Monday, June 25, 2012

Climbing Hills with Friends - Double Dipsea RR

I remember when I first got Runner's World back in the 70's, there was an article about the Dipsea run. I thought it was incredibly cool, with the beautiful trails, the 676 steps, the staggered start times, the exotic California location, the finish at the ocean. This Minnesota boy thought it would be very cool to do that someday.

Well someday came about 35 years later, and it was worth the wait! Since the actual Dipsea is very tough to get into, I discovered the double dipsea, which does not even fill up. And with my recent increase in base endurance, I figured I could handle it. And since getting to know three Northern California trail runners on the Loop, it was a perfect opportunity not only to run it, but to have some great company. So plans were made and 4 Loopies met up at Stinson Beach for an adventure.

Laura and I decided to give up our 12 and 14 minute handicap so we could all run together. We weren't treating it as a race. More of a fun run and an experience. So we all started in the last group with the 20-39 year old men.

The volunteers were all fantastic. The trail running community in this area is very strong, and has kind of a Marin County, earthy, hippy vibe. Apparently the Santa beard look is in. These weren't the only two with this look.

We hung out at the start as all the other groups took off. Lots of old-timers. Finally it was our turn and we headed out.

It was about 200 yards of road and then on to a narrow trail. So there was a little bottleneck. And then it was almost all uphill for two miles.

We are in there if you look hard.

It wasn't long until we started walking the steep sections. I managed to stifle my racing instinct and hung back with the others. But we were all pretty close to the same pace. Off course it was beautiful. We had perfect weather - sunny but not too hot. About half the race was out on the hills in the sun, and half was in the dense redwood forest which was very dark, green and damp. The trees were huge. The trail was narrow and steep. It was great fun.

There were aid stations every 2 miles or so with plentiful food; watermelon, pretzels, candy, Clif bars, potatoes, cookies, lots more. We paused at each station to regroup, eat, and drink. We flew down the downhills, which was a blast. Nobody took a fall, although there were definitely some slips and trips. More uphill walking. More food. No-pressure races are really fun. Although we weren't just jogging. It was a good hard pace.

Here we are at about mile 6, just before the steps.

You can tell we were having fun. Going down the 676 steps was no biggie, although my quads held their complaints for a day or two. At the bottom we ran about 20 yards to a cone and turned around to go back up. But first, more food.

At this point the group separated a little. We had decided it was Ok on the way back. John and I got a little ahead on the steps. And then John pulled away from me going up the hill right after. But I kept plugging and was enjoying the course.

About 2 miles later I caught back up to John, and we ran together for a while. We were cruising the last 2 mile downhill as fast as we could without falling. The damp, steep steps are pretty hard to go fast on though. I thought I had lost him, but he came flying up right before the finish and we finished together. K & L came in about ten minutes later.

My average time was 13 minutes/mile. Splits ranged from 7:54 (the last mile) to 19:00.

We celebrated by taking a Dip in the Sea. With beer. It was awesome.

Then we headed to a local diner and ate.

Too soon it was time to say goodbye. Thanks guys, for one of the most memorable runs of my life.

DW and I joined our host at the beach where I took advantage of the cool water to chill my tired muscles.

And then we both passed out.

So now I'm back home and sore. But not too bad. Giving myself a few days off and then it is on to the next adventure.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tie goes to the Runner

After missing my sub-20 goal last week by 7 seconds (officially), I figured I would take another crack at it this week since there was a cheap, small, local race on a fast course. It was at Dockweiler Beach, near LAX, site of my PR 5K from last year. Sadly, the race was so small that they moved the course down on the beach access road, and took out the nice little downhill. So it would be dead flat instead of net down. No biggie.

However, my phlegmmy lungs and sinuses were still not cleared out, so I was not feeling too great. I hadn't run since Tuesday, but my legs were beat up all week after the 5K and the 12 miler the next day. Bottom line, I wasn't feeling too optimistic. So I planned to just go out at the same pace and see if I could just hang on better this time.

The race was called Dash 4 Dads and benefited prostate cancer research. Thankfully, there were no prostate exams at the expo. But it was a Father's day theme, and they had a table full of awful ties that you could wear. To honor your Dad. Or something. Whatever. My wife loves a good prop, so we found this little number to match my shirt.

Channeling S.J. Gumby.

So I ran with it. What the heck.

The course was all on one road. Out and back and out and back. Two U-turns around a cone.
I started out around 6:00 pace, but got myself slowed down quicker this time and got down close to 6:30 pretty fast. I was comfortably cruising. First mile 6:29. Same as last week.

