Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When the Planets Align

ORN: 4 miles, R6/W1

How cool was that??

Last night on the local news, I heard there was a visible lunar eclipse set for this morning. Even better, it was to peak at the time I usually run.

So, it was very cool to go out the door, look up and see a partially covered full moon. At the start of my run, there was a sliver of moon still visible but by my one mile mark, it was gone and the moon was completely covered.

As I ran, my mind worked back through my high school physics classes, trying to remember the difference between "umbra" and "penumbra," the two types of shadows in an eclipse. I marveled at gravitational pull. Here are three massive bodies, hurtling through space at amazing speeds, yet in perfect choreography with one another, orbiting stably and predictably. And the gravitational pull extends to this plodding runner who needs motion control shoes just to counteract the gravitational pull that overpronates his left foot on every clunky step.

For an amazing but brief 15 minutes, the planets aligned, the sky was clear, I was outside and could attempt to absorb it all. Then, as quietly as it began, the moon slid behind some hazy clouds on the western horizon and it was gone. Merely a memory.

One of the joys of early morning running in an amazing world.


Saturday, August 25, 2007


ORN: 9 miles, 1:30:07, 10:01/mile, R7/W1

As runners are wont to do, I spent way more time last week than I needed to obsessing about how to approach today’s long run. Not that the run was anything special; heavens, the schedule simply said to do 9 miles, with a 5K at 25:15 thrown in. Yet, with me bonking badly last week coming off this head cold I really wondered just what to do. Comments here were very helpful and I tried to distill them into something that made sense. Fortunately, my three other runs this week went well.

I ultimately decided to try to simulate reality of my
target race on December 8 to some extent. Thus, I dialed up my run/walk interval to the 7/1 that I plan to use then. I also wanted to see if I could get near the 9:41/mile pace I’ll need there to hit my 4:15 target time.

I headed out the door in a light mist and 75F. In a mile or so, the mist turned into a steady to heavy downpour. I chuckled as I got drenched; I had hoped for some reality and sometimes it rains on race day! So, get used to the wet shoes, puddles everywhere and humidity. More reality than I planed…and it was a good exercise.

The run went fine. The first two miles were a little quick at 9:30 each. The middle miles faded a bit to the 10:14 range, but the last two came in at 9:51 and 9:44. If Galloway’s temperature adjustment tables are applicable, that puts me in range for 9:41s in December in Alabama.

The next two weeks remain key, in my mind, in the prep for the race. I need a solid 17 next Saturday, followed by a sound 19 the following week. If I can do these and finish strong, I’ll have more confidence as the mileage builds through September and October.

Now, if I can just keep from obsessing THIS week like I did last week…

Persevere…don’t obsess!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Nest Empties

ORN: M,T,W: 5,4,5 miles, respectively, all at 5/1

On Wednesday, we took Matt to
Wheaton College, where he starts his college career. It is an amazing and kind of awesome step as our youngest heads out the door.

We packed up on Wednesday morning and headed north for the 3 hour drive to the campus, 20 miles straight west of Chicago’s Loop. We were there a day before most freshmen arrived because he won an
ROTC scholarship and ROTC activities started Wednesday night and most of the day Thursday.

When we arrived, four current ROTC cadets met us in his dorm lobby and helped get his stuff moved to the 5th floor. That took about 10 minutes!!

While in the room, we had a nice moment. Thanks to
Michelle (or more specifically, Michelle’s father) I got the idea to give Matt a small set of hand tools and a tool case. Michelle shared with me earlier this summer how her Dad had done this for her and her siblings and now extends the same gift to his grandchildren. How cool!! So, I went shopping a few weeks ago, picked out what I thought were well-made and useful hand tools that will last for decades. In the room, I gave it to him. He was quite surprised and seemed pleased. Michelle, please tell your Dad that the great idea grows!!

Matt dismissed us from the dorm, as he wanted to get organized by himself. We met up again around 6pm, as the ROTC group had a pizza dinner for the new cadets and their parents. There were about 85 or so total for this event. We heard from the cadet commander (here with Gretchen; we were quite impressed with him), as well as several cadets. We got to mix with a lot of the existing cadets, getting a feel for what each year’s rigor holds for Matt. We also saw a well-done DVD of the 2006-07 ROTC activities. That was quite educational and useful for us. After the dinner and presentations, the current cadets grabbed the new cadets and took them to an ice-cream place near campus. Matt seemed to enjoy all of this and was mostly quite anxious to get started.

So, we said good bye and drove home, getting in around 1am. We felt good about leaving, as Matt is in a place where he can thrive. He’ll connect well there, academically, socially, spiritually…it all fits. He’ll be challenged, to be sure. I think he’s up for it.

Persevere. Matt sure will be.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Flying the Plane into the Ground

ORN: Sunday-Friday: Zero. Zip. Nada.
Saturday: 12.8 miles, 2:18:42, 10:49/mile, R3W1, followed by agonizing 2.2 mile walk

This week has thrown things for a loop.

After I posted last Saturday about my bout with a cold, the illness took a turn for the worse. Saturday night, the thing really grabbed me. I was flat on my back all day Sunday. I went to the doctor on Monday and had it diagnosed as an upper respiratory infection, got some antibiotics, but was still useless on Monday and Tuesday. I can’t remember the last time I missed two days of work being sick. I slept very poorly, as the persistent cough kept me awake until 3am or so each night. Running was a distant dream, I felt so lousy. I thought a lot of
Sarah and how an odd turn of events, namely a bad cold, took her out of a long-awaited and targeted race. Something like this can happen just as easily the week of a race rather than in the midst of training.

I finally got some sleep on Friday night and genuinely felt better this morning. Since the schedule called for 16 miles, I decided that 16 it would be. Hey, I have a base of fitness, right?? Besides, it was a rare, beautiful morning in August with a mild NE breeze, temps in the low 60s and little humidity. As a nod to my inactivity, I ramped back to a 3/1 run/walk ratio, which felt pretty low-level. It was a nice run, with miles clicking off in the 10:20-10:30 range, consistently.

To get in 16, I added a big loop through the Purdue campus to the opposite end of my usual long run route. With classes starting up on Monday, there was quite the buzz of move-in. Nervous parents walking with students anxious to get rid of their nervous parents were everywhere. Never mind I’ll be said nervous parent on Wednesday; it was fun.

Until the 12 mile mark.

I felt tightness in the outside of both legs, a stiffness not a pain. I worked through it for about a half mile or so, when it clamped down altogether. Simply bending the legs to run in a normal fashion became impossible. The whole thing came on in less than a mile. I debated what to do; but running was simply out of the question. I changed my route and walked home. Yet, because of the route, I was still 2 miles from my front door, even taking short cuts. So, walk home I did. I plopped into a cold tub of water for 20 minutes, took a shower and have gimped around the rest of the day.

What’s going on? I think I clearly underestimated the impact of both the illness and the week’s layoff from any running. The virtually complete inactivity of the legs all week subjected them to too much of a shock, despite the fact that the first 12 miles went OK.

Looking ahead, the schedule has two 5 milers and a 4 miler each week for the next month or two. Next Saturday is 9 miles with another 5km time trial. The week after calls for Saturday run of 17 miles, with 19 the week after that. I need to prepare well and succeed with those two long runs to establish the confidence to keep building the mileage. It’s sobering. And any marathon preparation should have its sobering moments. I have to keep the plane in the air.

Persevere. Cold or no cold.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Summer Cold is a Different Animal

ORN: 6.1 miles total; 5km Time Trial—26:13

“A summer cold is a different animal
an ugly animal... oooh!

It hits you in the summer,
When you've got a lot to do!”

My odd mind has reverted frequently this week to the lyrics above from a 60’s TV commercial for
Contac. It had a fuzzy-looking character out zapping people in the park and at picnics. In the midst of the triple digit heat index we’ve had all week, the summer cold animal snagged me well.

Interestingly, running has helped work through it. I stuck with my schedule except for swapping a Friday 5 miler in place of the Thursday run when it was tough to crawl out of bed. In each case, I felt better after running than before. Go figure.

Today’s schedule called for 6 miles along with another 5km time trial in 25:15 or less. With no local races scheduled here in the August doldrums, I just ran on a measured 5K course not far from my house. It is a different dynamic entirely to push yourself without the pack of other races around. It was technologically different as well as I had loaned my Garmin to a friend this weekend who had to find some specific locations at his farm. So, I ran by feel, trying to keep the 8 minute/mile pace required. But, between the cold and the heat, the splits faded from 8:05 to 8:18 to 8:45. I was sopping wet and flushed by the end. But it is clearly good to push the pace and force the legs to turnover more quickly on a regular basis.

I jogged and walked home, redeeming an otherwise uninspiring run by doing an eco-run. I managed to fill an entire shopping bag with trash in the half-mile walk/run home. Pretty disgusting but just a little prettier when I got done.

The good stuff gets rolling next weekend with a 16 miler on tap...now that will be fun!

Persevere, even with a fuzzy-looking character chasing you.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Long Run is a Good Teacher

ORN: 13.3 mi, 2:14:53 with 6 1-mile repeats @ 8:56

Now, that was a good workout!

