Thursday, June 24, 2010


Ok, so I've been complaining lately about plateaued performance and acheyness and blah blah blah.  I've been fretting about managing exertion and heart rate and overheating on the runs.  Well, both Monday and yesterday's runs were remarkably better than any of the runs last week.

Monday's run featured a 32:00 run around the 3 mile loop at Memorial, followed by 3 penalty laps.  I know it should have been 4, but I miscounted and only ran 3.  I made up the missed lap Wednesday, so it was ok.  The primary goal was to manage my pace, heart rate, and exertion.  The first lap went off at a quick 9:45, the next two slid down precipitiously.  The speed laps, however, were all at a 2:00 pace, so I was satisfied with that.  Plus, the last mile and a half or so was run in pouring rain and through slushy muck, so even though I wasn't over heating I was still slogging through mud and blechiness.

Wednesday rolled around and I renewed the focus on pace above all.  Mile 1:  10:00.  Mile 2:  10:01.  Mile 3:  10:02.  I nailed it.  Of course, I cheated a bit on the third mile because I took it easy on the first half of that mile clocking a 5:30.  The next quarter I clawed back ten seconds from my target pace to put the total at 7:53, which allowed me to crush the final quarter at just over 2:09.  I counted that final quarter as my first penalty lap, and the makeup lap from Monday's workout.

So, in keeping with the "rules" I made up, because I was over my target of 24:00 by 4 portions of 2:00 intervals (24-26, 26-28, 28-30, 30+), I owed 4 more penalty laps.  These laps went at 1:54, 2:02, 2:01, and 1:54, which got me the :09 back from the first penalty lap at the end of the 3 miles.  All in all, a very, very good run for this point in my game.
Now that I'm running 2:00 quarters consistently, I'm going to change the rules.
For every 4:00 increment I'm off my pace, I'm going to owe a half mile penalty lap with a target time of 4:00.  If I can keep stringing these guys together, I should be able to hit my goal of an 8:00 mile.  If I can run a single 8:00 mile, then I can start tacking on additional quarters and push the long distance times down.  My last marathon chugged along at about 12:30 per mile.  I'm looking to shave--well, really more like amputate--2:30 off that time for my next marathon.  And really I'd like to trim about 3:30 off that time and notch a sub-4:00:00 marathon.  That won't get me into the money, but it will get me into Denny's before the lunch rush shows up.

THAT'S worth the effort.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The lifestyle

I read a phrase today that struck me as odd.  Haruki Marakami referred to himself running regularly and falling back into the "running lifestyle".  This is something I had never used that specific term to describe, but still was something I tended to avoid.  My preferred terminology was "Runner" versus "runner" versus "someone who runs".  I had personally travelled from "someone who runs" to "runner", but never dabbled into the realm of "Runner".  Those people are the ones who lived the "running lifestyle".  The guys at the smoothie shop knew their names.  The folks at the shoe stores knew their sizes and exactly how much they tended to pronate.  These were the folks who hung out in the running clubs, chatted together at the stretching platforms, and generally chilled in their running gear than hung ever so casually over their gaunt, skinny little runner bodies.  

These were, basically, folks that I didn't have the time to become.  Why?  Because I had other hobbies.  I have my garden.  I have my bike.  I have my classes.  I have my family.  I have other things to occupy my time that makes running as much imposition as it is a blessed escape from the general business of my everyday life.

But, then again, there's that "running lifestyle" that helps light the fire that burns the engine that allows those of us where are/were merely "people who run" to make that transition to "runner", or even "Runner".  Some people are born with it, others have to catch it from someone else.

So, now the thought has begun creeping into my mind, as I contemplate running either 3 or 6 miles this evening, do I want to turn that corner and allow myself to be drawn into the "running lifestyle", or do I want to continue to dabble my feet into the pond without ever really taking that plunge?  Honestly, I still don't know the answer.

But anyway, I've thought about the running performances over the last couple of weeks and realize that when I start breaking down toward the end of runs it's not because I'm tired.  I still have plenty of fuel in the tank, I'm just having trouble getting that fuel to the parts that make the locomotion happen.  It occurs to me that I may simply be overheating.  My heart rate may be running too high and the breathing, no matter how regular and steady, simply isn't keeping pace with the heart rate causing a general breakdown of the system.  I may have to go off and get a heart monitor, or simply learn how to take it just a tad bit easier on the front portion of my out-and-back runs.
Either way, I'm going to test the theory out today by attempting to better manager the heart rate and body heat as I run.  It won't be easy, on account of it being close to 5,000,000 degrees outside, but I'll see what I can do.  Maybe I'll figure this thing out afterall.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Speedwork day

Today will be a day of speedwork.  This week has been a week of declining performance and increasing times, and it's generally been a bummer.  The body has been fighting back, the diet has been a shambles, and pretty much everything has gone wrong.  I'm even feeling sore in my shins far, far ahead of when I should be feeling sore in the shins.

