Sunday, September 13, 2009

drinking and running don't mix

On Friday night I got drunk and signed up for a 5K two weeks from now.

I am not ready to run a 5K in my current state of conditioning.

But I will try to get ready.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

On speed work and exceeding expectations

Hello everyone! Matt here, coming at you from the middle of August 2009, in the hot and humid district known as our nation's capital. To what do we owe the pleasure of my reappearance today? The answer is known to runners everywhere as the dreaded and yet exhilarating "speed work."

Speed work is where you work on running fast. This does all sorts of fancy technical things like work your fast twitch muscle fibers, help build your quads for explosive movements, help burn tons of calories, and generally just help you run at a faster speed even when you are not consciously trying to run at a faster speed. Basically, it speeds you up. And we all know I need speeding up.

I traditionally run my easy days at a very slow pace. A typical easy run, for me, has me jogging between 4 and 4.5 mph. This equates to a mile pace of about 14:17/mile, which is fairly comically slow for anyone else. but for me, it helps me build my endurance. Now, normally I am running through the neighborhood, which is very hilly, and so my slow pace reflects that. Today, however, I went to the place where speed work is traditionally done: the track.

Now, I have not been to a track in several years. The last time I was at a track was probably sometime in 2001, when I was trying to get in shape doing Body for Life. Since then, I have had no Need to go to a track. Until today. You see, I have spent several months building up a base of endurance -- the ability to traverse a large distance at a slow pace. But I really want to work on my speed. So to the track I went, with running buddy Dawn.

Now, when I talk about my increased endurance, you should know that that is relative. I have absolutely no endurance compared to someone who is actually in shape and a runner, like Ian of defunct blog "Short Man Running" fame. To me, the word "endurance" means that I can go a couple of miles without collapsing in a heap of sunstroke induced unconsciousness.

But I still cannot run four times around the track without stopping. At least, I think I can't. I haven't tried it in several years. I probably could, but it would be at the slow pace that I discussed above. And, as I also said, my goal is to get faster. To that end, my speed work tool of the day was interval training!

Interval training, for the uninitiated, is where you go fast and slow and fast and slow, repeating it until you collapse into a pile of semiconscious drool. I am proud to tell you that this is what happened to me today. First, Dawn and I walked around the track a couple of times to warm up. (I have found that simply walking for a half-mile is a very effective way for me to limber up my muscles and not get cramps.) Then, I wanted to jog around the track once at a moderately easy pace and see how long it took me. I walked around the track once more, and then jogged it once at a slightly faster pace. I repeated this twice more, walked around once more to cool down, and called it a day.

Here were my results:

  • Running lap one: 3:05 (12:20 minutes/mile pace, ~4.86 mph)
  • Running lap two: 2:30 (10:00 minutes/mile pace, ~6.00 mph)
  • Running lap three: 2:05 (8:20 minutes/mile pace, ~7.2 mph)
  • Running lap four: 1:49 (7:16 minutes/mile pace, ~8.26 mph)

Folks, this might not seem like a lot to you, but I'm pretty damn impressed with how I did today. I have not tried to maintain over an 8 mph pace for a quarter-mile in years! It was hard as hell, and my pulse got up to 186 at least, but I did it. And I did it in 85° heat at 60% humidity! Wearing a plain old cotton T-shirt! None of these technical wicking fibers for me. Oh no. I will wear my Cherry Blossom technical running shirt to the bagel store, but give me sweltering summer heat and humidity, and I am old school, man. (Okay, I forgot to wear it.)

A few more observations: the first lap was very easy. True, I only went around once before walking, and I'm sure had I continued trying to run, it would not have been that easy anymore. But for one lap, it was easy. The second lap wasn't quite as easy, but it was still nothing too difficult. Unfortunately, I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor, so I have to go with my amorphous perceived rate of exertion, which is subjective and faulty at best, but I would say my heart rate did not get much over 160 for that lap. Not exactly a heart rate that I want to maintain on my easy days -- I prefer to keep things in the low 150s on easy days -- but it was still doable.

Running lap number three was pretty damn hard. I would give it an eight or nine out of 10 on the perceived exertion scale. And the final lap was a nine out of 10 up until the last hundred meters, at which point I was running close to full out. I wasn't sprinting like this was the final hundred meters of a marathon and this last bout of exertion meant the difference between gold and silver, or even like this was the end of the 5K that I wanted to set a personal record on, but... come to think of it, I suppose I wasn't running a level 10. Probably a level 9.5. But still pretty damn hard.

