Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Run Journal - #50-51

#50 Details: 2 x 1600 meters/4 min
Shoes: Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit

These speed runs are getting weird. 1600 meters is essentially a mile so today's "speed" run was for a whole mile with a 4 minute recovery walk/jog before doing it a second time. I managed the speed sections at 7:45 and 8:05 but that's not exactly speed, even by my standards. Still, I imagine these days server a specific purpose. They are quite hard; I'll say that, and maybe that's part of the point.

#51 Details: 20 easy
Shoes: Hoka Huaka

Just an easy 20 minute run so not much to say. The only thing I'll make note of here is that I did get a stabbing achilles pain about 5 minutes into the run. I haven't had that happen in well over a week so I was not pleased to see it return. I'm hoping that this was a not a sign of the issue returning or worsening.

Tomorrow is a 40 minute tempo run. That's one of the "long" tempo runs that usually kick my butt. Should be fun. ;) 

Houston Half Marathon

Details Official: Official Results
Details (Garmin Connect) : Half Marathon
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara

I ran the Houston Half Marathon this weekend and had a great time. It was a bigger event than I imagined it would be. There were well around 4500 runners. Here are a few pics of the meeting grounds early in the morning:

It was a nice cool day, but quite humid. The race started around 7:00 and I finished in 2:04. My overall pace was around 9:30 min/mile which I'm pretty happy with as it's my best ever pace on a long run. It was tough to maintain my run walk rhythm as there were very few people using that strategy. When I would stop a huge number of people would run past me and then I'd start again and as my run pace was pretty quick, I'd pass all of those same people, only to repeat the pattern again and again. It's probably silly to let that bother me as I finished pretty much dead center in the pack of 4500 which great for my first ever long distance race, but I may see if I can start to switch up my strategy to longer run intervals but at a slower pace. I don't know. We'll see. Maybe I shouldn't mess with something that seems to be working for me.

The event was a lot of fun. There were people lining the streets for almost the whole length of the course. They weren't thick, except at the beginning and end, but they were pretty much everywhere. Everything was handled extremely professionally and well organized. The race volunteers were terrific. I was impressed. The course we ran was, for the most part, quite nice. We started running through the tall buildings of downtown, and then headed west to, and through, Memorial Park. The only downside was that because most of the first half of the course slightly downhill, most of the second half was slightly uphill. That was a little brutal and the second to last mile before the finish was, by Houston standards, a not insignificant uphill grade. I would definitely have preferred things to have been the other way around. Still, we're talking about Houston here, so none of the hills were terrible.

My achilles held up just fine. No issues at all.  The humidity was a little high so I sweat like a son of a gun and thus got a little chafed but that will heal. I am going to have to figure out some of this chafing stuff as my weekly long runs are just going to get longer and longer. I don't want to go into detail but I'm not chafing or blistering in the normal areas like thighs and feet. Anyway, I'll get it all worked out somehow. The sweat is also taking a huge toll on my shoes. I have no idea what to do about this. I can wash them every week, I guess, but there's just no way that's good for them. Oh well.

Here's a picture of my sweat soaked self after the race:

When I started the running group training program, a half marathon was a legitimate option for the "final" goal. I'm super pleased to have already reached that milestone this early, and, if my achilles holds up, I'll have the full marathon to look forward to at the beginning of February. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Run Journal - #48-49

#48 Details: 3 x 1200m/4min
Shoes: Hoka Huaka

This was a weird run. As usual, Tuesday is speed work, but instead of short repeated bits of speed mixed with rest, this was a very small number of 3/4 mile speed sections mixed with long recovery runs. It was a huge challenge to keep my speed up for that long of a distance, but ultimately, I was pleased with the result. I was able to keep about a 7:10 pace for all three intervals.

The Hoka's were, again, kind to my achilles. Theses shoes have finally found a place in my rotation as I've really come to appreciate their feel during this injury recovery.

#49 Details: 30 tempo
Shoes: Hoka Huaka

I intended to run in the Kinvara's today in preparation for Sunday's half marathon, but they were still wet from the previous day's stint in the dishwasher, so the Hoka's got the call again. I didn't get my run in until much later than usual, but it was still wonderfully cool outside and I was able to push my pace to it's best ever for a run over a of more than two miles: 8:09 min/mile! That's marathon pace for some people but for me, it's super, super fast.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE the cool weather! :)

The Kinvara's should be dry tomorrow. I may take them out for a quick mile or two just to make sure the washing had no ill effects. It would suck to find something wrong on race day, but they should be fine.

