Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quick note on Copenhagen ..

The weather was great,  crowd support fantastic and jetlag in absence.

Ran a 4:10.xx,  even splits. I felt strong last 10k.

I took 66 pics of this picturesque city on the run but you'll have to wait 8)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I got dunked.

No not drunk, dunked 8)

Monday, I had my appointment for my body fat measurement. It was you may recall my scale tells me I have 24% -ish body fat. Since I am 6' 1" tall and weigh 172 lbs this body fat percentage seemed a bit high and I wanted to calibrate the scale (and myself) for future reference. 

Besides I'm a nerd and science stuff is fun. There, I said it. 8)

Along the way, I had a mini guessing game with the tester..he's seen a ton of people tested and so I asked him what he thought my body fat was....I told him my scale says 24% and my personal guess (doing an add hoc visual-fat-integration over my whole body) was 20%.

Interestingly, it's looking at a person's back that tells him the best idea of what the % body fat is..not the stomach. Once glance and he seems to have a number in his this case he guessed 19%

So, to do this, you lie face down in a big bathtub of very warm comfy water on an underwater metal rack which supports your water born weight. However, the catch is you have to exhale ALL your air in your lungs before you go under water and put all your weight on the rack. Luckily for me, I'm pretty good at surface diving and breath-holding so I had no problem with this...he got a few a good clean readings.

Now that I think of it I wonder how they get a good reading for somebody that's really 'floaty' (aka high body fat)?  Perhaps they give them lead weights to put on and then subtract them out? More likely they just ask you to hang onto the rack and pull yourself under and lock your feet under too..could be difficult for people scared of being underwater...esp with no air in your lungs 8/

Anyway, they weighed me in the water and in the air (172 lbs) plugged the numbers into the formula and.....

....answer: 18.6% body fat. Badda bing badda boom.  For a 30-39 yr old this is smack dab in the middle of normal.  Of course I'm 55 so it's actually listed as better than I'm expected to be a bit porkier at this age  ....8/

This means my lean body mass is about 140lbs. What a nice round number! So therefore, my current body fat is 32lbs.  

A good % number for me would be about 12%-10% body fat ...I would be in the 'athletic' category then which would be a first ....and that corresponds to 155 - 159 lbs. Getting  down to less than 160 would be awesome..this would be worth about 24s+ per mile off my pace for the same heart rate (i.e effort level). 

I'm in no hurry to do this....a ~400/day calorie deficit over the next 20 weeks along with keeping up my usual stuff should do the job. I will mentally re-calibrate my stupid furschugginer scale  and make very sure I don't lose any muscle mass while doing this.

I also had a resting metabolic rate test at the same place and I'll talk more about that another time...

Last Sunday

Bay to Breakers was apparently a hoot...but very VERY crowded. My friend Raminder  did it with his daugther and this is what he had to say about it:

"My first time and ran with my kid. She thought it was one giant rave, indeed B2B is more spectacle than a footrace but it was fun! The weather turned out beautifully - Hayes Hill was one huge megablock revelry. With all those people there were stretches where it was almost impossible to run and with some wet/slick spots from the overnight showers it seemed risky to do so (saw some skinned knees). That and with frequent pausing to take pictures and to gawk :) we finished in 1hr 43mins.

Seriously though with a crowd this large, it just doesn't scale as a run (55k registered and ~43k finished). I am hoping that this was a one off thing because of it being the centennial event and that next year they scale it back down."

Hard to imagine it so crowded you couldn't get through! Yow! 

Next Sunday

Ran 24 miles last week, the first week of my standard 2 week taper. I had some nasty allergies from all the plants going bonkers with pollen that left me pretty tired on tues/wed. This week is the real taper week..only 4.5 today, 3-4 tomorrow and then fold our tent until Sunday. 

Weather forecast for Sunday in Copenhagen changes every's now saying a chance of rain but  my favorite weather site says it's only a slight chance and well into the PM. A slight rain don't bother me none...not after siree...

