Thursday, November 22, 2012

TXU Energy 2012 Turkey Trot Race Report

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to celebrate with family and friends, and to recognize the many blessings that each of us have been provided throughout our lives.  The most important blessing is our health, and in that regard I've always been happy to run a 10K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.  Today was no exception!

I am delighted through my participation in this race to support the Sheltering Arms Senior Services, an excellent service organization.  

Lining up on the course beforehand I was happy to see my friends Allison and Laura, and families with kids.  Instilling fitness as a value in our children is critical, and it's best done in a fun way such as a race as it grabs the kids attention.  While race organizers should have made several more public announcements encouraging slower runners and walkers to line-up at the rear, this didn't bother me excessively this year since I was able to line-up within 20 feet of the start line.

The temperature and humidity was a significant factor in my overall performance, a spectator friendly but competitive runner slowing 64F and 88% humidity.  While I didn't let the conditions unduly affect me initially (I was happy with my first half 6:54 average pace), in the second half I slowed particularly in the 5th mile as my breathing was somewhat strained.  The rabid competitor in me was a bit disappointed in that my overall time of 44:15, (a 7:07 overall pace) was far from my P.R..  However, considering the decidedly sub-optimal weather conditions and the importance of not impacting my highest priority Houston Marathon race, less than two months away, the race was a success.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thoughts after a great Memorial Park ten miler

After enjoying a great ten mile run this morning at Houston's beautiful Memorial Park I posted afterward on Daily Mile my thoughts regarding the easy ways to achieve Kenyan Way Coach Sean Wade's effective and winning philosophy of negative splitting each and every training run and race.  In summary:
  1. Keep your breathing in control in the initial half of every training run or race.
  2. Use your Garmin Forerunner's settings to your advantage (i.e. auto-lap every mile and have only three items displayed on the watch: average pace for the current mile in largest font, average pace, and total distance.)
  3. Do not use the default instantaneous pace since it varies too much and will lead you to run with an inefficient erratic pace owing to spending an exorbitant amount of physical and mental effort repeatedly looking at and puzzling over your watch.
  4. At the half-way point glance at your Garmin's average pace. That pace, minus one or two seconds per mile, becomes your slowest target pace for the remaining miles.
  5. Do not to worry about the final mile's pace, as it will take care of itself.  Instead, focus on the hardest mile - the penultimate one.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Newton's Gravity Neutral Performance Training Review

Excitedly, I opened the box from Newton Running containing the latest Neutral Performance Trainers, and gave a good gander to my new green Gravities.  Great!

Having enjoyed the vast majority of my P.R.'s wearing Newtons I am very confident in them, so did something I never advise a running friend to do.  I broke them in on an inaugural fourteen mile run.

As expected, they felt comfortable and natural, and I ran strong and fast.  Newton's design includes an effective cushioning system, unique mid-sole energy efficient Action/Reaction technology, light weight and low heel-to-toe drop.  These encourage the runner to adopt a more rapid stride, to land with their mid-foot with their slightly bent leg underneath them, and to utilize the bodies' natural shock absorbing and elastic recoil returning triumvirate of the plantar fascia, calf, and Achilles tendon.

I admit this sounds a bit too tech.  Evaluating a pair of running shoes, particularly of a new design, is inherently a very personal experience requiring a far lengthier evaluation time than is allowed by most specialty shoe retailers, who typically restrict the runner to test their shoes on an excessively cushioned indoor running surface.  So, I encourage runners to try on a pair of Newtons via their 60 Days of Better promotion, where between September 1 and October 31 North American customers are able to return the shoes with no questions asked up to a full sixty days after purchase.  This lengthy trial period allows the runner more than sufficient time to fully evaluate their new Newtons, and to ideally adopt the form techniques referenced below:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Why did the runner cross the road? To get to the other cant!!


  1. Hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature.
  2. A slope or tilt.

In this post I refer you to the second definition of cant versus the informal contraction, and the far too frequently utilized can't.

