Monday, April 30, 2012

You're not made of sugar, You won't melt...

It was raining most of the day today, but I needed to get out and run, So I decided to go to the Metro Park for a run on the hike / bike trail. I like it out there and it is nearly a Monday routine. The rain would have been fine if it was a bit warmer, but I was kinda cold to start with. I decided to don a dollar store rain poncho and headed out.

This commercial is ripe for parody - so far, we just have Zooey slowed down so she sounds "drunk".

The poncho was effective enough in keeping my head and midsection dry, but after a while it started to fog up and build up moisture, to the point that I decided to ditch it by mile 2. Luckily, the rain let up for most of the rest of the run. Not until the end of the run did it start to do more than drizzle, but by then, the rain was not too unwelcome.

It was a pretty good run and was actually my fastest paced run over 10k ever. For not racing, that is pretty encouraging. I also had my fastest "training" 5k in the last week and I set another monthly mileage record in April. In terms of running, everything seems to be going pretty well at the moment (knock on um... the laptop).

The only, very minor disappointment is that I'm not going to be able to do the Solstice Run. I might have known this before and forgot (which may be why I didn't have this race on my schedule), but I have plans to go to camp with my son that weekend, so I'll need to find another race. I only have 5ks scheduled in the near future and would like to do a longer race. I like the 10 mile idea, but could go for a 15k, or half marathon too, I guess. I like doing various distances - it helps me continue to mix up my training.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Them's Fighting Words!

The other day, I read an article by Susan Lacke at Competitor Magazine titled "Running is Running". The point of the article is that, if you run, you're a runner. There is no magical time that you need to achieve and no certification is needed from a professional board of runners. The other main theme of the article is that there is a great, supportive running community out there (just check out all the running blogs or the forums at I've also met some great people at races and have found that friends and co-workers that run (I had no idea some of them ran) support each other.

There was one item in the article that ticked me off. It was a statement from an anonymous coach who said, "40 minute 10K: If you’re faster than that time, you’re a runner; if slower, well…you’re not". That guy is a chump! I guess that means that only the one (1) person out of about one hundred in my age group at the last 10k I ran was a runner (and it wasn't me). In fact, there were only 16 "runners" out of the entire (large) field according to that dude. I completely reject that thinking as ignorant. One of the great things I've learned is there is a good, supportive running community and I don't need the approval of those who don't think I or anyone else are "real runners".

If anyone implied that I or someone I cared about was not a runner, that's a reason to go. The other reason to throw down would be if someone called me the "J" word, and not my name. I am referring to the term "jogger". Now, I'm not talking about someone who is not a runner who might ask if I'm going to go out to jog. That's innocent. I'm speaking to elitist punks who bash people online or in person about their speed or lack thereof. I got all riled up reading about that coach and guess what? That hasn't even happened to me. Almost unanimously, people have been supportive of my activities. I just don't like even hearing about running jerks, elitists and punks (I'll spare you the other words I could use).

Anyone who has "offended" me has done so without intention or malice. After I ran my first race of last year, my Dad asked how I did. I told him I finished a 5k in just under 30 minutes. He seemed surprised that it took me that long - "What is that, like 10 minutes a mile? You were faster than that in high school." Ya think so Pop? I had to explain / remind him that I was in high school 18 years ago and I had been training for only about 6 weeks at that point. He didn't mean anything by it, but I had to explain that training is a process and that nothing just happens on its own. You need to work hard and the results should come. I'm still not as fast as my slowest race in high school, but a year later, it's in my sights.


This week I had a training run with Lil' C, did a "fast" evening 5k and today I ran 10 miles (even though it was cold and I didn't feel like running that far). I intentionally went "slower" today for a couple reasons, one of which is that I want to get re-accustomed to running for a long period of time (I guess I could have accomplished that by running further, but I'm trying to build back up to half marathon-like levels).

I have at least 2 5k's coming up in the next month or so (Sylvan Shuffle and Open Door Julie Run) and I'm now planning to do a 10 mile race at the Solstice Run in June. I needed a short break from racing as my schedule isn't allowing it as much, I need to keep up training and it just gets expensive, but rest assured, I will be back racing soon in pursuit of PRs, glory and bananas!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lil' C Excels and The 90 - 10 Rule

Before I get to my part of this post, I need to give a shout out to my Lil' C. My daughter has been working hard and has completed her 5th week of training by completing a 20 minute run. Coach Daddy (me) has been training her by doing the Couch to 5k program with her and she has been doing great.

