Baystate Marathon 2013

Oct 21 2013

Not a whole lot good to say about this one, but I’ll stay positive and say that I completed my third marathon, and from the viewpoint of me, say, five years ago, that’s pretty amazing. And, out of the three marathons I’ve done, it was not the worst time, merely number two.

First I’ll give a recap of the race, then do an “analysis”.

The Baystate Marathon and Half Marathon both run along the Merrimack River, starting in Lowell, MA. The half marathon is a two loop course, down the southern side of the river and back on the northern side. The full marathon goes about 8 miles down the river, through Chelmsford and into Tyngsboro, crosses the river, then back about 5 miles, then looping around back to Tyngsboro then back to Lowell.

The run started OK for me. But just OK. In running several longer races – three marathons, two halfs and a 20 mile race, I’ve seen that sometimes there is a “magic” that happens on race day. And, sometimes there isn’t. I don’t mean magic like crystals or horoscopes. Just that all the training, your physical condition, diet, weather, mental attitude, and a score of other factors all come together just right. This has happened in three of my five longer races, so it’s not something rare, but neither is it guaranteed. This Sunday, I did not feel the magic.

In the last few weeks of training, I’d been having a lot of tightness in my left quads and in my right achilles tendon. Actually, the achilles had started acting up very early in the year and caused me to take a few weeks almost totally off of running. It had gotten better, but with the increased mileage had started tightening up again. So I was worried about these two things, but it turned out they didn’t cause me any problems at all throughout the marathon.

Again, it was all OK for the first half of the race. Nothing bad I could put my finger on. But maybe felt like there was a bit more effort to keep the pace than on other times I’ve run. At the Eastern States 20 Mile Race in 2012, I was amazed at how fast the miles were going by. It felt like every time I turned a corner, there was another mile marker. Yesterday, it seemed like those miles, even in the first part of the race, were a whole lot longer.

I’d lined up at the nine minute marker in the corral. The 4:00 pacer was there and a bunch of us were chatting with her. I kept up with her for a while, but I was doing around 8:46 per mile and she was pulling well ahead of me, indicating that she was doing significantly faster than a 4-hour marathon, which would have been around a 9:00 pace. I let her go and settled into an 8:50 pace. At some point the pacers switched off and I wound up catching up to the new pacer who was doing a more conservative pace of right around 9:00. I followed right behind her until her shift was done, and the original pacer came back. She held on at the same pace for a couple of miles, but then started speeding up again, so I let her go.

Around mile 15, I started getting pretty bad nausea. I was eating those chomps – gel chewey things. I’d used them in the Cape Cod Marathon and the Eastern Stated last year and did well with them. I’d also trained with them for those races. But I didn’t train with them this time around. I was also carrying and drinking Powerade, while I had done all my training with Powerade Zero. Cardinal racing rule number one broken: don’t do anything new on race day. So, every time I ate and drank, I’d get a wave of nausea that would last for 5-10 minutes. That lasted from about mile 15 through the rest of the race. Actually, I couldn’t eat anything until a few hours after I got home. The result of this was that I was not able to get enough fuel into my system during the run itself. Which meant I hit the wall nice and early.

The other thing that happened around mile 18 was that my abs just locked up. At first I thought this was just a stomach ache to go with the nausea. But it was actually my core ab muscles cramping up. If you’ve ever done a whole bunch of situps or crunches – more and faster than you’re used to – you might have experienced that sudden painful clenching of those same muscles for several seconds. This was like that, except it just went on and on. Extremely painful. My plan for this was to just keep going and hope that it went away. Surprisingly, this plan worked. I did have to start taking short walk breaks in mile 19, but by mile 21 or 22, the ab muscles had relaxed a bit.

But between the nausea and ab cramps, I felt my sub-4:00 slipping away. Actually, I think I knew it was gone pretty early on in mile 18 or so when the abs started acting up. But by mile 21 or 22 I knew it was gone. There was still the chance of a PR if I could beat 2:06. But I think by mile 23 or 24 I knew that was probably not real either. At the same time, I knew that unless I stopped running altogether, I’d still be able to beat my first marathon time of 2:26. So there wan’t really any goal to try for at that point. I just ran as much as I could. Took a lot of short walk breaks and ticked off the last few miles. It wasn’t fun at all. For the most part I tried to keep the walk breaks short. Either 30 seconds by time, or 0.05 miles by distance. And tried to give myself goals of running 0.3 or so miles between breaks. But near the end, the walk breaks were closer together, and some of them may have gotten a bit longer. It wasn’t pretty. Even in the last half mile, I couldn’t rally to a non-stop run. Blah.

