Sunday, July 5, 2015

2015 Stars & Stripes 5K

2015 Stars & Stripes 5K Review 
July 4, 2015
Lee's Summit, MO

Runners: 910
Course: Fairly flat, 131 ft elevation gain
Weather: PERFECT ... 65 degrees,
88% humidity, 4 mph E wind
Start Time: 7:30 a.m.
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SWAG: Cotton t-shirt, free race photos
Race Organization: Good
Volunteer Support: Good
Crowd Support: Good
Food: Panera bagels, water, etc
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Weight: 177
Age: 46
Health: Good, no issues
Conditioning: Good but not great, slowly
building back my base from the hip injury
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Time: 19:00
Pace: 6:08
Place: 23rd/910 Overall, 2nd/37 45-49 AG

5K races are by far my least favorite.  I've always looked at them as basically a controlled sprint for three miles, which usually leave me feeling beat up and exhausted for a few hours after the race.  But if a "comfortable" 5K is possible, I think I ran one one the 4th of July this year at the 4th Annual Stars & Stripes 5K in our hometown of Lee's Summit.


Michael and I chose this race a few years ago for the simple fact that it's in our hometown.  Since it's literally ran through an outdoor shopping mall, it's not really glamorous, but it's only a few miles from our front door, which makes it very convenient.  Plus, it gives us a chance from time to time to run it with local friends.  This year, our friend's Kelly and Jason were there.  Kelly ran the race, and their son Luke ran the Lil' Fire Cracker Kids Run afterwards.

2015 Stars & Stripes race shirts, finisher medal, and medal for 2nd Place in AG
Packet pick-up was held the day before at one of the local running stores in town, and the sponsor of the race, KC Running Company.  As I've written before, they do an absolutely great job with race organization and management.  We are lucky to have them.  Runners got to choose from red, white, or blue cotton race shirts, and as a bonus, we also got free race pictures again this year.  I picked out a red shirt, and Michael went with blue.

I knew going into this race that it wouldn't be one of my fastest.  I was in decent shape, but not anywhere near my best, so I was looking forward to using the run as a benchmark for my summer training.  But even though I wasn't in top shape, I still felt a little self imposed pressure to win my age group again for the fourth straight year at this event.  Since the race started in 2012, no one in my age group had ever ran faster than me.  Of course, that always has a lot to do with luck and who is, or more importantly isn't, at the race.  But regardless, I was hoping to keep the age group winning streak alive.

Jack didn't run the race with us, but he was kind enough to pose for this Independence Day photo ... I think he looks electable, ha
Members of Team RWB and Team Fidelis, wonderful veteran's support groups
 cheering on runners down the home stretch
For some reason, my stomach was a little uneasy before the run.  I didn't necessarily feel nervous, but I was probably a little more anxious than I was aware of.  But as I went through my typical 5K warm up, it didn't seem to bother me.  I ran around the backside of the shopping center by JC Penny and Macy's, and then ended with a few strides in front of the starting line.

My plan for the race was to go out as comfortable as possible, and then pick it up from there.  If comfortable was a 6:30 ... fine.  If it was a little faster ... that was fine too.  I really just wanted to ease into my fast pace, without feeling like I was going to die right off the bat.  I knew this approach would probably cost me a few seconds, but I wasn't PR ready, so it seemed to make the most sense.  But also with this plan, I honestly had no idea what my time would be.  I told my friend Paul, that I wouldn't necessarily be surprised with something under 19 minutes, or something close to 20 minutes.

Awesome local cover-band, Teacher's Pet, on hand again this year after the race
The race started, and of course I spent the first half mile navigating through the overly ambitious runners who bunched up toward the front of the starting chute, only to quickly realized they were out over their ski's a bit.  There's always a handful of racers who think they can keep pace with the elite runners way up ahead of me, but their churning guts and suddenly wobbly legs confirm that they're still mortal, ha.  At the half-mile mark I felt really good.  I was only pacing at about a 6:20, but it felt very relaxed without any trouble, so I picked it up a little.  I really felt pretty good, like I had a lot more to give, but I didn't want to press too early.   I hit the first mile marker with a very relaxed 6:13.

