Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tour de Pain Extreme: 3 Races, 24 hours-Part 2 the Half Marathon

The Tour de Pain Extreme, put on by Jacksonville’s largest running store, 1st Place Sports, pits the runner in a three race series: a 10k at 7pm on a Friday night, a Half Marathon at 7am Saturday Morning, and a 5k at 6pm Saturday night. Result are compiled and awards are handed out based upon the combined finishing times. This account stands as the second of three. For part one, visit here, for part three here.

The Half Marathon:
State of Mind: Pleasantly Pained (minus the strange proposition during mile 8)
Shoes: Skora Forms with Injinji 2.0 compression socks

            First off, this race was the longest distance I had run since the end of the Disney Marathon in January. While I had maintained a 9-11 mile run a week, as an assistant track coach, I have an opportunity to run with the kids on a daily basis, and have been running with them, mostly a track based regimen. These workouts have been training me for the mile and the two mile, not the half marathon, and I was well aware that the two month layoff of long distance training could result in falling off a cliff somewhere in the race. As a fellow Skora Ambassador, Peyton Hoyal said here, do training specific for your race. Track training can translate to a 5k or 10k, but tends to be less beneficial as the distance lengthens.
            On to the race—my legs felt solid going in, not too much of a hangover from the previous night’s 10k. Tight hips, but that was about it. I had refueled the night before, a smoothie that beyond strawberries and bananas, included high fat sources in hemp seeds and coconut oil plus chia, flax, tart cherry juice and almond milk. A few capraflex, a bunch of ginger, and a normal dinner before watching the Gators win in the Sweet 16. Race morning, I consumed Spirulina, a banana, green tea, and a bottle of water containing chia and honey. From there the morning was odd: I left my road ID and GPS watch at home (not having the ID seemed more concerning, I used my phone as a GPS to look at post race splits) and then threw up a bit of my chia drink in the parking lot. Normally the drink goes down perfectly; I drink it while running during long runs, but this day was different. Feeling off and seeing as the race was long, and speed can be averaged, I went with the slow warm-up. Dynamic stretching, drills, enough to get the blood moving before going, but not a lot of running.
            When they fired the mini-cannon that doubles as a gun, I leapt forward and headed off into the darkness of the 50 degree morning. Miles one and two, run before sunset, involved the same two bridges from the night before in reverse, first a 85-90 foot climb, then a more modest 35 feet, and you could hear collective groans from the pack as the went over. From here we had essentially and out and back for miles three through eleven, before finishing up along the river walk like we did during the 10k and descending the dreaded corkscrew down ramp. That said, I took the first six miles smoothly, 7:22, 7:17, 7:16, 7:26, 7:25, 7:26. Everything felt fine, there were no thoughts about the night before, no thoughts about the night to come, just a steady race to be run, clipping along at a nice, steady pace. Then, somewhere in the midst of Evergreen cemetery, and yes, we ran through a cemetery, my legs fell off. The analogy was a gift a competitor who I beat the night before, beat in the 5k later in the day, but was shocked to see me fall apart.
            So amongst the ghosts, running by feel (I never checked the GPS pacing once, only leaving the time check for every ten minutes) I fell off the pace. Mile seven came upon me, and my cadence dropped. It became more difficult to drive me knees, and as it turned out I hit a 7:49. I knew I had dropped, people were passing me that shouldn’t have, but in the end, you run how you train, I had only been training for the track, a fact that changes in the middle of April when I gear up for a multiple marathons. Mile eight was more of the same, an 8:05, minus one bit of humor, the out and back course, went through a few of the older, more dilapidated sections of the city. It was in one of the sections that woman stood on her front porch gyrating and screaming out, “After your workout, come by for some after workout sex.” For the record, before anyone asks, there was no returning.
            Thus I vacillated in this state. Mentally, I wanted to shatter my PR of 1:40.22, set on a relatively flat course after a tapper, physically my lungs felt great, but my hips didn’t lie (sorry), and I had struggles turning over. I already started planning the remedy, more consistent leg work (clam shells, donkey kicks, donkey whips, leg lifts, squats) and a return to long distance tempo driven training post track season. I tried to push back down, would get a good stride going for a few minutes, before falling off the pace yet again. Mile nine 7:50, mile ten 8:00, mile eleven 7:55, mile twelve gave a nice onramp hill toward the riverside area and an 8:10. Then I hit the river walk area, a
About 200m from the finish, trying to shake off the cramp.
great early morning sun lit scene and decided to give it one last push. Unfortunately, the push did me in—for the first time in my racing life, training included, I cramped up. My left leg tightened on the lower hamstring, just behind the knee. No, I didn’t stop, but yes, I did slow, dropping to a pedestrian 9:14. Somewhere in the corkscrew, the tightness abated, allowing me to finish okay, but all-in-all, the race felt like a lost day.
I could have done more, I know it, could have made up time in my age group at least, but instead fell into a more distant 6th.  Yet, one must be realistic. Twelve hours after a solid 10k and without proper long distance training for over ten weeks, I had to be semi pleased. Race three to come.
Results, two races in.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Tour de Pain Extreme: 3 Races, 24 hours-Part 1 the 10K

The Tour De Pain Extreme, put on by Jacksonville’s largest running store, 1st Place Sports, pits the runner in a three race series: a 10k at 7pm on a Friday night, a Half Marathon at 7am Saturday Morning, and a 5k at 6pm Saturday night. Result are compiled and awards are handed out based upon the combined finishing times. After skipping the inaugural event last year, I jumped right into this year’s contest. For part two go here.

