I Feel the Need…

April 29, 2006

MudViewShoesThe need to avoid quoting Top Gun just to make up a catchy title for this entry. I became race director as well as first place finisher this morning for the Altru Cardiac Care 5k. If you are a regular reader, you remember we recently had a flood in the park hear my house, the same park the race was held in this morning. We took a family walk to scout the course last night and noticed the rain had turned the two inches of dry river dirt on about 400 meters of the course into some of the slickest mud on the planet. There were also some full-size trees and other scattered garbage on that part of the course. In short, there was no way I was wasting my time or money trying to run fast over that.

I showed up to the registration table at eight sharp to see if they had changed the course, and they had not. The last time the director had checked, the course was dry, and without looking, she figured that it couldn’t be that bad. I went down to take a look with her and she quickly changed her mind. I thought it was incredibly thoughtful of her that rather than just blowing me off, she looks right at me and says, “Any suggestions?”. We quickly figured out a course adjustment that would get back the quarter-mile that needed to be excised and I set out to bike the course. I was sure it wasn’t accurate to 5k in the first place, so I figured as long as we are remapping I would just as well get it right. It turned out to be a good idea. The course would have been about 200m long if we had just run it as they laid it out after the initial adjustment.

Now we had an accurate 5k course. I just needed some competition. Initially I was worried the rain would keep everyone away and I would end up running a time trial by myself. That thought was dashed by the appearance of Paulie, a 31-flat 10000m guy in 2005, from the university. He’s not in 31 shape right now, but that hardly matters. You don’t exactly lose that capability overnight. Anyway, I wasn’t racing to win, necessarily, but more to get a good time and a reading on the effort I am capable of right now. Paulie told me he was going for more of a 17-18 minute effort, and I was shooting for low 16s, so it looked like I was on my own.

MudViewRearOff we go. The plan was even split 5:10s, then try to bring the overall time under 16:00 over the last half-mile if I was feeling good. Within the first half-mile, my shins started to lock up. By one mile, they were fully rigid and painful and I could hear the slapping of my forefoot on the pavement as my lower leg made no effort to absorb the landing shock of each step. It was awful. Mile one in 5:12.

Mile two was just holding on. Systems were all good except for the total lack of efficiency from my lower legs. Early in mile two, Paulie pulled back the 20 meters I had put on him early, and settled in to help me out. It was good to have him there, because I was fading psychologically. He kept my mind off my shins and on the race, which was very helpful. Mile two went by in 5:28, and the race was on.

I was fighting pretty hard to maintain contact with Paulie a couple of times during the last mile, but I hung in. I could feel my shins either numbing or loosening. Not sure which, but the pain was less and I was finally able to focus. At 500m out, I surged a bit and Paulie stayed right there looking smooth and comfortable. I couldn’t read any weakness, so I resigned myself to fighting hard until he took off on me. With 300m to go, there is a slight incline that lasts for about 100m. It was my last stand. I went strong to the ‘hill’, but Paulie stayed right there. Oh where, oh where is that college boy’s kick? I think I gritted my teeth waiting to get my doors blown off, but it never happened. Somewhere in the next 50 meters, Paulie later told me, he about lost his Froot Loops and dropped back. Maybe it’s rude of me, because I know Paulie is a very competitive guy, but I think he probably let me get the win. But, my wife tells me he looked like he just didn’t have it over the last 200m. It’s a mystery to me. Mile three in 5:19, and finish in 16:14. Paulie finished about 16:20.

Pace dataOverall, it was a solid effort and is very encouraging. If you hate it when people rationalise their race efforts to make themselves feel better, please turn off your browsers now. The course had two 180 degree turns, and was relatively slick with river mud. The footing was poorer than a wet road, but better than wet grass. Additionally, I did 7 on Tuesday with 3 miles at goal MP and a final mile of 5:16, 18 on Thursday with the final 5 in 29:44, and 90+ miles this week in the fastest average pace I’ve done since I started my build-up back in November 2005. What I’m getting at with this is I am very, very encouraged about my time today. Based on the way I felt, I know I could do 15:50-16:00 on the track right now.

