Easy Pleasy

Heat StrokeOn July 3rd Linda, myself and two of my friends headed up for a Bix practice run.  If you happen to be new to the blog in the last year then you may not know that the Bix7 is my premier run of the race season.  This is the race that started it all so many years ago and definitely the most enjoyable of the lot.  As in the past, I like to get a practice run in just to set expectations.  The two big hills in that race are nothing to be taken lightly – always good to know ahead of time how much of a struggle it is going to be.  For this particular race, there was another reason for self validation…. but will get to that in a bit.  This year Sung made the trek up there with us.  He has been getting himself in shape and has lost an impressive amount of weight from a healthy diet and getting back into running.  This was his second Bix training run and had intentions of going a little further than his previous 4 to 5 mile.  His current 10K training program had put him around 6 miles but that was flat outings.  The plan was to stick with him to help him negotiate however far he felt like going with a side benefit of forcing myself to take it easy.  In the end, Sung made it over both hills and completed the course giving him two PRs in the process – the longest distance yet (7.3 miles – way ahead of his 10K program) and at an average pace of 11:07 which again was his fastest yet.  I find it always helps when someone is talking to you the whole time so chatted him up the entire distance.  On my front, that pace puts me 2 to 3 minutes over my standard pace so that part of the plan came out perfect as well.  Nice and easy, got to enjoy running with a good friend and the fact that I completed it without issue pleased me GREATLY!!

Now find out the cause for caution by hitting the jump to read about a scary experience

Continue reading Easy Pleasy

Crushed It

Figured I’d be nice and give you a little break from the Henderson shoot (trust me, we have a ways still to go with those).  But today, I hit the road for the first run in a long week.  Why the long layoff you ask?  Good question which is best answered with a visual.

I always take a week off from the annual running of the Bix 7 up in Davenport IA and this year was no exception!  Usually the last post of July is earmarked for a recap of the results, but in what has become a rare occurrence my quota was met early last month.  No worries, time is an unstoppable entity and August will do just fine.

Before the gun ever went off this year I was part of a record.  A record that has stood for 38 straight runnings of the Bix race.  Cursed by every Globull Warming pundit, this year was the COLDEST in the history of the race.  Take a guess at what the temperature was when I entered the staging area…keep in mind this is the last Saturday in July in the Midwest.  If you said 58 then you are right (and a damn good Google user).  Linda and I were talking through chattering teeth all the way from the car.  Linda had already opted for her new running coat (admittedly pretty cool seeing as how the sleeves attach by magnets) and somehow convinced me to go back and grab my running rain/wind breaker.  Oh yeah, I remember how – she offered to carry it for me during the race (big thanks for that by the way!).  This allowed me to save some tooth enamel on the trek to our secret pre-race bathrooms.  By the way, I was reading last year’s Bix recap and noticed that a) I was definitely not feeling the best before that race and b) Linda was even complaining about the cold last year – not sure what that was off the top of my head, but you already know it was colder this year.  I was feeling significantly better than last year, but truthfully not at 100% – felt like a cold or something was trying to dampen the day, but nothing really came out of that so guessing it was just some pre-race butterflies.  Note, to address getting sick at work like last year, we opted for a vacation the week before.  We’ll save the details for that vacation for another post, but the week before that it was over 100 for heat index – that somehow turned into a rainy 61 when we arrived at our destination spot at the Dells.

Expecting another hot one, I went ahead and took a 7 mile training run in the morning  before we left for the Dells.  Heat index was pretty wicked, but made it through so felt comfortable there wouldn’t be any issues finishing the race.  We returned that Wednesday allowing me to catch a cooler (75 degree)  final ~6 mile tapper down.  That went excellent with split times coming in ahead of plan.  I remember noting in the post race summary notes that I was ready for the Bix!

Hit the jump to see how the race turned out .. and read about some of our friends that also made the trek to Davenport this year

