Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bye Bye, Blogger

Hello, my loyal reader (I assume there's only one of you, if that). I'm done with Blogger. It was the first time since LiveJournal (before the Russians took it over) that I used something other than WordPress. The Blogger UI has been bugging me, so I installed the latest version and bought a domain. You can now find my blog at:

I haven't done anything with it, besides import my posts from here, so don't expect anything fancy.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Let's [Move] Tonight, Share the Spice of Life

This weekend was the Let's Move Festival of Races, which means:
Half Marathon #2 is in the books with a new PR!  I went in with the goal time of 2:15, but I ended up with an official time of 2:06:43!  That's about 17 minutes faster than Detroit.

The day started off by waking up at 6am.  It's still an hour later than a workday.  Came downstairs to make some toast with Nutella and start drinking water.  Pretty much just vegged out on the recliner watching the news.  The night before the forcast said mid 30s and a 20% chance of rain.  In the morning, I actually heard the weatherman said "some of you might feel a few wet snowflakes." Perfect.  It turned 7 so I got dressed and headed out.  I told Lauren to stay at home with Jack due to the weather.  She left a note of love and encouragement on top of my bib.  I'm very lucky to have a wife that is so supportive.
Love from the family

Luckily for me, Anthony's parents live within a mile from the start and the course comes down the end of their street.  While he wasn't racing today, his sister and brother-in-law were doing the relay (and came in 2nd place).  I got to the house and filled up my water bottles and mixed in my new favorite fuel, HEED (I am in no way affiliated with Hammer Nutrition.  I just really love their products).  I'm pretty sure this stuff saved me in this race.  We headed out the door and toward the start.  I left the group to gear check my bag and meet up with another group, the GP Runners. I was convinced that I should start with the sub 2 hour wave.  I knew I wasn't breaking two hours, but I didn't want a repeat of Corktown.  with about 15 minutes before start, I had my first of two Hammer Gels. Unfortunately there wasn't any water available to wash it down and all I had was HEED in my bottles.  I was sure to hit the first water station.

I completed the first mile in 9:30, way too fast for my strategy.  My plan was to go a nice and easy 10-10:30 min/mi pace for the first half and do some speedwork in the 2nd half to average my pace near 10:00.  My real-time pace on my watch  was never correct.  I thought I was running a steady 10ish, but when I downloaded my run, only 2 miles were over 10 minutes (by seconds).

I bumped into a GP Runner that had the same goal time and we paced each other for about 4 miles, when we reach the relay exchange.  I took gel #2 and decided it was time to kick it up a bit. I started pacing with a guy who had been near me the past mile or so.  We got to talking; quite a bit of talking, actually. Turns out we works for the landscaping company that my company uses.  We've probably seen each other and never knew it.  We talked shop and it made time (and miles) fly by.  At mile 7 I had that feeling that all runners fear in a race; my left calf twitched.  I reached for my water bottles and drank what was left of my HEED.  While I felt the cramp there for the rest of the race, it never came full force.

My new friend had me pacing at about 9:45 and I was able to hold conversation so I knew I had some energy left in me.  I wasn't going to leave my new friend though.  His company was helping more than anything.  Once we reached mile 12, he shook my hand and told me to take off.  He knew I had plenty of gas left.  I started my kick and averaged a 8:40 pace.  I could hear an encouraging "You got this!" from behind me.  That last mile is probably the hardest part of the race.  I would guess it to be on a 2-3% grade.  Not terribly hilly, but for the final mile of a course thats almost entirely flat, its not welcomed.
I saw The Sign and it opened up my eyes.

I reached Main St, the final stretch of the course and I first see Anthony on his bike cheering me on and next to him I see The Sign (TM) being held by fellow Blogger/DailyMiler, Mary Beth.  That could only mean her relay partner was nearby.  I turned my head and spotted Cara Jo right behind me.  We finished within seconds of each other.  I briefly said hello and we congratulated each other on our awesome finishes.  I managed to get a pretty cool action shot finish.

Mid-Air, Thumbs-Up Action Pose

Anthony and I met up with the rest of his family and looked up the official results.  At the time, I was 7th in my group, but was later knocked to 9th.  I usually don't pay attention to ranks, but I made 403/2900+ overall and 85th percentile seems like something to note.  I'm definitely making improvements and its only the start of the season.

Add caption

Here's to a sub 2:00 by the end of the year!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Real Quick...

Someone PR'd by 17 minutes.  2:06:43.  Felt awesome.  Recap to follow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

John Cougar Prefers Deep Tissue

So like I mentioned last post, I had my first full body massage yesterday. I had purchased a Groupon for a place nearby and it was about to expire, so I figured race week is as good as any. The Groupon was for a nice, relaxing Swedish massage, but when I arrived I was given the chance to pay a little more to have them beat the crap out of me (i.e. deep tissue massage). I took them up on the offer.

When I made my appointment, I was asked if I had a gender preference. My wife told me I should ask for a man, because they are typically stronger and can apply more pressure. Easy choice for her to pick a guy, since she would never be part of a dude-on-dude rubdown. Also, I'm pretty sure at least in the back of her head she didn't want some other woman touching me. So when the question came up by the receptionist, I replied in my manliest voice, "no preference."

I arrived on time, was given some paperwork to fill out, paid for my beatdown upgrade, and was asked to wait as he would be with me shortly. Yep. Got a dude.

I should stop right here and clarify. I know a massage is non-sexual; or at least they should be (different topic). I also know that my masseuse is a professional, like a doctor (of course, I would never tip my doctor after an exam. Especially if it involved a colonoscopy or hernia check...Awkward). That all being said; its still me, stripped down to my boxers, getting an oily rubdown by some guy; and I think I have the right to feel a little uncomfortable about it. No offense, Jason.

Sure it was a little awkward at first, but you get used to it. Awkwardness surfaced again when he hit the glutes, but subsided. Really, my head is buried in a pillow and no one is talking over the sounds of XM Spa in the background (its been a while since I listened to Enya and Tangerine Dream). It could of a been a woman (with man hands) for all I knew; then I had to flip over. I chose to stare at the ceiling, because nothing screams awkward like looking into the eyes of a guy whose hand is all up on your pectoral.

It started fairly gentle, warming up the muscles. It was pretty relaxing. I wondered if he had noticed that I upgraded. He noticed. Before I knew it, he was digging his elbow into my trapezius. An experience that I can't call pleasant. It was a good pain; It hurts but you don't want it to stop. Think the scene in Little Shop of Horrors where Bill Murray is at the dentist.

He also did this thing which to me felt like he grabbed a knot and tossed it back and forth from one hand to another. That actually wasn't painful at all and seemed to help. I won't divulge into every muscle group this guy worked on. I'm sure I've bored you enough already.

I couldn't really do anything after I got home. Lauren was having a mommy-night-out with a friend, so it was just me and Jack. He ran around for a while then joined me on the couch to watch the end of a disappointing Tigers game.

Talking Points:

  • Ever had a massage? Swedish? Deep Tissue? Sports? or that one where they use their feet?
  • What was your experience like?
  • Is it weird that I, a straight, married male had a male masseuse?
  • How awesome is Bill Murray? That's rhetorical, but feel free to join me in his praise. And for LSoH.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Haven't Blogged You in the Longest Time

Its been quite some time since my last update.  There is so much to cover:

First order of business.  The pop culture reference in the last post's
title was a lyric from Irving Berlin's "I Want to go back to Michigan".
That's simple enough to Google, but why was it my title?  The song was
performed by Judy Garland for the movie, The Easter Parade...and it was
Easter.  That's how my brain works...sorry.

Training News:
I was disappointed to skip my 11 mile run on week 10.  Because of that, I
ended it up not reaching 20 miles for the week.  I bounced back in week 11
with a very positive 12 mile run.  Weather wasn't the most favorable these
past few weeks, so I've learned to accept the treadmill for short,
lunchtime runs.  One day I decided to try negative splits and now its the
only way I can run on the 'mill.  Its win/win:  I get some speedwork in, I
don't get as bored, and I can get off that dreaded hampsterwheel sooner.