She wasn't too confident about doing the 20 minute run and has been complaining about it since I mentioned it earlier in the week. I knew she could do it, but when the longest time you've run is 8 minutes, I guess doing 20 minutes sounds a bit daunting. In order to try to cut down on the whining and to give her some focus, I offered to buy her a Slurpee right after the run in exchange for cutting out the complaining and just doing her best. We had a deal and it was the best Slurpee I ever purchased, even though I didn't have so much as a sip.

After our run I finished work on some plumbing in the house (fixed a toilet, then needed to fix a shut off valve on the water line to said toilet that would not stop leaking) and then ran by myself. I was planning to go easy, but after only doing slower runs with Lil' C all week, my legs wanted to go go go. I didn't go race speed, but I ran fairly quickly for training and felt pretty good.

Last weekend, I ran at the Big House (Michigan Stadium) and was thinking about something which I call the 90 - 10 Rule. Now this is certainly not a totally original thought (and there are a lot of 90 - 10 rules out there), but this one refers to race day performance. It goes like this:

90% of race day performance is attributable to training.
10 % of race day performance is attributable to race day prep and effort.

I'll give an example. In 2008, I decided that I was going to run a race, the Open Door Julie Run 5k. I hadn't raced in about 15 years at that point and wasn't sure how I would do. Before starting, I figured that since my slowest 5k time in high school was around 22:30, I should be able to at least do 24 minutes or so. That turned out to be very unrealistic, as I found out early in my 2 - 3 week training. On race day, I finished in about 32 minutes. I could have had a great race day, but my training dictated my performance more than anything.

Now, I am finally to where I can run a 24 minute 5k (23:18 PR - WooHoo! 1992 here I come!). It took a year of training to get there, but I did it. My training has had more than anything to do with my improvement. In running as much as any other activity, training dictates performance. 

Using 24 minutes as my average 5k time now (it is the approximate average of my 3 - 5ks this year) I figure that if I had the best race day prep, had the ideal nutrition, the best weather and just had my best performance, the best I could hope for is just under 22 minutes. Similarly, if I just had an awful day, cramps / side stitches, stomach issues, etc., I don't think I would do much worse than about 26 minutes. Training sets the "pace" for the run, race day effort certainly matters, but you can't consistently run 24 minute 5ks and then rattle off an 18 minute one out of the blue (but we can still hope). :P The moral of the story is that races are won and lost in the weeks and months before they actually occur. I think every runner knows that, but sometimes it just needs to be said.

In a sentence or two, what is your best training advice?

How is your training going?

Have you ever been a coach for a young person? How do you motivate them when you need to compete against IPod, XBox and TV? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

How much are you willing to suffer?

Matt Fitzgerald's book "Run - The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel" uses the term "suffering" quite a bit when referring to what runner's experience during running. It seemed like a strange term to use, but, as I thought about it, it makes sense. When I'm running hard, even if I am enjoying the experience, my body is suffering to some degree. My breathing is labored, muscles fatigue, knees are aching, nose running (yuck), my legs are taking a pounding - my body really is suffering and it sends messages to my brain letting it know - hey, this isn't cool!

The thing is, there is another part of my brain which is rationalizing this "suffering". As a result of this suffering, there will be a benefit. I can make my body stronger. I can go faster.  In every runner, there is a battle going on in his or her head - a kind of a risk / reward proposition.

I was thinking about this even before I started my race at the Big House Big Heart 5k. How much was I willing to suffer today? The answer, for better or worse was "Not a whole lot more than it takes to get this race over with".

I woke up my family early because this was the race that everyone would be able to attend (they generally like to go to races, but it just hasn't worked out in our schedule). Unfortunately, it was pouring. We left just a few minutes later than planned and hoped it would stop raining on the way there. It didn't. We arrived and saw signs for parking for $5. I wasn't surprised that we would need to pay for parking, just a bit disappointed. As most people paid to run for a charity (I won an entry, so I can't whine too much), it just didn't seem right to charge more to park, but hopefully that will at least go to charity too.

