Sunday, June 28, 2009

More douchbagishness

For some reason, it has been a really long time since I wrote a post. I had a lot of good ideas in the intervening time, but now those ideas have faded, or are no longer appropriate.

I had to stay late at work to prepare for mid-year reviews, and I worked on my kitchen all weekend, so I missed a lot of running.

I did do a race on Friday. The HoCo Striders have a series of X-Country races on Friday nights this summer. On Friday the race was at Centennial High School, which was our chief rival. As I expected, there was some douchebagishness. The vast majority of people were cool though.

I knew I was in trouble when at the 400m mark, some dude shouted out, "72 seconds for the quarter. Not a bad mile split". Uh oh! I went out too fast! I'm used to trail races, where if you don't go out fast, you'll be trapped behind walkers as soon as the trail leads into the singletrack. In Cross-Country, there IS no singletrack. No need to kill myself. I was in maybe 10th-15th. I relaxed a bit, let some people by, and settled in at 25th. I then started to feel good, and slowly reeled in people. We circled the school a bunch of times, going up and down hills. My favorite moment was when I passed one of the douches! Sweet!

At 800m to go, I was in 20th or so, and I had no idea how much further I had to run. I asked one of the race directors as I passed, and I am almost positive he said, "halfway, 1 and a half miles to go". I then slowed down, let 5 people go, and settled in for another mile of torture. I saw the track approaching, but I thought, "well, he said I was only half done, so the trail must veer off somewhere else. I'll save my energy." By the time I realized I was almost done, it was too late to get the people, I just hung on, and didn't let anyone else get by me.

I finished in 22 minutes or so. I was a bit shocked. I was hoping for 19-something. I haven't bettered my pace in months. I am obviously doing something wrong, Maybe I'm just getting older, but that can't be it entirely.

So my takeaway is I have to be more prepared. At least wear a watch. Hopefully my fancy GPS Nerd Watch. That way I won't have to depend on asking people for anything. And my other takeaway is that I have to keep searching for why I am still so slow even though I am doing speedwork.

I probably should mention that the race was in about 90 degrees F, and very humid. Starting off too fast probably affected my ability to run fast. And in an ideal world, I would be running every day. Life sometimes intrudes on training plans, and you just have to make do.

If you feel like going back to the good old days of High School Cross-Country torture sessions, by all means, try this series out!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TNT, nutrition, speedwork strategy for nooBs, and your longest run shouldn't be on the track!

Tonight was TNT, or Tuesday Night Track. After the track workout, we went to Chipotle, and when I saw the shredded meat, it reminded me of how my legs feel! Shredded!

The workout was 3x600m, 2400m, 3x600m, 2x200m, with 200m jog rest between the intervals.

Since I am still a beginner, and still gaining my fitness, the 200m jog rest was insufficient for me. It does me no good to try to run speed if I am struggling. The point of speedwork is to teach the body what it is like to run fast, and to keep proper form.

Arjun made a good point about keeping form, ie, don't put your head back.

Dave Berardi also gave a good example of someone he knows (I'm not sure exactly) who was inexperienced at speedwork, and was training with a more experienced runner, and he cut off laps to get more rest in between intervals. Again, it is better to try to run fast with someone and stop sooner, then just do the same workout, but be a lot slower because you are tired. And if your form is bad, you are more likely to get injured.

Not sure if I am making a whole lot of sense here.

But anyway, the 600's with 200 jog was draining my energy, so I cut them back to 400's, and was able to keep up with the back of the pack (usually!) For the 2400m, I cut one lap off and did 2000m. I have no idea how fast I was going, but it felt fast (to me).

Joel G. and Maurice gave me some good tips on eating something before TNT. I think I need to bring some Gatorade, eat a second (light) lunch, and maybe slurp down a gu packet before I step on to the track. I also need to look into recovery drinks.

Vitamins have been helping me by making it feel like I have more energy, even though they expired a year ago! People on the Internets say it is safe (so it must be true, right?) I kid, but really, I cross-verified, and the only people who said it was dangerous seemed like total morons, with many misspellings and grammar mistakes.

From what I can tell, vitamins are guaranteed a certain potency by their expiry date, and they degrade slowly over time. So worst case, I am just taking less-potent vitamins. Hmm, I should have made this a post all by itself.

At the end of the workout, they calculated how much we ran, and it came out to 10 miles. Yikes! That is my longest mileage of the week! This is when I realized that I haven't been doing long runs. Speedwork builds speed, but you need long runs to build strength and endurance. Duh!

