Thursday, December 8, 2011

Houston, we do NOT have a problem!

Since last Friday I've emerged from the swimming pool to gradually incorporate some running miles, being vigilant for any slight twinges of discomfort which would signal that I need additional time to recover from my stress reaction. Fortunately, this process has gone much better than I'd hoped, successfully running longer and faster than I'd initially intended: 9 miles on Friday, 12 on Monday, 6 on Tuesday, 9 Wednesday and 10 today.

Yesterday's and today's Memorial Park run was extremely encouraging, as I easily ran with a negative split near my goal Houston Marathon pace of 8:00 - with absolutely no twinges of discomfort.  This was doubly reassuring it proved that my recovery is complete and that my pool running over the previous weeks had done its job of avoiding any further impact trauma while simultaneously maintaining my cardiovascular fitness.  For these reasons I thank my coach Sean Wade for pointing me to the pool, and specifically pool running, as a cautionary recommendation when I'd first developed the leg problem.

The above photo depicts the ultra-cool Houston medal which will be handed out this year - and which I'm very much looking forward to proudly placing around my neck upon crossing the finish line!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Injury Recovery

First, I stumbled upon an excellent time-lapse video taken from the International Space Station that's absolutely mesmerizing and is well worth the view. We truly are blessed to live on such a dramatic and beautiful planet!
Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Second, a brief update to my running and training status, as I'm about six weeks from the Houston Marathon. Approximately two weeks ago while running an intended twenty miler with the Kenyan Way training group I unfortunately felt an unexpected and disconcerting growing pain in the right lower leg, specifically the outer section of the tibia.  After walking a bit hoping for the discomfort to be relieved the Coach kindly offered an opportunity to join him in a car ride back to base.

Sean kindly provided some typically sound advice - until I got a better handle on my injury I should maintain my fitness by non-impact pool running.  With only one quickly aborted trial run as an exception (the start of the aptly named Turkey Trot) I've since followed his advice, as in my prior incidence two years ago with a minor tibial stress fracture pool running proved very effective at maintaining my running-specific fitness, while helping me avoid the emotional let-down that otherwise accompanies a dramatic reduction in training. While many consider pool running to be abjectly boring, I've not found it to be the case provided I do so in at the local 24-Hour Fitness Center's bright and cheery pool.

From my prior interactions with a physician I'd learned that unfortunately X-Rays are typically non-definitive in the early stages of a stress fracture, so I've decided in caution to treat my condition as such.  While I'm encouraged to see continual evidence of healing, I've reconciled myself that if I'm ultimately unable to run the full or half marathon in January that will be a bit disappointing but fine. I will gradually enlarge my range of cross-training activities, next adding the bike to my fitness regimen, and before I know it I'll be back at 100% running ready fitness - long before the forthcoming Texas Independence Relay which I truly enjoy each year.

My advice if you're facing an injury prior to a race? Read Julie's great post and related advice then count your many blessings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Newton's Latest MV2 Shoes have Arrived!

Briefly lamenting yesterday's passage of my well worn (750+ miles) and multiple P.R. Newton stability trainers I was ecstatic to receive from UPS today my recently ordered new pair of their latest product, the Newton MV2!

I'm truly excited to run in Newton's new MV2 as they are engineered to be the lightest and most efficient Natural Running shoe using their second-generation Action/Reaction Technology. These shoes have a flat profile (i.e. zero heel-to-toe drop) that encourages a quick high cadence gait. This, combined with their low weight translates to increased speed.

Unlike my prior shoes these are truly neutral, which I am comfortable with since I've gradually transitioned through wearing other low-profile neutral shoes during the past two years. A gradual transition to any minimalist shoe is essential to allow the feet and calves to strengthen, and to perfect the high cadence gait with slight forward lean from the ankles to minimize the likelihood of regressing to an injurious over-striding heel striking running form.

Embedded below are four YouTube videos in which Newton's co-founder and CTO Danny Abshire: Discusses new shoe's new technology; Talks about their initial fit (buy a half-size larger); Discusses adaptation to these shoes; and Demonstrates some helpful form drills (along which I recommend his natural running book):

Once I've had some time to transition I'll put plenty of miles on these shoes. At that point I'll follow-up with my detailed review. Meanwhile, feel free to try-out these shoes at your specialty running store, and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Christopher McDougall on Running Form

As a huge fan of Christopher McDougall's great book "Born to Run" I was intrigued to see his latest New York Times article on running form, running injuries, shoes, and why running magazines give "A's" to all shoes. See his excellent article at, then check-out this video where McDougall demonstrates a simple exercise that helps make all of us better runners:

Shedding more light on McDougall's interesting perspectives here's another video, this one from a TED conference:

Incidentally, I had fun hosting Runners Round Table episode 119 tonight, where a great group of experienced marathoners shared their Fall 2011 race experiences, thoughts, and lessons learned. You can download it from iTunes. We encourage much wider participation; if interested join the RRT Google!Group, then share your ideas with other runners!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cool Weather Running!; Nutritional Fueling Experiment with chia seeds

In my last blog post I lamented my calf strain in the context of missing-out on my long-anticipated Chicago Marathon. Fortunately, beginning roughly one week afterward I was able to successfully begin a gradual increase in both my running mileage and intensity. While for the past two weeks I was convinced that I was cured, this was confirmed on Saturday with an excellent 17 mile Kenyan Way training run.

