Sunday, December 30, 2007

Brain Freeze

I'm so dense sometimes. I managed to burn the skin my left knee with an ice pack. This was actually a fitting end to a less than stellar year.

2 Marathons (PR - 3:53:43)
1 30K
1 11 Mile
1 8 Mile
2 5Ks

Total Mileage: 1,424 Miles

2008 will be better.

Hope you all have a safe New Year's Eve and I wish you all the very best in 2008.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Freeze Warning

I'm posting the following message from the National Weather Service not to illicit any sympathy from my friends in cooler climes, but instead to burst any miss impression that those of us running on the deserts of the South West US are basking in a balmy nirvana all winter. It can get cold here.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix has issued a freeze
warning... which is in effect from 3 am to 9 am MST Friday. In
addition... a freeze warning remains in effect from 3 am to 9 am MST
late tonight and early Thursday.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mission run

Hi all ... made it up to Mission Viejo last night with the family to spent some quality time with my brother and his family. Got in a great run early this morning around Lake Mission Viejo. Still trying to stay on my base building schedule; however after dealing with the hills for the first lap around the lake, I was struggling to keep my HR below 143. On the second lap, I decided to screw the base training rules and open up the throttle. HR peaked out at 155 going up the hills on the south side of the lake. This is a little outside of my Aerobic Zone, but I enjoyed the cruise.

Realized I screwed up the link to the route along the beach between Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach in my previous post. For the terminally board, you can see the route at this LINK, and select Satellite view to see the beach.

Have a great week. Hope you all get a chance to spend some down time with your families.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Furnace

Two days in Manhattan Beach and two good runs along "The Strand" (click on the link and select Satellite View to see what this area looks like). Yesterday I ran a 7 miler from the north side of Manhattan Beach south to Hermosa Beach with excursions out onto the Manhattan Beach Pier and the Hermosa Beach Pier. I mistakenly wore my long sleeve technical top and after 20 minutes I was so hot that I did something I'd never do in Phoenix. I took the darn thing off and ran shirtless through the pre-dawn darkness. Not a pretty sight mind you, but it seemed to make sense at the beach.

The amazing thing was the contrast between the shirtless wonder and the local runners bundled up as if they were expecting a snow storm at any moment. I must have some freakish furnace burning inside keeping me warm.

This morning was different. It really was a cool morning with temperatures at 40F (4.5C) and strong winds blowing out of the north. Running south, with the wind to my back was a lot of fun, but I got blown all over when I ventured out onto the piers. Running head long back into the wind was no picnic either. I extended the run out to 11 miles this morning to get a bit more time on my feet. Other than my arthetic toe, all the parts kept moving for 100 minutes. I also kept my HR under 140, I really am serious about working on building up my base again.

This afternoon I'm off to Carlsbad for a day and then up to Mission Viejo on Sunday to visit my brother. With any luck, the running gods will continue to smile when I step out the door.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On the road again

I'm on the road again. I'm off to Los Angeles for the rest of the week and then off to Carlsbad for a quick vacation with the rest of the family. I skipped my morning run this morning. I evidently did more damage to my right knee with my "cone" accident this past Sunday than I thought. The back of my right knee bothered me all afternoon yesterday and was still stiff this morning. I hope to get in a run on Thursday morning in Manhattan Beach ... but will see (getting old is hell, avoid it if you can).

WARNING: Non-Running, semi-political topic to follow

My wife works for a small non-profit organization that supports pre-school education for "at risk" children in Phoenix. In plain English, the group provides pre-school education for families that are living in abysmal conditions for which sending their children to pre-school is far beyond their financial means. In Phoenix, this translates to our large Hispanic under-class.

I got a chance to spend some time in each of the 4 classes supported by this group this morning and was amazed at the language abilities of the children. Putting the corrosive politics of illegal immigration aside for a few minutes (if that's possible), we in the USA have a lot to learn from these 4 year olds. In particular, our long standing insistence that language education is only appropriate for kids of high-school age.

The comprehension of the syntax, vocabulary and grammar associated with both English and Spanish exhibited by each of these children certainly exceeded my abilities with any two languages. These kids started pre-school in August not speaking a word of English and had somehow become conversational in 4 months. Although they all had picked up a great deal of English in the first 4 months of pre-school, the one class in which the teacher only addressed them in English was remarkably different.

