Posted on 28-12-2010
Filed Under (Gear) by Brian

Saucony sent over this epic run jacket a couple months ago, but it took a while for the Florida weather to get cold enough to try it out.  After a couple of night runs in Florida, it’s gotten a lot of use on my holiday trip to St. Louis.

While the incredible visibility of this jacket usually gets top billing, my favorite thing about it is the amount of control it gives me over my core temperature.  Made from 100% woven polyester with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating, the Epic jacket is very light and when paired with a thin base layer is quite warm down to at least 20 degrees.  I’ve yet to test it at a lower temperature, but with a thicker base layer or the addition of a middle layer, I’m certain this jacket makes a superb outer layer even in sub zero conditions.   Small adjustments using the zipper result in fine control over air flow.  This is exceptionally handy when switching from running into a head wind to running with a tail wind.

I won’t lie.  The bright orange color is hard to miss and I took a little flak from my run buddies the first time I showed up to our regular Wednesday evening run wearing this jacket.  I was the one laughing, however, when they had to slip their reflective vests on over their jackets.  With reflective piping down the sleeves, along the zipper, and on mesh panels on the shoulders and back hem, this jacket just about completely replaces the need for any other reflective clothing while running at night.

As an added bonus, the jacket includes an LED light that fits snugly into a slot pocket on the sleeve.  The LED light operates in both steady and blinking mode.  It’s not quite bright enough to light your way along a dark road, but it does make you a heck of a lot more visible to anyone else sharing that road.  The coolest thing about the LED light?  It plugs into any standard USB port to recharge!  Of course, it lasts so long that I haven’t had to use that feature yet.

Saucony’s line of ViZi-PRO gear is a great addition to the gear bag of any runner who runs at night.  I’m very excited about having this jacket and the ViZi-PRO Drylete long sleeved sport top with me on the Ragnar Relay next week.  You can also get ViZi-PRO gloves, arm warmers, tights, tops, hats, headbands and shoes.  My only request is ViZi-PRO shorts.  We Floridians have to run half naked in the dark during the summer!

***Disclaimer: The jacket was complimentary, but the opinions are solely mine.  I sure do like it.  If I didn’t, I’d tell you that.***

(7) Comments   
Posted on 14-12-2010
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

Unlike last week’s 5K, this race has been on the agenda for quite some time.  It’s slightly less than halfway through my Gasparilla training and I had meant it to be a measure of my fitness to this point.  Since I hadn’t completed (or even planned) many long runs up to this point, I originally thought 1:35:00 would be a good target time for this race.

During my 14 miler with Richie and Steve a few weeks ago, Richie thought that I was in much better shape than that and that 1:35:00 would be too slow.  I had a great week of training after that and I started to believe that 1:30:00 was feasible so the goal was reset to that.

I met Richie at his house at 5:40 am.  We drove to meet Bret at the finish where he left his car.  Bret hopped into Richie’s car and we drove to the start.  Once we arrived, Richie realized that he had forgotten to leave some gear in Bret’s car for after the race.  This threw him into a kind of mental tailspin that lasted for the next half hour as we gathered our race packets, numbers and chips.  He felt slightly better when I pointed out that the race directors had set up boxes to collect items to be sent to the finish, but he still managed to lose his number somewhere in the car.

Eventually, we were all situated and we ran a brief warmup before shedding our outer clothes and hitting the port a potties.  With about 700 participants (several of them walkers who got a 30 minute head start), the start line wasn’t all that crowded.  Bret and I worked our way in near the front and Richie joined us just after the national anthem.

An air horn signals the start and everyone is off.  Richie and Bret are shooting for a 1:25:00, so I let them go ahead and try to settle into a 6:45-6:50 pace.  When I ran 1:29:11 at Disney last year, I actually went out slow in the first mile (7:15).  I’m curious to see if I can actually PR by hitting my target pace from the beginning and running an even paced race.  A quick glance at my watch about a half mile in indicates a 6:30 pace so I ease up a bit, relax and try to just go with the flow of the crowd until things open up a bit.

I’m through the first mile in 6:45 and I can still clearly see Richie and Bret running side by side about 15-20 meters ahead.  Things are a bit strung  out as we make our way north along Gulf Blvd.  Some of the employees of businesses along the beach have come out to give us a muted cheer in the cold morning air.  The wind is fairly strong, but it’s currently a tailwind and thankfully it will be for most of the race.

