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Friday, March 16, 2012

Six Months of Running

Since it is almost six months now since my cardiologist gave me the thumbs up to start working running into my exercise program, I thought it would be  a good time to look back and see what kind of progress has been made.

Here is an entry that I logged into, the website where I log all of my runs.

September 19, 2011

Cardiologist gave me the ok to start working in some jogging into my walks. Started out with 20 minutes of zone 1 walking, then picked up the pace. Worked in stretches of 100-200 yards of jogging about 6 times. Figured I got a half mile jogging in. Felt GREAT each jogging session for the first 20 strides, but heart rate would spike into the 150's and figured it prudent to back off the intensity. Still felt good to push it a little. Total time was actually 3 minutes slower than last time I walked this course, but that's because of the extremely slow first mile. When I did this course in 83:06 I only spent 3 seconds in zone 1.

Distance:  5.08 Miles
Time: 1 Hour 26 Minutes 53 Minutes
Pace: 17:06 per mile
Speed:3.51 miles per hour
Heart Rate:  Average 132, Maximum 167

A note about zones:    Zone 1 is a area where your heart rate is 60-70% of maximum heart rate.   Zone 2 is 70-80% of maximum heart rate.

Now lets fast forward to today.    I thought it would be a good idea to see where I am today, so I decided to run the same course I ran that day in September.

Distance: 5.08 Miles
Time: 55 Minutes 05 Seconds
Pace: 10:53 per mile
Speed 5.5 miles per hour
Heart Rate: Average 139, Maximum 152

When I completed that first walk/run in September, I had serious reservations about whether or not I should have gone through the bypass surgery that doctors at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic had recommended.   A meager 100-200 yards of running was pushing my heart rate near my maximum and I quickly became out of breath.   From that day it was nearly three months before I could complete a 3 mile run without  having to stop and walk and another month after that till walking was no longer required to get me through my running sessions.  Today I am convinced more than ever that I have made the right decision.

I am convinced now more than ever that Coronary Artery Disease is a food borne illness that can be prevented and even reversed by making some simple lifestyle changes.  What are these changes?

1) Eat Properly:   For me that meant eliminating all meat, dairy, oils or nuts.   As Doctor Caldwell Esselstyn puts it, eat nothing with a face or a mother.  Eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and lentils.   When I first started on this program, my cardiologist suggested having fish (specifically salmon, tuna and halibut) twice a week and a nice lean steak once a month.   He didn't want me to fail, so he allowed me to cheat just a little.    I no longer have the cravings for red meat and have adopted an even stricter diet.   Keep in mind that I'm trying to reverse a blockage in one of my main coronary arteries that took nearly sixty years of unhealthy eating to develop.   If you don't have coronary artery disease, you don't necessarily have to go to the extremes that I have.

2) Exercise:   At least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.    Something aerobic that gets the heart rate up.   Sorry guys, golfing is not exercise.  I think running is perfect for me, but you can walk fast, play tennis, swim or some of the new high intensity programs like Zumba.

3) Medication:   Since I had advanced coronary artery disease, I needed to get my high cholesterol down and reduce my risk of stroke and heart attack.    My doctor prescribed a high dose of Lipitor for my cholesterol,  a low dose beta blocker to keep my heart from being able to pump at high intensities to reduce the risk of a stroke and finally a low dose aspirin regimen .   I have taken control of my own health care and I agreed to these medications as a short term treatment until the life style changes can take effect.   But my orders to my doctors are to come up with a treatment plan that weens me off the drugs and treats the causes of the disease rather than the affects of it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2012 Road Racing Season Off to a Good Start

The 2012 road racing season got off to a good start.     I signed up for the St. Malichi 5 mile run and set a goal of 50:25 based on my training in recent weeks.    In training runs, I've been able to get some decent runs in at about 10:15 per mile and I figured I ought to be able to knock 10 seconds per mile off that in a race environment.   I downgraded my goal a little because I decided to run the 2 mile race that day with my grand daughter.    In my senior year in high school, I did double duty in track.   I competed in both the mile and half mile and although my half mile times did suffer slightly when I ran two races in a day, it wasn't dramatic.

Going into the two mile, I had already eclipsed my goal of 19:00 in training with an 18:50 earlier in the week, so I was hoping to take 10 seconds per mile off that and get a 18:30.   I reached the mile mark at 8:54 and thought to myself, "Wow, if I can keep this pace I might crack 18:00".      Last half of the course was mostly uphill, so my 2nd mile split dropped off considerably and I finished at 18:34.

After a 15 minute break in which I wolfed down a banana, downed a bottle of water and changed my running shoes it was time to line up for the five mile race.   The starting line was a mad house with over 2300 hundred runners jammed into the narrow Washington St..    I spent most of the first quarter mile jockeying for position, weaving in and out of the masses trying to get some running room, but after the first mile the runners became spaced out and it wasn't too bad.    My strategy was to try and run this race with negative splits, to just take it easy the first mile and run a pace that I knew I could improve on in the 2nd mile, then to run the third mile faster than the 2nd, and so on so that my last mile would be the fastest.   A sound strategy I thought till I realized that the first half of the race was primarily down hill and that I would have to battle 1 very tough hill and two long and steady inclines on the return back to the finish line.

The first incline was from the west side of Cleveland Browns Stadium running up West 3rd to Lakeside Avenue.   It wasn't a real steep incline, but it was long.   The reward for getting to the top was a brief level run west on Lakeside Avenue which then went down a steep hill into Cleveland's FLATS.   The bottom of the hill was the four mile mark, which I passed at 39:59.    Hmm!  Under 40:00 which meant I only had to run the last mile in 10:25 to beat my target of 50:25.   The only problem was that after running through the Flats, we had to run up a long AND steep hill before getting to the home stretch.    I looked down at the ground through most of this hill because looking up would only tell me how much more I had to go up.

Finally I reach the top of the hill at Superior Avenue.    Just over a half a mile to go and the watch reads 43:10, but half the distance left still in on an incline.   When I reached the highest point on the Detroit / Superior bridge I knew I had a chance to break 50:00 if I could finish strong.      When I turned the corner onto Vermont Ave I could see the clock at the finish line and it read 50:30 with still another 50-60 yards to go.    I crossed the finish line at the clock read 50:53, a new PR but not as well as I hoped.    Then I realized that was the Gun Time and not my Chip Time.    Chip time was 49:49:32,  A new PR and 35 seconds faster than my target time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Month 2 in the Books

February brought another month of unseasonably warm temperatures and great running weather. It also brought a setback in the training in the form of a groin injury. After returning home from a Florida vacation that permitted me to run every day in shorts, I returned to six inches of snow on my scheduled long day. Temperatures were warm so I got the Yak Trax out and had my wife drive me out to the Western Reserve Greenway, an old rail line that had been converted into a bike path that traversed from northeast Ohio to Cincinnati. The snow had been packed down by snowmobile traffic and for the most part the trail was shielded from the wind by trees. The Yak Trax helped, but after about 3 miles of the scheduled 7.5 mile run, I felt some pain in my upper leg.

It's not unusual to have some soreness the day after a long run, but when the pain occurs during a run it is not a very good sign. I cut the run short and called the honey to change the rendezvous point. This occurred on Sunday and by Wednesday it felt much better, so I headed out for a quick 3 miles at lunch to test it out. The leg felt great and I hit the first mile under 10 minutes. Mile 2 slowed down significantly and before I reached mile 3, the pain returned. Three days prior to the first 5k race of the season and I have to shut down the training again.

Saturday February 18th: First 5K race of the season and I'm waffling back and forth about competing in the "Running Out of Our Mine" 5K race in Wampum, PA. Since four of us were making the trip, I decided to go and decide after I had a chance to warmup. Since the race was in an old mine that had been re-purposed for boat and RV storage, the temperatures were a constant 55 degrees and we got there in plenty of time for a warmup run and stretch. The leg felt good, but I was still a little apprehensive about going 100% in a race environment and risk setting the training back even further. I finally decided that I would treat this as a training run and just take it easy (at least for the first mile). I was running with grand daughter Lexi and and we hit the mile 1 mark at 10:15, slightly slower than my usual race pace, but slightly faster than my training pace. I could feel a little tenderness in my leg, but not the sharp pain of the two previous workouts.

Mile 2 was exactly the same pace as mile 1 and the leg felt better so I told Lexi that we were going to pick up the pace a little. The harder we ran the better the leg felt and we were steadily passing other runners who were fading at the end. When the finish line was in sight, we picked it up even more but Lexi had more in the tank than her dear granddad and beat me by two seconds. The groin stiffened up a little on the way home, but it felt pretty good but I'm going to give it a couple of more days before resuming full training.

The Orange Hat Running Club

Earlier in the month, I had emailed one of the board members of our local runners club to find out when they would be publishing the new year race schedule. In the course of the email exchanges, I had mentioned that I had seen him with a small group of runners occasionally. The group called themselves the "Orange Hat Running Club" and got together on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for runs of 5-6 miles. They graciously invited me to join them, an offer I gladly accepted. They said they usually run about an 11:00 per mile pace, which fit perfectly in with my training program. On Wednesday Feb 22nd, I joined them for the first time. Their plan for the day was to run 5 miles on a course that featured several challenging hills. Up to this point most of my running had been on fairly flat courses. We ended up with an average pace of 10:34, a little faster than I was used to, but it was still a conversational pace. The guys told me of another larger group that met on Saturday mornings for even longer runs. I told them I would skip their Friday session and check out the Saturday morning group, but reconnect with them the following week.

The Saturday group was a much faster pace but Warren, the leader of the Orange Hat Club ran with me while the faster pace group quickly put distance between us and were soon out of sight.   The run got challenging at about the five mile mark, but I fought through the wall and eventually finished the 7 mile run, my longest in 3 weeks.

Monthly Recap

 Total mileage for the month dropped  due to the injury and the resulting downtime, but my overall fitness is continuing to rise.

The numbers:
Week 1: 23.54 miles; Average pace (10:59); Longest Run - 7 miles
Week 2: 20.44 miles; Average pace (10:49); Longest Run - 3.9 miles
Week 3: 6.05 miles; Average pace (10:36); Longest Run 3.1 miles
Week 4: 20.93 miles; Average pace (10:44); Longest Run 7.02 miles