Monday, March 31

22-minute land

Run away! Run children! Run for your life! -- Gnarls Barkley, Run

I (rslight) escaped from 23-minute 5K purgatory at Saturday's Northeast Greene County Relay for Life in Strafford. My new 5K PR is 22:51, trumping my previous best of 23:04 in November. Having a super easy, flat course really helped.
I received a Relay for Life water bottle for getting third in my age group. (Don't be jealous.)

Getting a PR like that puts you in a good mood. You read business news online and laugh and say, "Wow, stocks are going down just like my 5K time."

Ronald Rafferty, a runner who finished just before me, asked me what my goal was for the year. I paused at the question because I already reached my goal of going under 23:00. The next logical goal is to try and do it again, and see if I can become a permanent resident of 22-minute land.

Good luck to MS and Jim Evans as their April marathons approach. And good luck to anyone preparing for something I don't know about. (That should cover everybody.)

Friday, March 28


I saw a pretty cool running shoe commercial last night while watching the NCAA tournament. I'm not sure that this is it, but this is from the same advertising campaign.

Thursday, March 27

The Runner's High

I saw an interesting story in the New York Times today about research into the mythical runner's high.

I'll post some excerpts:

The runner’s-high hypothesis proposed that there were real biochemical effects of exercise on the brain. Chemicals were released that could change an athlete’s mood, and those chemicals were endorphins, the brain’s naturally occurring opiates. Running was not the only way to get the feeling; it could also occur with most intense or endurance exercise.

The problem with the hypothesis was that it was not feasible to do a spinal tap before and after someone exercised to look for a flood of endorphins in the brain. Researchers could detect endorphins in people’s blood after a run, but those endorphins were part of the body’s stress response and could not travel from the blood to the brain. They were not responsible for elevating one’s mood. So for more than 30 years, the runner’s high remained an unproved hypothesis.

But now medical technology has caught up with exercise lore. Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.....

For athletes and nonathletes alike, the results are opening a new chapter in exercise science. They show that it is possible to define and measure the runner’s high and that it should be possible to figure out what brings it on. They even offer hope for those who do not enjoy exercise but do it anyway. These exercisers might learn techniques to elicit a feeling that makes working out positively addictive.

The lead researcher for the new study, Dr. Henning Boecker of the University of Bonn, said he got the idea of testing the endorphin hypothesis when he realized that methods he and others were using to study pain were directly applicable.

The idea was to use PET scans combined with recently available chemicals that reveal endorphins in the brain, to compare runners’ brains before and after a long run. If the scans showed that endorphins were being produced and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain involved with mood, that would be direct evidence for the endorphin hypothesis. And if the runners, who were not told what the study was looking for, also reported mood changes whose intensity correlated with the amount of endorphins produced, that would be another clincher for the argument.

Dr. Boecker and colleagues recruited 10 distance runners and told them they were studying opioid receptors in the brain. But the runners did not realize that the investigators were studying the release of endorphins and the runner’s high. The athletes had a PET scan before and after a two-hour run. They also took a standard psychological test that indicated their mood before and after running.

The data showed that, indeed, endorphins were produced during running and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, in particular the limbic and prefrontal areas.

The limbic and prefrontal areas, Dr. Boecker said, are activated when people are involved in romantic love affairs or, he said, “when you hear music that gives you a chill of euphoria, like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.” The greater the euphoria the runners reported, the more endorphins in their brain.

“Some people have these really extreme experiences with very long or intensive training,” said Dr. Boecker, a casual runner and cyclist, who said he feels completely relaxed and his head is clearer after a run.

That was also what happened to the study subjects, he said: “You could really see the difference after two hours of running. You could see it in their faces.”

In a follow-up study, Dr. Boecker is investigating if running affects pain perception. “There are studies that showed enhanced pain tolerance in runners,” he said. “You have to give higher pain stimuli before they say, ‘O.K., this hurts.’ ”

And, he said, there are stories of runners who had stress fractures, even heart attacks, and kept on running.

Wednesday, March 26

Three days

How out of shape am I? It's hard to say.
I'm not as burned out as I was though.

For the first time since January, I've gone running three days in a row. It's only a total of eight miles, but still I feel good. I'm making progress and getting back in the saddle so to speak.

Now, I've just go to keep building on this new foundation.

