Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To Kill a Headset - or - This earBuds for You

Clouds, rain, rain, RAIN, SUUUUN! clouds, rain, rain RAIN!

What a run! I lived up to the domain name today - the term "gully-washer" is apropos.

As I started out I thought I would miss the worst of it - it was looking dark to the south, so I figured I'd head north for the first 1/2 of the run, then turn south after the fatty cumulus had scooted through. Little did I know what was on the horizon to the northeast - the cumulus' kid brother was blowing over just as I finished mile 2. It started sprinkling as I crossed the Green river, then started raining in earnest. I hit Willis at 2.6 miles into the run and turned to head back south, into the thick of this cell. Once I turned, the mild northerly wind that until then had been soaking my back, was now drenching my front - and doing a lovely job of it. There was no hail, but the rain was hard and big. I took my Garmin watch off and tucked its watchband into the waistband of my shorts so that my shirt would protect it from the brunt of the storm. I continued running, listening to a new audio book from called "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" which is a very quirky-cool read. I noticed that the volume started to diminish until it was a whisper. I thought I had shorted out the Ipod. I had not, or at least the internal speaker worked well. My earbuds were toast - at least my Ipod was OK I unplugged and moved on.

The rain stops and sunshine starts - I take this moment to shed my t-shirt and wring it out. I put it back on wishing I could ring my shorts out as well, but discretion is the better part of valor and I decided against that. The sun felt awesome! I did note that my shorts stayed soaked for the rest of the run - afterwards I found the beginnings of road rash on my thighs. As I pass back by my truck (5.6 miles) the warm sun is starting to hide and a cloud to the north appears to be chasing me south. I keep going and find that I am outrunning the squall! Except... I'll have to run back through it to get to my truck... Well... it'll blow over by then.

I head down to 15th ST SW just south of the Supermall (8.2 miles) and turn to head back. The sky to the northeast is dark, and you can see the rain falling from the clouds, heavily. The rain starts as I hit Main Street in Auburn (9.1 miles) There's not a lot of it at the start, but the drops are huge. by the time I get to 15th ST NW it is coming down very nicely, not so much the big drops anymore - this is the medium sized soaker-hose rain that is typical of mid-squall. Up ahead I see that the view is obscured by rain, looks like I will hit the tail end of the squall as I end the run - the rain starts pounding, so much so that my tech gear - made to wick away moisture is now pasted to my body. as I finish the rain lets up slightly but I am a drowned rat! luckily I keep a tarp in the truck, under the back seat. I spread it out and hop in, start up the truck and immediately turn the heater on high-defrost. I am wet.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It is in you

Seriously, activities that you feel are beyond you, are not.

I made the decision to run in a marathon. it was a decision I came to regret. The most I had ever run until today was 13 miles - half the necessary distance. I was ruing my decision, and ruing even more that the marathon was approaching quickly ( 6 weeks from today) I needed to up my training intensity. I needed to produce a quantum change - and jump it up to the next level. Last week I was reminded that the Marathon is coming, I better be ready.

The first question on forums I posted about my marathoner aspirations was "Have you completed any Long Runs?" The poster linking to Hal Higdon's marathon training guide That is where found what I needed, I N-E-E-D-E-D 20 miles. That distance stood as Gandalf in the middle of the bridge telling me "you shall not pass!" After last weekends half marathon at Boeing Field I wanted to try that locale again.

I started internallizing a 20 miler, it would only take 3 times around Boeing Field - I've already done 2. The difference is scale - 13 miles is so much closer to ten, and ten is a long ways! twenty is a double-long ways! The book I've been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall has me really pumped for distances - but distances the right way. straight up posture, small strides, elbows back, and smile. Following those rules you can go forever, after all as a member of Homo Sapiens we were born to run long distances.

This run saw the return of a friend to the blog - the Aviator. I posted the offer of a "marathon prep" run and invite 3 folks I knew were runners. All but John - the Aviator, had prior commitments. We started out at the northeast corner of Boeing Field and the pace was easy - basic 5 mph MAF run. It was so much better to have a friend to run with. The Aviator noted that the pace felt great, just a jog no more.

We were about 2/3 into the first lap and a minivan pulls in front of us. Out of the drivers window a golf putter extended with a plush carrot dangling from end. It was the Aviator's wife and son motivating us forward with a carrot on a stick. Luckily our pace was slow as running and laughing and clapping can be dangerous!

At the first lap (6.7 miles) John said he felt good with a bit of surprise. I admitted I was still really fresh, we stopped briefly and downed some Gatorade and chatted a bit the Dorsey (Mrs. Aviator) and JJ ( the littlest pilot) and then John surprised me, "Lets go" and we continued on - I thought John would have stayed for one lap - although he's in good all-around shape he hasn't mentioned distance running as being one of his fortes. And so we begin Lap Two. When it gets to be too much John said he'll just turn around.

