Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekly training recap and CIM elevation data

Friday called for a nice simple base run:

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Max HR Avg Cadence YPB
1 1.00 10:09 109 128 86 1.591
2 1.00 9:43 118 129 86 1.535
3 1.00 10:02 114 124 85 1.539
4 1.00 9:48 115 124 86 1.562
5 0.86 10:09 117 122 85 1.484
Summary 4.86 9:58 114 129 85 1.550

This run felt pretty good considering the earlier speedy work during the week

Saturday I was supposed to cross train for 40 min and do weights, but I was busy and also still having some nasal congestion so I decided to have rest day

Sunday was called out to be a progression run, i.e. do 6 miles at base and then speed up
each mile for 12 miles until running at HM pace. The nasal crud is still there but better each day a tiny bit. Doesn't seem to bother me too much though:

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Max HR Cad YPB
 1 1.00 9:40 112 153 85 1.626
 2 1.00 9:46 115 120 85 1.567
 3 1.00 10:03 117 133 85 1.497
 4 1.00 9:41 116 120 85 1.567
 5 1.00 9:37 116 122 84 1.575
 6 1.00 9:59 118 125 84 1.494
 7 1.00 9:30 124 128 85 1.494
 8 1.00 9:20 130 138 86 1.451
 9 1.00 9:03 128 135 87 1.519
 10 1.00 8:52 134 138 87 1.481
 11 1.00 8:41 139 142 88 1.458
 12 1.00 8:25 143 147 88 1.462
 13 0.01 8:29 144 145 88 1.222
Summary 12.01 9:23 124 153 86 1.512

This run felt really good....in particular I enjoyed splits 9-10-11 where I was really in the zone and going fast. (for me). 

You'll notice I added a column to my data called "YPB" or yards per beat. This is a calculation of how many yards I travel for each beat of the heart. It's a metric of running economy that mushes together pace and HR so you can have a single number as your metric. 

I have used this before and it's very handy for seeing small improvements month to month.

5 runs, 36 miles for the week, 8 miles of it at <9m/m pace
10 weeks to CIM (california international marathon)


I did some study of the CIM elevation profile. Many people have warned that it has a lot of small ups and downs and not just the 340' drop from start to finish.  For example, there's a little 80' steep climb at about mile 11 you can see above.

Alas, the website does not show the total up and total down the way most trail races do, but I found the data over here.

start 357'    gain 243'   loss -552'    net loss -309   finish 48'

Comparing that to my garmin data for my other marathons this is the least hilly race so far. 

Surf City was pretty darn flat but was about 300' of up/down. Copenhagen (which is also "flat") has some minor bumps in it that add up to 600' of up/down to the Garmin. Napa Valley marathon is point to point and  has a similar total drop to CIM, but has over 800' of up/down on the way in small hills. 

And lest you think "Yes, but that's Garmin elevation, which is terrible noisy data", yes, the watch's notion of elevation is very poor..but after you upload to Garmin connect it is vastly improved.

Garmin does elevation corrections as of a while ago...what they do is take your lat/long position (which is very accurate) and reference the topographic data that was gathered by the shuttle on a mission many years ago (SRTM-3 data). This mission did very high resolution radar mapping of elevation at a very fine resolution...so I believe the Garmin numbers  are pretty darn good. 

For example, they show the expected drop from start to finish for Napa within a few feet.

(One spectacular place were the shuttle data fails for garmin is the bridge deck of the GG bridge...this was filtered out of the data (it's too small in width) and so you get a bizzare graph like this:

At about mile 5 you climb a hill to the bridge deck and then: SPLASH!, the graph shows you jumping into the water..swimming to the turnaround observation point where you climb a cliff run round it for about a mile and then jump in again and swim back, etc. Pretty crazy vertical slopes there 8)
This data also won't know about tunnels and such, and in a very heavy tree canopy it might have problems too.

Anyway, more than you probably wanted  to know...the upshot is that I think CIM is a very good course...yes, some hills but not many and twice more down than up. A little bit of hills is good for using slightly different muscles: remember that any glycogen or fats stored in muscles you don't use is of NO use during the marathon.

