Sunday, April 6, 2014

Texas Independence Relay Race Report

For my sixth consecutive year I was again honored to run with team DOGs (Disciples of the Order of the Garmin) as we ran the 200 mile Texas Independence Relay.

We lined-up, as usual, in the historic small town of Gonzales, and were excited to be blessed with absolutely fantastic weather.

Along the way, we were treated with some beautiful sights. The bluebonnets, Texas' State Flower, were in full bloom and gorgeous.
The rural scenery was breathtaking (photo credit to Jamoosh.)

The DOGs got along fantastically. Our team of twelve had four substitutions in the preceding months resulting from injury or relocations, but the new DOGs fit in perfectly. Upon reaching the San Jacinto Monument finish, a short 29 hours and 27 minutes after we began, I was sorry to see the relay race end.  While we were happy to learn that we had finished second in the Mixed Masters' Division, 68th out of 149 teams, the real reward was running a fantastic weekend together. 

During the TIR I learned again that the human body is truly a mysterious and miraculous thing, as I ran the prologue one mile convinced that may very likely be my only mile based on the discomfort I was feeling in my calves which had become aggravated in the preceding few months.  To relax and to set realistic expectations I applied a bit of my talented sports massage therapist Connie's sage advice by cautioning my teammates of my condition.  They uniformly reassured me that I should only do what I could, and they'd pick-up the slack.  With faint hope I proceeded to extensively apply Tiger Balm, repeatedly self-massaging my calves with with "The Stick", and stretching preceding and after each run.  Miraculously, each of my succeeding four legs (8, 26, 32, and 38)  became easier, and afterward my calves had seemingly become rejuvenated as they felt fantastic - both immediately, and in the week afterward.

Newton Motion III Review (2014 Edition)

Newton Motions have always been my favorite all-around training and racing running shoe.  I've worn them in their prior two incarnations, and, as always, Newton’s Action/Reaction forefoot technology provides springy responsiveness owing to their unique lugs that line the bottom of the sole as shown on my recently arrived Newton Motion III's.

The big change in the Motion III's, and my favorite, is the added fifth lug.  This, combined with the Extended Medial Bridge (E.M.B) helps the sole of the shoe better align with the foot’s five metatarsal bones, and delivers more cushioning, greater responsiveness and a broader and more stable base.  Combined, the added lug and E.M.B. allows for a more balanced and efficient running gait. 

Newton's Motion III's also provides a new micro-suede overlay on the upper and 360-degree reflectivity for added safety.  Unchanged are the Motion III's 3mm drop from heel to toe, as the shoe's near-level platform encourages a more balanced and natural posture, an essential component to efficient running.

I found the transition to the new Motion III's versus my prior Motion II's to be seamless.  I just tried them on, and they felt great.  As a result of my confidence in Newton I wore them with essentially no transition (from my previously running in Motion II's) both on last weekend's Texas Independence Relay (~20 miles in four legs) and yesterday's 4 the Park 4 mile race, and they felt comfortable, stable and responsive.

Needless to say, I highly recommend these shoes, and encourage runners new to Newton to try them on at a specialty running store which allows you to get them on the road where they truly shine.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bayou Classic 10K Race Report

This morning's Bayou Classic 10K was run under humid and windy conditions on a hilly Allen Parkway course. Still, it was a fun run and it was nice to see Chris and Tim at the start and Kim at the finish. The calves felt good, thanks to Connie's massage two weeks ago, self massage since via a foam roller, and Tiger Balm.

My splits point out I again failed to negative split (7:29, 7:29, 7:28, 7:59, 7:45, 8:14), but considering the tough east wind that would have been extremely difficult.  Happy to place 11 / 45 (top 25%) in a tough age group.

Data: Avg. Cadence: 82, Avg. HR: 167, 57 °F, 12mph E, 88% humidity.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rodeo Run 10K Race Report, and Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor Review

Every year the single 10K race that I look forward to the most is the Rodeo Run.  This year again fully met my expectations.

