Thursday, April 30, 2009

T Minus 3 Days

I'm running out of things to write about. But that happens during times of taper. I put in four recovery miles at Crystal Cove State Park in the late evening and then hit the gym for some stretching and light core work. As Lindsay of chasing the kenyans and Brian of A Runner's Blog have been pointing out for a couple of days now, nothing that I'm doing now is going to change my fitness! ( Unless I overdo it -something that I used to do all the time).

So, with that in mind, today I will put in my final three miles on this cycle. The plan is a 30 minute tempo run, so I guess tomorrow's title will be "Last Tempo in Newport" (ha ha! How many of you are old enough to catch that obtuse movie reference?)

I also want to thank another blogging buddy for a great idea! Patrick (My New Life on the Run) suggested adding some Latin music to my play list in keeping with the Cinco de Mayo theme. I grew up in a predominantly Mexican area of Los Angeles, and we actually had roaming mariachi bands in restaurants on weekends, much to my delight. So, I snagged some Mariachi Sol de Mexico to add to my playlist:

My youngest son goes to school with Jose Hernandez's (the leader of this band) daughter. A couple weeks ago, the band performed at his High School just for the students! Wish I could have been there!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Final Interval Session

I put in my last interval session on this training cycle last night. I wasn't able to make it to the track to run with my club, so I headed on down to the Back Bay and ran some intervals there. It was more like a Fartlek workout - the only difference being I had my Garmin programmed to remind me to slow down and speed up every quarter mile. When all was said and done, I put in my planned six miles. I kept it easy and ran within my target pace - except on the last 400 where I decided to air it out a little (7:04 pace- - wow - was that really me?).

So, here I am. Two more days of light running (today 4 miles recovery, tomorrow 30 minute tempo) until goal race day. Then I have Friday and Saturday off. What will I do with my free time?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I *Think* I'm Ready

As I said in yesterday's blog, I'm coming down the home stretch. I'm keeping things easy and simple this week. Just enough to maintain fitness. Hopefully not so much that I leave myself tired. In that vein I did a quick four miles in the evening. The goal was to just put in some general aerobic miles.

The other thing that I am doing is checking out tunes for the weekend. I have a 10K race playlist that I've put together, but I don't have a two hour playlist for a half. So, I loaded the fathers (grandfathers?) of hip-hop/techno - Kraftwerk. Now kids - this is a band that I listened to in the late 70's. They were pretty far out back then. But, Ralf and Florian deliver some great techno beat - just right to keep the feet turning. I plugged in and whipped out my four miles at a pace of 8:58 and an average heart rate of 79% of max without pushing too hard. Wow. I think I'm ready. I'll look at a plan that slows down 15 seconds a mile and runs my heart rate up to 85% of max. Oh - and I'll be adding some Kraftwerk to my playlist.

Today will be my last interval workout. I'm going to keep it pretty mellow - 2 mile warm up, 6X 400 at 5K pace with 400 rest, 1 mile warm down. This should total about 6 miles total. And on tonight's playlist - some Chemical Brothers, B-52s, and maybe a little Grandmaster Flash.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Unscheduled Rest Day (Again)

I had every intention of putting in four miles yesterday. The only problem was execution. I really should run early on Saturday and Sunday. But yesterday I slept in, so the morning was out. Sunday afternoons is normally grocery shopping. Yesterday was no different. Also, I normally cook dinner for the family on weekends (so my lovely wife has a night or two off). By the time I got dinner done and on the table, it was pushing 6 o'clock. I did get in my car and drive down to the Back Bay, but I got there, the wind was howling, the temperatures were dropping, my iPod was no where to be found, and my back and legs were still sore. So, I packed it in. Yes - call me a wuss. But I was the only one that had not been able to enjoy a grilled T-Bone, and frankly, that appealed to me a whole lot more than four slow miles.

Not a way to wrap up week 11 (well, maybe it is), but I still got in over 30 miles (31 to be exact). That's 8 of the last nine weeks over 30 miles.

I hope today is not a repeat! Ha! No - I'll get an easy four miles in. This week's plan:

Monday - 4 mile easy run. Gym for stretching and core work.
Tuesday - Easy intervals. 2 mile warm up, 6 X 400 at 5K pace, 1 mile warm down for 6 miles total
Wednesday - 4 miles recovery. Gym for stretching.
Thursday - 3 miles easy. Gym for stretching.
Friday, Saturday - Scheduled rest. Eat well. Rest body.
Sunday - Apple fritter. Coffee. PCRF Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon! Woo hoo!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tough Twelve

Wow. Yesterday was a tough twelve miles. The weather was perfect (sunny, mid 60's, a slight breeze). Everything started out well. I was keeping my speed down in the 10:20 to 10:30 range (that was tough itself). Everything was going great, right up to mile 10 1/2. All of a sudden the concrete in my legs set and my lower back just went into fatigue mode. Literally, over a quarter mile I went from "All Systems Go" to "Danger Will Robinson!" Breathing and heart rate were just fine - it was the physical systems that went haywire. I really struggled to finish. Final stats - 12 miles, 10:50 average pace at 75% MHR.

