Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quality Speed Work

Today was another quality run day. Instead of distance, todays focus was on speed and heart rate recovery time. Distance was only 3 miles but it involved running 1200 meters at 10K pace, rest 1 minute, run 400 meters at 5K pace, rest 3 minutes, and repeat.

Doing these sorts of runs at 4:00 a.m. are great. While it's rough getting started that early, after a 1 mile warm up I'm set and ready for the challenge.

This morning the moon was bright and the area was quiet. It was such still scerenity. Enough said.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A New Reason to Love Mondays

Monday has a bad rep. And that really isn't unfounded. Weekends are what we work for. Weekends are great times to get chores done, spend more time with the kids (if you happen to have any of those), relax, read a book, and do a whole host of activities which you decide to do. Monday is the unfortunate recipient of the end-of-the-weekend blues. So naturally it's a hated day. Anything to make Monday better than what it is is a welcome thought.

Monday morning spinning class is just the thing. We have an instructor, Matt, who literally pounds the crap out of us. He plays great motivational music, sets the tone by letting us imagine ourselves outside on a course chasing bikers, flying by trees, battling hills, and crossing the finish line, and is in general a great teacher. Today I spent 35 minutes working my core muscles and then 45 minutes in the cycle 60 class. I think I sweated out and replenished all the water in my body this morning. It was great. There's no better way to start the day. It's too bad we have to spend the rest of the day stuck in a cube doing a whole lot of work that is borderline psychosis enabling.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

18 Mile Tour to Lake Minnetonka

The running paths we have around here are absolutely breathtaking. It's the small things in life like that that make even the worst days seem to be better. And today was a horrible day. I must have woke up on the wrong side of the bed because from moment one this morning I wanted to destroy something.

So I start getting ready for my run and can't find my iPod. All things considered this isn't a big deal because running without music isn't that bad. But what really frustrated me was the fact that it's nowhere to be found. I've looked high, low, and sideways but can't find it. The headphones are right where I left them but not the iPod. As of the time of writing the dumb thing is still not found.

So I decided instead to use my iPhone to listen to music. That was a decent idea except for one thing: only the stock headphones work with it because of its recessed headphone jack. The stock headphones don't stay in my ears. Needless to say, the iPhone got tucked away very early on in the run and the stock headphones almost found themselves in a number of trash bins along the way. By this point I'm borderline starting to lose it. But the best is yet to come.

Today's run really was beautiful. Thank The Maker I was on a tree lined trail, many parts of which were covered by the overhanging branches. That was the only thing that kept me from going completely out of my mind. I decided to do a 9 mile out and back run for a total of 18 miles. Everything physically felt okay. I've been feeling some stiffness and pain in my left ankle but other than that I was strong. After finishing the first 9 miles I turned around and headed back.

All is going so swimmingly well I decide to pick it up a bit and finish the last 9 on a strong note. By this time it was getting pretty warm and my heart rate was seriously getting up into the high zone 3 range. I know this because I told my Garmin Forerunner 305 to keep me there. NOTE: I understand the following is completely my fault but seriously...this absolutely must be fixed in the next revision of the Forerunner.

At this point, no matter how slowly I ran, my heart rate was up in zones 4 and 5 (I even got it up to 6. Aw yeah.) Here's the annoyance. When you're heart rate gets too high or too low, the Forerunner likes to let you know this...again, and again, and again, and again, and... I think you get the idea. The notification it makes is this string of beeping noises. These noises are to the ears what concentrated raw sewage is to the nose. AND YOU CAN'T GET AWAY FROM IT. So no only does the unit make this God aweful noise but it does it repeatedly, every 10 seconds. So I got to listen to this for 9 miles. Yes, I hated my life for roughly 2 hours, 45 minutes.

I really hope life doesn't do anything stupid to me today. Here's the route I took:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yes, I'm crazy

I was looking over today's routine after work yesterday and noticed I had a 6 mile run to do. Not a long run by any means but 6 miles is still 6 miles. Then I checked the forecast and saw "muggy and 93 degrees Fahrenheit". Uh...not good. Since I had my usual spinning class this morning and 6 miles takes me about an hour in normal training conditions I thought it'd be fun to start the day off with my entire cardio routine. So, at 4:00 this morning, my adventure began.

It was dark but comfortable at 75 degrees. I don't fully understand what makes the morning so special for me but it was again another one of those days that I wished would never end. During the first mile I saw a family of deer (yes, deer. Here in the metro area.), a raccoon, and a fox. They looked absolutely wonderful. Because no one is around, they, and myself, were strutting around like we owned the town. Seeing these animals in their majesty is really breath taking.

I ran a typical course (which I'll post up in a few hours) around Hopkins. Because there is very little human activity at that time I thought it'd be fun to run right in the middle of the highway. So I hopped up and did just that for about 2 miles. Right in the middle of the road. There wasn't a car in sight. It felt empowering.

