Fall training update, Week 2: From slow to stop…and holding

stopThis has become the call-sign of my life outside of work.

After a difficult start last week, things have not gotten any better…in fact, it has gotten dramatically worse. The pressures at the job are red-line critical (I may actually end up unemployed, between the poor performance of this project – whether my fault or not -  and the influence that The Hero brings to bear while putting his own people into key positions) and so all other considerations have become secondary – including my training. Here is the week in review, it speaks for itself. (Same color coding as before – Green text means workout completed as planned; red text means workout not completed; blue text means alternate workout completed.)

Monday: Rest…I guess it’s hard to fail when “nothing” is the goal :)

Tuesday: 4 miles easy run + strength training…I made the run, but just did not have it in me to get to the gym; there is a ridiculous amount of paperwork that goes along with a construction project (far more than should be necessary, I believe) and the time has to come from somewhere.

Wednesday: Rest…Well, collapse from stress and exhaustion might be more accurate, but let’s not split hairs, shall we?

Thursday: 4 miles easy + strength training…didn’t happen, thanks to staying at the job until after 7 pm.

Friday: 3 miles easy…At work until close to 8pm this time…and coming back tomorrow, so…

Saturday: Capt’n Karl’s Muleshoe Bend 30K race… This went by the wayside as well. At least I had some forewarning  and did not register early, so I didn’t lose the money as well as the opportunity.

Sunday: Rest…Even though I needed to visit the jobsite around noon (there was an electrical shutdown over the weekend, which requires a manual restart of all the A/C equipment) I had intended to hit the trails for 2-3 hours with the group this morning, as a way to atone for not getting out all week. I even got up early and ate my usual pre-run breakfast (oatmeal with applesauce and honey, black coffee)…and then I sat down on the couch for a bit, to digest and scan Facebook until it was time to leave. Three hours later I snapped awake; I guess my body made the decision that getting more rest was higher priority than getting some miles.

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 30-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 1 runs, 4 miles, 0 strength training days

I really feel trapped: I am missing the fresh air and freedom of the runs, and the stress relief that comes from letting it all go and being in the moment of the workout would do me so much good right now…and I am utterly unable to take advantage of it! My neighborhood is simply not safe to run in late at night; my day starts far too early to run before work; and the treadmill  has caused me more pain than pleasure in the past…but something has to give! The week ahead promises to be equally challenging, if not more so – I have two back-to-back after-hours inspections scheduled, which will run from 6-10pm both nights, and both after a full day’s work. There’s also a day or two of pre-testing to be sure we will be ready for those inspections; obviously, I’m not getting much done fitness-wise…unless I make some radical schedule changes…which just may happen!

Innovative thinking is one of the skills I pride myself on, and so I am going to take a hard look at what I have to do, and what I can do, and see where some… innovative time management can be helpful. I’ll get back to you next week with the results!

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Fall training update, Week 1: A slow start, indeed…

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Isn’t it funny how we place expectations on ourselves, knowing that so much is beyond our direct control; and yet, when things don’t work out the way we wanted them to, we get ashamed and embarrassed?

(Wait, there’s something wrong with that sentence…let’s try it this way:)

Isn’t it funny how I place expectations on myself, knowing that so much is beyond my direct control; and yet, when things don’t work out the way I wanted them to, I get ashamed and embarrassed?

(Yes, that’s more like it.)

This first week of my fall training has not gone the way I wanted it to, and much of that has been out of my direct control; but, having made such bold statements (“Ace of Base”…really?) it was hard for me to accept that.  I even wrote that one of the best things about making my own plan was that I had some flexibility to allow for life to occur without getting all down in the pity pool about it…and darned if it didn’t happen anyway, and it’s not changing anytime soon. Let’s look back at the week, and see if I can’t learn a little something here, ok? (Green text means workout completed as planned; red text means workout not completed; blue text means alternate workout completed.)

Monday: Rest…Check! You gotta love a plan that starts off with “nothing”, you can’t go wrong there!

Tuesday: 3 miles easy run + strength training…Done and done! Even though I was tired after work, I met with my trainer; he gave me a good solid hour of core, core, and core; then I came home and ground out the pokiest 3 miles ever, at an average 11+ minute pace. I was good and ready to be done by the time that was finished!

Wednesday: Rest…Got it! Needed it, too…I have a new manager now, and today was his first appearance on my jobsite. He ran me all over the place trying to second-guess everything I have done the last several weeks, feeling me out for how well I have the project in hand, I believe; that will wear anyone out. But he seemed pleased, maybe because I have confidence in my crew and the work they are doing, and I have confidence in myself…20 years’ worth of experience running jobs will do that for you :)

Thursday: 3 miles easy + strength training…nope and nope :( The new boss (hence force to be known as The Hero) re-appeared on the job this morning, determined to make his mark. The only problem is, every Hero needs a goat to sacrifice, and I do not intend to be that goat. So I stayed at work 3 hours late, dealing with “issues” he found, and that was it for the day.

Friday: 3 miles easy…Despite the Hero’s objections, I left my crew leaders in charge and left work “early” (actually, at the regular time) so I could take Karen shopping for some new outfits, she was going to be spending the weekend visiting friends in San Diego and I wasn’t sending her off without new stuff! We had a nice dinner, spent a little money and a lot of time together, and I call that a worthwhile trade!

Saturday: 2+ hours trail running + strength training… I had intended to go run at 6 am, then stop by the job for a few hours and handle some odds and ends work, but the Hero struck again and ordered my entire crew to work a full day, despite my project manager giving me firm instructions about not spending a ton of my remaining budget on overtime. So, I compromised and got something done…I did the day’s work; saw Karen off on her flight; hit the gym on the way home from the airport and did my regular weekend upper body circuit; then finished off with 4 miles progressive, and a nice negative split.