With wonderfully cool temperatures in the upper 40's I laced-up my Newton shoes, then met my friend Alison in the pre-dawn for our easy 1.5 mile warm-up. We then joined the KW group and were delighted to negative split and maintain a steady and strong pace (one of many benefits of running with a good group and training partner) with splits: 8:21, 8:33, 8:25, 7:53, 7:45, 7:44, 7:49, 7:31, 7:54, 7:41, 7:48, 7:56, 8:05, 7:50, 7:45, 7:40, 7:50, and 7:30.

With continued cool weather in the offing through the Houston Marathon I'm excited to be returning again to marathon training, especially as I'm looking forward to squeezing-in some fun 5 and 10K races as fitness benchmarks along the way.

Meanwhile, on a Runners Roundtable a few months ago we were lucky to have with us sports nutritionist Nancy Clark. While there was no reference made to chia seeds' nutritional value, I have been intrigued since reading about them in Christopher McDougall's great book Born to Run, and learning that the Mayan and Aztec highly valued these seeds since it gave their warriors great endurance, just as the modern-day runners of the Mexican Tarahumara tribe demonstrates by routinely running far in excess of 100 miles at a time!

Nancy had rightly encouraged each runner to individually experiment with various nutritional strategies during their training runs - versus the race (!) - so, over the past week I have tried these seeds in an ongoing experiment. In lieu of the Gu or Roctane, which I normally take every four miles for runs longer than 10 miles, on Saturday I instead consumed chia seeds. Specifically, I took one tablespoon of dry seeds every ~6 miles along with plenty of Gatorade, mixing both in my mouth then swallowing. Largely flavorless, chia seeds contains protein which helps to stabilize blood sugar better than Gatorade and/or Gu alone, are rich in vital Omega-3's, and since with fluids they swell in the stomach they slow digestion and provide a feeling of satiety. While my experiments continue (I'll try them again at the forthcoming weeks' 19 and 21 mile training runs), thus far I'm a convert!

Monday, October 10, 2011

CALF = DNF; Chicago Marathon 2011 Race Result

Twenty one successful Marathons, and then Chicago, 2011 - my first DNF! It was disappointing, as I had four very good months of training to prepare. Then, in Houston on my final semi-long training run one week prior to the Chicago Marathon I violated my Kenyan Way coach's good advice and ran 45-seconds faster than my target marathon pace. After nine-miles I felt my right calf-muscle suddenly cramp-up, which wasn't relieved by stretching. This feeling unfortunately didn't go away fully in the subsequent week's taper, and briefly got much worse only two days before. Despite my continued discomfort I decided to start the race, but, with my calf hurting badly and cognizant of the Houston Marathon only three months off, I exited the course to capture the following video of the elite men's race on my iPod Nano at miles 1.5, 13.1, 16.5 and the finish. Despite all my years of running this was literally my first opportunity to spectate a world-class marathon event, and I truly enjoyed it!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Congratulations to Kenya's Patrick Makau

Congratulations to Kenya's Patrick Makau for setting the new Men's World Record Marathon in Berlin with a time of 2:03:38, breaking Haile Gebrselassie's 3-year old record by 21-seconds! See The Science of Sports for an excellent detailed analysis of his achievement.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Inspirational Running Videos

Always valuing running-related inspiration I was impressed with today's DailyMile challenge to post a video which was personally inspirational. Impressed by a couple that were already posted by others, I added a few of my own to create this compilation. Finally, while I wasn't able to similarly embed a particularly good video click here for a treat.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chicago Marathon Taper Has Begun!

This Saturday I completed my final 20-mile training run in anticipation of the 2011 Chicago Marathon, and I'm excited! I had a good 10.5 mile early-morning solo training run, then met-up with my wonderfully trustful and steady-paced training partner Allison and the Kenyan Way group, where we together ran another 10 miles. Thank God for the ice-cold Gatorade provided every two or three miles by Sean Wade (a huge perk of Kenyan Way versus other Houston-based marathon training programs!)

Despite high starting temperatures of 75 degrees and 90% percent humidity I managed to hold onto my goal Chicago marathon pace (MP) of ~8:00 for 15 miles (I'm shooting for a 3:29 so-as to re-BQ by 6-minutes for 2013). However, the heavy sweat running down my legs directly into my shoes and socks gave them each nearly a full pound of added weight, which combined with my increasing fatigue from holding my goal pace despite such conditions translated into a slowing cadence and pace. Nevertheless, for the full 20-miles I was delighted to have averaged an 8:22 pace despite such conditions, which - knock-on-wood - I will not find in Chicago on October 9th!

This morning, in surveying my list of top running-related blogs I read an especially apt one from Pre-Dawn Runner, recommending that we treat our tapers both as an opportunity to invest in ourselves while mixing things up in our tapering training runs. I'm completely on-board both recommendations. During past tapers I've typically offset my gradually reduced mileage with a gradually increased pace, eventually with all my remaining training mileage matching my goal MP. However, at Memorial Park today feeling especially sharp due to my having taken yesterday off I ran my full eight miles a good ~30-seconds per mile faster than MP, which felt great!

