Swam a mile today

For the first time since 10th grade, I swam a mile today (actually 1800 yards -- a little more than a mile.) I used to race in junior high and high school, but I haven't swum regularly since then. When I have worked out in the pool, it's always been around 800-1000 yards and around 30 minutes.

This evening, I was determined to swim a mile or an hour, which ever came first. Turns out I can swim the mile in about 45 minutes of various 200 yard sets (kicking, intervals, straight 200s, etc.). While this is not exactly record setting, I was surprised how easy it was, frankly. I used to struggle to get to 1000 yards, but I think the mental expectation that I was doing 1800 yards today reset my internal clock. I'm also in a little better shape these days, so I'm sure that helped...

My shins have been bugging me since the race last weekend, so I haven't been running. I'm glad to have another way to continue to build my aerobic base, especially now that the days are short and dark.

(Tried out a new pair of Speedo Vanquisher goggles today. Hated them with a capital H. Strap kept coming off, goggles kept leaking, anti-fog didn't. I like my old Speedo goggles; I think they were the Pro model. Too many damn choices at the store today, although not the Pro.)

Pace Race Followup

The results from the Pace Race last weekend are up. My "gun time" was 27:12.5 for 8:46 splits. I finished right smack the middle of the pack: 17/34 for my age group and 58/115 for all men. I had secretly hoped to finish in the top half of both; this was pretty damn close. Lots faster than the last two races too.

I still can't figure out why my Forerunner times/splits are always a bit faster than the scored times. I thought I had run 8:35 splits. Bugs me.

With some help from Bruce, my colleague and always-willing-even-though-he's-busy training coach, I think I figured out why I crashed near the end of the race -- I bonked. (I like that Wikipedia has an entry for bonk.) I had gotten up pretty early before the race and eaten commensurately early. I didn't top off with a Gu right before the race like I did at the Pumpkin Push. I'll have to avoid bonking again; it sucked. Of course, the real answer is to just get into better shape so that racing 5K doesn't kill me. Damn it. Why is hard work always the right answer?!

Pace Race 5K

Pace Race 5K through Kirkland. Image generated by SportTracks and my Garmin Forerunner 301
My esteemed colleage Rob and I ran in the Pace Race 5K this morning in Kirkland. This was a fundraiser and awareness builder for prostate cancer.

The weather was cold but clear, a welcome change from the heavy rain yesterday. Fortunately, Road Runner Sports was giving out hats and gloves, so I kept warm through the race (a little too warm after three miles.)

I had set my goal at 8:30 splits again, but according to my Forerunner, I ran 8:35s -- close but not quite. The race started out uphill (+111 ft on the Forerunner, so my first split was a little slower, 8:42. I made it up on the second mile, 8:10 (downhill -101). Then, the wheels came off. The third mile was level and should have been straightforward, but the combination of being too hot and getting tired seemed to have sapped my will to go on. I had to fight my way through the last mile, running a terrible 8:51. I finally picked up for the last tenth of a mile and sprinted in at 8:05 pace. My watch said 27:11; we'll see what the official time is.

Amazingly, I ran 96% of the race with my heartrate in the 92-109% of max region. My pulse was pretty even through the race without the high peaks or the slower regions. I guess that means I kept the effort pretty consistent for the race, which sounds good.

This race was remarkable in the amount of free stuff. In addition to the normal t-shirt (and this one isn't butt-ugly like the others), we got a workout with a water bottle, another t-shirt, gloves, water, pens, post-its, plus other booths handed out frisbees, hats, gloves, Gu Energy Gel. Ezell's, the world's best fried chicken restaurant, was a sponsor, so I was hopeful there would be a mess o' chicken after the race, but alas, I was disappointed.

Rob and I had our post-race brunch at the Waimea Brewing Company instead. There was nothing close to our traditional huevos rancheros (except the Loco Moco, but I wasn't ready for a 1/2 pound hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and covered in brown gravy). I fell back on one my favorites: kalua pork plate lunch. Rob and I also shared an SPAM musubi appetizer; this is essentially SPAM sushi -- rice, nori, and SPAM luncheon meat. Mmm. One of the best parts was having my mac (macaroni) salad with a dash of soy sauce. Fabulous. I really do love Hawaiian food, but I think I ate twice the calories I had just run off. Oh well, easy come, easy go. (How very Hawaiian...)

My shins are bugging me now (both sides), so I think I'll lay off running for a bit. I've been swimming, cycling (indoor and out), and lifting a little recently, so I'll have to rely on those until my legs feel better. I'll have to pick my next race far enough out to recover. Maybe the Toys for Tots Trot on 11/20.

Garmin Forerunner 301 Coolness

Garmin Forerunner 301
I've alluded to my new running toy a few times in previous posts, but I haven't blogged about it yet. The Garmin Forerunner 301 is a GPS-based workout tool. It combines a GPS, heart rate monitor, and some other training software. It tracks my distance, pace, elevation change, and heart rate as I run or bike. It also automatically calculates mile split times, tells me if I'm running faster or slower than the pace I set, and can even handle interval training (once I get around to inputting some workouts.) The 301 has a rechargable battery with good life; it recharges and downloads data to the PC via a mini-USB port -- pretty convenient.

The software Garmin provides is pretty bad, but fortunately, there's an awesome free application called SportTracks. This thing rocks. It's a good exercise log, provides tons of charts, and overlays my workouts over Google street maps and satellite maps. If you use a Forerunner, you simply must use SportTracks.

The device is reasonably easy to use to seems OK accurate (not sure if the weird paths on my maps are GPS errors, map errors, or software errors). The only downsides are that it's a bit big still (and dorky looking) and it takes a while to acquire the GPS signal each morning when I go out to run (although it's forced me to take longer stretching, albeit in the cold and rain.) Also, like all GPS units, it needs line-of-sight to the satellites in order to keep the signal. The Garmin does simple extrapolation of your path once it finds the signal again, but invariably, the path shorter than I really ran. Running under tree cover obviously poses problems (this is especially bad for me in my neighborhood.)

As many trainers advise, keeping a log is a good motivational tool as well as a good way to track your progress. The Garmin takes this to the next level and is fun, fun, fun for geeks like me.

Pumpkin Push

I ran my second 5K this morning (really my first since the last one was so messed up.) This was the Pumpkin Push, an annual race to benefit the 45th Street Clinic. Once again, a group of my colleagues from work ran the race, making it a lot more fun. Here you can see me with Scott and Bruce (Rob also ran but missed the photo op.)

Scott, Tony, and Bruce after the Pumpkin Push

It was a perfect fall day -- sunny and warm. The race was at Seward Park in Seattle; it was full of lovely fall colors and is right on Lake Washington, so there were great views throughout the race. Since it's so close to Halloween, many runners were in costume. As you can see above, we're pretending to be runners.

I had hoped to run 8:30 splits today (I ran ~8:40s last time) and started out a bit ahead of pace. Then, I reached The Hill. Forward progress ground to a halt while my heart rate raced skyward and legs burned. While tempted to slow to a walk, I was determined to keep pretending to run. I managed to haul my fat butt up the hill and back down it to finish the race just under 29 minutes (we didn't stick around for official results). According to my watch (I did buy the Garmin Forerunner 301 -- more on that later), I ran splits of 8:27, 9:34, and 8:30, so aside from The Hill, my splits were right on target.

Here's my GPS track for the race over a satellite photo, courtesy of SportTracks, a very cool (and free!) GPS-enabled logbook program. (The finish time is wrong because I started my watch late.)
Pumpkin Push GPS track over a satellite photo

After the race, we went to the Bluwater Bistro in Leschi for our now traditional post-race brunch of huevos rancheros (or the closest thing we could find. In this case, a yummy "Texas Toast" -- poached eggs, cornbread, beans, rice, and salsa).

I was worried about this race since I haven't run much since the last one and wanted to run a faster pace. While the hill ultimately screwed my plans, I'm happy to have completed the race pretty quickly and to have run the whole race. Time to pick the next race (the Dawg Dash next week is too soon, I think. No reason to help or patronize the Huskies anyway. Go Stanford!)

One thing I learned today (after looking at the photo) -- I need to pin my number lower. This one looks like it's hanging from my nipples. Not sure I'm ready for Bruce's loincloth number look, but even that's better.

[results update: My official time was 28:51.3, meaning 9:18 splits (not sure about the difference between my calculated times and the official times). I placed 63rd of 102 of men 30-39 and 167th out of 266 overall. It surprises me that there were more women than men in th race today: 385.]

Race mess-up

Well, I should have known it was too good to be true. The race I ran yesterday had some problems.

As the Woodinville Country Slough Run rganizers stated on their website:

The big question of the day was:
What was up with the 5k course?

Answer: A couple overzealous volunteers had the 5k participants turn at the 10k 5 Mile marker instead of the 5k turn around. We measured the difference and concluded that the 5k course everyone ran was about 0.5 k or 0.3 miles short. We apologize for this and will make sure the volunteers are well informed next year.

So it turns out I ran less than I thought. My GPS said the same thing, but I figured it was wrong. My adjusted time (assuming I could have run another .3 miles at that pace) was 27:40 -- still not bad and well within my goals, but not as cool as 25:10.

I'm already planning on running another 5K in two weeks -- the Pumpkin Push. Hopefully, this one will be run correctly so I can get a real 5K time.

I did it!

My race results
About a month ago, I blogged that I would be doing the 5K race at the Woodinville Country Slough Run. Well, I did it today.

I had set some reasonable goals: Finish in under thirty minutes and don't walk. I had privately hoped to run 9:30/mile splits, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to do it, since I hadn't run at this pace in my training yet.

I shouldn't have worried. I finished in 25:10, which works to be 8:07 splits or so, and I did run the whole race. I finished 162nd; I'm not sure how big the field was, but I seemed about mid pack. The results should be up on the site soon, so it'll be fun to see where it all shook out. (And, no, I'm not too embarassed that the person who finished just ahead of me was an under-13 girl. I think I saw her taking steroids before the race.)

Team IE after the race

The race was especially fun because we had nine people from the IE team running together. Bruce and Rob finished first (with Bruce, a hard core runner with a marathon under his belt, finishing with a new personal best). Everyone finished under thirty minutes, so it was a good race for us all. More important, the motivation of having a goal and a group of people to complete it with kept me working out through the last month.

While my legs recover, I'm already looking for my next race. Any ideas?

30 min

This morning, I ran thirty minutes continuously for the first time since college (probably ever, frankly). I think I ran about three miles, but I don't have my distances worked out well yet. In any case, I'm pretty happy about it. I've been doing two mile/twenty minute runs up until this morning, so this was a huge increase. My legs were a bit wobbly today. I don't normally feel the effects of my two mile runs so I know I'm closer to my limits now. I'll run at this time/distance for a while until I get stronger.

Since this is pretty close to the 5K distance I'll be running next month, I'm now confident I'll be able to finish the race and hopefully even do it reasonably fast.

(I've been eyeing the Garmin Forerunner 301, a GPS unit/heart monitor that attaches to your wrist. This would give me reasonably reliable time and distance info in addition to scratching my geek itch.)

Getting off my fat ass

Like many middle aged men, I've gained a bunch of weight over the years. I'm not obese or anything, but I'm definitely a little chunkier than I'd like.

As my waist size hit 38, I decided to draw the line and start on both. Over the summer, I started watching my diet, using the guidelines suggested by the Abs Diet which seemed pretty reasonable (cut simple carbs, avoid extra fats, eat more smaller meals, etc.) and lost about ten pounds right off the bat. Good start.

My weight loss stopped there, so I figured I needed to add working out. I started running and biking on and off, but I knew I needed some more motivation and accountability to get me to stick to it. As a result, I've roped a few of my colleagues into running a road race in a few weeks. I'm hopeful that the combination of peer pressure and a date will help keep me exercising where willpower alone might falter. (This public blog post to the entire world helps too.)

So, we've picked the Woodinville Country Slough Run on October 9. It's a flat 5K, so it shouldn't been too hard. I'm running two mile stints pretty well now and am reasonably confident I can get to 5K (3 miles) without much ado if I stick to it. The only risk for me is that I'll be travelling for almost two weeks between now and then so I need to keep exercising on the road. We'll see how that goes.

Anyway, wish me luck!

(BTW, if you're from the Woodinville Country Slough organization committee, fix your damn site. The link to the signup form is broken. Besides, who doesn't have web signup anymore? It's 2005 for Pete's sake!)

Update: the site is fixed. You can download the PDF signup form now.