Thursday, March 31, 2011

Uphill. Both Ways. In The Snow.


Continuing the catch-up theme, I'll do a little time-traveling back to Sunday.  The Vermont weather for my long run has been pretty consistently mid-20s and windy for weeks on end.  I suppose I can't be too foul; it's only been really ugly one day, but it would be uber-nice to take a long run without layering!

I missed doing the full 20 miles on my schedule last weekend and my nutrition was still somewhat suspect from being on the road for a week, so I stuck to my planned 13 mile run.  As I was preparing to go out, I stopped and realized that I was approaching this as "short, easy run."  13 miles.  That's just not right!

Knowing that I'd had an easy week I chose a challenging route that had over 1100' of elevation change (elevation map, below).  Some of the hills were rolling, some were long and steady, one was redonkulous.  It truly seemed like 60% of the run was uphill, 30% was flat, and 10% was downhill.  After the first major climb I took a couple of minutes to walk out a bit of the downhill.  I knew already my quads were going to be sore for a few days and I wanted to make sure I still had enough in the tank to get home!  There were about 4-5 miles of this run that I'd never even driven before and, while the map didn't look that bad, I wasn't exactly sure what was in store for me.

I think my biggest mistake was assuming I knew where the ridgeline peaked on the run.  While I more or less got it right, what I didn't take note of was that the were a few hills after the peak.  Considering that my mental picture for the run was "after the peak, downhill all the way home," you can understand my disbelief that I was (still) running uphill (again) only 3 miles from home.

It ended up as a good run and, considering the route, my ~8:30 pace was a solid effort.  Writing this on Wednesday, my quads are still sore, but some of that is from yesterday's run.  Running hills is great training and running a course like this certainly improves mental toughness, but I think my next few long runs will seek out flatter terrain, letting the distance be the challenge.
2011-MAR-27 Run Stats (RunKeeper)
2011-MAR-27 Run Graph (Nike+)
2011-MAR-27 Diet Log

Monday, 03/28 -Wednesday, 03/30:
Briefly, Monday's gym class had a new trainer (apparently we scared off the other guy!).  The trainer now is the guy who runs Wednesday's Kettlebell class, so Monday will likely focus more on upper body and Wednesday on lower body.  My shoulders, arms, and chest were definitely a little shaky after class!
2011-MAR-28 Diet Log

Tuesday was a return to "normal" intervals.  This week's prescription was 2 x (6 x 400m) with a 1:30 RI (Rest Interval) between intervals and an extended 2:30 RI between sets.  I ended up going for a 200m RI to keep the distances easy to remember.  The "fast" pace put me on 15.0kph and I ran the entire first set at this pace and the first half of the second set at this pace.  For the last 3 intervals, I bumped the speed up a third of a kph with each interval, ending my last doing 400m+ at 16.0 kph.  It felt good to complete a workout and be right where the plan says you need to be (or a bit ahead).  Of course, that's gotten me thinking about giving my training pace a bump to bring a bit more challenge to the weekly runs!
2011-MAR-29 Run Graph (Nike+)
2011-MAR-29 Diet Log

Wednesday was "Daddy-Daycare" day.  Laura had clustered several appointments together today and this was the first day our contractor was out here starting drywall repair from the water leak we had a few months ago.  Opportunities for exercise were minimal, but I did manage to get out for a 5k walk with the family.  As I said yesterday, training reports are quite easy to write when no actual training occurred!
2011-MAR-30 Diet Log
2011-MAR-30 Walk (Runkeeper)

That gets me pretty well caught up on the exercise portion.  In the coming weeks, I have a half-marathon "race" (in quotes because I'm still not sure how I'm going to approach the event), another business trip, and hopefully a bit of exploration into diet and nutrition, possibly some new shoes, and probably a little bit of running.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ketchup, Catsup, or Catch-up?


It's easy to catch-up and write "training reports" when you skip workouts!  Last week was a large sink-hole of training while I was in Shreveport, LA, on business.  The weekend started on a "meh" note when I realized that I mis-read my training plan.  I though I had a 13 mile run on Saturday (3/19).  Oops.  Make that 20 miles. I was due to get up & travel most of the day Sunday and I really wasn't prepared to essentially give up my entire Saturday (run + recovery) before being away for a week.

Saturday, 3/19:
I ended up logging 15.6 miles at 8:22 per mile (Runkeeper stats). My iTouch got moistened on last week's run and was non-functional for this outing, so that piece of data isn't available. I shoveled in the food, knowing that I tend to have trouble eating enough when I travel (2011-MAR-19 Diet Log).  

Sunday, 3/20:
Travel Day.  Whenever possible I fly Delta Airlines.  To date, they have always gotten me where I need to go the day I need to get there.  It may not always be PRETTY, but it's at least predictable that I know where I'll lay my head that night (US Airways, not so much).  Delta tried REALLY hard to ruin their track record by canceling my flight out of BTV and rebooking me on a later itinerary and c.o.m.p.l.e.t.e.l.y. FUBARing the reticketing.  25 minutes with a very pleasant gate agent later, I had my tickets and first-class upgrade going out & coming home.  2011-MAR-20 Diet Log

Monday, 3/21:
Our team went grocery shopping after leaving the office and got back the hotel in time to turn around and go out for dinner.  Was there an opportunity to find time to hit the gym at some point in the evening.  Yup.  Did I?  Nope.  I did some push-ups and ab work in my hotel room, but generally felt pretty dragged out from the previous day's travel.  

