Oh yeah…I have a blog.

I’m still paying to host this domain so I might as well update the blog once in a while.

Truth is, I started this blog to share all of my running adventures. The SAD truth is, I haven’t had many running adventures to write about in a while. It seems like this past summer was hotter than usual and I probably used that as an excuse to be lazier than usual.

I spent several months of free time building two new acoustic guitars and watching about 4 full seasons of “24″ on NetFlix. I ran just often enough to claim “runner” status but that’s about it. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to share a few blogworthy events.

 

 

 

Warrior Dash came to Mississippi in April.  I’m a big fan of the show “WipeOut” and secretly want to be a contestant so entering Warrior Dash was a no-brainer.  Barbed wire, mudholes, fire pits…all we need are some “Big Red Balls” and slo-mo instant replay.

A few days before the event, it was announced that there would be no on-site parking and everyone would be riding shuttle buses to and from the course.  Thousands of warriors standing in line for school buses sounded like a nightmare to me so I took matters into my own hands.  I parked four miles away and ran to the event grounds, then ran back after.

In May, I decided to run from my house to my office 18 miles away. Eighteen miles is not such a big deal but it’s a lot of pressure when you’re on a tight schedule.

I needed to arrive in time to meet co-workers for a 2 mile run around the office at 6:30AM. To make that deadline, I left at 3:30 and ran for two hours in the dark then finished up the last few miles watching the sun rise. It was an interesting commute but I really missed the extra time in bed.

 

 

In September, the firefighters in my community organized an 11 mile run in honor and memorial of firefighters and other emergency service personnel involved in the 9/11/2001 attacks. Of course, it was very hot and I found it difficult to complete at my normal pace – especially after my lazy summer. Our amazing firemen completed the course in FULL GEAR with flags waving. That’s determination!

Worst run ever?

Stories that end with “and then I threw up” should always involve shots of tequila.
It seemed like a nice day for a run Sunday so I headed off on the Ridgeland trail with about 10 pounds of water in my Camelbak. When I got to the end of the dirt trail, I crossed over to the Natchez Trace and kept on towards Clinton with thoughts of going 26+.

By the time I made it to the County Line overpass, the stench from the nearby dump was making me sick…well, that and the fact that I was already dehydrated and probably suffering from heat exhaustion. I turned around at mile 10.5 and ran back on the Trace towards the Rice Road parking lot. The Trace is closed from the Interstate south and it was quiet except for lots of cyclists getting ready for triathlon season. It’s also wide open and completely without shade.

I’m not sure why, but I decided to wear my Merrell barefoot shoes. I had done a lot of 4-5 mile runs in them but nothing longer. My feet hurt so bad at the turnaround, I wondered if I was going to even make it back at all. The zero cushion, zero drop feels great on 5 mile runs but not so great after 10. Probably the only positive thought I had on the way back was about the steaks I was going to grill for dinner. That thought usually led to anxiety that it was taking so long to get back to the car, we might be having steak for BREAKFAST.

I did make it back in time to cook but I had to stop by the store on the way home…with sweat soaked clothes and salt crusted face. Sitting in the Kroger parking lot, I was really starting to feel nauseous but I pressed on anyway. I remembered feeling like this during my first marathon on miles 20-26 and I survived that experience. Truth be told, I remembered feeling like this after a few all night band practices too.

At the meat counter, I couldn’t get the image of pink slime out of my head and I just wanted to get home so I grabbed the first package of rib eyes I found. It must have been the most expensive and freaking huge steaks they had but I couldn’t put them back and select a more appropriate cut. I was already starting to get “that feeling”. You know…the mouth-watering, stomach-tightening, whose-bright-idea-was-it-to-chase-tequila-with-Jager feeling…

And then I threw up.

