Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tempo Love

To say that my training for my first marathon was lacking in creativity and variety would be a bit of an understatement. Got my Hal Higdon training program off the internet, and when DoubleH (that’s how I refer to Hal …. we’re pretty tight) told me to run, I ran. Pretty much always at the same pace, on pretty much the same routes, with pretty much the same results. Not much speed-up, and very little (intentional) slow-down.

This time around I’m determined to mix things up a bit. Not just out of boredom, but rather because of all the blog posts and articles I’ve read documenting how this will improve the overall training effectiveness, (hopefully) improve my finish time, and (EXTREMELY HOPEFULLY!!! ALL CAPS WITH MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS AND EMPHATIC KEYBOARD STRIKING) keep me away from my orthopedist. I’d like to slow down his early retirement plan if I can.

The first significant change I’ve made is trying to work a tempo run into the mix each week. I am by no means an expert on the proper approach to a tempo run, but I try and do 1-2 miles at my target marathon pace, then 3-4 miles at my best guess of my 5k pace (haven’t run one yet, but would target somewhere between 7:00 and 7:30 pace), and then 1-2 miles at a pace somewhere between marathon and 5k. Yesterday was my second tempo run for M2 training, and I’m finding I REALLY like doing these.

With my string of leg injuries worthy of getting some ‘FRAGILE’ tattoos, I’ve shied away from trying to add any significant speed or heavy effort into my runs for fear of injury. Without a real purpose behind the acceleration, it just seemed like tempting fate. However, the tempo runs have given me a reason to step things up a bit, and I like having license to increase my turnover and really focus on going fast along with going far. I have discovered that I’m not very good at maintaining a constant speed if I’m not just running at my natural pace. Not something that really concerns me, but it’s something I want to work on to establish better overall control over my running and my expenditure of energy. Yesterday was a good example of my poorly-calibrated cruise control:

If any of you have any good variations on the tempo-run theme, or look at my approach above and think ‘you’re doing it all wrong jackass’, then please pass along your thoughts. I’m enjoying tinkering with this for the moment, and want to make sure I’m maximizing the return. I’ve already noticed that it has sped up my normal running speed a bit, especially when I run the day after the tempo run, so that’s a good thing in my book.

Interval training will be my next big adventure, but I need to put some more planning into the Navy-seal tactics required to actually get on a track around here and get a run done without the running police throwing me in running jail. Viva la revolucion!

With our vacation getting started in just a few days, I had to switch up and stack up my training for the end of the week, so I went to the gym this morning to lift, and assuming all hell doesn’t break loose at work, I’ll be doing about 7 miles this afternoon. Currently 92 degrees, and the hourly forecast shows 94 with 52% humidity at run time. Should be Sweatacular.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Throwback Training Tunes - 1981 edition

Quick recap of the method behind my musical madness:

Recognizing that I’ve got some serious fatigue with my current iPod residents, I’m challenging myself to try and come up with an honest-to-goodness running song from each of the last 20 years of the 20th century (1980-1999). Mainstream to alternative, well-known to abundantly obscure, anything is a potential candidate. I’m test-driving anything I post with a listen during at least two attempts to drag my carcass through a training run, and trying to link to a video or audio-clip of the song so we can all remember how awesome we looked in our killer 80s and 90s fashions. Pegged acid-wash jeans and a rockin’ mullet for this runner. Good times …. good times.

Prior Throwbacks:

‘Look to the Sky’ by the March Violets (1986)
‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ by LL Cool J (1990)

Today’s Throwback:

