Monday, December 31, 2012

Are annual recaps required?

Based on all the blogs I follow, it would seem that a year-end review is, if not required, expected.  Why is that?  Is it because, as runners, we're all measured by numbers.......miles run.......placement in races.......PR's.....etc.?   Is it because we all keep track of our progress via written logs, spreadsheets, Daily Mile, Runkeeper, Running Ahead, Strava, Map My Run, etc....?  Is it because we all sit at our keyboards on December 31st and simultaneously look backwards AND forwards?

Maybe it's all of those combined.....or maybe it's just human nature to compare projections/resolutions/goals/delusional rantings against actual results and try to make sense of it all.

So now I sit here........looking both backwards and forwards.

Looking back, 2012 was an unqualified success for me.  Even though I only "raced" 7 times, each experience was a positive one.  I ran 2 5k's (including one in Portland, OR while there on "business"), 3 half-marathons, and 2 marathons.  The marathons were particularly important to me, as both were uniquely successful ventures.  In April, I toed the line in Hopkinton, MA to run the 116th Boston Marathon.  On that RIDICULOUSLY hot day, anyone who ran has a remarkable story to tell, but as a charity runner, I raised nearly $5000 for the Melanoma Foundation of New England, so even though I suffered, I had lots of motivation to continue.  I'll never forget the feeling of making the left turn off Hereford onto Boylston and seeing the finish line in the distance....the crowd cheering even after 5 hours......I may never run Boston again, but on that day, I was a ROCK STAR!!

In October, I ran the ING Hartford Marathon and got a 7-minute PR.  Even though I came out of that marathon a little dinged-up (as my decreased mileage the remainder of the year would indicate), it still felt great to drop my marathon time.  While a 4:51 might be pedestrian to most of you, it showed me that I can improve, and gave me a lot of hope for what I'm going to shoot for in 2013.

When I look back on my year-end post last year, there really weren't any "goals" there.....just a hope for another good year.....no injuries......no sickness.......nothing too specific.   I think I'll continue that trend now.  While I had hoped to hit 1200 miles in 2012, I came up short......ending the year at 1088.  I still managed to learn more about myself, both in my ability to persevere (Boston), my ability to learn from a bad race (Jamestown Half-Marathon), and my ability to improve (Hartford).  As I now look ahead to 2013, I hope to continue all of those positive trends.

2013 "goals":

Races:  Only have registered for 3 races so far, but I'm sure there will be more....several 5K's and 10K's sprinkled in......maybe another half marathon or two........I'm pretty sure there's going to be a fall marathon (either Marine Corps or Philadelphia), but here's what definite as of today:

January 1st:   4th Annual First Run 10K - Lowell, MA

March 17th:  36th Annual New Bedford Half Marathon - New Bedford, MA

May 26th:     25th Annual Keybank Vermont City Marathon - Burlington, VT 

Tomorrow's race should be fun, as we're still cleaning up from the snow we got overnight Saturday.  We had no real snow at all last winter (which made training for Boston SO MUCH FUN!!), so this was the first time I'd had to shovel since 2011....with nearly a foot of snow on the ground, it was hard work, and my back is still a little stiff, but I should be good to go tomorrow morning.  I last ran New Bedford in 2009 (2:04), so I'm familiar with the course and will be interested to see how I'll do.  Finally, I'm really looking forward to running the VCM in May......Barb has already booked our hotel room and friends who've run it in the past tell me I'm going to love it.  I'm going to start training for it at the end of January and will be trying a new training program:

Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path to Your Fastest Marathon

I saw the book a while ago, but after getting it for Hanukkah, I've hardly put it down.  The Hanson's lay out a pretty logical plan (works for me!), with more of an emphasis on quality of training, rather than sheer quantity of miles.  It incorporates things I've only read/heard about previously.....like something called "speedwork"....."tempo runs"........."strength runs" (ok, I'd honestly never heard of "strength runs" before, but speedwork and tempo runs.....yeah, I've avoided those in the past!)......their plan calls for a long run topping out at 16 miles, instead of the "normal" 20......anyway, it's a great book, and a very interesting plan.  I'm going to be trying it out for the VCM and, if it works, I'll probably do it again for the fall marathon.  Stay tuned for results!!!!

Mileage:   That's simple.......I'm going to shoot for 1200 in 2013 and go from there.......my mileage spreadsheet has a variety of columns representing various benchmarks......1000 miles for the year, 20 miles per week (1040), 3 miles a day (1095)......assuming I can hit 1200, it then moves on to 25 miles per week (1300), and ends at 6K per day (1358).  I find it very motivating to turn the red numbers black, indicating I've gone from being behind plan to being ahead.......I'll let you know how I do!

PR's:   Well, for shorter distances, I'm just not sure I've got the "speed" anymore.  When I look at my 5K/5 Mile/10K PR's, they all date back to 2008/2009.......maybe I'm a little "gun shy" about risking injury to see how fast I can go, potentially risking my marathons? I hurt my achilles tendon back in 2009 and have NEVER really run as fast since, which actually worked out pretty well as I shifted my focus to longer distances.  Still, I wonder what I could do if I really tried.........

I'd like to continue to drop my marathon time....4:45 would be another 6 minutes, and I still believe I could go 4:30 and under.  My hope is that with my new training plan (and hopefully losing about 15 pounds!), those goals will come into view. 

More importantly, I want to be able to continue to enjoy running.....injury-free.  Each of the last two years have seen me go over 1000 miles and that's mostly due to consistency....the kind that can only come from not being hurt!

I'm also going to get back to blogging again (hey, these are "goals", right?) on a regular basis.....I think being back on a training schedule will give me plenty to write about!

