Saturday, January 30, 2010

Week & Month Wrap-Up

This has been an interesting week, running-wise. I've been in a bit of a funk the last couple of weeks, actually, feeling pretty run down. Yesterday I ran an "easy" 10-miler that ended up feeling anything but. In hindsight, I think a lot of how I felt during that run could be attributed to a Unisom hangover. I don't often take sleep aids, but I foolishly downed a TON of caffeine Thursday afternoon and KNEW I wouldn't sleep unless I medicated myself.

This morning I met, for the first time, with the Mill Creek Running Club (only online presence I know of is on Facebook). There's a 5:30 am group and now a 7:00 am group. I chose to run with the latter. There were 4 men and 3 or 4 women. Since I wasn't familiar with the course, I wanted to stay close to someone. I ended up getting caught in between the two lead guys and everyone else, so I did my best to keep the fast dudes in sight. I ended up running the 6.53 miles at 7:18 pace (nearly race pace, for me), which was much faster than I had hoped. My choice now is to either force myself to run slower when I run with them again, or re-arrange my week so my long run isn't the day before this run. Either way, it was fun to meet everyone and I look forward to running with them regularly (and drinking coffee afterward!)

Here's how the week played out:

Runs: 6
Miles: 36.5
Long: 10 mi

And the month:

Runs: 24
Miles: 162.1 (PR for monthly mileage)
Long: 13.1 mi
Races: Nookachamps Half Marathon - 1:41:22 (PR)

My long run should top out at about 15 miles in February, in my buildup toward my first marathon on May 15th. The only other race I currently have scheduled is the Mercer Island Half Marathon, on March 21st.

Here's to some great running in February!

Oh - I forgot to mention that I've agreed to join the Mill Creek Running Club team for the Ragnar Relay, in July (Blaine, WA to Langley, WA). Should be a hoot!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

When Recovery May Not Actually Be Recovery

Well, I think I may have done it. What is "it"? "It" refers to short-circuiting my "recovery week". This past week was meant to be an easy recovery week, after racing a half marathon last weekend and stringing together 5 straight weeks of over 40 miles per week. This week I ran 5 times for a total of 30 miles, all at an easy pace. Sounds like I backed off...and I did. But I think I let my ego get the best of me. Thirty miles in a week is indeed less than 40+, and as I mentioned, I ran everything at a slow recovery pace. However, this morning's 5.5 mile run revealed some fatigue and, afterward, a very sore right hip, which has been killing me all day. If I really wanted to "recover" this week, maybe 3 or 4 runs for a total of 15-20 miles would have been more appropriate. After all, before my string of 40+ mile weeks, I really hadn't been running a lot of miles per week (probably an average of 30).

Next week is my first official week of marathon training. My schedule calls for 35 miles with a long run of only 10 miles. Should be do-able, as long as my hip isn't seriously messed up.

So, as cliché as it sounds, remember to do what I should have done (especially this morning) - LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Ultra...In My Slippers

There's a saying that nobody wants to hear about your dreams unless they're in them. Well, unless you're my friend Arthur, you may want to move on.

But in case you're interested, last night I had a very realistic dream that I was running my first ultramarathon - a 50k, somewhere on the east side of the Puget Sound area (i.e. Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, etc.), while wearing my slippers! It was a terribly muddy course, which ran directly through a soccer field (with a game underway), through a school's hallways, up a huge muddy hill, and through both neighborhoods and wilderness areas. I was trying to stick with the group of runners I was with (including Arthur), but ended up spending too much time at an aid station, chatting with volunteers and forgetting I was in a race, and got left behind. I was worried about getting lost on the course, but then realized that the race directors had marked the course with a thin chain laying on the ground...the entire length of the race! I was able to follow it and finish the race feeling hardly any fatigue. That alone proves it was only a dream!

