Near Perfect Execution
Sunday, August 23, 2015

I’ve been around and involved in sports ever since I was a kid.  One common theme that has come up over the years as a player, coach, and official is the concept of execution.  In order to perfect your craft, you must strive for execution.  Execution of your particular role, which can be something as simple as a first step to timing your swing just perfectly to make good solid contact with a pitch, or being in the proper position to see a play and make a call.  It all comes down to execution.  In golf, the execution of a swing makes all the the difference in the world when it comes to the direction the ball will take off the club head to the distance it will travel.  When I coached the offensive line of our high school team we worked every day on properly executing taking the proper first step and getting our hands in the proper position in order to successfully execute a clean block on our opponent.

One would think there isn’t much to execution when it comes to the sport of running, but what I have learned is that there is as much a role in executing a run as there is in any sport I’ve been involved with.  The difference, of course, is all about the amount of time it takes to execute properly.  For example, in my offensive line scenario described above, it is almost instantly noticeable when a guard or tackle does not execute their block properly.  The good news is that the next play is less than a minute away for a chance to redeem oneself.  In running, for a long run to be executed properly, like today’s 16-miler it takes a lot longer to determine how the day may go.

When I started out the door this morning I have to admit I wasn’t feeling it.  The long day yesterday had taken it’s toll on me and I wondered almost immediately how I might be able to get through such a distance.  That’s when experience kicked in for me and I decided that I would go out at a pace that felt at least somewhat comfortable to me and then back off just the tiniest bit.  In addition, I broke the run up into four quarters.  Each quarter would be four miles long and at each “checkpoint” I would assess my progress and determine if I needed to back off even more.  The reality is/was that I still have 9 weeks before the Marine Corps Marathon, so there is/was no sense in putting too much emphasis on just this one long run.

By the time I hit mile 13 I realized that I was actually feeling pretty good and it was at that moment I knew I had run this training run smartly and what I would later find out, almost to perfection.  Almost, because there is always room for improvement.  When I finished and looked at my splits, and more importantly my cadence I can see that in taking it slowly I was able to run a fairly consistent pace with an even more consistent cadence.  I know I can increase my cadence slightly as I move into the future, and that is good news because with an increased cadence, my overall times should drop accordingly.  In the photos you can visually see the consistency I exhibited today.  Consistency that I established but didn’t see for over two hours.  As I wrapped up my run, and week #7 of training, I sat down to a great breakfast of B n E.  And in reviewing the data provided to me by my trusty Runmeter app, I know that today my execution was near perfect.  Next up, nine more weeks and establishing consistency.

Run on…

8.23 Long Run

Fairly Even Splits

Consistent Cadence

Consistent Cadence

My Quiet Running Partner

My Quiet Running Partner

A Little B and E for a Breakfast Reward

A Little B and E for a Breakfast Reward

‘Twas the Night Before the Long Run
Saturday, August 22, 2015

Most of my friends think I’m crazy.  The people closest to me that know me know that I don’t do things the easy way.  I’ve been described as someone who “doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet.”  I suppose there is some truth to that.  I do feel as though I am constantly in motion.  Always into something.  Always doing something.  When I was living back in PA, my best friend Todd told me, “Vinny, you’re gonna be dead by the time you’re fifty.”  As I approach my mid-40’s I truly hope that isn’t the case.

I’m someone who loves a good nap.  In fact, often I feel just like George Costanza from this scene during season 8 of Seinfeld:

Honestly, this isn’t that far from the truth.  But when I’m up, I’m moving.  I work very hard motivated to get to my vacations, and then spend my vacations doing too much and not kicking back and relaxing.  I’m not sure why, but I suppose it has a lot to do with watching my father growing up.  In a lot of ways, I’m like he was when I was a kid.  Which is why a day like today kills me.  I know that tomorrow I will need to do 16 miles as part of my training.  I’ve known it since March.  And yet, I went out for a 4-mile run that was initially intended to be easy, and ended up running it at just over an 8:00/mile pace.  Then I umpired two Pony League baseball games including one behind the plate.  Not to be finished, I decided to go shopping with my wife tonight and am finally sitting down to that badly needed R&R.  Not before I had a horrible experience at Kohl’s.  Given what I went through up there this evening, I can promise you I will NEVER go into that store ever again.

So nothing like a normal off day Saturday.  According to my fitbit I’ve registered 22,257 steps and counting.  And on the eve of the long run, I anticipate running just a bit over that many steps before 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Run on…

The Most Important Tool of the Trade
Friday, August 21, 2015

It is hard to believe that I am now down to just 64 days until the running of the 40th Marine Corps Marathon.  The days of training seem to be flying by and as my body wears down and fatigue has become a factor I have reached a crossroad.  Today I reduced my mileage for the sake of some rest, given that I have now reached 91 consecutive days of running.  I wondered as I finished the last 1/4 mile if I have allowed my desire to continue my streak to overtake the prize of my tenth marathon.  Certainly it is a tough question, but given that my body is tired, it hasn’t failed me yet and in a lot of ways I feel I have benefited more than I have been hurt.  So I press onward with the duel goal of continuing my streak, while preparing myself for the marathon.

