Mountain Hiker.

Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado.
Though it's fun to post a good time on an event, and though good event times give me validating feedback for sustained, intelligent training and effort, I can't say I run primarily for speed. Were it so, I'd have arrived at different conclusions from exploring the Run Less Run Faster model.

No, what I come back to again and again is that I run to be outside, to breathe the fresh air, to soak in the glory of this beautiful world. Running simply helps me explore more territory than walking.

At the same time, often Less is More. As much as I enjoy running, love the rhythm, the chugachug breathing, the feel of muscles moving and feet pounding, I admit to some frustration when I'm on a mountain trail--which is of course my favorite running. The frustration comes from the focus required to stay upright without twisting an ankle. Trails are, after all and by definition, unfinished surfaces. In the Rocky Mountains, that means they are rocky.

Rolling Creek, Julie Kruger.
So when I run I watch the trail. At the same time, as a runner I'm scanning my body, my breathing, monitoring my effort. While I'm moving I miss out on perhaps 80% of the beautiful world I've immersed myself in.

As one of countless examples, at Caribou Ranch Open Space there is a segment where I am acutely aware
of this challenge. The east loop returning to the DeLonde Ranch from Bluebird Mine parallels the North Boulder Creek as it cascades down from the Arapahoe Glacier and the City of Boulder watershed. The trail follows a gracefully curving contour snaking gently downhill, through scattered chokecherry and rocky mountain maple trees, under magnificent ponderosa pines. The fragrance is heavenly. Beautiful.

But not for a runner. Treacherous is the word that comes to mind. Dance lightly, attentively, through and between and over the tops of scattered boulders. Run like the water of the stream. The entire distance. Take your choice, if you're a runner: enjoy the scenery, or enjoy the run. On any given run, you'll discover quickly which one you want to do.

All of this is prelude to what I'm saying today: on my cross-training days I've been truly loving hiking in these glorious mountains and forests.

Less speed = More awareness.

Pretty good tradeoff when you live in paradise.

Comanche Peak, Tom Fischer.


First day of Spring, 2014.

Continuing to ease my way back into full running, I'm doing 10 miles this week. It feels great, and to my surprise my cardio has held up reasonably well. Uphills aren't killing me. At least short ones aren't.

I've decided the Training Effect is a stupid feature that is misleading and absolutely interfering with my work. I take three steps--literally: I've counted--and I'm already at 1.0, with 5.0 considered officially overtraining. Within a quarter mile of moving as slowly as I can while still running, with HR still at 55% HR max, I'm already at 3.0.

So I'm only watching it for amusement, and to see if it ever becomes smart enough to serve as an aid.

Otherwise I'm back at watching my pace, maintaining HR where I want it, breathing 3-2. And enjoying God's beautiful earth.

Ready to bloom, CU Campus Police and Parking Building.


Caribou Ranch in January

Here's a note from a companion online journal on Arts, Life and the Cosmos.

Budd Coates, Running on Air

Here's what I wrote in my review of the book on Goodreads:

+++++++++   If you have one good idea and you share it with the world, you've paid some of the dues you owe for your time in this world.

Here's a coach that has one good idea, and it's simple, effective and not at all intuitive.

When you're running, with each step breathe in three times, out two.

I suppose if you want people to take the idea seriously you have to write a book about it, back it up with some scientific-sounding language, give it an historical context, elaborate on the benefits.

Credit to Budd Coates for paying attention to his own experience as a runner, thinking it through, sharing his learning with the world. Maybe he'll get a few bucks from selling a book about it.

But as a reader, keep your expectations modest about what you might gain from reading the book.

Give the idea an honest effort for a week or so of running, long enough for it to be built into your muscle memory, and write your own book. Be prepared to learn, to enjoy your running in new ways, pick up your pace with no increase in effort, expose yourself to less risk of injury.

Not bad for a single idea.   +++++++++

I've since incorporated the technique completely and intuitively into my every run. On another post I'll go into more detail on my many observations.

For now what I will say is this:

This idea has a permanent place in the top five things I've learned about running.

Breathwork 2014.

In another phase of my life, exploring human consciousness, spirituality, levels of reality, I spent several years practicing a method called Holotropic Breathwork. Developed by Stanislov Grof, MD, and based on decades of extensive, meticulous and encyclopedic research, it represents a model of the universe that I came to respect and confidently incorporate in my life.

Though I'm no longer engaged in active exploration of the same realms, I count that era of my life as being most influential in shaping the person I am today.

The method has four components, one of which focuses on an intentional form of breathing. I came to understand through experience, observation, study and mentoring the central importance of the breath in far more than the elemental role it has in the chemical reaction of human metabolism. Though millenia of language usage have drained it of its connection, the latin word for breath was spiritus, and references throughout human history have made that same connection. Breath and Spirit are deeply intermingled.

My family of course was well aware of my personal, professional and scientific interest in the work I was doing. Thus I was only mildly surprised last year when Morggan said in a note, "With your background of research in breathing, you might find this running technique of some interest."

Attached was a link to a Runner's World article, with an embedded video.

Morggan's track record for recommendations for my interest is impeccable. He seems to know his dad. So it was no eye-opener that I did indeed find the presentation and the concept intriguing.

The Runner in me also wanted to know more and to give it a try.

For years I've been conscious of my breathing pattern when I run, feeling most comfortable and meditative with a two-in, two-out, 2-2, breathing rhythm as I move through time and space as an athlete. I also discovered fairly early that whichever foot landed on my outbreath had more force behind it, often a discernible difference. And that whatever injuries I had sustained through the years had most often occurred on that same side of my body--knee, calf, hip, etc.

Thus for much of my running career I had been making a random, unsystematic practice of occasionally alternating from my habitual pattern of Right-Foot-Down-Breath-Out. I found that the moment my attention was diverted from that intentional effort, as soon as my mind drifted back to whatever zone it went to, my habitual right-footedness re-asserted itself.

I was eager to explore this idea.


Late Winter 2014.

After a few weeks of sabbatical from running to manage some dermatology surgery I'm back in the hunt.

Last autumn I upgraded my garmin GPS watch to the Forerunner 910XT, and only since the turn of the new year have I begun exploring its capabilities. When the season changes and I'm back running and cycling in my mountain trails, I'll find the more accurate barometric altimeter of greater interest.

For now what I've been working with is the measure it provides of a concept called Training Effect, based on an algorithm incorporating heart rate and several personal variables. I don't completely understand it yet, but I'll study it some more.

The Training Effect value may seem high at first until the device gets to know you and your workout patterns, says the Garmin FAQ page.

I'll say. I run barely three miles at a pace I could take a nap at, and I've already overtrained according to this scale.

So I'm taking it slow, introducing the device to my running and my body, and enjoying myself. Right now that means touring the campus at the University of Colorado, Boulder, running every conceivable direction, looking for paths I've never seen before, nooks, hidden courtyards.


Run Less Run Faster--Follow up.

Running yesterday at Boulder Reservoir gave me time and mental space to review my reactions to this training program.

In fact, that I had time and mental space to do some reviewing was what triggered my thoughts to begin with.

I began the Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) program on January 7, setting my schedule according to plan for my best 5K pace, at the time a puny 35 minutes. I wanted to be extremely conservative. Coming off my year of plantar fasciitis it seemed a reasonable, workable plan that would ease me back into regular workout stresses.

Over the next six weeks I followed the program religiously, with one exception. After about three weeks I found the 35-min 5K time unreasonably slow (my PR for 5K: 25 minutes), so I adjusted my programmed time under RLFR to 32 minutes, a minor adjustment. It went well.

Two more weeks, that seemed too slow. I had tons of energy left, felt great urge to speed up on all workouts, so went to a 30-min base. A bit too fast. I adjusted back to 32. Then come week seven, an interesting thing happened. I didn't feel like running.

So I found all kinds of other demands infringing on my time: I just don't have time to run today. This week. Then my trip to Italy came, and of course I couldn't run then.

Came back, found myself dreading the run. What's that about? It wasn't difficult running at that pace, not exhausting, not tiring or painful in the moment, no great soreness afterward. The workouts were quite easy, actually.

Rather than return to RLRF I decided to take a couple of weeks at running according to HR, as I've been doing these past years. And doing so I've easily returned to 3/week, looking forward to runs, easily finding time and energy, enthusiasm.

Here are the differences I can pinpoint at the moment that make the transition to RLRF a challenge for me:
  1. The paces for each workout are precise. Deviating by even .3/mi is too much, if you're  following the prescription seriously and want the promised results. For me this requires carrying my GPS unit in my left hand, staring at it almost continuously, making adjustments repeatedly to reflect changes in windspeed, terrain, topography, ground surface, traffic conditions. Focus: running.
  2. Two of the three workouts each week require running under controllable conditions. A track is best; even and smooth terrain is next best, the less traffic the better. The number of such locations is limited, within the range of easy distance from my locker room. This encourages running the same runs repeatedly.
  3. Finding a suitable pace is more challenging than it appears for the seasoned runner who is recovering from an injury. Exactly how much should the training program push you? There appears to be no progression of times built into the schedule: the pace decided on for week 12 (starting) remains the same for twelve weeks. Distances and intervals vary, but I found a moving sweet spot for optimal pace.
  4. The commitment required is total for the program entered, with no variation for other opportunities, shifting priorities, varying interests. Not only must the participant do all the prescribed workouts, he/she must do *only* the prescribed activities. If your grandchild wants you to enter a 5K with him at his school, you violate the RLRF conditions to do so.
With these experiences in mind, I reviewed the book again, reading from a different perspective. Then I noticed something about the endorsement letters (REAL RUNNER REPORTS, as the authors call them) that I had disregarded in my initial reading:
  • I ran my fasted marathon since 2001.
  • I qualified for Boston and ran my fastest ever.
  • I ran far faster than I ever imagined I could.
  • I felt great, ran with great form, and finished with a PR.
 Dozens, scores of  REPORTS all read the same. I have no reason whatsoever to doubt their veracity.

So I come to this:
I have to decide what it is I want out of running.

If I want increased performance, faster times, perhaps deeper conditioning, RLRF is a great program.

If I want to integrate running into a way of life as a way to enrich my personal, family and spiritual well-being, I'll follow the patterns shaped by my daily decisions over the last dozen or so years. I'll run by HR pace over richly varied terrains, enjoying the weather, the mountains, the trees, the wind, with conditions and challenges dictated by my more immediate states of being.

Where I am in my life at the moment is clearly for running as a way of life, not running as preparation for a PR. RLRF will stay on my shelf as an option for when I'm feeling the need to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

And Jackson Hole Marathon in September will be a joy to run, soaking in the glory of God's creation every step of the way. Even if I wind up walking a bit.


Training: Run Less Run Faster

Settling into a regular 3x week pattern again, and I'm beginning to trust that the plantar fasciitis is healed. There's a bit of enforcement here, reminding me regularly to expand slowly--good on all counts: pf, muscular-skeletal, cardiovascular. Three miles (5K) per run maximum, so far.

GOAL: Jackson Hole Marathon, September 22, 2013. I've made motel reservations.

Stair stepping:
March  10K
June     Half Marathon
Sept     Full Marathon

A great time to give the RLRF program a test, though with each program being 12 weeks long this is a tight schedule. Perhaps too tight for this time frame: there's no room for slacking off. I may or may not be able to fit the Half in and may have to go from 10K directly to Marathon, with some weeks of long runs between cycles to build up my base. Or perhaps replace the Marathon with the Half, for this year. We'll see what caution leads to.

From 10+ years of success with three runs per week, I'm comfortable with the concept. And my experience has taught me that running alone doesn't do that much--I need to add speed workouts, hill climbing, endurance runs if I'm going to continue to learn, grow and enjoy what I'm doing.

This research-based program appeals to the analytic approach I appear to thrive on in my athletic life. I find great pleasure in tracking data from each and every time I run, bike or swim.

I'll be the test-case for Morggan and Malachi, each of whom has put this on their training agenda as something to look into. In fact, they're the men who introduced me to the materials. Where I am in life leaves me in a good place to give it a try, with flexibility and availability of time, resources, energy.

First step will be outlining the precise training plan for the next 12 weeks. Studying the materials, I find it to be much more explicit and detailed than just a general "run three different kinds of runs each week." Many of the pages of the book are devoted to tables, and the prescriptions are specific for each day of the week, each week of the cycle.

Plus this: cross-training on two days of week is equally crucial to success, just as detailed in the programming. I've selected biking as my primary activity, rowing as secondary.

At this moment it feels right to launch the 10K program. We'll see if my present level of fitness will allow that amount of stress, or whether I've already committed myself to a step too large. I'm prepared to shift to the 5K program, and will watch carefully.


So we come now to November 29, 2012.

