Breaking It Down
Sunday, September 13, 2015

It’s finally here.  The NFL gets into full swing today and I could not be happier.  Although my team, the Oakland Raiders have had a rough decade or so, I enter the new season with hope springing eternal.  On opening day I find it appropriate to break down today’s tempo run like a football coach scouting film and looking at tendencies.  The plan called for a 12-mile tempo run that included a 3-mile warm-up and a 3-mile cool down.  In the middle would be 6-miles run at what I hope is my marathon pace (tempo).

I headed out the door today a little later than I had hoped.  Training has been wearing me down and admittedly I was not very motivated to get this “shorter” run in.  Incidentally, you know you’re at the heart of marathon training when you refer to a 12-mile run as a shorter run.  To simplify the run for you, the first three miles should have been run between 45 seconds and 1-minute slower than my intended marathon pace.  I have chosen 7:49/mile as my marathon pace, which would get me qualified for the Boston Marathon.  In reality, I am not really attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Deep in the recesses of my mind I feel like those days have passed me by.  But I figure if I shoot for the stars and work hard toward that particular goal, it can only benefit me to ensure that I have a successful event which is now just six short weeks away.

With the warm-up and cool down, my mile splits should then have come in around 8:50/mile, with six miles sandwiched in the middle at 7:49/mile.  Let’s see how I did:

Mile 1:  7:48.  Way too fast.  I knew this when I heard Siri tell me in my headphones from my Runmeter app.  So I focused on slowing down. This can be tricky when you’re running on “feel” and not really monitoring your watch or your app.  I’ll be posting in the next few weeks about running on feel, but for today it was just a matter of hitting that first mile mark and saying, “Hey, slow down. That’s way too fast.”

Mile 2:  8:00.  Still too fast, but I was able to slow the pace enough to make myself at least somewhat happier.  At least there was an “8” in front of the split.

Mile 3:  8:10.  Why can’t I learn to really back off when I need to?  Too late to do anything at this point.  My “tempo” had begun.  Time to up the intensity, and focus on cadence and tempo.

Mile 4:  7:52.  That’s better.  Actually coming within a few seconds of the intended mark.  I thought to myself, “Just keep it right there.  Five more to go.”

Mile 5:  7:51.  Almost a dead even split.  That’s how you do it.  And I moved it in the proper direction toward the split I need to be at.  Felt pretty good at this point.

Mile 6:  7:42.  Finally hit the mark.  Even went slightly under.  Realize I needed to slow down but halfway through the total run, and things are going well.  At least my first three miles haven’t cost me yet.

Mile 7:  7:45.  Slowed down just enough.  Still feeling good.  Glad that the weather is not extremely hot.  The cool breeze is helping.

Mile 8:  7:54.  I’m slowing down and missed the actual mark, but it’s only five seconds.  Still doing well.  Only one more mile at tempo.  Legs are tiring, but still feeling good.

Mile 9:  7:54.  Close enough.  Glad to be able to slow down.  Successful run at this point.  Need to cool down but don’t want to have completely horrible splits the rest of the way.

Mile 10:  8:49.  Go figure.  This is what I should have done the first three miles.  Nothing like a hard tempo run to put you right where you need to be.

Mile 11:  9:07.  Here is where my first three miles have hurt me.  Too slow.  And yet, not terrible.  I just want to finish.

Mile 12:  9:00.  Would have liked that first number to be an “8” but I’ll take it.  I finished strong and at the end of the day, this was a successful tempo run.  Still not sure I’m in Boston qualifying shape, but I don’t think I’m that far off.  The lack of hills around here will hurt me for sure, but with six weeks to go, I’m feeling pretty good.

Heading into week #11 of training I am faced with what amounts to a very difficult three weeks and then it’s time to taper.  I’ve got two more runs of 20+ miles but after today I’m feeling o.k. about my prospects moving forward.  It’s not perfect, but I could be in a lot worse places as far as running is concerned.

As I finish this post up at halftime of the Raider game, that’s more than I can say for my team at the moment.

Run on…

Tempo 12.  Will run this again in two weeks.

Tempo 12. Will run this again in two weeks.

Not bad.  Should have been slower earlier and a tiny bit faster at the end. Good day.

Not bad. Should have been slower earlier and a tiny bit faster at the end. Good day.

Another disappointing season?

Another disappointing season?

No matter what, I'll ALWAYS be a Raider. Win, lose or tie.

No matter what, I’ll ALWAYS be a Raider. Win, lose or tie.

No Cerveza
Saturday, September 12, 2015

I must first begin tonight by apologizing for missing last night’s post.  I had the best of intentions, but Becky and I departed mid-afternoon for Baltimore, where we attended the Baltimore Orioles game against the Kansas City Royals.  My plan was to post something from the car with a 9/11 theme, but I ended up driving both ways and figured that “radio silence” on a solemn day wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.  I did, however, take this video during the 7th inning stretch…

Stunning.  The O’s ended up scoring ten times in the 8th inning, including two grand slams en route to a comeback victory in what would end up being a 4-hour game.  It was a beautiful night weather-wise and as we usually do, we enjoyed ourselves despite not having any alcohol.  Which brings me to the real topic for tonight’s post.

When I began my training for the Marine Corps Marathon on July 5 I did so with the intention of cutting alcohol out until after the marathon.  Sixteen weeks.  The last time I attempted to go alcohol-free was in 2009 when I did so while I trained for the Chicago Marathon.  Back then I successfully navigated seventeen weeks without a drop of beer, whiskey or any other type of alcohol.  I write about this experience in my book, and Becky says it makes me sound like an alcoholic.  Let me just say, I am not an alcoholic.  I am someone who enjoys a good hearty beer from time to time.  My favorite is Samuel Adams Octoberfest, which is in season right now.  But I can wait the six weeks that remain until I can crack open a cold one.

Since it has been six years since I attempted to deprive myself of one of life’s simple pleasures, I have to admit that I’ve forgotten how different things can be when you’re not drinking.  There is no better place to witness this than at a sporting event.  Especially at one like last night, where there was a sell-out crowd on hand.  I began to try and calculate just how much alcohol is consumed at an event like this, but the numbers seemed so astronomical that it made my head spin.  As I mentioned, I am not an alcoholic and I really don’t want to sound like I have a drinking problem, but the truth is, I enjoy having a beer while I’m at a ballgame, so last night was one of those times where I was really craving one.  But it takes a whole lot of willpower to cave to the pressure, especially when it is all around you.  At least a dozen times, and probably more, beer vendors came to the top of our section and sat a huge tub of beer (pictured below) right at my feet.  I chuckled quite a bit, especially when I recalled this scene a few times from As Good As It Gets, with Jack Nicholson:

I’m happy to report that I did not give in and did not have a beer.  But I do have to say, in the least judgmental way I possibly can, the world is a much different place when you’re not drinking and everyone around you is drinking.  Early on in training I wondered if I was different when I had a few and my suspicions were confirmed when my wife, of all people, reported to me after we had a picnic one evening where alcohol was served, “you’re not as much fun when you’re not drinking.”  I’m not sure how I feel about that, but at the same time, I’ve witnessed the affects that alcohol can have on people.  Some good.  Some not so good.  And some, well, downright silly.  With my tongue-in-cheek I remarked to Becky on the way out of the stadium last night, “this country has a serious alcohol problem.”  I wasn’t being mean and again, was not judging.  But I think that we all should put down the bottle every once in awhile to see how things look from the other side.  It definitely gives you a new perspective on what you may look like to those who choose to never drink.  That may not matter to you, and that’s cool too.  But the important think is if you do choose to drink, you do so responsibly.  Last night’s freak show was almost enough to make me want to quit for good.  Almost.  I’m coming Octoberfest.  Just six more weeks.

Run on…

Great seats. Beautiful night.

Great seats. Beautiful night.

Temptation Island

Temptation Island

And another...

And another…

Nice Day for a Perg-ism
Thursday, September 10, 2015

6:00 a.m., 73 degrees, 73% humidity.  That is what faced me as I headed out the door for what would only be a 2-mile recovery run this morning.  I continue to prepare for this weekend’s long tempo run, and inch closer to the six week mark remaining until the 40th Marine Corps Marathon.   In what has become a common theme through the first 9+ weeks of training, not much rain, very high humidity and extra warm temperatures.  I had hoped that by now I would experience more of a reprieve from Mother Nature but she’s had  her own ideas.  Aside from a few mornings in the past two weeks where it was bearable, there has been very little to celebrate about the conditions.  Looking at the long-range forecast, I’m not sure that the reprieve I’m hoping for is coming anytime soon.

Although I’ve thought about it many times throughout training, I once again reminded myself this morning of something that my former college football coach, Frank Pergolizzi, famously taught me over twenty years ago.  I can’t recall the exact day or even what year that this happened, but sometime in either 1990 or 1991 we were preparing to play in less than ideal weather.  I cannot recall if it was a N’oreaster or perhaps a tropical depression, but I do recall that it had rained for days.  The forecast called for heavy rain to continue and as we went about our preparations, “Coach Perg” told us, “The weather is a UCF.”  When asked what he meant by one of my teammates, Coach Perg replied, “An uncontrollable factor.”

It was one of the many lessons taught to me by the man who I was privileged enough to call Coach for three years.  Not only was he the head football coach, but for one year of my playing career he was my positional coach with the secondary.  Although I haven’t talked to him since I was in graduate school, I have exchanged a few words over the years via email.  When I did a little research on him tonight for this post I came to realize that he is still working as an Athletic Director for Husson University in Bangor, Maine.  When he arrived at St. Francis College in 1989, I was a sophomore safety on the football team that had just gone 1-9 the previous season.  Over the next three years, under his leadership, our program was turned into a winner.  In 1991 he led us to the now defunct Atlantic Collegiate Football Conference Championship.   But more importantly, he helped me to realize what it means to be a good teammate, a responsible citizen and countless other lessons like “God, family and then football.”

It never ceases to amaze me how many of the Perg-ism’s and examples that I still use when I am coaching or counseling others, doing training at work, or simply for my own personal use, like I did this morning.  The lesson in all of this is that you just never know the impact you may have on others or how far reaching that impact may be or how long it may last.  I continue to recall many of the lessons I learned from the man we affectionately called Coach Perg.

Run on…

1991 ACFC Championship Ring

1991 ACFC Championship Ring

St. Francis

St. Francis

1991

1991

Valued Possession...

Valued Possession…

A Pleasant Surprise
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Last night before turning in I did a little stretching and light massage of the area that was giving me problems just above my right knee. I also popped a few ibuprofen and amazing when I awoke this morning my knee was feeling pretty good.  Almost equally amazing was that after I went out and began my speed session, my legs continued to feel like they had sludge in them.  Once again, I feel that my age is catching up to me a bit as I struggle with my recovery period.  For yet another amazing development, I decided mid-run to not push it and pulled back my workout a bit and did four of the suggested six intervals for the day.  Surprisingly (not really amazing), I was able to put together some decent splits.  Although I was disappointed overall in running less miles that I had intended, I was fairly pleased with my ability to recognize when my body needed a break and adjusted accordingly.  I think in the long run I will be better off for it.

When I finished I realized that despite struggling I came through it without any further damage to my knee and in fact, as I went about my routine throughout the day I noticed no pain in the knee.  My body, and my legs in particular are definitely fatigued so I will continue to keep the pace slower and keep the miles reduced through the rest of the week leading up to my long run this weekend.

Short post tonight, as it’s also the eve of fantasy football season, and I’ve got a draft I gotta get ready for.  Play on.

Run on…

Beautiful "day" for a run.

Beautiful “day” for a run.

Now you see me...

Now you see me…

The recovery drink of champions

The recovery drink of champions


First Si
gns of Trouble?
Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Day 65 of formal training.  Day 109 in a row.  Other than general fatigue, as I wrote about in yesterday’s post, things have been going well.  Today, around lunch time I noticed some pain just above my right knee.  It’s something I’ve felt before.  A few years ago, I developed some tendinitis in the right knee.  At that time I was able to run through it with some icing treatment, and some stretching.  But I also had to take some time off to allow my body to heal.  At this time, I am not ready to give up on my streak and I would not call the pain debilitating.  However, it is a stark reminder how quickly a person’s body can break down in the heart of training.  I will take a good hard look at the schedule over the next few days and consider some adjustments if I deem it necessary.  With tomorrow’s speed workout on the docket and sore legs, I am torn about what to do tomorrow morning.  Typically, when the first sign of trouble arrives it is best to head it off at the pass.  It may require me to head out tomorrow with the plan to adjust on the fly, or it may require me to test the water just a little bit more and see where I am after the workout. 

The toughest part of any training regimen is to know when the say when.  My history tells me that I am going to have a hard time backing off, even though my brain is telling me that backing off just a bit now will save me from additional trouble later.  As I look back at the beginning of training and the issues I was having with my hip, I successfully was able to “run through” those issues.  Given that history, it doesn’t look good for me to back down. 

Today also marked a new type of weather day as dense fog had rolled in prior to my getting out the door.  I had just remarked over the weekend that I’ve only run in rain twice so far during training.  As the calendar has flipped to September, with October not far behind, I am hopeful that the cooler temperatures are not far off in the future.  It would be just my luck to finally get the type of weather I long to run in, and I’ve got the first signs of trouble in my right knee.  Stay tuned, and as always;

Run on…

Fog settling in...

Fog settling in…

Worse in some spots...

Worse in some spots…

Deep Thought
Monday, September 7, 2015

And so we begin Week #10 of training along the path of a sixteen-week training regimen.  The next four weeks will prove to be the toughest stretch of miles and then the tapering will begin.  Looking back on yesterday’s long run I can honestly say that I am pleased with where I am in training, although there are some harsh realities for me to face.

Let me preface what I am about to say by saying that there are countless people in this world doing amazing things every day.  People are overcoming disease and hardships that I cannot even imagine.  There are athletes accomplishing wondrous things that I can only dream of doing.  I am nothing special.  As my book title and website title suggests, I am a regular man.  I wake up and go to a job.  I work long, hard hours and I earn every cent of what my employer pays me and then some.  I do yard work, some light housework (don’t laugh Becky) and I do what I can to maintain a comfortable lifestyle and try to enjoy living as much as I can.  I go to the beach.  I play with my dogs.  I read.  I write.  I volunteer and I am active in other sports including youth ice hockey and baseball.  I am a fan.  I am a godparent.  I am a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, an uncle and a friend.

I am also getting older.  Today was another reminder to me that I haven’t attempted to do what I’m going to do on October 25 for over four years.  My legs are sore.  My body is tired.  My mind is tired.  My desire is there to complete the marathon distance once again, but I question almost daily whether this will be my last.  The time that is necessary to properly prepare is immense and it is very time consuming.  It doesn’t leave much time for much else, even though I have tried to strike a balance.  It has been tough.  Certainly not as tough as those things I mentioned earlier, but difficult nonetheless.  Having lounged around today, taking it easy, I have been able to recover as much as possible as I prepare for another work week and another week of hard training.  I will be subjected to the normal amount of stress, and I will come through the week as I always do.  I will also get in my runs.  I will continue to build up and stockpile my miles on the streets and get myself mentally and physically ready to cover the distance of 26.2 miles.  That will take place in a little more than 47 days.  I’m certain I will finish my tenth marathon and publish my book.  I’m still enjoying the ride, but I’m tired.

It’s the fatigue that makes the next four weeks the hardest.  I need to continue to find ways to push through the mental and physical barriers and get on the other side.  Nobody said it would be easy and I certainly expected this.  As I lounged on the couch flipping through the channels this afternoon, I came across one of my favorite movies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  In it, one of the most inspirational things is the Life motto that flashes on the screen when Walter takes off for Greenland.  It is also emblazoned on the wallet that Sean (Sean Penn) give to Walter (Ben Stiller).  It reads:

To see the world, things dangerous to come to,
to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other,
and to feel.  That is the purpose of life.

It made me ponder about my life’s purpose?  It seems that right now, it’s all about training and running in this marathon.  The reality is that this day will come and go, but the question will remain.  Deep thinking for a lazy Labor Day holiday.  Good thing I’ve got some time on the road tomorrow morning to ponder the question further.  I’m just too tired to think about it much more tonight.

Run on…

And if you haven’t seen the scene, here it is: