Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is this bad form?

Last night I had some obligations with a borough committee I volunteer for so I didn't get out the door until well after 9 and didn't get home until 11ish. That's kind of late for me to be out.

Then I come home to find that my daughter has gotten the puke bug and my dear wife has already been through numerous sets of sheet changes. It kept up and was a long night for all of us. She did settle down a bit between 3 and 4 so we all at least got a few hours straight. She seems to be on the upswing this morning.

The upside of being out so late is that there wasn't much traffic. I did an extended version of the loop that I run with the running store group that goes through some well-to-do neighborhoods. It's a nice hilly loop (see elevation below) that keeps me off the busy roads.

Last night was 30s and a bit rainy, so with the cloud cover the dark roads were really dark. It reminded me of that old pseudo-video game Night Rider were I just tried to stay in the middle of the road and keep the trees to the outside.

I did 2 reps of my AIS before the run and one after. My legs have just felt very different the past 2 nights, and in a good way. I have tried to focus on pulling my feet backwards when they hit the ground and I could feel the muscles in my hamstrings and glutes, which I normally wouldn't. I felt very strong rolling up the hills.

My shins were pain free and I could really feel the larger muscles working hard. I only felt the shins and the calves when I hit some really steep downhills.

It strikes me as extremely unlikely that the new stretching regimen has had this kind of an impact already. I have to wonder if it is possible that my form had slipped that much, and just a little bit of stretching plus a focus on better form is making the difference? I could feel myself on the downhills falling back into my bad habit of throwing my feet out in front of me, and I would immediately feel it in my calves. I almost can't believe that it could just be in my head (so to speak).

There is no way I could have done this run last week without being seriously sore in my lower legs.

11+ miles in 1:17. First 3 down through the 7s to get warmed up, then into the mid/high 6s for the rest. HR Avg 154.

Limited soreness in the morning - just a bit in the hamstrings.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When life comes at you fast

Ok, so sometimes life just starts coming at you and it's all horns and lights and for the love of god, watch out for that truck!

I can't really write everything, even everything running, because you would never want to read it. Thus I will summarize.

Massage: Good. Helpful. Tight feet, painful stretching, tight calves. Numerous suggestions. Runs improved for the next few days.

Last week: Easy. 51 miles in 7 runs. Steady improvement in the shin.

Sunday: Nice 13+ at the Wissahickon Saw Seebo out for a walk with his son. Almost didn't recognize him without his running hat.

PT: An old neighbor that I had recently run into (and who has recently gotten into running from biking - Hi Rob!) found this blog and saw some of my injury notes and suggested I visit someone he had been to. i don't know if he is technically a PT or not, but he does do a lot of work with athletes. He is a big proponent of active isolated stretching.

He sized me up within minutes. The dignosis? The shin, just a symptom. The calves are tight. The calf that was strained in the fal? Just a symptom. My hamstrings are weak, My glutes are weak. Most significantly, my quads are as tight as a drum.

He showed me that when running, and even when stretching, I couldn't even get my quad to go past my midline when it should be extending far behind me.

The things he was saying and the questions he was asking all of a sudden began to tie together lose ends for me. The tight shins, the sore calves, the feeling in my speed workouts tht I was just throwing my feet forward hoping they would stick to something, the running dreams where I would head toward the finish chute neck and neck with someone and the faster my legs turned over, the slower I moved.

He said that in some ways, it was like people get at the end of a marathon, when their quads beginning to fatigue and lose strength, and their body just starts throwing bits forward left and right jut to keep moving and hit the end. Except I was just doing that every day. Rather than using my glutes and hamstrings to pull myself forward, I was using my calves and my shins to throw my feet in front of me. Hence the ouchies.

There's an old story I've read with my daughter about the Blind Men and the Elephant. It's a parable about the limits of our perception. Each blind man touches the elephant and describes it. One grabs the tuck and says it has a spear. One grabs the trunk and says it is a snake, etc. I feel this way about many problems in my life, but running in particular. I am always struggling to put together the little threads of evidence, determine what is relevant and what is not, assemble the right advice, evaluate the results.

Then sometimes, a light flashes and I think oh crap! It's an elephant.

Much, much more I could say about this. The PT believes that cutting back on the speed in the fall and just doing higher miles exacerbated the problem and further shortened my stride. I have some key stretches and exercises to do.

He was very optimistic that some good stretching is what I need most and I should see results very quickly.

He is a former Oregon runner and from a big running family. He also called me out on my 5k time and threw out a number that he thought I could run if I trained right. Yoiks. You know., aim high and all that.

