Archive for the ‘Training Log’ Category

The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.

Well, it’s official. 2012 has come to an end. Maybe not quite as dramatically as the Maya had allegedly predicted, but it’s over nonetheless.

As best as I can tell from my records I began my running experiment in late July, completing 5 runs between 1 and 1.5 miles each. Things started picking up quickly come August, and despite numerous injuries and setbacks early on, I’ve maintained a fairly respectable schedule (by my fairly lax standards as a former couch potato.)

August: 57 miles

September: 81 miles

October: 57 miles

November: 56 miles

December: 74 miles

561884_367390530006994_782436028_nSeptember’s significantly higher volume came as the result of never taking more than a single day off between runs, as well as running on quite a few consecutive days.  In addition, 13.2 miles of the 81 came on a run-walk effort on 9/11. It’s ironic that since my A goal is the ING Miami Half Marathon in January, that the 9/11 run is the only time I’ve ever covered the full distance.

September’s miles came with a high price however as I was constantly plagued by plantar fasciitis, bone spurs and Achilles tendonitis.  Eventually I was forced to receive a series of corticosteroid injections in my ankle and the sole of my foot. Fortunately I discovered that via aggressive stretching, primarily the heel-drop protocol, as well as daily rolling of a tennis ball under my arches, I could eliminate a majority of the issues.

2012 monthly totals

I participated in two official races: the ECO RUN 10k and the City Tour Race.  The Eco Run surprised me by taking us off road for a stint over the sand of the Pacific coast beach at Playa Herradura. Combined with some major late race elevation climbs and the heat and humidity, I was happy to survive and struggled through in roughly 68 minutes.  The City Tour Race was a 10k that wasn’t. The day before the race some logistical issues shortened the race to 6 miles, but along with an obstacle free and mostly flat course, the shortened route provided a great confidence boost as I felt like I was finally ‘running,’ crossing the finish line in 54 minutes.

I experimented with quite a few different training ideas and theories, everything from low heart rate training, run-by-feel, to more aggressive pace based plans. They all provided some benefit and unsurprisingly also had their distinct shortcomings (all as a result of my execution, not their design.) As I continue to grow in both practical experience, knowledge and theory I’m sure I will find or create the recipe that respects my limitations while still challenging me to progress.

2012-11-11 city tour race 10kMy strength training was more consistent but not necessarily any more effective because I mostly remained focused on the same, basic strength exercises that I’ve performed for general fitness. They certainly did not hurt or inhibit my progress in any way. But from the perspective of becoming a better runner, in 2013 I will fine tune my efforts to more closely match my specific running goals.

Diet and nutrition improved but were not consistent; a recurring theme in my year in review analysis. I made a concerted effort to implement a Paleo inspired diet, and lost about 20 lbs.  When asked, I describe my approach as 80% paleo, 80% of the time. I am carrying 170 lbs on a 5’10” frame, but am still a bit soft and know that my body fat percentage is higher than it should be or needs to be.

As far as shoes, apparel, gear and accessories are concerned I spent way too much money.  But on the other hand, the monetary commitment is a motivating factor in my desire to now reap dividends from properly utilizing my tools, toys and indulgences.

I have a high-end GPS watch with heart rate monitor, and enough shoes, shirts, shorts and tights to last until this time next year before considering any additions or replacements. The priority now (as it should have been all along) is on making it happen!

I will save my 2013 goals, plans and aspirations for another post. But I would be remiss if i failed to mention and thank some of the people who have made my running a positive and life enriching experience.

Let me conclude by offering my sincere wishes that everyone can look back on 2012 and if not necessarily happy with every race, result or effort, can at least recognize what happened, why and how to make adjustments that will improve your chances for continued and greater success in 2013!

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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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A detailed training log for the week is here.

It’s a crazy time in our household right now. Sometimes it’s hard to find time for a run, but it always seems that a stretch out on the road is just the right trick to mentally relax and escape from some of life’s daily nonsense.