To everyone also running the 2011 Chicago Marathon (or another marathon two to four weeks out) I wish you the best of luck, and truly encourage each of you to have a great experience!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kreb's Cycle for Runners

Having listened a few times to this catchy song after reading this interesting NPR article I copied from Wikipedia a few key Kreb's cycle facts, which we marathon runners need to know a few things about!

Overview of the citric acid cycle
The citric acid cycle — also known as the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA cycle), the Krebs cycle, or recently in certain former Soviet Bloc countries the Szent-Györgyi-Krebs cycle[1][2] — is a series of enzyme-catalysed chemical reactions, which is of central importance in all living cells, especially those that use oxygen as part of cellular respiration. In eukaryotic cells, the citric acid cycle occurs in the matrix of the mitochondrion.
In aerobic organisms, the citric acid cycle is part of a metabolic pathway involved in the chemical conversion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins into carbon dioxide and water to generate a form of usable energy. Other relevant reactions in the pathway include those in glycolysis and pyruvate oxidation before the citric acid cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation after it. In addition, it provides precursors for many compounds including some amino acids and is therefore functional even in cells performing fermentation. Its centrality to many paths of biosynthesis suggest that it was one of the earliest formed parts of the cellular metabolic processes, and may have formed abiogenically.[3]
The components and reactions of the citric acid cycle were established in the 1930s by seminal work from the Nobel laureates Albert Szent-Györgyi and Hans Adolf Krebs.

A simplified view of the process

  • The citric acid cycle begins with the transfer of a two-carbon acetyl group from acetyl-CoA to the four-carbon acceptor compound (oxaloacetate) to form a six-carbon compound (citrate).
  • The citrate then goes through a series of chemical transformations, losing two carboxyl groups as CO2. The carbons lost as CO2 originate from what was oxaloacetate, not directly from acetyl-CoA. The carbons donated by acetyl-CoA become part of the oxaloacetate carbon backbone after the first turn of the citric acid cycle. Loss of the acetyl-CoA-donated carbons as CO2 requires several turns of the citric acid cycle. However, because of the role of the citric acid cycle in anabolism, they may not be lost, since many TCA cycle intermediates are also used as precursors for the biosynthesis of other molecules.[4]
  • Most of the energy made available by the oxidative steps of the cycle is transferred as energy-rich electrons to NAD+, forming NADH. For each acetyl group that enters the citric acid cycle, three molecules of NADH are produced.
  • Electrons are also transferred to the electron acceptor Q, forming QH2.
  • At the end of each cycle, the four-carbon oxaloacetate has been regenerated, and the cycle continues.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Knuckle Lights Review

During the pre-dawn portion of last Saturday's long-run I used my new Knuckle Lights ( to illuminate my way along the many road sections with limited street light illumination, and to be more visible to the frequently distracted drivers sharing the road. In both regards the Knuckle Lights were very helpful. I was particularly happy to see oncoming cars swerve well aside long in advance to provide me ample running room. I also found the diffuse illumination from the two lights (a Knuckle Light is held in each hand) provides better all-around visibility than my Petzl headlamp - which I particularly don't like wearing when it is hot.

Each KnuckleLight weighs between 6 to 8 Oz. (including batteries), which feels light to me. An adjustable strap allows a loose (my preference) to tight fit on the hand. The best indication of the unit's good design was after a few minutes I didn't notice them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Running Injuries, their Prevention & Treatments

One of the benefits of using DailyMile is finding good links to excellent running-related information (thanks, Run Janet!) I am not a physician, and relate the following only as it has been helpful to myself and I believe the information to be sound. The following video is a bit long at an hour in length, but is well worth the time as Stanford University's School of Medicine's Michael Fredericson, M.D. provides a tremendous amount of good advice regarding the prevention and treatment of running injuries.

I recently developed a minor hamstring sprain, and in researching self-treatment options I found two good sources of information, which has allowed me to recover quickly:
I have suffered Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinopathy in the past, and after trying a number of mildly helpful - but non-curative - stretches found progressively weighted eccentric stretches of the injured leg to cure me of the condition.
Fortunately I have never suffered plantar fasciitis, but having several friends who have I have copied three excellent write-ups on-topic:
I have suffered IT Band excess tightness, and found this video from to helpful:

Also from is a very good warm-up set of exercises:

Finally, a few related worthwhile sites or links:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Running Playlist

The following lists my running music playlist that I've listened to for many years, with only a few recent additions. To assure variety I leave my iPod in random 'shuffle' mode during my races and workouts, but if running with a friend leave the iPod at home since  I prefer conversation. Besides enjoying music while running (despite debate about its benefits) I also enjoy listening to action-packed audiobooks and running-oriented podcasts.

