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Thursday, June 30, 2011


Once you know your enemy, you can face it with strength.

Or avoid it entirely.

Pretty much all the issues that I've been having with running this week have stemmed from one thing: hills. As my quads have regained their strength, the only real problem I was having involved going down any sort of hill or incline. With a rest day tomorrow and an at-pace run on Saturday, I did what any sensible, forward-thinking runner would do.

I took the hills out of the equation.

Many things have changed about my running routines since I first got back into in six months ago. The biggest one, probably, is that I rarely run with music anymore. This is partially due to to lack of reliability of my ipod holder and my fear that sweating on it will break it, but the main reason is that many races do not allow the runners to listen to anything while they compete, and if I can't do it when I compete, I don't want to do it when I train.

In a psychology course in college, we discussed State-Dependent Learning, which is the idea that replicating the environment in which something was learned can help with recall later. Alternatively, if you do something one way every time a topic is discussed and then don't do it when you need to remember it later, you'll have a great deal of trouble. As my professor put it, "Never come to class drunk. However, if you have come to every class drunk so far, as your professor, and as a psychologist, I advise you to drink before your final."

My other big change, though, is that I don't run on the treadmill nearly as much as I used to. For Austin, I did a treadmill 5K every Monday as a way to do some speed work, but I recognize now that speed on a treadmill is not necessarily transferable to a road race. When you run without hills, your body doesn't condition to them. Now I reserve these runs for days when it's too hot to go outside, and for days when I don't want to run a hill.

The thing I like most about them, though, is that I don't have to worry about my speed. The machine takes care of that for me. Much like sticking on the shoulder of a pacer during the race, if I don't have to worry about how fast I'm going, I am able to focus on other aspects of my run, like my form and how much time or distance I've got left to go. I recognize that at some point, I'll have to learn to regulate my pace on my own, but when I don't have to, I'll take the opportunity.

So in a form of pre-rest, I gave my legs a break from up and down and simply went out to test a little speed on my first week back, and it felt great. Because of my own ego, I had to push the last mile pretty hard, but I did not feel winded and my legs, though feeling worked, recovered quickly and I had little to no pain in the muscles that worked so hard just a few days ago. Tomorrow morning, I still want to get up nice and early, but instead of doing any workout at all (since it's a full rest day), I'm going to spend that time putting together my "other" training schedule, including lifting and core work that I'll do in conjunction with the runs.

Last season, I let this go by the wayside, especially as I got up in my mileage. Part of this was simply the time issue, in that I was doing hour-long runs in the middle of the week, which didn't leave much time for anything else. However, I think the other issue was that my plan was very repetitive, doing the same exercises several days a week, so for this season, I'm going to try and mix it up. Also, I want to plan out a progression, involving how much weight I'll be doing, how many repetitions, and how quickly I'll require myself to do them. Ideally, I'd like to do something like P90X or CrossFit, but this might be a little more than my body can handle, so I'll start slow. I don't want to risk hurting myself doing "other" workouts and not be able to run.

Because for me, running comes first.

Thursday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
3.1 Miles
20 Minutes, 57 Seconds

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eye On the Future

I've got big plans.

As you can see from the URL (assuming this page has loaded for you at all), I've finally gotten around to purchasing an actual website in my determination to make a brand of myself. I went through several options, and I almost bought one a few months ago, but got out-bid in the auction at the last moment by some major company that uses it now for useless searches. 

Eventually I'll get this printed onto a shirt that I use in my races, but for now, it's just a nicer way to find the blog. 

All of this got me thinking, once again, about the future of my little endeavor and what I'm going to make of it. As of right now, it's still pretty much about me. I'm doing this because I want to do something extraordinary, and this is something I know I can do. It'll take time and more money than I'd like to think about, but it's definitely within my grasp. 

And yet, I want to make it about something bigger. Charity? Maybe. That seems like the most likely option. But I've never enjoyed the prospect of asking people for money. Even back in grade school when we had to sell chocolates and popcorn and wrapping paper, I always felt a little weird about it. Sure, I got whatever noisemaking prize that Malley's was giving out, but being a door-to-door salesman was not my calling. Even when the money is for a good cause, it's strange asking for it.

There are many causes that are near and dear to me, none more so than cancer research, which has affected my family time and time again. St. Jude Children's Hospital runs through our veins, and I greatly look forward to running in Memphis for them. In fact, I'd like to make that one a milestone race. Maybe number 10. 

Even as I write, I'm trying to think of bigger things I can do with this. Dean Karnazes runs to raise awareness about health issues left and right. Heck, he did what I want to do, and it only took him 50 days. Of course, he had massive sponsorship and many, many more training miles than me. So I guess I just need to get to that point. It's tough to raise money, awareness or even a few eyebrows unless people are paying attention to you in the first place.

So now I start getting attention. And I'm starting with my own website. Hooray! Even the greatest journeys of all time had to start somewhere.

Like starting with slow five mile jogs in impossible humidity. My run this morning, though cooler, was through very thick air, and I was soaked by the end of it. The good news was that my running motion felt much more fluid than it did yesterday, which means I'm right on track. The down side was that I had two unusual feelings on the run. The first was a pain in my left foot, which fortunately had dissipated by the time I finished. The second was a wave of nausea as I neared the end. I'm putting that down to heat, but I'm going to keep my eye on it. 

Overall, I still don't feel like myself when I'm running, which is not fun, but I recognize that it's probably just the marathon working its way out of my system. As of now, I'm considering doing tomorrow's 3 miles on the treadmill just to give my legs a break from the hills and to rest up for Saturday's pace run, which I intend to do at speed. There are a million things to think about as I gear up for the next phase of this journey, but there's one thing that's always most important.

My next run.

Wednesday's Run:
76 Degrees / Humid
5.05 Miles
36 Minutes, 44 Seconds

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On The Offensive

Okay, that hurt.

We've reached run number one of season three, and it was no picnic. Sure, it was only 3 miles, but combine that with leftover soreness from Seattle and scorching temperatures, and you've got yourself one interesting Tuesday evening.

You see, I did not get up early today. I know. Great start to that whole "run with discipline" thing, but I'm still catching up on rest from the absurdity that was the last few weeks, so I'm giving myself a little bit of latitude this week, and it's only because my legs are still killing me. Honestly, they hurt so much that when watching a movie last night, I slightly cringed every time someone stood up from a chair, imagining how much that would hurt to do. Still, the sooner I'm back up to par the better, so giving myself a break doesn't mean that I'm not going to try and do my best.

Which meant that I had to get in my miles today, painfully or not. What's always interested me about the post-run soreness I get is that going up hills and stairs is nowhere near as difficult as going down. Common sense would seem to dictate the opposite: if gravity is doing the work, the legs are doing less, and this should be easier to do post-race. However, in my (completely unprofessional) opinion and experience, using the muscles actually makes them feel better far more quickly than not using them, and up is easier than down. In my mind, it's a theory of offense and defense.

