Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nobody said this would be Easy

Holy Tempo Run Batman, they want to you to do what? 5 miles at 15K pace did you say? At 5:00 AM? Who dreamed up this plan and just when did I agree to follow it?

I knew that following the Pfitzinger plan would probably be a little tougher than other training programs I’ve used, but this morning, I really got tested. For those following along at home, this morning schedule was 10 miles w/5 miles at 15K pace. For me, that translates to a 7:40/mi pace. I know I can run much faster for 5 miles since I ran my last 10K at 7:23/mi and my last 8K at 7:10/mi; but this wasn’t a race. It was just me running around by myself in the dark.

I took my black lab, Cooper, out for an uneventful two mile warm up and dropped him off at the house before jogging over to the “start line”. As always, I started out way too fast, covering the first ¼ mile well under 2 minutes, but I quickly settled into a nice rhythm with the Garmin holding at 7:38 avg pace. Starting the 2nd mile, I had loads of confidence that the next 4 miles would go pretty much the same. However, no one bothered to talk to my lungs. My breathing became labor (as if I were running hill repeats) and evil Phil woke up to remind me that a nice warm bed was only a short jog away. My shoulders tensed up and my pace became erratic; but there was no way I was going to stop

According to the Garmin, I got to the end of the 2 mile in 7:45, not too bad, but 5 seconds slower than target. But now I was on Mile 3; a clean slate so to speak. I got my breathing under control and relaxed my shoulders and just focused on my turn-over rate (why does it take so much concentration to get this body to move?) and felt much better right up to the point where I had an altercation with a white pickup truck.

I saw the truck pull up into the “bike lane” prepared to make a right hand turn well in front of me. He hesitated, started to go, and then stopped as I approached. Finally, someone was paying attention … well not exactly. As I got within 10 feet of the truck and started running around the front, the truck began to move again and blocked my way. I dodged left to run behind the vehicle but didn’t quite make it and bounced off the side of the truck near the rear bumper. Fortunately, I stayed on my feet and finished navigating around the back side of the truck and tried to accelerate out of the situation as quickly as possible. The fellow driving the truck open the driver’s door and actually APPOLOGIZED! Needless to say, I was shocked. I probably lost 2 or 3 seconds in this altercation but got my legs up and humming again within 100m.

On the back half of mile 3 I noticed a runner jogging with a large dog on a leash. The course through here is a narrow sidewalk with hedges on either side, making passing somewhat problematic. As I approach, I called out “ON YOUR RIGHT”. The poor woman (probably thinking she was under attack), let out a scream, moved right and tightened the leash attached her dog on the left side of the sidewalk. I’ve never been a good hurdler, but this morning, I got a chance to jump over a dog. I wouldn’t recommend it. The Garmin had me completing mile 3 in 7:39; however, I was really starting to drag.

Miles 4 and 5 were more typical and not too exciting. I was dragging more but still running under 7:50 and finished out 5 miles without any more “incidents”. Once I got home and measured the actual distance with a mapping program, I realized that the actual distance covered was 5.05 miles; leaving me with an overall average pace of 7:41/mi for the tempo portion.

After the tempo, I ran a 3 mile recovery at a 9:30/mi pace to round out the total distance for this morning to 10.3 miles. I haven’t even looked at what I need to do for the rest of week, but I can’t imagine I’ll need to work that hard again for a couple of days. I don’t know how you speed demons do this day in and day out.

Training for the week:

Mon – Rest Day
Tue – 10.3 miles, w/ 5 miles @ 7:41, avg pace 8:41

Monday, October 30, 2006

Going to the Dogs

As I was trying to get out my front door on Sunday morning for an easy 5 mile recovery run, my 11 year-old lab/golden retriever mix insisted that he go along with the younger black lab. So I grabbed his collar and headed out the door with two 75+ lb dogs in tow. Cooper, the black lab, was very confused. He wanted to take his usual spot at my left leg, but the older dog simply pushed him aside to get the favored spot. After a few hundred meters of jostling for position, Cooper ended up running in front and the older dog (Marcel) running behind.

Of course, Marcel didn’t realize that we were out for a run and wanted to stop to smell every interesting object on the road way. After a few good tugs on his collar, he finally got the message and fell into a steady rhythm. This lasted until we passed the 1 mile mark.

After a mile, Marcel started slowing down and by 1.5 miles I knew I needed to take him home. His breathing was becoming labored and he had extended the leash as far as it would go behind me. Cooper was enjoying the change since it allowed him move back and run directly to my left. I must have been quite a sight running with these two dogs. One happy as can be with his tail wagging; the other at the end of his leash with my left arm extend straight back trying to encourage him to keep moving for a few more metrs.

After I dropped Marcel off at the house, Cooper and I went back out to finish up the rest of the run. The last 3 miles went very smooth indeed.

Today (Monday) is a rest day and tomorrow starts week 7 of the Pfitzinger 18 week/55 miles per week plan. That should be fun. I hope your week goes great.

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue – 8.0 Miles, easy w/8x100m strides, 8:54/mi avg pace
Wed – 5.0 Miles, recovery, 9:00/mi avg pace
Thr – 8 .0 miles, easy, 8:39/mi avg pace
Fri – 5 .0miles, recovery, 8:58/mi avg pace
Sat – 20.2 miles, long, 9:17/mi avg pace
Sun – 5.2 miles, recovery, 9:05/mi avg pace

Total mileage for the week: 51.7

Saturday, October 28, 2006

20 Miler – Finally

After several failed attempts over the past several weeks, I finally got in a good 20 miler this morning. I needed to get my youngest daughter down to the Phoenix-Tucson shuttle by 9:15, so I didn’t have time to drive over too Reach 11 Park and do it as a trail run. Instead I chose a simple 5 mile loop on major surface streets in North Phoenix. To make sure I stayed hydrated, I stole an idea from Thomas and line up 3 16 oz bottles of Gatorade behind an Irrigation Valve Box along the route. This approach let me drop off an empty bottle and pick up a new one every 5 miles.

