Saturday, December 21, 2013

Still progressing

8 miles today at 7:30 pace, negative splits. Still trudging on toward a sub 1:40 half marathon Feb 1st. Stomach was about 80% with a gel 2 miles in and minimal sips of Gatorade from handheld bottle. Started out a little sluggish and things picked up late, a good sign in my mind. Warm day. Don't know what to expect come race day with bipolar weather all winter.

Monday, December 16, 2013


I stretched out the length of my intervals tonight. Before I'd been doing basically very short sprints down the block. This frightened neighbors to see a ghost-pale walking stick sprinting down the street after dark. Around these parts you either run because you stole something or because you are trying to escape a pack of pitbulls. (I've done one of those on numerous occasions.) So tonight I dropped the pace down to 6 minute/mile pace, albeit not actually running a full mile. I pulled off a whopping two 1/3 mile intervals at this pace before I reached the brink of death. While this was not a particularly fun exercise, I did enjoy exploring a limit. Now I can use this information to hopefully come up with a more manageable interval scheme.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Speed Kills

The handful of runs I've done since the marathon have been short and fast. I was surprised at how zippy my legs felt. In fact it was hard to hold back the pace. Maybe its knowing that I'm not going to be running for 2-3 hours that provides the incentive to push harder.

I'm also tracking my pace and stats with a GPS watch now, the Garmin Forerunner 10. I had been using my phone, but it was impractical for certain runs. After reading some reviews on what they can do coupled with the unexpected bestowal of a gift card and a 20% off storewide sale at Fleet Feet, I took the plunge. What is normally a $130 watch ended up costing me less than half that. So far I love it. I can tell my pace at any point during the run, total distance run, time each mile, all without a giant smartphone clumsily lashed to my arm. And I can upload all this information and get even more detail, including elevation change and automatic compilation of weekly totals.

After these initial runs, the 1:30 goal for this upcoming half marathon is probably a little too lofty. Realistically, I'm going to shoot for under 1:40, roughly 7:30 miles. This is pushing it, but doable in the limited amount of time I have before the race. Depending on how the intervals and strength training go, I hope to whittle that goal down some.

I did 5.5 miles today at a 7:33 pace. I plan to go up to 6 miles next week, then increase a mile a week until 2 weeks before the race. Weekly intervals, increasing distance, weekly strength work-lunges, squats, using the stairs at work, running the Talmadge Bridge. Also 1-2 maintenance runs during the week, usually 2-4.5 miles.

Sticking with the diet of fat and protein, crack carbs almost exclusively while running. I've bottomed out my weight it seems at 145 lbs. My body fat% is still coming down some, currently 11%. Hopefully this means I am building some muscle mass, because my total weight hasn't changed for well over a month.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Savannah Rock N Roll Marathon Race Report

Final time 3:52

Goal accomplished. Beside the fact that it hurts pretty bad, it feels good. Some real progress toward Boston. Here's my rosy retrospective:

Woke up at 5:00. Ate a large bowl of oatmeal. Moved bowels. Rejoiced.
Arrived at starting line around 6:30.
Waited in line for bathroom until about 7:15.
The race started at 7:00. Fortunately it is timed by chip. I was supposed to be in corral 8, ended up starting with corral 10, I think. There were somewhere around 17000 runners I hear. This makes for a very long, drawn out start.
It was a cold morning, so I used arm sleeves for the first time, kept my arms toasty.
The first 10 miles were very frustrating. Due to the large number of entrants and the fact that I went out with a slower corral, I was pushing through crowds this whole time. I had intended on running 9 minute miles and speeding up progressively. I found out I was doing about 8 minute miles, probably because of adrenaline and frustration with the crowds. (Specifically large groups of old ladies running side by side blocking the ENTIRE street.)
When the half marathon runners split off to head toward the finish line around mile 10, things lightened up.
One mistake I made in this race was eating and drinking too much. I blame this on training in the heat all summer. I was used to drinking almost 3 liters every 10 miles! I tried to adjust for the weather difference, but apparently it wasn't enough because I got some "sloshin" and even some short lived side aches early on. I started skipping aid stations and things improved somewhat. Things were going remarkably well for about 20 miles, and I was on pace to go under 3:45, unbeknownst to me at the time. At mile 20, however, the wheels started to come off as it were. Cramps. Again. Dangit. Whereas 2 years ago my quads cramped, this go around it was exclusively in my calves and stomach. I ran through most of the calf cramps, but the stomach cramps affected my breathing so much that I could not take a breath. I started to walk and tried to devise a way to salvage the race. I started to take obnoxiously deep breaths, gulps really. My breathing had become progressively shallow, so this logically made sense to try and it worked. Stomach cramps ended, calf cramps continued on and off, forcing me to walk sections. This was disheartening to say the least. I was sure my goal of sub 4 hours was lost. With 2 miles left, I was passed by the 3:55 pacer! That was enough to wake me up from my funk and adrenaline squirt to the finish, including a "sprint" the last 100+ yards.
I was greeted by the hawk-like shrieks of legendary butt-rockers Jackyl, who headlined the event.
Celebration ensued with the fam, and we made way to the pre-determined "Green Truck" hipster burger restaurant, including grass-fed beef & homemade ketchup. I was a little worried to grease up an already unstable bowel situation, but the levee held until arrival at home.
As before, the race organization was great, bands along the way were actually pretty good. The expo was busy but not ludicrous this time. I would recommend RnR series to anyone, assuming the other events are similar.
Already I have schemed new plans for the next race. The Tybee half marathon in February, where I will try to beat my PR. Really I have in my mind shooting for 1:30, a lofty goal on par with the pace I will need to qualify for Boston. I plan to focus heavily on intervals and speedwork.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

T-minus 3 weeks

Yesterday I did my last long run before tapering down for the race. I ran 20 miles on Hutchinson Island, almost entirely on pavement. I tried to replicate race conditions as closely as possible. I've learned that surprises are great on Christmas and birthdays, but not so much for races. It was a humid, warm morning and I didn't feel particularly peppy at any point during the run like last week, but I slogged through all the miles at an average 9 minute pace. I expected to be a corpse for the next 36 hours, but I am eerily well today with only minor soreness. I feel like I'm in a good place with training. I've done a number of things differently this go around, so I'm not sure what to attribute my small victories to or if it is a combination of several things.

  • I'm eating much better. I've lost 15 pounds by forgetting the 3 meals a day paradigm and basically just snacking on protein and fat all day. I'll eat a moderate size dinner, usually with a salad. Very little sweets and bread. I save the pure carbs for when I'm running. I have more energy and don't have to haul around as much weight.
  • I've focused my training to include high-quality long runs. I worked up distance slowly to my maximum of 20 miles. On average I run 3-4 times a week. My short runs are generally 2-5 miles, some intervals, cross-training.
  • I figured out how to use energy gels. I used to reserve energy gels like they were a fine vintage concoction. This usually meant eating a gel after I was already "bonking" when it is too late to salvage a run. Now, I eat gels every 30-45 minutes before the bonk.
  • Electrolytes. I'm taking an electrolyte supplement w/ trace minerals. Also, I only drink gatorade for the long runs now. Something I've done in the past is alternate water and gatorade. With the heat here, I think it would be pretty hard to get too much salt. Cramping has not been an issue for several months now.
  • I've developed better form. I think this is the key. Having good form is usually not too hard for several miles, but after some fatigue it is hard to focus. I think all the previous points have enabled me to maintain good form for longer periods.
Things look great for race day at this point. I'm on track to run under 4 hours. I'll try not to do anything stupid in the next few weeks.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

T-minus 4 weeks

Today I had the best long training run to date. I ran 18 miles at my goal race pace (8:45). No cramping. No emergency deuce. I had energy throughout the run and succesfully negative split. My running nutrition has improved significantly through bitter trial and error. I ate over 500 calories on this run and my stomach was fine. I constantly refocused on my form, which helped maintain pace. And it was beautiful out. With 4 weeks to go, I feel like all the hours on my feet are paying off.

