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.

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.




Apple Watch Series 3 First Look


Apple Watch Series 3

I don’t like watches.

As a child of the 70’s, I come from a generation whose parents and grandparents religiously wore watches. Watches in those days were a combination of form and function. They were both jewelry and time travel protection, rendering the wearer immune to the time jumps inherent in relying on the microwave ovens and wall clocks of the world that lacked any time server synchronization beyond the occasional reset after the janitor called Time and Temp. Unfortunately, watches had no effect on that tardy slip you got because the school clock had drifted 5 minutes fast by the start of the 2nd semester.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah…I don’t like watches. To me, watches feel like jewelry, and I don’t like drawing any extra or unwanted attention, either positive or negative. They also exposed me to more social interaction, and as an introvert, I prefer to be left alone.

“Excuse me sir, do you have the time?” Nope!

So the advent of cell phones was great for me. When I started carrying a phone full time around 2005, I suddenly had ubiquitous access to the time, and it wasn’t just *any time*, it was the *right* time. I no longer had any practical reason to wear a watch.

When I began running in 2011, I immediately bought an armband for my iPhone and started tracking runs on Nike Plus. Carrying the phone was a bit annoying, but even if I had a GPS watch, I would carry the cell phone for emergency purposes.

Between a 24/7 on-call job and young children, I need to remain in contact when I’m on the run. Leaving the phone behind isn’t an option for me no matter how many times keyboard warriors tell me I should leave it behind.

So during the announcement of the original Apple Watch in 2014, I wasn’t looking for a stylish timepiece. I was looking for a waterproof GPS watch with cellular connectivity. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but there were likely very good reasons Apple’s first foray into timepieces missed my mark.

Primarily, I think the powers that be at Apple genuinely wanted a stylish timepiece with some smartphone-like functions. Tim Cook is over a decade older than me, and he’s more connected to those watch-wearing generations I mentioned earlier. If you do an image search for old pictures of Tim Cook, guess what you find. He’s usually wearing a watch.

Second to Apple’s focus on style, I don’t believe the battery(/power-saving) technology was ready for GPS and cellular. Samsung had its 3G capable Gear S available around the same time, and the reviews I read then said battery life with GPS was terrible. If I could find the review in question, I would link it, but I’m fairly sure it said a run with GPS and 3G drained the battery completely in around 2 hours. That might be fine for faster runners or shorter distances, but my marathon long runs usually last 2-3 hours.

When Apple announced Watch Series 3, I immediately started digging through their website for the relevant battery life details. Fortunately it didn’t take too much digging. With both GPS and LTE enabled, the Series 3 can potentially run for 4 hours. That number is very likely optimistic especially considering that I will be using AirPods for music, but it’s still at least 30 minutes of wiggle room for even the longest of my long runs. 2 hours is my absolute minimum requirement for GPS + LTE + AirPod music, and I’m hoping it holds up.

My Apple Watch Series 3 just arrived on Wednesday (October 10th, 2017). That’s right…this watch hating runner ordered Series 3 immediately upon release. I didn’t go wait in line on opening day because I don’t do that, but it *is* the first product I have ever ordered on launch day.

The setup of the watch with my iPhone 7 and AT&T service was surprisingly (at least to me) flawless. It’s not unusual for Apple’s part of the process to work, but when adding the $10/month plan to AT&T worked without a hitch, I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. The only improvement I could see in the setup is a faster way to add music to the Watch, and the prompt for adding music should come during Watch setup instead of the first time you open the Music app. I do love the Heavy Rotation music option, though.

On Thursday, I had time to get out for a quick 4 mile run around noon. I left my iPhone at home and headed out with just Apple Watch Series 3 and AirPods. Although I may switch run trackers (or finish SubdueTheSloth) eventually, I went ahead and used NikePlus for this run.

When I started the run, the Apple Watch had already been off of its charger and connected to my iPhone for 6 hours. Over the 40 minutes I was out (warmup, running, cool-down, stretching), I listened to music through the AirPods the entire time. I tracked 2 runs. I did a 5K which lasted about 22 minutes, and then I tracked another 3/4 mile back to my car because I ran out a little too far for my 5K. In between the two runs, I called Sloth Wife from the Watch and talked for about 5 minutes.

When I returned to my car, battery life was still above 70%. As I write this, it’s about the same time of day, and battery life is at 95%. Based on those numbers, it appears that Series 3 will meet my 2 hour minimum requirement. I doubt it will make it through 4 hours, but I’m holding out hope for 3 hours if I don’t make or receive any phone calls.

The next major step is to get Series 3 out for a 9-12 mile run and see how the battery holds up. I’m cautiously optimistic and really hoping I can retire my Garmin and iPhone for normal training runs.

