Sunday, June 9, 2013

Run to Exile 10k

I had another race this weekend.  It was a 10k in Des Moines that ended at the Exile Brewing Company.  I hesitate to refer to it now as a race.  Yes, I paid an entry fee, had a race bib and timing chip, even got a finisher's medal, but that's about where all the similarities ended.  It was a point to point race so we got bused out to the theoretical starting line.  There was one volunteer at the park and she told us the actual start was a few blocks west.  So we all started walking in that direction.  I was expecting the start to be marked in some fashion, but it wasn't.  Not even a chalk line on the ground.  A few people had their phones and pulled up the course map to verify that we we in the right general area.

So we stood around for awhile waiting.  I went out for a quick warm up and came back.  The official start time came and went.  The one volunteer that was there told us that someone was coming to officially start us so we held tight for a few minutes. People were starting to get antsy and a small group decided to just take off running.  A few minutes later they announced again that the starter was on his way out.  I think it got to be over 20 minutes past when we supposed to start that another group took off.  Then mob mentality took over and everyone just followed that group.  There was four of us just kind of standing there after that.  We looked at each other for a second, shrugged our shoulders, and took off after the pack.

I spent the first mile getting past the majority of the runners.  Ran a 6:00 first mile.  Then I started thinking to myself how the results were going to meaningless anyway, with everyone taking off at different times.  Decided to treat it as a tempo run and not turn myself inside out trying to set an unverifiable PR.  It started raining midway through, which was nice at the time.  Due to flooding they had to alter the course prior and the last five miles were virtually the same as the final miles of Dam to Dam.  In some way it was kind of nice to be on familiar terrain, because it wasn't terribly well marked.  Once we hit MLK I was pretty sure the course was going to be short.  That and we met up with the 5k course which was filled with walkers, some of them 4 abreast. So that was dicey.  Hit the finish line, which was approximately 5.7 miles from the "start line" in 39:00 even.
I picked up my complimentary beer and hot dog and fries and had a good laugh over the whole debacle with friends.  I don't think this race will be on the schedule next year.  Great concept.  Who doesn't want to run to a brewery?  Poor execution though.  It was an inaugural race so I expected some hiccups, not complete chaos. Maybe, if they prove they've worked out all the kinks next year, I'll consider it.  If not I can always go for a six mile tempo run on my own and save myself some money.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dam to Dam

3rd race of the season was upon me before I knew it.  Dam to Dam, America's largest (and possibly only) 20k was yesterday.  I hadn't had a particularly good couple of weeks of training leading up to it so I really didn't know what to expect.

The day always starts early for this race. Had to make the drive to Des Moines and then catch the shuttle up to the race start. Barely had time to use the restroom before the start. For the second year in a row I had to do a little warm up jog along the outside of the corral to make it to the front. Made it with a minute or two to spare and chatted with a couple of friends of mine about race strategy before the gun went off.

So all week leading up to the race I had debated on how I was going to approach pacing. I hadn't recovered real well from the relay race 3 weeks ago and my legs this week still weren't feeling particularly well. While out on a short run Thursday I had the idea that it would be beneficial to just go out at marathon pace (7:00 miles) and consider it more of a training run. All of that changed as I got to the Dam in the morning along with the other 7000 runners. The competitive spirit kind of takes over and decided to go out hard and see how the legs held up as the miles ticked by.

So when the gun went off I was hauling ass at a pace I felt would be sustainable if the legs decided to come around today. The first few miles are always nice as there are some decent downhill portions so I was able to keep the pace under 6:35 for the first four miles. By the end of the fifth mile I could already tell that I was slowing a bit. A PR was probably not in the cards so I dialed it back to a 7:00 pace and ran comfortably for the next few miles. Hit the halfway mark at 41:50something which was pretty close to my 10k time from last year.

When the climbs came on the second half I slowed the pace even more. A lot of people were passing me, which usually bugs the crap out of me, but I kept telling myself that the legs would appreciate it later next week. Despite the slower pace I was still feeling pretty tired by the end and ready to be done. With about a mile left I brought the pace back down to a sub-7 level to see if I could hold that till the end. I did and it was a nice mental victory to bring it in strong on tired legs. I wish I would have noticed the clock time when I crossed because apparently my timing chip didn't register. I'm not in the official results anywhere. Probably a good thing I didn't PR because not having an official record of it would drive me nuts.  Had to use the garmin as my "official" time and the placings below are based off that.

