Monday, December 31, 2007

That was the year that was...

As my bio states I have always been a runner sometimes off and sometimes on. The recent ‘on’ has been going since 2004, when after moving back from NYC to Los Angeles I decided that I really did need to loose those 45lbs gained in the big apple! So I laced up my shoes and headed out, 15 minutes in one direction and turn around, by the end of 2006 I had dropped 55lbs and was running 25 miles a week and could often be seen pushing my son in the stroller for our “long run” run on a Sunday morning along the beach path.

Well it was one year ago today that I set my sights on a 3:30 marathon; alas it was not to be. The closest I got was a 3:45:09, close but no cigar. However like the horizon as the year moved so did the goals, while I still harbor a desire for a 3:30 or better yet a Boston Qualifier (3:20) those targets, have for the moment, been replaced with lengthier ones.

The birth of this blog, in February, was as a result of a Nike+ challenge created by a fellow runner (Nike+ ID Snowcrash) called the Quadrathlon, four events; 1 mile, 5k, 10k and most miles accumulated during the month, with a scoring system designed to calculate the overall winner, the challenge is still going strong and celebrates its one year anniversary in January 2008. This blogs original purpose was as somewhere to post the results, however, it soon became my personal cathartic vehicle on my running adventures which are contained within these electronic ones and ohs.

So the summary for the year. I will spare you the high and low lights in any great length, but here’s a quick list, all of which are written about in excruciating detail in this blog:

  • Ran a sub 100 minute Half Marathon; 1:37:32 Wine Country Half Marathon
  • Completed first Marathon; 3:45:09 San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Finished first Ultra-Marathon PCTR Pt Mugu 50k 6:54:07
  • Missed both my ‘A’ race; San Francisco Marathon and ‘B1’ race; Bulldog 50k
  • Ran and biked the equivalent of traveling across the continental United States; 1650 miles ran, 710 biked, total 2360
  • Was injured for ten weeks with ITB syndrome
  • Turned 40 and experienced the joy of the birth of our second son
  • Learned more about running, cross training, stretching, nutrition, hydration and running gadgets than I knew existed!
  • Made a ton of new virtual friends, many of which welcomed me and some I welcomed into the world of early mornings, late nights, intervals, fartleks, Garmin data, RSS feeds, splits, pace, results, successes and disappointments that we all run towards

Looking forward to 2008, my goals are simple to state but difficult to achieve but I know that my RBFs and the communities that I visit as well as my family and friends will be there to support me (and no doubt sometimes question my sanity) as I attempt them.

So as this year draws to a close, as they always do, I wish each and everyone of you a successful 2008 may your goals be achieved and your horizons a little closer.

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Year = New Fuel

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a bit of a nutrition/ hydration nerd. My rationale is that there is no excuse for not taking control of these things as there are so many other things that can go wrong; it’s about minimizing the odds.

As I am sure you all know; if you are running or cycling or exercising at any intensity for more than an 60 minutes you should be refueling on the fly…you do know that right?!?

All this year I have been using Accelerade and EndoroxR4 as my primary source of during and post exercise nutrition/hydration. As my supplies dwindled towards the end of November I decided to change. Two things prompted me to change, the first was the discovery that Accel Gel contains HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) and the second was that the taste of Accelerade had become decidedly too sweet for me, in fact a lot of foods seem to have taken on stronger flavors of late, I think this is a result of the Paleo diet which I have been following this month where I have eliminated all processed foodstuffs, salty snacks and sweets, my new snack of choice is an apple with a dollop of almond butter…yum!

Anyway I digress, having done a bit of research I decided to give Hammer Nutrition products a whirl. My preliminary conclusion; I am impressed. The flavors are flavorful but not sweet or strong, they are very gentle on your stomach; I have the constitution of a compost heap, but even so they are very palatable. My initial order was a tub of Perpetuem for during and Recoverite for post exercise, I also ordered a selection of gels. The package arrived promptly, they are located just up the west coast from me, and to my surprise contained a multitude of goodies; extra gels, gel bottle, sample sachets of Heed and electrolytes and energy bars as well as a newsletter and catalog. I am working through the “extras” but so far I am very impressed. The energy refueling has proven to be effective, I have two 20+ milers under my belt in the last 12 days and no sign of the wall. As mentioned they are very gentle on your stomach and very palatable.

