Saturday, August 30, 2008

Movie Review: Marathon Challenge

I recently rented the PBS NOVA special "Marathon Challenge". I absolutely loved it. It takes us through the lives of 13 couch potatoes as they try to run the Boston Marathon during after training for 9 months. Rather than making it painful to watch, NOVA had trainers and medical staff to minimize the likelihood of injuries.

These couch potatoes started from almost nothing--walking at the absolute most. They were checked out by doctors and cleared to run. From there, we saw the struggles of just running 2 miles all the way through the last training run of 20 miles. They had a coach as well as Uta Pippig, a previous Boston Marathon winner.

What I really enjoyed about this is how medical-ly it was. Being PBS, they were very educational. It talked about how the muscle fibers worked in the legs and how endurance running helps blood flow, etc. It was very interesting for something like me who has been running for a couple of years. It certainly puts the why into how we become fit.

Finally, it was absolutely heart warming to see people start from nothing and then finish a marathon (though not all of them did). It's similar to the feeling I get when I watched the Olympic marathons. The big difference is that I knew the Olympians were going to finish it; I wasn't so sure about the participants on the documentary.

Though I rented it, it's also available to watch online. If you watch it, let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

American Cancer Society selected as charity for 48 Miles in 48 Hours

I recently announced on 48 Hours in 48 that I selected the American Cancer Society as the charity for the run in October. Having lost my grandmother and most recently a former colleague to this terrible disease, this charity has a special place in my heart.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the American Cancer Society by using my fund raising page.

I've also put a link on the right side of this blog and to make a donation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cigna 5K by the numbers

I ran the Cigna 5K a couple of weeks ago, along with 5,500 other participants who either walked, jogged, ran or a combination thereof. I was thinking today about how great it is that so many people made a point to get out and be fit.

If you run the numbers, assuming everyone finished, combined we ran 17,050 miles in a one hour period (5,500 participants x 3.1 miles). That's more than 3 round trips from New York to LA, all by participants in a local 5K. That's an amazing statistic and one we should all be proud of.

I've really taken to enjoying the pre-race stuff because I'm just so impressed at how many people are keeping fit and making the decision not to sit on the couch but to go out and do something. It's a beautiful thing and my hope is that it's contagious.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Running and Shooting: the Southport, Maine edition

I was visiting relatives last week in Southport, Maine--just across the water from the ever-beautiful Boothbay Harbor, Maine. As is my custom, I went for a run in the morning along the harbor. I was even able to see the fireman's auction which was quite a lot of chaos for an island town of 684. Nothing like scenery to make a mundane 3.5 mile run pop. Below are some pictures.

The Southport Fire Department Auction. Apparently people were out at 6 AM.

Cozy Harbor

Boats along Beach Road.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Today I started a training segment of two-a-day runs in order to get ready for the 48 Miles in 48 Hours event in October. I ran 4.5 miles this morning and 4.3 miles this afternoon for a total of close to 9 miles.

Since this was the first time I did it, I wanted to keep the mileage reasonable and not go out too crazy. I'm a little tired, but it feels more like I just did one run rather than two.

I won't be running two-a-days every day, but I'm planning to do it at least once a week--probably twice. I need to get my body in the habit of running multiple times a day and recovering in between.

For the 48 Miles in 48 Hours event, I'll actually need to run three times a day, two days in a row of 8-mile segments each. There's no time crunch, but I'd like to do it in a respectable time. That means that my body has to cooperate which requires, at the least, good fueling.

After my morning run, I had a Smart Choice pizza, almonds, a Clif Bar, yogurt and blueberries. For dinner, I have a huge piece of chicken (boneless/skinless, of course) and a piece of swordfish (wild) with a side of vegetables. I'm going to get my protein in if it kills me (and it just might).

I have to admit: I did love going out that second time. Makes me almost feel like an ultrarunner, which is a title I can actually claim in a couple of months.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review: Bart Yasso's "My Life On The Run"

While Runner's Lounge and many others are reviewing Dean Karnazes' new book, 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days, I wanted to provide a review on another great running book I read over the past month: Bart Yasso's "My Life On The Run: the Wit, Wisdom and Insight of a Road Racing Icon".

If you're not familiar with Bart, he is the Chief Running Officer (what a great job!) at Runner's World, which is based in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. In addition to coordinating Runner's World's participation in races across the world, he acts as the running ambassador for the magazine and chief cheerleader for the sport. You may also know him as the creator of the Yasso 800s, which is a program that predicts your marathon running time based on your 800-meter time.

