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Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Yesterday was a holiday from running, too, it seems.

There's something about those Monday holidays that just makes a person want to be as immobile as possible. I had forgotten to turn my alarm back on from Sunday to Monday, so I ended up sleeping a little later than I normally would. My dad is in town, and I wanted to spend time with him, so with everything going on, I decided I wasn't going to run yesterday. Lazy, I know, but I'm really okay with my decision. Running should be enjoyable, and when it gets in the way of something I want to do, then I run the risk of becoming dissatisfied with it, and I don't want that to happen.

So yesterday I slept in.

And today, I got up early. It seems like any time I want to get up before the sun, I have some sort of crazy dreams that make it really difficult. Fortunately, I had put my alarm far enough away that I was had to get on my feet in order to shut it off, and once I'm on my feet, it's easier to stay there. Not easy, but easier.

Since there was someone sleeping in the living room, I didn't even check my emails and various online worlds before I hit the road, which was a very nice change of pace. It meant that I was on the road a little earlier, and thereby done earlier.The sooner I've finished my workout, the sooner I can start working, and the more relaxed I feel later in the day. It was with no small amount of pride and joy that I hit the road this morning.

Before I'd left, I had read Hal's instructions for the week, and today it was recommended that I just take it easy. I actually ended up taking it even easier than usual. I did not want to disturb anyone, which meant that I couldn't go out onto the patio and get my hat and belt with which I normally run. I didn't take an iPod or wear a technical t-shirt. Instead, I went out in my old, ratty cloth shorts, a plain white undershirt, and a semi-functioning stopwatch. I felt oddly unprovided, and at the same time rather free.

There's something about running without any of the equipment that I've got that made me feel lighter and more connected with the actual athletic achievement of running. That being said, I also remembered exactly why I used those things that I do. I have long hair which, thanks to my excessively bouncy stride, bounces uncontrollably as I run. It wasn't so much a problem on the way down, when I had a headwind, as when I ran back and the wind from behind pushed my sweat-drenched locks into my eyes. Also, since I didn't have any pockets in the shorts, I had to carry my keys the whole way, which was more irritating than difficult. Mostly, I was concerned that they'd slip out of my fingers as I crossed a creek and I'd never see them again. Luckily, this was not the case.

There are days when I like feeling prepared for the run. Particularly on long run days, I feel good about suiting up with a tech shirt and a CamelPak and a SpiBelt filled with energy gels. It makes me feel closer to the professional runners that I so admire. Still, every now and then it's nice to go out with almost nothing. Those days make me feel closer to that runner I used to be, doing sprint work through Faurot Park in Lima, Ohio.

Running was easy back then, because the hours of practice dictated exactly when and how long I had to run. Now it's entirely up to me, and I like that. I've always avoided taking lessons in the things I enjoy, because when someone else makes you do it, it starts to feel less like fun and more like work. Perhaps this is why I have never really excelled at anything, but I feel like I'm doing pretty well now.

And this morning, I've got the five miles to prove it.

Tuesday's Run:
78 Degrees / Cloudy
5.05 Miles
37 Minutes, 25 Seconds

Sunday, May 29, 2011


There are varying levels of what constitutes an actual accomplishment.

Becoming a runner is an accomplishment in itself. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment. Completing 50 of them will (hopefully) be an incredible one.

But it's the day-to-day accomplishments that make up the most wonderful moments of life. If you're only living for the big, end-of-a-journey successes that come after months of work and agony, then you'll end up spending an alarming amount of your life in searching, and very little of it in actual enjoyment. For the meaning of happiness, you have to look at the smaller things.

Today, since I was not scheduled to run, my victories came from other parts of my life. I briefly considered doing 6 miles to make up for the miles that I did not complete yesterday, but I immediately dismissed this idea. My disaster yesterday was due to either the extreme heat (in which case I did the smart thing by stopping and should be rewarded with rest), or general exhaustion (in which case my best solution is to rest). Either way, today's rest was going to be important, and for more than one reason.

After my show last night, I stayed for a short while to spend some time with the cast before heading home at around 12:30, at which point I got myself some food and set up shop in front of the television for a video game session, something I almost never do. I played for a couple hours before bed, entirely because I knew that I didn't have to get up early the next morning, which is a very rare occurrence. I turned off my alarm and let nature wake me up. At almost 11:00am. It was magical.

That was victory number one.

The other great thing about today is that my dad is in town to see my show and visit us. This meant that I had to clean the apartment, and I mean seriously. I put on some music and went through the place systematically, room by room, until it was almost as clean as when we moved in. I've written before about the empowerment behind doing something as simple as cleaning, and it's still true. Watching the place transform before my eyes, I had an incredible moment of happiness. Even though I'd slept in as late as I wanted, I still got something very productive completed.

That's a great accomplishment.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cut Short

I think it's safe to say, if it's over 90 degrees at the Seattle Marathon, I won't be setting any records.

Of course, I will be more prepared than almost anyone else.

Today was one of those days where I had things scheduled in the morning and in the evening, but nothing to do in the middle, which always throws off my balance a bit. Since I didn't get home until after 11:30 last night, I thought it unreasonable to get up at 6 and do my scheduled 12 miles. Unfortunately, as I had to be somewhere by 9:00, this was my only option if I wanted to get the run completed before the heat of the day took over. I still chose to sleep.

So, when I got back from my appointment, I suited up and headed out into the heat. Even though it was a couple degrees cooler than yesterday (technically), the humidity was much higher today which made it feel much hotter. I'll never understand how it can be one temperature "really," but it "feels like" a different temperature. Isn't the entire idea of temperature about how it feels? If it feels like 101, in my opinion, the temperature should actually be considered to be 101, not 96. Unfortunately, the people in charge of meteorology won't return my phone calls.

One mile into the run, I knew I was going to be in trouble. I lost the shirt and put my head down, but there wasn't any relief. It actually took me a mile and a half to realize that I'd forgotten to bring the water I had set aside for the run. This was a huge problem. My entire belief that I could complete this workout was dependent upon me having an energy gel and water at my disposal. No matter, I thought. I can still do this.

After two miles or so, I headed into downtown and the heat went up exponentially. At about 3.5 miles, I had to stop and stand in the shade for a minute or two. I considered my options, and decided that the best plan was to run up to an easy-to-identify turnaround point and then head back, cutting the run short. However, as soon as I started running again, I felt much better for the rest I'd taken, and decided that I could complete the run. It was to be a glorious triumph over the forces of nature that would be celebrated for centuries to come.

Yeah, I made it 9 more blocks.

I was just simply not prepared for the heat. I needed to have water and shade in my plan, and I'd failed at both. Today was a failure of planning. I ended up completing just under 6 miles total while running. I walked more than that (because I had to get home), but I don't want to count those in the record of today's event.

This is becoming a bit of a pattern with me, and I'm not very happy with it. In the last few weeks, I've given myself permission to slack off with alarming regularity. I can justify every instance, but I wonder how much better I'd be doing if I had not let myself stop that first time. I've got to refocus myself toward the goal. Four weeks from today I'll be running through the streets of Seattle, and I want to be confident, not full of excuses. Next Saturday, I'm running 20 miles, and I'm running all of them, if it means I have to get up at 5:00 in the morning to get them done.

That being said, it'd sure be nice if we could get a cold front next weekend.


Saturday's Run:
96 Degrees / Humid
5.98 Miles
45 Minutes, 32 Seconds

Friday, May 27, 2011


"Run, Forrest, run!"

If you're a runner in any kind of populated area, you might have heard someone yell this at you at some point in your running career. You'll be out for a distance run along a busy-ish road, and some high schooler in a pickup truck yells it out the passenger window while the four guys in back laugh hysterically, as though they are the first ones to ever think of such a clever line.

For a while, this really irritated me beyond belief. I'm not bothering you, driver, so don't bother me. When you yell at a complete stranger like that, it belittles the person and whatever activity it is they're doing. And you're not even being creative about it!

In my recent return to running, I've had a few cars yell a few different things at me, and I've given a little thought to why, now, it actually doesn't bother me at all. Maybe I've just gotten older and more mature. Maybe, since I'm running entirely on my own choice these days, I'm in a much better frame of mind when I hear it. Or maybe, just maybe, they're getting more creative.

Just look at the signs that show up along marathon routes for great examples of what to yell. "I've got beer at the finish line!" "Run! Someone's chasing you!" And my personal favorite from the Austin Marathon, a cardboard cutout of Justin Bieber. No explanation. No reason. They girls holding it didn't even seem to be happy about it. There were many signs with far better slogans that I cannot remember due to my unbelievable state of exhaustion in the race. Someday, I'd like to get a little tiny recording device that I can take with me on runs to record amusing moments and ideas for posts. Today, though it wasn't hard to remember the moment that stood out.