As you go up a slope in running, your muscles are on the offense. They push forward and up, engaging every step of the way. Going down, however, the muscles have to run defense as well, focusing less on power and more on control. When my legs hurt, any defensive use of muscles sends up huge red flags in my system, and the muscles scream in pain. On offense, they're in control of what's going on, and they feel better more quickly. This got me thinking in general of the things I do when recovering from a big run, so I figured I'd list them out (keeping in mind that this is merely from my experience, and everyone is different, so be careful):

My (Common Sense) Keys To Race Recovery:

1) REST! - This one is the most obvious, and often one of the most difficult to do. Yes, muscles will heal faster if they are used, but if using them causes an unbearable amount of pain, then they're not ready to go yet. Don't run the risk of tearing, spraining or breaking something. If you can't walk normally, you can't run yet. At the very least, think of what would happen if you have a sharp pain and fall over? You'll know when you're ready, so don't push too soon.

2) Use Muscles Offensively - Most people cannot avoid inclines and declines in their daily lives, which often leads to uncomfortable moments climbing stairs at the office the day after a marathon. Do what you can to engage the muscles. Going up stairs shouldn't be that much of a problem if you've got a railing. If you're in a lot of pain, descend stairs backwards. It helps to keep the muscles active rather than simply landing on them.

3) Hydrate - You lose a lot of water during the race, and most people will fill up immediately after, but don't forget to keep going. Those three bottles you chug at the finish line are going to wipe all the toxins out of your body pretty quickly, but you still need to just replace the water. Make sure you keep taking in fluids for at least 48 hours.

4) Painkillers? - Many people will go straight to the bottle of ibuprofen the moment they walk in the door after a race, and this isn't the worst idea, but it's also not the best. You want to be able to use your muscles as normally as possible, and having less pain in your legs is a good start. However, if you are loading up on painkillers, you might not have a good idea of where your recovery is at, and prolonged use of most painkillers has other detrimental health effects. This falls solidly in the "as needed" category.

5) Easy In - When you do start running again, take it easy. It might be a good idea to take a couple extra days off, or to do some lower-impact cross training on the first few days. As I said, you know your body, but pushing too hard too early can cause injury. When you start back up start slow, make sure everything is working well, and then start to ease back to your speed.

Oh, and try not to do your first run back on a Texas summer afternoon.

Tuesday's Run:
97 Degrees / Sunny
3.3 Miles
23 Minutes, 55 Seconds

Monday, June 27, 2011

Season 3: Marine Corps Marathon

Yeah, I can't believe it either. The new training season starts today.

One of the things I most appreciate about Hal Higdon's marathon training programs is also one of the things that I find most challenging: it's 18 weeks long. So, even though I won't run the race until the day before Halloween, I get to start training now, before the 4th of July. As I get further into my journey, I'll probably run races closer together (I was just told about the Boston to Big Sur challenge), but for now, I think it's a good idea to give myself the full recovery.

For now, I've got my sights set on the "People's Marathon" this fall, the 36th Annual Marine Corps Marathon, starting and finishing in state number 4, Virginia. I was thrilled to be a part of the quickest sell-out in the history of the race, as all 40,000 spots were taken in less than 24 hours. They say that an economic downturn often leads to an increased interest in road running, and looking at the recent signup rates for MCM and Boston, it seems that they're right.

The race got its nickname by being the largest marathon in the country that does not offer prize money. Those who run this race do it for themselves or for their cause, not for the money, which makes it perfect for what I am doing. And it helps that my parents live five minutes away from the starting line, which means no hotel costs. For these reasons and more, MCM was my obvious next choice.

And I'm going to try to qualify for Boston.

It's the next logical step. I've got to drop 8 minutes from my current time, which, admittedly, is going to be a lot more difficult than I want to think. In fact, I expect those 8 minutes to be monumentally more challenging to cover than the 24 I just beat. Still, last season I did not worry about pace while training, as I spent a great deal of time trying to overcome injury and heat. For this round, I'm going to focus on time for each and every run. Starting tomorrow.

Today was a cross training day, according to Coach Higdon, which seemed like a very good plan to me. My legs, in particular my quads, are still quite sore from Saturday's adventure in Seattle, so I thought that a little light biking would be perfect to break up some of whatever is left in them. I did about 20 minutes, just enough to break a light sweat, and called it an afternoon. My legs still hurt a bit now, hours later, but I feel (cautiously) optimistic about tomorrow's nice, easy 3-mile run. Will it hurt? Yes. Can I handle it? I think so.

This season will be about discipline. Appropriate, I feel, since this is a race run by Marines. Discipline means getting to bed at reasonable hours, waking up on time, and completing all training runs in good time. Tomorrow, however, will not be about time (though if I can manage to complete it at a strong pace, I'll be very happy). Tomorrow will be about getting back on the road.

We'll save speed for Saturday.

Race Review: Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

With a few hours' recollection under my belt, I wanted to give my thoughts about the Seattle event.

We got in Thursday, which gave us a chance to take a bit of a look around the city before we started all the marathon-based events. If you haven't been there (like myself until a few days ago), I highly recommend it. We started out down at the Pike Place Market (that fish-throwing place I'd seen on television), and wandered from there. One of my big selling points for destination marathons is having other things to do once you're there, and Seattle sells well on this point. We walked around some on Thursday, and on Friday morning we hit a Duck Tour which is just about the most fun sight-seeing thing I've ever done. From there, we took the free bus (they're all free in a certain boundary in the city) to the expo.

And what an expo. I had been disappointed in Austin's, as the cavernous hall was only half-filled with booths, most of which were merely local merchants and race reps, but RNR knows how to fill up a room. From the well-organized packet pick-up to the quick (if not a little chaotic) t-shirt and swag bag tables, I had what I needed in no time. I will qualify this by saying that I was there at 1:00, and it was probably much more crowded later, but the organizers had recommended getting there early, and were even offering door prizes if you got there before 3, when everything would be much easier to access. Following their advice, I had a great expo experience. There were games to play, prizes to win, events to watch and samples to be had. They even had a sign-creating station, which I really appreciated on race day.

With three new t-shirts (prizes everywhere, I tell you) and a whole bunch of energy gels, we moved back into the afternoon. Though the swag was a little dull, there are lots of coupons and things in there that I haven't really gone through yet.

After a lay-low evening, we got up very early to head to the shuttle buses. The start line is actually in Tukwila, several miles south of Seattle. While I'm usually not a fan of far apart start and finish lines, I didn't mind this one. For one thing, when we hit the downhills in the first four miles, I knew they didn't necessarily mean that there were uphills to compensate. For another, it gave us a long, beautiful run along the coast of a lake (Lake Washington, maybe?) which made time move much more quickly.

The bus lines were nothing short of bedlam, but by standing in the right place and not being shy about keeping in front of others, I did not have to wait long to get on the school bus that took me to the start. I feel like this could have been better organized, but I imagine it's tough to control lines in cold weather at 5:00 in the morning. The bus ride itself seemed awfully long, but I guess there aren't many direct routes from one place to another in Seattle, so I used the time to visualize my race and calm my heart rate.

The starting line itself was very well organized. There was fruit and water for all who wanted it and more-than-adequate porto-johns, at least when I got there, which was still quite early. People were assigned corrals based on expected finish time, and they were released with enough time between that the starting motion was easy.

For support along the way, I must say, I was truly impressed. There was always a water stop when I needed one, and the combination of bands and cheerleading squads made for a fun mixture of cheering. However, it is not a spectator-friendly course. The out-and-back nature of the marathon course makes it difficult (I am told) to find multiple places to cheer. I imagine the reason that the course was designed the way it was has something to do with avoiding the impossible hills that weave through downtown Seattle, but still, it would have been nice to have heard a familiar voice between miles 15 and 20.

