Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry ITBS!

I'm down to stress fractures and Achilles tendinitis and I think I'll have run the spectrum of running-related injuries. Last Saturday my IT band started acting up making ITBS my latest running injury. Fortunately I was halfway smart and after it flared up again on Sunday I shut it down for a week. I've done the elliptical a couple times and today I ran a mile for the first time in a week. Tomorrow I'm going to try for two miles and see if I can make it without pain.

It's too bad because I felt like I was in a pretty good place in the base building phase of my Boston training plan. I'd averaged over 50 miles a week for three weeks but at the end of that third week my evil IT band derailed me.

I think my downfalls were building up mileage too fast after a decent-length layoff and neglecting any sort of core training. Fortunately this week has given me ample opportunity to get in some core training and I'm going to try to keep it up and prevent these nagging little injuries.

I hope everyone's having a great holiday season. Happy running!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Tis the Season

It's been an exciting month of running--so exciting that I haven't bothered to post about it. There's been a lot of snow and I've been doing most of my running without going anywhere whatsoever. I've been trying to time my runs so I can watch reruns of The Simpsons but inevitably I end up having to settle for Sportscenter or something like that.

I can run outside in the cold, snow, and darkness of winter just fine except that the lack of plowed sidewalks has been a problem. An inch or less of snow could be dealt with with some Yaktrax or screw shoes, but this winter has left about 20" of snow on the sidewalks in Eagan. The clearing of the sidewalks has been spotty at best and the last couple runs I've done outside have forced me to run in loops of just over a mile--not too exciting.

I've also run into the joy of being harassed by poor winter drivers. On Monday night a friend and I drove to the chain of lakes in Minneapolis only to find out that the city had yet to clear the trails. We ran on the streets and some friendly drivers honked at us. What do they think they're accomplishing with their angry honks? Do they think we're going to hear the honking and all of a sudden come to our senses and leave the road to try and make it through 20" of snow on the unplowed sidewalks?

Last night there were some particularly great drivers. First I almost got smacked by a girl trying to turn right on red and not bothering to see if there was anyone in the crosswalk. Then, a driver on his cell phone rolled through a stop sign right into my outstretched hand. Fortunately he was rolling slowly and didn't inflict any damage on my stiff arm. Ah, the joys of winter running in Minnesota.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Heart Treadmills

I can't decide whether the title of this post is a tongue in cheek, ironic start to yet another rant about treadmills based on my total lack of creativity or whether I'm really starting to get used to the things.

Several treadmill runs in the past several weeks have been bearable. After my first treadmill run in months gave me the typical feeling of wanting to quit every half mile (I only managed to hang on for three miles), the last three have actually been OK. Today I made it over six miles of stationary running with very little giveuppedness.

This new determination to put significant mileage in without actually going anywhere is due to several factors. First of all, to get a discount on our YMCA membership through our insurance my wife and I have to go at least 12 times a month each. Sure, I could go run around in the dark, cold Minnesota evenings, or, I could drive to the YMCA and watch Virginia Tech play Kansas State.

Which brings me to another factor I fear--there's been slim to no carryover from the winter toughness I built up last year. It's only been down in the 20s but I'm still not feeling it. Am I loosing my edge? I did manage to get out a couple times in the cool evening darkness the past couple weeks but it hasn't exactly been nirvana.

The major factor in my lack of hatred for the treadmill, I believe, is that there's been decent things to watch on the built-in TV set. I caught a couple decent football games last Saturday, a decent college basketball game this past Wednesday, and "A Knight's Tale" this morning. When I'm actually somewhat into what's on the screen I don't get the nearly irresistible urge to give up that normally comes with the treadmill.

Tomorrow I'm planning on getting outside--of course there's snow in the forecast. Still, as much as the treadmill and I are making peace I can't see myself getting 12 miles in while watching football all afternoon.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Getting in Shape

For the past couple months I've been slacking in my running almost as much as I've been slacking on blogging. Now, I'm getting back into shape so I can start a marathon training program at the end of November. I lucked out and got into Boston before it closed, so I'm hoping to be in good enough shape to be able to shoot for a sub-3 hour marathon. To do that I'd better have at least a decent enough base to stay healthy for a solid training cycle.

This week I managed to get in over 25 miles. It seems like a good total after not breaking 20 miles for awhile, but really it's only about half of what I want to run in a week once my marathon program gets in gear. Tomorrow I'm hoping to get a longish run in--something over ten miles. It'd be great to get over 30 miles next week.

It's been perfect weather for running--cool, sunny, and not a lot of breeze. There's nothing better than getting outside in the fall before the cold and snowy stuff starts to blow in--which, I imagine, will be anytime. Today was cool enough for running pants, which had me thinking about the coming days of Yaktrax, layering, and carrying warm water so it doesn't freeze. Bring on the snow!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Holding Pattern

Lest I go an entire month without a blog post, here's a recent recap of running events and mini-tragedies since my last post:

I lost my Garmin 305. It was inevitable--it joins the ranks of two ipods as small, expensive running paraphernalia I should never be trusted with. I'd like to replace it, but I'll probably have to wait until after my birthday and/or Christmas. Oh well.

My running had already been in maintenance-mode that bordered on going completely into downhill-mode. And not the kind of downhill that means I was running faster. I'd decided I was going to lift some weights and focus on my core strength to get ready for Boston training. Then, I got hit by a softball. Since then, I haven't exercised a bit as I've been recovering from a concussion. There's a lovely picture of the wound at the bottom of the page. If you don't like gore, don't scroll to the end. Sorry if you already scrolled to the end and didn't want to and are now sick to your stomach.

The softball injury occurred while running--funny because it's usually those overuse injuries that get me. I was running from first to second. The shortstop had bobbled a grounder and it was going to be a close play at second. He proceeded to throw the ball hard and unfortunately the ball missed the second baseman and caught me in the head. A week later I'm back to almost full speed and hope to start exercising again.

Once I get used to my new work schedule, I hope to settle into a workout pattern. I think I'll shoot for two or three days of strength training and at least three days of running starting next week. By November I'll be ready to go nuts with running to prepare for the Boston Marathon.

Holy Ouch!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Running Origins continued...

After a trip to Norfolk, Nebraska coupled with a month layoff from teaching I've had a lot of time to ponder the beginning of my running career. In my previous post I said the origin of my recreational and competitive running was Northeast Nebraska; that wasn't entirely true.

I was always an active kid and movement was a big part of my life. My parents signed me up for soccer when we were living in Lincoln, Nebraska and as soon as I was old enough I started playing basketball. I liked to run and move around--in sports, PE, and just playing outside.

I'm not sure when the first time I tried to run more than was required for an organized sport, though one event sticks out in my mind. My dad was a recreational runner when we lived in Lincoln and continued his running habit when he took a job as a principal out on the island of Oahu in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Fortunately for our family he took us with him.

One day while we were living in Aiea dad took me running with him. He usually ran on a paved trail next to Pearl Harbor. It wasn't the kind of picturesque beachfront trail you'd think of when picturing Hawaii. Pearl Harbor has some nice areas but the shoreline is mostly industrialized though with some military memorials and parks sprinkled here and there.

Still, my dad still found the trail pleasant enough to run on--it was flat and free from runner-hunting cars so he seemed to enjoy it enough. The day I ran with him--I don't remember if I asked to come along or was invited--I was most likely 11 or 12. I'm almost certain I'd never run at a consistent speed in one direction for any distance beyond a couple hundred meters before this father and son run.

What I remember about the run was this: I'd stay with my dad for a little bit, get bored, and sprint ahead. I'd cruise by myself among rotting mattresses, old Bento Meal containers, and puddles of brackish water until I started getting winded. After I got too tired my dad would catch up and the whole process would begin anew.

Besides some trysts with junior high track and field (no further than a couple miles I'm sure), running for football and basketball in high school, and running away from a couple of rednecks in rural Nebraska, running for running's sake didn't happen again for me until the 11th grade.

I've already mentioned the story of how I started high school track in a previous post, so I won't get into it here. I did have a good couple years of track in high school--made some good friends, ran some decent races, and ended up with a small scholarship to a small college near Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately my college running career was short and injury-riddled.

I'd be surprised if I got more than 25 miles in a week of high school running, and my college team probably averaged 60 a week for freshmen, more for older runners. Most of the season I didn't run near that much. Instead, I made friends in the training room with injured athletes from every sport. Quadriceps tendinitis, shin splints, and finally tendinitis in my hip made college running more painful than fun, and after a season of cross country and two seasons of track I was finished running competitively for six years.

Thanks to my wife asking me to run the Twin Cities Marathon last October I'm back to doing some competitive (albeit amateur) running. Reading frequently about training and injury prevention and improving my practices has also helped me stay relatively injury-free and thus made running more enjoyable.

