Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brief training update

As I mentioned last week, I started my training plan for White Rock.  It's certainly not ideal to start a new training schedule on the week of vacation, but I still managed to get most of it in.  I did skip Monday's long run.  As soon as we landed after the flight from Maui, I headed home, unloaded the car, showered, dressed, and headed to work.  Needless to say, no time for a long run that morning, and I certainly didn't feel like it that night!

Even so, I got in 32 miles last week and 37 this week.  And I put in some pretty decent intervals this morning.  I know I won't get to every run on my calendar, but as long as I get most of them in and see some progress week to week, I'm happy.

I'll leave you with this picture I took from our hotel in Hawaii:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another Fantasy Run: Badwater Ultramarathon

I have written about Hardrock and Western States, mountain trail runs I would love to run in someday.  Because of its notoriety, I have to put the Badwater Ultramarathon on that list, too.  I don't know if this would be a fantasy run or a nightmare run.  Unlike those other two races, Badwater is run all on pavement.  Hot, oozing asphalt.  In Death Valley.  In the middle of the summer.  Temperatures during the race can reach 130 degrees.  Runners' shoes melt on the hot pavement, necessiting frequent changes.
Here are some runners struggling through the 2009 Badwater Ultramarathon.

Not content with the standard 100 mile ultra distance, Badwater starts in Death Valley and runs 135 miles to Mount Whitney.  They call it the "world's toughest foot race."  I don't know if this would be tougher than Hardrock.  I think the challenges would be different.  The elevation change is a huge factor (from 280 feet below sea level to almost 8300), but the heat would be the greatest challenge.  I have heard of people training by running in sweat suits all summer, putting their treadmills in the sauna, or strapping heat blowers to their treadmills.  But I'm not sure any of that can prepare runners for the Death Valley heat.
How's that for a climb?

This year's winner: Zach Gingerich, who finished in 24:44:48.  That's quite an improvement over his 2008 finish, which was over 37 hours.  In the women's field, Badwater veteran Jamie Donaldson won for the third time, in 26:16:12.  Out of 80 starters, an impressive 73 finished.  Most impressive of all was another Badwater veteran, Jack Denness, who finished in 59:13:02.  Why is that impressive, given a finish time well over double that of the winner?  Simple: Denness is 75!  He became the oldest Badwater finisher 5 years ago, and topped his record this year, his 12th finish.  I don't know the details, but I'm sad to report that Amy Palmiero-Winters dropped about 1/3 of the way through.

I may never make it to Badwater.  But I'm keeping it on my list.  Maybe someday. . . .

Friday, July 23, 2010

50 mile week

A decent week of training last week.  The week before, I was at church camp with the boys.  It was scheduled to be a low-mileage week anyway, but I didn't even get in the short runs I had planned.  Last week I was back to normal, and even got a 20 miler in.  This is the first week I have gotten in 50 miles since January (except for the 50 miles runs in February and March).

I starting putting together a schedule for training for White Rock.  I am basing it on a 20 week plan in Bart Yasso's book My Life on the Run.  He uses a 10 day cycle rather than the tradition 7 day, so it's a bit trickier to plan, and will be trickier to implement, since long runs will be on different days each week.  He says with the 10 day cycle, older runners have longer to recover between long runs thus can run faster.  Of course, this first week of training I will be in Hawaii, so we'll see how well I get my runs in.

I will once again be aiming for a Boston qualifying time at White Rock.  Maybe this will be the year to do it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's about time: New VFFs

I have some Luke's Locker gift cards burning a hole in my pocket.  I thought I would use them to buy some new VFFs, but they can't keep them in stock.  Even if they have them at all, they never have my size.  So I finally broke down and ordered some from The Shoe Mart.  Free shipping, and they were here in 4 days.

I've been running in my VFFs for almost a year.  I don't know how many miles I have put on them, but I did run White Rock and the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile trail run in them, plus some other races and virtually all my training runs.  As you can see, I have about worn them out.  The seam along the big toe ripped pretty early on; we'll see if my new pair does the same.

I got the new ones in this flashy red and black color scheme.  I'm sure they'll make me run much faster!  They're also Sprints.  I noticed a couple of minor changes in the stitching, but they're essentially the same.  

I still have the Luke's gift cards.  I'll be calling them regularly to see about buying some VFF Treks.  In the meantime, I'll start wearing out these new Sprints!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Fantasy Run: Hardrock 100

A few weeks ago I posted about the Western States 100, a race I would love to run--someday.  Another great trail race is the Hardrock 100, run last weekend, July 9-11.  Hardrock, started in 1992, is not as old as Western States, but looks to be much tougher.

For comparison, WS has a cutoff of 30 hours.  The winner this year set a new course of 15:07.  Hardrock's cutoff is 48 hours; the winner this year ran it in 27:18.  The elevation range of the WS course goes from 6200 to 8750 feet, with total climbing of 15540 feet, descending 22970 feet.  Hardrock boasts 33992 feet of climbing and the same descent.  Average elevation is 11000 feet.  Runners cross 13 passes of 12000 plus feet, as well as summiting Handies Peak, 14048 feet.  I would never say WS looks easy, but with the additional climbing, elevation changes, and navigation (Hardrock says to brush up on your orienteering skills--the trail's not always clear. . . .), Hardrock definitely sounds like a tougher challenge.
These runners have a long day-and night-and day-and night ahead of them!

I wish Hardrock posted the ages and home states of the runners.  I know some from Texas and other relatively flat, low altitude place states run there; Glenn Mackie from NTTR finished in 32:36.  How do those people train?  Climbing stairs in an office building while wearing a surgical mask?  As much as I'd love to run this--someday--at this point it's hard to conceive.  But with views like this, how could I not want to be there:

I'm not ready to run 100 miles through the Rocky Mountains, but looking at these pictures sure does make me want to pay them a visit.  Excuse me while I start planning a trip to Colorado. . . .

