Tagged: charity

(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 run3.2  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!

Weekly Update 3-1-14: Happy running, and happy birthday!

Ahh, March…for me, this has always been the true beginning of Spring. I don’t really care what the groundhog says, or what the almanac or calendar declares the official date to be; in my mind once February is over, so is winter – and having my birthday land on the first day of March makes it even more significant! (I was very nearly a Leap Baby…1968 was a leap year, and I was born at about 12:30 in the morning; Mom told me once she was hanging on for all she was worth, watching the clock and hoping for the best 🙂 ) Nowadays, March also signals the beginning of active racing season – there is a race or two…or three, or four..every weekend, and it is sooo tempting to sign up and run all of them; but that way lies madness, and probable injury, as well. I am trying very hard to maintain discipline with the Hansons’ Marathon Beginner regimen, running only as much as the schedule calls for during the base-building stage, hoping to lay a solid foundation for the hard work yet to come…let’s see how well I did last week!

Sunday 2-23:  Easy run– 3  miles, 29:27 (9:37/mi)  I was supposed to do 3 miles on Saturday and 4 miles on Sunday, but since I did more like 5 total, including the race, I swapped it out and ran the shorter distance today. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. and I felt really comfortable…a positive sign that my body has recovered well from all I have done to it, and I am ready to begin growing again!

Monday 2-24:  Rest/cross-training   Nothing too complicated: I did my usual pre-run stretching warm up, followed by 5 sets of 10 pushups/10 squats/10 burpees/10 dips, with about 2 minutes recovery between sets. I am sticking to body weight workouts for now, mainly because I don’t own any weights and a gym membership is out of reach at the moment…but any workout is better than no workout!

Tuesday 2-25:  Easy run– 4.1  miles, 41:54 (10:11/mi)   This week Hansons takes the daily run up to 4 miles, but the pace is still “easy”; I like that I can take the time to regain my confidence about running without pain.

Wednesday 2-26:  Rest/cross-training   repeat on Monday’s theme; I will add more reps to each set next week, and some core work as well – gotta get that upper body prepared for Spartan races!

Thursday 2-27:  Easy run– 4.1  miles, 40:07 (9:48/mi)   My run takes me past the high school, and I get a kick out of the way the kids who are waiting for their rides are beginning to recognize me and say hello…I feel like I am making new friends every time I run, and that is cool 🙂

Friday 2-28:  Easy run– 4  miles, 41:54 (10:19/mi)   My training plan gives me some leeway on what an “easy” run is, with a range of 1-2 min/mile slower than (desired) marathon pace, and I was feeling tired today so I opted for the slower end of the range…I still have my sights set on that 4:00 hour finish, and this run falls well within that overall goal. I think that every workout should have the end result in the back of my mind, to remember how it all fits into the big picture and stay motivated…don’t you agree?

Saturday 3-1:  Rest and recovery – no workout   I was supposed to put in one more 4-miler today, but in honor my birthday, I declared it a rest day and spent the time with family, relaxing and enjoying myself – because I deserve it!

Total for this week: 4 runs, 15.3 miles

Total for February: 15 runs, 51 miles; #runthisyear goal 9.9% (200/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $117.00

I am very much looking forward to the races this month, and the soon-to-begin speed and strength workouts…I have been pleased with the ease with which I have been adding miles to my weekly totals, and I believe that March will finally be my first 100-mile month this year, a goal I set for myself and will be thrilled to finally achieve.

What goals are you pursuing for yourself this year?

What helps you with maintaining the effort?