I don't know what this means, but at least I know I can complete an ultra in my dreams!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nookachamps Half Marathon

This morning I ran the Nookachamps Half Marathon in Mt. Vernon, WA. The skies were clear and temperatures were in the upper 30's by race time - perfect conditions! I've struggled with some kind of chest cold the last few days and took two days off before today's race. Before the race, I felt pretty decent, but still not as strong as I usually do. I think I get these little "mini colds" when I'm borderlining (is that a word?) on over-training. I've also run a few too many times in the pouring rain lately.

As for the race, it started at 10am. It was a crowded start, as the 5k, 10k and half marathoners all started together. The runners in the shorter races turned off the main road early in the race, opening up the course nicely. The roads weren't closed to traffic, so even though we occasionally had a motorized escort, we had to keep an eye on passing cars. Due to the crowded start, my first mile was very slow...but that played right into my plan of going out slowly. I then settled into a rhythm for several miles. The course was primarily flat, with the exception of a nice hill at around mile 6 and an even longer hill starting at about mile 10. I wore my hydration belt, drank Heed and ate one caffeinated gel (which gave me a nice kick later in the race).

I thoroughly enjoyed this race for a number of reasons. First, after several days of clouds and rain, the weather was perfect. Second, once I started running, I found that I had more strength and energy than I had the previous two days. Third, this is the first road race I can remember in which NO ONE passed me the entire race! I didn't count how many people I passed, but I would guess around 40 or so. That leads me to believe I ran within myself and didn't go out too fast. Fourth, I managed to get a PR by nearly a minute! This was my third half marathon (my first one was last October) and in just three months, I managed to improve my time by nearly 3 minutes. I know I won't get a PR every time out, but I'm thrilled with my progress and even more anxious to run my first full marathon in May.

It was also nice to see some familiar faces there - Terry, who is the RD of the Skagit Flats Marathon (which I may run this Fall), Scotty, who I first met while volunteering at the Ron Herzog 50k, and Bill, who I first raced against at the Fowl Fun Run 10k, back in November. In that race, Bill and I ran together for the last 2 miles. He then out-kicked me to beat me at the end. Today, I passed him soundly on the uphill during mile 10 and ended up beating him by three minutes and change. He just moved up to the 60-64 age group. Am I proud of beating a guy 17 years my senior? Heck, yes! No shame here. He managed to place third in his age group today, so he's a good runner and a very nice guy.

So, finally, my finishing time was: 1:41:22 (7:41 average pace, according to my Garmin)

Here are my splits:

Mile 1: 8:28
Mile 2: 7:36
Mile 3: 7:46
Mile 4: 7:47
Mile 5: 7:47
Mile 6: 7:50
Mile 7: 7:32
Mile 8: 7:31
Mile 9: 7:31
Mile 10: 7:27
Mile 11: 8:00 ("The Hill")
Mile 12: 7:28
Mile 13: 7:07
Last .1: [7:02 pace]

I was surprised to have a 7:07 mile in me for the last full mile. I'm becoming much more comfortable with this race distance and pacing myself accordingly. This was a well organized race on a very beautiful & scenic course, mostly on country roads. I look forward to running this one again next year.

I'll post placing results when they're available.

Next up - the Mercer Island Half Marathon on March 21st.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Shoe Wear

The above photo shows the bottoms of my Brooks Defyance 2 running shoes (pair "A", which is nearing retirement, at 480+ miles. Click on the photo for a closer view). I've been noticing the uneven wear patterns between the left and right shoes (switched in the photo). There are several areas that aren't the same, but I've circled the spot with the most obvious wear pattern differences. I had no idea this was happening. Furthermore, I don't really know what this means, technically speaking. It looks like my right foot rolls straight forward, while my left either lifts up early, or pronates more to the outside. If it's the latter, it certainly doesn't show more wear to the outside of the left shoe than the right one does. I really need to get videotaped while running on a treadmill and watch a slow-motion video to see just what I'm doing. Fortunately, I haven't suffered serious injuries because of this. It could be a leg-length issue, a hip alignment issue...who knows? If anyone reading this has similar wear pattern discrepancies, please let me know - especially if you know what is causing it. Like I said, I'm not really alarmed. Just curious.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Yesterday, I mentioned a few possible injuries that were coming on. One was my left hip/glute. I think I know what the deal is there. I bowl on a league on Thursday nights. Due to the holidays, we had two weeks off. With my "delivery", I place a lot of stress on that left hip and glute and, after bowling Thursday night after the two weeks away, I'm sore from it. Once that realization hit me last night, as I was stretching, it was a big relief. As for my calf and IT band, they feel good this morning (after alternating ice and heat on them last night). I'm taking today off from running and will run short and slow tomorrow to see how they feel.

