Monday, November 30, 2009

That time of year

A couple weeks ago, my daughter got hit by H1N1, but came through it pretty well. The rest of the family dodged that bullet (so far), which is especially good for my son and me, since we both suffer from asthma (mine much milder than his). But, a week ago, my son started to get sick, and it seems to just be a really bad cold. A rapid strep test was negative, but he's had a rough time with coughing and congestion for the past week. I was able to run this past Thursday, but by the end of the day, it was clear that whatever had my son had me as well.

I took a rest day on Friday and I felt better on Saturday. I had planned to race 5K on Saturday, but I knew that my lungs weren't up for it. So, I lifted hard on Saturday (PR'd in the squat by 5 pounds), and then felt terrible again yesterday morning. I tried another lifting session yesterday, but I had nothing to give. I probably should have skipped the gym session yesterday, to be honest.

So, today is a rest day.

As I look at my workout log for the year (and when I look in the mirror), I know that this will go down as one of my poorest running years ever. If I hadn't taken up lifting a few years ago as an alternative workout, this year might have been disastrous for me.

Hopefully, I'll be healthy by this coming weekend, and I hope to be skiing by Saturday. In some ways, being sick now is better than being sick when I'm scheduled to be on snow and teaching. But, it would be nicer to never get sick at all, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Menu

I'm not a skinny runner. I come by that honestly. I come from a family of people who have struggled with their weight for years. And, I love good food, I love good drinks, and I love to cook.

Tomorrow, I'm cooking for my wife's family, and we'll have about a dozen total people here. I've been cooking our Thanksgiving meal since Saturday, when I started making stock for gravy.

Hopefully, I will get most of the knife work done tonight, and then tomorrow, after the turkey goes into the oven, my wife and I can sneak out for an 8 mile run. Here is tomorrow's menu:

Deviled pickled eggs
Goat cheese and piquillo pepper spread

A selection of stouts, including Dogfish Head World Wide Stout and North Coast’s Rasputin XII
Gruyet Rose sparking wine

Citrus and herb stuffed Turkey
Apple-sage-bacon cornbread stuffing
Gravy and wild mushroom gravy
Mashed potatoes with parsnips and chives
Yams with brown sugar, butter and bourbon
Green beans w/ white truffle oil
Copes dried corn cooked with cream, eggs and cheese
Cole slaw
Cranberry preserves cooked with orange juice, orange peel, sugar and candied ginger

White and red wines – Sancerre and Vieux Telegraphe 1989 from magnum

Pies (made by my sister-in-law, a much better baker than I am)
Whipped cream and ice cream
Vintage Port – exact bottle still to be determined

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Short but intense workout

Ten minute warm-up, (one minute hard, one minute easy) times 10, plus a 10 minute cooldown. Forty minutes shouldn't feel so hard. But, it was a good workout, done by flashlight right at dusk last night.

Well, it did come a day after I did a very hard leg workout in the gym, so my legs had an excuse to be tired. The first eight repeats weren't that bad, but number 9 came on a steep uphill and I had nothing left for #10.

After the workout, my wife and I headed out to get our groceries for Thanksgiving dinner; I always cook Thanksgiving dinner for my wife's family, so it was a big shopping trip. After getting groceries, we stopped for dinner and I could just feel my legs complaining.

Today will either be an upper body lifting day or a rest day, depending on how work goes. I had to completely re-write a really important piece of code in the last 24 hours, so I have a lot of testing to do today. It's going well so far, so maybe I'll make it to the gym tonight.

It's looking like we might get a big snowstorm on Friday night. Normally, I'd be ecstatic, but my wife and son are headed to Boston on Friday to see The Pixies, and I don't want them traveling home in snow while tired. I may have to find them a hotel room near Boston.

My son is a huge, huge fan of the Pixies and he is beyond excited about this show. He's never seen them and wanted to go so badly that he bought his own ticket and his mother's ticket. He is also sick right now, so I'm hoping he feels better by Friday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

I was once a runner. I've run over 40,000 miles in the past 25 or so years. Lots of marathons, ultras, shorter road races - well in excess of 400 races over 25 years.

