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Archives for October, 2011

This is one of my favorite events.  I get excited every time I go out to Folsom to go prep for this race.  It may be because I have to go stay in a hotel for this one.  I am usually in good enough shape to run a half marathon at any time so I don’t know why I get excited about an event that is shorter than a training day.  I met SFMarathon from both Facebook and Dailymile.  It feels a bit awkward to chat with SFmarathon because she puts on such an awesome event.  I help out with some of the Brazen racing events so I have some idea what it takes to put on a race.  Small trail races with 600 runners and no road closures are hard to organize.  Putting on an event that closes major streets in a big city with 25,000 runners is another level.  She is probably working on permits for the next marathon before the current one even starts.

I showed up to the race early and got to watch a lot of people show up to the start area.  There were a lot of fit looking people showing up which is to be expected.  There were also a lot of people who looked like they were on the couch to half marathon in 4 months program.  I am sure a lot of them finished ahead of me but that is okay.  I was really excited for all of the people who were going to be stretched to their limits to finish this run.

The race used to start in two waves with the split at 2 hours.  I wanted to be in the tail end of wave one so I estimated 1:50.  When I got my bib, I found that I was in wave 2 of 3.  I went to the help table and had my wave changed to wave 1 which had a cutoff time of 1:45.  I know I can do a half in 1:45 so I started there.  When wave 1 was called to the start line, a bunch of people from waves 2 and 3 muscled their way up to the front.  They were all cleared out of the way by mile 3.  I did not have many people pass me and there was a big group of people running around the same pace for most of the race.

It is really odd to go out to the valley to run in 80 degree weather on October 30, 2011.  Since there is no fog the air is really dry.  Some of my buddies from the run club did the half marathon then added 7 more miles to the end of the run to get their long run in.  I added my miles yesterday to kid myself that I got the miles in for the week.  I hope I don’t pay for the short run next weekend.  My hope is that running a short run with little planning and no plan will help me in my quest for the marathon.

LN4B rating.  I really like running the LN4B.  It is not a big race but it is fun.  They do not have the amenities or family feel, like the Brazen races but it is still fun to get out for a run on a flat course every now and then.  They have great shirts and medals.  The shirt, I will wear.  The medal will wind up in a drawer unless something happens at the race to make it special.  Today was not a special day.

Pace and nutrition go hand in hand because you have change what you eat when you change your pace.  I find out things like this the hard way, usually by getting sick.  When you get sick from eating the wrong thing, the rest of the activity can be miserable and you can hit the wall.

Pace – Do not increase distance and speed at the same time.  It is an easy trap to fall into.  We all know how fast we went and want to improve on that time.
Speed – If you run 3 miles a day and try to go a little faster every day, your time will probably increase week after week until you hit a plateau.  Once you hit that plateau, you will have a very difficult time increasing your speed and you may even start to slow down.  You need to cycle your workouts.  Do speed work for 2 or 3 weeks then take a rest week where you cruise through your runs.

Good things for speed:

  • cycle your workouts throughout the week.
  • Add sprints into one run per week
  • Do pace pickups during a run
  • Do a pace increase run where you start slowly and pick up the pace until you are going flat out at the end of the run
  • Try a tempo run that is just below race pace
  • Sign up for a race and find out what your race pace really is
  • Attempt to run at race pace while not racing.  It is not easy.
  • Use your imagination

Distance – There is a 10% rule for increasing your distance no more than 10% per week.  That is a general rule.  If you have been running 3 miles a day for 5 days a week, you should be able to increase your distance to 18 or 19 miles per week with no problems.  It is not a good idea to increase your mileage by 20% per week for 3 weeks in a row.  A sample increase for our 3 mile per day runner should look something like this:

  • 3,3,3,3,3,0,0
  • 3,4,3,4,3,0,0
  • 3,3,3,3,3,3,0
  • 3,4,3,4,3,3,0
  • 3,4,3,4,3,5,0
  • 3,4,3,4,3,3,0
  • 3,4,3,4,3,5,0

Do you see a pattern? Exercising in cycles is good It is a good practice to increase your distance for a few months then work on your speed for a few months.  It is your body, pay attention.  When you start getting into the longer distances, it is easier to get injured.  You do not always get injured the day you over do it.  It can take up to 3 weeks to pay the price for overdoing it.  Be careful.


There are training plans like this all over the internet.  There are also plenty of books on the subject.  I highly recommend books by professionals.  Here is one of my favorite places to buy books.

More on long run training

Long distance training is hard.  You have to build your way up to long distances.  While you are building up to the marathon or other long distance, you need to practice with your equipment, pace and nutrition.  Today, I will cover equipment.

Equipment:  You can read about equipment all day long and spend another day trying different things on.  Reviews are great.  Trying things on is even better.  You won’t know if the equipment will really work until you try it out for a long run.  It is amazing how much stuff works for 13 miles but causes problems at 20 miles.  I will start at the bottom.