One note; I've had a little soreness on the outside of my right ankle the last few days. This is something I've encountered before, but it's a bit worse this time. I'm icing the ankle for my achilles so hopefully that will also help this other bit of discomfort. It's nowhere near bad enough to impact Sunday's run, but it has made some of the yoga I've been doing a little uncomfortable.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Run Journal - #47

Details: 20 easy
Shoes: Hoka Huaka

Short, easy run today but it was cool so I pushed the pace a bit and had some fun. The Huaka's continue to be extremely kind to my achilles for some reason, so I'll probably continue to run in them this week. I'll switch back to the Kinvara's for Thursday's run and for the half marathon, of course. I'm excited about the coming weekend!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Run Journal - #44-46

#44 Details: 20 easy
Shoes: Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit

Not much to say. Simple short run.

#45 Details: 40 tempo
Shoes: Hoka Huaka

Ran in the Hokas today as they, for some reason, seem to give my achilles the least trouble. It was a good run at at 8:41 pace which is great for me for it being 40 minutes.

#46 Details: 11 mile long run
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara

I crushed my previous best long run times today by over 20 sec/mile. The cool weather was certainly the main reason with my achilles that was almost perfect playing a role as well.

Next week is the actual half marathon. If the weather holds up, that should be an fun event and if my achilles holds up, I should be able to recommit to the full marathon.

After the run today I tried something new: acro yoga. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it turned out to be a ton of fun. Basically one person provides a base and the other person is called the flyer. The two people work together to lift and move flyer into various acrobatic positions. That's a massively oversimplified explanation, but it's the best I can do here. The bottom line is that it was great fun and tested both my strength and balance and I'm looking forward to doing it again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Run Journal - #43

Details: 6 x 1min/2min
Shoes: Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit (not a good choice for today)

I actually did two runs today. I prefer to do the speed intervals on a track which isn't easy to get done before work, but this morning was the coolest yet and I woke up early enough before my meetings that I decided to do a very quick run in the wonderfully cool temperatures. I didn't even bring my watch. I just went out for about 20 minutes and ran a couple of miles. It was fantastic.

My actual scheduled run was for 6 intervals of 1 minute run and 2 minutes recovery. The track where I normally do this work was having an event today (soccer match, I think) so I had to head out a little further and where I ended up was actually a dirt track with lots of pebbles. The Nikes are awful for this as their tread pattern sucks up pebbles like a vacuum to the point that it actually impacts the feel of the shoe. Anyway, the run went well. My achilles doesn't seem to be getting better but it's also not getting worse, so I guess I won't complain. A few nice cringe inducing pains in the first warm up mile, but after that nothing too bad and I feel fine afterwards. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Run Journal - #42

Details: 30 easy
Shoes: Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit

Back in Blue
Short easy run today. For whatever reason, I never find Monday runs all that fun. On the plus side, though, I went over to Greatwood again. I like running over there; lots of tall trees. Fortunately I got out and back in before today's monsoon hit.

One interesting note: You may recall from Saturday's journal, I was sweating like a son-of-a-gun on that long run, and today when I went over to my Kinvara's to pull off the footpod to transfer it to the Nikes, I caught a generous whiff of the shoes, and as George Takei would say:

Those suckers may need to be incinerated. I'll try to clean them first, of course, but the "stank" might just be too powerful. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Run Journal - #41

Details: 13 mile run
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 5 (surprise, surprise)

Polka dots! Who doesn't like polka dots. I don't, as it turns out (below)
It wasn't happening today. Maybe it was the humidity and the return of higher temperatures of maybe it was just "one of those days", but this run was a struggle from the start. Every time I looked down at the pace on my watch, it was slower than what I thought it would be, so I'd pick it up a little, but then I was getting tired. By the fourth mile I was frustrated. I was comparing myself to the folks around me and sinking into a bad mood, but then I remembered something that an instructor said in a yoga class I'd had that week. I'm paraphrasing, but the gist was to let go of your expectations and just live in that particular moment. That's not something I typically do, and I'm not even sure that it's something I even want to always do, but at that moment, in that situation, it seemed like a good idea. So I stopped paying attention to my pace, and instead just ran at a speed that was near the top of my comfort level, but not beyond. I had to catch myself a number of times, but I didn't look at my watch even once more the rest of the route. My frustration and impatience faded away over time and while I'm not sure I can truthfully say the rest of the run was "enjoyable", it was a far, far better experience that it would have been had I not followed that advice from my yoga class. In the end, my final time, while not great, was acceptable, but even if it hadn't been, I think I would have been allright with that today.

