Saturday, July 28, 2007

Feel the Tempo

I find myself quickly becoming one with the treadmill. I got off work late Friday night and headed to gym for a tempo run. I’ve never tried to run 7 miles on a treadmill, but no time like the present to try something new; I even brought along my MP3 player for something totally different

After a 3.2 mile warm up, slowly speeding up from 9:30 to 9:05/mi, I cranked the pace down to 8:00/mi and started cruising along at 8:00/mi. My HR jumped to 160+ immediately, but held steady and I was feeling great. The guy next to me was running along at a slower pace, which kept me pushing along. I had my MP3 cranking out DOORS tunes and found myself mentally playing playing “air guitar” with Robby Krieger as the miles sailed by.

After 3 miles at 8:00/mi, I cranked the pace down each minute until I got down to 7:30/mi and finished out the 7 miles in 60:11. This is the longest I’ve ever spent on a treadmill. I was dripping wet, but felt great. This was nowhere near what I was running 4 months ago, but it was the longest and fastest session I've run since my back injury.

Hope your weekend is going great.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Perhaps I'm Back

6.4 miles. 6.4 miles on a treadmill, but 6.4 miles none-the-less. I hadn’t intended to run at all this evening. I went to the gym with my wife tonight for some x-training and was only going to do a 5 minute warm up on the a treadmill before doing some much needed weight training. However, 3 minutes into my warm-up, the bimbo chattering on a cell phone while walking on the treadmill next to me started asking me questions concerning the machine’s operation and I accidentally hit the STOP button on my machine trying to explain it to her. I was so pissed that once I got going again, I cranked the pace down to 9:05/mi and just started running.

Amazingly, I still felt good after a mile at this pace and the feeling didn’t let up through 5K. So I started up the machine again and did another 3 miles. This time I started at 9:05/mi and slowly cranked the pace down to 8:00/mi for an average of 8:30 over 3 miles. I briefly lowered the pace below 8:00/mi, but my right knee told me to back off a bit, which I did.

Sunday I got a chance to run in Sabino Canyon. Storms had dumped water on Tucson overnight and the temperature wasn’t much over 83F at 10AM. But by he time I got out to the canyon at noon, the temperature was well over 95F and the humidity was outrageous. From the parking lot, I headed out towards Bear Canyon along the desert trail (Picture to the left). Dummy that I am, I didn’t realize a paved road in the park headed east towards Bear Canyon, so I didn’t need to beat myself up for the first two miles.

Once I got to the real trail head, I lasted about another mile into the canyon before the heat and humidity did me in. I never did get to 7 Falls. Instead I turned around and walked out of the canyon and ran back to my car along the road. Still … it was a very pretty run.

One non-running observation: Why don’t the local radio Talking Heads take a look out the window before reading the weather report? Yesterday afternoon I’m driving north looking at a wall of water 10 miles wide falling on the northern part of Phoenix directly in front of me. The radio weather dude is warning us from a station less than 5 miles away that there was a 50% chance of precipitation that afternoon. Judging by the torrential blast of rain that hit my car minutes later, I’d say he slightly underestimated his prediction. Then this morning, as I’m driving through the parking lot at my office, again through the rain, a different announcer on the same station explained to all those still listening that there was a 30% chance of rain today. This was certainly a cautious prediction, wouldn’t want to rile up the populace too much.

Hope you have a great week.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

5K Race Report - brief

I'm blogging on my Black Berry, so I'll keep this short (I can hear the cheers from around the world now)

I ran the 4th 5K of the summer organized by the Arizona Road Racers this morning. A normal thinking person wouldn't imagine that a 5K in this part of the country, where the over night lows rarely dip below 90F would be all that popular; however, these races regularly draw 700+ people and this morning was no different.

Overnight storms cooled the desert off to a chilly 85F, but sent the humidity skyward. So I was dripping wet after a brief 1 mile warm up, but more or less ready to run. I'd already decided to take it easy and run this race as a tempo, so I was under no pressure to blast off the start line.

