Saturday, December 27, 2008

But then you'll go forwards again

I started my post yesterday but after about three paragraphs I decided that I was feeling too negative to subject anyone else to it so I aborted. So much of my training lately feels like two steps forward, one step back. As much as it bothers me to have to take that step back, I need to realize that I am still moving forward. It may be imperceptible, but like a glacier, I am moving forward.

Today was a very hopeful day for me in many respects both mentally and physically. I have been dealing with a bit of tenderness in my shin/lower calf that keeps me from feeling really good. I had doubts about whether I should or could run effectively today. And even if I got out the door I had no idea if I could run very long. The temperature was an even 0 degrees and several of the people who usually show up were either in Hawaii (I hope Tom and Jerry get sunburned) or thought it was too cold to run.

In any case I managed to get out the door and little by little felt better and better. Despite the chill it was spectacularly beautiful out with all the mountains visible and the alpenglow on Denali was something you only see when you go out on days like this. By the end I was feeling pretty good and probably could have gone further but to be honest I got tired of listening to myself. If someone else had been there to talk to I could have gone another 4-5 miles, but I was pleased to get 16 miles in. When I got to the club to shower I saw fellow marathoner Sam Hill putting in one of his long elliptical workouts so I joined him for another 50 minutes of training. In total I managed about 2:40 of cardio time which is good under any circumstances but today was a big deal when I doubted 30-45 minutes was possible.

Just shows once again that you just have to make that first step and you should always hope for the best. I am reminded of a statement that you should place a bet everyday because it might be your lucky day and you could win big. That's why I always give myself the benefit of the doubt when I show up for a race because I've been surprised more than once by a result that exceeded my expectations. No need to go into those uncountable times that the opposite occurred. Today was a winning bet for me. Still waiting for that breakthrough, but I've got a bit of house money in my pocket and I'm feeling luckier than yesterday.

Plug the machine and pull the handle!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The beautiful strategy

I mentioned last how important it is to keep track of where you've been with the training so you'll have a road map to follow, or avoid, in the future. But having a strategy for where you want to go in the future is also important too.

Seeing that the first of the year is a natural starting point I need to develop a better plan for where I want to be come Boston. I also know that having specific checkpoints along the way will establish whether I am on track or not. Placing those down on paper are the framework or skeleton by which you can achieve that future goal. The big pieces should be placed first along the route as they establish landmarks by which you can fill in the spaces between.

I just looked at my calendar today and realized I need to get serious about more than just running Boston in April. A nice stop would be a warm place to run a half-marathon in January. I just found that a race I've done in Cabo is one week later than I thought, which is good. Something in February would be nice too, but not crucial and definitely a good shakedown effort in March is important.

As you can see I've already created some general landmarks around which to build training and workouts based on what I'd like to accomplish along the way to Boston. Now I may not run the race or race as well as I anticipated but at least I've better defined where I'm at and what I need to do to either reach my goal or better modify it in the face of not being as good I'd hoped or better than I thought. Sometimes having a poor result just helps the body be better prepared for racing and doesn't mean you can't stick with your original goal.

Three weeks before Boston in 2007 I ran the DC 1/2 Marathon as a final tuneup. I had missed a week of training because of a sore tendon in my foot but felt confident to race. The race went poorly and I struggled to run 1:18 for the 1/2. It was disappointing because I had hoped to run that pace for the marathon in three weeks so having trouble doing it for 13 miles wasn't a positive sign. Fortunately, I knew I was in good shape but my rhythm was out of sync because of a lack of running. A tough race was just what I needed to shake up my system.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results - Winston Churchill

So rather than let the result by itself discourage me I allowed it to help me understand where I was at. Certainly I wasn't thinking I was going to run much faster but I did run 2:39:30 on what has been called the worst weather ever at Boston. Having a tough day in DC and working through it made me better for Boston three weeks later.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Keeping track

Probably one of the most important things I think someone can do to drive their running, besides publicly putting it out there via blog, is to keep a training log. I am occasionally approached about training help and I always ask if the person has kept a training log.

A training log is helpful on many levels. First, its a guide to your own personal progress and feedback to any failures or success' that you want to avoid or replicate. Second, if you are looking for help it's very helpful to the coach/advisor to determine where you have been and how realistic the goal may be. Finally, once you get in the rhythm of writing in your log you feel compelled to train and get something written down. In the right context it can be positive. If you are training when you shouldn't just to get something written down then, of course, it is a negative.

When I was first approached by Christine Clark about two years before she won the Olympic marathon trials I asked for anything she had kept. It wasn't much but it was something I could look at and understand what she had done to achieve her results. At the time she was running well, but was at the 2:48 level for the marathon. What I could see from her training was that she was clearly running at a high level relative to her training. She was obviously talented and had lots of room for improvement given just a bit more structure to her training.

As much as I'd like to think I had a lot to do with her improvement, it was just a byproduct of modifying her previous work and providing more structure to the time she was already putting in. The key part was that we already had previous training and results to develop a future plan.