On the last stretch home the breeze kicked up and all I could hear was the wind blowing through the leaves and the crickets chirping. It was so calm and peaceful. God I love the morning!

UPDATE: Here's the course I ran. And yes, I WAS right in the middle of Highway 7. How fun.

Quality Running

Yesterday I had a quality run. Essentially, it was speed work. It involved a number of different length splits at different paces. Altogether the distance was 4 miles. It was 400 m at 5K pace, 800 m at 10K pace, 1200 m at 10K pace, 1600 m at 10K pace, 1200 m at 10K pace, 800 m at 10K pace, and 400 m at 5K pace.

After the 1600 m run it started to rain but not a terrential down pour. It was a very nice subtile rain. Unfortunately the humidity didn't go away and the temp didn't drop. But still...running in the rain is a blast.

Live every day of summer to it's fullest. Because soon our unfriendly acquaintance (a.k.a. Winter) will be moving back in.

UPDATE: Here's the map.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nokomis to St. Paul and Back Again

Today is cross training day and being that it's Monday, it's cycle day. Monday morning spinning at the Cross Town Life Time Fitness is fantastic. We have a fabulous instructor that just beats the crap out of us. It's great. Don't get me wrong though. The other classes on Wednesday and Friday are great too. But Monday offers a spectacular workout with well designed and instructed courses. Today we worked on speed so it was high resistence and high cadence. Man was that tough.

But since I'm a glutton for punishment (and beautiful women) I decided to indulge both of those a bit and do some more biking after work. I met up with an astounding woman athlete at Lake Nokomis for a bike ride. We really didn't have a set destination or plan so we took off from the park and headed along Minnehaha (say that three times fast) Parkway to the Mississippi River and along the frontage road. By this time the clouds cleared up and it wound up being an absolutely picturesque day. The air was still but cool for the ride. We went along the river on the St. Paul side and saw a lot of beautiful scenery in the parks along the river. Who knew the Twin Cities held such wonderous treasures? It was a ride you had to be on to fully experience how great it really was. We followed the trails all the way to downtown St. Paul and had dinner at a fantastic restaurant: Cossetta. If you ever get down there I recommend taking the time to check it out. It's great.

We took literally the same way back but you always catch something new on the return trip. This time we got to see Minneapolis during the sunset over the Mississippi River Valley. Again, it was so gorgeous that you simply had to be there to fully appreciate it's splendor.

I couldn't have asked for a better day and better company. Today was a Monday that had the look, feel, touch, and smell of a Saturday. It was one for the books.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cross training at Crosstown

I'm not particularly fond of this gym. There are many reason and they completely span the spectrum. But it's what I've got and it's better than nothing.

Today was cross training so I decided it would be fun to do some swimming and lifting. Honestly, I'm letting them both slide which is very unfortunate. I've been so focused on my running that the only strength training I've been doing has been core training. While that's definitely an important point to focus on, I shouldn't be neglecting the other muscles. I hit the chest, biceps, and core today. What a rude awakening it was. I used to be so strong because all I did was weight lift. Now, I'm lucky to make it through a handful of sets of any given exercise without wanting to crawl into the fetal position.

Swimming is going well but could definitely improve. I'm literally a newby at this so my form is terrible and my bouyancy lacks something to be desired. But, I know it'll improve if I stick to it. I'm going to try to do swimming 5 times a week.

Lumberjack Days 10 Mile Run

This is a great race. I think the reason I like it so much is because of the scenery. The race starts with all runners being bused out to Square Lake. If you've never been to Square Lake, I highly recommend you make the trip. It's a stunning example of the natural wonders that fill Minnesota. Plus, it would be a great lake to have a triathlon.

The race is run on both paved and gravel roads along the St. Croix River Valley. The St. Croix River is the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin and is tree lined the entire way with a few exceptions being corn fields and other farm land. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up in Michigan.

Around the mile 6 marker, the run turns on to the major highway to Stillwater which is also beautiful in its own right. For the most part, the road is cut through the hills there so it is lined with sedimentary rock on both sides. That part of the race reminds me of my college town. There are a lot of sedimentary rock cliffs all over the place and is astounding to see.

As for my performance, I ran this one 1 minute slower than last year which isn't really a disappointment. However, I was hoping to do the same or better. During the fifth mile I had a mental breakdown for some reason and slowed down for a bit. But, I managed to pull myself out and finish the job.

Here's the course. If you get a chance, you should definitely run this course.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Love Hills

Today was the last workout of the week. So congratulations are in order for another week well done! I'll treat myself to some 10 grain cereal. MMMmmm...

