Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pura Vida - Costa Rica

I'm taking a vacation in Costa Rica this week. My oldest daughter surfs and had visited the Mal Pais area in Costa Rica before so this time the rest of the family tagged along. Due to some misadventures, we spent over 3 days in transit on the way here so I didn't get much running done in the airports. Once we got to Santa Teresa (stayed at Casa Zen), I got out the shoes and ran up the road to Cobano which we traveled on the way into town. There was a light rain at the time so I was able to run at least 20k (which included a nice climb) without a water bottle in the afternoon. On the way back down, I stopped at a gas station which had a spigot and got a drink. The next day we went to Montezuma to ride the zip lines and I didn't get in a run although we hiked a hill that was pretty steep. However the day after that, I tried this road in town which looked pretty steep. Looks were not deceiving and it was a lot longer climb than I had hoped! I doubled that in the morning and had shorts that were completely soaked with sweat. I ran it again that night and again the next morning (today). We are now in Tamarindo and the hostel manager referred me to some routes just across the street from the hostel (Chocolate Hostel) so I just got in from a tour of those. I have seen some howler monkeys during my runs. They've just given off little barks when I see them. But at night and in the morning, they can be really loud. They sound something like a semi-truck skidding if you hear them at a distance. Anyway, Costa Rica has plenty of hill work available.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Harding Truck Trail

Harding Truck Trail is a jeep trail (5S08) which starts in Modjeska Canyon and climbs 3300' (so I'm told) over about 9.5 miles to the Main Divide Truck Trail which runs along the main ridge of the Santa Ana mountains. This is one of my favorite runs in Orange County. However, it has been closed since the 2007 fires. About 3 or 4 weeks ago, it reopened. I ran it 2 weeks back. The fire burned up to about the 6.5 mile point. The place it looks the most different is around Laurel Springs at 5 miles. There were a lot of trees (willows?) overhanging the trail in this area and of course those are all blackened skeletons now. In addition, some rocks which used to be hidden by the trees really stick out now. Nevertheless, I was happy to be out on the trail again. I caught myself dancing and smiling after I got back home just thinking about the run.
Then last weekend, I ran it again with my buddy Gus. I don't often run with someone else so I was a little surprised to find myself pushing hard enough where I was breathing about twice as hard as the week before, taking a breath every 3 or 4 steps instead of every 6 steps. I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep up the pace for the duration but it turned out just fine. The first mile might be the steepest, then there is a quarter mile downhill followed by 5 1/2 miles of pretty steady uphill. There is a gentle downhill starting at about 7 miles, past 8 miles and then a less steep climb up to the MDTT. So at the top, Gus ate a gel and I ate two and then we started back down. I was worried about the downhill because of my recent sore knees but then running with a buddy kicked in again and as a result we were moving pretty well on the downhill. On that 1/4 mile (now uphill) just before the 1 mile point, we decided to see what we had left. Gus accelerated faster than me and pulled ahead. We both died a little at about the same spot but kept pushing until we got to the top of the climb. Then it was just one mile until the end.
I took the next two days off because I had a funny feeling in a bad spot - right around where the soleus and achilles connect but two days later, my legs felt great. In fact my joke is that it used to be that my knees were sore - now that has improved so that all of my legs feel sore.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stadiums - Urban Vertical

I live in north-west Orange County in Southern California. I remember seeing "NWOC" graffiti along the river one time and thinking that at least they knew their geography. This area is basically a flood plain and very flat. So to run any vertical, I have to travel quite a ways. To the west, Signal Hill in Long Beach is 9 miles from my house and not suitable for the long uphills that I like. The Puente Hills north of me and Whittier in particular have excellent hills with lots of trails (Habitat Authority) and I have been running there weekly. It's a 30 minute drive from my house. But I tried running there after work last week and it gets dark just a little after I get there (and I start thinking and worrying too much). Peters Canyon is close to where I work (although still a 30 minute drive) and has one pretty steep hill but like Signal Hill, it isn't long enough for my tastes. Other than these locations, I might as well go to the mountains which are 60 to 75 minutes from the house.

So what to do on a weekday, especially during the winter? I like stadiums. It has that high school/college workout vibe and I don't mind doing what seems like mindless repetitions to others. Access however is an issue. The high schools around here like to lock up their stadiums, probably due to liability concerns or sumthin. The universities around here do not have the problem of access. I've run on the UCLA and Cal State Fullerton stadiums. CSUF is about 30 minutes from my house. Parking is an issue but that is a good prospect. However, I am a member of the Runner's High club which meets 5 miles from my house at Millikan High in Long Beach. Millikan has a stadium with about 26 rows. Without measuring, I figure that you climb approximately 25 ft per climb and with 8 aisles, 200 ft per stadium. 20 stadiums therefore yield 4000' of climb over a distance around 6 miles. So I think this is going to be my Tuesday night workout.

