Monday, May 31, 2010

Failed Run

I closed out my Yosemite National Park visit by walking through the Tuolumne sequoia grove and Merced sequoia grove. There is nothing like walking a few miles and then, suddenly and amazingly surprisingly, there are these absolutely huge trees. There simply is nothing like them. Cinnamon-red in color, sometimes an order of magnitude larger than anything else near, and older than I can comprehend, these trees are just spectacular.

I then fought crowds in the Hetch Hetchy area, which was a waste of time, again. Every time I have been there I have felt the same way. I won't go back to this God-forsaken place with its San Francisco-supporting dam. 'Nuff said.

Once I got back to San Francisco for my work, turning a four hour drive into six with the Memorial Day traffic slowing to a stop-and-go for miles at times, I went to the fitness center for a treadmill run. After about 2.4 miles I had to use the bathroom, and since it was after 10pm I just went to bed. So much for running. I'd had a long, fitness-requiring weekend.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mariposa Grove and Glacier Point

Again, no running today, but I did a strenuous hike to the top of the Mariposa sequoia grove and the a snowy, hidden-trail-due-to-snow hike to Sentinel Dome from Glacier Point. The first was six miles, with 1200 vertical feet of ascending and descending, and the second was three, but with long stretches of traversing snowfields at 7500 feet elevation.

I was trying to avoid the crushing crowds by going to Mariposa early, which worked although since the tram was not working the crowds much beyond the parking lot was fairly empty anyway. Glacier Point was so crowded the park police closed the road for almost an hour prior to my arrival to let the parking area empty some. I ate lunch, so it was no biggee for me. I did get a good traffic report on the Valley from Glacier Point...the roads were completely stuffed and I couldn't find empty parking spots, although I was about 3200 feet above the Valley floor.

Even with the crowds, this place is great.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yosemite National Park Trail Run

What an experience! After hiking to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls in the morning (around 9 miles roundtrip with almost 4000 total vertical feet), trying to beat the traffic of Memorial Day weekend, I took the afternoon off by going through the Visitor Center and checking out some sunset picture sites.

Then what became the highlight of the day began with a nine mile run in roughly 8:00 per mile (I don't know the exact distance or even the time since I didn't wear my watch - a truly liberating experience) from one end of Yosemite Valley to effectively the other end and back. It was entirely on the Valley Loop Trail, which was mostly dirt but occasionally showed its age with some really beat up asphalt. Running through the woods while in sight of and within hearing range of the various waterfalls was a lifetime experience.

This is truly one of the reasons I run...I can climb high and walk far, and then have a life-list run all in the span of ten or so hours.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yosemite National Park Hike Day

No running today, but I spent the entire day in Yosemite National Park hiking and enjoying the booming waterfalls. First up was the Mist Trail to the base of Half Dome for a total distance of around ten miles and 2200 feet of vertical distance. Vernal and Nevada Falls this time of year are awesome.

And for some reason this was the first time I noticed Illilouette Falls up the valley from the trail. How I missed this major fall all these years is hard to understand.

I next walked to Mirror Lake, then across to Ahwahnee Hotel and Lower Yosemite Falls. Along the way I stumbled across Royal Arch Cascade, a really refreshing small seasonal fall that was little visited. In fact, I sat up in the woods for a rest and watched several groups walk right by, noticing neither me or the fall. What a disappointment for them.

The Lower Yosemite Fall is truly magnificent this time of year. Everyone should visit in late May or early June.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day Off

As expected, I took today off from running. The back of my left knee hurt just slightly and I was generally stiff until about lunch...a day off was the right thing. Maybe I'll get a run in tomorrow, but probably not. I'm heading out on vacation tomorrow night but will try to run the hills of San Francisco early next week.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back to Back

I followed yesterday's 12 mile run with a 10 mile treadmill run today, but slowed it down to 8:00 per mile to call it an "easy" day. I quote "easy" since that's not really an easy day for me, especially since it was a back-to-back, but whatever. Right now the shins are fine; we'll see what it feels like tomorrow.

My form held really well until mile 9 or so when I started to get tired. And bored. Treadmill running this summer to avoid the heat is going to get old. Really old. Kind of like me.