Last week, I ran once. I ran 5 miles, and it was a speed session, but it was only 5 miles. For the whole week. This year will be my first year with fewer than 1000 running miles since 1985, I believe.

But, I did three very hard lifting workouts last week. That's where I seem to be having fun and what I want to do these days. I don't want to give up running, and I'd like to continue to run ultras, but maybe after 25 years of focusing on running, I'm just ready for something else.

Friday night, my workout was focused on bench presses. My fourth set was a single rep where I was trying to set a new best (After being a runner and skier for years, my legs are strong, but my bench press sucks, at least relative to the other powerlifts).

I needed to get to 170 pounds for a new bench press PR. My wife was there to cheer me on. I had a spotter. I lifted the weight off the bar really well, pulled it down, started to push up, and suddenly, something tightened up in my lower right side - my back and hamstring. I asked for help and the attempt was over. But, I knew I could have nailed it. So, I waited three minutes and tried again. This time, I did nail it. Maybe that's why I'm enjoying lifting so much right now. I'm setting PRs there while I'm far from being in decent running shape.

Saturday, I had a full day of ski instructor training, although we had no snow. Talking about skiing when you'd rather be skiing isn't the most fun training, but it's good to get back to using the right words and thinking like an instructor after a few months away from the mountain. After training, I never made it out for the run I'd hoped to do. There's some critical mass of ski instructors that leads to people drinking beer after anything skiing-related, and that's what happened. It was fun, but not the choice a real runner might have made.

Yesterday, I lifted again, focusing on deadlifts. Regretfully, despite having a math degree, I made an arithmetic error in my workout and didn't accomplish what I wanted. I was hoping to lift 340 pounds - 5 more than my current best. On my single-rep fourth set, I thought I'd loaded the bar with 325 and the lift went well. So, I added 15 pounds and did one more rep. And later, I realized that 6 x 45 pound wheels plus a 45 pound bar was 315 pounds, not 325. So, my heaviest lift was 330, not 340. But, I'll get to 340 or maybe even 350 next Sunday.

Because the gym is closed a few days this week, I will run more than I have recently. I'm going to do a short speed session after work tonight. Then, I'll lift the next two days. Thursday, my wife and I will run 8-10 together, and then I'll rest on Friday before running a 5K on Saturday. If the current weather forecast is correct, I'll be running the 5K in snow.

I'm trying to think ahead to ultras for next year. I really am. My hamstring seems to be healing well and I think I'll be able to run long next year. But, I'm not going to kill myself doing big miles during ski season. So, by the time ski season is over, I will have had almost a year of reduced running mileage. Can I consider a 100 miler next year, even late in the season? My wife and I have discussed either Leadville or Grand Teton as a race/family vacation. But, I have to decide if I have the health and the desire to make it happen. And right now, I'm just not sure.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Unplanned rest day

My wife and I both had long days at work yesterday. Neither of us was really in the mood to go to the gym. So, my wife suggested going out for dinner instead. My son was tired from staying up too late the night before, so it was just my wife and my daughter and I.

We enjoyed some nice food, a nice bottle of Cakebread's 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, and my wife and daughter even had some dessert. It was an early dinner and I managed to get to bed before 9:00. After sleeping for 10 hours, I feel much better today.

Tonight, my wife and I will go to the gym to lift. The gym should be nearly empty because the college kids are heading home for Thanksgiving week. My focus tonight will be bench presses.

Tomorrow, due to the lack of snow, I'm going to spend most of the day talking about skiing with other instructors. We call it "indoor training", but no one is really thrilled by it, because indoor training means we aren't skiing.

Then, I'll try to sneak in a run before dark, and I'll watch the Penn State-Michigan State game a few hours after it's actually played.

My biggest plan for Sunday is lots and lots of guitar practice.

Oh yeah, I have to start cooking Thanksgiving dinner this weekend as well. It's a multi-day process when I cook a holiday meal for a crowd.

