Thursday, July 30, 2009

Workout: 2x10 min Threshold Intervals

Main Workout Distance: 2.57 miles
Main Workout Time: 20 minutes (2x10 min intervals)
Main Workout Avg. Pace: 7:46/mile (during intervals)
Warmup/Cooldown Distance: 2.49 (1.6 mile warmup before intervals and 0.9 mile cool down after intervals)
WU/CD Time: 24:51
Avg. WU/CD Pace: 9:58/mile
Type: Threshold Wokrout
Weather: Sunny, warm to hot (mid to upper 70s) and humid
Summary: 2x10 minute intevals. The first was slightly faster (about 7:45/mile) and went a little farther (about 1.29 miles) than the second (7:48/mile, about 1.28 miles). I took about a 5 minute walk/recovery jog between the two intervals. Warmup was for about 15 minutes for 1.57 miles (9:40/mile), and cool down was 0.92 miles in a little under 10 minutes (about 10:30/mile).

Once again, I was too fast. I was shooting for more around the 8:00/mile pace (or around my 10K pace according to McMillan), but instead I ended up being much closer to my 5K pace (which is about 7:42 according to McMillan). Oh well, Friday is a day off, so if it was too intense, then I get a full day of recovery to work it off.

These threshold intervals (or tempo intervals as they are often called) were very hard. It wasn't that the distance or pace was that hard, it's just my body is clearly not used to running at that fast of a pace for that long of time. I know McMillan said this was my 5K pace (or even a little slower), but I honestly can't imagine keeping that pace up for an entire 5K (which would be another 1.8 miles beyond what I ran for each interval). I guess we'll see on Saturday, as I am running the Courage Center's 5K Your Way on Saturday (although I do not plan to run that race at anywhere near my supposed 5K race pace).

Next Planned Workout: Courage Center 5K Your Way Race. Goal time, about 25-26 minutes, although up to 28 would be fine with me.

Running Gadgets: GPS Running Watch

I bit the bullet, and ordered a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Running Watch yesterday. Yay, a new running toy!

Up until now, I had been using the Nike+ iPod sports kit with my 3rd Gen. iPod Nano, but while the Nike+ is a great motivational tool (thanks to the website that it automatically syncs with), it is wildly inaccurate (mine was off as much as 1.5 miles on one of my long runs a few weeks ago) and inconsistent (recording two 3.5 mile routes differently, one as 3 miles and the other as 4.1 miles). Finally, its on-the-fly pace measurement was sometimes way off (there were times I would be running a slow recovery pace, and it would measure my pace as sub-7:00 minutes per mile, and then while I was picking up the pace it would think I was going at a 10:00 min/mile clip).

In order to get around the mileage inaccuracy, I started using Gmap Pedometer (sometimes or the USATF website's similar services), but that gets really annoying, because unless you always run the exact same route (difficult when you need to do different distances for speed, tempo/threshold, easy, and long run workouts), or can find a nice 1 mile loop somewhere (hard to get an exact mile, and also boring to run over and over and over), you have to map out every single run, and if your first shot at planning a route doesn't get you to the right mileage, you sometimes have to start all over and plan a new route from scratch.

Enter the Forerunner, what I hope will be my personal savior. Not only does it use GPS satellites to track distance (not perfectly accurate, but still should be withing about 0.1 miles every time, rather than the Nike+'s 10-20% swings), but it will tell you your current pace, average pace for this run, "lap" times and paces, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I think some of the coolest features are the following:
  1. You can set it to automatically record laps at certain distances... i.e. you can set it up to auto-record your mile splits
  2. There's a heartrate monitor so you can use it to track heartrate in order to train in heartrate zones. The data from the heart rate monitor can also be used with some software programs to track your "Training Load," which helps you see the improvement in your fitness over time
  3. You can set up a "Virtual Partner" to run at your goal pace, and it will tell you if you are ahead or behind.
  4. You can set up customized workouts in advance. For example, I could have set up the 5x400m speed interval workout I did on Tuesday in advance, including the warmup jog ahead of time, the type of intervals (distance or time) and the recovery jogs between (which you can set as a time recovery or distance recovery).
The one big drawback of the model I got, the Forerunner 305, is that it is a few years old, and so it looks like a brick on your arm, but I'm told by several people on forums that have used it that it is actually quite light, and that you get used to it very quickly.

My Forerunner should arrive in the middle of next week. I'll write a review in a few weeks when I've had a chance to play around with it.

Here's a video on the 305:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Workout: 3.4 Mile Easy Run

Distance: 3.41 miles
Time: 32:16
Avg. Pace: 9:28/mile
Type: Easy Run/Recovery Run
Weather: Cooler (mid to upper 60s), cool breeze
Summary: 1st 1 1/2 miles were faster (I'm estimating between 8:30-9:00 min/mile), but I had to slow up a bit after that (shin pain, legs a little dead from yesterday).

This was an easy run/recovery to get some endurance work, but mostly to let my legs recover from yesterday's speed workout. I felt really good for the first 1 1/2 miles, but then my shins started to hurt a little and my legs started to feel a little dead, and I didn't really have the "umph" to go very fast.

