Thursday, March 13, 2014

End of winter.....beginning of hard training

This very cold a snowy winter is coming to an end. The Polar Vortex(s) have made these past three months challenging for any runner. But my triple layered, thermal, mish-mash of running stuff kept me toasty warm. Strangely enough I was warmer running than sitting at home with a quilt wrapped around me. Even though most claim my lack of body fat is the cause I think hard running is like having my own personal internal furnace.

My runs have been easy going trots than burned calories and maintained a basic running "fitness" but did little else. The spring race season is underway and the grand daddy of my race schedule, the Jack Bristol 50K ultra, is just 6 weeks away. After running well at People's Forest 17 mile and Colchester Half Marathon it became clear I could improve my speed. Endurance isn't even an issue. Speed was what needed improvement. I'm determined to get back to where I was in 2011-2012. With each daily run I focus on "10" meaning I must maintain a pace somewhere under 11min/mile or in the "10s". So far I have been successful in doing just that. Some runs went better than expected with my body in overdrive. I can maintain sub 10/mile pace when all is well. I find that staying positive and mentally telling myself that I can run faster and faster. Staying positive is the trick. It works.
At the Colchester Half Marathon

Brickyarders running at Rogers Orchard--10 miles

Bolton 5 Mile Road Race-Debticonn(run169towns) group

Above are some pictures from recent successful races. Colchester Half and the Bolton 5 Mile Road Race. Great runs and felt great at the end. So much so I didn't need to take the day after off from running which was the routine in the past.

The next 5 weeks are for Jack Bristol. I am targeting 6 hours for a finish time. Totally achievable and if I do it will be 20 minutes faster than 2013. Might even win the age group!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Good One! People's Forest 17.1 miles

This was a good race for me. Have to brag since I was 8 minutes faster than in 2013. This "race" was the People's Forest 17.1 Winter Series race by the Hartford Track Club. Always cold but in a great venue. People's Forest State Park where thecourse runs up one side of the Farmington River and down the other side. Two loops around an 8.5mile course. Beautiful scenery with little traffic.
Pre race at People's Forest
Since my disaster marathon at Newport in November 2013, I have worked at hydrating myself more thoroughly before and during the race. I also make sure I carb load, eat in the morning, and do enough gels during the race. It paid off today by allowing me to have the best run in a year. Not record breaking by any means but my best time at this race and a consistent pace. My time was 2:49 with a 9:51 pace. Last year I finished dead last with a 2:57.

I focused on staying under or at 10/mile. Mission accomplished because I stayed under 10 except for two individual miles. Bio breaks. Therefore this was even a better time considering the need to stop. The most satisfying part of the race was at mile 12. Something tol;d me to turn on the power which I did. I was in disbelief as I flew down the road. It soon became apparent I would have no problem staying at my pace goal. Fluids....drank a bunch the day before and 20+ ounces pre race. Did UCAN as well. I carb loaded yesterday and had breakfast 3 hours before the race. During the race I did a gel every 5 miles. Felt great the entire way.

I hope this can be repeated at upcoming half and full marathons. It was a "good one"today.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cold one

Everyone has heard about the bitter cold that settled over New England. Warnings were everywhere that it was dangerous and frostbite was possible if one was not careful. I like a challenge and figured that I would attempt a run in these conditions. The temp as I started the run was -6f and it warmed up to 3f by the time I finished.  Thus the picture below.
Jan 4, 2014 in -6f temps
I have run in frigid temperatures many times before and know how to dress appropriately. The key to staying warm is wearing many "layers". Double gloves, triple shirts, double pants, double socks, a balaclava, and two hats. Preparing for such a run takes about 15 minutes because of all the clothing and making it all work. I did 11 miles throughout Bristol and Burlington. As I ran along the roads I gave many something to talk about today. I'm sure there were many stories that went something like..."I saw a crazy old man running in this cold". I was toasty warm throughout the run. The only issue was my beard and iPod wires became encased in that ice blob under my chin. I could not remove the balaclava for about 15 minutes because it needed to melt. Garmin map of the run is below:

This has been a crazy week with the holidays and wacky weather. I managed to get in 44 miles as of Saturday and will do more on Sunday. My goal is to keep mileage high to be better prepared for some winter half marathons that are coming up.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Roxbury Marathon and end of the 2013 racing season

The 2013 Roxbury Marathon was more than a race it was an event. That is what a fellow runner said as we plowed through a decent sized winter storm. Besides being a hilly course a snowstorm turned the entire day into a huge challenge.