I decided to keep my daily calorie goal at 3100 for the week.  Dining out in the South makes it challenging to find healthy options.  Even for those things that sound okay, not knowing how they were prepared introduces a lot of guesswork into tracking your diet, unless you're fortunate enough to dine at a restaurant that publishes nutritional information.  I knew the Blackened Mahi Mahi wasn't going to be great, but you could literally see butter/oil ooze out from the meat when you pressed it with a fork.  2011-MAR-21 Diet Log

Tuesday, 3/22:
All the best intentions of running treadmill intervals.  That's a terrific plan, assuming there's a treadmill available in the narrow time window between when we get back to the hotel and when we're going out for dinner.  Sure, in theory I could get up in the morning and run.  I could also wear adult diapers to avoid having to use restrooms.  Both are equally ludicrous notions that I choose not to consider as "viable options."

Needing to do something resembling running, I went out and did a pretty fine job of coming up with a solid ass-kicking.  My plan wanted me to do 6 x 800m interval runs.  I decided to go out to the bridge adjacent to the hotel and run up the slope and across the flat part on top as my interval and then walk down the slope on the other side until I was far enough to turn around and repeat the same run/walk interval going back.  I had planned for the challenge of running a "hill" interval (the slope was around 5-6%).  

What I hadn't planned on was the gale force wind that was blowing about 45 degrees into me for the majority of the run going one way. Strong enough sustained wind that it was hard to breathe in it. I did the over & back 3 times to complete the run.  I mapped the distance afterwards and found that the interval length was just about 800m exactly.  I also ran it quite a bit faster than I was "supposed" to.  

iTouch finally dried out & was functional (yay!), so I got my music & graphs back: Run Graph (Nike+)

Wednesday, 3/23:
I don't know what I did to my triceps in the gym, but whatever it was, they were still sore on Saturday.  I started with a light warm-up on the treadmill to get my legs moving and did some free-weight work for about half an hour before I started pushing up against dinner time.  I did a little bit of everything (3 sets of most of this) -- push-ups and renegade rows, curl & press (standing), shoulder shrugs, Romanian deadlifts, squats, calf raises (toes forward, toes out, toes in), chest press, chest fly, tricep extensions, close-grip/tricep chest press, tricep pullovers, and finished it off with a few Turkish Get-ups.  2011-MAR-23 Diet Log

Thursday, 3/24 through Saturday, 3/26:
Thursday was intended to be an 8 miles run (5 miles @ Tempo pace), but we worked late and a run simply wasn't in the cards.  Friday was a get-up-at-4:30AM-and-travel-home day and Saturday was a home-with-the-family day.

That whirlwind pretty well wraps up last week.  I'll get myself caught up on this week in the next day or two.  Sunday's 13 mile run was one worth writing about!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

I've been on the road (business) since Sunday and, while my training hasn't let up, my blogging time has been compromised.  Most meaningful update is that this week I did an outdoor interval run in Shrevport, LA back and forth across a fairly long bridge.  GoogleMaps says the intervals were ~800 - 900m each, the first half of which was up about a 6% grade before it flattened off at the top.  Going one way, the quartering wind was blowing so hard that it was difficult to breathe and you had to run with an awkward lean into the wind.

I'm still doing the Bonus 500 (or trying to) this week, but it's tremendously difficult to guess what's in the meals that I'm eating in restaurants.  As of last Friday, my weight was effectively the same it was a week before (which was down 2 pounds from the starting weight).  So, with around 6000 extra calories consumed in 12 days I basically maintained my weight.  Color me confused.

Since I *know* your chomping for something to read in the absence of the uber-blog, here are a few blogs I read which may be of interest. -- Mike just ran the LA Marathon and, aside from being in ridiculously better than I am, had similar goals for his marathon training and is a big proponent of functional fitness.  He also owns (and uses) a 48kg kettlebell. -- my SiL's blog (OINKTales) about being a stay-at-home mother of three (hence OINK -- One Income, Numerous Kids).  She will also be running a leg of the Vermont City Marathon this May.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Importance of Setting Proper Goals


Thursday brought incredible weather for some spring outdoor running -- Sunny and mid 40s.  Despite having a rough workout on Monday following a challenging run on the weekend, the aches and pains I've been feeling are short lived and not likely to set back my training.  The day was custom-built for the 5 mile run at Mid-Tempo pace that was prescribed.  There's an outdoor loop I run frequently that's just a shade over 5 miles and, with the exception of some melting snow on a few squares of sidewalks, the route was definitely runnable.

After a brief warm up inside, I went out & got right to it.  I turned on the iTouch with Nike+, started the wristwatch timer, and hit the giddy-up switch.  I really didn't pay attention to the pace that was being reported, but I tried to run a pace that alway felt just a bit faster than I was really comfortable running at for 5 miles.  My legs (hammies & glutes in particular) really weren't completely on board with the pace, but at that point they were along for the ride.

My best time for a slightly shorter version of this run (4.9 miles vs. 5.2) was a bit under 40 minutes.  My goal for 5 miles was a 40'23" or a 42'00" for the 5.2 mile course.  I ended up making the run in 38'13" at a 7:21 pace, about 15 seconds per mile quicker than my new "sane-pace" target.  It was a rewarding experience for a variety of reasons.  I got have a comfortably-clothed outdoor run, nothing new hurt when I was done, I pushed the pact the entire way (except for pauses to cross the street without getting hit by traffic), and I hit a pace that would put me on about a 3h35m finish time.

