Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Streak Ends

A week before my longest running streak ever ended, I finally knew when it would. After 143 straight days of running (besting my previous record by nearly 100 days), a very early morning wake-up call, a two-hour drive to an expo, a long day of signing books and talking to runners, and a desire to race well the next day meant that Saturday, April 27th would be the end of the streak. I know you were all so very concerned.

When I broke 100 days, I wrote a little blog-post about it because it was extremely earth-shattering and you needed to know. Actually, the vast majority of this blog for the past 12 years has been a place for me to write my thoughts and feelings down and if other gain insight from them, then fantastic! I will save you a repeat of the intense navel-gazing of that post, and suffice it to say that I am beyond pleased with no only how I performed during this streak but the fact that I ended it.

Only twice during that time did I feel like maybe I shouldn't run. However, while I went out for a run each time expecting to maybe turn around, I instead quickly got over the potential fear of injury of soreness and soldiered on.

I have been extremely lucky the past half-decade as I have not suffered a single running injury, per se. Sure I tripped and broke my hand in December of 2015 and was mugged by two men breaking my face and my thumb in 2017  (yes, you read that right) but since 2014 when I had intense calf pain that left me grimacing on runs for months, I haven't not gone for a run once because of pain in my legs. That is a long time, with a lot of races and a lot of miles to not tweak something. I do not take that for granted. And I think most of that comes from knowing when not to run.

As racing goes, however, I had a horrible half-marathon on the day my new streak began, mostly because of a breathing problem which I should have realized would happen. I don't wish in retrospect I had run the night before to keep the streak live, however. Racing is a crapshoot. We try to put ourselves in the best position possible and hope all the other dominoes fall the way they should. They didn't for me on race day but I am in the best running shape I have been in for nearly seven years and it is only a matter of time until that shows up on race day.

Unless the Austin heat kills me first.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 13; 3rd Edition 
17.35 miles run and 12.75 miles biked and 1050 meters swam in races in 2019 races
Race: Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon
Place: Canton, OH
Miles from home: 1310
Weather: 40 degrees; rainy; windy

What makes racing so much different than running is the fact that there is a clock attached to it. I have long advocated that anyone of any talent level get out and run. I have also done the same for racing. But the difference between the two should be the effort given and the desire to give all you can give. That is why racing holds such a special place for me personally. One shouldn't put on a bib number and toe the line unless they are willing to give all they have that day. Granted, most days it won't be anywhere close to what you would like. But, for me, running a race just "to have fun" (which is always code for "to take pictures, give less than your best, and mess around") goes against what a "race" is about. Your views may differ (and I have no doubt for some of you they do as any time I have broached this subject, I get labeled as an elitist or that those at the back of the pack have more fun and blah, blah, blah) but to me, that is what separates a race from a run.

Because there are so many variables that can make a run good or bad, hoping that a good run falls on a race day is what makes each race such a wild card. It is what makes it extremely special to race well on the day of the event and not just during training.To show up, ready and prepared and then also have the fates play into your hands and give you what you need. Not simply collecting medals and accolades but doing the whole left, right thing as fast as possible.

I coach athletes and have gotten dozens to set new PRs in all sorts of distances. The first thing I tell them is how lucky they are to get to the starting line of any race.With so many variables that can stop that, sometimes it is a miracle. Second. as luck plays so much into how we do on race day, we cannot get too excited about the highs and, more importantly, do not get to let down about the lows. I try my best to listen to my own advice. This weekend in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame half-marathon, I had to deal with the "lows" portion.

Until two weeks ago I hadn't run a race since the first weekend of December. Given the downright pleasant weather we have had in Austin this year, I have been taking advantage and putting in some great training miles. When I ran an aquathlon and a triathlon last week, the run portion of both was about the best I could hope for.  As such, I was excited to see where I stood just running alone at this half-marathon.

I spent the day before the race at the expo, where I was apparently out of focus very often for people. Nevertheless, I got to see people I hadn't seen in years, meet others I had talked to but never had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face, and make new acquaintances as well. I would mention all the great people I met, but would undoubtedly leave out one and feel like a jerk!

When my friend, and running legend Bill Rodgers came over to say hello, I realized we had been friends now for eleven years. Bill gives so much back to a sport that loves him so much that it is always a pleasure to see him. Today's runners know less and less about our recent history in the sport and that is a shame. But Bill is one who sticks out in most runners' minds and for good reason.

Race Morning:

A windy Saturday turned into a windy and rainy race day.  There had been predictions that this would blow over by race time but as the clock ticked down, that showed it would not be the case. I sat in a invited athletes section, fortunately warmed from the weather. I finally met in person a runner and educator, Taylor Sowers, whose class I had Skyped with years ago. Taylor would end up running a 2:55 to take third overall in some serious sloppy conditions and setting a new PR as well. That was a stellar time indeed!

Walking to the start, I talked to two individual athletes; one, Eric, who would end up winning the half-marathon in a ridiculous 1:15 and the other, Barbara, who would take first in the female edition of the marathon in another fantastic time of 2:59. Interesting that in my sleepy morning time, two of the few people I would talk to ended up doing so well. Too bad it didn't rub off on me.

As we counted down to the start, I took off my jacket and asked Bill Rodgers if he could give it back to me at the end of the race. I know this is like asking LeBron James to hold your jock but Bill gladly gave it to someone else to make sure I got it back at the end. A cannon fired and away we went!

First 3 miles:

I can normally tell how a race will go for me, or at least in what direction, in the walk to the start.  Today I had no clues. I had slept just fine, eaten a decent meal, and felt sufficiently awake. But I neither felt tired nor did I have a spring in my step. I had taken the previous day off from running, which also was my first day off in 143 days. That running streak beat my previous streak of 48 days by quite a margin. One would think I would be rip roaring ready to go.

When we hit the first mile and I only clocked a 6:39, I was a bit disappointed. It felt so much faster.  My lungs, also, were burning. This, unfortunately, is mostly my fault. Suffice it to say that I have allergies that I know I have that I could have dealt with better and should also have not put myself in  place where there had been so much cigarette smoke the day before. I have sissy lungs that need perfect conditions to function properly and I didn't do what I needed to do to make that happen.  I have no one to blame but myself even if I did think that I would have them clear by the time the race started.  But, I thought, perhaps the mile markers are a little askew and by the second mile I will be back on track.

Unfortunately, I didn't see the second mile marker and given the very blustery conditions, it is entirely possible it was blown over. Regardless, I knew the projected times of some of those around me and regardless of mile markers, I knew I wasn't running what I wanted. Hitting the third mile marker I just divided by two and knew already that my desired goals for the day were out the window. I was going to come nowhere close to the 1:25 or so which I knew was entirely possible for me to get today. Now the question begins: what do you do on a race day when you know your race is over but you have miles to go before it literally is?

To Mile Six

The fourth mile had us approaching the boundaries of the small Evangelical Protestant liberal arts college, Malone University. The first boisterous crowd of the day was led by some vocal students here and it was greatly appreciated. Kudos to any and all who braved these less than desirable spectating conditions. I didn't mind running in them too much even if they weren't ideal, but standing around in near freezing temperatures in wind and rain required a hardy soul.

This also marked the high point of the course for us elevation-wise and a small downhill, with a wind at our back coming up, provided me with some of the best miles of the day for. We traversed some of the most beautifully laid brick roads I have ever seen in the Ridgewood Historic District which provided me with a little spark as well. (I also love how we ran up Yale Street and back down Harvard Street. Not sure if that is mocking the students of Malone or what exactly.)

The next turn had all of us front runners passing all those behind us on a mile-long stretch of Market Ave. I spent precious resources cheering on those behind me and they did the same for me. Yet in spite of all of this, I was showing no signs of picking up the pace. Granted, neither was anyone else which at least made me feel that I wasn't the only one struggling. However, as I read from many others, they were dealing with the rain and wind much more than I was. For the most part, while cold for sure, I wasn't too bothered. I just couldn't breathe.

At this point, I felt like I was rather locked into my position in the race. It didn't look like I was going to catch much of anyone and no one else seemed to be closing the gap on me.

Heading to Mile 10:

With a nice turn around right in front of the Stark County Courthouse, I saw Taylor on his way to his awesome finish. I could also see that here were a few people closer behind me than I thought but after that it was a long stretch of no people. One woman who would overtake me on the uphills and allow me to slip past her on the downs was right beside me. We would do this cat and mouse again for the next few miles.