Oh, I mentioned the polka dots calf sleeves in the caption of the picture above. I like the pattern, but it looks like the thread or material used to make the dots is different than the rest of the calf sleeves. When the run was over I noticed that the sleeves were constricting deeper around the dots than anywhere else. This end result was quite uncomfortable. It's a shame as these are fairly high quality calf sleeves and I love the other pair I have from the same company.

I'm not sure what the deal was but I think I sweated ("sweated" doesn't sound right to my ear for some reason but I looked it up and apparently that's right) more on this run that at any other time in my life, I went through almost twice as much water than normal and by the end, my shoes, and of course my clothes looked like I had waded into a river. Every step would push water (well, sweat really) out through the mesh upper portion of my shoes. Uggg!

Fortunately rejuvenation and and one of the best experiences I've had a long, long time were just a hour away at my yoga class. The Saturday classes have been a godsend. Since I've been doing yoga after my longs runs, I've recovering much more quickly. Saturday used to be an almost lost day after the run and some Sunday's were not much better, but now things get back to normal pretty quickly.

The class was great. The Saturday instructor does a lot of balance, stretching and some core strength. It's perfect my needs, but the real treat came afterwards. A few days ago I mentioned some annoyance I was feeling that the milestone of running a half marathon was going to come during a mundane training session this weekend instead of a few weeks later at an actual event that a number of us in the running group were signed up for. The event would be a real, meaningful marker of this achievement for those of us who were first-timers. Well, a new friend of mine read that blog entry and did THE coolest thing in the world. After class she said she had something for me and then gave me this:

You might not be able to see it in the picture but it's says 13 miles and has a pin to attach it to my shirt like a medal. I was dumbstruck. It's a day later and I'm still misting up a bit as I write this. Even now, I don't have the words... it was one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me. In a few weeks I'll do the Houston Half and I'll get a finisher's medal, but that will be junk compared to this.

The rest of my day turned out pretty fantastic as well, so despite getting off to a rough start, yesterday isn't a day I'll soon forget.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maps and Finally Feeling the Difference

If you've ever clicked on the "Details" links in my run journals, you've been taken to Garmin Connect where the data recorded from my watch is uploaded and stats are aggregated. A map overview of the run has always been prominent, but a recent redesign of the site has made the map section even larger. Wise move, Garmin. Wise move.

I don't know what it is, but I derive a deep satisfaction when I pull up an run review and see the map. When you're on a run, you experience the moment and that moment is just what is around you. Sure, you may intellectually recognize that you're going a long way, but one doesn't, or at least I don't, really feel the whole scope of the distance. Afterwards, though, when you pull up that map, you can really see the whole run as a whole. It always makes me smile. Every time.

Look at last week's long run map. I've driven those roads dozens of times, and let me tell you in no uncertain terms: that's a long freaking way!. It's awesome! When I saw that map for the first time after the run Saturday, I was practically giddy. The very idea that Matt, that 315 lb behemoth of a year and a half ago who couldn't have run a half mile without stopping, ran that distance and felt good afterwards? Yeah, baby!!

On a somewhat related note, it's funny - after I lost the weight, I was supposed to feel different. Better. As if my life had changed. The thing was, I didn't. Not at all. I looked a little different in the mirror, but I didn't feel any different. Some people treated me a little differently, but the few "real" friends I had didn't, which is just one of the ways that know they are real friends. (Fat Matt. Thin Matt. I was still Matt. I'm not sure if it's coming across, but that's not sarcasm or negativity. I'm truly thankful for these people and that to them, I'm the same person regardless of my appearance.)

This year though? This year, I finally feel different. One of the reasons for this is pretty straight forward, but the other came from somewhere I totally wasn't expecting. The easy one to explain is the running. As I've said before, I can't really say that I "love" running, but I do love that I "can" run, because it's something that I most certainly could never have done before. It's a symbol of the physical changes.

