Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In Africa until August 23

Not sure how much running or blogging I will be able to do over the next 3 weeks plus as Kathleen and I have a pretty hectic schedule ahead of us. We'll be leaving tomorrow via Atlanta on Delta, non-stop to Johannesburg. First time on Delta on a trans-atlantic flight, should be interesting, hopefully in a good way. Until next week Tuesday, we will be in Pretoria catching up with the family and probably watching the upcoming rugby test match on Saturday. Apparently the Springboks have a very good team and are favored to win against the All Blacks.

From August 4 until 23 we will be inspecting a bunch (12 to be exact) of safari camps in three areas of Zambia, namely the Kafue region, South Luangwa National Park and ending in the Lower Zambezi region. A mix of mostly 2 night as well as some (dreaded) 1 night stands, but we need to see as much as we can in a relatively short time. None of the flights between the camps are overly long so we should be fine. Hopefully the weather won't be too cold! I will be taking lots of photographs!

Running has been going fairly well: I eked out 30 miles last week through Sunday, a mix of track running (Kenyan relays at Reagan High School), some trail running at Memorial Park, hill work last Tuesday (getting stronger with the backward uphill running!), and a couple of easy aerobic runs on Monday (5 miles) and Sunday (6 miles).

I did not run on Saturday because I was just too tired. We went out and saw 'Hurt Locker' at Angelika downtown Friday night and didn't get to bed until around 0200A. I can handle a late night out but anything after 0100A tends to 'run over' into the next day. It was worth it though. The movie was beautifully shot & superbly directed by Kathryn Bigelow - eminently worth seeing. First class acting too - especially from the lead actor Jeremy Renner. By the end you feel as if you've spent a tour in Iraq. I have yet to see a movie that nails the experience of 'being there' - in a combat situation - quite as vividly as this one.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Houston, we have a sellout

All 20,000 or so regular entries to the 2010 Houston Marathon and Half Marathon sold out in a matter of days last week; Kathleen and I snagged a full and half marathon entry, respectively. She's hoping to qualify for Boston with a 4:05 and I will likely try to improve on my 1:39 half marathon PR. Right now, we're still focusing on 5K's, and will probably not start training for the marathon until we get back from Africa on the 23rd of August. It's too hot to even contemplate a really long run, anyway.

I seem to be stuck in a rut distance-wise; ended up with 28 miles total for last week, again, for the 3rd week in a row. The week was pretty typical:

Monday: Easy 5 miles in Terry Hershey Park (HR around 130) with 5 short hill repeats.
Tuesday: 'Hilly Tuesday' at Spotts Park with various short hill repeats, some plyometrics and running uphill, backward. With the Houston Striders.
Wednesday: Ho-Chi-Minh Trails at Memorial Park. Houston Striders.
Thursday: Track workout at Reagan High. 400-300-200-100-200-100-200-300-400M with about 200M recovery. Also with the Striders.
Friday: REST
Saturday: Race Lunar Rendezvous 5K
Sunday: Easy 8 miles (HR @ 130 or so) along Buffalo Bayou

As for the Lunar Rendezvous 5K at Johnson Space Center, we enjoyed it just as much as last year, despite the heat and humidity. It is a well-organized race with a flat, fast course. With less than 600 runners, we never felt crowded and there was plenty of elbow room even at the start. My time (21:51) was actually a bit slower than last year (heat!) but I still came in 3rd in my AG as did Kathleen with a 25:11. So once again (like the US Vets run in May) we both came away with hardware. Always fun and this year's engraved mug will likely see more use than last year's athletic travel bag.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Workout weekend

Well that was a busy weekend of working out. Kath and I were out early on Saturday to join a group of Striders for Sandy's 60th birthday celebration, complete with 6k run. I gave it a good shot, keeping my heart rate over 160 (90%+ of maximum HR) pretty much for the duration. It was a fun event with a nice variety of treats afterward, even some fresh fruit. Later that day I spent about an hour doing various exercises with a medicine ball and Swiss ball.

Sunday was yet another early morning, this time to run in a 4 X 1-mile relay with the Striders & Tornados running clubs. Our foursome, the Bayou Badgers, was about 49 seconds off (slower) than our predicted 28:20 pace - our anchor (4th) runner unfortunately - and mistakenly - thought that he had to slow things down. Even so, it was fun and nice to meet some new people. I tacked on 6 easy miles (HR around 130 to 135) along Buffalo Bayou later in the day. And I also spent about an hour on my regular resistance band routine, which is a mix of upper body & leg exercises.

By this morning I was dragging somewhat, so limited my run to 5 miles with 5 short hill repeats. The combination of heat and humidity is extremely taxing. It wasn't until about 1100a this morning, once I had properly re-hydrated (Gatorade followed by white tea), that I started to feel 'human' again.

The idea is to take it relatively easy this week, in preparation for the Lunar Rendezvous 5K at Johnson Space Center Saturday morning. This is always a good race, with a great sponsor (Honeywell). Last year I placed 3rd in my age group with a time of 21:51. As I recall conditions were not nearly as bad as they are likely to be this year, so it might be tough to equal that. Lately, even the very fast 5K runners have had to take their lumps, finishing as much as 30 seconds off their usual time.

Total miles run for last week was 28; I seem to be stuck around 28 to 30 miles per week. There's room for improvement, but with the weather we've been having, I'll take it. As soon as conditions start to improve a bit, will try to up that to 35 miles per week, or so. I honestly don't know how fall marathoners are managing to get their long runs in around here. It is brutal.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lazy hazy hot & humid days of summer

Here in Houston we are knee deep in relentlessly hot weather. Even after nearly 20 years here, it is still disconcerting to walk out of the back door at 0700A in the morning, smack into a sauna-like 80F with 85% relative humidity. Today's weather forecast looks pretty ominous, but we're almost used to it: "Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 100. Heat index values as high as 109. South wind between 5 and 15 mph."