All my best training has been when I make an effort to log my training. Compiling totals and organizing workouts helps provide structure, focus and motivation to the training. Plus, knowing where you are at and where you want to go also forces you to fill in the space with the right ingredients to get there. You can buy a training log at Skinny Raven or just do it on a notebook or online

The new year approaches. Time to start logging
Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When in doubt

Long ago (in a galaxy far away) I was an editor for the college paper and wrote a bi-monthly column about something I hoped others would find interesting. I realized that occasionally I would produce some mediocre columns. The main reason was I really didn't have much to write about and I would try to cobble together what might seem relevant.

When in doubt, don't. Benjamin Franklin

What I learned then was if you don't have anything decent to report, don't report anything. Granted, the test of good writing is the ability to make something more interesting than it really is. As you can see I've already pulled you several sentences farther than I should have. So, in the interest of keeping your mind fresh, I will call it quits with just one request.

That is, if you have read anything from this blog in the past and actually find it interesting or pure drivel, please comment or let others know about the blog. As I said a few weeks ago, I would like to make this a spot you (and many others) can find some insight and fun each day.

Keep the cards and letters coming.

Monday, December 22, 2008


In Alaska the first day of winter means the days start getting longer. It's more symbolic than significant, but it is nice to know that little by little we gain a bit more light. For me I hope it means a gradual increase in momentum and motivation.

After yesterday's big run I was tired, as expected, when I woke up and had no desire to squeeze in a quick session of anything prior to work. But as the day went on I felt better and better and by late afternoon I was chomping at the bit to get some training in. That's the mental shift I've been looking for and I managed a good effort of elliptical, running uphill and biking. Total time 1:20. Not bad. A week ago it would have been take the day off.

The only disappointment was I received a call mid-day that my massage was called off because Katie had strained her arm and wasn't up to beating me up. That's right, I know she was hurting from how well I stood up to last week's abuse. I know the real story. Don't make excuses, Katie, just be honest and say you aren't tough enough to take me on. Actually, it would have been nice to get a little beat down massage. I think I am doing pretty well but I can always use a little work.

One thing that has helped keep up the training volume has been the triathlon National Challenge Competition that the tri clubs from around the country started this month. I got off to a slow start but have been moving up the individual list the past two weeks. Even though the emphasis this month is swimming they keep track of all three disciplines. I hope to get into the top 100 by the first of the year, though its hard because most of my training is running so bikers can really add up the miles. I've been hitting the bike as a way of warming down and to get some more cardio as well as get some NCC distance in. Swimming is another story all together and if anything has provided comic relief for my training and the blog.

Two weeks ago I was outside the top 300 but have moved up the charts and after today should be well inside the top 150. Getting to top 100 will take some more work as I have to move through some people who do far more biking than running. Two people have already pedaled over 900 miles the first three weeks! More than anything its fun to have that little extra push to do that extra mile or two that I'm capable of doing without going off the deep end and doing too much for the sake of getting miles. I've already been there pretty much my whole college career so no need to revisit that.
On the charts, with a bullet!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

You can't get too much winter in the winter.

On a cold day with everything, including me, covered with frost I figure that today's title quote by Robert Frost was more than appropriate. Despite it being the middle of winter it was a very good day to be running.

I managed to get 18 miles in with a little warm up on the treadmill before heading out the door for just over two hours with the starting temperature at a balmy 5 degrees. With no wind and the ground/snow/ice firm the running was quite good with proper footwear. I didn't know what to expect so I wasn't truly prepared for a run of this length but also just let my body carry me along and not let my brain get in the way. I had a feeling I could go this long but wasn't sure that my conditioning and leg were up to it. Apparently they were.

It also helped to be running with Jerry Ross and Tom Ritchie, two others preparing for Boston, as they kept the pace steady and the conversation distracting enough that I wasn't thinking about time or distance. We were joined after about 6 miles by John Wirum, who ran very well as we maintained a pretty good clip the whole time. We were running about 7:15-20 mile pace but with all the clothing it was closer to 6:45-50 effort if we were running in San Diego. The heart/lungs/capillaries don't know the difference as heart rate is heart rate. Today's photo's are at the run's end and give an idea how "frosty" it was today.

Very good to know that I am capable of handling such a run, though I also know I'll be a bit fatigued tomorrow. No problem as I will cross train and I have a late-day massage from Katie to press things together before she goes on vacation. Just completing today's run with no pain is a very big win for me and shows that I'm not too far from where I'd like to be. At the same time I need to temper that with respect and not get too far ahead of myself. In any case, it sure is nice to get out of the gym and take on the winter.

Every mile is two in winter - George Herbert

When it comes to winter running in Alaska that quote is almost true. No doubt that wearing extra layers and running on loose snow or ice slows down the pace but not the effort. I generally just apply the normal running pace I would do if I was running in summer. Usually I just divide 7:00 pace into the time of the run to get mileage. Really, we should focus on time and heart rate (and results too, of course) but I'm a bit trapped by my early years of measuring miles so that's what I do.

Great week of training. Boston seems a little closer than it did last week.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The sun ain't shining no more

After hearing the sad stories of winter weather from my Lower 48 friends I have to laugh that I'm glad that I live in Alaska. Fortunately, I live in a state that embraces winter and is equipped and used to dealing with the conditions other states consider a inconvenience. In fact, rather than survive the conditions, Alaskans prefer to conquer them.

