Archive for June, 2009

Race: 4th Sunday Lake Merritt 5K

Before yakking about this little race I should remark on something I saw on our Saturday run yesterday. We were on unfamiliar territory at the southern end of Tilden park, and there was some looking at maps, scratching of heads. I found the Garmin’s “breadcrumb” mode useful on the return leg. Yeah, using a GPS for actual navigation!

Anyway, at one point the trail went through a mass of flowers. They looked like poppies, but were purest white, and about seven feet tall. Brobdignagian poppies, I guess. It was quite a sight. Oohs and a were exclaimed.

Oh yes, the race. It was sunny and a little warm for comfort, although a cooling breeze helped. Like a dummy I forgot to bring my watch, so ran bare-wristed and had to wing it on pace. I set out fast, but felt reasonably comfortable for the first mile. I just had to avoid getting bothered by the youthfulness of the runners in front of me. There is construction gong on around the lake with some consequent temporary course changes. At one point we made two right-angle turns, while dodging other users on a narrow path. Tricky. By mile two I had passed a handful of people who were pacing more poorly than me, and also been passed by some others, including the lead woman. As usual in a 5K I was feeling quite uncomfortable by now. Ugh! I’ll take the last miles of a marathon over this any day. Oh well, I seem to be doing OK, press on. In the last half mile I reeled in a young guy and drew level with him, but then he kicked away from me. Never mind. 20:43 and an AG win. My prediction of “well under 21” for this race turned out pretty well.


Intervals Go To My Head

I was perusing Nate Jenkin’s blog recently. He’s having some hassles with minor injuries just as he needs to up his training volume for the Marathon World Championships in Berlin in 8 weeks. As a sponsored professional who blogs, he has a dilemma. Should he parade his bad news online for everyone to see, including selectors and sponsors? He thinks the pluses outweigh the minuses. Perhaps we amateurs who blog have the opposite problem. For the reader, bad news adds a bit of tension and interest to the story. Can our hero recover in time for the big race? Good news, on the other hand, gets to sound a little braggy after a while.

So of course I have some good news…

The training results have been erratic lately, largely because the latest phase of Pfitzinger’s plan had a lot of uninterrupted tempo runs and marathon pace runs. These give me trouble when running solo. It’s hard to stay focused for the required lengths of time. The long runs were fine, I like those.

This morning’s session was back to good old intervals. I anticipated major suckage, not having done anything fast for a while. The assignment: 5 x 600m at 5k pace, jogging 50-90% of interval time between. I translated this to 5 x 0.4 miles hard with 2 minute recoveries, not really knowing what my 5K pace is these days. Anticipated maybe 6:50 pace, slowing to 7:00 for the last two. Actual paces were: 6:23, 6:26, 6:31, 6:26, 6:20, average 6:25. That looks a little immodest doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more! Perhaps this marathoner can run a 5K in well under 21 minutes, right now without any special prep. I’ll put this to the test on Sunday at Lake Merritt. It’s about time that old 22:41 PR got the heave-ho.

Bush-Button Weight Loss

For our weekly run today we were the guests of Sports & Orthopedic Leaders Physical Therapy in Oakland. After a gentle six miles or so – this is supposed to be a recovery day for me – we went inside for refreshment. We all breezed straight past the other fancy PT gear and lined up for a go on the Alter-G treadmill. If you’ve not seen one of these, it’s basically a treadmill inside a pressurized bag. It looks like this:

That's not me

That's not me

You wear a pair of wetsuit-like shorts which zip to the top of the bag, and the air machine removes a variable portion of your body weight. Oh boy. After a short warmup at 6mph, 80% of normal weight, Andy, who was demonstrating it, lightened me to 20% and said “OK, now hop!” So I did. It was like being on the moon. After a little run at tempo pace, 75% weight I gave it up to the next person. I’m unused to treadmills, so I didn’t try going really fast on it. Andy said he’s used it for speedwork when preparing for a 5k, so it’s not just for injured runners. An amazing machine.

Speaking of injuries, here’s a fun way to get some. I got an email from the Big Sur organization and was wistfully regretting that it clashes with Boston. Then this jumped out at me:

In 2010…the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge

2 Marathons…2 Coasts…6 Days

Only the fittest (or craziest!) ever attempt back-to-back marathons, much less 3,000 miles apart. In 2010, the Big Sur Marathon would like to honor those runners willing to accept the challenge in celebration of Big Sur’s 25th presentation.
The challenge will be open to limited number of participants on a first come, first served basis during registration which opens September 1, 2009. Those who sign-up will receive a Boston 2 Big Sur ASICS jacket, a custom participant bib and finisher’s medallion, and will celebrate their accomplishment in a special finish tent in Big Sur’s Marathon Village.

This is of course insane. Or cool. I won’t do it. Or will I?

In other news, one of our regular Saturday runners, Katy, who is a Fulbright scholar from Hungary, is going home this week. Happy trails Kati, and maybe a group of us will come and run the Budapest Marathon. Wouldn’t that be something!

