Archive for November, 2012

Ancient geometers proposed a challenge known as Squaring the Circle, in which one had to construct a square with the same area as a given circle, using a compass and a straightedge, and within a certain number of finite steps. By 1882 the task was proven to be impossible.

As the expression is used in causal conversation and more specifically in regards to my running it may be interpreted to mean that success will prove impossible if I limit myself to the proverbial aids of only a compass and straightedge, and a finite number of steps. No pun intended.

And with that observation tucked away in my magician’s top hot, it’s time for a major adjustment in my training. You might say I am coming full circle.

I have improved noticeably over the past 8 months in terms of fitness and performance. The progress has come however at a substantial cost calculated in time lost due to multiple injuries and lesions, including bone spurs and plantar fasciitis.  As best I can determine, these injuries were the result of the common runner’s plague of trying to do too much too soon.

My primary influences up to this point have been the POSE Method for technique, combined with the knowledge, tactics and strategy employed by the likes of Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running, as well as what I consider a running bible: Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon, a book by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald.

There is no fault to be laid at the feet of these individuals or their methods for my injuries and setbacks. Those are all completely and entirely due to my negligence, ego and contempt for one the most basic tenants of running success: build a proper foundation via base training.

My eagerness to run farther and faster bypassed the basics and I paid dearly for it. Instead of learning from my mistakes I compounded them. With each new injury or week of recovery I felt more desperate to make up for lost time, and though I might give a cursory acknowledgement to ‘easing back into my training,’ I would inevitably overextend my current level of fitness and experience only to find myself in the same situation three to four weeks down the road.

Enter stage left: Phil Maffetone and heart rate training. As per his biographical intro at naturalrunningcenter.com:

Dr. Philip Maffetone is an internationally recognized researcher, educator, clinician and author in the field of food and nutrition, exercise, sports medicine, and biofeedback. He was named coach of the year by Triathlete Magazine, and honored by Inside Triathlon magazine as one of the top 20 most influential people in endurance sports.

Following Dr. Maffetone’s method I can attempt to build the base and foundation that I most likely never acquired while playing ping pong between running too fast and too far, and recovering from aches and pains. Read the specifics regarding Dr. Maffetone’s method known as The 180 Formula.

Being the supremely hard-headed, wanna-be athlete that I am, I could never completely commit 100% to the 180 Formula and run at an uninspiring slow pace on every run. So below we shall review my new and improved bag of tricks.

Each week I will alternate running either three or four times per week. Weeks that call for four runs will be broken down into the following schedule: 3 runs that implement Dr. Maffetone’s heart rate monitoring, forcing me to remain below 150 beats per minute. One run per week will be at any pace I desire based on how I feel that given day, and it may include any of the techniques advocated by Jason and Matt Fitzgerald (no relation) and Brad Hudson such as negative splits, strides or hill sprints. The distance of the four runs is to be considered short to moderate and should be completed in a time ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

During weeks in which I run three times, 2 runs will be short or moderate in length and will fall under the 180 Formula. The long(er) run of the week will be approached via the methods of Fitzgerald and Hudson.

My expectations with this approach are to address my need to build aerobic fitness and efficiency via slow, controlled running within a certain heart rate percentage of my max HR. In addition, with 5 of every 7 runs conducted at a more conservative pace I am much less likely to self inflict stress injuries on my bones and joints. In contrast, a single shorter run and the long run both will be conducted on a perceived effort basis, allowing me to continue to build strength and the ability to improve and sustain pace.

Wish me luck.

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Running through Historic Downtown: San Jose, Costa Rica

The City Tour 10k was designed to take runners on a tour of San Jose’s historic points of interest, while providing the opportunity for fast finishing times due to a flat course with a slight downhill bias. I can confirm that one of the two claims is the absolute truth and the other is subject to debate.

Approximately 465 runners toed the line at 7:30 am on November 11, 2012 for the inaugural running of the City Tour 10k. We took off from the intersection of the University of Costa Rica and the commercial center, Mall San Pedro. The street was narrow and jammed with runners. My plan to pace mile #1 no faster than 10 minutes per mile was quickly abandoned as my concentration was focused on simply finding a clear path. My efforts to move around, rather than through, the crowd were rewarded for the most part. What I will never understand however is why runners line up at the rear of the starting line if they plan on running at a world record pace right from the sound of the starting gun. I was elbowed and jostled more than a couple of times as back of the pack runners decided that the fastest manner to reach the front was to blast directly through the crowd. Not cool.

The streets opened up after about three quarters of a mile and I was able to relax and focus at the same time. Relax because I was no longer concerned about being pushed or tripped by the running of the bulls. Focus because I finally settled into a breathing pattern (thanks Darren,) a cadence, and a rhythm that felt comfortable and sustainable.

The sun was high and bright, even at this early hour. But there was a slight, yet constant breeze that never allowed you to feel hot. In addition, the downtown streets with their tall buildings on either side provided ample long shadows that covered most of the road. If at any time I found myself running in the direct sunlight I could immediately angle my path into the cooler temperatures of the shade without any extra effort or concern.

I potentially made my first mistake of the day at approximately mile #2. I saw a line of runners jogging in place at the first aid station and I decided that I did not need water badly enough to interrupt my thus far, efficient progress. Later in the race I cursed this decision, though hindsight is always twenty twenty.

When I reached mile #3 I was happy, excited and concerned all at once. I was happy because I had not experienced any pain in my foot or knee. I was excited because I was on pace to at least match my 5k personal record time. And I was concerned when I began fretting about whether I could maintain that pace over an additional three miles. I can trend toward the neurotic and slightly pessimistic. And that is not where I wanted to let my mind go.

