Monday, March 30, 2009

A Day Off

I took today off from training. Its the first day that I've not done any running or cross training in a very long time. Here's a video of how I spent my day with my 5 house-mates.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

3 weeks from Tomorrow

I ran in the middle of a sand storm today. The wind was incredibly strong. I was doing a few laps around a large square at about 4700 ft and the wind seemed to be working against me in three of the four directions. At some points my face and neck stung from being struck by sand. I did manage to get a little over 21 miles covered in the heat and wind.

This wrapped up a strong week of training. I hit 94 miles for the week and also managed a couple of 1 hour cross training sessions on the bike. The week included 2 speed workouts (mile repeats, 200's) and a 2 hour+ hill run. I'm hoping to keep up this momentum over the next 3 weeks!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Last winter in preparation for the '08 Boston Marathon my training partners and I made frequent trips to Barrington, IL a suburb of Chicago. In an area that is mostly pancake flat, Barrington was one of the closest places Chicago runners can go to get in good hill training. On Saturday and Sunday mornings you could find the country roads there full of transplants from the Chi' that had made the hour drive, just for their run.

This year, has been remarkably different. There is almost no place to run from my house that is flat, unless I drive 25 minutes away. That means that even my 4 to 5 mile easy runs that I do in the late afternoon (when doubling) are done on hills longer and steeper than Barrington. I certainly don't know that this will make me faster, but I'm hoping that my legs are significantly stronger than they were last year.

Yesterday, I did a very difficult hill run. Starting at 8900 ft I ran a hard downhill for nearly 4 miles before turning and going up a steep, yet shorter incline. I then turned down again reaching my lowest point about 6.5 miles into the run. This was about 1050 ft below where I started. I climbed another hill to go back up 350 ft. At this point I hit the 8 mile mark and returned to trace my exact steps. By the time I reached the final 4 mile ascent, my legs were spent.

Running up long, steep hills at elevation is never fun, but its much harder after doing so much downhill. Usually I prefer to run uphill first and then hit the downhill. But, this is a luxury the Boston course does not afford. It's my hope that runs like yesterdays will allow me to cover the downhill first half of Boston with out any muscle fatigue. This will be key when hitting the the major climbs near the end of the course. I don't want to experience what I did last year, when Lance Armstrong flew by me on Heartbreak Hill. (Last year's winner, Robert Cheryiout pictured ascending the last of the Newton Hills)

I did the 16 mile hill run on an extended lunch hour at work. This meant I worked from 7:45am until 8:15pm (I work 10 hour shifts). It makes for a long day, but I was lucky to run in the middle of a crisp, beautiful afternoon, and earn a day's paycheck. I finished the night off with a 4 mile run at 9pm. Glad to see the temperature being somewhat reasonable at that hour.

I'm starting to get my swagger back. I realize I'm still slower than so many runners, but I'm back at the point where I can do 20 miles of running one day and still feel fresh the next morning. I can't imagine how I will feel at sea level!

Bring on Summer!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Week in Training - Anna Willard - MTC

The Boston Marathon is 26 days away and the bib numbers were released today. Chris, Verdo, Robert and I are all in the very first corral meaning we'll line up immediately behind the elites.

It's crunch time in terms of my training. I finally had a decent week. I think my body is finally near full strength. I did just over 80 miles, managing a 20+ long run at 4,500 ft and 2-mile/800m repeats at over 7,000 ft. The week also included two 90-120 minute hill runs that included uphill and downhills that changed over 1300 ft in 5 miles.

This week is off to a good start, so I hope to have a good update next week as well.

Here's a nice interview with Anna Willard (pictured at right with bib ending in 55) that was done at the gym where I do core workouts. She's training with the Mammoth Training Club (Team Running USA changed their name, read why here, great quotes from my coach) after her olympic experience in '08. Anna and her fiance Jon, have been really supportive to my training. Mammoth Lakes is a small town and I seem to see them everywhere. It's nice to be part of a sport with athletes that are so down to earth.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Running with a Heart on Fire - #1

I'm in the midst of strong week of training (knock on wood) and I'll be sure to write about it in a few days. In the meantime, I've been intending to introduce a musical aspect to this blog since its inception last year. While I don't listen to music very often when I run, I do enjoy putting together a playlist for my run now and then. With that in mind I introduce "Running with a Heart of Fire" which will be a weekly (or thereabouts) glimpse into three songs I really enjoy while running.

