Sunday, June 24, 2012

A tale of two runs

Today I ran 6.3 miles at about an 8:30 pace and was quite pleased with my workout.

Last Monday I ran 12.1 miles, including tempo runs of 3, 2.5, and 1.5 miles at sub-7:00 pace and was disappointed.

The difference of of course, lies in what happened in the intervening 5 days.

Monday, I knew, would be my last run for probably a week or two. It might also be my last hard run, ever, so I wanted to make it count. I ended up running with Kelly Fillnow, who is a professional triathlete and sub-3-hour marathoner. Needless to say, just keeping up with her would be a challenge.

Today was my first run back after the surgery. The scar on my arm was just beginning to heal, but the doctor had said that I could start running again as soon as the drain was removed from the wound. The scar spans eight inches of my left tricep, but if you stretched it out into a straight line, it might be twice that long. It's a sort of spiral shape. I've been telling people it looks kind of like a galaxy that has just been attacked by the Death Star. Assuming that it is even possible for the Death Star to attack an entire galaxy.

The plan on Monday was to run 4 X 3 miles at an "easy" tempo pace. Easy for Kelly, but tough for me. I hadn't had a very good spring to begin with, and my body was feeling battered even if I wasn't facing a potentially life-changing surgery the following day. I was nursing several injuries: IT band, sore abdomen, nagging hamstring. But if this was going to be my last hard run for a while, I wanted to make it count.

My wound had been wrapped in 12 feet of gauze, which wouldn't do at all if I was going to be running in the heat. I decided I could just use two gauze pads, lightly taped to my arm, and a compression shirt to hold it all in place. Unfortunately the rubberized tape designed to stick to itself decided that it also wanted to stick to my compression shirt, so just getting the shirt on proved to be a challenge. Somehow I got everything on and kept the wound covered up. I headed outside and took off at a very moderate pace. At first the arm felt awkward, but after a half mile or so I got into a rhythm, and everything felt fine. In 15 minutes I reached Summit Coffee. Hopefully I'd be there in time to meet up with some fellow runners from the group who would just be finishing their long Sunday runs.

After a 30-minute warm-up where Kelly and I got to know each other (we'd never run together before but were Facebook friends), we took off for the first tempo run. A 7:00 pace should be doable for me -- after all, I've done it for an entire half-marathon before. But Monday was a warm day, and I don't do well in the heat. I held up okay for the first set. We'd have 90 seconds to recover, and then we'd be off again. Mercifully, Kelly gave us an extra minute or two before we started round two. After an okay first mile, I really started to flag. Mile two ended on a flat, but Mile three would be nearly all uphill. I told Kelly to run ahead and I limped up the hill at just an 8:00 pace. For the third interval, I only made it 1.5 miles on the track while Kelly dashed off the entire 3 miles, then headed out to the roads run a fourth interval.

After a great cup of coffee with Hope, Jyl, Sam, and Todd, I didn't feel tired at all, and my arm felt great. I decided to head home the long way, completing the full 6-mile DART loop. I felt a few twinges of pain along the way, but nothing major. I kept about an 8:20 pace for the rest of the run.

The surgery involved both a regular surgeon and a plastic surgeon, who would try to restore my arm after a disc of skin 2.5 inches in diameter was removed from it. That's why the scar is a spiral. The surgeon had had to cut flaps in my arm adjoining the surgery site, then rearrange them like a three-dimensional puzzle. The galaxy shape turned out to be the best way to fill the giant hole in my arm. It's battered and bruised, but eventually it will look fairly normal, and anyways, it is mostly covered up even by a short-sleeved shirt.

I had gotten a call from the other surgeon on Friday night telling me that there was no cancer in my lymph nodes; there was no need for further treatment. And now, I'm back running again. I won't need chemotherapy. I won't need additional surgery.

I smiled to myself as I finished the run. It was a nice easy pace, but I had worked up a major sweat on the steamy June morning. It's just great to be out there, to run, to enjoy life. To know I'll be able to do this for many years to come.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The best laid plans....

I hadn't been feeling great this week after running hard at the Miles of Mooresville, and I had a huge blister on the bottom of my foot, so my plan today was to take things relatively easily on a 6-mile run. I decided that an 8-minute pace should be fairly easy, and things started out in roughly that fashion.