Time: 1:26:36
Pace: 6:58 min/mile
Overall place: 206/7087
Age Group Place: 44/673

So only a couple of minutes slower than last year's effort.  I really can't complain considering how I changed my strategy mid race.  It was a good workout on a beautiful morning and there was still free beer at the finish line so all was good.  Hopefully the legs bounce back this week.  I've got a 10k next Saturday and would like a legitimate shot at PRing that one.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Different Kind of Workout

Most of the time I like to write these posts about how training is going or the most recent races I have participated in.  Last weekend I didn't give much of that a thought as I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to visit my brother.  I was slowly recovering from the relay race the weekend before and was little worried as to how I was going to fit in marathon training while out there.  I decided to say screw it and not run and allow my legs some time to recover and just enjoy myself.  It's not like I was going to be sitting on my ass all weekend.  We had some golf planned and were then attending a three day rock festival known as Rock on the Range.  It was going to be a much different weekend of workouts for me.

Aside from running and triathlon one of my other longstanding passions is music.  I listen to it all the time.  Running, while in the car, sitting around at night. I probably buy at least a CD a week.  And I have my brother to thank for influencing my tastes.  We've listened to rock since we were kids and he even took me to my first Ozzfest shortly after I graduated high school.  We used to go to concerts all the time when he lived in Iowa so I was really looking forward getting to see over forty bands with him again, a bunch of which I had not had the privelage of seeing yet.

The first day of the concert began with an early morning round of golf, which was unfortunately shortened to 9 holes due to some lingering fog.  It was probably a good thing because I broke my 3 iron and was shooting like crap.  Once we got that out of the way it was on to the concert venue where we tailgated for a bit before starting a night of rock infused fun.
Ready to Rock!
The day opened with a couple of bands on the main stage that I had never seen before.  Love and Death and the Hollywood Undead both put on good shows.  We headed over to the side stage for most of the rest of the night.  I was looking forward to watching In Flames.  They were one of the first bands I listened to when I first started running to lose some weight so many years ago.  They've released a few more albums since then, all of which make it into a normal rotation on my running playlists.  We got right down in front for them and the show did not disappoint.  Afterward, we headed back to the main stage to watch Korn cap off the night.  I've seen them a few times, yet their show never fails to deliver.
In Flames!
After one exhausting first day, it was hard to think we had to do this another couple of days.  I woke up a little sore and tired, but after a few morning wakeup beers was ready to do it again.  The second day was probably my favorite of the three.  It was busy day, with a lot of back and forth between the main stage and the side stages.  Pop Evil started on the main, then over to Young Guns on the side, both bands I started listening to this winter/spring.  Back to the main for All that Remains, which is always in my running playlists. Then back to the side for Otherwise, who was a staple of marathon training last fall. Halestorm on the main, Red Line Chemistry on the side, Bullet for my Valentine on the main, Black Veil Brides on the side, and Papa Roach on the main. After a quick bite to eat it was back up front for Three Days Grace, who was employing an inordinate amount of pyrotechnics for such a hot day.

Up next was Stone Sour, who we made sure to get as close to the stage as we could.  They were one of the first bands I listened to when I started training to race.  I can vividly remember runs where I listened to their entire first album.  I've seen them before, and Corey Taylor always puts on a great show.  That night was no exception.  Smashing Pumpkins wrapped up the second night, but we were so tired that we actually left a bit early before they wrapped up their set.

Stone Sour
Day three rolled around, and despite being exhausted and sore, I was still ready for a good day of music. Sick Puppies opened the day, followed by Sevendust.  I took my first shot ever at crowd surfing during their set, and it was more fun than I would have imagined. 

1st time crowd surfing
Red was next on the side stage and then Thousand Foot Krutch, whom I did some more surfing for.  Back to the main for Skillet. 
Skillet raising up their strings
Then I got up nice and close for Volbeat, who has been one of my favorites since hearing Still Counting several years ago and at the top of my list for "Need to see" bands during this concert.  Needless to say they played a fantastic set and I had a ton of fun just a few rows back.  After that I scrambled over to the side stage to watch David Draiman's Device.

