Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mental discipline

I think the key to running a good race and -maybe more importantly- training well is being able to maintain focus throughout the whole period of time your exercising.

My example is this- for the past few months I've been working pretty hard on base training- a lot of easy miles at a relaxed pace, letting my body build the infrastructure necessary for peak training. Blood perfusion, mitrochondria, efficient fat burning- these are all things that I'm told increase during base training stress upon the body. And I've been pretty good at doing this: "I'm going to run at 60-70% max effort for as long as it seems a good idea" type thing.

Yesterday, however, i tried my first tempo run in a while, and it felt really good. I shot for a certain RPE, and I was able to stick with it- for the most part. I found myself sort of swinging back into my relaxed speed from time to time, mostly out of habit. I wasn't maintaining mental focus. I'd catch myself, and speed up, but I'd have been happier if I didn't have to remind myself to speed up.

But it's good training. And I'm sure I'll get better at it. :)

As an aside, smoothies are a very nice recovery drink! I especially like how the simplest one- four ingredients and a blender- can be done quickly and easily. And I beginning to wonder how they might taste with alcohol...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Umstead Marathon

So, I had my first group run at Umstead Park this Saturday. It went well... single track running is probably my favorite type- the added element of danger is always appealing, ya'know? :)

But I found out something dangerous- the Umstead Marathon had a number of cancellations (about 10%) and so they decided to open up those spots this morning.

So, after due deliberation, I signed up. Now I have to prepare. Six weeks until the marathon, basically a month and then a taper. Ought to be interesting!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Work out timing...

I think I'm figuring my workout schedule.... at least until it changes (next month, probably) and I have to refigure it out.

Starting work at 10:30 gives me enough time in the morning to do a nice run- up to eight miles if I get up early enough. But if I want to do two a day, I can hop over to the Duke East Campus and do laps on their run/walk trail. It's 1.65 miles (according to Garmin) so doing it three times will make for a good five miler.

I've found that the local SCA branch does a run/walk thing here on Monday evenings 30 minutes before I get off work- I might be able to join them! Who knows? If there are some serious runners out there, they might want to run longer, so I'll have company for a half hour or so.

That'd be nice. I'm noticing that I'm writing "It was a great run, but it'd have been better with friends" in my workout log a lot. But then, I figure there are very few things in life that aren't better with friends...

My second loop starts from my apartment complex, takes about a half mile to get into the Duke Forest, and runs around there for about 4.5 miles or so. It starts off easy and gets progressively more difficult, but ends on a downhill and then some flat road running.

I like it because it's nice, wide and well maintained trails, which is better for me when I haven't had coffee yet. The main challenge is keeping my heart rate in zone 1 or 2 while doing some of the big hills. It's also well used- other runners, people walking their dogs, which leaves other things to avoid...

Last but not least, here is a map of the Frosty 50K- I know, this post has been map heaven, but I figured that it might be a way to give clue to at least what my running has been like here in NC.

Anyway, time to go look for my first group run. I tried to go to one yesterday, but sadly made a number of wrong turns (or failed to make right ones) that had me going about 30 miles out of my way. That's what I get for trying to drive unknown roads to an unknown place at 5:45 in the morning without coffee. The first turn I made was going in the wrong direction (south not north) on an interstate (not that I was in the wrong lane, mind you. I wasn't that out of it...

Thursday, January 10, 2008


So I was running along a road that parallels trails not far from my apartment complex. I heard some rustling, and I saw a runner in a gray sweatshirt a bit behind and off to the side of me. About a minute later, I hears some similar rustling, and I saw a gray squirrel running behind me- same course, same speed, same color gray.

My first thought was the most obvious- of course the runner had turned himself into a squirrel.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Frosty 50K

I am now an ultra runner! yay! :)

The Frosty 50K is a double out and back horseshoe shaped course around Salem Lake in Winston-Salem North Carolina. I signed up for it mostly as a psychological tool to keep me from freaking about about moving to a new area where I didn't know anyone, leaving friends, family, and the familiarity of home behind.

So instead of freaking out about the holidays or how to get all my crap stuffed into my car, I freaked out about doing my first ultra instead. It seemed like a good idea at the time. :)

And no, before you ask- I didn't have any idea, really, of how to train for it. I had been on the path of adding base miles, hitting 61 miles a couple of weeks ago and calling it good. My longest run was 16 miles. Most of my running was in Michigan, a land of snow and ice since about Thanksgiving... a slightly different environment than the Carolinas.

To add to the mix, I've been on the "I have to cook when I'd rather be running?" diet- also known as the "single male who doesn't like to eat out and thinks of a bowl of canned soup as pretty appetizing" diet. Once I go shopping "for real" I'm sure I'll have more options. But this last week has certainly been a negative calorie one.

Anyway, one of the Blue Planet Runners was kind enough to shelter me the night before and offer me not only a place to sleep, but also food (!) and a running partner for the first 25K. It's amazing how quickly 15 miles can go when someone's is telling you all the joys and difficulties of doing a relay around the world to raise awareness of clean drinking water. Of course, mutual interests in Firefly, religion, random life events also helps.

It was a beautiful course, around a beautiful lake, on a beautiful day. Temps ranged in the 30's to the 40's- just about perfect. And the set up made it easy to drop off things like jackets and gloves, grab Gu or whatever else from your race bag. Also, the lake was useful to jump into after the race, though it was bloody cold. I mean, in the 30s cold. Definitely more painful the last few miles of the race, but also very much worth it.

Little things stick in my mind- passing the same puddle four times and watch it go from being frozen solid to mostly thawed over the course of the race. Or how I was mostly passed at the beginning and I was mostly passing at the end. Or how when I started to think of my friends whom I left in Michigan, I became maudlin until I distracted myself by counting left foot falls.

To keep myself from the "ready to be done" syndrome that makes the last few miles of any race difficult, I didn't look at any mile markers or at my Garmin when the mile lap feature beeped. I just tried to keep my pace right around the 9-9:15 range- happy enough to go slower if the terrain called for it, but also willing to let myself relax through a down hill and let gravity dictate my speed.

About three quarters of the way through, my hamstrings felt pretty tight. I stretched them. It helped. I felt little aches and pains though out the race- after a down hill either my IT band or popliteal tendon or something on the side of knee would ache. And then it would go away. It was just like every other run, only a little moreso.

And then I was done. A cup of hot chicken broth in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other. some stretching, so wading into a freezing lake and some hanging out with said blue planet runner and friend- it was a wonderful and amazing experience. And yes, I am geeked about doing another one. Or maybe a 50 miler one of these days.

... just... not right now. I have laundry to do, and food to buy. :)

Oh yeah, the stats!
Distance- 31 miles
Time- 4:52:42
Pace- 9:27

BTW I hit the halfway point at 2:30, so yay negative splits! But my Garmin also said I hit mile 31 at 2:18, and that I went 31.68, but that's neither here nor there...