It also got me thinking about the tools of the trade of running.  There are many of them, but my focus turned to the most important one of them all.  The shoes.  Many people who talk to me about running often ask me about my knees and my ankles and how they hold up to the stress of running; especially now that I’m doing it every day.  My answer, although complicated, is also painfully (no pun intended) simple.  It’s the shoes.  And more specifically the insoles.

When I first began to run regularly back in 2002 I really didn’t know what I was doing.  What few people know that I had attempted to run a marathon (you’ll have to buy the book to find out where).  What happened to me back then was a developing of tendinitis in my knee that cost me the chance to do that particular marathon.  I wondered then if my body wasn’t made to run, but after educating myself a little more on the topic I realized that it’s all about the base.  What I usually tell people is the following analogy that I find to be true.  If you’re building a house, the most important part is the foundation.  If the foundation is flawed, the house will not stand properly or for very long without problems.  So I found that my foundation was messed up.  I needed better shoes.  When I finally found shoes that seemed to work for me and allow me to run longer distances I developed horrible tendinitis in my Achilles tendon.  Through more education I realized that the shoes weren’t enough.  So I played around with different variations of insoles until I found the perfect combination of shoes and insoles that work for me, my body type, my heel and arch type and my stride type.

Through the years I have transitioned from running in my early days on Saucony’s and New Balance to my first marathon shoe, which was a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6’s (pictured below in the foreground of photo 1).  Eventually my shoe brand of choice became, and continues to be Asics.  And even though I have been running on Asics pretty much since 2007 I did go away from them for the Boston Marathon in 2011 when I bought and trained in the race sponsor’s shoe which were Adidas shoes.  What I also realized back when I was having issues is that in order to save my Achilles from too much stress and pounding I needed to raise my heel slightly.  So in addition to using Superfeet (Orange), I supplement those insoles with a 3/4 Dr. Scholl’s Tri-Comfort insoles.  The trade off is that my heel cushion doesn’t last as long so instead of getting 400-500 miles out of a pair of shoes, I am replacing them about every 300-325 miles.

With a 16-miler planned for Sunday, it will be the longest run I’ve done since April 18, 2011 when I toed the line in Hopkington, MA.  Fortunately for me, I’ll have the most important tool of the trade to help me through.

Run on…

Brooks (foreground) used in my first marathon. Asics (back, left) used to qualify in Chicago. Asics (back, right) used in 2011 Boston Marathon

Brooks (foreground) used in my first marathon. Asics (back, left) used to qualify in Chicago. Asics (back, right) used in 2011 Boston Marathon

The Future. One of these will be used at MCM in October.

The Future. One of these will be used at MCM in October.

Gimme Some Skein
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life.  Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our day to day routines and the nonsense and noise of everyday life that we miss opportunities to appreciate the simple things.  The simple things are truly the things that happen every single day and are miracles of nature.

Today as I went out on my 4-mile training run, on tired legs, I wanted to do two things.  Get through the run and be done with it as quickly as possible and to take in my surroundings completely.  As I awoke and checked the radar, there were thunderstorms brewing to the west and you could already hear thunder off in the distance.  Not wanting to be relegated to indoor treadmill running, I jumped out of bed and got going as quickly as I could.  Nothing wrong with a little extra motivation to get you going in the morning.  Since I also don’t particularly care for thunder and lightning the last thing I wanted to do was get caught outside in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Heading out the door the heat and humidity that has been hounding me all summer was evident as soon as I crossed the threshold from the garage into the side yard.  I was truly hoping for an easier run after struggling mightily during yesterday’s run.  I knew that the humidity would create troubles for me so I tried as best I could to just put it out of my mind and focus forward and clipping off the run one mile at a time.

A thunderstorm was brewing off in the distance and after the initial darkness of the morning gave way to daylight my surroundings took on an almost orange or peach (or pink if you ask my wife) hue and you just knew that rain would be coming.  It was only a matter of when.  Almost instinctively nature was also on the move and preparing for the changes that lay ahead. Two squirrels scurried in front of me crossing the street looking as though they were heeding the warnings and seeking shelter.  A chipmunk, with a mouth full of nuts hurried across a tree bark and down into his den not only preparing for today, but most likely the months that lie ahead.

