Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wind.... =:-P

Hills 'degrade' you but it's the wind that 'blows'

I'm generally a good sport about both, but not the 30mph steady / 40+ mph gusts that turn an 'easy / recovery' road bike ride into a suck-fest series of near track stands.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beaten with Hammers

Last Christmas we were at Paige's folk's house in Albuquerque. I had just come back from a long run and Paige's sister asked me, "So what does it feel like to be in really great shape?"

Now most of the time, I'm just focussed on what I need to do to get this 47 year old body (shah-dup!) to move as quickly as possible. Being fit is certainly a nice side effect, but it's not my focus. But it was a fair question that I hadn't considered before in itself.

After a little reflection I replied, "Perpetually fatigued".

Certainly part of my response was a little tongue in cheek, but there is some truth to it. If you want to run competitively, then every other day doesn't cut it. If you want to seriously contend with the other folks toeing up to the line, you need to be running five or six days per week - and often more than once (doubles) on some days to hit the kind of mileage that teaches your body how to run fast.

And that time needs to be structured. There is your long run, your tempo run, track / speed work, second long run and of course the recovery runs not to mention the stretching, core work and strength training (a.k.a. uphill barf sessions). Every week is a balance to ride right on that fine edge of being just recovered enough to complete the next workout safely and with quality. Allow too much recovery time, and you're missing opportunity to push your body to the next level. Too little, and you get sick, injured or just stranded in the no man's land of feeling flat. Self awareness is your best friend, but sometimes you can get fooled. In fact, generally when you are feeling like a rock star, a crash or injury is probably in your near future. It's cruel.

Everyone is different. For me though, I know that I'm pretty much right on target with a perfect training load when I'm feeling slightly fatigued every day, with a sprinkling of occasionally feeling like I've been beaten with hammers. (side note - IB Profen on those days is a no-no, it hampers recovery and rebuilding - so there is no relief from the suffering). Yeah, if I'm feeling like that, then I know I'm spot on.

In fact, if I didn't run for a few days I'd feel like a million dollars starting a run, upon which I would run flat and sluggish. All of my fastest and strongest runs have been when the first mile felt fatigued and a little sore. Your body's fatigue indicators tend to lag recovery. You feel fatigued a day or so longer than your body actually is fatigued. At least for me. I've been thinking about it for a bit and have no physiological explanation for it. But it's constantly true.

A buddy of mine that runs a little to keep in shape was doing a couple miles three times a week. I told him I could help him safely ramp that up a bit, and he said, "No thanks, those two miles are tough enough". I laughed, "Well, you'd be interested to know that for even those of us doing lots of miles per week, the hardest part of any run is the first couple miles. In fact, I don't start feeling smooth until about four miles" - I suspect that's universal. I just try to get through those first couple miles and I know it will feel better once I do.

The only exception to the constantly fatigued feeling is near the end of a taper for a race. To properly taper you cut mileage for about 2-3 weeks (for a significant race - practice races might only be prefaced by a 3 day taper). However, during a taper you still run fast workouts. You finish those feeling like a million dollars. You don't have to slowly weight your feet and ankles when you wake up. You don't creak. To the contrary, you feel like someone erased 10 years from your age.

But by the middle of the taper, you have a hard time sleeping. You have to watch your calories since your not burning as much and don't want to put on pounds prior to toeing up. You fight doubts about your ability to hit your pace for the whole race (because your long runs during the taper are comparatively short). And you cringe whenever someone coughs or sneezes near you - because getting sick will toss months of prep and taper into the dust bin. By the time you are in the starting corral, you are bouncing off the walls. You feel like an unpaired electron. In short, the taper is no picnic either. We runners are a sad lot indeed.

But then that gun goes off, and those first few miles are pure heaven. You have to fight to reel your pace back in so you dole out your energy properly through the race. You are hauling along like you were built for it. There is no effort, no worries. It's magical.

Of course if you run the race competitively, there will be pain. If your trying to run a PR, then there will be a little dry heaving near the end. And most assuredly, the next morning you'll feel like you've been beaten with hammers.

And when I wake up feeling like that, I couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"One step beyond...."

This morning I headed to the gym to turn an easy 3 miler on the treadmill as part of my split day - tonight I meet with my track group. Running an easy 3 miler doesn't require me to fully wake up before starting, so I'm not the most cognitive or aware of my surroundings that early - especially when it's snowy outside. I tend to move in a little bubble of haze.

So I hop on the treadmill and start getting ready to run when a voice calls, "Hey Kevin!" - it was Katie, a friend of mine and Paige's who was near the end of a similar type workout (she has track tonight too - with a different group). We just chatted for a bit while she finished her 5 miler. I don't run very often with other people, so it's a nice change and it made my first mile go by quickly.

