Friday, August 31, 2007

Runnin' Through The Heat - Um, Everyone Else At Least

Ah, the heat of summer. The Bay Area is a bit lagged behind the rest of the country. We are only just now reaching into the mid 90's, which is approaching record levels (although we haven't broken any records yet). We've been blessed with a relatively cool summer for the most part, which is especially nice considering we are in a relatively dry area. That being said, I've avoided running, for the most part, in the evenings here recently because of the heat. I think, "Why do I want to try and run through that?" Blah, no thanks, I'll take a few miles on the treadmill and call it a day.

This isn't to say that I can't nor won't run on a hot day. I have and will in the future, no doubt. But I would rather not, so I don't.

This is why I admire all you troopers out there slogging through the heat and humidity in order to stay on track with your training schedule. Running in heat that I am hiding from in an air conditioned office and car (unfortunately no AC in the house), knowing that you will become a better runner because of it.

Not me says the brown cow. I'll stay inside for a few weeks until the temp drops down again. I'll dream of cooler days when running hard is barely enough to fend off the cool air. And while I dream of the cooler days to come I will most certainly admire, almost envy, the tenacity you all have in pushing through that heat.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nancy's Two Cents

I thought this was a great comment by Nancy on my last post. She explained this facet of hydration much better than I could of and thought it worth while to post it.

"You and I keep learning this one again and again. :)

A couple technical things....Caffeine from pop is a diuretic [From
Webster's Dictionary: tending to increase the excretion of urine], so you will actually lose ground on hydration even though you are drinking.

Also, less water in your system means less water in the blood. Most athlete's blood volume actually increases to be able to carry more oxygen and meet your increased needs. So if you are low on water and your blood volume goes down, that means the blood is thicker and harder for your heart to pump around, less oxygen gets to your muscles and tissues, and so you are working harder and not getting the results. Does that make sense?

It helps me to think of it this way, especially when I want a pop. I have decided that pop is a treat and I need to hydrate over and above if I am going to drink it."

Great comment Nancy. I will hope to use your method and think of this before drinking my next soda, but we'll see. I tend to go in spurts, I always have. I will drink nothing but water for months and then all of a sudden I will switch and drink nothing but soda. And so on the cycle continues. Sometimes I even think "I need to stop drinking soda so much" and then reach for the can of Dr. Pepper and open it up. Strange. Anyway, some great info.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Dehydration Conundrum

So I've been trying to find the article that referenced the effect that a decreased amount of water in your muscles would have on running. Unfortunately, I was unable to find it, but I did find a few other articles that helped shed more light and explain everything in such a way that it will be easy to implement.

The first article does a great job in explaining the effects of dehydration. It gives an example that mimics my previous question (which was what is the effect of drinking less fluids over time, which results in less water in your muscles) and shows a "3% decline in performance for each 1% decrease in body weight due to dehydration". The article can be found here.

The second article is a bit of a mish mash of virtually everything revolving around dehydration. Ultimately what I got out of it for myself was that the serious cramping from the marathon and the soreness at the end of the recent half marathon is a combination of factors. Numero uno is, of course, dehydration. Granted, I drank a decent amount of water during the half marathon, but I wasn't well hydrated before the race. I hadn't had much water the day before and only had a little bit of water just before the race. So with decreased water comes decreased oxygen flow to the muscle. Add to both of these the drop in potassium and you have cramps. So what I needed was to drink more water and to also control the potassium level in my blood in order to prevent cramping in the calves. The article can be found here.

Finally, the third article is a pretty good article because it does a very good dissection of marathon running and its effect on your body, including dehydration. It is short and succinct, giving a clear picture of what our bodies go through when running such long distances. The article can be found here.

What it all boils down to is drink more fluids, both before, during and after a race. Doing as I have recently, that is drinking more soda than water, certainly decreases the amount of water in my muscles which will automatically handicap myself. So hydration is an ongoing matter (duh! I am still learning the basic tenements of running I guess, and I will probably still be learning them years down the road), one that should not be a "I know I've been eating and hydrating bad these last few weeks/months, but I will make up for it by eating and drinking better the week before the race". Not only does this make you under perform during your training but it will also make you unprepared for race day.

Lesson learned (again!).

Monday, August 27, 2007

Connecting The Dots

So I was talking with my sister yesterday and she may have helped me connect the dots. Recently, since before the marathon, I've started drinking a ton of soda again. Sometimes I would even go through the whole day with no water, only soda (I know, what kind of runner subsists on soda only?), which is a very bad habit. The days leading into the marathon I did this, as well as leading into the half marathon this past weekend.