Last night: After some more new stretching it was off for 6+ just under 8 minute pace and the best run I have had in months. I felt a little rubber-bandy from all the stretching, but I could feel my legs moving in ways that just hadn't for quite a while. I felt very fluid. Plus 6 accelerations on the track, because I had to.

Also: It was my birthday over the weekend and we all took the train down and took the kids to the Franklin Institute (science museum) for the first time. It was a blast! My daughter helped my wife plan a brthday party and we had a dinosaur themed party for me, complete with musical chairs and pin the horn on the stegosaurus.

So here's a picture for you from the train:

And that's all I've got time for. Phew.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Up and down

So this week is all about some cutback and trying to get the shin to feel a bit better. I think this is in a slightly different part of the same muscle - so I'm guessing that it is a compensatory soreness because the strength wasn't back enough in the injured part for the miles I was doing. Hopefully it will be 100% soon.

Wed: 5 easy
Thu: 10 in 124 @ 122 HR

Right now it loosens up for a while when I start, then oscillates while running. I've been cutting the runs off before it starts to hurt and I have been stretching a lot (although the shin ones are pretty hard to get right) and attacking my lower legs with the stick.

Tonight I'm trying some massage therapy, so we will see how that helps and what kind of feedback I get.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Easy Stuff

Last night 30 minutes super easy and a good stretching session and I'm feeling pretty good.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Not so deep thoughts...

So Tuscaloosa mentioned in a previous comment that CoolRuning has become a wasteland. That was the first running site that I frequented and actually have fallen in with a group of friends from there who keep up (now on kickrunners) and meetup for the occasional race. It is really amazing how precipitously the posting traffic there fell off. 50%? 75%? You have to wonder if the purchase included traffic goals. The disaster that has taken place there should be an object lesson for online communities.

And while this was obviously a joke I have to add a correction.

It wasn't a baby that we rescued from the river, it was a middle-aged woman and her dog. I think it was July of 06, and I was running on the main Wissahickon River path with my running pal Joe. We passed by a bridge right around the 1.5 mile mark and I swore I thought I heard someone yelling for help. Joe didn't. Now there are always kids around, fishing and horsing around, so I usually don't pay that close attention to what's going on.

Then I *definitely* heard someone yelling for help. I sprinted back to the bridge and saw a woman stuck in the water (which was running high from a recent rainstorm) and holding onto a downed tree. Joe and I went down the bank as best we could (it is steep and muddy). Joe stayed up and held onto a tree and I held on to him and slid into the water knee deep and helped the woman climb out.

Once we got down there we saw why she had gone in - her dog was in the water. We called the dog and he was able to climb up the hill back to the trail. Apparently unaware that his owner thought the river was deadly, he promptly jumped right back in.

And so did she.

This prompted much cursing by Joe and myself, and we again went down the bank and again convinced her to come out with us. This time the dog came out and stayed out.

Then she told us to get lost.

Deep thoughts

So we finally had some of the cold settle in here this weekend that has been spreading over the north. It was chilly, but not too bad once you got out and got moving. Sunday was maybe 20 or so when I headed out, but the wind was blowing pretty hard (easily +15 feet on the loogie) so the wind chill was probably low teens or high single digits. I like running in the cold weather. I do swear by my new Hind tights though. I finally have a pair that fit me.

Saturday was a relatively easy 12.5 on a rolling trail in a park near me that I have to sneak into. It is restricted to town residents only and they ID cars coming in, but they don't bother with runners. It would be nice if it was a dirt path, but it is paved. In fact, this entire small park is slowly being overrun by public works workers with too much time on their hands to repave, cut down trees, and drive trucks all over the grass.

Sunday was a short run, and the park was deserted. It was fun to be out there in the middle of the day and have it be just as deserted as when I run at night. The cold wind had the branches of the trees just cracking together overhead and the grass was crunchy with that sort of flash-freeze that you get when you go from wet and soggy to pretty cold overnight.

I would like it if I had more variety in my local runs, and in particular if I had more places to run offroad. This park is one of the few places I can run to from my house that at least allows me to not have to worry about traffic and sidewalks.

Last week was 61 miles in 7 runs.

M: 7 easy in 1:01
Tu: 10 easy in 1:22
W: 10 in 1:13 (with a few in the 6:30s) with the Jenkintown Running Co
Th: 6 easy in 49:30
F: 9 in 1:10
Sat: 12.5 in 1:37
Sun: 6.6 in 50

Bigger Picture Stuff

It was a little bit of a setback over the weekend though since my shin started to act up a bit. Thursday and Friday I felt great - really the first 2 runs where I felt nothing the whole time. Saturday I had some soreness at the end of the run and Sunday was definitely sore, so I cut it short.

