Monday, February 25, 2008

Sweet redemption

Last week was pretty miserable. Even though I managed to post 71 miles, they weren't easy or altogether enjoyable miles thanks to a nasty head cold or, possibly, the flu since it's going around. I don't know for sure because I despise going to the doctor almost as much as I despise missing a day of running. I figured that either way, cold or flu, the doctor wouldn't have a magic pill to make me instantly better and would've just told me to rest, which is just plain crazy. So, I powered through with the hopes that things would go much better this week, and they did. See, I don't need no stinkin doctor!

Monday - 6 miles recovery in the morning and another 4 in the afternoon.

Tuesday - Repeat of Monday.

Wednesday - 15 miles easy. The word "easy" only refers to the overall pace. This workout ended up being tougher to get done than it should have. It was cold in the morning when I started, about 8 degrees with a windchill below zero. I bundled up and headed out but it was soon obvious that this was going to be a miserable experience, much like the 16 mile frigid run a week earlier that had contributed to my sickness in the first place. So, after 6 miles I shedded my extra layers and headed to the gym to run the final 9 miles on the indoor track.

Thursday - Repeat of Monday and Tuesday.

Friday - 12 miles with 6 at tempo pace. This was my first tempo workout that I've been able to complete outside and, probably not coincidentally, it was the first good tempo workout that I've had this training cycle. My goal tempo pace is about 6:45-6:50 and I ended up cranking out 6:41, 6:47, 6:37, 6:42, 6:40 and 6:37 for those 6 miles.

Saturday - 8 miles recovery. I ran the first 6 with the running club and then headed out for another 2 after everyone else (all three of them) left.

Sunday - 22 miles. This was only the second 22 miler I've done during training....the only times I've run further were during a marathon or 50K. Finally, I was blessed with nearly perfect running weather. It was probably in the mid-30s when I started, but by the time I got done it was approaching 50. Skies were overcast for most of the run and there was just a slight breeze. Even though it was a little chilly when I started, I ran the entire way in shorts and a t-shirt (and hat and gloves) because I knew it would warm up. At the 20 mile point, I glanced at my watched and saw that I had exactly 15 minutes left before hitting 3 hours, so I decided to push it the last two miles and try to get in under 3 hours. Ended up with a 2:59:45. And, the best part, I wasn't very sore at all yesterday afternoon or almost seems like I'm less sore if I push it hard toward the end of a long run than if I just slog through at a slow pace the entire way. Odd...

Total - 87 miles, a new personal weekly record by 7 miles!!

Now, if I can just avoid any more illnesses and keep this good mojo going, I might actually be in pretty decent shape come May 4th. The biggest test so far will come this Sunday, when I have to run 16 miles with 12 of them at marathon pace.

I also got to weigh myself for the first time in a few weeks because we finally bought a scale for the house. I'm sitting at 202.8, so still losing weight slowly but surely. I'm oh-so-close to being under 200 (and actually was after I lost 4 lbs. during my long run, but I guess that doesn't really count).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bucked off the saddle again

I used to think of myself as the guy who never got sick. For many years, it was true. There was a long stretch from high school to my post collegiate life where I can honestly not remember ever being sick (well, except for self-induced sickness, which occurred quite often during and immediately after college, but that's a different that I don't remember). Now, I've been knocked out by a bug of some sort three times in the last two and a half months. This is getting just a little ridiculous...

So, as you can probably tell, my week didn't go so great:

Monday - 6 miles recovery in the morning and 4 miles recovery after work. I'm definitely feeling the effects of yesterday's 16 miles in -14 windchill. My head is congested and my throat and nose burn horribly, like I'm totally out of shape and gasping for air, when I run. And, I'm coughing. Not just a little annoying cough, but like a full-body, feels like a chunk of lung is going to come up any second, hacking, painful cough.

Tuesday - 11.7 miles easy (including 9 on my own followed by 2.7 with the running club). I was not feeling good at all throughout the day, but gave the workout a shot anyhow (sound familiar?). The result was that I was totally wiped out by the time I finished. We went to Applebee's for dinner afterwards because my father in law was in town, and I nearly fell asleep in the booth along with my kids, who had caught the bug by that time also.

