Fall training update: Where the heck did a whole month go?

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I guess I have to laugh at myself a little bit here…the title of my last post – remember that, a whole long 4 weeks ago? – spoke of “consistency” and my struggles with it; so I follow that with a total lapse of writing…at least it was a consistent failure, right?

Fortunately, my training has been progressing much better than my writing, in many ways. There have been some adjustments, caused by circumstances, but on the whole I am satisfied with how things are going. Let’s take a look:

1. Rather than doing most (or all) of my training alone, as I did last year, I have made a commitment to get coaching and support from a running club; three of them, in fact! I do track workouts and long road runs with the Houston chapter of Runner’s High; race/run roads and volunteer with the Houston Striders; and race/run trails and volunteer with Houston Area Trail Runners. The support and camaraderie is priceless…I don’t know how I managed without these wonderful friends!

2. I have established a regular, varied routine of workouts – speed work, tempo runs, long runs, recovery, rest days – and I am sticking to a written plan, which helps me build mileage gradually, avoid overtraining and injury, and allows me to see steady progress from week to week, which increases my self-confidence as well.

3. I have had to cut back on my cross-training, and drop my personal trainer, which I really regret – but I have plenty of resources to help me develop a decent strength-work routine on my own.

4. The reason for losing the trainer is that I lost something else as well: two weeks ago I became unemployed :( You may remember me talking about The Hero…the new manager at my office who appeared determined to send me down the road at the first opportunity? Well, he got his chance – I missed work a couple of days, and even though I did check in daily with my project manager, and the jobsite supervisors, and my foremen at the site; even though I was taking phone calls and emails from home, without pay; even though the job never lost forward momentum, but remained three weeks ahead of schedule; even though I was back at work first thing Monday morning; he chose to accuse me of not being a responsible team player, and had already assigned one of his people to take over my responsibilities; I was to merely “assist” him…which meant that I would continue doing exactly what I had been doing, but with no authority, and no credit for the work…also without the promotion, pay raise, and perks which had been promised to me. When I expressed my lack of enthusiasm about this new arrangement, I was Heroically informed that my time there was finished…four years of hard work, undone in fifteen minutes.

I can’t deny that I have enjoyed a respite from the stress of work, but of course that cannot last…bliss doesn’t pay the bills, after all :) I have some leads, and some friends who will help me out with temp work until I find something permanent. The hardest part is resisting the temptation to go “off schedule”…to keep my workouts on the normal routine, and keep my days available for work and work-related activities; even if that means filling the day with those nagging chores that I never had time to get done :) I have to admit – I will be glad when normal becomes normal again!

In the meantime, the calendar turns its pages, and my fall races approach…the first one is less than 4 weeks away! (I’m sure glad that all the major ones are already paid for; the extra ones that pop up have to be weighed carefully, as added expenses are not our friends right now.) I hope to be more regular about posting updates, as well…I hope that these little notes I send out encourage, inspire, or at least entertain someone – why else would I be doing this, if not for you, my dear readers?

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

How are you coming along with training, racing, and life?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments :)

Fall training update, New Hope Week 3 – Consistency (more or less)

The third week of what I am calling “serious” fall training had more ups than downs, more hits than misses, so I am counting it a victory by decision – here’s how the points tallied up:

Monday: Rest - Still loving that I start the week with “nothing” to do… can’t get easier than that!

Tuesday:  45 min weight training + track workout  – Another gym day of upper body/arms/chest…by the time I was done, I was having trouble changing shirts to head out to the track :) This was followed by the first real week of speed work and I have to call it a “win”! The workout was 8x300m w/ 100 m walking recovery, with a 2 minute rest and  1x800m final lap; I ran what felt like a good effort, and when I checked my data later, I found that most of my intervals were at 7:00 to 7:30 pace, much faster than I had imagined! I book-ended this workout with a 1 mile warm up and a 2 mile cool down, for a total of 5.5 miles for the day.

