Monday, May 30, 2011

Bolder Boulder 2011

Ran the Bolder Boulder today! It's a race I've been trying to run for the past several years, but something always seemed to come up (translation: I never just committed and did it ;-)

It's the first time I've run the course. It's a tough 10K (IMHO) since the first 4 miles are mostly uphill. I mean - there are some downhills here and there, but my thinking on the course was constantly, "Uhhh... so when does this go down again?" - The hills aren't steep, but they just keep coming. And I know the neighborhoods there pretty well (I lived there going to grad school) - so every time we'd make a certain turn, I kind of knew what that section was like.

My hamstring held up pretty good, although it started to ache a little around mile 3 or so - but never really got worse. I just kept an eye on it. Just speed and hills I think. And it's still on the mend. They take a while. Don't think it really cost me anything - maybe a 15 seconds or so overall on the last mile. It's a pretty good couple hills into Folsom stadium, and I held back a little out of just common sense. Not worth it to re-injure that puppy.

I was a little bummed at my time 42:49:69 - I expected to run at *least* a minute faster. But I probably put the bar a little high, not knowing the course. I ran smart and didn't go out to fast. Started to pick it up in the second mile or so - but those hills wore on me.

When I looked at my results though, I saw that I placed 15th out of 369 in my division (and 863 out of over 23,000 men overall) - I started to feel like maybe I had run a pretty respectable race. Wrote down some training notes - mostly hills and LT work.

Overall - it was a really fun race to run. The field is so big and so strong (and you go off in tight timing waves) - so you are always running in a pack. There's a lot of energy and it's big fun.

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Side note: I now am registered for the California International Marathon on 12/4/2011 (Sacramento). It's a fast, sea level course - so my goal is to run sub-3. We'll see how it goes. Also going to run a couple 1/2s (Georgetown on 8/13 and Denver on 10/9). Will also want to throw in some other races - especially a 10K - would really like to break 40 minutes at that distance!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Using RSS feeds to have blog posts published to your mailbox - without 'following' or 'subscribing' directly to the blog

This post isn't about running or even sports.

This is a post I wrote a while back on a private family blog. People seemed to find it useful, so here it is in a public location:

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Problem: You like to read from a bunch of different blogs, but think it’s a pain to keep checking them to see when someone posts something. And you don’t necessarily want to ‘follow’ the blog (which involves you giving up some personal information and / or having to create a profile) / or you just don’t want blog postings cluttering up your eMail.
What you’d really like: Is to have all the postings from all blogs, delivered to a single ‘reader’ – consolidated so you can catch up on the ‘news’ from each blog you want to keep in touch with. One spot to check.
Solution(s): The essence of what you are looking for is called an ‘RSS Feed’ (for Really Simple Syndication – no, I’m not kidding). And it’s just what it sounds like. It’s a standard for sending content from one place to another. There are other variations / standards like Atom – but you don’t have to worry about the nitty gritty to use them.  All you have to remember is the following picture:



How to do it: There are two basic steps:
  1. Decide on a ‘Reader’ tool. This is the tool that aggregates all of your feeds together.
  2. Add all your feeds to the tool.

Step 1 - there are a lot of ‘Reader’ tools out there. Some are free, some you pay for. They come in a variety of types:
  •  Stand-alone applications that you run on your computer
  • Apps that can run on your iPad / iPhone / Black Berry (visit the app store for each)
  • Plug-ins for your browser (www.feedly.com for Firefox is a good one)
  • Web based readers like Google Reader (www.google.com/reader)
  • RSS Reader Applets for portal pages like iGoogle and myYahoo
  • Readers that are built-in to apps you already use – like LiveMail, Thunderbird (my personal choice these days on Windows) and AppleMail)
The best thing is to play around with a few different readers. You can use many different ones on many different computers all at the same time. I routinely use LiveMail’s built in reader, a Google Reader applet on my iGoogle page, AppleMail on my iPad and RSS Feeder on my iPad. It just depends on where I’m at and what I’m doing – they are not mutually exclusive.  You can also play around with different ones out there until you find one that works best for you.