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

Weekly Update 2-22-14, or How Nicky got his groove back

I watch the weather reports from around the nation lately, and I can’t help myself from feeling just the slightest bit smug – Houston has been enjoying a spell of “normal” conditions, with highs in the 70’s and sunny skies – and I can certainly fell the difference in my mood. My running has also improved a great deal over the last couple of weeks, as I am back in the routine of a training plan: I started following the Hansons Marathon Method beginner plan, even though I do not have a marathon scheduled anytime this year. (My next goal race is a trail 50K at the end of April, which is far too soon for any serious focus; I am going into that race with a “whatever  happens, as long as I finish” approach and I am OK with that!) I am using this training to improve my overall running fitness, trying to reach a consistent 50 miles per week, while avoiding injury and getting faster and stronger at the same time. I am two weeks in, and so far, so good…let’s take a look at how it’s going:

Sunday 2-16:  Easy run– 4  miles, 40:33 (9:57/mi)  The plan calls for the weekly long run on Sunday, which I have found to be a good fit for my schedule; the first 6 weeks are all about building a solid base and getting accustomed to regular running, which is good for me as well, since I basically took a whole month off after (barely) finishing the marathon. I am still trying to zero in in my target finish time, which determines training paces, and so far it appears that a marathon finish of 4:00-4:15 is a good fit for me; this calls for long runs at 10:00 – 10:30 per mile…right in my zone! We shall see how well this fits as the weeks progress and the harder workouts get added in, but I am liking this plan so much right now 🙂

Monday 2-17:  Rest/cross-training   This base-building segment gives me two off days a week; I struggle to fill that time with core and strength workouts, because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough…I will get more consistent here, but it’s a learning process (sigh)

Tuesday 2-18:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 31:45 (10:06/mi)   Nice easy run, nothing remarkable. I have a regular route for this distance which I know so well I can almost run  on autopilot…frees my mind to deal with the issues of the day, and let’s me return home in peace…thank you, running!

Wednesday 2-19:  Rest/cross-training   Burpees suck; so do dips and pushups – at least on days where I spend 8-10 hours at work loading and unloading a few thousand pounds of sheetmetal from the ground to my pickup to the freight elevator! But exercising when already fatigued is nothing new to me, so onward! I still need to set up a pull-up station and a rope climb, otherwise the Spartan race is gonna get me!

Thursday 2-20:  Easy run– 3  miles, 32:26 (10:36/mi)   I was feeling tired and stiff today, and didn’t even get out the door until nearly full dark…but I got out here nonetheless! My pace was a little slower because the monthly heavy trash pickup is coming soon, and the homeowners along my route have some pretty big piles of tree limbs, as everyone begins cleaning up their yards in preparation for early lawnmower season.

Friday 2-21:  Easy run– 3  miles, 29:31 (9:39/mi)   Feeling more energetic tonight, so I push for negative splits; by the last mile I was moving right along…I also wanted to get a taste of running faster as a preview of tomorrow’s race…and I liked what I saw!

Saturday 2-22:  Easy run– 1.5  miles, 25:27 (16:26/mi)  First run of two today; I was supposed to meet up with my trail running friends, but I was running late and missed them at the start, so I did a short solo loop as a warm-up. It was pretty muddy, and I did some exploring (read: got lost) which explains the pokey pace.

Saturday 2-22:  Race– 3.42  miles, 28:10 (8:15/mi)   Today was the first race of the HARRA Spring series, the Buffalo Wallow XC 6K. This course is all on grass, and winds up, down, and around Spotts Park, which sits at the bottom of a bowl, allowing for multiple hill climbs and descents. It makes me grateful for the overpass repeats I do as a regular part of my training runs, as well as the inov-8 Mudclaw trail shoes I wore – every person I passed, I picked them off going uphill! I really love hearing them gasp as I blow by; sprinting up short hills is not a strategy for everyone, but it works well for me 🙂 The course was announced to be short of a true 6K, but even so my pace is within steps of the sub-25 5K target I have been pursuing for nearly a year; maybe I can get it this spring!

Total for this week: 6 runs, 18 miles

Total for February: 11 runs, 35.5 miles; #runthisyear goal 8.6% (175/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $102.00

More important than even my successful race was the fact that I am still running pain-free; mere words cannot describe how this makes me feel! The Brooks Ghost 5’s came in the mail late Saturday, so I will be adding them into the rotation this week…shoe review to follow once I get a little mileage on them! (My wife gets so much joy out of the fact that I now own three times as many pairs of shoes as she does 🙂 ) I have 3 road races and 2 virtuals scheduled for March, with more to come I am sure – lots of opportunities to put the new training to the test…and I am so excited!