Mile two features the only incline of any sort in the race.  It's a short hill on the backside of the University of Central Missouri building, and it's only about a quarter mile long.  It's nothing unmanageable at all, but at 5K pace, any hill always breaks my stride a little.  Fully aware of the slight incline, my plan was to back off during the second mile, and then speed up a little down the home stretch.  I began passing a few more runners during this back-stretch, but there were still several runners ahead of me.  I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I controlled the pace, and mile two checked in at 6:18.  And I was amazed at how good I still felt.

My oldest grandson, Ryder, lighting a sparkler later that evening and celebrating the 4th of July
Usually by the third mile of a 5K, I feel like I'm gonna die.  I've often asked God for forgiveness of my sins and to "comfort and protect my family", just in case I keel over while running ... I'm not joking.  But on Saturday, I really felt pretty good.  Don't get me wrong ... since I was running close to 6:00/mile, it obviously wasn't a picnic, but I don't remember feeling that relaxed and comfortable in a 5K, well, maybe ever.  And I was beginning to pick up a little speed and pass a few more runners.

Michael with Rawlee ... grandson #2, and grandchild #3
As we came down the back stretch with about a half-mile to go, I passed a group of three runners, a college-aged kid, and two guys who looked about 40.  I glanced at one of the 40-year olds in an orange shirt who really seemed to laboring, and said, "Come on, we got this!"  And after I passed two more 40'ish guys, we all made the final turn for the last two hundred meter sprint to the finish.  Just about that time, my Garmin vibrated and I glanced down.  My third mile was 6:11, which actually seemed a little slower than I was running.

I really began picking it up with a good final kick, and looked over at the reflection from one of the storefront windows we were passing to find out if there was anyone behind me.  And what do you know, the guy in the orange shirt, who only about a minute ago looked like he was fading, was gaining one me.  But since I'd ran such a controlled race, I had plenty of gas left, found another gear, and left him behind.  I ran the last tenth of a mile at a 4:50 pace, and ended up with a 19:00 flat ... and only two tenths away from being under 19 minutes.  And while I was really pleased with the run, I wish I'd hurried just a little more to push the time under 19.

 I ended up 23rd out of about 900 runners overall, but didn't win my age group division for the first time at this race, coming in second.  Even though I wasn't in great shape, and I hadn't ran my fastest, I was pretty bummed about it.  But I was reminded why it takes a little luck to keep such a streak going when I learned the winner of our division ran a 17:05!  There was no way I could ever beat  him, so I didn't feel as bad after that, ha.  Later that day, we went to see a movie, and then spent time with the family.  We watched Ryder and his dad shoot off fireworks for a while, and spent time with little Rawlee.  I'm not a big fireworks guy ... which obviously makes me "un-American", but it was awesome watching Ryder have such a great time with it.

As I sat there later that night, a little annoyed by the exploding celebrations of freedom throughout the neighborhood, breathing in cherry bomb and bottle rocket toxins, and watching money literally go up in smoke ... I thought about the race.  I think if I'd pushed just a little more, I could have probably been around 18:45, and honestly regretted not being under 19 when I was perfectly capable.  But all in all, it was actually a little faster than I thought I'd run, and it was a nice springboard into Fall marathon training.  But most importantly Michael and I had a blast just being together, as we always do.  And it was a great way to relax, celebrate the holiday, and be thankful to live in such a great country when about all I had to worry about on Saturday is how fast I ran a dumb race.  We are truly blessed.
... Be Great Today!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Training Hours Per Week

How many hours per week do you train?

As a runner, admittedly I usually focus on the amount of miles I log every workout and per week, but don't usually get too hung up on the amount of time it takes to train.  But since I'm busier this Summer with work than I've been in recent years, I've really started to notice the amount of time my training is consuming.

On the left is a portion my GarminConnect calendar snapshot of the past two weekly summaries.  You can see that the mileage totals are around 60 miles, totaling about 8.5 hours.  What it doesn't show is the 60-90 minutes of supplemental core, upper body, plyometric, and leg strengthening work I also add in on most days.  If I combine those additional 5-6 hours to the weekly summary, I'm at about 13-14 hours total.  And during the bulk of marathon training later this summer, this will increase to 16-17 hours of training per week.

