Archive for category Running

Another Week Survived!

I made it through another week of training and still want to run!  calxc

One of my biggest struggles with running since quiting in college has been missing having people to run with.  In high school and college you have a group of guys (or gals) to do every workout with.  You are rarely dragging yourself out the door alone. More importantly there is always someone there to distract you from the pain.  Unfortunately once you are no longer on a competitive team these people become much harder to find.

runningaloneWhile running groups seem to be cropping up everywhere these days, there are typically no people in these groups who can run anywhere near my pace.  This leads to a no win decision of running by yourself or running super slow.  I am a firm believer that we all have a natural pace.  This pace can change drastically depending on what kind of running shape one is in, but the principle remains the same.  Your natural running pace is a balance between your desire to finish any run as quickly as possible and the level of pain you experience as you run faster.  Thankfully/unfortunately my natural running pace is quite fast.  This means that running medium runs with slower groups ends up being more painful because it forces me out of my natural pace range.  As a result I end up avoiding running groups once I have determined there is no one who can run at my pace (I wonder if other runners doing the same thing is why there are none of us in these groups ….)

The one major exception to this policy is long runs.  While I have learned to distract myself with podcasts on my runs, nothing beats human company on a long run.  No matter how interesting the podcast is, it will never distract you from over an hour of running and trying to maintain a steady pace.  With that in mind I set out each Sunday to the Sunnyvale Sports Basement in hopes that someone will show up to run with.  Thankfully many weeks there is someone there who is right around my pace.  The rest of the time is a decision between running a little slower than usual with company versus at pace but alone.  I almost always choice with company and am always glad that I did.

What’s your take: at pace alone or slower with company?

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Basic Training Philosophy

Since my last post I have been thinking a lot about training plans and training philosophy.  So I thought I would give some background on my basic training philosophy.  Any training schedule contains some variation on four phases: base, build, peak, and taper. Within each phase are cycles.  Most running cycles last 4 to 6 weeks.  The point of the cycles is to allow regular recovery periods within a training schedule. Numerous studies of human physiology have shown that rest/recovery is vital to improvement. Thus most plans dictate a down week every 4th to 6th week (depending on the phase and plan) with a lighter load which allows muscle recovery.

My basic training philosophy is that every week should contain at least base run of medium distance, a speed/hill workout, and a long run.  The idea is that every run you do should have a purpose.  For example in my running plan for this week I did a base run, a tempo run, a speed workout, and a long run.

Simply put these elements get longer each week (except the recovery week where they scale back).  I have never lived by the 10% increase per week rule. Instead I usually build up mileage in increments of 5 miles per week (or roughly the number of days you run a week).  Furthermore I will often stay at a weekly mileage total for two weeks before increasing mileage (e.g. wk1: 30 wk2: 35 wk3: 35 wk: 40).

Finally and most importantly I try and mix up my workouts so I am not doing the exact same thing every week.  For example if my speed workout one week was 8×400m my next speed workout might be 200-300-400-500-600-500-400-300-200. That way I am staying mentally fresh and getting a breadth of speed work.

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Running Plans

I enjoying planning out a running schedule way more than I enjoy being forced to actually run it.  It is much easier to write down 4×1-mile @ 10k pace then it is to run it.  With that in mind I thought I would share my weekly running schedule with you going forward.

As a former collegiate runner, I spent a lot of time under the tutelage of endurance sport exercise physiologists.  Long story short I have ideas about what my training schedule should be an make up my own rather than following any one in particular.  I usually combine what I think from past experience with bits and pieces from different training programs.

My current training program is loosely based off Matt Fitzgerald’s Brain Training for Runners.  While I agree with much of Matt’s philosophy regarding running plans, I find his plans too repetitive. Who wants to run the same workout week after week and just add reps?  Without further ado this weeks running plan (here is hoping I stick to it):


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On the Road Again

Just can’t wait to get on the road again. ..On_the_road_again_by_realityDream

My love affair with running has been rekindled! In an attempt not to jinx it I have refrained from posting (or really telling anyone).   Instead I have just been running.   At first it was haphazard, I would feel restless and just decide to go for a run.  Then I managed to string a couple runs a week for a couple of weeks in a row.  Next thing I knew I was back on the P90x bandwagon and drawing up a running schedule in between classes.

Now I have been at it for over 6 weeks straight.  I am starting to get back into shaping and spend most “rest” days wanting to get back out the door and on the road again.

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xmas relays


a Santa at 2008 xmas relays

Yesterday I took a study break to run the annual xmas relays around Lake Merced in San Francisco.  The course is 4.5 miles and goes all the way around the lake — no cutting the bridge.

I really don’t know what to say about this race (mainly writing this post as an excuse to take a study break.) It was my third “race” in the last two months after a five month break from racing (and most running).

The first race was a charity 5k where I showed up slightly hungover and having slept 6 hours in the previous 48.  Amazingly enough I ended up running an 18:07 (5:49 pace) despite my condition and limited training.  While the race itself had been painful, hanging out with my old college teammates and friends had inspired me to keep training and get back into running shape (or at least something resembling it).

The second race was a 4 mile Turkey Trot.  This time I had been training fairly steady for over a month, but again raced on little sleep.  Running on a totally unknown course (Amy and I stopped to do the race in Santa Barbara on our way down to LA) I manage to run 23:19 (5:49 pace again!)  This time the pacing was a little disappointing as I had hoped/assumed that a month of training and lack of a hangover would have resulted in a better pace improvement.

The third race was yesterday xmas relays. While my training has dropped of the last week as a result of finals, I was relatively well rested for once.  This time I managed to run 25:58 (5:46 pace).  Cutting pace over the further distance seems like more an improvement considering only two weeks between races (and only a week’s worth of training).

So as this year draws to a close I am left to ponder what will my running look like next year? Will I return to racing shape, continue this sporadic training, or fall off the bandwagon completely?  Part of me wants to return to glory and test what my body is capable of before its too late. Another part of my remembers how hard and painful full time training is and wants no part of it.  My rational self believes that training will continue, but sometimes sporadically and never at full effort. I just don’t want it bad enough to train that hard  without teammates around to drag me out on those long runs in the cold and rain (or simply drag my away from wasting time watching tv on the couch).

I guess my goal is to train enough that I don’t fall out of shape and to keep running fun.

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Treadmill Running

Since it has been in the 30s and 40s here recently I have done a few treadmill runs for the first time in a long time.  I have a love/hate relationship with treadmills.  On one hand I love not having to run in the freezing cold, on the other hand it is pretty boring. Even with all of the new tv treadmills I still get bored quickly and easily on a treadmill. My typical treadmill run:

  • Get on treadmill and set the speed at a nice warmup pace (think faster than job but very comfortable running pace).
  • After about a mile (usually less) increase pace to my average long run pace.
  • Get bored and increase the speed every few minutes to make the run end sooner
  • Finish the last mile or so of my run at race pace

On the plus side this is probably a decent negative pace work out. Unfortunately doing this run multiple times a week is likely to lead to injury or burn out.

treadmill_runningHowever this doesn’t even cover the worst part about treadmill running: the ability to stop at any instant. We all have crappy runs: days where your body never warms up completely, your stomach hurts, your just not mentally into it, or all of the above. On a outdoor run you might be able to cut it short by taking a different way home, but on a treadmill all that is stopping me from ending my run is a little red button with the word “STOP” on it.

This is why I hate treadmills the most. On a normal run any decision I make still requires more running to get home. I can slow down but that will just make the run last longer (usually what you are trying to avoid on one of those bad days). Since no decisions results in instant gratification (the end of the run), I am forced to stick it out. I usually get home feeling good about the run despite the momentary pain.

In contrast, on a  treadmill I am constantly taunted by that little red button. Knowing instant gratification (no more pain) is only one slight touch away makes the pain even worse.  No tv show or sporting event can ever completely distract me from this mental anguish. And that is why I hate treadmill running.

Here is hoping that what does not kill you only makes you stronger

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Suffering Through Pain/Praying for Stop Lights

I don’t want this blog to become my whine section, but today was one of those painful runs that you are already wishing is over two minutes in.painful-running

It all started when I decided to run a new route.  I wasn’t feeling very motivated so I only wanted to run 4 miles. However I just ran my usual 4 mile loop on Monday.  Instead of doing it again I decided to modify a longer loop. Apparently, I made some miscalculations in the modification and ended up running 5.5 miles. Doh!  On a normal day this would not have been that big of a deal, but today was not normal (if it was I would have quite running a long time ago.)  Three minutes into the run I already knew I didn’t want to be running, but was determined to finish the route anyways.

stoplightprayingBesides being unexpectedly long, the route was also designed poorly. I don’t know about everyone else, but I design my routes to avoid major streets.  Where necessary, I also design turns at most major streets so I don’t spend half my run standing at lights.  Today that came back to bite me in the ass.  With each passing minute I wanted to stop and rest, but the few lights on my route did not cooperate.  Instead I was forced to suffer through the pain praying that the next light would offer the relief I sought.

I’d like to believe pushing through the pain on runs like this make me a better person. At least they make me more religious …

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Weight Lifting

Unfortunately not me

Unfortunately not me

Weight Lifting and I have never really gotten along.  It all started my junior year in high school when the track coach decided that even us distance runners should lift weights.  At the time I was about 5′10 140 (maybe lighter.)  Needless to say weight lifting was not my specialty.  To make matters worse we lifted in the weight room at the same time as the throwers and football players.  So when I was struggling to bench press the bar with no weights on it, a football player was next to me pressing upwards of 250.  While this was bad, worse was in the summer going to my local YMCA and trying to find a partner to spot me and me tiny lifting ability.  It was embarrassing and a quickly lost motivation to lift.

Thankfully I was lucky enough to run for a varsity team in college.  Each time had its own schedule time in the weight room and as a result there were lots of scrawny distance runners lifting along with me.  Also the trainers designed plans built around long distance running, so their was little if any bench press and lots of core training.  While I didn’t begin to love weight training, it did make it a tolerable activity.

A not so intimidating gym

A not so intimidating gym

Since leaving college I have gone through cycles of training a lot and barely training at all.  Back in December I decided that it was time to start getting back into shape and to try and stay that way.  Unfortunately this included dealing with weight rooms once again.  However, I have noticed with surprise that weight rooms are no longer intimidating anymore.  First of all, having grown up some I can lift more weight than before.  Secondly, the average person in the weight room is not a high school or college football player but a middle aged man or woman trying to stay in shape.  And finally, weight rooms now have tons of equipment which does not require a spotter.

While I don’t suddenly love weight training (I would much rather be playing a sport, rock climbing, or even running), the weight room has become a tolerable activity in my life (thanks in large part to my mp3 player and podcasts.)  I also appreciate the way weight lifting makes me look (less like a scrawny endurance runner and more like a normal person.)  What do you think runners? Is the weight room something you have learned to enjoy, something you tolerate, or something you try to avoid?

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Running with Dogs

Sally w/Bandanna

Sally w/Bandanna

Dogs are awesome. In case it wasn’t already clear, I am a huge dog person.  Amy and I own a year and a half old black lab, husky, and cattle dog mix named Sally.

Yesterday, I spent almost all day inside looking for jobs and doing part time work for trueAnthem (a free music startup company I work for.)  Finally at 6, I was feeling pretty gross and new I needed to go for a run.  Unfortunately I had no motivation.  Fortunately Sally did.  She whined from our back patio indicating that we should go outside.  Getting the hint, I asked her “Wanna go for a run?”  To which she responded by coming over, putting her paws on my lap, and licking my face.  It’s really hard to come up with excuses not to run with a cute dog starring at you.

I ended up taking Sally for a 2.5 mile run and then dropping her off at our apartment (much too her chagrin) and taking our downstairs neighbor’s dog for a 2 mile sprint.  While Sally is still working on becoming a good runner, Chica, our downstairs neighbor’s dog is a great runner.



A couple days ago I took Chica on her first run ever.  It wasn’t on purpose.  I had just got back from a 4.5 mile loop around campus and was talking to Jenny, our downstairs neighbor, while she tried to take out Chica and talk on the phone at the same time.  Chica was crazy excited to be outside after being stuck inside all day and was hoping around like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh (I really wish I had video to show you.)  Anyways I took Chica to burn a little energy planning to sprint up and down the driveway (we live in an apartment complex with a 200m driveway.)  Chica however had other ideas and was off to the races once she realized someone was running with her.  We ended up doing my typically 2 mile Sally loop in record pace (sub 6:00).

After a long day of sedentariness, being motivated by two grateful dogs to get out and run was a blessing (for me and for them.) Reward your dog, go take them for a run. They’ll love you more for it.

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Eat then Run or Run then Eat

So I haven’t actually run yet today.  After finishing up my lengthy post on the legal side of this blog and writing a few comments around the blogosphere I headed over to the gym for a lift session prior to my run.

The lift session went fine (it was primarily focused on legs, abs, and lower back) but afterwards I felt nauseous.  Not because I was sick, but rather because my blood sugar was too low.

This seems like an endless battle for me.  Deciding when to eat and when to run.  If I eat to soon before I run, then my run is painful and slow because of cramps.  If I don’t eat then my blood sugar drops by the end and my performance suffers.  This morning I had an egg sandwich (an egg sandwiched between halves of a whole wheat English Muffin with some turkey bacon.)  Apparently this was not enough to make it through both a lift session and a run (it was going to be a short one I swear.)  So instead I am back in my apartment, posting this while my lunch cooks, and trying to figure out when I can squeeze in my run later today.

What are your thoughts? When do you run and when do you eat?

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