Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blogging Marathon Challenge


The Official 2010 Running-Down Blogging Marathon Challenge
  • What:   26.2 consecutive days of blog posts!
  • When:   Saturday, July 3rd - Thursday, July 29th
  • Why:   Shannon is going to Italy for 3 weeks. She doesn't speak Italian, so I thought I would give her something to read while she is over there.
I have already started carbo-loading and hydrating... with beer. This will be the biggest challenge I have ever attempted. Just one blog post can take me 5 hours, leaving me mentally limping for a week. 

Can I make it 26.2 days in a row?
Can I withstand:
The blistered fingers? 
The horrible chafing from the two halves of my brain rubbing together? 
The cramping of my dehydrated ego when most have my followers have unsubscribed, and it is obvious that no one is reading anymore?
Will I break through the "wall" at day 20?
Stay tuned, if you can endure it.

And if any of you other bloggers out there think this will be easy, then come along. I dare you.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Green Silence

This blog is outrageously popular, and attracts literary tens of visitors every week.
So I think it is time for me to leverage my vast readership into some lucrative corporate sponsorships.
That's right, it is time for running product reviews.

First up:

Brooks Green Silence
I am still doing most of my running in The Red Shoes, but I am looking for something with less cushioning, something lower to the ground. I want a pair that are thin, light and flexible, so I went shopping for racing flats. I came home with these.

Form: C

For "CRAP". Yes, they have a wacky asymmetrical yellow and red color scheme, I give them points for trying.
But they do not invoke a flashy "Wow, that guy must be fast!" image.
It's more of a "Wow, that guy looks like Ronald McDonald the Creepy Clown" image.

Function: F
For "FLAT, NOT". These are sold as "racing flats". Shouldn't racing flats be flat? What's with the inch of spongy foam under the heal? Yes, they are flexible. But so are loofah sponges, and I could strap those to my feet instead and not spend $100.

Fit: D
For "DON'T FIT". These are very narrow and long. It was like I was about to go water skiing. I am told all "racing flats" are designed to be very narrow to squeeze all the blood out of your feet. Or something like that.

For "took them BACK". Thankfully, the shoe store took them back, informing me that Brooks is quite good at accepting returns.
I was about to go off on a rant about how I can't find a simple, flat shoe that will fit my foot. But this guy already did it for me.

Attention Brooks:
OK. I did my part by giving you free advertising. I anticipate crates of free stuff to start arriving at my doorstep. I'll take some shorts, and maybe a hat. But keep the shoes. They suck.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How to run 2000 miles a year

I just passed the 1000 mile mark, on pace for 2000 miles this year.
Some of you crazy Ultra folks are saying "is that all?", and if that's the case you can quit reading.

OK, for those who think that's a lot of miles; you might be asking, "What do I need to run 2000 miles a year? incredible endurance? steely resolve? gritty fortitude?"

Well, no.

What you need
  • A GPS watch
  • Anal retentive record keeping, to 2 decimal places
  • A sense of accomplishment from meaningless numbers
  • Low standards for what counts as a run
  • Lots of free time

It all counts
I have increased my mileage every year since 2006. Not by running more, but by lowering my standards for what counts as a run. Back in 2008, I had this horrible idea that a "run" had to be at least 2 miles, and I ran only ~1400 miles that year.
Now, my standard is down to 0.2 miles, and my mileage is way up!

Real Life Example
Shannon and I planned to do a tempo run this morning on the company mill trail loop.
Most runners would just log this and be done with it:
4 miles tempo trail run
But not us! Here is what actually happened, in meticulous detail

Run #1: 1.65 miles - Dog mile
We were not taking the dogs with us on our trail run, so first we had to do the "Dog mile". This is where we run our 3 dogs the minimum amount necessary to clear our conscious of the guilt we feel.

Run #2: 0.95 miles - Change in plans
The company mill loop is actually 3.75 miles away, and we were going to run to it.
So we headed out the door again. About a half mile out, I mentioned to Shannon that there was 10K in Greensboro this morning, and that our virtual friend Barefoot Josh would be running it.
She was excited, "It's at 8:00? Lets do it! Come on! It's only 6:45, we can make it"
So we turned around and headed home. We packed a bag and were about to get in the car. Then we realized that we can't drive 70 miles to a race, park, register, get our bibs and to the start line in 60 minutes.

