It is extremely hard for me to believe that my training for the 40th Marine Corps Marathon has reached the halfway point. With today’s 10-mile tempo run I am down to just 55 days until toeing the line in Arlington, VA. It is equally hard for me to believe that the calendar will flip to September in less than two days and we will begin what I deem to be my favorite four months of the calendar. It is a wonderful time of year as the leaves begin to change (in most parts of the country), baseball season reaches its pinnacle moments, and football kicks off along with ice hockey and basketball not far behind. It is also the period of time when we celebrate many of my favorite holidays including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. This year seems to be extra special for me with the publishing of my book along with a milestone of hopefully officiating in my 2,000th ice hockey game as an amateur official (I currently stand at 1,998 games and need just 2 games to reach the milestone).
But before the calendar flips, there was the matter of getting in a 10-mile run with six miles at marathon tempo to close out the first half of training. In order to keep things fresh Becky and I decided to get up early this morning and head into Ocean City, MD to run along the famous boardwalk and squeeze in another beach day in the process. With temperatures expected to rise into the low-to-mid 80’s it was a good day to do so.
Shortly after arriving we began our runs (separately) at the end of the boardwalk at the inlet and headed north. My plan was to run out 5 miles and turn around for the return trip for an easy out-and-back. With six miles needed at tempo, I planned to run two miles for a warm-up, six miles at pace, and then a 2-mile cool down. But leave it to me to destroy that theory right away. With adrenaline pumping I found myself running way too fast along the boardwalk posting a 7:36 and 7:40 for the first two-miles. So I decided to run the first six miles at tempo. My marathon tempo pace should be under 8:00/mile but preferably around 7:50/mile. So I proceeded to post a 7:44, 7:53, 7:45 and 7:54 through the first six miles. Each of the final four miles were also run at a fairly decent pace (8:03, 8:01, 8:08 and 8:26). With the temperature hovering around 73 degrees throughout the run I could not help but feel pleased with today’s performance. As much as I hate the sun, it was also very sunny throughout.
When we finished and got cleaned up, Becky and I decided to walk up the boards to have a nice breakfast at the Dough Roller, where I treated myself to a sausage, egg and cheese omelet. Afterwards we walked back to the inlet where we set up camp on the beach for a nap and some ocean time. The waves were fairly rough but the water was magnificent. No day in Ocean City is complete without stopping off at the Under ArmourOutlet where I picked up a couple great deals.
With today’s run I also officially put August, 2015 in the books as my highest monthly mileage run total, surpassing March, 2007. In addition I reached two additional milestones by hitting 700 miles for this year and got my streak to 100 consecutive days. I can’t think of a better way to put the lid on the first half of training and I look forward to what the next 8 weeks have in store for me.
Arriving at the Inlet
The early crowd
Heading North on the Boards
Out on the Street
Almost to the turnaround
Quick Selfie Break
Back on the Boards – South
The Big Omelet
A Duck Selfie
Better Late Than Never Saturday, August 29, 2015
Sometimes the post is simply about the fact that finding the time to post gets away from you. When I began this website on July 5 to promote my now very soon to be published book, I committed to a daily blog. So far, so good. Only one night have I not found the time to get my post up and ready for reading. A little late tonight, but better late than never. So why the lateness?
Well, today simply got away from me. And it happened in a hurry. Initially I had planned on getting up by 6:30 to do my planned 4-miler before having to head over to the Pony League to umpire a double beginning at 9:00 a.m. But a long workweek and a late night last night forced me to sleep in a bit to get some extra rest for the day I had in front of me. (Side Note: we rented Still Alice last night and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Very sad and a real eye opener to me about Alzeimer’s Disease. I give it a thumbs up, if my review means anything.)
