17.83-Mile Run

It was yesterday when I realized that I only had 3 weekly long runs left before my first marathon. Why 3 long runs left? Because I do one long run per weekend, and I see from many training schedule that you are supposed to start winding down your long run mileages 4 weeks prior to the race.

That meant, in order to get to 22 miler 2/7, I had to do 18 miles today, and 20 miles next week to increase my run to 22 miles. So I went for a 18-mile run.

I slept in this morning. Got out on the road around 7am. It was a great day to run outside. It was low 50’s, and wind was calm. I took my gloves outside, but ended up leaving them out on the porch.

I paid extra attention not to go too fast initially. Kept my pace at 8:20 – 8:30 minutes per mile, and it seemed to work for me. After about 5 miles in that pace, it felt effortless to bring my pace up to 8:05 – 8:10 mins/mile.

Sun peeked out over the low-rise industrial buildings, and temperature was rising a few degrees. It was great day to be running after several days of raining.

17-83-mile-run

My original plan was to follow Arroyo del Valle Trail until it meets Main street. It was my first time running the trail, and didn’t know what to expect. I just knew from Google Maps that the trail ends around Main street in Pleasanton. If I were to run to Main street, that should give me about 9 miles, which would then be 18 miles if I were to turn around at the intersection.

But at around 8.80 miles or so, the trail started to get narrow and wet. There were leafy puddles of water which were muddy and slippery. I was going around those puddles in the narrow trail, and saw a ditch in the middle of the trail.

When I looked at it, it was no more than 4 feet across. Because I was running, I decided to use my momentum to jump over the ditch. Well, what I did not account for was my tired legs after 8.8 miles of running. When I tried to jump to extend my stride length, I knew that I didn’t have enough power on my right foot.

Shoot.

When I realized I didn’t have enough power to jump over the ditch, it was too late. My body was half way over the ditch, yet I didn’t have good landing spot because I didn’t get to extend my left leg far enough.

I instinctively held out my arms and landed on my arms in a push-up position. Literally I had to push over the ground with my hands to avoid getting scrapes on my legs.

Fortunately I managed to get this emergency maneuver right, and was able to walk away with minor scrapes on my hands.

After the fall, I continued a bit more, but realized that the trail was not maintained well enough to run, so I turned around not quite making to my planned 9-mile turnaround point.

Coming back was lot harder. For some reason even when I had a gel at around Mile 8, I had no willpower to continue running at 13 miles. I started to take walking break inbetween to regain the strength.

But somehow I managed to pick up some speed at the end of the run to keep my average pace at 8:33 mins/mile. I think that must have been the gel working for me.

Looking back at the run and comparing it with earlier ones, I was encouraged to see a bit of improvements.

Following are earlier paces that I had for the first 17.83 miles.

  • 8:52 mins/mile on December 2nd, 2015 (18.65-mile run)
  • 8:45 mins/mile on December 19th, 2015 (20.04-mile run)
  • 8:33 mins/mile on January 24th, 2016 (17.83-mile run)

It looks like I have improved my pace by about 20 seconds over the last couple of months. That’s an encouraging sign that I’m heading the right direction.

6 weeks till the marathon day.

-Jae

17-83-mile-run-2

New Balance 780 V5 Review

After many years of running on Asics, I decided to try other brands. That other brand turned out to be New Balance. So effectively I’ve relaxed my running shoe buying criteria, but the other two still remain in effect. (Was it on Sale? Yes. Was it available in extra wide width, 4E? Oh yeah.)

The shoe that I got was New Balance 780 V5. It is entry-level neutral cushion shoes that’s available at around $70.

I have been running on it for about 37 miles, and I can feel the difference from familiar Asics running shoes.

Here are some notable differences that I saw.

At first glance, it felt cheap. New Balance 780 V5’s retail price is $85, and generally can be bought around $70. Compare that with Asics Gel-Cumulus 16 which retails at $115. 780 V5 is $30 cheaper.

And it shows.

When I unboxed it, I must admit, I felt disappointed. Upper shoes were made of some nylon mesh with printed logo, instead of stitched logo that I was used to with Asics. It didn’t have firm heel grip either. Overall the shoes had no contour, and looked like a pair of colorful booties.

But my disappointment ended there.

When I put them on and went out on the road, I was pleasantly surprised with its road manner.

Cushion and sole were much softer than Asics Gel-Cumulus from the get-go. Unlike Gel-Cumulus 16 that required a bit of break-in period (about 20 miles or so), 780 V5 was ready to rock and roll right out of the box. As soon as I stepped out to the street, I could immediately feel the soft cushion under my feet, supporting my each landing.

It was also light. At 9.8 oz, it’s less than 1 ounce lighter than Gel-Cumulus, which is 10.6 oz. But somehow it felt lighter on my feet. Its soft cushy sole might have made it feel lighter than what it really weighed.

My gaits felt springy and well balanced. Note that other runners with pronation might not feel the same way.

780 V5 is definitely for neutral to under-pronating runners. If you are okay without pronation support, but looking for soft cushy shoes on a budget, I think you’ll be happy with how it feels on the road.

 

Oh, and that cheap mesh top was actually quite breathable as well. It easily absorbed puddle of water that I stepped in even after a couple of steps, and I could feel my socks get soggy. Consider that for what it’s worth. 🙂

-Jae

Marathon Is Just 7 Weeks Away!

Today I just realized that Napa Valley Marathon is just 7 weeks away! It’s officially time to panic. 🙂

On one hand I feel that I have been doing what I can to prepare for it gradually. On the other hand I don’t know if I’ll be ready to run the entire course without either getting a cramp or hitting a wall.

How could I know for sure? I have never done it before.

I find myself reading a lot about running and how to prepare for long distance runs. And the more I read and find out how other runners are preparing for the race, the less I feel that I am adequately trained.

Here are several training tips that I found while reading:

  1. Weekly mileage matters. Make sure to put in consistent mileage on week-to-week basis to train the body to endure fatigues from long runs.
  2. Interval training and fartlek are important components of running training program. Make sure to push the heart rate to uncomfortable and challenging zone where the body can increase its lungs’ and cardiovascular capacity.
  3. Running uphill is a good way to build muscular strength. Incorporate hill running so that the legs and cardio can withstand elevation gains during long runs.
  4. Build core strength. Without solid core it is not possible to run efficiently.

I’ve been running about 25 to 27 miles a week. On the weekends I have been doing about 12 to 14 mile long runs. But that’s about it.

Limited interval training on treadmill, occasional fartlek, and I rarely run up a hill as part of my training. As for core strength, I think it’s been pretty much the same since the day I started running.

Given that the Napa Valley Marathon is less than 2 months away, I need to plan out how I’m going to train for it during the remaining time.

Here’s what I plan to do.

  1. Bring the weekly mileage up to 35.
  2. Do a weekly fartlek or hill training outside.
  3. Complete 22 mile run by Feb 7.
  4. Run 8:20 pace half marathon.

Is it going to be enough to complete my first marathon under 3:45?

I don’t know. Only time will tell.

-Jae

Asics Gel – Cumulus 16 Review

 

As I was saying earlier on my last blog, I have been a die-hard fan of Asics running shoes. And the shoe that I ended up buying the most often was Asics Gel – Cumulus.

When I went back to my online order history of the past few years, I found out that I bought Gel-Cumulus 11, 12, 14, and 15. I didn’t realize that I had been buying that many Gel-Cumulus shoes.

Looking back, I think it’s because of two reasons.

One was that it is good neutral cushioned running shoes. I tend to under-pronate, meaning I land on my outer sole when running, and to compensate for all the pounding my outer feet take, I usually look for well cushioned shoes made for neutral to under-pronating runners. Gel-Cumulus was one of the popular models made by Asics for neutral to under-pronating runners. It’s good great cushion and built quality.

The other was that it had been within my budget at around $110 retail. By the time I ordered one pair online, I usually ended up paying around $70-$80 including tax and shipping.

For these two reasons, I had gotten many Gel-Cumulus shoes over the years. And 2016 was no exception. I ended up getting a pair of Gel-Cumulus 16, the previous model of Gel-Cumulus. I think the latest model is Gel-Cumulus 17.

Since I tried the shoes for the first time on January 1st, I have been running on it for 31 miles, and here are some things that I noticed about the shoes. Some of these are observations that I had for many years when I tried earlier versions of Gel-Cumulus shoes:

  • It’s a well-built pair of shoes. Considering Gel-Cumulus shoes can be had for about $70-80 online, I feel that I’m getting a great value. Especially I like the solid feel that it gives me when I put them on and lace them up. They hug my hills snug and secure, and I get a psychological comfort of knowing that they are there to provide support when I need to land on my mid-foot and rely on hill cushion.
  • It’s very breathable. I never had a problem of feet getting hot or trapping moisture. In fact I was reminded of its breathable upper shoes on occasions when I ran through grassy field early morning. Even with a few steps of running through wet grass, I could feel the wetness coming in from outside. It’s really breathable.
  • It does take a few runs to break in the cushion. I always felt, Gel-Cumulus 16 included, that it takes at least a few weeks of running to unlock the cushion so that landing feels more supported. I thought this was the case with all running shoes, but realized that it was not so when I tried New Balance. May be the gel inserts need to be pounded for a while to get loosened up? I don’t know.
  • It gives me a structured feel to my gaits. When I land on my foot, I get lot of supports (once properly broken in). When I spring off from my foot to switch my leg, I get the well-balanced feeling coming from the shoe sole flexing just the right way to give me the propulsion that I need. Combined with ample cushioning and secure foot holding, each step feels really solid.

On my next blog, I’ll share a few observations about New Balance 780 V5, the second pair of running shoes that I got to rotate shoes. I found that there are a few things that are really different from Asics.

-Jae

 

Running Shoes: How I’ve Been Buying

With start of the new year, I got myself two pairs of running shoes. One is Asics Gel-Cumulus 16. The other is New Balance 780 V5.

Normally I get a new pair and run with the pair until it’s time to replace them. However, after reading about rotating running shoes to avoid injury, I decided to get two pairs and see what it is like to rotate.

I hope to write a review of the shoes soon. Before I do, I thought I should give you a bit of background how I have been going about buying my running shoes. (I may have titled this post as “how a lazy man buys a pair of running shoes.”)

There are three things that I have looked for when I got a new pair of running shoes:

  1. Is it Asics?
  2. Is it available in size 10 with 4E (extra wide) width?
  3. Is it on sale?

These three heuristics came about for their own reason. Let me explain why.

Why Asics?

Well, if you don’t know anything about something, you look for an expert advice on what’s the best brand to get. And when I was searching for my first pair of running shoes, which must have been about 16 years ago, I remember standing in front of the magazine section in a bookstore, and going through multiple running magazines to get a consensus on what brand of shoes was the best to get.

Needless to say the most commonly sited best shoes were by Asics. I think it was right around the year when Asics launched Gel-Nimbus and Gel-Cumulus line. And ever since then, I have been sticking to that advice.

Plus it was helpful to know how exactly the size 10 would feel on my feet when ordering it from Internet. I didn’t have to visit the store to try out the new shoes. I knew the size would be the same, hence could save the trip to the local sports store.

Why size 10 with extra wide width (4E)?

Size 10 is easy. I think I tried 9 and half way back when, but realized that with 10, I didn’t have to risk getting blisters on my toes.

As for extra wide, it took me a while to realize that there were such a thing as extra wide width, and my feet could use that extra margin. I tried wide width (2E) several years ago, but it was not as comfortable when I started running in them. My feet felt like it didn’t have enough space to move around and breathe.

So since then I’ve always looked for extra wide width in all my running shoes.

It was only a few weeks ago that I noticed that not all shoe manufactures offer 4E width on their running shoes. It seemed like 4E width are offered by Asics, New Balance, Nike and Brooks.

Why look for sale?

What can I say. I am a total value shopper. Especially when it comes to recurring expenses, I look for all the possible ways to cut the cost.

Buying running shoes became a recurring expense for me a long time ago. Ever since I paid a visit to a sports medicine doctor due to right knee pain, I have been paying attention to running shoes. Even when I procrastinated buying a new pair of shoes, I usually ended up buying a new pair once every 9-10 months.

Now that I started running long runs, and getting two pairs at a time, running shoes purchases will be even more frequent recurring expense. So that’s why I look for discounts when I go shopping for my shoes.

I normally look for shoes around $80 – 100 range including tax and shipping charge. Within the budget I have been able to get Asics Gel-Nimbus, Gel-Cumulus, GT-2170,  and GT 2120 over the years. It looks like the shoes that I got the most often was Gel-Cumulus, followed by Gel-Nimbus.

I found that the best time to buy shoes is just before the Thanksgiving time when lot of retailers are having sales to clear off their inventories for the next season. I often got 20 – 25% off from the already discounted online price.

Now that I’m getting two pairs of running shoes, I plan to relax my Rule #1, and look at other brands.

For the first time, I got my first pair of New Balance to try out. I just did my 12 mile run on it today, and I will share what I think about the shoes once I put on more miles on it.

-Jae

Deeper Dive Into HRV

After I did my Heart Rate Variability measurements (check out my earlier post, if you haven’t), I suspected that RMSSDs had wide range. For example, when I compared my RMSSD just before the long run and 45-hours after the long run, I ended up getting 64% higher number. This led me to suspect that RMSSD varies quite a bit depending on multiple factors.

So I calculated RMSSDs using different number of heart beats. Earlier I used 336 heart beats (about 5 minutes worth of heart beats) to measure my HRV. (Note that these are the data that I collected between December 28th and 30th, 2015; the same set of data that I discussed on my earlier post.)

  • Measure 1: 25 minutes before the run
    • 60 Heart Beats: 50.64 msec
    • 100 HBs: 40.962 msec
    • 336 HBs: 25.551 msec
  • Measure 2: 1 hour 45 minutes after the run
    • 60 HBs  : 5.534 msec
    • 100 HBs: 5.196 msec
    • 336 HBs: 4.505 msec
  • Measure 3: 23 hours after the run
    • 60 HBs  : 17.606 msec
    • 100 HBs: 20.348 msec
    • 336 HBs: 14.396 msec
  • Measure 4: 45 hours after the run
    • 60 HBs  : 93.512 msec
    • 100 HBs: 73.093 msec
    • 336 HBs: 42.032 msec

Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see that HRVs are not about exact measurement, but instead it’s about relative scale. For example, Measure 4 could have more than twice as large HRV if I took the first 60 HBs only as opposed to looking at the 336 HBs.

Why? Because when the heart rate had other reasons to vary, such as external stress or change in posture, HRV would be greater to include the increase in heart rate.

In fact I think what might have happened on Measure 4 was exactly that. While hurrying to take the RR recordings, I got up, got my chest monitor on, and lied back down on the bed quickly to start the measurement. That explains why the heart rate was dropping from 80.

The below graph shows my heart rate changes on Measure 4.

measure4

So the first point to note is that it’s important to minimize the external factors that may change the heart rate. I think the best way is to lie down for a few minutes before the measurement, and stay lying down during the measurement.

The other point is that HRV should be thought of as a range. From multiple measurements I took, it looks like there are three ranges that I could identify for myself:

  1. Relaxed: 25 msec or greater
  2. Recovering: 10 – 24 msec
  3. Stressed: 9 msec or less

It would make sense to compare 50 msec (60 HBs) and 25 msec (336 HBs) in Measure 1 to conclude that I was under physical stress (because I was not).

What I do not know: How much psychological stress would affect my HRV, and how long the effect would be sustained in my HRV. I’m sure experimental psychologist would have many sample points in this area.

So what’s the bottom line?

HRV definitely works in measuring the physical stress, but to properly measure I’ll need to lie down and spend at least 5 minutes of measurements to get a relative idea of how stressed I am.

I wonder if there are any experts who can share their findings. Please feel free to chime in.

-Jae