Thursday, December 31, 2009

Training Tip Thursday

"Running Tips: With the marathon 18 weeks away, plan the training now that will permit you success. Marathon training works best if you start easy and build gradually: A long run of 8 miles in June becomes 20 miles in September. Most important at this time is to establish a goal, whether that goal is to finish or to run fast. Once that goal is chosen, everything else will fall in place."

From Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide, Intermediate 1 Program, Week 1.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Weekly Training: December 15-20 -- I'm Back!

After a week of resting my knee, I'm back!  I ran a week of reduced mileage, 24 miles total, running cautiously and at moderate pace.  Any pains were slight, and subsided shortly after running.  I'm planning a similar week for this week, and next week will begin Week 1 of my marathon training schedule
  • Sunday, December 20 - 8.0 miles, 1:23:37, 10.45 pace.
  • Saturday, December 19 - 6.2 miles, 1:06:15, 10.69 pace.
  • Friday, December 18 - 2.0 miles, 20:00, 10.00 pace.
  • Thursday, December 17 - 2.0 miles, 19:59, 10.00 pace.
  • Wednesday, December 16 - 4 miles, 43:01, 10.75 pace.
  • Tuesday, December 15 - 2.0 miles, 20:52, 10.44 pace.
Cold rain was the weather feature of the week, raining almost continuously through Thursday.  Friday through Sunday were cool and sunny, with early morning run temperatures in the 30's and 40's.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2010 Goals

  • Run 1,800 1,500 miles.
  • Complete a Marathon Race.
  • Remain Injury-Free Avoid Serious Injury.
On November 17, I posted Running Goals for 2010.  However, I'm revising Goal #1 from 1,800 miles to 1,500 miles. 

After recent feedback from my body, I feel like 1,500 miles for Goal 1 is more consistent with ensuring I meet Goal 3, which is necessary to meet Goal 2.  Breaking it down, 1,800 miles averages about 35 miles per week.  At the beginning of 2010, I'll be on an 18-week marathon training schedule that starts me at 24 miles per week, and doesn't pass 35 miles until week 7.  It will peak at 44 miles and average about 33 miles over the 18 weeks, including the 26.2 miles for the actual marathon.  That automatically puts me behind over the first 18 weeks, and also doesn't account for several recovery weeks after the marathon.  So, I'm going with 1,500 miles, which averages about 29 per week. 

It looks like I'll finish 2009 at around 1,200 miles. My goal was 1,000.  In 2010, I'd rather exceed a more cautious goal than hurt myself trying to attain a more difficult goal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Green Living Feature of the Week - Sending a Message to Polluters

Have you seen someone driving a car that is pouring smoke from the exhaust, or throwing trash from their car, and wanted to tell them how they are hurting the environment? 

Yesterday afternoon, on my drive home from work, I observed a car ahead of me that was billowing a huge cloud of noxious smoke.   (GASP!)  This was on a busy six-lane city street, and other cars were either staying far behind this car, or going around it as quickly as possible.  I moved over a lane, to not be directly behind the smoking car, and slowed down a little to increase the distance between us.  As the car turned right at the next intersection, I was able to note the license plate number, and later reported it online.

The state of Texas has two programs that can be used to send a message to polluters and litterers: theTexas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Smoking Vehicle Program, and the Texas Department of Transportation Report a Litterer program.   Since these are based on anonymous reports, neither of these programs result in enforcement activities, but instead encourage citizens to act in an environmentally responsible manner.

Upon observing a smoking vehicle, one can make note of the following information: Texas license plate number, date and time observed, city and location observed, and submit the information to TCEQ online, by mail, fax, or phone. TCEQ mails a notification letter to the registered owner of the vehicle. The letter notifies the owner that their vehicle was reported to be observed emitting excessive visible exhaust emissions. It also encourages them to make repairs, if needed. It also informs vehicle owners that law enforcement authorities  observing smoking vehicles on Texas roadways may issue citations for up to $350. Since the program started, the TCEQ has sent more than 160,000 letters to smoking vehicle owners. Thousands have replied saying they fixed their cars!  Repairs have ranged from minor adjustments to major engine repairs.

Upon observing litter exiting a vehicle, intentionally or accidentally, one can note the following information:  license plate number, make and color of vehicle, date and time, location, who tossed the litter and what was tossed, and submit the information online. TxDOT compares the information to the vehicle registration database and sends the litterer a "Don't Mess with Texas" litterbag along with a letter reminding them to keep their trash off of our roads.

A quick search online showed me that most states have similar programs.  If you are interested in sending a message to polluters, there are probably versions of these programs in your area.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekly Training: December 7 - 14

This week, I continued to nurse a sore knee, resulting almost no running mileage.  Monday morning, I set out to try an easy 2 to 4 mile run.  The soreness returned before I completed the second mile, so I ended the run at 2 miles.  I rested Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Friday morning, I decided to resume with easy cross training and no running, and allow plenty of recovery time.  I walked 2 miles, and then bicycled 1/2 hour.  A little soreness returned, and remained the rest of the day.  Saturday morning, I walked 4 miles, with less soreness than Thursday.  By Sunday morning, the soreness was further reduced.  I went for another 4-mile walk, and felt good enough that I couldn't resist testing myself with several short jogging intervals mixed in, followed by very little soreness.  Monday morning, my leg and knee felt pretty strong, but I rested again anyway. 

I feel like I'm about ready to gradually ease back into a regular running routine. :-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Marathon Training Calendar

I've been running for quite a while using bits and pieces of various different training programs.  After registering for a May 1 marathon, I decided it was time to find a formal, structured program to follow through to race day.  After reading the details of a few training schedules, I decided to use one of Hal Higdon's marathon training programs.  Hal has 6 programs published on the Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide website, two each in the Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced levels.  He recommends the Novice programs for first-time marathoners, but I wanted a slight additional challenge and selected the Intermediate I schedule because I think it gives better preparation for the 26-mile distance by using a weekly medium-distance run  on the day before the weekly long-distance run.

Of course, the schedule is written in terms of "Week 1," "Week 2," etc., not in terms of an actual calendar or dates.  After plugging my race day into the end of the schedule and working backward for a day-by-day schedule, I looked for a convenient way to set up and follow a daily schedule.

During this process, I discovered Google Calendar.  This turned out to be a pretty good tool for the purpose.  I was able to set up a custom calendar for the 18-week progam.  The header on each date tells me exactly what is on the schedule, i.e., the miles and the pace.  The Description field let me copy and paste the full detailed workout description from Hal's website.  So, I can see at a glance what is scheduled for the date, and a single click on the header title brings up the full description.  A second click returns it to the header view.  It also let me embed the calendar in this blog, which is a very convenient place for me to keep up with it.  Pretty cool.

The calendar is completely filled in now, and is at the bottom of this page. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green Living Feature of the Week - Wasted Food

I recently came across an enlightening blog, "Wasted Food," by way of Sharon Astyk's blog, "Casaubon's Book."  The author, Jonathan Bloom, has researched this topic for almost 5 years, and is currently writing a book on wasted food in America.  On some level, I'm sure we all realize that a significant amount of food is wasted.  However, after seeing the details, it's the magnitude of the waste that is so shocking. 

Bloom cites a study that shows that in America, we waste around 40% of the food that is produced for consumption.  WOW!  The percentage may seem unbelievably high, until considering that it refers to a broader picture than just consumer waste.  In addition to the food we waste as consumers, the figure also includes waste in production and distribution chains, stores and restaurants.  A portion of crops raised never even gets out of the fields.  In stores and restaurants, items that are perfectly usable go into dumpsters when they reach a use-by-date, or develop the slightest blemish, or just to make space for new stock.  Since consumers are picky, it is understandable that retailers want to maintain stock that is the freshest and most attractive.  However, usable items could be donated, rather than wasted. 