I got out on the road at 4:40 AM and there certainly wasn’t much traffic at that time of the morning. I spent the first 2 miles warming up in the cool morning air and then settled in to a nice comfortable pace. Although I had my Garmin turned on, I wore it on my right wrist and wore a simple digital sports watch on the left. I did this to make sure that I didn’t start fretting about pace instead of focusing on making it around the 5 mile loop four times. The Garmin was just along for the ride.

The first 5 miles went by about as expected. I wasn’t pushing things real hard and averaged 9:12/mi through the first lap. At the end of the 1st lap, I picked up a 16 oz bottle on the fly and keep moving down the road. Although I had expected to finish one bottle on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th laps, it didn’t work out that way. Trying to run and drink in the dark is a trick I haven’t mastered. By the time I had 8 miles under my feet, I had only finish 1/3 of the bottle and as I was getting to the 10 mile mark at the end of the 2nd lap, I still had 8 oz of fluid in the bottle .. so I just hung onto the same bottle for the 3rd lap.

After completing the second lap, I was very conscious of being out into my trouble zone. Last week I bonk around 10 miles and argued with evil Phil a few minutes before continuing on, but I was determined to not to repeat the same argument this morning. With only a digital watch I was aware that was running sub 9:30 miles, but didn’t know exactly how fast I was going. Again, I just wanted to focus on keeping my legs moving forward for 20 miles at a pace 5-10% slower than my easy pace.

The inevitable mind games started at 12 miles. The Pfitz plan only called for 12 miles this weekend, so I knew I could give myself permission to quit at this point. All I needed to do was make a quick left turn right after 12 miles and I could be home in 10 minutes. I could just smell the pancakes I’d make for myself before anyone else in was awake. Fortunately, I put that comforting thought out of my head and kept plowing ahead towards mile 13. I also stumbled in the dark on mile 13 and felt a slight twinge in my left hamstring. In addition, my right knee was starting to hurt, probably a result of coming down hard on my right leg when my left foot caught on a rough spot in the road. I just made myself believe that the pains would go away in a mile or so and kept moving.

Along mile 14, Evil Phil started up a running dialog about how 15 miles would be a pretty good total for the morning. Good Phil kept telling him to shut up and go back to sleep. We were running 20 this morning. It was a nice day, the birds were chirping, the cars were racing past, what else could we want? Besides, Michele ran 20 miles in the driving rain earlier this week, I could certainly keep moving under these perfect conditions.

As I past mile 15, I tossed the now empty Gatorade bottle at the cache of full bottles (and missed by 10 feet) and started out on the final lap. I did a little mental arithmetic and realized I was still under 9:30/mi at 15, but would have to stay focused over the next 5 miles to make sure everything stayed that way.

Everything still felt good at mile 16 and mile 17 sailed by without difficulty. As I approached the end of mile 18, I was very much aware of how lousy I felt the last time I’d gone this far. I remembered that the microsecond my Garmin beeped at 18 miles I pulled up and walked the rest of the way. Since I was literally 2 miles from home at 18 miles today, I really didn’t have the choice to walk home and get there in time to make sure my daughter was out of bed; so on I went; only 2 miles to go.

Near the end of mile 19 a wave of tiredness flowed through my legs. It felt as if someone had shot both legs full of liquid lead to which I responded very loudly … oh S&$T, NOT TODAY! I then remembered what Mike always says when he gets tired, just SPEED UP. So I kicked it into high gear and ran the garbage out of my legs. By the time I crested the hill on mile 20 I was feeling pretty good again. My breathing was still regular and my legs were moving well.

After being on the road for over 3 hours I lost confidence that I’d actually measured the course accurately. Since I didn’t want to stop and find out that I’d only run 19.95 miles, I kept going for another 0.3 miles to the next intersection. I also grabbed another Gatorade bottle from my hydration cache as I passed the 20 mile mark. I wasn’t going to fail.

Stopping was anit-climatic, but I can’t tell you how good I felt. To many of you, running 20 miles is a weekly occurrence, but for me, it was further than I’d ever been by 2 miles and I can now toss a rather obnoxious monkey off my back. I know I can run this far. When I started running I remember talking to a runner who had completed a 16 mile run early in the day. I was running 3 miles a day at the time and I remember thinking that 16 miles was further than I would ever be able to run. Although this is a significant milestone, I can only hope that it becomes a regular occurrence in my training.

Run post mortem:

Average pace 1st 5 miles – 9:12
Average pace 2nd 5 miles – 9:25
Average pace 3rd 5 miles – 9:26
Average pace 4th 5 miles – 9:04
Fastest Mile – Mile 20 – 8:41

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue – 8.0 Miles, easy w/8x100m strides, 8:54/mi avg pace
Wed – 5.0 Miles, recovery, 9:00/mi avg pace
Thr – 8 .0 miles, easy, 8:39/mi avg pace
Fri – 5 .0miles, recovery, 8:58/mi avg pace
Sat – 20.2 miles, long, 9:17/mi avg pace

Friday, October 27, 2006


I learned yet another life lesson this morning: you’ve got to stay hydrated, even when the temperature is well under 80F.

I about fell off my scale this morning after I got out of bed; the thing read 169. I was 172 yesterday and found it hard to believe that I’d lost 3 lbs of body fat in 24 hours. What I’d lost, of course, was 48 oz of water. I’m usually a good boy when I’m in my North Phoenix office. I keep a 1.5L bottle of water on my desk and drink from it throughout the day, but I spent Wednesday and Thursday sitting in a conference room in our Tempe facility slurping down a few cups of luke-warm decaf coffee. Evidently that wasn’t enough fluid.