Next Planned Workout: Tomorrow evening (Thurs. 7/30) Threshold Workout (I'm hoping for a 2x10 min threshold run).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Workout: 5x400m Speed Workout

Main Workout Distance: 1.25 miles (5x400m intervals) + 1 mile walk/recovery jog (~400 m walk/recovery jog between each interval) = 2.25 miles total
Main Workout Avg. Pace: 6:40/mile (running portions)
Warmup/Cooldown Distance: 2.9 miles (2 mile warmup before intervals and 0.9 mile cool down after intervals)
Avg. WU/CD Pace: 9:55/mile
Type: Speed Workout
Weather: Cool (mid 60s to low 70s), Clear, No Humidity
Summary: 400m intervals ranged from 1:35 to 1:50 per interval, or between about 6:22/mile to about 7:24/mile, with walk/jog recovery for 400m+ between each; Warmup 2 mi run at slow pace (9:34/mile); Cool Down 0.9 mile jog at even slower pace (10:45/mile pace)

My first interval speed workout. These really weren't that bad, in fact I had to keep myself in check to keep from running them too fast. All the advice I've seen on running intervals like these as a speed workout for long distance training recommend being around your 2-5K pace, which for me is supposedly around 7:22/mile to 7:43/mile (or about 1:42 to 1:55 per 400m interval), but as you can see, only my slowest interval was in this range. I guess it's the old high school sprinter in me coming out (I ran the 400m as my main race in high school and had a personal best of about 50.5 seconds... nothing stellar, but still not slow. I also ran the 200m pretty fast, I don't remember exactly but I know it was around 21 seconds).

I think that it's fine that I was a little fast, I'm sure I'll get better at pacing myself: in fact, I think that will be a big benefit of these speed workouts is that it will help me get better and "feeling" what my pace is.

I think I might try my next set of speed intervals (next Tuesday) on a hill. Hill intervals are supposed to help build leg strength as well as speed, and early on in a training schedule it's a good idea to increase strength, which leads to an increased max. pace (according to Run Faster).

Next Planned Workout: 3-3.5 mile endurance run tomorrow evening (Wed. 7/29). What type will depend on how my legs feel after tonight's speed workout. If I'm hurting, then it will be a recovery run. If I feel just OK or good, I will do a normal easy run. And if I feel really good during the easy run, I'll turn it into a progression run and increase the pace on the last 1-1.5 miles.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monster Dash Training Starts Today

Today is the first official day of my Monster Dash Half-Marathon Training Program (although technically, today is a day off, so the actual training doesn't start until tomorrow). My training plan will be a modified version of Hal Higdon's Intermediate Half-Marathon Program from, but with two extra weeks added (for a total of 14 weeks rather than Hal's planned 12 week program), one week for an extra buildup, and another for an added week of taper. I am also throwing in some of the workout advice/types from the Run Faster book (review forthcoming).

I am very excited to start my first "official" long-distance race training program. This is the first concrete step toward my goal of finishing a full marathon (up until now, you could say I was just dabbling in training, but could have stopped at any time).

Here we go!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekly Total: July 20-26

Running: 16.41 miles, 2:36:59, Avg. Pace: 9:34 per mile
Other: 2 Walks, 3.64 miles
4 Endurance/Stamina Workouts (1 Easy Run, 1 Progression Run, 1 Threshhold Run, 1 Recovery Jog), 1 Mile Time Trial, 1 Speed Workout, 2 Walks
Total Miles: 20.05 miles

Unfortuntaly, the blister that showed up after Wednesday's time trial/threshold workout and the sore quads that resulted from Friday's speed workout required me to have a little more recovery than I intended (cutting short a planned 4 mile easy run on Saturday and skipping my long run completely on Sunday). Thankfully, I wasn't really in my training program yet, so the extra time off should just help me be fully rested for the official start of my Half-Marathon Training Program (starting tomorrow!).

Workout: 1 Mile Walk

Distance: 1.17 miles
Time: No idea
Avg. Pace: No idea
Type: Walk
Weather: Hot, sunny
Summary: 1+ mile walk to park with Andy, Steph, and Connie (mother in-law)

We took a short walk down to the park so that Andy could play on the swings and in the sand. Not really a workout, but still a mile logged.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Workout: 3 Mile Recovery Run

Distance: 2.93 miles
Time: 31:45
Avg. Pace: 10:50/mile
Type: Recover Jog
Weather: Hot, Humid
Summary: 3 mile slow recovery jog at slow, constant pace because of sore quads.

I had planned this to be a 4-4.5 mile easy run for endurance, but my quads and shins were still really sore from yesterday's hill sprints (I may need to rethink doing those if I keep getting this sore).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Workout: 4.75 Easy Run + 4x8 sec. Hill Sprints

Distance: 4.75 miles
Time: 44:24
Avg. Pace: 9:21/mile
Type: Easy Run + Speed Workout
Weather: Warm, Clear
Summary: 4 mile easy run (about 9:10/mile), 4x8 sec. Hill Sprints, 0.8 mile slower (9:45/mile) cool-down/recovery run

I felt mostly good during the first 4 mile portion. The hill sprints were hard, and my quads were killing me during the last one. My quads were still pretty sore afterwards.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Plantar Fascia: That Fickle Bitch

One of the most common injuries experienced by runners is plantar fasciitis (often incorrectly referred to as a heel spur, which is technically a different, but often related, injury). And like the hundreds and thousands of runners before me who have experienced the pain of PF, I too am afflicted with this condition. In fact, I had a mild case of PF for over a year (even when I wasn't running) and didn't really know what it was.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?
According to one of the best websites on the subject,, "plantar fasciitis (pronounced PLAN-ter fa-shee-EYE-tiss) is an inflamation of the plantar fascia in your foot. The plantar fascia is a large band of connective tissue between your heel and the ball of your foot, and it acts to support your arch when you walk. The plantar fascia experiences tension as you lift your back heel off the ground when you walk or run. The tension is greatly increased (leading to PF) when the calf muscle is tight and inflexible. The following two pictures (again, from the wonderful site show the plantar fascia and the most common point of pain for PF.

