Aug 05

20-miler for Week #29

Today’s marathon training was a 20-mile endurance run, with some targeted heart-rate work for a main set. I got up early to eat, and to watch Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan in the Olympic Marathon. On that tough and rainy course, Shalane finished 10th, and Kara finished 11th, not far from the leader. It was a solid showing by both of them, though I know they were both hoping for more. Their effort was absolutely inspiring.

So, I headed out the door a little later than I probably should have…8am. It was still cool, just 68-degrees, but I knew I’d pay for it later when it started to get hot. Boy was I right. It reached 80-degrees pretty quickly, and the course I had chosen was very exposed.

Nonetheless, I had an easy time hitting my target heart-rate zones for the first half, with decent paces around 10-min/mi., and a bit faster for the 8-mile set of zone-3 heart rate work. It was after that set that I sunk into a funk.

I had trouble getting my heart-rate back down to zone-2 for the remaining miles, even with some very, very slow jogging. At several points, I slowed it down to a brisk walk to get my heart-rate down to zone 2. It was weird. I wasn’t hurting very much, or breathing heavily, just experiencing some significant cardiac-drift. Maybe it was the heat, or the hills, or stress for this upcoming week of work. I don’t know. But, I stayed committed to my target-zones, despite the drastic addition of time to finish up.

As a result, my run lasted a painful 4-hours, with my last 5-mile splits all in a mind-numbing 12 to 14-min/mi. pace. It was a slog in the heat. Almost 12-hours later now, and I still feel pretty thrashed.

The positive point in this is that I had zero pain or discomfort in my Achilles, which has been nagging me for several weeks. However, it’s overshadowed by the big hit to my confidence. How am I possibly going to run a 3:15 marathon in a month if a 20-miler today took me 4-hours?

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Jul 23

Is Chariots of Fire a good running track?

photo credit:

Apparently, some research has been done on this question. Check out the BBC article HERE, and see for yourself. And THIS is another link to a related article. Or, read on for my hack-summary…

The research basically determined that it’s an ideal motivational song for getting runners “in the mood” to perform well. It signals their brain to conjure up images of of being the hero, pushing through pain on a wide open beach while wearing too-short white shorts. And, that the tempo is not fast enough to have the same effect while actually running. The research also addressed the importance of having the correct beats-per-minute if you were to listen to music while running.

It went on to list the top-20 motivational songs for running (according to only the researcher), which is all over the map in terms of beats-per-minute. There’s only one song on the list that’s remotely close to the bpm I need to match my cadence.

The real problem with this research is that the author assumes runners have seen the movie, “Chariots of Fire”. If not, then how would the music conjure the correct images? Or, would it? That might be an interesting bit of research…is the music just a trigger for a movie-memory, or is there something organic about the music itself?

What are your favorite running tracks?

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Jul 22

18.5-mile run in Jersey

This morning’s scheduled marathon training was a 18.5-mile endurance run, with mile repeats in the middle. Although it was only 65-degrees at 6:30am, it was so humid that I was drenched by the end of the second mile. By the time the run was finished, the temp was up to 80-degrees, and I couldn’t wait to get back to my parents house and into their pool.

It was super-nice to have company on my run. My dad joined me on his bike, and my brother joined me part-way through to run the intervals with me in the middle. I had a main set of six mile-repeats with 2-minutes recovery in between. The target for the mile-repeats was a zone 4 heart rate, and I also wanted to practice running at the new higher cadence of 90bpm. Aside from those pick-ups, with a nagging Achilles issue, I was content to run conservatively and make sure I could cover the distance without too much pain to deal with, and without making the injury worse.

So, after a warm-up mile, I settled into a rhythm at a 10:30/mi pace up to the intervals, and dropped back down after the intervals. I finished in 3:10 with an average heart rate of 156bpm for the distance. Here are my splits and heart rate averages for today:

1 – 10:10 – 136bpm
2 – 10:26 – 149
3 – 10:32 – 150
4 – 10:21 – 149
5 – 10:51 – 149
6 – 10:21 – 151
7 – 10:36 – 150
8 – 10:47 – 150
9 – 9:16 – 162
10 – 9:33 – 166
11 – 9:19 – 167
12 – 9:42 – 168
13 – 9:08 – 166
14 – 9:56 – 166
15 – 11:06 – 162
16 – 10:45 – 166
17 – 13:39 – 157
18 – 11:43 – 159bpm
0.3 – 2:53 (8:53/mi) – 172bpm
0.2 – cool down walk

Here’s hoping that my calf and Achilles recovers quickly! Ice and elevation…

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Jul 18

Road-trip running

While traveling across the country in my in-laws’ RV, I wasn’t about to skip out on my scheduled marathon training runs. It just meant getting up really early to get it done before it was time for us to leave the campground and hit the road again. So, yesterday I was up at 5am to sneak out onto the farmland roads of Montgomery City, MO.