If you fancy trying them, and I recommend you do, click on the above image and you'll be directed to “my page”, here you will receive a 15% discount on your order, in return I accumulate a percentage of your order towards my next order…hey that’s a win:win in my book.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Hills have ‘I’s Pt 2...I's losing my mind!

Last night was interval night and as per last week I ran the hill loop around my neighborhood, I knew I was going to be slower this week as despite my best efforts the holiday excess has taken a toll. More worrying was that I could not remember if I needed three loops or four; I would like to blame the alcohol but a glass and half of wine in a week is really not the culprit. Not to be one to scrimp I went for the latter. Whoops! The fourth lap was a killer and the time does not really illustrate the pain, but hey pain is just weakness leaving the body at least that’s what my old Sergeant Major used to tell me. The good news was that the downhill sections were faster but this I put down to the snowball effect, that is the rotund tum’ vs. gravity battle. Here are the numbers:

Tonight was Doug'sDay for tempo and I have my new tempo route but I also have the bodyaches /shivers/sore throat etc that precedes one of those stinker colds.

Honey & lemon, and off to bed! I'll pick up the slack tommorow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Just how fast is fast enough?

Last week I concluded that my weeks training will now comprise a tempo run, a set of intervals and a long run, what I have been pondering since then is the pace that these runs should be at. The interval run is relatively easy to calculate as I have substituted running one mile track intervals for hill intervals and I have a baseline set of numbers from last week to measure and gauge my improvement against. However this left the tempo and long run.

After some research I have uncovered three sites;, and that provide equivalent distance pace calculations based on the input of your time and distance. Using my 5k time of 20:47 from the Santa Monica Classic in May this year I have been given the following paces for my tempo run and long run as well as predicted times for the half and full marathon.

The tempo pace is at the moment a little beyond me but it gives me a target to aim at, the long run is also quicker but only by 20 seconds per mile, the marathon race pace of 7:36 for a 3:21 finish is a challenge as that would shave 24 minutes off my marathon finish time of 3:45, obviously that’s nearly a mile a minute faster…but that’s the whole point, right! Interestingly my half marathon PR is just under 2 minutes slower the predicted finish time at 1:37:32.

On another note I registered for the Calico Trail 50k in mid January, I posted on the California Ultra Runner message board if anyone had any tips etc and got the reply that it would be windy or cold or both! Not quite what I was expecting but better than hot, I had a look at the projected weather for January and the average temperature is predicted to be 61f, the record is 77f, the average is just fine for me!

Finally wishing everyone everywhere and especially all my RBFs and their families a happy and safe holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Keplunk, chink, chink...

What’s that strange noise you may ask? Well quite simply it is the sound of the penny dropping, thanks to Doug and his words of wisdom: “The only way to run (race) fast is to run (train) fast!”

Makes sense right, of course but you know sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees, but last night I went running with my chainsaw, metaphorically speaking. It was to be a one mile warm up, three mile tempo and 2 mile cool down, but I went out fast and kept going. Here are the numbers:

There is a slight anomaly with the first two laps, I obviously was not running at 20mph plus and a sub three minute mile! (Can you say which way to Beijing!), in fact what had happened was my Garmin was full! Yes apparently they fill up with laps, workouts, distance alerts and waypoints etc so I had to delete some on the fly. The average for the two miles is 7:20 which makes them the fastest two miles however mile one is always downhill so the average is not a fair representation of the distance but the point is made. The sharp drop off at the end is a walking cool down.

Other than that, oh and the head-on wind that seemed to be head-on no matter what direction I ran it was a great run, so as an amendment to the training schedule Thursdays are officially “Doug'sdays” and will be tempo based, it really only makes sense, now I have a: tempo run, a set of intervals and currently one, soon to be two long runs a week with cross training in between.

Sounds like a plan to me, cheers Doug, I owe you one!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Hills have "I"s

Yes, “I” for Intervals!