So my sister mentioned that maybe my muscles are little bit dehydrated because I am not drinking enough water to offset the soda. This got me thinking. I remembered reading an article, either online or in a magazine (if anyone remembers such an article please let me know), that said that a small fluctuation in the amount of water in your muscles can lead to fatigue early on in your run. So I most certainly didn't have the correct "water balance" in my muscles. So would this also mean that low water in the muscles, plus long run, equals very sore muscles?

If so this would explain why my calves were/are sore still from the half marathon on Saturday (when I usually don't get sore) and perhaps also explains why my calves seized up on me during the marathon. Food for thought.

PS Thanks Sis!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Morning After

Holy sweet mother of... calves. Woke up this morning and rolled out of bed, set my feet down and stood up. Whoa, slow down there. My calves were screaming at me. I don't think I've ever had my calves feel this sore, even after both marathons and my first half marathon last year. Did the SF marathon reset my calves or something - CTRL-ALT-DEL - and leave me with calves that need to be re-conditioned again? Strange...

My half marathon was flat, very flat, and I didn't run it faster than I've ever run it before. Can't figure out why this race caused such soreness. Any ideas?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

iWalk Half Marathon

It's been a little under a month since I ran the SF Marathon, and in between then and now I have ran two smaller races, although they were both trail races with hills, that have kind of acted as a gauge for how well I have recuperated. I think they may have deceived me.

iWalk Half Marathon - 1:50:10 (8:25 pace; 20/95)

The race was in Mountain View, which is about 25 minutes from where I live, so was able to sleep in longer than I normally would on race morning. That being said, I didn't leave enough time to eat a proper breakfast and have it digested in time, so ate half as much before heading out. I arrived only about 20 minutes before the start of the race at 7:30, which was perfect timing. I was able to get my bib, make a bathroom stop, drop the shirt off at the car and then get back in time to watch the organized stretching that this event organizer always does (they did this as well for the Walk For Rights 10k).

As I waited I pictured the course in my head, some of which I have ran before. It starts on a dirt road, joining a paved bike path, and then joining a gravel road that moves through the Palo Alto Baylands. It is a flat out and back course, which is fun because you get to see all the runners ahead of you as well as those behind you. This always lifts the spirits as I gain motivation from seeing other runners doing exactly what I was doing. If they can push through then I most certainly could too!

Soon enough the bull horn went off and we were on our way. Typically, I started out too fast. I was resolved to settle into an 8-8:30 pace and hold that steady, but the first few miles went by and I had ran them both under 8 minutes. Oh well. Oh, and interesting enough, someone recognized me from my blog (I think it was the blog)! That was a first. After a few words passed between us, though, he pulled away and ran a much faster race than I was able to sustain. If you are reading this, thanks for saying hello!

I was able to eventually pull it into the desired range at around mile 4-5 and I felt strong. It was at this point that the last two people passed me up, as I was able to maintain a steady enough pace to hold off all other runners. At this point I am right on my 8 minute pace, so things were going smoothly. I hit the turn around point and moved on to mile 8 where I stopped for some water, which I probably shouldn't have done. I immediately felt my right foot and both knees stiffen up as they remembered the soreness from the Marathon. I was able to hold it through about mile 9 at a little above an 8 minute pace, but I pooped out. I had to start taking more walk breaks and the last person that I had any hope of catching slowly pulled away. Damn!

This was where the race got the most interesting. The 10k and 5k runners started their race an hour after us and they were just hitting their turnaround as I was hitting the mile 10 marker. The course went from virtually empty to overcrowded at the flip of a switch as I now shared the course with about 500 runners, not counting the 80 or so that were behind me running the half marathon. Kids sprinting everywhere, walkers to weave around. At times I had to leave the path and run in the weeds in order to get around the walkers and kids sprinting around. Then there were the 10k and 5k runners who I now set my sights on beating to the finish line. This was the fun part: run a race after I have ran 10 miles and they have ran 3 miles. A few passed me, but for the most part I held my own, running the final 10k faster than almost all of the 10k runners!

After kicking around that notion while running I eventually got down to business and brought my attention back to my race, which was, ultimately, all that mattered. I was trying to do the math and see if I could come in under 1:50 and I knew it would be close. I pushed it hard, racing three 10k runners the last mile, picking up quite a bit of speed. Eventually two 10k runners pushed ahead when they saw the finish, but I was able to leave the other one behind pretty easy. I saw the clock, looked at my watch, and ran the final stretch hard, which was probably 3 tenths of a mile, pushing to come in under 1:50. Alas, I missed it. By 9 seconds! I can only hope that my watch was off (I also wasn't sure where to press the stop button because of the long finish chute), but that is wishful thinking of course.

