Thursday, October 26, 2017

Running on Empty

Great, now that song is going to be stuck in my head all day.

I haven't updated here in a long time; nine months or so.  I was posting very regularly for a while and then just stopped.  So what happened? Well, a couple things happened. One horrible thing and one thing that was just bad.

The horrible thing was the passing of my father in law.  That pretty much took away my enthusiasm for writing, running and life in general.

The bad thing was another injury.  This time it was my hip flexor.  As usual, I felt the injury coming on but chose to ignore it and/or pretend that it wasn't happening.  I limped along for a week or two but when I finished a 20 miler on March 1st and had to pick up my leg with my hands and put it in the car, I knew I was done. No spring marathon. No chance to BQ for 2017.  This was the second marathon that I have trained for since Boston 2016 but had to drop out due to injury during training.

From there I went to see a PT doc who gave me some exercises to strengthen my hips.  I stuck with that program for a while and cut my miles way back. Glancing through my running log, it shows that I didn't run more than 5 miles for 6 weeks and I didn't do a run of 10 miles until mid August.  The hip injury never really healed 100% but I've learned to live with it.  Getting old is such a joy.

As a substitute for running, I've thrown myself into music.  I joined two bands at the Frederick Rock School and have been having an absolute blast learning songs and being in bands.  I've played a couple shows at Champions with the school and got to sit in for a song with my son's band at a gig on my birthday.  A couple weeks ago, Olde Towne Tavern brought in 5 of the adult bands from the school to play.  That gig was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to more opportunities like that.  At the same time, I miss being able to run a lot of miles. 

For a long time, "runner" was how I self-identified. I don't feel like a runner anymore most of the time.  Except when I'm running.  When  I'm running I start having thoughts about getting back into peak shape, starting a training regiment, and run a marathon.  Then a few hours later I'm back to feeling indifferent about it.

I'm currently "training" for the Across the Bay 10K on November 5th.  This race has been on my bucket list for a couple years now.  It's a 10K race (duh) across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  I haven't done much in the way of training though. I decided to take it a little more seriously about 3 weeks before the race but then immediately came down with a cold that sidelined me for a few days.  I've been jogging 10K on my lunch hour this week and I plan to run 8 miles or so this Saturday. That'll have to do.  I tell myself that I can just do it as a "fun run" but I know that once I get out there I'll push the pace as hard as I can.  If I can squeak out a 7:30-7:45 average I'll be happy.

Ok, enough rambling from me. Go find something more interesting to read. It shouldn't be difficult.

Monday, February 6, 2017


I'd like to tell you a little about my father in law Danny, who passed away a few weeks ago.  Danny was a part of my life for more than thirty years and it's hard to imagine a world that doesn't have him in it. Although he wasn't in the best of health, Danny's passing was sudden and very much unexpected.  No one saw this coming.  Danny had more than his share of health scares in the past, but he always bounced back.  This time was different.

You often hear people complain about their in-laws; they meddle, they judge, they complain. I have no such complaints.  I've been blessed with in-laws that are loving, supportive and positive.  Even when I first showed up at his house as a skinny teenager driving his daughter around on a motorcycle, Danny was nothing but nice to me.  Sometimes his niceness was disguised as giving me a hard time about anything from the way I was dressed or how bad I was at playing cards but it was always said with a grin or a laugh.  Kidding around and giving people a hard time was something Danny was very good at.  It was pointed out to me early on that was how you knew Danny liked you and you only need to worry if he stopped teasing you. Danny was able to find the humor in just about anything.  It's not a surprise that as I look through all the pictures of him that the family recently compiled, in most of the shots he is laughing.

As much as he joked around, Danny was a no nonsense kind of guy when it came to working on something.  If you asked him to help you with a job, your doorbell would ring at 7:00 sharp and you had better be ready for him or you'd hear about it.  He worked hard and efficiently, seldom taking breaks for longer than it took to open a fresh Pepsi.  He was an expert painter, but there really wasn't much he didn't know how to do and he enjoyed sharing his knowledge and experience. More than once, Danny bailed me out on home improvement projects that didn't go quite according to plan.  I got some good natured ribbing along the way, but always with a laugh and a smile.

Mostly, I admired Danny because he did what he needed to do, even if that meant making big changes in his lifestyle.  As a younger man he was a drinker.  When he decided he needed to leave that life behind, he stopped drinking and didn't look back.  A life long smoker, he had health trouble in his 40's that resulted in bypass surgery. The doctor told him if he didn't want to end up back in the hospital or worse, he needed to quit smoking. He quit cold turkey and never smoked again.  Years later he was told that he wasn't getting enough exercise so he started walking daily, a regimen he maintained for the rest of his life.  The thing is, he didn't really WANT to do any of those things at the time but he recognized what needed to be done and he did it.  I try to adopt that mentality when I can, but I complain more than he did.

