Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I thought I was in half-way decent shape, so I wasn’t too worried when I decided to do speedwork with a new (to me) group.  Running speedwork with a group is definitely better than solo.

What I didn’t take into account, was that I have a LOT more work to do.

The first 400 was my first clue I was in trouble.  Everyone else accelerated away from me within a couple steps off the line, and I was DFL, where I remained for the rest of the lap.

Our workout was a ladder: 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m.  (400m = 1 lap, just in case you didn’t know)  You are supposed to run it around your 5K pace.  I haven’t done a 5k in ages, so I just chose a compromise between my GOAL 5k pace, and something that wouldn’t be TOO embarrassingly behind everyone else, but amazingly right at my goal 5K pace of about 6:00/mi.

The next interval was 800m, one of my favorite distances in high school.  I was determined not to DFL on this one.  On the backstretch, I surged a little, and got to somewhere mid to mid back of the pack, and hung on to finish with a 2:50 or so.  Made me feel better in one way, but that wasn’t too wise as far as being able to complete the workout.  The 1:30 rest period ended way too soon.

As soon as the 1200 started, I knew I was in trouble.  I faded early; I had no gas in the tank.  After one lap, Ryan, the coach, said just keep this one to 800.  That pepped me up, and I think I finished that one around 3:00 to 3:10, somewhere near the 6:00/mi pace I was working on.

Then the 1600 started, and when I saw everyone again drop me in the first few steps, I settled in for more torture.  Ryan again suggested I cut off a lap, to 1200m.  I was grateful, and again, hit my goal pace.

At the start of the 2nd 1200, I was used to the idea of cutting a lap, so I resolved to run it as an 800, without Ryan having to tell me.  I was starting to feel better with the shorter runs and more rest that cutting the laps was giving me.

At the last 400, I decided to finish on a good note, and not DFL.  On the backstretch, I turned on the “jets”, meager as they are, and got to somewhere in the middle of the pack before the final turn, and then held it to the end, in a 75 sec lap.  That’s about 15 seconds faster than I should have, but I was tired of being last, and I needed a psychological boost.

I know it’s probably kind of lame to detail an individual workout like this, but as it was the first real group speedwork on a track in almost 2 decades, this was a big day for me.

Hopefully, I will look back on this in a couple months, and laugh.

This does remind me of the benefit of running with people faster than you.  When I was in HS, I was having problems with my race times being not very impressive, so my coach did something sneaky.  He lied about my times to get me in the faster heats!  I was horrified!  But it worked.

My desire to not DFL was way higher than my desire to “win”.  By getting me into the “fast heat”, it had a stunning impact on my times.  I still finished in the middle, but I had to run way faster to do so.

I am hoping that training with these fast dudes and dudettes will have a similar effect on my training now.

Friday, May 22, 2009



As I was doing my laundry, I thought of Leslie Nielson in the Naked Gun movie, one of the best movies of all time.  Specifically, I was thinking of the scene where he is going through his fridge after being away for a while, and he is smelling the chinese takeout that has been in there for a couple years.  Or maybe it was milk.  I have to rewatch that movie.

This isn’t the right picture, but it is the right look.

This is the look I had when laundering my running clothes.  Yikes.  I guess I need to purchase more, so I don’t have to wear them more than once.  Ok, maybe that was TMI.  But most of the shirts I get from races are cotton, not the best fabric for exercise, so I have a small number of technical running shirts.

Ok, so I do have some of those skin-tight Under Armour shirts, but I haven’t been doing any upper-body work, and those things look terrible unless you really spend some time swimming and/or doing weights.

Yesterday, I ran 6 miles easy at Patapsco.  But there is no such thing as easy at Patapsco.  I did more hills than I should have.  I was trying to recover from the speedwork I did on Tuesday.

Today, I didn’t want to do too much, so I started off with a 20 minute warmup at 8:30 per mile, and then I did a one mile time-trial.  I had a crazy idea that I could break 6 minutes.  That isn’t so far out of the realm of possibility, since I did 6:15 on the 3rd of 4x1 mile intervals on Tuesday.