I still don’t like watches, but so far, I do like my little wrist phone gps tracker. Just don’t ask me for the time.

I’ll report back on battery life after I’m able to log some longer runs.




Trail Running: Kona, Hawaii

While the rest of you were following in the footsteps of the Ironman and cycling Highway 19 or swimming Kailua Bay, I was running the coastline, checking out Kekaha Kai State Park. I actually wanted to drive to Volcanoes National Park to run some of the trails there, but we were staying near Kona, and the schedule didn’t allow enough time to drive to the Southeast side of the island. My trail run wasn’t so much a trail run as it was bits of running mixed with hiking and picture taking. If I had it to do over again, I would have loaded up the family, snorkel gear, and beach supplies and made a day of hiking the unbelievably quiet beaches I found along the way.

I started my run by getting a cab to drop me off at the Southern-most entrance of Kekaha Kai State Park just off Highway 19. Trying to tell the driver where I wanted to go proved amusing as he originally thought I wanted him to take me directly to Makalawena Beach. Since the drive from HI-19 to the beach is unpaved and extremely rough, you’re unlikely to find a cab willing to take you all the way in. Instead of getting dropped off near the beach, I just ran the mile or so from 19 to the beach parking area. It might be tough for a car, but it’s not that bad for running.

Makaole'a Beach

Makaole’a Beach

Once I arrived at the parking area, I turned South away from Makalawena to run toward a small, black sand beach area called Makole’a Beach. The road toward the beach this direction is distinctly 4WD only, and it was much more difficult to run than the main road. The 4WD roads often have rocks in the 4-6” diameter size range bunched together anywhere the road has been washed out which is great for a vehicle but a little more challenging for a runner. After some time on the road, I noticed white markings on the lava heading toward the beach so I blindly followed.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

The lava was surprisingly runnable, but that isn’t always the case. The lava in this area was smooth with cracks spaced well for my stride. In other areas, the lava was much rougher and reduced me to slow walking to keep my footing. The marked lava route eventually rejoined a road and took me to Makole’a.

Makole’a was empty. At 11:00 am, I was the only person on the beach. Being the type of person who likes to avoid crowds, I was floored. I’ve never seen an empty beach…ever. It would have been nice to stay and spend some time, but this was my running time so I took a few pictures and headed north along the coast.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

Running from Makole’a to Mahai’ula Beach was a mix of rocks and really loose sand. If you wanted to get a better run without burning out your legs in the sand, returning to the 4WD road might have been a better strategy.

There were a handful of people at Mahai’ula Beach, but it was still extremely quiet. Most people coming to this area likely hike further North to Makalawena Beach.

If I’m remembering the route correctly, the hike to Makalawena is extremely rough. It’s about a quarter mile on little 4” diameter rocks. I was wearing trail shoes, and it was bothering my feet. I felt sorry for the beach goers navigating the rocks in their sandals, but the payoff had to be worth it. Makalawena Beach was so nice that I texted my wife and teased that I was just going to stay for the rest of the day.

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach

From Makalawena, I mixed some coast line running with some 4WD road running. At times the coast line slowed me to barely a crawl while I worked my way around tide pools, and at other times I was running on paths through the trees or along small, sandy beaches.

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

After I left Makalawena, I didn’t see another tourist until I reached Kua Bay at the North side of Kekaha Kai. The few people I did see were clearly locals either heading out for spearfishing or camping on beaches reachable only by truly off-road vehicles. The roads to these areas may not necessarily require 4WD, but you MUST have ground clearance. The smaller Subaru’s I saw earlier in my run wouldn’t have worked here, and an Outback would have been borderline.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

Eventually I had been out too long on too slow a route. I happened to see a car drive by out of the corner of my eye and realized I was near the paved road to Kua Bay. I cut across some of the worst lava rock I’ve encountered and hopped on the road for a quick half mile or so to Manini’owali Beach.

Manini’owali Beach is by far the most popular beach in this park. It’s a beautiful but smaller white sand beach with much less rock in the water making it a more attractive swimming location. When I arrived around lunch time, the beach was packed. I couldn’t even run the path through the beach without risking kicking sand into sunbathers. There were coolers and towels and people on almost every square foot of white sand.

I had planned to continue North, but there is a historical lava rock area just North of Manini’owali Beach with dire warnings about moving any rock. Not knowing how long it might take me to work my way through, I opted to run back out the Kua Bay access road and return to my hotel via HI-19. Even though my body was pretty well shot at this point, the roads gave me a chance to get in what turned into intervals for the final 3 miles of my run.

KeKaHa Kai State Park

KeKaHa Kai State Park

There are probably better places to run in and around Kona and definitely on the Big Island, but I had a blast at Kekaha Kai State Park. Mahalo, Hawaii.