Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Answers on a postcard!

Oh what to do. This seems to be the week of open letter advice quests; both RunnerGirl and Relenting Runner both asked questions of their readers so in the “if you can’t beat them join them style” here we go. But first the prelude.

As you may have read last weeks half marathon trail race was canceled due to poor air quality leaving me with nothing much on the agenda race-wise; I have the Calabasas Classic 5 + 10k, I was going to run both for a total of 9.3 miles, on November 11 and the XTerra Topanga Turkey Trot 15k on the 25th. I was cruising along the information superhighway when I crashed into Cal Ultra Runners, oh how very cool, a site geographically specific to me and other “nut jobs” as a friend of mine put it “who want to run a weeks worth of mileage in a day”, and lo-and-behold I found the Pacific Coast Trail Runners who have a race on November 18th around Point Mugu, where I was on October 6th. They have various flavors; 9k, 18k, 30k and 50k, now in mileage terms that’s 5.59, 11.18, 18.64 and 31.07 - catchy distances! Anyway this is where the dilemma unfolds, do I run the 30k or the 50k. I am not in a training plan at the moment, I have delayed the start of my 50m plan until the mid November, based on what happened this year I want to avoid the possible repeat of over-training and I would sooner go into the race a couple of weeks under trained than over-trained. So with that in mind I really have been running distances that feel comfortable. Coming off the back end of my ITB issues I got my long run up to around 20 miles before having the stomach flu and then avoiding exercise due to poor air quality from the wildfires, recent distances have been around the 12-14 mile mark three or so times a week with no real problems. I am confident that the 30k is doable but the lure of the 50k is great especially after missing the Bulldog 50k in August also what appeals is the following from the PCTR website:

...."PCTR events are designed to encourage the enjoyment of trail running and emphasize personal achievement."

So it's sort of a race, kind of, which means no real pressure. Based on my previous times projected finish for the 30k would be a 3-3:30 and for the 50k a 5-6:00 this may seem long but there is a significant elevation gain 3200' and 5490' respectively and it is a trail not road run. They, PCTR, are offering support stations but I am not sure about drop bags. I am so tempted…what would you do? Answers on a postcard...well actually in the comments section please!

P.S. My Nike+ buddy Monk_Monkey is running her first 50 miler this Saturday; the ORCC Autumn Leaves Run, so I am sending all my good luck to the Pacific Northwest this weekend, I know she'll do great!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

There's no fire without smoke!

Finally the Santa Ana winds have stopped. This gives firefighters a much deserved break and will allow some cooler air to move inland from the ocean; today’s high was 94F tomorrows forecast is 78F. What remains now is the smoke in the air, the air quality is really quite bad, it is very deceptive because you cannot really see anything, although right now the moon has an orange tinge to it instead that granite white that we usually see, the photo to the left was taken yesterday afternoon and while today's sky was a lot clearer a lot of the particulate matter still remains. I did venture out this morning for an hour and once you start breathing deeply you can actually taste the badness.

You can see that the Air Quality Management District for Southern California rates the air quality for today and Friday as “Unhealthy” and according to their press release today "everyone should avoid all vigorous exertion, indoors or out".

I received the email as promised from the organizers of this weekends race advising us that this weekend event in Boney Mountain has been postponed, I am not really surprised and to be honest I am a little relieved, my recent stomach flu took a little more out of me than I thought and the thought of racing 13.1 miles with an elevation gain in excess of 2500’ was going to be a little challenging. So this weekend I'll confine myself to the treadmill and focus on regaining some of my base that was lost over the last two weeks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Southern California Wildfires

It may not have escaped you notice that Southern California is currently under siege from over a dozen wildfires. The San Fernando Valley, and in particular the Northern end where I live, is surrounded to the East by the fires in Canyon Country and to the West by the fires in Malibu; home of my grad school alma mater; Pepperdine University. Despite living within a half mile of Victory Trailhead, which has been closed and is an access point into the Santa Monica Mountains, we have be spared any damage, we are however now victims of the resulting smoke. The sky to the East is obliterated with a thick black layer of smoke which turns the sky umber orange as the sun sets. The photo you see here I took from just down our street. Several local schools have been closed due to the high level of air pollution and the smoke is acting as a layer of insulation and is blanketing the heat in, as I write this at 8:30pm the thermometer on our porch reads 89F.