Our culture is accustomed to relatively cheap, abundant food, making the significance of large-scale waste easier to overlook.  However, on closer examination, the effects are far-reaching.  If anything near 40% of the potential food supply is wasted, the ecological impact is huge.  Fuel and other resources are wasted to grow, package and transport food that is never consumed.  Additional pollution results from the needless consumption of these resources.  The wasted food ends up in landfills, further generating greenhouse gases.

Not the least of the issues related to waste is that the cost of raising food that is thrown away is included in the cost of all food, raising prices.  Inflated price may not have huge effect on all consumers, but it is a big deal to the poor.  And in the poorest nations, a slight cost difference may mean the difference between living and starving.

Personally, I try to minimize waste.  My family eats leftovers and makes every effort to use ingredients before they have time to spoil.  Looking at this issue more closely, I resolve to be even more careful about personal waste, and to support organizations that donate and participate in the "rescue" and use of surplus food.

I'm just scratching the surface of the information.  For more detail, check out this blog!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Physical Activity Is Better than Medicine

Want to avoid getting a cold this Winter?  Keep active!

An article published by the American College for Sports Medicine cites studies that show that there is a 25 to 50 percent reduction in illness among active people who complete 45 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week.

“This reduction in illness far exceeds anything a drug or pill can offer...All is takes is a pair of walking shoes to help prevent becoming one of the thousands predicted to suffer from the common cold this winter.”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekly Training: November 30 - December 6

This week I nursed a sore knee, resulting in a week of reduced mileage, 22 miles total.  After two days of running very short distances (2 miles Monday and 4 miles Tuesday), followed by two days of rest, I tested the knee with a slow and easy 2-mile run Friday morning at 11.5 pace.  It still felt fairly good Saturday after I ran 6 miles at 10.0 pace.  Sunday, I followed with an 8-mile run at 10.33 pace.  The last mile of this run brought some returning knee pain.

I will continue for now with reduced mileage and additonal rest, and build the distance back gradually.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


After my first two consecutive 40+ mile weeks, and running hard in a race, I still have a little pain and stiffness around my right knee area.  I feel it just left of my right kneecap, and on the back of my right leg, opposite the kneecap.  My waking heart rate Tuesday morning was 57 instead of the typical 47 to 51.  Maybe I overtrained a little.  I took it easy Monday and Tuesday, only running two and 4 miles respectively, and didn't run at all today.  I'll continue to be cautious for a few days, rest as appropriate, and see how it feels.

Have you ever had these symptoms?  Does this sound like Runner's Knee?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Green Living Feature of the Week - CFL Lighting

One of the easiest ways for environmentally conscious people to make a difference is by using Compact Flourescent (CFL) bulbs for lighting.  I've used them exclusively in place of incandescent bulbs for about 5 years now, and love them.  They are more expensive, but they last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.  More significantly, they consume about 75% less electricity.  An incandescent bulb is very inefficient; it is essentially a heating element in a vacuum tube.  Most of the energy is converted to heat; light is almost a by-product.  CFL's run much cooler, converting more energy to light.  Not only do they help the environment, they save the consumer a lot of money.

I saw an impressive statistic, that every household in the U.S. replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL would result in the same emission reduction as taking 1 million cars off the road. 
Wow-- think of the effect of replacing ALL incandescents with CFL's! 

CFL's do contain some mercury, so they should be recycled rather than thrown in the trash.  I'm taking them to the local Home Depot; all of their stores accept CFL's.   If there is not a store locally, the website shows nationwide recycling locations for almost all recyclables.

The next generation of energy efficient lighting is LED (light emitting diode) lighting.  The LED runs even cooler and uses even less power than the CFL, but is more expensive.  Recent improvements in LED technology should reduce prices as production increases.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November Running Milestones

Most miles in a month: 137.8
Most miles in a week: 41.1, week ending November 22.

Training Update - November 23-29

It was a good week of running, a good race and a second consectutive 40+ mile week.  It was a bit of a push to get the total above 40, after taking two days off to rest for Thursday's race.  I didn't get a really long-distance run in; the longest was 12 miles.  I picked up the mileage a little differently; instead of alternating shorter and longer distances, I increased by two miles each day.  The last four were 6.2 (at race pace), 8.0, 10.0, and 12.0 on consecutive days.  The result was a little more "burn" each day than I'm used to, from adding miles each day while still a little fatigued from the day before.  

The week's stats:
Sunday, November 29 - 12.0 miles, 2:15:57, 11.33 pace, 60°, increasing humidity.
Saturday, November 28 - 10.0 miles, 1:47:59, 10.80 pace, 49°.
Friday, November 27 - 8.0 miles, 1:27:33, 10.94 pace, 38°.
Thursday, November 26 - Turkey Trot 10K Race - 6.2 miles, 54:29, 8.79 pace, 40°.
Tuesday and Wednesday - Rest for Thursday's race.
Monday, November 23 - 4.0 miles, 46:30, 11.63 pace, 51°.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Race Review - 19th Annual Turkey Trot 10K in Tyrell Park - Beaumont, TX - Thanksgiving Morning

This was an enjoyable event.  The race was well-organized and well-managed.  Race day lines were reduced because many runners used the option to pick up packets at designated locations in the two days prior to the race.  I like that they gave a tech shirt instead of a cotton T-shirt.  Race morning chip pick-up was quick and efficient. 

The 5K and 10K runners ran mostly the same route, but from different starting points, which reduced congestion.  The only improvement I could ask for would be additional mile markers.  I think I saw markers at mile 1, mile 3, and mile 6.  To get a better feel for pace, I'd like to see them at each mile. 

I halfway expected some turkey suits, but didn't see many outlandish costumes at this event.  However, this runner wore yellow boxer shorts with red chili peppers!

(Click photos to enlarge.)

This runner must have started a good running program and lost a lot of weight in the past year. 

Written on his shirt: "These are the pants I wore LAST Thanksgiving."  He was quite trim, but was wearing very large pants.

Conditions were very good, sunny and about 40°.  I probably started out a little fast, but settled down after a couple of miles.  I tried to set pace behind a couple of runners that passed me, but couldn't quite keep up.

At about 4 1/2 miles, a runner passed me that was going just slightly faster, and I was able to match his pace the rest of the way.  We traded positions 3 or 4 times coming up toward mile 6.

Thanks, anonymous runner, for helping me set a good pace!
Before turning this corner into the last quarter-mile, I had enough energy left to leave my pacer behind and sprint hard the rest of the way to the finish. 

My goals were:
To try to run <56 minutes, or 9 minute pace, to enjoy the race, and have a great time.

Why 56 minutes? I plugged my 5K PR time into the McMillan Running Calculator, and it gave me an equivalent 10K time of just under 56 minutes; I felt that was a reasonable guideline for what I should be capable of.

My actual time was 54:28.6; 8:47 pace.  And, I did enjoy the race, and had a great time!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Green Living Feature of the Week - Home Organic Gardening

A key concept for sustainable living is the effort to eat locally as much as possible.  The ecological benefit of eating foods grown locally or regionally, rather than transported thousands of miles, is obvious: less waste of precious fuel resources, and reduced pollution from burning of the fuel. Additionally, large-scale industrial farming is also heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Negative effects of chemical fertilizers include the consumption of energy and other resouces and resulting pollution from the manufacture and transport of fertilizers, and chemical runoff into water tables.  Pesticide use has negative effects on species other than the targeted pests, and there are many natural, organic pest control methods.  While there is no guarantee that all locally-grown food is organically produced, in general, small local farmers tend to be better conservators of the land.

Other benefits:  locally-grown food is fresher, and purchase of locally-grown food keeps community  resources close to home, benefitting local farmers instead of large agri-business.

Organic home gardening is the ultimate in sustainable, local growing.  One's own yard is the closest possible source of  fresh foods. No transportation is required.  The home gardener can assure that pesticides are not used, and home-produced compost can replace chemical fertilizers.

