Monday, April 14, 2014

Eight: the New Seven

For most of my running life, seven minute pace was the threshold. It was the pace where I would begin to go anaerobic; where I would begin to have difficulty carrying on a conversation. A more technical term for this is lactate-threshold pace. Yet another related word is tempo pace.

Tempo pace is the pace for a ten-mile to half-marathon race. Although there were times when I could run ten to thirteen miles as much as a half-minute per mile faster than this, three or more miles in a row better than seven minute pace was still a tip-top tempo training trot.

One other thing about seven minute pace: it's just about (actually about seven seconds slower, but let's not quibble) the pace required to run a three-hour marathon. Those who have known me for a while are aware that breaking three hours has been an obsession of mine for most of my running life. Until recently, that is. But that's another story.

Nowadays however, eight is the new seven. It's not impossible - I got down to eight-minute pace during some of today's miles, as well as the final six of Saturday's sixteen. But it is the pace at which I now begin to go anaerobic.

I really wouldn't be all that far off if I were to consider last year's ten-mile and half-marathon times. But I have a way to go to even get back that far.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Victims Rights 5K

I do this small, free, evening race every year, and it's never been pretty. Last night was no exception. I felt like I was going soooo much faster than I really was. And that last mile up Route 18 and into the wind is a doozie.

But it was good to see a few old running buddies that I hadn't bumped into in some time. And at least I finished in vertical fashion.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Exceeds... or, the St. Malachi Race

My previous post was about far exceeding expectations. This one is about slightly exceeding them.

The St. Malachi 5-Mile race is held around St. Patrick's Day every year. I've done it a cou ple times in the past, but it had been a while. My training over this winter from hell has been awful, and now I'd learned that so was my weight. So I didn't expect much.

But the weather was great - 40 degrees with a little wind. So of course I went out too fast. My first mile was just under seven minutes, and I was still at 21 minutes flat at 3 miles. Too bad the race didn't end there. I not only had to tired miles to go, but they were mostly uphill and into the wind. It was a struggle.

The final downhill quarter-mile was nice, and it felt good to finish that part strong. My time was 36:28, good for third in my ancient age group. I really don't know what my expectation was, but I am certainly okay with this. Of course it's two full minutes slower than my 5-Mile race times of last summer. I'd better start working harder. And expecting more.

Far Exceeds

Consider this rating scale:

It's from an article about rating rating scales, and it's a typical assessment mechanism. At a place I worked at a while back, we used such a scale to gauge our customer satisfaction. Customers, in this case, were the people we were doing work for, be they external to the company or fellow workers whom we supported.

If the customer liked the person requesting to be rated, they would naturally give them a higher grade. It would go something like this: "I like Dan a lot, and he's doing good work for me. I'll give him the highest score (a 2 on the scale above, or possibly a 5 if the scale contained scores ranging from 1 to 5)."

I unsuccessfully argued against the use of such a scale. Sure, it's good to have your customers like you, and it's very important to meet their expectations. But is it even a good thing to exceed expectations? They might be happy if the person they're rating does do more than expected, but doesn't that imply that we rateees/suppliers may be giving something (in our case, services) away for free? I can see that this too would be good occasionally, but if you give away the store one too many times, the store may eventually go under.

And what does it mean to Greatly Exceed Expectations? Isn't that really giving away the store? In what universe is that a good thing for the store?

All this went through my head when I stepped on the scale (the kind that measures weight) the other day. I hadn't been checking my weight for quite some time, but I still had my expectations. And, you guessed it, they were Greatly Exceeded! Unfortunately, not in a good way. I'm working on this little problem. I still do the fasting thing, but it's the feast days that need to be scaled back. Check with me in a month or so.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

We Slow

First there was the Chevy Nova. Urban legend has it that General Motors experienced poor sales of the vehicle in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries because the name translates to “doesn't go” in Spanish. Incidentally, I was surprised to learn just now that the story actually isn't true. According to, “This is another one of those tales that makes its point so well — just like the apocryphal one about George Washington and the cherry tree — that nobody wants to ruin it with a bunch of facts.” But then they went on to do just that. 

Today's Dick's Sporting Goods ad for other
inexpensive running shoes: the
Nike Downshifter and the ASICS Unifire
And then there was the Nike Attempt II. My daughter Veronica and I noticed this in a Kohl’s ad a while back. I explained that the major running shoe manufacturers sell their high-end models to running specialty stores, but make less expensive ones to sell at lower prices at retailers such as Kohl’s, JCP and Dick’s Sporting Goods. But the name, Attempt just sounds kind of funny for a running shoe. According to the definition, it implies "an act of trying to achieve something". Seems like a running shoe ought to be associated something just a little bit more than only an attempt. And since this one had a Roman Numeral 2 for a suffix, it wouldn't even be the first time one has tried it. I have just noticed that I wrote about this in an earlier blog post. Sorry for the duplication, but I couldn't resist. 

Ad in today's Walmart flyer for a We Slow Treadmill
Today I saw a Walmart ad for a Weslo Treadmill. Yes, I’m aware that Weslo is the name of the manufacturer and not the model. And yes, I’m also aware that it’s one word and not two. But if it were two, it would sound an awful lot like, We Slow. Now who would buy a treadmill that implies that we, the buyers/users are slow?