I haven’t run that fast in about ten years. The great thing is it only took me six months of really solid base to get back there. From this level of fitness thirteen years ago, it took me a further 18-24 months to run all of my other PRs. This is good stuff.

HRM infoI was able to get some really solid data from my Garmin 301 as well. The HRM is sometimes flaky, but it held up today, and I don’t appear to have any dead spots in the collection. The Garmin came up with 3.06 miles for the course, which you’ll see in the screenshots. Actually pretty accurate for GPS. However, I did measure the course to 3.10 miles with my bike computer, which is calibrated down to +/- millimeter tolerances. My max HR is up a bit, to at least 178, which suggests I am getting back some of my top end aerobic capacity, and the fact that I redlined my heart rate for the vast majority of the race confirms that I raced very near my best effort.

Alright, time to post this monster. Have a great weekend, readers! Both of you. Cheers.



April 27, 2006

On the sunny side, once you exit the long dark tunnel of winter base, there are frickin’ unicorns and rainbows all over the place. What a great feeling 22 weeks out. I am completely bipolar. Have a great day!

No pressure no diamond

April 27, 2006

What a great quote. With 22 weeks to go, I’m still focusing on base mileage, but I’ve learned from my lengthy winter cycle that base doesn’t mean slow. Not always, anyway. Lo and behold, when you regularly include some threshold pace and strides during the base phase, your overall efficiency and paces improve across the board.

I noticed that this morning. I was able to comfortably run 18 in about 1:57 with the last five in 29:44. I need to go back through my logs to quantify this, but subjectively my sense is that I was a complete idiot not to have included some higher-end aerobic work in my winter build-up. It may not have cost me anything…hell, maybe it saved me from injury. But I can say with certainty that it is extremely uncomfortable both psychologically and physically to struggle through the month or so that it takes to comfortably do a marathon pace workout after running so many slow base miles. It’s easy to get frustrated if you don’t know what’s coming.

Twin Cities Marathon

April 26, 2006

I am officially registered for TCM 2006. WooT. Very exciting. Now I have just about twenty weeks to pull everything together to take advantage of the last twenty weeks of work. I’m dubious in my ability to prepare correctly at the moment, so hopefully I will be able to beg, steal, or borrow some good coaching over the next few months.

I won’t say I’m shooting for sub-2:30, yet, for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve never raced the distance, and the debut has been a humbling experience for nearly everyone I know. Two, I don’t know how much I can pull back from my college years in one year of training. My 10000m PR suggests that I am capable of 2:29:xx, but I am nowhere near that kind of condition right now. And that PR was set in 1995. Small detail.

I will say I’m trying to run as close to 2:29 as possible given the time that I have put in and the time I have left to invest before October 1. I’ll have a really good idea in a couple of months how close I can get in my first marathon.

And I have a really good idea that if I don’t quit writing and get running, I won’t be getting any closer. Later!

The week-long layoff from running that I recently experienced has reared its ugly head. I did two runs today. The first was an eight mile progression run to test the achilles and just to have some fun. Mile one was a warm up in 7:20, then 6:35, 6:25, 6:18, 6:18, 6:00, 5:58, 5:39, 5:30. The 5:30 had me hurting pretty good, but otherwise it felt comfortable-hard with the heart rate for the whole run averaging mid-150s. All systems felt great start to finish.

Even cooler than that, though, was my second run, which got me thinking that I’m never doing a hard workout before the sun rises ever again. I went out for an easy run just to enjoy the One Nice Day that we get in North Dakota between the snows of winter and the bugs, humidity, and scorching temperatures we get during the 27 days of summer we have here. Wow. Where did that come from? Latent geographical rage. Anyway, I ran another eight miles, starting off in 7:00 feeling WTF?! easy, then without changing my effort at all or looking at my watch, mile two came in at 6:18. Must be a mistake. Mile three in 6:18. Okay, what’s going on? I take stock of breathing and legs. No complaints, cap’n. Onward through mile four in 6:21, five in 6:19, and hey, there’s one of the University guys. He’s a 30:5x 10000m guy just coming off a foot injury, and thankfully he is back at it again and feeling better. I run about half a mile with him through mile six in 6:53, which actually caused me some breathing problems. I could barely talk to him running that pace. Fast Guy exits stage left, then I’m right back to 6:21 for mile seven.