I have two additional points.
  • The obvious difference between stadiums and mountain running is the length and intensity of effort. Stadiums are MUCH shorter, allowing a greater intensity of effort. In addition, stadiums have steps, requiring a a certain level of effort on each step.
  • The level of effort depends on the stadium. A few weeks back, I was at UCLA watching my daughter compete in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. We were next to Drake Stadium so I went over in my street shorts with my wallet, keys, etc. in my pocket and ran one set. A good workout but no problem. Today, I went to Cal State Fullerton's soccer/football stadium and ran a set. I knew I was in trouble after the first time up. Each row at CSUF (east side) is about 15 inches higher than the previous. This is several times higher than the amount I step up when running hill repeats.

There are 10 aisles at CSUF. The way I ran it there were 32 rows next to 8 of the aisles and 30 rows next to the two end aisles. This works out to being in the neighborhood of 395 feet elevation gain per set. So 10 sets would work out to the same vertical as 8 reps at my favorite hill in Whittier. If only that were possible. CSUF stadiums are very anaerobic and get my heartrate close to the maximum, whatever that is. One set was my limit today.

Addendum to the addendum:

Millikan High School:
The stadium has 28 rows of seats. Each row is 1 foot higher than the one below. The bottom row is 1.5 feet above the floor. So 28.5 feet of climb each time up. The stadium has 6 aisles. I decided to run up the seats on either side of each aisle so 12 times up per what I call a "stadium". Two of the middle climbs end one seat short because of the announcers box so the total climb for one "stadium" is 340 feet. I managed to get in 6 of these on Tuesday night so 2040 feet of climb. That at least is in the same neighborhood of my hill repeats - currently 3000 feet of climb in 2 hours. The stadiums are at a higher intensity since each step has to climb 1 foot. The intensity was such that I walked everything except going up. I didn't labor on the ups however. So this workout seems just right unlike CSUF (above).

So my hope with this workout (which I'll try to do weekly, at least for a while) is that it will strengthen my legs and improve my sore knees. The actual result of this workout was that my legs were sore in more than just the knees. My upper gastrocnemius in particular was pretty sore and the connective tissue around my hips and knees was worked.

Monday, July 27, 2009

July miles

    Total 42
  • 6/29 - 0
  • 6/30 - 18 - Seal Beach Pier - Realized it's easier on my knees if I run faster or barefoot.
  • 7/1 - 0
  • 7/2 - 4 - 5x(32 pushups, 8 pullups) + 16 pushups
  • 7/3 - 2 - Pull tire
  • 7/4 - 6
  • 7/5 - 12

    Total 34
  • 7/6 - 1 - Pull tire, 2x32 pushups
  • 7/7 - 6
  • 7/8 - 0
  • 7/9 - 6
  • 7/10 - 6
  • 7/11 - 11 including 6x6x40yds
  • 7/12 - 4

    Total 50.5
  • 7/13 - 6
  • 7/14 - 8
  • 7/15 - 6
  • 7/16 - 8
  • 7/17 - 6
  • 7/18 - 8
  • 7/19 - 8.5 (6 in huaraches)

    Total 58
  • 7/20 - 6
  • 7/21 - 10
  • 7/22 - 4 - also cut grass (and watched Obama press conference)
  • 7/23 - 10 (in huaraches)
  • 7/24 - 6
  • 7/25 - 12
  • 7/26 - 10 (in huaraches)

    Total 72
  • 7/27 - 8 (sidewalks)
  • 7/28 - 12
  • 7/29 - 6 (Brooks flats on sidewalks - yech!)
  • 7/30 - 12 on track
  • 7/31 - 16 (in Body Glove water socks)
  • 8/1 - 0
  • 8/2 - 18 (in Body Glove water socks)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jack Daniels

I'm talking about the coach, not the pain reliever.