The course itself was a good one, from my limited experience. It was odd running mostly on interstate highways, but the views were wonderful (for much of the race) and running in tunnels, it turns out, is a lot of fun. Many people had mentioned that the course was hilly, but I think I have a different definition. Long, gradual hills do not bother me very much (up to a certain point), so I didn't mind the hills we had to deal with in the first 20 miles. What killed me in Austin were the up-and-down hills in rapid succession. In training, I can run all day, but if I try to do sprint repeats, I'll tire myself out rather quickly. The same holds true, it seems, for hills. Long and steady, no problem, short and brutal, and the wheels come off. Of course, the fact that the uphills just kept coming in the last six miles of the course was what did me in, and if I had realized that beforehand, maybe it would not have been such an issue. I'm beginning to learn that every course has a surprise waiting in the last mile, so I've got to train for that moment. Overall, I liked the run, and if I lived anywhere near Seattle, I'd probably do it again.

My only big gripe about this event was the finish line. I got the medal and my picture taken, no problem, though a few of the volunteers seemed really irritated when a runner would bump into them or anything along those lines, which seems a little dumb to me. They just ran at least 13 miles, so, yeah, they might be tired. There was plenty of water, Cytomax, fruit and snacks, all of which was fine, but I could have used more volunteers with information on what was where. What really upset me were those metallic blankets. By the time I got to the table, I was told that they were out of them. I truly hope that they had another box somewhere and just did not realize it, because if they were out of those blankets after the 102nd marathoner finished, they were grossly unprepared. I will never belittle the accomplishment of running a half-marathon, but I should have gotten a blanket before the halfers that were finishing at the same time. My body was sliding into mini-shock, and I needed something around my shoulders. I was lucky my aunt didn't mind her sweatshirt smelling like me. My suggestion is to move the blankets to immediately after the medals and make sure that at least there are an equal number for full and half marathon runners.

Also, the process for getting the free runner's beer took forever, because it was the same line for those who wanted to buy them. You had to wait in a separate line to get your ID checked, which was absurd, because they checked it at the beer counter as well. The finish line concert, which I had been excited about, was a bit disappointing, but a big part of that was that I was uncomfortable and cold. I waited six songs into Everclear's set to hear something I knew, and when it wasn't happening, we decided to go home.

Overall, I'd give this event a solid B/B+. The course was beautiful, except for the last four miles or so. On-course support was adequate and enthusiastic, even if the finish line was a bit disappointing. The expo was outstanding, especially compared to my limited experience with them. I could have used more parking, but that's an issue with the city, not with the event planners. Truly, this was a great weekend, and I will definitely look into future Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series events.

I just hope the headliner actually plays their popular songs.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

32 Minutes From Boston

As the race wore on, the uphill climbs seemed to keep coming. One road was, in fact, uphill both ways, and my legs were screaming for help. We passed the 22-mile marker.

"Four point two miles left guys," said our pacer.

I checked my watch. "32 minutes to Boston, gentlemen," I said.

I was stuck to the 3:10 pacing group sign like glue for the entire run. The two other runners who were still in the group (from the 12 or so that started) had both discussed their desire to qualify for Boston. One had done so a few years prior but had not been able to enter the race. The other was giving it his tenth try.

We came upon a water stop, and I decided, too late, to try and grab a cup from the last person, which of course I simply knocked out of her hand. In hindsight, I should have ignored this and kept running, but I stopped, for just a moment, and got another cup. This one moment of hesitation created about 20 feet of separation between myself and pacing guide. I would not catch him again.

Now, I don't want to say that the wheels came off, because I kept on running. I walked for about one minute up the sadistic hill at 25 miles, but then I got right back into the jog. Still, I was out of gas and try as I might, there just weren't any reserves to pull upon. With about 3 tenths of a mile to go, the Boston qualifying time came and went, and to be quite honest with you, I was fine with that.

Why? Because I just had a 24-minute PR on a marathon.

I'll do an in-depth review of the event itself tomorrow, but today's post is about my experience therein. First, you cannot beat weather like we had today. At the start of the run, it was about 55 degrees and cloudy, but no rain. By the end, it was maybe 64 and partly cloudy with a little bit of sun. When you're used to training in 100 degree heat, 60 is cruising weather.

I made the final decision to follow the 3:10 pace group and got right in line at the start. Naturally, what happens five minutes before the gun? I have to go to the bathroom. There isn't one readily accessible from the starting corral, so I figure it will go away. It doesn't. In the second mile, I found a porto-john, sped a little ahead of my pace group, took a ridiculously long time in there, and then got back into the crowd. Even though I knew it could tire me out, I made a point to get back with my group as soon as humanly possible. By the next mile marker, I'd only lost 25 seconds. By three, I was back in the mix.

We enjoyed the cheering all along the route, and the music was a nice touch, though I felt many of them could have chosen more adrenaline-firing songs. Still, between the gold-pants wearing boy/girl duo covering "Regulators" and the killer bluegrass band, the first half was filled with great stuff, not the least of which was my wife and aunt screaming for me.

The others in our pacing group were fantastic. There was a lot of friendly conversation (including a great deal about the weather in Austin), and the encouragement between all of them was very nice to hear. Before too long, really, we'd reached the first split from the half-marathon for a long out-and-back on the I-90 bridge. Here I took my first gel. I'd planned to do them every 8 miles, but I lost one within 5 minutes of starting the race, so I decided to go every 10 and only use two. The only problem I had was the need to stop and rinse my hands off in a puddle to get that junk off of them. Seriously, it gets everywhere. This, too, was fine, though, because the others in my group thought for a second I was going to drink the puddle water. Several thought, "Wow, that guy's hardcore."

After that (and evidently waving at my wife though I did not see her), we went into the first tunnel, and man, it feels like you're flying in those things. We would do two more tunnels before it was all said and done, and each time, it gave the sensation of running much faster than needed.

Once we got to 14, our pacer switched off. We thanked her and welcomed the new guy, and that's when the race got interesting. From 15 to 20, there is a whole lot of uphill, most of which I dealt with fairly strongly. At one point, only myself and the pacer were next to one another, and we discussed pace running and the goal of doing Boston. It's always encouraging to be able to have a conversation in the middle of a long run. When we hit the turn around at about 18.5, though, I started to lose my breath. Past 19, 20, and 21, I really started to feel myself working, especially since the hills that I had been told would die down after 20 kept rising up. Mile 21 is the "past 80%" point where I know that I can finish, but I could feel that my legs were draining quickly. I was having a mental battle, saying that if I can make it 20 miles at that pace, I should be able to run the last six. Then I dropped a cup at 22. You know most of the rest.

And yet, even as I made the final turn toward a rather anti-climactic finish line, I smiled. For one thing, this always makes the crowd cheer. For another, they announced my name, so I got to raise my arms in victory. And finally, even though I was 3 minutes off of a Boston qualifying time (that will get 5 minutes harder in a few months), I was still 24 minutes faster than Austin. I felt 300% better than I did after that race. And I'd just completed marathon number three.

I'll hopefully write a full event review tomorrow, and Monday I'll take it easy.

On Tuesday, I start training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Today's Race:
Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
Seattle, Washington
52-64 Degrees, Mostly Cloudy
3 Hours, 12 Minutes, 48 Seconds (unofficial time)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Breathe the Air

The time has come.

