Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back in Action on the West Coast

The pleasent 4-day weekend on the east coast has come to a close, and I made it back to Los Angeles just in time for the earthquake. That, coupled with some malfunctioning plane parts, made for a stressful couple days. But with the sky and the earth both settling down today, life returns to normal on the streets of the San Fernando Valley.

Last week's scheduling challenge was not as demanding as, say, trying to fit in 41 miles into 7 days. Having had a previously daunting mileage week, I took last week off by running when I felt like it and not being dictated by a schedule. The hills of CT over the weekend were welcome terrain, and I ran a couple times with my mom, which gave my legs a chance to recover from interval workouts. Ended up with 26 miles total, and 30 minutes of blueberry picking. 6 pounds of blueberries, yum!

My first run back at Griffith Park yesterday was a challenge. I averaged about a 8:30 pace, and my legs and core felt leaded. I think the travel on Monday took its toll. Additionally, I biked into work because I left my car in our studio garage while I traveled. I'm rested and up for one more long run workout for the midweek. Tomorrow is a day off and a chance to catch up with life, and Friday will be a biking day if I can scrape myself out of bed by 6:15am.

Saturday's hill run looks like a trip to the westside and a run around the mansions on Sunset Boulevard near the Pacific Palisades. It's a beautiful, hilly course called the Amalfi Superbad loop (coined by coach Chris). It will be followed by a set of the Santa Monica stairs. Sunday's plan is a long, slow distance, maybe 12 miles or so, followed by a bike ride.

It's good to be back tot he routine.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Goofy Goes Home

The title of this post reminded me of those Goofus and Gallant cartoons you'd find in the magazines in children's offices, Your big Backyard. I always liked the word searches and the stories about the Brownie family...

Speaking of regression, I am headed home today for a long weekend! 7 hours of travel await me. I leave LA around 2pm and get into Hartford at midnight. I'm there until Monday morning when I repeat the aviary abuse.

I will miss most of the $3.99/quart blueberry sale here, but we've got blueberry picking (and seeing The Dark Knight, again; and a wedding and shopping) on the schedule, so I don't think I will miss it too much.

As for running? I'd like to get 15 more miles into this easy week. I have 9 now, and 15 would but me at a marathon for the 7 days. Light mileage, but good for the knees. Also, I may go for a swim in the lake (shore is at our backyard, but I never appreciated that until I moved to LA, where the lakes are made of concrete, and the trees are made of concrete and peoples souls are made of concrete...) okay, that's harsh, but I am excited to get back to nature on the east coast.

Probably very little writing this weekend, so enjoy ungluing your eyeballs from my diatribes. I leave you with some inconspicuous shots of my home:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Building Blocks

The Cool Running / Active.Com article about building up your base mileage and avoiding a training plateau (the point at which your body adapts to a normal routine and improvement ceases) is worthy of some examination. Understanding the basic principle - keep your body guessing - is a key element to getting into good shape. Like most things, if you repeat an action over and over again, you evolve. You become more efficient and it takes less "work" on your part to get the job done.

There are a couple different types of runs to throw into a schedule to keep your body guessing. This variety should be in addition to cross training because even if you are varying your runs, you are still running. Resistance training, biking, elliptical, swim and other sports have their own added benefits.

The article bullet points Six Types of Runs

* Fartlek (for speed and pace)
* Hills (for strength)
* Tempo Runs (for speed and pace)
* Intervals (for speed)
* The Long Run (for endurance)
* Easy run (for recovery)

Three of these runs are easy to distinguish.

The Long Run is the run that doubles, triples or quadruples the mileage of a weekday run. At this point in my training, a long run consists of 12-16 miles. I used to consider a long run 6-8 miles When I begin training for the AR50 in April, a long run will be more like 25-35 miles. Point is, it's all relative. What's important is how you execute it --- nice and easy. Slow. Conversational pace. 1-2 minutes slower than your race pace.