The snow was to start early but be very light and intermittent. Forecasters said "on and off" snow showers until mid afternoon. Well....something went wrong with that forecast because it was a storm from the start. As I drove to Roxbury at 6:00am the snow was coming down steadily. I was hoping it was a freak squall. It didn't stop. This race offered an early start for those people expecting to take 5 hours or more to complete the course. I feared the worst about getting stranded late in the afternoon so in a snap I decided to join the 7:30 group. Besides my recent marathon times indicated I would come in somewhere around 5 hours. Normally being 7:15 I would have an hour to prepare, drink water, etc if I had waited until 8:30 like the other runners. But at 7:15 the starter called the 7:30 crowd to the line. I had to jump in. So as we began I was still adjusting clothing, getting gloves straight, and tinkering with my iPod. We were off heading down the hill in about 2" of snow.

The first 9 miles is the beautiful out and back in the country. Always a nice run with great scenery. Another runner took the picture below.
Beginning of  Roxbury at about the 4 mile mark.
My plan was to run slower and try to maintain a steady pace throughout the marathon. A review of my other marathons show a consistent fast start followed by a "bonk" between 15 and 17 miles into the race. I was determined to fix that. Fluid and Gel intake was also managed better this time since I feel I was ignoring the importance of "fuel" for my body. As I headed back towards the "loops" I passed the 8:30  crowd now just 2 miles into the run. Saw Tracy, Joe, and Lee.

Once back to the start I began the famous 3.5 mile loops where we needed to run 5 times to reach the marathon distance. Oddly enough I find running loops better than a normal course. Something about knowing exactly what's next is easier to run.

Besides bathroom breaks I ran the loops with a steady pace. Depending on hills or flat I maintained a pace between 11-13 minutes per mile. No walking. Different from previous marathons where I walked somewhere after hitting the wall. The last loop was a good one. I felt good and regained my confidence about running long distances. My finish time was 5:14 which is not great but I felt good throughout and finished strong. Running in a storm was fun and challenging especially as my "ice beard" expanded. Check out the picture below.
Ice Beard
So my 2013 running season closed out with a great marathon. Now to start looking at races for 2014.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Better To Be Lucky Than Good

The title of this post says it all. "Better to be lucky than good" resulted in my winning 2nd place at the Hartford Track 8K Cross Country race yesterday. I ran well for my abilities with a time of 46:55. Not bad for a 4.9 mile race but usually not a time that produces awards. Luckily there were only two "seniors" signed up and I was one of them. Therefore I get an award as being in the top three. My first award while racing. Good for a laugh yet is fun to actually win something. I knew when I reached 60 that this may happen in some races for two main reasons. First I run OK for a "50ish" year old but look much better when compared to most 60 year olds. Second is the simple mathematical fact that not too many 60+ year old men enter races.
My first award as a runner. Not due to "running".
 Overall a good trail race which I enjoy. The West Hartford Reservoir trails are not very technical and easy to run. There are a few hills but none that are overly challenging. A nice place to run.
Mid race at the HTC 8K CC 
Today, Sunday, I went out for a 10 mile run in the first bitterly cold weather of the season. Temp was around 20f but strong winds produced single digit wind chills. This run let me achieve another 50 mile week. Now onto a week in Chicago and runs between the skyscrapers early in the morning.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thoughts About Running As I Turn 60

The fall racing season is coming to an end. Most major races have been completed with a few exceptions. My trifecta of races ends on December 14th when I run the Roxbury Marathon. Last year was my first attempt at Roxbury and the lack of training combined with five loops on hills resulted in a 4:50 time. Not great. This year I am completing more long training runs prior to Roxbury as I attempt to improve on that time. Yesterday was an 18 mile run which followed a 21 mile run two weeks ago. At my convention in Chicago I plan on a final long run along Lake Michigan.

I'm definitely slower than in the past. Not sure if its lack of focus, age, or something else. I'm OK with slow times unlike many runners as long as I finish races. I am happy to say I still do not have a DNF (Did Not Finish) after my name at any race. Speed or pace doesn't really matter to me. Sure, I like do do well when I can but when I'm running slow I know there will be another race to try for improvement. Two days ago I turned 60 years old. I'm actually feeling good about it considering my health was in decline five years ago. This past Friday, my actual birthday, while running a typical 5 mile loop I thought of what it meant to me turning 60. I felt really good thinking, "I'm 60 years old and running 5 miles with a planned 20 mile run the next day". Not many 60 year olds are able to enjoy running like I do. That is why I don't worry about running or finish "times". Just glad to be out there. After three years of running it occurred to me that running and enjoying the outdoors is why I'm out there......not to win awards and set records.

For my birthday my daughters, Meghan and Katelyn, produced a poster with most of the races I have participated in over the past few years. Nice. Also significant because my preparation for these races resulted in me turning my health around at a time it was desperately needed.
Nice gift that will remind me of what I have accomplished with my crazy hobby of "running".

