Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Easy 8 miler

I had a really nice 8 mile run this morning. I wasn't necessarily fast, but I felt great for the whole run - steady and strong. Coming the day after a leg day in the gym, I'm pretty happy.

I've decided to only lift on Mondays and Fridays for these next few weeks. I'm not going to work out twice a day for a while either. I need to cut down on the interference that lifting can create with running, and I need to have one quality workout per day, rather than two mediocre workouts. Hopefully, my midweek mileage and quality work will be really solid for the next few weeks. Today made me feel optimistic about where I am right now.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be doing 9 x 1/2 mile, most likely in the rain. I'm sure tomorrow's workout will be faster than the same workout last Wednesday.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Three weeks of hard work to go

It's hard to believe, perhaps more scary than anything else, but in three weeks, I'll start tapering for my marathon. The marathon is on 11/9, just under six weeks from now. I'll do a few hard runs during my taper, including my final set of 10 x 800 meters (that one will be done on the track and not the roads), but when I do my 24 miler on 10/18, I'll be done with long workouts.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm going to be ready to run 3:30 or not. Two years ago, I attempted a 3:30 marathon and I failed miserably. I think part of it was my nutrition in the days leading up to the race, but part of it was my training. In many ways, my training this time is a 180 degree reversal from last time, and I'm not sure how it's going to work out.

Two years ago, I did a lot more miles than I've done this year. I ran for 100 straight days that fall, and I had consecutive months of 213, 241, and 230 miles. This time around, my mileage has been much lower. I did 8 weeks of 50 or more miles 2 years ago, and 4 of those weeks were 60+ miles. I have no 50 mile weeks so far this fall, although I'll do 1 or 2 in the next few weeks.

My marathon in 2006 was in late December, and I trained on a treadmill a lot, including a lot of my speedwork. Mostly, I did repeat miles, maxing out at 5 repeats, at 6:40 per mile. But, to be honest, I don't trust pace during speedwork on a treadmill, even with the grade adjusted uphill slightly. It just seems to me that when you're pushing hard, it's easier to run a given speed on a treadmill than it is on the roads. So, my speedwork may have been suspect. This year, I'm running outside and I should be able to train outside the entire way through my training, although I may run inside during my taper if we get any slippery days in late November.

Two years ago, I didn't race at all in my training. This year, I've done two relays where I ran 4 legs in each, I've raced a 5 miler and a 5K, and I've got a half marathon next weekend.

Two years ago, my long runs were 18, 18, 20, 20, 22 and 22. This time, they will be 30 (slow pacing at VT 100), 20, 20 (relay legs), 22, 25 (relay legs), 22, 22 and 24. I'll have more runs of 20 or more this time, even if you discount the relay races and the pacing at the 100.

Two years ago, my marathon pace workouts were similar to this time, although I'll probably do a few more total marathon pace miles this time around.

So, I see less total mileage, fewer running days, more long runs, more races, and slightly better (I hope) speedwork this year vs. 2 years ago.

What about other factors? I weigh more this year than 2 years ago, and that will be a factor. My body fat percentage, though, is lower now than then. I'm a lot stronger now than I was then, and my total volume of workouts this time around includes all of my strength training. I'd like to believe that will help me in the race somehow, but I'm not sure it will. I'm also, of course, 2 years older.

I think the answer is still to be determined. I have three hard training weeks to go and I have to make them count.

This week, I'll total about 45 miles. My key workouts will be 9 x 1/2 mile on Wednesday and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday. I am not planning to race the 1/2 marathon all out, but I want to run it slightly faster than my anticipated marathon pace. My current plan is to start with an 8 minute mile, and then drop to 7:30s for the rest of the race. In my marathon 2 years ago, by mile 10 at just under an 8:00 pace, I knew I was in trouble. I hadn't run longer than 7.5 miles at race pace that year, so this 1/2 marathon will be a valuable workout from that perspective. If I can't maintain 7:30 pace for most of the race, I'll certainly be concerned. My target time for the race is 1:39, which translates to about a 3:28 marathon. If my training is on pace, that should be hard but less than 100% effort. I'd like to think I can run 1:35 or so right now if I go all out.

The next week, I'll run about 50 miles. My key workouts that week will be 2x20 minute tempo, 6 marathon pace miles, and a 22 mile long run.

The following week will be about 50 miles as well. My two key workouts that week will be 10 x 1/2 mile and a 24 miler. I'm planning to run the first 18 of the 24 very easy, and then do the last 6 at marathon pace. After that 24 miler, my 3 week taper will begin.

This morning was a gym workout - deadlifts, squats, Romanian deadlifts, core work, kettlebell swings, step-ups, and stair climber intervals. It was a very intense hour of work. Tonight, I'll run a few easy miles with my dogs.

Yesterday, my wife and I took the dogs out for a walk for about 75 minutes, which helped to work out some of the stiffness from Saturday's 22 miler.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

22 Miler

Today was a planned 22 miler. The weather was threatening, after lots of rain yesterday and more due today, but I got pretty lucky. I hit just a little bit of drizzle for a few minutes, and that was it.

Three weeks ago was my last 22 miler, and I struggled late in that run. A few weeks before that, I struggled late in a 20 miler. Despite still feeling less than 100% today, my primary goal was to be consistent and strong through the run. I ended up getting a late start to my run - not the 7:00 a.m. start I'd planned. I wanted to be done by 10:30 so I could go to my son's soccer game, but I needed the sleep.

So, I ended up starting a little after 9:00 and ran for a couple hours and then stopped by my son's soccer game. I watched for a little bit, and then ran a few miles. I came back to the game, but my son was getting a breather, so I went back out to run some more. When I left the second time, varsity was losing 6-0, and my son's JV team was locked in a 0-0 tie.