Sunday: 2+ hours trail running…Right as I was finishing up Saturday night, I got a surprise call from my brother; he was driving two hours into Houston to see a band I remember from my old club-hopping days in Austin in the late 80′s, and he wanted me to meet him…so of course I did! (We don’t get to see each other often, and it’s worth a lot to take advantage of a chance.)  As a general rule, when you close down the bar hanging with the band, you are not getting up at 5 am to go running – and I proved the rule once again :) I tried to go out in the evening to get a few miles in, but got chased back to the house by a sudden thunderstorm…running in the rain is fine, but running under skies full of lightning is something else entirely! (And yes, I saw the story about the guy who finished in 3rd place at the Hardrock 100 despite getting struck…but I’m not that crazy dedicated, I guess!)

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 20-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 3 runs, 11 miles, 2 strength training days

For the first week, I should be satisfied that I accomplished most of what I wanted, especially since I knew that I had a challenging time coming at work…yet I feel like a slacker! I believe the first and most important lesson I can take away from this week is to breathe, then breathe again, and look at the highlights instead of the dim spots: I spent quality time with loved ones this week; I did well at the work I am paid well to do (and made some OT $$ in the process, that I would not have earned otherwise) and I still got some quality fitness work done along the way. I have many more weeks to go this season, so let me remember:

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”  – Groucho Marx

 

Fall Training Plan, Part One: Call me the Ace of Base

So we find ourselves on the far side of the Fourth of July…the point which in many minds marks the middle of summer, the time to get serious about goofing off :) Most of us are familiar with workplaces gone barren from the number of folks away on vacation; schools have completed the summer sessions, and students finally get a taste of freedom before fall returns and drags them back to their desks and studies. But in a runner’s heart, thoughts are already turning to the goal races (and possible Boston qualifiers) of the fall and winter season: Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.,  New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Honolulu, Houston…the possibilities are dauntingly endless. (Please don’t comment just to tell me about your favorite race that I missed…it is not my intention to try to list them all :) No, wait…On second thought, please DO comment to tell me – I would love to hear first hand experiences more than ads placed by promoters!)

Just as endless are the training plans! As I began my second trip down this road, running through the summer and preparing for the “big ones” coming up on my calendar, I wanted to be better informed and better prepared than last year. I spent weeks reading books, blogs, and magazine articles; plans, programs, and promises galore clamored for my attention, each one saying, “Try me! Follow me! I will get you to the finish line, better/stronger/faster than anyone else!” Mostly, I came away with information overload…if too many cooks spoil the broth, then too many coaches cramp the trainee. I have decided to stick with what I was doing at the end of last season, while making a few (characteristic) personal tweaks that I feel are necessary to cover my somewhat schizophrenic conflicting varied goals this year.

The basic plan is Hanson’s Marathon Method, which is typical of a growing trend in training plans that devalue very long runs in favor of shorter distances done at more aggressive pacing, and place greater emphasis on targeted physiological responses to specific workouts. However, since I am not running just a marathon this season – in fact, that is my final goal race this year – I have added to and re-arranged some aspects, and included others which address my particular needs. Besides, I ‘m a guy; if I don’t screw with it, it isn’t really mine :)

My plan divides pretty naturally into three segments: building base; building speed; and building endurance. Today I will focus on the first phase, Building the Base, which I define as regular, steady workouts designed to increase weekly mileage and core strength, giving me a solid foundation to work with as I get into more race-specific training later down the line. This is especially important to me since I have fallen way off a disciplined routine since early spring, when I was running 6-7 days a week and logging 100-mile months…I know I can’t just leap back into that without a very real probability of serious injury derailing me completely (much as I did last year, when I crash-trained from my first 5K up to a half-marathon in only 6 weeks…and spent 6 months paying for it with Achilles tendonitis) This time around, I am giving myself a few “easy” weeks of basic runs at a relaxed pace, just to get re-acclimated to being on my feet. I am also doing regular strength training – I have a gym membership with late hours that fits my schedule,  and I meet with a personal trainer twice a week to target specific areas that will be a big help with the Spartan race, and with my overall form and fitness as well. Keeping that 50-mile ultra in mind, I am doing my “long” runs on the trails, running with a group that measures runs in hours more than in miles; plus the variety inherent in technical trail running makes me stronger overall, and will surely lead to faster running on flat, smooth streets! (I also have a few 30K trail races mixed in at roughly monthly intervals, to keep it interesting :) )

Put that all together, and it looks something like this:

plan

So far, three days into week one, all is looking well! One thing I like is that I can made modifications as needed, because LIFE, without wrecking the whole thing…that was one of my previous failures – getting confused about the difference between disciplined and rigid, and feeling like missing one particular day – or even a few of them – meant that I was ruining everything; if our lives never meant having to adapt, how boring would that be?

So what do you think? Remember, I am not any kind of professional, or coach, or trainer, or expert…I am just one runner who is trying to apply what has worked for me in the past – and remembering what hasn’t worked – and going from there. What I am doing may not be right for anyone else (heck it might not even be right for me!) but this is what I am working with, and we shall see how it goes! I will keep you all updated on my progress through this phase, as well as the occasional race report or random collection of thoughts; and before this segment is done I will be posting the next five-week section, Building the Speed…stay tuned!

Do you follow a traditional plan, or build your own?

Ever trained for more than one race at a time?

I’d love to hear all about it!

Any way you can get there…

A few random examples -
  • I heard on the radio this morning that today was the midpoint of the year: 182 days have gone by, 182 days yet to come, and then there is today… unique, standing between past and future – which made me realize that every day is like that; the moving terminator, the razor’s edge, dividing that which was from that which can be…so why shouldn’t we take advantage of such a powerful opportunity?
  • I was reading today’s post from my friend Melissa, about how hard training routines require a special kind of grit to endure, how you have to find something inside yourself that gets you to the other side – and it occurred to me that this is what separates runners from non-runners: we are the masters of delayed gratification; we sweat, strive, and struggle because we know the rewards will be worth it…even when no one else understands or believes it!
  • I’ve posted a couple of times on social media about how I am struggling with the demands of my job right now, and the havoc it has wreaked on my training plans and running schedules over the last few weeks – I have missed two weeks of sessions with my personal trainer and run practically nothing for a month – but I still managed to run a spontaneous 30K trail race last weekend (more about that in a minute); I was really shocked at the feedback about how inspiring I am to others – Really? Me? – and this made me think that each one of us can be the person that helps motivate another, and so we have a real obligation to share our ups and downs, if only so they can know that they are not alone in their personal battles.