Tuesday, March 25

Quote of the day - on having everything

“If I drank a lot of beer, I would have everything.” - Barnard Lagat, who lives in a gated community and barbecues four times a week.

From a story about Lagat's American Olympic dreams in today's New York Times.

And a bit about his training:

He did not train like many other distance runners. He worked out once a day, not twice. He ran 65 or 70 miles a week — maybe 80 at altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz. — not 120 or 130. He stressed quality over quantity, no running just for the sake of running, everything crisp and hard: tempo runs at slightly less than a five-minute pace, longer runs at just under six-minute pace, 13 miles in 70 minutes. He did hill repeats, from 300 meters to a mile, and on the track he ran 8x300 meters in 42 or 43 seconds with 45 seconds of rest in between. Or a brutal 500-meter repeat drill, in which he ran 300 meters in 42 seconds, jogged 100 meters in 30 seconds, then sprinted 200 meters in 28 seconds.

Monday, March 24

Frisco congrats

I'm your daytime waitress at the Taco Tiki Hut. I'm your daytime waitress, here's your stupid 7-Up -- The B-52s, Funplex

No groan or moan for me (rslight) this week.
Saturday's Frisco Highline Half Marathon in Springfield (and, I suppose, Willard) was a great experience, and I finished with a nice PR of 1:49:34 (beating my previous 1:52:57).
Having a flat course and pleasant weather helped. I tried to maintain an 8 minute per mile pace through the whole thing. There was a moment around mile 10 when I was tempted to speed up to overtake Bob Dewar, who was a little ahead of me, but I kept cool. It worked out.

Congrats to Jim Evans for taking first place and dominating his age group in the 5K.
Congrats to MS for dominating ... well, most everyone in the half marathon.
Congrats to Tangerine for her spirited participation in the 5K.

Gratuitous side note: The musical quotation above has nothing to do with running. I'm just glad the B-52s actually have a new album out.
When I first drove on an interstate highway in Texas as a teenager, I had the song "Roam" turned up loudly on something called a cassette player. Hopefully the new stuff on Funplex will be at least half as good. The song "Funplex" suggests it will.

Friday, March 21

lemme at em...


Sunday, March 16

Bad Pitter Pat Karma

Instant Karma's gonna get you -- John Lennon, Instant Karma

When I (rslight) was a teenager, I really misheard the words to that John Lennon song.
I thought his opening lyrics were: Think some cop is gonna get you.
It makes sense.
Think some cop is gonna get you. Gonna knock you right on the head.
I thought the song was called "Shine On." Sometimes I would hear people mention Lennon's "Instant Karma" and wonder how that song went (before I bought the John Lennon Collection in college).

The Pitter Pat 5K in Springfield has left me in similar bewilderment for two years now. The local Junior League does a commendable job of organizing it, but it's just not a rslight-friendly course. I'm not sure I can articulate why.

Saturday's race wound through a western section of city and seemed to have ample corners and subtle elevation changes. With an apology to homeowners, the neighborhood lacked charming scenery, although the rainy sky may have made it appear more drab.

Last year I made the mistake of eating a large breakfast before the Pitter Pat and suffered stomach cramps before an uninspiring 26:27 finish.
This year I felt strong and fast, but only managed a 23:26, which is sadly way short of my 23:04 PR. I hit the 3-mile mark around 22:30 or so, but the last little bit seemed to go in slow motion. I suspect the course was slightly long.

Trying to beat my current 5K PR is a significant challenge. Last week I ran the Tiger Streak 5K in Ozark in 23:09, just 5 seconds off. Fortunately Saturday is the Frisco Highline Half Marathon. The half marathon will get my mind off of my 5K failures for a while.

Wednesday, March 12

Amusing Anteater Ironman Anecdote

Today was my first day of actual "triathloning". At the gym, I swam just about half a mile in just over 30 minutes, biked 10 miles in just over 30 minutes, and ran 5.125 miles in just over 40 minutes. This last part was harder than I expected, but then again, I had already worked out for an hour prior to starting my run.