I need to make it out to NCR once a week to get some mileage in at a good pace. Patapsco is too technical for me to go fast enough.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why you shouldn't self-diagnose medical conditions based on info you have gleaned from the interwebs

I am a bit of a hypochondriac, and am constantly diagnosing myself with all kinds of diseases. My favorite for a couple years was Lyme Disease, and now it's Diabetes.

Let's go through the symptoms:

  • Frequent urination

  • Excessive thirst

  • Extreme hunger

  • Unusual weight loss

  • Increased fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Blurry vision

Yes, I have all of these. But that doesn't mean I actually have diabetes.

The extreme hunger, excessive thirst, increased fatigue, and unusual weight loss are due to running. Frequent urination is due to the slaking of my excessive thirst. And my love of good beer.

The irritability is due to my occasional interaction with pinheads at work.

The blurry vision is sometimes due to excessive staring at a computer screen, and sometimes due to my love of good beer.

And I guarantee that the "unusual weight loss", fatigue, hunger and thirst would cease within a day or two of reducing my exercise load.

I got this list from the helpful folks at the American Diabetes Association. They even have a risk assessment test.

Oh, BTW, I am now down to 179lbs! Woohoo!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blue Stains, Smurfs, and Icing Techniques for Runners

My couch is now covered by slightly sticky blue gunk. No, I didn't do anything improper with a smurf smurfette, my icepack sprung a leak! Ug.

Ice is a great thing for a runner. It reduces swelling, reduces pain from injuries, and aids in recovery. As you get older, these wonderful properties become increasingly important to your running career!

The ideal thing is to take an ice bath after exercise. Ie, put enough ice and cold water in your tub to submerge everything below the waist. Ice baths can pose logistical challenges: not everyone has a tub, and how to get enough ice. And they can pose other kinds of challenges: shrinkage and general discomfort. It takes a special person to dunk themselves in ice.

From what I have heard from various sources on "the Internets", from elite runners I know, and my own personal experience, 15 minutes is as long as you want to ice. Less is ok too. Also, you really don't want to dunk your core torso in ice water. It's not needed, and could be dangerous. Don't be a dumbass.

For those whom the above mentioned challenges prevent them from icing, I have a solution. In my shower, I have one of those nozzles that is on the end of a hose, you can buy these at any bath supply or hardware store. After I'm done with the normal business of showering, ie de-stinkifying, I turn the water all the way to Cold. I then spray the legs with the very cold water. I keep that up for a while, at least several minutes. When I am done, the legs are red/pinkish, and cold to the touch. It feels great, and helps a lot.

I do this right after running, and first thing in the morning. I sometimes follow that up with sitting on the couch with ice packs on the legs.

Which leads to the blue sticky mess on my couch.

I bought what was called an "ice blanket". It is made from a blue liquid sealed in bubblewrap. You can cut between the "bubbles", and get the size you want. I must have accidentally dropped it or punctured the plastic when it was frozen. After 15 minutes or so, I noticed it leaking all over my couch. As I was confused as to what was going on, I squeezed it, and of course more of the blue gunk got on the couch. I would not recommend buying products like this. The best ones I have found are the old-fashioned rubber ice bags you can find at any drug store. People make fun of me for it, but they work great, and don't leak.

On the positive side, my couch was a dark blue/brown, so the stain is not super-noticeable. I'm glad I didn't purchase that white fuzzy rabbit-fur couch I had my eye on...that would have been a major bummer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My virgin run with the Federal Hill Runners

Today, I ran with the Federal Hill Runners.  I haven’t posted in a while because I was feeling like crap and I didn’t want to bore my readers with whining.  So now it’s all positive!

I will talk about a couple things that I have learned.  I can’t take off 3 days in a row, or even two, and expect to see improvements.  I need at least 30-45 min almost every day.  Also, I have learned that everybody is different.  My buddy E does best with every other day running.  Any more than that, and he gets injured.  If I try every other day, I get slower and slower, making me miserable.  There are dudes that run 180 miles per week!  That works out to 20 miles per day!  Assuming I could find that much time each day, that would probably make me hobble around like a 90 year-old.

I’ve been running in the heat the last few days; that plus  my refusal to turn on my AC, is acclimatizing me to the heat.  It’s purely for the sake of my training, I’m not cheap at all.  Honest!

Today’s run was pretty hot.  A lot of the people were complaining about it, but it didn’t really bother me too much.  There are various courses, depending on how fast you run.  The fastest run an extra part along the water that makes it about 7 miles.  The middle group doesn’t run that, but does run around Fort McHenry.  This course is about 6 miles.  And there is another group that skips both extra parts, which makes it more like 5 miles.

