Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting Mentally Ready

I'm starting to think about and getting mentally prepared for my 50 minute tempo run tomorrow which will include a lot of hills. The weather will be a bit of a challenge as the snow hasn't melted everywhere so that will impact my pace at times and will be a bit frustrating as it may be difficult to get a consistent stride at times. However, it will be fun!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Arm Placement, Breathing & Vo2 Max

I'm experiencing something interesting regarding my arm placement. I've struggled a bit finding the most comfortable placement for my arms. Recently, I've been placing my arms a bit lower, very similar to the arm placement of Ryan Hall ( I read that Ryan Hall's dad tweaked Ryan's arm placement based on his study of kinesiology and studying other athletes with similar body types who possessed the same basic speed, and particularly Hicham El Guerrouj (Hicham and Ryan have similar body types to mine . . . I'm 6ft. and just a few inches taller than both). El Guerrouji runs with his hands down, low and relaxed. During Ryan's long runs, his dad would ride a bike along side him and periodically check Ryan's exertion level using a heart rate monitor. What he found was that as Ryan lowered his arms, even later in tempo runs, his heart rate would go down. Even later in tempo runs when your heart rate should be higher because you are more fatigued, his heart rate would go down as he lowered his arms.

So based on this I lowered my arms and it's been pretty successful. However, today I did a 3x1 interval session, meaning I ran three 1 mile intervals at 6:10 pace, 6:00 pace and 5:50 pace with 400 meter recovery in-between. For whatever reason, I raised my arms during the 1 mile intervals more in the position that you see the East Africans (for example, see Haile's arms at the 2:39 min. point in the video: When I raised my arms, my breathing was easier and more controlled. I didn't have a heart monitor or Vo2 max monitor but I was breathing so much easier and to the point that the 6:00 min.per mile pace wasn't that difficult for me to hold and I didn't feel like I was pushing my hardest. I lowered my arms and I felt like my breathing was more difficult . . . I could it but it was more taxing to hold that pace.

My question is does anyone have any experience in this area and/or could point me in the direction of some good articles? Also, any personal advice or experiences are welcomed. This is new uncharted ground for me as I started adding interval and tempo training a few months ago and now I'm running at paces I never dreamed of so this is all new areas for me. I'm starting to comfortably dip below the 6:00 min. per mile pace range and I'm able to hold it for 30 minutes or so.

Or, is this just an individual thing that I'm over-thinking? Before I just do what feels good, I want to know if there's some medical or other data on the subject.

Given that I'm 40 yrs. old, I'm sure I'm in the neighborhood where my improvement will level out but now I'm looking at specific intricacies of running like arm placement, breathing, improving Vo2 max levels, etc., as it may lead to more efficient running or shave a few more seconds off my pace.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Long Run Sunday

Finished a 14 mile run late this morning. Since we're coming out of a snow storm, the run consisted of a combination of packed snow, melting snow, and dry road. This made the run a bit tricky and I couldn't wear my YakTraks because they hurt on dry road. I was a little sore for the run as my weekly running schedule has not been as consistent in terms of when I run due to the holidays. I still finished a 40 mile week but it wasn't as disciplined with less sleep than normal which probably resulted in a more difficult long run.

Nevertheless, I completed it and I feel good about staying on schedule in terms of weekly miles.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009


A good morning inspirational statement from Lance Armstrong:

"Anything is possible, but you have to believe and you have to fight."

So short, yet so true. Most often the discussion is about the physical side which is understandable but the mental side is, at a minimum, just as important and I would argue more important. The human mind is amazing and can be an asset or a detriment depending on how you approach a given situation. Personally, I never thought having started running less than 3 yrs. ago at my age (38) that I could hold the pace per minute that I'm holding but after committing to the hard training, not missing a day, and eating right (for the part), I've surpassed my tempo pace without any problem and I can hit that pace and hold it on any given run, on any given day, and do it for a good distance . . . this is due to the physical training but it's easier because I can do it mentally.