In the short time since his death, I resumed marathon training with very little enthusiasm.  More than once I've found myself in the middle of a workout with thoughts of quitting.  Thinking of Danny and his work ethic has helped me to keep plodding along.  My enthusiasm is slowly returning but when I'm just not feeling it, I think about Danny and I do what needs to be done.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Marathon Six - Week Eleven

Week eleven of the training plan looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, General aerobic + speed 7M w/ 6x100m strides
Tuesday, Lactic threshold 11M w/7M@HMP
Wednesday, Rest or cross training
Thursday, Medium long run, 12M
Friday, Recovery 5M
Saturday, Long run, 20M


Weight: ha ha ha ha ha!

Health: I have a new pain.  The front of my leg, way up top.


Sunday - Rest day

Monday - I ran the 7 but wasn't in the mood for strides.  I ran 5 easy and then the last 2 at MP (7:51, 7:39).

Tuesday - Lactic threshold, 11M with 7 @ HMP.  I was feeling very negative about this run.  I got to the 4 mile mark and decided I wasn't going to try the HM pace part.  Then I got to the 4.5 mark and changed my mind.  For the last 7 my splits were 8:06, 7:38, 7:30, 7:27, 7:21, 7:30, 7:22).  Not exactly HMP for the whole thing, but I felt pretty good about it.

Wednesday - Rest day.

Thursday - I developed a sore spot on the bottom of my left foot after the speedy run on Tuesday.  I decided I bike for 1:40:00 instead of running the 12.  I watched a movie called "All the Way".  The movie is the story of Lindon Johnson, as portrayed by Brian Cranston. It was very good!

Friday - 5 easy miles in the neighborhood.

Saturday - 20 miles on the C&O canal towpath.  Some of it with a group of runners from the Steeplechasers.  All of it with my running buddy Linda, who is a wonderful training partner.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Marathon Number Six - Week Eight

Week XXXX of the training plan looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, Recovery + speed 7M w/6x100m strides
Tuesday, Medium long run 12M
Wednesday, Rest or cross training
Thursday, Lactate threshold 10M w/6M @ HMP
Friday, Recovery 5M
Saturday, Long run 20M


Weight: Still afraid to look

Health: Improved. My back is hurting less than it has been and my stupid toe is finally starting to heal.


Sunday - Because of Life, I had to push my long run from last week to Sunday.  18 miles in 10 degrees. The air was cold but still at the start, the wind decided to pick up about half way through it.  This run would have sucked in a major way if it wasn't for a couple of foolish great runners from the Steeps that wanted to get some miles in.  I ran three miles on my own before meeting up with them. Together we took a tour of Windsor Knolls, Holbrook, Loch Haven and a couple neighborhoods that I don't remember the name of.  The area where I live is surrounded by roads with narrow to non-existent shoulders and vehicles traveling at high speeds.  So to get in a run this long you either run a lot of loops or visit a lot of cul-de-sacs.

We kept the pace very slow and I got through the first 15 miles just fine.  For the last three I was having a lot of pain in my left foot.  I thought that it might blister but the next day it felt fine, so I'm not sure what the issue was.

Monday - I needed a rest day after the 18 miler on Sunday, so I took a rest day.

Tuesday - 7 miles, but no strides.

Wednesday - I ran 12 miles at work on my lunch break.

Thursday -

Friday -

Saturday -

Friday, January 6, 2017

Marathon Number Six - Week Seven

Week Seven of the training plan looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, Lactate threshold 10M w/6M @ HM pace
Tuesday, Recovery 4M
Wednesday, General aerobic 11M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, General aerobic + speed 7M w/ 8x100m strides
Saturday, Long run 18M


Weight: I'm afraid to look. I ate all the food over the holiday weekend.

Health: Pretty good. My back still hurts more than it should and that stupid sore on the top of my toe won't go away.  I bought some corn cushions to tape to my toe. That seems to help.


Sunday - New Years Day party at my house. Lots of food and a few beers.

Monday - I decided Sunday night that I wasn't going to do the 10M lactate threshold run on the schedule.  I was feeling a little burned out and tired. The cost of a few late nights in a row.  Instead I decided to flip a few things around on the schedule and do an easy run Monday and attempt the lactate threshold run on Tuesday.