‘Ceremony’ by New Order (1981) – New Order is a very black or white group with most people. They either like them or have no interest in them. I fall into the ‘like them’ camp, but I find my feelings about their individual songs are somewhat black or white. I either really like a song, or just don’t care for it. Not much gray area. This is one of their top 5 for me, and until I started putting this list together I never realized or considered what a great running song this is for me. The first song on any of my playlists is a critical position for me. It needs to have a good intro, a nice gradual build, and ideally be something that matches the general mood as the sun is just starting to rise. Gets the brain working, the blood pumping, and sets the tone for the miles ahead. I had never found a first-song that could match the live version of Bad by U2 from the Wide Awake in America Album, which I never seem to get tired of despite having listened to it enough that it is tattoed on my eardrums. I think I may have finally found a worthy foe with this one. The history of this song is pretty interesting, and a bit tragic, with the end of Joy Division and the start of New Order, but it’s one of the first songs from New Order, and arguably one of their best. There are several versions of this song available, some by other artists (Joy Division, Radiohead, etc.), and a few different versions by New Order. I’d recommend the version from the New Order – Singles album.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

12 Odd Miles of Fail

Quite simply, I got my ass handed to me this morning in my (supposed to be) 12 mile long-run.

Heat index was already in the low 90s when I got underway, and from there mother nature just repeatedly kicked me in the crotch as I tried to grind out the miles.

Did an out-and-back, and at the turn at 6 miles I knew I was in trouble.  My internal radiator just wasn't working for me today.  By 2 miles in my shirt was drenched, and I was already hitting the Accelerade.  Slowed my pace after the turn, but just couldn't seem to regulate my temperature.  Finally at 9.5 miles I had to throw in a 1/2 mile walk to try and cool off and recover a bit, resumed running, but after a mile had to throw in another walk-break. By this point I had drained all my Fuel Belt flasks and was really struggling.  Picked up with a slow run again, but could tell my form was really hurting, and rather than risk injury I walked it in from the 11.4 mile mark.

As I've said several times before I love running in the heat and working up a good sweat, but today the heat gods decided to smite me, and smite me good.  I'll break down the run a little later, see what I can learn, and move on to the next one.  Still better than not being able to get out there and even try, which is where I was a couple months back, so I'm not going to worry about it.

Good news is that with all that time out there flailing I was able to test-drive some more throwback training tunes, and should be able to pass a few along this week.  Week 2 is off to a rough start, but I'll get my revenge.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Boston Bound

Sadly, it’s not what you think. The powers-that-be still refuse to accept my BQ first-place finish in the Pandora Marathon, where I narrowly edged out Santa Claus, Lord Voldemort, and Sasquatch (a surprisingly nimble runner) at the finish line, then enjoyed a recovery drink from the Holy Grail while soaking in an ice-bath in Hef’s Grotto. Every race teaches us something. That one taught me that I’m too old to come anywhere near Jagermeister before going to bed, or really any time of day.
We will soon be loading up the Family Truckster for a 13-hour fun-filled drive for an extended family vacation in Boston and several spots in New Hampshire. Most all of my wife’s relatives are from areas around Boston, so we’re going to give the kids a chance to meet some of their relatives and see the places where my wife spent much of her youth. Should be an interesting trip. I’ve been so busy at work lately that it has kinda snuck up on me, and although I won’t be battling the Kenyans on the trip, I will be needing to fit in my training runs. I’ve never been on a vacation in a place that I don’t know in the midst of a training plan. A little concerned about finding the places and the time to run (want to avoid the treadmill if possible), but also looking forward to the challenge. Should make for some new and interesting maps to add to the Garmin collection.

Assuming I survive the remainder of the day, week 1 of training is in the books. So far the right foot (Plantar Fasciitis) and the right knee (IT Band) are holding up pretty well. Lots of stretching and ice seem to be helping. There definitely is some soreness involved, but so far just sore, not pain. My day 1 run, according to plan, was supposed to be 10 miles, but since I hadn’t gone more than 6 miles since rehabbing my knee and foot I thought that was too much of a jump and too much of an injury risk, so I cut the run off at 8 miles. Otherwise, I’ve pretty much stuck to plan.

Mixed in my first-ever tempo run during training on Thursday, with the middle three miles at 7:24, 7:20, and 7:12, which is pretty fast for me. Already seeing that it will be a challenge to work cross-training into this plan if I’m going to keep a fairly consistent lifting schedule. Need to get some swimming and biking into the mix – still working on how I’m going to pull that off.

