Tagged: Chevron Houston Marathon

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!

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Planning for Fall means planning NOT to fail

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

My, but how the time has gone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What are your upcoming goal races?

Have you had to modify your training to accomplish them?

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

Chevron Houston Marathon weekend recap, Part 2: The Big Show

(This is a fairly long post, but it was a long race, so what do you want? Get comfy and enjoy the story!)

If you were to ask ten runners to tell you the most important thing on their minds going into their first marathon, I am certain you would get ten completely different answers; the experience is so intimate, so ultimate, that it would be difficult to imagine that any two people could have the same response. Me, I would have to say it was my utter lack of expectations, the knowledge that I knew nothing about what was about to happen…and the freedom that such a lack allowed me. As I have written before, I initially approached this race with a clear goal: run 26.2 miles in four hours or less. I foolishly based this on my performance in a bare handful of shorter races, half-marathons or less, where I had achieved respectable times; but I learned along the way that the marathon is unlike anything else, in terms of the demands it makes on your body, your mind, and your spirit. Fortunately, I received this education far enough in advance to be able to accept the truth and prepare myself accordingly, and therefore be present in what was actually happening, instead of missing something that wasn’t…not everyone is so blessed!

As I said in my last post, the weekend included two races, a 5K on Saturday and the full on Sunday. I came home Saturday after the pasta luncheon with my running club, feeling warm, full and very satisfied with myself, and decided that a nap was well-deserved, and an excellent way to begin preparing for the next day. I stretched out and fell asleep almost instantly (after all, I had been up since 4:30, run three miles, and then gorged on fusili with salmon, tomato, and cheese; a crash was inevitable). I had intended to rest only an hour or so, but instead I slept nearly four hours. When I woke up, I swung my legs off the bed and tried to stand up…tried being the operative word; it felt like someone had driven very large spikes into both legs, just above the knees. I took me three tries to get to my feet…I leave it to you to imagine the degree of panic I was in! I shuffled into the living room and spent the most agonizing hour of my life on the foam roller, trying to get the massive knots to unlock and act like muscles again; in the end I succeeded, but I was an exhausted emotional wreck…“How in the world am I supposed to run tomorrow, let alone run a marathon?” Thank God for my beautiful, supportive wife! she was there with me, helping me stretch and roll, and reminding me that I had been through an awful lot the last couple of weeks, but I had also spent an entire year getting ready, and the training was going to pay off; I was going to be able to finish; there was no pressure about time, I could take all the walk breaks I needed…in other words, quit losing the race before I even started running it! That is exactly what I needed to hear, and this from someone who swears she will run only if the zombies are right behind her 🙂 I am blessed beyond all belief with this woman!

To keep from psyching myself out any further, I took the radical approach of stretching out on the bed with one of my favorite books (Wizard and Glass, the fourth volume of Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga) and pretty soon I was lost in the story, all else forgotten. Before I knew it, 11 pm had come and I laid the book aside and settled down to get a good night’s sleep; however, the combination of nerves and nap left me tossing and turning until sometime after 1 am…I knew I had a rough day coming!

The alarm went off at 4:30, I guess, but I never heard it; it wasn’t until the back-up alarm sounded at 5:00 that I drug myself out of bed. I flew through my usual pre-race morning ritual, multi-tasking as I went – have you ever tried to pin a bib on your shirt with one hand while eating oatmeal with the other? It can be done, but I would not recommend it! Gatorade and Gu are not friendly to my system, so I was wearing my Fuel Belt; I filled 3 bottles with Nuun cherry-limeade (caffeinated, thank you!) and 2 more with my own blend of chia gel and applesauce, and planned to drink water along the way to stretch my supplies. I also added a small container of mini-M&M’s and some Clif Shot Bloks – my long runs have taught me that variety is very important! I hurried to get dressed: long sleeve compression top, short sleeve tech tee over that; compression tights, shorts, knee braces; Smartwool socks (for the extra cushioning), ankle wraps (for my Achillies tendonitis) and Skechers GORun Ride 3 shoes. Add some sunglasses, throwaway gloves for the wait until start time, and my phone and armband; a light jacket, change of socks, slippers and wallet in the gear bag; and I was off!