If you've stayed with this post for this long I commend you. I have no idea how many people read this blog, but it's nice to write things down and reminisce about the past. Tomorrow Laura and I are headed up to the Superior Hiking Trail north of Duluth for a four day backpacking trip. Laura's talked me into breaking my goal of running every day in August. After I run tomorrow I will have made it 28 days straight. I suppose missing a couple of runs while hiking ten miles a day won't kill my fitness. If I run three miles or more tomorrow I'll have over fifty for the week.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Running Origins

Last week I was down in Nebraska visiting the parents in my old stomping grounds of Norfolk--a small town in the Northeast corner of the state. Norfolk is the birth of my recreational and competitive running. I went to a small Lutheran high school there and my junior year my dad (who happened to be the principal) informed me that I would not, in fact, be allowed to work every night of the week--not if I wanted to use his car to get there.

A three mile round trip seemed like a long way to walk to work at a gas station, so I resigned myself to the idea that I'd have to work only a couple of times a week. With basketball season over I wasn't sure what I was going to do with all my free time. In hindsight I probably should have done a little homework but that's neither here nor there--though it did probably cost me thousands of dollars in lost scholarship money.

So, with some extra free time on my hands I decided to go out for track. I'd ran around the track in junior high a couple of times and it didn't seem too hard. Also, I really liked the new track coach. My school had about 100 students so making the team wasn't really a problem.

Back then I had a wiry frame of 6' and 135 lbs. Finding clothes that fit was a nightmare but my track coach thought I'd be a good fit for the 2 mile. And then, in the year 2000, I began the wonderful hobby of running around to nowhere in particular.

Being back in Norfolk, running around town, and getting to go fishing with my dad and my old track coach got me a little nostalgic about running. Sometimes while I'm running I wonder what kind of a runner I would have been if I'd started running before age 17 or if I didn't stop training seriously for several years after two seasons in college track. But those thoughts are best entertained in a forthcoming post.

The trip to Nebraska was great. I got to spend some quality time with my brother-in-law, see an old friend, hang out with both my sisters and two nieces, and get some work done for my parents. I also got to see Coach Tom Osborne speak at an event hosted by a business whose owners are friends with my parents.

I used to have a blog about fishing, so in honor of that blog and my former high school track coach, I thought I'd throw up a picture of my biggest fish this summer--a blue catfish caught while fishing for bass in a puddle of a farm pond in Northeast Nebraska. In this shot you can see it trying to chew my fingers off as Coach Rathke looks on.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Yesterday evening I went on a nice picnic with my wife at a park about 5 miles from our house. We'd gone to church in the morning and the day was so warm I was planning on running in the evening. After all our daily activities, including swimming, it was after seven by the time we finally got to the picnic. Fortunately I had my running gear on already--I was planning on running once we got home.

Then, an incredible idea hit me: I would just run home from the lake park. I knew there were sidewalks the whole way and it'd save me time. This would have been a pretty normal run except that I didn't have my Garmin.

Now, I know running can happen without charting your average pace, distance to the hundredth of a mile, and heart rate, but I hadn't done it forever. So, on my run from Holland Lake back to our townhouse I was free of a Garmin. In fact, I didn't have a watch at all. No watch, no iPod, nothing.

It was strange in some ways--every once-in-a-while I would check my wrist only to find that there was no digital display between my arm hairs. I also went to pause my time at least twice when I had to stop at stop lights. In the end, however, it was nice to get through a run with nothing but the sensation of movement and the meandering train of thought running through my head. I think I'm going to get a few more runs in sans the Garmin--just to keep things interesting.

Eight days through August and I've ran on every one of them. The first week I made it 47 miles, which was actually a fair amount more than I was planning on. Nothing's hurting too bad so I'll aim to stay around 45-50 miles for a couple weeks--I'm just hoping the weather cooperates. It's hard to get any real long runs in when it's 85+ out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Holy Hot!

It's official: I'm a wimp. Running in cool, nice weather is just fantastic. Running in 20 degree weather is also OK if I dress right. But after the temperature hits about 78 degrees and the humidity is past 60 percent I tend to curl up in the fetal position and slowly rock back and forth on the sidewalk whilst sucking my thumb.

Then, I find out that my Aunt Anita, who's current stationed in Iraq, is running five miles three times a week--in Iraq!. Now, I heard it was hot there so I thought I'd check the weather to find out if the rumors were true. Apparently the high today in Baghdad was 113. And the low there--86. I thought I was miserable running in 80 degree weather this morning. Of course the humidity in Iraq is only like 15%. It was around 80% here all day, so take that Iraq.

I'm looking forward to when the air gets a little dry. I'm tired of having my sweat fail to evaporate and finishing a run with a tech shirt that's carrying 3 lbs worth of perspiration. It doesn't matter how good a tech shirt is at wicking sweat from my body, when the air is already thick with moisture it's going to stay right on that shirt.

Running's going pretty great now that I'm in between teaching assignments. I've run 9 days straight now and I'm shooting for running every day in August--minimum of three miles per day. So far I'm two for two!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Busy Busy and back at it

This past month-and-a-half have been pretty busy and I'm sorry I haven't been doing a lot of running or blogging during that time frame.

It's been a busy time for my wife and I and I'm glad to finally have a few minutes to do some blogging. To save some time here's what I've been up to this past month-and-a-half.
1. Starting a new job teaching summer school. Getting the basement of our house ready for new carpet
3. Not doing near enough running
4. Getting my internets fixed (twice)
5. Getting to run a random three mile race in Good Thunder, Minnesota
6. Finishing a summer school teaching job
7. Taking some young adults to New Orleans and Sikeston, MO
8. Running when I get the chance.

I think most of those speak for themselves, but it was especially interesting running a three mile road race in Good Thunder. My wife and I planned to do some camping with friends in a state park near Mankato, but because of poor weather we instead to stay with our friend's parents in Good Thunder. Good Thunder just happened to be having Pioneer Indian days. On Saturday morning one of the festivities was a "5k" fun run.

On Runner's World's website it said the event has around 100 participants and the course is certified and chip timed. I'm going to have to say that was not the case. Maybe they planned for chip timing but didn't do it because the power was out--I doubt it though since I think there was between 20-30 runners participating. I also doubt it was a certified 5k course since my Garmin said it was 3.01 miles.

It was fun anyway though because my wife and our friends all ran it and we had a good time before and after. I hadn't run a 5k since Jan 1 so I thought I'd see how I could do. I went out pretty quickly and ran the first mile in 5:35. Most of the first mile was on pavement but then we turned onto gravel and it got a little tougher because the gravel was very wet and tough to get good traction. I still managed a 5:34 on the second mile but on the third mile we turned onto an even soggier gravel road and there was a head wind. I was also running all by myself. The race finished up a little hill and since there was no one near me I decided not to sprint it in. Final time for 3 miles: 17:12. I thought the guy at the finish told me 17 flat and didn't bother to check it until later when I uploaded the data onto SportTracks. Whatever. My last mile was 6:01 so definitely not a great final split. I'd like to do another 5k and see what I can do with some better conditions and pacing.

I've got some time off now as I work to find employment, do odds and ends around the house, and get back in the groove of things after spending almost 11 days on the road. I'm hoping to be doing more running and blogging in the next month.

Here's some shots of my (not-so) recent running activity. I forgot to put a shot of me pacing, so here it is along with a shot of the Good Thunder running crew.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Minneapolis Half Marathon

After a pathetic amount of running last week I celebrated Memorial Day by running the course for the Minneapolis Half Marathon. I'm pacing the 1:45 group which means I'm supposed to run even splits at about 8:01 per mile. Due to tangents and such this really means I need to run more like 7:57-7:59 per mile, which is what I did Monday, running 13.2 miles at 7:58 / mile. 

It was hot and I got a sweet sunburn on my shoulders where my other running singlets don't cover (it actually wasn't bad, but definitely pink). I was really proud off myself for writing down directions and then laminating them with packaging tape so I could put them in my pocket while I ran. I showed my wife and I was all, "isn't that great?" She looked at me like I was crazy because she thought I'd just laminated directions for how to get there.

After I explained to her how they were directions for the half marathon route she realized my genius of using packaging tape as a cheap alternative to buying a $300 laminating machine.

I'm nervous and excited to run this half marathon as a pacer--I'm pretty confident I can keep even splits, especially with the help of the Garmin 305--but it's a different kind of nervousness knowing other people are counting on you to run even splits to help them meet their goal.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Laura and I are homeless no more. We signed all the papers last night and this afternoon we're moving in to our new home. Woot woot!

Our friends who are subleasing our apartment have been great pretending they don't mind weaving through rows of boxes. I'm sure they'll be glad when we move all our stuff out of there.