Today’s run was a 5 miler at an easy recovery pace. My heart quickly increased to 135 on the 1st mile and continued to climb through miles 2 and 3, even though my pace was just around 9:00/mi. My HR increased to 145 by the time I finished up mile 4, at which time I just said “screw it”. I still had a short hill to climb and there was no sense slowing down any further. I think my HR peaked out at 155 by the time I got to the top of the hill.

My pace was certainly a recovery run, by my HR was approaching a tempo run. Yesterday I ran and nice steady 5 miles at 8:20/mi and kept my HR around 145. This morning I ran the same 5 miles at 9:00/mi with my HR pushing 150. Amazing what 3 lbs of water will buy you.

Have a great weekend.

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 8 Miles, easy w/8x100m strides, 8:54/mi avg pace
Wed – 5 Miles, recovery, 9:00/mi avg pace
Thr – 8 miles, easy, 8:39/mi avg pace
Fri – 5 miles, recovery, 8:58/mi avg pace

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Up and Running

For the first time since spring, the air actually felt cool this morning. The wind was blowing hard at 5:00 AM and there must have been plenty of moisture in the air, because the air temperature felt a lot cooler than 63F (17C). Of course, after living in Arizona for 26 years, I get cold very easy. Even though I wondered if shorts and a short sleeve top were the wisest choice, after 2 miles I started to enjoy the cool weather.

Today was an easy aerobic 8 so I strapped on my HR monitor and hit the road before 5 AM. I didn’t wear my Garmin. First, I just don’t like to wear all this electronic equipment when I run, and second, I always get myself in trouble trying to chase HR and Pace at the same time. General aerobic runs go a whole lot better if I just wear a HR and run at a comfortable pace. The HR monitor makes sure that I don’t get too exuberant and I can’t fret about the pace.

Not wanting to push my frigid legs (yes, I’m a wimp) too hard at the beginning, the first two miles dragged by. After two miles, my HR was still below 135 so, I picked up the pace, trying to glide over the road and be soft on my feet (this must have looked real funny). I past the 3 mile mark at 27:33; a 9:11/mi average for the first 3 miles; however, I felt as if I was motoring around a whole lot faster than 9:11. My HR was up to 135, but the legs still felt fresh and breathing was solid. So I continued on with the same intensity; only 5 miles to go.

I passed the 5 miles mark at 44:xx (couldn’t read the seconds on my watch); I knew I was running somewhere under 9:00/mi. My HR was up to 139, still OK, so I had no need to slow down for the last 3 miles. I don’t have good mile marks for the last 3 miles on this course so I‘d have to wait until the end to figure out my actual average pace. I knew I was doing OK and my HR was still under 80% HRmax, within my aerobic range. So I just kept running at the same pace; although I suspect I was actually speeding up.

The course I was using this morning is has far fewer cars than other early morning routes I use and it also has two short hills along mile 5 and 8. I was still feeling pretty good on mile 8, so I charged up both hills (as much as my pace could be called charging) and let my HR do whatever it was going to do. I think it peaked out at 153 at the top of the first hill. Still not too bad. After running the first 3 miles at a 9:11/mi average, I ran the last 5 at a 8:20 average.

Side note (not running related). My wife went back to the gym this afternoon for the first time since running a steel gate over her toe 3 weeks ago. Her orthopedic doctor gave her the all clear to start exercising again yesterday. Her toe is still missing a nail and the wound is still very sore and bandaged, but she managed to slip on her running shoes and headed for the elliptical trainer. She ran on the elliptical trainer for 45 minutes, covering 2.44 miles. My youngest daughter has another ankle sprain and can’t participate at soccer practice for at least another week, so she went along with us to use the stationary bike. As for me, I just sat in the lobby of LA Fitness and worked on my blog. My daughter called me a “slack ass”

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 8 Miles, easy w/8x100m strides, 9:02/mi avg pace
Wed – 5 Miles, recovery, 9:08/mi avg pace
Thr – 8 miles, easy, 8:39/mi avg pace

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A good start to the week

Not much to report this morning. I'm starting the 6th week on Pfitzinger 18 week plan and finally feel as if I'm fully recovered from my Grand Canyon hike. Ran a simple 8 miler with 8x100m striders this morning. Everything felt fine and I didn't run into any crazy SUVs.

Have a great week.

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 8 Miles, easy w/8x100m strides, 9:02/mi avg pace

Monday, October 23, 2006

Catching up on Pfitzinger

My running partner evidently grew tired of reading up on Pfitzinger's Training plan for this week and decided to take a little nap. He left the book (Advanced Marathoning) closed under the yellow pad and I can't read his notes. Now I've got to figure out what we are doing in the morning all by myself.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Valuable Life Lessons

It certainly has been an interesting weekend. My daughter’s soccer team lost their first soccer game of the season; they are now 13-1-1, I failed to get in a 17 mile long run and I nearly got run over (again). All of this got me thinking about life’s little lessons; some of which your mom taught you.

1)Don’t count the chickens before they hatch: After going undefeated this season including winning a tournament in California, beating the #2 team in Arizona to win a 2nd tournament and beating the #1 team from Nevada to kick off the tournament this weekend, my daughter's team faced a team from Tucson this morning that they’ve never lost to. Once they beat these guys they would move on to the championship game and face the current #1 team in Arizona. The trouble is, no one bother to tell the other team that they weren't suppose to win. We played a lack-luster game, our friends from Tucson played an inspired game, we lost 1-0 and got to take the afternoon off. Our girls were stunned that they actually lost a game. I know this will be good for them in the long run. You need to take every team seriously and keep scoring until the final whistle blows.