I arrived downtown well after street closures had begun, so I ended up parking over a mile away and walking very quickly, as it was only 45 minutes until my corral closed and I still had to get into the GRB, make gear check, and get back to the corral…and already needing to pee again (that 3rd cup of coffee always gets to me 🙂 ) I wasn’t the only one, there was a steady stream of folks headed in with me, but once again the Marathon Committee proved themselves capable: with 25,000 runners all going the same place, there were no lines at gear check, plenty of floor space inside to take a moment to stretch and compose myself (and chat with a dozen different friends I saw along the way, including fellow Ambassador Becca ) and still plenty of time to make my way to the start. I don’t know if all marathons are this well organized, but I am feeling spoiled by this one!

The start corrals were spacious, with dozens of porta-potties for that inevitable last minute stop. We spread ourselves out, cheered wildly when the soprano with the beautiful voice sang out the national anthem; cheered wildly again when the wheelchair athletes started their race; and cheered even more wildly when the gun went off! The elites and the fast runners in Corral A cleared much more quickly that I imagined, and I passed over the mat less than 8 minutes behind the gun. Although I have never run this course before, I have heard many others say the new layout this year provided the smoothest start they have ever seen. I can say the course never felt crowded, there was no dodging around other runners, and I spent the first three miles gawking at the beautiful sunrise and clear blue skies…and the enormous crowds of spectators lining both sides of the streets – talk about an emotional boost! After that, I settled into a nice steady pace…I wasn’t looking at my phone, choosing to run entirely by feel, but later I saw that I stayed consistently within 30 seconds either way of my 10:30/mi goal for the first 13 miles. My quads were a little sore (especially after the first real hill, a moderately long and somewhat steep overpass) but nothing like the day before, and I was feeling better and stronger than I had at this point on most of my longer training runs. I remember thinking as I passed Mile 14, “This is going pretty well; maybe 4:30 is doable after all!” …and that’s about the time the wheels began coming off 😦 – maybe that will teach me about thinking too far ahead.

I started feeling a lot of tightness in my legs, and I was running noticeably slower with the same perceived effort; at Mile 17 I decided to stop and do some stretching, to see if it would improve the situation. I was a little alarmed at how sore my upper back was when I bent over, and even more so at the considerable effort it took to get back on my feet; transitioning from walking back to running felt like pushing a car uphill! I also noticed my energy level was dropping off, and I couldn’t shake a gnawing, empty feeling in my stomach. The spectators along this portion of the course were handing out food and drinks of every description: oranges, bananas, fig newtons, cookies, chips; water, juice, coffee…you would have thought we were doing a 100-mile ultra! I took full advantage of the goodies at hand, and began doing walk/run intervals to conserve my strength and make sure I could finish – since I was afraid to look at my phone, I actually began counting strides: 300 running steps, 60 walking steps…300 running steps, 60 walking steps…and this carried me along fairly well for the next 5 miles. I noticed I kept passing the same runners during each run interval, and getting passed by them during the walk, so I felt like my plan was at least keeping me consistent, if nothing else!

At Mile 22 the pain got a lot worse, and I stopped to stretch again; this time I was down for so long that a race official came over and asked me if I was OK! I told him it was just some muscle cramping, but I was going to be fine (note: nobody believes you are “fine” when you are laying on the ground!) He stayed with me until I got up and got moving again, so I mentioned how much I appreciated the concern for runners’ well-being he demonstrated. He simply said, “That’s what we’re here for!” and moved on to help someone else. I finally got going again, but now the intervals got a little shorter…it was 200 running, 50 walking, and that got me to Mile 25, and back into downtown. I made turn off Allen Parkway and had the GRB in sight, but I was running out of gas badly by then; the intervals shrank again: run a block, walk a block, run a block, walk a block… and who in the world made city blocks so long, anyway?

