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Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm Back, Baby!

The best part of a really long run is finishing.

The second best part is asking myself an unending series of absurd questions as they roll through my mind in between mathematically determining what percentage of my run I have completed and what my pace is, since I don't have a fancy GPS watch yet. That sleepy haze between night and morning does things to your brain, and if you let it wander, you won't even notice your legs, much like me on this glorious Saturday morning.

A sampling from today's questions:

Is the actor who played Viggo in Ghostbusters 2 still around? And if so, does he live in Austin and wear black leather pants around at 6 in the morning?

Why does a lingerie store need a delivery van?

Where the hell am I?

Why do they make these Goo Packs so hard to open?

Is that water stop for me?

Did I just ruin a wedding photo?

Did I really just run 15 miles?

It was bound to get a little harder to continue waking up at my new hour. Sleep deprivation, such as it is, has a cumulative effect, and for at least the first couple weeks, it's going to take a little getting used to. Mostly, I just hope that I stop worrying about whether or not I'm going to wake up on time and get better sleep for the hours that I do get to spend in bed. Last night, I fell asleep relatively quickly, but I found myself waking up often. When the alarm went off and I crossed the room to get it, I had my first mental battle.

I wanted nothing more than to get back in bed. No, I thought, but I can go out on the couch and rest for half an hour, and then I'll start my run. I gathered my things, and as I closed the bedroom door behind me, I found that I'd woken up, and I knew that I absolutely could not allow myself to get on that couch. Awake I was, and awake I would stay. I got suited up and did two rounds of my glute strengtheners, saving my third round for when I got back.

The air was much heavier than it was yesterday. Don't get me wrong, the temperature today had nothing on Wednesday's run through hell, but I knew this was going to be a challenge. My adjusted schedule (sorry, Hal, don't hate me) had me running 15 miles today, which is nearly twice as long as I've run in five weeks. I realize I'm jumping back in a little strong, but I've only got 8 weeks until Seattle, and want to have time to taper. Despite the distance, I felt confident, because I knew that I wasn't going to push myself too hard, and my legs have felt better every run this week.

So off I went into the dark morning, and I just let myself relax.

My route was very different today, as I knew that I'd want something interesting to distract me from how far I was going. Every day, I drive past a sign that mentions the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and I've never seen it, so I directed my steps that way. Of course, it was 6am, and I couldn't see anything. Next week's 17 has me going by the same point, so I'll make sure I put that at the end of the run. This little turn also added a long, steep uphill to the second mile of my run, which was not my intent at all. Oh well, I thought. Good thing this isn't for time. Then I passed Viggo, and my mind started to wander, so I didn't even notice that my legs were getting heavy.

Overall, I found my course to be rolling, and it was a good mix of moderate ups and downs that kept it challenging without making any one part unbearable. I ran down streets I know in the opposite direction from which I normally run them. For once, I really watched the businesses I passed, and wondered about whether they'd be worth visit (and why they might have delivery vans) I found a new park with a lovely running path and, so the sign read, a wading pond, which I'll want to check out later. I just have to make sure to use the correct roads getting out of there. Evidently it's easy to get lost. And add half a mile to your run. Whoops.

At about 7 miles, I let myself take a one-block breather to gear up for the second half of the run. I wasn't in pain, and I wasn't too tired, but I just wanted to focus myself. A little after 8 miles, I had some goo. At first I wasn't wild about the energy goos, but I read something in one of my Runner's Worlds that said you should have a goo about every 75 minutes, but that you actually have to consume it earlier than that, because it takes a little bit to get into your system. That information really changed how I will use them in the future, and it was highly beneficial for me today, because I felt better on my second half than on my first. Now if only it didn't take me 90 seconds to open the stupid things...

I turned up Red River in search of the LBJ Library, which I want to check out, maybe when my father comes to town. While I was generally disappointed with the outward appearance of the building, I'm glad I ran past it, because now I won't question the plainness of the place when I'm driving up. Looping around the building, I headed back down to the stadium and over to San Jacinto, one of my favorite roads on which to run. Turning south, I was surprised to see a water stop. Evidently it was for the Texas Roundup 5K. I thought about asking for some water, but I had a CamelPak on, so I didn't want to seem greedy. I very much appreciated, though, that the police had my running route blocked off for the next half mile. Don't worry, I didn't bandit. They wouldn't start the race for another half hour.

After the evil San Jacinto hill (evil because it pops up in the last mile of the Austin marathon), I was cruising. My legs felt great, and I was even able to run on the sharper downhills that worried me walking a few weeks ago. Another right, and I was headed to the trail around Town Lake. There was a couple standing on the corner at Congress in what appeared to be wedding garb, and it looked like they were trying to take a picture. The problem was, they'd been there when I'd run by earlier. About 5 miles earlier. I worried that I got in the shot, but didn't worry too much, because no one seemed to be in much of a hurry. Then it was onto the path, across the bridge, down the street, around the corner, up the hill and I was done.

Just like that. No problems. No pain. A little exhaustion, but that's to be expected, right? I had completed 15 miles before the top finishers in the Texas Roundup finished 5K. The morning is mine. The whole day is mine. And I'm excited to see what comes next.

As one last note, there is a hero song credit today. That last "up the hill" was a little more troublesome than maybe I'm letting on. The first two parts of the hill weren't bad, but the last stretch was just getting to me when Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" started playing, one of my newly acquired favorite songs.

And Peter said to me, "Grab your things, I've come to take you home."

And so he did.

Saturday's Run:
73-77 Degrees / Overcast
15.44 Miles
2 Hours, 12 Minutes, 10 Seconds

Friday, April 29, 2011

Before the Sun Comes Up

Something about running over a bridge filled with 700,000 bats at sunrise makes me feel like I'm in the beginning of a vampire movie.