I decided to run enough to return when the game would have about 8-10 minutes left. Regretfully, when I got back, they'd fallen behind 1-0. I stayed to watch the rest of the game, which ended in a 1-0 loss for the home team. After that, I headed out for my last 4.5 miles, and my plan was to really focus on pace, rather than just slogging through the miles.

Those last few miles went pretty well. Just after the 21 mile mark, I looked at my Forerunner, and I was running a 7:40 pace. That wasn't typical of those last few miles, but I was focused on maintaining a decent pace.

When I finished, I was 13 minutes faster than 3 weeks ago. I was only 3 minutes slower than a 20 miler in August.

There's still a lot of work to be done, but today was encouraging. I've got a half marathon next weekend, a 22 the following weekend, and then a 24 miler, and then I'll start tapering.

Hopefully, the rain, which hasn't arrived yet, will hold off. The Vermont 50 is tomorrow and the course is no doubt wet already. If it rains hard again tonight, the course will be really nasty for the runners, after the cyclists chew it up early in the day. Good luck to my friends running the race, including a couple of people from Maine who stop by here regularly. I can't wait to read Claire's race report.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Still not quite 100% and some college football comments

Last night's run was pretty uneventful. I did a nice, easy 6, just as planned. It was a beautiful evening along the waterfront of Lake Champlain.

This morning, I lifted and did stair climber intervals. The workouts I'm doing in the gym right now are designed to be fat burning workouts, rather than pure strength workouts. Consequently, they are very intense, but the weights I'm lifting are well below my max. I start off with one "strength" set, focusing on higher weights. Then, I do a pair of 10 minute "metabolic" sets, which are designed to be tough from a strength/endurance perspective. Each of these metabolic sets includes two lifts, and you alternate between them for 10 minutes. You try to start with a weight that you can maintain the whole way through, and take as little rest between sets as possible. For example, my second metabolic set today was dumbbell squat presses and chin-up grip lat pulldowns. I did six reps per set. In 10 minutes, I did 11 sets of one and 10 of the other. I was soaked with sweat from that set alone.

I did notice this morning that I was still coughing a bit during my workout and I didn't feel really strong. I think the cold from last weekend isn't 100% gone yet. Hopefully, I didn't return to working out too soon; I certainly don't want to relapse.

I'm still planning on doing 22 tomorrow in the rain, and then I'll probably rest on Sunday, or at most, I'll go for a walk or a short run with the dogs.

Tomorrow night, I'll get to watch Penn State in their Big 10 conference opener on TV. Regretfully, it won't be in HD. Ever since getting a satellite dish to watch college games in HD, Penn State has been on a non-HD channel every week.

For the second time in history, Penn State is asking all fans to dress in white, for an all-stadium "white-out". I was at the game the last time this was done, and it was an amazing site within the stadium, seeing everyone dressed in white (except for the Notre Dame fans in the northeast corner of the stadium). This time, the northeast corner will be orange as Illinois is the opponent.

Since Penn State crushed Oregon State who beat #1 USC last night, should Penn State go to #1? Also, how low should Ohio State go, knowing that USC crushed them and USC might not be nearly as good as people thought?

No, I don't think Penn State should be #1, but they have their best team since at least 2005 (12-1), and maybe since 1994 (undefeated Rose Bowl champs). After tomorrow, they go on the road for Purdue, and then have a really tough 3-game stretch that includes nighttime road games at both Wisconsin and Ohio State, with Michigan at home in between the road games.

Assuming Oklahoma avoids the upset this week against TCU, the Sooners should go to #1. I think the winner of the Alabama-Georgia game should go to #2, but I doubt that Alabama would jump that much even if they pull off the win. If Alabama wins, I assume Florida would jump to #2.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

1/2 mile repeats

I did 9 by 1/2 mile last night, on the roads, using my Forerunner to measure the repeats. It's so much easier doing them this way vs. driving to a faraway track, and then finding out that a football practice or soccer game prevents me from using the track.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed in my times last night, because they were a bit slower than my last set of 1/2 mile repeats. My median time last night was 3:27, and the average was between 3:28 and 3:29. My fastest was 3:18 and my slowest (by far) was 3:53, on a significantly uphill repeat. My second slowest was 3:32.

I'm not sure what to think about the slower time vs. a few weeks ago. In some ways, I was more rested because I took the weekend off. I might also still be feeling some effects from being sick over the weekend, so I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Tonight, after work, I'll run an easy 6-8 miler, depending on how my legs feel. Tomorrow morning, I'll lift and do stair climber intervals. Saturday morning, I'll be doing 22, and I have to start early, so I can finish in time to go to my son's soccer game. It's going to be a very wet run on Saturday if the weather forecasts are correct. Speaking of weather, there are rumors of snow in the mountains next week. It would be fun to hike for some ski turns really early in the year, if I can find the time.

Best of luck to my friends (and occasional readers) who will be running the Great Eastern Endurance Run 100K this weekend. That's a run I'd like to do someday, but it hasn't fit into the schedule yet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interesting observation

Well, it's interesting to me.

I lifted on Friday, but didn't run. I didn't run on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. This was the first time this entire calendar year that I didn't run for 4 consecutive days. I had no idea I hadn't really missed multiple days in a row earlier this year.

This was the third time this year that I took 3 consecutive rest days, with no workouts at all, although the third day this time involved lots of wood stacking that left me sore. I have been pretty motivated and consistent with my workouts this year, and the training log backs that up. All three times that I took 3 consecutive days of rest, it involved some sort of illness.

Today's workout

I was going to run early this morning, but I slept in after working late last night. Besides, by running after work, I'll get to run in cool, clear, sunny weather.