The book walks you through the tough times in Bart's early life and how running saved him and ultimately became his way of life. He talks about a run where he comes face to face with a rhino and others where he had to pull a donkey or do a "bare buns run" at a nudisty colony.

I found the tone of the book to be extremely upbeat and very fun to read. Bart clearly has a passion for the sport and is only happy if he can share that passion with others. The chapters were quick and inspirational and I loved every minute of it.

Bart still travels the country and speaks the night before races. He uses his now infamous PowerPoint presentation to show people how much fun you can have by running (as in the donkey, bare buns or rhino stories above).

I'd highly recommend that you pick up the book and give it a read. I'm already starting to share it with others and I'm sure you'll do the same. Happy reading!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cigna 5K Race Report

I ran the Cigna 5K road race earlier this week in Manchester, NH (me, pictured left, in the blue shirt). I ran it last year as my first race after moving to New Hampshire. There were about 5,000 participants last year, and this year it was closer to 5,500.

The weather was cooling down at the 6:20 PM start, but it was still quite humid. After some pre-race activities, the race started and we went through downtown Manchester. It's odd: this race seemed like a lot longer than 3.1 miles, just as it did last year. I routinely run more than 3 miles but this just seemed to take forever.

With more than 5,500 participants, the packs never thinned out. Though I didn't originally intend to, I treated this race as a normal training race with fartleks. I ran my normal pace and then exploded around people to get to open space. I did this at least a half dozen times throughout the race, and I picked it up big time right at the end.

These faux fartleks were just what I needed. As I mentioned before, I need to adjust my workouts so that I burn the maximum amount of calories. It certainly helps to deal with the post-race pizza.

Overall, it was a good race again. Though I ran about 50 seconds slower than last year, it didn't bother me. I ran a 24:38 race this year and was fine with it. I know that if there wasn't the volume of people that I'd be able to run a faster time.

Next race is this weekend: The Moose on the Loose 10-mile run. I'm looking forward to it. This will be my second time running it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dissecting and getting past an IT band injury

Back in April, I had an IT band injury on my left leg. Iliotibial band (or better known as "IT band") syndrome creates a stinging sensation typically on the outside of the knee. I decided to rest and let it heal--an excellent idea.

As we runners tend to self-diagnose and self-treat, I decided to stay with the pack and dissect the underlying issue that caused the IT band injury in the first place.

Here's what I came up with:
  1. It happened not too long after starting to run post-marathon.
  2. Post-marathon runs were more exploratory. I ran roads that I had never run before because I was bored with the standard routes.
  3. Most of those routes had hills--BIG hills.
  4. I ran the hills too fast because I had tended to just muscle through the hills and push through the fatigue.
Once I stopped running hills too fast, the injury went away. I tried using an IT band wrap, but it didn't help at all.

How do I know that the hills were the culprit? I ran in Ireland with a much faster friend and we ran up hills much faster than I should have. The result? IT band problems. How did they go away? Stop running hills so darn fast.

For those of you with IT band issues, Rice University has a nice page with an explanation of the syndrome and suggested stretches to combat it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stopping "postman's syndrome"

I've started to do fartleks over the last couple of months. It's purely because I want to fight against postman's syndrome.

Postman's syndrome
is named after the phenomenon of our bodies getting used to the same activity, no matter what it is. It's named after the postman, as they do a TON of walking but aren't always the trimmest of people. Their bodies, like ours, get used to the same activity day after day. Our bodies don't have to work as hard when we're repeating the same activity, and because of that, we don't burn fat as well.

It requires us to do different things. First, if we're only running, we need to change our pace through fartleks or intervals or hills. Even better, if we can cross train by swimming, biking or doing something else, our bodies will try to work harder by doing different things.

In a recent study done over a 15-week period, people who did interval running for 20 minutes burned three times the fat compared to people who ran steadily for 40 minutes. That's not just bodily efficiency--it's also time efficiency.

I know that my body's burning fat because my heart always beats faster and I sweat more when I'm doing fartleks. They don't have to be organized (which fits me) and they're not always fun, but I know it's helped me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The propriety of the "snot rocket" while running with the opposite sex

I typically run alone, mostly because I'm about 6 miles away from the downtown area. But, when I was in Europe, I ran with a female friend. As I mentioned, it was great to have some company on runs and it really helped me to keep going out.