There's so much electricity that goes through your body as you get ready for a marathon. You get excited, then worried, and you bounce back and forth between those two emotions rather frequently.

For me, today is about experiencing a little bit more of the city, eating good, energy-boosting foods, and having my one last, "Breathe the Air" run. This is what I have decided to call the two-mile tune-up the day before the race that Hal has on the schedule. It's a chance to get out and move your legs (particularly after traveling from wherever) and do a little bit of a workout in the air in which you'll be competing.

As it turns out, this is not as big a deal in Seattle as it might be elsewhere. Really, there isn't too much a difference in altitude between Austin and Seattle, so it's not like the air is any thinner, or there's any less oxygen. That will be more of a factor when it comes to states like Colorado. For this race, the real fun is the change in weather.

Tomorrow's forecast is just about perfect. At race time, it should be between 50 and 55 degrees, partly to mostly cloudy with no (predicted) rain. Having spent 20 hours in this city so far, I can tell that there is really no knowing when a few rain drops might fall, but at least it shouldn't be storming or anything. This is ideal running weather. When I went out for my two miles this morning, the only thing that bothered me at all was that my running path was overgrown with tall grass that had been rained on last night, and I ended up with wet feet. And even that made me smile a little.

What I must do now is remain smart and strong for about 24 hours. I'm in an early starting corral, which is very good. I've got almost all my equipment laid out, and I'll get the rest of it at the expo this afternoon. Most importantly, I've trained for this. My body feels strong and my mind feels ready, far more so than either did in Austin.

And to be honest, I'm really too excited to spend much time writing.

Friday's Run:
53 Degrees / Misty Rain
2.2 Miles
16 Minutes, 53 Seconds

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Here we are, just a few short days away from the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, and I'm feeling trained.

Today, my assignment from Coach Hal was to get out there and do an easy four miles, which I completed with no real issues. Thanks to another storm last night, the air was slightly cooler this morning, and I actually managed to get out the door before it heated up.

With each step, I started visualizing the race on Saturday. My current plan is to latch onto a pace group as though my life depends on it and hang with them for as long as humanly possible. This will be my first race in the Rock 'n' Roll series, so I'm looking forward to seeing what effect all the bands will have on my adrenaline. Thus, I'm hoping that if I leave the pacing to someone else, I can let my mind wander and the music will carry me home.

I'll pick up a few energy gels when I'm in Washington, as I'm not sure if they're allowed on planes. I've got my shoes, my hat, my shorts, a couple different shirts (not sure which I'll wear yet) and my stopwatch. Also in the bag are the armband that holds my phone and a packet of that Buzzerk pre-workout energy powder. Anything else that I might need will, I'm sure, be available at the expo. I've already seen a lot of chatter on Twitter from several of the different vendors, so I'm hoping that there are some fun things to be found.

Our aunt who lives there is already planning lots of activities for us, many of which do NOT involve walking around too much, which will be good for the day before the run. After this morning's four, I've only got an easy two to complete on Friday morning. I'm particularly looking forward to these miles, because it will give me a feel - before the race starts - of running in the climate. With highs that are cooler than Texas' lows these days, I'm sure it will take a little bit of adjustment, but I'm hoping that it's an easy one. It's always easier to run on cool days, right?

Because it was pretty easy running this morning. With all these visions of success and joy on Saturday, I hardly noticed what my pace felt like today, and it certainly did not feel like the 15-second per mile too fast pace that I was running. Still, the point of running "easy" today was not to run slow, but rather to run without putting forth too much effort, and I did that. I must just be getting faster.

I guess we'll know for sure in 72 hours.

Wednesday's Run:
79 Degrees / Sunny
4.06 Miles
27 Minutes, 55 Seconds

Current Race Day Forecast:
High - 66 / Low - 51
Partly Cloudy
Humidity - 65%
Precip - 20%

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shock and Ew

Yeah, I'm still doing this.

I know the last couple weeks I've been a little infrequent with the posting, but I'm getting back on track as of today. I've completed the first leg of my travel to Seattle, and I'll stay where I am until Thursday when we take the big flight. This means that I've got two runs here and one in Seattle before the big day.

And all I had to do today was a nice, easy 3-miler. To make matters even better, there was a crazy storm here last night (even knocked out the power), so the humidity broke!

At least, that's what would have happened if we were in the midwest where I grew up. Here in Texas, however, rain evidently only makes the humidity worse. It was actually very nice when we woke up this morning, but by evening when I actually made it out the door, it was right back to 100% saturation, and the first few steps felt like swimming. I was sweating by the time I made it to my starting line, roughly 50 feet from the door. That's the "ew."

Once I had started the run, I was actually okay with how gross it felt, however. I knew that this run wasn't going to take that long and that I'd only have one more training run in the heat before the actual marathon. Still, my stride felt very awkward for the first mile or so. I spent almost the entire mile figuring out what to call it. "Slow" was obvious, but beyond that, I wanted something more descriptive, like "lumbering" or "brontosaurus-esque," to really give a visual to go with how it felt in my body. Truly, it felt strange enough that I had a bit of concern running through my brain. I saw the mile marker street ahead and checked my watch. That was the shock.

I was 25 seconds under race day pace.

Bring on the 'thon.

Tuesday's Run:
97 Degrees / Humid
3.19 Miles
21 Minutes, 41 Seconds

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Faster Than a Zephyr

Sure, it was the Zilker Zephyr, but I still outran a train.

I was actually going to call this post Fried Guano, because that's what the first half of my run smelled like, and what the second half felt like. 

Over the last couple days, I've found it very difficult to motivate myself and focus on anything for any period of time. I've been sleeping later than I wanted and taking far too long to get moving in the mornings. Today, there was one major thing that I had to do: I had to run 8 miles.

When I still had not managed to do this by 2:00, I knew I was in trouble. It's hot down here. Really hot. And it only gets hotter as the day goes on. Eventually, I managed to get my feet into some shoes and head out the door. When I left the apartment, the temperature was 100, but it didn't actually feel that bad. In fact, my first mile was quite fast. Now that I think about it, my first half was pretty strong. I got to stop at a couple lights which gave me all the recovery that I needed. 

My second half was more a series of short runs surrounded by water breaks. I stopped at almost every water fountain available and timed myself in between them. My endurance was shot, but there's only so much you can do when it's that hot. I just focused on taking my next step. And then my next one.

And then I saw the train. With about two miles left, the kiddie train that drives through Zilker Park was entering its turnaround before heading back to the playground on the other side of the park. We were at the same point, and I decided that the next time I would cross their tracks (about 3/4 of a mile down the trail), I would be ahead. In that time, there were several points that I wanted to stop, but I knew that I had to beat the train, and so I did. When I crossed the tracks, they were still a couple hundred feet away. I smiled, and I thought, even if I can't beat the heat today, at least I beat a train.

The last long run is completed. I've got runs on Monday and Tuesday, and then a short two-miler on Friday. That's it. I'm less than a week from Seattle.

No problem.

Sunday's Run:
110-104 Degrees / Sunny
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 3 Minutes, 44 Seconds

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fired Up

We're eight days out. Let's do this thing.

Back in town and (for the most part) back on my schedule, today was about returning to some semblance of normalcy. I got in my eight hours of work, and I got in my run.

Sure, the work was a little unfocused, and, yes, the run was on the treadmill, but it's definitely moving in the right direction. Today was only a 3-miler, and I didn't think I was quite ready for the Texas heat again. I'll worry about an outdoor run tomorrow (hopefully) before dawn when I do my last "long" training run of the season. That one's only 8 miles. Then a few short ones next week, and we're off to the race.

That realization lit a bit of a fire underneath me, and when I got on the treadmill today, I started it out pretty quickly. The first half of my second mile, I slowed down some so that I could speed it up for the last part, getting used to pushing late in the run.

With all the frustration and angst that I could channel, I even managed to keep the thing on top speed for my last mile.

With so many thoughts running through my head, I have to wonder how I'm going to keep my focus on my race plan and keep my head in the game. The obvious answer is, the less I think, the better I'll do. One foot in front of the other.

Just one foot in front of the other.

Friday's run:
Indoors / Treadmill
3 Miles
18 Minutes, 53 Seconds


Everyone reacts differently when faced with personal tragedy.

This week, I've watched a lot of people show an incredible amount of strength in the face of insurmountable difficulty, and I cannot put into words how incredibly proud I have been of all of them.

In the midst of it all, I've felt essentially useless, which, I'm told, is pretty much how everyone else feels, too. Because of personal commitments, I was unable to stay with my family as long as I would have liked, but they are, and will be, on my mind and in my heart.

What I have found most interesting throughout this week has been finding all the unexpected things that have given me comfort. Of course, there are all the basic things that help: the touch of friends and family, the feel of your own bed, eating a hot meal. But what really caught my attention have been little things that I didn't expect. The feeling of shoes with laces as opposed to slip-ons. The water pressure in my own shower. And running.

I didn't run much this week. In fact, I missed both Monday and Wednesday's runs. It has been hard to find the motivation to do anything for more than a few minutes at a time, which is strange, because half the time I found myself sitting around wishing for something to do. Even the effort of getting ready for a run seemed trivial and unnecessary, and as a result, I didn't really get out on the road.

Until Tuesday. I was sitting around trying to get my mind back on work when I realized that I'd been sitting motionless for over ten minutes. Without thinking about it, I went to my bag and threw on my running clothes.

I quickly mapped out a four and a five mile course (since those were the two distances I would have to do while up north) and headed out the door. The first thing I noticed was how thin the air felt, in a good way. Without the oppressive humidity of a Texas summer, I barely noticed the weather at all. I started running without much thought and I fell into a comfortable pace fairly quickly.

As it turned out, I made a wrong turn because of some odd roadwork, but I figured it out fairly quickly, and decided instead to just run by time. Since I was supposed to run 4 miles, I ran out for 16 minutes, feeling fairly sure that I was under an 8-minute pace. When I hit that time, I turned around and headed back. As I neared my starting point, I let my speed increase until I was at a full-tilt run, something I hardly ever do. My return path was actually a minute faster than my out.

So, I returned to the computer and checked my distance. Instead of running 4 miles, I'd run nearly five. And I'd run them fast.

Running is one of the only things at which I have truly excelled. Even in the worst of times, it can occupy my mind. There's an old bumper sticker that has become somewhat cliched, but it says that, "Running is cheaper than therapy." You don't realize how true that is until you need it. When all you have to worry about is your next step, it's easy to let yourself escape, even for a little while.

I still can't wrap my mind around everything. The outpouring of support has been... there isn't really a word to describe it. And with all that's going on, I find it very difficult to think about running a marathon in just about a week. But run it I shall.

And I'll run it for him. For her. For them.

Tuesday's Run:
78 Degrees / Sunny
4.9 Miles
31 Minutes, 6 Seconds

Sunday, June 12, 2011

At All Hours

So, for the most part, yesterday was very good.

I didn't do very much, but I had a good time not doing it. At the end of the night, though, I got some very tough news. Since my wife is out of town, I met up with her brother in order to have someone to spend time with. He decided to hang out, and at around 5:30am, he fell asleep. I was still awake.

So I went running.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why I thought this was the best of all possible ideas, but I did. I knew that I had to get in my miles, and I did not want to go to bed at that hour and then have to get up and run thereafter. I threw on my running clothes and headed out the door.

Though I didn't quite make the full 12 miles that I was scheduled to do, I felt this run had a lot of merit. First, I made it all the way out to my scheduled turnaround point. The weather was a little cooler, so I wasn't laboring against the heat quite as much as I normally do these days. Especially given my state of mind, the fact that I was able to push myself for that kind of distance at all was a victory. And, I got three high-fives.

For some reason, given the hour, I decided to share a moment of victory with anyone else who was out moving around on their own power. This got me three high-fives, one fist pump, and one peace sign. If you ask me, that's a pretty good way to start a Sunday morning.

Or to end a Saturday night.

Sunday's Run:
Clear, Cool-ish (didn't check temp)
10.62 Miles
1 Hour, 28 Minutes, 1 Second

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Two Weeks Out

Well, I slept in again today, and by the time I woke up, I would not have time to get in my run and make my appointment. So it goes.

It did give me a little time, though, to think about the upcoming race.

I was thinking back to my last marathon, so I decided to check out my posting from two weeks before that race. This is something I hope to do from now on, and it makes me even happier to be taking notes like this as I go. It helps to learn from where I've been.

That old post (Confidence) was surprisingly positive. I remember being in a lot of pain as I neared the last race, but I clearly did not want to express that when I wrote the post. Two things in particular stood out for me. First, I was running a 20-miler only two weeks before the race, and I'm glad that I'm not doing that this time around, especially with the heat being the way it is. I'll go into Seattle knowing that I've had more rest and recovery than last time, which gives me the ability to go farther, faster.

The other thing that hit me was that my 20-mile run was significantly faster last season than this year. This would concern me were it not for the heat here in Texas. Part of me wonders whether I'm just using that as an excuse, but I really believe that it is holding me back.

As much as I want to be completely confident, there's always a nagging fear every time I run that somehow I won't be up to my own standards. Next season, for the first time, I'll really start trying to push my speed. Though I currently don't have any speed work scheduled (because it'll be in the dead of summer), I'm going to focus on doing my longer runs on a more focused pace from the beginning.

More importantly, I don't want to miss a single run next season. I've let myself stray from my schedule often this season. Some of it was legitimate concern for an injury, and I don't regret that time off at all, as my performance since has made it clear how necessary the rest was. Still, there were many miles, in particular many long runs, that I never made up in those couple weeks, and I think this contributed heavily to my ineffectual long runs late in the season. Next season, I will complete them all.

And now I look to the next fourteen days. Complete the miles, stay healthy, and I'm convinced that I'll be fine. My latest runs have shown me that starting out at a certain pace leaves me stronger and more consistent late in the game. I will find a pace and stick with it for as long as I can.

I'm stronger, I'm faster.

And in two weeks, I plan to run the best marathon of my life.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feeling The Pace

Maybe I'm not quite a lost cause yet.

Today was scheduled to be my last pace run of this season. With twelve miles to run in the morning and then nothing over 8 for the next two weeks, I'm in the home stretch (so to speak) of Season 2. While my runs are still expected to maintain their quality over these weeks, Hal will not be asking me to run race pace in any of them. At least, not after today.

Now if there's anything that I've learned from trying to do my pace runs so far this season, it's that when I think about my pace, I almost always run too fast. So today, I made a specific effort to think nothing about the pace I was running, except when I had to check it.

