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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spoke Too Soon

I may have been premature on my post-race analysis.

As it turns out, I did, in fact, put my body through a rather difficult ordeal on Sunday, and it hasn't actually forgiven me yet. When I headed out for my run yesterday, I started very cautiously and ended up dropping into a steady rhythm easily. I took this as a sign that my body had already completely recovered from the race. Today's run showed me otherwise.

Since I was up on time, I got out the door before sunrise and jumped right in at a goal pace. It was slower than most days that I run, but given the length of the workout, I was fine with that. Within two miles, however, it became clear that my body wasn't up to any real challenges today.

The body can take a long time to process certain things. For example, when preparing for a race, the most important night of sleep is actually two nights before the race. Sure, you need rest the night before, but if you have a little trouble falling asleep, it's not a big deal as long as you got in your hours two days out. Your dinner from last night is far more important to today's run than this morning's banana. And in my case, at least this time, the soreness and exhaustion from a race will hit 48 hours after you're done.

But I still had the miles to do. I refused to let myself push the pace, but kept my head up and my feet moving. Mostly, I'm just thankful that I've got another night off ahead of me. I've got big plans for getting ahead on my work for the week and watching sitcoms. I know, watch out world.

I feel like I learned some lessons from today's workout. Number one: waking up on time is much easier when you go to bed on time, so I'm going to try and do that more often. Number two: regardless of how good you feel, don't push the pace the day after a big race. It might go well for that workout, but you'll be regretting it early on day three. And finally, number three: when you're most exhausted and struggling is when you get the greatest benefit from simply staying in motion. And that's my number one goal for the rest of the day.

Just keep moving.

Tuesday's Run:
60 Degrees, dark
8.98 Miles

Monday, March 26, 2012

Surprisingly Well

It's nice to see that everything's still working.

I'm not going to lie, I was a little concerned about waking up this morning. Even with the exceptional massage I got immediately following yesterday's race, I wasn't sure how my body would react to the stress it received yesterday. It was with caution that I took my first few steps of the morning.

Surprisingly, everything felt great. I was a little tired, but that had more to do with the post-run celebrations and a late-evening call from a friend. I had a lot of work to do, so I was distracted most of the day, but around noon I realized that my stomach was being rather demanding. After the race yesterday, I had a meal big enough to be called the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo, but had only eaten lightly the rest of the day. Without breakfast, I was ravenous, and finished off the other half of a casserole that I'd cooked on Friday.

Before I knew it, the work day was over, and it was time to get in my miles. Originally, I'd planned to jump right back into my schedule today, but last week, I figured that I'd probably need a relative recovery day and dropped my Monday mileage from 5 to 3 miles. However, I felt so good upon waking up today that I decided I could jump right back in. I ran my five miles with strength, though I felt some tiredness in the last couple miles that belied yesterday's accomplishment. Still, I was able to run sub-Boston, which is always a victory by itself.

If last week was the embodiment of chaos, I think this week is going to be my return to order. You know, except for the fact that we'll have house guests in and out for the next few weeks. Still, if I let that get to me, then I'm doomed as far as keeping the rest of my life in order. So instead, I'm focusing on getting every other aspect of my life back under control, and then I can have time for the delightful deviations. Step one was regaining total focus at work. Mission accomplished.

Step two is getting up on time. I must must must get back to running before my work day starts. For one thing, it's getting awfully warm out there. For another, a regimented schedule is the best possible way to start the day on a positive note. If I can get up on time, everything else will fall into place.


Monday's Run:
82 Degrees and pretty darn sunny
5.15 Miles

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2012 Austin American-Statesman Capitol 10,000

It took me longer to write the name of the race than to run it.

Today's story is one that I don't get to tell very often. It's about how I set a plan for a race and actually followed it, with great results. Assuming I'm paying attention, it will be a great lesson for races to come. As long as I can remember today, I've got a great blueprint for making a personal record.

For the first time all week, I got to bed at a reasonable hour. I had a banana and a bit of coffee to get my system ready for the race this morning, and followed that with a little water. Other than that, I tried to keep my stomach clear. I lined up early, off-center, but not so much that I had to squeeze in when the starting gate was smaller than the corral. Bad planning there...

Even with all this intelligent preparation, the real key to my success today was patience. I had to pass many slower runners right at the start, but I resisted the urge to go after more of them. I knew the hills were coming, and I'd catch up then. My first mile was slower than I anticipated.

The second mile was a little more challenging, but I refused to let myself push too hard. Regardless, I sped up a bit as my muscles warmed up. As I started the third, I made a focused choice to relax my muscles, easing the pace up the course's toughest hill. Then, I released.

The course begins a long, downhill stretch at about the halfway point. I simply opened up my stride and let gravity do its thing. I could feel the strength in my legs, but I was still a little nervous.

See, I haven't finished a race well in a long time. Usually, I'm the one getting passed in the final miles, but not today. So, naturally, I was terrified that I was going to burn out. Yay, optimism!

But I didn't burn out. In fact, I was flying. As the last miles approached, I decided to go for it. I tucked my head, pulled my arms and curled around the final turn. I even got into a sprint-off at the finish, though I didn't win it. I felt amazing, and I destroyed my PR.

