Saturday, September 29, 2007

ATM - Not to Be Confused with Automated Teller Machine

My last two weeks of training have gone quite well, in spite of a minor sprain. I ran 62 and 65 mile weeks. Both weeks had three quality runs, long run, tempo and speed-dork. The long runs were 17 and 19. In the 17-miler, I ran the last six a tad under MP and in the 19-miler I ran the last three 14 seconds faster than MP. Both times I ran them at what I 'felt' was MP effort. Maybe the fact that I was tired made my mind push the pace a bit more than MP because I have been known to slow down in the latter miles of a marathon race. Makes sense? I didn't think so. :-)

Additionally, my tempo runs have been in the 'right' range also. I have found myself holding back the effort as I tend to run them a bit hard. And from my opinion, this is good. Things are looking bright... bright, indeed.

Next Sunday I will have a big test as I will race the ATM (Army Ten-Miler), or its satellite version. I have alluded in the past as to how hilly the races held here are, but this time the organizers have gone out of their way to design a flat course. I was included in the 'surveying' of the course and while it is substantially flatter, it has some challenging rolling hills. However, my tempo runs are done on similar topography with the exception of one steep hill just before mile nine.

Taking the above into consideration, I will go out on a limb and state my goal loud and clear: sub 70 minutes. There, I said it. Watch me come back next week and spell out infinite excuses for not achieving my goal :-)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Broken Dream?

Last night, after 9 pm, I headed out for my scheduled eight-miler. This was to be a recovery run from the previous day's treshold run. I was holding back the effort and it was going really well, about 8:30 pace. Right after four miles, where the dirt road becomes a bit uneven due to rain-formed ditches and as I was turning a corner, all while thinking about what I had witnessed earlier in the day*, my right ankle rolled and I heard a loud pop, like the sound that bubble wrap makes when you pop the individual bubbles. Pain instantly shot through my nervous system and made me yell expletives left and right. I thought I had tore a tendon. I could barely put weight on the injured ankle.

I was going to head to the ER but recalled reading in The Purple Runner that it is better to jog it off to prevent significant swelling and further aggravation of the injury. So I attempted to jog, but was visibly favoring the right limb. After a couple of hundred meters, I was able to put full weight on the injured ankle without much discomfort. I was praying that it meant that the sprain was not a serious one. I was close to my barracks and made it there about five minutes later.

I iced the ankle and took an 800mg Motrin. This morning there was a third-sized golf ball lump on the outside of my foot, about one inch in front of the ankle.

My friend, the PT, gave me an ACE bandage and gave me directions on how to wrap my foot. Later on I attempted to run eight easy miles and luckily, the bandage held the foot in one piece and I ran sans pain. The dream remains intact and very much alive.

*What I was thinking right before the injury was how amazing it was to observe an orthopedic surgeon splint a broken humerus (in three pieces). What really impressed me was how calm he was while he cut the skin (nine inches), cut through the subcutaneuous tissue and carefully, very carefully cut along the flow of muscle fibers so as to avoid cutting through any vascular bundles and/or the radial and ulner nerves. He splinted the bone with two plates and 14 screws. The surgery took 2.5 hours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tempo, Et Al

Tempo in Italian is simply time.

After my lackluster performance in the half-mary on September 2nd and my problems sustaining an 8:10 pace for a long run a week later, I was nonplussed.

Because of this it was easier for me to bag a couple of scheduled runs, including a three-mile tempo.

Lo and behold, I had a satisfying interval workout last Friday where I managed to run 5X1000 (or thereabouts---I used my Garmin and .62 increments) with 400 recoveries (.24 mile). The pace of the 1000s was at 5K perceived effort, which ended up being 6:18. The workout with recoveries averaged 6:57 pace, and I was one happy dude. This was very close to my mid-tempo pace.

Then on Sunday, I had even a better run. The plan was to run 14 miles at 8 min flat and pick up the effort to MP pace for the last three (7:25). As I stopped to drink water and my own version of electrolyte solution at the 11 mile mark, I decided to push the envelope and run the last six at MP. Not only was I able to hit my milestone but I actually surpassed it by running a 7:21 average, with the last mile being the fastest.

Fast forward to today, and I had the three-mile tempo I missed last week on the menu. I decided to ditch my lightweight trainers (288 miles) and my 1023 trainers (361 miles) in favor of my fairly new nike air max (61 miles) to do this workout. Like Spike Lee used to say: 'it's gotta be the shoes.' I don't know what it was, but this workout totally and unsuspectingly exceeded my expectations.