Last night, I got in a nice relaxed run, just under 5 miles. I felt pretty good. Tonight, I'm going to push things, doing 9 x 1/2 mile for the first time in my Yasso 800 progression. That means, I'll only have 9, 10, and 10 repeats left in the next 6+ weeks. And the last of those will come one week into my race taper.

It looks like I'm going to get really wet in my long run this weekend, no matter which day I do it. Sunday is looking potentially less rainy, so I may defer the run one day.

I went to see my son's soccer game last night after my run, and the team looked exhausted. My son is just over being sick, his knee is still a bit sore, and they had no substitutes last night. He was exhausted by the end of the game, and the entire team seemed to be dragging on the field. My son had three different solid shots to score a goal with a header late in the game. One ball was a bit too high for him, the second resulted in a nice goalie save, and on the third, he mis-judged the ball and it deflected away from the goal. Eventually, his team lost 3-0. The varsity team won an exciting 2OT game against the state's defending division III champion. Our school is in division II, but just barely, and by the time my daughter is in high school, they'll probably drop down a level. But for now, our school matches up reasonably well against division III schools, and often struggles with the bigger schools in division II.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Western States 2009

I just completed the registration for WS for next year. When I got picked in the lottery last December, six months seemed like a long time to have to wait for the race. The wait now seems forever away.

The race did something very nice, and discounted the entry fee for returning runners by $100 and then covered the Active.com registration fees as well.

A workout report

I felt good enough this morning to work out at the gym again. I did squats, Romanian deadlifts, step-ups, kettlebell swings, and a rotating group of ab sets. Then, intervals on the stair climber. Overall, the workout went well, although my weight for squats was lower than I would have liked and less than the last time I did squats.

If I feel OK through the day, I may go out for an easy run this evening before my son's soccer game.

Hopefully, by the weekend, I'll feel good enough to put in a good effort 22 miler. If not, my marathon training is definitely in trouble.

For the third time in the past week, we had pockets of frost around the area. My lawn hasn't been hit by frost yet, but it's going to happen pretty soon. The leaves are really starting to turn and the mountains are no longer that super-bright shade of green we see all summer. We will probably see our first snow flurries in the next three weeks or so.

Ski season is coming!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Feeling better, but ...

I rested completely on Saturday. My toughest task was walking up the driveway to get the mail, and my wife said I looked terrible doing that. There's no way I could have run the 30K in any sort of respectable time, if at all. So, I watched some football on Saturday afternoon and then we had dinner at the home of some co-workers. They had just gotten over whatever illness is bothering my son and me, so they were very empathetic, and didn't mind having sick people over at their house.

We had a great time at dinner, discussing the state of health care in the US. Our hosts are both doctors - an anesthesiologist from Norway and a pain management specialist from Vietnam. Their experience in foreign health care systems gives them an interesting perspective into the US system. Our kids were glad to play with their kids and ignore the boring grown-up conversation.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours stacking wood, and by the time I was done with that (we moved over 3 cords), I was feeling almost human again, although my arms were sore from the work. I spent the rest of the day cooking and cleaning before having dinner with some friends from CA, who were touring New England on vacation. These were the people who roped me into the Reach the Beach relay, so I'd seen them last weekend, but my wife hadn't gotten a chance to see them.

By the end of the day, I was torn on whether or not to work out this morning, but I eventually opted out of it. I think I'll try an easy workout tomorrow and see how I feel.

I'm at a point now where I'm starting to worry about whether or not I'm going to really be ready for a shot at sub-3:30 in the marathon. I only have about 4 weeks left to really train, and my total mileage just hasn't been what it should be for a marathon. My longer runs have been struggles so far, although my races, speedwork, and relay running have all gone well.

My plan for the next four weekends includes a 22 miler this coming Saturday, a 7:30 pace half marathon the following Sunday, another 22 miler the next weekend, and then a 24 miler with the last 6 miles at race pace. By then, I should know if I'm ready for the marathon or not. The race entry was not too much money, but the trip will be somewhat expensive considering gas prices. So, if I'm not ready, I may not run. I hope to be ready, but I'm just not sure, and the entire goal of the race is to run a Boston qualifier.

My wife has suggested that I stop lifting between now and the marathon, to focus more on my running, and I'm thinking about that possibility.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I was due, I guess

I've had a really long period of time right now without catching a cold. Last year, I got sick after the VT100, and while I was sick, I ran two tough races that I'd committed to much earlier in the year. Those races were in August, and after they were over, I decided to shut down my season.

Normally, I'll race or at least train hard through the end of October or even mid-November. Then, I take a 6-8 week period of low-volume and low-intensity training, although that break from running coincides with my ramp-up for ski season. Last year, I basically rested from late August through the end of the year. I still ran, but only about 100 miles per month, and with no intensity. Then, on the first of the year, I started training hard for Western States.

That break seemed to help, and I've been pretty healthy all year. Because I never raced longer than 50K this year, I don't feel like I've trashed myself as much as I do some years.

But, for the last two months, I've been training pretty hard. I've been doing consistent speedwork and long runs. I've run hard in two long-distance relays. And yesterday morning when I woke up, I felt like I might be catching a cold. I had a sore throat and felt a bit foggy.

By yesterday afternoon, I was debating whether or not to do my planned run. I ended up doing the run, doing 6x2 minute intervals at about 6:40 pace. This morning, when I woke up, I felt even more run down. So, being the smart guy that I am, I went to the gym to lift. I made it about halfway through my workout and then bailed.

Last weekend was pretty tough - racing 4 times in 24 hours for a total of about 25 miles. I think my body needs some rest, so I'm going to skip tomorrow's 30K. I'm going to sleep in instead. I still have enough time to finish my conditioning for my marathon in 7 weeks. But, if I push too hard now and end up sick for an extended period of time, I may ruin all the hard work I've done for the past couple months.

