Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Difficult Day

I really dislike runs following hard runs, and by any measure Sunday's lightning run was a hard run (although I didn't push the end like I would have in a race and in fact kept my breathing measured but heavy throughout). The "day after", or two days after for us chronically age-impaired runners, makes for stiff muscles and aching feet and, maybe, shins.

It was no different today. My goal was a nice 5.9 mile rolling run out-and-back along Buffalo Bayou, my familiar work-related outdoor run. I doubted even that would happen in the first half-mile or so, as the kinks were whining for some attention. But never doubt the body's ability to roll when you least expect it.

Once I got past the first two hills, among the top three on this run in difficulty, my speed seemed fast, but my breathing was ragged and my stride seemed really short. I went past another runner with authority, through a couple of known time checkpoints in good shape, but still felt awful.

And here's where it gets interesting (finally): I told myself, like I did years ago when running cross country or when doing some serious mountain climbing, that I would simply, and could simply, take more discomfort than the next guy. So I maintained the pace back to the shop, and looked down to see 45:12. Not so impressive, it seemed to me.

So when I got on the computer and put in the numbers, it said I had run a 7:39 pace for 5.9 miles. Very good. Particularly considering the start, how I felt, and the hard run less than 43 hours before.

This is five runs in a row now that have been very good. I'm starting to think of another goal I may talk about tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lightning in the Legs

I put off running today until after the sun went down and the full moon came up...and what a night it was. The temperature was at 60, the humidity was at 36, and so the TH Index was a mere and fantastic 96. My time showed it.

I had decided early today to run 9.4 miles at some point, and with the wind and general activities I waited until after dinner. Then I ran at a 6:57 pace over the 9.4 miles, which has to be some kind of record for me. It felt fast, it felt good.

And I'll probably take an ibuprofen in a bit so I won't wake up around 4am with shins hurting.

A few notes of interest: my shadow in front of me on the moon-lit concrete, nobody yelling at me since I can be seen in my yellow night running shirt, and the complete anonymity of running in the dark.

It's nights like these that make me want to come back in a couple of days, but also make me dread it because it will be a long time before I can do this on a consistent basis. At times, it's no good getting older....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marathon Thought

Each day I ride a Park and Ride bus to and from work. In the evening, shortly after leaving downtown, the bus is on the High Occupancy Vehicle lane well above the mainlanes and I can see to the horizon to the west. The next bridge to the west is the long bridge the Houston Marathon traverses as it makes the first mile, shortly after the start at Enron Field (I know, it's Minute Maid Park, but it was Enron Field at first and will be so in my heart forever).

I look at this undulating bridge most days and think of the start of the Houston Marathon a few months ago. I, like most, was pulsing with adrenaline and ready to roll, and promptly did so too early and too fast...on the bridge. The first mile marker is directly over Interstate 10, when I got my first hard feedback: a 7:25 mile. Too fast. But too jacked up to slow down. Doom is on its way.

The bridge is just the start, but it's almost magical. It undulates and even turns a bit. In the early morning light it's quite a sight to see hundreds of people in front of me as each undulation is crested, knowing I am pushed by thousands of people behind me.

Why do I marathon? The start is one good reason. There are many others.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Alone, Even When Crowded

I debated early this morning whether I even wanted to run today. We are in one of those great stretches of weather here and I easily could have put a run off a day, especially after the two strong runs earlier this week.

Well, the bag was calling me so I put in the clothes, zipped it up, grabbed my work bag, and off I went. I had a quick lunch with a friend, and went straight to the fitness center to dress and get going since the center closes at 3:00pm on Fridays.

I had a loose goal of a long run, maybe to Memorial Park, around the loop run, and back along the steep and short, or long and gradual hills to downtown.

I started off strong but controlled, and after a left downtown and got smooth after a half mile or so I took off my shirt to enjoy the 70 degree and 34 percent humidity afternoon (a great TH Index of 104!). After cresting the initial three hills I was in steady cruise mode all the way to Memorial Park.

This place is always interesting to me, mainly because it is always crowded with all kinds of people, but I'm always totally silent and alone as I run the gravel path. It's right at 4.5 miles to get there from downtown, so after doing the nearly 3 mile loop it makes for a 12 mile day to run back downtown. Another interesting, and helpful, point is the mileage markers at the Park loop; I can completely manage my speed by carefully watching my stopwatch and comparing times to the quarter mile markers.

The worst part of this run was the total time. Since I stayed shirtless all the way back to the fitness center, only putting the shirt back on to meet the requirements, I got sunburned. For the first time in my life I had run long enough to get sunburned! This is not as easy as it sounds. In peak summer I just can't run long enough in the heat with the sun high enough to burn me; in winter it's too cold to run shirtless, and in spring and fall the sun generally is not high enough to generate a burn. As is my typical reaction to a burn, I got mad at myself and then drank huge quantities of fluids to re-hydrate.

