Tracy B.

Tracy B.

Kenzai Member
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It feels a little like what we used to call “spring fever” in school, or “senioritis.” It is a tendency to ease up on the effort as the goal is close and seems assured. It is emphatically not what I would want to do in a race. But the realization that Thursday’s run was the penultimate run in the Run program brought me a sense of relief, and the urge to relax my efforts.

Setting out for Thursday’s rather easier exercise I felt some of this. It was opposed, however, by my broadening understanding of the mechanics and psychology of running. I find comfort in being able to tick down a checklist of form items: spine alignment, arm swing, heel lift, lean, stride. I am not as concerned with my pace, but more with my steady rhythm.

I am rather glad for the relaxed schedule this week. Last week’s 9 km run right after significant workouts Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday was exhausting. I am hoping that the day of rest on Saturday will completely recharge my batteries.

I ran on the same route as Tuesday. Not ideal, but at least this time I was able to avoid the worst hazards. My knees and hips are aching from the running. I do intend to continue with running, but will set a less strenuous program for myself. First order of business will be to find dirt or cinder running paths. Or maybe even some of that rubber stuff I read about in the blogs. Then I will work on increasing my endurance (stamina?) so I don’t have to slow to a walk periodically after 15 minutes or so. And I will continue to use varied times/distances so that my body doesn’t get in a habit.

Distance: 4.12 km.
Time: 30:01 min.
Average pace: 7:17 min/km.

See you for the big one!


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Monday was a travel day, something we do regularly. However it was one of those when things do not go as planned, we missed our bus, and we spent too many hours waiting in a bus station. All is well that ends well, and when we finally reached our apartment for the next week it was grand — spacious and elegant and welcoming.

Tuesday morning I walked down to the riverfront where I had read there was a decent route for runners. There is, but it is not as obvious as I had hoped. My first kilometer involved some retracing of my steps and some climbing of stairs after I started along some routes that were dead ends. Also initially I was finding my way on wet cobblestones, and was concerned about slipping. I was going quite slowly, but had set out knowing that I was tired, and today’s run was about completing the exercise, not about going fast.

I finally found a “street” that went through, mostly about 10-20 meters above the river level, and was able to do an out-and-back. After about 32 minutes I reached a place where I would have to either reverse my track or head steeply up the hill. I am not sure this is a normal part of runner training, but I put Runkeeper on pause and rode a funicular up the hill towards where we are staying. At the top I ran on sidewalks and plazas until I had completed the assigned time.

Distance: 4.28 km.
Time: 35:03 min.
Average pace: 8:11 min/km. (a new personal worst)

Thursday will be better.


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Not much special today. Still trying to find gaps in the rain and failing miserably. I am enjoying finding different running routes, but still always on pavement.

Today I ran out on this pretty cool breakwater. Next to a mega-yacht with what appeared to be a gold plated hull. I looked it up online and decided that it was out of my price range. Sigh.

Distance: 4.11 km.
Time: 30:02
Average Pace: 7:19 min/km.


I got it done. I completed the distance. And the rain held off. Those are good things.

I had to take a few walking breaks during the second half - just 30 seconds or so each time seems to work. It was depressing to realize that thirty plus years ago I was completing 10 K runs in the time it took me to finish 8 K today. Alas, I am no longer in my 40s.

Getting the right music tempo still eludes me. Given time I will get it sorted. However I think I have figured out how to trick Runkeeper into tracking my heartbeat. There should be a more direct way. But if I start the Heart Rate app on my watch just before I start Runkeeper on my iPhone then Runkeeper tracks and reports my heart rate.

Distance: 8.03 km.
Time: 61:31 min.
Average pace: 7:39 min/km.
Average heart rate: 130

Two weeks to go. Are we in the ‘home stretch’ yet?

P.S. I would welcome suggestions of other run tracking apps I might consider. I started with Runkeeper because Kenzai mentioned it, but I know some of you are using other apps. What do you use and why do you like it?


