Friday, September 28, 2007

Ear Candy

Things have been busy at work lately. The nice thing about my job is that I generally work alone and can put on the ole headphones and rock out whilst drawing a paycheck. I'll zone out working away and, next thing I know, the album has recycled three times and it's lunch time. Good deal.

With the marathon approaching, I'm overdue on loading my MP3 up with new tunes. Of course, I won't be wearing my MP3 during the race. That would be against the rules. And I'm all about rules.

So, if I theoretically were to bring my MP3 along for 26.2, here's what I might listen to:

Icky Thump by The White Stripes

I've been rocking out to this recently. Some good stuff on here for those for the taste for something, er, different.

Minutes to Midnight by Linkin Park

This is a good album. At first, I thought it was of lesser quality than their two previous efforts but, after repeated listenings, I'm into it. Just a bit poppier (look at that, I just made up a word) than the last two.

I'll mix some of these songs in - with Springsteen's new album coming out next week - along with my traditional standbys (more Springsteen, some AC/DC, Green Day, more Linkin Park,The Killers, etc) and, viola, a nice, happy run it makes.

Last year, I wore my ear buds the entire way at the Chicago Marathon but never once turned my MP3 on. The same may happen this time. But I'll at least be prepared for those long, never ending miles past the half way point when the crowds grow sparse.

Question for my few readers: Has anyone successfully used their Garmin, or other like device, during the Chicago Marathon? I've heard it said that you cannot get a signal during this event for some fairly obvious (and tall) reasons. Just wanted to confirm this with anyone who has first hand knowledge.

Happy taper trails.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Checking My List; Checking It Twice

Or, Life as an Anal Retentive.

I admit to slavishly following routine. Typically, I'm very organized, write lots of lists, and keep to my schedule. That doesn't mean I'm really uptight though. In fact, most people who know me describe me as very laid back. There has always been this dichotomy lurking within. To the outside world, I'm an easy going guy always up for doing something fun (rather than work). On the inside, I'm quietly counting every penny spent, meticulously planning my upcoming days - nay, hours - and fretting over last minute changes to my schedule.

When it comes to planning trips, er races, I usually mull over the slightest details constantly. I've checked my hotel reservations at least 3 times. Yep, still reserved. Go figure. I'll probably check a few more times also.

I've had internal debates about whether or not I should wear those shorts on today's run. Those are my race shorts and I want them clean for the marathon. Yeah, I know I have 2 weeks to wash them but maybe, just maybe....well, I'd hate for them not to be ready.

Did you know the weather constantly changes in the Midwest? I do. I've grown up here. However, that doesn't stop me from checking the weather channel constantly to see what might be happening in the Chicago area on October 7th.

I pretty much know to the second when we'll be hoping in the car to drive over. And when we'll be at the registration expo.

And my 13 miles this weekend? Despite the cold that prevented me from breathing most of the night and despite the Vicks vapor rub odor permeating the air within 3 feet of me, there I was getting those miles in. The schedule said to do them so there I was.

All of this may seem like a drag to others but, for me, it's somehow fun. There's probably some sort of psychological Need for Control thing going on here (I am the youngest of three brothers). I've given up trying to fight it. Embrace it! Revel in it! Quietly.

Happy trails.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2007 Chicago Marathon Goals

I've held off declaring any goals for this race because, frankly, I haven't been driving towards any in particular. Normally I decide pretty early in the training cycle that I want to go after a certain time or pace and then work towards that. My original intention going into 2007 was that this would be the race in which I would be attempting to qualify for Boston. Instead, after a stronger than expected training period into the run up to the Bayshore Marathon in May, I was able to accomplish that main goal one marathon early. So, as a result, I haven't been overly driven to achieve any particular goal this time around.

I've enjoyed the training this summer. I continue to get excited as a marathon approaches. I'm looking forward to running my next few for pure enjoyment rather than a time goal. I'm sure next year I'll raise the bar a bit and set a new time goal which will have me sweating and fretting again. For now, I'm just going to have some fun at Chicago 2007.