On the other hand, at this time last year I wasn't even tracking times yet, and when I did start tracking times I was a step slower (in July) than I am now.  So, even though I'm running slower than I'd like to, I'm still running better than I was last year.  So, I guess it's a good news/bad news sort of situation.

Nonetheless, I need a change of pace.  The various three mile workouts (3.0 and 3.6) I've been running the last couple of weeks are getting tedious.  My legs are getting achey.  Waa.  So, I'm going to start killing some speed workouts all next week.  Tonight, running's out of the question since I'm going to be home watching the rugrat on my own and leaving him upstarts sleeping while I go out for an hour long run is, for some strange reason, frowned upon.  Tomorrow, though, I may load him into the running trailer and go for a run with him.  That might be fun!

Anyway, blah blah blah...
I picked up a couple of new books that should be fun to read, too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The quest for 8 continues

I took in another 3.6 mile run last night, and the first half of the run was again a faster front half than the previous run's first half.  The run overall, however, was slightly slower than the previous outing, partly on account of pushing the pace a little too aggressively on the front half and partly on account of having a headwind for the front half.  I just pooped out on the back half of the run, even with a tail wind.

Nonetheless, I ran a little more than 1.75 miles at a 9:45/mile clip.  I suspect that if I went to a track this weekend and laid it out I could break 9:00 for a mile.  I feel the 8:00 mile is within reach by the end of next month.

Last night I was looking at a calendar and realized that in the month of January there are 3 marathons in the Houston area--1/1, 1/16, and 1/30.  Conceivably I could take a stab at running all three of them.  Something of a "Houston Trifecta".  Of course, for the 1/30 marathon I'd have to actually win a lottery now that the Chevron Houston Marathon has decided to switch to a lottery system rather than simply require their runners to stick to the registration guidelines (roll eyes).  Nonetheless, pulling off a feat like that--with no gu, gatorade, or other manufactured assistance--would be pretty impressive and merely prove that I don't exist.  

Because, as we all know from common knowledge, running is a punishment on the human body and you must feed it artificial garbage, ice it down, wrap it up, and medicate the hell out of it in order for it to be able to run 26.2 miles.

Unless,that is, you think common knowledge is simply wrong and believe that humans are, in fact, born to run.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Almost back to pre-hiatus form

I'm 9 days back from hiatusville.  In those 9 days I've taken in 4 runs, with 3 in a single week (and it will probably be 4 before the start of next week).
Last night's run was a quick little 3.6 mile jaunt from the homestead along our little river path.  It's a good run, but it's nothing exciting.  This weekend may feature a long run (for me) of about 13 miles.  It'll be slow, and agonizing, but it'll get finished, and at this stage that's what's important to me.

Meanwhile, the observations continue.
Last night and this morning, the legs were a little bit wobbly.  There was a point where I could barely maintain control of the muscles last night.  It wasn't entirely a bad thing, just curious.  I'm actually running at least as much now than I was prior to the Chevron Houston Half Marathon, but I was much stronger prior to the CHHM.  Either way, I expect the volume and distances to continue to rise.

On the appetite front, I'm surprised at how quickly that has turned over, too.  I'm ALWAYS hungry, but the cravings are for unusual stuff--at least for me.  Peanut butter, bread, milk, berries and fruits, chicken, leafy greens, eggs, grits, and beans beans beans are the fare that I am seriously wanting to cram down my gullet.  Burgers?  Not so much.  I even went out and bought some chia seeds for tea and gardening.  I may be off my culinary nut.

On the sleep/energy side of the equation...  After the late-ish run last night I showered and settled in for dinner (eggs, grits, milk) around 10pm.  Very late, you'd think.  The food didn't stand a chance.  Before the first commercial break the food was gone, as if it was never there.  I leaned back with the tall glass of milk and nearly passed out right then.  About 10:30 I got up to finish up some chores and clean up a few messes and hit the sack close to 11:30.  When 5:00am came around I was awake before the alarm and rejuvenated with energy I didn't know I had.  They say that with regular exercise and extensive physical exertion your body tends to recuperate and reenergize quicker, and you require less sleep.  The least healthy people actually require the most sleep.  And I remember from prior to the hiatus that I was actually getting less sleep and feeling better in the mornings than from when I had started running the summer prior.  What I wasn't expecting was that particular switch to be flipped quite so quickly.  I figured it'd be a few more weeks before my eyes were snapping open at 5:30 and my legs were getting all twitchy for the day to start.  

Of course, even with the extra energy this morning my legs were still a bit wobbly.  That switch won't be flipped for another few weeks, I'm sure.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The 8 minute mile

It's time to set out some performance goals.

