Friday, June 29, 2007

catharsis denied... [edited for spelling]

It's been a week.

Some high notes, many low notes, and the last three days have been... interesting. I wonder if they have a betting pool going on at work to see if I'll explode or implode, and what it'll look like. But enough of that-

I run for stress management, among other things. It does wonders to my ability to deal, focus on essentials, and put things in perspective. It flushes out the under used adrenaline, clears my mind, usually puts a smile on my face. I don't remember a time when it didn't work for me, to brighten my mood a little, if not by leaps and bounds.

That is, until today.

The plan was to finish work, go to a metro park, bike ride for 15-20 miles and finish with an eight mile run at whatever pace felt good. Figure the low nine's maybe high eights if I was feeling spunky.

I did the biking, and it was fine... a little under 16 miles in a little under an hour- I averaged 16.1 mph. Not bad for a mountain bike, I guess. Transitioned to running stuff, and set off without looking at pace.

It wasn't a bad run, mind you. I did eight miles in an hour and five minutes, something that would have sent me into spasms of joy not that long ago, and is still pretty neat when all is said and done. Heck, half my miles were below an eight minute pace- something that I've never touched before.

But it's this lingering feeling of dissatisfaction, I guess. I was grinding my teeth as I drove home, for no apparent reason.

Ah well. I guess I'm a victim of the "when all you have is a lead pipe, every problem looks like a kneecap" syndrome. Running and exercise are great tools, but they can't solve all of life's angst.

[edit: maybe a good night's sleep helps- I feel a lot better now than I did a few days ago...]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Huntington Woods 3 Mile

I hate to say this, but I think I'm a long distance snob. Part of it was because I got shin splints if I took the first two miles too quickly, back when I first started training. Part of it is because I loved the endorphin rush I got around mile four, and then the second one around mile seven.

Hard to experience in a three mile race.

Today I ran a three mile race, and believe it or not, I PRed in a big way. Not so surprising with respect to the race, because- hey, it was my first three mile race, so I could have done it backwards and still PRed.

But I ran the first mile at 7:07. Which beat my previous mile PR by about 21 seconds.

When I heard the count I thought "OMGWTF I'M GOING TOO FAST AND I'M GONNA CRASH AND BURN" and I was kind of convinced that I'd get shin splints and my last two miles would be at a 15 minute pace. So I eased up a bit, and spent about half of the second mile trying to slowly catch a couple of friends of mine who I saw only a few hundred feet in front of me.

No shin splints, thankfully.

I caught up with them, chatted for a bit, and finished the second mile in 7:24, which would have been a new mile PR if I hadn't run the first mile. And I thought... "Hm. A mile or so to go. I have a mile left in me. I wonder how fast it'll be?"

Also, I experienced something curious a couple of times when I was running. I think I was in "flow" whatever that means. But it was like I was entranced. My breathing was a lot more regular and even, and I could feel my footfalls were lighter. I have no idea if I was running faster at those times, or not. But it felt really good.

It was great to have some friends there, both on the course and to hang out with and cheer for those who got awards. If I hadn't had pacers, I'm sure my pace would've dropped significantly from 7:24, maybe to the eights. So, much kudos to GG and GG!

On the minus side, I really can't say a think about the neighborhood that I ran though. People said that there were a lot of pretty houses and yards and stuff, and I don't remember any of it. I remember waving to the volunteers and thanking them, a hill, a couple of turns, a golf course and the finish line.

A very new, very different race experience, though Dexter-AA was pretty close. My final mile was at 6:52, a new mile PR by about 36 seconds. My final time was 21:24, according to my garmin, with an average pace of about 7:08, about a minute faster than my goal.

And yes, I'm geeked. :) I guess endorphins aren't necessarily attached to miles, ya'know?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Relativity Speaking

I don't remember much from my physics class, but one phrase sticks in my mind. My professor was babbling on about Einstein's theory of relativity, and the fact that it can be summed up in one statement:

You Can't Feel Speed.

