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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Watch Yourself

Keeping a record of something can change everything.

There is a theory, the name of which I have long forgotten, that says, “The act of observing a phenomenon changes that phenomenon.” Essentially, the idea is that you could never accurately describe the world of hidden tribes in South America, because your presence in their midst will unavoidably alter their lifestyle.

It’s one of the reasons that reality television is, in a word, crap. When the Real Teen Mom Survivors of Jersey Shore see the cameras moving into their town, they will alter their behavior, either to gain or detract the attention of the people who can make them “famous” (a word I’m using very loosely). In most cases, much to the delight of the Bravo network, they manage to pick the craziest attention-starved psychos in the bunch, which makes for entertaining, if not compelling, television. Everyone loves to watch someone crazier than himself.

Yet this wonderful theory, which I would research online if I wasn’t currently on a plane and writing this post if Word, can also work for the betterment of society, and not just as a method for the systematic destruction of scripted television. In my case, it actually gets me moving.

Spending the next week in a slightly cooler climate (though, of course, it will be unseasonably warm for them), I am very excited about getting some miles in under a reasonable sky, and considered pushing my Wednesday run to Thursday and Thursday’s to Friday. Given the absurd number of miles I’m going to run during this section of my training (107 miles in 14 days), I figured that taking the rest a little easier might better prepare me for the coming weekend.

And then I looked at my spreadsheet. August was scheduled to be my highest-mileage month thus far, but I needed today’s 9 miles to do it. September will need no help at all, so I really didn’t have a choice. Still in the Texas heat, I went out and ran my nine this morning.

However, we are in a different city than normal, which meant that there were virtually no hills on the course I planned out. I felt strong, but I had no familiar mile-markers off which to mark my progress, and no finishing challenge for which to save energy. I just had to go out and run a strong nine, and whenever I finished, that would be good enough. And so it was.

Now, with those miles behind me, I can’t believe that I was going to take away a rest day before a 28-mile weekend. In fact, I will more likely now do my Saturday run on Friday and let Sunday’s 19-mile exhaustion-fest stand on its own. This is really the only logical way to approach the miles ahead of me, but in order to see that, I wasn’t proactive or foresighted. I just wanted a silly little record.

Never underestimate the power of a color-coded excel spreadsheet.

Wednesday’s Run:
91 Degrees / Sunny
9.64 Miles
1 Hour, 10 Minutes, 50 Seconds

Hypothetical Construction

Sometimes, you just have to kick a little ass.

When you’re looking forward to something, it becomes difficult to focus on pretty much anything else. If, hypothetically, you’ve got an upcoming trip to visit with a number of very good friends that you never get to see, then keeping your mind tasked on your work can become exceptionally difficult. And then, theoretically, if you got some disappointing news in the middle of the day, overslept in the morning, and still had a run to do, accomplishing anything might just become impossible.

In such a random situation, which no one has probably ever had to face, you have to take charge and get something done. Your best choice is probably to go for a nice, hard run.

And who cares if the weather outside happens to be a little intense? Let’s make this impossible scenario a little more ridiculous, and say that you’re in a location that is known for one kind of extreme weather, but that it’s crazier than normal. Record-setting crazy. How about, oh, I don’t know, heat? Say it’s crazy hot in the middle of the afternoon, but that you’re not going to have time to run in the evening and you really don’t want to run on the treadmill because, well, it’s boring.

What you’ll probably want to do is dress for the crazy weather, which in a heat situation means to dress as little as possible. You’re not going to want to do a very long workout in this situation, since your adrenaline and frustration will be spent fairly quickly, but something around, say, 4 miles could be just about perfect.

Now, the key to doing this well is to keep your perspective while running. You don’t want to go out to quickly and burn out, since this would only exacerbate your frustration. The adrenaline will carry you, so all you really have to do is keep yourself moving forward. The world around you will take care of the rest. Don’t check your watch, and don’t worry about how fast you’re going.

As you’re nearing the finish, make sure that you’ve got a little fire left in the tank, and then spend it. Really give yourself a push in that last half-mile or so, and sweat out all the nonsense from the day. While you don’t want to collapse at your finish line, you also don’t want to feel like you underperformed. Give is just as much as you want, and feel your mind freeing as the wind (should there be any) whips past you.

When you stop the watch, try to not choke in shock at the time that you’ve run. Recognize what you’ve done, for example, maybe you’ve just completed your fastest outdoor training run of the season with almost no physical discomfort. Or something like that. Take that good feeling, shower off, and get back to work.


Tuesday’s Run:
94 Degrees / Sunny
4.08 Miles
25 Minutes, 51 Seconds

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chasing or Chased

What are you running from?

When many people talk about their running prowess (or lack thereof), they tend to put it in terms of being chased. They say things like, "I ran like someone was coming at me with a knife" or "I couldn't run a mile if my life depended on it." In the overwhelming majority of these cases, I imagine that the person in question probably has no idea what it means to actually be fueled by mortal fear, but it's interesting that this is most often the chosen analogy for running. For many (if not most) people, running only means getting away from something worse than running.

For me, I try to look at it the other way around. When I'm out in the unbelievable heat of this summer, I think about the goal toward which I'm running. I'm the chaser, not the chased. And now that I think about it, I wonder which idea is actually more motivational. Is it better to need running, or to choose it?

Most of us, I think, would prefer to choose all the aspects of our lives. We want to have a job that we love and that gets us out of bed joyfully every morning. We seek out a spouse that makes us happy and that shares our values and goals. We select our hobbies based on the things that make us feel good about ourselves and put us into positive frames of mind. If life were entirely based on doing the things we choose, it's reasonable to assume that pretty much everyone would be happy.