The schedule called for 8 x 400 meter uphill tempo runs. Actually it called for 6 x 200 but I was feeling a bit ambitious, nay, nuts, today so the workout was extended a bit. I jogged about 2 miles to the base of a fairly steep hill and then started to run up it to gauge 400 meters with my Garmin Forerunner. As I was running up, I didn't even get 200 meters before it started to level off. Damn! What to do now?

I ran back home and jogged back to Smetana road which has a hill to it but not as steep. So, starting at the crest, I jogged down and what do you know? From crest to base, the hill is 400 meters. By this point I've run about 3.5 miles more than needed but there's nothing wrong with that.

I was amazingly strong during these uphill runs. I had a lot of reservation about this run today because I hadn't done any hill work in quite a while. But I kept a few key items in mind:

  • Run smooth. Be fluid.

  • Think positive: "I love hills!"

  • Don't tighten up anything, especially your upper body.

Each run up the hill I also kept in mind a different person who's helped me get to where I am today. Those people who have helped shape me, encourage me, pick me up, love me, and supported me. Immediately, my mom's mom (Maxene) came to mind.

This woman was as loving as any grandmother could be. She had about 2 dozen grandkids and remembered every one of their birthdays. About 2 years ago she suffered a stroke and had congestive heart failure. It was a very sad time but through this she remained a fighter. This past January I ran Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge at Walt Disney World, Orlando, and dedicated the race to her honor! She was a great woman who has been through a lot in her life and the least I could do as a grandchild of hers is honor her life by doing the best I could with mine. After the race she had a mile wide grin on her face (the first time she'd smiled in close to a year) and for a few weeks afterwords, her health started improving for the first time since the stroke. I don't think the world could have offered anything to make me feel more happy than I did knowing I honored my grandmother. Unfortunately, about 3 months ago, she passed away after the battle became too much for her. But she knew I loved her and appreciated all she had done in her life and that's all that mattered.

Anyway, back to the hills. Each of the 8 runs had 8 different people in mind. Each kept me motivated as I powered up the hills. Whenever pain came in, I recited one simple line "Pain is weakness leaving the body." and owned each of thos runs.

I'd include a map of the route but something tells me it'd be the most boring map yet: a straight line with one bump because I had to jump out of the way of a moron driver who was about to hit me.

Why do I run? To honor those I love. To love those I honor. And because I love hills!

UPDATE: Here's the route. Thought you'd like to see where the hill is.

Torchlight Run 5K

Not exactly the ideal running conditions but I'd take hot & humid over cold & dry any day.

I realize this race is breaking my curfue a bit. Those of you following along know that 8:00 is pretty much the end of the day for me. But every once in a while we need to break the mold and get out of our routine. It's a nice way to remember we're human. I like to "break the mold" on the weekends because I don't have an 8 hour annoyance (e.g. work) that gets in the way of my training on Saturday and Sunday.

The run was very good. I did a lot better than I thought I would considering the weather conditions. In fact, I think this is my best 5K to date: 22 minutes. As fate would have it the 5K wasn't officially timed so thank God for Garmin. The course map is below. Check it out. As a side note, this is now the third time I've done the Torchlight Run 5K and while each year the start has remained the same (Basilica of St. Mary), the finish this year was a bit odd. The race ended near Harriet Island which isn't so much of an odd thing (although I'm used to ending at the Metrodome but who's complaining?) An odd thing was we had to walk quite a way to get to the post race party on the island. Again, I'm not bitching. Just find it a bit odd is all. Another odd thing was the water distribution station at the end. It was a fill-your-own-cup sort of event. Shame on you LTF! Did you blow all your dough on the triathlon? That was bad form. Especially for a for-profit company.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hopkins Raspberry Festival 5 Mile Run

Against my running schedule I decided to run a race today. This one was the Hopkins 5 Mile Race to kick off the Raspberry Festival Parade. This one was really fun despite the warm weather and late start of 11:30. My heart rate didn't get too high and I was actually able to push myself a bit harder than normal which was a very welcome surpise. It was even more surprising to me considering I ran 20 miles the day before.

I met a couple of wonderful people at the race including a very beautiful woman. Alas, like every other time, I considered it folly to ask for her personal information to contact her again so we remain strangers. I'll just have to wait and see if fate permits us a second meeting.

My increased stamina and obviously improving lactic acid threshold is very encouraging and keeps me hopeful that someday I'll be able to compete in an IronMan Triathlon.

Here it is:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nostalgia and Insanity

A friend of mine invited me to stay the night at her place in Oakdale so I graciously accepted. Before you all get any crazy ideas, she's a good friend and that's where the line is drawn.

Back to the topic at hand, I used to spend a lot of time in Woodbury (a neighboring town) for one reason or another and that's where I began my running career. So, since I had a 20 mile run to do (enter the insanity. Any runner would be quick to point out that week 4 is WAY TOO EARLY to be going that far and I whole heartedly agree. But I'll do what the schedule says until I can't push myself any further.) I thought I'd go back and visit the place where all of this began. I visited the house where I took my first steps as a runner and ran my first mile.