I walked over towards the grass and sat down. I had plenty of energy, how come I slowed so much? Ultimately, it was the tendons behind the knees and the tendon on the right foot, both injuries/soreness that had occurred during the SF Marathon. Perhaps I've jumped too soon into racing again, having run three races in the past month since SF, and just need to stop and take a break.

The course was run pretty well. There were three water stations within the first three miles, and at the fourth mile there was a help yourself table with some water bottles. Then there was another water station at mile 5, which I bypassed because I knew that there was a water station at mile 6.5. But they fooled me! When I got there they said that they didn't have any water yet! Huh? An hour into the race and the water station wasn't set up? So I had to wait until mile 8 (which was also the mile 5 station) to get some water. So in all there were 10 water stations (11 if you count the one without water), which is more than I have seen at any half marathon. Impressive, which helped offset the organization at the check in counter.

All in all a good experience. I was able to see how my body responds after running a marathon, and thus know now to leave at least a month of no races after the Silicon Valley Marathon in November. I did in fact set a PR by 45 seconds, so all was not lost. And this does tell me that I have hit my plateau, and that I need to start focusing on tempo, hill and speed training if I expect to be running faster in the future. In the past I've run knowing that I was still getting into shape and each new run would be an improvement, but now having ran this distance 4 times at this same pace (2 half marathon races, once as the first half of the SF marathon, and once in training), give or take seconds, I know that improvement will only come from a more focused training.

So rest from races and focused training is on the menu. I do have a another Half Marathon at Lake Merced in San Francisco in two weeks, but I may very well skip this one to allow for a more full recovery. Who knows.

Until then, happy running!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Those Killer Hills

Who would ever think it? I know I didn't until I encountered them. Hills, they are a killer, and they are deceptive.

I was at Felton this past weekend for a 10k race that was run on trails. I made the obligatory stop at the restroom, and just outside the restroom the course and elevation chart was posted. As I was, um, er, tinkling, I eavesdropped on a couple. The woman was saying, "300 foot hill. Ah, that isn't bad, right? That doesn't sound big", and the man agreeing with her. I'm standing there, suddenly looking off into the corner of the bathroom, remembering the weekend before.

*** Vision goes blurry as clouds swirl in and out until clearing and bringing me back to Los Gatos***

I was running along a gravel path at the Dammit Run, knowing that my first little hill was just around the corner. I was about 1.5 miles in, so not too tired yet. Then the hill arrived in all its glory. I struggled up it, slowed my pace so that I didn't make my heart race trying to maintain the pace I was running on the gravel road. I was almost to the top before I had to stop and walk. Wow, that was a killer. Uh, then I remembered, that little hiccup was only .08 miles long and was only a 61 or so foot climb. Comparatively, nothing. At least to the untrained it would be.

I pushed on and hit the dam, and didn't even try and run. I walked it. This one was only a .25 of a mile, but it had an elevation gain of 132 feet, and I knew better than to play matcho comacho rambo man and charge up all willy nilly. Hell, just walking up it after running 2 miles was tiring.

Ah, now the last hill. I knew once I was past this things were all down hill and it would be a lot easier. The first tenth of the hill had a 120 foot gain. THE killer. I walked the whole thing, tired and breathing hard by the time I got to the top.

***Blurry vision and twinkling chime music brought me back to reality as I shook my head to clear the cobwebs and realized I was standing in front of a stall and there wasn't any more tinkling noise***

I couldn't help but laugh as I washed my hands. 300 foot elevation gain was small? Before I started running hills I would look at an elevation profile and say, ah, it's only 100 feet, that is nothing. I mean, I would consider it in terms of feet on the road or the track. So the number 100 was small. Even 61, like the first hill of Los Gatos, seems like nothing. But then I started to realize: 61 feet is six stories of a building. So I start to look up and visualize the climb I would have to do. That was when I started dreading hills, when I began to be able to visualize the distance going up.

So I knew that the 300 foot hill, although small in actual number, would be a deal breaker, and I wasn't wrong. This was a monster of a hill that went on for a mile. 30 stories I ran up. And I was exhausted.

Moral of the story? Respect the hills, even the small 25 footers, because they will kick your ass every time. I am amazed when I watch someone run up a hill without stopping, without slowing. Practice, practice, practice.