Not really exciting, but work is so intense right now that I'm really enjoying somewhat quiet weekends. In three weeks, I'll be teaching skiing every weekend through the end of March, so I should really appreciate these quieter weekends while I can.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Speed (ahem!) work

One easy, one hard, one easy, one hard, one easy. It sounded so simple. I was tired from my Tuesday weight workout, but not too bad. My first mile was a net uphill and it took me 10:35. No big deal. Then, my hard mile took 8:05! It was hard. It wasn't fast. My third mile was slower than my first. My fourth mile was slower than my second. And, then my cooldown mile went OK - 5 miles in 47:30, and I was whipped.

I've got a long way to go to get any speed back. But, the hamstring is letting me push again. If I didn't have ski training this coming weekend, I'd run a 5K that my wife and kids are running.

Upper body lifting tonight.

Work now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rest days

I should take four days of rest more often. I felt really strong in the gym last night and my first workout in the new program went really well. The focus of each workout for the next six weeks is one of the three powerlifts. For example, last night, I started with squats, and I was scheduled to do 6 sets, with the following rep pattern:


The goal is for the first six to be at a moderately heavy weight. Then, after a 3 minute break, one rep close to your max. Then, for the third set, you drop down, but not the whole way to your first set weight. Then, the fourth set is the "big" lift of the workout. After that, the weight drops and you increase the reps for the last two sets.

Last night, my second single rep went easier than I expected, so I added 20 pounds and did an extra single rep. My max rep last night was 245 and my best ever is 265. Considering that I hadn't gone above 210 since last winter, I was very happy with the 245 and it didn't feel like I was at my limit. So, next week, I'll probably try 265, which would tie my best. Then, two weeks from now, I can try to break my PR.

Tonight is a five mile run - one easy, one hard, one easy, one hard, one easy.

Oh yeah, as I walked into the gym last night, I noticed that my hamstring felt really good. Perhaps it was the rest days or perhaps the PRP is continuing to do some magic. I didn't notice the hamstring at all during squats or my other lifts and it feels fine today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lazy days

I was out of town over the weekend. I lifted Thursday night, and then had some stuff to do at the ski mountain before I left for a long drive on Friday. The weekend was busy and workouts just never happened. I got home late Sunday night and pretty much went straight to bed. Then last night, I had another meeting at Sugarbush. I know that ski season is getting close when I find my self at Sugarbush 2 or more times were week, even without my ski gear. I got home late last night, drank a beer, and fell asleep.

This was my first four day break from exercise since the four days right after I injured my hamstring in April.

I was intelligent enough to turn down a request to play some 3-on-3 football this weekend. I think I've learned that lesson pretty well.

Since the beginning of June, I've been following a fixed workout schedule that I purchased from a company called Precision Nutrition. If I'd stuck with eating well the whole way through the program, I think I'd have some good results to show. I'm strong right now, but I am no lighter than I was at the beginning of June. That probably has something to do with not drinking for four months, and then returning to drinking some beer once football season started.

Starting today, I go back to being self-coached, and I'm going to start a weightlifting routine called Strength 1 from a book called The New Rules of Lifting. I saw my brother over the weekend. He is 3 years younger than I am. His squat is marginally better than mine, my deadlift is marginally better than his, but his bench press just kills my best. I can look at him and see how much his strength has improved. I don't understand the difference between our progress. He and I lift about the same number of days per week, we both lift hard, and then I run on days that he takes off. Maybe running is the problem (if so, it's going to stay that way).

But, over the next few months, I'd like to make some good progress in the powerlifts, work on my speed on the treadmill, and start enjoying ski season. For now, we can still run outside due to the lack of snow, but daylight is certainly at a premium, so I'm starting to use the treadmill more and more.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Treadmill intervals again

There's just not enough daylight these days, so the treadmill is becoming my friend again. Last night, I did a small pyramid on the treadmill - repeats of 400, 800, 1200, 800, and 400, with an easy 400 between each. I changed the pace a bit for each distance, running between 7:15 and 8:00 pace for each repeat.

If I'm not going to run often, I'm going to run hard when I do run. Last night, the hamstring bothered me more than it did last Saturday.

Tonight is upper body lifting, and then tomorrow, I'll do lower body lifting before I head out of town for the weekend.

