Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Week 13 - 3/24/14 - 3/30/14

3/24 (Mon.)-
7mi.  - p.m. - a little tired but had huge baseball-sized knots in both hamstrings.  This happens to me after running really hard on trails, especially races.  Unfortunately I ran a route that had a few "ups" on it.  Definitely felt it on the climbs.  Worn out.

3/25 (Tue.)-
4mi. - p.m. - ran a little later than normal. Legs still tired and hamstrings still tight and stiff.  Had to put the cat down but it was loooong overdue. 15 years is a pretty solid run. I wanted to off her several months ago.  Finally, even with playing doctor and giving her some type of cream food, pills for hunger stimulation, and daily saline injections, it was time.  Her kidneys were so bad that you could actually smell the urea diffusing through her skin.  Gross but I'm totally fascinated by this biological phenomenon.  Paid homage to her by running short trails near home and pissing all over the place...just like she did all over our house for the last 8 months.

3/26 (Wed.)-
8mi. - p.m. - so dang windy.  Couldn't hide anywhere from the wind.  Mix of roads and Tomaquag Trails.  Felt good but got a little run down the last couple of miles and started to feel it in my hamstrings again.  Ugh.  Suppose I should've stretched and rolled a lot more.

3/27 (Thu.)-
11mi. - p.m. - Disappointed myself by not getting up at 0415 when alarm went off for early morning workout.  By the mid afternoon, I felt unmotivated to do any type of a workout (T pace intervals or hill repeats) at all.  Instead I just set out wandering around.  Was able to sneak in some small trails/woods action off of Chase Hill Road.  Not sure what this run was.  Much of it was in No Mans Land - too fast for base pace, too slow for MP or T pace.  But at least I increased speed over most of the successive miles so it could be called a "progression run", maybe?

3/28 (Fri.)-
8.5mi. - p.m. - impromptu run with Jonny in Burlingame.  Mix of trails (Beaver Pond, Sammy C's, Secret Trail, Schoolhouse, and probably others that I've no clue where they are or what they may be called).  Really fun.  Just beat out the rain as it started the last half mile return trip on roads back to his house.

3/29 (Sat.)-
15.5mi. - a.m. - early morning sunrise recon run with Seth, Jonny, and Chris.  Warmed up a few miles on New London Turnpike before Jonny lead us around the upcoming Big River 1/2 Marathon course.  Really fun but man, that is going to be brutal! Took us over 2 hours (course plus the 2 mile w/u) and although not running hard, we weren't casual about it. The first half is technical, rocky, and rolling.  Second half is better, softer footing but still rolling and increases the twists and turns.  What a grind! This one is going to be a case of night and day in comparison to Brrr-lingame 10 Miler last week.  Uh-oh. 

3/30 (Sun.)-
7mi. - a.m. - a run just before lunch, in the light rain.  Roads were a mess.  Decided to avoid trails completely (1st time in quite a while) and just run a loop to inspect several local bridges (read: run over them and through rushing brooks and rivers). Water around here right now is like Biggie Smalls - brown, really high, and potentially dangerous. Fun stuff for my inner child.  Felt pretty good except for on some of the small ascents hip flexors felt fatigued and tight

TOTAL: 61 miles
YTD: 637 miles

-->pretty decent week for an "easy", post-race block.  Was a little banged up early in the week with lingering soreness and fatigue but felt better as the week progressed. Ran a bunch of small trail outings this week which was fun.  Despite not doing a formal work out my weird run on Thursday was fun and not  counterproductive and the Big River course exploration was good for me physically and mentally, although I must admit I'm a little less than positive toward my race next Saturday. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Brrr-lingame 10 Mile Trail Race

I don't think I've written a race recap since my marathon in October.  I've only run 4 since I had knee problem in November.  Forgive me if I'm a little rusty.  I might throw a graph in at the bottom because everyone likes those.

The 4th installment of the South County 4th Season race series was Saturday at Burlingame State Park in/around the campground.  My interest in this race grew exponentially as the week progressed.  Several of us had the chance to run most of the course last weekend and I was bubbling with excitement to try and run hard on it. Honestly, I hated Old Mountain 5K and Belleville 10K because of the snow/trail conditions but this one promised to be fun. And dry.  And fast.