On the subject of air pollution I received an email from the Race Director of this weekend’s half marathon, Number 2 in the Xtrerra SoCal Trail Series at Boney Mountain, giving me a heads-up that they may have to postpone the race until air quality improves, they will make an announcement Thursday at noon. The short term weather forecasts that the Santa Ana winds will die down in the next 24 hours allowing the cooler ocean air to come inland and reduce the temperatures, they are forecasting possible rain at the weekend which will obviously help the firefighters and home owners in the affected and threatened areas. It will remain to be seen how quickly the smoke dissipates. Here's a satellite picture from Monday showing the smoke's footprint along the west coast.

Overall the devastation is hard to comprehend, due to the geological landscaping and the southland’s concerns over earthquakes most houses are built with a timber frame and nearly all are sided in timber, changes to building code that require materials to be used that have a higher fire retardant characteristics are due to come into effect but not until 2008 and 2009; too late for so many. As of writing this there are 18 fires ranging from Santa Barbara south to the Mexican border, San Diego and its surrounding areas are particularly affected, and as far East as Lake Arrowhead, over 800,000 people have been evacuated including mawz76 a fellow Nike+ runner from Fallbrook. Over 1000 homes have been burnt and at the last count the total acreage on fire exceeds 430,000, to put that in perspective a football field (including the in zones) is roughly an acre. Current estimates show at least half a billion dollars in damage and President Bush has declared a state of emergency in California, releasing much needed financial assistance to the state. Wondermom24, again a Nike+ runner is surrounded on three sides in La Mirada and likens the orange atmosphere to something from a sci-fi movie. Jessica in Orange County (OC) and a runner with the OCTR has seen several of her local trails go up in flame. Addy has friends and family in OC and is keeping a nervous eye on the news. There are another two months left in this year's fire season before Winter and we can start to think about the real possibility of rain in any substantial volume or on a regular basis, of course with so much devastation to the vegetation the next concern will be soil erosion and mudslides. The fires are so widespread it is hard to not know someone who has been affected; this part of the world is beautiful in many ways but can be so cruel in others.

My thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected and the brave souls who stand on the fire-line.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Warning. Enter at your own Risk!

Well a week has passed since being signed off by my PT and I have spent much of it in the smallest room in our house. The opening salvo of biological warfare brought home by our son from his germ mongering friends at pre-school has turned into an ongoing terroristic war of attrition, just when you think it is safe to poke your head up over the trench wall another salvo is let loose in you general direction! I am hoping that the currently enjoyed lull in hostilities is the precursor to a cease fire and that I am on the mend, mind you I have already been the victim of two broken truces. Hopefully I can don my running shoes and head out again, maybe over the weekend, dear God I hope so, I am starting to suffer from Cabin (for want of a better name for the room) Fever!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Appliance of Science

Two weeks ago I paid a visit to Diaz Human Performance for a VO2 Max and RMR test. The thinking behind getting them done was to establish a baseline of fitness prior to starting on my winter training program. I have discussed the RMR results in the Through th3 Wall Challenge post and there is nothing overly confusing with the figures although I am still surprised with the recommended level of caloric intake; 3074, still, as I am trying to lose some weight and some body fat using that number should help me achieve those goals. The only additional comments I can add were that the RMR revealed that my physiologiological makeup has left me predisposed to Type IIa and Type IIb or Fast Twitch; after some discussion about my sporting history my natural predisposition was further highlighted; track and field; long and triple jump, rugby and field hockey – all of which call for short sharp bursts of speed, although my best 1500 meters time from Secondary (High) school I remember as being in the five minute range, of course that was *** cough cough *** years ago. Of course this all bodes for some interesting times ahead as I look to extend my distance once again to the Marathon and beyond.

For the VO2 Max test I was strapped up in a face mask akin to a test pilot and was set off walking in a treadmill, the pace built up over 12 minutes until I was at a flat out sprint or at least until I was unable to breath and run at the same time, I signaled enough with a thumbs down.