As they also say in Scandinavia, "there's no bad conditions, just bad clothing" or in our case for running, bad footwear. I took advantage of the conditions for my second session of the day and had an amazing ski along the ocean just as the sun was setting. I could see all the mountains, including Denali as the last of the sun was hitting the high reaches of the 20,320-foot peak. My longest ski of the season and much warmer than last week so a pleasant end to another good training day. Another bonus is the days will start getting longer from here out. Here's a photo from the ski.
I recently became a Facebook member and have gradually added more and more "friends" to my list. This week I added former world marathon record holder, Steve Jones, to my list. I met Steve last January while at a Reebok meeting in Boston. I bumped into to him in New York this fall also, which was the 20th year since he won the race in 1988 in 2:08. In fact, if you look at the profile photo of my blog muse, Keith Kelly, he is posing with Steve. Steve is the good-looking guy on the right if you are unsure who is who.

Steve just added Henry Rono as one of his friends and I met the great Rono when I was a freshman in college. It was the winter after Rono had set four track world records in the 5,000, Steeplechase, 3,000 and 10,000. I had just started writing for Anchorage Times and I managed an interview with Henry after I had run a indoor 1,000 yard (my first collegiate win) at Washington State University. Obviously, it was a very big deal to sit down with someone of Rono's level and ask various questions. A very big thrill.

In any case, I couldn't help but try to add Henry as a friend as well. Henry accepted and now we are "friends", reunited after 30 years. Henry put this video on his page of a 2-mile he and another legend, Steve Ovett, ran at the end of Rono's incredible four-record summer. It was a brilliant race between two titans of track that yielded another World Record. Awesome race.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Just Rewards

I look at coming back from injury like drilling for oil or digging for gold. Both require effort, time and patience to get the smallest payoff. Having run well and been healthy in the past tells me that I can do it again and that the potential is under the surface ready to come out. I just need to dig for awhile to get to it.

Of course its nice to get a little glimmer of gold, even if its fool's gold to keep hope alive. In my case I know that years of training have developed a decent little resevoir I can tap into. Its always nice to hit that resevoir and suddenly see big improvement come quickly. One week you feel slow and sluggish and the next you hit that latent training from the past and feel like you are flying. A few years ago I was so beat down after three weeks of illness I started a program on January 1st of one mile followed by two miles on Jan. 2 and three on Jan. 3 and so on. I was so bad off I was literally cramping up after two miles on day 3. By mid-February I put in a 120 mile week (very unusual for me) while on vacation.

Today I managed a glimpse of the potential as I had my best session of running since October. I hit the Dome for some indoor running as I wanted to keep my leg warm and minimize any stress that might occur from running on the snow or ice. I was very surprised at my pace as I tried to run a good rhythm. I thought I was running 7:15 pace in the outer lanes but when I did a mile in lane one I found I was really running 6:40 pace for the hour run. My HR was running slightly high, but I felt in control and I know it will come down quickly as my body syncs up to consistant running. Right now I'd rather run good rhythm and shorter, than slow and long. As I've said before, I already know how to run slow.

Hopefully today was a glimpse of the reward I may achieve for hanging in there.

“I believe life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment, and life's greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve. This level of resolve can move mountains, but it must be constant and consistent. As simplistic as this may sound, it is still the common denominator separating those who live their dreams from those who live in regret.”

Anthony Robbins

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The sweet sauce

After nearly a week and a half straight without any breaks I decided to take a day off. I had a suspicion that I would be fatigued after a day that included a swim, elliptical, stairs, running and weights.

Rest: the sweet sauce of labor - Plutarch

Sometimes discipline is not training when you want to. I used to measure how many straight days I trained without a break when I was younger. And it was easy to pump up those weekly mileage totals by not taking any days off. I realize now that I wasn't training to improve on many days but just spinning my wheels working hard for nothing or more likely preparing to get injured and taking a big step back. Now I look at my days off as a reward for good work and an opportunity to regroup and have better training after the break.

I like to hit the rhythm where I take Monday off and get a scheduled massage as well. After six straight days of training and usually a heavy load on Saturday and Sunday, my body is ready for the break. Paula Radcliffe sets her rest cycle every 10 days. For Paula the week has no meaning as everyday is the same. For us that have jobs and other schedules to account for, we need to set things up on a seven day rhythm usually.

When I worked with Christine Clark the year she won the Olympic Trials in the marathon, she was on a six days on cycle with one day off. Even though she was "only" running 70 miles a week, she was really training at a 85-mile per "week" effort those six days. One should also consider the micro injuries that aren't apparent that heal up in that break between the last workout and the first one after the day off.

The mental aspect can't overlooked either as one gets in a rut. Obviously, training is very mental and keeping the mind fresh is as valuable as the body.