I've been frustrated with the status of my running for a while now what with the injuries, a good performance followed by a bad performance, and generally chaos when it comes to having a plan. I think the thing that pushed me over the edge (besides my current recovery from sore knees) were comments on Todd Braje's Blog about "a last long run to lay down capillary beds" and "one long tempo workout to get in". These comments gave me the definite feeling that I was clueless. So I got out my Gordon Pirie paper and my Daniels Running Formula book which I had never studied very hard. Gordon Pirie tends to rage against convention which is my tendency as well but I feel like this attitude hasn't done me any good and now that I'm 53, maybe I shouldn't keep experimenting. So I started reading the Daniels Running Formula and charting out a course for the next races. I know that I still have plenty to learn but here are some of the things I get so far.

  • Don't add more than 10 miles per week.
  • The standard (marathon) plan takes you through 4 different phases of adaptation for 6 weeks each.
  • The workouts of one phase should not allow the benefits of previous phases to be lost.
  • Take a break after each cycle.

Furthermore, I'm going to set a guideline that the maximum weekly mileage in the base period is the maximum weekly mileage (100%) for the training period. At least with this first cycle, I'm going to refrain from any fast races during the base period. I do plan a 6 hour run at the end of the base period as a tune-up. Also, as far as exceptions are concerned, cutting a cycle down to 3 phases is probably ok as long as I don't omit the taper. I think I'll be running some of the same workouts as in the past but this time I'll have a plan on how often, how fast and for what purpose I'm running these workouts.

So far for building my base, I started out with a more or less 40 mile week, followed by a 50 mile week, and then this week which should be 60 miles (58 as I write). I'll post my workouts after I get in the 2 miles later today. The plan is to have 90 miles in the final week of the base period including a plan for 36 miles at the 6 hour run.

In the foreword, Joan Benoit-Samuelson mentions ten steps easy, ten steps hard, etc. I have yet to understand that although it sounds like fartleks. So more studying is in order.

Mis Huaraches

I've had my huaraches for a while now but they are getting more use recently because of sore knees. Wearing regular (10 oz) trainers tends to exacerbate the knee problems. Why? Because they have heels, causing my foot to land wrong. Because they are heavier, thus slowing down turnover, thus causing me to push with greater force. I just got back from a 10 mile road run and feel quite a bit better than I did yesterday after running 12 on the track in (7 oz) flats. That's partly because I ran when it was cooler today.

I just recently trimmed the end of the strap so that it isn't so long. Between that and just getting in better shape, I can run better and faster in my huaraches now. I think getting rid of the extra will also result in less sand, etc getting in between the sandals and my feet.

In the middle of today's run, my right ankle was sore and my lower legs were hurting a little. But this went away and I was really cooking toward the end. The ball of my right foot can get sore too but this sort of stuff recovers pretty quickly.

Glucosamine Chondroitin

I've been having problems with sore knees recently. Taking Glucosamine has seemed to make a real difference. After about 2 weeks of taking the recommended amount, I'm going back and forth between - just fine and still a little sore. As Jerry Pournelle would say - Recommended.

Monday, May 25, 2009


OK - so my chiropractor told me that I have overuse tendonitis in my knees. That's good news actually because I know what to do for that. The knees are getting better - just the left one has some remnants of an issue. I think the other problem and what probably led to the tendonitis is lack of strength. As a result, I'm going to emphasize building strength in my legs in my workouts. So going forward in the near future, I'm going to do one or two interval workouts per week, a tempo (10k) run, and a long run, preferably a 16 mile run on the track. I have a few other things in mind for building strength which I've done in the past: Riding the bike, running very short sprints up the side of levees, and dragging a tire. No lifting weights yet but that could be in the future.
The other thing was that I went to Roadrunner Sports and had them do the gait analysis. The main thing we noticed was my left ankle rolling lightly which they said indicated my arch was stretching too much. So I got the advised arch supports (which I just ran in) but also will try some arch strengthening exercises.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ruth Anderson 100k 50 mile

There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is
  1. I didn't hurt myself,
  2. I kept the hip flexors under control and
  3. I went past 50k finally at Ruth Anderson.
The bad news is I had the familiar drop in pace sometime after 20 miles from 9+ minute miles to 12+ minute miles. I wanted to get past my personal (2 times) 50k barrier at RA so kept going at that point (about 4:59). However, when I was getting close to 50 miles, I had a little chorus of pains singing from my right ankle and knees with a steady background accompaniment of pain from my quads and hip flexors. I was tentative going into the race because of my knees and didn't see much point in going on to complete a 11:30 or worse 100k so I quit at 50 miles.