Tomorrow’s long run is 12 miles, and I’m going to go ahead and do the full 12 and see how my wonky leg responds. I’ve taken the advice of Jeff at Dangle the Carrot, my recovery-drink Mr. Miyagi, and ordered some Ultragen recovery drink which I’ll be trying for the first time after tomorrow’s run. Went with the cappuchino flavor, so I’ll be the one in the parking lot sipping from my water bottle with the beret, black turtleneck, haughty affectation, and questionable hygiene. Basically just another Sunday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Throwback Training Tunes

This may come as a shock, but I’m not the coolest guy in the world. In fact, I’m not even sure that ‘cool’ is still in the acceptable rotation of words, but I’m not cool enough to know what else to use.

Sometimes I forget my lack of coolness, but fortunately I have my kids around to remind me.  Multiple times a day. Why does this matter … why is this information relevant? As I recently tried to find some new tunes to feed the hungry iPod and numb my brain during the many weeks of training runs to come, I realized that I’m simply out of my element when flailing around on iTunes searching through the cyber-crapload of recent music floating around the ‘store’. I don’t really listen to the radio much in my car, and in the Family Truckster I’m audibly assaulted with whatever 3 songs Radio Disney has decided to play for a month straight. I’ve come to rely on blog posts and recommendations from Mrs. Evolving to build playlists of recent music. However, I wasn’t always devoid of any traces of cool. And back when I had a little bit of cool in the cool-tank, I did listen to music. A lot of music.

This, along with a switch over to random mode for a run last week that brought up a great running song that I didn’t even know was on my iPod, got me thinking. I think it’s time for a bit of running-song archaeology, but not just some random search for long-lost running songs. Rather, I’m going to challenge myself a bit and try to come up with an honest-to-goodness running song from each of the last 20 years of the 20th century. I figure this will give me a reason to dig back through the mound of old CDs that I haven’t listened to in years to see if I can find some forgotten tunes that still have some mileage in them. Also hope it may introduce some of you to some songs you may have never heard, or may have forgotten about.

My criteria for a good running song is entirely subjective, so attempting to describe it is fairly futile. It’s one of those things where you listen to it a couple times, and you just know it needs to join the playlist. I’ll test-drive anything I post about with at least two runs, and even try to link to a video or audio clip of the song. If nothing else the videos should be good for a laugh. Remember, this was the days when the music was the sell, and the artist wasn’t always meant to be seen. Very different than today’s music world. I’ll also try to share some memories or factoids regarding the tunes if there are any to be had.

For those just tuning in, the song from last week’s random-play on the iPod that started of all this, and what I’ll call the first official entry in the list, is ‘Look to the Sky’ by the March Violets (1986).

My musical tastes aren’t very compartmentalized, so hopefully the list will be an interesting mix of artists and styles, and won’t be predictable. I may fake left with some Echo and the Bunnymen, and catch you with a Metallica on the right. I may stick some short Crowded House jabs, then sting you with an overhand Technotronic right. You’ll be looking for a Concrete Blond to the body, and I’ll stagger you with a Whitesnake uppercut.

Why all the boxing references? A none-too-subtle segue into Throwback Tune #2, ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ by LL Cool J (1990). I actually bought this cassette when it came out in ’90, and listened to it in my big yellow Sports Walkman while jogging back in the day. Pulled this down off of iTunes and give it a try on a couple runs, and found that it still holds up pretty well. Brings back good memories for me, so that’s always a plus, but memories aside it has a good fired-up factor which is helpful on a tough run. Definitely worth a listen. Hope you like it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Game On! Running Gear Roll Call

Warning – abundant wordiness and truthiness to follow. Marathon #2 training officially begins today, so I’m marking the occasion with my unscientific yet abundantly compelling opinions about my assorted running gear. All of the stuff below I bought by squeezing a little more life out of my own credit cards, so these are unbiased reviews based on my own real-world experience. Nobody is sponsoring me, although I think my orthopedist may be quietly considering it, and nobody has sent me any of this stuff to review, although I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to that and am willing to try most anything once. However, I’m fairly confident a running skirt would make my hips look big, and if I find myself needing a sports bra then something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Today is Day 1 of the 120 days of training planned for the Outer Banks Marathon. It’s a little less exciting than being at this starting point back in November for my first marathon, however, I have a lot more confidence in my ability to handle the distance than I did then. I’m also considerable less clueless when it comes to some of the essential gear to optimize the odds of get through a training cycle in one piece. Since I like to read blog posts about what folks are actually doing and using in their training, along with real-life experiences rather than marketing glitz, I thought I’d share my current collection of essentials (stuff I use on almost every run):