Someday I will be there.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Race Thru The Redwoods 10k

This was an important race to gauge where I am in terms of trail running, which in turn is a gauge in how well I might be able to handle of 50k, which is run, usually, entirely on trails.

Race Thru The Redwoods 10k - 52:13 (8:25 pace; 97/356)

Felton is a little town in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the Pacific Ocean side. A great, small town tucked away amidst towering redwoods, and is a roughly 40 minute drive for me. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to run this race, beyond being a trail run, because I knew it would be ideal conditions and close to my house. I would not be disappointed.

I woke up around 6:45 and showered up, remembering the week before when I didn't shower before the race and felt groggy. Because of my little fiasco yesterday in running on a full stomach, I made sure that this one I ran on an empty stomach. I know, you need fuel in order to keep up your stamina, but I usually run better on little to no food in the stomach, at least with distances that are 10k or shorter. So I knew that I would be alright without eating breakfast, plus I wanted to compare this to how I felt on the full stomach.

Arriving at Henry Cowell State Park I was not disappointed with the weather. In fact, it was a little cold as my knees shook amidst the cool morning breeze. After checking in we all shuttled over to watch the kid's 1 mile race. If you ever get a chance to watch a kid's race, do it. It was fun watching them sprint in with smiles as they revelled in everyone clapping. And get this, the first finisher, who was 13, ran the mile in 6:22!

Soon enough our race started. I ran the first two miles great, averaging 7 minute miles. The first mile was all on a paved road sloping up for a while before connecting to a trail and starting mile 2, which was also fairly flat, although the sand made it a little difficult to run in. You see, I wanted to run a fairly fast first two miles because I knew that I would be coming to a large hill that would slow me down considerably.

The hill didn't show itself until about 2.5 miles into the race, and it was a killer. It went for almost a mile and had an elevation gain of around 400 feet. Some parts of it seemed like I was walking straight up, hands on knees. Yup, you heard correct. Second race in a row where I had to walk the hill portion. I walked most of it and tried to run anytime the steepness wasn't so bad, but that wasn't too often. Luckily the whole race was ran under the cover of the redwood forest, which ultimately kept everything in the shadows and nice and cool. Mile 3 ended up being a little over 11 minutes, which killed my average and began making me doubt that I would be able to finish in the desired 50 minutes.

About half way into mile 4 the hill relented as the trail spit us out and onto a road that gently rolled up and down, allowing us to get our breath back and continue at a more or less steady pace. As we rounded the cone and began running back towards the finish line everyone began picking up speed. The steep elevation ascent from earlier now turned to a steep elevation descent down a paved road, so we didn't have to worry about the rocks or roots of the trail we just ran up that could jump out and trip us up. The slowness of the first half of the mile was offset by the speediness of the last half, resulting in about a 9 1/2 minute mile. Not too bad, but now it was all downhill and I wasn't too sure how my right foot would hold up, since it was downhill running that really hurt last time.

I felt a twinge of pain if I let myself run too fast, which usually resulted in long lunges down the hill, so I shortened my stride in order to lessen the strain on my tendon. This seemed to work as the pain disappeared. The last two miles eventually merged back onto the trail before spitting us back out and onto a road and to the finish line, averaging about 8 1/2 minute miles. All in all, a good effort, one that has given me a great evaluation on where I should be and how I should train. I was planning on attempting a 50k on September 8th, but after today I am not too sure. Either I need to get some serious trail running in the next two weeks, or I need to pass on the event and prepare for one at a later date. Granted, I would be starting the 50k out running the flats at around a 9-10 minute pace since I know I will have longer to go, and thus not be so tired so early on, so maybe all is not lost.

Until then, happy running!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Giddy Up Horsie!

Cause I'm back in the saddle again.

After a week long hiatus in order to rest the right foot I was finally able to put the running shoes on and hit the pavement. It started out feeling great, but I soon realized that it wasn't going to be my best running day. At mile 1 my Garmin beeped and it read 7:33. Way too fast for my first mile back. I tried to slow it down but I was already in trouble. My stomach was becoming unsettled. You see, I made the rookie mistake and went running on a full stomach.

My plan was originally to run before lunch, but I couldn't resist watching Federer vs. Hewitt, so I postponed it to the afternoon, when, unfortunately, it would also be hotter. That being said, I didn't want to wait any longer after lunch as I set out to run. This would ultimately be my downfall. As I reacted to my stomach I slowed to a walk. Then I resumed running, only to walk another 3 times. It has probably been over a year since I've had to walk that much for a 5k.