Even indoors the sweat factor is huge, although it's certainly not hot. Just no wind and 72 degrees. By mile 6 or so I was coated, and by the end there was nothing dry left on me. Such is the life.

I may run a little tomorrow to set up four days straight to see how that feels, but I don't think it will be long or even should be.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back Indoors

After Saturday's hot run, I moved it indoors today for a 12 mile treadmill run. I know, it sounds horrible, and the fitness center trainer even came over and talked for a while about how 12 miles is maybe the most boring thing ever, but it went fast enough with attention paid to the running.

The summary is 12 miles in 7:28 pace, fairly steady all the way, with a heap of sweat on the side. I took an ibuprofen about 30 minutes before the run and stretched the calves/shins after and feel okay now. The next day is always the test, though.

I suspect, like I told the trainer, that I'll be indoors other than speed work for the rest of the summer. Bummer in a way, but what choice is there? There are other Houston runners doing it outside - I have read some of their blogs - but I have no desire for that. Just not dedicated enough? Maybe.

I may give it another go tomorrow to test the shins. If things don't go okay I'll call it off, and knowing I have a mini-vacation to Yosemite National Park this weekend will take some of the edge off if things go badly.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sweat Review

An unpleasant topic, sweat. But one that is so dominant on outside runs this time of year that it deserves its own posting.

Here's how bad it's gotten here: Today it is 92 degrees with humidity at 47 percent. Not too bad on the TH Index, but the Index is smart. Once it gets above about 87 degrees one should not be running anyway, so the Index is not important. 92 is above 87, so don't run. But what if I run at 84 degrees and 76 percent humidity?

The first mile is not too bad. It can actually feel good for the first couple minutes. But then a general heating feeling comes over my body, and the sweat starts quickly on the brow and chest. After a mile the arms are covered, after two miles the back is sweating and the shirt is showing sweat on the front, after three miles the shorts are feeling wet and the shirt is wet and wiping the brow is not keeping the sweat from the eyes.

Four miles in and things are coming apart: the hair on the arms and legs is getting matted by sweat, the hands are dripping from the sweat running down the arms, the sweat rag is soaked and ineffective in defending the eyes from the sweat, the head hair is getting matted, and the body is struggling to keep blood going to the muscles since most is heading for the skin surface for cooling.

Five miles and speed begins declining as the physical toll is becoming real. All the issues in mile four get more serious, and it's around this point that the leg hair is matted in moisture like post-shower. Thirst sets in as the general sweat flies from the hands and drips quickly and steadily from the chin. Eyes are burning and there's nothing to do about it.

Six miles and it's getting close to time to shut down for the day. Enough fluids have been lost, and the body knows it even if the mind doesn't by slowing down more and sweating at the same full-body outrageous rate. Or at least you better hope you are still sweating. If not, be prepared to meet your maker.

There should be no further running. Six is enough in these conditions. Maybe more early in the morning when the temperature is lower and the humidity is higher, or at night with relatively higher temperatures but lower humidity, but it's just hot.

And maybe dangerous. Be careful.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dog Day Run

Geez, is it summer already. I went out this morning for a quarter marathon run along the greenbelt trails and was soaked in sweat after a mile. I shed the shirt, leaving it behind a bench along the trail, and continued on. In all, I ran 6.55 miles in 8:47 pace, maybe my worst in over a year.

All in all it's okay, though. I hate the heat and will avoid it as best I can. But it's amazing how much energy goes into heat management and not the running muscles in these conditions.

The body is an incredible machine. Gotta take care of it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Colorado Redux Redux

I took yesterday off after the surprisingly easy back to back running days. I'm not sure it made much difference since my shins were hurting more than I thought they should, given the relatively short mileages and soft running surfaces. Shins shouldn't care about the altitude, I figure!

Anyway, I went to the Colorado house yesterday afternoon/evening, opening it up for the summer (actually when I shut it down this morning I shut is as if it's summer, so it's closed again after less than 24 hours) and enjoying the loud, melting snow runoff creek. This morning I did some work around the house early, then ran 3.5 miles in an unknown time at 9,000 feet elevation. The run was along an all season soft road with some gentle hills that taxed my lungs a bit, but not as bad as I expected.