You see me running toward the Capitol, and then the camera pans to under the bridge where the bats are asleep. Then one takes off. Another. Another. They fill the screen and it blacks out. The next shot is the Austin Police Department standing around a white running hat and a pair of Saucony running shoes with the feet still in them. "They said it was bats," says one detective. "No way," says another. "It couldn't be the bats. Bats are nocturnal."

"Or are they?" says a third, pale-faced detective who is just a little too calm about this whole thing...

I may have to take a break from the blog and write a screenplay now. Nah, let's get this done first.

That's two mornings in a row when I've been up at 5:30 with no problems. I did have one long, lingering look back at my bed this morning, but I had miles to cover. As a favor to my wife, I removed the dog from where her legs should have been, and then got myself dressed. I planned to do all my core and arms stuff before my run, but my arms are still a little sore from their sudden re-immersion into the workout world, so I only did half of my curls, shoulder extensions, and squat thrusts. I did, however, make it through all of the Russian twists, walking lunges and medicine ball push-ups that I had planned. I got all of those from a Runner's World article, but I can't seem to find it online. If I come across it again, I'll let you know.

For once, I checked the weather before I went outside. Using the Dashboard on my Mac, I saw that it was 56 degrees outside. I did not believe this one bit, so I checked with The Weather Channel. Sure enough, it was under 60 degrees. Not sure how well my body has adapted to southern weather, I was nervous when I stepped outside to do my weights, but it was a perfect morning. The sun was still down, there was a light breeze in the air, and the temperature was just cold enough. If I had to stand still for an hour, I might have gotten cold, but standing still was not in the plan today.

Once again, I decided to run with music, mostly because this was supposed to be a slightly faster run, according to Hal's plan. That being said, I knew I had to run 23 miles in two days which is more than I've run in any of the last four weeks, so I figure putting miles above minutes is my best plan. Hal agrees. I assume.

My run started with Billy Joel's New York State of Mind, which was perfect for the tempo that I wanted to set. As my mind wandered to various scenarios, I let it go freely without too much interruption. Keeping the focus away from the run itself is a great way to get through it without too much anguish. As I neared downtown, I noticed that I was seeing many groups of runners. I was impressed to see so many people out, though it could be they've always been there and I've just never been up early enough to see them. At one point, though, I felt kind of like the loner at the bar on Valentine's Day. It seemed that I couldn't pass one runner without passing two more. Everyone seemed to be in a group.

Until I got to the trail, that is. Wait, wow, I'm already at the trail. Seriously? I'm halfway done?

I checked my pace and realized that I could afford to pick it up some, as I'd already done more than half of my miles and I wasn't really breathing hard yet. As I neared the Mopac pedestrian bridge, the crowds got a little more dense, but I weaved my way through them pretty quickly. I was feeling better than I have in a long time, especially on a long run, and while I'm sure that the weather had a lot to do with that, I feel like something else was at play, too.

About 11am yesterday, I started bouncing around in my chair at work. I'd had my coffee, and combining that with the general adrenaline I had running through me all day, I felt great. I was happy with my workday, I rocked at a few episodes of Jeopardy (we're a few days behind, but thank you, DVR), and I greatly enjoyed my rehearsal. Even made it home early enough to spend some time with the wife before bed at 11. And when it was time for sleep, I was out cold.

I did wake up several times, still a little paranoid about oversleeping, but I was able to fall back asleep pretty easily. Overall, I'm feeling better than I have in weeks, and the simple solution was actually getting less sleep, not more. I know it won't work for everyone, but it's doing wonders for me.

The trick here is to get less sleep on purpose. It's not that I'm missing out on it. It's that I'm planning ahead and basing my expected hours on my own personal sleep cycle. I'm refreshed, I'm excited, and I'm a little smelly.

Off to the showers.

Friday's Workout:
56 degrees / Clear
- WSS Ab Workout
- 6x(5 Curls, 5 Shoulder Extensions, 5 Squat Thrusts)
- 2x(10 Russian Twists, 10 Walking Lunges, 5 Medicine Ball Push-Ups

8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 1 Minute, 22 Seconds

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One In A Row

It figures that I'd wake up for the morning that I don't have a run.

In my effort to force myself out of bed this morning, I put my phone (which serves as my alarm clock) out of reach of my bed. The theory here is that I would need to get out of bed to turn off the alarm, and it's easier to make myself stay out of bed than to make myself get out of bed. This proved to be the case this morning.

Of course, I'm sure it didn't hurt that I woke up pretty much every hour, convinced that I had somehow overslept. In fact, now that I think about it, it's entirely possible that I had more than one dream about my alarm going off so that every time I actually woke up, I thought it had already happened. I was basically awake from 5:00am on, so when the alarm went off at 5:30, it wasn't too much of a struggle to get moving.

It was, however, very nice. I wandered out into the living room, checked my email and various social networking, and even had time to watch a couple videos online, as they looked interesting, and I was determined not to make myself rush. You see, I didn't have a run scheduled for today, so there was no time crunch as far as needing to get however many miles in before my work day started. I did, however, put together an arm and ab workout (basically the same as Tuesday's, but with different reps), which I was going to head over to the gym and complete as soon as I was ready.

That time was 6:00. I went in, the only one there, and then the only other person I ever see in the gym showed up, too. We both went about our workouts, and about midway through, if he would have looked at me, he would have seen a rather odd smile.