My wife started a new job this week; congratulations baby! I’m so proud of you.  Our kids are in the final trimester of the year, looking forward to their 3+ months of vacation starting the third week of November. But not so fast! Their weekend was interrupted on Saturday by the Cambridge English language evaluations. Students who pass this testing throughout their primary and high school careers will receive international certification of their diplomas that enables them to continue their educations in English speaking countries without having to repeat any course work. We are also in the process of trying to obtain financing to purchase a new home, in a foreign country.

On other entertaining fronts, the New York Yankees were promptly and decisively eliminated from the MLB playoffs, the Presidential debates kicked it up a notch and Lance Armstrong was all but asked to join Julian Assange in hiding within an Ecuadorian embassy.

This week I ran three times, an easy paced 5k plus hill sprints, a 5k time trail which I finished in 26:55, and a 7.3 mile easy pace run today, which I broke into segments based on the location of the first few aid stations in the ING Miami Half Marathon.

There are fewer than 100 days remaining before Miami, so my focus will change dramatically after November 11’s City Tour 10k.

If all proceeds according to plan I will have four runs in the coming week, in a 3, 4, 3, 6 miles format.

There were quite a few events this weekend but the race that caught my attention was the Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational where Sara Baxter destroyed the previous course record. You can catch the entire 16 minutes of action here.

 

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Pacific coast of Costa Rica: 85 degrees, 50% humidity at race start

ECORUN 10K – Goals, Assumptions, Reality

Going into this race I set my goals on a sliding scale of reality and wishful thinking.  Finishing in under 1 hour was my most unrealistic and ambitious goal. Running a negative split was the more realistic goal, because I could ease into the race, completing the first 5k in whatever time I needed to, in order to feel like I still had something to offer during the second half. I finished the race in 1:08:10, my MOTOACTV watch clocking the distance as 6.37 miles, and also failed to run a negative split.  Pretty disheartening, no?

Well, yes and no. But mostly yes. Let me explain. The ECORUN’s website and registration page still listed all of the details from last year’s race, indicating that the race was on 100% asphalt. So it was quite the surprise when around 2.5 miles into the race we were steered out and onto sands of of the beach at Playa Herradura.  The giant sand trap lasted about three quarters of a mile and sapped a lot of energy from my legs as I tried to maintain a reasonable pace. The worst part was trying to get off the beach because it was a fairly narrow route leading back onto the roads and previous runners had turned the sand over so much it literally felt like it was sucking you back in as you attempted to run.  Back on the road finally, I relaxed and felt fairly comfortable as my watch ticked off the completion of the first 5k a few minutes later.

Having run a fairly decent 5k time (for me) and considering the terrain and heat, I decided I had the opportunity still to shoot for a negative split, so I gradually tried to pick up the pace, seeking to catch a runner 100 yards or so ahead of me.  Things were going well for a brief time, and then we hit the golf course. No shade whatsoever, completely exposed to the elements. And completely uphill. The timing could not have been worse. Right where I was planning to test my meddle by increasing my effort on the flats I was greeted with 1.5 miles of pure climbing and winding. The combination of the sun, slightly faster pace and hills proved too much and I was forced to walk several times during this stretch in order to avoid blowing up. This was incredibly demotivating because instead taking on a time trial challenge head on, I was now facing doubts about finishing without embarrassing myself.

30 minutes of elevation gain in an 85 degree cloudless sky knocked me off of my game plan

Full race data from the MOTOACTV watch is here.

SPLITS

Mile       Elapsed

10:36     10:36

9:56        20:32

10:14      30:46 

11:02      41:48

12:33      54:21

10:17     1:04:38

3:28       1:08:10

As you can see, after 4 miles I knew that breaking the 1 hour barrier would be next to impossible unless I could miraculously manage 2 sub 9 minute miles, something I have not accomplished in training yet.  But I was still fairly positive about the possibility of a slight negative split. Look at that mile #5 disaster: 12:33.  As ugly as ugly can be. At that point the run literally became about survival.  I bounced back decently with a 10:17 in mile #6, and the final .37 miles (according to my watch, anyway) were at 9:19.

