Monday, June 12, 2017


I was running laps around the fields behind the Cypress Community Center and Cypress High School.  I was playing around with the route and running on the track (since it wasn't muddy) to make 4 laps add up to 8 miles.  One thing I noticed is that right around the geographical center at the border between the Community Center and the High School, swifts (a bird) would start flying laps around me.  One even flew just a few feet in front of me and they always fly within 3 feet of the ground.
After looking it up, it looks like these were white throated swifts (by a process of elimination).  Including wings, they are about the size of one of my hands with wings that are pointed at the tips and two pointed tips at the two corners of their tail.  When they fly, they are completely silent and maneuver very well.  They stop flying in my vicinity when I'm close to a fence and they don't want to fly through a 5 foot wide gap between me and the fence.
The behavior of most animals seems motivated either by food or by family with a few of the more intelligent animals having food related behavior bordering on play.  Crows for instance take a behavior related to stealing eggs - forcefully dropping an egg to break it - and make it more like playing with a ball.  We've had crows dropping immature persimmon fruit on our roof - we can hear it bouncing and the crows chasing after it.  I once saw some crows that had a round plastic container from a vending machine, dropping the container on the sloping side of a levee and hopping down the levee to keep up with the bouncing plastic ball.
So my first guess at the swift activity was that they were trying to intimidate me by "buzzing" me when I got close to their nest.  After reading about their feeding activity where they catch insects while flying, perhaps they expected me to attract insects (as cattle and horses do) and were hoping to pick up something to eat.  They didn't strike me as intimidating, partially because they fly so low.  Hummingbirds, for instance, buzz people, etc in a definitely intimidating fashion, flying directly overhead.  Hummingbirds also have that diving behavior although that strikes me as mating related.
Anyway, if you have some knowledge of white throated swift behavior or can correct my guesses in some way, I'd like to hear about it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Progress Against Goals

I mentioned a few goal related things down below.  My progress this week has been to
  • Mounted some bicycle chains inside the tire for some added weight and took it out on a local bike path to drag it.  It felt good.
  • Ran the aforementioned Workman Hill Traverse repeats more like 26 minutes per repeat rather than the earlier 30 minutes.
  • Improved my TVR distance by over a lap this past Saturday.
However, my leg was pretty sore after the last TVR time trial, so I took a day off before today's Workman workout.  I think I'll work more on volume and a little less on intensity.

Those Wacky Vultures!

Well maybe comical, not wacky.  On my way home from Silverado Canyon, right about where I left the walls of the canyon, I saw a vulture, perched on an electrical or phone line.  It wasn't holding its balance that well, wobbling back and forth.  I usually see vultures perched on a tree or something a little more solid.

Usually the way I see vultures is when they are soaring and not flapping their wings at all.  I have seen vultures standing on the ground in the morning with their wings spread in the sun to warm up.  We did see a number of them gliding in to trade opinions about how to open up a dead seal on the beach by Arroyo Grande.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How Goals Work For Me

Yesterday, I was running what I call "Workman Hill Traverses", running over and back Workman Hill in Whittier.  The previous (and only other) time I did this, I quit after 3 over-and-backs since there was a light rain and mud was starting to collect on my shoes (actually Body Glove Realm water socks).  So yesterday I went up with the plan of running 4.

I run these not that fast because I'm not completely over the ITB issues.  For instance when I run now, after a while, it hurts to flex my knee to the maximum extent, but that's not required, so... what.  And later in the day, my knee doesn't hurt.  And yes, I'm (insert usual advice here).

So yesterday, I finished the 3rd one at 1:32:something.  So I started going over goals in my head - maybe next time trying for 2 hours, later on, working up to 5 or 6 over-and-backs in 2 hours (I like 2 hour workouts).  Then I started thinking, maybe I can break 2 this time.  So I wasn't fooling around on the 4th rep but I started pushing a little on the way back and finished under 1:58 and that included picking up some trash on the last descent.

The workout today was a 1 hour run.  We have a group of friends that annually do a one-hour run and mail in the resulting distance, this year by June 14th.  This was my first time trial for the year.  After 2 miles, it was pretty obvious that I wasn't going to make even 6 miles (pretty bad, huh?).  But that is as expected, actually.  Given uninterrupted training, I should be able to hit 7 miles, but not at the moment.  So I thought that 5 3/4 miles was a possibility.  So I kept track of my splits but I actually got slower, slipping from the 10:20's to 10:30's.  But when I finished 5 miles, I had 7:37 remaining in the hour, so possible to get to 5.75 if I could run 10 minute pace.  I ran the last mile in 9:30 and managed 5.75 plus about 73 meters.  Nothing to write home about (blogs are fair game though) but it reminded me that whenever I do this effort, I'm breathing at least a little hard as I did in the last mile. And now the goal for the next time I do this time trial will be 6 miles.

So I set goals during workouts, manage a little extra effort at the end to hit the goal, then use that for the next workout to hit a higher goal.  A typical mind game I played in the past was to calculate the average split from an earlier workout, then try to hit that split for that day's workout.  That would usually result in a faster time for the day.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Signal Hill Plus Tire Pull

It has rained the last two days so the hills in Whittier will build up on the bottom of your shoes for the next few days. Instead, I ran a higher intensity hill workout in/on Signal Hill. Signal Hill is a city entirely within Long Beach, California. It is basically a big hill in the middle of otherwise flat terrain. I was introduced to it by the Long Beach City College track team in the first week or so that I lived in California. I used to be able to run to the first stop sign on Hill Street in a P.R. of 57 seconds. Now, I hope I can break 3 minutes.
This workout started with 8 quick sprints in the grass in the park (which didn't exist long ago). The grass was wet so after 4 sprints, I went barefoot which worked a lot better. After the grass sprints, I put my shoes on and ran the hill 4 times. Back when I could run with more intensity, 2 repeats was pushing it. Today, I could tell I was tired on the 4th repeat. I wasn't sure if I would be able to get through the tire pulls but it turned out not to be a problem. The tire doesn't drag very heavily. It is more of a tool to keep one able to continue to drive. One of the other guys did get curious about the tire so I let him know how the cord attached, etc.
I like this workout because
  • I was able to get nice and quick turnover on the grass sprints,
  • the hill sprints really tired me out and
  • the tire pulls got me to drive, particularly with the right leg.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

TVR upcoming

Each year, my friend Andy Roth puts on the Titus Van Rijn One-Hour Distance Classic, a challenge to run for one hour. The folks on his list get a time to attempt the challenge (a duration of about 6 weeks this time). The challenge is to run for one hour on a 1/4 mile or 400 meter track and report the distance. I don't know why it is named after Rembrandt's son. I don't know how long I have been participating in this but I do know that my participation started before 2006 when I set my personal record of 14,681 meters (and had to curl up on the bed for a couple of hours afterwards with an upset stomach).

For the past few years, the advent of this challenge is the incentive for me to get into shape. Usually I'm out of shape because of some injury. This year is no exception. I've had hip issues for years and I've been steadily working on them for over a year. I've had ITB issues for several months, possibly related to the hip issues. Due to TVR, I've been working on the ITB and it has been responding. And then just to make things interesting, in quick succession, I got food poisoning and then crashed my bicycle.

So the point of progress today is that this morning, I ran in the rough neighborhood of my target distance and my ITB didn't develop the usual pain. Hooray! So my rough plan (I keep the plans rough since they get changed often) is to get a representative effort completed on relatively flat trails (at Bolsa Chica Wetlands) midweek and another on a track on the weekend, then repeat this for the next 6 weeks which is the rough term of the challenge.

I'm slow at the moment. Really slow. However, I know that if I don't aggravate my injuries, I'll probably start improving my pace and see that on a weekly basis. And if not, I'm running a time trial weekly so I'll have something to enter. I've had bad years before and it didn't turn out to be a tragedy. If there is any consolation, it is (by comparison) how much worse I am at weightlifting now than when I was younger, yet I can still do it and get some enjoyment and improvement out of it.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Still trudging after all these years

Despite getting food poisoning and crashing my bike in the past month, my main physical issue is ITB problems. I finally decided that it was an ITB flavored knee problem a couple of days ago. So after researching it, I decided that I'm already doing plenty of hip exercises but that I could get the foam roller out and also add a specific exercise for flexing the knee. I did those two yesterday, then ran my usual Rose Hill Road repeats today (increasing my repeats by one) and didn't have much of a problem with my knee. Of course, I need to get in shape because it is the time of year for... the Titus Van Rijn One Hour Run. I have to complete this by June 14th. I'll probably do a one hour run on a dirt track every weekend from now until the deadline. So if I get around the ITB issue, the next issue will be fitness, I hope. And that's always a good issue to work on.

Rose Hill Road is currently very overgrown with wild mustard and thistles. This gives me two concerns, neither of which has materialized yet. The first concern is rattlesnakes. I saw a striped racer the other day and I have seen rattlesnakes in this area in the past so I know there is a potential. My guess (after finding a snake hiding under a plant in the past) is that the snakes are out there, they're just doing a good job of keeping out of trouble. So I'll continue to do as I suggested to some hikers today: watch where I step and step on the dirt (trail).

The second concern is ticks. I have picked up a few ticks in the past in this general area but I haven't seen any hitch a ride on me yet. Not much I can do about this other than not run on overgrown trails and I can't do that because that eliminates running hills for the most part.

So the current program alternates hill repeats with some tentative runs in the grass in the local park. I'm going to move the flat runs to the local dirt track tomorrow and just gradually push this program and try to get in shape of the TVR one hour.