Shoes generally work well for 20 miles if they work for 13 miles.  Minimalist shoes can cause a problem because they have little padding and alter your stride.

Socks can work well for 13 miles then fall apart at longer distances.  They can cause blisters, bunch up and be plain old uncomfortable.  A blister at mile 18 can be quite painful for the next 8 miles.

Running shorts can ride up, bunch up, chafe and cause rashes.  Spandex shorts pretty much eliminate all problems from shorts but can be uncomfortable for men and they have a weird feel when you sweat a lot. There is also a lack of pockets to put stuff.  If running shorts become a problem, a little Body Glide or Vaseline can go a long way.  There are alternative creams but I don’t know their names.

Belts are a great thing.  I love to hang a bib from mine on race day.  I use different belts for different occasions.  Belts are personal too.  My running style dictates a bottle that is held on a slant across my back.  My son uses a belt with a bottle held straight up.  He also uses a fuel belt.  Other people like to strap things onto their hands.

Shirts can be great for up to 15 miles but cause chafing under the arms and bloody nipples on men.  It is also a good idea to pull your shirt up a little bit above your belt.  The belt will pull the shirt tight causing problems.

Sports bras are important for women.  I don’t know personally but wife sure lets me know about it.  A poorly fitting sports bra could cause serious chaffing.  My wife had a strap burn that lasted more than a month and the mark remained for a year.  A loose fitting sports bra can cause painful bouncing problems.

Sun glasses reduce glare in the eyes and help keep your face relaxed while you run on a bright, sunny day.  A squinted up face cause tenseness in the whole body.

A running hat keeps the glare out of your eyes, keeps the sun off your face and helps steer the sweat away from your eyes.

No matter what you wear, stay comfortable.

I was supposed to go out for a 20 mile training run today but I decided to go take some pictures at Rocky Ridge for Brazen Racing.  The cool thing about Brazen is, all of the pictures are uploaded to Picasa and are available for download for free.  We are not professional photographers with the snazzy equipment but we do okay.  The photo album can be found here.

You may ask yourself, “Why would an Alamedarunner skip his long run to go take pictures at a trail race”?  The answer is simple, to be social.  Trail running is generally more social than road racing.  Road racing can be fast while trail running is a bit slower and hillier.  Going uphill is hard on everything.  Walking uphill can be a serious challenge to the legs but your breathing is good enough to talk.  Going downhill can be dangerous so people slow down and chat.  All of this leads to a community atmosphere.  Sam and Jasmin, the event organizers, are very friendly too.  All of this creates an atmosphere where people want to be.  The volunteers are usually people like me, who are training for something else, family members or friends.  I was out with my friends, taking pictures of my friends.  My wife and son went out to volunteer as well.

I went up to the top of a big hill of about 1800 feet, to get some pictures with a nice view.  One advantage of taking pictures on top of a hill is that everyone gets spread out.  When people are spread out, I get to try more things with the camera.  Unfortunately for the half marathon runners, they had over 3,500 feet of climbing on their legs when they got to me.  I got a lot of good pictures from the top of that hill.  It is always great when people stop to pose for the photographer.

This was a hard race for every distance.  It was hard on the volunteers who were out on the course.  Do you ever wonder how the volunteers make it to the top of a big hill to set up an aid station?  The lucky ones get there stuff delivered for them.  Many volunteers put the water, table and other supplies in wagons and haul it to the aid station.  They also send a volunteer out on the course with trash bag to pick up the cups that get thrown around.  Most trail runners hit the trash cans or come really close to hitting the trash bin but we always have to check.  The runners frequently stop to pick up the trash that others drop.

If you want to run in a friendly event, try a trail run.  Even the type “A” racers lighten up a bit for the trail runs.

9. Find a training partner

I say in one line to run at your own pace, then I say find a training partner.  What is Ted thinking?  Ted is thinking about how great training partners are.  When I do my long runs, I pick places where there are a lot of people out and about.  People help me pass the time for my long runs.  I often pick up running partners along the trails.  When I am out for a long run of longer than 2 hours, my heart rate has a range from 120-130.  It is easy to adjust to someone else’s pace if they are close.  Most people enjoy company on a long run.  30 minutes of company is a great way to break up the monotony of the long slow run.

If you are out for a long fast walk, partners are especially good.  Long walks create pain in unexpected places.  If you are alone, the pain can get overwhelming and the temptation for Starbucks and bagels can win the day.  When you have company, the time seems to fly by.

When you do speed work, partners can help you find the next level in your training.  Our brains are amazing things.  We can go to a track alone and find that our max heart rate is 171 bpm.  We can go to that same track, with someone who is a little bit faster, and find that our max heart rate is 175 bpm.  When you find that extra little something, it stays with you for a while.  Find yourself a training partner or running group and be social about running.  Exercise is not about punishing yourself.  It is about being fit and having fun.  Just be careful that you do not try to keep up with the speedy group who has been at it a lot longer than you have.