Come on body, don't fail me now!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Uh Oh

I hinted in my previous post that my body has been giving me signs I just don't wanna read. My mind is writing checks my body don't wanna cash. My synapses are sending signals my legs don't wanna translate...etc.

I went out for an easy-paced 12 mile run today. The first 6 miles were in pouring rain. I got drenched to the bone. During the last few miles, my left hip and glute (just behind the hip joint) got really tight and sore. It actually affected my ability to push off with my left leg. I was also feeling some tweaks from the outside of my right knee, just below, actually (probably the ol' IT band issue). And, after the run, my upper right calf (which I've been feeling for several days now) felt really sore, like a minor muscle pull. I've run 50.5 miles in the last 7 days, which, for me, is high mileage. I don't necessarily think the mileage is the issue, though. I believe the 10-mile tempo run I busted out two days ago, wearing my new Brooks Launch (i.e. less support) may have contributed to the problems.

Instead of an early 1-hour group run tomorrow morning, I'll take tomorrow as a rest day and see how things feel on Sunday. With a half marathon coming up on Jan. 16th, I don't want to risk making things worse. And with my first full marathon coming up in May, now is the time to make the necessary adjustments in order to avoid injuries, if possible. I've been fortunate the past year by not really getting injured. Now that I'm pushing things, here come the reminders that a little cross training may come in handy, as well as backing off every few weeks, even during this base building period.

Fingers crossed...

No Harm, No Foul...But Plenty of Fowl

Before the holidays (going back to Thanksgiving), I was weighing in at 146 lbs. Yesterday, my first official post-holiday weigh-in, I tipped the scales guessed it! 146 lbs. The only explanation I can give is the increase in running mileage, because it CERTAINLY isn't from being "good", from an eating perspective. This week will be my fourth straight week of 40+ miles of running, which is the first time I've ever managed that modest feat.

Speaking of that, my body is feeling a tad beat up this week. I ran a 10-mile tempo run on Wednesday, which I probably should have run at an easy pace. I'm running a slow 12-miler today, then meeting tomorrow morning at 5:30am for a 1-hour group run. Should total about 44 miles for the week. My mission is to gradually get my weekly mileage up over 50 within the next couple of months. If I can top out at 60 without getting injured, I'll give that a go, too. I want to have as much base as possible going into my marathon in May.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When Two Worlds Collide

As you may or may not know, I'm a freelance illustrator in real life. Have been for 15 years, full-time. I've been a runner, off and on, for longer than that...much more "on" lately! Well, finally, I landed an illustration gig related to my passion. I'll be illustrating the front and back covers of a running book. The publisher had narrowed down the choices to me and another illustrator. They chose me since I'm a runner. Very cool! The running is finally paying off with more than just health, fitness, faster race times and endorphins! Due to an NDA, I can't disclose the book or the publisher, but I'll post the info once the book has been released.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Think you can't run in really cold temperatures? Kudos to these ladies for running 16 miles in -18 degrees Farenheit, in Fargo, ND! Notice what happens to their hair & eyelashes.

Shoe Rotation

Here's a shot of my current running shoe rotation. From left to right (and from highest mileage to lowest): Brooks Defyance 2 (pair "A"), Brooks Cascadia 3, Brooks Defyance 2 (pair "B"), Brooks Launch. Pair "A" of my Defyance 2's is just about ready for retirement.
Love 'em all!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Keys To 2009's Running Resurrection

Before I get into a LONG post, here's how last week shaped up:

Runs: 5
Miles: 40.7
Time: 6:23:12
Races: 1 (Last Chance 1/2 Marathon - 1:42:17)

Okay, with apologies for the length, here are the...


