Tagged: trails

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!

Advertisements

Any way you can get there…

A few random examples –
  • I heard on the radio this morning that today was the midpoint of the year: 182 days have gone by, 182 days yet to come, and then there is today… unique, standing between past and future – which made me realize that every day is like that; the moving terminator, the razor’s edge, dividing that which was from that which can be…so why shouldn’t we take advantage of such a powerful opportunity?
  • I was reading today’s post from my friend Melissa, about how hard training routines require a special kind of grit to endure, how you have to find something inside yourself that gets you to the other side – and it occurred to me that this is what separates runners from non-runners: we are the masters of delayed gratification; we sweat, strive, and struggle because we know the rewards will be worth it…even when no one else understands or believes it!
  • I’ve posted a couple of times on social media about how I am struggling with the demands of my job right now, and the havoc it has wreaked on my training plans and running schedules over the last few weeks – I have missed two weeks of sessions with my personal trainer and run practically nothing for a month – but I still managed to run a spontaneous 30K trail race last weekend (more about that in a minute); I was really shocked at the feedback about how inspiring I am to others – Really? Me? – and this made me think that each one of us can be the person that helps motivate another, and so we have a real obligation to share our ups and downs, if only so they can know that they are not alone in their personal battles.

All of this is by way of introduction for my recap of the Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series race I ran over the weekend at Perdenales Falls State Park. I signed up to run the 10K here a few weeks ago, when many of the folks in my trail running club started posting in our Facebook group about their plans. I have been trying to be a more active member of the group, both online and in real life, but work and life often interfere with my plans..I miss a lot of the group runs due to last-minute obligations, or simply the need to get some rest after the demands of the week. I came very close to skipping this one, paid registration or not, but on the Thursday before race weekend the decision made itself: I came home from work with a blinding stress headache, went to bed with head still throbbing, woke up with the same headache – and decided to hit the reset button. I called my lead guys on the job, gave them direction to start the day… and then sat down to drink another cup of coffee. I went to the office instead of out to the job site, and told them that if I did not get some time away I was going to have a meltdown. I give my supervisors credit for recognizing that I was serious, and giving me the greenlight to take off and have a good time!

The races in this series are all run at night, in deference to the Texas summer heat – how in the world anyone runs a long distance race in the daytime between May and October in the South is beyond me! I had to go by the job for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, but by 9:00 I was out of there, to head home and pack for the weekend. I met up with three other guys who were also running, to carpool the 4 hours west of Houston to the park where the race was being held – of course, we stopped to eat a hearty pre-race meal on the way 🙂 (I always wonder what the waitresses must think when a group of runners eat together; between us I bet we demolished 10,000 calories!)

We made our way into the beautiful Texas Hill Country (I may be the worst blogger ever, because I neglected to take one single picture to share with you…I was sleeping much of the way there, to tell the truth!) and set up camp near the start/finish area. About a dozen club members were there, and we chit-chatted while waiting for the pre-race meeting. It was around this time that peer pressure got the best of me – they kept saying, “You didn’t drive all this way and stay here all night just to run for only one hour, did you?” – and I went back to the registration table to upgrade from 10K to 30K…I just happened to have the exact amount of cash in my wallet to cover the difference, so I took that as a sign that it was meant to be! I did, however, completely refuse to entertain the idea of running 60K, I might be gullible but I’m not nuts!!!

I went into this with absolutely no expectations – I had not trained for this distance, I didn’t even have a pack or enough gels; but I had a 16 oz. bottle on a waist pack, and my friends had extra fuel so all was well, Plus, this race director puts on epic events…the aid stations are fully stocked with everything you could ever want, and at 5-mile intervals you are never too far away. The 60K runners lined up at 7pm, and as soon as they were gone, I lined up with the 30K group to be ready for our 7:15 gun…and then we were off!

