Sunday, September 3, 2017

August Numbers

Time marches on! August 2017 has come and gone, which means I have the usual ever-so-fascinating monthly numbers to post:

Runs:     15
Miles:    84.5
Long Run:    13.1
Races: 0
Bike Rides: 3
Miles:     60.2
Long Ride: 20.2

A vacation to Florida detracted from my numbers in July. In the heat and humidity, I managed only one 6-mile run while there (and zero bike rides, as I didn't bring my bike, nor did I have time or the inclination to rent one). The more re-focused on running I've become, the more cycling has taken a backseat in my training program, for better or worse. I'm hoping to keep one recovery ride per week in my schedule, but I've even sacrificed that in my tentative training schedule leading up to my half marathon in early October. I believe I only have two rides penciled in for September.

As I've been building my running base, I feel like I've actually gotten a bit slower. On an 8-mile easy run yesterday morning, I ran one of the miles at hopeful half marathon pace, and it didn't feel sustainable at all for a half. I'm hoping to pace it at 8:00 miles (I ran this one a bit fast, at 7:52). Granted, this was my third day in a row of running, starting with a hard mile time trial on a track.

Oh, tangent—I did finally satisfy my curiosity last Thursday, by running a mile on our local high school track. It was in the afternoon, so the temps were in the mid-80's, it was windy and smoky, from regional fires. Not the best conditions, but my patience finally ran out, and I just HAD to see where I'm at, speed-wise. Well, I wasn't where I was hoping to be. I ran a 6:36. I went out WAY too fast (1:30), then tried to hold on. I had no juice the last lap. I'll probably run another mile TT in a month or two, just to see if I've progressed.


My left knee and surgically repaired right hip are still holding up, even though I feel them from time to time. What's concerning me lately is my left hip. It has been quite sore between runs. I need to step up my game with the rolling, stretching and ice.


I've got two tune-up races this month, before my half in October. Both are 10k's (Sandpoint and ValleyFest). Neither are "A" races for me, so I don't have any solid time goals. I would like to run better than I did at the Chelanman 10k, back in July, so I guess sub-48 would be my goal.

All for now. Onward, running peeps!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review (and Running Book Library Update)

I just updated my long-neglected Running Book Library here on the blog. I'm currently sitting at 37 running-themed books, broken into two categories: training books and biography/autobiographies/novels.

I recently vacationed in Florida, and I always try to bring a new book with me to read on the plane (and while waiting at the airport, possibly on the beach, etc.) I searched on Amazon and decided to pick up Frank Shorter's book, My Marathon — Reflections on a Gold Medal Life, published by Rodale Books in 2016. As of this post, it's listed at just under $15 US on Amazon. Heck of a deal, IMO.

Any serious and/or long-time runner (especially if you're old, like me) is no stranger to Frank Shorter. He won the Olympic Marathon in Munich, Germany in 1972. He also won the Silver Medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics (read the account in the book to find out why he should have won the Gold), and he was a four-time winner of the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan. He's known as the Father of the Running Boom. His training mileage and intensity are legendary. He was a close friend & training partner to Steve Prefontaine, and was the last person to see him alive the night he tragically died.  

All of these topics, and more, are covered in good detail in the book. All very interesting and compelling stories. What was revelatory for me (even though it was already public knowledge) was the abusive childhood he endured. His father—a well-respected doctor in a small New York town—was a secret monster, who frequently beat his children (and worse). Frank goes into some depth (while not being explicit) about the fear that haunted him for decades, even up to his father's death in 2008. He claims that the pain he endured from his father's beatings made him a tougher runner. As sad as that is, I believe it.

Not only was Shorter the Father of the Running Boom, he also spearheaded the effort to bring about fair compensation to U.S. athletes, much like athletes from European & other nations were compensated. Prior to his efforts (and those of other fellow athletes, Steve Prefontaine included), American athletes could NOT be paid or compensated if they desired to remain amateur status, which was required to compete in the Olympic Games.

He was also instrumental in bringing doping issues to the forefront. From 2000 to 2003, Shorter was the chairman of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, a body that he helped to establish.

But, apart from all this, he really hasn't done much with his life ;-)

Kidding aside, this was a compelling book, and I highly recommend it. I started reading it during my lunch breaks prior to our vacation, and I nearly couldn't stop to save enough for the trip!

My next read will be Bill Rodgers book, Marathon Man, published in 2013. I'll review it as soon as I finish it.

