Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Guest Race Report

My friend AH, lives in Israel, attempted a 50K ultra on March 27. He did not complete the race but was able to turn the race into a positive experience. He is allowing me to share his experience and lessons learned on this blog.
A Failed Attempt at a 50km Trail Ultra Marathon

This Friday, March 27, I ran in the Pro-Sport Ultramarathon near Megido, Israel. There were some hard-core runners who began the 80 km course at 5 AM. I decided to set my sights low and run “only 50 km.” The course was set up in a way that the starting point was also the finish line. The folks who ran the 80 km first ran a loop of 30 km, with all of the necessary food and water (and flashlights, because they started in the dark,) then returned to the starting point and ran an additional 20 km, then another 2 loops of 15 km each. Those of us who set out to do 50 km, started at 8 AM with the same loop of 20 km that those who set out to do 80 km would run after their first loop of 30.

I had ran one ultramarathon before, in March 2008, in roughly the same terrain, which was a 60 km distance. I didn’t finish anywhere near first, but I set out to had a good time, and I accomplished that goal, and felt very accomplished. Since then I had not ran any marathon-distance races. Over the course of the winter I was focused on training for my first triathlon, a half-ironman distance triathlon in Eilat, known as Israman. I had finished the triathlon at the end of February well within my expectations, in 7:15, which I was happy with. The course was difficult because of the difficult climbs into the mountains of Eilat and the winds that we had encountered there.

Back to the 2009 ultra: As soon as we started the 50 km, the fastest runner of the 80 km loop had just finished his first loop and I started the next loop exactly at the same time as him. Since I know him, I decided to join him for the first part of the run. After a few kilometers of trail running through forests, on single-file trails and up dirt paths, I realized that my heart rate was near maximum (around 170) and realized that I had to slow down. I was wondering why my HR was so high, as I felt great, and was able to keep up conversation with the first place 80 km runner. I slowed a bit, and was gradually passed by a few runners, but still kept up a pace which seemed to be acceptable to me. I was eating gels and dates, drinking water regularly and taking salt capsules. At the steep hills, I made sure to take walking breaks. We ran through wheat fields, through fields of wild flowers, and through forests of tall pine. We passed cows that were grazing in the open and we carefully traversed the metal bridges that were meant to keep the most agile cow from crossing out of the pastures. The hills seemed much steeper this year than they did last year. I finished the first 20 km in about 2:02, and still felt good, but tired. After that, I stopped in to the refueling tent, and filled up my water carrying pack, and grabbed a few more gels, and downed some banana. I was set to go out for another loop of 15 km. As soon as I set out, I realized that something wasn’t right. Although I was eating properly, I felt that my HR was high, even when running slowly. Perhaps I was nervous?

At about kilometer 25 I felt serious cramping in my calves and quadriceps. I was forced to stop and I took a salt capsule and walked a bit. “OK, that should help,” I thought to myself. After a minute, the pain miraculously went away, only to return a minute later. “Wait, isn’t salt supposed to help cramping?” I thought to myself, realizing that it wasn’t just regular cramping. It seems that I had lactic acid buildup in my muscles, and that was what was preventing me from moving. I tried to run, but every few minutes was forced to walking again. I was passed by many people, some asked me if I was OK, and others called out words of encouragement, but to no avail; I couldn’t get myself going again. I brought myself to the refueling tent at kilometer 35, and handed in my race number and chip. Even as I handed it in, I considered putting it back on, and going out for the last 15.

I learned a few lessons from this attempted race, and the reason for writing this post is to share them with others- perhaps I can learn from my mistakes and maybe someone else will too.

1. Listen to your body, very closely: Heart monitors are pretty standard gear for runners today. I had one, but wasn’t really using it. I should have started slowly, but I wasted too much energy in the beginning. This prevented me from finishing.
2. Be prepared: I knew going into the race that I didn’t really have enough kilometers in my legs for this ultra. Although 50km is only a bit over the familiar marathon distance, the terrain made this 50 km a lot harder than a regular marathon on paved asphalt. I hadn’t ran a marathon in a while and I wasn’t really trained for the distance.
3. Take time between races: Deep inside my body, something was telling me that I did not take enough time off after the half ironman. After the long distance tri, I went right into running and preparing for the ultra without seriously thinking about the effects.
4. Know when enough is enough: When I called my wife after I had dropped out and before she was expecting my call, the first thing that she thought was, “I wonder what ambulance he is calling me from.” She calls me crazy, others call me sick, but unless you’re bit by the bug, you don’t understand what it is all about. She was surprised (and proud of me) that I had the ability to call it a day, to end a race before finishing, something that I had never done before. I don’t view myself as a quitter- I just wanted to make sure I got home in one piece that day.
5. Know that you are not superman: I plan on making more realistic goals for myself, and taking into account that I have a full time job and a full time family- exercise and racing are a nice thing to do on the side.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Have You Found My Mojo?