And yet, when I'm in the throes of a 12-mile run up a long, extended hill, when it's 83 degrees at 6:00 in the morning, it's hard to remind myself that this is something I chose. At this point, it seems like being forced to run would be a better choice. I've run past several training groups the last few weeks, and while all of those people choose to be there, I imagine that there is a heightened sense of accountability that goes with joining such a program. You've paid to be a part of something, and your coach expects you to arrive at your session on time and to give it your all, regardless of how you're feeling. In practice, you have to run, or the coach will chase you down.

I've meandered through any number of hobbies and professions in my life, and I haven't stayed with any of them for an extended period of time. When I get to the point at which an activity starts to get routine or difficult, I often grow restless and start looking for what's next. I worry that I've hit that point with running. And it's time to break through.

How do I do that? By selecting the next goal. And the next one. And the next one. And then chasing them down. I must constantly reach for what's next.

And what's next is a four mile run.

Monday's Run:
83 Degrees / Clear
12.4 Miles
1 Hour, 36 Minutes, 39 Seconds

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Happy endings all around.

We closed our show down in Wimberley last night, and we enjoyed every minute of it. We played and improved to a lively crowd who went with us every step of the way. It was a fittingly joyful finale to what has been an utterly enjoyable experience. The one and only problem was that, our last shows being on the road as they were, we had almost an hour-long drive home afterward. With a show that doesn't end until after 11 (once everything's put away) this meant a rather late bedtime.

And when the alarm went off at 7 this morning, I was not particularly in the mood to get out of bed, but I did, and immediately regretted doing so. The second my feet hit the floor, a wave of pain swept through my entire body. I took the two steps to my phone, turned off the alarm, and immediately dropped back into bed.

A couple hours later, I woke again and started to get moving, hopeful that it was just a grogginess issue, but sadly, this was not the case. I had a full on playngover.

Now, this has nothing to do with alcohol. As you near the end of a show's run, you pour a large amount of energy and focus into it, very often at the expense of other health-related aspects of your life. Very often, as apparently happens with marathon training as well, when the actual event is over, any sickness that you've held off often catches up with you. This morning, I felt every cough, sore throat and body ache of the last two months hit me all at once. As such, I did not get out for 12 miles this morning.

No problem, says I, I'll get it this afternoon. Only one problem with that plan - today was the hottest day of the year. Yes, not only have we set the heat record for the year, but it's still getting hotter. After a five-hour outdoor rehearsal for my next show, my body wasn't going to take twelve miles, so I'll get them tomorrow.

The next two weeks should be rather difficult, and I'm not making them any easier by delaying today's run, or by adding travel into the mixture.

But at least I've made today a little easier.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Everyone loves to check things off of lists. I feel I am fairly right about this.

Besides being a great reminder, a to-do list of any kind, whether it be tasks for the day, jobs to get done at work, or items to pick up at the grocery, is also an excellent measuring stick for how your day has gone. When the last light fades from the evening, you can look at piles of paper covered in checkmarks and know that everything you needed to complete is completed.

It's part of the fun of my running spreadsheet. I get to watch the miles pile up and watch my countdown clock wind down. Every days is another round of accomplishment.

I read an article a few weeks ago about the running boom in the last few years. Marathon registration has gone through the roof, which is a major contributing factor to the selling out of the big races in record time. Just ask anyone who couldn't get in to Boston last year, or this coming October's Marine Corps Marathon. They're selling out in hours, not days, and the percentage of Americans participating in road races is skyrocketing. So, the question becomes, why?

One big reason, evidently, is the downturn in the economy. As a person sits at home searching for employment, they begin to feel as though they have no control over any aspect of their life. In order to regain this feeling of control and get their head back on straight, they start running. If nothing else, that person will decide how far and how fast they are going to run today. Even after they get a job, they often find that they've found a new love in life, and they'll continue the habit.

What's great about this is that you don't have to wait until things go wrong to take control. When you grab ahold of one aspect of your life, the others fall into place.

Until you go and screw it up by adding too many other things to your life. Whoops.

Saturday's Run:
80 Degrees / Clear
9.51 Miles
1 Hour, 10 Minutes, 54 Seconds

Thursday, August 25, 2011


My schedule has been a little unusual this week.

On Monday and Tuesday, I did not have any rehearsal in the evening, so rather than sitting around and mindlessly watching television, I made the decision to do a little extra work, bringing my total hours worked to twelve for both days. The result of this decision is that when I finished working today, I'd already completed my forty hours for the week, and starting tomorrow, I have a three-day weekend.

This by itself is nice enough, but for once, I've got the extra day on a Friday, and that means one thing this season - rest day. Not only do I not have to do any office work tomorrow, I don't even have to run. I get to sleep in, guilt free, and I am beyond psyched about it.

What is important for me to recognize right now is how I got to this point, and the answer is by doing more work sooner. By front-loading my week and making the extra effort on Monday and Tuesday, I get to reward myself on Friday.

Delayed gratification is an unavoidable facet of a runner's life. Especially if you're just starting out, it can take a very long time to feel comfortable in your running shoes and to start believing in your abilities. If you're training for a race, it can take five, ten, eighteen weeks of long, tiresome training before you get the joy and excitement of race day. It's a long and winding road (sayeth the Beatles), but the rewards are remarkable. Standing at a finish line with a medal around your neck having accomplished something you never thought possible is an indescribable feeling. You just have to be able to wait.

Waiting is something I'm used to, especially with regard to sports. After all, my favorite sports teams are all... well... they've all sucked for a very long time. And even when they're good, they're not good enough to win the big championships. It's been 17 years since any team I really liked won a championship, and I barely remember that one (go Niners), so I'm hoping for the payoff, and as we near another football season, I've got my fingers crossed.

But I can't control my favorite teams, as much as I tell myself that it matters what hat I wear on game day. Instead, I control my time, and I control my runs, and I'll take the rewards as they come. Life is all about the little joys.

