"I’ve been slimed."

I went out for a run yesterday in the very late afternoon. Although it was around 5PM, I decided to put on sunscreen since much of my run is not shaded. Well, what a mistake that was!

It was in the low 80s and after about five minutes of running, I was covered in melting, slimy sunscreen. Rather than actually soaking into my skin, the sweat seemed to have an “oil and water” effect…causing the sunscreen to float on the surface of my skin, mingling with sweat, creating a solid, shifting coating of slime on every exposed surface. Trying to wipe it off was useless; I could only spread it around, transferring it from one beslimed part of myself to a lesser beslimed area.

If it sounds horrible, believe me, it was.

After I slid home, I trawled the Web for information about runner-friendly sunscreens. Today I picked up one recommended brand, Bullfrog. It’s only SPF 35 (I’d wear SPF 10,000 if they made it), but that’s still pretty high. I’ll road test it (what better place to test something purporting to be sweat-proof than in New York in the summer?) and post a review here.

Today’s haiku

In my room I watch
Men with big legs play football
They run. And I run.

15 miles in a cool room

Today was my long run day. It’s been about a week and a half since my last long run, and that one was a wonderful 14 miler in the pouring rain (which gave me a chance to road test some waterproof gear I’ve purchased recently; with the exception of my feet — unclad in waterproof apparel — I stayed dry!).

I got up this morning to discover that at 7:30AM it was already 76 degrees outside, plus there is a Crappy Air Alert going on. I believe the forecasted high for today is 92 degrees, with a UV index of 9 out of 10. Blech. (Many thanks to Joe Garland for his information about the trail runs and Thursday evening 5Ks…I may check those out yet. But for days like today, the treadmill is a lifesaver for those of us who wilt in the heat.)

So 8:00-10:40AM this morning found me chugging along on the treadmill in our tiny air conditioned third bedroom. It’s funny: When you start a 3-ish hour run you wonder how you’ll put up with the tedium. But I had an MP3 player loaded up with podcasts, and the Japan-Croatia World Cup match at 9:00 (too bad it was such a boring game), and the time passed quickly.

Snacks consumed during the run included an orange juice/water/salt mixture (I fill a 20 oz bottle halfway with o.j., top it up with water and add a quarter teaspoon of salt — very refreshing); a Trader Joe’s Sweet, Savory and Tart Trail Mix bar; and a ton of water.

I made this one a progression run, since I want to try to get into the habit of running negative splits for my races. I started out slow (at a 63% heart rate) for the first 5 miles, faster (68%) for the next 5, faster yet (75%) for the next four, and finishing off at a speedy pace (80-82%) for the last mile. That last mile…



South Korea just scored against France to tie!



Where was I?

Oh, yes.

…that last mile flies by when you’re running faster (and know that you’re almost done). Top it off with a luxurious lukewarm bubble bath, followed by a delicious glycogen-load burrito, and that’s a darn nice way to start off your Sunday. Especally if you plan to spend the rest of the day lying on the couch watching a bunch of men with thunder thighs kick a ball around.

MMRF results are in!

Well, the results of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation 5K are in. I did do pretty well: number four in my group. My significant other, Jonathan, was second in his. Yay for us.

A new personal record this morning

It’s still racing season, and today found me rolling out of bed at 6AM after a very restrained Saturday night (two reasonably sized glasses of white wine) to head to New Canaan, CT for the annual Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation 5K race.

Like most races, this is the first time I’ve run it. It was a great day for a race: Cool, dry and sunny. But the wind was kicking up, averaging 14 MPH with gusts of 25. The starting line was set up using some sort of very hazardous rolling contraption. Not wanting to be shoved into the contraption and trampled on by enthusiastic runners, I did something I never do, which was to line up right in front. I saw little kids and a guy in jeans doing this, so I wasn’t about to stand on formality.

My goal for the race was to finish under 25 minutes. The gun went “blam” and we were off. I had no idea what the course was like, so I tried not to go out like a rocket only to die on a surprise hill later on. Still, I was running 6:45, over a minute per mile faster than I’d intended to, for the first half mile or so. The start of the race was a long, slight downhill incline, so I took advantage of that and kept a quick sub-7:30 pace until around the mile 1 marker. Then I settled into an 8:00 pace. I needed to average that in order to come in under 25 minutes and I figured I’d bought myself some time on the first mile.

The rest of the race was pretty easy — only a few small hills — so I was able to keep that pace for most of the way. The times they were calling at the mile markers were totally off, though, which was pretty silly. As always, I was happy to have my watch/footpod setup to let me know how fast I was really going. They also called the 3 mile mark way, way before the finish line. Instead of a tenth of a mile, it was more like a quarter mile.

Anyway, I crossed the finish line at 24:23 and was very happy with that time considering the wind and unfamiliar course, which made me a bit cautious. My heart rate monitor said I maxed out at 93%, which means I could have run harder. I’ll do that next time. I suspect I did well in my age/gender group. If that’s the case, I’ll update this post with some horn tooting data.

This was my best 5K time. By way of comparison, I ran my first 5K last fall at 28:10 and my second in early March at 27:17. In the past two months, my average race pace (this is an average of all distance race paces, not just the 5K) has dropped from 9:09 (April) to 8:39 (May) to 7:51 (June). Still no speed demon, but I’m getting faster. I will be trying for more cheap plastic trophies in the coming months.

My next 5K is scheduled for 7/23 (if the weather isn’t a killer). Goal time for that is 23:45. If I can do that, according to this nifty calculator it means I’m in shape to run a sub 1:50 Westchester Half Marathon in October. With the rest of the summer and early fall to train, perhaps I can make it very sub 1:50. 🙂

Today’s haiku

A fast 5K race
Destroys me for the whole day
My couch is comfy

My running history: Part 2

In the last installment, My running history: Part 1, we learned what drew me into regular running in the first place, after a few false starts.

That was in the spring of 1999. So, you ask, what happened after I started running?

Well, for one thing, I was totally out of shape. I couldn’t walk up the stairs in our house without getting slightly winded. So, I strapped on the shoes I’d bought in one of my previous abortive attempts to become fit and headed down to the local park. There, I discovered just how unfit I really was.

At 34, I should have been in my prime, right? Sadly, I was not. I could run, very slowly, for about 200 feet. Then I’d have to stop because I was so out of breath. So, for the first few weeks, I’d just run little distances, then walk for a bit, then run for a few more hundred feet, then walk, etc. I would do this over a distance of under a mile.

Eventually, I was able to run more and walk less, and after about a month and a half, I could actually run the entire mile. I wasn’t keeping records, but I guesstimate that I was running about a 12-13 minute mile at that point.

Then I started adding distance. I wish I could say that I didn’t worry about speed, but I was always trying to go faster. Looking back, I realize now that this was a mistake. I could have become comfortable running over longer distance much, much earlier had I just concentrated on distance and not speed.

Here’s the really sad part. I ran like this for several years: Running too fast, getting winded because I had to stop, and never really reaching the point of being aerobically conditioned. I know this because I would get terrible headaches if I tried to run farther than 5 miles. It never ocurred to me that there was a better way. “Training” wasn’t even anything I could conceive of. I was just trying to run.

Finally, around 2003, through sheer force of will I got to the point where I could run seven miles at a decent pace (perhaps around 10.5 minute mile average). But I wasn’t happy about this because running seven miles was still very difficult — lots of heavy breathing and aching legs — and I couldn’t conceive of ever being able to run farther than that; I also wasn’t losing any weight, which had been a goal.

I recognize now that part of the problem was my inability to tolerate running in extreme weather. Since I wasn’t fit in the first place, running in the heat/humidity of NY summers was impossible. Where I could tolerate running when the weather was comfortable, that went out the window when weather was bad. As a result, my regular running would drop off dramatically in June and not pick up again until September. In that time, I’d lose what little conditioning I had gained in the spring. Then, when the snow and ice appeared, and the amount of daylight decreased dramatically, my running would drop off again January through early March and whatever I’d gained in the fall would be lost. So I was constantly slipping backwards rather than moving forwards.

In early 2004, I decided to become more committed to my running. I bought a treadmill in order to allow me to run year round, no matter what the weather or daylight was outside. And, unlike most people, I actually used the treadmill (and still do today) for running rather than as a clothes rack.

That’s it for Part 2 of my saga. In Part 3, we’ll learn what happened between 2004 and today, including my discovery of the concept of “training” — and the birth of my racing career (cough cough).

Today’s haiku

Mister Jangl’y Keys
I implore you: Please pass me
You’re annoying me

This week’s inspiration: A hamster named Mike

Sure, long distance running is an endurance sport, but have you ever considered what a hamster in a recycling plant has to go through? This story about a hardy hamster named Mike makes running 26.2 miles look like a cake walk.

Don’t overtrain. Just don’t!

This week I was reminded of what “overtraining” means.

Work demands have meant lots of last minute changes to my training plan. This past week, I somehow managed to schedule “hard” (or “quality”) runs two days in a row. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this and paid the price.

On Tuesday, I did a hard tempo run. A few miles easy, followed by 20 minutes at 5K race pace, followed by a mile or so easy. Fine.

Then, on Wednesday, I’d somehow managed to schedule a 14 mile “cutdown” run. This is a long run that’s done at an easy pace, but ends at a faster pace. This helps you build the sort of speed endurance needed for longer races, as it teaches you to leave some energy in reserve.

For the first few miles of this run, my legs felt like wood. My leg muscles felt very tight and fatigued from the get go. I waited for the pain to go away. After about six miles, I was able to relax a bit, but running still hurt. I finally threw in the towel at 10.5 miles.

Then (yes, I’m this dense) I remembered that just 24 hours ago I’d done my tempo run. No wonder I felt like dog shit! No recovery time!

On Thursday I felt awful, especially after waking up for half the night due to leg pain. I was walking like a spastic all day and going downstairs was a challenge. By Friday afternoon I felt fine again and did an easy 9 mile run that evening.

So this is a reminder to check your training plan (or run log) and make sure you’re not scheduling two “hard” days in a row. Doing this regularly not only results in pain, but also raises your chances of injury. And it makes you mighty cranky too.