That being said, I did want to comment a bit on my summer of training. As I mentioned, it has been enjoyable but it has also been the most painful training period to date. I've had nagging heel and ankle soreness as well as a near debilitating right leg muscle soreness that has plagued me over the last few months. I pressed on (though I probably could have benefited from a week or so off) and feel pretty strong and ache-free - just in time - as the taper begins.

I've wondered why these various aches and pains have suddenly arisen during this 3rd marathon training session. Likely culprits? (1) A culmination of 1 1/2 years of straight training (2) Lack of focus on pre/post run stretching. This is an area I need to improve on going forward. (3) The introduction of some trail running which unexpectedly beat the crap out of me. My lingering ankle pain is a direct result of this type of training.

I don't have any regrets. You live, you learn. Certainly, I've been luckier than some friends of mine who have been sidelined for long periods of time smack dab in the middle of their training cycle. So, no complaints here. It's part of the process right? It's supposed to beat you up a bit.

So, as far as goals, here they are in all their mundane glory:

1) Have fun.

I know. Kinda silly and generic. I always have fun at my races. This time, I really want to enjoy the experience free from the overwhelming anxiety I get pre-race. I think not having a HUGE ALL IMPORTANT time goal will help alleviate much of this distracting, nervous energy. This won't be my first marathon. This won't be my end all, be all Boston qualifying attempt. So, I think I'll be able to relax a bit and really take in the experience. I'm not sure when I'll run Chicago again so I want to soak it in this time.

2) Beat 3:16

Why not get another BQ in the back pocket for 2009 in case it's needed? I think this is very doable depending on the normal things like weather, injury, etc.

3) Beat 3:12:19

And set a new PR. Frankly, I don't think this is in the cards. I expect to come in somewhere between goal #3 and goal #2 time-wise. But never say never. Chicago is the windy city. Maybe it'll be at my back the whole time right? I'm going to try a different strategy for this marathon just for the learning experience which may impact my ability to set a PR. Instead of going out strong, hitting 7:05 miles and then holding on at the end as I chase my goal (as I did for Bayshore), I'm going to stick close to 7:20 miles for the first half marathon, try to bump that up a bit to 7:15 miles for the next 5 miles or so. I'm trying to maintain more endurance for the dangerous post 20 mile zone where I normally start bleeding seconds like a madman. While working out this new strategy, I think a PR my not be possible and I'm completely comfortable with that.

That's it as far as goals.

I hope to be reading everyone elses in the coming days.

Happy trails.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Lied

My next post (this post) isn't going to be my Chicago Marathon goals.

I feel the need to comment separately on my last 20+ mile training run. Twenty miles is still an unusual and significant event that I can't let it go by without mention.
So, here goes...

As mentioned previously, my right knee and leg muscles have been complaining a bit lately. Enough, in fact, where I would report it on my personal pain/annoyance/concern scale at 3 of 5 (5 high). It had my attention.

I think I found the source...and the cure.

New shoes.

Funny how having a little bit more padding and stability in my shoes can make such a big difference. I felt I could squeak out another 50-60 miles out of my old shoes to get me through the last 20 miler this past weekend before starting the break in of my race shoes during the taper. It didn't work that way. I had to break them in early. The legs needed it.

Here's how I know the issue is with my shoes.

During the previous Saturday's 16 miler, I started experiencing sharp right leg muscle pain that almost caused my leg to lock up on me. In fact, I had to walk a bit to loosen it up after I stopped for my last water/GU break. This was on the heels of the pain developing during my Higgins Lake trail training run two weeks ago.

During the week, my 6 miler in new shoes went fine. No pain.

My 9 miler, in old shoes, left me back in pain again.

I was still a bit sore (and concerned) going into Saturday's scheduled 20 miler. I started out with a bit of pain. In fact, it slowly got worse during the first 5-6 miles. I stopped for a water/Gu break and, afterwards like magic, no more pain. I completed 21.0 miles and barely felt sore afterwards. I was wearing my new shoes.