Right now, it's back to software testing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


After the weekend, I was beat, but I knew that today (Tuesday) was going to be a rest day, so I needed a good workout yesterday. But, my legs were tired a bit from the race and my arms were tired from stacking firewood. So, I just made up my own workout - something with a minimal number of repeats that would focus on strength:

Bench Presses

5x5 of each with 3:00 rest between each set.

This was a good workout for me, and as I loosened up, I was able to add weight to each lift as I progressed through the sets. I ended up at 210 for squats, 135 for bench presses, and 245 for deads. Those numbers are pretty pathetic, but they will change over the next few months.

A week ago, I did a single dead rep at 305. A few weeks ago, I hit 165 on the bench and then failed at 170. I've been doing high rep squats, but no heavy squats for a while.

My current single-rep bests are 265 for the squat, 165 for the bench press and 325 for the deadlift. By the end of the calendar year, I'm confident that I'll exceed all of those numbers. The squat will be the toughest to beat, most likely.

My current program ends this weekend, and after this weekend, I move into a couple months of pure strength work - work designed to push up my PRs in all three of the powerlifts.

Lately, I've been "playing around" with creatine monohydrate, and I see some good and bad effects from it. First of all, it's tough on my stomach and I have to make sure I take it right before I eat dinner. And, it has caused me to have some muscle cramping, mostly when I stretch out in bed at night.

At the same time, I've found that it seems to help me with heavier lifts or high reps in the gym. I didn't do any loading protocol (20g/day is recommended) so that I could avoid the water bloat that often goes with that. I've simply been taking 5g per day to see what would happen. I think I'm going to stick with this through at least my next four weeks of lifting and see what happens with my powerlifts. It's a cheap supplement and by most indications, very safe, and effective for most people, so I'm going to keep taking it for a few more weeks. If it negatively affects my skiing or running, I'll stop, but for right now, while trying to get stronger, I'm going to give it a chance.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tough weekend

Friday night, I did an upper body lifting workout, figuring it wouldn't affect my race on Saturday morning. I got to bed early and got up early Saturday for the race. I really had no idea what to expect in the race. I'd done some recent quarters at 7:30 pace, but no more than 8 per workout, and no long runs. I thought I could go under 25:00, but I wasn't positive, and I wasn't sure whether I could simply sneak under that time or perhaps run in the 23s.

I had felt a little bit sick on Friday, but by Saturday morning, I was feeling fine, except for the anxiety of racing a 5K. The race was small and started with two laps on a dirt track. As we left the track, I was in 11th place overall, and even though this was a small race, there were many more runners behind me than in front of me. Regretfully, I would not pass one runner the rest of the race, but others would pass me.

According to my Forerunner, my first 3 miles were 7:34 (OK), 8:01 (not so good), and 8:14 (clearly a lack of fitness), and then just over a minute to the finish. My Forerunner measured the course at 3.14 miles, which explains the slow time after the 3rd mile split. I did notice on the course that I hit the 1 mile marker at 1.03 on the Forerunner and the 2 mile marker at 2.03. So, I may have meandered a bit in the first mile or perhaps the Forerunner was wrong, or perhaps the course was a bit long.

I ended up at 24:52, basically right at an 8:00 pace for the race. And, it was really hard. My stride wasn't perfect, but it was better than it's been recently. One good sign, as far as I'm concerned, is that the hamstring tendon attachment point was just fine. The belly of the hamstring muscle was sore after the race, but not the injury point.

The results aren't posted yet, but I know the overall winner was in my age group.

I headed home after getting some breakfast, ready to watch the Penn State vs. Ohio State game. Ohio State simply killed Penn State, making the race only the second most painful part of my day.

On Sunday, given the beautiful weather, we moved firewood into the garage for the winter - more than 3 cords of wood. We have a little bit more to move, but after almost 3 hours, we'd had enough and called it a day.

After moving the wood, I practiced my guitar for a while, but it was really difficult. My hands and forearms were so beat from the wood stacking that I was really struggling with the song I'm learning right now - the Grateful Dead's Round and Round, which uses all barre chords, which require precision and some strength. I'll work on it again tonight.