Like turning off your alarm.

Thursday's Run:
78 Degrees / Dark
4.08 Miles
28 Minutes, 29 Seconds

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back To School

I was on an unfamiliar road, headed uphill when I saw him.

Slowly, laboriously, he wandered into the middle of the intersection, glowing in the morning light. He stopped, an oddly unsettling look on his face, almost resembling a smile, as though he were daring any person or automobile to challenge his dominance of the road. I shuffled past with no further consequence, but his appearance was an unmistakable sign.

The crossing guards are out. School is back in session.

To be honest, I hadn't realized that my new 9-mile training route ran past a school, or I might have rethought it while mapping last night. It was a bit of an adventure navigating the one way street where parents had long since learned a pattern of drop-off traffic that completely baffled me. I couldn't run on the sidewalk for fear of toppling children. I couldn't run in the road for fear of a car toppling me. In the end, I kept my head on a swivel and weaved in and out of cars until I had run past to safety.

It's this time of year that reminds me how of my time in life. I'm at the point now where "summer" means nothing more than hotter temperatures, and the rapid approach of September matters only in proximity to payday. Some day, I'll care about the school year again, but that is not this year. For now, I view it as a reason to avoid driving at 3:00pm and a chance to go to fun places on weekdays.

Even though I'm not in school, I'm still learning. Today, I (hopefully) learned a valuable new lesson. I did not conserve energy during the first part of my run, though I did not push the pace either. Instead, I simply let my legs choose their own speed, and I found it to be a little faster than expected. Since I now believe my endurance issues to be more related to time than distance, I wanted to see how I would do if I tried to complete a slightly longer run at a slightly faster pace. I learned that letting my legs make decisions may just be my best bet. We'll see how that goes the rest of the week.

As far as I'm concerned, though, I passed.

Wednesday's Run:
78 Degrees / Clear
9.51 Miles
1 Hour, 11 Minutes, 51 Seconds

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


"I would [run] 500 miles
And I would [run] 500 more
Just to be the man who [ran] a thousand
Miles to fall down at your door."

That's right, it's a day of celebration in the running portion of my household.

As of this morning, I have run over 1,000 miles this year, as hard as that is for even me to believe. I've been keeping a running total in my killer training spreadsheet, and this morning, I had to make one of the columns wider, much like the Cubs recently had to add a third digit to their "years since a world series" sign. Mine was much less sad.

I've worked hard for every one of those miles, and truly, none of them have simply come easy, but today's run was one of those rare occasions when I felt great beginning to end. I knew going down the hill that I was maybe pushing a little harder than usual, but after my incredibly slow run on Sunday (and my subsequent rest-instead-of-cross-training choice the next day), I wanted to really give my muscles a workout.

You see, I realized something in the aftermath of Sunday's disappointment. If I'm really bored during a long run, the best solution is actually to run it faster. The less time I have to think about how exhausted I should be, the less likely it is that I'll get tired of running mentally before my legs start to give out. And what's great about the next couple weeks is that I'll actually have a chance to test this theory out somewhat before I take it on the road for my 19-miler over Labor Day weekend.

This week, the mid-week runs bump up another mile (to 9), but the Sunday run drops to 12, giving a little respite before the really heavy miles begin next month, which is not to say I haven't been doing heavy miles so far. August will have been my highest-mileage month thus far by itself, which makes me more than a little scared about September being even more. I can't think about how much I've got left to go, though, or the monumental nature of it will completely overwhelm me. For now, I have to worry about - scratch that - think about tomorrow's run, which means a brand new course that I'll map out just minutes from now.

I look at the 1,000 miles in my rear view mirror and smile as they fade into my dust. The road ahead is long, but my best inspirations are the steps I've already taken.

Tuesday's Run:
80 Degrees / Before Sunrise
4.08 Miles
28 Minutes, 28 Seconds

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On To The Next One

I've been thinking a lot about things ending recently.

Wow, that sounded depressing.

What I mean, specifically, is the ending of one thing so that something else can begin, or the fruits of months of labor coming to a close. As I find myself at a transitional period in my life, it's hard to not reminisce sometimes about the nature of change. While I do not profess to have any great insight, it is interesting how these things always seem to happen at around the same time.

Tonight we will (sort of) close the show I've been doing in Round Rock. I say "sort of" because we're actually doing two more performances next weekend down in Wimberley, Texas, but it won't quite be the same show that we've done so many times, since the setting (and the participation of neighboring trains) won't be the same. It's an odd sort of feeling, realizing that we're almost closing a show tonight, only to open it again on Friday, only to close it for good next Saturday. And like always, there's the bittersweet feeling of being sad to see something go when you've enjoyed it so much, but being excited about the next thing to come.

One of the things I appreciate most about the world of professional theatre (as opposed to what I did in high school and college) is the length of time that you get to perform a show. In younger days, you'd spend weeks and months preparing something, and it was over in a weekend. The show itself never had a chance to grow in front of an audience. Now, we run three or four weeks, and we all get a chance to change, develop and truly love our performances. What's even better is that, in most cases, you don't get the chance to get sick of it either, and then you're on to the next thing.

A good portion of my life has been spent waiting for the next thing, and I imagine that this is one of the things that draws me to theatre. I love having the project on the horizon, just like I love having the "next race" coming up. Part of me, however, is really beginning to get tired of waiting, and now just wants to enjoy the day-to-day. The good news? We've officially decided to settle here in Austin, which means putting down some roots and not worrying about what's next. 