Race: Lake Tahoe Relay

Relay races are a little bit different. You get to be a spectator and a competitor in the same race. In this case, the race is a 72 mile circuit of the roads around Lake Tahoe, so much of the day is spent riding in cars and standing at the roadside studying your watch. “Are we gaining on our rivals?” Oh, and there’s some running to be done!

LMJS entered three teams: Mens 60+, Mens 50+ (featuring yours truly for the first time) and the charmingly titled “Starlets and Studmuffins” mixed team. These teams usually finish in that order, largely because the masters teams look beyond the club when recruiting. Last year, the three teams finished within a few minutes of each other after more than ten hours of running, so of course there was some lighthearted trash-talking. “Don’t forget your flashlights, guys!”.

I had leg 4 (of 7). 12.3 not-too-hilly miles. After enduring the potty-line at the handover point, I set off up the road for a warmup. I hadn’t got far when my team-mate Bud came into view. Eeek! I hurried back to the handover chute in time for him to tag me.

So what is running above 6,000ft like? A lot like sea-level, but slower. The business of breathing intruded. I experimented with a 2:1 breathing rhythm (two steps in, one out) which delivered plenty of air, but was really hard work. I ended up with a deeper version of my usual 2:2, with a forced exhale. On some of the downhills, I slipped into 3:2, which was unexpected. Giving my poor breathing muscles some relief, I suppose. It’s funny how our bodies know what to do.
Pace-wise, I was about 30 seconds slower than I would expect to be on this terrain. Some other runners reported bigger slowdowns, so my aerobic-heavy marathon training seemed to work well for this.

After running along the lake shore for about three miles, (Deep blue water, turquoise shallows) I started uphill. It was only a 200 footer, but seemed bigger somehow. File that under “Altitude effects: Hill magnification” I suppose. There are no lane closures in this race, and just here the track was a narrow bike lane next to a crash barrier. I hoped the oncoming drivers were careful, and they were. Many of them slowed down and waved, which was nice. I waved back to these total strangers.

While going downhill, I left Nevada. “Welcome to California” said the sign. “…and here’s a nice downhill for ya!”: my imagined addendum.

I had elected to carry my own water, but our team captain, Jack Z, and his wife Marie supported me anyway, meeting me every few miles with encouragement. Their “When will he get here?” calculations were based on a slower pace than my 7:46 average, so I tended to catch them on the hop. At one point, Jack rushed out of a cafĂ© with a cheery wave. Some of the other support teams were giving me whoops, too.

The 12.3 miles passed quickly, thanks to these little diversions. I discovered that Bud and I had cut the 60+ team’s lead from 14 minutes down to 1. We had hopes of catching them, but injury problems cost us some time, and they beat us by 8 minutes. We did get second in the mens 50+ category, out of four teams entered. My first plaque. Our time was 10:09:22. The S&S team didn’t catch us, so the usual LMJS finishing order was preserved.

After effects: I did not run fast enough to get any muscle soreness, but it wiped me out. All I wanted to do next day was sleep. I did get some sunburn which probably exacerbated that. Oh yes, and I had to straighten out my drink bottle, which was squashed by the return to sea level.

Back on Track

Sunday’s marathon pace run went a lot better than the previous MP effort, even though it was longer. The wind gave me a excuse to pace by feel without staring at the Garmin. The assignment was 18 miles with 12 miles at MP. Twelve miles is approximately two complete laps of Bay Farm Island which gave me something concrete to do. I had a pretty comfortable time, and didn’t slow down. Average pace was off by 12 seconds but hey, it was windy!

In other news, Oakland is getting a shiny new marathon, next March. Organized by the folks who do the Baltimore and some others I think. The route is still being designed, but there will surely be hills. Our club will be involved in the training program, so I might end up helping to coach some first time marathoners at the same time that I’m training for Boston. That’ll be interesting.

Next weekend I’m racing again hooray, and it’s another scenic one. This is the Lake Tahoe Relay, in which teams of 7 members do the 72-mile anticlockwise circuit of that body of water.

One lap only

One Lap Only

I’m with the LMJS mens 50s team, and will be running leg 4 around the North end of the lake. This is the longest leg at 12 miles, but also the flattest with the tallest hill being around 200 feet. The novelty for this sea-level runner will be the altitude, at between 6,200 and 6,500 feet above sea level. That’ll slow things down a bit!


I amused myself on my recovery run this morning by picking up some Gu packets. Just doing my bit for the running community. They were there because See Jane Run held a womens half marathon/5K over this route on Saturday (Yeah, a half marathon in Alameda. Take note, Oakland!) Generally the cleanup had been quite good, but those little sticky ant-infested foil packets are almost invisible until you look for them. Then the’re everywhere. I stuffed some into a paper cup and disposed of them.

I have shifted weeks around in the training plan, to fit in a race the weekend after next. This was supposed to be a cutback week, but I swapped it for next weeks 70-miler. For a supposedly intense week, it’s starting out gently. A rest day, folowed by a recovery double today. This was my first ever two-session day, and it seems strange to be doing two recovery runs, totalling just 10 miles. Oh well. I’m feeling pretty good, so it must be working..

Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


June 2009
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