2011-MAR-17 Diet Log (yes, it was St. Patrick's Day)
2011-MAR-17 Run Graph (Nike+)


I continue to struggle with setting a goal for my training plan and the race itself.  I'm a data geek with an experimental methodology mindset, so half the fun of all of this is crunching number and trying to predict what I'll be able to do.  I don't know if came up with this on my own or if it's a quote that I should be attributing to someone, but I try to use as a litmus test for goal setting:

If you find your goals too easy to attain, you aren't setting them high enough.
If you find your goals too hard to attain, you aren't trying hard enough.

What that second part doesn't include is any element of realism that a goal may be set so high that it isn't realistically attainable.  Having to work hard for something an achieving that goal is motivating; working hard towards a goal and consistently falling short is demotivating and demoralizing.  On the flip-side, living life setting goals that don't require significant effort doesn't maximize potential or provide measurable growth.

My whole mantra of "Push The Envelope. Watch It Bend." is based on the notion that training on the edge of what your capable of is the best way to get results, both physically and mentally.  Setting a goal that too easy gives the hollow satisfaction of achieving the goal, but if the effort required isn't at or near maximum, what do you really gain?  By the same measure, setting a goal that's unrealistic can lead to giving up on the goal and making excuses for why you failed.

I'll give my revised plan another few workouts and see how the results come in.  The 3h20m training schedule was not getting me closer to running a good race in May.  Had I stayed on-the-gas after my last race in November and continued to train HARD through to February, I think I could have been in shape for that plan.    Taking the majority of 3 months off from sustained run training definitely compromised by pace and conditioning.  I don't think I'm fully back to where I could run the 1h40m 1/2 marathon pace I did last fall.  Expecting to jump into a plan that would have me running at that pace for twice the distance was beyond optimistic and I found myself getting discouraged.

But if I pull way back from that goal and set a pace that something I feel comfortable with and I can exceed the pacing for each workout, where's the fun in that?  What have I gained?  Where have I achieved growth?  If I can run comfortably run my workouts, that may give me confidence that I can run the full race in a specific time, but where's the satisfaction in that?  For me, one of the joys of building my fitness level is occasionally surprising myself by doing things that I didn't know I had in me.  If you don't push for that challenge, you'll never know what you're truly capable of!

Some people say, "Just finishing the marathon is my goal!"  That's bull!  Unless you develop a physical condition, other than lack of conditioning/training, that prevents you from finishing the race (twisted ankle, flu, dehydration/passing out), you set a specific goal and train towards it.  You do everything in your power to get yourself ready to achieve that goal and on the day of the race, you become solely committed to that goal.

If you set a proper goal and train accordingly, you should toe the start line knowing that you've got it in you to achieve your goal if everything goes to plan.  If you cross the finish line and left nothing behind, whether you achieve the goal or not is somewhat irrelevant.  If you know that you set a high bar for yourself and gave it everything you had, you have to be satisfied with the result.  Embrace the journey, not the destination.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A new challenge (looking for feedback!)


Not much of a training report today.  It was Wednesday, and therefore I did Kettlebells. I put in a moderate effort, going more for sustained cardio and higher reps on one weight down from what I'd use if I was going to shoot for lower reps and working to fatigue.  My inner hammies and glutes were still recovering from my previous workouts and throwing around the heavier kettlebell is known to target those areas.  

Thinking ahead to the 5 mile tempo run Thursday, I elected to not beat the crap out of myself.  I had hoped to do some more work on getups with the 24kg weight, but after doing a set of pushups to failure in the middle of class, my shoulders were having enough trouble with the 16 and I didn't feel like getting concussed as a 24kg kettlebell bounced off my skull.  Maybe next week.

I found that I mis-tracked a few items earlier in the week, so for a few days my Bonus 500 was more of a Bonus 400


Tonight, on somewhat of a whim, I obliterated one of my 2011 fitness goals - the 4-minute plank.  It was one I knew was going to be a soft-ball as a goal for the year and I planned to reset the goal once it was accomplished.  A friend of mine from college has recently been stalking me on Facebook and has been getting himself back into shape and is also training for a marathon.  I had mentioned that I had this goal and was (at the time) hanging around the 3 minute mark.

He was new to the concept of the plank (image above) and, after trying one and "shaking like a leaf" (I think that was the quote), he, too, set his sights on the 4 minute mark.  This week, the little bastard got there.  I hadn't tried one for duration in at least a month, so I gave it a go to see where I was.  What I didn't count on was the display on my Droid going to sleep within the first minute, so I didn't have much of a reference point for most of the duration.  After what felt like an eternity holding the plank, I was able to wake up the phone without breaking form.  The display read 4:33.  Holy crap!  At 5 minutes, I dropped my knees and killed the timer.

So now I'm trying to figure out how to raise the bar.  5 minutes was tough, but there was more in the tank tonight.  I don't know where to go from here.  Plank with weight on my back?  Plank with feet elevated?  Plank with alternating leg raises (lack of coordination may defeat that idea; I also think that shifting position takes something away from the challenge)?  One idea I had was to, in the same workout session, run a mile in the same time I would hold a plank for.  So, if I could get to run a 6-minute mile, I would have to do a 6 minute plank.  If I can hold a plank for 6:30, I have to run a mile in 6:30.  If I go that route, I'm trying to think of a good 3rd exercise to throw in for equal duration.  Any ideas??