Now before you roll your eyes or flip the channel ... YES ... I realize this is probably much more time than the "average" runner puts in.  Heck, there are some triathletes juggling three sports who don't put in this kind of time.  This Runner'sWorld article recommends about 30-50 miles per week for the average marathoner, and 100-140 for elite athletes.  I'm not elite, but I've tried 100 mile weeks and I can't quite cut it.  But I've always found that the key to me feeling good on a daily basis and performing well on race day is to increase the load during training.  For example, I don't feel confident at the starting line of a marathon unless I've put in quite a few 75-80 mile weeks during the training cycle.  And of course, the ancillary core and leg strengthening work helps keep my body strong and healthy during during the ramped up workouts.  But of course, all this leads to more and more time.

Now, before you start with the "How could you take that much time away from your family?" condescending barbs - ha - let me just share with you how fortunate I am.  I have a spouse who is totally on board with the training because she is a triathlete and logs her own miles!  It's just what we do.  Plus, the kids are adults and have families of their own now.  So what are we gonna do ... sit around and stare at each other in rocking chairs?

The key for me with all of the hours of weekly activity is to get plenty of water, nutrition, and most importantly ... REST.  I try to build in 20 min naps here an there, and am usually in bed by no later than 9:00 p.m. each night, which is sort of a prerequisite of waking at 4:00 a.m. almost every day.  Going to bed while the sun is literally still in the sky in the Summer is sometimes difficult, but if I don't do it, I can't manage the workout the next morning.

So how many hours per week do you train?  Do you find the more is better ... or is there a saturation point where you're only really wearing yourself down?  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
... Be Great Today!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Running & Upset Stomach: Correlation v. Causation

I lost a lot of fitness over the Spring while I was battling a nagging hip inflammation issue.  And it didn't simply translate to a decrease in miles, I basically neglected my core strength as well.  My diet was poor, at best, and most ab & core workouts were very abbreviated. So when I started feeling healthy enough for long runs again, I immediately noticed that my posture, abdominal strength, and endurance were greatly affected.  But I also noticed that my stomach seemed to be upset frequently during and after runs, something I typically don't struggle with.  And it got me thinking ... does a strong core directly correlate to fewer GI stomach issues for runners?

After doing a little internet research on the topic, I'm not sure there's enough data or scientific evidence to support a direct correlation between weak abdominal & core muscles and stomach issues.  I mean, I don't think we can say that a strong core automatically eliminates stomach and intestinal issues while running.  I DID find a few articles here and there advocating a strong core to assist with good digestion - the reason relating mostly to increased blood flow throughout the abdominal muscles.  And another site promoted core strength and good posture as a means to proper functioning of the intestinal tract.  But overall, the information available seemed to make only generalized statements, with sparse specific biological or quantitative evidence supporting their statements.

So at this point, I think I would relate the recent stomach issues while running, which happened to occur over a period when my core was very weak, as causation.  Follow my logic here ... probably the reason I usually don't struggle much with stomach issues while running because I try to keep my core in good running shape.  Therefore, when my core is in good shape, I have less fat and flab around my midsection, which helps me run with a lower heart rate.  And, in combination with strength workouts, I have less fat and flab around my midsection because I'm making better dietary choices.  Ergo ... my body is not trying to burn Twinkies, chips, and hot dogs as energy ... but rather good efficient lean meats and fruits and vegetables, which would most likely eliminate a lot of the intestinal issues.  So basically I think it's more a result of cause and effect, rather than a direct correlation ... kind of a "the core strength bone is connected to the healthy diet bone" type of thing.   Does that make sense?

I find the whole subject interesting. It just seems that when I'm in better shape, I have fewer issues like these.  And whether or not it's correlation or causation, I'm not exactly sure ... but I DO know it's all the more reason to maintain my fitness.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the issue.
... Be Great Today!   

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mile Repeats ... 5:49, 5:43, 5:48

Great Speed workout on Tuesday morning!!!  The temperature was 75 degrees in Lee's Summit, MO, but the humidity dropped to 67% ... which comparatively felt magical.  I had mile repeats scheduled, but my legs felt like two lead weights because I'd been doing supplemental Beach Body Workout videos with Michael.  The one we did on Sunday included "High Knees", and as a result my upper quads were still pretty raw.