Urban Homesteading is a growing trend (no pun intended).  Many home gardeners are devoting their entire yards to producing their own food.  There are a multitude of resources out there on the web.  Check out Path to Freedom.  It is one of my favorites.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two Challenges: Environmental and Fitness

I recently came across two interesting challenges: one Eco-challenge, to conserve fuel or energy this Winter, and one Fitness challenge, to complete 100 pushups.

Reading The Crunchy Chicken Eco-blog, the 2009 annual Freeze Yer Buns Lower the Thermostat challenge has been underway since October 19, with 65 pledges so far to lower thermostat settings this Winter.  I'll accept this challenge; in recent years, we've only heated on a few of the coldest days.  Most days we get by with no heat, dressing more warmly and letting the indoor temperature fall into the 50's.  In our mild Winters, only a handful of days get colder than this.

Here is the fitness challenge, the One Hundred Pushups challenge.  It's a six-week conditioning program, three sessions per week, about 10 minutes each.  I'll give it a shot.   For fitness, running is my primary focus.  However, a runner shouldn't neglect the upper body, since arm swing is so important to running mechanics.  Arm swing counterbalances leg motion, reducing workload on the legs, and plays a major role in running efficiency.  An experienced marathon runner once told me, "When your legs get really tired, pay more attention to just keeping your arms moving.  Your legs will follow."  Push-ups and running complement each other on another level; they both fit well with a sustainable lifestyle.  They are free, can be done anywhere, and don't require special equipment or consumption of resources.

Training Update - November 16-22

I tried a new venue for Sunday's run, Lefler Park, another of the Beaumont city parks.  (click to expand photos)

It looked like the perfect setup for a great run, a perfect, chilly morning, a beautiful wooded park with nice scenery, the rising sun just visible through the trees, but the trails were a big disappoinment.  The trails were asphalt surface, which would have been OK, except that they were badly in need of maintenance.  The asphalt layer had cracked and crumbled to the point that there were chunks laying all over, creating poor footing. 

I would have much rather found trails of dirt or crushed stone.  After running 3 or 4 minutes, the trail condition was getting worse instead of better.  Visualizing a sprained ankle from stepping on one of the chunks, I gave up and turned back.  I returned to the track I ran last week, the Gulf Terrace Hike and Bike Trail, and completed my run.

Other than the disappointment with the Lefler Park trail, it was another good training week, with a good Sunday 13.1-miler following Saturday's 6-miler.  I have not yet repeated my longest single run of 18.2 miles from a month ago; however 41.1 total miles for the week is a second consecutive milestone for  total weekly miles, following last week's 36 miles.  I've been looking at one of the Hal Higdon marathon training schedules, which puts a  medium-long run and long-distance run on consecutive days.  This is a tougher approach than I'm used to.  I tried consecutive longer runs several months ago, and really struggled.  Lately, I've been taking a day off before the weekly long run, resulting in a lot stronger long runs.  However, the well-rested longer runs aren't preparing me as well for the difficult marathon miles between 20 and 26.  The back-to-backs culminate in a 10 miler followed by a 20 miler, and should better help build the necessary endurance.  Sunday, I definitely felt the rigor of this approach, struggling a little to finish 13. 

The week's stats:
Sunday, November 22 - 13.1 miles, 2:25:15, 11.09 pace, 48° and very pleasant.
Saturday, November 21 - 6.0 miles, 58:59, 9.83 (3 miles easy pace, 2 miles tempo, and the last mile at race finish pace). 50°, drizzling rain.  You know you're hopelessly hooked on running when a 6-miler in cold drizzling rain is the highlight of your Saturday!
Friday, November 20 - 4.0 miles, 40:15, 10.06 (3 miles @easy pace; 1 mile @tempo pace). 59°, with light sprinkling rain from the approach of the next cool front.
Thursday, November 19 - 6.0 miles, 1:04:33, easy pace @10.76. 42°!
Wednesday, November 18 - 4.0 miles, 39:59, 10.00 pace. 43°!
Tuesday, November 17 - 4.0 miles, 38:31, tempo pace @9.63. Cool front! 40°!
Monday, November 16 - 4.0 miles, 44:26, easy pace @11.11.  63°.

For the coming week, I plan to run Monday, and rest Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for Thursday's Turkey Trot 10K race.  My 10K goals are to try for <56 minutes, or 9 minute pace, to enjoy the race, and have a great time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Green Living Feature of the Week - Composting

Composting household scrap/waste organic matter is a great Earth-friendly, sustainable living activity.  It is beneficial because:
  • Composting prevents organic materials from going to landfills, where they contribute to landfill volume and generate methane gas.  Reduction of volume going to landfills also reduces the amount of vehicle fuel burned transporting waste to landfills and the pollutant generation associated with burning the fuel.
  • Compost replaces chemical fertilizers.  Gardeners can grow great organic vegetables using compost to add nutrients to the soil.  Eliminating chemical fertilizers also reduces the pollution generated in the fertilizer production process, and conserves the raw materials used for fertilizer production.  It also reduces fertilizer run-off into our watersheds.
  • Compost builds better soil for gardening.  In addition to adding nutrients, it loosens the soil and helps moisture retention.
  • If you don't garden, compost makes a great mulch to use around trees and bushes.
I keep a covered compost pail under the kitchen sink to hold compostables between trips outside to the compost bins.  Compostable ingredients are generally classified as "green" (nitrogen-rich) and "brown" (carbon-rich).  It's good to use a mixture of the two. Examples of "green" materials are vegetable/fruit scraps and peelings from the kitchen.  Examples of "brown" materials are leaves and grass clippings.  Here are some of the types of things I compost:
  • Vegetable and fruit peelings and scraps.
  • Coffee grounds.
  • Tea bags.
  • Egg shells.
  • Leaves.
  • Grass trimmings.
  • Garden plant & house plant debris.
  • Yard trimmings.
  • Sawdust.
  • Paper (in small quantities).

2010 Running Goals

I did not begin 2009 with any clear running goals; I kind of adopted a couple as the year unfolded: to run 1,000 miles, and to train for a marathon.  In general, goals are good, as long as they are reasonable and achievable. 

Nearing the end of 2009, it's not too early to set some goals for 2010.  After giving it some thought during the last couple of weeks, I like these:
  • Run 1,800 miles.
  • Complete a Marathon Race.
  • Remain Injury-Free.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Back on Track - Good Long Run and Recovery Run

After missing my long-distance run for two weekends in a row, I was really anxious to get back on track with a good long run, followed by a recovery run. On Saturday morning, I tried the Gulf Terrace Hike and Bike Trail, part of the Beaumont, Texas city park system.
(click on photos to enlarge)

This isn't a wooded dirt trail like I'm used to, but it's well thought out and well done. The complete trail is a measured 3.5 miles, part of which is a 2.0 mile loop.  This lets one add 2-mile multiples to the base mileage to build different totals.   

It is a concrete trail through field areas, wide enough for both foot and bicycle traffic, and has some nice features for runners. 

There are signs marking each mile, and markers on the trail at each quarter mile, making it easy to track pace. 

There is even a mileage sign at 3.1 miles, which is nice if one is training for 5K/10K. 

My last long run was 18.2 miles. After missing my long run for two weekends in a row, I decided to resume a little lower, at 13-15 miles.

I felt good after a few miles, and decided to try doing the 3.5 miles twice, with two additional 2-mile loops added to each, for a total of 15 miles.

Although not the wooded park I'm used to, it has it's own natural beauty (despite some oil drilling on adjacent property).  There are a few trees, and a lot of native grasses and wildflowers to be observed.  There is no shade, so it won't be my favorite venue in the Summer; in Texas, shade is your best friend in the Summer.  However, for Fall, Winter and Spring, it should be a good option.  It's only 2.25 miles from my house, so it's convenient.

I got on the trail at about 7:30 AM Saturday.  At 60 degrees, it was a little warmer than I like.  It was getting close to 80 by the time I finished.  However, compared to some of my long Summer runs (80+ degrees and 98 % humidity at sunrise), not too bad.   After two weeks of reduced mileage, I didn't care about pace, just logging good distance and running hours.  I finished the 15 miles fairly comfortably, 2:40:38, 10.71 pace.