2012 Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50 Trail Run – 50K


The subtitle for this blog, “A mid-life journey from couch to 50K” was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to my tendency to go a little overboard with things that I find interesting. In other words, if everyone else is doing the “Couch to 5K” plan, then I’ll probably do “Couch to 50K”. (Thank GOD I didn’t call it “…from couch to Trans-America.”) Running an ultra-marathon wasn’t even a specific goal until a few weeks after my first marathon was complete and oh, by the way, running a marathon wasn’t a specific goal when I started the blog either. So now that my journey is complete,  SPOILER ALERT    I completed 50K
I suppose I should retire.
But then what would I do? Ooh, I know…Dragon Boat Racing!!

On to the race recap… Continue reading

2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon Race Recap

It’s a couple months late, but here’s my 2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon race recap anyway.


I should start this whole thing off by saying: I’m not a talker. I tend to keep to myself unless I have something that needs to be said. I’m definitely not the type of person that starts conversation with strangers. During my last marathon, I spoke to two people and those conversations were brief. Somehow, during the MS Blues Marathon, I spent almost 5 hours socializing. Weird.

Walking up the hill from the fairgrounds parking lot towards the starting line, I met my first stranger. It was a short walk so we didn’t become lifelong buddies or anything but I did find out that we share a fondness for Saucony Kinvara shoes. I wished Kinvara guy good luck and made my way through the growing crowd looking for friends from work. Our company sponsored several relay teams and individual runners for this event and most of us were wearing our highlighter yellow team shirts. That made everyone easy to spot. Everyone, except Bryan and David. It was unfortunate that I missed them at the start because I wanted to wish them luck on their half-marathon and remind them of how much more awesome I am for running twice as far.   Continue reading

Barefoot 5K

It was hard to find time to run this week. If I wasn’t too busy doing family stuff, it was raining. Today, I had the time to run but…it’s been raining all day. When I got home from work, the temp was around 57 and the rain had let up a little. It’s the perfect opportunity to use the Nike Storm Fly 2.0 running jacket that Mom and Dad gave me for Christmas.

I wanted to stay close to home in case the weather got bad again so I figured I’d run a few laps around the neighborhood. I also thought I could keep my shoes dry by, uh, not wearing them. I’ve run a few barefoot miles on the treadmill to hopefully strengthen my feet but never more than two miles at a time and never outside. If it turned out to be too uncomfortable, I would be at most a half mile walk back to get shoes.

After a few tenative steps, I settled into an easy pace. I was actually surprised that my feet weren’t as tender as I expected. Our sidewalks are brushed concrete and pretty smooth but every driveway is washed concrete with the pebbles exposed. Even though I could feel every pebble under my feet, it wasn’t painful. Occasionally, I’d step on a random loose pebble but even that was no big deal.

My Garmin was out of the rain under the jacket sleeve so I had no idea what kind of pace I was running. That alone is a big change since I normally monitor my pace pretty closely. Since this run was kind of an experiment, I didn’t have a target pace anyway.

When I started out, I was thinking I’d endure a lap (almost a mile) and then stop at the house and put shoes on to finish the run. Surprisingly, the first lap felt just fine and it was fun splashing through the puddles barefoot. I figured I could last another lap so I didn’t slow down as I passed the house. The second lap went just as well as the first so I thought, “Why not make it a 5K?” as I passed the house again. The third mile felt just fine. The only time I slowed down was at the end of the run to dig my watch out from under my sleeve to figure out how much farther than three laps I would need to go to complete 5K.

It turns out that I averaged a 9:14 pace for the 5K. That’s a long way from a P.R. but it’s faster than I thought I was running. I was expecting something like 11:00 or 12:00. It really felt that easy.

This was a fun run. I’m happy with the results of the experiment. I doubt I’ll be a regular barefoot runner but in the future, I won’t be so nervous about kicking the shoes off and going for a run.

Run Resolutions

I closed out 2011 with a few easy weeks…as far as running is concerned. The holiday weeks have been plenty busy to keep Robin and I feeling worn out. That’s ok with me. Just a few more days and I (along with thousands of other runners) will ring in the new running year at the 2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon.

I’ve started a fresh running log for 2012 and closed out last year’s log. I’ve entered a training plan that will take me through the next few months, building both base and long run miles in preparation for my first 50K ultra-marathon in March. I’ve even set a goal for total mileage in 2012. Before getting into the new year’s running resolutions, I want to take one last look back at 2011.