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My wife took this photo a block or so before the finish line. Don’t let that smile fool you. I was dying.

Crossed the finish line at 4:11:18. Five minutes longer than my Cape Code Marathon time, though this was a MUCH easier course. 15 minutes faster than my Hyannis Marathon time. But this mirrored my Hyannis run in so many ways. The 15 mile breaking point, the nausea (I was using gels in Hyannis and nearly barfed the last one up – haven’t had another gel since), the abs tightness, the early hitting the wall around mile 19, the death march of the last 4 miles.

Analysis

Earlier I used the word analysis in quotes. Because it’s not really so much of an analysis as much as viewing the obvious factors that were in my face.

1. Don’t do stuff on race day that you haven’t done in training.

2. Pick a race fueling plan before your training, train with it and then race with it.

3. Core work. Strengthen those abs.

At this point, I know that I can run (or mostly run) a marathon. I can make it 26.2 miles on my own power and cross the finish line. I’ve done it three times. I can do it again, I’m sure. There’s nothing to prove there anymore. I would like to:

A. Finish a marathon in under four hours.

B. Finish a marathon without walking, or maybe just walking through a few water stops, but avoiding the death march.

To do this, I think it’s a matter of training smarter, not just harder. I know that sounds like a mindless cliche, but it means a very specific thing and is very real to me. Not sure what my next marathon will be yet. Right now I’m a bit burnt out on marathons. But there will be more, and I know what I need to do.

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Reboot accomplished!

May 07 2013

To recap, 15 days ago, my wife and I set off on a dietary adventure, using the 15 day plan at http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/rebooting/plans/. This entailed 5 days of eating and drinking only fruits and vegetables, followed by 10 days of juice only. It was far tougher than either of us imagined. In the beginning, we were thinking this would be something nice to do 3-4 times a year. By the end of it, I don’t think either of us wanted to think about juice again for a long time.

Results?

It’s such a subjective thing. It’s tough to say. Thinking back to two or three weeks ago and trying to imagine how I felt back then and assess how I feel now and objectively compare the two – tough if not impossible. I wont say it was life changing or that I have some massive new sense of energy and feel like a kid again. I definitely feel healthier. I wasn’t exactly on death’s door 15 weeks ago anyway, but I was eating a lot of junk, not running because of my sore achilles, and putting on weight. But I was also working out at the YMCA 4 or 3-4 days a week, and eating vegetarian this whole year. So I wasn’t really expecting a life change.

What I was expecting was a reboot. Coming from a computer field, I know the term well. To “boot” a computer is to turn it on and start its operating system. The OS is really just a set of programs that run on the computer that show the desktop, allow access to the file system, let you run other programs, etc. The difference between the OS and other programs is that most programs require some user action to launch – clicking on an icon for example. The OS is set up to start itself up when the computer turns on, so the computer runs the program that will run the computer. In that sense it echos the paradoxical phrase “pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstrings”. Hence the name “boot”.

A “reboot”, in computer terms, is when you boot the computer again after it’s been running for a while. This can be done simply by turning it off and back on again, pressing a reboot button, or by some system command programmatically invoked. This causes all running programs to exit and clears all system memory. Usually rebooting is done after you’ve installed some new software or hardware or updated some part of the OS. Or it is done when the computer is running poorly or erratically due to corrupted memory or some out of control process running somewhere messing things up. Rebooting allows the new hardware or software to go into effect, or puts an end to the problems that are going on, starting anew.

Thus, “reboot” has gained the non-computer sense of a fresh, new start, either with new positive behavior added, or old bad behavior cancelled out, or both. And this is exactly what I was looking for out of this program – to stop my bad eating behavior, shut down for a bit, then restart with new positive eating habits.

So in that sense, the last 15 days has been the shutting down, the exiting of bad programs, the clearing of memory. The real reboot starts today.

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Reboot Days 8-11

May 03 2013

We’re still at it! Entering our 7th day of juice only. It’s been tough, but we’re going to make it. Amazingly, I actually have seen some return of energy. Not bouncing-off-the-walls type of energy, but I got through that period of being exhausted all the time and now feel almost normal. Day 10 was my best day yet. I felt really good all over. But then yesterday, day 11, I was in a bit of a mental funk and had headaches on and off all day. Not big ones, and they wouldn’t last, but it’d bother me for a while, then go away, then come back a while later. Digestion-wise, everything seems completely normal, which is kind of baffling. Other than that one day where I couldn’t stray far from the bathroom, everything has been surprisingly normal.