The funny thing is that once I got out, I felt great! I don't know if it was just because the pressure was off since I decided against the hard run, or just because I had the day off of work.  I find it interesting that sometimes you go into a run expecting it to be bad and it turns out to be wonderful.  The words "I think I'm falling in love with running again" actually crossed my mind at one point.  I considered just going ahead and running the whole 10 but I didn't have my phone with me and I didn't want Cindi to worry when I didn't come home on time.  I added a mile because I was enjoying myself so much.

Of course sometimes the exact opposite happens.  You feel good, the weather is perfect and you have new shoes that are broken in to exactly where you like them best.  Then you start running and feel like death the whole time and wonder why you bother with such a stupid sport. The running gods are fickle.

Tuesday - The lesson for this run is to never put off for tomorrow what you could do today.  The light rain and drizzle that was so enjoyable on Monday was replaced by a cold steady rain on Tuesday.  I was on campus at White Oak and didn't have much flexibility in my schedule so waiting for after work wasn't an option. Around 12:30 I checked the weather and the radar indicated that the rain was passing soon so I headed out the door.  The cold and wet was a bit of a shock to the system and I immediately had thoughts of the fitness center for a run on the  treadmill.  Then I remembered what day it was. January 3rd, the first day back to work for a lot of people and peak "Resolution" season.  Treadmills are in high demand even when the gym isn't packed with n00bs.  Even if I was lucky enough to find one unoccupied I wouldn't be able to hog it for 90 minutes without getting the stink-eye from people waiting.  Besides, where is the glory in running on a treadmill and watching TV when you could be outside suffering?  So I opted to suffer; and suffer I did!

Part of my usual route through campus takes me on a short "out and back" section of an unpaved trail. I should have just skipped that part but being a creature of habit, I ran it anyway. It was there that I ran through what seemed like a lake and my shoes and socks absorbed about 100 pounds of water each. Again, I questioned my decision making skills.

The plan called for 10 with 6 at half marathon pace.  I like to use the phrase, "the plan called for..." because it takes the blame off of me.  I didn't choose to run 10 miles in the rain, THE PLAN MADE ME DO IT!  Anyway, I decided it would be very difficult to try and run at tempo in that kind of rain so I decided I would just do 10 at easy pace and be content with that.    I started having thoughts about cutting the run to 5 miles and just picking up the missed miles on my rest day.

Then, rather abruptly, as I approached the 4 mile mark the rain stopped.  I took that as a sign that I should give the tempo stuff a shot and picked up the pace.  I didn't hit HM pace in my water logged state, but I ran at marathon pace for the last 6 miles.  I even had fun for a while.

Wednesday - I considered switching my rest day to Wednesday after the hard run on Tuesday but the weather was too nice.  I jogged 11 miles with some friends at work who kept me company for about 6.  The relaxed pace was just what I needed and getting the run done put me back on schedule.

Thursday - Snow in the forecast and travel plans for Friday so I did the Friday workout on Thursday. I wasn't in the mood to do the 100M strides so I just ran the last mile hard and focused on my form. Close enough!

Friday - Rest day.

Saturday - Another rest day. I don't like taking two rest days in a row, but it can't be helped. I will spend 3.5 hours on the road so running isn't going to fit in to the plan.  Hopefully it will make the 18 miler that I now have to push off until Sunday a little easier.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Marathon Number Six - Week Six

Week six of the training plan looks like this:

Sunday, Rest or cross training
Monday, General aerobic + speed 8M w/ 10x100m strides
Tuesday, Recovery 5M
Wednesday, General aerobic 8M
Thursday, Rest or cross training
Friday, Recovery 4M
Saturday, Medium-long run 12M


Weight: 176

Health: Good


Sunday - Rest day. Christmas. Food. Lots and lots of food.

Monday - The plan called for 8M with strides but I missed my Marathon Pace (MP) run the weekend before so I did that instead.  16 miles with the last 10 at marathon pace.  I stressed over this run like crazy Friday night, I even woke up several times during the night thinking about it but then ended up having to cancel due to weather.  This time around I managed to keep the stress under control enough to get a good night's sleep, but I was still worried about hitting my paces in the morning though.

I like to do long MP runs on the C&O Canal towpath. The trail is flat and soft which makes it really good for finding a pace and locking into it. I also enjoy the scenery very much as well.  I decided to start/end this run at the Mouth of Monocacy Aqueduct.  My plan was to run 3 miles upstream toward Point of Rocks and back. That way I could stop at my car and shed a layer and grab a quick drink before I started the MP portion of the workout.

Arriving at the parking lot, there was one other car in the lot already. Judging by the stickers and magnets on their car, there was another runner or cyclist out on the trail already.  Whoever they were, they must have been on a long one because their car was still there when I left.