The hilarious part came once I got home are calculated my total distances covered in each sport. I didn't realize that I previously had run precisely 21.0 miles. Today's effort, of course, put my total at 26.125 miles--396 feet short of the required distance. As soon as I figured that out, I put my shoes back on and headed out for what is likely to be the shortest "run" that I will ever record. Going to the end of the block and back took all of a minute and a half, and according to my Garmin was 0.16 miles. I didn't actually need to run the roundtrip to finish the distance, but it was cold (25 degrees or so), and I hadn't bothered with a coat. What was more worrisome than the cold, however, was the random pedestrian on the sidewalk across the street--I didn't want him to actually see me run just one block and then go back inside. He might somehow get the impression that I was just crazy.
Oh, wait...

With my running goal accomplished, I now need to focus on the other two sports. I have 30 miles left to bike and about 1.5 miles left to swim. And the deadline is Friday. I'd like to finish by then, though since I'm not officially participating, it only really matters inside my head.

Saturday, March 8

Reconciliation and healing

In poetic feet, we have poetry and we have feet.
I've just returned from my first run on March - a quick 2 miles. Not as quick as I'd like of course, but I've got to get back in the habit of running more than four or five times a month.

Anyhow, here's a post about a friend of mine who is a poet.
And a documentary filmmaker.

Patrick Mureithi - a Kenyan - fitting in with the theme of this blog even more - has just finished a cut of his first full-length documentary. It's called ICYIZERE: hope. It's about workshops aimed at creating healing and reconciliation for survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

He's about to leave Springfield, Mo. to go back to Rwanda and show the film at a major film festival in the country. He will also shoot some footage to add to the film.

And he's started a blog where he will talk about his experiences in Rwanda.

Tuesday, March 4

Little Rock

Last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze -- Grand Funk Railroad, We're an American Band

Some spectators at Sunday's Little Rock Marathon weren't just loud. They got political.
I can understand, sort of, the Obama "Yes We Can" signs. That can be a marathon mantra. Then there were women with Hillary signs telling us (specifically many Texan runners whose primary is this week) to vote for Clinton. "Hillary is the real agent of change!"
I don't get it. I don't know how that's supposed to inspire us.
Nothing against Hillary. I would be equally perplexed if Ron Paul supporters lined the course (none did). I say: no politics in the marathon!

Couldn't sleep much the night before my second marathon. Maybe four hours. Instead of just staring up at the hotel room ceiling in darkness, I got up and went to the starting line at 5 a.m. ... three hours before my race started.
Volunteers were already very busy. I got to see a couple hundred walkers start the marathon at 6 a.m. They had to start early because it takes them more than 6 hours, and the finish line closes at 2 p.m.
The walkers are adorable. Super slim elite runners with athletic attire will conduct warmups with a serious expression later on, but these people of all shapes, sizes and clothing just stand, grin and converse with one another like they are going on a museum tour. Some wear backpacks. I (I'm the only runner up that early) and all the volunteers happily cheer them on.

My motto for my first marathon in Chicago was "Prepare for glory" from the film 300. Or something asinine like that. In Little Rock I just told myself no pressure. All I wanted to do was have fun and beat my hideous 5:59:48 PR.
The weather was warm (50s on up to 65) but not a problem. I deliberately went at a 9 to 10 minute pace. Although I do shorter races at a 7 to 8 pace, I was very worried about how I would handle the final six miles.
There are moderate hills from miles 6 to 13, and then you face Monster Hill ... the biggest bump on the course that takes you up to 517 feet elevation. Monster Hill didn't look the way I pictured it in my nightmares. It wasn't a deal where you go straight up and then down. It was like a spiral ramp ... intimidating just because you couldn't see over it. You had no real perception on where it would end. That goes on for three miles.
I had slowed to a 10 to 11 minute pace by the time I reached a lengthy, flat, out-and-back portion in a park that reminded me of Sequiota. At mile 23 my legs cramped up and I had to start walking. It felt demoralizing, but a lot of people were walking at that point.
Then a cool thing happened at mile 25. Supergirl appeared. An attractive young woman with the whole cape and S on the chest bit. She was walking fast trying to pace another lady dressed as some female superhero I didn't recognize. The unknown superhero was struggling to keep up, but Supergirl said: "Just jog the soreness away."
I decided to take that advice too, and I suddenly started running at a decent pace like the ladies were. It was the oddest thing. I was walking with soreness one moment, and then I was running with no difficulty. Thank you, Supergirl.
Luckily I was moving well when Brent Barnett (who ran the half) photographed me close to the finish.
My chip time of 4:47:10 easily beat my Chicago time by more than an hour. Unlike Chicago, it wasn't real emotional. I didn't cry. There was just a nice sense of satisfaction of covering the distance. It's challenging.

