Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I hesitate to say anything!

I hesitate to share my successes because I firmly believe things even out in the end. But, the last two runs that I have done have been fabulous!

Last Wednesday night, when running with the Blue Dawgs around New Britain, I was out in front through most of the run and felt strong going up hills. And, I did nine miles on Sunday up on the Delaware River and felt really, really good. (This time I just plain forgot to bring my mini-camera. One of these days.) I wound up doing a 1:24 nine mile run. In actuality, I eased up the last 2 miles as my first 7 miles were in 1:04. I wasn't consciously pushing myself but only running what I felt.

In January, I'm usually a slug. I go out and do what I have to do to make it around the course just to get the miles in. But, I have felt strong once I start (starting is still the hardest part in the cold).

And, this is the part where I hesitate. As previously stated, I am doing a strength training regiment 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes at a time. The strength training is very basic stuff with some exercises using 5 pound weights. I've been doing for two weeks now. Is it possible that this has helped me this quickly? According to my wife (who is a scientist), yes, it is possible to show results this fast. But, is it just that or other contributing factors that are helping me? And, that's the thing that both frustrates me and intrigues me. Afterall, I'm still coughing my head off so I can't say I'm breathing better. And, I've been cheating a bit on my 'healthier' diet. (Though I have lost of my holiday weight gain)

Last May, I ran the 10 mile Broad Street Run in 1:22. That was an 8:16/mile pace. If you look on my running history, that was, by far, the fastest I ever ran a race that was over a 5k. In fact, there are lots of 5ks I didn't run THAT pace. I remember, at the start of the race, being cold and lethargic. But, something clicked that made me believe I could keep that pace that day. I still question myself what it was.

But, never look a gift horse in the mouth. If it is my new training, great, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. It is great to have positive results so soon. It keeps me motivated to continue. But, as the optimist that I am, I expect my bubble to burst any day now.

(Note: Thank you for answering last week's poll. The results were: 33% would rather run in the cold, 41% would rather run when it's hot, 8% said weather didn't affect them, and 16% only ran when it was 40-75 degrees (F). I was intrigued by the comments and, in truth, was surprised that people do read this blog (the new poll reflects that sentiment).
Right now, I'm toying with the idea of doing the Frostbite Five Miler on February 16, 2008 in Ambler, PA. It's going to depend on a few things (weather being one of them) but I will put it down as my next race.
And, I will share this story with you. I'm going down to Florida for spring training in March to watch my Phillies. Well, the Phillies aren't playing in Clearwater (where we are staying) on Sunday so I decided to catch another game instead. I saw the Red Sox were playing at the Pirates and I thought that would be fun game to go see. But, the Pirates spring training tix didn't go on sale until last Saturday at 10a. I wanted two tickets. Just two tickets. I went on-line at precisely 10a. The game was already sold out. At the precise moment they went on sale. My only hope is that the tickets DID go to fans and not scalpers. I REALLY dislike scalpers. Consolation prize is that I am going to the Devil Rays-Tigers game. Still should be fun.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

The dog days of Winter

This week, actually, is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Why? Because when I drive home at night, I notice there is a bit more sunshine on my commute. I get to watch the Australian Open tennis matches where it looks so warm down under. So, spring is just around the corner. Having said that, the forecast this week is down-right cold. Very cold. Witches' t..., well, it's going to be cold.

Now, if you live in Green Bay, Wisconsin you are laughing at me when I say its cold out. But, this week is the coldest its been all season. The thermometer at our house this morning registered 14 degrees F. 14 degrees? What sane person lives in a climate like this? Plus, with the wind kicking up, even the dogs weren't too thrilled going outside for a long period of time.

But, this is gut-check time. I don't have a specific race in the spring that I'm aiming for at the moment. Yes, there is an outside chance for a Boston marathon entry and I am planning to do the Broad Street Run in May but that seems sooooooo far away from this January weather. But when is cold too cold?

I know, in summer, there is the 180 rule. That is, you shouldn't push yourself if the temperature and humidity add up to 180. Is there a similar rule in the winter?

As a runner, January and February are just tough months to endure. At least in summer, when its hot out, you know that it will be cooler as the sun goes down. Now? The forecast for the week are highs not much above freezing. There are treadmills but it's hard to do any long run on a treadmill. I guess I should be thankful that I'm not enduring the snow like our neighbors to the north and midwest are. Still, in times like this, you need to run with someone because you know they are freezing their tushes off as much as you are.