I tried to stay comfortable, but I was moving up, and starting to work hard. The tie flapped around and hit my arms a lot, but wasn't a big deal. And when else would I get a shot like this?

See, my feet do touch the ground once in a while.

Toward the end of mile 2 the pace started to fade. I was trying to hold a little for mile 3 and hoped to negative split. Mile 2 was 6:35.

I knew I needed a big surge like a 6:20 in mile 3, but I didn't have it in me. I was working hard just to maintain. Granted, my motivation was lower, and I didn't quite reach the depths of suffering that I did last week. Most of mile 3 I knew I was not going to make sub-20, so that made it hard to keep pushing quite so hard. Still I managed a 6:37, and .13 at 6:23 pace and finished with a 20:31.

The first woman passed me at 2.7. Other than that I was passing people the whole last 2.5 miles. Finished 11th overall - good for 2nd in my age group. More importantly, I was the first place tie-wearing runner. Sadly, that wasn't a category. Except in my head. The medals were cheap plastic bow ties, but it still feels good to go up and get acknowledged.

Afterward, there was a raffle, including an iPad. But they weren't drawing tickets from a hat, or numbers from a list. Best I can tell, the announcer was scanning the crowd for bib numbers and then just picking a winner. Bogus!

Oh well, they had hats for pics so we got a little silly.

Got to chat with some local runner friends. So it was a very pleasant morning of racing.
Now I am looking at the beautiful shots of San Francisco on TV for the US Open coverage and I'm happy to say that we will be driving up there Friday for the Double Dipsea to meet Loopsters and challenge my endurance levels.

Monday, June 11, 2012

First 5K at 50

So now that I'm 50 I can set all new AGPRs. But I'm still gunning for the old ones. Today's goal was to run my first sub-20 5K since I was 33. I've been gradually improving over the last few years, with a 20:20 last summer, and I was on track for a 20:06 in April until it ended prematurely at 2.8 miles. But I've been doing a little more speed work and I want that 19!

Thursday I caught a cold that settled in my chest. Great. Friday it was worse, and I took the day off from work (totally to rest up for this race, I don't deny it.) Today I woke up feeling better, but still with residual phlegmmy goodness in my sinuses and lungs. Definitely did not need to reduce my oxygen intake capabilities for a 5K! But, with a perfect excuse in place, I got DW up early, and we headed on down to Anaheim.

The reason I went farther than usual for a 5K is that ShaunP45 was in town, and you can't turn down an opportunity to race with a Loopster! We also convinced Zombie Kid to join us, so the Loop was represented!

with pretty shoes.

This race had some pretty good swag.

The weather was perfect - overcast and 50's. The course was dead flat and a square loop. Perfect conditions for a good time. I did a 1-mile warmup and felt OK. The three of us met up and headed to the start, about 3-4 rows back, behind the usual assortment of kids, walkers and joggers that needed to be at the front.

And we're off! This shot right after the start has all 3 of us in it.

Shaun bolted out ahead and I lost him right away. Zombie also started fast, but I was watching him for a while, expecting him to come back, since his goal was sub-21. My goal splits were 6:30, 6:25 and 6:20. First look at G after two blocks - 5:47. Wha? That adrenaline gets me every time.

Oh, here's a nice shot of my slutty shorts, and my tan line.

So I try to relax and slow it down. After 1/2 mile I am around 6:15 pace (lap pace) and am getting tired. Still too fast. I try to slow down more. By mile 1, I am down to 6:29. Perfect. Now I need to step it up.
Mile 2 feels pretty good. I am in a good groove. It is hard, but I feel like I can maintain it. I latched on to a couple ladies and a guy that are moving well. At some point I passed Zombie, but I didn't even see him. Eye of the tiger and all. Mile 2 was 6:26. Perfect.

We are now heading back, but it seems so far. My pace is about 6:22 but it hurts. I try to tell myself that it's not far - just hang on. But at this point my breathing becomes a wheeze, with a little rattle. Darn phlegm. I feel like I am working harder, but G says I am slowing. My pace slips toward 6:30, then 6:32. My pace buddy slips ahead and I can't hang with him. I am just hanging on and wanting the pain to end. I know I am close to sub 20 so I have to keep trying. But my legs are starting to get cement-like and my form is going to hell. Two more blocks. I turn one last corner and see the finish and try to accelerate as much as I can. It will all be over soon....

Mile 3 was 6:37, and .1 at 5:38 pace got me in at.......



Well, I gave a good effort. And I'm blaming the phlegm for at least 5 seconds. And it's still a best time in 17 years PR.

