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.