Run #3: 4.25 miles - Attacked by flies
So headed out the door for the third time this morning. We made it about 3 miles when we were viciously attacked by horse and deer flies. This time of year they are swarming on the wide Umstead Park bridle trails.
"Ow! OW!", at one point Shannon was whipping me with her shirt trying to kill the flies, "Stop! That hurts more than the bites!"
It got so bad we retreated and went home, aborting our run again, turning around before we even got to Company Mill.

Run #4: 1.29 miles - Barefoot Mile
On the way back, I took off my Red Shoes for my daily barefoot mile. Of course, I must log this separately. Felt good, but went a little too fast trying to keep up with Shannon..

Run #5: 8.63 miles - Figure 8
I was determined to do get my tempo trail run in, so we decided to drive up to Company Mill to avoid the flies.
Of course, if we were going to drive somewhere, we might as well make it a more substantial run.
So we decided to do our "Figure 8", which is both the Company Mill and Sycamore loops.

Run #6: 1.14 miles - Water delivery
I finished ahead of Shannon, filled my bottles and went back to run with her. She actually was not far behind. When we finished I was exhausted.

As you can see, instead of one 8 mile run, I actually had 6 runs totaling 17.91 miles.
If you try this yourself, make sure you leave at least 2 hours for entering runs in your log and then blogging about it.

Run #7: 4.3 Full Moon Run 
That night was a full moon. Bubbles was persistent, and talked me into it. What the hell, what's one more run? So I slapped my stinking shoes on, and hobbled down the greenway one more time...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Barefoot bandwagon

Since barefoot running is all the rage now, I thought I would hop on the bandwagon and give it try.
Here are some notes and observations

  • My feet have been encased in shoes for 40 years. They are very soft and weak.
  • If I tried to run my usual pace and distance in bare feet, it would be like trying to drive my car on I-40 with wheels of cheese. So I am taking this very slowly
  • The goal is to strengthen my feet and change my stride so I can transition to some thin and flexible shoes
  • My very first barefoot run was a painful half mile, which I chronicled here.
  • Since then I have been supplementing my regular shod miles with some very short barefoot runs,  totaling about 30 miles.
  • All have been on pavement, except for a 5K at the track.

Obviously I can't draw any conclusions from this tiny amount, but here are some initial observations.

The Good

1. It just feels good.
Put aside all the claimed benefits of barefoot running for a moment. Exposing all those nerve endings on the bottom of my feet to actually feel something for the first time is a revelatory experience. The rough texture of a cement sidewalk is an amazing sensation. It hurts, but in a good way. Like spicy food, or a really good massage, or a back scratch.

2. Birthday shoes fit perfectly
Finally I can spread my toes out. And there is no big lump of foam and plastic under my arch. And no thick wad of cushioning wobbling underneath. It feels right.

3. The ground is not hard
I did a 17 mile run in shoes recently, and at the end my legs we shot. My knees and feet were aching.
I took off my shoes and ran the last mile bare, at about the same pace. I swear, my legs felt so much better.

The change in my stride was immediate. It seems like instead of landing on my foot, I am placing my foot on gently the ground. The result is that I feel very light, and there is no impact at all.
I guess the idea is that the tactile feedback from the feet allows my legs to make the small adjustments necessary for a light contact with the ground.

The Bad

4. Blisters.

While impact is not an issue, friction becomes a huge problem. Mostly I get blisters or "hot spots" on my toes if I try to go too far or too fast. I am told the problem is that I am pushing off from my toes, and I need to lift and not push. BFJ says blisters are teachers... really angry, mean ones. I have learned to run with my toes pointed straight up so they don't touch the ground.

5. Steep hills.
How one ascends a steep hill without pushing off from the toes is a mystery to me. Descending without landing on the heel is another.

6. Gravel Roads.
Walking on gravel is almost impossible. Running? Are you freaking kidding me?

7. The Sun
Call me Captain Obvious, but Holy fuck, pavement can get hot.

8. Glass?
Got a tiny sliver of something stuck in my foot that Shannon had to dig out.

9. Tiny rocks
I keep getting little rocks stuck to my feet, and I have to stop and brush them off.
This seems to be happening less, so maybe my soles are getting more like leather and less like cookie dough.

