Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

Reflection on a year.

Last year I ran my first 5k on Thanksgiving.  It was an awesome wintry day.  The temperature was in the mid-teens and the snow was falling once again, we had already had several inches at this point.  The farthest I had run continuously to this point was probably 2.5 miles.  But I went out with the knowledge that I would run as much as I could for as long as I could.  I ran the whole 5k during that Turkey Trot, so it holds a special place for me when it comes to running, an accomplishment that I didn't think I could reach (or know where I was going as a runner). 

Forward to today.  The weather couldn't have been more different, temps in the low-40s, sunny, beautiful morning for a fun run.  There were more people out for this year's event, dressed from the obvious, turkeys, to Fred Flintstone, barefoot an all.  With the added people, the start was slow, but as my friend and I moved out (almost half way through) we found a groove and settled into a quick pace.  It isn't a timed event, so I only have the Run Keeper App to go by (27:41).  And it was really over too quickly.  Afterwards, my friend and his lovely family came over for a post race, pre-Thanksgiving, breakfast.  It was a nice way to kick off the holiday.

The Reflection/Thanksgiving Part -

- I am thankful for finding the Loop.  This place has been more than just a place to share triumphs and tribulations in running, but those things which are important in life.  A place to gather and share information.  Most importantly a place to ramble on about running and not be looked at completely crazed.

- I am amazed at the changes a body can go through in such a short amount of time.  I have completed 3 timed Half-Marathons, and long runs of up to 18 miles.  I had no idea that my body, or mind, was capable of that when I started August 2010.  The transition from 5k to half-marathon and beyond has been amazing.

- I am thankful for a pair of running buddies, that put up with my crazy antics, and who have probably drank the kool-aid, when it comes to doing a marathon with me next summer.  I have one convinced to do the San Francisco Marathon with me, and the other is 75% in.  They are great people.

- I am thankful to be here in this great country...I was able to get up and go for a run this morning, then spend the rest of the day with my wife and kids, then have a great dinner with my dad.  I am blessed to be able to do all of these things.

- My super supportive wife.  Who takes care of both my sons without complaint.  She is totally behind my running, and is amazing about it, even when I have 2+ hour runs scheduled.  Or when I suggest running a marathon out of state (though she has already started organizing and planning for the trip).  She tolerates a great deal, and for that I am thankful, and love her with all my heart.

I could probably go on and on but I will leave it at that for the time being.  I hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving and enjoy the time with your family and friends this weekend.  Remember to have fun out there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The First Snow

Well, as it turns out that snow was going to stick.

Saturday morning it started to snow.   Just a light dusting that was mostly sticking to the grass and foliage scattered across the landscape.   At first I wasn't too concerned that the snow would be sticking around.   Shortly after having this thought the snow picked up and was coming down in one of those thick, heavy, wet snows.   And it seemed to last for a few hours at this rate.   And after a few hours of what seemed like heavy snow, we were left with about 1 or 1.5 inches of snow, enough to make snowmen, or an arsenal of snowballs, but not enough to derail driving or running plans.

 I made a pile of snowballs for my 3-year old to hurl at the fence.

It still feels like snow, but the forecast is for warm temperatures and clear skies for the upcoming holiday.   I got two runs in this weekend, one Friday night after work with my running buddies.   We met up at G's house to set off for a quick 5 mile loop, well for G and M.   Since I live a mile away I use it as a warm up and get in 7 miles.   M shows up at 4:30 and we all take off for the 5 miles around the lakes neighborhood.   We ended up short circuiting the run, because of a bathroom need, so it ended up being a 4.3 miles for them and 6.4 for me.   It was a nice run as the sun set and the temperatures dropped.

Saturday I was going to try to get out for a quick 3 miles just to grab miles, but by the time I made breakfast and started getting the 3-yo ready for basketball practice it was practically too late.   My wife and her friend took off to go to a craft show and left me in charge of the two kids and the afore mentioned basketball practice.   By the time we were all done with that, it was snowing pretty heavily and my desire to run had waned a touch, so, I played in the snow with my 3-yo in the afternoon instead, a good trade I think.