CONCLUSIONS

Do not rely on website information or previous race data when planning or visualizing your race plan. If you have the opportunity nothing beats first hand knowledge of the course.

If I’m too shy to make a phone call or ask detailed questions during packet pick-up I don’t deserve to run a good race.

Goals are great, but don’t let unpleasant surprises break you down mentally. Be stronger than the elements, if not faster.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. I was secretly sizing a few people up during the pre-race routine and I don’t even know why. Maybe I didn’t like their shoes, gear or loud personalities. Maybe it was my way of getting psyched up for a competition. I don’t know. But it was a pointless waste of mental energy and is a negative vibe to avoid. Plus, all three of them finished ahead of me. Time for some humble pie.

Every run will not be a great run.  I ran 13.1 miles two weeks ago and was overconfident today, believing that the distance was no longer an issue and my only concern was how fast I could finish.  Some runs are going to throw the kitchen sink at you and if you don’t adjust quickly and decisively, you may not like what happens next.

My experience as a runner and my fitness level still do not allow a great difference between my relaxed pace and a ‘race’ pace.  There is still so much work to do in training to address both my aerobic endurance and my race pace stamina.

Sharing a get-away weekend with my wife, running a 10k together, regardless of finishing times, is a great bonding experience and if you aren’t an elite or pro runner don’t ever let yourself get caught up in a disappointing result so much that you lose perspective of how great things really are.

Me and Nery Brenes, Costa Rican Olympic sprinter and 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championship gold medal winner, 400 meters.

My medal is a turtle: very appropriate considering my finish time.

A great way to wash away the post race blues.

The marina at Los Sueños Ocean & Golf Resort by Marriott

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Every once in a while during your training it’s recommended that you back off of the mileage and or intensity in order for your body to adapt to the recent stresses and recover properly before pushing it to new limits again.  Somewhat more by necessity than by design, I am taking this week to do that.

Two weeks ago I doubled my longest run ever and in a single run hit my long term goal of 13.1 miles.  There were a few walk breaks mixed in here and there, but mentally I was so relieved to get that distance out of the way.  Instead of thinking ahead, planning and being smart, which would have required me to reduce the mileage the following week so as not to blow myself up, I replaced the mileage with several days of interval training.

In retrospect, I believe it would have been ok if my intervals were limited to mile repeats and 800s, but the 400s were a bad idea.  My technique, experience and fitness level right now don’t call for 400s, and the increased impact from those almost out of control sprints really took its toll on my body. While nothing felt injured, my shins and knees were definitely a bit tender and I took two consecutive days off to make sure everything was working properly.

Yesterday was my first run of the week, an easy pace for 4 miles, to shake out any cobwebs and get back into the swing of things.  During the first mile I could feel a strange, dull ache on the outside of my left foot’s arch. Nothing debilitating mind you, but a new and unwelcome visitor to the house of pain.  All day yesterday after the run, while walking around the house and grocery store the pain remained.  My foot is not sensitive to the touch. I can rub and squeeze it, as well as stretch my foot and calf without duplicating the sensation. But the act of walking or running immediately brings it back.

So strange and untimely.

Thursday I am going to run an easy 5k.  If I add any surges or not will completely depend on my foot.

Saturday is the ECORUN 10k which I am running with my wife.  That may turn into a survival course instead of a fitness test.

For one reason or another this week’s training  is significantly reduced in mileage and effort.  Let’s see how it plays out.

 

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photo credit

 

My latest running gear purchase arrived on Friday: a pair of Skechers GOrun. Like many, I was very skeptical of purchasing a ‘serious’ running shoe from Skechers, a brand more commonly associated with fashion, casual and lifestyle shoes.  After having read several very positive reviews from online resources that I respect, however, I decided that the GOruns would make the short list of potential future purchases.

I was debating between the GOruns and a pair of either Brooks PureFlow or PureConnects. My final decision was based on the following two factors: I have read reviews of the Brooks from online retailers, running magazines and retailers like Running Warehouse and Amazon. The reviews I read regarding the Skechers GOruns included several semi-pro runners, coaches, and enthusiasts so I felt I was getting slightly more personal feedback.  Reason number two, to be completely honest, was simply price. I have already invested a lot of money (for me) in this experiment and an opportunity presented itself where I could purchase the Skechers for about $30 less than either Brooks model. Done deal.