How many races are you currently signed up for?

Do you feel that short races help or hinder training for longer distances?

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

Off the running track, but on the right track…

This post was inspired by my friend Shaun Johnson, who is creator and admin of the Facebook group A Running Cause. He created this group as a way for runners to connect with others who share passionate reasons for why we run. Each week, Shaun invites group members to send in photos, comments, or links to blog posts on specific topics; previous themes include the view out the door when we start a run; our favorite “urban jungle” to run in; and even the classic “How many pairs of shoes do you own?” This week’s challenge posed the question, “When you aren’t running, what ARE you doing?”; my answer: sometimes I go to prison!

I have written before about my faith; simply put, I follow the calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and to do His work on earth as I await His return. There are many ways which this work manifests itself; the fundraising I do for Living Water International is one of them; bringing the hope represented by the Gospel into dark and dangerous places is another. For several years now, I have been involved with a wonderful group of men and women who serve with the Kairos Prison Ministry, specifically at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas…a maximum security facility in Central Texas which was once featured on the cover of Newsweek Magazine:

time cover

The link above gives much greater detail regarding the history of this prison and the work of Kairos in general, including ways to volunteer or provide financial support, and I encourage you to spend a few minutes browsing there; but in a nutshell, the mission of Kairos is to present an ecumenical “short course” in Christianity to a hand-picked group of inmates over a 3-1/2 day weekend. We do a series of informative talks, on topics such as the need for personal accountability with decision-making; the essential character of Jesus; the nature of God’s love; and the true function  of the invisible church. Our goal is to help plant the seeds which will lead these men to accept the grace and forgiveness that God provides, and to join with others within the institution in forming a community of faith to support them as they finish serving out their sentences and hopefully return to society as better people – the goal of “rehabilitation”, after all (which the prison system itself is sadly incapable of .)

One of the key elements of the ministry is the effort we make to inform these men that they are loved…both by God and by people on the outside. Many of the inmates have been written off by their families, and turn to gangs, drugs, or other distractions to fill the void in their lives…we offer them a better option: the knowledge that there are people who view them not as failures or enemies, but as fellow humans who have made some terrible choices about the direction of their lives. They can be forgiven, they can be restored, they can find peace…this is what we tell them; and we bring proof to demonstrate what we are saying: there are people on the outside who sincerely care about them, and who pray for them to realize that this forgiveness and unconditional love – agape love, as the Bible puts it – are both real and available. This proof takes many forms, but by far the most impactful is the one I want to invite you, dear readers, to participate in: the Prayer Chain.

For several weeks leading up to the Weekend (as it is known), team volunteers solicit people who will commit to be in prayer for at least some part of the time we are with our Participants. This commitment is represented by a small slip of paper, bearing the first name, last initial, and city of residence of the person who is praying for an anonymous “man in white”, that he will be receptive to the moving of the Holy Spirit, in the way he most needs to receive it. These slips of paper are joined into interlocking links of a chain, which is brought into the room during a talk titled “You Are Not Alone”; there are typically a couple of thousand links, and the men are shocked to know that there are that many people, folks who they will never meet, who care enough to devote a few minutes’ thought and prayer to them…tears flow freely during this time, and hearts are softened, if not broken outright.

We circulate sign-up sheets in our churches and small groups, among co-workers, friends and acquaintances…anywhere and everywhere that we connect to other people…and these days, that also includes on a blog or other social media! So I am asking: Will you step up and be a partner in this effort? Would you be willing to commit a few minutes, sometime between Thursday April 3 and Sunday April 6, to say a quiet prayer that the participants of Eastham Kairos #27 would be open to the grace of God…that He will touch their hearts,and they will know that they are loved? If you will, please respond to me – in any format you wish, whether by commenting  here or on my Facebook page, or by tweet or DM, or directly to my email (stridingtowardslife@gmail.com) – with your first name, last initial, and city and country of residence, and I will fill out a slip and place you into the chain…I will be posting a simple reminder the day I leave home to travel to the prison, that the weekend has come; and you will have a opportunity to share in the work of Jesus:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’

