Saturday, July 31, 2010

San Antonio

Final backlogged post!
Last weekend we stayed down on the riverwalk and visited the missions, some parks, and did other random touristy things. (By the way, if you've got kids, did you know that if you join the safari club at Rainforest Cafe you can skip the hour wait on weekend nights!?) That meant that I got to do a 5 mile run in a new city! Before I left home I mapped out a route from the hotel, around Hemisphere Park, and out and back on streets with bike lanes. Given that I was running at dawn on a Saturday, this let me run on relatively soft asphalt most of the time, only jumping onto the concrete sidewalks when the rare car or truck came down the street.

I was a bit surprised to cross paths with 3 or 4 other runners that morning, and the locals all flashed the peace sign and a smile, which is a nice change from the half-hearted half-wave you get in my neighborhood from the dog walkers if they're not too busy texting to notice you going the other way. On the loop back to the hotel I saw a huge dude in blue and white coming back from a morning run going in the back entrance of the Hyatt. Then I came around the front of the building and saw a line of people on the sidewalk waiting to get footballs and posters autographed and remembered that the Dallas Cowboys training camp was in town at the same time... coincidence? I think not!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Deep Thoughts

Also a backlog post from two weeks ago
One of my rituals after a morning run but before I've cooled off enough to shower without just instantly sweating again is to pour up cereal for my breakfast. This morning I realized that cereal boxes absolutely always have broken pieces... no matter how careful you are to not drop the box or squeeze it, there's always a ton of broken cereal in the bottom. I think they fill the bottom 1/3rd of the bag with leftover bits before they even but any whole pieces in. That's how they save money... they never have to throw away anything at the cereal factory, they just dump all the leftover bits in with the good ones.

Sometimes while running, once you've started to get burned out on the same music you've been running with for the last two months, you start to have deep, meaningful thoughts. Or at least other people say they do. I mostly think that I really should take the time to pick new music to listen to, but never do and instead just start skipping songs and end up burning out on even my favorites. So this morning I gave myself a topic to think about while running...

Things to say at the start of the marathon to make friends:
I figured there'd be more women to look at back here in the 5 hour corral.
I've never run a 26K before, have you?

Hmm... that's all of two things... I think I better think of more tomorrow...I hear you end up standing around for a good hour before the start, and with 18000 people around I bet somebody will have heard those before! This thinking while running thing just isn't working yet...

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Note: I haven't been posting much since I've been busy at work and wanted to get a chance to post something well thought-out. I have since decided that my mom and the other two people that read this would rather read something bad than nothing good, so here goes a new age of less-good posts, but more regular...

Thursday's run (actually a couple weeks back now that I'm finally getting around to posting this!) was supposed to be a nice, easy 3 miles before work, and it was indeed just over 3 miles in the middle 70's but the humidity was 97 percent! You think that's air you're breathing? Interesting. No, Neo...that's rain waiting to happen! I didn't so much sweat as slightly increase the humidity in the immediate vicinity. Amazingly it seemed much cooler and nicer as the sun rose and burned it off, so by the time I got home I could sweat like a normal person again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Tempo

Tuesdays will be my tempo run straight through August, until I go to 3 weekday runs. This morning I was ready for rain but all I got was 94% humidity. Even at a nice 75 degrees it got to me after a little while and I lost a minute on the last mile. Otherwise it's been going well and I have the fun task of planning a 5-mile run somewhere near the riverwalk in San Antonio. Going on vacation is no excuse to stop running!