Forms on the left, bases the right.
The 10k:
State of Mind: Pleasant. 
Shoes: Skora Forms

First off, this race was my first 10k. I’ve run numerous 5k races, both registered and bandit style since my high school cross country days, a handful of 15k’s, five half marathons, and five marathons, but until this race never a 10k. This fact made me nervous. I kept asking myself what pace I should run while also taking into account that a half marathon would follow the next morning. Thus I vacillated between two plans: run it all out or run it as a controlled tempo. I decided to let the race itself dictate the plan, and thus in a rather strange twist of fate, I went in without a plan. Anyone that knows me knows that not having a plan makes me angry. I set my projected pace at 7:05, splitting the difference.
            I also went into the race without knowing the course. I figured I had run some or all of it—all
Around the 5k mark.
three races were being staged from downtown Jacksonville, and over the years I had run a bunch of races and just as many training runs down there. In the end, had I viewed the course, I would have opted for the tempo plan. That said, I went out in 6:24, more of a 5k pace, but something at my current fitness level, in the midst of track training with my athletes but maintaining longer millage on weekends and not track days, I should have been able to hold roughly this pace but no slower than a 6:45. Things felt good, there was no lactic build up, the pace felt solid. Then mile two came. Mile two was the Main Street Bridge, a modest 35 foot hill over .32 miles—I live in Florida, this climb is a lot for us. I attacked it just to see how I felt. Had this been cross country season I would be hitting this bridge at least one day a week, but I hadn’t touched it since the fall. Mile two came in at 6:53. Not bad, my energy level was high, I could still see the leaders and was hanging in the second pack. I had to make a decision, push or run with self-control.
            In the end I picked tempo. Going over the main street bridge meant that we would return to the other side of the river via the Acosta Bridge, a .31 mile expanse that climbs roughly 85-90 feet. With this knowledge in mind, I let off a little, treated the race as a long workout with the hopes of running a more complete half marathon to make up any lost time. This is not say I didn’t race. I was running a race, people would be passed, effort would be exerted, but the tank wouldn’t be fully emptied. Do I regret this decision? Slightly, but then again, PR or not, I often question my races.
At the finish. Corkscrew below.
            The Acosta was the beast that it was, the breaker of packs. I found myself mostly alone after this bridge—too fast to be caught by the group behind me, not quite able to get those in front. I pushed through, hitting a 7:32. I dropped back down for mile 4, running a 7:07 on a mostly mile. I picked a couple of people off, thanked some of the police officers as I ran by. Mile 5 took us over another man made hill, an on ramp to another bridge that can dump you off quick, before flattening out and heading toward a spectacular last 1.2 miles, run right along the St. John’s River. Heading into the last 1.2 I hit a 7:20, and aimed to drop down for the closing mile.
           My state of mind was great, I checked my form in reflective windows, passed up the water stops, and enjoyed gliding past a competitor who was grunting in pain with each step. Another man made hill, a really quick climb of about 40 feet, before a dreaded corkscrew down ramp that takes you straight down in a spinning fashion a quick kick home. Mile 6, corkscrew and all hit at an even 7:09, before kicking in a 1:44 .2.
            The race was smooth despite being run in the concrete jungle. One down, two to go. Side note, I tried out ENERGYbits before the race, took 15 tabs of the Spirulina based supplement, something I have taken from other brands before, but I will go into that later.

Fiction Archive: Thorns

This piece of flash fiction was originally published in The Writers Post Journal in March 2006. Sadly, the publication no longer exists (Yep, the published me more than once).
Poorly executed page scan of the publication.

Thorn, in the thumb, thin prick.  Blind pierce, but then blood, a slow bubble climbing into the air.  Jason sucks the digit, places the thumb in his mouth without thought, and leaches the metallic taste.  After a few seconds he removes it, glances at the surface, sees the sliver of punctured skin and the second wave of blood.  He offers one more vampiric suck before giving up and returning to the garden infestation of vines.
            Behind the wound, Jason can hear the voice of his father, a voice from his youthful days when yard work was slave labor and not for personal gain.  The words called to him, “Here, wear some gloves,” but Jason always offered the same froglike grunt of no.  Today, he considers buying gloves for the first time.  Internally, his mind already knows the answer, knows he will not—if only from the pattern of experience.  Better to feel the burn, the scratches, the destruction.
            Dropping to one knee for leverage, the moist ground kissing his skin, Jason grabs at the vines and feels the thorn defenses being raised, the men called out to the vine walls to attack the thick calluses of Jason’s palm, spears raised and digging in out of fear. “No, we won’t go,” the vines chant, “No take this.  Feel that.”
Anger welling, Jason digs in for battle, his knee sinking into the ground, his body lurching against the rows of vine pikemen assaulting his skin, and once again his father’s words, “Why don’t you put on some gloves?”
“No,” Jason says, “No.  I don’t need a crutch, I don’t need protection.”  Eyes shut, he pulls against the advice of his father, hears, feels the snapping, and falls backward vine in hand.  The shouting stops, his ears discern only his own panting.  His hands bleed in jagged streaks.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Newton Distance Review

