Saturday, November 27, 2010

weekly recap- thanksgiving week

Monday- 7 miles- took off with Alex, Josh, and Brian. I had class in a little over an hour, so I had to bail early and turn around. I got in a little unexpected tempo work when I realized I had gone too far. The return trip was a really fun tempo effort in the low 6 minute/mile range. My feet carried me back to school quickly, where I picked up my backpack and ran to the College of Health and Human Services for class.

Tuesday- 10 miles-
AM - did an easy 4 alone before class. Why I don't get off my lazy butt more often and do this is a mystery. An easy morning run feels great. It was, however, freezing. I wore shorts, and my legs were red and butning by the time I got back.
PM- 5-6 with Jason and Shelly at Aman Park. A  random trip that resulted from a stop in Allendale to see Samantha. I wanted to double, but figured the day was shot from working in the lab in the afternoon and travelling home. Stopped at the pub afterward. An unexpectedly fun start to the holiday weekend.

Wednesday- 20 miles- Why not do my longest run in a month the day before a 5k? Started out great with a warmup from home on the gravel roads, then 15 miles or so at a 7:30ish minute/mile pace. I made it to Muskegon State Park(my goal for the run was to see Lake Michigan), and did a couple miles in the woods. After that, I realized my fatal mistake. I brough one jet blackberry GU for the entire trip. I bonked really hard and struggled to maintain a decent pace. Luckily for me, I was only a few miles from my Grandpa's house. I ran there and downed a can of Coke to try to recover. It worked, but he still insisted on giving me a ride home. So goes the life of a running hobo with a great family.

Thursday- 7 miles- Muskegon Turkey Trot 5k. Had a great morning with my family. I started the race in the back of the pack, but quickly moved past all the turkey suits to get up front. It ended up being a tempo effort to tie with a high school senior for first. I ran 5 seconds off PR pace with pretty minimal effort on the flat out/back course. A little fatigued from the previous day's 20 miler, I decided just to smile and wave at all the people running and walking the course. There were children everywhere, so I just decided to take it a little easy. Certainly not worth plowing over a little kid or an old lady just to win a Thanksgiving day race. After the race, I did a cooldown with my adversary(we talked throughout the entire race, so thats not quite the right word. Great kid who just ran the state xc meet) to meet up with Emily, my 8 year-old cousin. We ran the rest of the way in, then returned to meet our family. We all finished together and went inside for some laughs and a raffle for homemade baked goods. Not exactly an intense day, just the way I like it.

Black Friday Fat Ass Run- 16(?)miles Great run/party/goof-off session with the Hobby Joggas. We met at Muskegon State Park at about 9am for some running and socializing. We had a pretty good-sized group with Jason, Shelly, Mark, Brandon, Andy, Rick, Alex and Myself. This group is becoming increasingly more like family for me. 4-5hours of running and laughing went by really quickly as we all froze in the wind that blew off lake michigan. We started off in two groups, eac running at a comfortable, easy pace as we trotted through the singletracks that wind around the park. This is easily one of my favorite places within short driving distance to run. The singletrack switchbacks that run along the ridges in the park offer great views, technical terrain, and even some decent hillwork. There are cross-country ski trails that are wide with rolling hills, hiking trails that offer more remote locations and challenging climbs, and my personal favorite-barely visible deer runs on the "un-runable" sides of the hills. We spent a few miles traversing these barely-visible paths, ducking under logs and jumping through brush. I doubt that we're the only ones to use this trail, but it clearly sees very little foot traffic, especicially on the nastier paths. The leaf cover made running exceedingly difficult. Jason, Shelly and I were the only people wearing trail shoes, so we did have a slight advantage. Alex and Andy were both donning shoes with nothing more that smooth EVA outsoles. As I led through the deer trails, I slipped and bounced off the ground repeatedly. The trails were so fun to run that I couldn't slow down. The trees grabbed at my old sweatshirt as I dove through openings in the tree limbs.