One thing that has happened over the last couple of days is that we’ve been rethinking our vegetarianism – or more properly, our ovo-lacto-pescetarianism. We started that at the beginning of the year, so had 4 months solid of no meat. I think it’s a good thing, but I also think it was more of an experiment for us. Neither one of us was wholly committed to doing this for the rest of our lives. Not that I’m craving beef or chicken, but the concept of NEVER having them again isn’t appealing, and to put myself on a guilt trip if I do eat some meat some time seems silly. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to having meat as a daily part of my diet. But if I’m in an Indian restaurant I’m going to eat chicken tikka masala, and I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it, guilt-free.

Worth mentioning is that I’ve lost just shy of 10 pounds in the last 11 days. Losing weight while on this program was not a specific goal, though I guessed it would happen and I’m certainly happy for it. Also, since I’ve been working out at the gym 3-4 days a week at least, I’m sure I’ve gained some muscle mass, so a high percentage of that loss should be fat. I think I definitely look slimmer these days. Maybe even a glimmer of some abdominal muscles showing through the flab.

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Reboot midway point

Apr 29 2013

So here we are 7.5 days into the program. The last two and a half days have been juice only. Time to update status.

In my last posts I stated that my energy seemed to be returning and digestion was good. About an hour after I wrote that, I became exhausted and spent a large part of the rest of the day going back and fort to the bathroom. Luckily, the latter part of that stabilized by end of day and since then things have been back to normal. But the energy level is LOW. Same with my wife. We’re both just dragging ourselves around, having a really hard time getting up in the morning. I guess you could attempt to attribute to this to some kind of detox effect, but I’m thinking it’s just lack of calories and carbs. We still went to the gym and had a nice workout this morning, so it’s not like the lack of energy is anywhere close to life threatening or anything. But it’s quite noticeable.

Other than that, I guess things are going just fine. It’s hard to really say I feel healthier when I feel tired all the time. But I know that my habits are undergoing a major change. It really does feel great to drink those juices now. And I don’t think it’s just hunger, it’s a feeling that what you are putting into your system is really good for you. I don’t think I could immediately go back to eating any kind of junk.

The cravings hit big time yesterday. My wife started planning a post-reboot diet and was reading it to me and I was salivating, particularly at any mention of anything containing carbs. She said “brown rice” and I had a physical reaction. Last night I had two more food dreams. Well sort of. One was about rice balls rolled in salt. I could taste the in my dream and they were delicious. And I still remember the taste from the dream. The other one was actually beer. In it I was drinking some less-than-stellar beer, something like Miller Lite maybe. But it was delicious. I couldn’t understand why people thought it was inferior beer because it tasted heavenly.

Another thing we both noticed is our teeth. They feel like they need brushing a lot more than usual. I brush in the morning and by mid-afternoon they feel like I haven’t brushed in days. My wife says this is due to the lack of chewing. The friction of chewing helps to keep the teeth somewhat clean. Since I haven’t chewed anything since last Friday, crap just builds up on them really quick.

Finally, it dawned on me that this is not an inexpensive adventure. Unfortunately in this society, junk food is cheap and healthy food costs. We’re drinking 6 large juices a day – both of us. You know how many vegetables it takes to make 12 large juices? A LOT. We’ve been buying organic stuff at Whole Foods, which doesn’t help either. My wife estimates this whole venture will cost us about $1200 in food for the 15 days!!! I was shocked. But hopefully it’s worth it. Below are some time-lapse shots of our grocery cart filling up. And some more juice.

Oh, and by the way, beet juice makes your pee red.

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Reboot through Day 5

Apr 27 2013

Well, we made it through the first 5 days. Onto phase 2!

The diet for days 1-5 consisted of quite a variety – berry apple bake, sautéed greens, salads, soups, smoothies, juices, and more. But as it progressed, it transitioned into more juices, less solids. Yesterday there was only a salad at the end of the day – last solid food for next 10 days. From here on out, it’s all juices – no smoothies, no soups, no solid food.

This video talks about why juice only, and not smoothies.

As for physical/mental progress, personally I do feel really good. Day 4 I woke up with almost no energy. It was a struggle to get out of bed. But I did eventually get up and went for a 3 mile run. I assume my calorie count is really low, so it wasn’t the most energetic of runs, but I got out and got it done. Day 5 I was also tired waking up, but not as bad, and this morning wasn’t bad at all. I did a 4 mile run today and worked out at the gym yesterday. So it’s not like I’m completely drained, just the waking up is tough – but getting better. I actually enjoy just about all the juices and other stuff now. Even the ones that originally I grimaced slightly at now taste good and it really feels great to drink them. (Luckily, there will be no more Shamrock Smoothies – those were just nasty).

