker, "Marathon. Mile 14." Whew. 7:58.

Now my stomach is killing me. My calves are still bothering me. I've really go to go. I see the portable toilets, but there's a long line of people. Probably walkers, damn them. I pass it up, trying to remember where the next pots are. I'm hurting so bad now I have to alter my stride.

And there she is: the walker talking on her cell phone. Where do these people come from? It's not exercise if you can simultaneously make a phone call, lady. 7:58.

I'm miserable now. The sun is out. It's warming up. I'm on a slight incline and I can't keep pace because I'm afraid of what might happen to my shorts. There are half-marathoners and walkers everywhere. And cell phone talkers. 8:08. 8:01.

During mile 17, I see them: pots without a line. I find an open one and look at my watch. I finish and look again. Almost two minutes. A 3:30 just went down the pot, but there's hand sanitizer here.

I get out of the pot and I can't believe it: my stomach still hurts. It's even worse now. I hit the 18 marker. 9:42. The next mile is downhill so I can make up some time. I'm running as fast as I can, but I can't reach the pace I want. My legs aren't slowing me. My stomach hurts so badly it's cramping up. 7:46.

I'm in a park now. It's warm, but trees here and there shield me from the sun. I wish my stomach didn't hurt. Every stride is killing my midsection. And I have to go again. I see some restrooms in the park, just a little off the course. Break #4. Just over a minute. I hit the 20 marker at 9:07. I try not to get discouraged. At this point, I'll be lucky to hit 3:35.

The next couple of miles have a lot of uphill. I am now starting to feel fatigued. Miraculously, my stomach no longer hurts. Will that be my last stop? I'm hopeful, but I'm slow. I'm pushing and pushing, but I'm consistently over 8 minute miles. 8:17, 8:35 on the long uphill, 8:10.

Now I turn the corner for the home stretch. It's flat. Incubus's "Drive" is playing, my favorite running song. I hit the repeat and pick up the pace. If I run 8-minute miles, I think I can salvage 3:35.

8:16 at mile 24. I estimate my finish time. I'm at 3:16'45. 2.2 miles at 8 should take me about 18 minutes. Push.

Mile 25 is 8:06 and my cumulative time is 3:25'52. I'm trying to calculate two-tenths of 8 minutes and I don't have the brain power. Just run like hell, but not like last year when you ran like hell for the last mile and ran out of gas with a half-mile to go. Run like almost hell.

I see my buddy Nick's wife and wave at her. I recognize her, in part, because she's wearing the same brown sweater she wore last night. She looks at me like she doesn't know me, but waves back. Wait, she's a woman, so she would not be wearing the same sweater she wore last night. She doesn't know me because she's not Nick's wife. Hello lady, from the delusional but friendly marathon-running stranger.

I hit mile 26. 8:11 for the mile and 3:33'03 overall. Is it fewer than two minutes for .2 miles at this pace? It has to be. I think. I hope. I can see the finish line with its balloon arch. It seems really far away.

Running as fast as I can now, which isn't all that fast. Race volunteers keep saying, "Half-marathoners stay left, marathoners to the right." It seems to have no effect on the half-marathoners. Damn them. Push. And try to look cool as you finish.

I can see the official clock now. It is getting dangerously close to 3:35. I know my time is less than the official clock because it took me several seconds to get to the start line after the gun. Still, it gives me something to shoot for. I see my wife and kids cheering me on.

I run as hard as I can as the clock ticks, 3:34:56, 3:34:57, 3:34:58, 3:34:59, and I hit the finish line. 3:35:00 from the gun, 3:34:46 start to finish, PR by 17 minutes. I'll take it.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Fueling for the marathon

Thursday I started my fueling plan for the marathon. I found this great article at It's very detailed and I've been trying to follow it. You eat carbs constantly for three days.

When I say constantly, I mean it. 600 grams of carbs per day for me (4 grams per pound of body weight). You can't do it in three meals. It requires constant vigilance.