The "Pain Often here" spot on the second picture is exactly where I felt a sharp stabbing pain when I walked, particularly after I started ramping up my running to about 15 miles per week back in April. The weird thing about PF is it hurts the worst right when you get up in the morning, and it gets progessively less painful throughout the day. For me, the pain usually went away completely when I ran, so I never equated it with running until I looked into it more. The reason PF hurts the worst in the morning is when you sleep, your feet generally flatten out, releasing the tension in your calves and causing them to tighten so that when you get up and start to walk, your plantar fascia starts screaming because the tension on the plantar fascia increases as the calf gets tighter and more inflexible. Similarly, PF pain tends to go away as you walk or run around because your calves warm up and become less tight, relieve the tension on your plantar fascia.

Unfortunately, there is no quick treatment for PF. Also, while resting (i.e. laying of on exercise) helps, it often isn't enough to cure PF (unless you are able to remain in bed 24/7 for an extended period of time). You pretty much have to stick with some common sense remedies for a long period of time to reduce or eliminate the extra stress on your plantar fascia while the inflammation heals. Here are the treatments I have used that have helped reduce, and on some days eliminate, my PF pain.
1. Stretching - Regular calf stretches help a lot. I do a couple pushing up against a wall (the "Gastroc" and "Soleus" stretches demonstrated here). Another that helps me a lot (although you have to be careful not to overstretch) is to stand on the edge of a stair step on the balls or toes of my feet (either both feet, or you can isolate your left or right calves) while slowly lowering my heels below the level of the step. You have to be careful with this method, because it can lead to injury to the plantar fascia or the achilles tendon, but if done slowly and carefully, it has worked wonders for me.
2. Strassburg Sock/Night Splint - Technically, this is really another form of stretching, but it was quite new and different for me, and I suspect for many others too. You wear one of these at night to keep your foot flexed instead of laying flat. This keeps your calf stretched throughout the night to prevent the tightening described above. I have used the Strassburg most nights for a few weeks, and the difference was remarkable. I noticed a big difference the very first night I wore it. In fact, when I was forced to stop wearing the Strassburg for a week and a half to avoid aggravating my toe injury (which was on the same foot as my PF), I noticed an almost immediate worsening of symptoms, particularly in the mornings. The Strassburg Sock takes some time to get used to, so you may have one or two nights of less than ideal sleep, but I don't notice it much anymore. I have heard the same about night splints. Of all the treatments so far, I think the Strassburg, and possibly insoles (discussed next), have made the most difference.
3. Insoles/Orthotics - arch support is very important to avoid and treat PF. I credit wearing insoles with great arch support for really helping me to keep the PF pain at bay and to help me get better while I'm doing all the other treatments. At the recommendation of, I got Powersteps (the original Powersteps for my day to day shoes, and Pinnacles for my running shows), which have been a godsend. Once I got used to wearing insoles with such aggressive arch support (which took a couple days), I noticed a big reduction in PF pain, even on days when I hadn't worn my Strassburg, stretched much, or iced my arch (discussed below). There are other good over-the-counter insoles out there (I have also used Superfeet, which are OK, and Sole, which could be great but the arch support hit my foot at the wrong spot and caused a huge blister... and Spenco seems to have been the industry "standard" for awhile), but the Powersteps seem to come the most highly recommended by podiatrists. Powersteps were a little harder to find (I had to trek out to a specialty running shop in St. Paul, which is way out of my way) but they are worth it for reduced foot pain.
4. Ice - ice is also great because it helps control plantar fascia inflammation. I purchased a couple of great general purpose, reusable ice packs from Target (there are also specialty ice packs designed specifically for ankle and foot injuries, like the ActiveWrap, but these seemed overly expensive and even harder to find than the Powersteps insoles). (By the way, the ice packs I did get, the ThermiPaq, is by far the best ice pack I've every used. It uses a ceramic clay material that gets cold fast in the freezer, but holds its cold for longer than traditional gel packs... they also come with a great washable cloth cover with a velcro strap for securing it to wherever you need icing). When my PF was at its worst, I would ice my arch immediately after I got up in the morning while I ate breakfast minutes, 3-4 times a day while at work, and 1 or 2 more times at night (with at least 1 immediate before bed), which each icing being for at least 10-15 minutes, and preferably 20-30. I also did my best to ice it immediately after a run. Icing helps a lot because not only does it reduce inflammation (which causes pain), but it also causes the blood vessels to contract and essentially massage the "junk" (for lack of a good technical term) out of your tissue.
5. Ibuprofen - like icing, ibuprofen is also good to help reduce inflammation, and if you are really hurting to help reduce pain (although you should be taking it for the inflammation... if the pain is so great that you can't tolerate it without ibuprofen or some other pain killer, you might want to see a podiatrist because your PF is much more advanced than mine). I didn't use ibuprofen as much as the other treatments because I like to avoid taking drugs if I don't have to, but if I'm having a bad day and my arch feels particularly sore, I do take some to help.

