Sunday, November 30, 2008

Turkey Week Stuff

Last week was another good one for running, despite the wintry weather. Monday's recovery run was at a 8:30 pace, which felt great after lots of miles over the weekend. I decided to do 7 mile at a moderate pace on Tuesday instead of the usual track workout, saving the speed work for the Thursday Turkey Trot. I took the day off work on Wednesday, so I did a loop around Solon for a change of pace. On Thursday, my neighbor John and I went downtown and met up with my sister-in-law Lisa for the Turkey Trot. It was the first race ever for both of them, and they did remarkably well (full race report to follow.) On Friday, a small group of us from SERC met at Mark G.'s house and round 8.5 miles around Aurora. We had a large group at Lock 29 on Saturday, approximately a dozen runners. We went north on the tow path to Highland Road, then followed the Buckeye Trail back. On Sunday, I put in a few early miles, then 12 with the group, then another mile back home. For an allegedly long-slow run , I kept a brisk 7:50 pace. Total miles for the week: 60.35

John "Gobbler' Malloy, Lisa 'Turkey Legs' Mikol, and Frank 'Wing Man' Duchossois

Thursday as we drove to the Convention Center downtown, the temperature was 30 degrees F, there was blue in the sky, and it looked to be a great morning for a race. John and I had not preregistered, so we got there a bit early to leave time to register, and to be sure we got our shirts. John started running just a few months ago, and this would be his first race ever. Sis-in-law Lisa met us there and we mulled around, stretched, and talked until they announced it was time to head out to the start. I wished good luck to John and Lisa, and weaseled my way to the front of the line. My plan was to try to maintain a steady 6:15 pace. I was very careful to keep myself in check for the first mile, or so I thought, until I hit the mile marker at 6:05. I was surprised, as I thought I was running a comfortable pace. I knew the second mile was the easiest of the race, with a gentle downhill for the first half. I really backed off, or so I thought, until I hit the 2 mile mark at 12:10. The third mile was flat and fast, and once again I tried to slow up a little. I did manage to slow down to 6:10, hitting the 3 mile marker at 18:20. I tried to hold that pace for mile four, figuring the little uphill at the end would help slow me down, but I crossed the 4 mile marker at 24:25, back down to my 6:05 pace. Well, that did not bode well for the fifth mile, which was the toughest, with a good half mile of it being uphill. I decided that if I could just manage to hold it together and manage a 6:30 for the last mile, I would still be ahead of my goal. Within three seconds of deciding that, I forgot about it and just ran hard. I passed a half-dozen people on the hill, turned onto Lakeside, and sprinted into the gate as the sign clicked 30:37. I remember my thought as I crossed the line. "That better f*cking be the fastest time in my age group."
I grabbed a water and thanked the volunteers, jogged to my car to get my camera and warm-up jacket, then headed back to the finish line to try to get photos of Lisa and John. I don't know how I managed to do it, but I missed John when he crossed with a remarkable time of 42:34. I think I was distracted by the three running Elvises. I also missed Lisa who finished at 63:17, quite impressive for her first race. I checked the Results the next day, and found that John was 47th of 118 in the age group, and Lisa finished ahead of 10 women in her age group. And I was relieved to find that, in fact, I did have the 'fastest f*cking time in my age group."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another Week Full of Good Runs

Here are my training miles, totaling 68.5 for the week. Again this week, for Tuesday's intervals I did 6 x 100 stride-outs followed by 6 x 800's with 200 recoveries. And once again, it was a very cold and dark, with no one around. This time there was the bonus of a fresh snow cover on the track to slow down my turn-over and conceal the lane lines. My 800 times were about where I wanted them to be (2:57, 3:00, 3:00, 3:00, 3:03, 2:53), but it took more effort than those numbers indicate. For the tempo run on Thursday, I followed the same hilly route as I ran last Thursday. Down into the valley, along the canal tow path, then up Rockside Road and up Brecksville Road. That's 2.5 miles of steep uphill grade.