I am not sure why it took me over 14,000 running miles to realize, but for those runners as myself who run for the sake of personal safety on the left side of the road (so as to face oncoming traffic), we are exclusively training our bodies to accommodate a longitudinally leftward cant of the road surface.  The resulting alterations to our gaits are quickest observed when we then run on the right side of the road, as the road's cant there is directly opposite to that for which our bodies have been trained.

I discovered this years ago when running the Madison, Wisconsin Marathon, as for many of the early miles of that race it is run on the far right side of the road, where there is a decidedly sharp rightward cant.  Despite - I thought - being physically well prepared for the Marathon I was shocked just how quickly I weakened, and only realized long afterward that I simply had not adequately trained to run long distances with a rightward cant of the road.

Wherever it is safely possible run on a laterally flat road surface.  As you will eventually be forced to safely contend with vehicular traffic attempt to equally divide your miles between the left and right sides of the road. 

THAT is how you CAN do the CANT!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

4 the Park 4-Mile Race Report

Houston's wonderful Memorial Park was devastated by the prolonged drought of 2011.  In the wake of this tragedy Houstonians have stepped-up to support Memorial Park Conservancy's efforts to replant trees and make numerous other Memorial Park improvements.  Consequently, a record turn-out of nearly 3,000 runners ran a well organized four mile race today to raise funds for this worthy cause.

I was initially tempted not to run, but with encouragement from other Texas Independence Relay DOGs runners (the twelve of us collectively had just run 203 miles the prior weekend) I'm glad that I did!

Within the race registration packet was a live tree sapling.  Taking my cue I arrived a bit early to have my moment with nature by planting the sapling in a location which I hope provides it a great growth opportunity.

After chatting with some friends the race began uneventfully, though with the to-be-expected level of frustration caused by far too slow walkers obliviously lining-up at the start line and casually walking shoulder-to-shoulder with their equally clueless slow friends.  This created a frustrating blockade to faster runners hoping for an unobstructed path.  I hope that future Four the Park race organizers announce on the loudspeakers in the fifteen minutes preceding the race's start that slower runners should move back from the start line area.  While such announcements can easily be ignored, at minimum they would serve to alert slower race participants not to walk abreast at the beginning of the race when the congestion is at its worst.

The weather was a bit warm (temperatures in the upper 70's with moderate humidity and a strong sun), but cooler than it could have been been, so I have no complaints.  The volunteers providing fluids and announcing the elapsed time at the half-way point did a great job. 

Afterward, studying my race details the effects of the heat can be clearly seen by my mile splits: 6:42, 6:55, 7:10 then 7:17.  Given the frequent instructions from my Kenyan Way Coach Sean Wade to negative split in each and every race and training run I blame nobody but myself for not properly adjusting my early miles' pace for the warm weather conditions.  Nevertheless, I was happy to finish 6th in my age group, and was delighted that several of my friends had done even better.

The race was fun, as was seeing my friends.  Also, I was glad to have supported a fantastic cause.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Texas Independence Relay Race Report

The 2012 Texas Independence Relay was very tough. It demanded perseverance, sacrifice and planning. It required caring for other teams' heat-stricken runners, overcoming sleep-deprived short tempers and running strongly despite soaring heat and high humidity.  It necessitated patience and understanding when two team members (myself unfortunately included) became temporarily disoriented and lost the team valuable time.  Nevertheless, in the DOGs' five year history running the Texas Independence Relay we achieved our best placed outcome thus far, second place in our Mixed Masters Division!

Team DOGs at the Bastrop start: Clark, Janet, Mark, Dave, Xabier, Kim, Tim, Rick, Carsten, Laura, Paul and Mary Beth
The Texas Independence Relay's unprecedented late March start was caused by the organizer's inability to obtain support from the race's historically chosen start in Gonzales.  Bastrop was selected, which proved fortuitous as despite the string of calamities it has suffered in the past twelve months - unprecedented heat, record drought, unquenchable fires and a road destroying flood - it welcomed the TIR runners and amply revealed its rustic charm and beauty.