(The pictures are from Blake Wood's online gallery.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Barefoot Running on NPR

This morning Diane Rehm had Christopher McDougall, Amby Burfoot, and Dr. Stephen Pribut on her show to discuss running.  As you might expect, with McDougall, author of Born to Run (best running book ever), as a guest, much of the show was dedicated to a discussion of barefoot running.  Dr. Pribut's take could be summed up like this: As long as you're moving, not sitting, I don't care what you have on your feet.  Burfoot, long-time editor at Runner's World, defended the running shoe industry--after all, they pay his bills.  Both Pribut and Burfoot would agree that less is more; many running shoes tend to have too much padding.

McDougall and Burfoot got a little feisty at a couple of points.  To McDougall, most running problems can be solved by ditching the modern running shoe.  But he reminded me of the most important thing: it's not whether you are barefoot, in VFFs, sandals, or some other minimalist shoe that matters, but running form that matters.  Since ditching the shoes usually leads to correction in running form, sometimes that's all you need to do.  But you still have to be aware of form.  My achilles has been tight lately, in spite of running exclusively in VFFs.  I need to pay more attention to form.

You can listen to the show at Rehm's website.

By the way, I have gift cards for Luke's Locker I have been saving to get some new VFFs but they never have any!  I'm wearing holes in the soles of mine and I need new ones!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stuff I Like: Ulimate Direction Hydration

One of the things I love about running is the simplicity of it.  You can participate and compete as a runner with next to nothing.  There's no special equipment needed.  But there are some things that can help.

If you run more than a few minutes, you get thirsty.  Your body needs fluids.  When my runs started to last more than an hour, I started looking into hydration systems.  OK, that just means water bottles.  I did not like the Camelbacks, which carry the water in a big bladder on your back and have a long straw to drink from.  I thought the fanny packs would be to uncomfortable and would bounce around, but I found the Ultimate Direction two-bottle waist pack (that sounds better than fanny pack) to be just right, once I found the right tightness.  It holds two 20 ounce bottles, has a pouch for extra clothes or food, and two small pouches on the waist band for gels, phone, or whatever.  I wear this on all my long runs, and wore it at Inks Lake last summer so I could carry a flashlight and extra batteries.
For shorter runs and for most racing, I use the FastDraw plus.  This carries one 20 ounce bottle and has a little pocket for a gel or 2, or lib balm, a debit card, etc.  Not much room.  I have carried this on all my trail runs, except for Inks Lake.  I am thinking, though, of getting a single bottle waist pack.  Fifty miles is a long way to carry that thing in your hand, even with the strap to keep it in place.
 So running does have some level of equipment, especially as you run longer, but it's still cheaper than biking.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stuff I Like: Garmin Forerunner 201

When I first started running, I had no idea how to pace myself.  I would put together running plans with the training tool, but still had a hard time figuring out pace.  Plus, I would spend tons of time at figuring distances and routes, then when I was running trying to remember the route and the mile markers.

Enter the Garmin Forerunner.  Because I'm cheap, I bought a used 201 on ebay.  It was one of the best running investments I've made.  This little guy is great.  Yeah, it's clunky looking, but it uses satellite technology to tell me my pace and the distance I've run.  Exactly what I needed!  I can run out the front door without worrying too much about the route.  I just run until the Garmin says stop!  I do plan my routes a little, but with the Garmin I can modify on the run.  It's great for intervals, too.  When I run Yasso 800s, I set it for laps of .46 mile (about 800 yds.), and I don't have to go to a track.

I'm not totally without complaints, though.  It does sometimes have a hard time getting a signal.  I discovered this worst when I ran at Rocky Raccoon, through the tall piney woods of Huntsville State Park.  Similarly, it lost the signal at Cross Timbers, but not quite as badly.  I gave up relying on it for pacing at those races, but the stopwatch still worked, of course.  Around my neighborhood, it rarely loses the signal, thankfully.  Also, after a few months of using it and downloading runs to my computer, it just stopped downloading.  So I can't track the data on my computer.

I'm still not very good at pacing myself.  I am far from being a "human metronome" like experienced runners should be.  So I'm glad to have the Garmin!  All in all, the 201 has been a faithful running companion for me.  I must admit, though, I do have my eyes on a newer model, with the improved satellite tracking and heart rate monitor. . . .

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A full week of training

This is perhaps the first week since my Spring hiatus that I actually completed all the runs I had planned to run!  I normally do my long runs on Thursday night, but since the boys spent the night at the Southerlands' last night, and Chloe didn't have swim class this morning (to which I normally take her), I decided a Saturday morning long run would do the trick.

Fueled by Miguelito's chips and salsa and some of the best carne asada I have ever put in my mouth, I got up early and hit the road in my VFFs.  I originally thought I would run trails today, but after the rain we've had all week, including last night's gully washer, I figured to find a dry trail I'd have to travel out of state.  So I ran on all pavement today.

I took it pretty slow, aiming for 10:30-11 minute miles, then the last 3-4 at sub-9.  Well, I stayed pretty steady (10:45 avg.) but couldn't quite get the sub-9s I was looking for.  I did run a 9:32 at mile 13, but then got discouraged because a park I like to run through was closed.  (One time I went around the barrier anyway and was met a mile in by an impassable, raging river where a bridge over a small stream usually is.  I suspect that was the case today.)  I had to find a detour, slowed down a bit, and couldn't get my speed back up.  I did finish with a 10:10 mile which, after 20 humid miles, felt like an all-out sprint.

After last week's disappointing night trail run, and the shortened run from a couple weeks before that, it was certainly gratifying to actually complete a long run, even if a little slower than I hoped.