I'm not very good at resting sometimes, but I think it's time for a few days off.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Easy run, harder run

I ran easily for about 50 minutes last night. I was a little bit tired from my workout in the morning, primarily from the stair climber intervals. I hadn't done any cross-training interval work for a while.

After running, I caught the second half of my son's soccer game. He's been fighting another injury after he got knocked over in practice last week. He took a direct shot just below and inside his left kneecap and it's been sore. But, he toughed things out last night and played about half of the game. They were playing a team who had beaten them 3-2 a couple weeks ago, and the boys thought the officials had robbed them in that game. Last night, they got a bit of revenge and they got their first win by a 2-0 score. They have switched goalies and the new goalie appears to be better than the previous goalie. On top of that, the ex-goalie was very athletic last night on offense, so it looks like a good move for the team.

My son is going to see the doctor today, to see if there is any damage to his knee. I think it's just a big-time bruise, but we'll have the doc check it out anyway.

After work today, I'm going to run six miles, with 6 x 2 minute on/2 minute off intervals. With a 30K on Saturday morning, even though I'm not racing it hard, I don't want to do anything too hard tonight. Tomorrow morning, I'll lift but I won't run between tonight's run and the race on Saturday.

I will also visit my chiropractor tomorrow for the first time since mid-June. My mileage was low for quite a while after vacation, and I didn't really feel the need to see him. But, with my miles increasing and lots of quality work recently, it's time for a visit.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Better than I thought

I ran an easy 5.5 miles last night and my legs felt better than I expected them to feel. My previous experience in relays has been that racing multiple times leaves me feeling more beat up than if I'd run the same distance as a single race. But, I'm certainly less beat up than if I'd run a marathon. Maybe that ridiculously slow 3rd leg saved me somewhat.

This morning, I did a weight workout and then some stair climber intervals. The weights included incline DB presses, 3-point DB rows, DB Romanian deadlifts, swiss ball crunches, kettlebell swings and step-ups.

Tonight, I'll run easily for an hour, taking it easy. Tomorrow, I'll do another hour of running and I'll add in some sort of intervals or fartlek or tempo work. I want to feel OK in the 30K on Saturday, so I'm not going to push myself too hard between now and then.

When I'm not working out, sleeping, or eating, all my time seems to be going into one of my two jobs. The "second job" is at a major crunch point, and I've been working about 4 hours per evening at that job recently. Hopefully, I'll finish my current task and be past the biggest part of the crunch shortly, which should allow me to have a bit more free time.

This weekend, I'd love to actually sit down and watch some college football for a while, and just relax. I haven't had much of a chance to watch any games so far this season, except the one game I attended.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back at it

I lifted last night, as planned. Last night was a 3x12 upper body workout. The first lift was supposed to be close-grip chin-ups, but I can't do 12 of them in a row, so I used heavy weights on the lat pull-down machine for that one. Next was barbell overhead presses, which were brutally hard. Then, wide grip lat pulldowns, Chek presses, and towel biceps curls. After that, I did some core work. My shoulders are feeling a little bit beat up today.

This morning, I was scheduled for an 8:00 a.m. presentation to the medical staff of the hospital where I work. I decided that I'd run tonight, rather than running this morning, and hoping I'd finish in time to get showered and make it to the presentation. It took me over 6 months to get on the medical staff agenda to make this presentation, so I didn't want to screw up the opportunity.

Tonight, I'll run easily for an hour or so to see how my legs are recovering from the weekend. If my legs feel good, I'll do some marathon pace miles tomorrow. If I'm still beat, I'll plan on running easy until my next race, which is this coming Saturday. I won't be going all out in Saturday's 30K, but I don't want to be dragging because I didn't rest enough after 25 race-effort miles this past weekend.

I'll do one more day of upper body lifting this week, but I think I'm going to skip the lower body lifting until next week.

I need to get my application in for WS-2009 in the next two weeks. We got an e-mail yesterday that included a "secret code" that I need to enter the race automatically. I've heard that the price was reduced by $100 for the returning runners, which is a very nice gesture from the race.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Yeah, I think I'm going to do a workout today. I'm going to do an upper body lifting session tonight. Tomorrow, I'll run easy and see how my legs feel from the weekend.

I'm entered in a 30K this coming weekend. My plan is to run 10-11 miles at a moderate effort and then run marathon pace for the remainder of the race. If my legs feel OK tomorrow, I may do Yasso 800s on Wednesday, or I may do marathon-pace miles that day. Or maybe tempo. But, after 25 miles in the relay and with the 30K on Saturday, I'll spend this week focusing on being cautious rather than aggressive.

We may get our first frost of the season tomorrow. There's a good chance that I'll run in tights and with a long-sleeve shirt tomorrow morning for the first time in a long time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reach the Beach Relay

(Edit: Official results were just posted and we finished 159th out of 355 finishing teams. We were 36/52 in the Open Men's division, despite most of our team being masters or seniors runners. Our official time was 29:25:48, an 8:26 pace for 200+ miles.)

Yesterday, sometime around 5:30 p.m. or so, the Barking Spiders team (don't ask - I just ran for them) finished the Reach the Beach relay, with a total time of about 29 hours and 30 minutes for 209+ miles. Our goal had been to run about 1:45 faster than we ran, but as I found out, in a relay like this, plans can change quickly.

The team was made up primarily of IBM employees, most of them from the San Jose area. One of the team members is a retired IBM'er who I ran with when I lived in CA years ago. They were only able to come up with 10 runners for this 12-person relay, and my friend Dick suggested me as an 11th runner, because I live close to the race site. The team also hoped I could find a 12th runner for the team from the local runners I knew, but I was unable to do that.