Continue reading Crushed It

Project: Thinner by Design

This has been an very odd day.  I actually woke up without any plans for blog entries and as it turns out, I now have two.  Unfortunately it is a situation of the Yang and the Um in the sense that a joyous blog topic was countered with a bummer of an entry.  After an internal debate as to which topic to lead with, the decision was made to go with the order in which they occurred in the day.  This means we’ll be starting with the happy event.  So most of this year was spent rehabbing my messed up hamstring.  With the exception of a few important races, there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to hit the pavement for any extended time.  In fact, after the Bix7 in July I don’t think there was one run over 3 or 4 miles until October.  Definitely nothing up to race pace which means it was difficult to keep the weight in check.  By the middle of October I’d managed to gain 6 pounds putting me at 166 (one pound over marriage weight and 19 under my martial arts weight).  This was pretty depressing and the scale was nagging at me every single morning.  Something had to be done.  At the same time a friend of mine (Pakage) had made a personal (and probably doctor approved) decision to reduce his weight and had employed an iTouch app called My Fitness Pal to help him do that.  I was totally impressed when he showed me this app because it had an extensive DB of foods both from restaurants and grocery stores.  Through a simple interface you were able to track your calorie intake, exercise along with a breakdown of key indicators like sodium, fats, vitamins etc.  Oh, and the most important thing is …. it was FREE.  All this brings us to October 20th when I made the personal commitment to getting myself back in running shape again.  There was something coming up the week of Thanksgiving so decided that was going to be the target date to eliminate the unwanted 6 pounds.  The software asked me a few questions regarding my lifestyle and goals and set a target calorie consumption of 1710 per day.  From October 21st to present I documented every meal, every snack, all drinks and detailed my workouts as much as possible.  First thing every morning I stepped on the dreaded bathroom scale and updated the app with the result.  Curious as to the results?  Let’s cut to the chase and show you the weight graph.

I wish there was a way to change the scale on the myfitnesspal website, but you should be able to tell that the goal was MET!  Today’s weight was indeed 160 and even a few days short of the self imposed duration.  In celebration I hit McDonald’s on the way into town and ordered sausage and egg bagel and a medium hot chocolate.  That was one of the best tasting breakfast sandwiches ever.  For now, I’ll transition to maintain mode and with the hammie finally coming around, the runs are already in the 4-5 miles range which means the daily calorie count will need to increase a little.  There are some more details after the jump, but a lot of the graphs and such are more for me to analyze how things went.  Honestly, this was not the easiest thing for me to do.  We eat out a lot which makes healthy choices a little more difficult and there were some sacrifices which led to some frustrating moments.  Swapping out my tasty muffins for oatmeal every morning was hard enough, but giving up some of my favorite desserts and reducing the portions on some of my favorite meals was a true test of the willpower.  At this point, the hammie feels a lot better, my cardio is getting back to par (think there may have been only 2 or 3 days that I didn’t get a core workout in or a run) and can pretty much work out in the lot for hours and hours without tiring.

Some analytics after the jump

Continue reading Project: Thinner by Design

364 Training Days Left

It’s another one in the books folks!  Yesterday was my 8th running of Bix7 and probably one of the toughest ones yet from a couple of perspectives.  I am still nursing a leg problem I have been trying to get resolved for a number of months and if that was not tough enough to deal with, the weather god decided to unleash on us.  As in previous years, Linda and I went up with some friends of ours.  Ron O. and his son Tim are pictured here BEFORE the race.

I emphasized before since it looks like we already ran the race and now soaked from sweat.  In reality, it was raining from the moment we arrived at the course (7:00am).  The day before the race, the Quad Cities was hit with a major thunderstorm that dropped power lines, tore off tree limbs and even took some roofs off.  The city crews were busy most of the day and night trying to get everything cleaned up for the big race.  Apparently another flare up occurred in the early morning causing even more scurrying around.  The local news were telling everyone to hold off a little longer before coming to the race location in case they had to delay it due to lightening.  I was wondering how they handle lightening due to the dangers involved with 15,000 runners massed in such a tight location.

So we decided to head downtown and hope for the best.  By that time, it was raining pretty good and we were soaked as we made our way to the starting chutes.  It was bearable temperature wise (~low 70s, but when the wind blew it would bring out the goose bumps).  The picture above was actually taken inside while we were making our last visits to the restrooms.  Around 7:40 we made our way to the staging areas and proceed to stand in the rain for the next 20 minutes as they prepared for the start.  Luckily the lightening was holding off so hopes were still on for an official start.  Linda snapped this shot as she waited in her start area.

Gray, gloomy and terribly WET.  I think from a conditions perspective, this was the worst I had ever run in.  Sure, runners like the cool temperatures, but a constant downpour tends to get on your nerves.  At race start time, they lined up the elites, completed the requisite introductions and sang the Anthem.  About 3 seconds after the last notes, a huge lightening bolt flashes across the sky followed by an impressive rumble.  I actually relaxed a bit thinking they would delay the race because of it, but there were no other bolts coming after it.  Sure enough, the gun went off and the mass of humanity starting making its way up the steep  Brady Street hill.  Here is another shot she took at some point after the gun went off.  Note, there is a significant delay before the start ripples down to those in the back staging points.