Friday, October 18, 2013

Newport UHC Marathon

The picture below says it all.......I stink!
My animated finish at Newport
The day was perfect for running. Especially running a marathon. Temperatures before we started were around 50f. I headed down from the hotel early and got ready to run Newport, the city where I ran my first marathon 30 years earlier. I was training hard all summer and fall to prepare for what I considered the trifecta....Vermont50k, Newport Marathon, and Roxbury Marathon. This day would mean I completed 2 of 3 fall marathons.
Half way! 2:07 time. But disaster was around the corner
It started out on plan with my first half splits averaging 9:35ish per mile. The course wandered through Newport going past neighborhoods, out along the beaches, and finally on Ocean Drive past the famous mansions. Nice scenic route which was relatively flat.  My time at the half was 2:07 which was good and expected based on many previous half marathons. The Newport Half Marathon runners used the same course. The Newport full marathon is made up of two loops so that half marathoners stop after the first loop and the full continue on to a second yet different loop.
Newport Marathon Course
As we ran past the original start, full marathoners continued out onto the second loop which had more hills. Not big hills but still more challenging than the first 13 miles. I was doing fine and assumed I could finish in 4:30. Boy was I wrong. As I got to mile 15/16 I started to struggle. Trying to maintain a pace around 10/mile was becoming impossible. It rapidly degraded to an average pace of 13/mile. Did I hit the wall so soon? Yup! The last 10+ miles were a nightmare but I kept going. That second half took almost 3 hours to complete. Now this was unusual because I'm not that bad. I crossed the finish line at 5 hours and basically laughed at the whole mess, thus the image of me holding my nose. We collected our medals and had a good laugh. Not a bad ending to a bad race. Tracy set a PR with a 3:40 but even better was that she qualified for Boston. Lee did well at 4:18? Not sure on the time but also a Boston qualifying time.
Finish with Tracy and Lee. One cannot take running too seriously!
On Monday I kept trying to figure out what happened. Far as I can tell it was low fluids and not enough nutrients. Throw in a start pace that may have been too fast and disaster will happen. I drank about 20oz of fluids all day. Only had 3 gels for food during the race. I did not have my UCAN or NUNN because I forgot them at home.

I learned a lot about proper management of my body before and during the race. Does a 5 hour finish bother me? Not really. I finished which is most important. I can't take this too seriously or I'd make myself crazy. Now my training for the Roxbury Marathon in December begins. I will make sure to drink and eat appropriately. Just think.....If I can do Roxbury in 4:55 I will have taken 5 minutes off my time!! Gotta laugh.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vermont 50k Ultramarathon

Done! The text I sent Chris after crossing the finish line of the Vermont 50k ultramarathon on September 29th. My second 50k but not even comparable to the first at Lake Waramaug. This was the longest time I've ever done at 8h 20m. Two hours longer to be exact.
Tracy and me before the start. Still dark out.

The race began early in the morning. I arrived early to see the bikers start and then the 50 milers. I was freezing since it was about 42f. After the 50 milers left I actually ran about a mile to warm up my body temp, not my muscles. We started off down the resort driveway onto route 44. Half a mile out we hit our first hill. Still on the road but so steep all needed to walk. No big deal since I was well trained and ready. We slowly started to enter fields and forest trails. Nice run with nice scenery. Overall I kept a 12-13 min pace which was the game plan in order to finish in 7 hours. Woodland trails changing to quiet roads was the basic course as we went along. About 11 miles in we were starting to encounter bikes from the 50 mile race. Their course rejoined ours. Due to the fact we joined on a dirt road there was plenty of room and no issue having them at our sides. Soon the trouble started. As I reached 12 miles and more the trails became very steep and thin. The term "single track" doesn't do justice to a trail 2 feet wide with thick vegetation on both sides. Now we had to compete for the trail but of course the bikes had the right-of-way. I would hear "on your left" and then jumped out of the way. That meant slowing and frequently stopping my run. This routine became tedious and damaging to a decent time. At times 8-10 bikes came by on a steep ledge which meant completely stopping. One of miles ended with a 24 min/mile pace. Terrible considering a slow walk would be 18min/mile. This bike routine also had a psychological affect. A fun ultra became an unbearable dodge game. My mind focused on not getting hit instead of enjoying the race.