Perhaps it's sad, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment at getting to the gym that early. With a plan, no less. As I completed each set, I felt stronger, both in my arms and in my sense of self. It's so simple, but being up before dawn makes me feel like I've done something before anyone else has, and that just motivates me to do more. I have a feeling it's going to be a good day at work.

So, here we are, day one of twenty-eight, and the blog post is done before 7 am.

I think I'll read for a bit.

Thursday's Workout:
2x100 Sit-Ups
2x20 Push-Ups
3x10 Push Press
3x10 Pull Downs
3x10 Curls (each arm)
3x10 Bench Press

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On A Hot Streak

Since I wrote my last post this morning, I haven't had time to take away my option yet.

This afternoon, as my work day wound down, I still had a choice to make, and for the second day in a row, I managed to make the correct one. In ridiculous heat.

Looking at the workouts that I was supposed to have this week, I would have already run 16 miles by today. That's four on Monday, eight on Tuesday, and four more Wednesday. With the four I was able to make happen yesterday, that still leaves me twelve down today. Obviously, it's not a good idea to try and catch up all at once, so I figured I'd just do an eight-miler today, then take my scheduled rest tomorrow, followed with getting back on schedule.

A quick review of my last few weeks' training showed me that this would be my longest run in almost five weeks, and this was not particularly heartening information. I'm well behind my scheduled mileage, but then I compared my current training program to what I did for Austin, and was surprised to find that I've run nearly half of my Austin training mileage already, and I haven't even gotten into my super-long runs yet.

So I made a decision. I decided to get back on schedule, come hell or high water. The only thing I will change is the distance of my Saturday long runs. This week, I was scheduled to do 17 miles, and I am simply not ready for that. Instead, I'll do 15, which is a little longer than the longest run I've done this season, and I'll go really early and really slowly, hopefully not having to stop at all during the workout.

In addition to this, I'll keep up with my light arms and core training, as it gives me a little more structure in my workouts, making me warm-up, cool down, and stretch before and after the run, which I should be doing anyway.

And which I did today. I did a glute strengthening routine that I got out of Runner's World, which is designed to help prevent any further injury, and which I really enjoyed, especially in combination with my ab routine, which I'll put in here one of these days. They I headed out in the 86 degree heat for 8 miles of fun.

My leg flared up a couple times throughout the run, but never for more than a couple tenths of a mile, and then it would fade out. The distance got to me, but that was more a combination of the heat and the headwind that I had for most of the last four miles. It was an interesting coincidence that every time I managed to get myself out of shade, the wind would kick up in my face, including the last mile, which was not particularly enjoyable.

But life was good, despite everything else, because I ran the whole way, stopping only for a couple sips of water at two water fountains and a stand set up under Mopac at the Town Lake Trail. Not surprisingly, this last stand was very low on water, as I'm sure everyone out there today stopped for a drink. I have a CamelPak, but I usually only take it with me on runs over ten miles. Now I think I'll have to add runs after 10 am between April and October.

Though I hope I won't have many of those from now on. I'm challenging myself to get up early for the next four weeks, whether I have a run scheduled or not. The goal here is that after 28 days, it should be a habit well-ingrained in my body, and after a while I won't even need an alarm. I hope.

It starts tomorrow. Again.

Wednesday's Run:
86 Degrees / Sunny
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 1 Minute, 50 Seconds

Good Is Good Enough

When we moved down here, there were a few things about me that I really wanted to work on, and for several months, I was great at them.

Now, as many of those things have lost their newness and luster, I feel that I'm starting to backslide just a little bit into the habits and tendencies that led me to unhealthy living before. Not too bad, mind you, just not doing things with the discipline that I required of myself at the beginning of the year. Hey, that's what New Year's Resolutions are for right?

So now, as I sit about 9 weeks from a marathon in Seattle, I really have to look at myself and decide what I want to do.

You see, I've always been interested in pretty much everything. Whenever I encounter a new experience that I enjoy, I immerse myself in it as much as I can for, say, a week. Some part of my brain says to me, "You can be great at this if you just work hard enough." So I work really hard, as I said, for about a week. Then another part of my brain speaks up. It says, "Maybe you can be good, but you can't be great." And my inspiration dwindles. I can pick up a guitar and play a few songs, but when it comes down to it, I'm simply not that good outside of playing chords. I'm not a terrible addition to any trivia team, but the Jeopardy qualifying test kicked my butt. And though I've always had a gift at running, I have never been able to break into the top tier of runners.

And maybe it's because I spread myself too thin. If I want to be great at guitar, I've got to practice two hours a day. To be a strong runner, I'll have to get an hour workout in most days, and even longer once a week. To gain the knowledge to rule all triviadom, that's another two, three hours of reading. Add in an hour for the blog (because I'm not very quick at writing), eight hours at work, four hours at rehearsal, and, oh, I don't know, 30 minutes for eating meals to fuel all this nonsense, that leaves me a whopping 5.5 hours to sleep. Clearly, I can't do all of this.

Unfortunately, that mindset keeps me from really doing any of it. I get frustrated that I can't do all the things I want, and I spend so much time trying to prioritize it all that I end up wasting hours deciding what to do. So, I sit in front of the television because it's a form of entertainment that doesn't require me to do anything. Passive living. That's what I'm good at. That's what I'm great at.

But that's what I'm tired of, too. So why is it so hard to change?

Because after a week or so of doing something differently, I get distracted. Something comes along that seems better or more fun or easier, and I let that change my mind. Even the weekends seem exhausting because they're not a break from my routine, they're just another day without a routine. With the exception of the fact that I work certain hours, my weekdays are completely arbitrary. Some nights I have rehearsal, some nights I don't. Some days I get up early and run, some days I run after work, some (most) days I don't run at all.