As I began the last two miles of my 8-miler this evening, I was almost out of gas. It was 98 degrees and I was running in direct sunlight. Great for my tan, horrible for my energy level. I walked a couple blocks of it, but only for short amounts of time in the shade to give my body some level of recovery. As I pushed through the heat, someone yelled as they drove past, "Yeah, you really do need to lose some weight!"

It surprised me, to say the least. For a moment or two, I was irritated, and then I started to laugh. I was running without a shirt, no doubt blinding passing motorists with my white chest, and I have lost some weight during this season, so I imagine that, with how heavy I was breathing, you could probably see my ribs. I wondered whether the guy was trying to be a jerk, but I made a quick decision. I decided that he was giving me a compliment with an ironic taunt. By yelling about my weight, I told myself, he was congratulating me on going for a run in unbelievably hot weather, and (sure, why not?) wishing me a happy and healthy holiday weekend.

So thanks, for once, drive-by conversationalist. You brightened up my brutal last two miles. And if you really feel like yelling at me in the future, you can always try a "great job," or a "way to go." If those don't suit you, you can always try to make me laugh.

Just keep it witty.

Friday's Run:
98 Degrees / Sunny
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 3 Minutes, 33 Seconds

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


There will be one thing I will remember about this morning's run through the hills.

It's an image of the older gentleman at the bottom of his driveway smiling and waving to me after he picked up his newspaper while two white-tailed deer ran through his front yard unbeknownst to him.

I'm not in Chicago any more.

Last night was a good example of going out, having fun, and still getting to bed on time. These three nights that I've had off of my show this week have proven to be quite restful and rejuvenating, despite the fact that I managed to schedule something on two of them. Monday night I had a couple auditions, and last night, I went to an advance screening of Franklin and Bash downtown, which was followed by a Q&A session with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer. The show itself was okay, or at least it was better than the promos made it look, but that's not saying much. After the screening, though, the two stars were hilarious together, which I guess gives a little more hope to the future of the series. I probably still won't watch it, but it's good to know what's going on.

The point of all this is that even though I went out, I was home early and still in bed by 11:00. which should have made getting up today easy. Unfortunately, I was plagued with a dream last night that involved me delivering a package to some location that was across a river from New York, across a bridge from Canada, and still in sight of Orlando. When they wouldn't let me stop in to Canada really quickly, I got frustrated and started fighting zombies instead. It was odd, and left me strangely exhausted.

So, it was with a bit of effort that I still managed to get up on time today and head out on the road. My knees hurt a little bit in the first half mile or so, and my legs were a little stiff, but I was sure that this was a result of having four days in a row of running for a total of over 30 miles. This was a course I'd run several times before, so I knew that I'd have a little bit of time before I started hitting the bad hills. I let myself stretch out my stride a bit and the heaviness in my legs went away.

Just before I hit the hard uphill, I heard rustling, turned to my right, and saw two deer jumping through several front yards. This was already more fun than I normally have on a morning run, but it wasn't done yet. They ran along with me for about a block and then ahead into some woods. I turned up the hill and heard a lot of rustling on one side. I kept an eye behind me to make sure that I wasn't about to get charged, and by the time I stopped hearing things, I'd crested the hill, without even noticing it.

In fact, I barely noticed any of my hills today, a far cry from the last time I did a hill run. At one point, I remembered a spot of walking from last time about two blocks after I'd run past it. Of course it helped that I wasn't in direct sunlight this time and it was probably 10 degrees cooler, but a part of it had to be that my legs are getting stronger all the time. And if this little victory wasn't enough, that's when I came across my new friend outside of his house, and the deer were still there, twenty minutes later, enjoying his yard.

I know that I'm minutes away from a capital city and all, but it's nice, every now and then, to feel like I'm running in some hidden backroads. One of these days, I'll get the courage to run out to (or back from) Lake Travis, but in the meantime, I'll take what I can get from the other side of Bee Caves Road.

I mean, they've got deer.

Wednesday's Run:
77 Degrees / Clear
5.39 Miles
39 Minutes, 44 Seconds

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Through The Night

What a difference a full night's sleep can make.

For the first time in a few weeks, I actually managed to get into bed before 11:00pm last night, and I must say, it was terrific. What made it even better was that nothing interrupted my sleep. I slept soundly all night long, and woke up about 7 minutes before my alarm went off. It was an all-natural snooze.

With a fiery enthusiasm born of well rested-ness, I popped out of bed and got myself suited up for a morning run. I had a quick flash of inspiration, and decided to take the pup with me as well, since this would be my easiest run of the week. I went back into the bedroom and got the dog, who in my brief absence had occupied my place in the bed against our new house rules. She looked sufficiently guilty, though, so I didn't feel the need to punish her. In fact, I told her that she was being rewarded with some quality "dad" time. She didn't look convinced.

Perhaps that was because it was 78 degrees and humid already. Who knows? The important thing was that we were going for a run, and we were going to like it.

And we did. It was one of my slowest runs of the season, but I really didn't mind. You see, I had a speed session yesterday, I've got hills planned for tomorrow, and today, all I wanted to do was get in my miles, and it was nice to have some company, even if she wasn't over enthusiastic. When we got home, she spent a good deal of time cooling herself on the concrete floors, but within a couple hours, she was popping up again, ready for the next workout.

What made today's run particularly interesting to me was that it wasn't particularly interesting at all. It was slow, but steady. It was hot, but not unbearable. Five miles is a pretty short run for me, but definitely enough to break a sweat. Overall, the entire experience felt very, well, normal. And I love that. I didn't feel like I had to run today, but rather that it was just a part of my routine. It was just what I do. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel different as I fight the ever-increasing hills to the west of our apartment building, but today, I really felt like a runner.

And all I had to do was sleep through the night.

Tuesday's Run:
78 Degrees / Overcast
5.05 Miles
42 Minutes, 3 Seconds

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mr. Rogers Would Be Appalled

I must say, we have remarkable consistency in picking out neighbors.

In the first apartment that my wife and I had together, we had an upstairs neighbor who seemed to wear high-heeled shoes (on hardwood floors) at all times. So, in our second place, we lived on the top floor. Problem solved, right? Well, it would have been, if only the downstairs neighbor didn't love bass-heavy music in his ceiling-mounted speakers. We're talking 7am, Easter morning. Good times.

So when we moved down here, we found a nice place on the ground floor in a quieter part of town. A spot where we were close to things we wanted to do, but far enough out of the mainstream that the college students wouldn't be running rampant through streets.

Instead, we got post-college frat types who seem to believe that Sunday is their holy day of partying. I'm all for a good time, don't get me wrong, but when your party is starting at 12:30am on a Sunday night, I'm not okay with it. Especially when it involves running up and down stairs yelling at one another right outside of my bedroom window. I've already gone out and given a guilt trip to these hooligans. Last night, it was the wife who got to deliver the warning.

And still, they don't seem fazed by any of it. In fact, they decided at around 1:00 that they were going to head down to the pool (which is supposed to close at 10) so that one of the girls had a reason to scream every three minutes or so.

Am I just getting old? I felt like I should shuffle out there with a cane in grey pants up to my armpits and garters on my arms screaming something about whippersnappers. I could snap my suspenders at them to let them know I meant business, and then threaten to call the constable and have them all reprimanded to the proper authorities. 

Then again, I really just wanted to tell them to shut the hell up. So maybe I'm not so old yet.

Still, waking up for an hour in the middle of the night is not conducive to a restful evening, and when the alarm went off, I immediately went back to bed. The thought process that I went through in those 15 seconds was phenomenal. It went something like, The alarm? Already? I've got to shut that off. I hate my neighbors. I can't run right now. I can run later. But it's going to be warm. I'll do a treadmill run. Oh, then I'll be able to stop in the office and report these morons. Wow, I'm going to get a lot done tomorrow. This bed is awesome. Zzzz...

And so I did. Filled with irritation at this interruption at an entirely different apartment than last week's police visit, I made my visit to the office followed by my visit to the gym, where I ran a moderate mile, a quick mile, another moderate, another quick, and then one fast one to end as a way of justifying that I didn't actually get on the roads today. Actually, it was just nice to be able to do any speed work at all following yesterday's monster run. Most importantly, I needed a little variation in my three straight 5-milers this week, and with a treadmill run under my belt, that leaves the next two open for a standard run, and a hill run. So that's what I've got planned.

Provided, of course, that I actually sleep through the night.

Monday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
5 Miles
35 Minutes, 51 Seconds

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Long, Lonely Road

A three-hour workout can be a very lonely time.

One of the benefits to blogging about my workouts has been having something to think about during my exceptionally long runs. Instead of focusing entirely on any pain I might be feeling or how much farther I still have to run, I can think about the topic that I'll cover when I get home.

