Sunday, March 30, 2008

Time again for the rarest wildflower to bloom

Pyne's Ground Plum
(Astragalus bibullatus)

Found in just three locations in the world, all in Rutherford County TN, Pyne's Ground Plum gets it's name from the fruit it produces in late May to early June. The fruits turn a purplish color and are marble sized when mature. The fruit is more like a sugar snap pea than a plum. (No, I will not admit to tasting the forbidden fruit - it is a federal crime). Also known as Guthrie's Ground-Plum, this plant is a federally endangered species that exists in the cedar barren habitat near Murfreesboro, TN. It is totally illegal to pick this flower and it's fruit. The species was first recognized as a new species by biologist Milo Pyne (then Milo Guthrie) in 1988. Mid March to early April is the best time to see Pyne's Ground Plum in full bloom. I took the above photo on Sunday, March 30 on the state protected area along Factory Rd. in Murfreesboro, near (but not at) Flat Rock Cedar Glades and Barrens State Natural Area.

Don't you just love spring?

(text from last year's post - pictures are new)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Runnin' to Beat the Blues 5K and Mile Races - 2 Gold Medals

No complaints. It was definitely worth cleaning the dog shit off my Adidas.

19:37 5k
First Prize in 45-49
(12th overall)

5:50 mile
First Prize overall

Runnin' to Beat the Blues 5K and Mile races were held in Centennial Park in Nashville this morning 3/29.

It was a decent run for me. I brought home 2 gold medals and a gift certificate.

But ... objective accomplished !! - my SEVENTH consecutive 5K personal record. Beating my old PR by 29 seconds. First time under 20:00. This will be a hard act to follow. The course was flat but not straight, a few hairpin turns and many corners. Weather was great (for me), in the 40's but the course was wet. I ran through a few puddles. Also, I did not sleep last night, woke up to thunderstorms at 1:45 am and again at 3:00 am. I had to get up at 5:15 am. So maybe there's room for improvement.

I went out fast as usual (5:47) but did not feel overly spent as I did at Tom King. It felt great. My 2 mile split was 12:11 which means my last mile must have been pretty slow, 6:40 or 50's probably. However, I had some kick left for the last quarter mile.

What surprised me was that no fast runners showed up to run the mile. I felt like it was just me alone out there on a training run with Striders prez Peter Pressman in front of me on his bike. I led the mile race from beginning to end and won with an embarrassingly slow time - 5:50. I probably would have done better if there was someone to chase. Shoot, like I said, my first mile split in the 5K was faster - 5:47. My mile interval training runs are also often faster. I was hoping for 5:30's.

Credit goes to my coach Joe Page who has designed the past 2 weeks of training for me. It should also be pointed out that there were others in my age group that beat me in the 5K, but were counted in the overall masters awards .

In addition to the medals, I got a $25 gift certificate to Boscos for winning the mile. A guy asked me at the start of the mile what I wanted to run, I said "5:20s" ... yea right. I told him I was 47, he said he "pegged me for around 27." Thankyou, thankyou!

Sunday - back to work:
9 miles - 64:37
7:12 mile pace
6:59, 7:01, 7:08. 7:15, 7:13, 7:16, 7:15, 7:14, 7:17
Coach calls this a lactate threshold workout. (WTF is that?) Am I lactating yet? I just do what he says.

Quoting coach:
The basis of what you are doing is LT (lactate threshold) workouts, followed by AT (anaerobic threshold) workouts, followed by intervals, followed by race. Each period lays some foundation to allow the next period to be stronger. Meaning, LT workouts build energy pathways that allow good AT workouts. Good AT workouts build energy pathways that allow good track work outs. It is best not to combine them all together, rather, step through them as you had in the last rotation.
Update II: Monday - 6 miles in 43:01 (7:10 avg per mile) Pace wasn't consistent, varied from 6:38 to 7:34, last mile felt hard and was slow (7:32). I wanted to get 7 or 8 miles but quit early due to fatigue and blister.

Race photo by Elly Foster, Nashville Striders

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guitar Fest '08 - the final concert and party

The final party was pasta and wine.

In the final concert, John Johns played great. Matt Palmer was again stunning. For the 3rd time, he received the only standing ovation of the TN Guitar Festival. Funny, but by coincidence we were on the same plane on Friday to Atlanta. Me connecting to Orlando, him to Tucson.

I love this photo, from L to R: Tana (in all her sweetness), Matt, Silviu, me and students.