Since this was the first year since 1984 that I have run every month for an entire year (yikes), I felt like I should summarize what seemed to work in keeping me out there and in one piece. They are, in no particular order:

1. Shoes
For the last several years (the years in which I actually ran), I wore a heavy stability/motion-control shoe. I still have yet to go and officially get my gait analyzed, but after doing my own research online, and with the help of my ultra-running friend Arthur, I learned that what I really needed was a neutral shoe. In fact, the stability, motion-control shoe was probably just the OPPOSITE of what I needed! Wearing the wrong shoe was likely the key factor in ending my running attempts in previous years. I have also worked on increasing my turnover rate, shortening my stride and landing more mid-foot than heel-striking.

2. Stretching
Some up-front honesty here: I hate stretching. But this year, I've tried to be consistent about it. It's a pretty short routine, and I don't strain, but it really seems to help. I stretch my lower back, hips, hamstrings, calves, glutes, quads…but I really focus on my hips/hip flexors and IT bands, which are chronic problem areas for me. I also incorporate a couple of core strengthening poses into my routine. I try to stretch every night, but it ends up being around 4 nights per week. I work on holding each stretch no more than about 5 seconds each, done in a series of repeats.

3. Starting very slowly / being patient
In past years, whenever I'd "get back into running", I thought I was taking it nice and easy. Then, within a few weeks' time (or sooner), I'd be hobbled by injuries. This time, I decided to shut down my ego and REALLY start slowly. For the first two weeks of my "running resurrection" this year, I ran three times a week for a TOTAL of 4 MILES! And for the first five weeks, I totaled no more than 7.5 miles per week. Having been a runner before, I'm sure I could have gone out and run 3-4 miles at a time, even when just getting back into it. But I intentionally held myself back, trying to think like a brand-new runner, running much less than I even thought I should. This gave my body time to gradually adjust. I wanted to be sure I was focused on becoming a long-term runner, not trying to get it all back at once. It probably wouldn't have been a bad idea to mix running and walking for those first few weeks, actually.

4. Foam roller
Having been away from running for a few years, I wasn't familiar with the foam roller. I was introduced to it by my friend Brandon, via his podcast. It has been probably the number 1 key to keeping my IT band problems in check. It hurt like crazy the first few times I used it, but it was worth the temporary pain. There are some good videos on youtube on how to properly use a foam roller.

5. Ice baths
Now THESE are loads of fun! I fill the tub up to seated belly-button level, then dump in all the ice from my freezer's ice maker. I then sit, au naturel, in the ice water for 12-15 minutes, with the bathroom heater cranked, drinking hot tea and listening to my iPod. For most of the year, ice baths were a pretty regular routine for me after speed work or a long run. I actually got to where I enjoyed them. They really seemed to help reduce soreness, swelling, and speed recovery. Just make sure to warm yourself up afterward, or you can risk hypothermia.

6. Cross training / strength training
To be honest, my fitness quest of 2009 started with the intention of training for the bike leg of a triathlon (as part of a relay team). Early in the year, I began riding on my indoor trainer. At the same time, I started wondering if I could also do a bit of running to supplement the cycling. When the running started to "click", and my intense love for running came back, I actually had trouble staying focused on the bike training. But I really do believe that they complimented each other - especially early on, when I was probably more prone to injuries just getting back into running. Since the August triathlon, my biking has tailed off (I haven't ridden since mid-September), and my running mileage has increased. Even though I'd prefer to just run, I know that it would do me well to add back in at least one day a week of indoor or outdoor cycling.
As for strength training, I honestly don't do enough. Currently, I do a short weightlifting routine one day per week, with some miscellaneous calisthenics (pullups, pushups, sit-ups, dips), thrown in randomly throughout the week. I focus on compound exercises (using more than one joint). I don't lift heavy, and I don't do a lot of sets (2 per exercise). I would like to lift weights twice per week, ideally, as I know I could use the additional strength.