Coach Jill is off running a trail half marathon this week..we wonder how that went?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mid-week training

Wed: 8.8miles @ Cold getting better and better decided to go for hilly run. I have to run 2 miles to get to any bumps and so it was an 8.8 mile run with two loops of hills. The hills are small..but the California International Marathon's rollers are not that big either so it should be good...

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Max HR Avg Cadence Elev+ Elev-
1 1.00 9:45 111 123 86 0 0
2 1.00 10:23 115 126 85 21 0
3 1.00 10:28 122 133 84 117 23
4 1.00 9:41 123 137 85 54 47
5 1.00 9:21 125 138 86 60 71
6 1.00 9:43 128 139 85 47 45
7 1.00 9:11 125 137 86 0 89
8 1.00 9:31 128 135 85 0 20
9 0.82 10:21 125 131 84 0 3

I ditched my innersoles to the Nike Frees to get more road feel..they were just too stiff. The inners of the shoes are smooth and have no stitching or bumps so this works just fine.


Thur: Late partying last night and too much vino..not a good idea when you are running hard the next day!...coach has me doing 4x10k pace with warm up/down. Still a little bit of congestion (i.e. snot rocket fuel) but less than yesterday.

Today I decided to break in the Kivara 2's

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Max HR Avg Cadence Elev+ Elev-
 1 1.00 10:32 101 111 84 0 6
 2 1.00 7:55 135 141 90 0 10
 3 1.00 8:06 139 143 89 0 0
 4 1.00 8:18 140 144 88 11 0
 5 1.00 8:28 141 144 87 5 0
 6 0.36 11:32 121 142 82 0 0

Basically ran the HR up to 140 and held it there (mas o menos)....could have gone faster but that's not what the coach said to do...so we let the cardiac drift do it's thing.

You can see I slowed down by about 10s for each mile...this would have taken about another 2bpm to counter so I would have been running 148bpm or so by the end to hold 8 m/m. It would have been hard to do this..but during a race I could have done it.

In my old '09 PR 10k (8 m/m) I was running about 155 bpm to hold pace at 4 miles...so I think I'm in pretty good shape considering how little speedwork I've been doing until now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Training recap....colds...and new shoes.

Last week was going great....intervals etc. 

On Thursday (XT day), I hit the pool and swam 30 min. I felt more tired than usual and the chlorine was bothering my nose a lot...also unusual. Got on the rowing machine and felt pretty tired after 5 min so cut my expected 15 min to 10 and moved on to the ellip. Same story there...cut it to 10 min.

I did my weights but could tell I was more tired than usual..I figured it was from the intervals.

By end of workday I could tell I was catching a cold. I had a sore throat and basically was feeling like crap. I probably caught it on the plane back from Ireland last Sunday and it took a few days to incubate.

I went home and slept 12 hours...took it easy on Friday..the sore throat peaked and the congestion set in. That night I slept another 12 hours. (You may notice that I like to sleep a lot..especially when I'm sick)

I gradually got better over the weekend and now finally today (Tuesday) I went out for a 5 mile run at base pace (10:00). I felt good enough and my HRs were all really low..so I kicked it up to 130HR (9:04m/m) for the last mile (which is about my MP HR) which felt great.

I still have crud in my sinuses but running seems to help clear that out...(many many snot rockets  8)

Happy to be back in the saddle!


If you been following my blog you know that I run in Nike Frees a lot. I have a pair I bought in January of '10. They had god knows how many miles on them....probably at least 1000.  

My Kinvaras are more recent...from Feb. of this year, but probably have 500 miles on them...the knobbles are all worn away on the bottom.

Sooo. I figured time to spring for some new shoes. I have become very gentle in my stride running in such worn shoes.....but time for some new padding as we approach our Dec 5th marathon (CIM)!

I bought a new pair of Frees and Kinvaras..they are both blue trim this time...the photo is the Frees of course.

Wow. What a difference the extra cushioning makes. I was really enjoying the extra rebound.