This is true for everyone and this is especially important as you get older so that we realize that age is just a number. While many try to slow down with age, I don't believe that. Amazing feats can be achieved as you get older. Our bodies were built to sustain and maintain stress and the body actually yearns for it but you must "fight and believe."


Saturday, December 19, 2009

10k PR

Just finished a great 10k race today, with 300+ runners. I finished in 41:04, 6.32 pace. I placed 3rd in my age group (40-44) . . . the winner of my age group finished in 38:43. Overall, finished 29th out of 300+ runners. I'm very satisfied and it was a PR for me. It was also hilly and about a 10 mph southwest wind that made parts of the course a bit difficult. Elevation was about 5800 ft.

A few take aways.

1. Hills workouts are invaluable. This was a hilly course and on the back half, most runners just faded on the hills but I could attack the hills due to all the hill training.

2. Interval workouts are equally valuable. I was able to hold the 6:30 pace without pushing too hard. Also, the last 1,000 meters of the race, I was able to put in a last kick and took my pace down to 5:00 min. per mile and passed about 12 runners right before the finish line (this last kick probably allowed me to place 3rd).

3. My stride length has increased tremendously. I could feel how much longer I spend in the air. I'm covering 2x the distance on each stride vs. where I was 9 months ago.

I continue to have much respect for the professional runners . . . this is a really tough sport. I also realized that I so miss competition. The butterflies, the difficulty sleeping the night before, the anticipation, the prep before the race, etc. I forgot what I felt like during my 20+ years playing basketball.

Lastly, I continue to love my racing flats . . . they are just awesome shoes. I could feel the ground and I can feel my feet continue to get stronger. At this point, they feel the same as my Vibrams.


Friday, December 18, 2009

The Jitters; I miss em'

It hasn't been since my college basketball playing days that I've experienced the pre-game time jitters like I do right now. I've decided to do a lot of races over the next 13 months (5k, 10k, 10 milers and half marathons). I started running about 3 years ago and I ran alone for the first few years and only entered a few races: 5k, half marathon and marathon (I completed them all with respective times so I'm proud of that). But now I'm going to take it up a notch and I'll start competing a lot more . . . at least one race per month and 2 races in some months.

I think competition is good and the adrenalin rush is good for the body, mentally and physically. I remember the night before basketball games when I could hardly sleep. Well, the feeling is back. I've been thinking about tomorrow's race for the past few days. Thinking about what I need, what to bring, strategy for the race, how not to start too fast, how to finish strong, anticipating the weather . . . all the things that come with preparation.

I've been a little apprehensive, if not scared, to really get competitive with my running. In fact, I forgot what it was like to be competitive. It's about challenging ones self and the only way to challenge yourself is to compete. Throw away the excuses and sign up and run. You accomplish a lot by just showing up and competing.

I'm so glad I forced myself to compete again. I spend 21 yrs. competing at a high level in basketball and I forgot what it was all about . . . UNTIL NOW.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

You got to be committed; no quick fixes

What I've found is the long term approach actually helps me approach running and helps me on a day to day basis. I know all set backs are temporary and since I have a long term approach, the set backs aren't that big of a deal because I will make up for it (I may be frustrated but time is on my side). Also, it's easier to accept slow incremental improvements which is the reality of running because I may say, I've only added x miles or y sec. per minute improvement, but it will all add up years down the road. I may want to run a 6:15 per min. pace for a 10k but I'm at 7:00 right now but if I can shave :05 - :10 per year, then I'm on my way.

I'm was always a "instant gratification" person and this running thing has completely changed not only my approach to running but my approach to life. I thought I would easily conquer running because I was a really good college basketball player. Well, that was naive. I played basketball since I was 3 so by the time I reached college, I already had been playing 24x7 for 15 years . . . you don't make up that time with some quick scheme.