I’m looking for 13:44 through the 2nd mile and pass the marker in 13:42.  I’m moving along fairly steadily, but something feels a little off.  I’m feeling the same strain I felt in the first 2 miles of Disney last year, but I’ve got a 20 mile wind at my back.  At Disney, I had an equally strong wind in my face (along with some sleet).  I’m running a faster pace, though, so I relax a little bit and stick with a group of about three guys.

I’m about 4 seconds slow through the 3 mile mark.  I remind myself that I was nearly 40 seconds slow through the 3 mile mark at Disney, but it still feels wrong for some reason.  I can still see Richie and Bret about 50 meters ahead and I can see that course taking a right turn.  I remove my gloves as I pass through a water station and grab a cup of water.  My mouth is dry and I’ve just realized how sweaty my hands are.  The water helps my mouth and I decide to just carry my gloves.

I head up the incline of a bridge and off the barrier island.  I take the incline easy and reach the 4 mile mark at the top.  I’m about 15 seconds slow through 4 miles.  The wind is now a cross wind, but I take advantage of the downward slope on the other side of the bridge to gain some ground on a few runners in front of me.  We head up a slight incline and pass the 5 mile mark.  I’m about 20 seconds slow now.

Shortly after the 5 mile mark, we make a right turn and head into the wind.  I don’t feel like I’m struggling too much in the wind, but my Garmin tells me that my pace is slow.  I’m finally gaining some ground on the 15 year old kid who’s been dangling about 10 meters in front of me most of the way.  As we approach a left turn, I surge forward and squeeze inside of him, holding my surge for about 30 seconds before I back off.

A few minutes later, I hear breathing behind me.  Determined not to let the kid pass me back, I speed up a little and the breathing gets more distant.  A minute later, it’s back and I don’t have another surge in me.  As the breathing comes up beside me, I realize that it’s not the kid, but rather an older woman.  She passes me slowly and I tuck in behind her, recovering slightly.  I soon feel better and surge past her again, feeling good enough to keep going and catch up with the tall guy who was 10 meters in front of her.

After a few seconds, I surge again and pass this guy, but the surge is short lived as I develop a stitch.  I hear the lady’s breathing creeping up on my left side again and she passes me as I try to get rid of the stitch.  I’m passed again by the tall guy who gives me some encouragement.  Just past the 6 mile mark, I walk with my hands in the air, trying to get rid of the stitch.

Within seconds, I approach a park and I see runners coming out of the park.  The second runner I see is Richie.  He’s intent on the race and doesn’t notice me, but it’s enough to get me running again.  I’m soon passed by a young lady and I try to shadow her for a while.  I successfully do through the park and we pass the 7 mile mark together.  I’m 50 seconds slow through 7 miles.

We round a corner, head through a water station and onto the Pinellas Trail.  It’s a paved “Rails to Trails” project and I’ve run several training runs on this section so I’m very familiar with it.  We head up the incline of a pedestrian bridge and the girl gains some ground on me, but she’s cautious on the way back down and I fly down the incline with reckless abandon to make the gap up again.  Eventually, she pulls away, but I’m running a pretty good clip right now and we both pass tall guy again.

“Great job,” says tall guy as I pass him.  This time, I’m able to weakly thank him for his encouragement, but I’m sadly in no mood to talk.  I maintain my pace pretty well, though it’s certainly not fun and I’m still about 50 seconds slow through 9 miles.  I surge through a few intersections and quickly begin to reach the edges of my endurance.  My pace begins to slow rapidly and I’m almost 1:30 slow through 10 miles.  Finally, I walk again.

Tall guy passes me and gives me more words of encouragement.  I try to get my heart rate down and pull myself together.  It takes less than a minute and I’m off again, but this lasts less than a mile.  Shortly after reaching the 11 mile mark, I walk again.  I’ve stopped paying attention to my time and I think I’ve got a shot at 1:35:00, but I’m having trouble doing the math in my head and I really want to just be finished.  A 65 year old man (the eventual Grand Master winner) passes me and I convince myself to run again.

I cross another pedestrian bridge that’s quite familiar from my tempo run before Alice’s district cross country meet several weeks ago.  I know I’m near the finish and I focus on keeping my legs moving.  Finally, I reach the park and get a brief surge of energy as I run past a small crowd of volunteers manning a water station there.  I make a right turn and follow a path bordering a lake.  It’s the cross country course that Alice ran 4 times in the recently concluded season.

I make a left around the lake, pass the 12 mile mark and see that I’ve got very little chance of finishing in 1:35:00.  I make another left and turn into the wind, running along a gravel path that normally leads to the finish line of the cross country course.  I’m seriously struggling to maintain an 8 minute/mile pace and I think of how many times I’ve stood along that path yelling at Alice and her teammates to push hard to the finish.  I’m glad none of them are here to see me now.  I’m telling myself to suck it up and surge to the finish, but I can’t  get my legs to move any faster.

