Monday, January 18, 2010

Odd behavior in traffic

Today's Frazz will probably prompt a few cameo questions, so here we go: Jenn Steinhilber is a good friend who may or may not be much of a tailgater. I honestly don't know. But I do know she commutes to Detroit on a stretch of road where, in my experience, pretty much everybody else tailgates, so she got the nod. I don't think she's won the Nobel Prize, either, although she may someday. It's getting hard to tell. Frazz's shirt says "Mr. B's" on it. That's probably a convergence of circumstances. Sure, Jenn lives not far from a restaurant with that name. I also own a cat named Mr. B, and there's good odds that he was finding a way to involve himself with the process at the time.

Actually, Mr. B (the cat) is short for Baryames, named after a chain of formal-wear shops here in Lansing. He's a formerly stray black-and-white tuxedo who was supposed to be a rental.

Back to the tailgating theme, at Saturday's Snowflake 10K, I followed other runners to a 43:31, good for a 7:01-per-mile pace that I'm sure fit into one of the ranges suggested by my training program. At any rate, it was good for 3rd in my age group and 14th overall; a nice, if vague and apparently water-soluble, plaque; a very fun morning; and I think the first time I've placed that high in a running-only race unless you count last October when my dog dragged me to a 3rd in the Michigan State University Canine Cruise 5K. Bravo to the Riverbend Striders for a well-run and fun race.

I took the advice John posted in Friday's comments, to "chuck the technology and just run like hell". I like advice that essentially endorses what I do anyway, which in this case is to train with the wires and run from the gut. But I still wear the wires during the race so I can analyze everything to death afterward. Saturday's results tell me my speed was consistent enough from mile to mile, and the fact that I probably don't belong out there racing remained consistent from race to race:

This gets technical and nerdy, but there's this thing called a lactate threshold, and it has nothing to do with one's tolerance for mothers breast-feeding in public. It is, essentially, your body's engine's red line, the point of rapidly and painfully diminishing returns. You can have it tested in a lab, or you can test it in more informal ways like going flat-out for 20 minutes and seeing what your average heart rate was. Last time I took the lab test, my lactate threshold came in at 154. Last time I did the 20-minute test, it was more like 165. Saturday I averaged 167 for twice that; my final 20 minutes of the race had my heart going at 172. That all looks like progress, but what it really means is I'm working awfully hard to go some very average 7-minute miles.

I don't know if that means I'm overachieving or underachieving or if even at that pace I'm running way beyond my birthright and need to grow myself a Steve Prefontaine mustache (it's a bit late for the Steve Prefontaine haircut). Probably what it means is that when John tells me to chuck the electronics and just run, he's got a better point than I want to admit.


Helen said...

Congratulations on your melting plaque. (It's a witch!)

Your line about your dog-powered race made me chuckle and recall one of the funnier canine-related race moments I have seen. There was a family of runners who would always race in our local 5 and 10ks, with each member generally winning his or her respective age group. (I was always happy if I could at least beat the elementary school-aged kids.) They also participated in a greyhound rescue program and would sometimes run with their dogs. I remember seeing one of the daughters, probably about 10 at the time, have her impressive finish line kick hindered by the greyhound she was dragging along behind her.

P.S. I also appreciated today's comment on Michigan drivers. I think my car somehow became magnetized when I moved here. As soon as I cross into the state after a trip home, it's like other cars start trying to drive into me.

Jef Mallett said...

Yes, welcome to Michigan. We brought the world the car AND the bad driver.

More on the dog-powered race in the Feb. issue of Triathlete magazine, so you know. And funny -- we used to have a greyhound, and she was terrible to run with. 40 mph for 200 yds and then done. Our current dog, Zoey, is part border collie and part Patterdale terrier, whatever that is. Apparently part perpetual-motion sled dog!

veloben said...

For greyhounds to last more than a tenth of mile they need to be led out by three Labs and a St. Bernard.

From your statement looks like your LTH is moving up with training, which is a what you want. You're using this race just as a conditioning test and motivator to train (or to justify all the training you do anyway). On your training runs are you limiting your pace to any particular percentage of MHR?

Liz said...

I wouldn't call consistent 7-minute miles "average." Most people cannot run that fast. Who says you don't belong out there racing? Anyway, the average and slower people are the ones who really support most races. Those guys in the top 5% wouldn't have a race to run, nor would they get to be in the top 5%, if it weren't for the other 95% of us paying our entry fees and showing up to run behind them.

JohnQ. said...


Congrats on the podium placement! Way to go!

As for all the wires and whatnot, as long as you were wearing them, here's what they say:

1. You're an amazingly consistent runner;
2. You could give a lot a people a run for their money;
3. You need to do more sprint work to jack up your top end speed and drag your threshold up a bit.

In other words, your HR monitor just made your workouts that much harder.

Ain't technology great?

JohnQ. said...


Congrats on the podium placement! That's fantastic!

As long as you were wearing the technology (even if you didn't look at it), here's what it says to me:

1. Amazingly consistent. You know what your pace is and can peg it.

2. You need to do more sprints to drag up your threshold and top-end speed. In other words, your HR monitor just made your workouts harder.

Ain't technology great?!


erb said...

Yes, she's a tailgater. She does it like she's trying to win a medal.

Her father was a race car maker and driver so maybe it's genetic. All I know is that I fear for my life every time she's driving. You know that imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side? Yea, I'm stomping on that thing like Lars Ulrich.

But I can't say anything, after all, you just made her famous :o)

Thanks bud...

Joe said...

Thanks for running in our local race. Mark Bauman and John Gault put one on every month during the winter and they are all good. Great chance to get out and enjoy the Michigan winter. I was out there with you, bringing up the rear.

Jim Smith II said...

Jef - I'll echo the congrats, and veloben, it looks like your LTH is moving in the right direction.

That said, remember LTH doesn't translate to speed, it's how long you can go at that level.

*THAT* said, I'd give my eye-teeth for 7 minute miles ;-)

Jef Mallett said...

I owe some folks an apology, as Liz is as correct as she is gentle. 7-minute miles IS a good pace, and I AM pleased with it, and in no way do I look down on anyone, myself included, when they don't run at that pace. I was just trying to motivate myself and write with some kind of authority. Hey, one out of two ain't bad.

And many thanks to Erb, who knows a thing or two about Jenn Steinhilber's driving habits, being married to her and all. And to Jenn for being a good sport. And much gratitude for the fact that I work at home and don't commute, because I'd surely be worse.

And lastly for now, I'm grateful to everyone who wrote encouraging things about my pace and fitness and potential. But the biggest thanks go to JohnQ, for the fact that he signed off with "Ain't technology great?" and it somehow showed up twice.

Elaine Howley said...

Hi Jef!
Neat to see your pace and HR data. To me, (a total non-runner) it looks like you're incredibly consistent, and that you've got a good racing strategy going on-- go out conservative, bump it up for 2 laps, ease back a bit to "recover" for two laps and then bring it home hard. That's how we train for the 500. Out fairly hard for the first 200, back off just a touch for 100-200 then close out what's left with all you've got left. (Well, that's what the number show anyway-- the whole frigging thing feels like a heart attack about to happen!)

I also envy the super fast pace! (That's one of the deadly sins, isn't it?) Congrats on a solid race!