Sure, I want to run farther and faster in general, because running is a primal function that helps me feel healthier.  But how much farther?  How much faster?  That's the thing.

As best I can remember I've never run an 8 minute mile.  I know what it feels like to run a 2 minute quarter, but not an 8 minute mile.

That's a good place to start.

Then, I want to run a 25 minute 5k.  That's right, a 25 minute 5k.  Because I don't know what that feels like, either.

And even more importantly than that, I think I can do both of those things before the end of this year.

And if I can do both of those before the end of the year, I can set my sights on a 50 minute 10k, and a 10 mile run in 1:10--which would be the 10 for Texas in October.

And then once I crest the 10 mile hill, I can start zeroing in on the 1:30 half marathon, and maybe start looking at a 3:00 full marathon.  I mean, why the hell not?

I think it's time I started seriously looking into running an 8:00 mile.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Barring any calamities

Today I'm looking at a 6 mile run, possibly in Memorial Park, possibly closer to home.  I'm not sure yet.  And that's if the weather and circumstance holds so that I can even pull it off.  I've discovered that if I head to the house first, the likelihood that I'll actually leave to go run is diminished.  On the other hand, when I do leave to go run, the likelihood that the run will be longer is greater than if I run before heading to the house.  It's as if I'll cut a run short in order to get home to the fam and tend to the homestead.  Alternatively, if I skip the run and head directly to tending to the homestead, if there's still energy (and will) after the chores are done, I'll bound out the front door and run for an extra few miles.  Of course, that is only if there's still energy and will (and daylight) to do so.  It's a very curious balancing act.

And speaking of balancing acts, lunch is a tricky thing to figure out.  Like I've already said, it's amazing how quickly the switches have been flipped once I started running again.  I ran the first mile back from hiatus on the 2nd, and the appetite cravings immediately changed gears.  The burger I choked down on Monday was a reluctant compromise with time, and I paid for it.  Since then I've wanted nothing to do with burgers, or much red meat at all.  I craved, and I mean CRAVED, a bean burrito yesterday--fuel food.  Today, I want only a chicken salad.  Yea, that's right, chicken salad.  That's the only thing I can think of right now.

Chicken salad.Chicken salad.Chicken salad.Chicken salad.Chicken salad.Chicken salad.Chicken salad.Chicken salad.Chicken salad.


The other balancing act that's a real challenge is the technology versus naturalism struggle.  With everything today, there's a gadget.  There's the music player, there's the "fuel belt", there's the specially formulated water product, there's the specially formulated carbo product, there's the specially formulated energy gel, there's the specially formulated shoes, there's the specially formulated socks...  pretty much anything and everything you could imagine you needed or wanted in order to make running easier and more expensive, there's a gadget for that.  It makes you wonder how our ancestors ever managed to find, hunt, chase, and kill a beast.  Occasionally I'll plug in the music player, but the less I carry, the better I feel.  Can a person run a 2:00 half marathon, in today's relatively comfortable society, without energy gels, fuel bars, or specially designed "gear"?  I'm not sure, but I'm determined to find out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Getting into the swing of things

I was thinking last week how odd it was that the switches would be flipped back on so quickly after a mere 1 mile run.  After Tuesday's quick run I was hungry, but not HUNGRY!!  On Wednesday there was a little more of a spring in my step, I didn't need/want as much coffee, and there was no craving for an afternoon sugary snack.  Then, come Wednesday night, the crash came and I was EXHAUSTED.  Completely and totally wiped out.  A very, very good, full body weariness decended over me and I completely shut off at a relatively early hour.
Thursday came bright and early and most of the spring was out of my step, the coffee craving had returned, but the afternoon sugar binge was still absent, but the old fuel lunch craving was back, rather than just food/filler lunch cravings.  It seemed like the engine had been stoked.  Right around 4:00pm the legs started twitching for a run.  Again, it seemed like the running switches had been flipped.

Then I got distracted by more important things and the twitchiness went away.  The drive home was hectic, dinner was a mess (I "had" to order pizza at 9:00pm, that I munched on for 4 days), and instead of being full-body-wiped-out, I was merely tired and wired.  What a crappy night.  Friday passed much the same way and I was just glad to slump into the couch when I got home to relax for a few minutes before the night life began.  We had a terrific night out with friends, but again, no running.  Had I gotten up in the morning I'd have been able to run, but the terrible Thursday precluded a Friday morning run.  These are the challenges that accompany having a real life and being a runner.  Of course, if I were a Runner (capital "R", big difference in my lexicon), the real life would accomodate itself to the running schedule and all things would be second to squeezing in a mile or twelve--but I'm not a Runner, nor do I aspire to be.  I am a runner by right of genetic and evolutionary history, and I am reclaiming that fact from the unnatural world that has been foisted on us.  But enough of the soap box talk...

