Category Archives: short run

A Small Triumph

I feel that I am at some kind of turning point in my running. I am very excited, yet I am full of dread. I am accruing very few miles, but my workouts have increased in intensity (largely due to my running group). I am carrying a raft of injuries (left ring finger, left groin, right middle toe, right hamstring, right shoulder), yet I’ve never been stronger. It could be that the turning point involves my body just exploding in some kind of incandescent flowering of middle-aged hubris, defeated. Or it could be that I get stronger, faster. Part of the fun is that I’m just unsure. But my intuition is that if I stick with it, I’m moving in the right direction.

Today, for instance, was curious. Fully expecting a nice, rigorous hike with hill pushes up onto the high ridge, the backbone of the park, with a long loping return — instead, we head over to what my group calls “piney slope.” This is a couple of loose, dusty, rocky trails, covered in pine needles. From top to bottom, the elevation gain is probably 200 feet. I feel resentful. This is going to be hard work. (The hiking and pushes though also hard, heart-pounding work, are less technical, and you can get more into the flow of running.) It is going to involve 15-second relaxed sprints to warm up. There is already some talk of body mechanics — “you want to spend some energy raising your upper body, from T12 up [coach is very anatomy oriented], so that your hips can release. You want to unload your hips.” The 15s will be followed by form drills on the way to the main event, and then downhill racing and then some sprints on the flat. I do not feel up to it. When a hawk alights on a nearby telephone pole, I am fascinated. But the drills come. Single leg hopping uphill. 10 at a time. Then switch legs. Then bounding. More bounding. Then the deliberate hike to piney slope.

There, the uphill workout include one coach* has us doing recently, to increase upper body strength. We run on hands and feet, punching our fists into the pine needles (and pinecones, and rocks), putting as much weight as possible from the upper body to the hands, it lasts about 10 seconds. The other sprints, too, last about 10 seconds. These involve various form cues and ad hoc races: Keep your right foot pointed forward! Pump your arms quickly, don’t try to long-arm it! Your first footfall should be here, the second here! See what his feet are doing? Don’t do that! How much of a lead can I give him so you’ll have trouble catching him? Coach is, in my opinion, great with this stuff.

My performance on the hill sprinting today was not very good. The week after straining my left inguinal tendon, I was tentative, uncommitted to all-out effort. Coach thinks I worry too much about “injuries” and coddle myself. This is true. But his passion sometimes, I believe, crosses over into the irrationally exuberant. Yesterday, for one of the first times ever, I saw a glimmer of concern. He might have overdone it last week. We had done speed sessions both days. And he was goading us. “I don’t think Magnus will *ever* catch you from that far out.” Right toward the end of Sunday’s workout I strained something. An adductor? No. “It’s the inguinal tendon at the insertion point. Don’t run for 3 days.”

Since he never says things like this, I listened.

“It’s a sprinter’s injury.”
“Does that mean he was running fast?”
“No, it means he was running wrong.”
This week he was more toned down. “Can you run 15s?”

Today, the downhill races were frankly, bad. Never super confident on the downhill, I was tentative and lame. Paired with another injured runner we coasted in to finish like we were headed to hospital. I regained a little momentum during the last few sprints, on the flat.

Occasionally, at the end of one of these workouts we go to a set of stairs. If you know Griffith Park, these stairs, which lead up to the area of the Old Zoo, appear to be made of old railroad ties. Big blocks of lumber. We hop these stairs, a few at a time. When I first came, hopping three at a time was a challenge. A few months ago, I was surprised to find I could, even once, hop four. Today I hopped four, without much trouble. Previously, I viewed hopping five of these steps as something out of my realm. I’ve watched a couple younger, very athletic guys hop five steps. I don’t really consider myself as particularly athletic. I viewed these guys as a different breed, fast-twitch type athletes (which, actually, I’m pretty they are). One of them, for instance, loves the 800 meters. He has explosive power. I’m never going to run the 800 meters. It would be silly. Coach stops me. “I think you can do five.” I shake my head. Five? It took a few times. Coach prodded a little. “Ye have little faith.” I did it. It was a little sloppy, but clearly it was more about confidence than technique. Five has become the new four.

Whatever my limitations, at 47, today I feel like I’ve (almost radically) expanded my belief in what I can do. That’s a surprising and good feeling. Who cares about piney slope.

*deserves a post


Done Drinking It In, Now Just Kind of Freaking Out


Well, not really. Picked these up from Running Warehouse, with an $8 discount for mentioning Can I recommend Why, yes I can!  His review of the Saucony Grid Type A5, the first ever running flat I’ve ever owned and, as of this morning, run in, begins simply, “I think I’m in love.”  That was enough for me.

In the past, I’ve felt that you really need to try a shoe on in the store to make the decision. I’m no longer sure about this. Granted, I’ll know one of two things when I try on a shoe in the store: Whether I love it or hate it (in the store). What remains to be seen is whether I’ll continue to love it. (I guess we can pretty much rule out the case of buying the shoe you hate just to see if it grows on you.) And though I dearly appreciate my local running store, which is totally the real deal, my last visit there after trying five pairs of shoes on I left flummoxed. They all seemed credible options, but nothing really grabbed me.

Anyway, I got the leprechaun energy again when I put this one on. There is something about a box that comes in the mail. And it is so unlike any shoe I’ve run in. I used to run in stability models. Then switched to neutral. Then to Hoka One One Bondis, which are, of course, gigantic, and also the Hoka Stinson Evo Tarmac, check again the box “gigantic.”