So yesterday I ran hill intervals, I actually live halfway up a hill and there is a good loop that I can run around. My schedule called for 3 one mile intervals which I thought would translate into 3 loops…it didn’t. By the time I got to the bottom, the start point, and run two loops, plus a little bit extra to return an errant dog, who thought it would be fun to follow me, back to it’s owner, I was in for 3.8 miles so I called it a day after two, and cooled down with a brisk walk up the hill to home to round out on a total of 4.2 miles. I am concious of not over doing it and over training something I flirted with earlier this year. I get to do three loops next week.

So the ups were, well, up, pretty lung busting but not vom-inducing and the downs, once I had warmed up, gave my quads a pretty good workout. I was definitely getting faster on each lap which leads me to conclude that I really wasn’t leaving it all out there; something else to work on. I manually set laps on my Garmin as per the climbs and descents, they look like this:

The actually profile of the run gave me a pretty wavy line; this is of course a very technical term! See image above. Total ascent was 951 feet, the actual climb lasts 330 feet and as you can see it lasts just under three quarters of a mile.

So now I have a benchmark upon which to start improving against.

One minor milestone for this run, I broke the 1500 mile mark for the year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

As Maverick said to Goose...

So it rained here yesterday…a lot. The are two fundamental problems with rain in Southern California; the first is that the roads have little or no drainage so the water tends to sit in large puddles by the side of the road; where I run and the second is that the typical LA driver who is typing on their Blackberry, while sipping on a decaf chai skimmed extra hot with no foam latte, while tuning in the GPS, shouting at the kids in the back and not actually being able to see anything that is less than 7’ tall in their ‘lifted’ Escalade, likes to go into a complete state of panic when it rains. I am really not sure if this is because they seriously do not know how to drive in the wet or it’s because their car is getting dirty after spending $150 having it's probably both!

Anyway what this meant was I was relegated to the treadmill. No problem thought I, my schedule called for 7 miles so it was going to be around an hour. I stretched and strapped on the usual gizmos; Garmin 305 and footpod and iPod/Nike+ and got going. Now during the last 5 months I have noticed that my pace has gotten slower and despite my gizmos I guess it had just not sunk in how slow I had actually become, it wasn’t until I glanced down at the dashboard that I realized I was plodding along at around a 9:30 mile! This is terrible I thought to myself, I increased the speed to 7mph or an 8:30 mile and to my surprise actually found that I had to work at it. I was shocked. The rest of the run I ran mile intervals between 8:30 and 9:30 with a penultimate mile of 7:41, with some aural support from the The Prodigy, until I had reached the target 7 miles, although my Garmin conked out at the 6.4 mark, I think I have a dicky USB port and it’s not charging it properly.

I checked back through my training log and specifically at the Santa Monica Classic 5k and The Wine Country Half Marathon I ran in May and the San Diego Marathon I ran in June; now while these were obviously at race pace I was shocked to see that the average pace for each of these races was: 6:38, 7:32 and 8:30 respectively and here I was struggling to maintain an 8:30 pace every other mile on a treadmill for only seven miles!

I really have no idea where this drop in pace has come from; maybe it’s the longer distances I am covering, maybe it’s the fact that I never got fast again after my injury or maybe it's something else but one thing is for sure if I want to complete the Leona Divide in under 10 hours I’ll need to work on my speed!

Tomorrow calls for mile intervals which really should be run on a track, the problem is the local High School track is being resurfaced so I think I will run hills instead and see what I can make of it…boy do I have some work to do!

I feel the need! Do you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wanna ziga zig ha!

