Sunday, January 31, 2010

Odds & Ends

Last week was a recovery week from the half marathon and it was pretty enjoyable. Most of the volume was cut out by skipping my long run on Sunday and foregoing a medium long midweek run. I also didn't really do any quality sessions so it was a nice week for recovery.

This week I tried out two new running routes. I've been in a rut of running the same routes over and over so I decided to do something new. One worked out pretty well while the other left me trying to run through six inches of snow for half a mile. It was also super packed and frozen so I was a little worried about busting an ankle. Fortunately the running gods were smiling upon me and I managed to make it through the section without injury and only minimal swearing at the snow and slow pace.

This week I've also been hassled by drivers more than normal. Some jerk swerved toward me and yelled something at me from his rusted out blue Pontiac. I couldn't find the heart rate spike on my Garmin data but I'm sure if I looked closely it would be there. Two other model citizens honked at me. One waited until they were right next to me to startle me (I think) and the other was an older lady who gave me a look like she thought I had no business being on the road. I was so sorry for making her have to slow down 2 mph and move over 3 1/2 feet. Thanks lady.

Here's my workouts for the week:

Sunday -
Rest

Monday -
4 miles easy treadmill

Tuesday -
4 miles easy treadmill

Wednesday -
4.4 miles easy outside

Thursday -
5.5 miles easy treadmill

Friday -
6.5 miles easy outside

Saturday -
5 miles easy outside, 6 X 10 second hill sprints

Total: 29.4 miles

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Running Shoes

How many running shoes do you suppose the average runner uses in their rotation? Back when I ran in college and high school I was pretty poor so I usually on had one or two pairs that weren't worn out plus a pair of track spikes. Now, I'm only rotating through a few pairs. I'm not sure but I get the idea that a lot of runners have three or more pairs of running shoes that are in workable condition--sometimes as many as 8 pairs.

Right now I have two pairs of shoes that I mainly use--New Balance 800 Midfoots and New Balance 904s. I also have a pair of Saucony ProGrids that I wear but they're getting near 500 miles on them. I also have screws drilled into the bottom for snow & ice traction so obviously I don't use them on the treadmill. I also have a pair of Adidas racing flats but they're not so handy for wintertime.

Lately I've been doing a lot of reading on running shoes and there's some pretty interesting questions out there, though not a lot of answers. Is barefoot running "better" than running in shoes? Do running shoes actually cause injuries?

I just finished reading Born to Run and last summer I read ChiRunning. These books, along with various articles online, made me think more and more about going with the least amount of shoe I can get away with. I don't buy into everything ChiRunning and Born to Run have to say about running technique and minimalist footwear, but I do think there's something there. 

Though there's some questionable information and advice in ChiRunning, I do like what Dreyer had to say about gradual progress. Basically he says to slowly move toward a more minimalist shoe rather than throwing out motion control trainers and jumping into ultra light racing flats. Eventually I'd like to be able to wear mainly racing flats and if I get brave enough I'll even get a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers. I also plan to incorporate some barefoot running into my training once the weather starts getting warmer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Securian Frozen Half Marathon!

The weather wasn't near as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, for the first half of the race it was really nice. It rained a little but the weather was above freezing so it was feeling pretty OK. Maybe I should get a refund since it was "frozen" at all.

I didn't really have a time goal for this thing at all--it's really early in my training cycle, I didn't really do any specific training for a half marathon, and I didn't taper at all. I figured I could probably run about a 1:30, but with all that I planned for somewhere under 1:35.

It was an out and back race that went south out of downtown St. Paul and west along the Mississippi. The run to the turnaround point was pretty nice. I was cruising along at about 7 minute miles feeling pretty fresh. The road was nice and wide which was nice in that it kept people (including myself) from getting boxed in.

I turned around right around 46 minutes feeling pretty good. I had passed my beautiful wife who was cheering for me at mile six. I threw her my gloves because my hands were hot. Yes, it was 34 degrees and my hands were hot. I don't get it either. When I passed her again I didn't have to throw her anything so I could just enjoy her cheers and the sign she made/recycled from another race. It said: Go Nate!

After the turnaround I could really feel the headwind. I was still keeping about the same pace but it was getting a lot tougher. I slowed down a little bit going up an incline and that pace was about where I stayed.

With about a mile left a group of four passed me. Had I been feeling really strong I would of tried to go with them but instead I just thought, there they go.

When the course turned from the river and back north into downtown there was a really steep hill. It didn't seem that steep running down it but going up it after running almost 13 miles it definitely felt more like Pikes Peek than a dinky Minnesotan hill. A couple of guys passed me right before the hill and I decided to fly by them up the hill.

I sprinted by them but unfortunately the start/finish was a little farther from that hill than I thought. My blistering finishing kick started at the bottom of the hill and ended about 30 meters short of the finish. I was able to hold on though and still finished with a decent amount of speed. Plus those guys I passed at the bottom of the hill didn't catch up and I picked off one more guy before the end so maybe my kick didn't melt quite as bad as I thought it did.