So even though I wasn't "training", I feel like today is another day that I have improved as well as set myself up for another step towards improvement in the coming week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Early bird

Any question I had about my commitment to getting better was answered today when I got up at 4:30 a.m. to meet up for a 5:15 swim lesson. Granted, I didn't sleep that well after that huge potato burrito at the Bear Tooth last night, but I digress.

Kudos to future marathon queen and blog princess, Joleen, for meeting me and gently handling my fragile little ego. Joleen was far too kind and supportive of my ineptitude in the water. I did learn a lot and despite my propensity for sucking water through my nose I feel like I have several things to focus on now.
Here's a nice photo of Joleen after her cold run this weekend.

After washing off the chlorine, it was back to the elliptical, stair climber and bike for more cardio. By then I decided I needed a small nap before it was off to weights with another gracious girl who has agreed to assist me in working on my strength training. As I mentioned before, Laura is going to run Boston this spring, but also works as a personal trainer and is a former gymnast. She is one little ball of hate when it comes to strength and pretty much kicked my ass. But that's okay. I need to shake things up and having a training partner makes it a whole lot easier.
After weights it was meeting up with my Nike rep John Dimoff, who is in town and showing the new product for mid-summer/fall. John is a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon. Click on his name to read a good interview with him. Always fun to see the new stuff and of course Nike always has some interesting innovations. Particularly looking forward to the Lunarglide which will be a new update to the Lunar Trainer. I managed to get a pair of them when I was in Portland last week to try out. I am very fortunate to have a "sample" size foot (9.0) so I can wear the new models for men. Comes in handy in my job as footwear buyer.

Hamstring is a bit tender from the massage yesterday, but I expected that so I didn't plan on running today, but have high hopes for tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'm just trying to do my jigsaw puzzle

Running and training are constantly changing puzzles that require constant attention and evaluation. Just when you reach over to pick up the right piece, the puzzle has changed and you are forced to adjust your thinking and strategy. It's so rare that you actually get to place that final piece in to complete it.

Doug Horton
When you finally do fit all the pieces together and step back to admire your genius, pieces fall out and you are forced to start all over again. I think all runners are fated to be a modern day Sisyphus, cursed for eternity to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again. Fortunately, at least we get to travel different routes while rolling that boulder and make that journey a bit more interesting. But the time at the top is definitely short-lived. Much respect to those that manage to keep their little boulder at the top longer than most.
Lately, I've felt like Sisyphus has been on vacation and left his boulder in the middle of the road, keeping me from getting where I want to go. Good progress today, however, as I managed a quick six miles on the treadmill with a small amount on the flat. I was a bit rushed as I had another massage scheduled. If not for the time I would been able to go much longer. The combination of the run and massage leaves me feeling good about the coming days.
I better be getting better as I'm tired of paying for the pain I go through each time with Katie. Boy, you better bring your hard hat for one of her sessions. You are going to be at a big disadvantage because she is going to bring the pain whether you are ready or not. I think a anesthesiologist should be included in the appointment. It would be easier for all if Katie just knocked us out for an hour and went at it. And she says I'm good about letting her into my little muscles. I pity the others if that is the case.
One more piece connected.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Yesterday I posted about trying to find that pace in training that will allow me to make that move over to the fast lane. There have been so many opportunities for me to make that shift but I seem to keep struggling to make that swerve to the left. Despite that, I am familar with this stretch of highway and know that there will be an opportunity soon.

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness. - Seneca

My workout yesterday gave me a glimpse that I'm not too far off. I felt better and lighter on my feet than I have for a bit. I was able to drop the grade on the treadmill as my hamstring didn't get sore. Being able to drop from 10% to 7% is a big diffference and allowed me to feel like I was closer to that sweet spot of running rhythm. On the elliptical I felt particulary strong and topped off the session with several miles on the bike. In all, over 1:30 of cardio work at HR 130+ and weights.

Today was another good session in the a.m. that included another pathetic swim, although the goggles did work. I'm seriously considering a snorkle so I can just put my head down and go. I also got deeper into my plyo routine and did very light box jumps for the first time. I need to be careful as its easy to get injured if you drop in the plyos too aggressively.

Even though the pure running isn't where I'd like, I need to take comfort and confidence in knowing that all the work has a payoff and I am getting stronger, maybe stronger than if I was just running. Plus, when I do get going I'll be really excited rather than maybe feeling like I've been at it for months. A lot of training and racing is about confidence anyway. It helps having been down this road before knowing that I always have gotten better and that the patience is rewarded. Not always when I want, but I can find the reward when I am more objective.

Even though running uphill on the treadmill is a grind, I need to consider that uphill is my weak spot. I know I'll be better prepared for the Newton Hills at Boston and I really want to be feeling good at the top of Heartbreak Hill so I can take advantage of the downhill into Boston the last five miles. I've been fortunate (if jetlag is fortunate) to have traveled to Boston a few times this year and run Heartbreak a couple of times in training and get a better sense of how much help you get once you start the real drive to the finish and how the course gives back quite bit in the final miles if you are prepared to take advantage of it.

