Take the Long Way Home
Sunday, September 20, 2015

Day #77 of Marine Corps Marathon training is in the books which leaves just five short weeks until the big day.  But today was somewhat of a big day in its own right.  For the second time in three weeks the schedule called for a 20 miler so I decided to head back to Delaware and complete the same run I completed two weeks ago.  The run would begin at the Delaware Seashore State Park and take me all the way down the coast and end at the inlet in Ocean City, MD.

Today, the Seashore Striders were holding a sprint triathlon that covered most of the Bethany Beach area, making for a much more difficult run traffic-wise than two weeks ago.  We noticed immediately that this would be different as we were unable to get into the State Park area because it was blocked off so Becky simply pulled off the road just a bit down the road from where I began a few weeks ago and I walked back to begin the run.  It’s always nice to run with lots of people and activity going on, but this was a bit much.  Not only did I spend the first 4 miles of the run dodging cyclists who were speeding straight at me often, but I dodged a number of treacherous intersections, despite Delaware’s Finest manning most intersections on the way through Bethany Beach.

Other obstacles to a great run today included the fact that thousands of visitors converged on Ocean City this weekend for Delmarva Bike Week.  As a motorcycle owner myself, I didn’t mind the fact that for three hours straight I saw an endless stream of bikes driving at me, but much like Labor Day Weekend when I did this run before, the crowds were very dense making things much more congested than they will be in a few weeks.

The fact that I skated for an hour and a half yesterday and awoke with sore legs and feet made this a challenging run under normal circumstances.  Toss in the fact that the temperature ratcheted up to 76 degrees, coupled with 95% humidity and I am not all that upset that I did the run almost five minutes slower than I did two weeks ago.  The purpose for the run today was to get the miles in and my training plan called for me to take it easy anyway.  In a weird sort of way, I was almost glad that I had tough conditions and sore legs because it almost forced me to pull back and take it slow.  Just because it was slower doesn’t mean that it was a cake-walk, however.  The weather beat me down and I struggled all day long battling the sun that came out on and off.  And as fast as I could get fluids into my body, I was sweating it right back out.  All in all, I can’t say I’m disappointed because I expected to slide backwards a bit today.  The fact that I did so, and almost pulled off a 3:00 hour run (3:01:59) was money in the bank.  I won’t declare myself ready just yet, but I’m not close.

Before departing Ocean City, we hit breakfast at The Dough Roller, Quiet Storm for some shopping, checked out the Bike Week tents and Under Armour on the long way home.

Run on…

Police were everywhere, right from the start.
Police were everywhere, right from the start.
A bit misleading,. I was about 7 miles into my run here.
A bit misleading,. I was about 7 miles into my run here.
I called this one a 5-0 selfie...
I called this one a 5-0 selfie…
Breakfast (at lunch time)
Breakfast (at lunch time)
Quiet Storm. The glasses were a sign of things to come as both the Pirates and Raiders (my teams) picked up wins.
Quiet Storm. The glasses were a sign of things to come as both the Pirates and Raiders (my teams) picked up wins. Ps. I didn’t buy them.
Encouraging. Today overlay of 2 weeks ago. Stronger near the end.
Encouraging. Today overlay of 2 weeks ago. Stronger near the end.

A New Season
Saturday, September 19, 2015

There are a few things that are major parts of my life.  Running, obviously, and work.  But I also have remained involved in the sporting world by umpiring baseball in the warm months and officiating ice hockey during the cold months.  I have been umpiring for 11 years, but ice hockey has been a part of my life since 1996 when I began skating as an official in Somerset, Pennsylvania at a rink that is no longer there, Ice TRACS.  Today, I officially entered my 20th season as an amateur ice hockey official by attending the required annual seminar.  Over the years, like running, ice hockey has provided me with a lot of memories and has taken me to places I never dreamed I’d go.  It’s also provided me with the opportunity to meet a lot of people from many different walks of life.  Officiating, by nature, is a difficult and uncomfortable situation because as I have described to many people previously, every time we raise our arms, half the building doesn’t like us.

