A pace calculator for running with walk breaks

February 29, 2008

It’s called “Gallowalking” sometimes, since Jeff Galloway popularized the notion that you can achieve your best marathon performance with scheduled walk breaks. A lot of people don’t believe it. I don’t have a strong opinion. But I was curious about the math: if I walk a minute for every five minutes of running, how fast do I have to run to maintain a desired average pace? I dusted off my high-school algebra and got to work determining the formula, then I dusted off some more stuff like HTML forms and Javascript and put it online. You enter your walking pace, your desired pace, how many minutes you want to run, and how many you want to walk, and it tells you what running pace you need.

Link to the calculator.

(Updated 2/8/2010 with a new link — the old location was no longer allowing javascript.)


My leg recovery program

February 27, 2008

Last night I went to two MeetIn Portland events — a walk in the SW hills (including the trail under Barbur and I5 that I talked about once) and karaoke at the Buffalo Gap. (“Manic Monday”, a disaster, and “My Favorite Things”, better.) When I woke up this morning my legs felt mostly back to normal. It was probably the Long Island Ice Teas that did it. (You didn’t think I sung those songs sober, did you?)

I ran during lunchtime today. Three and half miles at an 8:59 pace.  Better than I expected to be feeling four days after Hagg Lake. My training thoughts are turning sharply toward the Eugene Marathon now, coming up on May 4th. I think I’m a lot stronger now than when I limped home in four hours nine minutes at Portland, and I’m hoping I can run a nice conservative race and break four hours.

Recovering from my first 50K

February 26, 2008

No two ways about it, after you you run for a long time, your legs hurt. Go figure, huh? Maybe my “sprinting” at the end didn’t help, either. Still and all, it hasn’t been too bad. After my last long race, the Portland Marathon, just gently poking my thighs hurt like crazy for at least 24 hours. That didn’t happen this time. I had (and still have) some major stiffness in my quads, calves, and ankles. The hips, knees, and feet are all pretty good, knock on wood. The tendon behind the knee (in the “kneepit”) was very tight in the hours after finishing, but recovered quickly.

Saturday, four hours after the race, I limped around a grocery store and a parking lot, on the way to dinner. (Chinese food. I ate like it was going out of style.) I also made it up and down the stairs at home a few times that evening.

Sunday I drove myself downtown and took a two mile walk on the waterfront. I had kind of a roly-poly gait but got along OK. The walk included going up a staircase with about 50 steps. Fortunately, coming back down was a gradual incline: getting down a staircase like that would have been a challenge.

Monday I sat in my chair at work all day, and every time I had to get up I felt like a cripple. And looked like one.

But Monday night I went down to the Portland Running Company for the Monday-night run anyway. I figured I could walk some at least. As I carefully stretched, I thought maybe I’d have a shot at jogging. We got started and I gave it a try. The first 300 yards were kind of excruciating, even with tiny little mincing steps. After that, though, things loosened up. Tim and Steve, who both ran back-to-back 50Ks on Saturday and Sunday, were hitting about the same pace, at the back of the pack. We gradually caught up with the next little group ahead of us, and when I checked my watch, I was surprised to see that our pace was around 9:30/mile. We kept it up for all of the short loop, 4.4 miles, and afterwards I felt a bit better than when I started. This morning my legs still feel better.

Race Report: 2008 Hagg Lake 50K Trail Run

February 24, 2008

We got up, I had some cereal and soy milk, and we headed out for Forest Grove and my first 50K. We made it to the race start with about a half hour until the start. I got my bib number and used the porta-potty — a lesson I learned from the Portland Marathon… holding it doesn’t pay. (You couldn’t pay me to use a porta-potty in “real life”.) It looked like it was going to be a nice day once the swirling fog lifted, but at 8am it was still in the 30s, so I was all decked out in long sleeves, vest, and jacket. The 50K starts with a 3-mile out-and-back and I figured I would ditch the jacket as we swung back through the start area.

hagg_before.jpg Around 130 people were running the 50K and after a low-key start we headed out. The out-and-back was up and then down a steep gravel road. I hung with the back-of-the-packers, walking a great deal of it until the turnaround. Saving your energy for later is the name of the game in a long trail run, at least at my level. I tried to coast down the hill without putting much effort into it. Back at the start, I left my jacket among the piles of clothes and headed onto the trails. We’d circle the lake twice from here, counterclockwise. There would be a number of different types of terrain:

  • Nicely even forestland trails
  • Rooty areas, usually during steeper ups or downs
  • Some on-road segments
  • Wider trails through lighter woods that might once have been dirt roads
  • Narrow little (mountain-bike-made?) ruts cutting across fields
  • Muddy swamps

The weather was gorgeous, and had been for most of the week, so the mud was really minimal. There was almost none at all between the start point and the first aid station, about five miles away. Including the start, they had three aid stations fairly evenly spaced around the lake. They were great — the individual treatment you get at a race like this is miles apart from how aid stations (have to) work at a really large race. Here, every station, someone offered to take my water bottle and fill it for me while I picked out something from the well-stocked food table.

I spent a lot of the first segment trying to run as if I were tired out, when I wasn’t. I walked up hills that seemed silly to walk up. I shuffled delicately along flat roads. I still bombed my way down the hills a bit though. I can’t help it, it’s fun.

Very shortly before the first aid station, there’s a long road segment crossing the Hagg Lake dam. I was shuffling along when a woman came up alongside me and we struck up a conversation. Carrie and I would end up running near each other for a lot of the next 10 miles or so. I asked her if she “ran a lot of these things”– yes — and if she had run anything longer. Oh, a couple of 100Ks… and Western States. Ah.

Between the first and second aid station we talked a bit about running and a lot about what a beautiful day it was. Hagg Lake doesn’t have a reputation as a scenic run, but it was stunning in parts yesterday… amazing what a little sunshine can do. The rest of this leg was pretty unremarkable. I did distinctly notice some nice runner’s high right around mile 12. The real high didn’t last long, but my mood’s been good ever since.

Kelly from my Monday night running group was manning the second aid station, so it was nice to see her. “Only 4.5 miles back to the start!” Nothing! This was easy. Although the next section did start with the muddiest parts of the course. I joked with Carrie about us finally getting our money’s worth.

Through this first lap, I was averaging maybe 10:40 miles, and my perceived level of effort was low. But I suspected it would get a lot harder after 20 miles… it always does. Still, I was glad to pull into the start area, finished with the first 17 miles (the 3-mile out-and-back plus one 14-mile lap) in about three hours flat. Sweetie was there with my bag of clothes. “Shirt, sunglasses, and sunscreen,” I told her, having memorized this cleverly alliterative list of needs ahead of time. Off went the vest, long-sleeve-shirt, and gloves; on went a light short-sleeve shirt and my glasses.


I hit up the aid station for some water and a few packets of Gu, and was on my way. Pretty soon I noticed I was catching up to a fellow in a plaid skirt and schoolgirl socks. This would be Tim, one of the two ultrarunners in my Monday-night group. I had talked to him before the start, so I knew it was him in the outfit. (He was an entrant in Hagg Lake’s second “men in skirts” competition. Don’t ask.) I gave him a wolf whistle as I caught up and the guy he was running alongside turned around and said he hoped it was for Tim, not himself.

Tim was taking it easy because

  1. He pulled something in his foot Friday, and
  2. He was going to do another 50K today. On a treadmill.

I ran with Tim for a while, then got ahead of him a bit and realized I was catching up to Carrie again, who must have passed me by at the start/finish aid station. She said she was hurting some, though she looked like she was moving along OK. I introduced her to Tim, who was just a few feet behind at that point, and I think they ran the rest of the race together. I inched ahead bit by bit and was well out ahead of them by the end of the dam. I was, however, noticing some fatigue. My hamstrings had started feeling a little sprung shortly after the first lap, but now more parts of my legs were joining in. I stopped to pee in the aid station’s porta-potty, and when I got out, a woman named Olga, who I recognized from her blog, glided swiftly past me and called out “10 miles left, two hours to break six.” Thinking back, seeing how easily she coasted past me and quickly out of sight, that’s when I hit the wall. Yeah, 22 miles: the usual.

It was a pretty giving wall though. I could still jog the flats and downhills and walk reasonably OK on the ups. Everything got a bit slower though. The 11-minute-miles turned into 14s. If I jogged for a few minutes and then stopped to walk, I’d find myself panting, as if I had been holding my breath while jogging. Worst of all, I started to wish that the uphills were longer, so I could keep walking. Over and over again I had to tell myself “ok, just start jogging again, it’ll be OK.” And it was. But it was hard. The section between the first and second aid stations during lap two was very, very long. A few people passed me, I passed a few people, but mostly it was a lonely struggle to keep moving forward.

hagg_aid2.jpgEventually I made it to the aid station — mile 26.5. Kelly asked me how I was doing and I reported that the second lap was harder than the first. “Yeah, that’s the way it works.” I got a couple more packets of Gu. I must have had 10 Clif Shot and Gu packets at least yesterday, probably half of them caffeinated, some with a double-dose. They worked pretty well, I guess: I never felt sick or hungry. Well, I guess not feeling hungry doesn’t prove anything. And I can’t really say that I never felt low on energy. Of course I felt low on energy. Still, I think I downed as much food as I could be expected to. In addition to all the gels, I had a quarter of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, a Fig Newton, pretzels, and potato chips. But it was mostly the gels. Hydration-wise, I had about 80 ounces of water and 40 ounces of Gu2O through the day, supplemented by 7 Saltstick capsules. Looking back, I don’t think I did anything wrong nutritionally.

Back to the final stretch. Picking through the muddy patches was more work this time, but still, really, not too bad. The up and down, up and down of the trail meant walk-run, walk-run, walk-run, and starting up the run was a mentally painful effort every time. Air felt in short supply. Unlike during the final miles of the marathon, my legs weren’t really the problem; they would still do what I asked. My overall energy level and specifically my ability to breathe in and out enough air to keep me going seemed to be more the limiting factor this time. I wasn’t gasping for breath, but if I went any faster, I certainly would be.

I started hearing voices behind me. Looking back in some of the meadow sections, I saw it was… Tim and Carrie! I wondered if they would catch me. I wondered how I would feel about that, what I would say. I didn’t really like the idea.

Jog. Walk. Jog. Walk. There’s this one fairly long section of road in this part, first very mildly downhill, then very mildly up, and I surprised myself by jogging the whole thing. It was nice to be on the road, where every footstep is the same as the one before and you can just move in a simple rhythm over and over and over again. I felt a pang of regret as the route went back to trails and immediately headed down a short rooty steep switchbacked downhill. But the end was getting near. I could still see and hear Tim and Carrie on my tail though.

They are nice enough to have a “One Mile To Go” sign on the course. I glanced at my watch. 5:47. My mind slowly processed the number. (My math skills are the first thing to go when I’m running.) Eventually I figured out that I still had a shot at six hours, if I could finish with a 13-minute mile. (As I write this, I realize it would need to be somewhere between a 12 and 13 minute mile, depending on how many seconds had elapsed past 5:47, which my watch didn’t show me.) Could I?

It was time to start gasping for every breath. Every four steps, then every two — I raked the air in and out of my lungs as hard as I could. I was really running again, not just shuffling along. I think I walked one more uphill the whole way in from there. There weren’t many left, though. The last mile of the course was merciful, with a lot of flat, some of it across a big parking lot, and a lot of gentle downhill. I couldn’t believe how fast I was going after 30 miles out there, and I couldn’t believe I was keeping it up. My breathing started to sound less like gasping and more like some sort of keening wail. I think I actually did start to cry a bit as I realized I was going to be able to finish the mile this way. Or maybe it was just the pain of running all-out. The finish was in sight. I’d run the last mile at a nine-minute pace. I missed the turn for the finishing chute and had to be redirected. 5:56:38.

I felt great. I am so glad I pushed that mile like I did. An indescribable feeling.

As soon as I stopped running, I could barely walk. How does that work?


Oh, and, yes, I stayed ahead of Tim, who, I will again mention, was both injured and running another 50K today, and who would normally have kicked my a**. Here is me, Tim, and Steve, after the race. Steve is also running another 50K today, also on a treadmill. Bless their insane hearts.



Here’s the lap data from my Garmin. It came out a little short, measuring the run as 30.5 miles instead of 31.

(mi )
M Spd
1 10:58 1.00 7.6 120
2 11:17 1.00 9.6 113
3 8:07 1.00 9.2 128
4 9:42 1.00 8.7 128
5 10:31 1.00 8.1 121
6 9:54 1.00 11.4 125
7 10:50 1.00 8.5 124
8 10:42 1.00 7.4 128
9 11:01 1.00 7.8 119
10 10:59 1.00 8.3 128
11 10:35 1.00 8.9 119
12 11:34 1.00 8.7 125
13 11:22 1.00 10.1 118
14 10:40 1.00 7.2 128
15 10:49 1.00 8.3 122
16 11:45 1.00 6.9 123
17 13:22 1.00 6.9 123
18 11:01 1.00 7.4 125
19 12:07 1.00 7.4 119
20 11:44 1.00 11.4 123
21 11:33 1.00 6.5 121
22 14:00 1.00 7.6 117
23 12:19 1.00 8.3 119
24 14:21 1.00 6.9 106
25 13:45 1.00 6.5 112
26 14:40 1.00 6.3 109
27 12:48 1.00 6.7 116
28 14:40 1.00 6.5 104
29 13:29 1.00 6.3 115
30 11:45 1.00 7.6 119
31 4:17 0.48 8.9 60

The same, graph form:


Google Map of the route

Quick Update on Hagg Lake

February 23, 2008

50K in 5:56:38. Official results. Ran the last mile in about 9:00, after a long string of 13s and 14s! The second lap was harder than the first.

Tomorrow’s the day

February 22, 2008

This is it; tomorrow’s my first 50K trail run, Hagg Lake. Everybody asks me if I’m ready. Well, I was ready before I started tapering, and I haven’t hurt myself since, so I guess I’m ready. I may try a two-week taper before my next long race instead of the three I did this time; I think I’m recovering quicker than I used to and so a shorter taper makes sense.

The weather has been nice all week — actually sunny. It may be muddy, but it won’t be super-duper muddy… maybe. Every day for the entire week, the weather forecasts were predicting that it would start raining the next day, and keep raining until or through Saturday. Not a great week for the forecasters. Along with the sun, though, I think I’ve been fighting the allergies… I feel fatigued in an allergic sort of way. Either that or I have a really low-level cold. Hopefully nothing that some Zyrtek and caffeinated Clif Shot can’t address tomorrow… Hell, maybe I just feel out of sorts because I haven’t been running enough. Stranger things have happened.

Let’s see, goals. You’re supposed to have three goals for a race, an easy one, a medium one, and a stretch one. Picking a time goal is hard here since I’m unfamiliar with the terrain and I’ve never done a trail race, though.

Easy goal: Finish in the allotted time (3.5 hour cutoff at approximately 17 miles, 8 hour cutoff for the whole thing).

Medium goal: Finish while still running for the most part.
Stretch goal: Finish under six hours.

Automobiles more deadly than marathoning

February 19, 2008

The exercise4life blog points out a New York Times article I somehow missed, discussing a study suggesting that you are about twice as likely to die driving a car 26.2 miles as you would be running the distance. It’s a lot like the thing where people are more scared of air travel than highways: planes and marathon running are both safer than driving, but crashes and running fatalities make for better news stories. The bottom line:

Fewer than 1 in 100,000 people died while running a marathon, Dr. Redelmeier and his colleagues reported. The chance that a middle-aged man — the typical marathon fatality — would die while running a marathon was about the same as the chance a middle-aged man would suddenly die anyway.