Friday, November 30, 2012

TEDX Video: Run for Your Life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far: James O'Keefe

I have been chewing on the theme - running too far and too fast has short and long term health consequences - of this video most of the afternoon.

I regularly reassure myself (and my worried wife) that running is better for me than not running. That the risk of a heart problem, while possible, is not highly probable and that many of the same or different risks come from a sedentary existence.

For now the best I can do is recommend watching this video, reading Born to Run, and join me in enjoying an outstanding Central Wisconsin Brewery Mud Puppy Porter.

Thanks to Dr. John M. for sharing this video on his blog.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Running in Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Outfits

Thanksgiving Day - Hot
Thanksgiving day was warm and windy. I ran 8.6 mile in shorts, technical tee, and a Road ID head sweats hat. It was a balmy and unseasonable 60F.

Black Friday - Cold
A cold front turned the weather on its head overnight. I woke up to high 20s, clouds, and very windy. Gusts above 30 mph. I ran an 18 mile out and back on the Ozaukee county interurban trail with a very different outfit.

  • Wind brief
  • Short sleeve technical tee shirt
  • Knit/acrylic arm warmer
  • Long sleeve technical tee shirt
  • Nylon vest
  • Calve sleeves
  • Tights (non-wind stopper)
  • Winter hat
  • Buff for face and neck
  • Knit/acrylic gloves

I wrapped the buff around my arm fairly early in the run, dropped the vest trail side for the final 1.5 miles out and first 1.5 miles back, and other wise only adjusted with zipping and unzipping the front of the vest.

Finding the right outfit is an ongoing challenge for this Wisconsin runner. What were the conditions for your Turkey Trot or post-Turkey run?

Race Report - My First - The 2012 Silver Strand Half Marathon

The Silver Strand Half Marathon starts on beautiful Coronado Island, goes across the Silver Strand, and ends a few miles North of Tijuana in Imperial Beach. This is an area that the US Navy Seals know well, with several miles of the course crossing their hallowed (and feared) training grounds. The course itself is point to point (one-way) and open to to runners, walkers, skaters, hand cycles, and wheelchairs.

I had been told that this is a perfect course for my first Half Marathon (HM) since it is mostly flat and mostly straight. Experienced runners often complain that it is too boring - yes the views of the beach, palm trees, waves, and sun can get boring.

We started the hour drive to the race around 5am and watched the thermometer drop down to 39 degrees midway there. At the beach it was around 47 degrees with a slight offshore breeze. It was a cold morning by Southern California beach standards and I had not worn any additional warming layers.

First, I dropped my wife Alaina off near the HM finish which also served as the 5K start - then dodged the people setting out cones and closing down roads to get to the Silver Strand State Beach parking area. Here I left my car (around mile 5) and boarded a bus to the start line. 

It was a couple block walk to the HM start line where I meetup with others from the West Coast Road Runners (WCRR), my running training group. Although some were familiar faces from the Saturday morning long runs, some were not because they meet up in other locations around San Diego County. All of them were very friendly and supportive with lots of last minute advice and suggestions. Notice all of the blue 'road runner' shirts in this random race photo!
2012 Silver Strand Photo - notice the blue shirts

Here I am (on the right) with John, one of the runners from the Carlsbad WCRR group that I normally run and train with:

John (left) and Nick (right) pre-race
It has been really nice having so much support and help from the WCRR. I'm fortunate to have the advice, encouragement, moral support, and new friendships. The group is very diverse with members from all walks of life and backgrounds, although I'm the only paramedic so far.

The marathon I'm training for is still two months away and I've just topped the HM distance with a 15 miler the week before. After finding others from WCRR we took turns at the porta-potties (there were plenty of those!) and then stood around waiting for the sun to come up having friendly conversation about experiences and strategies.

When it was time I moved into the corral for the pace I wanted to begin with (11:30) and found the official pacer is also a coach for WCRR at a different location so we did not know each other. I felt bad for him having to do our pace (to finish in about 2:30) because he normally does HMs in under 90 minutes. He provided his young daughter (around 10yrs old) with some pre-race nutrition advice and she quietly told us it was her 3rd HM! She was amazing and wore what looked like her school backpack! As the race got started her dad also gave me some some coaching about pacing and starting off slow, which is really my greatest weakness at this point.

Just after the start the course goes around the historic Hotel Del Coronado and America's Best Beach of 2012. This is what it looks like from above:
Hotel Del Coronado near the start of the race
Most of my training long runs have been on the beach, not on the sand but the Pacific Coast Highway 101 that parallels the beach. The Silver Strand course is very similar to that, which means it is pretty flat, not much ground cover or trees for shade, and often a slight breeze coming in with the waves.

Needing something to concentrate on outside of myself, I found a runner to follow that had a unique gait compared to the others so I let him pace me for a while. That's pretty much how the first 8 miles went for me although I was struggling to stay ahead of a couple of jogger strollers most of the time.

At 8.5 miles the course moves through a neighborhood before entering the US Naval Communications and Telecommunication Station San Diego facility. This is an in and out 3 mile loop so I was facing the faster runners as they returned on my way in and vice versa on the way out. I found this to be the most difficult part of the race because now I could see the faces of all the runners and most of them did not look so good. 

Some of them looked like they were near death and I did not find that very encouraging. I made sure to greet the WCRR runners that I saw, and there were a lot, with a wave and a hello which helped my spirits a bit and hopefully helped them too!

As I left the base I found myself next to another WCRR runner from a different group, we had never met before. She was quite a bit older than I and was doing great. Anyone that was ahead of me was doing great! We ran next to each other for the final half mile when she encouraged me to go for it, to cross the finish line before her.

I had a very brief conversation with myself at this point, wondering if I had enough left in me to go or if the effort would cause me to collapse within sight of the finish line. I didn't want to get any special attention from the paramedics waiting near the finish, like I've done many times before myself. I decided to do it and picked up the pace.

I swear as I ran down the final straight away that Chariots of Fire music was playing

I was sure that I was screaming by all the others in that last half mile. I don't remember many details other than passing  a lot of people as I found my maximum pace for the finale (9:45). When I got to the finish line I saw the photographer and had enough sense to try to look victorious!

I did it!

At that point I was totally spent and  made it to the side where I had to stand for a few minutes to catch my breath and compose myself. My wife found me there, slightly concerned for me but we found a spot to sit down for a few minutes before the bus ride back to our parking spot.

My wife Alaina and I after the race.
My time was 2:32:46 so I have a new goal to break at the San Dieguito HM in February! I can't say at this point if I would do this race again, that would probably depend on how things go next fall and whether I can get up into the ultra distances (30+ miles). It is a beautiful course but not as much as where I normally train up the coast an hour (see, no trees in this pic!). 

So I would have to agree with the others who said it is a boring course although it is a great training course in that there are minimal course challenges to overcome. The challenges are 98% mental!

Shown in the photos are my RoadID Wrist Band Slim, Hoka One One Bondi Bs, Zensah Compression Sleevesand iPod shuffle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Week: Avoiding a Setback with a Tempo Run

After a long day of work and driving the hockey practice shuttle last night I finally got out for a run at about 7:15 (which in Central Wisconsin means it has been dark for about 2 hours).

I ran a loop route that brought me through downtown Stevens Point and the UWSP campus along with some dark miles on the Green Circle Trail. Miles 1, 2, and 3 were almost all on the crushed limestone trail through the woods. I always think I am running faster than I am in the woods. Once I busted out of the woods and on to the sidewalks of Main and Water streets you can see my pace quickened. My goal was to run 8 (became 9) and run a tempo pace.

Thanksgiving week with the combination of deer hunting, travel, and feasting is a challenging week for runners. I am doing my best to put in the miles rather than the pounds on my bike and feet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Stride by Stephen Paske

I received a copy of Breaking Stride (Amazon affiliate link) in my pre-race bag from the Fox Cities Marathon. I have received lots of coupons, samples of balm and lotion, water bottles, shirts, movement bracelets, and race announcements, but never a book.

Last weekend I tucked Breaking Stride into my hunting supplies and brought it with me into the tree stand. Since I wouldn't be running my normal Saturday long run I figured that I should at least read about running.

Breaking Stride is a short novel about two high school track and cross country runners from rival Minnesota high schools. The narrator, a teammate of one of the competitors, chronicles the development of the runners, their growing rivalry, and their eventual only head to head race in the Minnesota state high school cross country race.

Ferocity of Racing
The most compelling aspect of the book is the visual details and rich description of the racing. I felt as if I was running stride for stride with the racers. I could feel their aches and pains as their muscles and brains gasped for more oxygen. The author eloquently writes about the anguish and exhilaration of distance running. He captures the gut busting exhaustion of a one mile time trial, "Lactic acid scorched my quads. My eyes raged with the fury of Satan. I grimaced, focused forward, my only goal in life to live until the next straight."

Short of the Finish Line
Perhaps because I was in a tree and frequently scanning the woods for whitetail deer I missed some critical plot developments. The story was narrated by another runner that was a teammate but not a central figure. He was among many characters that entered the story but then didn't continue in a meaningful way.

My favorite sentence of the book was about teammate Carrie Amundson. The narrator describes her this way:

"She had long black hair, a petite runner's body, and a chest that filled out a jog bra with shocking fullness."

Unfortunately that was the last we heard of Carrie and a few paragraphs later the narrators role flickered out of the story as well.

Part of the One Flight Fiction Series
Breaking Stride is part of the One Flight Fiction series - books meant to be read in a single plane flight (about three hours). It is a quick and enjoyable read with especially pleasing race sequences.

Do you have a favorite running book? Or are you a runner and author looking for a book review?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Running and injuries - The 10% rule - Part 2

I learned quickly that when you are taking 10, 20, 30, 40, thousand or more steps during a run (in general a 5k run = 5k steps and a 40k run -a marathon- is 40k steps) there is the potential for repetitive motion injuries. Seemingly very minor things can lead to big issues over the course of a run because of the repetition. 

I have found the ChiRunning ( people do a good job of describing the physiological issues and this short video is a good visual guide.

As you increase your step count 'per day' and 'per week' above what your body is used to, the mechanics of taking steps needs to addressed - and I had not done a very good job of it before this point.

A very small adjustment to the insert in my left shoe was needed, literally about 4mm, after which I felt great. The following week (let's call this week 2) I even set a new personal running record at 6.9 miles on Saturday. Later that day I also went for a 4 mile walk with my kids followed by a 7.8 mile solo run on Sunday. At 27 running miles for the week it was a big jump up in mileage but it felt great and I decided to start training for a full marathon!

The following Saturday (week 3) I met up with the West Coast Road Runners who were training for a full marathon and ran (survived) 10 miles with them. It felt good to have accomplished that distance for the first time ever, although my body was pretty numb. The next morning I did five miles to recover and that week 'only' completed 26 miles due to a business trip.

Saturday of week four my personal goal for the day was 11 miles even though the running group was heading for 13. The first half I felt great and was able to focus on preserving energy while learning about how to hydrate and refuel while running so I decided to for the 13. Progressively through the miles I had right ankle pain that became so bad that I had to stop running and mostly walked back to the car. 

I made a big - strategic - classic - new guy mistake and broke a fundamental training rule even though I was vaguely aware of it! "Do not increase mileage by more than 10% in a week"! 

My mileage increases were:
Week 1: 66%
Week 2: 55%
Week 3: 30%
Week 4: 17%

That's when I became aware of the statistic that 70 - 80% of running injuries occur at or below the knee. For me so far it has been 100%! Stay tuned to find out what happens next.

9 Most Challenging Days of the Year

Today starts a stretch of the most challenging days of the year that will challenge my healthy eating habits and regular exercise routine. In a few hours I will be arriving at our annual deer camp in Central Wisconsin - there will be an unlimited supply of nacho cheese sauce, venison sausage, cheddar cheese, hot beef sticks, old fashions, hearty beers, and left over halloween candy.

Throughout the weekend I will be mostly sedentary in a tree waiting for a wary whitetail to wander by. The sitting will only be interrupted by more of the above plus a venison roast, venison chili, scrambled eggs, bacon, homemade pies, and fresh baked cookies.

After surviving the weekend the challenges will continue with the kids having 3 days off of school, a road trip over the river and through the woods to grandma's house, and of course the Thanksgiving feast. Oh and then we have the leftover pie, snacks, and turkey.

Somewhere a midst all of this traveling, hunting, and eating I hope to take several bike rides and have a 30+ mile running week.

And oh yeah ... the dog will need walking, there is yard work to finish, Christmas decorations to unbox and scatter, a tree to fell and raise, and it goes on and on ....

Challenging days for any runner, but also favorite days for this hunter, friend, father, son-in-law, and husband.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Night Time Bike Ride - Lighting System

Since the time change two weeks ago I have had a few bike rides after dark. I enjoy running and biking after dark, primarily because it makes the familiar routes seem new. When I run I wear reflective clothing and a flashing light on my waist, but I usually eschew a headlamp. I like the challenge of finding the path.

For night time bike riding I think I have finally found the right light combination:
  • 2 watt handlebar mounted light
  • Knog frog light, white bulb, strapped to my helmet
  • Knog frog light, red bulb, strapped to seat post
  • Road ID Supernova, blue bulb, attached to back of jacket
In addition I wear a reflective vest.

In a future post I will share my layering system to stay warm during a bike ride when the temps are well below freezing.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Snacking ... before and after running

Runners World sent me a link for 5 Healthy Snacks.

These are some of my favorite snacks:

  1. Roasted and lightly salted almonds
  2. Corn chips (with as few ingredients as possible - ideally corn and salt)
  3. Banana, lightly yellow not green and not brown
  4. Gala, Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apples
  5. Pistachios
  6. Spoon hits of crunchy peanut butter with chocolate chips
  7. Strawberries and natural applesauce (no sugar or corn syrup added)
Since Halloween I have been supplementing with kid candy (I call it Daddy Tax). My favorites are butter fingers, snickers, and peanut m & m's. 

How about you? What are your favorite snacks before and after running? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2012 Presidential Campaign by the Numbers

Since the January 3, 2012 Iowa Primary (what I consider to be the official start of the Presidential campaign) I have compiled these stats and numbers - some important and some not important.

0 ... political television ads watched (I am forever grateful for the DVR)

0 ... robo calls answered

0 ... conversations with door to door canvassers

0 ... reviews of over-sized post cards or leaflets

0 ... campaign events attended (this was more from a lack of availability than a desire)

0 ... candidate banner ads clicked (although tempted to help spend the candidates money while supporting some of my favorite websites)

0 ... dollars donated to Super PACs

1 ... primary vote cast

1... general election vote cast

4 ... battleground states run in (Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, and Ohio)

6 ... races run in (see race reports)

8 ... total states run in (the above plus Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Arizona)

Countless ... articles read in local, state, and national newspapers (online editions)

Countless ... political podcasts and radio shows listened to (online as well)

1212 ... miles run on streets and trails

How about you? How many miles have you logged since January 3?

Go Vote!