Success
Sunday, August 9, 2015

I went out this morning on my long run, the longest I’ve had since April 18, 2011 when I ran in the Boston Marathon.  The agenda called for 14 miles and I had plenty of reasons to be concerned.  The last two times I went out for weekend long runs (12 miles and 10 miles) I was unable to complete the distance without significant issues.  Granted, I had plenty of reasons available to me to use for excuses.  High humidity, too much sunshine and temperatures that have been nothing less than desirable have all contributed.  Each a valid and solid reason for poor performances.  And yet, something told me I needed to have a good run today.  Not a great run, just a good run.  One where I didn’t stop for walk breaks and one that would re-instill the confidence in me that I can carry the distance.  Although the time would be irrelevant I really was hoping for a decent time as well.  But beyond the time, I just needed to run without issue.

And that’s exactly what I did.  To start, I got myself up and going early.  I wanted to get out ahead of the warm weather and the sunshine if I could.  A few other modifications included taking water and fuel with me.  As simple as that may sound, I have always run longer distances like a camel.  I don’t know why, but I’ve done double-digit runs for years without water.  And taking gels; I prefer GU gels, is not something I typically have done until I start getting up around the 20 mile mark.  Given my recent history, I decided to control what I could control and carried my water bottle, along with my GU’s.  I also was fortunate to have a start time temperature of 62 degrees, which is the coolest I’ve run in for weeks, possibly months.

It is amazing to me the difference those things can make.  I have to admit that I did get a bit fatigued right around the 9-mile mark but with energy gels and hydration I was able to successfully nail today’s run without issue.  In fact, I never broke stride despite using a waist strap bottle for the first time ever.  Many things have changed for me since I moved to the Eastern Shore.  In my old hometown I would often take water or Gatorade and drop it at locations along my running route.   I would actually place them in mailboxes near strategic mile markers.  A good system, but in this day and age, probably not a good idea.

The final piece of the puzzle for me today was adding “new road”.  I chose a few new roads to add to existing routes which made for a more interesting run.  The first 4 1/2 miles were run on roads I’ve never run on before so the time seemed to fly by.  I also did not run in sun for the first 4 miles, and if you’ve been reading this blog you know I don’t particularly care for the sunshine.  Finishing around 8:30 a.m. and in a total time of 1:55:51 (8:17/mile pace), I can only use one word to describe the final day of Week 5 of training:  Success!

Run on…

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I went out this morning on my long run, the longest I’ve had since April 18, 2011 when I ran in the Boston Marathon.  The agenda called for 14 miles and I had plenty of reasons to be concerned.  The last two times I went out for weekend long runs (12 miles and 10 miles) I was unable to complete the distance without significant issues.  Granted, I had plenty of reasons available to me to use for excuses.  High humidity, too much sunshine and temperatures that have been nothing less than desirable have all contributed.  Each a valid and solid reason for poor performances.  And yet, something told me I needed to have a good run today.  Not a great run, just a good run.  One where I didn’t stop for walk breaks and one that would re-instill the confidence in me that I can carry the distance.  Although the time would be irrelevant I really was hoping for a decent time as well.  But beyond the time, I just needed to run without issue.

And that’s exactly what I did.  To start, I got myself up and going early.  I wanted to get out ahead of the warm weather and the sunshine if I could.  A few other modifications included taking water and fuel with me.  As simple as that may sound, I have always run longer distances like a camel.  I don’t know why, but I’ve done double-digit runs for years without water.  And taking gels; I prefer GU gels, is not something I typically have done until I start getting up around the 20 mile mark.  Given my recent history, I decided to control what I could control and carried my water bottle, along with my GU’s.  I also was fortunate to have a start time temperature of 62 degrees, which is the coolest I’ve run in for weeks, possibly months.

It is amazing to me the difference those things can make.  I have to admit that I did get a bit fatigued right around the 9-mile mark but with energy gels and hydration I was able to successfully nail today’s run without issue.  In fact, I never broke stride despite using a waist strap bottle for the first time ever.  Many things have changed for me since I moved to the Eastern Shore.  In my old hometown I would often take water or Gatorade and drop it at locations along my running route.   I would actually place them in mailboxes near strategic mile markers.  A good system, but in this day and age, probably not a good idea.

The final piece of the puzzle for me today was adding “new road”.  I chose a few new roads to add to existing routes which made for a more interesting run.  The first 4 1/2 miles were run on roads I’ve never run on before so the time seemed to fly by.  I also did not run in sun for the first 4 miles, and if you’ve been reading this blog you know I don’t particularly care for the sunshine.  Finishing around 8:30 a.m. and in a total time of 1:55:51 (8:17/mile pace), I can only use one word to describe the final day of Week 5 of training:  Success!