Saturday was fun. We ran the Turkey Trail (that's what Steve G. called it), going southwest from Lock 29. There was about six inches of snow covering the ground, hiding the stumps, branches, rocks, etc. We had a few runners stumble and tumble. Luckily, and I mean that, I managed to stay upright for the entire run. I felt good enough to add a little kick at the end and run the last mile in 6:30. An image of our route is shown below. For anyone interested, I post the satellite images and stats for the Lock 29 runs on the SERC website every week.
The temperature on Sunday when I left the house was 10 degrees F. Despite that, it was a gorgeous morning. I watched the orange sun rise in a cloudless blue sky over the snow-covered landscape. It was a beautiful scene. I ran the first hour alone, then joined the SERC group for another 12 miles. When I got home, Sue made a stack of sour milk pancakes which I topped with maple syrup (real maple syrup, not the corn syrup imitation maple Mrs. Butterwothless stuff.) After that, I watched West Ham take all three points from Sunderland, then switched to the Browns v. Houston American-style football game. As most hardened Browns fans, I expect a loss until the game starts, then for reasons I cannot explain, I begin to believe we can win. Of course, that seldom happens, but that's the mysterious paradox of Browns fandom.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Studded Winter Shoes for $1.29

Winter has arrived in northeast Ohio, and looks to be settling in comfortably for a long visit. Weeks ago, I broke out of storage all of my winter gear: gloves, knit hats, balaclavas, thermal tights, wicking under layers, weatherproof shells, etc. I checked my 'winterized' running shoes and decided they had seen their last good miles. Time to select another pair to 'winterize' from among the shoes in the current rotation.

When hard-packed snow makes roads icy and dangerous, even trail shoes will not give you good traction. If you want to run safely under those conditions, you can buy a pair of spiked winter shoes like the New Balance 921, which cost about $150. They work well, and I would never discourage you from buying a pair if that price doesn't bother you. At about $20 a pair, you could opt for slip on traction contraptions like YakTrax. I've tried these, and they provide excellent traction, but they are a bit bulky and add a lot of weight to your running shoes. Also, they are prone to wear out under the mileage distance runners put on them. The last pair I bought didn't make it through February.

There is another alternative that adds little weight and no bulk to your shoes, and costs only about a dollar.

If you're a typically obsessive/compulsive runner like me (don't deny it), you have a few dozen pairs of shoes that are not in your current rotation, but which you cannot bring yourself discard or recycle. So, select the best pair from among these, chase out any critters that may be nesting in them, knock the clumps of dirt and stones from them, and take them down to the workbench.

Get out the variable speed drill. Don't even try to tell me you don't have one of these. (If you don't, you can use a screw-driver, but you will have taken all of the fun out of this little project and you will feel very lame.) Go to the cabinet and get a couple dozen hex washer head #6 or #8 x 3/8 inch zinc plated sheet metal screws (not the ones with the self-tapping points.) If you don't have these either, stop by the local hardware, say 'Hi' to Frank in the fasteners aisle, and ask for his help. You may want to buy a few extra. That way, when you drop one or two on the floor and they roll under the workbench, you don't have to crawl on the floor and move out all the paint cans and scraps of wood to find them.

You are going to drive about a dozen screws into each shoe, but let's start with just one. Don't worry about the pattern just yet, but be careful to drive each screw into the tread, not the space between the tread. They will be more effective in giving you traction that way. Another reason is so the points don't come through the bottom of the shoe and into your foot. If you do this, the blood will stain your socks, and also wolves will be able to follow the trail of blood.

When driving the screws into the shoe, use the lowest speed and watch carefully. Stop as soon as the screw head shoulders up to the bottom of the shoe. If you continue to drive the screw beyond this point, the screw will spin and remove material from the shoe, drilling a nice little hole from which the screw will fall after you take three steps. Then you will have just a hole. This hole won't help your traction, now will it? it won't.

Usually, I drive four screws into the heal. If you are a mid-foot striker (shame on you if you're not), you'll find these come into play mostly on the downhills. You can scatter the rest of the screws randomly, or in whatever pattern you find aesthetically pleasing.

There. That's it. How long did that take...maybe ten minutes? Keep in mind that these shoes are to be reserved for running on snow-covered or icy roads, otherwise you will quickly wear down the screw heads, and you will sound tap-dancing troupe out for a run.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Recapping Monday through Sunday

This is a brief blog, not particularly entertaining, more of a simple review of my training for the week past with minimal commentary. (If you'd prefer something more lively, filled with photos, videos, and funny dialogue, you could try this one.)