Step 2 – Subscribe your Feed tool to the blogs and news you want to follow. Note that ‘subscribing’ to a feed is different than ‘following’ a feed. Unlike following, subscribing is a fairly anonymous process. You don’t have to follow the blog, or even have a login on the blog hosting site. To subscribe, all you need is the ‘feed’ URL. To find this, look for the ‘Internet-ional’ icon for feeds:




If a blog or news site offers a ‘feed’ then it will be on or near the above icon. What you are looking for is a URL that you can then enter into your ‘feed’ tool that you’ve chosen to subscribe to the feed. For example, on my blog (http://mo-kenyan.blogspot.com) – you would see the following on the left hand side:

 
Generally you can subscribe to just the blog – or to the blog, plus all comments made to postings. It’s up to you. Let’s say you just want to subscribe to the ‘Posts’ – clicking on the ‘Posts’ feed icon, you would get:


Many sites offer the ability to automatically tell the ‘tool’ to subscribe to this feed. For example, if you are using ‘Google Reader’, then you’d click the “Add to Google” and it would automatically subscribe that reader to the postings made to my blog.

If you don’t see your tool listed (for example: LiveMail) – then you’ll need to get the URL and enter it manually into the tool. An easy way to get the URL is to hover the cursor over ‘Atom’. In your browsers status bar at the bottom, you’ll see the URL. Or, even easier – you cal click on the ‘Atom’ and it will take you to the ‘feed’ URL. In this case: http://mo-kenyan.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

You then just copy and paste this URL into your ‘feed’ tool that you are using. For example, if you’re using Windows LiveMail, then you would go to the Feeds window in Windows Live Mail and click the Feed button in the upper left corner. You’d get a pop-up that would look like this:



Once you do that, you’ll start getting your ‘feeds’ at regular intervals from all the blogs you’ve subscribed to. Each reader generally has a way to configure how often it ‘checks’ all your feeds for updates. Usually the default is daily, but you can change that.


Finally – one final note. Many tools are integrated into each other depending on the relationship of the tool providers. For example, subscribing to feeds in Google Reader will make them available automatically in other readers like the iGoogle applet. Similarly, subscribing in LiveMail will automatically add them to your feed list in Internet Explorer. I just mention this because it can be a little maddening sometimes to see feeds showing up in different readers and you think, “How did it know?” 

So that’s it. I didn’t try to make this an exhaustive discussion on feeds, or even a comprehensive tutorial. There are a lot of those out there. I just thought everyone might find this useful as a way to get started.
For further reading, search for “RSS Tutorial” and you’ll get a big list of additional reading to whatever depth your heart desires.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oh happy days...

So last week was a pretty intense week - not so much mileage wise (~47 miles), but more intensity wise. There were a lot of pacing runs, I overdid it a bit on my cycling commute on Friday (Woohoo and ended up feeling it by Sunday). But overall hit all my paces and feel pretty much at about 95%.

The hamstring is still 'there' - but it's more just telling me to keep an eye on my form and not overstride. I can push it to nearly my VO2max, but just need to keep it smooth and fluid.

Last night at the track I was running in-and-out 200m's over 2 1/2 miles. Basically it's 200m at 5K pace, then 200m at 10K pace - over and over. It teaches you to surge and then recover from slight O2 debt at speed instead of slowing. I used to do something similar on the bike - but this was my first time doing it formally at the track, running. I really liked this workout - 10 repeats.

The hardest thing about this workout (for me) was that, when I'm running fast - I like to settle into a pace and zone out. Changing it up every 200m was just too much of  a reminder of the discomfort and it's hard to put that aside. My coach told me that part of the intent of the workout was to demonstrate why it's actually harder to run a varied pace like that as opposed to settling in. I agree! I like to focus on other things at speed, like my conversations with Elvis (fyi - 'Seeing Elvis' is cycling slang for hurting on a climb, as in; "Yeah, on those last two switch backs and the kick to the finish I was 'seeing Elvis'"

My paces were really strong - limitations were in my lungs, not my hamstring. I finished them strong and actually felt like I could have probably amp'd it a bit more or done a couple more - which is always a good feeling.

This morning no soreness (in my hamstring) when I did a 5 miler on the 'mill. Then I did some upper body lifting. Felt really good by the end of the 5 miler - like it loosened me up and put energy back in the tank.