Assume decent weather and jet-lag not a big factor my plan is same as LA, first half in 2:07, then see if we can speed up a bit.  I would love to beat my LA time by a minute or two and get a 4:10 but we'll see how we feel. 

This course is very flat, unlike LA which yah has a nice downhill in the last 2 miles which bought me 2 minutes but otherwise had a fair amount of up and down. And lots of rivers on the streets 8)

It's been really great doing all these road races so close together as I have a very finely honed feel for how I can do on that day (he says glibly..jinxing it ;) In the end I play it by feel once I've been going for a few miles and adjust based on that.

Friday, May 13, 2011

100 years ago, 4 years ago and today.

This Sunday is the San Francisco Bay-to-Breakers, aka "B2B", which is a 12k (7.456 miles) race. This race was started 100 years ago (i.e. in 1911) to celebrate the comeback of SF after the terrible earthquake and resultant fires in 1906.

The race course is actually quite start on the east side of the city (the bay) and run right across the city from east to west and finish at Ocean Beach...i.e. the Pacific ocean. It's a very popular race, this year over 55,000 people have registered to run it (!).

The race is quite famous for all the zany costumes people wear....there are prizes etc for the best but lots of people do it just to have fun. The race is also infamous for the people that run it aren't supposed to but it's pretty hard to enforce. 

There have been problems with some people using the race as a big party and excuse to get wasted..and the neighborhoods have this year the race organizers and SF police, as well as all the runners, will hopefully keep things better under control so the race can continue for another 100 years.

Four years ago (march 2007) I was 51 yrs old and had just had a physical where my doctor had told me all sorts of bad can read about it in my FAQ here.  I decided then and there that I needed to take care of myself from then on...I wasn't getting any younger and it was really important now.

Me and Toni
I had only been running and dieting for a couple of months but I decided to run the B2B and Toni and some good friends of ours decided to walk it. Here's a picture of me and Toni before the start. 

Toni was dressed as a Viking and I went for just some general wackiness with my flame socks and Wallace and Gromit t-shirt (Cracking Toast Gromit!)

The race was tough for me. I was heavy and out of shape...but I kept a steady pace of 12:23 m/m. Today that pace seems so very very  slow. I remember running it all except for the Hayes street hill, but I would have a hard time running that slow now. 

Here's the finish shot of me.. boy was I tired. I had some leg cramps that made me stop for a half a minute and stretch out..I was lucky nothing broke. I guessing I was still about  30 lbs heavier than I am now.

Toni, Jonna, Lars
We had a great time that's another pic of Toni with our friends Lars and Jonna that lived near us until recently.  They also walked the race and had a enjoyed crossing SF on foot.

The following year (2008) I ran the B2B at a 9:09 pace. After a full year of running, and now down to my 170-ish weight I was ready to try some other races.

I took and eye toward the Napa Valley Marathon which was 3/1/2009 and trained for and ran that at an even pace to finish in 4:25.  

It was Napa that caused me to start writing this blog (after some friends got tired of me talking about things running all the time!).  The Napa race report was my very first blog entry

Sadly, our friends Jonna and Lars had to move back to Denmark, so Toni and I are going to visit them there shortly. I will be running the Copenhagen Marathon which will be my 10th marathon (7 in my year-of-8).

I hope everybody running the B2B on Sunday has a lot of fun!  Next Sunday I'll be across the big pond running my race ..and I'll remember my first B2B and how far I've come since then! 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Next, a nasty hoax..

And so now we go from a visually  entertaining hoax to one that could cost you.  

A hoax that's fleecing a lot of people and making a few people very very rich. The reason I mention this is that apparently these bracelets are being sold at marathon expos. Grrrr.

The video in this article shows how the con is performed...start at just before 5:00 into it to see how it's done.

The article also addresses the question "Why is selling placebo's bad? If it works, it works!".  I personally agree with the article.