Over the years I have seen many changes to the game, some for the better, and some not so much. But to keep this on topic, the seminar is a two-part event.  There is classroom instruction along with a closed book test and there is an on-ice portion.  The on-ice session can last anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on where you are and what level you are taking.  For us today, in Easton, MD our session lasted a little over an hour and a half.  Unlike most years, however, today was a little tougher.  Normally there are 30-40 officials on the ice and we go through progression drills that cover the gamut of skating.  What a lot of people don’t know is that officials skate completely different (or they should) from the players in the games.  We have to be able to maintain our energy and don’t get breaks like the players.  Often we work multiple games in a row as well.  Today, our seminar included just 11 of us with 4-5 instructors.  One of the instructors was NHL linesman Tim Nowak.  It’s always a plus to get instruction from guys who have made it to the highest levels of the game.  It was also nice to have such small numbers.  But the flip side of that was that we skated a little bit more than we normally skate.  As someone who loves to be on the ice, I would not normally mind, but with a 20-mile training run planned for tomorrow it wasn’t the best timing.

Unfortunately for me, with hockey season lasting so long, and with marathon training schedules lasting four months or more, it’s always been nearly impossible for me to avoid crossing over into one season or another.  So I press on tomorrow with some tired legs, and with sore feet.  I’ve always rationalized that when I’m at the marathon I have to run on tired legs anyway.  So tomorrow, I’ll get to practice what I’ll face in less than 40 days.  Welcome to a new season.

Run on…

Friday Throwback #1
Friday, September 18, 2015

The daily grind continues as this morning was training day #75 in the books.  An easy-paced 3-miler that was about as uneventful as they get.  Much like the grind of training, keeping up a blog on a daily (almost) basis can be a grind as well.  Topics come at me out of nowhere and usually I have no problem deciding what to write.  But sometimes my mind draws a blank.  Especially after a difficult week of work.  It seems that many things are converging at once and along with it the stress that comes along with it.  In addition to the endless supply of things to do at my day job, there is the onset of hockey season.  Tomorrow I will take my classroom/on-ice seminar.  Training reaches its apex over the next two weeks and fatigue is definitely becoming a factor.

Struggling tonight to find a topic, I decided that for the final six Fridays of training, with tonight being #1, I would give my readers a “throwback” to a post I wrote during my blogging days.  I kept a blog that I started in March, 2007 and posted my final entry in February, 2013.  Some of what I wrote during that time has found its way into my book.  Of course, it has been updated or re-written in a different style.  Some of it is verbatim depending on the entry.  You’ll have to buy the book to see what made it.  If you’re interested, you can also head over to that blog to see some of those old posts.  As I read through some of them, just like reading through the book for the fourth or fifth time while final editing, it is interesting for me to see how my writing has evolved over the years.  But the general style has remained very much the same.

Call it laziness or call it a lack of topic.  Whatever the case, your Friday throwback appears below.  I picked one of my more memorable posts because I firmly believe what I wrote on August 3, 2008 in an entry I called It’s All About Passion.

Here is that entry, 7+ years later:

Sunday, August 3, 2008
It’s All About Passion

According to dictionary.com the word passion is defined as “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate”. That and eleven other definitions.

As I grow older and wiser by the day, I have learned a lot of different things. Running has clarified a lot of what I have learned; be it about sports or life in general. I think that what I have learned the most through my running is something that has driven me throughout my entire life. Only recently, however, has it crystallized for me. I have learned that it is passion that is the driving force behind what we do. Without it, we are wasting our time. George Sheehan wrote an amazing article entitled “Why Do I Run?” that is a classic article that all runners should read. The message contained in it is about passion. All of us, runners and non-runners should ask ourselves that very question. Why do I ______ (insert what you’re doing here)? If you can’t partially answer that question with the response, “It is something I’m passionate about”, then you should move onto something that does make you passionate.

I have long been a proponent that motivation is something that has to come from within. External forces like other people or music or situations can only motivate you so much. Your motivation has to come largely from within. And it is my belief that passion is the fuel for that fire. Why do you do anything that you do? It’s a critical question.