So, I've decided I'm a 40 yr. old beginner and, the thing is, that's so cool. I have the rest of my life to continue to improve. I almost feel reborn. I get to compete in a new sport, learn a new sport and learn new techniques, and meet all these cool new people that I learn from. I start to smile just thinking of the road ahead. Yes, it will be long but it will be fruitful. Running is mobile so you can do it anywhere/anytime and do it in the most beautiful places in the world. You can't say that about most other sports . . . I don't need a golf course, basketball court, soccer field, etc. I just need my feet, commitment and patience.

It really is a blessing for all that make the commitment.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Perspectives on Speed

Just thought I'd share some research/data I've been reading over the past few weeks. It's all around how to increase speed. There are several coaches and sports doctors that say, " . . . faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid legal movements." Others go on to say, "To run faster, you need to apply more force more quickly with each stride. This will increase your stride length while you maintain or increase your stride frequency. The goal is to spend less time on the ground and more time in the air. And the only way to do that is to apply more force with each footfall" This is very similar to the Force Hypothesis that many of you many be familiar with. Before I go further, I am NOT recommending this to anyone. I'm looking at it because I'm spending a lot of time on speed training, and I'm actually playing around with some of the methods even though they may be immediately challenged by other barefoot and minimalist runners . . . I want to see for myself how this plays out. For example, when I "float" I am in the air longer and I am bringing down more force and although I concentrate on lifting, I'm sure there are times when I'm going my fastest that I'm pushing off also.

Now I know there will be many opinions on this and it will probably open up a good dialog but I just wanted to share with you something I'm looking into that I think is interesting. Right now I'm pouring through actual medical studies. It brings up discussions like "lifting the foot" vs. "pushing off," and "short quick strides" vs. "longer strides and higher drive with the knees." I'm also looking at uphill bounding training results.

I'm not raising this to start a discussion on shod vs. unshod or even necessarily running injury free but instead bringing up the interesting discussion of "speed." I don't want to start a " . . . well, if they were barefoot it would be different discussion" but instead I think the discussion of speed is unique in its own right. I find speed as interesting as distance. When I first started running, and especially on rare occasions when I could run along side elite level runners, I noticed that they would cover as much ground in 2 steps as it took me to cover in 3 steps . . . as if they were flying. You can't necessarily see it on video or TV but you can see it in person quite easily. The amount of ground they cover "in the air" is pretty amazing.

Two different goals when comparing those who have a goal of running injury free vs. those who are running for speed/time/pace. Is one better than the other? Is one more prone to injury? These are just some of the questions I'm looking into as the obvious answer may not be the correct answer. Some times what appears to be a "no duh" turns out to be quite a complex issue.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Yes, You Can Run Your Problems Away

I actually feel sorry for the many people out there that don't run, don't attempt to run, start running but quit, and the other myriad of reasons people don't run. I know it's a cavalier statement and many take issue with it. I've heard it all . . . I'm not in shape, I get injured, I don't like it, etc. Well, I don't buy it.

I think it's the classic Right Brain vs. Left Brain which is a major issue in modern society with all the technology available. The Left Brain is all about being logical, rational, and objective while the Left Brain is about being random, intuitive and holistic. We live in a world where you can sit your ass on the couch and never move a muscle . . . order food, use the remote for TV, and then there's the crazy crap like shoes that give you a workout as if you were actually working out . . . that's the best, get a workout without, hmmm, working out. The classic "it's too good to be true" but the Right Brain eats up that crap.

Then, there's old fashion "commitment and drive." You know why folks don't run, it's not for the reasons they say, it's because they are lazy. We are lazy society, yes, I said it. It's really sad. We are gifted with one of the best devices ever created being the human body. The human body is absolutely amazing and, in fact, it was built for pressure and stress and longs for it but we decide to abuse it by doing nothing.

Now, what does this have to do with running your problems away, which is another benefit. We talk about stresses in life and right in front of your face is one of the best stress relievers in the world . . . running. Here's an excerpt from an article I read at lunch which is right on point:

" . . . In the blackest times of my life - like when the woman I hope was The One wrote "I'm sorry" and left with another man - running has always rescued me. Not work. Not friends. Not family. "You can't outrun your problems" my housemate would say with a smirk as I headed out the door. He was wrong. Each afternoon I would run my demons hard until I left them heaving by the roadside. Finding refuge in running . . . "

Now you figure it out.


Tough Morning Workout

I did my first combo interval and tempo run today and it was one of my toughest runs yet very satisfying (after I was done). I had to do it on the treadmill b/c there's too much ice to run a fast pace.

Here it is:

* 70 minute total workout. 15 min. warm-up straight into 3 sets of 3 min. @ 5:55 pace and 2 min. @ 8:30 pace. After the 3 sets, straight into 2 miles @6:40 pace, then the remainder of the run between 7:30 - 8:30 pace, until last 5 minutes @ 9:00 pace. During the entire run, if you are on a treadmill, vary the incline from .5% - 2% (if outside, the entire run is on hills). By far, one of my toughest workouts as I haven't combined interval and tempo runs until today.

Of course, you can modify the times and pace, faster or slower, as you see fit.

I'll say this. I have to friggin' idea how the elite runners do what they do. When I was at my 2 miles @ 6:40 pace, I'm thinking of Ryan Hall doing a 18 mile tempo run at @5:00 pace and doing eight 1 mile intervals at 4:20 pace, and the entire marathon sub 5:00 pace . . . just mind boggling when you think about it.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finally, Back Outside

It was a very warm (-3F) this morning so I ran outside and loved it. Packed snow and complete quiet and calmness. I only saw one other human being and that was a crazy runner like myself with all the layers of clothes running the other way. Other than that, it was only me and nature and it doesn't get any better than that.

I also pulled up an old email from a woman that runs in Canada and does so at (-40F/-40C) commonly so what the heck did I have to complain about as (-3f) is summer compared to what she commonly runs in. She also explained to me how to dress so I was good to go: 3 layers: short sleeve shirt, long sleeve compression shirt and running jacket with leg tights under running pants, mask covering face and ears, gloves with hand warmers and Vaseline all over your hands, feet, and most importantly, your face, eye lashes, ears, lips, etc., as the Vaseline is basically a thin layer mask to retain heat and fight off the cold . . . it works awesome.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm a Freshman Again

So, 2010 is my new high school freshman year. After the past 2.5 years of learning how to run and adapting my body to that of a runner, I'm ready to compete. I will enter into 12-20 races in 2010 and continue with dedicated weekly running which includes tough interval and tempo training and see how good and fast I can get and how much I can improve. I figure by 2014, I should be a pretty good runner and I want to see how fast I can run against the fastest runners in my age category 40-44 and then 45-49. I know runners that are still very fast in their 60's so I'm really looking forward to this.


Treadmill, maybe I love you

Well, it's the 2nd day on the treadmill but it was a blessing to have it available. This morning it was -9F (-36F wind chill) so there was no question that the only way I was running was on the treadmill. Learning from yesterday, I set the treadmill at 1% incline and completed a quick 5 mile run. It felt good and I was all caught up on my sports via ESPN.

I've decided I better find a few ways to make the treadmill work and it's feeling better. Now that I've figured I always need to have the treadmill at an incline, it feels totally different.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Back to the Treadmill

Yes, you know I'm not a fan of the treadmill, but when it's -9F wind chill outside and you have a hard interval training run, there's no other alternative than to stay inside a tough it out on the treadmill. I had someone send me an article on whether treadmills will make you crazy and it said that treadmills can make you tougher mentally. So I convinced myself of that and used it as a challenge and I finished a good/hard 40 minute interval run increasing the grade .5% every 4 minutes.

I find running on the treadmill with a grade is much more tolerable than running on level grade.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

4.5 Mile Winter Snow Race

Just finished a 4.5 mile race in snow and ice. I used my Mizuno Wave Universe 3 racing flats with Yak coil springs underneath. It was my first time using the Yak's and they were great. They are very thin and did not disrupt my form or technique.