The irony is that I almost bagged today's run. Man it would have been a terrible mistake. I started with a nice w/u of three miles (24:45). I stopped to drink water and to stretch lightly. Then the fun began (the goal was 6:50-6:55): the first mile goes by in 6:37, and I think I am going too fast for my current fitness, that I did not gauge the effort correctly; I may bonk on the second one; but no, I timed it in 6:20 (downhill) with the third a challenging mildly uphill mile coming up. As soon as I crest the mild technical hill by the flight line I begin to doubt I will finish the three mile tempo and I consider slowing down. But I refuse to give up; I concentrate on turn over and the effort feels more like a 5K. Time has slowed down; I seem to have slowed down to 7 min pace. I remember a quote from a commercial way back then that went like this: si las cosas que valen la pena se hicieran facilmente, cualquiera las haria, or loosely translated: if worthy goals were done easily, anyone would do them*. I plod on and find myself working quite hard. Finish the third one in 6:36, woo hoo!!! I am in disbelief that I just completed a not so easy tempo run in 6:31 pace!!! To put things in perspective, I ran the same three-mile tempo run two weeks ago in 20:35, 62 seconds slower!! I cooled down with two in 15:02.

One thing that I noticed in those two runs was that my cool down was not as slow as one would think cool down miles should be. I found myself running them with ease at very close to MP. They felt almost TOO easy.

*I love ipods and I just ordered a fourth-generation RED nano (and my fourth one) with that quote engraved on the back.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


My goal race is quickly approaching. And, alas, my training program is quickly deteriorating. I have found cutting long runs short and not running tempo runs. The quality in my program is almost non-existent. Not only that, but I am having trouble finding the gumption to run 50 mile weeks. Obviously, it has me doubting I can achieve my goal come December 2, even when I already lowered it from sub 3:10 to sub 3:16. What can I say? - I am a published underachiever :-) Now, self doubt is one of them things that come up in my life quite often. To contradict myself, I think I may still get lucky and pull it off.

You see, the course is advertised as being fast. The first 10 miles are rolling, and the remainder of the course is said to have a mild descent for a net drop in elevation of 300 feet. OTOH, I have ran Boston four times and that course is not a 'fast' course even though it drops 500 feet in elevation. The Newton hills are to blame, and although the hills are neither steep nor particularly difficult, it has been written that it's their location that makes them 'tough.' I remember the first time I ran it and somewhere around 16.5 and after mostly mild downhill running, I hit the first hill and my quads quickly protested. It would not be until my fourth try that I would succeed in running through them without walking breaks.

I know the Boston course. I don't know the CIM course and profiles shown on race websites do not always tell the whole story. Am I setting an excuse up for not coming in at the desired time? Most likely.

CIM Course Profile

My plan is to run the first 10 miles in 7:30-7:35 pace, then picking it up to 7:20 and if feeling strong running the last 6.2 in 45 minutes. I know completing long training runs will be crucial to me being able to run faster while fatigued. Now lets see if 'I' can get over my distaste of long solo runs and get with the program.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Emergency 51

A little bit of Balkans humor... If we ever meet, remind me about this picture and I'll tell you a funny story behind this picture.

BTW, any comments on the new and improved look of this site? :-)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

R&R Update

The Salty One suggests I went out too fast last week. And to be fair, the result backs up her assessment.

However, I felt the effort was 'right' on target. I felt I could sustain it for the duration of the race. What I failed to mention is that as I approached the first long and deceivingly tough hill, I backed off on the effort. I thought I could make it up on the downhills. The real problem was that I never regained any momentum I had during the first two miles. I even walked short sections of tougher hills, thinking - again- that I was saving precious energy I was going to need to finish strongly. Yes, I raced it poorly; but it was due more to indecision, or better yet, to the lack of better judgment than ability.

And if you're interested, the winner was a French soldier... in 1:22:XX... The highest US runner came in 14th.

This morning's long run had me gasping for air at the pedestrian 8:10 pace. I actually had to cut short the planned 17 to eight. It was ridiculous. I suspect it was the quick ramp up into the 50s. I ran zero miles four weeks ago, 46 the next, 30 the week before the race. If you do the math, I averaged 25 mpw in those three weeks. This week I ran 54... and I think it is my body's way of rebelling, or at the very least of telling me to not ramp up as quickly as I have. Regardless, it's too late. I will try to maintain the 50+ mile-weeks in the weeks to come.

Signing off... for now.

Monday, September 03, 2007

R&R Virginia Half-Mary

Trying to break 1:41

My goal for this half mary was not too liberal, sub 1:40. From looking at my training runs I felt I could run a FLAT half in the 1:31-1:32 range; because of the hills here I would have been more than happy to break 1:35.

It was just amazing the participation we had in this race. We had over 50 German runners, several dozen Spanish runners, and representation from Greek, Polish, Austrian and other soldiers from NATO. Knowing that the depth was stronger than our typical races in our Camp, I felt- rather I knew- I could break the top 50. I also wanted to take the monkey off my back from my lackluster showing at the DANCON a few months ago; after all running is MY event. Right? Right!

The weather was near perfect with some winds in the 10 MPH range. Somebody asks me what my age group is and I tell him; he says that I’ll probably win it. I smile. Then he says, oh but Major S is in that AG, he will probably win. I open my BIG mouth and say: I will beat him, but there are OTHER runners who may win it. [I have always beaten Major S in shorter distances, and I get better as the distance gets longer, so I reasoned beating him was a no-brainer. I guess I AM the one w/o a brain :-)]

A one mile warm up seems reasonable. I do some stretching and I am ready to go.

I start comfortably hard and the first two miles are relatively flat and I clock 7:08 and 6:56. Awesome, sub 1:35 may be in the cards today. Mile three includes a deceivingly hard climb and I slow down to 7:38, but in spite of the slow time I do not worry. The fourth mile comes in at 7:54 and Major S passes me. I envision reeling him in later in the race. I am confident; however, it was false confidence. The mile includes a nice descent and the split is a 7:29. Then I go through the meat of the hills and the first mile over 8 shows up on my Garmin, ouch.

I won’t go into the rest of the splits because it got ugly. A few more runners pass me and my ego gets bruised, really bruised; it’s becoming the norm. If I didn’t know better I would have walked the last 5K. I managed just under 8 mpm pace for the remainder of the race. Tried to pass one runner close to the end who passed me around 11 but the b*stard [smile] picked it up and actually extended his lead. I see the clock and it reads 1:40:46… I gun it hoping to cross before the zero becomes a one [see picture - which by the way, the grimace on my face was not from physical pain, but from disgust at my performance.] I muster a semblance of a kick, but not quite enough as I cross the finish and the timer yells 1:41 flat, a personal worst in the half-mary. And Major S kicked my arse handily, by over five minutes. My only consolation is that no female runner finished ahead of me :-)

Oh and I finished 49th overall... out of more than 250 runners. Ouch, says my ego. Bottom line, I had a nice two-mile tempo and 12 easy miles :-)

I have no excuses. I simply did not have course specific training [read: hills]; I cannot blame anyone but myself. I am too much of a wuss when it comes to hills, I have seriously become afraid of hills. And so it goes.

Lets see if I can redeem myself next month during our satellite Army 10-Miler.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Some people have called me a snub when it comes to Mexican food... and they are correct in their assessment. It is quite hard for me to find a restaurant selling Mexican food that will meet my expectations. I should make it clear that the type of food I am referring to is that of the commoner, i.e. pozole, tacos dorados, enchiladas, menudo, gorditas and the like. I often end up inviting folks over to my place to try some 'real' 'authentic' Mexican food... yes, I can cook :-)

Spending two weeks in one of the most exciting regional cuisines Mexico has to offer such as GDL, makes me want to overeat, and overate I did. I must have gained at least three lbs; I blame most of the gain on the hand made tortillas and the cervezas that kept being open.

I should have gained more weight but fortunately my running picked up. I even did a 15-mile run with 11 of those at 7:25 pace, or my marathon goal pace. I was quite happy with that run as I was coming from a week of non-running and my fitness was iffy at best.

I then had to fly over to Germany. Once there I was able to run nine easy miles through interesting neighborhoods. One aspect that really stood out was how well most, if not all, 'hoods in this region are kept, manicured lawns, house paint in good repair, the absence of junk cars parked in the driveway... very little graffiti, and so on and so forth... simply nirvana like.

Today, back in the Balkans, I ran six easy miles to let the legs loose as tomorrow I am scheduled to run/race a half-mary on a difficult course. ...and back to life, back to reality.