Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss

I'm not really one to be a hero worshiper, but in a lot of ways I would love to be like Dean Karnazes.  There aren't many people in the world who both love to run as much as he does, and can run as far as he can.  My longest races are a slow training run for him.  In his new book, Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, Dean tells some funny stories of his running life, as well as reporting some of his race experiences (most of which are pretty funny, too!).  Just about anyone, runner or not, will be in danger of catching a bug for running after reading this.

Dean's not without his critics in the world of ultrarunning.  When his name comes up when I'm running with people, opinions will range from awesome to idiot.  Sure, some of his runs might be viewed as publicity stunts, but he's got enough wins and fast finishes in major races to be certifiably great.  He has completed Badwater several times, including a win, and has 11 silver buckles from Western States.  What more does the guy need to do?

When he's not running organized races, he runs forever just for fun.  That's what I like about his feats.  Sometimes he runs organized races, sometimes he runs on his own for a sponsor or charity, but many of his ultras are run alone, for the sake of the run.  This is a guy who sleeps little, needs little time for recovery, and is never as happy as when he's out for a long run.

I know I'll never be the runner Dean is (In spite of his repeated statements that he's just a regular guy, there's no question that the genetic lottery has worked in his favor.), but I want to be more infected by his joy of running.  He has made a life of it, and has included his wife, father, and children as much as possible.  If you don't know much about Dean, or if you have followed his career for years, you'll enjoy these stories.  And you'll have a hard time not going out for a run once you're done reading!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shorter night at Inks Lake

As I posted the other day, I headed back to Inks Lake State yesterday for the Capt'n Karl's run.  As always, Joe Prusaitis and Tejas Trails put on a great race.  This one has really grown since I ran 2 years ago.  That race had 51 starters; last night there were 106 registered for the 60K and 144 registered for the 30K.  It made for a traffic jam at the park entry, and some parking issues, but the race organizers, park officials, and runners all handled it well.  
And, they're off!
I started out fully intending to go the distance for the 60K, knowing I would be slower than my last effort here, but ready to tough it out.  I did OK for 2 loops, but 1/2 way through the third 10K loop, I took a walking break that ended up being way too long, and I never really got going again.  After walking for while, I decided I was too hot, too lazy, too tired, too out of shape, too bored, and too under-committed to go 60K.  So I got to the start-finish and told Joe I was satisfied with 30K tonight.

The highlight was getting to meet Trey.  Last Sunday, when I ran with Don, he told me to look for his friend Trey.  "You can't miss him--he's the one with one arm."  Sure enough, just after the start, I saw him and introduced myself as Don's friend.  We ended up running together most of my race.  He's about as nice a guy as you'll ever meet, which isn't surprising, since the same could describe Don.  Once I started walking on loop 3, he took off.  I think he had held back for me a couple times, but he had a lot more in the tank than I did.
I tried to keep up with Trey but ultimately I couldn't do it.
Born with one arm, Trey is well accustomed to doing things with one hand (how about this: He played football at Sam Houston State and holds the school record for career blocked kicks!), but here's one he may not have encountered before.  At one point, his hand somehow had a collision with a cactus.  I helped him out, but I know next time I get a hand full of cactus, I'll be grateful for that second hand!

Even though things didn't play out as I had hoped, it wasn't a bad run.  The trails at Inks Lake are fun and challenging.  The moon, just a couple days past full, was beautiful.  It was hot (according to my car thermometer, 101 when I arrived at the park at 6, a cool 87 when I left shortly after midnight), but it could have been much hotter, and there was a bit of a breeze from time to time.  I don't know that I'll sign up for this race again, but I would love to come back and run these trails or hike them with my boys--only I think I'll wait until it's 40-50 degrees cooler. . . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Looking ahead to Inks Lake

It's hard to believe, but I have been maintaining this blog for nearly 2 years.  My first race report was for the Capt'n Carl's 60K at Inks Lake, August of 2009.  That was the longest race I had ever run (race report here).  I just read over that race report, and I fear I am not as fit as I was then.  Since I've been working days, I haven't been getting in the volume that I was at that time, and I've put on a few pounds.  I'm going back to Inks Lake this weekend, but I'm not sure I'll be able to match my time from 2009.  I am looking forward to it, though.  Look for a race report here in a few days!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nice Place to Run: Big Cedar Wilderness Area

I joined NTTR for another club run Saturday morning.  This is the biggest club run I've been too; over 30 people were there.  Some familiar faces, new faces, and, I later learned some I never saw!  It's a big trail system, so unless you happened by the aid table at the same time, it was easy to miss someone.

I know I have written this here before, but I may have found my new favorite trails!  Big Cedar Wilderness is on the property of Mountain Creek Community Church, which is on the highest elevation in Dallas.  The trails wind around for miles behind the church.  They're rarely flat, boast some pretty nice climbs, and you're treated to views of the surrounding area, including views of nearby Joe Pool Lake.

A hot spot for mountain bikers, some of the trails include jumps and obstacles designed for our two-wheel trail brethren.  But their presence didn't detract from our running.  On the contrary, they give us someone to blame trail litter on.  (Who dropped that empty Gu packet?  Must have been a mountain biker!)

So for hill training, pretty views, and shaded trails in the Texas heat, Big Cedar fits the bill.  I'll be back.

I pulled this picture from another web site.  I'll have to take my camera next time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Taking recovery too far

Every runner knows you have to give your body a bit of time to recover after a race, a long run, or a particularly hard workout.  But my tendency sometimes is to use recovery time to indulge my laziness.

Case in point.  Last weekend I ran a 5K on Saturday.  I ran there and back, making my mileage total 26.3, surely enough to justify a recovery day, maybe 2.  So. . . .