Starting the first of two ballgames this morning behind the plate, I at least avoided the hotter temperatures that arrived during the second game. I did the second one out on the bases, but four hours of umpiring in the heat then led to a late lunch and a quick afternoon nap. I did finally get outside for a mid-afternoon 4-miler and decided to run the City Park route to maximize my time in the shade. I decided to take it easy with a 10-miler on the schedule for tomorrow. Not sure, but I think I was dehydrated from earlier in the day and battled a headache while on the run. Which I did do comfortably, minus a somewhat throbbing headache. This evening included church service and then over to Perdue Stadium for game 1 of the final home stand for our hometown Delmarva Shorebirds. The evening was capped off not only with a nicely wrapped 3-0 shutout for the good guys, but a fireworks show under a full moon.
Nothing too exciting for you, the reader, but I will have a unique run to report on tomorrow. Something a little different in order to keep things interesting. One thing I’ve found is that the more variety one can build into marathon training, the better. It keeps you fresh and avoids the inevitable boredom and burnout when running the same routes over and over again. And not to worry, I’ll take some pictures. Much like I did today and have posted them below. As I said, better late than never.
A Bird Bomb!
Fireworks against a full moon.
2 Grand! Friday, August 28, 2015
In a bit of a continuation from last night’s post, I want to share with my readers something I intended to share when I began writing yesterday’s post. The fact that ended up slipping my mind was that on Tuesday evening, August 25 this website reached the 2,000 visitor plateau. Not that I’m going to break any world records or anything like that, but with the site launch taking place on July 5, I was impressed to reach 1,000 visitors in less than a month on July 29. Being able to continue that trend through not quite my second month is a testament to you, the reader. Once again, and I cannot say it enough– THANK YOU!
In keeping with some facts and figures I’m also approaching some big numbers as my running streak has continued. The streak has reached 98 consecutive days. That has helped me to currently have my second highest monthly mileage total and if the weekend goes as planned, August will take over as my highest monthly running total ever. Up until this weekend that previous high total was 137.75 miles that I ran back in March, 2007. If I get in all of my miles through Monday I will finish this month with 149.3 miles. In addition, my current pace has me finishing the year with 1,054.5 miles which will surpass my all-time best year by 99.5 miles. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Just exploring the possibilities.
As far as my training is concerned, this weekend will complete the 8th week of training and Sunday will mark the official halfway point. With 58 days remaining before the starting gun in Washington, D.C. I near the second half of my training with mixed emotions. On one hand I am anxious about what lays before me. In another way I am afraid that I am not doing enough and will run out of time, wondering if I will be prepared. I am encouraged by some recent workouts and the progress I’ve already made. And I am happy about still having eight weeks to enjoy the process. As I leaf back through the photos and the posts I’ve already done, I cannot help but smile and realize, once again, that the process itself is really the bulk of the enjoyment of running in a marathon. It is definitely different training than it is running the event, but there are things that take place and that you experience in training that you do not get on race day. I have tried very hard to simply enjoy the ride. I believe I have done that to this point, and I hope to continue that as I enter the last weekend of week 8. I look forward to week 9 and the possibilities of hitting 3,000 visitors by October. Knowing my loyal readers, I know we will get there together.
A Pizza Night Thanks Thursday, August 27, 2015
Shortly after moving to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, my wife Becky and I started a weekly tradition of having pizza night. Typically every Thursday we will have pizza for dinner. It gives us something to look forward to each week as we both love pizza. We try to mix it up between cooking store-bought pizzas and ordering from different businesses around town. But usually we end up either doing the store bought or getting it from Pat’s Pizza over by Salisbury University. Although we can argue about who has the best pizza in town, we’ve pretty much settled on Pat’s being right up there with our favorite pizza of all-time. Oddly, that honor goes to Nathan’s Hot Dogs located in the New York New York Hotel and Casino in Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. I truly believe if I could pick only one food to eat the rest of my life it would probably be pizza.
Which brings me to the real topic for the night. I must reach out to my readers once again and express my extreme gratitude for you and the fact that you spend a little bit of your time each day reading about what I have to say. It is truly an honor to write my thoughts and feelings for others to share as I take this trek along the pathway of life.