So, at noon on Friday, we started with 11 runners. Three of us, including me, had volunteered for a 4th leg, so all 36 legs were assigned at the start.

Unlike the 100 on 100 relay in Vermont, this race is big and very logistically complex. The 100 on 100 relay had 60 teams this year, I believe. RTB allows 350 teams. This means that parking for handoffs and team transitions (2 vans are required per team) is complex. Because lots of parking space is required, the length of the legs was very variable. The shortest leg was 2.5 miles and the longest was 9.3 miles. Because some runners were running only 3 legs and some were doing 4, and because of the leg length variability, we had runners assigned to run anywhere from 14 to 25 miles. I was assigned to run 23.8 miles and I clearly had one of the two most difficult assignments.

On the drive to the start, I was very concerned about my legs. I started a new lifting routine on Monday, and Wednesday was a leg day. I tried to take it easy, but I had done dynamic lunges with dumbbells for the first time in a couple months, and my left quad was sore to the touch. Also, both hamstrings were a bit tired and sore at the very top of the muscle. Because I was running for a team of people that were mostly strangers to me, I really wanted to run well, but I knew my legs were going to pay the price.

Our team captain had looked at our 1/2 marathon projections that we submitted to the race web site when we registered. From that, he came up with an approximate 10K pace. He projected me at 7:00 pace for 10K, which is consistent with the 20:50 5K I ran two weeks ago. He then applied some factors to each leg for difficulty, distance, and the number of accumulated legs, and predicted a time for each leg. There had been much whining from team members about these numbers. To be honest, I was skeptical about my numbers, but I'd stayed quiet. My biggest concern was actually leg 35 - a 3-miler where he projected a 6:50 pace after I'd already raced 20+ miles. It turned out that I wouldn't even run this leg.

We started at noon on Friday in a pouring rain. About a dozen or so teams started with us, and for 12-person teams, leg 1 is the toughest. Because of that, there were a number of strong runners going out with our lead runner. Our lead runner, Craig,a former member of the XC team for Penn State (walk-on, not scholarship, but still a strong runner) was running injured, with a knee problem from a tough marathon he ran last month. Despite being slower than he wanted, he ran a solid leg. Our second runner, Mark, was a stalwart. He wasn't the fastest runner on the team, but he was far from slowest. And, he was strong on every leg, and always smiling. No complaints. He had a long first leg and handed off to me, running in the 3rd slot.

We had started the race at Cannon Mountain Ski area and we were going to finish at the ocean. So, the course was obviously a net downhill. Of the first six legs, I think the 5 were a net downhill. Leg 3 was the exception. My 3.8 mile leg was uphill most of the way and the last two miles were the steepest. I opened with a 7:12 mile, then a 7:19, and then a 7:59 as things got steep. The last 0.8 was brutal and my pace was 8:41. Overall, I averaged a 7:45 pace for my leg and I was a bit disappointed. Our team captain, Dennis, would later say that the main thing he underestimated about the course was its hilliness. These guys have run Hood to Coast multiple times and that race apparently doesn't have the tough uphills that this race has. I had been projected to run a 7:00 pace for this first leg, but I was not physically capable of doing that. My 7:45 pace was at nearly 100% effort.

After my leg, our van captain had a screaming 2.9 mile descent. Then, my friend Dick had a moderate 5.5 miler, I believe. Then, Mike ran our final leg for a while, a tough 8.6 miler that he ran very well. At this point, we were "off duty" for 5 legs while van 2 took over.

There were showers at the transition point at the end of leg 11, so we headed there for a shower, some food, and some rest. Our rest was interrupted when a team of women snuck into the shower and apparently stole the clothing from a male acquaintance who was showering. He still had his underwear, but he was making lots of noise about getting the rest of his clothing back. While we were resting, the rains returned, and apparently Dennis ran in a brief deluge.

Sometime after dark, it was our turn to go again. Craig and Mark had easier legs this time, after tough legs the previous round. My run got significantly tougher though, with a hilly 7.7 miler. My fastest mile was #7, a downhill mile that I did in 7:30, right after a brutally uphill 6th mile that was my slowest at 8:37. I averaged 7:59 pace for this leg.

I handed off to Jacques, who had a tough 8.2 miler. This leg would be his undoing, as his stomach rebelled on him, and he would be unable to run again during the relay. I got the impression that he has GI problems in these races on occasion, and he couldn't really eat for many hours after this leg. He spent most of his time driving or in the port-o-johns for the next few hours.

After Jacques' leg, things were kind of a blur for me. It was late and I laid down in the van and fell asleep. Apparently, I snored a lot while the rest of the team finished up our legs. We then drove to transition 22, and waited for the other van to do their 5 legs. I slept sitting up for a few hours, and apparently managed to snore some more, taking some sleep away from others. While I was sleeping, Mike apparently injured his calf while running his second leg. As the sun rose on Saturday, our van was more like an infirmary. Craig's quad was hurting from compensating for his knee injury. Jacques was clearly done. And Mike had decided that he had to drop as well because of his calf injury.

So, we coordinated with the other team as we transitioned back to our van as the active van. The changes were minor, but we needed to cover every leg and we needed to follow the rules about runner order if a runner was unable to continue. Craig opened up our third round with a solid 6.2 miler while running with a sore quad. Next, Mark powered through a 6.9 miler, smiling all the way. Next up was my toughest leg - a hilly 9.3 miler where Dennis had projected I'd run a 7:50 pace. I told our van "clipboard captain" that I couldn't possibly run sub-8 for this leg. I hoped I could do 9s, but didn't say that out loud. Apparently, after I started running, the team came to the same conclusion as they drove the leg and saw its difficulty.