My work friend, Chad, met me at the strarting chute and we took off together. Although Chad has never beaten me at any distance, he quickly pulled away from and was 30 seconds in front by the time he passed the 1 mile mark. I wasn't paying any attention to my time, but I think I ran the first mile around 7:30. My HR was we'll north of 165, so I wasn't about to push any harder. Catching up to Chad just wasn't that important.

I lost focus on mile 2 and probably slowed down to 8/mi; however, I noticed that Chad was still only 30 seconds ahead of me at the 2 mile mark and my competitive juices started flowing. Heck, I could make up 30 seconds. I closed most of the gap over mile 3 and sent my HR over 170 in the process. OK, not exactly a tempo run, but you only live once. Chad sped up again on the last 0.1 mile and crossed the line 3 seconds in front of me. Good for Chad, now he knows he can beat me and I hope he keeps getting faster as I start getting back in some semblence of shape.

Post race, Pat and Lisa (my local blogging buddies) found me in the food line. It was great to finally meet these two. Both of Lisa and Pat just keep improving and I suspect I'll be trailing them in a couple of years. Lisa and Pat already posted race reports, so go check them out.

Another runner that needs a big shout out is Addy. Addy ran the Tahoe Rim 50k today. She is an experienced trail runner, but this is her first 50k (what a way to start).

Hope your weekend is going great. I'm staying in Tucson tonight at the Hilton Resort north of town and celebrating a significant life event. My 22 year old daughter got a real job. A job in her field that actually pays her real money, tuition payments and full health benifits. Oh happy day. I figure my cash flow just improved $700/month and she's happy. Life doesn't get any better.

Hope your weekend is going as well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No Más

Some how the magic of running under extreme conditions lost its luster this afternoon. I ran the same trail as last night and temperature was a little lower; hovering around 109F as the sun sank into the west. But the run didn't have the same energy as last night. My stomach was a queasy on the first mile and my right Achilles tightened up on the second climb, so I elected to walk to the top of the hill instead of tempting the fates. The tendon loosened on the way down the other side of the hill and I was able to run the rest of way; however, something was missing. There were no cicadas chirping, no lightening flashing and no "one with the universe" feeling. There was just a guy gutting out a run in the heat of the late afternoon.
On the plus side, I'm feeling human again. Now all I need to do is get my mileage up and loose the love handles and I'll be ready to start training again. Hope your week is going well.

Monday, July 16, 2007


For the first time in weeks, I actually felt like I was running tonight. After I got home from work this afternoon, the trail around Lookout Mountain started calling my name. This hill in northern Phoenix is the predominant landmark I can see from the front of my house and its 3 mile circumference trail had my number. Another number that called out was 111, as in 111F; such a pretty number, an insanely pretty number.

I hadn’t gone out for a run in anything over 110F yet this year, so why not tonight. I hit the trail at 7:15 PM, 15 minutes before the sun would sink below the horizon. To get a sense for how hot 111F is, I brought a frozen 17 oz water bottle straight from the freezer with me on the run. At the end of 3 miles, I open the bottle and chugged the contents. All but 1 tablespoon had melted.

But, oh what a feeling to finally get in a good run. It wasn’t fast, but running up and down the rocky terrain around Lookout Mountain wasn’t going to be fast. However, this is the first time I “ran” 3 miles over any terrain during the past 4 weeks with out any walk breaks. Of course the heat and steep hills kept my HR pegged over 150 for must of the run, peaking at 170 as I crested the top of each hill. Nothing like a fast tempo run at a slow jog pace.

After a string of disastrous runs (or more correctly run/walks), I was shocked to still be running after the first mile. With one good climb behind me and my HR north of 150 I was still feeling great. Legs were strong with no sense of weariness. On mile two I caught up with a kid on a mountain bike weaving his way through the rocks (stupid kid was riding without a helmet). By the time I got out to mile 3, I could just smell the “finish line”. With the cicada screeching in every bush and the lightning flashing up north marking the start of the evening thunderstorms, I just kept pushing up the last hill until I crested the top and could see my car in the parking lot below. Putting my brain in check, I blissfully ran down the hill to the parking lot, finishing the loop 3 minutes faster than a couple of weeks ago.