However, I've found some difficulty in running with someone of the opposite sex--the snot rocket. It's a well known phenomenon and we all do it without thinking when we're running alone. Heck, one guy even went through a "scientific" analysis. But it feels like bad form to me to do it when you're running with someone else.

Here's the obvious problem: you NEED to do it on a run--typically several times. I tried to sniffle a bit or I hung back a bit and waited for a loud truck to go by. So I was able to get by, but it wasn't easy.

I'm sure another guy wouldn't bat an eye and she probably would have been fine with it, but it just seems a bit uncouth. What do you think? When you're running and sweating, is this a very short step or is it still a big leap?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The training of a disorganized runner

I've slowly come to the realization that I'm a disorganized, undisciplined runner. When I was training for the marathon, the only distances I stuck to were the 14, 16, 18 and 20 mile runs on consecutive weekends leading up to the race. Other than that, well not so much.

I didn't create a marathon plan, though I knew I probably should have. I didn't do intervals one day a week and then cross train another. When I wanted to run faster, I did. When I didn't, well, I didn't.

I find that I may have a basic goal in mind when I hit the road, but it's generally nothing more than that. I saw I may want to run 5 miles, but if I feel good, I keep going. If I don't, I don't. Where do I get the 5 miles from? Just random based on what way the wind is blowing and how I'm feeling that day or what I have going on afterward.

Don't get me wrong. I am out 4-6 days a week, though these days it's probably closer to 4. I don't like when I go more than 2 days without running, but I get by if I need to. So I guess I'm disciplined in the sense that I do get out that often, but hardly disciplined in how far I go and why.

My theory is that organized people do intervals and disorganized people do fartleks. Why be bothered with structure when I can just decide to run to the fourth tree that the sun is shining on?

I have a great respect for people like Petra, Maddy and Charlie who are all training for the Chicago Marathon and have solid plans. I, frankly, just can't do it. It used to be in me, but I think it's gone off to greener pastures.

For me, I'm just looking for that fourth tree in the sun.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

XTERRA STOAKED race report

Well, I guess the moral of the story is be careful what you wish for. I blogged yesterday about races being "easy" runs and this race could not have been much more difficult.

I ran the XTERRA STOAKED trail run this morning in Hanover, NH. The race started at 10 and it was an hour away, but I made it with plenty of time to spare. Little did I know that this would be the last time I wouldn't be covered with mud for the next 5 hours.

During the pre-race meeting, the organizer told us that there were elevations as much as 2,000 feet up and 2,000 feet down. Needless to say, this was a bit of a surprise. Oh, and the trail is beyond muddy (my calf, pictured left). There were plenty of spots where it was nothing but mud and I couldn't get around so I had to go through it.

So we started and immediately went up a steep hill and then another hill and another and another. There were no less than 25 hills all through the 12.5K (about 7.2 mile) course, and there wasn't a one that was easy. I broke my rule and walked a couple of them after it got to be too ridiculous. Though I didn't love walking, it was the smart move. No reason to kill myself when I have plenty of races to go and training to do.

I did have one hiccup during the race. I fell at 3.91 miles but didn't get hurt. I managed to duck my shoulder (my left), rolled and got up without a problem (unlike my one big injury a year ago). I almost tripped a couple of times but managed to keep myself upright--no easy task with roots and mud all over the place.

I finished in 1:11:07 which was last in my group (20-29), but I'm not too concerned. The organizer said that an hour was a good time, so I'm not far off from that. The winner: 43 minutes. Sheesh.

Needless to say, I was beyond exhausted after that race. It was by far the hardest 7.2 miles I've ever run. I was very glad to get back in the car and get home and showered.

My Garmin was more accurate than I expected, but it did miss about .6 miles (assuming the race measurement was accurate).

Finally, below is a before and after with my sneakers. I'm not planning to clean them. As I blogged a couple of weeks ago, my shoes keep my running memories. They aren't more than a hundred miles old, but now they've got a trail run in them. I think they'd be proud.



Friday, August 8, 2008

Races as our "easy" runs

Charlie and I were talking about upcoming races and it dawned on me how I've started to approach these races. I've got a 12K XTERRA STOAKED trail race on Saturday that I just decided to sign up for this week.

Why? Well, 12K is an easy run for me. I do those runs during the week without a problem. In early October, I'll be running the Applefest Half-Marathon and the reality is that I don't need to train for it. I already do the required mileage each week to be able to run the race and finish respectively.

