5 mile race

I took several days off because of work last week. I hoped that the rest would help me feel fresh for a race during the weekend. I signed up for a 5 miler on Sunday.

The race started very well. My first two miles were under a 7:00/mile pace and I did indeed feel well rested. At about the halfway point, we made a turn into the wind, and started a long 1 mile uphill slog. At one point, it looked as though one of the people helping on the race course directed us the wrong way. I stopped for a minute to make sure about where we were going, and almost just gave up. I was really getting tired. I knew I was near the front of the pack, though, so I made myself keep going.

The race continued into the wind, with several more hills thrown in for fun. Finally I could see that we were arriving back at the school where we started. As we got to a point where I hoped we were ending, we were directed onto the school track and told that we had to complete one lap before the end. I was pretty far ahead of anyone behind me at that point, so I stopped and walked a few feet once I got to the track. I was wasted. I started hearing people yelling at some runners coming up behind me, so I started running again and mercifully finished the thing before anyone could catch me. My time was 38 minutes, which is far from my best of just over 35.

I waited around for the awards, and received a first place plaque for being the fastest in my age category. I was 6th overall, so I feel pretty good about the result, even though my time was not great and my performance was less than stellar.

It’s obvious that I need more quality workouts in order to perform better in races. I don’t enjoy feeling like giving up. I ran 10 miles at a fairly slow pace today. The best way to build fitness is to run long and slow without feeling like you’re stressing your body too much. I’m going to do that the next few days, along with eating a little better. We’ll see if that makes racing next weekend feel easier.

Bruce fucking Jenner

I like to think of myself as a pretty live-and-let-live kind of person, but I have to admit that the recent coverage of Bruce Jenner has puzzled me a bit.

I remember seeing things written a few months ago about him wanting to be a woman, and about how he and that Kardashian mom were getting divorced. Shortly after that, he was involved in a car accident that left a woman dead. I thought his life was probably spinning out of control. The accident seemed like evidence of this, but I haven’t heard much about it since. I do know that those who have money enjoy certain advantages when it comes to the justice system.

Alright, so Bruce has gotten a lot of positive press in recent days about his courageous transgender honesty. Living with that sort of secret I suppose would be difficult. I checked out a few clips of him speaking to Diane Sawyer. I’m certainly not in any position to offer a clinical diagnosis of mental illness, but his manner seems very odd. He speaks in a way which may indicate muddled thinking. His eyes don’t open and close at the same time. He looks kind of bonkers to me.

In this interview, he comes out as a conservative Republican. He reminds me of those Log Cabin Republicans–a gay political organization whose members insist on being in a party that for the most part rejects them. More muddled thinking. It seems to me that what Bruce and the Republican party really share is an appreciation for wealth, and the advantages it confers.

Just a few minutes ago, I read an article by a woman who was married to Bruce in the 80s. They had two sons together. He admitted his secret to her, and they eventually divorced. After they separated, Bruce showed little interest in his sons, and went years without speaking to them.

I have heard rumors that Bruce was taking steroids or some kind of hormones during the period when he was producing his amazing athletic feats. I wonder if this kind of thing can mess up the balance of chemicals in your body such that, when you go off of them, your sense of self, perhaps even gender, are a little screwed up? Well, a lot about Bruce Jenner is screwed up. I don’t think I agree with all of the laudatory press he has received. I think he’s nuts.

Waking up the legs

I did the 5k that was in our town yesterday. I jogged the 2 miles slowly to the race site to warm up. The race went pretty well. Once we all got going and the foolish sprinters who ran out of gas were passed, those of us fairly near the front maintained our positions the entire race. I ended up finishing in 22 minutes which I guessed was probably good enough for some sort of age group award. I didn’t feel like waiting around, though, so I jogged back home. Only later did I learn that I was 2nd in my age group and 12th overall. My time wasn’t terribly impressive, but I’m happy with my result.

Today I went out for a run in my five fingers. Those are the ridiculous shoes with the individual toes. They’re pretty close to barefoot, and I enjoy running in them occasionally. I ended up going nine miles at an 8:19 pace at what felt like an easy effort. It was the best I’ve felt during a run in a while. My legs felt springy, and I didn’t feel tired or heavy at all. It seems that forcing myself to run at a 7 min/mile pace as I did during the 5k helped wake up my legs.

Another thing that may have helped today was modifying my posture just a bit. I talked last time about finding that sweet spot between looking out too much and looking down. I think perhaps my gaze was still directed down too far during the race, causing me to “run myself into the ground” so to speak. Today, I thought back to my idea from posts long ago about “running within yourself.” This inward sort of attitude makes us direct our eyes downward without actually lowering the head too much. My profile picture or Gravatar picture, or whatever it’s called here on this blog displays what I’m talking about very well. It was taken during my 3:31 marathon, which felt very easy. Everything seemed to be working right that day. You can see in the picture that my head is back, balanced upon my spine. Everything seems to be lined up well, without looking too stiff. I think you can see that I appear to be looking down, without lowering my head.

Today’s run felt so easy that I hope I may have unlocked some more speed with my racing and tweaking of my form.