A couple things of note in this picture.  First, it is still raining (and not just a drizzle).  Second, you can get a feeling of how many people there were if you follow the mass of people up the picture and lastly, some people dress up for this race in various costumes.  Linda wasn’t sure exactly what the individual was wearing in the lower left, but she thought it looked like a giant round of cheese on their head.  Well, at least his head was dry and the cheese looked like it could double as an umbrella.  Linda was doing the 2 mile Quick Bix option (as opposed to the 7 miles for the full race).  This was why she was able to take pictures along the way.  Unfortunately, she was on the move and in the rain, so a lot of her shots were a blurry mess.  She did get a shot of the most important competition out of the entire race field.  This is the one individual that every Quick Bix competitor must beat or forever face humiliation.  Who is this nemesis that puts so much pressure on us (well, the Quick Bixers) every year…..

Sorry for the blur, but it’s the Oscar Mayer Wiener.  You can probably imagine what if feels like to lose to a hot dog.  Guessing this costume was horribly heavy due to the foam soaking up all the water.   Now, coming clean, I was passed at the halfway point by a Where’s Waldo dude, but he was moving pretty darn fast.

As mentioned, the race was pretty tough for me.  I made the first turn up the hill and found myself running through a small lake due to a low point in the road.  Immediately my shoes filled up with water making them feel like boat anchors.  This sucked, but not as much as feeling the squishy slosh every time my foot hit the ground.  At mile two, the left leg hamstring started tightening up as expected, forcing me to concentrate pretty hard on watching the stride length and ankle flex to help compensate for it.  The split times were okay up to the turnaround.  I was not on any PR pace so kept it controlled trying to save the leg for the hard climb back.  About mile 4, the rain subsided a bit which started raising the heat index to an uncomfortable level.  I decided to partake on a couple more water stations than usual to to keep the demons at bay.  About mile 5.5, the rain started up again which felt good at first, but quickly turned annoying as I approached the left turn back to Brady Steet.  Remember that lake I hit there at the start… well, I hit it again packing on all the water weight I had ran out of the shoe since the last dunking.  By now, the leg was hurting and the water on the road made me more cautious than usual as I made it down the steep incline.  When I passed over the finish line, I had nothing left in the tank.  I had given it my all which is all I expect out of myself in every race.  I came in around ~61:04 which is significantly slower than my previous (healthy) year of 56:41, but faster than the 66.24 the year before.  All things considered, with my leg problems and the hampered training schedule that caused coupled with the rain, I’ll take the time.  I have 364 days to prepare for a better run next year.  In retrospect, I guess any vertical finish is better than having to go home in one of these….

Ironically, we look about the same as when we started.  Oh, by the way, Tim came in just under 46:00 (he’s 21, give me a break) and his dad Ron came in with an impressive 64:09, surpassing his pre-race expectations.  Reminded by this picture, I need to point out a sad situation that occurred during they race.  Running is an athletic event that can stress your system.  Your training can have a definite influence on how your body handles that stress.  There are also health issues that may be aggravated by running and quite honest those things that just happen for one reason or another.  I am sad to say that a 41 year old male collapsed at mile 6 and passed away.  He was a wrestling coach in a city about 15 minutes North of us.  Our deepest sympathies to his wife (who was also running) and family.  Let’s all be careful on the road!

Also, congratulations to Ryan Hall for a tremendous performance to take the ribbon.  I always appreciate it when an elite runner comments on just how tough the Bix7 is and he even congratulated all the runners who competed in the race.  Everything looks good for him to have a great run in the Chicago Marathon and quite frankly one of the true bright spots in our Olympic Running program.

Now time for me to plan out this week’s training schedule.

What Is This (WIT)  ANSWER:

As you may know, the last post was the first WIT.  I thought it would be harder, but two of our readers nailed the quiz.  It was indeed a scaled model of a Wankel Rotary Engine.  They were pretty common in the Mazda RX series of cars, but I don’t believe they really caught on in domestic cars.  Apparently there were some issues with maintenance of them – See Skid’s great comments.  Congratulations to Skidmarks (who was first) and my brother for identifying the mystery object.