At approximately mile #4 my second mistake of the day reared its ugly head. Although to give myself the benefit of the doubt, this was a result of simple bad luck and not necessarily a bad decision or choice. I was focused on the long train of runners ahead of me, watching a large group about 100 yards ahead as they crossed from the two right hand lanes over the center median and began running on sidewalk on the left hand side of the avenue. Being a proactive, intelligent athlete I decided, “why wait to cross all the way up there?” I made my move across the lanes without having to dodge any traffic and was feeling pretty good about myself. You might even say smug. That all ended when I heard a voice calling out, “Agua! Agua aca!” Water! Water here! The problem was immediately obvious. The aid station was about 25 yards behind me and on the opposite side of the road. The side I had just abandoned. There was no way I was going to turn around and backtrack, so forward I charged. Into the dry and parched unknown.

I have to admit that I have tunnel vision while running. Rarely do I look around and enjoy the scenery. I’m still cutting my baby teeth on this running experiment and it’s all I can do to stay focused on my newly found mantra of ‘ball-heel-knee.’ There was no mistaking, however, when we reached the mercado central or central market. I didn’t recognize my surroundings so much via sight. But the smell was overwhelming. Urine, alcohol and rotten fish. Not necessarily in that order, but maybe so. It’s all a blur to me now. Literally, there was an audible, collective sigh from the runners as we raced past the unfortunate indigents, drug addicts and fish market workers, who were leaving greasy trails of rank fish oil and slime trailing behind them as they hauled out the putrid and replaced it with the fresh.

Perception and self awareness are highly suspect qualities, and I was amazed that when I reviewed my race data that it did not confirm my belief that there would be a marked increase in pace during the interval through the Avenida Central. In fact, it was during mile #4 that my pace slowed to 9:25. I don’t recall any specific physical challenge at that point and there was no elevation change worth noting  either.

The toughest moment of the race for me occurred at approximately the transition from mile #5 to mile #6. My legs were feeling heavy. The previously smooth cadence of 1-2-3, 1-2-3 was replaced by asymmetric strides and a breathing pattern that lacked, well, any pattern at all. My breathing more closely resembled the start and stop hiccups of a novice driver facing a manual transmission for the first time. And there’s no doubt that my oxygen exchange abilities were as equally inefficient as that driver’s clumsy stabs at the clutch, accelerator and brake.

What ‘saved’ me was an act of generosity, on my part no less. A few feet ahead of me a runner decided to start walking and as I came even with him I slapped him in the shoulder and told him, “follow me.” It took a few steps before he committed, but after I had had him locked in tow on my right hip I felt a strange sense of responsibility, as if I had no choice but to finish strong after encouraging a complete stranger not to follow the completely rational advice his brain was relaying at the moment.

Once I felt confident that my new, random run buddy was motivated to finish, (and I had recovered from my brain-lung disconnect) I decided that there was no other choice but to run hard and ugly for the remainder of the race. It turned out to be my fastest mile of the day, covering the distance in 8 minutes, 33 seconds.

The City Tour 10k will be a memorable race. The weather was great. The course was agreeable and I ran my best race and finish time to date. Some of my math is a little off, as I am drawing data from both the race organizer’s information as well as my own sports watch, leading to splits not adding up exactly to the second. But you’ll get the idea.

The male winner finished in 32:09 and the female winner finished in 43:34

My official chip time: 54:28

I finished 181 out of 281 total male runners and 227 out of 465 total runners.

Splits: 9:40, 8:57, 8:54, 9:25, 9:02, 8:33

Splits Average HR: 160, 169, 174, 179, 180, 182

Avg/Max HR: 174/185

Shoes: Inov-8 Road-X 233

 

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The sad story that is my attempt to run continues, one demoralizing chapter at a time. Right foot: bone spurs and steroid injections directly into my ankle and sole with 3 inch needles. Left foot: bone spurs and plantar fasciitis. And most recently, not to be left lonely and unnoticed, my left knee has developed an intense pain and tenderness directly beneath the kneecap.

But hey, this blog isn’t about feeling sorry for myself, so let’s get to the good news. I am still young and handsome, after all. What’s that? Oh, damn! Never mind.

I took an anti-inflammatory, Celebra, for three days when the knee pain appeared last week. And I’ve adjusted my schedule by reducing my total runs to 4 over the past two weeks. The Celebra eliminated the pain and I did not run while medicating, hoping to bounce back and not look back. Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way, and yesterday after two more days of rest the pain reappeared while walking up the stairs.

On Sunday of this week I am scheduled to run in the City Tour 10k. My performance and preparation are going to be suspect, at best. But that’s life. You do what you can, when you can, and the rest is the randomness of living on a planet that rotates on its axis at roughly 1000 miles per hour.

I received an update from the race organizers stating that due to safety and security concerns the route for the 10k had to be slightly altered. So it looks like we will be running 9.5k instead, which equates to 5.9 miles. That should help me accomplish my goal of a sub 1:00:00 finishing time, but over an incomplete distance.

And now, for those of you who demand to be entertained by a real runner, a guy who is out there running marathons, ultra-marathons and sprinting up Pike’s Peak, I bring you Mr. Sage Canaday of Vo2Max Productions, who recently filmed an adventure run in the Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim to Rim.

Enjoy, and may you have the best run of your life each and every time you lace up your shoes.

 

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