Monday, June 28, 2010

3 down 15 to go

In preparation for the Oct 10 Mohawk-Hudson Marathon, Kathleen is following the venerable Hal Higdon's Intermediate II training schedule.  So far, so good.  The fairly easy first three weeks are done with.  Nothing too challenging yet, although last Saturday's 6 mile pace run (9:10 average pace per mile) was pretty trying at 80+F.  We started too late (well after 0800A) - and paid the price.

It is going to get a lot more difficult:  by week 8 the Sunday long run will be up to 17 mile and the first 20-miler is scheduled for week 11.  There will be 3 X 20-milers in total and a nice 2-week taper.  Too soon to start thinking about that though!  For now, we will concentrate on staying healthy, keeping the long run pace at just under aerobic threshold so as not to tire ourselves out prematurely, and to do what we can to run under the extreme conditions of summer along the Gulf Coast.

With regularly daily stretching and knee rehab exercises, I've managed to keep the left knee injury under control.  There is still a bit of discomfort every now and then but I think I am winning the battle.  It has definitely helped to reduce mileage this month and to also be running just 5 instead of 6 days a week.

My Crossfit program has been coming along very nicely.  It takes a while to learn and get used to the various exercises making up the daily WOD - never a dull moment.  Amongst others last week I did burpees, dead lifts, push presses, rope jumping, sit ups, kettleball swings, kettleball 'sumo lifts', push ups of course, walking lunges, and box jumps (not as difficult as I thought it might be!).

Yesterday afternoon a group of us (Striders) went bowling at the 300 Bowling Alley on Bunker Hill.  Kathleen - who hasn't bowled in many years - got the highest score of the day, a very respectable 176!  Here are some photographs of Kathleen and a few of the other participants:


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The World Cup on mute

Even with a sketchy knowledge of soccer (I think they should drop the off-sides rule to open it up to some higher scoring) watching the World Cup is better on mute than having to listen to the incessant droning of the vuvuzelas.  Whose idea was that anyway?  It really detracts from the experience, completely crushing the usual crowd response.  I read somewhere that the vuvuzela has its origin in South African culture.  Hmmm.  I grew up there and lived there for almost 40 years but can't recall ever seeing or hearing a vuvuzela.  Sure things were a lot different then, but still.  Vuvuzela?  I'll definitely look into that on my next visit to the area.  For now I will just take my cup of soccer tea without milk.  

Running has been coming along nicely, although at much reduced mileage compared with last month.  Which is probably just as well because I have been flirting with injury lately.  A month or two of reduced mileage will be just what the doctor ordered. So far this week we've had our 'hilly Tuesdays' workout - a pretty gruelling 5 mile effort with multiple steps, bridges, steep hills (up laterally and backwards) and some hefty chunks of tempo pace running - and a much easier 3-mile jaunt last night.

On the Crossfit scene things are improving rapidly.  I am starting to feel comfortable with the various workouts - or at least some of them.  Completed my first WOD which included the much maligned burpees! Also getting the hang of the kettle bell swing. Wednesday's workout contained no less than 70 push ups, 70 sit ups and 70 walking lunges.  Not to mention 30 burpees.  All that in about 16 minutes.  I'm really warming to the concept of high intensity training.  Will it help me improve my 5K time?  Only time will tell.  I guess we will see by late October. 

Trying a few new recipes from 1000 Vegan Recipes; here is a pic of grilled tofu with some green beans and  Southwestern Quinoa salad with Corn and Pinto Beans.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mohawk-Hudson Marathon Oct 2010

Have I changed my mind about not running any more marathons?  Nope.  I will be helping Kathleen to hopefully qualify for Boston at the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon which takes place on October 10; the run is a point to point 26.2 miler from Schenectady to Albany.  We are in the process of booking flights, a hotel room and so on.  Fortunately a large contingent of Katy Fit runners (mostly trained by Mark Coleman) will be making the outing, so if there are any Tex-Mex restaurants in Albany, we'll be the first to know.

Kathleen will be using Hal Higdon's 'Intermediate II' marathon training schedule, which tops out at about 40 or so miles per week, with a total of 3 X 20-milers over the course of the 16-week program.  Given her recent race times and good state of fitness, it certainly looks doable.  Very difficult to train for a fall marathon here in Houston but of course if qualifying for Boston was easy, everybody would be doing it...  Combined with the Tuesday hill runs and the Thursday track sessions, I think Kathleen should be able to manage the required 9:10 pace.  Weather permitting, of course.  We completed the first long run (10 miles) last Sunday under perfectly sweltering conditions.  One advantage of training in this hot and sweaty swamp, is that come October a nice cool fall day in central New York state would be perfect!