Oh, and I'm supposed to drink 8 oz. water every hour as well. Friday looked like this:

Homemade 24 oz. smoothie (100g carbs)
Raisin bran & milk (54g)
Chocolate milk (40g)
Weight loss shake (44g)
Chow fun and brown rice (~125g)
Granola bar (22g)
Another weight loss shake (44g)
Raisin bran (again, 54g)
Chocolate milk (again, 40g)
And for dinner, spaghetti (~50g)

And the water. About 100 oz. (0g)

That left me with 27g to go, so I sucked down a 16 oz. Gatorade before bed. I was feeling stuffed and light-headed. Of course, that could have been work, frustration, excitement and lack of sleep exercise and lack of sleep. Or it could be my body telling me, "Eat some freaking fat, you idiot!"

Friday, February 2, 2007

35 hours, 39 minutes to the start

Man, work has been a bear this week. I still have more work to do, but I thought I'd write a little, since this week's been blog-bare.

It's Friday night and I have about a day-and-a-half before the race. Speed work went just fine on Tuesday. Schedule was 6x 400m @ 6:15 with 400m rest intervals.

Conditions were great, cool and drizzling, so I ran my intervals a little faster than pace. What made that even sweeter was I forgot how long to rest, and accidentally halved the rests. No problem.

Tuesday was a frustrating morning at work, so burning off a little aggression was nice. That's when running is most satisfying, especially speed work. Beats going postal.

Thursday was three miles at marathon pace. It was no problem, but it was only three miles. I still wonder if I can sustain that pace for 26.2 miles. Self-doubt's a bitch.

My replacement HRM arrived Thursday afternoon. I'm all set.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The inverse relationship of hair and drag

Couldn't help myself. Did an unscheduled 3.25 easy today. I'm ready to jump out of my skin tonight. Maybe I'll cut my hair.

I like to be pretty bald for a race. My wife doesn't like it much, but it makes me feel fast. I wish a haircut could make me run fast, but my thinning hair causes little drag. The good news is that each passing year will reduce the drag my hair creates. It will compensate for the speed I lose with age. At least that's what I tell myself.

Last bit of speed work tomorrow. Gotta cut my hair before that, right? Whoosh.

Nike Watch Repair Customer Service

Mea culpa. That's Latin for "I'm a moron." Actually, it means "my bad" or something close.

The moral of this story I'll put up front: if Nike Watch Repair responds to your e-mail and asks you to call, you should do so.

The story: as I wrote Saturday, I accidentally torture tested my Nike HRM by letting a car run over it. (See "Torture testing my heart rate monitor.") Despondently, I checked the Nike Watch Repair website, saw that the HRM was out of stock and placed a backorder. I was sure I wouldn't get it in time for my marathon the following Sunday.

On Monday morning (six days to the marathon), I got a phone call from a nice woman named Marguerite at Nike Watch Repair. She told me that I had ordered the European model of my HRM, which she thought might be a mistake. She told me that I probably wanted the American model, which was $10 cheaper, and was in stock. She agreed to send it 2nd day air. I should receive it by Thursday.

This explains a lot. I probably was looking at the wrong strap for the past year or so. I probably waited needlessly for a new strap. I probably should have called when I got the e-mail from Nike Watch Repair last June.

Don't make my mistake. If Nike Watch Repair asks you to call, just do it.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Long run and weekly wrap up

Long run was pretty easy this week: 8 miles at marathon pace. Ran our canal course and it was 43 degrees or so with no wind. Nice.

Had some blister issues. On Thursday I used some new socks my wife bought, Champion C9 with a thinner sole. They caused a blister on my left pinkie toe in less than seven miles. The blister was pretty painful, so I switched back to my generic Coolmax socks from Target. I'll stick to these for the race.

Left piriformis is tight, per usual. No issues on the right side.

Final tally: 5.4 miles speed work, 5.7 tempo, 2.8 easy, and 8 long.

Torture testing my heart rate monitor

I'm a gadget guy. My friends make fun of me, but I figure if gadgets motivate me to run, that's a good thing. My current gadget is the Nike Triax Elite HRM/SDM. It's a watch, heart rate monitor (HRM) strap and speed/distance monitor (SDM) foot pod. I've been using it since December 2004.

In late 2005, I lost the HRM. I don't know what happened to it. I finished a long run, took it off while stretching to conserve the battery, and couldn't find it the next day. I started to look for a replacement.

Only the Nike Watch Repair site carried replacement parts. They were out of stock and didn't allow backorders. I checked occasionally for over six months. No dice.

