Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blogroll - Expand Your Horizons

Just about every blogger has a "Blogroll" posted somewhere on their site. I have to confess that I don't normally pay much attention to what's listed on others' sites. I mean really, take a look at mine. I have 13 blogs linked from my site and I have a difficult enough time already keeping up with those. Where the heck am I going to find time to add to that list?

Last night as I was winding down from a long day I was reading Greg's Predawn Runner blog. He's a passionate guy that does a great job of articulating his experiences, so much so that I don't notice how lengthy his posts can sometimes get. After finishing his May 26th entry, Tripped-Out Running - San Diego Style, I happened to glance over and saw his blogroll. His post was so long that I was far enough down the page to see it! :) The title "My Brother, The Thief" caught my attention, so I absent mindedly clicked on it.

I spent the next 5-10 minutes learning about about pastor and runner, Brian Vinson. I won't go into detail, but I enjoyed reading about his "running history" and found it interesting that our running abilities and experiences seem to parallel a bit. In short, it was time well spent.

I got to thinking that if not for Greg's blogroll I may never have learned about Brian. Sometimes it feels like the online running community is very small. We post on Twitter and Daily Mile each day, but we end up interacting with a fairly small subset of people. There's nothing inherently wrong with that -- it's just a fact that our free time and attention spans are finite.

I've been getting some good-natured ribbing about my I Challenge You post from a couple of weeks ago. Well, I'm here to do it again! I pledge to go out of my way once every few weeks and try to find a blog that I haven't read before. To continue to expand my horizons. I challenge you to do the same. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Right at the Fork

Whenever I'm in Denver (Centennial) on business I like to go to DeKoevend Park and run the Big Dry Creek Trail. I found the route last year and it has since come to be a comfortable, familiar place to go. It certainly beats running on sidewalks around the hotel, so I make the 10-minute drive, park the rental car and venture off to the left. The trail is a little wider than a sidewalk and meanders about three miles through various neighborhoods. A nice little out-and-back.

But Tuesday when I was running Big Dry Creek it occurred to me that something was missing. The trail felt closed in. Houses lined the trail along each side a good deal, and the trees I'd come to love made it feel confined. I then realized I wasn't able to see much more than an occasional glimpse of the mountains as I ran on it, so I started wondering what else in the area might provide that. Surely there had to be some trails nearby that reflected the open nature of Colorado.

Last night I stopped at the Boulder Running Company store in Littleton to see if I could get some tips. I ended up talking with Michael, who, by the sounds of his accent, was either an Aussie or a Kiwi. Experience has taught me not to ask which. When I told him what I was looking for he got excited and said I needed to check out the High Line Canal Trail in Greenwood Village. "Yeah, mate, just go down Arapahoe, turn right on University and there's a parking lot on the left about 200 meters up the road!"

I smiled and told him that's where I always go, but that I thought it was called Big Dry Creek Trail. He snickered in a way that wasn't condescending, and said "No, no - you need to go right, not left!" He became animated and started telling me about the trail, making me want to go right then and there. It sounded really nice, but would it be that much better than Big Dry Creek?

This morning I left the hotel at 5:00 and drove down to the park. Sure enough, off to the right was a trail I'd never noticed before. It was 55° and clear - perfect weather for a run. I started my Garmin and my new adventure. Was it going to live up to expectations?

The first thing I encountered on High Line was rabbits. Lots of them. I'd seen one or two over on Big Dry Creek, but on this side they were everywhere. A good sign, I thought. I continued down the perfectly maintained trail and quickly came to a clearing that afforded me a beautiful view of the Rockies. The sun was just peaking over the horizon, and the rays shining on the snow caps was a treat.

The trail traveled past back yards (not all nice houses in Colorado back up to a golf course), horse farms and the occasional wide-open field. A couple of miles into the run I saw a coyote cross the trail about 50m in front of me, and not long after that a couple of small mule deer. Everyone was minding their business, including me. Harmony.