In a way, it's like having someone to talk to when I'm out there, which is nice. Until I actually make the effort to join some sort of running community, I'm going to be out there by myself for a whole lot of miles, and it gets lonely. Sure, I try to say hello to as many of my fellow runners as I can, but it's not like I'll actually engage anyone in conversation as we go flying by one another. I like running with other people, but any major change in my speed or stride length wreaks havoc on my temperamental knees, so I'll eventually want to find someone who runs my pace and join up with whatever group they've got.

In the meantime, I had 20 miles to do this morning, and I actually went to bed quite excited about it. I had a new pre-workout drink mix that I was going to try, and I'd stocked up on energy gels. I've had my route planned out all week, and of course that 2-0 mark is always a big one to overcome.

The course I'd planned was actually a little more than it needed to be (20.72 miles) because of my 60-80% issue. The hard part of my race mentally is when I am between 60% and 80% done, essentially the fourth mile of five. Knowing this, I wanted my longest run to be as close to 80% of the marathon distance as I could manage. If I can complete 80% of a marathon on my own, then I can do the full one with 26 bands pushing me along the course.

When the alarm went off at 6, I got right out of bed, made my drink, and got everything together that I'd set out last night. Per the instructions, I gave the drink, which is called Buzzerk, and which had been given to me as a sample at a GNC-type store, a few minutes to work. Strangely, it sent so much energy through me that my hands tingled a little bit. I took that to be a good thing, and checked the weather before I left. It was already 78 degrees. At 6:20am.

Despite the heat, I actually felt pretty good for about 13 miles of the run, but the heat took a cumulative toll on me, and as I crossed the 2-hour threshold, I felt myself starting to wear out. I'd made a decision to put a hill in my last four miles as a "work hard when you're tired" training tool, but I'd underestimated just how tired I would be at that point. The temperature had risen to 83 by the time I got to it, and the sun had peaked its head out from behind the clouds. I made it up the entire hill, and then stopped to walk for a bit. I'd already stopped a couple times to catch my breath, so I figured this would just be one more.

But I couldn't get started again. I knew after a minute or so that I was done. The heat had destroyed me, and I wouldn't be running any more today. Which was really okay.

I've had a great few weeks of running. In fact, in the last three weeks, I've run 127 miles, which is sort of incredible. I've got another 20-miler coming up in two weeks, and next Saturday I've got a step-back long run of only 12, which should give me plenty of time to rest and recover. And what's more, I still completed all of my miles today. I just happened to walk the last 3.5 miles.

Today was a victory for the heat, but also for my ability to listen to my body when it's telling me to slow down. I needed to stop when I did, and I don't think it will be too damaging to my overall training.

And two weeks from now, I'll do the whole thing.

Sunday's Run:
78-83 Degrees / Cloudy, Humid
17.39 Miles
2 Hours, 22 Minutes, 48 Seconds

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Own Personal Rapture

What a week.

Six reports, 24 running miles (so far), and one amazing show opened last night.

Following the show, there was a reception for the cast and crew at the adjacent bar where there was plenty of toasting and hand-shaking to go around. While it was a lovely time, it also meant that I got home around 12:30am, and I started thinking about the 20 miles I had scheduled for today. It was not a pleasant thought.

I checked the weather, which showed the temperature only getting higher for the next six hours. Re-checking my route, I wondered what kind of congestion I might encounter from the Congress Ave Mile that would be run. Essentially, I lost all excitement for the run in the course of a few minutes as my energy level dropped through the floor.

So I made a decision. Clearly, if I were to get up in 6 hours and go for a twenty-mile run, it would be a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Combine the extreme distance with staying up late and a terrible night's sleep the night before, and I was setting myself up for failure. I cannot fail at this distance, so I made the choice to switch the run to Sunday. While I want to stay as close to my official training schedule as I possibly can, I also have to acknowledge that this week presented a very unusual confluence of stressors, and the best thing I could do for myself would be to let myself rest and try it a day later.

Instead of getting up at 6 and putting on running clothes, I got up at nine and moved to the couch, where I spent some quality time with my wife and dog. It was heaven. The wife made some eggs and sausage for breakfast, and then we headed to CostCo, which is always a joyous place to spend a Saturday.

Running should not be an additional stress in my life. It should be the thing I use to break the stress. In order for this to work, I can't let myself get crazy over scheduling at the expense of my health and mental state. So today, I slept.

And tomorrow, I run.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's Not The Heat...

It's running in the heat.

Also, it's the humidity. Also, it's 3 a.m. domestic disputes and police visits twelve feet above my head. Also, it's the heat.

Tonight is our show's big opening, so the one thing I absolutely had to do last night was get some sleep. Since I've been trying (though failing this week) to get up earlier and facilitate my training and energy schedule, I have planned to sleep less. This only works, however, if I actually get to sleep for the hours that I have chosen. It's very difficult to do this with drunk neighbors absolutely screaming at one another in the bedroom immediately upstairs from ours.

I actually got out of bed and contemplated what I should do, when the screaming stopped. I listened for a while to make sure that I didn't hear any signs of something that I would need to report, but it mostly consisted of stomping footsteps and slamming doors at that point. I crawled back into bed.

Then the police showed up, choosing to talk to these folks outside, right above our bedroom window. The wife was up, too, so we talked a bit, but I did not end up getting back to sleep for another hour. Needless to say, when the alarm went off, my body was not prepared to be cooperative. I curled up and slept a while longer, choosing to do my five mile at-pace run a little later in the day. This was the biggest mistake I could have made.

For some reason, 83 degrees doesn't sound that warm to me anymore. I mean, we were in the 90s back in March, so clearly 83 should be a manageable temperature. As I headed down the hill, though, I knew I was going to be fighting today. The air was thick with water. In fact, they'd predicted thunderstorms for this afternoon, I'm sure based on the extreme level of humidity. It felt like I was running through sand into a heat lamp. Even as I crossed the first mile in a rather exceptional time, I knew this was going to be harder than it seemed.

By the time I hit my turnaround, I was sapped for energy. I'm sure a good portion of this came from not enough sleep or calories in my day, but the vast majority of what remained had clearly been sweat out in the first two miles. I shifted myself down a gear, dodged one Lexus, and let myself cruise for the rest of the time. I even allowed myself to walk a bit, something I don't like doing, and in the end, I did something I almost never do. I took my shirt off.

In recent years, I'd developed a thing about running without a shirt, as though anyone who did so was just trying to show off, but I proved myself ten kinds of wrong today. You see, I've discovered the flaw in my running shirts from Champion (who I actually did not know still existed as a company). They're great shirts for getting the sweat away from the body, but they don't dry it out. They just suck it up, adding weight to the run, so much so that I had to switch which hand held it on the rest of the run so that my arms didn't get tired. I'll keep running in them, because they're comfortable, but I'm beginning to understand why some people pay ungodly amounts of money for tech t-shirts.

As a hauled myself up the last hill, I had a stroke of brilliance that I could have used about 13 hours earlier. If I had been thinking, when I woke up and had an unreasonable amount of adrenaline flowing through me at 3 a.m., I would have just gotten out of bed, suited up, and done my 20-mile run right then. Get it out of the way when there's not traffic, and the air is as nice and cool as Texas gets. Then, I wouldn't have anything to dread tomorrow morning. As it stands, I'm a little concerned.

It's only getting down the mid-70s tonight, and there are thunderstorms on the forecast, though I've pretty much given up on believing anything about rain more than two hours in the future. I really need to get as much of this run completed before the sun hits the sky as I can. Otherwise, I'm looking at 4 times the distance I ran today in the abject misery that I felt for my last two miles. Which is fine, I guess. I mean, that's what I tell myself. What if, I say, race day is really hot and humid? Then I'll be ready. Right?

Well, the high in Seattle tomorrow is 62, so I don't think I've got anything to worry about there.

Friday's Run:
83 Degrees / Cloudy, Humid
5.05 Miles
35 Minutes, 48 Seconds

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Today marks my 100th blog post on my journey to run 50 marathons, and I feel like I should say something profound.

I've got nothing.

For a little added inspiration, I went back and read my first entry from all the way back in January. What shocked me most was how bad I am at writing. 

It did, however, get me thinking about the difference in my mindset since then. When I wrote it, the entire thing came from a very idealistic place. Some part of my brain has always believed that I was invincible, and that my body would do anything I asked of it. I did not consider at that time any of the logistics that would be involved in this mission. The airfare, finding the time to run, etc. All I thought about was whether or not I could run 26.2 miles 50 times, and I knew I could do that.

