Sunday, February 27, 2011

One Week To Go!

With a week to go until the Napa Valley Marathon, I did a bit of a final equipment check today, wearing everything I'm going to wear. All systems were go in that arena. The plan today was to run eleven miles, consisting of one easy, four paced, one easy, four paced, one down.

Everything went off without a single problem. The first mile was 10:10, the next four around 9:30 ish, the middle easy mile at 11:01 (that included a "discussion" with a cyclist who seemed to forget his manners), four at 9:20 ish, and the cool down at 10:43. Ten years ago, these paces would have been three minutes faster per. But I try not to think about that (it's also the punishment for letting myself go for eight years - but I'm on the road back and I'll get there!). Other than being a little sore from a heavy strength and core session last night, it was very easy. Caps the week at 50 miles.

There are enough things to do this week to keep my mind occupied. Mostly this week will be about taking it easy, keeping my runs short and easy and relaxing. I leave on Friday.

It dawned on me today, I don't really think about it much, that I am coming down to run at sea level for Napa. I think I'm liking that. I'll take a 3-4% boost if you know what I mean....

Looking forward to watching some of my favorite races on the DVD player this week to get me further psyched. Moses Tanui's 1998 Boston win, Gelindo Bordin's 1988 Olympic triumph, Khalid Khannouchi's world record at Chicago and Meb's New York win. Those, along with The Spirit of the Marathon and John Parker's book, Once A Runner and I AM READY!

The last seventeen weeks have been excellent. I rolled through my training blocks pretty much as planned and have set myself up for some serious training following Napa. This eighteenth week is to be enjoyed. So pass the enjoyment!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Waiting for Joannie a Ninth Time...

It was around 26 and a half years ago that Joan Benoit (now Benoit Samuelson) won the first Women's Olympic Marathon. I'm proud to say I was there: and there, and there, and over there, and several other places too. Finally, for the first time ever, I am hoping to meet Joannie at the Napa Valley Marathon next weekend. She'll be at the Expo.

We took the road trip to Los Angeles, my ex-wife Della and my sons Matt and Ryan (who was only 5 months old at the time), to get a glimpse of the Olympics "up close and personal." Tickets were fairly easy to pruchase. We saw Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses in some preliminary action and my friend Pat Porter run in the 10,000 meters. The highlight, however, was outside of the stadium and completely free; the Marathon.


After anal retentively mapping the route with Della's brother Doug, we embarked on the journey from Santa Monica to the Coliseum.  Now, I'm not the bragging kind, but I will tell you proudly that we saw Joannie run by 8 times over the 26.2 mile marathon course. If anyone in L.A. saw her more, it was from the press truck or on television. We were there near the start. We were there shortly after she broke away, looking back at the pack as if to ask, "aren't any of you coming?" They didn't. Each time we found Joannie her lead was extended. It was incredibly inspiring.

We took a few pictures that day. Some survived, some didn't. The one at the beginning of this article shows Joannie the way I remember her that day: running alone, and completely focused. Of the pictures I took, this was the one we had enlarged and this is the one I hope she will sign for me.

It's been a long time since the last eight times I saw you, Joannie, but I'm almost there. Just a few more days....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taper Madness? Probably Not.

As the months and weeks of anticipation become days, I am officially tapering for the Napa Valley Marathon... but not really.

As many of you know, the best way to hit your physiological peak for a racing event is to "taper" or "peak" just prior to its occurrence. A myriad of factors go into a proper peak and it is very much an individualized art form as opposed to an exact science. And while much is written about the many changes of the peaking athlete during tapering, for me and the NVM, it is a non-factor.

A good taper or peak will contain adjustments to, among others, the two major training factors: volume and intensity (reductions are most common). Yet, it isn't that simple. While the volume part is easy; reduce the volume of training in the cycle prior to the event, the intensity is far more complicated. Attention is given to the type of intense work: is it tempo runs, track work, marathon pace runs, fartlek or something else? Then it's a tweaking of the number of reps, say in a track workout as well as the actual speed of the reps and rest interval between. All very tricky, and I have barely scratched the surface in this brief explanation.

Luckily, for me, this is simple. I am merely reducing volume this week and next. My last two three week building cycles were 62, 67, 72 miles and 62, 74, 75 miles. This week we'll hit 45-48 and next week, not counting the marathon itself, about 30-35. There are no other training variables to tweak because, very intentionally, I have done no other training. No track, no tempo, no complicated series of workouts designed to bring about the most miraculous of benefits. Or in the words of Forest Gump, "I was runninG." And that's the extent of it. Just running.

