Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June in Retrospect

I had a very productive June.  20 runs for a total of 114 miles. That’s a little less than the 145 I peaked at in May, but it is still my second best month ever.

I ran my first hill workout.

I improved my 5k pace to 8:15.

I increased my workouts to 5 per week.

I lost 5 pounds and surpassed my weight loss goal.  I'm at 179 pounds, thank you very much.  No more dieting, although it’s hard to call what I have been eating lately dieting. Running this much pretty much allows me to eat to my heart’s content. Now my problem is trying to figure out the best way to add more calories to my diet.  Poor me ;-)

Most importantly, I had fun and stayed healthy.

July promises to be exciting as well. The month begins with the Daytona Firecracker 4 Miler in just three days and my marathon training officially begins July 19.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting Faster

I just thought I would share this graph of my average 5k pace over the past few months.

It represents training runs of 3-5 miles. Each point is the average pace over several runs during that week. I had to convert the times to a decimal to trick excel to display the graph right, for example 9.50 = 9:30 minutes/mile.

I have quickened my pace from an average of about 9:40 to 8:15 in just a few weeks, without doing a single speed workout. This is purely the result of running with the West Volusia Runners since the beginning of the month. I just pushed myself a little to try to hang with some of the faster runners and found that I was able to keep up.

The group holds a weekly speed workout featuring 400 or 800 meter intervals that has been on hiatus this month. I’m excited to see how much I will improve after running a few of those workouts.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lake Beresford Trail Run

This morning’s run was a six mile (3 miles out and back) paved trail connecting Lake Bersford Park in Deland, FL and Blue Springs State Park in Orange City. Blue Springs is well known for the manatees that take refuge in the spring run during the winter.

I know in this map it looks like the trail is straight as an arrow but in reality it has gentle curves throughout which made it a very pleasant run. There are restrooms and water at both ends of the trail, although Blue Springs charges a modest admission and I’m not sure if there is access to the restrooms there without entering the park.

This was my first run on this trail, running with about a dozen members of the West Volusia Runners. At 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning there were very few other people out on the trail. That meant lots of wildlife sightings. I saw deer, rabbits, snakes and of course birds and squirrels. I heard stories of runners seeing black bears, gators and wild hogs in the past.

The trail is shaded with gently rolling hills. Not enough to make it too difficult, but enough to still get your heart rate up a little. 

There is also a two mile loop trail that encircles Lake Beresford Park, but I didn't run that this morning.  I tried not to push myself too hard today because I’m hoping to get in 13 miles tomorrow. I still managed to average an 8:47 pace. A month ago I would have struggled to maintain that pace for 3 miles and this morning it felt like a moderate pace over 6 miles. My improvement since I started running with WVR has really been remarkable.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Big Plans this Weekend

Four straight days of running.

I ran four miles this morning (ok – I confess it was actually more like 3.75). I will be doing a six mile trail run between Lake Beresford Park and Blue Springs Park tomorrow morning. Sunday is another Gemini Springs Trail run. I plan to do the five mile section twice and add the three mile section to make it approximately 13.1. I can’t believe I’m planning to run a half marathon for the fun of it. Monday will be a short recovery run of 3-4 miles, provided I can still walk.

I don’t usually run on so many consecutive days. The distances are all manageable but I am curious to see how my body will handle the repetitive punishment.

I’m also registered for the Daytona Beach Firecracker 4 Miler on Saturday, July 3. This will be my first race since the Gasparilla Half Marathon and my first short race since 2006. It’s an out and back course on the "the world's most famous beach," in the sand. That should make it fun but I’m not expecting to run a PR.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In the Zone

While chatting after a group run this morning a fellow runner made a comment to me about being “in the zone.” It may be a cliché, but I realized that is exactly how I have felt the past couple of weeks.

I am in a training limbo this month. My marathon training will officially begin mid-July, so this month I am running for the pure joy of it with no programs to follow and no pre-set distances. I have been somewhat guided by the full calendar of runs organized by the West Volusia Runners, but with each run there are multiple options for distances and runners of every skill level to pace with.

I wear my watch and continue to use the Sportypal GPS app on my phone, but these are afterthoughts. I give very little advance thought to pacing and run moment to moment based solely on my perceived level of exertion.

The only serious planning I do before running lately is hydration.

The results have been dramatic. I’m running faster, significantly faster. I’m recovering quickly. I’ve added an extra workout each week. I feel absolutely euphoric.

I have been pushing myself fairly hard for the past few months and I think I might have been on the verge of overtraining. This month has been exactly what I needed to get both my mind and body in the right place before the training gets serious again next month.

I’m in the zone.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gemini Springs Trail Run

For 5 years I’ve been running in circles around my neighborhood. Running with the West Volusia Runners for the past few weeks has opened my eyes to what I have been missing.

This morning we ran a trail run starting at Gemini Springs Park in Debary, FL. The route includes a 3 mile round trip to a local landmark called the Debary Mansion and a 5 mile round trip trail connecting Gemini Springs Park with Lake Monroe Park in Sanford. These sections can be combined for a variety of distances. There are water fountains and restrooms at both ends of the trail.