After all was said and done, I walked 1.5 miles and ran 1 mile at a pretty quick pace. Not an Olympic feat, by any means, but still pretty fun and pretty damn good for me. And now that I have found this excellent track just one mile from my house, I can say without hesitation that I'll be using it frequently. I can easily foresee an easy one mile walk/jog to the track, a one or 2 mile jog at a moderate pace on the track, and a 1 mile cooldown walk/jog home.

The only downside about this day, fitness wise, is that I bought a pizza to help me through the So You Think You Can Dance finale and voting marathon. (Go Evan!) But my weight is still down from where it has been, and reaching 200 is looking less like a possibility and more like a certainty.

Woo track running! Woo speed work! Woo Evan!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Mid-Summer Update: Running Partners Rock

Hi everyone! I see that I haven't posted in a while, so I just want to give you a little update.

I've been exercising fairly regularly -- not killing myself or anything, but trying simply to Move More. And the big news is that I've started jogging with a running buddy! I'm actually beyond Dawn in endurance, so we are working on building up our running time. We started with 1 minute of walking, 1 minute of running, and repeated it until we got up to about 2 miles. That worked well for the first day or two. Then I noticed Dawn was huffing and puffing a lot less, so for the last 2 times we've been doing 90 seconds walking, 90 seconds running -- and we've been going a little faster too. But again, the huffing and puffing has mostly ceased, so next time it'll be 2 minutes on, 2 minutes off.

It's GREAT to jog with someone else! The run goes by SO much faster, because we are talking the whole time. And it also provides a good way to pace ourselves -- the advice to "keep a conversational pace" takes on a whole new meaning when you are actually trying to carry on a conversation.

We mostly jog together, but toward the end I often jog on ahead or keep on going after the 90 seconds is up. I eventually walk back to her, but those little bursts of solo running are quite fulfilling. Last night, after feeling heavy and plundering for the first mile or so, I started to get into my groove in the second half of the jog, and I fell into a hard yet satisfying pace. It was awesome.

I've also been asked by a couple several Choral Arts people who hadn't seen me in a couple months, "Have you lost weight??" I have lost about 5 pounds in the last month or so. I am told I look good. And I do look better in pictures lately. So that's nice. :-) Here's what I looked like this weekend when my friend Donnie came to visit:

So, that's all! I'll keep on jogging with Dawn, and walking 5 miles a day when I'm playing Tourist with friends who come to visit, and I'll try not to stuff my face too much, and hopefully there will be a lot more green triangles in my future. :-)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back On the Road

After laying dormant for two months, I got back out on the pavement today. For most of the day it was way too hot to do anything (90 degrees in April?!!), but by evening it had cooled into the 70s. I set out on an easy 1 mile loop through the neighborhood, not pushing too hard, and stopping to walk for a bit here and there.

I could have kept going -- cardiovascularly, I felt great -- but I have to be cognizant of what caused the two-month lay-up in the first place. Two months ago, in preparation for the 10 Miler, I hurt myself by doing too much too soon. My heart, lungs and muscles (once I solved the tight calf problem) might have been ready for a 70 minute jog, but my bones weren't. Suddenly I was able to run as long as I wanted -- but my feet couldn't take it.

But today, there was no pain. And with no Mandatory Distance Goal on the horizon, I'm just going to work up to 30 minutes and keep it there for a while. I'll head out every other day, and I'll aim on getting faster within those 30 minutes. I think a sub-30 minute 5K is a worthy goal -- one that I was only last able to accomplish about 5 years ago.

I enjoyed getting out there today. I'm glad that my hiatus hasn't changed the fact that I still find running to be -- gasp -- fun! I'm looking forward to getting back out there regularly.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Matt the Runner

You have missed so much over the past 6 weeks, you have no idea.

First let me answer the question on everyone's mind: Why haven't I posted anything here since early February? Have I been slacking off? Have I fallen off the wagon? Have I hopped aboard the one-way train to Fatsville, USA? (aka Detroit)

None of the above, my friends. I was silent because I was spending my free time running instead of blogging!