After yesterday's hard intervals I'd intended to go only 3-4 easy miles, but High Line kept coaxing me along. Finally, I had to turn around at about the 3.5 mile mark and head back. I was running out of time..

On the back half I stopped in my tracks when I caught the scent of something familiar. How did I miss this on the way out, I wondered? I spun around and noticed some purple lilac on the edge of the trail. One of my fondest childhood memories is that of the huge purple lilac outside our kitchen window on Beech Street. It smelled so good in the spring, and it was a treat to find some this morning. Comfort.

As I got closer to the end I was again treated to some of the open fields and more views of the Rockies. Horses were still bedded down in the field, but this time a thin layer of fog hovered just off the ground. Spectacular.

Up ahead I noticed another man running ahead of me. Slowly I caught up to him.

"Is this great, or what?" I said as I passed by.

"This is really nice," he said without missing a beat.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jubilee CityFest 8K: Rumble in the Gump

When I read Kym's Jubilee CityFest 8K preview the other day I thought it was an excellent description of the race course. She cleverly got our friend, Hilary, to go along and take some photos of her along the route, and the moment I saw the one to the left it made me think of boxing. The way she was holding up the mile marker number reminded me of how the women walk around the ring holding up the the next round number. Before continuing I should clarify that Kym in no way reminds me of those women. :)

I knew this morning's 8K was going to be a lot like a boxing match. This was the third time I've entered the race, and I've practiced on the course a number of times. Each year you can just about count on it being humid, and this year was no different. At the start of the race it was 71* and the humidity 98%.

Mile 1 (6:37): I toed the line and quick as a wink shot off down Columbus St and turned left onto North Perry. Traffic cones lined the route and pushed runners to the opposite side of the street, which was different than my training runs where I could cut corners for the most direct route. We turned left onto Dexter Ave and began the climb towards the State House. I used to dread this part, but after training on it so long I've grown to like it a little. Even the right hand turn onto Bainbridge, where the hill continues another couple hundred yards, isn't too bad. Round 1: Me.

Mile 2 (6:53): The downhill reprieve on Bainbridge was very short lived. I turned left onto Alabama St and then another quick left onto Union. This part was flat and my legs were just starting to recover from the Dexter hill when I turned right onto Madison. It was here when I could really start to feel the humidity. I powered up the hill toward Cramton Bowl and by the time I crested the top I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. Round 2: Split.

Mile 3 (7:20): The short downhill stretch down Madison past Cramton Bowl was not nearly enough to recover from the Madison hill. I staggered around the ring and let the ropes hold me up before the approach to Hopper. Here I turned left and was greeted with another stupid boxing metaphor. This area where you turn left onto Hopper and then right onto St Charles isn't very long, but it's just steep enough to kick your ass. And that's exactly what it did. By the time I reached the Capitol Heights flats I was fighting the urges to stop and walk. To make matters worse, Paul Bonds, who floats like a butterfly, kept stopping to tie his shoes and then would catch and pass me. It was demoralizing, and he did it FOUR times. Round 3: Course.

Mile 4 (7:17): I was pinned in the corner and getting battered. I felt a little dizzy at times, nauseous at others. This time it was courtesy of Frank Garcia, who passed me right before the left turn onto Panama Street. I did my best to stay with him, but I was really hurting at this point. As he put distance between us I focused just on him and blocked everything else out. It must have worked, because I barely remember running down Yancey. The only thing I do remember is one of the rolling hills looking like Mike Tyson in the distance. Somehow I hung on and never hit the canvas. Round 4: Course.

Mile 5 (6:48): Coming down Yancey I crossed North Capitol Pkwy and could see the downhill stretch awaiting. I felt like Rocky looked in the late rounds against Drago in Rocky IV. I used the hill to my advantage and was able to catch my breath a little. This small victory was offset by Bill McCain passing me as we ran past the Oakwood Cemetery. If a plot were dug and open I might have jumped in it. Since Frank was long gone I now tried to stay with Bill, but he too pulled away. I pushed up the final hill by the police station and gave the last third of a mile everything I had left. It wasn't much, and I was disappointed to see when I got close to the finish that I wouldn't break 35:00. At least I was saved by the bell. Round 5: Me.