I run because I have a goal. That oft-stated goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Plain and simple. I use this blog to help my personal motivation. I realize that in all honesty, those who may stumble across this blog or be a regular reader to it, could probably care less about my situation. Perhaps you are reading this to fuel your motivation. I don’t know. But I do know that I am passionate about running. I am passionate about teaching, my job, officiating, umpiring and all the things that I do in my life. When I golf I want to be the best I can be. When I am organizing an event at work or changing a process or negotiating a contract I want to do the best I can do. Why? Because I am passionate about it.

I believe that far too many people who roam this great planet have lost that passion about what they are doing. They are easy to recognize. They are the ones complaining about something all the time. They want to take the easy road to success (don’t get me started on success…that definition could take months to dissect). My point is, too many people feel stuck and place themselves in that position. Instead of finding what they can be passionate about or look for ways to improve their situations by being excited about something, they would rather blame someone else or some other circumstance for where they are. I feel sorry for these people. Have I figured it all out? No, not even close. But I do feel that through running I have become a more complete person. I feel that through running I have been able to put a lot of everything else in my life into perspective. I have learned perhaps, that it is all about the passion and recognizing that when it’s not there, it’s time to move on. I am certain that someday my running days will be over. But for now, the fire still burns. And that fire has a name.

Run on…

Running on Feel
Thursday, September 17, 2015

Headed out the door this morning for a simple and slow 3-miler.  My entire focus right now from running, to eating, to resting, is focused almost solely on the 20-miler coming this Sunday.  It’s an important run.  It will be one of two 20+ mile runs that I need to do before the big day.  This morning was simply about getting the miles in, staying healthy, and not burning myself out.  It’s always amazing to me how there are some days when I plan to run fast and I can’t seem to reach the speed I need to and on other days I plan to run slow and as I get the miles in they are must faster and feel much easier than they should.  Today was one of those days.

I planned to “take it easy” after yesterday’s hard run but as I hit my first mile I had done a 7:45 split.  If you recall from this post, among others, my Boston qualifying time is 7:49 so I was a bit surprised with how easy the first mile felt.  I told myself to slow down but I figured I’d just maintain what I was doing because it felt somewhat easy.  Amazingly, but not surprisingly I did the second mile in an exact even split of 7:45.  Like Forrest Gump said, “Since I’d gone that far, I figured I might as well just keep on goin,” so that’s what I did and ran the final mile in 7:44.

Any runner will tell you, that running splits at that same even pace is very hard to do.  Pacing in general is not as easy as it seems.  It requires some skill to be able to do it consistently, especially on changing terrain.  I do have the fortunate benefit of running at mostly the same elevation for most of my runs with very little change, but it is still very difficult.  It requires a lot of running on feel.  What does that mean?  It pretty much means what it says.  You have to have a certain feel for how fast you’re going and know when to speed up a bit, and when to slow down.  It’s all about constant monitoring and gauging one’s effort to realize when you’ve slowed down or sped up too fast.  I have found that even after running consistently since 2002, it is one of the most difficult things to do without a watch.

I run every day with a watch on, but if I’m being completely honest, I rarely will look at my watch to see how fast I’m going.  There are two good reasons for this.  First, I don’t use the stopwatch function on my watch unless I’m running track splits.  I rely on my phone app, Runmeter and it is usually running in the background on my phone.  The only time I know how fast I’ve done a mile is after the mile when Runmeter tells me what my split was.  The second reason is if I’m looking at my watch it’s to see what time it is as I’m usually more concerned with making sure I’m not late for work than I am how fast or slow I’m running my splits.  I firmly believe that I have become much better at running even splits, based on feel, because I don’t constantly “clock watch.”  It has created an environment where I have to rely on my body and brain to tell me that I’ve fallen off a certain pace or if I’m going too fast.  It’s actually kind of comical.  I have tons of technology available and on my person when I’m on the roads.  But it’s my internal clock and running on feel that sees me through most any day.  Let’s hope I don’t hit the snooze this weekend.

Run on…

It’s All About the Run
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I have no wisdom to share tonight.  I don’t have an analogy to make between running and some other life activity.  I only have the run.  As I close in on the Marine Corps Marathon (just 38 more days), I realize that I only have a handful or really important days left.  Today was one of my self-proclaimed two most important days of the week.  With just over five weeks remaining these two days take on even more significance.  At this point in training you want to squeeze as much benefit out of these days as possible. So I ventured out in the dark again this morning to begin one of my final five interval days.  Today’s intervals called for the shorter 400 meter variety; ten of them.  Interestingly, if you had given me 10-400’s to do the first week of training it would have wiped me out.  But as it is today, I looked forward to this “shorter” workout.

I would end up running 7 miles total as I trimmed my cool down miles down to just one mile instead of the recommended two.  I’ve been doing that to compensate for my running streak where I will run on days that are supposed to be rest days.  Nonetheless I did the two-mile warm up and then hit the Parkside High track.  I began slow but steady and posted intervals of 1:41, 1:42 and 1:40 before I cracked a sub-1:40 on my fourth interval at 1:39.  I paid for it on the next two intervals and slipped back to a 1:42 and a 1:42.  Irritated with myself and with four to go I dug down knowing I wanted to finish strong and posted a 1:37.  With three to go, while I was running my half lap cool down I felt the slightest tightness begin to creep into my left hamstring.  Although I was concerned I did what I could to run the next lap at least partially all-out after testing my leg to see if it could handle a full sprint.  As a result I posted another 1:42, which once again aggravated me.  Angered, but not defeated, and knowing that I only have so many speed workouts left, I vowed to not go over 1:40 again on my last two intervals.  I was concerned because it was a cool morning and although my legs were warmed up by this point, it wouldn’t take much for the slight tightness in that hamstring to yank tight and put me on the shelf for a few days.

I carefully but quickly ran the 9th interval and was pleased to see a 1:39 when I finished and decided that my last lap would be my fastest.  I dug down and willed my way through and when I crossed the finish line I had done my fastest interval of the day at 1:36.  Incidentally that is just three seconds off my fastest 400 time of 1:33.

I’m happy to report that I did no further damage to my leg and finished my workout just in time to get myself ready for work, but not before I had a well-deserved container of chocolate milk (the recovery drink of champions).  As I embark on the last four days of week #11 I can say that the speed portion of this week was a success.  I will now begin the process of building up to yet another 20-mile run this coming Sunday.  The good news for me is that part of that preparation includes eating lots of carbs over the next few days.  Thursday’s pizza night is now square in my sights.  But for today, it was all about the run.

Run on…

9.16_1

52 degrees and a great looking sky. Perfect start!

A different angle

A different angle

Time to hit the track.

Time to hit the track.

Mid-workout

Mid-workout

The evidence

The evidence

You know what it's all about...

You know what it’s all about…

Entitlement
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

entitlement (noun): 1. the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something   2. the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something

While out on my 4-mile run this morning, in mostly darkness, I got to thinking about entitlement.  Not because I feel entitled to anything.  Quite the opposite.  For the most part I have stayed away from offering too many of my opinions on this website, because I don’t think people care much for others opinions.  But I get the feeling that most of us can agree that we have become an entitled society in so many ways.  I have personally witnessed this.  I have seen it in the workplace, as well as in the sports environment.  For this purposes, since this is a blog about my book which is about running, we will keep the discussion to the sports arena.  Although I could probably go on for pages and pages about workplace entitlement if I wanted to.  But I digress.

For me, it probably started when I began coaching baseball and football for high school athletes in the late 1990’s.  There are a number of times that I can think of where student athletes felt they deserved a certain amount of playing time, or to be treated differently because of their talent.  Instead of maximizing their abilities and working harder to become even better, I would see athletes taking plays off, dogging it in practice or being plain lazy but not expecting the consequences of less playing time or to be corrected.  Over the years, as I began to officiate ice hockey and get involved in umpiring baseball I saw a lot of the same type of behaviors, only from a different perspective.  Players expecting to receive a break, or be allowed to bend the rules because of their  status in a particular league or on a team.  Individuals who would feel empowered by poor coaching and even worse parenting who supported this type of behavior only accentuated the problem.  Along with this mentality, we have produced less respectful citizens who expect not only things done their way or given to them, but done their way or given to them now.  I believe it is the Internet technology improvements we have seen over the last decade that has only fed this “immediate gratification” mentality.