The entire goal of the Napa Valley Marathon has been to get back to running within an event oriented purpose and to finish a marathon. Nothing else. I must say that I have done a pretty job of not letting my marathon history or my future goals get in way of simply running with the kinder, gentler goal. Once recovered, goals will shift to a more "racing" and time based mentality. But we'll jump off that bridge when we get to it.

So while I cut miles, I do not expect some of the side effects of the tapering process (except maybe some of the crankiness). Hopefully my legs will freshen up and my mind will be itching to go.

12 more days!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Last Long Run (for a few weeks anyway)

Today was the last long run prior to the Napa Valley Marathon (which is in two weeks). Forecasts of heavy winds altered my route from the Cherry Creek Trail to the South Platte Trail (where I have a nice 16 mile Light Rail run mapped out). It sort of worked!

The first few miles were a little slow and also very easy. I wanted to keep my heart rate under 140 for the run while keeping the pace slightly above projected race pace. In mile five I seemed to hit a nice groove and rode it for almost seven miles. Then trouble came.

The wind, which had been so nicely tucked in behind me, decided to shift rather dramatically. My nice little tailwind became a full on headwind and needless to say the effort changed. I had two options: I could slow and maintain the easy heart rate or maintain the speed at the expense of my now more challenged pump. I chose the latter.

All systems responded well today. I was bio mechanically good all day, my blister seems to be healed and I just felt....dare I say.... good! I broke out the shirt I'll wear in Napa (had to make sure it wasn't a nipple biter) and it passed the long run test. After a few less than satisfactory test runs with Gu, the energy gel of the NVM, I went back to old reliable, Power Gel, today. MUCH better!


The week ended with 75 miles. Next comes two weeks of decreasing mileage leading to the NVM on March 6. My goal in two weeks is to just finish. I think I could be either side of four hours, but you just never know until it happens. It would take alot for me to be disappointed. Some nice training blocks were planned and accomplished on this road. I've lost 20 pounds. All in all - no complaints.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pre Week Part 2: Another Running Hero

Frank Shorter

Some time ago, it was Pre Week and as Pre was kind of a hero, I spent a little time recalling some others, namely Jim Ryun, Al Ruffner, assorted college studs and Jack Bachelor. http://runspittle.blogspot.com/2011/01/heroes-havent-always-been-cowboys.html I couldn't possibly remember heroes without recalling a biggie in my running life: Frank Shorter. I have four Shorter memories (and a few longer ones - pun intended ...).

First memory is sitting in a bar in Harrisville, Michigan with collegiate teammates watching Frank win the 1972 Olympic Men's Marathon. It was the first Olympic marathon television coverage of any significant length and got us pretty psyched to see an American come through. Afterward, I remember someone asking him what his secret was (we all want to know the secret) and he said that his secret was running 20 miles a day for the past few years. Perfect.

Number two was semi-mentioned in the previous PreWeek blog. In the Florida Relays six mile, Frank was doing all of the pacing work with Neil Cusack (of Ireland) sitting in tow. Several times, Frank would move out on the back straight and urge Cusack to come forward and share in the pacing work.... nothing.  Finally, a bit irritated, Frank began throwing in surges and placed his rival in some serious oxygen debt. Race over. Frank played around the rest of the race picking up the straights and cruising the curves.

Memory number three occurred a few years later when a friend of mine, Brad Kingery, called and asked what my ex wife Della and I were doing one weekend. Nothing much, I answered, what do you have in mind? Well Frank Shorter is opening his store in East Lansing and could use some help opening boxes, setting up and getting it ready. DONE! While it was fun helping at the store, the best part was running in a nearby six mile race the next day. The one mile mark passed in a big pack with Frank, Stan Mavis, Herb Lindsey, Steve Flanagan and others a little under 4:50. The pace kept up a bit longer until Frank looked around and said, "C'mon let's get outa here." Then, BOOM, they were gone. Never saw them again and I ran in the low 32's that day. I remember being in absolute shock, they made it look SOOOOO easy!

Final memory came almost eleven years ago. My friend Eda and I were on the nine mile loop of the Sunday Boulder Road Runners run. The loop did an out and back on Pleasant Ridge just off of 47th Street. The turnaround was in front of Frank's house. Some days, his daughter would set up a water/lemonade stand. On this particular day, we stood and chatted with a while. We mostly yacked about training and at some point in the conversation, Frank said to me, in his sweet, blunt way, "For as much as you run, you'd think you'd be lighter." Ouch! Truth hurt and yes, Eda reminded me of this many more times.