I ran my first leg of 6.41 miles at a 8:22 pace.  I made this leg unnecessarily tough by running the first two miles at an absolutely ridiculous 7:20 pace, insane considering the 89F temperature, dripping humidity, and baking sun reflecting off the softening black asphalt which gave the perception of 100F temperatures.  Too much adrenaline and excitement turned my non-existent pacing strategy into an unintended exercise in masochism, and thus my toughest TIR leg ever.

I wasn't alone in my misery.  Runners dropped around us like flies, as ambulances arrived at nearly every late afternoon exchange point while paramedics rushed several other team's heat-stricken runners to the hospital. We felt sorry for the numerous inexperienced runners who were neglected by their teams and left to fend for themselves with no fluid support or assistance.  While we took many unsupported runners under our wing to provide them cool fluids and a cool space to recover, we hope that in coming years these teams better attend to their runners' needs - particularly in extreme weather conditions.

During our vehicle's rest shift we enjoyed a tasty baked BBQ chicken and baked potato dinner and managed an all too brief four hour sleep when we were awakened with word from our leader Paul: "We've got a wounded DOG."  Startled by the news that Tim had pulled a hamstring, and that Paul had of necessity run Tim's third leg, Janet and Laura came up with a great plan.  Janet would give her short two mile leg to Xabier, she would take Paul's four mile run and I would take Tim's six miler.

With this sorted out I ran my 2:30 AM five miles leg at a much better 8:03 average pace.  It was surreal to have my headlamp illuminating a narrow cone of light in front but otherwise enveloped by a dark shroud of total silence.  With half a mile to go I saw a runner ahead, whom I made my mission to pass.  With one hundred yards remaining before the exchange he heard me approaching, so we sprinted headlong towards the exchange with both teams cheering loudly.  Narrowly missing passing him in the final yard I shook his hand afterward and thanked him for providing a great motivating target.

At dawn on Sunday I ran my third leg of 6.8 miles with a disappointing 8:59 average pace.  This was unfortunately the result of my inattention to the trail which caused me to temporarily got lost in George Bush Park, wasting five minutes asking for help.  Strangely, the much lower 74F temperature was fully offset by the still early morning air and the 100% humidity, so the combination actually felt hotter than the final leg run in the late afternoon's heat.

I ran the remainder of the leg with Dave, a first-time TIR runner from Austin. He shocked me by indicating that on Saturday afternoon he had literally counted ten separate runners picked-up by paramedics owing to the heat. I have no idea if Dave's count was accurate, but regardless it occurred that similar to what the organizers of the Houston and Chicago Marathons have implemented with posted heat advisory notices that the TIR organizer should similarly consider post written notices under adverse conditions. This might be done inexpensively and effectively at the exchange points; under hot conditions such sheets would caution runners of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and hyponatremia, and remind them of their simple preventative measures.

Finally, on Sunday's early afternoon I ran a tough 6.04 mile leg with a very good 8:05 pace. I'm glad I had volunteered to take Tim's final leg, as it proved my best.  Despite 86F temperatures, a 74F dew point and a strong sun the combination of a wonderfully supportive team providing ample cold water and Gatorade along the route every mile, a gentle breeze, the privileged feeling from the Pasadena police blocking major street intersections upon my arrival, and the knowledge that this was my final leg allowed me to give it my all.

The DOGS successfully overcame the many obstacles we faced and we achieved our highest Mixed Masters Division ranking of second place with a time of 28:59, an 8:34 overall average pace over the 203 mile course. This result was noteworthy in that we had narrowly beaten the third place team in our Division by only seven minutes, a mere 0.4%, or just two seconds per mile!  Thanks to team DOGs for another great race - the team's fifth successful year!!