I don't understand why Nike makes the Frees with such a high heel lift  though. I don't need it and that thick rubber makes for a heavier shoe. Perhaps I'll take them over to the shop at work and grind them flat like some have done...8)

I'm was sad throwing away my old Kinvaras...my long run and racing shoes...they saw me through the incredibly wet LA marathon as well as my fun Copenhagen race. I put them in the garage for a bit, telling myself I should recycle them.   I need time to say a proper goodbye before I toss them in the bin I guess 8)

Go away cold! 
Back to training this week!

Tuesday Haiku

a laptop -
on a run taken -
jogged memory -

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet your Muscles: The Piriformis

This little muscle can cause a lot of problems. If you google "wiki piriformis syndrome" you'll find out that it can cause very painful sciatica (which is literally a pain in the butt or down the leg):

Inactive gluteal muscles also facilitate development of the syndrome.[citation needed] These are important in both hip extension and in aiding the piriformis in external rotation of the femur. A major cause for inactive gluteals is unwanted reciprocal inhibition from overactive hip flexors (psoas majoriliacus, and rectus femoris). This imbalance usually occurs where the hip flexors have been trained to be too short and tight, such as when someone sits with hips flexed, as in sitting all day at work. This deprives the gluteals of activation, and the synergists to the gluteals (hamstrings,adductor magnus, and piriformis) then have to perform extra roles they were not designed to do. Resulting hypertrophy of the piriformis then produces the typical symptoms.

Apparently in some people (16%?)  the sciatic nerve goes through this muscle rather than under it and it is thought this can lead to a propensity toward the syndrome.

Seated activities such as biking and rowing can cause problems:

When not balanced by lateral movement of the legs, repeated forward movements can lead to disproportionately weak hip abductors and tight adductors.[8] Thus, disproportionately weak hip abductors/gluteus medius muscles, combined with very tight adductor muscles, can cause the piriformis muscle to shorten and severely contract. Upon a 40% increase in piriformis size, sciatic nerve impingement is inevitable. This means the abductors on the outside cannot work properly and strain is put on the piriformis.

Sigh. Every little muscle in the core can cause such problems!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Me, doing intervals?

On the schedule from coach today was 1 mile warm up,  6x400 @ 3k pace with 3min jogging recoveries, 1 mile cool down.  My 3k pace is alleged to be around 7:41 m/m or 1:55 per lap.

The track is 2 miles from my house, but I am loath to drive to do running so I went very slowly (11:00 pace) over to the track.

I then did this:

Split Distance Time Pace Ave HR Max HR
1 0.25 1:50 7:20 128 137
- 0.29 3:01 10:24 116 137
2 0.25 1:57 7:48 130 138
- 0.31 3:02 9:47 117 138
3 0.25 1:58 7:52 130 137
- 0.30 3:00 10:00 116 135
4 0.25 1:55 7:40 133 139
- 0.30 3:01 10:03 118 138
5 0.25 1:49 7:16 136 145
- 0.31 3:01 9:43 121 145
6 0.25 1:46 7:04 138 146

(Note: I edited the distances from the Garmin to make the 1/4 mile splits actually  .25 (the garmin says .26 - .27 which is quite a large error). I then recalculated the paces with the true distance. All this is done by a tiny python script that dumps an html table if you want a copy....)

Here's cut of the graph of my HR...the peaks you can get from the table, the rested HRs were around 110 bpm.

I really enjoyed doing these. The first one i went out way too fast, figured it out and then sandbagged it a bit to make the time come out not too fast. The second and third ones I was looking at the stupid garmin pace instead of the seconds and so was late. The forth I figured out to watch the time ;)...For the last two I felt pretty darn good and kicked it up a bit. 

 I jogged an easy 10:30-11:00 pace the two miles back home.

I would NEVER have been able to do this workout without breaking during my year of 8 marathons. 


The last 2 PT sessions have gone really well..more about that in another post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Latest MAF test @ 125 bpm

Today 5 miles at base pace was on the schedule from Jill..and it was a cool cloudy morning so I decided to run a MAF test..i.e. run the 5 miles on my usual  flat loop course I use for this, holding 125 bpm (my nominal max aerobic HR). (I do a 1.5 mile warm up before starting the splits)

Here's the results for a month ago, and for yesterday:

8-14-11 9-13-11
09:28 09:16
09:34 09:21
09:33 09:18
09:33 09:17
09:43 09:18

You can see that my paces have improved slightly in the last month. They are as good as they have ever been since I started this kind of testing. As long as you have the same conditions you can see quite small improvements with this testing method without racing. 