We passed the Timken High School where the student band/dance/step squad was out performing for runners. That was beyond appreciated, especially given the weather. Normally, I would have whooped it up with the kidlings but I was too buy feeling sorry for myself.

At 7.5 miles the course rejoined the first 1.5 miles through a nice park area which could definitely lend itself to boisterous crowds as this race, in its third year, continues to grow.  Today, however, they were silent, save for our footsteps and the rain drops. And if your soul leaving your body makes a noise, it was about to make a loud one for me at mile nine. The above-mentioned woman drew next to me as we lopped back to pas under the start line and we began to run in lockstep. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I knew I was going to puke.I pulled off to the side, right in front of some Porta Potties and let go what could only be described as a slightly wet dry heave. I hadn't eaten anything since the night before and, for the first time, realized I hadn't drunk a single drop on this course. This expulsion and heaving was the nail on the coffin for me to even try to have a respectable time of sub-1:30.

I stepped into the Porta Potty and used it. Not sure what I was coming out of me given the dearth of foods and liquids but that's the human body. Coming out, I also grabbed a throwaway shirt. Why, you might ask. Well, let's just say I was having a bit of a wardrobe malfunction and was trying to be a bit modest. Unfortunately, I didn't resolve the issue. Fortunately, the crowds were sparse. That's all that needs to be said there.

On to the Finish:

Right when I was beginning to feel pretty damn low, the course took us past a quarter mile section put on by wear blue: run to remember. This national nonprofit running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military had put out picture after picture of fallen military members.  We hear the numbers all the time but seeing faces put to just a smallest of fractions to those numbers was sobering. We see those wonderful videos of military members surprising their family members by coming home early from their service. As wonderful as that is, I always say wouldn't it be even better if we weren't always sending soldiers to fight wars that are unnecessary or unwinnable?

*steps off soapbox*

Right after these pictures were dozens of people standing on either side of the road leading to the McKinley Memorial Park holding full 3x5 American Flags for runners to run through. It was, all in all, a rather moving sentiment and one that took my mind off my own personal suffering for a few minutes at least.

Next it was a little jaunt around WaterWorks Park and circumventing West Lawn Cemetery. You didn't get to see nearly as much of them as one would like before skirting over Interstate 77 and beginning the final mile and a half to the finish. At this juncture the wind and rain were pretty bad, my shorts were turning me into a roving indecent exposurer, and I was just wanting to be done. When one final runner came up next to me and was challenging me for a finishing place, I wasn't in the mood to try and outkick him. He would be the only runner who had passed me while I was running since mile four but I just didn't have it in me to care.

Around the Hall of Fame Stadium we went, entering at one endzone, running all the way to the other, through the length of it like we are celebrating a touchdown before a quick turn to the finish. I was done and couldn't have been happier. My time of 1:32:16 was my 71st slowest half-marathon ever out of 104 I have run. That said, I was 27th overall out of 1,241.  I think that tells you how much the weather seemed to affect all of the runners. Plus I got to show everyone how svelte I looked in my high school track and field singlet. Wait, were we supposed to give those back? Is 25 years the statute of limitations on petty theft. (Joking. I was gifted this when I ran my 51st of 52 consecutive weekly marathons in 2006. Cool down, sad pathetic people who are always looking for something to snipe about.)

It can be difficult to assess how well a race is put together when you are in the middle of having a bad day. Yet, when you realize that you never once thought about how the race was run that tells you everything you need to know about the race. No race is perfect and after running over 500 races I have seen just about everything that could go wrong. This was far from an ideal day to run or put on a race but the organizers did a bang-up job. The medals were fun and the shirts were comfy. Moreover, upon finishing, each runner was given a lovely, huge fleece blanket to wrap up in. Given the weather, this could definitely be an almost literal life save for some. For me, one who loves to run in the cold but the minute I am done want to be warm, it was beyond superb.

Now I just need to sit back and figure out what my next race is and hopefully do it where my lungs work with me.

Monday, April 22, 2019

No Label Sprint Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 13; 2nd Edition 
4.25 miles run and 12.75 miles biked and 1050 meters swam in races in 2019 races
Race: No Label Sprint Triathlon
Place: Austin, TX
Miles from home: 131
Weather: 50 degrees; sunny; cool

*le sigh*

Going to cut to the chase and not bury the lede here: with a little over a mile left in the bike portion of this triathlon I got a flat tire. Well, that was when I realized it. I think it happened a mile earlierwhen I inexplicably started to slow down. As this happened when I was
1. only a mile away from transition
2. in a sprint tri
3. something I don't know how to do (change a tire) and didn't have a spare anyway

I was left with one decision: run in my clippity clop cycling shoes to the transition. That is not ideal in a triathlon. Or anything else for that matter.  But how did I get to this place, my first triathlon in 3.5 years?

Earlier in the week I competed in an aquathlon in Austin. It went FAR better than I expected as it had been six months to the day since I had swam a single stroke. Feeling jumpy, I searched and found the No Label Triathlon in Katy Texas which fit my needs of being relatively close, not being too long of a bike (I hadn't cycled one rotation since August 27th, 2018) and happening THIS weekend. I signed up and was excited to see what I could do.

The day before the race as I loaded my car and was pumping my tires on my bike, one the the tubes broke. Oh no. I don't have extras and I had to get going right then in order to make the packet pickup.  Luckily, I found a bike shop not too far from the packet pickup and acquired a tube. After they put it on for me and started to ring me up


the tube exploded. They put another in for free and everything seemed OK. Of course, everything seemed OK when it was sitting on the counter as I tried to pay for it too, so there you go.

As the race started at 7 a.m. and I had to be up at 5 a.m. because triathlons are exhaustively involved with their setup, I went to bed at a super early time for me. I woke afresh as I possibly can at that ungodly hour and headed to the start of the race.

Swim: 4:15.4 (21st place)

The swim portion was a tad different with the 300 meters being swam in a pool where each swimmer would go up and then back down a lane before doing a flipturn under the laneline and into the adjoining lane. If you are a decent swimmer this is not too hard, just a little odd. Unfortunately, there were roughly 400 people who had to do this. The only way it was possible was for each participant to seed themselves according to ability correctly, then go off in roughly 10 second intervals.

I did just that and looked like I was about in the right spot beginning maybe about 20th overall. When it was my turn to leap feet first into the pool I took off with gusto.

At no point did I feel settled in this swim. I felt fine but never like I was swimming fast. About half
way through the swim I had a guy right on my feet.  I was perturbed I was so slow so I waved him past. Then I spent the next half of a swim right on *his* feet. I think he sorta shot his wad in the first half of the swim and I should have been less polite and simply stayed where I was. But it being such a short swim I knew it didn't make much difference either way. I was not here to win the race.

Transition: 1:09.2

I got out of the pool not knowing exactly what my time was as I had not started my watch. I knew it wouldn't get a signal in the natatorium so I just had it set to catch my bike and run. Unfortunately, I literally had THE longest run to make in order to get to me bike and THE longest run with my bike to leave the area. Nevertheless, my transition was fair. I looked at some of the others who cut my T1 time in half and figure that couldn't be ALL just bike placement. They definitely have their stuff down. I know I do not.

I struggled a bit getting my feet clipped into the bike which cost me a good ten seconds. Even though I was all the way over to one side some overzealous guy ran into the back of me with a "Jesus!" I said "Yes, he is risen tomorrow but I'm sorta stuck here for the moment. Not sure how you didn't see me."

Bike: 51:16 (239th - egads)

The weather was just perfect for this race. Absolutely wonderful. Next to no wind, barely above 50 degrees, mostly cool and relatively dry. And the bike course was extremely flat with basically four turns. It was well-marshaled by the police officers, the cars on the road mostly gave us a wide berth, and from all of that standpoint, it was good. In fact, kudos to the race directors indeed for how well they organized this race. It was well-run for sure throughout in what was definitely a bit of a challenge to put together.

Unfortunately, cycling on the shoulder of this one highway was kinda crappy. The road was rather rutted, with marbles for rocks in a lot of places, and not a smooth surface. When we left the highway for about half of the ride onto some other streets, it was much better. However, when I was barely 2 miles into the ride and saw one cyclist pushing his bike back, that tight feeling in my stomach hit me a bit. I haven't done many tris but I have never had a flat in a race. I sure hope I didn't have one today.