Shoes: Asics Gel Nimbus (11 and 12)

I’ve used the Nimbus shoes going back to the Gel Nimbus 8, and have had pretty good luck with them. Admittedly, I haven’t really strayed from them, so there may be some better options for me out there. I’m a fairly neutral runner, and usually fluctuate between 190 and 200 pounds, so I need a fair amount of cushioning. My recent issues with Plantar Fasciitis have me doubting the Nimbii a bit, but I went ahead and ordered the 12s, which finally showed up on Friday and got their first outing yesterday. The Nimbus 11 has worked out well for me in terms of tread life, nothing causing any blisters, and keeping my feet cool and well-cushioned. My only issue is that where the mesh meets the front of the shoe tends to wear thin and/or through above my big toe after about 150 miles. This is probably a function of how I hold my foot in the shoe, since it only seems to happen on the right shoe. As far as the Nimbus 12s go, when I took them out of the box and gave them a run yesterday, it was like running on rainbows with my feet wrapped in clouds being pulled by unicorns. Actually it’s too soon to really tell anything or compare them to the 11s based on how they perform. No blisters from the first run, which is always a good thing. There’s nothing that feels significantly different than the 11s, which is a plus in my book. After I’ve broken them in a bit I’ll share my thoughts in a later post. After I’ve broken in the shoes that is … not my thoughts.

Insoles: Superfeet Green

For all of the marathon 1 training I used Softsol Airr insoles, which seemed to work just fine. In response to the PF issues I decided to switch to something with a more rigid arch support. The Softsol insoles are VERY comfortable and VERY cushiony, but don’t offer much in terms of arch support. I tried the Powerstep Pinnacle arches, but found the arch to be a bit too high, and a bit too far forward (towards the toes) than I wanted. The Superfeet seem to be much closer to matching the shape of my feet, and the arch support is a bit less pronounced. My feet still seem to be adjusting to running with them, since the reduced cushioning means a bit more overall pounding. I’ve put the Superfeet in 5 different pairs of shoes at this point, so I think we’re committed for the long haul.

Socks: New Balance Unisex Lightning Dry Lo-Cut, RoadRunner Dryroad Elite No Show Double Tab

Wore these New Balance socks for every run for marathon 1 including the race, and all runs since marathon 1, and haven’t had any issues with blisters or chafing. Thus, since I’m an idiot, I’m trying out a different sock to see what I think. I’ll still wear the NBs, but they’re showing some wear so I’ve added the RRS Dryroad Elite No Show Double Tab socks to the rotation, in a spectacularly ugly black/orange color. I got some great suggestions for potential socks in the comments from a prior blog posting, and I’ve saved them all in my training log. If the RR socks don’t work out, I’ll give some of the others a try, but these were a little less expensive than the suggestions I got, and I need to start governing my running-spend a bit better. For me, the sign of a good sock is not knowing it’s there, kinda like a good referee or an adult diaper. Based on 3 runs (5, 5, and 8 miles) I’m pretty happy with the RR socks. Compared to the NB socks they feel like putting gloves on my feet. There is no slippage or bunching when I run, but I didn’t have any issues with that using the NBs either. They have a nice, subtle arch compression/wrap built in, which can’t be a bad thing when wrestling with PF. Overall I’d recommend both of these types of socks, mostly dependent on if you want something other than white (which seems to be the only NB color) and how much you want to spend – the NB socks are considerably cheaper.