So what were the results? Twelve miles in 91 minutes, 42 seconds. A good run considering the hills, most of the course was on dirt or gravel, and I had to wait at several intersections and dodge traffic a couple of times. Average pace was 7:42 a mile.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running and Breathing

I read a fascinating statistic a few days ago regarding breathing and marathoning: an average marathoner breathes TWO DAYS worth of air during a typical marathon. Remarkable.

Okay, this is interesting, but how does it affect us? First, we are taking in a lot of stuff into our lungs that we really are not prepared for, or at least we are not physically prepared for the amount of stuff. Stuff in this case includes all particulates like dust, pollution, pollen, etc. I suppose this is a greater problem for those toward the back of the pack in a middle-to-large size marathon where the runners ahead have stirred up all kinds of road gunk.

My thought here is that if you take in two days of stuff into your lungs in just a few hours, and this stuff is very different from what you breathe in an office, your lungs are probably not able to self-clean during the marathon. This can reasonably lead to a reduction in VO2 efficiency and consequently reduced performance.

Now I'm not sure what I can do about this during the marathon barring wearing a gas mask and running from the front, neither of which will happen, but it is something to consider if aerobic performance seems to be flagging during the latter stages of a marathon. Possible solutions: core conditioning to provide extra late strength in moving air forcefully through the lungs and running at least in the first 25% of runners.

Otherwise, like you've heard here before, just run.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Training Update - 13

I had intended to write a non-numbers running posting yesterday, but alas, it was not to be. So today I just have a straight running update.

I took it outside again today for a 7:15 pace 5.9 mile run along Buffalo Bayou. It's the usual up and down route, but augmented today by a high TH Index of 157, although it was cool with lots of sweat. The real fun part was the mud and constant drizzle...I didn't notice it until I walked outside...the internet radar didn't show it at all. Bummer. But I decided to run outside anyway since I can feel the warm summer coming up and more treadmills, and since I need to run in difficult conditions. And difficult it was, with a high TH Index, drizzle, humidity, mud, and wind in my face on the way back in.

But that's what we do. Run.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back Running

I had a great week off, both from running and from work. But today I re-entered the office, and then took off for a 5.9 mile run.

The course was the usual up-and-down, at least for Houston, course that I usually run outdoors. It was a great day; so good I ran most of it shirtless. The TH Index was an awful 123 (of course, that's actually great).

My pace was 7:30 a mile, which was good. The problem is that after I ran hard right before the vacation, the eight days off didn't completely solve the subsequent painful shins. The first three miles were a bit difficult, but it got better as I ran faster. I'm sure I'll hurt some tomorrow, but the run felt okay today.

It's good to be back.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vacation Bound

I ran a quick six miler in 7:32 a mile yesterday as I finished my running prior to a ski vacation. My shins hurt after running six days in the last eight..I used ibuprofen last night to help me sleep...it's time for a vacation.

See ya!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Training Update - 12

It was a great day to run: 68 degrees with 65% humidity at mid-day, for a TH Index of 133, really good. This compares to the Yasso 800 run a couple of days ago where the TH Index was at 157 (I had my shirt off after the first 800 on that workout).

Unfortunately, my shin splints were still hurting after the intense five day period immediately preceding today. When something hurts, I instinctively slow down, and today was no different. So I cut my run in half to 4.3 miles in only 8:01 a mile. It didn't hurt too much, but I never really gained control over my breathing and the shins just hurt some.

I'll go at it again tomorrow before the ski trip, and that'll be it for a week.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Down Day

I took today off, at least from running. Gotta keep food coming into the house, so it was off to the typical work day for me.

My legs below the knees were a little sore all day today, especially if I sat for a long time. But the shins are relatively okay, which surprises me after running fairly hard four of the past five days.

I'll go back at it tomorrow with maybe a double loop of the 4.3 mile greenbelt trail I use regularly. Or maybe not. With vacation looming and my recent series of good runs I don't feel too much pressure.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yasso 800

Today, Tuesday, I ran my first Yasso 800 workout of the season, in the dark at the junior high track about a mile from my house. And what a workout it was!

A month or so ago I posted on Yasso 800s and how interesting they are. Tonight proved no different. My goal was a series of 3:20 half mile repeats, ten in total, with a 3:20 lap jog in between. Here are my actual splits:


I jogged a lap in between in around 3:00, then walked the last 20 seconds or so before beginning again. It was an awesome workout.

Some details: my breathing really never got too ragged, but I did find that starting with about the sixth repeat I had to really concentrate on form and breathing. Talk about associative running! If I slipped at all in my concentration I paid almost immediately in breathing problems or uneven strides.

Why things got faster I don't know. It just felt good. An interesting part of Yasso 800s is trying to figure out what the pace will be...if you go faster than you think, theoretically you should probably cut back on the interval jog time. But how much? I got to where I would jog the amount of time it took to run the prior repeat. Is that right? Well, it makes some sense and if you don't have really consistent times it should work close enough.