It was time for some old school rock after that.  Bush played, followed by Alice in Chains.  I was surprised at how old Jerry Cantrell looked and how great of a show they still managed to put on.  I went crowd surfing again during Rooster and Man in the Box, during which I got dropped hard on my head.  Had bruises all along my shoulders the next day, but it was worth it.  Soundgarden wrapped up the evening of nostalgic rock and capped off a great three days of music.

So the weekend was a ton of fun.  I was sore in places I usually don't get sore when running.  A good core and upper body workout.  My brother and I are already looking forward to next year's version of the concert.  It took me a little while to detox and get back into running this week.  My legs were experiencing all sorts of odd pains, but I managed to get in a decent long run yesterday and feel like I should be able to be back on track this week.  Just in time for Dam to Dam on Saturday.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Market to Market Relay: Race Recap

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to partake in my second race of the season, and it was a unique event at that.  The inaugural Iowa version of the Market to Market Relay was held on Saturday.  It is a seventeen stage, 73 mile race starting in Jefferson and ending in downtown Des Moines.  I have always wanted to participate in a race like this so when my old friend Jack contacted me a few months back about joining one of their teams I immediately said yes.

We are Runners and We are Runners Too
We fielded two six person teams, "We are Runners" and "We are Runners Too" and met up in the early morning hours to head up to Jefferson.  At 6:30 am the wind was already blowing hard and we knew we were in for a blustery day. The good news I guess was that it wasn't snowing like the weekend before.  The van ride up was fun as I got acquainted with my running mates for the day.  We had some time to kill at the start line before our wave went off so we watched the wave before ours go off and tried to stay warm.  We were in the last wave of the day, dubbed the "championship wave" since we had a legitimate shot of doing very well in our division based on our estimated finish time.  That info surprised me a bit and I figured I may just have to run a little harder if we were going to be competitive.

We are Runners - Pre Race

Soon enough we were ready to go and Brian led us off.  It was indeed a stacked wave as he later related that he ran the first mile at a sub 6:00 pace and was near the back of the pack.  He held his own just fine though and reeled in some of those who went out too fast.  The rest of us loaded into the van to meet him at the second check point.  There wasn't a whole lot of down time after arrival at the exchange point and before long our second runner and team captain, Jaime, was taking over.  Then we all piled in the van again to do it all over again.

My first leg was leg 4 and I took over from Jack who ran a smoking first effort.  The leg was a straight shot south down the Raccoon River Valley Trail for 4.8 miles. The best part of that was that there was a sweet 20 mph tailwind shoving me along.  It wouldn't be so sweet in later stages, but I was able to relax, let the wind do half the work, and save the legs a little.  As I started the leg I could see one guy far up ahead in a black shirt and I made it my first goal to catch him.

Taking part in my first relay race I was quickly introduced to some new lingo.  Overtaking another runner in the race was referred to as a "kill" and the goal was to rack up as many of those as you could.  Starting in the final wave of the day and fielding a fast team we were set up to score quite a few kills.  We marked each one the team accumulated in chalk on the window of the van until we ran out of window space. Or maybe we just lost count.  Either way there was a lot

So I kept black shirt in my sights and slowly reeled him.  And I do mean slowly.  After the first couple miles ticked by it seemed I hadn't even closed half of the original gap.  Either he gassed the next two miles or I picked up the pace, but I eventually caught him shortly after the 4 mile mark.  The remainder of the leg I managed to pick off a few more people.

Miles: 4.84
Time: 31:12
Pace: 6:27 min/mi
Kills: 6

After that it was back in the van to recover a bit while the other runners on the team continued to kick butt. Ryan and Liz had stellar first legs and soon enough we were preparing to start the second cycle of stages.  Everyone was running hard and having so much fun it was just a great group to be a part of.  By the time stage 10 rolled around I felt like I could at least run again, having fueled and recovered a bit, and was ready to do my part for the team.

The route was now heading east so that super sweet tailwind was no more.  Now it was a pain in the butt crosswind that tried to blow you off the trail if you weren't paying attention.  There was a decent tree line along the trail, but every now and again there would be a break in it and you'd feel the wind full bore.  So the second leg was much more of a struggle than the first, but we had caught back up to the meat of the teams running so the kills were plentiful.

After the first couple miles I was feeling pretty spent.  I decided to just put my head down and run and not look at my garmin to see where my pace had fallen off to.  Apparently this strategy worked somewhat.  I just kept trying to catch the next person ahead of me and didn't glance at the watch until there was about a half mile left to go.  That made it seem like only a half mile and bringing it in didn't seem quite so bad, and looking at my total pace for the leg it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was.

