Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes

How do you do it?

Why do you do it?

What do you eat?

Are you insane?

These are the four questions that Dean Karnazes sets out to answer in his book “Ultra-Marathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner.” Apparently almost all of these questions can be answered by one word….pizza.  First, the story of how all of this started.

Apparently the way to get into great shape involves copious amounts of bad tequila and mid-life crisis. Dean, out for his thirtieth birthday, took off into the night in a drunken haze, running all through the night (in dress socks), and ending up 30 miles away, with convulsing muscles, swollen feet, and a restored pride. This was to be the beginning of one of the greatest careers in ultra running the world has known.

Back to the pizza. Whenever Dean runs, he needs fuel. You cannot physically run the distances he does without eating. He has found one of the best methods for fueling up is having a pizza delivered to a street corner and meeting the delivery driver. Apparently complex carbs and fat is no problem while running for 36 hours straight. His other favorites are Pedialyte and any of the nasty stuff on those roller grills at 7-11. With 5% body fat, I think he can afford the occasional greasy pizza.

Dean has run everything from the Western States 100 miler, to 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. He has also participated in the only marathon to ever be held in Antarctica, and raced acrossDeath Valley. The man epitomizes extreme running.Scientific analyses has confirmed that while his body produces lactic acid (the stufdf that makes your muscles become useless and start twitching) like the rest of us, he also has a mechanism to reduce that lactic acid WHILE running. This means the only limit on his running is fuel and sleep.

The book is a great recount of his journey from marginal HS cross country runner who stopped moving for 15 years to a world class athlete.  Dean has a great writing style, kind of along the lines of the style used by Andre Agassi in “Open.” You will often know what was going on in his head during one of these events. I highly encourage you to pick up borrow this book from your local library and give it a read. It is inspiring to read about what the human body is capable of. Dean is a firm believer that all of us have a runner inside, it may not be  a 100 mile runner, but nonetheless, we are all capable of running long distances. He at least has me thinking a marathon is not crazy at all. I mean he runs them to WARM UP!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Slog

Date: 01/22/2012
Route:   Hines Park 6 Miler
Distance: 5.5 Miles
Pace: 10:55/mile
Temp: 22 with a wind chill of 12

I knew this was coming.  All winter long, my runs have been great. The weather has been very cooperative. Not today. We received about 3 inches of snow on Friday night, and none of it had melted. The JD clan had even visited the Plymouth Ice Festival on Saturday. This was a workout in and of itself, as we pulled the wagon with CE in it to Downtown Plymouth and back (about 1.5 miles). Here are some pics of me pulling the wagon and at the ice festival with CE.

So of course I took off on a planned 6 mile run. Cold was not an issue, in fact for most of the run I was caught in that zone where you are really to warm, but you cannot cool off because you would freeze. All of my Northern friends would be familiar with this feeling while shoveling.  While I was running I kept noticing that my feet were very toasty warm, and I could not figure out why. I was also experiencing some foot irritation, which did not make sense at all. I was basically running in snow about 2-3 inches deep, with a couple of footprints in it.

Around mile 4 of this run, I came to a section where the sidewalk I run on is right next to a busy road. This was a disaster. All of the cars driving had thrown up about 3 more inches of slush on top of the snow. So for about 3/4 of a mile I was running through 4-5 inches of snow./slush mix. I say running, but the more accurate description would be slogging. Every foootfall pushed piles of snow around and I had no grip at all. How I managed to run that mile in 11:32 is beyond me. I needed snowshoes or skis.

After that section, I had to take a walking break. I suppose it was a great workout, my muscles certainly felt that way. After walking about a half mile, I finished up the run, still on slippery sidewalks with plenty of snow. When I returned home, I realized why my feet were so warm but also irritated. I had ran in REI hiking socks! By accident in the rush to get out the door I had not changed into running socks. While warm, they definitly irritated my feet. I DO NOT recommend running in hiking socks.

Man was I wiped out by this run. Has anyone out there ever experienced something similar, an unexpected obstacle in an otherwise normal run?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter....Finally or NBx Windblocker Jacket Review

Date: 01/15/2012
Route:   Hines Park 4 Miler
Distance: 4 Miles
Pace: 10:52/mile
Total Time: 43:29
Temp: 22 with a wind chill of 13

So alas, La Nina, or global warming, or some funky thing with the jet stream could not keep winter away forever, and we finally have seen some traditional winter weather around metro Detroit. Sunday dawned cold and clear, with some leftover snow in the ground from some Saturday light snow showers. I was eager to get out and try a run in the colder weather with my snazzy New Balance NBx Windblocker Jacket.