But by Mile 2 I was cruising along quite a bit faster than an 8-minute pace. I ended up finishing the mile in 7:45. Naturally for Mile 3 I wanted to go a little faster, and despite a steep hill in the middle of the mile, I did it in 7:30. Now I was on a bit of a mission, and Mile 4 went by in 7:10. How long could I keep this up? Not long, it turned out -- Mile 5 included 121 feet of climbing and I slowed to 7:25. But now I hade another idea. I was approaching the stadium at Davidson College. Why not add some stairs to the mix? I ran into the stadium and did 30 reps on the stairs.

Now I was fully and truly spent, and it was all I could do to jog the mile back home.

It was a good workout, and with the stairs, I don't think I taxed my body as much as if I had tried running intervals or hitting tempo pace. But easy it was not!

My main concern is getting rid of this blister. It didn't bother me too much today, but it is definitely an annoying wrench in my running. Hopefully it will be gone before it really starts bugging me. Details of today's workout are below.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Race Report: Miles of Mooresville

The Miles of Mooresville series is a unique event. And by "unique" I mean "crazy."

It's a set of three races, separated by just five minutes. Race 1 is 1 mile, race 2 is 2 miles, and race 3 is -- you guessed it -- 3 miles! I was interested in running the first race because I haven't been timed in a mile since college. I wasn't especially interested in running the 2- and 3-milers, but since they were included in registration, I figured "what the heck?" and decided to give it a shot. But I wasn't planning on saving anything for the later races; I'd go all-out on the mile and then just see what I could do for the other races.

I had a vague recollection of breaking 5 minutes for a mile in my college days, but I wasn't really sure what I'd be able to do today. Based on my performance in 5Ks, I felt like anything slower than 5:45 would be a little embarrassing, since I can get close to that pace in a 5K. But anything faster than that was basically uncharted territory. I decided to shoot for a 5:30, and if I was doing really great, maybe I could do better.

I arrived at the event about 45 minutes early. Since all three events followed the same 1-mile loop, it was easy to preview the course. The first half-mile was a gradual downhill and the last half-mile was a gradual uphill. That's probably going to hurt! Fellow DARTer Chad Randolph was there to watch and take pictures, and DARTer Chris Brown was competing. There were about 60 runners, with about 10 or 15 that looked fairly fast.

Soon we lined up at the start, and we were off. I had had the foresight to set my Garmin to give me quarter-mile splits instead of the usual mile splits. As you might expect, the first quarter was fairly fast. There were about 9 or 10 runners ahead of me, and we were all cruising along at about a 5:08 pace.

Start of the 1-mile. Chad Randolph photo.
I didn't notice it at the time, but somehow my pace for the second quarter dipped precipitously, and I completed it in 1:25 for a 5:42 pace. The third quarter is where the uphill started, and somehow I managed to pick things up. I passed a couple runners in this section and tried to push the pace. I managed a 5:30 pace for this quarter.

Just a quarter-mile to go! Two runners ahead seemed to be within reach, and I inched closer to them. We hit the second-to-last corner and started our sprint. Finally we turned into the parking lot and headed home. There was just enough time for me to pass both of them on the inside. My final time for the race was 5:30 even, so my guess at a target time wasn't far off. I think I could probably go faster on a mile if I focused a little more during the second quarter, but I was happy with the result. That put me sixth overall, and first among male masters.

Here I am about to make my move! Chris Brown is just behind me.
As I warmed up for the two-miler, I could tell this wasn't going to be easy. I decided to just try to keep my pace below 6:26, which is what is needed to run a 20-minute 5K. My legs were sore, and I wasn't feeling confident, but somehow I managed to run a fairly solid race. I still had my watch in quarter-mile-mode, so I won't bore you with the splits, but I did manage to complete the second mile faster than the first. My overall time was 12:47, a 6:24 pace, good for third in the master's division. Chris, who had been just behind me in the 1-mile, was just ahead of me in this race.

Finally, the three-miler. I was feeling quite sore, and wasn't sure I wanted to run it at all. I got my phone to check up on how some friends were doing in other races. Then suddenly I heard "on your marks, set ..." I tossed my phone in the car and took off toward the starting line, which fortunately was only about 20 yards away. When I arrived at the start, the pack had started moving. I had to weave my way through the entire field to get to the front. I didn't have time to put my keys in my pocket, so I ran the entire race holding on to them.