I've lost about 15 pounds between all the running and changing my diet to small meals every 2-3 hours. No more post-lunch comatose state. I feel more energetic and importantly, light on my feet.

Next week is my last distance increase before I taper for the race. I will do 20-21 miles. Looking forward to race day!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dual Book Review

A Walk in the Woods-Bill Bryson

Read this on recommendation from a friend due to the recent AT hike. Bill Bryson had me laughing literally out loud (LOL for rillz) on average 40-50% of the time I was reading. He sounds like an incredibly average person and he makes everything that happens to him relatable. The characters he describes on the trail are people that I have met. His reactions to various mishaps, my reactions. The history of areas around the trail was unexpectedly eye-opening. Such as a town on fire in Pennsylvania. The craziness of Mt. Washington. Very entertaining, really captures the feel of the Appalachian Trail.

Eat & Run-Scott Jurek

Like most people, I first became aware of Scott Jurek after reading Born to Run. Since that time, I have followed his career along with the ultrarunning scene in general. I'd watched some interviews and he seemed like a down-to-earth guy. Which is why I was surprised when the first few chapters were hard to read. The writing was pretty dang terrible and self-indulgent. Kind of like this blog, actually. Knowing that there was more to the story than terrible writing, I pressed on and flew through the chapters were he actually started talking about running. Knowing his background, I ate up these chapters and the details of his training. He is clearly someone who was/is completely dedicated to running at the expense of almost everything else. He is also a vegan and includes recipes throughout the book and how his diet has helped him run. I've resolved to have a "vegan Thursday" weekly tradition partially because of this. His descriptions of the transcendent, mystical aspects of running probably sound completely ridiculous to many readers. While I was aware of this and wanted to ridicule those passages, I couldn't help but relate. Running is downright spiritual sometimes. I think most runners know this and enjoy hearing about someone else who has experienced an unexpected endorphin rush at the pinnacle of despair or reveled in the beauty of their surroundings amidst great physical anguish. For me this book helped solidify my vision of why I run and has helped me enjoy every moment more, including the excruciating ones. Worth reading, don't expect a literary masterpiece.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Appalachian Trail Nolichucky River to Allen Gap 50 miles of moisture

I've had a week to contemplate the happenings of this year's AT 50 mile hike w/ the Boy Scouts. Conditions were significantly different from last year's sweat-a-thon. It was cold and rainy every day, with a few bouts of borderline hypothermia thanks to the wind. To boot, I contracted a lively strain of norovirus that had me expelling my crunchy, undercooked rice dinner shortly after a feble, febrile attempt to feed myself. I read a book by Andrew Skurka entitled "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide" prior to this trip that described such adventures as "type 2 fun," meaning the fun is primarily in the discussion and reflection afterwards. This was definitely the case here, because the hike was almost entirely miserable for the whole week. And yet I was scouring backpacking blogs and scheming new adventures the same day of my return home.

Briefly, some gear choices:

Grand Trunk Ultralight Backpacking Hammock-first experience sleeping in a hammock. I figured I would sleep at least as bad as on the ground, at best, slightly more comfortable. It did end up being pretty comfy, but hanging a hammock is an art, along with setting up a tarp for windbreak and ranfly purposes. I plan to use hammocks in the future, although I may invest in a slightly larger hammock.

Dahlgren Alpaca/Merino Wool socks-I have a lot of wicking socks for running, so I wanted to try something different to contrast. I have to say wool seems to be the way to go for hiking. These seemed to perform better while wet (soaking).

New Balance MT110-Best hiking/trail running shoes I have used to date. Light and quick to dry (a relative dry for this particular trip). The rock plate was appreciated for the long trip.