Most of the ride was uneventful.I had a few cyclists pass me but by and large they were riding those $10,000 per wheel bikes. ("Oh, but Dane, it's not about the bike!" No? OK. Trade me.) My speed wasn't exactly what I wanted it but at around 23 mph, I felt good. I passed a few cyclists and felt like it was an even trade for those who passed me and those who I passed.

Then, mere feet after seeing my third cyclist on the side of the road with a flat, I noticed the lethargy I expected to get but never felt in my legs was really getting to me. Soon, I realized it wasn't lethargy but a flat tire.


I debated trying to ride my bike for the last mile-plus but was certain that would do some serious harm to my rim. So I dismounted and stood for a second. What do I do? I guess I will run.

As fast as I could in these infernal cycling shoes, I horseyed my way along, doing my best to stay out of the other cyclists way. With about half of a mile to go, I took my bike off the road and onto the sidewalk on a narrow turn. When I bounced down on the other side over the curb my entire front wheel just flew off. I caught it in one hand and stood there: flat tire and frame in my left hand and a wheel in my right hand. To say I was a bit frazzled would be an understatement.


Triathlon has oodles of rules. I was certain me running in with my bike was allowed as long as I kept my helmet on. But I was unsure if I could carry my bike and have the wheel in the other hand at the same time. So I sat down to put the wheel back onto my bike. Thanks to Strava I can see I spent exactly 2:01 putting that wheel back on. But I finally got to the second transition.

Transition 2: 1:09.3

I am very intrigued by the fact that my two transitions were only one-tenth of a second off of each other. I also wasn't exactly in the fastest of moods either knowing I had lost approximately ten minutes to my flat tire and errant tire (Kenny Rogers voice: "You picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel!")  But I made the effort to get here, so I was going to run. Also, I say this is my first triathlon in 3.5 years. That's not entirely true. I attempted an Xterra off-road tri last summer that had me DNFing a third of the way through the bike after my umpteeth crash. So, surviving any calamity and getting to the run mean I could at least give it a go.

Run: 19:41 (11th place)

I immediately began passing people in front of me but given all that transpired I had no idea if that meant I was going fast. However, before I even felt winded I passed the first mile marker. Now it just became a hunt to track down and pass as many people in front of me as possible.

This was a very enjoyable run with just a few turns, a nice jaunt past the Katy City Hall building, and a mostly tree-lined green-visaged route. I made note of these niceties but for the most part I had tunnel vision wondering how many of the people in front of me I could put behind me. Each one I passed spurred me on faster and I wanted to snare them all. Like Pokemon!

Into the last mile I could only make out two runners in front of me and I didn't have a chance to catch them. Then suddenly I had a chance to catch one of them and did. Then with .3 of a mile left I suddenly had a chance to catch the other one. I turned on the jets running right around 5 minutes per mile but it looked like I was running out of real estate.  He heard my steps and picked up the pace himself and as I dodged a pot hole and ran into a narowing chute, it was obvious I wasn't going to be able to catch him. I ended up just about one short of passing the guy. I wasn't too bothered as who knew how far he had been behind me before my bike incident and he might have finished minutes of ahead of me on his chip time anyway. Furthermore, it was about my individual effort on the run here that mattered most to me, not the placement. (As suspected, when I saw th results later he finished 3:30 ahead of me anyway.) When I later saw my time for the run (6:30 pace for the three miles) it pleased me exceedingly.

All told I finished in 1:17:32 which was good enough for 85th overall out of 381 finishers.  If you just removed that two minute stoppage to put my wheel back on I would have finished 62nd. Now, subtract another 8 minutes at least for my flat tire. (I say that number based solely on one cyclist on Strava who started a little behind me, fell a little bit further back, and then when I really started to get a little tired, but now realize was my tire going flat, passed me.  He did his bike in 41:33. As we hit that last straightway he was over 30 seconds behind me. So eight minutes is conservatively the time I lost running instead cycling that last mile-plus.) That alone puts my 1:07 time 26th overall and tied for second fastest in my age group.

Like I said, *le sigh*.

My biggest takeaway from this event are I am glad I didn't crash and that I am in the best racing shape I have been in for a very long time. To do so well in the swim and bike with zero training makes me very happy. To run some of the best speedwork in a race at the end of a triathlon I had already sorta given up on was even more stellar. I am extremely excited to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.

Hopefully my tires stay full of air.

Fun Fact: The Overall female winner and third overall male are from a relatively small town in Germany which just so happens to be the same town one of the athletes I coach resides in. Was a bit of a shocker to see that!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Lifetime Splash and Dash 1 of 6 Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 13; 1st Edition 
2 miles run and 750 meters swam in races in 2019 races
Race: Lifetime Splash and Dash Series
Place: Austin, TX
Miles from home: 13
Weather: 78 degrees; cloudy, windy

This is now the third straight year I have done this series here in Austin. When Lifetime Fitness bought the gym, and quarry, I guess, which this event took place in I wasn't sure they were going to have the series again. But they did (with the respective price hike) and I figured I would sign up and test my monthly mettle.

The weather looked about the best it could for most of these races with a cloudy 78 degrees with a slight breeze and relatively low humidity. That all made me rather happy. I was extremely curious, however, how this race would go for a number of factors. First and foremost, I have not swam one single stroke since I finished the last of this series in October of last year. Not one lap. The vast majority of the reason behind that was the second factor - I am currently in the middle of the longest streak of running I have ever had in my life, by a long shot. I wrote about surpassing the 100 day mark and that was more than a month ago. Keep in mind my previous longest streak was 48 days.

In previous iterations of this race, I had rested the day before the event and taken it easy the day of.  On Sunday I blasted out a 12.5 miler at 7:10 pace and then Monday I ran another 8.3. The morning before the race I did a leisurely four mils but it was four miles nonetheless. Basically, here I was in the middle of no rest, 133 days into a running streak, and taking on a race.

That said, I have lost upwards of 15 pounds this year with a new way of eating, new running, and a few other life occurrences. Now I simply had to go do the race and see how it all fell into play. So many new factors to have fun and obsess over.


With no swimming lately, I was curious how it would feel in the water.  As the temperature was 68 degrees in the quarry, I was pleased as punch we wouldn't be swimming in soup. Unfortunately, I swam fairly poorly when it came to sighting. My goggles fogged more than they should have and I found myself way off course on a few occasions. Obviously that bummed out a bit. But other than that, the 183-day layoff from swimming didn't seem to hurt me any as even with the non-straight-line swimming, I swam my fastest swim ever. Not by much, but a 12:11 swim and transition was one second faster than I had ever done before. I can say I was definitely surprised by that and have to attribute it to both the cooler temps and the wight loss. I easily lost ten seconds swimming off course and with exactly half a year since my last swim, I cannot complain one bit how this went.

I came out of the water and saw that two of the swimmers in front of me were still putting on their shoes. I do something different than most by wearing socks during a swim. I hate running without them and trying to put dry socks onto wet feet has always confounded me. One of these swimmers got going and soon thereafter another did as well. I had designs on tracking them both down but it all depended on how fast of runners they were. Having done this series numerous times, I have seen some extraordinarily swimmers who can't run at all, some who are middling, and some who are good swimmers but better runners. I can't keep track of all of these younguns that live here in Austin, especially as some of them have sprung up half a foot since the last time I raced them, so I did not know which these boys were.

We crossed the timing mat and now was time to see what I had in these running legs.

Lap One:

As I took off after the two runners, it became clear the latter out of the gate was faster than the former. He also appeared to be faster than me.  But I knew I could catch the other runner and it was just a matter of real estate when I would.

This first lap is always the most enjoyable as there are no other runners to run around.Well, there are no others in the race. There are other people on the course as it s not closed to the public, even if the public is only Lifetime gym members. To be honest, if I am paying for a race, I'd like for it not to be open for the public, especially in a tight space like this. It is just half an hour or so once a month to close it down.Shouldn't be that hard to ask. Especially when someone was out walking their damn dog on one narrow part on the south end. You see everyone else, right?