I’m thinking I don’t want this to end, and why not ten or twelve, but I spot my wife and kids on the sidewalk, take it as a sign that all good things give way to better things, and finish mile eight in 6:19, feeling like I just went for a nice recovery jog.

I’m obviously reaping the benefits of what amounts to a taper, having consolidated some of the speed and fitness from recent strides and tempo runs, along with rest from a 31 mile injury week. But, man, what a confidence builder! With only five months to go to TCM, I wasn’t feeling like sub-2:40 was all that reasonable. Today has me thinking differently. Happy Weekend, everyone!

Back In Black

April 18, 2006

Dun. Da-da-dun. Da-da-dun. My leg feels better. Still not competely healed, but probably 90% and coming up. I was able to do eight last night straight through with no pain and just a bit of tightness. It was probably too fast at an average of 6:30 pace, but the speed came naturally due to the ‘taper’ I was just forced through. I followed that up twelve hours later with an easy ten on the treadmill and didn’t feel the leg at all.

The injury is very close to being gone, but I’ll still give it some time before throwing down big mileage or speed on it. I’m debating whether to continue with plans to run the 5k on the 29th. It’s still eleven days out, which is plenty of time. I’m certainly not going to risk anything to run a stupid local 5k, but I NEED! Precious NEEDS to run FAST! There’s plenty of time to figure that out, I guess.

Quick recreation of every scene from the television show 24:


run away from an explosion…


Have a good night.

I’m in Purgatory

April 16, 2006

Okay, so it’s been seven days since my little achilles problem started, and I have to say, things are improving (quick, hide the kids). Not fucking fast enough, but improving. The past week looked something like this.

Sunday, day 0…15 miles, ice, drugs (Owwww!)
Monday…3 miles easy, 35 minute pool running, ice, drugs, alcohol (Owwwwww!)
Tuesday…1/2 mile easy, 40 minutes elliptical, drugs (Owww!)
Wednesday…1 mile walk, 2 mile run, ice, drugs (Owww.)
Thursday…1 mile walk, 3 mile run, ice, drugs (Oww.)
Friday…2 sets of 25 calf raises, 5 minute walk, 3.5 mile run, ice, drugs (Ow.)
Saturday…3 sets of 40 calf raises, 5 minute walk, 4 mile run, ice, drugs (Ahhh.)

So that all looks good. Then there is today.

Sunday…1 set of 40 calf raises, 5 minute walk, 5 mile run, ice, drugs (Ah, FUCK!)

I wanted to get six with no pain, and I made it four with no pain and one more with it not feeling quite right. It’s not that bad. I just expected it to be even better today than yesterday, and it isn’t. It is tight and hurts mildly, especially when going down stairs. It’s trending toward being completely repaired within a week, but my expectations were higher given the treatment I gave the injury. Assuming it gets very comfortable by Friday, I should be able to do enough strength training and stretching to be back to my normal mileage by the first week of May. If it lingers past Friday, which is what I’m worried will happen, I am going to burn my leg off at the knee with a blowtorch and eat the charred remains with some refried beans and a nice bottle of Maddog 20/20.

I had planned on seeing a doctor this week because my heel and part of my foot went numb along with the achilles pain. I did a bit of reading, though, and figured out that it is probably nerve damage from icing. It should go away in a few weeks or months. Apparently, it is not a good idea to use the frozen gel packs without a towel between your skin and the pack. The thin skin on the lower part of the ankle and heel makes it easy to ‘burn’ the nerves in that area. As long as the skin is not turning purple, you pretty much just have to wait out the healing process, which, for nerves, is six weeks to never. The numbness doesn’t cause me any problems. It just feels weird in the morning moving my foot around under the sheets. And when I stick tacks in it.