I'm not sure if these numbers will continue to improve, in any case I'm now very very close to having the <4hr pace at very low aerobic HR: To run a sub 9:09, I would probably need to run about a 9:04 on the garmin and this is only 15s/mile faster than the MAF pace. 

Currently my speed up vs HR is about 13-14 bpm per min/mile, therefore for 15s I need about 13 * .25 bpm or ~3-4bpm...so my target HR would be 125 + 4 = ~130bpm (at the race start before drift occurs).

This is not a very fast HR for me since my max HR is 168. (tested on a treadmill by a Dr). 

The main issues then are LT (need to push that up well above 130bpm so we don't fade) and basic long run muscle endurance/strength. 

Really trained marathoners can run races much closer to their max HR: for example 145 bpm for my max HR would be a possible goal. This is a full 15 bpm higher than my 9:05 pace HR..and would would give me another min/mile. A BQ even?! 

The fly in the ointment is getting the muscles to actually do this...IMHO, the heart is actually not the problem at all in the marathon. It's all about the legs/muscles/mitochondria etc.

Anyway, I'm encouraged at the progress in my running economy so far. I will do one of these tests every 4 weeks or so until CIM.

I personally like using the HR monitor but for people that live in very hilly areas it would not be nearly as useful. 

Tuesday Haiku

brains can crave it -
also runners -

Monday, September 12, 2011

A weekend in England

I needed to make a trip to Dublin for work...it came up about a month ago. Toni, being the maven of frequent flyer tickets, managed to snag a ticket for herself so she could come too.

We left last Friday evening and had a weekend to spend in Lewes (in Sussex, south of London) visiting Toni's cousins before taking Ryanair over to Ireland. I had not seen them for 8 yrs and the small babies they had then are now in school.

One of the cousins, Rachel, hosted a party for us the evening. We arrived at her wonderful house custom-remodeled by her husband Russell.  (He also builds treehouses!)

Russ and Rachel
A great time seeing all the families together ensued. Rachel had earlier suggested that and her sister Charlotte and I should go for a 10k run the next morning at 7am so I called her on this as we were drinking our Nth glass of wine and they were both game. 

My schedule called for a 10 mile run that morning, and I'd missed my Saturday run  (stuck on a plane of course), so I decided to try to go out an hour earlier to log some miles.  When the alarm went off at 6am it took all my resolve to get up and out. My body was pretty confused about what time it was but I knew that a run was just the thing to inform it that it was now daytime.

I did a 3X1.5 mile loop course around Lewes itself...no traffic on Sunday at that hour so it was quiet and easy. It was cloudy, cool and very humid...I was feeling the effects of the jetlag and party so I trotted along at a dirt-slow 12:00 mile pace.

high point is "black cap"
our destination
Lewes is a very well kept historical town..the buildings seemed all to have had some care in keeping the stonework and paint in decent shape.

Eventually time to pop over to Rachel's house and on the final approach Charlotte tooted her horn as passed by in her car....she had clearly made it out of bed and headed over from her house in Uckfield nearby. (A funny name for a town..they say the "F" is silent ;)

Rachel was ready to go and we headed out with the goal of running 5k to the top of Black Cap, one of the hills on the downs surrounding Lewes. We went up and up, not a huge slope but a continuous climb. Eventually the houses dyed out and we were going "up the downs".

The misty downs (Rachel and Charlotte barely visible
due to super wide-angle cellphone lens)
At the top!
(after about 550' of climbing)
There were lots of sheep and cows on the downs...misty and foggy at the top. Almost exactly 5k on the garmin. We headed back a slightly different way and made it back a minute per mile faster.. It was a great to share a run with Toni's cousins in such a special and exotic (for me) place.

Later we had a pub lunch (yum!) and all went for a walk...seeing stuff like this.