Above & Beyond
    Can't Sleep
        Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
Alice Cooper  
    School's Out
Alice Deejay vs. Timbaland
    Better Off The Way I Are
The All-American Rejects  
    Move Along
    Hes All I Want
AR Rahman  
    Mausam & Escape
    Ayla Part 2
Bachman-Turner Overdrive  
    Takin' Care of Business
Baha Men  
    Who Let the Dogs Out
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals  
    Steal My Kisses
Benny Benassi & The Biz  
Bill Conti  
    Going the Distance
The Black Eyed Peas  
    Boom Boom Pow
    Rock That Body
    Meet Me Halfway
    Imma Be
    I Gotta Feeling
    Party All the Time
    Rockin' to the Beat
    Where Is the Love?
    Let's Get It Started
Blue Öyster Cult  
Bon Jovi
    Livin' on a Prayer
Britney Spears
    I Got That
The Cars
    Just What I Needed
    My Best Friend's Girl
    Good Times Roll
    You're All I've Got Tonight
    Shake It Up
    You Might Think
    Everytime We Touch
The Commodores  
    Brick House
Daft Punk  
    One More Time
Danny Elfman  
    The Little Things
    I Ran
    After All
District 78
    Game On Symphonic Mix - Single
    Game On Symphonic Mix Dance Edit
    I See Right Through to You
The Doobie Brothers  
    Long Train Runnin'
Duran Duran  
    Hungry Like the Wolf
Eiffel 65  
    Dub in Life
    Living in a Bubble
    Move Your Body
    My Console
    The Edge
    Silicon World
Elvis Costello  
    Pump It Up
Emerson, Lake & Palmer  
    Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Pt. 2
    Lose Yourself
    Silence Must Be Heard
    Dancing With Mephisto
    Message from Io
    Eppur Si Muove
Eric Prydz
        Call On Me
    Weight Of The World
    All That I'm Living For
    If I
    Cold As Ice
    Double Vision
    Hot Blooded
    Juke Box Hero
    Feels Like the First Time
    Down and Out
    Ballad of Big
    Invisible Touch
    Tonight Tonight Tonight
    That's All
    Home By The Sea
    Turn It On Again
    Behind The Lines
    The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
    Counting Out Time
    Firth Of Fifth
    I Know What I Like
    Dance On a Volcano
    Robbery, Assault and Battery
    All In a Mouse's Night
George Thorogood & The Destroyers  
    Bad to the Bone
Global Deejays  
    Everybody's Free
    What Is Love
    Straight On
    Magic Man
House Of Pain  
    Jump Around
The Human League  
    Don't You Want Me
    Beautiful Day
Ian Van Dahl & Marsha  
    Castles In The Sky
Jackson Browne  
    Running On Empty
James Durbin  
Jay-Z / Linkin Park  
The Jimi Hendrix Experience  
    Purple Haze
    All Along the Watchtower
Jonathan Peters' Presents Luminaire  
    Flower Duet
    Don't Stop Believin'
    Carry On Wayward Son
Kanye West  
Kenny Loggins  
Led Zeppelin  
    Fool In the Rain
    Whole Lotta Love
    Ramble On
    Black Dog
Lenny Kravitz  
    Where Are We Runnin'?
Linkin Park  
    Breaking The Habit
Lionel Richie  
Maroon 5  
    Harder to Breathe
Miss Jane    It's
    A Fine Day
Missy Elliott  
    Get Ur Freak On
    As the Rush Comes
    Here Comes the Rain Again
Nalin & Kane  
Natasja & Enur  
    Calabria 2007
    Smells Like Teen Spirit
    Ready, Steady, Go
    Youre Not Alone
Panic! At The Disco  
    I Write Sins Not Tragedies
Pat Benatar  
    Hit Me With Your Best Shot
    Love Is a Battlefield
Pink Floyd  
    Run Like Hell
    Have A Cigar
The Police  
    Message In A Bottle
Postal Service  
    Such Great Heights
The Prodigy  
Quad City DJ's  
    Space Jam
    We Will Rock You
    We Are The Champions
    Another One Bites The Dust
Rage Against The Machine  
    Wake Up
Ramin Djawadi  
    Driving With the Top Down
    Merchant of Death
Rob Dougan  
    Clubbed To Death
Robert Miles  
Robin Fox
    I See Stars
The Rolling Stones  
    Jumpin' Jack Flash
    Gimme Shelter
Shiny Toy Guns  
    Le Disko
    Magic Carpet Ride
Story of the Year  
    Until the Day I Die
    Too Much Time On My Hands
    Pump Up the Jam
Tom Petty    Runnin'
    Down a Dream
Trans-Siberian Orchestra  
    Wizards In Winter
    The Walls of Doom
    Where the Streets Have No Name
Ulrich Schnauss  
    ...Passing By
    Chariots Of Fire
Weird Al Yankovic  
    White & Nerdy
    Owner of a Lonely Heart
Zombie Nation  
    Kernkraft 400
3 Doors Down  
4 Strings  
    Take Me Away

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chicago's Chill versus Houston's Heat

Having just returned from a two week trip to Chicago I was energized and encouraged to see my running pace, energy and stamina all at levels which I haven't seen in months! Of course the explanation is the comparatively cool Chicago weather conditions versus hot and humid Houston.  Since I'm training for the Chicago Marathon this discovery was highly motivating both via confirming my fitness levels and providing tangible encouragement that by October we will hopefully see good marathon weather conditions in the Windy City.