We grabbed our umbrellas and headed to the Renewal by Andersen booth. They sponsored the contest where I won the race entry and provided a tech shirt to race in (I can always use more tech shirts!). I picked up my race number and t-shirt and hung out in the tunnel for a while as it continued to rain.

It was about 60 degrees out, but didn't feel like it. Our feet and legs were wet despite the umbrellas and the tunnel was drafty. We did get to check out the stadium a little, until it rained harder and chased us back inside. I felt bad for the kids, but they didn't complain much.

Near race time, we headed down near the start line. I didn't really feel like running much. Sounds strange after taking an hour to drive there and waiting for over an hour to start, but I just wasn't feeling it. My legs were tight, my feet were soaked, I didn't want to get wetter. I didn't consider not running, but I didn't have the attitude I had my last 3 races. I was more interested in being comfortable that going fast.

Amazingly, once I handed over my umbrella to get in line, it stopped raining! Once the race started, the course was still very wet and everyone was trying to dodge the puddles. I had forgotten my watch at home (the horror) so I was just running "by feel". I was feeling that I wanted to race, but, as mentioned, I wasn't willing to "suffer" all that much. I just decided to keep an even pace and figured I was running at about an 8 min/mi pace.

The highlight of the race was near the end. It was fun running through the tunnel and then onto the field. I had way too much left in the tank and decided to almost sprint from the end zone to the finish on the 50 yard line. I finished in 24:30, about a minute slower than last week's race.

I was neither disappointed nor thrilled with the result. It was about what I expected (though I was happy it wasn't much slower that that). As I made it to the area with the snacks and the sun started to peek out, the whole mood of the place changed. Just outside the stadium, the pro team mascots (Rory from the Lions, Paws from the Tigers) were out taking pictures and a band was playing, accompanied by people in other animal costumes. In a way, I would have liked to have hung out there for a while, but the family and I were wet and tired.

We've been blessed with weather that has been pretty good overall lately, but the rain was just a bummer. I don't think we got the full Big House Big Heart experience. That said, I don't know if I'll be returning to this race. It is expensive for a 5k (if you need to pay your fee), far from home and, while cool, finishing on the football field just didn't feel as "special" as I thought it would be.

I think I've raced 4 of the last 5 or 6 weeks and will be taking a couple weeks off from racing. I love to race, but I would like to get back to some longer runs (plus, I have some responsibilities around the house). When I hit the race course again, I plan to be ready to PR and beyond!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Resurrection Run 5k

Happy Easter!

On Saturday, Lil' C and I got up early to head for the Resurrection Run 5k in Sterling Heights. I ran this race as the 2nd race of the year in 2011. I remember liking the course (a paved trail running near a river) and having a good overall experience, so I thought it would be a good race for us to do this year.

We got there a bit early, signed up and got our shirts. It was quite cold, above freezing, but colder than most of our recent weather. We ended up going inside the building to keep warm. My digestive system was not cooperating that morning (Mongolian BBQ the day before a race is no longer permitted) and I didn't feel in top shape, but thankfully I felt a bit better by race time.

The plan was for each of us to run our own race. For Lil' C, the plan was to run 2 minutes and walk 2 minutes the entire race. I didn't help her set any time goals (this race was practice for her for one in early June), but I figured that, if she did well (a bit better than our practice runs), she could finish under 40 minutes. For me, my goal was to set a PR (finish below 24 minutes). Anything below that would be a bonus.

We lined up to start right at 9 am. The field was a bit smaller than last year, but I'm not sure why. Perhaps because of other area races or because of a couple "big" races in the area (Martian and Big House, Big Heart) the following week. I told Lil' C I'd probably see her before she got to the loop at the turnaround (hopefully after I finished the loop) and that I would come back to her after I finished to see her before the end of the race. Soon after, the race started and we followed a bunch of kids sprinting out, tiring after maybe a tenth of a mile.

Once things calmed down , there was a lead line (not so much a pack, a bit more spread out) of about a dozen people. I was at the back 3rd of that group. I hit the half mile mark at 3:40 and was glad about it - right where I had planned. I was feeling good except for the aforementioned digestive issues and slightly tight legs (I didn't have this issue the last couple races, I really think the cold has something to do with it). A young couple passed me shortly after and, thankfully, they were the only ones to do so the entire race. Next half mile (and every half mile after that) was around 3:50. No 3rd mile fade on this day!

