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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Split Negatively

So, that wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

After a great week of workouts, many of which started a little later in the day than I would have liked, I was excited to see what would happen this morning with my 14-miler. This struck me as the last big run in the first big push of my marathon re-training. Next week is a step-back, and then it gets ugly fast, so I was really hoping that today would be a success. Well, it wasn't, unfortunately.

Actually, I take that back. It was - what do they call it in Apollo 13? - a successful failure. I did not run 14 miles straight. I did, however, run 14 miles today, and that's the most important thing.

The problem started with last night's sleep, or rather lack thereof. I've actually acclimated to our noisy neighbors, and though they still wake me up, I'm usually pretty quick to get back to sleep. Last night, they weren't even loud, but I was awake throughout the night anyway. Not entirely sure why, which is frustrating. It's always better to know what caused a problem and therefore to be able to avoid it in the future. Regardless, I didn't fall solidly asleep until about 3:00 am, and then the alarm started going off.

I was awake even before that, thinking that it might be a good idea to just go out and get started if I wasn't going to sleep, but my mind wandered, and I drifted off. Then the alarm went off, but as I had my phone at my bedside instead of across the room, I just reached out and silenced it. Then again. Then again. Eventually, I just turned it off, and that's where the trouble really kicked in. Six o'clock passed. Then 6:30. I kept closing my eyes for a moment or two and opening them to find that half an hour had gone by. In the end, I didn't actually get out of bed until after 8, which I knew would spell disaster.

This combination of disappointment and little sleep left me fairly grumpy as I got all of my things together for the run, and I wasn't in good spirits when I made it out the door. Still, I told myself that if I just maintained a nice, relaxed pace, regardless of speed, then I could do it, hot sun or not.

The sun had other ideas.

Really, I just let my brain discourage my legs out of running. My first hour, actually, wasn't too bad, but as I got up near campus, trudging the sidewalks in direct sunlight, my will fell apart. It's times like these that I need a coach standing over my shoulder telling me that I can go farther. Reminding me that if I stop, it's only going to get worse. I need a voice of encouragement, and standing next to the Rec Sports hall at UT, there just wasn't a voice to be heard. I stopped in the shade "for a minute." When I tried to restart and realized that it was simply too hot to run, I called my (amazing) wife who came and got me.

But there were still five miles to be done, and I wasn't about to lose my complete mileage streak. I measured out how far I'd run, and then headed to the treadmill to finish those remaining miles. It took longer than I would have liked, and I had to run/walk most of it, but as ESPN played a story about the Chilean minors who survived to do more sport-related things, I simply could not allow myself to give up.

So this is where I stand five weeks into training for Marine Corps. I've completed one strong 13-miler, but most of my other long runs have included walking, something I do not wish to do. My weekly runs are getting better, but I am beginning to wonder if that is affecting the weekend success. I know that it will get easier once the temperature begins to drop, but as my wife pointed out, it really wasn't even that hot this morning. I can tell myself that it was all due to the hot sun, but in the end, it comes down to mental toughness, and mine is seriously beginning to wane. So how do I fix that? I can't just wait until it gets cooler.

And this week is supposed to be the hottest of the summer.

So far.

Sunday's Run:
73-84 Degrees, Sunny, then Indoors
8.95 Miles Road, 5.05 Miles Treadmill, 14 Miles Total
1 Hour, 55 Minutes, 53 Seconds

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just What I Needed

The world looks different when I'm running.

Normally, a bright a sunny day is welcoming and beautiful, but when you're in the throes of a seven-miler, the sun (especially in a Texas drought) becomes your enemy. Gorgeous, scenic hills and valleys become treacherous uphills and going-to-be-uphills-on-the-way-back. Lovely songbirds become potential attackers.

But it's not all bad. A stray sprinkler can be an oasis. Stoplights can act as forced rest breaks. And random acts of irritation can actually be quite inspirational. This last one actually happened to me today. As I was heading up Half-Mile Hill at the end of my workout, I was starting to lose steam. Refusing to let myself walk, I'd slowed to a rather trudging pace to make it up this last major incline, and just when I thought I might give up, someone honked at me.

I assume it was at me, because there was simply no one else around at the time. It was just me and this car on the access road along Mopac. They were going down the hill as I was going up, and the driver gave a quick punch on the horn. I immediately responded with a triumphant fist raise.

Truly, I have no idea why I reacted so well. Normally, when I hear someone honking their horn, particularly if I'm in my own car, it irritates me to no end, but for some reason, I took this particular blast to be encouragement. Perhaps the person in the car knew me, or maybe they just know what it feels like to climb a killer hill as the temperature climbs with you. Whatever the reason, that little car gave me just the boost I needed to finish my run with strength today.

And for that, I thank them.

Saturday's Run:
78-82 Degrees, Partly Cloudy
7.3 Miles
52 Minutes, 4 Seconds

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Outside the Mind

It's a common phenomenon.

You're sitting around the table at lunch, and someone mentions a movie with an actor from some other movie, and all four of you sit there staring at your salad fork like it's got the actor's name hidden between its fingers. In absolute determination to remember on your own, no one gets out their iPhone, and instead, everyone decides they'll figure it out later. Three hours pass, and in the middle of an important business meeting, you suddenly shout out, "Jude Law! Road to Perdition, that was it!" Everyone in your office turns and stares.

Very often, when you're trying to get your brain to work in a particular fashion, something will cause a blockage. You'll focus on wrong answers and misdirections, and for some reason, the neurons just won't fire in the desired way. It's only later, when your mind has completely wandered from the topic, that the brilliance shines through. Apparently, my legs work in the same way.

Last Saturday, I ran a six-mile pace run. Well, I did about 3 miles at pace, and then dragged myself through the remaining three. No matter how I tried, running at my desired speed just too far too much energy, and I couldn't get the feeling into my legs. It was frustrating, but then I managed to work my way through 13 the next day, so I didn't worry too much about it.

Tuesday, I battled with a resentful pup, and yesterday, it was a new distance for the season, so today was the first run that I didn't have to think about. This was particularly useful, considering that I had a lot of other things on my mind. I got out a little later than I normally like, so it was warmer than usual, but I wasn't focused on that, either. I even managed to run past the bird-attack tree without wondering if they were coming for me.

When I hit my turnaround, I did a quick check of my time and got confused. I tried to remember what my previous times for this distance had been, and was sure I had it wrong. I just headed back, and tried not to slow down. The sun was hitting pretty hard, but again, I let my mind wander off and kept pumping my legs, even speeding up a bit on the downhills. The return trip was not much slower than going out, and when I entered it into my spreadsheet, I got a lovely surprise. Today was my fastest road run (not designated to be a pace run) of the season. And I wasn't even breathing hard.

The fear of running is often more exhausting than the run itself. More and more of my friends have started running - whether inspired by me or just desiring an enjoyable athletic outlet - and it's been so great to see. If you can overcome the fear of the run, the actual steps get easier, and I'm thrilled that so many of my friends are figuring that out. Apparently, the less I think about the run, the better it's going to be, at least for shorter distances. I'm going to try and hit a relaxed (yet strong) pace on Saturday, but the good news is that it's not even supposed to be a pace run. Ideally, it'll turn out to be one anyway, but I certainly won't push it.

Not with 14 miles to do the next day.

Thursday's Run:
84 Degrees / Sunny
3.3 Miles
22 Minutes, 39 Seconds

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Could Be Worse

Great news! It's shin splints!

And I'm only being a little bit sarcastic there.

My (three) regular readers will remember that, back in April, I had some rather severe pain in my right leg that made it very difficult to run, eventually forcing me to take some time off. I would have believed it to be shin splints, but one of the characteristics of that injury, according to a lot of what I was reading, was that it would hurt less the more you ran. On the other hand, if the pain got worse, this was more descriptive of a stress fracture. Not happy news. At the same time, however, it only hurt while I was running, not all the time. If it were a fracture of any kind, it would hurt pretty much all the time.