Arriving early with my wife and her friend, both of whom ran the 5K, we had plenty of time to check-out some horses and decorations of the parade floats prior to my 10K and subsequently their 5K start.  These floats and horses, along with hundreds of parade participants, are viewed by tens of thousands of spectators in Downtown Houston each year to dramatically kick-off the start of the Rodeo.  The spectators, eager to see and cheer for a parade of any kind, are consistently enthusiastic and supportive of the nearly ten thousand 5K and 10K Rodeo Run runners.  This, combined with the high volume shouted encouragement of numerous announcers along the downtown streets, creates a truly celebratory mood particularly in the first mile where the spectator support is the greatest.

Resulting from the cheering crowds and my fresh legs, I consistently find it hard to initially moderate my pace in order to run the second half of the race faster than the first half (Kenyan Way coach Sean Wade's number one rule!)  Sadly, as is oft the case, my earliest mile pace was my fastest, and I subsequently gradually slowed until the final mile, when provoked by a runner in my age group passing me my competitive juices kicked-in and I was spurred to catch him - which I did just before the finish line!  My mile-by-mile paces, on a 70 degree nearly 100% humidity morning were: 7:46, 7:46, 7:58, 8:23, 8:23, then 8:08.

While far from my personal best time I succeeded in protecting my legs for the far more important 200 mile Texas Independence Relay which I will be running with eleven friends in four weeks.  My calves, which I've had issues with in the past months, felt good throughout the race.  For this I again thank Connie, whose therapeutic massage skills have allowed me to run three races in the past two months.  After the race was over I was happy to see that within my division I placed 11th out of 146 - within the top ten percent.

Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor Review:

Earlier this week I purchased via Amazon a highly rated Bluetooth heart rate monitor, the Polar H7.  It paired easily with my iPhone 5 and, thanks to it being natively supported by the iSmoothRun App I used it to monitor and announce each prior mile's total mileage, pace, cadence and heart rate - all while otherwise playing a motivating music playlist.  This information, conveniently provided without my needing to glance down at my wrist as I had previously done with my Garmin Forerunner proved helpful via cautioning me against a dramatic increase in exertion seen through a sharp increase in heart rate.  The Polar H7 worked well with the iSmoothRun App, and conveniently auto-uploads afterward to DailyMile and RunKeeper.  Bottom line, while I am new to using the Polar H7, I give it a big thumbs up.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Further Planning for the 2014 Texas Independence Relay!

For my sixth consecutive year I'll soon be running the Texas Independence Relay with a great team called the DOGS.  Despite the predictable last minute scheduling challenges, I'm excited!

To see our latest plan, see the individual GoogleMaps' leg-by-leg views shown below or this GoogleEarth KML file for the 2014 DOGS.  Finally, the following very helpful one was recently posted by the TIR organizer.

Sleep Shift 1 Vehicle Rick MarkU David Ruth Don Janet
Leg 1 01-Rick 08-MarkU 09-David 10-Ruth 11-Don 12-Janet
Leg 2 27-Rick 26-MarkU 25-David 29-Ruth 28-Don 30-Janet
Leg 3 33-Rick 32-MarkU 31-David 35-Ruth 34-Don 36-Janet
Leg 4 38-MarkU 37-David
Relay Miles (Legs) 14.2 (3) 19.5 (4) 19.8 (4) 14.3 (3) 15.6 (3) 13.0 (3)
Sleep Shift 2 Vehicle Paul MB Kim Tim Kath MarkO
Leg 1 02-Paul 03-MB 04-Kim 05-Tim 06-Kath 07-MarkO
Leg 2 13-Paul 14-MB 15-Kim 16-Tim 18-Kath 17-MarkO
Leg 3 19-Paul 20-MB 21-Kim 22-Tim 23-Kath 24-MarkO
Leg 4 40-Paul 39-Kim
Relay Miles (Legs) 20.9 (4) 16.4 (3) 17.9 (4) 18.0 (3) 14.1 (3) 14.5 (3)

