Thursday, November 24, 2011
As planned, I set out to run a competitive 10K on Thanksgiving Day. The day was sunny, but a bit chilly before race time. It warmed up to be good running weather, probably near the forecast of 41° F (5° C) at race time.
There were 1095 participants, which made quite a crowd at the starting line:
Split times were offered at mile markers and at 5K. As I passed mile 1, I heard 6:30. Dang competitive juices, I didn't think I was running that fast. Better slow down if I want to finish. Mile 2, I heard 13:09. I thought I slowed down more than that. Mile 3 was 19 plus something high, I don't remember. The 5K split was 20:34, which kind of blew me away. That's faster than I ran a 5K on November 6, and I didn't leave much in the tank then.
I didn't hear the split at 4 miles. I think it was 34:57 at 5 miles; I know I was much slower on miles 4 and 5. I thought a lot about slowing to a walk in that stretch, but managed to keep running. This was mostly into the wind, and much of it was up an incline. I heard the split at 6 miles, but can't remember it.
But I kept running to the end. My daughter caught this shot of me approaching the finish line:
I kept running all the way, and managed a bit of a sprint to the finish line. Final chip time was 43:52.462, for an average pace of 7:05 per mile. I felt pretty good about both running all the way and that time:
That turned out to be good enough to place 122nd in a field of 1095 participants with 1011 finishers. I went to the awards ceremony to find out how much faster the age group leaders would be than I was. To my surprise, I turned out to be the age group winner for males 55 to 59. I was 39 seconds ahead of the next guy in the group. Instead of medals, they handed out envelopes.
In my envelope was $25. I hadn't looked at the prize list, and wasn't expecting money for age group leaders. Well, I'll take it. It will pay for my $18 entry fee and most of the gas I burned getting to and from the site twice (packet pick up, and race day).
Got a nice visit with my daughter out of the deal, too. Came home after the race, and had one of my typical dinners for lunch. (I counted the post-race banana, yogurt, and bagel as a snack.) Daughter wasn't hungry, but accepted a salad with chicken breast meat. At this point, it looks like I can finish Thanksgiving Day in calorie range and eating mostly healthy stuff.
Life is good, and I have much to be thankful for.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Today has been a day of various weight and fitness related things. I'm in maintenance, but I got up today and saw a new 25+ year low weight. This one isn't freaking me out as much as last week's did, because it inched on instead of being a dramatic drop; but the weight is still coming down.
Work was fairly slow, as is typical of the day before Thanksgiving. I walked on my lunch hour, because I'm not running the day before an organized race. I took off in the early afternoon, and used daylight hours to get groceries. The most crucial things that had to be bought were things I wouldn't have even had on the list five months ago: bagged salad and bananas. I did give in to my own demon and bought pumpkin, evaporated milk, and pie crust. The idea is that my daughter will be here tomorrow, and even though we don't have a real Thanksgiving dinner scheduled she does like pumpkin pie.
As the daylight was fading, I got into my car to go pick up my packet for the local 10K tomorrow. "Local" turns out to be a relative term. It took me 37 minutes to drive from my driveway to the parking lot where the race starts/ends, and I had favorable traffic for most of the route. Check in tomorrow morning is 8 to 8:30, so I had best hit the road by 7:30. Good thing I've turned myself into a synthetic morning person.
Much of today I was hungry. I'm not sure how much of that was due to which cause. Probably part of it was psychological, from seeing that low weight in the morning. Probably part of it was really a need for more water, as I was drinking rather slowly in the morning and early afternoon. Possibly part of it was real hunger, with my body trying to tell me that 2500 to 2580 calories per day isn't enough for as much as I'm running.
As fate would have it, when I got close to 2500 calories with dinner the hunger became insignificant. I planned out an evening snack featuring whole wheat toast anyway, to come close to top of range. The extra carbs can't hurt the day before I run a 10K.
As I ate my toast, it occurred to me that this was pretty bizarre. I'm reading about how lots of Sparkers are trying to do damage control to prevent weight gain over Thanksgiving. And on the day before Thanksgiving, here I am deliberately eating toward the high end to try to prevent weight loss. Yeah, I know. That's not what some of you wanted to hear.
Going down the checklist, I think I have stuff covered. Got the food for the day eaten. Got my running clothes for tomorrow laid out. Got the bag packed with the stuff I don't think I'll need, but I know to pack because sometimes I get 34° when the forecast said 41°. I know what I'll eat for breakfast. Got a text message sent to my daughter with the revised schedule, giving her an opportunity to bail on accompanying me to take pictures.