After the run, I hit up my training load graph, and sure enough, fatigue is spiking. I'll listen and start reducing my training load over the next week. I'm *not* at all concerned about being able to put in 13.1 miles on race day. I *am* concerned about starting a race when my body is fatigued. Today I'll knock off a couple miles from my planned six mile recovery run. And I'll scale back my modified Higdon Training plan over the next week. I'm coming down the home stretch!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back to the Task at Hand

Okay - enough non-running fun stuff. I'll have plenty of time for that in a week. Back to the pavement for six recovery miles. It's been a while since I've run on a Friday, and I think my body was rebelling for doing so. I'm convinced that fatigue is at play here (even though the graphs say otherwise) because it was really difficult for me to get *any* type of consistency yesterday. I just felt kind of clumsy the whole run. The final statistics bear that out - average pace of 10:56 (fastest mile 10:37, slowest mile 11:08) at an average heart rate of 71% of max.

I'm coming up on one week until my goal Half Marathon. This will be my third Half, but the first where I've been able to complete a training program in preparation. My first Half Marathon was the Orange County Half, back in January 2008. I had been running about 6 months at that point, and thought I was doing well to be running 20 miles a week. Finished in 2:24. My second was the Southern California Half back in January. Training was going well until I pulled a groin running in a wet and slippery Dana Point Turkey Trot. Training in December of last year was sporadic at best as I played with pain and tried to rest to take care of the injury. Finished in a disappointing 2:19. This time, I've been consistent since the last week of January. I've put in 415 or so mixed miles on this cycle, and will be able to complete the plan in it's entirety. I feel pretty confident that with proper rest next week, I should be able to get into the low 2 hour time frame (2:05 would be nice).

So, I'm going to concentrate on putting in some slow miles in for the next 6 days. Today - 12 miles at 10:30 or so. Catch you tomorrow morning!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I've Been Tagged!

So my blogging pal Brian over at A Runner's Blog has tagged me. Here's the challenge - list the most embarassing songs on my iPod. This was all started by Patrick over at My New Life as a Runner. Gee thanks!

Next to my Garmin, my iPod is probably the most indispensable piece of running equipment I own. (Don't give me too much grief you purists). Most of the time I listen to podcasts of various local and national radio shows. I do listen to music on tempo runs and definitely at most (but not all) races. My musical tastes are, well, different (as my college age kids remind me). So, my iPod carries a mix of talk, comedy, hip hop, alt, classic rock, country, rockabilly, western, jazz, etc. But there is definitly no pop crap on it! My point is just becuase it's embarassing, it doesn't mean I don't listen to it. It's more like it's embarassing to let you know I *do* listen to some of this stuff:
  1. Dreamland: This is a podcast by Whitley Strieber of Endtimes anyone? Oh - and he's been abducted by alien greys multiple times

  2. Coast to Coast AM: I used to be an Art Bell fanatic. Now that George Noory has taken over, this has degenerated to a bunch of simple minded dribble. For example, last night's show were on how bad genetically engineered foods are for us. Of course there was no discussion of normal tomatoes....

  3. Benny the Bouncer (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) - I thought I said I didn't have any pop on this contraption

  4. Why Do You Drink (Hank Jr.) - I love this song. Still I would be embarassed to admit it's on my iPod

  5. I'm in Miami Bitch (and others) (LMFAO) - Great running song. As a 50 year old, I'm not sure I want to admit I'm an LMFAO fan to a 2o year old.

Yesterday was a tempo run, so I did listen to my LMFAO and Fatboy Slim playlists. This hip hop/dance stuff does wonders to get my feet turning. It must have helped becuase I was able to put in 6.6 miles in 60 minutes. Average pace was 9:03 - including my 10 minute warm up and 10 minute warm down. About 35 minutes in I finally hit my target heart rate (> 85% of max) and held it there for 15 minutes. But, my heart rate was pretty erratic - up and down and all over the place. Fatigue? I think I'll just concentrate on putting in a bunch of easy miles between now and next Thursday, my final run before my target half.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Aerobic Conditioning

In my blog yesterday I made a snide comment about speed work: "I am quite amused by the people running 15 to 20 miles per week who think that they will run a faster half marathon times by introducing speed work." I received a couple of comments, a few emails, and a couple of tweets about this comment, so I thought I would explain myself.

First, I apologize to all you teachers out there. " a faster half marathon times..." Anyone have a red pencil? Time to read before posting. Yow!

Next - the real purpose of the statement. Everyday I spend some time cruising the forums over at Runner's World and reading a bunch of running related blogs (see the sidebar). There are always tons of questions about speed work. "When should I start speed work?" "I want to add speed work to my training plan." "I think I should start doing speed work." So on and so forth. Here's the bottom line. It doesn't matter how much speed work you do in a training cycle. If you run out of gas before your race is done, you are in trouble.

Performance is greatly dependent on our muscles' ability to use oxygen to produce energy. This is the "aerobic" cycle. Once they reach their upper limit, our muscles quickly start breaking down glucose without the use of oxygen . This is the "anaerobic" cycle. This cycle produces acidic byproducts. If we produce acid faster than we can flush it out, we end up with rapid muscle fatigue. We have just run out of gas.

The key here for any distance is to be able to run aerobically as long as possible. According to Glover, energy needs for marathon and half marathon distances are met 99% aerobically and 1% anaerobically. Even at 10K distances, energy is 97% aerobic. Skew your anaerobic metabolism a couple of percent and you will not be able to perform at your max. We typically manage this by proper race pacing. In essence all that proper race pacing does is slows us down so we don't drive our metabolism out of our aerobic zone.

