Saturday, December 31, 2011

Closing the book....and ready to turn the page!

Time for the final post of 2011......hence the title.  This has been a very successful year for me, running-wise, breaking through the 1000-mile barrier for the first time ever.  My racing was decidedly scaled back from previous years, but then again, I haven't done any truly challenging races since 2009, sticking with mostly 5K and 10K distances.  Considering that I hurt my achilles tendon training for the Bay State Marathon in 2009, it's no wonder that I backed off in 2010, but I was also sick a lot that year which really got in the way.  I guess when you boil it all down, I headed into 2011 simply looking to stay healthy and uninjured and just see how things went.  Well, looking back now, I think they went pretty darn well!  The monthly mileage numbers looked like this:

Jan:  92.17
Feb: 86.87
Mar: 88.35
Apr: 62.81
May: 52.89
Jun: 72.96
Jul: 86.90
Aug: 85.39
Sep: 88.02
Oct: 105.81
Nov: 100.67
Dec: 102.27
2011: 1025.11

Pretty consistent.....except for that dip in Apr/May/Jun.....finished strong with 3 consecutive 100+ mile months to make up for it!

So now I'm 3 weeks into my 18 week training program to get ready to fulfill my life-long dream of running the Boston Marathon.  I can't even begin to describe how excited I am at the mere idea of it....simply mind-blowing!  My goals for that day in April are very simple......finish strong.   I know the difficult training I have ahead of me, but having already completed a marathon successfully eases my mind.  I know I can run the distance.  I know I can prepare to run the distance.  I know what it takes.

What I need to do is make it through in one piece.........oh yeah, and I'm also looking to make it a bit of a "corrective experience" from my previous marathon.  I ran the 2009 Bay State Marathon in the middle of a nor'easter......35 degrees.....pouring rain.....high winds.  Basically, all of my least favorite running weather situations all rolled into one.  On my Facebook profile, I include the famous quote "there's no such thing as bad weather, only soft people" I guess on that day, I was pretty soft!  While April in Boston can be a real crap shoot in terms of weather, I figure I've been through about the worst it can throw at me, so I'll actually be able to relax and run my race.  Time-wise, I'll be happy to be somewhere around 4:30......but I'm really not that concerned with my time.  It's only going to be my 2nd marathon ever, so it's not like I've got a tremendous reservoir of experience to draw from.  I just believe that time seems reasonable for me and I think I should be able to hit the target. 

So now we close the book on 2011.......and turn the page to start the next chapter in my continuing adventures as a runner.  When I was well over 300 pounds in 2007, I could never have imagined I'd be where I am today......with running shoes piled up under the bed........dresser drawers I cannot close because of all the race shirts in them (not to mention the bins full of them in the basement!).....a cork board covered with race bibs and medals, but only from 2008 ('cause we haven't bothered since!)......

I'm a runner.......and I'm a happy, fortunate man with a loving and supportive wife, a beautiful son, a nice little house, a fulfilling second career as a teacher........I love my life!

I wish all of you a New Year full of love, laughter, wonder, health, happiness, and dreams......and I look forward to seeing you all out there on the road in 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Wonderland?????

Now mind you, I'm not exactly complaining........but where the heck is the snow?  Not that I'm advocating for the ridiculous amount we got hammered with last winter, but it just seems wrong to have bare ground in late December.  I hope this doesn't mean we're going to get buried later in January, but it does make one wonder.....

Looks like I've picked up the nasty little cold that's made it's way from Ben last week, to Barb over last weekend, and finally to me.  Started to really feel it on Tuesday afternoon when we went to the Wrentham Outlets for a little post-Christmas bargain hunting and started attacking it with the Tylenol/Sudafed cluster bomb......thankfully, it's now down to mostly nasal congestion, but it's still not much fun to be under the weather.

