Sunday, November 29, 2009

Six Outa Seven Ain't Bad

Due to circumstances beyond my control; beautiful warm and sunny weather and a long weekend, I ended up running 6 of the last 7 days on Week 2 of my Wingin' It Plan. All 35.5 miles could probably be described as junk miles or optimistically as baseline maintenance miles. Either way each mile and each day was pure enjoyment.

The lunchtime runs on Tuesday and Wednesday made me feel a little bit like I was getting away with something.

Thursday I met up with Terry for a run through Chino Hills State Park. We met at 8:00 and as predicted it was a sunny day. The temperatures were in the mid 60's and warming. We ran some single track along the ridges. Most of the trails in CHSP are fully exposed to the sun, so even the 60's felt warm.

Friday was a planned rest/cross training day. I went to the gym around 9:00 in the morning. I rode the bike for 30 minutes and then did another 15 minutes on the stairmaster. Finally by today, my legs felt more or less recovered from the leg workout I'd done 5 days earlier. I did some lifting concentrating on back and biceps, because the personal trainer was planning a chest workout on Sunday. And then because it was such a nice day I decided to head over to Bonelli to get in a hike. Once there I couldn't resist the urge and ended up going for a run instead. I was home by noon. I showered and we went back over to my mother-in-laws to help rid the fridge of turkey day leftovers. We all agreed that everything tasted even better the second time around.

Saturday I met up with the CA Cruisers for a completely new route. We met in Villa Park and ran streets for about 2 miles and then headed into the Santiago Oaks Recreational Area. It is a beautiful gem of a place. The park is criss-crossed with trails and ultimately connects to Irvine Regional Park for even more possibilities. Not having run the route before, the fast guys headed out first and marked the trail with orange chalk. I hung back and ran with Dave and Gary and then after a pretty big hill up to the top of the dam, I fell in with Cathe and George. The orange arrows worked out well except that the faster guys forgot to mark the turn around point. After a bit of confusion and the various paces met back up together, we headed back. On the return route, I fell in with Scott. We ended up running faster than either one expected. We each thought the other was setting the pace. A couple of missed arrows on the way back lengthened our route. When we hit the roads we found ourselves just behind two of the faster guys and since we weren't exactly sure of the return trip on the roads we were forced to keep them in sight again running harder than intended. It was still a great run. We talked the whole way so we weren't pushing it that hard. It was another 12 miler for me (that seems to be where I'm stuck for the last three weeks) and the longest run for him in quite a while. The weather the rest of the day took a definite turn towards winter. The highs were only in the 60's with heavy cloud cover and the occasional drizzle.

Sunday morning was the anticipated chest/shoulder/triceps workout with Chris followed by another run around the Sunday Morning Loop in Bonelli. Bonelli was abuzz with activity due to a Turkey Day Triathlon, but the trails were deserted; just the way I like them. The local mountains were pretty with the first snow, but summer-like weather had returned with sun and temps in the 70's, making my run all that more enjoyable.

I ended the week with 35.5 miles, none of them planned too far in advance. I'm not sure what next week has in store for me as I leave late Monday morning for St. Paul, MN. I'm in training sessions from 8:00 to 5:00 so I'm not sure when or if I'll be able to get many miles in. I'm packing the cool weather gear just in case. The Wingin' It Plan is working so far, so we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Warm and Sunny

This week my workplace, like many I assume, has been a dead zone. The holiday week coupled with our companies new investor friendly (read: employee un-friendly) vacation policy many folks took the entire week off. I had originally planned to do the same thing but then with the unexpected trip to Ohio and Pennsylvania I shuffled things around a bit and decided to work this week. Working during a short week when nearly everyone else is on vacation is a very nice change of pace. No meetings, no phone calls, no e-mails. It was actually possible, at least to the extent that I'm capable of it, to focus on a single task to completion without being interrupted by the latest crisis of the minute. My carpool buddy was on vacation as well, so I was pretty much free to do as I pleased.

I got plenty of work done but more importantly I rethought my runs. Since I am not a morning runner, this time of the year I am forced to run after work, in the dark. It has been a very warm and mild autumn so getting out the door temperature wise hasn't been an issue but getting out in the dark isn't my favorite either. And while I enjoy a long run on a nice cool, cloud covered morning and I don't even mind the occasional run in the rain, I've come to realize that I'm happiest running on a warm and sunny day. Theres nothing better than soaking up the sun in a sleeveless shirt, running shorts and shoes (except for maybe hanging out on the beach in boardshorts with a good book). Thankfully in SoCal we've got plenty of warm and sunny days. It's just that for the next couple of months I have to miss out on five of the seven warm and sunny days every week.