It reminds me of when I was training for my marathon. I was 12 miles into my 20-mile run and I realized that it was incredibly easy to run the 12 miles. A year earlier I certainly wouldn't have thought that. It just makes me very grateful to have put in the mileage I have and have the level of fitness I do.

Why do races now? T-shirts, of course.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Progress - 8/7/08 (Clementine, MO)

I'm 1,010 miles into my journey and passing through Clementine, Missouri. According to Wikipedia, Clementine is a ghost town and nothing remains of the town. I'll continue down Rt. 44 (old Route 66) as I pass just south of Kansas and into Oklahoma.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Running in the rain

For those of you who haven’t spent much time in Ireland, I’ll fill you in on a little secret: it rains… a lot. There weren’t many days when it didn’t rain at all, so we had to be vigilant with our umbrellas and raincoats.

That said, I don’t deal with raincoats and umbrellas when I go running. I love running in the rain. While I’d admit that it’s slightly tougher to leave your dry house (or hotel room), I’ve grown to love running in the rain. Here’s why:

1) If it’s at all hot or humid outside, it tends to cool things down.
2) People walking and driving look at you like you’re crazy for voluntarily running during the torrential downpour. The looks aren’t quite as crazy as the looks I got running in sub-zero temperatures, but they’re amusing nonetheless.
3) I’ve found a certain solidarity with other runners in the rain. We see each other and may nod in approval or just quickly glance at each other as the rain hits us.

I feel this same level of solidarity when I see runners running in the rain as I’m in the car. I’ve fought the urge to roll down my window and high-five them, but it’s been quite the strong urge. If nothing else, seeing other runners, so dedicated to their sport, makes me smile every time.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Doe, a deer, a female deer

While I was running in Phoenix Park, I came upon two different herds (?) of deer just in the open field. Wow, now that was a great site to see in the middle of Dublin. They were just eating and didn’t have a care in the world, though a couple of the male deer were looking my way to make sure I didn’t get too close.

Needless to say, since I can’t outrun a deer, nor a herd of them, and I doubt I’d like the feeling of antlers on my backside, I decided to keep my distance and let my digital camera do the zooming.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Running as a tourist to see new sites

I was in Dublin for a couple days last week as I finished up my one-month European trip/vacation. I stayed close enough to Phoenix Park, so I was able to get a run in on Thursday. The park has a circumference of more than 11 kilometers (a bit more than 6 miles for those of you in the States) and has running paths throughout the whole park. I saw the American Ambassador’s and the President’s residence as well as the Dublin Zoo and a bunch of deer in a field (pictures are forthcoming).

First of all, I never would have seen this stuff if I hadn’t gone for a run (about 5.7 miles, by the way). Like in Amsterdam where I was passing the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, I was seeing the world one foot in front of another. There’s nothing more interesting than site seeing while you run and boy does it make the run go by quickly.

Secondly, without fail someone will ask me for directions when I’m out running. I’m not sure if I look like a local (I don’t) or whether people just consider runners to be locals (maybe) or think that if they run through the streets that they probably know the streets names (not in my case), but I get asked for directions all the time.

Third, I get to understand the city’s layout for when I walk around later. I can generally recognize areas and get an idea of what I want to investigate more.

Finally, and this relates to the second point, I like feeling like a local. I do whatever I can to try to fit in by using the same lexicon as the locals (“cheers” instead of “thank you” and “straight-away” instead of “straight ahead”, to name two examples). I also try to find local restaurants, bars, etc. so that I can feel more at home. Running makes me a part of the city like few other things do.

Plus, there’s nothing wrong with killing a couple calories along the way. It just makes room for good Irish beer!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

1,000 Miles and Counting!

While on vacation, I reached the 1,000 mile mark! I started tracking in May of 2007 and it took more than a year to do it, but I did it. Onward and upward from here. It’s been a great journey so far and I can’t wait to see what the next 1,000 miles brings and what cities I’ll be in to help make it a reality.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Just flew in from Dublin and boy are my arms tired

I couldn’t resist the cheesy, old joke. I got back from Europe today after my month long trip and vacation. I saw some amazingly beautiful sites during my trip and have a whole new appreciation for the natural beauty of open fields and mountains.

I anticipate that I’ll need a day or two to get my body clock adjusted and then I’ll hit the roads again. It was in the 60s in Europe but it’s in the 80s and 90s in New Hampshire, so I’ll have to be more strategic in my scheduling. The good news is that I don’t have class until the end of August, so I can afford to run early or late or both. Since I’m now training for 48 Miles in 48 Hours, I need to get to the multiple per day runs.