Impatience

I’m horribly impatient.

 

Blame it on working in the tech industry or growing up in an age of broadband Internet and microwave steamer veggies (seriously, you don’t even have to open the package to cook it). Maybe it’s a cliché for people my age to say this, but I’m addicted to immediate results. I would have never made it as an early American settler, because I’d never want to take the time to chop down trees, build a log cabin, and plant crops (and wait months for them to grow). This impatience has been relatively harmless in my running career so far. I have been seriously and consistently training for about a year now, and I’ve seen my weight drop 30 pounds, 10k PR has improved by 11 minutes, 5k – 3 minutes, and I successfully ran my first marathon in under 3 hours, all by just running 70-80 miles per week and showing up for team workouts. But it’s not enough.

 

This impatience must change.

 

I probably come off as some self-entitled prick, taking for granted what I’ve done so far. There are people who spend years trying to get to a point where they can run a sub-3 marathon, but I did it first try. But I am continually seeking more. I am trying to improve to a point where I am competing at a national level, running races with athletes who have been running since they were young kids and have put in countless hours, months, and years of running to get to where they are. My nature is to wish I had this ability sooner than later.

 

Am I asking for too much?

 

Maybe. But the real question is: Am I seeking the wrong rewards? The whole point of running these races and setting these goals and chasing these times is to continually improve and seek enlightenment about who I really am. In other words, I push myself to run the best that I can run to find my limits, to determine what my best looks like, and use that to apply in all areas of my life. So the problem with setting a goal to be an elite runner is that it doesn’t tell me anything. I could be the #1 marathoner in the country, but if I’m not doing my very best, I’m weaker than I would be if I spent a lifetime trying to get to the next level through dedication and commitment.

 

I may not ever get to that next level, but I’ll never regret it if I give everything I have to the pursuit.

Statesman Capitol 10,000 Race Recap

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Yesterday, I ran my first Statesman Capitol 10,000, which is an annual staple in Austin racing. It’s billed as being the biggest 10k in Texas with almost 12,000 finishers, and it was a great experience. I hadn’t done a 10k since the IBM Uptown Classic in October, so I was really interested to see how my fitness had progressed at that distance.

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I started out the day with a bagel, coffee, and some Nuun Energy. I woke up to the sound of rain and thunder and a chilly morning, but the weather map indicated it would let up before start time. My team met at Rogue Running at 6:30 for some pre-race socializing and warm-ups. We jogged the 2 miles to the startline on the Congress Avenue bridge and did a few strides. I’m not used to having an elite entry to races, so this was an interesting experience. It was good to see some friends from other teams, including Scott MacPherson (eventual champion for the 3rd time), Devin Monson, Erik Stanley, Rio Reina, Jared Carson, Megan Betts, Amy Shackelford, Lauren Smith, and many others.

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We got set and the horn went off at 8am. I stayed with my teammate, Nora Colligan (eventual 3rd place overall female), through the first mile as we let the emotions of the start rush over our competitors. Cap10k starts with a gradual uphill with a steep incline at the end of the first mile. We hit the split in a conservative 6:04, perfect for preparing us for what was to come. The course does a little loop around the Capitol grounds and turns west onto 15th street. This section is about 2 miles of steep rolling hills, so I turned to Nora and said “Okay. Let’s do some work.” Many of the runners who had blasted out of the gate in the first mile started to really labor in this section, while we settled into a steady rhythm of hill running. At this point, I was extremely thankful for all of the workouts that Coach Steve Sisson had us doing on hilly courses. I was also glad I had chosen the Skechers GoMeb Speed 2 flats for the race, as the responsive, yet cushioned ride helped me endure all of those fast downhills. Miles 2 & 3 clicked off at 5:56 and 5:55, respectively. Nora had let off just a little bit and continued to run a smart race. Once we turned onto Winstead, I was starting to feel pretty tired but kept pushing through, really trying to incorporate some of the mental training that I’ve been working on lately.  I slammed Mile 4 in 5:37, but it may have been too much too soon, as I started feeling pretty gassed as we turned down Veteran’s and merged onto Cesar Chavez. Nora blasted past me in pursuit of Amy Shackelford (eventual 2nd place overall female), and Mark Heerensperger (another Team Rogue teammate and very strong runner) eased by with about a mile to go. I struggled to hold onto Mark’s shoulder, but he opened a slight gap on me going into one of the last turns onto the 1st street bridge. At this point, I really started pumping my arms, opening my stride, and leaving it all on the course. We turned onto Riverside and the homstretch with Mark about 5 meters in front of me. I kicked with all I had, and briefly caught him and pulled in front, only for him to also kick and beat me across the finish line by about 2 seconds. I finished in 36:26, about 2 minutes and 20 seconds faster than my previous PR.