Two more Crossfit sessions under my belt and started to enjoy it more and more.  Touch wood, no more injuries either!  Last Friday we did mostly core/ab work, while yesterday was all about lifting:  a series of 6 or 7 differing lifts ending with 25 X 50lb dead-lift repeats, as fast as possible.  Weird that in all my years of exercising and training, I have never done any dead-lifts!

Kathleen at the Striders mile time trial last Thursday.  Looking good!  And getting faster by the week.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

One step forward...

And two steps back.  So far I have done two Crossfit workouts and they have both resulted in injuries; the first one precipitated a really bad case of DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) to the point where I could not run the Heights 5K last Saturday. Hamstrings just too tender and tight.  And Monday's workout (the rope jumping part of the WOD - which is their acronym for Workout Of the Day) strained my right calf pretty badly, so I won't be able to do a mile trial run tomorrow.  Hopefully these are just 'teething' troubles in a manner of speaking.  I would like to continue on with the Crossfit workouts as they are very challenging and I really think they will benefit me greatly, if I can handle them without any further injuries.

Last night I stupidly went and did the 'hilly Tuesday' run despite having a sore calf.  Of course it just aggravated everything so really limping today.  Nothing today except some foam rolling, Advil and muttering expletives.

Did manage a bit of cooking over the last couple of days:

Edamame and corn salad from Veganomicon


Baked banana dessert from 1000 Vegan Recipes

And here are a few pics from my herb 'garden' in the back patio. 

Basil of course


Garlic chives; I actually don't use them a lot - but they like the Houston climate...

And naturally, rosemary!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday morning resolutions

When it comes to being diligent about sticking to a 'diet' (for want of a better word), I find excuses to wander.  I feel stressed, so I wander.  I really need a little bit of candy, so I wander.  A small cookie won't hurt, so I wander. After such a heavy workout, I deserve a bigger portion, so I wander.  The cook brought the wrong food so I wander. I'm carbo-loading, so I wander. Let's not waste those french fries you're not going to eat, so I wander...

Of course that is not being honest with myself.  There will always be an excuse to wander.  Until that changes - and I can stop giving myself permission to wander, no matter how good the excuse - I am in the same camp as an addict.  There is no way to handle a small 'transgression' just this one time, thinking that I will be able to do better tomorrow.  In the end, tomorrow is just like today.  If I can't handle the temptation now, why will I be able to do it next week?

Hence the resolution.  Not to eat less or lose a certain amount of weight or run faster or run further or lift more. No. Just to stop rationalizing bad choices and stop giving myself permission for the small 'deviations' which can derail even the best plans or intentions.  It is all about discipline, or the lack of it.  Nobody has ever achieved a worthwhile goal or adopted a desirable habit without discipline.  And hand in hand with discipline goes motivation. It is the latter that is lacking.

I've been thinking and talking about breaking the 21-minute mark in the 5K for many months now.  It's time to get specific.  There is a small 5K race here on October 23 - the 'Energy Capital 5K' - which I will use as my target race for going sub-21 minutes.  By late October the worst of the summer heat should be gone.  Also, there's enough time between now and then (20 weeks) to refresh  my nutritional goals in order to shed the 10 to 12 pounds of flab which I am lugging around unnecessarily. Bring it on!

I literally squelched through six easy miles this morning, first with the two dogs for their 3/4 mile each and then on my own along Terry Hershey Trail.  It was so humid you could literally see it - hopefully that wasn't ozone - and within minutes I was dripping wet from head to toe.  Welcome to the Gulf Coast in summer!  Nonetheless, by the time I got back home and stripped off the soggy running clothes, I immediately felt energized and enthusiastic about the challenges of the day and the remainder of the week.  It is quite amazing that after 40 years of running, even a routine run-of-the-mill 6-mile training session can have a positive impact on my general mood and sense of well-being. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weekend cooking

No vegan household should be without Veganomicon.  Kathleen found a couple of perfect avocados and a salad mix of arugula and spinach, so I made Pasta della California, one of our favorites from Veganomicon.  Quick and easy - just be sure not to overcook and be diligent about mise en place, otherwise it can get soggy and not look quite as 'fresh'.