After catching my breath we discussed the results. I “blew” a 49.5 ml/kg/min – what does that mean? Well to start the test measures the maximum capacity to transport and utilize oxygen during incremental exercise. For an age grouper like myself this result is classed as "Superior", world class male athletes, cyclists and cross-country skiers typically exceed 80 ml/kg/min and a rare few may exceed 90 ml/kg/min. Here are some people you might have heard of and their results:

• Steve Prefontaine, 84.4
• Jeff Galloway, 73.0
• Frank Shorter, 71.3

My result can be improved on over time and this test has provided me with a solid baseline from which to build. It is suggested that the test is repeated every 12-16 weeks, this will place me half way through my winter training plan and will allow me time to make any adjustments as needed. I have some more reading and research to do to full translate the results and apply them to my training plan which officially starts on October 21st. As they say watch this space.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dare to be inspired!

Typically I am not one for gratuitous embeds from YouTube, to me it just smacks of laziness, however with this IronMan Hawaii, this is definitely one of the best videos I have seen, it’s enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and make you lace up your running shoes, clip in your pedals or rinse out your goggles!

Do I aspire to become a triathlete, maybe one day, would I like to do an IronMan, well if you to do something do it big, first though I need to overcome one major hurdle; I have the swimming characteristics of a very large stone!

Good luck to everyone this weekend, enjoy the video.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The road to recovery...Pt 11 (Journey's end!)

Well today was my last day of PT, I am officially signed off, fit for duty and ready to go; uphill, downhill, sprints, intervals etc, I cannot express my gratitude enough to the crew at Blake Physical Therapy, they have, as the t-shirt they presented me with, re-built me! I did in fact cheat earlier this week knowing that I had the last appointment today and put in a quick set of sprints resulting in the fastest mile split of 6:33, yay! Of course the latest and greatest news is that my son and his germ-factory school-friends have decided to fire of the opening salvo of Biological warfare and share a nice case of the stomach flu with everyone round here; the upshot of this is that the house now looks like a scene from the Crimean War, although we are somewhat lacking on the Florence Nightingale front. I curtailed this mornings 12 miler after 7, after my stomach and head colluded to just overwhelm me and it was a there ‘n back rather than a loop; discretion being the greater part of valor. So here is a list the lessons learned during my 10 weeks of recovery:
  • Stretching; stretching is your friend, do it before you run, do it after you run, do it in line at the bank…just do it!
  • Include the above into your “run time”, I now bookend each and every run with 20 minutes of stretching, once you add the extra time in you can calculate the whole workout time and you can plan your day accordingly.
  • Cross train: stretching’s best friend; running concentrates all your efforts in several keys areas; hamstrings, calves etc redress this balance by working on your quads and other muscle groups; cycling, weights and swimming are all good options.
  • You don’t have to run everyday, cross training keeps you fresh and helps avoid the hidden trap door of overtraining.
  • Core work; keep your core in check and you core will keep you in check.
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune in gym memberships or on equipment; a bike, swiss-ball, dumb-bells, exercise mat, foam roller, ankle weights and a stretching strap are all you need…well ok you do need to spend some money but think of it as an investment.

I’ll still be taping my knees for the foreseeable future especially with the trail runs I have coming up, some of it is preventative and some is psychosomatic…but hey whatever works!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Through th3 Wall Challenge...Iron Wil's will will hopefully rub off on me!

Newly crowned IronMan Iron Wil over at Through th3 Wall has thrown down the Gauntlet! The Through th3 Wall Challenge; the goal -losing the most body fat and gaining the most muscle by January 1, 2008, the prize - a Podiumquest hydration system and 9 tubes of NUUN! Well actually the prize it the goal but SWAG is always welcome! A lot of people will be using challenge to avoid the pitfalls of Thanksgiving and Christmas during the off season, in addition to that it is actually going to work really well for me as due to my injury during the Summer resulting in best part of two months off and forced me to miss my target 3:30 marathon in San Francisco, my revised season has me shooting for a 50k run; Calico Trail in January, a marathon; Los Angeles in March, and a 50 mile run; Leona Divide in April.

Superheroben at BuckeyeOutdoors is helping out and has created a challenge section, this is great for me as I already use Buckeye as my training log and I hate to retype the same data into various places.