Have a great week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Some like it Hot

Some like it hot, then again, some don't. I was determined to get in 8 miles this weekend and did achieve that goal. It wasn't pretty, but I got in 4 miles on Saturday and 4 miles this morning, covering the distance in the hills around my house. The heat (97F), the elevated humidity and the hills combined to make for a rather intense workout. On Saturday, I ran the first 2 miles and walk/ran the last 2. This morning, I ran the first mile and walk/ran the 2nd and 3rd mile and walked the 4th. By the start of the 3rd mile, my hands were all puffy, my legs were filled with lead and my HR fluxuated between 130 and 150. I certainly have a long way to go before I'm ready to run another marathon (or decent 5K for that matter), but I'm out and moving again, which beats the hell out of the alternative.

While I was in Tucson on Friday, I picked up my black lab and brought him home. He had been staying at my oldest daughter's boyfriendfor the past 2 months while our house was on the market, but it was time for him to come home. He's somewhat out of shape also and didn't seem to mind that we cut off our runs at 4 miles. So perhaps it is best that I'm recovering. It will give him a chance to get back in the grove for those weekend long runs.

Have a great week.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Of mice and men

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I needed to be in Tucson on business on Friday which should have afforded me the opportunity to spend some quality time after hours with my daughter and perhaps, by chance, get a run in up Sabino Canyon. My wife is out of town, so I only needed to find some way to integrate the needs of my 15 year old daughter with a quick over night trip to Tucson and I be all set.

My daughter was off working in Mississippi with her churches’ youth group, sans mobile phone, so I arranged to drive to Tucson early Friday morning and have my older daughter to pick her up at my office in Tucson and spend the day with her. I’d join them that night, take a nice run up Sabino Canyon on Saturday morning and drive back to Phoenix on Saturday night. The Perfect Plan.

Instead, once she got home from Mississippi, my daughter informed us that she had a concert to go to on Friday night in Phoenix. So, I drove to Tucson early this morning, oldest daughter met us at my office (so far so good), but dropped her off again this afternoon and I drove all the way back to Phoenix and got her to a concert downtown at 6:30. That is, in addition to a full day in Tucson, I had the pleasure of driving 125 miles each way without the benifit of running in the slightly cooler climate of greater-Tucson. Bummer

On the running front, I’ve run one 4 miler and 2 two milers so far this week. They've been walk/run efforts … nothing to brag about, but I’m getting outside. I still need to hit the gym tonight for some cross-training and will get in at least 8 miles this weekend.

Hope your weekend goes well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Little Engine that could

Chugga, chugga, chugga ... chugga, chugga, chugga .... this Little Engine (although porky pig may be a better mental image) rolled out of the house this morning bright and early for the first "real" run in 3 weeks. My back is feeling much better. It's stiff, but doesn't hurt anymore. Not wanting to tempt the Fates and hurt something else, I decided on a very conservative 1/2 mile walk - 1/2 mile run strategy along a 4 mile loop. The advantage of the big loop, of course, is that I can't quit once I get started.
It was with some trepidation that I started a slooooooooow jog after the first 1/2 mile warm up walk. Everything held together. No pain my back, hips or knees and only a slight discomfort in my gut. I didn't wear my watch since there wasn't any need to time this run, but I probably averaged 9:40/mi on the jogs and 18/mi on the walks. I made sure to throttle down at the end of each 1/2 mile and not over due it this morning.
Thanks again for all your suggestions ... I actually took many of your suggestions to heart and incorporated them into my recovery:
1) Take it slow ... couldn't go much slower or I'd stop all together. I'm following the Pfitz Marathon Recovery program right now to ensure I'm back up to to the 35-45 MPW range before I need to start serious training for Carlsbad in late August.
2) Get more flexible, take up Yoga ... over the howls from my 19 year-old daughter that I've gone totally "gay", I bought a book on basic yoga. I have to read up on anything new I try (it's a curse) ... but I'll stick with it and will get more limber
3) Have my gut checked out ... already did this. I don't have a hernia or other serious abdominal problems, I seem to have a muscle problem that won't go away. I did isolate the problem to the lower abdomen where the lower part of the abdominal muscles attach to the pelvis. I can't do any exercise that causes a rapid contraction of the lower abdominal muscles. The Leg Press Machines are a killer right now.
4) Cross-Train on my off days ... I've getting reacquainted with my gym. I started weight training for my problem areas (quads and abdomen in particular). When I can scrape together a little extra cash, I'll get my mountain bike fixed and hit the trails again. My gym also has a pool, but I don't know if I'm ready to commit to swimming. I still haven't figured out how I'm going to fit in Yoga and Weight Training into my already full schedule, but many of you seem to get the job done, so there is hope.
Thanks again for sticking with me through this. I know I've been a real pain in the ass. Take care.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The long road home