I could tell almost instantly that a 6:26 pace was not going to be possible, so I reset my sights on just going faster than a 7-minute pace. If I could run a whole half-marathon at that pace, surely I could do just three miles, right? Uh, maybe not. While my Garmin splits were coming in just under 7 minutes per mile, the course was running a bit long compared to my Garmin (though certainly within the margin of error), and I was pretty sure I was not going to attain even my revised goal.

In the second mile I started to feel a hot spot on the bottom of my foot, and I could tell I was going to have a nasty blister. For about a half-mile, I considered dropping out of the race, but when I passed the start-finish line I thought "What's one more mile?" and kept on going. I ended up finishing in 21:25, a 7:09 pace, and out of the awards. At least I didn't drop out!

Overall this was a fun event, if a little twisted. I noticed some runners had interesting strategies. Martin Harrison, who had won the Spartan 5K, told me he just wanted to average below a 6-minute pace for all three races. While I beat him in the 1 miler, where he was taking it a bit easy, he won the master's division for the 2-miler and 3-milers, and was comfortably under a 6-minute pace for the day.

Other runners skipped races: I saw one person who skipped the 3-miler, and I'm pretty sure the overall winner for the 3-miler didn't run the 2-miler. Not a bad plan if you have a specific goal. Fellow DARTer Chris Brown ended up placing in the Master's Division in all three races, finishing 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd respectively -- a fantastically consistent day!

Garmin records of each race are below.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Weight update; week in review; getting Loopy

Losing weight is fairly hard for me. I can run 60 miles in a week, eat relatively healthfully, and not lose an ounce. This is not to say that I have been on a deprivation diet, but just that it's not easy. My goal for May was to lose 5 pounds, to go from 190 pounds to 185, on my way to a total weight loss of 15 pounds by the end of July.

Last week I was already down to 183 and feeling fairly confident. Then Memorial Day weekend arrived. I didn't hit up any barbecues, but my wife was out of town and we went out for lunch when she returned on Sunday. Then we went shopping on Monday and went out to eat again. I was back up to 187 by Tuesday morning.

I re-steeled myself during the rest of the week, returned to my salad lunches, and had several salads for dinner as well. This morning I stepped on the scale and...

... I was back down to 183.

Next stop, sub-180 by June 30.

Running has been going okay, but not great. After the race on Saturday, I had planned an 18-mile long run. I knew this would be hard, but it was an extremely warm morning, perhaps near 80 degrees. The first 12 miles weren't too bad, but we were running a hilly route, and by the time we were headed back into town, I knew I wasn't going to make it 18 miles. I ended up bailing out after 14 miles.

I took a rest on Monday but did Pilates.

Then on Tuesday running with DART I felt absolutely miserable. Worse, it felt like I had strained a muscle in my abdomen, perhaps in my Pilates session on Monday. I still managed 9 miles.

On Wednesday I felt a little better, but still not great; I lagged behind the others on the DART run. Between that and working with Chad to nail down the Pick Your Poison 5K route, I logged another 9 miles.

On Thursdays I have been doing speed workouts but given that I haven't been feeling great this week and that I want to do well in Saturday's Miles of Mooresville race, I just did an easy trail run with DART. I could still feel the strain in my abdomen but it was much better. I think I might be in pretty good shape for Saturday. 5.83 miles.

Going Loopy for a Cause
I didn't run this morning because I'll be participating in a fundraiser this evening -- the 24 Hours of Loopy run to benefit Batten's Disease Research. No, I'm not running 24 hours, silly! But Jeff McGonnell is, and he invited me (and a couple dozen others) to run with him for an hour. My session is from 7 to 8 pm tonight. Needless to say, I will be taking it easy, trying to save plenty for tomorrow's races. But if your in the Davidson, NC, area, I'd highly recommend you stop by. If you make a donation, you can ask me or any of the other runners to do something silly, or wear a silly costume. One thing I will be doing for sure is running while reading Green Eggs and Ham to an adoring flock of children. Apparently there will be video.

Even if you can't make it, I'd highly recommend you make a donation to the cause. Batten's Disease may be rare, but it is always fatal when it occurs. Jeff's son is good friends with two teenagers who have the disease, and they are going blind from it. Most people with the disease do not make it through their 20s. Because the disease is rare, drug companies do not invest a lot of money in research, so any hope for a cure depends on the generosity of individual donors. Click Here to find out more about the disease and help discover a cure.