So I'll end here.....looking back on a great year, but also looking ahead to what should be an even better year!

To all of you, my friends and loyal readers (that is, at least, when I bother to write!), I'd like to wish you all the very best for the coming year.   A year full of accomplishment, laughter, joy, happiness, love, and peace.  And may all of your 2013 runs find the sun shining down on you, a clear road ahead, and tailwinds at your back!

See you all out there on the road, my friends......

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Back again????

Well, kinda.......sorta......but am I really "back"?

Until today, I haven't run since 12/16..........and I haven't blogged since I don't know when, but as the year is coming to a close, I figured I'd have to jump back in and get back to doing these things I love....runnin' and bloggin'!

I'll save my 2012 recap for later, but it's been a great running year for me.  Unfortunately, it's ending on a less-than-positive note, as I've been battling with some plantar fasciitis in my right heel for the past few weeks.  I have a feeling it was brought on by my compensating for some strain I've been feeling in my left quad since starting back after the Hartford Marathon back in October.  I think I was just coming down way too hard on the right side and BANG, the PF monster reared its ugly head again.  When I weighed well over 300 pounds, PF was a nearly constant companion, but since losing the weight, I've been fortunate to not have to deal with that in over 6 years!

So after my run on 12/16, I decided to take some time off.  School was getting crazy busy, like it usually does right before the Christmas break, so it became pretty easy to just stop for a few days.....the idea being to just rest and let the PF subside.  Over the last few days, the pain has been receding rapidly, to the point I figured I could start running again.

And so I went out into the chilly air this morning for an easy 4-miler (ok, it was 3.86, but that rounds up to 4!)....never pushing.....just enjoying the quiet....and the foggy exhalations.  It felt good to get out again and I'm hoping to be able to get a few more runs in before New Years.  I'm running a 10K on New Year's Day (the 4th Annual First Run - Lowell, MA), so I know I'm getting 2013 off to a great start......it'll also provide me with a preliminary look at my fitness level leading into my next marathon training cycle.

Hope you're all doing well.....and that you've had a great time celebrating Christmas with family and friends.  I plan to share more of my ongoing adventures and I'm looking forward to sharing in all of your successes in the coming year!

See you all out there on the road........

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Over another threshold...

so as of today, I've run 1,028 miles for 2012, eclipsing my previous record year (2011 - 1,025) with more than a month to spare.  Even though I've been documenting my post-Hartford difficulties (i.e. lack of a "plan", lack of motivation, increasing lack of daylight.....excuses, excuses, excuses..), I've still managed to have my best running year ever.....and I'm not done yet!

I won't be starting to ramp things up again until the end of January, when I go back on "plan" to get ready for my next marathon (Burlington, VT - late May 2013), so I've still got the next 2 months to slog through until the plan kicks in.  But as I sit here and type those words in, the realization hits me that instead of it being a "slog", it's really an opportunity.......a chance to "re-boot".  I've been meaning to really get back to cross-training.....now's my chance.  I've been wanting to get back in the pool......now's my chance.  Hit the weights......now's my chance.  By the time the plan kicks back in, I should be stronger, leaner, and ready for the challenges ahead.

Well, at least it looks good on the screen.......but I've always been a man of my word, and when I make a verbal commitment, I'm usually pretty darn good about seeing it through.

So I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend.....and I wish you all a very good week this week.  Time to say goodbye to November and hello to December!

Onwards!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just back from the Medway Turkey Trot.......a little bit chilly (38) at 7:30, but perfect for running!  I was breaking in some new shoes (Saucony ProGrid Guide 5.....BRIGHT orange!) and was just looking to have a good run.....hopefully under 28 minutes.  I felt good at the start, but was definitely stuck in slow-moving traffic over the first mile (9:15), but I didn't start weaving and passing.....maybe I should have because the 2nd mile was decidedly hillier (9:18), but I just kept rolling.  Mile 3 was more downhill and flat, so I was finally able to stretch it out a bit (9:01) as I felt I was more warmed up, and then suddenly it was over.  5K's just seem to fly by......I guess my frame of reference has shifted since I started focusing on the marathon, but I barely seem to get going and then it's over.  Still, it was a good race and I felt good about my time....28:34.

Now, it's time to enjoy my favorite holiday on the calendar...........I think what I love most about Thanksgiving is that it's a holiday without a specific "agenda".....just a time to celebrate the bounties of life, the joy of family, and the warmth of togetherness........not to mention a crap-load of turkey, stuffing and FOOTBALL!!!!!!

I wish all the best to all of you.......I'm thankful for being part of cyber-runner/blogger community and am still quite tickled at the idea that I actually have readers!  I've enjoyed sharing in all of your adventures and hope that you've enjoyed reading about mine. 

On this day, may your homes be full of laughter and love, and your bellies full of yummy food!

I'll see you all out there on the road tomorrow.....running off the stuffing!  :>)

Monday, November 19, 2012

So what is there to see in Little Falls, MN??

Due to a little research, I can answer that question.......but of course you might be curious how (or why) I would come to find out.  You see, today is my "blogiversary", and I thought it might be interesting to see just how far I've run over the past year that I've been sharing with you:

1164 miles

So being a curious sort of a guy......who also happens to teach World Geography and US History to 95 7th and 8th graders.......I thought it might be a fun exercise to see just what is out there in America at a distance that I will now call "one year running".  So I fired up Google Maps, placed one point on Franklin, MA, and then extended lines out roughly 1164 miles in every direction (ok, I didn't go east, because that would just be out in the Atlantic Ocean, nor did I go north....sorry, Canada) to see just where I ended up.  What I discovered was really cool, so I thought I'd share my findings with you:

From North to South, here are the places I "ended up"......

