Sunday, December 30, 2007

Recap of my final week of 2007

With today's long run, I completed my 55-mile week right as planned. I put together a very solid string of training runs in sync with Pfitzinger’s schedule for the LCFB Marathon. This was by far the most mileage I have ever put in during Christmas week.

I was visiting my in-laws in South Pittsburgh for the holiday and completed four of my five workouts there this week. They live near the Montour Trail, which is a series of scenic paths that surround the south and west of Pittsburgh, tucked within the suburbs.

Mon 12/24 – Rest / travel to Pittsburgh

Tue 12/25 – Christmas Day – 6 miles with 6x100m strides

Wed 12/26 – 12 miles with 7 at LT pace (6:38-6:40) – 1:26:50 total (7:14 avg pace)

This was a killer workout on the local high school track. Pfitz calls for MP for 7 miles on this run. However, I wanted to run LT pace, since I had struggled to put in some of the schedule LT miles due to weather.

I warmed up with a mile and then picked it up to target 400m splits in the 1:38-1:40 range. In summary, I nailed 28 straight – only stopping for 20 sec’s to grab some Gatorade. I then finished up with another 16 laps at 1:50-1:55 per split.

This workout indicates I could easily crush my 10k PR (which is not surprising to me, since my 10k PR is not in line with my other PR’s) I never in my life dreamed that I could run 48.5 consecutive laps on a 400m track, but I did it on this day.

Not to mention the fact that I did it in 1:26:50 (which equals 7:14/mile, right on BQ pace).

Thu 12/27 – Rest

Fri 12/28 – 12 miles – 7:22 avg pace – avg HR: 158

There is steady grade upward on the Montour Trail for several miles when heading north from Peters Township, PA, which makes for a really fast second half of an out and back. I averaged 7:03 for my final 5 miles as I cruised down the grade. Rockin’ workout.

Sat 12/29 – Montour Trail, PA - 5 miles recovery – 8:32 average

Sun 12/30 – Plainfield, IL - 20 long – 7:38 average – final mile at 7:05

With my workouts quite intense on Wed and Fri, my goal was to run this 20 around 7:40-7:45 avg pace. I took the fuel belt and explored new territory of the western side of Plainfield. My hope was to make no stops on this 20-miler, but I took a brief break at Larry’s Diner to use the can.

All and all, it was a very good long training run. My overall average pace was 7:38. My avg HR of 151 suggests very good conditioning. I won’t say the run was easy, but no solo 20-miler ever is.

Total for the week: 55 miles

With a planned rest day tomorrow, I am done running in 2007. I have finished with 2,101 miles. I will reflect on my year in running tomorrow and post my 2008 goals on New Year's Day.

If you are blogging these days, I look forward to reading your running goals, or whatever personal goals you may have for 2008. This is the best time of year to set goals. I feel such life and energy when the new year approaches. We all should take time to celebrate our successes for ’07 and plan an even more prosperous ’08.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Best Winter Form Ever

The LCFB Marathon is 8 weeks away. I will continue to work toward setting a marathon PR on Feb 17th. However, I may have to work a bit harder than I would in fall temperatures according to this RW article.

"When your core temperature drops below 98.6°F, your body requires 15 to 20 percent more oxygen to maintain the same pace". Great. And the temperature will be, what, 15 degrees if we're lucky?

For this past week, I kept right to schedule with Pfitzinger's 55mpw program by running a step back week of 43 miles.

Some highlights:

  • Wed - Did 5x600m repeats on subdivision streets since the local track was covered in 6 inches of snow. I targeted 2:15 in 0.38 mi increments, which is about 6:00 min pace for 600 m. Finished with 8 miles
  • Sat - Carried the fuel belt and ran a solid 14-miler with no breaks. Finished with a 6:31 mile (7:30 avg for the entire run).
  • Sun - Hid from the 40mph wind gusts and hit the gym treadmill for a steady 8-miler.
I've arrived at peak mileage week in the program. I am eager to hit 55 miles this week while visiting the in-laws in Pittsburgh. Provided I can juggle family commitments, I don't anticipate any difficulty in doing so.

One important workout this week is the 12-miler on Wednesday, which includes 7 at lactate threshold pace. I haven't had much LT work this training cycle, so I plan to be very disciplined and to the splits on a track. I'm guessing my LT pace is about 6:40.

On Sunday, I will push my planned 20-miler in the range of 7:25-7:30 with a fast finish. I hope the weather is cooperative on Sunday. This run will put me over 2,100 miles for 2007.