Belated July Results

The month of August is nearly half over, and due to a recent vacation, I haven't been able to post my July training numbers. So, without further adieu...

Runs:     16
Miles:    100.1
Long Run:    12
Races: 1 (Chelanman 10k, Chelan, WA - 48:29, 12/112 overall, 2/5 AG)
Bike Rides: 6
Miles:     196
Long Ride: 56.6

I managed to hit a couple of milestones in July. It was my first 100 mile running month in nearly 4 1/2 years. I did a long run of 12 miles, which was the first time over 10 since August of 2010! While there are still some issues with my body I'm a little concerned about, I'll admit that I'm now a runner once again. I'm going to keep knocking on wood with crossed fingers, though.

The race I ran in Chelan was a spur of the moment decision (well, it was made a few days prior to the race). My friend Dan was doing the half ironman and suggested I come over to run the 10k. Despite a period of bad running, I decided to give it a go. I ended up running the slowest 10k I've ever run, and felt pretty lousy doing it. Still, I don't regret it. It was a fun weekend.

As alluded to earlier, a vacation earlier this month disrupted my training quite a bit. We spent a week in Florida, and I managed just one run while there. I plan on ramping up my mileage the rest of this month, and will start including some hill repeats to build strength. I won't be racing this month, but I have two 10k's on back-to-back weekends lined up for mid-September (one of them tentative). Then, my "A" race for the year, the Spokane Half Marathon will be on Sunday, Oct. 8th.

Now, to go off topic a bit. Last month, I shared my Don Rickles portrait story. This month, I'll share my Glen Campbell portrait story! Oh boy, a new celebrity every month! Don't worry, it won't become a trend.

As you may have heard by now, Glen Campbell passed away from Alzheimer's recently. I drew his portrait before that happened. With permission from his family, I'll be selling prints of the drawing, with 50% of the net proceeds going to his foundation, to benefit Alzheimer's awareness and research. If you're interested, check out my portrait website soon (I haven't posted the prints quite yet, but keep checking, they'll be up shortly).

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 7, 2017

June Numbers, and my First Race in over Four Years

June was a busy and memorable month. I continued to slightly increase my running mileage, I went to L.A., ran my first race in more than four years, and I met several celebrities.

First things first, the numbers:

Runs:     13
Miles:    75.2
Races: 1 (Summertime 10k, Santa Monica, CA - 46:19. 4th/50 overall, 1/3 AG)
Bike Rides: 5
Miles:     143.8

I took a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles the weekend of June 24/25th to attend an event I was invited to (more about that, below). I was fortunate to have a running & riding friend who lives in Redondo Beach, who invited me to stay with him and his wife. He retired young, and now trains daily (multiple times per day, usually), so needless to say, he's in amazing shape. The day I arrived there, he took me on a bike ride into the Palos Verdes area. We stuck with moderate climbs and avoided the intense hills. The next morning, we ran a small, casual race in Santa Monica. He ran the half marathon, while I chose the 10k.

Tom (left), with yours truly. Tom killed the half, with a 1:34!
It was a flat, fast course (out and back; twice for me, 3x for the half runners) on a paved trail next to the beach. My goal was to break 48 minutes. Much to my surprise, I came in at 46:19 (7:28 pace), good for fourth place overall. As I finished, someone handed me a 3rd place medal. I didn't learn I actually finished 4th until later in the day. My condolences to the man who missed out on his 3rd place medal ;-)

I smiled in nearly every race photo! I'm demented, obviously.
On Monday, Tom took me on a beach tour bike ride, up the South Bay. We ended up riding 40 miles.

It was a fun, active weekend, and Tom and his wife were very gracious to have me stay with them.

Now, to backtrack a little. An event that took place Sunday afternoon was the reason I flew to L.A. in the first place.

I have a side business, doing people and pet portraits (…in case you know anyone who might be interested ;-)

A few weeks after Don Rickles died, I decided to draw his portrait, on a whim.

It turned out well, so I sent a message through the Don Rickles website with a link to the portrait, thinking I’d probably never hear back. Well, I did get a reply from his publicist, who showed the portrait to Don’s wife Barbara. She loved it and wanted a copy. Then, she decided to display the portrait as a tribute at his memorial service in LA, and she invited me. There’s no way I could turn that down.

There were many celebs there. Several of them were admiring the portrait, taking pictures of it, and having their pics taken with it. At the reception, I felt a little lost, but eventually Barbara invited me to her personal table (with her family & close friends), and she would make a point to introduce me to each celebrity that would come up to talk to her. I handed out several promo booklets to them, too.

Don’s manager, Tony Oppedisano (“Tony O”) was also Frank Sinatra’s manager (and his best friend). He regaled me with crazy Sinatra stories more than once. I’m also now in business with him, selling prints of the portrait, with 50% of the proceeds going to their charity. He’s a riot and quite a character! Very NY/Italian Showbiz Manager stereotype, but a good guy. Every time he came up to me, I had just finished a glass of wine, and he'd say "What's the matter? Every time I see you, you're dry!"

With the lovely Barbara Rickles

With Don's manager, Tony Oppedisano ("Tony O")

Some of the celebs I either saw or met: Bob Newhart, Regis Philbin, Al Roker, Kathy Griffin, Sharon Lawrence, Jeff Ross, Tony Danza, Suzanne Somers, John McEnroe, Steve Lawrence, Al Michaels, Elliott Gould, Bob Saget, John Stamos, and more.

It was a surreal experience. Barbara went out of her way to be gracious to me. It’s a weekend I’ll never forget. She's commissioning me to draw her French bulldog, Chauncey, along with their daughter's dog.

So, a crazy month, indeed!

As I write this, July is well underway, and I'm trying to increase the running miles even more. My left knee is feeling a bit squishy, so I'll be monitoring that closely.

We're pushing 100°f here in Spokane this weekend, so all runs and rides have been early, out of necessity. Here's hoping everyone avoids heat exhaustion the rest of the summer!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Totals

Call me crazy, but time is accelerating more and more all the time. Or, I'm just getting old. Both, I think.

May has come and gone and, I'm happy to report, it was a very good training month for me.

I'll get the negative comments out of the way first. My left knee is still an issue. It's not stopping me from running, but I feel pain from time to time, especially running uphill. I actually feel it more when walking or hiking than when running. Also, my right heel (the injury that hit me after my 2010 marathon) is making its presence known. Like the knee, not enough to affect my running —yet— but enough to be an annoyance.

The hip, on the other hand, seems to be very gradually improving. I was a little worried a few weeks ago that I may have re-torn the labrum, due to how sore it was. But, based on how it's felt the last few weeks, I'm pretty sure it's fine.

On to the numbers. I hit a milestone last month. I ran not one, but two ten-milers in May! It was the first time I've done a double-digit run in 18 months. While neither felt perfect (nor easy), they were confidence builders. I came out of both runs unscathed, although the above mentioned heel wasn't too happy after the second one. I also threw in one fast mile during a 4 mile run a few days ago. It felt hard, but I thought I was closer to 7:30-7:40 than the 7:17 I ran it in.

I also started mixing in some climbs in the little bit of cycling I'm doing. Since the running seems to be going pretty well, cycling is being relegated to mere cross-training at this point. My current plan is for one or two rides per week, along with 3-4 runs, and at least one weights session.

Swimming? What the heck is that? ;-)

MAY 2017
  • Runs: 14
  • Run Miles: 69.5 (highest in over 4 years!)
  • Long Run: 10 mi. (twice)
  • Rides: 6
  • Ride Miles: 141.5
  • Long Ride: 36.7 mi.
I've got my eye on a few races later this year. I'm kicking around the idea of running a little 5k on Father's Day, but I may skip it. Not only do I not feel race-ready, I'm afraid it'll kick my brain into full-on race mode, and I'll get the bug and rush my training. There are a few local 5k's in July that might work. Beyond that, the two I'm seriously considering are a 10k in Sandpoint, ID in mid-September, and the Spokane Half Marathon on October 8th. That was my very first half marathon, back in 2009. It's a tough course, but it would be fun to revisit it and compare notes.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Double Digits

Well, whaddya know? I ran 10 miles this week! No, not my total for the week, but in one run. It's been almost exactly 18 months since I've done a double-digit run.

The verdict? Not guilty...of shutting me down. I felt a few aches during the run, but nothing terrible. In fact, my hip didn't hurt as much as it had been recently. The knee wasn't an issue, either. My right heel (the injury that shut me down for a long time after my marathon) has been making itself known, so I'm a bit worried about that. But the day after the run, my heel feels fine, for whatever that's worth.

