Thursday, May 31, 2007

ChiCOWgo and Army 10 - 2004

In early June '04, my Command contacted me to see if I was interested in being part of a team that would participate in the Army 10 miler, because I was part of a team the previous year. In 2003 I happened to be the fastest runner in my team, not a good thing. I ran a 69:43, just a few seconds off my PR. This year, I told the COL organizing the running teams, I would shoot for a low 68, maybe even break it. I started training for this race about 12 weeks prior.

My training was going so well I even dreamed of running significantly faster than the low 68 I had ‘committed.’ I was running 24 miles per week, divided into three or four runs. Most of these runs were quality, which means they were either repeats, tempo or long. The core of this training was a four mile tempo. I progressively improved from an average of 6:53/mile to a 6:29/mile. However, soon after the 6:29 'peak,' my training would turn sour. The time I ran the tempo run in 6:29, my breathing, my form, my mind, were all one; everything was in sync. I should note that the last mile in these tempo runs was always difficult, but not during 'the' peak. BUT, one should peak in a RACE, and NOT in training as I did.

The week after my peak, I was barely able to average 6:51/mile… for ONLY three miles, mind you; I was so out of breath I could not complete the fourth mile. The next two weeks would see marginal improvements. My last tempo run was the week of the Chicago marathon. This time I was able to run the full four miles, and at 6:45 pace, with three miles of w/u and three miles of c/d for 10 miles.

Two days after this 10 miler, I had a very stiff back, painful really. I ran a couple of days later, and I was running lob-sided. Once my back warmed up I was able to run at a decent ‘tempo’ pace. I had hope after all. On Saturday October 11, the day before the Chicago Marathon, I ran a 5K; however, I believe it was not accurate, so I am not sure I should consider the 19:45 time a PR; my back hardly bothered me. The following day I lined up w/ some 33K runners from around the globe.

This was going to be my 26th marathon. Having ran slow times, for me, the last two ‘thons (4:43 and 4:12) I wanted to run around 3:30. I knew I had the speed, but I did not have the training. My longest run consisted of one 15 miler. So I approached this race as a training run for my upcoming 10 miler.

I started slow, 8:20s, for the first three miles. I settled into a comfortable 8 minute or so pace. The day before, I had tried this new energy drink, Monster, and I believe it was causing me to have stomach gurgling; I hoped I did not have to stop, or worse yet that I’d have an accident. Also, from time to time whenever I’d land a certain way, I’d feel pain on my lower back... sciatica, argh! Please don’t let it get bad enough where I’ll have to stop. Half marathon time 1:45:XX, right on target.

The lack of long runs would get me though. And at 14 I started feeling tired. BUT, I remembered reading that speeding up during a race often helped the feeling of fatigue. So I picked up the pace, 7:43, oops, a bit too fast. I slow it down a notch. I would run the next few miles in the 7:50s. At 25 I picked it up one more notch, 7:35. Mile 26, 7:21. Last 0.2 were ran in 83 seconds (my fastest 0.2 ever). Final time of 3:27:13, and second only to St. George where the course drops 2500 feet, and where I ran an obviously gravity-aided 3:14:28 [this was before I ran a 3:12 in St. George and a 3:17:56 in Boston].

I was quite pleased with this result, but I was afraid I had left too much in this race. I ran an easy three two days later. No injuries seemed to be present. Three days later I attempted speed-work; probably not a good idea, since I barely managed to run 4X400 @ 90 seconds with one minute recovery, and I did feel some pain in my quads and hamstrings. Did not attempt a tempo run until one week before the Army 10. Although, it wasn’t a tempo run, I had to take a break after 10 minutes, and another one five minutes later. I was getting worried I would not recover in time to run the 67:30 I believed I could run.

The day before race day, I ran an easy four. Let the chips fall where they may. No time for regrets or reflections.