Yesterday I wrote about training in the silence of the morning with nobody around, but the truth is, even if you’re not there, you, the reader, motivate me. I feel as though I need to continue to push myself and my limits. I do this for me in large part and that is how it should be. But I also do it because I know, from looking at my site statistics on a daily basis that there are others watching. You may not be on the track or standing alongside the road. You may not interact with me at all. To those of you who have reached out to me, written me, or shared comments on here, I thank you. To those who haven’t, I know you’re there. I feel your support and I treasure every single one of you, known and unknown. I see you popping in from all over the country, in other nations and at all hours of the night. I appreciate you. I thank you. I am stronger with you. I know that when I am getting after it, I’ve got people who I may not even know rooting for me. Interested to see what the next twist or turn may be. Even the casual reader, who may not have the slightest interest in hearing what I have to say, I thank you for stopping by. Rooting against me? That’s o.k. too. I’d rather have someone reading and rooting for my failure than to have nobody care at all.
So on this Pizza Night, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’d buy you a slice if I could.
When No One is Watching
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
I could probably sum up this post with a quote from the late, great John Wooden, who said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
Dramatic pause to let that sink in…..
I spent this morning building character.What makes a man rise before dawn, lace up a pair of running shoes and head out the door to put in 7.7 miles while blasting already tired quads with a series of ten 400 meter repeats?What drives a person to not quit, cut short, or slow down during the workout in order to make the time go by quicker and easier?I spent the time shortly after sunrise questioning in my mind why I would choose to punish myself, in a good way, while forcing myself to run even harder when things got difficult.It caused me to think back to the days in high school and college when I relied upon coaches and teammates to put the pressure on me to dig deeper and find that next gear.To ignore the pain and press onward.But on this cool and clear morning, there were no such screams of encouragement from a coaching staff.There were no peer pressure induced shouts from teammates telling me to pick it up.There was only me.There were geese.There are always geese on the Eastern Shore.But they were more interested in grabbing breakfast. The hungry geese, and me. Uncertain whether my legs would rebound from a long run over the weekend that took more of a toll than I had anticipated. So much so, that I backed off the gas pedal and decreased my anticipated mileage totals both Monday and Tuesday. I was hoping for a rebound-type performance. I knew that with the number of intervals needed today I would need to go out of the gate slowly and gradually increase my speed. There were the thoughts, fresh from last evening on cadence. There was a focus and a desire to come away from my run healthy and with some sense of satisfaction of a job well done.
And there was silence. And eerie silence that began the moment the door shut behind me and I ventured into the darkness of the morning. The air was a cool, autumn-like 63 degrees. With teachers and coaches beginning school I was able to regain the use of a track that hadn’t been on in three weeks. As I got into the workout I gained momentum. That momentum carried me to negative and even splits on each lap except one (1:46, 1:44, 1:42, 1:42, 1:40, 1:40, 1:39, 1:38, 1:39, 1:39). With each passing lap I got stronger despite the fatigue returning into my quads midway through. Nobody would have known if I just backed off or took it easy. But that’s not how I’m built. Summoning all I could from deep within my conscience I pushed myself through barriers of my mind and finished strong. As I departed the track and hit the streets for my cool down, a certain sense of satisfaction overwhelmed me that on days like today, it’s when character is built and enhanced. And done at a time when no one was watching.
Rofo at sunrise
A hungry audience
Cadence Tuesday, August 25, 2015
No, not this Cadence. But what a great scene from the 2001 movie Shallow Hal, starring Jack Black. No, the cadence I speak of has everything to do with running. The beauty of being alive in what is perhaps the greatest technical age known to man is the number of technology tools that we have at our disposal. Some might say we have too much technology. I don’t know about that, but I do know that big brother is definitely watching. I also know that the world as we know it, has gotten smaller. Information is readily available and at our finger tips 24/7/265.