The temperature gauge in my car read 41 degrees when I parked.  I opted to wear shorts, a long sleeve tech shirt and a light sweatshirt.  I also got to break in a couple of Christmas gifts; a new Mizuno running hat and some gloves.  I don't mind my legs feeling cold when I'm running or even my core but I hate to have a cold head or hands.

I headed out and up the trail a couple minutes after 8 with mostly negative thoughts about the workout.  My back hurt and my Piriformis continued to nag at me. I jogged off anyway and tried to focus on having good running form and not starting out too fast.  I sometimes struggle to keep my pace in check for the warm-up miles.  I get so focused on the fact that I have to run fast that it's hard to keep is slow and conserve energy.  About halfway into mile two I accidentally hit the "lap" button on my Garmin.  I didn't want my auto-laps to be all screwy so I made sure to hit it again right at the mile mark.

I had the trail to myself and didn't notice much on the trip out. The three mile mark is about a half mile past Noland's Ferry, which is another frequent starting point for me.  I hit the turn around, still dreading the MP portion to come.  Three cyclists went past me on my way back.  None of them tried to tun me off the path which is always appreciated. They were the only people I saw on the warm-up run.

I got back to my car feeling less than confident about the upcoming miles but told myself to STFU and run. I dropped off my gloves and switched the sweatshirt for a lighter jacket, took a quick drink and set off as quickly as I could.  Now it was time to speed up and of course I was able to do it because I'm always able to do it.  I don't know why I'm always convinced that I won't be able to do these runs but it's a constant battle.

Again I had the trail to myself. I headed downstream this time which is a more scenic route with some landmarks.  I tried to focus on keeping my pace a little slower than I did on my last MP run.  I mostly succeeded in that.  For these miles, I use the "current mile" screen on my Garmin.  The difference in the display is that it only shows me data for the current mile.  Since my target pace is just under 8:00 per mile, I can keep a good check on my pacing by trying to check my time at the quarter miles.  The math is easy enough, even for a dumb guy like me. 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, repeat.  So as long as my time is just under each of those, I know I'm on track.

I know most of the distances between landmark points in this section of the trail by heart which helps to break up the monotony of the trail.  At .75 there is a lock house, at about 1.25 is the Dickerson power plant, 2.6 miles is Lock 37, 4 miles is a campground.  Passing each of these, particularly on the way back, gives me a nice mental boost.  I passed a couple out for a walk as I went past Dickerson Park.  I saw them again on my return leg but didn't see anyone else at all on the run.

I don't think I was actually confident that I could finish the run at pace until about mile 7.  There is only one more long MP run on my schedule and that isn't until February.  18 miles with 14 @ MP.  I'm already dreading that!  I'm pleased with the fact that I was able to reel my pace in a little better than the last time I did a MP run.  I definitely felt like I had better control over pacing than last time, so that's a positive.  After the run, I stopped by the little general store in Dickerson. The chocolate milk there is awesome and a big part of the reason I like to do towpath runs from Mouth of Monocacy.

New hat!


Tuesday - Life got in the way of my recovery run, so I took an unscheduled day off.

Wednesday - Life again, reared it's ugly head and tried to prevent me from getting in my 8 miles.  This time I kicked Life in the Johnson and got in my run.  An uneventful jog through my neighborhood.  I have discovered that if I run up and down every cul-de-sac in Windsor Knolls and Holbrook (except for that one short one that goes pretty much straight up, fuck that), it works out to be about 7.5 miles.  I've done this run twice in less than a week and I'm ready for a chance of scenery.

Thursday - Another uneventful run in the neighborhood. 5 miles at easy pace to make up for the Tuesday run I missed.

Friday - Five miles on my lunch break at work.  I jogged down to the CVS to pick up a few small things and jogged back.

Saturday - I met with a group of runners from my local running club for a 12 miler to finish out 2016.  My schedule for the day didn't leave much free time so I considered staying in my neighborhood and running solo. I honestly wasn't feeling up for this run after a couple of nights with less than ideal sleep but I needed to get it done.  I figured I would have an easier time running with the group so I decided that using the extra time was worth it.

The weather was cold but not windy so I knew I would warm up fine after the first mile and I did. The company was good and that lifted my spirits considerably. More than once, I thought that I was glad that I decided not to run it alone.  At the 6.3 mile mark, we had a brief celebration (as much as you can while running) to acknowledge a member of the group hitting the 2000 mile mark for the year.

I didn't come close to 2000 miles, but I hit 1500 which is my third highest mileage year.  I've only been running for about 8 years and didn't start tracking my mileage until 2010.  My totals for the last 7 years have been all over the place.