This week is going to be a little recovery week (I begged my coach and cried uncle on the intensity). I just felt so freakin' dead on Sunday's run until about the 5 mile mark. Hit my paces fine, but man - I was feeling beat. Generally it only takes me 2 miles, max to feel loosened up. So backing off a bit will be a very good thing!

Anywhooo - thanks for all the support I received from everyone! Glad to be feeling strong and ready for Bolder Boulder!

Happy Days....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We *get* to run...


There was a good editorial in this months Running Times magazine. Basically the gist of the article was about how we often forget that most of us are running for 'fun'. We don't make our livings at it, and there isn't really anything riding on any single race or event except for our own pride and self-set goals. Yest sometimes we stress and obsess over our plan like we're inches away from an Olympic qualifier and a shot at the gold.

The article refocused on why we run - that basically, we run for 'fun'.

Even recreational competitive runners who structure our lives around training and suffer through dry-heave hill repeats, lonely long runs in the dark, stressing in traffic to try and make our track group meet, cold rain and upper middle marathon miles where everything aches - essentially, we are doing it for our own enjoyment.

A stranger really drove home that today for me with a single comment.

It's been a stressful last few days; work-wise. Good stuff, but lots of things going on and problems popping up that need attending to. One of those streams of, "You have *got* to be kidding!" - like some freakin' Greek tragedy.

Today was particularly compressed. I was worried I wouldn't be able to run today. Even until the last second, dressing into my running gear while on one conference call, taking one final call - hoping it wasn't going to go sideways and turn into another hour and blow my window to run. When the call ended I looked at my watch - perfect, I could just make it if I trimmed my run down to a 6 miler. So out the door I sped before anything else could go blip on the radar.

It started raining almost immediately. Cold dreary rain and a cold breeze. On another day, I might have been griping inside, but not today. I was so freakin' happy that it had worked out, I didn't care. Of course it started raining harder. Loved it.

2 miles into the run, I'm feeling warm even though I'm getting pretty drenched. I pass this elderly lady out getting her mail. She gives me the biggest smile and says, "It's so nice to run in this cool rain, isn't it?"

I instantly thought, "She gets it. She understands. Somewhere, her life experiences had lined up to give her an outlook that everyone should have" - With a big warm smile I replied, "It's awesome. And hey, last I checked, I'm waterproof". She laughed and waved. It made my day.

I got to run today. :-)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Good Solid Weeks and Some Restructuring to Keep it That Way!

So a few weeks back, I ganked* my hamstring. I've spent the past few weeks attending to slowly rehabbing it while trying desperately not to lose fitness, or my wits.

I'm happy to report that I just logged a 46 mile week on top of a couple of 40's and things seem to be progressively on the right track. This past Tuesday I ran a couple mile repeats in the 6:40's with an 800 on the tail end. It was chattering a bit, but the warning allowed me to back off at the right time. Then a couple days later I ran 4x1 mile repeats at 7:10, 7:00, 6:50 and 6:40 with no complaining from the little bugger. And it's been quiet since.
I also think the attention to stretching as well as the couple of very 'beat the crap out of me' massages in the past couple weeks have also helped it along.

This weekend I ran an 8mi recovery on Sat and then a 14.5 miler today (at a pretty relaxed pace - although I was able to push it on the hills with no problems). The only thing that really was slowing me down was the freakin' heat - 80+ degrees - what happened to the Spring?

One thing I've been thinking and playing around with was changing up my training schedule at a macro level. I read time and time again that for masters runners (shaahh-dup), you're better off mixing in some cross training and not just packing on the miles - at least if you're tossing in a bunch of speed work. Even though I can regurgitate that thought to anyone that would listen, I had a rough time listening to it myself. I'm just stubborn  and wanting to run solid 70's week after week after week - with little due to the realities of my age. I also had this ongoing promise to devote some time to core and upper body strength work.... which also kept getting put on the back burner.

So in the past weeks, I kind of was forced into some cross training and the much neglected strength work, and it's really been working well for me. Huh... I guess it really does work. Brilliant.

So my new weekly schedule now replaces my 6th day of running with a cycling commute day (that's 2x18 mile rides) - I know that doesn't sound like a 'recovery' day, but because I cycled / raced a lot in my previous life, I can rest on those laurels built up over the years. It works for me.