I e-mailed them and their response was, "please call us." My feeling was if I wanted to call, I would have. [Edit: I should have called. See my blog entry "Nike Watch Repair Customer Service.] So I waited, checking occasionally. This past November, they had them in stock. For a reasonable price ($35 + $6.95 shipping), I got the strap in a few days.

I never did figure out how I lost the first strap, but after a year without, it was nice to have one again. Today when I finished my long run, I took off my wet shirt and my HRM strap. I put them on my friend's truck bumper. You can see where this is going.

As I drove home, I noticed my shirt and HRM were missing. Almost simultaneously, I saw them lying in one of the busiest 4-lane streets in my city. Of course they didn't land in the side street where we parked our cars.

I made the first possible U-turn, then turned around again to get my stuff. I got out of my car and ran toward the strap. I was several feet away when I stopped to wait for a passing car. The car ran over the HRM, sending the thing three feet in the air and separating the monitor from the elastic band. Argh! Of course, the $5 shirt, for which I have plenty of replacements, lay untouched.

I grabbed the monitor. It was cracked and had some big gouges from the asphalt. Maybe the damage was only cosmetic. I picked up the rest of my stuff and hoped for the best.

When I got home, I checked the HRM. It was dead.

I checked the replacement part website. They're temporarily out of stock again, and the price is up to $45. [Edit: this was totally wrong. See "Nike Watch Repair Customer Service."] I was able to place a backorder, but I doubt I'll get it in the next 8 days before the race. [Edit: Again, I should have called. See "Nike Watch Repair Customer Service."] My wife suggested that I order two. I don't know if she was joking.

The silver lining to this little black cloud? I think I know how I lost the first strap.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A different qualifying time

Every year I run the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay. I use "every year" loosely, because I started running in early 2004. I guess "every year since 2004" would be more precise.

Baker to Vegas is a 120-mile relay from Baker, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada. My office has fielded a team since 1995. To qualify for the team, you must be one of the top 20 finishers on the qualifier course.

The course is about 5.7 miles, 1.5 uphill. To qualify, you have to run it in about 46-48 minutes. The fastest runners in the office can finish in 35-36 minutes. My threshold the past few years has been 40.

When I first started running, there was something magic and unattainable about a sub-40 qualifier. It seemed to be the mark of "serious" runners in the office.

My first year, I fell far short. My best qualifier was 43:42. I decided I would improve the next year and made 40:04. I planned to break 40 my third year.

Early on my third season, I posted 40:15. I knew that with 3 months to train, I would reach my goal. Of course, a combination of injury and sickness prevented that.

This year, it's been tough to find time for a qualifier. The marathon schedule has interfered. I've also been waiting for the right conditions (cool and overcast), so I can make my goal.

Today I decided, "To hell with the schedule. I'm gonna see how I run." It's lunchtime when I get out. 73 and sunny. Damn. I give up on the sub-40.

I run about a mile-and-a-half warm-up to the start of the course, and I certainly warm up. Time for a heart rate run. 175-180 bpm and see where that puts me.


First mile: 174 bpm and 6:55. It's warm. Let's see how the next mile goes.

Second mile: High 170s and 7:13. What? My 2-mile landmark must be wrong. Or I must be slow today. I felt like I picked it up that mile.

Third mile: This one's always my Achilles heel. For some reason, I often lose 30 seconds this mile. I don't know why. I need to finish it by 21:00 to break 40. Or is it 20:00? Crap. I wish I kept better track of these things. 6:37. Wow. That mile 2 marker must be wrong.

Fourth mile: start of the uphill. How high do I let the heart rate go? I shouldn't let it go too much over 180. It's not a race. Marathon's in ten days. I switch the watch from split time to total elapsed time. 28:20. It takes me 13-14 minutes from here to the finish. Or is it 12? I'm definitely not making sub-40. I'm not trying to.

Fifth mile (kind of): It's not quite a mile. It's .8 miles of uphill, then almost exactly a mile from the apex of the course to the finish. So it's really the 4.8 mark. I can't remember how long it takes me to get up this hill. I really need to keep better track of these things. I hit the top. 34:04. 34:04? I do know it will take me just over six minutes to get to the finish. So close.

Sixth mile: First half is downhill. Let gravity do the work. Bottom of the hill and on the flat. Don't look at the watch, just run. Okay, I gotta sneak a peek. 38 and change with a quarter-mile to go. Crap this hurts. Don't look down.

