Friday, February 24, 2012

There really is Just The One Hill at Pilot Mountain

I joked at Pilot Mountain last year that if you had done the half marathon, then you missed out on all the fun – the significant climb to the summit. Everything else just pales into insignificance on this course. “There is only one hill” I claimed. This has stuck with me for the last year. Just The One Hill™

But you know what? I am right. Sure, the race starts with a steep climb – but a quick glance at the elevation profile will show that  everything (even that steep climb at the start) up until the climb up to the summit is a molehill by comparison.


Anyway onto the race. The goal – smart pacing and to beat last year’s time (5:42), and to finish as if I could run more. I had predicted 5:30. And of course to get some nice hill work and have a blast in the progress.

Having done this race twice before, my approach was to take my time and pace easily until the 8 mile point – work hard up the hill, ease off around the summit and the initial descent (a lot of loose rocks and steps etc., the kind of things that can ruin your day as well as your ankle), open it up a bit for the bulk of the descent, then push it a little for the last 10k. As a result of the strategy, I have little doubt that I was close to DFL until the climb. Starting the ascent – I confirmed what I already knew. I really enjoy hill climbing! Yay! Slow steady calf burning climbing. I was giggling to myself. I passed a few people on the way up, and was really enjoying myself.

Once at the top, I caught up to my friend Amy. We chatted about The One Hill™ – Amy was also having a whole bunch of fun – apparently even continually saying “WTF? LOL” to herself on the way up.


The reward for the effort – the views from the top are so very worth it. Except I got in the way of any view for this picture.

The run around the summit and especially the initial drop down from the summit can be quite treacherous at times. It would be hard to run this part with any sort of speed – well especially if you are even slightly worried about the possibility of breaking any ankles.

Amy and I stuck together for most of descent. She will be running 100 miles at Umstead, and is just coming back from an injury, so it was good to see her running pain free and happy in her first long run back. About 6 or 7 miles to go, Amy ended up taking a detour into the woods, and I spent the rest of the race on my own.

The last 10k was when I saw the benefits of smart pacing early. I was in a happy spot, and running at a very nice pace over the rolling molehills. In fact I think my pace picked up nicely. I know I passed maybe half a dozen people in the last few miles.

All good.

Finished in 5:24. I even had an opportunity to act like a race-jerk. Picture the scene – 1/2 mile to go, I passed a couple of people. The last 100 yards or so, I realize that one these guys is trying to run me down. GAME ON! LET’S RACE. The sprint to the finish line was awesome! Especially when I knew I had him beat. But perhaps turning around and crossing the line backwards was not the least cocky thing I have ever done – but that is what I did nonetheless. It was all in good fun though and the fella I had just raced, laughed and we high fived when he finished a whole two seconds later. And I caught it on camera. Enjoy Smile


I am only left with two questions.

  1. The weather was perfect for the third year running. Can it happen a 4th time in 2013?
  2. What color will the finishers mug be in 2013.

Can’t wait to find out.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Some thoughts about training.

Not sure whether I should post this. But I am on a plane, and for once I think I am pretty much up to date with things on this here blog, the book I am reading doesn’t interest me that much, so I thought about writing about my training, and some of my philosophies.

Why am I not sure that I should post this? Well, every runner is different, and different things work for them, so I would hate it if someone followed the “Jimbo method”, and as a result bolloxed up a race.

Disclaimer: I can be opinionated with stuff. But these are just my opinions. Mine. I have learned this stuff by just doing it myself and figuring this out for myself. I have learned what works for me. Feel free to have your own opinions.

That said…… here we go:

“Think of effort before pace” – Easy, medium, hard, maximum. A hard effort run in the summer will probably mean you are running at a slower pace than a hard effort run when it is cool – but will still yield just as good results. A 10 minute pace up a hill is more effort than a 10 minute pace down a hill (Durr!) If I run on pace alone, then I might not get the training benefit I want or need. Also, learning to gauge my effort levels mean that during a race, I stick at a steady effort – which will mean faster at the beginning, slower going up hills etc, but (hopefully) meaning I have enough energy at the end for a good finish.

“The more you run the better you get” – No shit Sherlock. And yet almost weekly, I get an email from Runners World, “Train Less, Run Faster”. Does anyone fall for that crap? Really. No, the more I run the better I will get. What do I mean by better? If I run more, I will be able to endure more – run further.

“If you want to run long, then you need to practice running long” – Kinda like the one above really. And kinda obvious.

“If you want to run fast, then you need to practice running fast” – Well yes, precisely. By running fast, I mean short hard intervals or the maximum effort level for the distance you are running, (this of course doesn’t pertain to junk miles (see below) or long runs). I have never got the principle behind “Tempo Runs”. WTF is the point of running 5 miles at goal marathon pace? Why not run 5 miles at 5 mile pace? And if you want to run at marathon pace, then run a damn marathon. (Probably controversial – see disclaimer above)

All of that said – let’s get to junk miles……

If you read the UltraList, then you will know that this is a controversial topic. Junk Miles – miles that (according to many) are a waste of time. In other words, there is a large segment of the running community that believe if any given run doesn’t have specific pace or specific goals in mind, then they are a waste of time (some say even detrimental). I say bullshit. (See my first point – the more I run, the better I get – also, read disclaimer again). I like running, I have fun running, so if I want to plod around for a few very easy miles, then that is precisely what I will do.

I don’t use a training routine. – I don’t like them. They are a waste of time for me, because I would probably not follow it. Besides, they say things like “Tuesday - 4 mile tempo” – well, what happens if I don’t want to do a 4 mile tempo run, and I want to do a 8 mile jog?

Hill Training. – Another one that most training routines don’t seem to get right. Most of them will say something like “Run hard up the hill, recover on the way down”. Errrr no – I say, it is more beneficial to run hard down the hill, and power hike back up. Don’t get me wrong though, there are some benefits to running hard up hills – it is kind of like strength training for the calf muscles. But I always find that working the quads running hard down hills is of greater benefit.

Now, onto long runs, LSD. Yes, I need to do long runs – they can’t be avoided – see points 1 and 2 above. I have a solid principle behind my long runs – the principle is “The Four E’s” (Or running “For Ease”). And here are The Four E’s

  1. Endurance – time on feet, it gives my body and muscles practice at just moving for long periods of time.
  2. Exercise – Have you ever seen me? Or heard about my fondness for bacon? Yep – I need to burn calories.
  3. Experimentation – Where else am I going to learn about the hydration, nutrition I will need, the type of clothing, shoes, lube I will use. Long runs are the time to learn this stuff – not on race day (That said, I do run races as training runs too – I am not one of those who put on a race number and feel as though I have to race – it is, in my opinion, perfectly reasonable to use a race as LSD. )
  4. Enjoyment – the big one. If I don’t enjoy it, then what is the point? Run with friends, run alone, run on beautiful trails, run with music or without, stop and smell the flowers, but just run for fun. If I have fun, then I will run more – and the more I run, the better I get.

Now – a little bit about running streaks. I like running every day. Even if it is just a mile to keep the streak alive. I find that I really do not want to stop my streak, so I force myself to go out. Almost every time, I find myself enjoying the run, so I will end up running more. In other words, it is way easier to find an excuse to go and run when you have a streak going. On the other hand, if don’t have a streak going, then it can be pretty easy to find an excuse NOT to run (too cold, too hot, too tired etc etc). That said, I do stop streaks when I am tapering for a goal race. There are people who have run every day for decades, so I am not a “proper” streaker.

Running in the heat – the training benefits of running through the summer are huge! I meet the heat, and do not go out of my way to beat the heat. It is no surprise to me that most of my PR’s happen in the fall after running through several sufferfests through the summer.

So, I like to think that for my short/fast runs, I am training for my fastest ever 5k, and my long runs as if I am training for my slowest ever marathon.

Notice I didn’t define the distances that define short or long runs? Probably because I think it is hard to put a distance to it. I have ran 3 or 4 miles, and treated just like a 4E long run, I have also done marathons or 50k’s at maximum effort (for the distance, but that is racing) – (maybe that’s what a tempo run is???). So, in short, a long run can be shorter than a short run and a short run can be longer than a long run, and that is basically the long and short of it. (WTF Jimbo?)

My plane is just about to land so – that will do for now.

So, there you have it. The Jimbo Method.

Some runs are just wonderful–two notable jogs.

Jog number 1

Work took me to California this week. Another week of motel treadmills, bad food, blah blah blah – yep, life on the road with Jimbo. Or so I thought…….

…… as it happened, I found myself with a couple of hours to kill on a beautiful sunny afternoon. “OK then,” I thought to myself, “everywhere I look around this town I see mountains not too far away. I wanna go run in some mountains”. Google maps is a great tool – not 20 minutes away was the Henry W Coe State Wilderness Area. More research and I found that there were plenty of trails.

In the parking lot, there were trail maps to take. And off I went on what was called “The Steer Ridge Loop”. What followed was one the best runs I have ever done. Not the furthest or fastest – but probably one of the fun-est (yeah, I know – it is a made up word). Wonderful views, warm sunny weather, calf burning and lung searing climbs, with exhilarating, quad frying and toe crunching descents. Oh, and I actually “bagged a peak” too. It was one of those runs where I so wish I could have got there earlier so I could have spent several hours in the hills on the well marked/posted trails. Alas, 7.5 miles and a couple of thousand feet of elevation gain had to suffice. It was one of those runs that despite the effort of some of the climbs, I was smiling the whole time. I was singing some too.

Have  you seen that Geico commercial? The one with the pig on a sled or something, flying down a hill, going “weeeeeeee, weeeeee”. Yeah – it was like that. Here is the Geico commmercial.


Fullscreen capture 282012 84420 PM.bmpJust The One Hill™

IMG00288-20120208-1535It occurred to me when I looked at the map afterwards, that as far as my eye could see, every single view I had were all within the boundaries of the wilderness area. Awesome.


IMG00296-20120208-1617A real “Summit marker” – The peak of Mount Wilson 2,651’ (I started the run at ~800’)


Jog number 2

After the wonderful run the day before – it was a shame, but work got in the way, and as such I wasn’t able to head out into the mountains again. (WTF? LOL). <sigh>

But I really couldn’t face the drudgery of the hotel treadmill again. The front desk folks told me that there was a cycle path just a few minutes walk away. That’ll do. You know about the 2012 5k challenge right? Well I needed this week’s 5k. The weather was warm again, and I decided to go for it – and see if I could do a sub 24 minute 5k outside – after two failures so far this year (they were only “sort of” failures, but still fell within my very own self imposed rules for the challenge, – they were above 24 minutes, but below 25 – I allowed a 60 second grace in January).

The trail was flat, easy surface and probably as ideal as you can get for a fast run.

After a brief warm up, and with the hope of loosening up the sore quads fro the day before…… off I went

Out 1.55 miles  out– trying to remain at a happy pace, but just edging my way into the pain cave. Sub 24 minutes looked doable.

Back 1.55 miles – any fool can run a fast 1.55 miles. GO! Into the pain cave I went. A mile to go, and the possibility of sub 23:34 looked doable (my 5k PR)The last half mile was just about hanging on, and maintaining the pace as best I could. The last quarter mile, every cell in my body was screaming at me to give this shit up. But sub 23 looked possible. The last tenth – barring my legs totally giving up on me (which wasn’t out of the question), I was going to finish in less than 23 minutes, and crush my PR

22:43. WTF? LOL

As exhilarating as the run in the mountains was, this run also gave a buzz – similar but different (for one, I wasn’t giggling or singing), and the mountains didn’t make me feel like puking. There is something special about a fast 5k – you can leave absolutely everything out there on the trail – and if you totally bollox it up, well, you just walk for a bit. That feeling of pushing through the pain barrier when everything is telling you to stop is a pretty neat feeling (but only when you HAVE finally stopped though!)

But anyway – it is almost like this mission of trying to run a fast 5k every week is paying some dividends, even after just a month of it. Still, WTF do I know eh? LOL.

Monday, February 6, 2012

NC Fat Ass 50k and Accountability Update

Not really too much to write about the NC Fat Ass – other than to say , that just like any and all of the Mangum Track Club races I have done, it was a great run, and as always, I got to hang out with friends

I was planning on running with Wilbur and Sarah, and figured 20 miles would be enough for them. But the weather was so wonderful, the trail so perfect for running on (for both me and the pups), that we figured we would get ourselves a marathon. Actually an ultra – we went an additional 1/2 mile on the out and back course so that we got a total of 27 + miles. It was a very good tired that we all had afterwards.

Accountability update

Now then – here is the up-to-date status page: 5k challenge

January is done and I managed to get a 5k in per week that followed the rules. The two runs I did outside, both needed the “minute of grace” that I allowed myself in January. In my defense for both of those outside runs, it wasn’t ideal. The first one, along the Columbia river trail in Washington, even though it was flat, but it was windy. The other “outside run” was the first 3.1 miles of my normal lunchtime Umstead 4 mile out and back run, which is not flat. Also in both cases, it was only after a fairly fast first mile, that I decided I was going to make the run part of my challenge. (Maybe that helped me though, by allowing me to ease into a fast run. Dunno.)

One thing though, last week during my lunch time runs on two occasions, I actually got two PR’s – so does this mean I am getting faster? Does this mean that the 5k challenge is actually working? Maybe. I’m hoping though that February will see me slowly start to improve both the treadmill 5k time and the outdoor 5k time. I think though, I am going to have to adjust my target for the outdoor 5k’s – 24 minutes maybe a bit much for now – I knew it would be in January – hence the 60 seconds of grace I allowed myself. So being as this is my challenge, and I get to set the rules, I am allowing 45 seconds of grace throughout February – outdoor 5ks only.