We then headed to the dunes and out to Muskegon Lake. The dunes are typically pretty fun to run. It wasn't so much the case this time. It was very cold, and I am very unadjusted to it this early in the winter season. The wind whipped off the lake and sandblasted us as we ran along the frozen ridges. As with all running, there is some sort of sick pleasure in the discomfort, but I'm a bit of a wuss, so I was happy to get back into the trails.

Our group getting ready for a day of running
Left to right: Andy, Jason, Shelly, Me, Alex, Brandon, Rick
The last 6 miles of our adventure would be spent playing our own half-assed version of the Tarahumara "Ball Game." We essentially just ran around in the trails like a bunch of children(this wasn't exactly difficult for our group to do) and kicked the ball up the trail, taking turns surging forward after the soccer ball. We used a partially deflated soccer ball to keep it from rolling too far away from us. This game started out a little rough, then quickly became an absolute blast. Everyone got a turn kicking the ball as we ran through the woods. We climbed hills, cut through the swamp, and pretty much went wherever the ball took us. Our three miles of playing the game turned into six without anybody noticing. Playing the game tired us all out. 16 miles of running around tired out an entire pack of ultrarunners. I was beat, so there must be something to turning running into a game instead of a chore. We all had a great deal of fun. No worries about pace, distance, or time-other than what time we would head to the pub.

Alex and I discussing the merits of eating leftover thanksgiving sweet potatoes as run fuel.

Family Portrait(but not really): Rick, Alex, Shelly, Brandon, Mark, Jason, Andy, Me
Saturday- 0 miles. I felt great(other than a slightly tweaked ankle from the off-camber trails), but had just enough other stuff going on to take a day off. My dad's been pretty sick the last few days, so I hung out and helped him out a bit. I fiddled around a little with a car Im working on, did some homework with Samantha, and even did a little of the oh-so-dreaded Christmas shopping. Taking a day off felt good, but the day would have been perfect if I had seen some trails.

Sunday- 4 miles. Just a quick loop around the "block" after returning to school. It was a pretty effortless run, but the pace was still pretty fast(for me anyway). The day after a rest day is always a great time to reflect on progress made. 1 year ago, a hilly 4 miler at 7:30ish pace would have at least felt somewhat difficult. Having it feel so great is a good incentive to keep the mileage up and have fun. It takes a fair amount of giving to a hobby like running before you get anything back, so I'd like to make sure that I'm on good terms with my feet and lungs.

Total- 64miles. This is what I hope for winter to stay like, training wise. Other than the low-volume weekend, This felt great. I'm eager for snow to show up, changing the scenery and bringing with it some new challenges. I won't hesitate, however, to exchange a day of running for a day of skiing or snowmobiling when the fluff arrives.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


5 miles- short on time, so just a run to Kleinstock and back, then headed to class. I felt pretty good, and wish I could have run more.

0 Woke up(late) feeling sick. It got progressively worse throughout the afternoon, so I chose to forego running club. Rest seemed like a better option. I was hoping that resting early on would help me fight off the sickness and I could carry on tomorrow. What a long-winded justification for taking one inconsequential day off.

AM- 5 miles- I woke up with the sun and headed to Al Sabo for an easy trail run. No real training merit, but I love running around in these trails this time of year. The area was beautiful and the running was great. This was my first run in winter gear. I wore tights, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and gloves. Within 20 minutes, The gloves were off and I was sweating. Maybe 30 degrees isn't quite cold enough for winter gear yet.
PM- 7 miles- Met up with the "Wednesday Night Live" group at Gazelle Sports. Since most of us are in the "off" season, we kept the pace pretty mild with around 8:00-8:30/miles. Headed from the store to campus, then around by the Valley dorms, then a roundabout way back to the shop.

7 miles- ran to kleinstuck nature preserve, but only to help Joey with his workout. Ran with Alex, Joey, and Evan. Those guys are fast. I hate to be pessimistic, but I doubt that my talent lies in mid-distance running.

Friday-0 miles. Missed the prerunning of the Turkey Trot course with Evan and Alex. I should stop using my phone as an alarm clock. I vaguely remember picking my phone up in the morning and looking at it. maybe I turned the alarm off. Either way, I slept an extra 2 hours. Fail.