Finish-hit-the-button. Look down.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Speed work v. blog setup

Speed work is supposed to be challenging. At least so I hear. I don't mean to imply that today's speed work wasn't challenging. It was. I'm just reassuring myself because it was more challenging than I wanted.

5x 1K @ 4:00/per. I made all five within a five-second spread. A little worried on number four that I wouldn't finish #5 at pace. Doubt crept in and so did, "What the hell are you thinking? You can't keep this up." I reminded myself that it was supposed to be hard. Then I finished. Yeah!

I love the self-control you feel running. You may feel bad, you may feel good, but your failures and successes are uniquely yours, not dependent on someone else.

If only setting up a blog with a domain was as simple. There are so many parts to break between domain registrar, web host, and Blogger. So many dependencies. It sometimes takes a while, or an eternity, to figure out what went wrong.

For example, my custom domain broke this morning. I couldn't fix it. Tried a lot of things. None worked. Then one did, but I don't know which. Oh well. Four hours later, it's still working. Don't know why.

Maybe they're not so different. Some days you have it. Some days you don't. Some days you can figure out why. Some days you have no idea.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Another bad long run

Training tip: the night before a long run, eat something. Friday night as I lay in bed obsessing over my blog, I didn't eat dinner. Well, I had a bowl of cereal, but that was it. The next morning, I got down a smoothie before my run. Big mistake.

The combination of bad eating, lack of sleep (only 4 hours or so), and fighting sickness finally caught up with me. I had difficulty running 8:09 for 13. I stopped after 11 and change, and managed only 8:39. Not catastrophic, but two bad long runs in a row don't build confidence. The marathon is 2 weeks from today.

What makes it more demoralizing is that this week was a low mileage week because of the taper. Yassos were 8.5, tempo was 5, and long was 11.5. 25 miles for the week. I'm fighting the urge to do 5 easy on the treadmill to make 30.

I'm still waiting on the new domain. Very disappointing. My new domain is with, and I'm not up after almost 48 hours. With, where I registered my other domains, I could get my blog on the domain within an hour or two. Oh well.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Waiting on the new domain

Spent all night making the site look more spiffy. See my new graphic header?

I bought a new domain. I'm feeling very pro, but looking pretty amateur. Can't have it all. What sucks is that the new domain isn't yet set up for the blog. I mean it's set up, but it's still updating.

Thursday's 5 miles went okay, except that my treadmill's on the blink. The belt is slipping, so it says it's going about 10% faster than it really is. It sucks to run five miles per the treadmill, then run another lap and change to make up the deficit.

It's 1:50 a.m. and I'm supposed to be running in 5 3/4 hours. Yikes. Schedule says 13 miles later this morning. Better get some sleep.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Runner's soliloquy: to skip or not to skip?

I used to love skipping runs. It was like skipping school. But I hate skipping marathon training runs. Which I did today.

So I'm lying in bed, dealing with self-loathing and malaise. I'm fighting terrible allergies, which lead to a sore throat and insomnia. The insomnia leads to fatigue and decreased immune function. The fatigue leads to skipping runs. Which I did today.

One internal voice says, "Sickness above the neck doesn't affect running performance. Get your shoes on."

Another says, "If you run yourself down, you'll get really sick. Marathon day is 17 days away. Don't risk it. Blog about running instead!"




"Does anybody use that word anymore?"

I left my gear at work, anyway. Oh well.... I called my wife. She's bringing my shoes. Five quick miles can't hurt.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Battle with the body fat scale

I read in a magazine about body fat scales. My wife saw one on sale and bought it. Instructions say that the body fat meter works by electrical impedance. By measuring the conductivity of your feet, it estimates your body fat. Pretty neat.

Except we're fighting right now. I mean the scale and me, not my wife.

Our beef: you're supposed to measure yourself early in the evening. This is because the scale is calibrated to make accurate body fat measurements when you've been on your feet all day and gravity has caused your blood to concentrate in your lower extremities.

This is a problem for me because I weigh myself in the morning before breakfast. Weighing in first thing in the morning gives me consistent weight readings. But it "increases" my body-fat percentage by about 2%. This is not good for the ego. On the flip side, weighing myself in the evenings makes my body fat reading lower (and hopefully more accurate), but my weight is all over the map depending on when I can squeeze in meals.