Compression Shorts: 2XU Men’s Performance

I gave compression shorts a first try last Spring when recovering from a pulled hamstring. I trained for marathon 1 primarily using a pair of compression shorts from Shock Doctor, occasionally mixing in a pair of Under Armour compression shorts. I didn’t really care for the Under Armour shorts as they didn’t seem to differentiate the physiology of the body between the knees and the waist. It just felt like I was cramming my body into something tight and I didn’t feel a big benefit versus running without compression shorts. The Shock Doctor shorts worked fine, but they were made to accommodate a cup, and I figure if I need to wear a cup running then I need to find a new neighborhood in which to train. I used the 2XU calf compression sleeves during my M1 training to deal with a calf strain, and they worked great, so I bit the overly-expensive bullet and bought the 2XU shorts soon after M1. They are much more comfortable, much lighter, and seem much more well-made than the other shorts I was using. They also have a drawstring waist so I can control how much I want to feel like I’m being eviscerated, and they have silicone leg grippers that keep them where they should be, even when stretching. They also feel like the panels are put together to reflect the way the body is typically put together. Kinda like the difference between a tailored or untailored article of clothing. I’d say they look pretty cool too, but if somebody sees them then I’ve most likely forgotten to put my shorts on before leaving the house. Again.

Hydration/Fuel: Fuel Belt, Accelerade, Hammer Gels

Got the Fuel Belt early during the training for marathon 1, and was admittedly not entirely enthusiastic about the idea, but now I wouldn’t want to do a long training run without it. I considered going the handheld route, but back in the day I ran with a Walkman in my hand, and I was thrilled when I got my first MP3 player and could strap it on my arm and run with nothing in my hands. I didn’t want to go back to holding something again, so I went with the Fuel Belt. I’m a big fan of having hydration, gels, food, etc. available whenever I want them, so much so that I ran the first half of M1 with the Fuel Belt, and passed it off to my wife when I passed my family at the mid-point, then relied on the water stations for the rest of the race. For M2, I’m going to wear it the whole way, and hopefully talk my wife into passing me four filled bottles to reload at the halfway point. I hardly even notice that it’s there when I run, and I like to be able to hydrate and or eat whenever my body seems to need it, rather than at a set distance interval. I’ve just recently starting using Accelerade for pre and during run hydration. So far it seems to be working well, and does seem to help out with sustained energy. The flavor (orange) isn’t something that I would call good, but it’s not terrible either. It’s a little on the chalky side which I assume is because the protein doesn’t break down terribly well during mixing, but if it works I can live with a little chalkiness. I’m on the verge of trying out some recovery powders, but haven’t quite gotten there yet. Hammer Gels are the sponsor for the OBX Marathon, so I’ve switched from Gu to Hammer for this training cycle. I haven’t gotten into long enough long-runs to really call for gels yet, but I’ve been trying them before my morning runs to see what I think of the flavors. So far, the vanilla was pretty tasteless, but the Apple Cinnamon, Raspberry, and Montana Huckleberry were all pretty tasty. No issues with any stomach upset, but that wasn’t a problem with the Gu either. Looking forward to hitting the distances where I need these. Knock on uninjured wood.

The Rest & Coming Soon:

Nothing special in the way of technical shirts. 3 Under Armour shirts and 3 C9 shirts from Target. Unfortunately I didn’t discover the C9 shirts until I had already bought the Under Armour shirts, since the 3 from Target cost about the same as 1 Under Armour, and I don’t see a big difference between them. Target is my friend. Regularly sport Oakley sunglasses that I love, but don’t remember the model. They are very comfortable, and don’t squeeze my big melon at all when I run, even after 4 hours of marathoning. They’re entirely too expensive, but Oakley has GREAT customer service, so I’m a customer for life. I’m all about customer service. Body Glide on every run. The stuff does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and chafed nipples are angry nipples. Only needed to learn that lesson once. Don’t have a running hat yet, but need to get one soon to keep that big melon from cooking. I currently either run without a hat, or with a bandana wrapped around my head, which inevitably means I get mistaken for an exceedingly sweaty pirate, or risk getting caught in a drive-by for flashing the wrong gang colors. It’s all about thug life on the rough streets of suburban North Carolina. Also need to get myself some good sunscreen, since the Coppertone Sport tends to get in my eyes. Scape seems to be the hot product on the block, so I’ll probably be picking some up soon.

