Saturday, August 24, 2019

Update on Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes

What can I say?

These shoes are awesome. 

Since May 17th (about 3 months) I've run 270 miles in them and they have totally changed my running life. In general, my pace is about 30s/mile faster at the same HR, which is about 5% improvement. My recovery is much faster: muscle soreness after hard runs less, and in fact I do a lot less foam rolling and it seems I don't need it..

My Garmin 935 has a feature where when you start a run, after about a mile it tells you your "performance condition" +1 , -2 , etc. This is based on (I think) the half marathon time results (time, HR) put in as my benchmark vs what you're doing on that run.

When I wear the Vaporfly's, it regularly tells me my condition is +4, that's because my HR is very low for the pace I'm running. When I flip back to my Kinvara 10's, it's usually a -2 or more.  This is pretty huge. The difference is like night and day.. ..I'm also a Strava runner and i've been breaking some of my old segments records from 4-5 years ago.  I do these runs where I hit  paces that I thought were long gone.

I'm looking forward to a road race soon. Probably I'll do the Quarry Lakes half. ..not a pure road race (some crushed rock) but haven't found anything better that fits my schedule. We'll see. There is also the Trailblazer 10k but not sure I'll be in town.

Stay tuned. I have also bought a pair if the Vaporfly Next %, and they are a bit different but also good. A review shortly...

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Rundown: Golden Gate Marathon (#33)

Ran this race back in 2012 and did it in 5:42. Age grading that 7 years later gave me a target time of 6:03. 

I am not nearly as well trained now in relative terms as I was back then..e.g. no long runs since March, but I did run the San Lorenzo River half marathon **which is nasty hilly ** as an attempt to get somewhat ready. I ran it in 3hrs and was pretty darn sore for a few days after.

I knew that the GGM course was easier ..i.e. less steep on the hills so I figured 3 hours would be a decent split for the first half then see how we hang on for the second loop. All trail marathons pretty much do the marathon as two half marathons. This is somewhat of a drag if it's a dull course, but for a course like this it's just fine. It's nice on the 2nd loop when the halfers are all done and it's just the few and scatter full marathoners. 

The forecast Saturday was cool (~58) but sun coming out and warming things up close to 70. That's a bit too hot but not totally outlandish, also I knew i'd be up on the high ridges where the seabreeze would be much cooler.

Three days prior to the race I got an email that there was a course change. The beautiful Coastal Trail was closed for construction at my favorite segment: the part that faces the GG bridge and SF views. BOO!  Wendell had a re-route that would make the total elevation the same and would provide some views (from Bobcat trail).  BUT, two days later we get another email and Bobcat is also under construction so we are forced to use the Miwok trail. Ugh. 

This year the park service had us parking at a lot about 1.5 miles from the Rodeo beach start location and we have to take a shuttle bus to the start, which was at 7:15am. The lot was almost full when I got there and at the half start there were about 240+. This is a HUGE turn out.  

I ran into fellow Blogger Paulette Ference and her husband at the start.

The halfers started at 7pm and we all lined up at 7:10 and off we went at exactly 7:15. 

The weather was nice a foggy and cool. The only downside for me, as in my previous run is that the mist settles on my glasses and makes seeing the footing more difficult. So I have to stop and wipe them off when ever the trail is rugged and they have built up too much water.

Most of the course is fire road but some of it is single track and a tiny bit is asphalt. The course profile is pretty simple: a climb right away to 750', a  descent to the Tennessee Valley trailhead/aid station, then a climb to 950' road with same slope the whole way..and then some rolling descent with random ups and downs to the 13.1 mark.

The good news is that the big hills are gone before you hit 20 miles in the marathon.

Because of all the rain this year there were a LOT of flowers, I had to stop and take a snap of these pretty purple flowers ..they were all over (a sweet pea family says Google Lens). 

After the start there was a fair amount of congestion. Of course the young and strong folks were running the initial hill, but most folks were power walking and some not so fast, so this jammed things up.

There are a few places with stairs and these really slowed people down for some reason. I just hung back ...we're in this for a long time so no point getting all type-A about it.

Coastal trail run races are chip timed for the finish, but not for the they are really gun time. So, if you do hang back at the start you are losing some time..but I still don't care 8)
I remembered the trail from 7 yrs ago and when I descended down to the first aid station at about 4 miles it all came back to me. I filled up my single bottle, ate a few potato chips and headed up the long next climb. I had taking one GU 5min before the start, and another after 30min and from then on every 45 min.