I'll stick with the three runs per week for now, with two days of cross-training and two days of weight training. Seems like a solid plan for the foreseeable future. But...I am itching to add in a little speed work. Nothing like intervals, nor anything too intense. Maybe a couple of half mile surges during an otherwise easy run. I'm starting to feel like I'm in a pace rut, where most of my runs end up being run at very similar paces to one another.

So, for this guy who "officially" retired from running a few months ago, I guess I'm "officially" back. Fingers are still crossed, though. I've witnessed this body break down one too many times to get too comfortable with the idea of being all the way "back" as a runner.

But I'm cautiously optimistic.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Plan Going Forward

After nearly 5 months of training this year (or, "training to train," I'll call it), I've evaluated my progress and what the next few months may look like.

Instead of worrying about a goal race at this point, I've decided to focus on just rebuilding a base and staying injury-free. I've proved to myself that I can run once again, but I don't know to what extent just yet. The 16 miles I ran last week has been my high volume week so far this year. That's a far cry from where I was a few years ago. While I have zero expectations about getting back the previous levels (both in volume and speed), I'm going to very slowly and gradually build weekly volume, while continuing to cross-train on the bike, and—if I can force myself—in the pool. I also started strength training again last week, including some leg and hip work that will hopefully strengthen my surgically-repaired right hip.

Speaking of which, that hip has been aching quite a bit toward the end of my longer runs (8 miles, run twice the last 2 weeks). And today, 3 days after the latest long run, the back of my OTHER hip is hurting horribly. I'm planning on running with my club tonight, and I'm hoping I'll be able to make it. I don't know why it's hurting so much, but I do notice a little pain there during my last couple of long runs, too, although it's mostly pain in my lower left back, as opposed to the hip.

My left knee still isn't right, but running in Hokas seems to have alleviated the pain while running enough to not notice it that much now, thankfully. Still, every once in a while, I can feel it if I step a certain way (or while running uphill). Comes with the territory, I guess. I'd like to sell that territory. Any buyers?

My body has become like an old MG. Very high maintenance. Always something wrong with it.

Want to go for a ride? Hope you pick the right day!
And with that, I'm off to do a little stretching and rolling to see if that gets my "good" hip feeling run-worthy in a few hours...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spokane Valley Running Club

A few days ago, my curiosity led me to do a search for Spokane Valley running clubs on Facebook. Lo and behold, there IS a Spokane Valley Running Club. They meet by the Buffalo Wild Wings by the Valley mall every Monday night at 6pm to run 3-4 miles. After the run, they go to Hop Jack's for a beer or two.

Not knowing anyone, I showed up last night and ran with the group. There were 11 of us, and everyone ran their own pace. I ended up mostly running with a lady who runs close to my current pace. We finished 3.8 miles, averaging 8:50 per mile. Then we all (minus one) went to Hop Jack's for a beverage.

Due to some fairly recent physical concerns, I don't drink much beer anymore, but since I didn't know these folks, I thought it would be rude if I just ran with them, then left. So, I partook. A couple of Mack & Jacks and two hours+ later, I made my way home for a late dinner of Easter leftovers.

It was a fun group. Most were my age or a little older. I joked with a friend that they were a drinking club that also enjoyed running. I found out that some of them do several group runs per week, meeting with other clubs to run and...drink beer, of course. I don't think my kidneys NOR my wallet can handle that, so for now, I think one night a week will suffice.

I've never minded running solo, but sometimes it's fun to run & socialize with other runners. I miss my old Mill Creek Running & Multisport club. This club has quite a different vibe than my old club, but I'm looking forward to making a few new friends.

Spokane Valley Running Club. Yours truly on the left.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hokas For The Win?

If you've been following along at home for the past several years...I'm sorry. You're a glutton for punishment. But you also know that my running "career" has been a roller coaster, riding on rusting rails with no safety harness. I've had relatively uninterrupted periods of training, followed by debilitating injuries and down time. Sometimes I'm out of the game for a year or more at a time. I've officially given up on running more than once during the past few years. In 2015, I became a cyclist. I actually started enjoying it. However, one bad crash left me with a broken radius in my left arm, which required surgery to fix. Last year, I did very little endurance training. A bit of weight training, lots of walking, but only a couple of bike rides toward the end of the year, and barely any running.

This year, I decided to take a shot at triathlons, if and only if my body would allow the running.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this confirmed land mammal has mixed feelings about doing a triathlon (again, I most likely will do one, or more!), but the running is coming along much better than expected.