I think the problem with the drop in pace is lack of conditioning via 30+ mile runs for the ultra distance. That didn't seem to bother me at Helen Klein though and I did have a problem in the past where 40+ practice road runs on consecutive weekends left me exhausted for a few weeks (iron deficiency?). So I'm planning to incorporate a 50k per week (but maybe no more than that for now) and I'm taking iron. My next race is a 6 hour (tentatively) so 50k should be plenty to prepare for that.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sore Knees

I got overly enthusiastic last weekend and ran 7500' of descent (and the same ascent). At the end of Monday's workout, my knees were pretty sore. Then on Tuesday, I ran a track workout with a 5 mile commute both ways. I was planning to run 20 miles from work to Park and Ride on Wednesday but my cooler head prevailed (I usually keep it locked in an ice chest but every so often it escapes) and I took the bus home. So nothing on Wednesday. Friday's workout got stopped on the last lap because things around my knees were acting up. I iced really well on Friday and iced one sore spot on Saturday. By Sunday, I put in the planned 16 mile (slow) run so I should be back to full workouts this next week.
    So for the week
  • Mon - 11 miles on trails with 2600' vertical (sore knees)
  • Tue - 13 miles including 1320 yds (4:39), then 6x440 yds
  • Wed - 0
  • Thu - 4 miles in grass
  • Fri - 13 miles (planned to do 16)
  • Sat - 4 miles barefoot in grass
  • Sun - 16 miles

Total - 61 miles

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Clicking but not literally

OK - things started working for me on Friday. Running became just a matter of my two quads alternating at pushing me along. That was on the beach run on Friday night. Saturday morning, I started off a bit tired but picked it up about midway through the run. Then when I heard that I was catching up to a couple of mtn bikers I had seen at the top of the previous downhill, I picked it up and zipped right by them, opening up a minute gap on them in about 5 minutes. Then on Sunday, I got the quads going both on the uphills and flats as well as the downhills. I managed the downhills by bringing my knees farther forward and then popping back and forth on my quads. So ended the week on a good note.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Last Week

That toe I hit on the rock during the race is still red two weeks later. It doesn't bother me much though. Here's my workouts for last week when I was sick. I decided on Saturday that I wasn't going to be sick anymore.

Tue10Turtle Hill
Wed10Turtle Hill
Sat20to Belmont Shore in Long Beach

Total: 40

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sick - but not in a good way

I came down with a cough and then phlegm which made me feel phlegmatic (my gosh, I love how those words are spelt). So I got in 10 miles on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, then another 20 on Saturday. Sunday was rainy and windy so I stayed inside. 40 miles

One thing that's going well is my ABC exercise. I can write the alphabet forwards and mirror image with my legs without stopping.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I signed up for the San Juan Trail 50k this week. The conditions were great - sunny but cool for the whole day. I wanted to run the whole thing but then I hit the steep places and my right leg had already been freaking out since I haven't been doing much hill work. The folks at the aid station at the top of West Horsethief trail fixed up my leg with Kool and Fit or something like that. Also gave me a couple of gels and some pretzels which could help cramping. After I got the steep part of Trabuco (I hope I'm getting these names correct, I ran to the finish pretty strongly, passing one guy and almost another.

I had my best fall every during the race. About 8 miles in on a pretty level portion of trail, I caught my right foot on a rock. The right side in this section sloped down at an angle of about 30 degrees with plenty of brush growing on it. I managed to plant my left foot and dive into the brush back first instead of landing on the trail and possibly hitting some rocks. The brush was thick enough where I didn't even hit the ground.

My time and place weren't great but I thought I paced it about right and had plenty left at the end. I should have had more forefoot protection on a rocky course like that. Finally, I should have carried two water bottles just in case of falls.

Food as follows:
1st aid station: 2x1/4 PBJ, topped off Gatorade
2nd: Filled bottle with Gatorade, drank 3 half cups of Gatorade, ate 2x1/4 oranges and 2 cookies
3rd: Gel and pretzels. Ate another gel on the trail. Topped off Gatorade.
4th: Topped off with water.
5th: Topped off but didn't really need it.

Miles for the week

  1. 3/9/2009 - 7.5 6 reps of the hill in Whittier
  2. 3/10 - 8
  3. 3/11 - 19.5 5 laps from the house
  4. 3/13 - 4
  5. 3/14 - 31 SJT50k
  6. 3/15 - 11 behind Schabarum Park.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Workouts for week

3/2/20090.25Signal Hill in 1:34 (once)
3/3/200922Commute home
3/5/200922Commute home
3/7/20093150k in pieces: 18+2.5+2.5+8

Ran home from work a couple of times. Tuesday, my right hip started really hurting until about halfway when it stopped. Thursday, I carried my clothes (including shoes) in a backpack. Neither was fast.
Concerning the hip

  1. I'm going to warmup before trying anymore intense sprints uphill.
  2. I've started doing a whole array of stretches for my hips. The right hip has been a problem waiting to happen.