The only pix I took during a break in the rain:

Sadly, I didn't come home with the superhuman levels of endurance I experienced last year. Between cold wet misery and illness, there was not much room for conditioning. The two runs since have been mellow due to lack of energy and some early shin splints I felt on the trail.

Prior to this trip I did a long run on Hutchinson Island where I became well acquainted w/ poison ivy. I found some new areas of the island, an old railroad bridge that crossed over to South Carolina, some toxic-looking evaporation ponds owned by a paper mill, and the worst bugs I've ever encountered here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

T minus 22 weeks, Boats and such

M,W,Sat 15 miles total.

Saturday I went for a long run (9 miles) on hutchinson island, site of a previous post involving  flies and spiders. This time around the bugs were in full force, landing on my head while I was running and biting me whenever I stopped flailing my limbs like a  lunatic. Spiders were less prevelant as the Sasquatching through the woods part was minimal.

I recently bought a handheld chums bottle because it was on sale at The Clymb (email me for an invite so I can get free stuff doodz). Wasn't sure how I would like it, but decided to give it a try. It was great. The extra weight is negligible and on hot days like today, having water makes the run a lot more enjoyable.

Saw two gigantic cargo ships. Again, pictures don't do justice to these. Each of the containers is as large as a semi truck trailer. It's always shocking to see these things gliding up the river because you'll pop out of the trees and there will be a gigantic skyscraper-high ship in front of you that is remarkably quiet.

I settled on an electrolyte supplement (aka dirt from The Great Salt Lake) that includes trace minerals. I figure I'm deficient in something after so much sweating, so I'll go with the shotgun approach. I have a hunch that I have been running deficient in most electrolytes, because I prefer water and sweat like a hog. Some electrolytes, like potassium, are not quickly replenished either, so I reckon it may take some time to get back to normal. Interested to see if this makes a noticeable difference in my energy and/or endurance level. I've been lethargic and sluggish on runs for a long time now (years). Carbs help, but I haven't gotten back to my old spastic energy levels.

I also ran over the Talmadge bridge, one of the few places in Savannah besides stairs where one can experience what is known colloquially as "elevation change" The bridge is named after Eugene Talmadge, a former Georgia governor who supported segregation. The Georgia legislature is debating changing the name because of this. I would prefer it be called "the large cable-suspended bridge visible from various parts of Savannah extending from Georgia to South Carolina, under which pass numerous large cargo ships."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Running Politics

Found this unfinished draft that mostly griped about internet nonsense (I should probably include myself in some of these tendencies.) Touched it up and pushed publish for the world to digest. Enjoy

I read a fair number of running blogs, websites, and articles. I try to stay abreast of what is happening in the running community, mostly as it relates to the barefoot/minimalist movement. There tend to be two camps piping in their opinions: The Veterans & The Inexperienced Zealots. Veterans tend to discount everything that doesn't fall in line with preconcieved opinions and zealots tend to be overly excited about gear and may or may not actually ever run. Arguments between the two camps are 99% anecdotal, which should be expected I suppose, and some research emerging being actively promoted by individuals such as Christopher McDougal and RunBlogger Peter Larson.

Things that thoroughly annoy me about the current barefoot/minimalist community:

  • contrived jargon (sans footwear, zero drop, unshod, shod, barefoot/minimalist, clad, referring to yourself as Barefoot Joe, etc.)
  • the self-proclaimed "OG," the good ol' days, etc.
  • irrational conservatism-unexplainably holding on to the first pair of minimalist shoes you bought and proclaiming every advancement to be a heretical desecration of their infallibility.
  • smugness and elitism in general.
Things I like:

  • Attention to role of biomechanics in running. Running seems to be more of a learned skill than an instinct.
  • Shake up in old running paradigms. No longer are we taking for granted that more protection is necessarily better.
  • The variety of products filling new niches in running preferences. Everything from barefoot style to just simple designs.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

T-minus 23 weeks

As long as it's not raining (which means about 75% of the time) I well get pretty accurate distance summaries for my runs. I'd prefer not to find out if my Google Nexus 4 is waterproof. I'm tracking everything with run keeper now. Using a neoprene armband to affix said phone to my apparently puny arms, judging by the slack remaining. So far, so good. We'll see how it holds up.

