Friday, August 22, 2008

A weekend in Miami Beach

Kathleen and I spent last weekend in Miami Beach, specifically South Beach - aka SOBE. First time there for both of us, although between us we’ve been to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, the Keys and the Everglades National Park. There’s nothing understated about Miami Beach. It is brassy and loud in the non-musical sense, not that it bothered me. Or the thousands of other holiday-makers of many nationalities with whom we were sharing the sidewalks, beaches and security lines at the airport. Like the throngs of Italians, Brits, French, Dutch, Germans, and other Americans in Miami Beach, we were there for the beach and the ocean and to have fun, not to find fault with the place.

If you have a voyeuristic bent or even if you’re just a plain old gawker like me, South Beach is endlessly fascinating. Strolling along Washington or Collins Avenue is mind-boggling on many levels. It is mostly about the people: on foot, on bikes, in Lamborghinis, fabulously dressed, with barely a t-shirt, coiffed and heeled to kill, tattooed, bejeweled, talking, eating, drinking, young, not-so-young, smoking as if there were no tomorrow. Walk just a few blocks and experience a whole world of drama, tragedy, excitement and excess. Here is a comatose woman starkly laid out on the sidewalk, in front of her wheelchair. Two seemingly disinterested Miami cops are on the scene, probably waiting for an ambulance. Is that cynicism or boredom on their faces? Probably both. Not far away, at a sidewalk cafĂ©, the cheap happy hour mojitos take top billing on the menu. A group of young tourists, who have clearly enjoyed several drinks already, are adding to the SOBE ambience with their extravagant gestures, overly loud laughter, and absolutely dead-on serious intent to have fun in big bold capital letters. There’s a lot more to Miami Beach, including some interesting restaurants (we found one with several vegan options), shopping (apparel, electronics, art & antiques, jewelry, beach stuff etc.), nightclubs, and the Art Deco Historic District. We will definitely be back. The Duck Tour looks like a lot of fun...

It was just a short walk from our hotel across the boardwalk to South Beach itself. Over the course of a couple of sunny days Kath and I made the walk several times – it was worth it. The southern Florida Atlantic Ocean is so much nicer than our local (Galveston) beaches – a wide expanse of white sand, sparkling clean blue water and 'real' waves. We spent a lot of time in the water and enjoyed every minute. We thought the water temperature (around 85F) was great, some may like it a little cooler! The beach itself is pretty cool too. From your expensive rented chair and umbrella ($55 for 2 chairs and an umbrella for the day, ‘weather permitting’), you can check out the many beach bodies on display. Don’t be staring now. The local authorities turn a blind eye to topless sun tanning, so act like you’re used to it. Everybody else seems to be. Of course, you can always concentrate on the equally spectacular backdrop consisting of a succession of cruise liners steaming out of the Port of Miami, a constant parade of sightseeing helicopters, yachts, power boats - some being used for para-sailing - and various other sea-going vessels.

On Saturday the two of us ran 2 miles from our hotel along South Beach on the hard sand to the old fishing pier and back from there, then out and back on the boardwalk up to where it ends in Surfside, about 8 miles total. I would have liked to have done more but we only had two days to enjoy the sunshine, by Monday morning it was getting pretty nasty with the outer bands of Fay moving in.

Running is still going well. Last week’s total was 45 miles, including 9 miles at 9:17 pace on Monday, a hard hill workout with KatyFit on Tuesday, another hill workout on Thursday with the Striders, and then of course 8 miles in Miami on Saturday. So far this week I’ve managed 24 miles total with two hill workouts (Tuesday and Thursday); by Thursday I might not have been 100% recovered from Tuesday’s run as I was definitely feeling the strain towards the end of the 3rd and 4th hill circuits. I definitely needed my weekly SRD (Scheduled Rest Day) which comes around every Friday. So far so good on the Brad Hudson program. For tomorrow (Sat 23 Aug) there is a 12 mile long run on the schedule, with the last 30 minutes at moderate pace. I’m looking forward to it & will be running in my new Rice University singlet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Have passport will travel

I received my new US Passport last week. On page 2 it states: "Nationality: United States of America". I still have to look at that a couple of times before the realization sets in. I am now officially a citizen of the USA. To celebrate I think I am going to take a quickie trip to Mexico, just because I can... More likely, I will start making some plans for a return trip to Africa, hopefully before the end of 2008.

Despite relentless heat and high humidity, and one hugely over-hyped Tropical Storm (Edouard), the week’s running was right on target: a total of 40 miles with a long run on Saturday of 10 miles; just over 7 miles on Thursday including some hill workouts, and an easy 6 miles on the other days. Mostly I kept very close to my target easy/long run pace of 9:17, although nothing is ‘easy’ in this heat.

I am warming to Brad Hudson’s ‘Adaptive Running’ program, which I have decided to try out for the upcoming San Antonio Half Marathon in November. I will attempt the ‘Level 3’ half marathon program, which ranges from six runs and 32 miles in week 1 to seven runs and 64 miles in week 14. Of course there will be some adaptations here and there; if you’ve run as long as I have you know why training programs should always be written in pencil. What I really like about Brad’s program is the absence of periodization: hill, speed, strength and endurance elements are mixed together throughout the training cycle. This morning’s 6 mile easy run, for example, included 3 short hill sprints. I've always been skeptical of the concept of dividing a training cycle into distinct phases with heavy emphasis on just one type of training (speed, strength, power etc.) in each phase.

Barring injury and extreme weather on the day, my goal for San Antonio is to break 1:40:00, which would be an improvement of less than a minute on my personal best of 1:40:48 set in Austin this spring. Nothing magical about the 1:40 mark for the half marathon, except that it will qualify me for the New York Marathon. Definitely something to strive for!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Boston Marathon here we come

It’s official! Barring injury (which I will be sure to try to avoid this time around!) I will be lining up for the 113th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 20 2009. The Boston Athletic Association granted me a ‘one time only’ deferment to register for next year, using my qualifying time from the Houston Marathon (Jan 2007) of 3:45:59. I will not be able to sign up online, the BAA will send me an application in the mail. I would be happy to sign up by fax, phone or sign language, if I have to. Next stop, Boston!

Despite the relentless heat & humidity, this week’s running has gone well. The total was 42 miles, including 3 different 8-mile runs (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday). Of these, Wednesday’s was a struggle coming after a strenuous hill workout on Tuesday night, with KatyFit. Thursday it was more hills, this time with the Houston Striders. Saturday’s long run was only 8 miles but the first few miles were cross-country with several short, steep hills. So it turned out to be a good workout. My only concern is that our KatyFit Green group may be running our long runs too fast: hopefully the leader will slow down the group as the runs get longer. I do not want to run easy/long runs much below my target pace of 9:17. It took me years to realize that 'all hard running, all the time' will get you in trouble, sooner or later. Running your training runs too fast leads to fatigue, injuries and eventually over-training. It is definitely a good idea to vary your training paces throughout the week - a LOT. Properly paced long runs, some step-back weeks and regular off days will keep you healthy & semi-rested to blow it out on the tempo and fast runs and to handle the heavy weeks.