Race day I woke up to rain on Sunday morning, more like a drizzle. I jogged the mile to the hotel where we were going to meet. My legs felt light and springy. Our group then walked a few blocks to the Pentagon. Luckily, the bag turn-in was on the way, but it was rather chaotic. Jogged to the start line for it was getting close to race time. As I was approaching the corrals, the National Anthem started playing. Stopped and took it all in. I made it to my corral just 15 minutes before. I jumped the concrete k-rail to try to run some strides. It was kind of crowded so my strides were 40 meters long. I did three of them. I was nervous but felt ready; as ready as I could be.

The race starts five minutes late. I take off with a bunch of runners wearing green bibs. First mile comes surprisingly fast and my watch reads 6:45, perfect. To this point the effort seems easy, too easy I think. I would miss the next mile marker. I press the split button and it reads 13:42, oops I slowed down. I now have to make up 12 seconds. In this two-mile stretch running continues to be smooth, with my breathing becoming labored during a couple of mild inclines (this would happen in ALL positive inclines). Right around this time I hear this guy playing the clarinet; he’s playing something patriotic and he’s keeping a good tune… while running. The next split reads 6:06 - don’t I wish! A tall and buff marine, carrying a rucksack, and a medium size flag, passes me [take that DANCON]. He is running strong and effortlessly; i guesstimate he is running 6:30s. I immediately HATE him.

The following split would confirm the fourth mile marker was misplaced, 7:30. So now I am 18 or 19 seconds off my target time. Time to pick it up. I start passing runners consistently. Mile 6, 6:44, good, I am feeling a bit tired but my breathing is okay. I miss the Mile 7 marker. Not a big deal. Miles 7 and 8, 13:28, or 6:44 pace, only 14 seconds behind. It’s now or never. I pick up the effort but this bridge has an incline that my legs are feeling. Even though the effort was more than the previous eight miles I only clock a 6:40. I feel strong during this last mile; I pass some roadkill… I make the turn into the underpass, the finish banner is visible. This guy and I go for it… we’re running neck and neck, we’re practically sprinting, yet my legs still feel strong. We cross the finish line together; I commend him for his efforts. My final chip time is 67:25.

I am quite happy; I met my goal. The cool weather certainly helped. My team did not figure in the awards, but there’s always next time, perhaps break 66 for me???. Or... break 3:10 in CIM come December 02, 2007? Which will it be? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Inspiration and Sundry

Today I was to run 9 miles easy. My plan was to run at 7 pm, roughly two hrs after supper. As I am about to exit my room, the sky is falling and I decide to bag the run. I then started reading a couple of posts from The Salty One and got to read her Boston Report and after reading it, I was left with no option but to get off my big butt and run the niner I had on the menu, for I was so inspired I felt I could tear the asphalt into gravel.

I left at 8:30pm and I ran them in just under 8 mpm pace. Not terribly fast. So what's the big deal you ask? Lemme 'splain. I ran 40 miles three weeks ago, 18 two weeks ago, and only 4 last week. My weeks are from Sunday-to-Saturday. So far I have ran 27 miles and with this renewed inspiration I should hit 48 this week. Not bad, huh? I know, I know. This a recipe for disaster, but after reading Salty's gut-wrenching report, that is the least I can do. Next week, my weekly volume should hover in the 50s.

Now for the sundry part. I have been considering going back to school for some time. Having worked in the Civil Engineering field was fine until I moved into the Project Management area. I like solving problems; no, let me re-phrase that: I LOVE solving problems. BUT, I guess being a PM for a Public Agency was not the ideal place for me to be. So I quit one year before I was to go on my 'forced' sabbatical with the Army.

The good thing about my job with the Army is that my office is in the Hospital and I get to interact with Doctors. I am sure you know where this is going. Once I get back to the States I will be going back to school, complete the necessary pre-reqs and apply to Med School. That's right I want to become an MD. A running MD at that.

And.... if I get injured from the rather quick ramp-up, my office is right next to the Physical Therapist, who happens to be my friend ;o)


Sunday, May 13, 2007

DANCON - May 13, 2007

The march Director announces that there are 30 nations participating and over 2000 Soldiers. DANCON stands for Danish Contingency and the march is obviously sponsored by the Danish. Funny thing is that he makes his final instructions in English. The march is set to start at 0830.