Wednesday: Rest – Needed this off day this week, delayed onset soreness was kicking my butt :(

Thursday: 30 min weight training + 3 mi tempo run (1 mi easy, 1 mi GP, 1 mi easy) – I had to squeeze this workout into the schedule, because I got a last-minute call to help with a city inspection at another jobsite at 7pm; so I told my trainer I would just “freestyle” it and get with him later in the week. I chose to focus on legs, so I did leg curls and extensions; hip abductions and adductions; leg presses and calf raises…whew!

I did this week’s tempo run on the treadmill (not my favorite, but expediency was the rule of the day). I cut it short, with a one mile warmup, one mile at GP, and one mile cool down. Next week I hope to extend to five miles total, with 3 at GP – got to get those numbers up there!

Friday: Rest - I woke up early with a terrible migraine, so there was no going to work; I spent the day in bed sleeping through the worst of it. By evening I was functional, but decided not to push it with a run.

Saturday: Rest - Since all of Friday was lost, and Saturday started off with me being light-headed and nauseous, I extended the rest interval another day – run away and live to fight another day :/

Sunday: 8.9 mi trails (13:20/mi avg) – I went out with the intent to atone for all my lost miles, and I think I did a pretty fair job of it! My first loop on the trails was kind of laid back, just enjoying being out in the dark, alone, with no one but the bunnies I kept scaring into the tall grass for company :) On the second and third loops, I made it my business to keep up with the “fast” runners in our group; I surprised myself by being able to keep up and hold conversation the whole way…maybe I need to start thinking of myself as one of the fast runners too!

The day’s total also includes a special event, the #HATR #beermile…for the uninitiated, a beermile is a run where each participant must consume a 12-oz can of beer, minimum 5% alcohol, at the start of each of 4 laps on a marked 1/4 mile course; if you “vent” once, you must run a penalty lap, the second time is a DQ. I certainly did not “win”, but I did finish all 4 beers and all 4 laps, and a great time was had by all!

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 20-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 3 runs,  17.3 miles, 2 strength training days

While none of the last three weeks has been letter-perfect in execution, I can say that I am very well satisfied with the level of consistency I am maintaining…I am getting out there on a regular basis, I am getting nearly the mileage I want, and I am getting a variety of workouts each week. I feel quite confident that I will be able to attain most, if not all, of my goals for the fall, and in any case, I know I will be further along in my overall fitness than if I had done nothing – and that counts for a lot!

 Do you struggle with “less than perfect”?

What tips do you have to share on coping with the balance between “what could have been” and  “what really is” ?

I’d love to hear from you!!

Fall training update, New Hope Week 2 – Getting better!

The second week of my training “reboot” was just as successful as the first – maybe even more so, as I was able to add some new elements..things that I had planned to introduce later on, but they seem to be fitting in well right now! Maybe my body hasn’t lost as much of that hard-won conditioning from earlier in the year as I had feared, maybe I am just being over-cautious; either way, here is the the way it was:

Monday: Rest - Having my rest day land on the first day of the work week is quite possibly the single most brilliant thing I have ever done! So many things go crazy on Mondays, just knowing it won’t interfere with my workout schedule is so freeing…work is stressful enough without creating more conflicts!

Tuesday:  45 min weight training + track workout  – After a hard-core return to activity last week, I have settled on a regular schedule with my trainer; this week we started with arms, shoulders, chest and back. (I’m starting to wonder if telling him that I am training for a Spartan Race was such a good idea :) ) I think have also got the scheduling down so I can get my gym time in, and still make it to the “new” track workouts I have added on Tuesdays.

The run portion was broken up into 3 segments – a 1.5 mile easy warn up (11:19/mi), a 1.5 mile cool down (10:33/mi) and in between, my first session of speed work with the Runner’s High coaches: a one-mile time trial to place me with the correct group. I kind of sand-bagged the trial, I must admit; but I was encouraged to discover that I was actually running at the pace I thought I was running at – I paced myself for what felt like a sub-8:00 mile, and I came in at 7:50, so I guess my sense of timing has developed pretty well over the last year! Next week I will be doing intervals, and I’m buying a stopwatch…I want to get all I can out of these workouts :)

Wednesday: Rest – Still keeping this extra day off in the rotation for now, probably until after the Capt’n Karl’s 30K in September; then I will up my weekly mileage with another “easy” or “recovery” run.