I finished the race in 23:18, a PR by over 40 seconds. I was very happy with how the race went with a very consistent pace throughout. Finished 9th overall and got 2nd place for my age group (35-55 M). If I would have felt a little better (no Mongolian BBQ day before a race again!), I probably could have gotten my 23 min 5k.

More importantly, Lil' C did awesome! I'm very proud of her. She alternated running and walking until about the last half mile. I went back and ran with her for a bit, then she joined a couple teen girls, running all the way until the finish. I was thinking she'd finish in about 40 minutes today and she was even a couple minutes faster than that. For her first race, that is great!

 I was able to run and get my phone in time to get one picture before the finish.

She still got to hit the Easter Egg hunt (which she was willing to miss to run with her dad) too, so she had a pretty great morning.

I was happy to set a PR and have a good race, but I was happier that I got to run with Lil' C and that she had a good time. I have enjoyed being Coach Daddy thus far and hope she'll keep up the good work, mostly because I like the quality father / daughter time.

Friday, April 6, 2012

5k Race Bonanza


After the Rock CF Half Marathon, I didn't have any specific race plans and decided just to concentrate on healing. There was a period of recovery after the race, but it wasn't anywhere near what I experienced after Brooksie Way last year. I was a little sore, but whereas last year I was almost limping the next day, this time, I actually did a very light training run with Lil' C. I did a long run last Sunday, a week after Rock CF, and still didn't feel like I had my legs back.

Now, I feel like I have fully recovered and now have, at least for the short term, a racing focus. Tomorrow, I will be running at the Riverwood Community Church 5k Resurrection run.

As always, I am excited to race, but this one is special because it is the running debut of one Lil' C. My 9 year old daughter decided that she would rather race with me than do an Easter Egg Hunt (I think if she hadn't already done one, she would have made a different choice). Regardless, I'm glad that she will be there with me. Lil' C hasn't completed her initial training and can't run the entire race (unless she's been holding out on me), so the plan will be for her to alternate running and walking.

While I will go back and run with her after I am done (it is a nice trail with good volunteers, so I am not concerned about her being on her own - I don't think I would leave her alone on some courses), I am racing and will be shooting for a PR (under 24 minutes). I ran this race last year as my second race of the year and finished just under 28 minutes. I'm not predicting any particular finishing time, but I do have a goal in the back of my mind, though If I don't PR, I will probably be disappointed.

It turns out now that I will be racing next weekend as well. I entered a Facebook contest by Renewal by Andersen and won a Big House Big Heart Race entry and a sweet shirt to wear during the race.

I hope to show as many people the back of this shirt as possible! :) While I liked the idea of doing this race, I wasn't planning on racing. Since I don't need to pay an entry fee, I'm all over it. This really does look like a cool race and it ends inside of Michigan Stadium (where the University Of Michigan Wolverines play football), which is awesome. Too bad the stands won't be filled with 100,000 screaming fans. It is a pretty big race, so there will still be a good crowd. I had the choice (I think) between the 5k and 10k and I chose the 5k. While I run other distances, I still feel most comfortable at 5k. Plus, if I have a bad race tomorrow (I won't!), I'll have another crack at it.

Dunno about any plans after the Big House Big Heart race. I would like to do another half marathon before the summer, but it might not happen. I am likely to do the Sylvan Shuffle 5k on May 12 and will definitely be at the Open Door Julie Run in Commerce on June 9. Half marathons are more difficult to do because of availability (there isn't one every weekend) and cost (some are just too expensive for me to justify).  The Lets Move Festival of Races half is a possibility on April 28, but I only want to do it if I think I can do better than Rock CF. Basically, if I feel like I get my training in for it in the next couple weeks (harder to do when racing 5ks), I'll likely do it. Otherwise, no.

Lil' C will be adorable doing her race. Hope she has fun so she can keep being my running buddy. :)

What are your racing plans?

Will you do races if you think you are not likely to perform near your best?

Do you plan all, some or none of your races in advance?