In the end, I determined (on my own) that it was likely shin splints resulting from overuse, and I ended up running through it after taking a bit of time off. Yesterday, I felt a similar pain, this time in the left leg, and I got worried, since a week's rest is not currently in my plans. My most focused goal for this season is to run each and every mile of my training, and taking time off will simply not allow that. I wrote the pain off as a complication of an uncooperative puppy, and I forgot about it, until about my fourth step of this morning's run. With all the various thoughts that were running through my brain at that point, one stepped forward and took charge - you have to finish your miles for today.

So I just kept running. The midweek run was bumped up to 7 miles this week, so I was running on a slightly different course than I normally get to do. I tried not to focus on my time, but rather on maintaining a good landing point on my foot. What I mean by this is where, on my foot, I first make contact with the ground in my stride. The elite distance runners of the world tend to land on the middle of their feet, as their body weight and momentum are slightly forward. Landing on the heel can actually help contribute to injuries like shin splints, so I leaned forward a bit in the hopes that they would go away.

And they did.

At about 3 miles, my mind returned from whatever vacation it had taken, and I realized that I was no longer in any pain. What was even better about this was that the first half of my run today was more uphill, so when I hit 3.5 miles, I got to cruise downhill for about a mile and a half. There were a couple flare-ups of pain here and there, but nothing sustained, and throughout the rest of the morning, I've had no issues whatsoever. Tomorrow morning, I've got just an easy 3-miler, and then a rest day, which I think will be very valuable.

So all of this adds up to a lovely little riddle. When is a running injury a good thing?

When it could have been something much worse.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2 Workouts, 15 Meats, 24 Hours

I do love me some steak.

In fact, the only way to make a good steak dinner even better is to add more steak. And also lamb, chicken and pork. And bring them out to my table in rapid-fire style on freakin' swords. That was my dinner last night at Fogo de Chao here in Austin, which was the culmination of a rather wonderful day in general, as it was my second wedding anniversary.

I got up on time and decided immediately that I'd rather stay in bed, pushing my cross-training workout back to lunchtime. Once I was up for work, however, I was alert and productive throughout the day. Much was accomplished, and when I headed to the gym to ride the bike, I was in great spirits. As a result, I decided to push myself a little harder than normal, and had a very strong "ride." I use the quotation marks because it doesn't really feel like riding when you're sitting still. I guess "spin" is the more correct term as far as workouts go. Fine. I had a strong spin.

A quick shower later, I went back to work with the TV on in the background as I waited for word from the NFL Players Association which, as you may have heard, finally got over whatever whiny millionaire problems they were having and decided to have a football season, which is great for me, as that's my favorite sport to watch. It's less than three weeks to the first preseason games. Yes, I'm counting down.

At the end of the work day, we headed into downtown, stopping first at the Four Seasons Hotel. The company is celebrating its 50th Birthday, and was offering drinks for very little for 25 minutes that happened to coincide perfectly with our dinner reservation. From there, it was only a few short blocks to Fogo and their 15 kinds of meat, great service, and fantastic atmosphere. Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Yes. They even threw in a free dessert because it was our anniversary, which I thought was a very nice touch. We had considered going somewhere else after dinner, but we were so full that we figured it was a better idea to just roll ourselves to the car and head home. Overall, a nearly perfect day.

But last night, I got what my brother calls, "the meat sweats." Not too bad, mind you, but I did have a little trouble sleeping as my body desperately worked to digest the ridiculous amount of savory goodness I had put into it. The result was that I got up a little later this morning, but I still had plenty of time to run, and I decided to take the dog.

The dog, as it turned out, wanted no part of my running nonsense. As soon as we started walking down the hill toward my starting line, she started pulling in the other direction with a "I know what this means" look in her eye. Still, she usually gets over that pretty quickly, so we headed out. After all, it was only a three mile run. Well, the pup was not interested. For the entire first mile, she pulled backward, downright stopping twice. At the mile mark, I stopped to give her a rest and she laid down. This was my cue to give up, so I turned back toward home, at which point she was more than happy to run. Shaking my head, I ran the mile back up, dropped her off, and then headed to the gym for the last one.

Sometimes, I'm just not up for running, so I get how my dog felt this morning. I'm still considering taking her with me on Thursday of this week, but we'll see how both of us are feeling. I don't want to have to cut a run short again and split it up like that, even if it's only a short workout. Though I must say, I did enjoy my little Pace-Saver mile (point one) on the treadmill at top speed. It was an exhilarating way to end a pretty spectacular 24 hours.

Also, I'm pretty sure it put an end to the meat sweats.

Monday's Workout:
Stationary Bike
10.1 Miles
35 Minutes

Tuesday's Run(s):
76 Degrees, Then Indoors
3.1 Miles
22 Minutes, 29 Seconds

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Right Formula

I may have found a system that works.

Part of training for a marathon is creating a pre-run routine that optimizes energy and preparedness without spending too much time or involving too many steps. This morning was one of my more successful morning routines.

When my alarm went off, I was surprised by two things. First, I was surprised that it was already going off, as I was fairly certain that I had only just fallen asleep. Second, I was amazed at how wide awake I was so quickly. I ended up having some caffeine yesterday, and I felt much better in general as far as energy level goes. I'm still going to cut back from the huge amount that I normally had, but I won't be avoiding it entirely, as it appears to be a fairly essential part of my diet.

The first thing I did was have a Snickers Marathon Bar, which I picked up at the grocery yesterday. My quest for energy during the run hasn't quite been solved by baby food, which is slightly disappointing. It's been great for the shorter runs, but I need a little something extra on the long ones. I've had and enjoyed them before, and since they're designed for energy, it seemed like exactly what I needed. I ate it first, so that I'd have a little time to digest it before I started moving. At that point, I got dressed, filled up the Camel Pak, and got all of my little running essentials together.

A quick check of the weather showed that it was already 81 degrees, warmer than usual when I start running. Problem one. As I headed down the hill, I felt some odd tightness in my left hamstring. Problem two. And yet, for some reason, I was very confident today, which didn't make sense even as I was appreciating the fact. I've been so concerned with my lack of endurance lately that I've been dreading these long runs rather than looking forward to them. Even this morning, I wasn't really psyched about heading out the door, but as I started, something in me told me I could do it.

Miles one and two were fairly uneventful. I did my best not to look at my watch until the two mile mark, where I was at a medium pace, exactly where I wanted to be. Mile three started me up a big hill, which I had anticipated, and I focused on the fact that it would be a downhill on the way back. At mile four, I stopped for a moment to pick up a magazine stand that had fallen over into the sidewalk, which got a cheer from the group of runners that passed me as I did it. I ran parallel to them for a little bit, hearing them talking amongst themselves about the 2:45 one of them was shooting for in New York this fall, and I felt a lot better about my pace as I turned up another hill.

This was going to be the hardest part of the run, I felt, but again I knew it would be a lovely downhill on the way back. I fought through it, and had visions of walking once I got to the top of the hill, when a thought occurred to me. Why would I need to walk then? That's the easy part. So I kept on running, and was still trucking along when I hit my halfway mark. I ran back about 3/4 of a mile before I took a half-block walk break to have an energy gel, a break I had planned before I even started the run, and then it was right back to running, with almost no problems at all.

The downhills on the way back were everything I hoped they would be. With every step, I felt myself getting closer and closer to the finish. A couple stoplights held me up for a moment or two, but for the most part, I was able to just keep running, as I was out there early enough to beat most of the traffic. With about three miles left, the energy gel really kicked in, and I felt like I could pick up the pace, but I didn't. This, I think, is what made this workout really successful. If I had picked it up with two or three miles to go, I may have had a lot of problems keeping it up in that last uphill mile. When I started to lose speed, I might have lost confidence and risked a walk break, so instead, I maintained my even pace for the rest of the run, and did not have a single (unplanned) walk break in the entire run.

There is so much that I am thankful for this morning, and I am completely amped this morning. I've got a lot planned for the rest of the day, and having a really successful morning run fuels that a lot. Running has been a challenge for me for the last few weeks, but this felt like progress. Like strength. Even though it was a little slower than I'd like to be doing these workouts, this felt like a solid long run, and I credit very much of it to finding the right combination of food, water, and equipment in the morning.

Let's hope it keeps working.

Sunday's Run:
81 Degrees / Mostly Cloudy
13.2 Miles
1 Hour, 48 Minutes, 53 Seconds

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I feel like I'm in detox.