Satrurday- 8 miles(?)- 2.5 warmup on the track, some striders. WMU Turkey Trot 5k was an overall success. Each member of the club earned a top 10 spot. The course is a notoriously long 5k. With all the local talent at this particular race, its always suprising when the winning time is just under 17 minutes. Most people are typically off their normal 5k times by about 1 minute. No excuses of course, but an 18:00 time seemed a little slow for the amount of effort. Alex Poulsen, my training partner, friend, and running cyborg, "jogged" a 17:20, which was over a minute slower than his 5k pace last weekend.He started out in our pack, but then broke off when I started falling apart. I understand why- there were ample opportunities to do what he does best, which is to hunt people down and represent our club well. No worries. Evan and I ran the course together, as he wanted to run the course as a group. He stayed with me as I struggled through the course. He could have easily run faster, but chose to endure a slower pace and the dissappointed head shakes of our coach. Most of the fun was had warming up and cooling down on the track, seeing familiar faces and talking to other runners.

Sunday- 11 miles. Took a trail from Sam's place to the grand river, and ran on the trails near campus. Mostly trail run with some roads in there. Great cool, dark weather. I did a lot of exploring and running off-trail just to see where I ended up. climbed a lot of leaf-covered hills. I encountered the same pack of deer repeatedly, and they allowed me to ger within a few feet of them if I approached them quietly. Though the run was very relaxing, there were some good hill climb efforts that took my breath from me. The views from of the river were a pleasant change of scenery. Jumping over creeks, balancing on fallen logs, and maintaining solid footing over leaf-covered descents made for a slow pace and an awesome solo run. At one point, I encountered an old log that spanned a rather large gully. As I trotted along, I realized that I was on the log, but the log was about 10-12 feet from the ground. to make matters worse, I noticed that it was rotten! I kept running across as lightly as I could and hoped for the best. Maybe I'll save such reckless behavior for when someone is nearby to help from now on, but I'm not that smart. I was a little disappointed to miss the run back at school this morning, but this was a fun alternative.

Total(unless I get out later, which sounds inviting): 41

The low mileage weeks are fun, but I'm hoping to bump up the volume in the coming weeks. I'll be home intermittently for the next month, so a change of scenery and maybe some fun trails will bust me out of this funk. If there's anything I've learned, its that momentum is hard to get going, but also hard to stop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekly Recap and the curse of pre-race insomnia 11/8-11/14

Monday - 8 with Josh, Lauren, Alex, and Joe- 2.5 to the nature preserve, then 4 laps(total of 3 miles) of "Indian Run," - running in a line, back of the pack surges to front, constant turnover. Im not usually one for speedwork, but this is really fun. There is one hill on the loop, and we try to time it so that we can stick some poor sucka with surging up the hill(Think hot potato). 2.5 back. Fun way to recover from a 20 miler the previous day.

Tuesday- 10 miles-2 warm up, 6x800(2:55, 2:55, 2:55, 2:50, 2:45, 2:38) on the track, 3 miles of cool down w/striders, then 2 miles easy. This may be a little off, but not by much(Who cares?, it was a fun workout).

Wednesday- 7 miles with Sean and Phil at the Gazelle group. Kept the pace around 8:00 miles or so. More of an easy, social run. Downtown Kalamazoo has the Christmas lights up-makes me chilly just looking at them.

Thursday- 7- 2 to the fieldhouse(flat bike tire caused me to be late for practice, so I was on foot), 2 miles of "pick ups"- 3/4 speed effort on straights, ease up on the turns. 2 miles home. 1 mile of intermittent resting between miles. Nothing crazy, but just enough to get the heart pounding and feel "race legs." probably 6ish minute/mile pace. Im terrible at track workouts- they drain me of confidence pretty quickly.  Today's run was just to feel fast and get some speed in before a rest day tomorrow, then the Road Hawg 10k Saturday. I've never really "trained" for a race before, so this will be interesting. It does remind me, however, that Im not a runner. Im a guy who likes running. I have very little ambition to beat people or pound out miles on boring courses. I don't mean to say that I'm not competitive so that I can be passive-aggressive, but I'll take a solo or group run to a race any day. The races are just the end that justifies the means and measure progress.