Still, that will always be a part of my personality, and that's what I've got theatre for. And running, for that matter, though I've got my own issues there. Today, as I passed two hours on my long run, I realized that I was just so incredibly bored. The landscape didn't change, I don't listen to music, and I know just how much longer I've still got to go. Maybe the answer is mixing up my running routes a little more, but most mornings I'd rather just go out and back and not have to think about the path. This works very well on runs of less than 10 miles, but I really have to come up with something to keep my interest piqued on long runs, because today was way too slow for me. I was almost two minutes per mile behind my desired pace, and that's unacceptable. 

Next week is a step back week, so I'll get a chance (I hope) to rest the muscles a bit, but I know I've got the big miles yet to come, so I'd better come up with something quick. There comes a time when a race that is still 10 weeks away just doesn't hold your interest. The long, slow miles, though they are crucial to success, take all the fun out of preparing for the race. Just like in my theatrical life, I've got to come up with more "events" along the way.

Now taking suggestions.

Sunday's Run:
85 Degrees (at the end)
17.2 Miles
2 Hours, 34 Minutes, 28 Seconds

Saturday, August 20, 2011


You've got to love the unexpected.

Last night at our show, one of our leads was unexpectedly detained by another engagement. As a result, we took the rather adventurous step of having our director stand in for the missing actor, being fed what lines she didn't know via iPhone buds in her ears. It could have been a disaster, but since everyone involved with this production happens to be amazing, the switch only added to the energy and success of the show.

It was not my only unexpected triumph of the weekend, though, as I managed to survive an 8-miler without any major problem this morning in 90-degree weather. As I was making all the twists and turns of the trail, I thought back to a few weeks ago, when an 8-mile run could involve several breaks and water stops. I passed several spots on my course where I had distinct memories of sitting down, exhausted by the distance and the weather. While this length of a run is by no means routine for me, it is comforting to feel that I am no longer subject to the sudden exhaustion that I've had only recently.

However, I am still subject to the basic laws of nature, one of which I seem to forget with alarming regularity: don't eat fried food late at night and run the next morning. Oh dear me, no.

It happened shortly after I began the downhill portion of the my 8-mile course. I suddenly remembered this rule, having violated it with a plate of onion rings and sliders at around 11:00 last night. The remaining 2.5 miles were, to say the least, uncomfortable, and I did have to stop at one point to sort of calm my innards down. I made it home without incident, but the real story here is about the progress that I made in the process of this discomfort.

With 2 miles to go, I seriously considered stopping, but I knew from past experience that this would not really do much for me. My best bet was to get home as soon as possible, but I was also very uncomfortable, so I made up my mind to at least run until I made it to the bridge, then past the bridge, then up the hill, then to the mile marker, then up the next hill. I made it almost 1.25 miles before I finally took a second to gather myself, all the while pushing back my chosen spot until I could not do so any more. Unlike my exhaustion breaks, where I set a goal and stop before it, this one break got pushed back to the point of absolute necessity.

It's a lesson I'm hoping to take with me in the morning. We're into the heavy mileage now, and I want to make sure that I do everything I can to prepare for MCM and a shot at a BQ. This means going the entire distance, regardless of circumstances. I'll do what I can to prepare, but in the long run (no pun intended), it's all about being mentally tough enough to continue when things get hard. My issue tomorrow will be that I do not have any energy gels, and no stores that sell them will be open early enough, but it's just another hurdle for me to conquer.

One more unexpected triumph.

Saturday's Run:
88-91 Degrees / Sunny
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 1 Minute, 39 Seconds

Friday, August 19, 2011


I'm trying to get more into blog-reading.

Now that I am actually writing a blog on a fairly regular basis, I figure I should actually take a little time and begin reading the blogs of others, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there are blogging rules about which I know nothing. Maybe I'll get inspired by something and come up with a new post of my own. Or maybe, I'll find that every thought I've ever had on this blog has already been spouted by someone else and I've been wasting your time all this while. Anything is possible.

One of the blogs I've started calling up from time to time is that of Luc Carl, who started following me on Twitter, at which point I decided to check out what he has to offer. The title of his forthcoming book, "The Drunk Diet," naturally caught my attention, and since he appeared to be a hard rocker/distance runner, it seemed like someone in whom I might have interest.

Turns out, according to the Wikipedia article I looked up much later, that 's actually Lady Gaga's ex-boyfriend. Now I feel powerful.

From time to time, when he's got an interesting article posted, I'll check it out, and he had something that caught my eye just a few weeks ago. He mentioned that he was going out for a long run and that, after three miles, he had to stop with a bad case of cement legs. If you've ever had them, you know exactly what it means.

What caught my eye in the post was his observation that people he knew assumed that, because he runs marathons, a three-mile run is just a joke to him, when in fact, it can be just as hard. Sure there are some people out there for whom running is easy until they're over 20 miles, but most of us are not like that. If it is hot outside, I still have a heck of a time getting through a strong four-miler, and without hearing that another runner felt that way, I might have been discouraged. Thus, the online runner community has made my life more fulfilling, and it gives me that much more confidence when, like yesterday, I head out for a four mile morning run before dawn.

My first half was good, but I wanted my second half to be better. This is unreasonable, considering that my first half was downhill, but I did not particularly care. I made up a scenario in my head of someone chasing me, and I let my legs push all the way back up the hill, hitting negative splits for an outdoor run, something that almost never happens for me, certainly not when I end on Half Mile Hill. I felt great after, and even better now, as I remember it.

But what feels the greatest, and what drives me to be better, is the idea that someone else might get inspired by it. The hope that someone else will read about this and say, you know what, I know exactly how it feels to fear a short run, and if he can get through it, so can I. It's a slim chance, but hey, Singapore is currently in second place for reading of my blog, and I would have never thought that could happen either.

The sky's the limit.

Thursday's Run:
79 Degrees
4.08 Miles
28 Minutes, 35 Seconds

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Barely Worth A Title

I think this should catch me up.