As for feeling hungry, during the first 5 days, that in general was not a problem. The meals were quite filling, and a couple hours after meals you’d be drinking a big smoothie or juice. But often at night I feel pretty hungry. In fact, last night I had no less than 3 food dreams – one of chicken, one pasta and one of a large bowl of peanut m&ms! So yeah, at night there is hunger. I woke up once to go to the bathroom and really felt so hungry I thought I could not finish the program. But of course I feel more optimistic in the light of day and with a stomach full of juice.

Now that I’m in juice only mode, I’m going to try to go without any black tea, i.e. caffeine. I’ve been having a cup a day. The headaches have diminished to almost nothing. So hopefully that will be ok. And as far as digestion, all systems normal. Stomach feels fine all day and beyond that, everything seems totally normal, surprisingly.

So, 5 and a half days done. Things are looking good. Will continue to report.

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Reboot with Joe, 3 days in

Apr 25 2013

As mentioned the other day, my wife and I are doing a nutritional “reboot”. It’s based on a plan by Joe Cross of “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” fame. It’s the 15 day plan here: http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/rebooting/plans/

One thing about that page is slightly misleading. The description of the 15-day program says, “… 5 days of eating and juicing fruits and vegetables followed by 5 days of juice only. End with 5 days of eating and juicing.” But when you download the free PDF plan, you find out it’s actually 5 days of eating and juicing fruits and vegetables followed by 10 days of juice only. Not sure if that’s a big deal yet since we’re still in the first 5 day period.

For the most part, it’s been ok. You start each day with a cup of hot water with ginger and lemon. I’ve actually gotten to like that in just a few days. The first couple of days breakfast was a berry apple cinnamon bake. You dump a bunch of berries and cut up apples in a pan with a bit of cinnamon and allspice and bake for 45 minutes. That simple, and it’s delicious. I could have that every day. But I see that throughout the first 5 days, you are being weened off solid food. So no more of that yummy stuff.

Morning snacks are one kind of juice or another. Some of these have been quite tasty. Others… not so much. Today’s breakfast was a “Shamrock Smoothie”. This is made with lettuce, cucumbers, coconut milk, avocado, banana, lemon. Actually, we skipped the banana because I’m allergic to them. So far, this was the worst of the lot. Maybe the banana would have saved it, but the coconut and the cucumber taste mixed to create this slimy… gross feel and taste. But we both got it down without incident. But others like the Green Lemonade juice and Carrot Apple Ginger juice have been very nice.

Lunches have been mostly salads or sautéed greens  and some kind of soup. But by day 5, this will be just soup. These have been mostly fine, but chewing all those greens can get pretty tiresome. I start to feel like I’m some beast out grazing in a pasture. Today’s lunch included a squash and apple soup that was absolutely fantastic. I could eat that regularly.

More juice for an afternoon snack.

Dinner was salad and greens and sweet potato and carrot fries the first day, and soup and roasted acorn squash stuffed with mushroom and sage for days 2 and 3. This too was delicious. One of my favorites.

Then, you get some herbal tea for an evening snack, and plenty of water. I’ve drunk about 64 ounces per day so far, which is what’s recommended.

Picture Time!

So, how do you FEEL???

That’s the big question, right? Actually, the first couple of days it was a bit of an effort to gag down all that juice and munch all those greens. My stomach definitely felt bloated and most of day 2 I felt a little bit nauseous. Also, late afternoon on day 2 I started to get a small headache. But by bed time, this was a pretty bad headache and I had to sneak a couple of Advil to get to sleep. This is most likely caffeine withdrawal. I’ve been cheating by having a cup of English Breakfast tea each day, and the wife hasn’t been able to go coffee-free either. But I used to have at least 3 cups of tea daily, plus 2 or more Diet Cokes.

Today, overall I felt great all day. Went to the Y and had a good workout. Stomach has been completely fine all day. Now, early evening, I think I have the start of a slight headache again, but it’s coming later and less powerful than yesterday, so I may be getting through this.

Some people report that doing this kind of thing, erm… “cleans you out” in a very direct manner. As in, don’t wander too far from the bathroom. I can’t say that has been an issue for me yet. All systems normal. But I’ve got to guess it’s only a matter of time. I may or may not keep you updated on that.

I can’t say that there’s been any huge resurgence in energy or well being or anything like that. But to be honest, I’m not really looking for anything like that. I am not totally sold on the whole concept of “cleansing” and/or “detoxing”. Not that I don’t believe it exactly, but I believe that most of what is out there telling you about it is a lot more pseudo-science and new-agey than real factual biochemistry. So I hesitate to tell people I’m on a detox or cleanse. I do like the name “reboot” as that’s what I consider it. I’ve been eating a lot of junk and this is a 15-day time out to overload my body with 100% awesome nutrition. Detox or no, that’s gotta be a good thing. And as much as it’s a physical and nutritional reboot, it’s a mental reboot. 15 days of this will break the cycle I’ve been in. When I get done, I’m sure I won’t dive back into my unhealthy habits. Of course eventually I’m sure I’ll slip here and there. But I can always re-reboot.