Sunday morning: slept in.  Legitimate recovery.
Sunday night: went out for pizza, no running.
Monday morning: July 4!  Slept in, of course.  Maybe I'll run tonight . . .
Monday night: Nope.  Went to see the fireworks.
Tuesday morning: Nope.  Stayed up too late watching the fireworks.
Tuesday night: Nope.  Kelly was out, so I was alone with the kids.
Wednesday morning: Nope.  Too lazy.
Wednesday night: Nope.  Went out for Mexican food with Kelly's parents.  Too stuffed.
Thursday morning: I woke up one minute before the alarm went off, so I guess this morning's run was meant to be.

Laziness?  Lack of commitment?  Or my body's telling me it needs more time to recover?  I prefer the latter explanation, but I think the former has more explanatory power.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hope for the Hungry 5K

This morning, since I was at my parents' house in Salado, I decided to head over to Belton for the Hope for the Hungry 5K.  Hope has started these trail runs at their headquarters to raise funds for their ministry among the poor around the world.  I was not familiar with the organization until recently, when Danny Davis, an associate pastor at my parents' church in Salado and a long-time family friend, left his church position to go to work for Hope.  Check out their web site for details of their work:
I've known Danny since he was a baby.  I know I am on the short side, but we're on a slope here, so I'm not as short as it looks.
You may be wondering, "Paul doesn't run 5Ks, does he?  He only runs long trail races!"  True.  So I decided that to get my long run in, I would run to the race site.  The run there was nice.  I did hit a snag when my google map directions let me down.  That "bridge out" sign meant it!  So I had to backtrack and find my way there.  The run there was about 12.3, home was about 10.8, hot and slow.  Total mileage for the day, 26.3.  An ultramarathon!  (Barely!)

The race was a fun, 2-loop 5K through grassy fields, winding single track, and a little bit of dirt road.  Even with an 8 a.m. start, it was getting hot.  It would have been nice to have more shade, but we all need our vitamin D, right?  My goal was to come in under 30 minutes; I finished in 28:25.  I figure I could have run harder without my 12 mile warm-up.  I also thought I'd better hold back a bit so I wouldn't have to crawl home.  Still, I felt good about my pace and ended up second in my age group.

I met some nice folks.  Christian came out for his first 5K.  He's a sprinter, he said, so this longer distance was a challenge for him.  He did great, though, finishing a minute or so behind me, also second in his age group.
Christian, a fast 11 year old, ran a great first 5K.
Another runner had on a t-shirt that read "World Record Holder," so I had to ask what his record was.  Turns out he holds the record for most miles on a treadmill in 24 hours, over 160.  Sounds painful.  He also said he's getting ready to run Leadville and is training to qualify for the Olympics in the marathon.  More power to him!  (Here's an article about his treadmill record.)
I'll be watching for John's results at the Olympic trials!
I was home by lunchtime, was greeted by my kids and my nieces pelting me with water balloons, took the kids for a swim at the neighbors', and got to hang out with my parents and my sister and her girls.  All in all, a good day!
My cheering section on the way home.
Check out this awesome cactus tree!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel

Seeing this book and the subtitle, I was intrigued, yet skeptical.  If I follow my mind and run by feel, I will usually sleep in instead of run, and quit when I get tired.  I have a hard enough time meeting my goals without giving into laziness!  But Matt Fitzgerald offers up a slightly different way of thinking about training and running.

Reading Run made me realize that, while I have enjoyed reading many running books, the ones I enjoy most are the stories about people running, not so much the training or coaching books.  Run fits the latter category.  This book is directed at the serious runner, preferably one who has trained with a coach or a team.  Fitzgerald does give a nod to the casual runner at times, but the target audience seems to be the more serious running crowd.

That's not to say a back-of-the-packer like me can't benefit from his teaching.  To run by feel, run happy and confident.  Fitzgerald gives the example of Dean Karnazes, who loves to run long distances more than just about anyone, running for hours and hours just for fun (as well as to raise money and awareness as he did in his recent coast-to-coast run).  Then there's Haile Gebreselassie, who always runs with a smile.  (I reviewed a movie about him here.)  Confidence, Fitzgerald writes, comes from experience and training.  So, for instance, if my training runs have been at a certain pace, I have more confidence that I can run that pace in a race.

Fitzgerald seems not to be a fan of training plans, those schedules that tell you weeks ahead of time what you'll run on a particular date in preparation for a race.  However, unless a runner has a strong foundation from systematic training or coaching, or is one of that fraction of a fraction of a percent of us who is gifted with unusual speed or endurance, the running by feel plan will not get the runner race ready.  When we train with a plan or a coach, Fitzgerald would say that every day we need to be willing to alter or even eliminate that day's plan, depending on how we feel.

As a practitioner of minimalist running, I was heartened by Fitzgerald's embrace of minimalism.  He did dismiss the various stride training programs out there, like pose running and Chirunning, endorsing a simple change of footwear as a means to change stride:
The only common running technique flaw that exists at the level of gross motor coordination is that of overstriding, which is cause by the wearing of shoes and is best corrected primarily by addressing footwear, not by learning an entirely new way to run.  Indeed, I believe that if all runners ran barefoot, the various running technique systems would not exist. . . . Practicing running barefoot on grass, on sand, and/or on an at-home treadmill will get your neuromuscular system accustomed to making ground contact with a flat foot underneath the body's center of gravity.  Wearing the lightest, least cushioned running shoes in which you are comfortable in your everyday training will help you transfer your barefoot running form over to your shod running.
He claims that shifting to minimalist shoes changed his stride from heel strike to mid-foot strike and solved his runner's knee problem.  In fact, for running maladies in general, "eschewing pavement in favor of dirt is perhaps the most proven means of reducing injuries by reducing impact."

There's a lot of common sense in his book, and a lot of science.  But beginner runners need not apply.