Of course my Garmin Forerunner 305, henceforth referred to as Lil’ G, goes running whenever and wherever I do. You certainly don’t need a GPS to train for a marathon, but it makes it a WHOLE lot easier to track the progress and ensure the distances and the timings are lining up with your training plan. Hard to beat the 305 for the price. Packs more features than I will probably ever use. Lil’ G got mad skillz.

Have to go down some gels, as all this typing has my fingers cramping. 1 day down, 119 to go.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Goin' to WallyWorld

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. True for people, and I like to think it’s true for my trusty Garmin as well. I got some funny comments when I posted one of my Garmin maps from a recent fishing trip, and it got me thinking. I just assumed that most folks with a 305 strap that monster on their wrist and record random outings or paths completely unrelated to their training. I honestly assume that’s not the case, but if I can convince myself of this then I feel like less of a tool, and my wife is less justified in rolling her eyes at me when I bring it to random locations.

I like to think that my Garmin needs an occasional break from splits and paces, and needs a chance to take the pixels out for some R&R. For example:

This was from a swimming/tubing outing a couple weeks back, when we loaded up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and headed to Nags Head for the July 4th weekend.

My wife got me the Garmin last fall just before my father, brother-in-law, and I headed out for a (most likely, but hopefully not) once-in-a-lifetime fishing trip on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Here’s the flight from Anchorage to Kodiak:

Here’s the Garmin out trying to catch some king salmon off the Alaska coast. Sadly no kings were caught that day.

Here’s a couple days later going offshore after halibut:

The Garmin had much more success on the halibut outing:

Just to make sure the Garmin isn’t only focused on training and vacations, it also assisted with the lawn mowing (actually did this when my foot was hurting to see how far I was walking when mowing since I wasn’t supposed to be doing much walking at all – net result was 1.25 miles):

I think all these experiences have helped my Garmin and I build a better relationship, and hopefully encourages it to round down (time) or round up (mileage) at opportune times.  Gotta be nice to your training partner.

Monday, July 12, 2010

No Trespassing

Feeling inspired this past weekend to try something new/different, I decided to find a track nearby and try some interval work. While running a couple errands on Saturday I drove down to the nearest high school to check out the track. What I found was a very nice track, surrounded by a very unfriendly high fence covered with no trespassing signs and padlocks.

I walked the whole perimeter looking for a way in, but all entries were barred. I didn’t see any snipers nearby, but could only assume landmines were strategically planted as well. Decided it was time to retreat from this top-secret war zone, and drive to the middle school my son will be attending next year to check out the track there. After a lengthy walk I came upon a much less impressive track (think asphalt with some occasional rebellious grass growing out of scattered cracks), but an equally impressive fully-locked fence with more No Trespassing signs. Ummmm …. WTF? I’ll resist going off on a rant about how my taxes pay for both of these tracks, and how these are the schools that both of my kids will most likely be attending, and instead just say what a sad commentary it is that these places have to be locked down with threats of prosecution. I have to assume it’s either in response to past vandalism, or a function of liability and fear of litigation, but regardless it was greatly disappointing. I will no doubt be jumping one of these fences in the not too distant future, and hopefully won’t end up in running jail. I’m envisioning a Thelma and Louise moment as the assembled law officers chase me through the neighboring playground, past the tetherball poles and jungle gyms, ending with a dramatic slow-motion leap into the neighboring creek. Hopefully I survive the 2 foot drop.

So …. Change in plans for my Sunday run. Decided to try something else new, and do my version of a tempo run. This begged the obvious question …. What tempo? Much of what I read points to running your 5k pace, but I have a slight problem in that I’ve never run a 5k. With nothing to indicate otherwise, I chose to assume that my 5k time would be around 12 minutes, but if I ran that pace then I’d have to deal with all the world-record press, the angry Kenyans, and the inevitable investigation revealing my performance-enhancing addiction to little chocolate doughnuts. On a similar note I’m confident that were I to try and sprint 100 meters I would most likely go under 9 seconds. However, Usain Bolt won’t return my calls for a pay-per-view showdown. Chicken.