Miles: 5.11
Time: 33:14
Pace: 6:30 min/mi
Kills: 17

More recovery time in the van while my teammates had a go at it.  Again, they were all running great in that nasty crosswind, and the team was slowly ticking off their final legs of the day.  As the late stages of the race unfolded we were certain we were locked in a close battle for 3rd place in our division.  By the time my final leg came up we were still behind by a bit.

Luckily for me my last leg was also my shortest, a mere 2.8 miles.  I kept telling myself that it would be a piece of cake.  That wasn't even a 5k!  I took the exchange from Jack, who came running in dueling with top hat guy, and I promptly took out top hat guy's teammate on a downhill section that made it feel like I was flying.  Less than a 5k, no reason to hold back now.

Apparently the legs didn't get the memo that I wanted to run fast because they were complaining big time.  I did the best I could to keep the turnover going.  The stage wound through water works park and it was easily the my most scenic leg of the day.  It took my mind off my unresponsive legs a bit at least.  With a half mile to go I started to ratchet up the pace until I was doing my best attempt at a sprint to finish things off.

Miles: 2.81
Time: 17:59
Pace: 6:24
Kills: 16
The Final Handoff
When I passed the "baton" off to our anchor leg, Ryan, we were still behind the third place team.  As our team had waited at the exchange point they had identified who our anchor needed to catch so when we arrived near the finish line the anticipation to see who would show up first was growing.  The finish area was in a unique spot in that you could see a good half to three quarters of a mile across the river to where the runners were running along.  Both our team and the one we were competing with for third was squinting and trying to see which runner was coming along first.  After a false alarm or two, Ryan finally came into view hauling ass along the river, with the other dude nowhere in sight.

We happily joined him for the final short group run through the finish line.  It turned into more of a haphazard free for all as no one could match each other's pace, but we eventually all crossed the line for a hard earned finish.

Final Stats: 10/205 OA, 3/66 Open Div.

The second team finished not too long after ours in a very respectable 25th place, and we all met up for a post race celebration after such a productive day.  I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and feel truly grateful to have met and run with such a great group of people.  Running for the the most part is a very individual sport.  You can go to races with friends, but you're the one racing the clock (or the field).  For this race you have to rely on your teammates and it is the sum of their superb efforts that produce the final result.  The best part about this team was that while we were competitive, there was a constant positive vibe and sense of fun from all of the members. That's what made the day.  The time and placing on the final scorecard was just an added bonus.

We are Runners - Post Race

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The big 5-O

Well, another good week of training is in the books and I set a bit of a milestone in the process.  This was my first 50 mile week since before Chicago last fall.  Last December I came really close to hitting the 50 mile mark, but ended up getting injured with the peroneal issue just beforehand.  This spring I've finally been able to slowly (maybe not slowly enough) get back to a reasonable mileage, and after the another solid week I rounded out at 52 miles for the week.

So what does that mean?  Well, that means I am ready to start the official marathon training plan that will put me ready to run in the beginning of September.  And where would that be? Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Oh yeah. You know that destination race that everyone is clamoring for. In reality it's supposed to be flat and fast and if I put up a qualifying time I could run Boston in the spring.  That would be ideal.

Of course a guy still needs his outs.  An early September race means I could potentially be ready for a late November/early December marathon.  After putting all my eggs in the Chicago basket last year and spectacularly breaking my collarbone mid-training it will be nice to have some options this year.  My eyes are set on either Richmond late November of California International early December.

No matter what I choose I'm excited to start the official training plan this week.  Had a great long run today, covering 15 miles in 1:55, which was way faster than I anticipated.  Got a relay race this weekend that I'm looking forward to.  I'm tempted to call this the official start to the season.  Lots of miles and races in the foreseeable future and that has me excited! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Long Recovery

Well it's been 3 weeks since the race in DC and I am only now beginning to feel back to normal.  Recovery from that one took way longer than expected.  These early season efforts on minimal training just take it out of me.  I felt pretty good the days following the race but still took three days off as a precaution.  When I did finally try to run tight hamstrings let me know I wasn't quite ready.