I sat on my stool in the corner for a few minutes (figuratively - duh!) and tried to collect myself. I have never hurt like this in a race before. I really felt like I'd been knocked around like a tomato can. Still, I'm pretty happy with my performance. The judges scored it a split decision and there will be a rematch next year.

Incidentally, this was a huge PR. My official time was 35:10, which wasn't even good enough to place in my age group. I did rank 19th overall out of 301 finishers, however. Previous bests at this distance:

2009 Jubilee CityFest 8K: 42:24
2008 Jubilee CityFest 8K: 43:35
2008 Spinners 8K: 41:00
2007 Great Pumpkin 8K: 42:30

My training partner gets tired of hearing this, but the numbers don't lie: I am a far superior runner today because of her motivation and support. Every race since we began training together I have realized significant improvements. Sure, I've put in the work, but without her what do you think my time today would have been based on previous 8Ks? I know the answer. ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Challenge You

Once or twice a week I'll post a recovery run on DailyMile and it's automatically repeated to Twitter and Facebook. The pace is usually somewhere around 8:30/minutes per mile, which is comfortable for me. On occasion I'll get comments from other runners about how that would be "a great non-recovery run pace" for them or how they wish they could do that. I see similar reactions to other runners' "slow" posts, as well. And I nod my head. Because once upon a time I wished the same things.

Yesterday afternoon I chatted with a friend and new runner, Heather. We discussed past and future races, and eventually the subject turned to me running my first marathon this fall. [This is happening too frequently for my running friends by now, I imagine.] I mentioned my goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and that I needed to come up with about 10 minutes somewhere. She wasn't following me, so I explained how, based on projected times, I should right now be able to run a marathon in around 3 hours 30 minutes. To qualify in my age group, however, I need a time of 3 hours 20 minutes 59 seconds. This, to me, is a huge amount of time I need to shave off, especially when you consider I have never run a marathon before. There are so many unknown factors.

So, yes, this is a lofty goal. But what makes me think I can achieve it?

Today I think I'm probably in the best shape of my life. Ever. I'm lean (skinny most would say), very fit and have run some races of late I never thought were possible. I can't possibly improve any more, I've thought to myself more than once. And as I was standing there talking to Heather it hit me.

I returned to running about three years ago. I started out with the typical Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule and ran a local 5k here and there. When I began my finishing times were around 27-28 minutes, and after two years I plateaued in the low 24s. But I worked hard for those improved times. I dropped 20 pounds and was feeling pretty good. I thought I was in the best shape of my life.

My goal during those two years was to run a 5k in  23:50, which was the best I ever did in high school cross country. But over and over I just couldn't manage it. I had almost resigned myself to never being able to do it, when the editor of our running club newsletter, Kym, found out and joked that she wouldn't publish my race times until I broke 24 minutes. That stirred something in me.

Not long after that Kym and I started training together and I slowly transformed into what I am today. You can read a short summary here. Since that time I have achieved more than I ever knew was possible. I blew right through that 24-minute 5k mark and am now in the low 20s! I reached my goal at the Mercedes Half Marathon, finishing in 1 hour 40 minutes! I ran a 10k in under 45 minutes! Does part of me wonder if I can possibly improve any more? Of course. But if the past year has taught me nothing else, it is to never sell myself short again.

So what does this have to do with those that "wish they could?" Everything. Short of injury or illness you owe it to yourself to try. I Challenge You to set a goal for yourself you never thought possible. Does it have to be something bat-shit crazy, like attempting to qualify for Boston on your first attempt? No. :) But reach for something you haven't considered possible before. Maybe you think you can't beat that person that always seems to finish before you in local races? Maybe you think you can't best a PR you set years ago? Whatever it is, Challenge Yourself. Make the commitment, put forth the required effort and give it your best shot. Regardless of the outcome you'll be glad you did. This I can attest to.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Running Map

I was looking through some historical data in SportTracks this morning (Select View > Activity Reports) when I noticed the map on the right-hand pane and all the dots on it. Each one represents somewhere I've run in the past few years, which, when viewed all at once, I thought to be pretty neat. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Alabama - Home. Hundreds of training runs (literally!) and dozens of local races. Also, where I set a PR at the Mercedes Half Marathon.
  • Bahamas - Our cruise ship docked and I couldn't get off it fast enough. A nice run through town just to explore the "real" Nassau. Not somewhere I'd want to live, but the locals were very friendly and helpful.
  • Colorado - A few road runs around the Denver suburb of Centennial while there on business. Also, some really nice trail runs (paved) at a park in nearby Littleton.
  • Florida - I used to live here, but didn't use SportTracks at that time. I do have the Seaside Half Marathon and the Breast Cancer Marathon on the map, though.
  • Georgia - Just a few training runs while in Atlanta for a class. Also, just barely (geographically speaking) making the cut is my favorite half marathon, Chickamauga Battlefield.
  • Idaho - Dirt road runs while visiting in-laws. Dusty and hilly.
  • Louisiana - Training runs on various road trips.
  • Massachusetts - The 5-mile Turkey Trot I ran with my friend, Michelle, as well as some training runs near my mother's house while visiting.
  • New Hampshire - A 5k and some training runs while visiting family at Thanksgiving.
  • New York - A run in Central Park while in town for the US Open with my buddy, Dan. I was blown away by the number of runners!
  • Tennessee - A recovery run in Chattanooga while there for Chickamauga, and a separate, grueling training run in Ducktown.
  • Texas - Lots of runs in San Antonio, where I've traveled on business 4-5 times the past few years. I think I know the downtown area pretty well now as a consequence. The AlamoDome is a good place to run intervals.
  • Utah - More training runs (before I trained, really) while in Ogden for a class. I used to live here for a few years, so it was nice to go back and visit.
  • Virginia - Training runs while at Langley for a class.
  • Washington DC - For some reason my training runs along the Potomac aren't displayed. I was in town for yet another class.
As I looked at the map I realized there are a lot more places I want to run. If I had to declare a top five, here's what they are and why:
  • British Columbia - The Olympics got me. I want to go there, despite the commercials with the smarmy Ryan Reynolds in them. It just looks gorgeous.
  • California - I've only been a couple of times, and never when I actively ran. I'd like to explore some of the vineyards around Napa Valley, and check out San Diego and San Francisco, which I understand are running hotspots.
  • New Mexico - My friend Duane raves about Taos, so I figure it must be something special. Besides, maybe some of the mojo from the elites that train there could rub off on me. :)
  • Nevada - I'd like to run around the Lake Tahoe area. Pictures I've seen of The Flume Trail are breathtaking.
  • Utah - Yes, I've already lived in and run in Utah, but not in the southeast corner near Moab. I've visited the area a number of times and always get this surreal feeling, like I'm being hugged. When I die I want my ashes scattered from the top of the Mesa Arch.
I know nobody has time to reply with all the places they've been or where they want to go, but hit me up with some rave runs of yours.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tune Into Yourself

I originally posted this March 21, 2009 as a note on Facebook. I received some interesting feedback from it, so I thought it might be worth sharing again.


There's nothing wrong with wearing headphones while running. I used to when I first started back, but I haven't in quite some time now. Those that do wear them talk about how bored they get and that they need them. I've come to appreciate being alone in my head and the random thoughts that come with that.

I ran about 50 minutes today and thought about or observed this stuff.

1. I don't know why, but I just started thinking about all the grandparents I've lost during my lifetime. I remembered each of them in chronological order of when they died, reminiscing about some my experiences with them.

2. I was running past a car that had a big spoiler on the back. For some reason it resembled a handle to me and I thought about how a giant could pick it up. The giant thing made me think about the fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk. Then I started wondering about the origins of the fairytale and what it might be rooted in. A quick wiki search when I got home turned this up: "The beanstalk is reminiscent of the ancient English belief in a World tree connecting earth to heaven."

3. I thought briefly about the R3 meeting I didn't attend yesterday and the decision to host it at Hooters.

4. I encountered a driver that came to a complete stop to let me squeeze past when there was a a car coming in the opposite direction at the same time. We runners rag on how inconsiderate most drivers are, but every once in a while my faith in humanity is restored with a small act of consideration.

5. I passed a black man pushing his bicycle up a hill that I was running down. What was remarkable about it was that it was a) 70 degrees out, and b) he was dressed in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses and a wide-brim hat. I wondered if he had some sort of skin condition that forced him to cover up so extensively when the sun was out. Then I thought of Michael Jackson. Then I stopped thinking of Michael Jackson.

6. I thought of a new (?) invention. A hat or visor with a built-in camera. You could reach up and snap a shot with a button on the brim. I'm guessing someone's already come up with that idea.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Footwear Update - Adidas AdiZero Mana

Back in March I blogged about finding and running in an old pair of Nike Free 7.0 shoes. The result of that experience, as well as the desire to transition to a mid-foot strike, prompted me to look beyond my usual Brooks Adrenalines. Even though I never had a problem with the Brooks, I had a feeling they weren't helping me to evolve. My goal at that time was to find a minimal shoe that would help make me a more efficient runner.

It so happened about this time I received the April issue of Running Times. The feature article was entitled "Much Ado About Minimalism," and saved me a lot of trouble hunting down information on the Internet. The very first tip they dropped with regards to going minimal was to get new shoes. They specifically suggested getting lightweight shoes that are low and flexible, and that have a limited heel-to-toe drop. They pointed out that most traditional shoes slope down between 12-14mm from heel to toe, whereas minimalist shoes vary from 2-10mm. The reason minimalist shoes tend to be more level is to promote the more natural mid-foot strike form by allowing cushioning of your arch to be used.

In the same issue was the spring shoe buyer's guide that focused on minimalist shoes. I overpronate slightly, so I looked through the list of shoes reviewed in that category. Although the Newton Gravity shoes had appeal, there was no way I could justify $175 for a pair. I finally decided, with a little trepidation, to take a chance on the Adidas AdiZero Mana. They were more reasonably priced at $80, and heel-to-toe drop was only 6mm. The only reason I hesitated was because of a comment at the end of the review that suggested they might not be all that durable.

I got them in the mail a couple of days later and first impressions were favorable. I found them to be light at around 8 oz. and very flexible. They reminded me of my Nike Free, except much more level. My first few runs in them produced the results I was hoping for. I could feel my weight moving forward and I was getting off my heels more consistently!

As I put more and more miles on the Manas I can say I'm generally pleased. I do have some minor complaints, however. First, I wasn't crazy about the laces. They ones that came with the shoes were plain, flat laces that I found difficult to adjust to a comfortable tension. I took some advice from my friend James and replaced them with some Yankz. After doing so I am much happier. The expandable, elasticized cords help the shoe to mold to my foot better without constricting it too much. And as a bonus I don't have to worry about my shoes coming untied. :)

The other thing that concerns me a little more is the noticeable wear I see on them already. Adidas claims the "adiWEAR® outsole offers the ultimate in high-wear durability," but the evidence isn't supporting that. After only 175 miles the tread has already started rubbing off near the toe (Yay! At least it's not the heel!). If I can get another 100 miles out of them I'll be surprised.

So, the trial continues. I should mention I've had no ill effects from the Manas. I did experience some discomfort in my right hip at one point, but it passed after a about a week and I have no reason to attribute it to the shoes. That said, if I had to decide today I think I'd probably try another shoe. They just need to last longer, no matter how cheap they are. Oh yeah -- and I shouldn't have this song stuck in my head every time I put them on. :P


Disclaimer: These product reviews have not been solicited, nor have I been compensated in any way by the manufacturers. This blog's terms of use disclaimer can be viewed here.