I really need advice on how to force myself into a routine. Punishing myself hasn't worked. Rewarding myself hasn't worked. What I need to do, somehow, is take away the choice. That's the joy of running with another person - if you're not there, you've let someone down. You don't have a choice but to head out the door and meet them. Days when I make the correct choice seem to be getting more rare, so I need to take away my option.

Yesterday, however, was a day when I made the right choice. I drove my wife and her brother to a concert, washed the car, and headed back home. It was about 89 degrees outside, so washing the car (self-service) worked up quite a sweat for me. On the drive home I thought, well if I'm already sweaty, I might as well work out.

The previous night, I had put together a schedule of "other workouts," stuff to build my arms and core, based on experience and various articles in Runner's World. So, I decided that even if I didn't go for a run, I'd do my Tuesday otherwork. But if I was going to do that, I might as well run a little, just for warmup and cool down. Maybe a mile each. Or maybe two miles to start...

By the time I'd negotiated my way up to my full workout, I had an hour of work ahead of me, but I did it with energy and excitement. I really felt like I had worked myself correctly and made the good choice for once. Granted, I slept in today, but I blame that on the rather freaky dream I had last night. I'd been frozen until a cure was found for some genetic disorder I evidently had, but they had to unfreeze me before they found a cure, so really I'd just wasted ten years in the freezer...

The bottom line is, I need to take away my choice, for at least four weeks. Somehow, I need to make sure that there is no other option for me but to do my workout first thing in the morning.

How how do I do that?

Tuesday's Workout:
89 Degrees / Sunny
-2 Miles, 13 Minutes, 51 Seconds
-5x (20 Sit-Ups, 10 Push-Ups, 5 Push Press)
-1 Mile, 6 Minutes, 58 Seconds
-10/8/6 Reps (Bench Press, Pull Down, Curls) Increasing weight
-1 Mile, 7 Minutes, 30 Seconds

Total Run:
4 Miles
28 Minutes, 19 Seconds

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fare Thee Well, Marvin

Disaster strikes.

At least, it was an emotional disaster for me. Though it may not be what others would consider disastrous, for me it was a strong emotional blow. During my four-mile run on Wednesday, I lost my Marvin the Martian shoe charm.

When I was in high school, my father got into the habit of getting me little good luck ritual things. For cross country races, I got a box of strawberry Nutri-Grain bars. For swimming, it was a bag of Pixi-Stix. When track season came around, it was a big bag of M&Ms. But for any sport, whenever he would find something, Dad would give me something with Marvin the Martian on it. My favorite cartoon character of all time, I have, to this day, a pretty good collection of Marvin memorabilia, because any time my father came across anything, he'd get it to me.

In fact, before the Austin marathon, I received a care package from my parents including a new Marvin t-shirt.

One CC race my sophomore year, my dad got me a little shoe charm, which I immediately affixed to my spikes. That charm has been on my shoes for every race since then. For those keeping score, that's over 11 years of races and training that I've had the little thing with me.

When I got back from my run on Wednesday, I saw that my shoelaces had broken (in the middle of the shoe), and the charm was gone. I had been listening to music, so I didn't hear it fall, and I never noticed any lack of pressure on my foot, so I didn't realize that anything was wrong until I went to take my shoes off. It was still on my old shoes, and I had thought about changing it over, but hadn't gotten around to it yet.

The loss of this charm was surprisingly devastating. I went out immediately and headed about .75 miles down my path to look for it, but I had to work, and being hourly, I couldn't really afford to miss any of my hours.

So, on Thursday, I bumped my seven mile run up a day and headed out at first light in an effort to track it down. Still, when running, there's only so much you can see, and I didn't come across it. I have to face the fact that it either fell into a location I cannot access (drain, creek), or someone else picked it up. At my wife's urging, I choose to believe it was found by a child who had never heard of the Looney Tunes. Maybe he's had a lot of issues fitting in with other kids, and his parents are at their wits end. He grabbed it because he thought it was money, but upon seeing the other side, he asked his mother what it was. It happens that she's a huge fan and has some of the cartoons on tape, and now they go home and watch them together. Realizing just how wonderful his mother actually is, the young man makes more of an effort to spend time with her, turning his life around and eventually excelling in all aspects of his life, and that charm will be in his pocket when he's sworn in as President of the United States.

Or so I'm telling myself.

But what's really interesting about the whole thing was what happened to me on the seven mile search-and-rescue run. For the first two miles, while I scanned the ground frantically, I didn't notice any pain or discomfort. As I passed Wednesday's turn-around point and headed up the 1st Street hill, I started to get a little tired and sore, and then a garbage truck turned onto the hill. The driver caught my eye and smiled, and I raced him up the hill. I won.

Then it was almost time to turn around, and then I was back down the hill again. Before I knew it, I was back in those first two miles again, searching the other side of the sidewalk. I had some exhaustion in my hip in the last mile, but overall, I didn't notice my legs because I wasn't thinking about them. I was so concerned with finding that charm that I barely felt the seven miles, a distance that made me very nervous before I headed out the door.

See, coming back from injury, I knew I could make my first run, and my second run wasn't a problem, because it was a shorter distance, but here I was, third run in a row, and it was longer. Mentally, this could have been a very difficult run to get through, but by focusing on the charm, I got through the entire distance with no issues and very little discomfort. And what's more, the search forced me to slow down, like I should have been doing all this time.

That Marvin charm gave me one last gift - a run that said I was recovered. I haven't completely given up hope, and I'll probably look for the thing as long as I run that route, but if it's gone, I'll miss it dearly. It's given me 11+ years of luck, and I hope it brings the next person as much joy. It's silly to be so sentimental with a little piece of metal, but it represents so much more than that. It's where I came from. It's my family's love and support. It's every run I've done since I was 16.