We jog south on East Marginal Way and I check my Garmin,
"9 miles" I call out.
John is taken aback "That's the furthest I've ever run" he says matter-of-factly.
Sweet! After completing this lap he will have a half-M under this belt too!

Speaking of 'under your belt' the coffee and Gatorade from the morning was making for an uncomfortable bladder. Luckily Randy's restaurant was nearby -we approached "Restrooms are for Paying Customers ONLY" the sign on the door read. I whipped out my cash card!

"How many?" the hostess inquired thinking I was there for breakfast - the manager was standing near.
I said "I really need to use your restroom, can you charge me for a cup of coffee?" The manager flicks her thumb towards the restroom.
"Go ahead" she offered.
"Thank you very much" w00t!
On the way out of the restaurant I again offer a thank you.
"Thank you for asking" the manager's reply.

I get outside and John is stretching on the corner. We're off again! We round the corner of IGA heading back north it starts blowing and raining - that's the way the day has been going, a squall here and patch of blue sky there. With the wind to our backs the rain felt cool, and like we were being pushed along down the road. Within 5 minutes the rain stopped, the sun came out and had it not been for the wind the mugginess would have been insufferable.As we make it to the end of the second lap, I congratulate John - 13 miles is a LONG run and much further than he had ever gone. I downed another 8 oz of Gatorade and started off on the final lap, thanking John for the tremendous support from him and his family.

I had started to notice but did not pay too much attention to my pulse. Although I was still only doing 5 mph, my heart rate was sitting at 145. I knew what was happening, it had to be. I was only drinking every 6 miles. When running, you really can't chug a lot of liquid. about 8 oz is all I could fit in and still continue running. Now had I been able to drink 8 oz every 3 miles my pulse would have been lower, but I was keeping serious dehydration away for now. I passed Randy's for the 3rd time. thinking "I bet this run will burn enough calories that I can eat there". as I passed the half lap point I noticed little aches and pains starting to blossom a bit - ankles, knees, no muscle pain to speak of, just the complaints of joints from all the repetition.

On the back course up Perimeter Road, I was seeing steady heart rate at 145, which is outside of MAF but not raising any further while keeping the 12:00 pace. as I approached the end of twenty miles I saw the Aviator standing there cheering me on. checking my Garmin I still had 2/10th left and high fived him as I ran past informing him of the situation, 40 seconds later I came back and had completed the 20 - a big first for me.

I thought it was very nice of John to wait over an hour just to cheer me on, but actually he'd lost his car key while stretching when I took the "bio break" at Randy's. so after cool down stretches we jumped in the truck and headed down to the south end of the field and found the escaped key.
"Want to go to Randy's for breakfast?" I offered.
"We've worked off enough calories" John replied.
Sure enough the Garmin told me I'd worked off 3317 calories - an amazing number, 1.5 days worth of food!
Getting out of the truck was fun - our bodies were channeling Harvey Corman from the Carrol Burnett show, at first we could barely walk, when we arrived at the restaurant's door we were approximating a normal gate. As we were seated I was disappointed that there were no pull-bars or a crane to get me out of the booth when we were finished.

The 3 egg omelet with hash browns and toast was awesome, the coffee was good too. We ate and talked about this day of firsts. Stretching out the breakfast until we scraped up the courage to lift our sore complaining bodies out of the booth and back to the truck.

Looking back, this day is pivotal. 20 is a lot of miles, so is 26.2. Having done 20 though, a marathon is no longer the scary beast it was the day before. Much like Hermey the would be dentist elf in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I had removed the teeth of the Abominable Marathon Monster.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Needed Run

Has a run ever been "mandatory" for you?

I had one of those this morning - I had some work I needed to take care of after an eventful/stressful day that saw me travel home, then spend 9 hours in the hospital ER - those moments where things are so stressful you remain calm because that's what needs to be. The stress builds up though - there are things in this world that are just plain wrong, and some of those things you have no power over. You are left to do the best you can with what you have. My family is currently working through one of those. The villain is unassailable and always moving forward. You get pictures of what is to come and you can not help but avert your mind's gaze.

