Monday, August 31, 2015

Running in India

I've never quite recovered from my injury last February. I still run with sore hamstrings and a sore right glute. I can't run much faster than an 8:30 pace -- prior to February that would be considered a "pathetically easy" pace for me.

But here I am in India; it's my first journey to India, my first trip to Asia, my first trip outside of North America / Europe. I will be here for three and a half months. I couldn't resist signing up for a marathon.

On October 18, if all goes well, I will complete the Bengaluru Marathon, my first marathon outside the U.S.

If I'm going to have a chance at finishing this event, I need to get acclimatized to running long distances in warm, humid weather. I'm currently staying in Chennai, India, where the average high this time of year is 95 and the average low is 78. By contrast, back home the average low is 68. That's the key point, since I'm normally running at the coolest part of the day. It's 10 degrees hotter on average for my Chennai runs, with concomitant increases in humidity.

Peacock at sunrise from an earlier run

Because of the injury, I haven't yet been able to complete a long run longer than 14 miles. I'll need to get up to at least 20 (or possibly 18 given the climate) to have a shot at finishing the race. With my race just 7 weeks away, I don't have a lot of time to build up the mileage.

On Sunday I attempted my first long run here. The plan was to run 13 miles. The weather was even hotter than the averages: a temperature of 80 and dew point of 77 as I started the run. Arden was running with me, but she was planning on only 5 miles. I've come up with a 2.5-mile loop at Madras Christian College, where we are staying, so that's 5 laps and change. I set up a water station at the start/finish so we wouldn't have to carry water. The first couple loops went okay. Arden decided to sit out lap 2 and join me on lap 3 to get her 5 miles. We were averaging just under a 10-minute pace, and I was fine with that given the oppressive conditions.

The run goes through some tropical forest, lush with plant life and filled with the calls of exotic birds. There were dozens of butterflies and exotic moths, and we even saw a peacock in full fan. Next we passed through the main campus, where the only students stirring at 7:00 a.m. were headed to the early church service. Finally we were back at our start / finish, where Arden was done, and I had 5 and a half more miles.

This is where things got tough. I tried to rehydrate at every rest stop, but I was drenched with sweat and there was no way I would be able to fully rehydrate over the course of the run. My pace slowed from 10-ish to 10:30, then 11:18. I passed some boys playing basketball. The ball rolled into the road. I tried to kick it back to them and could only manage a half-whiff. Finally I arrived back at the start finish (the guest house where we were staying) and chugged down a half-liter of water along with a gel. A student asked how my run was and I told her it wasn't over yet.

The final lap was just short of a death march. I had to stop and walk for a minute after Mile 11. I vowed not to stop again before the finish, but I had to tack on an extra half-mile to get to 13. I made it an out-and-back, but when I turned around I had absolutely nothing left and had to walk the last quarter mile. I was totally spent, but I had at least completed the assigned number of miles.

Hopefully next week I'll be able to go a little longer. I'm also going to try to be a little more rested before the run (I had done 7 miles on Saturday and spent 5 hours outside in mid-day heat as well). Today I am sore, sore, sore! I did manage 39 miles last week, jet-lag and all, so my total weekly mileage isn't too bad. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to do this. Time will tell. Details of yesterday's run are below.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Murph

Last month, I bet my running buddy Chas that I would finish the Stumpy Creek International Triathlon before he finished the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, held the same day. Assuming both races started on time (Grandfather was scheduled 30 minutes earlier) and we both hit our target times, it should have been neck and neck. As it happened, my race started a little late, I didn't quite make my goal, and Chas crushed his. As per our bet, this meant I had to do a Murph.

A Murph is a Crossfit-style workout, done for speed. You run a mile, do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats, then run another mile. At this point in my life I was good for maybe 40 or so push-ups, broken into sets. I'd never tried to do anywhere near that many squats, and I could only do assisted pull-ups. Chas agreed that I could do assisted pull-ups, but otherwise I would have to do a full Murph.

Over the next month I did a lot of Murph-specific training -- meaning I did a lot of push-ups and squats. Because I was traveling in Ireland for much of this time, I wasn't able to do many pull-ups. But eventually I worked my way up to being able to do half of a Murph in a single workout.

This morning, Chas and I attempted a full Murph. Chas has done them before, but this was my first try. I knew I could get halfway there, but I had no idea if I could complete the whole thing. My plan was to do the workout in 20 sets of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 squats. I would shoot for two minutes a set. That's 40 minutes, which would mean that all I'd need to do to complete the workout in under an hour is run 10-minute miles.

Here's a photo of the two of us getting ready to start:

Looking chipper!
The mile went by fairly easily, though I'm still bothered by sore glutes/hamstrings. Then we headed inside for the meat of the workout. Chas took a video of my first set:

So far, so good. Just 19 more sets to go. I knew Chas would be a lot faster than me (and he was doing real pull-ups), but I kept to my own pace and just kept plugging away at it. After a few sets, a pool of sweat began to form under my chin during the push-ups.

Occasionally someone needed the pull-up machine, but fortunately they were able to cycle in without interrupting my workout. Unfortunately sometimes I forgot to re-adjust the weight of the assist, which led to some tough reps! (I was giving myself a 60-pound assist). Every four sets, I gave myself a short water break, walking 40 feet to the fountain, taking a sip, and walking back.

Everything was going okay but the pull-ups were starting to get tough. I told myself I could bump up to a 70-pound assist when I was halfway through the workout. I hit halfway, adjusted the weight, and kept going.

With five sets left, Chas said he was done with his and was going to go ahead and do his run. I figured he'd get back in time to see me finish; he'd probably run an 8-minute mile and I was taking just about 2 minutes per set, so I should take 10 minutes.

But as I got closer to the end, I just wanted it to be over, so I sped up. I finished those final sets in 1:43, 1:57, 1:32, 2:00, and 1:40. Chas didn't make it back in time for the last set, so I made a crude selfie to document the effort:

[Insert bad porn joke here]. Yeah, that was awkward, but you do get to see my pool of sweat. I headed downstairs to do the run. Chas was there and joined me. As we started, I could see that all I needed was a 10:30 mile to finish in under an hour. Unfortunately, my first hundred yards or so was at a 14:00 pace! But after that I settled in and ended up completing the mile in 9:22, which meant I had completed a Murph in 58:53. Not bad for a first try. That's 100 more push-ups than I'd ever done in a single session, and 150 more squats. Here we are at the finish:

Two soaking-wet Murphers

Afterwards I treated myself to a cookie with my coffee. I think I earned it, don't you?

Below is the Garmin record of the workout.