And it's something I'll never forget.

Thursday's Run:
81 Degrees / Cloudy
7.08 Miles
56 Minutes, 41 Seconds

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tom Petty and the Heartbreak Hill

Tom Petty was my substitute coach today.

For a while now, I've been viewing Hal Higdon as my running coach. Of course, the man has never heard of me, and I'm sure he couldn't care less about how my training is progressing, but I found his 18-week marathon program online, and I've been following it, more or less, for the last nine weeks. Obviously, these last two weeks have not been up to par, and I've felt like I was letting Hal down. I've had this crushing feeling that a man I will likely never meet has been disappointed in me, and that is one of the many reasons I've been able to get myself out the door the last couple days.

In my imaginary little world, Hal isn't convinced that I'm back yet. He won't be until I complete a long run, and in the meantime, he's standing in the corner, observing, but saying nothing. As such, I'm left on my own to make sure that everything I'm doing is correct. Yesterday, I was entirely motivated by the money, and that fire was still fueled today, but I needed something more. I needed some music.

The subject of running with music is a surprisingly volatile topic among runners, I'm learning. While some people rely very heavily on it and never take a run without their iPod, others are violently opposed to the concept for any number of reasons. Some think it's ruining the companionship of the sport, others don't understand how you can break the connection with nature. Still others think it's cheating, and that if you can't run your pace without music pushing you, then you're not a real runner. Seriously, it gets mean.

Personally, I don't see any problem with running with music, and I'll do it from time to time, but it's getting much less frequent for me of late. I don't want to block out the excitement and noise of a race, so I won't wear one during an actual marathon. As such, I don't want to wear one in training and end up relying on it.

Today, however, I knew it was going to be a difficult run. What I learned last week is that the first run back is painful halfway through, but the second run is painful right away. Again, I forced myself to hold a slower pace, but it didn't keep the pain away. Almost instantly, my leg was yelling at me, though nowhere near as intensely as it had last week, so I kept on. At the bottom of my home hill, I lowered my arms, dropped my shoulders, shortened my stride, and focused on form for the remainder of the run. Any time my mind drifted toward the pain, I reminded myself to focus on form, and made my adjustments. Miles were flying by before I knew it.

I heard a lot of music throughout the run - you usually do - and most of it was fairly upbeat, but I just had the thing on shuffle, so I really didn't know what to expect next. Today's hero song came on with about 1.5 miles left to go:

"And it wasn't no way to carry on
It wasn't no way to live
But he could put up with it for a little while
He was workin' on something big"

Yes, Tom Petty! It was a song I didn't know very well, and to be honest, it was the greatest "running song" I heard today. The beat is a little slow, and it's not an adrenaline booster by any means, but for some reason, the lyrics just hit me right.

My run wasn't everything I wanted it to be. I wasn't going as fast as I would have liked, and of course I was hurting, but I could put up with it for a little while. I have a much bigger goal in mind, and it's one I intend to achieve. So I can put up with a little pain while my legs get stronger. My mind was racing with the lyrics as I moved out of running to other facets of my life. Sure, I'm not getting paid in my current show, but I'm getting my name out there, and my foot in some doors. Yeah, the tax man took me to town, but I'm fortunate to have a job that allows me the freedom to do what I love.

I can put up with a lot of crap in this world, because I know that tomorrow is going to be better. By the time I'd come to this grand conclusion, I was already heading back up Home Hill, with less than 3/4 of a mile to go. I pulled in my form, focused ahead, and pushed all the way home. It wasn't until halfway up the hill that I realized I hadn't felt any pain in over a mile. At that moment, "Into The Great Wide Open" came on, and I actually sang along with the words, "The sky was the limit."

Have I come out the other side? Probably not yet, but I did make some very good strides today. By focusing on the super minutia (where my hands are when I run) and the grand picture (of 50 marathons), I took out all that in-between stuff of tough days at work and not enough money and pains in shins, and I was able to carry on.

Because I'm working on something big.

Wednesday's Run:
82 Degrees, Cloudy
4.06 Miles
30 Minutes, 40 Seconds

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Brown Does For Me

I have exactly five dollars in my as-yet-to-be-determined awesomeness account.

The alarm went off right on time this morning, and I killed it pretty quickly. I've got a bad habit now of just turning my alarm off without hitting snooze. This allows me (or causes me, depending on how you look at it) to sleep uninterrupted until it's time for me to start working. However, on a morning when I actually want to wake up on time, it's not convenient.

So the time passed, and eventually I managed to get myself out of bed. And what did it for me? Five dollars. I wanted to put that five dollars aside for whatever it is I end up doing with it. It's not much money, and I don't have a specific use for it yet, but I will use it for something fun, and that was enough.

On went the shoes. I took the dog out, returned her to the wife, and then hit the road.

I haven't been out on the road for a run in some time, I'm sorry to say. The only two runs I managed to do in the last two weeks were both on the treadmill, which I'm sure is part of why it's been so difficult for me to get excited about them. Last night, I decided that  I would make my run on the roads today for the two best reasons I have. Number one, it's more interesting. Number two, once I get all the way out there, there's only one way to get back.

But I forced myself to slow down. I was 40-50 seconds slower per mile than my average run thus far, because I absolutely need this leg to heal entirely. I shortened up my stride, focused on my form, and made myself go slower than I normally do.

My training is color-coded, as I believe I have mentioned before. A green run is one that is on pace to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A yellow run is one that's on pace with my goal time for the marathon. Until my leg flare up a few weeks ago, all of my runs had been in the green or yellow. Then, when I felt the pain, I had a brown run.

Browns, I'm realizing now, are not bad runs. They are runs within 30 seconds of the pace that I need to run my goal time. These are, in fact, probably the speed that I should be running most of the week anyway. And usually when I run in this color, it's because I started out a longer run in the green and burned myself out by the time I got to the end.

It's not easy for me to run browns intentionally. Ever since high school, my goal has been to run as hard as I can every time. Otherwise, there's no point, or so I thought. That's how I burned myself out before my senior year of high school and all but assured myself of the fact that I would not compete at the collegiate level. Because I only lived for the run in front of me, and not for the one after that. Now that I'm living for races several months away, I have to take better care of myself in the interim, and I have to slow it down on the training runs. I should be running brown most of the time.

So today, I kept myself in the brown. The pain still came, right on schedule, at 2 miles, but it was a dull ache, not a sharp stab, and I never had to stop. As I turned the corner for my last uphill climb, a tiny voice in my head told me to push it. A louder, meaner voice in my leg told that voice to shut up. So, I just readjusted my form, which had gotten a bit sloppy, and kept my head up and my shoulders back. I'm sure I picked up a little speed at that point, but it wasn't that I was running faster. I was running better and more efficiently, and the feet followed. Still, it wasn't a push. Today was not meant to push. Today was meant to get five dollars, and I did.

A positive aura filled my entire run this morning, and it had everything to do with how I viewed it. It wasn't a chore or a pain. It was a means to an end. Immediately, it would mean an upbeat blog post (because who wants to read about someone whining every day) and five dollars into a fund of my own. In nine weeks or so, it would also mean that I can run through the streets of Seattle with a smile, not a grimace, on my face.

And completing today's run in good time with minimal pain meant that tomorrow's run would not seem so bad, and it doesn't. In fact, it's shorter than I had to run today, and I'm not scared of it. I'm pretty sure it will hurt some, but I'll get on the road and imagine each dollar as I earn it with each step. A simple reward, to be sure, but as they say, money talks.

And I run.

Tuesday's Run:
78 Degrees, Humid
5.05 Miles
39 Minutes, 48 Seconds

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pay Per Mile

It's pretty late right now.

In fact, if all goes according to plan, I'll be awake again in about 6 and 1/2 hours to go for a five mile run, which doesn't really seem like enough time.

Still, I wanted to write this post before I went to bed so that the general idea of it could sit in my brain overnight and maybe, just maybe, motivate me to get out of bed and put on my shoes in a few hours.

I did a lot of reading today, and I found that most of it had a similar message. It started early this morning, when I woke up in plenty of time to complete my scheduled four miles, but chose instead to lay on the ottoman with the dog and think about all the ways in which I didn't have motivation. I contemplated all the reasons and excuses that you could imagine and found multiple ways to apply them to myself. I did this fully aware of self-pitying nature of it. Quite simply, I didn't want to run today.

And I haven't wanted to run for the last couple weeks. I managed to tell myself I did, but even then, I spent the entire time waiting for my leg to hurt. It was a pessimistic mindset, and I have no doubt that it contributed, step by step, to the resurgence of my injury.

Killing time before the workday was to start, I got onto Twitter to the fastest flood of tweets that I have seen in my few months on the site. One after another, they kept loading, many with repeating information, all with one excited voice. Patriots Day had arrived. The Boston Marathon was on.

Really, this is the Holy Grail marathon for me at the moment. It's my next big challenge, which means a serious drop in time. In fact, if I qualify for Boston after this year (when the qualifying times change), I'll have to run a time within 10 minutes of the first ever Olympic champion. That's just nuts. But I really, really want to qualify for the run. Sure, if I can't qualify, then there's always the possibility of getting in through a charity or something, but let's be honest; that's not what I want to do. Nothing against charity. Yay, saving people and all, but I want that title. I want to be a Boston Qualifier.

What a marathon we had on our hands today. Records falling left and right, two Americans very much in the thick of it, and everyone with running shoes and a Twitter handle getting into the action. To be honest, I was bummed and more than a little surprised to find that the race is not televised nationally, and if you want to watch it online, you have to pay $5, which I was not going to do. Fortunately, the play-by-play from Runner's World, Bart Yasso, BAA and others kept me right in the action the entire way, when I would take a break every 20 minutes or so to check in.

And even though for some stupid technical reason the world record doesn't count as such, what an amazing day of racing! Just knowing that you were a part of all that has to mean so much. Just crossing that finish line has to feel unbelievable.

So, I gotta do it. And that ain't gonna happen if I'm sitting on the ottoman.

This means I need a plan. Running needs to be, in some way, more instantly rewarding. I've got nine weeks to the next marathon, but it feels so far away, and I started training so long ago, that it doesn't feel like the goal is even in sight, especially not recently. I need something now that I can hold on to or do every day that makes me feel better about the long, hard road that is marathon training. What's the easiest reward available?

Money. For each mile I run, I'll set aside one dollar toward... well, something. I don't know what for sure yet, and I don't have a lot of dollars to set aside, to be quite honest, but it's going to be something fun. Not something that I NEED, per se, but something that I want. Maybe that Iron Man watch I've got my eye on. Or perhaps the iPhone that I'll get shortly before the rest of the world moves on to the next, better thing. Just something out there and frivolous that I get because I ran two hundred miles, or whatever it happens to be.

You see, this journey of mine isn't going to be cheap. I've seen many articles and blogs online of people who have set this goal for themselves and accomplished it within a couple years. Physically, that's very impressive, but fiscally, it's unbelievable. Combining race fees, travel costs, time off work, etc, these races can get costly rather quickly.