Thanks to my wife, Miranda, for readily agreeing to go along with this harebrained idea. I couldn’t do this alone. And she’s been doing all the cooking and juicing. I swear she hardly leaves the kitchen these days! She also just informed me that in the last 3 days, we’ve consumed over 80 carrots in total. Don’t even ask about kale. Luckily, I recently started a new job where I work from home. This makes the whole endeavor much easier as well.

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Rebooting

Apr 22 2013

Last December, my wife and I watched a few videos on nutrition and vegetarianism, one being Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, which really impressed us. For a New Years Resolution, we decided to try vegetarianism. Technically, lacto-ovo-pescatarianism – we still eat eggs, dairy and fish. This has gone amazingly well. Other than a few minor slips, we’ve cut out meat from our diet, without all that much drama about it. We’ve discovered a lot of new foods and have sought out lots of new recipes. It’s actually been fun.

One thing I discovered though, was that simply not eating meat does not equal eating healthy and losing weight. Though in general we’ve been eating healthier, there are still plenty of “legal” unhealthy foods. Last week I was out in Palo Alto for my new job at Disney Interactive. A full week of living out of a hotel took its toll: breakfast at the hotel’s buffet, catered lunch and often dinner at Disney, and various restaurants, plus a vast overabundance of snacks. I’m sure I gained a few pounds and came home feeling physically bloated and … not quite sick, but knowing full well that my body didn’t like all that junk.

We had recently re-watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and the idea of doing a juice fast seemed very attractive. When I got back, I put the idea to my wife and she enthusiastically agreed to try it.

Joe Cross, the star/creator of the movie, has a site offering guidance on this: http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/ . After looking over the site, we decided on the 15 day Juicing Plus plan: http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/rebooting/plans/ . This involves 5 days of juicing along with eating various fruits and vegetables, 5 days of straight up juice fasting, and 5 more days of eating/juicing. It’s a pretty thorough plan – a 51 page PDF file. For each 5 day segment you get a shopping list, a daily meal plan, and complete recipes for each meal/snack/juice you are to eat. We hit up Whole Foods yesterday and literally got stares at our shopping cart, heaped to overflowing with veggies and fruits. Yet, nobody looks twice at a cart filled with sugary cereal, snacks, meat and soda. Sorry, not trying to preach here. :)

Anyway, we are all set now and beginning Day One. I’ll try to post regularly with progress. Should be interesting.

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Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves and Road Gloves

Jan 04 2013

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Meet my new best friends, the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves.

In the last few months I’ve been loving trail running. I’ve covered a few of the local trails near me in this post. As also mentioned there, I’m also planning on running a 50K trail race in April. So near the end of my marathon training this past October, I decided to invest in a pair of trail running shoes.

I’ve also been very interested in getting into more minimalist footwear. I tried Vibram Five Fingers a couple of years ago. I like the idea of the minimal cushioning and support they offer, but the whole toe thing seems more of a gimmick than something that provides any real benefits to running. They look funny, they get attention. Some people like that. I also got a pair of New Balance Minimus a while back, but unfortunately they were a bit too small for me (I have large and wide feet) so I never wound up using them very much.

So I wanted to take one more shot at the minimal shoes, and figured I’d do that with the new trail shoes. I researched like crazy and came down to a few options. These were shoes that had a lot of good reviews and also offered something in my size (13) either wide, or that at least were known for having a large toe box. The options were:

1. Another New Balance Minimus trail model. These actually had the most mixed reviews. A lot of love for them, but more than a few negatives as well, mostly around build quality and durability.

2. Something from Altra, notably the Superior. While these don’t make a wide model, they say they have a wide toe box and should fit wide feet.

3. The Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove Wide. This isn’t just listed as a size option for the Trail Gloves, but as an entirely separate model.

I initially settled on the Altras, found them on Amazon through a third party, and ordered them. Although they were supposed to be in stock, the shipping date was about a week out from when I ordered. Then the shipping date came and went and they were still not shipped. A few exchanges with the seller revealed a sketchy concept of “in stock” involving “regular shipments from the factory, so we expected we’d have some…” After a few days more of no shipping, I cancelled the order, took it as a bad omen and ordered the Merrells.

Note, that the third party was NOT Altra itself, and I don’t mean to say anything negative about the Altras. I’m still really interested in them and would like to try them out some time. Just didn’t work out this round.