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spinning: It's Like Running While Seated!


Going to bed Monday night, I was strongly contemplating doing a Spin on Tuesday vs. an Interval run. Waking up Tuesday morning and still having bruises on the top of my feet and very stiff/sore legs pretty well cemented that decision.  The weather is due to be pleasant on Thursday and I'd really like to get outside for my Tempo run vs. hammering on the treadmill for 5 miles and I was somewhat concerned that a run would set me back on my schedule.

My feet still hurt in the cycling shoes, but the pressure point was just different enough that I was still able to get a moderately good workout without further aggravating the tender areas.  This week, the spin class made use of the video screen and we "rode" a circuit around Acadia in Maine.  I have mixed feelings about the video-guided spin.  It's nice watching TV & seeing the beautiful scenery, but I couldn't help being bugged by the fact that the video footage didn't match up with the instruction (e.g. we'd be in a "climb" and the footage would cycle between uphill, flat, and downhill clips).  The workout did pass very quickly and I left class feeling like I really could have done more.

Until I feel back up to snuff, I will probably continue to do at least every other week's interval run as a spin on the bike.  I feel like my cardio conditioning is pretty strong and with my decision to focus more on the big picture of getting *to* the race vs. really caring too much about setting a challenging pace, I feel more comfortable swapping in an alternate training method for some interval runs.

2011-MAR-15 Diet Log


Quick update on the "Bonus 500 - Week 2" experiment.  After the huge gain on the weekend, my weight has continued to come down day by day.  I know I'm planning for it and purposefully eating the extra 500 Kcal per day, but it's been very easy to add in the additional calories and I'm starting to get used to it.  Going back to a "normal" diet after this experiment is over may be somewhat of a challenge!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Ever Happened to Tucker Carlson?


Sunday was an off day and also was technically my diet cheat day.  I was sorer from the 18 mile run than I've been in a quite a while.  I think the lengthy hills and steady incline put a lot more work into my quads than flat-ground running and the cumulative effect caught up with me.  What that means is that it's an excellent training course.  If, "That pain you feel is weakness leaving the body," I left quite a bit of weakness in Westford this weekend!

Monday should have brought normalcy to my training plan, but our Monday instructor picked up a new gig for a few months, so we had a new trainer, new format, and new challenges for Monday's class.  Going in, all we knew was that it was called Crossfire and that the instructor (Travis) didn't believe in breaks.  I was hoping that Tucker Carlson would show up so I could remind him how John Stewart pwn'd him and effectively took down his silly little TV program.  (He didn't show up).

Now, a normal LIFT! class on Monday is a full-body workout.  It's a good follow-up from a weekend long-run because there's some leg work to get blood moving through the muscles, but it's only a small percentage of the class.  Monday's Crossfire class was designed around taking fresh legs and making them sore, tired legs.  In that regard, the workout must be categorized as an immediate success because that was my starting point.  Lots of jump-roping (I don't think Travis heard the foul language I chose to utter), jumping jacks, squat jumps, and wall sits comprised the first portion of the class.  There were weighted (2 x 15lb) walking lunges, sometimes adding a bicep curl, sometimes doing an overhead press, some dead-lift to clean & press, more jump roping, pushups, sprints, one legged burpees, bear crawls and some static planks.

The good news is that the sprints finally started clearing out the pain in my quads and calves.  The bad news is that it didn't last more than a few hours before the muscle soreness started to creep back in.  Writing this the day after, I'm still a combination of sore from the run, from Crossfire, and from today's workout (which I was sore going into).  That's a good thing!  I've been feeling a little like I've taken my foot off the gas and I need something to bring some motivation back to my workouts.

2011-MAR-13 Diet Log -- Official Diet Cheat Day


If you're serious about knowing what's going in the tank, you need a good food scale.  One just went up on Woot.Com that looks to be a sound investment for anyone who cares about their diet.

The first week of "Bonus 500" ended on Sunday.  Each day I consumed at least 500 calories above what has seemed to be my 'break even' point.  My starting point on Monday (03/07) was 161.6 lbs, which is heavier than I've been and was likely a carry-over from eating a ton over the weekend.

Weight throughout the week (all weights taken in the morning before having anything to eat or drink):
  • 03/05-03/06 ...... + 2318 Kcal - Diet Cheat Day + Sunday
  • 03/07: 161.6 ...... + 517 Kcal    
  • 03/08: 161.0 ...... + 526 Kcal
  • 03/09: 160.0 ...... + 512 Kcal
  • 03/10: 159.2 ...... + 683 Kcal
  • 03/11: 159.4 ...... + 539 Kcal
  • 03/12: 159.0 ...... + 599 Kcal
  • 03/13: 161.2 ...... + 1089 Kcal - Diet Cheat Day
  • 03/14: 163.4 ......
Looking at the start and end, my weight change (1.8 lbs) correlates pretty well to the net calorie overage (6783 Kcal, counting the previous weekend).  My overage divided by 3500 Kcal/lb = and expected gain of 1.9 lbs, but looking at the detail the entirety of the gain came in a day.  I fairly consistently lost weight during the week, getting back down to around where I've been for months.

I'm going to keep this going for a second week and, since my weeks are fairly similar, will hope to make a week-to-week comparison on a daily basis and see if a clear trend develops.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hills Suck (But Are So Damn Rewarding)


Last quick catch up for the night, this time for Saturday.  The weather was much better the 18 mile run than last weekend's weather-shortened attempt at 20.  I felt better early on, too.  I ran almost the same course I had set for the 20 and the first 8 miles were the same as the typical 10 mile run I do (I still can't completely accept that I use the phrase, "...the typical 10 mile run I do...")