After a nice, long runnable descent from the second climb to 950' we hit the last 5 miles of the 13.1 loop that had some small ups and downs (you can see on the profile). As part of the course re-routing Wendell had a 'spur' trail that was used to total up the distance to exactly 13.1. At the turnaround point you had to remember to pick up a rubber band (and another on the 2nd loop!) so that if you were in contention for a prize you could prove you had done this segment. A nice added features of spur trails is you get to see other people as you face each other on the out-and-back. 

As it turns out, the course re-routes did not take away and great views this day: the fog did that! It never totally lifted....and that was great because it kept things cool. With such a long time on the course that's a good tradeoff.

Ok so I hit the half at 3:00-ish and had to stop on a bench to take a stone out of my shoe...perhaps I should get a pair of gaters? There was a lot of loose soil and gravel on some parts of the course. 

Off on the second loop. I could tell I was really pretty toasted and I texted Toni to that effect and also that I thought the second loop would take 1/2 hour more.  The first climb was ~2m/m slower and later the downs were also 2m/m slower because my quads were shot and I had to walk on some places I had run on the first loop.

At this point I ran into a couple of young guys in the marathon that were not doing well. It turned out both of them had got from zero to gnarly trail marathon in just a few months...hmm...the bravado of youth. I chatted with both of them for a time but eventually they faded more than I was. Both of them finished 10-15 minutes after me and it was all lost in the last few miles. Hopefully they'll be better prepared next time. At their ages they could easily smoke me with a little more training.

I was pretty happy that even though I had walking bouts I was still able to run and made steady progress, finishing in ~6:32:30 ....good estimating on my part!

Place 31/39
Sex Place 17/24

What's next? No idea!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rundown: San Lorenzo Half Marathon 2019

This race was a warmup for my first trail marathon in a long time. My last real hilly trail race was the Big Basin marathon in 2015 (!).  I focused on road marathons for a while after that and then the whole wonky hip wear-out happened...and then  about a year to return marathon capable fitness. 

San Lorenzo has very steep hills so I decided the half would be a prudent first trail race and be good training: three weeks after this race I'm signed up for the Golden Gate marathon.

I am excited to do the GG Marathon again: I think it's one of the most beautiful trail races around.

I have been running decent amounts (with life getting in the way here and there as usual) but not doing much hill work (I live and work in flat areas near the bay). So I hit the stairmaster for couple of 30-45 min workouts two weeks prior and also did more hill running. 

I've run the full marathon at San Lorenzo twice, in 2011 and again most trail marathons you run the half course twice. The basic half marathon course is an out-and-back with a river crossing in the middle. There are 2 pretty steep hills and you hit them out and back: 

 I was a bit apprehensive about the river crossing: would the water be really REALLY high? (I.e. over waist level?) . I bought a small water-tight box for my car fob just in case..and also didn't take my cellphone.....they take lots of pictures for you on the course. 

I was worrying a bit about the downhills: I must not fall!  If I fall on my new hip and break it would be very bad. There are some very rocky sections. 

This year the turnout was seemed huge..the start was very congested....nothing but slow walking. The initial trail is single-track, passing is difficult. It took 17+ minutes to do the first mile.

My goal was to keep the HR up in the 135 range and higher on the power walking uphills. I fell shy on the average (133) because of the downhill stretches but overall I was happy with the effort I was holding on the ups.

The river crossings were easy peasy..I don't take off my shoes but instead put vaseline on my feet (so they don't get softened by being wet and get blisters) and I sprayed my shoes with water repellent (so they would't get heavy). This worked well.

There was a guy sitting and taking off his shoes and socks when I got there on the way back and I just plowed right into the water. Behind me as I got out of the water I heard him shout and fall and....laugh. He slipped and got his shoes and socks wet anyway!

Overall, I found that the hills were not as scary as I had remembered. When I reached the river on the way back I was shocked that I was there so quickly. ....generally the time passed faster than I thought it would.

Writing this up the day after I'm still sore in my legs but not too bad.
On to the Golden Gate Marathon!


Overall : 71 / 131
Males   : 46 /  67
M60-69 :  4 / 12  

2019-06-22 Sat
SplitTimeCMilesPaceHR% WHRElev+Elev-YPB

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review: Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit shoes

Nike got a lot of attention when they created the first version of these shoes. Nike sponsored a sub-2hr marathon attempt that resulted in a 2:00:25(!) 

The shoes were tested with elite runners on treadmills and based on HR lowers at the same pace they determined a savings of 4% energy output (vs previous shoe tech).

You can read elsewhere about the carbon fiber plate and fancy new foam tech that make these shoes so light (7.5oz) and springy. 

The first Vaporfly's were impossible to find and super expensive. Lots of scammy looking deals on Amazon for big $$$. They also had a reputation of being really fragile and wearing out very quickly. I did not bite. 