All of this is by way of introduction for my recap of the Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series race I ran over the weekend at Perdenales Falls State Park. I signed up to run the 10K here a few weeks ago, when many of the folks in my trail running club started posting in our Facebook group about their plans. I have been trying to be a more active member of the group, both online and in real life, but work and life often interfere with my plans..I miss a lot of the group runs due to last-minute obligations, or simply the need to get some rest after the demands of the week. I came very close to skipping this one, paid registration or not, but on the Thursday before race weekend the decision made itself: I came home from work with a blinding stress headache, went to bed with head still throbbing, woke up with the same headache – and decided to hit the reset button. I called my lead guys on the job, gave them direction to start the day… and then sat down to drink another cup of coffee. I went to the office instead of out to the job site, and told them that if I did not get some time away I was going to have a meltdown. I give my supervisors credit for recognizing that I was serious, and giving me the greenlight to take off and have a good time!

The races in this series are all run at night, in deference to the Texas summer heat – how in the world anyone runs a long distance race in the daytime between May and October in the South is beyond me! I had to go by the job for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, but by 9:00 I was out of there, to head home and pack for the weekend. I met up with three other guys who were also running, to carpool the 4 hours west of Houston to the park where the race was being held – of course, we stopped to eat a hearty pre-race meal on the way :) (I always wonder what the waitresses must think when a group of runners eat together; between us I bet we demolished 10,000 calories!)

We made our way into the beautiful Texas Hill Country (I may be the worst blogger ever, because I neglected to take one single picture to share with you…I was sleeping much of the way there, to tell the truth!) and set up camp near the start/finish area. About a dozen club members were there, and we chit-chatted while waiting for the pre-race meeting. It was around this time that peer pressure got the best of me – they kept saying, “You didn’t drive all this way and stay here all night just to run for only one hour, did you?” – and I went back to the registration table to upgrade from 10K to 30K…I just happened to have the exact amount of cash in my wallet to cover the difference, so I took that as a sign that it was meant to be! I did, however, completely refuse to entertain the idea of running 60K, I might be gullible but I’m not nuts!!!

I went into this with absolutely no expectations – I had not trained for this distance, I didn’t even have a pack or enough gels; but I had a 16 oz. bottle on a waist pack, and my friends had extra fuel so all was well, Plus, this race director puts on epic events…the aid stations are fully stocked with everything you could ever want, and at 5-mile intervals you are never too far away. The 60K runners lined up at 7pm, and as soon as they were gone, I lined up with the 30K group to be ready for our 7:15 gun…and then we were off!

I really tried to hold myself back, but after getting caught behind a large group of folks walking up the single-track first hill, I couldn’t take it any more and broke away, dodging around and through the rocks and cactus to get into the clear. The first several miles passed by easily, making conversation with others as we worked up and down the hills and ravines; I held to my regular strategy of running easy on the uphills, blasting the downhills, and catching my breath of the (short) flat sections. I have gotten into the habit of starting my tracking app and then ignoring it, choosing to run by feel, and this was no exception. The only time I looked at it was when I got the low-battery warning after only 90 minutes…so much for technology! (I really need to get a Garmin, instead of depending on my phone, anyone got a deal for me?) At that point I was about 7.5 miles in, and looking at a sub 4-hour finish, and I felt pretty good about that! Alas, ’twas not to be :(

My first real trouble came around mile 10, when a rock slid out from under me in on of those downhill bombing runs; I did not crash, but I did hyper-extend my knee a bit, and from then on things only got tougher. My ankles began to sing their own chorus of agony after a couple more miles of favoring the sore knee, but by this point nothing was going to stop me! I walked when I had to, ran when I could, and through it all had a fantastic time! I traded laughs and encouragement with dozens of other runners, and the hours and the miles rolled on by.

The last two miles were the most fun, and the most challenging…it was full dark, a new moon and cloudy skies held the darkness complete and the humidity close. Everywhere my headlamp shined, I saw the reflection of hundreds of little green insect eyes looking back at me :) The spiders and scorpions scrambled to get out of the way, and I did not personally see any snakes, although I heard reports of them from others. My running partner Jeremy caught back up to me about a mile from the end; he was on track to beat his PR at this course by over an hour, and totally stoked by that fact, so I committed to run with him all the way to the end, pushing each other all the way with shouts of “What would Killian do?” I don’t know that answer, but I do know that we sprinted the last 100 yards or so, and crossed the finish line at the same moment, with identical finish times of 4:05:35, and a hearty hug and laugh as we received our medals!

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I was tired, I was sore, I was starving…but most of all, I was FINISHED! If you have ever run a race you weren’t sure about, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t…I want you to know that you CAN outrun your doubts; your body is capable of far more than your mind will tell you it is, just keep going.

That’s a great metaphor for life, too, isn’t it?

Have you ever run a spontaneous race?

How did it go?

I’d love to hear from you!!

(I will be running the whole series over the course of the sunner, with the next race at Muleshoe Bend State Park in July…and this time I am signing up for the 30K from the get-go! Stay tuned for that recap when it happens! Between now and then I will still be working on the details of my fall training plan, which gets started in earnest the first week of August…I hope to have something concrete to share with you by next week.)

Planning for Fall means planning NOT to fail

As I am writing this, the sun is going down on the official first day of summer…the temperature here in Houston peaked at 92 degrees, which  “feels like” almost 100 along the Gulf Coast; the 4th of July is peeking over the horizon; and for most people, planning has a lot more to do with vacations than races. But runners are a special breed, and while there are marathons all year long (Grandma’s Marathon ran today in Duluth, MN today, in fact) it’s the fall season that many of us focus on…which means that training begins in earnest in July, August, or September, depending on the date of your particular goal race, your current level of fitness, and how obsessive/compulsive you might be (oops, that just got a little personal there :) ) I posted last week about my various goals for the rest of the year, and tried to take a small step back to see the unique challenge and distinct focus required for each of them; this week I am taking a bigger step back to see how these different strategies must work together to avoid conflicting and cancelling each other out.

