Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rut is in the air

The last couple of weeks have been rather tough for me. It has been tough in the sense that I am having a hard time dealing with this sabbatical. It has been hard to adjust, even after so many months. If it weren’t because of ‘MY’ running, I would go insane. Literally.

Last week I was able to chain seven consecutive days of running. Now, that fact alone is not remarkable; what is remarkable is that I logged 70 miles. Yes. You read right, SEVENTY. The most I had run prior to this seven-day stretch was 55 miles. Not too bad, huh? What’s more important, I am injury free. Knock on wood. However, not everything is rosy. There is one side effect: I can’t seem to run fast. I seem to struggle to pick up the pace.

For example: Today I ran three miles in what felt MP at a snail pace of 23:01, or 7:40 mpm. Fortunately, the next three miles were clocked in 21:27, or 7:09 pace. That’s not too bad you say… It is bad when early last year I was able to run nine miles at 7:05 pace [mind you, in a flatter route] with the effort of today’s 7:40s. I’m sure that my lack of speed-dork has something to do with this slugfest; I’ll also blame the elevation, which is in the 1800s.

So what? It is time face the music. It is time to reassess my sub-3:10 goal. I feel that a sub-3:20 is more feasible. And a sub 3:15 should be a cinch if I continue to run the volume I am running. Throw in some quality work-outs and I am in business. Why set myself up for defeat when my recent training runs suggest I CANNOT sustain that 7:15 pace I want to race in the CIM? It is one thing to WANT to run 7:15s and another to be ABLE to maintain such pace.

Yes, I know. I am a certifiable WUSS.

Finally, here’s a picture of the MOAH. Now you know why I avoid it during my training runs and why I walked it all FOUR times during the Boston satellite marathon last April. Incidentally, all participants got a GENUINE 2007 Boston Marathon finisher’s medal; is that cool, or what? AND, we also got an official jacket [with the John Hancock signature and all]… from the year 2005, but it was brand new. Thanks to those folks from the BAA; those guys are awesome.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Eternal City

Right next to Fountain of Trevi. I was having a hard time focusing on my pace and I was slowing down a bit too much. I would manage to pick it up a few kms later.

The home stretch. I just needed about a mile to go. I focused on finishing with a decent kick. My all black attire did not help me run nearly as fast as Kanoucchi; but, I can dream, right? :o)

The Colosseum. What more can I say when such a historic icon is the background to one last pick up.

The end of another day at the office. I really like this picture as I am walking away from the finish as if I just completed a pleasurable stroll. Notice two or three finishers on the right are totally spent. I am by far the most relaxed of them all ;-)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Volume Boost and REM

Its been four weeks since I started the mileage ramp up. So far, so good. I ran 48. 52, 51 and 47. Most so-called experts suggest increasing mileage for three weeks then running less on the fourth week. Repeat until reaching the desired volume. This cyclic progression seems to work for me. This week I hope to hit in the neighborhood of 60 miles. Stay tuned.

On another note, and before the volume boost, I had been feeling rather lethargic. After meals, my eyelids would weigh a ton and I had the extreme urge to fall asleep. I had never before experienced this, so being the hypochondriac that I am I started to dissect my symptoms looking for an answer. I read an article where it stated that long-distance runners tend to run low in iron because the constant pounding ‘squashes’ the iron out of red blood cells. Naturally, I thought I had found THE answer to my lackadaisical mood after eating.

The first day I took an iron supplement I ran a four-mile tempo run that averaged 6:56 mpm. Right where I felt I should be [actually I am lying, I think I should be in the 6:45 pace, but I rationalized the time difference to the hilly course I ran it]. Great, right? Not so fast ‘mi pequeño saltamontes’ [my little grasshopper]. I have been told that iron supplements, or mostly any supplement, take two-weeks to make a difference in the body. To make matters cloudier, I had another episode of drowsiness after an Italian meal full of starchy foods. So I went back to square one.

I pondered what I had done different since I left the states, more specifically since I arrived in Eastern Europe. It dawned on me that I have been taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements during that period, so I used my highly sought-after investigative skills [grin]. Apparently, one of the side effects of Glucosamine is drowsiness; also, it appears to affect the insulin levels. I think I have now found the culprit. But it is a double-edged sword. I want the purported benefits of the supplement without the drowsiness side-effect. What to do? I have been taking 1500 mg, so I have decided to only take 500 mg and see how my body reacts.