Thursday: 45 min weight training + 4 mi tempo run (2 mi easy, 1 mi GP, 1 mi easy) – Today’s session was all about the legs: squats, bear crawls, box jumps, kettlebell carries, and then a crazy stability exercise, standing on the BOSU ball while my trainer threw a medicine ball at me from all directions – I only fell off twice, so not too bad!

I followed this with my first tempo run of this training cycle, running 2 miles at 11:15/mi, then one hard mile at 9:20/mi, then cooling down with one mile at 10:30. I was pretty well wrecked at the finish, but it felt great while I was going!  (Doing legs at the gym and tempo runs in the same day may not work for everyone, but if I can sustain it, how awesome is that?)

Friday: Rest and sports massage – Back in March, I met a guy who was doing massage demonstrations; he specializes in a mixture of Swedish and Thai massage techniques, particularly aimed at runners (he runs ultras himself, so he has the unique knowledge of runners need). We spent two hours working on my calves, ankles and feet, focusing on the lingering issues I have had with my Achilles tendons…it hurt, I cannot lie, but in that wonderful way that lets you know it was exactly what you needed! By the time I got home, I had such a sense of increased motion and flexibility, and such a relief from the “normal” pain and stiffness, that I wondered how I ever thought that was normal!! We will be seeing more of each other in the future, I guarantee that!

Saturday: Group long run (5.4 mi, 10:28/mi avg) + no weight training – This was my first time running with RHC on the regular Saturday group run. Road running with a group, at a set pace, is something entirely new for me, but I have to say it was really enjoyable! Our coach follows the “long slow run” philosophy, where you should go about 45 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace; since I am currently training with the 4:30 marathon group, that works out to 10:30-10:45 per mile, or slow enough to carry on a conversation. I took advantage of that, let me tell you! Many of the people I ran with are casual acquaintances from other races, especially Brazos Bend (where I volunteered at packet pickup in the morning, and also worked the finish line after I ran my 50K) so we had an immediate connection. Getting to know more about others, as well as promote trail running in Houston, is a welcome distraction from the monotony of long runs! I also tested myself just a little…when the 4:00 pace group passed us with about one mile to go, I decided to step up and finish with them,,it was a stretch, but I did it!

The rest of the day got away from me, between running errands for my dad, taking care of stuff around the house, and the unexpected thunderstorm that knocked out our power for several hours in the evening…so the gym workout went by the wayside :(

Sunday: 5.1 mi easy (55:32, 10:48/mi) – That power outage last night also caused all the cell phones to go dead, so we had no alarms to wake up with this morning, thus I missed the group trail run. But I will do my best to roll with the changes and not get derailed by things going “wrong” (read “according to my plans“) so I got out right as the sun went down and matched yesterday’s miles – score!

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 20-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 4 runs,  18.4 miles, 2 strength training days

So that makes two record-breaking weeks in a row where I met all my training goals – or at least the spirit of the goals…even the days where I was “off” I did something positive and fitness-related. I am learning that, for me at least, I need to have small one-step-at-a-time goals that give me a continuing sense of accomplishment…something to buoy me up and carry me through the times when it isn’t going quite so well.

 

Do you set “baby steps” along with the “big picture” goals?

If not, why? If so, how are you doing keeping up with them?

I’d love to hear from you!!