So more rest ensued.  I bailed on a 10k I was thinking about running while in Clear Lake visiting the folks, the second year in a row I've skipped it due to slow recovery from another race.  I did a few more test runs in between rain (and snow) showers that next week, but still was not feeling 100%. It was a little frustrating since in my mind I needed that week to continue building up mileage so I could comfortably start a marathon training plan the second week in May.  Eventually though you have to tell yourself that getting healthy is the most important thing to worry about.  It doesn't matter when you start a specific plan if you're not healthy enough to execute it.

Two weeks after the race I set out on my routine Sunday long run.  I had a decent short run the day before, but was pretty uncertain as to what the day would bring.  I still wasn't feeling all that great so I was ready to accept that the run could be 5 miles or 15 or somewhere in between if my hamstrings were still upset at me.  It's funny some times how the body will protest for so long, and then out of nowhere all the soreness you've been carrying around for the last couple of weeks just disappears.  I cranked out 14 miles that afternoon and felt great the entire time. I was back! Finally.

Following that run, I managed a decent week of workouts despite logging some long hours at work.  Today's long run went even better than last weeks.  I decided against racing again at the Drake Relays Half and instead just focused on putting in some quality miles.  I really didn't need to deal with another 2 week recovery so soon.  I am hoping that the next two weeks get me to where I need to be to comfortably start marathon training.  I am excited to get back on a plan instead of making things up as I go and hoping the hard work will actually get me to the starting line in Boston next year.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Race Report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

Well my first race of the year took me out to Washington D.C. It was really a trip to see the kiddos (and my sister and BIL for that matter). As long as I'm traveling I like to squeeze in races to experience something new.  The weekend was filled with the wee ones' sports but I managed to weasel my way in via a lottery to the annual Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in D.C.  It was a great scenic run and the cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom so I felt very fortunate to be running such a race.

The day began early.  Up at 5 to eat. Out the door at 5:30 to the race site. Thankfully my sister agreed to head in with me so she drove us to the metro and we rode in with the other thousands of runners. It was nice not having to worry about navigating my way in to the city or bag check that morning. She was an excellent sherpa. Thanks! We got to washington monument with plenty of time for me to hit up the bathroom, take a few pics and make to the corral with plenty of time to spare.

Not much time for a warm up.  After I left my sister I jogged to the corral for maybe 50 yards. Not sure that really counts.

To say I was jazzed for the first race of the year was a bit of an understatement. I was coming off another off season injury so there was a little bit of uncertainty involved, but I was really just excited to run and see where I was at from a fitness perspective. This would be a pretty good indicator of where I was and how much work needed to be done before kicking off marathon training. Plus this was a pretty kick ass run around DC in great weather. How could you not be excited for this?

Because of the injury I wasn't real sure how to approach pacing this. I had only done a couple of runs over 10 miles up to this point and very little speed work. I figured heading out at half marathon pace for the first half and adjusting the pace based on how I felt after that would be a safe bet. No need to kill myself early on.

Thankfully it being such a large race keeping myself in check early on wasn't too much of a problem. There was a crowd for the first couple of miles. Across memorial bridge and around the roundabout things were tight. I held back until the way back across memorial where things started to spread out and I decided to stretch the legs a bit. Hit the first out and back and back along the tidal basin and we were already halfway done. My garmin had decided not to turn on before the race start so I was over a mile in before I got it up and running. I had to go off clocks at the mile markers to get a semblance of pace. Not knowing may have been a blessing in disguise. I went off feel and made sure I was staying within my means. Comfortably hard was probably an adequate description. Hit the halfway mark at 33:49 and then the 10k at 42:06 and was happy with the splits.

Heading south along Potomac park was a little windy. I tried to tuck behind other runners to minimize the impact, but at that point my legs were feeling good and I was starting to pass quite a few people. Once we got around the point the wind was at our backs and I was thankful for that. A little over two miles to go and I decided to open it up even more. I was surprised how good I felt and decided the weather had a lot to do with it. Time to just put the foot on the gas and bring it in. That stretch back up Potomac park I was just cruising past people, making it a game to see how many people I could catch and pass. I was so focused I missed my sister cheering at about mile nine. I heard my name called out but wasn't sure if it was her or a random stranger since we had names on our bibs. With a mile to go I really cut loose. The legs were sore, but I knew I was on pace for a decent time so I fought to see how fast I could finish things off. There was a little climb before the finish, really the only incline of the day, and it sucked hard, but I was kind of in the zone and just kept on pushing. Eventually the finish line showed up and I crossed, crazy happy about the time. Some guy next to me blew chunks after finishing and I wondered if I could have pushed a little harder. I've never puked after a race, but maybe not from lack of trying. I think this was a first long race I have ever pulled off a negative split. I was at a 6:47 pace after 10k, but finished at a 6:44 pace for the entire race. Actually kind of fun finishing things off with a little something something in the tank.