The other reason for feeling different this year is, well, people. While I've always been blessed with having tremendous people in my life (my family is awesome and I consider my friends Rob and Kirstin and their kids are every bit a part of my family as well), beyond that small group, I've foolishly imposed a certain self isolation for far too many years. This year though, I'm trying... really, really trying to open myself up a little. I don't even know why I find it so difficult to do this, but I do.

I'm taking baby steps for sure. A lot of it was almost by accident. I joined a crossfit gym. I could have joined a normal gym where it would have been much more individually focused, but I found the functional training aspect of crossfit interesting and also, though I didn't consider it at the time, it is group focused rather than individually oriented. Oh an guess what, the folks who run it are some of the most friendly and personable people you could imagine. I can't say that I know anybody there really well, but I have formed some friendships and enjoy just chatting with folks. That seems so benign, but believe it or not, it's way outside my normal comfort zone.

Then there's yoga. It's also group based. It's so against my nature to engage people, but before every session, I have a tiny pep talk with myself and say, "Matt, you smile and greet every single person who comes into that room. Ask them how things are going and actually mean it." You have no idea how "not me" that is, but I'm learning and I'll be damned to find out that I'm now actually interested in the answers. For example, "T" is someone who was in my yoga 101 class and now that the class is over I'm sad because I'm not going to find out how her kids are doing after both had car accidents in the same week (no injuries, thankfully).

Not only that, but as I mentioned a few weeks ago, through what again I can only describe as great luck, the instructors at the yoga place are just great people to be around. Seriously, every single one, from the owner on down.

These new relationships aren't deep of course, but they mean something to me. It's a start and it's a huge part of why things are finally feeling a little "different". The weight loss may have been a catalyst, and I'm grateful for it, but it didn't really change anything meaningful. I'm still working on the changes.

Run Journal - #38 -40

#38 Details: 35 easy
Shoes: Hoka Huaka

First run since the long Saturday jaunt. I'm continuing to nurse the achilles, but it wasn't too bad. I felt it a few times on the run, but nothing to be concerned about.

#39 Details: 7 60/60 speed intervals
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 5

My achilles felt GREAT today. Well, at least until I got stupid. Normally I have tennis on Tuesdays but I had a "bye" this week, so I went to crossfit and then afterwards to a local elementary school's track. Speed work is a little easier on a track and they are usually a nice reprieve from the hard concrete; something made even more important when doing speed work. The run itself felt terrific; almost no noticeable discomfort in my achilles at all. I can't tell you how much of a relief this was. It gives me hope that I can heal from this minor injury without taking the huge break in running schedule that would sideline my long term marathon plan. I won't make that decision until after the half marathon this month, but things are definitely looking up!

I mentioned being stupid above. That came after the run. I got back in the car and checked my email.  The tennis guys needed a sub for someone who couldn't make it. I had just been to crossfit AND gone on a run. The smart thing would have been to let it be, but smart isn't always my strong suit, so I volunteered. Uggg. Tennis is one of the worst things I can do for my achilles. It involves jumping from zero to sprint in an instant and that causes me heel problems on the best days, much less when I trying to recover from an injury. In any case, it's no surprise that I tweaked my heel repeatedly during the match and was feeling awful afterwards. Wednesday is a rare off-day on the run schedule so I took full advantage of it and only did some Yoga.

#40: 30 tempo
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 5

After Wednesday's dumb move playing tennis, I was a bit sore, but today's tempo run went pretty well. I felt it a bit during the first mile, but then things settled down. The run itself went well as far as pace is concerned: 8:35 which may be my best tempo run ever. Tomorrow is an off day for running so I'll have a nice break before the Saturday run.