The post-marathon week three running is going well, despite the heat. I've gotten in some nice, easy runs and today was my first real "workout." I ran 4.5 miles with some 4 minute surges at tempo pace. It felt good to run a little faster again. I got my sights set on a 5k in June so we'll see if I can get any speed in my legs between now and then.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I'm Homeless

Before I begin the amazing story of how my wife and I became homeless this weekend, let me give a couple of shouts out:
Julie, at Julie's Running Blog recently hosted a give-away of which I was a winner and has also been running some great races. Thanks Julie! Nitmos, over at Feet Meet Street is successfully tapering for a marathon, and Ian at Half Fast won his age group in a local 5k (his local not my local). Finally, Don of Minnesota Running Wild fame won his age group at the Fargo Marathon 5k on Friday night and followed it up with a sub-3 hour marathon on Saturday. Color me impressed.

Now, for how I became homeless:

My wife and I have been in the process of purchasing a townhouse and we were supposed to close on said townhouse this past Tuesday. Our Wells Fargo mortgage consultant told us that these things usually go down to the wire but since we scheduled the closing 45 days from the signed purchase agreement she was pretty confident we could get it done. Taking her word we scheduled ourselves to move today so that if the closing had to move to, say, Friday, we'd still be OK.

A week before closing the consultant told us things we taking longer than expected because so many people are trying to take advantage of the tax credit. She said we might have to push the closing until Friday. No problem, we said.

A week before that Friday she said we could probably close on the original Tuesday we we supposed to close. Great, we said.

This past Monday, the day before our original closing date, she said, no, now some form that wasn't signed about lead based paint that shouldn't have needed to be signed since the house was built after 1978 actually probably should have been signed and it's holding things up (how's that for a run-on). We're going to have to close Friday. No problem, we said.

Friday shows up. Early Friday morning we both get e-mails that said she's doing her best to make sure everything's ready for closing on Tuesday at 2 PM. Errr....OK, isn't that what everyone's planning?

Friday at 12:30 PM our Realtor calls us and says things are getting held up still so we might as well wait to do the final walk-through until later. We plan to do the walk-through at 1:45 PM and hope Wells Fargo gets their crap together so we can close after that.

Friday at 2:15 PM our Realtor, who's walking through the house with us, gets a call from the mortgage consultant. We're on standby, she says, because this lead-based paint thing hasn't been signed so they're trying to figure that out. Sure, we knew the seller wouldn't sign it a month ago but now, an hour before closing, it's a problem. Apparently no one has the authority to say, OK, it hasn't been signed but who gives a crap? These people probably want to move into their house. Nope, they have to ask their boss's boss's boss who's out at Edina Country Club and he's 1 under par through 10 holes and he'll be damned if he's going to cut his round of golf short so a couple of poor school teachers can close on their house. The lady from the title company tells our Realtor if Wells Fargo doesn't have their crap together by 3 PM we won't be able to close today. We go back to our apartment and wait to hear from someone.

Friday at 2:54 PM our Realtor calls us. We're not going to close today. It's too bad he has to deliver the news because he's awesome and has done everything, including finding us this townhouse. I wish one of the people who actually held this process up had to call and say why they couldn't get this done rather than him. Actually, our Wells Fargo lady is super-nice too and she seems like she's good at her job. I'm guessing it's her higher-ups who are responsible. Nothing like cleaning up banks' images after the worthless bailouts than by being incompetent at your jobs.

So, we now have to cancel our moving truck, call our friends who were going help us move and my wife's parents to let them know that no, we do not need their help after all. Oh, and we're subleasing our apartment to our friends and they are moving in on Sunday so... that's right, we're going to be homeless.

Our friends were cool about it and said they could stay somewhere else for a few days but we didn't what to inconvenience them too much. Fortunately a family my wife babysits for said we can stay at their house. They're on vacation somewhere in the Caribbean. So actually it's not bad--we're staying at a super-nice house and I'm not having to paint or put together bookshelves or fix shower heads or unpack. Instead I get to put that off for a couple of days and relax and watch cable. I feel bad for our friends who have to wait a few days before we can get all our stuff out of our apartment so they have the whole place to themselves. It also sucks that I missed half a day of work and now I'll have to miss more. Oh well.

I did a nice run in today and did some barefoot striders in the grass. It felt great. I also went on a bike ride with the wife so really it's been a pretty good day despite being homeless.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Boston Booked!

Last night I got a little anxious and the beautiful wife and I decided it was OK to go ahead and book a hotel for the Boston Marathon. I ended up booking a place in Lexington--it's about 12 miles from the expo and such so I hope I'm not going to regret staying that far away come race weekend. The price was right and there were only a few rooms left so I went ahead and pulled the trigger.

Now I just have to wait 5 months to actually register for the marathon. And then there's the little matter of booking a flight. I'm hoping to do this thing for not a ton of money so a decent price on a flight would be great.

If anyone with Boston experience has any great tips feel free to let me know--especially how I'm going to get from Lexington to the buses at Boston Common on race day morning.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Easy does it...

After a cold, rainy early part of May, the middle of May is starting to heat up. I can tell I'm from the midwest when 75 degrees feels really hot. I suppose it make sense--I've run a ton in temperatures between 20 and 50 in the last few months so to jump up to 75 is a pretty big difference.

It's week two of the post-marathon reverse taper. It's nice doing some easy running but I'm starting to itch to do something a little faster. Next week I'll get my wish by including a couple surges at HMP or so. Maybe I'll do some strides on Sunday to start things out. I guess I should be happy it's all easy running right now because I imagine if I tried to run a hard workout before I got used to these "hot" temperatures I probably melt onto the track.

I really need to start dragging myself out of bed and running in the morning again. Without having to put big mileage in it's too easy to wait until after work to get a run in. It's too bad I've been such a bum in the mornings because when I head to work it's been gorgeous out--sunny, great temperatures. I'm going to do my best to drag my lazy butt out of bed and get an early run in tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Marathon Reflections

It's been a few days since the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon and since I haven't been doing a lot of running I've had time to reflect on how my training went, how the race went, and what I want to do next. 

I thought my training went pretty well. The Hudson philosophy seemed like a good fit for me and I certainly structured my workouts in a more coherent manner than I did for the Twin Cities Marathon. The multi-paced long runs in the early part of training and the amount of threshold training I think were really helpful. 

The main thing I would do different is try to get in more runs over 18 miles. I missed one 20 mile run with a little injury and then cut an 18 mile run to 17 because of the same injury. That sent my total of 18 mile runs from 7 to 5. Training for my next marathon I'd like to put in 10 or so runs over 18 miles.

As far as the marathon itself I was generally happy with how it went. I slowed down a fair amount in the last 4 miles, and if I had been able to keep my pace I would have broke three hours. Afterwards I felt like if I had been a little more mentally tough I could've kept a better pace the last few miles. However, that's easy to think now when I'm not in the midst of running a marathon. I maybe had a shot at breaking 3 hours but like I said on my race report, I was likely within a minute or so of what I was capable of--I suppose I should be pretty happy with a 14 minute PR at 3:02.

For this summer and early fall I'm going to focus on speed at shorter races. I think it'll help me overall if I work on my speed. My marathon fitness should carry on to this summer and I should be able to put up some decent times between 5k and 10k.

Today was my first run after the marathon although I also played basketball yesterday. I'm feeling pretty good. In fact, I'm feeling 100 times better than I felt after the Twin Cities Marathon. No walking down stairs backwards after this race.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lake Wobegon RR

It's all in the books. Yesterday Laura and I drove up to St Cloud, ate at a nice pizza place (I had the Chicken Parmesan), slept in a cheap hotel, and got up early this morning to drive another half hour to make the 7 AM start of the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon.

The LWTM was a great event. Though it was small and fairly low-key it was well-organized with the perfect amount of water stops. While I waited in line for my bib I talked with a nice gentleman who happened to live only a few miles away. He was running the race for the third time, which means he's ran it every year of its existence so far. He told me about the course (it's flat and fast) and let me know you could see the end from a long way off (and you definitely could).

We started off the race after an excellent rendition of the National Anthem and got to go through a sweet puddle (though I pretty much avoided getting wet). The course started in Holdingford High School Parking lot (Holdingford's mascot is the Husker, a good omen) and turned onto the Lake Wobegon Trail. From there on out it was all on the trail.

The LWT was scenic, bucolic, and provided excellent tree cover for the slight amount of crosswind. The trail went by several lakes and the scenery was aesthetically pleasing the whole way. The route was so flat that I noticed every little hill. According to SportTracks it gained 156 feet of elevation and lost 146--almost a 500 foot difference from my first marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon.

The first few miles of the marathon were great--I felt nice and relaxed--right on pace (6:50). I cruised right on through the half at 1:29:15. I ran with someone for a while who was also shooting to break three hours but he dropped off around mile 11.

Right after he dropped off another guy caught up to me and he was also shooting to break three. We chatted for a while and then around mile 19 I was starting to feel it in my legs and the bottom of my right foot (time to retire the Adidas racing flats for marathons) and he left me behind.

At mile 21 I knew I was going to have a tough time breaking three hours and then by 22, knowing I had to run under 7 minutes per mile to break three, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it. I'd already ticked off 2 miles around 7:05 and they felt pretty tough.