Lately I've been doing my Speed runs on the street as opposed the track.  I think the rolling hills of the sidewalk and road simulate race conditions a little better than a flat track.  But since my upper quads were not interested at all in managing any incline during the workout, I modified my mile repeats to suit my tired legs.   I chose a fairly flat stretch with a little bit of an incline in one direction.  Not a huge incline, mind you, but about 50 ft of elevation gain over 1500M.  I then ran my mile repeats in the opposite direction - so basically with a slight decline.  I then turned around and ran uphill slowly back to the start to run another one.  The result was three miles at 5:49, 5:44, and 5:48 ... which for me, sounds REALLY impressive.  But when you consider that it was slightly downhill, with a one mile jog back to the start between each one, it loses a little luster, ha.

But even thought the workout was modified a little, it felt good to get the legs turning over at a faster speed over a one mile duration.  I have a 5K on July 4th that I'm hoping to run under 20 min.  I "think" I should be able to manage that, but I'll be NOWHERE near these speeds during the race.  But all in all today was a good workout, and somewhat of a confidence builder!  Have a great day.
... Be Great Today!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Welcome Back Me ... And Summer

Man, I love Summer!  And what a great Summer day it was on Saturday in Kansas City.  Not only did my Kansas City Royals win again to maintain the best record in the American League, but it was also a great day with family ... and running!
Savannah and her dad, Nate, at our neighborhood pool on a perfect Summer Saturday
Ryder showing off his KC Royals Lorenzo Cain shirt
he got at his 5th birthday party
Unexpectedly, Madison, Nate, and sweet Savannah stopped by in the morning to take the little angel for a dip in the pool.  That baby loved the water ... and looked sooooo cool in her little sunglasses, ha!

In the afternoon, we headed over to Independence, MO, to Gage and Sarah's house for Ryder's 5th birthday party. The little guy is getting so big, and every birthday makes us wonder more and more, just where the time goes.  (We also spent time with baby Rawlee, of course, but I didn't get any pics of him).

But since this is a running blog, here's a little about my Saturday long run ... it went GREAT!!!  I love Summer running, but it's just been so rainy in the Midwest this year, that it seems Summer's not yet truly arrived.  So I welcomed a "real" June Summer day of nothing but sunshine, and 80 degrees & 80% humidity for my morning run.  The conditions made the workout a bit of a test, but I got through it with flying colors, for my first really good run in quite some time.

I had 16 miles on the docket, and I wanted to average a sub 7:30 pace for most of them.  But about a mile into the run, I honestly questioned if I would be able to run the whole thing.  It was sweltering, and my legs were dead from a tough workout on Friday morning, and mowing the yard the night before.  So I ran about 1.5 miles of slow pace and stretching before really pressing the pace over the next 14.

I ran the first mile at a comfortable 7:30, but then ramped it up to around 7:15, and was able to hold a fairly consistent pace from there.  Any incline seemed much tougher than normal at the faster paces, especially since it was so warm, so I slowed my speed a little on the hills to conserve some energy.  But over a 14 miles stretch I averaged at a 7:23 pace for my first really solid run in a while.  Plus, more than anything, running in the warm sunshine as opposed to fog and rain, was just really really soothing, and made the workout enjoyable.

It took quite a bit longer to recover after the run the normal.  I lost quite a bit of fluids and burned a lot of calories in the heat, but other than that I felt great.  It was just really good to go out and push the pace for an extended length of time.  Granted, a 7:23 pace in the Fall over 14 miles will be nothing to crow about, but considering the conditions, and the fact that I'm just now getting back into shape, I'll take it.  It was definitely a step in the right direction and I feel like my running is getting back to where I want it.  Hope you had a great weekend too!
... Be Great Today!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Running Weight Conundrum

Selfie from 2013 trying to show my wife the red areas
on my ribs from dry skin at the time, the itching was
about to drive me insane, probably a little too skinny
I worry a lot about my weight.  It probably sounds silly, but it's something I think about constantly. And I know, I know ... it's not really a "guy" thing to say ... but I think most guys would be lying if they said they don't think about theirs frequently too.   Don't get me wrong, I'm obviously not heavy or obese. I've been very fortunate to never have struggled with those challenges.  But I have a certain weight and physical shape that I try to whittle myself down to in order to get the most out of my performance when training and racing.  As a result, I spend a lot of time yo-yo'ing back and forth on the scale.