Here's the short version:
  • Longtime Still Waiting visitors will no doubt remember that I have long had issues with tight calves. For some reason, after 10-15 minutes, my calves would tighten up to the point where it was difficult for me to keep running. This problem has plagued me ever since I can remember.
  • One day in February, I figured out why my calves were so tight and how to fix them. I had been very concerned that the tightness was due to Compartment Syndrome, which seemed to match my symptoms exactly. The only cure for that is surgery. Desperate, I Googled and Googled until I figured out that the tightness might be caused by Trigger Points -- knotted up parts of the muscle. The cure for that? Deep Tissue Massage. I took my thumbs and found the part where my calves were tightest and I PUSHED DOWN HARD. After 5 second, the pain dissipated. I repeated that treatment on both legs, several times a day. And a miracle happened: My calves got the blood flow they needed to rebuild themselves, and I was able to run as long as I wanted with no tightness!
  • Literally. As long as I wanted. I picked up a heart rate monitor and planned to keep my pulse in the 150s. It turns out that as long as I jog slowly, I can keep my pulse in the 150s, and this way I don't fatigue myself and I can basically go indefinitely. One day last month I went out the door and ended up jogging almost 5 miles, with just a little walking thrown in every 10-15 minutes or so. It was amazing. The next week, I went out and, for the first time in YEARS, jogged 30 minutes without stopping.

  • I was unstoppable. Or so I thought.....
NEXT TIME: Too Much, Too Soon OR "What the heck is a Stress Reaction?"

Monday, February 02, 2009


Things were going quite well. I had made almost every scheduled training run since the training period began, and I usually made up any I missed. My endurance was progressing nicely, as 2 minutes running grew to 4 and then 6. On Saturday I did 6 repeats of 6 minutes running, 1 minute walking. I felt good.

Then came Sunday. I was scheduled to run 7, walk 1, repeat 4. The day was beautiful -- 60 degrees and sunny. Up until then my standard run took place in 30-degree temperatures or less. Sixty would be awesome! I threw on shorts and a T-shirt and headed out the door.

Right away, I could tell something was amiss. Barely one minute into it, I was breathing far more heavily than normal. I slowed my pace and pressed on, making it about 6 tenths of a mile until it was time to walk. Halfway through my second 7 minute jog, I had to stop and massage my tight calves. I tried jogging again, but I was so easily out of breath. What was going on? Why was this so much harder? Halfway through, I cut my losses and walked home.

Why was it so hard? It could have been the poor nutrition I expose myself to on the weekends. It could have been the fact that I was trying to run less than 24 hours after a particularly strenuous effort. But after some discussion with Diana, I realized that the fact it was 30 degrees warmer than normal probably had a huge impact. Apparently my body has become acclimated to exerting itself at cold temperatures, the sudden increase was too much for my wittle body to bear.

Tonight it's supposed to be in the low 40s with a little rain. The plan is to run 8 minutes, walk 1, and repeat 3 times. We'll see what happens!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lessons from the Frozen Tundra

Things I Learned Last Night:

1. When internal motivation fails -- e.g. when it's approaching single digit temperatures -- it's extremely helpful to have external motivation.

2. When running in a sub-arctic frozen tundra, make sure to bundle up appropriately, and THAT INCLUDES CHEEKS.

3. When my calves don't tighten up, it turns out that my endurance is actually pretty good, and I can run longer than I thought I could.

4. Hills aren't so bad once you get used to them, and

5. It's a lot easier to run when you are distracted by conversation, even if it's through a tinny speakerphone, and even if your mouth is too cold to properly speak English.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I am the POS. I lack discipline. Focus.

With that ToughLove mantra in mind, I ventured out into the nipply cold tonight, attempting to build up the endurance I will need to last 10 miles without a break. I am happy to report that after suiting up in enough gear to keep me warm not too cold in the 30 degree temperature, I managed to do 10 repeats of Walk 1 Minute, Jog 2 Minutes, without too much calf tightening, and nary a smidgen of foot numbness. Woo, Superfeet!

After the jog, I broke out the George Foreman grill and cooked up some chicken breast with Italian seasonings, and put it over romaine lettuce drizzled with olive oil, with a pinch of salt and pepper. It was DELICIOUS. My body must have really been craving greens, because I felt almost a primal urge as I was devouring the lettuce. Mmmm. (Pizza and Chinese taste great, but I never get the same feeling when I'm eating those foods.)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I [Heart] Impromptu Online Pep Talks

Ben:  get back on teh treadmill

Matt: my treadmill SUCKS

Ben: NOW

Matt: it doesn't have an accurate spedometer
it doesn't have an incline function
it's not long enough
it's a POS

Ben: you are the POS
you lack discipline

Ben has signed off.