A couple of nights ago I put together what is a very typical dinner for us:  some red potatoes quickly steamed in the pressure cooker (to save time and retain more nutrients), with a very quick three-bean salad with loads of fresh herbs including parsley, basil, garlic chives, marjoram and oregano. And where do you get your protein?  I almost forgot - some marinated extra-firm tofu, baked in the oven on my Pampered Chef pizza stone. Oh and some steamed broccoli. Good for you.

A dollar donation or not?

Surely I am not the only person who gets annoyed when I am solicited for donations - usually towards a very deserving cause - at the grocery store check-out counter.  This usually happens at my local Randall's, which is owned by Safeway.  Same story last week:  "Do you want to donate one dollar for birth-date cancer?" Birth-date cancer?  Never heard of that one before, must be something you get when you turn 90 or a 100, after many many birth dates have gone by... Of course I had mis-heard.  The checkout person was actually soliciting for 'pros-tate' cancer, a much more familiar version of the dread disease.  Birth-date, prostate, it makes no difference.  The answer is still - no.  Not because of what, but because of where and when.

There's a time and a place for everything, and I very much object to being asked to donate anything to whatever cause, while I am shopping.   It is a bit embarrassing to say 'no thank you, not today', or to make some other miserable excuse, not to give a measly one dollar to a very good cause, whether it is cancer, juvenile diabetes, MS or whatever.  After all, you are in line with people you may know - from your neighborhood - and you've just spent nearly $20 on a bottle of wine,  almost $5 for a small bottle of herbs (which is criminal!) and the equivalent of what you used to pay for meat, for some organic veggies.  And that is exactly why I find gratuitous solicitations like these to be most unwelcome.  I am not at Randall's to make donations.  I am there to shop.  Don't abuse my patronage just because I present a nice captive audience.  Remember I can always decide to go to HEB or to Rice Epicurean or Kroger or even Whole Foods. Hmmm.  Scratch the last one - I was solicited for some green cause in the checkout line at WF not too long ago...

As for running, nothing happening on that front as I am still injured from the overly vigorous Crossfit session of last Wednesday.  Should be ok to do a short run this afternoon, definitely tomorrow.  Kathleen did very well this morning at the Heights 5K Fun Run, placing 2nd in her age group, with her second sub-24 minute effort!  I was very much looking forward to running on fresh legs but alas it was not to be.   I was happy to finally meet a fellow blogger - Nuke Runner - who had a superb run, finishing well under 19 minutes and placing in his age group.  Congratulations!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Crossfit workout

My new personal trainer Marie Pallatt is a Crossfit specialist and during today's workout she introduced me to a few basic moves including situps, pushups, squats and push presses.  I had to do as many as possible over a short time (20 seconds?), with a brief 5 second rest interval, for a total of 8 repeats, before moving on to the next exercise.  It took all of 14 minutes or so to complete the workout, but by the end of it I felt as if I had spent an entire hour in the gym.  Several hours later my arms and thighs were still fatigued - this workout method definitely rocks!

No running today or tomorrow - I am taking a few days off as I was definitely over-reaching by yesterday evening.  Towards the end of our hill workout (5 miles total) I was feeling severely fatigued and it took great effort to just jog back to the meeting spot.  Having experienced an episode of full-blown over-training complete with parasympathetic nervous system involvement a few years ago (that's when your built-in governor slows you down whether you like it or not), I am not keen to go down that road again. In any event, this is probably as good a week as any to take it easy, as we have the Marshall Ulrich movie (Running America) tomorrow at the Alamo Draft House at 7pm.  So no speed work tomorrow. Friday is my regular day off.  Hopefully my legs will be fresh for the Heights 5K on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Goal setting

Kathleen and I signed up last night (before the price went up by $5) for next Saturday's Heights 5K Fun Run.  As 5K's go, this one is fast and flat and we are both keen to see if our increased mileage, speed work and hill running will start to pay off.  Kathleen probably stands an excellent chance to place in her age group; I might have to wait a couple of years when I'm on the fresh side of the 60 to 65 group.

I got a pretty good start to the week this morning with 6 easy miles,  keeping the heart rate in the maximum aerobic conditioning zone.   

In a general fitness blog I picked up some very good advice about setting goals - which I am sorely in need of.  The gist of the advice is that goals need to be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-defined.  When I have a moment or two later during the course of the day, I will sit down with my little black book and write them down. For now I will concentrate on the short term, i.e. this summer.  So we'd be looking at perhaps going under 21 minutes in the 5K by the fall. Staying healthy will be key.