The Merrells came about a week and a half after I finished my marathon, so I was rested and ready to start trying them out. I can say without a doubt that these are the best shoes I’ve ever worn. The first couple of trail runs I did with them left my arches a bit sore with rocks and roots poking into them, but either my arches have gotten tougher or I’ve adjusted my footfalls to mitigate that, and I really don’t notice it any more.

In the past, I would have said a great shoe was one that made me feel like I was walking on air, that had good cushioning or support, or felt like a thousand tiny angels were massaging my feet. In other words, that the shoe was adding something to the experience of running or walking. With the Merrells, it’s exactly the opposite. They just disappear and you don’t even notice them. They protect you from the pointier stuff on the ground and maybe keep your feet a bit warmer than they’d be otherwise. Otherwise, what shoes?

On one of my early runs with them, I wore a pair of socks that was too small and the socks started creeping down around my heels. Annoyed, I stopped, removed the socks, and continued the run. They still felt awesome. For the next week or so I continued to leave the socks at home. Then came a nice rainy long run. I learned that rain + trails = mud. Mud + shoes = sand + cloth = sandpaper. Sandpaper + skin = pain + blood. I’m back with socks now, just to be safe – there always seems to be at least one muddy spot on the trail. With the socks, I’ve been through some extremely wet and muddy long runs and one 7 miler through a foot of snow. No problems.

At this point I have 180 miles on them. With normal shoes, they might be approaching middle age. But with the general lack of cushioning and support, I think these things will be just fine until the tread itself starts to go.

And the Road Gloves

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I loved the Trail Gloves so much, I just had to try their brothers, the Merrell Barefoot Road Gloves. Similar shoes with a more road based tread, and some other build differences to supposedly make them better for running on asphalt, etc. These do not come in a wide model, but reviews I’d seen said they actually had a wider toe box than the regular Trail Gloves. There’s a Merrell store not too far from us, so around Thanksgiving I went over and tried on a pair. They felt good and came home with me. When my friend Jesse saw the above photo, he said, “What? You lost your job and are now working at McDonalds?” Yes, I admit the color had a certain attraction for me. You try shopping for size 13 wide shoes and see what colors you can usually get. I’ll tell you what colors: blue and white. Pretty much all my shoes up till now have been blue and white. They’ve been virtually indistinguishable from a distance, even given several different brands. So I saw these bright red and yellow babies and had to have them. I’ve now gotten that out of my system though.

I will say that these are a bit more snug than the Trail Gloves, but not uncomfortably so. As long as I don’t lace them tight, no problem. The one big difference in feel, which I’ve seen mentioned in a few other reviews, is that for some reason they have a very noticeably raised arch. At some point in the first run it’s like, “who put the golf ball in my shoe?” But I’m slowly warming up to these shoes. While training for the 50K, I”m running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I’m trying to hit the trails during the majority of those runs. Generally Wednesday and Sunday are the shorter recovery runs, so I’ve been doing those on pavement with the Road Gloves and the other miles in the Trail Gloves in the woods. So I’m up to about 36 miles in these and I’m really starting to like them. They didn’t give me the instant oh-my-god-these-are-amazing reaction the Trail Gloves did, but at this point, I can’t see going back to my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12′s. They’d feel like concrete blocks. I think the most I’ve gone in them is 6 miles at this point (I’ve done up to 16 mile runs in the Trail Gloves).

The only sad part of this story is that I now have two awesome pairs of shoes that will last for a long, long time. It’s going to be a hard sell to try out new models and brands any time soon. Still have my eyes on those Altras.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2012 done. It was a good year.

Jan 01 2013

Well here we are at the end of 2012. Since this has become my de facto running / health blog, that’s what I’m going to talk about in this yearly review.

The year began with the second half of my training program for the Hyannis Marathon. My first marathon! In January I did my first 20 mile training run. It was epic. I happened to heading to a meeting in San Francisco for that Monday and Tuesday, so I scheduled it to get in on Saturday night and get my 20 miler in on Sunday in the city. I ran from the hotel near the Moscone Center, down to the water, along the piers, over the hill at Fort Mason, down through Golden Gate Park, across the bridge and down into Sausalito. And back. It was dark when I left, and ran through the dawn as I approached the bridge. It was one of those runs you remember forever. For my second 20, I had the wife drop me off at Hopkinton Center, where the Boston Marathon begins, and ran the first 20 miles of the marathon course. That was cool too, but for some reason I mostly remember the pain I was in at the end. I guess it’s mostly familiar turf to me anyway, and I had to run within a few blocks of my house at mile 16 and keep going for another 4, away from home. Anyway, race day came and I’ve covered that pretty thoroughly in this post. Not very excited about my time, but completing a marathon was definitely a life changer. For weeks afterwards, any time I encountered anything difficult, my answer was, “hell, I ran a MARATHON, I can handle this.” :)

Four weeks later I ran the Eastern States 20 race. This will stay in my memory as the best executed run/race of 20 miles or more. I was expecting nothing, knowingly went out too fast, but never crashed. Didn’t stop or walk a single step. Kept a steady pace until the last mile and a half or so, and brought it in at just under 3:00, a time I had no expectation of achieving. Again, more on that in this post.