Afterward, relaxing with the team at the Monument, my friend Carsten kindly took a great picture which revealed just how happy I was after our challenging yet rewarding race.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

ConocoPhillips 10K Rodeo Run Race Report

This morning's race was nice and cool, though a bit too windy for my taste. For the first time I parked close to the finish, then took a bus to the start.  In years past I'd parked four miles from the start, then had a lengthy warm-up and cool-down jog.  My thought this year was that I'd keep my legs fresh by parking close and running just one warm-up mile.  Indeed it was nice jogging through downtown before the race while surveying the parade floats, marching bands, horses and livestock which follow us through downtown immediately after the runners pass.

Once the race began I made my unfortunately all too typical error of pushing the pace a bit too hard in the first mile, and as a result was somewhat disappointed by my positive split (7:01 pace in the 1st 5K and a 7:15 in the 2nd half), and an overall time far from my ideally hoped for P.R..

Nevertheless, I consoled myself afterward by realizing that I'd age-group placed in the top 5% by finishing 11th out of 284 runners. Also, I'd made the right shoe selection as my Newton MV2's felt light, fast and responsive.  Finally, it was nice seeing several running friends, and racing through downtown with hoards of enthusiastic spectators cheering loudly!

For my next race I will sign-up for the Bayou Classic 10K, as it supports Houston's wonderful Memorial Park, avoids the bleak, long and hilly Elysian viaduct, and instead runs out of downtown along the far more scenic and flat Memorial Drive.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Newton Motion Stability Trainer Review

Having run in Newton Motion Stability Trainers for three years, I love them.  Prior to these becoming my marathon training and race "go to" shoe, I had run in Brooks Adrenalines, widely described "traditional stability shoes."  Upon switching to the Newton Motions I immediately found their far lighter weight, significantly lower heel-to-toe drop (4 mm vs. 12 mm), and their proprietary Action/Reaction mid-sole technology all contributed to dramatically improve both my race performances and my natural running form.

So, having had success in this shoe (and even having my form professionally analyzed while wearing them) it was with trepidation when I saw that for the spring of 2012 Newton had updated their Motion Performance Trainers.  My first impression upon opening the box and looking at the shoes was... Wow!  Not one to normally post photos on DailyMile, I decided to in this case, and was blown away by the favorable comments.  As with the Newton MV2's, these are not for the timid!

I next tried them on for fit and comfort.  I had always been delighted with the prior Motions' ample toe box, which provided a roomy feel that I found critical when I increased my distance beyond ~18 miles.  Fortunately, the 2012 Motion retains this feature, and are even more comfortable owing to their new contoured sock liner.  Also, new in this release are wide-mesh uppers to facilitate more rapid sweat evaporation and cooling.  Training with a prodigious sweat rate from hot and humid Houston, this ranks in my opinion as the new Motion's greatest enhancement.

I then gave them a good ten mile distance run.  Long enough to provide a bit of the challenge that the Motions are designed for, yet short enough to allow me to concentrate fully on them.  Via running a deliberately mixed surface route, I was able to easily contrast the feel and performance of the shoe on both Memorial Park's soft dirt and gravel trails and on Houston's typical ultra-hard concrete roads.  In both cases the shoe handled and felt great, even more-so once I crossed into double digit mileage territory.

Since I had run in the ultra-lightweight MV2's just the prior day, I was sensitive to differences between these two great Newton shoes.  To be fair I shouldn't even allude to such a comparison, since they are two shoes of completely different intended purposes and race distances.  The 2012 Motions, while 5% lighter than their predecessor, retain the substance and long-lasting performance needed especially when crossing over 20 miles.  This, from my long experience is the distance beyond which most marathon runners begin to see their form deteriorate, and where the mild mid-foot mild stability elements of the Motions are the most beneficial.