These kids all spoke English with the same flat "mid-Western" accent prevalent in the more affluent sections of town; however what set them apart from their pampered peers further to the north was their ability to flow back and forth between speaking English to the teacher and Spanish between themselves. I dare say that the Escalade encased children in my neighborhood couldn't pull this off.

As someone who has struggled to learn French as an adult and watched my three children struggle with the sad state of language eduction in our High Schools, I was amazed at the obvious. We really need to be introducing comprehensive language education much earlier in the education cycle than high-school. As those of you living outside of this country already know, being able to speak multi-languages has it's advantages. Someday, we'll figure this out and get kids thinking mulit-lingual when their minds are still mailable enough to pick it up ... or not ...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Keeping it Real

I was back out and running this morning following my 30K on Sunday. Nothing fancy, just another slow 7.4 mile trail run. Muscles felt ok, but the back side of my right knee hurt a little after 5 miles; all in all, a nice run.

Thomas asked an interesting question the other day, “Are you sure you're prepared for a marathon?”. On an existential level, I’ll never be ready for a marathon. There’s just too much to worry about. However, I don’t have to run to the perfect marathon to be happy. Too many of us get wrapped around the axle worrying about our next marathon. Will I PR? Will I break 4:00 (or 3:30 or 3:00 or …)? Will I hit the wall? Will I … Why do we do this to ourselves? Although it seems like everyone on the planet is running a marathon in the next 6 months, the fact still remains that only a small proportion of the population at large can run that far.

The Carlsbad Marathon is a few days shy of 4 weeks away. If I were on track, today I’d have run 8 miles with 5x600m at 6:50/mi pace; 11 miles on Wednesday; 4 miles on Friday; 15K at race pace on Saturday; and 17 miles on Sunday. Don’t think that’s going to happen. At best, I’ll run 35 to 45 miles at varying distances trying to stay at the edge of my aerobic range. At this point, I’m only trying to get my body ready to enjoy a 26.2 mile fully supported long run surrounded by great people in a gorgeous setting. I think I’ve gotten to the point were I’m just happy to be running, performance is secondary. Now don’t get me wrong, assuming I can avoid another serious injury, I fully expect to get back on an improvement path and exceed the targets set in 2006; but for now, I'm just happy to be alive.

On a lighter note, I’ve got a few photos from the 30K. By the way, for those interested, my final time was: 2:46:48 – Average pace: 8:57/mi

Sunrise over the first mile of the course

Some folks thought it was cold at check in

Water Station set up

I'm on the left side of this picture just past the 6 mile marker. The other 3 people in the picture passed me at the upcoming water station. Note that two of these folks are dressed as if they are running with Mike in Canada while I'm out for a run on Maui.

The leader cruising along after 13 miles

Coming back through the same water station on the return. Not looking at all relaxed.

Non-Running Pictures

For anyone interested in Toulouse, France (there may be one), the local newspaper collected a set of GOOGLE EARTH photos of some of the major sites around the town. I thought it was cool.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

30K Race Report

It was with no small amount of trepidation that I lined up in the start chute for the Desert Classic 30K this morning. It’s a perfectly nice race; very well organized and run in combination with a 30K relay (5K, 10K, 10K, 5K) and usually draws about 100 people … 20 or so running the relay and 80 running the 30K. I ran this race last year and had a blast. In fact, it was the best race I’ve ever run and the only time I’ve ever won an age/gender medal. So this morning, with far less preparation than last year, I knew I wasn’t going to do as well. I just needed to lower my expectations, set a game plan and run my race.

At gun time, the temperature was 35F with the sun peaking over the horizon. I elected to ditch my long sleeve technical shirt and instead huddled in the middle of the pack trying to stay warm waiting for the gun. Yeah, I know 35F sounds a little chilly to be standing around in shorts and a singlet, but this is the desert. I knew that it would warm up quickly as the sun continued to rise and I’d quickly get way too hot with long sleeves and gloves.

The first mile went by in 8:37, a little faster that I wanted, so I backed off and quickly settled into a 9:10ish pace for the first 9 miles. Other than a brief potty break along mile 8, I did a great job holding a comfortable pace on the out bound.

Once I turned around and started heading back to the start, I got a burst of energy and immediately increased the pace. I clocked mile 10 at 8:47 and mile 11 at 8:41. I was still feeling pretty good, but noticed that I was starting to breathe harder. Regardless, I had confidence that I could keep up this pace for the rest of the race. I’d caught up with and passed a group of 3 runners that were 40 seconds in front of me at the turn and I really didn’t want to get passed again by these folks.