I guess I could weigh myself in the morning and measure my body fat at night. But what a pain in the ass that is. I see the irony: a guy who runs 30 miles per week complains about taking ten lousy steps to his scale in the evenings. It's the principle.


Yasso 800s

12 x 800m @ 3:25 = 26.2 @ 3:25:00. This equation summarizes the Yasso 800. I first read about this test in this article.

Yasso 800s are named after Bart Yasso, race manager for Runner's World magazine. He has observed that people who can run ten-to-twelve 800 meter repeats at a 2-minute, 40-second pace can run a marathon in 2 hours, 40 minutes. This assumes a 2:40 rest interval between repeats.

I'm doing my anecdotal validation of the Yasso theory. Today I ran 12 x 800m @ 3:18 with 2:00 rest intervals (I forgot how long the rest interval was supposed to be). The reason I chose to run the 800s at 3:18 was because of an article my friend read at McMillan Running, saying that the Yasso 800 projects a time that's about 5 minutes too fast. Thus, my 3:18 800s will actually result in a 3:23, per McMillan.

My results today were both encouraging and worrisome. By mistakenly running Yassos with a shortened rest interval, I probably intensified the workout. But the workout did not feel hard. In fact, it felt great.

With full rest, I think I could have made 12 x 800s @ 3:10, my usual interval pace. This would make a 3:15 doable. Which means a qualifying marathon 2/4/07. Except for my awful long run this weekend, which convinced me 3:15 was out of the question.

Shit. The taper paranoia is starting to hit. I need to get some sleep.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Two days, zero runs

It's been nice having two days off. I'm lazy, so I love my rest.

Sunday I still felt poorly from the 20-miler on Saturday. My wife and I did some laundry and hung out with friends. I watched some football and baked some bread (my new avocation). Two loaves from different recipes. One was whole wheat and tasted great, but had the shape and consistency of a soft brick. The other tasted pretty good and was soft, but was only 1/3 whole wheat. What's a running baker to do?

I watched the Chargers lose (boo) and the Bears win (who cares). I'm a former Dallas 'burbs resident and lifetime Cowboys fan, but currently live in SoCal. If my team isn't in the mix, I root for the locals. Oh well.

Today I did some work around the house and made some gumbo. I love chicken and andouille gumbo. Not exactly runner's fare, but a man's gotta live. I like the gumbo from The Gumbo Shop in New Orleans. They have a cookbook. I recommend it. Great gumbo recipes using frozen okra and canned tomatoes. Great for SoCal cooks who like low country food.

On weekends I like to make a double batch of the chicken and andouille recipe, eat some for dinner, freeze some for later, and inadvertently get a good buzz while I cook. Get the book, buy a $9 cast-iron skillet (a cheap cooking essential), a 5 1/2 quart enamel cast-iron dutch oven (expensive, but worth it), and get to it. For my double batch, you need a bigger (9 quart) oven, which I found at a Tuesday Morning for about $110.

Tonight I'm drinking Ridge 2004 Geyserville, a bottle my friends brought over yesterday. Yum. My granddad always said odd years for reds, but he was wrong on this one. Forgive me if I digress, but I got a bood guzz going and mo nileage dor the fay.

Bon appetit.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

End of the week ... whew

Over 54 miles this week, including the half. Since I start my week on Monday, the half doesn't really count. I'm hurting, though. Thank goodness I'm starting my taper.

Did my 20 today and it was miserable. Temperature was in the low 30s and plenty of wind to make me feel horrible. My head and right ear are still hurting ... 8 hours after the run. To top it off, I ran 2:49 (compared to 2:45 two weeks ago) and only finished 19.75 miles (compared to a true 20). Bummer. At least the Eagles and Ravens lost today.

To think that earlier this week, I was running in 80-degree weather and complaining about it. Tally: 41 miles for the week. 62 miles for the year. Looking forward to two days off and the start of the new season of "24." Go Chargers.

OC Half Marathon 1/7/07

My last race was supposed to be a training run. I ran it with a friend, Nick. Nick is younger and faster than I. His youth and speed make him hard to hold back on a training run. We were supposed to run 7:49/mile, but we ran 7:28. Not too much the worse for wear. I matched or set a PR with this half. I didn't even run it as a race. Not bad.