Sunday morning I met with my friend G at my place to tackle an 8 mile loop around the two neighborhoods.   The sidewalks were mostly cleared, and the city had put ice melt on the roads and paths so the footing was nice and easy on what could have been slick road surfacs.  It was a really nice run, but for some reason it left me dragging the rest of the day.   I haven't felt that tired after a non-race run in a while.   Spent the rest of the day cleaning up around the house, watching a bit of TV and trying to relax.   When I finally got a free minute yesterday afternoon I thought about all the peeps doing Philly and wondered how they had all done.   I will be looking for the RR Bloops today and tomorrow.

Today is going to be a rest day in hopes of cleaning out the brain and getting ready for a fun Thanksgiving week.   Right now I am really thankful that tomorrow is the last day of the work week for me.   Remember to have fun out there you guys.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trukey Trotting (Or How I will Spend Thanksgiving Morning)

Yesterday was tiring.   I was up early so that I could get into work early.   The deal I have with my boss is that if I have basketball games then I need to come in early to make up for leaving early.   No problems with that, though most of the day was spent in anticipation of getting back out on the basketball court to referee.  Needless to say that I was raring to go at 3 yesterday afternoon for the games at 4. Last year I joined the association about half way through the season, and without much in the way of training (read: None), I was thrown to the wolves as an unsuspecting newbie.   But, I know the game well and really enjoy officiating so I stuck with it.   I even finished the season with a great game with a long time official in the association, turns out there is a way to get that 'high' without running.

Last night I got to get back into the swing of things a bit easier, by doing Middle School ball.   Again, as the association is emphasizing growth and bringing in younger officials, I was paired with a more veteran guy for a pair of B team games.   These are nice relaxing (in the loosest sense of the word) games, because you get to let these kids play and only really have to call the obvious stuff.   Now, I know what you are thinking, how does this relate to running, heck how does this even relate to Turkey?

Now, the reason I really got into basketball last season was a means of staying active, and running so I wasn't outside in 15* weather.   I now realize its potential for short speed sessions  Last night's games are classic games, you get going with the teams easing in and testing one another out, then suddenly you get a minute of fast breaks with the kids sprinting the floor back and forth, with the officials covering about 3/4 of court on those.   I love it, you get the sprinting, the leisurely jog down the court, the ambling walk, then back to the sprinting.   In the end, between enjoying returning something to the kids (it is about them after all) and the forced running (I didn't do 'miles' because I had basketball) I think it is win-win.

Ok, Ok, Ok, I realize that I still haven't talked about turkey.   In case you were unaware, America's most beloved tradition is next week.   I am, of course, referring to Turkey Trots, and you thought I was going to say something about Thanksgiving, huge feasts, and football.   Yesterday, I signed up for the local Turkey Trot, all proceeds go to the local Red Cross, not as good as donating blood, but it is something none the less.
  The race is a nice little 5k down in one of the local parks, one of my running buddies is planning on running with me, then we are going to go and get some breakfast before heading home for family dinners (I guess if I want to have breakfast and dinner I might want to stretch that 5k into a 6 miler or so).

Sunday, I went out with both running partners.   One completed his first 10 mile run ever, while the other (who ran the marathon relay with me) managed to push on his sore knee and is feeling better about his upcoming Seattle Half in 10 days.   It was a nice run, the weather was gorgeous, a beautiful fall run.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Froze My...

Facial hair off.  I so very rarely post pictures that I thought this one might be worth sharing. Its not the best as I took it myself.

If you look closely enough you will notice that there is ICE on my facial hair.

Me-This morning after my 7 mile run.

Once a week I like to meet up with my friend and run around his neighborhood with his pup.  This morning was that run.  I took off from my place at 7:10 AM in what I am guessing was about 25* temps.  I say guess, because my phone couldn't decide if it was 22* or 29*, so I am going with 25.  Anyway, it is a mile over to his house, which is a really nice warm up mile.  I get there and he and his pup get ready, and we set off for our 5 mile loop.  The important thing to note about this morning's run was that it was foggy.  Not so foggy that you couldn't see three feet in front of you, just foggy.  I didn't really occur to me that the fog and cold temps could possibly lead to freezing water on any hair.  But after we completed the 5 mile loop I noticed that my friend had ice crystals on his hair (I had originally assumed from sweat).  Then he pointed out the ice on my beard.  Well, on the mile cool down back to my house it hit me.  Between the fog and the cold weather I had ice on my face.  All said and done, a nice, but cold, 7.15 mile run in 1:02:50.