After an 8:37 mile 12 however, things started heading south. I haven’t run further than 12 miles since my last marathon in June and my quads started complaining about the pace … which started the usual internal dialog so many of us have deep into a long run, “slow down, you can’t keep this up for 6 more miles”, “shut up, we’re not slowing down”, “you’re going regret this”, “yeah, yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge”; so on I went, but running closer to 8:50 than 8:30. The quads continue complaining and a couple of runners sailed by me (they were even smiling) and I trudged on through mile 14, 15, 16 and 17 - just praying for the finish line. On mile 18, I caught up runners on the last leg of the relay and put the hammer down. Now that there were more people on the course, the chance of getting passed went way up. I don't know why this was important, but it was.

Mile 18 went by in 8:30 and then immediately after passing the 18 mile marker, I ran into a large traffic cone. I must have been so tired at that point that I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to where I was running. This cone was probably 2 feet tall and hard to miss. The cones run along the entire race course, so I’d been passing one every 15 seconds or so for the past 18 miles, but for some reason, this cone just jumped out and attacked me.

When I hit the cone, I started falling forward and veered into the road. Fortunately there weren’t any cars coming (or I wouldn't have been around to write this report)but the non-graceful stumbling act took a lot out of me. I completed the last 0.6 miles close to a 9:00/mi pace; not great, but I finished.


8:37, 9:07, 9:11, 9:06, 9:20, 9:07, 9:07, 9:57 (pottie break), 9:10
8:47, 8:41, 8:37 8:48, 8:35, 8:50, 8:48, 9:01, 8:31

Post Race - I had intended to do a cool down, but there was no way I could run another step after I crossed the finish line. Instead, I walked around the post-race area for 30 minutes chatting with folks and trying to get the lactic acid out of my legs. When I got home, my feet were killing me. My right foot was throbbing where I have a bone chip floating around, my arthritic big toe on my left foot was throbbing, my old plantar fasciitis injury in the right foot ached and the ball of my left foot was sore. What a mess. My muscles held up fine, but my feet were complaining from the quick ramp up in mileage. Fortunately, after a 30 minute soak in ice water, most of the soreness went away.

Thank you all for all your encouragement over the past several weeks. Ironically, even though this wasn't the best race of my life, it did give me the confidence of finishing the Carlsbad marathon next month. It won't be a blazing fast marathon, but I should be able to complete it.

Have a great week.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Trail Running

My 7.4 mile run along the Squaw Peak Park section of the Christiansen Trail was the exact opposite of the mud bogging experience from last Friday night in Reach 11 Park. Whereas Reach 11 is pancake flat, the Christiansen Trail rolls through rocky hills along the north side of Squaw Peak Park. It was a completely different experience. As happened on Friday, it was raining when I started the run, but the water was washing down the side of the hills and not puddling, let alone forming the type of lakes I wadded through on Friday.

The pace was slow out and back. Running up and down hills with rocks everywhere makes for slow going through most of the run; but the views were great.

I'll leave you with a few pictures:

10 minutes after the rain stopped

Good Dog on the Run

The sun breaking through the clouds late in the afternoon

Looking north towards the McDowell Mtns.

It was a lot easier to run up this than run down it

Getting dark on the way back

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Check that one off

Rain finally made its way to the Valley of Sun. For the second weekend in a row we’ve received over an inch of rain. Yeh, I know this doesn’t sound like much, but when you live in a climate that only receives 5 to 6 inches in a good year, this is a whole lot of rain over 8 days. For some reason, I had this bright idea that running on one of my favorite desert trails would be a lot of fun in the rain.

WRONG … this particular area doesn’t drain real well and was little more than a 8 mile mud bog. I slipped and slid around the course for nearly 90 minutes, walking through the deeper puddles. It took so long to get around the course that I had to turn on my head lamp for the last 30 minutes. As the rain continued to fall, the puddles got deeper and deeper, going from ankle deep to mid-calf. Along one of the last stretches, the water got so deep that my black lab had swim up the trail.

You’ve should have seen it. I’m out running on the desert in the dark with my head-lamp on; wadding through muddy water up to my thighs with my dog swimming along in front of me. For a second, I thought I was down in Bayou Country. The irony is that I normally worry about the rattle snakes when I’m running in this area at night. Fortunately, I don’t think those suckers swim very well.

