Monday, July 31, 2006

Almost bought the farm today...

...because I was almost killed by an idiotic, impatient, selfish driver. I haven't commuted by bike in a while due to work and travel, injury, etc. I was really excited about getting back into my commute every day possible, and today was my first day back.

I was heading south on Audelia Road north of 635 (here's my commute). I stay off major roads as much as possible, but sometimes you have to use them to connect. As I approached a light, I was riding in the right hand lane, but I was riding about where a left car tire would go (one thing I've learned from resources like the DORBA Commuter Forum and commuting websites is "Own Your Lane," don't cower near the curb and invite people to share your lane). So I'm about 100 feet from an intersection with a light and suddenly, out of nowhere, this car passes me on the right, trying to get between me and the curb!!!! He was so close that his side view mirror hit my handlebars; it must have passed inches from my leg, elbow and side! Luckily it was a folding mirror and it actualy folded all the way back to the car door.

If he had driven a couple more inches to the left, or if the mirror had not been a fold away, I would be sprawled in the middle of the road, hopefully not run over by the other traffic.

What is wrong with people!!?? Why are they so impatient?? Why are they so inconsiderate?? Even hateful?? I'm going to continue to ride, dammit, because I like it and it's the right thing to do. But how long before someone is injured or even killed by an idiot (I know it happens every day somewhere!).

The ironic thing is that at the time of the incident I was thinking of a T-shirt idea that might keep people from honking at me. On the front, I would like the commie logo of the fist breaking a car (see above). On the back, in big letters, it will say, "Honk if you're helping the planet" or "Honk if you're reducing our dependence on foreign oil" or "Honk if you're fighting global warming." I think that should silence the honkers! (I posted this on the DORBA Commie Forum and now one of the members has spearheaded an effort to make these jerseys or something similar a reality!).

One thing I have to admit--the accident was partly my fault because I was daydreaming and lost my focus. I have a rear view mirror clipped to my helmet, so I should have seen this idiot coming and taken evasive action.

So ride safe out there and stay focused. Don't let 'em take you down!!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Night Walk

Last night my trail running club, the North Texas Trail Runners, hosted their annual members and guests Night Run. This was a race I might actually win because it is a prediction run - no watches or cell phones or MP3 players, just guess your time and see who is closest.

The race is on the rugged and wonderful North Shore Trail at Lake Grapevine. It's probably the most popular trail for running (and mountain biking) in the Dallas area. We started in the middle of the trail at the MADD shelter; the course went south out and back (little over 9 miles total) and then north out and back (little under 9 miles) for an 18 mile course. It's a pretty low key affair and largely self-supported except for water, gatorade and food in the middle.

We started at 8:00 and I quickly dropped back to almost last place. I had predicted 3:54, a 13:00 per mile pace. I haven't trained or raced on trails since March, and I've only walked 18 miles or farther once since March, so I really didn't know what to expect.

It was light for about 30 minutes, then dusk for about twenty, then it was time to turn on my flashlight and headlamp. Some of the fast runners passed me on the way back, then I hit the turn around and on the way back in I passed a few runners.

I love walking at night and think that I'm relatively fast in the dark, so I was enjoying myself immensely. I was alone, which is how I prefer it, just enjoying the experience. It was HOT! At 8:00 pm it was 97 degrees; when I got home around 1:45 am it was still 84! So I had to stay hydrated. I drank about two bottles of fluid on the first out and back, and about three bottles on the second out and back (I wasn't carrying bottles; I was wearing my Camelbak FlashFlo, which holds two bottles worth of fluid).

I hit the halfway point at MADD shelter and refilled my Camelbak and headed right back out. The north half of the trail is more rugged and hilly, so I knew it would be a challenge. But so far I was feeling great and felt like I was going fast (for me). On the north out and back I fell twice. The first time I put my right foot out and stepped on a stick. The other end of the stick was pointing back toward me and when I stepped on the far end, the near end lifted up. I caught the toe of my left foot on the end of the stick and couldn't get it dislodged in the milliseconds it took to fall. I wasn't hurt at all, but I was covered with dirt and sand because of the drought we are having in Dallas; the trail was dusty like a desert.

The second fall was similar except I was just getting tired and lazy climbing up a hill, caught my left foot again and fell on my left side. Again, no injuries but I was laying there in a cloud of dust and dirt, and my whole left side was filthy. The mouthpiece of my Camelbak was dirty, too, but I had to just suck it up and drink out of it anyway after a cursory cleaning.

I saw runners in front of me pass by on their way back in, and then I passed runners behind me on my way back. I could tell there were a lot of DNFs because I passed very few people, and some people that I knew should have been behind me were nowhere to be seen.

When I finally got back to the MADD shelter I was welcomed back by the RD, then I drank some water and had a seat. There were a lot of members sitting in a circle sharing war stories, but I was tired and really didn't feel like chatting. So after sitting for a while I headed home, stopping at the store to get milk and a bite to eat.

Unfortunately I forgot to ask for my time so I don't know how close I came to my prediction. They will post the results on the NTTR website (last year's results) so I'll post again when they are there.

I was pleased with this race because, as I mentioned above, I haven't done this distance or any trails in quite a while. I really want to get my ultra legs back, and I now feel like I'm well on my way. This has been my best training week in a long time (36 total miles, some good speed work) and I'm really starting to feel good again. I'm also very motivated to start biking to work again (for health reasons, political reasons, environmental reasons) and plan to bike all week except the two days I'll be out of town.

So if you plan to be in Dallas next July please join me at the NTTR Night Run as my guest; it will be hot, but it will be fun!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ultracentric 2006

Ultracentric has a new Race Director, and the race has changed quite a bit. It's now a 48/24/12/6 hour race. It's moved up one weekend (it used to be the weekend after Thanksgiving). It's no longer on a high school track, it's on a 2.4 mile paved loop. And the 24 hour race has been designated the 2006 National 24 Hour Run Championship by the American Ultrarunning Association. For you speed demons, there's actually prize money, "the largest in ultramarathon national championship history in the United States" according to the AUA website.

Here's the new website. I'll miss the old race format, but change is part of life. I didn't have this race on my calendar this year, but since it is moved up one weekend and since there is a twelve hour option, it might be a good training race for SunMart.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Nike+iPod without Nike

I don't have an iPod, so I'm just passing this on for those that do. As many of you know, Nike has released an iPod enhancement that fits in Nike shoes, the Nike+iPod Sports Kit. As far as I can tell, this only fits in one model of Nike shoes. So if you don't wear that model (I think they are hard to find right now) or if you don't wear Nikes at all, this guy (the Podophile) has found a good solution.

It looks to me like this is a fancy pedometer; I've never trusted pedometers. If I ever want to know my distance, speed and pace, I use my Garmin Forerunner 201 (although the 205 looks pretty tempting).

Happy running/walking!

Sunday: It's still hot!

It's still really hot, especially in the sun. In the shade it's not too bad (85 degrees at 8:00), but in the sun it is painful and feels much hotter.

Anyway, the good news is I took my knee out for a walk today and all went well. There was no pain, even after yesterday's 60 mile bike ride. I had hoped to do 8-10 miles but I was walking on the track with no shade and I ran out of water. I decided there was no reason to push it today and stopped after a little over six miles.

I'm just glad I can finally get back to training. Sitting around idle has been agony, but now I can focus on my goals again.

Thanks to everyone for the supportive comments during my convalescence!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Saturday: OMG, It's Hot!!

8:00 am - 86 degrees
9:00 am - 90 degrees
10:30 am - 92 degrees
12:00 pm - 96 degrees
3:00 pm - 101 degrees!

Damn, it's hot out there. I made the crazy decision to go for a long bike ride yesterday that turned out to last all day. I dropped my family off at the airport for a trip to visit relatives, and I was back home and on my bike by 8:30. I rode around North Dallas and Plano on streets and paved trails. The sun was brutal. Last night I froze two water bottles for the ride. They were 100% melted within one hour - not a hint of ice at all.

After riding for a couple of hours I grabbed some lunch at Which Wich, my new favorite sandwich place. If there is a Which Wich near you, I highly recommend that you go. I always get the same thing: Black Bean Patty with buffalo sauce, lettuce, tomatoes and extra onion on a wheat role. It's awesome!