In spite of it all, I've still been managing to get my runs in.  It really does seem to be true that as long as things are confined above the shoulders, you're still able to run.  In fact, I've had some really good runs this week.  In many ways, 2011 was a less-than-favorable year, but running-wise I cannot complain.  I'm finishing the year strong, healthy, and injury-free, and very much looking forward to going through my training program to get ready for my date with destiny on April 16th.  I'm still so tickled at the mere thought of running the Boston Marathon, but I know that the reality is out there waiting for me.  The fundraising has slowed to a trickle, and that's weighing on my mind a bit.  I've put the word out there to many people, but have only gotten a few responses.  Perhaps it's the problem with the time of year, when everyone's tapped out from the holidays, but there's also the consideration of getting tax-deductible donations in by the end of the calendar year.  I was hoping for a bit of a last-minute rush, but that might not be happening.  I'm not disheartened, but remain hopeful for a nice uptick in 2012.......after all, when we committed to this process, we knew that we'd be personally on the hook for any shortfall from the minimum requirement.  Thankfully, we're already nearly 60% of the way to goal, but that still leaves us over $1500 short......needless to say, the work still remains to be done!

Anyhow, I just want to wish everyone out there a very safe and happy New Year.  Enjoy the time with your friends and family, and continue to make every day count!

See you all out on the road....


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas.....and a goal acheived!

According to my training schedule, Week 2 ends with a 9-mile run.  When I got up yesterday morning, I was feeling drained from the week in school, and it was really cold (around 20 degrees), so the longer I sat around, the less likely it was that I was going to go out.  Not feeling good about my choice, but still feeling like it was better to fight again another day, I opted for a day off.  I really enjoyed the time with my family, and watching the Patriots come back against the Dolphins was great, but it put the pressure on to get out and run today.

Christmas Day dawned overcast and cold......20 degrees again, only this time, there was to be no reprieve.....I would have to get out and do my run.  I'm still working out the layering thing on top, but before I knew it (ok, it was 8:45 am), I was stepping out from my warm and cozy house into a decidedly frosty morning.  Naturally, I warmed up pretty quickly, but it still took about 20 minutes before my hands were normal.  The gloves I have work great, but only down to about 30 degrees, so I think I'm going to have to go shopping for more.....perhaps simple neoprene liners will do?  Anyway, I'm not 10 minutes into my run and a light snow starts falling....not enough to accumulate, but enough to tickle one's tongue.  The run was good, as I kept my pace firmly under control (between 9:30 and 10:00 per mile), which allowed me to run almost the entire 9.3 miles without any walking.  Ordinarily, I would run faster, and then take frequent walk breaks, so maybe this time I got it right!  It felt great to be out there on the deserted roads, but felt even better to be finished.  In addition to finishing Week 2 of marathon training, this run also took me over the 1000 mile threshold for the first time in my running "career"'s been a great year, but I'm definitely looking forward to 2012 for an even better year!

So, to all of my friends.......a very Merry Christmas and a wonderfully happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do you enjoy cross-training?

I'm just wondering if anyone actually enjoys cross-training........I mean, once you've become a runner, there's value in cross-training, but I can't get excited for it and I certainly don't get excited from doing it.  According to my training schedule, Sundays are for cross-training, so off to the gym I went this morning.  Actually, it was more like this afternoon, after spending a nice lazy morning reading the Sunday paper and watching "Sunday Morning" on CBS.

Once at the gym, I thought I'd get in some walking on the dreadmill before climbing aboard the elliptical machine.  16 minutes later, I'd walked a mile and was ready for a 45 minute session ellipting my way to nowhere.  Climbed on and fired it up.....punched in my numbers (age, weight, session time) and got started.   The thing I love about the elliptical.......virtually no impact.........and that lack of impact makes it seem as if I'm not really exercising.  I was keeping the resistance level lower than usual (level 8) so it took a while for me to feel it, but after about 15 minutes, I started to sweat a little.  Not much.....but a little.

Do you ever wonder about people who are reading while exercising?   Seems to me there's NO WAY you can actually be exercising while reading at the same time.  Maybe it's just me, but it always seems to be people who are half-timing it anyway, so are they just pretending to exercise?  I always wonder about this......similar to people using incorrect form while exercising.  What's the point?  The woman to my left on the elliptinator had her Kindle out and was literally barely moving.  I'm not trying to sit here in judgment, but if you're going to exercise, then why not exercise?  It's just like the dudes in the free weight area, standing around a lot, taking HUGE amounts of time between sets....and when they do actually lift, it's mostly 1 or 2 reps of a BIG weight, grunting like mad, using horrible form and then slamming the weights back down.  What's up with that?   Just trying to prove how macho they are and bragging about how much they can lift, even if it's only once?  I've never been able to understand any of these people......I mean, I go to the gym, I do my work, and then leave.   Maybe it's just me......