Little Falls, MN - population roughly 8300, founded in 1848 (making it one of the oldest towns in Minnesota), located on the banks of the Mississippi River, the birthplace and boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh, also the home of the Minnesota Fishing Museum.

Fort Dodge, IA - population roughly 25200, founded in 1869 on the banks of the Des Moines River, county seat of Webster County.

Sedalia, MO - population roughly 21400, home of the Missouri State Fair, adopted home of composer Scott Joplin.

Marianna, AR - population roughly 4100, county seat of Lee County, on the banks of the (most lovely named) L'Anguille River.

Kosciusko, MS - population roughly 7400, county seat of Attala County, located on the Natchez Trace Parkway, birthplace of Oprah Winfrey.

Atmore, AL - population roughly 7400, birthplace of Evander Holyfield.

Palm Beach Gardens, FL - population roughly 48400, home to the Professional Golfers Association of America, as well as astronaut Scott Carpenter.


So over the course of the last 365 days, I've visited some amazing places I wouldn't have known about otherwise.......I know I'm being a bit weird, but I think it's pretty cool.

But in all seriousness, I've really enjoyed sharing my adventures with all of you.......all through my training and fundraising for the Boston Marathon, and then to my most recent marathon in Hartford.  Through this blog, I've been able to "meet" some really cool people (i.e., that's YOU, my dear readers!), as well as actually meeting Jose when we both ran the Surftown Half.  Beyond that, I've been able to use this forum as a creative outlet, allowing me to share thoughts and feelings that many of you have felt, those common frustrations all runners experience from time to time.  Your comments and suggestions have helped me all along the way and for that, I thank you all.  My hope is that I can also serve you all similarly.....well, I try!

So now I begin Year 2 of my blog as I finish off my most successful running year ever.  I'm going to keep sharing my journey with all of you, and I'll continue to enjoy reading about all of your adventures as well.  This virtual running community is a really cool thing.....I'm just so glad you've all become a part of my life!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

1000 down....how many more to go?

So I made it over the 1000 mile hump for the year with my run this afternoon........a milestone I've only crossed once before (last year......on Christmas Day, no less!), so it still feels like something new.  When I did it last year, I was finishing 2011 strong after starting slowly, beginning my training cycle for Boston.  This year,  I'm still struggling to get back the mojo I had prior to the Hartford Marathon.  It's been about a month now, and I'm still hurting a bit and just not quite right.....

When it comes time to write a recap of 2012, I'm going to have MANY positives to reminisce upon, but I'm really hopeful I'll be able to pick things up again and feel better about the way the year is ending, providing positive momentum to carry me into 2013 and the beginning of a new marathon training cycle (for the Keybank Vermont City Marathon - 5/26/13).  I do have a "blogiversary" (just how do spell that?) coming up so I'm keeping this post short........saving a little extra for that post.  For now, I'm going to enjoy watching my UCLA Bruins beat our cross-town rival USC Trojans, then a lovely dinner (pork chops with peppers, mashed potatoes, salad and some red wine) with my family and then it's a family movie night....looks like a double feature of "Battleship" (so much eye candy....Taylor Kitsch for the wife, Rhianna and Brooklyn Decker (a.k.a. Ebony and Ivory) for me!) followed by "The Artist".  Rest, recover, and relax!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Post-marathon "funk" (or is it simply malaise?)



It’s a “funk” when I haven’t blogged in over 2 weeks…….nor have I really been commenting on anyone else’s blogs……probably because I haven’t even felt like reading about all the fun they’re having when I'm not joining in......

I think it’s an official “funk”, seeing as I’ve only run twice in the 2 weeks since the marathon.

I had planned to take a week off after the marathon to allow myself to recover from the effort.  When I started running again at the beginning of last week, I felt pretty good, but I found my overall energy level lacking.  It was about all I could do to get through my teaching days and then collapse when I got home.

Not exactly the kind of recovery I had planned....

So now what?  I think it’s time to take it back to the start again……just lace ‘em up and go.  No plans…..no expectations…….no goals.   That’s going to be hard for me to do, but I think it’s the only way I can get back at it again.  The time for planning will come again, as soon as I start to decide on the next series of races, but for now I just need to get my ass moving again.

Maybe I’ll buy myself some new shoes as a reward/motivator?

The bottom line?  The pity party is over…….it’s time to get running again!

Rock on, my friends……see you all out there down the road!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mission PR.....Accomplished!



What a great day I had yesterday!

Barb and I actually went down to Hartford on Friday morning.  Our first stop was the XL Center in downtown Hartford to get my race packet and hit the expo.  After our experience at the ZOO that is the Boston Marathon expo, we found the process in Hartford to be much more manageable and easy to navigate.  After picking up a t-shirt and a cool orange hoody sweatshirt (everything ING touches is orange!), we left the expo to soak up a little Hartford culture and to find some grub.  Everywhere we looked, there were reminders of what was ahead of me on Saturday:

on the streets surrounding the XL Center


really got psyched when I saw this one!
 
Soon, we were headed to a local joint that specializes in hot dogs that Barb had found on TripAdvisor.  “Woody’s” is a downtown Hartford landmark, and we were not disappointed.  With bellies full of hotdogs, we then headed off to East Hartford (just across the Connecticut River from downtown) to the lovely Hampton Inn.  The girls behind the desk we decked out in ING t-shirts (orange, of course!) and were very welcoming, giving us a discount on our room due to some difficulty with the reservation.  Once we got to the room, I couldn’t believe what I found waiting for me….how very thoughtful!