Total for last week: two runs. 7.8 miles. Was going to do a long run Saturday but ended up all day working in the yard, which I would like to think has some positive effect on my running goals.

Ran early one of the days, which was much more tolerable. Pix from AM run at WE Honey park dock on Wilmington River:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

If these limbs could talk

It's hard to fully appreciate a live oak tree from these pictures, but you're just going to have to try harder! Some have been around since The Civil War. They get to be enormous. Occasionally I will climb them and attempt to not die. These pictures are from my most frequented running route on a marsh trail not too far from home.

Something else that is not well captured in these photos is the face-melting heat. And the swarms of biting insects. Thank you diphenhydramine hydrochloride.

Low tide, with pluff mud. As a side note, shortly after moving to Savannah we decided to go canoeing in one of these tidal creeks. Not taking into consideration the tides, we went out at low tide and tried to hike through this mud and were transformed into swamp things instantaneously.

Crabs scattering as I daintily attempt to avoid crushing their short, meaningless lives.

Single-track trail through the marsh grass

I took the phone along for another RunKeeper log. I bathed the phone in a good serving of sweat. Will need to find a new way to do this. This run was also in the afternoon; I will need to switch to early morning runs for survival purposes. I'm also considering how to best approach electrolyte replacement with all this sweating. At a minimum I will eat bananas regularly. If I am still cramping with longer runs I may start an oral potassium supplement or Nuun tablets. I would really like to avoid the whole "Robocop legs" situation from previous experiences.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The quick and the dead

I look forward to Saturdays because the cemeteries are open and I'm not at work. There is an abundance of dirt roads and trails through the woods and almost no other (living) people to boot. Today I took along my stupid smart phone to gussy up this blog a bit with pix. I also tried out the RunKeeper app for the first time and plan to use it regularly now.

I am about 1 mile from Bonaventure Cemetery, which is connected to a newer cemetery, Forest Lawn. Catholic Cemetery is also relatively close and has a section which is comparable in age to Bonaventure. Age in this case equates to amazing aesthetics and a diversity of headstones, crypts, monuments, etc. I regularly find random interesting things in the many nooks and crannies. For example, stones from a 17th century Scottish Church:

There are quite a lot of Jewish burials in Bonaventure:

More excellence. Notice The Confederate States of America iron cross:

Even the kids like going! It's like a giant awesome park that no one goes to.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Marathon. Again.

I'm committed to running the rock n roll marathon here in Savannah again. Forked over the dough and felt real accomplished. Now I just have to run it. My training plan isn't very structured at this point. I'm running about twice a week trying to get accustomed to the hellishly hot weather that is upon us in tha durty south. My priority now is to not overdo anything and slowly ease into long runs and more frequent runs. Sticking with the 2-4 mile range after work, alternating trails on the marsh and pavement aka skreets through the ghetto. Some longer runs through cemeteries on the weekends.

As far as equipment goes, using saucony hattoris and new balance mt110s for trails, saucony kinvara 3s for road. I'm very pleased with all of these. Socks-mostly cheap cotton or no socks for shorter runs, speede, swiftwick, and dry max for longer runs.

I plan to keep the training low-intensity until mid July when I return from a 50 mile hike with the boy scouts. Last year this pushed me into a different tier of fitness and I came home ready to push a lot harder than I normally would. Hills have the ability to do that. This is one disadvantage of being in the low country. Flat pancakes everywhere.

Of note, I found 7 freshly spent 45 auto casings while taking a breather the other day. No corpse in sight and seven holes in the ground suggest this was merely someone unloading their 1911 50 yards from the nearest backyard. Raised right, I took them home and added them to my growing heap of spent brass for future use.