Because if you have, I'd like it back. Woke up this morning at 5:00 to prepare for my 20 miler. Around 6:00 I took a peek outside and it was raining pretty steadily. I've blogged about running in the rain before, so needless to say I took off my running clothes and went back to bed.

When I woke up again at 7:30 it wasn't raining. For some reason I just couldn't get my ass in gear an get out the door. My wife kept asking me, why don't go run, not 20 miles, but for an hour just to get it out of your system. I kept making one excuse after another, I have to buy groceries, I have to pack (more on this in a minute), with my luck it'll start raining the minute I get going. Simply put, I had no motivation to get out the door.

This is not the way I want to be feeling 5 weeks before the NJ Marathon. My plan was to get 3 20 milers, now I'll be lucky if I second one in. See, next Sunday is the Sunday before Passover. My family is going away next Tuesday (April 7) to my parents' place in Boca Raton, Fl. My wife needs to come back during the intermediate days for work. So we have to clean the house to make sure it is chamtez free. I also need to buy her some kosher for Passover food so she has what not to eat while she's home. I was hoping not to run 20 next Sunday so I can be home all day to help prepare. Since I didn't run 20 today, I have one of 3 choices: 1) run 20 next week, 2) run 20 on April 12. I'll be in Florida, and since it's Passover, I can't drink Powerade or take gels. That presents a whole nutrition and hydration problem. or 3) this is out of the box, but I could run from my house to work on Friday. It's just about 20 miles. The problem with this idea is I would have to leave my house no later than 5:00 a.m. Which means I would have to wake at 4:00 to give myself an hour to wake up and prepare. Even if I go with option 3, I still might run 20 on April 12.

I know this sounds very complicated for someone who is not familiar with the laws of Passover. If you are interested in learning more, I'd be happy to explain. Let me just say that there are days where I do not run because I'm observant. Throw in the travel days and there aren't many chances for me to run while I'm down there. All of the confidence I had went out the door today because I missed my run. I need a plan to get it back.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's Up With MotionBased?

Let me preface this entry by saying that I love my Forerunner 305 and I wouldn't think of getting rid of it (except for maybe a Forerunner 405).

With that said, I need to get something off my chest. Is it just me, or does MotionBased suck? Let's look at Wednesday night's workout. The total mileage recorded on my Forerunner 305 was 6.60 miles. When I uploaded the run to MotionBased, the "summary" mileage was 7.02 miles. I could stop here but wait there's more. If you go into "laps" and add up the mileage it sums to 6.61 miles. Why is there such a discrepancy between the "summary" mileage and the "laps" mileage?

I know what your thinking, why don't you use SportTracks? I do. According to ST, the mileage for Wednesday's run was 6.89 miles. There is no discrepancy between the "summary" and "laps" mileage.

If the Forerunner is a GPS watch shouldn't the mileage be the same on MotionBased ("Summary" and "Laps") and SportTracks? It really makes it tough to analyze pacing. I've run the Web Updater and I have the current software. Anyone care to comment?

Wednesday Night Speed Session - 3/25/09

Coach Kate decided to take us off the track and on the West Side running path for a 3 mile tempo run. A bunch of people, myself included, in the group were disappointed because Yves-Marc said last week that we would be doing 400s this week. Brad was once again pacing the 7:00/mile group, except this time he said he wanted us to lead and he would come along for the ride. Since our 5k pace is around 7:00/mile our target pace for the tempo should have been around 7:15 One of the runners who calls herself "The Machine" took the lead and set a very fast pace, around 6:45. I have to admit that the pace didn't feel that hard. The run got harder when we turned around at 57th St. Now we were running into the wind. Our pace slowed but we were able to average 6:59 for the run. What was supposed to be a tempo run turned into a 5k race run. Run details can be found here (lap 7 is the tempo run).