Now, I'm approaching this endeavor from a much more analytical and intelligent standpoint. I'm reviewing training plans in an effort to properly prepare my body and continue to improve my times. Although I currently can't afford to buy what I would need, I'm studying different diet plans to find ways to maximize my energy intake.

More importantly, I'm seeing this for the lifelong commitment that it really is. This is not simply a hobby that I'll do on weekends. Running has become a major component of my life again, which I'm very happy about. Five miles has become almost a throw-away run. I'm waking up earlier (often) and yet I still feel more rested and energized. I think I'm finally at a point where I can call myself a runner once more and really mean it. I've been at it almost continuously for nearly five months now, which is easily longer than I've maintained a workout schedule at any point in the last eight years.

And in all this accomplishment, I don't know that I'm any wiser. I'm trying to work on my form, I acknowledge the need to regulate my sleep and food intake, and I've certainly bettered my exercise wardrobe, but other than that, I don't feel like that much has changed. 

So what has it been for?

Me. That's what it's been for. I've run over 400 miles since the beginning of the year, which is just incredible to me. My times are dropping, and every time I come in under my goal time for a run, I am absolutely elated. If I can just hold myself to a more stringent routine of getting up and out the door, then I can start almost every day with that kind of positive energy.

But most importantly, I feel like I'm doing something big. I've always wanted to do something that no one else has done, or at least that not many have done, and I think this might be it for me. Running a marathon alone is a spectacular accomplishment, but doing one in every state is something many talk about, but relatively few, most likely, have actually done. And maybe some day my blog will get a following. And maybe my times will be good enough to get mentioned in something people care about. And maybe, just maybe, I can find a way to make a living with all of this. But for sure, I'll have set an extremely long-term goal, and I'll have accomplished it through sheer force of will, overcoming whatever obstacles happen to be in my way.

For example, keeping a puppy running when she'd rather lay down in the grass. Or apologizing to the person who I thought had run a red light but actually had a green arrow. Or avoiding grackles that attack the aforementioned puppy. And that was all just today.

Life is good, and I believe it's better because running is involved. I've got many, many more posts in me, and many, many more miles to run, but I've enjoyed it so far, and I hope to keep it up.

Here's to the next hundred!

Thursday's Run:
75 Degrees / Cloudy
5.05 Miles
40 Minutes, 37 Seconds

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time Found

Hal Higdon knows what he's talking about.

I was reading through his training plan for this week again before I stepped out of the house this afternoon, and found that he hit my issues right on the head. Essentially, he mentioned that an 8-mile run shouldn't be all that difficult for us (his trainees) at this point. The real trouble is finding the time mid-week to get that done. As I mentioned last night, this was my current issue.

Though I managed to get up on time today, I did not get out on the roads as I had intended. Instead, I went straight to work, hoping to get myself caught up to where I really needed to be. I busted it for nearly 10 hours, and at a little after my usual quitting time, I had gotten myself to exactly where I needed to be. And because I have a great wife, she immediately reminded me to get out on the road.

Now it was a matter of which run to complete. Obviously, I was only going to get one in today, so should I do today or yesterday's? I didn't have to think for too long. My slow five-miler is meant to be shared with my dear dog, and it was too warm to take her with me at 4:15pm, so that meant I was doing yesterday's 8. I stepped out the door into incredible heat and humidity, and wondered just how this was going to go.

I was a quarter mile in before I remembered that I was supposed to be working on my form these days. I corrected my arms and stopped kicking the back of my leg. The difference in speed is really surprising, but I wanted to be careful. I still had a long way to go, and it was really, really warm outside.

The entire workout was an experiment in contradiction. My legs and feet felt great, no pain whatsoever, but each step also brought a fresh wave of sweat down my forehead. There was a stiff breeze that felt great on wet skin, but also would give me a mouthful of pain heading up my final hill. I wanted to go faster to be done and get into some shade, but I wanted to slow down for fear of my body giving up before my miles were complete. And as I thought about any and all of these issues, my form would break down again.

At around mile 3, my brain told me to stop worrying about form today. I was squeezing a run into a too-small time block, and just getting through the miles was a victory. There was no point in giving myself something else to worry about when I was already tired.

Then it occurred to me. When I'm tired is when I have to worry about form most. And better that I do it 5 miles into an 8 mile run than have to learn it at mile 15 of 26. So I tried, when I could focus on it, to keep my form as best I could.

Even all this energy and focus couldn't change the fact that I had to finish with a half mile uphill into the wind with the sun on my back. And that's when Linkin Park took over. Yes, I took music with me today, feeling I'd probably need something to hold my attention around mile 6. ( I was right.) Surprisingly, it was one of their slower songs, "Leave Out All The Rest" that wins the honor of hero song today. Even with some Girl Talk and G Love, both of whom are still great running fuel, it was this LP song that had exactly the right tempo to give me a step per beat and get me up the hill almost without realizing it.

I ended up being late for rehearsal, and I'm sitting backstage still a little exhausted, but I got my miles in today, even after completing everything else that I had to get done. That's the victory that I needed this week. This means that I've got two fives in a row before Saturday's peak run of 20 miles. Every time I make myself get out there and start running, it's that much more confidence I have the next time I run. It's not just about the miles, but about developing the will to run them.

Of course, it helps to have a wife who moves you, too.

Wednesday's Run:
86 Degrees / Sunny, Windy
8.11 Miles
57 Minutes, 35 Seconds

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


You never can tell when it's going to be "one of those days."

Later in the afternoon, you might think back and say, "Yeah, I should have seen that coming," but in the midst of the downward spiral, it's really tough to see how it all went wrong. For me, today started off badly because, for the second day in a row, I gave myself the option of going back to sleep. Yesterday it was a semi-honest mistake of forgetting to turn the sound back on my phone and then deciding I didn't have enough time to run before work. Today it was sheer laziness.

Credit goes to my wife, who told me to get my butt moving both days, but I just wasn't feeling it. This week has been incredibly long, and it's not going to let up any time soon. In addition to the tech rehearsals for my show that monopolize my evenings, it's also reporting week for every one of my clients at work. Couple that with a 40+ mile week of marathon training, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

So this morning, I chose to sleep later, a decision I would regret. You see, with the reports I have to complete, I've got a lot of last-minute work to do, checking through certain things. It's taking me much, much longer than I had anticipated, so much so that I ended up working about 11 hours today. It's tough to say exactly, because a couple of those hours were done in between scenes backstage tonight, since this stuff's got to get done early in the week. I'll be up early and at it again tomorrow, even though I just got home from rehearsal.

I realized early this afternoon that I was not going to be able to find the time for my run today. The only time I could have used was the morning, and I had squandered that. There are eight miles hanging over my head right now.

But I'll tell you this much. I've gone three weeks without missing a run, and I don't intend to let that streak fade now. My current plan is to get up tomorrow morning and take the pup for my scheduled 5-mile run. Then, depending on how the day goes, I'll do one of two things. Either I'll make up my eight in the afternoon, or, if things are too crazy, I'll save it for Thursday morning when I have scheduled resting. I'm not going to lose those miles. Not now. Not this close to the race.

Life will find ways to destroy your running schedule if you let it.

I won't let it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Arm Adjustment

I have three specific issues with my running stride.

The first is the most obvious. I bounce. When I run, I take unusually high steps and I have a longer hang time than any of my coaches have ever wanted. Several of them tried to work with me to change it, the idea being that any energy I'm spending to go up is not being used to go forward. There were several exercises we did to try and keep me closer to the ground, but it only slowed me down, as I was fighting against my basic motions. Eventually, each coach decided that it was too much trouble to change me, and they just made me run faster the way I already did. Essentially, this one doesn't bother me at all.

My next issue is a little more annoying. My left foot comes in too close to my right leg and often makes contact mid-stride. It's not enough that it throws off my balance or anything like that, but it's enough force that any design on the inside of the left shoe scratches at my leg. I don't even notice it until I get in the shower post-run and feel the unmistakable agony of hot water on missing skin. I'm sure there's a reason why I do this, but I haven't figured it out yet.

The final issue was something I didn't even realize until yesterday when I was reading a Runner's World article about the debate on perfect form and how much it actually matters. What caught my eye was a little sidebar about arm movement. In ideal running form, the arms should move only forward and backward, not sideways across the body. As I was reading it, I thought about my stride, and was sure that this did not apply to me. Within my first half mile, to my surprise, I found out that I was wrong.

My arms were crossing diagonally across my chest. This creates a twisting motion, putting undue stress on the hips, and wasting energy. Where vertical movement of arms adds to the body's forward momentum, lateral movement takes away from it and could very well cause injury.

Shocked as I was to find that my arms were so wrong, I felt this was a great time to do some real training. As much as I could, I focused on keeping  my arms and legs moving forward, not side to side. The trouble here is that as soon as my mind wanders away, which it does frequently, my form immediately reverted to its usual self, but I was quick to readjust as soon as I recognized what was going on. And the craziest part of all of this was that it absolutely worked.