Many say that Frank Shorter invented running in this country. His Olympic victory certainly was a major factor in the first running boom. Few ever worked harder and more methodically to achieve the highest honors in their sport. He was/is one of the best commentators in the business. More than that, Frank Shorter could be looked up to for his tremendous work ethic, leadership in the sport of running and tremendous accomplishments. Thanks, Frank for being one of my running heroes!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A quick update: Garmin Rules!

As per the usual, a ring of the doorbell - I answer - no one is there. A package, however, sits ever so nicely below the welcome mat, sticking out just enough to be seen. In it is my brand new Garmin Forerunner 405. They (Garmin) replaced my faulty watch and did the whole thing in less than a week.

In a retail world where customer service and consumer focus could use a little help (or maybe a nearly complete revamping), I have to confess that Garmin has gone to the head of the class (well maybe still behind the Ritz Carlton - but I don't stay there anyway)!

Man vs. Computer: Round 2

Subtitle: "Watson come quickly! Oh yeah, you can't!!!"
 
Today is the final round for Watson vs. the human guys (Ken Jennings and Brad Mutter) on Jeopardy. The IBM computer is soundly whipping both humans at the left brain, data regurgitation that is the Jeopardy game. As a human, I find the whole thing completely and utterly disgusting. Talk about a stacked competition....

Anyway, long story short, I decided to strike back for humanity. I challenged my computer to a five mile race this morning. We routed the course together (on a computer program no less), I offered shoes (nice Nikes with Air) AND I even let my Macbook (we'll call him Mac) give the starting signals (it's quite an advantage to be the one saying "GO"). Result: well, I got in five miles and my Macbook is still firmly planted by the door. In short, I kicked its ass!

Watson: You're next!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Any Way You Look At It..

Okay, I am a little proud, but nonetheless, any way you look at it 74 miles is a pretty good week. The last time I logged that many was August of 2000 when I had an 84 mile week. Earlier in 2000, 70+ weeks were commonplace. That was then, this is now.

Three weeks until the Napa Valley Marathon. I'm feeling pretty good about being able to finish at this point and that IS my only goal. Once accomplished, we'll move on to the hunt for the Boston qualifier.

I've been seriously consistent with my strength and core work the last two months and I have to say, I feel a difference. I carry myself a bit stronger and have really noticed better bio-mechanics. I like it AND it's become a fun part of my routine. 

75-80 this coming week with a 16 miler on the weekend and then begin to back off a bit. Getting jazzed!

Run on...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Shattered Phone. Dreams Still Intact. Three Weeks and Counting!

Upon awaking tomorrow morning, there will be three weeks until the Napa Valley Marathon. I ran my third and probably last 20 mile run this morning in preparation for the race. I'll have 74 miles for this week, will match that next week (throwing in a 16 miler) and then taper it down. Getting psyched.

Today's run began sluggish, picked up nicely in the middle and finished as a bio mechanical nightmare. Most of the time whenever a long run goes poorly, I have the ability to focus on my form and relax my way through. Wasn't happening today. I maintained the pace but just couldn't keep my focus on the big three that usually come through for me: relaxed face, shoulders and hands. Oh well, better than dying like a dog, right? After all no one wants that. Even when El Guapo asked the Three Amigos, "Don't you want to die like dogs?" They mentioned that they would rather avoid that if possible. If it doesn't work for Lucky, Dusty and Ned, then count me out too.

I was actually pretty impressed with the run as it came under significant duress. The last two days have seen several potentially great job opportunities either go to someone else or off the table. It is definitely a tough world out there, but I thank God every day that I have my wife, my sons and my RUNNING to keep me some variation of sane.

The run's big bummer was answering my phone around eleven miles, dodging a dog and having the phone slip from my hands. Many phones ago. I used to be quite a phone dropper, but have, for some reason, found that my iphones seem to have been the cure for that issue. My first iphone only fell twice in 18 months and this one had only seen the unrelenting pull of gravity one other time. In none of the previous escapades was their ever damage. Well today that sucker hit flat on the screen and BAM! Ouch. (please spare me all of the "you should have had a safety case or small vault" to keep it in comments - not in the mood). The biggest bummer was having to stop, bend over and pick it up (maybe THAT'S what broke my rhythm). The upside is that it still works!!!

The phone, I guess, is like me. Resilient.  