Maybe you’re wondering why I needed or wanted another pair of shoes if I’ve already made a few purchases. Especially if I want to save a few dollars, the easiest way is just not buy anything!  True enough.  I rotate several pair of shoes during my weekly runs, which include the Reebok RealFlex, Inov-8 Road-X 233, and Inov-8 F-Lite 195.  Each pair has its pros and cons, the Reeboks serve as an everyday casual shoe, as well as pulling duty on many of my longer runs where their extra cushioning is appreciated.  Having said that, I can at times feel a little lost in the Reeboks, my foot moving a little too much as the foam compresses and rebounds. The Inov-8 F-Lite 195 are my most extreme minimalist shoe, giving me immediate, unbiased, and unforgiving feedback.  I use them now mostly for my shorter, recovery runs, 5ks and also for cross training. My favorite shoe of the bunch is the Road-X 233. Minimal but not extreme. Flexible but with a little stiffness in the sole that I appreciate when pushing the pace or trying for a few extra miles.

The GOruns are just enough of what you need without anything more.  They are the perfect shoe to slide into place between the softer ride of the Reeboks and the precision handling of the Road-X 233s.  The uppers are incredibly light and with a roomy toe box the shoe almost feels like you are wearing a sock with a sole underneath.  The sole of the shoe is slightly curved, with a cut away or ‘missing’ heel.  When you stand tall, erect and with your feet close together you can actually fall backwards with the slightest lean since there is no heel to stop the momentum. This design also really seems to guide your foot into a mid-foot or forefoot landing, compared to other minimalist shoes that are still all too easy to heel strike in, if you are determined to do so.

Today was my first run in the blue and grey pebble crushers and I can say without reservation; all systems go.  I ran a 1 mile warmup, followed by 2 x 800 @ half marathon pace with 800 recoveries, 2 x 400 @ 10k pace with 400 recoveries, and wrapped things up with the run home of approximately three quarters of a mile.  No hot spots, no friction, just nice, care-free propulsion and landing without anything interfering with my perception of the foot strike and heel pull.

If you’re in the market for a light weight trainer or racing shoe, give the GOruns a spin. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

P.S. I purchase many running shoes one half size larger than normal to allow my toes to spread out, as well as accommodate any swelling that might take place during long, hard runs. The toe box on the Skechers is generous enough that I did not find this necessary and have a great fit with my normal shoe size.

 

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Sometimes an unexpected event can provide you with a beat down, or in this case, a fortuitous boost in motivation and focus.  I was under strict orders from one of my unofficial running coaches, Camille Herron, to lower my average heart rate.  As a beginning runner, my fitness level doesn’t allow a tremendous range in paces or heart rate zones compared with a much fitter person.  And as a result, I’ve been running almost all of my training runs at close to my actual race pace.

My longest run prior to yesterday was 7.35 miles.  When I headed out the door I made the decision to run as slowly as necessary to keep my heart rate from reaching previous levels.  If it did, I would make a single attempt to slow may pace, or alter my cadence or breathing in order to lower it.  If that wasn’t successful then I would just walk until my heart rate had recovered sufficiently.

To my surprise, focusing on running much slower and maintaining a more relaxed heart rate gave me a tremendous boost in energy and enjoyment. I didn’t feel like I was running myself into the ground.  I decided to take it one step further, and after each mile I walked for 2 minutes in order to get my heart rate back to approximately 100 – 115 beats per minute.

2 hours and 55 minutes later I had covered 13.16 miles.  What the hell?  How did that happen?  The consequences of this revelation are not insignificant for me.  I now have 4.5 months to become a smarter, stronger and fitter runner without having to stress over the uncertainty of my capacity to cover the half marathon distance before my race in January.

If I can maintain that pace until I am 90 years old, I will take over the title as world record holder for the half marathon!  😉

Lower HR equals higher mileage