I had previously agreed to march/jog with SGT D, but this was before I knew how carrying 25 lbs of extra weight meant; this on top of the combat boots that tend to make my ankles roll.

The march begins and we have a couple of hundred Soldiers in front of us. We start jogging on the right flank. It’s difficult passing people. We march on. We hit the main road. It’s black top, thankfully. We try jogging again but my heartbeat goes haywire. The temps are in the high 80s, in the shade mind you. I realize the heat and the extra weight will cause havoc on me if I attempt to follow our plan. He is young and wants to take off. I tell him to go on; I expect to reel him back; I use the experience of having run 35 marathons. Ahh, but this march is an entirely different beast altogether.

So he takes off and I am left by myself as the only US Soldier in the near vicinity. I am surrounded by Italians, Germans, Swedish, French, and other nationals. Up ahead, two Italians are handing candy out to the local children. The road is a mild descent and I am clicking 9:10 klips. If I can hold this pace I will break 4 hours. A far cry from what the eventual winner will do, 2:17. That’s right, the winner averaged 8:45 mpm!!! Humbling to the nth degree.

I manage to keep a steady pace and not too many Soldiers pass me. At the 6 Km marker a fellow CPT catches up to me and chats for the next three Ks. We reach the first aid-station and I grab two water bottles (500 ml) and head down a mild descent. I lose the Captain. The road is unimproved and I already feel the blisters burning the bottom of my feet. The friction between my feet and the boot is increased three-fold.

Have you danced with the Devil lately?
Have you marched with the devil lately?
Have you marched with blisters lately?

Two female Soldiers pass me. It hurts my male ego, but I accept the fact that they’re the better Soldiers. I rationalize that they’re full time Soldiers and I am just a part-timer. I wonder how we would match each other in a marathon.

No worries. I march on. The road is in poor condition. It’s hard to have a good footing. Then we hit Km 13 and the start of the only significant ascent. And what an ascent it is. It is quite steep and the disrepair of the road makes it more difficult. It will be roughly 2.5 kilometers of constant climb. Several Soldiers choose to take breathers by the shade. I keep on marching hoping to get over the climb, the sooner, the better. I pass more Soldiers. My heartbeat is in the 170s. The climb is not for the faint of heart. My lungs scream, kind of like in a 5K race. My ipod provides me invaluable company. I wish I had pain-killers, to make the soul forget what the body is going through. I want to separate the two entities. [take that Decartes]

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name…

We're beaten and blown by the wind
Blown by the wind

The views remind me of the Santa Monica Mountains. I get a little nostalgic. I reach the apex of the loop-course. The descent is awaiting me. I dread it because I know my blisters are getting worse by the minute. I wish I can use the pull of gravity to make up time lost in the climb. Several Soldiers pass me. It is quite humbling. The road seems to flatten. My ankles have rolled several times, but luckily none have resulted in sprains. At Km 17 my left ankle rolls once more, but this time I cannot keep my balance and I tumble to the ground. A Swedish and a German help me get up. They ask if I have been drinking water. It is apparent that they think I dropped due to heat stress. I tell them I am fine. And I am. I only bruised my hands and an already bruised ego.

I march on. 8.2 Klips to go. I keep repeating this mantra: pain is nothing [tm]. The music helps sooth the pain; it even seems to disappear. I pass another km marker. More Soldiers pass me. It's becoming the norm rather than the exception. We reach a village where black water is coming from practically every house; the foul odors are hard to bear. I breath in through my mouth. Children ask us for candy I surmise. I am not sure if they're speaking Albanian or Serbian.

I reach Km 21, and I know I am not too far from the finish. The road is even worse here. There are several puddles and I am forced to walk around them. I march on.

I am closing in on Km 24, and this female Soldier passes me. Damn. I am really losing steam, not that I had any. There is this made up bridge. After I cross it, there are only 1.2 kms to go. I decide to jog this last section. My feet are burning, my shoulders are sore. No matter. I go for it. No guts no glory. Pain is nothing, I remind my soul.