Tonight is a full-body lifting workout, although given our weather forecast, I wonder if I should just run instead. Today might be the last day of the year where I could run in shorts.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How can a leg workout trash me for an arm night?

Wednesday night was lower body stuff and I lifted hard. Last night was upper body, and my legs were looking forward to the break. Yet, on the second lift, I found myself struggling. I think the heavy deadlifts on Wednesday trashed my arms a bit for last night. So, I backed off the weight on one lift, and got through the rest of the workout OK.

Today, I'll do an easy run after work just to work out any soreness from Wednesday's workout.

Tomorrow morning, I'll "try" to race a 5K. I'm afraid it will be my slowest 5K in years, but I have to start from where I am. I'm anxious to see how my hamstring will tolerate the race, although it will probably be no different than my Tuesday interval workout, since I probably can't maintain the interval pace for 5K.

Then, I'll recover from the race by watching the Penn State-Ohio State football game on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday afternoon, we have a lot of firewood to stack, so that will be my workout that day.

I wish I was racing the Stonecat marathon in MA tomorrow, but we were too slow mailing our apps. So, I'll stay at home, save some money (tomorrow's race fee is $5), and get some work done. Plus, I need some guitar practice sometime this weekend. I've been so busy with work that I've been slacking on the guitar.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lifting night

Squats - lots of them

6 x (3 front squats, 15 back squats, all at 145) = 108 squats
28 Bulgarian split squats per leg
28 Romanian deadlifts at 185


The last dead was my best since a 325 last winter. I'm beat today after intervals two nights ago and legs last night. Tonight is an arm night in the gym.

Saturday is a race day, something I've done very little this year.

Any predictions on how fast I can run a fairly flat 5K? I'm guessing 23:30, but sub-23 isn't impossible. I guess that 25+ is also possible.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Treadmill intervals

The doctor wants me to stress the hamstring by running faster. So last night, I hopped on the treadmill for 8 quarter mile repeats. Last week was the first time I'd tried anything remotely resembling speedwork since April, so I took it really easy - six quarters at 8:00 mpm pace. Those repeats felt pretty easy, so I sped up to 7:30 pace this week for 8 repeats. On the last one, I sped up to a 7:00 pace.

Overall, the hamstring felt pretty good. My stride still isn't quite right, but my left leg is extending better week by week. I think that is part of why the doc wants me to push the pace. As I run faster, my stride at slower speeds seems to be getting better and better.

But, racing a 5K on Saturday is just plain going to hurt, because I'll do it all out, with no real running base or speed right now.

Tonight is my "100 squats" workout, so my legs will really be beat tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

PRP update

I saw the doctor yesterday, just short of 8 weeks after the PRP.

He's very happy with my progress and has suggested two things. First, he thinks I should return to my chiropractor, which was off-limits for a while. He was afraid a quick adjustment might cause a problem in the injured area, but now thinks it would be beneficial so that my running stride is as even as possible.

And secondly, he wants me to run a race - any race at all, and push hard. Given that I haven't raced for a while, I think I'm just going to try a local 5K this coming weekend. Tonight, I'm going to do 8 quarters on the treadmill, and I hope to average 7:30 pace for the quarters. If I do that, it would be my fastest running since the injury.

I had some decent running and lifting workouts over the weekend, and we wrapped up the weekend with a nice dinner to celebrate my father-in-law's 81st birthday. We drank some very nice wines, including 1993 Bryant Family, a California "cult" wine that is worth a fortune right now, especially considering what I paid for it. Surprisingly, the wine was still very youthful and I think I'll save the other bottle we have for at least 5 years. Or maybe I should just sell the bottle, considering what it's worth. We also had a fantastic Vincent Girardin red Burgundy from 2005 - Pommard 1er Cru Les Grands Epenots Vieilles Vignes. I served that wine with cream of chanterelle soup, and included a little bit of bacon in the soup and topped it with puff pastry. It was a great match.

For dessert, we had apple crisp and I opened my last bottle of 77 Port - Warre's. Like many of the 77's, it was nowhere close to starting its downhill slide, but it was still amazingly good right now.

Thinking about that dinner, I probably didn't work out enough this weekend.