Not me. And it's not that I am not slow, especially these days. It’s just that I would never admit it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

There be Dragons

4:30 am – I’m doing my morning pushups in front of the TV, and Holly Strano tells me that the temperature is in the forties. This, after that huge snowstorm yesterday. I finish my exercises, petting Rosy, who’s curled up almost underneath me, in between sets.

5:00 am – Still waking up (those pushups and crunches had been in my sleep) I am now putting on my outside running clothes. It would’ve been faster to put on the inside running clothes that I’d had ready, but dang it, it’s in the forties!

5:15 am – Pulling out of the driveway, I realize I’ve gotten a later start than I wanted. My goal is always to get going by 4:45 so that I can arrive just as the fitness center opens at 5:30. This has yet to happen, however. The most common exit time is 5:00 straight up. Today is a little on the late side of that.

6:15 am – I am finally running (hooray), heading north from the fitness center. The road is clear, but snow is piled up three to four feet high on the sides, and right over the berm, so if any cars come, I’ve got nowhere to go to get out of the way. Luckily, traffic is light at this hour. I reflect that this is my first outside run in a week and a half; it’s been all mill. Of course the reason is fear of (more) wounded knee. Strange that I seem to be able to run at any pace or distance on the mill without encountering problems, but when I push the pace out in the cold, there it goes. A new theory presents itself to the inner workings of my brain: maybe it’s not the pace or the cold by itself, maybe it’s the shuffling through the slippery snow and ice I do on other runs, followed by the days of pace and cold. Then again, maybe not.

6:45 am – There aren’t all that many miles of roads in the park, and I don’t want to shuffle on the snow covered all-purpose trail, so I’m doing a little back and forth, out and back type stuff. It occurs to me that I could make this a worthwhile training run by running down and up Ox Lane a few times. As I’m almost about to turn down that road, I encounter a couple runners coming up. After a brief greeting, we pass each other, but one of them yells back, “Are you headed down the hill? There’s a pack of coyotes down there!”

6:46 am – Did I mention that it’s still dark? And that I’m afraid of large carnivorous wild animals? I decide to not tempt fate and simply go back and forth on the north-south road, Buttermilk Falls Parkway. The hills can wait.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

((fill in the blank)) of life is just showing up

I've had some very good excuses, but I still felt a little bit bad about not making it to so many of my own scheduled Sunday morning runs at Hinckley. The excuses ranged from biblical snowstorms to being out of town. But since I had arranged the darn things, I still felt that I was a bit lagging in fulfilling my obligations. To me, you see, just showing up is pretty important stuff.

Today's excuses would've been no less valid. My wrecked knee from the previous day's run, and more biblical snow could've/would've/should've kept me at home once again. But they didn't. I did show up, although I didn't run the usual 5:30 am nine-mile loop with the gang. Nope, I bid my friends adieu, and then proceeded to shuffle around in the snow for a few miles.

The old knee was okay today. Shuffling agrees with it.

9:34, 8:22, 8:10, 8:05, 7:58, 7:50, 7:40, 8:13, 9:05, 9:00, 12:00, 13:42

Yes, those were my splits from yesterday's run. I was with friends Dave Gajewski, Chris and Larry Orwin, Kevin Jones and Chris' friend Colin (I don't know his last name). They tell a bit of a story. The crash and burn occurred suddenly, as usual, just as we made the turn onto the parkway with a couple miles to go. Larry very graciously stayed with me as we walked and jogged our way in.

I've mentioned this knee thing before. Now, unfortunately, I am afraid I have to mention it again. Sorry about this.

It was near 0F, and I was working pretty hard to keep up with the fast kids. We were lucky that there was no wind, and only a small amount of snow and ice on the roads. As we drove up the hill on Barr Road, the 'ole knee began to talk to me. Ease up, or else, it said.

I did listen. Larry and I went from eight minute miles to nine minute ones. But as we made that turn, I learned quite suddenly how inadequate my slowdown had been.

Dad-gum it. It had been a couple weeks since I'd had any pain at all. Except for my perpetual PF, I was beginning to think that I was going to be okay,

Okay, bear with me a while longer. Here are for my sudden knee blowout common denominators.

1) It's always cold. Often extremely so, like yesterday.
2) I'm always pushing the pace, at least somewhat faster than I would be otherwise.
3) It's always at the far end of a long run, or a long couple of runs.
3) It's almost always when I least expect it.

Okay, I'm done. For now.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Effort Miles

My friend and running partner Dave Gajewski does not own a GPS running watch. He prefers not to measure his running as precisely as some other runners. When running slower than usual (and therefore not as far) due to challenging weather conditions, he tells me he ran so many effort miles.

As someone who shuffled and slid through extremely deep snow for an hour today, and will call it five miles because he didn't wear his GPS because he didn't really want to measure anything accurately today and who has been known to do this shuffling and poor measurement in the past, even more so during this 'winter from hell' although it's not quite appropriate to call it that because it is kind of an insult to hell, but then hell is associated with heat and not cold, so it's not quite appropriate for that reason either... like the Dude, I can abide.