So that's it for my treatments. I am not all the way to being pain free (as a couple of my recent workouts show), but when I am aggressive with these treatments, the pain usually stays at bay and I am able to keep running while still healing, which is what is really important when training for long races.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Workout": 2.47 Mile Walk Around Valleyfair

Distance: 2.47 miles
Time: 2.5 hours (there were rides in between)
Avg. Pace: No idea (the actual walking time was much less than 2.5 hours)
Type: Walk
Weather: Warm (upper 70s, low 80s), clear
Summary: Walking around Valleyfair! amusement park with my wife, mom, and second cousins who are in town visiting.

Who knew walking around an amusement park for a couple hours could cover so much distance? Well, I guess everyone who's ever done it and felt how sore their legs are afterwards. This was a lot of fun... it was an unplanned birthday trip because my cousin and her kids (my second cousins) were in town and they had been at Valleyfair most of the day and my mom promised she'd take the kids back after dinner to ride a few more rides so my wife and I went too. Wild Thing is still the best coaster in the upper midwest (although Raging Bull and Superman: Ultimate Flight at Six Flags in Chicago are also pretty awesome), and Renegade, which I hadn't been on before, also was one of the most fun new coasters I've been on in awhile (it whips you all over the place with a ton of twists and turns). Overall, a pretty fun end to a good birthday

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 31st birthday. Man am I getting old. Oh well, age is just a number, you're only as old as you feel, and all that jazz. If I keep running, hopefully I can keep feeling young for awhile.

Workout: 4 Mile Threshold Run w/ 1 Mile Time Trial

Distance: 4.42 miles
Time: 40:20
Avg. Pace: 9:08 per mile
Type: Threshold run + Time Trial
Weather: Very cool, mid-50s, and clear
Summary: 1 mile warmup at slow pace (10:00 to 9:30 pace), 1 mile time trial (6:55 pace), recovery walk/jog for 3-4 mins, 5 min threshold run at increased pace (estimate 9:00 to 8:30 pace), 3-5 min recovery, 3-4 min threshold run (intended to be 5 min) at increased pace (estimate 9:00 to 8:45 pace)

I had done a time trial mile run (meaning trying to go at the maximum pace I feel I can withstand over a full mile to see how fast my best possible mile pace is) several weeks ago (back on June 16). My time for that mile was about 7:30, and today I was able to run the mile in about 6:55 (still no iPod, so I used my analog wristwatch to keep time, not the most accurate, but good to within a few seconds). This seems like a pretty good improvement for just over a month (I know, I know... I was out of shape before, so my improvements will be quite large to begin with). Amazingly, during the time trial I went out way too fast and felt like complete crap for about 3/4 of the mile and I was sure I was actually going to get a worse time in this time trial... I guess my running over the last month is paying off a little.

According to the McMillan Calculator, this means if I did nothing to improve my general aerobic fitness and base speed but only improved my endurance so that I can make it a whole half marathon, I should be able to run my upcoming goal race at 8:28 minute pace for a total time of 1:50:46. I would be absolutely ecstatic with this time (my goal is to finish in 2 hours or less, so a 10 minute premium would be awesome). And of course, just improving my endurance would also give me a little bit of a gain in aerobic fitness, so I might even be able to do a little better (my "perfect race" goal of 1 hour, 45 minutes might even be in reach).

The mile time trial also served as the first of three (initially planned as 2) threshold intervals (albeit a mile time trial is at the extreme fast end of a "threshold" run, and even borders on a speed workout, but since it was over an entire mile I think it fits better in the threshold catagory since it will help me build up stamina). The other threshold intervals kind of fell apart since the mile time trial took so much out of me. I was sucking wind for both of them, and I barely increased my pace (perhaps to as fast as 8:30, but certainly no faster). Oh well, it certainly should trigger adaptations from my body.

Next Planned Workout: 3.5-4 mile easy run with 4x8 sec. hill sprints, either tomorrow (Thursday) morning or evening (probably evening)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Book Review: Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide

Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon

Marathon (as you have probably guessed) is another book on training for a marathon. As with Marathoning for Mortals, much of the focus of this book is on helping beginners or runner who are inexperienced at long distances tackle the task of training for the 26.2 miles of a marathon. Marathon is a very comprehensive book that not only gives you a great foundation to start your training, but also gives you a ton of other information that you may not have considered or even thought about.

The author, Hal Higdon, was a competitive runner in the 1960s and 1970s (he is still an active runner, but since he is in his 70s he isn't necessarily competitive anymore), when he achieved marathon times in the 2 hour, 20 minute range (phenomenally fast), including finishing as high as fifth (first American) at the Boston Marathon in 1964. He has been a longstanding contributing writer for Runner's World magazine, and has written over 30 books, mostly on running.

The biggest strength of Marathon is the breadth of topics that are covered. For example, there are chapters on beginning runners, "Your First Marathon," how to build up mileage, endurance training, speed training geared toward marathon running (although Higdon recommends you not worry about speed training for your first marathon), injuries, and even a whole chapter on "mind games" to help you get through the mental challenge associated with running for 3 plus hours (if you're really good) or 4 plus hours (if you are a normal, average jogger). I thought that two chapters in particular were very helpful, mostly because I had never really thought about them before. The first was "The Distance Runner's Diet," which helps you try to get your nutrition in good form to help you run 26.2 miles (I'll admit that I haven't really put this into practice myself, but I hope to). The "Diet" chapter also referred me to Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, which I hope to read soon and which looks like a fabulous book to help learn how to eat properly, not just for sports, but for life. The second chapter that I found really helpful was "Predicting Pace and Performance." This chapter talked about the ways you can predict what your race pace should/might be, and how to use that information to determine what your pace should be during some of your workouts. Higdon listed several methods, the most useful being McMillan Running Calculator, a truly fabulous tool for calculating paces and planning workouts. (By the way, Greg McMillan's website also has a great article on some of the physiological reasoning behind different training methods that really helped me understand the importance of long easy runs, shorter and faster tempo/threshold runs, and speedwork, even for long distance training).

Finally, Marathon also points you to Hal Higdon's personal website, where he has includes tons more information on more specific training details and a link to a very good forum that he checks and posts on quite frequently where you can get more specific questions answered. Higdon's website alone is worth the price of admission for the Marathon book.

Like Marathoning for Mortals, Marathon doesn't go into incredible detail on how to do the actual training, day to day (although it is more detailed than Mortals), but there are other great books and websites for that. What Marathon does do very well is cover just about every topic that is related to running a marathon, and Higdon does a great job of pointing to other sources of information where you can learn more (the McMillan Calculator and Sports Nutrition Guidebook being two examples that I have already mentioned). Overall, Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide pretty much lives up to its name. It can, and should, be one of the first places you turn to get a question about this difficult race answered

Monday, July 20, 2009

Workout: 4 Mile Progession Run

Distance: 4.31 miles
Time (estimate): 40:30
Avg. Pace (estimate): 9:24 per mile
Type: Progression Run
Weather: Upper 70s to lower 80s, overcast, humid
Summary: First 3.3 miles easy (approx. 9:45-9:30 per mile), last mile at increased pace (approx. 8:45-8:30)

My legs were a little stiff and dead at first, but toward the end I felt really good. I originally planned on doing 4 miles total with a 4x8 sec. hill sprint speed workout, but since my legs felt so dead, I decided to turn it into a progession workout instead to get a little more aerobic benefit. I still can't find my ipod, so the paces here are educated guesses and I used them to estimate my total time.

Next Planned Workout: 4-4.5 mile threshold run, either tomorrow or Wednesday (probably Wednesday).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekly Total: July 13-19

Running: 19.06 miles, 2:56:05, Avg. Pace 9:14 per mile
Workouts: 1 long run, 3 easy runs, 1 speed workout
Other: 2.1 mile walk
Total Miles: 21.16 miles

Not bad, I got my mileage back up to where it was pre-toe injury, and I improved my average pace slightly. I would have liked to have had either one more speed workout or a tempo workout too (plus one more workout total), but I can live with this for now.

Workout: 7 Mile Long Run

Distance: 6.95 miles
Time: 1:07:55
Avg. Pace: 9:48 per mile
Type: Long Run
Summary: Steady run at approx. 9:45 to 9:30 per mile. Walked a short bit at 1.5 miles and (uphill) at 4.5 miles
Weather: Upper 60s to mid-70s, sunny and clear, slight breeze

I felt OK for this workout... the weather was near perfect, but I didn't feel too great most of the way. I had to walk about 1.5 miles in, and then again at about 4.5 (but that was going up a wicked hill, so it hardly counts). I couldn't find my iPod, so this run was sans-music too (and the time is a guess based on the actual time when I left the house and got back). I guess it's good that I could actually do a long workout without music.

Next Planned Workout: 4 mile easy run with 4x8 sec. hill sprints, tomorrow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Workout: 4 Mile Easy Run

Distance: 4 miles
Time: 35:41
Avg. Pace: 8:55 per mile
Type: Easy Run for Endurance
Summary: 4 miles at a fairly constant pace, a slight slowdown at about 2 miles for a mile because of arch pain and fatigue.
Weather: Very cool (low 60s), but clear.

Another easy run at a sub-nine minute average, which is good. But, I felt pretty crappy through the whole run (probably because I was running for the second time in less than 12 hours), and my arch started hurting again. I really hope it isn't anything more than my PF. But, I'm icing right now as I type this, so hopefully it will go away. Oh yeah, and I got the start of a wicked blister right on the same arch. I have some blister bandages that should keep it copacetic, but still, I haven't had blisters in years.

Next Planned Workout: Saturday (7/18), 4-4.5 mile easy run with 4x8 sec. hill sprints. Possibly a WiiFit step session tomorrow night (Friday 7/17) if I feel up to it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Workout: 4 Mile Easy Run + Speedwork

Distance: 4.1 miles (easy run portion only)
Time: 37:13
Avg. Pace: 9:05 per mile
Type: Easy run with 4x8 sec. hill sprint workout near the end (about 3/4 mile left on easy run after hills
Summary: 3.25 miles at about 9 min. pace. 4x8 sec. hill sprints with 1 min+ walking recovery after each, 0.85 miles at much slower pace (maybe 9:30 to 10 min pace).
Weather: Warm (low to mid 70s), sunny and windy, but otherwise very nice (low humidity).

My arch hurt a little in the middle of the run, so it looks like my plantar fasciitis may be flaring back up... back to stretching multiple times a day, icing, and ibuprofen. Man, are those 8 second hill sprints hard! My legs were feeling it during the second one, and I still had 2 more to go!