The weather was upper 30s, which is borderline for needing long sleeves and pants, but I know from experience that I feel better if I'm a bit warm versus a bit cold.  The first half of the run was very uneventful, but the second half was anything but.  For starters, I only kinda/sorta paid attention to the run profile.  I'm a firm believer in running hills as part of training, and I knew the first 8 miles of the course had some pretty good "rolling hills" in the last 2 miles.  I thought that miles 8-11 were fairly flat with a hill leading up to the pinnacle at mile 12.

Yeah, I was kinda wrong about that.

The profile (below) doesn't quite do justice to the fact that miles 8-11 were a pretty steady climb with 11-12 being a Category 5 climb for a cyclist.  Granted, that is the lowest classification of a hill, but in order to be classed, a hill must have both a sustained slope and duration.

At around mile 9, I started getting a sharp pain in the TOP of my right foot that would dog me for the rest of the run, reducing me to a walk on several occasions.  When it first happened, I (hopefully correctly) diagnosed a too-tight shoe, loosened the laces and kept going.  The problem cropped up again at mile 12 suddenly enough that I stumbled a few steps before I could get down to walking pace to give it some relief. Fortunately, I was able to complete the run home.

The other pain-in-the-ass was that this ended up being a techno-challenged run.  I ran the first 12 miles to Tool's 10,000 Days album, a change of pace from the normal Lateralus that I switched over to at mile 12.  My RunKeeper app decided to ignore the first mile of my run and I had to re-map the first portion when I got home.  My iTouch started getting flaky when it auto-paused the workout as I fixed my shoe at mile 9 and then proceeded to sporadically pause the workout and/or pause the music, both of which required a walking pace to address.  For better or worse, the Nike+ app completely crapped out at 17.22 miles (and is still lodged somewhere in the guts of the iTouch) and, upon returning home only synced about 16 miles of the run.

Despite all of that, I managed to complete the run just under my target pace of 9:00 miles.  When I got home, I could see a small, but obvious bruise where it hurt (and continues to hurt!).  Apparently the left foot has one, too, because my shoes didn't feel so swell the day after.  My quads were (and are) incredible sore from the climb, but I think I'll pull through!

I learned on this run that I need more than 24oz of fluid on-course and the 3 gels I took at ~40 minute intervals were a bit lacking in providing what I needed to maintain that 'fresh runner' feeling.  I burned off over 4 lbs of weight on the run and, over the course of the day, ingested over a gallon of fluid, the majority of which was water.

2011-MAR-12 Diet Log -- 5000+ Kcal and still didn't hit my target for % of carbs!
2011-MAR-13 Diet Log -- The Official Cheat Day where I don't try to balance diet to exercise.

2011-MAR-12 Run Graph (Nike+, most of the run)
2011-MAR-12 Run Stats (RunKeeper, most of the run)


I've decided to do a second week of "Bonus 500."  Through 5 days, I *lost* about 2.5 lbs by eating over 2,700 more calories than I theoretically needed to maintain my weight.  Then, with Saturday's 5000+ Kcal binge and fluid up-take, I gained about 4 lbs in a day.  So now I want to see what an additional week will look like.  My biggest concern is that it's becoming somewhat habit forming to eat about 3700 Kcal per day and I know that, in the long term, that's excessive.

According to commonly available metabolic calculators, I *should* somewhere around 2100 Kcal per day to live a sedentary life style (which fits my desk-job work week) to which I add exercise calories.  Someone like a waiter or delivery driver would get about 2,600 and an actual laborer (e.g. construction) would get around 2,900.  Based on what it takes to maintain weight, I had increased that 2100 to 2600 as my "base" without changing a single thing I do for activity.  With the Bonus 500, I've added another 500 to bring my base up to 3,100 Kcal per day before adding in exercise.  ...and for 5 days in a row, I *lost* weight doing it.

I have some ideas for why this might be the case, but I want to give this another week and see where it goes.

I Hit a Girl (But She Asked For It!)


So I've slacked on bloggery for a few days.  Time to fire up those "Guest Bloggers" I've been threatening!  All y'all will be pleased to know that I'm going to try to keep these "days" short so I can get a caught up.

Back into the wayback machine we go to visit Friday.  It was an off day from running and it was what I still call the "Cardio Conditioning" class, despite the catchy CHISLE'D name on the gym schedule.  When the class first started, it was a combination of ladder drills and kick-boxing.  Today got us back into the beating-the-tar-out-of-each-other groove and I got to beat my older sister-from-another-mister Deb.

Deb and I have know each other for over 10 years, are both only-children (and act like it), and have been told that we act like brother/sister.  I think we've both wanted to hit each other on MANY occasions and Friday's class finally gave us that opportunity.

Now, I only hit her (versus the pads) 2 or 3 times (one of those times actually was unintentional).  There was no full-contact, head-gear-required, brawling kick-boxing class.  It was run-of-the-mill partner work where one person held pads and the other person did prescribed moves to hit or kick the pads.  Deb did figure out that when she held the pads HIGHER, my poor flexibility came into play and, though the kicks lacked force, the also lacked proper direction.  I contemplated dropping down for a leg-sweep, but I'm pretty sure the trainer would have frowned upon that.