I pass the entrance to the Danish Camp. I can smell the finish. I make one turn. Another turn. Where the heck is the finish? Finally, there it is. I cross it with my watch saying 4:10, or 16 mpm pace. I am not done though; I still have to make way to the registration table where I will get my medal (military) and my certificate of completion. The end is so anticlimactic. No crowds to cheer you in. I then head to the medical tent where they will treat the dozen or so blisters. Ah, if I could only have a couple of brewskies. SGT D finished in 3:23, second US Soldier finisher and 47 minutes ahead of me. I sincerely congratulate him on a job well done. I head to our van to drop my backpack. I am so sore, and my feet are in so much pain it's hard to take a single step. My only consolation is that a fabulous Danish brunch is awaiting me.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Why do you run? & RAW format

Why do YOU run? Do you run for yourself? I'd like to say that I run to feel alive. Sounds poetic doesn't it? I can't say that I enjoy it when I am hammering that last mile in a 5K and my legs are hurting and my lungs are burning, but one must admit that pain is proof that one exists, that one lives.

I, I'm still alive
Hey I, but, I'm still alive
Hey I, boy, I'm still alive
Hey I, I, I, I'm still alive, yeah

While I do believe that is the reason I run, the REAL reason I run is to keep unnecessary calories away. After all, I love pastries and beer :-)

Interestingly, Reebok came out with the 'Run Easy' campaign, brought to my attention courtesy of Sempre Libera, and I must admit I made premature comments on her blog. Then I googled for more info and I ran into this article in USA Today and the campaign made more sense. Now, I am sure the creators never thought they would end up insulting serious/dedicated runners. I also had forgotten about ADIDAS (my shoe of choice) owning Reebok. What an irony. It's almost like Good vs. Evil. Day and Night.

On a totally different note, while following some links I ran (no pun intended) into this guy, Luis Montemayor, who includes a tutorial to convert RAW images into highly creative pictures. Being the amateur photographer, I found them quite easy to follow. Now, I can't wait 'til I get back to Los Angeles and experiment with my Nikon D50. I highly recommend it.

P.S. The photo shows two german beers. They're non-alcoholic because I am in detox and am not allowed to drink. Just kidding! :-) BUT, what is true is that I am not allowed to have alcoholic drinks :-(


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Speedwork for a Dork

I had not ran since Saturday. The tight piriformis led to a tight hamstring which led to knee pain. At least that is my story and I am sticking with it. I was also feeling in a rut so I decided to give the legs a rest. A well needed rest.

I warmed up for two miles and headed to the 1/4-mile amorphous-shaped track. The goal was to hit repeats at 90 secs or thereabouts. The day was rather warm, 75 degrees. I started prudently with a 92. I like taking 60 sec rests in between the repeats. Then I ran the following times: 89, 88, 88, 89, 88, 86, 86. From this data I will shoot for 88 secs for 400 repeats, and 3:08 for 800s. It was nice to set the legs free after not doing any structured speeddork in over 16 months.

I cooled down with two miles. Went to the gym and did 10 pull ups. Afterwards, I was craving an IPA, Sierra Nevada. 5.5 more months. I love beer... and beer loves me :o)

Tomorrow I have 9 on the menu.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Te Dejo Madrid

Back in April 2005 I went to Madrid with the intention of, what else?, running the marathon. I ran well, negative splits and a 3:31 time. The day before I went to 'El Prado' and the Thyessen. I have always enjoyed the Thyessen and its impressionist art... it's a quaint, small museum.

The day after the 'thon I felt pretty good so I made my way to the Reina Sofia, to view arguably Picasso's masterpiece: La Guernica. I spent close to 30 minutes admiring this work of art.