My race schedule can be broken into three segments: two races of roughly the same distance (half-marathon and Spartan Beast), one week apart; then a six-week break before a trail ultramarathon; then another lapse of 5 weeks leading into a road marathon…that’s like running 4 marathons in less than 90 days! (Too bad I manage to miss the criteria for both Half-Fanatic and Marathon Maniac, but that’s just how it goes.) This is not unheard of, but for someone like me, who is still a relative newbie runner, it is a tall order indeed. That’s why I need to take that step back and look at the big picture: I can’t afford to lose sight of how training for one thing will help or hinder my efforts for another. For example, if I work exclusively on the half-marathon, I will have nowhere near the stamina I need to run a 50-miler less than 2 months later; or if I train just for the 50-mile, I probably won’t have the speed necessary to beat my PR for 13.1 miles. I also have to balance out the need for recovery after each race, without sacrificing fitness or intensity that I will need for the next one. Finally, let’s not forget that life will still happen, and there will be ups and downs, good periods as well as bad ones…so any plan I come up with has to have a little “wiggle room” in it to keep from collapsing at the first hiccup. So let’s see what I can do with all this!

The big picture view takes into account my past experiences, as any good plan should always do. I ran the Houston Half Marathon last year (along with a handful of other races on the same basic route) so I know that hills are not something I need to worry about – this city is FLAT! The few under- and over-passes along the course are shorter and less steep than the local overpass I do repeats on regularly; the bike trails I run on weekends at Memorial Park have taught me how to do hill work – I usually pass people going up and downhill in races (and I love hearing them gasp when I go by :) ) The same goes for the Brazos Bend 50 Mile – I ran 50K on the same course, and it is as flat a trail race as you will ever find anywhere…which is one of the attractive factors for me :) My two Spartan Races taught me that running is by far the least of my worries there, it is the obstacles that I have to prepare for, and that means strength training – particularly upper body, in my case. As for distance and endurance, I have several months to build up for a 50-miler, and the fact that the marathon comes after means I can actually train down during the interval and still maintain the volume and pacing I need to meet my goal – how often does that happen?

The big picture also has to account for life off the running path, because it does. My work schedule right now revolves around two major projects, both of which are coming to a head at the end of July; that means I have about six weeks during which training will on occasion have to take a back seat to other demands. I intend to use that period for maintenance and base building: nothing particularly directed, mostly easy or fartlek runs 2-3 days a week, and one longer trail run per weekend, averaging 15 miles per week in the beginning and working up to around 25 miles or so. I have joined a gym and I’m working with a trainer two nights a week, to help me key in on critical areas – he has done Spartan Races before, and one of his partners is a veteran marathon runner, so they know exactly what I need to be doing…score, and score again! I will be sticking with them through the Beast and beyond…muscles are a runner’s best friend, after all :) :)

This leaves me a twelve-week window for serious training. Based on my history (2 tries at the half, plus my pacing at the half-way point on the full last year) I know I can run 13.1 miles in about 2 hours pretty much any time I want to…that’s a basic 9 minute mile. I also know that I can run 8 minute miles (or less) for 5K, and a few months ago I proved I can do the same for 10K; so the focus here needs to be stretching myself out to twice that distance at a comparable pace. I am taking my cues for this period from last 12 weeks of the Hansons’ Marathon Method Beginner Plan, which puts great emphasis on running at goal pace; I had success with this plan in the span of time between last year’s marathon and my spring races, and I believe in sticking with what works! ( The same authors have written a half-marathon specific book also, but I already have this one :) ) The basic change I will be making is to add a second long run on the weekends, at a much slower pace but much longer in duration, following the pattern for most 50-mile training plans I have seen. This run will be measured in hours, not miles; the goal is time on my feet and in my head. I am very blessed in this case to be part of a fabulous group of trail runners, many of whom will be running with me at Brazos Bend…brothers and sisters on the trail are valuable beyond all description!

Next week I will try to have something like a weekly plan laid out to share with you, along with some insights of how I will be transitioning once this initial goal has been met. Keep coming back it only gets better!

 

 

If it’s June, it must be Fall training season!

I am determined to not let myself completely ignore blogging, in spite of how busy the rest of life becomes…discipline is something all runners need, and it doesn’t come without effort or cost. That same kind of commitment is a necessary ingredient of a successful training plan; no amount of research, spreadsheets, planning or promises will accomplish anything without actually putting in the work – it’s like the old story: three frogs are sitting on a log, and one of them decides to jump into the water; how many are left sitting there? The answer is three…because making a decision changes nothing unless some action is taken!

That being said, I have taken some concrete steps for getting myself and my training plans in shape for the ridiculous aggressive  racing schedule I have built for myself (and continue to modify, as I have just added another one, have you seen the latest update?) Since my goal races run the gamut from speed to strength to stamina, I will have to develop a custom plan that meets all the criteria. Let’s take a look at the general timelines to upcoming major events – there area handful of shorter races mixed in among these, but I am treating those as fun runs, checkpoints, and “racecations”, not targeted milestones:

  •  Houston Half-Marathon: October 26 (19 weeks from today) Goal: 1:45:00 finish – Running 8:00 miles for the half-marathon distance is my challenge here; I have done this for 5K and 10K distances, but this is a full minute per mile faster than my current PR. I will need a combination of intervals and tempo runs to build up to this level.
  • Dallas Spartan Beast: November 1 (20 weeks from today, 1 week after previous race) Goal: 4:30 finish without major injury; Based on my previous Spartan races, my finish time will be 1.5x the fastest runners (who typically complete this race in about 3 hours), but the biggest limiting factor is my current lack of upper body and core strength – so weight training is the answer here.
  • Brazos Bend Trail Races (50 Mile): December 13-14 (26 weeks from today, 6 weeks after previous race) Goal: 10 hour finish – This is based on the 6:35 finish from the 50K back in April on the same course…I realize now that I wasted a lot of time at the aid stations, and could have pushed my overall pace by a comfortable margin – mistakes I do not intend to repeat :(
  • Chevron Houston Marathon: January 18 (31 weeks from today, 5 weeks after previous race) Goal: 4:30 finish, 1 hour faster than last year; I am a much smarter and stronger runner than I was a year ago, and many of the mistakes I made on my previous attempt (running in the wrong shoes, trying to train while sick/injured, shorting myself on the long runs) are easy to avoid…which means I have plenty of room for brand new mistakes :)