I closed the gap on the one runner as we closed in on the end of the first lap. I crossed it in 4:19 and was beyond excited. In all of these races, I have never broken 4:20. Did I try too hard on this first lap? It didn't feel like it. I could only wait and see.

Lap Two:

This is not an "easy" course as I have stated before. It is relatively narrow path for half the course, with uneven footing, roots, and twists and turns. Low-hanging branches threaten to knock heads off and when you hit the second lap with all the other participants now on the running path, it gets kinda dicey. Without fail there are some people who, time after time I can count will run directly in the middle of this path, regardless of the fact that they MUST know people are passing them. Alas.

I used a surge to pass the one runner in front of me at the midway point of this second loop and kept surging. Don't pass until you are ready to make it stick, I always say. As a slight tailwind helped up up the backside hill, it appeared that this was where I was going to stay overall in the placing. I crossed the mat for the second loop in 4:17 and got very happy. What could I do on this final lap?

Lap Three:

Unfortunately, it was even more crowded now and with slightly tired legs once had to be more careful not to stumble while avoiding people. As I hit the midpoint of the last loop I saw two guys in front of me. I had a feeling one of them was a loop behind me but the one in front of him gave off the vibe of a runner who was almost done. I began to push hard and with a quarter of a lap to go passed the one guy. The second was coming closer but it was hard for me to want to push past someone who I was unsure of whether they were about to be done or not. Nevertheless, as we hit the final straight away, I began to throw down a little bit but I think he felt my breath. Even though I was gaining, he kept a small margin between us. He passed the finish and stopped.

Drats. He WAS on the lap with me. I passed four seconds later and stopped my watch. I had ran a 4:15 final loop and my overall time was 25:04. I couldn't remember my previous times.Was this good? Bad? Somewhere in between? I had convinced myself so many times of what I know I could do on this course that what I HAVE done gets mired in the mists.Upon checking my past results I saw that I had run my fastest time ever by 41 seconds!

I was a happy bunny. I ended up winning the Masters Division, placing 9th overall in the men. Three women beat me and while two of them beat me handily (90 seconds by one and 40 seconds by the other - the third just by 20 seconds, all ) it really is hard to race people you don't know you are racing. (All finished behind me because we did wave starts and it was their chip times which were faster.)

All told, this bodes well for me in the near future. I am aware it is going to only get warmer here in Austin over the next few months but with the construction of a new pool in my neighborhood, I am planning on really improving my swimming. I know that in my prime I swam nearly as good as the top overall swimmer whose combined swim and transition beat mine by 2:33 today.  Let's say I can't get back there but if I just cut that in half I am now about where I thought I would be in these races and that doesn't even count if I improve in the run. In other words, after my first race in nearly five months, which might be the longest drought I have gone without racing in thirteen years, I might be onto some good times.

In fact, just to test that out, I am entering a triathlon on Saturday which will test me for sure at the No Label Triathlon.With just a 300 yard swim, 13.9 mile bike,and 3 mile run, this is a sprint which is not in my wheelhouse. But hey, just because I haven't biked since August 27th and haven't completed a triathlon in 3.5 years doesn't mean I don't expect to excel.

I like being foolish that way.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

100-Day Running Streak

I first opined about running streaks 12 years ago.  In that post I talked more about what makes a streak and how we trust those who say they haven't missed a day. Five years ago, I spoke about it again and how streaking can often impede a good running goal. I also gave reasons for when it is good idea to stop your streak. Then today, I hit 100 days in a row where I haven't missed a run.

My previous record was 48 days in 2012. That streak ended when a combination of a cold or illness met up with a long flight and travel day. Heeding my own advice which I would late write above (can you heed something you haven't said yet?) I took the day off. Since that time the longest streak I had came in 2016. This was surprising to me because when I was counting the days earlier this year I was convinced that January was the first time I had ever run every single days in a calendar month. I as wrong. My second full month in Austin, Texas, in the thick of sickening heat, I ran every day in October. (In fact, I ran 35 times in October, and with some in prior September and some in November after my consecutive days streak was 43 days.)

This particular streak started because I did an experiment in December. Even though I fell on consecutive days and cut up my knee, I kept going. I kept going not because of the streak but rather because everything felt good. I had matching ouchies on my knee that looked super weird but that's just cosmetic.

One week in to that experiment I had experienced some slight groin pain which made me think I might need to take some days off. It wasn't that surprising as I was adding distance and adding days. I normally take one day off a week. But the pain abated and I finished 2018 without missing a day. Then I began 2019. For a variety of reason I pulled out of some races in January which is usually when I take a rest day. January continued to have pleasant and cool running weather which helped me continue the streak. The previous January had some very cold days in Austin but they had quickly subsided and gave way to a plethora of 80-degree days. I figured when this happened I would take a break. This year that did not happen.

This nice weather continued into February. Dealing with some personal heartache issues I found myself turning to running again.The weather stayed nice. No legs problems or injuries of any kind cropped up. I figured I might stop my streak at 52 days (52 is somewhat synonymous with me) but that came and went unceremoniously on a day that was also 52 degrees when I ran (because of course it was.) I saw that if I ran all of February, making it two months without a missed date, I would be at 86 days straight. Besides being my football number in high school, it is my favorite number. How can you not like a number which is also a verb?! I had a plan to do something which would take me out of my normal order of sleeping in on Sundays the fiest weekend of March and I thought that perhaps this would be the streak- ender. Then the plans got cancelled on me. So instead I found myself consoling myself with another run.

Meanwhile, the nice weather in Austin continued. Well, nice for me. Everyone else was freezing and complaining. I was scheduling 16-mile runs in the freezing temperatures because it had been years since I had felt these. I noticed I would get to 100 days on Pi day, and if I were to beware the Ides of March on March 15th, perhaps I would end my streak on the 14th. My run on the 13th went pretty crappy. I felt exhausted. I thought perhaps I would show how little streaks mean to me by not running that 100th day. It takes fare more gumption to stop at 99 then it does to push hard to get to 100.  I know this because I had a 9.9 mile route that I ran all the time in Salt Lake City when I lived here that everyone else said they would run that extra .1 to get a round number. I didn't see the point. I mapped out the run, ran it, and it ended up being 9.9 staring and finishing at my door. Adding more would just be ridiculous. leave numbers not on round endings than it does to power through when you are sick or injured. But I woke up today, the weather was warm but dry, and a few steps into the run I knew it was going to be a good day.  No need to stop the streak on this day.

So March 15th has a scheduled 16 miler. It will be my 101st day of running. The next two weeks call for more surprisingly "cool" temperature in Austin. After a summer last year forced me to run on a treadmill more times in a month than I may have the rest of my life, I know that it is the weather which most dictates how I run. As long as I continue to feel good, I am going to keep running.

I am not sure when the streak will end. Part of the streak is undoubtedly tied to the fact that I haven't had a single race since the first weekend of December. I also had some travel plans cancelled and some others fall through. All of those are things which usually make me take a day off. With my next confirmed race not being until the end of April, maybe the streak will go onto to then. Maybe I will find a race which will take my fancy and I will run it before. The aforementioned heartache is abating somewhat so perhaps I won't "need" the run as much anymore. I truly don't know what will cause the first rest day and I am sure it will be at some weird number that has no significance.

That will be perfectly fine with me, too. This streak has had multiple purposes and all were to make me a better runner. The second it no longer serves my desires to help me on my running journey, I will rest.

Until then, long live the run!

Some Stats:
100 runs. (I never did a double.)
Total miles run: 892
Longest Run: 20.5 miles
Shortest Run: 4.65 miles (twice)
Most often run distance: 10.3 miles

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Why You Need a Running Coach

I coach runners. I love doing it. I don't care what their skill level is. I only care that they want to get better. That means I have worked with people trying to finish a marathon under seven hours and I have people pushing to go under three. In addition, I have people who have no desire ever to do a marathon and that is absolutely perfectly fine with me. (The marathon gets too much credence as the standard bearer for running and racing anyway. And this comes from the guy who has made a career in part off of racing 52 marathons in 52 consecutive weekends!)

In my coaching I have heard every question one can possibly imagine but the main one would be "Do I need a coach?"  Well, the answer is pretty simple: absolutely everyone could benefit from good tutelage.