 The picture to the left is Venus Williams holding whatever award one gets for winning Wimbledon. I just love this picture. Here’s a woman that wasn’t suppose to win this year, but no one bothered to tell her. Look at that face. That’s the look of someone that truly enjoys what she has accomplished. I think this is what we are all looking for in one way or another; to accomplish what others may see as impossible, but so very real to us. Can you imagine what she could accomplish if she switched from tennis to endurance racing?

As I’ve said over and over, back injuries suck. Unlike other injuries where you can do alternative activities to keep your cardio system somewhat in tune, back injuries cause nearly anything other than laying down to hurt and my running log reflects this. It’s beyond pathetic; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if deleted my account for lack of progress. My weekly totals over the past three weeks look more like a leisure mid-week run. And then there’s the weight gain. Like a lot of you, I burn through 5,000 to 6,000 extra calories a week running. So what happens when the mileage approaches zero? The pounds add up. Eat less you say … yeh, right! I am now officially 12 lbs higher than target and heavier than I’ve been in 15 months.

Enough whining. This week will be better.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

One Hot 5K

It was a glorious day for a 5K in central Arizona this fine 4th of July morning. Although today’s high temperature is predicted to approach 115F (46C), the over night lows had dipped all the way down to 84F (29C) and it was probably pretty close to 86 or 87 at the 6:30 AM gun time. But the sun was up, the skies were clear and 733 people had shown up to race in the far northern reaches of the Valley of the Sun.

My morning started out like any other. My wife and youngest daughter had visited friends on their house boat at Lake Pleasant last night and enjoyed an untraditional July 3rd fire works show on the lake. Because of the traffic, accidents and drunks, we didn’t get home until well past mid-night, so when my alarm went off at 4:30, I just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling and seriously contemplated bagging the race. But duty called. I knew of at least one friend that was expecting to be at the race and there was always the chance that one of my other blogging buddies from the Phoenix and its surrounding environs might make an appearance.

I got to the race around 5:45, checked in and started my customary warm up with a walk. Walking turned to a slow jog and I slowly sped up until most of my joints moving before taking my place in the starting chute; way back in the chute. Where had all these people come from? Only in Phoenix can you get 700+ people show up for a no-name 5K at 6:30AM on a very warm holiday morning.

The gun went off, the crowd surged forward and we were off. The course immediately opens up after passing the timing mats, so it was easy to weave through the crowds over the first 500m. Despite the dust, I was running relaxed and feeling good through the first mile which clocked in at 7:11. Not a PR pace, but my strategy had been to run an even tempo run and enjoy myself, so I was OK. Anyway, if I could stay between 7:00 and 7:10, I’d finish up some where around 22 and change, which is respectable. The feeling of euphoria soon passed and was replaced with the tell-tale signs of lactate build up. I was slowing down and getting passed by all shapes, sizes and ages.

