She's A Brick House...

She's mighty, mighty... well not really. And truth be told, it wasn't a true brick anyway. I've been intrigued by workout strategies used by triathletes for some time, and the brick is the most interesting of all. As I understand it, it's a back to back workout of moderate duration, starting out with bicycling and then transitioning to running. The key is in the transition--helping your body to move as smoothly as possible from cycling legs to running legs.

With all the business travel the last couple of weeks, and just my general "it's Fall out there and I need to prepare to hibernate" slacker mentality, I haven't ridden my bike as much as I should. But I knew that I had a 14 miler on the schedule for Saturday morning. What to do? A brick was in order. But this was the brick of a runner, not a triathlete. Got up around 6:30 while it was still cool out there (believe it or not, we're experiencing one of those famed Indian Summers around here with temps upwards of 100 degrees--although, isn't an Indian Summer where it has cooled off and then you have a late season rebound? That just never happened this year. Anyway, I digress). So, where was I? Oh yes, got up early and logged six miles on the Trek. Came home, fixed myself some breakfast, read the paper, and mentally prepared myself for what was ahead.

I've given up running outside when the temps are like this. I'm too tired to get out the door in sufficient time before the heat kicks in. Yes, I know--I did get up to ride my bike at 6:30, but here's the deal. That would only take me a half hour or so. A 14 miler would take 2.5 hours minimally. And by that point we'd be looking at 80+. I know in my heart of hearts that come November when I run that Half, race time temps will top out in the 60 to 65 degree range, and if they don't then the Apocalypse is upon us. As such, I'm just done with running in anything but a comfortable temperature range. So how did I get that 14 miler in you ask? Treadmill.

Now I know that most would rather put a pick axe through their eye than run on the treadmill for any longer than about a half hour. I certainly prefer to be outside, but it needs to be on my terms and right now, Mother Nature is just not giving in. Still, I find running distances on the treadmill to be, shall I say, therapeutic? Something about the controlled steady pace, no sights to distract, no exhaust to smell. It has a calming effect on me.

If you look at the workout over there on the right, you'll see that I went a little longer than scheduled. 15.88 miles. That's to make up for the wonky pace readings thrown out by my Garmin foot pod for the first six or seven miles or so. It was making me crazy. There was no way I was running that fast (a sub 8:00 min. mile in many cases). That in turn, would throw off the mileage. Magically, after mile 7, Gar got with the program and my pace readings leveled off in the 11:00+ range (that's more like it). I feel pretty confident that that last leg of the run was accurate, but I threw in an extra 1.88 miles to compensate for earlier screwiness.

The point of this post, however, is to highlight the value of the runner's brick. Lesson conveyed.


Popping The Race Cherry...

How apropos that this morning's Runners' World 'Daily Kick in the Butt' quote would be a commentary on race performance made by Jack Daniels: "Most mistakes in a race are made in the first two minutes, perhaps in the very first minute." Truer words were probably never spoken.

Sunday, September 20 marked the popping of my race cherry. Long ago I decided that I would run the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure 5k on October 24 as a prelude to the Two Cities Half on November 8. I felt I needed to get a race under my belt before the big race so I would have an idea what to expect. When I learned that there would be a local 10k benefitting cancer research at St. Agnes Hospital to be held on September 20, I decided that there was no time like the present to get that 'first' under my belt. I was told that I would "have a blast" by a friend who ran it last year.

I'm not sure I would characterize what I experienced as a blast. Not that it was bad, mind you. Maybe surreal is a better word. I had my race strategy down--back of the pack, go out slow, maybe run that first mile at 11:00 to get warmed up and then gradually increase my pace to around 10ish, and finish strong.

The starting gun went off, the pack began to move, and before I knew it, I was swept up in the large crowd, jockeying for open space and listening to the sound of all the footsteps hitting the pavement. Bottom line, I made the rookie mistake of going out too fast. Not that it felt too fast. I was feeling good. The morning was relatively cool. I latched on to a group and kept pace with them for about three miles--at about a 9:30 pace.

Next big mistake I made was at the water station at mile two. I didn't see it coming and blew right past it. My mouth was dry and I could have used a quick drink. I surmised that water stations would be at miles 4 and 6 thereafter and decided I would just have to hold on.

Mile 4 was a little slower at 9:58. And then Mile 5... The first three quarters weren't too bad, that is until I turned the corner on Stanislaus and saw this giant overpass in front of me. Not that I wasn't forewarned, but sheesh! Straight up hill over the freeway for what seemed like an interminable distance. I ended up walking about the last third before the crest. I had company though, so I didn't feel so bad. The ride down was swift, but not enough to salvage the lost time on the way up. Mile 5: 10:44. Mile 6 was mostly in the sun and it was getting quite warm by that point. I walked through the water station as I slurped down another cup. 10:24 pace. That last little bit as I ran into Chukchansi Park to the roar of the crowd (well, there was clapping and encouragement at least) was at a 10:14 pace.