It's been kind of a strange day, but not a bad day. Tomorrow should be a good day, dominated more by exercise than by food. Come to think of it, a lot of people would think that's a strange day for Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Today was the last run before the organized 10K on Thanksgiving. The weather forcast said it should be 41° F on my lunch hour, and I packed my gym bag accordingly.
It was actually 34° F when I went to run. Memo to self: Put stuff you don't expect to use in the gym bag. Having my real running hat instead of an ordinary ball cap would have been nice. Having an extra tee shirt to add a layer, or a heavier base layer, would have been nice.
In spite of being dressed for not quite as chilly, the run was pleasant. I covered 3.47 miles in 25 minutes, and didn't feel like I was pushing hard. That's a 7:12 pace per mile, which is toward the fast end of my training range; but being a little chilly motivates me to keep moving.
When I got out of work, it was dark and raining. It was lousy weather to walk back to the gym. There was a line of cars backed up getting out of the parking garage. It was also lousy weather to be driving in 5 PM traffic.
I decided I disliked rush hour traffic in the rain and the dark more than I disliked walking through the rain. So I put the gym bag with the dirty running clothes in my trunk, pulled out the gym bag with my swim suit, and walked back to the gym. That other gym bag has spent a lot of time in my trunk; today was the day I finally got my act together to see how swimming would be, 30 pounds lighter than the last time I swam.
I swam about a half mile in 31 minutes. This isn't speed demon territory, even by my rather slow swimming standards; but it was a nice relaxing swim. I cycled through all the strokes I know, and did a short pass at underwater swimming to confirm that my buoyancy is more like it was in high school than like it was the last time I swam. That wasted enough time so I could drive home in light traffic instead of frustrating traffic.
The important thing about this evening wasn't the swim. It was the motivational reaction to the rain. There have been times when I would look at the weather and just want to get home ASAP even if it meant sitting in traffic. Today I looked at the weather and decided I'd rather exercise to pass time while the traffic thinned out. This was a better decision for both my fitness and my stress level.
To be honest, not all my decisions were that virtuous. I wimped out on going grocery shopping in the rain. That will force me to go tomorrow after work, when it's going to be crowded and the forecast says it should still be raining. But I guess I'll live with that consequence tomorrow.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Yesterday afternoon I ran 4.23 miles. It was a slow run for me, at a 7:30 pace per mile. For the last half of the run, my calves felt heavy; but I kept lifting them anyway, to get my 30 minutes of exercise in and to make my 10K steps on a Sunday that featured a lot of sitting in the morning and early afternoon. And the heavy legs weren't particularly surprising the day after I'd done a personal longest run of 6.3 miles. Just have to be sure I do my stretches well and take Monday off from running.
After my run, I realized that I was enjoying my stretches. That's odd. I've always hated stretching.
I started hating stretches in phys ed in the public schools, where I couldn't do the stretches (or much of anything else) the way the instructors demonstrated. But it was easier to accept that I would always be the slowest, weakest, clumsiest kid in the class than to accept that I needed to do those stretches that hurt and didn't seem to have any of the benefits that were described.
A few decades later, I started lifting weights. At the age of 49, I was willing to believe in the benefit of stretching. That belief was brought into sharp focus the day after I did my first dumbbell squats - two sets of 15, with a 15 pound dumbbell in each hand. Easy stuff. I'd been a good walker forever, my legs can handle this. Except I didn't remember how to do a quad stretch. The next day, I could tell I should have stretched.
So I looked up stretches in a booklet of dumbbell exercises that I'd picked up. It was fairly typical of the pro-stretching literature I've seen. It advocated doing quite a few stretches daily. I forget whether it was a system of hold for 60 seconds once, or hold for 10 seconds three times; what I remember is that I counted how much total hold time there was on the stretches.
If I had done the entire stretching program as described, it would have been 69 minutes of stretches, plus however much time it took to change positions between stretching. That's an unacceptable level of overhead for my daily exercise program.
That's the real problem I've always had with the advocates of stretching. They get really, really enthusiastic about how good this, that, and the other stretch is; and when they're done, they've advocated more than an hour of stretching to follow a 20 minute exercise session.
Since I couldn't find any expert advice that wasn't obviously designed for people who are paid to maintain fitness as part of their day job, I had to figure this out on my own. I got to where I found an acceptable minimum of stretches for after weight lifting to avoid injury. Most came out of that booklet, including my very favorite stretch for the lower back. (Unlike most other stretches, that one actually felt good the first time I tried it.) Over time, I dropped a couple stretches and picked up a few different stretches for the target muscles.
When I took up running, stretching after running became vital. By now I know I need to stretch quads, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and soleus. It was a surprise that my favorite lower back stretch was also useful after running. It was not a surprise that my calves needed more attention in stretching after running than they did in stretching after strength training.