At the beginning of 2011, I set a goal of 600 miles for the year. At the time, it seemed like overreaching. It was, afterall, my first full year of running. It turned out to be quite an underestimation as my total mileage for the year was 804! This year, I’ll set another overreaching goal and do my best to blow it away.

2012 Resolutions

1. 1000 miles
2. Run at least one more marathon than last year
3. Complete an ultra-marathon
4. Complete marathon in less than 4.5 hours
5. Work in some barefoot or near-barefoot training runs throughout the year
6. Stay healthy and excited about running

There are a few other things I’d like to make happen but they don’t really work as resolutions. For example, I’d like to get all of the kids involved in physical activities – not necessarily running although that would be awesome! I’d also like to inspire others to take up running. I’ll do what I can to progress with both of those goals but the outcome is out of my control.

Now, I’m headed out the door to start logging some 2012 miles. Nature abhors a void and that blank running log is begging to be filled.

Happy New Year!

Score!

I stopped by the supplement store the other day, looking for Beta-Alanine (I hope to explain this in a future post). I wasn’t expecting to find the store was closing and everything in the store was half off. At the register counter, I noticed several boxes of Gu. Imagining what a great deal it would be if I could score several Gu for a dollar a piece, I asked the lady at the counter, “Are the Gu’s half off too?”

She replied in a strong cajun accent, “Mmmm, how ’bout two fa dollah?”
Head spinning over the awesome deal, I push my luck. “Even the Roctanes?”
“Shor, honey. I don’ eatem.”

SCORE! I left with an almost full box of Orange-Vanilla Roctane Gu that cost me a grand total of…8 dollars. WOOOO!

Measurable progress

“What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” – Samuel Johnson

Today is just a few weeks past the one year anniversary of my first 5K, Fit 2 Lead on Oct. 30, 2010. To prepare for this event, the company I work for sponsored a 12 week “On the Move” training program designed to introduce the proverbial “couch potato” to a fitter lifestyle with a specific goal of completing a 5K running or walking event.

As I tend do with most things that I find interesting, I approached this new fit lifestyle with a consuming zeal.  I’ve come a long way since then and a yearly anniversary seems like the perfect time to look back and reflect on progress made.  Fortunately, one of the first good habits I adopted was to log everything. I have almost a thousand miles worth of running logs with lots of details like average heart rate, elevation change, split times, daily weight changes…I can even tell you which pair of shoes I was wearing on any particular run!

In spite of all of these tools available to measure progress, the most important one to me is how I feel now. When I started the “Couch to 5K” program, I actually thought I was in shape. Maybe I wasn’t in terrible shape, but I quickly found out that I couldn’t run a mile without stopping 4-5 times (not slowing down, I mean a complete stop) to catch my breath before I passed out and died. I wondered if I could actually run three miles. I wondered if I could even beat the racewalkers. Now I look forward to an easy 11.5 mile run around the bay, or three to four hour long runs on the weekend. A year ago, I would get winded running up a single flight of stairs. Today, I don’t even think about it. My legs are stronger. My lungs are stronger. I’m more confident, competent and successful. I feel better.

I know, it sounds like an infomercial for “Acai Berry” or “ShamWoW” but it’s true…running is my miracle pill. It’s not available in stores so act now! Try it free for 30 days. If you’re not satisfied, the next year is on me.

What about the data?

I expect the data to support the idea that running makes a person fitter. In terms of the metrics that I am tracking, I define “fitter” in the following ways:
weight – trending toward ideal weight
pace – trending toward faster pace
heart rate – trending toward lower heart rate for similar exertion level or greater exertion level for similar heart rate.
race times – trending toward faster race times

Weight

When I started running with “On the Move”, I wasn’t overweight but I carried a few more pounds than I needed and I was gaining. My ideal weight according to my height, age and medium frame is in the range of 154-166. I logged my first daily weight entry at 180. Today, my weight is quite stable in the 162-163 range. Words don’t do this justice. To really appreciate the effect running has had on my weight, just look at the chart!