I am really good shape for December 24th. In fact, this definitely the best running shape that I have ever achieved in mid-winter.

Time to set your 2008 running goals, if you haven't already. I will be working diligently on my plan over this week's Christmas break.

Happy Christmas to all who read this.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Breaking M2K

I logged 50 miles this week, which peaked today with a killer 12-miler in the snow at faster than goal marathon pace. I am stoked about the outcome of today's run given the struggle I had yesterday.

I intended to knock out 15 with 12 at MP yesterday at the Aboretum, but something wasn't right for me. Suppose it's not wise to schedule a MP run through such rolling hills. Either way, I did not have the pep or the energy level, so I retired after seven. I stormed back today.

Over half of my 50 this week came during four days spent at the Connecticut office and contending with the usual tribulations of the winter weather. I did 4 miles at LT pace on the track early morning on Tuesday as part of a 13 miler.

Recap of 12/10 week

Mon - Rest / Travel to CT
Tue - 13 w/4 at LT
Wed - 7 rec+hills -8:23 avg pace
Thu - 6 - 7:42 avg
Fri - 5 rec - 8:24
Sat - 7 G.A - 7:42 avg pace
Sun - 12 at MP - 7:05 avg pace

TOTAL: 50 miles

I'm thrilled to report that I broke the 2,000 mile barrier in 2007 with today's run. I stand at 2,003 YTD. Depending how I juggle the schedule, I should land somewhere between 2,101 and 2,109 miles for the year. Fun fact: This is the approximate distance from my house to San Francisco!

Comparing 2,100+ miles in '07 to last year's total of 1,632 really amazes me. What's more, I earned Executive Platinum status on AA, so you could say that I had some traveling to juggle.

Nine weeks until the LCFB Marathon on February 17th, 2007. I'm motivated to get that PR in the depths of winter.

Product Review: AirDrives Headphones

One of the more enjoyable aspects about being an experienced contributor in the running blogspace is the occasional invitation to test and review products that apply to the running lifestyle. I have been asked to trial energy supplements, hydration products and now audio accessories.

This post is dedicated to a review of AirDrives audio heaphones.

I’ll admit that I’m not a running purist. Music gets me through most of my solo training runs. High-energy tunes can often inspire me through some tough miles and soulful tracks can help me explore my thoughts during my runs. However, I do adhere to a very strict no-Ipod policy for races. With training mileage eclipsing 50 miles right now, I was excited to give a new pair of headphones a try.

It is noteworthy that I am fairly brand-loyal to a pair Sony lightweight, in-ear headphones model # MDR-W08 that I use during my training runs. I have replaced them a few times in the past few years for a retail price of $10.99. This product provides an outstanding value.

The Sony MDR-W08 design is lightweight, flexible and provides a decent sound output to last me through even the toughest of twenty-milers, as last Saturday’s run would demonstrate. The balance of treble and punchy bass is really impressive for the lightweight, flexible design.

And should the Sonys break through all of my miles, travels, abuse and wear-and-tear? I trek the 0.3 mile journey to my local target and cheerfully shell out another $10.99 for a replacement pair. My current Sony headphones is my benchmark to which I compared the AirDrives.

The concept of the AirDrives headphones is innovative and well-intended: Create high-quality, lightweight durable personal headphones that allow the user to listen to tunes, while providing increased sensitivity to loud noises or hazards while out on the road. For runners and other athletes, this means improved hearing which would help avoid accidents, reckless vehicles and careless bikers. The design is also intended to protect hearing by not blasting right into your eardrum.

The design is somewhat similar to other headsets in the market that have ear hangers that hold the audio bud against your ear. What’s different is that the AirDrives design places a speaker near, but not “in”, your ear canal and direct the sound across.

First, I found that the plastic “ear hang” approach is not stable enough for a pinhead like me whose ears do not have much girth to fill out the clips. While I did read the instructions carefully on how to position the earphones, I did find it a challenge to find the best placement for the earphones to remain secure. Once you fiddle with them, you can get them to stay in place, but it’s not a convenient as throwing on other, more intuitively designed earphones. As a result, I will admit that I did not log too many miles with the AirDrives.

Second, the unit I received seemed to have an issue with the volume control switch. The volume coming out of each earphone did not seem to be consistently equal. Whenever I fiddled with the volume switch and gave it a gentle squeeze, the earphone with the lower volume would immediately perk up with more sound. After messing with it, I could eventually get them to equal out at peak volume. Maybe I got a bum pair? Whatever the case, this minor annoyance gave me an impression of a lower quality product.