Sunday, I followed with a recovery run.  It always feels good to lightly warm up again while still a little achy from the long-distance run.  I returned to the same location and just ran the 3.5 miler, at 38:44, 11.07 pace.  It was 65 degrees at 7 AM, a little warmer yet than Saturday.  I'm looking forward to the cool front on the way for Monday or Tuesday!

My last good week had been 32 miles total.  My most recent two weeks had fallen to 23 and 18.5 miles.  So, this got me back on track; a good  base mileage week of 36 miles, and a good long run.

I was pleased to see that there was less litter along the trail than I normally saw in the Baytown parks, although on the way out I found a few plastic bottles on the adjoining soccer field, and  a couple of cans by the road leading in.  Total Eco-run pickup for the two days: 2 aluminum cans, 14 plastic bottles, 1 32-ounce plastic cup, 1 empty mint box, and 1 empty GU package.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Impact Week - Beginning November 15

Today, I signed up for the No Impact Week program, beginning November 15.

Last month, I posted information on the organized No Impact Week that ran from October 18 through October 25.  Looking at the No Impact website after yesterday's eco-post, I found that a November No Impact Week event has been organized, and will begin November 15, 2009.  Interested participants may register for the program through the website, or just choose some favorite Earth-friendly activites on their own to privately observe the week. 

The No Impact How-To-Manual is a very good collection of ideas, to use either for the week, or from which to adopt appropriate activities permanently.  Here are the daily areas of focus in the program:    
  •      Sunday:  Consumption
  •      Monday:  Trash
  •      Tuesday:  Transportation
  •      Wednesday:  Food
  •      Thursday:  Energy
  •      Friday:  Water
  •      Saturday:  Giving Back
  •      Sunday:  Eco-Sabbath
In October, I looked through the program for additional ideas, and tried to go a little beyond my typical eco-activities.  This week, I plan to follow the daily program as closely as I can.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Sidebar Feature - Green Living

I added a new sidebar feature, "I Live Green By:" to kind of keep track of the things I'm doing to try to achieve an Earth-friendly, sustainable lifestyle.  I'm inspired by things like Colin Beavan's No Impact Project, where he experimented with "zero-waste" living.  I'm not sure I could ever reach the same level, but I want to do what I can.

So, I started a list.  I'm not sure I listed everything that I currently do, but if I think of some I forgot, I'll add them.  If I begin additional activities, I'll add them also.  A few of the listed items are linked to blogs I've already posted about the listed activity.  Maybe I'll use the rest of the list to post about one item per week until the list is completely populated with links.  Or, I could link them to good external references. 

This is a new experiment; we'll see where it goes.

Training Update - November 7-12

I'm finally back into a regular routine after missing a few days of running while completing my move from Baytown to Beaumont.  The best part is being so close to work.  I can get up a half-hour later, and still run an extra mile in the morning.  In addition to my weekend long-distance run, I'd like be able to do a medium-distance, maybe 6 to 10 miler once a week in the middle of my weekday morning routine.  Before moving, I just didn't have time, so I settled for a quick 5K on weekdays.  Now, I can occasionally get up as early as I did in Baytown, and do the medium-distance run.  That would let me vary my routine more, which is good, and also pad my base mileage.  To be completely ready for the marathon, I feel like I need to get my weekly total up into at least the mid 40's, in addition to building the long run into the 20's.

So, I've had a pretty good running week.  The weather has continued to be great, with morning run temps mostly in the 50 to 60 degree range.  I missed two weekend long-distance runs in a row, and tried to compensate by getting a little more mileage during the week.  I also compensated by running 9 days in a row, although I know my body really needs to rest one day per week.  And I got greedy and tried to push Tempo pace 4 days in a row instead of alternating with easier pace.  On the 4th day, Tuesday, I finished by running full sprint for the final 3/4 mile of a 4-mile run.  The result was development of a little knee pain.  So, since the advice I always give other runners is: "Listen to your body," what did I do?  Take the next day off?  WRONG.  I followed with a 5.5 mile run on Wednesday and another 4-miler this morning.  Am I just too stubborn for my own good?  Maybe.  At least, I had enough sense to run the last two nice and easy, and the knee feels a lot better now.  The pain must be more from pushing pace than from the miles.

Anyway, I'm determined to take Friday OFF, and run long on Saturday with fresh legs.  My last long run, 3 weeks ago, was 18.2 miles, but after the layoff, I'm thinking maybe 13-15 range for Saturday, slow and easy.

The boring stats:
Thursday, November 12 - 4.0 miles, 40:29, 10.12 pace.  49° this morning (sweet!)
Wednesday, November 11 - 5.5 miles, slow and easy, 59:44, 10.86 pace. 61°
Tuesday, November 10 - 4.0 miles, 38:36, 9.65 pace. 61°
Monday, November 9 - 4.0 miles, 38:26, 9.61 pace. 65°
Sunday, November 8 - 4.0 miles, 38:58, 9.74 pace. 63°
Saturday, November 7 - 3.5 miles, 31:43, 9.06 pace. 54°

Friday, November 6, 2009

1,000 Miles

At 6:45 this morning, I passed the 1,000 mile mark for 2009 running. 

Logically, 1,000 is just another number.  However, psychologically, it feels like a major event.  I wonder why our minds make distinctions like this.  A numerical boundary is just an arbitrary mental construct; the values immediately on each side of the line are virtually the same.  Somehow, we see 1,000 as significant compared to 999, but 1,001 as insignificant compared to 1,000.

I won't further wonder why; I guess it's just human nature.  Yesterday, I noticed that my total was 996.2 miles.  I ran 3.5 miles on each of the previous two days.  Mentally, I couldn't accept the concept of finishing today's run at 999.7 miles, so I added an extra half-mile to my route.

It was a pleasant run, easy pace, 4.0 miles, 43:06, 10.77 minutes/mile. The weather continues to be perfect, 52° as I started out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

October Running Milestones

Most miles in a month: 137.6
Most miles in a week: 32.3, week ending October 11.
Longest run to date: 18.4 miles, October 24.

Move to Beaumont and Training Update

I've completed the 60-mile move from Baytown to Beaumont; I'm back online after almost a week out of touch, and am recovering from the ordeal of loading, transporting and unloading a household of belongings.  It's great to trade my 1-hour commute twice per day for <10 minutes.  I'm also excited about looking for new routes, parks and trails for running.  Life is beginning to assume a slight semblance of normality again; I even found time to run again the last two mornings:

Thursday, November 5 - 3.5 miles @ Tempo pace, 32:28, 9.27 pace.
Wednesday, November 4 - 3.5 miles @ Tempo pace, 32:36, 9.31 pace.

The weather was extremely pleasant for morning runs, with low temperatures around 50°, and highs in the mid-70s.  50° is my PERFECT temperature for running, cool enough to run hard without too much perspiration, and warm enough to still wear shorts and not feel cold. 

I didn't run at all Saturday through Tuesday, four full days of moving.  Rationally, I know that the exertions of those days were harder workouts than running, but I still really missed my runs.  Running so gets in your blood; the concept of excercise comes from one's rational side, but the desire to run comes from the heart. I especially missed my weekly long-distance run.  However, I added a few extra miles to some of my preceding runs as I could:

Friday, October 30 - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 27:17, 8.80 pace, 55°. First sub-9 minute pace in a while!
Thursday, October 29 - Easy run, 4.0  miles, 39:52, 9.96 pace, 78° and extremely muggy. Ugh!
Wednesday, October 28 - Tempo run, 7.4 miles, 1:08:48, 9.30 pace, 51° and extremely pleasant!
Tuesday, October 27 - Tempo run, 5.4 miles, 49:28, 9.16 pace, 55°.
Monday, October 26 - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:13, 9.42 pace, 72°.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Registered for a First Marathon...