Hopefully, you are getting the gist of this message. Want to run faster farther? Be more aerobically fit. Want to be more aerobically fit? Run more general aerobic miles. Now, that doesn't mean that speed work doesn't play a part. What speed work does is allows us to buffer acid buildup, which allows us to run anaerobically a little longer. But the real key is to be able to run aerobically for a longer period of time. Once you figure that out, you will watch your times plummet!

I speak from experience. Since increasing my mileage base from 20 to 30+ miles per week during the last nine months, I've seen the following improvements: 5K PR - dropped almost 3 minutes; 10K PR - dropped 6 minutes; Half Marathon - dropped 6 minutes; Marathon - to be determined. This means that I am adequately trained at the 10K distance. I still have trouble at the Half (out beyond mile 11), and I have yet to run a marathon since upping my mileage. I'll get a better feel for my Half in a couple of weeks. And Marathon - well, you'll just have to wait a while!

Sorry for the long post. Oh yeah - I did run yesterday. Six miles, general aerobic (heart rate 80% of max) at an average pace of 9:22. On tap today - 60 minute tempo run. This will be a challenge for sure!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Schedule Shuffling

Well, I didn't make it back last night in time to catch my brethren on the track, so I'm going to need to shuffle my schedule around this week:

Today: 6 miles easy. Gym for stretching and core work.
Thursday: 60 min tempo run
Friday: 6 miles recovery. Gym for stretching and core work
Saturday: 12 mile long run.
Sunday: 6 mile recovery

This schedule maintains my training volume, which I think is the most important aspect of my training at this point - less than 2 weeks from my goal half marathon. In fact, for most folks out there, training volume really will do more to allow us to run faster than all the speed work in the world. I am quite amused by the people running 15 to 20 miles per week who think that they will run a faster half marathon times by introducing speed work. The #1 factor in our ability to run further faster is aerobic conditioning. We don't get aerobically fit by introducing anaerobic activities.

Since I'm not taking Friday off, I will end up running 9 days in a row. I'm not too worried because next week is really more of a mini-taper week:

Monday: 4 miles easy
Tuesday: Intervals - 6 miles total
Wednesday: 4 mile recovery
Thursday: 3 miles easy
Friday, Saturday: Scheduled rest
Sunday: PCRF Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon

Then, I'm going to rest. I think I'll take a few days off before starting up again. How many? I'm not sure. At least two, possibly as many as 5 or 6. Then, I want to build more volume. I'm averaging 30-32 miles per week right now. I'd like to get to where I am in the low 40's as my base. When I get there, I'll start thinking marathon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Update on Saturday's Race

Well, official results were finally posted for Saturday's Costa Mesa Community Run. I was obviously a little out of it when I was looking at results. The news was even better! I thought I had run a 25.42. But, I actually ran a 25.24! That's another 18 seconds on my PR! That means I bettered my old 5K PR set last October by 47 seconds. I think my training is working. I also finished 111th out of 493 runners. I'm satisfied.

As mentioned yesterday, I'm on the road so there was no running yesterday. I'm hoping to make it back home early enough today though to catch my pals doing intervals tonight.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Week 10 Wrap

Okay folks. Two more weeks left on this training cycle. Despite taking an extra day (or two) off this past week, I still managed over 30 miles. I can thank yesterday's heat charged 12 miles for putting me over the top. It's wasn't pretty and it wasn't fun, but I put 12 miles in to put me at 31.25 miles for the week. Speaking of heat - I downed a total of 100 ounces of liquids just to keep me going.

And wow - talk about heat! The weather forecast had predicted temperatures in the mid 90's yesterday. My plan was to get out of the house early to beat the heat, but I couldn't make it out the door until 8:30. Then, I had to run the San Diego Creek trail away from the coast because the trails around the Back Bay were closed for the Newport Beach Triathlon. By the time I left the car, it was already in the low 80's and it only got warmer. I started with four 10 ounce water bottles . At mile 10, I stopped in a local park and refilled three bottles because I was dry! I downed two of those by the time I got back to the car. At the car I downed two 20 ounce bottles of Gatorade (yes, yes, I carry Gatorade in the car just because). But I felt more or less normal. By the time I got back to my car at 11:15 AM, it was 86 degrees, and I could see the ocean from where I parked! It must have been well over 90 where I was running. Whew! I took my camera and shot some pictures (those for a later date) to force myself to hold the pace down. Probably a smart move.

So, I'm left with two weeks until my goal half marathon (Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation's Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon). I'm actually feeling as good as I've felt in a long time. The extra couple days of rest last week has done wonders - all of my little tweaks and niggles have mysteriously disappeared. I ran my 5K on Saturday and even though I pushed, I felt as if I had something left in the tank afterwards. I am getting excited!

The plan for this week? Well - here we go:

Monday - Scheduled rest day. I am travelling to the Central Coast (San Luis Obispo) for business, so no running today.
Tuesday - Intervals. Somewhere around 6 miles with my club.
Wednesday - 6 recovery miles. Hit the gym for stretching and core work.
Thursday - 60 minute tempo run. Around 6 miles.
Friday - Scheduled rest day.
Saturday - 12 mile long run. Keep it easy.
Sunday - 6 recovery miles. Hit the gym for stretching and core work.