When I changed my arms, my legs followed, avoiding lateral movement and, perhaps most interestingly, moving faster. At my one-mile mark, I checked my watch to see 6:30, and I wasn't even breathing hard yet. I was shocked, especially given the 85 degree sunshine that was bearing down on me. My final time was downright amazing, and I credit it entirely to my new focus on form.

These things don't happen overnight, of course, and certainly not in one five-mile run, so it's only natural that I would drop back into bad habits when my mind wanders. For the next few weeks, though, I'm going to try and watch my form for these little changes, and hopefully they'll be well-established in my body by the time the race comes along.

If only I could stop bouncing.

Monday's Run:
85 Degrees / Sunny
5.05 Miles
34 Minutes, 0 Seconds

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seattle Rock 'N Roll Marathon Prep

Giving the body time to rest can help the brain get active.

Today is technically a cross-training day, but Hal suggests that as I get closer to the actual race day, I take it easier on some of the other physical activities in my life. As it happened, we were signed up for the Austin Pets Alive Walk-a-thon Wag-a-thon, which gave us a nice 2.5-mile walk with the pup and took care of my exercise requirement for the day.

So, the question becomes what to do with the rest of the day. I've got rehearsal tonight, but in the meantime, I decided to go through all of my Seattle research and put it all together.

First, I took a look at the weather. Seattle's got a reputation for being cold, rainy, and overcast pretty much all the time. At least, that's what I've been told. So, I figured I'd actually look into the facts. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that I've been partly misinformed. True, it's cloudy or partly cloudy 300 days a year, but the total rainfall is actually less than they have in New York. Summers are reportedly warm and dry, with average highs around 75, which is currently the average low in Texas.

The real issue is that, while it doesn't rain hard, it tends to be misty and rainy a lot. This is a fairly easy fix overall. It simply means that I've got to stretch and warm up with a little more intensity. One thing I've got going for me is that my training temperature will be so much higher than race day temperature, so during the race, I'll feel great. I've just got to remember that the weather isn't going to do me any favors getting my legs ready for the workout.

Some other facts - Austin and Seattle do not have much difference in their elevation, so I don't have to worry about thin air. Seattle is smaller in population and area, which don't really affect my run, but I found it interesting.

Natural factors aside, my real concern becomes the course itself. There are a lot of out-and-back moments, which can be sort of exhausting, particularly watching someone else come back when you've still got a way to go to your turn-around. There are three of these U-turns, which I'm not wild about, but then half my training runs are out-and-back, so I should be used to it by now. As with most runs, the real challenge comes from elevation. It's tough to compare elevation to training, so I'll compare it between races. First, Austin:

On this shot, it doesn't look that bad, but those up and down spikes in miles 11-16 took all the wind out of my sails. They don't look that bad, but they're the sharp uphills that can destroy your race if you're not ready for them. So, now we look at Seattle.

What I like about this course, is that it tends to be even. There are none of the sharp peaks and valleys that Austin had. There are three major climbs that I've got to be ready for. The first is early, and I want to make sure I maintain on that one, rather than push it and give up all my energy before 5 miles. The next challenge comes shortly before the first half is complete, much like it did in my last race.

After mile 21, the course is almost universally downhill, so when I face the third slow, exhausting climb, I can keep those last few miles in my head. Since most of my training runs finish with a long, slow climb up a hill, I should be able to remind myself how much easier this finish will be. The only thing I've got to watch out for are short, sharp climbs up on-ramps and down spillways that might not show up on a broad, inexact map.

I think I'm in the right place for my training, both in terms of mileage and location. The weather should be better, and the course won't be worse. I've got two 20-mile runs in the next three weeks, and after that, I start my taper. I'm excited for everything related to the race at this point, but I'm still working on my race plan. It's a delicate balance between wanting to run smart to ensure a solid performance at the end, but not wanting to finish the race believing I could have done more.

Still, I've got a much bigger problem than creating a race plan.

I've also got to follow it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Little Victories

Even in a 19-mile run, it's the little things that make running a joy instead of a chore.

This morning, it was when the alarm went off less than 6 hours after I got into bed, and yet my body was ready to go. It was the beautiful weather and the unknown course I'd plotted. It was each hill that I conquered. It was my pace, though slower than last week's, still faster than my goal for the day. It was the hundreds (no exaggeration) of other runners who were out this morning, many of whom took moments to share a smile or wave.

But most importantly, it was remembering to put band-aids over my nipples to prevent chafing. Silly? Of course. Necessary? Absolutely.

I got home late last night, but I still managed to get everything organized for this morning's run before I got into bed. Despite the late hour, it's always better to have my equipment laid out in order to decrease the amount of thought that I have to put into anything at that hour of the morning. While I would like to be out the door before 6 am, I knew that simply wasn't going to happen, so I let it slide half an hour before I made it out the door.

The sun is rising earlier and earlier, and I was actually almost in full light by the time I started running. I decided to run without music again, since I won't have any 6 weeks from today. Instead, I figured I'd keep track of my miles with my spiffy new ($10 at Target) watch. Miles one, two, and three were all too fast, despite going uphill on the third. Finally at mile four I got myself under control, and I just hoped it wouldn't reflect too poorly on my overall performance.

The course I'd planned out for today had several sustained hills, some much sharper than others, in an effort to best reflect the course in Seattle. Of course, nothing actually prepares you for race-day hills, and the RNR course has some doozies, but at least this way I know I can push them late in the race. And push them I did. The one thing I really focused on today, as far as improving my performance, was maintaining effort up hills. That didn't mean that I ran harder, or even at the same speed, but I put the same effort into hill work that I put into flat ground, which makes me slower up the hills, but keeps me on an even keel for the whole workout, which is very important.

By mile 7 I was in completely unfamiliar territory, something I try to do with my long runs. Looking at the new neighborhoods makes those parts of the run more interesting, and it gets my brain in a place where it's exciting to run unknown roads. Since I won't be able to do much course recon for June, I figure this is the best mindset in which to get myself.

I would end up stopping twice to refuel. Yesterday, I realized that I was out of my energy gels, and since payday comes next week, I was out of luck for today. So, I decided to take along a protein bar and just eat half of that at my two fuel stops. This was not the best plan. They're difficult to eat quickly, and I ended up stopping for several minutes. Of course, it doesn't matter in the long run, but I want to run the whole distance as close as I can to non-stop whenever possible. Still, given that these were really my only two stops of any significance, I'm not worried about it.

In fact, in the last 4.5 miles (after stop number 2), I began to think about potential spots to stop and rest on the rest of the course. As I approached the first one, with 4 miles to go, I made a decision not to stop, and instead to keep pushing myself forward. That one decision made it easier and easier to make that decision for the rest of the run. Through three more, "I can stop for a second" moments, each time I took a sip from the CamelPak and kept right on moving. As I crested the last hill, I smiled, knowing what I had just conquered, especially only three weeks off of injury. By forcing myself to slow down, I've actually increased my overall speed, as well as the likelihood of a PR in Seattle.

When I got home, my legs told me just what they thought of me, and I can't repeat it here, because my mother reads this blog. The good news is that tomorrow is a cross-training day, which I will spend doing a Walkathon to benefit a local shelter. As for today, well, today I just get to rest. It's a day off rehearsal before we start 6-hour-a-night rehearsals through opening on Friday, so I'll be catching up on whatever it is I need to catch today, eating just as much food as I want, and laying on the couch with my puppy.

It's always the little things.

Saturday's Run:
67 Degrees / Clear, Sunny
19.01 Miles
2 Hours, 29 Minutes, 37 Seconds

Friday, May 13, 2011

Too Fast, Too Early

Little tip: if you're going to do a pace run, do it at pace.

And not in a Texas afternoon.

I've been in a bit of a mood for about 24 hours. I was disappointed with something last night, and that carried over to today. When I woke up this morning, right on time, I headed into the living room for some core work before I hit the road. I laid down on my newly acquired exercise mat (thank you, yard sales) and let my arms stretch out before I began the work.

Then I woke up twenty minutes later. Awesome.

Realizing that my body was not into it this morning, I curled back up in bed for a little while more. As much as I like getting up on time, and I really do, trying to establish a new sleep schedule in the midst of what are essentially 13-hour work days is not the healthiest of choices. You have to listen to your body, and mine was telling me to sleep.

So, I started my work day, but I was in a funk pretty much the entire time. I figured that if I did something else to occupy my mind, it would go away, but instead it just got deeper. By the time afternoon rolled around, I was in a thoroughly discouraged state. I'd wanted to write a post yesterday about my research for Seattle, but the Blogger site was down for an extended period of time. I wasn't being as productive in work as I needed to be, and really everything came down to one major issue.

I needed to run.

My body has acclimated to motion and activity, and when I don't get it done early in the morning, my day feels like it never really started. I took my lunch break to do some lifting out on the patio, and then spent twenty minutes getting myself psyched up to go for a run. I was starting to feel queasy, and eventually I just had to say, "No. Don't think. Just get out there." Without another pause, I headed out the door.

It felt nice out, but I knew it would get really warm quickly. Today was scheduled to be a marathon pace run, meaning that I shoot for the same time every mile, or at least to average what I want to run on race day. I picked a pace time slightly faster than the fastest mile I hope to run in Seattle, and as I headed down the hill, I was focused on keeping that pace. At two miles, I was one minute ahead. Not good. I tried slowing down to the pace over the next couple miles, but as my mile markers are a little vague, I wasn't quite sure what my exact times were.

The one thing I did know was that it was too fast. I took a quick water break around the halfway point, and would take two more before I was done. In the mid-afternoon in Texas, the sun is directly above, meaning that there was almost no shade on my path. Still, despite the fact that I was exhausted, I didn't have any pain. None. Not even as I drove myself up the final hill, out of breath, sweating buckets, and finishing 2.5 minutes ahead of pace. Though I was mad at myself for not keeping to my plan, I couldn't help but celebrate the time.

So, did I learn anything today? Let's see. I learned to slow the heck down, and the whole thing should be much easier. My pace today was 25 seconds per minute faster than my planned fastest mile on race day, so if I can do that for eight, I should be able to slow it down for longer. I learned that old people don't like being yelled at for their driving, even when they almost kill two people by blowing through a red light. Actually, they might just not have heard me. And I learned that the frat boy look of plaid shorts and yellow polo shirt (popped collar) apparently works as running attire for some people. Apparently.

Not much, really.

Friday's Run:
84 Degrees / Sunny
8.11 Miles
55 Minutes, 23 Seconds

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Up The Calories

I'm not the smartest guy in the world when it comes to running.

As I've mentioned before, all the advice and information that I offer in this blog comes essentially from personal experience, common sense, and Runner's World. For the most part, these tips make total sense, and, when possible, I try to adhere to them as closely as I can. However, there are many things about my running routine that are just plain dumb.

First, I have an awkward running stride. I bounce a lot, and any number of coaches have tried to teach me otherwise, only to find it slow me down. Someone once told Michael Johnson (Olympic gold medalist in the 200 and 400) that his stride was ridiculous, which it is. They said to him, if you can go that fast with your weird style, do you have any idea what would happen if you fixed your form? He responded that he knew exactly what would happen. He'd lose.

There are several other things that I do wrong. I don't stretch enough (though I'm getting better), I rarely seek any sort of medical attention for injuries, and I push myself too hard on runs that are not designed to be speed work (see yesterday's post). However, there's one thing I've been doing wrong the last week or so that I need to change immediately, and that is having bad eating habits. Not (just) eating bad food, but missing meals entirely.

For a couple weeks, life has been a little hectic. I have been getting home after 11 while trying to be awake before 6. We've been involved in several other appointments throughout the week, and as a result, I have not been eating regularly. It hasn't been too much of a problem thus far, but about half a mile into today's run, I knew it was going to be a fighter kind of morning.

Being the third 5-mile day in a row, I wanted to do my hill work course. It's a quiet neighborhood, but the hills are pretty rough.

I would have done this yesterday if I'd been up before the sun, so it was still in my head that I wanted to get in some hills this week. However, I went back and forth in my mind on what to do, even to the point that I got to my starting line. Still, I decided that I needed to get in some up and down time, and I didn't want to add it in to my 8-miler on Friday, so off I went. Almost immediately, I felt myself having to dig deep for energy, and that's when I realized that I hadn't had dinner the previous night. In fact, all I'd eaten since my speed work was a protein bar.

My mind hit reset. Today would absolutely not be about speed. It was to be about covering the miles and defeating the hills, which I did without too much further drama, though I do marvel how early it gets unbearably humid. Only near the end, when I had to stop for the one traffic light on my course, did I feel light-headed at all. I took some deep breaths and finished out my last half mile or so nice and easy. When I got home, I weighed myself (as I do after every run) to find that I'd dropped 3.5 pounds that I simply did not have to lose. I've already had my protein, and a big bowl of cereal is next.

The moral, if there is one, is that I've got to make time for all aspects of my health, meals included. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, and cut back on the snacking. It all seems so simple, but putting it into practice is where the trouble comes in. Still, if my big concern right now is that I'm not eating enough, then I've got some easily solvable problems. I'll use the next two days to fuel up for the my weekend of 27 miles, the most I'll run in two days until the weekend of the marathon. Given my recent successes in training, I'm not too worried about being a little slower today. There were many factors involved, all of which are easily controlled. As long as I plan ahead, I shouldn't have any problems.

I've just got to keep gas in the tank.

Wednesday's Run:
76 Degrees / Cloudy
5.39 Miles
42 Minutes, 37 Seconds

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Up To Speed

"Speed is mostly for ego, but there's nothing wrong with a weekly ego boost." -Jeff Galloway

This was one of those days when I really wanted an ego boost.

Despite getting to bed at a reasonable hour last night, I didn't have a great night's sleep. Why, you ask? Because at around 4am, our upstairs neighbors decided to come down and sit outside our bedroom window talking for 15 minutes. The only bright side of this was that I got to be the grumpy old man and walk out the door, shaming them into going back into their apartment. Unfortunately, it also severely interrupted my sleep cycle, so when the alarm went off, I was not really up to the challenge.

I managed to get out the bedroom door and into the living room, but I heard the pup following, and not wanting her to go back in and wake up the wife, I invited the dog out to the room with me. Then, I thought about how nice it would be to take her for a run, since we hadn't gone on one in a while, but as it was not yet 6, I didn't want to take her out. I set an alarm for 30 minutes and we dozed on the couch. When next I woke up, it was to my wife getting ready for work, and the window had closed.

So, I went to work, taking some time for an errand or two, and then back to the desk, but I just could not focus today. There are lots of other things going on in my life right now, and I really needed to sort some of it out, which was causing me to zone out while I was attempting to work. This was unacceptable.

To the gym!

It's too warm in the afternoons to run outdoors these days, so I headed to the gym. I did all my core and arm work first, knowing that the probability of my wanting to do so after the run would be extremely low. It went quickly, and I felt really good as I got on the treadmill for the first time in several weeks.

I'm not sure what it is, but there's something about the treadmill that makes me want to run really fast. Most likely, it's that the faster I run, the sooner I'm done, and treadmill running is dull business. Today, I started out at my 8.0 pace and I felt so good for the first .25 (lap), that I made a snap decision. Each lap, I would increase my speed by .1 until I reached 9.9 for my last lap. The way I saw it, I would barely notice the difference from lap to lap, and it would give me some great strength training. What's more, I know that I'm going to need work on my late-race speed, so it would give me negative split training.

For the entire workout, I was doing math, figuring out what my previous split was and what my next one would be. You'd be amazed at how quickly that makes the time go by. When all is said and done, my miles were as follows:

14:26 (7:02)
21:09 (6:43)
27:35 (6:26)
33:46 (6:11)

I was absolutely dripping with sweat, and near exhaustion, but I haven't had speed like that in some time, and certainly not without pain. My confidence is through the roof right now. My head is clear. My spirits are high.

And my neighbors are quiet.

Tuesday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
5 Miles
33 Minutes, 46 Seconds

Monday, May 9, 2011

Better Marathon Weather?

It's not that I necessarily hate BMW drivers.

In fact, some of the most fun, most generous people I know drive BMWs. However, it seems like the vast majority of the time I find myself cursing a driver (whether I'm on foot or in the next car over), the car on the receiving end of my ill will is either a Lexus, Mercedes, or BMW, and most are that last one.

Perhaps it's something about the cars themselves, or that reckless people just like to drive cars that say, "I'm fun, but stay the heck away from me." Whatever the reason, I've grown to be especially cautious of anyone in a luxury car, BMWs in particular.

So, in the interest of fairness, I felt the need to relay this story today. On most of my runs, I pass a McDonald's restaurant, and their driveway is a little weird. It empties out on a sharp downhill into a very busy intersection, and as a result, there almost always seems to be someone waiting to get out of their parking lot. Sometimes they'll see me coming and wait in the lot until I've passed. Other times, they just sit there, blocking the sidewalk, forcing me to run around them and vault over the landscaping in order to continue my run.

Today, as I neared McD's, there was a BMW sitting across my path, and I had my usual moment of exasperation, when suddenly the driver looked up, saw me, and put his car in reverse so as to clear the sidewalk.