I am still outside the “window” for most formal training plans, so I will be spending the next couple of weeks combing through a handful of books and websites, looking to strike the proper balance of workouts that will let me accomplish all my goals while avoiding overtraining, injury and general burnout – and continue having a life and a career at the same time! In my next post I will share my progress with that, and give you a look at what I am already doing to prepare for what’s coming. See you soon!

 

My, but how the time has gone!

Well hello there, it’s been quite a while since I’ve talked with you, hasn’t it? I was beginning to wonder if I would EVER get back to blogging (I’m sure some of you were too!), and then I realized that only I could provide the answer – all it takes is to sit down and do it…so here we go.

So what’s been happening over the last two months? A little bit of everything! March was the first time I actually reached my stated goal of running 100 miles per month, reaching 111 miles; I carried that on into April as well, racking up an impressive 122 miles. This included completing one of my personal goals: I ran my first ever ultra marathon, finishing the 50K at Brazos Bend Trail Races on April 28. I was very pleased with my time of 6:25:35, especially when I compare that to my 5:35 marathon just 90 days earlier – I felt strong; I was still running, not dragging myself along; I even had the energy to stay at the course and help the race director finish out the night, with our last 50-mile runners coming in at 14 hours and change….whew! That is some grit right there!

The month of May started off with a bang, as I set out to break the 50-minute mark on the 10K distance…and I did it! I have to give credit where it’s due: I ran into fellow former Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador Emily Benton at the start line, and when she said she was also shooting for a sub-50, I jumped at the chance to have her pace me! She is an awesome runner, and I didn’t want to hold her back in case I fell short, so I told her I would follow along as best I could but don’t slow down; she didn’t either :) I held close until about mile 5 and then I saw her start her final kick, leaving me in the dust! I held on to my pace, however and crossed the line at 49:20 – three full minutes faster than the year before on the same course! This had the added benefit of qualifying me for early registration at the 2015 Chevron Houston Marathon, which I have already done – no lottery for me this year, and you better believe I have a score to settle from last time!

After that peak I dropped off somewhat, as demands at the job began ramping up, causing me to miss a lot of workouts. There were things going on in our personal lives as well, with my wife undergoing a preemptive hysterectomy at the urging of her oncologist – she is still cancer-free and in full remission, praise be to God, but the genetic testing came back with a probability of ovarian or uterine cancer that was far too high for her (or my) peace of mind…she made the decision to retain control of her life and her body and I supported her 100% in that decision.

In turn, she was there to support me a few weeks later as I crossed off two more items on my goals list: I entered and completed both the Spartan Sprint and Super races in mid-month, and I now hold 2/3 of a 2014 Trifecta Medal. I never felt intimidated by this course, because I went in knowing I was going to do my best, no matter what the outcome – and that is exactly what I did! I did not accomplish every obstacle, and I had to do my burpees as a result (90 the first day, only 30 the second, and yes burpees still suck!)  but I never had any doubt that I would reach the finish as a Spartan!!

In the two weeks since, I have taken “training” way down as I assess how well I performed, what I learned, what my next set of goals are, and what I need to do to achieve them. I have not stopped running, just dropped the volume considerably – 60 miles total in May – while I arrange all the other parts of the puzzle. I just bought a membership at a gym near my home (with extended hours during the week when I need them most) and invested in a personal trainer to help me focus on the areas I want to develop most – upper body/core/overall muscle mass. I have also begun researching several different running training plans, with an eye towards the best synthesis that will accommodate the varied goals I have lined up for the rest of the year:

  • Run a sub-1:45 at the Houston Half Marathon in October (current 13.1 PR is 1:58, barefoot on a beach; did this course last year in 2:06, running in the rain, injured and in blown-out shoes)
  • Complete the Dallas Spartan Beast in November, hopefully under 5 hours (I finished the Sprint in 1:16 and the Super in 2:29, so I think it’s reasonable)
  • Complete the 50-mile distance at the Brazos Bend Trail Races in December, hopefully under 10 hours (I did 50K in 6:25, spending way too much time at the aid stations)
  • Complete the Chevron Houston Marathon in under 4:30 (last year’s time was 5:35, but I am much stronger and smarter this year!)

Each of these in and of itself is a worthy goal; stacking them within a 90-day time span may be a bit insane optimistic, but then again, they are somewhat progressive – once I get trained up for the first, I’m substantially where I need to be for the next. I also have a handful of smaller, fun races scattered in among these, to keep from being “all work and no play” – having already achieved the “14 in 2014″ goal once this year, why not try to hit it again? (Check out my updated “RACES” page for all the details, I still have a few hopefuls to list on there once I have dates for them) Mostly I am having fun, sampling all the variety that running has to offer and enjoying watching my body grow and respond to the challenges…and after all, if it isn’t fulfilling and enjoyable, why do it at all?

 

What are your upcoming goal races?

Have you had to modify your training to accomplish them?

I’d love to hear your comments, we can cheer each other on!

(Two) Weekly Update(s) 3-22 and 3-30: Double the recap, double the fun!

(I got a bit overwhelmed, and neglected to post an update last week; so I will sum up two weeks and get back on track – sorry for slipping!)