Many, many times at lunch I look out at the weather and think to myself'; "what a wonderful day I'm missing." So this week with no meetings on the calendar, my own car in the parking lot and nobody really looking to find me I decided to escape at lunch and go for a run. A little before noon each day I headed off to the men's room and changed into my running stuff and drove over to the San Gabriel River Bike Trail. Both days were in the mid to upper 70's with clear skies; warm and sunny. I was lovin' life; out on one of my favorite running paths mid day, mid-week enjoying the day. What could be better?

Tuesday I ran 4 miles and today I ran 4.5. Both runs were at 8:25 to 8:30 pace. After I was done I drove back to work, cleaned up a little and changed back into my work clothes. I ate my lunch at my desk. With no meetings on the schedule I wasn't too worried about how funky I might have smelled. I may have to see if I can work this escape into the schedule a little more often.

Tomorrow instead of an organized Turkey Trot, I'm meeting Terry for a little jaunt through Chino Hills State Park. It won't be very warm yet, but it will likely be sunny and a run on the trails is a good run no matter the weather.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Old Crew Run

I'd been planning this run for a while. It shouldn't be this difficult to get four people together in the same place at the same time.

Back in 2003 when I started running, it was me and Brian. We ran together at least once during the week and almost all of our long runs leading up to our first marathon, Rock'n'Roll AZ, way back in January 2004. Brian was a tech aide at work. Soon we were joined by Celeste, another tech aid and Terry, sales support. The four of us ran together pretty consistently up until the point that Brian went off to Tufts Dental School in Boston and then a few years later Celeste took a position at another company (she has since returned, but works in the field). Terry and I have continued to run together on a fairly consistent basis.

Nearly a year ago after graduating from Tufts, Brian returned to southern California to set up a dental practice. It took a while but he and I were able to meet up in July for the Surf City 5K. We've been trying ever since to get together for another run. My travel schedule and mileage requirements for the fall marathon season were often in conflict with getting together. A couple of weeks ago I redoubled my efforts to get together and we were able to settle on a date, time, place and distance and best of all both Celeste and Terry were able to meet up as well. Just like old times. I was really looking forward to this run.

Terry and I met up at 6:30 a.m. to get in some extra miles before the official reunion run. Our run started in Sunset Beach. We ran south on the bike path. I snapped a couple of pictures of the sunrise. It started off as a beautiful day, with some high patchy clouds but sunny.

Terry and I ran an out and back for about 7 miles before meeting up with the rest of the group. Celeste and Brian were planning on showing up at 8:00 for a five mile run. As Terry and I returned, the cloud cover increased blotting out the sun completely. The second leg of the run was colder than the first. Here's the old group, back together again. Terry, Brian, Celeste and me.
We had a great time, talking the entire run. We had to keep pulling Celeste back as usual. Brian lagged behind near the end as usual. Catching up and recalling old training runs was a blast. One thing Brian and I almost always did was end the run with a sprint to the finish. This time it was Celeste that put it into overdrive with a couple hundred yards to go. I couldn't let her go alone. Brian made it about two steps and then fell back with Terry, who wasn't having any of it. Good times. We went out afterward for coffee. We've made tentative plans to get together again in December. More good times.
The mileage ended up being 12.8; 7.2 with Terry and 5.6 with the whole gang.
I ended the week with another 5 mile jaunt on my Bonelli Sunday Morning Loop. It was a beautiful morning, 60 and sunny. I followed that up an hour or so later with a leg work out with my personal trainer. Now that my marathon season is over for 2008, I agreed to legs again. I actually suggested it. He was a happy camper. My legs on the other hand are beat. Bench presses and curls are so much easier than a leg workout.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wingin' It

I am a man in need of a plan. I almost always have my weekly mileage planned out on a spreadsheet for weeks in advance. But right now, two weeks after Harrisburg and with nothing race wise on the calendar for the foreseeable future, I am running without a plan on paper.

I've decided that for the time being, I'll try running 4 days a week. I'll likely take one or two days completely off and take advantage of the other down time by cross training on the bike, stairmaster and elliptical.

It is a little weird for me not to have a road map on paper but so far I've survived the week just planning my route and mileage within minutes of walking out the door. Tuesday I ran one of my old routes in the neighborhood, without getting into my car to drive anywhere. At 4.5 miles it was probably one of the shortest runs I've done in a while. I ran easy and relaxed. The run felt almost effortless (You gotta love those). I was surprised by my 9:01 pace over the route.