Well that time of year is nearly upon us…burned hands from retrieving fallen chestnuts that were roasting in an open fire, the glazed-over-my lifeforce-is-being-sucked-out-of-me-as-the-camera-rotates-around-my -spinning-head-while-I-stand-in-the-center-of-the-shopping-mall look, the persistent sting of paper cuts from all the wrapping and the pseudo waxing from scotch tape. So when you manage to break free of the tractor beam of the mall, hit the internet 'cos there’s a bit of shopping to do! If you’re stuck for a gift for the runner in your life here are a few things that have caught my eye or put another way “I tell you what I want what I really want…

Nathan HPL 028 Vest, if you run with hand bottles but want somewhere to carry gels, chap-stick or suncream this lightweight vest will accommodate them and a little more with it’s elasticized back pocket where you can stash a jacket, arm-warmers etc. Talking of arm-warmers Moeben Sleeves overcome the “it’s cold now but I will get warm soon", plenty of fancy colors and a handy dandy pocket for a gel etc.

As it is cold for 90% of the country, it’s even got below 50f here in Southern California this week, most runners will be wearing tights of some description, to avoid the "clunking of the junk" us fellas normally end up with shorts on underneath, well comfortable it isn’t! The Asics Transitive Brief overcomes that…warning this is not the most flattering photo! However if you want to go and get all compressed CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Tights will keep you all neat and tidy as well as warm and supported, just to be fair, as cold legs is cold legs there is also a ladies version.

Thinking ahead to the spring thaw avoid unnecessary blisters and slushy shoes as best you can with Dirty Girl Gaiters, don't worry dirty guys can wear them to!

If it’s so bad you really can’t head outside, curl up in front of the treadmill with Ultrarunning - My Story, Mike Bouscaren’s narrative of his journey of self-discovery through Ultra running.

Finally if nothing else fails slam this in your stereo, you’ll be running before you know it!

PS here's a quick shout-out to Frayed Laces who conquered the Honolulu Marathon this past up and return!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Monday night bible study!

Monday night saw the start of my Winter 2007/Spring training cycle. One of the benefits of Southern California climate is that the winter is actually a really good season to train in, whereas conversely during the summer it’s just too hot. It’s been a long time since I have seen the inside of a gym and lifted any weights, apart from those I was told to do during my PT. I decided to go “home-style” and scored a good deal on a bench and rack and picked up some weights locally as well so I now have a mini gym in my garage. I recent trip to Barnes & Noble uncovered a great book (click on the book and you can read it on Google Books) that contains all of the exercises that I think I need to work things in the upper, mid and lower range and after reading through the various variations I have come up with what feels like a good all round workout, additionally I also have a medicine ball which I throw around and some small cones; these are used for jumping over and around to work out my core.

I’ll not bore you (or embarrass myself) with the reps, sets and weights but the exercises are:

  • Midsection: reverse woodchop, swiss-ball weighted crunch, a “Good-Morning”
  • Chest & Upper Back: bench press, incline bench press, pronated bent-over row, supinated bent-over row, pullover
  • Shoulders & Arms: military press, lying tricep extension, standing curl
  • Lower Body: Back squat, lunge, step up, side step up, standing calf raise

As it was my first session in a long time, I paced myself but I still managed to feel it this morning!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

First the the how!

Well this is the plan, its a modified Hal Higdon Comrades' Ultramarthon plan. I have shortened it by six weeks to avoid over-training, something that I flirted with earlier this year, and much of what I have read has advised that it is better to be undertrained than overtrained. I have also increased the cross training to focus on my ITB and avoid any repeat injury.

The shading is not only to make it look pretty it will allow me to periodize the training and compare period vs. period in terms of power output on both the weights and the bike, I have been looking at CrossFit as a means of cross training so where it reads weights this will not be a pure play on lifting but will build in other exercises as well.

Not mentioned but built in is the stretching routine that I have developed, this is done pre and post run and ideally one other occasion per day. The final thing is the nutrition and hydration plan; I am 90% through reading the Paleo Diet for Endurance Athletes and a lot of what I have read sits very comfortably with me so I will be following the guidelines of that diet and see where it takes me with a review of things after a month.

A race-pace of 9:30 will seem a bit slow compared to the road miles pace I usually run; around 8:30, but I hope to actually be training on terrain similar to that on my 'A' race (American River or Leona Divide, probably the latter due to geography; I can drive to the start line in a hour), that is hills, hills and more hills, and given that the pace at the Pt Mugu was north of 13:00 per mile I am actually looking for a considerable increase in speed!

At least that's the plan...