To start I had to take a load of measurements, conduct some strength tests, calculate my Basel Metabolic Rate, the number of calories (kcal) I need just to breathe everyday, oh yes and the dreaded “before” photo. I have to admit to being one step ahead of the game here having had a RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) test conducted 10 days ago at DHP, this is not so accurate as a BMR but will suffice for this exercise. So here are the numbers:


  • Chest 38”
  • Waist 33”
  • Upper Thigh 22”
  • Bicep 11½”
  • Calf 15”

Weight statistics:

  • Weight 174lbs
  • Bodyfat 16% (using a Tanita Innerscan 534), this saved me a whole hours worth of headache creating mathematics and is a 5% increase from June and pre-injury!


My RMR test revealed the following:

  • My Resting Energy requirement is 1915 calories a day, as mentioned this is the number of calories I need just to blink a few times a day and breath
  • My Lifestyle and Activity requirement is 573, this is the number of calories I need in addition to my Resting Energy for things like; working, walking to the car and eating etc
  • The Exercise requirement is 293 calories based on 30 minutes of moderate exercise, Richard Diaz estimated based on the fact that (1) I rarely exercise for 30 minutes and (2) nothing I do is moderate, estimated that I could conservatively double this on a workout day

So in summary the caloric input I need on a workout day is in total a whopping 3074!

I still have to carry out strength and rep tests, which I will do tonight/tomorrow and add them in. Right now I am about a week behind the curve mainly due to getting things ready for the new arrival, who is due next week....goodbye old body - hello new PR

Monday, October 8, 2007

XTerra Trail Run; #1 Point Mugu...thrills in the hills!

Well the first race of the fall, the first post, well almost post, recovery and the first on the road to Leona Divide. The XTerra Trail Run; SoCal Series #1; Point Mugu. Anyone who has driven along Pacific Coast Highway around Malibu and Ventura will have seen the rather imposing ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains rising from sea level to, well today it was just over 1100'. The race started from the parking lot at the start of La Jolla Canyon; two distances were scheduled, an 11k and an 18k; I was running the 18k. The start was delayed as Search & Rescue had not reached their appointed positions, always good to have S&R on hand! The briefing advised us that there was little risk of rattlesnakes but to be careful for the Poison Oak; things were getting better! One aid station had been nixed but water and gels would be available at the next, we were recommended to carry our own water etc; I had come prepared with a UD Fastdraw bottle full of Accelerade. We were also advised that due to the need to announce to runners that you needed to pass it was to be an iPod, MP3 etc free race, I packed my headphones but set up the Nike+ to start so I could record the mileage. The canyon was starting to warm up as the suns rays broke through over the ridgeline. At a little before 9:00am the siren sounded, closely followed by a chorus of beeps as Garmin Forerunners' and the like were started, and several hundred runners (there was a limit of 300 entries) crossed the start line.

The tarmac path quickly ended and we were fed into a single track path that wound its way along the canyon bottom, several dry river crossings forced the pace to a walk and then a halt as we were funneled into the bottle necks until we reached the first uphill; a windy path that cut up the side of the canyon with multiple switchbacks, we had been told that at mile 1 we would be going up the first hill, we climbed 300' for a distance of about 50 yards and another 295’ of elevation during the mile. The trail wound its way further up the hill giving us some great view of the Pacific Ocean with the sun glinting off it as the waves crashed below on the beach. I reached the mile 2 marker in 23:11, splits: mile 1; 12:52 and 2; 10:19, hardly flying but by this stage I had climbed a total of 995' and there was more to come. By the third mile marker I had another 508' under my belt and another 12:20 on the clock; 3 miles in 35:31, to put things in perspective my “on the flat” 5k personal best is 20:47; I was somewhat off that pace! I had guestimated on a 10 minute mile pace as an average but I was forced to a walk during the third mile, my heart rate during this mile; 184bpm. We finally topped out and headed inland across a rolling plateau that had nice tough scratchy bushes predominantly at shin height but there was also several that were determined to whip off your visor or sunglasses. miles 4, 5 and 6 were over in a flash, 8:41, 8:57 and 8:42 respectively and during the sixth mile I took a Crank gel, I opted for this over my usual CarbBOOM! or Accel Gel as it is 150% their size and I only wanted to carry the one.