I decided to get an early 6:30 am start and got in 3 miles before the group run at 7:00, and then ran another 8 miles with the group. This was the best turnout I have seen so far with about two dozen members.

I finished the run with about 11.5 total miles at just under a 10 minute mile pace. I even stopped to shoot a couple of pictures during the final 2.5 mile leg. I think my cell phone camera lens was a little sweat soaked though. This first picture shows one of my favorite characteristics of these trail runs - Shade!

I tried hydrating with NUUN tablets (I believe it's pronounced like noon) for the first time this morning. NUUN is an electrolyte tablet that you drop into a bottle of water like alka seltzer. I used one tablet in a 22 oz water bottle that lasted me for the entire 8 mile section of the run. It performed well and I finished the run feeling strong without any dehydration symptoms. Not bad for June in Florida. The taste was unexciting, but I had it a little watered down, each tablet is designed to be used with 16 oz of water. I may experiment with other flavors, I sampled Tri-Berry. It makes the water a little fizzy so that each time I opened the valve on my water bottle I would get a little squirt and a pfffft sound.

I also “enjoyed” my first soak in an ice bath after the run. I just emptied my freezer’s ice tray into a half full tub of cold water. It wasn’t so bad, once I got over the initial shock. I soaked for about 20 minutes with a book and a mug of coffee.  I'm feeling pretty good right now, so I think it helped.

This run made 5 workouts for the week, another first. This was a great run to cap off the week.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm Starvin'!

My appetite has been out of control the past two weeks and I can’t figure out why.  I reached my weightloss goal last month and have now slightly increased my caloric intake to get into more of a maintenance mode.

I have also slightly decreased my weekly mileage this month.  I'm having fun running with the West Volusia Runners on group runs. My pace has improved by trying to keep up with more experienced runners, but their runs have been just a little shorter than my recent training runs. I am adding an extra workout this week, but even with that I will be about 5 miles short of my average weekly mileage over the past two months.

Despite eating more and exercising less – I’m starving.

My breakfast usually consists of fruit and a granola bar. I’m thinking about adding some more carbs, like a bagel. Hopefully that will help.

I start my marathon training in earnest in just a few weeks.  I expect to have to dramatically increase my caloric intake after that. Poor me :) 

It's going to take some experimenting to find the right balance.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'm Back!

After 3 days of rest, 6 ice packs, a handful of ibuprofen and a new pair shoes I hit the pavement for an easy three miles this morning. My knee felt pretty good. I had a little twinge of pain during my warm up whenever I twisted it and it bothered me a little for about the first quarter mile of the run. After that I was fine and I think my new Asics helped quite a bit.

My split for the first mile was 10:44, pretty slow but about what I was shooting for. This was supposed to be an easy run after all. Mile two was 9:21, a much better improvement than I expected. I tried to just maintain that pace for mile three, (honestly - I did try). I was feeling great with about a half mile left so I kicked it up a gear for the finish. I finished the third mile in 8:39 for a total time of 28:46, not a bad time for me considering the slow start. (Bad runner! You were supposed to take it easy!)

I iced my knee again afterwards and took some ibuprofen as a precaution. As I write this my knee is feeling fine.

Tomorrow I have another short group run scheduled with the West Volusia Runners. I will probably add a lap or two around the pond to get the distance up to 4 or 5 miles. If that goes well I will probably go for 10 miles later in the weekend.

I just don’t feel like these three mile runs are much of a workout for me anymore. I’m just starting to get warmed up and hitting a nice comfortable stride and then they are over. For the past two months I ran a lot of 5 and 8 mile runs and I like that distance. I could feel a noticeable improvement in my running each week.

I haven’t run in a 5k race in a couple of years and I have no idea how fast I could run one now if I warmed up properly. If I can get the first mile closer to 9 minutes I think I could finish under 25 minutes. I will have to put that to the test soon.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Video Gait Analysis

I had my first experience with video gait analysis today and the experience was totally cool (excuse the 80’s colloquialism – I can’t help myself).

Armed with my credit card, and my current running shoes, I headed out to my local running store, Front Running Sports in Lake Mary, Florida. The sales person first took a video of my feet while running in a neutral shoe on a treadmill and then let me watch it in slow motion. My pronation was slight but easily noticed. She then had me try on a pair of Brooks (Defiance, if I recall correctly) and had me run on the treadmill again. Watching the second video in slow motion I was truly amazed, the correction was instantly apparent. Armed with this knowledge she was able to recommend four different shoes from four different manufacturers, Saucony, Brooks, Asics and Pearl Izumi. I tried them all on and she encouraged me to take them outside for a test run.

I walked out of the store with a new pair of Asics Gel 1150’s, $20 under my budget, and very satisfied with my purchase. I am excited to try them out and will post a review after I have a few runs in them.

I had my pronation correctly diagnosed by a salesperson at another well respected store in the area several years ago and all of my shoe purchases since then have been based on that diagnosis. Without the benefit of the video analysis I was left with the impression that the diagnosis required some kind of voodoo magic. I am now much more confident about what I need in a running shoe.