The Ugly

10. Tar Heels
I ran over a poorly mixed asphalt patch job on the green way by my house. The sticky tar wasn't easy to scrub off.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dooright down

Yesterday morning Shannon, Dudley Dooright and I went for a 10 mile run into Umstead. Dudley, our 85 pound mutt, only made it 9 miles.

A mile from the house, he ran into Lake Crabtree to cool off. Shannon kept going home and I waited for the big dog. After a few minutes he crawled out of the water, his hind legs dragging limply behind him, and collapsed at my feet. He was down.

I am one of those people that talk to their dogs. "Dooright, you OK?"
He just lie there like a beached whale, his whole body heaving as he panted,  his tongue was splayed out over the sand. He opened his eyes briefly and looked at me, and then closed them again.

This was very sad. Dooright used to be an unstoppable machine. I have taken him on 18 mile runs, with him sprinting through the woods in circles the whole time, and when we got home he would want to play ball. And last year he was first dog in the CARA 5K.

Although, come to think of it, he was defeated by the Uwharrie Trail last fall. Maybe he is getting old, like me. He did just turn 5, which is the Masters age group for dogs.

I let him lie there for another 5 minutes. "Come on, I have to go to work"
He tried to stand up and walk, but his back legs simply were not working. He collapsed again.
I don't know if he was cramping, dehydrated, or succumbing to old age, but I have never seen a dog break down like that.

I tried to get him to go back in the water to drink and cool off but he wouldn't move. I wasn't sure what to do. Finally, after another 10 minutes, I realized I would have to carry him.
Now, I am a weakling, and I knew I wouldn't be able to make it the mile back to the house.
But I thought I would try to make it the quarter mile to the nearest road. There, maybe I could find someone with a cell phone to call Shannon to come with a car. I bent down and picked up the 85 pounds of wet limp dog, and could barely stand up. I made it up a short steep hill and then had to put him back down and rest.

I really need to start lifting weights again, because my arms are really weak. After several more short trips, I was almost at the road, when Dooright finally was able to stand up by himself and limp slowly. He was actually sniffing around and trying to pee on things, oblivious to the fact his hips were wobbling uncontrollably.

"Well, if you're feeling that good lets go home", so we turned around and walked slowly home, with Dudley weaving back and forth like drunken frat boy. On the way back we ran into Shannon, who had come looking for us after we never showed up at the house.

The next morning he was at the door waiting to go running, apparently not remembering a thing.
 "Not today, Dooright, you're taking a rest day", I said. My arms are still sore.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Shannon's Photo blog

A few non-running related things:

1. Shannon, my lovely wife who is the source of pictures for this blog, has started a daily photo journal:

Shannon's Photo Journal

Though I am not a fan of the pictures of me, trying to sleep...

2. It turns out that things ARE closer than they appear. MUCH closer:

3. Our runner friend Mandy started a blog too: Hoppers Junk
Also not about running. I think it is naked pictures of Dennis Hopper or something.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

haiku for today

12 and a half laps
10 bare toes do track 5 K
earning 6 blisters

Saturday, June 12, 2010

2010 Race for the cure 5K

Shannon and I ran the Race for the Cure 5K in Raleigh today. Shannon took pictures of course, which are here.

While my contribution didn’t amount to much, the 20,000+ runners raised around $1.5 million dollars for research. Also, it was quite inspirational to see the breast cancer survivors out there running. Apparently there were 2,000 of them, which really brings attention to how common the disease is.

This is the second time I have attempted the race for the cure. Last year I ran it in 19:48 and but failed to find the cure for cancer. This year I was prepared, and more determined than ever.

As we lined up on Hillsborough street at 7am, sweat dripped from runners in the heavy, humid air. I doubled checked the inventory of my equipment and supplies, and put my finger on my watch start button.

Mile 1
The gun sounded and we were off.

I decided to start conservative this year, running at an easy pace while working on a chemotherapy experiment on a small sample of mice. I had the cage strapped to my chest, and the poor little guys bounced around a little bit as I clomped down a hill.