"Pocketful of Money" by Jens Lekman

I'll start with the track that gives this "feature" its title. This structure of this song is very typical of a lot of songs that motivate me when running. It starts simple, somber and slow. There is a sense of heartbreak and introspection that almost becomes trance like. However, the song does eventually transform to become seemingly more inspired. Its not that it ever reaches a fever tempo or crescendo, but there does seem to be some sort of transcendence.

This may seem like an odd structure to run to, as I would imagine most runners listen to things that are more upbeat in tempo and message, but I get a boost from this sort of thing. I usually only listen to music on long runs when I'm by myself so my pace isn't going to be as fast as other runs. Also, I tend to think about various people and situations in my life during the melancholy at the beginning of these songs. Usually, I'll think of friends I've not seen in a long time and how much it would mean to reconnect with them. By the time the song has picked up, I'm inspired to somehow communicate with them and fix something that seems to be missing. A similar effect occurs when I drink a cup of coffee.

In this song, that pick up just happens to be the repeated phrase "I'll come running with a heart on fire!" What could possibly apply more to this sort of thought process? I'm running and wishing that person would be standing there at the end of my run so I can deliver my message. I want for them to somehow know that I am thinking of them, and wish that somehow they could see what I see (often times in Chicago, this was the lake at night and the city skyline, and here its the snow-covered mountains) and feel what I am feeling. This is a kind of crazy desire, and I think describing it as having a "heart on fire" fits very well. I'm sure it doesn't relate much to the actual song's meaning, but that doesn't bother me.

I should also note that I've seen Jens perform many times and he is on the label Secretly Canadian in Bloomington, IN which is staffed by many friends of mine. Much love SC!

Another song that fits this structure that I've worn out on my ipod has been "Shadowlands" by Ryan Adams. I'll be sure to write about it when I can get a full version of it on to youtube.

"7/4 Shoreline" by Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene may be my absolute favorite band to listen to while running. A few of their songs fit the structure I mentioned above (The Bee Hives version of Lover's Spit for example), but for the most part I enjoy these songs for more typical reasons. They are infectious, upbeat (not always in message) and loud. One of the beauties of this song is its time signature. You guess it, its in 7/4 time. Having an odd amount of beats per measure leads to some interesting movement with my feet.

If this was in 3/4 I'd be tempted to waltz, but somehow I find the fast 7 beats very good for running. We're so accustomed to 4 beats (or 8 beat phrases) that taking one of these beats away seems to make it feel rushed, and this makes me want to move faster. The great little ring of the high-hat on the "and of seven" really gets me going. I tend to strike opposite feet at the beginning of each 7 beats. My left foot strikes on 1 and I count (sub-consciously) the 7 beats and my right foot strikes on the 1 of the next measure. There are strides in between of course, but emphasis comes on that 1st beat. Back and forth. This is similar to hearing a marching leader saying left-right-left but much more pleasant and invigorating for me.

I probably lost most of you on that last paragraph, but maybe... just maybe someone out there knows what I mean and can relate.

"One of These Days" by Owen

I could go on and on about this song. Its another example of a song that is too slow, and somber for most to enjoy while running. But, the emotion it brings out in me overcomes the aesthetics of the song. Mike Kinsella, who is Owen, was clearly very effected by his father's death. The sense that there might have been failed potential in his father's life motivates me to make sure I don't let the same thing happen to me.

Also, the notion that the nice things in life that come with having money and a "real job" will have to wait at the expense of chasing a dream (in his case, being a musician, and in mine being an elite runner) is one I relate to very much. In terms of structure, once again this song floods me with thoughts at the beginning, and by the time the violin (or some sort of stringed instrument played with a bow) solo arrives at the end, it acts in the same way that a "last lap or premium bell" might. I want to go faster. I want to sweat more. I want to leave that pain.

Lastly, on an unrelated note. I have to say that this video makes me miss riding my bike in Chicago so much. There are even glimpses of the lakefront path, and the thin buildings off of Addison that seem to create a wicked wind.


Back to running next time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free Shoes!

The Sage to Summit Winter Race Series wrapped up this past Saturday. I was unable to beat Dan Yarborough for the second straight race. My race strategy was to hang on his shoulder as long as possible and then make a move some point late in the race. That was wishful thinking! I hung on for a mile or so and knew I had no chance. He took off at a very quick pace right from the gun and that left me hanging on for life for the entire rest of race. The courses for these 10k's were so difficult as I've said many times. The soft sand and hills made me long for road racing. I looked at my Garmin and saw I still had almost 4 miles to go, so it was best not to be longing for the road just yet.