This really doesn't make all that much sense, considering I've never actually had to deal with anything remotely as uncomfortable as I assume detox to be. In fact, it's almost entirely the wrong word, because I don't have pain per se, but my body feels strange. Realizing recently how much money I spend on things like pop (yes, I'm from Ohio, so I say "pop") and beer, I decided that fairly soon, I'm going to try and drink only water for some period of time. This will save some coin and, hopefully, also have some great health benefits.

So this week, we ran out of Dr. Pepper, and I just didn't buy any more. I had some pretty bad caffeine withdrawal at first, but eventually, it went away, and I didn't even fill the void with coffee. Since Monday afternoon, I've had only water, a bit of milk, and two glasses of beer (NXNW Brewery - good, but not great) to drink. And what's more, it's been a lot of water. I'm probably somewhere in the 80 oz per day range. This, in and of itself, is good. Especially in the hot weather we're having. And did I mention my show this August is outdoors? Because it is.

However, I've always heard health professionals talk about how having enough water gives the body so much more energy and things of this sort, and I absolutely have not found that to be true. Granted, I was going through a lot of caffeine in a day, so dropping off the map is bound to have detrimental effects on my energy level, but I didn't think I would be nearly as tired as I found myself at 3.5 miles this morning. I took a rest and stopped my watch, which I'm not really happy about, but as today was supposed to be a pace run, I didn't want to include resting time in there. I firmly believed that if I took that quick rest, that I'd be able to run the rest of the way, though I ended up walking more.

There is a bright spot, though. As I was turning to come up Half Mile Hill at the finish, there was an older man running on the road next to the path a little ahead of me. As a third runner came running down the hill toward us, the old man gave her a, "Looking strong, keep it up!" When I caught up to him, he turned, smiled, and said, "Looking good!" It's impossible not to be happy when the elderly cheer for you, so with a smile of my own, I finished as strong as I could.

While I was disappointed in my overall performance, I was very happy with certain aspects of today's run, and I think that's the approach I'll have to take to training in Texas summers. My times are simply going to be slower, especially if I'm not pushing myself forward with caffeinated corn syrup. (Don't get me wrong, I haven't given the stuff up, but it is certainly a good idea for me to cut back. ) Still, if I make the effort to get stronger and I push myself harder than is comfortable - which I definitely did today - then I'm going to be a better runner.

I'm told that every athlete hits plateaus and walls, and I think I'm climbing mine right now. It certainly doesn't help that the extended forecast looks like this:

Not a lot of hope in that outlook, though we can all pretend that it actually will rain next Saturday, even if no one believes it.

Still, I've accomplished some great things already this year, and if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, then I'll accomplish a lot more. Today's run put me over 100 miles for this season, and tomorrow's will put me over that mark for the month of July. By the end of August, I'll have run more than 1000 miles this year, with no immediate end in sight. I've conquered injuries, exhaustion, and sheer laziness, so surely I can break through whatever is holding me back now.

Though I wouldn't object to a sudden cold front.

Saturday's Run:
79 Degrees / Cloudy
6.01 Miles
44 Minutes, 17 Seconds

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Feelin' Good

A lot of things have already gone right this morning.

I felt like I got enough sleep, which made getting up relatively easy. Sure, it has hard to give up on the dream I was having about someone writing songs about snow plows, but I figured it'd be tough to get back there anyway. I stumbled around in the dark a bit, found all my various running artifacts, and got myself put together.

Really, I didn't fully wake up until I had reached my starting line, which, I've said before, is really the best way for me to do it. Get out there and start running before my body knows what's happening to it. It was also at this moment that I remembered that I wanted to bring the pup with me on today's run. Whoops. Well, maybe I'll have to try and take her out for both of my short runs next week. I'm sure she'll love that. I'll be lucky to get her out of her crate on Thursday.

The one little hiccup aside, I was feeling good heading down the hill. There's currently no trace of the headache that I've had for three days, and though my legs felt a bit heavy, I'm sure that's more from running a fast 10K yesterday than anything else. Actually, they eased up a bit midway through the run.

Another bonus on today's run was that it didn't include a real-life game of Angry Birds. Either they've moved the nest, or they're just not awake yet. I'm guessing it's the latter, but either way, I made it past their tree undisturbed, which is not to say that I wasn't jumpy. Every time I heard a bird call over my shoulder or a rustling of leaves, I felt my step pick up just a little bit. And that was for the whole run, not just past the tree. You never know to where they might have moved...

Most importantly, however, I was able to keep a nice, even pace through the whole run. Yes, it was a little slower than my goal marathon pace, but these short runs are supposed to be slow. At least, that's what Hal tells me. My second half was all of 9 seconds slower than my first half, which is unusual consistency for me. At one point, about 2.5 miles in, I started getting a killer stomach cramp, but I did not stop. I slowed myself down a bit until it was manageable, and then picked it back up. I did not walk a step this morning, which may not seem like a huge accomplishment in a 3-mile run, but it means a lot to me every time I finish a run without walking.

The best part about today, though, is that I've now got a 47-hour rest period before my next run. It's going to be a tough weekend, I'm afraid, what with a 6-mile pace run and then a half marathon on Sunday. Hopefully, I'll be able to get out the door early enough on both days to avoid having to battle the heat and my own lack of discipline. In fact, I'm feeling fairly optimistic about the whole thing right now.

And that, my friends, is my version of a runner's high.

Thursday's Run:
78 Degrees / Partly Cloudy
3.3 Miles
24 Minutes, 5 Seconds

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To-Do List

I can hardly believe this week is only half over.

To say that I've been stressed this week would be a gross understatement. I had gotten a little behind on work, and since this is the week that everything is due, I was going out of my mind to get it all done. Add to that some training for my second job, a few rehearsals for my third, and a pulsating headache that has lasted the better part of three days, and you've got where I was at this afternoon when I headed out for my run.

Once again, I'd gotten up on time only to lie back down on the couch "for just fifteen more minutes." Once again, this lasted until work time, and my run was put on the back burner. At the end of the work day, I told the wife that I was heading out, and she suggested that I do my six miler on the treadmill, you know, since it is brutal outside. Though I'm not really a fan of doing anything longer than 4 on the machine, she was absolutely right, in that it was far too hot for me to run outside. Especially given the semi-frazzled shape of my body right now, a trip to the gym was going to be the best option.

And it was fine, though spending more than 40 minutes in one spot gets old rather quickly, I was able to distract myself by figuring out what pace I was at and how much faster or slower I had to go overall to get a certain time. When I actually achieved that time, I felt great.

To be honest, I'm feeling great about a lot of things right now. I finished all of the work reporting that I had to do, and I get to start a fresh new month tomorrow. I've done the training for my second job and have already started booking dates to work. Now, I have time to sit down with my script and really focus on job number three, which is good, because I've got rehearsal every night this week. I may even get to go out and spend time with some friends, absurd as that might seem. 

I am, however, very worried about my discipline level, which is currently nonexistent. Even when I do get out and start a run on time, I'm as likely to walk as not, and if it's over 6 miles, it's pretty much guaranteed that I will at some point. Yes, it's hot, but that's not the problem. The problem is that I've got it in my head that walking is okay now, and I don't want it to be. If I absolutely need to walk, that's one thing, but I have a suspicion that in most cases, all I really need to do is slow down a little bit. However, once I start doing that, then it's a quick mental jump to "just for one minute," and with my marathon time goals, I simply don't have time for that.

The race is over 14 weeks away, and already I'm starting to worry about endurance. That's not good. I need to relax, which means making running the fun "extra" thing in my day, not one more task that I have to complete.

So how do I do that?

Wednesday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
6.2 Miles
43 Minutes, 39 Seconds

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Firebird / Firebomb

"When the birds first started attacking us, we all thought it was pretty funny and made Hitchcock jokes. But we're not laughing now." -Robert DeNiro on "30 Rock"

I'm not laughing, either. I'm pretty sure I just got Punk'd by Mother Nature.

For the last couple days, I really haven't been myself. Starting with my slow start on Sunday and the subsequent post-run collapse from heat exhaustion, I haven't really completely recovered. We didn't do much for the rest of Sunday, and so when I woke up on Monday, I hardly expected to be completely exhausted, but I was. I made it out of the bedroom and into the living room before deciding that I simply did not have it in me to go for a bike ride at the gym. This would turn out to be a very big mistake.

