Outrunning Time: Sub-20 Minute 5K Done

19:48 5KA funny thing happened last Friday. The weather here in Tulsa finally coaxed me outside, away from my treadmill, and somehow, even with my training being horribly inconsistent, I knocked almost 30 seconds off of my PR and ran a 19:48 5K.

How did I do it? I think there are likely three potential contributing factors.


I feel like I post way too much on the blog about my health, and I would rather avoid using my health as an excuse for missing my goals. That said, I have had a rough winter. Things went sideways in August, and then shortly after my last 5K PR, my health went further downhill to the point that a lot of days I was doing the absolute minimum to get by.

About 2 weeks ago, though, my body just kind of magically started working better again. I still have days where I experience severe fatigue, but I’m having the occasional day where my energy is back. Friday was one of those days.


You may have seen that I wasted a bunch of money on a new pair of shoes. I even joked about the possibilities on Twitter:


Well, my first run in the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% led me to believe they wouldn’t do much for my 5K time, but after putting in a few miles with the 4%, I think my initial evaluation was wrong. From what I’ve observed, the 4% shifts some of the running load from the hamstrings to the quads, and it took some time for my quads to adjust. To be clear, I could not have run 19:48 in any other shoes I own right now. 20 minutes? Maybe…but not 19:48.


I was getting pretty discouraged a couple of weeks ago when #runchat came around. I had tweaked my routine, but I wasn’t seeing a lot of improvement. At the end of #runchat, I asked for opinions on how to adjust my training and got some pretty good advice.

Following the advice from @srunsfitness, I increased my strength training from once to twice a week, adding more lower body work in the process.

As I wrote about previously, 200’s and 400’s weren’t getting the job done so I had moved to 800’s. @CraigWeich encouraged me to take it one or two laps further. Mile repeats made a huge difference in the difficulty of my workouts so I can only assume they contributed significantly to my ability to run sub-20.

The Run


What was interesting about the run was that the conditions were almost identical to my previous attempt. The weather was unseasonably warm at about 60F, slightly warmer than my last attempt but not by much. A stiff southeast wind helped me in a couple of sections and slowed me in others, just like the previous attempt.

Almost as an afterthought, I decided to go out on a Friday afternoon and see how things felt. I had done strength training the day before, but I didn’t feel too terribly sore. After mulling over my potential route options, I settled on running the exact same route again so I would be comparing apples to apples.

Unlike previous attempts, I did not lay off the pace in the first mile. It’s not unusual for me to be in the high 5’s at the half mile mark, and when I see that on my watch, I let off the gas a bit. This time I just ignored my watch and kept pressing the pace. My quads were bothering me a bit so I struggled a bit, but t was still the fastest mile I’ve ever recorded at 5:58.

Mile 2 was more the kind of pace I should have been running. It was a little slow at 6:29, but it was in the ballpark. In some of my previous attempts, I’ve had to catch my breath in mile 2 so the pace gave me hope, but I was suffering more than I should have been.

Mile 3 was a disaster. I almost gave up, but I couldn’t quit thinking about the amount of time I had banked in mile 1. I know that’s not how you’re supposed to run, but it worked for me this time. I held on for dear life and managed to run 6:39.

Was this the best 5K I could run? I don’t think so. I think I could improve miles 2 and 3 dramatically, possibly approaching 18 minutes, but to be honest, I’m not enjoying 5K training much. Even though I plan to set my sights on something longer for the Spring, I do want to formalize a 5K training plan to help others like me. So stay tuned if you want a more formal training plan to help you improve your 5K time.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% First Impressions

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

This past week, a friend told me that Nike finally had the Zoom Vaporfly 4% in stock. It was good timing, too, as they sold out again within hours. I had previously gone to the trouble of qualifying for a pair through the Nike+ App by doing a Sunday run, but Nike had some technical difficulties, causing me to arrive late to the party for a size 12 shoe. If only I wore a size 5, then I’d never have to worry about shoes being in stock…

Anyway, my normal operating procedure with an overly hyped product like the Vaporfly 4% is to disbelieve the sales pitch. 4% reduction in energy expenditure? Ha! Nike even paid for the study in question. Just another company twisting the science to make more money, right?

Then came Boston, Chicago, and of course Flanagan in New York. Some of the runners winning races in the 4% weren’t expected to win. They were expected in the top 10 but not on the podium.

So I was curious, and as I completed my purchase at Nike, my absolute first impression was that this is the most money I’ve ever paid per ounce for a pair of shoes. We’re talking almost $40/ounce.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff, the shoes.

From the moment you put on the Vaporfly 4%, you can tell there is something different about them. They had a familiar squishiness and instability like some of the Hoka’s, but there’s more of a bounce to your step. You don’t sink into the foam the way you do with many of the Hoka One One models. For posterity, I’m a fan of Hoka so this isn’t me being critical of Hoka. I’m just trying to provide a familiar comparison since it’s hard to try out the 4% unless you have incredibly small feet.