Friday- 4- Pretty abysmal 4 mile downtown run with Alex and Abbey(on her bike). Pretty beautiful morning with the the sun out and keeping the chill off. Legs felt a bit dead, but I guess I should've expected that. A week of actual quality running will do that to a person like me who lives on junk food and junk miles. Abbey almost got hit by a car, so that was the most exciting part of the adventure. Coach said to run just far and fast enough to make a sweat, so that's what we did, then a light sesson of resistance training(been going to the gym 3 days/week for a couple weeks).

Saturday- Road Hawg 10k, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base 35:23 3rd Place. Not a bad performance, considering another pre-race fiasco that resulted in no sleep. I travelled to Allendale to attend a friend's birthday party. Little did I know that some of the partygoers planned on being up until about 4am-directly over my head on the next floor while I tried to sleep. I had to get up at 5:30 so I could make it to school on time to catch a ride to the race in Battle Creek. I had been sleeping very well all week, so I wasn't terribly worried about 1 night's sleep affecting performance. Other than the overwhelming frustration that comes from drunken noise while attempting to sleep, I feel that it hardly affected my running. I arrived on campus and walked with Abbey to our ride. Our coach, George Dales, was there to meet us along with Tom Coyne, who would be driving the rest of our running club to the race. We arrived in time for me to get registered and warm up with Joey, Mike, Alex, Evan, and Josh. They were warming up a little too fast for my lazy ass, so I jogged a bit with Tom and did a little stretching. With about 25 minutes to the race start, I made my mix of RedBull/Gatorade and downed with some water. A little more jogging around to warm up, and then it was time to head to the start line.

In typical small race fashion, I was suprised by the start of the race. All of the racers(5 and 10k) took off at the same time, and ran the first 2 miles together. I was within sight of Alex and Joey, but they quickly pulled away in the 1 and 2 spots in the 5k race. Mike and Josh were near me for the first mile. Josh stayed with me until the course split, and mike dropped back at the first mile-but only by a couple seconds. Evan and I were the only ones from our club running the 10k, and my goal was to stay with him as long as possible. Our running abilities are pretty closely matched(his time at the Grand Rapids Marathon was 1 minute faster than mine), so I figured we could help each other out as much as possible until we had to separate. I love running as a team; its great to feel the support of friends in a setting in which individuals and egos usually take precedence. About mile 3, Evan put some distance between us. At first I was a little frustrated, but quickly shrugged it off when I realized that I had gone through the 5k mark at 17:20- a new 5k PR! No matter how the race ended, I knew the day wouldn't be a total loss. I maintained even splits of 5:40-5:55ish pace for the rest of the course. It was mostly flat, with the exception of an elevated bridge and about 3/4 mile of hilly gravel access road(which is always a fun experience in Vibram Fivefingers).

10 miles total for the day with warmup and cooldown included.

Im incapable of being photogenic, so I make ugly faces.
Our group of misfit runners(left to right): Coach George Dales, Kevin, Joey, Me, Alex, Evan, Josh, Mike, and Abbey

Sunday- 5 miles with Sam- Went to Al Sabo for some hiking and running. I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt, Sam was slightly dressed slightly warmer. We ended up doing more running than hiking to stay warm. ran about 4 of the 5 miles of our hike. Lots of fun climbs and descents of the little hills and lots of wandering around and running the fun sections. Great recovery run and quality time in the woods. This time of the year is always great. There is a strange beauty in the barren trees and brown leaves- the final sign that snow and frozen ground is upon us.