(Notes: I did pretty well on my training last week though I think I overdid it by just a bit as I was more sore than I thought I should have been. I did my long run on Saturday up by the Delaware River on an absolutely beautiful morning. No pictures as I have found out my mini-camera sucks the lifeblood of batteries very easily. I'm either going to have to carry extra batteries with me or pop out the battery from the camera when I'm not using it.

I also added some new things to the right side of blog if you haven't noticed. I now have included my race history from 2001 to the present. Even though I did Corporate Challenge 3.5 miles races back in the early 1990's, it was more of a one-off thing I did every year and never kept any kind of official records (though my 3.5m PR is 29:45).

I also added a poll for readers. Of course, this is a very scientific poll that will be used for as reference in upcoming articles in various running magazines. Or, maybe not. But, I thought I would try it out for a bit of fun and see what the responses are. Not sure if I'll do it every week but I'll be playing with it from time to time.

RIP--Allen Melvin. )

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Running around the lake

My new year goals 'officially' kicked off this week as I was still under the weather last week. I did manage to start setting up my 'program' by reading 'Runner's World Guide to Cross-Training' by Matt Fitzgerald. As stated previously, I want to strength train and stretch more and this book gives me some guidance. I was going to go up to the Delaware River on Sunday but decided to go to the lake for a few reasons. 1) Having 'sat out' last week, I didn't know how much I would be able to do comfortably. 2) The lake is closer to my house and I had to get home on time to get on-line to purchase Phillies spring training tickets (I did. Phils-Twins on March 15. 20 rows behind home plate).

I did six on Sunday though I had trouble breathing in the beginning. It was one of those days that you can't get comfortable. I started towards the dam which is the windy part of the course. I was freezing and thought I should have dressed warmer. After about three miles and deeper in the woods, I was very warm and thought I shouldn't have worn so much clothing. I think everyone out there felt the same way. After the run, I took the time to stretch more than I've had previously. Monday, I followed some of the exercises in the book on strength training. And, tonight, I will be playing racquetball for other cross-training.

Around here, I have two favorite areas for my long runs--either going up to the Delaware River and run on the paths on either the New Jersey or Pennsylvania side (or both to do a loop) or go up to Lake Galena. Today, I want to talk about and give a little history of Lake Galena.
(The picture at the very top is 'our' starting/finishing point when running around the lake. The water fountain is very important landmark as, when you see it, 'you're almost there!' The picture right above is the lake from the nature center area. )

Lake Galena is part of Peace Valley Park in New Britain Township, Pennsylvania. There is an approximately six mile path (the inner loop) for walking, bicycles and running that goes around the lake. Part of the path uses Creek Road on the south side of the lake. There is an approximately 8 mile run (the outer loop) which encompasses the path but also takes you outside of the park and in the neighborhood. There are various races through the year held here, as it is a natural 10k course, but, I'm most involved with the 'Friends of the Dove' 10k held each September.

On the east side of the lake, you run through part of the Peace Valley Nature Center. The nature center offers 14 miles of nature trails in the woods and meadows. More than 250 species of birds have been sighted in this area and the park is designated as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by the PA Audubon Society. The Solar Building, Sunflower shop and Bird Seed Sale Barn are open from 9a to 5p Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, go to peacevalleynaturecenter.org.

The lake itself is a man-made lake constructed in the 1970's. The area was a mining area from the 1860's to the 1930's. The lake covers the largest mine pit that was made during that time. The area was mined for various minerals not just one. Besides uranium, gold, silver and copper, it was especially noted to have a substantial amount of zinc and lead ore (also known as 'galena').

There is evidence that the Lenni Lenape tribe, who lived in these parts, fashioned implements from lead in the local creek beds. It is known that the lead ore found in the area was smelted to make musket balls for George Washington's army when they were camped at Valley Forge in 1777/78. And, cannonballs were made for the Union army during the United States Civil War from the ore mined here.

You would think running around the lake would be flat. For the most part it is, but, around the nature center, three miles into the run from either direction, is a fairly steep hill that goes for about 3/4 mile.

So, if you are out this way on a Sunday morning, chances are you will not be alone as it is one of the most popular areas to run in central Bucks county.
(Below is the picture of the dam, which I've mentioned quite a few times on this blog. It is on the west side of the lake. Note: The pictures were taken with my new mini-camera I bought which easily fits in my pocket for my run. Tell me what you think.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Goals for the Year 2008!

Happy New Year to All!

Before I start, I just wanted to mention that my new year started off great as I ran 2 miles last Sunday (Dec 30), 8 miles on New Year's Eve and 5 miles on Jan 2. I was off to a flying start for the year when the dreaded sinus infection shot me down on Thursday and I've been sick ever since. I'm starting to feel better and I shouldn't be down as long as I was last summer.