I knew I was almost done, in every sense of the word, and I came very near to just giving up and walking that last .2, but pride is a fierce motivator: I realized I was wanted to run across that finish line, and nothing was going to stop me! I dug deeper than I ever have before, found that last cup of energy, and ran faster than I had at any point in the previous ten miles (but if you watch the video of me finishing, you can see me limping out of camera range as soon as I passed over the mat!) My only thought was, “Never again..never again…never again!” Then a volunteer stopped in front of me and placed that finisher medal around my neck, and suddenly my legs hurt just a little less 🙂 I made it inside, claimed my shirt and beer mug, then my Double Race Challenge medal, and stumbled over to gear check to get my stuff and head to the changing area. As I sat down to change, I became afraid that might have been a terrible mistake, because I was not entirely sure I was going to ever get up again! I called my wife, who was waiting in the Reunion Arena section and told her I was inside. She said she knew, because she had seen me cross the finish line, and she was very proud of me. I wasn’t feeling terribly proud at the moment, but she helped me with my perspective…God, I love that woman!

My official finish time was 5:35:13, which is far short of what I had hoped for…but the experience was far more than I could have ever imagined! By the time we walked out and headed back to the truck, I was already thinking about next year, and what changes I needed to make in my preparations – and how that course PR is going DOWN come 2015! That makes it official:  I am a runner; running is a mental sport, and we are all insane!

CHM Training update: T+1 week: I need a new title!

Here we are, one week past the fulfillment of a goal I have been working towards for over a year…and I am not all that surprised to find myself in a funk, and a little aimless. It has been an effort to even begin planning for the next big thing – or the next little thing, for that matter! My body is a wreck, my spirits are at a low ebb, my “real” life marches relentlessly on, and I am coasting at the moment. I can’t even call it procrastinating, because I haven’t gotten around to doing that much 🙂 I know (because so many other wonderful runners and bloggers have told me so) that this is a normal and temporary phase, so I am not in a panic or anything…but that doesn’t make it any less real, either. Here is a quick summary of the week after…

Sunday 1-12:  Race – 26.2  miles, 5:35:13 (PR)   I am still working on my recap post (look for it sometime this week, I promise) so I will simply say that finishing this was the hardest thing I have ever done – and the most satisfying, as well!

marathon medalsNice haul for two runs!

Monday 1-20 thru Friday 1-24:  Rest days – no activity  Monday morning I could barely get out of bed, my quads hurt so bad. I decided then and there to take the full week off running to allow for rest and recovery; my only concession to fitness (other than the miles I walk every day at work, including at least 10 trips a day up and down the stairs to the 7th floor) were daily sessions of stretching and foam rolling. The pain has faded, but my legs still feel like they are mad and could turn on me at any moment…hopefully a gradual return will change their attitude 🙂

Saturday 1-25: Trail running– 6.75 miles, 1:30:00 +/- For my re-entry to training, I decided a group run would be the best option, so I headed out this morning to run the Memorial Park trails with the HATR Nation. We had a great turnout, despite the 30 degree temps, partly because Rob Goyen, aka The Prez, had some special announcements: we are forming teams to run the Ragnar Trail Series this fall in the Texas Hill Country, and working out the details of a sponsorship deal to represent Ragnar in the Houston area! I have asked Rob to write a guest post here, giving more details and info, so be looking for that as well in the near future – there will also be a giveaway related to this, so don’t miss out!

The run itself was broken into two segments: a 2.3 mile warm-up loop at a fairly easy pace, and then a 4.4 mile loop that had me huffing and puffing. My quads started hurting again about a mile from the finish, and I had to walk part of the way from there, but I got it done and I think I will be all the way back in the groove within another week. I am psyched about getting started on training for that 50K in late April – I have to get my mileage built back up, and get real about some weight training as well, but I believe all things come to those who put in the effort!

Total for this week: 2 runs, 33 miles

Total for January: 10 runs, 53.4 miles; #runthisyear goal 4.2% (85.4/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $63.00

It was a week of ups and downs; being congratulated by friends and co-workers on completing the marathon, while struggling with the aftermath in my head. But tomorrow is another day, and there are more races already lining up on the schedule, so I won’t get caught up lingering over the “what-if’s” and “should-have’s”; I will be far to busy with “going-to” and “let’s-do-this” for any of that!

Have you ever suffered from post-marathon depression?

How did you overcome it?

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!

CHM Training update: T-0: Here we go!

The big day has arrived, at long last: the training runs are behind me; my body, for better or for worse, is as ready as I could make it, and my mind as well. This last week of taper has not been what I expected, but since nothing else has been what I expected, why should this be any different? Instead of being a nervous wreck, I was so busy with the rest of my life, it barely registered that I was only days away from THE RACE – if it works out I may try this approach again! So let’s look at the week that nearly wasn’t 🙂

Sunday 1-12:  Rest day – no activity   A final breath of rest and recuperation, before a new week begins. The fever had not returned, and I actually felt very nearly normal; but I knew that my body needed a full day of rest and eating, to replace all I had missed in the last week, or at least as much as possible. Not running was making me a little stir crazy, along with the rumblings of anxiety: “Am I really running a marathon in a week? Am I ready, or is this going to be a crash-and-burn for the history books?” (For what it’s worth, I knew that wasn’t true…there have been some truly epic occurrences in my history –  I would have to go a long way to top them!) On a happier note, I was able to pick up all my free Skechers Ambassador gear from the Marathon Committee: a pair of GoRun3 shoes; a half-zip pullover; short sleeve tech tee; running shorts; a nice backpack, and a Chevron gift card – all very appreciated! I’ll be wearing the whole outfit on Saturday, for the 5K and expo, and a photo shoot with all the Ambassadors after the race.

swagAnd it all coordinates, too!

Monday 1-13:  Rest day – no activity  The beginning of another work week , and with it, a whole new set of changes! I was just barely finding my way into my new role as supervisor of the piping department; the summary of the job I did last week (and the report I gave to the “suits”) apparently made a far more significant impact than I had imagined: this morning I arrived to find two superintendents and two other foreman waiting at the job trailer; they came bearing the news that I had now become the sheetmetal foreman, with responsibility for the piping and finished being shifted to the other two, because my previous supervisor was no longer employed! So I get to start over again, the second time in ten days…I wouldn’t recommend it, but this is certainly one way to keep pre-race anxiety at bay 🙂

Tuesday 1-14:  Easy run – 3.1 miles, 35:00 Having done nothing for a week, I set out today with a single goal in mind: try out my new shoes, and decide if I was running in them this weekend. I realize that one short run is hardly sufficient to measure for a marathon, but that was all I had…and some is better than none, I suppose. I will be doing a more detailed review in the near future, but my initial impression: these are high-quality running shoes, and the removable inserts (which raise the heel drop from 2mm to 4mm) give a unique degree of customization that I found very satisfying; they made the cut, and I look forward to doing quite a few miles in them!

Wednesday 1-15:  Rest day – no activity  I really wanted to get out there and run today, just to help stay loose and feel a lot more prepared, but with the new position at work come new responsibilities: a problem came up at the very end of the work day, and I had to stay over a couple of hours to deal with it – so much for my plans.

Thursday 1-16:  Rest day – no activity As we drew closer to end of the week, I forced one concession from my job: I took off a couple of hours during the morning and went for my first ever deep tissue massage; I was amazed that I was able to schedule one this week at all, but over and over again things have been coming together for me, and I am certainly not going to take a gift like that for granted! The massage was every thing I expected: excruciatingly painful and intensely satisfying, all at the same time 🙂

Friday 1-17: Rest day – no activity  I hate adding anything to the stress of race day, so I made time to get by packet pickup after work. I have to say this: Houston’s race organizers have this part down to a science! My final confirmation email included a QR code that I could bring up on my phone, to be scanned by the volunteers; this eliminates a lot of fumbling around with paperwork, and it’s eco-friendly too! There were hardly any lines, and I had both bibs in under 2 minutes; both gear check bags and participant shirts in less than five; and was able to exchange both shirts for a smaller size (they ran larger than I am used to) in less than one minute! It was near the end of the day, so the expo was already closing down, and I decided to wait and see the show on Saturday after the 5K. Not too shabby at all, for a system designed to accommodate 5000 runners in one race, and 25,000 in the other two! 