I pulled a pipette out of my pocket and started the first round of treatment.
After the disaster last year with the hypodermic needles, I was wisely using oral dosing today.


Mile 2
Everything was going great. I hit the mile mark in 5:58, slightly ahead of pace, and was already collecting blood samples.

I passed a couple of inexperienced runners, who had started out way too fast. Apparently they sprinted right out of the gate with some stem cell research, and were being held up by religious protesters in front of the church on Brooks Ave.

This is where I ran into trouble too. Literally. I was looking behind me, firing up the centrifuge strapped to my back, when…. “BANG!”. I ran straight into this guy pushing this giant radiation machine up a hill.

My mouse cage flipped over, and I stumbled, dropping a whole batch of test tubes that shattered on the pavement. “Sorry! My fault!” I shouted to the guy, and then cursed at myself.

I checked the cage, and while I didn’t lose any subjects the experiment was ruined. The 12 mice in the control group had spilled over into the treatment section and they were all mixed together, and I couldn’t tell which was which. I was so stupid not to tag them!

That cost me, as I ran the second mile in 6:07.

Mile 3
So I went to my backup plan, and pulled out my new iPhone and with the built in Electron Microscope. I was going to push to the finish with a retro-virus study. It was a long shot because it was really complicated and I only had a mile left.

Around here I got passed by this guy running the race barefoot. He was tall with a big bushy beard, “Good job” I said waving to him. I could smell the strong scent of green tea and ginger, and it looked like he was testing out herbal remedies on some Petri dish cultures.

The hills were relentless. I was gasping for air and sweat was dripping into my eyes and onto my iPhone. My stride had fallen apart and I was having problems with the DNA Sequencing App.

With a quarter mile to go, I got desperate and checked my bag for an alternative. Acupuncture? Lasers?

I crossed the finish line in 19:11, completely exhausted, and again without a cure.

[Note: After I wrote this, I discovered that I unintentionally, yet shamefully, ripped this idea off from The Onion. Sigh. I have no original thoughts.]

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Baking of the Bulls 8K

The Running of the Bulls 8K in Durham is put on by my new favorite running store, Bull City Running Co.
We had a lot of friends doing it, so we signed up a few weeks ago.
But when the alarm went off at 5:30, I was really regretting that decision.
I have managed to get over my foot problem from the Cary half marathon 3 weeks ago, but now I am suffering from a low grade, lingering cold.

We drove up to Durham, and as soon as I got out of the car, I started sweating. It was only 75 deg, but very humid and the sun was radiating fiercely.
We picked up our bibs, which were larger and heavier than license plates, but not as flexible. These we the "combo" bibs that have the timing "chip" in them. But instead of a tiny chip, it contains several feet of wire, transistor tubes, transformers, and 4 "D" cell batteries. It looked like the inside of a 1940's era stereo.

I selfishly decided to ignore public decency and leave my shirt in the car. Combined with the short shorts, red shoes and visor, it was highly embarrassing... for somebody. But I just didn't care. I just turned 40 and got married, so my days of worrying about my personal appearance are gone. I was more concerned about staying cool.

The race started at 7:30, and we all immediately turned a corner. I ran that first mile a little fast finding some space to settle into. My watch said it was a 6:00 pace, and I was astounded. I hadn't run a mile that fast in 4 months, and it didn't feel too hard. But soon the rolling hills and the heat got to me.

My head was really pounding. The heat was intense, but more like a microwave than a conventional oven. It felt my brain was boiling in my skull. At the water stops I dumped water on my head and it provided temporary relief.

But at the 4 mile mark, I started to get dizzy and nauseated so I had to slow down. Usually in a race it is my legs or my lungs holding me back, but this time it was my head.

We finished around the baseball diamond of the old Durham Bulls park, which was pretty cool.

The finish area had a nice spread of fruit, biscuits, and water. For some reason they also were serving a nasty toxic pesticide called HEED.

I managed to cool off and after a few minutes felt better. We waited around for the awards, and Godiva members took many of them.

Shannon ran with her camera as usual, and got a lot of great pictures, which are here.

This finish line photo is especially great. It is of two sisters who ran the race. I hope they don't mind us posting it here.

Recent Posts