In terms of running, it is amazing to me that even in the fourteen years I’ve been running, the advances and strides that have been made technologically are astounding. For instance, in my book I wrote about having an mp3 player during one of my races. Now granted, that actually refers to the file types, but we actually called our iPods and iPhones mp3 players back then. The advancement of the telephone technology and the advent of apps have taken us to the next level, to the “Nth” degree. Tonight’s post is all about cadence and the fact that my training has progressed to making sure I know what my step cadence is on a particular run. Not only can I track and log the time I am out on the road and the mileage, but in 2015 I am able to garner cadence, stop time, times spent within zones of minutes per mile, elevation and can even electronically track the number of miles run in a particular shoe.
With the use of my Runmeter app, I am able to gain invaluable information about each and every run that I could never have imagined possible just five years ago. Lately, I have become less worried about my actual time splits and I have focused on increasing my cadence. My cadence is the number of steps or strides taken per minute. After reading up on this topic on Runner’s World I have come to learn that elite runners will have a cadence around 180/minute. I have also been eyeing my cadence after runs to see how I fall and what I have learned is that when I am able to keep my cadence over 160 steps/minute my times drop drastically. It seems simple enough. You simply increase the number of steps you take over the course of a run. This takes extreme concentration and commitment, which includes your breathing. I have found that if I increase my breathing tempo and shorten the length of my strides I can usually get my cadence over the 160 mark. Every time I have carried that number for an extended period or periods of time on a run my times dropped drastically.
Below I have two runs of the same route, my RoFo 3. Take note on the first one where my cadence stayed at, near or above the 160 mark and as a result I was able to run the 3 miles in 21:36 (7:12/mile). On graph two, my cadence rarely jumped near or over 160 with a bulk of my time being in the 150-159 range and my overall time was 25:16 (8:24/mile). These are two extreme examples and there are other factors (and a few anomalies) that play into this data like weather and terrain, but in large part, as I’ve been studying my times during training I have taken note of my cadence. Tomorrow, as I hit the road for speed day, I will certainly be concentrating on increasing my cadence, especially on the speed portion of the workout so I can once again put this theory to the test.
High Cadence Run
Low Cadence Run
Enjoying the Grind
Monday, August 24, 2015
Don’t let me fool you. When I’m asked about my training, I may lead on that it’s difficult, or that I’m sore and training is taking its toll on me, or it made for a long weekend. Certainly doing 16 miles yesterday and chewing up over two hours of my day was difficult, it did make for a long day, and made for a tough morning today. But despite all the things that I can point to that make it seem like it’s pure misery, I have to admit that I love the grind of it all. We runners are a different kind of breed. We enjoy beating up our bodies and seeing how far we can push the envelope. It’s why after a four-year hiatus of running marathons, I’m back to the grind. It’s why despite the idiocy of trying to keep a run streak going while training for a marathon, I am convinced I need to keep it going (I’m up to 94 consecutive days by the way). I’m far enough removed from it that I can openly admit this now, but I actually liked football camps. I liked seeing how much I could withstand. There’s something deep within me that drives me and motivates me to overcome the obstacles of self-doubt and the need to stop.
As I entered week 8 of 16 of training today I awoke with a body tired beyond belief. Yesterday’s run took its toll on my body, which is four years removed from having to be put through something like this. Reluctantly, common sense took over and I hit the snooze button. The plan was to take an extra 12 hours to recuperate. It was the smart thing to do. When I got home from work this evening I went out on a recovery run of 2 miles and my legs were dead. When I finished I described them as ground beef. There really is no other way to describe how they felt. No life. No juice. Pure fatigue. You know something else? I loved it. I loved that it was 82 degrees and humid. I loved that it took every ounce of energy to keep my legs churning forward and loved that when I was done I questioned my sanity. It would have been too easy to call the streak off, rest for tomorrow morning, and suffer a little less today. Not a chance.
I have to remind myself of one simple fact each and every day. When I finally get to race day on October 25, it will come and go. Just like Christmas morning. But the journey getting there? That’s the fun part. That’s the part everyone wants to get over with. Then they finish the race and there’s nothing waiting for them. No schedule. No regimen. No speed sessions. There is an emptiness that will come on October 26. I know that, so I live to enjoy every single day that I can lace up my shoes and hit the roads with a plan and a focus. Sixteen weeks is a long time. It is a grind. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.