I really tried to hold myself back, but after getting caught behind a large group of folks walking up the single-track first hill, I couldn’t take it any more and broke away, dodging around and through the rocks and cactus to get into the clear. The first several miles passed by easily, making conversation with others as we worked up and down the hills and ravines; I held to my regular strategy of running easy on the uphills, blasting the downhills, and catching my breath of the (short) flat sections. I have gotten into the habit of starting my tracking app and then ignoring it, choosing to run by feel, and this was no exception. The only time I looked at it was when I got the low-battery warning after only 90 minutes…so much for technology! (I really need to get a Garmin, instead of depending on my phone, anyone got a deal for me?) At that point I was about 7.5 miles in, and looking at a sub 4-hour finish, and I felt pretty good about that! Alas, ’twas not to be 😦

My first real trouble came around mile 10, when a rock slid out from under me in on of those downhill bombing runs; I did not crash, but I did hyper-extend my knee a bit, and from then on things only got tougher. My ankles began to sing their own chorus of agony after a couple more miles of favoring the sore knee, but by this point nothing was going to stop me! I walked when I had to, ran when I could, and through it all had a fantastic time! I traded laughs and encouragement with dozens of other runners, and the hours and the miles rolled on by.

The last two miles were the most fun, and the most challenging…it was full dark, a new moon and cloudy skies held the darkness complete and the humidity close. Everywhere my headlamp shined, I saw the reflection of hundreds of little green insect eyes looking back at me 🙂 The spiders and scorpions scrambled to get out of the way, and I did not personally see any snakes, although I heard reports of them from others. My running partner Jeremy caught back up to me about a mile from the end; he was on track to beat his PR at this course by over an hour, and totally stoked by that fact, so I committed to run with him all the way to the end, pushing each other all the way with shouts of “What would Killian do?” I don’t know that answer, but I do know that we sprinted the last 100 yards or so, and crossed the finish line at the same moment, with identical finish times of 4:05:35, and a hearty hug and laugh as we received our medals!

FB_IMG_1404021035944

I was tired, I was sore, I was starving…but most of all, I was FINISHED! If you have ever run a race you weren’t sure about, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t…I want you to know that you CAN outrun your doubts; your body is capable of far more than your mind will tell you it is, just keep going.

That’s a great metaphor for life, too, isn’t it?

Have you ever run a spontaneous race?

How did it go?

I’d love to hear from you!!

(I will be running the whole series over the course of the sunner, with the next race at Muleshoe Bend State Park in July…and this time I am signing up for the 30K from the get-go! Stay tuned for that recap when it happens! Between now and then I will still be working on the details of my fall training plan, which gets started in earnest the first week of August…I hope to have something concrete to share with you by next week.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total for this week: 2 runs, 2 miles

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

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

Living Water fundraising to date: $24.00

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

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

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

What advice could you share about your experience?

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

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

blame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total for this week: 7 runs, 39.4 miles

Total for December: 31 runs, 165 miles

Total for 2013: 210 runs, 817 miles

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

#ncrstreak: 38 days, 189 miles

Living Water fundraising to date: $12.00

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

How well did 2013 meet your expectations?

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

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

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-3 weeks – Standing on 21 (days)

21

In all honesty, I’m not much of a gambler…I like to think I know what I’m doing, but it seems that I usually end up sitting across from someone who REALLY knows his or her stuff, and I go home a little poorer than I arrived; over the years I have learned not to bet more than I can afford to lose, which makes the game much more enjoyable! Running is kind of like that, I think…there is a certain element of risk involved, which no amount of skill can ever completely eliminate; and you have to put something out there if you want any chance of receiving a reward – “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is absolutely true!

If this marathon is the game, I have been betting my time and my body, in ever increasing raises as the weeks have passed and the stakes have steadily gone up. We are getting ever closer to showing the cards – laying it all out on the table, and may the best man win! The pot is rich – a completed marathon is quite the prize, indeed – and I am feeling confident about the cards I’m holding…let’s take a look at what I drew with this week’s effort:

Sunday 12-22:  Long run – 3:24:53, 18.01 miles   Better than last week, my new longest run to date! I had thought about doing this week’s long run on the trails, but opted instead to stick with a winning plan and repeated my route from last Sunday, with the addition of one lap around the running loop at Memorial Park to give me the necessary extra mileage. I also tried a new fuel option: 2 Tbsp chia seeds mixed with 6 oz applesauce and a dash of cinnamon for flavor; this was well tolerated and seemed to keep my energy level constant, as I consumed about a mouthful every 4 miles. Much like last week, all went smoothly until the final stretch – somehow the last two miles feel much longer than any others!

