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Sunday, 24 February 2008
Road Race Tips for Novice Runners, #2: Wear Your Chip Properly

If you are given a timing chip -- a little round plastic thing that looks kind of like those spider adapters that we used to put on 45 records so they would fit on phonograph spindles (you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?) -- put it on your shoe. Nowhere else. Otherwise, your finishing time may not be recorded, and as far as posterity is concerned, you will not have run the race at all. I always put mine on my left shoe, but I don't think that it matters which one you use. If you are given little plastic fasteners with which to put it on, wrap them around your shoelace in some place where it will not get in the way of the natural bend of your foot (the base of the upper is a good place). If you were not given fasteners, then simply undo your shoelace on one side at the top eyelet and slip it through the holes on either side of the chip. That'll hold it, & will ensure that you can see your time posted for posterity on the Internet.

Oh, and make sure to remove your chip & deposit it in one of the collection buckets at the finishing area. The timing company will charge you a replacement fee (usually $30) if it is not returned.

Posted by MHB at 11:11 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 24 February 2008 11:15 PM EST
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Sunday, 6 January 2008
Road Race Tips for Novice Runners, #1: Congratulate Yourself

In the event that any novice runners happen upon this blog, here are a few tips for those new to racing:

 1. First of all, congratulate yourself. You have taken a genuine & significant step toward making your life better. I don't mean that in the partonizing good-for-you sense; what you are doing will measurably improve your quality of life. You will have more energy; you will solve problems more quickly with less stress; your mood will be more even; sex will be better; food and drink will become well-deserved rewards instead of guilty pleasures. You did the right thing. Now it's time to test the hardware.

Posted by MHB at 11:17 PM EST
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Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Damn, this blog sucks. What was I thinking when I decided to start this piece of dreck? Did I honestly think that my schedule would allow me to post regular, thoughtful content THAT PEOPLE WOULD WANT TO READ? Shit. It kills me to read this. Am I really this boring?


Posted by MHB at 11:35 PM EST
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First New Year Entry '08

Yeah, I know ... real inventive title. That's about the extent of my creative capabilities tonight. There's a good show on the Documentary Channel called Wired for Sound: a Guitar Odyssey, and it's quite good ... full of clips of good guitarists, & a few lousy ones, too. It's over now, so perhaps I can concentrate hard enough to post something coherent.


I am convinced, now more than ever, that the long tempo run is the key to getting my running out of the rut in which it has sat for the past two years. I did a 10-mile long tempo Saturday morning, which tired me out pretty well but had at least as much of a positive effect upon my confidence as it had upon my lactate threshold. If I can hold an 8:15 pace for a 10-mile training run, then surely I can hold an 8:00 pace in a 10-mile race.

This morning, I did my traditional New Year's track workout, consisting of four mile reps at an average pace of around 7:28. A  stiff wind that blew right in my face on the backstretch of each lap made the workout a struggle at times, & I had a wicked case of cottonmouth from the champagne I drank last night, but I got through it, & felt better for it after an hour-long nap this afternoon.

That's my boring story, & I'm sticking to it. Boy, this blog is on fire!Sure hope the new year proves better than this hogwash.

Asteroid attacks? Is what the History Channel has been reduced to? I try to stay optimistic ... I really do. But, DAMN 

Posted by MHB at 10:44 PM EST
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Tuesday, 18 December 2007
An Unusual Recovery

Finally, in my last race of the year, I think that I figured out the secret to a good 5K: run it a week after a marathon, five pounds overweight, in a vicious headwind.

 Seriously: I did OK -- for me, which was quite unexpected. I entered the race so that I could be part of a weekend that for me usually involves a 20K up & down Paris Mountain, & in order to keep my streak alive of running every single points race or its companion race in the GTC Running Series. I had fourth place locked up anyway, but I wanted those last 10 points to finish with 180 & a perfect turnout. Thus I had initially planned only to run easy, & perhaps to pace some of my wife's running club kids who were looking to finish in around 27 min. But during my EZ post-marathon run in the neighborhood Thursday, I had broken into a few strides & found, to my surprise, that my legs felt pretty good. Then, on race morning, when none of the 27-minute kids showed up, I decided to lace up my new Precisions & simply have some fun within my limits. When the race began, I settled into a 7:30 pace, & felt good. My legs were fine, the weather sufficiently cool, & my breathing great. I slowed a bit in the middle 800 of the last mile, but put on a kick at the end to finish in 23:28 -- my only sub-23:30 5K of the year.

I know -- that doesn't sound so hot; but 5Ks are not my race, & I'm still working to get faster at them. Nearly seven months of base & marathon training have left me with little opportunity to do serious speedwork, so shorter races have taken a back seat, & will continue to do so in the coming weeks as I get ready for a Februray 10-miler. But that's Ok: as long as I can perform respectably in shorter races as I did last week, I won't mind.

On another note, my recovery from this last marathon has been surprisingly good. I felt so good yesterday that I turned my plan EZ run into a Fartlek, & seem to be suffering no ill effects from it today. I took today off from running & went to the gym, but will go back out for an EZ tomorrow & take a semi-long tempo Sat. morning.

Posted by MHB at 9:59 PM EST
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Monday, 10 December 2007
Done With Marathons --- For Now

Finished at Kiawah Island this Sat. Didn't hit my goal time of <3:50, but did break 4 hrs. & got a PR of 3:56:04. Two of my personal rules of running are: never be unhappy about finishing a marathon, and never be dissatisfied with a PR -- so I'm perfeactly fine with the results. I've been looking for photos online but haven't found any yet. Perhaps I'll post some of me if I find them, along w/ a detailed account of my run. For now, I'm too tired, as I took an exam this evening & came home to work on a 2,500-word assignment due Fri.

To make a long story short, Kiawah is a good marathon. The course is flat, the people nice, & the island beautiful. I'll be back next year, but will do the half so that I can have a real vacation. As a matter of fact, I have no immediate plans to do another marathon. That is not to imply that I'll naver do another; but as of now I plan to take a break from them for a while, as they take up too much time & interfere with other races.

Posted by MHB at 10:14 PM EST
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Friday, 16 November 2007
Friday Notes

I have a turkey trot 5k tomorrow. Normally I would not be doing a 5k at this point in my marathon training; but I'm a bit ahead of schedule, & this race is right across the street & comes with good food & plentiful door prizes. Thus I have spent the past couple of days filling my nasal passages full of Zicam in an effort to ward off a cold that has been going around and may already have invaded my system. I can't tell for sure, as I am full of Zicam; but my head doesn't feel good -- & although I have no performance goals for this race, I don't want to have to run 5k in freezing weather tomorrow & then stand out in the cold for two more hours with aches, chills, & a head full of snot.

I've always been willing to cut Lance Armstrong a lot of slack, if for no other reason than my respect for his work lobbying for cancer research. But what the hell?

Posted by MHB at 10:05 PM EST
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Thursday, 15 November 2007

Pacing has always been a difficult thing for me. The Garmin Forerunner 205 the I got last Christmas has helped somewhat with that, but the benefit that I have gotten from it has been purely prophylactic, as I still cannot gauge appropriate training paces without it. Those who are sufficiently attuned to their bodies to hold a pace range based solely upon perceived effort are to be envied.

As I ramp up my training in order to take my running to a new level, I find that the fine gradients of pace with which I am now working are quite difficult to lock into & hold. A good example of that is yesterday morning, when I set out to run 10 miles at marathon pace as part of a 14-15-mile training run. I went out too fast as usual, but quickly reined in my pace to between 8:45 & 8:50, which is just what I will be shooting for at Kiawah. Yet I was not prepared for the difficulty of making a physical distinction between an 8:25 pace & and 8:45 pace, & as a result kept ramping up the pace despite my better efforts to keep it modest & my frequent glances at the Garmin.

As I ran lap after lap around the mall at Furman (one of the flattest training courses available to me in the neighborhood), my pace kept inching up: 8:40; 8:38; 8:36; 8:35. By 6 miles, it had become clear that my MP run had become more of a steady-state or long tempo workout; but I decided to hang on just the same & get the 10 miles in at that pace. As I often do when dealing with the rigors of marathon training, I reasoned that I have a choice: to feel bad now or feel bad in mile 22 of a marathon. I chose to feel bad now.

So I kept pushing: harder & harder, until my cumulative pace got down to 8:30. Then I hung on, for 2.5 more miles, until my watch turned over at 10 miles for the segment. I was tired, but near the end of the segment I found that despite my fatigue, I could still keep my form. Sweet. Perhaps I really am becoming proficient at running.

Still, I can tell that pace is going to be a problem unless I can make some headway with in during the next 4 weeks. I did make some progress with one aspect of pacing today, however, as I was able to make a much-needed recovery run today at a real recovery pace (10:07 -- on the high end of the McMillan calculator range) instead of my usual 9:30-9:45 spent obsessing over going too slow. All I needed was a little something to flush the waste out of my muscles, & it appears to have worked.

Posted by MHB at 10:53 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007 10:14 PM EST
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Sunday, 11 November 2007
Moving Forward

It does no good to look back.

I guess that must be the thought for the evening, for that's what came out after several minutes of pondering over a blank blog template. One thing that this technology can't do is to write the damn entry for you -- which, contrary to what some automatons out there believe, would not be a good thing.

Such a statement might seem funny coming from someone who has devoted as much time as I have to studying history; but I have reached the point -- at least in a personal sense -- that I am tired of the rumination that has clogged my thought processes off & on for decades, tired of reliving all the failures & screw-ups, ready to treat each day as a new chance to start over.

And why not? One mistake that I have made consistently for many years now (I don't know quite when it began) is to take life way too damn seriously, when the truth is that life is a mysterious exercise that may or may not have any significance beyond one's own subjective experience, and that can end at any moment. So why do we assign so much urgency to it? Why do we increase our risk and decrease our enjoyment obessing over things that ultimately may mean nothing & have no signifcance? And why do we, as a consequence of this, set ourselves up for failure by not focusing on the issues, events, & decisions that, given our full and proper attention, could make our lives better, more secure, & more meaningful?

I have resolved to make a conscious effort not to do this, which is going to take a great deal of behavior modification on my part. It is not natural for me not to obsess over the negative, ruminate over past mistakes, & dread what the future holds. Would I be justified in continuing down that path? Yes. Does it help my situation? No.

I ran a trail run yesterday -- against my better judgment, as I have a marathon in four weeks & cannot afford an injury. Yet I could not pass on this one, as it was part of the track club's points series (I placed third in my age group, & thus received a much-needed 30 points) & just as improtantly, it was fun. And there were pancakes at the finish. What better reason to run a race? I didn't do as well as I normally do, as I misjudged my pace & finished about 3 minutes off my PR, but I was nevertheless amazed at how good I felt on the course, & took this as another indicator of how much fitter I am now compared to this time last year. Plus, I had enough left over today to get in 16.5 EZ miles this morning. The summer base training and all those long tempos paid off, and my running form has improved substantially, resulting in less wasted effort. Four weeks away from my fourth marathon, I feel good, & ready.

Posted by MHB at 11:10 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007 10:18 PM EST
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Sunday, 4 November 2007
A Weary Attempt at Catching Up

I have much to write, but only the time & energy for a few quick thoughts to update this blog. The primary reason for my weariness is a good one: I got a 20 in this morning, my first in over a year & one of my least problematic ever. By the time I finished, my legs hurt seriously below the knee, but I was not completely wiped out & was able to go on with my day with few restrictions ( I even did some yard work this evening). There was no acute dehydration, no blisters, no discolored toenails, & by noon I was ready to go to the grocery store with my wife, who also got in a 20 this morning. I did nod off a couple of times while watching NBC's recap of the NYC Marathon, but otherwise made it through the afternoon just fine.

Speaking of NBC: adding to the tragedy of the Ryan Shay situation is the fact that the network's "coverage" of the race Sat. never mentioned him, & his untimely death garnered little coverage on any of the other networks either (college football takes precedence, you know). But just wait: give them a couple of days to get their act together, & we will be seeing segments on the Today show that will begin something like: "Each year, tens of thousands of Americans run marathons. But how safe are they? Next we'll hear from some medical experts as well as from our own marathoner, Natalie Morales."

A lot more has gone on with me vis-a-vis running in the past few weeks, but for now I will have to synopisze it. Last week's Spinx RunFest was terrific: I spent the entire weekend there volunteering, helping my wife (who directed the kids' races), & finally running a PR (1:47) in the half Sun. morning on a course that I had never run before & that was backloaded w/ hills. It is clear from my performance that my summer of base training & corresponding emphasis upon long tempo runs paid off. There's more to it than that, including the expert advice that I discussed in my last entry, but suffice to say that it was the first really good race that I have run all year, & I hope that it will prove to be a sign of things to come.


Posted by MHB at 10:44 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 4 November 2007 10:50 PM EST
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