Rather than having the team stop to help me, as we did on many legs, I carried a water bottle and some Hammergel on this leg. When I started, I immediately noticed that my right hamstring was very tight. I think I'd been compensating somewhat for my sore left quad, and the hamstring had taken some good abuse. But, I pushed on. The most interesting thing about this leg was how I felt the whole time. I'd already raced twice and now I had a long run. At times, I was doing an 11:00 pace uphill. Other times, I was running sub-7:30 downhill. It all felt exactly the same - same effort, same pain, even like it was the same speed.

Mile 1 was uphill and just over a 9:00 pace. Mile 2 was mostly level and I ran an 8:19. Then, things got tough. Mile 5 was ridiculous and I walked one uphill, en route to a 10:29 mile. Then, I started the rolling/downhill side of this leg, and did miles between 8:12 and 8:43 pace to the end. I averaged 8:55 pace and I was trashed. And, because of injuries and illness, my flat 3 mile last leg was now going to be a rolling 4-miler. With a beat up hamstring. But, the team aspect of these races means do what you can, no whining, no complaining. Just run.

Mike showed that spirit and tried to tape up his calf and run a third leg. As it turned out, the compression from the tape helped his calf, but caused his shins to hurt. Partway through his 3rd leg, he ripped the tape off, taking a bunch of leg hairs with it. I got the impression that the hair ripping hurt more than the running.

By now, we were well behind our projected times, and our planned 3:45 p.m. finish was not even close to possible. We were finding that we were a bit behind the biggest "swell" of teams on the course now, after running much of the race in the main pack of teams. The elite teams had passed us (it was really dispiriting at times to be pushing all-out on a leg and have an elite team pass me at sub-6 pace, and I couldn't do a thing to fight back), and we were simply behind the median at this point.

As the race progressed, the legs started to get shorter, and our next rest period was shorter than previous breaks. We knew that when we started running again, with only 3 remaining runners in our van (Craig was now out, Mike couldn't go again, and Jacques was still sick), we had 3 short legs and then van 2 would take leg 36 to the beach.

Mark and I decided we each wanted to go sub-8 pace for our 4-milers. Mark averaged about 7:45 pace, which put the pressure on me for a good final leg. I quickly discovered that my leg was rolling and somewhat urban, with a number of unprotected intersections. As it turned out, I preferred unprotected to what would happen to me 6/10 of a mile from the end of my leg.

I had a number of teams relatively close in front of me as I headed out. I started working on reeling in other runners. It was still a race and despite how tired I was, I wanted to beat anyone I could. I was running well in my first mile, closing on the runner in front of me, when I heard footsteps from behind. A runner just blasted past me - flying. She was very encouraging as she went by, but she smoked me. That made me more determined to catch some of the other runners up front. At about the end of my first mile (7:34), I caught the first runner. Near the end of the second mile (7:38 with a big bridge over Interstate 95), I caught a second runner. Then, early in the third mile, I caught two more and I was closing on a fifth. I also noticed a runner slowly gaining on me from behind, but I was sure I could hold her off.

And then, the cop screwed up everything. I was within 5 seconds of what I thought would be the 5th runner I'd pass, when she went through a controlled intersection on a green light. The light was still green but the cop stopped me. Just like that. "Stop." I wanted to protest about the color of the light, but there was no way I was going to risk a team DQ for the other guys. I was wearing sunglasses, but I burned holes through the lenses, glaring at the cop. The last 3 runners I'd passed caught up as I stood there. I would glare at the cop, look at my watch, and glare some more. I couldn't believe how long he was holding me. I'd been running downhill and when he let me go, I was going to have to go from a cold start to an uphill finish. I was furious. Finally, after 75 seconds, he started to give instructions on how we'd be allowed to proceed when he said the magic word. Just then, the runner who'd been gaining on me showed up. I spent 90 seconds at a dead stop, while 4 runners caught me.

We took off and I went as hard as I could. I had 6/10 of a mile and I'd be done. Regretfully, I couldn't go as fast as the woman who had been closing and she put 10 seconds on me in the rest of the leg.

My reaction to this is probably stupid. We weren't winning the race. We probably didn't even start at the same time as the other teams. We probably weren't in the same divisions. But, when I'm wearing a race number, I mean business. It's not that I'm not having fun. But, I'm a competitor and I felt like my ability to compete fairly was taken away from me arbitrarily.

When I completed my handoff, I took my hat and threw it on the ground. I yelled a nasty epithet about the cop, so the runner who finished in front of me could hear it. She probably thinks I'm an idiot. Oh well, maybe I am.

My time for 4 miles was 32:59, or 31:29 if you subtract the 90 seconds. So, I did manage a sub-8 pace for my final leg as far as I'm concerned. From this transition, Dick had a rolling 3 miler and then Holger from the second van ran 4.3 to the finish. We were still trying to park when he finished, but we re-assembled the team finally for some food and a well-deserved rest.

I'm trashed today and taking a rest day. I may take another rest day tomorrow, and if I do anything at all, it will be upper body lifting or simply walking the dogs.

All told, I did 24.8 official course miles in about a 24 hour period. My Forerunner recorded 25.11 miles. My fastest single mile was 7:12, my slowest was 10:29, and my total running time was 3:27:48 for an 8:17 pace on rolling terrain. My best estimate for climbing that I did is 1900 vertical feet. In general, I find that my Forerunner claims a number about 2.5 times the actual climbing amount, and it claimed 4800 vertical feet.