After yesterday's foray on the treadmill, I was happy to get back out onto the road this morning. Of course, it would have been a little easier if I hadn't had so much trouble sleeping, but I was still pretty happy with the whole thing.

Somehow, it always works out that whenever I have all my life scheduled properly, I end up getting a great deal of extra time, and when I'm cramped for time, something else always comes up. Yesterday, I had very little time throughout the day, and this was not aided by me oversleeping my alarm clock. Tonight, with a cancelled rehearsal and an evening at home, is the evening after which I managed to get up and run eight miles with no problem.

It counts for what's happening during the run, too. If, like on Sunday, I've got somewhere to be that could be affected by a slow run, then I often find myself struggling to complete it in time. On the other hand, when I'm not at all pressed for time, the run is nice and easy. I barely even remember it, to be honest. I passed some people, there were bats coming home, maybe a stop light or two. I'm not sure. I barely paid attention to what I was doing, with everything else that's on my mind. 


This post is boring. Of course, so was my run. And that's great. It's routine, and once it gets to that point, it gets a little bit easier. And hopefully more fun.


Wednesday's Run:
79 Degrees
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 2 Minutes, 9 Seconds

Come From Behind

Well, turns out I haven't been paying much attention the last couple days.

Monday ended up just being a rest day for me, rather than a cross-training day. This was for any number of reasons, the most important of which was the fact that I was still tired from my 16 miles the day before. I figured that my best course of action was letting the legs recover a bit and hitting it hard on Tuesday morning.

And then I overslept. Shocking, I know.

So, right after the work day yesterday, I headed to the gym for a hard run on the treadmill. I debated the pace I should try, and then decided to go all out. Top speed for four miles.

You see, I've been mentally smashed these last few weeks. Between work, theatre, running, and various life issues, it's been tough to get myself to a point where I can simply relax for any period of time. Last night is a great example. I spent half the night worrying about not getting enough sleep, which of course then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the alarm goes off, it is not joyfully that I pull myself out of bed, if I do so at all. And I want it to be again.

To do this, I'm getting myself excited about what's next after Marine Corps. For one thing, the schedule I'm contemplating has less time (in some cases, much less) between races, meaning that it won't take quite so many long weeks of training before I get to the joy of the race. While I try to get the logistics in line, I'm also planning out every training run, and now have a schedule (however ambitious it might be) for the rest of the year. I want that BQ.

And there's one thing that will bring the excitement back more than anything - speed. It's tough to do outdoors given the heat and/or humidity that I'm fighting most days, so when I have the chance to do a treadmill run, I want to use them for speed.

So I went all-out yesterday. And it felt great.

Tuesday's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
4.0 Miles
24 Minutes, 2 Seconds

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wait, What Was I Doing?

Well, that there was a weekend.

And now I am incredibly exhausted, which is exactly how I felt last night, and at the end of my run this morning. The abbreviated version of everything goes something like this: my sleep last night was interrupted at best, so I got up later than desired, and started out a little too fast. Still, the first twelve miles (yes, really) were actually very good. Then I stopped to send a text message, letting the wife know I was a mere 4 miles from home, since we had an early appointment. As I restarted, I knew that it wasn't going to be great.

It wasn't. The short break ruined my flow, and I would not get it back. Here's the good news - today, I completed my seventh straight week of runs without missing any, a new record for me. Here's the not-so-good news - I had to walk. And yet, I don't care, because I did my miles, and that's the most important part of marathon training. The pace was slow, and yet it was done.

The rest of the day was spent catching up and running a little behind. With all the events of the day, I can't even wrap my brain around... well, anything. I think I'm going to bed now.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Sunday's Run:
80 Degrees / Sunny
16.15 Miles
2 Hours, 21 Minutes, 13 Seconds

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And Miles To Go Before I Sleep

When you're too tired to check your email, you've run yourself a little ragged.

About that busy day I mentioned - it was unbelievable. All of it started with waking up to my alarm and thinking (for what reason, I know not) that I did not, in fact, have to be up that early. I happily turned it off and headed back to bed. An hour later, when I woke up again, I realized what a moron I'd been and got out the door as quickly as possible.

You see, in addition to the eight miles I had to run this morning, I also had to run a few errands to make up for someone forgetting something to do with my 10:00 appointment that was half an hour away. Thus, having to run for almost an hour and not waking up until 7:00 made for an interesting time crunch. I managed to get everything taken care of and get out to the appointment just in time. It lasted until about noon, at which point I headed to the show I was going to see. Fortunately, this show did not start until 2:00, which meant that I got to actually eat something before I went and sat down, so I found a little pizza place on the east side and had a slice while reviewing my script for tomorrow's rehearsal.

From there, it was off to the show, which lasted slightly longer than I thought it would, making for a fun drive home to pick up the wife before moving on to appointment number two. That completed, it was back to the apartment to drop the wife off and breathe for a moment or two, after which I was back in the care and headed to Round Rock for my show. I just got home from said show, filled up my water pack, got all my running gear together and realized that I had not yet written my post for the day. This was disappointing, since I have to wake up in about 5 hours in order to have a chance to get in all 16 miles before having to leave for another appointment in the morning.

And I just keep reminding myself how much I enjoy all of these things.

What really intrigued me just a few moments ago, however, was the possibility of, instead of going to sleep and running in the morning, simply suiting up and hitting the roads right now. I mean, what's going to be all the different between now and 5:00 in the morning? It'll still be dark, but I don't wear a neon green running shirt only because it's a great color on me. (That's just an added bonus.) I might be more rested, but given that I'll be trying to wake up, I might actually be more tired. There will be fewer cars out, but whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure. It might make for less focused drivers.

In the end, what's sending me to bed instead of out to the road right now is the fact that I am just that tired. With another full day ahead of me, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to getting home around 8:00 tomorrow night and simply laying down for the rest of the evening.

But I've got a lot to do before then.

Saturday's Run:
83 Degrees / Humid
8.11 Miles
58 Minutes, 2 Seconds

Friday, August 12, 2011

Down With Down Time

In reality, I never actually have a day off.

I have days that I do not work at my regular job, and I have days that I don't run, but these days are never the same day. That was one nice thing about last season, in that Sundays were cross-training days, which meant that I actually got to sleep in one day a week. However, since my race is on a Sunday this time around (as it will be most of the time), that's when I've got the long ones.

In addition to this, I have presentations scheduled, shows to see, shows to perform, and all sorts of things to do and people to see. Sometimes, it feels like every moment of my life is spoken for by the time I get to it, and as a result of this, it can seem like my time belongs to someone else.

However, when I step back and take a look at it, the truth is that it all actually belongs to me. The other night, I mentioned to one of my cast mates that I was happy about not having to run the next morning. She paused, then said to me, "But don't you run voluntarily?" It stopped me for a moment, when I realized that I was complaining about something I was choosing to do. I love running, really. It's just hard to love in this heat when you're spending so much time sweating your life away. It's in those moments when I have to remember, specifically, how much I love what I do.

The same goes for all of my other pastimes. I love working for Kaplan, I enjoy working on internet marketing, and I certainly love theatre. There are far worse ways to spend your time than doing things at which you have skill and in which you have interest. And one of the worst, I now realize, is doing nothing.

As I neared the theatre tonight, a new Bruno Mars song came on the radio. It was about doing nothing all day, and I enjoyed it quite a lot, but I thought back to all of the chances I've had to sit around doing nothing all day, and every time, I wished I had more to do. So maybe the best thing for me is to have every moment of the day scheduled with thoroughly enjoyable activities.

In which case, tomorrow will be awesome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Insert Witty Action-Hero Line

It must have been very hard to find good henchmen in the 80s.

As I was speed-flipping through the channels today, something in the info section caught my eye and actually made me go back a few clicks. Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen that a certain movie starred both Steven Seagal and Katherine Heigl, which I knew could not be right. Sure enough, there it was. Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. Well, now I'm already hooked.

The funny thing here is that I actually don't like either of those actors very much, but an awesomely bad film with both of them in it definitely had potential. I did not even realize that this was my mother's favorite Seagal movie until the end when he delivered her favorite line: "Nobody beats me in the kitchen."

What struck me in this movie, as it always does in 80s action flicks, is just how bad a shot everyone is, with the exception of the good guy. Seriously, now. If you're going to hire a never-ending army of henchmen, aren't you going to have some sort of requirements with regards to their abilities? I mean, how many mercenaries can you hire that are completely inept at every possible form of combat? My wife suggests that it's simply a hard job with low pay, and their failure in production is a result of what she calls "the plight of the henchmen," which is sort of sad when you think about it. Me, I just think that movie villains put too much thought into the details of their plans, and not nearly enough into their personnel decisions. If you're going to take down an action hero, get someone who can hit a moving target.

Today, films are a little better about giving reasons why the hero just won't die, often giving them all sorts of injuries along the way. Heck, look at Live Free or Die Hard. John McClane ends up with blood all over himself in that one. Still, discerning (yeah, right) audiences want to know how you survive certain things, and the films are slightly better at making villains more realistic these days. To make a bad guy believable, you've got to make them smart, strong, and driven, but you've also got to make them beatable. It's a fine line.

In my day-to-day life, the closest thing I've got to a combatant is the marathon. To best that race, you've got to be smart, strong, and driven, but I think that being smart is the most important thing. You can't run at 26.2-mile race with your guns blazing and expect to come out of there alive. You've got to pick your spots, plan, and make sure you've got the right equipment, particularly your shoes. (Yes, in this analogy, my running shoes are my henchmen.) They may not survive the encounter, but if they lead to your victory, then they've done their job. Mine are on their last legs. Both pairs.

So I've got a few things to consider in the coming weeks. My mileage is about to explode, which is great, but it means I've got to be smart and keep my pace in check. I need new shoes, which may be the one big purchase I make after the next paycheck comes in. Also, I need to start planning my races for next year. I've got an idea of what I'd like to do, but it will depend on a few little tweaks here and there that could make decisions for me. Also, it might depend on whether or not I qualify for Boston this fall. If I don't, then I've got to select races based my ability to qualify in them. If I'm already set as of October, I'll get to enjoy next year's races, and maybe do a few that are more difficult, but will be more scenic.

There's so much planning that goes into this, that I've barely got time to consider it all.

If only I had some henchmen.

Thursday's Run:
81 Degrees / Cloudy
4.08 Miles
29 Minutes, 42 Seconds

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'm Not Slow, I'm Epic

Sometimes it takes a little longer to do something right.

As I was working from home today, I needed some sort of noise in the background. It's a bit of a paradox really, in that I need sound so that I have something to ignore and focus on my work. Actually, I do this when I go to bed, also, leaving the television playing, because silence keeps me up.

The selection for today's background noise was the first Lord of the Rings movie, but we don't mess around with stuff like this. No, no. We get us the extended edition, so as to avoid having to make another decision a mere two hours later. I started it late in the day, but I was still amazed that my work day had ended and the movie was still going strong. It's because, I think, Peter Jackson firmly believes that in order to do something right, you have to do it all, and it's okay to take your time.

Having not yet read the Lord of the Rings books, I still appreciate this idea with regard to those three films. In his devotion to the fans of the books, Jackson was determined to include as much of the story into the film version as he could, unlike certain wizard movies I could mention. In the end, we are left with a sweeping epic of a film that at least appeased everyone. In this particular case, having something take forever worked out.

The flip side of that coin is King Kong, which was just plain awful. To this day, I don't know how it ends, because I fell asleep with 20 minutes to go, having already sat through too much of the movie. Here, Jackson really should have hit the editing boards hard and taken out... well... most of it.

So how do you know when you've taken too long? When you get to the end and look back.

Today's run was 8 miles, which is longer than I've run (except for Sundays) all season. It's a familiar course for me, but that only means I know how challenging it could be, so I decided to take my time. Every time I felt myself starting to speed up, I'd remind myself just how much I had left to go, and I'd ease up on the gas a bit. Even with three miles to go, when I was feeling strong, I did not let myself start to push, fearing that doing so would result in having to walk or worse. And how did it look when I finished?

It looked slow, but it also looked complete. I probably could have gone faster, but I've got a pace run on Saturday during which I can prove that. All I wanted to make sure of this morning was that I finished and that I did not have to walk at any point in a fairly long run, and both of those goals were easily accomplished. You could say I took the Peter Jackson approach to this morning's run.

When in doubt, take your time.

Wednesday's Run:
79 Degrees / Before Sunrise
8.11 Miles
1 Hour, 3 Minutes, 19 Seconds

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hamburger Pie

It doesn't take much to make a delicious dinner.

Now, I'll qualify this statement by saying that I do not have what one might call discerning tastes when it comes to food. I'm not all that picky, and ever since I stopped avoiding food simply because it is green (roughly 4 years ago), the possibilities of the culinary world have opened up before me. I watch Man Vs. Food and drool quietly to myself over all the amazing food that is out there.

That being said, as a cook, I do not have access to the thousands of ingredients that seem to be in every dish on the Food Network, nor do I have the talent or specialized cooking utensils to imagine calling myself a "chef." When it's my night to cook, I indulge in the basics. I specialize in... well, I cook a lot of pasta, chicken stir fry dishes, and pasta. So recently, my goal has been to branch out somewhat and make something that is a little more complicated. Now, I make a lot of casseroles.

Tonight's meal was called Hamburger Pie, and there was really nothing fancy going on. It was hamburger, onion, tomato soup, green beans, mashed potatoes and cheese. And it was incredible. I stopped eating it only because I want to eat more of it tomorrow. It's not health food by any stretch of the imagination, but for someone who burns a lot of calories daily, it's an excellent source of energy.

And look at those ingredients. Nothing special there. Most people end up with all of those things after a grocery trip whether they're trying to or not. And that, my friends, is my thinly veiled tie-in to running.

What makes running a great sport is that anyone can do it. If you want to be a runner, you only need shoes and (depending on your city's decency codes) clothing. Nothing special there. You may not even need shoes, depending on your stance regarding minimalist running, but I recommend them to avoid, you know, crippling injuries due to glass shards and things like that. But other than that, you don't need any further equipment or previous experience.

There is one other thing that can help you on your journey, though, and that's patience. Much like a great meal can take a while to prepare (or a crappy oven can take forever to pre-heat), it might take a few weeks for you to really get the full enjoyment out of being a runner. It can be tempting to want to be fast very quickly. You might try running as hard as you can for a mile, and then be disappointed that you didn't run two. This is a lesson I still have trouble with myself, but it's something I'll have to be careful about tomorrow morning, as my mileage increases.

Every run this week is longer than it was last week. In fact, I'll be running 10 more miles this week than I did last week, a rather substantial jump. Most of that will come on Sunday, but each of the other four runs adds a mile, which means I have to be careful about running a seven-mile pace for an eight-mile run. Today, I did not push myself, but I also did not hold myself back, and I started to get a little winded toward the end of my four-miler. It wasn't a problem since that's all I had to run, but if I still had four miles to go, I might have been in trouble.

I want this week in particular to be great. Last season, week seven was when my injuries actually sidelined me for a while. I didn't run a single mile at this point last season. For weeks 7-9, I ran a total of 21 miles, 16 of which were in the third week. This season, during those same three weeks, I'll be running 119 miles.

So I better load up on hamburger pie.

Tuesday's Run:
80 Degrees / Sunny
4.08 Miles
28 Minutes, 31 Seconds

Monday, August 8, 2011

Considering a Run for Governor

Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a very good actor.

While I realize this information may come as a shock to some of you, I'm confident that many of you may have already had your suspicions. It's a rare Monday night when I'm not involved in a rehearsal or meeting of some kind, and I'm currently spending it on my couch watching Twins because it is, in fact, the most entertaining thing on television right now.

I sit and think about how the two stars of this film ever got famous, and I imagine that they had completely opposite careers. You look at DeVito, who is short, not particularly attractive, and basically lacks all of the physical characteristics of a stereotypical Hollywood "star." In this very movie, he's referred to as the "leftover crap" from a genetic experiment. However, he has a great deal of talent, and though it doesn't always show in his selection of roles, he's earned his place among the LA elite by being a terrific character actor.

And how did Mr. Schwarzenegger join the A-List? He's huge. He did a lot of steroids, lifted a lot of weights, and when someone needed an exceptionally large actor, they got Arnold Strong, "Mr. Universe." Seriously, that's how he's credited in his first movie.

Now both men have done dozens of films in several genres, and each seems to have his retirement plan. The one with talent has a television show where he plays a degenerate, lecherous father. The one without talent? Well, he's got an entire state to run into the ground.

It just got me to thinking about the things I enjoy most in life. Outside of my family and my job, I spend the majority of my remaining time on theatre and running, or working out in general. For the purposes of today's post, we'll call these hobbies Danny and Arnold, respectively. With Danny, my goal is to better myself artistically, challenge myself, and grow intellectually. As for Arnold, that's most about vanity and ego, but it's something I really enjoy doing, and it's something I happen to be good at. And while I may never be the best actor on the stage or the fastest runner in the race, maybe, one day, I can be the best thing on television on a Monday night.

As an added bonus, if you type "Arnold" into the Google Search bar, hoping to spell a certain governor's name correctly, four of the first five results will give you that answer, along with various combinations of the words "love child," "mistress," and "soundboard." What's the other result? Arnold Palmer.

No word yet as to whether it's the drink or the golfer.

Monday's Workout:
Indoors / Stationary Bike
10.0 Miles
35 Minutes

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Until The Bats Come Home

I love the smell of guano in the morning.

That's a lie. It's gross. I do, however, love crossing the Congress Ave bridge with less than 3 miles to go on a 10-mile run, especially when I'm feeling good. And it's even cooler to do as the bats are dive-bombing all around you. Okay, when I say it like that, it doesn't sound cool so much as terrifying, but believe me, it's a sight to see.

For some reason, I felt very optimistic as I went to bed last night. Something in my body told me that today's step-back week long run of 10 miles wasn't going to be so bad. I was going to to take it nice and easy, and I was going to finish without too much difficulty. The most surprising part of this was that I still felt that way when the alarm went off this morning. After an energy bar, a bit of water, and a quick check of the weather, I was underway.

Though I felt a little creaky from a weekend of performing in a high-energy comedy show, within a half mile, I had settled into a fairly relaxed pace, forcing myself not to push any kind of speed. After last week's blown tire, the last thing I wanted was to have to call in rescue again. (In fact, I left my phone at home to take away the temptation. I've been doing that more and more lately.) I still let the downhills take me a little faster, and I still leaned ever so slightly into the uphills, but I made a concentrated effort not to increase my speed, and not to check my watch.

There was one quick stop at a water fountain to rinse off my arms, which were itching like mad right around the first mile. I attributed this to my pores opening up and sweating on top of sweat that had already dried from the night before. You see, my current show is outdoors, and though it's at night, it's still over 90 degrees out there, so we're drenched by the time we're done. When I got home last night, I was so tired that I didn't rinse off (since I was already dry by this time) and I think that was a mistake. Still, I wasn't about to let a little thing like itchy arms ruin what I was convinced was going to be a good run. After a quick rinse, I was back up to pace trying not to think about anything related to pain.

Instead, I looked around at my surroundings. I enjoyed getting passed on Town Lake Trail for once, not allowing myself to compare speeds. Dogs were running along happily with their owners in varying degrees of obedience. The sun was rising slowly, and I actually got to enjoy the beauty of it without being in direct sunlight. All of the hill climbs were tough, but I never felt burned out on any of them. The only walk break I took was to have an energy gel well after my halfway point, and by the time I'd made it back to the bridge, I couldn't believe how good I felt.

I read a little graffiti ("No Warrant, No Search"), and while I appreciated that someone was breaking the law to espouse Constitutional virtues, I feel there must be better places to do this than a lonely cement wall next to Hooters. Contemplating this, I suddenly realized that I only had two miles to go. Of course, I also realized that I was starting to get tired, and yet, I did not let myself stop. I had a five second hold at the devil light, and that was pretty much it, besides being frustrated that the police officer across the street did not pull of the guy who ran the red light with uncrated dogs in the back of his pickup (two strikes). Even at the last mile, I did not let myself check the watch, preferring instead to just be happy with whatever time I had. Miles, not minutes.

So here I am, done with all my morning requirements, and it's not even 9:00am. Happy Sunday.

Sunday's Run:
80 Degrees, Partly Cloudy
10.24 Miles
1 Hour, 23 Minutes, 0 Seconds

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Just Five More Minutes

There are bad ideas, and then there are willfully bad ideas.

One such willfully bad idea is choosing to sleep in on a Saturday when you know that you’ve got things to do. With lots of errands to run and little projects to accomplish, you really don’t have the luxury of sleeping in until after 10:00 on a Saturday morning, but you could not have convinced me of this today.

First, let me say that it was totally worth it. All of the stuff that I’ve had to do to make up for my laziness is annoying, but not nearly enough that it takes away from the awesomeness that was 11 hours of sleep.

Really, this isn’t such a crime. Saturdays were invented for sleeping in which is why there are so many God-awful songs about Friday nights. The only issues that truly arise are issues where there is a time limit, and marathon training in Texas definitely has a time limit. If I’m not home by 8:00am, I’ve got trouble on my hands.

And so it was that my first half was fairly decent this morning/early afternoon, but my second half was quite slow. Meh. So it goes. I’ve gotten to a point in this never-ending summer where I’m not concerned about the things I cannot do as well because of the heat. It’s simply a fact of life in the South, and I’m just happy that there is almost no way my actual race days will be this brutal. I’m fairly certain that any marathon in 90-degree weather would be cancelled.

The only thing that bothered me today was my own focus, but in a different way than normal. Usually, I’m upset because I’m not focused enough, but today, I just wanted my focus to go away.

How is it that I can spend an entire week trying to focus on things (which is becoming more and more of a struggle every day), but when I get to the weekend and am trying to complete seven miles in less-than-ideal conditions, my mind simply will not move from the fact that my body is unhappy with its current situation. All I want to do is reminisce about anything that will distract me from how many miles I have left to go, and all I can think about is how many minutes of running I’ve got remaining.  Much like my sleep issues, it seems that focus only comes when least desired.

But you know what? I can’t worry too much about things like this. Not in this weather. I still covered seven miles today, albeit a little slower than I intended. That’s more than most people I know, and I’m proud of that. As long as I can look back on a run at all, I’m happy about it.

And I’ve got 900 miles to look back at this year.

Saturday’s Run:
88 Degrees / Sunny
7.09 Miles
55 Minutes, 4 Seconds