The girl to my right was flying along....more than matching my cadence on the elliptinizer.......but she was on a resistance setting of 1........ok, so maybe you don't want ANY resistance at all....but why bother with it?  Her iPod Touch was being prominently was her cellphone!  Now that's something that genuinely bothers me.  First off, there are signs posted all over the place in the gym telling people to leave their phones in their lockers.  I think they're trying to avoid people taking pictures/videos of gym patrons, but I'm more concerned and bothered by the intrusion of someone carrying on a conversation.  Unless you're a surgeon on call or the jury is about to come back in, is there really anything SOOOOO important that you need to take a call while in the gym????    Anyway, this girl starts receiving and sending texts WHILE still maintaining her cadence on the elliptinator.....I guess I was impressed, but really.....what could possibly be so important that it couldn't wait?

So I put in my hour of cross-training.....more like "active rest" to clear the lactic acid out of my legs, burn some calories, and get ready for another week of training ahead.  Came home to enjoy my family.....Barb is making one of my favorite dishes (jambalaya!!!!) and the Pats-Broncos game is about to start, so I'm in a happy place!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter is coming.....

For those of you who are fans of "Game Of Thrones" on HBO, you know how frustrating it is to have to wait THIS LONG for the 2nd season of this terrific show........particularly when you consider that it won't even be back on until April "Winter" won't even be here until SPRING!  LOL

But the title is referring to what I see when I look outside through the big picture window in our living room.  While I was out on my run this morning, I watched the sky change from partly cloudy to that kind of overall grey that just looks like snow.  Add to that the sort of damp heavy feeling in the air and it just seems to be inevitable.  Even if it isn't in the forecast, it's one of those days when you're glad you got out early and are content to spend the rest of the day under a cozy blanket, feet up, reading books (or, in my case, watching the Bruins absolutely DISMANTLE the Flyers!) and just simply enjoying being together with nothing really important to do.

My "training" for the 2012 Boston Marathon officially began this week.  I put the quotation marks around "training" because it's not as if I haven't been running all along, but now I'm actually following an 18-week plan to get my body ready for the pounding it will take on April 16, 2012.  I'm using a hybrid of 2 different plans from the Hal Higdon website (, putting together "Novice 2" and "Intermediate".  Novice 2 has 4 running days, 2 rest days, and 1 cross-training day, while "Intermediate" has 5 running days, 1 rest day, and 1 cross-training day with higher mileage numbers.  Based on what I've put together, my plan looks like an "Intermediate" schedule with "Novice 2" mileage numbers, from a "low" week of 20 miles (week 3 - Dec) up to a 40-mile week (week 11 - Feb).  Based on my previous marathon training experience, it looks like a reasonable plan which I should be able to manage.......providing I stay healthy this time!

And that's the wild card........the last time I was prepping for a marathon, I had the luxury of training through the late summer and early fall......probably my favorite time of year to be running.  I had some truly memorable training runs that summer, particularly while on vacation in California.  Running through the morning fog and hills of Palos Verdes, a run through the early morning heat near Disneyland, a beautiful run through Cannery Row and along the Monterey coastline......I tried to remember those runs when I was suffering through the actual marathon itself.  I had injured my left achilles tendon a few weeks earlier and had to dramatically cut back on my training weeks before I should have been tapering.  I ran that marathon in 4:58, but truly believed I was capable of a faster time (probably somewhere in the 4:20 - 4:30 neighborhood), so was it the injury or the conditions, or simply the fact that it was my first marathon?  Who knows........but as I begin the process of preparing for my next marathon, I'm hopeful that I can run to my potential.  Then again, it IS who knows?