At this point, I only have 12 miles on the 4% so I don’t want to jump the gun by writing a full review.  Instead, I’ll just leave a few brief first impressions:

  • The Zoom Vaporfly 4% size 12 is slightly bigger than my Nike Flyknit 4′s. If stock weren’t a problem, I might have traded down to the 11.5.
  • Running in shoes that are so lightweight but so well cushioned is incredible.
  • My 20 minute 5K attempt in the Zoom Vaporfly 4% failed, but I had fallen off my training plan several weeks prior. So they weren’t magic, but I managed to match my previous PR without proper training.
  • I am a forefoot striker. I get the impression from walking in the shoes that mid foot strikers and heel strikers would see much greater improvements in running economy.
  • Nike did not sacrifice comfort for weight. The upper is a bit odd due to all of the weight trimming, but I’ve found it extremely comfortable so far, especially around the back of the foot.

I’ll have more after a few more weeks and some more mileage, but my first impression is that the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% is much more than hype.

Outrunning Time: 5K Test Run, a New PR

5K PR 12/16/2017 After 4 weeks of adhering fairly closely to the Hal Higdon Advanced 5K training plan, I ran my 5K test on Saturday morning. Instead of running in an organized race, I went out to one of my favorite routes along the Arkansas River here in Tulsa and ran solo, relying on my Apple Watch to track my pace.

To be honest, I really thought I could break 20 minutes in this run. My old PR came from running 30 miles per week in 3 runs, all of which were in the 8:00 – 9:30 pace range. I would occasionally dial my pace down into the mid-7’s, but I never spent any significant time below 7. So when I started doing a real 5K training plan, working at speeds faster than my goal pace, I thought breaking 20 would be easy.

I was wrong.

Saturday was almost perfect for my 5K test run. Although I’m no fan of cool weather, it does allow me to push the pace a bit longer so sunny and low 50’s seemed about right. The only problem was a fairly stiff wind out of the Southwest. That meant a couple of 1/4 mile sections with a headwind, less tailwind than I expected, and another 1/2 mile with a crosswind. The wind also kept me a little chillier than I would like, and at my age, running without a decent sweat means I’m a bit less flexible.

After a brief warmup, Mile 1 started off too fast as usual. I thought with it not being an organized race that I could dial it back a bit, but my early pace was in the 5’s. I didn’t settle into my goal pace until around the 3/4 mile mark. On top of that, I saw my first headwind in that last 1/4 mile, leaving me slipping below goal pace as the mile ended. With a 6:14 1st mile, though, I was still in good position to break 20 minutes.

Fortunately, I caught the tailwind near the start of Mile 2. I hoped it would help me latch onto 6:25 pace and hold it, but it was short-lived and bracketed by a couple of small hills. Mile 2 also included a busy bridge with an unusual transition between the connecting trails where I may have lost a couple of seconds dealing with sharp corners and cyclists. During Mile 2, my pace gradually drifted from 6:25 down to 6:40 for a time of 6:37.

Mile 3 did not start well as the first 1/4 mile was into the wind, and once the trail turned back North, I was catching a nasty crosswind. I don’t know about most runners, but I hate crosswinds only slightly less than headwinds. I knew I needed to pick up the pace, but my body wasn’t having it. I managed to hold on for dear life with a mile 3 time of 6:41.

When the run ended, I was pretty annoyed with the time I saw on my watch. I thought I had run just a second slower than my previous PR (20:27), but my run brain had failed to remember that Nike Plus just keeps on tracking after you finish a distance run. I had to get back to my phone before I would see my PR time of 20:12 (or 20:13 on the website…seriously Nike, what’s up with that…seconds matter).

Needless to say, most runners would view a 14 second improvement in their 5K PR as a success, but I have mixed feelings. Like I said, I went out there expecting to break 20. Conditions weren’t quite perfect, but they were close. I’m now left wondering if 4 more weeks on this plan will get the job done, or if I need to change it up a bit.

One change I will definitely make is wearing the Elevation Training Mask for the Monday 3 mile easy runs. My legs were getting the job done Saturday, but my heart and lungs were struggling. Instead of trying to change up speed or distance, I’m going to use the breathing restriction to add some intensity and hopefully fix up the cardiovascular side of the equation.

Another change I’m considering is substituting 800’s for 400’s and 400’s for 200’s. I think the 400’s are beneficial, but the 200’s just feel too short to be useful. If I was struggling with raw foot-speed, I can see where the 200′s would help, but I’m not so I think the time could be better spent on speed and endurance.