I've also been incorporating some upper body / core strength workouts as well as going to get regular (every 4-6 weeks) on sports massage. Also went back to the ice bath after my long run today. Once you get past the shock, it really does help in the recovery. After I got out I felt like I was floating above my feet - no soreness from the hilly long run today (in the heat).

I hoping for a multi-dimensional improvement from the above:

1. Better quality runs with less risk of injury
2. Ability to have fun on the bike.
3. A little more well rounded of an athlete (i.e. upper body)
4. Faster

We'll see, but so far - it's had a very positive effect over the past 5 weeks, so I'm pretty stoked that I'm on to something.... yeah, I know..... I've 'discovered' something that people have been telling me all along... but let's not dwell on that - ok?

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*yes - I know it's an improper use of the word 'gank' - most urban dictionaries assign it the most common meaning of 'to steal'. But I've always used it to mean that I messed something up. It's one of those words that just 'sounds' like the meaning you intend... like 'splat' or 'wanker'. Besides, 'to steal' already has enough cool synonyms such as; lift, pilfer, pinch and nick (my favorite - it sounds coolest when Keith Richards says it). So there you go - from here on out, when I use the word 'gank', it means that I tweaked something to the point of it being messed up for a while.







Friday, May 6, 2011

Hairless Chihuahua's, Unicorns and the Battering of the Male Ego...

Just got my latest issue of Runner’s World, and the cover shot has inspired me to write about a great hoax that has been become more and more present in the media. The absurdity is along the same lines as the improper body image promoted by paper thin fashion models living on cigarettes and rice cakes, barely able to even stand up on their own stick figure legs and starlets whose ageless faces and body proportions are not physically possible without medical assistance and an overflowing bag of polymer.

I’m speaking of course about the pop culture phenomenon (and unicorn like reality) better known as the hairless male.

Now I’m not advocating a completely, 'unattended-to' look. No one here is advocating the Chuck Norris fully Yeti body suit (circa Return of the Dragon), or the unkempt eyebrows of Earnest Borgnine. Tim Gunn routinely points out that all men should attend to some level of personal grooming because for god’s sake – you’re an *animal*.

And I let the Abercrombie & Fitch billboards adorning the mall store windows slide, because let’s be real: those guys haven’t yet entered puberty, in the same way that most Victoria Secret models have not yet celebrated a birthday that didn’t include a Disney cartoon themed cake, nor given birth, nor by the looks of it ever eaten a meal that included anything more substantial than ½ a carrot stick and a few extra gulps of air.

But I draw the line when I see a guy in his late 20’s to early 30’s, with thick black wavy hair, bushy eyebrows, and absolutely NO body hair what so ever…. Well – at least as visible in a pair of running shorts and shoes, which as far as I shudder to speculate. And with stats like “He runs 25 miles per week and is hoping to run his first marathon soon” – it’s clear that it’s not his running stats that landed him on the cover.
And ladies – I get it. You are absolutely right in pointing out that long ago you lost the right to let nature rule when it comes to your armpits, legs and eyebrows. But we’re talking about a whole lot more real estate here. I mean - we’re guys. We’re covered with hair. These male models are missing more than leg and armpit hair. 
They look like a Chihuahua  that fell into the concentrated vat at the Nair factory. 

And another thing ladies - we guys are not genetically built for the pain of waxing. C’mon, you’ve seen us when we have a mild cold. We have no natural defense mechanisms. We’re not supposed to even flinch during a waxing session – let alone sob uncontrollably. Yes, I haven’t personally gone through a waxing session, but…..I do understand the basic principle behind waxing and I’ve experienced pulling a band-aid off – I can pretty much extrapolate from there. Forget water-boarding – I’d give up my ATM PIN and admit that I’m the major culprit of not replacing the empty toilet paper roll before the wax even got to room temperature!

So for god’s sake, let’s stop glorifying the fictitious hairless male. Frankly, our egos can’t compete with that. We're still getting over the fact that none of us can EVER look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club... In fact, I'm pretty convinced that Brad Pitt can't even look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club (but that might just my defense mechanisms kicking in).

And finally ladies - one final appeal to your selfish side: do you really want to find yourselves waiting in line behind a bunch of sweaty, hairy Chewbacca like neanderthals, reeking of Polo and Lagerfeld the next time you show up for your waxing appointment? - I'm just sayin'....