When we got back to Paragon there was a treat waiting for us. TK treated the group to some yummy homemade sour cream fudge drop cookies in celebration of her birthday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fantasy Baseball: Draft Results

I had my fantasy baseball draft last night. I have to admit, I was totally unprepared for this draft. Usually I take some time to think about how I want to approach the draft. This year, I just didn't. I drafted 7th out of 10 teams. Here is my team and where it took each player:
C: Joe Mauer (round 6, 54th overall)
1b: Miguel Cabrera (round 1, 7th overall)
2b: Chone Figgns (round 9, 87th overall)
SS: Mike Aviles (round 11, 107th overall)
3b: Alex Gordon (round 18, 174th overall)
OF: Carlos Beltran (round 2, 14th overall)
OF: Carlos Lee (round 3, 27th overall)
OF Vernon Wells (round 12, 114th overall)
Util: Adrian Gonzalez (round 5, 47th overall)
SP: Brandon Webb (round 4, 34th overall)
SP Edinson Volquez (round 7, 67th overall)
SP: Daisuke Matsuzaka (round 10, 94th overall)
SP Matt Cain (round 13, 127th overall)
RP: Joakim Soria (round 8, 74th overall)
RP: Trevor Hoffman (round 14, 134th overall)
RP: Chris Perez (round 16, 154th overall)
On My Bench:
SS: Jhonny Peralta (round 15, 147th overall)
SP: Derek Lowe (round 17, 167 overall)
OF: Denard Span (round 19, 187th overall)
SP: Chien-Ming Wang (round 20, 194 overall)
SS: Ryan Theriot (round 21, 207th overall)
OF: Cameron Maybin (round 22, 214th overall)

I made one move today. I dropped Maybin and picked A.J. Pierzynski. Mauer will not be starting the season so I picked up another catcher to fill in.

Anyone care to comment?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Long Run

Today was one of those mornings where I was having a hard time getting going. I really didn't want to run in Saddle River Park again. So part of my sluggishness had to with not knowing where to run. The other part had to with not wanting to do yet another run in cold weather gear. It was about 32 at 6:30 when I finally got out of the house. I'm ready for t-shirts and shorts and wish the mornings would warm up already.

I had to be home by 8:40 to drive my wife to work, so I decided to keep things local. I did a few loops of Votee to get warmed up and then headed to the streets of Teaneck, Bergenfield, and Bogota. As you can see from the elevation chart, the route I chose did have some hills. I had no real problems with the hills and was able to recover quickly on the flats.

I ran 13.24 miles in 1:49:29 for a 8:16 pace. A little slower than last week's run but there were no hills last week. Splits and other stuff can be found here: local 13+ miles.

Have a great week of running!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One Way Fantasy Baseball is Like Running

The other night I was on the subway, reading my fantasy baseball magazine and the next thing I know, 2 complete strangers approach me at ask me when my draft is (it's this coming Tuesday). For the duration of the ride we talked about sleepers, which pitchers we like, which resources we use (other than magazines), etc... We parted ways at our respective stops, wished each other good luck, probably never to see each other again.

As runners, this has happens as well. We're lined up for a race and out of the blue we find ourselves striking up conversations with complete strangers. We wish each other good luck, run our race and go home. Chances are slim that we'll that runner standing next to us at a future race.

Isn't great how hobbies have this way of bringing together total strangers?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Luck Brandon!

Brandon, from Brandon's Marathon , and his wife Danielle are running the Shamrock Marathon on Sunday. Please take a moment to go over to his site and leave them some words of encouragement. It's their first marathon. You can also send Brandon e-mail at brandonsmarathon@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday Night Speed Series

Every 4 or 5 weeks the group does what is called a "Fit Test." The purpose of this is measure your progress since the last test. The first time I did this workout I ran with Pacer Brad, who at the time paced 7:30 group. The second time around I ran with 7:00 group but it was more like a 7:15 group. Over the past few weeks, I've been very comfortable running with the 7:00 so I had no qualms running with that group once again. Just like the last 2 fit tests, the workout for our group was 3 x 1600m. Brad's goal was to be right around 7:00 for each interval. The group nailed the workout finishing the intervals in 6:59, 7:00, and 6:59. Here is a link to the workout (laps 3, 5, & 7 are the intervals): Wednesday Night Speed Series

I think the 6:30 group is still out of my league but clearly progress is being made.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Is Hill Training Really Needed?

This is the elevation profile of the New Jersey Marathon. Throughout my training cycle, I've been asking myself if it's necessary to train on hills if the marathon course is so flat. Up until now, I have been pretty good about running on the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges at least once a week and try to incorporate some hills into my long runs. I had a great long run yesterday in Saddle River County Park which has a very similar elevation profile to the NJ Marathon.