As for the PF, I can't decide if the shoes are to blame or not, so for the time being, if they are causing increased soreness in the foot, I will wear them and get the most miles I can in them.  If it really is this particular pair of shoes, I will retire them (sad times) and go off in their red counterparts.  But, right now the PF isn't really bothering me so something is working.

Again, I thought this interesting enough to share.  A quick shout out to the Veterans of our great country for making all this possible.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Self Diagnosis

Monday I announced my winter goals - add days to my running week, lose weight, and maintain fitness.   As part of this plan I am forcing myself out of bed when the alarm clock goes off in the morning to get in the 30-45 minutes of exercise I need.   So yesterday I did just that.   I awoke with the screeching of the ill-tempered alarm clock, and managed to shuffle my way out to the living room.   In the living room, I turned on the Wii and the TV, only to receive the blinding white of the Wii Fit game.   It was very hard to adjust the morning eyes to the total whiteness of the TV screen.  I use the Wii Fit as a scale, since we don't have a working scale in the house.

Now for those of you who don't have or have never used the Wii Fit, let me tell you a bit about it.   The balance board is just that, a 20" long by 12.5" wide board.   It is pretty neat.   Anyway, I get on, and select my avatar, a much shorter bobble head version of myself ready to get a weigh in done and head out for a run.  Once you get the board all warmed up it goes through standard stuff, like how heavy are the clothes you are wearing? Then it is ready to weigh you.   You stand on it for about 10 seconds, which gives you the weight, then it does a balance check to see if you are favoring one side over the other.   Two things to note during this time.   First, I am sitting at 203, which is a bit heavier than I was this summer, but not bad news as at least I am hovering around 200 pounds.   The second, that my balance was shifted to the right.   In my sleep filled fog yesterday I thought that this might mean something, usually that my lower back is misaligned, but I seem to be missing other signs and symptoms that go along with that.   This is the first instance of self-diagnosis, could my back be out?

Then I quickly grab the headlamp, the tights and a long sleeve tech shirt and head out for the morning run.   Let's get at least 4 in this morning and see how we feel, it has been a week since I last ran after all.   I am in my oldest set of shoes, but feeling pretty good as I start out in the sub-30 temps.   It was almost a mile and a half before I felt truly warmed up to the run, but there was something pleasant about the early AM run in the dark, being able to see my breath, it was relaxing.   I got the 4 miles in and felt pretty good about the whole thing, got cleaned up and went to work.

It wasn't until later at work that I noticed something was off. My left heel was killing me.   Every time I would get up from my desk my foot was sore, felt like needles stabbing the bottom of my foot.   So after lunch with my family, I decided to start doing some internet research on potential causes/problems.   I have felt for the longest time that I have a bit of Plantar Fasciitis.  Which is probably true, the heel is sore first thing in the morning, and gets better once I run on it and warm it up.   But I spent the better part of yesterday worrying that the issue might be more than just simple inflamed tissue on my foot.   What if it is a stress fracture, what if, what if, what if?

So needless to say, last night I went home, got a water bottle ice pack (a nifty cylindrical tube) out of the freezer and used it to roll my foot over repeatedly for a while.   I also spent some time doing stretches in hopes that I could work out any stiffness in the foot.   Needless to say, I sat around doing as little as possible with the foot hoping that the problem is the Plantar Fascia and that it would start to get better with stretching and ice.

That brings us to today.   I awoke, got ready quickly, and left for work so that I could get to training this morning.   It was about halfway from the car to the training building that I realized that my foot wasn't bothering me.   Now, being an engineer I felt it might be beneficial to run a test to see what the cause might be.   The best way to do that? Run.   So after training, I decide to use the extra time in my day to get home and get a quick 5 miles in.   There was nobody home, which alleviates the 'don't go for a run, stay with me daddy" that I usually get from my 3 year old.   I got to thinking that it might be the shoes I wore yesterday so I decide to switch over to my other set of Ghost 3s.  I set out for those 5 miles.   I am happy to report, that after 5 miles, I have no heel pain today.

From this I draw the following conclusions:   The lack of running last week may have been the cause of the pain.   The old shoes may be the cause, but I owe them another run to see if they are the problem (there are only 260 miles on them, so I bet it was the former).  Last, I probably do have a bit of Plantar Fascists, and the best way to go is to continue stretching (which I did after the run today) and icing (which I will do tonight after work) to help ease the inflamation.