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" Winston Churchill

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Driving sideways

After a late evening into early morning party I managed to garner a couple of positives of getting into bed much later than typical for me. First, of course, I managed to break out my best suit and get some extra miles out of my investment. Second, I was struck by how many people are trying to scrape off the rust and regain the exercise consistency they once had.
I feel lucky that I've managed to keep the wheels moving in the right direction despite how slow they seemed to be moving. Others have either been in neutral with the parking break full on or worse, shifted into reverse. It seems like once you get off the freeway its hard to find that on ramp again.

Lately it has been in the slow lane for me with the blinker on trying to get in the fast lane. I can't seem to get up to speed to merge into the faster traffic, but at least I'm heading in the right direction on the right road.

Today will amount to a rest blog day for me so I'll leave you with this short video of Aimee Mann singing Driving Sideways in concert.

Take the jack and change the flat!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Today didn't turn out to be the coming out party I had expected. Given the 3 degree temps and early morning start I may have been better off hugging my pillow for an extra hour as well. Another opportunity for me to work on my attitude and perspective until I actually DO get better.
Lest you think this post is an informal RSVP to my little pity party, fear not. Fortunately I have enough perspective of the bigger picture to understand that my little leg issue is nothing compared to much more challenging things people deal with on a daily basis. I understand that and I do appreciate that my problem won't be that hard to overcome.

And I don't want to sound like I keep myself warm on cold days like this with the plights of others. On the contrary, I am further inspired and appreciate the greater example others display despite the obvious and continuous challenges they endure.

One of the more obvious examples I've seen on a few occasions has been Dick and Rick Hoyt who do marathons all over the country and I've actually passed at Boston and New York marathons. In fact, my first marathon was NYC in '97 and I went by Team Hoyt late in the race when I was feeling particularly bad. Seeing Dick push his son was so inspiring and suddenly I didn't feel so bad. You can't help but get misty eyed watching these two during races.

At least I got my friend John out the door this morning when he wanted to put it off until later. Unfortunately for him I had to bail after two miles, but he pressed on and managed a good run. Glad to be there for you John. Now I'm off to salvage some form of a workout by heading out to the ski trails.

Hopefully the black tie optional I attend tonight won't go too well and I'll be in at a decent hour so I can get a session in before work. Yes, the Raven is open on Sunday during the Holidays. I hope our sacrifice will result in many shoe sales, especially running shoes!

Friday, December 12, 2008

And sink like a stone

I should have known I was in for a tough day when Joleen cancelled out of our swim workout this morning. I persevered on and hit the pool with goggles in hand expecting big improvement over my rover-style technique. Who would have thought that keeping water out of the goggles was going to be harder than swimming itself?

After a lap and a half getting pissed off, I chucked the goggles and reverted back to bird dog technique - head up, gasping for breath every stroke. Despite my early frustration I realized that my goal is to get a workout and getting done faster and more efficiently wasn't going to enhance the training effect. I wore a HR monitor to see what the training effect was and I was hitting 150 which is on the level of a medium, hard run pace. I was proud of myself for hanging in there and not getting intimidated by the swells coming from the adjoining lane created by torpedoes with arms going by.

Perhaps Joleen will feel better next week or maybe my threat of wearing a Speedo created an image that will outlast her cold. I was only kidding, Joleen. Get well quick. As for today's title it was inspired by Aimee Mann's Today's the Day.

I moved on to more familiar training modes after the swim. A quick weight circuit was followed by another hour on the elliptical and 20 minutes on the treadmill uphill. I definitely was feeling the effect of past training and the swim/weights before getting onto the elliptical. The HR was a bit higher for the effort and I could tell I didn't have my usual energy. Rather than get discouraged I used it as an opportunity to practice relaxing and doing the best I could.

Unfortunately, we don't get to pick when the races occur and sometimes they happen to fall on a day you are not at your best. Dealing with tough days in training help when those days inevitably occur when you race. Today I just focused on relaxing and getting the HR to drop down a few beats when I saw it creep up. That's one good reason to use a HR monitor for training to see how you can impact the effect on your body when exercising.

When you get tired think about relaxing a bit and smooth out the breathing or tension in the arms, shoulders or jaw. I've even seen immediate impact of a 2-3 BPM when I am on the treadmill and drink water during workouts. It's so important to practice these things while training so they naturally take hold when racing. Your body will naturally revert to what you practice. If you droop your head and tighten your arms in training when tired, you'll do it in races as well.

My mantra is "run like a Kenyan". I've had many times when I felt like ass at the end of a race and people said I looked good. On the inside I was a mess but I didn't let my body make things worse by becoming even more inefficient. You need to be able to count on something when racing and staying relaxed and keeping form is always possible. How the engine will perform is always a mystery but at least keep the steering wheel pointed in a straight line.

Tomorrow I will test out the leg and see how Wednesday's massage helped. I can tell the lump is smaller and the pain is almost gone.

Fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I saw a sunrise, I saw sunlight

Since my visit to Portland last week I have achieved my most productive week of training since September. I can feel that momentum coming that will lead to better and better training. As I said before the one advantage of being out of form is that each day you feel improvement.