For the next month or so I ran without much purpose, just keeping the mileage up and enjoying things. Then got a severe heel pain to go with the arch pain I’d been battling. Treated it as plantar fasciitis, iced, stretched, rested, used a Strassburg Sock. I guess I caught it in time. I had a month or so of very little mileage, but soon after that started in training for my second marathon, which was the Cape Cod Marathon in October.

For this marathon I did the Pfitzinger plan from the book Advanced Marathoning. It’s a hard core plan with high mileage and a good bit of speed work – and I was doing the lowest level of plans offered. Even so, I had to cut it back a bit. But I got in my first 50 mile week and first 200 mile month, did three 20 milers this time. None of the 20′s were epic in either awesomeness or awfulness. I won’t say that 20 milers became routine, but I no longer quake at the thought of them. I just go out and get them done. Cape Cod is covered in this post, but in quick summary, first 21.5 miles, amazing. Last 5, hell. Bet you’ve never heard that happening in a marathon before. :) Anyway, PRed by 20 minutes, not too shabby. If not for the incessant hills, I might have broken 4:00.

And now, I’m training for my first ultramarathon. A 50k trail race (31 point something miles). I’ve talked about that here too in the last few weeks too if you want to hear my thoughts on it. I’ve got a 24 week plan for that, which I had to start at week 3 to fit into the reality of when the race is. I’m now onto week 8 of that plan and it’s going fairly well. The weekday mileage is handleable, but the weekend long runs are going to get harsh soon. Two 20′s, two 24′s and a 26 in the next couple of months, and some serious back to back weekends where I do a long run on both Saturday and Sunday.

What does all this running look like? Well here are some visual aids. First of all, a graph of every run all year long.

2012-12-31 20_25_17-Keith Running Log

 

Here you can see where I was building up in training, major races and runs and my one injury of the year.

In terms of totals, I did 215 runs, averaging 7.33 miles per run, for a total of 1576.1 miles. That’s up over 1037 in 2010 and 1070 in 2011. More than a 50% increase. Amazing that I did that kind of increase with only one minor injury. But I felt particularly during the Cape Code training that I was really in tune with my body and knew exactly how far I could push it without going too far. I was curious to see what 1576 miles looked like all together, so played around with http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ and got a nice visualization of it here (click for full size):

2012miles

Health-wise, all is great. Had a full physical and full blood work early November and everything is PERFECT. Four years ago I had borderline high blood pressure and was being told I’d probably need meds for it soon. I had pre-diabetes, aka impaired glucose tolerance, or borderline high blood sugar, which if unhandled could develop into full blown type 2 diabetes. And I had elevated liver enzymes, indicating the fat in my body was harming my liver. And cholesterol was borderline as well. Again, now everything is PERFECT. Everything exactly in range. That’s undoubtedly the best part of this whole running thing. I look better, I feel better, I’m not ashamed of myself, and I’ve added who knows how many years to my life.

So that’s 2012. I plan to update this a bit more often in the new year (but that’s what every blogger says around this time of year, right?) At any rate, I’ll continue to post the highlights here, for the 3 or 4 of you who actually read this stuff.

 

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Thinking Ultra

Dec 06 2012

I ran steadily for more than 2 years before deciding to try a marathon. I didn’t feel any rush. When I did my last half marathon, I said if I beat 2:00 then I’d do a marathon. I did 1:49. So I did my first marathon. For my second marathon, I said if I beat 4:00 then I’d do a 50K. I did 4:06. But I’m thinking that’s maybe close enough. I’d still like to do a sub-4:00 marathon, but I’m thinking my best shot at that is the Bay State Marathon next October. It’s a flat course, it’s where I did my 1:49 half, and I can drive there the morning of the race.

In the meantime, there’s this 50K TARC Spring Classic coming up in April of 2013. I’ve been eyeing that one for a while. It’s run in the woods in the next town over from me. A 15-20 minute drive at best. It’s put on by Trail Animals Running Club (http://www.trailanimals.com/), a local trail running group that does weekly runs and sponsors a number of trail races of various lengths from 10K to 100 miles. I’ve not run with the group or met any of them, but I’m thinking of meeting up for one of their weekly runs soon, and have solidly decided to do the Spring Classic.