Be social and have fun.

Not feeling well means different things to different people.  Some people look for an excuse to get out of work while others try to run with a fractured foot saying “it’s not too bad”.  I am not a doctor, so I won’t give out medical advice.  Personally, I don’t get sick very often.  If I get the sniffles or a cold, I continue to run but I cut back on the intensity.  If I have flu like symptoms or my head feels foggy, I will rest.

When I say not feeling well, I am talking about how your body feels.  Most people train for a goal.  That goal comes with a plan.  There is something about having a goal that people want to exceed.  People of all levels tend to overdo it.  Fortunately, we get warning signs from our bodies that we need more rest.  Unfortunately, we rarely listen to them.
A few big warning signs are:

  • Dead legs when you wake up
  • Running out of energy in the middle of a run
  • Not wanting to run
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Appetite changes – An increased appetite is good.  Not wanting to eat or drink after a run is bad
  • Sharp or stabbing pain on your muscles
  • Joint pain

The above are all things that happened to me one or more times.  I usually get these symptoms from over training.  If you get these symptoms, it is probably time to rest.

It sounds like such a simple thing to train at your own pace.  It is not as easy as it sounds.  There is something about watching someone else perform that makes us want to do it too.  We tell ourselves “I can do that”, we may be able to do that with proper training but it is very difficult to jump right into anything and equal someone who has been doing it for years.  Social media has made it worse.  We all see the times that people post online with no warnings about how long they have been running.  When we go out and run with a run club, we can see the physical differences between the high end runners and the normal runners.  It is easier to accept “them” as being faster.  A picture may say 1,000 words but it still does not match reality.

Pay attention to your body.  Take it easy and build up slowly.  When you build up your mileage and speed, look at other peoples training plans.  Do not emulate the elite people.  Most of us will never run a 5 minute mile and we should not strive to accomplish that goal unless we train for it.  The harder you train, the higher your probability for injury.

There is something about running that brings out the competitive spirit in us.  We want to run a little bit faster than we did the day before.  It is hard for us to accept the fact that taking it easy is good.  Our bodies need to rest to recover.   Cycling gives our body’s time to rest.  Our bodies use different muscles for different exercises; we cycle our workout routines to use more of the muscle groups that we will rely on for the long distance event.
Cycling a workout plan consists of a set of goals.  Our goals are all different and we have to plan our own.  I will give you my goals and my plan to achieve them.
Goal number 1 – Live a long, healthy and happy life.  I lived pretty long.  I am healthy and I am very happy.  All of the rest of my goals are to help me achieve goal number 1.
Pick 2 events per year to keep me focused.  1 event will work but I like two.
This year, I picked the Vineman half ironman triathlon in July and the Sacramento marathon in December.
Set a plan to achieve these goals.  The Vineman triathlon was on July 17.  On January 1, I was in shape to accomplish each event individually.  My goal was to put them all together.  My big cycle to complete the Vineman looked something like this:
January and February – build strength while maintaining event distance endurance.

  • Week 1 – (10 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 20 miles, bike when I felt like it; lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for an hour.
  • Week 2 – (12 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 20 miles, bike when I felt like it, lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for 2-3 hours.
  • Week 3 – (13 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 20 miles, bike Saturday; lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for an hour.
  • Week 4 – (10 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 20 miles, bike when I felt like it; lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for an hour.
  • Week 5 – (13 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 26 miles, bike when I felt like it; lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for an hour.
  • Week 6 – (12 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 20 miles, bike when I felt like it; lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for 2-3 hours.
  • Week 7 – (14 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 20 miles, bike Saturday; lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for an hour.
  • Week 8 – (10 hours) Swim 4 miles, run 20 miles, bike when I felt like it; lift weights for 3 hours and cross train for an hour.

This is the time of year when I make my choices.  If I want to be strong for the triathlon, I will follow the above pattern to give me a strong core and body.  I can easily take 5 hours per week of the training plan and still finish the triathlon.  It is all matter of how strong I want to be at the finish.


Finis Swimsense Review

I have been waiting for the Finis Swimsense to come out since it was announced and I was not disappointed.  It is pretty hard to get an accurate distance tracker that straps onto your arm for swimming.  I tried a couple of GPS style swim monitors with poor results.  The Swimsense works with a better than 98% accuracy rate for me.  I usually swim about 2,000 yards and the Swimsense will add or subtract 25 yards to my total distance.  I am not too concerned about the difference between 1,950 and 2,000 yards for my morning swim.  I just like the idea of only having to watch the clock on the wall and not count laps when I am doing a morning workout.  The Swimsense will let me know if I went a different distance for my swim duration.