I ended up getting a later start then expected because...well...things happen when you have a 19month old. So I left the house at about 4:45pm all bundled up against the cold. My first reaction with the new jacket on was WOW, this thing lives up to it's name. The jacket shed wind like it was not there. As I started to warm up the jacket became this warm, cozy shell against the elements, I could tell I was getting nice and toasty. This was actually refreshing, and I believe it helped me warm up faster. The thumb holes on the jacket were also excellent, allowing me to keep most of my hand inside the sleeve. The fit is nice as well, I would say cut athletically without trying to be a second skin. This was important to be as a big guy with broad shoulders. I do not like wearing skin tight clothes! This jacket allows freedom of movement while still keeping close to your body. Due to the fact that this jacket has more pockets then I can count, I was able to take along my cell phone, so a I got this beautiful pic just after mile 1 of the sun going down over a crest above the park.

So I continued along me way, continually on the look out for icy patches. Mostly everything was just covered in a nice 1/2" thick coating of nice crunchy snow, so I did not encounter any footing issues. I was definitely running slower then normal, as I was running in a more upright stance to avoid the chance of slipping. I did see some YakTrax tracks in the snow, (Raquelita over at Running Historian talks about these more, as she actually own them.) which made me think they would not be a bad idea if I want to run in the park all winter. By the way it makes no sense to say out load "YakTrax tracks," it just messes with your head.

The run was definitely enjoyable, I actually find cold weather running to be quite refreshing. The new jacket exceeded expectations, and I would give it a hearty thumbs up for anyone looking for cold weather running gear. Soon time will come to start gearing up the distance for the half marathon I have planned in March.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Rearview Mirror

This week has been kind of slow on the running front. It has been a combination of Christmas tree removal (We have a real one and it is a two day process to take everything off of it, take it down and clean up), and just general activity. I was looking over some of my times on the nifty new race results page that I have created, and thinking about how my training has been going. It it amazing how far I have come in just a few short years.

In 2011, which was the first year in a while that I had run with any kind of seriousness, I had a very elusive goal. It was to run a 5K in under 10 minutes a mile. This eluded me through two races in 2011. My best time was an amazingly close 10:01/mile in the Plymouth Fathers Day 5K in June. I felt like I was flying through that race. When I saw the time on the clock as I finished I sprinted as fast as I could to try and beat that barrier, but to no avail. It would take until a race in October, just a few weeks before my half marathon run for me to break the 10 minute barrier, and I would smash it, coming in at 9:15 a mile, and this was in REALLY cruddy weather. To give some perspective on my 5k times in 2011, here they are in order:

Corktown Races 5k, March 13th, 2011, 33:18, 10:43/mile
Plymouth YMCA Fathers Day 5k, June 19th, 2011,  31:09, 10:01/mile

It was amazing to cross that finish line at 9:15/mile, I almost did not believe it. Oh don't worry, I know that in the grand scheme of things I am slow, and I am ok with that, but it is always good to accomplish your goal. Taking 4.5 minutes off your 5K time is pretty impressive. I more write this to speak to anyone out there who is thinking of running, and lamenting how slow they are.....its ok, everyone is slow when they start. If anyone can prove that even the most out of shape individual can start seeing drastic improvements with some practice, it is me. 
So get out there and run.

If you thought last year was nuts, here is a recap of my 2012 goals concerning time:

1. Run a 5k in under 9 minutes a mile

2. Run a 10k in under 10 minutes a mile
3. Run a half marathon in under 11 minutes a mile

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Warm Weather and A Wife on the Run

Date: 01/08/2012
Route:  8 Miles through Hines Park
Distance: 8 Miles
Pace: 10:28/mile
Total Time: 1:23:45
Temp: 35, Sunny

It has been a pretty great week for physical activity around the JD household. The amazingly warm weather around  Detroit continued throughout last week, with Jan 6th coming in at 55! degrees, and highs in the 40's for most of the week. I have taken advantage of this by having a great running week. I ran 4 miles on Wednesday, 3.1 on Friday and 8 today. I figure I better take advantage of this weather while it lasts. While it has been warm, I am counting on a harsh late winter and and spring.

Something else strange happened on Saturday afternoon. The Wife occasionally goes out for a short jog, just to get some physical exercise in. She has NEVER been serious about running or even worrying about how fast she goes. So off she goes on one of these short runs, but in this case we strapped the Garmin 405 to her wrist. I was taking care of CE and starting to get a little bit concerned, as The Wife had been gone over 30 minutes. We are watching out the window, and all of the sudden she appears running down the street, and then she runs right by the house. Now this does not make any sense to me, but she does a lap around the block and comes into the house with a huge grin on her face.