In addition to my looks of distaste at drivers who stop on crosswalks and make blind turns without regard to pedestrians, I do try to thank anyone who does it right. Any time someone stops before the sidewalk, or lets me cross, or really in any way acknowledges my presence on the road, I give a wave and mouth the words "Thank You" since they probably wouldn't be able to hear me anyway. My friend in the BMW today had his window down, so I made sure to give a strong vocal, "Hey, thanks!" as I went past. He smiled and waved.

There is nothing quite so wonderful as a pleasant surprise. This wasn't my only one for the day. Predictably, my first mile was full of stiffness and slight aches from Saturday's adventure, but wonderfully, all those cobwebs were worked out by the end of the first mile. Even more exciting was the fact that I was able to maintain my pace through my last mile, despite the fact that it was already getting too warm. I got to bed a little late last night, so I was a little later out the door this morning, but you can bet that I'm going to be up as early as possible for the rest of the week. With temperatures not expected to get below 70 at any time, I can't afford a late morning run, let alone anything in the afternoon.

I've got to do some research this week about Seattle. I want to get together a course profile, including when to expect hills, how many turns we've got, and what kind of weather I should be expecting. This heat has really got me wondering about how I should be training, since I'd like it to be as close to race conditions as possible. As of right now, I'm guessing cooler with rain, but that's just what I've heard about Seattle. I've got no actual data to back that up, so I want to put it together and hopefully have a course profile post on Thursday.

Up early on a Monday morning means that I've got a great deal of momentum for the rest of my week, and I've got plans:
1) Run all my miles
2) Work all my hours
3) Make all my rehearsals
4) Sleep as much as possible given 1, 2 and 3
5) Course Research!

Oh, and smile at BMW drivers.

Monday's Run:
72 Degrees / Humid
5.05 Miles
36 Minutes, 42 Seconds

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Resting In Motion

Hal Higdon is rapidly becoming my hero.

One of the things I like most about the training plan that I'm doing this season is that the day after my long runs is a "cross-training" day. This can mean anything from biking to lifting to just walking a great deal. What's important is that I'm not running, and I'm not sitting still, which is really the best course of action following an exceptionally long run.

With the adrenaline rush I got from yesterday's run, I basically decided that I didn't want to stop, and I really haven't yet. After my run, we headed to a yard sale to benefit a local shelter, after which we went to Target, which is like Toys R Us to twenty-somethings with an under-furnished apartment.

Next came rehearsal, which was thoroughly enjoyable. I picked up some food on the way home, we made margaritas, and then walked down the hill to Zilker Park for a free production of Love's Labour's Lost. After the show, we walked back home, curled up and fell asleep nice and early, exhausted from a long day of doing only the things we wanted to do.

This morning, we slept until after 9, which felt great. Neither of us turned on our alarms, and we just slept until we felt like waking up. When that happened, we got a little bit of breakfast, and then went downtown to the Pecan Street Festival which was nice, though a little bit too warm. There was a lot of great art down there, but I didn't happen to have an extra $400 for any of the really good stuff, so we just enjoyed what we saw and continued walking around.

From there it was up to Hickory Street for a little lunch, and then back home for some television and relaxation before I head back to rehearsal tonight for our first night on the actual stage.

That, my friends, is a weekend. It was full of interesting experiences, lots of family time, and not too much money spent. That's the perfect storm, in my opinion.

I had a little bit of leg stiffness when I woke up this morning, but it had dissipated by midday, just from getting out and walking a bit. I wouldn't say that I actually cross-trained today, necessarily, but I did keep myself in motion. This evening, we'll be working on a lot of physical things from my show, so that might help, too. I'm not too concerned about it, because I'm looking forward to getting back on the road tomorrow. After a strong performance on Saturday, I have a great deal of confidence going into these next few weeks.

I'm at the maximum level of miles per week that I will have at any point in this season, which is over 40 miles for 3 of the next 4 weeks. For that reason, I'll be taking my rest days very seriously. Combine that with the fact that I'll be starting technical rehearsals tomorrow night, and I run the risk of getting seriously drained. So I have to be smart, strong, and devoted.

And tomorrow I've got to get up early.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

PR, Not BQ

Comparing my long runs from week to week, I have this week added 1.6 miles, and in my time, taken away one second.

It was a good morning.

First, allow me to apologize for the oddity of this font, as I'm sure it's different. I wrote this in a text edit program first, as I didn't have internet access earlier.

This was one of those mornings where I woke up and had no idea where I was, or what I was supposed to be doing. When I wasn't sure what day it was, even. And the reason, I think, was that I actually got a little extra sleep last night. We had dinner and went home, and I was in bed well before 11 last night. We've got other plans for this evening, but figured it'd be nice to be in bed early before a 17 mile run.

After a few minutes, I was clear-headed and ready for the morning's challenge. I'd set out everything the night before, including loading up my energy gels, filling my Camel Pack, and putting all my necessities into a convenient pile. I dressed quickly and did my glute-strengthening exercises, which also serve to warm up my legs.

As I headed down the hill, I started thinking about the run ahead. I'd planned a new course last week, involving lots of new roads, several cute neighborhoods, and some killer hills, particularly in the first three miles. Before bed last night, I went through the course once more, determined the mile markers, and made double sure I knew all of the turns. I even wrote them all down on a sheet of paper which I put with my other running gear. Though I did not plan to look at it, I wanted to have the reference available, should I need it.

My goal, as I mentioned before was to finish the run and not get lost. I had no plans to shoot for any kind of pace, but I did some quick math, and figured that if last week I could do 15.5 in 2:12:10, then I should be able to complete 17.2 in under 2:30. This was my official goal. At the first mile, I was way ahead of that pace, having run 7:20, but this was down hill, and the next two miles were going to be up.

In fact, it felt like 90% of the run was uphill. Of course, that's not at all possible, but for the most part it felt like there were long, slow ups and only short, sharp downs, which are not able to be enjoyed.

And yet, I felt pretty strong, perhaps surprisingly. My iPod "watch" case popped off its band, and I had to stop and move the player to another spot and put the case away. At the next mile marker, 6 it turned out, I checked the time to discover that I was over two minutes under 8:00, much faster than I had intended to go. But I felt great. 

At 55 minutes, I had an energy gel, and discovered that I prefer Power Bar's gel to Gu. It's thinner, so it clears out of the mouth much cleaner and it doesn't sit in the stomach so long. And they work like a charm. I was able to push on for quite some more time. As I made my eventual turnaround, I found that I was even more ahead of the pace that I didn't think I would be able to keep, which made me feel wonderful. I suddenly realized that I had completed 10 miles, and I was floating.

The hills kept coming, but my legs kept moving. I stopped for another gel at about 13 miles, just because I couldn't believe that I was still feeling that good. I checked my time with 3 miles to go, and found that I was at 1:49 and a few seconds. In order to complete the run in an 8-minute pace, I had to be done by 2:17 (keeping the extra .17 in mind). That meant that I could run over 9-minute miles and still make my time, but I didn't want to slow down. I finished in 2:12:09, completing my last 3 miles in 23 minutes, and finishing today's 17 faster than last week's 15.5.

What really knocks me over is the pace, which came out to about 7:42 per mile. If I were to run that pace for 9 more miles (which I feel like I could have done), then I would have completed a marathon in 3:20, 16 minutes faster than Austin. I know that I'm not ready to qualify for Boston. That's going to be a longer journey than I had originally planned. Of course it is. That's really freaking hard to do. But I can get a killer personal best, and that's where my brain is.

Because I just ran the fastest 15+ run of my life.

Saturday's Run:
67 Degrees / Overcast
17.17 Miles
2 Hours, 12 Minutes, 9 Seconds

Friday, May 6, 2011

Stay Thirsty, My Friends

I don't always run with music, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

Wait, that's not right. Forgive my cheesy Cinco de Mayo tie-in.

If I were the most interesting man in the world, I'm sure that my morning runs would involve some incredible mountain peaks or rainforest valleys, but that's just not the case. The vast majority of the runs I do involve the same first and last mile, as there aren't too many other options from where we live. Creating variation in the run is something I strive to do every day, because running should always be interesting.

There was a RW article a few months back about a guy who runs everywhere he goes in LA within a certain radius. He puts on his backpack and jogs to the store for a gallon of milk. If he's heading to a BBQ at his friend's house, he goes there on foot. It's an inspiring story, and what's most interesting about it is the fact that he never runs the same route twice. He created a game for himself, and by following his own rules, he made running interesting and entertaining, rather than just a drain.