Matt and Silviu are likely to be the finest guitar students I will ever see in my career, it's great to see them together in this photo. Matt is most definitely one of the top ten best guitarists in the US right now (in my highly qualified opinion). He is an amazing player. There was video of his concert and I hope to see it on Youtube soon. Silviu is the Romanian prodigy who is graduating MTSU this semester and has already received several Graduate Assistantship offers from various universities around the US. Matt is finishing his Doctorate in Music at U of Arizona.

My pasta of the night was rigatoni with sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, olives, chick peas, diced tomatoes, celery, Italian spices and marinara sauce. As Matt said, "it hit the spot."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Running straight and flat in the Sunshine State - UPDATED

It never occurred to me that running a course with corners would take so much extra time. Here in FL, I did my standard hard workout on the straight and flat and was suprised by the times, considering I wasn't racing.

3 Mile Run - 19:29
Mile splits: 5:52, 6:35, 7:01 (yea, went out too fast... again)

10 min rest

2 Mile Run - 13:42
splits 6:26, 7:15

It was a ball buster. Not used to the humid air, but at least I could run shirtless and at least it was cloudy (Sunshine state? It's raining right now).

I'm playing a guitar concert tonight in The Villages, an upscale retirement community an hour from Orlando where all the houses look the same and everything is incredibly clean and neat. Everyone commutes in golf carts.

My last FL workout was 8 half mile intervals with 3 min rest in between:
2:42, 2:55, 2:47, 2:47, 2:52, 3:03, 3:05, 2:48

The pressure is on again this weekend. I MUST get a PR in the Runnin' to Beat the Blues 5K. I can't break the string of 6 PRs in a row! I'm nervous already. I must go under 20 !! OMG, I gotta do it ... I must, I must, I MUST GO UNDER 20!!!! .... help, help ... panic ... I can't break the string !!! ... I MUST NOT fail !!! ....

(are we havin' fun yet??!!)

Just for review, here has been my evolution as a 5K runner:
22:56 - 12/1, Jingle Bell 5K
22:40 - 12/07, Rudolph 5k
22:35 - 12/08, Chick-Fil-A Frostbite 5K
22:17 - 1/1, Resolution Run 5K
20:12 - 1/26, ZooRun 5K
20:06 - 3/15, Tom King 5K

Tomorrow - my last hard workout before the race. Going to run 3 one mile intervals with 6 min rest in between. They all need to be under 6:10.


Three one mile intervals with 6 minutes rest in between.
5:48, 6:08, 6:16
I slacked on the last one a bit, only ran the last quarter hard.
My body weight is good - 138 lbs after workout.
(I actually weighed 25 lbs more at one time).

During that first mile, I definitely had thoughts of "Oh shit, why am I torturing myself like this again?" But I must say, it's great to be fit and I feel very good now that the workout is done. Definitely worth the work. I say run while you can. To be 47 and able to outrun any one of my students half my age is not a bad place to be.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paella, paella, paella!!!

Tennessee Guitar Festival 2008, annual paella party.

Paella is a typical Valencian rice dish from Spain. We are mostly "vegetarians plus seafood," so our paella is a seafood paella with saffron rice, shrimp, scallops, cod, clams, mussels - garnished with roasted red peppers, lemons and mussels in the shell. Lemon asparagus on the side. It was a hit as usual, amazingly good!!

From L to R:
Matt Palmer (badass guitarist, best Tennessee-born classical guitarist - ever); Fred Palmer (Matt's brother and marathon runner); Silviu Ciulei (MTSU Senior), Javier Castellote (MTSU Guitar GTA), Randy Reed (guest artist), Christopher Berg (guest artist), Andrea Dawson (MTSU faculty violinist), Valerie Hartzell (guest artist), Robert and Pamela Trent (guest artists), Jerry Roberts (Nashville guitar seller). Me... I'm the cook.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tom King 5K report: another PR

But far from satisfied...

I wanted very badly to break 20:00 in Saturday's Tom King 5K but I failed. Damn it. ... by 6 seconds: 20:06

Oh yea, I have plenty of excuses... running in the pouring rain, lack of sleep, only a week of real serious training, stress that I had to play a concert that night and play host to people coming into town to stay with me. The real reason is - I was just too damn eager, I went out too freakin' fast - 5:47 first mile split... then... I died. I just did't have the conditioning to maintain that pace. I whimped out, couldn't cut it, couldn't take the pain. I ran the whole first mile with the lead group of about 10 runners, then got passed by 15 people to finish 25th overall out of about 450 runners, 4th in my age group out of 25. I have a seriously competitive age group 45-49. Mark Carver won the Masters overall in 17:49 and he's 49! Any of us top 5 would have won the next younger age group (40-44).