Wednesday - I woke up, called in to work (for the second time ever), ate a bowl of cereal and went back to sleep until after noon. After another bowl of cereal for lunch, I planted myself in the recliner and that's basically where I remained until it was time to get up and eat another bowl of cereal for dinner (that's right, cold cereal for all three meals; a pretty good day in that respect). My head and throat actually felt better, but I was just beatdown tired and achey. Common sense (aka: my wife) won out, and I didn't even attempt to get in my planned 15 miler. This becomes my first non-running day of 2008.

Thursday - Feeling a little better, I head back to work and get in 6 miles of recovery afterwards (which don't feel too good).

Friday - Not feeling great, but not really feeling bad either, I decided to try and get in a tempo workout: 11 miles with 5 @ tempo pace. The first 3 warmup miles don't feel so good and, needless to say, the first 2 tempo miles feel even worse....and aren't even actually tempo pace, but about 20 seconds slower (which is as fast as I can apparently move on this day). I say to hell with it and just finish the 11 miles at what should be an easy pace, but doesn't feel very easy. Despite my wife's advice and the way my body feels (tired and sore), I also set out in the afternoon for a 4 mile recovery run, which actually goes very well and I end up running effortlessly for the first time since the previous Saturday. How does the same pace feel horrible in the morning, but effortless the same afternoon? Such are the mysteries of running...

Saturday - 8 miles at general aerobic pace. This run started out with the running club in Spearfish. Most everyone else was only planning on going 5 or 6 miles and I really wanted to run a decent pace after the week I'd just been through, so I kicked it in a little bit and ended up running all but the first mile and half or so by myself. Not sure how far the group went, but my truck was all alone in the parking lot when I got back.

Sunday - 20 miles. I've said it many times before and I'll say it many times more. Mother Nature is a dirty, slutty, no-good, disease-ridden, crack-smokin, two-dollar-trick-turnin whore. I woke up to temps in the teens, which isn't horrible, but the wind was blowing 25-30 and was only supposed to get worse as the day went on (the highest gusts end up at around 50). I am not about to repeat last week's long run debacle, so resign myself to waiting until the gym opens at 1:00 so I can run on the indoor track. The run itself goes just about as well as 230 laps around a tiny track can (meaning that I didn't start hallucinating or suffer from vertigo).

Total - 70.7 miles (15.3 short of expected)

I said this the last two times I was sick recently, but I really hope this is out of my system for now (or forever, for that matter). I'm just getting into the meat of my training plan for Colorado, and would really like to put together a string of 11 good weeks between now and then. Please, oh so great and powerful Running Gods, are you listening?

Monday, February 11, 2008

There's a fine line between being hardcore and being an idiot...

It was a mostly good, albeit cold, week of running...up until I threw down the gauntlet and challenged Mother Nature to a duel, that is (details below). The mileage was a little lower on purpose, as this was a prescribed cutback week.

Monday - 6 miles recovery in the AM, 4 more in the PM.

Tuesday - 10 miles with 10x100m strides.

Wednesday - 13.1 miles easy. I learned here not to trust either or They both said it would be in the 20s in the morning. It was more like 2, thankfully without wind. By the time I got done, I had an impressive icicle hanging off the bottom of my facemask.

Thursday - 6 miles recovery.

Friday - 11 miles easy.

Saturday - 6 miles recovery with the brand spankin new Spearfish Running Club (see my post below for details).

Sunday - 16 miserably cold and long miles in the aforementioned showdown with Mother Nature. It was in the single digits with a windchill of -14, which is normally indoor track weather for me. But, the gym doesn't open until 1 PM on Sundays (lame) and I didn't want to wait around that long (nor did I really look forward to running 184 laps), so, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to bundle up and give er a go outside. After 6 miles, I knew I should probably stop, but decided to try a different loop, hoping it would put the wind at my back more. It didn't. After 11 miles, I was drained and frigid and thought that I should probably bag it and finish the last 5 miles on the track in the afternoon. But, I also thought that, judging by how I felt, if I stopped running then, I was probably done for the day and those last 5 miles would never happen. So I pressed on. I ended up getting the full 16 in, so won the duel in that respect, but it took a good hour and a half (including a long hot shower), before I stopped feeling chilled afterward, so I guess Mother Nature won in that respect. Let's just say that, next time, I'll wait for the damn gym to open.