I’m glad I did it, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Next time I decided to run on the desert in the middle of two week soaking, I’ll pick something far more hilly and much rockier.

I’d like to give a big shout out to Lana and Michele. Both ran the Rocket City Marathon this morning and were going for their first sub-4:00. They’ve religiously worked their way through the Pfitz 55MPW game plan and are in fantastic shape. I’m sure they far exceeded their goals. Their times weren’t posted as of this writing, but they’ve probably posted their race reports by the time you read this.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Accidental Runner

I’m back. 11 days, 4 cities, two states, two countries and 13,000 miles later I finally made it back to Phoenix. Although I certainly get to go places many people only dream of, traveling around is kicking my butt but good. I spent last week in France. I usually really enjoy going to France, but this trip was too short to get over the initial jet lag and too packed with business meetings and dinners to give me a chance to catch up with my friends in that neck of the woods. And I’m flying coach again (tight travel budget).

I don’t really mind flying coach, but it’s always a crap shoot who you’ll get for a seat mate. It’s either a travel pro that knows you’re supposed to spend most of those 10 hour flights to Europe sleeping or a first timer that wants to talk for 6 straight hours. Fortunately, the gods of low cost tickets shined on me again; aisle seats with seasoned travelers both ways. I even lucked out with my connections. My flights on the first leg of both my outbound and inbound trips were canceled and I was able to re-route, keep my aisle seats and get to my destination faster. How often does that happen?

Running didn’t go nearly as well. In fact, I only got in two runs for a total of 11 miles while in France.

Monday: In the air between LA and Frankfurt and then onto Toulouse
Tuesday: Arrived in Toulouse at 6:30PM; found hotel in the small village of Tournefeuille at 8:30; fell into bed at 9:30
Wednesday: Dinner with customer from 7:30 to 10:30
Thursday: Off work at 8PM, quick 3 miler before searching for dinner
Friday: Off work at 8PM, 8 miler before dinner
Saturday: Flew from Toulouse to Phoenix via Munich and Denver. Got home at 6PM (thought about running for 2 minutes)
Sunday: Woke up feeling dead. Pulled my back moving boxes with Christmas decoration, bagged rest of day

The Friday run was only supposed to be 5 miles; however, I took an accidental 8 miler when I got carried away and didn’t turn back towards the hotel after the first 2 miles. I got out of the office at 8:00 PM and back to the hotel around 8:30. I thought I'd go out for a quick 5 miler before looking for some dinner, but instead, I found myself enjoying the cold night air so much that I just kept on running out of the village of Tournefeuille, figuring I'd just find a loop back into town soon enough.

After 45 minutes I was breezing along as the temperature continued to drop when I realized that I was running alone in a strange town late a night; in fact, I’d lost track of which village I was actual in. No one knew I was out running, I didn't have any money on me, nor did I have any ID; not even a room a key. There was nothing but me, my DNA and my running outfit. I suddenly realized that I was really running alone, literally and metaphorically. Now what?

I knew I’d run a mile or so towards the west and couple of miles more or less south and as I kept going, I had some sense that the route had turned back towards the east. Of course, this was France. There is no such thing as a straight road, nor do roads necessarily go where you think they should. But I wasn’t too worried. I knew there was a freeway two miles to the east of the hotel in Tournefeuille and I’d have to run into it sooner or later.

I finally came to a round-about with a sign pointing to "Toulouse - Centre de Ville". Great! Toulouse is east and north of Tournefeuille so this road had to take me more or less north-east and I still had that freeway to find. About a mile later, I came upon a ugly massive round-about. Back in the deep recesses of my brain, I could only recall one round-about this massive that didn’t have a park or monument in the middle. It was at the end of the end of the freeway I assumed I'd have to run over before heading into down town Toulouse. I had actually run so far south that I'd nearly over run the only landmark I was sure of finding.

My luck continued as I found a path along the side of the freeway that took me directly back into town again. If your interested in the track, you can find it here.

I made it back to the hotel around 10PM, splashed some water on my face, did a quick wash-up, jumped back into my suit and headed into the center of the village to find a restaurant still open. After a quick dinner (yes, I know this is an oxymoron in France) I got back to my hotel at 11:30, packed my bag, set my alarm for 5:00 AM and tried to get some sleep before flying back to Phoenix.

I apologize for not keeping up with everyone last week. I’m sure lots of you have done some amazing things over the last week that I completely missed. Looking forward to getting caught up this week. I might even get in a mile or two.

Take care.