The run was a 6-mile over distance workout, containing 12x100m intervals, with full walk recoveries in between. This was also my first run in new shoes, which felt light and fast.

It was hot and humid, even at 5am! It was 78-degrees at the start of my run, out of the campground and onto a road that became a frontage road paralleling I-70 near exit 170.

The sun rose at the horizon line of the road, and illuminated my path ahead in red.

The exit sign was my interval turnaround point.[/caption]The farmland was awash in a sepia glow. If it weren’t for the noise of the nearby interstate, it would have been downright serene.


The run was high quality, and I pushed hard, enjoying the extra oxygen at this elevation. My intervals were done at around 4:30/mi pace, and after the intervals, I put in a solid mile and a half at 6:45/mi pace for the whole way. During slight downhill part, I felt a twinge of re-aggravation in my right Achilles and eased up for the last half-mile.

It was quite sore when I finished, and I iced and elevated it throughout the day on the road, except for a pretty cool tourist stop to explore the St. Louis Arch with my family.


Hopefully it will be good-to-go for my next run, an eleven-mile tempo run on Thursday. I may end up waiting until Friday, since we’ll just be arriving on Thursday night. A bit of extra rest for it will be good too!

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Jul 14

Training run turned into a bandit run

This morning’s scheduled workout was a 17-mile endurance run, with a main set of four mile-repeats at zone 4 heart rate (2-minutes jogging recovery in-between), then another four miles in zone 4 broken up however I wanted.

I got out early enough that it was still cool (55-degrees), and the sun was just beginning to rise. There were lots of others on the Coal Creek trail though, which I jumped onto in Lafayette at 120th and headed west.

There was a rather large Team in Training group headed towards me, in a pack of about a dozen runners. Then another 10 or so in smaller clusters spread out behind them at slower pace. Bringing up the rear seemed to be their coach on a bike, with lots of water bottles.

As I came into Louisville, I could hear loud music from the Community Park. Sure enough, as I turned the corner of the trail, I saw there was a race set up, and the finish line was right ahead of me on the trail. I ran through, politely excusing myself as the volunteers were setting up tables for the medals and water bottles.

I don’t know where the start was, but I soon found myself among a steady stream of runners heading the same direction I was. Many were walking, which made it seem as if they were all walking to the start. A few were jogging to warm up, but most looked at me puzzled that I was cruising by them at a pretty good clip.

A few miles down the trail, they all took the right fork while I headed left, pretty much alone again for the next several miles until my turnaround point.

As I headed back, and eventually reached that fork again, it was clear that the race had started, as the flow was all headed back the other direction towards the park. I had no choice but to merge in with them, and it wasn’t crowded enough to worry about, as I could easily get around people without leaving the trail.

It only got awkward as I neared the park. Supporters were reaching out to high-five me, and volunteers were waving me around the turn in the trail (which was quite unnecessary, as it was the only way to go). As I approached the finish straightaway, there was WAY more activity than before, and I was now in the finish chute, with fencing on either side of the trail. No choice but to go through the big inflatable finish tunnel, over the timing mats, and into the corral. It was open behind it, so I could just run straight through and keep on going.

Well, the volunteers seemed a bit upset that I didn’t slow down at the finish, not stop for a medal and water bottle. The folks I passed heading into the finish may have been annoyed too, although they seemed to appreciate what they viewed as a finish-kick (which was really just my watch beeping me into the next high-speed interval of my training run).

I was quick to politely excuse myself, and tell them “no thanks, I’m not in the race!” as I ran through, declining the medal and schwag.

As I looked down, my watch told me I had been pushing a 7-minute pace, faster than my target. I guess the finish line excitement got me going anyway! Now, I wonder if I can find pictures of myself on They were taking race photos as I ran by, but I won’t be able to find ’em by bib number!

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Jul 12

New running shoes


Marathon training requires very little equipment, but the right shoes are a must-have. With 350+ miles on my shoes, it was time for replacements.

Although I’ve been very satisfied with my Mizuno Wave Nirvana 8’s, my new running form and pace had me wondering if I’d benefit from something less hefty, with more of a minimalist rise. Even though I haven’t completed the gradual shift to barefoot running, my form has definitely incorporated the newest theories and mechanics associated with barefoot running.

So, off to Boulder Running Company I went, with my stinky and dirty running shoes on, and an open mind to hear some recommendations from the experts. Of course, I had planned to take my time trying each pair on the treadmill with video capture and analysis of my foot strike.

I was surprised a bit to learn that I might not be benefiting as much from my custom orthotics as I thought. Without them, and with a neutral lightweight shoe, I wasn’t over-pronating. In fact, with my mid-foot strike, my form looked pretty spot-on in the video…with no orthotics, and no motion-control running shoe.

So, here we go…I’ll start using my new shoes with no orthotics for shorter workouts, and see how they do. The new shoes are Adidas Adizero Tempo 5, and are much lighter than the Mizuno’s. It’s a different ride, and I’m excited to see how they do!

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Jul 11

Training into target race pace

This morning’s scheduled marathon training was a 10-mile tempo run. I headed out at 6:30am, and it was still cool (about 55). Last night, I cleaned up a couple of playlists, and organized them by beats-per-minute, to include a playlist at 90bpm, since the 92bpm list felt a touch too constrained in terms of form. Maybe I can work towards that.

After a couple warm-up miles, I started my main set of 5-miles at zone 4 heart-rate. With the new cadence set by my music, I was right around 7:20/mile pace. This is the first sustained training mileage I’ve been able to hold my targeted race pace (Salmon Marathon finish goal of 3:15 means target pace is around 7:25/mile).

With those fast miles in the middle, I covered a 10k (6.2mi) stretch in 48-minutes! It’s been many years since I could do that! I could barely contain my excitement, except that I was relieved that the fast section of my run was finished. I was really feeling it in my legs by mile 5 (which was uphill too).

Photo credit:

I finished the 10-miles in 1:30, and jumped rope for 4:35, as prescribed by Coach Craig. Then, after my go-to post-run recovery drink of chocolate milk, I stretched out using the foam roller on my IT-bands, hips, and glutes. I was as tight as an arctic piano-string.

So, here I am, officially in target race-pace land…and it’s a nice place!

[More: Target Pace Training, from]

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Jul 10

10k interval workout – solid!

Last night’s scheduled workout on the road to the Boston Marathon was a 10k with a main set of 12x100m intervals, two-minute recoveries in between. After a couple sub-9 miles to warm up, I hit the accelerations feeling strong as I was treated to a gorgeous sunset over the mountains.

Most of those intervals were done around 4:30-min/mile pace, and felt smooth. I really focused on my form, based on the recent video-analysis from Coach Craig. Specifically, I was really mindful of letting my hips go, and getting a bit more forward lean with my chest and hips. It felt surprisingly comfortable, but the faster pace is easier to get maximum hip angle anyway. I wonder what it actually looked like.

Overall, including the twelve 2-minute recovery intervals, I finished the 10k in 58-minutes, with a moderate overall perceived exertion rate (avg. HR was around 155).

More hay in the barn!

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Jul 08

Marathon Training: Running Form Analysis

Interested in seeing a professional running form analysis? Check out this video with voice-over from my coach, Craig Howie of the Howie Endurance Project. He expertly analyzed my form using video he recorded during a cadence training at the track. Kevin Pugh Video (with voice over)

Having never really seen myself run, it was interesting to compare my form to exemplary form (the “perfect running form” of Ironman Mirinda Carfrae), and have him point out and explain the differences. He covered six main points in detail: contact line, power arc, maximum hip angle, foot-swing, stride-travel, and flexible hips.

The takeaway points for my improvement clearly are related to my tight hips. Looks like it’s time for some more runner-yoga, and lots of hip-openers!

He also determined that my “most efficient” cadence is around 92 beats-per-minute (bpm). So, I’ve started to use a playlist of 92bpm songs to practice that faster cadence and leg-turnover. It doesn’t feel quite comfortable yet, but I can see my speed increase significantly, with only a minor increase in heart-rate.

Got any good 92bpm songs to recommend? If you’re looking for some, I found a nice resource online here.

[More: Cadence Training]


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Jul 07

15.5 mile training run after a week off

Photo Credit:

This morning, I tackled a 15.5-mile training run after a week of rest for a strained Achilles tendon. I noticed the pain after mowing my lawn last week, although I don’t remember anything traumatic happening. At my coach’s advice, I skipped the two mid-week workouts on my marathon training schedule, and iced my leg periodically. I also tried to stay off it as much as possible (which really isn’t much with a four-year-old and an almost seven-year-old).

[Got Achilles injury issues? See more here.]

The training run this morning was a decent one, finished in about 2:30. It included six mile-repeats at a high zone 3 heart rate (with a 3 minute recovery jog in between), as well as an additional couple miles at a low zone 3. The trail is quite hilly in some areas, and it was definitely messing with my heart rate and cadence. I think I’ll be thankful on race day that I did so much hill running.

The Coal Creek trail was also damp and soft from two days of much-needed intermittent rain, but not so soft to be squishy. I was surprised that the water level in the creek wasn’t higher. In fact, several sections were completely dry. Colorado is so dry right now, that any moisture we get is either quickly soaked up, or it runs off as a flash flood. It was great to get some rain, especially for the wildfire areas. I just hope it doesn’t all come too fast for the burn areas, which now have nothing to hold the water. Some areas have already been dealing with some nasty runoff and Boulder Creek was in a flash flood warning yesterday.

My Achilles felt fine for almost all of the run, except for miles 11-13, when I was aware of some mild pain, but it subsided and disappeared for the last few miles. I hope I didn’t re-aggravate it today. I’ll be icing it and trying to keep it elevated as much as possible today and tomorrow.

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