This is the second version of these shoes and so finally: I was able to find them (from Fleet Feet) for the Nike advertised retail price of $250. This is 2X+ my Kinvara 10's (~$110)...would it be worth it? At that price my plan was to use them for races only.

What's it like to run in them?

I have done 3 runs in them so far. The first run was a very short tryout of 3 miles with a mile of that on flat dirt.  The feeling was bizarre: I felt like I was running through a bouncy house. It seemed like my HR was lower than usual but on such a short easy run it was hard to tell.

The second run was after a rest day: I was ready to hammer! I had not done a really hard run in quite a while and wanted to see what these shoes could do. I really got into them at the faster place and figured out how get a comfy stride.

Upshot: I ran 7.5 miles at 8:50 m/m pace, average HR 131 (my max HR ~160) 

This is one of the fastest decent length runs I've had in quite a while at a sub-9 pace. In fact, I had to look back to 2013 to find a run with the similar pace and low 130's HR. 6 years at my age (63) means about a 6% it looked like for me the improvement was 6% rather than 4%. (This is not surprising to me, as some of the articles mentioned that for slower folks the benefits might be bigger.)

I ran 9 miles today, a hilly course so hard to compare, but boy did I feel great again!

I haven't seen anybody say this before (or didn't see it) but it came to me after my first run:

I can train harder because I can recover faster.

Getting a bump up in efficiency is great, but being able to train harder is also huge. At my age I find that doing hard days (intervals, tempo runs, etc) really beats my legs up from the pounding.  This limits how much training I can do at higher heart rates.

The post run feel with these shoes is different: reduced soreness. The muscles have been used for propulsion, but not (as much) for shock absorption. 

In another few months I will post again about this...stay tuned!

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Rundown: Napa Valley Marathon (#32)

Any day you can run a marathon is a great day! 

This is still true 8).  (Especially after having had a hip replacement!) 

We hit the expo (a very small one in the Napa Marriott) to pick up the bib and got a very nice zip bag with the marathon logo.

Off to Bottega for a Polpo salad and double portion of a very nice vegan pasta and  a couple of glasses of wine we headed up to the Calistoga Motor Lodge which is just a few steps from the start.
This place had been renovated recently and was really nice ..I was glad I signed up early as it was pretty close to full. We had a nice end unit and was very quiet. 

I slept well but got up at my usual 6:45am (start time 7:30) and started getting prepped. I do everything according to checklists as my cognition is poor at that hour ;) 

Walked to the start about 7:15am. There were the usual pacers with target pace signs on sticks in the crowd of about 1696 marathon runners. The usual national anthem (sung by local high schoolers) and off we go down the SiIverado Trail  (the road that runs down the east side of Napa Valley)

At first all I could think was "Hey, it's been a while since I've done one of these". I had many  conflicting thoughts: I knew my training had gone well, but it had been a long time since I've run a marathon and I had just worked my self back from my hip replacement. Were my muscles ready? 

I was continuously evaluating how I was feeling vs the hills and my initial estimate of what I thought I could do. In my last post I thought I would do the first 10 miles at 10:50 pace, the next 6 at 10:40 pace, and the last 10 at 10:30 pace, if average-ish of 10:40 pace seemed about right.

I have not been running many hills in training (no big ones where I run in the baylands) and I once I hit some of the big ones .... I slowed down (of course) on the ups, but did not make back the time lost on the downs. My average pace was about 10:47 after the first 8 miles and it pretty much stuck there. I was not unhappy with that so decided to just see how I felt  and run to that. 

My mile splits bounced around quite a bit between 11+ and 10:30 but my overall average pace stayed the same the entire race. I was not confident this would stay true. 

The weather was really too hot (about 50F..I prefer 45F) but not a disaster. It was cloudy and so there was no sun. 

Toni managed to get to the mile 9 split:  it's not easy to spectate this race as there are roads that enter the Silverado trail but there isn't much side parking on most of them. I gave Toni the cowbell that we used in previous races and it's great: It has a different tone than the usual ones sold at marathon expos. I was able to pick out the sound far before I could actually see Toni..this was fun!

I caught up to the 10:50 pacer-guided runners and my watch was showing an estimated 4:42 marathon... so I mentioned this to them...there were going out fast.  They had reasons for going so fast but in my opinion they don't make sense:  I think the best marathon is one that is run with even splits or maybe slightly negative.

I continued on to the half marathon point. Along the way about every 2.5 miles the aid stations were manned by the locals and school volunteers and they did a great they also did back in 2009. I took only water but they also had Nuun, and after 20 miles they had some orange slices and other things. I'm pretty self sufficient with my gels I take every 45 min, so I only took water. 