Wednesday was the cross training day. Nothing too hard core; 30 minutes bike, 10 minutes stairmaster and then some lifting (back and biceps). Tonight I did drive over to Via Verde and took off with a rough amount of time and route in mind. I ran the old familiar paths and on the way back added in a little hill loop; not because the plan dictated it (there is no plan, remember) but just because I felt like it. Even with the hill my pace over the 5.7 mile route was 8:54. Sweet!

I will eventually put a plan on paper once there is a goal race on the horizon but for now I'm just going to enjoy wingin' it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The First ... Since

I was listening to the radio a while back and there was an advertisement on for some new movie. They used the phrase starring "Sam Stud-Body" in his first action role since "some suspenseful violent movie." That figure of speech always strikes me as funny. How come every time we do something we haven't done for some significant period of time it's "the first time since..."? There can only be one real first time: first tooth, first step, first date, first kiss, first child, first marathon, etc, etc. Once we've done something once, why isn't the next time just the next time or maybe the second, third or fourth time? Why do I even think about such goofy things?

For my first run since the Harrisburg Marathon, I met up with the California Cruisers on Saturday morning. It was the first time I'd gotten a chance to run with my old group since the end of September. I was hoping to run between 8 and 10 miles. They had planned the 2 Parks/2 Loops route which is 1o miles with the possibility of 14 by adding the Summit House Loop. Today Dr. John wanted to show us how to add some more trails to include the Brea Dam.

We started off into the Parks and then headed off onto the Summit House Loop. Some of the directionally challenged members the group were unsure of the route, so the faster members hung back at all crucial intersections and waited for the slower ones. This worked out fine because I really wanted to keep an easy pace anyway. I'd start each section with the slower folks and slowly creep up to the faster ones. When we veered off the Summit House Loop to the Brea Dam, no one but Dr. John was completely familiar with the route so there were many frequent stops.

By the time we'd completed all the extra loops and returned to the first park we'd already run about 8 miles and it seemed like we had been gone forever. I'd given up trying to keep track of actual running time. Finishing up the first loop of the 2 Parks put us right at 12 miles. There was not going to be a 2 Loops today. 12 was a couple more than I'd planned on but with the easier pace and frequent stops my legs felt pretty good; a little tired maybe but no aches or pains.

Sunday morning I put in 5 miles on my old favorite Sunday Morning Loop in Bonelli. It was so enjoyable to be out there on a Sunday morning just taking it easy and enjoying the trails. I'd run this route a couple of weeks ago on Thursday when I returned from Ohio, but today was the first time I'd run it on a Sunday morning since my injury earlier this year. I've walked the loop a lot during 2009, but I was hesitant to run it. In 2008 I spent as many runs as possible on those trails. After being sidelined for the better part of year, I came to believe that the rocky uneven surface and the hills may have contributed to the IT Band issue and stress fractures of the last two years. This time around I'd stayed away during marathon training and it may just be a coincidence but I just finished my third marathon in 2009 without any major aches or pains. I'm going to continue to try to run the loop on Sunday mornings only throughout the winter and before marathon training begins again and see how it goes.

I ended up running 17 miles during the first week post marathon. That is right about my usual. In addition I made it to the gym on my own and rode the bike for 30 minutes each time and lifted concentrating on back and biceps one day and chest and triceps on the other. After my 5 miler this morning I met up with my trainer and did some more chest, biceps and shoulder work. Tomorrow I will enjoy a complete rest day. The first one since last Thursday!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Harrisburg - Pix, Numbers and A Few Words, Too

Since I only made my intentions on running Hartford public the same week of the marathon, Charlie and I had never made any concrete plans to meet up. We'd commented on each others blogs and sent a couple of emails but never made a firm commitment. Race morning on City Island people were milling around. My family and I had just started walking toward the starting area when I spotted Charlie. We got to chat for a minute or two and then lined up together in the starting area. Here's a picture of us still in the crowd. I'm wearing my infamous throw away sweatshirt, which by the way I still have. I gave it to Lisa just before lining up in the starting area. Before I go any further with this report I need to back up to Saturday and the expo. Earlier in the day we had gone to lunch at a restaurant owned by my uncle and cousins in New Holland, PA. It is a home-style BBQ place, real down home cooking. My PA relatives have won quite a few awards at cook offs over the years. From there we drove about an hour to go to the Expo. The Expo was really just packet pickup. The whole experience consisted of picking up a goodie bag that contained our bib a couple of flyers and about six various types of Hershey candy bars. The candy was a nice local touch, with the headquarter for Hershey nearby in Hershey, PA. Then we moved across the room to pick up our chip and that was the end of the Expo. Hardly worth the hour drive, but I always like to have that stuff taken care of. Many folks picked up their packets on race morning, something I would recommend if I were to ever repeat H'burg.

