28 July 2008

On the Track

The most difficult part of my training plans for my last 3 races (half marathon, 10K, and another half marathon now) has been the speedwork. I've never been fast and really struggle to meet the training goals (which is exactly why I need the track work in my training plans). The plan for speedwork this week called for 8 miles, including 4 x 1600m @6:56 mpm and 800m jogs between repeats. The high school track, Godwin High School, is 2 miles from our house, so I did my warm up and cool down to and from the school.

The first two 1600m repeats went well. Then, I really struggled on the third repeat and ended up breaking it up into 3 segments with 200m jogs in between. However, I managed to complete the last repeat. It is amazing to me how much difference just a few seconds per mile makes in how I feel on these repeats.

1.7942 mi x 16:30.39
1600m x 7:03.52 (+7.52 seconds)
800m x 4:41.57 -- Jog
1600m x 6:53.47 (-2.53 seconds)
800m x 5:17.28 -- Jog
850m x 3:36.67 3rd repeat, segment 1
200m x 1:40.18 -- Jog
400m x 1:44.36 3rd repeat, segment 2
200m x 1:44.08 -- Jog
350m x 1:23.94 3rd repeat, segment 3 (-11.03 seconds total for the 3 segments)
800m x 5:37.54 -- Jog
1600m x 7:08.32 (+14.32 seconds)
1.7942 mi x 16:27.08

Glad those are behind me for the week. The rest of the week will be a couple of 4 mile runs, a 7 miler, and then an 8-12 miler on Saturday.

Run well, y'all,

26 July 2008

Sticky Ideas: 8 x 8 Water

This kind of falls in the interesting things I found while surfing but should have been doing something else category.

One of the persistent bits of common health knowledge is the idea that one should drink 8 8-ounce glasses of water every day in order to be healthy (other iterations of this common knowledge say anywhere from 6-10 glasses or more). Another persistent bit of common knowledge is that caffeinated drinks don't count toward that total since they cause dehydration rather than prevent it.

One of the best books that I've read in a long time is Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Their blog, though not updated regularly, is a regular stopping point for me.

On 15 July, Dan posted a short bit on the 8 x 8 water idea and pronounced it an urban legend, albeit a very sticky one. He pointed to an article in the online journal Slate that reported on a study debunking the idea (this link downloads/opens a PDF file) from the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, traced the history of the idea, and included a link to a Snopes.com article on the urban legend.

Granted, runners and others who exercise or sweat profusely, need to watch their fluid intake. But, it seems that what we have long taken as absolute truth (8 8-ounce glasses of water per day for everybody) is taken by many to be false -- an urban legend that has persisted for hundreds of years.

Run well, y'all (and hydrate smart),

MInd: 2 for 3

After my awful 13.1 mile run last week and then reading all the posts on the Runners' Lounge blog on the Tough Stuff, I made up my mind that I was going to do whatever it took to have a better run today -- scheduled 14.1 miler. So, I tried to hydrate well on Friday, get a decent night's sleep Friday night, focus on having a positive mental outlook, get a mantra, and run smart. It worked:
Hydration on Friday: at least 86 oz of liquids plus fruit
Sleep: 7 hours
Mental: I'm looking forward to this run.
Mantra: Uwe hodari na moyo wa ushujaa (Swahili from Joshua 1:6-9, Be strong and courageous)
Target pace was 8:47 and I ran at 8:49 and stayed with a group of 3 others

I felt very good through 11 miles -- in fact, I was surprised when we hit the 10 mile point. At mile 12, I was having to tell myself more often to be strong and courageous -- I really wanted to walk but decided that I had to run through the half marathon distance. Then, when we got to mile 13, there was only 1 mile remaining and I couldn't quit. I ran the full distance with the exception of the water stops. While I was as physically tired as last week, I felt so much better having gotten through the mental stuff that I don't feel nearly as badly.

So, out of the last 3 longer runs of 11, 13, and 14 miles, my mind has prevailed on the 11 and 14 mile runs. YES!!!

I actually ran 14.92 miles because I ran 0.75 miles to the start of the group run.

I hope your run today is just as good -- mind over body.

Run well, y'all,

24 July 2008

Tough Stuff: Hard Runs, Heat, Humidity

It's Take It and Run Thursday at Runner's Lounge. The topic for today is The Tough Stuff.

When it comes to running, I am a confirmed hater of heat and humidity. Trying to train over the last 2 months for an August 23 half marathon has been the most difficult period of running since I got serious about it 5 years ago. Frankly, it's been a little discouraging -- no, I'm not about to give up as I'm too mule-headed for that, but I think that's one reason I haven't posted a blog in about 2.5 weeks.

Just a fer instance: last Saturday was a scheduled 13.1 mile run with the half marathon training team. I woke up feeling good -- looking forward to the run and thinking I would do well. Even 70° and 84% humidity seemed doable. But, from the moment we started running, I was sluggish. By the time we hit mile 8, I was in bad shape (I was hydrating and had ingested a couple of Gu's). Even shorter runs have been hard -- a 6-miler on Tuesday and 4.5 miles today.

The toughest of the tough stuff for me? -- Track repeats, especially 1600m repeats at 90-95% max. (I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam, I am. -- Not sure why, but that Seuss quote seemed appropriate.)