For my opening tenth (a short, uphill bit before Half Mile Hill), my body was rather disagreeable. My legs felt tight, my knee hurt, and I got a brand-new pain in my lower back. It would have all be very disturbing if it hadn't completely gone away by the time I started down the hill. For now, I'll chalk it up to not being properly warmed up, but it's something I'm definitely going to keep my eye on. The 400+ miles of training I've done for this marathon are not going to be wasted because of some last minute aches and pains.

Other than this setback right at the start, the rest of the run felt pretty good, especially since it's my first run in a long time that took less than 30 minutes. I was a little surprised to only see 9 motorcycles, what with the rally being in town this weekend, but I guess it was still pretty early in the day. No doubt I'll come across many of them when I run through downtown tomorrow morning. (You'd better believe I'm staying out of downtown tonight.)

Now, as to what pace I was running, it was, admittedly, fast. However, I did not push myself too hard. I wasn't out of breath, and I never felt weak in my legs. I simply let myself run, and checked the splits as I went along. The good news was, I was consistent. The bad news, of course, is that I most likely could not run 22 more miles at that consistent pace. Enter, pace runners.

During the Austin Marathon, I started out with the pace runners (you know, those guys with the signs), but got separated from them early on and, instead of waiting for them, decided to keep up my pace, which of course had broken down by the halfway point. This time around, I'm going to absolutely trust those sign-carrying folks for at least the first half. If I'm feeling particularly wonderful at 13, I might start striding out, but I don't anticipate any miracles. I want to finish this race, and I want to do it solidly. I'm always better when I've got someone else to pace me, so that's my immediate plan.

Now I just have to decide which pace to run with.

Friday's Run:
82 Degrees / Sunny
4.08 Miles
27 Minutes, 44 Seconds

Thursday, June 9, 2011


So it didn't happen quite as I had planned.

I was going to get up bright and early this morning and take the dog with me on a run of five miles. Once again, however, I was jolted awake at 4 am by our awesome neighbors, and I used that as an excuse to sleep a little later this morning. Once again, I did not get out the door for my run.

Though I should be getting more and more excited for the race, I find that instead, I'm actually just getting impatient. I don't really want to run these shorter training runs. While I know it's incorrect, I feel like they're almost a waste of time. At the very least, I should be doing speed work or something - anything that doesn't feel like I'm just marking time. Patience is a virtue, so they say, but not one I am immensely full of.

Still, I had to get the miles in. I didn't come this far to give up everything in the last three weeks of training, so after work, I headed to the gym. It would just be downright irresponsible for me to try and run 5 miles at 4:00 in the afternoon with the weather being the way it is these days.

Today, there was someone else in the gym, which is always a good motivator for me. I set the treadmill for just a little bit faster than my goal marathon pace and ran at that for four miles, saving a bit of a kick for the end. Halfway through the last mile, I started thinking about slowing down, but some oddly competitive part of my brain told me that the other person in the gym would think poorly of me if I slowed down, so I kept speeding up, ending in a fine time.

It's tough to get excited for the runs day after day, so eventually, I'll have to figure out a way to make them more entertaining. For starters, I should probably join up with a local running group so that I've got friends to run with at least once a week. In the meantime, I've only got about 50 miles left before race day, and I'm getting pumped. The plane tickets are purchased, transportation has been arranged, and the proper people have been notified. I can't turn back now.

And I wouldn't if I could.

Thursday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
5 Miles
34 Minutes, 5 Seconds

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Marathon training, I am told, requires a great deal of personal discipline.

This week, I have been lacking a little in this department. And it's been great.

Monday evening, the wife and I decided to have dinner at a local restaurant, and then returned home to watch a (surprisingly disappointing) movie. By the time it was over, it was much later than I had intended to go to bed. Add to this that I simply couldn't sleep, and it was well after 2:00 before I drifted off. Thus, early morning came too quickly. It would be a lunch hour run for me once again.

The good news was that, due to my taper, it was only a 6-mile run, which makes it relatively easy. I let myself settle into what I felt was an easy pace and my legs worked on their own.

However, it was not a run without consequence. Somewhere around 3 miles, my body suddenly remembered that it had been given Mexican food the night before, and it decided to punish me for this. As I'm sure you don't really want the details, just allow me to say that I feel Austin should have more numerous and better-maintained porto-johns. It was not a fun last few miles.

That being said, the run was great. Without trying to be, I was right around my goal pace for Seattle pretty much the entire way. It was hot, but it didn't bother me too much. I felt like I could have run many more miles, but I was glad that I didn't have to. I finished in a pretty good time, and then went back to work, refreshed and energetic.

Any my energy didn't stop there. We made a run to the store that afternoon, after which we were invited to go watch a (surprisingly exciting) basketball game with a number of great friends. This again led me to a later-than-recommended bedtime, and again led to me not getting up to run this morning.

However, I made the decision to relax a bit this morning. It's an easy swap, today's five for tomorrow's rest day. I've only got four to run on Friday, and then 12 on Saturday.

If I had more discipline this week, I would have gone to bed earlier, gotten up right on time, and finished my miles before work. Also, I would have missed out on two really enjoyable evenings. Sometimes, you have to let yourself go. I want to run through my life, not past it.

I'll make it up tomorrow.

Tuesday's Run:
85 Degrees / Sunny
6.01 Miles
42 Minutes, 21 Seconds

Monday, June 6, 2011


I don't really remember today's run. And I finished about 20 minutes ago.

After my 20 mile victory on Saturday (yes, I'm still riding that wave), I spent a good portion of the next couple hours on the couch, trying to regain control over my legs. After that, we went to see a movie, headed to the mall for a few, and then returned home for a bit before my show. Once that was over, we came home, I finished a book, and then I went to sleep.

About 7.5 hours later, I heard the dog moving around, and since I already owed my wife tremendously for her help on Friday night, I got up to take the pup outside. Once she had completed her business, we both returned to bed. Another hour passed, and I heard my mother-in-law moving around, so the dog and I relocated to the living room where we took part in the goodbyes before going to sleep on the couch.

I slept for another two hours, and then watched some tennis while I started reading a new book. Eventually, I switched the television over to baseball and focused less on the book and more on the game. When I decided to return my attention to the book, I shut off the TV and laid down again. Rain started coming down outside (which is rare these days), so I set the book down and just listened for a while. Then more sleep.

The wife came to join me on the couch. More sleep.

At some point, I realized what time it was and got ready for last night's show, but I truly relished yesterday. I spent most of it asleep, but I don't feel like I wasted the day at all. Sometimes, you just need a day filled with sports, reading and naps. It even made it a little easier to tolerate the loud neighbors at 2 a.m., since they were only loud for a minute or two and I was able to fall asleep again right away.

And when the alarm went off this morning, I was in perfectly good spirits. My SpiBelt destroyed, I had to carry my keys with me as I left the house, but that's a fairly mild inconvenience. I had fortunately remembered to move my running clothes to the dryer before I went to bed last night, so I pulled out a pair of shorts and a pair of socks, and I hit the road.

By giving myself only about ten minutes between waking up and leaving the apartment, I never really gave my brain a chance to wake up, which seems to have been exactly what I needed. I vaguely remember correcting my stride a few times today, I only got stopped by one stoplight the entire way, though there were a couple close calls, and other than that, I don't recall any details from the workout. The entire way, I was going through certain things in my head, figuring out my schedule for the summer, fantasizing about a theatre career, visualizing the flight to Seattle, and in no way paying attention to what I was doing. I was genuinely surprised to find myself at the four mile mark when I did. Even more so when I realized I'd already done the difficult part of the half mile hill at the end of the road.