My unofficial time was 30:40, 6:49 pace. I'm pretty happy with that time/pace considering the conditions. I'm completely sold on the Mizuno racing flats. They are great and have performed well in all weather and terrain.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Great Lunch Run

I'm not a big fan of running at lunch as I generally run very early in the morning. But, this morning it was -7F wind chill so I decided to "chill" and wait until lunch as the temperature rose to a very warm 28F :). It was a smart decision as most of the ice on the road melted by then so I could knock off a good 8 mile run in 1 hr.

I'm gearing up for a 4.5 mile race this Sunday so I'll take tomorrow off and relax.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Racing Flats Defeat VFFs

Let me start off by saying I'm a big fan of the Vibram Five Fingers models but they need to specifically focus on the running community to develop models for all weather conditions and terrains. If not, they are missing a niche group of folks like myself that live in colder weather regions and can't wear VFFs due to cold weather . . . your toes freeze very quickly. In the alternative, they could develop some type of heated sock.

With that said, I found my perfect running shoe in the Mizuno Wave Universe 3. They are the worlds lightest racing flat (3.6 oz.) . I wore them today with temperatures at 8F (-1F wind chill) in 1-3 inches of snow and they were great. I was even able to add a foot warmer sole which was very thin and did not impact my form or technique. I have to say that Mizuno has done a great job developing such a minimalist shoe. Every time I put the shoe in some one's hand, they can't believe how light this shoe is as it feels like paper. It also provides considerable ground feel and is as close to the VFF experience as I've been able to find.

This will also reduce my barefoot running as I don't see the need to run barefoot when I'm running injury free in my racing flats. I know there are those that truly believe in barefoot running and, at a minimum, I believe it's a good training aid but it's just not practical to run 100% barefoot for many folks, for many reasons. For those that can't run barefoot, for whatever reason, the good news is all the other potential footwear that is available and I'll not add the Mizuno racing flats.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not a Treadmill Fan

The weather forced me to stay inside . . . snow, ice and very cold. I'm not a treadmill fan. In fact, I dislike them but I managed to do a very short maintenance run of 35 minutes. I sure hope I can run outside tomorrow. It's the "ice" that keeps me inside otherwise I'll deal with the other elements.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm Starting to Feel Like a Runner

After nearly 3 years of dedicated, consistent and regular running (6 days per week for the last 3 years), for the first time, I'm starting to feel like a real runner. Now, I don't know how to define "real" for anyone other than myself but I'm starting to feel like everything is coming together. My form and technique is starting to feel pretty good and my injuries are starting to disappear. I'm starting to float/glide when I run, or at least it feels that way. I'm starting to regularly hit times/paces I never thought I could hit 1-2 years ago.

I started running 3 years ago at age 37 and I would run in the 8-9 min. per mile range. Now, I comfortably run in the 6:15 min. per mile range and can take it to the 5:45 min. pace mile range when I decide to kick in another gear. Of course, this is by no means any type of elite level but for having only been running for 3 years, I'm pretty happy.

I know a big reason for this improvement is working with a running coach and having a weekly running schedule that has meaning. What I mean by "meaning" is that each run has a purpose. For the first time since I started running, I've added weekly speed work with interval and tempo training. I'm activating my fast twitch muscles for the first time. Funny thing is I'm running less miles but because I'm running smarter with purpose, I'm stronger, faster and becoming a better runner.

I use to run 60 miles per week and now I'm down to 40 mile per week and I'm a better runner. I guess, as the late Dr. George Sheehan said, Intensity is more important than Frequency and Duration. This is not to say that Frequency and Duration are not important but its the Intensity training through intervals and tempo runs that have improved my performance including my long runs. I guess Endurance and Duration is interesting because if I can cover the same distance in half the time, I don't necessarily need the same Endurance.

Lastly, my form and technique improves as I increase pace. Some of that is obvious in that cadence increases but it's more than that. All the components improve as my pace increases.
As I look back, I may have attacked this whole running this wrong. I tried to only work on running for as long as I could and become a pure endurance runner instead of working on and mastering short distances then increase duration and endurance. I guess this is why the elite marathons start as 5k and 10k specialists.


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