But you can be sure I'll be going at it again next Saturday.

Here's some more Loopster finishes.

Later I discovered JunBlack was there and I'm sure he will have some good photos for you. We all hung out and rehashed our races. Good times.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mile Madness

So four weeks ago I decided on a plan for speed work to get ready for a 5K:

Week 1: 10x400 - I averaged 87

Week 2: 12x400 - I averaged 89

Week 3: 6x800 - I averaged 3:06

Week 4: 2x1 mile at 5K goal race pace or below (6:25)

So today was mile day. Instead of the track, I headed to my favorite beach bike path. It is basically dead straight and flat, and G would be the timekeeper. As I got ready I was feeling nerves similar to race day. I was a little concerned that I would be running almost the same pace as last week's 800s that felt like sprinting. But I took it as a good sign. My legs were a little beat up from running harder than I should have this week, so I figured I would just go for it and see what I could do. I planned a full mile in between to rest.

So I cruise down, 1.2 mile warmup, and I don't feel great. Short of breath, and nervous I guess. I walked a little to calm down. And then I just went.

First look at G (lap pace) showed 6:05! Apparently I am used to these short track intervals and going out fast! So I tried to relax and slow down. A little later, lap pace is still at 6:07. I don't feel like it is too fast, so I kind of maintain without stressing too much. Pace starts slipping and when it is at 6:15 I decide to start pushing a little more. The second half I am huffing pretty hard, but I am not going into oxygen debt, and it's pretty fun! I reach a mile and slow to a walk. 6:14!

Holy cr@p! That is nearly the same speed as my 800 intervals! I guess this speed work is paying off. After catching my breath I trot a half mile, get a drink, and start trotting back. The rest mile is 9:45 (including the walking).

I jump into the second interval feeling fatigued, but confident. I normally do better after my first interval. First look at G shows 6:07 again. I'm glad I still have the speed, but I relax and try to slow a bit. However I start to daydream and lose focus. When I check G after about 1/4 mile it says 6:40. What the...!!! I realize I was not pushing it too hard and step on the gas. I got a little cocky. So the rest of the way I am pushing hard and I watch the lap pace drop. 6:31, 6:25, 6:23. I am working hard, and I have a little wind against me on the way back. The legs are definitely getting more lactic acid on this 2nd one. It feels like mile 2 of a 5K. Can't get it all back, but finish with a 6:22.

I gallowalked the last mile home. Pretty tired. But VERY excited with killing my goal times. Now all I have to do is use race day adrenaline and race day pain thresholds to string three of those together next Saturday. Easy week ahead, And I think I have a date with the Stick tonight.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Speedwork and a Kinvara 3 review

I only have a few readers here on blogger. I mainly post on Runners World Loop and then I re-post the good ones here. But I've been slacking lately. So I'm going to post a bunch of stuff all at once to catch up.

Here is one from May 12th.

Saturday, at the Track. You'd think it was the 4th of July.
Because there were fireworks coming out the backs of my shoes!

Today's workout was 10x400. I haven't done 400's in 3 years! And back then I ran them in about 102 seconds. Well, I am faster now, but I wasn't sure how fast. I decided to shoot for sub 90 and see if I could do all ten under 90. It seemed like a stretch goal.

I jogged the 1 mile to the local high school. There was a random collection of people working out, but no big teams or games going on. About 6 girls from the HS track team were doing an easy workout with their coach as they prepared for State. They have one of the best track programs in the country. They were doing 200s and other short exercises. There were also a few joggers and walkers, and one old guy doing speed work like me. Still plenty of room and no real traffic problems.

So I took off and checked G after 150 meters and it said 5:21 pace, so I took it down a little. Hmm, this fast running isn't too hard. Although G always shows a little faster pace on the track, due to the curves.
#1: 86
Second one I was more conservative and then picked it up in the 2nd half.
#2: 89
I was jogging 400 meters between sets in approx 2:20 (or 9:20 pace). Plenty of rest
#3: 88
Starting to get pretty tired now. Did I say 10? Hmm.
#4: 91
Darn it!
#5: 87
That 91 motivated me to work a little harder. After #5 I took a short water break and a walk and an extra jogging lap. Felt pretty good, like I could get to ten without dying.
#6: 89
Ugh, that extra cool down was no help. I think it threw off my timing.
#7: 87
More like it
#8: 86
OK! Working hard, but feeling good.
#9: 87
And now to push it hard and see what I have left.
#10: 83!
Phew! Not bad. Not bad at all. Averaged 87. I felt like I could have done a few more! But I cooled down and jogged home. I thought about the famous interval scene in "Once a Runner" where the guy does 20x400 and then is told to do 20 more 400s. And then 20 more. Crazy stuff. Love that book.