Just a hint: I may run in a 12 mile loop race in Creede, Colorado, on Labor Day Saturday. The race starts and ends at 8,800 feet and tops out at around 10,000 feet. I suppose I'll decide later....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Colorado Redux

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to violate my first rule and run on back-to-back days. I wandered over to Jack Quinn's Pub and joined in with a group heading out for what turned out to be a simple 5K run. I was disappointed that there was so little, er, no, organization. No pacing, no distances, just groups leaving at random and immediately all going at different speeds and apparently differently pathways. I managed to run around an 8:00 mile pace for the three miles, which really was all I should have done. But the experience could have been better.

In actuality it really is a neat experience. For around 400 folks to get together to run in a super-informal environment would be an earth-shaker in Houston. And to do it all summer in Houston would be deadly. Just goes to show me, again, that there is a real outdoor culture in other parts of the country. But there's not much of it I have found in Houston.

On the ibuprofen front, I took one pill prior to running but none afterward due to the ease of running. So far it's the right choice. And there was no pain from yesterday. Promising, to say the least.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Colorado 10K

I landed in Colorado Springs this morning, grabbed a bite of lunch with a local co-worker, worked through the afternoon, and then took a run along the fabulous Monument Creek Trail. I left downtown and ran north, then crossed the creek at mile 2.5 (I was carrying my old, no-maps GPS), ran back past downtown on the opposite bank, and finished in America the Beautiful Park.

In all, it was a 6.2 mile, or 10K, run at a 7:52 pace. Not bad for just having landed, I figure. The best part was the lack of heavy breathing and fairly comfortable run with little sweat. In fact, since I mostly ran along a creek on great gravelled trails, I took little pounding, got some nice views of Pikes Peak along the way, and enjoyed the sounds of the stream flowing near me.

On the shin side of things, I took an ibuprofen just prior to the run, and when it kicked in around mile 1 I felt no pain the rest of the way. I took another an hour or so after the run and still feel great. Let's see how long this positive trend continues.

Running in Colorado is great. Why don't I just move here? Oh yeah, I'm thinking about violating my first rule and running on back-to-back days tomorrow. Jack Quinn's Pub in downtown Colorado Springs has an informal get-together on Tuesday nights and I just may try to hook up with a group about my speed and distance. Should be fun.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wet Run

I guess after the airport was shut down last night due to three hours of lightning, causing me to have my flight to Colorado cancelled, I should not have been surprised when I got rained on in the last half of my run this morning. With a temperature of 72 and humidity at 94 percent, a little rain did nothing more than dilute the sweat pouring off me. And in those conditions, it started pouring at mile 3. Yuck.

And the clothing manufacturers claim their "dry" material wicks the moisture away...ha. At mile 5 my shirt was stuck to me on the front and the back, and not due to some kind of Elmer's glue stick.

The run was quick, nevertheless, covering 8.6 miles in 7:37 a mile. I'm pleased with it.

I'm now heading to Colorado tomorrow for a quick trip to the house and then on to work. I'll squeeze in at least one run.

I just hope I have a giant duffel bag I checked last night is waiting for me at the Colorado Springs airport!

And one last thing...I took one ibuprofen pill prior to the run, and did some light stretching and took one pill following the run. I feel no pain now nor did I during the run. Encouraging.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Treatment" Results

Okay, the preliminary results are in and I'm feeling great! As I mentioned yesterday I forgot to take the ibuprofen prior to the run but I did take two pills, or 400 mg, immediately after the run. I had no pain late yesterday, last night, or today so far.

This is great! But we'll see how it goes coming up, I suppose.

My pounding will be less for the next week since I will be at altitude and won't be running as far or as fast as I'm used to...but that's okay. Running at 9000 feet and 6000 feet will push the lungs certainly.

Happy, and out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Treadmill / Tempo Run Day

I was out of town today but managed to find some time before I raced from the hotel to the airport to squeeze in a run. But first, I'll mention how some of these huge convention-style hotels treat their patrons: this place had multiple buildings and a really nice fitness center, really more like a Taj Majal complete with competition indoor tennis courts. And a $13 a day price tag. But only if you weren't a high enough level in the frequent stay program. I let the company pick up the tab since I couldn't use our free fitness center and it was in my normal routine, but still.