What this means is that I'm investing a lot of time, energy and money into what amounts to a 23-year-plan, and I would like to have something to show for it in the meantime, and if that means I finally get to play Words With Friends with everyone I know, then so be it.

Tomorrow, I'm going to put $5 in my fund.

And I'll be glad I didn't waste it watching the marathon today.

Friday, April 15, 2011


It's baaaaack.

After a fairly successful run on Monday, I went to sleep Monday night full of hope and excited for Tuesday's seven miles. However, I had some pain when I woke up on Tuesday, and I wasn't confident enough to hit the road just yet. I headed back to the gym and started up the treadmill, and almost immediately, I was in pain again.

I managed to keep myself going through an entire mile for a couple reasons. For one thing, I wanted to have a nice round number that I could be proud of. For another, there was someone else in the gym, and I didn't want him to think that I'd just run too quickly and couldn't finish even a mile. Finally, I was hoping that it would get better with time, and I was very unhappy to discover that it did not.

After completing the mile, still in a pretty good time, I took a second and thought about what to do. Clearly, I'd overrun myself once again, and would not be able to finish seven miles. However, I was already at the gym, and I didn't want to waste that time, so I decided to do some strength training, using the run as a warm-up. I felt very frustrated about my inability to do the miles that I needed, but I used the frustration to push myself harder on a core and arm workout, including dumbbell bench presses, shoulder presses, lat extensions, push-ups, curls, and sit-ups.

At the end of all of it, I got back on the treadmill for a half mile cool down, and couldn't run the whole thing. It was very disappointing.

So, now I'm back where I was a couple weeks ago, and all I've really done is waste a couple weeks. Hopefully, if I start going more slowly on my training runs, I can build up the muscles around the injured site without straining them.

You see, I've been reading Runner's World these days, and in the injury-prevention issue, everything I'm reading sounds like I've got shin splints. Dad gave me some stretches, but the pain has been there anyway, despite the fact that I've stretched it out. The only real treatments are rest, which I've already done, and decreasing the intensity of the workouts. I don't want to back off on the miles too much, considering that I've got a marathon to run in less than three months, but at least I've got to slow myself down. Just until the pain goes away.

It is certainly not going to be easy. I feel great for the first two miles of most runs, which makes me want to pick up the speed, but in doing this, I doom the second half of the run. So, for next week, I'm going to try and slow myself up, but continue to run.

I just wish that the whole thing would go away. It is almost impossible to force myself out onto the road when I don't enjoy the run. Perhaps I've got to find some new running paths. Doing the same thing over and over again takes a lot of the fun out of the workout, so I've got to mix it up as much as I can. Getting an Iron Man would make this a little easier, as I wouldn't have to plan out the course ahead of time, but that's four or five big purchases down the line.

In the meantime, I want to run. I need to run. And if I can just get myself out there, maybe I can make the whole thing better.

If I can just get myself out there.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I took ten days off running in an effort to get my body back to performance level without a nagging pain in my shin. Was it a success? Yes and no.

First of all, just because I wasn't running this week, that doesn't mean that I was sitting around doing nothing.

In fact, a couple Sundays ago, we had an exceedingly active day for us. We slept in a bit, but then we headed down to Art City downtown for a look at the different art for sale. We're only about 2 miles from the exhibition site, so we decided to walk, but stopped off on the way for some water and Gatorade, as it was a little hotter than we had anticipated.

Finally down at the show, we really enjoyed the artists down there. It was the kind of show that makes you wish for an extra $10,000 to spend on the decor in your place. As part of the show, you also got entry into the Austin Art Museum, so we walked up there, too, despite the fact that they were offering a trolley. It turned out that the museum wasn't really worth the walk, unless there were some other exhibits that we didn't see. Is there a second floor or something?

Anyway, we then walked all the way back home, which was probably another 3-4 miles. It's exactly the kind of cross-training that most training programs recommend, which is staying active in some way that is different from your primary workout.

Monday we got our taxes done, and that made it feel like I'd gone twelve rounds in a boxing ring. After that it was two nights of rehearsal for one show and then three nights of performance for another. Sunday held another rehearsal and my "cross-training" of following a trolley around downtown Austin for my sister-in-law's birthday.

Which brought me to this morning, when I was ready to get back out on the road. Problem number one was that I'd been sleeping in (relatively) all week long, so my body was not prepared for the prospect of waking before 6:30am. Problem number two was that I heard a thunderstorm happening outside immediately after my alarm went off, drowning my drive a little bit more. Number three, I really did not sleep all that well the night before. I woke up at 2:30 and 4:30 ready for the day, and though I took great joy in returning to sleep, it left me in a bad sleep cycle point when the alarm went off.

Needless to say, the morning run did not happen.

However, I regrouped. I determined that I would do today's four miles on the treadmill in the gym over lunch. This would save me some time, and offer me the option of stopping if my leg was hurting me too much. So at lunch time, I headed over.

I stretched for a very long time before I started, mostly because I was scared. If I got three minutes into the run and couldn't complete it, that meant a definite trip to the doctor, which is not something I really want to do. It could mean a more serious injury. It could even mean that I wouldn't be able to run races that I had already paid for months ago, and wasting money is not something I can really do these days (see above about my trip to the tax man).

So, I started out at a strong, but not too fast pace, and made myself keep it there for the first mile. I had some cobwebs and creaks to work out, but by the half mile mark, I was already feeling pretty good. I bumped the speed at the one mile, and again at the 1.5 to get into a long stride.

About mile two, I started to feel a familiar sting and my heart sank. I recognized the onset of my newest pain and made the choice to continue for the moment, staying at my current speed, and waiting to see if the pain got worse. And you know what? It didn't. There are still some nagging issues hidden in that leg, but the rest absolutely has worked, as I finished stronger and faster than I could have anticipated.