I've also been able to extend the length of the workout longer than anticipated, another sign that I'm moving in the right direction. Of course, working longer is easier when you have the proper distraction to make the time go by faster. I was lucky to hit the gym while one of the Raven's former employee's was also working out. At 6-foot-1 and a massive smile, Becca could have been a model but decided to go to med school. Today was her first day back in town after finals and I was able to catch up with her past semester. Funny how time flies by when you are working out with a devastatingly attractive person, isn't it?

After nearly an hour on the elliptical I planned on beating out 4-5 miles on the bike but just when I got close to ending my music hit Daybreak by Coldplay so I was obligated to go to the end of the song. Ever since I saw "40-year-old Virgin" I've been reluctant to profess my appreciation for Coldplay, but I can't help it (and no, I didn't macrame a pair of jean shorts). Hey, whatever it takes to get a few more miles in, right? Anyway, I ended up with 10.5 miles on the bike and figured I needed to quit so I could sit without pain in the interim.

Tomorrow will be another test of my commitment as I meet up with fellow blogger/marathoner Joleen for a 5 a.m. swim lesson. Five a.m.? Yikes! Fortunately, Joleen is impossibly cute and I can balance that against the pity laughing I'm sure to elicit from her as she witnesses my pathetic stroke (or will be it my shirtless bod?).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

House of Cards

Sometimes the best way to measure myself is to ask "am I better today than I was yesterday". Too often one can get drug down by comparing themselves to their best days. So the answer to the question today is, "yes" I am better than yesterday

Another good day of energy with positive cardio work on treadmill and elliptical as well as some brief strength with hopefully, a new strength training partner. After the training session a productive massage session with Painmeister Katie. And to top things off an enhanced wardrobe courtesy of the 40% off sale at Banana Republic. Yes, I am much improved in nearly all aspects today.

I managed to score a bit of luck as Laura was a bit late for the strength workout. Because I had already put down some weight and ab work yesterday I was already a bit tender. Needing to head out to get my massage I had to cut things short but at least we managed a little bit of work. I look forward to next week and I'll be more rested to be a better workout partner.

The massage was very good and productive. Katie has worked at two Olympics as a massage therapist, so she has very good experience working with athletes. If I have any complaints she is so good some of us have bragged to others about her talent. Consequently, she has filled up with so many others wanting her help that she is hard to get into sometimes unless you book out months in advance. So my advice is if you find a great massage person - keep your mouth shut!

I've gone into how massage has been key in keeping me from imploding into a giant tendon. It's insidious how your body little by little begins to tighten up and muscles subtlety fuse into tendons if you don't stay on top of them. Sometimes rest is not enough as strains and tears may turn into scar tissue and are very slow to heal, if they heal at all. Then your body begins the compensation process and the house of cards tumbles down. Today was a big step towards kneading out that lump in my hamstring bicep. You can only do so much sometimes and I have another session next week that will hopefully get me back again.
Speaking of House of Cards, here's a little Radiohead tribute to my blog buddy, Keith Kelly, who just cranked out a 5 mile tempo run in 25:40 yesterday. A time I have only mustered up a handful of times when running all out. I hate guys that can do that.

I have never walked out a Katie session feeling good. Some days I feel like a side of beef. Even the next morning I'll feel beat up, but usually by late afternoon the day after I can feel the difference. I always feel better about my pain threshold after a Katie session. Today wasn't too bad as I didn't feel the need to curse at her. I would never say some of the things I have thought as she would only snap my leg in half like a little twig if I said any of it out loud.

No run tomorrow as I'll allow the massage to take hold and I'll likely take Friday off from running also. I sense I'm close and a couple of days separate me from being able to do the work I'd like to. In the meantime I'll continue to do the little things that will enable me to be ready when that day comes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Now my feet won't touch the ground

So often I have trouble making the first step, but once I do I have such a good run or workout I can't understand why it was so difficult making that initial step. Today was one of those days that I exceeded my expectations every time I made the first step.

I'm reminded of a story I read about a high school girl who made a goal during her summer XC training to at least run a 1/4 mile to the end of her road each day and pet the neighbor's horse. If she didn't feel like running anymore she could always go home but at least she would make the effort to see the horse. She never went home after meeting her equine friend and continued to run further.

Today was a triathlon of cardio training with a bout of weights thrown in as well. My initial goal was to get 30 minutes of elliptical in but I got to 45 minutes. I wanted to test my leg with some uphill running on the treadmill so I attempted to get one mile in, but ended up with 2.5. Finally I hopped onto the stationary bike for 2 miles of biking to fulfill my NCC biking goal but got 4.5 in before having to get off to work. Total cardio time was 1:15 with HR around 140 (a little lower on bike).

I was pleased with how the leg felt running uphill as it didn't stress the hamstring like flat running does. I came across uphill treadmill work by accident a few years ago when I had a more significant hamstring problem. Today I had the treadmill set at 10% grade and the speed at 5.3 MPH. I've found that I can get the same cardio workout by manipulating the grade/speed and not put the same stress on my legs while still getting the specific effect of running. Jack Daniels has a formula for equating grade/speed to flat speed. But the most simple is just using HR.