Back to the run. Or at least finally getting to the run. The overall result was 8 miles in 7:23 a mile, which is really good based on the past couple of weeks. The interesting part was that on three different occasions, for a mile each, I dropped the pace down to 7:00 miles, with a bunch of 7:30 miles around them and a start and finish 8:00 pace. A bunch of sweat later, and I was done.

Unfortunately, due to the size of the hotel facility, I had to walk all the way through the massive lobby and up and down a couple elevators before I finally got back to my room, all with a cotton tee shirt so wet it was dripping from the bottom and the sleeves. A romantic couple got on one elevator with me and immediately went to the far side of the car; I comforted them by stating it was all good, honest, clean sweat. They didn't think that was too funny.

For the record, I stretched out the shins as best I could following the run. Maybe it helps. I don't see the harm.

I'll see how my partial ibuprofen habit worked tomorrow, depending on how I feel the day after a good run.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Synthetic Materials

The three pair of shorts that I wear most often (and since I only usually run three times a week they are pretty much the only running shorts I wear) are those fancy "dry" material wicking, fast dry, weird-feeling material shorts.

And I should add, extremely stinky. Like, really stinky. And there's no way to make them better except to wash them.

Let me explain. These shorts hold the good smell of the clothes washer smell really well...until they get sweated on. And in Houston, whether I run inside or outside, they get sweated on. Now, I don't normally stink myself unless I have been sweaty for hours, with some drying and re-sweating on my clothes. That's not what I'm talking about. These shorts, and to a lesser extent my "dry" material tops, smell really bad after getting sweaty no matter what, even if I only wear them 45 minutes!

What's with this stuff? Why does it smell so bad? And it won't get better until it is washed. I have left it outside for a full better. I have left them buried in the dirty better. There is no solution that I know of.

So I wear them once and wash them as soon as possible. Which is maybe what they want, and so they stink.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tempo Run - 3

I had another treadmill day today, and started at a smart 8:00 pace for the first mile. Things felt good at that point, no shin issues at all, so I took the next mile at 7:30, dropped down to 7:00 for the next two miles, ran the fifth in 7:30 again, and finished the sixth mile in 8:00. The overall pace was 7:30 for six miles. A good run.

I continued my stretching of the shins, as best I can, after the run and feel fine this evening. During an hour drive each way this evening I talked with a surgeon friend of mine about a number of topics, one of which was the shins and any advice he could give regarding their well-being. Not surprisingly, I guess, he said take ibuprofen, one or two tablets, about an hour prior to running and another one or two afterward. I have two fears here: one, the ibuprofen or any medicine will simply mask the pain; his answer was no, the ibuprofen stops the "cascading" of the physical issue, thus preventing the pain; the second fear is that continued use of ibuprofen could damage my body somehow; he stated that the research indicates I can safely take much higher quantities than he recommended, and way way more than I take today (one or two tablets a week).

So I'll try the ibuprofen and see what happens. Who knows, maybe I can run five or so days a week with a couple of them easy runs with the ibuprofen. At some point I have little desire to run more simply due to the time commitment and other age-related weaknesses.

Until next time.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Training Update - 16

I went out for a quick 4.3 mile greenbelt loop run early this evening in a TH Index of 155, which was probably the highest of the day. Why I didn't go earlier I don't know, when the temperature was the same but the humidity was about 35% less, but here I am.

It was a sweaty but easy run, and I followed it up after my shower with some shin/calf stretching. I know I probably should have gone further, and certainly feel like I could have with ease, but I just don't want to push the shins. And I'm a little curious about the nascent stretching program.

By the way, the pace was an even 8:00 per mile, very unimpressive, and I had to speed up over the last 1.5 miles or so to get that. Sigh.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I stopped in to a Luke's Locker running store today and was amazed by the running-related paraphernalia. These guys had a bunch of stuff I had never even heard of or knew what to do with. Who knew?

Let's see, I could have gotten about 14 different kinds of gel energy, all from different companies. Try dozens of watches, which did everything except make my heart beat (could they make it beat 174 bpm like I do?). Who knows how many jerseys, singlets, tee shirts, or anything else that is pretty much just some form of a shirt with some name. And how about all the anti-chafing devices/creams/roll-ons? I didn't even know I had that problem!

