27 September 2010

Up in the Air...

Well, this morning, I had hoped to run on the US Air Force Academy compound a ways -- past the airfield and then back. Headed out and then realized that those plans meant running through the security gate. Rats! Figured it wouldn't hurt to ask, so I crossed to the median toward the MP's and stopped and asked one of them if I could run the road. Very politely he informed me that one had to have military ID to get in before 8AM when visiting hours started. "All right ... no problem ... thank you, sir" and I headed back the other way.

I was disappointed but not surprised. While I knew I was not a national security threat, there are probably all kinds of scenarios where a lone runner on a military base in the early, pre-dawn hours is a really bad idea.

Still, I had a great, though hard, run this morning. My pace for the 4 miles was almost exactly 9:00 mpm -- 9:00.76, to be exact. That's certainly my fastest run at altitude (I'm currently at 6448') in a very long time.

I hope you have a great run today or whenever you next run.

Run well, y'all,

26 September 2010

Hill Training (Sort of)

Now, this hill will not only strengthen your legs, it will rock your lungs. This was my run this morning (Colorado Springs, Academy Hotel-->Research loop) -- I altered the beginning and end slightly and it ended up being 4.278 rather than 4.177 miles. Click on the Elevation link (large) on the left to see the elevation change. Starting at 6448, dropping a bit, then climbing 300'+ from about 0.67 miles to 2.5 miles, it was tough. The last 1.7 miles was GREAT, though! Pace was 9:26 mpm, even with about 3 walking breaks going up the hill -- probably due to the last 1.7 miles.

The run was during the long dawn -- it was cool at 42° but really nice for running. It was nice to have to wear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves for a change. According to weather.com, the sun was due up at 6:50 -- I started about 6:10 but it was quite light the whole time. Seeing the Rockies getting that early morning light was something else!

Run well, y'all,

22 September 2010

A 57⁴ Run

Nothing spectacular today — just another run in Nairobi. Kind of a neat coincidence, though: 57°F, 57% humidity, 5765' above sea level, 5.78 minutes per kilometre. Now, if I'd just run 5.7 mile! :-D

As it was, I ran 4.5 miles at a pace of 9:18 mpm or 7.29 kilometres at a pace of 5:46 mpk. For now, that's good. It's not where I want to be. I want 4.5 miles to be my short runs and a 9:18 mpm pace should be my easy runs -- I'd like to get back to 8:00-8:15 mpm on a daily basis. But, patience, grasshopper.

Run well, y'all,

20 September 2010

A Cure for Smelly Shoes

I have an incredible gift! No, it's not the speed to run faster than (or anywhere near as fast) as a speeding bullet; it's not the endurance to run long distances and finish wanting more; it's not even something as exciting or desirable as the gift to make money hand over fist. No, I am an effective heating machine -- I have the gift of sweat! Yes, I know, GROSS! I can head out for a 3-5 mile run when the temperature is 51°, wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt and come back looking like I have stood under a waterfall for the past 25-50 minutes. One good friend saw me after a run one day and commented, "You sure do have an efficient internal heater!"

One downside of that "gift" is that my shoes are wet at the end of a run. Wet shoes lead to stinky shoes and that always happened. I tried Lysol spray; I tried Fabreeze spray; I tried newspapers stuck in the shoes; I kept them outside at all times; and nothing helped. Then, one day I listened to Ashland Dave's podcast on StuffItts. He said they had worked for him -- you know, the kind of worked like playing country music backwards -- your wife comes back, you get your pickup back, the bank doesn't foreclose on your home, your dog becomes your best friend again -- that kind of worked. So, I decided to try them. I went to the StuffItts' web site and ordered 4 pair of "Speed Demon Black with Neon Yellow Strap" StuffItts. At the time, they were having a closeout on an older model -- the inserts are not replaceable but they were only $9.95 each.

I live in Kenya, so I had the StuffItts sent to my daughter who gave them to someone else who was coming to Kenya for a meeting. Granted, the StuffItts caused quite the stir -- "What in the world...?" When I finally got them, I put them to immediate use. What a difference!! ... I got my pickup back, my dog liked me ... oh, wait, that's the country song! Almost immediately, my running shoes quit smelling like something that had stayed out of the refrigerator for way too long. Now, I have to tell you, they don't destink my shoes to the point where I want to drape them around my neck but I no longer pass out when I get within 20 yards of them and I no longer have to defumigate my suitcase when I travel. They are great and I would heartily recommend them to anyone who has sweaty feet (no, don't get anything for telling you that ... though, if StuffItts wants to compensate me for the endorsement, I wouldn't refuse -- LOL). I keep a pair in my morning running shoes (the worst offenders), a pair in my afternoon walking shoes, and another pair rotates among the shoes I wear for work -- one pair is still in reserve.

Funny thing. The other day, after our afternoon 3+ mile walk, I sat down to take off my shoes and insert my StuffItts and had this overwhelming flashback to my childhood. Do you ever hear or smell something that transports you to another time and place? Well, all of a sudden I had the sensation of opening a fresh bag of cedar shavings to put in my hamster cage. Now that's a great smell and that's what the StuffItts smelled like (and no, I wasn't holding them up to my nose), even after living inside my shoes for 6 months.