The berries were ripe all over the place..

And everybody chowed down..

I thought this sign was funny...

He approves.
Lewes has a castle that we always like to visit.

We had a great dinner with Charlotte and Phil and Louis at there new house...

Too soon we had to leave....

on Monday morning it was off to Cork, Ireland for a bit of sightseeing before getting down to work on Wed-Thu-Fri in Dublin.

What with all the travel I did not get as much running as I'd hoped but I did get two treadmill runs in. We flew back on Saturday and I slept a solid 12 hours from 7pm to 7am Sunday.

Sunday I felt great and went out for a 15.3 @ 9:58 on my wonderful baylands. The weather was perfect: cloudy and cool and the tide was out so lots of birds feeding on the mud flats. I have missed my long runsThe HRs were indicative of being well rested, very little drift..so I'm in the same shape as I've been for the last year... I think I could have done a 10:00 marathon then and there, no problem. 

Running summary:

Last Sunday: 10.65 miles @ 10:00 to 12:00 m/m , 600' hill
Wednesday: 7miles...75 min on treadmill @10:00 m/m with 40min @ 9:00 m/m
Friday: 3 miles...30min treadmill @ 10:00 m/m
Sunday: 15.3 miles total at 10:00 m/m average,  w/3 @ 9:30 m/m

(treadmill runs done at +1% grade)

Sunday to Sunday about 36 miles.

Let me apologize for not keeping up with blogs on the road and making comments. I will catch up eventually!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Meet your Muscles: The Iliacus

Last week we learned about the psoas muscle. You may have heard your massage therapist refer to the illopsoas muscle....the illiopsoas is actually three muscles: the psoas muscle (major/minor) and the iliacus muscle. 

All these names make me wish I'd paid more attention in latin class 8/

(N.B: the "Illium" is the big "wing" of bone of your pelvis..)

This iliacus is one of our major "hip flexors". Short explanation: you can lift your knee and a take a step due to these muscles! Pretty important eh? 

Unlike the psoas, this muscle does not tie into the spine, so perhaps it's a little less culpable in back pain issues? I really don't know for sure. 

The classic kneeing hip flexor stretch (similar to a karate "lunge punch" position) is used to stretch this muscle ..here's a link on how to do this stretch at the livestrong site.

Here's the  google body link to this picture so you can play around with the dynamic display.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Friday, September 02, 2011

Weekly training recap (midweek), CIM targeted

Mon: Rest
Tue: 4 miles, w/ 2 @ 8:30 m/m tempo (141 HR ~ 80% WHR) + 2x 20s of 4 drill set + weights/strength training after.

Wed: 3.3@10:30m/m + 25min swim @4
Thurs: 4.6@10:18 (ave pace includes recovery walks)  w/ 7 x 40s hill sprints at ~6:15m/m + 2 x 20s of 4 drill set.

Thursday morning I felt a bit stiff after Sunday's 9:00 pace 8.8 miles and Tuesdays tempo + drills and strength training. But after warming up I felt pretty darn good.  Here are the 7 hill sprints and recovery walks....I walked until my HR got down to 110 bpm before I would do the next one:

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence
3 0.12 06:36 128 92   
4 0.04 22:25 129 54
5 0.08 06:09 126 95
6 0.05 19:57 130 58
7 0.10 06:23 129 96
8 0.06 18:07 130 57
9 0.08 06:00 126 96
10 0.11 13:44 130 72
11 0.11 06:36 128 94
12 0.08 18:51 125 58
13 0.10 06:14 122 94
14 0.09 18:25 121 59
15 0.13 06:10 128 97

I was only supposed to do 6 sprints but after so many and getting tired I lost track and did 7.
I'm getting better at these...the muscles are getting bigger and stronger. Why didn't I work on this before? Notice that my ave HR doesn't move much over the set and cadence is of course high ...92-97

Absolutely no rumbles of complaint from anything during the sprints or during the drills after....the 'tweaky' feeling stuff in my right hamstring is gone...calf has nary a word to say.

I had PT visit #3 today and got another exercise to do...more on that in another post.