This will put me around 36 miles for the week. I'm looking forward to a final week of pushing before tapering off for my half marathon. Sure hope the weather cooperates!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Well - That was Fun! (Really)

Honestly. Now, before I really get into it, this one run did not convince me that 5Ks don't suck. They do. You have to warm up before you start. Then you start out hard. You run hard. You finish hard. If you've done it right, you feel pain. And you can't breath. And you test your maximum heart rate. I much prefer 10Ks orHalf Marathons. At least you can settle into a rhythm and enjoy the scenery. A 5K seems like it's over before it even starts!

Okay - now that I got that out of my system, I really did have fun Saturday morning. Yes it was a 5K. Yes it sucked. And yes - I enjoyed the hell out of it! First off, there are some neat things about community races. And that is tough to find in a huge metropolitan area like Orange County. This one definitely had the feel. From the local Boy Scout Troop raising the American Flag , to local Olympian Sharon Day giving the welcome address. I would guess the turnout was somewhere around 800 to 1000 runners - a small event in this neck of the woods.

As far as the race itself - it was a combination of roads, paved trail, dirt trail and for the final half mile - a hill! Everything thrown in for good measure. Keeping with the small community feel, I even had a chance to flex my elbows a bit and lined up near the front of the mob. When the gun went off, I settled in at a 7:20 pace for a while before slowing it down just a little. The first mile wandered down the street, hung a left into Fairview Park, and ended up on dirt trails. Mile one was done at 7:58.

I was feeling nice and strong. I was breathing hard, but still felt relaxed. Then keeping with my plan, I settled into step with a couple of other runners. Just like Glover predicted, we used each other's energy to start pulling away and putting space between us and the runners behind. At this point we were still on dirt trails, and eventually ran into some runners that were obviously slowing. Passing was difficult, and we had to settle in behind them until we were able to make a pass a few hundred yards down the trail. Mile 2 pace - 8:30 - still on the 8:15 target.

The final mile was the challenge. There was a large hill that we were going to have to climb. The hill was formidable at this stage in the game (2.4 miles). I slowed down to keep from blowing up so close to the finish. For the first time in a race (any race) I was in pain. My quads were quickly turning to jello. My breathing was hard and labored. I made it up the hill and pushed harder for the next couple of tenths. At this point I was passing people. Wow. I was also seriously sucking air, but, was in the football stadium at Estancia High and past the 3 mile marker. I made the final turn on the track and was heartbroken. I could finally see the clock. 25:05. Crap. I really wanted to break 25 minutes. I'm sure that the air was out of the balloon at that point, but I finished up the race. 25:42. A 29 second improvement over my existing 5K PR! Best part - 8:16 pace. Talk about hitting my goal! Whew. I grabbed some bananas and water and started my warm down.

I ended the day by running the course one more time reflecting on the day. What went right? I executed the plan to perfection. Faster than goal mile 1. Tucked into a group mile 2. Let it all hang out at the back end of the race. What I need to improve on? Pushing just a tad harder during mile 2. And picking a 5K without a 100 foot hill in the last 3/4s mile of the race! At least I know that my 25:00 goal is well within reach. My stretch goal for the last year has been 24:00, and I can see making that in another year or two!

Finally, I need to report that I tried a new pair of racing shorts. I picked up a pair of 3" split shorts at Roadrunner Sports a couple of weeks ago. Man - you talk about comfortable! One of the things that really bugs me about most shorts is the way they bunch (yes Lindsay - me too). These shorts just don't do that! Plus, the split sides allow complete motion! Literally feels like there is nothing on.

Oh - miles? Ended up putting in a little over 7 miles yesterday (warm up, race and warm down). I'm out the door here shortly to put in 12 miles before it gets too hot - supposed to get into the low 90's today.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pre Race Wrap Up

As bad as Wednesday was, Thursday was a great evening for a run. Beautiful sunny skies. Still a little on the cool side, but at least the wind didn't threaten to blow the door off my car. I did an easy six miles around the Upper Back Bay. Managed to finish up in just over an hour (1:03, average pace of 10:18) at an average heart rate of 75% of max. I ran most of it not paying attention to my Garmin, but just concentrating on feel. The cool thing about this run is it was pretty easy. I was actually expecting my time to be much closer to 1:10. I knew my heart rate would be low because other than a couple of strides thrown in for good measure, I really wasn't even breathing hard unless I was also going uphill. Nice run if I say so myself.

So, that wraps the week before my 5K on Saturday. I blew the dust off The Competitive Runner's Handbook (by Glover) this morning to look at 5K strategy. A 5K is an interesting race. It's too short to worry about fueling. But it's too long to just all out sprint. It's also a distance that I don;t have a lot of experience at. Here are some tips I've gleaned from Glover:

1. Hydrate pre race. Since it takes 20 minutes to fully absorb liquids, any drinking done during the race won't really help. But not being hydrated before the race will hurt.
2. Make sure you are properly fueled pre race. Anything eaten during the race will have zero effect on your performance. If you have trained properly, there will be enough glycogen in your legs to keep them going for 5 kilometers.
3. Break the race down into 4 pieces - 3 one mile pieces and the final push. Mile one - go out just a tad faster than goal pace. Miles 2 and 3 - push a little harder each mile to offset fatigue. Find a pack running your pace and tuck in with them. Let them pull you along. With about 400 yards left start picking out runners ahead of you to pick off one at a time. With 200 yards to go, turn it on!