Monday 12-23:   Recovery/rest – walked 1.05 mile, 16:35  We worked late to get enough done to justify leaving early for Christmas Eve, so it was already dark by the time I got home, and I was pretty tired; another ode to the Streak 🙂

Tuesday 12-24:  Maintenance run – 3.1 miles, 31:55 I wanted to see just how well my legs would respond, and I got my answer – not bloody well at all! My quads were the loudest complainers, along with my lower back; this is a clear sign to me that my lack of cross-training is going to exact a toll…how large remains to be seen 😦

Wednesday 12-25:  Walked 1 mile, 16:28  Merry Christmas! I hope Santa did better by you than he did me; I woke up to low fever, body aches and a congested head – some “gift”! I spent nearly the entire day in bed, except for a brief visit to watch my grandsons open their presents…and to get out a walk a mile to keep my streak alive; dedication requires dedication, y’know?

Christmas 2013-boys (crop)Look at those faces – sick or not, how could I resist?

Thursday 12-26:  Resistance run, 8.9 miles, 1:35:11 Back in the grass today; the fever broke, my body felt stiff and under-used, and I knew JUST the cure! I also found a way across a small bayou that cuts off one end of this trail, and I was able to add more than a mile to the one-way distance – sweet! I didn’t try to push the pace, I simply wanted to run for about 90 minutes; mission accomplished!!

Friday 12-27: Maintenance run – 5.1 miles, 50:50  Nothing fancy today, I wanted some miles, I got some miles; decent pace, consistent from start to finish, no pain – what else can you ask?

Saturday 12-28: Recovery/rest – 1.03 mile, 10:46 I spent most of the day visiting my dad, and running errands, so it didn’t leave me much time to run; I also wanted to save something for tomorrow’s 21-miler, my longest long run of the training cycle…or ever, for that matter!

Total for this week: 7 runs, 38.2 miles

Total for December: 21 runs, 138.2 miles

On other news, things are shaping up nicely for my 14 in 2014  and Half-Fanatic goals! Along with the marathon, and the 5K the day before, I now have a third race confirmed – the Bandera Trail Run, where I am running the 25K. This will be my first “real” trail race, and my first foray into the world of ultras – most of the others in my club are running the 100K, but that is a stake I cannot support…yet! This race takes place one week before Chevron, so I am planning to take it easy, and treat it as a taper run – shorter distance, but high intensity, with plenty of time to rest before I have to turn my cards at the Big Table.

What is the craziest thing you ever did just before a marathon, or other goal race? Any regrets, or would you do it again?

Any gamblers out there? What’s the biggest bet you ever won…or lost?

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

CHM Training update: T-4 weeks – (Less than) 30 days in the hole

yet

Another week has passed, and I have noticed the strangest fluctuations in my mood: I alternate from breathless anticipation (Oh boy oh boy oh boy, it’s almost here!) to exasperation (Man, will I be glad when this is over!), sometimes within a single day…of course, that can happen during a single run, too 🙂 I felt much the same before my first half-marathon, so I know it’s just part and parcel of facing a challenge: the daunting job still to be done balancing against the preparation that has gone into getting to this point; “Look how far you have come!” pushing back against “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” Probably every runner deals with these emotions as they approach a milestone event, so I’m not unique – but that doesn’t make it not happen, either! That’s why training is so important, both physically and mentally…you need enough miles and hours on your feet AND in your head to overcome the fear of the unknown. So here are this week’s additions to my anti-fear stockpile:

Sunday 12-15:  Long run – 2:49:26, 15.02 miles My longest run to date, both in distance and duration! I approached this with some anxiety, because I attempted this run 6 weeks ago, just after completing the Houston Half Marathon, and it broke me then…but not this time! Everything was different: new shoes (with less than 100 miles vs. over 600); new route (out-and-back on the bike trails along two of Houston’s larger bayous vs. laps on the Memorial Park running loop); different weather (cool and clear vs. hot and muggy); running without music; running without a specific pace goal – amazing what learning and adapting can do for you, isn’t it? I felt strong and confident the whole way: enjoying the sights and sounds, people-watching (discretely, but I do it 🙂 ) and generally just having a great time while running. I did not need to walk any of this distance, but I did anyway…mostly the last half-mile or so, because I had made it back to where I parked my truck, but wasn’t quite at the full distance, so I circled the parking lot a few times as a cool-down, and to let my legs adjust back to not-running…which affected my overall pace;  my splits hovered around my “acceptable” target of 10:00-10:30/mile, about 4:30:00 marathon finish pace.

Monday 12-16:   2.1 miles, 21:51  I waited until after work to get my #RWRunStreak workout done, and I was really curious to see how I would feel on “the day after”; I surprised myself by extending the planned single mile to two, because I felt really good!

Tuesday 12-17:  Resistance run – 6.4 miles in ankle-high grass, 1:09:53 I revived an old route with a new purpose for this workout. My street dead-ends at a toll road, with a wide grassy verge for several miles. The county mows this occasionally, transforming it from a waving sea of grass into a stubbly field of…well, shorter grass. I used to run right along the retaining wall, where it’s mostly dirt and gravel, because it was easier there; but today I chose to run in the thickest parts, where I had to pick up my feet a bit more and push through the fresh-cut debris. It was an awesome combination of high resistance and low impact, perfect for my needs!

grass runAnd the trail shoes performed brilliantly!

Wednesday 12-18:  Walked 1.05 miles, 21:07  Another day where I am grateful to be participating in the streak challenge, because otherwise I would have skipped a workout completely. As an added bonus, I talked my wife into going with me! She is adamantly NOT a runner (her favorite line: “I will run only if there are zombies chasing me, and then only until I can trip somebody!”) but she does support me whole-heartedly, so it was nice to take her on a tour of my usual around-the-block one mile running loop. We went at her pace, but it wasn’t about running, it was about being together…and isn’t that what’s really important?

Thursday 12-19:  Shakeout run, 3.54 miles, 39:25 I had intended this to be a much more intense workout, with 6 miles of overpass repeats sandwiched between some steady miles…but alas, ’twas not to be; I had been having some stomach issues all day, and I was distracted mentally by other issues. Sometimes I can lose myself in the run, and leave the day behind; but sometimes the day will not go quietly into that good night, and this was one of those. I settled for a plodding 5k and a resolve to clear my mind for the next time.

Friday 12-20: Walked 1.02 miles, 5:27  The office Christmas party came today, and as always the food was most excellent. We have some championship-quality barbecue chefs in our organization, and they out-did themselves: spoon-tender brisket; ribs sliding off the bone onto the plate; spicy venison sausage links; there were all the standard side dishes, and a table filled with pies, cakes, and tarts, and I ate myself into a stupor! Somehow I made it home and collapsed into a food coma nap for most of the afternoon. When I woke up, I knew actual running was out of the question, so I power-walked my mile for the streak; as long as I break a sweat and keep my heart rate above 100, that is good enough for me.

Saturday 12-21: Maintenance, 5.05 miles, 49:21 Houston’s weather is living up to its erratic reputation today – after days of 70 degree highs, there are two different fronts moving through the area, bringing rain in the morning, high winds in the afternoon, and falling temps overnight; we won’t see snow for Christmas, but it will feel much more like winter and less like late spring by the time the holiday gets here! I got my run in during one of the lulls…it was wet, sticky and breezy; I can only wonder what I will encounter tomorrow for my next attempt at a distance PR of 18 miles – on the trails, at that! No matter what, I’ll be out there… You can either make excuses, or you can make progress.