I had a great time and would recommend this race or this type of race to anyone. But, the racing itself is hard and you need to be adaptable to the team's needs. Maybe the IBM team will invite me to run Hood to Coast with them sometime, or perhaps I'll convince my 100 on 100 team that we need to go to Oregon. One of our runners is in Oregon on vacation right now and he'll be easy to convince.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Easy run, rest day, race tomorrow

The subject line pretty much says it all.

I did an easy 5.5 miles last night. I'm a bit sore from legwork in the gym yesterday, so today will be a rest day. I'm going to try to sneak out of work early to see my son's soccer game.

Tomorrow morning, I leave the house at 5:30 a.m. to meet my team for the Reach the Beach relay.

Sunday will be a rest day after four relay legs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Work, work, work, and work out when I can

When I left work yesterday, I went home and spent the evening working for my other job. I managed to find some time to have dinner with my family, but otherwise, I was working until 10:00. Tonight, I'll go for a quick run after work, and then I'll probably work again. This just seems to be the way the economy is these days.

I can either have a long commute so I can make more money, I can leave Vermont to make more money, or I can work multiple jobs to make enough money. It's not like I'm poor, at least based on our household income compared to the state median. I had enough money to take a great family vacation to CA for Western States this year. But, I don't know if I can do it again next year, even though I have free plane tickets and guaranteed acceptance into the race.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned politics on this blog, and I'll only do it obliquely here. The last 7+ years have been tough for me. I was laid off for the first time in my life. I managed to find a new job before my severance pay ran out - a job with a long commute and a big pay cut. After 4.5 years of spending 2.5 hours/day in my car, I deliberately took a big pay cut to work closer to home, to get some of my life back. I was spending 6% of my life in a car just for my job at the time I left my previous job. Plus, I was spending a fortune on gas and car maintenance. But, the big pay cut was too much, and eventually, I was lucky enough to find some extra work to help out with the bills. But now, I work a minimum of 48 hours per week and I make less money than I did when commuting everyday. I'm saving some time vs. commuting every day, and time is incredibly precious to an athlete with a family, but things remain a struggle at times.

Food and fuel prices are out of control. I think that gas cost about $1.45/gallon when I first started that long commute. Firewood cost me $145/cord for dry wood just 5 or 6 years ago. This year, green firewood is $205/cord and dry is $225. Many people are paying more than that, but I'm a long-term customer of the guy we buy our wood from, and he kept our costs down a bit. Propane was way less than half of what it costs now just 5 years ago. We are lucky that we use propane and wood rather than fuel oil, which has gone up even more. Compared to 7 or 8 years ago, I work a lot more hours and I have less to show for it. My medical costs have gone up tremendously in the past 7 years as well. For people who complain about medical costs, please know that I'm not the reason your costs are going up (I work in health care). Last year, my annual "raise" was well below the inflation level, way below the average increase in health costs, and it was 100% eaten up by an increase in my own medical insurance costs. I know I'm not the only person in this category. But,something's got to change, and hopefully not for the worse.

Anyway, enough of that complaining. This morning was my first leg day in my new lifting routine. The lifts were snatch-grip deadlifts, dynamic lunges, and step-ups, all 5 sets of 6 with a deliberate tempo. Then, 3 sets of 12 incline reverse crunches.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that upper body lifting days rarely make me sore. On Monday, I started a new routine and did an upper body and core day. I've been sore for the past few days. Hopefully, today won't leave me sore at all for racing on Friday and Saturday.

Tonight, I'll run an easy 5 or 6 miles. After that, I won't run until my first leg in the relay on Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Marathon Pace Miles

This morning's plan was 3 easy, 6 MP, and a cooldown. It was a pleasant morning outside when I left for work, where I was going to start and finish my run. I was listening to the weather forecast on the way to the office and they said the first band of thunderstorms for today would hit about 8:00 a.m. in central Vermont. I had thought the weather front was going to go through this afternoon, but it had apparently sped up overnight.

I started running just before 6:30 and it was cool (50F) and foggy, but nice. I did my 3 warm-up miles and the third mile inconveniently ended at the start of a tough hill. My goal was 7:50 pace for 6 miles, but I wanted to do it without looking at my Forerunner every few minutes (or seconds). I knew I had some downhills coming later, so I didn't worry about pace on that first hill.

Overall, the miles felt good and I was enjoying the run, just cruising along. The first mile was a bit slower than 8, and the next 2 were a bit faster than 8 minutes. I was about halfway through the fourth mile when I noticed it was looking kind of dark. I started to wonder why the fog was getting thicker rather than clearing, and then I heard thunder. I had forgotten all about the weather forecast.

I still had about 2.5 miles to go and it was just one crack of thunder. I kept running. Then, I heard another crack. And another. And then a flash of lightning. At this point in time, I had two options - turn around and run about 3/4 of a mile to my office, or continue straight ahead on a loop that I run a lot, and be out there for about 2.5 more miles.

I turned around quickly and headed back to my office. Before I could cover that 3/4 of a mile, the storm really closed in, with thunder and lightning ever few seconds, and it started to rain just as I got to the hospital. So, I only did 7.25 miles, with 4.25 at MP. But, the last 0.75 was some very high quality running. I may go out tonight for a couple more miles, or with Reach the Beach on Friday, I may just call it a day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thursday, Friday runs, and weekend goofing off

It's been a few days since I posted anything here. I almost always post at least some sort of drivel on weekdays. But, my second job has me up against a tight software deadline, and I was out of town for the weekend. Not touching a computer for 3 entire days was kind of nice, although I was worrying a bit about that looming deadline. Recently, I've been putting every spare second into that second job, it seems.

Anyway, on Thursday morning, I ran a slow 4 miler. The day after I wrote a post about improved recovery, I had a short run where I felt like crap. Oh well. That wasn't an important run anyway.