The Easy Run is also known as a lactic acid run because its meant for recovery. Get your blood circulating and get your heart pumping, but there is no goal for improving your speed or strength. This is a very mental run, in that, you not only have to keep yourself slow, but you should also avoid looking at your watch too much. Just enjoy the run for what it is.

Hills are a great way to improve all around performance, I think. They strengthen your quads, your fast-twitch muscles, and like all high-intensity, quick workouts, they stimulate the production of HGH (Human growth hormone) which evidence has shown is like a "fountain of youth" hormone. Hills also help you develop that "kick" at the end of the run. Short bursts of speed uphill make that final, short burst of speed at the end of the race achievable.

The other three running workouts are a little more nuanced.

Fartlek Runs are the training sessions I associate with childhood running. You run outside and use fixed points in the distance to mark different intervals. You speed up until you hit that point, then run slow until you get to another, then speed up again, then slow down ... etc. You vary the distance between points from .1 miles to .6 and the same goes for the rests. You are really keeping your body guessing by varying the pace too. You can fluctuate your sprints from 80% effort to 60% to 100% and the same with the rests, too. Mentally this is a refreshing run because you concentrate so much on what's ahead of you that you don't feel like you are plodding along in boredom.

Intervals are just like fartlek runs except that the distances at mark the intervals are consistent throughout the run. Yasso 800s are a good example of intervals. You sprint 800 meters (1/2 mile) then recover for .1 miles. This interval is repeated X amount of times, and X increase by one repetition each week. Another interpretation of intervals is the sort of intervals used in a long run, or in an ultra training program. You run for a a certain amount of minutes (9 or so) and then walk for a certain amount of minutes (1 or so). So for every ten minutes of running, you have a minute of walking built it. This is a great way to ward off fatigued muscles without compromising your performance/time too much.

Tempo are fairly simple in concept. Run the first half of your workout slower than your second half. If I have a 6 mile tempo run, I will run the first 3 miles at a steady pace, say 9:00/mile, and try to run the second half of the run at 8:59/mile or faster. It's almost mindless, but it can be quite a challenge and it teaches you not only to not go out too fast, but also to really dig in during the second half of the run.

Personally, I use 4-5 of these 6 runs (the spontaneity of fartlek runs does not jive with my personality), and I've seen improvement over the last two years, especially from incorporating tempo runs. But also, it's important that you don't forget that running is fun. And adding in all of this structure and technique will help you improve, but it isn't necessary if you are just looking for a good workout. The structure shouldn't add stress, it should add guidance.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Top of the Mountain

The rule of thumb with building more miles into your training is to increase up to 10% of the weekly count. I run between 30-35 miles on a normal week, so I could increase my total mileage by 3-3.5 miles. This week I topped off at 41 running miles and 24 biking miles. It's a bit over the 38.5 percripted by the formula, and I can tell that the new numbers stressed by body. My legs are tired, my back is sore and I'm fairly tired as a default state. But with my shortened week (traveling home Thursday), I will be entering a step-back week where I will run much less than usual.

To take advantage of a rest day tomorrow, I am going to switch up my normal 6 miler with an 18 mile bike ride around the park. It will probably happen after work, but that's okay. I will have that gratifying feeling of biking past all of the gridlocked commuters by my apartment.

To recap the weekend: A wonderful 9 mile run up to the GP Observatory with Allegra and Maia on Saturday followed by an amazing brunch at Alcove Cafe in Hollywood. Wow, that was some good eggs after the hills. Followed that up with 19 miles on the bike and a trip to downtown Burbank for a screening of "The Dark Knight". Taken out of context, the phrase "Why So Serious?" is a pretty good mantra for life ... again, taken of of the movie's context, of course ...

Today was a 6.25 morning run, followed by a 6 mile training run with Amie for the Disney Half. I rewarded myself for the tiring week by planting myself firmly in front of the TV, doing my puzzle and watching a series of Mad Men, Flight of the Conchords and Deadliest Catch Episodes.