The picture below is the starting line on the Market Street Bridge. I think it is pretty funny that you can see almost all 1000 or so people that started the race. Quite the contrast to the starting line from something like NYC. This was the first year that the race started on the bridge. Usually they start on City Island and run a loop around the island before heading over the bridge into H'burg. Things were a little chaotic at first. The road wasn't actually closed until about 2 minutes before the race start. Eventually everything went off relatively smoothly.

Lisa and my in-laws had walked across the bridge a bit and caught this picture of me soon after the start. The temp at the start of the race was in the low 30's. I was still in my racing black; including shorts, a long sleeve over a short sleeve and my gloves. Notice I'm still smilin' at this point.In contrast to Des Moines three weeks ago where I stayed in the cool weather gear the entire race, I shedded my gloves by Mile 2 this time around. The day, and me, were warming quickly. The clear skies and bright sun were to blame. The first couple of miles were the obligatory tour of the state capital building. Near Mile 3 we got to run on a street called Race Street. The east end of town took us through some older municipal works area and then onto the Capital Area Greenbelt. It is always nice to run off road, away from traffic. My times up to through Mile 6 looked like this: 8:58, ----, 17:55, 9:06, 9:22, 10:21. Mile 6 included a bathroom break where I accidentally left my gloves behind. I laid my water belt on the ground outside the port-o-pot to avoid an incident like Michelle suffered a few weeks back. Mile 6 through 9 were run along the paths between Front Street and the Susquehannah River. Somewhere along here I shed my long sleeve and tied it around my waist. The run along the river was very scenic. Around Mile 9 we took a right and ran through neighborhoods for the next 3 miles before hitting a somewhat desolate stretch along Industrial Road (aptly named) and then we entered the campus of H'burg Area Community College (HACC). HACC once again got us off the roads and many people found this a great place to gather to cheer us on. Around Mile 16 I saw Lisa and my inlaws. I stopped briefly to download the long sleeve and made the fateful comment about how tired I was. It is funny that they can't quite grasp the concept that I could stop and talk to them during a race. I think I spent about 30 seconds with them but they urged me on. My miles splits to this point were: 8:43, 8:51, 9:10, 8:59, 8:53, 9:06, 9:17, ---, 18:48 and 9:10. The shot below is me taking off after grabbing a mid run kiss from my wife. Notice the spring in my step?!

Soon after Mile 17 the hills in the course began. We entered another really nice section in Wildwood Park along with a little, hilly, detour through a neighborhood which I suspect was added in to make up for the mileage we missed at the start without the island loop. The hills continued on until Mile 20 and my times here reflected that: 9:46, 10:09, 10:01 and 10:28. From Mile 20 to the finish we were basically retracing our steps from miles 6 to 12 on a basically flat run back to City Island. For the next 6 miles I swapped places with a curly haired women who was also using a run walk technique (BTW I used 6:15/0:45 throughout the race). The last 3 miles along the river seemed to take forever. My paces from mile 20 to 24 were: 10:07, 9:55, 9:58 and 10:14. Around here I caught up to a couple from the Bronx Running Club. The woman was struggling, while the man was urging her on. She commented to another runner that the man had won the marathon. I didn't give it much thought, but it turns out he was the actual winner of the race; Michael Arnstein in 2:37:17. He'd come back out on the course to run his wife in.

Mile 25 and 26 were long, long miles. Mile 24 I slowed to 11:12. The last Mile.2 was an astounding 13.55. I was discussing the times with my family later and my mother-in-law (who is not a runner) said, "You crashed!" That's a pretty accurate description of the situation. I was reduced to a shuffle barely picking my feet up off the ground. Lisa took the following picture just as I came off the pedestrian bridge back onto City Island. I actually look pretty good in the photo compared to how I felt.

Soon after this point, the course took a hairpin right, down a small incline and then a hairpin left to the finish line. A cruel way to make us finish I thought, but at least it was over.

Another marathon in the books. Sixteen states complete. Three marathons in 9 weeks. A nice weekend with the in-laws.

There are several choices of marathon in PA, including the Philly marathon in a couple of weeks. I chose Harrisburg due to its proximity to my in-laws and my wife's birthday. There isn't much special about this race to set it apart from others. Harrisburg is a small city and running along the Susquehannah was pretty. Spectators were few and far between which isn't really an issue for me. If I had any issue with the race, it would be that the water stops are also few and far between, sometimes up to 3 miles apart. I carry supplemental water and used it all. I think that the unseasonably warmish day and lack of water may have contributed to my "crash." Three weeks between races and my atrocious eating habits the last couple of weeks likely contributed as well. All things considered, I am more than happy with my 4:12:24 finish time.