What makes me think I can coach runners? I don't have a RRCA certification. I admit that right upfront. But I am a former 235 lb rugby player whose first marathon was run run in 4:12 and I have subsequently got that down to 2:49. Having run over 300 races over a half-marathon distance, in every weather condition possible, on every road and trail condition imaginable, I have put in my time. But more than that, I have tried to become a student of the sport by ensconcing myself in those who know more than me and even those who know less. I never want to stop learning.

Moreover, as I have been doing it now for a decade, I have learned on the job, so to speak. The athletes I have helped guide have, to a runner, improved greatly. That is something I take great pride in.  But if you are still skeptical why you need a coach at all, let me lay out some reasons why I think it is paramount that we all put our training in the guiding hands of another.

Provide Motivation And Support

We are very disconnected in today's world. You might have a plan and a good one but you are often doing it alone. Having a coach there to rein you in and help you understand that recovery and rest are part of training is paramount. I emphasize to my athletes to know that a rest day is more important that a workout day. It is not a lost day. It is the day when you get better from the hard workout you did.

It is not difficult for people to want to go full bore. It is harder to keep that attitude tempered over time and a good coach will provide the best guidance. Offering safe and effective workouts to keep you in the best shape is what comes from having been down the same road themselves with their own running and with those they coach.

Minimize Risk Of Injury

This is a biggie — especially if running is a lifelong interest, which it should be. One thing I counsel against is having a bucket list of running some race or some distance. It is great to check things off but when you put something out there as the be all and end all, it often is the end all. That said, according to studies, up to 80 percent of runners get injured at one point or another. That's a lot of down time keeping you from meeting any of your goals.

A running coach is a small investment for running injury-free for years to come. You have to find one that will push you but also know when to make sure you back off.  It doesn't matter how hard you run if you can only do it every so often because most of the time you are laid up. So much of a race is simply getting to the starting line healthy. Everything after that is just icing on the cake.

Learn Goal Specific Training

Some people are attempting to break fast time barriers; some people are looking to run three miles straight for the first time in their life. A good coach will teach you how to manage different training loads.

Beginners and experienced runners both need to avoid common training errors. A coach should be there to advise against running too much too soon, not including enough rest and recovery time, pacing themselves correctly in a race, and reminding them to watch their apparel and footwear. They will teach you when to run at an easy pace, when to should schedule a long run, or if you need to adjust your form or technique. Every single runner have a different plan and no cookie-cutter free plan on the internet is going to give you what you need.

Rehab After An Injury

OK, well we addressed the idea of trying to stay injury-free but often than just doesn't happen.  So if you are injured, a good coach will be able to look at what happened, addressed the underlying factors that contributed to it, and guide you on the path to recovery. Returning to running symptom-free without this guidance is a setup for re-injury and more frustration.

A knowledgeable coach can help you determine the problem, suggests exercise strategies to get you on the road to recovery, or refers you to a medical specialist.

Improve Performance

Identifying what motivates an athlete and then helping him or her with goal setting is the absolute key. Not every runner wants to win a race. Some run for solitude. Or just for the fitness aspect. Your coach should know what you want so they can help you achieve it.

Running coaches design training plans to systematically build your performance towards achieving your goal. Maybe they read a great article on how to run your best 5K ever, but the information is more suitable for an athlete at a different point in training. Performance can only be improved if your coach knows you and knows what you want.

All told, every great has had a coach. From Michael Jordan to Serena Williams, to Tom Brady to Shalane Flanagan to Meb. If you are looking for that coach to help you get to the next level, I would love to talk to you more. 

Send me a message at danerunsalot@yahoo.com and we can begin the discussion. There is no time like yesterday to begin doing what you want but yesterday is gone so let's start today!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Book Review: When Running Made History

I decided to read a book a week for 2019. Hardly a lofty goal and when you see what 52 books looks like on a shelf, it makes you sad to think that is all you have read. But it is a goal nonetheless and one I have kept so far. One week! Whoo! Steve Holt!

First on my list was the tome by Roger Robinson entitled "When Running Made History". I thought about saying how I would be biased in writing this review as I am lucky enough to call Roger a friend. Then I realized how often we misuse the word "biased". Just because we have a connection to something doesn't mean we are biased to it. In fact, like when people say, "Well isn't that pot calling the kettle 'black'", I have always thought "Well, is there anything more qualified to call a pot black than a kettle?" In other words, I love running, have tried to be a student of the sport since I became a small part of its history by running 52 marathons in 52 weeks, and the fact that I am reading and reviewing a book by someone who has forgotten more about it than I know simply means I am choosing my sources correctly. Having said all of that, let me give you my review.

I have read a few other of Roger's books and have thoroughly enjoyed his writing style. A rather learned man, he writes with ease and eloquence I could only hope to emulate. In fact, when I read his writing I can hear his posh British accent enunciating every "t" and accenting each syllable articulately. Roger is a literary scholar, elite runner, sports commentator and journalist, and this book is his account of him crisscrossing continents while recording sixty years of seminal racing moments that he observed in one or more of these roles. He is involved in so many amazing events that he is the reference point people should use when they mention Forrest Gump to show that they actually know an existing runner rather than a fictitious one.

Lest you think that the book reviews moments in running which are historical for running, let me disabuse you of that idea. Rather, this is an account of when running itself as a sport transcended the footfalls of runners and addressed much larger topics, ideas, and movements. Whether he is regaling you with tales of running in Berlin at the time of German reunification in 1990, organizing a replacement track meet in New Zealand after the disastrous 2011 earthquake, or the triumph of Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Robinson is not talking about how running is neat. No, he is showing how running has been instrumental in either making by itself, or helping to push along, massive social change. Roger need look no further for such inspiration than his betrothed since he is married to Kathrine Switzer who (and if you are reading this and don't know, I mean, wow) in 1967 became the first registered female to compete in the Boston Marathon. 

I read this with rapt attention and even a bit of smugness given how much Roger and I agree on so many things. Rest assured, we disagree as well (he does not care for the Nike-sponsored Breaking 2 attempt to run under two hours for the marathon, whereas I thought it was awesome) but those are few and far between. 

Getting this ringside seat to decades of running escapades which have created the world in which we now live is a treat. Reading it from one who can put it in such a way which gives it the necessary loft it deserves is even better.

Roger is lucky to have seen so many events up close; and running itself, because of this book, is lucky Roger was there to see and share them with us.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

17-Day Running Experiment™

A rare combination of nice weather for running (well, nice for me, anyway - I like it cold), being home for an extended period of time, and no races had me deciding to do something I had wanted to do for quite some time.  I wanted to run the same stretch of trail here in Austin virtually every day for a few weeks straight. I don't mind its sameness and while I do venture to other locales, the convenience of leaving my door and running without driving to a location or needing to worry about a single traffic light or car is hard to beat.

Looking over my beloved running spreadsheets, I noticed something that surprised me: I had never run double-digit mile runs for more than a week straight. Never.  I had run 350 miles in a week. I had run a 90.65-mile week followed by a 75.95-mile week but neither had a double-digit mile run every day (although some where close with 9-milers in the mix). It shouldn't have surprised me as it logically follows my desire to adequately rest after long or strenuous runs and then get back at it again. So, after a 11.3 mile run which felt particuarly excellent, I decided I would run 10.3 miles (a 9.5 miler out-and-back on the trail with a .65 -mile to-and-from the trail to my house) for the last 17 days of 2018. I wanted to see how my body would hold up to the miles, the unflinching sameness, and how my weight, speed, and recovery would be affected.

For some background, I first ran this 10.3-mile course a few months after I moved to Austin. I found
that going into this experiment I had only run it 23 times in two years. In fact, at the end of October and the end of November I had done miniature versions of this experiment of five and four days respectively, meaning that of the 23 times I had run it, nine had been in just the 6 weeks prior to me commencing this data-collecting happy fun-time gala. This was mainly because I only tended to venture out for this distance when the weather cooperated and I was feeling good. I have tons of crappy short distance runs but very few bad long runs. When I am feeling it, I stretch the workout.

For some reason, when I run courses, the first few times seem to be the fastest. Even though I become more familiar with them, I rarely improve the time. With this course, the first two times I ran in on 01.27.17 and 01.29.17, were the fastest. Then a month later, I ran the next two fastest times on 02.27.17 and 02.28.17. This is not surprising as the weather was "cold" then. After that, I never came close to running those times again but I also never broke 1:20 for the run until the first time I went for a long run after being attacked by two guys in Austin last summer. (Yeah, you read that right. For more, check this out here.) Then in those mini-experiments this October and November I ran a 1:21:02 and a 1:23:21 that almost killed me (both because of unusually warm day).