So begins my tapering. Hal's got me dropping mileage for the next three weeks, but the big thing that is stressed is that only quantity is tapering. Quality should remain right where it was. Evidently, the key to the quality of my run is not paying any attention to it.

At least, that's what worked today.

Monday's Run:
71 Degrees / Clear
5.05 Miles
36 Minutes, 35 Seconds

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Big One

Oh my good Lord, that hurt.

And felt so good.

Yes, I did it. I managed to run the entire distance that was required of me, despite the world's conspiracy to keep me from it. What conspiracy, you say? Glad you asked.

As I mentioned the other day, I've been a little worried about this run for the last couple weeks. It was very important to me that I actually manage to cover the miles in a fashion that I felt denoted effort the entire way. With a solid week of training behind me, I wanted to feel extremely confident going into today.

In this vein, I laid out all of my running gear before I left for my show last night. I had all the clothes in a neat little pile. My pre-workout drink mix was in the cup I would use next to a bottle of water so that I didn't have to turn on the tap and wake up my wife or her mother, who is visiting. Though I only expected to use two, I had three energy gels, pre-cut, sitting in my SpiBelt. The CamelPak was filled to the brim, and I had already put some cash and a piece of paper with my running route into the pocket, and I'd put my keys in when I got home. Everything was prepared.

Then I got a text near the end of the show. The dog had struck. She'd found my SpiBelt and somehow had smelled the energy gels inside, at which point, she tore it apart and ate all three of them. Please imagine that. An already overactive puppy just found three caffeine-filled energy gels. I'm sure the next half hour was hilarious.

But it didn't change the fact that I was now under-prepared. I only had one gel left, and I'd have to make it work. Fortunately, there is a small pocket in the running shorts I'd saved for today, so the loss of the SpiBelt, though irritating, was not a major issue. I reset everything as best I could before bed, but now I was in a bad place mentally. I couldn't even get my internet to work, and I decided that my best course of action was just to go to bed, since I was planning on getting on the road at an impossible hour. I was having a dream about oversleeping when I heard a horrible noise. It was 2:30am, and the dog was about to throw up.

That's right, gels are not so much good for dogs. Luckily for me, I have the absolute best wife in the entire world who took care of the entire situation. I owe her big time. While I thankfully did not have to get up and clean and take the dog out, I did lose half an hour of sleep due to a sick dog, and since I was already going to get very little, I knew this would be a problem.

Still, that alarm went off, and I was out of bed. I'd moved all my things into the bathroom so as to use as little light as possible, and I suited myself up, hopefully waking as few of the sleepers in my house as possible. In the dark pseudo-cool of the morning, I started to run.

The first mile felt pretty good, as did the second. The third mile was mostly uphill, which made it a little more difficult, but I still had a great deal of confidence at this point. My four-mile marker seemed to take a long time to arrive, but five showed up right on time, so I was feeling pretty good a quarter of the way through my run. Then, the weather decided that it would have a say in how I felt today.

You see, I thought I could trick mother nature. By getting up incredibly early and hitting the road as soon as possible, I figured that I could actually get most of the run completed before it started heating up. Last time I tried this route, the sun did not actually break through the clouds until 9, and if my calculations were correct, I would be done with my run well before that. Your move, nature.

Well, nature, it turns out, is pretty good at this game, too. For the first time (that I've noticed) in a few weeks, there were absolutely no clouds in the sky at sunrise this morning, so instead of the sun coming out at 9, it was shining and happy at 6:45. Well played, nature. Well played.

Even before it had completely risen, I could see it starting its move, and this was the first real blow to my strength. I turned north after 7 miles and began what I expected to be the most difficult stretch of the workout, and I was right. Though I tried as best I could not to walk, I knew that I just had too many more miles to keep up my pace, and I let myself walk a couple blocks. As I hit my third rolling hill on Pleasant Valley, I felt the energy draining from my legs. This would have been the perfect time for an energy gel, but I had to save it for another half hour, in order to have it at the halfway point. So instead, I sat. I sat down for a couple minutes to catch my breath. Sweat was pouring off me, and I needed to rehydrate. When I no longer felt like I was going to collapse, I started again.

This would continue for a couple miles. I would run for a while, conquer some great challenge in the course, and then have to walk for a minute or two to recover. When I finally made my turn back West, seeing my shadow thrown across the sidewalk for the first time, I had mixed emotions. I was proud that I had kept moving up the hill, but disappointed by all the rest I needed to take in order to do it. The real saving grace was that I was about half a mile farther in my run than I thought I would be when it came time to take my gel. Very small victory, that, but there it was.

As shocking as this may be, it did not actually get easier. By twelve miles, I was getting worried, when suddenly, I passed a 7/11, and my brain actually did a little work. I stopped in, got some Gatorade (to replenish carbs and electrolytes) and let myself rest for a couple minutes. When I restarted, I still felt a little miserable, but less so, which is always nice. I had to stop again about a mile down the road and recover, at which point I made an official plan. I would run, nonstop to a certain point, and then walk for a little bit. At the end of that walk, I would be about four miles from the end of the run, and then I would not walk anymore. No problem.

Well, that walking bit bled over into a little bit of a rest at the end. I started once more with the intention of continuing nonstop, but almost immediately encountered a killer hill, and my will was almost gone. I was nearing the point when, two weeks ago, I'd given up on the rest of the run, and I simply could not allow myself to do that. What could I do? To whom could I turn?

Jeff Galloway, that's whom.

In a flash of brilliance, I decided to do a Galloway-esque routine of 3 minutes running, one minute walking for the rest of the way, and wouldn't you know, it got me home.

Today was slow, to be sure. It was the slowest run I've done all season. I took several rests that, on a better day, I might not have had to take. The run was poorly planned, even more poorly executed, and it is one of my proudest accomplishments in recent weeks.

Bring on Seattle.

Saturday's Run:
67-79 Degrees (Beginning-End) / Clear, Sunny
20.72 Miles
3 Hours, 6 Minutes, 56 Seconds

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bad Pace Planning

I'll admit it, I have no idea what my pace should feel like.

Today's assignment from Hal was to go out and run five miles at my goal marathon pace. For the sake of argument today, I decided to try for 7:10 per mile, which is maybe faster than I can actually manage, but if I can run that speed, then I'll qualify for Boston, so I wanted to see how I felt.

For the first mile, I just felt awkward, and I still can't really put my finger on why. Somehow I felt off-balance, like I was lumbering down the hill halfway out of control. It was a lunch hour run, as I forgot to turn my alarm back on after my rest day yesterday, so the sun was high in the sky. In spite of these two things, I knew that I was moving along at a pretty good clip. I figured that my first mile might be a little fast, but considering it was downhill, I didn't think too much about it. Sure enough, mile one was way too fast.

So I figured, that first mile was downhill, making it easier. If I simply maintain my current effort level, I'll naturally slow down. I hate trying to slow to a certain speed, since I feel like I always overcorrect. My hope was that without the added backing of gravity, my second mile would be much slower. It was not.