2)Donating Blood does not improve your long run performance: I gave blood again on Thursday after my 10 miler. Nothing wrong with that. I’m O negative and feel it is my duty to donate a 4 or 5 pints a year for the greater good; however, this is the second time I’ve given blood since I increased my monthly mileage and I think that I’ve conclusively demonstrated that there is inverse relationship between giving up whole blood an running well. My Running Log entry for an 8 Miler I ran the day after donating blood in August read, “Legs very heavy, felt as if I was in 1st gear for the entire run. Waves of pain in my left foot. Big toe inflamed and arch started hurting on mile 4. Right foot also started falling asleep on mile 4. Right calf felt very tight through mile 3. Not a good morning.” My attempt to run a 17 miler on Saturday afternoon wasn’t much better. My pace started out around 9:00/mi, but after only 2 miles I started slowing down. The heat was taking its toll and I actually stopped on mile 9 and had a conversation with myself concerning stopping and walking back to the car or continuing on down the trail deeper into the desert. I won the argument (go figure) and pushed on. On mile 11, as I was heading back to the trail head, a friend called (only I will take a call 2 miles from my car in the middle of a desert – and deserted – park). After a few minutes of talking on the phone, I got back to running; however, after 12 miles, I’d had enough. It was getting dark and I didn’t have my head-lamp with me. Besides, all sort of critters come out at night on the desert and I didn’t care to run into any of them. The official distance: 12.46 miles.

3)Don’t mess with SUVs: This afternoon I just had to get out for another run. Despite the fact that the temperature was 86F I needed to get out and try to get at least one good run in this week. I set out at MP, but found myself sub 8 at the first mile. On mile 2 I’m running along in the bike lane minding my own business while trying to hold the sub 8 pace when a Red Mini Van, driven by a women talking on a cell phone, swerves into to the bike lane in front of me. She evidently saw my “deer in the head-lights” look and swerved back towards the traffic lane, I put up my right hand reflexively and hit the passenger side mirror with the tips of my fingers. I don’t recommend doing this. The fingers are still sore. I did finish out the run and finally felt like I was moving again. Average pace for the 5 miles this afternoon was 8:08/mi.

On the plus side of the ledger, my 19 year-old and her dorm room-mate drove up from Tucson to visit this weekend. It’s been rather lively in the house with them hanging around. Of course, they slept until noon today and were out for most of the afternoon, so I only saw them at dinner; but it was still nice to have them home.

Hope you all have a great week.

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 9 miles, Tempo w/4 miles @ 8:58/mi avg
Wed – Rest Day
Thr – 10.0 miles, Easy, 9.11/mi avg pace
Fri – 5.0 miles, Recovery, 9:42/mi avg pace
Sat – 12.5 miles, Long, 9:31/mi avg pace
Sun – 5.0 miles, Recovery, 9:19/mi avg pace
Sun – 5.0 miles, MP, 8:08/mi avg pace

Total mileage for the week: 46.4 Miles

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Life in these Legs

I took yesterday off as another rest day and got an extra hour of sleep. It helped considerably. Although my back was still stiff this morning when I got up for my 10 mile run, I could at least could stand up fairly straight without pain.

The temperatures are finally down to the low 60sF which makes for real nice running weather. Since my running has generally sucked since my Canyon trip, I started off this morning very slow and easy, spending the first two miles warming up before taking my HR up to 135. My back loosened up after a mile and running with a running in the general aerobic range was effortless with an average pace at 9:02 … a good sign. For miles 7, 8 and 9, I pushed my HR up to 150+ and tried to run closer to MP. These three miles were all over the map (8:26, 8:16, 8:39), but at least they were sub 9:00 and much better than the “tempo” run on Tuesday. I backed my HR back down under 140 for the final 1.3 and cruised back into my neighborhood.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

Training so far:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 9 miles, Tempo w/4 miles @ 8:58/mi avg
Wed – Rest Day
Thr – 10.3 miles, Easy, 8:49/mi avg pace

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Different Drummer

Today’s run was a 9 miler with 4 miles at ½ marathon pace. Yeah, right. My back is still hurting from this weekend (although I can almost stand up straight) and my legs are nearly dead from my sprint up the North Rim last Friday. The first 3 miles were an exercise in futility as I tried to get my back to loosen up. I completed the first mile in a blazing10:34 and eventually worked my way down to 9:49 on the 3rd mile as my back did finally loosen up and I no longer looked as if I was shuffling to buffet at the adult day-care center.

Eventually the Garmin beep at 3 miles indicating that the warm-up was over and off I went on my tempo run. Two weeks ago I ran 4 miles under 7:40. This morning, the first tempo mile “zipped” by in 9:07. Yep … I sped up to my easy 10 mile pace for my tempo run. I wasn’t wearing my HR monitor, so I have no idea how hard I was working. It really didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to go any faster. The next three miles were marginally better: 8:59, 8:58, and 8:45; but still no where near 7:40.

Tomorrow is, as they say, a new day. Seeing how it is already mid-night, I’ll get to run a 5 mile recovery run on 4 ½ hours sleep. Should be fun. (boy, do I ever complain when I’m not feeling well!)

Hope your week is going better.

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 9 miles, Tempo w/4 miles @ 8:58/mi avg

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A walk in the Park

This Friday I walked across the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim with a fun group of 10 people. We left the trail Kaibab Trail head on the South Rim at 5:50 AM (in the dark) and started popping out on the North Rim just before 2:00 PM. Somehow, I managed to get out first, completing the 20.9 mile crossing in 8:08:20.

For those unfamiliar with a typical Canyon crossing... here are the basics

South Kaibab Trail Head - 0.0 Miles; 7,200'Elevation
Colorado River - 6.4 Miles, 2,400'Elevation
Phantom Ranch - 6.9 Miles, 2,450'Elevation
Cotton Wood Camp Ground - 14.0 Miles, 4,000' Elevation
North Kaibab Trail Head - 20.9 Miles, 8,241' Elevation

The trip is divided into three distinct parts:

1) A pleasant 6.9 mile walk through the cool morning air from the top of the South Rim to the Colorado River followed by a short hike along Bright Angel Creek to Phantom Ranch.

