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.