As far as new shoes, I settled on the Asics 2110 after a lovely conversation with a disgusting old shoe salesman. I almost always order my shoes from Road Runner Sports or Eastbay so I don’t have to deal with idiots like this guy at FootLocker. I asked to see the 2110s in a 9.5 (yes, ladies, a size nine and a half) and he proceeds to tell me about how much he loves his Asics, and he used to wear New Balance before, and these 2110s have 90% better cushioning than the compact spare in his Ford Focus and his son is a runner and he runs lots of miles.

Yes, I bit.

“How much does he run?”

(The guttural groan of an old man fumbling numbers in his head)
“Errr. Mmmmm. Four or five miles. Every day!

“Huh. I’ve been running about 15 a day.”

“Oh, well, my son is a triathlete. You know, these insoles come out…”

He then proceeded to try to sell me some shitty Spenco insoles for an extra $12.95. I declined, paid too much for my shoes, and exited the store in a funk. Happily, my spirits were lifted when I spied a Tomodachi store just down the hall. I spent a few moments wandering around the place looking at Akira models and doe-eyed stuffed animals with happy smiles on their faces. This place is great. I bought a medium-sized Chococat for my daughter’s second birthday. She loves it.

Tomorrow will be better.


April 10, 2006

As in, ‘smacked in the back of the leg with a..’. Out of the clear blue sky, I have some kind of achilles injury. On Saturday, I had run a quick seven mile progression from 6:40 pace down to 6:00 because we were travelling to Minneapolis later in the day. Everything felt fine except for some very mild shin-splint-like feelings in my legs, ostensibly from running more on the roads than the treadmill. My long run on Sunday started off well, but got progressively worse from eight miles until I was forced to stop at fifteen.

It’s very strange and really disheartening to have to deal with this right now. It was 47 degrees this morning and I was looking forward to running in shorts for the first time this spring. It should have been really refreshing. Also, I was planning on meeting up with Evan tomorrow morning for an out-and-back tour of the last seven miles of the TCM course. I was only able to get through three miles at 7:30 pace before heading back to the hotel pool for 40 minutes of mind-numbing water jogging. There are few better places to be when nursing an injury, though. Lots of ice, a pool, an elliptical trainer, and even a couple of soft treadmills if things work out.

I’ve been icing and taking ibuprofen like a madman since yesterday. So far it is holding steady, but I’m only on day two. I’m pretty sure new shoes are the cure for this problem. I’ve been rotating two pairs of Asics 2090s for the last 1700 miles or so. Probably too many miles. I thought I would be much more durable with all the miles on my legs, but all those miles country-clubbing it on the soft deck of a high-quality treadmill do not a leatherman make. Hopefully I can get through a couple of days with the pool and elliptical, pick up some new shoes, and get through this quickly.

Just one final question. Have you hugged your legs today? If not, let them know you care. They may conspire against you tomorrow.

This picture illustrates the severity of the current flooding nicely.

Flood Watch

April 4, 2006

We’ve had a good stretch of low water over the eight years since the 1997 flood, but it looks like our time has come again. Although there is very low danger of the type of flooding we experienced in 1997, the intimidation factor is still there. The only thing between my house and the rising river is a large clay and grass snake winding its way across the landscape fifty yards from my front door.

As I write this, the river stands at 46.4 feet, which is the sixth highest mark on record since 1887. Flood stage is considered 28 feet, but that doesn’t really mean much to the average person. The water is covering up most of the park and golf course near my house, including the running paths that wind through them.

Memorable workouts from the last week include 12 miles, including 8×200 strides on Saturday, a brutal 22 miler on Sunday that didn’t go well (but got done), and 12 miles this morning with a four mile progression from 6:30 to 6:00 pace. I’m feeling pretty good. I have noticed that the transition away from the treadmill is tougher on my legs than I expected. Concrete is much harder than a treadmill deck, and the faster paces that feel comfortable on the road add to the stress. The lack of fluid availability is making things more difficult as well. I have bonked on a couple of longer runs now without my Gatorade Endurance Formula readily at hand.

I’m racing a 5k at the end of April. I post some further details later. Time to get to work.