The plan continues to evolve... I feel like the gap between Saturday and Tuesday is just wasted...maybe another easy 3 miles on Mondays would work and knock down the percentage of running that I do in my weekend long run. That would also put me into a third pair of running shoes by the time of the marathon!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Easy Miles

Put in 6 pretty easy miles Saturday night. As usual, my first mile was quicker than I expected even though it had a decent amount of uphill. It's getting better with more warmup effort, so I think I'm getting the hang of pacing somewhat. I banked about 40 seconds going downhill in mile 3 and burned it all up coming back uphill in mile 4, which is fine. I'm trying to take Jim2's advice on running hills to heart, and keeping my center of gravity over my feet really is allowing me to go downhill quickly without pounding my knees and least it feels better than trying to lean back. The last couple miles were slightly but persistently uphill and I had to work to hold my target 12 minute pace for the whole run. I know I should just run a comfortable pace the whole time, but for now I'm still trying to get used to setting a pace and sticking to it, and these aren't really hard efforts or terribly long, so I seem to be getting away with it.

This morning found me repeating my 3-mile course from last week but this time with a more-sustainable 10:30 pace. Tomorrow's soreness (or lack of it) will tell me if that's going to work for my increasingly long midweek tempo runs this winter. If all goes well, the numbers say my 5-hour marathon target is within reach. I'm even tempted to say I should target 4:45 or lower, but for now I think I'll stick with my current goal and, if I feel good on raceday, go for a negative split instead of repeating the classic rookie mistake of starting too fast and bonking.

Plan 2

A work in progress...

Thursday, July 15, 2010


So far most of my running has been at a comfortable pace...possibly too comfortable, so I decided to try my 3-mile run at a brisker pace to see where I'm at. I used the less-than-excellent MapMyRun to find the exact mile and half-mile splits so I could see if I was on pace during the run and decide what pace I should expect up and down hills. Using the more-excellent McMillan Running Calculator, I determined that to do a sub-5 marathon I should be able to run 3 miles in 29 minutes. It also confirmed that my 12 min/mi long run pace is about right, and that 10:11 to 10:37 is a good pace for tempo runs.

I decided to divide my 29 minute goal time into 10 minutes for the first, uphill mile, 9 minutes for the second, downhill mile, and 10 minutes for the slightly-uphill third mile. I warmed up with lunges, walking, and jogging to get to where I marked off the start of my 3-mile loop. The first mile clicked off about perfect in 10:04, but I still worry about injuring myself running downhill too fast and ended up doing the second mile a bit slower in 10:06. Also, something about running uphill always makes me feel like I deserve to coast a bit afterwards, so I'm probably just not pushing myself. Maybe wearing my heart rate monitor would keep me motivated to maintain effort... Determined to not fall too far off my intended overall time, I pushed myself a bit and finished the last mile in a bit over 10:07.

At first I was disappointed in this, so I decided to make a list of excuses:
  • It was humid (OK, well it's always humid in the morning in Austin :-)
  • My allergies were acting up a bit, giving me a bit of a sinus headache for the rest of the day and I lost at least a few seconds in the third mile coughing
  • Most of all, I had caffeine and spicy food for lunch and dinner the day before, which didn't let me sleep as well as I'd like
I'm not really content with these excuses, since humidity and allergies could happen on race day just as easily and nobody sleeps well the night before their first marathon, so I kept thinking about it. I also spent some time reading the excellent articles at Jim2's Running Page. I think you don't really know how much you pushed yourself in a run until later in the day and especially the next day. Judging for the ache in my left ankle the next day and that tiredness later in the first day I remember from a month or two ago when I started getting serous about training, I think it was hard enough. Also, I need to do more core strengthening to avoid back pain. I decided to take some solace in the fact that at the end of the run I felt like I could have given it more, especially downhill, but I had gone out conservative wanting to leave something for the uphill finishing mile. Besides, the calculator assumes a race effort for the 3-mile, which in retrospect this was not.