Weekly Update 2-15-14 : Better weather = better running

February is winding its way past the halfway mark – I hope you all had a Happy Valentine’s Day –  and with March peeking around the corner, warmer weather is sure to follow; with the rise in temperatures comes a corresponding rise in my spirits, and my motivation to get out and run more, run better, run happier…and that is by far the most important part of why we do what we do, isn’t it? Here is a look at this week’s journey to my happy place:

Sunday 2-9:  Easy run– 5  miles, 49:09   The day broke clear and sunny, and having had a successful, pain-free outing on Saturday, I decided to stretch it a little farther this time; so I laced up the trail shoes and went out to run my favorite grassy strip along the toll road. My intent was to do the full 10K distance, since I have the Bayou City Classic coming up in 3 weeks and I wanted to “check in” on my pace…you can’t help but think about PR’s, even if only to decide that it’s not doable this time around and set it aside…but I cut it short because I didn’t carry any water – D’oh! – and I was getting pretty thirsty. I have been Über-cautious about going too fast, because I’m just freaking tired of hurting when I run, but I also want to see some evidence that I am improving, so I reached a compromise with myself: I held a conservative 10:00/mi average for the first half, and then on the return I added in 4×20 second strides, at half-mile intervals; and then backed off for the last mile home. It went well, so I will start putting this in on my easy run days on a regular basis, with longer intervals and shorter recovery as I get back to consistent training. The overall time has me thinking that, while my PR is probably still safe for the moment, a sub-60 10K should be within reach – very heady stuff 🙂

Thursday 2-13:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 29:20   For once this week I made it home at a decent time, without a ton of paperwork to do, so I jumped at the chance to get out. I am still learning the in’s and out’s of RunKeeper, specifically how to set the alerts; I set a goal pace of 9:30/mi, and tried to match the feedback to the feeling; it went very well, as I ran my fastest 5K since October last year, and without so much as a twinge in my knees or ankles – if you have ever had to suffer the long road back from an injury, and especially the loss of confidence in your body, you KNOW how great that felt!

Saturday 2-15:  Easy run– 3.2  miles, 32:42   Karen and I started off our day with a meeting of the Kairos Prison Ministry team we will be serving with this spring (there will be a special post about Kairos later this week, including a list of ways that you – yes, you – can take part, so be looking for that very soon!) We were home early in the afternoon, so I thought why not go for a record-breaking third run this week? I am more interest in getting back into the groove of regular runs than in setting speed records, so the pokey pace does not disappoint me…for now!

Total for this week: 3 runs, 11.3 miles

Total for February: 2 runs, 17.5 miles; #runthisyear goal 5.8% (118/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $84.00

My weekend also had two exciting highlights, two new purchases that will (I believe) bring continuing growth and improvements in my running. I bought my first running book, The Hansons Marathon Method, which I will begin training with starting Monday in preparation for my 50K in April – yes, it’s a little short on the schedule, but I am going into this race with low expectations and will be happy with a strong performance and a finish I can walk (not limp) away from. I also spent the $50 gift card I won from RoadRunner Sports in their weekly Facebook giveaway, and bought a new pair of running shoes – because new running shoes – I wanted the Brooks Ghost 6, but went with the Ghost 5 that were on clearance; after my gift card, they only cost twenty bucks…SCORE!

What training plan – if any – are you currently following?

Have you ever bought the “previous” model of a shoe instead of the current one, just to get the discount? Do you think that is a worthwhile tradeoff?