Total- 51 miles. If I can keep having weeks like this all winter, it will be a nice, relaxing season with time to socialize and study. quality running and lots of fun times with friends, but still enough to maintain some base.

final realization- Im running a decent amount of milage...just for fun. Really enjoying the ride!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Little Catch-Up

I haven't updated this in a while. Since the marathon, My running has been really unstructured. I've barely even documented it. The past two weeks have been a great time for running, especially since I've taken some pressure off of myself. I wanted to really focus on listening to my body and just running when it felt fun. Suprisingly enough, I still managed a couple weeks in the low 50's, even if it was really lacking any realy purpose. The weather was crisp and cool for a while, so why not just get out and ejoy it? Some of the highlights included some great trail runs with my friends Mark, Jason, and Shelly. These runs are what running is all about for me. We manage to use our residual fitness from a spring/summer of heavy training to propel ourselves all over the most scenic places West Michigan has to offer. Heading from the wetlands to the dunes to the beach to the leaf-covered trails feels nearly effortless as we explore the seemingly new area. The leaves going from the trees to the ground makes running(especially barefoot and in minimalist shoes) a new experience, even on the same trusty old trails. Leaving the watch, water bottle, and the ego at home for a change felt great.

Mark(left), Jason(right), and I looking cool for Shelly's new camera

Trying to find the roots under the leaves before they find my foot keeps things interesting.

Yes, we are dorks, no, thats probably not changing soon.
Last weekend was the Alger Heights 5k, a costume race held on Halloween. I got up and met Jason, Shelly, Scott, Brandon and Roger for some laughs and a little running. To maintain my last shred of professionalism, I'll just say that I overindulged at a Halloween party the night before and that I shouldn't have. I will, however, take some pride that I ran a sub 19minute 5k, with jeans, wolverine claws, a flannel shirt, a hangover, and roughly 2 hours of sleep. It was fun to run a relaxed race and just let the speed happen(sort of, I was humbled a little by the short, fast race). It was a great way to spend time with friends and get moving on a day in which the couch or a nap outside was beckoning(and eventually won me over later that day). Luckily for me, I had a costume still on from the night before to wear to the race. Running in jeans was not quite comfortable, but it was fun nonetheless.

Shelly and I happened to both be X-men for halloween. Great minds think alike.
 Another great side of running has been a sligh focus on speed when the timing is right. There are a few 5 and 10k races coming up that are great fun with little pressure. I have the support of a group of tremendous runners that help me break out of my ruts and do some actual speed work once in a while. The workouts hurt, but anyone who loves running, exercise, or pushing themselves in any way understands how the pain can be somewhat pleasureable. Time and pain seem minimal when you have a good group of friends to help you get through the tough workouts. My friends Alex, Joey, and Evan show strength in their running that I can only pretend to have, and its pretty inspiring to watch how hard they can push themselves. I may be the slowest guy in our club, but going sub-5 pace for a whole workout is good enough for this hobby jogger.

The last two weeks have been scattered with days off for a variety of reasons. I have no big races to shoot for, the nearest one being next year. I've been making a few weekly trips to the pool and twice-weekly visits to the gym instead of running once or twice daily. I have no real ambitions in the weight room, but I recognize the benefits of strength training and want to obtain some of them. Its been a great, well-timed season of racing and trainng-its time to take a break and just let the body rest. Some worry about detraining, but I can't say I have that concern. If I can go from wheezing my way to one 10:00/mile mile to running 50x 8:30/miles in three years, then a couple months of goofing around should be just what the body needs. There's something less daunting about a task after we've already reached it, and taking a rest is no sign of weakness. Guys like Scott Jurek and Yiannis Kuoros have been known to not run at all after strenuous seasons or goal races. Considering that they're a couple of the fastest beings on two legs, I'll follow their example in my quest for slightly-above-averageness.
This week concluded with a nice long run with Jason, Shelly, and Mark on the North Country Trail. We ran a nice out/back and enojyed running a little distance for a change. The run was somewhere between 19 and 20 miles on some pretty smooth singletrack. Though its been about 10 years since my last hunting trip, the cool air and color reminds me of the long hike through the woods with my dad to get to our hunting blinds. The sitting all day would drive me crazy, but the fast hike through the woods, over streams, and the sound of crunching leaves will always come to mind when I run through the fall landscape.

Happy trails, roads, treadmills belts, etc. everyone.