So my question to my faithful readers is this: how important is hill training for a race that has no hills? Please comment.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Long Run

Today was probably the best long run I've had in a while. After some stomach early stomach problems which necessitated 2 bathroom breaks, everything came together. I ran 14 miles in Saddle River County Park. Temps were in the low 40s and the skies were cloudy. The main thing I tried to focus on staying relaxed in the upper body. This is something that Pacer Brad, from my Wednesday Night Speed Sessions, is always trying to reinforce. Saddle River County Park does not have the drastic changes in elevation that last week's run had.

I covered the 14.15 (according to MotionBased) in 1:55:35 for a 8:10/mile pace. I ran the last miles in 7:59 and felt like I had a lot left in the tank. Thank you Nike Pacers! Splits and other run details can be found here: 14 in Saddle River County Park.

Have a great week of running.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wednesday Night Speed Session - 3/12/09

After last week's somewhat unusual workout, it was nice be back on the East 6th Track last night. I was not dressed properly for the weather. Temperatures were in the mid-50s and I was wearing a long sleeve tech shirt and tights. I should have been wearing short sleeves and shorts. Thankfully, I was not the only one overdressed. There were a few other guys dressed in a similar fashion while most of the women in the group were dressed properly.

Last night's workout was a downward ladder. After the usual warmup to the track and some stretching we began the workout. Pacer Lauren was pacing the 7:00/mile (5k pace) group. We started off with a 1600m (1 mile or 4 laps), then a 1200m (3/4 of a mile or 3 laps), 800m (1/2 a mile, capped off with a 400m (1/4 mile or 1 lap). After Sunday's 20 miler, my legs were loving the soft surface of the track. I apologize for not providing splits but the battery on my Garmin died.

One last thing... co-worker JS, whom I've mentioned on this blog before, decided to check out the group last night. He's training for a the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in D.C. in a few weeks. JS ran with Pacer Brad at about an 8:30 pace. I caught up with JS during the cooldown on the way back to Paragon. He mentioned that he really enjoyed the speedwork and hopes to come again next week. It's nice to know that I'm playing a small part in getting someone else interested in our sport.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Long Run

Before today, longest long run was 16 miles. Even though the 10% rule says I should only be running 18 miles (17.6 to be exact) I decided to try for 20. I said to mysef, you've run 20 before it should be no problem. My wife needed the car in the morning so I could not drive to Saddle River Park, instead I hopped on one of those jitneys that go along Route 4 and got off at Fort Lee. I arranged with Dailyrunner to meet at the red lighhouse under the George Washington Bridge at 7:30. I started across the bridge at 7:00, when I got across, nature called so I went into the bus terminal to take care business. I met up with DR and we started down the West Side. I've always enjoyed this run. There are some parts, especially in upper Manhattan where it's so peaceful and serene.

The early miles went by quickly, a little too quickly. I said to DR that we need to slow down otherwise I won't be to finish the distance. My my Garmin hit 10 miles (around 24th St.), we turned around and headed back uptown. DR left me at 47th St so I was on my own for a while. somewhere in the 70s I see my buddy JH who had just started his run at 96th St.. He turned around and kept me company until somewhere in the 130s or 140s. At this point, the GWB was getting closer and closer and I started to think about the hills that were just a mile or so ahead.
I had to conquer 3 pretty steep hills in order to get back on to the GWB. The first was the hill going to up the Washington Heights portion of the West Greenway. Second was the hill from 18st & Plaza Lafayette (at the base of Riverside Drive) up to Fort Washington Avenue. Lat was the ramp at the bottom of 178th up the Bridge. I did get some words of encouragement from local business owners when I trudging up 181st. Once I got to the top of the bridge, I knew I had the run in the bag. I didn't finish as strong as I would have liked (my last mile was 9:16) but after getting up those hills without walking, I was thrilled that I was able to cover the distance. I finished the run in 2:59:39 (8:56/mile). According to MotionBased, I ran 20.73 which comes out to a 8:39 mile. Splits and other details can be found here: 1st 20 miler of NJM training cycle

Have a great week of running!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Update

Our league commissioner set the draft order yesterday. I will be drafting 7th out of 10 teams. Now that I know where I'm drafting it's time to start planning my draft strategy. To help me do that, I will be analyzing stats, reading magazines, reading fantasy baseball blogs, and listening to fantasy baseball podcasts. The Alex Rodriguez injury really throws a monkey wrench into the draft. In my opinion he was a lock for a top 3 pick, where he gets drafted now is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Butt Kicks, Skipping, High Knees, and Grapvines Oh My!