The numbers are as shown to the right, totaling 67 miles for the week.
The intervals were 6 x 100 stride-out followed by 6 x 800's at around 2:55 to 3:00 pace, with 200 recovery. Note the absences of a tempo run, which should have been on Thursday. I forgot my Garmin and didn't have any way of timing the run, so I am reluctant to call it a 'tempo', but it was a good run. I've been trying to mix up my running routine, try different routes and explore new areas to keep it interesting. I've already added a few new wrinkles, heading due west on Pleasant Valley to Broadview and back. Also, Mark G. said there is a route leading down into the valley from the cemetery at Rockside and Brecksville, so I'll try to find it this week.
Nothing else significant to report. No injuries, only the usual areas of pain here and there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Muddy 14.3, Snowy 16.3, Grungy 26.2

Nearly every Saturday morning, usually around 8:00, you can find a group of mostly SERC runners at Lock 29 in Peninsula, gathering for our run through the woods. These are consistently my favorite runs of the week. Although we always start and end at the same point, each run is unique. We following different paths, or at times we seem to lose the path entirely. The weather and seasons change. The flora and fauna follow those cycles. For example, as the trees lose their leaves, the views change, the horizon opens up and the sky gets bigger. This Saturday, thanks to rain that fell overnight, the ground was covered with wet leaves, making for slippery footing and concealing rocks, stumps, and branches. There were a few close calls, and Steve Hawthorne took a nasty fall. His knee was bloody, but otherwise he was OK. Where it wasn't slippery, it was mucky. I nearly lost a shoe at one point. Still, it was a fun run. As usual, I wore my Garmin 305, and was able to download a satellite image of the route, with the time distance, and elevation stats as shown below.
From August through April, I usually skip the post run brunch with the group so I can get home in time for the football (soccer here in the USA) broadcasts from England. This week, I was so hungry after the run, I decided to stay. We went to Fishers Cafe, an institution in Peninsula. Since some of the usuals were away for the weekend at various races, there were only five of us: Dave K,. Dave P., Connie G. and her young friend Patrick, and me. I'm glad I stayed, because I rarely get to talk with Connie. She is among the best ultra runners in the USA, and she has lots of great stories, including her recent trip to Italy for an international ultra competition.

On Sunday, I ran with a sparse SERC group in Solon. I put in a few early miles in the snow, and tagged on a few after to get to 16.3 miles. I am trying to follow (loosely) Pfitzinger's plan, and he recommends that I run my long runs slower than I have been, so I tried to stay around the 8:00 to 8:10 mile/hr pace. I ended up with an average of 8:09 minute miles. After I got home, I had big bowl of delicious French onion soup, and a muffin with currant jelly, and a cup of coffee.

I gave more thought to my plans for 2009. I have been looking for other races, before and after Boston, that I would like to run. I decided I'll run the Youngstown Mill Creek Half-Marathon as a Boston tune-up in March. It's a good race at the right time, with lots of hills, perfect for a Boston prep race. Still, I wanted to decide on a late spring or early summer marathon. I did Cleveland last year, and I might still do it this year, but it falls only a month after Boston, and I don't think I can give it my best. Besides, I don't want to get into a groove (or rut) of running Boston then Cleveland every year. So, I decided to sign-up for the Seattle Marathon on June 27th. Sue and I want to see our son Alex and his girlfriend Kalena, so this will be more of a vacation that a marathon trip. And I am already excited about running in Seattle; It'll be a new adventure. The route takes us from downtown, across the floating bridge to Mercer Island and back. This should be a great run. Anyone else want to go?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Wasteland of Novempril

I need to get out of the wasteland of Novempril (November to April) where no races happen, the weather turns uglier and uglier, and training miles seem to have no point. Even finding a reason to blog is difficult. Its been a week since I last wrote, and I'll warn you now that I don't have much to say in this one, so I'll probably babble on about something trivial and uninteresting. In case I do, I have included possibly the cutest 'kitten playing' type video on the web ever, which you should feel free to view rather than actually reading my blog.

Are you back with me yet? (That kitten is so cute.) Here's what I 've run in the week since I last posted. We did a slightly mucky group run from Lock 29 on Saturday, 12 miles through the woods. It was a fun morning. The next day, I did what I thought was 12 miles in Solon with the SERC group, but it turned out to be only 11.5. Slacker. I'll make up for it thie weekend. Monday was my recovery run, althought I don't feel like I did enough over the weekend to actually need a recovery. Tuesday at the track was very bleak. It is now dark when I arrive. There was only one other runner there, Tim C., and although he had been there for a while, he stayed and ran 3.5 warm-up miles with me before departing. So there I was, all alone on a cold, dark track, wondering why I was about to put myself through another interval session. I could have blown it off, this being Novpril, and no one would know or care. Then I remembered some advice I had given to someone, years ago. Work hard when no one is watching. It was just enough motivation to get my head back into the speed work. I did 6 x 100 stride outs, followed by 6 x 800 intervals. In rereading Pfitzinger, I noticed that I had been running my intervals faster than he recommended. Based on my target marathon, I should probably be running at about a 6:05 to 6:10 minute mile pace, but I have been in the 5:50's, even 5:40's. So, I tried to rein it in just a little on these 800. My times were as follow: 2:55, 2:55, 2.59, 2:53, 3:03, 2:54. I did not back off as much as I should have, but I will keep at it. (If you have not dozed off yet, this might be a good time to replay the kitten video.)
On Wednesday at lunch I ran a familiar loop, going east down into the valley, then north on the towpath, then west on Hillside up out of the valley, then south on Brecksville Road, and east on Pleasant Valley. On Thursday, I started out the same way, but instead of turning at Hillside, I continued on the towpath to Rockside, then out of the valley and back, making for another 2.25 miles. It's a good run, one that I might be doing more often in the coming months.