Saturday 1-18: Race – ABB 5K I went into the race with the most upside-down challenge I have ever faced: to do my best not to run too fast! I briefly entertained the idea of walking this course, just to make sure I didn’t burn myself out, but in the end I ran a slow, steady trot for the most part – toward the end the music playing along the course got into my blood, and I ran the last mile pretty quickly; but I will get into that more next week, when I do  the complete race weekend recap – I want some time to sort my impressions and give you a good picture of the event as a whole; I love my city, and this race is Houston putting on its best face; I want to be sure that comes across for you!

Total for this week: 2 runs, 6.2 miles

Total for January: 8 runs, 20.4 miles; #runthisyear goal 1.6% (32.6/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $30.00

Tomorrow marks a milestone for me, the achievement of a years’ worth of planning, training, and hoping and dreaming as well. I have a good feeling about it – I put in the work, I ran the miles, I ate well, I slept well, and I got my mind right along the way. There is nothing else I can do to make or break the day, so I can just go to bed, wake up in the morning, and let it be whatever it will be – and there is great peace of mind in that, let me tell you! Tune in again for the blow-by blow, or step-by step, if you wish…and then we will begin to look forward, as I shift my training towards the next set of goals: a trail ultra in April, and Spartan races in May, with a handful of shorter races along the way. Here’s to the future, and to having you by my side – I hope you make it!

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting me along this journey. I may have been able to do it without you, but I’m so grateful I didn’t have to!

What suggestions do yo have about things you’d like to see or hear as we move forward?

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

CHM Training update: T-1 week – No let-up to the let-down…

So here we are, the last week before my first marathon, and frankly,  I am not excited…I’m just tired. I have read many others’ accounts of their emotional state at this point, and so I think I know what I should be feeling, but mostly I am just weary to the bone and ready for it to be over. A great deal of that, I am sure, comes from spending the last week as the “walking wounded”: going to work in the cold, dreary weather, in spite of the lingering illness I am still struggling with; trying to be productive through a fog of medication, while dealing with the sudden responsibility for a project that I am learning was not being properly managed; all while maintaining my duties at home, and my training for three upcoming races. It was all just too much…something had to give…turns out, it was my body. Read on, and let’s watch the cookie crumble:

Sunday 1-5:  Rest day – walked 1 mile, 15:47   As I said last week, the early stages of illness were upon me – I had a restless night, waking at midnight drenched in sweat. A quick shower refreshed me some, and I was able to sleep a few good hours, but when morning came I began revising my schedule for the day. I still had errands to run, and chores to attend, but doing any serious running had to be crossed off the list. By noon I was home, and worn out, and still had not done a workout. I napped briefly, waking up to a body stiff and creaky and not at all interested in exercise. I drove myself out the door with the idea that moving the blood around would help purge the toxins and stretch out the stiffness; I set a brisk walking pace and got my mile done…but it cost me: I was badly out of breath and lightheaded by the time I got home…not a good sign of things to come.

Monday 1-6:  Rest day – walked 1 mile, 15:25  Back to work, despite feeling like something the dog ate and then heaved back up – in my new role, I do not actually DO much work, I manage others; this makes it possible for me to be there when I am not at my best, and still get things done, and today I was grateful for that. It was a day filled with walking, touring the entire jobsite and detailing what has been done and what needs to be done, in order to give a status update to my superiors. I don’t count what I do at work as part of my training, but maybe I should…we are roughing in the lower eight floors of a 21-story high rise apartment complex, while the structure of the tower is being completed; I walked at least 10 miles today, up and down stairs and around every floor! I really didn’t feel like going out and doing anything else after I got home, but the idea of breaking my streak made me so angry that I went and “power-walked” a mile just to get it done…but anger is very expensive fuel to burn, and I was wiped out afterwards; I passed out without even eating dinner – now you KNOW I was feeling sick!