With the East 6th track covered in snow and Yves-Marc (who was subbing for Coach Kate) thinking we've run one too many Fartleks on the West Side, YM decided to shake thing up tonight. We ran loops around Washington Square Park and incorporated some "old school" type running drills. We did 8 loops of the park, 4 with drills and 4 without. Before leaving Paragon, YM and the other pacers demonstrated the drills:

Butt Kicks:
the purpose of this drill is to run to your feet touch your butt. Click here for a demonstration of the butt kick
Skipping: There were two levels of skipping; Level 1 was the way we skipped when we were kids. Level 2 was more like a hop than a skip. The goal was to get good height off the leg you're pushing off. Here is Jamaican Sprinter Asafa Powell demonstrating the level 2 skip.

High Knees: This is similar to Level 2 Skipping but with less height. The goal was to get our knees towards our chin. It's very similar to the drill you football players do when they go through the tires. Here is Mr. Powell demonstrating high knees

Grapevine: this is very hard to explain and I failed miserably at it. The goal was to strengthen the hips by putting one leg in front then in back creating a twisting like motion. It's a common dance move, and I'm a terrible dancer. Check this out to get a better sense.

YM and Pacer Joe mentioned that all of the drills, while not traditional track intervals, are still designed to increase your turnover and stregthen your quads, calves, and hips.

It's not exactly what I was expecting when I showed up at Paraon tonight but it was nice to do something different. I'm definitely feeling the effect of the workout in my quads and calves. With some warmer forecasted for the weekend, we hope to back on the track next week.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Running as a Calming Factor

Both my wife and I are busy people. We both have full-time jobs, she is the president of our synagogue Sisterhood, I am the president of the synagogue Men's Club, and we have a 7 year daughter who we have to shuttle to playdates, hip-hop dance, and do homework with. This time of year is very busy on the Jewish calender. The festival of Purim is next Monday night and Tuesday. It is a joyous holiday. In some ways it is very similar to Halloween. People dress up in costume and exchange treats with the their friends. Part of my wife's responsibilities as president of the Sisterhood is to pack and distribute these treat packages to every member family it is a very stressful time for her. As for me, Passover is coming up which means I need to oversee the Men's Club wine (kosher only) sale and tasting. It is required to drink 4 cups of wine at the Passover seder, so the synagogue works with a local wine shop and sells wine as a synagogue fundraiser.

The other day my wife asked me how is that I am so calm about everything that's going my life. I answered that I release my stress through my running. Running is the only time I truly have to myself. It's just me, the road, and my thoughts. No work deadlines, to synagogue politics to worry about, etc.... If I'm having a stressful day I'll run harder or longer. I come back from runs with a clear head ready to tackle the day's challenges.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Change of Plans: Sunday Long Run instead of Race Report

Today was supposed to be my second race in in as many weekends, the E. Murray Todd Half Marathon in Lincroft, NJ. A major snow storm is predicted for tonight (Sunday) into Monday morning in the NY Metro area. Ahead of the storm , the weather people were predicting a mix of snow/sleet/rain on Sunday morning. As I was getting ready there were some light flurries falling but nothing significant. I called the weather cancellation hotline before I left the house, and there was nothing about the race being canceled due to weather. So I get in the car and start driving down the Garden State Parkway towards the race. Around 7:20 I decided to call the hotline again just to make sure the race is still on. Lo and behold the race has been canceled. At this point I've been in the car for 40 minutes so I was pretty annoyed. I got off at the next exit, got back on the Parkway North and headed towards home.

I needed to get miles in anyway so I drove to the friendly confines of Saddle River Park. The 1/2 marathon was only providing water so I decided to bring my hydration belt with one bottle (20 oz.) of Gatorade and a GU packet. Since I was supposed to run 13.1 miles anyway, I decided that was distance I was going to cover. During the run, I tried to heed Brad's advice from Wednesday Night to run easy. I paid more attention to how I felt and not to the pace. Some of my splits was faster than others, but I didn't feel like I was running all out. All in all, I covered 13.13 miles in 1:48:36 for an 8:16/pace. Splits and other run details can be found here 13.1 in Saddle River Park

Totals for February

16 runs
avg: time: 1:01:57
Total Time: 16:31:15
Avg. Pace: 8:43
Avg. Distance: 7.1 miles
Total Distance: 113.5

Much better month than January. I started increasing my distance in preparation for the NJ Marathon. The avg. pace is a little deceiving because of my Wednesday night speed sessions. I don't stop and start my watch every time we hit a traffic light, I just let the watch run. Those runs also include the recovery between intervals. Let's see what March brings.