Over the past few years I've used uphill treadmill for warmup/warmdown to get the running in but take the pounding off the legs. A typical session will start at 15% grade and 4-4.5 MPH depending on fitness. Every minute or two I will drop the grade 1% and increase speed .3-.4 MPH while watching HR. Sometimes I'll drop grade 1.5% and raise speed .4-.5 MPH. The main thing is keeping the HR at whatever level you need for easy run pace. For me that is 140 BPM give or take.

Tomorrow I start a new strength routine with Skinny Raven's in house personal trainer, Laura Gorsuch, who is on her personal road to Boston. I'm looking forward to getting out of my strength training rut and having someone else to push me. Unfortunately, Laura is way stronger than me so I will also be developing my humility at the same time I'm doing strength. However, today's quote reminds me that I'm not competing against Laura but myself.

Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves - to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today - Stewart B Johnson
Mission accomplished for today.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why things don't turn out as you plan

After getting home at 2:30 a.m. I had a feeling that today was not going to be the day I managed to get any training. Despite that attitude I had my bagged packed and ready for a workout just the same.

As has been the case of late I let things get in the way that a more inspired individual would not. I still lack the razor sharp dedication required to reach the goals I set for myself. Hopefully, it was best to regroup from my trip and get some of the work that stayed behind taken care of today.

I did make one step towards future improvement by scheduling another massage to get my leg sorted out. I think my hamstring bicep has generally healed but I have scar tissue that needs to be kneaded out. I believe the soreness will be there for awhile unless I let my massage girl, Katie, beat it out. I was lucky to get in so quick as I called in right after someone had cancelled.

One who thinks I'm spoiled and pampered by getting regular massage has never been subjected to one of Katie's sessions. The words relaxing and soothing have never been used to describe one of her sessions. I think about the lyrics from John Legend's "Save Room" as I'm trying to stay relaxed in the midst of pain.

"Don't be afraid of a little bit of pain, pleasure is on the other side."

It usually takes about a day and a half to feel recovered from one of Katie's beatings, er massages. I can't believe I actually pay to be abused but it sure beats whining about being injured, which I've done far too much of lately. It would be nice to put together a stretch of sustained training. Fortunately, I've been through this before and sooner or later I've always gotten better.

This comes back to my lack of patience. Things just don't happen as fast as we'd like but once you accept its part of the process then you can relax a bit. I recently found this statement that helps bring into focus what us runners deal with and how it strengthens us at the same time. Patience, said Ambrose Bierce, is "a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue". Do it well and it's "stoic endurance". We can never have enough endurance for running marathons, can we?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The cheese to my macaroni

With an opportunity to get another snow-free run in I decided to spend most of the day here in Portland rather than catch the first flight out. It also gave me a chance to see two of my favorite Skinny Raven girls who are going to school in Portland.

Both Caroline Livett and Mandy Vincent-Lang are attending school at Lewis and Clark but have been two great workers that make Skinny Raven such a great place to shop. Caroline is just starting law school while Mandy, a dead ringer for Juno (minus the pregnant belly), is student-teaching 3rd graders. Joining us was Ben Evans, who is our Adidas rep. We traveled up to one of Portland's special places, Forest Park, for the run.

Forest Park is a wonderful place for running and rivals any of the diverse trails we have in Anchorage. The total trail system is over 40 miles, between winding single track trails for running-only to wide open fire road routes that bikes are allowed on. I encourage anyone to take the time to explore the trails. On a mid-summer Saturday morning one can see casual runners and Olympic athletes using the trails. Despite Mandy and Caroline claiming they were not in very good shape, they gaped Ben and I on the first hill and we never caught them until we turned around.

After a brunch in which we failed a six-question trivia test for 1/2 off our bill (who knew some baseball player insured his face for 1 million?) we hit the Adidas employee store. Adidas has their U.S. headquarters in Portland and instead of a "campus" like Nike, has an Olympic-themed "village" with five buildings that are colored like the five Olympic rings. I did much better than at the Nike employee store and scored a couple of nice pieces and some shoes.

All in all a good trip with some good runs, despite general soreness in the hamstring. Time to get back to hitting the snow and ice and get a solid routine going.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

America's Best XC race

If anyone ever doubted Nike's commitment to helping develop running all they had to do was attend today's Nike Cross National meet here in Portland today. I will probably never see a better meet in my life again. Great organization, great energy, great location and on a perfect day for XC.

Comments like "it's better than the NCAA meet" were abundant by those who have seen meets around the country. The attention to detail was mind- boggling. Huge video boards showed the race from start to finish. Constant team scores and individual places were on another video board. Coaches were even given Palm Pilots that also transmitted team scores to them anywhere on the course.

Some of us estimated that transporting athletes and coaches and housing had to cost at least $500,000. Setting up the course with man-made hills, team tents for each team, and shoes, spikes, uniforms/warmups for each participant was another huge expense. Then paying for the transportation for 3 days and the huge number of workers had to bring the final total to about 2 million dollars. Entry fees for teams - $0, admission for spectators - $0.