I think I lost a little bit of mental energy at 23 when I was pretty sure sub-3 was out of reach and I really dropped off pace running a 7:23 and then a 7:45. Looking back at SportTracks my heart rate dropped off a little there too so I think it was a mental lapse combined with running low on energy. After seeing the 7:45 split I told myself I was going to finish respectable-like and was able to pick it up a little for the last 1.2 running a 7:20 and then at a 6:30 pace for the last 0.2.

Seeing the finish and knowing I had qualified for Boston I was ecstatic. I wasn't really disappointed about not breaking three hours and I think I was within a minute or so of what I was capable of that day. I got second in my age group and I got a beautiful LWTM print that the artist then signed for me. I came in at 3:02:23--a PR by almost 14 minutes. I can try to break 3 another time.

The food spread after the race was great--pizza, cookies, fruit, soda, yogurt--all sorts of great stuff. They also had complimentary massages--also awesome. If anyone's looking for a spring marathon next year I'd highly recommend this one.

I have to give a million thank-yous to my beautiful wife, Laura. She was a rock star driving along the trail and stopping and various points to cheer. I showed her three spots on the map I thought would be good to stop at and marked all the water stops. I told her it was fine if she just went to the three trail access points and the finish. Instead, she was everywhere--I bet I saw here 10 or more times. Here are some pictures taken by my lovely wife:

puddle jumping start:
smiling at Laura:
running across a bridge:
smiling for the finish

Friday, May 7, 2010

Weekend Reading

If you haven't read it yet you should pick up Neil Bascomb's "The Perfect Mile." It's about three men and their quest to break 4 minutes and run "the perfect mile." 

I already knew who had run the first sub-4 minute mile but it was still interesting reading the account of Wes Santee, John Landy, and Roger Bannister all trying to break the four minute barrier at the same time. I didn't know many of the details of the first 4-minute mile and reading about the various training and coaching of those three runners was very enjoyable.

Bascomb does a pretty nice job moving between the three narrative threads and as the story unfolds I got to know each of the runners and what made them tick. Part of the draw in this book was the personalities of the three runners and Bascomb does a nice job of drawing them out. 

I thought "The Perfect Mile" was very well-written book. I knew the "perfect mile" was coming, but since I didn't really know the history surrounding it, there was enough suspense to keep me turning the pages. Even if you know what happens and know some of the history of the first sub-4 minute mile I think you'll enjoy this compelling book.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Taper Gladness and Race Goals

I've heard a lot about this thing they call "taper madness." People cut down their running and they start to get antsy, go stir-crazy, get phantom pains--stuff like that. I'll admit, for my first marathon I maybe had a touch of that nonsense. For this marathon--nope. Instead of taper-madness I've got taper gladness. This training cycle has been so busy that cutting back has been a relief. This week I'm not looking at my schedule and figuring out where in the heck all my runs are going to fit in. It's nice.

I did feel a little off last week on days 4 and 5 of my two week taper. I don't know how much of that was my hips truly being sore and how much of that was just a little phantom taper pain. Now though, I'm loving it. This week, six miles will be my longest run before the marathon on Saturday. SportTracks told me I've ran between 6 1/2 and 8 hours a week for the past two months. That's almost an entire day of my week spent running. I love running, but after 20+ weeks of fairly focused training, it's nice to have a little extra time to do other things.

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon Goals
I've decided I'm going to go for broke on this marathon and shoot for a sub-3 hour marathon. I've put in hard training, I'm fairly healthy, and my 20k time suggests I can do it, so I might as well go for it.

My race plan is to run the first 3-5 miles at a conservative pace or around 6:55-7 min/mile. Around the 10k mark I'll try to pick it up to 6:50 miles and at the halfway point see how I feel. At that point I'll stick with the pace, pick it up a hair, or back off a little bit.

The weather's supposed to be pretty cool--the weatherman's saying 40ish degrees at the start and it doesn't look like it's supposed to get much warmer than 40 the whole race. That's maybe a little cool, but not so cool as it should have a big effect on the race. I'd rather it be a hair cooler than ideal than too warm.

I'm excited and I'm hoping it's going to be a good one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lake Wobegon--What'll it be?

Ever since I ran the Fetzer 20k at 6:26 a mile I've been having a hard time deciding what kind of time I should shoot for in the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon. Runner's World's calculator says I can run a 2:55 and change. McMillan's training calculator says 2:57 and change. Fortunately, I realize I've only run one marathon before and I'm not going to try for either one of those times because that pace seems too quick for a marathon at this point.

I've instead come up with three goals. One I'd be thrilled with, one I can live with, and one that's realistic. As to my race plan, I'll finalize that tomorrow or Wednesday after I run 4 miles @ MP and see how that feels. Some days MP feels easy, some days it feels way too hard. If it feels great tomorrow, I might have a more aggressive plan. If it feels too tough I might try for something more conservative.

My bare minimum goal of being happy--but not really--would be to break 3:10. Unless I get hurt or completely fall apart, 3:10 should come pretty easily. I've done 18 miles @ 7:04 per mile without of ton of effort so if I can't hold onto 7:15 for a marathon I'd be shocked. Running 3:10 gets me into Boston, so if I do that I suppose I'll be happy enough.

My realistic goal is to run 3:03 or better. That's right around 7 minutes a mile and I feel like with the shape I'm in it's pretty doable. 

My aggressive, I'll be thrilled it it happens goal is to break 3 hours. If I ran 2:59:59 that would just be awesome.

After tomorrow's 1 mile easy, 4 @ MP, and 1 easy I should be ready to come up with a more detailed plan.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


With my taper underway and my mind free to wander on things other than how early I have to get up for my next training run, I thought I'd talk today about some things people do in races that I just don't understand.

Thing #1 : Why do some people insist on lining up at the front of the race when they know they're not going to finish anywhere near the top 100? Besides being detrimental to the runners who need to get around them, it also puts them at a disadvantage.  Many people around them are running fast and they might get sucked up in a fast pace they can't sustain. I guess I'd rather have them get caught up in the moment and run too fast because that at least thins them out and makes them easier to pass. Unfortunately, only about half of the people who line up in front run too fast. The rest just go along at 9 minutes a mile for a 5k, usually shoulder-to-shoulder with their friends, making it extremely difficult for anyone to get around them.

Thing #1b: Why do walkers line up anywhere within the front third of the starting line? I guess this question pretty much answers itself: They're walkers and they have no idea that there's people trying to run fast to place in their age groups or PR. For the most part I give these people a pass, although they could at least try to stay off to the side. Have you ever seen walkers off to the side at the start of a race? No, they're always right in the middle of the thing. When I ran the Fools 5 in Lewiston I thought the way the had the start was genius. There were big signs that said things like "fast runners" and "competitive runners" at the front and "joggers" and "walkers" at the back. I was running with my wife near "joggers" and we probably passed about 50 walkers in the first mile. Maybe they didn't see the signs.

Thing #2: Why do people throw half-filled cups of blue Powerade behind them in a marathon with 10,000 runners, 6,000 of which may be directly behind you? Powerade is sticky--please don't throw it at me.

Thing #3: Huge fuel belts for a 5 mile race--a race that has two water stops. I guess it doesn't affect me so if you wanna carry 5 extra pounds of water--whatever.

OK, I guess that about does it. For all these things newer runners get a pass. If you've ran more than 3 races please look around at the annoyed faces of other runners as you and five other runners create an impassable mass at a water stop as you slow to a walk--I'm talking to you. If you're flinging blue Powerade at anyone who tries to pass you and your posse--I'm talking to you.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Let the Taper Begin!

It was a great week of training topped off with an 18 mile run in the rain and the purchase of a new pair of running shoes.

I woke up this morning to rain and thunder but a quick peak at the radar told me I could wait a while and the rain would get a little lighter. No problem--I had a coupon to Marathon Sports so I headed over there and got a new pair of running shoes. I tried on a bunch but I finally went with the Asics Speedstar 4. It's lightweight and it looks pretty sleek too so I'm looking forward to trying it out tomorrow.

After finding the perfect shoe I went on my last long run before the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon. The rain never got too bad and it even let up a couple of times although after a while I was too wet to really notice whether it was raining or not.

This 18 miler was supposed to be at MP + 20-30 seconds. I was feeling pretty good despite a week of pretty tough training so I decided to just go for 7:20 / mile. Apparently my goal pace is around 7:00 / mile. The rain didn't really bug me and it was a really nice run. I ran around the chain of lakes in Minneapolis and it wasn't as busy as it usually is on a Saturday morning. There were still plenty of people running but I didn't have to maneuver around people. You could tell all the runners out there were hardcore because it was raining. None of those "it's a beautiful spring morning so I'll throw on my Brooks Beasts, camelbak, and run around the lake shoulder-to-shoulder with my running partners and not even move when people try to go around me."