Additionally, following last weekend's announcement of the tragedy in Afghanistan involving the death of thirty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, I joined a Daily Mile challenge to provide tribute to those brave Americans by running thirty miles.  While competing in this challenge my mind was inexorably focused on the bravery and incredible sacrifice of these men, whose helicopter was shot while attempting to rescue other service men under attack by the Taliban. Without intending to do so I found it impossible to take my normal water breaks every three miles, and ran the entire ten mile distance non-stop with an increasing pace every succeeding mile. Through participation in this challenge, and reflection on the sacrifices and bravery of others the power of the mind to help accomplish feats otherwise unimaginable became clear.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chicago Marathon training update

So, with a bit less than 12 weeks until the Chicago Marathon I've received a few questions from my running-oriented friends concerning how my training is going, and what will be my race goal. To the first question I'm happy that my training has gone fairly well, thanks to the Kenyan Way Saturday morning long run and my perfectly steady-paced training partner Alison. While I've also managed to get in good weekday training runs (thanks to the well situated 24 Hour Fitness Center that's close to the scenic and well shaded Rice University outer loop) my refusal to do speed or tempo work on the cooler indoor treadmills will compromise any realistic shot for an ambitious Chicago goal. So, presuming ideal Windy City weather (i.e with finishing temperatures no higher than 70F) my goal time will be an easy 3:29, running at a steady 8:00 pace with the Nike pacing group.  

Looking deeper into my proverbial crystal ball in the subsequent three months between Chicago and Houston, if all goes well my Houston ambitious goal will be to P.R. with a 3:19. We'll see!  

Olympian Paula Radcliffe: “I can't imagine living and not running.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Americans are Fat and Getting Fatter. The "F as in Fat" Report

By CDC. via Wikimedia Commons
Earlier today a fellow blogger and Runners Round Table podcast friend Pete Larson wrote another thought provoking post. He referenced Trust for America's Health recent report entitled: F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future. Pete referenced his prior successful weight loss and subsequent maintenance through an active lifestyle and good nutrition, and encouraged the running community to increase the awareness of others to this growing problem.

I committed permanently to lose weight in my early 40's. While then leading a largely sedentary lifestyle, and enjoying the nutritional intake more appropriate to my former high school swim team days, I accommodated my ever-growing waist line by periodic shopping trips for new clothes. While aware of my weight, I wasn't concerned until I was shocked by the sales clerk who informed me that he didn't carry "my size", and in turn I'd need to go to a "big and tall men's store". Finally realizing that my 50+ lbs. of surplus weight would force an expensive change in my complete wardrobe, I was also reminded of the likely consequence of my continued lifestyle through observing my obese father's painful hip surgery and recovery. So, with a double dose of fear, but the inspiration and encouragement provided by a long-time friend's successful loss of 65 lbs. I made my commitment on that day. In the subsequent six months, despite a continued lack of exercise I was nevertheless successful in reaching my 165 lb. goal weight owing to my continued determination and motivation.

Upon reaching my goal weight a colleague made a statement then asked me a question - the combination of which helped determine my more important subsequent success: "While it's great that you've reached your goal weight, it's a shame that you're almost certain to re-gain it all. I know you're not a runner, but why don't you join me tomorrow morning for a run?" While I initially felt angry at the perceived slight, I was well aware that the vast majority of Americans who lose a significant amount of weight, but who don't make a substantive and permanent increase in their activity level, in fact do re-gain. So, with a quick trip to the sports store for the necessary equipment I did take him up on his suggestion and ran the next morning. Now, nearly twelve years later, with well over ten  thousand pleasurable road and trail runs under my belt I'm even more thankful for that friend's timely input. I've found through the sport of running a fun activity which I enjoy year-round that has provided me many friendships, positive life experiences and a tremendous amount of stress reduction - with absolutely certain positive health benefits far surpassing merely helping to effectively control my weight.

I encourage all runners to quickly read through the shocking F as in Fat report and to then use your influence to increase the awareness of others to this vital problem. It affects ourselves, our families, our economy and our society - both in the short and long-term. Here are two short but good motivational and informative videos entirely on-topic:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Use your Alarm Clock to Beat the Heat

To prevent another self-interrupted long-run swelter fest I decided to start my run an hour earlier than Kenyan Way's normal 6:00 AM group start. I'm glad I did!

To comply with Sean Wade's bot-generated Chicago Marathon training plan I wanted to get a full 15 miles in today. With pre-dawn Houston temperatures forecast - again - to be hot and humid (77°F with a 73°F DP), and with the rising sun quickly worsening those conditions, I arranged with my wonderfully steady paced training partner to meet an hour early. Besides the earlier start we agreed to back down a bit on our pace for the first half of the run, to ~8:15 or so. The combination clearly helped, demonstrated by our achieving our target negative split and feeling strong throughout.  When faced with hot and humid conditions use your alarm clock and a somewhat slowed target pace to help you achieve your training objectives nevertheless.

Side Bar. Read this fascinating Globe and Mail article on running in the heat.  Also, if you don't already follow these excellent blogger runners, here are two especially interesting recent ones: Pete with Runblogger and Jaymee with Run Away Fast.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coffee - The Greatest Addiction Ever (i.e. Besides Running!)

I loved this video extolling the virtues of one's daily cup of joe. Packed into this breezy, informative video is a wealth of amazing coffee facts that just might cause you to drop what you are doing and make yourself another cup.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Temperature + Humidity + Wind + Sun; Warm-up?

On this morning's Kenyan Way training run I bonked beginning in the seventh mile, which with the benefit of hindsight was entirely avoidable. What misled me in deciding my target pace was the forecast starting temperature and dew point being 82°F and 74°F, both exactly the same as last Saturday's successful long run. The key difference, however, was today's absence of a breeze (versus last Saturday's average 11 mph wind with gusts up to 18 mph) and the cloudless sky.