Ran a short reverse warm up from the finish line with some of the guys.  Got back in time to bathroom it up (more accurately than Seth I presume), drink some water, shed layers, and line up in the field at the start.  Jonny pointed out that Derek Jakoboski was there, along with Greg Hammett, some unknown faster looking guys and several high schoolers (Hendricken?).  I quickly tried to guestimate my finishing spot.  Had been hoping for top 5 but now was leaning more towards top 8 to 10.

Apparently really leaning way towards 10th place
(photo by Ellen Galoob)

At the siren we took off across a small field and I tucked into about 7th or 8th behind the high school kids.  As we funneled into a short stretch of overgrown single track, one of them queried out loud "Ugh, is the whole course like this?". I grunted a no and then spent some energy getting around them.  One of them reminded the rest of the group loudly that they weren't there to race it. Glad to hear it, I put some distance on them and settled in behind Jonny.  I was already starting to feel some discomfort in my legs and muttered something about this not being as fun as last Saturday.  We ran together until we got by Klondike Road.  I tried to give a little extra to get out ahead of him so that I could see.  It is definitely tricky not being able to see upcoming trail (rocks, roots, etc.) when behind someone.

The primal excitement of charging across an open field
(photo by Scott Mason)

I continued pushing around turns on the south western portion of the course until we arrived at a great part of the loop. Just after 2.5 miles or so,  the course dips down hill smoothly with good footing for about 1000 meters and then you're on a flat, wide open road for a straightaway.  If you know it's coming you can really rip down it.  As I spilled out onto the "road" I saw Bob Jackman and Chris Garvin off in the distance.  Just as quickly, they disappeared onto the single track as the North South Trail cuts back over into a boggy section with foot bridges.  I didn't pay attention and try to count how far ahead they were.  I certainly did not think I would catch them, let alone see them again.  But I I thought it positive that I did at least see them.

Through here I really focused on foot speed on the short bridge section without slowing (hopefully).  The odd foot strike tires you out even more.  I was thankful to cut back through the campground again around the 400 site area before entering back into some single track again.  It is kind of fun to blast through campsites, cut into the woods, pop out at more campsites, back into the woods, and so on.  I noticed as we moved back down towards the pond in Main Camp area that I had closed a little on Bob. He's the real deal so it really excited me to move closer.  By the time we  burst back out into Legiontown camp sites I was probably about 5 seconds or so behind Bob.  My first lap split was 31:33.  Ooof! I was definitely fatigued at this point, especially as I crossed over the line and acknowledged that repeat lap, now staring me in the face.  It was going to be a bear for sure but being so close to 4th place helped me keep running hard.

Lost my neck whilst leaping into Main Camp.
(photo by Scott Mason)
For the 2nd lap, over the first 2.5 miles or so I kept watching Jackman pull away a little on all the descents.  This annoyed me because I usually try to run down pretty recklessly.  Although I'm no Gazelle, I don't think I'm that slow on descents.  Luckily though, I was able to reel him back in on every short ascent.  This continued all the way back around to the awesomely fun yet oh-so-tiring ridge trail along (above) the Mills camp sites.  At this point I was really trying to hover behind him.  As annoying as that is, (I HATE it), I didn't want to let him get away.

We plunged down the extended slope to the open, flat section before ducking into the bog bridges. I pushed it a little, not sure if I should try to get in front now.  Would he just surge past me and demoralize me in the campground area?  After a very brief moment of hesitancy, I tried pushing a little.  I wanted to hurry up and get back on the single track and bridges in front of him. Unfortunately, once back in the campground, around 400 area again I started to feel really sluggish and my legs felt heavy. I actually barked a short laugh when at one point we ran through moist, turned up sand in a campsite.  My legs felt like I was running in quick sand now!   I fought off visions of being overtaken and just ran a little scared.

I passed three or four runners that I assume were doing the 5 miler.  They politely moved off to the side and cheered me on.  I was super gracious but could only utter things like "Aack" and "Uffmlugh".  By the time I turned along the pond again in Main Camp I figured there was a good chance of holding off Jackman.  I saw Garvin briefly as he disappeared like a magician again behind Cabin T onto the remaining single track section.  I knew I would not catch him but I still needed to run hard.  I barely hurdled a log, where Scott Mason snapped another shot and busted my balls-something to the extent that being the best I could do over the downed tree. Despite the fact that I have an simply massive 8-head and strange reptilian eyes, I still managed to keep going.