Options for you guys who like the bling
Motion detector – Distinguishes between strokes and senses distance
Storage – Records time, distance, pace times, laps, strokes and calories burned
Analyze Workouts – Review distance, splits, laps, pace times, stroke count; stroke rate, distance-per-stroke and calories burned. View your current workout and up to 14 past workouts on the monitor.
Software Training Log – Upload workouts to the Training Log to review all past performances and track progress at
Swimsense Dock – Connect to your computer and charge the battery
Upload workouts – For you Dailymile and Facebook guys out there.  You can chat about your workouts and analyze them with the history.

  • It works
  • It is easy to use
  • It is pretty accurate
  • The battery charges quickly
  • Light weight
  • Docking station


  • The battery dies quickly
  • I can’t get the software to work on my computer
  • The swim options are only for pools
  • Not as accurate as a GPS
  • Gets flaky when you do IM sets
  • Back light does odd things (operator error)

The bottom line – I like the Swimsense.  A lot of my swims are tempo swims where I get out and swim 1 or 2 miles.  These are pretty mindless swims where I just get out and do it.  I check the watch at approximately 30 minute intervals to check my distance.  If I miss my target of 2 miles by 200 yards either way, it won’t make a difference to me.  I can wear my XTREAMP3, turn off my brain and just go.  I don’t have to worry about counting laps.  The battery life is terrible but I can charge it up enough for a 45 minute swim during my 10 minute commute to the pool with my car charger.  I can see the buttons well enough to start the timer in low light conditions.  The $200 price tag is a bit steep but it is well worth the $150 you can pick it up for at Amazon.

Injinji running toesock review

A couple pairs of injinji toesocks showed up at my door a few weeks ago.  I looked at them with some dismay as I knew Mike, the other Alameda runner was in Pennsylvania and it would be up to me to try them out.  When a runner sees an odd looking sock, we automatically think blisters.  The socks are odd looking because they have finger sleeves or pockets for your toes.

Fearing blisters, I tried the socks on to wear around the house for a few hours.  It took me a minute to get my toes into the correct toe slots.  It reminded me of putting finger gloves on a 2 year old.  After I got the socks on, I had this weird sensation between my toes.  It felt odd because I am not used to things between my toes.  After a few minutes the sensation went away and the socks became comfortable.  I really liked the way they felt.

Okay, I like these socks, time for a run.  I tried the socks out on a 4 mile run for my first try.  I really liked them.  I quickly built them up to 13 miles and picked a moderately hilly half marathon for my first try with the injinji socks on.  I do a lot of trail half marathons and always get blisters.  I picked a small race with just under 2,000 feet of climbing.  I don’t get blisters from going up the hills.  I get them from going down the hills.  I did not get a blister when running the half marathon!  I really like these socks a lot.  In fact they are my favorite socks for my long runs.

You may ask why they are my favorite socks for long runs and not my favorite socks.  The reason I don’t wear them for my short runs is because I run at lunch.  It takes an extra minute to get my toes separated and into the socks.  When I am on a tight schedule, every second counts.  It is well worth the extra seconds when I am going on a long run.  Today I went on a long run of 16+ miles and I started off with wet toes because I stepped into a puddle before I put my shoes on.  I ran with no problems.

Sock facts: (New term to be trade marked by alamedarunners)
Toe slots – The socks have slots to separate your toes.  Not only does this feel good, it has a practical purpose too.  The toe slots help prevent chaffing and blisters.
Metatarsal stretch bands – The bands go all the way around your foot near the front of the arch.  These bands keep the sock snug around the front of the foot to prevent sliding and bunching.
Heel box – This is a sneaky stretch material that we I could barely notice.  I don’t know how they do it but keeps the sock snug to the heel.
Ankle band – The ankle band is snug too.  The sock does not move around the top.
Snug package – All of the details put together make this a complete sock.  Toe slots, snug metatarsal area, form fitted snug heel and snug ankle area keep the sock from moving around under any conditions.

The price may seem to be a little stiff at $10 to $16 per pair, depending on the style you choose.  My favorite, the Performance Midweight Mini-crew goes for $16.  Good running socks are in this range, mostly at the lower end but the socks do last a long time and they will outlive a few pair of running shoes.

I love my injinji running socks.  I wear them for all long runs.  I wish I could put them on a bit faster so I could wear them for triathlons.  Perhaps I could speed up the process with practice but I have enough to worry about during a triathlon transition.  Try these socks out.  You will not regret it.

*Ted’s disclaimer – I have no obligation to say anything good or bad about any product on my site.  I call it like I see it.  If I feel something is worth trying, I will say so.  I pay for something that is a dud, I will say so.  I do not plan on giving up my career in engineering for one in marketing.  My comments about the socks are my observations from wearing the socks and looking at them while writing the article.