Good luck to the SERC's running the Richmond Marathon on Saturday: e-speed, Eileen M., Paul R., and Barb B.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chilling Thoughts of Long Cold Winter Runs

I received a lovely postcard from my friends at the Boston Athletic Association. Just friendly note from them to say, 'Hello', 'How've you been?', 'We'd love to have you join us again for that little marathon-thingy we do every April.' Of course, I paraphrase. Here are their actual words.

I hate to disappoint...they're such nice people...and it was such fun last year, so I guess I'll do it again.

The search for a room in the back bay area is not going well. I've tried all of the guest houses in the area, and all are fully booked for marathon weekend. A few of the area hotels have rooms available, but the rates are crazy, $279 to $600 a night. I'm going to have to look for a place further from town, as close as possible to public transportation.


An painful dental issue cut into my mileage this week. Sunday afternoon, one of my wisdom teeth began aching. By Sunday night, it was too painful to allow me to sleep. On Monday, my dentist was able to squeeze me in during my lunch hour. He determined that we should yank that sucker out. So, he gave me a shot of Novocaine, clamped down on it and gave it a big tug. POP! Really, it wasn't too bad. Later that afternoon, the Novacaine wore off and I was having trouble concentrating. By the time I left work around five o'clock, the hole in my jaw did not feel too good. I was in no condition to go for a run, and in fact, I had to skip my Tuesday run as well. I felt bad about that since Tuesday is speed-work day, so on Wednesday, when I was feeling a bit better, I did the hilliest 8.5 mile tempo run I have ever done, and managed to average a 7:10 pace. On Thursday, I backed off a bit and did 5.5 miles at a moderate pace.

By the way, I still haven't decided what I am going to do with the five and a half months between now and Boston. I did begin rereading my copy of "Advanced Marathoning", and I am seriously considering making a commitment to the 'More than 70 Miles per Week' schedule. It is a 24 week program (so I am already behind schedule), and would require a ridiculous amount of training through the fabulous northeast Ohio winter. Makes me giddy to think of it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Well...Now What?

Without another major race on the horizon until the Boston Marathon

I'm confronted with a training dilemma. I don't want to lose the fitness I've worked so hard to develop, but I don't want to push too hard without a break and risk injury or burn-out. I think I need to do some research and find out what the experts recommend.
I'll start by reread my copy of Pfitzinger's "Advanced Marathoning". This is my primary reference for advice on nutrition, training, pacing, etc. I will also review the information on the Hal Higdon marathon training website. I was very happy to meet and talk with Hal at the Chicago marathon expo, and I told him thanks for all the free advice on his website. He, of course, reminded me that I could subscribe to the interactive training coach for a small monthly fee. I don't blame him for trying to sell, after all very few marathon runners actually get to make a living at it. Somehow, over then next few days, I'll need to decide on a training plan and get back on track.
It's time to say 'good-bye' to Halloween and all things Octoberish, and say 'Come on in and pull up a chair' to November's turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes. Here are my mileage totals for October. Nothing particularly noteworthy about any of the numbers, except that I did not take any time off after Chicago. I felt very comfortable doing 48 miles the week after the marathon, then 58 miles the following week. It seems that the more marathons you run, and the more quality training miles you do in preparation, the better you will feel after the race. Ill try to keep my mileage up through the winter, even if I cannot find another marathon before Boston. The October totals do not show my biking miles because they were insignificant. I think I rode my bike only twice last month, for about 30 miles total. The colder weather and shorter days have contributed by making it very difficult to ride to work. I did go for a nice ride on Saturday, about 25 miles, but beautiful days like that are going to be very rare for here until Spring.