Friday, I took the day off work and started the day with a planned 22 miler. I ran relatively well for 18 miles, had two rough miles (hilly) and then felt better for the last 2 miles. My per-mile pace was slow, but it was about 25 seconds per mile faster than the 20 miler I did 4 weeks ago. By the time I get to my 24 miler three weeks from my marathon, I hope to be consistently running 9:00 pace for my 20+ milers.

Right after my run, I hopped in my car and headed to State College, PA, to hang out with my brother for the weekend and go to the Penn State-Oregon State football game. Oregon State lost a lot of people to graduation, and they simply aren't a good team at all right now. Penn State completely dominated them, and Penn State was playing without some starters who were suspended for their involvement/connection to a call to the police that resulted in some marijuana being found. One of the missing starters was a pre-season first team All American defensive end, according to Sports Illustrated.

My brother and I talked about this a bit over the weekend. To me, as an athlete, the idea of using weed two days before a major athletic event seems really stupid. I'm sure that some people find the concept of ever using it stupid, but my perspective there is more "relaxed" than that of many people. But, my brother and I also talked about being college students, and how our thought processes were at best pretty immature, and at worst, downright stupid, in those days. I don't know if it's just a "guy" thing or just all younger people. I wonder if it's just the sheer quantity of testosterone that younger guys deal with - they feel invincible and risk taking doesn't seem as dumb then as it will seem when they look back on it with a few decades of growth.

Overall, Penn State's football program has looked very poor off the field for the past few seasons. Whether people root for them or not, there was always at least a grudging respect of JoePa for running a clean program that forced athletes to be students as well. Lately, there have simply been too many arrests of these athletes and this past week was another black eye.

This morning, I arrived back at work to find some more details about our Reach the Beach team for this coming weekend. Based on the times we submitted on the race web site in our runner profiles, I'm one of the faster runners on the team. I thought this was a much faster team that was focused on a sub-24 (7:12 pace for 200 miles), but we don't seem to be capable of that, which is fine.

I did volunteer for a 4th leg, so I've got 23.8 total miles. The team captain ranked the relative difficulty of each runner's legs, and I came out with the most difficult. But, it will be perfect marathon training. That relay starts on Friday morning, so I'll be out of the office for another long weekend in just a few days. We should probably finish about noon on Saturday.

My toughest leg is leg #3 - 9.3 miles - the longest leg on the course, but not the toughest leg overall. My friend Dick has a slightly shorter leg that is much tougher.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


This morning's 5.5 miler was very pleasant. A few unexpected rain showers went through just before I ran, but it was dry for my run. Pollen levels have been high with our sudden lack of rain over the past two weeks, so the showers might have knocked down the pollen a bit.

Looking at my training log, I see a marked change in my recovery in the past few weeks. From mid-July to about mid-August, every time I ran hard or lifted hard, I really struggled the next day. On at least 3 occasions, I started a run and then quit well short of my planned mileage.

In the past few weeks, things have definitely changed around. I felt good this morning and also on Sunday, both runs coming after speedwork the day before. The only tough recovery day I've had recently was on a Sunday when I hadn't properly re-hydrated after speedwork the day before.

Improved recovery from tough workouts is a good sign that my body is adapting to the harder running. I still need to push up my mileage and get in my long runs, but I'm happy with my training progress right now.

Next Friday (9/12) is the start of the 200-mile Reach the Beach relay. Our team is still short one runner (we have 11 instead of 12), and I had volunteered to run 4 legs rather than 3. Apparently, only one other person has volunteered for an extra leg, so I'm in the first van, scheduled to run 4 legs of the race. Does anyone who happens to stumble upon this blog want to run the relay and save me from a 4th leg?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Official Race Results from Saturday and 1/2 mile repeats

The official results from Saturday have been posted online. They gave me a 20:51 rather than the 20:50 I recorded. I was 68th overall of 280, and 10th of 24 in my division (40-49). If there had been a 45-49 division, I still would have only been 5th. If they used single-year age groups, I would have been second. If they used single year and month of birth age groups, there is about an 11 in 12 chance that I would have been first. (Thanks to Dr. Andy for pointing out my earlier error in that last sentence.)

This morning was 8 x 1/2 mile, done on the road, on a rolling loop. Because of the nature of the loop, I knew that I won't run consistent speeds. So, I pay more attention to my median split when I run repeats this way. My median this morning was 3:23. I was happy with this, given the fact that I was running on the road vs. the track. I was also doing 1/2 miles rather than 800s. The 1/2 mile is about 804.5 meters, or about a second slower at the speed I was running.

I'll run for about an hour, very easily, tomorrow morning.

My son's soccer season starts tomorrow night, and he seems to be coming around from the injury problems he's been fighting. So far, we've replaced his cleats and purchased Superfeet insoles for the new shoes. We have an appointment with a podiatrist at the end of the month if everything isn't settled down by then.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Good workouts

Yesterday, I ran a hilly 7.8 miles, at a very easy effort. Unlike the Sunday before, when I felt really beat up after an intense Saturday workout, I felt pretty good yesterday. It was a beautiful day outside and I really enjoyed the run - just nice easy running on a great day, the first half of the run with my wife.

This morning, I wrapped up the lifting cycle that I've been doing with an upper body day. I did this same cycle last fall and wrapped it up in December. My final weights today were much higher in all six lifts. Some lifts went up only 10 pounds in the past year, but two went up by 30 pounds.

Next Monday, I'll start an entirely new cycle, so I'll probably have some days where I'm sore as I introduce the new lifts to my routine.

The next four days are all about running - 8x800m tomorrow, easier runs the next two days, and then 22 on Friday. After that, I'll take the weekend off, hanging out with my brother in PA for a Penn State football game. I haven't had a day off since 8/17, so I'm about due.