In my experience the humidity - more-so than temperature - played the biggest part in my prior melt downs, leading me to frequently parrot the line I've heard from wise old-time runners: "Humidity - not temperature - is the silent killer." While true, the absence of wind and the strength of the sun are also key in determining the exogenous heat transferred to your body, and thus your ability to run at a given pace.

Sadly, the four key factors which determine the rate of heat transferred to the runner's body: temperature, humidity, wind, and sun, are probably too complex in their individual interplay to allow one to confidently assess one's optimum pace. Fortunately, however, we're all equipped with our highly evolved brains, which, presuming we utilize same - and don't become 'slaves' to the Garmin Forerunner around our wrists - should allow us to continuously adjust our pace throughout our run as necessary. Through continuously adjusting our pace via our perceived level of exertion we simultaneously adjust for the heat which is stressing our bodies, as well as elevation changes, our extent of fatigue, dynamic course conditions, etc.. I hope the this lesson re-learned will pay-off on my next warm-weather run: Don't be so mechanical in using my target pace to over-ride my common sense!

On another running-related topic, earlier this week I read with interest a good NY Times article discussing whether one should stretch statically in advance of one's run. Personally I only use static stretching after my run (the efficacy of which was unfortunately not studied). Also not explored in the article are the benefits of dynamic (vs. static) warm-up techniques.

My curiosity thus piqued on my morning's routine iPad perusal of running related articles (thanks Zite!) I stumbled on an interesting article, which included two recommended warm-up routines from Coach Jay Johnson. These look very interesting and I intend to try them out. Thoughts?

Finally, a link to my ever growing inspirational running quotes and mantras.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Running truly is 80% mental

Joan Benoit Samuelson dramatically won gold in the women's marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the year that event was first introduced for women. Afterward she was quoted as saying: “Running is 80 percent mental.” I fully agree, and this morning's training run demonstrates why.

I ran with the Kenyan Way training group beginning at dawn, on a typical hot and humid Houston early morning. The temperature was already 78F, the humidity was a dripping 90%, and the sun - though low on the horizon - was already baking. I felt drained after only seven miles when we temporarily returned to base for fluids. Despite my growing fatigue I had held onto the group's 8:00 pace for the entire distance, but unlike prior cooler training runs it was truly an absolute struggle. Consequently, I was ready to hang it up, and began to imagine the delicious thought of taking an early shower.

With my mind nearly made I suddenly remembered the commitment I'd given to the friend running beside me an hour before, that I'd run the entire planned 11 miles. So, despite my doubts, I decided to run with the suddenly enlarged group for the remaining distance. The psychological benefit of being part of a group paid off! I was drawn into the group's conversation, and by doing so appropriately slowed my pace somewhat. Before I knew it we were back at base! Afterward, looking at my Forerunner I was delighted to realize that we'd maintained the same consistent 8:00 pace throughout the entire distance - despite the warming conditions.

If you're training for a longer distance race such as a marathon or half-marathon you really should join a group, ideally one such as Kenyan Way as it is led by a great coach who provides individualized training plans and replicates race conditions by providing both sports drink and water every two to three miles. You'll enjoy the benefits of running with others who are at - or ideally slightly faster than - your training pace, will treasure the group's companionship, quickly make friends, and will discover the training benefits to be huge. The latter owing to running longer distances than you'd otherwise manage, and being much more consistent both in pacing and in overall frequency.

Monday, May 9, 2011

CB&I Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Only 500 meters in an open water Woodlands Lake swim to start the CB&I Triathlon. That's all. However, looking out over the seemingly far longer course, and the numerous individuals struggling to swim the distance, I had to admit to some nervousness since I'd never swum an open water competitive event.

To give myself encouragement I reflected on my high school years in the swim team, where 500 meters wasn't even a warm-up, and of my earliest swimming success when at age 12 I'd first swum a mile across a Wisconsin lake to earn a Boy Scout medal. With those thoughts, after strapping on my goggles and donning the swim cap appropriate for my group I waded into the very murky warm water with 102 others, and at the sound of the horn took off. After a few strokes in a flurry of white water I was surprised to bump into two swimmers on my left, and realized that owing to my being a right handed, and being stronger on that side, I was veering left with each stroke. Fortunately I realized the problem and compensated somewhat through paddling harder on the left side then popping my head up every four strokes to spot the next buoy and adjust my direction (later, a more triathlon-experienced friend advised that I alternate breathing between the left and the right side, as by doing so I'd swim a far longer distance between necessary buoy sightings). A slow thirteen minutes later I climbed out of the water, dried my feet to put on my bike shoes, strapped on my helmet and began the bike leg.

In the two years since my only prior triathlon I'd modified the pedals on my bike such that my bike shoes clip directly to them. This resulted in improved peddling efficiency, which became evident as my average speed was faster despite training far less, and the fifteen miles passed uneventfully. Nevertheless, I took away three bike-related lessons learned: 1) Increase my bike training, since that activity forms by far the largest percentage of my overall time; 2) Maintain a more aerodynamic forward lean via resting my forearms on the Aerobar; 3) Hydrate more.