On the bright side, it was my sixth consecutive Personal Best 5K time, but only an improvement of 6 seconds, but better than going the other way. I also played a decent opening concert later that same evening at the TN Guitar Fest.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tennessee Guitar Festival at MTSU, March 15-20, 2008

It's that time again where I work my tail off to host a great concert series of guitarists, the biggest festival of it's kind in the state.

The Tennessee Guitar Festival presents 5 consecutive evenings of FREE concerts at 8:00 pm 3/15 - 3 /19 in Hinton Music Hall in the Wright Music Building on the MTSU campus.

Come on by ! This year's festival kicks off on Sat. night with a set my me playing both guitar and lute, then guitarist/composer Roger Hudson performs solo guitar and Arabic oud, and with percussionist, David Pruett. The duo called, Bella Musiqa performs Mediterranean music. Roger has established himself as one of Nashville's finest oud players. Great stuff. David will play Middle Eastern percussion instruments: darbuka, tar, rain stick, finger cymbals.

Sunday night, Randy Reed will play Sor and Barrios, Valerie Harzell will play Tarrega and Villa-Lobos. Monday, duo Firenze will perform Viennese duos for period instruments - fortepiano and terz guitar.

Tuesday will bring Christopher Berg who'll play Barrios, Albeniz and Bach. Wednesday night's finale will present the two finest classical guitarist born in TN. Vanderbilt's John Johns, and young virtuoso Matt Palmer. That is a concert not to be missed. Palmer will freak you out! He is amazing and guaranteed unlike anyone you've heard. He'll close the concert with his trademark piece, the Mongolian Sonata by Stepan Rak ... a piece that will shatter any preconceived notions you might have about classical guitar.

Complete schedule
with masterclass times. All events including the masterclasses are free and open to the public.

We play well and party long. The traditional flavor is Spanish. I cook a huge seafood paella with lemon garlic asparagus, sangria, and lots of olive, fruit, cheese, and mushroom appetizers with various bruschetta and tapinades.

It's going to be awesome. Party hardy, every night. Here's a photo from last year's paella.

The Tennessee Guitar Festival is made possible by support from the MTSU School of Music and by grants from the MTSU Instructional Development Committee, the Office of Sponsored Programs, the D'Addario Music Foundation, and the Arts Builds Communities Program of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The Arts Builds Communities program is funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and administered in cooperation with the Tennessee Arts Commission and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Coach Page, my trainer from afar

He talks about workout types in terms like: cp/power, anaerobic capacity, aerobic capacity, anaerobic threshold, lactate threshold, aerobic, etc... Joe Page is an experienced endurance athlete, cyclist, skater, etc... like me, into fitness, health, diet and athletic performance... but far more consistently over the years than I. (Pictured at left with his roller skis. He can keep a 6 min mile pace on those things no problem). We played football in Jr. High, he went on to be a football standout, I hurt my shoulders and went into sprinting and guitar playing. He's a successful chemical engineer and me, a music professor with doctorate. Not too bad for a couple of teens that were 'wasted' most days in high school.

I was following his workout advice... more or less, and after running several hard interval workouts in Jan, he suggested I should run the Zoo Run 5K. He predicted I would smash my personal record... I decided at the last minute to do it and he was totally right, I did - by more than 2 minutes: 20:12, winning my age group and placing 3rd in the Masters overall.

After an injury plagued attempt to try and sprint race again, I thought I might try to run the Tom King 5K, (3/15/08) ... even though my distance training has been lacking. Joe prescribed a week's workout to prepare for Sat. (As if I have nothing better to do, right?) Friday and Sat I did two hard workouts back to back that left me sore for 2 days. After the prescribed 2 day rest, I did his prescribed workout today which I think he called "lactate threshold:"

8 miles in 58:08 ... 7:16 avg. per mile (6:59, 7:08, 7:18, 7:21, 7:21, 7:22, 7:37, 6:59)

None of it felt like 'race pace' ... about 80% effort except I pushed pretty hard on the last mile. It leads me to believe that if I did someday run a half marathon, my race pace would be in the 7:10 - 7:15 range. I doubt I'd ever put myself through that torture and physical wear n' tear, 5K is painful enough.