But, to each their own I guess.


10 day forecast for Copenhagen looks perfect!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A final hard two weeks to Copenhagen.

Did 9.6 Saturday and 14.5 Sunday me a total of 39.6 miles run this week as well as 6.5 miles of fast walking. I did 6 runs this week which is very very rare for me, usually 5 and sometimes only 4 if I'm doing some fast stuff. No cross training this week because of this.

If you look at my weekly mileages you'll see I'm doing a major no-no..from ~25 mpw to 39 mpw violates the "10% mileage increase per week" rule big time! However, I think it's ok because the Sunday run  was taken very slow...11 min miles (lots of walk breaks) as I could tell I was pretty fagged out from the previous days and didn't want to over do it...just needed the time on my feet.

Two weeks to Copenhagen!


I signed up for the California International Marathon, aka "CIM", (Dec 4th) as my serious PR attempt race. I have lots of time to prepare but I wanted to lock it in as it does fill up. It's a point-to-point (my favorite ;) rolling hill course (but small hills..not like SFM!) with lots of net downhill...well known as a good BQ course in fact...gets good marks for crowds and organization too.

I'll probably pick out a race for Jan or Feb too as a back up in case I catch cold or otherwise can't run CIM well. Perhaps Long Beach or Surf City again? Suggestions?

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Avoirdupois Problem, part III

I'm starting to think about my preparations for a fast fall marathon (sub-4hrs), half marathon,  and 10k.

Initial realization:  I need to lose some weight and the earlier I start the better. If I want to be fast, I need to be light.

Way back  I spoke about my original return to slimness after becoming an porky blob with terrible lipid numbers. I didn't have to count calories or anything, I just reduced my food intake while I gradually upped my miles. I have managed now to stay in the 169-173 lb range for the last couple of years without effort.


After the recent trip and generally low mileage weeks I've floated up to 175.  And..while back I bought a fancy new scale with a body fat readout and it's been saying that I have 24% body fat. This number was kind of shocking and I've been ignoring it. But it's probably not that far off.

I don't look like I have 24% body fat to most people: I'm 6'1" tall and have the kind of body that accumulates fat all over rather than just on my stomach. Kinda like an all-over wet suit.

However, if true, it's actually good news in a perverse kind of way because it means I have a lot to lose safely, and therefore a lot of speed to gain.

I recently read Matt Fitzgerald's book "Racing Weight" and he suggests that for somebody of my age a target percentage of 8-17% is reasonable. 

(As you get older you accumulate fat on your internal organs and it is not possible to lose this fat in an easy way. Try to get too low on your fat percentage and you will slow down because you lose muscle mass rather than just fat.)

If that 24% number is true, that means that at 174 lbs I have 43 lbs of fat. 174 - 43 = 131 lbs of lean body mass.

At 17% body fat,  I would need to get down to 157 lbs  (131lbs lean and 26 lbs fat)...i.e. lose 17 lbs. At 15% body fat,  I would need to get down to 154 lbs  (131lbs lean and 23 lbs fat)...i.e. lose 20 lbs. This is basically what I weighed in college. Zowie.

Hitting these weights is not going to be easy. I found before that below 170 lbs I need to really work hard to get the weight lower. Matt's book has a lot of good ideas about how to push down to these kinds of percentages.

How much speed can I gain from getting down to 154? One site says a rule-of-thumb is "2 seconds per mile per pound"..for a 20 lb loss that would be 40 seconds per mile or about 17 minutes in a marathon...not bad! But a fixed delay per pound seems overly simplistic: if you weigh more an added pound is less noticeable and therefore should have less percentage effect.

A science derived calculator is  here .  It allows you to play around with both age grading and weight grading...I get a result of about 11 minutes for dropping 20lbs (again, for the marathon distance). (To use for weight grading only: enter your stats and note your age/weight graded time, now change your weight to your target and speed up your entered race time until the age/weight graded time is the same as noted before.)