As the bottom line of this review, the new 2012 Newton Motions will remain my "go-to" marathon training and racing shoe!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Newton MV2 Shoe Review

Two and a half months ago I received my Newton MV2 running shoes.  These screamers are engineered to be the lightest and most efficient Natural Running shoe using Newton's second-generation Action/Reaction Technology.  This technology has numerous patents to prevent other manufacturers from simply copying their designs, and having run in Newton shoes for three years I encourage you go to a good specialty running store to learn about them, then to give them a good run.

These MV2's have a truly flat profile, which encourages a quick high cadence gait. Recognizing that many runners, like myself, are transitioning to the MV2's from running shoes with a slightly higher heel-to-toe drop, Newton supplies these shoes with optional three millimeter heel inserts.  Initially feeling my calves to be a bit too tight, I applied the inserts, which relieved the tightness without adding anything to their light weight.  Combined with Newton's action-reaction technology found on the soles of the shoe near where the metatarsals strike, from my experience this results in a performance boost of 15 to 30 seconds per mile.

These MV2's are truly neutral, and, as they are extremely light weight do not provide excess cushioning that inhibits the runner's grounded feel to the running surface - that is essential at higher speeds.  As a pleasant surprise, the MV2's five versus Newton's normal four Action-Reaction lugs provides hugely enhanced responsiveness and cornering abilities, which I found to be especially helpful on a weaving Memorial Park trail.

Curious at what distance the MV2's light weight and minimal cushioning would drive me to a more substantial shoe, I wore them over varying distances while training for the Houston Marathon - up to one 20-miler.  While I've since heard that several area runners have successfully run, and P.R.'d marathons in the MV2's, I found 16 miles to be their maximum comfortable distance.  I believe this distance to solely be a personal one, as with my current level of fitness it corresponds roughly to the point beyond which my running form tends to deteriorate on Houston's hard concrete road surfaces.  So, for the remainder of my Houston Marathon training runs of 16 miles or beyond and for the race itself, I ran in the Newton Gravity Performance Trainer (an easy decision, as in prior years recent I'd successfully run numerous P.R.s and B.Q.'s in the Stability Motions.)

Now that the Houston Marathon is complete, I am training for the Rodeo Run 10K and the Texas Independence Relay.  So, after two weeks of self-enforced rest I just laced-up my MV2's, and took them for what turned out to be a great run.  By concentrating on the pivotal elements of good running form, and cranking up the speed well beyond my normal pre-marathon training pace, these shoes demonstrated again that they rock!

As the MV2's run a bit small I recommend that you get them a half to full size larger than your normal running shoe length.  Also, as I found the MV2's to be a bit snug on the width, by lacing them a bit loosely I found this relieved the tightness without affecting my grip of the road.  Since the best specialty running stores have knowledgeable sales people with a generous return policy, choose the shoe that fits best while you are running, and not simply on the cushioned surface found in many stores. Don't gauge comfort simply by walking around the store in running shoes, as a surprising number of runners do, since the Newton's Action-Reaction technology feels a bit unnatural until you run!

Regardless of the shoe you buy, it's important to transition gradually to a shoe with a smaller heel-to-toe drop.  This provides your body time to both adjust and strengthen, and to minimize the likelihood of inadvertently returning when fatigued to an inefficient and potentially injurious heel-strike.  I have consistently found that by concentrating on gradually increasing my cadence, and concentrating on a slight forward lean from my ankles, that my good running form - and boost in speed with no incremental effort - quickly follows.

Embedded below are four YouTube videos in which Newton's CTO Danny Abshire discusses the MV2's: technology, initial fit (buy a half-size larger), adaptation from other running shoes, and some helpful form drills:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why runners should oppose the "Stop Online Piracy Act"

Visiting Wikipedia this morning, I saw that it was blacked-out to encourage its readers to educate themselves on the draft Senate and House bills SOPA and PIPA.  Having done so, I composed and submitted to my Congressman the following note.  I encourage you to educate yourself, and to contact your representative.