Last but not least, I already changed my cross-training heavy lower-body strength training in Week 4. My legs are only accustomed to 3 runs per week, regardless of distance, so I wasn’t adding strength training for fear of injury or fatigue. I think that was a mistake so I’m adding back in heavy calf and hamstring work and doing the best I can with quads (back and ankle issues make squats a challenge).

If my training is interrupted by Christmas too much, I’ll rewind a week or two on the training plan and continue forward. Hopefully I can find a flat, fast 5K sometime in mid-January for my next, and hopefully final, attempt.






Outrunning Time: Attempting to Break 20 Minutes in the 5K at 44

Fastest 5K 20:27

I am rapidly closing in on 45 years old, but I’ve only be running for the last 7 years. As my more experienced peers struggle to defy age and maintain their speed, I worry that the years will soon catch up to me and halt my seemingly age-defying pace improvements.

I don’t have records that go all the way back to my early 5K training runs, but I’m sure my first was in the 35-40 minute range. It didn’t take long to break 30 minutes by improving my fitness with some consistency, but 25 minutes was a huge barrier. Running 3 miles at 8 minute pace seemed incredibly daunting at the time, and most of my attempts weren’t on the friendliest elevation profile. After 8 fell, though, 7 wasn’t far behind.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with breaking 20 minutes in the 5K. I have made 2 formal attempts and a few informal attempts, but each time, I’ve come up short. In my first attempt, I was training for a marathon and noticed my top speed improving somewhat effortlessly before entering a local 5K with my family. That race was probably the closest I’ve come to 20 minutes, but I’ll never know how close as a course mistake had us running almost 3.5 miles. The data for the run shows me at 19:46 after 3 miles. That is basically in line with my current 5K record of 20:20, achieved at the same 5K race exactly a year later.

In both of those attempts and some training run attempts, I’ve found myself gasping for air during mile 2. I’ll then pull my foot off of the gas a bit to catch my breath, and by the time I’m ready to go again, it’s mile 3 and my average pace has slipped too far to recover. 6:26 minute per mile pace. For someone who started in the 12’s, it’s a huge mental barrier. For a soon to be a 45 year old man who is not in perfect health, it’s just as big a physical barrier.

In my 7 years of running, I have never trained specifically for a 5K. I’ve run 5K’s more for fun in the midst of 15K, 25K, half marathon, or marathon training programs. So my question now is whether I have a 20 minute 5K in me, or if I’ve run out of time and the long, slow age-driven pace decline has begun. To answer that question, I decided to dive into the Hal Higdon Advanced 5K training plan.

As of this blog post, I’ve completed Week #3 of the training plan, and I’m definitely noticing some improvements, even if they may not be showing up in the paces on my training runs. Here’s a quick run-down of my workouts so far:

  • 11/20/2017: 3.1 miles @ 7:56/mile
  • 11/21/2017: 5×400 intervals alternating 6:00/mile and walking
  • 11/23/2017: 4.24 miles @ 7:35/mile
  • 11/26/2017: 4 miles @7:12/mile
  • 11/27/2017: 3.66 miles @ 7:44/mile
  • 11/29/2017: 8×200 intervals alternating 6:00/mile and 10:00/mile with a final interval of 5:00/mile
  • 11/30/2017: 3.88 miles @ 7:49/mile
  • 12/02/2017: 4 miles @ 6:58/mile
  • 12/03/2017: 7.25 miles @ 9:00/mile
  • 12/04/2017: 3 miles @ 8:22/mile
  • 12/06/2017: 6×400 intervals alternating 6:00/mile and 10:00/mile with a final interval of 5:00/mile
  • 12/07/2017: 4.31 miles @ 8:07/mile (tempo run with 12 min. @ 20 min 5k pace)
  • 12/09/2017: 5 miles @ 7:11/mile (crashed and burned)
  • 12/10/2016: 7.55 miles @ 8:43/mile

This is all new territory to me. I’ve done very little speed work, and the times I have done speed work, it was extremely informal. Tempo runs are also new, at least at this pace. I’ve done them for marathons, but in those cases, I was running 7:45-8:00 pace, not 6:25 pace. It’s a significant difference for my lungs and legs. I’m also using the treadmill a lot, both due to the weather and because the treadmill can force a specific pace. That means I may struggle some on the days I go outside, but it also means some of these paces above are off by a bit due to the variance in tracking those runs solely from a watch.

This next week will be very telling as there is a 5K test race scheduled for Saturday. I came into this training plan knowing I could easily get under 21 minutes in the 5K so I expect to break my 5K record of 20:20 and give 20 minutes a good scare.

And if I break 20 minutes on Saturday? Then it’s over. I quit this 5K silliness and go back to running distances I find much more enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong. I love running 5K’s…for training. I just don’t like racing 5K’s. That said, 18 minutes would be kind of interesting, but it’s that kind of crazy thinking that got me into this 20 minute mess in the first place.