In an email exchange with the coach he offerred his perspective - that I am not doing a good job with recovery, and that is one of the harder things to get a good feel for.

I need to think more about how I deal with this and try to be more careful about scheduling real recovery time, even when I'm not feeling fatigued.

I think that I suffer from a confluence of factors here that I need to start to come to terms with:

- Overconfidence - I think that I overestimate my abilities to do *and recover from* workouts and the stress of miles. I think there are a number of factors behind this - inexperience is one, although that may just be an easy crutch to fall back on. Another piece of this may be that I do almost all my running alone - I don't really get to run and do workouts with more experienced runners and see up close how they govern their efforts.

- Seeing the forest for the trees - I think that I don't do a great job of trying to apply the training rules that I'm aware of to actual application of running. For example, in recoverying from this shin injury, I feel that I've been careful (especially since I originally hurt it by breaking this rule) to stop running when it hurts and only run up to that point. But along the way, I've parroted, but failed to apply, the 'in recovery, less is more' concept. The past few weeks have been 'more is more' since I would just keep running if there was no pain.

- Mileage and fatigue - I think that I've been (deliberately? - although I guess you can't really use the word deliberately if you feel the need to append a question mark to it) fooling myself about the fatigue that is generated by mileage, even given no pace workouts. Looking back at my log from early last when I was struggling with the cumulative effects of 40 mpw should give me some clue. Now, less than a year later, I would consider that sort of volume to be easy, or almost too light. But mentally, I have (had?) myself convinced that I could or should be running 50% more just as a recovery or maintenance week.

But looking at the overall growth of weekly mileage since I started running, I think there are some conclusions to be drawn here:

I think the trend line is too steep. In 2005 I averaged just under 11 miles per week, 2006 was almost 28 per week, and 2007 was just under 43. Following this growth line would have me averaging just under 60 per week in 2008, which would really mean typical weeks in the 70s and 80s.

I don't think I'm ready for that and more importantly, I don't think I want to do that. I have been very healthy on and raced extremely well on lower volumes. I just don't believe that to continue to improve in running I need to continue to increase my mileage at the current rate.

Compared to other runners I know, I don't think I chase particularly high mileage numbers, but I wonder if I have started to act as if past performance increase have been not only correlated with mileage increases, but solely caused by them. Writing that down, I certainly don't believe it, but looking at my log, I think you have to conclude that I have been acting like it.

So why do I do things that I don't believe I am doing?

That's a post for another day I suppose.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Snowball fight!

We got our first appreciable snowfall of the year last night here in the Philly area. My daughter has been anxiously awaiting snow in any form (and was very sad that it did not appear on Christmas) so we all headed out after dinner for our first ever family snowball fight. My wife claims that my using our 18 month old son as a human shield was being a sissy, but I think that is just good snowballing!

We also built a very short, very wet (and unfortunately short-lived) snowman. Fun!

The snow turned to cold, heavy rain though, so I ended up on the treadmill last night. The runs lately have been good and I'm starting to have runs where I don't even feel the shin at all. My plan now is to finish this week with some high (for me) mileage, take a bit of a down week next week, then into a pre-season plan with the coach. I'm getting excited.

Fri: 9m @ 7:45 - HR avg 135
Thu: 6m @ 8:45 - HR avg 124
Wed: 10+m @ 7:15 - HR avg 159

The Wednesday night run was with my running store group and we through in about 3 miles of 6:30s to keep things interesting.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

So last night my wife tells me my blog is boring...

Too many numbers. Too little personality.

Why can't you write more interesting stuff like Seebo does?

Last night: 7 miles in 1:01, 123 avg HR - (8:42 pace)

This morning: 10 miles in 1:22, 126 avg HR - (8:12 pace)

Pbbbbt. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

3.33 Miles Per Blogger

One of the benefits of having a blog like this is that it is a nice way to meet up with local runners whom you might never otherwise find, except maybe at races. Saturday morning saw a nice 10 mile-ish tour of one of Seebo's regular routes out through West Philly and back. I also got to meet John. And Seebo's sycamore is very impressive. Although I doubt I could ever find it on my own.

That said, I do now know where the founder of Flag Day is from.

It was a great run, and it's really nice to be able to spend some time with and pick the brains of runners with a lot more experience than myself.