Steeple chase is certainly not in my future.
(photo by Scott Mason)

Once back into the final stretch in the campground I just kept turning the ol' legs over, hoping I was moving forward. I crossed the line in 4th place, 63:47 on my watch.  Full results are here. We congratulated one another as everyone finished before donning some layers and heading out on a short, cool down with WTAC, TNTers, and some others.

After getting some brews from Gazelle in the parking lot, I went home and spent the rest of the day basking in my race effort, totally stoked by my performance. I pretended to work in the garden but really just raked, shoveled, and listened to tunes. It is possible that I spent more time just sitting in a chair with a beer, staring up at the sun and smiling.

This race was good for my confidence.  I just really, really like the 60-80 minute race length and ran much better than I expected.  I was pleased that my 2nd loop was only 42 seconds slower.  That is a big plus. I'm happy with my general fitness right now. I've even managed to drop a few el bees (thanks stomach virus). Hopefully I can maintain this type of effort in 2 weeks at the season series finale, Big River 1/2 Marathon. 

Thanks to Mike Galoob and his family for entertaining me again for a very small fee. Thanks as well to Scott Mason for snapping photos of my suffering and giving me his chocolate vanilla imperial porter.  Hoh-lee-shee-yut!! That is amazing. Next time you see him, beg one from him. It'll be worth your troubles. Also, thanks to the laws of physics for allowing us this continually rotating Earth, wobbling and tilting on its axis so that days get longer and weather gets nicer as the sun climbs higher and higher in the sky.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Week 12 - 3/17/14 - 3/23/14

3/17 (Mon.) -
0 - still sick from stomach debacle on Sunday.  Went into work anyway and realize now that may have been a mistake.

3/18 (Tue.)-
12mi. - a.m. - took today off to "recover" and ran both sides of Grills along the Pawcatuck River.  It was absolutely perfect running conditions- cold, frozen mud, and zero wind (initially).  Really enjoyed wandering around here and felt fantastic doing it.  Trail medicine - chicken soup for the runner. Stopped afterwards to buy a Gatorade in the store. I thought the sexy girl that rang me up was sweating me-- staring, smiling, glancing away.  Then I realized, upon returning to my truck, that I looked like a freak with a sweat crusted face, crazy man hair, reddish blotchy cheeks, and a long trail of snot draped from my left nostril across my cheek almost to my ear.  Ladies, there's plenty of me to go around.

3/19 (Wed.)-
4mi. - p.m. - easy and short down to Tomaquag trails (north side).  A tad windy so it was nice to hide in the woods for a brief stretch.  Left "calf" just above achilles and laterally was pretty stiff and a little tender from yesterday's run.  Only really notice going up or down (stairs too). Probably over did it a little on some of the angled hillside climbs.

3/20 (Thu.)-
0 - zero time to squeeze one in.  Normally, being the equinox (one of the big 3 days of the year), this would have left me near suicidal.  However, with the race on Saturday, I was sort of ok.....sort of!

3/21 (Fri.)-
7mi. - p.m. - intended to run 3-4 easy but went into Pelloni Preserve and got caught up in the moment.  Someone has blazed (taped?) a new "trail" that spurs off of a main trail already marked in there that runs off and exits the Land Trust property, crosses Tomaquag Brook over a cool natural stone "bridge" and keeps going.  I got wrapped up and ran with it.  Ended up ripped up from briars and had no clue where I was.  Finally came upon houses I'd never seen before (everything looks different from someone's backyard) and ran through their yard, down their driveway, and out to the road.  Was pretty surprised when I realized where I was.  Great fun and can't wait to explore and play in there some more.  Saw a beautiful (big!) fox and heard the first spring peepers of the season!  Hell yeah, spring!!

3/22 (Sat.)-
14mi. - a.m. - Race: Brrr-lingame 10 Miler (click for results).  Unbelievably fun double loop trail race. Love the course.  Finished 4th OA.  Great day all around.  Write-up to follow. Spent afternoon in the sunshine playing (read: "pretending to work") in the garden.  Shoveling shit at home is important too (we all do it enough at work anyway). Getting ready.....

