Monthly Archives: May 2008

unintentional brick workout

Happy accident today when I did an unexpected brick workout.  My plan was to drive over to the Sammamish Plateau this evening to do one of the Northwest Trail Series Runs, put on by the fine folks at Meridian Geographics.  I’d been wanting to do one of their events for a while now, and tonight’s had the advantage of being in Soaring Eagle Park, which I’d not visited.

After I cleared things with Kris, it occurred to me that I still had my bike sitting in my office.  I’d ridden it to visit Dr. Scott and then to work on Tuesday, but ended up getting a ride home.  Mapped it out, and saw that it was only about 13 miles each way, easily doable provided I left adequate time to get there.  Best laid plans …

So meetings ran late, and I scrambled out the door and hit the road about 50 minutes before the race started.  Traffic really sucked around work, things were backed up enough that it was difficult to weave around the cars on my bike.  I think it took about 15 minutes to go the first three or four miles (that pace wasn’t going to cut it).

I tore down East Lake Sammamish, but then crawled up Inglewood Hill.  Then the next several miles were harder up and down.  I got to the park with about five minutes to spare.  That’s about enough time to pull my shoes on, change shirts and start running.  But wait – I hadn’t brought a lock, so I had to find a place to stash the bike and my stuff.  And register.  Pay.  Etc.  Made it though.

The run wasn’t fast, but it was nice.  The trail was pretty muddy in spots, but not bad.  Temperature was perfect – right around 60.  Since I was pretty frantic when getting ready, I didn’t really hear the instructions for the course.  There’s a turnaround point, which was pretty important for me, because I needed to ride back in the little remaining daylight I’d have after running five miles.  Missing it would mean having to call Kris for a ride, which would be a big pain for her and the kids.

Since I hadn’t listened, I expected a simple out and back course, with the turnaround coming after about 20-25 minutes.  After 30 minutes I resigned myself to having to run the ten mile course because I’d been an idiot.  But it turned out that that turn happened a bit over a mile from the finish, so that wasn’t a problem.  I passed several people heading up the last hill, and finished pretty strongly (counting my cadence along the way – it was 84, right about where I’d expect).

What was a problem was getting back on the bike and going over all of those hills on the way back.  I’d chatted a bit, and had partaken in a bunch of the trail mix (laced with M&Ms), and braved one of the very dense brownie things.  So most of the bloodflow was going to my stomach to process all of that bad stuff, and not out to my legs to help me pedal.  Oy.

So – aside from being pathetic on the bike, things went pretty well.  Now if I could just structure my bike training (hills, sprints, etc) I’d be okay.

Good day to be out on the road and trail !

a primer on ms

Saturday morning I attended a talk about Multiple Sclerosis with my parents.  The topic is germane to us because my mom has it (finally diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago).  Her brother was diagnosed about a year and a half ago too.  It’s a wicked disease, that presents in different ways with different people, and can be difficult to diagnose.

Mom’s progression has been kind of slow.  She’s able to walk, although not nearly as far as several years ago.  Treatment seems to help her, essentially holding her MS more or less at a stalemate recently.

The last few years have been a real education for us.  Having a chronic incurable condition really stinks, but I admire the courage mom has shown in dealing with it.  That’s not to say she’s not scared about what lies ahead, and that she doesn’t get frustrated.  But she seems to focus on the things she can control (securing the best treatment, engaging a support system of doctors, and other patients) rather than dwell on what she can’t control.

I am embarrassed at how little I know about MS.  I should be devouring every bit of knowledge that I can, since I may be at higher risk (two close family members diagnosed!).  The sum of my knowledge distills down to the following :

  • It is an autoimmune condition in which the t cells attack the myelin sheathing on your nerves.  There appear to be several distinct types of autoimmune activity that happen in different cases.  Sometimes the t cells appear to go haywire and attack the myelin.  Sometimes something bad in the myelin appears to trigger the autoimmune response.  In either event, the end result is demyelination.
  • There are apparently two distinct phases to the disease : inflammation and degeneration, although I can’t find these phases detailed online now.  Early treatment (during the inflammatory phase) seems to have positive bearing on staving off disability.  This may be because actual nerve damage (axon death) has not yet occurred, and because it is possible to "remylinate" (regenerate the myelin sheath around nerves).
  • People who live farther from the equator have a higher incidence of MS.  This may indicate a correlation with Vitamin D deficiency.  There are more cases concentrated in the Seattle area than in any other city in the US.  Seattle sits at an oblique angle from the sun, and has more cloudy days than many other places.  Apparently the disease prevalent in sunnier climes is pretty different in profile than it is where we live.
  • It is unclear whether the origin is genetic, environmental, or a combination of both.  The disease may be triggered by environmental factors (such as a Vitamin D deficiency), but you may be at increased risk if you’ve had certain viruses in the past. 
  • There is apparently a 10:1 ratio of nerve lesions to "exacerbations".  This means that nine of ten lesions go clinically undetected.  Rather than effecting one’s ambulatory abilities, they most likely hit the cognitive or emotional capabilities.  There is about a 40% incidence of depression in MS patients.  Wow.