I'm about 6' 1-1/2", and a good "walking around" weight for me is probably 185'ish.  Although it usually involves a couple of inflated love handles, I feel great at that weight, and it's fairly easy for me to maintain.  Problem ... when I'm at that weight, my running really slows down and workouts are miserable.

So I usually try to keep things below 175 during training if possible.  Problem ... as this 2013 shirtless photo obviously points out ... I'm a little too skinny at that weight.  Actually, I think I was about 172 in that picture. And for the record ... THIS is the only topless photo I have of myself ... and no requests will be granted for more.  I took this when I was on the road in a hotel room, trying to show Michael via text the dry skin on my ribs that was about to itch me out of my mind at the time.  Your welcome.

So here's the issue - when I'm at 175 or below, workouts are much easier and efficient, I'm way faster, and I enjoy racing more because I feel like I'm at the top of my game.  The downside is that it's almost impossible for me to maintain.  I become obsessed with everything that goes into my body, and frankly, I probably don't eat enough because I'm always light-headed and often feel weak.  My face becomes drawn and gaunt and my customers and co-workers ask me if I'm sick.  I'm not necessarily big-boned, but I just don't think 170'ish is a "natural weight" for me.  Heck, I spent most of my life before I started running at about 205-210.  I carried a lot more muscle from workouts then, but man, that's a big difference.

I'll probably stop thinking so much about weight in a few years because I'm almost topped out in most of my personal bests for various races ... which is really the only reason I focus so much on it during training.  After I reach my peak, I'll probably just try to eat healthy as much as possible without becoming obsessed with it.  But I'm a pretty obsessive guy, so who knows.

Is weight something you think about a lot as it relates specifically to running and working out?  Just curious.  Also ... no need to private message me topless pictures of yourself ... this isn't that kind of blog.  Have a great week!
... Be Great Today!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tobacco Free Me & Speed

I haven't been blogging as much lately, but my three-year anniversary of quitting chewing tobacco passed on June 5.  You can read the original post about me quitting here.  Yes, I used smokeless tobacco for about 25 years.  No, you probably would have never guessed.  But being in and around high school and college athletics, especially baseball, when I was younger - combined with working around a bunch of back-woods rednecks in my adult life - I think I mostly did it just to fit in, until it became an almost unshakable habit.  But the good news is I DID shake it ... and it made a huge difference in the way I feel on a daily basis.

I literally used to sit in my car before a marathon, with a dip in my mouth, go out and run 26.2 miles, and then have another dip almost immediately after the race.  Pretty messed up, I know.  But those days are long gone, and I don't miss it all.  So way to go, well ... ME!

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As far as running goes, this is going to sound like a broken record ... but it is FREAKING STIFLING OUT THERE RIGHT NOW!!!  That's a screen-shot from my phone at 4:30 a.m. when I started my Speed Workout this morning.  The temperature wasn't too bad, but yep ... 100% humidity ... AGAIN!!!  If you're fortunate enough to live in areas where the humidity is low, I don't think you have any real idea of what it's like to deal with this every day.  It's no joke.  It's soooo hard to breath, and it just beats you down, man.  But if you stay committed to running in it, it usually makes your Fall races go really well.  So there's that!

Today's Speed Workout was short by design.  I only did a total of six miles, and I'll do another five tonight.  The workout consisted of six 800 meter repeats a little below 5K pace, and then a mile at little below half-marathon pace, with about 90 seconds rest between each.  Here's how it went ...

1.5 mile warm up
    800M ... 3:00 (6:00/mile pace)
    800M ... 2:50 (5:40/mile pace)
    800M ... 2:58 (5:56/mile pace)
    800M ... 2:53 (5:46/mile pace)
    800M ... 2:57 (5:54/mile pace)
    800M ... 2:50 (5:40/mile pace)
    1 Mile ... 6:25
Half mile cool down

Considering my shirt was completely saturated at about 2 miles into the workout, I felt pretty good about holding the pace.  Also, I did the workout on the sidewalk, as opposed to a track, so there were some incline/declines.  After the run, I got in a quick leg strength workout, mostly squats and hip stuff.  I'll do another five miles tonight, but it will be a very slow pace.  Hope your week's going well!
... Be Great Today!