I went out this morning for an 8-mile run........that's what the schedule said, so that's what I was going to do.  It's a nice hilly route that I've run many times before, so I knew that I'd have an opportunity to get some good work in!  With temps in the mid-30's, I'm still trying to figure out my layering on top, but my Insport tights continue to be perfect.  At around the 2-mile mark, I spotted a gaggle (gang? group? squad? pod? pride?) of wild turkeys gathered on the front lawn of a little house on the soon as they saw me coming, they scattered, but I always love seeing evidence that in spite of Franklin being a suburb, there's still wildlife all around us.  Just so long as it's not chasing me!!!!

This route has it's own version of the Newton hills......Lincoln Street is about 2 miles of net uphill, nothing too steep, but a fairly consistent grind.  In the past, I would've stopped and walked several times, but I just took my speed down a notch and made a point of NOT stopping at all.  It wasn't easy, but I felt great looking back over my shoulder at the end and seeing just how far I'd climbed.  After some false flats, I ran around the Franklin Town Common and turned for home.  Chugged past Ben's future schools (Horace Mann Middle School, Franklin High School) and continued up Oak Street into the wind.  At about that point, the sky started to darken and the cold crept in......needless to say, I was glad that my run was nearly over!  Turned right on Pond Street and steamed downhill before turning right onto the slight hill that is Southgate Road, then left onto Coronation, cresting that last little hill before cruising down to the "finish line" (our driveway!).  Just like that, I was done.......while I know I'd gotten some work in, I didn't feel crushed......that would kick in a bit later!  LOL

8.13 miles......1:18:45.......9:41/mile

Went inside and found Ben playing with his Lego's on the floor, Phineas and Ferb on the TV........he smiled at me and we said "hello" to each other.  When I asked "where's Mommy", he just pointed towards the bedroom.  As Barb hadn't been feeling so great, I was thinking she might have gone back to bed, but when I got to the bedroom, I found her on the phone with her father.  She looked shocked to see me back so soon, but her warm greeting was just what I needed!

So Week 1 is in the books........cross-training tomorrow, and then on to Week 2!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Running the Newton Hills

This morning, I set out around 7am.....destination: the Woodland T-stop in Newton, as Team Running For Cover was going to be running the Newton hills and that would be our departure point.  Instead of taking the highway, I opted to take the back roads all the way there, taking me through Franklin, Medway, Holliston, Ashland, Wellesley, and finally Newton.  It was a clear, lovely slightly chilly (35 degrees) morning, and the slow ride through the still-sleeping communities gave me the time I needed to gather my thoughts of the day ahead.  For the first time ever, I was going to be running the fabled Newton hills, including the world-famous Heartbreak Hill, and I needed to be mentally prepared.  I know enough of the history of the Boston Marathon to know the special place held by those hills, and now I was going to be taking them on with the rest of my marathon team.  For someone with a "downhill" body, this was going to be a challenging day!

I got to the parking garage and pulled in, quickly found a spot and saw my new buddy Kevin getting ready.  Soon we were outside and the team was gathering together.  8 runners got ready to tackle the hills, and after posing for a picture (thanks, Trish!) , we set off.....

The group stayed together for the first half mile, and there it was....the fire station at the corner of Washington Street and Commonwealth Avenue.  I knew it was the beginning of the hills,so I took a deep breath, turned the corner and started the climb.  Within almost no time, I slid to the back of the group.....then off the back entirely.  Could I have stayed with the group?  Definitely, but my goal for the day was to run the hills for the first time at a reasonable pace which would hopefully leave me able to walk the next day!  So that meant sticking to my plan.....and watching the group slowly pull away.  The way I figured it, the actual marathon isn't until April, and here wear are in early December, so there's plenty of time for speed later. 

So there I was, running up the Newton hills for the first time.  I'd driven up and down Comm Ave a million times before, but cars flatten hills, and you truly can't judge a hill until you're going up that hill under your own power.  The first hill was a warm-up for what was yet to come.  Heartbreak Hill is the 2nd hill and it actually wasn't too bad, just a moderately long slope.  After some false flat, the third hill came up in the distance and I saw a serious climb awaiting me.  I can only imagine how it's going to feel to see those hills on Marathon Monday......ugh!