3/23 (Sun.)-
4mi. - a.m. - very short and fairly easy shakeout on local trails in Pelloni Preserve and other areas. Hamstrings a little bit tight but felt really good otherwise. Despite the deep cold coming over the next several days, I couldn't resist planting onion (sets) and snow peas.  They should still be fine. Signs of spring are all around. I get the fever and can't hold back.

TOTAL: 41 miles
YTD: 576 miles

--> despite two days off, still a really fun week.  I ran a little over my head in Saturday's race but it paid off I guess.  What I'm the happiest about is that, even with low mileage, every single run this week was on trails, at least partially.  THAT is how it's supposed to be this time of year...most of the year for that matter.
One week "off" and then Big River Trail 1/2 Marathon on 5 April.  Should be fun although I'm not at all familiar with the course. Know it is pretty rugged in most spots.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Running Times, Beer, and Other Odds n' Ends

Sipping a Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA right now, listening to my children fight in the other room, and trying to relax.  Actually, I am totally relaxed.  Not thinking about work (until I just typed that -- damn!). Not worried about the future.  Not money or bills. Certainly not world problems. Just relaxing. However, I am borderline obsessing over one topic. I cannot stop thinking about running.  Running, running, running, running, running.

This usually happens to me 4-5 times per year.  In between troughs of injury, normal running blahs, etc. I occasionally find myself wrapped up in a verklempt sea of running emotion.  I hit a peak or high centered around one of my favorite activities.  This elevated state is by no means a crest of running fitness or ability due to recent training-- hopefully I'm not even close.  It is just a strange, quarterly (?) hype I get wrapped up in.  Perhaps it's due to seasonal changes.  With spring right around the corner (YEEEEEHAW!) I'm so excited by life.  Sitting in the "warm" sunshine and stretching for a few minutes after a run leaves me feeling like I just stepped into a head shop in Colorado. Maybe its this vernal buildup coupled with recent gains in fitness, albeit limited ones. It must certainly at least have something to do with the fact that trails are finally free of melting snow and ice, but not mud!  I do not know for sure.  It feels as though I've been running fairly well recently with a slew of T pace workouts and long runs.  Even my normal base runs have been at a faster yet slightly comfortable pace.  I'm feeling pretty good right now.

Just like building an ice cream sundae, these emotional highs are then slobbered over by a hot fudge deluge of synchronicity (WTAC guys should recognize from group emails) from Running Times magazine.  It came in the mail about a week ago and, after glancing through it briefly, I tossed it aside, only to pick it up and read it more thoroughly while rehydrating with my double IPA beverage du jour.  This month's product is a fantastic issue and I highly suggest that if you don't already get it, subscribe! It is so much better and more informative than Runners World.  Anyhow, in this issue there are two excellent articles that hit home. One is on the beauty of the 10 mile distance in racing and how it really is the ideal distance.  It mirrored my thoughts exactly in that it requires speed, aerobic fitness, and a buildup of lactate threshold -- so different from all other major race distances!  The article totally pumped me up. I want to KILL the Blessing this year!

Even more synchronous with life, was an additional article about running form and the importance of hip positioning.  This too struck a chord with me.  On a long trail run with last Saturday I felt f*#%in' GREAT and noticed on an accelerated, race pace effort, that I felt really smooth. Throughout this heightened effort on super fun trails, I noticed that on open sections I settled into a hard effort but my form just felt nice.  And I'm not sure if it was simply subconscious self-fulfilling prophecy on my part but I did notice that I felt it (not discomfort) in my ass/glutes and my core.  Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe, like a grade schooler going over an assignment with a teacher, I'm simply giving myself credit after the fact with an "Oh yeah, I did that!". I know next to nothing about running form or economy. But at any rate, I felt awesome.  Essentially, shit is good right now. No jinxes!

In an awkward segue from running, after an awesome trail run in both sides of Grills this morning, (screw you GPS for shorting me distance by starting 0.25 miles into the run),  I came home and bottled my Choco-Barack O Coffee Porter.  It's a little light in color with little to zero chocolate taste and way too much coffee up front--but it should still be okay. I dunked 3 cups of coarsely ground coffee in a muslin bag into the secondary fermenter on Saturday. Unfortunately, I got sick that night, into Sunday and through Monday. The coffee was only supposed to steep in the brew for 1 day but my stomach bug forced me to leave it in there for almost 3 days.  Now that I tasted it today at bottling I've come up with one of two hypotheses: 1.) I either used too much coffee OR 2) it was in the secondary too long.  Either way, anyone that wants to drink this crap, BETTER like coffee or else...Carbonated coffee with alcohol anyone?