I feel a great deal of pressure to better my personal record if I run Sat. Being a total 5K newbie, I have never run a 5K race where I did not improve (my first was 12/1/07). I've had 5 consecutive personal records in 5 races. If I decide to go through with it, it looks to be a flat and fast 5K course, so, the competitive streak in me will be deeply disappointed if I don't run in the 19's for the first time. My weight is good, 139.6 after the workout. The lighter the better for these types of races. If I don't get a PR, I'll blame it on Joe.

What is really crazy is that I play the opening concert in the TN Guitar Festival that same night. Yikes! Time to break out some new guitar strings... and the world lightest racing flats :

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bill's excellent adventure that wasn't

This was it. After weeks of training I was finally ready to run my first indoor sprint race at the Mason Dixon Games in Louisville, KY at Broadbent Arena on Friday evening 3/7/08. Concerned that the meet would be cancelled due to weather, I went right to the top. I emailed Frank Miklavcic, the Executive Director of the KY Track and Cross Country Association and asked if there was any possibility at all that the meet would be cancelled due to weather. It had never before been cancelled in 47 years.

Here was my exact question and his exact response for posterity:

ME: Any chance the Friday evening events of Mason Dixon Games will be cancelled due to the weather? Thanks.

Frank Miklavcic: "no, we plan on holding the meet regardless."

So, I drove 200 miles to Louisville to be told at the gate the Mason-Dixon Games were CANCELLED. This meet was my last chance to run my specialty race, the indoor 55m and I also planned to run the 400m. Normally I wouldn't think of driving 200 miles each way to race, but this was my last chance to get a national indoor ranking. If I did really well, I would've entertained the thought of going to the Masters Nationals in Boston. Not now.

[UPDATE II: Check the comments, I wasn't the only one to get misinformed. The commenter claims he/she received information on the morning of the track meet that it was still on and would be held. They also drove 200 miles each way.

They could have submitted a cancellation notice on KY public radio, but no. I listened to it all the way up and heard nothing of any cancellation].


A rare vintage indoor wooden track with banked curves. I saw it in pieces by the loading dock.

Being a shorter guy, 5'7", I could run those tight indoor curves like a maniac. I remember in HS, we had a championship 4x200 relay team. In the state meet, I ran lead off leg of the relay against the eventual 60m state champion. I'll never forget it, his name was Jerry Blow from Nyack, the fastest sprinter on an all black relay team, the fastest HS guy in the state of NY. To the utter surprise of everyone south of White Plains, I smoked him on those curves and handed my teammate the baton and the lead (... he then got us disqualified in the next handoff due to a lane violation).

Anyway, I had put my distance (5k) training on hold and was taking significant time off to recover from the aches and pains of sprinting and sprint training. Naturally, I was really really upset by this misadventure, so when I came home, I punished myself. I went out into the dark freezing rain and wind and ran my ass off. It was the first hard distance I've done in a while. I felt a slight wheezing in the maximum part of my lung space. I'm not in top aerobic shape.

These times, although not very impressive, were hard fought and painful.
This was my "painful freezing punishment work out" (which, as you can see, I started over zealously) :

3 mile run
20:49 - (6:08, 7:28, 7:12)

10 min rest

2 mile run
13:49 - (6:43, 7:05)

Next time I do this workout, it will be faster. Especially the 2nd and 3rd miles.

I sit here looking at my new sprint shoes, the new sharp pyramid spikes gleaming in the light, specifically purchased to run on that wood track but never used. The feeling of blasting out of the blocks and tearing up those corners will have to wait til next season. Who knows, the 100m is not a great race for me but maybe I could do the gut wrenching 400m? Meanwhile, I will continue to punish myself with painful speed work and fast distance. I'm so much more built for power and quickness. I'm really not a distance runner. I can't compete with those long legged tall big chested guys who seem to be made for the sport. But I'll keep trying.

Sprinting is so much fun. It's such a rush. I fucking hate distance running ... it's so painful... I hate it, I hate it, I hate it... But I hope I never quit.

I emailed both Frank Miklavcic and the Mason-Dixon Athletic Club President, Kenny Morton ... as of yet - no response.

Today was better. 3 mile run in 20:14 - 6 min rest - then a 6:41 mile. The last mile felt easy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

MTSU Guitar students perform live on Nashville Public Radio - Tequila Flamenco

Silviu Ciulei, B.J. Golden and the Flamenco band Tequila performed the second half of an all MTSU "Live in Studio C" Tuesday morning 3/4/08 on Nashville Public Radio, WPLN FM 90.3.