Especially on Monday, the workout is what gets my blood moving, and I needed a lot of blood to be on the move for the last couple days. Alas, it hasn't been there, which hasn't in any way decreased the amount of stuff that I have to do. I'm crazy stressed out, and on top of all of that, I'm mad at myself for not completing the workout like I should. And it's Monday. I mean, let's not forget that.

But I managed to make it through. I got almost everything done that I was supposed to get done, and what I did not finish could wait until this morning. I tried to relax as best I could last evening, but I found it much more difficult than I had anticipated. At around 9:00, I started to get ready for bed, having finally tired of dealing with the throbbing pain behind my eye that had been coming and going for most of the day. Perhaps, I thought, I really just needed a good night's sleep. Eight hours of solid shut-eye should get me back on track.

Nope. Six o'clock came and went and still I laid in bed. I didn't actually get up until right at 8:00 when I had to start working, another massive task load in front of me. I managed to get through my 8 hours with only two or three small mental breakdowns, and at the end of the day, I still had a lot on my plate, not the least of which was the 3-mile run that I needed to complete at some point before midnight. I toyed with a couple different ideas before settling on the decision to wait until the rain started, run my three, and work otherwise.

What's that? Rain? Yes, according to the forecast, which in reality means very little in this town. They were telling me that around 4:00, it would rain rather strongly, and the temperature would drop 15 degrees. I realize now that it was wishful thinking to consider this an actual possibility, but I figured something had to tip in my favor today. I laced up, and kept my eye on the sky. Sure enough, right at 4, the thunder started, but there was no actual rain just yet. As soon as I saw some drops, I was out the door.

Here's what I was thinking - if I start running when the rain just starts, then by the time I start my return trip, it'll be raining for real, thus cooling me down. All of this will allow me to do a nice hard run to push out some of the tension. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened. I did, in fact, run a very fast first half, at which point the rain stopped and the temperature jumped ten degrees. Crap.

This would have been enough of a failure pile for one day, even without the fact that, going both directions, I was attacked by a bird, which then chased me for a tenth of a mile in each direction. And I went way out of my way to avoid him the second time.

Sweaty, angry, and jumpy, I trudged back up the hill, and passed a rather brutal car accident.

And I realized it could have been a lot worse.

Every now and then, I go through these awful spells of being, for lack of a better word, a little depressed. It's not clinical or anything, but I just get easily annoyed (with others and myself) and frustrated, and it leaves me feeling very empty. I try to head them off, but they get through inevitably, so the best that I can do is recognize the situation in which I find myself, and just deal with it. Get out the other side, and something good is bound to happen. I've still got a lot of work to do tonight, after a rehearsal, so it's not likely that I'll suddenly be in a great mood tomorrow.

But I can guarantee I'll run slower.

Tuesday's Run:
95 Degrees / Rain
3.3 Miles
23 Minutes, 30 Seconds

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Much like JD on Scrubs, I really could have used an operatic mistake-preventing friend this morning.

I would have just used him as an alarm clock.

We went down to Zilker last night to watch Footloose, which was quite enjoyable, but it meant that I was in bed a little bit later than I normally would want to be with an 8-mile run planned in the morning. I didn't expect it to be a big problem, but when the alarm went off, I turned it off without a second thought. It was way too early, and I was way too comfortable to get out of bed and start exhausting myself.

When I did actually get out of bed, I had a big bowl of applesauce in preparation for the run. Since I haven't made it to the grocery just yet to replenish my baby food supply, I figured this was the next best thing. Nutritionally, I was good to go. Mentally, not so much. I just couldn't get myself motivated, and every minute I spent thinking about how I didn't want to run in the heat, it got hotter outside. Just when I thought I might be ready to face the weather, something interesting came on television, and my shiny object-addled mind lost what drive it had as I immersed myself in several hours of behind-the-scenes Harry Potter specials.

This had two effects on me. As I watched the actors run around on set, I began to feel lazy and decided that I was going to do something active. Given the time of day, I figured that it was probably too hot to run, so instead I would do tomorrow's cross training today, and delay today's long run until the morning. Effect number two - when I actually got around to working out, I had the stupid theme song in my head the entire time.

As the last few minutes of the special were winding down, I got dressed for a bike session at the gym. Finishing this process, I made the snap decision to run instead. The last thing that I wanted to do was get behind in my running, even just a few miles, and it will make my Monday morning much easier to bike first thing instead of running.

So, off I went, and the heat was, to no one's surprise, painful. The first two miles were faster than I intended them to be. In fact, I've really got to work on starting more slowly on these long runs. As I crossed Town Lake, the heat started to creep into my brain. My resolve started slipping, and then it jumped straight off the cliff. I went from "no walking" to "only walk for a second" to "at least don't sit down" to "eventually I'll start running again." That last step hit around the halfway point.

Really, today's long run became two four-mile runs, one that was pretty strong, and the other that was a little slower. I took along an energy gel, which I took at the break between these two runs, but it didn't help as much as I would have hoped. It was like the sun had sapped any energy from the packet before it even hit my stomach. So, Jeff Galloway came to my rescue once again.

At first, I tried to do a fairly difficult version of the Galloway run-walk-run system, running for 8 minutes and walking for one. This did not work. The first mile of my restart was fine, but my entire walk was in the direct sunlight on top of the Congress Avenue bridge. My next run section lasted on a minute or two before I had to walk once more. So, I decided to try a more reasonable schedule. Three on, one off. And that took me all the way home, where I climbed in the shower before I'd even gotten out of my running clothes.

So what was my mistake? Well, truly there were a couple, but the big one was turning off the alarm. I'm glad that I completed the run today instead of waiting until tomorrow, but the whole thing would have gone much better if I had gotten up when I was supposed to. With no impending workout hanging over my head, I would have been able to enjoy my day to a much fuller extent, and I probably would not have been the weak, sweaty mess that I was. Well, you live and learn.

And you get up on time.

Sunday's Run:
98 Degrees / Sunny
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 4 Minutes, 32 Seconds

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Multiples of 7

I've always liked numbers.

Back in high school, math was my favorite subject. What I loved about it was that there was always an answer - it wasn't about what you thought or felt, but that there were specific steps that got to one answer, right or wrong. I loved the subject until I went to college and tried to make it my major. Then, they stopped using numbers, and the entire class became about theories and hypothetical impossibilities that somehow become math despite the fact that there are no recognizable values involved. One of my classmates even used a couple formulas to show me that two plus two did not, in fact, equal four. I paused for a moment, punched him in the arm and walked away.

Still, I've got the lingering love of numbers in my brain, and it comes in handy with my training. It led me to develop a rather extensive Excel sheet that keeps track of everything I could think of related to my training, including total miles run per week/month/year, pace per run/week/training season, and all the information that is recorded from each marathon, among other things. It's a one-stop shop for all information about any run that I've done since I had my running rebirth last December.

Even more usefully, my love of math helps me figure out paces and splits while out on the road. Currently, it's pretty easy to do, since I'm going for a whole minute pace. When you're trying for a pace like 8:27 or 7:13, the math gets a little trickier, but when you're going for 8:00 or 7:00, life is good. As a result, multiples of 7 are taking on a somewhat ridiculous role in my life. For example, any time I think of the number 21 - regardless of what context I hear it in - it makes me think of three miles. This morning, as I finished my run, I was trying to think of how many weeks I had left until Marine Corps, specifically whether it was 14 or 15 (it's 15, by the way). When I was wondering if it was 14, my thought was, "That's not much at all. That's only two... nothing. Fourteen weeks is not two of anything."

It is, however, about 3 1/2 months, which seems like a really long time. I know that I'm going to need the training hours ahead, so I'm glad I've got them. I just worry about getting restless. Happily, this season is going very well. For the first time in my journey, I've gone the first three weeks of a season without missing a mile. Sure, I've had a little more walking, and my pace is not quite as fast as it has been in the past, but that comes from my desire to be more careful this time around.

I did realize this morning that my goal time is going to be hard to get. Say what I will about training in the heat, at some point it's just hard to run really fast for an extended period of time. And yet I managed to do it for six miles this morning.

Today was scheduled to be a pace run, and I was determined to actually run on pace for once. Did I? Well, no, but I was much closer than I normally am, and two of my miles were actually right on. I was a bit fast on mile one, and a bit faster on mile two, at which point I really focused on running easy. The third mile brought me to the trail, where I always run a little faster due to the presence of other people. As such, I made a focused effort to slow myself down, and it actually worked. My third mile was right on at 7 minutes. The fourth mile was probably a little fast, but I was somewhere else in my mind when I actually crossed the mile marker, so I checked it a little late and guess that I was about where I wanted to be. At mile five, I checked my split right on time and found that I'd gained about 20 seconds over the last two miles, which really isn't too bad. I was starting to get pretty tired, but I gathered up what determination I had left, pushed my legs forward and let my mind wander. I honestly was surprised to find myself with half a mile left. The last hill hurt a bit, but I pushed my way through it and finished my final mile in exactly 7 minutes.

The good news is, I'm beginning to figure out what my goal pace feels like. The bad news is, it hurts a bit. Still, it's very early in the season, and I'm sure I'm still dealing with the aftereffects of my race three weeks ago. Once my schedule gets a little more regular (which it may never do), I'm hoping that I'll get into a better rhythm all around.

Tomorrow, I've got a step-back week long run of only 8 miles. I'm hoping to finish strong, but more importantly, I'm hoping to finish without walking. It's officially time to start rebuilding endurance.

If I say it, it has to happen, right?

Saturday's Run:
80 Degrees / Cloudy
6.01 Miles
41 Minutes, 5 Seconds

Friday, July 15, 2011

Different Kind of Marathon

Yesterday was one of those days you don't get very often.

Sometimes, you get the opportunity to do something that's geeky, frivolous and in all other ways absurd, and when you know that you'll probably never get a chance to do it again, it's an easy decision. That's how I found myself going to bed at 8:00pm on Wednesday night. And then waking up before 3:00am on Thursday morning. And then sitting in a movie theatre by 3:30, where I would remain for the next 22.5 hours.

As part of the ridiculous pop culture explosion that surrounds the Harry Potter phenomenon, the wife and I went to the Alamo Drafthouse for a Harry Potter Marathon: all 8 movies in a row, the last one being the midnight premier of the finale. It was awesome.

In addition to the specials that they were offering, including their recipe for butterbeer, and the pint glasses that they gave out to everyone in attendance, the entire atmosphere was great. A good number of people made it through the entire thing, though I think I was probably one of the few to go the whole time without sleeping. They had (mostly) entertaining interludes between each movie, though some of them were really quite awful.

The best part, though, was getting to see a movie at its premier time without having to fight over seats or stand in a line with a bunch of people "saving spots" for their friends, a huge pet peeve of mine. Never before have I felt like I earned a spot in a theatre more than that. In fact, any movie I see in theatre 2 at the Alamo, I think I've now earned the right to kick whoever is in that seat out of it. There should be a plaque or something put up. I guess I've got a few emails to write.

But hey, if nothing else, it's a great story to tell the kids one day when they say, "Dad, there's no way you were ever a huge geek. You're so cool all the time." "Oh yeah?" I'll reply, "Let me tell you a little story about a wizard named Harry..."

However, with these kinds of experiences, there is always one catch - the next day. After spending an insane amount of time in that theatre, the body adjusts in some strange ways. Most notably, when we went home a little after 2:00am, it actually seemed lighter outside, because in the full moon, the sky was brighter than the theatre. Then, of course, there's the sleep issues. I did sleep in today, and it took quite a bit of time to get my body in motion, even though I knew that I had a 3 mile run on the schedule, and it was going to be awfully hot out there. Eventually, I decided to start by cleaning the apartment, to get my energy moving, and then I could buckle down and do some work.

I didn't get to running until about 5:00pm, and it was just too hot outside to even consider a workout. So, off to the gym I went, with an idea inspired by last night's drive home.

One of my big issues in running is that I can't maintain the pace that I'm shooting for. Part of this is that I always think of a "pace run" as being fast, so my first couple miles are always too speedy. As a result, I tire myself out and end up dragging at the end. So today, I did the first half of a relativity experiment. Much like 2:00am can seem bright after a day in a theatre, so can a 7-minute pace feel easy after a really fast treadmill run. At least, that's the theory.

So I killed it on the treadmill today, and I'm hoping that it makes the "easy" run pace I'll start out with tomorrow just a little bit faster. The trouble with my 6-mile course is that the mile markers aren't well-defined, but I'll make due as best I can. What will be important is how I finish and when I start.

Which also means it's bedtime.

Friday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
3.1 Miles
19 Minutes, 40 Seconds

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Baby food!

How often do you get to read an opening like that, eh? But I did mention a few days ago that I was going to start looking into eating before runs, and today I actually got around to it. Monday, of course, I was only on the bike, so I didn't really need it. Yesterday, I felt that the adventure of wrangling the dog during the run would provide enough stimulation that I probably didn't need to use a booster. This morning, however, I had a six miler ahead of me, as the mid-week and fast Saturday runs each bump up a mile. I wanted to make sure that I had the energy.

So I turned to an old friend. Something that got me through countless cross country and track meets throughout high school. I had some baby food.

Now before you break down into hysterics, think about it logically. First, not all baby food is that nasty, green, strained peas paste. There are a lot of fruit baby foods out there which are actually quite delicious. In fact, there was a time in my life when I was quite the connoisseur of Gerber flavors, but now I stick to pretty much anything involving apples or bananas.

Baby food is great for pre-run for all the same reasons that it's great for babies. It's loaded with nutrients, it's not heavy, and it's very easily digested. This means that all the goodness gets into your blood faster, and you don't run the risk of cramps. After Sunday's run, I recognized that an energy gel made the second half much easier than the first. As such, I realized that I should probably have some good energy before the run, too, and I think baby food might just be the answer.

I'll know for sure next week, but I'm going to get in the habit of eating it now for anything over 4 miles. Since this is technically a step-back week in the Higdon system, I've only got to do 8 miles on Sunday, which will be plenty difficult, don't get me wrong. Still, having run over 8 miles twice already this season, I'm much more concerned about the following week's 13. If that goes well, then I'll be sold on the new routine. Yet if today's run is any indication, this is going to be a great experiment.

I felt so good from beginning to end that I didn't even remember (until I got back to my workout spreadsheet) that this run put me over 800 miles of running so far this year. Only in April (when I was injured) have I run less than 100 miles in a month, and I'm feeling great. I haven't been this active for this long since high school, and I really feel like I'm getting better. Recently I put up my race PRs as a way of gauging not only how I'm doing in the big races, but how I'm doing overall. I'm hoping to change that 5-mile time in November, but it's the 5K and 10K times that are really holding my attention these days. I'll probably never beat that mile time again, but if I can get back to that speed for a 5K...

Well, we'll worry about that another day. I've already got a big goal these days, and that's to qualify for Boston. So far this season, I'm feeling pretty good about it. I've set a goal time that will be much harder to attain, but it will actually cause me to train harder, which is the entire point.

So, with 800 miles behind and more than that ahead, 2011 is shaping up to be the year of the run for me. Truly, for a lapsed runner, it's like being born again.

I even get to eat baby food.

Wednesday's Run:
77 Degrees, Surprisingly Cool
6.01 Miles
42 Minutes, 55 Seconds

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Three Mile Nail File

Getting up is getting easier.

At least, that's what I told myself as I got moving this morning. I had laid out my clothes last night, so I didn't have to do much thinking, did all my little morning routine bits, and was ready to get out the door by 6:15. As I was moving around, though, I did notice some sharp pains in some unusual areas. As a runner, I'm used to having pains in my body pretty much all the time, but these were new ones - outside of the left shin and lower back. Why would something new hurt?

The bike. Alas, using all those new muscles actually, well, used them. So, naturally, there was a little bit of stiffness, but I decided that it wouldn't interfere with the run at all. Then, I made another fun decision. Today, I would take the dog.

It's been a while since we went on a run, just the two of us. In recent weeks, I've been concerned about the ever-increasing heat and - until a few weeks ago - my ever-increasing mileage. However, since I only had to do 3 miles this morning and the temperature was under 80, I figured she was due for a good workout. At first, she did not agree.

We went through her morning outside routine, and then took a turn to head down the hill, at which point, she clearly understood what was about to happen and was not at all amused. She tried pulling back a little, but in that, "Hey, wouldn't you rather come look at this tree?" sort of way. Once we made it to the bottom of the hill and were waiting at my stop light starting line, she focused herself for what lay ahead. She dragged a little behind for pretty much the entire run, which kept me from going too fast, but we still kept up a fairly strong pace, especially considering how long it's been since she's run at my speed.

On the way back, we walked across the narrow bridge, more for rest than caution. Since we got up early there weren't many other people or cars out there this morning, which helped prevent any of the usual focus issues that she has. One guy on a bike slipped off a curb and lost control for a second trying to get around us, but he was pretty good-humored about it, and everyone else we passed just smiled and nodded.

Then, in the last 3/4 of a mile, I decided to try and speed up. Given my recent endurance issues, strength at the end of the run is getting more and more important, and since we'd been cruising at a slightly slower pace for a while, I wanted to see if we could pick it up. Turns out we could. For the last 5-6 minutes, we sped up, not a lot, but enough that I could feel it in my legs. The pup stayed right with me, and we finished strong, though she was not happy about the remaining quarter mile or so we had to walk before we actually got back to the apartment.

I felt great this morning for a number of reasons. The dog got a great workout, and that's something we're definitely trying to get better about doing. In recent weeks, she's had a couple step backs behaviorally, which have no doubt been caused by all the travel and unfamiliarity of her surrounds in the turmoil that has been the last month and a half. Still, another big part of it is that she has a lot of energy, and if we don't take her for walks and runs that tire her out, she's going to devote that energy to less-than-ideal endeavors. Also, her little toenails are getting kind of long, and running on sidewalks helps keep them dull, so if nothing else, I'm psyched that I gave my dog a manicure today.

Most of all, I'm happy with how easy it was to get out the door this morning. It was just part of my morning, and now I'll be done with both my run and my blog post before I have to start work. This is how I would like all my mornings to go from now on. Even today I had a little dead space that I'm working to get rid of, but if all goes according to plan, by the time I've got 10-mile mid-week runs, I'll still be done in time for coffee.

One thing is certain - I'm officially off to my best start to a marathon training season ever.

Tuesday's Run:
78 Degrees
3.3 Miles
25 Minutes, 46 Seconds

Monday, July 11, 2011


Well that was unexpected.

In addition to enjoying myself and getting to cheer on someone close to me, I discovered yet another great benefit of having watched a triathlon yesterday. It got me out of bed to do some cross training this morning.

Normally, my cross training days have essentially been rest days where I did a couple things. Often, this was nothing more than a walk or playing a game or two of whatever sport someone else was doing. Today, however, I actually got up (on time) and headed to the gym for 30 minutes on the bike.

First, the downside. That thing hurts my butt. I have a suspicion that this extends to bikes in general, but as I do not currently own one, I'm choosing to blame it on this particular stationary bike. Of course, it doesn't help when, ten minutes in, the height adjuster drops a level for no apparent reason, and you fall two inches onto the seat with your full weight. Hypothetically. Regardless, it's fairly uncomfortable to those of us who don't do it very often, which gives me that much more of a reason to start doing bike work with some regularity. And wouldn't you know it, I've got cross training every week.

I didn't want to do anything too strenuous, since this is a different set of muscles, so I just did a 30-minute interval workout with a resistance level that wasn't too hard. I was disappointed to see that you could only do 30 minutes at a time, but honestly, I probably shouldn't be doing more than that right now anyway. The super added benefit was that I got to do some reading during a workout which almost never happens. Multitasking, away!

All in all, there wasn't too much to report, but I do look forward to this new aspect of my training. One of these days I'll get around to putting a lifting schedule together, but I think being more active on my cross training day will go a long way toward rebuilding my endurance and furthering my drive for speed.

And eventually a triathlon.

Monday's Workout:
Stationary Bike
8.03 Miles
35 Minutes (with cool down)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tri, Tri Again

Riddle - how can you run over 11 miles and still feel lazy?

Answer - run to a triathlon.

My brother-in-law was competing in the Couples Triathlon today out at Decker Lake in East Austin, and I told him that I would come out and support him. It's not very often that I actually get to watch a race, so I was really looking forward to it. The only catch? Sunday is the day of my long run, and I had to get that in somewhere. Easy solution. I would run to the race.

Now here's the thing: everyone always talks about the west side of Austin as Hill Country, so I assumed, totally erroneously, that the east side must then be flat, and when I put together my route that involved several miles on MLK, I never even considered how very difficult that might be. I really should have checked the elevation chart, but everything looks flat on MapMyRun. Consider the lesson learned.

Really, it wasn't the hills that killed me, as I was already pretty beat before I even got to them. The fact that the temperature was pushing 80 when I left the apartment at 5:45am was probably much more to blame. But the hills didn't help. Against my own advice and desire, I did a little bit of walking. Fortunately, I was able to drop myself into a rhythm of running several minutes and then walking for one, structured around the hills that I was completing. I never stopped mid-hill, but would always run for another minute or two until I had crested, and then took my rest on the downhill or flat surface where it would be more effective.

Once I'd made it to 50 minutes, I had an energy gel, and everything turned around. My "on" times went from 4 minutes to 7, and I was only taking them out of caution at that point. The solution is clear to me: I need to start eating before my long runs. What will I eat? That's for tomorrow's post.

My two really fun moments from the run both involved trains. The first was the discovery of a Capital Metro station out in the middle of nowhere. I had heard that these trains were essentially useless due to location, but I had no idea how true that was. I mean, this wasn't near anything. A little further down, I crossed some actual train tracks, and had my wits scared out of me when, halfway across, the bells started ringing. I turned to my right and saw a train not 50 feet away, taking a very slow turn toward me. I was never in any kind of danger, but I was thrilled that I got over the tracks before that train stopped me. That would have killed my time.

At the end of my mapped run, I ducked into a gas station to buy a couple sports drinks, and then headed the rest of the way to the triathlon. I found my BIL, gave him some encouraging words and watched him go. And immediately got jealous. One of the reasons I almost never watch a race is that I invariably want to compete in them. For this one, I haven't swam anywhere near that far in years, and I don't even own a bike, so the race could well have killed me. Still, it looked like fun.

But it also looked grueling. Once the sun came out, the heat skyrocketed and everyone out on the (barely shaded) course started to cook. It was not a PR kind of day, but BIL finished strongly, and I felt completely lazy. I mean, all I did was run today, but doing a tri requires the use of just about every muscle in your body. Doing a tri in a Texas summer is just plain crazy. And one of these days, I'll get around to doing it.

Why? Because every time I see some ridiculously difficult challenge, I feel the need to try it. Man Vs. Food, crazy race stories in Runner's World, stupid gimmicks attached to established races - if it involves the word "challenge," consider me in. I want to say that I've done it all, and while I don't currently have any challenges planned, I'm always on the lookout for the next big accomplishment.

And that will likely not be a triathlon, as I'm not sure I could even finish right now. I'm very proud of BIL for his completion, and I look forward to attending the next one.

In the meantime, I've just completed week 2 of 18, and I haven't missed a mile yet. This coming week is a step-back week, which would be awesome if the midweek runs didn't increase mileage. Though I've only got to do 8 miles next Sunday, my Wednesday and Saturday runs are now up to 6. The one great consolation is that I really enjoy my six-mile route. Overall, next week will have two miles less than this week did, which means that I've got to run them hard. And the first step for that is being prepared, which includes eating before the run.

Ahh, but what to eat...?

Sunday's Run:
79 Degrees (at start)
11.56 Miles
1 Hour, 35 Minutes, 13 Seconds

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Keep The Clock Running

I seriously hate mornings.

This feeling gets especially magnified on weekends, when I would otherwise have the option of sleeping in, but I don't get to do this because I've got to run. Really, the only issue I've got with this season's training plan is that I'm running on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. When I was preparing for Seattle, Sunday was a "cross training" day, which meant that I didn't have to get up before the sun. Now, however, as I prepare for a Sunday run, I get to run both days of every weekend.

In the end, this will be great for me. If I get used to waking up early every day of the week, it won't be quite as hard to do it, which means being in better spirits for the run, but also for whatever I have planned that day.

However, I'm not used to it yet. When my alarm went off, I managed to pull myself out of bed, shuffle into the living room with my running stuff, and then collapse on the couch. Where I stayed for two hours. For some reason, I just could not convince myself that the run was something I wanted to do today. Every minute that I put off heading outside (and instead sat watching Man Vs. Food thinking, "I could eat that"), the temperature was going up, and the run would be more difficult. Eventually, after much encouragement from my wife, I decided to go and was out the door before I could change my mind.

I was pleased to see that there were a lot of people out and about around the park today, even relatively early in the day. It's always nice to have other people to whom you can wave and smile when you're running. Through the park and up to the devil light, I was feeling quite good, but then I hit the red.

For the first time, I actually measured how long I stayed at the light (since I'm not stopping my watch during runs anymore). The first stoplight held me up for almost a full minute. And yet, even with that minute, I was at a 7-minute pace for my two mile split, which was good and bad. Bad, because I was going too fast. Good, because I didn't feel like crap. I hit another red shortly after that, losing another twenty seconds, but at the turnaround point, I was actually on a pretty strong pace.

Which unfortunately meant that I was getting tired. Losing only 3 seconds to stoplights and adeptly dodging an assassin in a Chevy (LOOK BOTH WAYS WHEN TURNING ON RED, PEOPLE!), I reentered the park a little low on breath. After the acrobatics I performed to avoid collision, I took a quick walking break, which is almost always a bad idea for me. Once I've stopped, the next stop always comes much easier. And yet, no matter how many times I tell myself that and how often I'm reminded myself that restarting is always worse, I can still convince myself that this time it will be better. It wasn't.

My last mile was a bit of a walk-run system, but it was based on landmarks that I chose beforehand, and since I kept my watch going the whole time, it forced me back into a running pace rather quickly. I even managed to run the last half mile without stopping.

This lapse of endurance is, I'm sure, due to several different factors, but I'm addressing them to the best of my ability. It's still really early in the season, but at the same time, recovery is going to be critical for certain things that I'm considering (Oooo, mysteries...) for next year, and I want to have some confidence that I could actually pull it off.

Tomorrow will be a great test for me, as I've got 11 miles to run, and I'm hoping to run them without stopping. As usual, I've got a plan. My brother-in-law is competing in a triathlon (something I could only hope to be able to do), and I want to cheer him on. Since I've got lots of miles to run, I'm going to leave the house crazy early and run to the event. Once I get there, I'll have done my workout for the day, and I'll be able to cheer him on (and dry off) while he competes. It's foolproof.

If I get up on time, that is.

Saturday's Run:
80 Degrees
5.05 Miles
37 Minutes, 27 Seconds

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fading Memory

I must be getting old.

As I was finishing up a book tonight, getting ready to start another, I thought about whether there was anything that I had to do before I settled myself down. Blog? No, I didn't run today, so I didn't really have anything to write about. And then I remembered that I hadn't written yesterday. Whoops.

So, I headed over to the computer here and started thinking back to yesterday's run... and I can't really remember it. I mean, that's probably a good thing overall. It means that nothing bad happened, and that I'm well on my way to making running just another part of my daily routine. Still, it's always nice to have something to say about any accomplishment you make, so here I sit.

I do remember getting up right on time again. While it was still quite humid, the temperature was only 76 (and had actually dropped a degree by the time I got back). Most importantly, I remember having a great deal of confidence in my ability to complete my required three miles, having just finished a five miler the day before without stopping. The sun was just beginning to stretch long shadows out in front of me as I was finishing, and I was home and taking the dog outside before my wife was even awake.

Fascinating stuff, right?

So I need to find a way to be more engaged in the writing portion of my newfound hobby. Step one will be actually getting around to creating my cross-training routine, though that's got its own limitations, which I'll talk about in a moment. Step two will be reading as much as I possibly can from as many different sources as possible. Twitter has opened up a wide range of blogs and other resources for me, and I simply haven't been taking advantage of them. Maybe their advice can help me become a better runner and, one day, a better running mentor.

In particular, I could use a little help with the cross-training motivation. Don't get me wrong, I actually love cross-training, particularly weight lifting. I love the action of it and how my body feels when I'm done. However, the weather issue down here really limits what I can do. I'm so tired after running in the heat that the prospect of doing anything other than my required miles seems absurd. However, if I did all of it before the run, it would mean getting on the road later, and that means it'll be even hotter. My only option becomes getting up earlier, and already, I don't get enough sleep as it is. It's going to take a little creativity that I just don't have at the moment.

But I'll figure that out in time. For now, I'm going to bed. I've got a 16-mile weekend ahead of me, and I want to be done before the sun comes up.

Thursday's Run:
76 Degrees
3.3 Miles
23 Minutes, 26 Seconds

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Falling In Step

It keeps getting harder to get up before the sun.

When my alarm went off this morning, I was thoroughly confused, having been woken from some dream or other and being fairly convinced that I'd just fallen asleep. I wondered, in that hazy sort of panic you have after being jolted awake by a phone call, who could possibly be calling at this hour of the night. Staggering, I made it over to the phone and looked. It was my alarm. I stood in quiet disappointment for a moment or so, and then headed over to the dresser to get my running clothes.

What was a pretty standard run took on a little bit more meaning for me when I reminded myself that I would not be stopping the watch today. Since I was out the door early, I had a good chance of being able to run all five miles continuously, which is really something I should be able to do without thinking by now. Heat or not, if I can run four times that distance, I should be able to complete a fiver without much trouble, and I determined that today, I would not stop. And you know what shocked me most? The traffic lights seemed to agree.

After six months of running in this town, very often over the same road, I managed for the first time to hit every single stoplight on green. I never expect it to happen again, but it was a huge help on this morning's run. It should have been cool outside, but the never-ending humidity would not let it be so, and I was sucking breath pretty hard by the end of it. My last mile was my slowest, I'm sure, but to be completely honest, I have no way of knowing for sure. Not only did I keep the watch running, I didn't even look at it, with the exception of one glance around the mile marker to be sure that the thing was actually functioning. Everything that I've been promising myself I would do on my training runs actually happened this morning, which is a huge victory for me. I was up on time, out the door quickly, running the whole way without stopping the watch, and not at all focusing on time. Bam.

And what did I learn today? Erm, well... nothing, really. Today was exactly how an ordinary, everyday run should be. Choosing to run a race is one thing. Choosing to run 50 races means a complete change in lifestyle, and I've got to start getting used to it. When that alarm goes off, it shouldn't be exceptional that I actually get out of bed. It should be the norm. I shouldn't be wondering if I'm going to finish the run, but should instead be able to focus on my pace and form.

It's a bit of a double-edged sword for me. See, I know that if running becomes more of a routine, it'll be easier to do, from waking up on time to having all my equipment ready. However, I worry that letting it be the same thing every day will take the fun out of it. True, running in this heat isn't really all that fun to begin with, but any time something gets monotonous, I get over it really quickly. I don't want that to happen with my racing. I've got a long way to go.

So, keep it fresh. There really aren't many options for routes from my apartment (something I expect to change in our next location selection), but hopefully once I get my cross-training schedule put together (no, haven't done that yet), I'll at least be able to keep my own interest piqued for a little while longer. After all, this is a hobby not a chore. It's a love to, not a have to.

Telling that to yourself when the alarm goes off is half the battle.

Wednesday's Run:
75 Degrees
5.05 Miles
36 Minutes, 7 Seconds

Monday, July 4, 2011


Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Given the extreme and ongoing drought here in Texas, there won't be any fireworks in the air. At least, not official fireworks. As such, we have to find our own ways to celebrate our freedom. This morning, my family chose to go for a run. And it was delightful.

As I prepare for the Marine Corps Marathon, my wife has begun her training for the corresponding 10K on the same morning. She's done some running here and there, but the real training program started today. We considered running a local 5K, but given the heat and our general inability to sleep in on most days, we figured we'd skip the $45 registration fee and just do a run around the lake.

We had meant to get up a little earlier to avoid the heat, but let's face it, it's a holiday. We slept in a bit. Still, when everyone had woken up, we got suited up, put the dog in the car, and headed down to the trail.

What was most surprising to me was just how many people were out there in the heat. There were times when we had to go single-file just to get past the mobs of runners and walkers, most of whom seemed to be in pretty high spirits. Once we managed to find parking, which involved a bit of creative driving on my part, we started the run near the off-leash area near auditorium shores.

Almost immediately, the heat was getting to me, which was nothing compared to running with a crazy dog. For the first quarter mile or so, I was worried that I was going to be battling with the whims of the pup for the entire run, but relatively quickly, she fell into step.

My main role today was to be a coach and cheerleader. And dog wrangler. But mostly those first two. It was an awful day for someone to do their first training run, so the best I could do for my wife was to let her know just how amazingly well she was doing. And she was. It's hard enough to run three miles, but doing it in high heat and humidity is darn near impossible. We ran the whole first mile without stopping, and then settled into a Jeff Galloway-style run/walk rhythm for the rest of the run, stopping for water as much as we needed.

It wasn't fast, but we got in our miles. Myself, my wife, and my dog all got in a nice little workout to pre-burn a few calories before the remainder of the day's festivities. We don't often get the chance to work out as a family, and if you ask me, it's a great way to start a holiday.

And I hope we get to do it again soon!

Monday's Run:
81 Degrees / HOT
3.1 Miles
39 Minutes, 23 Seconds

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Only Gettin' Hotter

Good Lord, it's hot in this state. And it's not getting better any time soon.

This morning, I declared shenanigans on The Weather Channel and their supposed forecasting for Austin, Texas. There is simply no way that it was only 81 degrees during my run. Perhaps in the shade, with the wind, and maybe a fan nearby, but the second I got into the sun, the temperature skyrocketed. The heat index was something like 95, and that's really all that matters when you're running.

Heat was not the only thing working against me this morning, though. First, I spent a great deal of time in the sun with beer yesterday at a 4th of July party, and even if you're not moving around very much, that will sap a lot of your energy reserves. Add to that a little time in the pool and one (ill-advised) lap of butterfly, combined with my too-fast pace run in the morning, and I wasn't running on much fuel. This was something I did not consider until I was already about a mile into the run and I felt the heaviness filling my legs.

So, I did what I had planned to do in the first place. Take my time, pay no attention to my pace, and just keep putting one foot in front of another. At three miles, I was already drained, and my goal of completing this run without stopping was looking unlikely, especially since this was when the uphill portion began. I had to slow down for a few of the intersections, but I didn't stop the watch. However, I as made my last turn north, I had six blocks directly in the sun. I hadn't thought to bring my camel pack with me, and I was recognizing just how much I was going to need water. My turn west was all uphill, and a block from my turn south, I decided to walk for a block, still not stopping the watch.

This was the nice part of the run. Mostly downhill, it was also full of fun scenery. For one thing, I saw a young lady walking away from downtown wearing heels that did not seem sensible for a Sunday morning and an expression that said, "If you talk to me, I will kill you." I silently wished her a safe trip home and then noticed a street blocked off. For a moment, I got excited, hoping that there was some sort of street festival for the 4th, but then I realized that only one block had been closed, and there was nothing set up. It took me a moment to realize that I was passing the W Hotel, which is currently dealing with a little issue of panes of glass falling onto the street. Not good. I covered my head with my arms and ran a little faster for that block.

As I hit the trail, I felt great about having the end in sight. In addition, I had a chance to get a little water from the various fountains along the course. Still, I did not stop my watch until I got to what I call the Oasis at Mopac. I'm sure there are better names for it, but one of the running groups or shops here in town (I can't remember which), has a setup of 16 or so water coolers at two locations around Town Lake for all the people working out there. What makes it so wonderful is that they water is actually cold, unlike most of the fountains. For this one spot, I stopped the watch and caught my breath a bit. Someone was passing out granola bars, but since I didn't have any way to carry one home, I just avoided them, drank my water, and then got started again.

The remainder of the run... well... sucked. I had to walk a couple times, but only for a little bit each time. I was simply out of energy, and the sun wasn't getting any cooler. In fact, that's the only thing that kept me moving - the longer I stayed outside, the hotter it was going to get. If I chose to stop and rest, then the temperature would just continue going up, and since the heat was the real challenge, I did not want the workout to get more difficult, so I kept moving.

Overall, I wasn't particularly thrilled with the run. I worry about my endurance these days, since I haven't been able to finish a long run without walking in some time. Even though I know that the heat is a big part of the issue, it's an issue I want to conquer. If I can get up my endurance in a Texas summer, there will be no weather problem too difficult. At least one of my planned marathons is in the south in summer, so I'll have to be ready. I've just got to work on getting up before the sun, because once that sun comes out, life gets difficult.

For today, I'm just glad I finished the miles. In the last seven days, I've run as many miles as I did in Seattle, and it took me more time during the week. However, that means that, in the week following my best marathon ever, I was able to complete an entire training week, and that, in and of itself, is a victory. The latitude I've been giving myself ends now, and I'm going to start focusing on being stronger and faster.

After all, I've only got 17 weeks.

Sunday's Run:
81 Degrees / Sunny
10.24 Miles
1 Hour, 24 Minutes, 14 Seconds

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's Only Rehearsal

I do love it when different parts of my life run parallel courses.

Last night, I had a rehearsal for my next show. We were working on a number of scenes that only involved one other actor, so we were given a great deal of freedom to try different things and make different choices. The general idea here is that it's only rehearsal, so there are no such things as mistakes.

I tried to remind myself of that as I started my second mile this morning.

Today was the first (of many) at-pace runs that I'll be doing this season. As I'm trying for a faster pace in this marathon, it means that I've got to learn to do these training runs at the correct speed, and not just quickly like I did last season. I checked the weather before I left, and it didn't sound too bad - 78 degrees. I threw on my running clothes and headed outside into (shocking, I know) incredible humidity. Even though we actually managed to get 20 minutes or so of rain yesterday, it did nothing to clear the air of that sagging wetness that has become a part of my every morning.

Still, it was only five miles, at a strong pace, and I felt pretty good. In fact, better than good. As I started down the hill, I let myself push the pace for the first time since last weekend. Half a mile in, I already felt myself getting a little winded. Figuring this was just the combined effect of the heat and pushing the pace for once, I kept myself running hard until the one mile mark when I first checked my time. I was almost an entire minute ahead of where I wanted to be.

Whoops. This was going to be interesting.

Even as I approached the two-mile mark, I'd slowed down a bit, but I was still running too fast. Between there and the turnaround point, I tried to let myself slow down a bit, but I still had to take a rest when I hit the turnaround. I was 1:40 ahead of where I wanted to be, and I was feeling it.

In order to run the time I want, I'll already have to be pushing it, so going beyond that time (especially in Texas weather) is too much. I ended up taking a few more rest breaks as I finished the run, which became more interval-based than endurance. As I mentioned before, I'm giving myself a little more leeway with my runs this week, so I wasn't too worried about it. However, beginning tomorrow, that goes away. One of my new rules for this season is that stopping while I run (with the exception of the two evil traffic lights on my route) does not stop my clock. If I'm going for an overall pace, it does not help me to measure my time and not include any rest breaks that I might take.

And I'm putting this rule into practice tomorrow. For the last few weeks of last season's training, I did not complete a long run without walking. Even though I can genuinely blame that on the weather, I have a sneaking (obvious) suspicion that my failing endurance in those long runs had a lot to do with my collapse in the last few miles of the marathon. The only way that goes away is if I train better this time.

So it will be very important that I don't go out too fast like I did this morning. Slowing down early means more strength late. While I still want these runs to be faster than I did them last season, I've got to be much smarter. It's about miles, not minutes. But hey, if I'm going to mess it up, better on a short rehearsal than on race day.

After all, it's only rehearsal.

Saturday's Run:
81 Degrees / Humid
5.05 Miles
33 Minutes, 18 Seconds