Then came the free massage, and lots of swag from local companies. I checked the results and found that, while I wouldn't place in my age group, I'd finished in the top 1% of all finishers. All because I was patient.

Today was a good day.

Race Day:
65 degrees, sunny
6.2 Miles
37 minutes, 6 seconds

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Planning Stages

I've got a lot to anticipate this weekend.

Tonight, we open a show, and I'm very excited about it. I'm also very excited that I'll be able to get a little sleep starting next week, but for right now, I'm just pumped about having an audience. A show never really takes on its life until the audience arrives. When you hear their laughter or feel their silence, you know you've done your job, and that's when everything comes alive. I'll take the stage in a little over three hours, and I really can't wait.

Then, we've got little events throughout the whole weekend, including birthday celebrations, doggie training classes and runs with friends, not to mention two more shots at getting the show right. The curtain call for my weekend, though, is definitely going to be the Austin-American Statesman Capitol 10,000 on Sunday morning. I find myself getting obnoxiously excited about this little 10K, planning every step and wondering how it's all going to go.

My race day excitement comes from the same place as my opening night excitement: the audience. When you've got crowds, both on and along the course, your run takes on a whole new life. And when you've crossed that finish line, somewhere, on some website, there is a permanent record of your accomplishment. With that in mind, I feel I need a plan.

For a marathon, I figure I'm okay with the plan of "run exactly this fast" for 26 miles. The fact that it hasn't worked yet is merely an effect of my inability to stick to my plan in a racing situation. For a 10K, however, the differences from one mile to another actually force you to take a careful look at your race plan, and I have done just that. I have realized that my most difficult task will be easing my pace in mile three. If I can do that, I will definitely have a chance at achieving one of my New Year's goals, which is to PR at a distance other than the marathon. Here's the plan:

Mile 1: This is mostly uphill, except for the back side of the bridge. Fortunately, it's not that uphill, so I'm hoping to be right on goal pace for this mile. The crowd will thin somewhat, but I want to stay to the side, ensuring that I'm not basing my own performance off of those around me. For once, I want to be the one doing the passing in the final miles.

Mile 2: Here is where it starts to get interesting. This begins with a sharp uphill followed by a four-block downhill. It seems really nice until you make your left turn onto 15th and see the climb ahead of you. The goal here is to push that first up, ride the down, and use as much of that momentum as possible for that next up. The climb isn't done yet, so I'm not going to burn myself out.

Mile 3: Slow. That's the only way I'll survive. We travel into a great valley, essentially, topped off by a massive hill. The only real joy of this part of the course will be the knowledge that I'm not pushing myself yet, and it only gets better from there. This will be 10 - 15 seconds slower than my goal pace.

Mile 4: This is where it starts to get fun. Traveling slightly unfamiliar terrain (as I ran the trail by this part of the course, not the road itself), I'll do my best to let gravity have its way and carry me all the way down the hill, while still focusing on keeping my body forward. The decline is not nearly as sharp as the incline was, so this part should be awfully fast.

Mile 5: The lake. We travel parallel to the trail for a bit with only one little hill as you take the exit onto Cesar Chavez. The main benefits from the downhill are completed, but at this point, I should be locked into a pretty strong pace. I hope to be sizing up other runners to pass one by one, creating mini-races throughout the last two miles.

Mile 6(.2): The end. The only real surprise here is the last little hill on Cesar Chavez before the turn onto South First. With less than half a mile to go before the finish, I expect to encounter at least a few runners who started their kick a little too early only to be thwarted by an incline that barely shows up on the course elevation chart. Also, don't forget that the First Street bridge is somewhat of a hill itself. Once you crest the top, kick it home. You've got one sharp turn, but only a few steps after that.

As I say, the key to my success will be mile three, keeping myself in check and knowing that just because I feel good then doesn't mean that I'll feel good all the way to the end. It'll be important to keep myself from pushing those early moments in order to have the strength to push the back half the way I want. It's been so long since I've done a really strong short race, which is why I'm really excited for Sunday. More excited for tonight, but Sunday's on the mind, too. Whether it's theatre or running, I do love an audience.

Important difference, though: don't tell me to break a leg on Sunday.

Thursday's Workout:
1 Mile Warm-Up
4x800 on 1:00 rest
2:43     2:38
2:40     2:39
1 Mile Cool Down

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


In case you can't tell from the lack of posts, it's tech week.

With the 40 hours I spend at work, the 7 I spend running and the 26 that I'll end up spending at the theatre, I don't have much time for other endeavors like writing. It's to be expected, of course, but I'm glad to have a chance to catch up a bit.

Much like one is not supposed to worry about missed miles for fear of injury, I won't worry about writing a post for each missed day. I think one summary story should do just fine.

Sunday was a lovely recovery run after Saturday's extended adventure. I met up with my running partner, and we pushed through our three miles. Mostly, I was just psyched to be up on time the morning after a marathon party.

Monday brought its own challenges, having spent 9 hours working on tech issues for the show the previous day. Fortunately, I was still able to get out the door for five quick miles. It was to be my last speedy run of any distance before Sunday's race, so I let myself push the pace ever so slightly. My only real issue was that I made a conscious decision regarding my direction based on the wind, which I immediately forgot about.