MTSU Faculty string trio played the first half: Xiao Fan Zhang - cello, Sara Cote - viola, and Andrea Dawson - violin.

Have a listen to Silviu Ciulei - Nashville area's only 'real deal' Flamenco guitarist and singer perform with his band. Sound files will be available for listening to this specific live performance through 3/10/08 at the WPLN web site. Tequila starts at around 29:00 into the recording.

In case you miss it, here's some YouTube clips of the band, and of Silviu playing solo. Also, check out the clips on Tequila's myspace page. The rhythm is in their blood.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon

Sometimes, when I get to a relaxing spot with a view, I put my feet up on the handlebars, lay back down on the seat and just listen to sounds of nature. Often I fall asleep. I need to do this every now and then.

The grass looks so green for late winter.

It was 70+ degrees today in Middle TN this Sunday, March 2, '08. Since it's actually still winter, when it gets this warm, we know storms are coming tomorrow. That's OK. Storms are cool. I have to practice guitar and it's great to do on a rainy day.

Sprint training: practicing starts with resistance

Practicing starts with resistance.
Here, I'm blasting out of the blocks wearing a harness attached to a 30 lb weight. Practicing starts dragging weight is good to promote forward lean and high knee action.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Work outs and racing

It's been a good week for workouts and I'm looking forward to finally racing next Friday in the 48th Annual Mason-Dixon Games Masters and Open Indoor Championships in Louisville, KY at Broadbent Arena.

A variety of workouts this week: weights, plyometrics, some fast distance (20:18 three mile - 85% effort). Five - half mile intervals at between 2:44 and 3:11 with 3 min rest in between finishing with a 65 sec quarter after 7 min rest, and some wicked hill sprint repeats. These hills were a steep 300 meter uphill sprint that I ran on my toes at 400m sprint pace. After 10 repeats, I was wiped, and my ass hurt for the next 2 days.

Running in sprint stride on the balls of the feet is a completely different thing from running distance pace. Different muscles are working and the stride length is way longer while the foot contact with the ground is way shorter, more like jumping or bounding. A lot of technique study and refinement is necessary. Running a 400m completely on the balls of the feet in sprint stride is hard work. My goal for my first indoor 400m race is to break 58. It'll be easier to go faster outdoors. In the 55m, I'd love to break 7. That is, if I'm healthy enough.

I've been doing starts from the blocks with a resistance harness, dragging a weight along the ground behind. It's a great for developing power and high knee action at the start. I can't wait to take it to the track and do it with spikes. I'm almost ready, but not quite. I did several speed ups to full out sprint speed tonight but didn't want to go more than about 30 or 40 meters full blast. Still a little tentative that I'll reinjure myself so I'm taking it very cautious. I'll probably do a very light week, take a day or 2 off to make sure I'm healed, and hopefully be ready for some time trials full out on the track on Wed.

They'll probably do the Masters events in intervals of 10 years, so I'll probably be competing against last years winner who is 41 and was ranked 4th in the nation last year in the 100m 40-44. Some of these guys travel to meets all year, even to Europe. Willie Gault is my exact age (47) and he set the 100m world record for my age group in 2006: 10.88. Amazing.

On the Masters Track site, I was reading workout advice from a successful sprinter, Courtland Gray, World Gold Medalist in the 100m (55-59). He said:
You have to practice running fast. It is impossible to achieve your meet potential practicing mostly intervals and slow runs.

Also, a key to workout efficiency is less recovery time between reps and sets -- just like in the gym. ... Practicing at "50-75% speed" with periodic tests at 90% won’t get it for me. I tried that. Then again, he [the person suggesting this approach] runs track events from 100m to 5Ks. Not something many of us do seriously. A serious runner should decide if he/she is a sprinter or distance runner. A serious sprinter should know he/she needs to work much harder.
I have to disagree in part. If one wants to compete as a sprinter and still do 5Ks, why not? However, I do think it's easier to be a "sprinter/runner" than a "runner/sprinter" ... if you know what I mean. I think it would be dangerous for me to try and run a 100% all out 100m every workout. I look forward to the day I can sprint everyday 100% with confidence, like I did as a kid. I'm not there quite yet. Maybe by the outdoor season. It feels really good to sprint when everything is working right, it's like flying along and barely touching the ground.