At the half marathon split it was time to evaluate and I thought to myself, "hmm I feel more toasted in my legs than I think I should be, given this pace": that had me concerned.  At around this point a nasty headwind had developed. Probably around 5-10 mph on the nose. A rule of thumb on the internet is that a wind about the same as your pace costs you about 12s mile. This wind was stronger and so was probably costing me 15s - 20s per mile of equivalent effort. I stayed at 10:48 but probably would have been able to speed up a tad otherwise.

This race is so sparse with runners that drafting is not really an option. In a crowded race you can get away with it. (especially if the victim is listening to music with earbuds 8)...but here, no.  

Drafting works really well to reduce running energy cost and actually benefits BOTH runners: the follower gets the windbreak, but still has suction from the vortex shedding off the back, and the leader breaks the wind but has no vortex shedding.  

A danger is that you overstride and hit the foot of the leader: they go down..HARD (since they have no warning) . Therefore, you need to stay well back! You can feel when you are in the draft on your ears and face..there's a buffeting feeling to the wind.

The miles ticked 16 I felt a bit better about my relative level of leg 'toastedness' of the legs. So I kept on keeping on.

Right around here I heard Toni's cowbell again and we had another meet up. I was (as always) pretty gross with drippy nose etc so I only kiss her on the forehead 8). As I departed Toni pointed out the sun was coming out (notice shadow in the very last photo of me waving goodbye after the results) and I turned back and said, 'Yes, and that is BAD.". It was getting too warm.

From about mile 8 to now we all at settled out in our pace order.  I was only passing people that had gone out way way too fast and were slowing down.  It always amazes me the people that think they can run a marathon with minimal training.. when you hear a guy huffing and puffing at mile 8 it's not good.

These people that try to 'bull their way' through a marathon all seem to wear earbuds, thinking that music will pull them through. Music and determination will only get you so a marathon you need grit but you also need to be smart.  Grit gets you the last 10%  (which is a lot!) but without a training base you are doomed to have a bad day (unless you have some amazing genetics or grew up running to school every day like the African elite runners). I passed several people in this situation early in the race and never saw them again.

As usual, several people were doing a 'run / walk' method, which works very well from what I've heard. There is some advantage their, there makes some sense since virtually every ultramarathon runner does at least some of this.

I early on I was passed by a few people from time to time and one of them was a women with a fairly big tattoo on the back of her left calf that said "Run."

At this race there is a very very long hill from mile 19 to 20.5. I ground up that hill and then bombed down the back side happy to know that was it for the hills. Sadly the downhill is too steep to optimally milk the altitude for speed:  you have to brake a bit every step.

On the final 6 miles is where you make or break..this is the infamous "Wall" territory. I was doing pretty well but listening to my body for any problems. I found one: my left thigh was sending me some 'tweeky' micro spasms from time to time. Not much,  but enough to notice. I changed up form a bit to try to help shift the stress to other muscles but it was still there.

Legs were more and more into 'dark toast' (aka BURNT) territory but I could still hold the same pace, on average. Earlier the miles had gone by fairly quickly, but now they were taking longer and longer. I was passing more people that were run-walking by now. 

At mile 23 I caught up to the women with the "Run." tattoo ..she had been walking and when she started running I happened to be passing her at that moment. I asked her if it was a real tattoo or washable one and was the real deal.

In this last miles, if you are prepared you can hold pace but it costs more and more effort the farther you go. Luckily when you start to get close..i.e. about less than 2 miles..knowing the finish is so close gives you some energy and so, both of us held pace fairly well, slowing down to about 11:00m/m. She had had more left in the tank clearly so I told her to take off about about half mile to go.

I waited until the last .2 of the 26.2 to go split there shows 9m/m. Lots of cheering people and hearing the announcer call out your name and city in the final 50 meters helps too 8)

In the end I did a small negative split..20 seconds faster in the second half..pretty proud of that.  My right hip felt totally fine the entire race (and now afterward). 

This race was famous for letting you use the showers in the Gym area (The "Home of the Crushers"). However a big FAIL: the showers were water at ALL. What? Do they have wells there? So....cleaned up with some paper towels and off to Hop Creek Brewery for Beer and Burger and then the drive home.

Results: basically dead even splits (actually 20s faster in 2nd half) and decent finish placement. 


NB: A big thanks to Dr. Graw and the folks at PAMF orthopedics, and to my 
physical therapist, Sonja Bauer

Bib Number1446
MARATHON864 of 1696
Gender Place526 of 954
M 60-6424 of 53
Start Time07:31:15
6.2 MILE01:07:03 10:48 min/mi
13.1 MILE02:21:37 10:48 min/mi
20 MILE03:36:06 10:48 min/mi
Pace10:47 min/mile

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Wet Race tomorrow!