My goal for these 17 days was to make sure no runs were over 1:20. Other than that, I was going to run how I felt and see what it produced. So, without any further ado, here are my daily runs and what I found.

Day One:
10.3 Miles in 1:18:54 (7:40 pace)
Weather: 54 degrees and sunny; 50% humidity
Ending weight: 187 lbs

This run started right after I found out some frustrating business news and really didn't have my mind in it at all. Usually runs help me straighten out anger or frustration but this one just seemed to be compounded by the news.

Day Two:
10.3 Miles in 1:19:51 (7:45 pace)
Weather: 58 degrees and cloudy; 42% humidity
Ending weight: 186.6 lbs

Pushed it hard to make sure this was under 1:20 but was pleased with the overall result after having done a 7-mile hike after the run the day before. I figured this would be the most tired I would be for the whole two weeks.

Day Three:
10.3 Miles in 1:18:54 (7:38 pace)
Weather: 69 degrees and sunny; 25% humidity
Ending weight: 185.6 lbs

This felt a bit faster than it was but was happy to better my time from the first day. The run was only memorable  because when I got home, I had no water at my loft and had to wait three hours for a shower. I stank.

Day Four:
10.3 Miles in 1:16:47 (7:27 pace)
Weather: 57 degrees and mostly sunny; 80% humidity
Ending weight: 186.2 lbs

This was a good run but only on the way back home. Going out was rather pedestrian but once I hit the turn-around I felt like a different runner. After three days of losing a little weight, I gained some back.

Day Five:
10.3 Miles in 1:17:55 (7:34 pace)
Weather: 60 degrees and cloudy; 90% humidity
Ending weight: 184.2 lbs

I wasn't surprised to slow down, mostly because of the high humidity and what it does to me, but I was happy I seemed to be back on the losing weight kick again. My plan was to not change my eating patterns for this experiment to see how much running itself does to get weight down on people who are already relatively fit. Sure this would be a limited range of dates and a party of one but it was what I could do. I figured I would be below 180lbs in four-days' time.

Day Six:
10.3 Miles in 1:18:05 (7:35 pace)
Weather: 64 degrees and sunny; 28% humidity; VERY windy
Ending weight: 184.6 lbs

An extremely windy day with gusts into the 30-mph range accounted for the slight slowdown here. I was actually rather pleased with how it went given that wind. Surprised my weight went up a tick but no problem there.

Day Seven:
10.3 Miles in 1:17:48 (7:40 pace)
Weather: 64 degrees and sunny; 35% humidity
Ending weight: 185.2 lbs

The night before this run I had felt a bit of a pull in my right groin.  I wondered if a week was too long to be doing this to my body but come morning, the pain was gone. Given the 11.3-miler I did before this experiment started, this seventh straight day here meant that with eight total, I had now surpassed the most consecutive days with double-digit miles run in my life.  *confetti throw*

My body celebrated by gaining weight inexplicably.

Day Eight:
10.3 Miles in 1:19:11 (7:40 pace)
Weather: 70 degrees and sunny; 35% humidity
Ending weight: 185.6 lbs

With a schedule of other things to do, I got up earlier than normal to get this run in which I think contributed to a sluggish beginning and overall run. Who am I kidding, it was the fact it was freaking 70 degrees on December 22nd. Another small weight gain had me puzzled.

Day Nine:
10.3 Miles in 1:18:23 (7:37 pace)
Weather: 58 degrees and sunny; 65% humidity
Ending weight: 187.2 lbs

First time I began to feel a little bit worn down.  The fact that after nine days of this I had GAINED .2 of a pound overall was a bit frustrating as well.

Day Ten:
10.3 Miles in 1:17:22 (7:40 pace)
Weather: 55 degrees and cloudy; 58% humidity
Ending weight: 187.6 lbs

As I waited for a new watch to be delivered, I had run the first nine runs of this experiment carrying my phone. I had played music out loud while doing so and it felt like it had helped me along a bit. I wondered how much not carrying a phone in my hand and also not having music would affect me and if the two would cancel each other out or what exactly. On my first one with the new watch, I ran my second fastest time so far and also gained another half a pound. Because...?

Day Eleven:
10.3 Miles in 1:19:54 (7:45 pace)
Weather: 74 degrees and sunny; 80% humidity
Ending weight: 183.6 lbs

Ridiculously warm temperatures for Christmas day and the weather wore me down. Took everything I had to keep the run under 1:20 and for that I am proud. I apparently also sweat out four pounds from the day before or something.

Day Twelve:
Weather: 65 degrees and windy and rainy; 100% humidity
Ending weight: 184.6 lbs

I expected very little out of this run given the humidity but the rain seemed to cool me just enough as I almost ran the exact same time from two days prior. The weight continues to yo-yo.

Day Thirteen:
10.3 Miles in 1:16:39 (7:27 pace)
Weather: 68 degrees and sunny; 48% humidity
Ending weight: 184.6 lbs

The rain only got worse throughout the night and created ridiculous flooding in the area. By morning it was sunny but as I approached an underpass I saw what looked like really deep mud. Just before getting to it, however, a slick patch reached up and grabbed my feet, pulling me down to the ground, skinned my knee and slammed my hip. I fortunately didn't do any structural damage and I laughed thinking that three years ago on the day after Christmas I had done something similar in Portland, giving myself a spiral fracture in my pinkie. Ran the next mile to the turn- around and then all the way home with a muddy and bloody leg.

My weight stayed the same so I guess that's good. And if I hadn't fallen I might have broken 1:16 on this run which would have shocked me something fierce.

Day Fourteen:
10.3 Miles in 1:19:36 (7:40 pace)
Weather: 50degrees and sunny; 50% humidity
Ending weight: 187.2

With the sun and heat and low humidity I assumed the mud would be dry in my slip and fall spot. It was. However, the muck I had seen from the day before, while looking dry, was still inches deep and slick. Down I went again because I am a fool. This time my entire side was covered in a clay-type mud. I skinned the same knee again but this time on the other side so now it looked like I had sunglasses.

My cautiousness and soreness were what caused the rest of this run to be quite slow. And then I got home to see that after two weeks of running my weight was exactly the same.

Day Fifteen:
10.2 Miles in 1:16:09 (7:28 pace)
Weather: 44 degrees and cloudy; 60% humidity- first time I wore a shirt
Ending weight: N/A lbs

I had to deviate from the course for a variety of reason on this day and maybe that was a good thing. Lord knows which knee I would skin if I went down again here.  Instead I ran a different course and ended up chasing some random former BYU track and XC runner for bits and pieces of the run.

I didn't have a scale so I haven't the foggiest idea what I weighed. Anywhere on the scale would probably be right.

Day Sixteen:
10.3 Miles in 1:18:54 (7:40 pace)
Weather: 40 degrees and cloudy; 80% humidity
Ending weight: 186.2 lbs

Was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had shoveled out some of the mud on the far sides of each part of the sidewalk but it was still a bit slippery. The cool temperatures were great but I felt so very heavy. My body seemed to be made of lead. I could muscle through the run but it was tough. Each slower mile felt like it took so much effort. I was able to finally get going in the last few miles but this was way slower than I expected.

Day Seventeen:
10.3 Miles in 1:12:15 (7:01 pace)
Weather: 54 degrees and sunny
Ending weight: 185.4 lbs

The goal for this run was to try to run the fastest I had ever done on the course. I knew it was going to take a solid effort for sure and in order to do so my best shot was to make the first half of the run much faster than the first half of the previous PR. The second half was a blisteringly fast time and I just didn't think I could match that.

Mile after mile of the first half of the run shocked me as I was crushing mile times I hadn't run in ages. By the time I was at the halfway point I was 2:16 faster than I had been at my previous PR. Only at mile 6.5 did I finally run a mile equal to the previous run. The next two were a hair slower but it was clear I was going to crush my PR. If I had done the math properly and realized another 15 seconds faster would have netted me a sub-7 for the whole run I think I could have found that in the reserves. As it stood, I killed my PR by 2:25. That is quite possible the fastest double-digit training mile I have ever done. Yeah, I was happy.