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

Weekly Update 2-8-14 : Not much to report

Yet another less-than-satisfying week has gone by, and while I am happy to note that I seem to be past the blues (thanks to God for that; He does respond to prayer, once you start praying for the right things…but that is a whole ‘nother subject) I still have several other things going on that are getting in the way of my workouts – the job is cranking up to a higher pitch, so my actual work week is closer to 50 hours than the 40 they pay me for; and the weather is still getting me down…after working outside all day in the cold, I am exhausted and have a really hard time finding the motivation to get back out in the dark to run. I did manage a couple of workouts, and I finally have a plan to get some cross-training done, so there has been some improvement; now I need to build on that momentum! Let’s take a quick look at how the week went:

Monday 2-3:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 33:49   We had a rare pleasant weather day, and for a change I had gotten caught up on work early, so I leaped at the chance to get out and run my basic 5K out-and-back workout. Since it had been over a week, I purposely ran this easy and slow…and just like last week, I ran without knee or ankle braces with no pain. I still can’t draw any conclusions, but I am cautiously optimistic about things so far!

Saturday 2-8:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 31:05   I spent the day watching other people run (see below) so there was no way I could let the sun go down without logging some miles of my own. I pushed the pace a little as I went, taking 30 seconds off each successive mile, and it totally felt like I had more to give…I am beginning to look forward to the races I have coming up in a few weeks!

Total for this week: 2 run, 6.2 miles

Total for February: 2 runs, 6.2 miles; #runthisyear goal 4.9% (100/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $73.00

The highlight of my week was getting the chance to be on the other side of the table today: I volunteered with other members of the HATR Nation (Houston Area Trail Runners, remember? We like our “secret” name 🙂 ) to work the aid stations at the Piney Woods TrailFest  today at the Lake Houston Wilderness Park, New Caney, TX. Here’s some video I shot to share with you; I was too busy while runners were coming through to even think about getting any action shots.  Sorry about the break, but I got a phone call in the middle of filming, and this is my first attempt at vlogging (there has got to be a better word for that!)

I had a real blast doing this…even the waiting for one last runner to finish her final loop, more than an hour behind everyone else – I am glad the race director let her slide on the cutoff time; she was sooo close when she finished 20 miles, and we promised to escort her in, so she wouldn’t be all alone out there. We did, too – pacing her in relays all the way from the start to first aid station; into my station; through the turnaround loop (she was walking by then); back to me, and then running back to the finish…we had everything broken down and back to base by the time she got there, and we cheered her across the mat at just over 8 hours – and she was smiling and grateful to have us there, I think we made a huge difference for her. I was proud to be apart of that! (We might be the HATR Nation, but we got nothing but love for all runners!)

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

What is your favorite memory?

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

Weekly Training update (if you want to call it that)

So the post-marathon funk is in full effect now…I have allowed life to overwhelm me, and made every excuse imaginable for not getting out and running: everything from bringing work home (which is silly, because I have bringing stuff home for years, and I never look at it until I have had a few hours to unwind) to a second round of ice and sleet that blew back into the area on Tuesday and Wednesday (OK, maybe that was reasonable) to forgetting that it was my turn at cooking dinner and “sacrificing” my workout to keep us from eating too late (like a 30-minute delay would have really mattered); the results have been predictably disappointing. I got out ONCE this week, I have done exactly zero cross-training, and my body feels cramped and neglected…read on and you’ll see why!

Sunday 1-26:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 30:53   The one pretty day we had all week, so I am glad I went. I tried an experiment: no knee braces, no ankle wraps, no taping; just a thorough stretching and warm-up and then run. To my surprise, I had no pain in my ankles, no pain in my knee, no pain in my quads – all the injuries that have been plaguing me for the last two months suddenly vanished! I am really wondering if I have simply been pushing too hard, over-training and overworking my body…maybe I need to do  better job of tracking and allowing for the mileage I put in during the day at work (on this job site I often will not sit down or stop moving for up to 10 hours at a stretch); I know I need to integrate more non-running workouts, especially some upper body strength training, to balance things out. I would love to get started with CrossFit, but I have not yet been able to make it to the required Intro class; they are only offered once or twice a month, and my weekend schedule has gotten very full with other commitments that are equally important to me, like the team prep meetings for the spring Kairos Prison Ministry weekend coming up in early April (I took a year off from this work, and it is time to get back – and I have finally convinced my wife to serve with the team this year, hurray!) I will not say there isn’t enough time for everything, because we all have the same 168 hours a week; it is up to us to decide how we will spend them – and the things we choose to do, those are the ones that matter the most, regardless of what we say.

