Behold! The Power of Pizza (Or "White Whale Slain")

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If you read my previous post (and bless your filthy heart if you did), you know that I'd never done a run greater than 8 miles.

Babies, all that has changed.

Today I clocked my longest run to date: 12 glorious miles. And it was powered by last night's pizza binge. (Pizza, by the way, appears to be my running food. I don't know what it is, but I just have good runs the day after eating pizza.)

I'm pleased as punch about this. I had to run the first 4 miles on the asphalt outer ring surrounding Kezar Stadium's all-weather track due to a soccer game, but was able to do the rest on the track after the game ended.

It was a beautifully cool, crisp evening, and I LOVED it.

My Nike+ results are pretty damn different than what I recall. That big dip at around 9 miles (to the best of my knowledge) did not happen; my pace was even and consistent around that time. Also, there's no dip around mile 5 when I stopped to take a leak and left the clock running.

But whatever. 12 miles down, babies. I feel awesome about it.

I'm iced, wrapped, Adviled, and elevated, enjoying a nice post-run carnitas burrito.
Today was a good day.

Aye, Breach Your Last to the Sun, Double Digit Run!

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My longest run so far has been 8 miles. I did that several months back, when training for the San Francisco Half Marathon. As mentioned before, my half marathon goal was derailed, and I had to settle for the 5k. Since I'm running the San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon in 13 days, I've been trying to stick to a schedule.

Ahab Did at Times Give Careful Heed to the Condition of That Dead Bone Upon Which He Partly Stood

My nursing of the shin splints I've incurred have taken me a bit off track, and I've missed some long runs.

As a result, a 10+ mile run—the Double Digit—has become my White Whale.

Yesterday I went to the track to harpoon and kill this Leviathan, only to be turned away by peewee football. I've made a pact with my shins to only run on the friendly, forgiving all-weather track surface until race day. It makes it a bit of a pain in the ass to get runs in, but it sure feels good.

Today, I got back in the whaleboat and set out for the track.

'Tis Hot As Satan's Hoof

Unfortunately, it was pretty warm and very sunny out today—hardly typical San Francisco weather. It'd been a beautiful day to go the beach, but unfortunately I do not do well with heat. But I had to try. Like Lyle Lovett says, "What would you be if you didn't even try? You have to try."

I felt great on the run. Zero problems with the pegs, lungs felt great, everything felt great. But out there on the shadeless track, sun bearing down, it was just too damn hot for me. The sprinklers that were watering the infield occasionally sprayed onto the track, and I ran out of my way to get in the lanes that were being doused. God knows how clean the water was that they're using, but I didn't really care. It felt good and kept me cool-ish.

Sprinklers shut off on the first mile. By mile 3 I was stopping to sip water and pour it over my head. By mile 5 I knew my goose was cooked, and I crapped out.


On the bright side, I think I've been treating my shin splints right, so that's a plus. I feel much better.

Wednesday I shall set out again to harpoon the beast.

Damn! That Felt Good!

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It was seriously, seriously gorgeous out today. Picture postcard beautiful weather. Clear blue skies, very low humidity, nice and cool temps—really, all you could ask for.

Since I'm Johnny Seasonal Affective Disorder, today was all sunshine and lollipops for me. Good times.

I haven't run in 6—count 'em one two three four five SIX days—my last run was a painful slog through the Presidio last Friday. Having decided what I was going to do about my splintiness, I've been all about the Ace bandage, the ice pack, the elevation and the not-running.

I felt like today was the day to get back out and see how recovery was going. I'm not even sure where I should be with my training plan, but I arbitrarily decided that running 5 miles would be a good test for my shins and a decent workout as the San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon draws ever nearer.

My shins have been feeling like they're coming along, but the first 2 miles of the run had me doubting my recovery efforts. As typical with mild shin splints, the pain went away once I got warmed up. By mile 3 I felt pretty damn good, and mile 5 was easier than all of them.

Crazily enough, I clocked an average 10:15 pace, which is actually pretty fast for a slow mofo like myself.

I drove home riding high and feeling really good. Ice packs on, Ace bandages wrapped, 600 mg of Ibuprofen per @LosBee, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (sugar and protein), a little box of raisins, and I'm set for the evening.

Hopefully (HOPEFULLY) we're on the right track here and things progressively get better. I'd love to be ready for the half marathon, and really love to not injure myself trying to prepare for it. Here's to tomorrow being good, and hopefully getting a good long run in very soon.

Doin' the Right Thing

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Due to my new-found splintiness, I decided to not run again today, keep the peg up and iced and pick things back up tomorrow.

Hopefully it's the right plan.

@LosBee has me on 600 milligrams of ibuprofen to alleviate the inflammation. I've read a lot of recommendations to not take NSAIDs for running pain and shin splints, but I think that is mostly to avoid masking the pain so you can run on an injury. I ain't doin' that—I'm masking the pain, fighting the inflammation and eating ice cream on the couch while I watch NFL.

Very low-risk injury situation.

Back tomorrow with a write-up of a good run. Hopefully.

Image courtesy of fisticuffs on Flickr.

I Think I'm Splinty

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After digging around online here, here and here, I've come to the conclusion that I've developed shin splints. Well, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, if you want to get picky.

In sticking with the plan I've upped my miles quite a bit, which I'm sure is a contributor. Really, I think there's many factors here:
  • Increased mileage
  • Primarily running on concrete
  • My clydesdale status
  • The hills of San Francisco (I've had my legs get tweaky just walking around here; starting to incorporate hill repeats have undoubtedly been stressful for the pegs)

What to Do?

I really, really, really don't want to stop training. Hopefully I won't have to.

I've flagged some videos as favorites on YouTube which offer some recovery suggestions that'll hopefully help. Since I've made a list of probably causes, I guess I'll make a list of solutions:
  • Religiously using the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
  • Doing every run I can at Kezar track and avoiding concrete like the Plague
  • Massaging the soleus muscle (as shown in some of the vids)
  • Doing strengthening exercises (again, see vids)
  • Stretching like a monkeyplucker
  • Keeping my eye on it. The last thing I want is a lasting injury, and if it gets worse then I'll have to hang up the Asics for a bit and swim or bike.
I take some solace in knowing that this is a profoundly common problem, but still, getting shin splints makes me feel like a rookie jackanus.

Oh well. You take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and there you have [finish this sentence].

4 Miles, Hills, Pain and Whatnot

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Babies, my pegs are achin'.

Why do my lower legs always crap out before my quads, hammies, or the rest of my body? Is that the nature of being a clydesdale? Or am I just a jackass?

After Wednesdays near 10 miler I was hoping to put in the next few runs on the Kezar Stadium all-weather track, with its nice soft surface. That didn't work out, however, so I stuck close to the 'hood and ran to/through the Presidio.

I'm a little off the plan, since I took another crack at last Sunday's long run on Wednesday (I had to try), so today was a mash-up 4 miler/hills day. The pic is looking downhill at the base of a nice, gradual incline in the Presidio which goes for maybe 4 blocks. I ran this puppy twice, as well as other shorter hills that came up in the route.

It went okay, and I'm glad I can look at 4 miles as a "short run" these days, but my pegs are pretty sore. I still don't think I officially have shin splints, and I'm basically trying to toughen myself up physically and mentally for future runs without doing any damage. Hopefully I'm on the right track.

I did a ton of stretches at the end, and am now ice-packed and Ace-bandaged up in a recliner, hoping "recovery" is as quick and easy as this run was.

No lifting today. I reckon I'll hit the gym tomorrow.

As a side note, we did a fun little post today over at Hella Sound about Amy Güth's new fitness site, Bonkless. Check it out the interview with Amy as well as her site when you get a chance: Get the Bonk Out!.

Image courtesy of nautical2k on Flickr.

Victory, of Sorts

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After owning defeat during The 10 Miler That Wasn't, I was determined to knock this long run out. There's only 3 weeks and a few days before the San Jose Rock & Roll Marathon, and I have to get the miles in. I've missed a total of about 4 runs in the training plan, which is not the worst thing in the world, but 2 of those were long runs. That's bad. So I strapped on the Asics and hit the ground running. Again.

I'd love to be able to say that it was a fantastic run; that the scenery whipped by; that I rocked it out Prefontaine-style with a 70s-style mustache flailing in the wind; that it was a breeze and barely broke a sweat.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

The first 3 miles or so were all about deciding if the feeling in my lower legs was just pain or the beginnings of an injury. Deciding it was just a little stiffness, I soldiered on. Eventually things loosened up adequately and I hit a nice rhythm.