It was wonderful.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Daylight Fading...

Despite the more recent draining hours that my job has started to demand of me, I have managed to set myself up for a very fulfilling week of running. My goal for the week is 40 miles. I usually run between 30-35, and I wanted to push this week a bit more because next week I will be traveling back home for a wedding, and I don't think my schedule will allow for the usual 30.

As of tonight, Friday, I have gotten 20 miles in in the past five days.

Tomorrow morning at 7:30, there is a meeting of the Hills for Thrills club (me and my TNT friends) for a 9 mile hill run over in Los Feliz, followed by brunch. I plan on getting in some biking as well before going to see the Batman Movie.

Tomorrow's run will take us up to Griffith Part Observatory which is beautiful, but at quite an elevation relative to our starting point.

Sunday is 6 miles with Amie, plus a final run to round out the week to 40.

I can definitely feel the toll of work + the workouts. I go to bed really tired every night, and although I can wake up and go to work in the morning, the same exhaustion comes around again in the evening. It's a good thing though. I used to toss and turn when I slept, and for a while, years ago, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep. Well, turns out I have found a remedy!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Busy-ness and Such

My lack of writing is directly proportional to the growing Time Suck that is my job. Don't get me wrong, I have a wonderful job that gives me unparalleled access to brilliant minds. That said, it takes up a lot of energy and a lot of time. Between work and workouts, I am slowly losing my energy. Weekends are good boosters, but the charge only lasts until, say 9am on Monday mornings. Then its back to being mostly tired.

What has been going on over the past couple of days?

-Topped out at 34 running miles and 18 biking miles last week. Less than a week before, but still, not back. This week I am shooting for 40 running miles and 20-30 biking miles. I've combined my workout this evening with my commute = I ran home from work. 4.6 miles in about 35 minutes. Not a long enough run to wholly substitute for the usual six miles, but I've built enough workouts in my schedule to compensate.

-Last week was a test of my flexibility. Most of my running happened from Thurs-Sun. I was a little cranky because of this, but I survived.

-If you eat too many blueberries, can you turn blue? I am an experiment in progress. The store had a good sale, and blueberries are one of my top three favorite foods. I ate about 50 ounces yesterday and 17 today. So far, I'm still tannish in color. Eyes still green.

-New shoes! Asics GT2130 Trail running shoes in brown and pink (blah! what a color combo) and Saucony ProGrid Trigon 5 Rides. Looking forward to wearing these out over the next couple of months.

-Take a look at Sunday night dinner: Asparagus wrap with asparagus/eggplant/spinach hummus (homemade!) and blueberries.

-Biking into work tomorrow, since I ran home and left my car at work. I figure I saved $5 on gas. Hope to repeat this run home / bike in again later in the week, maybe Thursday.

I'm tuckered out now. Bedtime and TV. But fear not, I've got upcoming posts on the different types of workout runs, the hundred push up challenge, and a look at the various running clothing brands. Good night for now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Being Flexible

There are two kinds of flexibility that are crucial to proper training - for any event.

Flexible Muscles
I love the feeling of stretching but I've always sort of disdained the amount of time it takes to complete good stretches. On my weight training DVDs (which have gathered a little dust in the last month...) they devote a full 10 minutes to stretching. That doesn't seem like a whole lot, but in my head that over another mile run.

I'll usually cheat by stretching in the shower after a workout, but with a small tub, you can imagine (but please don't) how contorted and ineffective that can be.

My second thought about stretching is that it should be done after a workout and not too much before you start. Stretching cold muscles is painful and you aren't getting too much out of it. You should stretch them after you warm up, but really, are you going to stop 15 minutes into your run/bike/lift to stretch? No.

But it is very important to stretch afterward. Ward off stiffness and soreness, cool your body down, and reward your muscles for the hours of pounding they have taken.

Flexible Schedules
Last week was a great workout week. Lots of time, lots of miles and just enough rest. This week is more of a juggle and struggle. Monday was a day off because of the 4 major workouts over the holiday weekend. Today, Tuesday, I've got a wine tasting at one of my boss's houses tonight and tomorrow I've got dinner and drinks with a grad school friend. I know I can devote Thurs and Fri to the usually 6-mile midweeks, and I have carved out a chunk of time on Saturday for a group run (hills) and a Disneyland training run with Amie, so that's another 8-12 miles there. Sunday is always an option for a long run.

It's there on paper, the time it takes to get the miles in. But I still stress a little about deviating from my Tues-Thurs-Sat-Sun running plan. I don't like back loading the week. I'd prefer to get half of it done before Friday. But to be successful both in running and in Hollywood, I've got to find a balance between my running and my after-work commitments. I guess when it all boils down, it's another way of running, eating and sleeping, just in a different setting. They say change will do you good. Man, I hope so.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Weekend Round Up

Totals for the week:
35.6 running
42.6 biking
3.5 inadvertent walking to the store/bank miles

I am beat. Four days. Four +90 minute workouts alternating and combining biking and LSD running. Been holding an effortless 9:30 pace, meaning that I'm going to have to push sub 8:10 miles on shorter runs to make sure I get better ... if that is the goal, which I'm not sure "better" = more endurance.

Feeling confident that I can do back-to-back endurance workouts to ready myself Goofy.

Flat tire on Saturday, but nothing I can't handle anymore. Gone are the days of stressing over flats. Sort of. I still stress. But I can solve it now.

In other real life news, I am headed home in about three weeks for my best friend from high school's wedding! Will get a chance to run the hills of Connecticut and run outside with my mom if it's not too hot. Maybe a 10 mile run that Friday...? Prepare yourself, mom.

Back to work after a relaxing three day weekend. My workouts were followed by movies (The Happening sucked, but Kit Kittredge was all right). The grind starts again tomorrow. I have a day off from workouts which is a treat! Looking forward to it all.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Why I Love Fitness Journal

I love this website. Yeah, it costs a little, but the money is well worth the motivation. It's cleanly designed, easy to use (so easy that my internet-challenged mother uses it too!) I just entered my races for the next seven months, and out comes this little list right on the home page:

My Future Events:
58 Days To Disneyland Half Marathon
86 Days To XTerra Trail Run - Pt Mugu
114 Days To Long Beach Half Marthon
135 Days To Pasadena Marathon
191 Days To Goofy Challenge
199 Days To Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon

It's enough to make me lace up the shoes and run. Looking to wrap up the week on Sunday with a total of 35.5 running miles and about 35 biking miles. May even celebrate with a nice piece of salmon and a glass of Pinot. When did I become an adult...?

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Gina Kolata takes a look at heat, humidity and the necessity of sweating during workouts. It goes without saying that sweating is vital to keeping core temperatures low and our body as close to homeostasis as possible. The most important part of the sweating process is the evaporation of the sweat on your skin. It is the act of evaporation that cools your off. I can attest to this – spending four years of college volleyball preseason in a hot and humid gym. Without a breeze to cool off, the sweat just stays there and you continue to get hotter. I’ve been known to wring out my shirt midway through practice.

Thankfully, since I've moved to SoCal, I've had to deal with a lot less humidity than the East Coast. This summer's weather report from Cranky Fitness sounds all too familiar from my days growing up in New England. California is hot, but at least it's dry.

Regardless, the fact that I sweat so much is a good thing. I am, what the article calls, a “heat adapted” or as I like to think of it, heat adept. This means by body has the ability to adjust appropriately to the temperature.

And how does one study people’s heat adaptedness? Why, they participate in this grueling experiment:
For example, if you are not acclimated and run for an hour in 98-degree heat, your core temperature may go up to 103 degrees, bordering on the danger zone, said Craig Crandall, who studies heat acclimation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. But if you are acclimated, your temperature might be 101 degrees after an hour long run, which is well within the safety zone. Acclimation takes at least five days, Dr. Cheuvront found. He first asked participants to walk on a treadmill for 100 minutes in a room that was kept at 100 to 120 degrees.