After a water stop shortly after the 3-mile mark in the run, I decided to keep going and shoot for a longer run.  Prior to today, my long run for the year was a I was shooting for somewhere around 9-10 miles.  After cresting the final hill, I continued down the long downhill leading down to the Boston College T-stop across from the main entrance to the campus.  A quick check of my Garmin told me I'd run about 4.75 miles, so the run was probably going to come in around 9.5 miles (yep, I can do math!).  Unfortunately, that long downhill was now going to be a long uphill to be tackled almost immediately, so it was time to suck it up and get it finished.

The beautiful day had brought out several other charity teams as well, and I kept running into runners from the Alzheimer's Association team in their distinctive purple shirts.  The run back was WAY harder than the run out, but that's almost always the case with any out-and-back run.  Still, I managed to maintain my pace throughout, even though I started to slow dramatically, as seen below:
Mile 1: 9:44
Mile 2: 9:33
Mile 3: 9:37
Mile 4: 10:09
Mile 5: 9:33
Mile 6: 9:30
Mile 7: 9:43
Mile 8: 10:28
Mile 9: 10:29
Mile 10: 9:49

All told, it came in at 9.48 miles at a 9:52 pace.  I was shooting for right around 10:00 per mile, so I cannot complain.  It felt so good to get in such a long run and still be able to walk afterwards!  Of course, we'll have to see how I'm feeling in the morning, but as of now, it's all systems go.  Everything I've read about the Newton hills seems pretty true......they're not terribly steep or terribly long, but the reputation comes from the point in the race where they stand.  I can only imagine what it will feel like after 17-18 miles of net downhill running to turn the corner at the fire station and see those hills ahead.  Of course, knowing that when you crest that last hill before Boston College means that you've basically got only another 6 miles or so until the finish line will probably be such an amazing feeling that I'll be able to put aside the pain......well, we'll just have to wait until April 16th to find out, but I got a taste of that feeling today.  

I also learned again that runners are animals........some are gazelles.......some are cheetahs.......some are greyhounds.....

I'm a plowhorse.

I'm never going to be fast.....I'm just steady.  I can go long, but slowly.  One of the keys to my running in 2011 was a conscious slowdown, as I stopped trying to run all of my runs at full speed.  After getting hurt while training for the Bay State Marathon in 2009, I ended up getting sick a lot in 2010, while also making several trips to the chiropractor with back pain.  I truly believe all of it stemmed from running too fast.  This year, I've been lucky to be relatively healthy and uninjured and I want to end the year the same way.  So I'm ok being a plowhorse......while it's not fun to see everyone run away from me, the marathon is nearly 4 months away and there's no need to try to push things too hard today.  I feel that I have a plan and I'm executing on it.  Stay healthy, uninjured, and get to the start line in Hopkinton on April 16th in one piece!

So the plowhorse keeps chugging on......

Saturday, December 3, 2011

First run with the Fitcorp Gang!

So today was the beginning of the Fitcorp 2012 Boston Marathon Training Program, so like a crazy man, I set the alarm for 5:30am (didn't need the alarm as I was up at 5:15 all on my own) to give myself enough time to be able to get on the road by 6:30.  I needed to be out that early to give myself enough time to get into Boston to meet up with the other runners at 7:30.  As Fitcorp is located at 1 Beacon Street (near the State House) in Boston, the surrounding streets are all one-way, so if you miss a turn, you have to go around and around and around to find your way back again (thanks, colonial forefathers, for laying out a city on top of cow paths......I guess they didn't know of parallel and perpendicular lines back in the 18th century!).  Anyway, I found my way in without much trouble, found a place to park, and made my way into the facility.

The Fitcorp at 1 Beacon Street is a really nice facility and the staff were very friendly.  Of course, we weren't there to use the machines.....we were there to RUN!  Once I'd stowed my stuff in the locker, I headed out to the lobby where I ran into several of the other MFNE runners (Kevin, Erica, & Lindsey), as well as our "fearless leader", Trish.  After a welcome announcement from the Fitcorp staff, we all shuffled out into the chilly morning air.  After some final stretches and iPod startups, the group all set off running.

Except for yours truly.....

You see, I'm the proud owner of a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch.  It's an amazing little device which tracks my time and distance, calculates mile splits, average speed, as well as heart rate.  It provides a lot of data which can really help with keeping track of progress.

The only needs to locate the GPS satellites in order to work!