I’m mid-way now through a year-long experiment in training methods. I’m doing a deep dive into
Jeff Galloway's approach to running and training. Galloway is famous for promoting the run/walk method and taking care to avoid overuse injury. Coming off of an awful ITB injury last winter, I’m intrigued enough to give this method one year’s serious evaluation.

An oft-stated knock on Galloway is that it is slow. As I’ve gotten into it, I’m questioning that assumption. Having knocked off 2 PRs this summer over 5K, it hasn’t slowed me in short distances. I got a strong taste today of the rigor of program over the long haul.

The schedule today called for 13 miles with 6 mile repeats at the pace I want to run in my marathon during my run segments. That translates, for me, to a 9:11 pace while running. I worked on the pace today and was a bit quick, with miles at 8:59, 9:04, 9:00, 9:00, 8:44 and 8:51. And I learned a lot.

I learned I have plenty of work to do to get a feel for the correct pace.

I learned my feet hurt. My feet are a size 11 3 / 4 and, as such, I just can’t quite get the perfect fit for a long run. I tried a thin pair of liner socks today in my size 12 clodhoppers but they added too much material. So, I popped into our local sporting goods store and found an even thinner pair to try next week.

I learned my endurance base is not set yet. The run was a good workout in that as I finished the assigned distance, I was truly finished. The legs had enough. Not painful but clearly done for the day.

I learned my mind will play games on me. It is interesting how one’s mind can convince one that “just a few more miles” is no biggie. It is only in the training, however, that the miles can really happen.

I learned a bit about my left knee. Three weeks ago, while umpiring a baseball game, I made a hard run from home to third base to cover a play. Putting on the brakes as I arrived at third, I slightly hyper-extended the knee. I’m still feeling it, particularly at the start of a run. It’s just plain stiff and I must look like an old man shuffling down the street at the start. After about 2 miles, the knee loosens and does not complain further. I’m hoping this clears up, though.

I learned it is well worth getting up at 5:30am on a Saturday. I beat the worst of the heat and had my full day ahead of me after 2+ hours of running.

A good run, a good set of lessons.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Accelerade Report #1

ORN: Monday, 5; Tuesday 3, Wednesday, core strength

A few weeks ago, I
wrote about my offer from Accelerade; they’d send me 30 bottles of their endurance drink in exchange for me writing of my observations on the product. Here’s part one…illustrated no less.

In about six days after I accepted their offer, two large boxes arrived. Exactly as offered, I had thirty 20 oz bottles of Accelerade in a variety of flavors. Good move…they did just what they said they would do.

Now, you need to excuse me a bit…in my professional life I’m a
process geek; I love manufacturing, the people who work in manufacturing and the process of manufacturing. My central theme is eliminating waste, getting rid of non-value adding activities, relentlessly improving. So I see waste and value, almost as a genetic predisposition. Therefore, when I opened the box, I was surprised and puzzled by the presence of 15 bottles of Accelerade and one space filled in with a rolled up piece of bubble wrap. Why the bubble wrap? Why not make an offer of 16 bottles for free, fill the box with drink bottles and send one full box, not two?? I’d still do the deal, I’d still get free drink and it would cut the overall marketing cost, be easier to fill the box, not ship air and plastic in the form of bubble wrap. I dunno, but that was an observation.

I gave the drink itself its first test ride that night. I was set to umpire home plate at a Little League tournament game in 95 degree heat. I grabbed a bottle of the red flavor and also mixed up a bottle of Gatorade, my usual drink and figured I’d have a chance to compare the two in a very sweaty setting.

I was surprised.

The Accelerade actually tasted fine. Particularly in the heat, between innings, I found the taste to be quite acceptable, without aftertaste. I drank it steadily, with some big gulps and had not a single talk-back from my stomach. It seemed to quench the thirst and sat well. It clearly tasted better than
GU2O. It was less sweet than Gatorade but it didn’t taste like it was trying to teach me a lesson or harass me for not always buying free-range chicken. Neither did it taste trendy. It was a clean, simple taste that went down well.

The game went well and I had no fans question my linage or my eyesight. I have since used the Accelerade in a couple more ball games and one long run. I’ve had similar reactions while running. I took the drink in full strength and it sat fine on the stomach. I usually mix Gatorade powder at about a 1/3 strength to drink when I run.

One question I can’t assess yet; how do I measure their claim that Accelerade increases endurance by 29%?? I saw this ad during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball this week (did I tell you I like baseball??) and for the life of me, I don’t know how I’d assess this. I’ll keep thinking and drinking and keep you posted.