Of Sea Urchins and Plantar Warts

Disclaimer: Always consult a Doctor for medical issues. There are a lot of opinions on how best to deal with Sea Urchin spines.

Sea Urchin Stings

Back in March, I blogged about trail running in Kona, Hawaii. What I failed to mention was that my feet were doing their best impressions of pin cushions during that run. Looking back on the injury and complications that followed, I think there may be some useful information for other runners so let’s get into it.

Prepare for Stinging

I’ve probably mentioned at some point that I don’t really enjoy traveling, but one of the few destinations that can get me excited is the ocean. The beach affords me the opportunity to relax and unwind, and as a former reef aquarium enthusiast, any ocean destination with abundant reef life piques my interest. So even though I wasn’t excited to travel, I was excited to get to the ocean.

On our first full day in Hawaii, some of us decided to get in the water off the hotel’s beach. It was high tide and the waves were significant enough that treading water was a challenge. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen the beach area at low tide to know the dangers just below the surface, and before I knew it, a wave had pushed me into the sea urchin covered lava rock wall. I planted my feet to avoid getting my body cut up by the rock and ended up with the aquatic equivalent of kicking a porcupine.

Addressing the Pain

Sea Urchin venom is painful but not unbearable. That said, pain affects everyone differently and the location of the sting likely makes a difference. An allergic reaction is also a possibility so don’t play around. Get to safety and deal with the problem before continuing with any swimming activities.

To neutralize the venom, use vinegar.

Many will suggest urine as a quick alternative, but it’s not clear to me how effective that option may be. It appears that sea water or hot water are both better options than urine, but if you’re desperate, I’ll let you make up your mind.

Of course, once the pain from the venom subsides, you’re still left with the pain of a bunch of spikes still in your skin.

No Yanking

Your initial reaction to the urchin spines is to pull them out. Some Doctors will even advise removing them, but my understanding is that you increase the odds of a secondary bacterial infection. The spines are extremely brittle so pulling will just cause them to break off instead of coming out cleanly like a splinter or thorn. And yes, I yanked on a big cluster of spines that were sticking several inches out of my heel, and they just broke off.

Sea Urchin spines are made of Calcium Carbonate which our bodies can absorb. Calcium Carbonate can also be dissolved by Vinegar. Over a period of 3 weeks, I did 2-3x daily soaks in Vinegar to help dissolve all of the spines in my feet and toes. It was a long process, but as a runner, I DID NOT want a Doctor cutting on my feet.

With what I know now, my preferred treatment would have been an IMMEDIATE foot soak in Vinegar as hot as my feet could tolerate without burning. The Vinegar neutralizes the venom and works to dissolve the Calcium Carbonate spines, and the heat helps loosen the skin to (hopefully) let some of the spines fall out.

If you do a few Internet searches, you might see a story about some crazy guy having a friend beat the spines with a board. I think the goal may be breaking the spines into smaller pieces the body can absorb more quickly, but I’m honestly not sure. Since this article is from a runner’s perspective, though, I would advise against bashing your feet with a board. If it’s another body part, have fun if a good beating ticks your boxes.

Watching for Infection

I had one cluster of spines that kept acting infected (swollen and reddened appearance). In a rare and unexpected display of potency, the OTC triple antibiotic ointment that NEVER works actually got the job done. It kept the infection at bay while the spines continued to dissolve.

That said, consult your Doctor if you see signs of infection.

Expecting the Unexpected

After being stung on the first day of a week-long vacation, I had to suck it up and get on with the vacation activities and relaxation. This meant being in sandals and barefoot frequently throughout the remaining 6 days of vacation. In one case, we spent some time snorkeling in a pool at another much more popular hotel, and I suspect it’s at this hotel where I picked up a plantar wart.

I’ve been exposed to plantar warts before but never developed one. That’s likely because it’s rare for my feet to have broken or damaged areas where the virus could gain access. Of course, with my foot peppered with Sea Urchin spines and the soles softening from repeated Vinegar soaks, I had basically rolled out the Plantar Wart Red Carpet.

It took me 7 months to cure my Plantar Warts, and I know people that have been trying for years to rid their feet of Plantar Warts. This is not a complication you want.

Protect your feet. Go straight to the shoe store and buy some water shoes. If you’re in a public area, wear them to reduce the odds of a secondary infection. Honestly, this is probably a good idea even if you don’t get stung by a Sea Urchin. In fact, if I HAD worn water shoes, I wouldn’t have ever been in this predicament in the first place.

Packing Beach Essentials

Going for a day at the beach? Make sure you have your Sunscreen, Towels, Vinegar, and Water Shoes…not in that order.