I was also interested in a chart in the book that provides a little insight to performance. Based on my training paces, I am sitting right at the sub 8:00 minute mile pace. Now, I ran my last 5K back in October at an 8:28 pace. I'm not sure I've picked up a full 30 seconds per mile. Especially since I think there are a couple hills involved here (my son used to run Cross Country in High School and this was one of the courses for a rival school). Maybe of all the stars align.

Well - what I'm going to do is target an 8:15 mile. That will put me just over 25:30. That would be decent. One thing for sure - if I'm going to hit that pace I better be resting today! Yup! Waiter! One of those umbrella drinks please!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bad Doggie!

That's what my master would be telling me today. Yup. I just couldn't force myself out the door last night. I had a long day at work. Didn't get out of the office until after 6:30 (I got to work before 7 AM). The weatherman was right - a storm had blown through and the winds were howling. Gale force I'm sure. There were white caps on the back bay. Temperatures were dropping. By the time I got out to my car it was easily in the mid 50's. I had packed an Under Armor in anticipation, but that wasn't stopping the chill blowing through me. It reminded me of the first time I ever stepped the curbside at O'Hare in January many years ago. Brrr.

I remembered how nice it felt to run on Tuesday with no pain and no fatigue. So, I twisted my arm up behind my back and got my hand between my shoulders. In no time I was crying Uncle and climbed back into my car. Whew that was close!

Actually, I do feel a *little* guilty about taking a day off, but with the wind and the cold and the lateness of the day, I just did not feel like running was something I wanted to do. Plus, at this point, an extra day of rest isn't going to hurt. Let's call it a step back week.

Today I will make it out the door for a six mile easy run. The winds have died down and we are on a warming trend starting today. In fact, temperatures are forecast to be in the 90s by this weekend! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back at It

I was back on the trails yesterday. I decided to forgo Tuesday night intervals and just do a six mile run around the Upper Bay to let my body recover from it's bout with the "creeping grunge".

One thing I found out. It's a wonder what two days of rest can do for a sore body! I've had a bunch of little, nagging issues the past couple of weeks. Sore lower back. Sore hips. Sore quads. Well, all of that was gone! As I got going, I cranked up to Half Marathon Pace, and ended up running six miles at pace. Heart rate was only 78% of max! Nice! Plus, I feel real good today. No soreness. No stiffness. And that's just with two days of rest. Hmm. I see a taper strategy forming here for my target half on May 3rd.

Well, for the rest of this week I'm going to put in a couple more easy 6 milers before taking Friday off. Saturday I have a 5K. This should be interesting. It's been 7 months since I last ran a 5K. I have no idea how hard I can push for this. I do know that I can go all out for three miles (which I had trouble doing back in October). The question in my mind is what is "all out"? I'm thinking 8:00 to 8:15 per mile if I'm rested. I know I can run a mile in the low to mid 7:00 range, but I doubt I can hold that pace for 3 miles. The weather forecast for Saturday is sunny with temps in the 80s and 90s. I'm hoping that we get started and are done early enough that the heat won't be an issue. At least it will be a far cry from the blustery (and rainy - that's right rainy) low 60's of yesterday!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Feeling Better Today!

Well, I took another unscheduled rest day yesterday. I wasn't feeling real chipper in the morning, but felt better as the day progressed. I still figured I was better off resting one more day, so I wrote off yesterday's four miles. And today, I think I'm going to pass on intervals and just put in an easy six miles. Keep it easy and aerobic.

On the Whitney front, the group I'm part of (6 of us) is meeting this morning for breakfast. That means it's official! This morning we'll lay out things like gear and training to help make sure we all make it to the top. It's not a difficult climb as mountains go, but elevation makes it challenging. The top is a lofty 14,496 feet (highest point in the Continental U.S.), and the first night's camp is up over 12,000 feet. At that elevation, there is actually 40% less oxygen than at sea level. Everything operates a little slower and with a little more effort. Water boils at 190 degrees, which means food is lukewarm and partially cooked. Resting heart rates will be around 90 to 100 bpm. Sleep patterns will be interrupted. Bottom line is if you are not ready this kind of stuff, being at this elevation can lead to a pretty miserable two or three days. Place on top of that being not being familiar with your gear or being ill equipped and it can be enough to chase you out of them thar hills! So over the summer, we will be doing a lot of hiking at as high an altitude as we can get, backpacking, and trying out our gear. I used to love this stuff when I was in my 20's and I can't wait to get back up into the high country!

By the way - a group of people I know were up there last weekend:

Need I say more?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Unscheduled Rest Day

Well, things have been going along quite nicely on this training cycle, but alas, all good things must come to an end. What I thought was DOMS yesterday morning just progressed throughout the day until I was in bed shivering from a fever. I spent the day generally miserable slipping in and out of sleep, sore, and feverish. Needless to say, I didn't run.

So that wrapped up last week. Total distance - 31 miles. I gave up a 4 mile pace run yesterday, but considering the day before I essentially ran a 12 mile pace run, I'm not too torn up.

This week's plan includes a 5K on Saturday:

Monday - 4 mile easy run. Gym for stretching and core work. (I'm not sure I'm going to run today - I'm still feeling a little under the weather.)
Tuesday - Intervals. About 6 miles total
Wednesday - 4 mile recovery run. Gym for stretching and core work.
Thursday - 60 minute tempo run. About 6 miles total.
Friday - Rest day!
Saturday - RACE! Costa Mesa Community Run 5K
Sunday - 6 mile recovery.