2) An absolutely beautiful 7.1 mile walk along Bright Angel Creek from Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood Camp Ground.

3) A strenuous 6.9 mile hike up the North Rim; climbing 4,241' up to the North Kaibab Trail Head.

Since I took a boat load of pictures and I know that's what you really want to see, I've set this post up as a travel log. I hope you enjoy it.

One of my friends follows me down the South Kaibab trail in the dark. Temperatures at the top at 5:50 in the morning where in the high 30s. Just a perfect morning for a hike.

Dawn was spectacular on Friday morning. I've been in the canyon many times at dawn and every day is different. This morning was crystal clear. The canyon walls exploded with color as the sun slowly came over the horizon.

A few minutes later as the sun continue to climb

I am still fresh at first light

Serious down hill! This is a particular fun part of the South Kaibab trail. It is real bitch when you are coming up it, especially in the afternoon with the sun beating on you; but in the early morning light, it was a joy to walk down these switch-backs.

Hamming it up for the camera on the way down. You'll notice that I have none of these shots on the way up.

The facilities on at the intersection of the South Kaibab and Tonto Trails. The National Park Service thinks of everything.

Heading down into the Inner Gorge of the Grand Canyon along the Colorado River. Once we get down to the river, we'll cross over and head north along the Bright Angel Creek through Bright Angel Canyon.

The first view of the Colorado River looking down into the Inner Gorge.

The suspension bridge across the Colorado River. We are almost at the bottom.

The cables on this suspension bridge where carried to the bottom by chain of people walking down the path we just hiked.

Everyone is still all smiles at Phantom Ranch. I arrived at this point last, covering the 6.9 miles in 2:41:19. I never hurry down the hill. It just doesn't make any sense t rush. We rested at Phantom Ranch for 15 minutes and I filled up my Camel Back in preparation for the 7.1 hike up to Cotton Wood camp ground. It isn't a hard hike up to Cotton Wood, but half of the hike is exposed to the sun and I just wanted to make sure I had extra water should anything happen.

The first three miles along Bright Angel Creek are relatively flat and in the shade. The Canyon walls are high and the canyon is only a few hundred feet wide in this area. Things will change quickly in a few miles however.

Bright Angel Canyon finally opens into a much wider canyon with spectacular views. Just after I took this picture, I had to cross a marshy area of the trail where the ware percolates up through the ground. Being a particularly nimble individual, I managed to slip and do a face plant in the putrid water. After I fell in, I just walked up the middle of the trail through the ankle deep water. I knew I had a fresh pair of socks in my pack and only 3 miles to go before Cotton Wood.

Ribbon Falls

Looking back at the South Rim just north of Ribbon Falls. It's hard to believe we were standing on the top of that rim just a few hours ago. I picked up the pace in this area and lost everyone in my group except one particularly hardy sole. I kept my HR at 110 during most of this easy climb and let the pace ebb and flow as the grade changed. I knew I had a much harder climb ahead and didn't want to start pushing the pace really hard yet.

Looking north towards Cotton Wood. I just love this picture. For me, this is one of the prettiest places on the planet and so few people get to see it. As Grand Canyon pictures go, it doesn't have the dramatic effect of the shots from the rim, but I just like the rugged serenity of this area.

Cotton Wood Camp Ground. The real climb begins just around the corner. It took me 2:08:28 to walk the 7.1 miles up to this point. I got here first, but had some major work to do to get my feet in shape to walk up the North Rim. My toes were still sloshing around in my shoes and blisters would not be far off unless the got them dried off.

The temperature at Cotton Wood was just over 70F. The water facet at Cotton Wood Camp Ground is directly in front of this sign, so I sat on a bench and worked on my feet. Getting all the muck off my arms, hands, face, sun glasses, and feet. I also applied a fresh coat of Vaseline to my toes and slipped into a fresh pair of socks. Ahhhhhh ... fresh socks. The entire operation took 20 minutes, during which time, most of my party caught up with me and headed up the hill. But at least I had dry feet again.

The real climb begins shortly after leaving Cotton Wood. As you can see the gentle climb is over and real work has started. It's every man for him/her self after this point.

This is the last picture I took on the ascent. I just didn't feel like taking anymore pictures. I had decided to push my HR up to 150 and let it drift as high as 155 without backing off. This strategy worked real well. I passed everyone who passed me while I was working on my feet at Cotton Wood and never felt tired during the 4,241' ascent. It took me 2:40:22 to cover the 6.9 mile climb out of Cotton Wood. This is my best time ever up this hill.

Still looking fresh at the top 8:08:20 after starting 20.9 miles earlier. The next person in my group out is an aerobics instructor and followed only 7 minutes later. This women is in incrediable shape and would have kicked my butt had we started from Cotton Wood at the same time; but she started up a few mintues after me and stuck with husband for a 1/2 mile north of Cotton Wood. Had she dumped her husband earlier, she would have easily passed me.

Our ride showed up an hour later with the beer. We waited for the rest of the party to get out of the canyon and headed up to the lodge at the North Rim for a hot shower and a few more beers before dinner.

While up there, I took the next several pictures of the Canyon at sunset.

The canyon walls in the last light of the afternoon

Just after sunset looking south along Bright Angel Canyon to the South Rim. It is hard to believe that we actually walked down off the South Rim and up through Bright Angel Canyon. From this perspective, it looks impossible.