Nice touch, ING......put a HUGE smile on my face!
After relaxing for a while in our lovely room (I’m not kidding….it was clean, the bathroom was huge, and the beds were comfy), we headed out to dinner.  We always like to try to find places frequented by locals when we travel, instead of relying on chain restaurants, so following the recommendation of the desk girls, we headed off to Al Fresco’s for some Italian food.  The food was great, the servings ENORMOUS, and we left satisfied and ready to relax! Back to the hotel we went, and then I finally had time to start to worry about the weather.  As my loyal readers know, I’ve had some difficulty in the past dealing with weather on Marathon Day, and as it turned out, this day would also be challenging, as most of New England was under a freeze warning.  The temps were going to rise during the day, but it was going to be COLD at the start, but thankfully, there was no rain OR wind being forecast, so I knew I could handle it.  After putting together my running outfit, I was about to shut out the lights when I heard “boom” coming from outside.  Turns out there was a full-on fireworks display that went on for about 15 minutes, ending the day on a festive note.

We awoke in the pre-dawn darkness and I, naturally, had to check the temperature…27 degrees.  Barb headed down to the lobby to get some oatmeal and coffee, while I tried to calm my nerves and get my gear on.  I was opting for shorts instead of tights, with a longsleeve tech shirt under a short sleeve tech shirt.  It’s a combo I’ve used before for colder runs and have always been comfortable with it.  With some lightweight fleece gloves and a headband to keep my ears warm, I was good to go.  Barb returned from the lobby with hands full, trying to balance containers full of hot oatmeal, along with two cups of hot coffee.  She said the lobby was full of other runners all trying to decide whether to go with tights or shorts…..so I clearly wasn’t alone!  All of a sudden, it was 7AM and it was time to walk from the hotel, over the Founders Bridge, and into downtown Hartford to the start area in Bushnell Park.  I originally had planned to hook up with the 4:30 pace group, but had instead decided to be a bit more conservative and join the 4:45 group, as I figured that would give me the best chance at beating my previous marathon PR of 4:58, set almost exactly 3 years ago at the Bay State Marathon.  Never having run with a pace group before, I really didn’t know what to expect, but thought that at the very least, I could run with a group of similar runners who might be fun to run with.

Right before the start, I felt the need to visit the portalet…..normally, I do this several times before the start, but I had gone before leaving the hotel and thought I’d be ok…..wrong!  Before I could sprint away to find on, the horn sounded and we were on our way….shuffling slowly up to the start line.

It was cold, but we were ready to run!!!!

Almost immediately, we were in front of the 4:30 pacer and pace group (more on that later!), and chugging our way through downtown Hartford.  In spite of the cold, there were a large number of people out to cheer on the runners (about 2500 in the Marathon, 6000 in the Half Marathon, and another 2000+ in the 5K), which made the start a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my nagging feeling wasn’t going away, but as we were running through the middle of a city, it wasn’t like there were lots of places to go……so just after the first mile, when I saw a guy in front of me dash off to some bushes near a highway overpass, I took a quick detour to “take care of business”……by the time I got back on the road, however, my pace group was gone and I was on my own.  Considering that I’ve always trained alone, I was ok with it, but knew now that I was going to be running my own race.

I cannot really be honest and describe the Hartford course as being “pretty”…..it’s  basically an urban marathon, running through the streets of downtown, then out through business areas, before finally starting a long out-and-back stretch (miles 10-24) encompassing some nice neighborhoods, but there wasn’t any stretch that was particularly scenic.  The early miles of the marathon were pretty interesting, though, because they encompassed a stretch of about 3 miles on a bike path which runs along the Connecticut River.  I was too busy trying not to get pushed off the path by other runners with their earbuds in…..while I fully understand why some people like to listen to music while running, I find that they usually have no idea where they are in space, making them dangerous to other runners.  Normally, on a wide road, it’s easy to steer clear, but on this path, it was pretty tight quarters.  I was running fairly consistent splits (more on that later), but that still left me needing to maneuver around slower runners.

I hit the halfway point at 2:21:56…..if I could manage to not COMPLETELY fall apart on the back half, I would be almost certain to get a new PR.  As this course was pretty flat, I was feeling confident, but not overly so….I was feeling some discomfort in my hips and feet….nothing major, but enough that might make a strong finish problematic.  The splits so far were pretty consistent:

Mile 1:   10:59
Mile 2:   10:52
Mile 3:   10:02
Mile 4:   10:31
Mile 5:   10:24
Mile 6:   10:31
Mile 7:   10:54
Mile 8:   10:03
Mile 9:   10:42
Mile 10: 10:31
Mile 11: 10:30
Mile 12: 10:50
Mile 13: 11:19

Now it was time to bear down, push through, and finish as strong as possible.  The wheels were starting to come off the wagon, but I kept pushing as hard as I could, trying to spend as little time walking as possible.  I didn’t walk at all through the first 10 miles, and on the back half, I tried to limit the walking in a way I’d never tried before in a race.  I’d run to the next mile marker, then walk only long enough to scrub 2 seconds off of the average mile pace on my Garmin…..only about 30-60 seconds of walking would do it.  The turnaround was at Mile 17, so as I was heading out that way, I saw lots of runners heading back, many still with their pace groups.  I even spotted the 4:45 pace leader…..and he was STILL in front of the 4:30 leader!  Go figure?
More splits:

Mile 14: 10:48
Mile 15: 10:43
Mile 16: 10:52
Mile 17: 11:24
Mile 18: 11:50
Mile 19: 10:21
Mile 20: 11:36
Mile 21: 11:10
Mile 22: 11:49
Mile 23: 12:08
Mile 24: 12:14
Mile 25: 11:24

Coming back over the Founders Bridge into downtown Hartford, the noise level started to rise, as did my anticipation of seeing Barb.  Ordinarily, she manages to find a spot near the finish line at smaller races, but this wasn’t a local 5K….she found a spot immediately before the final turn to the finish, right around the 26 mile mark.  I’d already looked at my Garmin and realized I was going to PR, so I was already starting to get a little emotional…..and then I spotted my biggest fan at the side of the road, waving to me.  We locked eyes and she whipped out here iPod Touch to take some pictures.  I was so close to the finish that I called out to her to “run with me to the line” and she took off with me, but was quickly left behind as I turned the corner and headed for home.  The finishing straight in Hartford takes you downhill to finish by running under the Soldiers and Sailor Memorial Arch (which is featured prominently in the design of the finisher’s medal) in Bushnell Park.

