"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Retirement Plan

I haven't run for five weeks due to illness, so there hasn't been much to report on this blog.

I've spent more than a decade on this blog explaining how to train for specific events, but I've never covered the question of: What would you do if you just wanted to be in really good shape, but never race? That's sort of a beginner plan and also a retirement plan and not a bad jack-of-all-trades plan.

The more you run, the better shape you can get in, but also the greater the odds of getting injured. The sweet spot seems to be an average of an hour per day, so that's where I'm going to start. From there, I'm going to use the "Eternal Season" plan, which I can no longer find online, but for the record, I didn't invent it. Then I'm going to add ideas from Joe Friel's triathlon training bible, without actually cross-training.

At the moment, I'm in about 6:30 mile or 22:30 5K shape, which gives me training paces to add.

Monday: 6 miles of hills (7x my Ohio Street hill and 14x my Ramsey hill are exactly 6 miles), done slowly, alternating long hills one week and shorter hills the next.

Tuesday: 6 miles, with intervals. If I do long hills, I'll do short intervals; if I do short hills, I'll do long ones. Either 12x400m under 1:48 with 200m jog recoveries or 4x1200m in 5:25-5:49 with 400m jog recoveries.

Wednesday: 4 miles with speed skills. 6x100m in 21-24 seconds, each working on improving some aspect of running form.

Thursday: 7 miles with the last 4.5 at 8:24-8:34 per mile

Friday: 4 miles on difficult trail, to work on balance and agility. Included would be 4x50m uphill sprints, all-out.

Saturday: 6 miles with a 5K time trial, or with 3 miles at 7:40-8:30/mile.

Sunday: 11 miles at 10 min./mile, planned as a social run

This gives a total of 44 miles done in a bit over 7 hours for the week. It manages to cover every type of running except those specific to very long distances and has them all in appropriate amounts.

Now if I could just run a step...

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Pulling Back from the Brink

I'd done a series of posts leading up to what I called the Madcap Marathon Plan, which was just two marathon-length runs per week. For 3:00 marathoners, it looked like:

Tuesday (PM) 26.25 miles @ 7.5 min/mile
Saturday (AM) 15.75 miles @ 8, 10.5 @ 6.85

Like the popular 5-2 Diet, it depletes all the glycogen reserves and creates a huge caloric deficit twice per week and the rest of the week is used for recovery. Of course, the workouts are ridiculously tough and, if you have a bad day, it's half the week that gets lost.

3 Days

There are a number of three-runs per week schedules and I thought about how to turn my ludicrous idea into something more workable. Here's what that led to:

T 8@8, 7@6.85
Th 15@7.5
Sa 1 15@8
Sa 2 26.25@7.5
Sa 3 15.75@8, 10.5@6.85

This three week cycle gives one an "easy" week, makes some of the workouts more reasonable and keeps the mileage the same.

That looked familiar.

4 Day, high mileage

T1 15@8
Th 1 15 w/ 10.5@6.85
 Sa 1 15
S1 26.25
T2 15 w/ 7@6.85
Th2 15
Sa2 15 w/ 10.5@6.85
S2 26.25

This, adding another 15 miles per week, allows one to do more long hard runs and looks similar to what some elite marathoners do (excepting all the easy workouts to fill in the week).

4 Day, moderate mileage

This had me thinking about cutting the mileage from that plan back to the level used previously. That gives:
T1 13@8
Th1 13 w/7@6.85
Sa1 13
S1 13
T2 13 w/7@6.85
Th2 13
Sa2 13 w/7@6.85
S2 13

[The hard 7 miles of Sa2 could be moved to S2.]

This is what I would actually do if starting a marathon plan. Consistent runs of half-marathon length, frequent miles at race pace and at a duration that's challenging but not overly fatiguing.

This plan looks similar to what I call "The Standard Plan" for marathon training, which is higher mileage, more days per week and a bit more formal in structure:

M 6@8
T 13 w/ 6x1 mile hard
W 6
Th 13@8
F 0
Sa 13 w/ 8@6.85
S 20

This plan can be altered  on the weekend to:

Sa 20 w/ 8@6.85
S 13
So, here's the take-away message.

I would try the 4 day moderate mileage plan and, if I stopped improving, switch either to a higher mileage plan or to fewer days with longer runs, depending upon what worked best for me in the past.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Dreaded Yearly Fashion Post 2019

I've done a recap of fashion from the Golden Globes every year since 2012. They've been some of my most popular posts, though I'm not sure why. Last night, I didn't care for the job the hosts did and disagreed with who won most of the awards, but there were some lovely dresses.

Lady Gaga wore at least 8 of them at once.
It's a great dress and I like that she tinted her hair to match, but it's too much for the room. Literally. You expect her to go too far, so it's somewhat forgivable, but the Golden Globes are not formal enough for this dress. Versailles may not be.

I think Emma Chang did it better in blue and I really like the comfortable-looking shorts hidden underneath.

There were a surprising number of blue dresses, of every shade, and most of them were terrific.
Camilla Belle. Not a fan of the eye shadow, but it kind of works

Allison Janney. This is a really flattering choice for her and the necklace, if a bit chunky, helps.
It's Kelleth Cuthbert with the Fiji Water that had the most seen blue dress, though.

What happened to the Pantone color of the year "Living Coral?" Well, some tried. The problem with it is that the dye looks different - pink or orange - depending upon how deeply it penetrates into fabric, making matching impossible. There were some interesting ways around that, however.

Patricia Clarkson went with orange AND pink. The result was not good, but better than expected.
Danai Gurira's dress was one-shoulder red metallic on orange. That being insufficient, a huge bow and train was added to the shoulder; it's not terrible, but it's not well thought-out.

There was a lot of blush/pink.
Emmy Rossum in bubblegum
Emma Stone looked washed out.

Kiki Layne. Understated and elegant, yet interesting. And best hair of the night!
Kristen bell went almost minimalist. The shoulder detail and bracelets work together well.

Lucy Liu. There's a lot going on here, yet the dress looks like a shrimp summer roll.
I really wish there were some way to make that last comment without sounding racist.

Lili Reinhart went a little more red.
Holly Taylor went even redder. I like this, but it looks like two dresses forced together.

Halle Berry also went dark red with a dress that looked sexy from the front, but a little trashy at times.

Lupita Nyong'o, right, also had a rare off night.
There were, as always, metallic dresses, this year mostly in champagne as a color. Emily Blunt's dress looks like it's being shredded from the bottom.

Felicity Huffman wasn't even recognizable at first. The dress is blah.

Irina Shayk looke good, mostly because she's Irina Shayk, and that arm candy helps, too.
I really like the butterfly print on Leslie Bibb's dress - the dress is nothing without it - but I think it would've been better on someone else. She needed more color.

There was some black and white color blocking going on last night as well.Amber Heard channeled a Disney princess.
Charlize Theron was picked by some as best dressed. Her black top required dress tape for when she sat down, and I deduct points for lack of functionality.
Kaley Cuoco altered this pattern by using dark blue and white, with a black belt. She also had the most comfortable shoes of the evening.
There were a ton of green dresses, too. I'm omitting them for space. they were all okay, but not great.

When there was a crowd shot, I asked myself who that was in yellow. It was Rachel Brosnahan. I wouldn't have considered this shade for her, but it really brought out her skin tones and the color of her eyes. There are small things about the dress I didn't care for (e.g. the detail at her tailbone), but the overall effect was stunning at a distance.
Sofia Carson's dress has made some worst-dressed lists, but I liked it. I don't think she knows how to pose in these dresses properly yet, though.
Taylor Swift wore a more structured and architectural dress than usual for her and I think it was a good choice.
It did cause some to ask "when did she get boobs?" This profile looks more like Christina Hendricks!
Co-host Sandra Oh wore three outfits during the evening, all by female designers. It was her fourth outfit of the night, at the after party, that I like best.
I'm not going to mention the dresses I didn't like, because I try to put myself in their position.
"I hear Steve's watching this while wearing vintage couture."

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Steve's Evil Kitchen Presents Krampus Brownies

No picture of the brownies. You know what brownies look like.

My Xmas present to you is my secret recipe for perfect brownies. The base is excellent by itself, but doesn't form the paper skin some demand, so I cover them with ganache and nuts.


1 oz chopped unsweetened chocolate
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c neutral vegetable oil (corn)
1 c sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 c all-purpose flour, sifted
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Line an 8x8" baking pan with aluminum foil, grease the foil and dust with flour.

Melt the butter and chocolate (microwave). Cream with the sugar. Add corn syrup, oil, vanilla, salt and cocoa and mix. Add eggs and mix. Stir flour into mixture until just incorporated. Scrape into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until just barely set in the middle. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares and remove from pan.


4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (optional)

Heat in a double boiler until chips melt, mix until smooth. Spread over the tops of the brownie base.

Pecan topping

16 whole pecan "halves"
1 Tbsp butter
salt, to taste - preferably kosher

Melt butter in skillet on medium-low heat. Add the nuts and saute, stirring, until lightly brown and fragrant (10 minutes). Sprinkle nuts with salt, let cool and top each brownie with one.

Because these are labor-intense, it's tempting to double the recipe, using a 9x13 pan and baking 30-35 minutes, but I have not had success with that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Long Sprint Training

There's very little info on the internet about training under a mile (there's one very good site for 800m) and almost nothing of use for older runners looking at short distances. Searching through my notes, I found a plan I wrote for moving from long distances to 800m, using very high mileage. The MN state record for men 55-59 is 2:14 (plus 0.6 to 0.8 seconds, I'm not looking it up again) and here's what I had for running 2:13:

Monday 3am, 3pm (in 20 minutes)
Tuesday 3 am, 8x200m@ 800m pace (33.2) - 2 minutes
Wednesday 3 am, 3 pm
Thursday 7 in 45 with 3x1.5miles @10k pace (8:36) - 800m, plus 6x60m greyhounds [described elsewhere] @ 95-98%
Friday 3, 3
Saturday 3, 3x1200@5K (5:20), 300 hard (50) - 3 minutes
Sunday 3,3
M 3,3
T 3, 3x[300(49.9),300, 200(33.2)@800 pace -1]-9
W 3,3
Th 7 with 3.5@10M (21) plus 4x[3x50m downhill-3]-6
F 0
Sa 3, 7x600@3K (1:54) - 1min
S 3,3
M 3,3
T 3, 400 in 46.8, 300, 200 (31.2)@400m pace - 5-10min
Th 7 with 3@15K (18) plus 15x90-100m uphill @400m/800m pace (15-20 sec)
F 0
Sa 3, 800 time trial, 3x400m hill (100 ft. climb)@ 1 Mile pace (96 sec; 72 on flat)
S 0

That's a lot of slow running for a 800m runner. For a 400m runner, it's almost all about weight training for explosive speed and technique, so nothing about actual run training is available. Here's what I had:

Tuesday: 2 or 3 sets of 4x200m @ 800m pace - 90 seconds recovery
            OR repeats of 1 minute @ 800m pace, with 6 minute recoveries; these could range from
                   6x300m to 3x600m, but should total about 1800m.
Thursday: 3 to 4 sets of maximum velocity assisted sprints:
                  3x30-50m downhill (under 3% grade) - 3 min. recovery
            OR 2 sets of 6x60m steep uphill sprints (under 12%) - 1 minute recovery
Saturday: 3-6x150m @ 400m pace - 5-10min. recovery (early season)
                 2-3 sets of 2-4x150m @ 400m pace - 1 min, with long recovery between sets (late season)
             OR 2-4x300m @ 400m pace - 5-10min recovery
Alternate workouts: Billat workout of 24x30seconds @ 6 minute race pace - 30 seconds at half speed.
                                 8x50m greyhounds at top speed
                                 Time Trials at 100m, 200m, 400m, varying the order each time.

I doubt anyone reading this blog will ever consider racing this short, but I thought I should put the info out there.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Worse than a broken leg

In my last post, I ended by saying I thought I broke my leg. I am informed that I've torn my meniscus, medial plica and retinaculum in my left knee (it's the second of those that really hurts). I'm told to try resting it.

What's worse, though, is something I realized after I posted. I said that I needed to work on sprint power and that meant running against resistance. An option for that is tire pulling. I said I'd retire before I did anything that asinine. Once a friend of mine starts pulling a tire around on a rope, I pretty much discount everything they say from that point onward.

They might have a point. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

In Search of Lost Speed

Like most runners, I've slowed; first gradually, then precipitately. In your forties, you have those moments when you feel 20 again and have an occasional run that's unusually fast - followed by weeks of aches and slow jogging. In my fifties, I've hit the point where I have what feels like a great run, much faster than usual, then look at my watch and discover that it was as much as two minutes per mile slower than thought.

Losing speed, runners often move up in distance raced, but once you've hit 100 miles, there's not much further one can go that route. What surprised me most was that I couldn't even momentarily run as fast as I used to, the days of peak speeds of 2:38 per mile (not a typo) being replaced with peaks closer to 5 minutes per mile.

There's two possibilities: stride rate and stride length. Looking at Jack Daniels' book (2nd edition), next to where he says that most runners have a stride rate (actually step rate... two steps per stride) of 160, top runners are at 180, I had written that my sprint rate was 195, but slowed to under 160 when jogging. My watch will tell me my cadence and it's been consistently under 150 recently. By working on stride rate, I have been able to recoup some of that lost speed in the past weeks.

It's been noted among aging sprinters, however, that stride rates don't change much, but runners take more steps to do their runs, so their stride length has shortened. One old runner has said that he occasionally does runs with short choppy strides at a rate of 220! I checked - running in place, I can do a minute at 208 steps per minute, so that's not really the issue.

Increasing flexibility and range of motion seem to be the usual way runners try to increase stride length, but over-striding is inefficient and their must be another way. Brad Hudson points to "stride stiffness," the amount of recoil one gets in each step, not absorbing the shock of each foot landing. A part of this in ankle flexion and forcefully pushing off each foot in a pawing motion. Another part comes from leg drive, raising the knees higher, which seems to force the body to push off harder with the glutes. Doing drills - high knees, ankle hops, etc. - are how people work on this, but I see a fault. One can lift the knees high and push off hard at the ankle, but go straight up, rather than forward (in fact, this is what the drills have one do) and it's forward push that matters. Ideally, pushing a football tackling dummy would be the way to increase forward power, but that doesn't seem a good fit for runners.

Uphill sprinting is a favored way to do this, as it causes one to lift the knees while running fast. This still doesn't quite work for me, though, as one can sprint uphill barely raising the knees with short strides. Climbing steps 2 or 3 at a time seems a better way to do it, especially if one can do them fast.

This is what I plan to do now.

Except... it looks like I've broken my leg!