Saturday, February 21, 2009


Being in between several events--athletic or just life--this seemed like a good time to assess how some items have been going.

First off, last weekend's half marathon in Austin. I started well and kept a generally consistent pace through (approximately) the first 10 miles. Somewhere in that area I started experiencing some sort of muscle spasms or cramps on any uphill portions, which had to be walked, although level ground and downhills could still be run. This resulted in 2 extra minutes per mile over that stretch. I did not make any special preparations for this race, such as hill training, which might have helped me out on the back end. One unusual thing for me happened, usually I am limited by my heart rate, but my heart rate was not a problem this race--it was my legs that were the limiting factor for me. In the end, although I had hoped for a slightly better time, I felt like I got the best result I was going to get on this race and was happy with my effort.

Second, I had made it through last year with some ups and downs on my weight. I gained 10 lbs by mid-May, then lost 40 lbs by Thanksgiving. At that point I went off diet not trying to be too stringent during my favorite time of the year. Unfortunately, I let this period extend well into January and gained over 10 lbs back. Presently, I am within 7 lbs of last November's low point and back on track (getting back under 230 lbs today). We'll see if I can keep up with the progress here, fortunately progress in this area is self-motivating for me (at least in that seeing some weight loss motivates me to continue trying to lose more).

It is perhaps fitting that I ate 3 Girl Scout cookies after typing that last paragraph.

Third, how is my training going? I had toned down my mileage a bit after Houston in favor of cross-training for other events. I had wondered if this would hurt me in Austin, but I do not feel that it did, if anything it may have helped me beyond just run training. I made my longest bike ride of the year this morning (25 miles) and my swim time has improved by more than 2 1/2 minutes per 1000 yard swim since the beginning of the year. My actual time for these other sports would be nothing special to many I know, but they do represent a good step forward for me. In the coming weeks I'll continue to increase the bike and swim distances to advance myself. In running I am thinking of concentrating my efforts at increasing my speed at shorter distances into the summer, at least before I start building back towards the fall/winter marathon season.

Finally, I need to keep in mind that I want to try to enjoy these activities. I had a blast in Austin last weekend and really enjoyed my run at Houston in January. Tomorrow I am meeting a friend for a morning run with the local running club (meeting at the local bagel shop)--sometimes my biggest fault at running might be having too much fun at the social part of the activity, but is it a problem if I enjoy running too much? (I think not!) Plus, I'll be able to get bagels when I am done! A couple of weeks ago I ran through an area of trails for the first time just to explore them. While biking, I have been exploring some of the farther reaches of my local area. For my racing events, I have been considering how much I would enjoy the event before I sign up...look at some of my coming events for this: San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon with a long weekend in San Antonio, Disneyworld Marathon [or maybe even the Goofy Challenge) is pretty self-explanatory, CB&I Triathlon came well-recommended to me, and the Spring Fever 5K always is a great neighborhood party. I think I have been keeping a positive mindset for my athletic endeavors.

All in all, I am pretty happy with where I am going right now and am enjoying the journey to get there. Now, if I can just put some distance between me and those cookies!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Austin Half Marathon

This past weekend I went to Austin for the Austin Half Marathon. Unfortunately, my early plans went awry due to having to work Saturday morning, meaning my daughter and I did not get to leave the Houston area until after eating lunch. Right after arriving in Austin, I called my friend Heather who drove by with a few other friends of hers who were also running the half marathon, then we drove to pick up one more and we all went to the expo for packet pickup. After the expo we stopped at a local pub for a drink (waters all around--don't say us runners can't aren't high-living big-spenders!) and a snack before dinner (OK, we might be big eaters!). Then off to the Spaghetti Warehouse for a large group dinner, and, finally, back to hotels/home to get some rest for the race in the morning.

I might have denied it a few times, but I was excited to be running the Austin course. I come to the city on business periodically, but have never deviated out of the basic areas I have had to go to. So, I was really looking forward to seeing some of the local sights, and just generally trying to have a great time. I had a little breakfast early (bread, half a Lara Bar, and a few gummy bears). Then I left the hotel and walked several blocks through downtown until I met up with Heather, her husband Jeff, and several other friends I had started to get to know this weekend (Ingrid, Cassie, Kim, Stephanie, Jane, Matt, sorry if I forgot other names). After a good while of intermittent talking, stretching, porta-potty breaks, etc... it was off to the start line, which had been delayed for about 10 minutes for unknown reasons.

This photo is of myself, Heather and Cassie as we were walking to the starting line with the Texas Capitol Building as the backdrop. I swiped this photo from Heather's Blog and it was taken by her husband Jeff.

Getting ready for the start I walked up with Heather and Cassie, learning that Cassie also wants to do the Disney marathon. It was nice to talk about 2 of my favorite topics--running and Disney--with a new friend. In the end Cassie moved closer to the front, being a much faster runner. Heather and I were left to run together, which worked out well since we were aiming for the same goal and have PRs about a minute apart. As we ran down the first 3 mile straightaway Heather pointed out several local sights; it doesn't surprise me that the ones I remember from that area are food related, especially finding the site of Hey Cupcake [where I took my daughter after the race for my second cupcake of the day!]. After about 3 miles of slight, but steady uphills we were only a few seconds off of goal pace and ready to enter a good downhill portion. Heather is really good at downhills and pulled me along in some areas. Just past the mile 4 marker I had to pull over to try to fix a shoe/sock issue from a developing hot spot I could fell on my left foot instep. This ended up developing into a thumbnail sized blister, but I did not feel it until after the race. I started back up after losing about 90 to 120 seconds I tried to catch up with Heather [running a 10:30 mile] but I just could not [I had told her not to wait for me, as she was running well and I would have hated to be responsible for her missing her goal by a slight amount] and so I went to my backup plan which was a 4:1 run:walk ratio. I then proceeded to try to run well and enjoy the run, and succeeded on both counts. Somewhere in mile 8 I managed to finally catch back up with Heather, having many time "found" her previously, but only to find out it was someone similarly dressed. From that point we ran a couple miles together again. By mile 10 I could tell that I was just on the edge of some cramping in my right calf, which is never a problem for me [Except for that other time I also ran with Heather in November. Hmmmm.....] and Heather was having some breathing issues while running, likely related to being sick recently. Around mile 11 I went ahead [OK people before anyone complains about abandoning a friend in need, I did know that she was fine before I left her.] I tried to run as much as I could, although I walked up this huge hill that seemed half a mile long to reenter downtown. After that point, neither calf would let me run uphill again, and when I tried they cramped and I only stumbled forward. So the last mile to mile and a half was walking the uphills and running the rest. My sprint to the end was not really a sprint, but I was able to pick up the pace a bit in the last 500 meters or so.