And now for the real question...could I run a 3:10 or so marathon now, given my Yasso 800 workout? I don't think so. I think the Yasso 800 workout is skewed a bit toward the true distance runner, and I have a lot of middle distance in my background, if I'm willing to go all the way back to high school (which is my only running background, by the way). My thought is that if you are naturally faster than most marathons, and I think I am if you are only regarding straight 400 or 800 speed, then you should be able to run a faster Yasso 800 than your marathon time would be. But I'm only really fussing about five or ten minutes off the marathon time. For example, if the Yasso 800 times are 3:10 for me, then the marathon time would be around 3:20 maybe.

But I could be completely wrong. In any event, it was nice on the fourth running day out of five, which breaks a lot of rules for me, to have such a strong workout. The shin splints are hurting, I am tired, I'm ready for a skiing vacation next week, but I have a great workout to thing about.

It feels good, and that's a lot of what this is about.

Training Update - 11

I'll start by giving a run-of-the-mill update on yesterday...I had taken Sunday off after running long on Saturday, so I wanted to run somewhat hard Monday prior to a Yasso 800 test today. The weather was very wet off and on all day Monday, so I decided to run on the treadmill instead of dodging puddles and mud on my 6 mile outdoor loop from work.

The goal was an 8 minute first mile and then five miles at 7:00 or 7:30. A quarter mile into the fast stuff and I'd had enough of that, so I backed off and ran an hour (the maximum the goofball treadmill would go) over 7.5 miles. You can do the math on that one.

One item of note was that around mile six I was talking with the fitness center staffer (strange that at 8:00 miles one can run along and talk like nothing) and asked if my stride looked like a shuffle. It just didn't feel like I was lifting my legs. He thought things looked normal, but that I was probably just a little tired from Saturday's long run. Probably so, especially considering poor start.

I'll talk about today's Yasso workout under another post to keep it separate.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Future Training

With a week before my next vacation, Spring Break to ski, I'm at a loss for what this week in training should be. An interesting twist is that I ran the last two days, fairly long distances, and don't have my normal shin splints. So should I push it this week since I have a week of running off?

I checked my work schedule and I will have time to get in some quality runs. I'm thinking a Monday six miler followed by an aggressive Yasso 800 workout Tuesday night on the junior high track should be good, then take Wednesday off and do something Thursday and Friday.

The Yasso workout could be at 3:10 a half mile for ten repeats, with a quarter mile jog between each set. That would make for a hard 7.5 mile workout with a qualified determination of where my conditioning is currently. Since the weather is supposed to deteriorate later in the week I may just hold those two runs off and see if I need to take advantage of the treadmill. Yuck.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I tried something new today. I ran, or at least started out with the goal of running, for two hours without stopping for anything. In actuality, I was back near home a little early so I stopped at 1:51, covering 14 miles in the process for a 7:55 mile pace. Not too bad for a no-goal day.

It was a great day for it. The temperature was 65 degrees with the humidity an insane 25 percent. That made the TH Index a terrific 90, maybe the lowest, without extremes like temperature, I've ever run in.

My strategy was to run greenbelt trails I had never run, although I had walked or bicycled most of them at some time in the past eight years. I checked the trail map prior to setting off, and so off I went. Everything went great until about the one hour mark, when I caught up with a guy I have seen running a few times in the past. We ran together for maybe 1.5 miles, talking about running along the way. It was interesting...I have never run with someone before, much less talked.

A few final comments of note:
1. No blood! How can I do a longish run and not have blood somewhere? Anywhere?
2. I just love rubbing some sweat away from my eye and rolling boulders of dried salt across my super sensitive eye skin. It's so enjoyable.
3. I must have a boring life to be able to run almost two hours, or at least have that expectation, and not have any contact with others except to say "hi" to walkers heading toward me and "on your left" to walkers heading away from me. So exciting.

The scenario was great along the golf course lake, down to the large lake, and linking the various trails together along the creek bottoms and through the neighborhoods. My feet got a little sore toward the end, and I knew dinner would be waiting, so it was time to go home.

Friday, March 5, 2010


It's good to be back! I ran a quick 5.9 miles today on my usual downtown course in 45:25, or 7:42 a mile. It was supposed to be a nice easy run, but, well, so much for that. It was the first run in over a week, although I had plenty of exercise or cross-training during that time.

For example, yesterday I rode the stationary bike for 30 minutes at a moderate effort level.

Last Monday I skied hard all day.

Last Sunday I snowshoed four hours hard and then spent 40 minutes really shoeing hard, finishing that late afternoon effort with a soaked tee shirt. I figure I run about five miles in 40 minutes and get about that much sweat, so maybe there's a parallel?

Last Saturday I shoed and broke trail in deep snow for over four hours, topping out at nearly 12,000 feet along the Continental Divide after climbing around 1,000 feet. Not bad! In fact, I enjoyed the snowshoeing so much I bought a pair of Tubbs 30" for future use.

A side note is my weight: I almost always lose weight when vacationing in the mountains, probably due to better eating, no snacking, and massive calorie burns. No difference this week. I lost three pounds or so and weighed in at the Fitness Center after today's run at a svelte 153 pounds. We'll see how long it lasts!