I am concerned that enactment of the proposed House "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) would put a huge, unnecessary and ultimately ineffective burden on website owners to police user-contributed links for possible copyright infringement.  Such legislation would destroy the vibrant and interactive internet community, and impair citizens' ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.

To provide a personal example of the way this Act would impact, I am a recent Houston Marathon runner with a long history of running and health related interests, and maintain as a pure labor of love the blog: To learn from my visitors I invite them to post comments, and on many occasions they kindly provide helpful links to other sites.  While I check that such links are valid, I have no way to verify that violations of copyrights do not exist on such sites.  Thus, enactment of SOPA would effectively force me to disable all user-contributed comments, and to delete those which were previously posted.  In fact, even if I had an effective way to determine copyright violations, such an unnecessary burden would literally be never ending as I would need to continually re-visit such links ad infinitum.

Additionally, SOPA would adversely affect other sites that I frequently reference and value (e.g.,,, and Presuming such legislation was enacted all of these sites, and many others, would be forced to curtail user-contributed input - effectively destroying the vibrant culture of the web.  SOPA and PIPA therefore directly infringes upon U.S. Citizens' First Amendment rights to the detriment of society.  For these reasons, I strongly urge you to reject any legislation such as SOPA or PIPA.

Finally, here's a great song which highlights the issue superbly:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Houston Marathon Race Report

In this morning's beautifully cool weather conditions I was a bit disappointed that I'd struck too ambitious a goal by seeking to re-Boston Qualify with a time of 3:35 or better. However, considering that my training was interrupted due to a minor injury during three pivotal weeks I'm generally okay with outcome, especially as I broke 4-hours via my 3:51:14.

Everything went according to plan for my nutrition and hydration, where I drank Gatorade to thirst. For nutrition, I consumed one tablespoon of chia seeds mixed pre-mixed with one Succeed S!Cap electrolyte capsule every five miles. Additionally, every four miles I had one Roctane.  I've taken Roctane for years, and experimented with chia this training cycle, and them both with absolutely no problems.  I'm thinking of tweaking this only slightly next marathon, potentially increasing the frequency of Roctane to about every 3.5 miles.

The big surprise for me was seeing the massive congestion associated with running with the 3:30 pacing group in the first ten miles. I've successfully run with pacing groups in the past, and I can only attribute today's problems as due to the comparative huge popularity of this particular pacing group, along with the full marathoners being merged with the half-marathoners through the tenth mile.  As such, we constantly passed slow full or half marathon runners who'd started excessively fast. As they slowed they were oblivious to faster runners such as ourselves attempting to pass, which forced us to constantly inefficiently weave back and forth.

After six miles of this frustration, Allison, a Kenyan Way friend, and I got in front of the pacing group. Unfortunately, I then made the mistake of allowing my ambition to over-ride my better judgement and experience, as I proceeded to run a minute too fast via a 1:44 half.

Inevitably, I then paid the price, as despite running the first 18.7 miles at an average 8:05 pace, the final 7.5 miles' slow-down killed my overall time goal, as I ran them at a comparatively glacial 10:25. Oh well! I'm consoling myself by at least having prevented the energy collapse from being total, and at least showing an ounce of wisdom by slowly running in the final miles. This is an improvement, from my prior recent marathons where I'd foolishly set an even more ambitious 3:10 goal, then compounded that mistake by not adjusting my goal pace until I had completely run out of energy, and was forced to walk it in. So, while pacing remains a puzzle that I obviously haven't cracked, I think I'm getting a bit better.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Olympic Marathon Trials

With a group of long-time running friends we lined-up this morning to cheer for the Houston 2012 Olympic Trials.  All of these incredible athletes inspired with their graceful and powerful running abilities and determination. My friends Dave Johnson and Chris Vandersteeg and I took the following photos of the excitement:

Finally, if you're looking for the final results, you can see them here: men and women.   Congratulations again to all of the men and women who qualified for, and who ran in today's race!