Quite a sight!
 
Mile 26:  11:36
Mile 27:  8:56

The view from the Arch down to the line.....where my PR was waiting!
 
Final time: 4:51:06

After crossing the line, getting my wonderful mylar blanket and the awesome finisher’s medal, I hobbled back into the park to meet up with Barb in the Family Meeting area.  She met me a few minutes later and took some great pics.  I was pretty happy….and quite proud. 

Yeah buddy, check out my BLING!!!


Damn right, I'm proud.....I just PR'd!!!!!


We left the park and headed back to the hotel, where the car was parked.  Two hours later, I was back home.

I’d done it……I’d wanted to get a PR, and I’d beaten my previous PR by 7 minutes.  According to my previous posts, this means my grade for the Hartford Marathon would have to be a B+……didn’t quite meet the standards for an A, but it was pretty darn close.  I’m absolutely thrilled to have beaten my previous time, particularly when that time was nearly 3 years old……..I’d done it!   Do I have a faster time in me?  Maybe…..but that’s something I’m going to have to find out down the road.  Right now, I’m just so pleased I was able to not only finish my 3rd marathon, but I’d run it well enough and strong enough to get a PR.

And that’s all there is…..I can’t thank you all enough for your encouragement through the training process and all through the race yesterday.  Several of you were even following my progress online, providing me with additional motivation.   I haven’t yet planned my next adventure, but you’ll definitely read about it here as soon as I start planning.

See you all down the road!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Follow me....if you dare!

The Hartford Marathon offers free athlete tracking.......so you can follow me on my 26.2 mile adventure tomorrow morning.  Just go to their website (www.hartfordmarathon.com) and sign up to follow #1968.

Fired up.......ready to go!  :>)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

OMG....I'm really going to do this AGAIN? :>)

In a little more than 36 hours from now, I'll be "toeing the line" in Bushnell Park in beautiful downtown Hartford, CT, taking part in my 3rd marathon.........

It's not that doubts are creeping into my thoughts........they've always been there.  I use them as motivation....use them as something to confront and overcome.  You can have a perfect training cycle, have the right clothes, eat the right foods, feel great at the line, and still have everything fall apart due to something unexpected......or you can have lousy training, feel like crap, and then go out and have a crushing PR.  The point is that you never can really know what the day will bring until you get out there and get started.  And that all I'm left with now....

My training is done, and I'm heading down to Hartford in the morning.  Looks like it might be a bit chilly (33-40) Saturday morning, but I can dress for a cold run.....tights, gloves, hat, longsleeve shirt......but that's all completely out of my hands now. 

I'm mentally ready.....and physically ready.

No more excuses......it's almost time to run!

Thanks for all of your kind wishes and comments........I look forward to having a great story to tell after I get back!

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's that time again.......

Time to set up my marathon goals for the ING Hartford Marathon I'll be running this coming Saturday morning.

My training has gone pretty well, although I felt it got seriously interrupted once the school year began.  It seems like I didn't get enough long runs in, although I ran 2 half-marathons, and had a very successful 20-miler a few weeks ago, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.  My confidence is pretty strong, and I think going into my 3rd marathon (and 2nd this year) slightly undertrained isn't such a bad thing.  When I factor in how fortunate I feel to have made it through the process healthy and uninjured, I think I've done most of the things I wanted to do to make this marathon a successful one.

So here I sit, with the Texans taking care of business against the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets in the background, realizing that in a little more than 4 days from now, I'll be running another marathon.  Oh yeah, here I go again.....trusting in my training and daring to be great!  I'm taking motivation from as many sources as possible, but especially from my friend Michelle, who just ran her first marathon (Chicago!) yesterday.  The strength and perseverance she displayed yesterday is something I'm going to remember on Saturday! 

So, you ask, dear readers....what are my goals for Saturday?  Ok, I'll tell ya.......in terms of grades.

F:  Either a DNS or a DNF........that's NOT happening!

D: Finish in 5+ hours, hurt and disappointed........that's not happening, either!

C: Finish in 5 hours......considering that my marathon "PR" (in my first marathon back in 2009) is a 4:58, I figure I can "easily" manage a 5-hour marathon.

B: Finish between 4:50 - 4:58.......a PR, but a slim PR.  That would be a good day, but not what I could call a great day.  Still, I'd definitely be happy with it.

A:  Finish between 4:30 - 4:50......a BIG PR.   That would be a great day, and I think I have that kind of day in me.

The beauty of the marathon.....just like any race.....is that you can only plan so much, and then you just have to take what the day gives you.  My two previous marathons featured VERY difficult weather, but we all know that's just a circumstance.  The weather looks very favorable for Hartford (temps in the low-mid 50's....PERFECT!!), so I'm trying to not get my hopes up. 

Now, I've just got to make it though the week.  Might get a short run in tomorrow and another one on Wednesday, and then that's it.......just going to rest up, head down to Hartford on Friday morning, hit the expo, have an early dinner, and then back to the hotel......

I thank all of you for your supportive comments throughout the training process, but above all I have to thank my beautiful wife, Barbara.  Without her love, support, and encouragement, I'm not sure I'd have been able to do any of this, so I'm dedicating my marathon to her!

Guess I'd better do well, then!   LOL



Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Heavenly shades of night are falling, it's TAPER time!"

With apologies to the Platters, I've borrowed the opening line to one of my all-time favorite songs ("Twilight Time") to describe just where I am with 13 days to go before the ING Hartford Marathon.  I've completed almost all of the training on my training schedule, and now it's that wonderful time when the big miles are finished and you start looking at long-range weather forecasts and obsessing over phantom aches and pains, not to mention starting to hear those doubting voices in your head........did you train enough?  Are you fit enough?  Are you strong enough?  Are you rested enough?  Are you kidding yourself?......you've never run 2 marathons in a year before. 

I feel good......and heading into Hartford, I feel confident in my ability to have a good day.  I've learned a lot about myself in my two previous marathons and I'm going to put that knowledge to use on Saturday, October 13th.  I truly believe I'm capable of a new marathon PR and will, for the first time, seek out a pace group to help with that.  The only truly "new" element of this marathon is that it will be the first time I'll run one out of town.  Now, mind you, Hartford is about 2+ hours away, but that's far enough to necessitate a hotel stay.  Ok, maybe it's not necessary, but Barb and I will be taking the opportunity for a little overnight getaway.  We'll head down Friday morning, take in the expo, have a nice dinner, then an early bedtime to get ready for the morning!

I finished off a very difficult September with a nice 8-mile run through the chilly rain that was falling this morning.  I've really struggled with maintaining a regular training regimen this month, as I've been adjusting to my new school schedule, so I'm pleased I was able to notch another 100-mile month.  I'm also REALLY pleased to have pushed through 900 miles for the year, the earliest ever (by nearly 2 months) in my running "career".  It's definitely the result of both consistent training and consistent health/lack of injury, so I can't take it for granted.  All in all, it's been a great year so far, and now I'm just looking to finish the year off strong.

As I was slogging on through the rain this morning, I found a smile creeping across my face.  Trying to figure out why, I thought of the famous quote "There's no such thing as bad weather, there are only soft people"......not that running in the rain makes me tough, it's just that I can't believe sometimes how far I've come in my journey to becoming a runner.  It wasn't that long ago that looking outside and seeing the rain would keep me inside.....or if the rain started to fall when I was outside, I'd go back in.  Now, I just let it rain down on me and I keep on running.  After all, you can't control the weather when you race, so why should it be any different on a training run?  So I guess I'm not as soft as I used to be, and that's part of my personality that running has allowed to come out.  I've learned so much about myself through my running, and I learn a little bit more every time I head out the door.

On Saturday, October 13th....in Hartford, CT, I'm going to learn a bit more......about what I'm capable of.....about how much I can endure....about how much I can overcome.....and about how great I can be when I decide to be great.

Can't wait, friends.........can't wait!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Surftown Half Marathon Race Report....a "new" PR!

This might be a bit long, but I had a really great day yesterday, so bear with me, dear friends!

So why am I calling it a "new" PR?   Because it's not the fastest half marathon I've ever run. 

I actually PR'd (2:01:39) in my very first half marathon (Lowell, MA), but that was back in October 2008.  After that one, I ran another in March 2009 (New Bedford, MA - 2:04:36), but didn't race that distance again until March 2012 (Quincy, MA - 2:13:03), when I was using it as a training run prior to running the Boston Marathon.  That course came up as 12.93 miles on my Garmin, so I figure my time for 13.1 would've been around 2:15.

Then I ran my 4th half marathon (Jamestown, RI) in July.  My time that day (2:24:08) caused me no small measure of concern, as I felt that I was really struggling.

So yesterday, I had several goals in mind.  First off, to finish the race on my feet, uninjured.  With my next marathon coming up in 4 weeks, injury and sickness are constant concerns.  Beyond that, I was hoping to erase my last half marathon experience from my mind and replace it with a much more positive memory.  Considering that ever since my school year started up again, I've found it increasingly difficult to stick to my training schedule, even losing out on a few long runs due to other obligations.  Any thought of challenging my PR were banished to the "you gotta be kidding me" file, but I was hoping to maybe...just maybe....bring it in under 2:10.  I was also looking forward to meeting up with my blog buddy Jose (http://andsoitburns.blogspot.com/) who was also running this race.

The race location is something like 75 miles from my house, so in order to make it down there for the 7:30 start time, I set my alarm for 4:15am so I would have enough time to get dressed and have a small bowl of oatmeal before leaving around 5:00.  The day dawned chilly, with just a touch of fall in the air; temps in the 40's, but would be warming into the low 50's by start time.....PERFECT running weather!!!  Clear skies, light breeze......perfect!

The drive down was uneventful and I quickly parked in the beachside parking lot and headed to the registration area.  Got my bib quickly, as well as a cool bag from the Hartford Marathon Foundation, as well as one of the COOLEST race shirts EVER!  As I've got drawers full of cotton t-shirts, I welcome the opportunity to get a tech shirt instead, although the sizing can be a bit dicey at times.  The HMF, however, really got this one right, handing out TURQUOISE tech shirts that fit just right!  VERY COOL!  I walked back to my car to drop everything off, stopped for one final "pit stop", and then took my place in the corral......and before too long, we were off.  I did find myself moving around a lot of slower runners in that first mile, looking for a little clear running room so I could move at my own pace, but I was able to get that done quickly and then settled into a comfortable rhythm.  The course was fairly flat and VERY scenic, starting off with great ocean views and then touring through several scenic neighborhoods.  I found myself moving along at a pretty good clip....feeling good enough that the normal inner dialogue was changing from "boy, I'm tired" to "hey, I feel pretty good....let's see what we can do today!".  I think the splits tell the story, so here they are:

Mile              Pace
1                    9:29
2                    9:27
3                    9:28
4                    9:28   (hey, is there a trend developing???)
5                    9:59   (nope)
6                    9:52
7                    9:47
8                    9:57
9                    9:35
10                 10:41  (a rough mile...tough hill....hip tightness...but I fought through it!)
11                  9:50
12                 10:10
13                  9:50
.26                 8:02  (yeah baby, here comes THE DIESEL!!!!)

13.26 miles............2:09:36.  That's under 2:10!!!!    And actually, it comes to just under 2:08 for 13.1 miles.  

830th out of 1261 finishers....51st out of 59 in the M 50-54 group...408th out of 510 male finishers.....and 27th out of 48 Clydesdales!!!  I'm JAZZED!!!!

15 minutes faster than my last half marathon.....and several minutes faster than the one I ran in March.

So even though it's not really my fastest ever, it's the best I've run in 4 years...and the best for this decade......so it's my new PR!  There, I said it again (sorry, Britney!)

And to top it all off, I got to hang with this speedy dude:  Jose totally CRUSHED this half, finishing 76th overall!  He hung around and waited for me to finish, even catching a picture of me (see below)' chugging down to the finish line.  We've been following each other's blogs for a few months now but this was our first real opportunity to meet.  He's a great guy and it was a treat to hang out with him after the finish.  We had a chance to talk about our kids, our jobs, our running, our blogs, and everything else under the sun.  I felt like I already knew him from the blogosphere, but it was great being able to actually meet the real Jose.  I certainly hope we'll be able to run together sometime in the future and I'm so glad we were finally able to meet!

Ok, so now a few pics!

I'm so happy to meet Jose that I'm yelling nonsense!

The medals we got were these really cool little surfboards....after all, it was the Surftown Half!

There I am, bringing it home!

All in all, it was a great day....a day that's left me VERY hopeful for my future running.  I know I've got a few weeks left to go before running the Hartford Marathon, and I've still got to keep training, but I feel that I have it in me to be GREAT....and I think that's something I can and will tap into!

Onwards!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

WAYYYYYY off the plan.....

or how I came to realize that a training schedule is just a piece of paper......

The past 2 weeks have been extremely challenging for me, running-wise.......after truncating my long run last week (running 13+ instead of 16-18), I started the week feeling very depleted and unmotivated.  On top of that, I started back to school again, spending Monday and Tuesday getting my classroom ready for my new students, and then actually meeting all 95 of them and getting the new school year started on Wednesday and Thursday.  The beginning of every school year is stressful under the best of circumstances, but this year has presented me with a few new wrinkles to worry about.  To begin with, I'm on a new team after 7 years of working with the same group of teachers, so there are new relationships to form.  On top of that, I'm also teaching both 7th grade and 8th grade Social Studies, again after teaching only 8th grade for the past 7 years.  That's a lot of change to try to process in a short period of time and it's going to take a while for things to start feeling comfortable.   Needless to say, the added stress took a toll on my running, as I went nearly the entire week without running at all. 

We didn't have school on Friday, so I took advantage of that opportunity to get out and run my normal 5.6 mile route....and I felt the after-effects of the stress of the week, coupled with the lousy sleep (or lack thereof) I'd gotten all week.  Nothing about the run felt good.....well, I take that back.  Ending felt good.  That's not how it should be......and with my next marathon coming up in 7 weeks, I'm not sure I'm going to be prepared as well as I'd like.  I was scheduled for 8 on Saturday, and I woke up stiff and achy and it quickly became evident that I  wasn't going to be running.  To make things more interesting, I was outside working the grill, roasting up some Hatch chilies and grilling some burgers and sausages (it was a mixed grill kind of night!) when I inadvertantly stepped on some embers that had escaped through the bottom of the grill.  Normally, that wouldn't be a problem.....but this dummy was barefoot.  So I got a dime-sized burn in the middle of the ball of my right foot.  I iced it almost immediately so hopefully it's not going to be too big of a problem. 

When I went for my run this morning, I didn't know how the foot would feel, but thankfully it wasn't bothering me at all.  I felt good, but knew I wasn't going long....stuck to my normal route and ran it nearly a minute per mile faster than on Friday.  Was it distance from the stress of the week?   Feeling good after a good night's sleep?  Maybe it was a bit of both, or maybe it was the realization I came to Saturday night, enjoying the burger/sausage combo I'd been grilling along with a nice glass of red wine.

A training schedule is just a piece of paper.

Rather than beat myself up for falling behind and not hitting the mileage targets for the past 2 weeks, I've been running when I can and when I feel like it.  In the past, I might have stuck to that schedule no matter what, and in the past, I ended up injured and dispirited.  So while I may be disappointed and concerned, I'm going to be getting over it VERY quickly.  I'm WAY ahead in terms of annual mileage in any previous year....and after my run tomorrow, I'll only be chasing my 2011 total of 1025 miles.  At my present pace, I should pass that sometime in November, so the base is solid.  Having run Boston this year, I know I have what it takes to finish a marathon, but I want to do more than just finish in Hartford.  A few more quality long runs will restore my confidence in myself, and I'll start dreaming of a marathon PR.....

I'm hoping to run 10-12 tomorrow and then I'll have to look at my ridiculously busy schedule for next week and try to figure out just when I'll run.  As much as I wish I could get out in the morning before school, I'd just have to get up WAY too early for me, and quite frankly, I'm not geared up for running in the dark.  To complicate matters, my chorus is preparing for our upcoming competition by having a weekend retreat, so Friday evening I'll be rehearsing until 10pm, then all day Saturday starting at 8am.  My training schedule has the first of two 20-milers on tap for Sunday, but after being on my feet all day Saturday, I'm not sure I'm going to be up for the full 20 the following day, but we'll just have to wait and see. 