Third, forget about using these things if there is any ambient noise around you whatsoever. To put the AirDrives to an overly extreme test, I tried them on a flight from New York to Chicago. Any audiophile would be appalled and even the casual user would be frustrated. With its open-ear design, the product basically has the opposite of the noise-canceling feature high-end headphones that are so popular among air travelers.

While I realize the designers did not intend for the product to be used in loud environments, the fact is versatility is important for many consumers when buying headphones. Even in a relatively quiet environment, I could not get the sound quality that most people would want. It sounded like I was listening to two mini transistor radios set next to my ears.

Finally, I wrote most of this review before I knew how much I would have had to shell out at Best Buy to get a pair of the AirDrives on my own. When I learned the MSRP is set at $99, it was easy for me to decide that I would not be recommending these to friends. I’m hopeful the next model will deliver higher quality and performance for this kind of price.

Bottom Line: The maker of AirDrives needs to significantly improve its design, audio and hardware quality and overall performance to be a viable competitor at the $99 price point. In its current design, I do not feel there will be a high rate of repeat purchase or recommendations to other consumers.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Commiting to Marathon #11 - 52 mile week

It's official. I am signed up for the Last Chance For Boston Marathon in Dublin (Columbus), Ohio, which will be #11. My e-registration is complete. My hotel room, airfare and car rental are all booked. If I BQ, I may go to Boston in April, depending on how Jen's pregnancy goes. I don't want to think about Boston now. I just want to do the best I can in Dublin.

The decision was tough on which race to register. I learned of a contingent from my local running group that are going to Tampa. I spent a great deal of time pondering if I should go back to Tampa today. I even pontificated Austin for a brief moment.

However, I did not want to go these larger city, further away marathons by myself. The wife will not be traveling with me and she is my #1 fan. Plus, it is a bit late to get choice flights and hotels for these larger marathons, so I bagged it. Much more expensive proposition and I didn't want to go it alone. A quick 1-night trip to run a marathon on a fast, flat looped course suits me fine in February.

Most importantly, besides it being the most convenient, I decided on this marathon to revisit an interesting part of my past. Little known fact is that I lived in Dublin, OH from 1998 to 2000 as I began my career with The Scotts-MiracleGro Company. So it is a bit of a homecoming for me.

Despite the challenging wind, rain, ice and snow that hit us this week, I hit 52 miles out of the 54 planned. Tuesday's run in the wet, blinding flurries was not all the fun (I could barely see since I had to do it at night) - but I ran 7:30's for 10 miles. Thursday's 11-miler at 6:00 AM was frigid. The highlight of the week was Saturday's 20-miler at the Aboretum. See splits below.

Off to Connecticut for work on a 6:40 flight to LaGuardia tomorrow AM. The target is 47 miles while away from home until Thursday this week. On pace for 2,098 miles in 2007.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Comeback Week Of 48 miles

I've been fighting the onslaught of a cold for a few days now. More notably, today I endured the wind, ice and freezing rain that hit the Chicago area only to knock out 18 miles. The weather was miserable.

I started about 10:00 AM today thinking the front had passed and got slammed with a very, icy cold downpour at mile 2. I decided to turn around and head back to the house. By the time I finished 3.5 miles and arrived at the house, I was freezing, drenched and pissed.

I quickly dried off, changed, warmed up and waited out the rain... or so I thought. About 40 minutes later, I headed back out since the forecast indicated the rain had passed. Nope.

Both times I was underdressed with shorts and a long-sleeve shirt since the forecast said "RealFeel" of 49 with no rain. I don't think so, Mr. Weather Man.

I changed clothes a third time at the 14 mile mark and this time was smart enough to put on pants and a wind jacket to help fend off the moisture. Thank goodness, because the steady rain started up again.

It's days like these that I am really proud of completing a hard workout. It's hard enough putting in 18 all by yourself, but when you are contending with wind, rain and ice, it makes it that much more meaningful. My average pace was 7:46 for the day.

All and all, I feel pretty good. I felt a slight soreness in my right hamstring. Nothing serious, I do not think.

I hit 48 miles for the week, which is a monster comeback after the Achilles scare of last week. I had a steady 10-miler on Wed eve after getting re-settled from London.

With limited daylight and brisk temperatures, the 50+ mile weeks do not come as easy as we head into the winter. I hope to try for 54 miles this week, which is right out of Pfitzinger's plan.

If I can successfully hit 50+ this week and stay healthy, I will probably sign up for the LCFB Marathon next week, which is on February 17, 2008. If I hit all planned miles for the remainder of 2007, I will have run exactly 2,100 miles for the year. Astounding.