This puts me at 29 miles for the week. If I don't run today (high probability of this happening) then I may extend Sunday's run to 9 miles or so. But then again - maybe not!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Twelve Miles in the Books

Well, another medium long run in the books. Put in twelve miles yesterday on an absolutely perfect day for a run. The morning started out cloudy (common here in Southern California this time of year), but cleared nicely by midway. Temps were in the lower to mid 60s. A nice spring day for a run.

The goal was 12 miles at general aerobic pace (heart rate between 75% and 85% of maximum heart rate). The problem? To be at this heart rate I had to run at my goal pace (a big non no). And I'm paying for it today. I'm feeling pretty sore and overall just not very chipper this morning. I had a tough time sleeping last night because of some DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). So this morning I'm sitting here feeling more like the flu is coming on instead of my normal self. Argh.

I guess this is a "get even" for yesterday. After my run, I was feeling a good as I ever had felt after a run. Endorphins were clearly doing their magic. I felt so peaceful and content. But I think I ignored a couple of key items. First, I needed to re-hydrate. I took 40 oz of water on my fuel belt, but drank only 10 of those ounces. The only other thing I had until dinner was a bottle of water and a Clif bar. I think the combination of failure to rehydrate and refuel is causing issues with recover today. Yech. Oh well. I'll grin and bear it.

I also wanted to introduce a new training tool I've been using with SportTracks recently. This tool is the Training Load plug-in. What it does is takes data from my Garmin and calculates three running averages:

1. Chronic Training Load (CTL - blue line) - This is kind of like my training bank account. CTL is a proxy for fitness, since it's value is dependent on total workout time over 42 days.

2. Acute Training Load (ATL - red line) - This value is used to measure fatigue. It is calculated from training load over the last 10 days.

3. The final value is Training Stress Balance (TSB -grey shaded area) - This is the difference of ATL from CTL. A negative value means that you are in the middle of a heavy training load. A positive number means that your training load has lessened in comparison to your fitness. So with this tool, in theory, we should better plan our performance come race day. The goal is to reduce fatigue while maintaining fitness, resulting in a higher TSB.

Here is a copy of my current Training Load graph:

From this it is apparent that I am still in a base building phase. My CTL (fitness) is increasing, but so is my fatigue (hence the way I feel today). My TSB is negative - which just means I don't want to run a race this week! In fact, my Training Load calculator is telling me that I should start taper on 4/23 to maximize my TSB on 5/03! Just another reason to own a Garmin and SportTracks!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Do I Really Need to Do This?

That was my "Question of the Day" yesterday. I had a tempo run on the schedule. I know that I'm pretty deep in a training cycle because there are some runs that I feel like I just have to force myself to do. Yesterday was one of those days. I was sooo not looking forward to another hard run. The wind was pretty stiff, which meant that my run back was going to be a couple hard miles into a headwind. Errgghh. I forced myself to take off after 20 minutes of procrastinating. Maybe if I just get this over with....

Well, it really wasn't as bad as I imagined. 45 minutes and I was done. Yeah - the run back was a little tougher because of the wind. But, I covered five miles in the allotted time. Put me right on a average pace of 9:00. The most interesting thing was that I didn't reach my target heart rate until about the mile 3 mark. The real purpose of a tempo run is to stimulate improvement of lactate threshold. This has *everything* to do with being able to stay aerobic during a race. And, the longer you can stay aerobic, the further and faster you can run! To stimulate this improvement though, you need to run at 80% to 90% of maximum heart rate for a 20 to 40 minute period (see Pfitzinger here). The bottom line is that the quality my workout was really suspect when 20 minutes of a 45 minute workout is warm up/warm down, and I don't break into the 80% bracket until 15 minutes into the actual workout. Hmm. This means that I *do* have room for improvement! Time to start pushing a little harder!

But, since today is Friday, it's rest day! Whew. I'm actually looking forward to an easy 12 miles on Saturday.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What a Day

I left my camera at home. Grrr. Yesterday was an absolutely stunning day. Cool. Crisp. Beautiful. It was one of those Chamber of Commerce days. There was supposed to be a slight chance of rain yesterday, but by midday it was clear that the "storm" had blown through. Literally. The winds switched direction and started blowing pretty stiff from the northwest. What that did was to blow out all of the haze and junk and left some spectacular views. The views of the Pacific from the bluff top that I was running were spectacular. Of course, it made my recovery run a little tough, but I really didn't care. It was just such a beautiful day!

Oh, the run? Just your basic four mile recovery run. 10:31 pace (interesting - 10:15 outbound when the wind was at my back, 10:45 inbound running into the wind), and an average heart rate 73% of max. I also made it to the gym for some stretching, crunches and planks.

On the schedule today is a 45 minute tempo run. The last couple of weeks I've hit 5 miles, but today I may run just a tad less. My legs have been uber tired and my glutes and quads sore after the track workout Tuesday night, so I'm thinking that a little rest for them will help. I'd rather fall a half mile or so short on a hard workout and substitute some easy aerobic miles in their place.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Are Those My Legs or are Those Rubberbands?