But these, these are 5.6 oz of pleasure. Honestly, I don’t think that even registered when I read the review. I just wanted something with a low heel-toe drop. This one is 4 mm, the same, incidentally, as the Stinsons. And I just checked and they actually weigh less than my Vibram KSOs. Running in them, it’s like running in a sock.

I threw together a run, knowing the window of opportunity was very narrow. Forgot the watch. Ran 2.44 miles (logged that course many times), but not sure about the time — around 20 minutes, pace 7:54 min/mile or something. I like the shoe. Felt a bit like running in the Vibrams, so light. Felt very connected in my stride. And, perhaps, felt like I was running faster than I actually was. Will see, when I get the watch back into play.

For the week, that puts me at a titanic 6 miles! You can bet I’ll be attempting to put together an easy 10 tomorrow morning. If that’s not possible, I may go into convulsions or do untold number of plyometric exercises. I’m guessing this is not the shoe, just yet, for an easy 10. Perhaps I’ll try my other new shoe for that…

All In Good Time

Happy to be running these little runs. Yesterday was at the beach. Did a very short sprint of the “I am alive” variety. But am also eager to get started with my hill adventures in Griffith Park. All in good time, perhaps starting this weekend. Still surprised how these mile+ efforts can leave me beat. Happy with the (mostly) negative splits. That’s one for consistency.

Again, in the driveway, I did the 100 ups while waiting for the watch to get its signal. Watch is holding up.

The numbers:

6:05 a.m.        13 minutes        1.72 miles        7:33 min/mile

.25        9:29 min/mile

.25        8:31

.25        7:17

.25        7:00

.25        6:49

.25        6:49

.22        6:53


I have only some fragmentary data from my run this morning. It was the same run as I did last week, a 1.75 mile dash. I did my 100 ups (again, it’s been a while) in the driveway as a warm-up and to give the watch a chance to locate its signal, but the Garmin has had trouble locking on recently — getting the satellites to connect — whatever exactly it is that it does. So I started the run without a satellite connection, and only have this data, which doesn’t even hang together:


6:34 a.m.       .73 miles       12:42 minutes      the pace was non-sensical

The time is accurate. The distance is only accurate for the portion of the run it was active.

And these fragmentary laps, the last half mile of the run, are the most useful data:

.25 mile       7:14 min/mile

.23 mile       7:11 min/mile


In any case, good to get out before the heat slams down like a hammer. Soon the schedules will become more normalized and this householder will run more frequently and with greater consistency, building up the mileage, planning for the half marathon in the hills. That’s my new goal, consistency. My only concern is that the watch is going to crap out. The battery was fully charged. Erratic behavior from consumer electronics usually not a good sign.



Otherwise, A Rest Day

While the watch struggled for its satellite connection I did my 100 ups in the driveway. It’s been a while. Not since before vacation. Then proceeded out for another of these quick runs.

I extended the route a little, with the idea that I might warm up a little and if a 9 minute workout feels pretty good a 20-minute one might be feel even better. Also, right behind the high school is a modest climbing hill where I could slow down a little, but still put in some effort. Then relax and run faster.

I came back pouring in sweat, though I started just after 6 a.m. These are minor, but not insignificant workouts. Much better than an egg on the workout log (as in zero, nada, zilch, nothing).

13:10       1.76 miles        7:28 min/mile

The Kenyans Train for Pace

Seeing the way the day looked to be unfolding, i.e. hot, decided to get in a quick run. I don’t really like running on roads, sidewalk, concrete. In fact, it drives me crazy when I see people running on the sidewalk. Do you have any idea the impact that’s having on your body?

But getting to the park is just a little too far, adds a little too much time, and this is a pre-coffee run, after all. Part of the goal is to get home before everyone wakes up. The distance is problematic as the run is its own warm up, which, let’s face it, is sub-optimal. My other goal is to run a bit faster than usual.

In terms of the silly title, I’d read somewhere that Kenyan runners tend to focus more on pace in their training, while Americans tend to focus on distance. So with that little dangerous information lodged in my monkey mind, I headed out. If I was training for “pace” it is unclear what I’d be training for. I suppose this would be an easy run in prep for a 5k? There is no imminent 5k, though. It’s hard to consider much with the heat hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the day.

Since there’s not a lot of data, I’ll just include all of it for the numbers lovers:

6:11 a.m.          9:48         7:30 min/mile        1.3 miles

quarter-mile laps:

1        8:20 min/mile

2        7:40 min/mile

3        7:17 min/mile

4        7:14 min/mile

5        7:18 min/mile

This was actually a good little run. I was pretty tired when it was done, and the legs were singing. Makes you excited for the next one. If the heat lets up any time soon, I’d like to get back into the hills.

My next goal is to walk part of my hill run in Griffith Park, so that I may start to familiarize myself with some of the course of the trail run that I’m increasingly considering for November. I’m not sure if I can be in top shape by then, but I won’t exactly be running it as a race either. It is a race to survive, more than anything. 13 miles with 6000 feet elevation. Here’s the website:

So, time to start strategizing what are going to be prudent paces for this monster race. Exciting work cut out for me…

Spacious Lawns


Second East Coast run. Now in Burlington, Vermont, which is summery and lovely and hot. There is a pool. There were gin and tonics. This morning we make a move across the border into Canada.

The run took me up along the edge of UVM with its unthinkably spacious lawns and boxy brick buildings. Some good hills.

23:34 2.78 miles 8:28 min/mile