It turns out she ran a 5K. She did not set out to do that, but as she hit milestones, she just kept thinking, "I can do a bit more." I always knew she could run that kind of distance if she wanted to, in fact I am sure she could be faster then me if she wanted to. Trust me, she is built much more like the prototypical runner then myself. If she keeps this up, we can be one of those annoying couples running together with CE in the stroller:

Our Future...HA!

I am hoping to get her into a 5K race this summer, as we all know, once you are in a race, there is no turning back. I was just glad to see how excited she was, running is a passion of mine, and I would love ot be able to share it with her.

Coming later this week, I am going to review a book I recently read, "Ultra Marathon Man" by Dean Karnazes. My preview is simply one word...Wow.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bugjuice, Bad Movies and a 5K

Date: 12/31/2011
Route:  Belle Isle New Years Eve 5K
Distance: 3.1 miles
Pace: 9:28/mile
Total Time: 29:22
Temp: In the low 40's

I was carpooling to this race with three "gentlemen," who all loosely belong to a Facebook running group I am a member of. In true JD style, they are all faster then me. So getting to the race involved driving to Canton, then Dearborn, then Detroit. Always interesting conversation with a crew like this. Some running chatter mixed in with movie trivia (seriously, movies I had never heard of, these guys are practically ancient) ;). It is always nice to have company at a race, even if it is someone to identify your body afterwards.

The atmosphere was festive, quite a good crowd there. We were dismayed that with so many people running, there were only 4 porta johns. I firmly believe that race directors use some sort of arcane math formula to get the number of porta johns to have on race day.

Here is an example for this race:
(X + Y + Z / 200,000) x .0001 = P

Entrants = X
Expected Spectators = Y
Workers and Volunteers = Z
# of porta johns to have on hand = P

I think they use this formula and then add 1 just to "be safe". Craziness

I had almost no expectations going into this race. The weather was toasty for December, great running weather. I have a goal of running a sub 9 minute mile pace for a 5k this year, but I figure that will come later once I am in hard core training mode for all the half's I am going to run this year. My last 5K, was the Jamesers 5k, which I magically won my age division at a blistering 9:18/mile pace. I was hoping to get under 9:30/mile, but would have been fine with anything under 10.

I also was going to use my new Garmin Forerunner 405, that had arrived 29 hours before race start time. So part of my goal in the race was to check out the results and see if they were helpful. Full review of the 405, including performance at this race soon.

So we take off and I am pressing the pace a little, picking it up in the last quarter mile of the first mile. I crossed the first mile at 8:53, right about where I wanted to be. This was also nice because we had a chance to pass by the Scott Fountain, which is pretty impressive. Unfortunately the scenery went downhill quickly. Mostly in mile 2, we got to see some of the old abandoned structures on the island. It is very sad, because it is clear that Belle Isle was once very beautiful. Don't get me wrong, it is not like there was trash everywhere, and drug dealers hanging out, it was just...shabby. You could tell that maintenance was not getting done. Everything looked like it could use a coat of paint.

At the 2 mile mark we were right by the conservatory, which did look very nice. I felt myself slowing down, there was just not much in the tank to push the pace that third mile. I was very happy with my pace up to that point. As we ran by the Dossin Great Lakes Museum (wow could this place use a new building), I was in that situation where some people were starting to pass me, and I hate that. In the Detroit Half, it was great starting slow and then passing people for 10 miles, great motivation. So I tried to pick up the pace but no avail, the body was unwilling.

I cruised across the finish line, and checked the Garmin, which said I had ran 3.18 miles, so it gave me a pace of 9:14 a mile, but taking that time for 3.1 miles it gave me 9:28 a mile. I guess I have no reason to be mad, but it frustrated me that I could not pick up the speed in that third mile. So that is my goal going forward in 5k's, to push myself in the 3rd mile. I know I said I would give a full Garmin review later, but if you want to check out the page for this race, click here (I do LOVE the map feature)

So end result was right about where I had expected to be. I think getting in the 8's is going to be harder then I thought. After the race, there was the requisite bananas and  bagels, but there was also something called Bugjuice Naturals, which is a mixture of fruit juice, vegetable juice and milk....and man is it tasty. If some marketing guy from that company wants to send me a case, I will sing their praises for a while :). Apparently it is something new because it is not even available on their website yet. Back to the training grind, the next race is a half in March!