Around mile twelve some guy walking next to Lake Calhoun points to the water and says, "look at that." He must've been able to tell I'm a fisherman so naturally I paused the Garmin to take a look. There was a big old muskie swimming around in the shallows. I was all, "awesome," and he was all, "looks like he's looking for a snack." Then, back to six more miles of running.

At mile 16 I decided to push the pace a little and ran a little faster than 6:30 / mile for the last two miles. I finished the run at 7:04 / mile and not feeling too spent at all. I'm psyched for the marathon and looking forward to two weeks of taper time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Reading - Born to Run

One book I rather enjoyed recently was Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run." "Born to Run" follows the Tarahumara, a tribe in Mexico that besides being shy and wearing sandals made out of tire rubber, also happen to be accomplished ultrarunners.

"Born to Run" also chronicles the author's struggle with running injuries and his quest to run injury-free. McDougall gets into some interesting information about running shoes, minimalist and barefoot running, and an evolutionary discussion contemplating whether or not running made humans human. In other words, are humans "born to run?"

The book features an interesting cast of characters including Caballo Blanco, a former boxer turned ultrarunner turned running hermit. Caballo Blanco is putting on an ultramarathon of 47 miles, which for some reason McDougall decides is 50 miles. Poetic license I guess. The author brings some American ultrarunners to run in Caballo Blanco's utramarathon, the most memorable of which I believe is Barefoot Ted.

This book is pretty readable and McDougall does a pretty nice job of moving between narratives of running the ultramarathon, the Tarahumara, and the American ultrarunners, along with the various sections on minimalist running and the shoe industry. Most of those sections were pretty interesting though it seems like some of McDougall's "facts" were a little suspect. I definitely recommend it though as a good, light read. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Count down

With peak week over, I'm down to counting down the days to the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon--except without the counting. Peak week went great--I put in over 63 miles so I'm feeling pretty confident heading into the marathon.

My 21 mile run on Saturday went pretty well. I think carrying my stupid Nathan water bottle thing around my waist slows me down a little--at least that's what I tell myself when I look at how fast I'm running compared to my heart rate. I'm trying to talk my wife into riding her bike with me while I run 18 miles next weekend so she could carry some water for me but she doesn't seem too thrilled with the idea. She said something about not wanting to be my pack mule. Whatever.

I'm still going to put in a fair amount of miles this week--probably around 55-60. This plan has a two week taper, so no cutting back until next week. I did the whole three week taper for my first marathon so I'm going to be a little more aggressive for this one. We'll see how that works out.

This morning I got the side stitch of all side stitches. I was doing two tempo intervals of 15 minutes each and after the second one I felt like someone was stabbing me in the liver. I actually had to stop and walk before running the two recovery miles at the end. Geesh, I hope I don't get one of those in the marathon. It's the only stitch that made me walk so far, so you know I'll be due for another one in the marathon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Peak Week

It's the week of sore legs and lots of miles (relatively speaking) for me. This next Saturday will be three weeks from the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon and my attempt at a BQ time. I'm going to celebrate the three week mark by running between 20-22 miles. The plan I'm using calls for 23 miles but that seems a bit excessive to me.

I decided I'm going to run every day this week and possibly every day next week before my two week taper. Yesterday was a time crunch so I pulled my first double in years. I'd thought about doing doubles a couple times, but never mustered the motivation for them. This time, however, I managed to do 5 in the morning at approximately MP on tired legs. It felt good and gave me some confidence to be able to run near MP on sore legs. Then, after my 11ish hour work day I put in 5 easy miles in the evening.

I had a fun moment yesterday morning when I went out to run. A kid at our apartment complex says to me, as I'm walking out the door, "You go running even when it's raining?" Yes, kid, I do. I'm waterproof. I'll take running in the rain and 50s over running in snow and ice when the wind chill's below zero.

I'm pumped for two more weeks of hard training and then taking it easier the next couple weeks before the marathon. I haven't been training this hard or felt this good about my running in years.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Fetzer 20k Race Report

In running there's nothing more exciting than having an unexpectedly great race, especially when the race is a tune-up for a goal race. On Saturday morning I went into the Dr. Fetzer Memorial 20k with three goals:
1. Break 1:25
2. Get a good stimulus for aerobic improvement
3. Use my time to set my goal pace for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon on May 8th.

I went out with a 6:30 mile, which was uphill for about a quarter-mile. The next mile brought us back down hill and I ran it in 6:18. When I hit the lap button on the Garmin 305 and saw 6:18 I thought either I was going to pay for that mile later or I was in better shape than I thought.

After around 3 miles I caught a guy in front of me who was in triathlete gear and we chatted for a bit. We ran in silence for a while and than we started chatting when he asked me what my goal was. His name was Kam and he was looking to run 6:20 - 6:30 miles and I told him I was looking for 6:30 - 6:50. As we were talking about our goals and what races we'd ran I realized I was talking pretty comfortably and could probably run faster. Two guys passed us and they were going pretty quick. When a guy in gray passed us I was feeling pretty fresh so I decided to try and go with him.

I stayed with the guy for about a mile and then on a bridge he sped up right before we passed these two women (the women started 13 minutes before the men). I got boxed in behind them. After I got around them I decided I was going to catch this guy again. He was maybe 20 meters ahead of me so I tried to gradually catch up to him. He didn't look overly speedy so I thought I could maybe throw a surge at him and try to lose him. That's when I dropped a 6:07 mile but he stayed right with me. He passed me at a water stop and I never did catch him again. I'm not sure what his name was so he either finished 40 seconds or a minute faster than me based on the results. I know he was close to catching another guy but I don't know if he ever did.

The 6:07 mile didn't kill me and I was able to finish strong for the last several miles. I wasn't able to run another fast mile, but I was very happy with my time. On to the goals.

Goal number one, running under 1:25, was a success--in fact, I smashed goal #1. Demolished it, destroyed it, and kicked it in the head. I ran 1:19:53--6:26 miles. Goal number two was also a success--definitely a good aerobic stimulus for training.

Goal number three, using the 20k to set a goal pace for the May 8th marathon, I'm not so sure about. According to McMillian's running calculator a 1:19:53 is equivalent to a sub-three hour marathon. That's awfully fast. I was only shooting for sub-3:10. Maybe now I'll shoot for sub-3:05 and see what happens from there.

This weekend was a busy weekend. After the 20k I went to beautiful Frontenac State Park and did some volunteer work clearing trails. It was gorgeous out there and I wished I'd brought my camera.

Today (Sunday) my wife and I headed to Lewiston, MN and ran the Fool's 5. It was Laura's fourth year running this race. It was my first and I ran with her for the first couple of miles before finishing up with some easy 8 minute miles. I used the 5 mile race as part of a 7 mile training run to get a good start at my peak training week for the marathon.

I finished this week with just over 48 miles. I was shooting for 50 this week but decided it didn't make sense to push it on Thursday and Friday and sacrifice a strong race effort on Saturday. Life gets busy sometimes so you just got to do what you can.

Next week I'll shoot for 60+ miles and that should be the most before the marathon in May.

Here are some shots of the Fetzer 20k:

Here I am behind my new friend Kam. I ran with him for a few miles after this:

The guy in the gray shirt passed me after this:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weekend Reading - Training Books Special

Last Friday I missed out on posting a book review due to Easter festivities with family in Nebraska. This Friday, however, I'll make it up by giving a rundown of my favorite training books I've read recently, and some of my not so favorite.

If you've kept up with some of my posts, you've probably read about the book I'm using now, "Run Faster From the 5k to the Marathon: Be your own best coach", by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald. This book is a quick read and it gives some great theories of training in the model of the great Italian coach Renato Canova. It also brings in elements of the Lydiard system, although it's far less periodized--which basically means Hudson mixes things up more.

"Run Faster" emphasizes three basic systems to train--musculoskeletal, aerobic system, and race specific endurance--and gives workouts for training each system. He goes into how to notice when one system's behind the others and how to tweak your training plan to "catch up" the lagging system.

I like the customizable nature of Hudson's training system and much of what he says make sense. The writing isn't stellar but it's an easy enough read to get through quickly. The back contains the popular "cookie cutter" schedules, though I suspect he mostly included them for marketing reasons as he emphasizes individualized workouts and training plans. One nice thing about this book is that it offers training plans for a variety of distances (obviously from the 5k to the marathon).

Two other trainig books I enjoyed were Hal Higdon's "Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide", and Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas's "Advanced Marathoning." These books offer more traditional training programs. Higdon's book is focused on novices and Pfitzinger's is focused more on those looking to PR or run a fast marathon.

Higdon gives a lot of good, practical advice and his conversational writing tone is easy to read. His book is definitely not technical so for those just looking to complete a marathon and not really caring about VO2 max, lactate thresholds, and complex workouts, Higdon would be a good place to start.

Pfitzinger is much more technical and his training plans are extremely detailed. Reading the text is a must for someone looking to run a great marathon as knowing the why behind the how is key to understanding the purpose of Pfitzinger's training plans.