On Day 1, Dr. Cheuvront said, they usually last 30 to 45 minutes. Then, he added, they will either request to get off the treadmill; collapse; or reach the safety-limit core temperature of 104 degrees, at which point they are stopped. By Day 5, just about everyone lasts 100 minutes.
It is possible to adapt even more. Dr. Cheuvront’s subjects continued to improve when they walked on the treadmill in that hot room for five more days.

So here’s the sweaters (not the winter ones) like me, who drip and sop after a good workout. Think of it not as sweat, but as victory juice.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Race Report: Goofy Update

Now out a full 10 days from the Anchorage Marathon, I'm back in the swing of things with my workouts. This week has been particularly nice, as I am able to balance running with biking and resting. The extra holiday Friday (happy fourth!) will be great for sleeping in and getting a nice long workout on the books.

Yesterday and today I logged two 6.2 mile runs. Tuesday's was a 6:30am run which felt much more sluggish than today's post-work run. Evidently, you run up to 1 minute slower in the morning because your body is shocked into your workout from its resting state. That sounds right to me. Tuesday was a 9:45/mile pace while today's was a 8:47/mile pace. I've stopped looking at my watch so much during my runs. Prefer to operate on cruise control, which is around 9min/mile.

There are 193 days left until the big weekend! That means 192 days of maintenance workouts with a few trail race, street races and distance races peppered in. 6 months to go!

2006 Half Marathon

2007 Full Marathon

Everybody Eats!

Even if you aren’t drinking up for some of your long, outdoor runs, someone else is … the mosquitos. According to a new study out of U. Wisconsin-Madison cited in the New York Times, exercisers emit more signals and stenches that attract mosquitoes than couch potatoes do. Specifically, body temp and skin smells, like lactic acid, are the bug’s version of a dinner bell. That 6-mile post-work run I do not only tones my legs, it turns me into a veritable buffet on the move.

Reminds me of a Far Side sweatshirt I used to have. Two mosquitoes, one sucking blood and getting bloated. The other says, “Pull out! I think you’ve hit an artery.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cinderella and the Mesh Synthetic Leather Slipper

I have feet like big boat paddles. They are wide, tough and more often than not, kind of clammy. Gross, I know, feel bad for my dad who is forced to rub them when I go home.

My paddle feet need comfortable shoes for the many miles they endure. I'm partial to Saucony Pro Grid Trigon 5 shoes, but to my shock and dismay (okay, not really shock and dismay - more like disappointment) they are discontinuing this model. So I will order the last in the stock, and hopefully two pairs will get me through my race schedule in January.

When shopping for running shoes, there are a couple of things to pay attention to:

-Arch Support
(do you have flat, medium or high arches)

(do you pronate, meaning, does your foot fall sideways and put extra stress on your knees)

(what type of running will you be doing? What surfaces? What distances?)

(do you need a wider style shoe? Yes please!)

And once you've answered all of those questions and had a gait evaluation by someone in the store --they watch you walk-- then you can choose your color. That's right, the look of the shoe comes last. I've had lime green, light blue and orange shoes. None by choice, I am at the mercy of the companies who make the shoes.

A pair of shoes can last anywhere between 300-500 miles before they wear out. It depends on the surface and it depends on your feet. Shoes nowadays are much more durable even though they seem so lightweight. I change my shoes out around 400 miles, unless I get into a horrendous mud fight with a big puddle (Hawaii Marathon), in which case I retire them at around 300.

You should get your gait re-analyzed every other pair because your running form can change over time. I usually order a pair online every other time. I go Arch and Sole in Hollywood/Fairfax for my in-store needs.

With the trail run races coming up (one in Sept and one way off next April) I'll be getting a pair of trail shoes. I've read that Brooks makes some nice, lightweight shoes for ultra runners. I'll check them out and report back this fall.