Tagged: personal growth

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Do you struggle with “less than perfect”?

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

I’d love to hear from you!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

I’d love to hear from you!!

Fall training update, New Hope Week 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which do you prefer, and why?

I’d love to hear from you!!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

no box


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


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

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

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

(Yes, that’s more like it.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(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!