In order to be as supportive and helpful as possible, you must guard against the stress - you need to be the rock that thinks clearly and can provide the comfort your loved one needs - you need 3 things - the love of an awesome God, the unity of a loving family and clear-headed peace of mind. My God is awesome and loves unconditionally, my family is as about as tight as it has ever been, so the clear headed peace of mind thing is up to each one of us. I find my way to strength and clarity through running. I think God has placed running squarely before me so I can be as strong as I need to be - I can keep a clear head and see things that will help the situation.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Slow and Steady with Benefits

Being a slow runner isn't all  defeat and demoralization

Especially when you are being passed by lady joggers! =) It does tend to keep the mind happily preoccupied. This is by no means indicating that these ladies would not have worth above and beyond any whimsical physical attractiveness. I would imagine they are very intelligent and motivated people but as they passed me we did not have time for a conversation, so I was only left with  the shallow act of admiring their physical attributes. We must at times deal with these limitations, and for the sake of all feminists I hereby admit my guilt at admiring the fairer sex's functional form.

On yesterday's run I saw a couple running together and the main thing I noticed about the woman was that her foot placement was perfect - her stride was perfect -  yes she was also very cute - but I could tell from looking at the stride, that she was in perfect alignment. One thought came to mind "I've spent too much time at The Balanced Athlete".

That reminded me that I must concentrate on my stride if I want to keep pain free and have the best endurance. If you have a bad stride, you can correct it. you just need the advice of an expert to point out changes you can make. A little turn here, a little change in stride length there, an adjustment to the foot strike. stuff that's easy to do, but takes discipline to keep up.

Information Junky!

Lately when I run I listen to technology podcasts. These are sort of "portable talkshows" discussing the latest tech developements, issues, upcoming products, etc. My favorite website for grabbing podcasts is - a network ran by the only person in the info tech media that could pull it off - and has/is blazing the trail for others to follow Leo LaPorte, Formerly of Tech TV ( a show that Comcast decided was too full of that "information stuff" and not enough "explosions and boobies") anywhoo...

I've been listening to Leo and his compatriots on The Tech Guy, This Week in Technology, Security Now, This Week in Google, Windows Weekly, Free Linux and Open Source Software, and have also branched out to listen to Cnet's Buzz Out Loud. If you want to be current on technology trends - listen to one weeks airings of these shows and you will become an informed person.

And this leads us to is one of the sponsors of Leo's network. I've been hearing about them during the podcast's limited commercial breaks. The commercials harken back to old radio days, where instead of canned script, the podcast participants who have had experience with the product give recommendations and mini reviews - very "live" and refreshing. Extolling the virtues of, the commentators relayed the value of being able to read without having to focus on the printed word. Being a reader I love the printed word, I just don't have the time to exclusively dedicate to reading. I thought that his argument had merit and decided to give Audible a try.

I will most likely provide a review of Audible in an upcoming episode of this blog, but for now it is safe to say that I am hooked on reading with my ears.

The first Book I chose was predictable: "Born to Run" by Chistopher McDougall. based on the one man's search for the proper way to run and finding much more. after an 8 mile run, I'm 6 chapters in. the narrator is doing a very good job. The reading is spirited and conveys a proper feel - much more like story-telling than narrating. The book has drawn me in much like reading paper copy - except that I can still perform other functions - like running, checking for traffic, monitoring heart rate, etc. the audio version has not removed the "mind-movie" effect of the book at all - I am picturing the settings and characters and am quite happily occupied throughout the run.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life a little stressful? RUN!!!

From the "I need to take my own medicine" department

Life is fun, it provides lots of motivation for a run. Whether you just want to stretch out a bit and work out the kinks, or you are heavy into life and need a "fix" - running provides an oasis of solitude where deep breathing is the norm.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Second Race

Racing is like golf - It's wonderful if you don't take it too seriously

I had an awesome time this weekend. The Seahawks 12K was amazing - what a huge race. it doesn't hurt that even with hills I put in an awesome 9:47/mile pace. It was also a nice morning. Before the race I went to The Balanced Athlete, and chatted with The folks there - Eric, the owner advised me that I would not be needing the long sleeve shirt, just to wear the tech T-shirt I had on over it.

     "It's 50, [during the run] you're going to feel like its 70 degrees"

Having learned to heed expert advise I was rewarded by feeling very comfortable and cool during the race. I went back to the changing room and reset my ensemble - why is it that headphones always tangle in knots? anyway. We talked about who was racing which race - there was a 5K starting a 1/2 hour after the 12K. I was looking at all the folks sporting The Balanced Athlete attire - all shapes, sizes, ages. Eric said - if you are wearing a shirt and you get your picture in the paper, you'll get a free pair of shoes. I'm not sure if anyone did, but I don't think anyone's real motivation was to get a free pair, more to show support to a great establishment that gives back to the community.