I then began the 5K run, and after first satiating my extreme thirst I quickly picked-up the pace and was happy to run well despite the high humidity and temperature climbing into the lower 80's. Immediately after crossing the finishing line the race organizers provided a fantastic post-race food and meet/greet area, and I especially appreciated a convenient tent for the athletes to print their results, which were: Swim: 13:12 (my weakest event, #551); T1: 4:11; Bike 50:06 (#510); T2: 4:33; Run: 22:42 (strongest event, #111); Overall: 1:35:45 (#479/749; M50-54 group: 35/54)

The CBI Tri is a well managed and fun event, which I intend to compete in again - and do much better with significantly increased swim and bike training and practice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

All's well, thanks!

A great thing about the interwebs is that friends notice when you suddenly break your prior pattern of blog posts then follow-up to make sure that all's well. That's really most appreciated, as doing so for someone that you have never met is the mark of real friendship and respect. So, I decided to quickly post to provide reassurance that all's well on my side of the monitor - thanks.

Explaining my virtual absence I just returned from a two week trip, where I unfortunately didn't have the time to make a post. I was impressed on the trip to observe a huge increase in the number of runners in both London and Paris versus prior trips a few years ago.  This provides very tangible evidence of the marked increase in popularity of the sport - particularly in the U.K.. While I expected same, seeing it first-hand was truly striking and very encouraging. While all evidence points to this trend continuing, it's nevertheless critical for we who enjoy the benefits of our active lifestyles to continue to encourage friends and family.

"When I finish a run, every part of me is smiling." - Jeff Galloway

Post-submit addition... In response to a suggestion by fellow blogger Chris Korn (of "BQ or Die" fame) that I add some photos I decided to do him one better. See below, as you'll first see a picture of London's Tower Bridge which I'm quite proud of since I took it while bouncing on the top of a double deck tour bus, then of two very different sets of London street performers (taken, and edited on my beloved new iPad 2):

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


In the great 1984 film Terminator Arnold famously said "I'll be back", and proceeded to make very good on that promise. In 1942 General Douglas MacArthur, ordered by President Roosevelt to leave the Philippines to avoid capture by the Japanese, famously issued a similar line, "I shall return."  He too made good on that commitment.
Similarly, after my prior 10k and subsequent highly disconcerting back-spasms I committed to give myself time to fully recover.  Having done so over the past nine days, and being confident that it was finally time to return I was a bit trepidatious while stepping out of the car to begin my three mile run around Memorial Park.  Running very slowly initially initially my goal was not to look at my pace, but solely to feel the joy of movement over scenic ground.  Doing so was a relief, allowing me to watch the ongoing construction of a much-needed new running trail, while being vigilant for the first sign of any back pain or discomfort.  Fortunately, there was absolutely no signs of trouble, and as a result I cautiously ramped-up my speed somewhat, happily enjoying the wind and the sunshine during the run.
Lesson learned.  If not 100% don't run.  And especially don't race!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bayou Classic 10K Race Report

Ouch!  That's all I can say after a disastrous 10K this morning in downtown Houston.

In doing cross-training on Tuesday I over-extended my back in one strengthening exercise, so owing to that injury and a very badly bruised toe I took the rest of the week off.  Doing so was a good decision.  Unfortunately, I proceeded to make a very bad decision by running the Bayou Classic 10K this morning despite my back muscles' continued sensitivity.  Nothing against the course, the organizers or my fellow runners, all of which were excellent.

After pushing hard with a 6:38 average pace the first two miles the muscles of my back were unable to hold my posture correctly, which resulted in a significant fall-off in my pace through the finish. After filming the final art car piece and walking gingerly towards my car my back muscles began spasming, which shook me up as I'd never experienced such a thing before. Fortunately I was safely able to drive home, where I was rescued by my wonderful and sympathetic wife who has since been nursing me back to a small semblance of normalcy.  A major lesson (re-)learned: Don't race unless you're absolutely positively 100%, and if you do violate that rule then make it into an easy and slow training run, being ready to walk to the finish on the first signs of trouble.

Incidentally, the above video represents my initial attempt to piece together two videos that I captured initially using my iPod Nano then copied to my iPad 2 for video editing using iMovie.  I've clearly got a lot to learn to better use this great new technology.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fun with my new iPad 2

It took a couple hours of waiting, but it was worth it for a sleek new black iPad 2! My next step is to download Apple's iMovie App, following which I'll edit the videos that I captured during last weekend's Texas Independence Relay, add some snapshots and overlay a sound track. 

A humorous "banned" iPad video worth sharing:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Texas Independence Relay Race Report

This weekend I had the pleasure of running the Texas Independence Relay, where as part of a 12-person team we had an absolutely fantastic experience collectively running non-stop for 203 miles under 27 hours from the relay start in Gonzales, Texas to the San Jacinto Monument. Click here to view the photos, or see below for the video.

We were overjoyed and inspired to have our fellow team member and recent cancer survivor friend Rick join us.  He demonstrated incredible determination, courage and strength to overcome his daunting health challenges and to demonstrably bounce back by running amazingly strongly each of his legs. Collectively, our team shattered our prior record by knocking an hour off our prior best cumulative time (the team had run the TIR on three prior occasions)!

A special shout-out of appreciation to Colin Hayes whose musical talents in creating his running-oriented song collections were much appreciated by the entire team. In preparing for the race I burned to audio CD both of his excellent running parody song collections, which were a huge hit during the frequent waiting around for the next runner that's an essential part of the road relay experience. Learn more about Colin and his entirely self-created collections via his entertaining blog at:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Core Strengthening Videos and Tips from Others

One of the great things about being a runner is consistently finding helpful, knowledgeable and supportive fellow runners.