Finally, and I'm sorry for this, back to running.  I'm really looking forward to Brrrr-lingame 10 mile trail race (how many 'r's do I type?) this weekend.  I wasn't really that into the idea until running the approximate course this past weekend with Jonny and Gazelle.  I've fallen in love with the course and cannot wait to try and give it holy hell.  When we finished our harder, approximate 4 mile effort on a loop of the course this weekend, all three of us agreed that the pace we had just completed was definitely not sustainable for two loops under race conditions.  I still don't think it is. In fact, it most certainly will set me up for crashing and burning--a slow, painful, lactic acid supernova.

But I think I'm going to try anyway.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What The Hell Am I & How Close Is Close?

I had the luck of being allowed to write a short article discussing different styles of runner in the newest issue of Level Renner.  It was fun trying to think about all of the different types of runners one could be as well as what types of tactical race styles individuals could employ.

It was these ideas along with an abbreviated conversation I had with several running partners last weekend that got me thinking about my half marathon times last year (Ocean's Run 1/2 marathon in March and Surftown 1/2 in September).  I ran well at both of them and was super happy with my times.  However, Jonny and Mike both pointed out that I apparently ran "over my head".  That is, according to prediction charts I was running, for that particular distance, about 2 vDOT levels above what I should be able to run.

For example, I am approximately a 59 or so on the standard table below. Given this, at common distances I should be able to run the following (my actual times/recent bests in parentheses):

Mile: 5:02 (5:01)
5K: 17:17 (17:13, 17:01 PR last year)
1/2: 1:19:18 (1:17:07)
26.2: 2:45:47 (2:51:05)

I can understand the marathon drop off.  I just have a hard time "hanging on" and fall off precipitously on them.  They're long and brutal. But I don't get the disparity on the 1/2 marathon distance.  In fact, in the chart below, my time is approximately equivalent to a vDOT of 61!  However, there is NO WAY I can run a 2:41:08 marathon! Nor could I even hope to sniff a 4:53 mile or a 16:48 5K (I've never broken 17:00!). In short, what gives? Maybe this isn't even an issue--just run the shorter races faster. Suck it up!

Have I found my "best" distance?  I really don't think I have the leg speed/turnover to run above my means at the shorter stuff like the mile or 5K.  I also do not have the strength (fortitude? cojones?) to run really well for 26.2 miles.  Maybe the 10 mile (a little longer than 15K) and 1/2 marathon are "my things"?  I also ran outside of myself this last year at the Blessing of the Fleet 10 miler (higher than my vDOT says I could/should). I certainly enjoy them both as specific distances.  Each is an honest distance and a true test of your mettle--long enough to discount just speed over endurance (still need plenty of the latter though!) but short enough where you don't melt down or fall apart. Although I certainly feel close to doing that each time I race at those distances. Aren't you supposed to feel like shit when/if you leave it all out on the course?

Another looming question I have stems from the above ideas.  How close is "close" when it comes to differing between T pace and half marathon pace?  Apparently, I'm running T pace at the equivalent to what I run 1/2 marathons at, or vice versa actually.  Is this ok? Is it normal?  Am I doing something wrong?  For example, should my T pace be even faster?  Not according to Daniels' pace estimation charts.  At my current vDOT I should be running exactly what I'm doing.  I recall reading somewhere that T pace should be the pace that one can run for an hour before starting to become really uncomfortable.  I did this at the Blessing (58:XX for 10 miles).  A half marathon is only an extra 19-20 minutes on top of that.....and it hurts damn it! But again, is it feasible to run them at essentially equal paces?  Maybe I'm over thinking this and my 1/2 marathon times are just luck.  Perhaps I should be running each differently--T pace faster, half marathons slower? Or maybe just run both even faster? Not sure here.