After a bit of dinner and good night's sleep, I got up on Saturday morning for a well deserved RECOVERY RUN. I truly understood the definition of Recovery Run this morning. I was beat. On the hike to Cotton Wood on Friday, I'd stepped on a sharp rock right under my arthritic left big toe and then manage to stub the same toe only minutes later. The big toe on my left foot was inflamed and hurt to walk on. In addition, and much worse, my lower back was extremely sore. When I stood, I couldn't stand vertical, but took on the posture of my 90 year-old future self. It had rained all night and was still raining when I got out the door. I settle on 3 miles as my absolute max.

The first few steps hurt; but by the time I'd shuffled along at 10:00/mi plus for a few hundred yards, my back started to loosen up and pain in my toe subsided. I knew I wasn't ready for a 7:40 tempo run, but the prospect of running 3 miles at 8,200' looked like it might actually happen.

Water on the trail. It was impossible to stay dry.

The Wet Dog look is oh so sexy.

At least it wasn't snowing (yet). The temperature was in the high 30's and very wet. As we drove out of the North Rim on the way home, it did start to snow. We would have been in real trouble if it had snowed all night instead of simply raining.

I'll leave you with a few more Canyon shots taking during my run. This was a heck of trip. I wish you could have all joined me. If you haven't had the opportunity to get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, you've got to put it on your list of things to absolutely do at some point in your life. Everyone remembers the first time they saw the Canyon. It makes a lasting impression on you even if you never hike into it. My sorry pictures do not do it justice. It's just too expansive and the colors too rich to capture with a camera. You’ve got to come here and see it for yourself.

Training for the week:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 8.1 miles, easy w/ 10x100m strides, 8:58/mi
Wed - 1.7 miles, recovery, 9:55/mi
Thr - Rest Day
Fri - 20.8 Miles, Grand Canyon Hike
Sat - 3.2 Miles, Recovery

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another Rest Day

Woke up this morning with a little tightness in my right hamstring, so I decide to hold off on my 10 Miler today and get back in the swing of things next week. I'm off to the Grand Canyon this afternoon for a hike on Friday (South Rim to North Rim). It should be nice and cold at the top (around 30F) and pleasent at the bottom. I'll be back late Saturday night and will catch up with your blogs on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pull Up, Pull UP

Not a good day in the neighborhood. I got 1.7 miles into an easy recovery run, keeping my HR under 120 like a good boy, when my right hamstring tightened up. The problem isn’t actually in the hamstring, but rather in the muscle just above the knee towards the inside of the right leg. The same muscle tightened up last week, but responded well when I shortened my stride and didn’t repeat the next day. This morning, it not only tightened up early in the run, but the level of discomfort increased into the painful region. I pulled up and walked home. 15 minutes of icing took care of the pain problem, but I missed out on most of my morning run.

Wife update: On a happier note, my wife is feeling much better as her toe starts to heal. She can’t stand for long periods of time and her orthopedic doctor doesn’t want her exercising on the foot for an another week, but at least she isn’t in constant pain any longer. Thanks again for all your kind comments.

This week's Training:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 8.1 miles, easy w/ 10x100m strides, 8:58/mi
Wed - 1.7 miles, recovery, 9:55/mi

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A new beginning

Thanks to Mike (Arizona), Mike (New Brunswick) and Thomas (there is but one) for providing an abundance of sage advice concerning my less than stellar “long” run over the weekend. They all drove home that I really need to follow the program and not try to invent my own definitions. Of course, they were right. Instead of running my recovery runs during the previous week at a recovery pace, I got cute and ran them much too hard. Not wanting to repeat my mistake (at least not wanting to repeat my mistake this morning) I made sure that I actually ran the workout prescribed by Pfitzinger instead of Phil’s wacky marathon training program.

This morning’s work out was an 8 miler at a general aerobic pace with 10x100m strides thrown in to break up the monotony. To ensure that I actually ran this run at a pace within my general aerobic range (70-85% HRmax), I strapped on the dreaded HR monitor and hit the road at 5:00 AM.

After a SLOW two mile warm up (HR = 120), I picked up the pace to something just south of 9:00/mi. My HR increased to 125 immediately. I ran 2 strides per mile for the next 5 miles, but my HR never recovered back to125 after the first 100m stride. It bounced up to 141 on the stride and then settled back down to the 131 to 135 range over the next ¼ mile. My average HR for the entire run computed out to 133.

I think I demonstrated that I can actually follow directions … at least I can for one day. Have a great week.

This week's Training:

Mon - Rest Day
Tue - 8.1 miles, easy w/ 10x100m strides, 8:58/mi

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Thank you all for the kind thoughts concerning my wife. She had a rough time last night, but is doing much better today. I was scheduled to go up to Seattle on Monday morning, but I think it’s best that I stay home as long as she taking Oxycodone. We have an appointment with her orthopedic doctor to have a look at the broken toe. I think things will settle down over the next several days.

Yesterday I made a cardinal running error. I fully realize that I counsel everyone to warm up slowing before running hard. Well, I guess I figured that applied to everyone but me. The Pfitzinger plan has a number of short 4 mile recovery runs interspersed between the harder workouts. It’s been a long while since I ran only 4 miles in a single workout, so I decided to have some fun with them. Yesterday I put on my HR monitor and decided to run the 4 miles at 150 BPM. The first three miles sailed by at 8:21, 8:04 and 8:07. Right as I started mile 4, it felt as if the tendons on the back side of my knee tightened up. I shortened up my stride and immediately started fretting about the problem. The problem was actually the lower part of my right hamstring. I hadn’t warm up and paid the price. After spending Saturday icing the hamstring off and on during the day, it was in much better shape by Sunday morning.