To set the stage for future running form improvements I'm in the midst of strengthening my weak core, especially my abs, glutes and hip abductors. provides a great means to seek-out other runners' advice while simultaneously receiving - and providing - motivation. This is easily done through the numerous challenge groups. Through this venue I recently received an excellent collection of applicable advice and video links, which I decided to post.

"Build a strong core and rest more regularly. Power hike uphill to develop strong core muscles, since proper technique is to use the glutes to push uphill in liu of most peoples' tendency to pull themselves up which puts extra stress on the quads and hips. Exercises such as bridges on a stability ball or squats help with this glutes focus."

"An workout tip for core work and other exercises is to keep your knees behind your toes. For example, when doing squats, bend backwards when squatting, like you're sitting down on a chair and keep the knees behind or above the toes. If the knees move ahead of the toes, too much stress can be put on the knees and the hips won't be able to support the upper body properly."

"Once you have developed good core strength, your running will change to where the work is done in the core and allowing gravity to work for you more effectively. As you become tired - or if your core is weak, you'll have the tendency to "sit back" on your hips. This puts them too far back for ideal alignment requiring significantly more use of your glutes, hamstrings and lower back muscles to compensate. This posture tends to increase the amount of impact your joints are taking as your muscles can not assist to dissipate the impact like a spring. It is rare to see a person who runs with their hips "too far forward", but when you do, you'll know it. They look like a stiff board and appear to be leaning backward as their hips will be in front of their shoulders. A good reality check for everyone is have a friend video you running after you are warmed up then to have someone competent at assessing proper running form review it. It doesn't lie! You'll probably be surprised how different you actually look when running as opposed to how you THINK you're running!"

Hamstring stretches:
Lie on the floor on your back with legs up against the wall and butt against the wall also. Engage the core and you should feel the stretch in the lower back, hamstrings and calves. The stretch can be intensified by pulling the toes back towards the shins. Alternatively crouch in a skier's tuck position - legs wider than the shoulders, knees behind the toes, hands about a foot in front of the feet gently clasped together, and head up looking forward. The stretch is intensified by gently lifting the butt upwards. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, then release; repeat as needed.

Finally, a simple stretch but always effective stretch is to bend over and hang your hands towards the floor with the legs having only a slight bend. Control the stretch by reaching for the floor, then easing. Stretches should always be done gently, no ballistic movements, and remember to breathe. After taking a deep breath, try to extend a bit further on the exhale.

IT Band Stretches:

Use Gliding discs:

Runners World's Videos

From Core Values:

Other Runners World Video Links:

LoLo Jones' Abs Workout:

Mammoth Workout:

Building Core Strength, Part 2:

I was also pointed to Matt Hart's site, and his Core 600 Workouts:

Finally, as my blog friend Chris just posted a couple of good related video links I'm pasting same below.

Total Body Workout:

Abs/Core Workout:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Metabolism rises for 14 hours after hard exercise

I just stumbled on the following interesting and encouraging research result, which is obviously great news for us runners! Click through to Sweat Science's post: Metabolism rises for 14 hours after hard exercise

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2011 ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run 10K Race Report

Rocky Balboa as the Italian Stalion
Who but his amazing likeness, with large boxing gloves, shorts and a shirt identifying himself in bold large letters as "ROCKY", lined-up at the start of this morning's 10K Rodeo Run? Most of the spectators were simply waiting around for the Rodeo Parade which immediately followed the race, so Rocky's presence got their attention - especially as he aped to the crowds with uppercuts and jabs. I appreciated Rocky's antics from my vantage point a few strides behind since the spectators were far louder in applauding for those in his wake.

Nearing the two mile mark, and foolishly thinking that Rocky was weakening I attempted to pass, but with a glare and a quickstep previously reserved only for Apollo Creed in the tenth round he responded. I managed to hold onto my trailing position a few strides behind until just past the half-way point, at which point, thinking of Coach Burgess Meridith, it was me that threw in the white towel.

Climbing the uphill segments of the Elysian Viaduct
One of the causes for my suddenly lowered morale results from an unfortunate aspect of the Rodeo Run and all other races originating from Houston's downtown. The event organizers' unfortunately route runners to the north neighborhoods from downtown via the horrible Elysian Viaduct, a completely unpopulated 1.5 mile long four lane concrete road with two elevated bridges over the decidedly non-scenic Interstate 10, a sprawling commercial district and railroad yards. It was at this point in the race, facing the uphill sections and realizing my inability to cool down (the race temperature was 72F with a very humid 65F dew point) I knew that I'd be unable to sustain the 6:47 average pace which I'd managed in the first half. Though "Rocky" and his fans inspired me in the first 5K, I paid for it in the second half by slowing to a comparatively lethargic 7:31 average second half pace.

Repetition of my long-time pacing problem in hot and humid conditions of excessively ambitiously running the first half followed by a second half melt-down didn't squelch my good feelings after the finish. I immediately met-up with a couple of good friends and after we complained about the weather we partook of some much appreciated post-race nutrition. Sadly, I couldn't find "Rocky", as I'd have shaken his hand and thanked him. In any case, I've got next weekend's Texas Independence Relay to look forward to!