The race is done on a 10K loop. 5 loops. If it were a road race, that would sound awful, but I think I can handle that for a run in the woods. I guess for me the biggest drawback is that it gives you the opportunity and temptation to quit after every lap. On the other hand, I don’t think I’d like to be dozens of miles deep into some unknown territory on my first ultra, so this sounds a bit less stressful.

I’m absolutely loving trail running these days. I got a sweet new pair of trail shoes (Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves) and I’ve been seeking out new trails in my area. There is one just a couple of blocks from me, but it’s really just a path that runs between two streets for a mile. You are literally running between back yards.

Another nearby trail is about a half mile away that has some really technical stuff – hills, twists, turns, rocks, roots, dropoffs, etc. for about a mile, then goes onto an old aqueduct path. This is basically like a fire road – a flat, wide trail that’s pretty easy to run, though it does have two short and seriously steep hills. This has become my favorite. I can get up to 3 miles on the aqueduct segment, two in the woods, and one there and back for a decent 6 miler. Today I discovered that if you follow the aqueduct path to the end, then go along the street for about a quarter of a mile and into the Babson College Campus, there is another trail in there, which leads to the continuation of the aqueduct path. I could easily turn this into an 11-13 mile run.

And the other trail nearer to my house – after a mile that empties out onto the main street for about a quarter mile, then you cross over and hit another path. This is more of a suburban walking path, but OK for an easy trail run. But I also discovered over the weekend that if you follow that long enough, get back out to the main street and cross over again, you can join another path that leads out to Morses Pond. I did 10 miles on that route on Sunday, but could have stretched it out to 11.

Another trail I found over the summer is Cutler Park in Needham. This is about 3 miles from my house, but goes about 3.5 miles into the woods, which means it’s good for a 13 miler, though 6 of that is on road. The trail part is worth the commute though. It’s fantastic.

Even further from home is Callahan State Park in Framingham. The family has gone for some hikes there, and I did one 7.5 mile run there a few weeks ago. There’s some nice trail in there, but lots of people in there walking their dogs. I could probably do a longer run there if I learned the various paths, but I kept finding myself going in circles and coming back to places I’d just been. But it’s a good 10 or more miles from home.

Then there’s Jericho Woods in Weston, where the TARC Spring classic is held. That’s only 6.5 miles away, so I definitely plan to hit that up for some training runs to learn the terrain before the race.

I’m doing a training plan from the book Relentless Forward Progress by Byron Powell. It’s a 24 week program. I started last week, but had to start in at week 3 to squeeze it in to the time before race day. Since my marathon, I’ve been running sub-20 mile weeks, so I’m now ramping up to the mileage in the beginning part of the program. Did 28 last week and on target for 30 this week. The next three weeks call for 38, 40, 40. I think I’ll ease into that with something like 34, 37, 40 and try to follow the program from there on out. At least as much as I can.

The program calls for long runs on Saturday, including two 20′s, a couple of 24′s and a 26 miler. Yikes. It also has a few “back to back” runs, where you’re doing a serious long run on Saturday, and another fairly long one on Sunday. So you get things like 14 and 10, 18 and 12, and the killer week, 20 and 14. But the weekday mileage is actually pretty handle-able - less in general than on my last marathon plan. The mileages is largely packed into the weekends. I’m doing as much as possible of the training on trails, which is why I’m seeking out new and longer trails to run on. For the 20 miles and up runs, I might drive down to the Blue Hills Reservation to see about getting some big miles in there. I think I can go 9 miles straight in on the Skyline Trail, turn around for 18 and throw in a loop or two on some other path.

Anyway, loving the trail running. though it’s tough getting out in the morning this time of year when it’s pitch black. I’ve got a head lamp and a handheld flashlight, but it’s pretty damned spooky out in the woods all alone in the dark. The lights give you a circle of visibility maybe 20 feet in front of you. God knows what else is out there. I ran across a deer out in Cutler park one early morning. It crashed through the woods to my right. Scared the hell out of me as there had been a bear sighted and eventually caught in the area a few months prior. On a run a couple of days ago I tripped on something at the bottom of a small hill and it took all my effort to not go sprawling. Today on the same spot I was anticipating it, but it caught me again and this time I went straight down. Somehow managed to go down on my left shoulder, roll over once and pop back up. No scratches, cuts or bruises, but I pulled various muscles in my arm and neck, which have progressively made themselves known as the day goes on. Nothing seriously though, I think. Part of the game, I guess.

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