Looks like it will be a wet race tomorrow, just like my experience 10 years ago! Not the most fun but a lot better than being HOT: Temps should be in the mid-40's (F) at the 7:30am start and low 50's at the finish.

Unlike my first race the winds will be light (< 3mph) and that's great: 10 years ago there were some headwinds the entire race!

Can't be more rain than the 2011 LA marathon, that race was cold, windy and had 1.7 inches of rain. 

I cut a pace band for 10:40 pace / 4:40 finish. I plan to do first 10 miles at 10:50, next 6 at 10:40 and then see if I can do the last 10 at 10:30...playing it by ear at that point.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2 Weeks to Napa: Training done!

This Sunday was my last 20 miler at two weeks to race. That makes a total of 3, which I feel is better than only one or two. At least it seems to work for me.

For the next two weeks I'm in the 'taper':  we want to bounce back from all the running stress, but we want to preserve our conditioning at the same time. On race day, we should be fully rested and recovered from the heavy training but still very fit.

Typical marathon schedules for beginners have only one 20 miler, and have it 3 weeks before the race ...i..e a longer taper. After I got experienced I felt I was losing too much conditioning with 3 weeks...and I've met many multi-marathon runners that feel the same.

It was great weather for my run: cold (35F!) , clear and sunny. But 5 miles into my run I found a roadblock!:

The ped/bike underpass of highway 101 was closed due to flooding of the river which had left a ton of mud.

Argh! What to do? Eventually I found my way back to the Shoreline road overpass of 101 and connected up with the Steven's Creek trail again.

The air was super clean from all the rain we've had and it was truly a wonderful day! 

For various reasons I couldn't do my 20 miler until Monday (a holiday) and so I'd had two rest days after my last run: legs feeling pretty fresh. Eventually it warmed up enough that I could shuck my jacket and it was totally perfect running weather.

When I came to the Charleston Slough Levee I found this:

Can you see the little white dots? They are Black Crowned Night Herons. I see them often but in this case there were 30+ of them! ( A "siege" of herons). Each one was spaced out from the next by 3-5 feet (let's get close...but not too close) and they went on and on. I have no idea why they were doing this.

They look like this when they are closer:

I have been running the baylands for 12 years and have never seen so many in one place! Usually they are quite solitary. 

My run went really well and I managed to speed up a bit in the second half for an overall pace of 10:37 min/mile.  I have been pondering my marathon goal pace and after this run I think that a 10:40 pace might be reasonable.

If I take my first Napa Marathon pace (my first marathon) of 10:05 and scale it to my current age (10 years older) that suggests 10:51 as my pace. That's pretty close to 10:40. 

But more telling was that I felt pretty good at the end of my 20 miles and thought I could have easily handle another 6. Granted Napa has some hills which will cost a few minutes. But I'll also be more tapered and feeling even more full of beans (I hope). 

The long and short of all this thinking is: assuming we have good cool weather and not huge headwinds on race day I think 10:40 m/m is a good starting pace. If I'm right I'll finish strong, with no walking, and with close to even splits for first half vs second half.

You heard it here first!

Sunday, February 03, 2019

4 weeks to Napa Valley Marathon and a Double Rainbow

 4 Weeks out and my second of three 20 mile long runs this Sunday. 

There was a threat of rain....I got up at 6am to hit a weather window until 11am that looked like it would be fairly good

And indeed it was magical! For ~1.5 hours my run had views of this beautiful double rainbow. (Sorry for the tilt ...pano feature not easy to use)

All the other runners/bikers/walkers were taking zillions of pics too 8)

The rainbow was so bright you can see (in the pic on the right) the reflection of the rainbow in the water.

As for the run, I took it slow as I had already run 26 miles in 4 runs earlier this week, with some hard running mixed in, so I was not feeling as strong as I might. Total for the week is 46 miles, one of my higher weeks. 

I'm feeling good in general and slowly getting stronger. 

My hip feels totally normal now: I have no soreness or any feeling different than my left hip. My right hip has more flexibility than it did pre-op, actually. (That joint was not properly reason why it wore out so fast)

Thinking about race pace,  my current notion is 10:45 min/mile. I will re-evaluate in two weeks after my last 20 miler.

The last pic is of the new boardwalk from the nature center, across the salt marsh, out to the south bay. They did a great job. 

NB I just checked and next Sunday will be exactly one year since my first outdoor run, post-op! Whoo-hoo!