These last two weeks have been a series of learning experiences, and I must say that I am grateful beyond description to discover that, not only CAN I be taught new things, but that it’s not terribly painful to learn new things! I received some excellent advice from my Facebook friend Shaun Johnson, via an offer he extended to review the running form of a few members who sent him video of themselves during a run; he gave me some invaluable advice on how to make the subtle improvements that make all the difference, and for my part I have tried hard to implement them…I must be doing something right because the results speak for themselves – let’s take a look at what’s happened recently and see what it has to say:

Sunday 3-16:  Easy run – 6.05 mi, 1:03:18 (10:28/mi)    I altered my normal route to run on sidewalks instead of the side of the road… Just had enough of the mud for one week :) I felt great, no pain…just what I wanted…even if I had a 20 mph head wind the whole way home to increase the workload!

As I am not training for a specific race, but trying to improve my overall level of conditioning, I have made a modification to the Hansons’ plan I have been following: I will do each week’s plan in sets of two; first week I will do 65-75% of the prescribed plan, second week I will do the plan as intended. I feel this will allow me to transition to the higher intensity while avoiding injuries and over training. I will also make allowances for the various races on my schedule, without compromising the overall spirit of the training.

Monday 3-17:  Easy run – 4.07 mi, 40:12 (9:53/mi)  First week of 6 days running, and I felt the difference! I took it easy, but by the end I knew that I had added something to the week.

Tuesday 3-18: Speed work: 1.5  mi warm up; 8×400@ goal pace (currently 8:30/mi), 400 recovery; 1. 5 mil cool down - 7.01  miles, 1:13:33   My first track workout of this cycle…I felt the burn, but I know that this will pay off later, both in faster short races and better overall paces in longer events.

Wednesday 3-19:  Rest/cross-training   A return to feeling better has become an invitation to further abuse – such is an athlete’s calling! I did a repeat of what has become the baseline cross training routine: 5 sets of 10 burpees/10 dips/10 squats/10 pushups/10 lunges, no rest between movements, 2 min recovery between sets…if nothing else, it sure builds up my aerobic capacity – at least, I hope getting myself that much out of breath will have a benefit!

Thursday 3-20:  Tempo run: 1 mi easy warm up; 3 mi @ goal pace (9:30/mi target); 1 mi easy cool down – 5 miles, 49:44 overall, 9:20/mi tempo  I could really feel the burn in my quads by the third mile; I have not been pushing myself hard enough, is what that tells me! I gutted it out, but with an 8K race coming up on Saturday, I’m glad I decided to ease up for this first week of higher intensity!

Friday 3-21:  Easy run- 3.1  miles, 34:16 (10:57/mi)   Just a smooth, easy shakeout run to loosen up after that tempo run the day before, and prep myself for the 8K in the morning!

Saturday 3-22:  Warm up run, 1.5 mi; Race: Law Week 8K – 5 miles, 41:34 (8:19/mi)   I was looking forward to this race all week, and I got exactly what I came for: a steady consistent effort, every mile split within 30 seconds of the last one, and a new PR for the distance that I can be proud of…I ran five miles at what used to be my 5K pace, and it felt grand!

Total for this week: 6 runs, 30.2 miles

Sunday 3-23:  Trail runs – 5.8 mi, 1:20:00 (12:30/mi avg)    My trail club, the HATR’s is really good about including runners of all ability levels, hoping to spread the word that trail running does exist in the Big City. We were joined this week by the ladies of the Lifetime Fitness Cinco Ranch Run Club at the invitation of one of our mutual members. We run with a “no one left behind” policy, so I ran “sweep” with one group, and it was a lot of fun to help encourage someone else for a change :)  Running on a trail is SO different from running on sidewalks and streets, it really makes you appreciate how multi-faceted this sport can be!

Monday 3-24:  Two part workout: 1 mi easy run warm up (10:30/mi), followed by “virtual” 5K: 3.1 mi, 27:52 (9:00/mi)   As  part of the Jill Conyers’ 14in2014 Challenge group, I am eligible to run a series of 4 virtual races and count them towards my year’s total…not that I need to, but I enjoy taking advantage of free stuff, don’t you? This was by no means a record-setting pace, but I had fun “racing” in my mind, and isn’t that a big part of why we do this?

Tuesday 3-25: Speed work: 1.25  mi warm up; 12×400@ goal pace (currently 8:30/mi), 400 recovery; 1. 25 mil cool down - 8.5  miles, 1:31:00 overall   This week I took it up to the max, and I can feel myself running stronger than I ever have before…I looked at the splits and I ran at goal or faster on every repeat – something I did not know or believe was possible! I am very excited for what is still to come in the future, if this is any sign of the trend.

Wednesday 3-26:  Rest (if you can call it that)   As with all things, the best of intentions in training plans often end up colliding with the hard facts of reality; I  met my wife after work at her oncologist’s office…she got news that, while not exactly bad, does mean that we are not dome with our battles against Big Bad C; more test, appointments, and probable surgery lie in the near future…and what is a cross-training day compared to that, do I even need to ask?

Thursday 3-27:  Tempo run: 1.3 mi easy warm up; 3 mi @ goal pace (9:30/mi target); 1.7 mi easy cool down – 5 miles, 49:44 overall, 9:18/mi tempo  I’m actually signed up for two different virtual race series; the Licorice and Olives Race Series runs every month, and so this week’s tempo run seemed like a good opportunity to get this one taken care of. I probably could have pushed the pace a lot harder, but with a real 5K coming up on Saturday, I wanted to leave something in the tank; I was still satisfied with the effort…I didn’t look at my phone, but still kept the splits to within a 30 second spread…still improving my mental timing clock, it appears! And as a bonus, this run got me to the 100-mile mark for the month…I met my #FFMarchMiles challenge goal, and my Living Water goal for the very first time this year – all in all, a great day!!

Friday 3-28:  Easy run- 3  miles, 33:96 (11:00/mi)   It feels good to get out a just watch the miles roll by, getting myself ready for a grand effort the next day – I really believe a new PR is in the future, and I KNOW a sincere effort is for certain!  As long as I have the second one, the first one can come or not – that is in the hand of Fate, not me.

