Monday, November 27, 2017

A Sherpa in Arizona

On November 19th, my friend Dan competed in the Ironman Arizona, in Tempe. A couple of months prior to that, he asked me to join him down there to help, or to be his "sherpa." I gladly agreed.

Dan and I met back in 2010, when we both ran with the Mill Creek Running & Multisport Club, in Mill Creek, WA (just north of Seattle). I was training for my first (and only, so far) marathon, and he had recently begun training for running and triathlon races. At that time, our running paces were similar (now, he's MUCH faster than me). We're the same age (well, he's 3 weeks older than me, and I don't let him forget that) and we have that, and other things, in common, so we get along pretty well. Unlike me, he has managed to avoid major injuries over the years. Also, unlike me, he has become damn fast in all three triathlon disciplines.

He has completed 4 Ironman distance races, and has had a pretty good training year in 2017, so he decided to take a shot at qualifying for Kona (the Ironman World Championships, held in Kona, Hawaii in October). Since Arizona tends to be a fast course, he signed up shortly after a tough race at the final Ironman Coeur d'Alene, in late August (where I also acted as his sherpa, since I live 30 minutes from there.)

View from our first uninhabitable crash pad

We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday, Nov. 16th, stayed one night in an Air BnB (an old motel, not a house), had to bail due to a horrible smell (like they overdid the air freshener to hide a nasty, rotting odor), and luckily relocated to a very nice Hilton, about 2.5 miles from the race start.

The weather was about what one would expect this time of year: chilly mornings and evenings, but sunny, warm days with highs in the low-mid 80s.

Saturday was bike check-in day, explore Ironman Village day, and practice swim in the murky lake day. Dan described it as swimming in a cup of coffee.

We ran part of the run course together on Friday, after a morning swim at a very nice outdoor pool in Scottsdale. Race morning came very early (for me, anyway, who isn't as much of an early riser as Dan is). We got up at quarter past four, got ready, got our coffee from the lobby (no continental breakfast THAT early), and found free parking in a large indoor parking garage not far from the race start.

Blurry. That's how I felt at 5 in the morning.

Pre-dawn in Tempe

It was just below 50°f when we arrived. Ironman Village was a zoo, as expected. With over 3,300 participants, plus hundreds of volunteers and thousands of family, friends & spectators, I would guess there were close to 10,000 people all crammed into a relatively small area. Security was tight, so I wasn't able to help as much as I had hoped with his gear. After taking care of a couple of preparatory tasks, like topping off the air in his tires, he gave me his backpack and tire pump. I wished him good luck, and he was off to the swim start area.

Do you see Dan? He's the one in the green cap...
The swim area was incredibly crowded. I managed to find Dan before he put on his swim cap, but lost him when I took this pic. Being a very fast swimmer, he was in this 1 hour group (it was a rolling start). At 6:50am, they were off.

Dan exited the water with a very nice 59 minute swim leg (2.4 miles), putting him 2nd in his division (50-54). Going with the averages over the last few years, he would need a top 3 age division finish to lock up a Kona slot. So far, so good.

Dan leaving T1

The bike leg was three out-and-back laps, on a relatively flat course. As I tracked his splits, I saw that they were all over the place. Some of them relatively slow (~17 mph), others insanely fast (28 mph). I found out later that the headwinds on the way out were brutal and unrelenting.

Dan, after 1 lap (37 miles)

I hiked up to the top of Hayden Butte (a large hill right in town) and was able to witness both part of the bike leg, and the brutal wind (you can hear it in this clip):

Just east of the bike turn around
After a 5:27 bike leg (20.6 mph avg) and a 5:15 transition, Dan headed out for the marathon. It was now in the low 80's, with no shade on the run course.

Because swimming 2.4 miles, then cycling 112 miles isn't enough...

Despite his apparent slow start out of T2, Dan made it to the first run checkpoint (2 miles) running at about a 7:20/mile pace. That was faster than he was planning. He was a bit behind pace for his 10 hour race goal, but I didn't know at the time just how much the bike leg had cooked his legs. His paced slowed over the next several miles, although he was still averaging about 8:30/mi pace through the first six or seven miles. Gradually, he was forced to walk/run, then finally just walk. I kept waiting to see him arrive at checkpoints on the tracker, and he would be several minutes late to each. At first, I thought it was a glitch in the app. Alas, he made it to the half marathon point (where I was waiting) and called it a day. Disappointed, yes, but after a very solid effort on a tough day. He could have finished the race, but this was a "Kona or Bust" effort for him, so there was no point in walking another half marathon just to get a medal.

Consolation beers

He claims he's done chasing the Kona dream (I'm skeptical), but he is going to give the full ironman distance a rest for a while, and will focus on more speed for shorter races.

We both flew out of Phoenix on Monday, tentatively leaving the warm sun behind.

I've learned that never saying never is a good idea, but I'm almost positive that I shall never do a full ironman race, for a number of reasons. I'm quite content with the vicarious, yet inspired, life of an Ironman Sherpa.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spokane Half Marathon

"As I ran toward the finish line, I started thinking about how, just a few years ago, I thought my running days were over, and about how much I really love running. I got a big, goofy grin on my face and pumped my fist as I ran across the line and into the chute."

-Me, Oct. 2009

That was from my race report from the 2009 version of the Spokane Half Marathon, which was the first half I ever ran, but I could have just as easily written the same about my race last Sunday (although, I didn't have the grin & fist pump this time around).

I have to admit, I'm losing count of how many "I thought my running days were over" proclamations I've made in my life. I suppose I should leave them in the past, because I somehow keep returning to the scene of the crime, as it were.

So, yes, I just finished the Spokane Half Marathon, my first half marathon since 2010 (and, as I said, a repeat of my first half in 2009), and...they still hurt. But I still love the distance. And this course, while the toughest half marathon course I've ever run, is enjoyable both for its scenery, and the challenge. But, let's be honest — the hills SUUUUUCK! They were every bit as tough as I remembered them. 

The race started at 9:00am on a PERFECT day. Clear as a bell, and about 45°f at start time. My goal (as usual) was to go out slow and hopefully have enough juice for the last few miles of the race. I did go out slow the first mile, but when the downhill stretches showed up, I decided to not put on the brakes and just let gravity do its thing. I ended up passing a lot of people on the downhills. It took a few miles to feel like I was in the groove, but I never felt peppy. At the start of mile 7, my average pace was about 8:03 per mile. I knew I was over my head, but I didn't feel overextended. I adjusted my plan mid-race and decided that, if I could arrive at the base of Doomsday Hill with an 8:10 average pace, I might be able to hold on for my goal of a sub-1:50 finish. Sure enough, with Doomsday in sight, my Garmin said I was pacing at 8:09, so up I went. SLOWLY. I never stopped to walk (as much as I was tempted to), but I'm pretty sure I was over 9:00/mi pace going up much of that monstrosity. I knew that I had to still be sub-8:20 pace by the time I reached the top, or I wouldn't be able to hit my goal. Fortunately, I had only dropped to 8:14s. However, that hill destroyed me. I didn't have much left in the tank, and there were still 4 miles yet to race. I tried to find an 'auto-pilot' mode and hang on. But my calves had zero push-off power left, and my hip flexors were fried. I knew there was one short, but steep, uphill left, about a quarter mile from the finish. I trudged up it (even walked for about 10 seconds), went around a couple of corners, then "sprinted" (ha!) to the finish line. The medals seem to be getting nicer in races these days (maybe the participants are asking for nicer medals?), and there was a free race photo (below) afterwards, which was nice. Food was plentiful (pizza, fruit, nuts, donuts, chocolate milk, etc). Once finished, I could tell my calves were very close to cramping. Thankfully, I had parked close to the finish line (which was about 1/2 mi from the starting line). I walked to my truck to get my phone, and as soon as I tried to climb in, my left calf cramped horribly, and I let out a loud scream. I'm surprised the authorities didn't come running!

Fake smile, through the fatigue and sweat

Here were my results:

Chip Time: 1:47:36
Avg. Pace: 8:13
Avg. HR: 148
Elev. Gain: 620' (I've seen higher on Strava)
Overall finish: 91/498
Males: 56/198
Age Group (50-54): 4/18

Yes, I just missed an age group award. I was honestly surprised to get 4th. I was just hoping for top 10. The number of runners was down this year, for some reason.

Incidentally, of the 6 half marathons I've run, this was my slowest, by several minutes. Yet, it was probably my most satisfying, given all the garbage my body has been through the last couple of years.

That was my "A" race for the year, so aside from a low-key 5k or 10k between now and the end of winter, I'll just be doing a lot of base training. Mostly outdoors, I hope. Man, I hate winter more every year...

Monday, September 25, 2017

Another 10k Race Report

My second 10k race in as many weeks happened yesterday (Sunday, Sept. 24th). The ValleyFest 10k, which also included a 5k and a duathlon, started at Plante's Ferry park, in Spokane Valley, WA at 8:00am. It was clear and chilly, but not unpleasantly so. No gloves needed this week. There were several members of the Spokane Valley Running Club there (my club, although I haven't run with them much lately), all but me running the 5k.

After starting in the park, the race was run entirely on the Centennial Trail (a paved walking/running/cycling trail, mostly along the Spokane River). It was an out-and-back course, both for the 5k and the 10k. The turnaround for the 5k was spot-on, distance-wise, but the 10k turnaround point was a bit short. According to my Garmin, the race was 5.83 miles long, rather than 6.2 (or, 6.21, to be precise!)

Due to some downhills in the first mile, I went out a bit quick (7:20), then settled into my current 10k race pace (between 7:30 and 7:45/mile). After the 5k turnaround, the amount of racers ahead of me dwindled to two. The leader had a significant lead, but the person ahead of me—a youngish gal—was only 10-20 feet ahead. After the turnaround, I let her have that lead, but I gradually closed the gap (she was slowing), so at about 3.5 miles, I picked up the pace to "pass with authority," as I was taught by my high school cross-country coach. After another half mile, I backed off the pace a tad. Once I reached the last mile, I knew I had to climb back up the hills that helped my pace at the start of the race. There were two of them, and I wanted to walk on both of them. But I chugged ahead and finally spotted the finish. Originally, I was given third place, but as of the edited results posted today, I was officially second (as I thought, when I finished). Even though my time wasn't fast enough to even place in my age group in a large race, I'll gladly take a medal for a rare 2nd overall finish in a small race.

Time: 44:35 (although they gave me a 44:40 officially)
Pace: 7:39 (based on a 5.83 mile race)
Place: 2nd of 47
AG: no results
Gender: no results

Young guy: 2nd in the 5k. Old guy (yours truly): 2nd in the 10k

It was a fun little race. I may do it again next year.

So the short, "speedy" races are over for the year. Now, it's time to get ready for my 'A' race, the Spokane Half Marathon, in less than 2 weeks.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Another 10k, Then Another...

Last Sunday (Sept. 17th), I ran my third 10k of the year. It was in beautiful, scenic Sandpoint, Idaho. It was called, coincidentally, the Scenic Half & 10k. My speedy friend Dan drove to my place in Spokane Valley, spent the night, then we arose at o-dark-thirty for the 75 minute drive up to Sandpoint. It was a fairly small race, with the 10k field being 128 runners, and the half with 308 finishers. There was still some smoke lingering in the very cool air (under 40°f at race time), but it was a sunny, dry day.

Dan and the rest of the half marathoners started at 8:00am, and us wimpy 10k runners at 8:15. The 10k course was a pretty flat (my Garmin gave it 107' of elevation) out-and-back affair, mostly on the bridge extending over lake Pend Orielle (pronounced "Pond O-Ray" for you non-locals). My watch said I was running at about 7:10 pace for the first few hundred feet, so I dialed it down and settled into about a 7:45-7:50 per mile pace.

I've been fighting a cold or some kind of chest congestion, which—combined with the smoke—made it harder than usual to breathe. Who knows how much that affected my time, but I'm pretty sure I could have clipped several seconds off my finish time without those issues.

I ran the first couple of miles with two other guys who looked to be in my age group (one of them was, I verified later), but I gradually pulled away from them. At mile 4, another middle-aged guy pulled even with me, not breathing as hard as I was, then gradually left me behind. After finishing, I asked him his age. "44" he said, to which I responded with a sigh of relief (hey, I covet age group wins, even in small races!)

My friend Dan finished 3rd overall in the half marathon, with a time of 1:28!

My official time was 47:08 (7:37 pace). Slower than my Santa Monica 10k in June, but faster than my Chelanman 10k in July.

I'm running yet a fourth 10k in 3 days, as of this post. The ValleyFest 10k will start just a 20 minute drive from my house. Historically, the field has been very small (basically, a group run), so I'm not sure how motivated I'll be to push for a fast time, nor sure if I'll ever ditch this pesky cold.

Here are my official numbers (and some photos) from the Sandpoint Scenic 10k

TIME: 47:08
PACE: 7:37/mi
MEN: 5 of 41
AGE GROUP: 1 of 3

Yes, compression socks. I'm old. And it was cold.
Pretty nice medal for a small 10k!

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 private 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 & gracious 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 and, Bob Newhart's dog, as a Christmas present from her to his family.

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!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February Wrap-Up, The Big 5-0, and Health News

Before I get into the deep stuff, here are my, as always, "edge-of-your-seat" numbers from February:

Runs: 8                                              (YTD: 12)
Miles: 31.4                                         (YTD: 45)
Rides (trainer): 8                              (YTD: 18)
Miles: 143.9                                       (YTD: 273)
Swims: 4 (hangs head in shame)     (YTD: 10)
Yards: 7,350                                      (YTD: 20,600)

Well, I officially made it to the half century mark yesterday (2/28). It feels odd to think of myself as a 50-year old. I remember how old that seemed to me when I was a teenager. Yet, here I am. It's better than the alternative.

Fifty means a new age group. I can't say I'm terribly excited about that, for two reasons. First, I'm nowhere near what I would consider racing shape. And, secondly, m50-54 is a VERY competitive age group! We're a bunch of guys trying to fight Father Time, proving to others (mostly ourselves, honestly) that we can still compete with the younger guys. Combine that with possibly more free time and disposable income, and you have some tough dudes to hang with.

Now, on to the "bleak at first glance" health news.

If you've read this blog in the last year and a half, you probably know that I've had three surgeries during that time: both arms and my right hip. Not one to visit the doc very often (let alone the hospital), I learned, during my surgery-related visits, that I had dangerously high blood pressure (174/106, at one point). Whether or not that was caused or enhanced by the surgeries is up for debate. It could be stress-related, given the up-and-down/deadline oriented nature of my self-employment the last 23 years. Oh, and having two teenage daughters, of course ;-)

I finally started taking blood pressure meds last October, which seems to be working well. Fast-forward to January of this year, when I found a new doctor (my previous doc left his practice), who decided to run me through every test known to man, since I was turning 50. That turned out to be a good thing, since it was discovered (after several blood, urine and ultrasound tests) that I have Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease. This came as quite a shock to me. I've been healthy my entire life. I'm active, eat well (usually), don't smoke, hardly drink, and have never been overweight. Kidney issues don't run in my family, either.

Long story short, Stage 3 CKD is manageable, and with diligence, can be stopped from progressing to Stage 4, or Stage 5 (total failure, requiring dialysis and/or transplant). Management for me requires me to ALWAYS stay hydrated. My doc said my kidneys start shutting down when I become dehydrated (which, apparently, was pretty frequently in my case). So, 60oz of water, minimum, every day. Also, no ibuprofen or NSAIDs, EVER! And, no contrast dyes if/when I have any scans in the future. That, and keep my BP under control.

So, really, it's not THAT big of a deal, as long as I stay on top of it.

During this "New, Hydrated Me" period, I discovered something interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I had to drink 100oz of water per day for a week. During that week, I had one of my best workouts in recent history. I did a "brick" (bike/run) at the gym. Thirty minutes on the spin bike, immediately followed by a 3 mile run on the treadmill. During the run, I actually got angry at the treadmill because I couldn't crank up the speed fast enough. I felt almost unstoppable, especially compared to recent previous workouts. I wasn't quite sure why I felt so strong that day. After that week of ultra-hydration (needed before additional blood work), I slacked off the water a bit (this was before my doctor's new edict). I then had a couple of mediocre and a couple of lousy workouts (runs & swims, mostly). I'm currently 3 days into my new 60oz+ of water per day routine. I did a 4 mile treadmill run earlier today, and had that unstoppable feeling again. I ran mile 3 in 7:52 (fast for me, lately) without much discomfort or strain at all. Therefore, my theory is that hydration makes a HUGE difference for me. That said, I certainly don't expect every run, ride and swim to feel great, now that I'm guzzling water every day. But, I would expect lousy workouts if I slip into dehydration again. It will be interesting (and possibly scary) to see if I can remain hydrated when on long rides or runs in the heat this coming summer. It'll take some planning, but I think I can manage.

Before I go, a very quick knee and hip update: both hurt just a bit when I run, but since I switched to running in Hokas, both are tolerable.

I'll end this with my own Public Service Announcement: Please get checked out by your doctor regularly! Especially middle aged men, who don't enjoy visiting the doctor. We're not invincible, no matter how healthy we appear to be.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Triathlon Training? Really?

Even while my body fights me all the way, I've decided to finally take a shot at a triathlon. It'll be a sprint tri, so I can limit my run training out of necessity.

My current training plan has me swimming, running and cycling twice per week each. I haven't stuck to that plan very well so far this year, but I'm not far off. Thanks to a particularly hard winter so far, all training has been done indoors...which has been quite boring.

I re-joined the local YMCA, which is where I've been swimming and running (on the treadmill). I have my old road bike set up on my trainer at home, so that's where I "ride."

I'm not a fast swimmer, but my endurance is improving. My always troublesome left knee is a little quirky still, but the combination of my Hokas and the treadmill seem to be acceptable, so far. We'll see how it feels once I hit the roads (and/or run in other shoes).

The triathlon is on May 20th, so I have plenty of time to prepare (and to see if I can continue running). I already purchased my tri kit, and it's just a tad small. Bought it on sale (70% off!) and can't exchange it, so I have more motivation to lose a couple of inches around my waist.

The open water swim portion of the race seems intimidating to me, having never really done an open water swim. I hope to get a wetsuit long enough before the race so I can test-drive it in a local lake.

And, having only taken it out three times before the snow hit, I'm eager to put some outdoor miles on my new Cervelo R3!

Through the first 5 weeks of 2017, here are my modest training totals:

Swims: 6 @ 13,250 yds
Trainer rides: 12 @ 158 mi
Runs: 5 @ 17 mi

Not much, but I hope to ramp up as I improve.

Happy training, y'all!