That takes us to Tuesday, when I started feeling the weight of the week. I didn't want to cut mileage too early, so I still did my nine. I tried to keep an easy pace, but I felt a little too good. As it turned out, I had one more quick distance run in me. What was good about this was that I felt fine the whole way, giving me just a little more confidence heading into the weekend.

The downside of the day was that we ended up staying at the theatre until midnight, which made for a short night. Couple that with the storm that kept me up the night before, and it made for an unpleasant morning. On top of all of this, I feel the beginnings of a cold coming on. So, extra vitamin C, a bit of extra rest, a giant energy drink, and I'm ready for the day.

Today was great, despite the contributing factors. I'm powering through my issues, and found time for a very easy three miles. The weather was perfect, and though I was a little fast, I never got winded. Now it's just a matter of staying hydrated and focused for a few more hours. Tomorrow, we'll open the show and I'll do some light speed work.

And Saturday, I foresee a lot of napping.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guinness For Strength

It's always a bad idea to change things for a long run.

It's a much worse idea to change everything. However, that's exactly what I did yesterday as part of my celebration of St. Patrick, and my poor planning is a large part of why this post is a day late.

Change one: the course. This was probably my smartest change, as it actually served a purpose. Among the 20 miles I would complete, 6.2 of them were the course for the Capitol 10K, which I'll run next week. It gave me a solid idea of what to expect and how to run my race. The downside was that it gave me a great big hill in the middle of the run. Can't wait to see that one on Sunday.

Change two: the bottle. In lieu of filling up my Camel Pak, I carried along a bottle of water, which posed a few issues. I had to stop for each drink, as the alternative was hitting my teeth on the plastic. As a result, I drank much more water than usual, and had massive cramping 90 minutes in. Plus, I hate running with things in my hands. I gave it a shot, but next time I'll just take the spot.

Change three: the beer. Yeah, I had a beer. After 16 miles, I stopped at a local restaurant for the first Guinness of the day. I met a friend, and we talked for a few before I headed back to the road for the last four. For the record, don't do that.

Overall, the run wasn't bad, but it was fractured. I expected it to be a little off, though, so I'm not concerned. Mostly, I'm glad I completed the miles, and in two weeks, I'll be ready for the next step.

And for a return to routine.

Saturday's run:
70s and cloudy
20.89 Miles

Friday, March 16, 2012

Change of Season

Summer is on its way.

Growing up in the midwest, I got used to the gradual changing of the seasons. My grandfather used to say that you could always expect a snow storm in April, and more often than not, he was right. Winter isn't over until it's over.

This year, for much of the country, winter never began. It's been pretty mild nationwide, and Texas was more so. I expected it to be warm, but it barely ever got below 30. There was one day where I claim to have seen snow, though I acknowledge that it was really just thick sleet. Honestly, we had nothing resembling Winter here in the south.

So it is to be expected that the Spring would be warm as well, only I think we're already past Spring. When it's 78 degrees and humid, Spring has ended.

And since we've essentially entered Summer, it has become vital that I run before the sun rises. Only I haven't been doing that. I've been running in the afternoon, when it has been hottest, and that hasn't been awesome.

Still, I was happy with today. On my way up the long hill toward the end, I saw a car stuck on the road, and stopped to offer my help getting them out of traffic, an old winter hobby of mine. As I approached, someone else stopped. I said I would help this person, but they just used their truck. As in license plate to hitch, truck pushes SUV. No help required.

So, instead of being useful, all I got was a slight break in the hard part of my run. This turned out to be very useful for my goal of negative splits. While I'm not sure if I actually was faster on the second half, I was close enough to count it based on degree I difficulty alone.

This little victory didn't change the fact that I felt pretty worked over by the end. The heat is killing me a bit, but I'm counting on that fact to get me out of bed next week and run early.

You know, when temps are in the 60s.

Friday's Run:
78 degrees, sunny
7.93 Miles

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dialed In

I'm officially getting excited for my 10K.

For the first time in many years, I'm running in a race of less than 26 miles and I'm doing it with adequate preparation. The last couple short races I've done have been Turkey Trots here in Austin, but both of them have occurred during times of less-than-quality training.

The first was a couple years ago, and I hadn't been running at the time. It was fun to just get out and put in the miles. The second was just this last year, and I hadn't run a step since the Marine Corps Marathon 25 days earlier. My time was very good, but not as good as it might have been had I actually been training for that specific race.

In order to achieve one of my goals for this year (run a PR at another distance), I decided to sign up for more local races, so what could be better than the largest 10K in Texas? While my primary focus has been amping up the mileage in preparation for the next marathon, I've kept my shorter goals in mind, and today, I did a workout specifically tailored to that goal. Half mile repeats.

Instead of pushing myself as hard as I could for all of them, I ran very specifically to what I expect from myself next Sunday. I figured out the pace that I needed to run in order to break my personal record (set over ten years ago), and then ran six half-miles at just under that pace to try and get my body used to running that speed. Granted, this was on my little neighborhood lap, so the hills weren't quite the same that I'll be dealing with, but I'll get a better look at the actual course this weekend. For today, it was all about the pace.