Run on…

Nervous for No Reason
Saturday, August 8, 2015

As hard as it is for me to believe it, I find myself nervous about a training run.  Tomorrow morning I will run 14 miles.  If you’ve been reading this blog, it’s no secret that my last few long runs have not gone well.  I truly need the weather to cooperate with me like it did this morning.  With overcast skies and a slight breeze, the conditions were perfect.  I couldn’t help but hope that the weather is very similar tomorrow.

In order to give myself a good shot at a successful run, my plan is to awake early and get on the roads very early.  The forecast is kind of favorable right now, but it’s an unknown factor that I must constantly deal with throughout training.  I knew going into the summer that the weather would be the wild card and so far I’ve been turning up duds.  I’ve certainly had successful short runs and successful speed work.  But what I really need is a confidence booster.

I realize I may be putting too much emphasis on one run, but at this point I really need this mentally.  I’ve never been so nervous for a run that is not really of tantamount importance.  It almost feels like race day.  The real race will be run in eleven weeks.  But for tomorrow, I’ll hit the roads early and try to keep reminding myself that I’m nervous for no reason.

Run on…

The Most Common Question
Friday, August 7, 2015

In the nearly ten years since I ran my first marathon I have learned a lot about the sport of running.  I have had to educate myself on any number of topics ranging from types of shoes to body glide that prevents chafing to the right type of energy gels to ingest on long runs and during marathons themselves.  As a student of the game; which I’ve always been no matter the sport, I am always interested in learning more.  I recall having questions of my own and not having many places to turn for answers, other than the Internet.  I’m often too proud to ask anyone for fear of looking stupid.  I hate that word, but feel I have to get my point across.  It’s honest.  When I am forced to ask questions about things that are new to me it’s always a little difficult because I don’t want to be perceived as “that guy.”  I’m pretty sure that’s the case for a lot of people.  Fortunately, runners are a different kind of breed.  We are always there to help each other out, no matter what our skill levels may be.  The running community is one of the nicest groups of people I have ever been associated with, and I’ve found that to be true  no matter where I’ve been.  Sure, we are competitive, but I don’t know another sport where you root for all the other participants and celebrate their victories as much as I’ve witnessed with runners.  Folks are always willing to help and always willing to share their experiences with fellow runners and even non-runners.

When I got into marathon running I shared a lot of my experiences with friends, family and colleagues who would be curious about any number of topics.  I would get asked questions like, “How do you run for that long without stopping?”  And “Don’t you ever get tired?”  Common things like that.  But perhaps one of the most common questions I am asked, mostly from non-runners, is “How far is this marathon?”  At first, the question stunned me.  I don’t recall who asked it and it doesn’t matter, but I thought to myself, “Isn’t it common knowledge that all marathons are 26.2 miles?”  But over the years I have probably been asked that same question at least two dozen times.  I’m not sure why but every time the question still surprises me.  I know that it shouldn’t, but it does.  Being a member of the running community I am always willing to help others and answer their questions, but for some reason when I am asked that one I now find myself answering, “they’re all 26.2 miles.”  I know it shouldn’t frustrate me but it does, ever so slightly.  I guess because I’ve been asked so many times and it still perplexes me that people don’t know.  I guess it shouldn’t, but it does.

Typically, the next most common question that comes on the heels of the first one is “why the point-2?”  Now that’s a good question, and it’s quite a good story too.  But it’s late on a Friday and I’ve got a long day tomorrow.  Have I mentioned I’ll be running?  If you’re interest is piqued you can read all about the marathon here where you’ll find out about a man named Pheidippides and the origins of the name of marathon and eventually how the distance came to be.  And when I’m in Washington, D.C. on October 25, know that I’ll be running 26.2 miles in the Marine Corps Marathon; and hopefully my outcome is much better than ol’ Pheidippides.

Run on…

The Day I Need to Run Fast
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seemingly I am able to get over a bad day, but it usually is not the same day as the run.   Thus far during Marine Corps training it’s typically been the day after the bad run.  Maybe it’s the actual act of running the next day that clears my head and forces me to think things through.  Whatever the case, I had a bit of an epiphany while on this morning’s uneventful 2-miler.  Yesterday is not the day that I need to run fast.  That day is on October 25.  The day of reckoning.  The day it counts.  Sure, yesterday counts.  Today counts.  But fortunately I haven’t gotten to the day that counts the most. 