Now at home, that's never a problem.  I turn it on and put it out on top of my car in the driveway while I finish getting dressed for my run.  By the time I come back out, it's located the satellites and is ready for use.  Strap it on, and away we go.

But in the city this morning, the tall buildings were blocking the signal, so I stood there looking ridiculously dorky with my left arm extended, hoping it would find the signal so I could get started.  As I watched the group vanish, I also began to feel worse, as my buddy Kevin was patiently waiting for me so we could run together.  So now I wasn't just holding myself up, I was holding up someone else as well.  Great....way to go, Bill.....making friends wherever you go!

Another woman was having a similar problem with her Garmin.....naturally, hers loaded up before mine.

Finally, I got tired of waiting and said to Kevin "lets go", and away we went down Beacon Street. 

The planned run provided lots of different mileage options.  The route was essentially an out-and-back on Beacon Street.  The 4 mile option turned around near Kenmore Square, the 6 (which I chose) took you out to Brookline, and the 8 and 10 mile options went out to Cleveland Circle.  The Fitcorp runs take you out on the marathon course, so you gain experience on the same city streets you'll be running on in April.

Running with Kevin was great, as the conversation flowed and the time passed effortlessly.  After a while, I glanced down at my wrist and noticed that the Garmin had actually started recording my distance, but several minutes had already ticked by, so the average speed was basically a walking pace (something like 13:30 per mile).  Oh well, can't stress about the mileage missed (think it only ended up missing the first 1/2 mile) so get on with the run.  I'm very accustomed to running by myself, so it was a very welcome change to have someone to run with.  The pace may have been a bit faster than I had planned, but it wasn't putting me in the "red zone" either.  The hardest part of the run was that most of it was spent on the sidewalk.....a place I almost NEVER run.  Some of the sidewalks (particularly in the tony Beacon Hill neighborhood) are made up of uneven bricks, so I had to maintain a keen awareness of how and where my feet were landing.  Between that and dodging construction and various pedestrians, there wasn't any time where I could reach that "zen" point where my brain shuts off and I completely relax.   Still, it was great fun, and having a good running partner really helped!

At the 3 mile point, the Fitcorp people had set up a water stop, so Kevin and I pulled over and grabbed some water.  I thanked him for running the first part with me and wished him well as he left to continue on.  As for me, I caught my breath for a moment, quietly sipped my water, and thought about how fortunate I was to be out running through this magnificent city on such a beautiful morning.  I also thought about what I was missing, as Ben's Cub Scout Troop were having a pancake breakfast fundraiser at the Elks Club in Franklin.  The unfortunate downside of marathon training is the time sacrificed away from one's family and even though I always try to make sure I'm available, there are times when I'm not going to be there.  So with that thought, I tossed the empty cup in the trash, took a deep breath, and turned back up Beacon Street and headed back to Fitcorp.

The run back was not nearly as much fun as the run out, as this time I was alone.  I passed a few runners, and was myself passed by a few others, but everyone was encouraging and friendly.  I also saw other groups of runners heading in the opposite direction who all looked like they were also taking part in marathon training programs but they didn't even wave or say hello.  I hate that......whenever I'm out running and see another runner, I always wave and say hello.  More often than not, you get a smile and a wave back.....from one road-warrior to another.  It doesn't take much energy to wave and smile, does it?  Really bugs me when my courtesy isn't returned!

Anyhoo........dragged my carcass up Beacon Street, past the Boston Common and the State House (love that golden dome shining in the sun!) and next thing I know I was done.  5.7 miles in 57:09....10:02 per mile.  I was shooting for 10, and basically hit my target.  After a quick shower and change, I was back in my car and heading back out of the city, feeling great and looking forward to the next group run.  It was definitely worth getting out of bed early and driving all the way into Boston to take part!

Next Saturday, Team Running For Cover is going to be meeting up in Newton for a group run.......pretty sure we're going to be running the legendary Newton hills.....including Heartbreak Hill!  I know it's not going to be the same as when you hit it after 20 miles of running, but it will be so cool to get the feel for the hills nonetheless.   Can't wait!

Finally, I'll sign off with the link to my fundraising page.......please take a look and give generously!  Thanks for reading!!!!