Saturday 3-29:  Warm up run, 1.5 mi;  Race: Bellaire Trolley Run 5K – 3.1 miles, 23:37 (7:37/mi)   The morning dawned clear and cool, with a breeze to blow away the humidity, but not so much to cause a problem. The course is flat a a sheet of glass, with only 7 turns in all and most of it on one long straightaway…a course MADE for PR’s! I just felt it in my heart that today would be the day I finally broke the sub-25 threshold, and so I lines up at the front of the pack…no fighting through the pack for me! Of course, I knew that the really fast runners would leave me in the dust, but that was fine with me – they had their races to run and I had mine. I started out a little fast, close to 7:00/mi (!) but in the excitement I don’t think I could have done otherwise. Somewhere during the second mile I found that magical place where the breathing becomes effortless, and the ground floats past like I’m not even touching it; you all know that place! Once the finish line came into sight, I poured it on for all it was worth: then the clock came into focus, reading 22-something, headed for 23 – what?!? GO!!!  I took 2 and a half minutes off my PR time from just 6 months ago, can you believe that? And while I didn’t place (not that I expected to, there were some fast people out there with me) I stuck around for the awards ceremony to see how my friends in the Striders all did – and got this incredible news: one of our ladies set a new world record in her age group! I don’t know if that has been verified, but what a fantastic experience to be a witness to!

Now, there is more to life than just running…and so Saturday night I met up with a good portion of my friends from the HATR Nation for a little socializing: dinner, great conversation, a few drinks and a lot of laughs! I am very happy to have the opportunity to make new friends who share the same passions as I do, while still having such different perspectives and places we came from. Making friends is not easy for me (acquaintances, yes, but friends, not so much) but these folks are easy to be friendly with!

Total for this week: 6 runs, 31.3 miles

Total for March: 22 runs, 107 miles; #runthisyear goal 18.3% (370/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $224.00

These last two weeks have given me the boost in confidence I was really needing; I’ve been having some issues with my ankles and Achilles tendons being sore again; I’ve been tired a lot, from work and from life; I have my wife to take care of as we once again face the goblins we thought were behind us; and I have the goals I set in front of myself getting closer all the time: that 50K is 4 weeks away (and there will be a special post about that later this week, with a giveaway!) and the back-to-back Spartan races are 3 weeks later – where did all the time go? Well, it went the same place that all time goes – it went away. The good thing about that is that the past is out of our reach, and cannot hurt us anymore, so we can quit worrying about it – one less thing on the list, yay!

Which part of your past have you finally been able to put behind you?

What are you still struggling with?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Weekly Update 3-15-14: Shifting the seasons, shifting the plan…

Other than a few chilly nights, I believe spring has finally found it’s way to Southeast Texas – this week saw the first shirtless run of the season – I guess that’s like the runner’s Groundhog’s Day, right? So I’m excited by the change, yet nervous as well; I have been following the Hansons’ Marathon Method training plan, and this was the final week of base-building. Next week speed and tempo workouts get added to the mix, and I go from five days a week to six. I have been grateful to be free from the pain in my knees and ankles that plagued me leading up to and through the Chevron Marathon in January, but I would be lying if I said that I keep wondering when (not if, but when) it will return – and that fear has me debating if I want to accept this new level of training intensity. I have toyed with the idea of repeating Week 5 before moving on, and in all honesty I have not made up my mind…let’s take a look at how this week went, and see if I can make a decision by the time I get to the end of the recap, OK? Let’s go:

Sunday 3-9:  Spartan 300 Workout Tour – 2 miles plus a lot of other stuff    I took the plunge and put my money where my mouth has been, and registered for the Spartan Sprint in Austin this May; I also spoke to my “wrangler” at Inov-8 and firmed up the details of my registration as the Masked Mudder for the Spartan Super, on the same weekend as the Sprint (yeah, that sounds crazy, but that’s how it came together, so I’m going with it!) This has me following all things Spartan on Facebook and by email, so when I saw the Tour was coming to Houston, I jumped on the opportunity.

The workout itself was pretty intense – it was 46 degrees, wet and windy, but that did not deter nearly 200 people from showing up to get down and dirty! I lost count of how many sets and reps we did over the course of two hours, but they told us we did at least 200 burpees, so add an equivalent number of squats, jumping jacks, lunges, pushups, some bear crawls and planks, and about two miles of running sprints, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a workout! I won’t say I’m ready for the Spartan races, but at least I have a slightly better idea of the kind of training I need to focus on now…and burpees still suck!

Monday 3-10:  Rest   Took the day off to allow some of the soreness from Sunday to fade away; wasn’t a complete “rest day”, since the elevators were down most of the day at the job, and I have crews working on nearly every floor between 17 and 22…LOTS of climbing the stairs today! But I got my new phone today, so I’m finally back to being “connected” – isn’t it amazing how quickly we become accustomed to it, and how much we miss it when it’s gone?

Tuesday 3-11:  Easy run- 5.06  miles, 53:19 (10:33/mi)   I should have known that the best cure for the lingering soreness left over from Sunday was to get out for a run…it’s the magical remedy! I took it nice and slow, but I felt SO much better at the end :)

Wednesday 3-12:  Rest/cross-training   A return to feeling better has become an invitation to further abuse – such is an athlete’s calling! I did a repeat of what has become the baseline cross training routine: 5 sets of 10 burpees/10 dips/10 squats/10 pushups/10 lunges, no rest between movements, 2 min recovery between sets…if nothing else, it sure builds up my aerobic capacity – at least, I hope getting myself that much out of breath will have a benefit!

Thursday 3-13:  Easy run- 4  miles, 41:05 (10:11/mi)   Staying consistent is probably the most difficult part of training, isn’t it? It was late, I was tired and sore, but the day was gorgeous – and the miles won’t run themselves, will they? The best part of getting out there when you don’t want to is how good it feels after you do – the rewards are built in, but you have to earn them…as Heinlein says, “TAANSTAAAFL” (go ahead, Google it, I will wait :) )

Friday 3-14:  Easy run- 5  miles, 52:43 (10:27/mi)   My runs hqave been consistently slower this week than in previous weeks, but I attribute that mostly to fear – I have noticed a return of the soreness in my ankles, in the past a precursor to the debilitating pain that kept me from running at all for several weeks over the last months of 2013. I t goes away once I warm up, and has nowhere near the intensity of before…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me, bring up all those “What if…” scenarios that are the doom of progress. I have not given in to them – but I am holding myself back, nonetheless. I hope that conditioning will overcome cowardice in the end.