The aid stations were well spaced and well stocked. The volunteers were going out of their way to fill water bottles and tend to our needs. Overall the race was well managed. The course markings exceeded any race I had been in previously. No chance to get lost in the hills.  The scenery was great. Everything from open grassy fields to dark forests with tall waterfalls.
8h 20 after starting the most difficult race I've ever run.
My Garmin battery ran out at 30 miles. Learned that on a 50k I shouldn't turn it on 2 hours before the race. The last 2-3 miles were really tough. It was a long day, legs were tired from the hills, and I was ready for the finish. As I came across the top of the Mt Ascutney ski slopes the faint sound of cheering was in the distance. The end was in reach. The course opened up onto the actual slopes where I could see the finish. The trail zig zagged down to the finish arch. I was DONE!  Quite an experience and a big accomplishment because it was my first true trail ultra.....a real ultra. I ate my chicken dinner and thought about the race. Of course the mind is running wild with ultra thoughts like "did I really do OK?"....and "will I do another?". Before I left the parking lot I was convinced more ultras are in my future.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just In Time Body Tune Up

During the month of August I noticed something wrong with my ability to run. My per mile pace was gradually getting slower. Early in the summer I was maintaining a 10min/mile pace on training runs and near 9min/mile in long races. As the days went by in August I was now doing 11min/mile although a struggle. I felt OK and wasn't aware of any injuries. A mystery which I attributed to getting older or just not pushing myself. Nothing made sense. I had scheduled a routine physical at the end of August and I hoped that would provide a clue.

The physical was like all the previous. Weight, BP, blood test, doc checking me out, EKG, etc. At the end my doctor gave me a little news which concerned me. He heard a murmur and saw slight EKG changes. The real shocker came two days later when my blood test showed I was anemic. Put all that together and it spelled trouble yet also provided answers to the mystery. Chris noticed I was extra tired all the time. But what did it all mean? By the way, my resting heart rate had gone up by 10 beats/minute as well.

Initially my mind traveled down all sorts of nasty avenues.  Was I getting old fast? Did I damage something with my extreme hill runs?  Was my running hobby coming to a close? Needless to say I was a bit stressed.

After much thought it occurred to me that my experiment with going "meatless" may be the cause for anemia. I had started this "vegan/vegetarian" diet at the end of June. Apparently I was getting adequate protein or iron. My doc agreed that this could be the cause. But he still put me through other tests to make sure everything was alright. I started eating meat everyday and made sure I was getting plenty of rest. I also cut back on my mileage since I was over-training as well.

As September wore on things improved. All tests were negative except that an Echo-cardiogram confirmed a slight murmur. No big deal and it was not caused by running. My healthier diet got my body back on track and my running was improving. Finally my resting heart rate started to head back into the 50-55 beat/min range.

Lesson learned. Playing around with a new diet as the fall race season heated up was the wrong thing to do. Luckily there was time to "fix" it before the Vermont50K and other marathons in the fall. This weekend will be a true measure of my improved health. That hilly 50K will be my test. I'm ready. I feel confident. My next post here should be a celebration of a good 50K.

Other health factors on this physical:

  • BP = 120/75
  • Cholesterol=190 (was 252 4 years ago)
  • Weight = 188lbs
  • Triglycerides = 63
All good!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Busy training weeks ahead

The past few weeks have been quite busy when it comes to running. And a few health developments thrown in keep life interesting. In the past two weeks I ran the New Haven Road Race 20k which was a very humid and wet day.

At the start of the New Haven Road Race 9/2/2013
Not fun and at a time when my health went through a rocky period. First, I believe I suffer from classic overtraining syndrome(OTS). My times have been progressively slower and my resting heart rate is going up. If OTS was the only cause it's no big deal because one just needs to cut back. But, by chance, I had my routine physical during the same period. Good news is BP is 180/75 and my cholesterol is down to 190. Nice healthy outcome to all my running. The bad news is I'm anemic, have a slight heart murmur, and subtle EKG changes. My doctor says not to be alarmed. Easy for him to say because he is not three weeks away from the biggest ultramarathon I've ever run...the Vermont50k. The anemia probably is from a poor diet. I was eating less and less meat so my iron numbers were down. Easy to fix that one. The heart murmur may be small or non-existant and an echocardiogram will show the true condition. Even if there he said there was nothing to do about it. Last the EKG change was very subtle but not related to any true heart condition. Again he said not to worry. So I won't worry.

I've changed my diet and make sure I'm having meat/protein at every meal. I can actually feel a slight improvement after two weeks. I am taking iron pills until I'm sure the blood tests are normal again. In addition I'm cutting back on my mileage while getting more sleep. I'm sure this health "blip" will pass and my body will be ready for a busy running schedule in the fall.
Sessions Woods 10k

Last weekend I ran the Sessions Woods 10K Trail Race. Nice course that was very technical in spots. Fell once as usual. In some areas we ran around and up some outstanding rock formations. These rocks were higher than our house with caves. My 1:19 was not a great time but this was a necessary training run before the Vermont 50k on September 29th.

Just two weeks away from the big Vermont 50k. I'll squeeze out one more long run of at least 10 miles....maybe 15 this weekend. Then the long taper(torture) until race day. My health should continue to improve to almost perfect by that Sunday morning at My Ascutney.  The excitement is building!