The Pfitzinger plan had a 14 miler on the schedule for this morning. I usually try to start my long runs before 6 AM, but got a very late start today. When I finally got out of the house, the temperature was nearly 80 and increasing quickly. I picked the course with the most hills for this run and got a great run in over the first 8 miles: 8:56, 8:54, 9:04, 8:57, 8:57, 8:48, 8:56, and 9:09. My HR stuck at 145 through most of this run, only increasing slightly during the up hill portions. I took a quick stop at the end of 8 to get a long drink from my thermos and headed out for the next loop, but it wasn’t the same. I struggled through 9, 10 ,11 and 12 in 9:20, 9:01, 9:20 and 9:14 and then headed back up the hill on mile 13 (9:46). By the time I got to end of a long down hill on mile 14 (9:06), my legs were entirely dead. My heart rate had stayed at 145 through the first 10 miles, was not hovering closer to 155. I was completely drain and walked another mile back to the house.

It wasn’t pretty. I hope your weekend went better.

Training for the week:

Mon – Rest Day
Tue – 8.0 Miles, w/ 4 miles at LT, 7:34/mi avg pace
Wed - Rest Day (over slept)
Thr - 10.8 Miles, easy, 9:09/mi avg pace
Fri – 4.1 Miles, easy, 8:35/mi avg pace
Sat – 4.1 Miles, easy, 8:25/mi avg pace
Sun – 14.0 Miles, easy, 9:06/mi avg pace

Total mileage for the 40.9 miles

Friday, October 06, 2006

I’m all Wet

Thunderstorms rolled across the Valley this morning. Of course your macho-idiot author was, of course, fearless. I can easily see 20 miles to west from the balcony on the side of the house and the storms (and associated lightning) were at least 15 miles off in the distance. I laced on my brand-new ASICS Gel Landreths (bought them yesterday), got the dog and headed out on an easy 4 miler. I had considered wearing an older pair of shoes, but the storm was so far away, what could happen?

I reached the first bad-omen not 20' into the run when I passed a squished cat lying a few feet outside of the bike lane. Nothing like the sight of road-kill first thing in the morning. The second was a bright bolt of lightning directly south of me, perhaps two miles off. I don't know how I had missed this cell during my brief survey of the weather systems over Phoenix only minutes easry. But there ws still no rain … so why worry.

Since I was only running 4 miles, I picked up the pace to “out run” the storm. This strategy worked through the first mile, but the rain drops started somewhere along mile 2 and within a few feet, the water was pouring down on me and the dog. This storm was a actually series of large cells meandering around spitting out lighting and rain. Each cell has an abrupt edge (I call them curtains). On one side of the curtain, everything is dry, 10-15 feet into the storm cell water is pouring down as if let loose from a faucet. So although I was getting soaked on mile 2, I wasn't suprised when I ran through the edge of the rain curtain at the start of mile 3 and was back on dry pavement.

I picked up the pace again to sub 8:10 (what the heck .. only 2 miles to go) and my HR jumped from a respectable 143 to something closer to 155. With the lightning flashing all around I was anxious to get home as soon as possible. I finished up Mile 3 at 8:14 and was on the home stretch. Unfortunately, I was also back in the rain, only now the wind was blowing pretty hard, magnifying the effects of the water. I finished up the run strong with an 8:24 mile and my HR stayed up in the 150 range through the 4th mile.

This wasn't exactly an "easy" pace, but it will do.

I also had something very strange happen to my Garmin this morning. I had the thing set up to display average lap pace on each mile with the intention of slowly cranking up the pace from mile 1 through mile 4. As I started the 2nd mile it showed and avg pace of 8:35, which I could believe. The next time I looked down, it said 14:25. 14:25? I can walk at 14:25 and I knew I was running something significantly faster than 9:00 The Garmin spent the next ¾ mile slowly winding down the average pace until it finally settled on 9:11 at the end of mile 2. Miles 3 and 4 registered OK. Oh well … there is way too much technology in my life. I should go back to running with a simple digital watch.

On a personal note, my poor wife had a misshape last night involving a large steel gate controlling access to a school parking lot. It was the type of gate that rolls on a steel track. She was closing the gate for a friend and rolled one of the wheels of the gate over the big toe on her right foot; breaking the toe and ripping the toe nail clean off. I met up with her at the emergency room of a local hospital after the hospital staff had already shot her toe full of pain killers. I was not only very proud of how well she dealt with the pain (much better than I), but also her first thoughts on our drive home.

Two weeks ago she started an exercise program involving walking 30 minutes a day outside and using the elliptical trainer at LA Fitness. She has stuck to the program very well and is already showing positive results. Her first thought after leaving the hospital with her toe heavily bandaged was that she wouldn’t be able to get her foot in a shoe so that she could continue with her program. She didn’t want to backslide. Now that’s dedication. I think she'll be back at it in a few days after the swelling dies down.

Training for the week:

Mon – Rest Day
Tue – 8.0 Miles, w/ 4 miles at LT, 7:34/mi avg pace
Wed - Rest Day (over slept)
Thr - 10.8 Miles, easy, 9:09/mi avg pace
Fri – 4.1 Miles, easy, 8:35/mi avg pace

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mid-Week 10 Miler

You just have to love an easy 10 miler in the middle of the week. The morning temperatures are still relatively high for October, 81F (27C), so I set out this morning with no particular pace in mind; just as long as I was putting one foot in front of the other, I was happy.

After the first 7 miles, I took a detour to extend the run and ran along the very first course I used when I first started running several years ago. It was strange to think back on the days when I could barely run 2 or 3 miles along this road and here I was this moring, taking a little detour to stretch out a 10 miler.

Great morning. I hope yours went as well.

Training for the week:

Mon – Rest Day
Tue – 8 Miles, w/ 4 miles at LT, 7:34/mi avg pace
Wed - Rest Day (over slept)
Thr - 10.8 Miles, easy, 9:09/mi avg pace

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Got’a love Pfitz (la semaine trios)

Week 3 of the Pfitzinger marathon training program kicked off today with a 4 mile tempo run at LT pace. After running a decent 8K on Sunday, I had serious doubts about cranking out an 8 miler with 4 miles in the 7:30-7:49 range. Although cooler than the scorching highs of July, summer keeps trying to hang on, leaving the low temperature this morning just south of 80F (27C); not exactly perfect tempo running weather.