I couldn't get my watch to pick up a satellite signal, which actually made the workout mean a little more. Instead of determining my speed (and whether it was slipping) by checking my wrist, I had to tune in to my body and figure it out that way, and the results surprised me. I was about 9 seconds ahead of my pace on the first one. And every subsequent time was within one second of that. Without using too much technology, and just going on how I felt, I was able to dial in very specifically to one pace for the entire three miles of the workout.

When I get onto the course the day of the race, I have to make sure that I don't go out too fast, so I'm glad to have this experience under my belt. It's a huge confidence-builder, with the added benefit that I didn't push myself too hard to have a solid run tomorrow, when I hope to run negative splits.

You've got to love short-term goals.

Thursday's Workout:
75 Degrees, cloudy, pretty standard these days
6x800, 1:00 rest between
2:51     2:51
2:51     2:51
2:52     2:50

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Now that's a turnaround.

Knowing that my problem yesterday was a refueling issue, I fueled up. I had chicken and grapes last night, Cheerios this morning, and a salad for lunch. Combine that with more water than I've had in the last week, and you've got a man who is ready to run. What made the whole thing better was how little I actually had to run.

Wednesdays are recovery days in my schedule, and I've grown to love them. I don't want to take days off, because the streak (now at ten weeks) is what gets me out the door half the time, especially on high mileage days. Still, I love a nice, easy run every once in a while, and today, I didn't check my watch even one time for the entire three miles. I kept my head up and my legs moving, but I made no effort at speed, and as a result, finished feeling great.

Of course, this doesn't prove any level of fitness or excessive readiness for the next stages of training, since it was an easy day, but it does illustrate the benefits of basic changes. I still got to be late last night, but I set my alarm for a little later to ensure that the sleep I did get was adequate. Since this didn't leave time for a morning run, I took to the roads in the afternoon, but ate throughout the day to ensure proper levels of energy. With a harder day planned tomorrow, I'm going to spend much of my evening focusing on hydration. These are baseline health requirements that I've let go by the wayside. Even if I wasn't running, they would be important, but the repeated, sustained physical exertion makes them critical.

And today felt better. Perhaps tomorrow will as well.

Wednesday's Run:
74 Degrees, cloudy and humid
3.22 Miles

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brink of Burnout

Okay, I may be doing a little too much these days.

Between working my full time job, having rehearsal for my upcoming show most evenings, and finding somewhere in the vicinity of 7 hours a week to run, I'm spreading myself a little thin. To make matters worse, I haven't been keeping this new revelation in mind with my sleeping and eating habits. While I can schedule every minute, I can't do anything else without the fuel to get it done.

The full weight of this requirement hit me around mile four today when I realized that I was pretty much tapped for energy already. After yesterday's tough five (and subsequent lackluster post), I was very in tune with what my body was telling me early on in today's nine, but I only evaluated in the short term. In short, I felt very good, which usually means that I can push the pace a bit. I should have waited a little longer before making the determination.

As the sun beat down and the sweat poured off, I had to acknowledge that I was not properly prepared for this workout. While I got the "correct" hours of sleep, the last couple were in a world of snooze, and as a result were not as effective as I needed them to be. Though I had a good dinner last night, it was coupled with beer and not nearly enough water. Throughout the day today, I kept in mind my imminent run, and was worried about eating anything beforehand. The result was almost an entire work day without food. I didn't realize any of this until I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

I took a few short rests throughout the run to save what energy I could, but each step brought only further attention to my need for better fueling. So I've had lots of food tonight, and I'm trying to hydrate myself with some sort of regularity.

The bright spot on the horizon is that tomorrow is a very, very short run that I will run as easily as I can. Thursday will be a slightly different form of speed work directed at success in the Capitol 10K, which I just signed up for this afternoon. Then, on Friday, I'll run an old, familiar course and Saturday brings twenty miles, which will be broken up due to St. Patrick's Day shenanigans. More on that to follow.

For tonight, I want to have some water and go to bed. They're the foundation, and if I don't want to be completely burned out in the next few days, I need to build up that foundation.

And get myself back from the brink.

Tuesday's Run:
73 Degrees, humid
8.98 Miles

Monday, March 12, 2012

Finding Minutes

Today was not an easy run.

In fact, it wasn't an easy day overall, but I found time for the run.

I also found about 30 seconds to write a blog post.

So here's to finding time. However little it may be.

Go me.

Monday's Run:
70 Degrees, Sunny!
5.15 Miles

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Lonely Road

One of these days, I'll figure out how to work my phone.

The weather finally returned to normal today, but before it did, we had another cold, rainy morning. Knowing that this wasn't great for my running partner, I made sure to check my text messages and Facebook before I left the house. Finding nothing, I got in the car and headed down to the lake.

When it was a few minutes past our meeting time, I check again, and there was the text. That had been there since before I left. And somehow didn't see. Well done, me.

I figured that, since I was already there, I might as well hit the trail anyway. I was one of the few who thought so. It was still raining a little bit, but nothing like what I've been running through the last couple days. The trail was a little washed out, and there were a few acrobatic dances around standing water, but that wasn't the most striking feature of the path. What hit me most was just how empty it was.