I'll still be proactive by icing down a bit and elevating but I'm reasonably confident that my shoes were the source of the problem. In fact, almost every time I start getting leg muscle pain, the shoes are the problem. Time to stop trying to squeak a few more miles out of those old kicks!

21.0 miles
2:34:27 time
7:24 pace

I looked back at my last LR before Bayshore in May and I ran the exact same distance in 2:34:50. Based on this, I'm reasonably certain I'm still in the same shape as I was for my last marathon despite the fact that I dramatically reduced my speed training this summer. I'm happy about that!

Also, I did make it into the book store this weekend. I decided on Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. I can already taste the words dripping with satire. Mmmmm. Brain candy!

Glad to see people are still reading Faulkner and, well, just reading. Seems like a lost art these days.

One complaint: Why can't you find Sinclair Lewis' (pictured) work in your typical book store, they might have one or two but never his entire selection. He's the first American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Get with the program people!

Happy trails.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Egads, Time Flies!

Is it Friday already?

Is it taper time already?

Is it Fall already?

This summer sure has flown by. I can't believe I'm looking at another last, big long run before the marathon. This time: Chicago.

I've been dealing with some slight discomfort and swelling on the outside of my right knee and a bit of pain in the right groin area. It starts aching a bit around 5-6 miles in and sometimes bothers me the next day. Illotial Band anyone? I'm hoping to knock this LR out this weekend and then employ some liberal R.I.C.E treatment for 2 weeks. I suspect I've worn my shoes a bit too long and they aren't giving me the cushioning/support I need. I always start to get various aches and pains when my shoes break down (and I'm tardy in replacing them). I have another set already being broken in for the marathon itself. I'll just slide them into the rotation a week or so early and see if that helps. No biggie.

This weekend, I'm planning a 21 miler. I may need to run without the MP3 as mine is hosed. Curse the new Windows Vista! Every time I need to recharge, Vista starts messing with my MP3 one way or another. I think it may have finally screwed it up beyond repair. I'll be performing an emergency resuscitation procedure on it this evening.

Last night, I knocked off 9.7 miles @ 7:16 pace.

Quickie Book Review:

Finished Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild about confused, adventure seeking Chris McCandless and his two year odyssey living a meager life through the Western United States before his starved body was found in an abandoned bus in Alaska.

You can't help but feel for the young man, a bit misguidedly consumed in a search for a meaningful existence. Like in Into thin Air, Krakauer does a fine job delivering the facts -wrapped in speculation and emotion - in nice bite size, easy to swallow pieces. A very interesting read. Especially if you have a bit of wanderlust lurking in your own heart.

Also, I've removed Team of Rivals from my current reading list. I got a bit into but, frankly, found it extremely dry and bit to detailed. I love history. I love details. However, the 3 non-Lincoln characters examined in the book (Seward, Chase and Bates) were described so similarly that I had a difficult time keeping their identities distinct. It was a bit frustrating. I know the book has won rave reviews but, for me, it didn't spark. Perhaps I'll come back to it one day and really enjoy it. This happened before with Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. I became so frustrated with the confused, first person narrative of the retarded Compson boy that I set the book aside only to return to it years later, finish it, and immediately place it on my personal Favorite Books list.

Next post: Official 2007 Chicago Marathon goals.

Let's see how this long run goes first!!

Good luck, fellow Chicago runners, knocking out this last LR.

Happy trails.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's the Difference?

So, trail running versus road running. There really isn't much difference is there?

At the base level, not much. Running, sweating, hydration, fatigue. They all come into play on the trail as much as the open road (or sidewalk as the case may be).

I have tons more experience running on a flat, paved surface than a sandy, root filled trail. However, I have completed a few trail runs this year (one race, two training runs) and there are a couple of things that have jumped out at me, both literally and figuratively, that is different.

Intensity. A good trail (defined here as containing slopes, loose sand, low hanging branches and high arching roots and maybe a river or two to cross) demands much more total and immediate concentration. You simply cannot lapse into that "runner's coma" like you might during a long road run in familiar territory. The moment you start thinking about Aunt Petunia's apple pie is the moment you get lashed across the face with a low hanging branch or step on a sand colored rock twisting your ankle. You must concentrate. And you must do this from start to finish. You don't realize how much effort it takes to focus on each foot fall until after you're a couple miles in and fatigue starts affecting you as much mentally as physically.