Time: 1:07:21
Pace: 6:44/mile
Overall: 506/17530
AG place: 106/1455

The race site had some interesting stats post race. I finished ahead of 99% of the women, meaning I only got chicked by a small percentage of the field. I also passed 83 people in the second half of the race and was only passed by 8. Thanks you very much Mr. Negative Split. The pace also translated to an 8.9 mph pace. They also showed where I was on the course when the men's and women's winners finished. That is still humbling. I think the winner ran a 46:XX. Craziness! 

After I walked down and picked up food. Waited for my sister and some warm clothes. Then we walked to the Jefferson memorial and watched the back of packers finish up. For being injured in the offseason and my tubby butt still needing to lose about 10 pounds to lose to get down to a reasonable race weight I was happy.  I was super stoked with how things went. I am in much better shape than I anticipated I would be at this time of year. Things are looking up for marathon training and setting more PRs this summer if I stay healthy. This was a great course and quite scenic when I remembered to take a look around. I feel fortunate to get in through the lottery and to have my sister there to cheer me on.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's almost race time!

First race of the year is finally on the docket for this weekend.  After having to opt out of the New Orleans half in February I'm finally healthy enough to run and race this weekend and super excited to do so.

I hopping on the plane bright and early in the morning to head out to Washington DC.  I'll be visiting my sister and her family and just happened to get in to the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  It was the second time I've entered a race that had a lottery for entry (the first being escape from alcatraz three years ago) and the second time I've been selected. Maybe I should enter a lottery that's giving away money instead of essentially volunteering for a supervised pain session?

I'll embrace the pain like always though, especially since just a couple of months ago I was suffering the pain of injury.  A strained tendon in my foot sidelined me for much of the winter months, but since the end of February I've built my base back up from essentially nothing to hitting my first 40 mile week last week. After that build block I have been thoroughly enjoying the taper this week.  I needed the reduced mileage to recover a bit so I'm ready on Sunday. 

I've never run a 10 mile race before so the good news is that this will be a PR regardless of how I finish.  While my mileage is up I'm not sure my race legs will be under me or not.  I think I'll pace it like a half marathon and crank it up the last three miles if there's anything left in the tank.  That seems like a conservative approach, which I'm not really known for. Whatever happens it will sure be a fun romp around the capitol.

Short post. I'm off to bed soon.  Something about getting plenty sleep before a race and whatnot.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bilateral breathing.....for Runners?

So every once in awhile I come across a piece of information or an article in a magazine about training that really resonates with me. Last year I read Scott Jurek's book and decided I needed to clean up my diet and became what I would call an 80% Vegan.  I still enjoyed my post long run steaks and ate whatever when I went out with friends and family.  I think it did make an impact on my season last year and allowed me to get down to a relatively lean race weight for a change.

Anyway, this post isn't about diet, but rather another article I read this week in Runner's World that got me thinking about a part of running that I usually don't pay much attention to and that is breathing.  Most runs I tend to go out and just run because I enjoy it and I just let my mind wander and before I know it the day's prescribed mileage is up and I'm done.  For races and speedwork days I loosely monitor my breathing as a way to tell how hard I'm going.  Unless it's a 5k I shouldn't be out of breath.  If I'm doing speedwork and I'm hitting my paces and my breathing is under control then all is well.

The article, which can be found here, put the act of breathing in a whole new light for me.  There is evidence out there that suggest the greatest impact stress occurs when you exhale at the same time of a foot strike.  The argument was made that many runners will tend to exhale when the same foot strikes (ie always on the right foot strike or left foot strike) and that puts an unbalanced amount of stress on the body which can in turn lead to injury.