Last night was track night. It was supposed to be raining. But, the only thing that was dripping on the track was my sweat as I finished another two laps and grabbed my knees looking for loose change. Really - the weather was absolutely beautiful for an evening of running. Me at the end of the evening? Well that's a different question.

Most of the group had finished their goal race last weekend (the Carlsbad 5000). So, that meant a switch from shorter intervals (400s) to longer intervals. Our group ran 4 X 800 with 3 minute recovery. Normally, 800s should be run at 10K pace (for me about 8:40 a mile), but invariably with a group we all run faster. That was true last night for me:

Interval 1: 3:48
Interval 2: 3:43
Interval 3: 3:51
Interval 4: 3:49

These times are *way* faster than I would be running if I were by myself. Were talking sub 8 minute miles here. No wonder I was left gasping for air!

One thing for sure, I was *spent* when this workout was done. I wrapped things up with a mile and a half warm down for a total of six miles. My legs felt like rubber when I got home, but I sure did sleep well! Unfortunately, I had a bit of a Garmin malfunction, so I didn't collect any data during the intervals. I know I hit VO2Max heart rate roughly at the end of the first 400, so at those splits I would guestimate that I was at VO2Max for about 8 minutes last night. Once again a little shorter that my goal, but still a decent workout.

On tap tonight is an easy four mile recovery run. Once again - I'm looking forward to not pushing the pace!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cranking out the Miles

Yesterday was a the normal short sweet Monday four mile easy run. Cranked it out at an average pace of 9:17 and an average heart rate of 81% of MHR. I even made it to the gym for some stretching and core work afterwards.

Thanks everyone for your comments yesterday regarding my weight loss! It's nice to get acknowledgement from others that are putting in the work! Thanks again! And no Rookie - I still have a *long* way to go before I need to worry about renaming this blog! (By the way - congratulations on finishing your first race!)

Also, Brian pointed out yesterday about wearing through the soles of my Asics GT 2140s in 400 miles. He has a pair of Adidas that are still going strong at 500. One thing I want to point out - around here "trail" just means that cars aren't allowed. The "trails" are paved. I actually do very little running off either asphalt or concrete. Plus, I'm sure the extra weight that I'm still carrying around does a lot to break shoes down quicker. Not to mention my shuffling gait (as opposed to the gazelle like strides of most runners). I'm just happy to be getting almost double the wear at a cost of 30% less per shoe. Big savings!

Well - it's Tuesday. Than means intervals this evening. There is actually rain in the forecast today. I'm not sure if the group meets when it rains (I've been running with the Tuesday group now only for a few weeks), so if it doesn't I'll probably hit the trails for an easy six miles and just do one day of speed work this week. We'll see how the afternoon shapes up.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Week 8 - It's a Wrap!

I wrapped up the 8th week of this 12 week training cycle with an easy 4 mile recovery run yesterday. That means that I have about 3 more weeks of some tough (for me) training. But, I'm pretty satisfied with where I am. I'm running about 35 miles a week and spending a couple days a week in the gym. I've dropped 7 pounds in the last eight weeks. I'm feeling stronger and fitter that when I started. But, I have a bunch of little sore spots and tweaks. The one that concerns me the most right now is a tender IT band. I'm hoping that breaking out the new shoes last Saturday helps.

Speaking of shoes - I did break out some new Asics on Saturday. I think I may have finally found a shoe that fits well and gets decent wear. I had been a big Asics Gel Kayano fan. They fit me feet like gloves and were the *most* comfortable shoe ever. The problem was I was getting about 225 to 250 miles out of a pair. At $140 a pop, that expense quickly became the driving cost of this little hobby of mine. A few months back, I went to a new shoe store - Runner's High in Irvine. The owner put me into a pair of Asics GT2140s. They don't have that glove like feel the Kayanos had, but they are more than adequate. I just retired my first pair of GT 2140's with 400 miles on them!. I actually wore through the soles in a couple spots! Quite a difference from the 225 I got in my last pair of Kayanos. Also - the best part is cost. I purchased this new pair from REI. Using a 20% member discount coupon recently emailed to me, along with my dividend from last year, this new pair cost only $63! Less than half the cost of the Kayanos! And - no shipping cost since I picked up in the local store! Woo hoo!

Back to the business at hand. On tap this week - very similar to last week:

Monday - 4 mile easy run, gym for stretching and core work
Tuesday - Intervals. About 6 miles in total.
Wednesday - 4 mile recovery run, gym for stretching and core work
Thursday - 45 min tempo run - about 5 miles
Friday - Scheduled rest day (yea!)
Saturday - 12 mile long run
Sunday - 4 mile at HM pace

That would put me at 35 miles. Same as this past week. Really the only change is the 4 mile HMP run on Sunday. I'm hoping my groins won't be sore like they were yesterday! We'll find out then!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Up the Creek

Just like most Saturday mornings deep in Marathon training. North up San Diego Creek for our long run. This week was a step back week for the marathoners, which meant 16 miles. There is a loop that we can run - some of you may have read about it here on my blog. But, the loop is only 12 miles, so anything over that means that we run an out and back on the San Diego Creek trail. My goal race is the PCRF Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon, so to run more than 12 just is not necessary nor in my makeup right now. But I still tag along with the group - I just turn around at the 6 mile point.

