Monday, May 21, 2012

All Hail Garmin!

At one time or another some fat guy or gal, in an effort to make him or herself feel better about a lack of fitness, will tell you about how bad running is for your health, usually while inhaling a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chugging a 3-litre bottle of Dr. Pepper.

(Some find this irritating and use their anger productively by running faster than their current physical limitations allow for farther than common sense dictates, injure themselves, begin eating Pop Tarts intravenously, gain 120 pounds, and tell other people that running is bad for them, when in reality, it’s listening to people who ingest more M & Ms in a minute than bad jumpers Kobe Bryant takes in the fourth quarter of a playoff game that’s bad for you.)
Occasionally, a semi-well-intended non-runner will semi-incredulously ask you why you punish yourself so. If you’re like me, and let’s be honest, you’re probably not, you shrug your shoulders and strike up a conversation with the three hippos gargling butter who tell you that running is bad for you.  Since striking up conversations with hippos gargling butter, elephants snorting whip cream, rhinos injecting ranch dressing, or negative people who never exercise is bad for you, I decided to explore this clichéd, over-analyzed topic in the most refreshing way possible.

Why do I run?

Garmin Forerunner 101 Waterproof Running GPS
Dear Garmin, I love you! (I own this sun dial).
I run because I like numbers. 

I’m fascinated with them.  I knew how to calculate batting average, earned run average, shooting percentage (26% by the way is Kobe Bryant’s shooting percentage in the last minute of playoff games with his team trailing by one possession for his career, yet he’s considered the “greatest closer of all time?”), heart attack rates of marathoners compared to the heart attack rate of those whose idea of exercise includes slurping crusted, dried ice cream from under the sofa while applauding Richard Simmons, and just about any other statistic before I knew how to do any of those things that were being measured.

I don’t run because I like running.  

Sure, I enjoy physical activity, dripping in sweat, smelling like rubbing alcohol, and teetering on the verge of vomiting, but there are other ways of accomplishing those things.  So why running?

Running is measurable.

I enjoy lifting weights for the same reason, but my muscles give in long before the feelings of complete exhaustion envelope my body.  A good workout video—Insanity, for example—gives me the same feeling running gives me and the Insanity fitness test does measure progress, but it’s difficult to compare one person’s fitness test to someone else’s due to differences in technique.  In addition, it’s not really communicable.  Someone asks you how you’re progressing with your Insanity workout video and you reply, “I did 64 power jumps this morning,” and he replies, “huh,” smiles and tells you how bad running is for your knees.  Running numbers, on the other hand, are simple.  You run from here to there and tell me how long it took.  Very easy to compare.

What would Billy Shake think about running?
I’m an English teacher.  That’s irony.   

Biking offers the same number simplicity, but so much depends on the bike.  Swimming is good, but you spend too much time in the pool and once you reach a state of exhaustion, you drown.  If you drown, you die.  If you die, you can’t calculate pace.

Here are some numbers that probably won’t interest you, but it’s my blog and they interest me.  They’re my PRs.  I don’t limit PRs to actual races because I refuse to pay exorbitant race fees unless a race presents an difficult to attain goal or it's free.  These PRs have all been set in the last 5 months.  I’ve been running for 15 years (not continually; that would be a record).
  • 3 miles – 23:37 (I’ve run three mile segments much faster than this during half marathons but that doesn’t count).
  • 5-k – 24:37 (I ran back-to-back 5-ks faster than this time, but I needed those for my 10-k PR)
  • 5 miles – 39:09 (On hills.  One of my best efforts ever)
  • 10-k – 48:02 (The best run of my life)
  • 10 miles – 83:23
  • Half Marathon – 1:49:55
  •  20 miles – 2:59:04

Thursday, May 17, 2012

June 9, 2012 Utah Valley Marathon Preview

Utah Valley Marathon

The Course

The marathon starts at about 6200 feet and ends at about 4800 feet. For those of you not skilled in math, this means much of the course is downhill. I’ve done quite a bit of training on hills—uphill and downhill. I’ve matched the degree of descent as best I could on training runs. Because I run up before I run down in training runs, the marathon course is much faster than what I’ve been running, so my 3:19:09 time in the 22-mile run may not be an accurate indicator of what I can expect to run on June 9.