The one water station was staffed with three young kids, who were unable to keep up with the large number of runners looking to cool off. I grabbed a cup, but screwed up the exchange and ended up with 2 or 3 ozs to dump on my head. I got thinking back to water stations that seem to go on for every at San Diego. This was a little different. Of well, no big deal, only 1.5 miles to go.

Near the two mile mark two high school girls passed me, huffing and puffing. The only reason I knew they were in High School was that they had their school’s mascot strategically located on the back side of their shorts. (Why do girls do this? Do they really think guys need any additional visual cue?) .I was sure I’d be able to catch them again on the last mile as I passed the 2 mile marker in 7:33. I was slowing down, but still doing OK. All I needed to do was pick up the pace on the last mile and could still pull together a decent time.

The high school kids kept pulling away and I swear a guy who had to be in his 70s passed me at one point. I dug deep for a little more speed, but couldn’t sustain much. The next time I looked up, the teenagers where no where in sight and it seemed that the entire field must be in front of me. There had to be someone out here that I could run down!. Several young kids pulled up and started walking in front of me, but that doesn’t really count. I never did find anyone to chase down and mile 3 went by in a rather disappointing 8:01.

As I crossed finish line, I heard someone from the side of the course call out my name. It was one of my friends from work. This fellow has never beaten me at any distance and was looking very relaxed standing there waiting for me to finish. I was really happy for him. Even though I didn’t do all that well, he would have had to run the race of his life to cross the finish line, get his timing chip removed and make his way back to the finish line in time to greet me. I was disappointed to find out that he hadn’t made it to the race by the starting gun and had just waited around for me to finish. Heck, had I known I had an audience waiting for me, perhaps I’d have run a smarter race.

Official time: 23:40. I won’t have the rest of the stats until tonight when the times are posted on the club's web-site. And even though this was my slowest 5K in over a year (I’ll need to get my old logs out to find a slower time), I’m glad I did it. Racing keeps me centered. Getting out there and pushing yourself with several hundred other people is what makes running fun. If it weren’t for the racing, we’d all just be jogging. Take care and best of luck to everyone else taking advantage of a rare mid-week holiday in the US.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Summer of my discontent

OK sports fans. I need some help. First, I really appreciate your comments over the past several weeks while I'm been nursing my sore back. I'm still not at 100%, but rolled out of bed this morning with only a slight bit of stiffness. I also took a quick look at the calendar and realized that I need to get my butt back in gear if I'm going to do as well as I want during the Carlsbad Marathon on January 20, 2008 and I'm going to need to be running a lot faster ( 3.7% or 20sec/mile)


So here's my basic problem:


1) I beat up my quads big time during the Carlsbad Marathon this past January. The down hills just tore them up. I didn't have any trouble with the relatively flat San Diego R&R marathon course. I can't have them fail again.

2) My gut muscles (I've never figure out specifically which muscles these are) still hurt every time I run. The pain subsides after a mile or two and doesn't seem to impact my running; however, I shouldn't be running in pain everyday.

3) I hurt my back sleeping in an odd position on a 10 hour airplane flight. This has kept me from doing any serious running for the past two weeks. I got in a 4 mile run on Saturday, but it felt more like 14 miles near the end; I was shot. Whine, whine, whine.

4) I'm strung as tight as a banjo. When I was 30, I could put my palms on the floor without bending my knees. This weekend I could barely touch my knees.

5) I'm in a rut. My mission in 2006 was to get out beyond 10,000 meters, which I did and I committed to run two marathons in 2007, which I did. But I'm going nowhere fast at the moment and although I improved my marathon time by 4 minutes between January and June, I can attribute much of the improvement to running smarter over a much flatter course. So something has to change.


Assuming I'll need at least 24 weeks to get ready for Carlsbad, I  have to be running 40+ MPW comfortably again by August 6. So, what should I do now? I think 2, 3 and 4 above are interrelated, but I need to get these addressed before I hurt myself again and put myself out of commission for a long time. In addition, I need to add something to my usual (Pfitz) training regiment to get beyond 1 and 5.


Many of you seem to be improving and staying healthy. Any suggestions?