After that I rode to my haircut (she washed my hair with cold water twice - it felt soooo good). The I rode back into Dallas and caught the White Rock Creek Trail down to White Rock Lake, but I didn't go around the lake. I rode west through neighborhoods to Borders and bought a new book (The Assassination Business - there's a little too much conspiracy theory in the book, but it's still a good read on the tools of state that no one wants to admit we use). Then I headed to Starbucks for a Iced Venti Soy Latte and some water. I read for a while, then headed home at about 4:30, when the heat was just unbearable!

I got home and jumped into a cool bath. I was starving and exhausted. And I lost three pounds.

If you want to see my route you can check it out here on Motion Based. The final mileage was over 63 miles (MotionBased is slightly under, my Garmin says 63.48.

Best of all, my right knee felt great! Sunday is the big day when I try to walk again!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Almost ready

My knee is much, much better. Just little hints of pain from time to time, like I might feel after a hard workout or a few days after a race. I took the dog for a slow, easy walk the other night and felt little twinges but nothing serious. I also rode my bike a little and it was fine. But I'm waiting to start my training. I'm really, really, really anxious to get back at it, but I know that starting too soon will just make it worse.

I'm going to see how I feel Saturday night. If all is OK, I will do some easy training Sunday morning and see how that goes. If that goes well, I'll start some of my daily training. If Sunday doesn't feel good, I'll wait longer, but it's going to be hard.

I have a tentative race plan for the next year. Things could change (with me, they often do). But here is the plan right now:
October 29: Miracle Match Marathon, Waco, TX. This will be only my second marathon ever. Why do it? I have friends and family in Waco, including some of my ultra friends who are doing it. I also used to live there, so it will be like a race down memory lane.

November: I'd like to do a 50k, but I haven't found one yet (there is one in Dallas but it is only two weeks after the marathon).

December 9: SunMart 50 miler. This will be my third year in a row to do SunMart. I really like the race and I'll see lots of my ultra friends and acquaintances there. It should be lots of fun, as usual.

January/February: Train, train, train. Maybe a 50k.

March 16/17/18: Three Days of Syllamo (20k, 60k, 50k). I did this race two years ago and it was, without a doubt, the best time I've ever had doing ultras. Great races, beautiful course, great camping and food. Just an awesome time!

April/May: Train, train, train. Maybe some 50ks.

June 9: Laurel Highlands Ultra. This is another race I did in the past and loved. This one will depend on finances. It's a much longer trip (if we drive) or more expensive (if we fly and rent a car) so we'll have to see if it's in the budget.

July/August/September: Train, train, train.

October 13: Heartland 100. Finally, the Heartland 100. I've wanted to do this race for a while (I've done the 50 [it was my first ultra], and I've paced for over 62 miles) and now hope to make Heartland 2007 my first 100.

So this is the plan. Seems very reasonable and not too aggressive. I may throw in some shorter races here and there as it seems appropriate. I've let my ultra conditioning slip for a few months so I'm going to get it back. I'm also going to do more hill and speed work. During ultra training I tend to forget about speed, but I'm going to do more intervals and tempo walks during my weekday training to try to prepare me to go faster.

I'll let you know if I'm able to train this weekend. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 07, 2006


Scott Jurek is going to try to break 24 hours at Badwater. Incredible!!!

Linked from the Hill Country Trail Runners blog.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Injury Update and Music News

First, an injury update--it's better, but it's not good. Monday I actually used a cane to get to work (my wife has had two hip replacements and one knee replacement, so we have all the orthopedic equipment you could ever want). By the end of the day the cane wasn't necessary, but I was still hobbling around. Today I can almost walk with a normal gait, but not quite. Still quite a bit of pain, but it does seem to get better every day. Next week I have my annual physical so if it is not significantly better by then I will ask my doctor for his advice. I'm hopeful I can get back out walking in another week, but I also don't want to push too hard and prolong the recovery.

On the music front, I have great news and sad news.

The sad news is that Sleater-Kinney is on "indefinite hiatus." Their album The Woods was one of my favorites from last year (and is widely considered to be their best). I've bought a couple of their other albums (I really like One Beat, too) since I first heard The Woods. They've been making music for almost 20 years but I just discovered them, and now they are going to break up! There's some great running/walking music on this CD, so have a listen.

The great news is that I have a new love, Murder by Death. Their new album, In Bocca al Lupo, is amazing--guitars, drums and a cello create a really ominous, sometimes melancholy sometimes sinister mood. There are pirate sea shanties, prison songs, songs about broken families and murders. A lot of reviewers have compared the album to Johnny Cash (probably because of the themes) but stylistically I think it is much closer to the work of Tom Waits, my favorite artist of all time and my adoptive father (well, not yet, but I'm trying). Some of the songs remind me of the wonderful innovations of Rain Dogs or Swordfishtrombones.

Anyway, if you like Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Camper Van Beethoven, Johnny Cash, try this album out. It's GREAT!

Have fun!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Decision Time

Today has not been a good day. My run this morning was terrible. I got about six miles in and had some bad knee pain. I walked a long time and then tried to run some more, but the pain kept coming back. I ran a mile here, a half mile there, but ended up walking most of the way home. I soaked in a cool tub (there's no cold water to be found here in Texas right now) and put an ice pack on it, but it didn't help. Now the pain is so severe that I've been hobbling around all day in pretty constant pain.

I went to Runner's World to try and diagnose the problem. Look what I found:

Q: Is the pain in the front of the knee below the kneecap? Does it get worse as you run? Have you recently added more mileage?

If the answer is yes you could have Patellar tendinitis, see [C] below.


[C] Patellar tendinitis is inflammation of one of the knee-joint tendons. Tendinitis occurs when tissue breakdown outpaces regrowth, and is caused by increased mileage, hills (especially downhills), and pace. Running through tendinitis will make it worse and prolong your recovery, says Davis. But treated early, it can heal in a few weeks. Here's how: cross-train, ice, wear a patella strap, take anti-inflammatories, stretch, and do exercises to strengthen the joint and quadriceps, such as leg extensions.

This is a perfect description of my pain. And yes, I have increased my mileage (like going from zero to 8 miles a day, and trying to do 15 today). So I have no one to blame for this but myself.

So I'm in pain, I'm frustrated, and I'm at a crossroads. I'm trying to decide what makes sense for me in terms of exercise and obsessions. Ultras have become a really important part of my life, and when I took some time off, I immediately started missing the training and the racing. But I now realize that if I really want to become an ultrarunner, I have to start from scratch. Some of my walking fitness will make a transition to running easier, but I have to face the fact that I will have to start small and build, like it's a new sport to me (which it is). Ultimately, at this point in my life, this is the question:

Is ultrarunning important enough to me that I'm willing to put in a year or more of effort, or is ultrawalking satisfying enough to make it the more appealing immediate option?

The other question is, can my body withstand the rigors of ultrarunning long term (I don't have great knee history) or am I better off sticking with the low impact ultrawalking?

So this is where I am. I've really been at sixes and sevens the past few months due to my job (too much unsatisfying work) and my lack of a training plan. I seem to change my training goals from week to week. But I know, without a doubt, the following:

I love ultras. I love going really long and spending all day, or longer, on the trails. I love the people the atmosphere, the outdoors, the challenge.

As far as racewalking and ultrawalking, I sometimes feel a little out of place or odd. But then I saw a couple of things today that made me feel that maybe being a little out of place is OK; who really gives a *&*# anyway.

Today I took my daughter roller skating again (yesterday she had a roller skating birthday party, and today she and a friend wanted to go back). There was a middle aged woman at the rink in roller blades doing some very nice moves--graceful like an ice skater, waving her hands around, turning around in circles, etc. There were also some younger kids (late high school age) who were dancing on their skates, I mean really dancing--they were learning moves from each other, practicing and studying and trying, not just goofing off.

Then on the drive home I saw a guy riding a unicycle down the street.

It reminded me that our passions come in all shapes and styles. What I think is absolutely the stupidest thing I've ever heard of, a complete waste of time, might be someone else's obsession. Who am I to judge? Diversity is what makes us interesting.

So basically I'm going to take some time to consider my options, but you can probably tell which way I'm leaning. The trails are calling.....