Running? Oh, yes, I still do that. This morning, my body did not want to go but my mind overruled for once. It wasn't a pretty sight but I managed a slow 4.4 miler. It was really slow and it didn't really wake me up and I'm stiff all over -- but it was a run and for that I'm extremely grateful.

Run well, y'all,

14 September 2010

Gearing Up For a Run

This morning, while running (4.8 miles at a 9:31 mpm pace), I thought about doing a post on essential gear. Then, while eating breakfast, checking e-mail, and catching up on Facebook and blogs, I found that a long-time friend and almost daughter had posted a comment on my blog of 9-Sep, Bare Your Sole. She is right at completing a full year of running and asked what kind of running gear I might recommend as a reward to herself. I couldn't have paid her for a better lead-in. So, Amanda, here's my answer (it's a little on the long side) -- and congratulations on finishing your first year of running.

What you get depends on what you already have and what you are willing to spend.

First, make sure that you have have a good running kit as your base -- good shoes, running socks, shorts, shirts, and, for the female runners, support undergarments (obviously, I can't make recommendations about this but check Runner's World for reviews). You don't have to spend a lot of money on the socks, shorts, and shirts -- I like Target's shorts and shirts and they're imminently affordable at $12-$15 each. For socks, my favourites are Balega Trail (made in S Africa) and WrightSocks' Running socks (double-layer). Socks always seem a bit pricey -- I seem to spend $6-$9 a pair -- but well worth it. Don't run in all cotton socks unless you have this thing about wanting blisters. Personally, I also want a watch to track my runs. I don't have anything fancy -- I use a Timex Ironman Marathon watch that tracks 100 laps (it uses 2 laps if I'm just tracking the total time of my run and not tracking intervals) and it doubles as my all-the-time watch. If you run during the sunny times of day, a good pair of sunglasses and a running cap are pretty essential -- protect your eyes!

If you have the basic kit, then add some safety gear. Get something that identifies who you are and contains emergency contact information. If you are involved in a running accident and can't communicate, this may well save your life. Personally, I use a Road ID wrist band with the interactive ID plate and wear it on every run, day or night. (Note: if you purchase something from Road ID after clicking on that link, I do benefit in some small way -- a discount or something.)

If you run in the dark (or at dawn or dusk), then get some good safety gear. Again, you don't have to buy expensive stuff, you just want to be clearly visible by drivers. A reflective vest would be my first purchase -- you should be able to get a good one for less than $15. A light is also a good idea both for safety and for seeing the road/trail. I have a clip-on blue Firefly Nova from Road ID and set it to blink. It goes on my Road ID wrist band. I also bought a 3-light LED clip-on headlamp from Wal-Mart that clips onto the bill of my running cap. I'm not interested in getting hit while I run!

Then, if you run in cool or cold weather or in wind/rain, add gear for that. How much you need to wear is very individual. Over the past 7 years, I've worked out what to wear based on the temperature:

  • >/=50°: shorts and short-sleeved shirt
  • 40°-49°: shorts and long-sleeved shirt (my favourite is a Brooks, bright green/yellow half-zip), light gloves in the low 40°'s
  • 32°-39°: shorts, short-sleeved shirt, light sweatshirt/vest, light gloves, running cap (ears uncovered)
  • 26°-31°: light wind pants over shorts, long-sleeved shirt, light sweatshirt, gloves, running cap
  • 20°-25°: same as 26°-31° but I'll wear a light fleece instead of the sweatshirt and substitute a stocking cap for the running cap so that I can cover my ears. If I have them, then a pair of less breathable shoes made for inclement weather.
  • <20°: running tights under either the shorts or the wind pants, heavier fleece or sweatshirt under the light fleece, heavier gloves, 2 pair of socks. The one time I've run in less 10° (it was 5°), I overdressed because I was afraid of the cold.
Once you have that gear and want more, then is when I would start looking at fancy gear. Sometimes the higher priced shorts and shirts really are more comfortable and better than the Target/Champion level of kit. The Nike+ iPod Sport Kit seems to be a good, inexpensive (if you already have a compatible iPod) device for tracking your runs. If you want something that gives you more information, then a Garmin 405 (expensive) is really nice. Add a heart-rate monitor if you'll actually use it (I just do a quick finger-on-the-pulse check at the end of my run). I don't listen to music while I run but that's because most of my runs are on the roads and I want to be able to hear what's going on around me. But, if you run on trails or a treadmill or maybe even on sidewalks, then another piece of gear would be an iPod (or, shudder, other MP3 player -- recognize my bias?). I can't stand Apple's ear buds so I would also get a set of sweat/water-resistant sports head phones -- my preference are the in-the-ear kind, not buds. The iPod Shuffle is a $50 splurge and adds almost no weight to your gear. For the running parents (Amanda), a jogging stroller lets you share the joy of running with your child and adds some Umph! to your run.