Saturday morning started late after sleeping off the weight of the week.  A trip to the market, a rondezvous with friends, and a quick couple of chores later, the morning was complete and the running (which was never really committed to in the first place), was scuttled.  News, nap, and preparation for a deliciously natural and local dinner were made and we were on to Sunday.

Another late morning started with communing with my Lord in the garden and tending to chores around the homestead.  I might have been able to get a run in yesterday, but the flesh simply wasn't willing.  I'm not entirely sure the mind was particularly willing, either.  As amazing as it is that the running switches get flipped after a mere 1 mile primer run, it's equally amazing how quickly the switches get flipped back off.

Which brings us to Monday.  I pack the running bag in the morning with the specific intent of sneaking out of the office early to dash off to the park and get in the first significant run since February 28--the Cowtown Half Marathon.  It was an excruciating 3 miles (in 33:48), and I earned every agonizing minute of the run.  I had a bad breakfast followed by a TERRIBLE lunch and didn't hydrate nearly enough during the day.  

And just to put a cap on the run, because I was almost 4 minutes off the pace, I tacked on a pair of "penalty lap sprints" on the quarter mile loop.  These laps averaged 2:00 per lap, faster than any of the quarters I ran on the long run, and were a proper penance for my sloppy run.

Next scheduled run will be Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hiatus terminated

As of today, the hiatus is officially complete.  I will head home, then run this evening as the sun is setting.  Probably only about a mile, but it might be a full on 3.5 miles.  I haven't decided yet.  We'll have to see.

Now would be a good time to recap my running "strategy" and my approach to the whole thing.

First and foremost, running is not, and should not be, a strange suit we humans put on for the sake of fitness or a means to some other end.  Fitness, or body health, or whatever other end you seek to gain from running is not an end, but rather a by product of the act itself.  Running, in other words, IS the end.  We run because, evolutionarily speaking, we are runners.  Now, that's not to say that we all are Runners, because that is a state of mind.  But we are, as sure as we are humans, runners.  That's what separates us from the animals.  That is what makes us who we are.  Paleoanthropologically, it makes sense, too.  Running afforded us a steady source of meat that our slow witted cousins couldn't secure for themselves because they couldn't run like us.  They were left to sit back and bludgeon their prey to death and risk life and limb in close proximity to an injured beast that was more predator than prey.  Meanwhile, we could chase down swift beasts that were more accustomed to being prey until they dropped dead from exhaustion or slowed to the point where a point could be introduced to their bellies.  That is the essence of how we became what we became.  We run not because we wish to get fit, we get fit because we run, and we run because we are runners.  Only after we run can we then become a member of that strange tribe of people we call Runners.

Secondly, I have a general problem with authority.  Consequently I have trouble joining with running clubs and maintaining a running calendar.  I do maintain a running diary, of sorts, where I track my times and distances.  But that's about as disciplined as I get.  If I can't run today, I don't run today.  I'll pick up the miles later on, or I won't.  Either way, I'm not going to get heartbroken about it.

In the same vein, I have trouble buying into the "common wisdom" of typical running clubs, training programs, and the "you should" crowd.  Sure, I know I should eat certain foods and wear certain shoes, and go out at certain times, and maintain certain paces, and taper, and ice, and stretch, and blah blah blah.  I like to hear that stuff.  I really do.  No, SERIOUSLY, I do like to hear that stuff!!  I just don't abide by all that stuff and, quite honestly, don't care if you do, either.  If it works for you, go for it.  But it doesn't work for me.  Sure, maybe I would run a mile in only 9:34 instead of 9:38 if I did some minor tweak of this or that.  But 4 seconds?  Really?  I heard the same crap when I was cycling, too, that I should this and should that.  Bah.  Trimming off 4.8 grams of bike weight isn't going to make a whit of difference when you're pushing a pair of "C"s up a hill (as in, CC, as in 200 lbs).  Besides, gazelles don't taper.  Antelope don't go out for pace runs.  The rarimuri don't stretch or ice.  And if you're truly a runner, you should be able to run at 3:00pm or 5:00am, the position of the sun is just a coincidence.  Hell, Kenyans don't even WEAR shoes for the first 16 years of their life.

Finally, if I had to sum up the approach to running in just a few words, it'd be these:  just run.  Everything else is a result of that first principle.  Do you want to run a mile?  Just run.  5k?  Just run (a little farther).  Marathon?  Just run (a little farther still).  Ultra?  Just run (even further).  A 4 hour marathon?  Just run (a little faster).  Want to lose weight?  Just run.    Want to lose more weight?  Just run (a little more).  A lot of weight?  Just run (a lot more).  

It all starts there.
That's how it's always been.

Just run.

See you on the trails.