Right behind Mark turning onto the 1st Street bridge

Right behind Mark turning onto the 1st Street bridge

After the race, I congratulated Mark on the kick that led to him beating me, and he told me that he needed someone to help push him. This really made me start thinking about what we’re really doing when we race each other. As runners, it could be confused as a quest to beat the guy next to us, and maybe it is for some people. But when we go out and race our fellow runners and teammates, we’re really setting up an accountability system that can’t be realized in any other way. I am forced to be the best that I can be on the day of a race because the people next to me are seeking the same. By chasing after Mark in the last mile, I was forced to pull as much out of myself as I could and I can walk away from that race knowing that I left it all out there.

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Thanks is due to Skechers Performance, Coach Steve Sisson, and Rogue Running for all the support.

Running with a GPS – A Powerful Tool/Crutch

It might sound ridiculous, but it's true.

It might sound ridiculous, but it’s true.

I’ve gone back and forth over the years on the use of a Garmin or other GPS watch while running. On one hand, it helps me get a good idea of where my fitness is by comparing my perceived effort to the pace on the watch. On the other hand, it can cause me to obsess over every second and 1/100th of a mile. You’ve probably seen me out doing laps in the parking lot at the end of a workout so I can get the watch to roll over to the nearest even number. Yes, it’s sad, so I’ve stopped wearing my watch when pace doesn’t matter.

 

This isn’t to say that certain runs don’t matter, or I consider them “junk miles.” On the contrary, my easy and recovery runs are so important that I shed the geek-o-meter (as my coach refers to GPS watches as) so that I’ll focus on keeping it easy. If I set out on an easy run with my Garmin, I would almost certainly push the pace for ego’s sake. I’ll map out a route for whatever distance I’m aiming for prior to heading out, and go unplugged for a while. No GPS, no cell phone, no music. Just my breathing, footsteps, and thoughts. This is my therapy.

 

If I’m running a workout that calls for certain paces and distances, nothing will beat the GPS watch. Yesterday, my team had a workout on a 3.5 mile course that called for half marathon paces. Knowing that the course was very hilly, it was important that we not start the workout too quickly, but also knew that we needed to keep a certain level of effort going. The Garmin helped pinpoint the proper zone, and helped us get into the right rhythm to complete the workout. I also like to have my watch on for races because it helps me not start out too fast. In a short race like a 5k, I’ll wear the watch but maybe won’t look at the paces until after the race. This historical data helps me strategize how to run the next race. For my marathon in January, I set my laps to 3 miles in length so I could run within a certain pace range and not obsess over every mile. I rarely looked at my watch during the race.

 

My geek side really enjoys using my Garmin Forerunner 405 (I got it for Christmas 5 years ago), but I think there’s a true balance that allows me to enjoy the act of running by simply leaving it home sometimes.


My basic rule of thumb: Workout/Race – Watch. No Workout – No Watch.

I wore my watch on this slow, easy run for the sole purpose of recording more miles than degrees.

Wore my watch on this slow, easy run for the sole purpose of recording more miles than degrees.

Rock n Roll Dallas 1/2 Marathon Recap

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A few weeks ago, I received a text from my Skechers Performance representative asking if I had any interest in running the Rock n Roll Dallas ½ Marathon. My goal for the Spring season was to jump into as many races as possible, within reason, to gain some much needed experience. I had also never raced the 13.1 distance, having skipped over it while preparing for the marathon in January. These things in mind made accepting a free bib to a well organized race a no-brainer.

 

The week before this race, I ran a 5k PR at Vern’s No Frills 5k in Georgetown, TX in 17:49. The last, real 5k I had run was last July in 19:10, so I was really happy to have skipped over the 18:xx and into the 17 minute range. This let me know that I’ve got some wheels, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to extend that speed out to a respectable long distance yet.