So I'm feeling really good lately. The mojo is back! Aches and pains are mostly gone, and I am anxious to do some hard work. Looking to do 10 miles tomorrow. But first I am meeting up with Alice, Atom Buddy and IMustbeBananas at tonight's Dodger game for junk food, loop talk and general camaraderie. There may be beer involved too.

Life is Good.

A week later, more speed work:

Round and Round We Go
Back to the track today. I have committed myself to Saturday track sessions for 4 straight weeks to get ready for a 5K assault on sub 20. Last week I did 10 400s and felt pretty good - averaged 87 and finished strong with an 83. Followed that up with 10 miles on Sunday and it kind of wiped me out for the week.

This week's runs were a little more sluggish - achey and painy and less pep in my step. Tuesday was hilly trail day - 6.4 miles almost all on trails as I prep for Double Dipsea. Thursday I did 6 and it was just... meh. My left knee hurts. My right hip hurts. My right outside shin hurts. I'm wishing Kinvaras lasted longer because I feel like blaming the mileage on my shoes. But I went out to the track today anyway and hoped a day off would help.

Today I planned 12 400s at sub 90. 400 meter jog in between. I felt Ok on the mile jog to the track, so the plan was on! The track was almost empty. Just one other old guy jogging laps at 10 minute pace. Later two other old guys showed up, also doing slow laps. I don't get it. Maybe they like the soft surface.
It was a little warm (65 - don't judge - it was sunny) so I decided to go topless. The other old guy was topless and no one else was around so what the hell. Besides, I looked better than him.

First lap was 90. Dang, it felt faster. Next five were 89, 90, 90, 89, 90. So I was at least consistent! But it was a little disappointing. I guess I was just a little more tired this week. I couldn't have gone much faster. After the fourth one I started walking 100 and jogging 300 for the rest lap. Plenty of rest, but I felt I needed it to get through 12.

Well I kept plugging away. Each one was painful as I ran out of oxygen every time. But after regaining my breath I was ready to hit it again. Next 6 were 91, 89, 90, 91, 90 and 88 in a final blast of speed! So I averaged 89.8 and met my goal. We'll call it a good endurance/speed workout. Took a slow jog home and was surprised to see a total of 8.4 miles. Those laps do tend to add up! So I'll give myself a little clap. 
So I'm thinking only 7 tomorrow and hope I feel better next week when the assignment will be 6 800's under 3:10.

Meanwhile I was reviewing my race history. My next 5K will be my 52nd. My PR is the first one I ever did at age 18 in 17:27. (Although I had done a 3 mile race in 16:05, so I probably could have done 16:40 or better) But there were not many 5K's around back then. Most races were 10Ks. For comparison, by 1990 I had done 38 10Ks and only 3 5Ks.

My 2nd fastest 5K was a 19:13 at age 33, and that is my ultimate goal.
35-39 my PR was 20:36
At age 40 I ran a 20:09
Age 41-46, my best was 22:42 (the fallow years)
In the last three years (the Loop years) my AGPR has improved like this:
21:40, 20:54, 20:39, 20:20, 20:06

So I am ready to bust out 19:xx this summer. On June 9th ShaunP45 will be in town so we found a fast 5K in Anaheim. Other local Loopsters will be joining in too. While Shaun runs 18:xx, I will try to use Loop mojo and coast in his wake to set my 50+ AGPR, and it WILL start with 19.

Pushing my Limits
 It is still Speed work month, as I work on my fast-twitch muscles. With weekly speed sessions, I have been cutting back on the long runs and trying to rest more. Tuesday I did my hilly 6.4 mile trail run, and then I took 2 days off. (Although I did manage to fit in two weight room sessions this week) Friday was an easy 7. Saturday was just an easy 9 mile bike ride. So I hoped to have a little more zip in my legs for Sunday's track workout.

The plan today was 6 x 800 at under 3:10, or a little faster than goal 5K pace. Considering that I had to work hard to do 400s at 88-90 last week, the idea of going twice as far at nearly the same speed was a little intimidating. But I figured to just do my best and see what I had in me.

I got to the track at 8:30 and had it all to myself. It was 65 and sunny and I wore my slutty shorts and took my shirt off. It felt great to be nearly naked out there. I visualized myself as my 18-year old self, weighing 120 and doing laps at 70 seconds instead of 95. Thankfully there is no photo or video evidence to prove otherwise.