While I had seen it in previous visits, it still made an impact on me. Little did I know that I was going to be more *impressed* with a Mexican exposition that was being held there. Of note was two tires that had Aztec inspired carvings. Then as I am about to walk away, I see this block of concrete, lying on the floor. I thought to myself, hmmm - WTF, how is that art? I get closer to the 3X5 card describing the 'work of art.' *It* actually had a fetus inside. I was mesmerized...I am sure the artist was aiming for the shock value rather than the artistic value, but what do I know? I wonder how the US would react to something like this. Read this article, if you know Spanish :o)

The Race

I tend to find excuses to travel abroad. Signing up for the Madrid Marathon seemed like a good idea, considering I had failed to qualify for Beantown by two minutes. Unfortunately, I had not had a decent base going into this race, much less decent training; I had ran hardly any from the beginning of the year, due to a multitude of upper-respiratory infections, until 6 weeks before the M; and then it was an average of close to 30 miles a week. The training, if it can be called that, included two runs of fifteen miles and one of seventeen. What scared me the most was the 17 miler [at the Boston Marathon - yes I bandited part of the course] which I ran just five-and-a-half days before Madrid; I actually ran the last five miles at faster than my intended marathon pace (7:35) and this gave me hope I could break 3:30. But then I ran four miles on Thursday morning (4/21) and tried to run the last three at 8 minute pace and while I was able to do it, it felt TOO hard. Did I leave too much in the 17 miler? Oh well. I would find out soon enough.

I left for Madrid later that afternoon with a brief layover at CDG. I arrived in Madrid at 3 pm local time. Took the subway to my hostal and took a shower. It was now 5 pm and decided to go pick up my *dorsal* or bib number. The expo was about 2 miles from the hostal and decided to walk there. Part of the marathon actually went by portions of my walk to the expo, and let me tell you, there were some rather challenging hills. Not good.

What I found at the expo was nothing spectacular. They charged 7 euro, but it was free for runners. In the runner’s bag, there was the official T, an FM radio and a singlet. Also, the organizers use single-use timing chips – wonderful idea IMO; if a runner owns a chip, he gets 5 euro discounted off the entry fee.

I had dinner and went to bed at 10 pm. I did not wake up until noon the next day. Slept for 14 hours!!!! I honestly do not remember when the last time I slept more than 8 hours. Obviously, I felt refreshed.

The pasta lunch was held on Saturday from 2 to 4:30 pm. It was free for the runner and one guest. Anyone else would have to pay only 3 euro. Nice. The pasta was simple; nothing fancy but it was enough to carbo-load. Oh and the beer was very cold and tasty; it was so good I had four pints ;-).

The start was for 9:30 and my hostal was located about a mile from the start so I felt 8 am was a nice time to wake up on Sunday morning (4/24). I slept for about 6 hours but felt good from having slept so much the previous night. Jet lag? What is jet lag?

The weather was supposed to be overcast and in the high 50s. But when I came out, wearing a singlet, the sky was clear and in the 50s. So I assumed it would get hotter as the day progressed. Not a good thing since I perform miserably when hot. So sub-3:30 did not look good.

I lined up with the 3:45 group. Again, I did not think I could run sub 3:30 but I still dreamed that if everything went to perfection I could eventually catch up to the 3:30 group. It was quite crowded even though there were only nine thousand runners, with men outnumbering women 8:1.

The gun went off and millions of confetti dropped from the sky. It would take me over two minutes to cross the first mats. Right away I knew I would have trouble passing runners, especially on the turns; this course has one too many turns. However, I also knew that races tend to thin out by the mid-way point and I was going to make my move then. Yeah, right.

The first couple of klips are on a moderate uphill and I barely average 5:30s and I my singlet is already moist; I take it off (I think I was the only runner sans shirt. IMO, Europeans tend to overdress - and what’s up with the bicycling-type shorts?). I guess a sub-3:40 is more doable and I am okay with that; that is, if I can do it.

I run the first 5k in 26:59, so much for the intended 25 minute 5Ks. Here I grab a 12oz bottle of water. Now, I am not used to drinking from a bottle during training so it took me a couple of aid stations to get used to it. I found myself carrying the bottle for a while and it just did not feel right. Once I figure something that worked for me, my gait felt more comfortable.