I noted to John that I run on Forbidden Drive all the time, and we agreed that we must have seen each other there before. Funny that. Sunday afternoon I passed him going out as I was on the way back. :)

Sunday was a comfortable 15 from Chestnut Hill College, down Forbidden Drive to Lincoln Drive, then Kelly to just over Falls Bridge and back. 7:20 pace overall. This was also a bit of a return to the scene of the crime, since this is the same route I was on in December when I hurt my shin. No shin problems this time.

I was hoping to see the Falls Bridge all lit up, since I saw in the paper that they have some new lights, but I guess I was a little bit early.

This week wrapped up with 68+ in 7 runs. I'm feeling pretty good.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Last night was a little cool, 45ish, when I got out for my run. Then the wind and the rain kicked up and it turned in to a BYOH (bring your own heat). 11 rolling miles @ 7:30 pace did the trick and kept me nice and toasty. Best run on the shin yet, there were a number of miles I totally forgot about it. This morning, 6 easy on the treadmill since it was storming.

New blog for your reading pleasure: Trevor in CT, who I met at the Philly marathon and is running his first Boston in April. Howdy, Trev.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Good running this week so far. We are in the midst of a warm-wave in the mid-Atlantic here and the past few nights have all been in the 50s when I got out to run, so it's been shorts and t-shirt weather. No complaints, but I'm sure the cold is right around the corner.

So far this week:

Monday - 9.20 mi @ 8:18 pace
Tuesday - 6.40 mi @ 8:07 pace
Wednesday - 8.00 mi @ 8:00 pace

I've noticed this steady drift downward before in my easy run pace when I'm not doing workouts. I'm going to try to shake it up and vary that pace a little more. I think it's just unconscious.

I've looked through the options for races and I think I'm going to target a few 5ks between Father's day and the fourth of July for a peak. There's a gap in fast races in May when I'd like to try to run one and by June the college kids will be out to run some fast 5ks so hopefully I'll be in condition to get pulled along to some fast ones.

Of course, that's 6 months away which seems like a long training cycle for a 5k series.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ok loyal reader...

I'm looking for some large, fast 5ks for the spring -- and by that I mean I'm looking for a lot of competition through through the 15s and 16s. I would love to stay within a few hours of Philly, but I'll travel for the right race. I'm trying to find something, maybe in May, to peak for.

So far I've got 2, but the timing is wrong for both:

3/15/2008, Adrenaline 5k, Haddonfield NJ, 21 runners sub 16:30 in 07

ETA: 5/4/2008 (From Tusca in the comments) - Flying Pig 5k this year is the RRCA 5k champs - last year in another location, 24 runners sub 16:30

8/24/2008, Chris Thater Mem 5k, Binghamton NY, 49 runners sub 16:30 in 07

If anyone knows of any races like these, or maybe some 5ks associated with larger races (like they do with the Rothman 8K & the Philly Marathon)? I would love any links.

Good progress

Got 2 decent runs this weekend, both with some offroad surfaces. Saturday I did 9 on a rolling trail, and only really felt the shin on the downhills. Sunday was 8 on a dirt path, was a little dicey on some ice patches, but otherwise felt good.

Last week ended up with 49, all at easy pace. I was actually a little shocked when I saw the number - I didn't think I had run that much this week, especially with 9 being my longest. But I ran every day, so there it is.

I'm feeling really good about the progress on the shin. It's not quite 100%, I still feel some tightness, but that might be around for a while I suppose. There is no pain or soreness after running any more, which is great.

More of the same this week I think.

Friday, January 4, 2008


I used to have a Tivo, back when I had satellite tv. I loved it. When you pressed the button to jump backwards it made this awesome "Boop!" noise. You wanted to press the button just to hear it go boop.


That was my run. 8 miles on the TM, just like the day before. 68 minutes. Just like the day before.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Nice, no pain

So the plan for last night was to get on the TM and just run easy until the shin started to get sore. Lately that's been around 4 or 5 miles. After a little soreness loosening up in the first mile, nothin. Felt great. I cut it off at 8 rather than push anything for now. Felt good afterwards as well.

I didn't even grab the remote because I thought there'd be no way I was still on the hamster wheel when the Fiesta bowl came on. Bummer!

8m @ 8:30 mile, HR steady 126.

Nice rehab run and it has me in a good mood today.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Geez you all have been busy

Wow. You drop off the net for a week or two and people get a lot of stuff done! The year end wrapup seems to have a theme this year. Make sure to check out Tuscaloosa, Seebo, and Salty.