Speaking of which, I'm a little frustrated that the Saturday run is a full 13 miles. I know this is silly, but 13 (or actually 13.1) is a half marathon and a genuine accomplishment, mile marker, achievement... whatever you want to call it. It would be nice if took place at an actual "event" like the half marathon planned in October. The training schedule does, in fact, work itself around the upcoming half marathon by tapering a bit the week before, but hitting that actual half marathon distance this week in a very anonymous manner is a bit of a let down. We get medals at the real thing. :)

Like I said, it's ridiculous to feel this way, but it still bothers me.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Run Journal - #35-37

Wednesday - #35

My achilles felt good Wednesday, but I still wanted to take it easy on them. I decided to go ahead with the planned 20 min. easy run but do it in an especially easy manner and also knock our a chore I'd been planning for a while at the same time. The "chore" was to calibrate my foot pod with all of my various shoes at about a 9:30 pace (my intended marathon speed). Each calibration is about .5 miles so roughly 5 minutes and doing 4 pairs of shoes (I already have the calibration numbers for my Merrell Bare Access) would come out to around 20 minutes with a nice healthy breaks each time I changed shoes.

Stepping away from the achilles thing for a minute; this was the first time I had ever had an opportunity to run with my different shoes one after the other. This helped to highlight the differences between each. The Kinvara's just feels like home. They're light, and comfortable, and they fit my feet amazingly well. I calibrated them directly after the Hoka Huakas, and the difference was huge. The Huakas aren't bad and I think I'll continue to use them in certain situations, but I can't see them ever becoming my go-to shoe. The Nike Free 4 Flyknit were great, but of all the shoes I tried, they did seem to aggravate my achilles the most. Perhaps that was just because they were the first shoe I wore that evening. Finally, the Altra One 2's were just weird. Really squishy and almost a bit unstable, even compared to the Huakas that had a bit more cushion.

I was pretty pleased with my achilles during the run. There were a few twinges, but nothing that worried me too much. I was sore afterwards, but some ice and anti-inflammatory cream (prescribed by the doc I'd seen the previous day) helped. It was a relief to see some improvement from Monday. The discomfort/pain was so different than what I'm used that I was really worried that I had done something that was going to crush my goals.

Thursday - #36
Details: 30 minute tempo
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara

Again, things went pretty well, although I planned the run poorly and ended up going out in about 90 degree heat. Dumb. I felt pressure in the right achilles but no stabbing pains like I had Monday; just an occasional moment of unusual discomfort. I was pretty sore afterwards, but the same treatments as the previous day and a great yoga session helped out quite a bit.

I am stretching my calves and achilles well before and after each run and then foam rolling and ball rolling each evening. It's appears to be helping.

Saturday - #37
Details: 12 mile long run
Shoes Saucony Kinvara

Rocking the purple calf sleeves; a paragon of fashion, I am

This was the real test. How would things hold up on another long run? As it turns out; pretty well. Even with my achilles issue and trying to take it easier today, my time came in pretty darn fast. Was it iron determination that saw me through? Force of will? My never say die attitude? Hahahahaha... don't be ridiculous. It was none of those things. Want to know the secret?


Oh baby was it cool out there this morning! I cannot even begin to describe what a difference 15° cooler makes. Unbelievable. With 12.44 miles done at a 10:10 pace, I was feeling GREAT! I mean, yes, my achilles was sore and I'd felt twinges of discomfort throughout the run but nothing serious, and I was barely winded. I ran through my rest periods a number of times on the run simply for the heck of it because I wasn't tired, and there's no doubt in my mind it was all due to the temperature. I'm now officially jealous of the northern summer runners.  Of course, now we're entering the time of year where Southeast Texas begins to shine. Sure, we'll have a few freezing days, but between now and the end of March, we'll have a ton of 50 and 60° days that will more than make us for the mind numbing heat and humidity of our summer.
12.4 miles. 2 hours. No land speed records here, but I'll take it.

I followed up the run with a yoga session. This has now become a regular part of my Saturday run recovery and I think it's paying off big time. The session was with someone new (new to me, anyway) and each instructor has their differences, but you'll get no complaints from me. Through luck, we happened to do a few hip opening stretches that were terrific for after a run. I'll need to remember to do those on my own if the class doesn't do them, as they seems to directly target some stiff post-run areas.

My Thursday instructor thoughtfully brought to my attention a Yoga for Men four week workshop at another studio in Katy. It's something of a drive to get up to Katy, but it seems interesting and my recent Yoga 101 class was an eye opener so I decided to give it a go and my first session is Monday.

Finally, I'm cautiously optimistic about my foot issue. A little soreness today, but I was nowhere near hobbling around like I was last Saturday and Sunday. I'll continue to work with it and baby it a bit. If all goes well, I'll not only feel comfortable doing the half marathon this month, I may reconsider continuing my work towards the full marathon.