Either way, I still stand by the premise that 10 miles to 1/2 marathon are the best distances to race AND the best shape to be in is 1/2 marathon race status. I'm still ignorant to the reasons for my times and abilities, but I guess I'll just keep running, racing, and having fun and let the experts worry about it. Best to just make it hurt every time you toe the line and let the numbers fall wherever they do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2014 Week 11 -- 3/10/14 - 3/16/14

3/10 (Mon.)-
6mi. - p.m. - totally not motivated for this.  Felt really run down physically and mentally.  Had some sharp plantar fascia issues again but stopped around mile 3, took my shoe off in the middle of the road and gave myself a friendly little massage.  Felt fine after that.  Also ducked into Pelloni Preserve  for a short trail expedition.  Sloppy as hell.

3/11 (Tue.)-
10mi. - p.m. - ran roads down to Grills Sanctuary, trails in there, then roads back to some minor trails across the street from me. Had TONS of fun in Grills.  It was so wet, slippery, muddy, and slushy. Fell a a few times.  Stuck in the mud twice. Lost my shoe once. Totally trashed my shoes too - they look like they're brown leather vs florescent orange.  Legs felt a little tired on the roads on the way down, didn't notice on trails because I was laughing and smiling so much, and they felt really beat on roads on the way back.  Sun, warm weather, and muddy trails--can't beat it!

3/12 (Wed.)-
10mi. - a.m. - hopefully my final YMCA/Treadmill session of the season.  Time crunch here. 10 mins @T, 12 mins @T, 15 mins @T, all with 2:00 recoveries.  Final 4:00 of third session sucked a little bit. Kind of getting sick of T pace stuff.

6mi. - p.m. - ran down into Woody Hill Mgmt Area.  Trails were soft and muddy but clear.  Fun wandering around in the rain. No head lamp necessary!

3/13 (Thu.)-
0 -- wanted to run easy n' short today.  Went out to the windy, frozen tundra that was the WHS parking lot and my truck wouldn't start.  I even had the privilege of crawling in slush puddles under the truck, in my professional teaching attire, to bang on my starter with a tire iron. Got a ride to go and buy a starter (had multimeter in my truck to test the one on truck) but just couldn't bring myself to work outside in this weather in the parking lot of my employment. No luck.  No truck.  No run.  Sucks not being filthy rich and driving an awesome new car every two years like the "overpaid" all-stars that I work with. Tow truck ride says: "Take a zero, bitch and stop whining about it.".

3/14 (Fri.)-
5mi.- p.m. - parked at a friends house at Horseshoe Falls and ran Kenyon Mill, Shannock Hill, back around loop.  Tried to give it hard to the hill.  Think I tied Garvin officially but looks like I slowed to walk when I thought it was over. Damn. I got to hang out by a fire at the event horizon of Shannock Village. Win. Win.

3/15 (Sat.)-
21mi. - a.m. - ran with Gazelle and Jonny from the picnic area.  we agreed to do some Brrrr-lingame 10 miler recon.  After running the best estimated course we agreed to do an abbreviated (about 4 miles?) of the course at a hard, race pace effort.  It was super fun.  I felt really, really good ripping on some sections (love the ridgeline section above Mills camp campsites!) but we all agreed when we stopped back at Vin Gormley after the bog bridges that pace was probably not realistic nor sustainable for the race next Saturday.  This leaves me not sure how to go about the race-back off a tiny bit or just let it rip.  Doubt I can keep that up for a full 10 miles (two loops).  Can't wait to find out. Jeff and I added on more road and trails in the northeastern part of Burlingame afterwards (Schoolhouse Pond, Sammy C, etc.). Super fun.  GPS called it 19.3 but with effort and time on feet I've zero reservations about calling this 21.

3/16 (Sun.)-
0 - really disappointed by this.  Started to feel nauseous last night after dinner with my parents.  Felt disgusting all night-achey, nauseous, etc.  Thought it best not to run today just to get over 60 miles for the week.  Just slept and didn't go farther than 20 feet from the bathroom all day long.  Really sucky because despite feeling feverish and stomach issues, my legs, feet, running muscles/tendons/ligaments etc. felt GREAT after yesterday's run.  Too bad.  At least I never hurled like my kids did when they had it. Hopefully I'll be up for a regular run tomorrow? Have to see how I feel.

TOTAL: 58 miles
YTD: 535 miles

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Week 10 -- 3/3/14 - 3/9/14

I'm losing my WTAC training partners this weekend to the Oceans Run 1/2 marathon.  Given that I'm not racing it I feel as though I cannot/should not make time predictions, at least "out loud" in the blogosphere. No races again this week.  Nothing special.  Hopefully just three quality runs supported by standard base runs.  Just another week of training I suppose.