If you're doing long runs, then get hydration gear. Carrying a Dasani water bottle is fine but can get tiring. I have a simple Fuel Belt Sahara 22 oz bottle with a handstrap. Having the handstrap means that I can actually let go of the bottle to relax my hands. I also have a Nathan waist pack -- it does bounce a bit and that and the weight on the back of my waist take some getting used to but it's nice for long runs since I don't have to hold it. A lot of folks like the 2 and 4-bottle waist belts from either Fuel Belt or Nathan or other suppliers.

So, Amanda, those are my suggestions. Treat yourself to some nice gear and enjoy your running even more.

Run well, y'all,

11 September 2010

Long Run -- Sort Of

I guess long run is a relative term. Fourteen months ago, a long run would have been 10-14 miles. Right now, on my way back to a good weight and a decent level of fitness, a long run for me is 5+ miles. So, today, I headed out for a long run. The temperature in Nairobi was 53° and the humidity was 57%. At 6:30, the sun was just coming up. So, it was a beautiful, almost perfect morning for a run. It was hard -- I haven't gone more than 5 miles in Nairobi in a very long time -- since 11-Nov-09. I ended up taking several walk breaks. My pace was only 9:45 mpm -- a full minute per mile slower than that Nov-09 5-miler. Still, considering my current fitness level and weight, I'm satisfied.

Have you ever had to struggle to get back in shape?

Run well, y'all,

09 September 2010

How to Run Really Fast

According to this page, Run Faster -- How to Run Faster, I could run a 0:59.0 half marathon if I weighed 54#. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to give up my dream of beating Ryan Hall. Whadda' ya' think?

Well, OK, I guess I haven't fulfilled the promise of the post title. I think the secrets to running really fast are: genetics, hard work, tough mental state, and did I say hard work? I think I'll set more realistic goals, like getting to an appropriate BMI weight and running 10KM without feeling totally exhausted.

This morning's run was awful -- only 2 things good about it -- the temperature was 53° and I actually ran. Otherwise, 4.36 miles at an abysmal pace of 9:55 mpm. It didn't feel that hard but the numbers don't seem to be lying. Oh well, a day with a bad run is better than a day without running. (That is true, isn't it?)

Run well, y'all,

03 September 2010

Bare Your Sole?

I don't think it's either just my imagination or that I'm reading different bloggers than before, but the last year seems to have seen an awful lot of people talking about barefoot running. For a time, I considered getting a pair of Vibram Five Fingers but decided that I need more protection where I run than the VFFs would provide.

One of the reasons given for running barefoot or in very minimalist shoes is that it forces you to run naturally, meaning less heel strike and more mid- or forefoot. Recently, I came across several blogs that seem, to me, to bring common sense thinking to this issue, and related issues. They're not anti-barefoot but talk more about footstrike and the results (benefits, negatives, neutrality).

  • Elite Males in Slow-Motion at the 2010 Boston Marathon -- video clips of Cheruiyot, Merga, Kebede, Kigen, Goumri, Keflezighi, and Hall at the same point (about mile 17) of the Boston Marathon. Hint, they don't have the same footstrike patterns and they are all very fast -- sub-5 minutes per mile.
  • Bare Your Sole? Just Shorten Your Stride -- talks about how to reduce stress on knees and hips (one of the touted benefits of barefoot running) by increasing stride rate or turnover which reduces overstriding.
  • On Running Form, Variability in Elites, and What it Means to You (and Me) -- using stills from the same video clips that he used in my first reference above, Pete Larson looks at footstrike, arm carriage, and body orientation (straight up versus forward lean) variability among elite runners.
  • On Running Form II: Where Should Footstrike Occur? -- this was the most striking of all the blogs. Larson addresses the question of footstrike occurring in front of the center of gravity, directly under the center of gravity, or even behind the center of gravity. He concludes that the optimum is ... well, check the blog.
On a personal note, I briefly considered trying a pair of very minimalist shoes -- actually one of the Vibram Five Fingers line. However, given the kinds of surfaces on which I run (really bad roads in Nairobi, Kenya), I decided to stick with my Etonic Jepara SC's.

After a really odd injury/joint condition (pelvic symphisitis) that hit me around Thanksgiving last year (late November, for non-US runners), I ended up not running at all for about 7 weeks. One problem, though, was that my appetite didn't diminish and I ended up gaining about 12 unneeded and unwanted pounds. When I finally was given the green light to run again, it was awful. Even before the injury, I was struggling with my endurance -- I think it had to do with both a greatly increased travel schedule and a period of near burnout. What I've discovered is that at 56 years old, it's much, much harder to lose the excess weight and it's much, much harder to regain one's fitness level. While I'm still running slowly (9-9:30 mpm), I seem to have had a break through this week. I've run farther and, on 2 of 3 runs, faster than in a long time. Today's run was the longest in Nairobi (i.e., at altitude -- >5,000 feet) since mid-November -- 4.6 miles at 9:36 mpm -- and, while a hard run, was very satisfying. So, maybe I'm getting back.

Run well, y'all,