Friday, May 29, 2009

Hot Weather Running

The heat is really starting to creep up now, day by day. A week ago the daily high was in the mid to upper eighties. Now it's beginning to nudge 90. And yet it is cooler than normal for a historical perspective. Global warming? I don't think so.

Not that they call it that anymore. Now it's "climate change". I guess even an egghead like Al Gore knows how to hedge his bets to keep the money tap open on the lecture circuit. Now that's a convenient truth.

The trick is to adjust the old running schedule and locale to minimize the pain. It's a good thing to have some heat so as to become acclimated and not crash and burn at a weekend race. But not too much, eh?

During the week I have to run in the late afternoon and I've got a good spot nailed down. A couple of years ago, the powers-that-tax put in the Armand Bayou Hike n' Bike trail along Red Bluff. It's a crushed granite trail so it's easy on the body, but the really good thing is that it's shaded, folks. Shade is your friend.

Actually, I prefer the Seabrook Trails, but shade is a wee bit lacking there. But for early morning on the weekends, it can't be beat.

Funny thing is, both of these routes are extremely under-utilized, unlike Memorial Park up in Houston proper. I can't understand why, but hey, I can't complain.

The bottom line is: pick your route carefully, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Boost Your Running with Gamma, Beta Waves

It's no secret that athletic performance and mental attitude, or mindset, are as tightly coupled as a boa constrictor on its prey. The trick is to puzzle out how to use that relationship to our advantage as runners. I think a company called Brain Sync has one solution.

Train the Brain, Train the Body

Do you remember your first marathon? You know the feeling in the last few miles. You're no longer running on body energy; you're running on sheer will power and the enthusiasm of those around you. When all else is gone, it's mental, folks.

Think it's just new age bunk? Consider up and coming Kara Goucher. She ran in the 5K and 10K in the Olympics. She recently led the woman's field for most of the race in the Boston Marathon and finished third. But when she went to the New York Marathon, she took her sports psychologist with her to keep her focused. Hey, if it works for her...

I Can Get This From a MP3?

Indeed. I have used Brain Sync's products in the past and have been pleased with the results. So when I found their Running Meditation, I decided to try it.

When you think meditation, you think zoned-out, right? Granted, you don't want to do this while running. But this recording won't do that, despite the name. Instead, it's just some very cool music that has Beta and Gamma waves embedded in it, plus some spoken affirmations.

The site says these waves work by enabling cognition, alertness, precognition, concentration, clarity, and perception. I don't have the background to understand all that, but I can tell you this; I stayed focused, involuntarily fell into pace with the peppy music, and actually enjoyed the dreadmill.

I downloaded their Running Meditation MP3 and put it to the test. Not just any test, but the boring treadmill test. It was a complete success. I really do think that this will take my training to the next level.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Easing Back Into Speedwork at the Track

It's been a couple of months since I've done any real speedwork (shame on me!). What happened was, I went fishing one ill-fated Saturday afternoon. Rather than catching fish, I slipped on a rock getting down to the water and came right down smack dab on my left knee.

That's a sad moment for any runner or triathlete. Although the pain was intense, that wasn't the immediate I focused on. Rather, it was, "Oh no, what are the consequences of this going to be?"

I did have good enough reflexes not to drop my fly rod. Thank God for small favors, eh?

Luckily, it didn't swell. Just a impact lump that lasted for about a week plus some stiffness and limping. Oh, and one hell of a lot of pain every time my wife kicked it in the middle of the night.

"Accidentally," says she.

"Subconscious," says I.

Nevertheless, in about three weeks it felt good enough to tighten up the lacelocks on my running shoes and function test it. Hmm, first run felt fine so I continued to build up the slow mileage. About a week ago, I felt confident enough to try a "mix it up and down" treadmill workout. That went well too.

So late yesterday afternoon, after all the high school kids had gone, I took advantage of the track. I did a nice one mile warm-up and then eased into some mid-range effort 400M repeats. On the last one, I felt a few iliotibial stress twinges on my right knee.

But since I was running the track counter-clockwise, that's to be expected after a lay-off. After all, that wasn't the knee that got used for a shock absorber at the shore.

So today, another easy six or so miles on the Seabrook Trails. And next weekend? Fishing. But this time I'll go out in my Heritage fishing kayak. The water in the bay is very forgiving.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Join a Running Club for Motivation

I re-joined my local running club this week. I had fallen off a few years ago when work and family life got a bit more intense. Mainly, it was the extra time commuting to a new job. It was being the Engineering Supervisor at the Marriott in Houston's medical district.

I resigned after just two years. My boss happened to be a psycho nut case that threw massive temper tantrums. Who needs it?

Anyway, my club is the Bay Area Running Club and I was rather active at the time. We do a lot of race management so I did a lot of volunteering. But there's many more running club benefits that you score than just giving back to the community.

Motivation and socializing are two of the biggest ones. It gets hotter than Hades here in the Texas during the summer (come on climate change!), and just knowing that there will be a group run is enough to silence the sedentary part of the brain. It sure beats going to the gym and running by yourself doing a treadmill workout!