Another tactic we were encouraged to employ was moving to simulate a fighter evading the jabs or crosses that were coming.  After my turn holding the pads, Deb complained about dizziness (blondes...) in such a way that I knew that I would take some of that same medicine on my turn.  What Deb didn't know (and soon found out) is that the person moving with the pads got a lot dizzier than the person doing the punching!

Overall, it was a great workout leading into Saturday's Long Run.  Not too much of a physical beat-up, but enough to get everything loose, push some cardio, and burn some calories.

2011-MAR-11 Diet Log -- still on the Bonus 500 plan!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

3:20 = Drawn Outside the Lines of Reason (and ability!)


Once Thursday has become Tempo Run day and, it being Thursday, I had a tempo run queued up. 6 miles total. 2 miles easy, 3 miles at Short Tempo pace (8.7 - 8.9 MPH), 1 mile easy.  I tend to be a creature of habit at work and take my lunch break at the gym, eating my actual lunch at my desk in the afternoon.  Working backwards from there, I have my pre-workout PB&J between 10:30 and 11:00AM.  Things did not go to plan on Thursday.  A morning meeting ran way long and didn't leave enough time to get to the gym & back in time for the 2h meeting I had at 1:00PM.

Fortunately, my afternoon was open beyond that, so I rebooked my calender from the noon hour to 3:00PM for my run and, having already dutifully scarfed down my sammich at 10:30, worked through the noon hour and took my grilled chicken & brown rice with me to my 1:00PM meeting.  This effectively moved my post-workout meal/lunch to a hobbitish second pre-workout meal.

So getting over the gym I'm actually feeling fairly decent.  I do my warm-up routine, spend some time hating the foam roller, and do an easy mile on the treadmill before getting off to do another round of stretching.  I remounted the treadmill and did another comfortable mile before cranking the speed up for the tempo run.

Now, I know I can (or at least I have) run a 5k in 21'30" and that shakes out to about 8.65 MPH and that was before I really started training in earnest for the half marathon last fall.  My expectation was that I should be able to do this one, no problem.  I was wrong.

Or maybe I wasn't.  I ended up turning the 3 mile tempo run into about 3 miles of lower intensity (but still punishing-feeling) 1600k intervals at 8.9 MPH, 8.6 MPH, and 8.9 MPH.  I'm still thinking long-term and with an 18 miler due up this weekend, I didn't want to gimp into the weekend.  While I was running that second leg, I made a decision about something I had been contemplating for about week.  Revision of the goal Marathon Pace.

2011-MAR-10 Diet Log
(forgot the iPod again; no run graph)


I had made a decision to take a stab at putting together an aggressive training plan to see if I could achieve a 3:20 time in the full marathon.  That would mean running the entire 26.2 at a slightly faster pace than I ran either of my half marathons.  I still think that plan had merit and was based on the fact that I was still getting stronger & faster with my last race of 2010 and I should be able to train at an increasingly rapid pace.

What I didn't truly factor in was how much I lost between November and February.  I maintained a light running schedule and focused more on overall conditioning.  I build my mileage back up in January, but my pace dropped considerably.  What I came to realize this week is that my current level of training isn't yet back to the level I raced at in November.  Trying to train at a level more intense than where I was when I was training for the halfs isn't cutting it and, while I do believe in stretch goals and pushing the envelope, running a marathon is envelope-pushing in and of itself.

Cop out?  Maybe.  However, it's MY race and MY blog and MY plan (and I'm an only child, so it's always about ME), and I know that restructuring my pacing is the wise thing to do.  Running distance has rarely been fun for me, but what worked for me to get me to (and through) my half marathons was being lucky enough to choose an appropriate pace for my ability, push hard in my workouts, and get where I needed to be.  By setting the bar too high for my current abilities, my running workouts have been a triple-play of #fail
-- Strike 1: Running on the Treadmill.
-- Strike 2: Inability to complete the workout at the prescribed pace.
-- Strike 3: Discouragement at not being where I need to be for The Plan.

As I have said before, this race is so much about mental toughness.  I certainly see the dichotomy of stating that fact immediately following a paragraph about why I'm not "digging deep" or "finding it within myself" to push harder. I do think it's there, I just don't know the physical cost of getting there. I've come too far to give up the long-term goal of crossing the finish line this May to short-sightedly say, "3:20 or bust!"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bonus 500: Mid-week update


Once again, Wednesday Kettlebell class rolled around.  Our instructor (Mike) decided that 20+" of snow kinda sucked and took off for sunny LA, so our Monday/Friday instructor (Matt) took over the class.  I think changing things up is a good thing every now and again.  Both instructors are excellent at what they do, but are stylistically very different in the workout routines and exercises that make up any one of their classes.

This week's class mixed traditional Kettlebell exercises (one & two handed swings, snatches, get-ups) with more traditional dumbbell exercises (curls, flys, rows).  One interesting move that was thrown in was called a Goblet Squat to overhead press.  With feet wider than shoulder width apart and holding the Kettlebell tight to your chest with both hands, execute a squat, bringing your elbows down at least to your thighs.  When you come back up, continue the up motion with your arms, pressing the Kettlebell up & over your head and lower it back to the starting position to complete the rep.

I left the gym a bit sore which is a good mark for a solid workout.