I'm throwing down the gauntlet for CIM (the California International Marathon)...I was already registered and I booked the hotel today.

The training time is a little shy: I need to get some long runs in but I also need to have faith in my previous long run conditioning still being there to some extent.

I plan to seriously push on this race and run a sub-4. There are never guarantees in marathoning but I think I have a very good shot if the training goes well between now and then and the weather cooperates. I've never felt stronger and Jill and I are just getting started.

CIM is a point to point course, which is my favorite kind. It's a logistical pain in that you have to be bused to the start, but the feeling of actually racing from point A to point B is wonderful and worth it.

The course is a net downhill of about 300', with some rolling hills though. The last 6 miles flattens out and doesn't have any more hills.

It's on Dec 4th, so it's not going to be hot. (In fact it can be darn cold at the start..I'll need to make some disposable arm warmers, etc) 



Thursday, September 01, 2011

Meet your Muscles: The Psoas

Welcome to my new semi-weekly feature..."Meet your Muscles".

Each posting will highlight a different muscle and try to tell us a bit about it and how it might effect our running/biking/etc. I hope you will share your person experiences as I share mine. 

The graphics for these posts come from a site in google labs called "Google Body". Basically it's a 3D model of the internals of a man and woman. There are sliders that let you decide how much of the interior you see. I like the 'many sliders' mode that makes each part separately controllable. For this image I had bones full on all the other stuff full off , and then I turned up the muscles and used the  'pin' feature: you can click on an object and select a little thumbtack to keep the object visible. Then I turned the muscles down and viloa: I have my muscle of the day visible.

Play around with it, it's fun and you can learn a lot about your muscles.

Today say hello to your right psoas major and minor.

This is the muscle that my PT had me work on first. It was tense as a rock. 

Most of us understand the basic limb muscles...e.g. quads, biceps, etc. But when it comes to the muscles of our core, we are (or at least I am) clueless. When I looked at pictures it just looked like a complicated rats nest of stuff in there. Yikes! I've turned all of it off for the picture you see above. 

But the core muscles are the ones that allowed us to walk on our hind legs.

You can see and massage any of your limb muscles directly, but core muscles like the psoas you can only stretch by using your figures to push on your abdomen... through your guts (i.e. intestines) into the muscle.

This, um,  is not something I would think to do, whereas I might rub my arm or my leg without giving it a second thought.

One confusion I had was: "if my right side is longer, but the muscle is rock hard, wouldn't my pelvis be tilted off vertical and then be shorter?". No, not necessarily, I was confusing tension with contraction. A muscle can be in tension and not doing it's job (changing length and adapting to conditions) and not be actually contracting to a shorter length.

After a few weeks of massage, I have found it's much more rare that my psoas is locked up...I check it morning and evening and before and after a run. To loosen it up, I lie on my back and push my extended rigid fingers into my abdomen halfway between my hip bone and my belly button. This point is just to the right of your "six pack" (or in my case, more of a 3.5 pack 8). 

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a doctor. This is the internet, not your doctor...talk to your doctor if you think you might hurt something doing this.

If you find something tight, press gently on it and exhale, then release the pressure, inhale and repeat until it gradually relaxes. You can slide your heel along the floor, bending the knee slightly, and this will tense the psoas and slow you if you are still messed up.

Move the pressure point around a bit side to side and up and down and you may find the psoas minor is tight, but not the major. At this point I've felt them both (I think).

Worried about mashing an organ?... there's no organs below your rib cage that you can mush with your pressing...kidneys etc are all up higher.

The feeling of loosening these muscles is very different than say, taking out a trigger point on your calf muscle. Its a much duller pain when you press ..doesn't hurt as much but feels weird since it's way inside. But if you press on it, just like with other muscles, it will gradually relax.

I'm trying to be aware of when my hips are not moving freely so I can prevent the lock-up. When I run or walk or sit for a long period I try to do little movements side to side, forward and back, to see if my pelvis is still free.

You notice the psoas anchors on the spine itself, which makes it VERY IMPORTANT: lower back pain problems can stem from  psoas problems (or the illipsoas ..a muscle we'll cover later).

Google body link here. Try it out!