Beginning runners can also benefit from the pool of experience that exists in any club. Most importantly, how to train for a 10K or a marathon and avoiding an injury like plantar fasciitis.

The interesting thing about running clubs in the Houston area is that there are so many of them that back in '93, an umbrella organization called HARRA (Houston Area Road Runners Association) was formed to coordinate things.

Unfortunately, runners in more rural areas may not have such a selection. Why not start your own club?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To Treadmill or not to Treadmill

I know, boooring! But sometimes it's the best alternative. I use a treadmill at 24 Hr Fitness quite often because of my schedule. I also use the time to multi-task by catching up on the news on the Fox News channel.

But just running like a drone just ain't for me. Sometimes I do interval training and sometimes I indulge in what I like to call the Mix it Up and Down Treadmill Workout. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Lately I've been missing some runs because I've been adding more insulation to my attic as well as installing radiant barrier foil. The weather here in South Texas is already hitting 90 degrees at mid-day. Ouch.

When the weather starts getting so summer hot, I really need motivation to get out there and run. To that purpose, I re-joined the Bay Area Running Club. I was a member for many years and just fell away. I'm getting back to it now.

I need motivation. It's early, but I'm already trying to decide which marathon to run this year. Decisions, decisions.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Those Rascally Hash House Harriers

As I was brain-straining for an engaging topic for my page over at, I recalled with fondness the one and only time I hashed. Even though this running niche has spread all over the globe, only a small percentage of runners have ever hashed.

Come to think of it, not that many really understand what it's all about.

There are clubs (kennels) in most metropolitan areas but the collective is known as the Hash House Harriers. The concept began in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by a group of British officers. It was basically a hare and hounds concept.

Much of the frivolity went away temporarily during WWII, but the sport was too spunky to go quietly into that long night. Soon, like swine flu, it crept across the globe. As Zippy would say, "Frivolity is a stern taskmaster!"

What makes this kind of running different from trail runs, track meets, and other kinds of running events? Most folks would reply, "Beer, lots and lots of beer."

It's true. There is always beer at the finish line, along with "the circle". The post-run festivities include initiating hash "virgins", re-initiating "re-boots", singing bawdy songs, and slinging insults in a decidedly good humor.

You don't need to have a lot of speedwork training under your belt for these events, but a little hillwork wouldn't hurt. Basic trail running too. Many hashes are on trails, but not all. The hares just need a location where they can lay a confusing trail to try to follow.

Prepare to put a lot of wear and tear on your running shoes if the trail gets into the shiggy.

So if you find yourself in a running rut, shake it up with a hash. It's the most running fun you'll have. Trust me.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Running VS Radiant Barrier Foil

It's true, something has come between me and my running, installing Energy Q radiant barrier foil in the attic. Even though it's only May, it's so dadgum hot up there I can only work for part of the day and then I'm more wilted than week-old lettuce.

No juice left over for running. After all, I've got to use part of my allotted daytime doing other things, like pounding this keyboard.

I'm going back up there again in the morning, but I'm going to unclamp the flex duct from the air conditioner to my home office to cool the attic space.

I had a good treadmill run last weekend. I would have been outside but I wanted to watch the Kentucky Derby on the overhead TV. Talk about multi-tasking. But those horses are awesome, yes? But it's enough to scare a runner. They put those horses down when they go lame.

That radiant barrier thing is awesome too. Energy Q claims that it stops 97% of heat which is important during air conditioner season. That's saying something here in South Texas, which is a good place to be today because it's Cinco de Mayo, otherwise known as "The Great Beer Holiday."

My Mexican friends (the few who actually have social security numbers that they didn't buy at the flea market) tell me they don't really celebrate it at all back home. It's a thinly-veiled ploy to sell more Tecate and Corona to us gringos. - Sure beats stamp collecting!

I expect to be re-hydrated soon. From the attic, not by the Tecate. Since the warm weather is now here, it's time to dust off my Fuelbelt hydration belt and hit the trails. See y'all on the trails, highways and byways!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Cross-Training Supplements Your Running Routine

A lot of runners forget to balance their routine with other sports like swimming, weight training, and even stretching. Big mistake. This can lead to muscle imbalance and injury. Even loss of attractiveness to those in the opposite camp. OK, just joking on that last bit.

The downside of indulging in other sports activities is the cost, of course. Some sports, like cycling, can make a major dent in the bank account. That's something to think about in today's recessionary economy when everybody is on pins and needles about their jobs.

One solution is to join a gym as kind of a one-size-fits-all approach. Prices vary but for example, my plan at 24 Hr Fitness is just $20 per month. For that I can swim, toss around heavy objects, take spinning classes, and do hillwork workouts on the treadmill.

As a matter of fact, I can train in all three disciplines I need for triathlon, plus all the extras. Like using their hot water for my daily shower. They were even pretty good about keeping the soap dispensers loaded until lately. Small price to pay; I bring my own.

Regardless of how you go about it, cross-training for fitness is critical as we age. Especially the stretching part. A chiropractor friend (my swimming coach, incidentally) once told me that what made old folks falling down and breaking things more common was loss of flexibility. Makes 'em wobble rather than bend.

Don't let this happen to you. Get out there and move!

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