Conditioning. It's a lot of work weaving through a forest trail and over terrain in which your foot slips a bit on each step. This seems obvious but it did catch me by surprise. I run marathons, right? How hard could 10 mile trail runs be? Answer: Pretty exhausting. There are a bunch more muscles that come into play to stabilize your knees and ankles as you bounce across the uneven trail to basically keep you upright. Count me as someone a bit naive to this. I nearly collapsed my left ankle about a dozen times during the 10 mile race I did. I just wasn't used to the need to balance while running. I'm currently paying the price for this lack of strength in my stabilizer muscles. My left ankle muscles (ligaments?) have been sore for 4 weeks. The outer edge of my right knee is sore since the Higgins Lake trail over a week ago. So much so that I still have a slight limp during regular walking this week. I'm finding it hard to keep up playing soccer and basketball with my kids in the yard as the side to side motion is killing me. Thank God Chicago is flat...and paved.

Fun. Though it's a bit more grueling, I've really enjoyed the few trails I've ran and hope to do more. I'm currently scouting for a pair of good trail shoes. It's fun to become "lost" in the trees hearing no one ahead or behind you, wondering where the trail ends, only to emerge into a open field and parking lot. There's always a new challenge around each bend....loose sand, a rock strewn path, an unexpected hill. It keeps you on your toes. There is a feeling of accomplishment when you've completed a difficult trail run.

Plus, it's just a nice change of pace if regular road running has grown a bit routine. Try it!

Happy trails.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Roosevelt's Tree Army

Summer is coming to an end. The kids are in school. Football is starting. This is a great time of the year. I love the fall except for one thing: it leads to winter. My least favorite time of the year.

This past weekend, summer came to a close for us with a camping trip to North Higgins Lake State Park in Roscommon, MI. Decent campground with a beautiful lake and beach. Alas, no pictures to accompany this post as the family and I enjoyed the beach without a camera tagging along.

I managed a 14 mile long run on Sunday. The first 7 miles were off road through the Civilian Conservation Corps trail. Again, I found the trail portion of the run a lot more challenging than expected. Loose sand, small hills, roots, twists, turns....I flashed back to the The Legend trail run I did a few weeks ago. I was very happy to emerge from the trail and return to the nice, flat campground. Don't get me wrong, trail running is a lot of fun. It's just a lot more physically demanding - much more than I wanted to get into for a weekend long run. A few more miles along the beach and through the campground and 14 miles done! Two more LONG, long runs to go for this marathon training session!

A word about the CCC Museum from which the off road trail began. There is a museum dedicated to the roughly 100,000 folks that made up "Roosevelt's Tree Army" in the 1930's until the advent of WWII revitalizing Michigan's natural beauty. I got to thinking about the power of collective effort in our Me First society. Now, I'm no socialist. I believe strongly in the rights of individuals to pursue their own personal ambitions and wealth (as long as it doesn't trample on others). I think this benefits society on the whole. However, this is not absolute. There is room for us to band together collectively and create something for the benefit of the whole...whether it be building national highways, revitalizing our park system, creating a social security safety net, or - maybe one day - health insurance for all. These ideas didn't seem so extreme decades ago. Before the days of the Red Menace and Rambo films. Before hyper capitalism. During my time on the CCC trail, I wondered if a politician could get away with creating a 100,000 person corps to PLANT TREES in this day and age. I think not. They would be labeled the worst kind of government fat cat, spending tax payer money, tree hugger.

All I know is that I enjoyed my time on their trail. I'm glad it was there for me and others. If it cost someone a few tax dollars to create it, well, so be it. Thanks. It was worth it.

Anyhow, I had no intention of going off on a rant.

I feel a post coming on soon on the differences between trail and road running. It is significantly different to warrant its own discussion.

Also, I need to finalize and make official my 2007 Chicago Marathon goals. I hope to do that soon.

Happy trails.