7. Running my easy runs easy and my recovery runs VERY slowly
Man, have I ever been guilty of NOT doing this in the past! Most of my runs were done at very similar paces. My "easy" runs were borderline tempo runs, and I NEVER did true "recovery" runs. Now, with the help of a heart rate monitor (and Garmin Forerunner 305), I do my easy runs at a pace of roughly 1 to 1.5 minutes slower than my current 10k race pace, and my recovery runs at a pace of roughly 2 to nearly 3 minutes slower than 10k race pace. There is a lot of info online regarding the benefits of recovery runs, so I won't get into it here, but suffice it to say, I've been able to run faster on my fast days and stronger on my long days due to adding in some shorter and slower recovery runs in between, which help to bridge the gaps between key workouts without taxing my system.

8. Weight control
I've never had a problem with weight in my entire life. No, I take that back. I've had trouble keeping weight ON at times. There, I said it. Please don't hate me. For some reason, even at the age of nearly 43, I have a very high metabolism. That being said, my mission at the beginning of 2009 was to get down to my "race weight" by mid summer. I did alter my diet somewhat, cutting out most sweets, eating half sandwiches, instead of whole, for lunch. Not having ice cream every night (*sniff*). In combination with the running and cycling, the weight started to fall off quickly. I dropped about 18 pounds and had to actually put on the brakes since I was losing TOO MUCH weight. I've since gone back to a more normal diet (okay, I've gotten lazy with my diet during the holidays), and am still maintaining what I would consider my marathon race weight. As long as I can keep my strength and health at the weight I'm currently at, it does seem to make a huge difference. I really noticed it when the initial pounds fell off. I was much lighter on my feet while running and bounded up the stairs in my house much easier than before. But as I eluded to, my challenge is to make sure I take in enough calories to stay at my current weight - especially as I increase my weekly mileage even more while training for a marathon.

9. Online running community
Before I got back into running in 2009, I really had no idea there was a whole "blogosphere" of runners online. That, plus numerous running-related podcasts (several of which I now listen to regularly). Not only has it been fun to interact with runners from around the country & world, it has also been very educational for me. Most of these folks are just regular age-group runners & triathletes that have no hidden agenda and are very open to sharing their experiences and talking about what has and hasn't worked for them in terms of training and equipment. Great stuff! And on top of that, keeping a blog myself has helped keep me motivated and accountable.

10. Attitude
While I have loved running since I first started back in 1983, I also grew resentful of it, mostly as a defense mechanism. Okay, I know that sounds like I'm ready to lie down on a shrink's couch, so let me explain. In past years when I'd get back into running, I'd run for a few weeks or (if I was lucky) a few months before either overtraining or injuring myself. I'd then get mad at running, I guess, so I wouldn't miss it so much (okay, maybe I do have "issues". Hello, Dr. Phil?). I repeated that pattern over and over, until finally, a few years ago, I decided that I just couldn't run anymore. I was done. I let go of it in my mind (or I thought I did). Now, since I SO FAR (knock on wood) have been able to get out there and stay out there for an entire year, I cherish and am thankful for every single run, and don't take any of it for granted. Yes, that's cheesy, but it's honestly how I feel about it. I didn't realize how much I missed running, and how much a part of me it really is. I know there's no guarantee that I can keep doing it. Heck, back in 1997, an MRI on my right knee showed that I have degenerative cartilage and a partially torn meniscus. And that was about 2600 miles ago. So who knows if I'll hold up. But as long as I can run, I will. And I'll enjoy it all! And by the same token, if the wheels fall off somewhere along the way, I need to not panic. I'll simply back off, regroup, figure out what went wrong, address the problem(s), and slowly rebuild, rather than throw in the towel, like I used to always do.

Problem areas:

1. Immune system & lungs
I seem to have some problems with my lungs. They often feel tight and full of junk. No, not just when I have a cold, but for weeks (sometimes months) at a time. I don't know if it's allergies or if I have mild asthma. And I also seem to be pretty proficient at getting my immune system to walk a tightrope fairly often. There was a period earlier this fall in which I seemed to get one cold after another. Maybe this is common among runners, but it's pretty frustrating and disruptive to training.