3/3 (Mon.) -
7mi. - p.m. - wow, another cold and dreary day.  What a surprise!  I just wanted this one to be over with so with no plan or real route mapped out, I headed south from my house and decided that, after 3 miles, I would just run some short, hard hill repeats (each hill a little less than 200m w/ varying grade).  Felt good during and much better afterwards.  Better start to the week than same ol' boring 5-8 miler.

3/4 (Tue.) -
9mi. - p.m. - rolled a loop up/down Collins Rd., around Rte. 91, back home. Damn, I hate 91 so much. Felt pretty good. Strava effed me a tenth of a mile.

3/5 (Wed.) -
10mi. - a.m. - at the Y again. First one in the locker room (strange sensation). 25 min warm up then 5 x 6:00 @ T pace with 1:00 recoveries.  Didn't feel that great during this one.  Today, one minute recovery times seemed really, really short.

5mi. - p.m. - easy shakeout in Bradford.  Even jumped into Grills Preserve for some dark and icy trails (not that fun).

3/6 (Thu.) -

3/7 (Fri.) -
6mi. - p.m. - Maxson Hill Road down into the village center and around Diamond Hill.  Not motivated but still a solid run on some short rolling hills.

3/8 (Sat.) -
15mi. - a.m. - met Jonny for short, easy 4 before Garvin and Galoob showed up.  We ran down to Arnolda and ran 3 (approx. 2 mile) loops for 6 miles at MP (Jonny and mine, not theirs obviously).  Gobbled scones and coffee afterwards.  Fun conversation and perfect running weather with regards to temps, sunrise lighting, and no wind.

0 - p.m. - GORGEOUS spring-like weather.  Toyed with the idea of running a short 4-5 mile shakeout just because it was so nice out. No running but did lay on my front steps, (fell asleep for a cat nap in the sun).  SW exposure in the late winter/early spring is epic! First day of 2014 in which I started to really get the outside vernal itch. Don't forget to request your FREE seed packets from URI (order by March 15)! Here comes spring, bitches!

3/9 (Sun.) -
8mi. - a.m. - magically turned a one hour romp into a two hour run (oops....daylight savings).  Felt a little tired and tight in hip flexors on this one due to yesterday's fun.  No biggie.  But did start to develop plantar fascia stabbing pains the last two miles.  Ouch.  Hopefully its nothing a golf ball and some manual massaging can't fix. Thought about the guys running Ocean's Run 1/2.  The stiff NW wind (about 10-15) probably slowed them down just a hair.  Can't wait to see their times.
Racked my beer into the secondary fermenter today.  Stole a taste and not at all what I thought, granted it is obviously still flat and hasn't had the coffee addition yet.  Pretty weak as it is right now. Stay tuned.....

TOTAL: 60 miles
YTD: 477 miles

-->another fun week. Enjoyed the workouts as well as the regular everyday runs.  Feeling pretty good right now. Saturday's gorgeous weather initiated spring fever.  No cure for that except April and May.  Running doesn't even help--in fact it probably makes the symptoms more acute.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Choco-Barack O-Coffee Porter

I have not brewed anything since last August! Unfortunately, that batch (a very basic, light american pale ale) came out TERRIBLE somehow.  Not sure how or where I went wrong, whether it was in the brewing process or just simply my selection and ratio of ingredients.  I'm down to five 22 oz. bottles left of it and seriously considering just [gasp!] dumping them out.

At any rate, between Action Acton's recent explosion of brewing attempts and my father's, mid-life newly found penchant for BBC's Deans Beans Coffeehouse Porter, I had the itch to "break bad" again in my kitchen.  I'm certainly no Walter White nor am I a brewing master, but I do really, really, really like beer and porters are certainly the most fun to try and make.  They are really conducive to the old "kitchen sink" method.  At their peak in the late 18th to mid 19th  centuries, porters were basically just that--an odd, sometimes unidentifiable hodge podge of ingredients (sometimes even opium!) and mish mash of stale "old" beer and newly brewed beer.  Bottom line, they're great to just roll up your sleeves and have at it! Here is a great basic overview of porters in general.