Fall training update, New Hope Week 1

I love this quote, because it stands behind a truth that I have often struggled with – sometimes you just have to accept that the only way to move forward is to go back to the beginning…a truth which applies in running just as it does in life. Sometimes it comes because you made bad assumptions going in (like trying to start a training plan with a project at work approaching a critical milestone, knowing that the demands of the job were likely to be overwhelming, but thinking I would find a way somehow); sometimes it comes because you realize that the price of the choices you would have to make is higher than you are willing to pay (like sacrificing my already scant family time or compromising my health just to keep a “schedule”); and sometimes it’s just the harsh light of reality that dispels an unrealistic image we are trying desperately to hang on to (like wanting to believe that I can string together 20-hour days indefinitely, and “catch up later”, but when exactly is “later” supposed to come?) Whatever the reason, for each of us there may come a time when we have to take a step back, heave a deep breath, and admit that we can’t get there from here, so we had better find a better way.

This week, I went back to the beginning; I ran slow and easy, with the sole goal of spending time on my feet consistently. I talked with my trainer at the gym, and restructured my workouts to accommodate my current fitness level, instead of where I wish I was at this point :) . I spent some of the overtime money I made on some new shoes and other gear, so I am not adding unnecessary stress on my body (much as I did last year, when too many miles on my shoes nearly undid me completely). And, it appears like all of this is working, because I hit every workout, and while I may have missed my targets on mileage and duration, I did so for valid reasons which were smart choices based on facts, not feelings. Let’s see how it went -

Monday: Rest - I took this seriously, for a change, and instead of using the day to run a ton of errands or chores, I spent a quiet evening at home with The Wife, with my legs up and my mind at ease. Of course, having all the crazyness at work behind me was a big part of that, too!

Tuesday:  1 hr weight training + 3 mi easy run (37:14, 12:12/mi) – I made the all-out plunge to return to serious training by hitting up my trainer for a thorough thrashing (while he fussed at me for my eating and sleeping habits – or, more accurately, the lack of eating and sleeping); and then heading out for a leisurely 3-mle run…this being the first time I have laced up in over a week, I was not out to set any records :)

Wednesday: Rest – For now, I will keep this mid-week rest day on the schedule, but soon I will change it to another easy run day…this is the perfect place to add weekly mileage.

Thursday: 45 min weight training + 3 mi easy run (35:44, 11:47/mi) – My trainer had personal issues to attend to, so I went with my default circuit training on the machines; it’s not as intense, but there are benefits to low weight/high reps just as much as crashing the heavy stuff. My run wasn’t really as slow as it seems; I went out after dark, and on the way home I got ambushed by a fairly large pack of stray dogs…I had to spend several minutes standing still and walking slowly backwards to get away from them. Good thing I run at night with a Petzl Tikka-RXP headlamp, one of the brightest on the market – shining a strong light into a dog’s eyes will just about always cause it to stop dead, and confuse it enough to keep it from chasing you! (A flashlight works just as well, if you don’t have a headlamp.)

Friday: 3 mi easy run (30:46, 10:10/mi) – This is much more like what I expect my “easy” runs to be; the days of 12:00/mi on the roads as a rule are long behind me! It was also my first chance to run in the brand new Brooks Ghost 6’s I just bought on sale; I don’t mind running in “last year’s” shoe, if I can get it for less than half price!

Saturday: 1 hr Trail running (3.2 mi, 45 min moving time, 13:52/mi) + 45 min weight training – I had hoped to meet up with the HATR Nation early in the morning, but my body clock had other ideas; I slept right through three alarms and woke up about the time they were getting done :( But the trails won’t run themselves, and the results won’t come unless the work is put in, so I headed out on my own around mid-morning. I also took this opportunity to break in the other new shoes I just bought (because what good is piling up overtime cash if you aren’t going to enjoy it?) so I hit the ground running in my spanking new Altra Olympus. Now, zero-drop footwear is new for me, and so after the first 3-mile loop, when I felt my Achilles tendons beginning to complain a bit, I decided to call it good for the morning – there will be many more chances to work these bad boys out!