I went a bit more conservative and shot for around 2 miles somewhere between 7 and 8 minutes each. Started off with my usual 1-mile walk warmup (my offering to the please-don’t-make-me-any-more-injured gods), then managed the following ‘tempo run’:

Overall this felt REALLY good. My legs were angry at the end, but it was a ‘what did we ever do to you?’ angry rather than an injury angry. I found it really hard to throttle back the speed on the last couple miles after running at a faster clip than usual, which I guess is the point. I’ll definitely be doing more of these workouts as part of the training plan …. Which starts in a mere 6 days.

On an unrelated note – as I enjoyed my bowl ‘o cereal Saturday morning I was flipping through the channels and found one of the weekend versions of the daily morning ‘news’ shows (Today, GMA, etc.) where they bring in the b-team and stammer through the teleprompted chatter. When I flipped to one channel there was a girl at a piano singing a song and just KILLING it (in a VERY good way). I stopped and listened to the whole song, and was mesmerized. For reference, I’m not an American Idol fan, mostly because of the shows devoted to the folks who can’t sing and really shouldn’t be there. I get very embarrassed for people who embarrass themselves, and I find those shows painful to watch. I also take no pleasure in watching people fail, unless of course they are my sworn arch-enemy or are trying to sell Woody and the Roundup Gang to a toy museum in Japan. However, I will give all kinds of respect to someone who goes out there and really does a great performance, especially if it’s something acoustic that doesn’t get drowned by massive overproducing.

Anyhow, this girl was incredible, and that much more engrossing since it was just her and a piano. Her name is Christina Perri, and the song she sang is called ‘Jar of Hearts’. I downloaded it from iTunes and played it for my wife, who informed me that it’s been playing on the radio for a while, so as usual I’m a bit late to the party. That’s what happens when you only listen to talk radio in your car, and only listen to playlists on your iPod. In some ways I think the version I heard on TV was better than the iTunes download, but it’s still pretty darn good. Really an amazing and engaging voice. Not much of a ‘running song’, but still worth a listen.

In terms of running songs – I threw the iPod on random during my Friday run, and it pulled up ‘Turn to the Sky’ by the March Violets from the ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ soundtrack. This is a textbook 80s tune, but it’s a GREAT song for running. Ended up listening to it a couple more times over the course of the run. Nice blast from the past – worth checking out if you’re looking for something new/different.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Taking Stock, and Needing Socks

Looking at my calendar I’m 1.5 weeks from officially starting my training for marathon #2, and thought I better take a good look at where I am in terms of ailments, gear, and conditioning. First, however, a quick recap of the holiday weekend.

We spent 4 days in Nags Head, NC, and the weather couldn’t have been any nicer. Temperatures were near 100 the day before we got there, but dropped into the 80s for the whole visit, and have since climbed back into the mid-90s. The last couple years we’ve had some bad weather, so we were due.

My dad is training to walk the half-marathon while I run the full marathon in November (Outer Banks Marathon), so as an early birthday present we got him a Garmin 305, which we gave him when we arrived and he played with all weekend. I did 5-mile runs on Saturday and Monday, and joined him for his walks on Friday and Sunday where he gave the Garmin a test drive. He was having a lot of fun with it, and even wore it the couple times we went out on the boat, which made for some fun maps once we pulled the data onto the computer.

Definitely the most well-received gift I’ve given him in a long time, and I think it will help him a lot with his training. He’s really into the training, which in turn gets me motivated for my training, so it’s a big win for all.

As for the personal inventory:

Ailments: I think I’m effectively past my IT Band issues, and I’m keeping up with the stretching on a daily basis. I’ll try working some of the strengthening back in and see what my foot thinks of that. As far as my foot, the Planter Fasciitis doesn’t seem to be getting any worse, but definitely has not gone away. I suspect I’ll be wrestling with this for a long time, so I’ll stick with the rolling, and icing, and avoiding going barefoot, etc. Waiting to see how it responds once I start upping the mileage. The calf strain from the last training round hasn’t returned, so I think that’s behind me. I suspect that this next round of training will bring a new batch of ailments, but in between I’ll enjoy every minute that my body allows me to run.