It's official;  I'm now registered for my first marathon race.  The race is The Gusher Marathon, Beaumont, Texas, on May 1, 2010. 
A smaller-city race like this should be a good first marathon for me.  It shouldn't be too crowded, and the course is pretty flat.  It's just a little late in the season; by May 1, it may be getting pretty warm.  However, May allows plenty of time to get ready.  I just need to stretch my long runs into the 20s and continue to build my base mileage.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Recommended Post

Runners, check out this post: I Dreaded Meeting You, on the blog "Justtoday."  It puts a really interesting perspective on the relationship a runner has with his or her sport.  One of the best running posts I've read...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recovery Run/Eco-Run and Cool New Gadget

I ran my recovery run in the park this morning, 3.2 miles, even slower and easier than usual.  I started out a bit sore from Saturday's long run, and running hurt a bit until I warmed up completely.  I experienced a somewhat unusual sensation after yesterday's 18 miler; immediately after I finished the run, when I first stood still, I had such a burning feeling in my calves like I've never felt before.  It was like they were on fire for a minute or two, and then the sensation subsided.  It was just a little different from a normal workout burn; it's hard to describe...

A recovery run is a perfect pace to combine with an Eco-Run.  The slower pace allows a better view into the underbrush and a little more time to look.  I took advantage of the easy run to look farther beyond the edge of the trail for litter, and bagged a lot of plastic and aluminum for recyling as I passed by.  One last Eco-Run in this park before I move.

Don't you hate litter?

I also found an interesting new gadget for the blog, a moon phase indicator (see sidebar).  I sometimes look up moon phase information to get an idea of how much natural light to expect on pre-dawn runs.  This gadget will put it at my fingertips on the blog...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Poignant Last Long Run in a Wonderful Park? (And a New Distance Milestone: 18.2 Miles)

I had mixed emotions while running my weekly Long Run in the park.  It was another great run, on a perfect morning for running, crisp and cool, 49° at 6:30 AM. I'm moving to Beaumont, TX next week, 60 miles away, so this is probably my last Long Run in this park.  I like Beaumont, and there are some nice parks there, but running today in this park brought back so many memories.  In this park, I was born as a runner.  Here, I evolved from a walker/hiker to an occasional runner, to a dedicated runner.  In this park, I ran my first continuous 2 miles in 2005.  I remembered how good I felt completing my first 6 mile run here on July 2, 2008.  I run the streets in my neighborhood on weekday mornings before work, and run in the park on weekend mornings.  However, the weekday runs are mostly for routine base mileage, while my distance runs, my milestone runs, my long, sweltering summer runs, and my great, inspiring runs have been in this park.  My original schedule was to repeat at 16 miles a third week today before increasing again, but decided to try for 18 miles today to leave this park on a new distance milestone.

I ran with these thoughts through about 9 miles, and as I lapped the start of the trail, Mike was just starting his run.  I've run with Mike occasionally, when we happen to get on the same part of the trail at the same time.  Mike's a strong runner and a quick runner (compared to me); he's an experienced multi-marathoner and races at or under 8 minute pace.  He's currently building his mileage back up to run the Houston Marathon again in January.  I told Mike I was trying to finish up at 18, and he paced me the rest of the way.  That was really nice, because he wasn't going to run that far today; he's been doing his long runs on Sundays.  We talked as we ran, and Mike always has a lot of good training tips.  Having someone to pace against helped me stay in a good rythmn for the rest of the run, and amazingly, I didn't struggle too much in the latter miles.  The only negative:  I got a little side stitch in the last half mile that really slowed me down.  I don't know where that came from;  I never get a stitch!

A good run, a new personal distance milestone, 18.2 miles, 3:14:28, 10.68 pace. Hollaway Park, I will miss you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trial and Error (Well, Maybe Mostly Error...)

After months and months of trial and error, I finally seem to have settled into a training formula that works for me.  In 2008, when I really started to run seriously (rather than sporadically), I was woefully ignorant of what I should be doing.  I just went out and ran.  That was OK, to a point.  However, as daily and weekly mileage increases, the miles become less forgiving of runner mistakes.   Looking back, I probably made almost every dumb mistake possible.  Dumb Mistake #1: Poor Shoes-  I started out with halfway worn-out running shoes, and put maybe 400 more miles on them before I got new ones.  I didn't get new shoes until my feet really started to hurt, and by then it was too late.  I later found that recommended running shoe replacement is every 300-500 miles.  I had just signed up for my first race in March, 2009, and my feet (especially my left) made me stop running for over two weeks.  I tried to walk my run route instead, and couldn't even do that, just barely limping around the house and office to get where I had to go.  I  thought I was just getting some arthritis around my heel and ankle joints, and that if I just worked through it, the pain would go away.  It didn't.  Closer examination determined that the worst pain came from my left heel area, that I have low arches and overpronation, and the result was plantar fasciitis.   I was fortunate that after 2+ weeks of rest, I was able to run again (with new shoes), with only very slight pain.  I worked on a stationary bike for the 2 weeks to maintain some level of conditioning, and tried to run again 4 days before the race.  I felt OK, so I ran 2 days, took 2 days off, and ran hard on Saturday.  To this date, that race is still my best ever 5K time.  Dumb mistake #2: Ignorance of the 10% Rule- The foot problem scared me, and prompted me to learn about the "right" way of doing things.  I read every thing I could find on the running web sites.  I discovered the "10% rule" -  Don't increase weekly mileage by more than 10 %, and don't increase the distance of the longest weekly run by more than 10%.  At least, I had been smart enough to start a spreadsheet for running stats in 2009.  Looking back, I found that 3 weeks before I had to stop running, I had increased my weekly mileage by 44%.  Plus, I was running 7 days a week, with no recovery days (Dumb mistake #3).   These are the really stupid mistakes.  The rest are probably more in the area of lessons learned and finding what works best for me.  Lesson Learned #1: Hydration- As I started running longer distances in the brutal Texas summer, I had to experiment with how much to drink before and during a long run to avoid coming home 6 ½ pounds lighter due to dehydration.  And I'm a morning runner; I run at the lowest temperature of the day.  Later in the day, the effect is greater.  It's a good idea to know your sweat rate.  Weigh before and after running, add the amount you drank during the run,  and divide by hours run.  The result is the amount of liquid needed during each hour.  Sports drinks have electrolytes.  Too much plain water can be dangerous due to electrolyte dilution.  Lesson Learned #2: Clothing-  I started running in cotton t-shirts, shorts and socks.  After getting overheated and chafed because cotton doesn't wick moisture and doesn't breathe when its wet, and after getting blisters when I started running 10+ miles, I discovered why runners wear polyester shorts and shirts, and poly-acrylic-lycra spandex socks.  Moisture and friction control!   Lesson Learned #3: Managing Plantar Faciitis-   Here's what worked for me:  1. Stretches that stretch the calf and Achilles tendon.  I loosen up a little before I run, but stretch a lot after I run.  2. I found over-the-counter cushioned arch support inserts that help a lot.  I started out wearing them running, but now I wear them all the time, except in the shower and in bed.  3. Ice: After a long run, I soak my feet in a bucket with ice and water for 5-10 minutes.  It makes sore feet feel better quickly.  Some people said that it would not heal unless I quit running for maybe a few months,  but with this combination, it is gradually improving even as I'm adding total mileage. 

There are a million and one training programs out there and a confusing array of possible techniques. Distance?  Speed?  Intervals?  Mile repeats?  Fartlek?  What's a newbie runner to do?  I think the answer is to do what works for you.   I'm training for marathon distance, so the long run is my key workout.  I tried speed work, but sprints aggravated my heel pain, so I quit.  What works for me is the Tempo Run, fast enough to be a push, but without too much extra shock. 

This is the weekly training formula that's working for me:
1. I run 6 days, and rest 1 day; 5 short runs and 1 long run.
2. For 4 days, I run easy pace and tempo pace on alternating days.
3. The day before my long run is for rest or light cross-training.
4. I run one long run per week.  When I add distance, I repeat it several consecutive weeks before adding distance again.
5. The day after my long run is for a short and easy recovery run.