Versus the plan posted a month ago we had the additional challenge of replacing yet another DOG who had to withdraw due to an illness or injury.  As with our prior unexpected personnel withdrawals we were again fortunate to quickly identify a willing and capable experienced runner to fill the void.  Last night upon realizing that to avoid the second sleep shift needing to be awoken 90-minutes short of their well deserved sleep allocation (to avoid being charged an extra night's stay by violating the hotel's Noon check-out) I again reshuffled the DOGS' running order.

I'm quite satisfied with the results, which can also be visualized - with great emphasis on the hilliness of the 30-miles east of Gonzales - via the following customized elevation map:

TIR runners can have the entire course on your smart-phone, with your own location shown (as the blue dot) so that you could always see where you are relative to the course.  This is very helpful both for potentially lost runners, and for the passengers in the support vehicles to follow their runners along:

1) Click on the below link (while reading this on your phone).

2) A message may come up about GPS tracking or using your current location... you'll need to accept / ok it.

3) You should see the TIR route come up on your phone (on your phones web browser and NOT Google Maps app), but maybe not a blue dot that shows where you are.

4) Touch the little icon near the top that looks like a diamond sign with a turn (to the right) arrow on it.

5) then a screen with "Directions" at the top should show up. Click on the icon with the person hiking (this is just to the left of the bicycle icon, and beneath "Add Destination - Show options")

6) Then touch the little icon with the map with the pointer on it (to the immediate right of the word "Directions" at the very top)

7) Now, you should be able to see a blue dot at your current location (representing you!). We now see you, too! Just kidding.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Austin Half Marathon Race Report

Finished! After this morning's Austin Half, I was, quite simply, very glad to be done.

My pre-race planning and preparations started well enough, waking-up early enough for my normal Breakfast of Champions (Starbuck's non-fat Venti Cappuccino, Gatorade, yogurt, fruit, and granola.) I arrived at the start corral north of the Capitol with enough time to avoid weaving around the back-of-the-pack runners. My physical condition was acceptable, though clearly nowhere close to my best, as a result of the six-week interruption to my training caused by a calf injury which is now, thankfully, only a painful memory (thanks again, Connie and Sean!) This being the Austin Half Marathon I had intended to do more hill training in preparation, but life got in the way and was only able to do a dozen or so loops around Houston's Miller Outdoor Theatre versus my hoped for Conroe runs.

Despite the reasonable 60°F starting temperature, I didn't factor adequately into account Austin's hills and especially this morning's dripping 100% humidity. These led me to seek to match or improve upon my recent Houston performance, thinking incorrectly that my somewhat improved fitness would overcome the heat and hills. By the eighth mile, running briefly alongside my wonderfully supportive wife inquiring my condition, I was several minutes off my hoped for pace so knew I had to reset to my back-up plan.

Fortunately, I had one! My new plan was to beat two hours total time, thereby to be below 9-minute average pace. However, with continued hills and growing fatigue working against me I knew it would be a close call as I sprinted the final downhill section past the Capitol to the finish line. I just made it with a 1:57:38 time and an 8:58 average pace. Through my inadequate planning I proved myself not to be a sufficiently loyal disciple of Coach Sean Wade, who preaches incessantly - but evidently, not sufficiently! - about the importance of every runner achieving a negative split on each race and training run.

Ultimately, I'm OK with the result. It's being healthy and able to run that's most important; performance is secondary. In the coming days I'll give my body some much needed rest, then will begin my preparations for the Houston Rodeo Run 10K and the always fun Texas Independence Relay!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

RoadNoise Safety Vest Review

Through the organizer of the excellent Texas Independence Relay I found out about the RoadNoise. As is shown in the following video, the RoadNoise is a safety vest with small speakers in the shoulders which allows the runner to safely listen to music while remaining clearly visible. I will use it on the next Texas Independence Relay, as headphones (but not the RoadNoise) are appropriately prohibited as it is run primarily on the shoulder of public roads shared by high speed traffic.