At around 10 miles, I was averaging about 8:20 and my mind started to falter. In the last few ‘thons, this has been the rule rather than the exception. I began to doubt if I could even complete the darn distance. I began to dread me being there. thankfully, it would not last long. I began to focus on the race and chugged along. Right before the 20K mark, we ran on a narrow local street that is paved with cobbles. This and the fact that the cobbles are wet, coupled with the sharp descent make for difficult running. To make things worse, the spectators are crowding too much into the road and I feel like I am going to crash into them anytime now. However, the crowds proved to be a moral booster. I begin to lengthen my stride; I begin to gain confidence in my ability to complete this distance. I crossed the half in 1:48:22. Not bad. 3:37 pace, that is if I can hold on. The weather is holding in the high 50s and it is now overcast.

I would hold on even though the wind seemed to be on my face at all times. In fact I got faster at the sixth 5K. I ran it in 23:20!!! Then the rolling hills would bring me back to reality and brought my 5K splits in the 25-minute range.

At the 37K-point a kid remarked to her Mom: look Mom, he’s naked! To which she responded, that’s because he’s warm.

All along the crowds have been supportive and call to us: campeones – venga campeones (champions, bring it on champions). I am feeling quite good but I know the last 5K is all uphill; or at least that’s what the elevation profile shows. It was uphill alright, and it was difficult for I was tired. I did manage to run the eight 5K in just under 25 minutes. I go around another glorieta [traffic circle]and the finish line is straight ahead. There are four arches and I get a bit confused for I don’t know which one marks the finish line. I cross 42K and only have 195 meters to go. Less than half a lap I tell myself but it seems closer to a mile. I cross one arch but I need to cross two more. Damn these are the longest 195 meters I have ever run. As I crossed the mat I stop my watch and it reads 3:31:38. A 4:44 negative split!!! I am really tired but I am quite happy with my performance and I seem to be okay. I am a little disoriented though.

I walk over and get a bag full of goodies. I head over to pick up my Adidas gift for wearing Adidas shoes. It’s a cell-phone holder. Not bad for being free. I then have a large piece of watermelon and it tastes delicious. I also have a beer but this time it tastes quite bitter and pass on a second serving. I eat a banana and start heading home. The mile walk will do me some good. As I am walking I realized I did not get a medal. Oh well. Not a big deal. I have 28 medals already :-). I arrived at the hostal and took a shower. Sprayed my legs with cold water. Later on, while going through the goodie bag, I find a metal rectangle or trophy. I got a similar design when I ran Barcelona. So the Spanish give these instead of medals… interesting.

The following morning I would wake up with no signs of soreness. I have never felt this good. Was it the 17 miler so close to the race? Was it the cold water? I don’t know. I will continue to experiment. I felt so good I actually spent four hours walking in the Reina Sofia Museum that afternoon.

5K splits: 26:59, 25:22, 24:59, 25:16, 24:33, 23:20, 25:16, 24:59
2.195K – 10:53

From the race stats, I passed about 150 runners the first half and I passed
over 1500 in the second half. Boy, did it feel good to pass so many
people :-)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Very Significant Emotional Moment

Because my running life here is rather boring, I will tell you something that happened to me Tuesday last. I had to go and help out giving humanitarian aid to the local population. Because the villages were rather remote, we were flown in helicopters. The flights went pretty smooth, except when we were about to land back *home*. The pilots circled around with some significant banking and I guess it was then that I dropped a *sensitive item* that contained 15 golden nuggets. I never heard it drop because I was wearing earplugs.

I exited the aircraft not knowing I was missing something. However, later on I was invited to go to dinner to a local restaurant. It was then that I realized IT was missing. My face must have looked ashen, even though I am olive skinned. I knew I was in deep sh*t. I had just experienced a VSEM, or very significant emotional moment.

I had to file a report and what not. Luckily, it was found in the aircraft later that night. Regardless, it made for a sleepless night. A night that had me thinking about running ads. Go figure.

One of the ads that I created has 50-cent performing 'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen, with a hip-hop tune in the background, of course. The ad is in black-and-white. There are two runners, one male and one female, cruising the streets of NYC. Chatting without a worry in their minds. They pass a huge billboard with the SHOE and its brand clearly in color. As they're running, the shoes are highlighted in a neon color. They stop and face the camera. I was born to run he says. So was I, she says. Were you born to run? They both ask in unison. The ad closes with the billboard and a question: Are you a runner?