Advice to New Runners:
1. Get a decent pair of shoes.  They don't have to be the most expensive; I look for good mid-range shoes on sale, but I'm a cheapskate.
2. Read articles. Learn.  There's a lot of information out there on the web.  Talk to runners.  There may be a few snobby elite types, but I haven't met any.  I've found runners to be an inclusive group that love to help other runners. 
3. Start out easy and increase gradually.
4. Shake up your routine.  Run easy some days and harder some days, shorter some days and longer on others. Give yourself some rest days.
5. Listen to your body.
6. Don't forget about #5.

Weekday Training: October 20-23

Friday - I didn't run; continued to rest up for Saturday. I almost went out to make up the missed Thursday run, but I like taking the day off before my weekly long run. It seems like it improves the quality of my long run to rest the day before, and run it with fresh legs. I didn't risk affecting my favorite run of the week for a routine three miles. However, I NEVER take off two consecutive days; I was feeling "restless feet" all day, and couldn't stop thinking about Saturday.

Thursday - I didn't run ; a cool front came through, bringing huge thuderstorms all morning. 
Wednesday - Easy run, 3.1 miles, 32:50, 10.48 pace, still pretty nice @70°.
Tuesday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:01, 9.36 pace, pleasant @62°.  Actually about 5 seconds behind my Tempo pace range, but I'm going to count it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Recovery Run and an Unexpected Reward

My normal routine is to take a slow Recovery Run on the morning following my weekly Long Run.  At 5 AM this morning, I had to force myself out of bed to run.  Normally, I can't wait to get up and run, but I ached more than normal, from the cumulative effect of Sunday's Long Run, followed by working in the yard all afternoon, followed by cycling in the evening.  I finally convinced myself that even a short run would help the soreness subside more quickly, and to at least run 1 ½ or 2 miles.  I didn't get on the road until 5:40, 10+ minutes later than normal.  Running was uncomfortable at first, but got easier as I warmed up, and I decided to go 2 miles.  At about ¾ mile, I got an unexpected reward:  I saw a meteor streak overhead, making a long, bright trail of light through the dark sky as it passed.  I felt pretty good by the end of the run, and my soreness was gone by the afternoon; this was the reward I expected from today's run.  The next time I'm tempted to stay in bed, I hope to remember that a day missed may also result in the loss of an unexpected reward.  (Run stats: 2.0 miles, 24:12, 12.10 pace.)

I've always been interested in astronomy; with a little research online I found that every October, the Earth passes through an area of space containing rock fragments and dust left by Halley's comet.  This results in an annual Orionid Meteor shower. The peak dates for this year were predicted to be October 16-27.  The debris is actually very close to Earth, but the meteors are called "Orionid" because from Earth, they appear to originate from the direction of the constellation Orion.  On the morning of this sighting, I had noticed that the constellation Orion was very prominent in the night sky, and the meteor did indeed seem to come from the general direction of Orion.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Awash in a Sea of Endorphins - A Great 16.4 Mile Run

Today's Long Run was an incredible, inspiring run.  No, I didn't set a new distance record, or run an incredibly fast pace.  I didn't run in a new location, or see any new sights, just the same park, same woods and same trails I run every weekend; still, it felt perfect in just about every way.  It was one of those runs that reminds me why I run.  Not why I started running, but why I continue to run; why I love to run.  I got on the trail at 6:50 AM, about a half hour before sunrise, in the low, pre-dawn light  that comes shortly before the sun breaks the horizon.  It was a perfect fall morning, about 50 degrees, with an invigorating chill in the air.  Starting out, the cool air made the run seem effortless; I was in "the Zone."  Before I realized it, I was at the 5-mile point, enjoying the sight of the sunlight trickling through the trees as the sun slowly rose.  As the sun rose higher, it came with a light, cool breeze that felt so good as I warmed with the increasing miles.

This was my second week of training at a 16.4-mile distance (my longest distance to date).  My formula recently has been to repeat each new distance several times before increasing distance again.  I just wanted to run it more comfortably and a little quicker.  To that end, I started out pushing it a little, and I probably ran near Tempo pace through 8 or 9 miles.  As I started to tire a little, I decided, on this perfect morning, to forget about the time and savor this run for the running, not for the mileage, and not for the time. So, I slowed down a little and just ran by feel, and by instinct, and let everything else take care of itself.  To some extent, the process of training for a marathon can lead to focus on numbers, and sure, one has to pay some attention to the numbers to stay on track.  I have a tendency to get hung up on stats: miles, pace, heart rate, etc.  But on this special morning, this run itself was more important. Slowing down a little resulted in a second wind, and I was able to pick it up in the last couple of miles instead of struggling at the finish.  Felt great.

Back to the numbers: 16.4 miles, 2:53:50, 10.60 pace.  In absolute terms, nothing to brag about, but 3:17 under last week's time...

Sunday evening - Back through the park on bicycle before dinner, 7.4 miles, just to warm up again while still achy from the morning run.  Same concept as a recovery run.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

No Impact Week

Sunday, October 18, 2009 marks the start of  No Impact Week.  According to the website, "It is a chance for you to see what a difference no-impact living can have on your quality of life. It’s not about giving up creature comforts but an opportunity for you to test whether the modern “conveniences” you take for granted are actually making you happier or just eating away at your time and money."

No Impact Week grew out of the No Impact Project, one family's fascinating "year-long experiment living a zero-waste lifestyle in New York City." The No Impact Man blog is also good reading.

Environmentally-concerned individuals may sign up via the website to participate.  Many people may find it is not possible to follow all of the "no impact" methods for an entire week (much less an entire year); however, I don't believe improvements are"all or nothing" propositions.  Follow the links and read.  See what works for you.  Where "no impact" isn't achievable, "low impact" is the next-best thing!  The collective power of many people just doing what they can is powerful.

The How-To Manual is published for the No Impact Week event, but is a nice collection of suggestions to live an eco-friendly lifestyle.  A lot of environmentally-conscious people already practice some or many of them.  It's a good reference to find ideas and choose ones that will work for you.

Weekly Training: October 12-17

Monday through Saturday:
Saturday - No running; rest up for a Sunday Long Run.  Bicycled 2.5 miles with my wife in the afternoon.
Friday - Cool front coming through!  Tempo Run, 3.1 miles, 27:40, 8.92 pace, 69°, 85% humidity.
Thursday - Easy Run, 3.1 miles, 32:37, 10.52 pace; 77°, 97% humidity.
Wednesday - Tempo Run, 3.1 miles, 29:03, 9.37 pace; super-muggy at 5:30 AM: 77°, 98% humidity.
Tuesday - Easy Run, 3.1 miles, 31:21, 10.12 pace; warming up, 75°, 98% humidity.
Monday - NiceTempo Run, 3.1 miles, 28:07, 9.07 pace, enjoying the last of the cool front: 65°, 95% humidity. Still a little twinge in the knee, but continuing to improve.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekly Training - October 5-11: 16.4 Mile Run Saturday, A New Distance Milestone!

Sunday - Nice Recovery Run, 3.5 miles, 40:14, at 11.50 pace, right in the middle of my recovery range per the McMillan Running Calculator.  I was a little tentative because of pain in the left knee that was more than I'm used to.  My knees don't usually hurt, but I've been getting a little knee pain following my weekly Long Run since I've been stretching the distance.  However, it usually goes away in a day or two, so I haven't been overly concerned.  Today, it got  a little better after a couple of miles, and was much less by evening.

Saturday - A new distance milestone: 16.4 miles!  Less than 10 miles from the goal!  I guess that's an extra benefit to training for a first marathon: as training progresses, there are constant rewards from reaching a series of intermediate goals.  Saturday was a great day for a long run, 59° at 7 AM.  I took the same route through the park; just added one more 2.2 mile lap.  My goals were modest: to complete the distance, and to try to sustain a 11:00 pace or better.  On previous new distances, my first attempt has been SLOW.  The pace turned out OK, had a few ebbs and flows, but kept finding second and third winds.  I didn't really struggle much until about the last half-mile, and finished up at 2:57:07, a 10.80 pace.  I'll take it.  The next one will be better.