And then there was the huge surprise yesterday, that I was actually enjoying the stretches. Who would have thought that? It's as unlikely as my learning to enjoy salad (need to pick up some more tomorrow), or to record what I eat, or to become a runner in the first place.
This could have happened a lot faster if I'd found a fitness guru or article that would explain how to get by on a minimum of stretching. That would have got me working on stretches a lot better than the typical articles advocating a gazillion different hamstring stretches. (Did I mention I never met a hamstring stretch I liked? Except the one I'm doing now has grown on me.)
A few days ago, I read an article on SP advocating stretching after exercise. Most of it was standard stuff, the same stuff I've heard for decades. The part that jumped out at me was that it urged the reader to take five minutes to stretch.
Five minutes doesn't cut it. I've put considerable effort into identifying the minimum amount of stretching I can get away with, and five minutes isn't even on the list of answers for the multiple choice test. Stretching after a run takes me 12 to 15 minutes normally. I can rush and fit the stretching into 10 minutes, but I'll probably regret it later. I can't get it down to 5 even if I only count the hold time for the stretches.
But then, I've never come close to spending 69 minutes stretching in one day, either. I suppose the SP article was trying to undersell the commitment, to get new exercisers to stretch. Maybe it will work.
Or maybe not. I don't need to stretch after I walk. I doubt most other people need to stretch after walking, either. Claiming that you should stretch generically after any cardio, while counting walking as cardio, would seem to undercut the message. I can walk for an hour and a half, and don't need to stretch. Run 20 minutes, and I darn well better stretch. Lift weights, I need to stretch - but not as badly as I need to after running.
So where are the articles intelligently discussing the varying stretching needs after different types of exercise? I haven't seen any. I guess the fitness gurus aren't ready to stretch their minds far enough to figure out what is truly necessary for a minimal time commitment.
That's kind of a shame. It leaves us non-professionals to figure this stuff out on our own. If you're like me, you figure out when you need to stretch by not doing so when you should have.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Last Saturday, I set out to run a bit longer than I had before. I ran for 45 minutes, and came in a little bit short of running 10K. That gave me confidence that I actually could run a full 10K without slowing to a walk. So on Monday, when my brand new Paypal account became active, I signed up for the Race with Grace 10K on Thanksgiving Day. (For the non-US readers, that's next Thursday.)
Today was my long training run for the 10K. I mapped out a route that is 6.3 miles, or just a bit longer than a 10K. I figured if I still felt like running near the end of that route, I could always add distance. Didn't get quite as good a jump on the time as last Saturday, but still got a respectably early start at 6:46 AM. Temperature was 41° F (5° C), with a noticeable wind from the south and west. By the time I finished, the morning sun had shown its face. I didn't notice the sunrise; I think that happened while I was westbound.
Last Saturday, I deliberately ran slower early in the run because I didn't know whether I could run the whole way. Today, I just went out and ran. It made a bit of a difference to the pace. Final result, 6.3 miles in 45:51, for an average pace of 7:17. I got splits at the first four miles of 7:10 or so (landmark not totally accurate), 14:20, 21:24, and 28:40. I didn't have a good landmark for mile 5 or 6, but I know I slowed down some in the middle of mile 4, and remained slow for all of mile 5. That was the part that was uphill into the cold wind. At least it wasn't both ways, as in the classic walk to school.
Overall, that looks like an average pace of 7:10 for the first four miles, and 7:28 for the last 2.3 miles. No extra distance got added to the route. I was ready to quit running some distance before I got to my driveway, but I managed to keep going the full route.
Implications for the 10K on Thanksgiving: I should be able to keep running for the entire distance. It should be possible to meet my goal of running the 10K in under 46 minutes.
The plan now is, a shorter run tomorrow, possibly with a little hill work. Monday off. Lunch hour run on Tuesday, take shorter route and don't push. Wednesday off. Race Thursday.
Things that might hurt my time in the real race: Worse weather, which won't be known till race day. Unfamiliar course, which might be harder than where I've trained. Possible large turnout resulting in slow time to start and in an initial traffic jam. Running too hard early keeping up with better runners and then flaming out and having to walk a lot. Not being as good running on one day's rest as I was today running on two days' rest.
Things that might make my time better in the real race: Better weather, which won't be known till race day. Course easier than I've trained. Competitive aspect getting me to run faster, but not so much faster that I flame out.
It should be fun. I've seen the posted times from last year's Thanksgiving Day Race with Grace 10K. If the same people show up, I should not be in competition for an age group medal. But I'll be happy to run all the way, and be as fast as I was in training.
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