It was really a great time with a lot of good memories. There wasn't any lingering as that would be pointless nonsense but it was very good to see the old stomping ground. Sometimes that sense of nostalgia is exactly what we need to put the happiness back in our lives. Here it is.

If anyone wishes for descriptions of what is where and what some of these places mean to me, drop me an email.

Wednesday Tempo Run

This one was fun. I read an article in the most recent issue of Runner's World about tempo runs and decided Wednesdays would be an ideal time to put those into practice. Tempo runs are essentially designed to train your body to run harder for longer. Scientifically, this means you're increasing your lactic acid threshold. It's similar to drinking a lot of beer frequently except for the fact that tempo running is actually a good thing to do and alcohol consumption, while good in limited quantities, is nowhere close to as beneficial). If you drink a lot of beer all the time, your tolerance increases and it takes more for you to have the same effects you used to have with just one. With beer that's bad but with running that's good. You increase your tolerance so you can push harder for longer.

Here's how my first tempo turned out.

Week 4 Quality Run

Today's task (and by "today" I mean Tuesday, 10 July) involved running some faster 1-mile splits with a short break in between. These not-so-straightforward runs are so much more fun than simply stepping out and doing a standard 5 miles at a certain pace. It's fun to add this extra bit of science to it.

18 Miles - Saturday 7 July

It's taken me a week to get this one up but hopefully it was worth the wait. The training schedule I'm following called for an 18 mile run today. The problem is I had a 5K on this day so trying to squeeze 18 miles out of 3.1 is a bit of a task. What I decided to do instead was wake up a bit early and hit the popular running routes around my house. Then, I'd bike to the race, run the race, and finally bike back.

It was a very fun experience and I couldn't have asked for anything better. The weather was great (albeit hot but tolerable), the people at the race were very nice, and the bike ride was great. Here are the two running events for the day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday Quality Run

Today's run was more of a speed work / heart rate training day than a day which involved lots of miles. I ran 4 1-mile loops each in heart rate zone 4. Not a bad morning workout. So far this mean I run each mile at roughly 7:30/mile pace. Not bad but not great either. I'll keep the heart rate training going and see how it works.

Why We Run in the Wee Hours of the Morning

I realize the consistency of my posts has lacked one vital ingredient: consistency. My life has been too busy any more to get too much work done on the computer but still I'll do my best to get a post or two up here per week.

This past Sunday my training schedule called for an 18 mile pace run. It's a bit early in the training regimin (week 3) to be doing that sort of distance but this is a new workout that I really wanted to try. So 18 it is. The problem is I'm scheduled to run a 5K also. What does one do? Then it hit me: I'll run the 25K that's right in my back yard, bike to the 5K, and then run that for a total of just over 18 miles of running (not to mention the logged biking).

I woke up at 5:30 to do the 25K. The area that I run it in is nothing special. It has some rolling hills, goes by some lakes and a few swamps, but is completely on the road. And I've done this loop now over dozen times so there's nothing amazingly new to learn about it. But there's something about these early summer mornings that transform familiar landscape into a paradise. No one is around, everything is still and quiet, there's ample light but no sun, dew covers all the still plant life, and there's a subtile mist coming off the lakes and swamps that have a cooling and calming effect. This past Sunday during the 5:30 run I felt as though I had my own slice of heaven here on Earth. It was a time that seemed to transcend all we know about the physical world. It was a time that I wished would have never went away.

I love summer! Tis a terrible shame we have to put up with winter in order to have an enjoyable summer.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Wednesdays Easy 5 Mile Loop

The fortunate part about where I live is the vast array of paved and unpaved running trails. The entire Twin Cities area is relatively flat so finding good hills can sometimes be a challenge. That is another blessing with my particular area of the cities. Hills are quite bountiful and they offer anything from moderate to very challenging workouts.

Today's run was just a simple run: 5 miles at an easy pace. The weather wasn't very great when I ran: hot, humid, and no wind, so my heart rate got out of control. But I'll accept that because of the conditions.

Today I picked a new trail and followed it to the edge of Eden Prairie. Again, this was a phenominally gorgeous run. It was a combination of pavement and gravel and went around some gorgeous lakes and was tree lined though parks almost the entire way. Check it out and if you're ever in the Twin Cities look it up. You won't regret this one if you're out for a short run.

Running in Bredesen Park

For lunch yesterday I decided running would be a much more constructive way to spend the hour. So I strapped on the shoes and headed down the road. This time I decided to try a different route. I knew there was a park near by so I decided to run around it. Not only is it a park but it's a nature preserve and an absolutely gorgeous run. It's scenic with a few streams that you must pass over on a nicely constructed wood bridge.

See for yourself.