That being said, there is still some pain there, and at the end of a long walk with the wife and pup this evening, I could feel it nagging me again a little bit, though that's more likely from jumping over the 6 foot stick the dog was carrying. My father, who has had some shin splint issues of his own, gave me some stretches to do which I'll start up on tomorrow. I've got seven miles to do in the morning, and I want to get them done as early as possible, which actually shouldn't be a problem for me tomorrow. I need to get the wife to the airport crazy early, so I'll probably just come home and run right then. Who knows, I might even start working early and get a couple extra hours in.

The whole day can turn around if I'd actually get myself out of bed and on the road, and the key to doing that is to look forward to my runs. For the last few weeks, I've been dreading them, awaiting the next big thing that could go wrong, and I don't want to do that anymore. Life is too short to let the downsides of something keep you from enjoying the upsides. So tomorrow, I will run with joy.

And caution.

Monday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
4.0 Miles
27 Minutes, 49 Seconds

Monday, April 4, 2011

Off My Feet

So, my leg hurts, and it's not getting better. What do I do?

There are a few ways to go here. The first option is what I've been doing so far, which is my usual routine of running through the pain until it goes away. It's a terrible idea, yes, but it's what I've always done, mostly because I'm too lazy or two scared to actually see a doctor about anything. In general, I look up my symptoms online and determine my best and worst case scenarios. I treat myself for whatever I can, and thus far, it's worked on most issues.

It has not worked on this.

The second choice for me is the obvious one of resting whatever it is that is hurting, and hoping that it has simply been overused. My usual failure here is that it gets me out of my routine and the whole training mission goes by the wayside.

After that comes option 3, which is to see some sort of medical professional. This is what I put off as much as possible, not because I'm smart (quite the opposite), but because of my aforementioned laziness and/or fear. In addition, those visits get expensive quickly, and I worry about simply being told to try some things I could have done on my own.

So, I am currently in the "rest" phase of this progression, and a day or two is obviously not enough. Thus, I have taken the (relatively) drastic step of putting myself on one week's rest. From what research I've done online, I find that there are a few possibilities for what I've got, and that the most likely culprit is shin splints. Unpleasant, but manageable, with rest.

You see, the two things that seem to fit my issues most nearly are shin splints and a stress fracture. If it were a stress fracture, though, it would likely hurt all the time, and not simply several miles into a run.

In short, my choice for right now is to force myself to rest this week. I've got a couple other reasons why I feel this is a great idea, not the least of which is that I am in production for one show and starting rehearsal for another. Overall, I'll get to rest not only my leg, but my entire body, and, if all goes according to plan, I'll be itching to get back out there at the beginning of next week. My plan is to start back up again next Monday.

In the meantime, I'm reading up in my new Runner's World subscription and hoping to get some good ideas on training. I might do a bit of cross-training, but only if I'm actually feeling great.

If, in one week, my leg does not feel better on a shorter run, I'll have to go and see some sort of medical professional. I've recently been advised that a chiropractor might be a better first choice than an orthopedist, but I'll cross that bridge when necessary.

Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

The Last Straw

I've got two posts to write today. The first is about the run that I took on Friday. The second is about why I haven't run a step since then.

So, to the good news first.

Friday was scheduled as a race-pace 6 miler, and I was excited to get out there and do it. Taking Thursday off, according to my training program, was relaxing and, I hoped, exactly what my body needed to get back on track to running without pain.

And for my first two miles, it seemed to have worked perfectly according to plan. My legs felt incredibly strong, and while I told myself not to push it too hard, I had a great amount of power in my stride. That first mile downhill gave me a huge boost in confidence and put a big smile on my face. I was even okay with the fact that I had to stop at the devil light before making my turn toward the trail.

Crossing the Lamar footbridge, I smiled even more, as I saw one of the "Play Me, I'm Yours" pianos. For those who aren't in Austin (or those who haven't heard of this), as part of the Art City festival, several pianos were placed around the city (including three on my 6 mile course) for public use. I got to sit down at one and play for a while yesterday, which was quite nice. I kind of wish they'd keep them out all year, but leaving them out in 1000% humidity is probably not great for keeping them in tune.

With a great mood and a hard pace, I started down the ramp off the bridge and a searing pain shot through my right leg, the same stupid shin issue that I've had day after day. I kept telling myself not to stop, and managed to get through another mile before I had to pull over and stretch it out. I would stop twice more before I finished the run.

The upside of whatever injury I'm fighting is that it goes away with stretching, and it only hurts after a few miles. Most of the research that I've done (which I'll talk more about later) says that the real concern comes when there's pain constantly, which thankfully is not the case. The downside is that when it comes to race day, I can't have them stop the clock so that I can stretch. In doing my training runs, I stop the time when I have to take these breaks because I want to know what my actual running pace is, so that I can make sure to know how it feels in my legs. It doesn't, however, adequately represent my total effort, because it doesn't include my rest time.

I took a lot of time to think about my next step after this run, and I'll get to that in a little bit. The important thing about today was that I stopped when it hurt, but still finished the run in a time I could be proud of (not counting rest/stretching).

However, with the pain in my leg, running has not been fun for me the last few weeks. It has been a chore, and a very uncomfortable run. It becomes increasingly more difficult to motivate yourself to run when it gets increasingly more painful each time you do it. I had to make a change and take some bold steps to make sure I'm in good shape when it comes to Seattle.

I'm going to have to rest.

Friday's Run:
84 Degrees / Cloudy
6.01 Miles
40 Minutes, 49 Seconds