So what do runners do in weather like this? Go for a run, of course. Which is what Kathleen and I did last night, doing 4 X 800 meter 'Yasso' repeats, with an easy 400 meter in between, at Reagan High School in the Heights, with a few Houston Strider club mates. Complete with 1 mile warm up (hah!) and 1 mile 'cool down' (as if). I was pretty inconsistent, completing the 800's in 3:42, 3:35, 3:32 and 3:22, respectively. Of course seasoned runners know about Bart Yasso's theory that if you can do 10 X 800 meters (each) in 3 minutes and 30 seconds on the trot, with 400 meter recovery intervals, then you should be able to run a 3hr 30 minute marathon. Or if you can do 10 Yasso 800's in 4 minutes each, a 4 hr marathon would be a reasonable target time. And so on. Of course you would have to do the appropriate marathon buildup with long runs, relatively high weekly mileage, etc.

For the time being, running marathons is just a fading memory for me. We're all about the 5K right now and my next goal is to go sub 21 minutes. It likely won't happen until the Fall, when cooler air makes it down here from Canada. Right now that seems so far in the future I don't even want to think about it. For the longer term, thinking about a sub-20 minute 5K is probably quixotic, in fact I think it definitely is. Like winning the lottery, nice to think about fleetingly but then you remember that you still have to pick up after the dogs.

PS: All went well with the dermatologist. No big lectures or anything, just a reminder to use some sunscreen on the very top of the old noggin, which is nowadays more like scorched earth than lush meadow.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A date with the dermatologist

Do you know that feeling of worrying about how often you've flossed your teeth lately, when you're about to have some dental work done? Or trying to remember exactly what kind of prescription & otc medications you've been ingesting over the last few weeks or so, when completing those pesky questionnaires when you're seeing a new doctor. Do they really need to know ALL the operations you've ever had? Don't they realize that some of us have been around for more than half a century, we've had some work done, people.

Tomorrow I'm seeing a dermatologist, first time in years. I'm not worrying about what she will find. Like any 57-yr old, there's a couple of spots here and there on the face that she may want to scrutinize, but nothing too serious I don't think.

What I'm apprehensive about is the overall impression, shall we say. Sorry doc but I'm (t-a-n-n-e-d). Can you use the 't' word in a dermatologist's office? It's not that my face resembles a leather handbag - I think you have to live in Florida or Arizona to reach that 'pinnacle' of tan-dom. Mine is just your common, garden variety tan. All natural, mind you. You'd have to pay me a lot of money to get me into any kind of artificial tanning contraption. Nonetheless, I am bracing myself for at best a lecture, at worst some disapproving looks, a bit of head-shaking and some stern reminders about the dangers of skin cancer.

What can I say, I spend a lot of time outdoors. It's hot around here, I take my shirt off, I am a runner... I go to the beach, I work out - outside... We've got a pool in the complex. Any other good excuses? My other doc told me to get some sun for Vitamin D? I'm allergic to suntan lotion? My hat is too big/small. I'm a sun lover? I'm an idiot.

And on to running news:

Last Saturday's Run Wild 5K was a little disappointing. I ran a worse time - 22:21 - than the previous week (which was a much tougher course). Didn't get close to placing in my age group. And worst of all, I was passed by dozens of runners over the last mile or so. Not a good feeling. Definitely ran out of gas over the last mile, probably due to the heat - it was oppressively hot & humid. So I'll chalk this one up to experience and move on. At least it was fun to see a few other Striders there and to renew my acquaintance with Roger, whom I ran with in Galloway days, almost 10 years ago. Kathleen did much better than she expected to, which was great - if she'd been 100% healthy she would definitely have placed in her AG. We're both looking forward to the next race which is the Lunar Rendezvous at the Johnson Space Center on July 19.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A very slow bloomer

Very slow indeed - but still improving! I won my age group - 50 to 59 - in a 5K for the first time last Saturday. My time was just barely under 22 minutes. Admittedly, the competition wasn't fierce, as this (The Tortoise and the Hair) was a new run and all the fast guys were either cross town running in Deer Park or in Colorado because of the heat. Yes it was hot. Starting a race in Houston at 8:30am is never a good idea, especially not in late June during a heatwave of epic proportions. So it was probably close to 85F by the time we all sprinted out from underneath the Wortham Center, racing up the bridge over Interstate 45, along Memorial Drive.

Which brings me to a pet peeve. What is it with bridges, overpasses and viaducts in 5K races? I am baffled as to why local 5K races (such as the Astros 'Race for the Pennant' 5K and now this one) opt to make their course more difficult (slower) than it could otherwise be. What is the benefit to the race? So that runners can complain about how tough it was? Surely not. Trust me people, if anybody really wants to run hills in Houston's summer heat, he or she will find them - without your help. So quit including inclines of any kind in your 5K course. Runners do not sign up for 5K's to get a hill workout. They do that in the days and weeks before the race. Many people run a 5K just for the heck of it (because they can), but most 'real' runners are out to compete with others in their age group or to improve on their personal best time. So give them the fastest (i.e. flattest) course possible with the least number of turns, and they'll be back.

Other Striders there on the day did very well too: Ryan Dimarco won the entire thing - first place overall! John Dimarco snagged 2nd in his age group as did Azita Dimarco. What a family. Unfortunately Kathleen couldn't make it due to some IT band issue: too bad because she might have won her age group too!