So I feel like I am off to a good start with 9 great miles so far, I might actually do a bit of cross-training tomorrow.   Remember to have fun out there guys!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Winter Maintenance, Marathon Training, and some Loop Questions

I last ran a whopping 6 days ago.   Last Tuesday to be precise.   That was a tough 5.5 mile run at that.   The run was just two days after my fastest half yet, at 1:49:02.  I followed up that race, by running 3.6 miles as soon as I got home that Sunday  Needless to say the Tuesday run was hard, even at an easy 9m/m pace.   Both my friend and I felt as if we were moving a bit too fast.   So I didn't really mind that I was going to force myself into a running break.

I spent the weekend watching football and playing with my sons.   It was not a weekend wasted.   The week off left me rejuvenated and a bit antsy.   It also marks a distinct line between Racing season and Basketball/maintenance season.   I am looking to the off season to do some major things for my running, let's hit them in list form.
  1. Obviously, I want to maintain my endurance.   I plan on doing this by getting in some mid-range long runs over the winter (8-10 miles, 12 if I feel good).
  2. I want to build speed.   I referee basketball in the winter, it is a good way to stay running and active during the winter.   Plus chasing high schoolers up and down the court counts as a speed session, especially when I do 2 one hour long games.  Plus my Winter races are all 5k and 10k varieties.  
  3. Add at least an extra day to my running over the winter.   To me this means going from 3 days a week running to 4-5 days a week.   Mostly I will just get some shorter 3-4 mile runs in until I can build that solid base.  
  4. I want to drop another 15 pounds.   I really want to get down to 185lbs.  And now that I have put this out here, I hope that I can be accountable to this goal.   I say this because I love food, and running has been a way for me to eat as I want.   Time for another change.
Now, all of those goals are focused on completing next year's goal.   Completing a marathon, all 26.2 glorious miles.   Tentatively I have set my sights on the San Francisco Marathon in July as my goal race.   I should be able to firm that up come the end of basketball season, but that is the goal.   I have already started scoping out training plans, and have all but settled on one of the Hal Higdon Intermediate plans.   I like these plans because they appear to focus on mileage rather than on a mixture of workouts.   I attempted the Speed type workouts mixed with high mileage training runs to disastrous results this last summer and since I want to complete a marathon the idea is to get the mileage base to do so. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tri-Cities Marathon RR (A Group Effort)

Let me think...It has been approximately 73 years since I last posted anything on here at all...well maybe only three weeks, but still, that is a long time to go in the world of running.   When I last left the story, I had taken off for an afternoon run with my youngest son in my weekly quest to reach 20 miles through out October  But what happened between that run and the one in to which I am about to delve is of mere consequence.   Join me as I bring you on a journey through my hometown.

We'll start our journey last Thursday.  After a long week at work, where I spent two days in an all day Value Engineering workshop, I finally had the chance to escape to the comforts of running.   I had spent the better part of the week getting to work early and leaving late, thus leaving little (read - no time) for actual running.   Which for me was fine considering I had a race Sunday  Thursday, I met up with my friend after work (I actually left early) to get a much needed run in.   Since my family was all napping when I got home, I changed quickly then popped out to grab 2 easy miles before I met my friend.   After a nice 5 miles around the neighborhood, we split up, and I grabbed an extra mile back to my house.   A nice easy 8 mile run three days before the Marathon relay.

I spent the next couple of days relaxing, and mostly complaining that I didn't really feel like racing Sunday  Saturday, after mowing the lawn, I met with my relay partner at packet pick up to get our bib and race information for Team "is and anagram of meat" .".  This of course adds a wrinkle at the end of this story.   Truly, my relay partner came up with the name, and seeing as he is a fan of bacon and most meat products, and we were trying to be clever, we settled upon this.   Mostly I think of it as the quote from Shaun of the Dead - "there is no "I" in team, but there is an "I" in pie. And there's an "I" in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team... I don't know what he's talking about. ""  Its a zombie movie and the run was on Oct. 30, don't judge us.

Back to the story  After packet pick up I was much more excited to be racing Sunday  We had our plan, my partner was running the first half of the race and I was running the second half of the race.   He estimated his time would be 2:10 or so, and I should be at the 2nd transition point in accordance.