Sunday: 3 mi easy (31:43, 10:34/mi) – My plan for this fall includes one hallmark feature of ultra running: back-to-back runs (B2B’s for the fans of running lingo). I ran trails yesterday, so today was a matching turn on the roads. In weeks to come, I will be swapping this around, as I just joined up with Runner’s High Club, a running and training group here in Houston, because while I may have a pretty plan on paper, I know myself well enough that accountability is what will make or break me this season. So I will submit myself to some coaching, at least for track workouts and long runs, much as I have for weight training…and the results will tell whether it was a good choice or not, won’t they?

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

I know it’s only one week, but it was a great week, and I am encouraged by how it went. I know that it is within my power to make another week like this one, or even better – up, up, and away!!

Train with a coach or a team, or train alone…

Which do you prefer, and why?

I’d love to hear from you!!

Fall training update, Episode 4: A New Hope (is what I need…)

I hesitated to call this post a “training update”, as no actual training took place; instead it was another series of long and longer days, getting home between 7 and 10pm almost every night, and then working all day Saturday as well. Three consecutive weeks of this has left me a general ragged mess, but I believe the dividends will pay off: The Hero approached me twice this week, once to inquire whether or not I was joining the mass exodus which has been taking place at my company (one of the project managers gave notice on Monday, and another superintendent jumped ship the same day…taking 15 mechanics with him!); and then later in the week to ask if I would be interested in a promotion to superintendent myself, running the same type of projects I have been doing for the last year – only with the pay raise and perks that go along with the title. I had been debating if I should put myself on the market, and I told him as much. I have been feeling very over-worked, under-paid, and under-appreciated lately…and the fact that my running has completely been pushed to the side is no small part of that. So while I wait and see if these promises bear fruit, let’s take a peek at the “fruit” of my own week -

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

With only 12 weeks remaining before the first of my goal races this fall, I will have to follow the advice of our wise Chinese friend quoted above; my training plan will have to be collapsed somewhat, although I need to be careful: the last time I tried to “crash” a training plan I ended up limping for two months! But I am older and wiser now :) and so I will do my best not to repeat past mistakes…I’m certain there are whole realms of new mistakes for me to make!!

So let’s take a look at the first half of my revised plan -

 

 The varying durations of trail running having the same distances are due to variations in pace..I will run a little faster on days I run less, and slower on days I run longer. And I will begin to split my weekends between trail runs and longer  goal pace road runs – taking advantage of the new pair of Brooks Ghost 6 running shoes I just bought earlier today (at 60% off – I love finding a sale!) There are a couple of races thrown in there just for variety’s sake, and as check-ups… because you and I both know that racing brings out a whole ‘nother level of running :)

I am pretty confident that the storm of job deadlines is now behind me – all the long days and late nights were due to after-hours inspections, which we passed across the board – and therefore I will once again have a regular schedule so I can get my workouts done…at least, that is my new hope!

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Fall training update, Week 3: (Not) Running on empty

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Much as I predicted last week, there were lots of long days and late nights. I worked 54 hours in 4 days, and spent the time I wasn’t working in a desperate attempt to recover enough energy to make it through the next day; obviously my training has suffered terribly. I had thought I could squeeze a run or two in somewhere, but it turns out that I only book-ended the week – one at the beginning, one at the end. I will simplify the report by only listing what got done, how’s that?

Monday: 5 miles easy runMonday is supposed to be rest day, but since I ran nothing all weekend, I decided to get out and do something. It felt really nice to escape for a while, and not think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other – this was the most restful hour of the week!

Sunday: 3.1 miles, 29:27 – I have been doing the Licorice and Olives Virtual 5K Race Series this year, and today was the last day to record this month’s entry. I have been resting all weekend, and so I planned the day to have all the chores finished in time to get out at sunset and do this run. While that time is nothing much to brag about (a full six minutes off my PR) the fact that I can go out “cold” and still run sub-30 helps me believe that base fitness will get me back on track once the insanity at works dies down to its usual dull roar.

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 25-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 2 runs, 8 miles, 0 strength training days

I am headed into another week much like this one, so I am suspending all expectations – whatever I can do, I will do, and I will make myself be satisfied with whatever happens…after all:

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Lao Tzu

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.)