So, my observations. It should be quite clear to anyone that you can't simply run your way into weight loss (if you are already healthy and about at the weight you want to be already.) If you count the 11.3-miler I ran before this experiment, I ran 186.3 miles in 18 days at an average pace of roughly 7:33 and in that time gained and loss weight rather randomly while more or less eating the same way I had for the other 350 days of the year. I am curious how, in the next few days, once I settle into a more routine running schedule, my weight will be affected.

I am also severely affected by the weather. This is no shock as I have written about it extensively. However, it still leaves me a bit surprised how much weather is the deciding factor between a good and bad day. More or less, if it is going to be anything over 60 degrees, I have to change my plans for the day to some extent. Give me cold on a day where I might otherwise not be feeling so great and chances are high I will have a good run.

Was very pleased to be able to really make the last workout so fast after so many days of the same run. I had no idea if I could will myself to that effort and for the most part I think that run was 90% mental.

All told I think most of what I learned is how easily one can adjust to something new and difficult. I obviously have somewhat of a base but to force myself to do the double-digits wasn't too hard after a while. I did sometimes not like the idea that I knew exactly what I was to run each day as I often play it by ear. That sometimes led to a little bit of dread and I often runcrastinated.

As I coach athletes of all abilities, it is paramount to me to always be pushing myself and finding new ways to stretch talent out of a body. I want to always be innovating and testing and fortunately I can use myself as the guinea pig here.

I finished December with the most miles I had run in a month in five years. In addition, I ended the year with 2199 miles. Since running an extra mile wasn't in the plan, and wouldn't have helped me in any case, I showed I truly believe in my adage of not necessarily counting your miles but making your miles count. If I can leave the year so close to a cusp of another mileage bump like that than my athletes know what I prescribe for them in their own workouts is what I truly think they need to do and no more.

Here is hoping you have the happiest of new years and 2019 meets all your desires!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Texas Ten Series - Conroe Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 18th Edition 
178.5 miles run and 8350 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Texas Ten Series - Conroe
Place: Conroe, TX
Miles from home: 168
Weather: 50 degrees; sunny

We run races, or at least we should, because we don't know what is going to happen on race day. By and large, our training evens out in the end.  When a week goes by, most of the runs go moderately the way we think they will. But on race day we ask more of ourselves, often more than we should.  Sometimes our body responds; most of the time it doesn't. Racing is hard. Unlike virtually every other sport, there is no rest, no reprieve, no timeout. The clock starts and away we go. This is nothing new and I myself have waxed philosophic about it many times (or at least have tried to do so). But it is worth reminding myself to think about how taxing racing is, regardless of the outcome.

With only one official ten-mile finish under my belt, I knew this race was going to be one of two things - a personal best or a personal worst. On the Thursday and Friday before the race, I had two of the worst workouts I have had all year. The weather was unseasonably warm here in Austin but it wasn't horrible. Nevertheless, I was reduced to a shuffle on a few occasions. I had thought about not even going to the race. Then I saw the weather was going to be almost the coldest weather I had raced in all year. I figured that I had to at least taken advantage of this break.

Race Morning:
As I waited in the porta-potty line I was shivering just a bit in my singlet and quite happy about that.  Above use the sky was hewn in two with bright blue on one side and a cloudy haze on the other. I had never seen anything quite like it before in my life. The entirety of the sky, cut right down the middle was like this. I stood staring and finally asked out loud: "Anyone have any idea why the sky is like that?"  This one gentleman two people in front of me in line exclaimed “THANK YOU!” Apparently I was not the only one staring up at the sky in wonderment.  Third chap started to tell us what exactly it was but I can’t recall the explanation. I was just happy to be slightly cold for a race.

We had a bit of a delay to the start as the race organizers were kindly waiting for the bathroom line to shrink down in size. As the weather didn’t seem to call for any change of any nature over the next hour, there were only some slight grumblings of impatience. About ten minutes after our original start time, all runners in the chute, we were off.

First Loop:

I was really hoping to run this race around 6:30 per mile or faster. It is beyond frustrating how slow my ten mile PR is considering I have run many longer races at a faster pace. As some racers shot out like they had been launched by a cannon, I knew I wasn’t racing for any particular place today – only time. Leaving the school parking lot where the race started, we immediately climbed a small incline. Already this was a hillier race than the two others I have run in the Texas Ten series (I DNFd the first one I ran back in October after an abysmal run in the heat the day before. Read more here.) Evening out a bit, we made a right-hand turn and would run straight for the next mile or so. When we passed the first mile I was running hard but not too hard and hit 6:30 on the nose. I would have liked it a little faster for the effort I was giving.

Across an intersection and up ahead was the first of two 180 degree turnarounds in each loop. I know why these are done and each were on a wide enough turn that you didn’t lose much time slowing for them but I still dislike them. Already the leader of the race was more than a minute in front of me.  Good lord. I fell into a rhythm and was curious what Mile Two would show me. When it showed me a 6:52, I really hoped that the mile marker was off. I just had to wait until the third mile to see if that was the case.

Down a rather long and steady hill we ran making another right-hand turn to the other 180-degree turnaround. Another 6:52 mile presented itself on my watch.  Holy crap, am I going to actually run slower than my last race, I thought. The sun was just beginning to peak out over some of the treetops but the air was still crisp. We crested another rise of a hill and began a nice long downhill. I heard the footsteps of runner behind me and soon a grey-haired chap passed me. Good for you, old dude! The fourth mile marker was on another long sloping hill and produced another unfavorable time for me. To tell you the truth, I was more than a bit bummed.

As we approached the turn-around point at the five-mile mark, I heard a couple of pairs of footsteps behind me. Running directly into the sun I was a bit blinded, even wearing sunglasses. I wasn’t quite sure where the turn-around was to begin the second loop and soon a man and a woman were on my heels. It was clear that they were going to pass me but I thought they would wait the extra ten feet until we had cleared the cones on the turn. I was wrong. I almost ran off course trying to avoid the fast approaching runners and had to side step a cone. At the halfway point, I was one second faster than I had been at the Katy race a month ago. I had wanted to be about 90 seconds faster. Oh well.

Second Loop:

I was really hoping my energy wouldn’t flag too much. My legs felt strong but for some reason my lungs weren’t functioning very well. When I had checked the weather app on my phone that morning it had said “Bad Air Quality” but nothing seemed off for me. The couple in front of me had pulled ahead but then just sat there, a few yards in front of me. The thing about racing is that if someone passes you but then doesn’t continuing pulling ahead, it invigorates you. You draw from the fact that they couldn’t make a definitive move. I picked up the pace and was soon side-by-side with these runners. I felt assured my first mile of this loop would be the same as the first mile of the first loop. When it produced yet another 6:52, I was just beyond confused.

Up ahead I could see I was gaining on another runner.  I might not have been speeding up but at least I was making my way up the standings, as meaningless as that is in the higher tens of placement. I decided I would make my move here to begin to pick up the pace. We made the turn, went down a small hill and then made the right-hand turn onto the big downhill from the first loop. I might not be as fast as I want, and things might be up in the air as to where my racing is going, but one thing I can still do better than most of run downhill fast. Here I picked it up and passed this runner in front of me. I also kept my foot on the throttle refusing to allow him to keep up with me. Breaking his spirit also helped lift mine and speed me up. Regardless, as I passed the third mile, I had yet another less than impressive time. I saw that with two miles left, as long as they were both under seven minutes, I would at least not run a 1:09.

What slipped my memory was what my actual PR was at that Katy race. I knew it was around 1:08:30 but I did not know if it was under or over. That time didn’t matter because I didn’t think I would come close to threatening it. No matter what I surged or pushed mile after mile in this race they seemed to be the exact same time. The only outlier had been that first mile. With one mile to go, the same 6:52 popped up again.

Refusing to make it too close to that 1:09 I finally found a bit of strength and pushed as hard as I could. The past two miles had been the first time all race that my lungs finally opened up. I have a feeling I could have run five more miles at this pace and it would have felt easier than the first five miles of the race.