Tuesday 1-7:  Rest day – no activity Another day much as before, except I was already running 102 fever by the time I got home, and didn’t even kid myself – the #ncrstreak was broken, and I simply went to bed – I might be slow, but I know when I’m beaten.

Wednesday 1-8:  Rest day – no activity  Rinse and repeat from yesterday. A smarter man would have stayed home from work to get rested and healthy again; I am not that man, I guess. My supervisor was expecting my status report on the job today; he didn’t tell me that he also expected me to deliver that report at the office to the project manager, the production manager, the department manager, and the vice-president! I wish he had – I probably would not have taken those NyQuil Liqi-gels right before we went to the meeting 😦 Oh well, I finally made it home, and fell into bed…going out to walk or run never even crossed my drug-addled mind.

Thursday 1-9:  Rest day – no activity This was probably the worst day of the whole week. I woke up feeling pretty good, and hoped I had turned the corner, and might actually feel like running at Bandera on Saturday. (I had gotten though the whole week by holding this carrot in front of my face: “Just make it to Friday, you can rest on the way to the race!”) But as the day wore on, my energy level dropped, the body aches returned full-force, and my focus dwindled to just getting home. My body hurt worse than after any training run, ever. Small wonder – when I took my temperature, I was running 103.9! I was very glad I had scheduled the next day off from work – I only hoped I wouldn’t be spending it in the hospital instead.

Friday 1-10: Rest day – no activity  I woke up feeling like I had been dipped in something gross and left to dry…and knowing that I was not going to be racing this weekend. I called my buddy Rob Goyen (pres. of the HATR running club) and told him I was dropping out because I was sick; he expressed his sympathy and agreed it was for the best. I spent the entire day in bed, wrapped in my own personal cocoon woven of misery and self-pity – is THIS what I spent a year working so hard for? How am I ever going to complete 26.2 miles when I can’t even walk to the back door to let my dog outside without getting dizzy? (I believe this is why they say that men are such wusses when we get sick – I stand guilty as charged.)

Saturday 1-11: Rest day – no activity Today was supposed to be a great day for me – my first ever 25K trail race…instead, it’s my second DNS…not the accomplishment I was hoping for. Instead, I am spending the day resting, alternating between reading and sitting at my computer, because I just don’t have the energy to do much else. The fever is gone, but the stuffy head and nagging cough are still with me; I may go out later and walk a bit to relieve the stiffness and the blah – the weather has cleared up wonderfully, it’s sunny and in the low 70’s today (you gotta love the Gulf Coast weather!) so at least it will be pleasant to be outdoors. I will be checking the results page from Bandera later on, to see how my friends’ racing went; it’s too early yet, as they are doing 100K and should only be at the second checkpoint as I am writing this – how I wish I was there! But I’ll get another chance in April, or perhaps sooner, if things turn out well…first I have to make it through today!

Total for this week: 2 runs, 2 miles

Total for January: 6 runs, 14.2 miles; #runthisyear goal 1.1% (22.7/2014 km)

#ncrstreak: 40 days, 191 miles; broken by illness

Living Water fundraising to date: $24.00

I can only hope that a weekend of real rest will make the difference, and I can shake off being sick and get a couple of runs in this week. I will pick up my Houston Marathon Ambassador gear on Sunday – shoes, shirt, etc. all supplied by Skechers Performance, a new corporate sponsor of the race, and I would like a chance to break it in a little before running the 5K next Saturday. Only time will tell how it goes, I suppose. Maybe this is why events have happened the way they have; I have already become comfortable with revising my goals for these two races, from setting PR’s to simply finishing; I can’t imagine how devastated I would be if I had to come to that decision point today instead of 6 weeks ago. God has all things in His sight, and knows the end from the beginning; we just have to trust that He really is in control, and make the choices we believe serve Him best, even when we don’t understand it all…one of my favorite verses of Scripture is Isaiah 55:8-9, because I feel it lets me off the hook: I’m not supposed to understand it all, it’s not even possible to do so, so why worry about it? I have more than enough to deal with right here in front of me as it is!

One other note: I met this week with someone from Living Water, and we talked about my fundraising plan. He was enthusiastic about it, and agreed to assist me in promoting my efforts, and also promised to send me more information and contacts to help me along. I also received permission to use their logo on my blog; clicking on it will take you directly to my donation page. I have condensed the story somewhat and created a permanent page for it; please check it out and feel free to share the link with others you believe would be interested in helping, because everyone has the power to make a difference!  Last week I received my first direct donation, and I must admit: when the notification came in, it brought tears to my eyes – knowing that my words produced a positive response, touched someone and prompted them to give…that makes everything worthwhile!

Have you ever help raise funds or awareness for a charity?

What advice could you share about your experience?

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

CHM Training update: T-2 weeks – Who fortnight-ed?

blame

“What? There’s only 2 weeks until the marathon? And only one week to the 25K trail race??  Where did all the time go? Can I get a recount or something? Who’s in charge of things around here?!?”

Oh, wait, that’s right…I did this to me, didn’t I? Well, that will teach me to put myself in my hands, won’t it? (Probably not 🙂 ) Seriously, I am getting so excited about reaching the end of a year-long training cycle, and being on the verge of a major accomplishment in my life. I am about to do something I did not know if I could achieve (and honestly, I still don’t know it, and won’t until it’s done, but I believe!) This week’s training spanned New Year’s Day, and with it the obligatory looking back/looking ahead…I covered all that in this post. Many new goals and challenges are in place, so there will be some extra stats at the end of each week’s summary moving forward…I like crunching numbers, because they help me keep the bigger picture in focus – sometimes we get too involved with the bark to notice how majestic the tree is, let alone the grandeur of the forest; stats are one way for me to keep the pieces in scale with the whole. So let’s take a look at how they piled up this week:

Sunday 12-29:  Long run – 3:58:00, 21.2 miles   O-M-G!!! This run made me truly appreciate the value of having a running buddy when things get tough. The Striders set this up as the Longest Long Run before the marathon, with support riders on bikes, and an unbelievable aid station, complete with homemade chicken noodle soup – I have never in my life been so grateful for a bowl of hot broth! The course was set up as two loops of 10.5 miles around and through one of the large county parks on the city’s west side. Some people chose to run only a single loop – either those not running Chevron this year, or running the half instead of the full – and I came very near to being one of them. I run significantly slower than almost everyone else in the club, so I did the first 10 miles essentially by myself, at the very end of the pack. I saw others, because we ran a couple of out-and-back sections and circular park roads, so I received plenty of encouragement along the way, but I ran alone…with only my own thoughts to keep me company; since I train like this 99% of the time, I’m used to it, and I expected nothing different. My surprise and relief came at the halfway point, as I was sipping soup and trying to convince myself to go do the other half, which was becoming a losing argument. (This is why my long runs are normally out-and-back, because giving up won’t get you home – I know who I’m dealing with here!) Right about then Rosemary (a wonderful woman from St. Lucia with the most musical accent I have ever heard) looked at me and said, “Aren’t you going back out? You have to, because I have to and I can’t do it alone!” So that decided the issue for me – very few things will motivate me more than someone saying they need my help. I warned her that I was going to need to run much slower than she normally did (her pace is about 2 minutes per mile faster than mine) and she said that was fine – she was tired and just wanted to get the miles done; if it meant walk-run intervals, and shuffling along, so be it…and with that we were off! We held a nice, steady 10:30/mile for the first 5 miles, chatting and getting to know each other, and the miles passed quickly! When we reached 16 miles, with 5 to go, her back began to ache (she had not run at all in nearly a week, and she was feeling it) so we began to walk 1 minute intervals with some stretching breaks – I was grateful for those, as well! The final 2 miles were really hard for both of us – her back had been joined by my ankles in the crying corner – so naturally we decided to push a little harder and get it done: 20 second sprints with 2 minute recovery! We were quite the pair “sprinting” our way back to the finish line – but we got a standing ovation and a roaring cheer from everyone waiting for us; we were the last two in and nearly everyone stayed until we made it – what a great group! And we beat the self-imposed 4-hour mark we decided on when we set off together… added zest to an epic run!

