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?'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 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 ( 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 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!


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!