I ran my 2 mile warm up very slow, fretting about what would happen once I needed to start running the tempo. However, my concerns were over blown. I blew through the 4 mile tempo in 7:34, 7:40, 7:34 and 7:26. I had trouble getting the pace right on the first mile, taking off way too fast; running closer to my 10K pace than to my ½ marathon pace. I got situation under control and slowed down. As a result the front end of mile 2 was a little slower than I wanted. I picked up the pace again on mile 3 and kept the pace cranked up on mile 4. Boy, you can cover a lot of miles at this pace! It’s always fun to see how you speedy folks run on your easy training runs. This is FUN!

Please go over and check out
Mike from New Brunswick’s
blog. Mike ran a PR of 3:14 in the Wine Glass Marathon. He’s worked very hard to get to 3:14 and is now my official hero, demonstrating that one need not slow down in their 50s. It’s great to have someone my age, my height and my weight excelling at this distance. His tremendous achievement not only gives me something to chase, but also wipes out any possibility of using the usual excuses for not improving.

Have a great week running

Training for the week:

Mon – Rest Day
Tue – 8 Miles, w/ 4 miles at LT, 7:34/mi avg pace

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tucson 8K

I’ve never run an 8K before and couldn’t have had a better introduction to the distance than I experienced this morning in Tucson. It was a beautiful sunny morning in Tucson with race time temperatures in the mid 60s. The race was run through the campus of the University of Arizona, with only a minimum amount of running on the surface streets surrounding the campus. I certainly wouldn’t call the course hilly, but it wasn’t flat either. According to my Garmin, we went up and down 60’ several times during the race.

Since I’d never raced this distance before, any finish time would automatically be a PR. Therefore, my strategy for this race was simple. I didn’t get all stressed out about pushing myself to the limits; instead, I decided to treat the race as a 5 mile tempo run. With any luck, I might be able to run a 7:15 average pace.

This strategy turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. I lined up 15 feet from the start line amongst a field of 600 people. This put 50 or so people in front of me, which seemed about right. WRONG … what I hadn’t considered was the fact that this race was on the UofA campus, which meant there were beaucoup quantities of 19 to 25 year-old runners in the field. When the gun went off, I quickly accelerated to something south of 7:00/mi and proceeded to get past by what seemed to be half the population of Tucson. After the first ½ mile, the other 7:00+ milers caught up with me as I slowed my pace down to something more reasonable. By the 2nd mile, I had found someone to run with. He seemed rather young (turned out to be 19), but he was about my height and running somewhere close to my 7:15/mi target. We chatted a bit along the 2nd mile and onto to the third. He evidently got tired of talking with me, picked up his pace and pulled steadily away from me.

Right after the 3 mile marker, the course headed into one of the pedestrian tunnels under Speedway (yes there is a street in Tucson named Speedway) and headed into the most northern reaches of the campus. After coming out of the tunnel, the course turned to the east and head up hill for the next ½ mile. I could tell that my pace was slowing; however, I was also passing people. Evidently a few of those speedy folks that were so anxious to get around me on mile one were feeling the effects of the distance. Somehow, I wasn’t. I felt as fresh along mile 4 as I did on mile 1. Controlling my pace on that first mile was paying off big time.

As I neared mile 5, I passed a small child. This kid couldn’t have been 10 years old nor did he stand much taller than 3’6”. Yet, he had managed to outrun me for the better part of 4 miles. His legs were just eating up miles. As I passed him, I congratulated him on a great run (that was from the bottom of my heart … I was extremely impressed) and asked him if he had ever run an 8K before. With more confidence than I could have mustered at that age, he said “Yea, once in Wisconsin”. This kid was not only beating me, but he was also a multi-state racer.

Once I got around the 5 mile marker, I picked up the pace. This usually happens on a tempo run. I’ve got a little more left in the tank and hate to leave anything on the course. I was still passing people as the course headed back into the heart of the campus and the finish line. With less than a quarter mile to go, I spotted my friend from the mile 2. He had slowed down along the way and I was gaining on him quickly. I was only 3 feet behind him as we made the final turn 100m from the finish line, so I pulled over to the left and did my best Jesse Owens imitation. I caught him off guard and got about 2 feet in front of him before he responded. At 19, he had a little more acceleration than I did he edged me out as we crossed the finish line. Oh well … it was fun trying.

Mileage Splits: 7:02, 7:16, 6:55, 7:38, 6:52; Official Gun time: 35:41

After the race, I found fellow Arizona-Bloggers Mike and Angie. Mike hit a significant PR for this event, finishing 7th overall at a blistering 26:53! (for those following at home, this is an average pace of 5:23!). I had a fabulous time talking with both of them. These are great people. They both consented to take their pictures with me which I shamelessly posted below.

I hope your week goes great and that all of you in the Norhern Hemisphere able to enjoy the refreshing fall weather. Keep running.

Mon – Rest Day (1.6 mile walk)
Tue – 8.0 miles, easy, w/ 10x100 strides, 9:07/mi avg pace
Wed – 3.4 miles, hills, w/ 4x400 sprints, 9:30/mi avg pace
Thr – 10.3 miles, easy, 9:10/mi avg pace
Fri - Rest day (and very early AM call to my buddies in France)
Sat - 5.45 miles, easy, 8:44/mi avg pace
Sun – 10.4 miles, 8K race at 7:11/mi avg pace; 3.4 mile warm up, 2.0 mile cool down


Mike and Phil (Mike is the young guy of course)

Angie and Phil