This past year I've also become more interested in running form, and in that vein I read "Chi Running," by Danny Dreyer, and "Master the Art of Running," by Andrew Shields. These books both give information on tweaking (or outright changing) your running form to become more efficient, faster, and injury free.

I can't say that I loved either one of these books. "Chi Running" gave some good information and I definitely incorporate some of the techniques in my running. At the same time, however, some of it felt gimmicky and there to make money. I thought about signing up for a seminar but they're over $100. No thanks. You can probably watch Chi Running videos on YouTube and get the gist enough to incorporate some of the techniques into your running if you're concerned about form.

One problem I had with the Chi Running form is its emphasis or landing on the midfoot--basically landing flat-footed. I don't think this really matters at all as long as you're landing with your foot behind your center of gravity. By trying to land flat-footed if you're a natural heel striker you're looking for an ankle or Achilles tendon injury. Dreyer claims if you learn the form you won't get injured. However, if you do get injured, it's because you didn't learn the form and you should sign up for one of these $100+ classes so you learn the form. Why write a book about form when you can't learn the form from the book?

"Master the Art of Running" was OK but honestly I don't remember a lot from this book. It mentions Chi Running and POSE (which I haven't read), but a lot of it has to do with the Alexander technique, and I didn't much care for that. If you're really cerebral about running form or interested in the Alexander technique, you might enjoy this book.

Well, that's it for the Training Books Schedule Special. I'm definitely going to be reading more training books, so this won't be the last.

Tomorrow I'm running the Fetzer 20k in Rochester, Minnesota. I decided I'm just going to get as close as I can to running 50 miles this week and hope that the easy extra miles don't kill my legs for tomorrow. I put in 9 last night and there's no school today so I'm going to put in some miles this morning, race tomorrow morning, and maybe do a recovery run tomorrow evening.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cutting it Short

I'm faced with a conundrum for the next couple days. I'm running a 20k on Saturday morning and was hoping to use it to gauge my fitness for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon which takes place exactly four weeks after the Fetzer 20k. This week I was scheduled to run 50 miles, and it's looking like that's not going to happen unless I put in some serious miles today and tomorrow.

Being busy and tired have kicked my butt this week. It's been exciting (my wife and I have just signed an agreement to purchase our first home). Work's also been crazy and I've had too many late nights and early mornings. Last night all I had time for was a run of 3 miles because our realtor was coming over with paperwork to sign and I'd just put in 11 hours at work. Now I'm wondering if I should put in some extra miles today and tomorrow to at least get close to the my goal of 50.

If this was just a regular week with a regular long run on Saturday I'd have no problem doing 10 today and 8 tomorrow. The thing is, I really want to use my time in this 20k on Saturday to set a goal pace for the marathon. If I'm worn out on Saturday I'm not sure if that's going to work.

I guess I got all day at work to think about it, so we'll see what happens.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Break Brush with Death

I spent the last week down in Nebraska hanging out with family, eating great food, celebrating the Easter holiday, and running. I also had a close call with a ravenous German Shepherd--a dog I could tell had a taste for human flesh.

This past Wednesday morning my wife Laura, sister Sarah, and I were taking my niece to kindergarten. As Laura was loading my niece into the car, a German Shepherd came up to my sister's garage, growling menacingly and looking ferocious. Laura told my niece to get into the car just as I was getting out of the house. I tried to be friendly with the dog, but it barked and growled at me. I yelled "bad dog" and pretended to throw something at it and it ran off.

As we drove my niece to kindergarten I told Sarah and Laura that I was hoping that dog was gone when we got back so it wouldn't bother me when I ran.

Less than an hour later I left my sister's house to go for a run. The wicked German Shepherd was still on my sister's side of the street so I decided to cross the street and hoped the dog would leave me alone.

It didn't. It ran across the street barking and growling at me. I looked for something to throw at it but there was nothing. I yelled "NO!" and faked another throw but this time the dog kept coming. It growled and faked a charge at me. It bared its teeth. I was thinking, I've been running almost 10 years and I'm going to finally get bit by a dog.

The German Shepherd looked like it was done growling and ready to bite and just then--not even kidding--an Animal Control van pulled up. The driver opened the door and banged on the side of the van and the dog ran to the van. I felt like I was in a movie or something. If that van had been a couple minutes later I'm pretty sure that dog would've been chewing on my leg while I tried to kick it in the head.

Fortunately I didn't have to try to fend off the dog which would've almost definitely ended badly for me.

I did get some good workouts in this week--a good tempo run and a 14 mile MP run. I ended up with over 50 miles for the week and I'll shoot for 50 more next week with a 20k race this coming Saturday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's not pretty, but it's 20

This past weekend was my first 20 mile run in training for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon. It was best long run of this training cycle yet. Wait, no, best isn't the word I'm looking for. Worst--it was the worst long run of this training cycle.

A few things went wrong for this run. First, my wife and I were going to go and look at houses around noon on Saturday and I was planning on putting in the 20 when I finished. When I woke up, however, she asked me if I'd just go and run now (about 8 AM) so I could stay out of her hair while she cleaned. I didn't think that would be a problem but I made at least 2 mistakes; one was easily fixable that morning and the other was too late.

First, I drank a pint of Heineken the night before and probably didn't drink enough fluids afterward. That may or may not have made a differences but I'm going to go ahead and lead toward it did as I felt a little dehydrated. Second, I thought a bagel would be an OK breakfast before running. Unfortunately I know I put too much cream cheese on it. Right after I put the cream cheese on I was thinking, whoa, that's too much cream cheese. When the right amount of cream cheese on a bagel before a 20 mile run is none and I just happened to pile it on. It wasn't sitting well in my stomach from mile 1 through 20.

So the whole run my stomach went between a dull ache to severe cramps. I also brought along blue powerade (powerade doesn't have flavors, only colors) and that crap only made me feel worse. I was going to dump it out and fill the bottle with water, but all the stupid drinking fountains haven't been turned on yet.

So pretty much the whole run my gut hurt, I'd get thirsty, drink some powerade, and then it'd hurt worse. Yuck. I put in the whole 20 though, slowly but surely. It was still fast enough that it fell into Mr. McMillan's pace range for a long run but I was definitely feeling it.

Fortunately my legs didn't get beat up too bad and I was able to do an easy 8 with the MN Running Wild group yesterday and another easy 6 today with some hill sprints thrown in for good measure.

I hit 60 miles last week which is a post-collegiate mileage PR. This week I'm cutting back a little and I'll aim for about 50. I'm running a 20k on April 10 so that next couple weeks I'll keep my mileage steady around 50 so I have some legs for the 20k.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Weekend Reading

I thought it might be nice to start reviewing some running books I've enjoyed. Although it's probably redundant as there are many book reviews floating around on the interweb, I don't really care because my opinion counts more. 

This past year I've become obsessed with running books and have been reading between 2 and 4 a month. Some have been great and some have been so-so. I'll start with one of the great ones and mention the so-so ones here and there.

One book I really enjoyed was "Duel in the Sun", by John Brant.  It's the story of Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar's epic race in the 1982 Boston Marathon. Before this past year I hadn't been a running history junkie and I knew very little about this race, so reading an almost stride-by-stride account of the race was very interesting.

The narrative of "Duel in the Sun" moves between the 1982 Boston Marathon and the lives of Beardsley and Salazar. For the most part does a pretty good job at it, though it can feel choppy at times. Leaving the race and moving into one of the racer's lives, Brant does a nice job keeping just enough tension to keep the narrative compelling. 

The book is a lean 203 pages and could probably be read in one sitting. At times it left me wanting to know more and it actually lead me to pick up "Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race," Beardsley's memoir. "Staying the Course" was a decent read but I still preferred "Duel in the Sun." 

Some people don't enjoy reading race accounts, but if you're like me and don't mind reading about how runners jostle for position, surge, draft, and other race details, you'll probably enjoy this book. It had just the right mix of biography and running to keep me interested through this quick read. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snot-nosed runner

Every spring I get a cold/sinus infection/mucus-filled grossness. I think I catch something every spring is because: 
DST messes up my  sleep patterns
All the germs sleeping under the snow in the winter wake up, fly into the air, and land in my nose (yes, all of them)
I work at a school filled with carriers of all kinds of infections

I read that as long as a cold is above your neck it's OK to run. All the disgusting mucus is staying squarely in my sinuses (unless I'm snot rocketing or spitting it out) so I'm planning on continuing my running as planned. Maybe I'll put some kind or tourniquet on my neck while I sleep to make sure the snot doesn't migrate south and spoil my running plans. That's safe, right?

I do not like running with a cold. It slows down my pace, causes me to spit frequently, and leads to an inordinate amount of snot rockets which, regardless of how awesome, are still a little gross--especially if they don't get complete clearance and stick to the side of the face, the arm, or the shoe.