Next Planned Workout: Tomorrow (Thursday 7/16) morning 4 mile easy run.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Workout: 4 Mile Easy Run

Distance: 4 miles
Time: 35:16
Avg. Pace: 8:48 per mile
Summary: 4 mile easy run at fairly constant pace (right around 9:00 per mile the whole time), slight increase for last 400-600 meters (maybe as fast as 8:00 per mile)
Weather: Cool (low 60s), Overcast, Sprinkling
I Felt: Tired and a little weak, particularly about 2.5 miles in.

My first pre-work morning workout since my toe injury, and it went very well. As I noted above, I felt a little tired and weak, but I think that was partly because I didn't get to sleep until after 11 last night and was awakened at 4:15 AM this morning by a little blond baby that needed a bottle. I did eat a banana about 30 minutes before I started running, so I don't think I needed any sports drink too before I started, but that might have helped (at least for the hydration part of it). It is very hard figuring out how to eat before a morning run like this. Thankfully, my morning runs are fairly short, so even if I don't eat anything I can still make it through.

I had to skip last night's planned Wii Fit stepping workout because of stuff that needed to get done around the house (cooking dinner, getting Andy to bed, folding laundry), but the Wii Fit workouts are more about just getting a little blood flowing then doing any actual cardio work anyway.

Next Planned Workout
: 4-4.5 mile run with speedwork (either 5x8 sec. hill sprints or strides/drills)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekly Total July 6-12

Running: 13.27 miles, 2 hours, 4 minutes, 49 seconds; avg. pace 9:22 min/mile
Workouts: 1 long endurance run, 1 easy run, 1 tempo run, 1 speed workout
Other: 1 hour, 30 minutes additional WiiFit stepping

A respectable mileage total for my first week back after my toe injury.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Workout: 6.75 mile Long Run/Mini-Speed Workout

Distance: 6.71 miles
Time: 1:06:26
Avg. Pace: 9:53 per mile
Long Endurance Run w/ Short Speed/Strength Workout in Middle
Summary: 2.5 miles easy run (9:30 per mile+), 2x8 sec. hill sprints with 30-45 sec. walk recovery after each, 3/4 mile easy run, 3x8 sec. hill sprints w/ 45 sec. walk recovery after each, final 2.5-3 miles easy run (9:30-10:00 per mile)
Hot (mid-70s, but felt much hotter for some reason), Sunny, Low Humidity

This was my first long endurance run since my injury, and I can definitely tell that I have lost some endurance. I think that is to be expected with no endurance runs in two weeks, and only two running workouts at all in that time. I'm happy that I was able to do 6.5 miles-plus, however. There is plenty of time to build endurance back. The route I ran also has a huge hill in the middle, so I did a short speed workout in the middle of this workout. In total, I did 5x8 second hill sprints to build some leg strength for speed work later. This included 2x8 sec. hill sprints on the way out (at about 2.5 miles) and 3x8 sec. hill sprints on the way back (3.25-3.5 miles) with short (30-45 second) recovery walks after each sprint. I probably won't do too much of these speed workouts in the middle of long runs anymore, but I thought I'd try it to see how it felt.

Unfortunately I missed my planned Saturday workout (Andy was a little challenging during the mid-day, and we had to visit my parents because my dad hadn't seen Andy for weeks).

Next Planned Workout: Monday night, 30 minute WiiFit stepping + strength. (Next running workout Tuesday morning, 4 mile easy run)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Workout: 3.5 Mile Injury Test

Distance: 3.52 miles
Time: 30 minutes, 6 seconds
Avg. Pace:
8:33 minutes/mile
Type: Stamina workout, Tempo Run
Summary: First 1.5 mile - 9-9:30 min/mile pace; middle mile about 7:45 min/mile pace; last mile 9-9:30 pace

I think I'm back. No toe pain. I was even able to do an increased tempo workout and felt nothing in the toe. I definitely felt tired during the middle mile, but I am happy that I could keep a sub-8 minute pace for a sustained period of time (even if it was only for 1 mile). I know I have lost endurance and stamina since my toe injury, but that is why I need to do this kind of workout to get back where I want to be.

Next Planned Workout: Saturday, easy run.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Workout: 3 mile Injury Test

Distance: 3.04 miles
Time: 28 minute, 18 seconds
Avg. Pace: 9:18 per mile
Type: Easy run to test injured toe
Weather: Overcast, mid-60s, humid
Summary: Easy jog/run for most of run (first 2 1/2 miles or so) at about 10 min. pace. Last half mile was at an increased pace for a small threshhold workout.

My first run back after my toe injury, and I felt really good. My legs were clearly refreshed after a week and a half off, however I definitely lost some cardio endurance, since I was tired way too early in the run and had a stitch in my side at about 1 1/2 miles. My stamina (i.e. ability to hold an increased threshhold pace) also decreased a little because I couldn't maintain my threshold pace as well during the last 1/2 mile. I'm not too worried about the loss in endurance and pace, since those will come back during my actual training for my upcoming Half. The important news is my toe didn't hurt at all during the workout. It was a little stiff and sore later in the evening, but I think that was caused more by me icing it. I still had no pain when I got up this morning (although still a little stiffness in the toe right now), so hopefully this means I am sufficiently healed to start up running again. I will take Thursday off completely, and if the toe still feels fine on Friday, I will do another short (2.5-3 mile) test run.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Clumsiness Can Ruin Training Plans

I'm sure all my readers (I have had a grand total of two hits so far) have been wondering "Hey, what gives!? You claim to be a runner, but there hasn't been a single post about a workout (except for yesterday's walking workout. Are you just funnin' us?"