While I meandered around the 2012 Wipro San Francisco Marathon expo, I came across a Newton Running booth. This was the first time I had seen them in the flesh, and while I find them at nearly every expo and at our local running stores now, I had yet to get a good look at their products. I had read about this shoe, I had heard great things about the shoe, and well both my wife and I were intrigued. Speaking for myself, I had run races of one mile road race to full marathon in minimalist shoes. I had dabbled in the Vibram Bikila for my shorter runs (always felt fast in these), regularly ran in the Nike Free Run + on the road, and the Merrell Trail Glove on the dirt, and I was looking for a shoe that might offer a tad more comfort than the Nike shoe for longer road based runs while maintaining the minimalist ideal.
Perhaps it was a case of I’m running a race tomorrow energy, but we stopped, through the
Men's 2012 Distance seen here.
shoes on, ran a few steps and both ended up in a pair (and two free hats, a pair of free socks, a water bottle, and a reusable bag). Since we both had worn and were wearing flexible, minimal shoes, they urged us to purchase the Distance, claiming it was lightweight, semi flexible (more on this later) and the most comparable shoe to what I was racing in the next day, the Nike Free Run + 2.

Initial Impressions:

  • A flashy set of shoes. Newton Running embraced the neon, bright colors revolution that we see in running shoes today, and they did so early. All of their shoes are bright, distinctive, and easy to spot.
  • The shoe was not extremely flexible. In order to be a natural running shoe, I feel that the shoe must bend and allow the foot to move the way it wants to. Not all shoes do this on day one, sometimes a few runs are needed, and that was my hope. Being a forefoot lander (this fact has always been true), I need the shoe to move.
  • I sized at a 12 at the direction of the Newton rep. I wear an 11.5 Nike and an 11 Skora, my primary shoe now. The fit was tight on the top of the foot, but the toes seemed to be loose. The heel, felt loose as well, the shoe didn’t seem to grasp as well as I hopped during the early miles. I question whether I should have sized at 11.5—perhaps I would have had a better, more accurate fit and thus a better experience.
  • The lugs on the bottom of the shoe feel odd, especially when walking around. I felt tall, but a tad unstable.
Running in them:
Upon returning to Florida, I set about trying the Newton Distance, incorporating it into my shoe rotation, trying them out mostly on concrete. My first post marathon run came in these shoes, thus initial results were hard to gauge with residual discomfort. That said, I used them around two times a week from August to November, running around 200 or so miles. I used them for speed and recovery, runs usually averaging 5-8 miles. Here are my thoughts.
First off, these are loud shoes. Since I had converted to a more minimal shoe, I had grown used to soft, controlled steps. These steps had vanished with the Newtons. I heard my feet—in fact I can now call Newtons out when I race by sound, a distinctive hollow clap. Sound aside, the shoes remained rigid—they never gained flex and always felt as if they were rejecting and not accepting my foot. The ground feel that is evident in the Nike Free, Merrell Trail Glove or Road Glove, and the Vibram, seemed distant, and thus kept me from taking these on a trail for fear of suffering a serious injury.
While the shoe advertised comfort, I never felt it; they seemed to react as a rigid platform that dispersed energy at their will. My legs, especially my upper shins and the top of my ankles would develop odd pains. While they could counter with the adage that this pain was due to strengthening, this pain was not strengthening pain—I had been running in minimal for quite some time. This pain reminded me of the standard shoes I had left behind when I grew tired of being hurt for no reason. They took my wife out of one training cycle, tendonitis in the upper ankle, and she shelved her pair after only about 40-50 miles.
While running in them I had to work to land on my forefoot. The lugs wore oddly, if at all, for I The Thunder Road Marathon in November. At times I felt fast in these shoes, at others I seemed to have an abject reaction, removing them in favor of finishing a run unshod or taking them off right upon my finish to cool down in my socks. While I try to run a couple miles a week at the end of runs without shoes, I had never before removed shoes out of distaste or the mental need.
Newton Distance at 200 miles
seemed to land more on my toes and then to struggle to bring the midfoot down since it was reluctant to bend. I always felt as if I was over striding in them, and as a result, I developed a pain in my left hip—a first in 19 years of running. The pain would come mid-run and be there for multiple days, almost preventing me from running
In the end, I have moved on from this pair. I gave them a try, but we were not a fit. I almost contacted the company to use their 30 day guarantee, but I didn’t out of principal—I had paid for them, so I kept them. Perhaps they will work for you, the masses seem to love them more and more, but I, at least for now, am not a believer.