I guess I wasn’t fully recovered from Tuesday, or maybe I was hungry from working too late, but I did a pitiful 6:20.  No biggie, though.  I’ll keep working at it, and not push too fast.  I have lots of time. 

I’m thinking of running the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K on Saturday.  I guess my goal should be to go out at 6:45 per mile, and see how that feels.  If it’s too much, I’ll drop back to 7, and try to hold on to a sub 7.  I ran 7:20ish per mile 2 weeks ago, and that was on trails.  I think I can do sub 7’s on the road, even if it is hilly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Doing speed on Boston Street

Everyone is telling me I should do speedwork.  Currently, I have been running 5 days per week, mostly on trails, with a bit of hills, and one or two fast “tempo runs”. 

So today, I was thinking, where can I do speedwork?  I tried to run at my old high school’s track a few times, but you never know when there’s a lacrosse game that makes running on the track difficult.

I decided to run on a section of Boston St. in Baltimore City.  There are no road intersections, just driveway entrances.

I started at East and Boston, and ran to just beyond Capt. James.  There is a parking lot between Capt. James and the Thai Restaurant.  The first entrance to that parking lot is 1 mile from East St.  Or is it East Ave?  I don’t know.  Does it really matter?  I think not.  Especially since I am the only person reading this, so I really don’t have to go into details!

Anyhow, 1 mile intervals seems like a great way to start into speedwork.  The last time I attempted speedwork, in 2006, I had major hammy problems immediately afterwards.  At the time, I didn’t really consider that maybe the problem was the duck-pin bowling with the deep slide that I tried on the same day.  Duh.

Whatever the cause, I had hammy problems, off and on, mostly on, for 3 years after that day.  Which totally sucked.

Today, I ran 4x1mi.  6:24, 6:31, 6:14, 6:34, with 2:30 rest in between, followed by 2.5 miles easy at 8:45.  Ideally, I would have done even splits, but this is my first REAL attempt at speedwork in a very very long time, so I’m not too worried.

The theory is that you train yourself to run fast, and learn how to keep a pace.  It’s not just a theory, a little speedwork can make a  HUGE difference in your race times.  There’s a bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo I could go into, describing how exactly it benefits you.  But I don’t really feel like going into that now.

But when I was in high school, I remembered that to train for a 4:40 mile, I would do a bunch of quarters (12x400m) at sub 70 seconds per quarter (race pace).  I figure the same process can be adapted to the 5K and the 10K.  My goals are to get back to sub 6 minute miles for the 5K and 10k.  I need to train my body to re-learn what it is like to run that fast.  Running 1 mile intervals is the first step.  Eventually, I will run halves (800m) at better than goal pace.

There are plenty of websites and books that can give you scientific advice on the best way to train to get to a goal.  That is not what I am trying to do.  My running is more organic, I do what I feel my body can handle.  Since I am a bit older, I need to be concerned about injuries that can ruin a season.  Slavishly sticking to a pre-printed schedule you find in a book is a recipe for disaster, at least for someone in my position.  Believe me, I have done that, ran through excruciating pain, because the book said that’s what I needed to do that day.   Finally, I have realized, the best way to get to your goals is to not get injured.  Maybe I need to say that again.

The best way to achieve your goals is to not get injured.

That means dnf-ing a race because your hammy is acting up, or you are running in really bad weather over insanely technical terrain, and  you have a more important race coming up in a couple weeks, and you don’t want to be picking your teeth off the trail.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prettyboy Trail Race 10K

On Sunday, I ran the “Prettyboy Trail Race 10k”.  Maybe I’m just a juvenile at heart, but I chuckle every time I see that name.

It’s named after the Prettyboy Reservoir, which is one of the water supplies to the Baltimore Metro Area.

This is a local club race, put on by the Baltimore Road Runners Club.  (  $2 for club members, and $6 for non-members.  I almost feel guilty for only paying $2. 

The night before, I was a bit nervous, since my previous few runs felt horrible.  I didn’t get home until 9pm, and I hadn’t had dinner yet.  So I turned on the oven to make a pizza, then I realized that eating late the night before a race doesn’t work out so well.

This is one great reason for writing this blog.  I document what works and what doesn’t.  Hoovering a pizza at 9:30-10pm isn’t a good recipe for a fun, fast race at 8:30am.  So I turned off the oven, and pondered my choices.  Big carbs like pasta were out of the question, and pizza can sometimes cause difficulties in the morning.  Not eating at all would be crazy, since I need some energy, so I decided on a small ham and cheese sandwich.

It turned out to be the perfect choice.  I slept easy, and woke up feeling good!  Carb-loading for a 10K isn’t that important anyway.  It is not long enough.  I would say 10 miles or longer.

I had a sensible breakfast of oatmeal, then headed off to the race.  There was a big sign on the beltway that said, I83 closed due to accident at exit 30.  Ruh-roh.  Since I go by road names, not exit #s, I had no idea if that was before or after my exit.  So I tried going up York Road for a while, but it was too slow, so I decided to risk 83, and if it was shut down, then oh, well, I miss the race.

Luckily, exit 30 was beyond where I had to turn off, Mt. Carmel Rd, so I was good to go.  I followed the directions for a while, then I spied a shortcut, so I took that, of course.  I kept going and going, and I started to get a bit uneasy as the time for the race approached, and I still wasn’t there.  Then I saw a bridge over the Reservoir, and I thought, “I don’t remember having to go over the bridge…”  Just then, I saw a string of cars coming in the opposite direction, with skinny runner-type drivers, so I turned around and followed.  They took another wrong turn, but I figured out the right way to go, and I finally found the race, as everyone was lining up. 

Sorry for the rambling lead in to the story.  I’ll try to get better at that.

Most trail races begin with maybe 1/2 mile to 1 mile of road, to allow people to find their place before it jumps on to the trail.  This is because most trails cannot accommodate many runners at the same time.  Many, in fact, are single file only (called “singletrack”), unless you want to blunder through stickerbushes and wicked rocks NEXT to the trail.

I have found that it is VERY important, if you want to get a decent run in, to go way faster than you normally would at the beginning.  Don’t just start off with your goal pace.  I have done that many times, and then been stuck behind walkers as the race dumps into singletrack.  This is extremely not fun for many reasons.

So I was prepared, and at the “gun”, I started off fast, and all of a sudden, I was in the lead pack, threatening to take the lead!


I am used to running in the middle  to back of the pack, so I was a little thrown by being in the front.  I decided I must be doing something wrong, so I slowed down a bit, but I eventually realized that:

  1. My training is showing benefits
  2. Maybe club races are a bit less competitive, since there is no $$$ at stake.

So I just went with the flow.  We hit the first hill, I let the 3 guys at the front draw ahead.  I didn’t want to spend too much energy going up the hill, so I let a girl get ahead of me too.  Once we crested the hill, I overtook the girl, and we headed into the woods.

These trails are very wide.  They are not technically difficult, not many rocks or roots, so I was happy.  I was able to keep up my speed, I was in 4th, occasionally I would see #3, and I didn’t hear anyone behind me.  I resisted looking back, for two reasons:

  1. Looking back lets people know you are concerned about them, they may take it as a signal to try to surge past you.
  2. Not devoting 100% of your attention to the trail immediately in front of you is a good recipe for catastrophe.  Road runners can close their eyes, jam to their tunes, check out the scenery (including the foxes!), but trail runners who do that will faceplant or worse.

I hit the one mile marker, then the three, and I was feeling great.  I was wondering where the 2nd marker was, but I figured that I missed it.   Since i was already half done, I kept  pushing the pace; I was determined to catch up to the third place guy.  Then I saw the second mile marker.  I checked my watch, and sure enough, the 2 and 3 were mixed up.   So I had 3 more miles to go, and it was a bit disheartening.  I think I slowed slightly to save a bit of energy.

We got into a bit of singletrack somewhere around mile 4 or 5, and I must’ve slowed down, because I suddenly heard footsteps behind me.  (I’m not fast over singletrack)  I chatted with the two guys behind me, which was a good way to pass the time, and I realized running is a good way to socialize.

Jason, myself and Alex were running together for a while, then we got to a monster hill at the 6 mile mark, and Jason hammered ahead, and dropped both of us.  I really felt like walking, but I knew we were almost done so I trudged up hill, and stayed slightly ahead of Alex.

Then I was done.  5th place!  And I avoided getting getting “chicked”!   I would say what my time was, but I forgot to stop my watch, as usual.  I guess I’ll have to wait until the results are posted.

I think I averaged about 7:20 per mile, which is quite good for me, especially in a trail run.  And running at the front was fun and challenging as well.  You can’t just follow everyone else!

So that was my first attempt at a race recap.  I’ll try to keep them shorter in the future.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

5 things you can do to avoid Turtlehead Attacks during your morning run:

Maybe I didn’t choose the best name for my blog. Now that topic is the only thing I think about during my runs. This morning, for instance, I ran around the harbor, and had to cut short the run, because I had “issues”. I ended up doing less than 5 miles, at a very slow pace. I won’t even mention it here.

Perhaps it was because I ate several chimichangas really late last night, and then ran early this morning. Perhaps I didn’t eat enough for breakfast (ie zero); oatmeal or a cliff bar might have helped “make things happen” BEFORE the run.

I think it’s a combination of the above factors. This is making me think of a list. Everyone loves lists, right? At least that’s what they say in the blogging books!

  1. Don’t eat too late the night before. 10 is bad. 11 is worse. 1am is awful. If you are carb-loading, this is even more important. Really. Unless you want to make several pit stops and lose 15 minutes on a 50K run, eat at 7pm or before.
  2. Eat something for breakfast. I prefer oatmeal, as it is easy to digest. I don’t recommend a Grand Slam at Denny’s! There are a lot of theories on breakfasts before a long run, I’ll write a separate post on that later. But basically, find something that works for you, and don’t experiment the night before a big race. Trust me on this!
  3. Make sure you allow enough time for bodily functions AFTER you eat, and BEFORE the run.
  4. This may sound kinda funny, but your body likes to set a rhythm. If your daily routine is to release the hostages mid-morning at work, then realize that if you are doing a long run, you might feel the need to go in the middle of your run. Set your routine so it won’t interfere with your run.
  5. Try to limit alcohol the night before. It will dehydrate you and mess up your routine. If you have to get your drink on, I advise going for a mid-afternoon or evening run.

Sometimes, even the best plans go awry. It’s a good idea to plan ahead in case of difficulties. Choose a course that has public facilities or restaurants that won’t mind you dropping in to say “hi”. Sometimes, if I am not feeling too well, I’ll just circle my neighborhood or zigzag down the streets, so I am never too far from the hizzy.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The perils of drinking soapy water

Last night (Thursday) I went running at my favorite location, Patapsco Park’n’Ride.  I had to work late because I was waiting on stuff that people were supposed to submit at 9am….ah, I don’t want to rant about my work.  Breathe….ok, back to my blog post.

So anyhow, I roll up at 7pm, and I know I have about an hour before the sun goes down, do I do my favorite 1 hour trail.

One thing I immediately notice, is that I don’t see anybody.  WTF is everyone?  Perhaps they are concerned about the damage their feet and wheels might do to the trails?  I normally would be in that camp, but after several days of rain, and several days more forcasted, I get like a crack-head, and I just gotta get my trail fix.

So I’m having a great run, all by myself, then I see this guy prancing around the muddy trail with gleaming white shoes, choosing each step with extreme care, and I just had to laugh.  Patapsco, even in the driest conditions, is not the place you go if you want to keep your shoes clean.  It was really weird seeing a grown man do that.

So I keep going, and I water my favorite tree at the top of the first hill.  Dogs seem to like that tree, too, so I gotta make sure they know who’s boss.  Territory marking is essential.

I’m having a wonderful run, then all of a sudden, I remember the water glass at work, and maybe I should have been more diligent in rinsing the soap out of it.  Yikes.  Drinking soapy water isn’t a great idea.  I don’t advise it.