Run of note:
I had my last long run before Let's Move this past Saturday.  It was
supposed to be 12, but ended up being 12.6 miles and I did it in about the
same time I did the Detroit Half.  Methinks I'll be able to shave a few
minutes off my PR.  I felt solid the entire way; even detoured to a nice
hill.  At about 4.5 miles, I made my way to Anthony's where he loaned me a
scoop of HEED and joined me for the final 8.  I've been meaning to try
HEED and I think it really helped.  It will be in one of my bottles this

Random Thoughts:
During my long run, a man pulled over and asked for directions to one of
the high schools.  It made me realize that local runners must be some of
the most knowledgeable people to ask for specific directions.  While the
directions I gave the man weren't as specific, I could have probably given
him distances down to the tenth of a mile.  As runners we know the true
value of a mile.

Final Thoughts:
Yesterday was my final exam (I think I passed), so hello

Monday, April 9, 2012

I'd rather be where they go to bed at nine

Had a pretty good week after the previous week where I managed to only get 8 miles in.  Somewhere in those 8 miles I hurt my knee, too.  Did that stop me?  Nope.  I put in 9 miles early in the week.  My knee was really feeling it.  Did it stop me? For two days I took some rest, not really because of my knee, but schedule.

Some friends from DC drove into town for Easter.  Lisa is a triathlete and her fiance, Dave has ran several marathons, including Boston.  I asked if they had their running gear with them and they said yes.  So Friday morning (after a Thursday night of drinking) we headed out for a 10-miler.  It was a great run with friends that 1) I get to see maybe 2-3 times a year and 2) share a love of running.  I don't have too many of those.  Dave got a tour of the area.  He was fascinated with the night-and-day border of when we crossed over from Grosse Pointe to Detroit and just about every house was falling apart.  We thought we had cut the run short, but we still somehow managed to break 10 miles.

My knee felt fine the whole time.  It was a few hours later that it started acting up again.  Easter Sunday I snuck out real quick for 3-4 miles.  The first mile I was asking myself "why?"  My knee was acting up so much that I was practically limping the first mile.  I told myself that maybe I'd just do 2 miles.  That would be enough to break 20 for the week.  After that first mile I decided to not turn around and to keep going.  The knee eventually loosened up and I was able to run with a form that didn't quite resemble Igor.

Should I see a doctor?  Probably.  Will I? No.  At least not before the Let's Move Half.  Plenty of time to heal after that.

Theme of this past week

Oh and one more thing.  Someone has been consistently +1ing my posts on Google.  Its not public as to who though.  So this is a call out to you:  come out of hiding add me to a circle.

Just kidding. One last thing.  Leave a comment explaining the pop culture reference in the title of this and every other post (there's always one hidden) and you'll get a point.  Points have no monetary value, but if you collect enough, you can trade them in for my gratitude (I'm broke.  That's all I can afford).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Up With The Sun, Gone With The Wind

Does anyone ever notice my titles are almost always in reference to something in pop culture; usually a song? I used to do that in my writing classes, as well.  Leave a comment if you get it (no Google).  I'm curious.

Anyways, had a nice 6 this morning.  I did something I had been meaning to since I moved into this house.  I woke up early enough on a day off to make it down to the lake shore and watch the sun come up.  Its not the clearest of days, but I was still awesome.  I woke up later than planned, but I hurried out the door and made the 1.5 mile trip to shore, just-in-time to see this:
Well it looks like the clouds bought me a little time, so I stuck around, did some stretches, and even threw in some sit-ups all while greeting the sun.

I often find myself getting a little jealous when I see other runners posting their trail runs that are right in their neighborhood.  I'd love to be able to run Paint Creek Trail and spot the HBDP team on their daily run.  Or hit the trails out at Stoney.  But I can't complain too much.  Grosse Pointe is a very runner friendly community.  We have beautiful houses on heavily wooded streets, pedestrian-friendly shopping areas and the gem of the Grosse Pointes, Lakeshore Drive:

That's right, my regular run is the end credit scene of Gran Torino
 I made another quick stop to snap a photo of the riding horses at the GP Hunt Club.  Not many cities (especially next door to Detroit) can say they have something like this.
Right after this shot, they decided to trot around.  Warm-up for equestrian classes.
And that's my city.  I'll make a point to snap more shots when I'm in some other neat areas around town.  Now its time to get this weekend started.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Proud Mary Keeps on Burning...

After reading about trigger points and myofascial release, I've been wanting to purchase a foam roller.  It seemed to the the must have tool for runners.  As luck would have it, a local gym was offering a class on how to properly use one.  They even provided one along with an instructional DVD.  I jumped on the offer and showed up yesterday.

I expected it going in, but it %$!@ hurts!  We spent just under an hour going through all the techiques for different muscles.  I knew my calves were bad, they've been tight since Corktown.  I wasn't expecting the pain in the glutes that I felt.  Supposedly the more I roll, the better it gets.  So its been less than 24 hours and I've already done three sessions.
You really do look this cool when you do it.

Except your face looks like this.
Woke up early this morning to get 5 miles in before work.  Decided to roll as my warm-up.  About a mile in, I stopped to stretch.  My right shin gets really tight.  Eventually I'll go to a PT about it, but until then I just keep stretching and rolling.  At mile two, I was a mess.  Both legs were giving me hell, but I powered through.  Finally I reached mile 4 and things started to loosen up.  Too bad I was 80% done with my run and no time to extend it.

It was a shame it was so early.  I was along the lake and the sun wouldn't rise for another 2 hours.  One Day I'll catch it.

When I got back I went straight to the roller and did another session.  I must say, my legs feel fine after my run.  The roller stays.

Monday, March 19, 2012

MTV Didn't Follow This Spring Break

Another week in the books. A quick summary:
  • Stuck to training schedule for a full week
  • Added a lot of walking
  • First trail run of the year
  • Made a new friend
Corktown PR left my legs aching for a few days. None-the-less, I went out Tuesday morning and brought my quadriped friend, Buddy along. Started the week off right and hit all my goals for the week.
My Running Buddy

The weather has been unbelievable for mid-March and so the family has been taking full advantage of it. We walked about 10 miles this past week. To the grocery store, the library, coffee shop, or nowhere in particular.  Being on Spring break helped.  Back to class today, but we still plan on getting our walks in.

On Sunday Anthony, his brother-in-law, and new friend Marisa joined me at Stony Creek for the first trail run of the year. I put the call out on the social medias and Marisa responded on the GP Runner FB page. I had seen her on FB before, but we had never met until Sunday. Turns out her pace is right in my zone and we're both training for the Let's Move half. Maybe a new member of Team TBD (the unofficial team of Anthony, Emily and me - we still can't think of a real team name).

Back to the trails... we got in a decent 6 miles that flew by.  Trail runs are so much more interesting. They keep you on your toes, twisting, winding, avoiding roots and rocks. The trails we ran are actually for mountain bikes, so they can get a little technical. We all had so much fun, that this run was definitely going to have some sequels.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Corktown Races Sing This Song...Doo Dah

This weekend was the Corktown Race, a 5k in the Irish community of Detroit.  I signed up for two three reasons:
  1. I was ready for a new PR for my 5K
  2. It seemed like a lot of friends were participating
  3. A very cool tech shirt and medal
I'll be honest, it was 75% reason #3.  The shirt and medal were some of the coolest and I was in need of a new short sleeve tech shirt.
The race started at the crack of noon.  It was odd to be racing so late in the day.  I showed up around 11 am and met up with some friends at Nemo's.  I contemplated having a pre-race shot, but I decided against it.  With about 30 minutes to go, we headed to the start line.

Complaint #1:  when I registered I had to pick a wave, either faster or slower than a 10 min/mi pace.  When I reached the starting line, there was no corral system to separate the two waves.  So because I showed up with 10 minutes 'til the start of a race with over 7500 participants, this was my view of the start gate:
It took about 4 minutes to reach the gate, which I don't mind. I did mind that the next 1.5 miles were spent weaving and dodging all the walkers and 10+ min/mi pacers, while my average pace was about 8.

Complaint #2: although I knew what I was getting into when I registered, Michigan Ave is an ankle death-trap. It was once a streetcar route, covered in brick. When the streetcars were removed, the track located in what is now the turning lane was covered by asphalt. Wear and tear and a poor DOT, leaves this road in shambles. Busted bricks, chunks of old asphalt and uncovered trolley tracks are just a few of the course obstacles. Don't forget cars and trucks randomly blocking parts of the course. When 7500 people are spread along 1.5 miles, you need all the space you can get.

The awesome weather meant I needed more effort to stay hydrated. These 30° runs had me spoiled. Despite drinking about 40 oz of water leading up to the race, I still had to stop at the water station both times. Normally in a 10k, I may find myself stopping once. Then again, I'm not usually trying to keep an uncomfortable pace. After mile 2, I had run out of energy. My pace dropped by a full minute, but I figured if I could keep it as close to 9 as possible, I'd PR.

And PR is what I did. Official time of 26:33. This was my first 5k in 2 years, not counting the Golab-k which ended up being short of 3.1. I cleared my last time by over a minute. After the race, most parade goers had arrived by now - insanity commence. Getting through the crowds of drunken people was challenging, but I managed to get some people watching in.

I left before the parade ended, but I came home to a wife and son ready for an afternoon walk in the beautiful weather. A great finish to the day.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Back to Basics

Week 4 of training is just about over.  Week three was just about non-existant.  After the Pancake Run, I realized maybe I wasn't ready to run 10 miles so hard.  The same pain I got just prior to the Freep was happening on my opposite leg.  I ended up resting most of the week.  On the following Thursday I attempted a 3 mile run, but could only make it 2.  I was in pain.  So a few more days of rest it was.

This week, my new shoes arrived - Brooks Defyance.  I've decided to ditch the motion control for neutral shoes.  I should have to wear shoes that correct my gait, I should correct it myself.  So with that started my new campaign for a better running form.

Day 1:  3 miles on the treadmill at school.  Kept the 'mill at about 9:30.  While trying to get accustomed to my new, non-correcting shoes, a lot of my focus was on the hips.  The more I let my hips freely rotate, the less I was worried about over/underpronation.

Day 2:  3 miles on the streets.  Again focusing on hip rotation, but also trying to keep my body slanted forward.  Its one of the principles of Chi Running that I'm trying to follow.  I was trying to take it easy while focusing on form, but at the end of mile 1, I realized I ran a 8:55.  I decided to maintain and see how it goes.  My easy 3 was done in under 28 - not my usual easy.

Day 3:  Kept Friday a rest day and headed out this morning for a windy 3.  More focusing of the same, but added awareness of foot landing.  Goal is to not place my feet in front of me.  Doing this has me working my calves much more than usual.  Also, I find extra power in my toes.  Until this week, my toes provided balance, not propulsion.  I think that may be a key factor in where this speed is coming from.  It was another low 9 pace, even with this high wind advisory going on.

So apparently my new avg pace is 9:06.  We'll see how this works out tomorrow, when I go for my Sunday long of 7.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Will Run for Pancakes

A meetup I couldn't refuse.  It was as if the GP Runners said,
How can we get John to join us on a run?  I know, he raced the PoHo Hot Cocoa with the promise of chocolate at the finish line.  Maybe we can get him with pancakes!

Disclaimer:  These are not from OPH.

And it wasn't just any pancakes.  We're talking the Mecca of pancake lovers, The Original Pancake House.  We would meet in the OPH parking lot at 6am, head out and return around 8 for pancakey goodness. Some people had the goal of 10 miles, while a small subgroup said they'd do more like 7.  Hal told me my long run this week should be 6, so I figured I would join the 'slow group', get my miles in and feast. 

What really happened...
I showed up a few minutes past 6am.  As soon as I got out of my car I see the group taking off, but one person paused, "John?  You cut it close, come on!"  I joined up with the gang and took off for about a mile when I realized this group showed no signs of splitting.  We took a potty break a few miles in at Kroger and I was able to converse a little waiting for everyone.
"So you're doing the full 10?"
"I haven't ran 10 since the Freep!"
"Well how far have you gone this year?"
"I did 7 in early January."
"Thats close enough."
Yeah that 7mi was at like a 10:30 pace, but I didn't mention that to a bunch of people who don't seem to think back to back 10 mi runs in the 9s is a lot.  So there I was, new guy trying my hardest to keep up.  After mile 5, we split three ways.  Angela, who kept the conversation going with me the whole run, stayed back with me.  I was really greatful for it, because I would have probably walked if left alone.

We finally made it back to Pancake Mecca and as we were about to cross the street, we were told that we're only at 9.6 mi.  Reluctantly, we did a short out and back to make it 10...

Stop.... Pancake Time!

While enjoying my buttermilk beauties and necter of the gods, Cadillac Coffee, I did the math (no Garmin today) and even with the potty break total duration was no more than 1:40. I just ran sub 10 for 10, a feat I'm pretty sure I haven't done before.

Lesson learned: sometimes it just takes a little peer pressure and pancakes to push the limits.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Here we go again.

Well week 1 of training for my 2nd half is complete. Its a slow start seeing as I missed 2 workouts totaling 6 miles. That's okay, I'll get back in the groove soon enough.

What I didn't skip out on, however,  was Wednesday's speed/interval work.  That as probably the first time doing "sprint" (5k pace) intervals since I was on CC. I remember hating them then, but now its more of a love-hate relationship. I used the indoor track at school which is better than the 'mill, but its also 13 laps/mile. The OCD in me hates that they couldn't make it a little larger so at least I could do a 400 in whole number of laps. Instead it was 3 1/3 laps. I walked the remaining 2/3 lap to reset my interval. By the end of my workout, it was less than 30 minutes of my time, but I wanted to puke (ahh, the memories of CC coming in clearer now).

Did my long run on Sunday. It was a nice and warm 20° out. Having not done my laundry from the other outdoor run, I scrounged up all the random gear I could. I looked like a hobo. Every article was a different color. The kickers were the bright red balaclava and the tan knit wool glove/mittens with the fingers exposed for maximum style points.

Looking forward to my stretch/rest day today and my GP Runner's group pancake run. That's right, 10 miles at 6am on Saturday. Start/finish at Original Pancake House.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

PoHo Hot Cocoa and 2012 Goals

First race of the year is in the books.  This past Saturday I headed out to Port Huron for the Hot Cocoa 8k.  A few months back I joined a Facebook group of local runners in my town.  Despite the fact that they post group runs almost every single day, I had yet to meet any of them. One member organized us to run this race with a hefty group discount, so I couldn't refuse. $25 to race, eat chocolate and become an owner of one of these sweet (pun intended) hoodies.

I was able to meet about 10 or so members of this 30+ strong group. They all seem to be very nice and easy going (despite how hardcore some of them are in their running skills). Hopefully I'll manage to join some of their group runs.

The race itself was a balmy 14 degrees along the St Clair River towards Lake Huron.  The windchill was reported as 8, but we were along the shoreline which was probably a few degrees lower.  It took the first half of the race to get the body warm and loose

. By the time that happened, my lungs were tired of breathing in all the frigid air so my muscles and cardio reversed roles. My GPS cut me short by a bit, causing me to believe I was barely keeping 10 minute splits, but my official time showed I averaged a 9:17.  I can't complain about that with the race conditions as they were. PoHo is a pretty neat town and I plan on visiting with the family in the summer for a nice day trip.

Now that the New Year's Resolution craze is dying out, I have a few goals for this year when it comes to running. Are they resolutions? I guess so, but they were mostly planned out back in October. Let's start with the biggie:
Run my first full marathon. A few hours into the new year, I signed up for the Detroit Marathon. I completed the half last year and almost immediately upon finishing, I knew I wanted to do the full the next year. I know running a single half isn't much of a qualification for the whole, which brings me to my next goal.
Run 2 half marathons. I haven't registered yet, but I plan on running the Let's Move Festival in Mt. Clemens and Romeo 2 Richmond along the Apple Orchard Trail. Knowing me, I need races lined up to keep me moving and progressing.

With those goals set, I hope to inherently reach a few other ones. I hope to put 600 miles behind me. That should come naturally if I stick to my training plan. The other is to lose some weight - like 20-30 lbs. Its not easy to always have to run with this built-in weighted vest. I've been working on some base miles since the new year. Not much, but come February I start training for the Let's Move Half. Then it's go time!