Several months back, mom told me that she’d met someone I know from work in an MS support group.  I hadn’t seen this guy in about ten years, and from time to time had wondered what happened to him.  I knew him as a very good engineer (I know folks who have worked with him), and remembered that he was very active too.  He told me that the week he was diagnosed, he’d ridden his bike 150 miles.  In six weeks, he progressed to the point that it was difficult for him to walk 50 yards.  We had lunch together and he told me a bit about his experiences living with MS – dealing with some of the physical and cognitive issues.

This second-hand life experience has been a real education.  Beyond understanding the physical consequences of MS, I’ve learned a bit about how people relate (or don’t relate) to people with disabilities. 

About a month back I had a dream.  I was trying to run up a small hill during a race.  There were people lining the streets and cheering me on.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get my legs to move quickly enough to get me up the hill.  It was weird, because it didn’t feel like fatigue.  I just couldn’t get my legs to go.

Last weekend, when I was struggling to finish the Capital City Marathon, I thought about that dream.  Yesterday, when I was pushing myself through the last mile, running up Mount Si, I thought about that dream.  Not a day goes by that I don’t feel blessed with reasonably good health.  I don’t know if keeping myself in good shape has a bearing or not, but it gives me the illusion of control.  It makes me feel like I’m keeping my immune system strong, and my active neural pathways plentiful. 

Well – I did call this the illusion of control.

that annoying competitive drive

I experienced something interesting this morning when I was doing a triathlon swim workout. 

In the lane next to me is a woman who’s been attending these same workouts with me for the past five or six months.  We’re similar in pace, although I’m reasonably sure that’s because she’s gotten a bit faster in recent months.  She’s very nice, is ramping to her first tri, and has recently completed her first half marathon.

So we were doing some work included 3 sets of 450 yds divided like this : 100 (sendoff interval 2 min, final 25 fast), 150 (sendoff interval 3 min, final 25 fast), 200 (final 50 fast), with some rest in between.

This is a pretty good workout, and ordinarily I wouldn’t think of it as that challenging.  I like growing the intervals and regulating (even shrinking) the sendoff times, because this is how you increase stamina.

But – I noticed that Shannon (think that’s her name) was going just a bit faster than me in the first set.  Usually I’d catch up and edge her out in the fast portion of each repeat.  In the second set, she was pulling ahead enough that I couldn’t close the gap.  By the third, she was well ahead.

Man it bugged me.  Which is dumb – because – hey – Good For Her!  She’s worked hard to get faster, and it’s showing!  Also – it’s just a workout.  Also, my body is still recovering from the marathon on Sunday.  I’ve run a couple of times, but don’t have any pickup at all.  It’ll take some time to bounce back.

So – why does this bother me?  It’s totally irrational.

I think this illustrates some innate thing in me, and probably other people too.  We tend to measure ourselves against time goals, or against others, and it’s hard to maintain a sense of perspective.  I felt the same way when one of my running friends blew past me going up a hill on a long training run.  Typically I’m faster, but that day he simply had more reserve.  Good For Him!

The thing I had to work on this morning in the pool wasn’t my form or my stamina.  It was my attitude.  This morning’s workout was all about perspective.  There’s nothing wrong with measuring yourself against others, but the last thing you want to do is to have that take the fun out of it.

what hitting the wall looks like

I plotted out my mile splits from yesterday, and the results are pretty much what I thought.  Except that I started faster than I’d thought.  I averaged under 8:40 per mile until mile 21.  After that I gave away 25 seconds per mile.  That’s hard to do!

The chart below tells the story.  The blue line shows my per-mile pace (see the big spike at 21).  The rust line shows the average mile split to that point.  See the upward trend after 21?  It’d look even more pronounced if I didn’t have to keep the domain wide enough to accommodate a more than three minute spread in mile splits!



Now let’s just look at the average pace mile-to-mile :



A better average pace line trends down.  That’s what it looks like when you run a smart race!

People talk about hitting the wall at mile twenty.  In this case, I think when it happened to me is immaterial.  I’m trained to run 26.2 just fine, provided I pick the correct pace!  Definitely should have started with flat 9 minute splits, and tried to pick up the pace later.  I would have felt better, and probably would have finished faster too.

day one recovery

I felt like crap yesterday after finishing the marathon.  Possible worse than I’d felt anytime since running the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon about nine years ago.  I ended up taking a nap at the finish in SD.  Yesterday, I couldn’t even muster polite conversation with some friends at the finish.  Ugh.