No, gentle reader... I am not "funnin'" you. The reason for my lack of posts about workouts is because last Sunday, I stubbed the forth toe on my right fit (i.e. "the ring toe") pretty badly and have been out of commission every since. I didn't stub it while running or doing anything else cool. I was just clumsy and hit it on a doorway on my way through. In fact, for a few days I was worried that it might be broken and that I was either going to have to drop out of the half marathon I was scheduled for in October because I couldn't even start my training plan for that race, or I was going to have to join a gym and start pool running (more on what pool running is in another post). Now, I think it is just bruised/sprained, and that after another week or so of rest and icing, I should be ready to get back into my training.

My whole point for this post is "BE CAREFUL!" A few seconds of clumsiness can undo months of hard work. Obviously, injuries are going to happen as part of any training for a long race like a marathon or a half marathon, but that doesn't mean you should help the injuries along by not paying attention. I wish I had taken this advice... because even if my toe is only sprained, I have still lost two weeks worth of running workouts that I will have to make up. This will screw up my training plan because I was counting on having that two weeks of base endurance training when I started my half-marathon training plan, and now I will have to build that endurance training into the schedule and take out some other speed/strength work (granted, I'm fairly new to long-distance training, so I didn't have too much speed work anyway, but that doesn't mean I wanted to get rid of it).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Walking/Injury Workout: 3.3 miles

Distance: 3.3 miles
Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes (approx.)
Avg. Pace: 24 min/mile

I went for a long walk with Andy (my son) and Steph (my wife) today. This was the first "workout" of any kind since I sprained my toe (more on that here). We also stopped for dinner and ice cream along the way (although the dinner is not reflected in the total time), so we weren't exactly in a hurry. My toe felt fine mostly, but there was still a little twinge now and then. I am going to give it a couple days off and try a very easy jog for about 2 miles on Wednesday. If it still feels fine after that, I will try a normal 4 mile run on Saturday, and again if it still feels fine a 6-7 mile long run on Sunday. If it doesn't feel fine after any of those, I'll look into the pool running route.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Book Review: Marathoning for Mortals

Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person's Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Half-Marathon or Marathon by John "The Penguin" Binghan & Jenny Hadfield

Marathoning for Mortals is the first book on running that I ever read, and although most of the text on running is fairly cursory (I found the chapters on the "Anatomy of a Long-Distance Training Program" to actually be quite sparse on details), the book does a great job of describing the emotional aspects of running these long distance races. And, as the title implies, the book is written for normal, average people out there who are wondering "Can I do it?" The book is emphatic in its answer... "Yes, you can!"

The primary author, John "The Penguin" Bingham (so named, apparently, because of his awkward running style), came to running later in life (I believe he said he didn't start running until his mid-40s), but has since run over 30 marathons. The other author, Jenny Hadfield, has degrees in exercise physiology and is a certified personal trainer. Along with writing about running online at a lot of places, Ms. Hadfield also is active in Team in Training (TNT) (or was at the time Marathoning was written), a group that helps people train for marathons and other long distance races while also raising a ton of money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She handles a lot of the discussion on the science of running (although there isn't much discussion in this area).

What really makes Marathoning for Mortals a great book for the normal, average person is that it is written understanding that you may be coming to your marathon training at many different fitness levels. The book cautions against doing too much too fast, and it devotes quite a bit of discussion to walking all or part of these long distance races. The training plans listed at the back of the book include a separate plan for those wishing to Walk, Walk/Run (walking with some running), Run/Walk (running with some walking) or Run a half marathon and a full marathon. That's 8 plans that can fit just about any fitness level from couch potato to moderately serious runner (more serious runners should look to other books and plans for their training schedules... but that is not surprising since this book is called Marathoning for Mortals).

Scattered throughout the book are short quotes from other "mortals" who were able to finish the training and finish the marathon. It is these quotes that really make the book, because it is these real stories that help you understand that you can do it. Another inspiring portion of the book is the chapter entitled "It's All About the Medal," which describes the feeling of crossing the finish line for your first marathon. One story of The Penguin's was particularly inspirational to me as I was reading Marathoning in the middle of my unemployment-induced funk. The story described his witnessing of one young man's crossing of the finish line:
He was in his mid-twenties. There wasn't anything all that unusual about him. He was, or so it seemed, just one of hundreds of young men out there in Austin, Texas, on that February morning. he wasn't fast, he wasn't gifted, and he wasn't special in any other way. Yet that young man has become a memory seared into my brain.

As he crossed the finish line, he began to cry--not just the "filled with emotions from finishing" kind of crying, but a gut wrenching, blood-curdling wail that was coming from some part of him that had been liberated by the distance and the effort and the step across the finish line.
It was the "liberated by the distance" part that really hit home with me, and it is one of the reasons I want to run a marathon.

All in all, Marathoning for Mortals may not be the best book on marathon training out there, but it is a great start for the average Joe or Jane who wants to tackle the challenge of a marathon. If this describes you, I would recommend it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why do this?

Hello! Welcome to the alliteratively enticing Mike's Marathon Migration! This first post is just meant to be an introduction to me and why I am writing this blog.

First, my name is Mike, and I am a patent attorney in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. I live in Apple Valley, which is a quintessential suburb near the southern extreme of the Twin Cities Metro Area. I am 30 years old (about to turn 31 later this month), and I am married with one child (an incredibly cute son named Andy... his picture is my profile pic). I am originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, but my family moved up to the Twin Cities when I was 12, so I consider myself a Minnesotan more than a Nebraskan.