Sunday - 9:15 AM (insert dramatic music) - I get out the door after many assurances that I would see my three year old at the end of the race.   He wanted to come with me, not that it would have been that bad had my wife been coming too.

9:30 AM - Arrive at the transition point and wonder if I passed my partner on my way over.   Decide that I haven't and begin watching for him...meanwhile on this brisk morning I begin warming up a bit.   about 15 minutes after I arrive, his wife arrives, she kindly takes my car keys and warm up shirt.   I take this opportunity to use the bathroom once more.

10:03 - My partner crosses the timing mat, handing me the belt with the bib on it.   I start my RunKeeper App, strap on the belt, all in stride and get going.   I quickly begin to think that I am moving all too quickly, and glance at the phone to check time - 7:45m/m pace after about 0.5 miles, decided I can probably keep pace and keep on trucking.

Mile 14-16 -The first mile takes runners back under the Blue Bridge (photo in a bit) heading east towards the Cable Bridge.   The water stops were every 2 miles during this race, and consequently I hit a water stop after only a mile of running, normally, I would have passed, but I decided to grab some water at this point just to get some.   After the water station, the route crosses under the bridge and along the running/bike path next to the Columbia River on the Kennewick side of the river.   The path is nice and windy as it snakes along, so I tried to take the most direct route as possible.   Meanwhile, I am clipping along at a fairly comfortable pace passing many other runners.   Mile 16 takes us over the Cable Bridge.

The Cable Bridge crossing the Columbia River - Kennewick to Pasco WA

Miles 17-18 - In my mind I had broken the run down into a few stages - The run from the transition point to the Cable Bridge.   The Cable Bridge to the Blue Bridge.   The Blue Bridge to the Concrete Bridge, and then finally the run to the finish line.   This little stretch constituted that second leg.   Two miles between the bridges along the winding path on the Pasco side of the river.  Mile 19 takes back under this bridge (my partner went over it during the first half).

Blue Bridge crossing the Columbia River between Kennewick and Pasco WA.

Miles 19-24 - Somewhere between mile 15 and 19 I realized I hadn't seen or been worried about the mile markers in quite some time.   Enough that when I saw Mile marker 19, I didn't believe that there were only 7 miles left in this race.   I was feeling very good, though a bit upset at myself for not grabbing a gel before leaving the house.   Between Mile 19 and 20 I passed over the timing mat at Transition point 1/3 (not a typo, that would be transition point 3 going this way).  I knew I was around 50 minutes for my 6+ pace, and really started thinking that I could hit this thing under 1:45.  I picked up my pace (though apparently not) and plugged on towards the Concrete Bridge.   This stretch was nice and straight, fast, as it meandered along the river, then eventually, through a neighborhood on its way up to the bridge.

Miles 25-26.2 - This was the toughest part of the whole race.   The uphill climb to the bridge, one last crossing of the Columbia  The climb brings the runners out onto the bridge on the Pasco side of the river, and then it is all downhill towards the Richland side of the river.   The final mile is along the streets by the golf course taking us back to the starting point.   As I come into the final quarter mile, I see my wife and kids coming up to the side of the road for a quick high-five.   Then I rounded the bend into the parking lot of the Shiloh Inn, seeing my training partner, and cross the mat at 3:52:30 on the clock.   As I am crossing the mat, the announcer is stumbling over out team name.  "And Relay team 706 - Team is an ana...what...Team is an anagram of meat."  I guess we get a shout out for unusualness.

His time for the first half - 2:03:01 - A PR for him.

My time for the second half - 1:49:02 - A PR for me.   Not quite the 1:45 I was looking for, but still it was fast and totally awesome.

My thoughts throughout the majority of this race were the following:   I really wish I could have gotten through training in September and pushed myself to do the full race.   My job concerns and just being completely worn down did me in.   I was in awe of all the people that were doing the full marathon, and the strength it takes to do that.   I have more motivation to do the full 26.2 mile run.   I have to say though, that this race really did get me back into a strong running mood, and I look forward to next year's challenges.

I promise not to be so much of a stranger in the coming weeks, now that work will be calming down for me a bit, I should be around a touch more.   Good luck to all in their coming races.   Have fun out there!