I mercifully reach the 13 mile mark and manage to turn my legs over a little more quickly through the finish.  I finish in a disappointing 1:36:47.

After grabbing some water, I had a look at the results that were already posted.  I saw that Drew (who I never spotted at the start) had finished 3rd in 1:16:30. Richie finished 13th (second masters) in 1:26:52 and Bret finished16th (3rd masters) in 1:27:30.  I grabbed my bag of stuff and ran into Richie and Drew.  We enjoyed the weather and drank a few beers while sharing race and training stories.

Shortly after the awards ceremony, the weather started to turn and we headed for the bus back to the start.  By that time, I had consumed enough beer to admit to Richie that I had walked a few times during the race.  This tipped off a ripfest that lasted the rest of the bus ride and had the people in the seats around us in stitches at my expense.  Sadly, there is no video of this event and my words here can’t possibly do it justice.

Back at Richie’s house, we disregarded common wisdom and enjoyed another beer in the hot tub as temperatures dipped into the low 50’s and a cold rain fell lightly on us.

In retrospect, perhaps I knew my own fitness better than I thought.  I think that if I had gone out with the goal of running a 1:35:00, I might have run 1:33 and change.  In any case, I’m lacking in endurance and will benefit from some 15-18 mile runs in the next couple of months.  It’s been a kick in the pants, but I’m still pretty confident I can accomplish a 1:25:00 at the end of February.

(4) Comments   
Posted on 07-12-2010
Filed Under (Digital Running) by Brian

Alright loyal readers, it’s time for some feedback.  I’ve had some ideas about online tools I want to build for the running community, but I’m curious to know what people are actually looking for.  Is there anything missing?  Is there something that could be better?  So, if you all don’t mind taking a little time to reply to my little survey in the comments, please do so.  I’m very interested in your thoughts.

1)  What online tools do you use now?

2)  What online tools would you like that you don’t have access to now?

3)  What is the biggest obstacle to your experience as a runner online?

4)  With regards to running ,what is your favorite type of content to view online?

5)  With regards to running, what kind of content is missing online?

6)  Do you have any other comments?

I’ll start the ball rolling by answering the questions in the comments…

(7) Comments   
Posted on 06-12-2010
Filed Under (Training) by Brian

I woke up Monday feeling pretty sick, so I ended up skipping a lot of my morning runs this week.  It was supposed to be a “step back” week anyway, but once again it was more relaxed than planned.  I still managed to get some mileage in running afternoons with Alice.  I was feeling better at the end of the week and planned to get in a quality run, but Richie asked if I wanted to run a 5K race, so I did that instead.  Here’s how the week shook out:

Monday: 4 miles easy

Tuesday: 4 miles easy

Wednesday: 4 miles easy

Thursday: 4 miles easy

Friday: 3 miles easy

Saturday: 3 miles warmup + 3.1 mile race = 6.1 miles

Sunday: 3 miles very easy

Total: 28.1 miles

(2) Comments   
Posted on 05-12-2010
Filed Under (Races) by Brian

This weekend’s Jingle Bell run was not the usual meticulously planned Brian race.  It started with a text from Richie on Thursday.  I was feeling pretty sick earlier in the week and had been sticking to easy runs with Alice in the afternoons, so my training plan for the week was pretty shot anyway.  During the last couple of years, my periods of peak fitness have always been centered around a half marathon or marathon, so it’s been a while since I’ve really had a good shot at improving my 5K PR.  I was curious about what I could do.

On Saturday morning, I joined Richie and Justin for the car ride over to Tampa.  The race took place at a mall near the airport.  It consisted of two laps around the outside of the mall, weaving in and out of the parking areas.  There were actually hills (a rarity in Florida) and lots of sharp turns.

When we arrived, we registered and were joined by Bret.  We ran a 3 mile warm up around the course in sweats, hats and gloves.  It was 45 degrees (another Florida rarity).  We headed back to the car and stripped down to our racing clothes.  I went with a singlet and a shorts, but held onto the gloves if only to wipe my nose.

The start is fairly disorganized.  Justin heads to the middle of the pack, while Richie, Bret and I stand about one row of people back from the front.  Richie has talked up breaking 19 minutes and encourages me not to look at my Garmin and to just follow his lead.  After a national anthem sung through a megaphone, we’re off to the sound of Jingle Bells.

The race starts about 75% of the way up a hill.  We’re quickly to the top in the excitement of the start.  I settle in behind Richie and Bret as the course flattens out.  We make a right turn and the course quickly dips downhill past the finish line.  There is a group of about ten runners that is rapidly pulling away from the pack and we sit comfortably in the second pack.  We make another right turn at the bottom of the hill and maneuver through some traffic islands.  Pinched by the crowd, Bret hops one of the traffic islands and Richie follows.  I negotiate the turn, but have lost contact with them.  I calmly weave around a few more runners and surge forward, pulling up behind Brett.

Through a few more turns, I’m blocked by slower runners and lose contact with Richie and Brett again.  We make a hairpin turn and head up a hill.  I’m about 10-15 yards behind them as we come through the 1 mile mark.  I look at my watch.  It reads 5:40.  So much for “going out easy” and running a 6:10 mile.

I can already see Richie putting a small gap on Bret and I decide to ease back up the hill.  At the top, Richie is surging forward, running in no man’s land, starting to bridge the gap to the lead group.  We round another corner and then another, before heading back uphill through the start.  I back off a little on the hill and make it to the top.  My mind is still racing about the 5:40 first mile, but I decide to remain disciplined and not look at my watch again until the 2 mile mark.  At the top of the hill, I pass a couple of runners, make the right turn and begin the charge downhill.

From my vantage point at the top of the hill, I’m curious to see where Richie is relative to the lead runners, but everyone in front of me is lost in a crowd of walkers.  They’re barely a quarter mile into the course and we’re running right into the back of them.  I charge down the hill and into the fray.  There are people yelling at the walkers to stay right to allow the runners through, but the course twists left and right, so it becomes an exercise in weaving around moving targets.  On top of that, there are small children and dogs moving in random directions with no clue what’s going on.

I pick my way through the crowd, feeling more and more tired and wondering if I’ll ever reach the two mile mark.  I finally give in and glance at my watch, which reads 2.34 miles.  It’s a huge relief.  Somehow, I’ve missed the two mile mark, but I’m much closer to the finish than I thought.  I make a hairpin turn and climb back up past the 1 mile mark again.  I ease back to about 6:45 pace on the hill, and find that I’ve recovered a little by the time I get to the top.

I drive my legs forward for the last half mile, turning toward the start and climbing the final hill.  As I pass the start, I note that I’ve got about a quarter mile to go and my watch reads 17:30.

“You can break 19 with a 1:30 quarter,” I think to myself.  It somehow seems impossible.  It doesn’t occur to me that I completed 10 quarters in less than 1:30 just last week and ran the first mile of this very race at a faster pace.  I reach the top of the hill, drive my legs harder and finally pass the guy who’s back I’ve been staring at for just about the entire race.  I turn the corner and focus solely on not letting him pass me back.  I look at the finish clock and I’m surprised to see it ticking away at about 18:30.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a finishing clock in the 18’s while I was running toward it.  I drive my arms and sprint down the relatively steep slope to the finish line.  Richie is there yelling at me to sprint all the way through.  I do, and I cross the finish line in 18:55 – a new PR.

In the end, Richie ran a 17:53, Bret ran 18:34 (I think) and Justin came in in 22:20.  Richie won the master’s level, but unfortunately his age got listed as 71, instead of 41.  After breakfast, we made it to the awards ceremony a little late, just in time for them to announce the Grand Master’s award.  The man stood on a table with a megaphone, announcing the winner.

“And in the Grand Master category, ” he said looking down at his results sheet with a somewhat surprised look on his face, “with a phenomenal time for a 71 years old – 17:53 – Richie T!”.

A collective gasp rode through the crowd like a wave at the incredible time laid down by this remarkable senior citizen.  Richie quickly approached the “stage” and explained the situation to the embarrassed race director.  He was further embarrassed by the fact that he had already given Richie’s first place master’s award to someone else.  Fortunately, that man came forward from the back of the room and gave the award to Richie (a nice plaque and a $50 gift certificate to the American Running Company).

Overall, Richie was 9th place, Bret was about 13th place and I was 20th.  I finished 2nd in my age group in a pretty disorganized race.  I don’t mean to sound elitist, and I encourage everyone to participate in events like this but having walkers in a race that consists of two laps around the course is a little dangerous – especially when that race involves prizes.  There were several times I had to make an evasive move to avoid a toddler or pet that had no idea I was approaching at a rapid rate from behind.  It’s one thing to negotiate around a few stragglers at the back of a race, but running full speed into a crowd of hundreds is pretty crazy.

(7) Comments   
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