Unless I'm there before sunrise, there's usually a pretty good crowd on the trail. Today, though, through the whole four mile run, I maybe saw fifteen other runners. We all smiled and waved at one another, acknowledging that we were the few, the proud, the absurd runners.

I found myself really wanting someone to whom I could talk, but at the same time, I enjoyed the solitude of it. It really is a strange contradiction, to at once appreciate something for yourself but also want to share it with someone else. It's the mark of a good hobby, of something to believe in. You can lose yourself in your moment, and all you want is for everyone around you to feel the same freedom. It's that feeling of finding a really great band before they're famous. You take pride in knowing something that no one else does, but you want to share this great thing with the world, too. At some point, they may become "too popular" and lose that mystique, but it shouldn't change how you feel about them. Even if everyone else is running, I can still love it.

Some day, I think I'd like to coach other runners, especially beginners. To be honest, I don't know enough about the physiology of the thing now to be of much use to anyone, but I'm always excited when someone asks me for my opinion or recommendation. I look forward to the day that I'm really part of the Austin running community. Until then, I'm happy to enjoy it for myself.

Rain or shine.

Sunday's Run:
56 Degrees, generally wet
4.11 Miles

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Morning Rush

The magical glow of morning does not exist on rainy days.

With a late night rehearsal, I didn't get to bed until almost midnight, which made 5:00 a.m. a less-than-desirable wake-up time. Still, I had an appointment tentatively scheduled at 10, which meant I absolutely needed another early start. Giving myself three hours to complete 19 miles allowed for the possibility of walking while still having time to come home, get showered, maybe eat something and get out the door on time.

On long run days, I take a little more time getting out the door. There's a system to how I do things. The first, most important step is waiting until I've had my morning bathroom stop. That's not something you want to suddenly remember an hour and a half from home in the middle of nowhere.

Since it takes a little time, I do a few other things to get ready. I check the weather, though today it was destined to be crappy pretty much the whole time. My latest addition to the routine is writing my water stop times on my hand. I need to get used to refueling like I will during the race, so I've timed out how long (at goal pace) it will take me to get to the water stops I plan to use in South Bend. These times get printed on the back of my hand, and those are the moments when I drink water or take a gel. So far, the system seems to be working like a charm.

Most of my equipment is laid out the night before, but as I stepped out the door, I realized that I felt much colder than anticipated, so I headed back inside for a hoodie and some gloves. I knew that these would eventually be uncomfortable in the rain, but I didn't want to waste all that energy just staying warm, so the sacrifice was made.

And then began the long, slow trudge. Really, that's not the right word for it, because I was pretty happy with my pace the whole way. It was the first really long run in the new shoes, and they held up beautifully, even on the wet pavement. I was careful not to push too hard, and even resisted the urge to check my pace at any time during the workout. Instead, I spent my time trying to remember how "Gypsy Woman" by Martin Sexton started (which I only managed to remember with half a mile left) and trying to avoid getting hydroplaned. Of course I was sprayed with mist the whole way, but I only got hit by one actual splash, and it was pretty tiny. There were no unlucky-girl-in-first-scene-of-romantic-comedy moments.

The last four miles felt downright good, though I did start to cramp up slightly just before mile 18. It didn't slow me down at all, but instead reminded me that, while I'm doing well, I'm not there yet, so I need to keep my focus ahead. I'll be honest, I'm actually excited about my long runs now, and though next week's will be broken up, I'm pumped to run my 20.

You know what the best part is? The best part is that by 9:00 a.m., I had already done the most difficult thing that I will set out to do all day.

Which I guess is kind of magical on its own.

Saturday's Workout:
45 Degrees, rain, wet, cloudy
19.24 Miles

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bad Timing

I did exactly what I said I would do.

I woke up right on time, headed downstairs, and looked out the window. At the storm. Whoops. Didn't quite factor that into my plan. Not particularly in the mood for a predawn jaunt through the lightning, I curled up on the couch and caught a few more winks. Not my fault. Blame the weather.

Then came work through the morning, but I kept my eye on the weather, and realized that it wasn't going to get any better. It took a bit of a turn yesterday as I was finishing up my workout. On the second-to-last repeat, the warm, sticky air was suddenly replaced with odd jets of cold, like walking past an open pharmacy on a hot day. By the time I started my last lap, all the air had become cold and the wind was kicking up like mad. That hasn't changed since.

With the cooler air came the rain, and judging from the radar I was looking at, the moment of calm I was seeing wouldn't last. I had about 90 minutes until the big rain hit, which was perfect, because I only had about an hour to run. I suited up and got out the door.

Yeah, the radar was wrong. Within the first mile, I saw the droplets starting on the sidewalk, and before I'd completed two, it started coming down in buckets. There's a quick moment when you consider heading home, but then you realize that you'll still be soaked getting there, and the storm will probably be over by the time you're safe anyway. You smile and try to enjoy the absurdity of the moment.

After only a couple minutes, I was completely soaked, all the way through my shoes. Fortunately, I avoided getting hydroplaned by passing cars the entire way (a small miracle in itself), and the experience was about as pleasant as it could be. Until my last turn.