So the second half of the run, as the sun marches inexorably towards the horizon, I am focusing more urgently on holding back the turtleheads.

Whenever you find yourself in this situation, you start to take stock of what you have, and what could be used in case of “emergency”.  Many people joke about using socks as TP, but after you have been running in the mud for an hour, I really don’t advise it, especially once Poision Ivy season starts.  Some advocate using your underwear, and leaving it behind.  That assumes you HAVE underwear.  Some bring along TP, but that involves way too much pre-planning, and besides, if it rains, it won’t be very useful.  Using leaves on the ground may be the best option, but you have to KNOW what kind of leaves they are, or you may be in for a few weeks of extreme discomfort.

The best case is to just hold it in, and tough it out, if you can.  Which is what I did.  I almost wiped out a couple times on the way back, as the light was fading, but I made it back ok.

The NerdWatch says I did 1:01, 5.something miles at 11:00 per mile.  It’s hard to go fast at Patapsco.  But I spent 900 calories, so it was all good.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Today’s Run

Today, I was going to run at Patapsco State Park, but it started pouring right as a left work, so I decided to run around the harbor instead.

You might think I am a wuss…

But I didn’t want to get sick or injured, so the run on pavement seemed like my best choice.

I didn’t have my GPS watch, so I only know I ran 48 minutes.  I’m guessing it was about 6 miles, maybe a bit less.  I was not pushing it at all.  Taking it easy.

I’ve learned that I can’t go all out every day, because that is a recipe for injury.

Hopefully, the weather will clear up a bit for tomorrow, because I REALLY need to get back on the trails.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Today’s Run

Todays run: 10K (6.1mi) around the harbor on the Promenade. 43:36, which works out to 7:09 per mile! This is really good for me. I haven’t been running this well since my late teens. (a very long time ago!) Ok, it’s possible that I have ran this well since then, but I didn’t have a fancy Dork Watch™ with GPS, heart rate monitor, and chick repellant. So I never knew how fast I was running.

I guess a new goal will be to break 42:00 for the 10K. When I was a freshman at UMD, I timed myself at 35:56 for 6 miles. But my best 10K is a little over 42:00 at the Clyde’s 10K. That extra .1 miles was a killer! Clyde’s is one of my favorite races, btw, because they have great food and beer apres. Well, let me correct that. They have great food, and they have beer (Michelob Ultra). I am not so much of a snob that I won’t drink it, though.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Trail Running is therapudic

Last week, or maybe it was 2 weeks ago, I ran one too many times on the roads, and I hurt my ankle. I tried various things, like RICE, trying to figure out what caused it, etc...

I cut back on the running, and all the glorious gains I had experienced evaporated. I went back up from mid 180's to low 190's (pounds that is), leg muscle definition went soft, and generally felt miserable.

I then decided to give up on trying to run on the roads, and went back to trails. Every other day, I run 1 to 1.5 hours on the trails, and my ankle problems largely went away.

Plus, I ran a 5 mile trail race on Sunday, and I did unexpectedly well. I could still see the frontrunners after a mile! I lost some places on the first 600ft hill, but I slowed down a bit and got my legs and wind back, and didn't lose any more spots. I actually avoided getting "chicked"! This is something I haven't been able to do since the early 1990's!

I'm constantly amazed at how therapudic trail running is vs. road running.

Perfectionism = No Posts

Ah, a fate common to many new blogs. The blogger finds all kinds of excuses not to write...

Actually, I have written a couple posts but I haven't published them yet, because I wasn't happy with them. They need more work.

Which reminds me of something. I've been reading blogging books as a way to procrastinate, and the thing many people say, is that blogs are not supposed to be perfect. You are supposed to just stream your consciousness onto your keyboard, and then hit the "Post" button.

I find that difficult. I am a perfectionist. I need to get everything absolutely RIGHT. The downside of this is a lot of half-finished projects. So I am going to endeavor to just post stuff and see what happens. I can always edit them later. (yeah, right!)

And it's not like anyone is actually reading this, except me.