Run - Day 41
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Once again the timing of Kenzai’s lessons is amazing. I have been monitoring some persistent joint pain in my knees for a few days now. It is worse when I first get moving after having been still for a while (sitting, sleeping). Once I get going the tightness abates. I think it might be inflammation of ligaments and tendons around my knee. When I am running (or walking) it mostly doesn’t bother me.

I know what I ought to do. I should be running on a softer surface. I have not figured out how to make that happen here. As usual we have elected to stay in the oldest part of the city - for reasons completely unrelated to my running aspirations. Even the paths in the parks are paved. [photo] And Monday we are off to the next city, in this case A Coruña, in Galacia. If the knees continue to get worse I WILL back off on the running, even though I am a stubborn sort.

Today I ran with a faster tempo playlist. Too fast, as it turns out. When I switched to a slower playlist half way through my speed actually picked up. I still have some work to do to develop a playlist of music with the right beat that I actually like to listen to. No offense to anyone’s taste intended, but techno-pop and pop/rock just don’t speak to me.

Once again I completed the run without slowing to a walk — extending my streak to two!

Distance: 3.56 km.
Time: 25:12 min.
Average pace: 7:05 min/km.

I will ‘look’ for you on the track tomorrow.


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Two firsts for me today. In response to this week’s challenge I ran with music today. And I liked it! I found a “running” playlist on Spotify. I found lots of them, actually, and I chose one called ‘Fun Run 150-165 BPM.’ Tempo can be very important, I am learning, as I find it almost impossible not to run at the pace set by the music in my ears. So I will search songs and playlists (and genres) to find what is optimal for me.

The other first: Today I completed the entire run without slowing to a walk. (Immodest self congratulations here) Yes, I do think that this is at least in part due to the music. I find it easier to keep running / harder to slow down with the beat pounding in my ears.

I kind of postponed further exploration of the hills question. I started out I the opposite direction, choosing a slightly less aggressive incline, then ran the Fartleks going back and forth at a steady elevation. I had enough else going on, and wanted fewer confusing variables. And I was just as happy to avoid the hills. Running hills seems to have a similar effect as Fartleks anyway.

When I stopped to look at Runkeeper’s statistics I was confused, at first, by the markedly different appearance of the graph tracking steps per minute. [photo attached]. I pretty quickly figured out that it looked just like it was supposed to, with greater constancy in my pace, and the ‘steps’ occurring when the songs changed.

Distance: 4.10 km
Time: 30:03 mins
Average pace: 7:19 mins/km

More later.
(the upper part of the photo is a typical ‘pace’ graph from a few days ago. the bottom half is today’s)


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It was raining again this morning. When there was a brief break, I rushed out, hoping to get all or some of my run done before it returned. Alas, it soon started drizzling, and then it thundered. About seven minutes along it began raining in earnest. This shortly turned into a downpour.

I sought shelter with a couple of other runners under a bridge ramp. [photo] Soon we were joined by a group of umbrella wielding tourists, who also needed shelter. A few minutes later we were back to a light rain, so I continued on.

I chose to pause my Runkeeper activity while cowering under the bridge. I wonder if there is generally accepted etiquette about that? If it were a race certainly the clock would not stop. But for my purposes, wanting to track my pace as I completed what for me is a long run, knowing that my second kilometer actually took 12 minutes is neither informative nor flattering. What do other people do?

You might recall that I had this wondrous run five days ago when I averaged better than 7 minutes per kilometer. This has become my holy grail, the standard to which I aspire. Since then I have had two runs which were disappointing — to me. Today my main goal was to complete the distance. I vowed not to sweat the pace. My secondary goal was to slow to a walk as little as possible, after running continuously as long as I could. I started at what I thought was a long-haul pace, and was surprised to be running consistently around 6:45 min/km. This continued for the first kilometer, and then for the second — after a brief time-out for the deluge. In fact, I lasted the whole first 3 km. at this pace.

After this point I let myself walk briefly. The rain was lessening, and eventually stopped. I slogged on and finished the 7K. I had been confident that I would finish, but not sure how much walking I would have to do. All in all I am quite pleased with my numbers. (yes, I am a numbers guy) Not my fastest overall, but my longest this millennium. And I am feeling it.

Distance: 7.04 km.
Time: 49:57 mins.
Average pace: 7:06 min/km.

This was my last run in Bilbao. Tomorrow we are off to . . . ?


Run - Day 34
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The way I do it, there is considerably more chance than skill in how my runs work out. Today I hoped to replicate my Tuesday run, in which I began at and mostly sustained a 7:00 min/km pace. I started off feeling sluggish, and the first quarter of the run I just couldn’t go that fast. Most other days I have walked 5 mins to get to the starting point of my run. I did my usual pre stretches, but today only walked one minute first. Maybe?

So I stopped worrying so much about my pace, and switched my focus to my stride, and my arms, and my landing, and my breathing, and my core. That worked. My pace picked up. I ran the second kilometer at 6:50 min/km. The third kilometer suffered as I slowed to a walk a few times. And I ran the final ½ km under 7:00 pace.

I don’t think that my regular running stride is long enough that I might suffer from reaching too far out in front of me for my heel plant/landing. My gait is closer to an old man’s shuffle than a real runner’s stride. I can remember what it feels like to be taking longer strides, spending more time in the air. Maybe I will get back there one day. But the point of today’s lesson did not seem to apply to me.

On the other hand, as I continue to work with the first ‘technical run’ lesson, I have become aware that I am carrying my head forward of my shoulders. I think that I am stacking my spine over hips over feet pretty well, but am noticing that I suffer from something that I have seen in lots of older men, that might be called a chin thrust, or a head thrust. I plan to ask Jane to take some pics from the side of me running to see just how bad it is. Stay tuned to this station for more.

Distance: 3.50 km.
Time: 25:04 mins
Average pace: 7:10 min/km
Runkeeper has stopped tracking my heart rate. I will try to figure out why.

See you tomorrow after “the big one.”

- - - - - - - - -

P.S. With the caveat that my diet this program has been less strict and more aspirational, I report that yesterday I enjoyed my designated indulgence. I am a little embarrassed by my choice, but it was something I decided I really wanted. Know that I have been away from the USA for quite a while, so there is a nostalgia factor at work. I love my country, with apologies for our current government, and secondary apologies for bringing politics into Kenzai. Bilbao, it turns out, has a “Five Guys” burger franchise. I had a cheeseburger and fries!


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Today I decided to change my strategy. Instead of starting off thinking of the whole run, I adopted new priorities. I decided to try to run at a pace faster than 7 min/km every minute of the run, or at least as long as I could. As a secondary goal, even if I had to slow to walking some, I wanted to finish the 25 minutes at an average pace better than 7 min/km.

I guess I have competing goals, as I also want to complete these runs without once slowing to a walk. When I run with this in mind I start too slowly, and do not go as far as fast. That will come eventually.

Today was vindication for my new strategy. I was able to run each of the first 12.5 minutes faster than 7 min/km. And I was able to complete the run with an average pace in that range too, in spite of some walking.

This week I am feeling new soreness in new places. Nothing debilitating, but noticeable. Probably indications of new muscle growth. I keep expecting a morning lesson that begins, “About now you may be experiencing some new and different pain the day after you run . . . .” You heard it here first.

Distance: 3.59 km
Time: 25:02 min
Average pace: 6:58 min/km

In response to the weekly challenge, the attached photo shows pretty much what my morning run looks like. What it does not show is the steady light drizzle. There is a multi-use path along either side of the estuary, and in the mornings they are pretty much populated just by runners (and dog walkers, and people going to work — but not yet tourists and bicyclers). I alternate sides.
Most interesting about “my running spot” is that it changes from week to week, as we move about Europe. So the challenge of identifying and becoming familiar with a new city each time is matched by their considerable variety.


Run - Day 28 - 6 km.

I am glad that today’s run is behind me. I am not particularly happy about how well I did, but I completed it, which is important. And my apprehension about the distance, while warranted, was overblown.

I ran in a very strong wind today. My weather app said 26mph with gusts higher (that is 42 kph). At first I thought it must be an exaggeration or an error, but once I was out by the river the wind seemed sometimes to be trying to blow me off course, and I am a substantial person. I am very happy that the wind was mostly in my face on my outbound run. I would not have liked having to run with a headwind on my way back. Today's lesson about that good feeling when you reach the halfway point might not apply with a strong headwind (or a step uphill) for the second half of the run.

My pace today was slower than any of my recent runs. Why? In part because of the wind; in part because of the distance; and in part because I cannot reasonably expect every run to be a better pace than the last. I completed the 6K. Not running all the time, but never slowing to a walk for more than 30 seconds. I think that I get better results by running with occasional walking bits that if I were to slow my run enough so that I would not have to walk. It would be more of a shuffle than a run. At some point I will begin to try to increase the time/distance I go from the start without slowing to a walk, but that is for another day.

Distance: 6.01 km
Time: 44:43 minutes
Average pace: 7:26 min/km

I have to get my mind used to idea of running every day. And my body used to the fact of running every day. Wouldn't that be fine!


Run - Day 25 - Fartlek!
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Well, I did it. It seems to help me if I remind myself that my job is just to show up and do what is asked. To the best of my abilities, hopefully. Maybe I can morph that into a mantra, somehow.

The Fartlek ‘sprints’ were not as hard as I had feared. Yes, they completely depleted me, and my recoveries usually included 30 seconds slowing down to a walk. But I clearly get how they will be helpful in ways that steady running will not. Could do a similar thing with hills, I surmise.

My overall numbers suffered a little today. Probably because I started out more slowly than I needed to, fearing the accelerated sections. I will get better.

3.42 km. in 25:03.
Average pace 7.19 min/km.
Heart rate around 130 except approaching 140 right after the Fartleks.

I ran on the other bank of the river today (a bad choice for other reasons) which allowed me to get a rather spectacular shot of the Guggenheim Museum.


Run - Day 21
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Well, I made it. By which I mean that I completed the 5K and am here to tell about it.

It wasn’t pretty. I had gotten used to running on alternate days, and I had just turned in my best performance of the last 25 years yesterday. Left it all on the field, as they say. No reserves. Yesterday evening I was feeling the fatigue in my legs. And this morning my body felt okay, but my mind was dominated by the thought that I would be trying a distance almost 50% more than I had done in (here it is again) 25 years.

Yesterday was the last day of daylight savings time here in Europe, though. So last night we got an ‘extra’ hour of sleep. This morning I was rested, and ready to go earlier - at least by the clock. I ran along the riverbank on a paved multi-use path. I used Runkeeper to tell me where to turn around, at 2.5K. (I am still using miles like a stubborn Yankee, so I turned at 1.55 mi.)

I made it to the turning point without slowing to a walk, which was not quite as long as I had gone yesterday. But I was tired, and cut myself some slack. On the return I slowed to a brisk walk 5 or 6 times, but only for about 30 seconds each time. I completed the distance without stopping, and gave myself good marks for that, in spite of all the breaks.

But, much to my surprise, when I reviewed the numbers on Runkeeper, I found that my overall pace today was almost as good as yesterday’s (7.19 vs 7.15 minutes per km.) This came as a huge surprise. I had started out with what I felt was a slightly slower pace, appropriate to the longer run. I had not felt as good, in particular in the first third or so, about how well I was doing. And I had taken all those breaks on the return leg.

Oh well. I have not (yet) looked ahead to next week’s workouts. It probably won’t change anything if I do. I have, you may note, just switched Runkeeper to metric units of distance. I was not going to, in spite of the exhortations in today’s lesson. But that, as I said, was just stubbornness.

5.03 km in 36:48 mins.
or
3.13 mi in . . . the same time, of course.
Heart rate in the 130s, except a little higher towards the end.

Until next time . . . .

[photo somewhere around km 2. It is hard to hold the iPhone steady and level while running!]


Run - Day 20
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Another day of incremental improvement. I have to learn to stop judging my whole run in the first few minutes, or even before I start. So far I have been able to push through my self-doubt, but I don’t think it helps me in any way. Just a self imposed obstacle I have to overcome, as if I needed another . . . .

So today I lasted through the first twenty minutes without slowing to a walk. And then I resumed running after a single minute. By far my best endurance. My heart rate stabilized around 140, which seemed okay, but I don’t know how much of a conversationalist I could have been.

Maybe it helped that I was focusing on the mechanics of running. Even though the exercise today was to focus on my core, there was so much more food for thought in the lesson and I could not help thinking also about my lean, and my swing, and . . . .

25:03 minutes
2.15 miles
heart rate around 140 bpm

I am a bit daunted by the prospect of going for 5 km tomorrow. (see, there I am worrying before it even starts) It has been quite a while for me. But I am certain I will go the distance. Just not how well nor how fast.

See you on the track.


Run - Day 18
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It was cold and raining this morning. I do not (yet?) have whatever it is that allows some of you to enjoy running in the rain. When I lived in South Florida I would sometimes run in the rain, but only when the rain was gentle and the climate warm.

So the rain paused a bit and I headed out towards a bicycle path I had discovered along the river Adour. I completed the 25 minutes with only four walking interruptions, each less than 1 minute. At first I was dissatisfied with how I was doing. It seemed like I was having to work harder today to keep going past the first four minutes. I ran for another minute it two before slowing down for a bit. When I started up again I decided to focus on keeping my feet moving more than covering distance. This may evolve as a better strategy for me going forward.

When I finished I was not feeling particularly happy about my performance. Subjectively it felt like I had worked harder to accomplish less. Then Runkeeper announced that this was my “fastest” run yet. So now do I feel better?

2.06 miles, 25:02 minutes. Heart rate seemed more steady around 130, with fewer excursions above 135 or below 125.

I am bemused that I ran regularly for more than 6 years without thinking about, nor paying attention to, all the aspects of running that Kenzai is bringing to my attention. Breathing, diet, mechanics, preparation. I think, all in all, it will bring me back to enjoying running.

See you next time!


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We are in a new city (photo) so I had not yet figured out a good running route. I found an area on the map with what looked like a large park that might have running paths interrupted by few auto roads. It worked out pretty well, except for getting turned around and not going where I had hoped.

Meanwhile I opened the settings of Runkeeper and changed the voice settings from Ted.the default to “Madamoiselle” — just for some variety. I started my run, and the app advised me that the audio cues would not be available because the new voice had not downloaded yet. So I accepted the suggestion that I revert to the original voice. And I started out running.

Per today’s instructions I had decided to set a much slower pace, thinking about walking less and maintaining a steady, if slower, pace. Soon I realized that Runkeeper was giving no audio cues at all. I was unwilling to stop my run to fiddle with it, and I knewI could see the numbers by looking at my phone if I wanted.

On previous runs I had started out fast (for me) and slowed down as I tired. This time, as I passed the eight minute mark without having to walk, I fantasized that I might be able to complete the entire run without walking. I was barely more than shuffling along, really moving not much faster than a brisk walk.

Well, I almost made it. I did slow to a walk a couple of times, and my average pace was only slightly quicker than fourteen minute miles. Although by this measure today’s outing was my slowest and least successful yet, today for the first time I became confident that I will become able to “run” these entire times and distances. Before too long. This was only my seventh run, after all, and each one gets better.

Distance: 1.97 mi.
Time: 27:27
Heart rate: mostly around 130

Until the next time . . .

(photo is Bayonne, France, yesterday while the sun was still out.)


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