Oh well. I was just excited to finally get out there and begin running. Ultimately, as well, I had to get out there on my right foot and make sure the injury from the marathon wasn't anything too serious. Luckily I didn't feel any pain in my foot (although I didn't get too much downhill in, which was where it really bothered me last Saturday).

So all was not lost. Not the best run, but I was happy to find the foot seemingly healed. Now I will see how I run tomorrow. A 10k in Felton on a semi trail running course, which means some hills (most of the course is paved roads but I believe there will be a 300 foot elevation climb on one hill). With the temp cooler and my stomach not full, I can really take the measure of my right foot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Runners and Their Accomplishments

In the ever so short (so far at least) running career that I have had I have come to the same conclusion that many of you have had: Runners are Good People!

I have played a ton of sports and have interacted with many a people during these times. Without a doubt runners are the nicest people. They continually share their experiences and absolutely enjoy talking about their passion just as much as we enjoy talking and listening about it. Nancy hit the nail on the head when she wrote about Governor Mike Huckabee (and runners overall) and stated "And he's a runner.Yes this is speaking to me both personally and professionally". I agree completely. I have run events where people are helping each other out during the race, people they don't even know. Or you are running along and you can hold a conversation with a complete stranger and feel at ease doing so. Or a runner slips and everyone around them jumps in to make sure the person is okay.

I have wondered why this is so much more than other sports (with the exception of athletes that compete in triathlons). The people are the same. I mean oftentimes runners play other sports. I play tennis and many of them are runners as well. But you see them on the tennis court and you will always find the one or two people who sour your experience. Of course there are nice people in every sport, but what makes our running experience more so? I think it all boils down to one thing: we aren't competing against anyone but ourselves. In tennis your sole job is to run your opponent into the ground. In basketball your team needs to school the other team. In football you need to pummel your opponent. In virtually all sports the competitive beast takes a hold of you and there will invariably be sour blood or foul moods. Not so in running, where the only one that you are trying to beat is yourself. So the competition factor is removed, leaving the person running to enjoy the company of other runners, to enjoy conversing on how to run a hill or improve your speed, and all because you are not thinking on how to one up the person you are talking to.

Which leads me to the other great results of such a sport. Since we compete with ourselves, we get to continually strive for PRs, always looking for ways to improve ourselves. It is amazing over time how this turns into results. I originally had a tough time running 2 miles last year, tiring and wanting to quit. I looked at 4 miles and dreaded the thought. Months later I then looked forward to 5 and 6 mile runs. Today I enjoy Half Marathons quite a bit, looking at the distance as something that is entirely doable on a regular basis. As Steve at Jog Blog pointed out with his post Runners: We're All Special: "The point was that we regular runners risk losing sight of the massive achievements we all make in our running on a regular basis that are way beyond what non-runners think they can emulate." We were non-runners at one point and didn't think we could accomplish what we are now accomplishing. When I talk to non-runners and tell them I ran 10 miles the other day, invariably the question is always with disbelief (because of the distance) and almost annoyance (because of the work and effort going into running), "why?". It comes more from them not actually understanding or knowing that they too can get into shape and become athletically fit. That they too, with some hard work, could be able to go out for a morning jog of 5 miles and feel great about it.

I think it is important that we remember these great attributes of such a great sport: the people and our accomplishments. Remembering these makes running all that more important, something I hold dearly to my heart.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Post Marathon Weight Gain?

I am a little perplexed, and am not sure how to explain what is happening. Perhaps someone knows or has an answer. The day before the marathon I ran two weeks ago I weighed 177.8 lbs. Yesterday, weighed at the same time of day when I woke up as I did when I weighed myself before the marathon, I weighed in at 181.4. A gain of 3.6 lbs.

What confuses me is that I ran a marathon, burned a ton of calories and kicked my metabolism into high gear. Logic would have it that I should be losing weight.

I do count calories. In the two weeks since the marathon I have consumed 1,799 calories more than I have burned. Even taking into consideration that some of the food I entered was miscalculated it doesn't make sense. Double it to 3,600 for error in guessing some of the calories consumed and that still doesn't account for the gain of weight. Granted, I haven't been eating the healthiest since the marathon (and why is that? Last time I ran a marathon I remember indulging in not so healthy food afterwards. Almost as though my body is craving it...), but calories are calories.

Amy posted about weight gain leading into a marathon, but does the same apply to after a marathon, almost as though your body is storing up fat in response to running for so long and far? Simple answer is that my caloric intake is more than what I am burning, but I find it hard to believe that 9,000 (and this is using the scenario of doubling what my calculations have estimated: (3.6 x 3,500) - (1,799 x 2) = 9,000) calories somehow slipped past my radar, especially since I keep track on excel everything I consume every single day.