In spite of the undulating hills of the last mile, I was feeling strong. Buoyed by the downhill finish, I kicked it up a tick. As the clock was not exactly in sync with the actual race time (given our late start) I wasn’t exactly sure what the real race time was. I pushed hard nonetheless and finished in 1:08:37. Upon checking with my PR in the race from last month, I saw I missed setting a new personal best by two seconds. In other words, I had my personal worst. 

I did however, finished 18th overall and won my age group. But meh. The race was well stocked with an aid station every mile, even if I only took one sip from one of them. There were no crowds to speak of, as I think most Texans were freezing in the 50-degree weather. However, it was well-marked, with police manning the intersections and wonderful volunteers at all the turns. Even if I did spend the vast majority of the race alone (as I often do), the out-and-backs made it so you could see your competitors close behind and even some people you had spoken to on social media for quite some time and never met (Shout out to Laura who ran a new PR and was the female Master's winner!)

My struggles to race well since moving to Austin have been well chronicled on my website here. I don’t know if I am simply older now and no longer have a shot at setting PRs or if the combination of the heat here and my inability to train in it properly have just left me that much slower. A check on the weather for the next two weeks tells me I am going to have the most favorable two weeks of training of the entire year dating back to possibly January. The thing about racing is that we ride the highs and suffer the lows too much.   

We put too much stock in how well we do when we do well and how bad we performed when it doesn’t go our way. Unfortunately, my sample size of races hasn’t been large enough for me to make a definitive guess as to where I am right now. But I show up to the start of each race hoping to continue to run fast. I currently have no races for the rest of the year and while I love training, especially with the proposed forecast, I do know how well I perform when I race a great deal. So, there might be another race added before we pull curtain on this year. If so, I will toe the line and give it everything I have. 

Here’s hoping it doesn’t take as much as it has lately and doesn’t take as long.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Texas Ten Series - Katy Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 17th Edition 
168.5 miles run and 8350 meters swam in races in 2018 races
Race: Texas Ten Series - Katy
Place: Katy, TX
Miles from home: 131
Weather: 65 degrees; downpour, windy

It didn't matter the speed as it was going to be a PR.

Somehow, about 20 years into my running career, I haven't run a ten-mile race. I tried at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler a few years ago but an on-course emergency caused us to have to run a different, shorter route. Three weeks ago I was signed up for another race in this Texas Ten series but a combination of factors had me taking a DNF. So, all I had to do was finish ten miles and I was good to go.

Then it started to pour down rain. While it had rained on and off since the middle of the night, about seven minutes before the start of this race, the skies opened and the wind howled. The race organizers were stuck out in the middle of it, with runners huddled next to the school building which served as the backdrop, start, halfway-point, and finish of this race. I truly wondered if they were going to have the race at all as buckets of water dropped and the wind whipped tents and shirts.

Then, suddenly, the rain slowed to a drizzle, and the race director, who had been monitoring storm
patterns like a decedent of Doppler, hurried all the runners to the start. A national anthem was played while some brave soul held the flag out in the the rain. Then, just ten minutes after we were originally supposed to be running we were off. Then it started to rain again. Good timing!

First Five Mile Loop:

One guy took off and two women followed him. It was beyond clear he was going to win this race and that these women had run under some scholarship somewhere before. They were hauling ass. Good bye, speedsters! (And what irks me is that if I was in racing shape, while there was no way I was going to catch the winner, I would have hung with the two women. Damn it.)

I fell behind two separate groups of about four and was just concentrating on my own pace. In cleaning out my closet recently I came upon a pair of racing flats that had never once been worn.  They also were at least seven years old as I know that was the last time I wore this particular brand of K-Swiss shoe. As I am currently trying out a who slew of brands before I commit to one, I am running a little low on new shoes. I figured I might as well wear these shoes. I had worn the same brand before with no problem, so they should be OK today.

Approaching the first mile, three guys passed me. I didn't give them much chase right now as I just wanted to see how my first mile went. It felt like a solid first effort. My guess was a 6:20 but was hoping for 6:15. When I saw a 6:38 I was crestfallen. I know I have not been doing speed work. I know that because the weather was good in Austin for me for running for the first time in months that I put in a 70-mile week last week. I know all the things that would make me a bit slower than I would like. I just have not yet accepted them as a reality. This mile hurt a bit and felt faster. Yes, there had been a steady headwind as we headed north, and the rain indeed was pretty hard. The footing was far from perfect but I wasn't trying to use these as excuses. All I could do now was keep giving it my best.

Right before the second mile, a shirtless runner passed me. He then proceeded to basically disappear out of sight passing runner after runner. As he was anything but svelte, this was incredible to watch even as he kicked my butt. Without a doubt it shows that all kinds of body types can be fast runners.

My only complaint about the course layout was this one little twenty-yard out-and-back that was built in right before the third mile to make sure we got out official five miles loop. Any turn around a cone always bugs me. I just don't like them. I also don't like how both of these last two miles had been basically around a 6:49. I thought I could run a 1:05 today and it was clear that was not the case.

Near the cone I was awfully close to one guy I had been tracking down for a bit. By the time we entered a long straightway approaching the fourth mile he had put a seemingly impossible amount of space between us. I was no where I am in so many races: no man's land. No one seems in a position where I will be able to catch them and no one is really around me to help push me forward.

As we finished this loop, my goal was to see how much faster I could run the second loop.  I am not particularly fast but when given a looped course, knowing what is in store for me, I can often bear down and do much better. I hit the first half in 34:15. Not what I wanted at all and I was going to try and make up for that.

Second Loop:

Starting this second loop, I had one goal: pass as many people as possible. I dug in as much as I could, trying to at least equal my first mile of the first lop but was about ten seconds slower. The only thing that made me feel good about that was that I had gained tremendously on one runner in front of me. Within another quarter of a mile I had passed him.

I had also started to close the gap on the distance between the runner who had left me behind on the straightaway on the previous loop.  But by the second mile it appeared I wasn't closing enough to make up enough ground.  I was continuing to have to force myself to run harder. As a long-distance runner, even a ten-mile race is out of my normal wheelhouse. My body seems to have a governor on it which keeps it from running too fast thinking, "Whoa, pal. We are doing this for three hours here. Why don't you slow down?" I had to continue to be present, be in the moment, and not zone out as I often do in longer races. Whenever my thoughts lulled, it slowed me down and I had to restart again.

Looping around the cone before the eighth mile, I can say that I never really felt tired in this race. The rain and the wind were tough and I had the foresight to wear a hat, eschewing my normal sunglasses. It was not cold, at roughly 67 degrees, but the cloud cover was actually pretty nice. Nevertheless, my miles were hovering right under seven minutes.

As we turned onto the longest straightaway I could see one runner ahead of me. Interspersed between other race participants he looked like he might be slowing but with only about a mile and half to go, I didn't think I had to real estate left to catch him.  But I was going to try.

Turning right with one mile to go I had cut his lead considerably. I was finally feeling like I had wanted to feel all day. The decision left before me was whether I wanted to put on the effort needed to attempt to pass the last runner in front of me. Doing so was going to require a great deal of effortand even if I did, I wouldn't place high in the standings or even be close to a time I wanted.  But at this moment it started to be much more about racing and wanting to beat everyone in the race than it was about time or place. So I put down my head and began to race. He made another right turn to head toward the finish line with half a mile to go and I began counting. When I made the same turn I was 40 seconds behind him.

Even though I could tell he had picked it up a notch, probably smelling the end of his day as well, I kept going. Up ahead I saw him make his final turn and it was clear I wouldn't catch him. But I had lessened the gap to 33 seconds. I crossed the finish in 1:08:35 which was god enough for 14th place.  My second lap had been just three seconds slower than my first in 34:18. Virtually no one else had these similar set of times so I felt good about that. While it was indeed a PR, a quick look at my races shows I have run 20 marathons and 52 half-marathons at a faster pace than I did this ten-miler. But this was a good start to my attempts to get back to respectability. I haven't raced fast at all this year but this was still the fastest pace race I have run, even beating out the pace I ran for my course PR at the Bix 7 back in July.

Here is where I lavish praise on the organizers of this event who pulled it off very well. The course was wonderfully flat, with a nice running surface, and barring that one little out-and-back, about the best you could hope for. The Texas Ten Series will definitely being seeing more of me, as I plan on heading to to their December race in just a few weeks in Conroe, Texas.

I fully expect to set a new PR.