Katie is an ultra-marathoner. For those of you that don't know what that is - it's someone that runs races that are longer than a marathon. Like 2x, 3x, 4x (you get the picture) longer. She's run the Leadville 100 and just finished a very fast Rocky Raccoon 100. She routinely runs 100+ mile weeks which include 'back-to-back' long runs - for example she just ran two 20 mile runs this past weekend.

How do I know all these specifics? Because I follow her blog (and you can too). She's at:
                                             http://runlongkatie.wordpress.com/

You should check out her blog. I always like following folks that are 'ultra' at anything. Whether it's running long distances, competing at a professional level, or adventure racing. It's amazing to me what the human body is capable of. Paige and I have talked that it must be built into your DNA to be an 'ultra' - but while I suspect that might help, I've surmised from reading Katie's blog that it's 90%+ hard work and dedication. In short - she's been running a long time and runs a lot - and I'm sure there are times when the last thing she wants to do is run. But she does.

She's pointed out what an inspiration it's been for her kids, and I think to have a parent like that has to drive home the point in a teenager of what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it, and how important hard work and commitment are in reaching your goals in life. IMHO - There are few life lessons as important.

I have no intention of ever becoming an 'ultra' marathoner. But I really enjoy following her training and reading about what it's like to run the Leadville 100. Paige and I like huddling around in the kitchen, drinking our morning coffee and and following her daughter's postings on her mom's progress in the Rocky Raccoon. I think you would too!


Oh yeah - the reason for the title of this post. So I was thinking on the way to work what that must be like to pass that 75 mile mark on a lonely trail and still have another 'marathon' to run to finish. I imagine it's like the very early hours of the morning, and your mind is playing all sorts of tricks on you. Synapses are cross-firing creating all sorts of associative 'chatter' where one thought bleeds into another and another... Do you remember that 'Madness' video of the song 'One Step Beyond' that features that goofy guy just bellowing the phrase in some ominous, reverb induced hallucinatory setting? Yeah - that's what I think I'd see floating over the trail... that scene from the video.. over, and over, and over again......

Anyway - shout-out to Katie and her blog. Definitely check it out. And good luck to her in her next ultra - the Collegiate Peaks 50 miler on May 7th!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crown Hill 3 Miler

Ran the Trophy Series 3 miler with my running club today (Rocky Mt. Road Runners).

Perfect racing weather - by the time the race started I had stripped down to just tights and a light long sleeved shirt. It's a handicapped race which means that based on your previous times you are given a start time delay - the goal being to have the slower runners start first / faster runners last / and have everyone finishing at the same time. It's motivational to have the pack actually thicken as the race progresses rather than the other way around.

I was shooting for splits of 6:30 / 6:25 / 6:20 - instead ran 6:24 / 6:35 / 6:34 - couldn't quite break a 6:30 pace, and I really gave it all I could. Checked in with my body several times during the race and the answer was the same; that's all we got baby. I passed lots of folks - including one younger guy that went out fast and passed me in the first mile (felt good about that). Only got passed by two rabbits at the end. I hooked on the second guys heels into the chute. I might have been able to out sprint him, but on a bike path width and a lot of folks in the finish area, that's just not cricket.

Afterward did a couple laps as a cool down through the park for a total of 10 miles for the day.

Crown Hill really is a beautiful park. Great place to run with paved trails, a couple lakes, a wildlife reserve, and a winding dirt trail throughout as well. 26th and Kipling for those that are local here.

Anywhoooo.... good day racing. Tomorrow is an 'off' day. Maybe do some yoga.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Entire State of Finely Tuned Microchips

So my sister recently commented that she and Brendan (her fiance) found the character Rob Lowe plays on "Parks and Rec" to be a dead on caricature of me. (actually, I'm not sure she even said 'caricature' ;-)

I've seen Parks and Rec before, but haven't watched it religiously, so I was curious to see why they thought that. I watched a couple episodes with Paige, specifically the one Kirsten recommended (Flu Season) and yeah... ok...

If you haven't seen the show, then here's a summary. Lowe plays this type-A runner / triathlete guy. He's very 'chatty' and always seems to be 'on' (and a little hyper). One funny line in the show is where he's telling his girlfriend (played by Rashida Jones):

“My body is finely tuned like a microchip, and the flu is like a grain of sand. It could literally shut down the entire system.”

There's another scene at the end where the day after enduring a near hallucinogenic bout with the flu, he turns down a ride to the office from the hospital - "just going to do a light 15K" because he 'missed yesterday'. Yeah, ok... I've done that - well, not from the hospital, but definitely the first day after being terribly sick, mostly because I felt I'd 'missed some days'. I've also made portabella mushroom burgers on the grille (another episode). Anyway - if you know me, you can watch the episode 'Flu Season' on line and tell me if their charges are justified. Honestly, there are worst characters to be likened to :-)

Anyway, it got me thinking. Part of what makes his character funny is that the show takes place in Pawnee - and near as I can tell, is pretty devoid of anyone else athletic (Amy Poehler's character is addicted to large quantities of waffles and another character is obsessed with maximizing his meat intake).