Having a cold also makes it really hard to put in morning runs. I usually start to feel better as the day goes on, but first thing in the morning the mucus content of my nostrils is at its highest. Waking up with my eyeballs floating in snot, hacking, blowing, and spitting phlegm, doesn't lead to positive feelings about putting in an easy 6.

I'm going to try to run 8-10 miles this afternoon. It's supposed to be a multi-paced fartlek kind of thing, but we'll see how much this wicked cold gets in the way. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Running

This weekend was a great weekend of running. Although there has been warmer temperatures this March, the weekend was sunny and just warm enough that it didn't suck.

I put in an 18-miler on Saturday with 14 miles at MP + about 15 seconds, so 7:25ish a mile. It was definitely my hardest long run so far but it was a million times better than the first 20 mile run I did training for my first marathon. 

That 20 mile run brings back (terrible) memories. It was a Saturday morning last July and it started out innocent enough. I thought I was going to do 10 miles out and then 10 back at my goal marathon pace. Wrong. It got hot, which for Minnesota means about 75 degrees. By the time I turned around, and I ended up doing maybe 3 miles at MP. Then, at 14ish miles I ran out of water. At 16 miles my legs felt like jello, and I'm still not sure how I finished the whole 20.

Saturday's run was so much better. The only downside was I decided I didn't need gloves and when I pulled out a pack of jelly-beans around mile 14 my cold hands had problems opening them. Then, when I got the pack opened my fingers' dexterity was far from adequate for putting said beans into my mouth. I dropped several, costing me at least 14 calories and surely a slower pace. 

On Saturday I met some new friends, a group called the Minnesota Running Wild. They were all doing different distances and paces but I found someone who wanted to go 10 at about my pace. Unfortunately, Emi and I weren't overly familiar with the route and ended up running 14.7 miles instead of 10. Oops.

Oh well, over 32 miles is pretty good for one weekend. I got a little over 55 miles last week and I'll shoot for 55 miles+ this coming week. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Daylight Savings

Anyone else have a daylight savings hangover? I know some runners--particularly those who run after work--welcome daylight savings time. They get an extra hour of daylight to finish their run.

I, however, have been running early Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and DST has messed me up. This year I had sort of a delayed reaction to it. Tuesday morning was fine besides starting and finishing my run before the sun came up. Yesterday morning I must have hit the snooze bar 3 times before I finally got out of bed.

Then, last night sleep just wouldn't come. Usually I sleep awesome while I'm running this hard. Last night, however, I just wasn't tired, despite having gotten up before 6 three days in a row and working over 10 hours two days in a row. The culprit: daylight savings time.

It better wear off this weekend because I got some serious running to get done. I got a hard 18 miler tomorrow with 14 miles at MP + 20-30 seconds--probably the toughest run of this training cycle so far. If DST keeps me up late again tonight I'm going to be seriously ticked.

In other news:
Thanks to Razz for putting on a great inaugural "Global Warming, My Ass!" 6.66 mile virtual race. I managed to edge out the competition for first place. The full results are at Razz's blog, Running off at the Mind.

Have a good weekend running!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Putting in the miles

There are few things as satisfactory to me lately as writing down my mileage on my current training plan. Before I started training for this marathon I planned out about 20 weeks on Excel, using Brad Hudson's marathon level 2 plan as a template. Though I've moved workouts around here and there and had to miss a couple for schedule, weather, and injury reasons, for the most part I've been logging almost all the miles my plan called for.

I feel great when I write in pencil underneath my planned workout the actual miles I ran that day. It's great when the day calls for 6 miles easy with 10 X 10 second hill sprints and I can write down 6.2 miles. It's like doing the extra credit problems at the end of a high school math assignment. You don't have to do them, but when you do you know you've accomplished something. You know the teacher's going to look at your paper and say, "Wow, not only did he do all the problems, he even did the extra credit! What a bright kid."

Sure, there's no one looking at my training plan, but I still feel like a bright kid when I run a few tenths of a mile farther than the workout calls for. Because not only does it mean I did a little extra, it also means that I have a little cushion later in the week if I need to cut a run short.

Last week was a pretty good week of running. My hip was a little sore after the GW,MA virtual race, so I took an extra day off. Even with that day off I managed a little over 50 miles. This week I'm looking to go over 50 again and after a 9+ mile run this morning I'm well on my way.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Race Report - GW,MA

Yesterday's "Global Warming, My Ass!" inaugural virtual race went off without a hitch. The weather was pretty nice for the second week of March--race time temperature was about 44 degrees. It was a little windy but the rain had mostly let up, though there were occasional sprinkles throughout the race. 

The course was supposed to be 6.66 miles, though the Garmin measured it at 6.69 miles. I'm not sure how I did at running the tangents, but 3/100 of a mile isn't too bad. Plus, I know they always measure these things slightly long to be sure the course is certified. 

The route was fairly scenic--it ran along the Mississippi River in an out-and-back course beginning at Kaposia Landing Regional Park and following the Mississippi Rive Trail. The MRT was nice and flat with no camber--making this a PR course for sure. It began heading south, which yesterday just happened to be into about a 10 mph wind. No worries though, because I knew I'd be turning around and finishing the course with the wind at my back.

I knocked off the first mile in 6:30 which was pretty decent considering I was heading into the wind. The next mile clocked in at 6:29 and I realized I was on pace for a PR in the 10k if I kept it up. I calmed down a little and the third mile was an easy 6:34. A half-a-mile later was the turnaround. Luckily there was no one in front of me running really slowly so after turning around I was able to pick up the pace again.

With the wind at my back now I started speeding up. If I could keep my pace I knew I would set a PR for the 10k and after that I could just cruise for another 4/10 mile. At four miles I was on pace to average 6:30 and confident I would break my 10k PR of 40:37 (granted I've only run one 10k and it was 2 days after running 20 miles). After going under the Interstate 494 bridge the wind was really at my back and I picked things up even more. I hit the lap button on my Garmin at 6.22 miles--39:51--a new 10k PR. Now it was time to dig deep and finish this 6.66 mile race strong. 

With 200m left I got up on my toes and sprinted. No one was going to catch me from behind--not even that lady walking her dog and occasionally running. I came through the finish at 42:26--also a PR for 6.66 miles.

Here's a bird's eye view of the course. Congratulations to everyone who completed this epic virtual race.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Returning from Injury

Last week was a nice week of running. I didn't do anything intense besides hill sprints, and the ankle didn't really bother me at all. The weather is really starting to get decent around here. Yesterday I ran in shorts outside for the first time since November. That's about 4 months my legs went without seeing the sunshine.

I'm looking forward to a quality week of running. I'm still going to keep it cautious and probably the only quality I'm going to do are hill sprints and Razz's virtual race, though I might throw in a fartlek on Friday if I'm feeling good. I'm also switching my long run day from Sunday to Saturday so I won't be doing a long run for 13 days. The 20k I want to do in April and my goal marathon in May are both on Saturday so it make sense to switch my long run to Saturday also. I figure that way I'll be able to completely get over this ankle problem and continue doing core work these next 2 weeks.

I'm discontinuing my weekly workout report. Instead I'll just sum it up. I ran 35 miles, did 3 days of core, and did elliptical last Sunday as my last day of taking it easy from the ankle injury.

Yesterday I did a long run of just over 17 miles, which means I ran 52 miles over 7 days without any nagging injuries. That's pretty good for me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Virtual Race

Look out virtual racing world--I'm about to put the virtual smack down. That's right, I just registered for a virtual race. No, not a race to benefit some worthy cause, though I might do that someday. Instead, I'm using this virtual race for virtual bragging rights. 

I'm guessing there will be plenty of virtual runners who are faster than me, but that won't stop me from earning virtual bragging rights. I'm simply going to run the most race-like virtual race of anyone. Perhaps I'll chalk off a starting line and set up a turn-around cone. Maybe I'll set up an aid station--at the very least I'll have a virtual aid station. And there's no way I'm running with my ipod (they'll be banned on my course). I'll probably use the virtual partner on my Garmin 305 to have a virtual competitor to duel it out with.

This race is being sponsored by Razz at Running Off at the Mind. If you're interested I think you have the rest of today to get registered. Good luck to everyone taking part in this worthy event. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Back at it!

Monday's test run went pretty well. I gingerly tip-toed 4.7 miles on a bike path. If it was summer I'd be doing everything on dirt trails and such, but at least the bike trail doesn't have a camber. The ankle had a couple of small twinges of pain, even as I was gingerly tip-toeing along, but they were nothing like the pain I had been feeling. The pain was mild and sporadic and didn't really bother me. I might not have even noticed it if I wasn't really looking for it. In fact, I actually wasn't even tip-toeing. I mean, really, wouldn't that just put undo stress on the calf muscles?

I felt so good after the run I threw in 8 X 10 second hill sprints just for the heck of it. Today I ran 6.6 miles and there was a little ankle pain towards the end of the run, but again, nothing too concerning. Since this morning's run I haven't felt any pain at all, so after I take tomorrow off I might run even farther on Thursday.