What am I doing? About 20 miles a week, rehabbing the shin. It is getting better. Slower than I would like, but better.

I have finally synced up my HR monitor and have the following to report:

4m @ 8:57 pace - 116 avg
6+m @ 8:00 pace - 150 avg
5m @ 8:20 pace - 130 avg

And other than the fact that they correlate, I got nuttin!

Top 10 of 2007?

10) 11/18 - Paced a friend though a huge PR for him in the half at the Philly Marathon, then hopped over the fence and paced another friend who was struggling through the last 13 for a 3:29 marathon. In retrospect, whoops! But the day was fun and it was nice to be able to help some friends.

9) 7/9 - A hard 12 miler on a rails to trails in northern PA. I went out and low 7s, high 6s were just flying off my legs. It was hot so I consciously tried to keep the pace down, but I just just couldn't! It felt so good! Why? Because it turns out that I was running the first 6 downhill on a train grade so slight that I didn't notice. But I sure noticed when I turned around and slogged the next 6 back up hill!

8) 4/17 - A tempo run that I still remember. This was a tipoff to me that Broad St was going to be big. 5 miles in just over 29 minutes and it just felt like butter. I almost couldn't slow down for my cool down on the way home and I was just running on air.

7) 11/25 - Monster workout. 15 miles progression style in 1:37. Out and back on one of my favorite routes from Chestnut Hill College, down Forbidden Drive and Lincoln Drive to the Falls Bridge and back.

6) Getting hurt in the fall - Who wants to get hurt? Not me. But I've certainly learned a lot about recovery and balancing easy and hard. Sometimes I have to learn the hard way.

5) 6/20 - Jenkintown 5k - I dream of someday winning this race!! This is my hometown race and winds in and around all these streets near my house. Unfortunately for me, all these fast guys keep showing up! Nice to run in my town, plus family and friends are here. 17:14, 3rd overall. Mizuno was a sponsor and gave away like a dozen pairs of shoes and despite being a Mizuno fan-boy I got nada!

4) 9/16 Philly Distance Run - This might be my favorite race and I was really happy to run a huge (9 minute) PR here this year. The conditions were great and I ran according to plan. That said, I was already hurt (calf strain) at this point and in retrospect, the injury really held me back from a bigger race.

3) 7/4 - Haddon Heights 5k - My 5k PR for the year. It was raining in the morning and I drove down to the city unsure if I would run or not. I figured if the rain was bad I would just do a long run on the drives. It cleared up just as I got there, and once I was over the bridge I decided I would run since there is a toll and I'm cheap that way. 8th overall, first >30.

2) 6/2 - Run For Life 5K - My first overall win, despite going off course. It was a small 5k and I was able to win it with a 17:20, but my wife and kids were there and it was pretty awesome to do that in front of them. It was a nice looping course that let them see me go by 3 times, then a short walk to the finish.

1) 5/6 - Broad St Run - Broad Street is one of the big Philly races of the spring. It is a ritual as much as a race, and it really is a blast. After running a 1:25 half in the fall of 2006, I knew that I could do some damage here. I knew I could get under 65, and I thought that 62 was a good goal. After some good tune-up races I decided that I would try to go after 60 minutes and see if I could make that happen. Well, my fitness was better than I thought, and the conditions were one of hose 'once a decade' days. I ran the first few miles in the 5:50s, then realized that I had a lot in the tank and started picking it up. After the halfway point that crowd starting thinning out and I was passing guys in local running club singlets, and top 20 women. The last mile was the fastest in 5:30 and my chip time was 57:06. I saw Seebo in the chute and was like "Dude - I read your blog!" I was really ecstatic after this race and it really raised my expectations for myself and for the year.

Wrap Up

Total Miles for the Year: 2235 (a new high)
Goals Met: Pretty much across the board, except for getting hurt. New PRs in 2007 at all major distances.

Goals For 2008

1) Stay healthy. I think that my 2 injuries in 07 have taught me a little bit about how to pay attention to recovery time. Or at least I hope they have.

2) Fast 5k. I'm devoting the spring season to the pursuit of the fast 5k. I've spent 2+ years now building a foundation and I think, excepting the last few weeks :), that I've gotten pretty strong. This spring is going to be about getting fast. There are a number of sub-goals here - setting new PRs (currently 16:39), just getting more comfortable running this event, going after 80% age-graded (about 16:12), but really, the biggie is sub 16. I know that's a long way from where I am now, but I'm going to say that's the big goal and I'm going after it.

And that's it. No plans yet for the fall. I'll see how the spring goes, and go from there.