Yesterday's run started out innocent enough. I thought it was going to be normal and uneventful. Then, about 2 miles in, I started feeling something that I don't normally feel - my stomach. It was starting to do things that it normally doesn't do on a run. The problem on the creek trail is the first "facility" is at the five mile mark. The way I was feeling, I was afraid I was going to have to ditch the run or find a bush. Egad. Just as I was about to turn tail, things started settling down. Whew. Then, about mile 8 my stomach hit again. But this time it was different. The unmistakable rumbling of hunger! The last two miles were tough as my energy level dwindled. Note to self - next week make sure to grab something before hitting the trail!

All in all, the run went okay. 12 miles in 2:03 (average pace of 10:16). The real key here was to keep my heart rate aerobic. Check! Run completed at an average heart rate of 146 (79% of MHR)!

On plan today - a quick and easy 4 mile recovery run.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Feeling Guilty Here...

I now know I am a runner. Yup. No doubt about it. How do I know? Because yesterday's training plan said 50 minute tempo run. Programmed into my Garmin as a 45 minute tempo run. That means I ran about 6/10s a mile less than I was supposed to. Guilty as charged!

It's kind of funny when you think about it. Half a mile and I'm mulling my sentencing. It wasn't but a couple of years ago that half a mile would have been my daily workout. Now I'm trying to figure out how to make up a missed half mile.

The run did go well though! 5 miles total in 45 minutes. That includes the 10 minute warm up and 10 minute warm down. I managed to hit a pace of 7:45 during mile 3. Looks like all that tongue dragging interval work is starting to pay off. The only thing that I need to do a little better job of is keeping my heart rate up. In fact, I went back to my resource on running to remind myself the purpose of the tempo run:

Hmm. Looks like I should ratchet the pace down and keep the heart rate a little more consistent. Something to look forward to next week.

Now to switch gears a little. I started this whole fitness thing a couple years ago to get in shape to get back to hiking. The goal was the highest point in the Continental U.S. - Mt. Whitney (elevation 14,496 ft). Well, after two years of getting is shape, I'm finally going to get my chance! I'm part of a group that received our permit yesterday! WOOT WOOT WOOT! Yes - a permit is actually required. This isn't that uncommon in the popular backcountry areas these days. In fact, for the Whitney area this year, 6023 applications were received for 3638 spots. We were six of those spots! The upshot is that I'm going to need to change my training focus a little to include some backpacking and elevation work this spring and summer. Don't quite know what that's going to do to my fall marathon plans, but I've been wanting to do Whitney ever since I was a teenager.

As a close - I'll leave a photo to be part of Foto Friday on nikemom's blog - Mt. Whitney at 6:49 AM this morning 4/3/2009. Thanks to the Whitney Portal Store in Lone Pine California!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Still Recovering

After revisiting the purpose of recovery runs last week, I was determined this week to do it right. And heaven knows I need it. I am back to being tired. All the time. I'm sleeping like a log at night though, so I'm not over training. Looks like I need to crank the carb engine up a little bit.

I did keep yesterday's workout in recovery range, so goal accomplished. Put in four miles at average heart rate of 73% of max. Hopefully I started pumping all those bad "waste products" out of my legs, 'cuz they sure were sore! At least it feels like I've been running.

On a related note, I've been making it to the gym on a regular basis (3 times a week) for the past couple of weeks. I usually go after my short runs (Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays). I'm not doing weights or anything, just some stretching and planks for some ab strengthening. On the positive side, I am now able to hold a plank for about 45 seconds - a lot better than the measly 15 seconds just a few weeks ago! I need to add some more core strengthening to my routine. Any suggestions?

Today's plan is a tempo run. I think it increases 10 minutes to 55 minutes today. I'm not sure - I just have it programmed into my Garmin. When I get to my starting point and get satellite lock, I'll retrieve today's workout and go (or at least try to - we'll see if my legs do what my brain is telling them to)!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Track Time!

Yessiree! Tuesday nights means time to enjoy some camaraderie with the folks in my track club! Today I'm still paying for last night's fun. Ooof.

It's very interesting being part of this club. We meet three times a week - Saturday mornings for long runs, Tuesday evenings for track workout, and Thursday evenings for tempo runs. Saturday's group tends to be older (I fit in) and made up of folks who are primarily marathoners or are training to be marathoners. Tuesday night's group, on the other hand, is made primarily of younger, FAST runners specializing in shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks. Not only do I skew the average age up, I also skew the average time down! Its an eye opener when I kill myself to run a 400 in 1:45 to realize that I am almost twice as slow as the fastest finishers. Whew.

Yesterday's workout was "easy" because a lot of runners are tapering for the Carlsbad 5K, coming up this Sunday. So, we ran 8 X 400. My ugly results:
  • Interval 1: 1:44
  • Interval 2: 1:46
  • Interval 3: 1:53 (note the trend here)
  • Interval 4: 1:56
  • Interval 5: 1:52
  • Interval 6: 1:51
  • Interval 7: 1:54
  • Interval 8: 1:52

This one had my tongue swinging low. I'm still recovering - but I did sleep real well last night! The only downside to the workout was I only spent about 9 1/2 minutes in VO2Max heart range. That's a little less time than I'd like to spend (12 to 15 minutes), but is also a function of shorter intervals.

Today I'm looking forward to my recovery run. A nice, eeeaaaassssyyyy recovery run! Crystal Cove here I come!