Monday through Friday:  Nature played a cruel trick; after a few days of mostly cooler morning temps following the official onset of Fall, night-time lows and humidity crept back up to July-August levels this week.  It has no businees being 81° at 5:30 AM in October!  Started out oppressive Monday; trending up to miserable by Thursday.  My pace suffered.  But enough whining.  A cool front is coming Friday!

Friday - No running - rest for Saturday's Long Run.
Thursday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 34:04, 10.99 pace, 81°, 98% humidity.
Wednesday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:37, 9.55 pace, 79°, 95% humidity.
Tuesday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 32:56, 10.62 pace, 80°, 96% humidity.
Monday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:42, 9.58 pace, 76°, 94% humidity.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Need To Get In The Water...

I haven't gotten the kayak wet since June.  That's too long; I need to get the boat in the water again soon...  Why do I like to kayak?     (Click Pictures to enlarge.)

1. To Get Close To Nature

You get a "water-level" view.  It's a perspective you don't get in any other boat.
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

You can take a kayak into areas that most people can never see.
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

You can go anywhere; you're not limited by shallow water or narrow passages.
You'll never get a motor boat in here!
(Cypress backwater - Lake Charlotte - Chambers County, TX)

Kayaking is so quiet; no noisy motor to scare off the wildlife. 
I coasted up within 10 feet of this heron.
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

2. Kayaking is Earth-Friendly

Human-powered boating, no motor, no exhaust fumes, no waste of precious fossil-fuel, no pollution.
You can use your paddle to scoop litter out of the water.  Eco-Kayaking!

Some protected nature preserves don't allow motors.  Yay!
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

3. Kayaking is Relaxing 

Getting close to nature is a perfect way to relax and get rid of stress.
(Cedar Bayou - Harris/Chambers County, TX)

4. Kayaking is Great Exercise

Paddling on the waterways is good aerobic excercise; good for upper-body conditioning. 
Good for the body as well as the soul!
(Armand Bayou - Harris County, TX)

Sunday, October 4, 2009


On weekends, I run the trails through our local parks. As I run, I pick up litter along the way, bring the recyclables home and put them in a recycling bin to put out at the weekly curbside pickup, and drop the non-recyclables in the trash barrels in the park. Why?
1. Because I hate litter.
2. Because I hate the idea of recyclable items not being recycled.  Such a waste of resources!

Here's the return from my Sunday run in the park. 
I carry a reuseable bag in my pocket, but I'll fill a discarded plastic shopping bag instead, if I see one on the ground.

These were all laying along the trails in the park.  Disgusting!

Here's where this stuff belongs:  in recycling buckets!

I've been doing this for several years, and I knew that there had to be other people out there doing the same thing.  Earlier this year, I came across the Eco-Runner blog, which has since evolved into the Eco-Runner website, founded by Sam Huber in Milwaukee.  Sam has combined a passion for running with a passion for a cleaner world, and called it Eco-Running.  I'm pleased to see the spirit of volunteer environmental cleanup growing from an individual activity into a movement.  Check out these links, and...

Run Green!

Weekly Training - September 28 - October 4

Sunday - Recovery Run.  Humidity is back!  7:40 AM, 75 degrees, 95% humidity, light drizzle.  Nice, easy run, 3.5 miles, 38:53, 11.11 pace.

Saturday - I thought about adding a couple of miles on this week's long run, but instead decided to repeat the 14.2 miler for a third straight week, and get more comfortable with this distance.  Two weeks ago, I struggled to make the 14, and last Saturday I ran it fairly comfortably but REALLY slowly.  My goal today was to run it stronger and cut some time off; target 11-minute/mile pace or less.  Same route, 1 mile from home to the park to home, plus 6 x 2.2-mile laps on the park trails.

I got started a few minutes later than I intended, 7:08 AM, right at sunrise.  It was a nice morning for a good run, 69 degrees, 76% humidity, cloudy with a light breeze.  I felt like I started out about right but  it took some adjustment to find the right pace.  My first pace check was the end of the first lap, and I was about two minutes behind through 2.7 miles.  So I picked up the pace a little; it still felt comfortable, and I kind or settled into a groove.   At the pace check at the end of the next lap at 4.9 miles, I'd made up all but a few seconds of the two minutes.  At the end of the third lap, the halfway point, I was a little ahead of target.  Marathon Mike was just hitting the trail, and he ran with me for the last 3 laps.  Mike's a strong runner, and it always helps to have someone to pace against. Mike seemed to kind of adjust to my stride, and I tried to keep up the tempo and not slow him down.  We talked as we ran; Mike has a lot of good advice for marathon preparation.  The conversation helped the remaining laps pass more easily.  By about mile 13, I started getting a little out of breath, but finished up without too much of a struggle.  I took several short walk breaks, fewer and shorter than last week, a minute or less each, and finished 2:30:44, a 10.62 pace.  This was 18 ½ minutes less than last Saturday's time.  Saturday evening:  biked about 3 miles with my wife, slow and easy: it just felt good to loosen up tight leg muscles a little following the long morning run.

Friday - No run - rest up for Saturday.
Thursday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 32:55, 10.62 pace.
Wednesday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 28:37, 9.23 pace.
Tuesday - Easy run, 3.1 miles. 31:03, 10.02 pace.
Monday - Tempo run, 3.1 miles, 29:15, 9.44 pace.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Running Milestones

Most miles in a month: 120.7
Most miles in a week: 29.8, week ending September 20.
Longest run to date: 14.2 miles, September 19.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekly Training, September 21-27

Sunday: Recovery run; Nice and easy; 3.2 miles; 37:49; 11.81 pace. 7:45 AM, 76 degrees, 96% humidity. Resting HR: 49 bpm; Workout HR: 143 bpm.

Saturday: 14.2 miles. Started @6:45 AM, 71 degrees, 98% humidity. No new record attempt today, just aiming to hold last week's gains by doing last Saturday's new distance a second time. For a little change up, I experimented with Jeff Galloway's Run-Walk approach to long run training. For this experiment, I walked 1 to 2 minutes for every 8 to 10 minutes of running. The idea is that the walk breaks push the fatigue factor further back, allowing for a stronger finish. Today, this approach resulted in a longer total time than last Saturday's 14 miler; 2:49:22, 11.93 pace. However, it seemed like each level of fatigue came about two miles later than the previous run. Last week, I struggled to complete the distance, and this week I felt like I could have gone a couple additional miles. I also think I could reduce the walk times and get the same benefit. Galloway says that the early-mile breaks are more important than later-mile breaks.
Here's a link to an article by Jeff Galloway.

Monday through Friday: Alternating Easy runs and Tempo Runs. As I've read more, I decided to try substituting Tempo Runs for the sprint intervals. The sprint pace came with enough extra shock to aggravate my heel pain. Like most runners, I'll experiment with a lot of methods and settle on what works best for me. Unfortunately, I've mostly learned "what not to do" the hard way; by trying things and quitting whatever hurts. Anyway, the Tempo seems like a good middle ground, harder than long-run and easy-run pace, but not not nearly as intense as all-out sprints. In theory, Tempo sounds good for long-distance training. Seems like there is a lot of confusion out there about what a Tempo Run is. I had to search a little bit to find articles that defined it well.  It's just a run of at least 20 minutes at threshold pace.  The idea is to train just below Lactate Threshold (or Anaerobic Threshold), or at 85 - 90% of max heart rate, which results in pushing the LT/AT farther back.  The training should boost speed, and also help delay onset of "the wall" on longer runs. Pace is easy to determine by using a heart rate monitor.  To determine pace based on time, The McMillan Running Calculator  is a good tool.  The calculator estimates running time for various race distances based on a good, recent race time at another distance.  It also gives pace ranges for different types of workout runs, including Tempo Runs.
Here's a link to a good article on Tempo Runs. 
Here's a link to another Tempo Run article.