I am curious if anyone has any information regarding this strange phenomenon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dammit Run 5 Miles

I had mixed feelings going into this race. On one side it was the first race since the Marathon and could be a good gauge on how well I have recovered. On the other side I couldn't seem to muster up any enthusiasm or excitement as race day came upon me.

Dammit Run 5 Miles - 42:36 (8:31 pace; 205/603)

This one had the makings to be a great race. It started at 8:30 and was only a 15 minute drive from my house. What more could I ask for? So I was able to get some decent sleep despite the kids next door having a loud party, yet again, until at least 2 AM, which was when I finally fell asleep. Well rested, I woke up and decided to skip taking a shower. This was mistake number one. I figured since the race was so close to the house and it was only a 5 mile run that I could run it and get back here and shower after. So end result? I never fully woke up or felt energized, which a shower always does to me.

I got to the Los Gatos High School and found parking easy enough. So I turned the Garmin on, checked my bib number and did all the typical last minute stuff. Mistake number 2: I didn't charge the Garmin so it, obviously, ran out of battery power. Oh well, it could be worse, right? Like getting to the race and forgettng your timing chip... Yeah, I've done that one as well. Eventually I made my way to the track and did a warm up lap and everything felt great. I was hitting my stride, the legs felt great. Perhaps the day would turn around and it would turn out to be a great race.

Remembering past races, I lined up in the front so that I didn't get stuck behind the slower runners and thus blow a lot of energy weaving around everyone. The gun went off and away we went. The lead runners eventually outstripped everyone, but I didn't care. I was running my race. So we looped once around the track before heading out of the track and onto the trail towards the dam. Already I could feel that something wasn't right. My legs felt strong, my knees were fine. So none of my major concerns coming into this were slowing me down. Mile one rolled around and the volunteer yelled out 8:16. So not too bad. The gravel trail slowly gained in elevation before dropping me off at the first steep incline, which ascended 61 feet. It may not seem like much, but the gain was over only .08 miles, so a steep incline over a short distance. I ran a quarter of it before telling myself to give in and walk. No sense beating myself up over something when I am still technically recovering from the Marathon. At the top of the first hill was the mile two marker and the volunteer yelled out 16:50, so I'm averaging 8:25 a mile, just slightly slower than my mile one pace, and I had walked a hill! Not too bad again.

A little bit farther on and I made it to the dam, and thus the reason for the race. Yet another hill that I gave up on and walked virtually the whole thing. I wasn't feeling right, so why push it? The dam was a little less than a quarter of a mile and has an elevation incline of 132 feet. This was where a ton of people were passing me up, which is usually a motivator in and of itself. But not this time. I watched them file past me, keeping track of who they were. Then, once I got to the top of the dam, I used the energy I didn't waste trying to run up the dam and was able to pass most of them... until the next hill.

Ha, only three hills but they were killers. The last was THE killer. Elevation ascent was 140 feet, so not too much different from the second hill, and this one stretched over almost four tenths of a mile. Not too bad, right? Wrong, because 120 feet of that gain was in the first tenth of a mile. So it goes without saying that I walked this one too. Again, once I reached the top I kicked it into gear and passed a ton of people, making up place wise what I couldn't make up in my time. Yet here was where the trouble began. We soon hit mile 3 (with no volunteer this time) and I was cruising downhill pretty fast. But... But... But, oh I so didn't want this to happen. I started feeling a pain on the top of my right foot where it had felt tender from the Marathon. I pushed through it for a while when I take an extra long lunge to get past a rock and the pain shoots up my leg.

Did something happen to my foot in SF? I know tons of athletes tend to push through pains in their feet, able to continue playing for months at a time without really noticing anything more than a discomfort, only to find that they had a stress fracture or something similar. Is this what has happened to me? Perhaps this was why I wasn't feeling to into my run today? I pushed on and felt the pain build a little with each step. Finally the trail leveled out and turned onto a road where mile 4 was, with the volunteer yelling out 35 minutes. The pain/ache from my right foot subsided noticeably, almost disappearing completely, once I was no longer running downhill, so that was a plus.