Total - 72.1 miles

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The inaugural meeting of the Spearfish Running Club

This morning, despite -14 windchill and at least 4 inches of fresh snow, 10 of us local runners got together for a little run. Ever since I moved here two years ago, I have knocked around the idea of trying to get a running club going, but didn't really know where to start. Well, lucky for me, it turns out if you sit on a good idea long enough, someone else will take it and run with it (pun intended). After some mass emailings to everyone with a local address who ran one of the local half or full marathons last year, we ended up with the beginnings of a club.

Somehow, I have been designated as the guy who knows where to run, even though I don't actually live in Spearfish (although I work there) and therefore rarely run there (and when I do, it's mostly on two routes that I'm familiar with). But, as usual, I tried to at least make it look like I knew what in the hell I was doing by showing up with several mapped routes I slapped together on and, for the most part, have never actually run myself. Given the cold and snow, we settled on a short loop and took off for our first ever group run, a 3 miler around town. Once I finally warmed up (about two miles in) it was actually quite enjoyable, although casual conversation proved difficult because your mouth seriously doesn't work as well in sub-zero's like trying to have a legible conversation after chugging a few pints at the bar.

After the first 3 mile loop, we stopped to discuss the date and time for a midweek run (Tuesday at 5:30, followed by beer and popcorn, if you care). I was contemplating heading out for a second loop to get my scheduled 6 miles in for the day when one of the ladies present asked if anyone would like to run some more. I recognized her as the same gal I had outkicked to the finish of a local 10K last April (nearly pulling a groin or passing out or both in the process....see the picture to the right), but wasn't sure if she recognized me. Turns out she didn't (must be the winter beard) when I brought it up as we started our second loop. I didn't rub it in (too much...okay not at all....really, but I HAD to mention it). In any case, I learned a valuable lesson today: Running in negative windchill is much more bearable when you aren't doing it solo....or at least you feel slightly less dumb for doing it when you have a group of people with you.

So, the Spearfish Running Club is born. Hopefully our numbers will grow as the temperature warms up.....and hopefully I don't lead a bunch of us astray someday by trying to look like I know where we are going on some route that I've never run before.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Why the irony??

This post is going to have very little, if anything, to do with running. Basically, it's just a bitch session on my part about the sad affairs of my vehicular situation. You see, I'm the not-so-proud owner of a 1992 Ford F-150. I've had the truck for about seven years now, and it has served me well on countless trips from Montana to Washington to Montana to North Dakota to Montana to Idaho to California to South Dakota to Montana and back to South Dakota over the years. Well, it has served me mostly well. There was the time when the transfer case went out in Williston, ND to tune of $2000 and the wonderful experience I had last summer en route to the Missoula Marathon when one of the fuel pumps died halfway there. Like a human, as it's gotten older, the creaks and groans have become more frequent. Let's just say that, at this point, it's best feature is the fact that it's paid off.

Recently, a bunch of little things have started to build up and bug the ever lovin crap outta me. There's the aforementioend fuel pump, which sometimes works fine, sometimes not at all. There's the sticky starter, which on random occassions requires that I crawl under the truck and beat on it with a socket wrench before I can start the damn thing (this really sucks when it's raining). There's the big ass crack down the middle of the windshield. There's the rearview mirror, which inexplicably just fell off a few years ago and still resides behind the seat. There's the CD player, which refuses to play CDs. There's the heater/AC temperature knob that fell off and now requires that I use a pair of pliers to change the temp from hot to cold and back. There's the heater itself, which until this past Friday, when I finally fixed it, only worked on high and made a horrible grinding sound when it did that (more on this later). And, last but not least, there's the 13 miles per gallon I get commuting 26 miles to and from work every day as gas hovers around $3 a gallon.

Last week, I seriously began to wonder if it was worth it all. Would I be better off trading the truck in for a fuel efficient, cheap used car? I started looking around and realized that the offset between paying for gas in my truck and making loan payments and buying gas for a 30 miles per gallon car would be pretty close, only putting me out about $70-$80 per month more than what I currently spend just on gas. Last Thursday night, my mind was virtually made up; I was going to Rapid City on Friday to trade my truck in for a 2004 Ford Focus. But, when I woke up on Friday morning, feelings had changed. I decided to think things over while I was on my 13 mile run. I do some of my best thinking when I'm running. It was while I was running one day a few years ago that I had a revelation that our first child, who my wife was about 6 months pregnant with, would be a boy. I was right. I was also on a run when the perfect name, Spooky, popped into my head for the Siamese kitten my wife had brought home (this was just before Halloween a couple of years ago). So, obviously, I'm inclined to go with whatever my endorphin enhanced running brain comes up with. Well, on Friday, I came to the conclusion that I could not envision myself driving anything but a truck just yet. How was I supposed to haul stuff to the dump or stuff from Home Depot or dead deer during hunting season in a Ford Focus?? And, I didn't really like the idea of taking on another loan and paying more money each month, even if it wasn't that much more. So, instead of trading the gas guzzling beast in, I gave it a reprieve and instead sunk almost $100 into it fixing the heater myself. Well, mostly fixing it, I should say. It worked on all settings and did so quietly when I was done, but still was reluctant to blow out warm air (a problem I was hoping to address this coming weekend).

The decision to keep the truck until some bills are paid off in a few years was made and I was comfortable with it. Until today. As I'm driving to work this morning, the stupid thing starts overheating, which is remarkable considering it was -10 degrees outside. I literally coasted into my office as the truck finally gave out. After letting it cool down, which doesn't take long when it's below zero, I managed to limp it to the mechanic, who informed me that a radiator hose, coolant flush, thermostat and about $250 later, it would be in working order again (relatively speaking). Things actually could have been much worse (knock on wood, cross your fingers and hope to die).

Isn't the irony just freakin fantastic? (that's sarcasm, folks). I decided to give the truck another chance, and four days later, it takes a big ole crap on me. So now I'm back to wondering: is it worth it all?

I need to go for a run....

Anyone interested in a slightly used 1992 Ford F-150?

Monday, February 4, 2008

The big 8 - 0

Another week in the books and it was a good one:

Monday - 6 recovery in the morning and another 4 at lunchtime. When I ran in the morning before work, it was 46 degrees. By the time I ran again at lunchtime, it was in the 20s and by the time I got home it was 2 with a windchill well into the negatives. Such is life in South Dakota.

Tuesday - 10 with 4 at LT pace. Once again, I had to attempt this workout on the indoor track because the windchill was still wicked cold. Fortunately, the track wasn't obscenely crowded this time, but I still had a rough time maintaining pace. I was shooting for the LT miles to be in the 6:45-6:50 range and ended up with a 6:41, a 6:56 (oops), a 6:45 and a 6:43. So, the pace came out about right, but I had to work pretty hard for it.

Wednesday - 15 easy. Woulda been a great run if it weren't for the fact that I had to log 172.5 laps around the track to get it done.

Thursday - 6 recovery. Back outside.

Friday - 13 easy. Legs felt sore and tight the entire time.

Saturday - 6 recovery.

Sunday - 20 long. Within the first half mile, I felt like it was going to be a good run. I ran a fairly hilly out and back route that's a net uphill on the way out and then back downhill for the return stretch. At halfway, I still felt great, which is odd because the hills usually take a toll. At mile 15, I decided I was tired of holding myself to 8:20-8:30 miles, so I stared pushing it a little. The last five miles ended up at 7:38, 7:19, 7:06, 7:06 and 7:08 and felt great. It's amazing to me how a 7:06 mile after 18 miles of running can feel great when a 10 second faster mile four days earlier felt horrible. I've never finished a 20 miler feeling so I could have kept going for another 20. If every run were like this one, I'd log 140 miles a week.

Total - 80 miles. My first time ever hitting 80.

I also lost another 0.8 pounds. Part of me wants to be losing weight faster, but another part says that 1-2 pounds a week is actually ideal, especially when walking the fine line of fueling a body that's logging 70-80 mpw and trying to lose weight at the same time. My January total for weight loss was 7.2 lbs., which actually puts me dead on pace for getting to my goal weight before May.