2. Learning what my body can handle
And that leads into this topic. I'm still struggling to learn how to improve my endurance and speed while not overtraining and/or getting sick (aren't we all). Even after all of my "insightful" words & thoughts above, I'm struggling with some of the same issues as before. My right IT band often reminds me that it's still there, and there are days where I feel pretty fatigued overall. As I mentioned, I haven't cross-trained in a few months and I'm starting to ramp up my running mileage in preparation for marathon training (my first marathon will be on May 15th of 2010). I've also recently done some pretty intense (for me, anyway) speed work lately. I will be backing off on that as I build my mileage, so maybe that will take care of some of these warning signs I'm starting to see again. And perhaps substituting a recover run per week for some time on the bike trainer would be smart, too.

Plans for 2010:

1. Continue building an aerobic base
Since I'm currently training for my first marathon, I'll be continuing my mileage increase in an attempt to build a big base. I'll eventually add in a bit of speedwork as the race approaches (May 15th), but my main concern is to get in the mileage and long runs. The few races I have scheduled leading up to the marathon will also act as speedwork.

2. Run more trails
Eventually, I'd like to get into running ultras…but even before I do, I want to spend more time running on trails. It'll help strengthen my legs and core, and will be a nice change of pace from the pounding on the pavement. Plus, their beauty FAR surpasses the scenery of houses & cars that normally accompany neighborhood runs.

3. Avoid injuries and illness
This is EVERY runner's goal, and pretty much goes without saying…but it's a trap I seem to find a way to fall into. For me, it's an ego check most of the time. The injuries and illness usually happen because I'm pushing too hard. I'm already learning that backing off on the pace most of the time will make me a better and faster runner. If I can keep that reality check fresh in my mind, I'll stay healthy much more than I have in the past.

I've probably rambled enough, but since I named this blog The Resurrected Runner, I thought I'd share some of the things I believe have helped me to keep running relatively healthy and injury-free all year and, hopefully, several years to come. And this was a great reminder for me of what I need to continue doing to meet that goal!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a very Happy New Year, and here's hoping you success in achieving all your running goals in 2010!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Recap

Man, did 2009 fly by or what?! They go by faster every year.

While it may have been a challenging year for me (and many others) business-wise, 2009 was a breakthrough year for me physically. If you're familiar with this blog and my "story", you know that I gave up on running a few years ago - for I thought. I'll elaborate on this year's journey back to running in a future post. Here, I just want to summarize the numbers. they are!
  • # of runs – 164
  • Miles run – 825
  • Time run – 117:09:18
  • Avg. mile pace – 8:32
  • Avg. heart rate - 138
  • Longest run – 15 mi. (Dec.)
  • Highest week – 42 mi. (Dec.)
  • Highest month – 159 mi. (Dec.)
  • # of races – 7 (incl. bike leg of triathlon)
  • 5k - 1 (22:20)
  • 10k - 3 (44:59 / 44:06 / 44:47)
  • half marathon - 2 (1:44:04 / 1:42:17)
  • Bike Rides (outdoors) – 32
  • Cycling Miles (outdoors) – 820
  • Cycling time – 50:03:36
  • Avg. MPH – 16.4
  • Cycling rides on indoor trainer – 21
  • Time on trainer – 20:55:00
  • Miles (estimated) on trainer – 332
  • Total injuries – 4 (only 2 running-related)
  • Total illnesses – 5
  • Total PR's – 3
  • Most miles run/month (159 - Dec.)
  • Longest running streak (19 days - Dec.)
  • Half Marathon (1:42:17 - Dec.)
That should be enough numbers to make your head spin (I'm a bit geeky about keeping track of my running stats, obviously).

Soon, I'll post about what I believed were the keys that allowed me to run pretty much injury-free (despite my history of chronic injuries) for the entirety of 2009.