I finished the last mile in a little over 7 minutes, coming in at around 177th place (out of around 600) in 42:36, which is an 8:31 pace. Not too bad considering the amount of walking that I had done, around two and a half minutes worth. This was a little disappointing, though, because I had signed up for this race with the intention of running the hills and using this as a gauge/preparation for the 50k coming up in September. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

I found a few things out. One, my knees and muscles are fully recovered from the Marathon, so that is plus. But, and this is a huge minus, the tenderness on the top of my right foot (which happened because of the Marathon) seems to be something more than just being tender.

So a week of rest I must take, although this is a bummer. I do know the alternative, though, and would rather prevent further injury than satisfy a here and now urge to run more. I guess I will have to wait until Saturday to test the foot out before I decide what I will do about the 10k race coming up.

Here's to a speedy recovery!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dear Brian, From Legs

Dear Brian,

I had a great time with you in San Francisco the other weekend. We woke up early, ran hard and long, and ultimately accomplished what we had set out to do. You've been a great friend of late and I love the time we spend together running through the hills, down paved roads or along bike paths. I mean, we are continually improving and this makes both of us feel more alive, more full of energy that we don't know what to do! Memories, they make everything alright.

But I must say that you did abuse me a little in San Francisco. Don't get me wrong, we set out to run that marathon and we did, but I was sending you some pretty big messages that I didn't think I could handle it. I didn't know what else to do, and am sorry if I caused any pain. You pushed through it, though, and showed me that half of running that long is mental. That you endured the pain and kept on keeping on. I applaud you for that.

But, alas, lay off me now! I mean it. Don't push me so hard or I will give out on you and then we will both be regretting running so hard and so much without a break. We ran the marathon, that was great, but I. Must. Heal. Leave me be. I would prefer if we didn't run at all, but if you must then start out with some light runs and feel me out. Wait and see whether I feel up to it before you head out on that long run. I knew you were itching to run yesterday, which was why I let you run 5 miles. I did it for two reasons. One, to show you I'm not ready yet. Two, to help you scratch that itch a little so that you will lay off me for a while.

I know we will be out running together again. But give it time so that we are both ready.

Your Friend,


Dear Legs,

I know, I am pushing it to hard. I know from research that I should be allowing you time to heal, that in order to avoid injury we should both lay off and recuperate slowly. I know this, I just can't seem to listen to reason. I feel weird when I can't go out and run. In fact, before yesterday it seemed that I hadn't run in ages (even though you graced me with a few mile warm up a couple of times). I was feeling like I needed to touch base with you and remember what we had.

I don't regret running yesterday and took you up on your offer, even though I knew you had an ulterior motive. I took it slow, running at 7.5 mph on the treadmill for two miles in order to warm up for my shoulder workout. But after that I had to go for another run. We love night runs so I thought I would make you happy. Running in the cool night air like that always made you feel so free and alive. And you can't tell me you didn't feel anything. Running the three miles was invigorating as we huffed our way to the car.

I know, I know. My knees are still tender, and my foot is a little sore still. I felt the messages you were sending in order to warn me to get off the damn street and stop running. It just felt so good! I was looking out for your best interest, though, running an average of 9 min/mile. You didn't have to try and hurt me so bad. Today I feel fine, but I know I will have to lay off running. But I won't/can't do it too long because I have a 5 mile race on Saturday. I already know what you will say, so don't say it. I am doing it and you better adapt. I mean, there are people out there that can run three marathons on back to back days, or a marathon every weekend, and they don't seem the worse for wear. I know we can improve our endurance, and in doing so improve how we feel after such long runs. I won't push you too hard on Saturday, and it is only a 5 miler, but it will be good to get back into the saddle and stretch again, right? So buckle up and take it like a man. I will warn you, though, I am running tonight. Only three miles, but you better be ready. A slow pace will be fine, I know, but if you feel up to it let me know and we will pick up the pace. Then I will give you a break for a few days. Let you rest up before we do the race.

If I don't push you to race harder then who will? You take care of the injury side and I will push us both harder. This I promise. And I will listen to you. I mean, that would be dreadful not being able to visit with you so much. Just taking three days off with no running, and almost 9 days without a long run in and I feel like pulling my hair out! So, until tonight. Come dressed for success.

Your loving friend,


PS I slept great last night because of you. I know I caused some aches and pains, but the sleep was well worth it

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

2006 SF Marathon vs. 2007 SF Marathon

Okay, so now that I have ran the same Marathon twice, exactly a year apart from one another, and with an actual full year of training, how do they compare? What is the difference? Did I learn anything new?