Total for this week: 1 run, 3.1 miles

Total for January: 11 runs, 56.5 miles; #runthisyear goal 4.4% (90/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $67.00

I know I’m setting myself up for disaster – I have two short races, a 50K and two Spartan races (in the same weekend – eeek!) scheduled over the next 4 months – but I cannot seem to get myself out of the starting blocks. I have seen it said that the last week of January is one of the most depressing times of the year – winter blah has worn us down; the holidays are over, and the bills have arrived; add to that my personal runner’s curse of having completed my biggest goal race, is it any wonder I’m in the hole right now? I will rise above all this, I have no fear about that; it’s a matter of getting started, that’s all…and if I need a push in the right direction, I need go no further than my own blog archives – I can revisit where I was a year ago, when I was just starting out on the road to becoming a runner..if I could do it then, I can do it now. I have this consolation: it’s a whole new month, so I have a clean slate; let’s see what kind of mark I can make!

Are you having trouble staying motivated?

How can we help each other?

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

Chevron Houston Marathon weekend recap, Part 1: Expo and ABB 5K

Time is such a funny thing. isn’t it? It’s only been a few days since I ran the Chevron Houston Marathon, and already it feels like such a long time ago! (Maybe that’s because the race itself seemed like it would never end 🙂 ) So I want to go ahead and get this down before the details slip away…real life keeps chugging along, after all, (sigh) and the steady grind can wear away at even the brightest memories, leaving them a dull echo of what they were. So let’s get started! (Please forgive my total lack of pictures – I took lots, but something went wrong with my phone, and everything got deleted – I was sooo mad!)

For me, race weekend involved both a 5K on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday – because I am easily distracted by shiny things and they offered a huge third medal to everyone who completed races on both days; how could I resist? That meant that I had to decide how I wanted to deal with going through the whole process of getting my bibs. Even though I have only been running a year, I’ve already developed an aversion to race-day stress; I decided to minimize as much as I could by getting packet pick-up done for both races on Friday, along with taking my little tour of the Expo. I arrived at the George R Brown Convention Center at 4 pm, and joined the throngs just getting off work and pouring in – thousands of people were there, it seemed, but the venue wasn’t crowded at all; we are used to dealing with big events here! Upon arriving, runners were directed to separate rows of kiosks for the 5K, half and full; the rows were then divided by bib number, with each booth manned by two volunteers, and handling about 500 bibs; none of them had any lines waiting! The Marathon Committee has made a tremendous effort to “go green”, and so has created a paperless pickup system: runners were emailed a QR code, which was scanned off your smartphone and verified by photo ID. (You also had the option of printing the code and bringing it with you, which could then be recycled right on the spot.) After receiving my bibs, I walked to the other side of the arena to get my participant shirts and gear check bags; there were at least 20 volunteers there, and again I had no line to wait in. I decided to exchange my shirts for a smaller size, so I went over to the Shirt Exchange booth, and once again, no line at all! The entire process took less than 4 minutes – and this with 30,000 runners between the three races…talk about streamlining! Since I had paid for two hours’ parking, that left me plenty of time to tour the Expo.

I have limited experience with race expos; in fact, there has been only one other – the South Padre Island Half Marathon, last June. That was an inaugural race, very poorly attended, and with only a few vendors. I expected much more for such a well-established event, and I was certainly not disappointed! The show took up the entire third floor of Hall A of the GRB, which is a truly enormous venue. There were over 100 booths, with everything from corporate sponsors to professional sports teams; massages, sports medicine, health and wellness seminars; at least a dozen other races were doing registrations (local, state- and nation-wide, and even Canada and Greece); local running clubs and stores showed up in force; and of course, accessories, clothing and shoes, including official race merchandise by Skechers Performance (as an Ambassador, I received a full complement for free: GORun Ride 3 shoes, a half-zip long sleeve tech hoodie – with thumb holes, how cool! – a short sleeve tech shirt, running shorts, and a nice backpack; the women also received running tights); and all sorts of running-related goodies. I made a few purchases: my first 26.2 sticker, some velcro-and-elastic support wraps for my Achilles tendons (very effective!), and a t-shirt for my non-running wife that reads, “I don’t do marathons, but I do a marathon runner” – which she wore to meet me at the finish 🙂 I walked all the aisles, talked to everyone, picked up all the free samples I could stuff into a tote bag, and then headed on home to prep and rest.