It was actually nice taking a few days off for an injury. I'm glad I'm doing something smart for once instead of trying to push through the pain and ending up worse off.

On a different note: The scene that met me on my run this morning as the sun was coming up looked like some kind of expressionist painting. Or, at the vary least, some sort of artsy poster you can buy at Ikea. I was running along the Mississippi River just before sunrise and the sky and the river looked amazing. It was a little bit foggy and there was a mist hanging above the water. There were pink streaks across the sky and various waterfowl dotting the water. Then, a large osprey flew out across the river and I was thinking, I wish I had a camera. Then the osprey pooped. Not even kidding. It pooped and it's poo splashed right into the river. I'm guessing that part wouldn't have made it into the artsy poster at Ikea.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Plan B

After about 3 days off of running I'm beginning to come up with a plan b for my training between now and my goal marathon. The ankle isn't hurting anymore and I'm going with Brad Hudson's advice of taking one more day off and doing a test run tomorrow afternoon. After that I'm trying to decide how much mileage to put in before the marathon.

I'm definitely going to move back into training carefully, with no set goals for mileage for the next week or two. After that I'll decide if I want to work towards as many miles as I planned for the week, or adjust my schedule to fewer miles. I'm also going to write in my core training into my training schedule to keep me honest. I've tried to do two or three sessions a week, but I definitely have had weeks where I've only done one session of core work.

Here's my workouts for the week:

Sunday -
16.2 miles with 6 easy, 5 miles: 90 sec 10k pace/90 sec easy, 2 easy, 3 hard

Monday -
6.3 easy with 10 X 10 sec hill sprints

Tuesday -

Wednesday -
11.1 miles with 2.75 warm up, 4 X 1 miles @ 6:04, 3 min recovery, 3 miles easy

Thursday -
2 easy, stopped with TPT

Friday -
30 min elliptical

Saturday -
30 min elliptical

Total: 35.6 miles with 1 hour elliptical

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I finally decided that the pain in my left ankle means it's time to take a break--I'm hoping it's only going to be a day or two, but this morning there was just too much pain to keep my run going. I was going to run an easy 6 but turned around after about a mile and decided it wasn't worth it. I'm ten weeks out from my goal marathon and I'm hoping it's not too late to get this thing healed. 

It looks like what I have is most likely tibialis posterior tendonitis. It make sense because it's in my right ankle, which from what I've read is the likely spot if you're running on the left side of the road all the time. It also happens to be the ankle I broke last winter playing basketball, which could also be a factor.

It's too bad because my workouts have been going so well. I ran 11 miles yesterday including 4 X 1 mile around 6:04--almost 30 seconds per mile more than the workout called for. I didn't have too much pain in the ankle yesterday but today it was pretty bad. 

So, it looks like no running the rest of the today and most likely elliptical machine tomorrow. Then we'll see what happens on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Confidence in Workouts

During this past training cycle I've noticed that my workouts are going particularly well. When I do a workout at a really good pace it generally gives me pretty good confidence about my racing readiness, but doesn't get me too excited. 

My last training cycle I went through a lot more highs and lows of workouts than my current cycle. I'd do awful at one workout and my confidence would be shot. Then, I destroy another workout and I'd feel a little better. I remember doing a long run where I was supposed to finish the last 10 miles at MP. I ran the first couple about 15 seconds faster than MP and dragged in the last couple over 30 sec slower than marathon pace. It was a pretty hot morning (for Minnesota) and I ran out of water with 6 miles to go. Still, that run definitely took a lot of confidence out of me.

Then, I did the famous (or infamous) Yasso 800s the next week. I hit 10 at an average of 2:57. The goal was for 3:05-3:10 so I was feeling pretty great and a little more confident about being able to run my goal for the marathon. I wasn't, however, so confident that the poor long run didn't continue to bother me.

In general a poor workout drains the confidence out of me much more than a good workout improves it. Today I'm running 4 X 1 mile @ 10k pace, which is about 6:30 / mile. If I blast those miles out at 6:15, I'll feel great but I won't start planning to knock 5 minutes off my goal marathon time. On the other hand, if I run the last 2 at 6:45 and 7:00 I'll definitely start to question myself, although at least I'll be able to tell myself I have 10 weeks to improve.

Does this mean I'm pessimistic or realistic? I don't talk to enough other runners anymore to know if it's normal to let a bad workout affect me more than a good one, but I have a feeling it's not unusual. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Aren't you cold?

It's interesting to hear the different reactions to being out in the winter weather from people who run outside in the winter versus people who don't. As I was going on a run this morning some guy going out to his car yelled to me, "Aren't you cold?" I was in normal winter running gear and the weather was in the 20s. I was actually thinking the shirt I had under my running jacket was a little too warm. "Nope!" I yelled back.

Later I was talking to my little sister on the phone. When I told her I ran today she also asked if I was cold. I told her I'd only been cold running outside a couple times this winter, and that's when I was running into the wind when the windchill was below zero. "You're insane," she told me.

When I was running, however, I passed a guy who said, "Isn't this weather great!" And it was. A light snowfall, no wind, weather in the 20s--it was perfect.

Here's my workouts for the week:

Sunday -
2 miles on snowshoes

Monday -
11.4 miles with 30 sec 5k pace every 3 min

Tuesday -
6.9 miles easy

Wednesday -

Thursday -
9.1 miles with 10 X 10 sec hill sprints

Friday -
7.1 miles with 1 min, 2 min, 3 min, 2 min, 1 min, 2 min, 3 min @ 3k - 5k pace with same recovery

Saturday -
8.1 miles with 10 X 10 sec hill sprints

Total - 44.6 miles

I missed this weeks goal by a little over three miles. I've had a sore tendon in my left ankle and could've made up the miles but decided it wasn't a bad idea to cut back a little and rest the ankle.

Next week: Goal of 51 miles

Friday, February 19, 2010


I've finished another week of early morning running. When I began this routine, I thought the most dangerous thing would be cars getting too close to me while drivers shook the sleep out of their eyes and failed to notice the weirdo in the reflective vest. Unfortunately, this week showed me that drivers are not the only thing threatening the safety of my morning running.

Today I did have a driver turn onto the street I was running on and come dangerously close to hitting me. He clearly did not see me--it probably would've improved his vision if he'd scraped the ice off his windshield before pulling away in his death machine. I was alert enough to move way over and avoid his car, but if I hadn't been watching, I'm pretty sure he would have hit me.

Yesterday, however, I wasn't able to avoid an unfortunate incident. I set out on an 8 mile morning run, and a little over 1/2 a mile into it I turned onto a sidewalk into a park. I noticed right away that there was a big patch of ice on this little downslope, so I decided to run it very careful. But really--how careful can you be running downhill on ice? I slipped once, recovered, then BAM! I fell over sideways cutting open my knee and elbow and banging my head on the ice. I heard a sound like glass shattering and though, crap, I broke my headlamp. Fortunately my headlamp was fine--I had just shattered a thin patch of ice with my skull.

I got up a little gimpy, but felt fine after a minute or two. After finishing my 8 miles, I went to pull my apartment key out--whoops, no key. So, I turned my 8 mile run into a 9 mile run after I ran back and miraculously found my key. It was right in the middle of the patch of ice.

Despite dealing with all that nonsense yesterday, I still put 7 miles in this morning, and the thought of running on a treadmill didn't even come into my mind. I love running outside!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Today was Laura's and my inaugural snowshoe run. Laura and I headed to Afton State Park to attend a class on running with snowshoes. The gentleman leading the class, Jim McDonnell, was a nice guy and an accomplished snowshoe runner. He talked to us about snowshoe running techniques, snowshoe racing, and the proper snowshoes for running. The snowshoes I'd rented from REI were definitely not the preferred snowshoes for running. They were a little too wide and much too heavy. I was sucking air trying to keep up with Jim as we ran the hills of Afton State Park.

Laura mostly walked after trying some running and she enjoyed the beautiful winter scenery. Talk about a successful Valentine's Day date!

After about 2 miles of snowshoe running I was planning on doing another 5 or 6 miles of regular running. Unfortunately it started snowing while we were at the snowshoe class and got pretty windy. It was also getting late and since I don't have work tomorrow I decided I'll just do a morning and an afternoon workout tomorrow. I had a good week of running, so if I miss some miles this week I won't feel too guilty. I've met or exceeded my mileage goals for 9 weeks straight so I think I can cheat a little.

Here's my workouts for the week:

Sunday -
14 miles (6 easy, 5 miles: 1 min 5k pace, 1 min easy, 1 easy, 2 miles HMP)

Monday -
5.6 miles easy

Tuesday -
5 miles easy

Wednesday -
10.2 miles with 5 mile tempo run

Thursday -
6.2 miles, 8 X 10 sec hill sprint

Friday -
8 miles (2 easy, 2 X 15 min HMP, 1.3 easy)

Saturday -

Total: 49 miles

Next week: Goal of 48 miles