Here's my big question: Why did I falter at mile 23?
Did the numerous hills finally take a toll on me? Was it a lack of sleep? Was it from doing a 5K race the day before?
Or, was it simply the fact that I never ran that far nonstop before and it was foreign to me?

How can I better handle those final three miles?
I think the answer for me is to just do more quality long runs and maintain a strong mileage base. I don't think I'm necessarily doing anything wrong, but there's probably something I can do better.

Forgive a long post, but here were my estimated times per mile (as indicated on my Garmin) in case anyone has advice on how I can more intelligently pace myself.
Mile 1: 9:44, Mile 2: 9:17, Mile 3: 9:30, Mile 4: 9:36, Mile 5: 9:34, Mile 6: 9:48, Mile 7: 9:34, Mile 8: 9:50, Mile 9: 9:36, Mile 10: 9:57, Mile 11: 9:51, Mile 12: 9:58, Mile 13: 10:02, Mile 14: 10:02, Mile 15: 10:21, Mile 16: 10:15, Mile 17: 10:27, Mile 18: 10:24, Mile 19: 10:36, Mile 20: 10:52, Mile 21: 10:52, Mile 22: 11:10, Mile 23: 12:37, Mile 24: 14:28, Mile 25: 18:08, Mile 26: 14:23, 0.66 remainder: 6:16

Monday, March 3

weather woes and cross-training

K was visiting town this weekend from Ohio, which meant we had to cram all kinds of Southern California fun into a couple of days that were not ideal--Saturday, the day we had mainly to ourselves, was cloudy and relatively calm. Naturally, this was the day we went sailing.

Yesterday, with friends who were in town from the desert, we headed to the beach, with the ferocious Santa Ana winds blowing down from the canyons. It was brilliantly sunny, and quite warm, considering the wind, but, despite having chosen a relatively protected beach (the State park would have been better, but also would have cost $10 to park), we still were pelted by sand fairly regularly. The ensuing trip to Ruby's (formerly known as the Shake Shack, and where you can still get a monkey flip shake if you know to order it without it being on the menu), up on the cliffs and away from the sand, was much easier on the skin. I kept an eye out for whales, since it's their migratory season, but don't think I saw one. There was a disturbance in the water off-shore that could have been one, since there was a powerboat stopped near it, but I didn't really see anything that was undeniably whale-ish--with the winds the way they were, the spray could have been from a whitecap. The main thing that made me suspect it might be a whale was that the water remained quite flat there for awhile--a whale just beneath the surface will even out the chop. So, I suspect it was a whale, but can't be sure, especially since this year there have been far fewer gray whales spotted than usual.

Finally, our fun continued this morning with a run along the Back bay, with the Santa Anas still blowing. Santa Anas are terrible to run in: they kick up massive amounts of pollen and dust, the air is extremely dry, and running upwind in them is killer. Another point I'd forgotten is that extra body glide is required during Santa Ana conditions--normally I don't use it for runs shorter than 6 miles, but because sweat dries so quickly in the air blowing in from the deserts, instead of lubricating, it actually aids in the chafing, since it dries leaving salt. Top this all off with a nice stomach cramp and an improperly trimmed toenail cutting one of my toes, and I was absolutely surprised by the end that I'd run 4.6 miles. It was quite a painful run.

K reminded me that it was still better than doing the same run in 22 degrees. I imagine he's right--after all, cold weather wreaks much of the same havoc on noses and skin. Also, the Santa Anas have calmed down a lot since this morning--it almost looks like the onshore flow is fighting them right now--so this evening would be perfect for a run (if I hadn't just done one). Below-freezing temperatures usually last a lot longer than two days when they come in Ohio. It was also nice to have the airplanes overhead coming in for a landing rather than taking off--far less noisy.

I did notice some nice changes, though, doing this run after nearly a week off. All the bike-riding in the meantime has meant that it didn't feel like I'd taken that much time off, in terms of strength or stamina. It actually felt a lot better--my feet and legs felt less abused than an equivalent amount of running would have caused. Hopefully I'll get a bike right away when I get to Columbus, and continue to cross-train.