I ran 126.33 miles in August.......not too shabby......most since I ran 127.00 in August 2009, when I got hurt a few weeks later.  I'm hoping that doesn't happen again!  I know I'm going to figure all of this stuff out soon......and you'll all read about it in here first!

Finally, a shout out to all the ladies who ran the Pocatello Marathon this weekend.....that's you, Priscilla, Erin, and Jen.  You're all ROCK STARS and inspirations to everyone!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rest Day Reflections....

or how I came to grips with my limitations.........

This has been a bad summer for blogging......well, at least for me.  I've been reading everyone else's, making comments right and left, but not doing any writing of my own.  It's not that I've got nothing to say....quite the contrary, yet something prevented me from posting regular updates. 

Well, that's probably all about to change.  You see, I'm a teacher, and I've been enjoying the HECK out of my summer vacation.  I've been running a lot, relaxing a lot, enjoying my family a lot, and doing a whole lot of nothing a lot.

That all changes on Monday.

BACK
TO
SCHOOL

I've been stressing out lately and procrastinating like mad on all the prep work needed to be ready for the coming year, but over the past week, I've been pretty productive.  It's funny......my running and my working styles are VERY similar.  I liken myself to a diesel engine.......it takes me a while to get started, but once I'm started, I can run forever.  Might not be the fastest engine around (we'll get to that again in a moment!), but I'm steady and reliable.  It took me a long time to start on my schoolwork, but my "motor" is running now.  This is going to be an interesting and challenging year (they're all interesting and challenging....just some more than others) as I'm taking on a new curriculum for the first time in my career.  For the past 7 years, I've been teaching 8th grade US History only, but this year, I'm now on a "split" team, so I'm going to be teaching 2 sections of 7th grade World Geography and 3 sections of 8th grade US History.  To make things even more "interesting", my team of the past 7 years has been split up, so now I'm teamed with new colleagues.  It's all good.....I like challenges.......if I didn't, I wouldn't be a runner OR a teacher!  Anyway, I still have a few days to get the last few things together for the first few weeks, and I don't meet my new students until Wednesday, but the anxiety level is pretty high here at Fine Manor.  Barb is also getting ready for her new students, and she's been an invaluable source of moral support as I've slowly started my process.  It's so wonderful to have another teacher nearby to bounce ideas off of......I only wish I felt I helped her as much as she helps me.......

But back to my limitations.........

As a runner, I keep wanting to get faster.  At the same time, I want to avoid injury.  As I'm now training for my 3rd marathon (and 2nd this year), all I'm trying to do is be smart and put myself in a position to be happy with my results at the end of the day.  This year, I've stayed healthy and uninjured, allowing me to be more consistent with my training than ever before.  My mileage is way beyond any previous year and I feel like I'm recovering better than ever.  Yet there's that nagging question......why am I not getting faster?   I've been avoiding speedwork, for fear of injury....could that be it?  I'm not doing intervals.......haven't been doing core-strengthening exercises.........so clearly, I haven't been trying to get faster.   Yet I somehow keep imagining it will just magically happen?  What am I.......crazy?

Or maybe I really DON'T want to get faster.......maybe I'm just not willing to admit that I'm never going to be in the top quartile of my ridiculously competitive age group.  That as someone who took up running only 4 years ago after a lifetime of obesity and complacency, I've very proud of having run dozens of 5k's, 10k's, several half-marathons, 2 overnight relays, and 2 marathons.  That I'm actually PERFECTLY OK with being a middle-of-the-pack (on a good day!) to back-of-the-pack finisher.  That it's about accepting who you are and what you can do, rather than wishing to be someone else and lamenting what you cannot do.  The wanting to be faster is symptomatic of my desire to see constant improvement in everything I do.....and what better way to gauge improvement than with the numbers on my Garmin.

Actually, there's another way I can gauge my improvement as a runner.  How about in that as I accept my limitations, I actually become a smarter runner!  When I was training for Boston, I had hopes for a "good" time, but the conditions that day forced a different plan.  I ran a good 45 minutes "slower" than I was capable of running, and I finished on a day when many didn't.   Even now, more than 4 months later, as I sit here at my desk, I glance to my right and the shadow box holding my 2012 Boston Marathon medal and bib are in plain sight.....reminding me of my ability to persevere and overcome my limitations to do something truly remarkable.  The picture I chose to display with it is not the finish line picture, but rather a shot taken from the side as I was heading down Boylston Street....the finish line in sight.....my jaw set in determination.  What doesn't really show are the tears that were streaming down my cheeks, as my dream was coming true.  That was a day where I learned that victory isn't determined by the clock, but rather by what you feel inside.

So I'm slow......

SO WHAT! 

I'm a freakin' 50-year-old DIESEL.....I'm UNSTOPPABLE!!!  

So what's on tap now, you ask?  Long run of 18 miles this Sunday....then 13 next Sunday, followed by 20 the next.....then running the Surftown Half Marathon (http://www.hartfordmarathon.com/Events/Surftown_Half_Marathon___Relay.htm), then another 20 on 9/23 before beginning the taper for Hartford.  I'm looking forward to the next few weeks of training, and then going for it in my 3rd marathon.  And because I'm feeling so good, I'm trying to figure out what marathon I'd like to try next Spring......thinking Vermont City is a distinct possibility.

So here's to my accepting my limitations.....and making the most of what I've got!  

Onwards!!!