Gear: Thankfully I think I’m pretty well armed for warm-weather training at this point. At least my credit card has begun to cool down from the flurry of activity over the last few months. My foot woes had me questioning my long-term relationship with the Asics Gel Nimbus, but I finally decided last week that I’d stick with the Nimbii and ordered a pair of the new Nimbus 12 from Roadrunner Sports … and there was much rejoicing. However, on the day they were supposed to ship to me I got an email from Roadrunner saying the new estimated ship date is July 19 …. and there was much sadness. Not crazy about continuing to operate with only one pair of training shoes, but assuming they ship on the 19th it’s not worth trying to order elsewhere. This is my first order with RoadRunner, so we’re off to a rocky start. The one gear item I’m currently looking for is a good pair of running socks. I currently run in some New Balance socks that I ordered from Amazon, and they work fine but they’re starting to wear a bit. For some unexplained reason I’ve decided I want some non-white socks (probably something black), I guess just to change things up and to make them easier to keep separate from my other socks in the laundry. Anybody have any running socks that they would highly recommend? Any of the Thorlos models that work well? Anybody use any of the RoadRunner branded socks?

Conditioning: This one is a bit tricky. When I built my original training plan, I put together a 19-week base-building plan, followed by a 17-week marathon training plan starting on July 18. My injuries blew up my base-building, and week 1 of my marathon training plan is supposed to start with a 10-mile long run, which is too big a jump and would risk injury again. I’m planning to revisit the whole 17-week plan this weekend and see how to ramp up sensibly, and hopefully get back to the original plan distances and frequency by mid to late August. This new plan is more aggressive than my plan for my first marathon, and the longest of the long runs is 23 miles versus 20, so if I’m going to follow this I need to push my mileage and conditioning forward fairly rapidly, but without risking another breakdown. Also going to work some interval, tempo, etc. training into this plan, since last time I basically did the same thing every time I ran, just varying the distance.

Record highs in the Tarheel state again today.

Based on June and the first week of July, we should be around 200 degrees by August. Damn you Al Gore and your global warning.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Elite, not Elitist

Pay the price, roll the dice, and see if you’ve got it in you.

I’ve read several articles and blog posts recently about the ‘average runner’ and whether they belong in marathons. I’m a bit saddened by this discussion. I’m not talking about the otherwise sedentary person who doesn’t train at all, shows up on race day, and potentially puts themselves in serious personal risk. I’m talking about the person who puts in the time to follow some sort of training program, weaving this thread into the complicated cloth of life. The person who has no intentions or delusions of victory, but rather defines their own personal finish line, and duels with the mental and physical challenges each day brings in an attempt to reach that line. The person who has their own reason for the chase, perhaps profound or perhaps spectacularly mundane, and need not share that reason or justify why they continue to log the miles. I’m talking about the person that looks an awful lot like what I see in the mirror.

I’m of the opinion that if the race is open to the public, then anyone should have the opportunity to make the decision to join the battle. We’re all responsible for our own actions, and we’re all free to make good or bad choices along the way. We all need to challenge our own boundaries and push ourselves into places where we’re not sure we can go. Sometimes we not only want to, but we need to color outside the lines.

Admittedly I’m not a follower of the sport of running, and my knowledge of the elite runners doesn’t go much beyond Ryan Hall. However, most everything I’ve read or heard regarding elite runners and their interactions with us non-elite folks has been very positive. They are ambassadors for the sport, especially when interacting with children who represent the future of the sport, and they don’t seem to begrudge anyone who is trying to make it to the finish line, or the starting line for that matter. They are elite runners, but not elitists. They recognize that the clock is not the only way to measure the accomplishment.

So much of what we do today is sanitized, and sterilized, and regulated, and over-engineered, yet at the heart of the matter running remains the same as it was hundreds and thousands of years ago. Back when anyone could do it … and thankfully anyone still can.