Now I began my third mile, which includes my turnaround point. I tried to take stock of the entire situation. My form was pretty good, all things considered. I was keeping my arms and legs moving in straight lines, with my head tall. I wasn't having any trouble breathing, and even though the sweat was pouring down my face, I didn't feel dehydrated. Sheer logic dictated to me that in this heat, on this day, I would slow down on my own. At the turnaround point, I was still well ahead of my pace, so once I turned around, I decided to make a focused effort to go slower. Not much slower, mind you, but enough to get back on track. Third mile completed, and I was still flying.

At this point, I had somewhat of a decision to make. I didn't want to make my last two miles really slow, but I also wanted to save myself for the long run that's looming on tomorrow's horizon. Since I was clearly not going to be able to run exactly the speed that I desired, I just decided to maintain my slightly lowered effort level.

This continued past the four mile mark, where I was still too fast. This, however, is where the hills started. I could feel my legs starting to get heavier, reinforcing the fact that this pace would be way too fast for an entire marathon, just in case I was getting any ideas. I knew this time that I was actually slowing down, but I still felt strong, and I was still ahead of my pace with half a mile to go. Screw it. Let's get a good time. I pumped my arms up the hill, and despite having to stop for all three street crossings in my last quarter mile, I turned in an amazing time.

And now, the stage is set. I've had four solid runs this week: an easy five, a strong eight, a crazy fast treadmill five, and a smoking five in the heat. Before I left for my show tonight, I already set out all of my equipment. As soon as I'm done typing, I'm going to reset my alarm. Tomorrow morning, I will conquer the 20 mile run that bested me two weeks ago, and once I've done that, there's no stopping my personal victory in Seattle.

As long as I don't go out too fast. Again.

Friday's Run:
96 Degrees / Sunny
5.05 Miles
33 Minutes, 15 Seconds

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pep Talking

I'm unreasonably worried about Saturday's run.

Normally, I can put these kinds of things out of my mind, but I am genuinely concerned. Over the last few weeks, I've been allowing myself to take walking breaks and cut miles as a result of the heat, or so I've told myself. It is equally possible that I have simply overtrained myself once again and that my recent slowdown is indicative of more than a change in temperature.

So, in order to convince myself that I'm going to be okay, I've got to review the following facts.

1) I'm going to end up running about 44 miles this week, which is just as many as I ran a few weeks ago. Overall, I'm not running any further in a seven-day period than I have in very recent memory.

2) Last week was a step-back week (even more so that it was supposed to be), so my body is actually more rested than Hal intended it to be when someone got to this point of his training program.

3) I've already had three great runs this week, including the fastest I've had this season. Even though I had a little muscle soreness when I woke up this morning, I feel pretty good after the 13 I completed yesterday, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's five.

4) After this week, I start my taper, so this will be the hardest week I have left. And since I don't have to run at all on Sunday, there's no reason why I should not give my all on Saturday.

The key to success, I feel, will be getting up at a completely unreasonable hour. I need to be done with my run before 9:00 am, which means that I've got to be on the road before 6. I may not get very much sleep on Friday night as a result, but this may be some good prep for race day. The night before Austin, I was so nervous about oversleeping that I didn't get much rest at all. If I can run 20 on Saturday after a short night's sleep, I'll be good to go three weeks later.

I don't want to look past tomorrow, when I'm scheduled for a pace run, but it's tough to worry about the foothill as you approach the mountain. It is very important to me that Saturday goes well, and it will be critical that I remind myself that I can do it. Every time I have asked something of my body, it has responded, and now I need it more than ever. A little self pep-talking goes a long way.

A long, long way.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

National Running Day

Since it's a national holiday of sorts, I was really hoping to do something to celebrate.

The downside of my plan was that there didn't seem to be anything going on to commemorate this momentous (why not?) day here in Austin. I'd already run my 8 miles this morning, so what else was there to do?

Simple. Run more.

You see, since I decided to sleep in on Monday, my running schedule was one day off. The easiest solution was simply to move my daily runs back a day and skip my scheduled rest day on Thursday. But then, I remembered that I've got a 20 miler on Saturday, and that rest day could be very, very beneficial toward my confidence in completing that run, which in turn will make me far more confident three weeks later.

In order to have this day of rest, though, I needed to get today's original five miles in at some point, so after work and taking my father to the airport and a dog training class, I went for another run.

That's right, I headed to the gym, climbed on the treadmill and got myself started. Fast. And then I kept going faster. Something in me this afternoon made me want to really kick some ass. I started the treadmill at 9.1 mph, and increased it by .1 every half mile. By the end of mile three, I was pouring sweat, but I knew I was already at my vital 60% mark. My 5K time was under 20 minutes. My fourth mile was my fastest yet, and I knew that I could make it the rest of way.

The best part of this workout had less to do with the moment, and more to do with the moments after. Once I was cleaned up, I felt a post-adrenaline high hit, and I just started smiling. Not only was I done with my workouts early enough to enjoy the evening, but this meant that I do not have to get up extra early tomorrow, and I'll go into Friday and Saturday's workouts rested and excited. This is the pinnacle week of my training, and I'm thrilled to be making the most of it.

Happy National Running Day. Hope yours was half as great as mine.

Wednesday's Run (2):
Indoors / Treadmill
5.0 Miles
31 Minutes, 32 Seconds

Can't Stand The Heat

I mean the basketball team, of course.

We spent last evening at Upper Decks watching the Mavs put up a pretty good fight against the supervillain Miami Heat. Then we came home to watch them blow it in the fourth quarter. This really has very little to do with my running life, except that it gives me a fun little parallel.

I hate the Miami Heat almost as much as the Texas heat.

Really, it's not that bad when you're up early enough, but even at 6:00 in the morning, the temperature is up in the mid-seventies and there's a perpetual state of humidity in the air. Upon returning to the apartment, I have to wring about a pound of sweat out of my shirts before I hang them up to dry out on the patio. This is not a pretty sight.

And it happens even when I'm not pushing that hard. Today, I made a point of holding myself back a bit for my first four miles. Over the next few weeks, I'm concentrating on finishing all my workouts, running as continuously as possible, and not getting injured. The last thing I want is to try and push an easy 5 mile run only to trip and break something weeks before the race that I'm spending hundreds of dollars to attend. This mid-week eight miler (the last one of this season) was a good chance to make myself run steadily for the entire thing.

When I got to my halfway point (which is a water fountain on Town Lake Trail), I stopped for a very quick drink, and then continued on almost immediately. I pushed myself a little harder on this second half, my theory being that as I get more tired on race day, it will take more energy to go the same speed. By the time I was at the five-mile mark, I had dropped into a pretty strong pace. With 2.5 miles to go, I figured out that I was about 40 seconds ahead of 8:00 mile pace for the day. This was all the motivation I needed for the last few miles. I kept my head up as I felt the sun rising on my back, managed to keep running through both of my troublesome stoplights, and by the time I finished, I had gained another minute on that pace, meaning my last two miles were my fastest at approximately 7:30 apiece.

It seemed an appropriate way for me to celebrate National Running Day, though it seems like I'm the only person in Austin who is celebrating at all. I've been watching Twitter and Google searching, and it doesn't seem like anyone connected with any running groups (or stores) is actually doing anything today, which is a little sad. Here we are, with a holiday celebrating one of my favorite hobbies, and I've got nowhere to party.

I blame LeBron.

Wednesday's Run:
75 Degrees / Cloudy
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 2 Minutes, 17 Seconds