I see my last blog post as January, 2011. What's that--21 months? Nearly two years?

Here's the deal:

Having a great running practice, I got enthused to try Newton shoes. Terrific. They were a joy to run in--light, fast, effortless.

The short version of the story: despite easing into the transition, spreading it over several months, the impact of running shifted from my heels/knees to my calf/gastrocnemius muscles. Unbeknownst to me, I created plantar fasciitis. Bad case. Both feet.

Not recognizing it for what it was, I continued to run with it. For several months.

Cut to end: I stopped running 12/31/2011 to give my feet a chance to heel. I tried every potential cure I could find, from nighttime braces to stretching exercises to cold packs, orthotics, heel inserts. New shoes, old shoes. Massage therapy, acupuncture. Nutritional supplements. All the time not running.

Every few months I'd give it a try with a short, easy run. Repeatedly this triggered a relapse of the plantar fasciitis.

Until this week. Evidently the only cure for plantar fasciitis is time.

Two three-mile run/walks (alternating 1/4 miles) with traditional-geometry Saucony shoes, and I'm pain free. And hopeful.

Committed to initiating another marathon training cycle, if this doesn't work I'm returning to the podiatrist and asking for a cortisone injection.

The silver lining? I've invested in titanium bicycles (road and mountain) and have had a splendid time on each of them. I know now that I have a strong cross-training platform.

But 11 months with no running is long enough.



I've gotten away from journaling my weekly run times, and have to be careful to not let the Perfect become the enemy of the Good. In that spirit I'll just dive right back in and make some notes as I go, with the intent of filling in the gaps of the past couple of months.

My running practice has continued, three times each week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, regular as a heartbeat. Coach continues to guide me along the way as I rebuild from the marathon in North Carolina.

Building deeper and deeper with endurance, I've also begun shifting my focus to increasing my speed on the marathon. With my next marathon experience planned for autumn 2011, I've registered for the Colorado Half Marathon in May 2011 as an intermediate step, a 13-mile tempo run. As well, I'm anticipating the full variety of local 5Ks and 10Ks this spring and summer, all integrated by Coach's careful planning into my marathon training plan.

My report from this last week of training:
It was a great week for running. My shorter runs begin at my locker at 13th & Arapahoe, this week being loops around SE Boulder. For the long run I did sections of the Boulder Marathon course, starting north of the Res.

The 8-miler was in the cold wind, a good challenge. I had intended to do a couple of miles of tempo run, but a combination of factors prevented it. I set an overall pace for the run that was too fast to leave anything in the tank, under those conditions and with that amount of long, slow elevation gain. When it came time to try for a tempo pace, there was just nothing there. I managed a half-mile at a pace almost 1min/mi off, and simply couldn't muster any more leg speed.

Next time I'll pace myself better--slower overall--so I have a margin for tempo.

Long Run was a fun, rewarding 13 miles, as this Boulder Marathon course often is for me. I think my body really likes running on the dirt roads. My pace was a just a tad faster than our goal range, my HR stayed low and steady, and I found myself enjoying the hilly terrain, actually accelerating with each climb. It was easy, smooth cruising, and I could have comfortably continued for several miles more. Had great energy for a long list of errands afterwards, including a shopping trip to a busy, busy Costco.

After three weeks of building mileage, I'm now due for a resting week. My energy is holding up well, and this is exactly where good coaching comes in, to keep track of the longer-term goal.


City of Oaks Marathon.

        505 Michael O'Neill 65 Nederland CO
        10K---1:12:32   pace 11:42
        13.1---2:37:55   pace 12:04
        26.2---5:31:11   pace 12:39
        Gun time 5:32:04

My goal had been 5:15:00 at a 12:00/mi pace, so I was off by about 15 minutes. The 12:39 average pace masks a more interesting story.

The short version:
My energy management went very well but my muscle conditioning was a bit short. And I probably made an error in strategy.

Starting in 32deg crisp air, I felt completely ready for the challenge. I knew the course terrain would be hilly, wondered how my conditioning at 5500 and 8500 feet would serve me--and was eager to test it. The course begins with an uphill pull of about a half mile, a perfect opportunity. So I dove in, barely able to restrain myself, and took it at a 11:20 pace. It felt terrific. I knew full well that I was already violating my pace goal, so slowed down for the remainder of the mile. I'd learned what I needed to know.

Up and down hills, the first half of the course is all asphalt, through city neighborhoods, around the state capital building downtown, then out to the NW residential area. The half-marathon crowds were intense and very social. I set my pattern and ran my race, HR steady in the teens and low twenties. Support stations every two miles, I walked through each then picked up the pace for a while to maintain a bit faster than 12:00. At mile six I began taking in HEED.

The night before my body had begun a fluid purge, releasing prodigious amounts of urine every couple of hours. That continued in the race, so much so that at one point I released some into my running shorts while I waited in line for the toilet facilities. No matter--just kept running then and it soon dried. But every time I took HEED, I was aware that I'd soon be paying the price.

Claudia and Timalyn cheered me on at Mile 10, and could see my energy was strong and I was having the time of my life. Temps by then were in the mid 40s and with that local humidity I was nowhere near ready to shed my gloves and outer, long-sleeve layer.

The course turned pastoral, though still on paved road as only the marathoners continued. Most times I could see only three or four other runners by then, though got a glimpse of the leaders as they sprinted by on their return trip, hours ahead of me. Strong and graceful, a bit of grimacing but clearly well within their comfort zones.

At Mile 13.1 the timing station got me at 2:38, exactly on pace, and I felt strong, completely at ease, fresh. The hilly terrain was slowing other runners down, giving me an early sense of the payoffs for pacing myself as I began overtaking one after another, sometimes pacing along with them to chat for a bit. HR still slow, conversation was easier for me than for most of them.

It began to occur to me that as strong as I was feeling I could probably pick up the pace a bit on the second half for a negative split, and that would put me within range of a 5:00-hr finish. By now I was on the dirt road of Umstead State Park cruising under the canopy of bronze-orange autumn oaks, and I must've been a bit intoxicated by the beauty. As the terrain went into a climb, my energy surged. Maybe it was the Hammer Gel. Or just the joy. Who knows.

About that time three deer leaped out of the forest to my left, the third one making quick eye-contact with me before sprinting along. Immediately ahead was a good steep grade, and I decided to take it with vigor. It felt spectacular. My HR barely increased. Around that bend the grade continued for another 1.5 miles, a couple of places getting even steeper. I maintained my pace, even picked it up a bit. HR steady, I was passing other runners left and right as they struggled and moaned. Heady ego for me.

I remembered from studying the elevation profile map ahead of time that the last five miles of the course are downhill. Reading my energy in the middle of Mile 18 I really thought I could go ahead and keep up the 11:00 pace I was at.

Then it happened.

As I rounded a bend near the end of the uphill grade, the first twinge of my left knee, like a little hot spot. Hmmm, wonder what that is. Think I'll slow down and let it quiet down.

To make a long story short, alternating walking/running eventually gave out to walking, which I did for the last six miles. At first, discouraged and bummed out, I moped along dragging my sorry butt. Eventually I decided I'd better keep moving and picked up the pace for a good power walk the last couple of miles.

Stopping along the way at a medic table, I got the knee taped just on principle. It didn't make any difference. "Great job," the cheers would come my way as I walked along. "Bullshit," I said to myself. This is not a great job. This sucks.

Every now and then I'd break into a run to test it out. Still hot in that nickel-sized spot. I'd last about 100 yards, then walk some more. Then I'd obsess a bit more about how long it might take for the knee to mend, all the conditioning I'd lose, what I could do to minimize the lost time.  At the same time, walking was effortless, energy remained strong, I really wanted to be running.
So I hobbled into the finished line at the best run I could muster, to cheers from the few folks still standing there, the most important two being my fans. I did my best to smile for them but my enthusiasm wasn't there, sad to say.

It was Timalyn reminded me that I was only 15 minutes off my original goal time, and truth be told, that isn't bad. But it sure would have been rewarding to have been running that last downhill six miles, with the energy I had.

Post race, the knee has been no problem. As Morggan put it into context for me, there's a difference between being hurt and being injured, and it was the wisest decision for me to make to follow Coach's advice and walk rather than risk damage. Now I can hardly wait to do whatever rehabbing the knee needs and get back out there building miles, strengthening the legs, getting ready for next time.

I've introduced my body to the 26-mile experience, and next time it'll know better what to do. I'm sure on my next marathon I'll wait a bit longer before making my break, though that may or may not have made the difference here.

All part of the adventure.

My greatest fan.