I ended up finishing in 2:40:16, which was 3:57 slower than the easier course in Houston last month. Overall, I had hoped for a faster time but I was satisfied with my effort. This was my 4th fastest half marathon of 9 attempts. It proved to be a great educational experience with all the hills, had I known the course ahead of time I never would have thought I would have expected a slower time.

Following the race was a post-race cupcake party put together by Heather while a number of us rested and chatted.

From the perspective of a couple days later, my calves aren't quite as sore as expected, however, my quadriceps are more sore than expected. Maybe that is just because I live and run in a flat area and don't have much first-hand experience with hills like on that course. What I did not expect were the 2 blisters I ended up with, one on each foot's instep. I did apply body glide to my feet and am sure I got that area. I am not sure if I can blame that one on the hills, socks, shoes, or whatever. I do know that I have never gotten blisters in those shoes and only once in those (or that type of) socks before now. Were the hills the difference maker on the blisters? I can't say right now. Finally, the area of soreness I didn't expect-- but maybe should have expected--was how sore my ankles are now. My ankle soreness is pretty close to what I feel after a long trail run (25K or more) when I have not been training on the trails. Of course the soreness is only temporary and not as bad as the positives I feel for the great time I had with friends and family.

I am already looking forward to next year...

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Race Registrations

In a feat of optimism--or maybe masochism--this week, I have registered in three upcoming races:
1. Spring Fever 5K on March 7.
2. CB&I Triathlon on May 2.
3. Rock'n Roll Marathon on November 15.

I'm still going to try to do several other race events as well, including SunMart 50K on December 5, Ten for Texas in October (date not yet announced, but likely 10th or 17th), plus a couple of triathlons in the middle of all that [there are just so many to choose from!]

After the turn of the new year, I'll be off to Disneyworld in early January for either the Disney Marathon or the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.

As for now, it'll be off to Austin in the morning for the Austin Half Marathon on Sunday.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spring Creek Greenway Project

What is the Spring Creek Greenway Project?

The Spring Creek Greenway will connect and protect up to 12,000 acres of forest, on both sides of the creek, in order to preserve, protect, restore, and educate the public about an ecological gem - a biologically diverse ecosystem that provides important habitat for many wildlife species, and aims to create an ecotourism mecca and a peaceful respite from busy urban lives for those from Houston or even nationwide. [OK, OK...I lifted all that from their website.]

Lastg weekend I ran several miles aong a local portion of trails at a local section of the Spring Creek Greenway Project known as the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. It included about 2 miles of running (walking) trails [yellow and green on the map] and 3 miles of biking trails [orange/brown on the map].

I happened upon the entrance while riding my bike past the entrance a few weeks ago. I had never noticed it while driving down the same road over the last year. Overall it seemed a nice, if a bit short, section of trail. It included a drop near a local lake bed and there may be opportunities to witness animals wandering around at times. I may try to get some photos in the future for posting. This location is about 3 miles from my home, so it may be a good location for an out, trail and back run, or for a bike out there, trail run, and return bike exercise sessions [I don't have a mountain/trail bike].

One thing is for certain, I will return to run here again!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Remission Run

This past Saturday I ran the Bill Crews Remission Run 5K .

The story of the Remission Run:
On January 26, 2004, Dr. Rick Hagemeister walked into the exam room at the Lymphoma Clinic at MD Anderson Cancer Center and smiled at his patient Bill Crews as he said, "You're in complete remission".

Those are the words every cancer patient longs to hear. Even better will be the day when every cancer patient hears "You are cured." Until that day comes, Bill, his family, his friends and many thousands of others continue to fight in the war against cancer.

To celebrate FIVE years of remission, the Crews family and their friends are hosting the first ever Bill Crews Remission Run to celebrate health & life, to raise awareness about lymphoma and other cancers, and to raise funds for the Hagemeister Research Fund.


It was a cold morning with frost still on the ground when I arrived at the park. As I got ready for the race, I tried to stay in the sunlight to stay a little bit warmer. The race first took us around the ball parks and back to the lake, from there we ran about 1.7 miles on a local trail. The trail was a little bit tight in places but was well marked and well maintained. After the trail it was a quick tenth of a mile back to the finish line. I startted out a bit fast for the first mile and then held back my pace a bit to a maintainable pace until I hit the trail. From that point on my trail pace was a bit slower, but I made good time (for me) on the trail. In the end my final time was 60 seconds than than my PR (33:19) for the 5K distance -- which is really good considering the slower running on trails.

Next up, the half marathon in Austin on February 15th. My knee injury from a few weeks ago is still nagging me slightly with a bit of stiffness, but seems to be slowly healing completely.