I finished at 1:33:01. Not too bad--McMillan's calculator says my equivalent performance in the marathon would be 3:16--the same time I ran for the Twin Cities Marathon. That means I still got some work to do but this early in the training cycle and without tapering I think I still got a good shot at breaking 3:10 in May.

Here's my workouts for the week:

Sunday -
12.2 miles
Nice winter run

Monday -
5.1 miles easy, 6 X 10 sec hill sprints

Tuesday -
Rest

Wednesday -
4.7 miles fartlek

Thursday -
4 miles easy

Friday -
4.7 miles, 5 X 10 sec hill sprint

Saturday -
13.8 miles (warm-up & half marathon)

Total: 44.5

Next Week-
Recovery week with a goal of 28 miles.

Some shots from the 1/2 marathon:

Here I am around six miles--see the gloves in the left hand?

Sprinting (read: trying to muster any speed left in my legs) to the finish.

Yay!

I thought I was going to puke here. Didn't.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weather Report

I'm planning on running the Securian Frozen Half Marathon on Saturday and how's this for weather? Air temperature in the 20s (not too bad), chance of ice pellets, rain, and freezing rain (OK, I can deal with that), and winds from the ESE at 15 mph with gusts of 30 mph. It's an out-and-back course and the back is almost straight east. Crap.

Get ready for a really whiny race report on Saturday unless I find a  group to tuck behind or the weather report changes for the better. Anyone else go to multiple weather sites hoping to find a more positive forecast? I do and I always try to believe the one that seems the nicest. Unfortunately right now all the weather sites are saying the weather is going to suck. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Workouts week of Jan 10

It was a solid week of workouts and with a little thaw at the end of the week it ended with some of the nicest outdoor runs this winter. It's nice to finish a run and not have to chip frozen sweat and snot off my beard.

Sunday -
8.4 miles outside
had to do a shorter Sunday run because I volunteered to keep score for a carrom tournament

Monday -
7.0 miles treadmill
watched "The Office" and part of "House"

Tuesday -
7.8 miles treadmill
4 miles at 1/2 marathon pace

Thursday -
7.1 miles treadmill
I read that watching TV for an hour correlates to being overweight. Does that mean I'm burning fewer calories when I'm watching reruns of "The Simpsons" on the treadmill?

Friday -
6.1 miles outside
2 X 1 mile @ 5k pace

Saturday -
6.6 miles outside

Total: 43 miles

Next week:
Goal of 44 miles including the Securian Frozen Half Marathon on Saturday

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter Running in Minnesota

Although I've run off and on for over 10 years, this is my first winter of dedicated training. I've found that dealing with the cold is not too bad--there's other factors that make winter running more difficult.

Up here in the North Country, there's about a month where winter running is difficult because of the limited daylight hours. It's dark when I leave for work, it's dark when I get home from work, and I'm not going to run outside in the dark. I know there's people who put on an LED headlamp, reflective gear, and even those who carry a flashlight, but I'm not that kind of person. First of all, no matter how much reflective gear I wear, it's not going to keep me from getting hit by a car. There's very few sidewalks in my neighborhood and I don't really trust people to see me even if my jacket and shoes are reflective and I'm wearing some LED headlamp.

Secondly, if I'm wearing all that reflective crap, I've just made myself an easier target for would-be muggers or those looking to assault a runner just for the rush. At the end of fall I was doing some running just after dark and I passed two young men, one of whom uttered loudly, "What the f---?!" in a threatening tone that made me feel less than safe. Fortunately, I was running and they both had their pants hitched up to their knee caps, so unless they were going to shoot at me I was OK.

The other major problem with winter running is where to run. I like to find routes that have good footing, and that's not always easy in the Twin Cities. I've got a pair of homemade screw shoes, as well as some YakTrax, but both of those have some problems, especially where I run. The YakTrax do great for packed snow and unpacked snow up to about 2" while the screw shoes do pretty well on packed snow and ice that's a little broken up or melting. The problem is that most routes have a variety of surface conditions that aren't optimal for either the screw shoes or the YakTrax.

I find the YakTrax don't do so great on ice and the screw shoes are pretty worthless for unpacked snow. Both have problems on really thin sheets of ice--there's not enough for the screws to dig in and the YakTrax just slide all over the stuff, leading to falling down at a four-way stop whilest people laugh at me from their cars. The screw shoes are OK for regular pavement but the YakTrax are uncomfortable and lack traction when the pavement's clear of snow and ice. I probably look like a moron when I'm running--moving back and forth on the side of the road or the sidewalk to stay on the snow-packed sections.

The funny thing about winter running is that the cold doesn't really bother me at all. As long as I dress in layers I stay pretty warm. I put a little petroleum jelly on my face, wear a hat and gloves, and I'm good to go. I've seen people in ski masks and all that but my face really doesn't get that cold. I do tend to form sweat icicles (or sweatcicles) on my beard, which make me look totally awesome.