Like yesterday's Run of Shame (in which I crap out at 3.5 miles and hop in a cab, the cab driver courteously ignoring my sweaty shirt and the crazy look in my eye), I set off down to the Marina and then east toward downtown San Francisco. My goal was to find the sneaky pete way to Fisherman's Wharf that doesn't require me to run on streets or take as many hills as I did yesterday.

I was successful in that regard—there's a little path that cuts over through the park by Fort Mason and dumps you onto MacDowell Avenue, which connects nicely to the Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf. Sweet.

I hit a lot of SF highlights: running through Fisherman's Wharf (dodging tourists who are busy stimulating the economy and being duped by tourist trap establishments), along the the Embarcadero, under the Bay Bridge, etc. My turnaround point was AT&T Park (pictured above). I felt very proud to touch the wall and turn back, even though I had by then been passed by every running club that was on the same route as I was.

The sun had set in the course of my run, and, like the surface of the planet Mercury, the temperature dipped 5000°. Unfortunately, after mile 6, so did my spirits. I felt somewhat worn and defeated. Back to the old lack-of-mental-toughness thing. I started taking short walk breaks, which accounts for the dip in my Nike+ chart yonder, as well as the slow split times. Even with the walks I guess I averaged a little under 12 minute miles, which isn't the absolute worst thing in the world. (The Worst Thing in the World—for those keeping score at home—is lack of separation between church and state, but that's a whole other discussion...)

I finally picked up the pace heading back through Fort Mason for 4 reasons:
  1. I wanted to at least finish strong-ish
  2. I wanted to stay warm
  3. I wanted to avoid getting stabbed in the neck by some weirdo crackhead park dweller
  4. I wanted to dodge all the skunks that were out prowling

Yes, San Francisco has skunks. I've smelled them around the neighborhood but hadn't seen them—waddling around, backside pointed at my head—until tonight. Now, I love skunks; they're cool little woodland creatures, and their smell reminds me of summers as a kid. But the last thing I want is to get sprayed by one when I'm out on a run.

About a quarter mile away from my goal of 10 I conceded to "defeat". I was done, cold, and ready for some Vitamin Water. Not the best run in the world, but also not the worst. I ran (with some walk breaks) about 10 miles in about 2 hours. I'm confident that I can rally on race day, cut out the walks and finish the additional few miles without being thrown off the course. And that, in and of itself, will be a victory, of sorts.

Pics courtesy of Pargon and Charles and Clint on Flickr.

The 10 Miler That Wasn't

2 Brilliant Remarks
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to walk on the Chicago lakeshore with some Twitter peops (@amyguth and @leahjones) on Sunday, but I was scheduled to do a 10 mile long run. I was hoping to get to both, but time slipped away and I had to cut the walk short and fly back to SFO.

Yesterday was a wash due to insomnia and errands, but I was geared up and ready to get the 10 miler done and in the books today.

I tell you what: sometime between the end of the walk Sunday and this morning, my back and lower legs tightened up something fierce. My guess is that a 4+ mile walk—something I very rarely do—coupled with a lack of stretching afterward and a 4 hour flight did a bit of a number on me. It's not something I expected, and I thought the run would go smoothly.

I started out in the Marina and headed east, toward downtown. My lower legs were none too happy about this, and wanted out. About once a mile I had to stop and try to loosen up my tibialis anterior. No bueno. I was past Fisherman's Wharf and heading towards AT&T park by the time I realized I had to stop. Weak.

What has 2 thumbs and takes a cab home after a failed run?

This guy.

How Do You Decide Where to Live?

7 Brilliant Remarks
This has been a recurring topic in the Frenette household in recent months. Our moves have really challenged our perceptions of what location means to us, and what criteria we value in making choices.

What's Important to You?

How would you rank (1,2,3...) the following factors?
__ Career/Job Market
__ Housing Market
__ Proximity to Where You Grew Up (close or far)
__ Weather
__ City Size & Type (urban, suburban, rural)
__ Culture
__ Schools
__ Proximity to Family
__ Crime Rate
__ Other:

So, with the comments form waiting in breathless anticipation, tell me: how you make this important decision?

Photos courtesy kangotraveler, and Michael in San Diego on Flickr.

6 Miler, Powered by Hot Dogs™

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I love hot dogs. I can't help it—I was raised in Chicago, by two Chicagoans. That's what we do.

Being in Chicago this week, I had to make a stop at Portillo's, my favorite weenie vendor. I ate at this place 3 times a week during high school, as scary as that is. But it's delicious stuff. A chili dog, half an italian beef and a large fry and I was set.

Too bad I had to run 6 miles today. Greasy fast food isn't exactly the best way to fill up your glycogen stores, but whatchagonna do.

The Chicago lake shore was my chosen running route; Chicago sits on Lake Michigan, and a great running and bike path stretches from the far south side to well into the north. Plenty of space to stretch the legs and get some relatively fresh air.

Getting to the lake shore from our hotel—and getting back—was the only tricky part of the run. On the way back you can see the dip in my pace, where I had to wait for traffic lights and huff up a couple flights of stairs. All in all, though, it was a great run on a beautiful, moody-midwestern-weather day.

These recent trips have been a "Best Of" tour of the places I've lived. I haven't been back to Chicago in quite some time, but this is my "home" city, and the city I grew up. I had forgotten how amazing this city really is. Amazing architecture, interesting people, lots to see and do.

The trip to San Diego was interesting, too, because the move from San Diego to San Francisco is much more recent, and I still feel some ties. But San Francisco is much more like Chicago, and I have to admit: I'd almost prefer living in Chicago to SF. Granted, the weather's been nice here, and that's a major issue with Chicago. But outside of that, I really don't see why San Francisco would be so much more preferable to Chicago. Chicago's great, and at half the price, it's twice as nice.

Good to be back.

We were able to catch a show at The Metro—one of my old haunts. The band was Ha Ha Tonka, which is sort of an indie rock band with an inbred twist. They were good; 4 part harmonies, technically solid and proficient drumming, interesting song arrangements.

A good first day in Chicago.

Images courtesy midiman and on Flickr.

A Group, Meaning Two

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There are billions of running clubs and group runs available in San Francisco. This city is head-over-heels in love with running, bless their filthy hearts. There are so many to choose from that I have one meet on Wednesday nights as close as 3 blocks from my house.


Metrosport in the Marina (no, I don't live in the Marina—stop asking that) was the group run of choice, and I ambled down at 6:00 to meet the group.

As it turns out, the group was me and one other guy. Apparently they just started doing the group, and have major Wednesday night competition from the Nike folk, who are gearing up for their October 19th Women's Marathon. Metrosport feels like things'll pick up for them once the Nike event is over. I hope so, because it sure is convenient for me.

Greg, the other guy, and I headed out for what he said would be a half-hour run. I was supposed to run 5 miles today, but I figured what the hell. I anticipated a faster pace than I'm used to for the group run, and even though it was just the two of us, Greg seemed pretty accomplished. Sacrificing a little bit of distance for a little bit of speed probably won't hurt me in the long run.

Looking at the Nike+ widget, it sure looks like we kept one hell of an even pace during this run. As predicted, we went sorta slightly a little fast. A little. Sorta. Maybe we just held my "faster" pace more consistently.

It ended up being nearly an hour long, 4 mile slog. Greg is a cool guy and was nice enough to hang back and wait for me. He did drive the pace the whole time, keeping things a wee bit faster than I would have. Good stuff. As is my specialty, I crapped out on the home stretch and walked. All in all, however, I feel like I did pretty well.

Looking forward to future, more "group-y" group runs. I can see how running with folks that are better than you are can elevate your game.

Oh, and I totally blew off my weightlifting. Damn. I had to come home to pick up my gym stuff (read: towel), and by the time I got back home, chatted with @LosBee and got ready to turn around and head back out, I was feeling sort of splinty. Like shin splinty. Which I don't like feeling.

Must be my attempts at higher speeds from Sunday, yesterday and today that are irritating my tibial connective tissue and musculature.

Anyway, I said "screw it", ripped off the sweaty togs and wrapped my lower legs in ice and Ace bandages. Good times. Hopefully everything will be good to go tomorrow.

"Speed" Work Tuesday

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Today I was slated for six 800 meter repeats, followed by squats, lunges and other weightlifting chicanery.

It was going to be tough to get down to the track to get a clearly marked 800 meter course, so I decided to bust a freestyle and run three 1 mile repeats instead. I'm not going for speed here—I'm really just training so I can finish the San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon. I'm not looking to break records. My PB will be finishing a halfie, you know?

I went down to the Marina, since it's a route that I'm familiar with and the out-and-back plops me right in front of the gym. Doing intervals proved to be difficult to do with the Nike+, so I mostly ended up winging it and basically hustling as hard as I could keep up for 1 mile increments, mixed with about 2 minutes of slower trotting in between.

It went okay, not great. As you can see, I wasn't exactly flying. But I cooked along above my normal plodding pace. I ended up gassing (again) before my third mile interval was complete, and walked the rest of the way.

The clock was ticking, though; I ambitiously thought I could make it down to the route, run, do my lifting workout, get back home, shower and get down to Bimbo's 365 to pick up tickets for one of my all-time favorite bands, Trans Am. After my run I realized this was stupid, so I stretched out, packed it up and headed home.

But hey, I got a run in and Trans Am was awesome. Fantastic. Kick anus. You gotta love a band that does the majority of their vocals through a vocoder/synthesizer. Inexplicably, halfway through the last song the bassist/keyboard player peeled (with one hand) and ate a banana while playing. Like it couldn't wait. Hysterical and highly entertaining.

Photos courtesy of jpctalbot and the Trans Am web site, respectively.

Obesity in America: A Theory

2 Brilliant Remarks
The rising rate of obesity in America is a much talked about topic in recent years. All sorts of folks—medical professionals, endocrinology specialists, fitness experts and so on—have a lot to say on the subject, suggesting everything from an increased sedentary lifestyle to processed foods as the cause.

I have another, possibly half-assed theory to propose.

We have all heard—and likely accept—that we have evolved from ancestry that employed hunter-gatherer subsistence methods for millions of years. As a result, we will feast when food is plentiful in preparation for when food is scarce. A critical survival strategy when there was no domestication or consistent food sources, our body stores these reserves as fat for later use.

How does that equate to a sudden upward trend in obesity, specifically local to America?

Anthropology takes the long view, seeing things over thousands and millions of years. I suggest a much shorter time frame.

depression-era photoThe Great Depression was a large-scale incidence of scarcity in recent history, resulting in food lines, rationing and starvation. While those that lived through it processed their fat stores, they appropriately developed a deep and lasting aversion to wastefulness. When food was once again available, they were loathe to waste anything that made it to the table. The Clean Plate Club was established, and children of Depression-era parents developed an ingrained compulsion to eat everything they were given.

In the meantime, America becomes the land of plenty once more, progressively bringing food access to new levels of ease. Diners, fast food, drive-ins, drive-thrus, tv dinners, microwave ovens and prepared foods become more than commonplace. Food is readily and cheaply available at virtually any time, almost anywhere. Dining out gains popularity as a social event, and chefs (Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali) rise to the status of celebrity.

A generation (or possibly two) passes, and the confluence of these two factors—Depression-influenced practice of never squandering food and omnipresent dining options—begin to show on American waistlines.

Anecdotal Experience
You likely don't have to look too far back in your American family history to find someone affected by the Depression. Possibly a parent or grandparent of yours was a teen or child, experiencing food shortages, rationing, maybe they even stood in a food line to wait their turn for milk or bread. I'd be willing to bet that same relative is famous within the family for making their loved ones a big breakfast, or hosting a plentiful Thanksgiving dinner. They're the first person to ask a guest if they want anything to eat, and the last person to let you go home hungry.

Why is America growing ever fatter? Because we historically (in the long view) are mammals that descended from hunter-gatherers, and (in the short view) have experienced a scarcity event that has frightened us en masse to eat while we can in preparation for the next one.

Are we more sedentary? Sure. Do processed foods supply less nutrients in a higher caloric payload? Probably. The experts are likely right: we are biologically unprepared for modern living, and these are all probably contributing factors to obesity.

I can't help but think, however, that an event as large as the Depression has had a lasting impact on subsequent generations' eating behaviors. It will take generations to winnow out the Clean Plate Club mentality, but I propose in time obesity levels will settle back down.

Just a thought. I warned you in the beginning that it was a half-assed theory.

Photo courtesy Dorothea Lange/NARA.