Hydration - I'll start with the big one, the one that made all the difference in the world. In 2006 I knew nothing about hydration and nutrition. I started the race with a blank slate and figured I would grab a cup of water at every aid station, which I did. So I didn't drink more than I did in the 2007 Marathon. What was the difference then? In 2007 I ran a much faster pace and depleted the water much faster, which of course resulted in my meltdown starting at about mile 17. So hydration sucked for both, but I had a different result in both races. Additionally, I was relying too heavily on the sports drink they provided. From the research I did this time I knew that the concentration had to be measured accurately in order to let your body absorb the sodium, otherwise it is diluted and doesn't get into your muscles fast enough. Well, I noticed that some of the aid stations had very watered down energy drink (since it was made from a powder). Couple this with lack of water and my calves were seriously depleted of sodium. A very bad combination. Lesson? Bring your own water bottles, and the longer runs bring a Camlebak.

Pace - In 2007 my pace was amazing the first half. I felt like I was running the best race I had ever run. I was keeping an even pace, clocking in at 1:51. With the onset of hydration issues my pace dropped and varied depending on how bad my calves were, gradually getting worse until mile 24, in which case I sped it up to a 10 minute pace. In 2006 I went into it with zero training and was all over the board for each mile. So I learned and executed the pace lesson and was able to apply it to this year.

Chafing - In 2006, without ever running long distances, I had no clue I would encounter chafing. My inner thighs and groin were so chafed I had to walk bowl legged, hobbling around lest the chafing become aggravated. Additionally, my nipples were rubbed raw! So in 2007 I was able to prepare for this, applying Body Glide to all possible chafing areas. Result? No chafing anywhere.

Feet - In 2006 I had purchased brand new shoes two days before running the Marathon. Obviously, I had blisters, although they didn't bother me too much. In 2007 my shoes were fairly new but had at least 75 miles on them, so I only had one blister. Even that was a blister on the exact same toe, in the exact same area that I always get blisters. So with used shoes as well as skin that is toughened up from a year of running, no blisters.

Weather - This plays a huge role on any run. It helped for the better this time. In 2006 we were in a heat wave, and although the morning fog was still there and the temperature was cool, it eventually melted away and left the heat to bare in upon us and make things a bit more difficult. This year, however, it was cold in the morning with fog misting us. This lasted the whole day, even at 11:30 when I left my windows were still being misted by the fog. So the weather definitely helped me run a much better race. But, alas, there really isn't anything I can do about Mother Nature.

Start Line - In 2006 I jumped a few waves ahead and placed myself squarely in the middle of probably a 1,000 people. So when the gun went off it was mayhem as we were herded forward like cattle. There was barely room to move around in the beginning and if you happen to have someone run in front of you that is slower you had to weave and sprint forward and to the side and so on, which uses up more energy. In 2007 I placed myself right at the very front of the wave and waited it out. When the gun went off I had no one in front of me and I was free to run my pace without distraction. It is unbelievable the difference when starting at the front as opposed to the middle or back. Helps immensely.

Feeling - In 2006 I was ecstatic to be running my first Marathon. Granted, I didn't know anything, but I was happy to be there. It felt at the time that my lack of training dropped me straight into hell once I got past mile 5. In fact I was so exhausted and my legs were starting to hurt so much that I almost quit at the half way point. I eventually hobbled/shuffled over the finish line and wasn't sure if I ever wanted to do that again. Now move to 2007. I was even more excited to be there this time as I actually felt prepared and ready, eager to run. The first half I didn't feel winded and my legs didn't feel tired at all until dehydration kicked in and sapped my calves strength. When this happened it was perhaps the worst pain I had ever felt. Every step was a grunt exhaled. The pain level was 10 times worse than in 2006, even though I was in much better shape. Eventually I was able to get enough sodium and water into the system to resume running and was able to finish strong, which was different from the year previous.

Soreness - 2006 I was of course chafing, which hurt a couple of days. My knees were in pain for a week, and my legs were exhausted for the better part of the second week. One interesting muscle that surprised me that was extremely sore was my trapezius muscle, or the muscle between your neck and shoulder. 2007, though, I felt a little soreness in the meniscus of my right knee, but other than that I don't feel any lasting soreness as of right now, three days after. I briefly felt sore the day after the race in my trapezius, but that went away quick because I had been working that muscle out for a year now and it is conditioned.

Summation - As a friend pointed out, a Marathon is the whole package, so if I screwed up my hydration, well I can't blame that, because that was a huge part of the preparation that went into my training. So, hydrate yourself, apply body glide, train hard, wear shoes that are worn in, try to start near the front of your wave or the start line and focus on maintain a steady pace.

This was what I learned from this Versus.