I've often whined about the wind, whether it's making a hill difficult or not existing in the summer, but today, it was particularly harsh. Not only was it 46 degrees with 30mph winds, but I was soaked. Cold air and wet clothes. Not fun. But what could I do? I had 1.5 miles left in my run and no other way to get home, so I started laughing, lowered my head and pushed on. Through the pain left over from yesterday's speed work. Through the driving rain. Through the biting wind. I pushed, and finished my miles. It wasn't pretty, and it really wasn't all that fun, but it got done.

I've just got to work on my timing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


It may be hard to tell now, but I was once an altar boy.

And back in my days of wholesomeness, I remember seeing a sign in the sacristy that simply read DWYSYWD. This was in the dark ages, well before WWJD (and its subsequent, endless pop culture-referencing parodies) took over the Christian acronym market. I had no clue what it meant, but I'm a huge fan of palindromes, so I looked into it, and found out that it was quite simple.

Do what you say you will do.

It's a simple mantra, and one that evokes an image of great reliability. Clearly, their intention was to remind people to follow through on their promises, but the memory hit me today for a different reason. I finally managed to get back to my speed work, and for the first time in a while, I did exactly what I set out to do.

For the last three weeks, my speed work Thursdays have been inconsistent. Two of the three weeks have been merely fast runs over four miles. The first was with the pups, and last week was by myself. The other was a hill workout. All were legitimate choices for a strength-training day, but honestly, a bit part of it was avoiding quarter-mile repeats. They're hard. I'm tired. We've avoided one another.

But I decided to get back to it. I changed my framework to have a little less rest, and headed out. Instead of doing three sets of four, I chose two sets of six. At the end of my first set, I was burned. I took my rest, and moved toward the line to start the second set, but I hesitated. I hadn't done this kind of workout in a while, so was I asking too much of my body? Was I out of speed work shape? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, and I should only do my one set.


The sign that I haven't seen in years flashed through my brain. I said, to myself, that I would do two sets of six. So I did. And yes, the last few got progressively slower, but I completed them. Every one.

Setting challenges has been the key for me so far this year. When I tell myself I will do something, I hold myself to that standard. Tomorrow, I will wake up on time.

Because I said I would.

Thursday's Run:
73 Degrees, but it got cold right at the end.
2x(6x400, 1:30 Rest)
1:08     1:09
1:06     1:05
1:05     1:06
1:05     1:06
1:05     1:07
1:05     1:08

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bumpy Ride

Thank goodness I wasn't going for speed.

Tonight, my wife returns from her Business World Traveler adventure, and I know that the dogs are going to be more than a little excited to see her. They like me just fine, but they know who chose them, and my wife is their favorite, hands down. Having not seen her in over a week, I can only imagine the absurdity that will be the reunion. It scares me a little.

In preparation, I decided to tire them out with one last group run. Today being Wednesday, I only had three miles on the schedule. I chose my easy out-and-back course that steers me clear of neighborhoods, keeps me on sidewalks, and minimizes contact with other animals in an effort to make the run as easy as it could be.

Yeah, not so much.

The pups seemed to know something was up, and jumped into the run with more fervor than usual, which naturally meant I was almost taken down three or four times in the first half mile. First Dog kept moving toward the grass, which usually means that she's trying to make a pit stop, but today only signified that she was bored with me. New Dog, meanwhile would run out in the lead, forget what he was doing drift off to one side, searching the air above him for his purpose in life. This drift would move him directly into the path of my feet.

We had no less than 20 pedestrians to avoid, which in most cases meant that I was in the street and the dogs were trying to make friends. The lawn crew for our neighborhood was out, and seemed intent on mowing the sidewalk. The only light on the route was red both coming and going, and we had to wait for passengers to clear from four different bus stops. And finally, the only house that has a dog that might cause problems suddenly had four dogs. And a horse. My pups were interested.

All told, I don't think we ran continuously for more than 3 minutes at a time the entire run, which is fine, because today was intended to be slow. Judging from the (one) giant pile of fur next to me, the plan to tire them out worked like a charm.

It's been a long week. Caring for two dogs by myself would not be my choice, and with all the other business surrounding my life recently, the last eight days have been rather bumpy. Still, whether it meant hurdling horse poo on the sidewalk or getting my run at odd hours, I've managed to conquer every challenge I've faced. It's gotten me off my schedule, but I've done everything I needed to do, above all else, completing every mile I was scheduled to run.

If I can do that when life is crazy... (*glances with trepidation at the 19 listed for Saturday*)

Wednesday's Run:
72 Degrees, gray, windy
3.11 Miles

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Offensive Driving

I've long since gotten used to the absurd drivers here in Austin.

I'd like to say that means that I've gotten over my general murderous road rage reactions, but that's not the case. I'm working on it. What it does mean, however, is that I've learned to be wary, both as a driver and a runner. If someone is turning right out of a driveway, I've come to accept the fact that they simply will not look to their right. Unless I get eye contact, I'm not getting in front of your Mercedes. I know better.