Striders-long-runHere we are before the start – I’m nearly invisible at the back!

Monday 12-30:   Recovery/rest – walked 1.01 mile, 17:31  At some point I really need to shift my long runs to Saturdays; having to go back to work and be on my feet all day kind of makes the “rest day” a moot point; in any case, I just went out to walk my streak mile and try to limber up the joints a bit. It bothers me that my running is not limited by my endurance level or aerobic capacity, but instead by my pain threshold – I can run faster than I currently do, but only at an exponential cost of pain in my knees and ankles…if I do a 5K at sub-25 pace, I can barely walk afterwards; but drop into turtle gear, and I can keep going 10 times as far before it gets bad; I could walk a 100-miler non-stop, if I didn’t mind taking 25-30 hours to do it 😦 I guess I am never destined to be a speedy runner again, but I’m sure determined to finish everything I start; if I have to choose, I choose to endure!

Tuesday 12-31:  Maintenance run – 5 miles, 52:01 It took some determination to make myself do the 3rd and 4th miles – after 2, my legs were ready to go home, in spite of what my mind said! But I pushed ahead, and eventually they gave up complaining and got with the program, and the last mile home felt smooth as glass.

Wednesday 1-1:  Resolution run – 3.1 miles, 31:17  Happy New Year! I had intended to meet the Striders running club for a group run, but when you polish off half a bottle of really smooth vodka the night before, plans will get get changed, right? So I did my own personal 5K to celebrate one full year of running, and look ahead to an even more exciting year to come. This run also completed the Runner’s World Holiday-to-Holiday Run Streak in style – 35 straight days, 180 miles in all! 

Thursday 1-2:  Resistance run, 5 miles, 53:50 I am enjoying these runs in the grass more and more – it’s such a nice change from pounding the pavement, and engages more muscles as I adjust to the constantly changing footing. The going gets tougher each week as the grass gets higher, so I get “free” progressive resistance in the bargain – what a deal! This workout, along with my overpass repeats, will be some of the secrets to my success in the future – and a sure way to prevent getting bored, as well.

Friday 1-3: Maintenance run – 3.1 miles, 33:12  It was nearly full dark by the time I got on the road, but after getting a “promotion” at work (my supervisor quit, and so the 2nd man and myself both moved up a notch; no extra pay, just more and different responsibility) I really needed to put the body in motion and let the mind spin free for a while…running is great free therapy!

Saturday 1-4: Rest day – walked 1 mile, 15:09 I wanted to go run some trails today; I wanted to get in a good practice before next week’s race at Bandera; I didn’t want to catch the cold/flu/whatever bug that everyone else in the house is down with…guess which one came true? So I walked a mile to keep my streak going, and now I’m bundled up, channeling a cold-medicine commercial – sniffling/sneezing/coughing/aching/stuffy head/fever – and hoping I feel better tomorrow; just in time for the bottom to fall out of the weather again…at least I don’t live in the northern third of the country, which is now unsuitable for human life as we normally define it!

Total for this week: 7 runs, 39.4 miles

Total for December: 31 runs, 165 miles

Total for 2013: 210 runs, 817 miles

Total for January: 4 runs, 12.2 miles; #runthisyear goal 0.9% (19.5/2014 km)

#ncrstreak: 38 days, 189 miles

Living Water fundraising to date: $12.00

So it has been a good week to end a year with, and to begin one as well! In other news, I am well on my way with another of my challenge goals, to run 14 races in 2014 – this week I added two more to my confirmed schedule: I registered for the Brazos Bend 50K trail run in April, the one sponsored by the HATR’s; and I mailed in the registration form for the first Spring Series race of the Houston Area Road Runners Association (HARRA) – which I also became  member of today – the Buffalo Wallow 6K XC Race, in February…these two races also earn points for my respective running clubs in their competitive series for this year, so my running benefits the group as a whole; one more step to making my efforts count for more than just me! I think I could get really used to this idea…it’s a lot more fun than just running alone 🙂

How well did 2013 meet your expectations?

Are you on track to start a new year off right?

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