I say matched or set because I'm not sure about my previous PR. Last summer, I ran a half that was so badly organized that the runners were sent about a mile off the course. After we figured out we were lost, we turned around and eventually found the course. Because I wanted to know my time for 13.1 miles, I went back to the starting line and began again. I ran 1:37, but the race's poor organization gives me little confidence that the course was the right length.

At least now it's official. I ran 1:37:46 chip time and 1:38:22 from the gun. A legitimate PR. I can't wait for this marathon.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mileage YTD 1/12/07

I made a New Year's Resolution to run 1500 miles this year. Previous years have been in the 700-1000 mile range. Today is an off day, so I can count up miles.

I was sick last week, so I took days off. Last Tuesday, speed work, 4x100 @6:15, 4.5 miles with warm up. Wednesday, easy 3.3 miles (9:08). Sick days. Sunday, OC Half, 13.1 miles.

That paltry 20.9 made me run extra this week, when I have a 20-miler scheduled. Idiot.

This Monday was 6 easy (9:02). Tuesday, 5 at marathon pace (7:45 or so). Wednesday was 5.4 easy (my watch said 4.65 because I accidentally paused it for 0.75). Thursday, those awful 2000s, 5.7 including warm up.

43 miles YTD. Tomorrow is 20 at 8:20 or so. 63 for two weeks. Back on pace.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Today's 2000m repeats sucked

Wanted to go to the track today, but work got in the way. The schedule was 3x 2000m at 6:45/mile with 400m rest intervals. I've decided that 2000m is an awkward distance.

I hate doing speedwork late, especially on a treadmill. I normally run outside during my lunch break. Tonight it was on the treadmill at 9 p.m. I was totally out of my element.

The first 2000 felt horrible. I looked down at my watch and saw my heart rate was about 172. This isn't terribly high for me. I'm normally close to 180 (my feeling crappy threshold) when I do speedwork. Second interval, same story. My third interval had thighs and calves burning. Breathing was rough. I felt dizzy and slightly nauseous. Watch showed 175 bpm. I just don't get it.

At least it's done. Now I have to ride out my post-workout insomnia. Aack. Thbbbt.

Can training go too well?

3:25 or 3:20? This new discovery about qualifying times is really causing me some problems. I've been training for a 3:25 marathon, hoping to make 3:30 at the actual race. I've been remarkably healthy and have missed very few runs. My speeds have been better, generally, than my training schedule has demanded. So I've started wondering if I could run a 3:20 marathon this time.

There are a number of things that make me want to shoot for a qualifying 3:20. First, this training session has gone well. This is not always true. Three of the four guys I'm training with have had to reevaluate their goals because of injury or sickness. Some might not even run. A while back, I had to abandon a marathon halfway through training because I wasn't healthy.

Second, work will start to get crazy for me in February, and will continue to be crazy for several months. This means serious marathon training may be out. My next marathon may not come for a year.

Third, I'm impatient and like instant gratification. If I can make 3:20 now, I will be qualified to run Boston in 2009. Guaranteed. Then if I cut an additional 5 minutes and qualify for 2008, that's icing on the cake.

Oops. I need to read better. The qualifying window for Boston 2009 won't start until September of this year. That means if I can make 3:20 now, I will be qualified for absolutely nothing. Dilemma solved. I run my race and hope to make 3:15 or 3:20 another day.

Long Beach Marathon is in October. Hmmm....

I'm going to run the Boston Marathon

Putting it in writing makes it true, right?

I decided I wanted to run Boston last year, but it seemed unrealistic. My previous two marathons were 4:08 (Chicago 2004) and 3:51 (Pacific Shoreline 2006).

This year, it seems possible. I'm currently training for the Pacific Shoreline Marathon. It's 2/4/07. If things go as scheduled, I should run somewhere between 3:20 and 3:30. Training has gone well.

My Boston qualifying time is 3:15. I know I won't make it this time. If I wait two years and two months (when I turn 40), my qualifying time is 3:20. That five minutes can make a big difference.

Hmm.... Just checked the Boston Athletic Association website. (Thank goodness for tabbed browsing.) It seems for the past year or so, I've misunderstood qualifying. If I run a 3:15 at 37 years, I can run Boston. However, it seems that if I run a 3:20 at 37 years, I can wait until 2009 and run Boston when I'm 40. Woohoo!

Boston, here I come.