We left the rolling plateau and headed onto a fire road which contoured round the mountainside finally finding the steepest point, at least it seemed like it, to summit and cross over into the next valley, this was the highest elevation we would reach today; 1150' and it was downhill all the way; well more or less, total elevation gain 3076' in 7.5 miles, mile 7's pace sank backward to 11:25, one of the "or less" miles and my third slowest mile after miles bsl1 and 3. At this point I broke away from several other runners who I had been playing cat'n'mouse with and made a dash for the downhill. Mile 8 and mile 9 had us rounding switchbacks left and right and precariously overtaking other runners with drop-offs of hundreds of feet down through cactus fields’ only inches from the edge of our shoes. I have to say the etiquette was very impressive and the merest deep breath from behind had the runner in front moving to one side to allow you to pass. By this time we were being teased with the occasional glimpse of the starting parking lot which was also held the finish line.

My pace was picking up and I overtook several runners who had passed me earlier as well as others that were on the 11k route; Mile 8; 8:21, and 9; 8:15. The one remaining runner; a German women with a solid pace and work ethic who had dragged me up over the high point and who I had then overtaken from the cat'n'mouse group was in hot pursuit, shouting at from behind to actually go faster downhill, and out politeness I obliged. At this point I was racking my brains mathematically as exactly how far in miles 18k was, I concluded just under 11, so I had less than 2 to go. Mile 10 rushed by in 6:59, several occasions I felt my shoes losing their purchase on the single track and with arms flailing I regained balance and continued down the hill. Mile 11 or at least the 0.92 of it to the finish line was a blistering 6:11; maxing out my heart rate at 191bpm. A cruelly placed final dry river crossing about 20 yards from the finish threw many off, myself included, their stride and I jumped up the rock covered bank and crossed to finish line in more of a stumbling than sprint finish. I managed to keep my pursuer at bay and she crossed the finish line only seconds or even tenths of a second behind me, we shook hands, congratulated and thanked each other. Medal, water, time strip torn off the race number and before you know I was out of the chute and lining up for scrambled eggs, muffins and coffee – well, hell, I’d earned it.

I caught up with some of the runners from the cat'n'mouse group and we chatted over the course and the upcoming Long Beach Marathon next weekend and the second race in the Xterra series later this month; compared to my previous experience of post race mingling which has been from road races, trail runners are a very friendly bunch. I hung around for the post race announcements and results, from memory I came in 61st in the men’s out of about 115 and 10th in my age out of 20; I'll confirm and change as required when they go live.

(10/8/07 Quick update; final time 1:44:16 Mens 61/125. Age Group 16/34. Overall 61/139. I really am a mid pack runner!)

My Forerunner time: 1:43:16 a 9:19 pace, better than I had hoped for but one with plenty of room for improvement. The great news is that my knees and hips were and as of writing this pain free.

Unfortunately I did not take a camera, but I did stop on the side of the road on the way home and take a snap shot of the 'Point', see above and to the right a snap of the spoils. Here's the MotionBased data with all the day's highs and lows;

Monday, October 1, 2007

Up and Running...well almost.

Well September drew to a close, Summer is ending, well as much as it ever ends in Southern California, temperatures are still averaging around 80F although there is a definite nip in the air when I am usually heading out the door at 5am and it takes a good couple of miles to get the blood flowing.

Talking of miles September has seen a real turnaround, my mileage is almost back to pre-injury level; I closed out September with 143.22 miles under my belt, somewhat of an improvement over my injury riddled "no-running" month of August; 13 miles and my “I am heading towards injury” July; 54 miles. My long run is back into the high teens; 19.46 (Nike+) 19.20 (FR 305) and I have my first fall race this weekend. I have two more PT sessions, but I am stretching regularly at home and maintaining my strengthening routine as well as cycling for cross training. My Hal Higdon program starts in three weeks and with all things crossed I will be back up and running (pun intended) proper by the start of November. In anticipation of that I paid a visit to Diaz Human Performance lab in Camarillo for a Vo2 and RMR tests last weekend, more on that later.