But I almost bet the Lowe's character is found to be much funnier *outside* of Colorado than it is to most residents here. Colorado is known for being a fairly active state. There are a lot of professional and elite athletes here and even more elite wanna-be's that would be shoe-ins for Lowe's character.

I was recently at a company function in St. Louis, and one of the jokes was about how 'all the Colorado folks were out late last night trying to climb the arch' (hah hah - anyone with any sense knows that all the Colorado folks were asleep by 9pm. If we intended to climb the arch, we would have just woke up just before day break to get a solid start on it :-)

But I get it. I travel enough that I see the contrasts. Honestly, sometimes I land in an airport (of cities that shall go nameless) and I'm like, "Whoah..... "

But when you live here, it's kind of a bubble with regard to that. We still have our own struggles in the state with smoking and weight management - but there is definitely a large group of what many in the country would consider 'exercise nut logs' - people that sit and watch Lowe's character and say, "Oh I get it - it's funny because his co-worker is still DRIVING to the office even though it's a nice day outside and missing an opportunity to boost his immune system and kick the flu to the curb" - in short, I think we'd miss the intended joke.

But I like it here, and I like being considered that kind of nut log. And I have lots of friends here that feel the same way. We live here almost precisely because we know it's more acceptable to run in 20 degree weather while it's snowing.. on Thanksgiving morning (so you can eat more guilt free at dinner of course!)

I like that if I'm out in a pouring downpour and a 40 mph cross wind, and pass another runner - we'll just smile at each other and both of us will be thinking the same thing, "This is A-W-E-S-O-M-E (in a twisted kind of way)"

So, no - I don't think we are all finely tuned microchips here. But we do like to tinker. Tomorrow I'm 'tinkering' with a 2 mile warm-up, a 3 mile race and an easy 5 mile cool-down - wish me luck!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Zowwie Batman - time flies.....some techno stuff....

Sorry all for the dearth of posts lately. I just realized that I haven't written anything in a while - pretty much since I returned from Orlando over two weeks ago! Blame it on the blender I stepped back into upon my return. Seems it automatically flips to 'Frappe' whenever I step away from work for a little while..... wouldn't have it any other way though :-)

The past couple weeks have been great running wise. I got a nice boost from running fast at sea level. First thing my coach had me doing upon my return was to take a recovery week. No real fast running, long run was like 12 miles or something... like a vacation. But by the end of the week I was bouncing off the walls to get working again.

Last week I got my wish. Thursday's workout was tough baby. 10 miler with 3x1 mile repeats at 6:50 / 6:30 / 6:20 target pace - 1 min recovery in between. Well, I hit 6:45 / 6:27 / 6:27 - what happened on the last one you ask? Well, I think it was a tactical mistake. The hill profile was down for 1/2 mile and then up for a 1/2 mile. I held back a little on the descent and ran it at 6:15. But couldn't put out the watts on the climb, went into O2 debt at the 3/4 mark and then it was all over. Had a 'seeing Elvis' moment (i.e. that's when your brain is running on CO2 rather than O2. Better tactic and I think I would have hit it. Live and learn.

Track season started on Tuesday night. Had done an easy 3 miler that morning. Our session was basically a baseline 2 mile TT (time trial). I ran by 'feel' and felt really relaxed throughout. Was happy to hit a 6:24 / 6:29 - I absolutely could of hit a negative split if I was watching my laps a little closer. But I really wanted to see what my 5K 'by feel' pace felt like. That's pretty close to my 6:20 target.

Thursday was a fun 10 miler with 3x6 min progressions (each 2 mins got faster).

Now it's coasting for a 3 mile race this Sunday (part of the running club I belong to -  Trophy Series). My goal is to split 6:30 / 6:25 / 6:20 if I can.

It's funny - at the start of the year I had a 'mental block' with anything faster than 7:00 pace. If it had a '6' in the first digit, I was intimidated just thinking about it. I love my coach Maureen - she just got me running all these '6' paces and at track I told her my new mental block is 6:30 (which sounds do-able, but 6:25 sounds wicked fast to my head).

Anywhooo... sorry for all the techno-talk. But I'm pretty giddy right now about my running and I just kinda wrote this stream of consciousness. I feel really fluid and smooth, even at speed. I'll enjoy it while it lasts!!

Beep beep.

PS - I have a couple 'deep thoughts' type stuff cooking so I'll try to catch up a little this weekend with some posts that don't have any numbers in them.