To test the product's visibility I wore it after dark while running on the shoulder of the road, observing when approaching vehicles first saw me - evidenced by their moving over or slowing down. I was delighted to see every approaching vehicle do so while at least one hundred yards away. Conversely, in prior evening runs despite wearing a bright yellow running shirt a couple of drivers clearly did not see me - thus proving that bright colors alone do not make a runner visible!

While engaged in this experiment I enjoyed music via the RoadNoise's built-in speakers connected through the earphone jack of my iPhone, which is held securely in place in a Velcro enclosed pouch sufficiently large as to accommodate devices up to a Samsung Galaxy 3. I was impressed that the audio quality was not bad, once I set the equalization to "small speakers" (an important item to test on any new speaker system.)

I was also impressed that even with music played sufficiently loud to clearly hear the lyrics that I was still easily able to hear approaching vehicles and pedestrians. So, I have no hesitation recommending that runners try the RoadNoise. Particularly at this time of year, when days are still relatively short yet the improving weather encourages us to go outside, we need to be ultra-cautious with the potentially deadly combination of heavy vehicle traffic and increasingly distracted drivers.

The RoadNoise is well constructed and designed, and its mesh construction does not restrict air flow so allows you to run cool. Note, however, that as its speakers are powered from your device, you will find its battery to drain much more quickly than normal; consequently, be sure to fully charge it before your run. Also, though the RoadNoise's speakers are water resistant, the vest offers no weather protection for your electronic device, so be sure to protect it (I recommend via a clear plastic sandwich bag.)

From my experience exchanging my previously ordered medium, which proved too snug, to a large I found that RoadNoise's customer service is both courteous and prompt. I received neither a promotional product nor an incentive for this review. Bottom line, I highly recommend RoadNoise!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Houston Half Marathon Race Report

Up until two weeks ago my running was badly suffering. Beginning two months prior my left calf had suddenly acted-up, forcing me to the sidelines for two weeks. Two weeks later, thinking I was recovered, I ran on a cold and rainy day, and on the thirteenth mile my right calf suddenly screamed with pain, once again forcing me to the sidelines. Worried about my declining fitness, every succeeding two weeks I tested my calf's recovery by attempting a short three mile run, and was increasingly dejected since after only two miles I discovered that my calf was not healed.
This sad situation continued for six weeks, when I finally sought-out then heeded the excellent advice of Kenyan Way Coach Sean Wade, who recommended that I see his long-time sports masseuse Connie. Doing so proved nearly miraculous, as she unlocked my extremely tight fascia which had been restricting the blood flow and the cellular healing of the injured calf muscle. As a result of her healing touch, in the past two weeks I've been delighted to quickly ramp-up my running distances - with no hint of calf problems.

With this as my recent backdrop I ran today's Houston Half Marathon intending to run at a conservative pace, as running too quickly would raise the risk of incurring another injury - especially given my loss of endurance resulting from my nearly two month hiatus. I was delighted with today's half-way decent 1:51 time, which while far from my 1:35 personal record proved both calves are fully healed, and I remain on-track to build my endurance towards the Austin Half Marathon in four weeks. Thanks again, Sean and Connie!

Bottom line, when confronting a frustrating running situation, rendered more-so by endorphin deprivation, don't rely solely on your own judgement. Instead, seek out the council of your more experienced coach or trusted adviser.

I love the new 2014 Houston Marathon and Half Marathon course!  Especially notably, both courses, beginning this year, completely avoid the dreaded Elysian Viaduct, a mile long spectator-free road, ramp and bridge north of downtown that had previously provided runners unsightly views of railroad tracks and down-scale commercial properties. Conversely, the new course substitutes neighborhoods with ample, and always appreciated, spectator support. Great job to RD Brant Kotch and his staff!