More miles and POSTURE STUFF

Hey, what’s going on? Let’s see, what have I been up to? Well, I did a 15 mile run last weekend, followed by runs later in the week of 9.3, 7, and 6.2. I might do a race tomorrow because it’s within walking distance of my house. How convenient!

OK, time to talk about posture. If your posture isn’t right, it throws off everything else. To get the kind of poised, balanced posture which prevents injury, there are a few things you can try. Hold your arms outstretched at your sides as if you are about to do a swan dive. Imagine your are at a great height, looking down at everything below you. You might find that your head is drawn back atop your spine differently than it typically is. This is the kind of position you want when running, or doing anything while standing, actually. When running, it helps me to occasionally remember this idea of imagining I am quite high up, perhaps gazing down at things miles below me. This helps me keep that light, poised feeling of having correct posture. Do not look too far down. You should not be looking at your feet. That will make you draw your chin in too much, causing tension in your neck. There is a sort of “sweet spot” between looking out too much and looking down at your toes. You should be gazing at the ground several feet in front of you. If you were running barefoot, you might automatically look at that spot to avoid any obstacles in your path. Hmmm…interesting!

Anyway, it’s very easy for us to succumb to gravity, with our spine compressing and our head moving forward on an outstretched neck. This posture is typical of many runners, and is the first step toward injury.

Barefoot

The run I enjoyed most last week was one where I did some barefoot stuff. I did it Thursday during my last workout before Saturday’s race. For me, doing a little barefoot running and walking seems to help my feet and legs feel stronger. I ran on a grassy field and walked home barefoot. It was fun and felt great.

I run for enjoyment. After yesterday’s race, which I didn’t enjoy at all, I was wondering why I should keep doing it.  I know that many runners talk about needing to run right on the edge of nausea, or in constant discomfort during a race to know that they’re doing it right. I REALLY have no interest in this kind of experience. Yesterday I felt uncomfortable most of the time, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Today, I thought back on that barefoot session and decided to try it again. I went out this afternoon with shoes on, but took them off once I got to a bike path. I ran and walked around barefoot for a couple or three miles and took it slow and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think having decent form allows me to do this without getting hurt. I didn’t scuff up my feet and my legs feel good. I plan to keep doing this for a while.

A horrible experience

I picked out some random half marathon to run this weekend. It was in another state, but not too long a drive. It fit my schedule. I wouldn’t be away from home too long. It seems like when I do this, I often end up with a less than satisfying experience.

So I got to the race site early to register. I was wearing shorts, and of course it was freezing and the wind was starting to pick up. The clouds would occasionally part and give tantalizing moments of warm sunlight, only to close up again causing the temperature to plummet. It seemed like everyone registering to race was incredibly annoying. The people in charge of the race were slow and annoying as well. I tried to remain positive and chatted with people pleasantly, but now, in retrospect, I can admit that the whole scene bugged me.

As the start grew near, the clouds mercifully cleared up and it seemed like this would be a good day after all. The race started, and the first couple of miles went by quickly and easily. I was feeling really good. Then we started running into these hills… There were a couple of pretty steep ones. They didn’t go on too long, but they required effort to get up them. I thought “whew, glad that’s over!” The thing is, after you would crest one, you’d see another one not too far ahead. It kept going like that the rest of the race. And then there was the wind…

Anyway, I could go on. Suffice it to say, it was not enjoyable. It was the kind of run that makes me never want to do it again. It felt horrible, it wasn’t fun. I sped out of the parking lot as fast as I could after completing the damn thing in 1:47 or so.

10 mile PR

I crammed in a relatively large amount of training last week, compared to what I’ve typically done this winter. I have two weeks off from work, and during periods like this I enjoy ramping up the miles and seeing what kind of improvements I can make–or seeing if I get hurt.

My plan for this first week was to do two consecutive days of longish runs (9.3 miles). I knew I’d be on vacation with my family for the next two days, so I figured I could reintroduce the metronome on a couple of easy treadmill runs. Friday would be my last run before a rest day, and I thought it would be a good idea to go out on the roads and see how the 180 cadence felt for 4 miles.

Today (Sunday) was race day. I haven’t had good luck with ten milers in the past. My PR was set two years ago when I wasn’t quite as skilled as I am now. I thought I could probably beat that time today even though I’m not in great shape. I finished in 1:18:41, which is about 2 and a half minutes faster than my old PR. I may have been able to go faster, but I want to race a half marathon next Saturday. Today’s race was a bit of a warm up for that one, while hoping I set a new best time in the process.

I felt very good today. Last year, my first big race after the winter was another 10 miler, which was kind of a disaster. There was no stopping to walk this year. I’m also happy that my new British Piranhas felt great right out of the box. Today’s race was my first run ever in them.

A note about cadence: I used the metronome for the race today. Set at 90, it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, the constant pulse helps to urge me on. Staying with the beat keeps me from feeling overwhelmed about how many miles there are left to run. I simply put one foot down after another in tempo. It’s a sort of connect-the-dots kind of approach to running. It might not work for everyone, but I enjoy it.