I went to college at Iowa State University where I got a bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduating from Iowa State, I was disheartened with the day-to-day work of engineering, and I was lucky enough to find a job as a patent agent (kind of like a junior varsity patent attorney who can write patents and shepherd them through the U.S. Patent Office) in a very small patent law firm in Chicago, where I worked for 3 years. I then went to law school at the University of Minnesota Law School (I also had a blog there... but for now, I will not link to it). I have been an attorney for almost 2 years now and am currently working at the third law firm of my career, and the second since I became an attorney (more on that later).

I have always been fairly physical and athletic, so I don't want to give the impression that I'm going from being a complete couch potato to running a marathon, but by the time my son was born in August 2008, I was in the worst shape of my life. Just for reference, I graduate high school at roughly the same height I am now and weighing 185 pounds, but last August I weighed 245 pounds, and I think at some point between August and October I weighed at least 250. In October, I used up the remainder of my paternity leave (about 6 weeks) to take care of my son when my wife went back to work after her maternity leave. During my leave, I was able to do some exercising using our WiiFit, and lost about 10-15 pounds by early January (the exercise combined with taking care of my son full time and not eating as much, because I was taking care of my son full time, did wonders for weight loss). I then returned to work in late December 2008.

This brings me to my reasons for wanting to run a marathon. In early January 2009, I was informed by my law firm that I was being laid off effective in early March. Apparantly, patent legal work was not immune from the worst economy in our lifetimes (assuming you weren't alive during the Great Depression... which I think is a safe assumption if you are reading a Blog about running a marathon) and although I had barely worked there long enough (just over a year) to really evaluate whether I was skilled as an attorney, they decided to cut me and a few of my friends/coworkers loose. Moreover, since the economy was so bad, I was unable to find a replacement job for a long time, so in March I was forced to once again stay home with my son (this part I did not mind) and start collecting unemployment.

All of this, understandably, sucked! For several months I was depressed (not clinically so, but still definitely more than just the winter blues) and felt useless and without any control in my life. So, once the weather started getting nice, I took up running again. I ran track in high school, and jogged for fitness off and on ever since. I hadn't really put on running shoes and gone out running for at least a year and a half, and not regularly since before law school (i.e 2004). But, I was inspired by my sister-in-law who only a couple years before had gone from never running, to finishing a half marathon, and who was training for another half marathon. Once I was running 4 or 5 times a week, I borrowed one of her books on training (Marathoning for Mortals by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield... a very good book for beggining runners who want to train for a full or half marathon) and started thinking about joining her for a half marathon.

When I really thought about how my life was going (depressing with a feeling that I had no control) and what it takes to run a marathon, I thought I would take control of my own life and run a marathon! I think subconsciously, it was my way of showing my old law firm and doing something that none of them have the dedication, drive, or ambition to try (mature, I know). In short, training for a marathon is my chosen method of empowerment, and a way of showing myself and anyone else that I can do anything... and no matter what life does to bring me down, I still have enough control to do something huge that 95% of the population can't do and wouldn't even dare to try.

Thankfully, on the career front, I have found an excellent job at another patent law firm here in town, where I have been working for about a month. But my running has progressed well, and I am officially training for a half marathon in October (the Monster Dash Half Marathon on Halloween Day in Minneapolis) with the ultimate goal of training for the Chicago Marathon in October 2010. (I'll go into why I selected that race for my first marathon more in subsequent posts.)

Finally, why am I blogging about it? For two reasons. First, I want my own record of exactly how I was feeling at each step along this journey. This is one of the biggest goals in my life so far, and one that will require a lot of long range dedication, planning, and hard work. Despite Barney's (from the *awesome* show How I Met Your Mother, or HIMYM... I absolutely love this show, so there may be quotes from it from time to time) conviction that "You don't train for a marathon. You just run it.", training for a marathon requires a ton of training (as you will see over the next year plus). So, I want a record of this for purely selfish reasons. As such, many posts on here will be ridiculously boring to read, as they will simply be a record of my workout that day. But, there will hopefully be lots of other stuff too. For example, my immediate thougths for a few posts in the near future include my reviews of running books I've been reading, my thoughts on different kinds of workouts, and probably a fair number of posts just discussing something that happened that day (be it running related or not).

Second, I want to show others in similar positions how I am doing it, and to give my (completely non-expert) opinions and advice on running in general and training for a marathon specifically. My hope is that in the future, someone else will be thinking of training for a marathon and stumble across this blog and it will help them in their journey. Is it presumptuous and conceited of me to think anyone would be interested in what I have to say and would even seek out my advice? Sure. But, the books out there about marathon training (even the ones directed towards beginners) are all written by experienced runners... most of whom are former elite runners. I am not an elite runner (I'm better than average, but nowhere near even competitive... let alone elite). Personally, when I'm getting into an activity that I have no experience in, I prefer stories and advice from people like me, the novices, not the experts. Yes, for highly technical stuff (the physiology of running and training), by all means talk to the experts. But, for the day to day experiences, I want to know what the Average Joe thinks. Well, I'm throwing my hat in the ring as an "Average Mike."

So that's it. I hope if you found this blog, you were able to make it to the end of this post, and I hope you are willing to follow me through my migration from fatness to full marathon.