Total race time was 1:01:26 with a 9:58 average pace. I was hoping to break 60 minutes, and probably would and could have had I not walked up that damned overpass. Oh well, live and learn. That's me coming into the chute with the bright pink top and sunglasses.


Running in New Mexico...

Let me start off by saying, New Mexico is an incredible state. I've always fancied myself an ocean lover--I was born in Carmel, California, and always assumed that the sea must have had some special hold over me as a result. I now know that the Desert Southwest speaks to me as well.

My trip to Alamogordo was brief to say the least. I sort of planned it that way--regrettably, I now know. I didn't want to impose on my aunt and uncle for too long, and I had some other tasks to accomplish on my ten days off as well, thus, the 3.5 day sojourn. Alamogordo is probably like any other small town in the desert, a bit run down and lacking in amenities (the highlight is a big Walmart), and really dry and dusty. Still there is a certain amount of rustic charm that just can't be found elsewhere.

Maybe it was the fact that at least on three sides, the canyons and mountains loomed. Perhaps it was the swath of white sand seen off in the distance from just about any vantage point. Lack of traffic crawling along at a snail's pace. How about the fact that every where you went, people were incredibly friendly and hospitable (not a single grunt, groan, or mean glare anywhere). Whatever it was, Alamogordo, NM, and it's surrounds were incredible. I would highly recommend a trip there.

Did I mention my uncle has run more marathons than he can count? How about the fact that at 72, he's still so buff that he could kick most people's asses? He works out daily at the gym on Holloman AFB, and still runs and cycles regularly. My aunt is just as active, if not quite as athletic. Made for a perfect trip. Beauty at every turn, and lots of physical activity.

Since my uncle was aware of my plans to run my first half marathon, he made certain to schedule a variety of runs for me. Day 1, a simple 2.5 on relatively flat terrain--something about needing to acclimate to the 4300 foot elevation. Day 1 was followed by a two hour gym session where I received lessons on the finer points of weight lifting workouts that would benefit my runner's legs. The the best part of Day 1--a run over the dunes at White Sands National Monument.

Day 2 was a hill run--of what seemed to this Flatlander's eyes--monumental proportions. Scenic Drive was the name. One mile, pretty much straight up. OK. That's a bit of an exaggeration. It was more like a quarter mile of a relatively gentle incline, and then 3/4's straight up to the top where a big storage tank marked your accomplishment. The picture I took just doesn't do it justice. You really can't get a sense of how steep a climb it was. Ran it twice, and felt great. Thought about running it a third time, but knew that my uncle had additional activities planned for us and I was afraid I would be totally wiped out.

Day 3 included about a 3.5 mile run down from their house in the 'hood to the main drag, and back. Did I mention that it was 'up' on the way back? And did I mention that I ran with their dog, Pepe? A first for me. Damn, that dog had some stamina! That early morning run was followed by a short trip up in the mountains to the Cloudcroft Lodge for a spectacular breakfast of Eggs Benedict with coffee and grapefruit juice. Perfect way to top off physical activity to my way of thinking!

And finally, an few other shots of incredible beauty for your enjoyment...


TIaRT: The Gold Star Kid...

Imdecken from Chasing the Kenyans asks this week's Take It and Run Thursday question:

What do you do to get yourself motivated to run when it feels like it's the last thing you want to do?

Way back when I was a young'n (I'm talking Kindergarten here), whenever you did something right, the teacher would lick one of those metallic gold star stamps and stick it to your forehead for all the world to see. The gold star on the forehead became a prime motivator for me. I couldn't wait to get through recess, the afternoon snack, and the period where we rested with our heads down on the desks, to the point where I could run home, burst through the front door and show off my accomplishment to my mother. I became known as the "Gold Star Kid."

I'm a lot older now, but old habits die hard. My training log has replaced the gold star. When I'm having trouble motivating myself to run, I go back through my log and review how far I've come, how my times have improved, and how many miles I have on my feet. It never fails to be a motivator for me. Just knowing that I have accomplished something in the past--and perhaps knowing that it is all too easy to take a day off, and then another, and then another until the threat of a sedentary lifestyle looms--and I head out the door just about every time.

Returned from New Mexico late last Saturday night. I didn't exactly run the sylvan trails I was hoping (it was more like running the 'hoods of Alamogordo instead of Fresno) but the vibe was entirely different. Between the altitude (4300 feet), the major hills, and the beautiful mountains looming at every turn, it was spectacular all the same. Been jammed up all this week, but pictures and more details will follow when I get a chance.