Carpe Viam… Seize the Road…

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sweet Sixteen

My running streak came to a halt when I spent a large part of the day riding a bus to the gulf of Kavala, Greece. I think the longest I have run continuously during any streak was six days. This time, the streak is a not-very-impressive 16, but a sweet sixteen nonetheless.

The hotel lies just steps from its private beach. A beach that under better weather conditions would be a dream. As it happened, the weather did change for the better the last two days there. Now, I have never been a fan of beach running, even when the sand is well packed. Alas, the highway fronting the hotel was WAY too busy and the cars just flew by. Not ideal. Definitely not ideal for an easy sixer.

I donned my retired classic response adidas and headed to the deserted beach. Deserted because it was cloudy and raining lightly. I start what I thought was running and slugged for a couple of minutes before checking my snail pace. It was a mind boggling 13:40ish pace. The sand is really lose and my feet sink almost to ankle level. My calves are protesting. I quickly readjust my goal of running six miles and hope to complete four. I reach the end of the beach and turn. As I am heading back to my starting point, I see a paved access road. I decide to follow it and thoughts of doing hill repeats are more appealing exponentially by the second. I ‘crest’ the access road and see that it changes into a dirt road that goes under the aforementioned highway. I follow it.

Now I am on the other side of the highway and the dirt road with its sexy curves is calling me. The only problem is that the road is ascending and my pace does not get faster than 10 mpm. Man am I slow or what? I question the sanity of setting a sub 3:10 marathon as a goal. I am having a hard time ‘running’ 10-minute miles for crying out loud. How am I going to sustain 7:15s… for 26.2 miles. Am I setting myself up for disaster? Maybe. So it goes.

I continue running in light rain and the views are rather beautiful. I run through some vineyards and my mind takes me back to the ONE marathon I want to run more than any other, and that is the marathon du Medoc. I actually was going to run it last year and did register, but had to cancel my plans due to my 'forced' sabbatical. So it goes.

I smell the salty ocean air, more like I gasp the saltiness, as I pass yet another vineyard. My infatuation with wine and olive oil would make a place like this a dream vacation home. The road is made up of fractured rock; it is no longer covered by lose sand like at the beginning of the trail. At one point, I can discern where the backhoe scraped though the weathered but still strong rock. I see a puddle that covers the width of the road and I sidestep it but manage to sink my right foot and it is now completely wet. On the way back I would sink my left foot for good measure. I am not worried about potential blisters for the obvious reason: it’s only a sixer.

I continue through more of the same and reach the end of the mountain road and turn right on another highway that appears to be less traveled. My Garmin ™ says 2.6 miles. I run on the lean shoulder against traffic for just over half a mile and I am rewarded with stunning views of a medium size village with mountains and the blue ocean in the background. I turn at, you guessed it, another vineyard.

I am now back on the mountain road and my legs are a bit more springy. They are moving with more ease. Yet, I am barely under 8 minute pace and doubts continue to linger in my mind about a sub 3:10. No matter. I am having the time of my life. The rain has stopped. But, I am doing the rain dance, or so it seems for I find myself skipping here and hopping there. This is to avoid a boulder, or a miniature creek, or a toad – or is it a frog?

The ocean is in clear view and memories of my runs in the Santa Monica Mountains come to mind. And I cry. Yes, you read right. I cry. But it is tears of joy. Slow ones. Pearly ones. I am having a climatic run and I am enjoying it one hundred percent. [I would say 110%, but I am not mathematically challenged :-P] I reach the bottom of the road and head toward the busy highway. I run for a short stretch on the shoulder while several vehicles zoom by me, including a couple of semis. No matter. I have just had one of the best running experiences of my life.

This run is only comparable only to those days when I would run as a child for the sake of getting to the other side of the street; for the sake of tagging a friend; for the sake of kicking a ball; hell, for the sake of running. Yes folks, that was running in its pure, unadulterated form. No Beantown dreams. No, just a smile on my then chubby face because somewhere, somehow I knew running was a gift. A gift only US can truly appreciate.

I finished my run in a less than stellar time. But, really… who cares? Life is good. So it goes.