Total for this week: 7 runs, 34.2 miles

Total for December: 21 runs, 100 miles (Woo-hoo!)

In other news, I made positive steps toward two of my goals for 2014: first, I registered with USATF and got my number, listing Houston Area Trail Runners as my club; now, whenever I compete with them, the club gets points for my efforts. This was the first step on my path to being a trail/ultra athlete; next up is to register for the 25K at Bandera on Jan 11; hopefully I can afford that before it fills up, because I am NOT ready to do a 50K, especially one week before my first 26.2! Second, I signed up for Jill Conyers’ 14 in 2014 Challenge (see the pretty new badge on the sidebar?) This adds another layer of accountability, which cannot be anything but helpful as I progress through the year. There is still plenty of time to join in, why not push yourself to get out there and do it?

What challenges have do done in the past, or are doing right now?

Did it make a difference in how you approached running/training?

Would you recommend them to others?

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

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!

My Holiday Hunting is Complete!

wunchat

One of my favorite aspects of being a blogger is the interaction I have with the online community; whether it be discovering some of the endless variety of viewpoints expressed by other bloggers; or building relationships by trading comments on my posts and those of others; or joining different groups on Facebook; or by taking part in some interesting activities within specific platforms, such as you find on Twitter; there is ALWAYS something fun to do, and someone to learn from and share what I have learned.

A particular favorite has been the #runchat Scavenger Hunts – I am a huge fan of scavenger hunts; I have attended hunt-themed birthday parties, took part in several during my college years (including a phony event staged to cover up some “alleged” campus vandalism that may or may not have actually occurred), and now a virtual hunt with thousands of players…who wouldn’t be excited?

So when the fine folks over at therunchat.com announced a Holiday-to-Holiday Hunt, running from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I was all over it – and today, I got my last item. That’s right, I have completed the list, and that right early! I thought it would be fun to share the hunt with you, so let’s start with the list:

runchathunt-items

This list was created by tabulating votes on items submitted by the participants…in other words, we did this to ourselves! Some of these are readily available, common things every runner sees while logging their miles; others presented a bit of a challenge – I will admit, some of these required creative thinking, and I had to create a few new running routes to acquire them, since one of the prerequisites of the challenge is you have to take the picture while you are on a run…no fair driving by something and snapping a shot!

So, here are my entries, in the order I acquired them, with a brief explanation of where and how I got them – if you haven’t finished your hunt, maybe this will help inspire you! (If you follow me on Instagram you have already seen all this, but the story is part of the fun, so read on!)

1. Body of water

water

It’s no accident that Houston is known as “The Bayou City” – we are criss-crossed with waterways. Here we see Buffalo Bayou early in its course, out on the west end of the city. I captured this shot while running 12 miles on the Tour de Hershey run last weekend with The Houston Striders, my road running club.

2. Picture with a runner you don’t know

runner

Same day as the previous picture. I had finished my run and was hanging out with the others, waiting for the 18-milers to complete their run. This very nice woman and her friend were just passing by, minding their own business, when some guy (me) approached them, explained briefly about this crazy online scavenger hunt, and got them to agree to take this for me – runners are pretty friendly when you give them a chance!

3. Inflatable holiday decorations

decoration

Everyone has at least one neighbor who goes berserk all out at every holiday, and I’m no exception. This family lives on the street behind me, and I knew I could count on him to provide at least one item on the list for me. I made sure to take a long walk around the block one night to catch his yard in all its glory. (Turns out he gave me three, see the next entry!) If you can’t tell, that is a giant inflatable dinosaur wearing a Santa hat, poised to climb down an inflatable chimney – although any child seeing him pop out of the fireplace would probably need therapy coupons in their stockings 🙂

4 & 5. Santa (or someone in a Santa hat)  & A snowman

santa-snowman

I had considered using Dino up there for the Santa hat entry, but once I saw these two standing on the other side of the same yard, I just had to bow to circumstance – some things are too good to pass up!

6. Railroad tracks or crossing

tracks

I had a couple of options for this item, because I do hill repeats on a railroad overpass a few times a month; but lately I have been running the trails at Memorial Park, and this line runs at the far end of the trails, so when I came out and saw it, I jumped at the chance – all that trail work has me in no big hurry to run the hill any time soon!

7. Mile marker or historical marker

marker

I took a liberal interpretation with this one, and shot a picture of a trail marker instead – perhaps the caption that someone has added (Jesus Rocks!) was what inspired me…because He does rock, indeed!

8. Animals on a farm

Farm

The picture I posted on Instagram is cropped and enlarged, so it’s much easier to see the small herd of cattle grazing back there. This was one of the hard ones, because I live inside the city limits – not exactly farm country, y’know? But sometimes a series of facts comes together just wonderfully:

  • The city line is only a short distance away from where I live, and this property is located just beyond that line;
  • The local high school has a Future Farmers of America program, where students earn cash and scholarships by raising animals for auction at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo;
  • Said show and auction occurs in February every year, so in December there are always animals on the property;
  • One of my usual running routes is at a city park, only 1.5 miles away from this farm, so I added an out-and-back leg to my normal run just to get this shot – and to get some decent distance in as well!

9. Porta-potty

potty

Found this one in the same park where I began and ended the run mentioned in the last item – nothing like making the most of every moment! We runners have a complicated relationship with these semi-outdoor facilities – we hate to need them, but we can’t live without them. Well, maybe we could, but the general public would not be nearly as understanding; and who wants to deal with more, uh… issues than we already do?

10. Local coffee shop

coffee

I was kind of stumped on this item, because I tend to stick to the freeways, and get my coffee where it’s convenient – and then I remembered…a friend of mine turned me on to this place about six months ago; it is a far cry from Starbucks, let me tell you! Located in the heart of the Heights neighborhood, Antidote is a one-of-a-kind place: picnic tables on the side of the building, a variety of pastries to go with your espresso or latte; and if you need something with more kick to it, a nice selection of craft beers, in bottles or on tap, and wine by the glass at very reasonable prices; whatever ails you, they have a cure 🙂 Again, I had to create a running route to get the shot, but in the process I discovered another really nice city park with access to several miles of hike-and-bike paths; if you get bored running in this city, you just aren’t trying very hard!

So there you have it: my 2013 Holiday-to-Holiday #runchathunt in all its fullness. I hope you have found some inspiration to get out there, chart some runs, take some pictures, and get in on the fun – the contest runs until 9am on Dec 26, so there is still plenty of time to get your entries in! And, as a bonus entry, you too can post a blog about your hunt…I hope you do, I would love to see it! You can see other runners’ entries by searching #runchathunt on Twitter or Instagram – some of the stuff others have posted is hilarious!

Do you ever participate in social media events?

How about scavenger hunts, real or virtual?

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

CHM Training update: T-6 weeks – “Streaking” towards the day

runstreakbadge300

Well, it was headed this way all along: the temps and the countdown are now both in the 40’s, and dropping – 42 days until race day and today’s high barely reached 41. I have gotten back into a regular running routine again, thanks in part to the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak (#RWRunStreak for the social media junkies out there, like me 🙂 ) I haven’t missed a day yet, and I have no plans to do so – are you streaking as well? Try it, it adds that extra oomph of motivation we all need when the weather is trying its best to discourage you! Here’s a recap of the first week of December – remember, I am making modifications to my training plan as I go, letting my body dictate more than the “official” schedule:

Sunday 12-1: Long run – 150-160 min @ 9:18/mi, 16-17 mi // 2:08:13, 12 miles My road running club, the Houston Striders, hosts several group runs throughout the year, especially during the lead-up to the marathon, and this was one of them: the “Tour de Hershey”, named for the county park where the event is held. Runners can choose either 6, 12 or 18 miles, and enjoy a fully supported training run with clock timing, aid stations, a bike-riding first aid official, and a nice after party. I opted for the 12, got it completed, and had a really great day! My knees were a bit sore, but nothing compared to what I was feeling before my layoff, and by the end of the day all was well!