Monday: Tempo Run; 3.1 miles; 28:16; 9.12 pace.
Tuesday: Easy Run; 3.1 miles; 30:44; 9.91 pace.
Wednesday: Tempo Run; 3.1 miles; 28:12; 9.10 pace.
Thursday: Easy Run; 3.1 miles; 31:08; 10.03 pace.
Friday: Rest Day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Bottled Water Scam

The sale of bottled water is a case of brilliant marketing—to convince the public to buy filtered bottled water—at a price per gallon that is higher than gasoline! The cost is great to the environment and to the consumer. 

Most plastic bottles do not get recycled.  Even if the bottles are recycled, they are the product of an energy consuming supply chain.  Bottling plants consume a lot of energy.  In addition, consider the diesel fuel consumed, and the resulting air pollution, from transporting thousands of truckloads of bottled water all over the country every day.

And the cost to the consumer—if a 16 oz. bottle of water costs $1, that’s $8 a gallon, twice as much as gasoline at its summer 2008 peak! What a scam!  It is ironic that we pay this price for water in a nation that has the cleanest and most widely available public water systems in the world.

A few statistics:

  • 70 million bottles of water are consumed in the U.S. each day.
  • Americans threw more than 22 billion water bottles in the trash in 2006.
  • Eight out of 10 plastic water bottles become landfill waste.
  • Plastic bottles take 700 years before they begin to decompose in a landfill.
  • It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture a year’s supply of bottled water. Apply the principle of supply and demand and consider the effect of the demand for a needless 1.5 million barrels of oil on the price of our gasoline! 
Most bottled water is just filtered municipal tap water.  We can save hundreds of dollars per year (and help the environment) by buying any one of several types of filtering pitchers or systems, filtering our own tap water, and filling our own reusable water bottles. The result is water that is just as clean and good-tasting as commercially filtered water.

As a runner, in addition to water, I use sports drinks for electrolyte replacement and for energy.  I've found that a good substitute for a bottled sports drink is a powdered sports drink and a reuseable aluminum bottle.  For a 32 ounce sports drink, consider how much fuel it takes to ship a few grams of powder, versus the fuel it takes to ship the same ingredients added to 2 pounds of water!  Sugar-free powdered electrolyte mixes come in a lot of flavors, and come in very small packets that fit easily in a pocket.   I like these when I just need hydration.  When my bottle is empty, I refill at a water fountain, and add the powder.  For long endurance runs, I may want a carb boost in addition to the electrolytes, so I carry the sugar-sweetened Gatorade mix in pre-measured portions in small containers.  I find that small prescription bottles make good containers for powder.

Run Green!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 20, 2009 - Recovery Run

Recently, I’ve been taking Sunday off after my Saturday long run. However, today I decided to try following the long run with a “recovery run.” I didn’t think about starting this technique until recently; I just started really pushing the long run distance last month. When I first started increasing distance, I followed the long run with a normal medium distance hard run on the next day. That turned out to be a mistake. Then, for several weeks, I took the day following the long run off completely. That worked out better. However, recently I’ve been reading more about the benefits of the recovery run. Here's a link to a good recovery run article. 
To summarize, this article discusses the widely-held assumption that recovery runs, relatively short, slow runs within 24 hours after a harder run, clear lactic acid from the legs and facilitate recovery from preceding hard training. In this article the author maintains that lactic acid levels return to normal within an hour after a workout; that recovery runs do not actually enhance recovery. He sees the real benefit of recovery runs coming from working out again in a state of lingering fatigue from the previous training. Long runs boost fitness by taking the body well beyond the point of initial fatigue; recovery runs are performed entirely in a fatigued state, so they boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.

So, I took a 3.2 miler, very slow and easy, 44:37, had to consciously hold back to keep it really comfortable and stayed under 125 bpm. It felt good- a light workout while still a little achy warmed everything up and seemed to help the aches, without being hard enough to cause any additional fatigue or foot pain.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 19, 2009 - New Distance Milestone!

Today’s goal-- stretch the long run a little farther, to 14.2 miles: 1 mile between the house and the trail in the park, out-and-back, plus 6 laps in the park, 2.2 miles each.
Laps 1 and 2: Nice, comfortable running, in the groove, feeling good, endorphins flowing like water. The sun is just now rising, and it’s a beautiful morning in the park. It’s 72 degrees, and feels soooo much better than the 78 to 82 degree morning lows that we’ve had since June.
Lap 3: Concentrating on mechanics. Smooth stride, staying relaxed. Feeling like I can go like this all day. I’m a running machine. I own the trail. The trail is mine.
Lap 4: A little fatigue was setting in around the end of mile 7; a little second wind building in mile 8.
Lap 5: Struggling a little more going into mile 10; my HRM is reading 160 bpm. I don’t need to push too long beyond 95% of max HR. I had thoughts about cutting this one off after 5 laps, and slowed down to a walk. After about 2 minutes, HR was down to 128, and I continued the run at a little slower pace.
Lap 6: The slower pace feels OK, 145 - 150 bpm, and what's one more lap at this point? Just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, and this approach gets me home, 14.2 miles, 2:39:05, 11.2 min/mi. Another new distance PR. My feet were a little sore, and I soaked them in a bucket of ice water...OH YEAH. Afterwards, after soaking, stretching and showering, I felt pretty good.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekday Workouts, September 14-18

3.1 mile runs Monday through Thursday morning, plus an extra 3.2 miles on the bicycle Tuesday afternoon, to double-check my weekend lap distance with the GPS. No run on Friday morning, just a light cross-training day (6.2 miles, bicycle) to be fresh for the Saturday long run.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekly Training, September 7-13

Sunday - Day off; Rest and recovery.

Saturday - I backed off to 11.5 miles; my left heel still a little sore after this week's sprints, no need to push another distance record yet. I tried a little different variation and skipped the carb loading for the long run. I'd been loading up to provide extra energy for the increasingly longer runs, to prevent running out of gas before making the distance I wanted. However, I read about a training program that recommended skipping the carb load on some of the long runs. The theory is that by intentionally letting the glycogen reserves become depleted, it trains the body to switch over to drawing on stored fats for energy when needed. And then by loading carbs after the run, in a more depleted state, the muscles would adapt to store more glycogen than before. Just have to be prepared to "hit the wall" and push through it during the transition. Sure enough, heavy fatigue set in after about an hour and a half, and the rest of the way was a struggle, taking 7 more minutes than the same distance two weeks before. I don't think I'll continue to carb-deprive myself. Maybe something to try later, after I've worked up to marathon distance.

Friday - I planned to take a rest day Friday before my Saturday long run. However, after skipping Thursday, I ran another 5K Friday instead (feet still a little sore, resulting in a slow run - 30:41).

Thursday - Unplanned rest day due to early morning thuderstorm.

Wednesday - 8 x 400 meter sprints, resulting in sore feet. I'm going to back off of the fast runs; they give a harder pounding to the feet. The most important thing at this point is continuing the long runs.

Tuesday - Nice 5K, felt good, decent time, 27:47, 8.96 pace.

Monday, September 7, Labor Day - I felt good after resting Sunday, and tried a new trail, the Goose Creek Stream Greenbelt Hike and Bike Trail. It starts out by the Bayland Park marina near where Goose Creek meets Tabbs Bay, off of Galveston Bay. The trail follows Goose Creek upstream and links two other Baytown city parks, turning around, and returning along the same route. It's a 2.44 mile trail, out-and-back, for a 4.88 mile total. The trail also has a couple of nice uphill stretches that I don't get on my routine routes. I didn't feel like I was pushing the pace, but made it in 42:28.29; 8.7 minutes/mile, only 0.07 off my best 5K pace.
Here's a link to trail details.