Normally, I let this nonsense go. I don't understand why someone drives ten miles per hour under the speed limit for no apparent reason, but generally, I leave myself enough time and I don't have a problem. I shake my fist at the driving school on my eight mile course, and that becomes enough revenge on the system for me. Today, I didn't run my eight mile course. I ran a brand new nine mile course. And I found a different driving school. And that was what made me really angry.

Funny Bone Defensive Driving. Really? That's the name of your driving school? That explains a lot.

You see, in Texas, there exists some provision of driving law where, should you get a ticket of some sort, you can attend a defensive driving class instead of paying your fine. Assuming you don't then go out and get yourself another ticket, this course will remove the first offense from your record. How nice of Texas.

I would hope that this benefit would be enough to get people to the class, but evidently not. Evidently it's going to be a fun time for everyone. I thought this was an odd isolated incidence, but, I kid you not, half a mile down the road, I saw a sign for another defensive driving. Happy Time Defensive Driving. I mean, come on. If this is how seriously we're taking the situation that is Austin driving, we're not really doing our job. And just when I was getting really angry, life decided I should get over it.

I crossed a road and actually had someone wait patiently for me to cross the driveway before pulling out. I waved a thank you, and realized it was a dear friend of mine. Moment of anger past.

Still, I stand by what I say. Let's take this thing seriously. Hang up your phones, look both ways, stay in your lane, drive the speed limit, and let's all get where we're going safely, happily, and a heck of a lot more quickly.

And if you let me cross the road, I promise to wave a thank you.

Tuesday's Workout:
72 Degrees
8.98 Miles

Monday, March 5, 2012

Timing Is Everything

I need to get back on my schedule.

For the last few days, I've certainly been in my own world. I front-loaded my hours last week, giving myself an extra day on the weekend (one of the benefits of being an independent contractor). Without a personal challenge to answer to, I haven't gotten up anywhere near 6:00 this month. With all of that, the last few days have been a blur of rehearsals, friends' shows, dog walks, and at least one incidence of a bachelor party.

As might be expected, my routine has been a bit disrupted. There have been naps and laziness all over the place. Today, I was determined to get back onto my schedule. I did not succeed. I did, however, get up early enough to take care of the dogs and start my work day, which was extremely productive. All good things.

And then I had my run, which was also better than expected. I actually had to make myself slow down on several occasions, because I found myself pushing harder than I meant to do.

But still, I feel a little bit off. I've had some muscle issues and a few running cramps. Not totally fun. I am considering getting back to my 6:00 a.m. plan. I've realized that "snoozing" in general is a terrible idea. It's not really sleep so much as tricking your body into moving toward another REM cycle only to be shaken out 9 minutes later. The best plan, as always, is to get myself up and out the door. So that's what I'll try tomorrow.

You know, after my late night rehearsal tonight. Whoops.

Monday's workout:
75 Degrees / Feels warmer
5.15 Miles

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Happy Trails: Saucony Ride (2008)

We've had a good run. Or two.

With my latest shoe purchase, the days for my oldest shoes were numbered. Today, we had one last dog-accompanied run in my little red shoes, and I've got them officially retired, at least from regular running rotation. I'm not going to throw them out yet, in case I want to do a mud race or something of that nature, but as far as day-to-day running, I've officially worn a hole in the sole, and that means they're out.

I feel like I should write a shoe-bituary when I send my shoes out to the proverbial pasture. The last time I retired a set, it was a little bit more difficult. I'd had those for many years, and they were so destroyed that a running store in Montana offered to display them out of sheer awe.

Ah, the Runner's Edge. It was a nice little place in downtown Missoula, and the only reason I remember the name is that it was on the free socks they gave me with the purchase. My mother came out to see my touring show in the summer of 2008, and while there, she decided that I needed new running shoes, just because she could see my toes through the webbing on top of the pair that I was wearing. We found the shop, tried out several pairs, and ended up with the Saucony Ride, which I then wore on a hike up with a mountain with my mother that week.

Since then, my little red shoes hadn't seen a ton of mileage until I restarted running in December of 2010. Then, they got plenty of use, carrying me through 12 weeks of training and 26 miles of Austin. Shortly after the Austin marathon, I bought a new pair of Rides, having had such great success with the pair I'd loved for years.

As my mileage kicked up through last year, and especially early this year, I knew that I couldn't keep using them, even only once every four days. With the soles worn out and the uppers cutting slightly into my foot, it just didn't make sense.

So thank you, Saucony, for a great pair of shoes. They're pretty beaten up now, and I'll have to post pictures of the damage at some point, but for now, I'll remember them for getting me restarted in running. For completing the Austin marathon. And running the mountains of Montana. And maybe some day, they'll take me through my first mud run. But for now, I've got them in the back of my closet, getting some much needed rest.

Happy trails, little shoes.

Sunday's Run:
56 Degrees, dark
3.98 Miles

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Minute to Minute

Some days, you can't explain the success.

Maybe you haven't been eating right, or drinking enough water. Maybe you forgot to charge your watch. Maybe you used your good shoes a day early and have to settle for the older pair. Maybe you do all of this on one particular Saturday.

And maybe you still end up flying.