"You can knock me down, step on my face, slander my name all over the place. You can do anything that you want to do, but uh, uh honey lay off of my 20 mile run" (apologies to Elvis, who is working in a laundromat somewhere near Ft. Smith, Arkansas)!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hurry Home 405!

I sent my Garmin Forerunner 405 off to Garmin land for repair today and I won't see it for a couple of weeks. I do this with great trepidation knowing that I must go it alone for a while.
I love my Garmin for a multitude of reasons: 1) it gives incredibly accurate information and feedback from my runs. 2) I am able to download my runs to Garmin Connect and/or my Garmin Training Center 3) it's so easy to use 4) the GPS allows me to run when I travel and obtain accurate information about my workouts wherever I may be and 5) it looks cool!

I embrace this opportunity to run free of time and distance constraints (although I know all of my routes by heart) and use it to explore the playful side of my running (yeah, right). I think I can make it a couple of weeks. I just won't look as cool.

Memo to Garmin: I'd better get it back before I leave for the Napa Valley Marathon...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Running Tips OR How the C.A.T. System Saved Me Again!

It almost happened on today's run. A storm blew in early this morning and we received about 3 inches of snow. Once again the roads were snow packed, slippery and just plain pretty messy. 

"Three inches," you say, "that's nothing." In the big winter storm picture, you would be right.  Here in Colorado, however, I would rather get two feet than two to six inches. When snow is measured in feet, a wonderful thing happens: the rookies stay home. But I digress.

Anyway, it almost happened. Ascending a hill about two miles from home this morning an oncoming car began sliding in my direction. I escaped without incident (so did the car and driver). Why do I mention this uneventful event? Because with a little thought, preparation and a good system, you'll escape too. So what follows is what I believe to be the most important winter running tips of all: The Three Tips to Safer Winter Running.

Tip #1. Ask a Tough Question. The first question on a hazardous looking day should be, "Do I really need to run today?" If you're like me, the answer is "YES, of course I do. I run all the time."  The next question, however, is the biggie: "Do I need to run outside?" The answer to this question revolves around one thing and one thing only.... SAFETY. The decision is simple, if it's dangerous to run outside, I don't! Your ability to take responsibility for this decision is critical. My motto is simple: when in doubt, don't go out! And that goes triple for running in the dark in the snow. But if I decide I will brave the elements, Tip #2 comes into play...


Tip #2. Prepare.  Once committing to the outdoor run, it's time to prepare. This consists of two things: my clothes and my route. I will not pontificate on what to wear. You can get that advice anywhere. I will, however, say this: what you wear needs to work for you as far as protection and comfort. If you're fighting your clothes, winter running is terrible.


To me, the bigger part of preparation is where you will run. From the first snowflake through spring, I pay close attention to the streets that get plowed (and how quickly), the neighborhoods that remove snow from sidewalks and overall traffic patterns. It would be great if the trails were well manicured, but usually they are not. I will say, however,  the Denver area includes some of its trails in the snow removal protocol and this is certainly helpful. Most often, however, I'm taking to the streets. Before heading out, however, I spend a good amount of time constructing the safest route given my knowledge of the area.

Tip #3.  The C.A.T. System.  I approach my winter run with one irrefutable rule: Vehicle vs. Rich = Rich loses (the same goes for you). In deference to that rule, I run the sidewalk whenever I can. Often times, especially when the storm is happening during the run, the street can be the safest place. It is that occurrence that activates the C.A.T. System.


C. Car.  I ALWAYS run FACING traffic. I joke that I do this because I want to see the look on the drivers face when he/she hits me. In reality I face traffic because, yes, I want to see them but mostly because I want them to see me seeing them. As a vehicle approaches, I try to identify something about it. Is it an SUV, a truck, a little compact car? Right off the bat, I equate the type of car with the driver's potential ability to maneuver. Next I check speed and control. Is their speed appropriate for the conditions? Are they under control? If any of these checks create nervousness, I retreat to the sidewalk or anywhere well off the road.

A. Awareness. Once the car has been evaluated, I look at the driver to see their level of awareness. Are they on the phone? Do they appear to be seeing me? Do they look petrified? Often I will wave at them (a hello wave, not some other gesture) to capture some semblance of awareness. The other part of awareness of course is activating my own heightened awareness. I don't wear headphones when I run, but if I did, I surely wouldn't be doing it on the winter street run. By the way, just following the C.A.T. System will elevate your own awareness. Again, if their lack of awareness or my own nervousness about them sends me a red flag, I retreat.

T. Tires.  C and A have taken all of a couple of seconds. Most often the car has to be evaluated and awareness activated very quickly. In traffic (more than one vehicle coming), I multi-evaluate. Finally, as the vehicle gets closer, I lock in my sight and complete awareness to the TIRES. It's mighty difficult for that vehicle to slide your way without the wheels locking, so my eyes become totally fixed on the tires. I've escaped a few incidents in my time because I saw it coming before even the driver knew it was happening. Any indication of locking wheels or a loss of control sends me retreating as well, and as you can imagine, QUICKLY. Remember our formula.... Vehicle vs. You = You Lose!
The lure of the spring race, for many of us, means training in less than desirable winter conditions. Keeping these tips in mind will not insure that you will never have an incident. But safety is first for me and hopefully you too. Decide first if running outdoors is your only alternative. Remember: When in doubt, Don't go out is a good guideline. If you must venture into the elements, prepare ahead of time and use the C.A.T. System to make your winter running a little safer.

Run safe!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Was There Some Game On Today?

The results are in.... it was a great weekend for sports. Well.... my sport.

Shalane Flanagan dominates at the US Cross Country Championships, Jenny Simpson shows great early season form at the New Balance Grand Prix, Russell Brown whips a field of elite milers and Brent Vaughn shows daring and toughness in San Diego. And the best part was we could watch all of it (and several other races to boot).

Technology has given us many things, some good, some... well, not so good. One of the good ones is outstanding coverage of running events LIVE! Thanks to websites like Flotrack, RunnerSpace, Competitor and others, we now have the ability to obsess over our sport in real time.

Saturday I watched 2 hours (and that was less than half of the show) of the US Cross Country Championships in the comfort of my home, on my 24" Mac screen (which is as good or better than my television) thanks to the USATF and RunnerSpace.com. It was awesome. Sure, there were limited cameras, occasional losses of signal and no network announcers (oh wait, that's a GOOD thing), but all in all, I loved the opportunity to watch some of my favorite stars do my favorite sport AND I didn't have to tolerate beer or prescription drug commercials. Today, Super Bowl Sunday, gave me the New Balance Indoor meet. Double my pleasure, right?

I remember the olden days when "coverage" meant reading about a race in Track and Field News three months after it happened. Today I cannot imagine what my life would be like without my daily doses of Flotrack (what will Maggie Vessey say next? Who will be the next Workout Wednesday?). Running stars come to life, share their secrets, interpret their performances and all on my computer screen. And if that's not enough, we can be their friends on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Youngsters take this stuff for granted, but in a world where there are 60 million of us running and we still can't seem to get decent television coverage, this internet thing has become quite the fad. Better yet, it's renewed and intensified my love affair with running and the stars of our sports.

Some guys in Green and some guys in White played a football game today and I suppose there are people who found it exciting.  Rogers, Roethlisberger, Matthews, Harrison..... big names in their sport.

Give me Simpson, Flanagan, Brown AND the Ethiopian who ran the entire 3000 meters in ONE SHOE and WON any day of the week.

Football season is over and for their fans the off season begins. Running doesn't have an off season. Anytime is a great time to be a runner.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pressing On...

This is supposed to be a build up week at roughly 65 miles. Last week was "recovery." 

I carefully placed the word recovery in quotes because, as is often the case, last weeks recovery week was the time when the downside of the three previous weeks reared its ugly head. What I mean by that is that last week, the dents and dings began showing up. A slightly sore hip flexor, a twinge in the calf, all annoying little obstacles that take time and effort to mess with, when all I want to do is train.

As a result, this week I will spend as much time treating my dents and dings as I will running. I will also be slowing it down a bit and staying on the most level off surfaces (no snow pack or ice for this guy). I accept this situation, but still approach it with the same enthusiasm I would have for ripe mule carcass. The key is to GET IT GONE in the next week to ten days. With four and a half weeks until the Napa Valley Marathon, no lingering pains are allowed.

The upside is that I did not get two feet of snow like many of my training colleagues. I'll take that as a positive.

Run on!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

BRRRRR!

Today's run set a new standard for BRRRness this year.
Began my run at -11ºF with -28ºF wind chill. It ended at -9ºF and -30ºF. Somehow that's not the progression I was hoping for. Nonetheless, 8 miles down. I'm either very tough, stupid or bored (probably d: all of the above).
 All in all, it wasn't that bad. My nose got a little cold during a bit of headwind running and two pairs of tights didn't quite keep my legs as warn as I'd have thought they would. 
The big picture, however, says a little less than five weeks till the Napa Valley Marathon. It's got to be warmer there!