At about 15 minutes before the start we all started heading out to the starting line - actually the starting area - if you were planning on running 5:00 miles you needed to be up front. I placed myself in where I thought might be the 10:00 mile section quite a ways back. All the runners were "chipped" so there would be no issues with starting late and the crowd moved comfortably forward. The announcer's voice blared through the loud speakers and became close to painful as I passed by each one on my way to the starting line. I had my ipod in hand ready to click the start button, and as I passed under the start line arch I activated it and then my Garmin - one can never have too much data.

A noticed within 100 meters that I forgot to set my Garmin up correctly as my heart rate alarm was singing, (It was set for 135 and I was not going to see that rate again until a few minutes after the race) a quick change on the run to 165 and I was good to go.  

As the run progressed I found that cadence is really important to maintain. maintaining cadence on hills meant although I was going slower up, I was going faster down. When my body was locked "into the groove" I was running at my best. One failing that I noticed was that I was listening to music that had differing tempos - these caused me to slow or speed up and did not provide for a natural pace. For my next race I will attempt to choose more non-tempo music - music that has an easily ignored tempo like the World of Warcraft sound track.I may even check into specific pace-music to help support and lock in my cadence.

The halfway point greeted us with a trip around the Seattle Seahawks training site.  Seahawk players passed out water and Seagals cheered us on. I re-learned the lesson "Walk through the water line" as breathing water really has a negative affect on your cadence! As we rounded the backside of the facility the Blue Thunder drum line was laying down some serious rhythm.

Heading back the hills seemed a bit steeper, but I was locked in - I popped out my earbud and listened to my body. Setting the pace au-natural worked nicely I put my glasses on top of the brim of my hat and worked on heart rate. Up hills I was fighting to keep my heart under control, and for the most part I was winning the battle. If you are running at a fixed pace, breath control is your only heart rate control. I was passing by runners whose breathing was controlling them - sucking wind loudly. I knew I would be there, but only near the end when I open it up within a 1/2-1/4 mile of the finish.

As the race wound back down by Coulon Park, I started getting antsy. I know the end is near! Should I crank it up? Should I wait and lose those few extra seconds? As the Lake Washington boulevard dumped onto Park Avenue, I thought I could see the starting arch... time to hit it! now I'm looking at 8 mph - 20% above my normal speed. about a minute in, my heart is talking to me - it can keep going, but it's not happy. I find 727 Avenue and turn west I'm passing folks at a pretty good clip now, I turn onto Logan and head north to the start/finish line and it's not there!!!

Apparently my Garmin was right, I was still about a 1/3 away from the actual finish line! Do I slow down? Hell no! My Garmin's heart meter is once again telling me that I have topped 165, after 170 it stops it's obnoxious ringing. I've got under 1/4 mile - more like 1000 feet and here's Blitz, the Seahawks mascot waving us in, I'm running as flat out as possible, but I pass close enough for a high-5 from Blitz. Now I see the finish, I'm about at max heart rate  (178) and running at >10 mph I cross the line and I'm spent - this is the first time since a hard TKD workout that I thought I was going to succumb to nausea, it didn't happen, but it was close!

Walking it out after getting the chip removed was euphoric, I passed on the sports drinks they were offering as euphoria and nausea seemed to go hand in hand. I just wanted to let my lungs work. From what my Garmin was telling me, I was seeing a huge improvement over my last race in December - 20 seconds per mile faster! I didn't stay for the after run block part, but I did stay for a bit and chatted with all the other "balanced athletes" it was a great event, and I am really happy with the outcome and the improvement over December's race.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Running for Effect

Stick with what works, but shake it up on occasion

Last month was a great month for running. March saw 168 miles, that's pretty hard core and I'm thinking April may be a bit less intense. I do have a race coming up next week though, it's a 12K on Sunday the 11th. I should be good to go, I'm going to MAF it this week with a gradual taper heading to a 2-3 mile run on Saturday. I did my best 10K last week hitting 1:01:01 - or 9:45 per mile. That's my first time breaking through the 10:00/mile barrier for a run of that length. With that milestone behind me I can focus on more aerobic base building.

I was helping the folks at the balanced athlete move and was talking to Tammy Bridges She's is an ultra runner, and is very experienced in technique and theory. We talked about aerobic base and how she runs - even with a back injury she's doing ultras and has many marathons under her belt. Tammy told me of her husbands disciplined approach to aerobic base and the the outcomes he has seen by just working MAF - he has a hard time getting his heart up, his pulse just stays low he can run forever and is quite quick - He took a disciplined MAF routine and stuck with it for over a year. I do not think I will be able to be quite so disciplined - I need to blow the carbon out from time to time and I do want to continue racing - so I will look for the slow improvements and be happy with the ability to run.

Running now has become a blessing - it's a part of my day that I can just "be" In a busy world that is a priceless ability. Stress, worries, emotion all seem to fade as the meditative mindset sets in.