Grind up that yummy taste and smell.
Feeling quite rusty, I went into this attempt to try and brew a very mild, coffeeish porter that my old man (me too!) might enjoy.  With very little research or too much forethought, I jotted down some ingredients on a slip of paper and ran (literally) to the beer supply shop. Hind sight is always 20-20.  Once I got home with all of my ingredients I stumbled across this fantastic website for brewing. It costs money but you can get a free 21 day trial for the software. Essentially it allows you to input your ingredients and it'll spit back out the important details (IBUs, ABVs, anticipated starting OG, expected final OG, color, etc.).  Awesome stuff--buuuuuuuut, I should've looked at it BEFORE going out to get supplies. Upon returning home, I also realized that the guy that waited on me at the supply shop forgot to grind my 8 oz. of Chocolate Malt.  No big deal - I simply spread them out on a baking sheet and crushed those little bastards up with a BFRP.

Like steeping tea only its way better!
After steeping the grains, adding in the liquid malt extract, and hopping (with Columbus and Cascade) I even added 4 oz. of dry cocoa powder with 5 minutes left in the boil.  Everything went smoothly during the actual "cooking" process.  This time I decided to forgo using my coiled copper wort chiller and just cool off the wort in the brew pot in the sink with snow and ice.  Surprisingly, it didn't take very long. Once again, inspired by Senor Acton, I even took a specific gravity reading (only 1.049/just under 1.050 or thereabouts).

It is now in the primary fermenter and I'm still awaiting the best part -- the visuals of active fermentation.  Bubbling, churning, flotsam and jetsam. Hopefully it'll begin today or tomorrow (24-36 hours after pitched the yeast).

Now I'm left waiting and I have several questions that I'm anxious to find the answers to.  Most of them stem from the information spit back at me from BeerSmith 2 software.

Numbers, numbers, and more numbers.....

1. The OG is a little low for me.  Porters generally tend to have a starting gravity of 1.048-1.065 or so. I wanted a little on the softer side (my old man's likes?) but I should haveve used more than 6.6 lbs of LME.  Next time I will definitely bump this up to 7-8 lbs. It has an estimated finishing ABV at only 4.9%.  UGH! Not to sound like an alcoholic but that is barely even worth drinking.

2. Is adding 4 oz. of cocoa powder with 5 minutes left in the boil the right thing to do?  Was it enough? Was it too much?  I'm NOT looking for too much chocolate, just faint hints. Will I even be able to taste it or it will it be too upfront? I've no clue. Also, is the cocoa even fermentable? Will it add anything at all to alcohol content (even if minimal) or is it solely for flavor? Again, I've no idea.

3. Only using 2 oz. of hops seems so wrong.  However, Columbus hops have a  really high alpha acid percentage (15.3%!) so they do a bang up job of bittering from what I've read. As such, BeerSmith 2 has my recipe way too low in IBUs.  However, it doesn't have a category for coffee adjunct (coarsely crushed beans), which I'll be adding to the secondary fermenter.

4. Speaking of the coffee, I'm not really sure how I want to add it.  Boiling a pot of coffee and just adding it is supposed to give the beer an acrid, burnt taste, although this would certainly eliminate contamination issues.  I'll probably either "dry hop" the crushed beans in the secondary fermenter for a couple of days right before bottling OR cold steep it overnight in the fridge and add it right to bottling bucket slowly to see how much I need (like).  Hopefully this will add a tiny bit more bitterness and bring up the IBUs into an acceptable range. Just trying to think of it as a brief dry hopping episode, minus the hops.

5. And again with coffee, which one do I use?  So many choices and decisions.  All I know is that I'll most likely be avoiding "Charbucks".

6. I'm impatient.  After 7-9 days in primary fermenter, then 8-14 days in secondary, then 2 weeks in the bottle, I'll be ready to drink it.  I know it is supposed to age but will it be quaffable in 4-5 weeks or will it suck at that point?

Bottom line, don't worry- have a home brew.  It's supposed to be fun.  I guess the two biggest things to remember when concocting your own home brew are:

A. You have to brew your recipe once/a first time just to see what you need to change.  You won't know unless you try. Gotta start somewhere right?

and, just like with running.....

B. Don't be a pussy. Just do it.

Hopefully I'll be able to share "Choco-Barack O with most of you right around Big River 1/2 marathon.

I guess these questions and following weeks will give me time to work on the design for the bottle label (font style, lettering, etc.).  I'm starting with this as a base: