Tagged: Spartan race

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total for this week: 6 runs, 30.2 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total for this week: 6 runs, 31.3 miles

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

Living Water fundraising to date: $224.00

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

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

What are you still struggling with?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total for this week: 5 runs, 20.5 miles

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

Living Water fundraising to date: $163.00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 3-7:  Easy run3.2  miles, 30:00 (9:23/mi)   So maybe I am contrary by nature, but it seems to work well for me…”conventional wisdom” would say that the day before a race, especially one which you intend to PR in, would best be spent in rest and recovery, to prevent possible injury and go into the race in top readiness; I, however have never been a big fan of conventions! I went out today, not trying to kill it, but not really holding back either – I wanted to bridge the gap between easy run and race pace, and I believe I did just that! Side note: one year ago this weekend I ran the Bayou City Classic 5K fun run, my first race ever, and while I did break the 30-minute mark, it was an all-out gut-busting who-stole-all-the-air effort to do it…today I did it without out even breathing hard, in fact I was on autopilot during this run, thinking about the rest of the weekend’s activities; it kinda surprised me to be finished already. What an ENORMOUS difference a year’s worth of training makes!

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

Total for this week: 5 runs, 24.5 miles

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

Living Water fundraising to date: $142.00

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

How have you stretched yourself this year?

What areas of your lifestyle still need more focus?

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

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

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

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

Total for this week: 1 run, 3.1 miles

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

Living Water fundraising to date: $67.00

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

Are you having trouble staying motivated?

How can we help each other?

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

Looking back, Striding forward…and helping others

Happy New Year everyone, and happy anniversary to this blog! We’ve come a long way together…me, my writing, and most of all YOU, my faithful friends and followers. I wasn’t sure about doing a recap – everyone does that, and I hate to be boring – but at last I decided to jump on the bandwagon and post my “year-in-review”, along with a look ahead at what I hope 2014 has in store; perhaps it will inspire another person to take a leap of faith, and that would make this entirely worth the effort! So grab yourself a fresh cup of coffee, tea, or even a bit of that hair-o’ the-dog, if it suits you, and let’s get all reminiscent, shall we?

2013 was my first year as a runner; I officially began on New Year’s Eve 2012, just to kick-start my resolve. I had little more than a vague series of goals in mind: quit smoking cigarettes; train for a year;  run a marathon…not exactly the most detailed agenda! I didn’t really ask for any advice, choosing to do my own research online. I had been blogging for a few months, on another site, but had not made the connections with others that I cherish now, so I read everything I could find about how to get started. I had not run – or even walked for exercise – since I was a teenager, and that was many, many years and packs of cigarettes ago; so I started off slow, with the Couch-to-5K app on my phone; a handful of favorite songs on a playlist, and a brand new pair of running shoes – bought on closeout at a big box store, but at least I did some reading and knew what I was buying and why 🙂 Using the app as my coach made it easy – no pressure to meet a certain pace, just go run until time ran out, and then go do it again a few days later…and then go do it again. Persistence was the greatest lesson there!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsource

It was the first race that changed me forever – one innocent little 5K, the end-goal of the training app: “Find a race, sign up for it, and complete it – that’s all you have to do!” So I found a local 5K/10K (the 5K is an untimed “fun run”, the 10K is the serious race) and I ran my heart out – and got a sub-30 minute finish! That is when I began to dream of competitive running, and setting records, and all that jazz…surely I am not the only one! That first race led to another, a 10K; that led to a half-marathon (and my first serious injury…one that I still have trouble with); it was about then that I signed up for my first marathon, and made the lottery on my first try! The six-month lead time gave me ample opportunity to make all the mistakes I possibly could…and believe me, I have made excellent use of it! I ran 600 miles on the same pair of shoes –

worn outOK, not quite this bad, but still…

I ran at noon in Houston in August with no water –

hot

  I got attacked by giant dogs, medium dogs, even a herd of Chihuahua once –

attackI may be small, Señor…but I can still kill you!

– you name it, it happened. And still I ran…

I ran…and I learned. I learned to listen to my body more than to a training plan; I learned to take the headphones off sometimes and just enjoy the run; I learned that the world will not end if my pace is a little – or even a lot – slower than it “should” be; I learned that there is value to being with other, experienced runners in a club or two; most of all, I learned that I have a lot more to learn!

2014 promises to be quite instructive…I am doing more new things in my life than I ever have before! I will be running that first marathon in 18 days; one week before that, I am running my first trail race, a 25K in the Texas hill country. I will run my first ultra – a 50K – in April; my first obstacle races in May – Spartan races, at that! I am participating in several running challenges: running 14 races in 2014; earning Half-Maniac status; earning a Spartan Race Trifecta; and I am taking one challenge I am currently participating in (the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak) and making it personal: The “nickycanrun streak challenge”- you can follow my progress as I attempt to run at least one mile every day for a year, by following the hashtag #ncrstreak on Twitter.

The one thing I am most excited about is a way to make my running count for something lasting, something more important than “me”. 2013 was a very selfish year for me, in too many ways – I became very enamored of my own successes, and obsessed with my own agenda. And then my wife and I found a new church to be a part of, and something changed…I remembered that I am called to be in this world, but not of this world; and I think I have figured out a way to do just that. This church has partnered with many existing groups to make a lasting difference, both locally and globally, and one of them called out to me in particular…for a long time now, I have been reading and hearing about the fantastic work being done by Living Water International; this organization has a simple, yet profound mission – I will let this quote from their website explain it:

For Living Water it’s all about Jesus. It’s about demonstrating God’s love, announcing his kingdom, seeing Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters, offering a cup of water in Jesus’ name and proclaiming his gospel, the living water.

Helping communities create sustainable water, sanitation, hygiene, and Christian witness programs in partnership with local churches is just the best way we’ve found to do that. Why? Because the water crisis affects poverty, women, health and education—and for us it’s a spiritual issue.

783 million people lack access to an improved source of drinking water—that’s 1 in 9 of us. In the places we work, it’s more like 1 in 2 . Great progress is being made globally, but whole people groups are being overlooked—it’s the poorest people with the least political power that continue to suffer, and these are the people we are called to serve.

Serving others is one of my core values…it is the distinguishing mark of those who claim to follow Jesus – a claim I make openly. Even the Endorphin Warrior wristband I wear proclaims my faith: it reads, “Believe,” which reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 14:12 –

“I tell you the truth: whoever believes in Me will be able to do what I have done, but they will do even greater things, because I will return to be with the Father.”

I believe in Him, and so I can do the things He did; one thing is to give a drink of water to the thirsty. It would be possible for me to simply go around and hand out bottles of water to people – and indeed, I have done that. But to provide water wells in places where they can change the course of people’s lives – that is a far greater undertaking. So, I have begun, in my own small way, and here is where I need you to help me. I have set up a fundraising page on LWI’s website, and I am asking for people – I’m asking you – to make a pledge to donate, based on the number of miles I run – whether it is by the week, the month or the year, that is up to you. I am committing to run at least 100 miles per month, and asking for pledges of any amount – $10, $1, ten cents, even a penny per mile, if that suits your situation – that is also up to you. I am in the process of setting up links for my sidebar and my Facebook page, but until then, you can click the link above to make a donation. I will receive nothing from this – it’s not a sponsorship deal, nobody is paying for my races or anything – 100% of the money donated goes directly to whichever focus area I select (currently it’s India, but I will rotate among the various projects around the world.) You can inform me of your pledge, if you wish – by commenting below, or sending me a Twitter DM, or Facebook message, or email – and I will keep you notified of my accumulated miles on a weekly and/or monthly basis; but beyond that, your own conscience will have to be your guide…I will not directly solicit donations from anyone, or sell or give out any contact info I may receive; this is between you, me and Jesus, and I will keep it that way, I promise. You can also track my mileage by simply reading my weekly recaps, or following me on Nike+ or dailymile (search for me by my full name, you’ll find me), and donate as you see fit, leaving me out of it entirely – I am completely OK with that…it’s not about me, it’s about what I can do for those who can’t do for themselves.

The New Year holds opportunities for everyone, and I intend to seize this one and RUN with it as far as I can…why not join me?

CHM Training update: T-5 weeks – Days are short, miles are long

countdown

Day by day, the countdown looms larger in my mind – I feel a sense of imminence that is thrilling and frightening at the same time. I have not gotten the really long runs done, and I know I need to; but on the other hand, modifying my goals has given me a serenity that I was lacking before – I am confident I can finish a marathon; I am not stressing about pace or injuries; and I am more excited about the bigger picture of what I am doing than about the little details of how I do it- and that is how it should be, isn’t it? Here is the week that was:

Sunday 12-8: 1:02:45, 6 miles As I posted last week, I participated in the #runchat  Holiday to Holiday Scavenger Hunt; this run was planned and designed around getting the last item on my list – a picture of a local coffee shop. I am a creature of convenience in many things, and that means coffee too – if I want a cup while I’m out, I’ll stop at the Starbucks closest to wherever I am. But this place is a destination unto itself: a coffeehouse with picnic tables on the side; and craft beers, and wine by the glass if you’re after something more…relaxing, shall we say :). As a bonus, I “discovered” a new city park, with access to an extensive hike-and-bike path I had never run on before! I’ll be headed back there tomorrow to explore some more as I log a 15-mile long run – gotta build that distance!

Monday 12-9:  Walked 1.04 miles in 17:00  A mild rain was falling, but I had already spent the whole day working in it, so walking my daily #RWRunStreak mile was no challenge. I’m so glad I committed to this streak – one more reason not to accept excuses!

Tuesday 12-10: Hill repeats: 2.5 mi easy run warm-up; 4x [over the hill and back @ 0.75 mi ea]; 0.5 mi cool-down; 6.15 miles, 1:03:13  Since I am not doing the TM anymore, I wanted something challenging so I re-visited my favorite overpass. I thought it interesting that my pace on the hill was the same as it was on my warm-up before the hill…the intensity was greater, and that’s the point, right? Getting stronger is what I’m all about these days.

Wednesday 12-11:  Shakeout run, 3.05 miles, 30:43 (10:05/mi)  Still not making any effort to cross-train; I guess I have mentally filed that away for after the marathon, since I have modified my goal from 4:00:00 finish to strong finish. I have committed to joining a CrossFit box at the end of January, because I know I do not currently have the upper-body strength necessary to complete a Spartan race, especially after watching it on TV last weekend – did you watch it? I was kind of disappointed, because I was expecting to see more than just selected highlights of the elites – but that’s network TV for you.

Thursday 12-12: 1 mile, 10:50 A terrible, hectic day that got completely away from me – I took off from the house in the jeans and sweatshirt I wore to work, wearing my worn-out Ride 4’s, intending to just walk a mile for the streak; half a block away I started running, because walking just wasn’t gonna do it for me – pretty clear sign that I am a runner!

Friday 12-13: 5.02 miles, 50:39 (10:05/mi)  After working my 8-hour day, and then spending another 4 hours doing errands (mostly sitting in rush-hour traffic) I needed to get out and run to get my mind and body right. It was raining, cold, and dark; I set off to knock out a quick 3 miles, but once I warmed up, I started enjoying the rain; I got into the zone and just kept going! I finally headed home because I had not eaten yet, otherwise I’m not sure how long I might have kept going!

Saturday 12-14: Trail running: one lap, 4.39 miles, 1:01:12 Today was the one-year anniversary of the Houston Area Trail Runners, so there were more people than usual this morning. I had an appointment at 8:00, but I wanted to be there for the “event”, so I did the first loop and then left. What I didn’t know is that they had a gorgeous cake to celebrate with – but only after the second loop 😦 I might have been late to my meeting if I had known about cake! Oh well, we are having lunch tomorrow, so I will definitely be there for the whole thing – food seems to be a prime motivator for me, do you ever experience that?

Total for this week: 7 runs, 26.6 miles (two “walk days” and no double-digits, it shows up doesn’t it!)

Total for December: 14 runs, 65.8 miles

I am grateful for the period of inactivity – I think I had lost some perspective, I now I appear to be back on the right path…who knew injuries could be good for you?

Have you ever gone through an injury that forced you to re-examine your goals?

What did you learn about yourself in the process?

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