Saturday 3-15:  Easy run – 4 miles, 43:08 (10:31/mi)   It rained all day, that steady, sullen drizzle kind of rain that you know will be around until it just gets done raining. I spent the morning and early afternoon at work, taking advantage of the time to move a huge amount of material into the building – and I was soaked to the skin by the time I was done. All I wanted when I got home was a hot shower, a fresh cup of coffee, the book I am currently reading and my comfy chair to curl up in with it all – but none of that that will get the miles run, will it? So I changed into my running gear, added a hat (my new most favorite accessory, part of the swag from a recent race) and headed out into the falling rain. Four miles later, I got the rest of what I had wanted…but now it had the added spice of satisfaction – a rare and delicate flavor that adds so much!

Total for this week: 5 runs, 20.5 miles

Total for March: 10 runs, 45 miles; #runthisyear goal 13.5% (272/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $163.00

So, about that decision I need to make: to continue with the plan as scheduled, or to back up and repeat a week of base…I believe I will move forward! I have written much about discipline and dedication, even though I never used those words…the meaning comes through loud and clear. If it turns out that I need to fall back and regroup, the option remains open to me – making choices has the power to create as many opportunities and it closes off, we must always remember that!

Have you ever faced a choice about the direction of your training?

How did you make your decision, and how did it work out for you?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Weekly Update 3-8-14: Mo’ Better Miles, and Mo’ Racing!

It’s going to be a very busy month: I have 3 races scheduled in March, one of them this week, plus two more virtual races…this will have me more than halfway to my 14 in 2014 goal at the end of 90 days – sweet! I also got confirmation that inov-8 will be picking up my costs to run the Spartan Super in Austin this May, as well as registering myself for the Sprint on the same weekend – yes, both races are the same weekend – and I will be running as the Masked Mudder both days…so come and find me, get your picture and some awesome swag to boot :) Of course, that adds to the training burden, but so far everything seems to be going well on that account…let’s take a look at this week’s efforts:

Sunday 3-2:  Easy run - 5  miles, 51:39 (10:19/mi)  I was looking for a change of pace today; since birthday revelry led to sleeping in and missing a chance to go trail running with the HATR’s, I decided to get some solo off-road miles in the grassy median along the railroad tracks. I held towards the slow end my recommended pace, but it was consistent throughout the entire run, and that’s a good thing!

Monday 3-3:  Rest/cross-training   Same as last week: stretching warm up, followed by 5 sets of 10 pushups/10 squats/10 burpees/10 dips, with about 2 minutes recovery between sets. I had said I was going to add more reps, but I think I will hold where I am, until Hansons’ Week 6, when I drop to one rest day a week instead of two.

Tuesday 3-4:  Hill repeats- 5.25  miles, 56:29 (10:43/mi)   Another “oldie but goodie” workout I am bringing back…1.5 miles easy warm up, then 4 sets of over-and-back on my favorite overpass (4% grade, 200m up/200m down, 200m loop at each end), with 0.75 mi easy cool down. Even with the incline, this 5 miles sure felt a lot easier than Sunday’s five miles!

Wednesday 3-5:  Rest/cross-training   Nothing today, because I spent the entire work day running equipment over to the crane, rigging it for lifting, and going back for more; that’s a lot of bending and lifting, reaching and pulling…nothing left by the time I got home :( Oh, and I lost my phone somewhere during all that, so the rest of my runs this week are going to be “naked”…NTTAWWT.

Thursday 3-6:  Easy run- 3.1  miles, 31:00 (10:00/mi)   I am always amazed at how stiff I am at the beginning of a run after a day off, even with a thorough stretch and warm-up; sometimes it takes the whole first mile to get all the moving parts in agreement. But finally the body got in line with the mind and the rest of the distance flowed smoothly. I carried no watch, but had a pretty good estimate going on my elapsed time…getting more familiar with maintaining pace, yay for consistency!

Friday 3-7:  Easy run- 3.2  miles, 30:00 (9:23/mi)   So maybe I am contrary by nature, but it seems to work well for me…”conventional wisdom” would say that the day before a race, especially one which you intend to PR in, would best be spent in rest and recovery, to prevent possible injury and go into the race in top readiness; I, however have never been a big fan of conventions! I went out today, not trying to kill it, but not really holding back either – I wanted to bridge the gap between easy run and race pace, and I believe I did just that! Side note: one year ago this weekend I ran the Bayou City Classic 5K fun run, my first race ever, and while I did break the 30-minute mark, it was an all-out gut-busting who-stole-all-the-air effort to do it…today I did it without out even breathing hard, in fact I was on autopilot during this run, thinking about the rest of the weekend’s activities; it kinda surprised me to be finished already. What an ENORMOUS difference a year’s worth of training makes!

Saturday 3-8:  Pre-race warm-up – 2 miles, 20:00 (10:00/mi); Race (preliminary results) – 6.2 miles, 53:13 (8:35/mi) I will write more about the race itself when I publish the recap, but in a nutshell: Not a PR, not a qualifying time for early registration at Chevron…but very instructive nonetheless. I ran the second half 2-3 minutes per mile faster than the first half; while negative splits are always desirable, to me it says I am going out WAY too conservative at the start for a PR effort – if I can run sub-8′s at the end, why am I running plus-10′s at the beginning? I need to work on finding a better balance overall, and of course this mix will vary with overall distance…but I am learning!

Total for this week: 5 runs, 24.5 miles

Total for March: 5 runs, 24.5 miles; #runthisyear goal 11.8% (239/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $142.00

I have one more week of base-building in my training plan, and then the serious work begins; I am actually looking forward to this, simply because I know that the only way to grow is to stretch beyond what is comfortable – and I am all about the stretch!

How have you stretched yourself this year?

What areas of your lifestyle still need more focus?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!