 

I drove up to Dallas Saturday afternoon after doing a short, easy run with Ashley. She was getting ready to run the first 30k of the Rogue Trail Series on Sunday, so we both wanted to go slow on this jog. The drive up was uneventful and riddled with traffic (Austin to Dallas is about 3 hours, one way) and I arrived at the expo at the Dallas Convention Center at around 3:30. After getting my bib and shirt, I stopped by the Skechers booth for a short visit and headed to the hotel without spending too much time perusing the different displays. I could probably spend all day shopping at a race expo, but this is unnecessary time on my feet for gear and snacks that I really don’t need. For this trip, I booked a hotel a few miles outside of downtown for the sake of saving some money. I figured if I was traveling alone and only making a short stay out of it, finding a place out of the way and comfortable would suffice. After eating a sandwich and laying my stuff out, I put my feet up and spent the rest of the evening reading my book (Right now, I’m reading John Brant’s Duel in the Sun, the story of Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar’s battle in the 1982 Boston Marathon).

 

I woke up at 3:45am on Sunday to get myself ready to go. I showered, sipped on some hotel room coffee, rolled out my legs, and packed up my things. I strapped on my Skechers GoMeb Speed 2s and headed out. When I stepped out the door, I was immediately greeted by the chilly air and gusting winds. After eating a peanut butter sandwich and turning in my keys, I drove to the finish line at Fair Park, where I would take a shuttle to the start. The shuttles started running 3 hours prior to start time, so I spent much of my time camping out in the convention center to stay warm and relaxed. When I got to the starting corrals, I was pleased to see that I was placed in the first non-elite group. Deena Kastor was going after the American Masters record (it turns out that she missed the record by about 7 seconds, but got the 10 mile and 20k records), so I got to line up about 5 rows behind her. Pretty cool.

Photo: Andrew McClanahan | PhotoRun.net

Photo: Andrew McClanahan | PhotoRun.net

The race took off and we immediately started grouping to shelter from the wind. The first mile was relatively flat and we went through in 6:03. 2nd mile was still there in 6:04. Then we started to climb and the groups broke apart. From around the 2.5 mile mark until 8 miles, the course is almost constantly climbing hills running northward. The hills, coupled with the 15-20 mph winds out of the north, created an extremely challenging experience for me, both mentally and physically. I felt my hip tightening up, my legs feeling heavy, and my focus began to wane as my times slowed to nearly 6:40/mile. Then, just as I thought I couldn’t do anymore, we turned east out of the wind and then south downhill. My legs began to turn over again, my form returned, and my mental game came back to me. My GoMebs were amazing in this setting, allowing me to churn away some quick miles while keeping my feet protected, almost disappearing on my feet. Today, I have no foot or leg soreness. In hindsight, I’m really glad I toughed it out through those early hills and wind, because it made the descent that much sweet. I started clicking off low 6 minute miles again, slowing only to nurse a brutal side stitch at mile 12, and then closing the last mile in 5:58 (last .18 at 5:29 pace). My official time was 1:22:06, good for 46th out of 9678. Big congrats, also, to Stefanie Slekis (who rocked my world at the Rogue 30k) who came away with a 4th place female finish, not far behind me.

Here is the Garmin reading for the race.


Overall, I’d say that this race a success. I truly felt like I was in the mix with a lot of strong runners, and pushed through some really tough patches to finish well. For the first time in my running life, I’m starting to see 5:xx/mile paces on my watch and NOT freaking out. This is new. It’s hard to comprehend, but I’m getting faster, and I’ll continue to get faster so long as I stay focused and healthy. Huge thanks to Skechers Performance, Rogue Running, and Coach Steve Sisson for all the support you provide to me. Next race: Statesman Capitol 10,000, April 6th. 

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Saucony Virrata 2 Review

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For a while, I’ve been flirting with the idea of training in zero drop shoes. The romance of it all seems to be there: neutral foot position, closer to barefoot, more zen, yadda yadda. The truth is, zero drop shoes are a useful tool, but don’t necessarily have to look like a piece of used tire tied to your foot by a piece of yarn. I was lucky enough to receive a complimentary review sample of the Saucony Virrata 2 for the very purpose of exploring this option.

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The Virrata 2, to the naked eye, looks very similar to the Kinvara. It’s a low profile, lightweight, cushioned trainer that allows one to run fast while still maintaining a level of comfort. The Virrata 2 features a mesh upper, which Saucony describes as a “booty inner” layer that gives you a sock-like fit. The outsole is mostly foam triangles with blown rubber placed on the heel and toe. The aesthetics of the shoe are great, with a fast looking profile and great, reflective highlights. I wear a 10.5 in most shoes, and the Virrata 2 seemed true to fit.