This being a step-back week for me, I "only" had to run ten miles today, instead of the next distance in my progression, which would have been 18. My weekly run with my friend had been switched from Sunday to Saturday for this week, but with the wife out of town and two needy little pups at home, it became apparent that I wouldn't be able to separate myself from them in the middle of their morning routine. I had to cancel, unfortunately, and move my run to later in the day, when the dogs would be more inclined to spend some time alone.

Fortunately, the weather has abated somewhat since yesterday, and even though I ended up running around 1:00 in the afternoon, the temperature was some 20 degrees cooler than I'd had the day before. I took a look at my ten mile course, one that I had planned some time ago but never used, and found that it had the same long, hot incline that I'd used on Friday. No thanks. Time for a new plan.

As I worked my way around the neighborhoods with MapMyRun, the extra time turned out to be a blessing, as I'd let the power run out on my watch again. I charged it while I mapped, hoping that this combined with disabling the GPS function would be enough to keep it alive as long as possible.

Out the door I went. Early on, the watch started beeping about its imminent demise. I couldn't help but think that if it stopped using all the energy to beep, perhaps it could last longer. Unfortunately, the watch didn't seem to understand my reasoning. On I pressed, but at every major intersection, I would check to see that it was still running. If it was, I would take note of the time so that, in the event it died along the way, I could take that time over that distance and estimate what my total time had been. Not ideal, but really the best I had to work with at the time.

The unexpected result of this was that I found myself inadvertently trying to improve this possible estimated time. Even though I consciously kept telling myself to keep it slow and maintain a steady pace,  part of my brain kept pushing me from one intersection to the next. Now 24 minutes. Now 30. I didn't realize until I reached the 7-mile mark (the only marker I knew) just how fast I was actually going. And still the watch ticked on.

I could feel myself slowing down, craving water, but now it was a real race. Now I could beat the watch, making sure that my time was accurate, and not some estimation. Still, I tried not to push to hard, fighting through unexpected side cramps. The point of these Saturday runs are simply to get in miles. Certainly not to try and race a clock. But when you're that close to the end, you sometimes can't help it. Well, you can, but you won't.

And I didn't. I let my legs fly freely, running my third sub-Boston-paced workout in a row.

Happy Saturday, everyone. I know it is for me.

Saturday's Workout:
64 Degrees
10.24 Miles


Friday's run was about completing a new distance.

With the date of my official training looming, I'm gradually increasing some of the distances of my weekly runs. For the last few weeks, I've taken comfort in knowing exactly what each day of the week would bring. Sunday, four miles. Monday, five. Tuesday, eight. Wednesday, three. Thursday, fast. Friday, six. Saturday long. Easy enough. The most complicated part was figuring out if I was supposed to run north or south that day.

As I get closer to race day, however, my weekly mileage needs to increase, preparing my body for the long runs on the weekend. I need to get used to running, say, ten miles during the week, which makes the 20 on the weekend seem downright reasonable.

Keeping this in mind, my Friday run went from six miles to seven, which meant creating a new route which I have not done (short of long runs) in some time. I decided to try a different direction entirely, exploring a new area as I had done when I first came to Austin two years ago. My plan was to head south to the town of Manchaca, and then head back. It's right on the border of Austin, so the run isn't quite as far as it sounds. It did, however, feel much longer than it was.

You see, with a new route (especially in south Austin), you really have no idea what to expect. Sidewalks, hills, shade... these are all wild cards. Technically, I could know about the hills, but they're never adequately depicted on the elevation charts, so you don't know how they'll feel.

Now any of this would be completely doable. If, that is, the weather is reasonable. It was not reasonable on Friday. When I made it out for the run (after a busy morning of running around), it was 82 degrees without a cloud in the sky. The sidewalk ran out quickly, and though I had plenty of shoulder and was in no danger of cars, it meant running on hot black asphalt. Not to mention uphill for long stretches of time. And even this wouldn't have been bad, were it not for the last fact: not one tree along the route. It was, well, a bit toasty.

I completed the run, stopping a few times anywhere I saw a tree shortly off the path. I was pretty dehydrated, having not planned for the heat of the day, and with no water stops in sight, I felt the need to cool my body as much as I possibly could.

Normally, I love seven mile runs. An odd preference, to be sure, but seven is my favorite number for reasons long forgotten, and I always seem to find seven-mile courses that just feel right and are quite enjoyable.

Eh. They can't all be winners.

Friday's Run:
82 Degrees
7.64 Miles

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fitting It In

This will be short, because I'm exhausted.

After a long day of work, then time with dogs, then a show and getting a run in there somewhere, I was actually climbing into bed before I realized that I had not yet written my post for today. It's not a big deal, to be sure, if I miss one here or there, but as I've crafted a rather long streak of them together, I don't want to give it up just yet.

Sometimes, the streak is the only thing that keeps me moving. I slept in this morning (because I could), and then had to get my run in between taking care of the dogs after work and getting out the door on time for the show. More than once, I asked myself if it was really worth doing the run today, and the only answer that I could come back with was that I didn't want to end my streak. So I did four miles fast, which wasn't necessarily speed work, but did help my mood a bit. And even though it wasn't much, at least the streak continues.

Same goes for the blog.

Thursday's Run:
68 Degrees / Cloudy
3.98 Miles