I could tell even from the short run I took in front of the store that the source of the knee pain I have experienced over the past few weeks was my worn out running shoes.  I can't wait to get back to a regular running schedule.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Runners are Masochists

I have been alternating two pairs of running shoes over the past few months and managed to hit 300 miles in both of them at about the same time. Coincidentally, I also suddenly started to have pain in my right knee. Hmm, what could the problem be?

Could it be weak quads affecting the movement of my kneecap or is it maybe just worn out shoes?

I prefer to look at this as an opportunity to buy new shoes.

I delayed the decision to get new shoes for a couple of weeks, but did I stop running? Of course not. Did I at least cut back? Well now, I guess that depends on how you define “cut back.” I was about 5 miles short of my usual mileage last week, but I substituted the lower mileage with my first ever hill workout on Saturday and followed that up with a hard tempo run on Monday. Unfortunately, the pain in my knee has steadily increased with each run.

Instead of stopping, I responded with RICE and Motrin (minus the Rest part of the equation).

Undeterred, I hit the pavement again this morning determined to get in 8 miles but I made it only a few strides before I figured out it would be a really bad idea to continue. My knee would not be ignored today.

It’s going to be a few more days before I have time to get over to my local running store but those few days of rest are going to kill me. Intellectually, I know that the rest will be good for me. I have been training pretty hard for the past few months and even an entire week off will not significantly affect my fitness. But the mere thought of it has me bouncing off the walls already and it’s only been one day since my last run.

I vow to do the right thing. I will rest my knee and not run again in worn out shoes while I'm still having pain.

In the meanwhile, I think I’ll add some lunges and squats to my workouts to strengthen my quads. Just in case.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hills – in Florida?!?

And only 20 minutes from my home. Who knew?

One of my running goals for the summer was to get out of the neighborhood and find some routes to run that are both more challenging and stimulating than the loops I run every week. When I first started running I wanted to avoid having to drive to another location to run because I was afraid the inconvenience would give me an excuse to stay on the couch. I have moved beyond that stage now and the new challenge is to try to avoid the monotony and boredom of repeatedly running the same route.

I accomplished that this morning. I met up with a running group called the West Volusia Runners and together we tackled an infamously hilly course near Deland, Florida. I certainly found the challenge I was looking for. We had the option of running a 4 or 9 mile route through a beautiful neighborhood. I opted to go for 9 (and ended up doing 8 because I missed a turn). I had originally planned on doing 12 this weekend, but I have no regrets about missing those 4 extra miles. This course kicked my butt!

There were two hills near the end of the run that prove a sadist mapped this route. I confess that the steepest hill bested me and forced me to walk up the last half of the incline. Fortunately I was on my own at that point and no one spotted me walking. I hope no one from WVR is reading this ;-}. I’ll beat that hill next time.

The West Volusia Runners is a friendly and welcoming group. They have a lot of people training for races in the fall and some very experienced runners offering advice. It will make for a great summer of training.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Don’t Forget to Smell the Roses

I had a HUMID five mile run this morning. My first two miles were well off my usual pace so I decided to relax and just enjoy the run. I even stopped twice in the third mile (Gasp!) to snap a couple of pictures of the sunrise.

It cost me an extra minute, but I finished the run feeling great instead of being disappointed by a slower pace.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lessons Learned

After my flirtation with dehydration last weekend, I have been researching summer running strategies.

I read from several sources that runners should strive to limit their weight loss due to dehydration during a workout to no more than 2% of their total body weight.  For me that means 3 to 4 pounds. I have long been in the habit of weighing myself before and after each run and have noticed weight fluctuations of nearly twice that amount after weekend long runs. It’s obvious that I need to significantly increase my fluid intake.

Equally important is the replacement of electrolytes, particularly salt, during long runs. I believe that it was a deficit of electrolytes that caused me to bonk during what should have been an easy run for me last week. In a worst case scenario, hydrating solely with water can result in a condition called hyponatremia, a dilution of electrolytes in the body, that has caused deaths during marathons.

I applied these lessons to a 19 mile run I ran on Saturday in temperatures ranging from 71 to 80 degrees. Over the course of the 3 ½ hour run I consumed 82 ounces of fluids. I also inverted the ratio of Gatorade and water that I usually consume. Over the past few months I have been either drinking water alone or a combination of about 75% water and 25% Gatorade. This week it was 75% Gatorade and 25% water.

The result was a successful run completed without any walking. While I was tired at the end of the run, it was not even close to the exhaustion I felt after only 10 miles last week. I lost about 3 pounds, right on target with the 2% goal, and I only suffered some of the more minor symptoms of dehydration. While the volume of fluids was right on target, I think I will be able to cut back a little on the amount of Gatorade. Towards the end of the run it started to feel like I was drinking syrup. I also intend to check out other sources for electrolytes besides a sports drink.  I recently read a good recommendation for NUUN tablets over on the cool running forums.

It will take some experimentation to perfect these hydration strategies, but I think they will safely get me through the summer running season.