There are three significant uphills, according to the elevation profile. After a good six mile descent to start, there’s about a mile of flatness and a slight incline for two miles. My long training runs have included a five mile ascent at about mile five, with three of the first five miles downhill. There looks to be a fairly steep, but short (that’s relative) ascent at miles 12 and 16. Miles 18-26.2 are mostly downhill. I have been training downhill. The last four miles of my long runs have been downhill. Every other mile of most of my shorter runs and some of my tempo runs have been downhill.

The only thing I haven’t prepared for is the altitude. I remember running at 6200 feet last June and I thought I was going to die for the first half mile, which was uphill. Once the descent started, it was all good. I’m going to head up to Mt. Charleston next week, and run six miles downhill from about 7700 feet to get a feel for the start of the race. Does anyone want to come pick me up afterwards and drive me back to my car?

The Weather

The average high at the start in Wallsburg, Utah is in the high 70s. Since the race begins at six in the morning, I won’t be dealing with the high temperature. I’m guessing it’ll be closer to fifty degrees at the start—a little chilly for this desert dweller, but better than heat stroke temperatures. By the time I finish in downtown Provo, it will probably be in the 70s, barring an unfortunate heat wave. Since the run is in a canyon, I’m guessing there’ll be ample shade. I’ve run a 10-miler here before there but I don’t remember it too well, other than it was very enjoyable.

The Scenery
Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon

Provo Canyon is beautiful.

Marathon Plan

I have slightly less than four weeks to go before the marathon. I’ve come up with a race-day plan. Those of you with more experience are welcome to chime in and offer your advice.

Race Strategy

I will drink water or Powerade at every single stop. I’m considering bringing electrolyte tablets just in case. There’s Gu at certain stops too, but I’m going to bring a couple with me in case they run out. I finished my 22-mile run at a 9:02 pace. All I needed to do was finish the remaining 4.2 miles in 41 minutes to break four hours. I could have done it, although it was tough going and I took a few short walk breaks the last few miles.

Because the actual marathon course is faster, more scenic, and cooler, I’d be very disappointed if I didn’t break four hours, especially considering the extra mental and psychological boost you get from fellow runners. That being said, I’d be OK with a four-hour time. I’d be thrilled with a sub 3:50, ecstatic with a sub 3:40, and out-of-this world delighted with a sub 3:30.

That being said, my official goal is 3:49:15 or 8:45 pace. It's fast enough that I'll finish in the top half of a race, something I've never done, but slow enough that I'll finish alive.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Thoughts about Running 22 Miles

Twenty-two miles is a long way. Three hours and nineteen minutes is a long time to run. If, instead of running, I’d have hopped in my car and headed west, I could have driven to Barstow, stopped for lunch, headed for the outlet stores, gone to the park, and hid from wannabe gang bangers kicked out of L.A. for bad tattoos and finished about the same time as my run did.

I ran the same course I’ve been running—one-mile uphill followed by one mile downhill for about six miles followed by a four-mile slight incline to Sunset Park, followed by four laps around a 1.5 mile paved trail, followed by a stagger home while hoping to get run over by a car so I could be temporarily disabled, which would have made a legitimate excuse for quitting because that’s what I wanted to do at around mile 19.

Now that I look back on the fun, I’m glad I didn’t get run over by an SUV and I’m glad I finished.

Now for the random thoughts:
  • I probably started out a little fast, which caused me to tire at around mile 15, which was followed by checking my watch every 45 minutes to discover I’d only gone .07 miles.
  • An old lady about the age of my two dead grandmas and about twenty-five years older than my dead dad signaled to me that I was going the wrong way on the track. I was about 12 miles into the run and told her rudely to leave me alone. She did. 
  • My lips were scorched from being in the sun for 3.5 hours. 
  • By the time I finished it was 85 degrees. That might be the cause of the extreme fatigue I began experiencing at mile 15 or the fatigue could have been caused by the fact I had run 15 miles.
  • Chocolate Gu tastes awful. I miscalculated the location of my hidden water bottle and had a nasty Gu chocolate film in my mouth for a couple minutes before I could wash it down. 
  • I had to utilize the restroom facilities at about 17.5 miles. It could have gotten ugly, but not as ugly as the fat, completely naked guy giving himself a sponge bath in the very same bathroom I was discharging solid waste. 
  • Guys, any suggestions on how to prevent the end of certain appendages from chafing?
This is my last 20-plus-mile run before the marathon. I’ll knock out another 15-miler in 10 days and taper. If you're training for your first marathon and want to see what others think, check out And So It Burns...  It's on the sidebar.  Just click it.  Jose's faster than I am so you might learn more from him, although he doesn't yell at old ladies and walk in on naked fat guys taking sponge baths.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Musings on Coyote Urine

I’m marketing a new energy drink.  Despite protestation from marketing advisors, I’m calling it Coyote Piss.  It’s made from actual coyote piss.  I feel it captures the essence of a good run.  

You know what I’m talking about—the tough-it-out and even though I feel like crap I’m a better man than you and when I’m done I’m going to drink coyote piss kind of run, or the I just got a new pair of Brooks Ghost 4s and even though the toe box is too small and my right shoe is rubbing the corn that has formed on my pinky toe and irritating it incessantly I’m still going to set a PR and drink coyote piss kind of run, or the I just downloaded $80 worth of music from even though I could have paid half at but that website’s blocked at work so I couldn’t use it but I don’t care because I’m reinserting my “never fall out ear buds” every 42 seconds and kicking ass on this run and when I’m done I’m going to listen to two more songs and drink coyote piss kind of run, except now you’ll say I’m going to drink Coyote Piss before my next run so I feel like drinking coyote piss after my run kind of run.

Give me my energy, coyote!
I got the idea from my encounter with a coyote last week.  Because May in Vegas gets hot in the afternoon and because it’s a good idea to run long distances in preparation for a marathon, I had to get up early on a Thursday so I could run a half marathon.  By early I mean 4:00 A.M.  It’s still dark at 4:00 A.M. and the sun was about to rise when I reached the halfway point of my halfway point to a marathon, at which time I saw a coyote.  You probably didn’t know there were coyote safe havens in metropolitan areas like Las Vegas.  But there are.  I may be a road runner, but this thing wasn’t Wile E. Coyote, so I stopped, whistled a tune, turned around, and pretended the coyote wasn’t there. 
But it was.  

I waited some more, whistled a tune, turned around, and pretended the coyote wasn’t there some more. 
But it was.

Not wanting to resort to Nevada’s stand my ground laws unarmed against a potentially rabies infected mammal, I turned around and headed in the opposite direction.
Looks like the Sunset Park Loop Half Marathon was changing courses.

I was a bit skittish on the way back, nearly pulling a hamstring after a rabbit hopped out from a bush, giving me visions of Monty Python (see video below for details), but once I got out of the park and the diarrhea was cleared from the back of my knee, I had more adrenaline than a fourteen-year-old boy at a stripper convention (This, by the way was the second choice for the name of my new energy drink but gathering the ingredients would have involved membership in the Strip Club Janitor’s Union).  My splits tell the story
        1st half: 59:07
        2nd half: 52:45

So, next time you’re feeling a little run down halfway down your run, take a swig of Coyote Piss and howl all the way to the finish line.

*No coyotes were harmed during the writing of this blog post.


Training update because I know you care.  
  • Ran the aforementioned half in under 1:52, a couple minutes off my personal best, which was set on a less hilly course with no rabid animals lurking about.  
  • Knocked out a 39:09 five-miler on a hilly loop, a personal best.  My uphill miles averaged 8:23, my downhill miles averaged 7:14, and the flat mile was done in 7:53.
  • Realized the Utah Valley Marathon starts at 6200 feet.  My only experience with 6200 feet is in Logan, Utah.  I felt like I was breathing through a straw with a cloth covered hole for half-a-mile before I got used to it.
  • The amount of descent on the course is similar to the descent from the park to my house, which I’ve been cruising down lately between 7:30 and 8:00 on long runs.  I’m thinking I could break 3:40 in this marathon as long as the altitude doesn’t suffocate me or as long as I don’t poop my pants at mile 11.