Now, it didn't make me sit up and take notice, and I didn't have a light-bulb moment all of Einstein's theories made sense were suddenly made clear. But I do understand that riding in a car at 60 mph and flying in a plane at 600 mph feels about the same.

I found, however, this has absolutely nothing to do with exercise.

Today I did 10 miles on my bike, transitioned to running stuff, and did a 4.5 mile run. And I can honestly say that I felt like I was barely crawling along when I was running, even though it was just a tad slower than my 10K pace, and about a minute and a half faster than my target pace.

I tried to slow myself down. I failed. I tried to feel like I was going fast. Failed at that, too. So I just ran along at my "feeling" slow but "relatively" fast training run. And now I know something about doing triathlons... I'll never feel as fast running as I do riding a bike. If I were to try to do so, I'd probably be quite SOL. :P

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Training Last week...

It was a good week. :)

None of the runs were a *long* run, but all of them were at relatively easy, enjoyable pace, aside from the speed work. And since it was bloody hot and I felt like I was coming down with a cold, I cut the intervals short (4X400, rather than 6X400).

I also enjoyed doing three bike rides; about 10 miles apiece, at about 14-15 mph. It's really nice to train outside my specialty, because I don't feel the compulsion to push like I might with running. Eg, if my heart rate is in the 130s during biking, I'm happy, while running in the 140s seems low.

Anyway, the stats:
Distance- 38 Miles
Time- 6:22
Pace- 9:56 min/mile

The funny thing is, beside the speed work day, every single other run was with a group. Just with Running Fit, we had a five group runs this week... It's not like I'm a part of multiple clubs. Just one, whose members (I guess) are as obsessive as I am. It's really pleasant to think that I ran 32 of 38 miles with friends.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Overtraining and Sickness

As Freud said: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Something I'm not noted for with respect to running is objectivity. When I look at myself, my training schedule, and how I feel, I'm about as blind to my own faults as is humanly possible.

That being said, it should be no wonder that I've been prone, in the past, to overtraining. I get sick and have to take a couple of weeks off. I get injured and I have to take a couple of weeks off. Possibly both some day, thought that's not happened- at least, not yet. *knocks on wood*

But sometimes, even if I do everything right, I can get sick. Something comes up, and my immune system just can't seem to fight off a virus, or germ or whatever. Typically my body is healthy enough to beat them down, but not always.

So anyway, I've got a spring cold now. I'm pretty sure it's not due to overtraining, but I really can't be sure. It's possible that after the last two races, my body just decided to say "heck with it! I need a rest!"

I do kind of wish, though, that instead of getting sick or injured, my body would just write me a letter, or something. *sigh* If it does decided I'm overtraining. Because, ya'know... this being sick thing kinda blows.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Tapers and recovery; recovery and tapers

Taper weeks drive me batty.

Recovery weeks are a little better. This week has been both; recovering from Dexter-Ann Arbor half and preparing with Flirt with Dirt, a little 10K I'll be running tomorrow morning. I've barely run at all this week, and even if I race tomorrow I'm still not going to be doing all that much afterward, with working and all.

Of course, I have no idea how I'll do tomorrow. I'm thinking between 49-55 minutes, giving me a minute/mile range. Trail running is harder, but I ran a half faster, so it might even out.

I'm a bit nervous.

[update] 53:11.80! I'm well content. :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Pronghorn Antelope

Have you ever heard of the Pronghorn Antelope?

They aren't really antelope; their sight is about eight times more acute than ours, even as they have a 320 degree field of vision. Also, they're able to run 10K in about 10 minutes.

Scientists really have no idea why; the only faster land animal is the cheetah, who are native to another continent and are sprinters anyway. No North American land predator even comes close to the speed, let alone the staying power. In physiological terms, their oversized lungs and heart give them a Max VO2 of about 350; roughly seven times that of a decent casual athlete.

Why would they develop to be some of the best runners in the animal kingdom? Usually there's some easily explainable rational need. Usually some set of circumstances, once explained, make it all understandable.

I'd like to speculate that it developed these marvelous qualities because somewhere up the evolutionary tree someone decided that it's fun to run. It isn't always about running away from predators. It isn't always about getting the trophy. Sometimes, it's just about being out there pushing yourself because of the sheer joy of movement.

There are some great races coming up this summer; Flirt with Dirt, Dances with Dirt, the Crim, Labor Day 30K, Towpath and the Freep. I'm looking foward to all of them. But I very much rejoice each day as I'm able to head out the door, ready to conquer another run in the life, one breath at a time.

Dexter Ann Arbor Half!

The Dexter-Ann Arbor has come and gone, along with the runners, the rain, and my (to date) best half marathon experience yet!

First off, the stats:
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 1:54:00 (chip time)
Pace: 8:43/mile

The day broke muggy and warm, cloudy, windless and stifling. The half marathoners were bussed to far away Dexter (well... 13.1 miles far) to much merriment and anticipation. I was seated next to W, a first time racer. I could tell when she very politely held up her chip timer and said: "Excuse me, but do you know what this is?" Well... that and I had asked her a few minutes prior, but that's beside the point.

She was full of questions about running and hydration and using Gu and stuff like that, and I was happy to relate all that I knew. I don't know if it helped her at all, but it helped distract me considerably. After venting my wisdom (about 30 seconds) and the wisdom of my running friends (the rest of the trip) I gave her the one piece of advice that I thought would be most important to her: this above all else- don't go out too fast. Warm up slowly, don't give into temptation to keep up with all those who might pass you in the beginning.

Strangely enough, I sort of managed to follow my own advice, though not completely. :)

I met up with some of my running group friends- it's always nice to chat with running buddies before a race. After a 20 minute delay for a tree being down on course, we started. I ran the first two miles with a friend R, who kept a steady pace through the race. It was her first half marathon, and she was running just to finish. Also, she didn't know that she'd be free to run it till Wednesday last week, so she wasn't able to train like she might've wanted.

I ran my first two miles at a calm 10:30/10:15 pace, with an average heart rate in the 130's and 140's respectively. After stopping for a quick drink of water, I went off too quickly. Oh well, irony has always been my friend. I try not to dwell to far into hypocrisy... or if I do, try not to reflect upon it too much. It would depress me.

My third mile was 8:08 pace, as was my fourth. I stopped off for Gatorade and water, and lost maybe 15 seconds coughing because I'd forgotten how to swallow correctly. Oops. Still, I managed to keep my pace relatively consistent. I had a few miles in the 8:40 range, but a lot of that might have been due to the hills... I think there were more hills this year than last, though I could be wrong. There was certainly more humidity- of that, I'm certain. :)

Another nice thing about starting off slowly is the psychological boost given by passing people for almost the entire race. I'd see someone up ahead. I'd focus on them, giving them names like "white singlet" or "red hat" or "nike symbol" and I'd slowly reel them in, hoping to pass them. One person in particular, "nike symbol" passed me at mile 10. For some reason, this got my blood going, and was just the boost I needed to finish the race strong.

The race ends with a relatively (for Michigan) substantial hill at the end. I knew I was pushing myself a bit when I looked at my heart rate just prior to the hill and saw I was at 190 (my predicted max heart rate is 187). But I felt fine- just a bit out of breath. I slowed down a little at the start of the hill, and let myself be passed by a few who were starting their kick early. About half way up I started to really work my legs, finally crossing the finish line at about a 5 min pace and a heart rate of about 204.

This is the first race where I really "raced" in that I tried to push myself to (or maybe a bit past) my limits. In the last three or four weeks I've done speed work. I told people I had a goal time (1:50 dream goal; 2 hour "more realistic" goal; and "I'll be happy with" goal of breaking last year's 2:08:54). And lastly this is all part of my hopes of eventually getting a BQ.

I really do consider myself well satisfied. :) Many thanks to T for waiting after her race (on the day after her birthday no less!) E, K and R for feeding me dinner afterwards, and to you for actually reading through all of this! :)