This makes everyone finish around the same time, which is very cool.  It’s kind of like hashing in that respect.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, check this out.  Ok, maybe that’s a stretch.  There’s no beer, or singing, or silliness, but they are both non-competitive, and all about socializing with fellow runners.

I ran with the middle group.   I was aware that “this isn’t a race”, so I treated it like a tempo run.  I didn’t want to look like a douche on my first run with them.  Hopefully I succeeded!  I really should put a map here, or a turn-by-turn, but I honestly don’t remember all the turns.  After I run the course a few times, I will post a map.

I didn’t bring my watch, but the pack of girls in front of me said that they did it in 40:something.  If I heard right, and it really was 6 miles, then that works out to a little under 7 min per mile!  Which would be really good for me, a real improvement over the mid 7’s that i had been doing.  If I misheard, then that is ok, too, I still had a good run.

Tomorrow is on the track with TWSS.  I’m going to try to run the Survivor Harbor 7 mile this weekend.  Alternatively, I could do the Patterson 4 miler.  Or I could do both.  The Patterson is in my hood, and only costs $2 for BRRC members, so it would be silly to not run it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I think one major think I need to work on is my diet. I rarely eat vegetables, except in an occasional bowl of soup. I also don't eat much fruit. Most of my nutrition is from the bread group, the lunchmeat group, the cheese group, and the beer group. I used to eat a lot of frozen burritos, but they have a lot of salt and fat, and it was hard to keep my weight in check.

I ran 1:20 at Patapsco yesterday, at I bonked one hour in. I totally ran out of gas. That's really strange, since I ate a good breakfast and lunch. I even had a granola bar before the run. I was so hungry, I was seeing mirages of pasta and rice!

At the end of the run, I found an old packet of Gu in my car, and I squeezed every last drop out of it, like a starving lunatic.

The diet will be difficult to modify until I can get my kitchen fixed up. But it's definitely something I need to think about, especially for the longer runs.

The plan for the rest of the week:
  1. Tuesday: Run hills with TWSS @ RELP
  2. Wednesday: Swim 12-15 laps and maybe jog a few miles
  3. Thursday: First Thursday @ Mt. Vernon: Run or bike there and back. (sure, I will be sweaty, but BFD)
  4. Friday: 1 hour run at Patapsco or RELP, swim 15-18 laps
  5. Saturday: 1 hour run
  6. Sunday: 1 hour run, swim 18 laps (half mile)

I might do a 5K race this weekend in lieu of speedwork on the track.

I would like to bike at B&A or Patapsco this weekend, but I think getting the kitchen done is more important. Life is full of tradeoffs!

On a positive note, I am down 5-7 lbs to 183lbs at 6'2". I think 175 would be ideal.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Doing too much speed?

I didn’t run much this week, since I took off work, and rehabbed my kitchen.  That’s hard work!  I have a lot of respect for people who work in construction for a living.  Especially ones who run!  No wonder they look at us funny.  When you totally deplete yourself at work, and then go running afterwards, that’s a sign of a true masochist.

I didn’t run on Wednesday.  On Thursday, I went to Goucher to run on their track with BRRC.  The goal was 6x800m.  After four, the area on the inside of my right knee started to get tight, I think that’s the IT band, so I skipped #5 and stretched and jogged.  #6 felt fine, so I was relieved.  I think I did too much speedwork last week, and I’m glad I listened to my body, instead of just following a workout plan.  As I get older, I’m finding this strategy works better.

Maybe I should do just one speed session, and do one hill session per week, in addition to the longer steady runs.  I’ll have to think about that.

I didn’t run Friday, and on Saturday, I ran a few miles in the morning before working on the hizzy.

Sunday was a gorgeous day.  Instead of doing rehab work, I just went to Home Depot to get supplies, then I ran and swam.  I did 7 miles from Canton to the Inner Harbor and back at about 2pm.  It was kind of hot; I was glad I brought along a water bottle, and wore my HAT Run hat.  It was kind of slow for me, 8 something per mile.  I guess I need to acclimatize to the heat for the warmer months coming up.  The roof was off the pool, and I did my usual first pool workout, which is 12 laps (24 lengths).  The pool was awesome.  The way the shade falls across the pool, it was cold at one end, and warm at the other!

I finished up with a walk to the Polski festival, where I enjoyed some tasty beverages and ethnic food.

Now that I am back to work, I am going get back into a better running schedule.