Saturday morning started with getting up at 4:30 to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and coffee. We were advised to arrive downtown before 5:30, when streets would begin closing and parking would begin filling up. Discovery Green, the lovely park directly in front of the convention center, served as gear check, meeting area, pre-race warm-up, and Charity Village, where all the non-profits who participate in and benefit from the races could set up tents. I arrived around six, but I live here and I’m very familiar with the downtown area and had already staked out my parking lot – directly across the street from the park, so no long walk before or after! I had enough time to figure out that the Nike+ app I have been using all year had recently updated, and would no longer sync with my GPS and track my runs; so I downloaded and installed Runkeeper instead. (I’m addicted to stats, and even if I don’t look at the numbers while I’m running, I will after I’m done!) With that accomplished, I headed off in search of coffee – I’m a dedicated caffeine junkie, and I needed another fix – and began bumping into friends; most of us ended up standing around in front of gear check, holding on to our jackets as long as possible before turning them in…it was a little chilly before the sun came up, and with the race not starting until 8AM, nobody wanted to be “left out in the cold” longer than necessary. Finally a group of us decided it was time to make that last trip to the porta-potty, (there were over a hundred of them, so the line moved really quick) and then walk the 4 blocks to the start line.

The sun was bright, the sky was a breathtaking blue, and the temperature hovered right at 50 degrees – absolute perfect running conditions! I had committed that I would NOT race this, but take it easy and slow, since I had spent most of two weeks not running at all because of being sick with the flu, so I lined up way at the back of the pack; I was overwhelmed to see 5000 runners filling three city blocks from curb to curb…there was such a good vibe, so much energy in the crowd! The national anthem was sung, and then…BANG! We were off! The course was set up as a simple one loop out-and back, finishing in front of the GRB, and I was a little surprised to see how many spectators came out – people lined the streets on both sides for the entire distance, shouting out encouragement, waving signs, making noise and just having a great time! My only complaint comes not from the race itself, but the conditions of the roads we ran on. While much of downtown has been rebuilt and repaved over the last several years due to the construction and recent expansion of our light rail system, these particular streets have not received much attention lately. I saw several runners trip – and some fall – going over some gnarly potholes and rough patches on the first half of the course. The bicycle EMT’s were on the spot though, and nobody was seriously injured that I am aware of. I managed pretty well on holding back my pace until the end of Mile 2; then one of the DJ’s lining the course starting playing Don Henley’s “Driving With Your Eyes Closed”; that song has always gotten into my head and amped me up, don’t ask me why! But I felt my pulse race, and kicked out at something approaching my normal 5K race pace – wayyy too fast, but I just couldn’t help myself…I ended up passing a ton of people that last mile, and finishing in 31:41, or about 5 minutes faster than planned; but damn, it felt good to run fast again! I only hoped I would not be regretting it the next day 🙂

I was surprised and pleased to see soldiers at the finish line, placing finisher medals around the necks of runners as they crossed; I made a point of walking up and shaking hands with each and every one of them. I may not agree with our leaders about where, how, and why troops should be deployed, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for these men and women who offer up their lives in service. After that, I met with the other Ambassadors – some of whom had just run the same race – for a photo shoot, and a little pep rally before the BIG DAY. Then it was off to the house, to change clothes, pick up my wife, and meet a group from the running club for a pre-marathon carb-loading luncheon. I don’t believe that this ritual has any real benefits, but I LOVE pasta, and eating with friends, and of course I’m always hungry, so what’s to lose?

All in all, it was an excellent precursor to the main event. Next year, whether I get in to the marathon or not, I will definitely be doing the ABB 5K again, and looking forward to seeing another Expo, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves this sport and wants to see a city that really gets behind its runners!