The good news is that I was lucky enough to win the points series. I did so by getting one win and two second place finishes. The 2nd place finisher is a really neat guy, who probably would have smoked me had he made that his mission. Fortunately for me, part of his mission this year is to cover more miles on his feet running than any miles in a car, boat, train, etc. You guessed it, he's an "ultra guy" and goes by the name of Phil Kiddoo. This meant he ran to and from each race. Perhaps I'd have a chance to win Boston if Ryan Hall had to run from Mammoth to the race start. I mention Phil, because the best part of this series was meeting him and a lot of the eastside (of the Sierra) runners who live in the Bishop area. I particularly enjoyed talking with Phil and Jeff (pictured) who both have nice bios here.

I also won free shoes with my victory. For this reason, I'm now considering myself a professional runner. I'll do whatever it takes to hide the fact that I answer phones for a living. I did score some sweet Sanuks which I've been sporting around quite a bit. And yes, technically they are not shoes, but the owner of the store graciously let me apply my win to sandals.

The March Madness Half Marathon in Cary, IL was this past Sunday. This was a special race for me last year, as it was the first race where I really felt part of a team (in terms of running events). I wrote about it ages ago. Its a difficult course, and a great tune-up for Boston. Several friends put in good performances, but none better than Robert (pictured left) who finished 8th with a 1:16 on a very gnarly (whoa, the west coast is influencing me) course. Be sure to check out the excellent recap he wrote about the race on Coursing.

Speaking of Robert... when reading his entries about his faster miles something interesting has come to my mind. I find myself really missing those type of runs. Training at altitude rarely gives me a chance to run fast. I do get a bit faster on intervals and shorter tempo runs, but on any of my 10 -25 mile runs I'm pretty much hanging around 7:10-7:45. The view I have are beautiful, but there is a simple joy in moving at 6:30 or faster for long portions of runs with friends. I'm not doing a very good job of putting this simply enough. But, essentially, it feels good to run fast, and I don't get that as often up here. My hope is that the feeling I'll have at sea level will be so great it will justify my time up high.

Wish you could join me for my workout tomorrow. 2 miles at 6:00. 6x800 at 2:45. Sounds pretty easy. But, its always a bit tougher at 7,000 ft. Also, I'll be skiing for the first time tomorrow. I hope I break a leg.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Weeks ago when I signed up for the half in Chico I was hoping to make a splash. I felt as though I could crush my old PR. Unfortunately, by the time I started the race I wasn't anticipating much. Luckily, I did feel better than I had in two weeks and I managed a 1:19. It was good enough for 4th (one spot out of a $100 cash prize). And, in one sense it sort of acted as a 13 mile tempo run. A news article on the race can be found here.

The best part of my weekend was that Ashley came to visit. It was very quick and rushed, but we had a good time. She did very well in the race, finishing 6th and running a 6:48 pace.

More on the race to possibly come later if I feel inspired.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I've been anxious to write in here again since my last entry, as I don't like to have a negative vibe hanging around for long. Thanks for all of the positive encouragement that many of you sent my way.

The good news is that I'm feeling more myself now, and while I still have lingering congestion, its safe to say I'm no longer sick. In all, I missed 5 straight days of running, and my body got really worn down. I hopped back on the running on Saturday evening and I've not missed a day yet.

Unfortunately, I can tell that I'm a long way from 100%. I lost about 3 pounds when I was sick, and I've had a lot of muscle soreness and general slowness during my return. During my "speed" workout today I was unable to crack 6 minutes in three consecutive miles. 2 weeks ago I ran a workout with a 3-mile segment at about 5:40 pace, so I've clearly regressed considerably.

I still plan to race in Chico on Saturday, but my expectations are very low. I've been getting loads of sleep, and plan to continue to do so, so I hold out a small amount of hope that I'll somehow rebound completely by race day. But, in reality that is unlikely. I had hoped to feel spry at the lower elevation, and use the race as an announcement that my elevated training was a smashing success. Instead, I'll just put in a good effort, and if my legs are back I'll ride them. If not, that will have to wait a few more weeks for Boston.

I'm driving to Reno tomorrow in the afternoon, and spending the night in a casino (it won't be the same without you Jason), and in the morning I'll be heading to the airport to pick up Ashley and head to Chico. She is due for a good race as I know she's had some of the best training of her post-collegiate career.


I really enjoyed this article from Running Times about a guy my age, who left the USA to train in Kenya. I've scanned it in below. Click on each page to see full-size.