I'm convinced that one reason I'm able to run without as much knee pain is because of my change in footwear. Over a year ago, my friend Kenny turned me on to Hokas. I had heard about them, but never really considered giving them a shot. My first pair (which I still use) were the Hoka One One Bondi 3. The high level of cushioning was much more agreeable to my angry left knee than all the previous shoe models I had been rotating. After several runs in the Hokas, I did one run in a different brand I used to wear religiously, and the knee pain returned. That was enough to completely convert me.

I've recently added a pair of Hoka One One Clifton 2's to my rotation. I've only run in them once, but so far, so good.

There is still some slight knee pain (and my surgically repaired right hip still gets sore, but that's another story), but it's not enough pain to keep me from running through it. And, according to my orthopedist, an MRI I had on that knee over a year ago showed no cartilage or structural damage. So, as long as the pain isn't too great, I'll continue running on the mystery knee.

I'm still very cautious about celebrating my full return to running, and I'm taking it very slowly. No sudden mileage or frequency increases. But if I can very gradually rebuild frequency, mileage and intensity, who knows? (I'm NOT saying the "m" word!) I think cross-training will always be a necessity for me, even if the running progresses well.

So, maybe Hokas have helped me resurrect my running!

Fingers, toes & laces crossed...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It's Already April???

How can the first quarter of this year already be behind us? Wow!

Here are some March numbers, for any fellow stat geeks:

Runs: 10                                             (YTD: 22)
Miles: 45.6                                         (YTD: 90.6)
Rides (trainer): 4                              (YTD: 22)
Miles: 79.4                                         (YTD: 353)
Rides (outdoors): 2                          (YTD: 2)
Miles: 53.5                                         (YTD: 53.5)
Swims: 2 (Wow. More below)           (YTD: 12)
Yards: 2,000                                      (YTD: 22,600)

I'm still plugging along with my training, although my desires have shifted just a bit. Maybe I should say, my preferences are affecting my training.

First and foremost, I'm a pure runner at heart. It's what I've always loved to do. My body has stopped me in my tracks several times, but it's in my blood. My current "triathlon training" is built on the idea that I am no longer able to "just" run. One could also say that I'm training for a triathlon because I feel like I should. I'm not saying I do NOT want to do a triathlon, but it's certainly not a burning desire.

And that lack of burning desire centers, mostly, on swimming. I LOVE running, I ENJOY cycling, and I TOLERATE swimming. And that's being generous. I'm not sure I'd go as far as LOATHE, but it depends on the day.

I had a couple of really rough swims lately. The last one, I lasted 5 1/2 minutes and 300 yards before bailing on the workout. I was having trouble breathing, was dizzy and just didn't feel right. But even the swim before that was below par. I imagine some of this is mental, but I think I've been fighting some sort of respiratory infection lately, which seems to affect my swimming more than running or cycling.

I did manage to finally get the new bike outdoors twice toward the end of March. I rode 18.3 miles, finishing up a pretty tough hill, into a headwind, and 35.2 miles, ending with quad cramps in both legs on a gradual climb (had to call my wife for a rescue 2 miles from home, as the legs were done).

The running has been up and down, but surprisingly a bit more up than down lately. I spent a week in Maui in mid March, and managed 3 early morning runs that week, all close to 5 miles, and all close to 8:30/mi pace. Granted, they were flat as a pancake, but that pace was still a challenge. I've gradually increased my "long" run to 6 miles, running that either twice or 3 times so far. Today, I decided to push the pace and see where my fitness is. I ran 5k (3.1 miles) at exactly an 8:00/mi pace. It wasn't easy! My left knee and right hip are always an issue, but lately, they've both held up during runs, then ached between runs. I'm trying to get better about stretching and using the foam roller. I did both today right after my fast run.

So, I guess the question I need to ask myself is, do I move ahead with triathlon-specific training, doing the swim training I need, even though I'm not digging it, or do I focus more on mixing running and cycling and see where that leads? I had my sights set on the Troika Triathlon, on May 20th, but even if I get back to the pool in a serious way, I still don't think I'll feel ready to spend $85 (or more, plus a wetsuit) on an event I'm not prepared for. They do have a duathlon option, but I don't even feel ready for that!

There are more local triathlons later in the year, so I may wait to see what happens. If I can continue running (and increase the frequency and mileage) without too much pain, that will likely guide my ambitions.

But these days, I have to take each run/ride/swim one at a time, since I don't know what my body will do at any given moment.

Makes for some interesting training, that's for sure!

Be fit and have fun, my friends!