On hilly trail courses I suspect the benefits from being lighter are much much greater than either of these estimates (probably 1% improvement in pace for every 1% weight lost). In addition, Matt F quotes studies that report having fat on your legs (like me) is more of a handicap than fat on your belly (because your legs are moving back and forth I assume). So I think 11 minutes for a marathon is a lower bound.

There are training advantages to being lighter besides the immediate racing speed. For the same amount of time, you are logging more miles, which builds even more fitness. Or you can keep the paces as before and reduce the stress on your body and really build up the miles (if you have the time).


So far, I'm suspecting  this 24% number (actually 23.8 this morning ;) may be a bit high, so I'm going to get a better reading in a water tank with these guys in a couple of weeks to calibrate the scale. So if the tank says 21% I know that the scale reads 3% too high.

I'm also getting  BMR (base metabolic rate) testing just for fun. As I get closer and closer to the target weight it will get more and more difficult to lose weight....counting calories should help make sure I am down enough to do the job, but not losing too much and mess up my training or losing muscle. Getting BMR from a measurement, rather than an estimator tool will make this a lot more accurate.

Both of these tests together only cost $90, so it's not that big a deal. Besides, science is fun! 8)


Only about 15 miles for the week so far, I've been recovering from the jet lag which takes a while. Last night I slept 10 hours straight and feel a lot better today. 

The plan for the weekend  is a 7-10 miles on Saturday and 15-22 on Sunday, with pace and distance totally guided by how I feel. This will be my first long run since the S2S on April 10th....I really like my long weekend runs and have been missing them (due to 50k recovery and then travel)!

Sunday will be two weeks out from Copenhagen, marathon #7 in the year-of-8!  Since my mileages are low I don't really worry about tapering that much...we have this down to a science now ;) 

The only interesting wrinkle (besides the usual weather variable) will be the effect of jet lag. I'm flying in a few days before, but not enough to adapt fully. 

PS: Still no medal or coaster in the mail from S2S. Bah.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Home and 1390 miles later...

Finally back from the trip to Malta...great trip! The wedding we attended was a ton of fun and met a lot of really great people from all over the world. I managed 4 runs there..which isn't bad considering the travel time and jet lag, not to mention the parties ;)

I also learned about the Great Siege of Malta in 1565..I don't think I'll every forget it since the history about it is everywhere 8)

This morning I woke up early since my time is all messed up and did a 6 mile run. I was bit tired but ahhhh: such beautiful weather and my wonderful tree-lined streets. (Malta streets and sights  are exotic..but car-crowded and lots of old style diesel trucks and buses..cough cough..). It's good to be home! Having a tough time catching up with all my bloggy friends now!

I noticed today  that I have been using for a full year now and have 1390 miles for April to April...this is actually pretty low miles because of all the marathons. What with only a few weeks between marathons and with taper / recovery it actually limits your mileage quite a bit.

I have two more marathons coming up: Copenhagen on 22 May, and then a hill trail marathon on 6 June and then I should be a marathon maniac!

No responses to my challenge for some new challenges...the crickets chirped. I thought about it and came up with two ideas:

Idea #1: The Running Rally (similar to car rally)

The rally is for a specific total time, e.g. one hour.

Each person then gets a list of distances with specify paces to run (determined by your fitness level and what kind of workout you want).  e.g.   1 mile @ 10:00, .5 mile @ 9:00, etc...all adding up to the one hour.

You run the distance carrying your Garmin but without being able to see it...i.e. blind.. (no beeping splits or heart rate monitors visible either ;)....the idea is to be really good at estimating distances and paces to show how in touch with your body you are.

You get penalty points for each second you are over or under your split for each distance segment. The person with the fewest penalty points wins.

I think it is a pretty fair competition for all ability levels, i.e. everybody can complete against each other. 

Idea #2 next time.