Introducing New Category: WIT

We’re feeling the heat in the Midwest this weekend.  The last couple of days have been cresting 90F pretty easily making it tough for a lot of yardwork.  I did get the mowing done yesterday and then went to the park mid-day to see if I could get a training run completed in the heat – the Bix7 is less than a weak away.   Thanks to the leg rehab and quite frankly a very comfortable season up to this point, the heat acclamation has not been up to par this year and it is showing on the long runs.  A week ago Linda and some friends of mine piled into the car and headed up for a Bix@6 training run.  That was definitely rough and hoping that doesn’t repeat on race day.  Fortunately, I made it through the run, but I admittedly did take a mile off the distance due to the fact the human coolant system went dry capping off my sweat production.  When that happens, it’s best to cut your losses and head back.  I ended up feeling the after effects of that until early this morning.  Long story short(er), I’m just kicking back, taking it easy today and figured it was a great time to introduce a new category called “What Is This” or WIT for short.  Every once in awhile something comes along that is odd or interesting from a creative or mechanical perspective.  To make it interesting for you, I’ll provide a number of pictures or clues in a blog post to help you figure it out.  The answer will then be posted at the end of the NEXT blog entry.  Are you up for the challenge?

The first WIT challenge is this:

First some details that may or may not help you.  This was found in the basement of Linda’s mother’s house while we were clearing it in order to fix some foundation problems she was having.  It was just thrown in a pile of miscellaneous stuff and immediately fascinated me for a couple of reasons.  One it looked complex and intricately designed.  The other cool feature is there was a gear on the other side that rotated the rounded triangles in a unique pattern.  It took a few days to figure out what it was (big thanks to Linda having some recollection in the distant past on what it was).  As a hint, it is not really a toy, nor is it a working part for anything in the house … well, at least nothing in a typical house.  It is also not an American design.  There is one reader of this blog that might already know what it is, but the rest of you might want to check out the detailed assembly pictures that follow after the jump.

Continue reading Introducing New Category: WIT

On the Road, Off the Road, Back on the Road AGAIN

I thought I would make a quick post.  Although I have a valid excuse, I am short two posts for this month (actually 1, but trying to not count my No Internet post since it really was not a true post).  Although chronicled in posts pasts, I have been battling a knee problem which has put me in the doctor’s office a couple of times and months of therapy.  From the diagnosis, it is technically an injury at the insertion point where one of the lower hamstring muscles attach slightly below and to the inside of the left knee.  This has been a nagging injury since the Bix7 run last July and has really hampered my ability to train for this year’s running events.  I had to bail out of the Cat Power Race 5K, but finished a controlled run at the Corporate Chase in Chicago (3.5mi) running with my friend Pakage who was participating in his first road race (congrats to him on finishing that race without stopping once!!).  That race was the first test of the rehab progress and it passed with flying colors although obviously not at full speed.  This lead up to the first real test of the season which was the Steamboat 4 miler in downtown Peoria.  Somewhat regrettably I had to forgo the medal this year for the 15K, but the voice of reason came through loud and clear.  My orthopedic doctor and my therapists were quite pleased at this decision, but it did leave a small hollow part in me.  I had completed 5 training runs >4mis  in the hills at Jubilee Park by Monday of race week so I was confident my cardio was in check (for at least this race) but did not push the speed beyond high 8s and low 9s in hopes of at least getting to the start line.  An appointment with the ortho doctor was set for the Friday before the race just to get some final reassurance, but keeping with my training regiment I took a slow run that Wednesday to cap off the race training.  The heat was coming in that day, which was a blessing since the Steamboat is appropriately named seeing as how the humidity is usually through the roof that day with temps usually in the high 80s at start time.  At the end of that Wednesday slow run, something twinged in the mid-hamstring on the injured leg.  The heart sank as frustration came flooding in.  Months of rehab, hours and hours of stretching every night and another injury rears its ugly head mere days before the race.  Knowing the main race was coming up in two months (Bix7) and this being the last race scheduled before that one, I decided to let mind rule the body, told myself it was going to be fine and made a conscious decision to nurse it Saturday and let the running gods decide the fate.  Each day it felt a little better and the doctor gave me sufficient confidence the primary injury area looked to be progressing well.  So, the clothes were laid out, the bib attached to the shirt and the alarms set for 3:45am (note, the training runs are grueling, the stretching is tedious, the strength training draining but all pale in comparison to the shock to system when the buzzers go off before the sun even bothers to get up).