December was a nice break but now I'm ready to go again. I've made up my mind that there are certain things I want to achieve this year. Resolutions? Maybe. And, some of them are on everyone's list for the new year. But, now it's on paper (virtual paper?), I can look back and see what was far-reaching and was achievable and examine why I didn't achieve it. Work? Probably. Laziness? I hope not. Time? (see work). So, ta-da, the goals for this blogger in 2008.

Eat healthier--OK, why I don't just add lose weight and more exercise and it will be like a thousand other bloggers as well. True. But, I'm trying to be realistic here. I don't mean suddenly I'm eating nothing but salads for lunch and dinner everyday including Thanksgiving and Christmas. No, I mean cutting back. There are only a few things that I can eat (stomach) for breakfast, for instance. I tried oatmeal but I just can't get into it. But, I did discover Quaker Oats Whole Grain Cereal with some blueberries thrown in tastes great and can last me through the morning. Every day? I'll be sick of it by the end of the month. A few times a week to start.
I can cut back on those chips and desserts at lunch too. If I get a craving in the afternoon, try going back to having herbal tea instead. I used to do that but fell out of the habit. Doing this should help me in losing the weight.

Smarter exercise--I do cardio work. I run, I play racquetball, I bike. I don't have strength. I'm not flexible. And, I don't do enough of the cardio work (enough miles, for example) to hide my lack of strength and flexibility. I need to work on my core. I need to exercise with weights. I don't have to look like Arnold. But, I think that's part of what hurts me in running a marathon. And, I think exercising smarter will help me with my back problems as well.

Beat my 5k PR--For the past few years, I have come so close to doing this. But, year after year, I've been doing the same routine to try to beat it. Have you ever been unemployed and keep on getting rejection letters? What do you do? Obviously, you keep on sending out the same e-mails and don't change anything because it can't be you. No, at some point, you have to change things up to see if it is you. So, with the goals mentioned above, I want to do more sprint work. I've read, and truer words have never been spoken before, that, unless you can run the pace in training, it won't just magically appear on race day. I need to pick up the pace once in awhile in my training runs.

Concentrate on Falmouth--Steve has me beat in mileage. I'm not going to get close to the mileage he puts in. So, I have to find another advantage. Smarter exercise will help. Using Lake Galena for my training will certainly help because it reminds me of how the Falmouth course is laid out. I'm going to read up on how to best run in the heat. That's the thing that will always get me.

A better blog--Where did this come from? I'm going to try some different things through the upcoming months to make this blog more appealing. The one I can tell you is that I've bought a cheap, palm-size camera that I want to take with me to every race. So, I'm hoping to take pictures at the start, during races, crossing the finish, etc. The camera is not great for indoor pictures but I think it will work for outdoor shots.

Continue to have fun with running--If I didn't, I wouldn't do it. But, I have officially joined the rest of the world and have picked up an iPod over Christmas. And, I have downloaded iTunes and started combing through podcasts and other downloads (the BBC has some great shows to listen to) to listen while running. I have also picked up a copy of 'First Marathons', which is a book of essays on the famous and not so famous people talking about their experiences in leading up to and running their first marathons. I've just started the book and already I'm relating to what the writer's are saying.

Get new running shoes--This looks like an easy one, doesn't it? Just go out to the neighborhood running store and get a new pair of running shoes, right? It took me a few years to find the right fit. I would go into a store and put them on, walk around a bit, even run on a treadmill with them. Then I would go out and use them on the road and eventually I would develop problems with my feet. Until I found the Brooks GT5. They were perfect for me. The next year, they stopped making the GT5 so naturally I would go to the GT6. Nope. They were uncomfortable (I HATE when shoe companies do that. They say it's about 'innovation'. Errrr!) So, for the next few years I would buy GT5s on the internet and have them around. But, all good things come to an end, and I can't find them in my size anymore. So, I have one more pair of GT5s left for 2008, but I need to look for a replacement for those this year. Now, I have to admit, I did try on a pair of GT7s and they didn't seem so bad. So, they are the leading contender at the moment. (I'm sure in 2008 the GT8s will be out. Double Errr!)

Follow through--This strictly isn't a running one but I want it written down. I want to write down in my journal about my running AT THE END OF THE RUN not 5 days later. After I've taken something out of a drawer, put it back where I got it, not just put it down. Follow through to the end and not convince myself to just stop and I'll get back to it. With the time off I had, I noticed I do that a lot. Take the time to finish.

Not an earth-shattering list. But, I think I can achieve. I think every 3 months, I'll look at this list and do a status update.