And why do I get such a big gap in front of an html table?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

As Difficult as ABC

When I get up in the morning, I do some leg exercises before I start walking around. I think this started with a bout of plantar fasciitis a few years back.

First I alternately flex and extend my ankles 192 (64x3) times, with one ankle flexed when the other is extended. Next I write the alphabet forwards with both feet, then backwards (mirror-image) with both feet at the same time.

I've had problems with my hip flexors in some races. I had been trying to figure out an effective means of strengthening this area by laying on the ground and waving my legs around one way or another. I finally made the connection and now write the alphabet forwards then backwards with my legs (both at the same time). So far, I haven't made it all of the way through without having to take a break. But if this ever gets too easy, I'm going to start writing the Khmer alphabet.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The 400 meter question

Why can't I run 400 meters as fast as I could when I was 30 (54.5)?

If I try to run 400 meters fast now, I often strain my hip or hamstring. So for comparison purposes, I'll use my time up Signal Hill for which my ancient PR is 57 seconds. I ran Signal Hill tonight for the first time in a long time. I thought I was flying. My time was 1:33.94. That's 64% slower than I used to be. In contrast, my best for 2 miles is 11:01 (as a high school senior). A few years back, I ran a 5k in 19:20 which works out to 6:14 pace. That's only 13% slower than 11:01 and at a longer distance.

Speed is a product of turnover (strides per minute) and stride length.


It used to take 50 steps for me to cover 100 meters in approximately 12.5 seconds (I think I might have got this down to 11.8 seconds). 50 steps in 12.5 seconds yields a turnover of 240 steps/minute. My PR for 400 meters was 54.5. I also had several 54.9 times.
Assuming that I had the same stride length as in the 100, a 55 second 400 works out to a turnover of 218. I recently timed my turnover at 196 going uphill on an uneven dirt trail at twilight. So I think turnover is still in the same ballpark, at least within 10%.

Stride Length

Stride length depends on two things: power and flexibility. I think
these two are what really limit my current 400m speed.

  1. I don't do speedwork that often nor do I lift.
  2. When I do, I prefer this to be slower than 7:00 minute pace because a faster pace gives me an upset stomach after about 5 miles of it and
  3. Even if I do run faster, I don't like running less than 800m when running intervals because of a tendency to strain my hamstrings or hips.
Which brings me to flexibility. I do stretch but my stretch for hips and hamstrings is something like touching my toes. When I ran 400m, I'd do hurdle stretches and was able to get my chin to touch the bottom of my kneecap. I'm absolutely nowhere near that now.

Does this affect performance in ultras?

Lydiard training can be a lot like ultras yet Lydiard looked at long runs as a way to train for speed. Is it possible that the reverse is true? If one practices recruiting all of the muscle fibers at once (running uphill all out), will that build strength which can be used in an ultra? For the element of flexibility, a longer stride and strength to support that would obviously improve one's time in an ultra. So I'll assume that it is a good idea to go in pursuit of my lost youth and try to improve my 400m or short uphill time by increasing flexibility and power.

Workout changes

  1. I'm willing to spend once a week (Monday night) running fast uphill sprints on Signal Hill. Back in the day, I could only manage one or two of these per workout and I could only manage one tonight.
  2. Start working at hurdle stretches. These are the most painful stretch I can remember (probably why I haven't done them for years). Also, I remember that I used to cheat at them by letting the fore leg roll out so I'll watch that.
  3. In addition, I probably need to do some hip stretches. Since my schedule is tight on Tue and Thu, I'll plan to do these on MWF and weekends.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back to being me

Team Runners High workout - 6x800 (and commute)
2/25/20094 Recovery
5.25 on the track under 7:30 pace. Was supposed to have been 8 miles but left quad tightened up
2/28/200914Whittier Hills - tough (hot)
3/1/200918Rincon-Red Box Road

I had a diversion for a couple of months including being a race director on 2/21 but now I'm back and building up my miles. So I'll be building the Thursday night track workout back to 16 miles over the next month or so. Also, my weekend miles should increase. I plan to alternate my weekend runs between trails with some vertical (like this week) and long road runs (next week).