Pace

As I began training for my first 5K, i very clearly remember struggling in my training runs to push the pace fast enough to finish 3 miles in 30 minutes. That was my goal and just a few weeks before the race I seriously wondered if it was possible.
Take a look at the first couple months of training runs. Average pace is around 11:30m/mi.

My last two months of training aren’t exactly fair comparisons because I have been focusing on long slow distance runs preparing for an upcoming marathon and ultra-marathon. Still, the pace is definitely quicker despite the runs being so much longer. Even my intentionally slow pace is faster than my best effort a year ago.

Heart Rate

As a Christmas gift last year, I received a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch with heart rate monitor. I wore the HRM on just about every run for many months straight and then stopped for many months more. A few weeks ago, I decided to wear it out on a 6 mile training run just to see if I could identify any improvements. Actually, that was the genesis of this post.

A person’s heart rate rises as the need for oxygen increases until it reaches an upper limit that is largely determined by genetics. Because heart rate rises with increasing physical effort, it is a very good objective indicator of actual effort. As we train, our bodies adapt to the conditions by getting stronger and more efficient. Eventually our lungs process more oxygen with each breath and our hearts move a greater volume of blood with each beat. This means a well conditioned runner requires less work from the heart to achieve a similar performance as a poorly conditioned runner. A sign of improved fitness is thus indicated by a lower heart rate for similar performance, or greater performance for similar heart rate.

Look at my most recent heart rate data:

That’s six miles at 9:19 m/mi and 160 BPM heart rate. If my conditioning has improved as I think it has, my earlier runs should show either a higher heart rate for the same pace, or a slower pace for the same heart rate.

Here’s the data from running the same route eleven months ago: The pace is slower by 1:12 m/mi and heart rate is just a little higher.

Here’s another run from 11 months ago, this time on a flatter route but a similar pace. Heart rate is 13 BPM higher.

This is very clear and encouraging evidence that all my training is paying off with a more efficient cardiopulmonary system.

Race Times

Lots of unexpected things can happen in a race and the course conditions are rarely the same so there may be variation in performance from race to race. One thing that has been consistent with each race so far, I have run each one with 100% effort. Here’s my entire race record which covers exactly one year.

With a few exceptions, I have beaten my previous PR for a given distance every time I’ve lined up. It’s getting harder to beat them though. I haven’t run a 5K in quite a while now and I’m anxious to see if I can break an 8:00 pace.

Measurable progress

I don’t need to see the data to know that I’m a better runner today than I was when I started a year ago. I feel better, I look better (I know, how is that even possible?) and my mood is much improved. Still, I’ll keep logging my runs and studying the details because I really enjoy seeing measurable progress.

50K Ultra Marathon

I can do this. It’s just a six hour run through the woods.

After finishing my first 5K about this time last year, I started extending my 2-3 mile training runs each week until I was able to complete a half-marathon in January. Along the way, I realized that I actually enjoyed the long runs. It’s nice to feel like you’ve actually been somewhere after a run instead of just running down the road for 15 minutes then turning around and running back. Interesting things happen when you’re out for a long run that you miss on the short “out and backs”. ( See My Latest Long Run )

Strategy becomes important when you’re racing beyond 5K. As Sports Nutritionist Sunny Blende puts it, “Ultra races are really an eating and drinking contest with exercise and scenery included.” ( Ultra Endurance Fueling ) Not saying I’m an expert at this. I bonked in the marathon but I think I know why and I’ll have it worked out before the next big race. I’m learning as I go but I think I’m a quick study.

The Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50 Trail Run has three divisions. 20K (12.5 miles), 50K (31.1 miles), and 50 miles. I’m signed up and looking forward to completing the 50K.

2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon

Mississippi Blues Marathon
My next big race will be another marathon. I’m officially signed up for the 2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon and I’m looking forward to it. This is a great race with thousands of runners and lots of things going on throughout the entire course. My first half-marathon was at this race last year. I’m more experienced and in a lot better shape today!