Week 3: July 20 – 26, 2015
The Mile in Front of You
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Often when I am running my mind will drift into obscure places that make very little sense or may have nothing to do with running. Today was no exception. With 12-miles scheduled on the road for a time period that would easily eclipse an hour and a half there was plenty of time to have my mind wander. Before I hit the road today, however, I had concerns because my plan was to get out and moving around 7:00 a.m. and instead I didn’t get going until a little after 8:00. The difference in that one hour was about 10 degrees of temperature and bountiful sunshine, which I, of course, hate. I left the house feeling a little groggy to begin with but tried settling into a good rhythm and hoped that I would find my pace and tough my way through it like I’ve done many times before. I chose a course that I ran for the first time back on June 7 prior to formal Marine Corps Marathon training began. Back then I covered the distance with relative ease and at a decent pace of 8:06/mile.
Today, despite my early feelings, I was having a decent run and was able to clip off a few good miles. By the time I was around mile four, however, my mind kept wandering to various points that I would run miles ahead of where I was. I kept thinking about the landscape that I would traverse and I kept picturing different shady parts of my course because the sun was killing me. As I did this, however, I would feel somewhat defeated in the sense that I knew how I was feeling and that it would only get worse. Instead of focusing on where I was and what was happening around me at that moment I was thinking about three, four, six miles ahead of where I was. Realizing this wasn’t helping me and knowing that it was actually hurting me mentally I decided to keep reminding myself to “focus on the mile in front of you.” Easier said that done. But it broke the remainder of the run into a much smaller increment of one mile at a time. It helped but the conditions and my physical state continued to deteriorate. Just before mile 9 I hit a bit of a wall. As the temperature rose and I continued to sweat it became clear that I was badly dehydrated. It was at that moment all I could think about was getting something to drink. Puddles on the ground, formed by lawn sprinklers that I ran past, looked like watering holes that I actually considered lapping up because my thirst had grown so intensely. I began to think about the animals in the African desert who battle for this precious commodity and I understood how critically important good drinking water can be to the sustaining of life. I actually stopped momentarily and texted my wife to bring me something to drink. Unfortunately she didn’t feel her phone vibrate and never answered me. Talk about deflating.
With a little under three miles remaining, I might as well have been one hundred miles away from something to drink. I then began to think about Bobby Boucher, played by Adam Sandler in the 1998 film The Waterboy. All I could keep thinking about was getting home to get my “high quality h20.” It’s funnier now, but at the moment it was anything but funny. With just over one mile remaining I ran by a soda machine in the Salisbury Zoo and with no money in my pocket whizzed by with a thirst that had grown 10,000 times. I again felt deflated. Knowing I was just over a mile away I knew that I would not pass out or be harmed physically, but the thirst I felt was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I briefly thought about Lance Armstrong, who I recall watching in one of his Tour de France time trial runs when he became so dehydrated you could see white salt marks form around his mouth. All that did was made me even more thirsty so I quickly wiped it out of my head. Eventually I did finish my run in disappointing fashion. To say that I had a bad day on one of the most important days of the week for training is an understatement. But much like any period of training I realized shortly after I got home that there will be highs and lows and that is to be expected. All you can do is focus on the next run, the next opportunity to train and improve and grow stronger.
I also had a moment of perspective when I saw this video online.
It really made me think and made me realize that despite what I felt was a bad day was actually quite a blessing. That I am lucky to be able to run and train and that tomorrow is another day to look forward to. There is nothing I can do to change what happened. Learn from my mistake (I’ll be buying a fuel belt, which I’ve resisted for years) and will not let it happen again. Today is in the past. Tomorrow I go out and focus on the mile that is in front of me.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Sometimes in the middle of a difficult training schedule you have to take some time for yourself and step away from the grind of the preparation. I am guilty of not giving myself too many breaks, be it baseball season, hockey season, or marathon training. I continually push the envelope and drive myself nearly into the ground. It can be physically demanding as well as mentally exhausting. Today, I had a typical Saturday in terms of sleeping in a little bit before having my tall cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee and heading out the door a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. After a casual 4-mile run I considered myself ready for tomorrow’s 12-mile trek but decided that I needed a little down time. Let’s face it, we all can use some rest and relaxation. So my wife Becky and I headed over to the house of some of our friends to spend the afternoon swimming at their pool and enjoying a beautiful day on Delmarva. While we were there, we decided to try something neither of us had ever done before. We ventured out on the Wicomico River for some kayaking. It took a few minutes of working the oars and understanding how to maneuver in our two-person kayak for us to get used to it, but once we did, we enjoyed some time paddling up and down and across the river. Afterward we were treated to a wonderfully prepared meal and enjoyed each others’ company. Great food and great conversation. It was really a perfect, relaxing way to spend a Saturday in the heart of my training. Actually it would be a great way to spend a Saturday even if it weren’t around training.
The whole time on the river I couldn’t help but think of The Coasters and their 1958 song Yakety Yak. In my mind I kept saying (and singing), Ka-yakety yak, let’s kayak. It’s really dumb but just more insight into the lunacy that can be my mind. Afterward I declared myself a kayak-er, finally, in my mid-40’s. For anyone who has done it I’m sure you think it’s ridiculous, but for us, it was a really neat experience since it was our first time. I can also definitely see the benefits one could garner for an upper body and core workout. The Wicomico River is fairly tame in terms of the current. I can’t imagine how it would be in rapid water. After dinner we went down and sat along the river for a few minutes before calling it a night. There is, of course, the issue of a dozen miles that lay ahead in the morning so I wanted to try and get as much sleep as possible. As I talked about on Wednesday, tomorrow is the second most important day of the week and one that will finish off week #3 of training. With only 3 short months remaining before the big day things will begin to pick up in a big way over the next few weeks. But I can honestly say that I am ready for the challenge that tomorrow and beyond will bring both physically and mentally thanks to some fun and relaxation on the water today.
Out of Thin Air
Friday, July 24, 2015
It’s been a little over three years since I called Johnstown, PA my home. If I’m being honest, there are only a few things that I miss back there and certainly the weather is not one of them. I miss my friends and most of my family. I miss experiencing all four seasons of the year, even though I don’t miss snow for days on end and the inevitable shoveling that goes along with it. I miss having a large number of ice hockey rinks within a very short drive of where I live. I miss Sheetz convenience stores. And as hard as it may be to believe, I miss the elevation and the hills that helped mold me into a Boston Marathoner just four years ago. Here on the Eastern Shore hills are at a premium. And when you’re lucky enough to find one, they are rarely ever steeper than a bridge overpass or what we Western Pennsylvanians would call speed bumps. It’s so flat around here that I barely notice when I’m lucky enough to find myself running uphill. There is no doubt that elevation also plays a key role as well in my ability to improve my fitness. In Johnstown I ran at just over 2,000 feet of elevation but here I am barely above sea level. It may not seem like much, but when you’re giving up roughly 2,000 feet I’m fairly certain that the air is significantly thinner which provides the added benefit of increasing VO2 max.
When I am out on my runs it is hard for me not to think about the extremely steep hill that I used to finish with on nearly every single run when I lived in the Borough of Southmont. Back then I took it for granted because it was simply where I lived. It was next to impossible to run anywhere without having to run on a hill of some sort. On the hill in question I was just running back home. Along with those hills came stronger legs and an overall improved runner who would often strive on hilly race courses. In a lot of ways I was much better running uphill than I was on flat ground or downhill. Having been away from it for so long I wonder if I would crumble on hilly routes now.
The closest thing I think I have come to in the past few years that even came close to those days in Johnstown was last November when I ran the Bay Bridge Run. Unless you count the two years I ran the Mud on the Mountain race at Seven Springs but that is more of a survival adventure race and not a run. And even though I have driven over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge hundreds of times I never fully appreciated the steepness of the incline heading up the eastern span as you cross over the Bay. Given the “hill” that made up a mile or so of the 10k Across the Bay I performed fairly well. Still, I don’t train on the types of hills I trained on every single day back in Johnstown.
So with week 3 of training coming to a close this weekend it’s important to note that next week hill training will become part of the routine. And I continue to search for the elusive mounds of earth that rise up from the ground like a beacon of light made of bedrock. More than likely, however, I will be forced inside to the dreadmill where I’m sure to have plenty of oxygen to breath down here close to the sea.
What’s in a Name?
Thursday, July 23, 2015
I’ll begin tonight’s post with a quick update from yesterdays Post, which included a photo of several law enforcement officers and a taped off Royal Farms. The featured photo for tonight’s post is timestamped on my iPhone at 5:15 a.m. Approximately 90 minutes earlier this happened there. So I figured tonight is as good a night as any for me to address a topic I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks now. It’s all about route naming.
Last December I decided that I wanted something better than Mapmyrun for tracking my workouts. After searching a few days and reading several online reviews I went with the Runmeter app and I haven’t been disappointed. Like most running or exercise apps you are able to give your running routes names. It took me a week or two to realize it so the first couple runs I did with the app were all called “new route”. Eventually I did figure it out and started to name my routes. At first blush that seems simple enough but after awhile it becomes harder and harder to decipher one 4-mile run from another. Not that I’m full of creativity, but it does take some creative thinking in order to remember which route is called by which name. Not that it’s important, but the app will keep data by route which can be used to help determine ways to improve speed and performance. I’ll save all that jargon for a different post. This is all about the names.
Runners, I believe, are habitual creatures. When we find a route or a distance that works we generally stick with it. But running the same courses over and over (especially when streak running) can also get boring. Naming the routes is one way to keep things interesting. If you can believe it, I have created new routes just for the sake of naming it. My first named route and the one I probably run the most is the RoFo 4 and variations of that same route, the RoFo 3 and RoFo n Back. The route is basically pretty simple. It incorporates the Royal Farms mentioned in the article above. See, the RoFo is basically the fulcrum point of that run. Depending on the rest of the run and the distance, you get the variations of the 3, 4 and since it’s about a mile away, the 2-mile Rofo n Back. Someday someone will have to tell me why it’s Rofo and not RoFa, but I guess that’s also another story for another day. You know, because its Royal Farms, not Royal Forms. But I digress.
Most of the courses I’ve mapped out for myself here on the Eastern Shore are either large circles or out and backs. The large circle routes can be run in reverse to keep them fresh. Even though it’s fairly flat here, running the same route in reverse does make it slightly different so when running the RoFo 4 the other way, I simply name the route and spell it backwards, or the 4 oFoR. My friend Jonathan was the first, and to this day, the only person to tell me that he figured out that course name almost immediately and complimented my creativity.
Other course names include:
5 1/2 Zoo Loop
Cook Out n Back
LSD 1 and 2 (which actually stands for Long Slow Distance. The 1 and 2 are not miles, but routes of 10 miles long)