Now, it is rest and recovery time till year end. The only thing on the slate right now for 2010 is Twin Cities in October.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Harrisburg Marathon

It was an absolutely beautiful day for a marathon in Harrisburg, PA. Low 40's at the start, mid 60's at the finish under clear, sunny skies.

I had the opportunity to briefly meet Shoreturtle at the starting line before he took off like a Bolt (Usain). He is, as expected, a nice guy. I never saw him again, so I'm not sure how his race went.

At the half way point I was right at 2:01. By Mile 16 when I saw Lisa and my in-laws on the course I told them I was "really tired." Miles 17 to 24 were significantly slower; in the 10:00 per mile range. By Mile 25, the proverbial wheels came off. I ran that one in 11:12 and the last 1.2 was as gut wrenching 13:55. I just could not kick it into gear. Poor hydration is likely the culprit.

My final (unofficial time) was 4:12:26. All things considered, not too bad.

My son's made the following comments:
#1 son: Not bad for an old guy!
#2 son: Dang!
I'm just happy that they both were even remotely interested.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Onward to Number Sixteen

I ran 5 miles today and I'll run 5 more on Thursday. I ran tonight on one of my very first and oldest routes. With the time change, Bonelli is off limits for a few months so I was back on the streets again. I went over to Via Verde and ran the streets on what used to be my fave 3 miler on the dirt before the city paved it over (anybody hearing Joni Mitchell in their head?).

The two 5 milers in the middle of the week is reminiscent of the week just before the IMT Des Moines Marathon. I'm repeating that week because, you guessed it, I'm running another marathon this weekend. Three weeks since Des Moines and I'm going to toe the line at another starting line and work my way to the finish.

Before Des Moines I explained that I was running it in part because I wasn't going to be able to run the Harrisburg (PA) Marathon, because my wife said so (just kidding). So I signed up for Des Moines with her blessing. Before I'd even gotten to Des Moines, she surprised me with Harrisburg as a 25th Anniversary present. Sweet, huh.

I've had my eye on Harrisburg for several years now for a couple of reasons. Of course there are the obvious ones of it being in a state I hadn't run yet, but there are other even better reasons.

My in-laws live in Anneville, PA not too far from Harrisburg, so the marathon gives us an excuse to visit them and offers us a really affordable room rate. Back in 2005, the marathon was run on November 13, my wife's birthday. I always thought it would be fun to celebrate it in PA with her Dad and step-mom. Plus, I really like the idea of killing two birds with one stone. This year the race is almost a week before her birthday but we will still have a good time with her family.

I have no expectations for a finishing time, except to actually finish. There really wasn't much time between PA and IA to recover and train properly. The best I can hope for is that everything I did leading up to Missouri and then Iowa will carry me through PA. With the eating season starting last Friday, my diet has been out of control with sugar and flour. And boy could I tell the difference on tonight's easy 5 miler. I vowed on Sunday to stay away from the stuff this week, but so far the first two days of the week I've failed miserably. Hopefully I can "dry out" before Sunday.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Runners and Dogs

I haven't had a weight sessions since Monday, 10/12. I may have gotten one in on Wednesday, 10/21, but it isn't written down in my log. I've had trouble scheduling something with my trainer since I returned from Cleveland but I finally made it to the gym on my own on Saturday for a chest/triceps work out after my 12 miler.

The 12 miler was done on the San Gabriel River Bike Trail, just like my last 12 miler the weekend before Des Moines. I ran the exact same route and finished it in 1:50:31 (9:13 pace), slightly better than the 9:15 pace from 3 weeks ago. One end of the bike trail wraps around a park behind the dam. There was a flurry of activity at the park with a middle school or high school cross country meet and a dog agility course going on.One nice thing about this run is that I sped up as I went. My first few miles were in the 9:30 to 9:40 range. By mile 9 I had dropped the pace to 9:02 and mile 12 was completed in 8:14. It is not often that I can end a training run faster than I started. I am usually the king of consistent pace throughout. Because I was still pretty fatigued from the relocation trip, I moved my run:walk interval down to 5:15/0:45 from 6:15/0:45. That made the pace all the more satisfying from the previous run.

This morning, Sunday, I got up to the bright sunshine compliments of the the time change and headed over to Bonelli for a 5 miler. The route was split about 50/50 on the trails and asphalt. Bonelli was also a flurry of activity with more runners and dogs involved. Today the Muddy Buddy was being run and a crew of Search and Rescue guys were out on a training hike with their heavy gear packs and their dogs.

I ended the week with 27 miles. I tallied up 135.2 miles in the month of October.