I thought about that for a bit and realized that every injury I've sustained while running has a occurred on my right side. Hip bursitis, Achilles tendon, and now the peroneal tendon. Coincidence? I don't know.  Maybe I just have one leg that's shorter than the other one.  That's possible too.  Anyway the article went on to explain a method for breathing in which you exhale on opposite foot strikes, with the easiest pattern to be a 3 step inhale, 2 step exhale so that way you're alternating exhalations on the left and right.  I figured I would go ahead and try and employ this next time out to see what it felt like.  There was really nothing to lose.  It's not likely that I would injure myself trying a new breathing method.  More likely that I would be annoyed with counting steps and doing something that didn't feel natural that I would give it up within a few miles.

So Thursday I gave it a shot.  It was a little weird because like I said it's not something I normally think about.  I found out that the 3:2 pattern was too short for an easy run and made me feel like I was forcing my breaths.  A 5:2 pattern was much more doable at my pace.  The only weird thing I noticed was a tended to look to the right or left depending on which foot strike I was exhaling too.  It reminded me of that scene in the Wayne's World movie where they're doing the five second countdown and Wayne and Garth kept nodding their heads and mouthing the countdown.

I've spent a couple more runs since then practicing on and off.  I did my weekly long run this morning (13 miles!) and would focus on it for a bit and then let my mind wander.  A few times I checked myself and found I was starting to subconsciously keep the new pattern up.  A few more times out and maybe it will be ingrained a little better and not feel so forced.  Like I said I think the switch is pretty low risk. Maybe it won't help with injuries, but if it does then bonus.  If anything, it can't hurt to be a little more conscious of how I'm breathing out there when I'm running.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Eeny, meeny, miny, marathon

Well it's that time of the year again where I start thinking about what my "A" race for the year is going to be.  For the second year in row it's going to be a marathon and my sole intent is to take another shot at qualifying for Boston since things didn't quite come all the way together for me at Chicago last year.

There's no shortage of options out there so that's a good thing, but there's a lot of little things to take into consideration.  Course type, location, time of year, etc., etc.  Chicago was a lot of fun last year.  It's a great city to visit and the course was exceptionally flat and speedy, but I'm thinking I don't need to do another mega-marathon again this year.  Don't get me wrong, the big races can be a lot of fun with all the crowd support and entertainment, but sometimes it's nice just to run and not be knocking elbows with the person next to you.

The single biggest draw for me right now is a flat, fast course.  It's not that I don't like hills or am afraid of them, but when qualifying is based purely on time I might as well maximize my chances and pick a course that I'm more likely to post a fast time on.  If at some point down the road I want to take on some gnarly hilly race to get some sort of masochistic pleasure out of the challenge I will do so.  For now I just want to be fast.

Then question then remains, when do I want to be fast? Or maybe when can I be fast?  The choice of fall marathons run from September to November with plenty of options in those months.  I have to realistically look at where my training and mileage is at.  I still consider myself to be easing back into training after an injury, but I did manage to put away 31 miles this last week. At the start of an 18 week training plan I would like to be up to 55 miles a week so I still have a ways to go to get built back up.  With a race heavy April the build will be slower as I'll have to allow for recovery as needed from the hard efforts.  So I'm likely looking at the end of May to be back up to snuff and that would again put me on schedule for an early October marathon at the earliest.  I was looking at some tantalizing September options though that, if I don't hit my goal time, would allow me to still try a November marathon too.  Part of me doesn't want to have that "out" but still tempting nonetheless.

The last part of the equation is just where the heck do I go to do this at? I like to travel and a race is a good excuse head somewhere new.  Just how far though? Do I stay within driving distance so my favorite sherpas (mom and dad) can come along or do I hop a flight with my running shoes to find a new place to run? The nice thing about running races is that I don't have to haul a bike along. What a pain that is. Just toss some shoes in a suitcase and I'm good to go!

Like I said the good news is that there are plenty of options out there and whatever I decide I'm sure I can find something that fits all of my criteria.  I enjoy browsing race websites, looking at course maps and reading reviews for an entire evenings at a time.  So I'll spend a few more weeks doing that to further narrow things down and hopefully come up with a plan for this fall. Now if only I could dedicate this much time to job hunting....    

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Resurrection.....2013 Edition

Well it's that time of year again where I start to getting excited about the impending race season and say, "Hey, maybe I should start updating the old blog again so others can share in the enthusiasm."  I'm not sure why the inspiration suddenly hit me.  Especially considering ma nature has decided to dump a bunch of snow on us again today. I just looked out my window and I'm not gonna lie, it's disgusting. Seriously, it had just pretty much all melted again and thoughts of spring had me wondering just how soon I could start stashing my tights and hats and gloves and stuff. Of course it could be that I had just completed my first 10 mile run in 3 months in the rain and sleet this morning and every successful run since the latest injury leaves me slightly euphoric and optimistic that the 2013 campaign can still turn into a good one.