But the loudest and most demonstrative sounds of the morning came from behind me, not once, not twice, but three different times.  I was lucky enough to snap a few pictures of each group of our Canadien friends who, more often than not, are nothing more than a nuisance to their neighbors.  With their dark green clumps of fecal matter and their occasional, and annoying stoppage of traffic as they waddle across the street, the Canadien Geese that litter the landscape on Delmarva seemed to be moving in constant throughout my run as the storm approached even closer.  Even though I am not a big fan of these wildfowl I have to admit I appreciated their honking calls and their organized chaos as they flew overhead to a destination unknown.  A gaggle of geese upon landing, but in flight; a skein.  For a brief moment in time, on my difficult run this morning, these guys provided me with a small distraction and a memorable morning to add to my collection.

Run on…

8.20_1

Getting Started

Skein 1

Skein 1

Skein 2

Skein 2

Skein 3

Skein 3

Road Work
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday.  Speed work day.  With heat and humidity prevalent and an early morning breakfast meeting, I was up and at ’em bright and early.  Today’s interval session called for six intervals (400 meters, 800 meters, 1 mile, 800 meters, 1 mile, 800 meters).  That’s a lot of interval time and distance.  And unfortunately for me, my pacing was way off and way too quick at the beginning.  I was also forced to use the “neighborhood loop” instead of the track again as fall sports seasons are in full swing.  By the way, Kudos to the Parkside High Rams cross country team who was at it before 6:00 a.m.  What started out as a leisurely paced warm-up turned quickly into very tough battle conditions as my body was tested to overcome the fatigue that high humidity can take from you.  Even though I was prepared and took a bottle of Gatorade out with me it wasn’t enough to overcome the perspiration and energy loss that today’s workout took from me.

Despite my struggles, I was able to complete the entire workout and never gave in to the temptation to cut things short or quit altogether.  I have to admit that those thoughts crossed my mind but I resisted the temptation and repeated a phrase that I’ve repeated to myself many times before when training for marathons.  The phrase is “suffer now or suffer later.”  Obviously there is a level of suffering that is required when training for anything, including a marathon.  That mantra is something I have used to help motivate me.  The thought process goes something like this.  Work hard now and suffer now.  Working hard now should minimize the suffering on race day.  I was so tired today that as I uttered “suffer now or suffer later” to myself I thought, “what if I suffer now and suffer later?”  It’s negative thoughts like those that can make workouts and marathons themselves seem way more difficult than they already are.  So I tried as hard as I could to think positive thoughts and pushed myself to finish my workout even if my times were not what I hoped they would be.  I wondered briefly if the power of positive thinking is true or if there was any way to prove that just thinking positively can create positive results.  Too much thinking on a morning like today.  I cut those thoughts out and focused on finishing.  Eventually I did.  There is something satisfying about finishing and not caving to the pressure to cut it short.  Like the shirt that I wore outside today, it was just another day on the roads, gettin’ in road work.

Run on…

Road Work

Early a.m. Road Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1549

Lovely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singles
Monday, August 17, 2015

Today marks 68 days remaining until the 40th Marine Corps Marathon, which is now just 9 weeks, 6 days away.  Today is the day that marks “singles” for me, as discussed and compared to this post from July 17.  Only instead of under ten miles remaining in a race I am now under 10 weeks remaining until race day.

It is hard to believe how fast the first six weeks of training has gone.  Today is a good day for me to review my progress and note how I’m faring thus far.  Given that my official Runner’s World VIP training plan is the break 4:00 hours plan, I would have to say I’m faring quite well.  All of my suggested times have been faster than they need to be (according to the plan).  However, if I’m being honest, I have had an up-and-down training period thus far.  The struggles on the long runs and the few speed workout blips are still concerning, but I have also been pleased with several facets of my training period.  I have had a few successful speed sessions, and the fact that my body has remained mostly healthy has been a huge plus.  I feel as though I’ve mixed in enough rest and low mileage days to offset the rigors of hard training.  Any runner can tell you that it’s a delicate balance between over-training and training too little.  The reality is that moving forward from this point my mileage will continue to upswing and it will be even more important for me to continue to monitor my aches and pains and balance quality miles with just getting in the miles. 

This past weekend afforded me an opportunity to adjust my plans due to circumstances that required adjustments, and I feel I did exactly what I needed to do.  Even though I ran less miles than the training plan called for,  I balanced that with some intense hill work, a longer than required tempo, and was able to do so while doing an actual race.  Racing is a perfect gauge for telling you where you are at.  It may seem oversimplified, but you cannot imitate race conditions without an actual race.

At this stage of the game I have to realize that training has been done in some very high heat and humidity conditions so my times will be slower and although I don’t’ use it as an excuse, it is the reality.  As I look forward to the ten weeks that remain in front of me, I am confident that I will continue to improve as the temperatures should moderate. My focus is forward and with continued diligence I will trust my training and take it one day at a time.  With only “singles” remaining I can ill afford to approach this any other way.

Run on…