I've decided there are several factors that are probably a part of this and I'm going to try to work on them over the next 4 weeks before the actual race:

1. Heat and humidity: I have decided that some folks just handle it better than others. David, a college friend of mine, ran in temps that were upper 90's a few days ago. I've not even attempted anything over 80°. While I certainly can't control the weather, I am going to try to do a better job of hydrating well the day before a longish run. I already run early -- 5:15-5:30 AM start during the week and a 6:45 AM start on Saturday.

2. Overtraining: Coach Dean Hebert, blogger at Running Advice and News, posted a Q&A from a reader about hitting a plateau and digressing. The reader's symptoms were similar to mine (though I haven't struggled for 5 months) and one of Hebert's suggestions was that she was overtraining or that her training was stale, too consistent. I can implement some of the suggestions. In fact, I did that today -- I backed off the mileage a bit, ran 4.5 miles rather than 6, and I added several relatively short fartleks during the run to break the steady pace.

3. Mental stamina: Part of my difficulty is that discouragement can be a cyclical downslide. My pride makes me think that every run should at least be good and I really expect every run to be better than the previous one. I know better than that, so, in the words of my favourite TV psychologist, Bob Newhart, "Stop it -- S-T-O-P, new word, I-T -- STOP IT!" As Benjamin Cheever said in Strides: "The runner's high is built on a foundation of runner's lows. The joy is often paid for in advance."

(You HAVE to watch the Newhart video but don't have a mouth full of food or beverage when you do. Word to the wise.)

Run well, y'all,

07 July 2008

5 Years Under My Belt

Today I completed 5 years of serious running. Mind you, by serious, I don't intend to give anyone even the faintest idea that I'm a good runner (I'm neither an elite runner nor the son of an elite runner). I simply mean that I've taken it seriously in terms of my own health and physical fitness -- I've run consistently (my wife would say obsessively) over a period of 60 months and have come to love it.

I began this journey on 9 July 2003 by walking, with my wife, 2.9 miles in 45 minutes. We gradually added a bit of jogging here and there. Eventually, we got to where we ran 2.5 miles together before I split off to do another 2+ and she ran a bit more and cooled off. I loved that time together and was very sorry for that time to end. Thankfully, it hasn't ended completely, though. My wife completed the Richmond 10K this year (You go, girl!) and I looped back after I finished and did the last half again with her. Notice -- the picture was taken right at 6 miles and she's smiling.

I almost always run in the early morning but I completed the 5 years this evening with a very rare evening run -- 6.3 miles in 51:15 (8:07 mpm). The temperature was 80° and the humidity was 80%. I do not like running in that kind of weather -- give me 50° any day -- but I woke up this morning to a severe lightening storm and couldn't run (I'm obsessive but not completely wacky). In that 5 year period, I have run 6008 miles.
2003: 557 miles (Jul-Dec)
2004: 837 miles
2005: 924 miles
2006: 1364 miles
2007: 1453 miles
2008: 872 miles (Jan-today)

It took a full year to get to the point before I could stop saying simply, "I like the results of running" and I could say "I like running." My absolute favourite run, besides the times with my wife, was Chapman's Peak in Nordhoek, South Africa.

I hope to be running for 30 more years (or more). By then, of course, the 30 year olds will have to dodge my cane (as they blow by me).

Run well, y'all, and remember the milestones,

05 July 2008

Mountain Runs/Hikes, Long Run, and Cats on a Treadmill

A catch-up post. Sorry for the length.

I had a one-week reprieve from the humidity and heat of Richmond. Spent a great vacation week in Highlands, NC. The temperature when I ran in the mornings was 49-54° and the humidity was around 54%. It was wonderful. The mountain roads were not conducive to running as they were narrow, had many blind curves, and no verges on which to escape the traffic, so I drove into town and ran Highlands' sidewalks -- still was able to do a 6-miler and two 5-milers, one of which included hill repeats. It was great!

In addition, we took in the waterfalls that are in the area. The best were Glen Falls -- the elevation change was 700'+/-. The literature said it was a 1.4 mile trail, each way, but I think it had to be farther. Whitewater Falls were also awesome -- with a 411' drop, they are the highest falls in the US east of the Mississippi River. Anyway, 3 hikes and 3 runs was pretty good.

I don't want to bore you with home slides, but here are a few from the hikes:

Whitewater Falls

Glen Falls, 3rd falls -- Bob and Linda

Glen Falls, 4th falls

Crocodile in the Water! :)

Glen Falls Trail

Today was my long run -- 11.2 miles @ 8:28 mpm. The run itself was hard but the soreness (OK, pain) afterwards is worse. I'm experimenting with Gu's, Shot Bloks, and Gatorade. I had a Gu before running, ate a Shot Blok every 3 miles, and drank 20 oz of Gatorade over the 11 miles. I think it helped but I'm going to try a Shot Blok every 2 miles to see if it's better.

Now, the part you've been waiting for -- Deux chats sur un tapis roulant (Cats on a Treadmill -- at least I think that's what the French says). Merry, who wrote Thursday's post at Cranky Fitness, found this one. Being the good blogger that I am, I stole, ah, referenced her find. This is pretty funny -- much more fun than actually running on a treadmill!

Run well, y'all,