So after coming up just 3 minutes short of qualifying for Boston at the Chicago Marathon last October I still have a major goal to focus on this year.  I really want that sub-3:05 time (heck, who am I kidding. I want that sub-3:00 time), which is what another run focused year will propel me toward. To reach that goal I'll have to make sure I follow a sub-set of goals such as stay injury free and no drinking and biking. When Chicago wrapped, I knew that my training plan had been solid and the collarbone setback and cost me a lot.  I wanted to rest up, keep my mileage manageable the last couple months of the year, and get ready to train for a spring marathon come January.

Now I'm notorious for end of the season injuries.  For some reason my body gets angry with me if I don't take adequate time off after my last marathon or Ironman of the year.  The last few years I've dealt with hip bursitis, an achilles injury, and some nasty shin splints. I was really hoping this year would be different.  I took two whole weeks off from any activity post Chicago, which is extremely hard for me to do.  After that I did all easy pace runs and was only logging 20 mile weeks (as opposed to the 70+ leading up to Chicago) for a few weeks.  After that I added about 4 miles a week, which seemed reasonable considering what I had been doing for the past year.  By mid December I was in the mid 40s for weekly mileage and feeling good about starting serious training come the new year.

Unfortunately my foot had different plans.  I had just finished up a routine easy 5 miler and noticed upon walking around later that night that my ankle hurt a little bit.  I just figured I had twisted it at some point during the run.  I tend to space out from time to time so it's not entirely implausible that I veered off the path and twisted it on some uneven ground or tripped on a stick or a crack in the trail or small animal darting in front of me or a dog not being watched by it's owner.  I waited a couple days for it to feel better and ran again but ended up with a sharp pain under the bony point on the outside of the ankle.  I rested some more which was extremely hard for me to do at this point.  The ankle felt fine walking and biking and lifting and going up and down the stairs at work, why couldn't I run? The especially frustrating part was that occasionally I would have a good run or two in a row without pain and then it would show up again the next time out.  It was taunting me and I wasn't a fan.

So shortly after Christmas I decided two full weeks of rest were in order.  Combing through resources on the internet, my armchair diagnosis was that it was a peroneal tendon injury and unless it was badly torn (I'm pretty sure I would have noticed that) the treatment was pretty much rest along with some specific stretches and strengthening exercises. I figured two weeks off would be sufficient to recover.  It wasn't.  I ended up heading into the doctor to get an official diagnosis, but because my symptoms weren't acute at the time the podiatrist could only speculate the it was the peroneal tendon (Ha! I was right). He did give me the most undoctorly advice I'd ever gotten: Go run until it hurts again and then come back in. Really? Did a doctor just tell me to go hurt myself?

The "Go hurt yourself" run never came to fruition though. Not because I didn't want to go do it.  I was desperate for some answers and a treatment plan that would get me back in the game. Instead I ended up getting sick.  And not just my typical feeling bad for a day or two and then recovering type sicknesses.  This was a full fledged multi-week sickness, the likes of which I don't think I've ever experienced.  I usually pride myself on my superior immune system, but it let me down this time for sure.  I was out of commission for 3 weeks, not on my deathbed type sick, but feeling bad enough that after suffering through a day of work all I wanted to was curl up on the couch and sleep.

The sickness may have been a blessing in disguise though.  When it finally passed I cautiously started running again.  The runs were short and slow, but more importantly pain free.  I've been able to string several weeks of pain free running together and even reached a few milestones that don't seem like much, but have left me optimistic: I've been able to run on consecutive days a few times and just today I completed my first 10 miler since December (Actually a 9.75 miler, but I'm rounding up so there :P). Today felt especially badass because of the cold, wind, rain, and sleet I had to deal with.  I was alone on the trail and singing and enjoying myself, but by the end I was still wet and cold.  When I got home I prepared a new concoction: Recovery hot cocoa. Hot cocoa with an extra scoop of chocolate protein powder and it sure did the trick of warming me up.


Now if only the weather would warm up too.  I've got races to get ready for!