I got a massage from Jamie of BodyMechanics just after the race.  It was easier to enumerate the places that didn’t hurt than the places that did.  I had muscle spasms in my legs, feet, and back.  All of this is pretty unusual for me – my conditioning is pretty good.  I think this reflects that I overdid it a bit, and that it was pretty warm (in the 70s).

Today’s a bit better.  My lower back is pretty angry, so I visited the fine folks at Essential Chiropractic this morning.  Still, I can’t really visualize running yet.  I mustered a solid 2100 yards in the pool early this morning.  My speed wasn’t there, but my form felt okay.  That’s a start.

Can’t help wondering how much better I would have done (and felt), if I’d stuck with my goal pace in the early miles.  I also think I need to get more mileage at higher cadence before trying another marathon with it.

So – some lessons learned.

capital city marathon race report

This morning I did the Capital City Marathon, my second 26.2 mile run within a month. 

The stars were aligned for a good day of running.  The event is small, but well-organized.  The course is attractive, with rolling hills on country roads around Olympia Washington.  Several friends were doing the race, including three other members of our Ragnar Relay team (Hazel, Richard, and Paul).

I’d decided to do this as a training run.  I did not know how I’d perform in a race three weeks after doing the Free State Trail Marathon, so had no real expectations.  My goals were to finish under four hours, and to feel good about my run.  One of two isn’t bad.

I headed down to Olympia the evening before, to avoid having to wake up at 4:30 for the 75 minute drive and the 7 am start.  In retrospect, I might just tough it out next time.  As things worked out, I didn’t have much of a chance to enjoy the town.  All I did was to settle in, and rest up.  I can do that at home and save $100 for a hotel room!

I got up at 5:30 to eat and enjoy a cup of nice jasmine tea.  After eating, and doing the other things one does before a long race (a.k.a. find their happy place), I wandered over to the start area.  Packet pickup was a breeze, and I had some time to mill around with friends before the gun went off.

The marathon course is sort of a figure eight.  We run on the half-marathon loop until just before the six-mile mark, and then embark on thirteen mile loop before rejoining the half course.  There’s a steady uphill trend between mile one and four.  Then we level off until mile eight when we do a steeper up and down.  In the beginning, the inclines weren’t a big deal at all.  Most are pretty gradual.  Later in the race I’d feel differently.

My mile splits for the first twenty were consistently on the faster side (for me).  Mistake!  I think this was a by product of me futzing with my running form over the past couple of weeks.  I’d been experimenting with a higher cadence (above 80 strides per minute).  My experience had been that I could go faster, but I had not tried this out on a longer run before the race.

Anyway, the combination of higher cadence, the rolling hills, and higher temperature combined to grind me into dust by mile twenty.  I first noticed fatigue well before the halfway point, but did not slow down (stupid!).  Getting towards the end of a several mile-long climb, I just simply ran out of gas.  At the twenty mile mark, I was trending to a 3:49.  Over the final 10K, I gave away nine minutes of time as I walked a bunch.

It’d be interesting to see how I could have done by doing flat 9 minute splits before mile twenty.  I’d like to think I could have had some reserve to kick a bit after 20, but can’t be sure.  I finished in 3:58, so I met my time goal.  However I’m not happy with the type of race I ran.  The only reason I was able to finish in under four hours was the nice two mile downhill stretch heading back into town.

But there are days like this, and it’s still great to be out there running and enjoying the warm sunshine.

so – what’s next?

After completing a race, I usually spend a while casting about for my next goal.  This time, I’ve wanted to do another marathon in pretty quick succession.  It’s the height of the season, the weather’s perfect, and I’m in shape for it.

However, I’ve got to make it work with all other family commitments.  Kris put dibs in on a couple of events some time back (Issaquah Tri, and Seven Hills of Kirkland).  Also, last-minute airfare to say Fargo or Laramie gets pretty expensive.  I thought about doing the Tacoma City Marathon last weekend, as it’s put on by the Marathon Maniacs, but the kids’ school Art Festival was happening, and that took precedence.

So – I’m wanting to do the Capital City Marathon this coming weekend in Olympia.  Beyond coming in under four hours, I don’t have a time goal.  I’ve done the half several times, and enjoyed myself, and it’s close.

Should be a nice training run.  When I’m feeling wistful though, I think about the course profile for the Wyoming Marathon, and wonder what running at 8700′ of altitude is like.  Capital City’s bound to be easier.