And all of it would separate me from plenty of my hard-earned money. Yet we do it, always expecting this purchase, the most recent one, to make the difference. I guess based on that I don't expect to be all that good a runner.

I managed to walk out without a purchase.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Back Running - 2

Since I missed the Wednesday run, and had not run since Monday, I decided today was the day even though I suspected I hadn't given the shins enough time off. I may have been right, since I am still a little tender hours after the run.

For the run itself, it was 5 miles on the treadmill at 8:00 mile pace. Nice and easy, and steady. I have no need for speed at this point since I have a bunch of travel coming up and may not be able to consistently run.

I'll probably take off until Monday and try the new shoes then. Gotta get ready for Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gusher Marathon - Review

As I discussed a few days ago, I took a little closer look at the results of the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, Texas, last Saturday. The weather was atrocious, with temperatures in the low 80s and the humidity in the mid 80s for a horrific TH Index of 165 or so.

The times were surprisingly good, with four men under three hours and the winner in 2:37:37. If I had run equal to my slowest marathon, which I don't think would have been easy under the conditions, I would have been third in my age group and in the top 15 overall. But that doesn't mean much when you don't run, does it?

The women only had one runner under three hours, but that time was a most impressive 2:44:07. How the winners ran those times under those conditions is nothing short of amazing.

And now for the interesting part: in the 5k boys division, under 14 years of age, there were four under 7:00 per mile, with a nine (9) year old at 6:52 a mile! Incredible. Nine years old is like, dude, third grade. That's a three hour marathon pace, albeit much shorter. This really impressed me.

Anyway, I took today off and walked the dog the usual three miles only. I'm going to rest the shins another day or so and then get back to it. I am getting a little antsy, though.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Shoes

After 600 plus miles and recurring bouts of shin splints, I have a new pair of New Balance 1063 shoes, size 10, width D. As if it matters, I have switched from yellow trim 1063s to red ones.

I know it makes no difference, and I probably won't even run in them for a few days since I am taking some running time off, but it's nice to get a new, new-rubber smelly pair of shoes.

Now if I can just add them to my "fast" collection of running gear.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Back Online

I got my laptop running again today, thanks to the help desk at work. I was going to talk about the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont yesterday, but I'll save that for another day. A hint is that the surprise was in the 5k; the other surprise was that nobody died, or at least nobody was reported to have died.

I cut my run to three miles on the treadmill today due to shin soreness. I sort of knew this was coming over the past week following two months of relatively, for me, heavy mileage. Another bummer is the warm hit 88 degrees today, although the humidity is still really low. I have managed to keep the air conditioner off so far, remarkably. My home improvement projects, including self-adding R-30 insulation in the attic and putting homemade solar screen shades on my east and west facing windows, may be working. Combined with my one-year-old 14 SEER air conditioning unit and the new roof with ridge vents and four times the soffit vents and I'm ready for summer.

If only now my running was.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Gusher Marathon

Today is the running of the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont. A really bad day for a marathon. 26.2 miles in 80 degree heat and 85 percent humidity; a perfect recipe for physical issues in a first time marathon. I hope they have their ducks in a row for hydration and first aid.

I've been following the Gusher online through their really active Facebook page. These guys are really fired up to run the half and the 5k, although there's not much traffic for the full. It's fun to read some of the neophyte questions, like will there be port-a-potties and the like. I'm looking forward to seeing the results online later this week.

And it will be later this week. My laptop crashed last night, or at least the screen did. I called the office help desk this morning and they offered me help...Monday morning. That's fine, but I'm typing now at the library (this new one has 109 computers plus 20 laptops - awesome) and won't be able to listen to baseball games over the internet today or tomorrow. Such is the life.

I'm not sure if I'll run today. The conditions are that bad - actually they are a little worse than the 8:13 per mile I ran over 8.6 miles a week or so ago. And that's just not worth it.

And to think that if I had run my last Houston marathon time today I would be finishing right about now. But in these conditions I think I would be doing good to finish in a very painful and dangerous hour from now.