2011-MAR-09 Diet Log


So far, the "Bonus 500" plan isn't exactly going as I expected and I don't think 7 days is going to be long enough to see a stable trend.  So far, in 3 days over-eating by 500 Kcal per day, I've *lost* a pound and a half.  To be fair, I still had some carry-over from a big weekend that came up 8 miles (~1000 Kcal) short on exercise, so my Monday weigh-in should be taken with a grain of salt.  I'm not dehydrated (I drink at least half a gallon of water every day), my "system" has been functioning normally, and I've been diligent as always about tracking food and logging exercise.

If the trend continues or seems to levelize, I'll have to give some thought about whether to bump up the Kcal another 500 per day or try changing the "delivery method" for those extra calories (by which I mean, "I have a homebrew kegerator and I know how to use it!).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Get Up & Go Got Up and Went.


Needing to get back on the horse after a pretty lazy week last week, I saddled up the treadmill for a 3 x 1600 interval run (for all you non-metric cretins, 1600m is basically two first-downs short of a mile).  My target pace was 9.4 to 9.6 MPH or about 6:10 - 6:20 per mile.  I did a brisk walk (4 MPH) for 400m and stepped off to do some active stretching before jumping back on to start the workout.

After using the first 400m to walk, then jog my way up to a steady running pace, I punched the "go-time" buttom to kick the speed up to Ludicrous Speed.  The first 1600 felt okay, but my legs weren't feeling as strong as they typically do at the beginning of an interval workout.  For the longer intervals, I do a longer recovery period, so I brisk-walked 400m after that interval before starting the next one.

With the second interval, I was having some trouble finding a good cadence at 9.6, so I backed it down to 9.4MPH.  That helped at least alleviate the feeling that I was going be ejected from the ride, but by around 600m it was evident that the full distance wasn't likely to happen at the prescribed pace, so I cut off the second interval at 1200m and brought the pace back down to 4MPH.

As I started the final interval, I was feeling gassed, my glutes were getting crampy (which never happens) and my shoes/feet were starting to bug me... again.  I ended up running the last interval at 9.0 MPH for 1200m before going in to cool-down.

When I looked at this workout on paper, I really didn't expect this much of a challenge.  I'm not sure what the weak link ended up being for this workout.  My long-run on Sunday was short (relatively), my Monday workout wasn't overly strenuous, my diet was pretty strong.  I did forget my iPod, so I didn't have music and, while I'm sure that was a bit of a hindrance, I can't chalk this performance up to an absence of Tool.  

My overall physical strength has felt diminished as of late and, while I'm sure a bit comes from a few light weeks of training, I know that's not what's behind it.  Maybe it's just this long, hard winter finally catching up a little bit.  I'm definitely looking forward to being able to have some outdoor runs without having to worry about ice, snow, and layering.

(no iPod, no run graph)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What a lovely day to mow the lawn!


In the span of a day, Vermont went from experiencing the 5th snowiest winter on record to the 3rd.  This most recent storm was severe enough that the state was pretty much shut down.  Our office barely had enough people make it in to warrant turning on the heat & lights (most worked from home), classes were canceled at the gym, and shortly after that announcement came a follow-up that the gym was closing at 3PM (I guess they had the same feeling about heat & lights I did).

My Monday workout ended up being a bit of a hodge-podge -- some running, some kettlebell work (get-ups, snatches, swings, rows, deadlifts, weighted crunches and mason twists), bosu squats (flat-side up, squat down, then push down with one foot, tilting the bosu until it hits the floor, then come back to center and do the same with the other leg, come back to center and stand upright -- that's one rep), and some deep squats with a kettlebell using a balance ball against the wall for stability/support.  I also started playing around a bit with doing get-ups with a barbell -- it uses some different control muscles than the kettlebell and gives me a few more weight options between the 16, 24, and 32 kg weights.

The workout served its purpose which was to make body parts sore.  My quads complained for the rest of the day and my abs made their presence known with each shovelful of the ~20" deep snow that evening.  I spent about 90 minutes after work snowblowing our steep, wide driveway and shoveling the areas I couldn't get with the snowblower.  MyFitnessPal has exercise categories for shoveling snow, but nothing for muscling a walk-behind snowblower up & down a steep, wide driveway.  The closest activity I could find was lawn-mowing.  There is something very, VERY wrong about entering in 80 minutes of Lawn Mowing after having been out in the cold, blowing snow.


Monday also started my "Bonus 500" diet week.  My starting point is in the ballpark of 161 pounds (I wrote it down, but don't have the number handy).  The "lawn mowing" activity is almost certainly going to throw some amount of guesswork into the equation, but there's no way either the diet tracking or exercise logging is 100% accurate.  The idea is to be close enough that the margin of error zeros out over the course of a week (i.e. somedays will be high, some will be low).  

I manually upped the MyFitnessPal daily goal by 500, so if you're looking for a big, red -500  in the daily calorie goal, you won't see it.  Ideally, I'll be in the ballpark of 0 calories remaining each day this week and, if everything goes to plan, I'll be up a pound next Monday.

My point for doing this is to try to better understand how the human body works (or at least my body).  I do have some people who ask me for diet advice and I always try to give the "big picture" view that even though little cheats add up throughout the day, over-eating by a few hundred calories a day for a week isn't what lead to a 5lb weight gain in seven days.  I won't presume to understand nutrition and the human metabolic cycle well enough to have all the answers, but there is way more to weight management than simple calorie counting and I'm hopeful that I've got enough of a baseline established with my own diet that I can experiment a little bit and learn something new.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two-Skunk Run


I really didn't want to go out this morning for a 20 mile run, but I did.  Before that, I didn't want to get out of my warm, cozy bed, but I did.  I could have "accidentally" hit the "OFF" button instead of the "SNOOZE" button and totally had a perfect cop-out for the day.  But I got up, got dressed in my 40-degree running gear, slammed down a couple packets of instant oatmeal and few Shot Bloks, and got ready to roll.  

Out the door at 7AM as planned, just over 40F on the thermometer, a bit cooler than was predicted as of last night's Weather.Com Hour-By-Hour forecast.  In fact, I was not pleased to see that the "clear(ish)" morning had been infringed upon by 'crap' coming in around 10AM.  No worries, 10AM was when I was due to be rolling back into the homestead.

After pulling my best Brian Boitano impersonation skating down my treacherous driveway and navigating myself off of our street (I keep checking my mortgage statements to make sure that they're paying the Town my property tax installments; considering how poorly they care for our stretch of my development, I'm pretty sure that I'm either getting punished for being delinquent on my taxes (I'm not) or that I've somehow pissed off the guy who runs the plow/salt truck), I set off on a run I really wasn't looking forward to.

You wusses outside of the Snow Belt may think running in 40F weather is idiotic, but it's possibly the most perfect running conditions, when its calm & dry.  The air is cool enough that you get excellent oxygenation without the air being so cold that it stings.  A wicking long sleeve shirt and some dead-sexy running 'base-layer-threads (THEY'RE NOT TIGHTS!!) are all that's needed for a comfortable long run (depending on the intensity of the run; the shorter the run, the shorter the clothing!).  As a bonus, any drink you carry stays cold and you don't have to worry about over heating!

I'm less than 2 miles into my run when I pick up the scent of skunk spray.  Not too close, but close enough that the smell is more intense than the good-skunk-smell and crossing over into the it-burns!-skunk-smell.  There's a very light mist in the air, reminiscent of the seemingly constant precipitation that I experience in Ireland and Scotland a decade ago -- you know it's there because you see it on the windshield or disturbing puddles, but you can't really feel it landing on you.

Around mile 4, Skunk #2 wafts across the road from somewhere and I imagine that doggie #2 is getting a tomato soup bath this morning.  The warmth has obviously brought these weaselly beings out en masse and dogs everywhere are experiencing a bit of amnesia about "those funny looking cats" that don't seem quite as freaked out as they should be...  Based on my route, I placed a bet with myself that this would be a 5-skunk run.  How wrong I was.

Physically, I was actually feeling pretty decent.  I've recently had trouble finding a groove until I get up to 10 or 12 miles, but today I settled in to a slow (for me), but steady, comfortable pace and was content to just plod my way through today's course.  I had picked up a bit of a headwind, but c'est la vie; a headwind going out is (hopefully) a tailwind coming home!  

Things were going pretty solid until my Nike+ chick announced "7 miles completed."  Almost simultaneously, a new biting, gusting wind which was about 10 degrees colder that the ambient temperature and smelled like the brine of the sea kicked up.  And kept up.  It was like being on a ship leaving a protected cove and being pelted by a gale force that had been picking up steam across the the fetch of the open waters for miles.  This was not fun, but bearable.

Then that nice, fine, imperceptible mist became perceptible.  Then it became more apparent.  By mile 8, it was outright pouring.  Shortly thereafter, everything I was wearing was soaked.  And it was getting pretty close to freezing as the storm front blew in about 2 hours ahead of schedule.  And by "blew in," I mean sustained wind chill in the teens.  My 20 mile long run was now out the window.  I had planned my route with a few bail-out points that would leave me opportunities to get home somewhat faster than if I did an "out & back" route.  From where I was, I basically had a 4 mile tempo run (2 of which were mostly up-hill) to get home.  

I wanted to be the responsible runner who used the sidewalks instead of running in the road, but the town-where-I-pay-my-taxes had done a pretty poor job of maintaining adequate passage on the sidewalks, so I could either risk life & limb dancing between ankle-deep puddles and ice-sheets on the sidewalks or accumulating standing water & traffic on the road.  Since I seemed to be the only person fool enough to be out in this weather, dodging the intermittent traffic was actually the safer of the two options!

While I knew this to be hyperbole at the time, I started thinking about The Deadliest Catch show on the Discover Channel (crab fishermen in the Bearing Sea).  Periodically, they'll have a show where a storm takes a ship and, tragically, some of its crew.  They always quote how little time you have in those cold waters before hypothermia (and, eventually, death) occur.  It's odd the things your mind comes up with to "motivate" you, but this cheery recollection took my mind off how truly awful the run had become and helped me kick up the pace to get home faster and also to get my heart-rate up and get the blood moving.

I never really was in any "danger" from the elements.  I was in civilization, had a cellphone, my RoadID, and any number of shops & stores I could have ventured into should I really have truly needed help.  I got home and immediate jumped into a hot shower.  My hands were cold enough that the warm/hot water from the shower felt simultaneously ice-cold and scalding-hot (if you've felt this feeling, you know it), but that subsided quickly. A pint glass of chocolate milk, a mug of Rwandan dark-roast coffee, and waffles with butter & VT Maple Syrup made for a delicious post-workout recovery meal.

So I didn't get in my 20 miles today, but I lived to fight (and run) another day.  Fortunately I have another pair of new Saucony's waiting for me at work.  I'm not sure the ones I wore today will be dried out in time for Tuesday's run!


I would make a terrible mailman.