#1 - Started out a little slow. Checked the watch and realized I had to pick it up. Over-compensated and busted my butt. Finished with a 3:03! Holy cr@p! That was painful, but..., holy cr@p! It is kind of amazing that what feels like almost full speed for 1 lap can be maintained for another lap without dying. I learned today that that is the point of long intervals - to teach the mind what the body is capable of.
Had one lap between sets which I walked about 100 meters and trotted the rest. Rest times varied from 2:50 to 3:40.

#2 - Went out a little faster this time and just maintained. Another 3:03! The second laps are tough. My muscles are requesting oxygen faster than my lungs can deposit it into my bloodstream. Usually by 300 meters I am breathing like a locomotive every other step, and just trying to hang on. 500 to 600 is the worst, but then I push around the curve, and the last straight always seems a little easier, because the finish is in sight.

#3 - 3 minutes rest doesn't seem enough, but off I go. I backed off a little more this time, thinking I was way ahead of schedule. A little more controlled, but still tough. 3:09
Took a little extra break and got a drink, but then right back into the next one.

#4 - The last one was too close to missing my goal, so I pushed a little harder again. Muscles filling up with lactic acid a little earlier each time. We called it the dreaded "Riggy" back in high school (for rigor mortis). It's how you knew you were pushing it hard enough - when your muscles just turned into cement slabs. Both my legs and arms were feeling it. 3:06

#5 - Only two more - I can do this. Each time I was feeling wiped out after one lap. And yet I was able to keep going and maintain pace. Great training for the 5K. My best 5Ks I feel like I am totally spent during mile 2. And yet somehow I get through mile 3, usually even faster. After a while you learn not to trust your body's messages. You trust your pace and your training, and the body will respond. 3:08

#6 - Last one. A little extra adrenaline. I go out faster than normal and then just hang on. Somehow I feel Ok down the last stretch and kick it in to a 3:05. Phew! Success. Average of 3:06 for all six. As I get my wind back I feel like I could do a few more! But I call it a day and trot home.

So I surprised myself today. I wasn't sure I could do 6 under 3:10, but I managed with relative ease. Next week I plan to do two 1-mile intervals at 6:25. And my race plan is 6:30, 6:25, 6:20. Sounds frickin' hard, but I nearly did that last month, so i am going to trust the training. And a taper.

Afterward, DW and I got to go to a brunch party with my running group. Always fun to party with runners! And tonight we have another BBQ party to attend. So life is good.

Taking the K3 for a Test Drive
My Local Running Store hosted a Saucony rep yesterday for our regular group run. She came with a truckload of shoes to test. I arrived early to be sure and get some of the new Kinvara 3's, and, sure enough, they had some in my size! Oh my, they were pretty too! I got this color.

I quickly tried them on and the Saucony rep gave me all the details on how the K3 was better than the K2. She knew her stuff! Lots of info about adding density in specific areas, but maintaining the low weight. I can't remember everything, but it was impressive. She said their main goal was to improve the durability of the shoe, with a goal of 450 miles instead of the 250 that the K2s tend to burn out at. Music to my ears! Because the DW's patience runs thin when I get a new pair of shoes every 6 weeks!

If you want a great detailed powerpoint on the improvements, click here!

So then we did our run. 7 miles to test a shoe! Well, it was just wonderful. No problems at all. Comfortable as heck. And fast! I normally start out easy and work my way up the pack. But this day I went right to the front and was just cruising. The shoes just make you want to go, go go!

We had a new runner join us who was 25 and fast, and the two of us ended up running together. He was pushing the pace, and I went with it. Total run averaged 7:55, with the last 3 about 7:30 - 7:40. Much faster than usual.

So, I'm a big fan. I have two pairs of K2's to get through first, but then I will be looking for a deal on some K3s. Sadly, I did not win the raffle for a free pair. But a guy won who needs the free shoes a lot more than me, so that was cool.

The Running Gods must like me
 So my last bloop was all about the Kinvara 3's that I got to try out. They gave away a free pair, but I didn't win the raffle.

Today, the Saucony rep was at our other local running store with the same deal. I normally don't join in the Thursday run, but I went to take another shot at it. Had a nice 6 mile run. And then another raffle. My odds were about 30 to 1.

And I won!!!!!

A free pair of Kinvara 3's will be mine next week! First Asics decides to put me in their LA marathon video. And now Saucony is throwing shoes at me. Someone up there must have liked my last blog and all my Kinvara preaching on this site, and willed my ticket into the right hands. I figure with all the free publicity I've been giving them, it is just good karma that I won.

Woo Hoo!