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I spent a little more time in this shoe than I do in many others because I found it difficult to get a handle on. Initially, I did not care for the upper on this shoe. It left my toes feeling very crowded and narrow in the toebox, but the inner booty seemed to stretch out after a few runs. I have always loved the Kinvara (namely the 3), and I was hoping this would be a zero drop version of that.  However, it seemed to be much softer than my favorite performance trainer. It maintains the same lightweight properties, but with much less responsive of a ride at quicker paces.

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Saucony states that the triangle shaped outsole is designed to provide traction, and I can’t deny that it served this purpose. However, a great deal of my mileage in these shoes was spent on Austin’s Lady Bird Lake trail, a spot where I do most of my easy miles. The trail is a mix of sidewalk and crushed gravel paths and these shoes were absolutely annoying in this setting, as they picked up gravel in the grooves of the outsole. Not only would I hear the rocks dragging on the ground with each foot plant, but I could also feel them being pushed up into my feet, forcing me to stop every mile or so to dig the rocks out. I don’t see this being a problem when worn on road or grass.

Virrata 2 after 100 miles

Virrata 2 after 100 miles

Conclusion

The Saucony Virrata is a lightweight, highly cushioned, zero drop trainer that could be incorporated for some quick miles. Some people may even reach for the Virrata 2 for longer races, but I see zero drop shoes as a way to teach my body to run more naturally in training, not as an end all, be all. I enjoy these shoes for easy miles, but will not reach for them as a standalone training shoe.

 

Specs

Weight: 6.5oz

Stack heights: 18mm (heel), 18mm (toe)

Heel to toe drop: 0mm

MSRP: $90

 

Shortstuff

Every time I go to update the training side of my blog, I push it off so that I’ll have more to report. The problem is, I’ll always be able to say this, so let’s just go for it. Since running the Chevron Houston Marathon in January, I’ve put in some good quality training weeks. This season is all about learning to race and get my legs turning over more quickly, so I’ve decided to forego my next marathon until Boston 2015.

 

My coach is modifying some of my workouts so that they are more focused on speed, with less emphasis on endurance strength. My long term goal is still centered around the marathon so I don’t want to completely let that fitness go, but I also want to work on an aspect of my running that is largely undeveloped due to a lack of competitive background. Going along with this focus, I’ve been breaking my mileage up into doubles almost daily instead of long single runs. Doubles make it so I don’t have to wake up before 4am every day to get my run in while still gaining aerobic fitness. I’m also participating in an ancillary class that is coached by Rogue Athletic Club athlete, Carl Stones, and meets twice a week for form drills, hurdle exercises, and core strengthening. One of my most profound observations has been that I’m extremely weak in my hips and glutes. Shortly before and after Houston, I started feeling some pain on the inside of my right knee, potentially due to the hamstrings compensating for weak glutes and hips and causing tendonitis in the knee. I think that the regular ancillary practice will help to strengthen those areas that are deficient and help protect me from future injuries.

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First ever 100 mile week

On February 15th, I ran a 1600m track race in Cedar Park, Texas. This was only my second time racing on the track, the first time being last summer. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I went for it and ran a 5:09. Although it would have made me feel better to run sub-5 minutes, I’m happy to run a 42 second PR in any race, let alone a mile. I’m happy to see how far I’ve come since last year.

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In other news, I’ve recently agreed to a Brand Ambassador position with Skechers Performance Division. This is extremely exciting, as I’ve been a huge fan of Skechers running footwear since I tried the GoRun 2 last year and love their support for Meb Keflezighi. There is also a bit of sentimental value to it, as Skechers was the gear sponsor for the Houston Marathon, which will always be special to me. I’m very happy to be training and racing in Skechers gear.

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Next up:

3/15 – Vern’s No Frills 5k – Georgetown, TX

3/23 – Rock n’ Roll Dallas Half Marathon –  Dallas, TX

4/6 – Statesman Capitol 10,000 – Austin, TX

4/12 – UT Longhorn Run 2-mile – Austin, TX

4/19 – Lockhart Kiwanis 5-K Stampede – Lockhart, TX

4/27 – Silicon Labs Sunshine Run 5k – Austin, TX

5/3 – Chuy’s 5K – Austin, TX

5/18 – Deutschen Pfest 5-K – Pflugerville, TX

6/1 – Rogue Trail Series – The Ranch 10k – Burnet, TX

Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of racing coming up. I’m excited to see how my fitness progresses through this season and look forward to dedicating the summer to developing a base for the Fall racing time. Exciting things ahead!