The good news is that this was a little fast for a tempo run, so I should be able to back off a tiny bit and repeat it next week without too much stress. I'll try again, possibly with my HRM to make sure I don't overdo it, next month and see if I've progressed.
Next up: Saturday's 6-mile run

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A different sort of run

I believe I have discovered a new kind of Fartlek* workout. It starts by giving your 4 year old son a new bike. Build up his confidence for riding fast by giving him a great helmet. Sadly his enthusiasm for going really fast downhill completely outmatched his ability to utilize the coaster brake to slow himself. Luckily for him, he hasn't yet had the same pleasure I have had of going over the bars at speed and landing heavily on very solid pointy rocks. So after dinner he set off for a bike ride and I jogged after him; he fueled by chocolate milk, and me by a Smithwicks. He laughed with joy as he pedaled at full speed down every hill and ignored my helpful instructions to "pedal backwards" as I ran flat out to try and intercept his collision course with random bushes, trees, telephone boxes. Eventually, he decided to actually try to stop before reaching the nearest streetlight pole and locked up the rear wheel for an awesome 30-foot skid just in time for me to catch up with him.
We circled around the neighborhood for nearly an hour as he'd accelerate wildly at different speeds up or down hills and stopping or slowing at random times when he thought it was a good idea. This resulted in me running varied paces and stopping or dodging every few hundred feet. I had learned from Sunday's experience doing this to wear shorts and my running shoes instead of the clothes I had come home from work in! The sun was getting low in the sky so it was only about 88F with a low 60% humidity and I didn't sweat enough to blind myself. Given that I felt pretty recovered from Saturday's 5 mile run and didn't have another run scheduled until Wednesday it was a great filler that I hope to repeat under slightly more controlled circumstances--and without the beer.

* A Fartlek workout is not (normally) something as unsavory as the name may sound. It's where you vary your running speed and distance to vary the muscle fibers being used and get a good aerobic workout. If you do this after having a beer with dinner before beginning this workout, as I did not really plan on a workout, you might get to taste the beer twice, and perhaps regret that choice of beverage for the evening.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Good Run

Wednesday was humid and not exactly cool but I had a great run. Gave myself a good half mile of walk/jog to warm up and then put in a bit over 3 solid miles a little faster than my target marathon pace. What's really good about it is absolutely no pain, no little twinges of "what was that feeling in my calf?" or aches anywhere. Just a great way to start the day and I've got to say Fatty is Right about waking up before everyone else for a cool start of the day. It won't be as pleasant this winter but at least I know I can make myself do it and not being dragging it at the end of the work day.
If my weekend "long" run goes as well I'll definitely be adding more miles to the plan.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Burped on the 3rd of July

A busy weekend found me doing my weekend run Saturday night. I also found that tortilla soup is not something you want to eat before a 5 mile run. I was a couple minutes off the total time I wanted but I'll chalk that up to indigestion and take it as a learning experience. Mental note 1: Pack Gas-X for the marathon. Mental note 2: figure out how to carry it during the marathon.
One plus of running at night is the cool weather, and on that night, early fireworks going up before the 4th of July. I was pleased to find I could push the pace a bit even after 4 miles to limit my time loss. I'll have to not make a habit of that, though, since the longer runs are supposed to be at an easy pace.

More fun news... mapped the last Austin Marathon on MapMyRun for all the world to see.
I was a bit surprised nobody seemed to have done that already but I thought I would learn something about the challenge ahead from doing so. The elevation change looks more dramatic than I expected, but it's still not significant enough for most people to consider "hilly":

Compare to my last run, which was actually much more downhill-ish:
I think I need to run this loop in the other direction sometimes to get more of a long climb in.

For long runs in the future, I think I'll try to better match some sections of the marathon. Where safe, I'll try to run sections of the marathon itself. Not too easy on the parts that will be on closed major roads, so I'll wait for the 2011 course to be released!

Friday, July 2, 2010


It's getting warmer (and more humid), so sweat getting into my eyes is starting to become an issue. I could just keep wiping it off on my sleeve, but that will eventually wipe off all the sunscreen and I've found a few solutions that are a bit more "high tech".
There's the Halo, Wicked Tails (Made in Austin!), and the sweat GUTR. I'm sure there are dozens more, plus normal head bands and hats, but I suspect they will all make me look significantly more dorky than I already do, and I can do that for free. On the bright side I'll probably be running in the rain Saturday anyway, so a decision can wait...