2010 - 537
2011- 452
2012 - 1287
2013 - 1568
2014 - 1587
2015 - 789
2016 - 1500

But, back to the run on Saturday...  I struggled a little to keep up because the group was moving a bit faster than I wanted to but it wasn't bad.  The last two miles I could have done without but no one offered to carry me so I didn't have any choice but to slog it out.  I finished and got home with enough time to take care of all my responsibilities but was feeling very lazy. As luck would have it, Cindi was feeling lazy too so we chose procrastination, coffee and the hot tub over chores.  Later we had lunch with the kids and then rang in the new year at the Blue Sky Bar and Grill watching Logan and Big Jim's Pontoon Boat.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Just Keep Running

In the spring of 2014 I started a quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Before that time, the idea of being able to qualify for Boston (BQ for short) was something I considered impossible.  I ran three marathons between March of 2012 and October of 2013 and my best time was 3:54:21.  To get into Boston, I needed to get under 3:25:00.  Improving on my marathon time by 30 minutes seemed like a tall order to say the least! My plan was to train for a fall 2014 marathon and see how much I could improve and then, if I was healthy, go all out for a spring 2015 marathon and try to BQ.
I knew that I needed to get a lot faster in order to reach my goal.  So one of the things I did was to join a local running club. I told myself, if you want to get faster then you should run with fast people. I signed up for the marathon training program and started participating in the group runs. We ran long on Saturday mornings and did speed work on "Tempo Tuesday". The group was mostly made up of first timers but there were a few experienced runners too. Everyone was divided into pace groups based on your "easy" pace. Most of the groups were running slower than my easy pace and there was a couple of groups faster than I could run but there was one other runner who was at about my pace so we did most of our runs together.
One Tuesday, the group met for our speed work. Seven miles at Half Marathon Pace. I hadn't done much in the way of speed work before so I was a little nervous going into it. We did a shorter run the week before with some 5K pace intervals and I really struggled to keep up with my partner. I didn't know my way around the city very well, so I depended on her to guide the way so I didn't get lost.  This particular week, my training buddy didn't show up because she was caught at work. There were some folks from the slower groups and two guys from the "fast" group there. So my choice was to run with the slower groups, strike out on my own and most likely get lost or run with the fast guys.  After some thought, I decided to run with the two speedsters.  One of them was a younger guy (35ish) and the other was an older runner who is something of a local legend. He's in his 60's but still very fit and fast. He was a 2:20 marathoner "back in the day".  I had done some runs with both of them before and knew that they were much faster than me. So the three of us form a group. I let the other two guys know that I don't know any of the turns and will have to do my best to keep up with them.
So off we go, Young Guy is leading the way with me and Local Legend (LL) behind him. The first mile was our warm up and we averaged about a 8:21 pace.  That was easy enough but then we kicked it into gear and I knew I was in for it. I had never consistently run at a pace under 8:00 before so I expected to crash and burn hard. I struggled but was able to keep up and then Young Guy started running harder. He had us hitting sub 7:00 pace on the downhills and would slow for the uphills. After 4 miles he gradually started pulling away and I couldn't follow anymore.  LL was starting to pull away too but I was just able to reel him in, although it seemed like he was holding back just a little so I didn't get left behind.
Up to this point, there was no talking after the warm-up. It was all I could do to keep up, so I wasn't about to waste energy on talking. Somewhere along the way when I was feeling really gassed, LL turns his head back to say something. I was expecting some pearl of wisdom to come out of his mouth. Some trick or technique he could pass on that would help me get through this last part of the run. Imagine my disappointment when he turns and says to me, "just keep running" and continues on. That was it? Just keep running? Really? I laughed.
So I did. I kept running. Once I knew where I was in the city I let my guid know that I was good and he sped up. I tried to keep pace but couldn't quite. I think I finished the run about 20 seconds after he did and Young Guy was there waiting for us, still breathing hard.
I still think of this as the hardest run I've ever done. I was thinking about it recently and looked back in my log and found it. My average pace for this 6.5 mile run was 7:28. Four months later, I ran 26.2 miles with an average pace that was only a little slower (7:42) than this run. So what was for me at the time, the fastest I had ever run became really close to my marathon pace in just a few months.  I finished the fall marathon in 3:21:39 and got my BQ.
I think about this run when I have a workout that I don't think I can tackle.  In some ways, I think of this workout as my proudest moment as a runner. Even more than the marathon that followed it because it taught me a really important lesson about my limitations. It makes me wonder how much of my limitations are physical and how much are mental?  What am I capable of if I can just turn off that part of my brain that says I can't do something just because it looks hard or because I haven't done it before?  I don't know the answer to that but it's fun pushing myself, even at my "advanced age", to see how far I can go.