Monday 12-2: Rest day //  Walked 1.3 miles in 23:21  A double accomplishment – logged my workout for the streak, AND took my new trail shoes out for a test!

IMG_20131202_193318Aren’t they pretty? You’ll never see them this clean again 🙂

Inov-8 is sponsoring me for at least one Spartan Race in 2014, and part of the deal is a pair of their shoes. I selected the Mudclaw 300’s, and so far I am in love. Be looking for a review once I get a few miles on them!

Tuesday 12-3: Paces – 1.75 mi easy run warm-up; 6x [0.25 mi @ 7:20/mi, 1:30 recovery]; 1.5 mi easy run cool down  //  3 miles, 28:18 (9:24/mi)  One decision I have made is to discontinue treadmill workouts, because it seems to me that the restrictive, repetitive action of running on the belt is more stress than my knees can handle; the pain comes on within just a few miles, and lasts for days, while outdoor runs do not cause nearly as much soreness, and that goes away within a few hours. After consulting with my coach, we have decided that I will be doing these workouts on a measured distance and using the feedback from my Nike+ app at quarter-mile intervals to check how well I can maintain the proper pace. In truth, I am not as concerned with pace as I was before, at least for this marathon – I am more interested in being sure that I finish the full distance…speed can come later, if it ever does.

Wednesday 12-4: Cross training  //  4.64 miles, 58:08 (12:32/mi)  Took the day off work to visit the dentist and get the final fitting on my dentures (which will be delivered next week – Christmas comes early again!) since I had time in the middle of the day, I took the Mudclaws out for their inaugural trail run. This is my transition into lower-drop footwear (these are 6mm drop, my road shoes are 12mm) but I did not notice any particular discomfort; on the contrary, I felt solid and sure-footed, and I think I am a convert. This will do me well when I receive the Skechers that come with being a Houston Marathon Ambassador – I believe they have a 2 or 4mm drop, THAT will be an adjustment! (And how cool is it to get free running shoes – I could get used to this 🙂 )

Thursday 12-5: Maintenance – 65-70 min @ 9:18/mi, 7-8 mi //  1:00:56, 6.05 miles (10:04/mi) I set out with the goal to run one hour, just to see how far I could go; I also selected a route specifically that would take me past the local high school’s FFA farm, so I could get my “farm animal” picture for the #runchat Scavenger Hunt – I only need one more to complete it, and I will get that one tomorrow! You can see all of them if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram; search #runchathunt to see what I (and everyone else) have posted.

Friday 12-6: Threshold – 1.75 mi easy run warm-up; 2x [2  mi @ 8:16/mi, 2:00 recovery]; 1.5 mi easy run cool-down //  walked 2.3 miles in 40 min  I decided to make this a rest day, because of the upcoming trail race on Saturday, so I took a scouting trip through the trails, checking the marking to make sure I wouldn’t get lost (I am not terribly familiar with these trails yet) and to log some distance for my streak.

Saturday 12-7: Cross training  //  Trail race, two laps, 9.86 miles 2:09:30 I REALLY wanted to do 4-5 loops on this course, but after completing the second loop, I realized I had to make a choice: keep going, blow my knee out, and face another layoff, or accept my current limitations and live to run another day; I made the correct choice, I believe – I will have another opportunity to get that long run done, once I buy myself the knee brace I obviously need. (Once official race results are posted, I will be doing a detailed recap, so be on the lookout for that as well.)

Total for this week: 7 runs, 39.2 miles (more than double last week!)

Total for December: 7 runs, 39.2 miles

It feels fantastic to be running again, and I have learned my lesson about ignoring what my body says it can do – and learned the difference between uncomfortable and potential injury. I am increasingly confident that I can go the distance in January, and I am more and more looking forward to what next year will bring.

How are you doing with your current “goal races”?

What is already on the list for 2014, or what do you want to add?

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