We gave Alan Webb a ride back to town after the races and he said this event was far superior to his days at Footlocker national finals. We all remarked that it will be very interesting to see the results this event will yield in a few years when these athletes come through college and as more teams are fighting to get to the meet. It can only raise the level of performance and bring more runners to the sport. The payoff for Nike and everyone associated with running will be enhanced.

Great eight mile run today with Chris Farley along the Willamette River. Perfect day for running and is the first time I've got three days in a row since late October. I was inspired by Keith Kelly's post yesterday and his brush with running nirvana. I continue to run for that sweet spot when everything falls into place and the entire process feels perfect. It takes time and work to reach it, but when it converges all the work becomes worth it. Thanks Keith for reminding me why I continue to push myself.

Friday, December 5, 2008

At the Swoosh Day II

Today concluded our two days of meetings with Nike representatives about various areas of business. From Marketing to Branding to Nike+ (that distance chip thing) we talked about past performance and future goals. Very positive to be able to discuss and learn about past failures and successes and plans to improve upon both results.

Often meetings like this can turn into a product dog and pony show where all we see is the same product that reps will be bringing weeks or months later. Emphasis was directed to the aspects that sometimes are uncomfortable to hear but are necessary if improvement is to be had. Like many companies Nike has seen the recent economy affect business, yet the specialty running business, has been a bright spot. I look forward to the progress we made here and the improvements to come.

Tomorrow is the Nike Cross Nationals to be held at Portland Meadows horse track. It should be a very exciting day and even Nike employees who travel to top events like big city marathon and Olympic trials say that they love this event. As a former high school coach I'm excited to see what a great event this will be for these young runners. I'm jealous I was never able to bring a team here.

Today's run was very good as I got 9 miles in with our host Kevin Paulk from Nike, Chris Farley from Pacers running store in Virginia and Bob Wallace of Run On in Dallas. Both Bob and Chris are good friends and I manage to see them a couple of times a year. Bob owns four stores in Dallas and placed 9th in the Boston Marathon in 1982. He has one of the best stories on perspective. When he got to his room after the race he was asked by the housekeeping lady how he did. Bob excitedly told her he was 9th and her reply was "too bad, maybe you'll win next year".

As we waited to start from the Lance Armstrong building (all buildings are named after Nike athletes) American mile record holder Alan Webb was waiting in the lobby. Webb is also from Virginia and Chris introduced us. As a former miler it's been a cool opportunity to meet Jim Ryan, the first high school miler to break four minutes, last month in Dallas and now Webb, who broke Ryan's HS record. Alan is a really nice guy and doesn't deserve the crap he gets on running message boards for his "failures" to live up to others expectations.

I managed to come in last place in the group shop at the Nike employee store as I spent significantly less money than anyone else. The winner was Tom Suddeth from Virginia who dropped $1,200 including the shipping of the overloaded cart back home. One needs to remember that everything is at least 50% too, so quite a haul for Tom. The day concluded with a nice meal and several beers with the group and Leslie Lane, the Global VP for running footwear for Nike (yeah, its a big job). Enjoyed hearing some of his stories and some of the Phil Knight stories that others related.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A day at the Swoosh

I may have been in runner's Disneyland today but after 14 hours of meetings and meals, I can assure you that it wasn't just another vacation. I did manage a short run around the awesome 2+ mile wood chip trail before lunch, but it was pretty much business all day. That said, it wasn't that tough of business. It's always educational to exchange ideas with vendors as well as your peers at other running shops.

Today was very positive on many levels as those with Nike were very open and receptive to what we had to say. In fact, it was encouraging to see that our message(s) were being listened to with the intent to find ways to enhance business for all. As I said yesterday Nike must be doing some things very well to have the impressive headquarters the Campus is situated on. From the chip trails, to the buildings and immaculately maintained grounds, it is a beautiful place.

The Nike Team Cross Country Nationals are here in town this Saturday and 44 teams and 90 individuals from around the country are here for the races. All credit due to Nike for going to the huge effort to promote, accommodate and put on such a large event. It's also a great investment in the future of distance running beyond the possible benefit to Nike, though it can't hurt.

Because of the event Nike also brought to Portland their top distance runners. At our small group lunch we were joined by Shalane Flanigan, Beijing 10K Bronze Medalist, Dathan Ritzenhein, 9th in the Beijing marathon and Matt Tegenkamp, 4th in the 5K at last year's World Championships.

I sat in the empty seat available which was next to Chris Solinsky and directly across from Dathan. Dathan sticks his hand across and says "Hi, I'm Dathan." It was all I could do to keep from saying "Uh, yeah, I know who you are." Like most runners, Chris and Dathan are great guys and we talked about running in the snow, the Anchorage Dome and the Olympic marathon. Dathan is running the London Marathon this year and when I told him I ran this past spring he was asking me about the course.

Dathan and Chris will hopefully be contacting me about sending the screws we use in Anchorage for shoes as they are going back to Michigan and Wisconsin for Christmas. Maybe Skinny Raven will be able to help these top American runners get a little bit more out of their training this winter.

Today's run began at the Lance Armstrong fitness center and I leave you with a photo of me and the man I have never lost to. I currently have a 2-0 record against the Lance. I think his failures against me spurred him to go back to cycling again.