I'd love to do something like this, of course, but I know that I need to get in my miles. What's more, with the early time I need to run and my propensity to choose dead end streets or roads without sidewalks, it's just not as practical. Maybe when I get my Iron Man (hint, hint) I'll be able to just run for a while without worrying about sticking to a planned-out route. For now, I make do by adding as much differentiation as I can into the few escape routes I have from the apartment. Today, for example, I went in the opposite direction of my usual 8-mile course, just to see everything from a different point of view. A small change, to be sure, but one that got me through the run by keeping my attention focused ahead.

Still, I knew that a further distraction might be needed, so I brought along some new music. I'd gotten a few albums by G. Love from my brother-in-law, and to date I had not had a chance to listen to them. Only last night did it occur to me that an hour long run might just be the perfect opportunity. I loaded everything onto the iPod this morning, and I listened - really listened - to the music during the run, which made it go by even more quickly. The relaxed tempo and acoustic guitar is in stark contrast to my other fun running music, Girl Talk, but in many ways, it has the same effect. It distracts my brain from any pain or tiredness in my legs, and it gives me something interesting to do with my thoughts. Today I didn't have a hero song. I had a hero album.

At some point, I still start to get tired, and I become distracted from the music. Of course I do. But for me, that point didn't come until I had about 2.5 miles left and I realized that I was still on a strong pace. I was even catching green lights for almost the entire time. This almost got me hit by a Mercedes, but I'm pretty sure she'll be more careful next time, if the look of abject terror on her face was any indication. Look both ways before turning right on red. That's all I have to say there.

Sure, I still got stopped at the devil light, and yes, I still had to do all my lifting when I got home, but I still had gas in the tank to burn as I ran up my own little Heartbreak Hill.

It looks far more intimidating in person, trust me. This is the driveway to my apartment complex, and though it's never a part of my miles or my time, I always finish by pushing up the hill. Why? Because if I can run this hill at the end, I can run farther next time. 

This mental confidence should come in handy tomorrow when I try to run 17 miles. I've created an interesting, different, and as-yet unexplored course for the run, so I'm hoping it will keep my interest for the entire 2 and 1/2 hours I expect the run to take. I haven't decided if I'll be taking music yet, but I'm leaning towards no. If I won't have it on race day (which I won't), I shouldn't get used to it for my long runs now. No, I'll trust that the fascination with my new surroundings will be more than enough to hold my interest for the entire run, and I'll do my best to stick with the two goals that I ever have on runs of this length.

Finish, and don't get lost.

Friday's Run:
67 Degrees / Clear
8.11 Miles
58 Minutes, 38 Seconds

Little Green Wisdom

My wife is Yoda.

She just told me to get on writing a blog post, and when I told her I would try, she informed me that there is no try. In addition to that, she has a good amount of wisdom when it comes to my health. Though I've been trying valiantly to get up on time every morning, it's beginning to take a toll.

You see, I did not take into account the large number of late nights I was going to have throughout the next few weeks. She recommended that I take at least one day a week to sleep a little bit later, and since I wasn't scheduled to have a run today, I thought this might be a good morning to get an extra hour or so. However, instead of just catching up a bit, I immediately returned to my former habit of sleeping right up until the moment that I had to start working.

It was discouraging, really, to see that a week's worth of getting up on time has had virtually no effect on how I do with waking up overall, but it also told me something important. It told me that every morning that I have gotten up on time has been a little victory. At least, that's what I choose to take out of this.

Today, I could have chosen to still do my arm workouts, but I decided to really take the spirit of the rest day seriously. Hal says that this day should be absolute rest, leaving Sunday for my cross training, so I'll trust him this week, particularly because I've got 25 miles to run over the next two days, and Saturday, in particular, will be a big training day for me.

Sunday, I'll sleep in.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Into The Wild

The weather is a highly motivating factor in my day-to-day life.

This morning, it motivated me to... well... rather, it demotivated me. Once again, I was up before the sun, and once again, it was not a particularly enjoyable experience. The accumulation of the last week's mornings was really starting to catch up with me, and my brain just wasn't working.

Just like yesterday, I was really cold when I got up, and just like yesterday, it was in the 40s when I checked the temperature, so, just like yesterday, I decided to put off the run until later in the morning. Throughout the next couple hours, though, it became clear that my body was not really excited about the prospect of physical exertion. As more time went by, I felt better about the idea of postponing my run for a day.

Tomorrow is scheduled to be a rest day, so I figured that I could do today's five miler tomorrow morning. I decided this was the best course of action, and almost immediately, I felt bad about it.

See, I read this article today on RunnersWorld.com about inspiring others to become runners, and it planted a little seed of conscience in me. I know that not too many people read my blog as of yet, but of those that do, some have told me, and of those, a few have told me that it inspires them. In fact, one of the most important people in my life told me that they'd lost 30 pounds since they began running again, inspired by reading the blog. It absolutely floored me. I'd never thought of myself as a fitness leader, and really, all I was doing was talking about myself, but it translated well, evidently.

Soon after finding out about several of these readers, I got injured. In fact, it seemed that the more people I heard about reading, the less I was running. You would think it would have inspired me to run even more, but somehow, it had the opposite effect. I felt like I had to be smarter, which meant that I didn't want to screw up, and it caused me to let myself get away with any laziness that I could justify. Some of it was absolutely due to injury, but to be honest, some of it was just laziness.

When I read the article today, I thought about those people, and it made me more anxious to get out there and pound the pavement like I was scheduled to do. When my wife said that she was interested in running today, it sealed the decision. Laced up, headed out.

I'll have to do three 5-mile runs in each of the next four weeks, so I really needed a new five mile course. Also, I figure I should start doing some hill work, considering that the Seattle course is far from smooth. I determined that both of these goals could be easily accomplished by going left out of our apartment complex instead of right. However, I hadn't mapped out a course yet, so I decided to try something new.

I figured that if I ran 8-minute miles, which is my standard base goal, that the run would take me 40 minutes, so I ran out for 20, and back for 20, hoping this would create at least a five mile course. I'd be running up and down some pretty rough hills, and it was unfamiliar territory, but at least it would be interesting. It turned out to be more than half a mile longer than I was shooting for, which meant that I was on training pace on hills, in heat.

For someone to tell me I inspire them, I have to feel like an inspiration to myself. Today, I felt like that.

And I still get my rest day tomorrow.

Wednesday's Run:
76 Degrees / Sunny
5.51 Miles
40 Minutes, 45 Seconds

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dramatic Swing = Slight Alteration

Austin, Texas has been having some mood swings this week.

While I am not yet acclimated to 90-degree temperatures so long before summer, I am beginning to get a grasp on Texas weather, and I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to do what it's done the last couple days. In fact, I don't think this is supposed to happen anywhere. It was 94 degrees just a couple days ago. Yesterday, my run was in the 50s. Today, when I woke up, it was 47 degrees outside. 


Last night, my rehearsal went late, as we near the joy that will be tech week. This is a time when we stand around onstage for hours while people with far more technical knowledge than I will ever possess focus lights, angle projectors, and give the show the sights and sounds that will flesh it out. It's amazing work, but very tiresome, and we're going to be at it for almost two weeks. 

In that time, rehearsals will routinely run until almost midnight, which makes it awfully difficult to get up before 7, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the meantime, I had a bit of a practice run last night. By the time I got home, laid out my running clothes for the morning, and climbed into bed, it was already midnight. Because today was scheduled for an 8 mile run, I didn't want to wake up too late, for fear of running through the start of my work day, so I set my alarm for 6 hours of sleep rather than the 6.5 that I've been doing. This may have been a mistake.

The good news was that I woke up a few minutes before my alarm went off, meaning that it's starting to work.

The bad news was that it was freezing. I'd kicked off my covers during the night, and I was shivering. I got up and went to the closet to get a jacket, which I had not set out the night before, because I wasn't paying attention to weather. I know, what a shock. With my running clothes on, I was still shivering in my living room, and I was having some real trouble getting myself out the door, when I was hit with a stroke of brilliance.

I wasn't going to run in the cold. I was going to wait until it got warmer. Instead, I would start working 90 minutes early, making myself able to take a 90 minute break later in the day for my run, which is exactly what I did. And it was 8 miles of pure joy. Really. 

And the strangest part of all of it was that I was too warm. The temperature had gone up 30 degrees since the morning, and the jacket that I was still wearing was, rather quickly, way too much clothing. I wrapped it around my hand where it would remain for the rest of the workout. I don't know what I was thinking about during the thing, but it must have been interesting, because I barely remember the thing. I felt great the whole way, and without trying to, I ran my fastest 8 miler in weeks.

After a short arm workout in the gym, I headed back to the apartment, got cleaned up, and made it back to work in time. Even though I deviated from my routine somewhat, I still woke up on time, I still did my workout, and I've still finished my post.

And that's one week of waking up on time, a quarter of the way to my goal. Life remains good.