The build-up to October 25 is definitely important, but one, two, or even ten days of not performing at the highest level will not make or break my performance on race day.  Which begs the question I posed to myself during my time on the road this morning.  Is over-training better or worse than under-training?  I’ve been guilty of doing both and I have to say that each has its advantages and disadvantages.  Over-training can cause injuries that may cost you a few days or a few weeks.  Which isn’t always a bad thing because during the recovery period your body gets much needed rest.  The disadvantage, obviously, is that nobody wants to be injured.  When under-training, you stay more fresh, but you may not perform at optimum levels on the days that count during training, and certainly not on the day of the race for which you’re training. 

No doubt it is a delicate balance and a tricky one to navigate.  I have long said that every runner is different and we all need different numbers of miles, speed sessions and long runs that work for our own bodies.  Learning when to push it, when to back off, and listening to what your body is telling you is all part of the process.  If you let it, it will drive you insane.  But this truly is the fun part of running a marathon. It’s about enjoying the ride.  It’s toying and tinkering with workouts, mileage, clothing, and different hydration and food options to try and reach an optimum level.  The hope is that my performance on one specific day in the future will be a good one.  That day, October 25 is the day, hopefully, that it all comes together and I run fast.   

Run on…

In-ter–va—l—-s
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Today was another one of my self-proclaimed “two most important days of the week.”  To say it went well would be a massive, gigantic overstatement.  Once again I did not sleep well.  This time it was Mother Nature that rattled the house between 1:15 a.m. and roughly 2:00 a.m.  It’s been awhile since thunder cracked that loudly and that closely to the house.  At times it literally felt like the whole house was vibrating.  Nevertheless it had me awake for an extended period of time in the middle of the night.  By the time I was able to fall back asleep my night was shortened significantly.  Not a good thing when I needed all the energy I could muster today. 

Heading outside to 71-degree temperatures is normally something to embrace, but when the humidity is 100% and the dew point matches the temperature, embracing was the furthest thing from my mind.  But marathon training is all about perseverance and fighting through the conditions, so I went after my run with as much enthusiasm as I could muster at 5:55 a.m.  Today’s intervals called for a simple six interval session that included a mile (four laps on the track), followed by an 800 (two laps), followed by a 400 (one lap) and then repeated in the same order.  Visually, it’s pretty cool to see how many laps that required (including the cool down laps):

Intervals 8.5.15

Round and Round We Go

 Given my state of fatigue, the weather, and the fact that I forgot to grab my Ironman watch (for keeping splits) on the way out the door, things weren’t looking good from the outset.  With the skies still somewhat overcast, and a sunrise that is continuing to run away from me, getting later and later, it was a bit darker than usual. However, about a mile into my warmup the sun started to come up and it provided for another great photo opportunity.

8.5.15

Morning. ‘Nuff said.

The warm-up proved to be more difficult than it needed to be, and in retrospect, I probably wasn’t running slow enough.  Even though I kept telling myself to take the foot off the gas and save some juice for the track I once again let myself down.  Onto the track and as I got into my first interval I noticed that I was not training alone.  It might be hard to see in the photo, but if you look at the extreme lower left of the upright on the goalpost you’ll see my supporter.

Red Hawk 8.5.15

A red hawk joined me this a.m.

I must have either not been going fast enough, or he was intimidated by my blinding speed.  Either way he lasted on his perch for about a lap and a half and he’d seen enough.  Alone again, I did the best I could do given all the circumstances that seemed to be working against me.  My intervals were slow and I struggled to maintain my speed for long stretches.  I also ran them all wrong going too fast out of the gate and didn’t mind my pace. I’m not sure if I should be concerned, but now three out of the last four self-proclaimed “important days” have not go well.  For me that begins to look like a pattern. Speaking of patterns, here is today’s interval session via photo.

Intervals 8.5.15 2

8.5.15 Intervals

I still cannot get enough of these and the information that they provide.  Mentally, I do have to remember that it’s been over four years since I’ve been in formal marathon training, so I should temper my expectations just a bit.  I also need to remind myself that it is only the fifth week.  But at some point I’m going to need a strong day when it’s most important. I can think of one or two days when that needs to happen. 

Run on…

The Stuff on the Street
Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Running as much as I have since I began participating in the sport regularly I have obtained many unique perspectives, some of which I’ve already written about right here on this website.  I’ve been outside in weather that would kill some people (maybe not literally), I’ve seen countless types of animals including deer, dogs, cats, possums and even a skunk to name a few.  I startled that last guy and nearly paid the ultimate price of stench, which I’m happy to report I avoided.  He gave me nothing more than a not-so-friendly hiss and I was well outside his perimeter by then and on my way.  Like yesterday, I’ve seen some amazing weather phenomena that have left a lasting impression on me for years.  Most days, however, the run is the run.  A majority of them create no lasting memories, like today.  Today was a tough day.  It was the last day before the critical speed work that will come tomorrow.  It was even more difficult given the fact that my bladder yelled at me to awake at 3:30 a.m. and unfortunately for me I was unable to get myself back to sleep.  So with fatigued body and fatigued mind I went out on an uneventful 3-mile run.  The humidity returned and no special “moments” happened in the 23 minutes 20 seconds that I spent on the road and sidewalks.

It didn’t hit me until this afternoon, as I was leaving work, that sometimes I see some crazy things laying around on the ground while I’m out for my run.  What I saw as I walked cross the parking lot to my car (pictured below) was a perfectly good piece of unwrapped Dubble Bubble.  It got me thinking about all the stuff on the street that I’ve seen and even picked up on occasion.  Like I said, some days are uneventful and I see nothing.  But some days, like a recent 10-miler, I see strange things or things out of context.  An unwrapped piece of bubble gum is one thing.  But what about an anchor?  For real.  An anchor.  It was a small anchor but still an anchor.  Probably fell off someone’s fishing boat.  That same day I remember seeing both a used and an unused condom, three hypodermic needles (couldn’t tell if they were used or not), an actual fork (not plastic) and a pair of slightly used gloves.  That was a banner day.

After see the gum today I thought about some other things I’ve come upon over the years.  Here is the list I came up with:

  • Money (The most I’ve ever found at one time was a $10 bill.  It’s usually change. I never pick it up if it’s tails up, but always when it’s heads-up. Have I mentioned I’m superstitious?)

  • A fresh, uneaten sandwich (Still in the Ziploc bag. I don’t know what kind of sandwich.)

  • Baseball

  • Tennis ball (Multiple)

  • Golf ball (Several times, and sometimes nowhere near a golf course.)

  • Jewelry (Everything from bracelets to rings.  Although usually nothing worth picking up.)

  • Superball (Yes, I grabbed it and still have it; pictured below.)

  • A bullet (9mm)

  • Keys (Usually single keys and not on a ring.)

To this day one of the best things I’ve ever found and picked up was a necktie.  As I approached it I could tell what it was and as I got closer could tell it was in decent shape, so without breaking stride I reached down and scooped it up.  I carried it with me for several miles until I finished that run where I was finally able to inspect it.  All it took was a quick toss it in the washing machine and I had myself a new Beverly Hills Polo Club necktie.  Well, new to me.  So there you have it.  Sometimes running can pay dividends you never expected.  On that day it was the land of the misfit tie.  Saved from the garbage dump or sewer from a passer-by runner who still wears it to this day.  Such is life for the stuff on the street.

Run on…

Stuff on the street

The catalyst for tonight’s post (not the leaf)

Superball

One of the coolest things found on a run

tie
From the land of misfit finds

A Cool Run
Monday, August 3, 2015

One of the best things about running and running in the mornings for me, is that you never know when you’re going to experience something that is unique to being outside at that time of day.  The whole concept of my book, Four Seconds from Boston, was born from an early morning experience I had in December 2005.  I wrote about it in my journal and inevitably was the springboard that led to writing this book.  A lot of people are early risers, but not everyone gets outside and walks or runs and, in my opinion, miss these very neat opportunities that come around every so often.

The amazing thing about today is that I went out for a relaxing 2-mile run so it wasn’t anything long.  My anticipated time out was around fifteen minutes.  If not for my run streak I wouldn’t even have been out today, but as it turns out I’m glad I did. Still recovering from a fairly rough weekend, I rolled out of bed and horsed around the house knowing I had lots of time.  Before I knew it, it was almost 6:20 so out the door I went.  The humidity has continued through training and today was no different.  I did notice, however, that it is staying darker a little longer so the sun is not up just yet at that time.  As I completed my first mile (at my turnaround) I noticed in the field just down the street from the Royal Farms that some fog was rolling in over the cornfield.  It looked pretty cool because the sun was beginning to pop up over the horizon by then, so of course I snapped a photo.

As I headed back on my return trip I was coming down the stretch that would bring me back past Parkside High School when I noticed that the fog was rolling through the school fields and across the road out in front of me.  As I approached the mist it appeared as though it was a creature slowly moving in front of me engulfing the air that I was about to run through.  By now the school which was crystal clear on my way out was now nearly invisible on my way back.  As I entered into the creature I instantly felt a drop in temperature by what seemed to be ten degrees.  At the pace I was moving I went through it fairly fast and the experience only lasted about five seconds, but in that short window of time I was lucky to experience nature in a way that I’ve never experienced it before.  As I headed home I recalled a piece I had seen on The Weather Channel and instantly knew that it was advection fog.  As I exited the other side of the wall of fog all I could say was “cool.”  A cool run, if only for a few seconds.

Run on…

8.3 Run 1

Rolling in

8.3 Run 2

Cutting across

8.3 Run 3

The Beast. Advection Fog