The good news was the leg felt pretty good and most of the mid twinge had subsided.  The race was a go!  I was pretty much locked into an internal debate on how to approach this particular race and a number of scenarios were racing through the old noggin while the traditional pre-race picture was being shot by Linda.  I wanted to get a true test of how much work was still needed to make the Bix, but didn’t want to put myself back at ground zero if it wasn’t ready.  5 minutes from gun time, I decided to hold back the first two miles and check the mechanics as well as verify all of the other joint and muscle components were working in tandem.  As a plus for the day, a major storm had blown through in the early AM leaving a fairly cool day in its wake (~73F at gun time).  After all the ceremonies were completed, the elites were given the official start signal and the masses began their trek.  As planned, the first mile came it at an 8:35 which was slow for me, but the legs were holding together.  At mile 2, my pace was maintained until I saw the split time and decided to keep tradition and hit negative splits.  Speeding up a tad it clocked in at around 8:24.  It was decision time and looked out ahead looking for some rabbits to reel in.  It was good to feel the wind again and starting picking people off one after another clocking it at a favorable 8:00 for the third mile split with the legs feeling good.  The hill work definitely helped on the cardio side leaving plenty of gas in the tank for the final push.  Finally hitting a good stride since last July, the rabbits began to fall faster.  The hamstring started to whine a little about 3/4s in, but nothing sharp so kept the pace.  Turning the last corner the running driver locked into the final gear giving me a 7:35 close.

I turned to the guy to my right and congratulated him on a nice race while internally patting myself on the back for  holding off his strong charge to the finish.  To his credit he responded “Thanks, you won today, nice job”  No, I didn’t get to the podium (and not a goal for me), but I met the challenge and defeated the injury demons with a negative split race.   I think official race time due to timing chips was around 32:33 which is right there with my better times for that race in the past.  Knowing I had more to give in my first two miles is enough to know a PR was easily attainable and I was not fully back yet.  Clearly all the hard work and advice from my doctors and therapists is paying off.  Another month of hill work should get me to the Bix7 starting line ready to race.  It has been a tough year of ups and downs but it just makes completing the challenge a little bit sweeter.  By the way, I thought I would share this picture with you as well.

It seemed fitting … look behind me … there’s danger in every race, but this year I was victorious.  Best wishes for whoever required that ambulance.  Oh, and the Back on the Road part.  As soon as the race was over, we headed home, did some final packing and headed out to Acadia National Park in Maine.  Nothing like 23 hours in a car to validate whether the acid is out of the legs eh?

… posted on the go from  I90 tollway somewhere in the middle of New York

Another Medal for the Collection

Bix 7 MedalTo complete this month’s quota, I figured I would mention I recently earned another medal for my running collection.  I basically train year round for one key race a year and that race is the Bix7 held in Davenport Iowa.  For those who have never experienced it, the event is 7 miles  (actually 2 miles if you choose to do the QuickBix) in some difficult hills.  The first 7/10ths of the mile is basically straight up followed by ~2 miles down and then the smaller but definitely harder hill short of the turnaround and then reversed.  This year I finally lined up at the start without much injury for a change and that coupled with favorable start temperature led to a P.R. for me.  Usually the temperature and humidity are through the roof due to the late July start, but thanks to Global Warming (smirk) we starting the morning at 57 degrees (yes, I was shivering when I got out of the car) and warmed up to around 87 by mid race.  I’ve ran it in the past over 90 with 23 people going to the hospital that year.

The best part of this race is all the spectators that come out to cheer you on along the road.  Lots of bands are also playing around the route to help cheer on the 15K or so runners.  Of course there are also those participants who sacrifice themselves (at least their dignity) to run in costumes.  Standouts this year included 2 young men running in diapers with pacifiers, the annual appearance of the Elvis’ and the Oscar Mayer Wiener.   The wiener cracks me because he is in full costume and I can’t figure out how he actually makes it around the 2 mile Quick Bix.  If you want to get a dig on my wife, mention the fact she lost to the wiener one year.  There was a valid reason for this, but I am not going to reveal it because it is my favorite thing to kid her about.  For the record, Linda also had a P.R. in the Quick Bix but I am contributing that to performance enhancing drugs.

Almost forgot, similar to a site that has been burned into my retinas last year, this time I was subjected to a 6’4″ or so guy running in a bright blue spandex wrestling outfit and as far as I can tell, that was it.  While working hard to make it up the return hill, I took a brief look up the hill to see how much further I had to go.  Expecting to see some key landmarks I was instead met with this guys butt about 3 feet in front of my face.  Imagine if you will what this site consisted of about 5 miles into the race.  I had to mentally poke my eyes out just to keep from puking on the spot.  Fellow male runners, please stop the spandex on long runs or minimally put some shorts over it.  This warning does not apply to hot looking ladies.

Tomorrow starts the 361 days of training until next year’s race!