Which brings me to running.  As I pondered these thoughts this morning, I realized something I think I’ve always known.  You can’t have it that way with running.  There is a process that needs to be followed.  There is no way of making someone faster or more efficient or better as a runner if they don’t work at it.  I may have felt entitled to qualifying for the Boston Marathon back in 2007, but I didn’t meet the qualifying standard.  I wasn’t entitled to anything.  The only thing I was entitled to was the same opportunity to go out and try and qualify again elsewhere.  And that’s how it is in running.  You put one foot in front of the other.  You repeat.  You keep working at getting faster and more efficient.  You either improve or you don’t.  There is nothing anybody can give you or provide you with that can make you better.  It is solely up to you.  I think that is what I love most about this sport.  When I’m out on an easy 4-miler like I was today, or when I’m doing 400 meter repeats like I’ll do tomorrow morning.  It’s up to me.  I have nobody to lean on, place blame on, or feel owed anything by anyone else but me.  I’m not built that way.  I’ll hate myself for what I’m going to put myself through in the morning, but when it’s all said and done, I’ll have my self-respect and know that I went out and earned it.  Whatever it is. Good, bad, ugly.  I will have earned it the hard way.  Nobody gave it to me.  There’s something to be said for that.

Run on…

Sun Comin' Up

Sun Comin’ Up

A little more

A little more

Three Grand!
Monday, September 14, 2015

With just 40 days remaining before the Marine Corps Marathon, I am happy to report that my training seems to be right on track.  In addition, as I posted after hitting the 1,000 and 2,000 visitor milestones on this website I am very happy to report that sometime after midnight last night this website reached the 3,000 visitor threshold.  The site was launched on July 5, 2015.  We hit 1,000 visitors on July 29 (24 days after launch), 2,000 visitors on August 25 (51 days), and with our 3,000th visitor early this morning, it took just 70 days.  I continue to be thankful for all of you who take the time to read what I have to share regarding my running exploits.  There are far more important things going on in this world, but the fact that you find your way here is inspiring for me personally and I am forever grateful for you all.  Thank you.

Since I’m on the numerical topic for tonight, I thought I might also take this opportunity to review some other statistics.  Having completed 10 of 16 weeks of training with yesterday’s 12-mile tempo run I have now run 334.15 miles during formal training (since July 6).  After this morning’s 2-mile quickie I have gotten my run streak up to 115 consecutive days.  During “the streak” I have logged 493.9 miles, which is incredible given that I totaled 549.2 miles all of last year (2014).  Marine Corps training, coupled with the streak, has resulted in a string of three consecutive months of 100+ miles for the first time ever.  Barring any setbacks, I will easily eclipse that mark again for a fourth consecutive month on September 30. 

August, 2015 has produced my highest monthly total ever with 150.3 miles run.  I’ve also established a number of high ranking monthly best totals on my list with July, 2015 being my 3rd highest total (123.35), June, 2015 my 10th highest total (104), May sitting at my 19th highest, and April my 24th highest.  It is not unreasonable for me to expect that after September (again, barring any setbacks), I will have logged three of my four highest monthly totals of all-time. 

My yearly total mileage now sits at 779.8 miles which is good for my 5th highest yearly total. And I still have over three months to go.  My top 4 highest yearly totals are 808.3 (2008), 832 (2010), 837.5 (2007), and 955.05 (2011).  My current pace would produce an annual total of 1,107.5 miles.  Definitely some interesting numbers, but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  My focus is on the next day, as far as running is concerned.

Finally, I wanted to provide a quick update on the status of the book publishing.  The edits are done!!! I am hoping to upload the document in the next few days for print and publishing. It’s definitely an exciting, but nervous time.  Stay tuned. And, oh,

Run on…